Death to the Executive Washroom

outhouse-200x300Have you taken a trip to a school lately – grammar school, high school, university?  If so you’ve probably noticed the continuing tradition of labeling parking spots for a select few employees (Principal, Assistant Principal, 2nd Assistant Principal, etc).

This is true at a number of corporate organizations as well; the C-Suite folks get reserved parking spots right by the door while Joe and Sally lunch-bucket must park several blocks away between a 10’ x 10’ dumpster and an alley where shady transactions occur between un-showered people of indeterminate genders. Meanwhile, Bill the CFO doesn’t have to get a splash of rainwater on his shiny oxfords as he meanders into the building from his parking spot 10 feet from the door.

There’s collective indignation when we read about the lavish executive perks that have long been a mainstay of gilded boardrooms – chauffeured cars, private jets, a suite at the local ballpark.  For decades corporate boards have reminded us that many of these things are necessary to attract and retain senior executives although nowadays it does appear as if some compensation committees are taking a tighter look at pay/perk packages being offered.  And so we applaud and say “well at least they understand the moral outrage from those of us here in the 99%.”

In reality though many of us come face-to-face with social stratification perks that exist in our own organizations everyday.  Our egalitarian, flattened hierarchy, “we’re all in this together” companies continue to subtly differentiate between classes of employees and thus send signals that are quite often in conflict with their stated feel-good values about teamwork, openness and a belief that “every employee is as valuable as the next.”  Executives rule from the top floor with its mahogany lined halls and plush carpeting, VPs get offices, and everyone else finds themselves relegated to a cubicle.  Managers and directors have slightly larger cubicles with higher walls although, naturally, directors have a few more feet of cubicle space as befits their loftier title.

The mailroom and purchasing department staffers, down on the lowest floor near the loading docks, have access to one dimly lit unisex bathroom. The gals in HR have bowls of potpourri on their bathroom counters and a private quiet room with a couch.  The senior executives have separate facilities safely behind the glass doors that seal off mahogany row from the rest of the company; surely you can’t expect the SVP of Marketing to stand at a urinal next to Phil from IT.

Expense accounts.  Golf outings during the day.  The ability to slip out and attend professional association lunch meetings or evening networking receptions that start at 5 PM.  An office with a window, a nameplate on the door and an ergonomic chair personally fitted to alleviate lower back pain, and a bottle of marihuana oil for pain relief.  The ability to park, for free, close to the office building as opposed to 4 blocks away accompanied by the necessity to pay a hefty monthly parking fee. The freedom to enjoy some work-life integration and flexible hours with no need to worry about getting scolded disciplined chastised for being 15 minutes late to work because your daughter’s school bus was late.

Many of these things are viewed as being part of the rite of professional passage.  If you strive to do well, get promoted and become a senior staffer or manager then you too can be treated a little better.  “It’s the American way” we say while reminding ourselves of Horatio Alger (even though many people in 2014 wouldn’t know Horatio Alger if he fell out of a tree in front of them).

‘With grit and determination come rewards’ could be the collective mantra of the workplace; this is not just true in ‘corporate’ entities but in government, non-profits and, well, any business.

And I concur; hard work will garner benefits and should be rewarded.

But sometimes organizations, without even thinking about it, continue to promote a culture of the haves vs. the have nots; the royals vs. the unwashed masses; the chosen vs. the worker bees.  It brings to mind what the pigs had to say in George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

*** this post originally ran at the HR Schoolhouse

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The HR Hamster Wheel

human-hamster-wheel-300x187Someone reminded me yesterday about how important it is that those of us who work in Human Resources or Leadership roles remember that we can also be the voice for those without a voice.  The entry-level employees, the teenagers working in their first jobs…the ‘little guy.”

In our quest to drive business objectives, be “strategic,” and reach for the newest-shiniest-buzzword-worthy HR initiative, it’s something I think many of us forget.

When we dive into conversations about Work/Flex and ROWE and Work from Home programs we need to stop and consider for a moment that these are, let’s face it, programs only applicable to certain group of employees.  I’m not saying we should discard identifying initiatives that attract and retain the critical talent that our organizations need.  I am, however, pointing out that we should not sit high in our HR ivory towers and develop strategies that treat some of our employees as disposable. We need to be mindful that occasionally the unintended consequences of implementing the Latest-Greatest-HR-Program means we may be further alienating a certain subset of staff members.

