Amy and Becky have adjoining cubicles in your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center. They’ve sat within 10 feet of each other since 2002 and together have survived 2 CEOs, 3 Department Directors and 6 Supervisors. Amy took care of Becky’s dog when she and her husband Jeff went to that all-inclusive resort in Cancun for their 10th wedding anniversary. Becky helped Amy’s mom throw a surprise birthday party at Applebee’s when Amy turned 40.
Your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center is located in Glendale, WI (just a bit north of Milwaukee; lovely suburb) and reports in to the Customer Care HQ located in downtown Chicago which, in turn, feeds up, (through various Regional Directors, VPs and a few SVPs), to the corporate office located in Atlanta on Peachtree Street. Well…one of the Peachtree Streets.
There are 327 FTEs toiling away (Monday thru Saturday; 7A-7P; 6 holidays) at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center in Glendale, WI. When it’s baseball season they have a company tailgate at a Brewers’ game. During football season, everyone wears Packer gear on casual Fridays. And when you need a custard fix? Jason on the New Accounts team is your go-to-guy for a Kopp’s run at lunch time.
No one at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center cares too much for the folks from Customer Care HQ in Chicago. (”Damn FIBs” as Jason likes to call them).
And those Corporate people from Atlanta? Seriously? WTF is up with them? Who can understand what they say? Why are they so….southern? Did you know they served grits for breakfast when everyone went down for training?
Same mission, vision and values. Same corporate web site and, of course, the same corporate career page with the same branding, videos, stories and “EVP.”
Yet each of these teams and locations has a distinct, specific and unique micro-culture. Heck…Amy and Becky have a vastly different culture than Jason and he’s just located on a different floor of the building in Glendale, WI.
And the three of them are most assuredly not having the same cultural experience that Rebecca and Traci are having down at the Atlanta corporate office.
Yet, as happens in organizations the world-over, when a rising star arrives via their promotional travels at a new location (requisite company newsletter blurb: “Meet Brandon Smith, our new VP of Special Projects! Brandon has transferred from the Akron, OH office!”), there’s tension and friction as s/he struggles to determine what, exactly, seems to be “off” about the culture.
There are different foods and rituals and customs. The Boston office is so ‘formal’ while everyone in the Hattiesburg, MS office is a bit too chummy and familiar with each other. (They call each other “sweetie!” Can you imagine?)
But guess what? Amy and Becky, in their micro-culture comprised of 10 cubicles in Glendale, WI, are not ‘wrong.’
They’re simply living the culture in a different way.
At the risk of sounding like the crabby old neighbor lady, waving an upraised fist and shouting “get off my lawn,” let me just say that I despise Twitter’s 280-character limit.
With a passion.
I’ve been hanging on Twitter since 2008, have participated in hundreds of organized chats, been known to tweet along at many a conference or event (one of my annual faves – #rexcomus – just happened), and have relied on the flow of my Twitter stream for both breaking news and levity.
But I am getting exhausted.
I jumped into a chat yesterday and quickly hopped off; I just could not even make the attempt to read the volumes of words flowing down the screen. There were WALLS of text as participants pontificated and wrote lengthy paragraphs when a simple idea or answer would have sufficed.
The fun of a Twitter chat, for me, has always been the fast-pace with quick-hitting (sometime edgy) comments; the platform was designed for rapid-fire banter and discussion.
When Twitter expanded the available real estate it simply led to more rambling. Gone are the days of users relying on brevity with the need to be succinct, clear and concise.
If you want to be verbose do it on Facebook.
Or LinkedIn; I don’t read much over there anymore either.
An elephant never forgets. We all know that saying. It implies, for some reason, that elephants possess some incredible long term memory. (Apparently though, there is some research backing this up).
There are also elephants at work. Which can be super awesome. Or sometimes quite dreadful.
On the plus side of the column there’s the “institutional knowledge” guy/gal. I can’t tell you how many times, upon joining a new organization, I’ve relied on the HR or Payroll lady who remembers (with amazing recall) the minutiae of an employee investigation that took place years before or can recollect, with incredible clarity, the ER/EE medical co-pay rates circa 2005.
But, more often than not, these pachydermian recollections are used for evil as opposed to good. Have you ever heard…
“Susie is inflexible” (Because Susie didn’t want to change the office hours and start at 8:30 instead of 8 back in 1999)
“Tom has a bad temper (That one time? He yelled at Stu in Receiving? Remember?)
“Trixie provides really poor customer service” (OMG! In 2010 Mrs. Szymanski called and she was so pissed it went all the way up to the CEO at magical-corporate-office-in another-state!!)
