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?

YOU DIDN’T REPORT INTO CLASS SEVEN OR EIGHT HOURS A DAY!

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.

 

 

The headlines are filled with articles about the return to work, specifically, getting people back into an office. Some of the articles then focus on subtopics such as dress codes, flexible schedules, and mandatory vaccinations. At the core of these articles is an underlying assumption that either companies want to treat everyone the same, or feel that they must treat everyone the same.

With all of these articles swirling in my head, I reflected on the kudos given to Red Auerbach.  Reading the autobiography one of his protégés, who also became a coach, I have been introduced to his genius, his legend, and his insights on people. “I’ve never been around a man who managed … better than Red Auerbach. Particularly, the egos he had to deal with, the cross cultures he had to deal with and all the variations in the kinds of people that I saw him be associated with.”

That’s when it hit me that this is why the world of management has its collective basketball shorts in a twist.

The typical manager does not have a team any bigger than Red did when he led the Boston Celtics to nine championships.  If Red could find a way to coach, cajole, badger, and encourage his players … here’s betting today’s managers can.  Of course, just as Red needed to comply with NBA guidelines, today’s managers must not run afoul of the pertinent HR laws that pertain to their team of employees.

Stat sheets don’t lie, and a manager who sets clear goals will know quarter by quarter who is performing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

True Grit

True Grit

By Lisa Aggarwal

Commonwealth HR Consulting is a firm composed of women who love math. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the movie Hidden Figures resonates with several of us. 

We are told from a young age that we can do hard things. “Things” have certainly been hard lately. Who better to learn from than women who looked hard in the face and told it to try harder.

One of the most amazing things about this movie was that no embellishments were needed to tell the stories of these female African-American “human computers” whose work and dedication was critical to the space race. This, at a time when WHO they were (African-American and female) was an inherent obstacle to their own success…still to this day. 

Instead, they were pioneers who charted their own courses. Katherine Goble Johnson became the best known of this group when she received the Presidential Medal of Honor; she calculated the trajectories of the Apollo 11 and Space Shuttle. Mary Jackson was the first female African-American engineer at NASA. Dorothy Vaughan was the first African-American supervisor at NASA … because she taught herself FORTRAN. 

 “Their path to advancement might look less like a straight line and more like some of the pressure distributions and orbits they plotted, but they were determined to take a seat at the table.” – Margot Lee Shetterly 

How was their world altering success accomplished, against all odds? GRIT.

There are many ways to describe grit: being resilient, having a strategic mindset, continuously striving for self-development. It is a competency, or innate behavior. You can sometimes develop it, but it is usually a part of a person’s make up.  Without leverage, without a voice, the heroines of Hidden Figures demonstrate so many aspects of grit, then out-prepare and then out-perform their peers.  It is a muscle that they have been using their whole lives.

The easy path is rarely the most rewarding. Invest your time in someone you see has potential, or in yourself. Sometimes, in order to get some traction, you need to put some grit down on that slippery slope and see where it might take you. 

Carved in Stone?

Carved in Stone?

By Lisa Aggarwal

Every day, I’m amazed by the innovation I have seen since the Covid-19 pandemic began. In order to survive, virtually every company has been asked to evolve and change the trajectory of its business. Every person has made changes to their routine and how they operate on a daily basis. 

For those companies whose fiscal calendar begins on January 1, the traditional annual merit cycle is upon them. The good news: organizations who are managing to thrive despite a worldwide pandemic (i.e., not the restaurant and hospitality industries) are still planning on giving their employees raises. 

Yet, the annual merit increase isn’t as “traditional” as you might think. Some of you might remember the days when you received a raise on the anniversary of your hire date. One of my colleagues recounts when moving to a yearly increase was unheard of, needing at least a year of change management for employees to understand why it would be any other way—or why it even happened this way in the first place. 

As CHRC has been researching how companies are coping with this year’s cycle, the overwhelming answer is: it depends. According to a recent study by the Economic Research Institute, annual salary budgets remain around 3.0%, but many companies are only implementing actual increases around 2.2%. Some of that gap may be avoided by thinking strategically. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you need to work on an annual review cycle, or should salary reviews only be done if revenue targets are met? Can that be quarterly, or can you wait until business recovers? 
  • Should you focus on promotions or retaining your high performers who, according to many reports, are still able to find new jobs with relative ease?
  • Are your compensation programs and structures aligned with the external marketplace? Have any of your roles been affected by increases in your state or city minimum wage as of January 1? With remote working, do you now compete nationally for talent?
  • What programs is your company implementing to address burnout and the around the clock work from home cycle? A recent study by AON indicated that the #1 concern when it comes to retaining female employees is not only childcare…it’s wellbeing. That concern doesn’t stop at the gender line. Do you need to think beyond Total Rewards to Total Wellbeing?

The more creative you are with how your financial resources are invested, the better you will be able to redeploy your assets. Are your merit increase cycles ready for a little innovation, or are they carved in stone?

Winning Communication

Winning Communication

Photo by Christina Morillo, from Pexels

Back in February of 2018, our blog highlighted some best in class recruiting practices. We noted that companies like Microsoft had adapted their screening and selection processes to capture the needed talent of those candidates on the autism spectrum. In so doing, they were actually employing a more robust way of screening all candidates and predicting success within a role and a company culture.

As we all continue to navigate remote working, especially in a certain Midwestern city that has had really low level clouds for several days, what if you heard that there was a place to work where you started your morning with two questions:

  • How “interactive” do you feel today?
  • What’s your energy level today?

What if you also heard that this same company listed everyone’s preferred communication and feedback preferences? Versus, you know, waiting two days for a call back and then learning someone NEVER checks their voicemail?

A recent article focused the spotlight on Ultranauts, a tech company that has engineered itself not only for remote working, but for the diverse needs of its employees—many of whom are on the autism spectrum. This company’s practices are valuable for all of us right now. Not only because they allow the workforce to absorb information in the ways that they
prefer—but because it practices the key components of good employee communications:

1. Tell them what you are going to tell them
2. Tell them
3. Tell them what you told them

AND with technology to take notes, so that no one gets stuck being the scribe!

While Ultranauts developed this culture to accommodate the sensory-overload that many on the autism spectrum experience on a daily basis, in this current environment, these practices offer a great deal to all of us who are on so many different sorts of overloads and prioritizes employee-first communications, so that all succeed—no matter what.