The Employee Experience: As Simple as “X” and “Y?”

Sixty years ago Douglas McGregor from the MIT Sloan School of Management presented two theories of workforce motivation he named “Theory X” and “Theory Y.” Over the intervening decades these theories have been used by leadership teams, HR professionals and OD folks as they craft and create HR policies, performance management programs, rewards and recognition, and work space design.

If it’s been some time since you gave much thought to McGregor’s work, here’s a refresher:

Theory X assumes that:

  • people dislike work
  • people want to avoid work (i.e. “people are inherently lazy”)
  • people do not want to take responsibility

Theory Y assumes that:

  • people are happy to work
  • people are self-motivated to pursue objectives
  • people thrive on responsibility

In a Theory X organization:

  • management is authoritarian
  • control is centralized with a belief that people must be coerced
  • a reward and punishment style (i.e. “carrot and stick”) is used; financial incentives (or financial punishments) are believed to the best motivator

In a Theory Y organization:

  • management is participative; employees are involved
  • feedback, especially positive feedback, is continuous
  • it is assumed that control, rewards and punishments are not the only ways to stimulate people
  • people have self-direction and self-control

Simplified perhaps. Because, of course, we all learned in our earliest forays into leading others that management of a team requires some combination of Theory X and Theory Y style.  Every employee is unique.  Yet “simple” is helpful as we tackle what we consider to be the nuanced and complex workplace issues today; decades after McGregor first shared these theories in 1957.

So as I sit here, day-in-and-day-out, and think about the employee experience (which, let’s face it, is merely an amalgamation of previous terms and is now the trendy catch phrase/buzzword for everything else that has come before it) I often find myself stripping all the glam and sexy stuff down to a pretty basic question… “Do you provide an X or a Y experience?”

For therein lies the problem; without asking that question and truly examining a few key principles about how people are viewed, numerous organizations continuously circle round and round in a never-ending journey of futility.  They may telegraph to candidates, applicants and new hires all the Theory Y things they do when, in reality, the policies, rewards and management style exhibited by the vast majority are most assuredly Theory X.

Not to mention there’s a real danger of ongoing confirmation bias; a Theory X organization which operates with control and coercion may find, as time goes on, that employees become so accustomed to punishing behavior (“you’re 5 minutes late! Here’s your penalty!”) that they do, in fact, exert minimal effort and thus confirm all the assumptions that managers have had all along. “See how lazy they are!  You can’t trust people to show up on time. We have to punish them or no one will come to work!”

Let’s be real though; there is not one single HR pundit or “Future of Work” speaker out on the vast global conference speaking circuit touting “Top Ten Ways to Motivate Your Lazy Unwilling-to-Work Employees!”  Nope; that wouldn’t sell a lot of tickets.

Instead, managers from assorted disciplines attend their specific professional development conferences, sign up for the “HR Track,” and take copious notes as some HR consultant/speaker talks about “The New Way of Work.”

And then those very same managers head back to the office, roll up their sleeves, and bust out the Theory X.

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An HR Biology Lesson: Menstruation Version

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ohio HR conference for the second time. Fabulous event (as always) with lots of peace, love and happiness HR-style.

This was approximately a ‘cycle’ ago with a bunch of women (lots of gals in human resources) at a jungle-themed-sexy’ish midwestern resort with (free!) SHRM and vendor-sponsored wine. We probably all got in sync with our menstrual cycles; 4 days at an HR conference is like living together in a sorority house or serving side-by-side in an army platoon or working together in an office – isn’t it? That theory, called the McClintock effect, has been debunked through ongoing studies.

Whatever. I don’t care.

Plus, whether syncing our cycles is real or not it’s still fun to talk about periods in front of a bunch of squeamish men. Kinda because they’re squeamish men. Which……kills me. Do we get embarrassed when dudes talk about their testicle sweat or armpit hair? Well…ok..maybe a bit.

But…..

