Tag Archives: Leadership

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4 Ways to Support Employees During a Crisis

Over the last few weeks the environment has changed dramatically when it comes to work and life. As an HR leader, I can remember other times of crisis in the past, such as when our employees had their homes destroyed by tornadoes. We have to deal with the logistics of this from a work perspective, because HR is often the hub of policies around working remotely or being flexible for those that have personal needs that limit their availability for work during emergencies.

However, I can’t stress enough the need to embrace compassion for our people.

Think of it this way: when our local schools asked a few days ago if families had wifi at home, I know there are some families that do not have it because they can’t afford something that most of us consider a basic fact of life. Some of those children were getting free breakfast and/or lunch at school to help fill gaps in their nutrition that they weren’t getting at home.

When you think about taking care of your people, that care for the basic components of life should be part of the equation.

The Science of Doing Great Work: Tips for Working Remotely 

Before I jump into some of the tactical ideas to help support your employees during this time, I want to point out something for those (you or your employees) that might not be accustomed to working from home.

When you’re in an office, you have a fairly rigid schedule and setup. At home, that’s not the case. One of the biggest challenges for many, even though it technically shouldn’t be different than working in an office, is prioritizing what to do. The science we know on how the brain functions shows us that we have a limited amount of capacity to focus.

Focus for an hour? Sure. You can do that. Focus for six hours? Not likely.

For that reason, it’s important to approach your to do list strategically. For those things that you find hardest to do because of their greater demand on mental capacity (creative work, strategy meetings, etc.), do those earlier in the day or when you have uninterrupted time (which will be a challenge for those with kids at home during crisis times). For those things that require less mental energy (responding to emails, for instance), save those for later in the day when you are naturally in a lower state of focus.

If you make this change, you will probably be surprised to see the difference in what you can get done, how creative you are, and how you feel. For more on this you can read some of my takeaways from Two Awesome Hours, where a doctor explains this in much more detail than I could.

home-office-336377_1280Oh, and skip answering emails right before that big meeting (even if it’s virtual). You will use your much-needed focus and acuity on routine messages and fail to have that focus when you need it during the meeting. Trust me on this one. If you DO have a big meeting you need to be “on” for, then take a walk outdoors without your phone for 5-10 minutes in the last half hour before the meeting begins. That can help to refresh your energy and focus.

Those big meetings include creative ways you might support or cover your employees during this time. Or maybe one of these options that you never quite seem to have time to get to: Continue reading

under our skin getting real about race book review

Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race (Book Review)

A few weeks ago a friend recommended a book called Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race and Getting Free From the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us. It is an excellent book for anyone to read to better understand the different perspectives that are wrapped up in the racial discussion, but I would say it’s doubly so for HR and business leaders that need to be working continuously to create more equitable work environments.

under our skin getting real about race book reviewPersonally, it has opened my eyes to other perspectives and helps to give context to the conversations I am having with leaders that are trying to create more inclusive workplaces.

The book is written by Benjamin Watson. For some of you sports fans, you will recognize that name immediately, but as a self-proclaimed “sports agnostic” person, I learned of Watson’s sports affiliation only after digging into the book. That said, this is not a sports book. It’s a book about work and life.

Why I Recommend It

Watson tells stories, offers examples of both sides of each issue, and helps readers understand the realities of living in an unequal world. Continue reading

elon musk

Your CEO “Steps In” to Help a Troubled Project: Good Practice or Not?

This year I’ve watched with some interest the saga of Tesla, which is run by Elon Musk. He’s a genius with technology but seemingly less so with human relationships. Musk is known for making bold claims about technology and innovation, but Tesla has faced some struggles to meet production deadlines and more. This is from a few months back but the story and question are still relevant:

You can probably argue over whether it’s a good or a bad sign, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter today a report in The Information that he has taken over direct control of the division that’s producing Tesla’s Model 3 electric sedan after the company failed to meet the delivery goals it set.

Specifically, Tesla had intended to produce 500 Model 3 cars per day, or 2,500 per week, by the end of last month. But according to a company-wide email to employees that was sent today and obtained by Jalopnik, Musk said Tesla has been making closer to 2,000 of the cars per week. (Musk estimated last July that Tesla would be making 20,000 of the cars per month by December.)

In his email — fired off at 3 a.m. PDT — Musk added that if “things go as planned today, we will comfortably exceed that number over a seven day period!”

Musk may have been referring in part to the reorganization. But while The Information reported that Musk had seemingly “pushed aside the company’s senior vice president of engineering, Doug Field, who had been overseeing manufacturing in recent months,” Musk quickly took issue with that characterization of events.

Continue reading

employee engagement performance

Here’s How An Engaged Company Outperforms Others by Nearly 150 Percent

Employees are more disengaged than ever, and the statistics on employee engagement only serve to further the narrative. Gallup reports that more than half of employees (51 percent) say they’re actively looking for a different job or watching for opportunities. Nearly 26 percent of the U.S. workforce is going to change jobs this year, and these are typically the most highly skilled and motivated employees.

