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During my first semester of college, I applied for a social media marketing internship with a small, local marketing company. It was my first office job. Four years have gone by and I’m still with that same company. Only I’m no longer an intern, I’m now the Office Manager and head of HR.
When I first started as an intern, there were only four part time employees. We were all college students. Founded by a former freelance marketer, the company was new, and only in its second year of business. Since then, my boss secured dozens of more clients, interns and employees- both part-time and full-time.
Over the years, I learned a lot about what it was like to build a business. And the hardest part of it all isn’t gaining clients or filing your taxes- it’s maintaining the relationships you make along the way.
My boss, a young female entrepreneur, quickly realized that trying to keep both your clients, employees, and bank account balance happy can sometimes feel like an impossible balancing act. And that’s why I love HR; it’s challenging, which makes it even more rewarding.
I think we can all agree, the best way to keep clients coming back is through happy employees. But sometimes, that’s not easy. Maybe it’s because of the economy, new management, or working conditions. In the case of my company, it was growing pains.
Eventually, as business picked up, my boss started giving her staff more responsibility, and in turn, hiring more experienced people. Most employees were now out of college, some by two years, others by twenty.
It became clear that the company benefits and policies that had kept her former college-aged employees happy didn’t appeal to her new staff. Flex-Time didn’t matter as much to single men in their thirties as it did to students with class schedules. They cared little about office field trips to Starbucks. They wanted nothing to do with a company group chat. What they did want was higher bonuses and vacation days.
I had a great working relationship with boss. So, when there was a dispute, I started speaking up on behalf of my coworkers, and often my boss too. Both sides, employees and owner, had difficulty properly expressing their expectations, needs and feelings with each other in a clear and concise matter. A moderator was needed, and I was eager to fill the position.
Since then, I’ve worked to help the company create an employee manual, update the vacation policy, adopted staff meetings, conducted performance reviews, and everything else that falls under the HR umbrella- and I couldn’t be happier.
Working in human resources allows me to be an intricate part of the company. While most employees feel frustrated by company problems, I have the opportunity to empower myself, run to the drawing board and find solutions.
And some days it’s exhausting. Some days, the world is an impossible balancing act. You can’t always please everyone, but I always try, and that’s what makes the work-day worth it.
About the Author: Kathleen Connolly is an undergraduate student at Stony Brook University where she is a teaching assistant for the course Organizational Behavior. She is also a candidate for the university’s Human Resource Management graduate program. Kathleen is the Office Manager and Head of HR for the online marketing company Jillian’s Circus.
Throughout history, our workplaces have continued to evolve.
Back in the days of the Industrial Revolution and the dawn of mass production, focus was on efficiency, scale, quality control, and essentially getting “stuff” made. Employees worked on production lines, performing the same tasks over and over, and work was a means to an end. A way to support yourself and your family. Management was command and control, and I would guess there was probably not much in the way of feelings of contentment and job satisfaction, but hey, you had a paycheck to bring home.
As we shifted from an economy based on production work into an era of more knowledge workers, management theory changed with it. We moved into the era of more participative management focused on harnessing the expertise of these knowledge workers. We now had “goals” and “objectives” and were more concerned with how to motivate employees. But we were still for the most part operating in an environment of the manager/subordinate, vertical org chart sort of organization.
And through both of these eras of work, there was still largely a focus on loyalty to one company and lifelong employment. Your goal was to land a good job at a good company, put in a good 30 to 40 years, and then retire from said company.
But times are changing, again.
We’ve moved into a new era. One where loyalty to one company is not guaranteed, or even expected. Moving from job to job and employer to employer is far more accepted and expected than in the days of our parents and grandparents. Today’s younger workers (and for that matter even many who have been in the workforce for quite a while) have different expectations about what work means and the role it plays in their lives. Gone are the days of blind loyalty and commitment to a company without feeling like there’s something in return to be gained, beyond just a paycheck. Today’s employees are looking for more purpose and meaning, a feeling of being connected to their work, their coworkers, and their companies, and jobs and careers that fit holistically into their lives.
So with these changing expectations comes a new era for how we as business and HR leaders approach our workplaces. Loyalty is not a given, but it can be achieved by companies who care about creating environments that nurture and encourage getting the best work out of their people, and who want to grow and retain those people as they work together towards success. The folks at Globoforce like to call it the “Human Era.”
