Category Archives: employee communication

Does Being a Jerk Really Work?

work jerkA good leader knows when to be forceful and when to use finesse.

Of course, some have to fight their naturally aggressive impulses in delicate situations, while others must dig deep to find their inner Type A traits when the circumstances call for assertiveness.

A pair of laboratory studies outlined in a recent Journal of Business and Psychology article contrasted uncompromising approaches with more diplomatic methods in the workplace , and when each may be best, in terms of sharing and utilizing original ideas at work.

College professors Samuel Hunter and Lily Cushenbery sought to “investigate the relationship between lower levels of agreeableness (i.e., disagreeableness) and [the] innovation process, such as idea generation, promotion and group utilization, as well as potential contextual moderators of these relationships.”

Or, in plain English, the researchers essentially wanted to find out if being kind of a jerk helps one to spawn and advance ideas in the workplace.

The overarching theme emerging from both studies seems to be that obnoxiousness doesn’t necessarily give birth to brilliant ideas, but it may help coerce colleagues into buying what you’re selling.

That’s according to the findings of Hunter, an assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University, and Cushenbery, an assistant professor of management and director of the Leadership & Conflict Research Lab at Stony Brook University.

In their first study, 201 college students completed personality tests before strategizing together, in groups of three, to develop a marketing campaign. The authors found no real connection between disagreeableness and the originality of ideas created, but did identify a link between unpleasantness and group utilization of ideas.

The second study placed 291 individuals in an online environment to examine the originality of ideas shared with group members after manipulating both feedback and originality of ideas generated by others, and to determine the effect that creative and supportive co-workers have on the sharing of ideas.

This analysis yielded results similar to the first, with the caveat that a bit of belligerence may actually be an asset in environments where new ideas aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms.

“Disagreeable personalities may be helpful in combating the challenges faced in the innovation process, but social context is also critical,” said Cushenbery. “In particular, an environment supportive of original thinking may negate the utility of disagreeableness and, in fact, disagreeableness may hamper the originality of ideas shared.”

Ultimately, “being a ‘jerk’ may not be directly linked to who generates original ideas,” added Hunter, “but such qualities may be useful if the situation dictates that a bit of a fight is needed to get those original ideas heard and used by others.”

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A Finger on the Employee Pulse

employee pollWe all know that employee surveys provide very usable and valuable data. But how much employee input do you need, and how often should you be asking for it?

If a recent Wall Street Journal article is any indication, some companies are searching for the sweet spot by taking a “more (and more often) is better” approach to employee surveys.

In the piece, the paper’s Rachel Emma Silverman examines the rise of “so-called ‘pulse surveys,’ ” highlighting a few employers relying on short monthly, weekly or daily polls to “provide data on how their teams actually feel and catch problems before they fester.” (Short and frequent surveys are even replacing annual employee surveys at some organizations, says Silverman, although she notes that others—Google Inc., for instance—use a combination of both.)

For example, Limeade Inc., a Seattle-based corporate wellness firm with 115 employees, sends it people quick, one-question surveys each week, seeking feedback on issues ranging from customer service improvements to holiday party ideas.

Workers answer anonymously, and the results are discussed at bi-weekly company meetings. Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht told the Journal these polls revealed that the firm’s remote workers were generally less happy than those working from headquarters, and the company has since invested in more teleconferencing tools to “reconnect [remote workers] with the mother ship,” according to the article.

As many as three times a week, Boston-based public relations and marketing firm Metis Communications asks employees what they are most proud of and whether they feel their managers listen to them. Rebecca Joyner, director of content services at the company, told the Journal that a pair of standing desks appeared at Metis HQ within two weeks of one such survey, which asked employees if they were happy with their office chairs.

It’s worth noting that these organizations—as well as most of the other firms included in the Journal article—are on the small side, in terms of number of employees, and pay about $50 a month or anywhere from $15 to $100 per employee for pulse-survey tools delivered by companies such as knowyourcompany.com, TinyPulse, BlackbookHR and Gallup.

