Category Archives: corporate culture

SHRM Speaker: Culture Must ‘Rock’

Many people think their company’s culture is about its heritage, about “the way we’ve always done things.” Jim Knight thinks those people are wrong.

“At its core, a company’s culture is about the present — it’s really a collection of individuals and, as they join or leave the organization, it changes,” said Knight, the opening keynote at the Society for Human Resource Management’s Talent Management Conference and Expo in Orlando, titled “Culture that Rocks: How to Amp Up or Revolutionize Your Company’s Culture.” “People say ‘My culture’s not the same as it used to be.’ No duh, sister! People come and go all the time!”

Because culture is shaped by the present, it’s malleable, and HR has an opportunity to shape it through constant communication, said Knight, former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International and author of the book Culture That Rocks. “You have to let people know what you’re trying to do, otherwise people will make it up on their own.”

A shared mindset is the key to success, Knight said. “Individual agendas produce random results, but a shared mind-set produces aligned actions.”

He cited fast-food chain Chik-fil-A as a prime example of a successful company culture that drives performance. Despite the company’s policy of having all stores closed on Sunday in observance of the Sabbath, the average Chik-fil-A restaurant generates $1 million more in a typical year than an average McDonald’s restaurant, said Knight. The company builds its culture starting with the entry-level employees at its restaurants, who receive two days of onboarding.

As part of their onboarding, the new employees watch a company video titled “Every Life Has a Story.” In the video, set to a violin score, a camera pans over a scene of customers at a Chik-fil-A restaurant, pausing over each one briefly as a bit of text appears over each person summarizing their story:  “Just lost his job and is wondering how he’ll support his family,” “Only son recently deployed to a war zone,” “Parents divorced when he was 7 ,” etc.

The video, which closes with the message “Every person has a story … if we bother to read it,” left a number of people in the audience visibly moved.

“As a training guy, I so wish I’d been the one to make that video,” said Knight. The take-away, he said, is that customers crave differentiation and that employees should want to give customers “a little more than what they were expecting.”

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Why You Shouldn’t Link Culture and Retention

Here are some vexing questions on culture: Why do people leave Google, Virgin and Zappos and take jobs elsewhere? Why, if 516216924 -- worker leavingthose companies are so focused on building exceptionally strong and compelling cultures, don’t people stay forever? Doesn’t it entirely contradict all the rhetoric about the power of culture if even the bellwethers of the corporate-culture surge can’t convince people to stay?

So poses Colin J. Browne — head of a Gauteng, South Africa-based culture, engagement and leadership think-tank firm called How to Build a Happy Sandpit — in a recent post on his company’s website. In his words,

“One of the greatest misunderstandings about culture is that it has some mystical power to lock people in to your organization for the long term. If you’re building it for that, you could be wasting your efforts … .”

On the contrary, he writes,

“[t]he answer lies in what I consider one of the most fundamental hallmarks of human nature: Familiarity breeds contempt. In a work sense, Happy Sandpit research [of 308 executives and business leaders over the past three years] shows that, within about 18 months, all employees slightly resent you for ever hiring them in the first place.

“It’s not that they don’t like their work, or their workplace, their colleagues or their bosses, it’s just that when we become used to things, we’re less inclined to see them as fresh and exciting and more inclined to overstate the irritations that surround us. And any workplace is full of irritations.”

In Browne’s estimation, given enough time and enough repetition of the tasks that make up [employees’ roles], the artifacts, strong values and general way of feeling while they are there begin to take a back seat to the day-to-day of their work. In that context, a new job offer bears the promise of reinvigoration, reinvention and a release from the things they’re bored with.

Since many more companies are awakening to the understanding that focusing on culture strengthens their employee-value proposition, the things you offer your employees may begin to lose their edginess, he says, adding that “you can get caught up in a vicious cycle if you react to that.” As he puts it,

“A far better goal for your culture efforts is to increase productivity, the voluntary sharing of talent, good will and skills, to iron out the rough spots that create barriers to team work and to develop a clear set of profiles for the people [who] you’ll have to hire to replace the ones [who] have left.

“Culture isn’t about retention. It’s about performance. Let that inform your decisions and you could save yourself from a world of pain.”

Not that we haven’t presented this premise in previous features and news analyses, but his way of articulating it caught a fresh eye so I gave it a fresh look.