And this is right where the WorkHuman movement and conference comes in. Now in its fourth year and getting bigger and better with each successive event, WorkHuman focuses, very simply, on bringing more humanity back to the workplace. That might sound a little “warm and fuzzy” and non-scientific, but the beauty of it is that the agenda is in fact filled with scientifically proven ideas to help bring out the best in our employees. It’s about building great cultures, encouraging recognition, driving engagement, fostering communication, and forging connection. It starts with top notch keynotes speakers – this year’s (so far) include Brene Brown, Amal Clooney, Simon Sinek, and a historic #MeToo panel led by Adam Grant and featuring Ashley Judd, Tarana Burke, and Ronan Farrow. And the momentum continues throughout the agenda with each concurrent session speaker as well.
This year’s event will take place in Austin, TX from April 2nd through 5th. Interested in joining the WorkHuman movement? You can register here. And as an added bonus, you can save yourself some money by using discount code WH18INF-JPA.
Editor’s Note: One of our regular contributors, Donna Rogers, recently participated as an attendee and speaker on the 2018 HR Conference Cruise. What’s an HR Cruise you may ask? According to the website, it combines “a robust Human Resource conference with an exciting cruise to tropical islands and gorgeous getaways….It is everything that a land-based conference offers – except that it moves!” The inaugural cruise set sail in January 2017 and based on popularity and demand returned with two sailings in February 2018. Donna wanted to share some of her observations and takeaways with the Women of HR readers; below is her second post.
The morning after a day in Jamaica started off with a bang in Julie Pugh’s session covering harassment in the headlines, most recently referenced with the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp. Her session was titled “Have Your Life Jacket Handy: The HR Professional’s Role in Addressing Pre-Lawsuit Procedures.” Whew! That’s a mouthful! However, being prepared is a big deal and deserves our attention, understanding, and consideration to avoid a mouthful of curse words (quietly of course) when you get handed your first EEOC complaint or lawsuit. Believe me, they are not fun to deal with!
I have personally had my share of harassment (especially sexual) complaints during my tenure in HR. So far this year, I have delivered a couple of programs as well as conducted a couple of investigation and it’s only February! The stories I could tell would make you wonder what type of work is actually being done in the workplace. Matter of fact, I shared one of them in the session that helped Julie make her point about other types of complaints you can get besides harassment. The one I shared was constructive discharge and sexual harassment.
What I found new and interesting in this session is to look at documentation related to the topic and remove things like the word “confidential.” For example: Don’t tell employees in person or in harassment policies that their conversation or complaint will remain confidential. Why? Because it won’t! You can’t keep it confidential. Again, why? Because you may have to conduct interviews, talk to management, attorneys, etc.
So, what can you say or write instead on using the word confidential?
Say we will be “discreet”, or
We will only share on a “need to know basis”
In addition, Julie mentioned an example of a time she was conducting training when someone in the room asked for a definition of an inappropriate behavior. She redirected the question to make a point about how managers need to be constantly vigilant about what is discussed in the workplace while another manager got up and demonstrated the inappropriate behavior in front of the whole group. She politely took the person to the side to have a private conversation about how inappropriate her demonstration was and how that type of reaction and attitude is exactly what they are trying to avoid in the workplace. I can’t tell you how many times employees and managers have taken pot shots at some of the main points of a harassment awareness training I was conducting. What a great lesson on how to deal with those outbursts.
Editor’s Note: One of our regular contributors, Donna Rogers, recently participated as an attendee and speaker on the 2018 HR Conference Cruise. What’s an HR Cruise you may ask? According to the website, it combines “a robust Human Resource conference with an exciting cruise to tropical islands and gorgeous getaways….It is everything that a land-based conference offers – except that it moves!” The inaugural cruise set sail in January 2017 and based on popularity and demand returned with two sailings in February 2018. Donna wanted to share some of her observations and takeaways with the Women of HR readers; below is the first of her two posts.
It’s showtime at sea for attendees of the 2nd annual #HRCruise heading to Haiti and Jamaica. After a great opening session by Greg Hawks, the first session of the week began with Brad and Suzanna Cooper with US Corporate Wellness. They walked attendees through a well thought out, detailed and thoughtful presentation about what corporate wellness should look like. In my experience wellness programs have been very narrowed. For example, when I first started my career, there was a $100 prize for the employee who lost the greatest percentage of weight. I was only 23 at the time without a great deal of other influences buying for my time. It was a cinch. I won! I went out and bought a brand new suit to wear to work with my winnings. I was excited, proud and focused. I had willpower.