Naturally, most of these stories are based on ancient information and, more often than not, very few data points. Any self respecting statistician who claimed to draw meaning from such lackluster numbers would be drummed out of business.
Trixie, (as just one example), in the course of her career with ACME Corp, may have dealt with 20,000 customers. But it’s the 5 (.00025% of customers who asked to speak to a supervisor (or, in 2018, left a comment on the company Facebook page) who have become those data points.
Of course, it’s today. We can use technology and gathering of e-scores to determine exactly what Trixie’s deal is. We do pulse surveys and NPS and whatnot. Can’t we?
But not all organizations have that technology at their disposal.
Sixty years ago Douglas McGregor from the MIT Sloan School of Management presented two theories of workforce motivation he named “Theory X” and “Theory Y.” Over the intervening decades these theories have been used by leadership teams, HR professionals and OD folks as they craft and create HR policies, performance management programs, rewards and recognition, and work space design.
If it’s been some time since you gave much thought to McGregor’s work, here’s a refresher:
Theory X assumes that:
people dislike work
people want to avoid work (i.e. “people are inherently lazy”)
people do not want to take responsibility
Theory Y assumes that:
people are happy to work
people are self-motivated to pursue objectives
people thrive on responsibility
In a Theory X organization:
management is authoritarian
control is centralized with a belief that people must be coerced
a reward and punishment style (i.e. “carrot and stick”) is used; financial incentives (or financial punishments) are believed to the best motivator
In a Theory Y organization:
management is participative; employees are involved
feedback, especially positive feedback, is continuous
it is assumed that control, rewards and punishments are not the only ways to stimulate people
people have self-direction and self-control
Simplified perhaps. Because, of course, we all learned in our earliest forays into leading others that management of a team requires some combination of Theory X and Theory Y style. Every employee is unique. Yet “simple” is helpful as we tackle what we consider to be the nuanced and complex workplace issues today; decades after McGregor first shared these theories in 1957.
So as I sit here, day-in-and-day-out, and think about the employee experience (which, let’s face it, is merely an amalgamation of previous terms and is now the trendy catch phrase/buzzword for everything else that has come before it) I often find myself stripping all the glam and sexy stuff down to a pretty basic question… “Do you provide an X or a Y experience?”
For therein lies the problem; without asking that question and truly examining a few key principles about how people are viewed, numerous organizations continuously circle round and round in a never-ending journey of futility. They may telegraph to candidates, applicants and new hires all the Theory Y things they do when, in reality, the policies, rewards and management style exhibited by the vast majority are most assuredly Theory X.
Not to mention there’s a real danger of ongoing confirmation bias; a Theory X organization which operates with control and coercion may find, as time goes on, that employees become so accustomed to punishing behavior (“you’re 5 minutes late! Here’s your penalty!”) that they do, in fact, exert minimal effort and thus confirm all the assumptions that managers have had all along. “See how lazy they are! You can’t trust people to show up on time. We have to punish them or no one will come to work!”
Let’s be real though; there is not one single HR pundit or “Future of Work” speaker out on the vast global conference speaking circuit touting “Top Ten Ways to Motivate Your Lazy Unwilling-to-Work Employees!” Nope; that wouldn’t sell a lot of tickets.
Instead, managers from assorted disciplines attend their specific professional development conferences, sign up for the “HR Track,” and take copious notes as some HR consultant/speaker talks about “The New Way of Work.”
And then those very same managers head back to the office, roll up their sleeves, and bust out the Theory X.
The internet, magazines and even the backs-of-cereal-boxes are filled with inspirational messages, stories and exhortations. Quotes abound as HR bloggers, career coaches and life style experts share words of encouragement:
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Les Brown
There’s big business to be had by inspiring others, pushing people to develop good habits, live their authentic lives and clarify their goals and aspirations. Depending upon one’s outlook it’s easy enough to find motivation of the spiritual, religious, financial or career-focused type. Future focused human beings, with a desire to improve their lives, may set goals and dream big as part of a deeper search for personal meaning. People may have aspirations in order to overcome adversity stemming from the death of a family member, the ending of a relationship, or the loss of a job. Sometimes it’s just a bit of restlessness or a lingering feeling that they can find enjoyment and fulfillment by doing something ‘more’ than merely holding a spot on this whirling planet we call Earth.
Positive thinking is great; much better, in my opinion, to look for opportunities than employ a “woe is me; I can’t change things” mindset.
But after a recent conversation I got to wondering if there is any validity to the opinion that there’s a shelf-life on dreams.
“You don’t have that many years to work before retirement; perhaps you just need to be happy where you are.”
