Branded a Loser: Vintage Candidate Experience?

offending_stewardesses-211x300Ah yes the ’70s.  Post the introduction of the Pill.  Post Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The era of Title IX and the (failed) attempt to get the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ratified by the states in order to become part of the US Constitution.  Those pesky second-wave feminists were busy.

And in a decade when air travel was still viewed as a glamorous experience complete with ashtrays, cocktails in stemware and people who dressed up for a trip to the airport (I’m looking at you guy-in-sweat-stained-unbuttoned-shirt with a bag from McDonalds’s that sat next to me on a recent flight) the fine folks at Eastern Airlines apparently settled on a way to make sure their consumer brand (especially for the male business traveler) matched their employer brand.  Their solution? Shame not just their job candidates but all women.

“Presenting the Losers” (picture above)

The copy reads:

“Pretty good, aren’t they?  We admit it.  And they’re probably good enough to get a job practically anywhere they want.

But not as Eastern Airline stewardesses.

We pass up around 19 girls, before we get one that qualifies.  If looks were everything, it wouldn’t be tough.  Sure, we want them to be pretty…don’t you?  That’s why we look at her face, her make-up, her complexion, her figure, her weight, her legs, her grooming, her nails and her hair.

But we don’t stop there.  We talk.  And we listen.  We listen to her voice, her speech.  We judge her personality, her maturity, her intelligence, her intentions, her enthusiasm, her resiliency and her stamina.

We don’t want a stewardess to be impatient with a question you may have, or careless in serving your dinner, or unconcerned about your needs.

So we try to eliminate these problems by taking a lot more time and passing up a lot more girls.

It may make our job a little harder.  But it makes your flying a lot easier.”


How nice.  They actually ‘talked and listened’ during the selection process rather than just judging hair, nails and bust-waist-hip ratio. And check it out 1970’s job candidates – if you were fortunate enough to pass phase 1 (the ugly screen) Eastern Airlines kindly laid out the job competencies right there in the advertisement: patiencepersonality, maturity, intelligence, intentions, enthusiasm, resiliency and stamina. 

After your trip to the beauty parlor and the make-up counter you might have had enough time to think about answers for the moment you were actually deigned worthy enough to enter into conversation about actual skills and abilities.



This post originally ran over at the HR Schoolhouse in 2014. Thanks to my friend Trish McFarlane for reminding me about it yesterday which led to my re-running it from the archives. 


What if your HR Lady was Amish?

Lancaster_County_Amish_02I’m spending the next several days in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area which is the home to the largest and oldest Amish community in the US.

I am fascinated beyond belief.

I took a trip to this part of the country a few months ago for the first time and, as luck would have it, had a few hours to spare. I was able to drive about the countryside on a personal quest to see actual Amish people driving buggies and walking up and down picturesque country roads. I popped in at a heritage center type place and stopped at an “Amish Village.” The latter was somewhat disappointing; it was clearly designed to entice tour buses full of tourists from foreign lands to spend ridiculous amounts of money on ‘handmade’ soaps and jellies/jams made in local factories.

Capitalism and ‘Merica at its finest.

But I didn’t mind because I enjoy exploring the history of religions and religious groups and the story of the Amish is fascinating. After the Reformation period (16th century) the Anabaptist movement led to the creation of three “plain” communities: the Amish, the Mennonites and the Brethren. While there are similarities, the Amish are the most conservative and have an emphasis on humility, family, community and separation from the non-Amish world. The Amish began as part of the Mennonite group (named for Menno Simons) but later splintered off, in 1693, under Swiss bishop Jacob Amman. In the early 18th century, members of this group arrived in Pennsylvania in order to escape persecution in Europe where they were being declared heretics – and put to death – by both Catholics and Protestants.

These three Anabaptist groups share the same basic values and differ primarily in matters of dress, language, forms of worship and the extent to which they allow the use of modern technology/conveniences. Primary cornerstones of the Amish faith include humility, patience, obedience and conformity. There is a great emphasis placed on preserving the group identity and downplaying personal aspirations.

No wonder they have to eschew modern conveniences.

How would the Amish value of humility play in our world of selfies and Facebook posts? While Rumspringa may be an option for some Amish youth to head off and live amongst “the English” for a period of time not all Amish adolescents have – or take – this opportunity. And, based upon many things I’ve read, upwards of 90% of the teens that do head off and live-another-life return to the community and get baptized. Forever eschewing the world of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” Adele, and Zac Posen.

So…I got to wondering.

How many organizations, despite their stated intentions to the contrary, are replicating Amish values within their organizations? Where preserving group identity (conformity) is more important than personal aspirations or desire. Where obedience (follow the rules! adhere to HR policies!) is desired above all else.

Not that long ago I got a resume from an HR professional who stated he was responsible for ‘New Employee Indoctrination.” And, believe it or not, in this day and age of personal branding and authenticity, I chatted with an HR Leader from a major brand who told me her desire was to hire employees who did not promote themselves but rather exhibited humility.