However, the wellness program was only focused on one thing, weight loss. A strategically planned program will consider so much more like smoking, stress, spirit, mental, physical, exercise, sleep, and so much more. Sleep today is a huge thing for me. The light bulb when off when I heard Brad say that without a good nights sleep, I have over a 40% chance of eating junk food in the afternoon. He was right, I know what I need to eat or drink. I am a Weight Watcher (recently rejoined) for gods sake. I know I don’t get good sleep and knowing this helps me understand at least one reason why I am constantly sabotaging my success towards my weight loss goal.
There are so many other great takeaways from this great speaking duo and as I write this blog post, Brad asked everyone, starting with me, to speak out about their one takeaway. So I typed them up for your to review here.
Takeaways from the attendees:
Increase communication of wellness initiative as an ongoing process
Tailor your message to your audience – such as generation; ally different employees
Creating lasting and meaning full change in wellness – not a one time shot like my personal example above
Try-in, Buy-in ~ Let employees try something to help
Focus on the individual – one size does not fit all
Tracking what I want to be a year from now and track progress towards that goal
Scarlett Letter – you don’t have to be perfect on your wellness journal
Corporate Social Responsibility tie into wellness
Even if you’re good about exercise in the morning but sit a lot at work, doesn’t give you a free pass
Never use any phone sitting down – get up and move
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs – Top is now Social Media
You are all so sexy, I want to be you!
It’s just not fitness and food…it’s about so much more like Financial Wellness
Create ways to have impact without intrusion
Mini SWOT analysis of individual company specific wellness programs
Traveling trophy in the office when teams win challenges
Utilization Review of programs
Wellness coaching & EAPs
It’s showtime! What are you going to do to improve your overall wellness program?
I don’t need studies to know that writing down goals works. I’ve seen the proof over and over. Still there is some impressive research surrounding goals and why writing them down makes a difference.
Back in 1979, Harvard researchers supposedly interviewed their graduates and found that 84% had no goals, 13% had goals but hadn’t written them down and 3% had not only written down their goals but had a plan to support them. Ten years later, they interviewed the same people and discovered that those 3% who had written down their goals were earning 10 times as much as all their other classmates.
Years later, wanting to verify that the Harvard study ever existed or had validity, Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, set out on a study of her own. She gathered 267 people — men and women from all over the world, and from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, lawyers and bankers. The youngest was 23 and the oldest 72.
She divided the participants into groups, according to who wrote down their goals and dreams, and who didn’t. She discovered that those who wrote down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who did not. In fact, she found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Referring to Mathews’ work, world-class inspirational speaker, executive coach, and corporate consultant, Mary Morrissey explained the ‘whys’ behind the success of writing down goals. Seems the process of 1) dreaming up the goal or desired intent and 2) using the hand/eye coordination to capture them on paper or computer means that both sides of our brains are engaged—right side for dreaming, left side for writing.
I realize for some folks the very word- goal- generates all kinds of stress and anxiety. Maybe using the word ‘possibilities’ is a better choice. Not as tangible but certainly “mind opening.”
Whatever the studies show and whichever word is used, I love goals. I get excited about the process of creating them and totally enjoy my annual ritual of writing them down.
For me New Years and the first weeks of January are all about goals, not resolutions, but goals. I love to think about all the possibilities that the coming year could hold. I’ve written down my goals since I was in my mid-twenties and believe me, it works.
Each year my goal is to have 104 goals. I know that sounds excessive but bear with me.
Not all goals are life altering. True, some of my goals are huge and may take more than twelve months to accomplish.
Many of my goals are stretch goals and will mean my personal commitment of time, energy and money. Others goals I call ‘maintenance’ goals—having my hair and nails done monthly, or a massage at least quarterly. Some are geared toward self-growth and education—going to two seminars annually or reading 3 books a month. Some are about lifestyle-walking 2 miles 5 days a week or drinking 60 ounces of water each day. The most fun ones to conjure up involve pleasure, determining how many great movies I’ll see or how often I’ll take mini-vacations with my spouse.
Creating goals really isn’t that complex; it requires an afternoon of dreaming about the possibilities and writing them down.
Since 1989, I’ve encouraged my employees to write down their goals, save a copy if they want and put their list in a sealed envelope. Then they give their envelope to me for safe keeping until January of the following year. I love seeing the looks on their faces when they open their envelopes. I sure don’t expect anyone to be as obsessive as me and create 104 goals, but most come up with 5 to 10 and they are always surprised and usually pleased at the results.