“What more could you want? You have a pretty great life.”
“Isn’t your current life enough to make you happy?”
“You’ve accomplished a lot; isn’t it time to take it easy?”
I know a lot of dreamers. In some cases I could refer to them as idealists or even visionaries. I run into numerous early or mid-stage career HR professionals who know, with certainty, their desired career path; moving into a CHRO role or shifting from a generalist path to a specialization in OD or Learning and Performance. I recently met a guy who wanted to be a professional musician but put that on hold in order to take over his family’s business a few decades ago; but now he’s gigging with various bands and the plan is alive to work towards a recording contract.
Is there an expiration date on dreams? I don’t think so.
“I’m going to dream. Maybe one day I’ll be disappointed that things didn’t work out exactly
as I’d planned, that I didn’t get to write for National Geographic, pen a bestselling novel
or win a literary award, but I will have challenged myself to reach a level that I didn’t
think I could. I would have enjoyed the process, had fun, and even for a little while,
Today (I think….I’ve totally lost track of the days and time zones), I’m heading back to the states after 5 stupendous days in Sydney, Australia. I made the trip (my first time down under) in order to attend the HR Innovation and Tech Fest where I spoke at two sessions (including one with my friend Amy Cropper from Amazon), did a podcast with the folks from Future Knowledge, provided a bit of assistance to the event organizers as a Chairperson, and just generally got to talk about HR and HR Tech for 2 1/2 days. I also got to spend some quality time with my friends at HROnboard; I serve on their Advisory Board and it was great to hang out in person.
Although I didn’t take the time to write any blog posts as the conference was occurring, I did jot down some random thoughts on my iPhone as events unfolded:
The weather is glorious; I think around 80 degrees Farenheit but I’m not quite sure because everything is quoted in Celsius and, of course, we never learned that system in school
Australia has really cool currency/bills. With women on the bills too; and not just the Queen which, of course, they sort of have too. There’s a lesson or something in here for the US….#HarrietTubman
These Aussies love their coffee. This java is so damn good I haven’t even missed Community Coffee (with chicory) like I usually do when I take a trip away from home
In Australia and New Zealand, HR professionals have responsibility for payroll. They call it “Remuneration” which makes it sound simultaneously a hell of a lot sexier and much less painful
The liberal use of curse words and profanity by speakers seems to not only be OK but somewhat expected. (HR folks in the US would be clutching their pearls and writing scathing comments on the session review feedback sheets…)
Numerous partner/vendor booths Expo Hall served coffee with a private barista on hand to whip up one’s favorite. My request for a plain black coffee (“Americano”) was met with much skepticism
Each concurrent session rooms not only has water (with proper glasses) but also giant bowls with gummi candies/lollies
Had a conversation on Day 1 with a young HR professional who recently started with his organization. His office mates are middle-aged complacent HR ladies who (a) tell him he’s working too hard (b) dissuade him from proposing new ideas because “that just won’t work.” He loves human resources but is, already, feeling beaten down by the naysayers….in his own office/profession! (Hmmmmm…I had this precise conversation with a young HR pro in New Orleans not that long ago too….)
Taxi Cabs in Sydney have a sign prominently displayed that states “You WILL be photographed; conversations may be recorded.”
This is a very sensibly run conference; Day 2 sessions start at the civilized hour of 8:45 AM (with ‘Arrival Tea and Coffee’ at 8 AM); none of this 7 AM ‘sunrise session’ crap like so many HR events in the US
Had a conversation on Day 2 with an HR leader about their continuing evolution of user adoption; they implemented a new HCM solution a few years ago and are still struggling with (1) ensuring employees access self-service (instead of walking into HR and expecting to drop off paper forms or asking to get a print out of their pay stub (sounds familiar; am I right?!?), and (2) finding ways to keep their managers involved and completing workflow tasks. We had a good chat about finding ways to promote what I like to call “forced adoption.”
Break time refreshments mean tea, coffee (yes!!) and bite-sized yummy things; today we had custard tarts with currants (heavenly). Conference break-time refreshments in the US, on the other hand, means Cokes, giant chocolate chip cookies, and ginormous pretzels with mustard and cheez sauce
Interesting to see familiar vendors with different signage and options; I also love seeing vendors with offerings totally unique to this market
Mid-way through day two and I finally figured out how to make my own flat white at one of the espresso/coffee machine stations in the Expo Hall!! Excited!
The delegates at this conference are incredibly focused, eager to learn, and incredibly ready to move HR forward. Such incredible passion for moving past the status quo and embracing the ‘way we work’ today.