We’ll see if more large companies go this route, but it seems at least some are already taking similar steps to get a handle on how employees are feeling.

Sears Holding Corp., the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based owner of Sears and Kmart, has launched Project MoodRing, an initiative designed to “record store employees’ moods at the end of their shifts,” according to WSJ.

Workers choose a color-coded emoticon on a screen, to describe how they’re feeling when they clock out, be it “unstoppable,” “so-so,” “exhausted” or “frustrated,” for instance. The article notes that Sears anticipates it will receive about 28 million daily mood responses a year, and has already found “a correlation between slightly higher sales and customer satisfaction at stores where employees are in positive moods rather than neutral or negative moods.”

While conducting surveys—even short ones—with such frequency can get repetitive and eventually begin grating on employees’ nerves, keeping the questions fresh may be one of the keys to successful employee polls.

Quirky Inc., for example, asks its approximately 150 employees about the challenges they’re facing at the moment, and who at the New York-based invention company has demonstrated great leadership in the past week, according to the Journal. Rochelle DiRe, chief people officer at Quirky Inc., told WSJ that the company has begun rotating questions more frequently, as a way to maintain employee participation and interest.

“Without some kind of variation,” says DiRe, “it can get a little bit like homework for some people.”

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Ford Fouls Up

Editor’s note: Correction appended below.

Will they ever learn?

Amid all the talk recently about the need to re-engage employees and strengthen your employment brand against the backdrop of an improving economy and tightening labor market, Ford Motor Co. decided to downsize 90 workers from its Chicago assembly plant — via a robocall (and on Halloween, no less).

Many of the workers assumed the call — which they received at home –was merely a prank, and showed up at the plant for their Saturday shift only to learn that their badges no longer worked: They were barred from their plant. Because they really had been fired. And that robocall had not been a prank.

In a statement to AOL News, Ford said that it did not normally fire workers via robocall and that it expected the layoffs to be temporary: “As part of our business process, we have temporarily adjusted our workforce numbers at Chicago Assembly Plant by approximately 90 team members. Our goal, as always, is to return the workers back to their positions as soon as possible based on the needs of our business.”

And to think, those workers had probably assumed they’d be getting a welcome break from annoying robocalls, now that the mid-term elections are finally over.

Ford is hardly the first company to bungle a layoff announcement, of course. Just a few months ago, Microsoft executive Stephen Elop received plenty of well-deserved criticism when he announced a massive layoff near the end of a long, rambling email to Microsoft employees within his division. Layoffs are often a necessary evil, of course, frequently dictated by business cycles over which the company may have little control. But a company — HR, in particular — does have control over the manner in which the announcements are made, and the remaining employees won’t soon forget how their ex-colleagues were treated.

In summarizing his thoughts about the Microsoft email, Bill Rosenthal, CEO of New York-based Communispond, explained it to reporter Jill Cueni-Cohen this way: “It’s tough to make hard decisions, and I don’t think what Microsoft did was a bad decision; it was the message that was bad. It was the way he delivered it.”

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to Stephen Elop as the CEO of Microsoft Corp. Satya Nadella is the CEO; Elop is an executive vice president.

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‘The Death of Customer Service’

Came across an interesting blog post with the same title as my header here,  written by Rick Conlow, leadership expert and CEO/co-founder of Minneapolis-based WCW Partners. He believes telephone operatorcustomer service has been ailing for some time now and employers need to put the function on “life support” and “invest heavily in bringing it back to health” before it fells you at your knees.

Customer service, he writes, “passed away quietly [and] the wake is at the next quarterly meeting, and the funeral will follow shortly.” Each year, he writes, “companies worldwide struggle for sales growth and profit, yet a conservative estimate of their loss from poor customer service comes in at a staggering $338.5 billion a year.”

He sums up the problem pretty convincingly:

“Excellent customer service is seriously lacking in most places we spend our money. Think about it — can you recall a recent experience where the customer service was really bad? Sure you can. Think of other places you have spent your hard earned paycheck: grocery store, bank, restaurant, a fast-food chain, a department store, a gas station, a hotel, an airline, an online merchant and the list could go on. How many of these had poor to average service? Probably most of them. How many really stood out and had outstanding service? Very likely, it was only a few.”