I also contacted Browne to ask him specifically what HR practitioners and leaders should be doing to achieve that “far better goal.” His response:

“The one challenge shared by anyone who leads people in a discretionary environment [differentiated from a non-discretionary one, such as the military, where you are expected to follow orders fairly rigidly] is to convince people to volunteer their best efforts, loyalty and enthusiasm for the long term. You can’t lift them up by their feet and shake that stuff into their brains, so they have to choose to give it to you.

“Every culture conversation seems to be about how we make that happen, but I think we’re overlooking a couple of obvious things which keep hindering progress pretty much across the board:

  1. We don’t build jobs that support best efforts, loyalty and enthusiasm in the long term. You can come out of a design college and get a job at your dream digital-design company, be given the latest Mac computer and software to work on, in a great office, with exciting people and still feel like your job is boring within six months, because the projects you are working on and the clients you’re working with are, in fact, boring. Unless we’re building perfect jobs, therefore, which in an imperfect world with imperfect clients is impossible, people will find that they’ve had enough one day and go and find something else to do.

  2.  People are more loyal to their friends than they will ever be to a boss or a company. Ironically, the best reference for this is the behavior of soldiers in combat. While it’s often supposed that soldiers commit acts of great bravery for the grand notion of country, or unit or even God, the evidence suggests that, instead, they do it for the person next to them. When the order to retreat is given, they will blatantly ignore that order in order to rescue one of their colleagues. At the moments that matter, their loyalty is clear, and it’s not to ‘management’ or any sort of system. It’s to each other.”

I asked him to send me a specific, itemized list of the things HR should be doing or thinking about in light of his research. Here is that list:

  • You increase productivity when employees feel that they will let their colleagues down by slacking and care enough not to want to do that either because they’re emotionally invested or feel emotionally handcuffed. Either way, it works. This doesn’t happen overnight of course, but, by increasing the autonomy of individual teams — you can be as granular about this as you like, and I would encourage you to not be too broad — [so they can] make decisions on their own behalf [and] you make them more accountable for their results and actions, which then makes each individual member accountable to the others. You can’t be the one person who never pulls [his or her] weight in such an environment and expect to get anywhere. And to counter an obvious objection, if you find you have an entire team of slackers who merely cover each others’ backs instead of a productive team that cheers one another along, you change the challenge that they must meet and leave them to sort out the how. Raised expectations can have a very big impact.

  • They share talent, good will and skills voluntarily, because they’re sharing them with people they care about and whose success they link to their own. It doesn’t have to be altruistic; it just makes good sense as long as it is reciprocated and constant.

  • You iron out the barriers to teamwork by allowing them to decide how to work together. This goes to point one. Managers should care about the results and have a view about the way in which those results are achieved, but you’re unlikely to get the best out of people when you force them to stick to a rigid process that prevents them from developing their own flow. This may seem like voodoo to many organizations, which depend on processes to iron out the risk of defect, but those things are not mutually exclusive. You can have processes that must be adhered to, being followed by two teams with wildly different personalities, and get identical quality.

  • You create a clear set of profiles to replace those people by giving employees some say, or perhaps even all the say, about the people who join their team. They’re the ones who have to work with that new person and, unless you long to deal with employee friction, the manager’s view should be given less importance.

His list, he says, is a worthy goal of culture because it achieves the things you need it to: people giving their best efforts while they are with you.

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Bezos Offers His Take on Culture

I have no way of knowing the full extent to which last August’s New York Times’ blistering article about Amazon’s workplace irked founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. But if I’m correctly interpreting his most recent shareowners’ letter, I can’t help but conclude the story, though not mentioned by name, continues to weigh heavily on his mind.

Amazon.com Sign

As I’m sure most of you remember, the article—titled “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace”—takes aim at Amazon’s hard-charging culture, one that reportedly encourages employees to “sabotage” co-workers.

Some of those interviewed by the NYT said “the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being ‘vocally self-critical’ is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster.

“Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.”

Soon after the NYT’s article appeared, Jeff Bezos sent a memo to employees expressing is disbelief in the article’s claims, noting that it doesn’t reflects the Amazon he knows.

Well, now roughly eight months later, Bezos obviously felt that further clarification or messaging was needed.