Yes; I did dance in the Expo Hall while some guy who was on “The Voice” played a Rolling Stones tune. I just hope there was no camera footage
Well…not really The End. More like The Beginning.
There was talk about innovation in practices; finding new ways to work and optimizing our work. And yes, while there was lots of chatter about AI and robots (and a few jokes about HR + blockchain), for the most part the focus rested upon the use of automation to increase efficiency and ….. here’s the key part ….. keeping humanity in HR.
I find it interesting, over these last 12-18 months, how many more conversations we’re having about re-engineering (reverse engineering?) our processes, workflows and interactions with candidates, applicants and employees to bring back the human touch. This conference? We talked about it a lot.
And a few final thoughts:
There is a lack of A/C in Sydney. Oh sure, the ocean breeze feels wonderful and everything but some of these shops could use a bit of cooling air
Food, in general, is less sweetened than the garbage we eat in the US. I especially noticed this in breakfast jam, sour cream, muffins and bread
I tried vegemite for breakfast one day and it was loathsome
Brothels are legal in NSW. I discovered this when I was perusing a newspaper and read the job adverts
I had to search quite a bit to find a carbonated beverage a.k.a. Diet Coke
My day trip to Manly Beach with my pals Amy Cropper and David D’Souza was amazing! We took the ferry, ate prawns for lunch, climbed up a cliff to look out over the ocean, and got up close and personal with water dragons and an Echidna
I managed, quite successfully, to sample as many wines from Australia and New Zealand as I could manage. There are many more to go however … so I guess I’ll have to come back to wrap things up!
It goes both ways of course; candidates seek information on a prospective employer AND companies search for nuggets of digestible content on a new hire.
LinkedIn profiles are examined and mined not only for information but also for contacts, connections and leads. Various and assorted chrome extensions are added to the recruiters’ toolkit and every nugget of publicly available information is dissected and served up on the new-hire-prospectus. Facebook? Twitter? Snapchat? Who are the candidate’s friends and what, if anything, can we see about what s/he posted, liked, or retweeted?
Fancy and techy and useful…sure. But sweet baby Moses if we’ve sat through one presentation or demo on this sort of stuff…we’ve sat through 100. We get it; tech is our savior and time saver. We can source and search and seek intel all day long.
… now, here’s a guy.
He’s a friend and former co-worker who got recruited for a job. He’s been phone interviewing and in-person interviewing. He’s been researching and calling people. He’s been immersed in the voir dire phase with a bunch of know-nothings as he attempts to find out “who knows who and what and when and how did they know it?” He’s been navigating this discovery for a role, and an industry, where people are not online. Glassdoor and Indeed feedback is minimal. (I know ya’ll find that hard to believe. But it’s true.)
His personal research has revealed data-less LinkedIn profiles (if they have one at all) for all the big players. The gig is in an Amish-style industry (who said incestuous? not me?!) where outsiders are rare. Still, at the same time, previous employees and his own personal industry contacts, once known, have fallen off the grid.
Phone calls? Unanswered.
Google searches? In vain.
How, one asks, can he find any meat about that prospective employer when the only food being served is pablum? There are only slim morsels available; lovingly and expensively regurgitated on the company career page. (#EmployeeBranding!! #JazzHands!!)
“Time,” said I, “to head to the Dark Web.”
And then we giggled. Because neither one of us have any freaking idea how to actually ‘get’ to the Dark Web.
BUT… how cool would that be? A secret bitcoin/botnet place where candidates could find info – the real deal! – about their prospective employer.
Last week, in the manner that these things occur, there was a picture making the rounds on Facebook that poked fun (in an amusing way with just a dash of profanity) of the old cliché “there’s no ‘I’ in team.”
Which reminded me how much I’ve always truly disliked that saying.
It goes without saying that assembling a group of individuals with unique talents that compliment each other can unleash all sorts of things – idea generation, innovation, a little-bit-of-friction (in a good way). The collective group could quite possibly get more done in a shorter period of time and accomplish things that an individual could not achieve on their own.
But you know what I’ve always found to be the undeniable truth?
That team is made up of a bunch of ‘I’s – as in INDIVIDUALS.
And each of those individuals must make a purposeful and conscious decision to bring themselves into the group. Each person must be committed, engaged and invested in moving the work of the team forward.
I daresay that if any one person belongs to a team and believes that the power of the group trumps their own INDIVIDUAL power, then that team is doomed. The team may not fail – but I may not hit its full collective potential if all the individual members check their ‘I’s at the door.
There’s a great deal of potential and ability in many.