Here are the top four reasons why Conlow thinks customer service is essentially dead, as itemized in this release about his blog post:

1.    A Lack of Civility — People have accepted poor manners and have become used to rude behavior. “The general perception by most adults is that people are less civil than in days past,” Conlow says.
2.    Employees Treated as Commodities — “Many companies treat employees as commodities,” he contends, “not as valuable partners. Most employees don’t get the training and support they need to deliver superior customer service. Company leaders have little loyalty to their employees, and, in return, employees have little loyalty to them and their customers.”
3.    Public Accustomed to Poor Service — The public’s expectations have become lower as mediocre service has become rampant. Conlow points out that many big companies with poor customer-service ratings still thrive.
4.    An Increase in Technology — The increase in technology today means a decrease in personal interaction. “Service technology loses the human touch — the empathy and compassion that is vital to creating loyal customer relationships,” he says.

Conlow warns that “consumer discontent is a sleeping giant. It will only take so much, and its wrath can go viral today in minutes.” He also says customer service is becoming more important than ever, and companies need to put more effort into improving it.

Such as? Well … a leadership mind change, for one. As he describes:

“Maybe the real issue is that too many business leaders don’t value delivering better service and don’t buy into the bottom-line benefits. So most organizations do just enough to get by. The American Customer Satisfaction Institute at the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan rates some 240 companies across 34 industries on a monthly basis. The airline industry has a 67 average, which is awful. The average rating for all companies is 76.8, which is a C average. This means only two of 10 companies have a significant level of highly satisfied customers. Those few companies with excellent ratings have discovered that excellent service is really their leading product that drives everything else.”

Conlow cites a Customers 2020 report saying the customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in the future. Those organizations that adapt will survive and thrive, he says. Then he issues this warning:

“As more companies begin to ail painfully, customer service must be resurrected as it becomes more important than ever.”

So … better customer-service training, perhaps? More money in the customer-service-training pot? Conlow’s take: By all means.

Maybe this news analysis we posted in June gets to a better solution for today’s workforce (which now includes many younger workers, and they’re only going to increase). Invest in the things these workers believe in, including corporate-social-responsibility initiatives, and watch your customer-service ratings climb.

Share your CSR visions and values with them, make sure they reflect some of what these younger workers are passionate about, encourage them to connect with like-minded customers on the same issues … and, that story indicates, you really can right this customer-service ship.

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Really, the Form is in the Mail

mailA federal court decision may have added to the list of things that old-fashioned snail mail won’t be used for anymore, and should give employers pause to consider their methods for delivering important notices to employees.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently remanded the case of Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc. for further proceedings, leaving a jury to settle a dispute over whether an employee received FMLA disclosures her employer sent via first-class U.S. mail.

In the court’s words:

“In this age of computerized communications and handheld devices, it is certainly not expecting too much to require businesses that wish to avoid a material dispute about the receipt of a letter to use some form of mailing that includes verifiable receipt when mailing something as important as a legally mandated notice.”

Here’s what led up to that judgment:

In December 2007, plaintiff Lisa Lupyan—an instructor at CCI since 2004—completed a request-for-leave form, specifying that she was taking “personal leave” for the remainder of the calendar year.

Court documents indicate that her supervisor, James Thomas, recommended Lupyan instead apply for short-term disability coverage. Nevertheless, Lupyan began her leave as scheduled, with her physician completing a Department of Labor “Certification of Health Provider” form. Based on the information provided in that document, however, CCI’s human resource department determined that Lupyan’s absence qualified for FMLA leave.

According to the suit, HR subsequently met with Lupyan and directed her to initial the box labeled “Family Medical Leave” on her request form. Lupyan contends that her FMLA rights—including the requirement that she return to work within 12 weeks—were not discussed in this meeting, a claim that CCI does not dispute.

