Introducing S.E.T.H., the future of work


Image by Shatterbug11 via Flickr

My Seth isn’t Mr. Godin (although he’s A Seth) or that other cool guy from TEDTalks.  This is a made-up SETH.  I was looking for a mnemonic device to help you remember some of the big things that might influence how you approach work.  Especially if you are in HR or have some job design responsibilities.  SETH stands for: Social, Economic, Technological, Human/Demographic (SETD wasn’t as catchy).  

Let’s start with social.  

My goal is that these blog posts will make you think or examine your current practices.  Maybe, you’ll find that they don’t impact you, but before you just post a job, consider these trends… 

  • Work-life balance – who hasn’t heard this term?  What does it really mean?  I have no idea, but the reality is that we can’t ignore it, individually or organizationally.  Many “jobs” are cobbled together tasks and most of us have experienced the ever-increasing number of tasks.  Expectations of hours worked or face time is a key component of how work is defined, and unspoken cultural norm.  These are the sacred cows of job design.  Remember Ricardo Semler – he espoused a revolution in management, where self-managed teams did just that.  And more recently the best-selling work of Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek touched a raw nerve, encouraging people to stop treating work like a non-stop escalator of serial monogamy of work relationships, but rather your life as a series of sabbaticals funded through short bursts of work.  Where ever you happen to stand, the reality is that it is a mainstream trend. 
  • Corporate Social Responsibility – people are looking for something to belong to – in his recent work (Drive), Dan Pink tells us that people are motivated by 3 things: autonomy, mastery and a sense of purpose.  But, we’ve also seen this in surveys, keynotes/interviews, articles (and articles) as well.  Perhaps offering some paid sabbatical time to some workers to contribute to a social cause opens an opportunity for an intern or work experience program.  Some organizations do this already.  What if an entire intact team did it?  What if your organization sent a contingent of workers overseas which opened up many temporary jobs for others?
  • The role of education/skills and the impact it has on jobs.  What skills does your organization need?  How do employees acquire them?  How is the funding of public education and the quality/quantity of university grads mean to your organization?  Do you still say your jobs need “degree in X”?  Do you know what the forecast for degree holders in that program are?  Do you work with colleges/universities or other education groups to address skill gaps?  Do you offer your workers to these programs as experts in their field?
  • Housing costs/property taxes/urbanization are social issues.  Do people always go to where the work is or do they go where they want to/can afford to live first?  What impact does this have on where you locate your operations or individual jobs, if at all?   
  • Health care – here in Canada, many people seek out full-time jobs because of the desire to gain access to extended health care plans.  What if there were alternatives – increased commoditization of extended group health care plans?   What does the ageing population’s demand for health care mean to your organization? 
  • Climate change – greening of the economy and subsequent localism.  What does this mean to how you design work? 

Big, heavy issues are at play here, and those of us who have the ability to make a change should think about it.  You aren’t just maximizing the dollars spent by your organization on people, you are participating in the future of society.  You may not agree with all the things I’ve listed or some might just not apply to you, but you owe it to yourself and others to think about it anyway. 

Holly MacDonald is an independent consultant with well over 15 years of experience in the learning & development field.  Holly is a bit of a techno-geek and can often be found playing online.  When she steps away from her computer, she spends time outside: hiking, kayaking, gardening and of course walking the dog.  She lives on Saltspring Island and is a leader in the live/work revolution.


Dealing with end of summer burnout

I love fall!  I am not sure what it is about the season that I find so wonderful considering in Vancouver it rains most of the time!  But as summer nears its end, I start to feel exhilaration and a sense of renewal.  This is when I sit down and plan out my year, make goals for myself and start to feel revitalized.

Maybe it has to do with conditioning from childhood.  A new year at school, connecting with old friends and making new ones. The vibe on the street is energetic and makes you feel like you can take on the world.

But with the renewal of fall also comes the post summer burnout.  I read a great article on called Helping Employees Beat the Summer Blues that talks about ways to energize your team for the latter part of the year.