After noting that Amazon has now become the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion, Bezos went on to share his point of view on the topic of corporate cultures, pointing out that, “for better or for worse, [corporate cultures] are enduring, stable, hard to change.”

The letter explains …

“They can be a source of advantage or disadvantage. You can write down your corporate culture, but when you do so, you’re discovering it, uncovering it—not creating it. It is created slowly over time by the people and by events—by the stories of past success and failure that become a deep part of the company lore.”

It continues …

“If it’s a distinctive culture, it will fit certain people like a custom-made glove. The reason cultures are so stable in time is because people self-select. Someone energized by competitive zeal may select and be happy in one culture, while someone who loves to pioneer and invent may choose another. The world, thankfully, is full of many high-performing, highly distinctive corporate cultures. We never claim that our approach is the right one—just that it’s ours—and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful.”

It’s anyone’s guess, of course, as to whether Bezos’ latest shareowners’ letter is his final volley at the NYT’s article—and certainly that was one of its intended targets. But a close reading of it certainly suggests Bezos wants the world to know he’s quite satisfied with the culture he’s built at Amazon.

And why wouldn’t he be? After all, whether Amazon is your cup of tea or not, Bezos now has 100 billion reasons to be satisfied.

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Free Speech, Politics and the Workplace

Could employees face workplace retribution for attending a Donald J. Trump rally? (photo by Gage Skidmore)

Could employees face workplace retribution for attending a Donald J. Trump rally? (photo by Gage Skidmore)

Given the tenor of this very unique election season, it’s entirely possible that chats between colleagues that stray into politics could end up causing the water in the office water cooler to hit boiling temperatures. So maybe it’s understandable that HR might want to keep conversations and activities related to political causes as far from the workplace as possible. But in a number of cases workers have complained that they were fired because of their political beliefs, and Justin Danhof wants to do something about it.

Danhof is the general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy and director of its Employee Conscience Protection Project. The organization, which describes itself as conservative, says all employees – conservative and liberal – deserve the right to engage in political and civic activities outside the workplace without fear of retribution from their employers. It is targeting large, publicly traded corporations to commit to protecting their employees from such discrimination and has so far convinced 13 major employers – including Home Depot, Walmart, General Electric, Pfizer and Visa – to sign on.

“Our mission is to expand freedom wherever we see corporate culture limiting freedom,” says Danhof.

The organization was inspired to act after Brendan Eich, the CEO of technology firm Mozilla, resigned his post in the wake of an uproar after it was discovered that he had donated funds in support of California’s Proposition 8, a state referendum that sought to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

“The activists demanded his head and he ended up leaving Mozilla of his own accord. We sat back and said, how can this happen in America?”

The episode led Danhof and his group to delve deeper into the protections afforded Americans who engage in political activity outside the workplace. They found that only half of working Americans live in jurisdictions that afford even a limited measure of protection against employer retaliation.

Danhof says this lack of protection dampens employees’ willingness to engage in civic participation. “Here we live in the greatest country in the world, and yet so few people participate in the political process that we actually cheer when six out of 10 people show up to vote,” he says. “That’s pathetic.”

Danhof’s group approaches large, publicly traded companies with operations in multiple jurisdictions and asks them to adopt a policy that simply states that no adverse action will be taken against employees for engaging in private political activity.

“We don’t think people should ever lose their jobs because of their political beliefs,” says Danhof.

Of course, some political beliefs are more controversial than others. Suppose an employee spots his supervisor participating in a rally for white supremacists, for example?

Publicly traded companies have a fiduciary duty to protect shareholders, says Danhof, and have the right to take action against an employee whose actions potentially damage the company’s reputation. That said, he adds, the issue isn’t always clear-cut.

“There’s a large swath of the American public right now that believes if you show up at a rally for a certain political candidate — and I’m not going to name names — then that’s a hate activity,” he says.

The Employee Conscience Protection Project is currently trying to get Starbucks Corp. to sign on, and will continue urging other publicly traded companies to do the same. Large, publicly traded companies typically have multistate operations, including in jurisdictions where employees have no legal protection from retaliation, says Danhof, and can serve as examples to other companies. “We also prefer to engage the free market on this, rather than trying to get state governments to pass laws,” he says.

Many employees believe – erroneously – that the First Amendment protects their right to speak freely when, in fact, that protection does not necessarily extend to the workplace, says Danhof.