There’s always fascinating stuff going on where I live but this story has consumed me since I am (1) an HR lady (2) a lover-of-good-food (3) an observer of culturally-significant-moments, and (4) a Louisianian.
John Besh, native son and famed celebrity chef, has not only been caught with his pants reputation as a business leader/owner down around his ankles, but he’s simultaneously living the nightmare of being sucked into the HR/legal quicksand of EEOC complaints, horrendous Glassdoor reviews, and, more than likely, lawsuits. This story, which broke last Friday with (I’m telling you!) Pulitzer Prize reporting by Brett Anderson, is a gajillion times more relevant to the average American worker than the Weinstein stuff.
Besh is a great chef with numerous restaurants in New Orleans; I’ve dined at 4 and tried a 5th without a reservation so yeah, that meal that didn’t happen. He’s also, apparently, not the most astute business owner.
Look…I work in the hospitality industry; we’re cost-conscious and our managers “run the show;” often because we have minimal HR/FTE ratios. Plus, let’s be real, the restaurant/F&B industry is a totally different animal; all you HR gals who work in tech or hospitals or insurance companies have no idea. No fucking idea at all.
Don’t clutch your pearls ladies; the ‘F word’ flows smoothly, just as it did in that sentence, from employee to manager to CEO. It’s the perfect adjective uttered by Executive Chefs and Sous Chefs and Dishwashers and Servers. Seriously – read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. (Who, by the way, I love!)
But salty language and curse words are one thing; demanding blow jobs and grabbing genitals and coercing people into threesomes for a promotion (“quid pro quo” for those of you studying for the PHR) are quite another.
Lack of HR? Yeah.
I’ve looked up the new HR Director of the BRG on LinkedIn and I’ve sent her an invite to connect; I want to take her out for a drink.
Last month I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ohio HR conference for the second time. Fabulous event (as always) with lots of peace, love and happiness HR-style.
This was approximately a ‘cycle’ ago with a bunch of women (lots of gals in human resources) at a jungle-themed-sexy’ish midwestern resort with (free!) SHRM and vendor-sponsored wine. We probably all got in sync with our menstrual cycles; 4 days at an HR conference is like living together in a sorority house or serving side-by-side in an army platoon or working together in an office – isn’t it? That theory, called the McClintock effect, has been debunked through ongoing studies.
Whatever. I don’t care.
Plus, whether syncing our cycles is real or not it’s still fun to talk about periods in front of a bunch of squeamish men. Kinda because they’re squeamish men. Which……kills me. Do we get embarrassed when dudes talk about their testicle sweat or armpit hair? Well…ok..maybe a bit.
…. menstruation and periods and talk about sanitary products and tampons still makes people (ladies and men alike) squirm. Which has to end.
OK…back to Ohio SHRM.
At this conference I met the absolutely most awesome woman and entrepreneur named Clair Coder – she had a booth and I got pins and we took pictures together (I can’t find them) and she gave me a bunch of tampons.
I just loved everything about Claire and her company so I (1) fan-girled all over her (2) helped coordinate her speaking gig at this past Wednesday’s #DisruptHRCincy and (3) pinned her down for an interview. Here’s what I asked and what she had to say:
You started Aunt Flow in 2016 – what was your inspiration?
I founded Aunt Flow after I unexpectedly got my period in public without the supplies I needed. I was at an event and was trapped. Surrounded by men and no tampons in the bathroom, I ended up leaving the event early. At that point in time, I decided it was critical to change the world, one cycle at a time. I now ask companies “If you are offering a ping pong table, beer, even toilet paper for free, why aren’t you offering the necessary menstrual supplies?”
One of the cool things you do is donate 10 tampons to an organization of the buyer’s choice for every 100 tampons purchased? What are some of the groups or organizations where donations have gone?
Aunt Flow’s mission is to ensure EVERYONE has access to menstrual products. We do this by selling our products to businesses, so companies can offer them for free in their bathrooms for employees and guests. We are celebrating our 1-year birthday at the end of November. By that time, it is my goal to have donated over 100,000 tampons to organizations across the USA that support menstruators in need.
What’s your mantra?
People helping people. PERIOD.
OMG I love everything about this!
Let’s de-mysistify a natural human function
Let’s treat the biological needs of both genders on an equal basis
Let’s ensure women and girls the world over have access to basic necessities
Let’s take care of all our employees – stocking tampons is as common sense as stocking toilet paper
Let’s remember that (as Aunt Flow tells us) – “Many of the 26.4 million menstruators living in poverty in the United States must resort to plastic bags and dirty socks to stop the flow. No one should ever be forced to choose between food and tampons.”