Here is a summary of the points to deal with mid-year burnout and revitalize your team:

  1. Ask employees how they feel about summer coming to an end.
  2. Ask employees what their goals are for the year.
  3. What motivates your employees?  Find out how to make them more productive.
  4. Help create a sense of accomplishment in your employees work.
  5. Praise people for a job well done… I don’t think we do this enough.
  6. Increase your employee recognition efforts.  If you don`t have an employee recognition program, start one.
  7. Talk about career paths to get people focused on their career goals again.
  8. Increase levels of responsibility if possible.
  9. Create some synergy in the workplace and do a team based project to get people working together.
  10.  Start a mentor program.  If you already have one, good for you!

Not all of these points may be relevant for you and your company, but I hope at least one helps your team work efficiently and productively through to the holiday season.

Dana Sebal has over 10 years Marketing and Human Resources experience.  Outside of her professional career, Dana’s passions include her family, rowing, running, tennis, skiing, yoga, and Beagles.

Give new employees a learning plan

One of the most valuable HR lessons I’ve learned from my new job is the value of a learning plan.  By that, I mean a training timeline for new front-line staff.  It is understandable that new staff cannot be given all the training they require in one day.  To learn the job-specific and site-specific skills they require to excel on the job site, employees may need to work with multiple trainers, shadow multiple employees or learn to work with various types of tools and media.  In reality, orientation may extend over more than one day, and training may take place over more than one week.

Not every company has the ability to implement an onboarding experience for their new employees.  A learning plan, however, is a great foundation for exactly this – by outlining when a new employee will work with certain individuals and complete particular training programs, your new hires become more aware of the duration of the training process at your company, giving structure to your company’s training process and enabling you to schedule all of the relevant trainers before the new employee enters the job site.

A very simple example of this is shown below:

By making your training program more transparent, it becomes easier for your new employees to embrace their new workplace, and to understand his/her role within it.

Geraldine Sangalang is an HR pro working at the Robson Square Courthouse.  She volunteers as a BC HRMA GV CAN Networking Co-Chair, as well as a recruiter for Meaningful Volunteer.  On her private time, Geraldine loves scrapbooking, hiking, kayaking, and dining out with friends.

When cash is king and people are not.

Why do we treat money like gold and people like scrap metal?

During the recession, it was all about cost cutting and people were the first ones on the chopping block, whether it was a cut to their hours, pay, training or entire jobs.  Unfortunately, CFOs forgot that living breathing people are required for an organization to make money.  Money in itself does nothing.  Even when it’s sitting in a bank, a person is needed to make a decision where the money will sit to get the best return, otherwise it will just lose value over time.

Of course, leaders had to make tough decisions to manage their organizations through the recession in order to come out alive.  However, many of the cost cutting decisions were short-sighted and now that fact is becoming clear.  In this new story, CFOs say the biggest lessons they learned about the recession is to pay more attention to morale:

According to the Conference Board, employee engagement has taken a dive over the last year.  It wasn’t hard for employees to become disengaged when they were asked to do much more for less.  You know what that means… I’m no fortune-teller but I see the future and it includes huge turnover.  Consider the HR function as part of this group.  This poll originally published in this article is showing signs that your own HR department is not immune to some staffing changes in the near future.  Up to 1/3 of HR folks are considering leaving their organization in the next year.

View the HR Turnover Poll!

With good reason, CFOs were focussed on getting through the recession by managing the bottom line.  However, they cut in the wrong places and without considering the impact of their decisions on their people.

Sure, lots of people were just happy to have a job during the recession regardless of the pay cut and longer hours.  But where was the longer term thinking?  Pretty much everyone knew that the economy would eventually bounce back and there would be some job growth.  Knowing that that magical moment would arrive some day, did they really expect people to be loyal and continue working with them when things got better?