…. menstruation and periods and talk about sanitary products and tampons still makes people (ladies and men alike) squirm. Which has to end.

*******

OK…back to Ohio SHRM.

At this conference I met the absolutely most awesome woman and entrepreneur named Clair Coder – she had a booth and I got pins and we took pictures together (I can’t find them) and she gave me a bunch of tampons.

I just loved everything about Claire and her company so I (1) fan-girled all over her (2) helped coordinate her speaking gig at this past Wednesday’s #DisruptHRCincy and (3) pinned her down for an interview. Here’s what I asked and what she had to say:

You started Aunt Flow in 2016 – what was your inspiration? 

I founded Aunt Flow after I unexpectedly got my period in public without the supplies I needed. I was at an event and was trapped. Surrounded by men and no tampons in the bathroom, I ended up leaving the event early. At that point in time, I decided it was critical to change the world, one cycle at a time. I now ask companies “If you are offering a ping pong table, beer, even toilet paper for free, why aren’t you offering the necessary menstrual supplies?”

One of the cool things you do is donate 10 tampons to an organization of the buyer’s choice for every 100 tampons purchased?  What are some of the groups or organizations where donations have gone?

Aunt Flow has donated 77,000 menstrual products to-date. We work with organizations ranging from Period Menstrual Movement to Mid-Ohio Food Bank and Dress for Success.

Where do you hope to take the business? 

Aunt Flow’s mission is to ensure EVERYONE has access to menstrual products. We do this by selling our products to businesses, so companies can offer them for free in their bathrooms for employees and guests. We are celebrating our 1-year birthday at the end of November. By that time, it is my goal to have donated over 100,000 tampons to organizations across the USA that support menstruators in need. 

What’s your mantra?

People helping people. PERIOD.

*********

OMG I love everything about this!

  1. Let’s de-mysistify a natural human function
  2. Let’s treat the biological needs of both genders on an equal basis
  3. Let’s ensure women and girls the world over have access to basic necessities
  4. Let’s take care of all our employees – stocking tampons is as common sense as stocking toilet paper
  5. Let’s remember that (as Aunt Flow tells us) – “Many of the 26.4 million menstruators living in poverty in the United States must resort to plastic bags and dirty socks to stop the flow. No one should ever be forced to choose between food and tampons.”

Period.

*******

Follow @GoAuntFlow

More cool stuff about Claire:

The Founder of Aunt Flow on Why Everyone Should Have Access to Tampons – Teen Vogue

This 20-Year-Old Entrepreneur Wants You to Get Free Tampons – Glamour

This gender-neutral period company partners with businesses to make tampons as accessible as toilet paper – Yahoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sexy HR: The Stuff My Mother Never Told Me

Some of my friends think I have one of the most fascinating jobs ever as the HR leader at a casino; gambling! free drinks! the-fresh-scent-of-crisp-dollar-bills! B-girls! Craps on demand!

Now I admit I totally have the best stories from my life living HR on steroids; the real-dealio that is definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet, let me point out, I also work in one of the most regulated industries imaginable; massive oversight from local jurisdictions, IRS, state gaming regulators, and auditors of every stripe. We make sure we account for every person that passes through our turnstiles and every penny that lands in our slot machines. We’re also damn good at that accounting stuff. I, personally, have never had to attest to and sign more stuff with name-rank-serial-number. We take this accountability seriously.

Not totally new to me of course; this is my second casino gig and my third in the gaming industry. My theory is that if I can ever manage to work for a liquor distributor and a cigarette company (I did interview with one back in the day) I’ll have all the major vices covered. Well…except for one.

I would still need to work in the sex industry to gain the HR hat trick. Bow chicka-wah-wah and all that. And, I’m telling you right now, I am incredibly curious about what that that day-to-day would entail. Because, of course, these people exist.

Playboy has a CHRO; her name is Kendice Briggs. (She started her HR career in banking just like me. I could have this job!). According to her LinkedIn profile she handles all the typical HR stuff like comp, benefits and recruitment.  She also, bless her heart, oversees payroll. I sure wish that when I get to work in a really sexy industry I get to put payroll where it belongs…in finance.