CCI maintains that an HR representative mailed Lupyan an FMLA Designation Notice after the aforementioned meeting, classifying her absence as FMLA leave and advising her of her rights under the Act. Lupyan denies ever receiving said notice, and claims she was not told she was required to come back to work within 12 weeks.

On April 9—eight days after Lupyan notified CCI that she had been cleared to return to her job with certain restrictions—the school terminated Lupyan from her position, citing low student enrollment as well as the fact that she hadn’t returned within the 12 weeks allotted for FMLA leave. Lupyan subsequently sued, alleging the college interfered with her FMLA rights by failing to give notice that her leave fell under the Act.

In this case, CCI “complied with the letter of the law, to no avail,” says Ellen Storch, a Woodbury, N.Y.-based partner at Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck.

Her advice to employers in similar situations?

“Do more than the law requires when providing employees with FMLA notices.”

For example, she recommends sending notices in a way that creates evidence of receipt—say, by certified mail or an overnight carrier, which requires a recipient’s signature in order to be delivered. She also advises requiring the employee to sign an acknowledgement of receipt, to maintain communication with the employee throughout his or her leave, and to send notices in more than one way.

“If an employer can demonstrate that it attempted to deliver notices and communicate with employees about the notices in multiple ways,” says Storch, “employees will have difficulty disputing receipt of the information.”

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About to be Asked for a Raise? Feed the Source

A paper is being presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management in Philadelphia, which ends tomorrow, that I thought you might find interesting.

167422861 -- crazy hungryIt seems, according to researchers Emily Zitek of Cornell University and Alexander Jordan of Dartmouth College, the hungrier an employee is, the more entitled he or she feels and the more effective he or she can be in asking for a raise.

Their study, I Need Food and I Deserve a Raise, based on two experiments involving about 270 college students, finds that “hunger leads people to feel more entitled,” according to the report. “Hungry people think about themselves instead of others and focus on their own needs, which leads them to feel and act entitled,” it states. (Here’s the AOM press release about the study.)

The paper, according to the release, “defines psychological entitlement as ‘the feeling that one is more deserving of positive outcomes than other people are,’ and explains that ‘entitled individuals pay attention to themselves and the special treatment that they should receive over other things.”

While research “has tended to focus mainly on social and cognitive causes of increased entitlement, such as recalling an unfair event,” the report states, “the authors posit that it can also be driven ‘by amplified levels of a basic physiological drive — hunger — which may cause people to turn their focus inward and place their needs above those of others.’ ”

The authors’ advice? Feed them. It’ll help you in the raise discussion and can smooth some other workplace rough edges as well.

As the AOM report puts it:

… for the edification of bosses, the researchers observe that ‘entitlement can cause big problems in the workplace, so managers might want to provide food to employees or wait to schedule potentially contentious meetings until after lunch.’ They go on to note that, ‘although certainly due to a host of factors, organizations with readily available food, such as Google, are also known for having unentitled, grateful and satisfied [digestively and otherwise] employees.”

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‘The 27 Challenges Managers Face’

Bruce Tulgan

Bruce Tulgan

I just came across an advance copy of a book due on shelves Sept. 15 that takes a pretty interesting stab at itemizing and enumerating every key challenge a manager will face in his or her profession. I’m sharing it here — “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” — because I’ve found the author, Bruce Tulgan, CEO and founder of New Haven, Conn.-based management consultancy RainmakerThinking Inc., to be pretty authoritative and sound over the years when it comes to manager-employee relationships.

HRE clearly concurs, as it will be featuring Tulgan in a webinar on Aug. 13, titled “Building a Better Boss: Engaging Managers to Inspire and Engage Workers.” In the webinar, he’ll discuss his latest research that finds “The Under-Management Epidemic,” first revealed in his company’s 2004 study, rages on 10 years later. According to the study, nine out of 10 leaders and managers are not providing their direct reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching today. 