So while it isn’t all that hard to create goals, there are some ‘guidelines’ that I’ve learned over the years; tips to follow that ensure your success and make the process fun.
Be sure to write your goals in the present tense.
The words ‘I will’ aren’t as powerful as ‘I have’ or ‘I enjoy’ or ‘I create.’ Other words to avoid are ‘want’ and ‘need.’ Using those words almost guarantees that you’ll keep wanting or needing whatever it is you listed.
The word I’ve come to love the most when working on goals is ‘explore.’ Many times we don’t know ‘exactly’ what it is we hope to see happen or maybe we don’t have a good picture in our minds or we’re not even sure it’s really a desire so the goal might read: ‘I explore a new car.’
Watch the words you use.
Be careful of using terms like ‘lose’ because the Universal Laws have a way of interceding and insisting we must find whatever we have ‘lost.’
Losing weight is usually top of folk’s lists but a better way is to say: “My clothes fit perfectly’ or ‘I am at my perfect weight” or “I add plenty of fresh veggies to my meals.”
Attract is another powerful word.
I’m only ok with goals for romantic relationships that start with “I find” a husband/wife or the man/woman of my dreams. I know from experience that saying “I am in the presence of my Beloved” will evoke mighty results.
Don’t stop the flow with don’t.
Above all, never include words like don’t as in I ‘don’t’ want to be strapped for money or I ‘don’t’ want to be alone. For reasons I have no way of understanding, the mind simply eliminates the word ‘don’t’ and whatever you most fear is set in motion.
A few hours can mean the change of a lifetime.
Yes, it takes a little practice (and time) but try it! Create 5, 10 or 100 goals for 2018. Write them down! Make them fun, exciting, adventurous. Allow them to stretch you a bit. No matter if you look at them daily or put them away until January 2019, you’ll be amazed at the outcome.
Send them to me if you like. It would be my honor to be the keeper of your goals and dreams and celebrate them coming true with you around this time next year.
About the Author: Dorothy Gibbons is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Rose, a medical nonprofit that provides high quality breast healthcare to women regardless of their ability to pay. The first of its kind, Dorothy founded The Rose with Dr. Dixie Melillo in 1986. Each year, The Rose treats over 35,000 women, many of whom cannot afford to pay $150 for a mammogram, let alone the thousands of dollars needed to pay for breast cancer treatment. Dorothy lives in Houston with her husband, Pat.
As Human Resources Leaders, we represent the whole company. Our contribution is making the whole company stronger.
What about when things aren’t going so well? Some HR business partners become cheerleaders, encouraging better performance or higher morale. That’s a good opener to engage managers or employees, but strength comes from clarity. Being overly positive can diminish the HR role and the efforts to develop the managers they support.
Similarly, managers can fall into the positivity trap. I’ll give you an recent example: Bonnie, a manager who was dissatisfied with productivity in her department, starting running raffles to reward people who were performing their required job. If you did what was expected, your name went in the hat for a basket of goodies.
Her HR business partner questioned this approach, exploring the desired outcome. Incentives sound fun, but in this case, rewards were being provided for just doing the basics. Bonnie was weary of trying to encourage staff members to do their job. In looking to offer rewards and just get on with it, she was taking the “positivity” approach.
“Stay positive” is a popular refrain. After all, what could be wrong with positive thinking?
A few things, actually — depending on the level of control you have over a given situation.
While it’s a good instinct to stay positive, if important information gets obscured, performance and results will suffer. Bonnie was masking her weariness with a distraction and a misplaced incentive. She was being too positive about the potential results of providing an incentive.
Optimism is an alternative, especially when we do have some control. Optimism opens up possibilities and does not sweep frustrations under the rug.
Optimism creates positive energy and leads to asking questions. In contrast, positivity in the face of a stuck situation does not open up any news possibilities.
A simple technique I refer to as “Zooming” can help HR and the leaders they support quickly reframe and view the situation from a fresh perspective. I define four different lenses: thinking, acting, feeling and witnessing. The process also provides for shifting back and forth from one lens to another, closer in or further out. Doing so allows us to access new insights into a familiar scenario, and change our approach.
Bonnie had zoomed too far out from her “feeling” lens, which is the lens that supplies us with self-awareness and all-important emotional intelligence. Thus, she had let her emotions shut down. This particular version of positivity actually constricted her insight and robbed her of the energy and options she needed to manage effectively.