“We think a Tea Party supporter should be able to work for a Bernie Sanders supporter, or vice versa, and not have to be fearful about potentially losing their job,” he says.

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Compliance Efforts Not So Great Globally, Either

507249886 -- compliance word cloudIt wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a news analysis about the problems with ethics and compliance programs here in the United States.

Experts in that piece lamented the lack of clout being given to many corporate ethics and compliance officers, and the tendency at far too many organizations to require ethics officers to wear too many hats — doubling up on such governance responsibilities as risk management and human resources, thereby not being able to focus properly on any one of them, especially ethics and compliance.

Well, it appears those two disciplines are in need of collar corrections on the global stage as well. According to the recently released NAVEX Global’s 2015 Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific State of Compliance Programmes Benchmark Report, despite tighter government enforcement, boards are not getting regular compliance reports and 40 percent don’t have regular reporting cadence with their boards or are not sure. And the majority say their budgets for ethics and compliance will remain the same or will be less in the coming year.

To come up with its findings, NAVEX Global partnered with an independent research agency to investigate how companies headquartered  across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) develop and execute their ethics and compliance programs.

Researchers polled 247 key decision-makers and individuals responsible for ethics  and compliance programs. The purpose of the survey was to benchmark “the top priorities and challenges faced by ethics and compliance professionals headquartered in EMEA and APAC,” according to the report.

From the report (edited slightly for English readers):

“It is not surprising that measuring program effectiveness was cited as the biggest program challenge, since this is a complex undertaking. Organizations struggle to define the right combination of key indicators of culture and compliance to demonstrate the program is working.

“The key challenges of time availability and managing regulations speak to the need for programs to be properly resourced. A robust risk-assessment process can help to identify and better manage resource allocation and to prioritize jurisdictional issues. Successful programs regularly review resources against the organization’s risk profile to ensure appropriate management and mitigation actions .

“Survey write-in responses to challenges included concerns about implementing standardized programs across locations and being seen as a “troublemaker” for bringing up issues. The wide variety of responses serve as a reminder that every organization has its own culture and challenges to be factored into the development and implementation of an effective ethics and compliance program .

Key takeaways from the report:

  • Take a Risk-Based Approach: Program components and implementation strategies can be complex and will vary significantly by company and by region. The development of these programs should be driven by the organization’s risk profile, which can be identified by conducting a comprehensive ethics, compliance and reputational risk assessment.
  • Put Meaningful Program Measurements in Place: Consider a variety of metrics to determine the effectiveness of the program as there is no one metric or indication that will provide complete insights. A combination of useful metrics could include whistleblower-hotline benchmarks, feedback on training sessions, leadership feedback, employee surveys and focus group data, exit interview feedback, and legal actions.
  • Train Middle Managers and Supervisors: First- and second-level managers are culture carriers — the strongest link senior management has to employees. These managers need to be trained on communicating organizational expectations to employees — and trained on how to respond when issues arise. Investing in these managers will pay dividends in terms of creating a strong culture of integrity and compliance.
  •  Engage Leadership and Your Board of Directors: Both best-practice frameworks and regulatory bodies around the world have defined a clear oversight role for the board of directors. Neglecting this duty could mean putting the organization, and board members themselves, at risk. A regular reporting cadence — with high-quality data put into context — will help keep the board and leadership engaged.
  • Do More With Less: Make good use of systems and processes that will improve the efficiency and accuracy of their programs. There is still opportunity for further automation in many areas of respondents’ E&C programs.
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… But What About Gen X Workers?

What will we do as the baby boomers retire en masse, and take their decades of knowledge and experience with them? And these millennials, who many projections say will soon make up nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce—how do we harness their considerable abilities and put them to the best use within our organization?

Organizations everywhere have wrestled with the questions and challenges surrounding these unique groups of workers in recent years.

But there’s another, large group of employees in the middle that may not receive as much attention. Some new research, however, suggests that employers would be wise to focus more on Generation X and the many assets this dedicated cohort can bring to the workplace.

As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I absolutely remember a time when we were mostly thought of as a pretty apathetic bunch with no real work ethic. (Not that we cared about these perceptions or felt like expending any effort trying to change them.) But this new survey, conducted by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry, finds that Gen Xers—defined in the study as those born between 1965 1980—are actually the most engaged employees in today’s workforce.