Does having a workplace program that allows employees in certain positions to work from anywhere and float in and out with laptop in one hand and smart phone in the other serve to further downgrade the (apparent) importance of other employees?  Quite often, those who could most benefit from some flexibility are the ones who are in the most rigorously scheduled, and often most pointedly penalized, positions.  We see this play out when the knowledge workers, independent contributors, or managers in a department or organization are afforded the opportunity to set their own hours (“I’m going to work 9 to 6 because then I need to drop my kids off in the morning.  Oh…and I’ll work from home whenever there is a school holiday.”) while the seemingly easy-to-discard employees are chastised or disciplined for arriving at work at 8:05 because a child became ill and emergency plans had to be implemented.

Quite often, the employees who face the greatest personal challenges or have limited access to resources are the ones who end up running an overwhelmingly frantic race in theOrganizational Hamster Wheel that we, with perhaps the best intentions, have built.

We need to stop and think about that.

***this post originally ran at the HR Schoolhouse

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Social Then. Social Now. #NewWaytoWork

Ibm_px_xt_colorWhile I’m certainly not a proponent of holding meetings for the sake of meetings there is value in getting together face-to-face with co-workers, colleagues or clients to ruminate, ideate, and, perhaps, innovate. Hearing a voice, looking someone in the eye, and making a human connection adds richness and depth to any working relationship.

That being said, the typical “team meeting” is not necessarily the optimal manner in which to accomplish any of that. Over the course of my working life I’ve attended my fair share of excruciatingly painful meetings and recently got to reminiscing about how – not that long ago! – the process usually went something like this:

  • The manager sent an email requesting agenda items for the upcoming weekly meeting; this email chain quickly grew to massive unwieldy proportions.
  • 85% of the invitees replied; the annoying ones used “reply all”
  • Based on the newly projected length of the gathering the manager decided to hold a ‘working lunch’ (11 AM – 2 PM).
  • She then sent another email asking everyone to choose a preferred food item (lunch to be delivered!) from an attached menu.
  • At least two team members responded (“reply all”) and reminded the manager of their food allergy and/or their need for a vegetarian/low-carb/fat-free option.
  • The day before the meeting the manager emailed the agenda to the team and, inevitably, several people requested changes or additions thus resulting in yet another lengthy email chain.
  • One hour before the start of the meeting the manager (or her designee) printed 15 copies of the agenda and all supporting documents (collated and stapled).
  • The meeting began at 11:15 (when the last straggler finally arrived) and lunch was delivered at 1:15 by which time all in attendance were famished. Despite agreements to end on time the meeting dragged on until 2:55 PM.
  • The next morning the cycle began anew.

Note: Naturally before the widespread usage and availability of email (i.e. back in the dark ages when I started working) these tactical planning maneuvers occurred through a combination of telephone calls and memos delivered via inter-office mail.

Obviously, all of this tomfoolery occurred before any actual productive work was done.

Lunch, however, was usually good.

Social Then. Social Now.

Fast forward to 2015 and the new way of working includes social workflow in an entirely different fashion. Organizations are using Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) to communicate, collaborate and work together in a whole new manner.

This is not just taking broken and ineffective processes and layering technology on top of them in some approximation of workflow optimization. Rather, incorporating ESNs and Online Communities in the workplace is about replicating the social and personal interactions that we crave as human beings while using technology to support and enable work. It’s removing the ridiculousness of that 3-hour team meeting yet maintaining the personal interactions and relationship building fostered by gathering together (even virtually) with a shared purpose.

While ESNs offer analytics, dashboards, and repositories for data and documents, many also incorporate video, messaging capabilities, and networking channels that promote real-time interaction. It’s pretty cool stuff; I was once part of a team that implemented an ESN to drive communication and cross-functional collaboration and we saw an increase in both the sharing of tacit knowledge and innovation focused on both short-term project completion and long-term planning and revenue growth.

As a member of IBMs #NewWaytoWork Futurist Group I recently received access to the latest IDC Study entitled: Worldwide Enterprise Social Networks and Online Communities 2015–2019 Forecast and 2014 Vendor Shares. If you want to read it (there’s some interesting information) you can download the report here with a quick registration. Also a shout out to our friends at IBM; they’ve been named the Worldwide Market Share Leader in Enterprise Social Networks for 6th Consecutive Year by IDC.