Ultimately, Bonnie used the zoom technique to capture the image of her situation as if with a video camera, zooming in close enough to get in touch with the deep-seated discouragement and disappointment her positivity was masking.
Here’s how Human Resources can coach the managers they support:
Zoom in to the feeling of positivity.
Bring the camera lens up close. Is this incentive program working? Do you feel they deserve rewards for just doing the job?
Then keep the raffle and those feelings of positivity and let them flourish.
Then ask whether the positivity is eclipsing other, uncomfortable feelings.
If so, get closer to those feelings and identify them. Are they anger? Frustration? Annoyance? Fear?
Identify the source of the feelings
In this case, poor performance that was not meeting productivity benchmarks. And the manager was disheartened about the ongoing disappointment.
Zoom out from the eclipsed feeling
Zoom away from the feelings and look at the bigger picture around them. Is this experience a consistent pattern or an exception? In this case, it was a pattern.
Rather than judging what you have just learned and observed, be curious. Curiosity is the seed of optimism. Ask what a possible step would be in a new direction or what experiment might provide a new perspective or possibility.
Positivity is a declaration that locks us into a set thought process. Optimism is a promise that leads us to ask questions and see that there’s always one more action to try, one more thought to explore.
About the Author: Janet Britcher is author of Zoom Leadership: Change Your Focus, Change Your Insights provides executive coaching to managers being promoted. Janet brings 20 years of corporate leadership roles in Human Resources to her leadership development work, and she has personally managed groups of 60 employees. She holds an MBA with a concentration in Organization Development from Boston College. Additional studies include Gestalt Group Dynamics, Myers-Briggs, Jungian psychology, and Immunity to Change. She is a certified executive coach. Her business Transformation Management LLC is celebrating its 15th year.
A promotion, a pay raise or a financial achievement should be an opportunity for celebration and acknowledgment; yet it is more likely to expose judgment, jealousy or comparison from colleagues, family and friends.
Being influenced by other people’s judgments doesn’t just effect our ability to improve our income or financial success – it impacts our ability to thrive in every area of life and business.
When we care about other people’s opinions over our achievements, we give up our leadership potential. Most people are trying to fit in with others and not rock the boat. A leader explores, creates, and innovates regardless of external viewpoints.
Are you willing to be a leader that changes opinions rather than follows them?
If so, here are three key things you must be willing to be and do:
Be Willing to Value You
Beyond knowing the dollar value of your job role in the wider market, do you truly know what you are worth?
Women have great abilities in taking up extra projects and managing multiple aspects of business. We are also great at de-valuing our capabilities, or believing we cannot handle taking on more, when often we already are doing more.
I once worked at a technology company that was advertising for a Vice President (VP). I was a Director at the time, but took on the VP duties in the interim. I never once considered applying for the role permanently as I believed I was not qualified. After chatting with a friend, I realized I was doing the VP work with ease and that it was only my perspective holding me back. Once I recognized this, I applied for and secured the VP role.
What if the skills you don’t even think about – the things you do without effort or that just seem to ‘happen’ for you – are the exact things you are most brilliant at? You may assume they are easy for everyone, but this is incorrect.
What do you find easy? What do you enjoy? What have you accomplished in your position and the business that you haven’t fully acknowledged? Are you willing to value your contribution and realize what you are truly capable of?
Be Willing to Out-Create.
“Out-creating” is the continual exploration, curiosity and willingness to be greater than you were yesterday, regardless of what others think, say or do. It requires you to shift your perspective from “What will people think?” to “What else is possible we have never considered?”
Many women don’t want to step on toes once they have reached a certain position. They feel content just to be at the table and don’t wish to be seen as achieving more than their male (or female) counterparts.
If you were willing to go beyond your colleagues and yourself and be greater every day, who would benefit? Just you? Or everyone?
Out-creating is not about ego, competition or proving. It is seeking what more can be accomplished that would honor you, your customers, staff, colleagues and the business. Out-create each day by asking, “What else is possible beyond this? What have we not considered yet?”
Be Willing to Inspire
Many people do their job each day the same as yesterday because they think it works, so why change it? They maintain the status quo and are the ones most likely to judge you for doing or creating more.
Rather than focus on them, what if you sought out to inspire those who desire more?
