Early in my career as a management psychologist I had the good fortune to learn the importance of hiring the right manager. I was helping a major retailer transform the way it did business. Anyone who has participated in a large-scale change initiative knows how difficult it is to turn a company around. There are all kinds of barriers — inertia, fear, turf battles, company politics, the list goes on and on.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons from that project. One important insight was that the key player in this kind of change process is the store manager. More than the front-line workers and more than the corporate honchos, the store manager has the presence, the customer contact, and the clout to make change happen — or not. When we focused our change efforts on the store managers, the effect was very powerful.
“As baby boomers age, ‘we are in for a death boom’” the Chicago Tribune recently proclaimed. The older you are, the more people you know who are dying. Since baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer than recent generations, that means there will be more grieving people in the workplace over the next few years — and more use of the company bereavement policy.
Business leaders may ask, “So what?” It sounds heartless, but the purpose of a for-profit company is to make money. It’s not a therapeutic community. What is the responsibility of employers or colleagues to respond when someone has suffered a personal loss?
As the shape of business shifts rapidly, it’s crucial to optimize HR for the task of attracting, retaining, and motivating top talent in an evolving landscape. Many human resource practices that were effective in 2009 are now outdated. Here are the top trends in HR today, as outlined by Linda Villalobos at Insperity, along with my recommendations for how business leaders can respond with focus and agility.
Oh, those millennials and their generational differences in the workplace! We continue to tear out our hair about their horrible qualities — the laziness! the impatience! the entitlement! The list goes on and on. A colleague of mine recently send me a video of speaker Simon Sinek talking about the awful millennials — first, about how useless they are, and second, about how they’re really just helpless victims of their upbringing and their environment.
For those seeking to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace, “microaggressions” has become a point of focus. The word refers to the multitude of little ways in which we ignore, diminish, or insult people who are different from ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously. It’s an uncomfortable word, because it challenges us to take a hard look at how we treat others, acknowledge that we are not as accepting and open-minded as we would like to believe, and do the work to change our problematic behaviors.
Navigating workplace conflict is tricky even when you’re not conflict-averse. In my case, I come from a family where open conflict was almost unknown — we muttered politely behind each other’s backs. When I entered the wider world, I discovered most people were not so constricted in their expressions of frustration and anger. It took me a while to learn conflict resolution techniques that landed me somewhere between domineering rage and silent submission.
Stable scheduling is the first step to work-life balance. Imagine life without it. You wouldn’t know what your work schedule will be next week — or even tomorrow. You couldn’t plan doctor’s appointments, childcare, or social activities because you never know when you’ll be called in to work.
I’m lucky enough to have the work-from-home vs. office productivity debate every morning. I work out of two offices: one in downtown Chicago and the other in my condo. I like working in both spaces for different reasons, and I am glad I get to move between them. But I have sometimes wondered where I do my best work, downtown or at home.
As business leaders confront the #MeToo crisis, many turn to sexual harassment training. It seems like such a great idea. Let’s train people not to be harassers. Let’s train people not to be victims. Let’s train everyone how to respect boundaries and respond to reports of sexual harassment. If we train every single person, eventually we’ll get this problem under control.
Sadly, the facts about sexual harassment training are not so great.
Leadership consultants like me can spend all day teaching business leaders how to manage better. Usually, that means emphasizing the skills needed to successfully manage other people. And while those are certainly critical, I’ve been at this long enough to know that leaders can only manage others effectively when they have a foundation of managing themselves.
Imagine a familiar scene: hundreds of talented job candidates milling about an enormous room. Lining every aisle are eye-popping displays from bold-name employers, Google, Boeing, Dow, The U.S. Army. Each booth offers “swag” — a mug, a Frisbee, a notebook, on and on — all acting as lures for people who want to talk with you about whether their company would be a good fit for you.
How do you rev up a huge, international company? How do you stay innovative in a traditional industry? How do you make brands relevant and exciting?
Bernardo Hees, CEO of Kraft Heinz, may have highlighted these three challenges in his talk at the Executives’ Club of Chicago, but they’re hardly unique to him. Many CEOs struggle to shake off staid processes and stimulate growth. It’s just that Bernardo Hess happens to be doing it at a company with $26.5 billion in annual revenue.
In an era when most employment discrimination is considered unethical (and often illegal), one prejudice continues to thrive unchallenged at work — ageism.