Earlier today the latest workplace flexibility research from the Families and Work Institute and SHRM came out, and there were some very interesting data points in the study. A few quick hits from the 2014 National Study of Employers (link to the full study below):

  • The presence of women/minorities impacts offerings: Organizations with more women and racial or ethnic minorities who are in or report to executive leadership positions are more likely to offer a high level of health care and economic security benefits than organizations with fewer women/minorities in those positions.
  • How are employers preparing their people? Employers are more likely to provide training for supervisors in managing diversity and least likely to have a leadership development program for women (63% vs 11%).
  • The all important culture discussion: Respondents were asked to assess the supportiveness of their workplace cultures… The majority of respondents indicated “very true” to statements assessing whether supervisors are encouraged to assess employee performance by what they accomplish rather than “face time” (64%) and whether supervisors are encouraged to be supportive of employees with family needs and by finding solutions that work for both employees and the organization (58%). Far fewer employers, however, responded “very true” to statements asking whether management rewards those within the organization who support flexible work arrangements (11%) and whether their organization makes a real and ongoing effort to inform employees of the availability of work-life assistance (24%).
  • Twenty one percent of employers overall indicated they must comply with the FMLA but fail to offer at least 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave for at least one type of leave. In other words, approximately one in five employers appear to be out of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act.

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When I tell people I work in Huntsville, I usually get a glassy-eyed stare in return. I mean, really, I work in Alabama. How great could that really be, right? Cotton fields… Relatively low population density… Who cares? :-)

madison countyThe other day I ran across this study and wanted to share. Just click on the image to view it larger. The gist of it is that the top three fastest growing technology jobs areas are all centered right in Silicon Valley. No big surprise, right? But number four on the list is my own hometown of Huntsville! Pretty cool to see.

With the concentration of NASA, Redstone Arsenal, and the various other government contracting firms in the area, we are not what people think about when they think of Alabama.

In a 2011 study, Huntsville came in as the “4th geekiest city in the US” based on the number of math/science-based jobs and the average educational level of the people in the city.

What’s the point?

I’m using a familiar place to illustrate the example, but I get a few key lessons from this kind of thing.

  1. Don’t assume you know everything about a place unless you’re familiar with it. I live just outside Huntsville and didn’t even know this stuff until recently. 
  2. Know the place you’re recruiting for, because it helps when you have to relocate someone to the local area. Some people are drawn to cities with more people, others prefer a more rural existence (rural recruiting), and some don’t much care either way. 
  3. Now I have an idea of why it’s hard to find good engineering talent when we have openings. Lots of competition!

Have you ever been surprised by a place you had to recruit for?

Liars. Disloyal. Prima donnas.

It’s not star athletes, folks. It’s your very own Millennial generation. So says a set of studies done in recent months surrounding the latest group of employee to hit the workplace.

I’ve debated on writing on this topic for a while, but when the latest came out about a study describing honesty as it pertains to generational boundaries, I had to jump in. I’m usually the very last person to ever talk about specific generational issues, because I really don’t believe most of the hype. However, when you’re asking a group of people to report on themselves, the results are a little more useful than the opinionated blathering of a self-proclaimed expert.

The Gap

In my opinion, the major dividing line between the generational factions up to this point hinges on what I like to call “the gap.” Here’s what I mean:

Are Millennials Team Players?

  • 60% of Millennials thought they would work well with a team
  • But 22% of HR professionals believed Millennials would make good team players

Do Millennials Have Strong Interpersonal Communication Skills?

  • 65% of Millennials responded that they relate well to others
  • 14% of HR Professionals thought that Millennials were strong communicators

Are Millennials Hard Workers?

  • 86% of Millennials identified themselves as hard workers
  • 11% of HR professionals thought Millennials would work hard

Are Millennials Able to Lead?

  • 40% of Millennials identified themselves as leaders
  • Only 9% of HR professionals believed that age group had the ability to lead

Are Millennials Loyal to Employers?