If you would like to strengthen client relationships, ask “who are the customer facing teams who have knowledge, information and ideas to contribute? “
Many people leave jobs because they don’t feel their contribution is acknowledged or valued. Conversely, they become encouraged and inspired to create more when others are interested in and value what they know. Every person in the business has value – are you willing to acknowledge and empower each person to create greater alongside you?
Inspire yourself and others by asking: “What have we not even considered that would invite ideas that would contribute to the business, our clients, our employees and our profit?”
Put your attention on inspiration rather than limitation, and those who are willing will step up with you.
The subtle art of not caring about other people’s judgmental perspectives is really the art of being a leader. What different experience for you, your business, clients and colleagues is possible when you are too busy exploring greater to care about what other people think?
About the Author: Laleh Hancock, founder and CEO of Belapemo, is a transformational facilitator and business coach with more than 25 years of experience building companies and individuals that win. Whether partnering with a Fortune 500 company or a stay home mom, Laleh is dedicated empowering people and organizations of all ages and stages to grow and expand. As a Certified Facilitator for Access Consciousness, Laleh facilitates specialty classes including a Right Riches for You, a specialty program of Access Consciousness. She meets people where they are and provides practical tools to empower people to create more joy, ease, and infinite possibilities in their lives. Laleh served on the Governor’s Maryland Caregivers Support Coordinating Council for four years.
As a middle-aged female with a long career in HR communications consulting, I’ve been reconsidering my role as a “maturing” business woman. In my experience, women tend to behave in one of two ways as they get older. One camp is proud of their longevity, and frequently point to their extensive track records. They’ll refer to junior staffers as “kids,” bemoan the “good old days,” and either use technology poorly or eschew it altogether. My camp, by contrast, while not ashamed of getting older, definitely work hard at appearing ageless. I will rarely, if ever, discuss generational differences between myself and the junior staff. Similarly, the only time I reference the “good old days” is to illustrate business trends, and I’d never suggest that they were in any way better (even though they were). Finally, I’m fully versed in technology, but if I have questions, I’ll call IT rather than ask an Associate to peer over my shoulder, while pointing at my computer screen.
According to conventional wisdom, I’ve made the shrewder choice. Ageism and sexism can easily derail an otherwise lengthy career. So by not calling attention to my seniority, I reduce the risk of being overlooked, undermined or dismissed because of my age and gender.
Lately, though, I’ve been re-thinking this. For most of my career, I’ve been a client-facing consultant at a series of professional services firms (Deloitte, Aon, among others). However, there was a brief period between Deloitte and Aon when I spent a year as the Communications Manager in the HR department of a research company. My boss, a woman in her early sixties, was facing the tail end of a very long, very successful career. And boy was she proud of it! She loved to regale her department, particularly “the kids” with stories of her glory days, which would’ve been charming if she hadn’t been a manipulative, tyrannical bully who lied, yelled, and tormented us. In a rare self-disclosure, she admitted that she’d had a stroke a few years before, and it occurred to me that this might account for her erratic, impulsive behavior as well as what appeared to be signs of a mental decline. In the morning, she was alert and energetic, but by mid-afternoon, she became easily confused, and forgot names and dates. I wasn’t the only employee aware of her lapses. She had a small staff of senior managers, most of whom had reported to her for several decades, and they did their best to protect her. They jumped in when she trailed off, filled in words when she blanked out, and tried to calm her down when she went on a tirade.
I never did learn the real story behind her behavior—eventually I found another job—but I also never forgot her. Now, almost ten years later, I can’t stop wondering if she was in fact the shrewd one. By not hiding her maturity or ignoring her long tenure, she came across as more real, more authentic, and in the end, more worthy of her staff’s loyalty. Granted, some of her behavior was beyond her control—I’m sure she didn’t blank out on purpose. Even so, perhaps it’s time to consider the possibility that conventional wisdom isn’t always the wisest choice.
Along with my corporate career, I have a parallel life as a novelist. A year or so after I left the research company and returned to consulting, I started a novel, THIS COULD HURT, about an HR Chief’s on-the-job stroke and the senior managers who rally to protect her. Of course, the novel is fiction, but its themes and plot twists have prompted me to talk to my female coworkers about what it’s like to age in the corporate world, particularly in a male-dominated industry. Their answers range from “horrible” to “awful,” and none of us have any quick fixes. However, there is one thing I know for sure. Although I’ve witnessed all sorts of bad behavior throughout my career, my brief time working for an aging HR Chief also revealed comradery, humor and moments of grace. So maybe my “more mature” colleagues and I would do well to remember that our elders can still teach us important lessons, even inadvertently. Maybe, too, it’s okay to be proud of our longevity—and teach the “kids” what it was like in the “good old days”—as we quickly, quickly become elders ourselves.