The HR leader at Adam & Eve (#1 Adult Toy Superstore) has been with the company since 2014; according to her LinkedIn profile she’s very good at employee relations, recruiting and HR policies. (note: what I wouldn’t give to read that employee policy manual….). As for the recruitment bit I dunno; they only accept faxed resumes or walk-in applicants (North Carolina y’all!) or encourage applicants to “Cut and Paste your resume in to the body of an email.”  That might work I guess; they probably want to discourage photos, selfies, and dudes sending their resumes wrapped in rolls of paper towel………

Empire Labs, “the worldwide leader in do-it-yourself penis casting kits,” does not have an HR leader. Then again, it appears they only have five employees. And these five employees, based on my internet sleuthing, all appear to be male and approximately 25 years old.  They’re too young to appreciate the need to have an HR lady on staff but they’ll learn.

A few months ago I hung out for the first of several times with the super cool HR Manager of three (not 1…3!!) strip clubs here in south Louisiana. If you’ve visited New Orleans and were in search of either a watered down/ridiculously expensive drink or a lap dance, chances are you wandered into one of her establishments. Oh hell y’all….you think my HR stories are good? She even made me blush.

Look…we all take for granted that hospitals, insurance companies and manufacturers have HR departments filled with soulless bureaucrats who process benefit enrollments, deal with employee relations issues and trot up-and-down the hallways in their nice-little-HR-suits.

But imagine running an HR department in the porn industry. What are those worker’s compensation renewal meetings like? Think about the annual strategic planning meeting at a dildo making company. What sort of 2018 budget dollars does one set aside for employee engagement activities? Are there regular planned team building activities after the crew shuts down the injection-molding machine for the day? What about compensation and pay structure? Piece meal for every plastic penis that rolls of the conveyor belt or is there base pay with some other sort of variable or incentive?

These are the things that keep me up at night.

Sexy HR. The sort my mother never told me about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Candor in the Workplace #WorkHuman

There’s a new (ish) concept in the arena of employee feedback – Radical Candor. In the best selling book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, author Kim Scott (a former Google director and consultant) explains that radical candor encourages employees to directly confront issues with colleagues in a completely honest—yet respectful and compassionate—way.

I recently weighed in on the topic for the Baton Rouge Business Report along with the Director of Operations for a local law firm that has added it to their workplace/operational mix ; you can read the article here. (just please ignore the incredibly awkwardly staged photo. ugh).

I found it to be perfect timing for this article’s published date (last Thursday) since I’m hitting the road today for the WorkHuman Conference; 3rd year of the event and my 3rd time attending. I’ll also, along with my co-presenter Bill Boorman, be speaking at a Spotlight Session on the topic “How to Hire for a “Challenging” Culture.”

In many ways the word “culture” seems to have become yet another over-used buzzword in the business and HR sphere; toss the word “culture” into an article or a speaker submittal and you’ll garner lots of interest. But, cynicism aside, it really does all come down to culture.  The amorphous, ever-evolving, squishy, and somewhat-hard-to-articulate GLUE that connects employee-to-organization and connects employee-to-employee.

Candor in the workplace? –“In order for organizations to make a switch to a radical candor environment, they first must do the hard work of ensuring their organizational culture can sustain a style of working that requires employees to directly challenge each other, while ensuring those forthright conversations emanate from a place of truth and personal caring.” (so sayeth me in that Business Report article).

Hiring for a challenging culture? – “We’re fully aware that we can’t make-up our organizational culture and we also know that being false and inauthentic, while it may garner more applicants, leads to mismatched hiring. The true differentiator in talent acquisition and retention is being real, honest and truthful with both candidates and employees in order to provide them with an honest version of the actual working experience at your organization.” (so sayeth me for WorkHuman)

Glue.

It’s sticky.

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