New Trend? Old Trend.

New Trend? Old Trend.

When this headline appeared … what came to your mind?

If you’re from Pennsylvania, did you think of Hershey?

If you’re from Chicago, did you think of Pullman?

Some might have some less-than-charitable thoughts about company housing.

If you are a fan of Cadbury’s chocolate, you might know all about the sweet village that the company constructed for their workers in Bournville, England (which inspired Hershey).  One of Unilever’s predecessors, Lever Brothers, also had a stellar community built for their workers called Port Sunlight.

It seems to be a toss-up to determine where the first company-sponsored housing was built: Quarry Bank Mill (near today’s Manchester airport) or New Lanark in Scotland, were both founded in 1784 and both provided housing and better nutrition than was the norm at the time.  The cottages pictured were built in 1824 as housing for the Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester.

Seems the owner of New Lanark might have devised the original economic development deal as well.  The owner lured a boat load, literally, of people that had been emigrating to North Carolina when their boat crashed.  Stay here, and I’ll give you a job AND housing.   

Seems some things never change …

All the communal handwringing and bickering about:  The Return to the Office

We’ve been using the wrong model.

HINT:  think about the companies that dubbed their office “A Corporate Campus”

For those people that left home after high school to go away to college, what was the single most earth shattering change?


Prior to this, much of your success in education was tied to:  showing up.  If you didn’t, they called home. If you did this A LOT,  there were meetings with your parents, or Saturday detention: [cue the Breakfast Club soundtrack now …]

Heck, the local government even paid people to be Truancy Officers and look for kids playing hooky.

Now, you get to your college and depending on the professor, they might not even take attendance.  You might find out that there was absolutely no credit for attendance or participation.

As a lowly freshman, you got stuck with those 8 am classes MWF … or even worse, a 4 pm on MWF.

By the time you were a senior, you might have a seminar that met once a week.  Once a week? In a small class where you only had, what 12 weeks to impress your professor? Nowhere to hide … had to have all that reading done …

You might find out that you had a class where 100% of your grade was how you did on the final exam.

So how did those professors know if you were doing your work?

  • Did they stop by your dorm room at 2 am?
  • Did they take attendance in the library? Know which carrel was your favorite and check to see if their text book was open and highlighted in the appropriate chapter for that week?
  • In nice weather, did they stop by your spot on the lawn and make sure that you were reading text books?
  • Did they attend parties or scour the local bars to make sure that your reading was done for the next day?

Probably not.

They graded your papers and your tests.

They evaluated your performance.

How is this different from hybrid work?

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

This chart is eye grabbing.

Most reading this blog will easily recognize the vast majority of these logos.  You aspired to work at some, you DID work for some.

One logo immediately caught my eye.  In my days as a credit analyst, I signaled they were facing headwinds. In return, I got an extreme dressing down. The summation of that boss’s lecture? They were one of the largest companies in the country so how could I possibly even think to suggest that they were anything but stable?

The companies that have fallen off of this chart have done so for various reasons, for some it was hubris, for others an inability to pivot, in other cases, tastes change. A lack of innovation led to the demise of many.

Just yesterday, Jack Kelly had a piece in Forbes about the ultimate innovation: tailoring jobs to the individual needs of the various workers. Given the current labor and talent shortage in the U.S., this is exactly the right sort of solution for many organizations.

When firms can keep a clear focus on the deliverable, the output, where or how something gets done is less important.

Kelly says:

Consider how much better work would be if managers held conversations with their team, actively listened to how they’d like to work and then designed the job around their needs. Morning people could start early. Night owls can begin later in the day.

I lived this. Over 20 years ago at PwC, we had a well-oiled team that knew each other’s bio-rhythms and peak productivity hours.  We joked that there were probably only three hours that someone from our group wasn’t awake and available; one person was an extreme lark that got into the office at 5:00 am, while another was such an extreme night owl that we regularly got emails from him at 2:00 am, working remotely.  That is when I started experimenting with working from home … which one secretary dreaded because in uber-efficiency mode I banged through my To Dos, which then required her involvement.

As so many HR experts have reiterated: there are two ways to measure performance – inputs and outputs.  Do you want to measure the hours that you see someone in (or their jacket on) their chair? Or do you want to measure what they deliver? The RESULTS.

Go back to that left hand side of the graphic.  What happened to the temples those companies built? Big Stan in Chicago? GE Headquarters in Connecticut? The Sears Tower? They filled up with employees each morning and emptied every night.

Big buildings don’t matter.  That S&P graphic is based on results.



Are you late to the game?

Are you late to the game?

We were pretty late to the game. 

A sports-mad 21-year-old kept recommending this show about soccer … so you’re a bit skeptical.

But once the friend that actually went to a Premier League match with you decades ago, tells you that you MUST watch it, you actually do.