In his latest book, already listed on Amazon, Tulgan reiterates and underscores that fact, bringing together what he says are the 27 — not 26 or 28, mind you — challenges he’s heard repeatedly from managers over his 20 years of research. During that time, he says, he’s asked “hundreds of thousands of managers in organizations of all shapes and sizes, ‘What are the most difficult challenges you face when it comes to managing people?’ ” His finding:

Regardless of industry or job title, managers cite the same core issues — more than 90 percent of responses over the years refer to the same 27 challenges. The same cases come up over and over again — maybe it’s the superstar [who] the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker [who] the manager cannot figure out how to motivate or the two employees who cannot get along.”

As Tulgan says in a Q&A at the end of this link about the book, including excerpts:

It turns out that when things are going wrong in a management relationship, almost always, the common denominator is unstructured, low-substance, hit-or-miss communication. … Almost always, the ad-hoc manner in which most managers talk to their direct reports every day actually makes inevitable the most difficult employee situations that tend to vex managers. What is the key to avoiding most of these problems and the key to solving them quickly and with relative ease as soon as they appear? High-structure high-substance one-on-one dialogues with every direct report.”

For what it’s worth, I have talked to numerous experts over the years who have corroborated this need for more effective and authentic one-on-one business leadership, including folks at Bridgeville, Pa.-based Development Dimensions International, whose recent study finds a sorry lack of interactive-conversational skills among business leaders and managers worldwide. (I wrote about that study in this recent news analysis.)

As it is, and as Tulgan’s book lays them out — grouped in chapters according to stages of one’s management career and types of problems — here they are, all 27 of them:

1, when going from peer to leader; 2, when coming from the outside to take over leadership of an existing team; 3, when bringing together an entirely new team; 4, when you are welcoming a new member to your existing team; 5, when employees have a hard time managing time; 6, when an employee needs help with interpersonal communication; 7, when an employee needs to get organized; 8, when an employee needs to get better at problem-solving; 9, when you have an employee who needs to increase productivity; 10, when you have an employee who needs to improve quality; 11, when you need an employee to start “going the extra mile”; 12, when your employees are doing “creative” work; 13, when the employee you are managing knows more about the work than you do (I, Kris Frasch, suspect that might be something managers are experiencing more frequently these days, given our demographic shifts in the workplace); 14, when an employee needs an attitude adjustment; 15, when there is conflict between and among individuals on your team …

Breath …

16, when an employee has personal issues at home; 17, when there is a superstar you need to keep engaged; 18, when you have a superstar you really want to retain; 19, when you have a superstar you are going to lose for sure: how to lose that superstar very well; 20, when you need to move a superstar to the next level to develop as a new leader; 21, when managing in an environment of constant change and uncertainty; 22, when managing under resource constraints; 23, when managing through interdependency management challenges; 24, when managing around logistical hurdles; 25, when managing across differences in language and culture; 26, when you need to renew your management relationship with a disengaged employee; and 27, when you need to renew your own commitment to being a strong, highly engaged manager.

As Rainmaker puts it in one promotional, “The 27 Challenges are enumerated not in order of frequency or difficulty, but rather according to the bigger-picture human capital issues in which [they] fall. Like a guidebook through the real life of a manager — from the ‘new-manager’ challenges, through performance management, retention, and all the way to the latter career stage when so many managers face the challenges of ‘renewal.’ ”

Tulgan says he hopes readers will use this book like reference material, referring to the specific challenge one is encountering and his solution for overcoming it, maybe reading others to prepare a little, but then shelving it until it’s needed again.

Personally, I can’t imagine many other challenges than the ones listed above, but Tulgan assures me there are hundreds more. Solve these ones, he says, and you’ll have a pretty good handle on how to apply “the fundamentals of management to gain control of any situation.” People managing managers, he adds, should keep it on hand, too.

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Turning Employee Cynicism into Trust

Employee trust. It’s a subject most of us steer clear of around here. Too hard to define. Too hard to measure. Impossible to teach or train.

