winning the war on talent

Winning the war for talent — a new strategy for a new decade

In my over 15 years as a leadership coach and consultant, concern about “winning the war for talent” has been a constant. Except in the depths of the 2008-2009 recession, business leaders have been concerned about how to identify, attract, and retain top talent.

Now at the beginning of a new decade, when employment figures are at a high, high-potential employees have plenty of options to choose from. The war for talent is a hot topic once again.


Ok, Mentern: How to mend the generational work divide

“OK, Boomer.” This sarcastic phrase recently blazed across the popular culture and then vanished just as quickly. It captured the annoyance and disrespect that some younger people feel towards members of the “Baby Boomer” generation – that massive cohort of people born between 1946 and 1964.  We really are a problem – and have been since we were young children.

micromanaging boss characteristics

8 micromanaging boss characteristics that endanger your business

Almost everyone can recognize micromanaging boss characteristics from a mile away — and most of us have worked for one. This is the boss who delegates work to you and then re-does everything you do, or has you revise it over and over again, usually to meet some unclear standard. Micromanagers have a terrible reputation in the business world. But why? What’s so awful about caring about the details and making sure they are right?

There are indeed some fields of work in which micromanagement is essential. For example, I want my brain surgeon to be a micromanager — a perfectionist who is obsessed with every detail of his or her own work and that of the team. But in most fields, micromanagement is a huge problem, for the following reasons:

bias test

The Bias Test: How Harvard’s Project Implicit predicts tolerance

Nobody likes to believe they are prejudiced, even if a bias test tells them they are. Many people deny that they hold racist or sexist attitudes, or that they discriminate against certain groups of people. But both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that a great many of us do, in fact, hold negative stereotypes of groups who are different from us.

So how can we find out how prejudiced people are, if we often aren’t aware of our own biases? 

how to measure business success

How to measure business success by social impact, not stock price

When I was in business school in the early 2000s, there was no question of how to measure business success — and little if any talk of social impact. The most powerful idea I learned in my first year was that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for the shareholders. 

You have to understand that for me, with my background as a left-leaning clinical psychologist, this proposition was shocking. But I recognized that it was fundamental to how most businesses and business leaders operated.

So today, I’m flabbergasted. On August 19, the elite group of U.S. CEOs that form the Business Roundtable announced that big corporations should no longer focus exclusively on maximizing profits for their shareholders. Jamie Dimon, the chair of the Business Roundtable and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, presented a statement that business leaders should focus on delivering value to all their stakeholders — to customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities, as well as shareholders.

Change initiatives in organizations

Change initiatives in organizations must succeed on 4 fronts

The statistics on driving change initiatives in organizations are pretty dismal. Nearly 70% of employees cannot describe their company’s strategy, even when there’s a poster on the wall. About the same number feel they’re not good at driving strategy. So it’s no surprise that strategic change initiatives fall short of the hoped-for impact at the same rate — 70%.

These statistics were shared in a recent webinar on “Fast and Collaborative Change Management: Embracing Digital Tools,” presented by the Fulcrum Network. Participants learned about the kinds of structural changes most companies are facing these days: monologue to dialogue, analog to digital, individual to group-based, and gut intelligence to data-driven, among many others. 

screening and evaluating candidates

Screening and evaluating candidates must look past the superficial

When I hear how hiring managers are screening and evaluating candidates, I sometimes think back on a young woman I once met who was single and lonely. She told me she was looking for a serious relationship and then shared how she evaluated the men she met. She checked out their shoes. If they had fashionable, expensive shoes that were properly shined, she would go out with them. If not, not.

I think that is one of the worst criteria for selecting a potential mate that I have ever heard of. What do the shoes tell you? That the guy has money and spends it on shoes? That looking spiffy is important to him? I can assure you that neither trait is predictive of a long and happy marriage. 

This was the first thing that came to mind when I read a recent article by Jessica Liebman, the executive managing editor of Business Insider, who eliminates job candidates from consideration if they don’t send a thank-you email after the job interview.

hiring the right manager

Hiring the right manager, and how it can transform your business

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.

compassionate bereavement policy

A compassionate bereavement policy that sees the employee as a person

“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?

optimize HR for the modern workforce

How to optimize HR for the modern workforce

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.

generational differences in workplace

Generational differences in the workplace are a myth — and a harmful one

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.

How microaffirmations flip microaggressions for a better work culture

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.