About the Author: Jillian Medoff is a senior consultant with the Segal Group, a professional services firm that specializes in HR-related issues. Prior to Segal, she worked for several Fortune 500 companies, including Deloitte, Aon Consulting and Marsh & McLennan, where she advised HR executives on all aspects of the employee experience, such as workforce engagement, performance management, and professional development. Along with a corporate career, Jillan is also a novelist; her fourth novel, THIS COULD HURT, a razor-sharp office satire, will be published in January by HarperCollins.
A recent Gallup research study shows that employees who do not feel properly recognized are twice as likely to say they will quit within the next year.
Fortunately, companies can make a big difference by offering employee reward and recognition programs. These programs are usually not that expensive to implement or operate and can pay huge dividends in employee engagement and retention.
The Gallup study, released in mid-2016, indicates that just one out of three U.S. employees strongly agreed they had been given praise or recognition within the past seven days.
“At any given company, it’s not uncommon for employees to feel their best efforts are routinely ignored,” the study states. “The element of engagement and performance might be one of the greatest missed opportunities for leaders and managers.”
Improved individual productivity. Recognizing and celebrating desired behavior increases the likelihood that others will replicate the behavior.
Reinforcing behavior that drives the company’s mission is a clear way to accentuate what is important.
Employee recruitment. Candidates who learn about robust recognition programs are likely to be more inclined to pursue employment.
Employee satisfaction. Employees who feel appreciated will enjoy their work more, focus on the tasks at hand, and not partake in complaints and gossip.
Better feedback for individuals and teams.
Better customer relations. Improved productivity and attitude will be reflected in customer loyalty and satisfaction measures.
More effective teamwork among employees.
Improved workplace safety and fewer accidents.
Less absenteeism and employee stress.
Boosted employer brand. Employees talk about their employers. A strong employee recognition program means those outside the organization will have a more favorable impression of the company.
More information. Data on employee recognition and rewards programs can be used as a part of evaluating performance, compensation, and hiring decisions in the future.
How to Put a Program In Place
Have a strategy. Even simple recognition programs need to be framed by a broader strategy and metrics that will gauge the program’s efficacy.
Senior leadership buy-in. Too many times, a planned recognition program runs off the rails when senior leadership was not informed and brought into the loop early. Top managers who endorse and support the program, and speak about it, can be powerful voices that lend weight and seriousness to the importance of the initiatives.
Respect differences. Make sure that generational and cultural differences are considered with recognition programs.
Check with compensation. Different states have different regulations and laws when it comes to recognition. Be sure that compensation rules are followed when providing recognition that can be construed by the IRS or others as income.
Mix it up. Consider offering monetary and non-monetary rewards. An extra day of vacation can be just as meaningful if not more so than a gift card.
Communicate regularly. Guidelines for such programs need to be specific, explicit, and clear. These guidelines should be shared broadly and regularly. To be effective, consistency needs to be applied when selecting recipients.
Broad eligibility. All employees should be eligible for the programs.
Tie it to performance. Whenever possible, provide the recognition as close as possible to the performance that merited the honor. Relevancy matters.
Apply fairly. If recognition is triggered by reaching a certain individual milestone, then every employee who reaches that milestone should be recognized.
Popularity contests are not good. Putting recognition honorees to a vote is often a bad idea. It can lead to the most popular, visible, vocal, or political employees winning, sowing seeds of discontent among others.
Make rewards relevant. Your rewards need to have relevance and appropriateness. Do not exclude employees who work different hours. Do not suggest a happy hour for the recipients if any of them have childcare obligations that are difficult to rearrange.
Be consistent. Leadership needs to decide if it will allow for different recognition programs for different units, divisions, or departments. It is always better and more equitable to have one centrally organized recognition program that ensures seamless messaging, delivery, and tangible rewards.
Use technology. Talent management systems can be effective ways to track programs, measure progress and analyze the impact of employee recognition programs.
Editor’s Note: This is the third post in the HR Leader Series, in which Women of HR contributor Rowena Morais features successful HR leaders who talk about the habits made the biggest impact in their professional lives.
Jenny Ooi’s passion for learning and growing drives almost everything she does.