People make rational decisions (for the most part!) and will take advantage of opportunities thrown their way, like a better job offer with a different organization.  Ultimately, that means it’s going to cost the organization in turnover and potentially its competitive edge.  Alternatively, if you’ve laid off your staff in this recession you’re going to have recruitment issues because you’ve sent the message that you’re unstable.

This video is for the bean counters.  Sure, errors of judgement were made but they ‘fessed up, discussed what they learned and what they could do better next time.  What did HR learn from this last recession?

Helen Luketic is the manager of HR metrics & research at BC Human Resources Management Association. Besides editing this blog, researching, and running the HR Metrics Service, she’s recently bought a new set of golf clubs at Costco that she’s been eyeing for months.

It’s your job to motivate me

It’s been hard keeping up the motivation to work these last two weeks.  (Sorry, boss!) 

But I’m both human and honest so let me tell you:  how motivated would you be if you’re working while the Olympics are happening in your town, you’re steps away from the German and Irish house (essentially, official national beer gardens), and your office is across the street from the flaming cauldron?  My beautiful office is now a curse because now when I look out the window,  everyday I get to watch thousands of people walk by, sometimes a tidal wave of red when they jump up and cheer in unison every time the home team wins a medal.  Sighhhh….

I know what you’re thinking… you feel sorry for me and wish you could ease my pain.  Yeah right!

Which brings me to this brilliant piece of research I read in the Harvard Business Review.  The discovery of what really motivates workers is #1 on their list of Breakthrough Ideas for 2010.  Is it the pay, flex time, recognition or just being really engaged in the work?  Heck no!  It’s progress at work!  Go figure, actually getting stuff done is motivating to a person:

On days when workers have the sense they’re making headway in their jobs, or when they receive support that helps them overcome obstacles, their emotions are most positive and their drive to succeed is at its peak.  On days when they feel they are spinning their wheels or encountering roadblocks to meaningful accomplishment, their moods and motivation are lowest.

I bet you’re now thinking back to your best work days and linking up those times when you felt like, “Yeah! I rock!”.  Who really enjoys spinning their wheels because politics, lack of resources, indecision, or the inability to get a hold of someone is holding work back?  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy recognition as much as the next person but sometimes I just want to stop banging my head against the wall.

So pass this around to managers you know!  Managers:  your job is to remove roadblocks for your employees, provide the right resources, coach, enable creative solutions, and generate support and buy-in.  In short, your job is to help your staff make progress at work.  Progress = Motivation.  In other words, if your employees aren’t motivated, chances are that it’s your fault.

As for my lack of motivation right now?  Don’t blame my manager.  We really only have the German Haus and athletes to blame.  And here it is, for one last time:  Go Canada Go!

My 2010 wish list

Ten years ago I was determined to bring in the new millenium with gusto, praying that Y2K would blow over and practicing not starting off dates with 19XX.  Well, another year is over and a new decade about to begin.   It’s been an amazing and amazingly productive year.  When I look back, I think “wow!” at all the fabulous people I’ve met and all the great work that I’m hearing about.  It just occurred to me that at the beginning of this year I would have never considered blogging; the world and our minds can change pretty rapidly in the course of just one year!

Other HR bloggers at this time of year are making their predictions for 2010.  I’m not going to even attempt that one!  But I will document for you my hopes and dreams for HR for 2010.  I look forward to revisiting this list next December and seeing how far we’ve come! 

1.  HR understands that social networking has become a must do to survive.  It will no longer lock it down or police it.  It will work within the new world, accept it for what it is and most importantly, take advantage of it.  This doesn’t mean that everyone should sign up for Twitter!  Instead, we should consider the options available and choose what makes sense for the organization. 

2.  More industries and organizations give their shareholders or stakeholders a “say on pay”, giving them information on executive pay.  It’ll open up discussions and build transparency.  On December 11th, the U.S. passed say on pay legislation for the financial industry.  But the financial industry in Canada realized that they didn’t need to wait for the law to step in to do the right thing.  Management guru Peter Drucker would agree:  revamping exec comp is good for the organization and society.  