Bringing the Horse to the Water

Just because we build it – or implement it – doesn’t mean they’ll come though. Horse to water…am I right? If there’s a story I’ve heard many times over it’s “we reviewed products, vetted solutions, purchased a technology, and trained employees. But no one’s using it.”

Implementing anything new into an organization requires that a few key things occur; the initiative must be championed at the highest level while simultaneously being embraced and promoted by employees in the trenches who are gaining the benefit. Are change management skills required? Absolutely. Which sometimes becomes a challenge for leaders and HR professionals who, let’s face it, have often been the slowest ones out of the gate regarding technology; something they’ve viewed as inherently complex, frightening and creating transparency with which they’ve never been comfortable.

Remember though…those leaders and HR folks got just as nervous, once upon a time, about instant messaging, cell phones and email. (I have to go where and check what? I have to keep it open all day?).

Have you implemented an Enterprise Social Network? Thinking about it? How did you reinforce behaviors or promote new actions? What lessons did you learn?

Let’s discuss!

Note: follow IBM Social Business on Twitter and check out the #NewWaytoWork tour; events are scheduled for all over the country!

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Together and Alone in the Office

cubicles“Having a cubicle is weird. I’m surrounded by people yet no one talks. I can go all day without speaking to a single coworker.”

A friend recently posted that on Facebook after starting a new job.

Most assuredly that’s the opposite of some of the other well known reasons people hate working in cubicle-land; dealing with the unexpected ‘pop-ins’ from colleagues, hearing every utterance from the loud talker, or finding that your office mates leave papers, mail and other items in your chair as if it’s the post office depository.

I’ve worked with those people.

And I’ve been in office environments where industrious workers, sitting in row upon row of beige cubicles, go through the day speaking in the sort of hushed reverential tones that one uses in a church or cathedral. No music (however muted), no laughter, and only whispered conversations allowed.

Not that long ago I visited a local business with hundreds upon hundreds of suited-up employees stacked in cubicles on every floor. While a few people resided in offices (the higher the title, naturally, the closer one sat to a window) the vast majority of staff members were lined up in soul-sucking cubes. There was minimal color, aside from a few patches of greenery from a plant or two, and I saw nary a human interaction happening in any of the departments through which I wandered.

I didn’t see coworkers huddle with a few chairs pulled together in a shared workspace. Those on phone calls were murmuring in low tones. And while a few people were gathered at the communal coffee pot it was all business; fill ‘er up, make no eye contact, and scurry back to the busy and demanding work that was, apparently, piling up during this 2-minute break.

Depressing.

All I know if I had to drag myself to the office every day only to be “alone” while surrounded by fellow team members, peers, and colleagues I would lose my shit sanity.

Environment, and culture, can energize. It can also causes one’s soul to atrophy.

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Engaging Top Tech Candidates Doesn’t Have to be a Mystery

Dice May 2015Finding – and more importantly – having conversations with tech talent is an ongoing challenge isn’t it? If you’re looking for an Application Developer with Agile or JavaFX experience (by tomorrow!) it can be tempting to rush in and contact any and all hot prospects in an attempt to get some sort of activity going.

And if you’ve ever done that you also likely saw it delivered lackluster results. Oh sure you broke out into a sweat with all your feverish typing and dialing but you still didn’t end up with any viable candidates.

So what to do?

Fortunately Dice has just published a fantastic resource.

 

The Definitive Guide to Engaging Top Tech Candidates takes you through the process with 3 Easy Steps to message top tech candidates via email, phone and social media channels. (seriously…go download the guide via Slideshare).

John Vlastelica with Recruiting Toolbox, in partnership with Dice, has put together this guide and he tells it like it is. Download this guide and you’ll learn:

  • John’s three steps to effective messaging: (1) preparation, (2) personalization and (3) persistence
  • How to decide what candidate information to use in your communications and when to use it
  • Rules of engagement for email, phone and social media channels – with templates to get you started

Templates!! I LOVE templates!! Why reinvent the wheel…am I right?

Look…we all make mistakes when, as recruiters, we craft a message to send to the passive-and/or-elusive talent we’re seeking. In this guide you will find out how to avoid making those mistakes and how to create the right messages.

“The best messages are never about you or the job you’re trying to fill.  

The best approaches start with the work that they are passionate

about and how you can connect them to

1) new, really challenging problems in their space, and 2) help them grow in their career.”

Andrew Carges, VP Talent Acquisition, GoDaddy

Nice.

Hey…we can ALL win in this.

Dice Big Mistakes

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