Indeed, 52 percent of the 1,070 executives responding to the recent global poll said as much, compared to 23 percent saying they see boomers as the most invested in their jobs, and another 23 percent feeling the same way about Gen Y workers. (The remaining 2 percent felt those fresh-faced, barely-out-of-their teens comprising Generation Z are the most engaged.)

“While members of each generation are critical to the workforce and their diversity of thought brings new ideas and insights to companies, organizational leaders would benefit by harnessing and rewarding the hard work habits of Gen Xers,” says Andrea Wolf, Futurestep’s North American HR practice leader, in a recent statement announcing the findings.

So, what can employers offer to attract these hard workers and provide the perks that make them want to stay?

According to the survey, feeling they have “the ability to make a difference in the organization” was most important to 39 percent of Gen X-age employees in the workplace. That figure is more than double the number of respondents citing “job stability” (16 percent) or “development opportunities” (15 percent) as what matters most to these workers.

In terms of retention, 41 percent of respondents said experiencing “a sense of pride in their work” was what kept Gen Xers in their current jobs, with 24 percent most valuing “financial stability” and 23 percent prizing “company culture” above all else.

And what kind of benefits get those notoriously indifferent Gen Xers revved up about their jobs? Money helps, of course, with 48 percent of respondents pointing to “pay and bonuses” as the most important benefit to employees in this age group, followed by “paid time off,” at 25 percent, and “retirement plans,” at 19 percent.

While Gen Xers might say they want time off, don’t count on them to take it, says Wolf.

“Talk to a Gen Xer about his or her vacation, and they’ll say they’re too busy to take one, or they had to cut it short because of work,” she says. “Employers may want to consider rewards other than extended vacation time to attract and retain this group.”

Too busy at work to take vacation? Thinking about retirement? Wow, there was a time when we were too busy slacking off and obsessing over Seinfeld to even look for a job or consider our financial futures. Gen X has really come a long way.

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Reliably Irrational or Occasionally Unfair?

Being consistent as a boss—even if that means being consistently awful—counts for something with employees.

That seems to be the big message to emerge from recent Michigan State University research.

Published online in February by the Academy of Management Journal, the study determined that employees who see their supervisors as being reliably unfair are happier in their jobs and feel less work-related anxiety than those who view their bosses as unpredictable.

Actually, the team—led by MSU doctoral student Fadel Matta—performed a pair of studies on the way to reaching that conclusion, according to the Washington Post.

In a lab experiment, college students had to estimate a hypothetical company’s stock price, using information about its performance. These participants were told that their peers would be sitting in another room and acting as their supervisors, but they were “actually receiving feedback on the task from the researchers,” the Post reports.

The study authors divided the students—all of whom were having their heart rates monitored in order to gauge their stress levels throughout the experiment—into three groups. Students in one group received input from “supervisors”  such as “thanks for your effort during the last round” or “it’s great to work with a motivated person,” according to the Post. A second group was on the end of a steady stream of negative comments like “it sucks to work with an unmotivated person,” while the third cohort heard mixed messages from their would-be bosses.

Those routinely hearing words of thanks and encouragement demonstrated the least stress. Those who were peppered with put-downs, however, actually fared better than students whose bosses’ feedback wavered between nasty and nice.

In a second study, approximately 100 workers filled out daily surveys throughout a three-week span, answering questions regarding their perceptions of fairness. Participants’ supervisors were polled at the study’s start, in an effort to “measure their capability for self-control,” the Post notes. As was the case in the first experiment, employees with erratic managers experienced greater stress, job dissatisfaction and emotional exhaustion compared to those who felt they regularly received the short end of the stick from the boss.

These results may stem, in large part, from “this issue of uncertainty,” Matta recently told the Post. “This notion of knowing what to expect—even if it’s bad—is better than not knowing what to expect at work.”

In the Post piece, Matta advises that employers coach wild-card bosses on how to brace workers for bad news that could be coming, as a way to (hopefully) quell employees’ insecurities.

“Sometimes you have to be unfair. There’s only so many resources you can distribute, for instance,” Matta told the paper. “But if you say ‘tomorrow this is going to be happening’—then all of a sudden people aren’t coming in not knowing what to expect. At least that uncertainty is mitigated.”

