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?

525,600 Minutes … how will you measure this year? AND the ones that follow?

525,600 Minutes … how will you measure this year? AND the ones that follow?

Our last blog shared insights on what activities will drive the workplace of the future. That concept of a workplace poses a huge challenge for many managers out there.

A recent podcast by GBH’s Innovation Lab addressed what organizations must build as they are dismantling cube space: management skills, competency assessments, and performance reviews to match the new workplace. Leaders having trouble coping with remote working will benefit from this program’s insights offered by experts, Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford and Liz Fosslein, head of content at Humu. Each organization will need to study and then tailor a return to work hybrid model that fits their organization.

Quite often when we start work on a compensation project, one of the first questions we ask is the state of the performance management program. Too often we get guilty looks followed by hemming and hawing. As Covid-19 began to shut down the world, CHRC probably had a better understanding than most as to why the majority of managers in the US would be very uncomfortable with a remote workplace. The reason many leaders fall back on MBWA (management by walking around) is either because their organization does not have a robust performance management system and/or they have never been trained to manage in the first place. 

At the end of the day, remote work is here to stay, and even when it is safe enough to return to large office buildings, hybrid remote and in-office work policies must be developed thoughtfully, in conjunction with robust performance management systems, versus being allowed to regress back to the routines of the MBWA practitioners. For those who thrive working remotely, if the majority of their coworkers return to the office, it could be detrimental to their career and could have a disparate impact on certain groups of employees who gravitate towards working from home. Professor Bloom is emphatic that organizations be prescriptive about “days the senior management are at home,” to ensure that people can be in the office to truly collaborate and innovate, not merely to posture and curry favor with the boss, and “to prevent a promotional advantage and stress everyone out.”

Office of the Future? One size does NOT fit all

Office of the Future? One size does NOT fit all

This past year has turned our idea of the workplace inside out, upside down, and cattywampus. While many look at this year as productivity lost or teamwork put on pause, there’s also much to be gained from rethinking the idea of the workplace. Are people really most productive while sitting in their cubicle all day—sans distractions? Distractions happen wherever you are. Distractions used to be colleagues talking about fantasy football picks, latest cat photos, or extended group lunches. Now distractions are crying babies, Instacart deliveries, or unstable Zoom connections. There is no evidence that productivity suffers if not in the office. 

Workplace should mean just that, the place in which you do your work. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a cubicle, your kid’s room that has the best Wi-Fi, a Starbucks patio, or on a conference call in line for a COVID-19 test.  The pandemic has forced most of us to figure out where we get our BEST work done. 

As this fantastic article mentions, organizations must shift from “who” should be in an office to “what” should happen in a shared space. Client phone calls, creative brainstorming, cold calling, brief writing, Excel spreadsheeting—as we reimagine what the workplace is, let’s focus more on the quality of work and less on where the work is being done. Technology has allowed us to rewrite the entire premise of the office. As we move into a new year—and a continuously morphing workplace—management skills, competency assessments, and performance reviews must evolve to match.

Puzzling Times

Puzzling Times

We are just finishing our holiday puzzle. You know that puzzle that you do as a family so that you have a legitimate excuse to sit around for hours at a time in your holiday pajamas? Well someone (me) had a brilliant idea this year of selecting a 1,000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel. Pazzo!

I think most people have strategies for doing puzzles: find the four corners first, then segregate out the edge pieces, and once the structure is completed, then start looking for colors or patterns. Most of us are set in our way of solving puzzles. Our family has traditionally had its roles set. My husband and son have extraordinary spatial development skills—and we have overly relied on these. I might have been staring at a section forever, desperate for a piece in one area, and my husband would come, stand over my shoulder, nonchalantly pick up the one piece I’d been searching for, and silently snap it into a gaping hole. Infuriating—yet this skill completes the puzzle at a much faster pace. 

This year the tables were turned. Once the perimeter was finished, our traditional go-to guy’s secret weapon was of no use. Why? Because Michelangelo’s genius required color recognition to solve this puzzle, and no spatial development skill was going to help. My spatial development genius husband is very challenged when it comes to nuances in color.

Our son returned to college, our daughter (quite smartly) refused to help, and every time my husband wandered back to try again, frustration took over. I think I must have changed tactics five different times and employed entirely new ones. There was no one way to solve this puzzle.  

This really made me think about the way we approach problem-solving at work. How often do we have a project or problem and our first response is to ask the office go-to guy? How often would the go-to guy admit this is a problem he can’t solve? That he’s never done a 1,000 piece puzzle before or that he is terrible at color recognition? How often does a boss or colleague tell the go-to guy that he doesn’t have what it takes to solve THIS problem? It’s time to recognize that sometimes, someone who has traditionally never been the strongest player for the typical problems tackled, just might have the required skill set to lead the team in solving a new puzzle. 

I think there’s a lot of food for thought that anyone in an organization or leading a team should ponder. Anyone in the midst of performance reviews should definitely be thinking about team members as a collection of all of their strengths and perceived weaknesses. You could be overvaluing one person’s spatial development while overlooking someone else’s color recognitionan ability that someday might be the key to solving the team’s biggest challenge.

Why Failure is Important for the Workplace

Why Failure is Important for the Workplace

“The idea that an 18-year-old doesn’t know how to fail on the one hand sounds preposterous. But I think in many ways we’ve pulled kids away from those natural learning experiences.”

When he was seven or eight, my son was on a losing soccer team.  I was thrilled.

Why? Because every week he still had to show up at practice and participate in games.  I knew then that failure is an important lesson.

Why? Because I was in HR.  I had discussed the importance of failure (and how to recover from it) with a former boss and mentor;  try coaching an executive who has never gotten a “B.”The danger in the workplace is often that when high achievers fail, they are in high profile positions, with large amounts of money on the line, and absolutely no experience or coping skills.

Will employers gravitate toward hiring graduates from schools like Smith that are offering these programs and resources that help young adults cope with failure? They should. Read More Here

Is Providing Positive Feedback Optional?

Is Providing Positive Feedback Optional?

This article gives evidence that the old adage, “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is true! Many managers avoid giving crucial feedback, albeit negative or positive; or they tend to focus on the negative. But a good manager balances praise and criticism. “If you want to be seen as a good feedback-giver, you should proactively develop the skill of giving praise as well as criticism.” Providing specific, positive feedback helps strengthen relationships with colleagues and a leader’s effectiveness. Read More Here.