  • 82% of Millennials self-identified as being loyal to an employer
  • A mere 1% of HR professionals believed Millennials to be loyal to an employer

That’s the gap, courtesy of this study.

Now for the killer

Okay, if you only had the last set of data to go on, you can plainly see there’s a disconnect there. Now what if that was compounded by a study where Millenials admitted that they would lie to get out of a tough spot. In my profession, there are “tough” spots on a daily basis. I always assume someone is telling the truth unless they give me reason not to, but even then this type of information is stunning. To be honest, every group surveyed thought it was okay to lie to some extent, but not to the tune of 80% of the population.

A whopping 80 percent of Millennials find it acceptable to lie to avoid embarrassment, compared to 57 percent of Baby Boomers, who believe it’s OK to lie their way out of an awkward scene.

What are your thoughts? Is this limited to a specific generation, or is it more widespread? Is your organization concerned about these types of studies? Why or why not?

Let’s start off with a story. And just as a heads up, it’s not necessarily a happy one.

Since 2009, Interaction Associates, a consulting firm based in Boston that advises on human resources and company leadership, has run a survey that measures how much employees trust the leaders who run their businesses. As of this year, the percentage of respondents who said they see their bosses as collaborative and trustworthy is at an all-time low.

On the broad questions, only 27% of respondents said they have a “high level of trust in management and the organization.” That’s down from 39% three years ago. When asked whether their organization has effective leadership, only 31% said yes, down from 50% in 2009. On the question of whether they see their organization as highly collaborative, only 32% said yes, down from 41% in 2009. Source

Okay. Stop for a second. Digest those numbers for a second.

Now take a look around the office. Odds are at least two out of every ten employees feels like they have some reason to mistrust the organization’s leadership. Ouch.

So what does that say for employee engagement? I think we both know where that’s going to fall. Another interesting survey takes the conversation further into engagement territory.

65% of workers would choose a better boss over a raise (Source)

Let’s ignore the “raise” comment and focus just on the numbers. Two-thirds of employees want a different boss. They not only want a different one, they want a better one.

It’s difficult to quantify that desire, but I think it’s something we as HR professionals need to be thinking about. People leave managers, not companies. Here are six solid HR tips for you to pass on to your managers.

Employee trust and engagement video

(subscribers click here to view)

Must-read follow up resources

I read two great articles that got my brain jump started. Here they are if you’d like to check them out as well.

  1. The data-loving China Gorman gives us her thoughts here.
  2. Here’s another great follow up resource from the inimitable Jennifer V. Miller.

 

One of the topics that sometimes keeps me awake at night is knowledge. The sheer amount of knowledge in the minds of our staff members is staggering. In the past few years we’ve had a few highly competent people attempt to retire, and we’ve had a great strategy in place to reduce the impact.

reducing brain drain

How can you reduce “brain drain?”

Here’s a great piece of information that was passed on to me by John Dooney, a ninja research guru over at SHRM:

From the recent Sloan Award Survey conducted by Families and Work Institute: When the organizations were asked the number of employees at their work site that were allowed to phase into retirement by working reducing their hours over a period of time prior to retirement, the answers were as follows:

All: 42%
Most: 30%
Some: 16%
Just a few: 6%
None: 6%

How we do it

I have a great recent example. We have a staff member who has been working for our customer in some capacity for 20 years. He planned to resign outright, and we asked if he would be interested in working a 20 hour flexible schedule to continue the customer relationship. He was pleasantly surprised at the availability of the option and instantly accepted. He’s still working happily for us, we’re trying to staff up in the event he would like to leave permanently, and our customer is appreciative of the opportunity to transition to a new familiar face.

So why don’t more employers do some version of this?

I think it’s pretty simple.

I think more companies could start by offering the “stay” opportunity to those leaving for voluntary reasons. We do this as a regular practice. It’s not rocket science–you just ask. The worst they can say is “no” and walk out the door. The best option is for them to continue working for some period of time on a reduced schedule. They are invaluable and it makes for an easier transition for them and for the company.