It is clear that Jenny Ooi enjoys the work she has been engaging in for the better part of her career. The former Senior Vice President of HR at USG Boral Building Products decided very early on in her career that work would provide her satisfaction across various aspects of her life. She absolutely loves being a business person in the HR world, as she puts it. However, she still planned for her unemployment and has since ventured out on her own as a consultant.
She knew that her career was important though not all-encompassing. Yet, the joy of having a good career can be hard to let go. This year, she is two years behind her plan to leave the world of work to explore the world of consulting.
For many reasons outlined here, I knew that I had to get Jenny to talk about the habits that led to her success. My question to her : Can you tell me the habits that have got you to where you are today?
Before we delve into Jenny’s habits, let me paint a picture of the person. A graduate of the Royal Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), she brings with her more than twenty years of diverse and rich experience in a few fields – Finance, Supply Chain, Business Development and Human Resources.
Prior to USG Boral, Jenny was the Senior HR Director of Agilent, an organisation that won all the top awards for Employer of Choice in 2012 and 2013 in Malaysia. She herself has been awarded a few awards for HR Leader of the Year and HR Professional of the Year. A certified Marshall Goldsmith coach, Jenny recently co-authored a book with Dr William Rothwell of Penn State University and Dr Peter Chee of ITD World on the subject of talent management.
Impressive on many levels, she is, in person, warm and affable, showing great interest in whoever she talks to, about who they are and what they do.
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
There’s much truth in this prose.
Over the years, there have been many moments in my life where I forced myself to change my way of thinking. I realised that this change very soon affected my habits and impacted where I landed in various stages in life. Rowena’s assignment forced me to take stock of my habits and I found that these habits of mine fall within two distinct areas:
Cultivating habits that affect the NOW
the habit to learn and feed my curiosity;
the habit to innovate and feed my creativity.
Cultivating habits that affect the FUTURE
the habit to invest and feed my desire for financial freedom;
the habit to be grateful and feed my need for rest.
The habit to learn and feed my curiosity
“Millions saw the apple fall but Newton asked why.” ~ Bernard Baruch
I am naturally curious about how things work and how to simplify processes. Being a working mother, I need an effective mode of learning. I find that my phone is my best university. Each day, I would listen to podcasts, YouTube videos and TedEx episodes. I would typically do this while I was getting ready for work as well as during the commute. I cultivated this habit when I began working. Initially, I used CDs but then later, the smartphone took over.
The habit to innovate and feed my creativity
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ~ Maya Angelou
I find it a joy to see processes and relationships work better. So, one of my habits is to decide on one or two processes/relationships to work on every now and then. The beauty of focus is that less is more. Once I am pleased with the level of improvement, I’ll pass the ‘project’ on to someone trustworthy to ‘lead’. I find that it works for most scenarios – work processes, relationships and social initiatives.
What discovery did I make doing this? To my surprise, I found that even relationship responsibilities could be passed on to another for a season.
The habit to invest and feed my desire for financial freedom
“Financial freedom is more valuable than riches. It is liberty.”
From the onset of my working life, I decided that a successful career would provide me satisfaction in various facets of my life. However, I also have other interests that clash with the demands of a full time job. Therefore, early on, I planned for my unemployment.
Moving from ‘success to significance’ demanded that my family become financially independent. While I pursue my new interests now, the family lifestyle should be maintained and for this reason, I recommend building a financial safety net of two years. This safety net requires developing a habit to save and invest. Over the years, I have spent time and energy in a few select activities (learning, reviewing, purchasing properties and investments) that would allow me to accumulate wealth.
The habit to be grateful and feed my need for rest
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham
This is one of my favorite quotes. Personally, I find that there are two facets to it. First, it drives me to do my best. Second, I believe that I am always served with the best that life has to offer. All things will turn out good.
I have developed the habit to pause and be thankful throughout the day. It gives me the impetus to pursue the next goal. It helps me smile more. It helps me to be generous with my time, money, praise etc. Why? Because I know I will always have more than enough. My future will be fine.
I can rest.
Jenny Ooi is a business person in the HR world, a seasoned ‘C’ Level HR Professional. Based in Kuala Lumpur, Jenny believes in business-focused HR solutions that are simple, nimble and effective. She has managed teams in the US, EU, Middle East and Asia. Her key areas of expertise include international board level HR interventions, building best workplaces, developing leadership excellence as well as culture transformation for sustainable growth.
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