Luckily we binged shortly before the Emmy’s so were all caught up and understood why Ted Lasso deserved all the raves. 

You can experience this series on so many levels.  If you like football, or programs about sports and coaching, it is great entertainment.  It also proves that once again, sports remain a wonderful arena for Management 101. If you’ve lived or traveled overseas and tried to adapt to a different culture, there are some overt and some subtle chuckles. Given the international nature of the sport, the team that Ted takes on is a perfect example of how complex global organizations are: not only are there personalities to manage, but personalities layered with national … proclivities. 

What all the characters and story lines underscore is that there is no one perfect way to motivate everyone, and that the best coaches and managers take the time and the effort to understand how best to inspire the individuals on their team. With so many leadership lessons from Lasso, some beat me to it.  Late to the game, I tip my hats to them, and share their insights   Read more here and here.

The agility in Ted Lasso is not just on the pitch.  If you scan a few articles, you will discover that the lines between creators, writers, and producers blur.  Brett Goldstein, who received the Emmy for best supporting actor, began as writer and ended up auditioning for a role.  Not unlike the sport at its center, the show scores because the ensemble relies on assists.  When teammates are generous with each other, they are willing to make that extra pass, to get a better line, to set up for a surer goal, and a better ending. 

[Human] Capital Calibration

[Human] Capital Calibration

Manufacturing equipment has come a long way since 1964. The environment in which you put your equipment?  Back then, a somewhat level floor, a power supply, fans for HVAC, and what was a little grease on the floor? You turned it on, and assumed it would run.  When you invest in a sophisticated machine today, you may build a special room, complete with its own HVAC and filtration. You wouldn’t dream of operating this equipment without the needed care and calibration. Your organization ensures that those responsible for the care and upkeep of this huge capital investment have the requisite technical expertise to protect your investment; you wouldn’t dream of leaving it to someone that didn’t know what they were doing. Yet why are we okay doing that to our largest investment: our employees.

The current conversation about “back to the office” seems a lot more like 1964, the year that Gary Becker published his first book on human capital. He rocked the world of economics and business with his work on the value of human capital ––  people were one of your most valuable assets.  It paid to further invest in them now that their life span was longer and technological advances made new skill acquisition imperative.

We sit here in 2021 as the seeming randomness of Covid deaths and quarantining has given Americans plenty of time to pause to reflect on the meaning of life. For many Americans, they are finally understanding their worth as a unique model of human capital.  They’ve grown to understand the distinctive sets of skills that they have acquired, honed, and refined over the years AND the optimum conditions under which they perform.  When an employer doesn’t understand that, enter…

The Great Resignation

One of my favorite Total Rewards thought leaders, John Bremen, has written a great article, advising how organizations can turn The Great Resignation into the Great Hire.  He very rightly points out that more people have been hired in 2021 than have quit – which side of the equation is your organization on?

Solution? It’s not about going back to “the way we always did things.”  It IS about recognizing the conditions under which employees can turn in peak performance and earn their organizations more gold.


Olympic Memories

Olympic Memories

Sadly, the necessities of adulting have kept me from watching The Olympics this summer.

My fascination started in the summer of 1972 –  all the flags, the flame, the whole concept of all of those countries coming together to compete.  Then in 1976, like the rest of the world, Nadia kept me glued to the TV.

My favorite movie, Chariots of Fire, is all about the 1924 Olympics.  Long before I could have ever imagined a career in HR, a story unfolded with great insights into how very different people could have the same goal: Olympic gold.

In reading a few of the articles about Simone Biles this past week, I was taken back to a scene in that movie; an aside moment after a very tense confrontation:

Duke of Sutherland: A sticky moment, George. 

Lord Birkenhead: Thank God for Lindsay. I thought the lad had us beaten. 

Duke of Sutherland: He did have us beaten, and thank God he did. 

Lord Birkenhead: I don’t quite follow you. 

Duke of Sutherland: The “lad”, as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself. 

Lord Birkenhead: For his country’s sake, yes. 

Duke of Sutherland: No sake is worth that, least of all a guilty national pride.

While the rationale of Simone’s decision differed from Eric Liddell’s, the principle remains about understanding the source of someone’s talent, it is “a mere extension of his life, its force … We sought to sever [that] from himself.”

Returning to the 1924 Summer Olympics, it was hardly a time when people spoke of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Now imagine one of your most fantastic athletes says he will not “work” (compete) in his best event, his best chance at winning for your company (country) because it interferes with his core beliefs.  Do you accommodate and find a different task (event)? Or do you insist on treating everyone the same and risk severing people from what makes them unique? or tick? or from your team?

Our country has been catching up with a lot of the world during the Covid Pandemic.  Catching up in that many people have finally had time to reflect on the meaning of life, their life.  More on that next week.