No ninjas, rockstars or gurus there.

Huh. Maybe there’s a niche for Amish HR after all.


Collaboration: The Role of the Leader

bridgeWhen embarking upon an initiative to increase – and reap the benefits of – collaboration there are several steps for leaders to take at the onset:

* Determine why collaboration is desired

* Define what collaboration will look like in the organization

* Review the current state of the organizational culture to determine readiness

* Ensure people are ready, willing and able to collaborate

There are also additional areas leaders should evaluate when making a commitment to increasing or improving collaboration in an organization.

Value vs. Cost

When identifying the potential opportunities that exist leaders should make a commitment to undertake certain initiatives only when the value will exceed the cost.

Value may be derived, for example, when better innovation arises through collaboration. This can take the form of cross-unit product development or new business development for the entire enterprise. Value can lead to increasing sales (i.e. defining additional cross-selling opportunities or enhancing customer service offerings) or by improving operations that lead to costs savings. Think about, as an example, initiatives that lead to the transfer or sharing of best practices or better decision making.

Leaders must also assess the potential cost and ask questions such as “will we be foregoing other projects or opportunities because of this new effort?” or “will we, perhaps, experience budget overruns, poor quality or lost sales?”

Personal Behavior

Leaders must take stock of their own readiness and ensure not just their personal ability but also their individual willingness to collaborate.  After reviewing and removing the organizational barriers that exist leaders should also focus on:

  • Encouraging relationships that cross organizational boundaries and hierarchies.
  • Implementing internal strategies that celebrate, recognize, and reward a relationship oriented culture.
  • Training employees in the skills related to collaborative behavior such as conflict resolution skills, project management skills and the behaviors associated with recognizing and appreciating others.
  • Modeling collaborative behavior by allowing different voices to be heard, soliciting input from multiple people, and making it clear that disagreement is not the same as conflict.
  • Communicating to others in the organization that the goal of collaboration is not collaboration but is, rather, better results.

Morten T. Hansen, management professor at UC-Berkley, has defined disciplined collaboration as “the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required.”

By focusing on the goal – better results! – and collaborating only when appropriate leaders can successfully improve organizational performance.

Visit the blog tomorrow when we’ll wrap up this week long series by discussing Collaboration: Working Smarter, Not Harder. View yesterday’s post


Collaboration: More than a Buzzword

1-breatherI believe you can drive business success through successful, meaningful and purposeful collaboration while simultaneously energizing employees.

Individual organizations choose to embrace and promote collaboration for any number of reasons some of which will be unique to an entity and/or its industry. Generally though, efforts are focused on improving performance, increasing innovation, and enhancing services to clients, customers and the public. The most effective initiatives include a deliberate plan in which leaders assess when collaboration is appropriate, define their desired outcomes, and commit to understanding and removing the barriers that may currently exist in their organization.

There are five steps necessary in order to lay the foundation for a more collaborative workplace:

  1. Understanding the types of collaboration and how people form collaborative groups
  2. Reviewing the current state of one’s organizational culture to determine readiness
  3. Understanding the motivational and ability barriers that may derail collaborative efforts
  4. Commit to supporting and reinforcing collaboration by adjusting one’s personal behavior as a leader
  5. Providing access to the tools and technologies that can add value to organizational efforts

I recently led a session at the NetConnect Conference on the topic “Building and Supporting a Collaborative Workplace” and this week I’ll be running a series on the blog covering what we discussed. (note: the slides, with resources, are here). 

Start at the Beginning

When embarking upon an organizational plan to promote a culture of collaboration it’s critical to ask (and answer) three questions:

  1. Why do we want collaboration?
  2. What will collaboration look like in our organization?
  3. How do we ensure our people are ready, willing and able to collaborate?

To harness the power of collaboration, and make it more than just a buzzword listed on the organizational mission statement, you must first fully understand what collaboration is:

“Building toward a defined outcome through the interactions

and input of multiple people”

Hutch Carpenter

Human beings collaborate constantly; it doesn’t magically occur when we form a team or toss out a challenge.  There is both formal and informal collaboration that can be of benefit in organizations and there are many ways in which people collaborate.

In team collaboration the members of the group are generally known to each other, have clear task interdependencies and operate with a focus on an explicit time line and defined goals.  Community collaboration is one in which there is a shared area of interest but the goal is usually more focused on learning and knowledge sharing as opposed to task completion.  Community collaborators share and build knowledge rather than complete tasks and the time period for collaboration of this nature is often open and/or ongoing.  When people embark upon network collaboration they are approaching the relationship based upon self-interest and with individual desire; there is equal power distribution and this type of collaboration often exists because social technology tools have created an environment where all members equally create and share content and connect across boundaries.