3.  Companies up their investment in employee learning and development.  Everyone is screaming for the need to increase productivity.  Investing in improving literacy and providing employees with skills to do their jobs better has a better ROI than buying a new computer.  

4.  Derogatory comments about Gen X, Y or Z stops.  This is a form of ageism and should go the way of sexism, racism and other ‘isms.  Let’s talk about how generations differ and how to maximize value through them, much in the same way we talk about any other group in our organization (e.g. women, visible minorities, etc.).  I’m not sure if people who call Gen X “entitled” realize that they have just offended me….  

5.  HR increases its knowledge on metrics and dedicates some resources to it.  I get it – your systems are cranky, your data is garbage, you don’t have the budget… I’ll tell you a secret:  start anyways and you’ll get better at everything else along the way.  Isn’t that how we start anything for the first time anyways? 

6.  As the economy gets better, organizations bring back the Christmas party, merit increases and focus on engagement.  Cut backs shouldn’t be the new status quo to maximize profits but we certainly can get more efficient at how we manage these things.  

7.  Everyone reads What Matters Now.  Shout out to Dalell Amed who shared this ebook with me using another social web took, LinkedIn.  Within 24 hours, I received 3 copies of this book thanks to our profession’s willingness to share knowledge.  If you still don’t quite understand the value of social networking, this is how it works folks.  

8.  HR pros start an email chain on the blog post “18 Breakthrough Ideas for HR Success in 2010”  along with these Holiday Eating Tips

Thanks for following my blog this year, for your encouragement, compliments and most importantly for joining in on the conversation.  Happy Holidays! 

Where's Waldo?

Take a break, you hard worker you, and find Waldo! (click on the pic to make it larger!)

These are a few of my favourite things

What's the connection to this post? Sunflowers are one of my favourite things! And I'll consider bribes. There's no connection between the two. I'm just sayin'.

I missed out, big time, on a blog topic so readily available to me – Canada’s Thanksgiving Day, back in October.  Well call me an opportunist, I’m hopping on the American Thanksgiving bandwagon for today’s theme:  Things I’m thankful for in my job!

1.  I work with a great group of people.  I empathize with my fellow HR’ers who have to work with or for terrors.  Why is this still happening in our workplaces?  “Ethical treatment is a fundamental human right.”

2.  Have a great idea?  Do it.  Don’t know how to do it?  There’s enough expertise + smarts that between us, we’ll figure it out.

3.  The office Christmas party.  Sure, there may not be any crystal chandeliers to swing from, but a great meal with my coworkers is always a fun time to bond.

4.  A fair compensation plan.  Between news of abysmal child poverty rates and stratospheric executive compensation, it puts things into perspective.

5.  I’m measured on my deliverables.  It’s all about whether I got the job done and how well, not at what time I turned on my computer.

6.  The results of my performance review is never a surprise.  I’m kept up to date on my progress on a regular basis and feedback is a two-way street.  Likewise, I do my best to never surprise my boss.  I said I do my best… but I’m not perfect.

7.  My coworkers offer suggestions to make my work better.  I listen to them because they’re experts at what they do and they care about good work.  They listen to me when I apologize for having Monday morning grr’s.

8.  My daily can of diet Root Beer.  Sometimes, happiness is as simple as sugar-free caramel-flavoured fizzy water.

9.  Support for learning.  It helps that my organization offers some great workshops.

10.  I can log on to Facebook and LinkedIn and do the social networking thing without being questioned on whether or not I’m working.  I feel sorry for people who have these websites blocked at work because social networking is not seen as a business tool.

So, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  Sure, everyone has days when they would rather not do what they’re doing and wish they’d win the next Lotto Max jackpot.  Hey, that’s life!  But during those moments, I’ll try my best to remember the above instead of blowing $10 on a quick pick.