Posts Tagged dispersed workforce

Why Generational Profiling Is Bad Management

Here is an interesting perspective on the Generation X, Y and Z at work talk we have all heard lately. Some excerpts:

Would you characterize your employees by gender, age, race, religion, or in any other way when it comes to managing them and enabling them to be successful at their jobs? Of course not. And I’m not talking about verbally or publicly. I’m talking about when you sit down to do their review, determine their raise, have a one-on-one, or interview them, would you take any of that stuff into account? Again, of course not.

You know why? Because there are at least a dozen more important and relevant factors, like job performance, experience, knowledge, team work, etc. The only profiling I’m aware of in the real business world has to do with multinational companies managing workforces in other countries where employment law, compensation, and culture are different. To me, that makes sense.

But profiling groups by generation is ridiculous, no matter what the management researchers and gurus say. Not to mention that it’s dehumanizing.

I somewhat agree with Steve Tobak’s observations in that some of this generation talk is overblown and its importance exaggerated. However, from our own experience at Tenrox younger generations have very different expectations. When it comes to recognition, rewards, raises and bonuses, of course you look at job performance, experience, knowledge and other such factors to determine what is appropriate. But everyone does not feel appreciated or get motivated the same way. For some, an equivalent valued gift, a few extra days off, a paid vacation works better than a cash bonus or a raise. We try to take such things into account when communicating with or rewarding our team members; and yes, the employee’s generation plays an important role in how we approach such discussions.

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The Recession Generation

In this Newsweek article http://www.newsweek.com/id/229959 the author explores the impact of the recent financial crisis, the new age of uncertainty, and severe economic downturn on employment and spending patterns.

Some key takeaways:

  • It’s no accident that the psychology of entire generations is shaped by the milieu in which they grew up; economic research tells us that our lifelong behaviors are determined in large part by the seismic events—good or bad—of our youth
  • Even one really tough year experienced in early adulthood is enough to fundamentally change people’s core values and behaviors
  • Recession babies not only invest more conservatively, they tend to make less money, choose safer jobs, and believe in wealth redistribution and more government intervention
  • This division between capital and labor and the permanently high unemployment that it seems to encourage not only depresses wages, it depresses people; a large body of research shows they tend to withdraw from their communities and societies after being laid off (their spooked neighbors, encouraged to work ever harder, do too)
  • Parental unemployment has huge negative consequences for children, making them more likely to fall behind in school, repeat grades, and exhibit anxiety disorders
  • The worry today, say Reich, Soros, and political scientists such as Harvard’s Robert Putnam, is that fearful, vulnerable people will become more easy prey for ugly class politics, being drawn, as Reich puts it, to “populist demagogues on either side of the political spectrum.”
  • Americans generally have a high tolerance for inequality. Yet that tolerance may wane as we enter a new age in which young graduates can’t expect to do better than their parents—and one in which Wall Street is perceived as being able to continue business as usual while Main Street struggles. “Americans are OK with inequality,” says Reich, who believes we are at a tipping point, “as long as they feel the system isn’t rigged.”

All this said, there are some glimmers of hope in the New Normal.

  • Post-crisis, consumers are putting a greater value on time spent with family and friends than on money (a good thing when there’s little of the latter around)
  • There’s also a glimmer of possibility that hard times might make us nicer to each other … simply thinking about money made subjects less sensitive to pain, and less likely to help each other or want to connect with strangers

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The Importance of Taking Breaks

Here is an interesting article on the importance of taking breaks:

http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/break-through-by-taking-breaks-matthew-e-may

Some excerpts (although reading the entire article is definitely highly recommended):

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these ingeniously elegant solutions and brilliant flashes of insight you can see that they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away seems to have played a part.

Most “creatives”—artists, musicians, writers, etc.—instinctively know that idea incubation involves seemingly unproductive times, but that those downtimes and timeouts are important ingredients of immensely productive and creative periods. But until fairly recently the how, when, and why of being kissed by the muse was something of a myth and mystery, explained only by serendipity.

New studies show that creative revelations tend to come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue at hand; pressure is not conducive to recombining knowledge in new and different ways, the defining mark of creativity.

While no one yet knows the exact process, there’s an important implication for all of us: putting pressure on ourselves to try and make our brains work harder, more intensely, or more quickly, may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights. In other words, if you’re looking to engineer a breakthrough, it may only come through a break. Your brain needs the calm before its storm.

As one example, one of the best decisions we made at Tenrox was to shut the company down between Christmas and New Year’s. We do not schedule any internal or external project work, customer calls, visits or implementations during this time. Our professional services and support team is also asked to provide nothing more than essential services by a handful of people who are on call. We have done this for the last two years and it has been an incredible success. Our team returns to work well rested, creative, and fully reenergized. We very much encourage our team to take breaks and all their vacation time on a regular basis. Working hard without sufficient breaks and “off the grid” time leads to an unproductive uninspired team.

Would be great to hear your perspective and suggestions for taking breaks and how you apply this to your project teams.

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Talent Management – How Women (and Men) Compete in the Flat World

The Needs of the Global Economy Workforce is an interesting article about talent management, the global workforce and particularly how women are responding to the challenges of competing in a flat world. A few key takeaways:

Women: Readiness to Compete

To better understand how prepared women and men feel to meet the coming challenges, Accenture (NYSE:ACNNews) conducted a major study, One Step Ahead of 2011: A New Horizon for Working Women. Interviews with 4,000 women and men in 17 countries at the end of 2007 produced a surprising conclusion: 68% of businesswomen in India, 63% in South Africa, 61% in China, and 52% in Brazil feel confident about their ability to succeed in a global business world. By contrast, only 46% of U.S. women — and men — feel that they're ready to compete in the larger international talent pool.

The article goes on to explain the impact of this negativity and how corporations should try to address this disparity in the more mature economies.

Acheiving Parity in Career Advancement

Although Accenture's study found that women are developing the skills and the confidence to succeed in the global marketplace, there are several areas in which women are not achieving parity with their male counterparts. The study found that more men than women cite technical capabilities and fostering professional relationships as having helped their career advancement. More than one-quarter of all respondents said that men are more effective than women at building those professional networks.

One explanation for that disparity may be the different attitudes that men and women have toward competition. A study, conducted by Lise Vesterlund of the University of Pittsburgh and Muriel Niederle of Stanford University, found that too many high-ability women chose not to compete at work tasks, while too many low-ability men did. The explanations were twofold: Men were found to be vastly more overconfident than women, and men seemed to embrace competition while women shied away from it.

The article then suggests how women should be self-conscious of this and includes several suggestions to break through this roadblock.

Demographics

Another important issue for Western companies is demographics. True, a decade ago organizational behavior experts were aware of the aging Baby Boom generation and declining birth rates in the West. But they did not anticipate two developments that would exacerbate the skills-gap crisis.

The two developments cited are: skilled labour returning to their home countries and difficulties with Generation X, Y, and Z working side-by-side particularly in developed countries.

In Accenture's study, baby boomers in India, China, and Brazil were as confident about succeeding in a global economy as their younger peers. In the U.S., however, while Generations X and Y were confident, baby boomers were particularly pessimistic. Only 34% of the boomers were confident about their ability to compete in the global economy of the future. In the European Union countries, boomers and Generation X were both gloomy, and only the youngest — Generation Y — respondents viewed the future with confidence.

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