78459275 -- smug businessmanBut Forbes Publisher Rich Karlgaard has taken a stab at breaking down that nebulous force called trust, and its nebulous nemesis, cynicism. In his new book, The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, he offers 10 strategic steps toward reconfiguring the latter around the former. Here is the recent release, via the Alister & Paine website, about his book, and those steps.

I like some of his comments, including this one:

Mocking irony, snark and cynicism are very much in vogue, but they are also toxic to your company’s culture. Once cynicism gets a foothold in your culture, it spreads — just like an ill-advised tweet or blog post. You need to proactively fight it.”

And this:

Cynicism is the defense mechanism of people who feel unsafe and powerless. It’s an expression of the uncertainty that comes from working in an environment where ethics are lax, employees don’t feel valued and information is withheld. When it thrives in an organization, it signals a lack of employee trust — a problem that’s gotten significantly worse over the last generation.”

And just for the record, here are the steps in as much of a nutshell as this posting will allow:

1) Know that trust has two dimensions, external and internal. External is between an organization and its customers; internal is between employees, managers and top-level management, and it’s here where Karlgaard says you should start. If employees “don’t feel that they can trust your company with their careers,” he says, “you’re in trouble.”

2) Get clear on what a culture of trust and earnestness looks like.  Hold a company-wide trust summit where everyone can share their opinions about trust within your company. In addition, Karlgaard says, “identify the ways cynicism manifests — for instance, through snarky comments, manipulating customers, talking behind co-workers’ backs and so forth.”

3) Then, get the “rules” in writing. Put the results of your trust summit in writing and ask all employees to sign the document. Creating an official “standards of behavior” document helps too. I happen to know some companies are doing this now — documenting desired behaviors, then hiring and managing for them — including Starbucks, which I recently wrote about in this HRE feature.

4) Let only “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Scouts” lead. The key here is to hire and promote leaders who truly do live the values your company espouses.

5) Never lie or hide the truth. Even in the case of very bad news, tell them anyway. ” … [P]eople should never feel they’re being kept in the dark,” says Karlgaard. “Transparency and trust must co-exist.”

6) Show employees that you care. When people don’t believe their leaders care about them, not just as workers but as human beings, trust can’t thrive.

7) Aspire to predictability. “[E]mbrace innovation to your heart’s content in areas such as product development and marketing campaigns,” he says. “Just don’t be unpredictable in your behavior, priorities and values.”

8) Make it safe to speak up. Bottom line, there’s no such thing as a dumb idea and when your employees make honest mistakes, let them admit to them without being scolded and belittled. “Either trust rules your organization, or fear rules it — you have to choose,” says Karlgaard.

9) Celebrate grit and gumption. Basically, reward, reward, reward. Or, as he puts it, “notice and celebrate the behaviors you want more of … . Engagement and cynicism can’t co-exist in the same moment.”

10) Lastly, constantly drive home the “meaning” of the work people do. I know we’ve all been hearing this, probably too much, that each employee needs to understand his or her link — his or her line of sight — to the top, to the whole organization. What I like about Karlgaard is his focus on the actual narrative; the story about your business that you need to be infusing into your entire workforce. He calls it your “true north.”

“My point?” he asks. “Figure out what meaningful things your company provides customers, whether that’s peace of mind, easier lives, reliable support or something else, and look for ways to convey that purpose at your company.

“It’s hard to be cynical about your work and your customers,” he adds, “when you actually do believe in what you’re doing.”

Again, maybe stuff you’ve heard, but not quite like this:

 The next time you’re considering how to make your organization a better place to work, think beyond an in-house masseuse, climbing walls, and free fresh-baked cookies. While employees will certainly appreciate ‘fun’ perks like these, they don’t mean anything if your culture isn’t grounded in trust.”

 

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When an Employee is Terminally Ill

In this season of thinking of others, I thought I’d share this online article I came across recently, addressing how best to handle all workers when one announces he or she is terminally ill.

dv360033The piece — by Lynne Curry, president of Anchorage, Alaska-based The Growth Company — begins with a reader’s question about “Allen,” who “occupies a critical position in our company” and has just let his employer know he has bone-marrow cancer and less than one year to live.