The biggest benefit for us as the person transitions to a part time schedule is us finding out where knowledge gaps are and using them while they are on staff to help close those gaps.

What type of flexibility, if any, does your organization provide?

Video games are not a substitute for career readiness skills. They teach us nothing about hard work. They are not a magic tool to prepare the next generation to take the reigns in workplace leadership roles.

Recently an international speaker, Mike Walsh, came to Huntsville to give a presentation. I didn’t see the presentation, but he was quoted in the local technology magazine discussing career readiness skills.

Walsh said that Parents shouldn’t discourage their children from playing video games because new age executives often recruit the best gamers to come run their companies: “If you can lead a virtual team of dwarves and elves to attack an imaginary castle, it’s possible you can lead new technology into the evolving marketplace.”

Yeah, right.

Video games and career readiness skills

I really enjoyed real time strategy games when I was younger–mainly high school and sometimes during college. But when I had kids and a full time job, I left them behind. I say that to explain that I have no beef with the games themselves. It’s a fun way to pass the time, even if it doesn’t offer any real benefits in the long term.

So let’s look back at his statement.

“If you can lead a virtual team of dwarves and elves to attack an imaginary castle, it’s possible you can lead new technology into the evolving marketplace.”

Being able to play a video game is not going to translate into the workforce very well. You are not learning the meaning and value of hard, difficult work. Game doesn’t work out? Reset button. Start again.

In the long run, how are these young people supposed to be ready for a job that demands time, doesn’t have an easy “off” switch, and requires them to do thinks they sometimes don’t want to do? This is a silly statement catering to people who want to feel like their little boy/girl isn’t wasting an average of an hour a day on games.

I’m not saying to eliminate them completely. I’m just saying that parents don’t need to blindly believe that imaginary mining for imaginary gold to make imaginary weapons is going to help their child learn how to excel in the workplace.

Educational career readiness skills

career readiness skillsWhile we’re talking career readiness skills, a report by ACT, the college test prep administrators, offers a bleak look at the next generation soon to be entering the workforce. Check out the chart.

Fully 28% of all graduates did not meet any of the College Readiness Benchmarks, while 47% met between 1 and 3 Benchmarks. Twenty-five percent of all 2012 ACT-tested high school graduates met all four College Readiness Benchmarks, meaning that 1 in 4 were academically ready for college coursework in all four subject areas.

So that means that approximately the same amount of students were ready for the core classes in college as the amount of students who were ready for none of the core classes.

I know we’re talking education vs. work habits right here, but that’s still a flag in my opinion. I hire for engineers, accountants, and technical writers. You need to understand math, science, reading, and English to be able to do these jobs. There’s no “I’m a quick learner” with these things.

Maybe a little too much time spent helping the dwarves invate the castle and not enough time storming the homework sessions? I can only guess…

What are your thoughts on these two career readiness skills topics? Are they interrelated? Why or why not?

 

how to handle a young managerFor most of us, it’s not reality, but having a young supervisor is obviously a phenomenon that is fairly widespread. At first glance, I’m thinking, “Yeah! Go for it young people!” And then I realized I could be one of those who has a younger manager one day; it made me stop and think. It would be a challenge, but it’s something we may all run into at some point in our careers.

Here is the breakdown according to the SHRM website poll for the question What is your age in relation to your supervisor?:

  • I’m Older-26%
  • I’m Younger-56%
  • I’m About the Same-18%

I think the toughest one on there has to be being older than your manager. But on the flip side, it has to be stressful for a manager to step into a role with subordinates that could be twice his/her age. I’m certainly not saying we shouldn’t have a wide range of managers, because great managing talent/ability is found in all sorts of individuals, no matter how many years are under their belt. Simply making the observation that this could be a friction point between a good manager and an otherwise good employee if age is lumped in.

Interesting stuff! So, where do you fall on the list? Are you older than your supervisor, younger, or about the same?