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‘Rethinking’ Approaches to Work/Life Balance

There’s been no shortage of studies over the years on the topic of work/life balance and its impact on employee effectiveness, with most suggesting the two are undeniably intertwined.

ThinkstockPhotos-462450933Well, the latest of these studies is the focus of a piece by Susan Dominus titled “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” in this Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine. In it, Dominus, a staff writer for the magazine, references the latest research by University of Minnesota Professor Phyllis Moen and MIT Professor Erin Kelly, published this month in the American Sociological Review.

As Dominus tells it, the study—Does a Flexibility/Support Organizational Initiative Improve High-Tech Employees’ Well-Being? Evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Networkoffers further evidence that employees who are given more control over when and where they work are happier, sleep better and experience less stress than those who aren’t.

Another outcome of the research, Dominus writes: Over a three-year period, employees were less interest in leaving their organizations.

Moen and MIT conducted their research in the technology department of a corporation that chose to remain nameless, dividing half of the employees into a control group that still operated under the company’s usual policy (in which flexibility was at the manager’s discretion) and the other half in an experimental group that were allowed to work where and when they wanted. In the case of the latter, the emphasis was on results, not hours worked.

As Dominus’ story points out, Moen “believes that ‘the mother-may-I approach’ to flexibility — one that relies on manager discretion—holds too many people back from acting on the policy. Instead, she wants to overhaul corporate culture so that flexibility is a living, breathing, vital aspect of work, a default mode rather than a privilege.”

In other words, policy alone isn’t enough for work/life balance to succeed; the corporate culture also needs to transformed.

Besides Moen, the NYTM article also quotes several other experts, including one who emphasizes the need to make any change initiative gender-neutral.

Another source suggests in the piece that “work/life fit” is a better way to describe initiatives than “work/life balance,” because it better “captures how employees are trying to piece the disparate parts of their lives together.” (Dominus notes that both the American Psychological Association and the Society for Human Resource Management have started to use this term.)

Whatever you decide to call it, I think it’s safe to assume employers someday are going to have to figure out the best way to address the issue of employee flexibility in their organizations—and maximize its value. And if we’re to believe what Dominus is suggesting in her story—and what Moen and Kelly are telling us in their research—it may take more than just a policy tweak or two to reap the full rewards of your work/family or work/life efforts.

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Gone and Never Coming Back

Many companies have recognized the benefits of rehiring a former employee: familiarity with the organization and its culture, existing relationships with colleagues and clients, built-in knowledge of the job and so on.

HRE is among the many who have noted the increasing number of employers embracing the boomerang employee in recent years (as seen here, here and here).

A new survey, in fact, finds that 98 percent of more than 300 human resource managers said they would be either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to rehire a departed employee who left the company on good terms.

That same study, however, suggests that HR’s love for former employees is more often than not unrequited.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based Accountemps also polled more than 1,000 United States-based workers for the aforementioned survey. Fifty-two percent of them said it was unlikely they would apply for a job at a company they used to work for.

More specifically, 25 percent said it would be “very unlikely,” with another 27 percent characterizing their prospects of becoming a boomerang employee as “somewhat unlikely.”

Why were the majority of respondents so hesitant to consider coming back?

Management seems to be the biggest issue, with 23 percent of workers citing leadership as the primary reason why they wouldn’t be keen on a second go-round with an organization. Fourteen percent chalked it up to corporate culture, with the same number indicating that dissatisfaction with the job itself was why they would be apt to spurn a former employer’s advances. Another 10 percent said “the company burned bridges when I left.”

Indeed, a company that bungles the offboarding process does so at its own peril, according to Bill Driscoll, a district president at Accountemps.

“Boomerang employees have a shorter learning curve, may require less training and have already proven themselves and their fit with the organization, so there are fewer surprises,” says Driscoll, in a press release summarizing the findings.

“Companies who part ways unprofessionally or don’t take seriously the information they glean from exit interviews could miss out on bringing back someone great.”

Ultimately, organizations looking to rehire former employees should “consider why they left in the first place,” says Driscoll, whose recommendations for such companies include conducting quality exit interviews and stressing to good workers on their way out that the door would be open to return down the line if they so choose.