“Allen doesn’t want to quit work and, even if he wanted to, can’t afford to do so … . We’ve never faced anything like this before. What can you recommend we … do to handle this well?” the question reads.

Everything about Curry’s answer makes sense. From going over his benefits and granting him work flexibility to giving him confidentiality — without falling into the trap of assuming, just because he’s told a select group of friends, that anyone has blanket permission to discuss his situation — the response underscores the importance of facing, rather than ignoring, this reality.

Every workplace faces it at one time or another. “Some organizations make the mistake of attempting to ignore reality and thus relegate the dying employee to work/life’s fringes,” Curry writes. “Co-workers generally need the opportunity to support Allen, if only to say, ‘I’ll be here for you.’ ”

And managers, she adds, “need to reach out to these secondary sufferers who may ache for Allen or have feelings about the extra work they may have to pick up.” She even suggests that letting Allen train his successor might be more appreciated and productive than “ghoulish.”

Facing the end of a life head-on hits a real nerve with me right now. Both my parents are in the throes of failing health and are being “guided” by my dad to do whatever can be done and be a realist about what can’t. He’s shown me all the boxes, and where the files are. He’s making sure we’ll be as trouble-free as possible. He’s passing the baton. And we’re honoring his approach and attitude in return.

I can only think that a manager or HR professional leading ill or grieving employees with the same straightforward respect for everyone involved will be doing his or her organization a monumental service.

 

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Whether to Treat Them Like They Own the Place …

Came across an intriguing conundrum on BLR’s HR Daily Advisor site: whether it’s wise to treat employees like they own their company or not.

144339020 -- trading keysThe piece by Dan Oswald, BLR’s CEO, makes cases for both. One suggests that inspiring this kind of ownership culture, where employees treat company reputation and resources as their own, can also engender abuses of, say, the organization’s travel expenses. Especially if certain employees are used to spending their own money on luxuries.

The lesson here, writes Oswald, is that “if you have someone with a real sense of entitlement, you might not want him thinking like an owner. It can be really expensive.”

On the other hand, employees — especially highly talented ones — taking ownership of their organization can be extremely beneficial to innovation, productivity, customer service, operations improvements, recruiting, you name it.

“That’s why Facebook uses the following motto with new hires: ‘This is now your company,’ ” writes Oswald. “That simple statement is plastered on all of Facebook’s onboarding materials, and it’s the first thing new employees see when they walk in the company’s training center. It’s a company goal to have every single employee carry a sense of ownership — not just in the individual jobs, but within the company as a whole.”

I happen to know Starbucks’ approach is a similar one, based on a feature I’m currently working on. At that company, instilling “coffee passion” and company knowledge in every barista is a well-thought-out leadership and talent-management approach. It includes store walk-throughs for new hires, followed by debriefings about what they liked and didn’t like; encouragement to strike up real conversations with customers about the coffee they’re drinking and the company’s ideals and philosophies; coffee-tasting rituals between managers and new hires; invitations to every employee to submit ideas to improve any and all company systems; and even a strong urging from the top down to look for other potential Starbucks recruits in their conversations with customers and friends.

So how do you create such a culture? Oswald has a few suggestions:

First, you  need to hire the right type of person. You need to hire people who think this way when they walk in the door. In fact, at Facebook, they talk about hiring  for the culture, not the skill set. Their rationale? Skills can be taught, but  mind-set can’t.

Second, you need to train and reinforce the ‘ownership’ mentality  at every level in the organization. That means you provide your people with the  information and opportunities that will allow them to act like owners. You  can’t expect people to act like an owner if they don’t have the information or  the freedom to do so in a meaningful way.

Finally, you must recognize and reward the people who think this  way. When people make a contribution because of their ‘ownership mind-set,’  make sure you let others know that you appreciate and respect that type of  thinking.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could say,  ‘He acts like he owns the  place!’ and ‘She acts like she owns the place!’ about every one of your employees and mean it in the best [as opposed to the worst] way possible?

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