HRA Blog

Work or be Fired? Well Bah Humbug to You Too!

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

I took a break from planning my Thanksgiving activities the other day and was perusing the Internet when a story about Kmart’s Thanksgiving policy caught my eye.

For those of you that don’t know, Kmart has alerted its employees that if you don’t show up on Thanksgiving, you’re going to lose your job. In fact, Kmart plans to open its doors at 6am on Thanksgiving morning for consumers buying pleasure.

Now while these early start times in the retail industry aren’t really anything that new or shocking any longer, what I drew from these ultimatums has more to do with how we as organizational leaders need to reevaluate the evolving workplace.

I realized that many of my current and former clients have been challenged in adapting to the “always on, always connected” workforce.

Do we really want our employees working 10-12 hour days? Do we want them answering emails on the their smart phones at night? Do we want them to not take vacation or sick days? Do we look down or question the work ethic of those employees that are only working eight hours, using vacations and unplugging after they leave the office?

The answer is I’m not really sure. It’s probably a little of both, however, from an organizational standpoint, if we don’t know the answer, how is it affecting our employees?

Deloitte just recently completed the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 study, which brought forth some compelling data that caused me some alarm.

Nearly two-thirds of employees feel completely overwhelmed at work. Employees feel that the work-life balance has been lost, due to technology and the blurring lines between work and life.

Employees are working too hard. Men and women alike are regularly working more than 50 hours a week. In addition, they are too distracted, are flooded with too many emails, conference calls, meetings, and other distractions.

Perhaps most importantly, the study showed that 65 percent of business and HR leaders rate this an important challenge, yet fewer than 10 percent of organizations know what to do about it.

So what can we as HR leaders do to alleviate this problem? A few thoughts.

  1. Examine your employees’ workloads. Are you indeed over working them and asking for an unreasonable number of deliverables?
  1. Scale human capital and technical resources accordingly to match employee needs.
  1. Simplify the HR message and engage your employees more effectively. Communicate the importance of work/life balance, encourage vacation and help employees create a workplace process that allows them to maximize their productivity and reduce hours worked.
  1. Use the holidays as an excuse to reevaluate your organizational understanding of these issues and develop strategies for the New Year to help your overwhelmed employees.

Ultimately, employees that feel engaged, empowered and valued in the workplace goes a long way to increasing productivity, retention and impacting the financial bottom lines. So take a moment, and much like Ebenezer Scrooge, reevaluate your organizational priorities for the coming year.

Unleash the Power of a Diverse Team

Written by Cyndi Branciforte on .

It seems like every day I hear an interview, read an article or have a conversation that somehow (directly or indirectly) highlights the differences between generations, cultures and/or the economic status of those living and working in today’s society. I’ve heard Millenials (those from Generation Y) who find nothing strange about requesting flexible schedules to take yoga classes in the middle of the day. I know Baby Boomers who never accessed or understand the corporate usefulness of Twitter or Vine. And it’s not unusual for half the workforce of a company to be unaware of the dates (or even time of year) when many celebrate Rosh Hashanah or Mahavir Jayanti.

Given the diverse complexity of our workforce, the thought of creating cohesive, high performance work teams can be daunting. However, there has never been a more important time to tap into those differences than now. Making high performance team cohesiveness a priority will “add value” back to any organization. It can create better products or services, establish a new, modern approach to day-to-day work flow, or ignite enthusiasm and commitment to a company culture.

In addition, it creates a significant competitive and cultural advantage. Requiring members of a team (large and/or small) to participate in establishing goals, priorities, values and/or ideas will benefit any organization. Research studies show that team diversity is a good thing – more importantly, it contributes to a company’s culture, growth and recognition. For example, a study discussed on NPR showed that research papers written by multicultural teams are cited more often in other research than those written by homogenous teams. Why? Diverse teams bring different perspectives, skills and talents to the table.

The best leaders appreciate that team cohesiveness is critical, and that diverse teams are powerful. In a recent interview on NPR, Walter Isaacson, who wrote “The Innovators – How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” claimed Steve Jobs once said that his greatest accomplishment was the team of people he formed at Apple. Without a great, involved, diverse team, your products cannot be exemplary. Walter’s book is a narrative of “who the inventors were” of the digital age, how they collaborated and why their ability to work as a team made them even more creative. It’s not a story about a “lone inventor,” but one about collaborative creativity! I was so impressed with the discussion that I plan to purchase the book for many on my Christmas list!

When I decided to write about diverse team cohesiveness, my reading led me to a story – a metaphor that I want to pass along to you about teamwork from Steve Jobs. Generally speaking, he tells a story of a widowed man he become friends with over 30 years ago. This man showed Jobs how a rock tumbler could transform old dusty rocks into beautiful polished stones simply by rubbing against each other (friction) and making a lot of noise. Since my son also had a rock tumbler – I can verify it’s decimal of chaotic friction is great – and as I used it, I saw that the outcome was miraculous.

Teams, Jobs states, are like these stones. Individually, they are fairly normal, ordinary and even a bit rough. But through the process of teamwork, they transform to a very different state.

Jobs further states that teams consisting of talented people who are passionate and work hard towards something often times bump up against each other, argue, fight and make noise. By working together, they polish one another and their ideas and the process create beautiful stones.

I love this metaphor!

As you reflect on this metaphor ask yourself a few questions: How does the senior management of your organization lead their departments and/or teams? How do you embrace diversity in your teams and organizational culture? Does your corporate culture encourage and value individual contributions from all levels of a team? Do you recognize different opinions? Do you allow team members to challenge your ideas? Do you encourage healthy conflict within your team? Does your team appreciate the differences each member brings to the group? What defines “differences?” How can your organization empower and support differences of opinions, work schedules, priorities, goals and ideas of each employee?

In a webinar I participated in last week, Hile Rultedge of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates) discussed how individual emotional intelligence can be explored through team analysis using the EQi2.0 Group Report. While the webinar focused on the functional use of the group instrument, it never ventured far from the reality that team growth and development begins with individual assessments and personal development. It’s the leadership of an organization that establishes and defines expectations for effective high performance teams.

As you begin to set goals for departments and teams for 2015, recognize that growth within every team has to begin with the individual. This means individual leaders should challenge themselves to grow personally, recognize and embrace team diversity and its advantages, and allow each team to flourish through trust, creative bantering and unified goal setting.

Making it a priority to build cohesive, high performance teams will produce fascinating results and drive organizational success.