“If they resigned to pursue education, training or a role with more responsibility, having them back may bring new skills and ideas to the organization,” says Driscoll. “On the other hand, those who quit because of dissatisfaction with management, pay or the corporate culture may still be unhappy if they perceive nothing has changed while they were away.”

 

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Not Your Father’s Factory Floor Anymore

Today’s top manufacturing firms are hardly in the category of your dad’s or granddad’s factory of yore anymore. At least, that’s 473081406 -- factory workersaccording to the latest Great Place to Work Report on this sector,  Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production 2016, released a week ago today.

The report cites dramatic changes in industrial production and “a new employment deal defined by high levels of trust” that are prompting companies to “retool their relationships with employees as they compete for a shrinking pool of skilled workers,” says the report’s release.

The top manufacturing and production workplace for 2016 is Houston-based energy company Hilcorp. Electronics manufacturer Tactical Electronics, headquartered in Broken Arrow, Okla., ranks second on the list of 15 firms, followed by orthopedic surgical supply manufacturer Arthrex Inc., based in Naples, Fla.

As Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, puts it, the leading manufacturing and production companies “know the game has changed.”

“The best workplaces in the industry know they can’t just churn out their products with warm bodies,” he says. “They need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent by putting people first, in a high-trust culture. That’s how they are winning in the market.”

The list is based entirely on anonymous employee feedback from more than 34,900 randomly selected employees from companies in this sector. The winners do seem to defy outdated perceptions of working in factories and manufacturing plans.

For instance, in terms of job security, 92 percent of employees at companies on the list say their leaders would lay people off only as a last resort. That’s even better than the response from people at companies on the broader ranking of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, which includes organizations in healthcare and technology that are experiencing much faster growth.

And forget about the stereotype of fat-cat executives in conflict with poorly paid assembly line grunts. An average 82 percent of employees at the best manufacturing and production workplaces say they receive a fair share of profits. Hilcorp, for example, gave out $100,000 bonus checks to all employees last year after it met five-year goals.

In fact, here’s the official rundown from the report of some of the neat things gong on at top-winner Hilcorp.:

  • Buy-In Incentive Plan: This unique long-term incentive program provides all full-time employees with the opportunity to build personal wealth over time by allowing them to participate in Hilcorp projects and, as the projects start generating positive cash flow, the employee begins to share in the return.
  • Bonus Program: Every employee’s annual bonus is aligned with company goals — “When Hilcorp Wins, We all Win” — and bonus payout percentages are the same for all full-time employees. Hilcorp’s bonus stretch goal is 60 percent and, during the past five years, employees have received an average of 36 percent of their base salary.
  • The Hilcorp Giving Program: The company will establish a charitable trust of $2,500 to help employees support any U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization. Hilcorp also helps increase an employee’s giving power by providing ongoing machining gifts up to $2,000 per year. Employees have donated more than $7 million to matching charities of their choice through this program.
  • Mega Plans – BHAG’s: Every five years, Hilcorp sets a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) that is truly a stretch goal with equally audacious rewards! For example, the latest BHAG, Dream 2015, was recently achieved by doubling the rate, reserves and value in five years. Everyone received (prorated based on hire date) $100,000!!!

As a result of their employee-focused approach, companies that made the list have an average turnover rate of just 7.2 percent, much lower than the national industry average of 13 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Keeping that turnover low will offer a real advantage to these companies in the years ahead, the report says. As the president of the National Association of Manufacturers recently pointed out, the sector is expected to create 3.5 million new jobs in the next decade, but a lack of skilled workers is likely to leave 2 million of them unfilled. On top of the skills deficit, the industry also faces the challenges of an aging U.S. workforce and rising labor costs in Asia that make it easier to “insource” many of the jobs that left the United States in decades past. It continues:

“In this context, the Best Workplaces in Manufacturing and Production aren’t just exceptional for their people policies. They’re at the forefront of an entire industry that will need to create high-trust work environments in order to stay competitive in the years ahead.”

And in the words of Anil Saxena, Great Place to Work partner and workplace-culture consultant:

“There’s a lot of hiring in manufacturing, and there’s a lot of demand in manufacturing. [The perception of the sector as less-than-glamorous needn’t be a barrier to retaining valuable people.] If you treat your employees with respect and you involve them in your decision making, they’ll go the extra mile for you, regardless of their job title.”

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