The 3 groups form in one of several ways.

Most commonly individuals turn to those who are close to them; familiarity, proximity and similarity play a big role in how people select those with whom they will collaborate. Think about that group of A/P clerks sitting next to each other in the office or the “bullpen” where all the Sales Managers congregate.

At other times individuals will gather will new collaborators or new partners.  This occurs when individuals find people who are outside their typical circle of familiarity. Quite often they have a desire to overturn the tried-and-true, challenge the status quo or pool their diverse experiences/knowledge together in order to attain a common goal.  These groups typically form due to the desire to tackle a problem, explore an idea or delve into a topic base because of their personal passions or beliefs.

The third way that groups form is by bringing together those who challenge or hold opposing viewpoints. This can be considered collaboration by disagreement and is valuable, especially when there’s an understanding that it’s important to hear every idea and consider all input – no matter how contrary.  One of the most well known examples of this occurs at Apple where a culture of innovation and creativity is defined by their statement: 

“innovation and creativity require freedom, disagreement,

and perhaps even a little chaos.”

By understanding how and why people gather together we can see the value to be attained when we gather input from multiple people.  When that input is diversified and challenging it’s quite likely that the top idea, solution or new way of thinking (knowledge) will surface to the top.

Visit the blog tomorrow when we’ll be discussing Collaboration: Why Culture Matters. 


Flexibility: The Key to Happiness in the Future Workplace? – #EWS2015

slinkyI‘ve partnered with Spherion to provide insight and information from the 2015 Emerging Workforce Study but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.

A friend of mine lives a life to which many of us can relate; she has a demanding job and a demanding personal life trying to juggle her career while successfully managing hearth and home. Her husband heads in direction A each morning, she heads in direction B, and their teenager heads in Direction C. During any given week there are doctor appointments, school activities, sports, after-hours work commitments, and community or professional events. Long drives, long days, and long nights; she often first arrives home at 8 PM or so after spending countless hours behind the wheel and traversing many miles. There’s no such thing as balance…it’s more a matter of making sure it all gets done.

I get exhausted just contemplating her schedule.

Luckily though she works for a company that realizes flexibility can improve worker engagement, retention and motivation. While she is somewhat tethered to her phone 24/7 at least she has accessibility to flextime and periodic telecommuting as needed. Her employer, reliant primarily on tech workers and in-demand professionals, long ago grasped the need for flexibility in order to attract, retain and engage employees.

And that, my friends, is one of the findings from the EWS; increasingly more employers are offering work/life balance programs:

  • More employers are offering formal and informal work/life balance programs this year, like telecommuting (53%), flex-time (60%) and sabbaticals (39%). This is great as workers are willing to take advantage of these programs, even if their company didn’t offer them:
    • Flex-time: 52%
    • Telecommuting: 46%
    • Paid time off for community service: 32%
    • Sabbaticals: 29%
  • A new trend that the Emerging Workforce Study uncovered is employers offering sabbaticals to employees. Sabbaticals have significantly increased as a work/life balance program offering for workers (39% in 2015 versus 17% in 2014).
  • Employers are also increasingly adjusting their offerings to include work/life balance options that workers desire. And they are noticing that it’s positively affecting worker satisfaction (81%), productivity (73%) and recruitment (62%).

I think that last distinction is important; the offering of work/life (#workflex) balance options can be a differentiator in recruiting top talent (62% of employers see a positive impact on ability to recruit). I, for one, have noticed that candidates are increasingly asking about flexibility options very early on in the talent acquisition process. And it’s not like all employees expect to work 100% from home; what I have found (anecdotally of course) is pretty much in alignment with what was uncovered in the EWS:

  • Workers indicate that if they could choose the ideal work arrangement, the following would be most appealing to them:
    • Working full-time both in an office and remotely: 37%
    • Working full-time in an office: 27%
    • Working full-time, but remotely: 18%
    • As a remote freelancer or contractor: 8%
    • Working part-time in an office: 5%
    • Working part-time but remotely: 4%
  • Employers agree that working full-time both in an office and remotely is the most beneficial work arrangement (44%) and working full-time in an office is second most (37%).

There’s an important distinction to be made here though; not every business model allows for flexibility of this sort. The reality is that a number of people work in 24/7/364 operations (health care, hospitality, manufacturing) where employees must, obviously, be on-site – scrubbed, shiny and ready to greet the public. We can’t all work from home in our yoga pants.

The concept of flexibility, and “balance,” can be incorporated in sensible ways across positions or departments. It may be as simple as allowing employees to have more input in scheduling or eliminating draconian HR policies that require managers to chastise an employee who steps from her cubicle to take a personal phone call. A gradual evolution to a new way of working can be more palatable as companies distance themselves from old-school “command-and-control,” “butts-in-seats,” “I need to see my staff to know they’re working” management models.

Yoga pants not necessary.


Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.


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