Organizations need to fully understand just how critical engagement is to success. Gallup shows that organizations with a highly engaged workforce outperform peers by 147 percent in earnings per share. And the cost of rehiring and retraining replacement workers has been well-documented.

So why, in this enlightened age, would any organization not prioritize employee engagement?

The Compliance-Engagement Balancing Act

Continue reading

How to Be a Professional Troublemaker in HR [Podcast]

We're Only Human PodcastThis coming year, my wish for you is that you become more of a troublemaker in your business.

Yes, you heard me correctly. HR has a longstanding tradition of being the administrative department. The party planners. The “that’s how we’ve always done it and let’s avoid the risk” police.

But what if there was another way? What if we could be disruptors and troublemakers as a force for good? In this episode of We’re Only Human, I interview Jill Kopanis, a VP of HR that seeks to shake up the workplace every single day. There are some great notes and lessons for each of us and I highly encourage you to check it out.

(Subscribers click through to check out the episode below)

Show Notes

We’re Only Human 18 – How to Become a Chief Operating Trouble Maker in HR

Host: Ben Eubanks

Guest: Jill Kopanis, VP HR, Dynamic Dies

We’ve heard the “seat at the table” conversation repeated over the years, but what if that’s all just a bunch of nonsense? In this episode of We’re Only Human, Ben talks with Jill Kopanis, VP of Human Resources at Dynamic Dies, about what it takes to break away from that conversation and become what she calls a Chief Operating Trouble Maker within the business.

During the show they discuss a handful of topics that will help any HR leader become a force for positive disruption within the business, including:

  • How to get beyond the buzzwords
  • How to focus on engagement that matters
  • How to avoid the “Millennial” or “Boomer” stereotypes and biases

Disruption can be a good thing, especially if it’s driven by someone that knows the business and how to shape it for the better. Are you ready to be a trouble maker in your own organization?

If you’re interested in joining Ben and Jill on the HR Conference Cruise, learn more here:

www.aspect-marketing.com/HRCruises/2018/Cruise1

Be sure to use code “FRIENDOFBEN” for $50 off the ticket price.

Your Uber Drivers are Cheating Because They Don’t Want an Algorithm for a Manager

[Update 2019: This story has been woven into my new book, Artificial Intelligence for HR, which highlights the key skills we need to compete with machines in recruiting, engagement, and more. The book is getting rave reviews. Check it out here.]

If you missed the news this last week, a pair of researchers have published a report showing that Uber drivers are gaming the system in order to earn more money, reduce pickups, and fight back against what they see as a tyrannical algorithm. Here’s a blurb from PBS:

As University of Warwick researchers Mareike Möhlmann and Ola Henfridsson and Lior Zalmanson of New York University say in their best academese: “We identify a series of mechanisms that drivers use to regain their autonomy when faced with the power asymmetry imposed by algorithmic management, including guessing, resisting, switching and gaming the Uber system.”

Algorithmic management is, of course, the software Uber uses to control its drivers. As Mareike Möhlmann puts it: “Uber uses software algorithms for oversight, governance and to control drivers, who are tracked and their performance constantly evaluated.”

A joint statement from the authors elaborated: “Under constant surveillance through their phones and customer reviews, drivers’ behavior is ranked automatically and any anomalies reported for further review, with automatic bans for not obeying orders or low grades. Drivers receive different commission rates and bonus targets, being left in the dark as to how it is all calculated. Plus drivers believe they are not given rides when they near reaching a bonus.

Small wonder then that, according to Lior Zalmanson, “The drivers have the feeling of working for a system rather than a company, and have little, if any interaction with an actual Uber employee.”

So what are the drivers doing in response? Gaming the system by tricking the algorithm.

The researchers report that drivers organize mass “switch-offs.” The dearth of drivers in a given area then triggers the surge pricing mechanism.

The authors conclude by summarizing their findings, pretty much as formally as they began: “We found that [the drivers] actively tried to regain some of their lost control and sense of autonomy. We reported four observed driver behaviors. We found that drivers tried to guess and make sense of the system’s intentions. They utilized forums such as UberPeople to share these stories and gain social support. In many cases, these stories were echoed by other drivers, creating an urge to act. This resulted in a range of practices to resist the system, by switching to alternative systems and even gaming the system to their advantage.”

While the rest of us aren’t switching out our managers for an algorithm any time soon, it’s important to note some of the key statements in this piece that relate to all of us as employers.

The drivers have the feeling of working for a system rather than a company, and have little, if any interaction with an actual Uber employeePeople want to interact with people. That’s not Uber’s business model, but we’re seeing now yet another strain on the company based on a fundamental fact that humans are social creatures.

When you work for a nameless, faceless system (or algorithm), it becomes much easier to cheat the system and fight back. It’s different if you’re having weekly conversations with real people who care about you and your success. Remember this idea when you’re trying to find out how to connect your remote employees.

We found that [the drivers] actively tried to regain some of their lost control and sense of autonomy. Is it any surprise that workers would like some sense of control or autonomy in their work? It’s a foundational management and leadership premise to provide autonomy to workers, yet Uber tries to treat its drivers like nothing more than the robots that power its algorithm and platform.

Do we really have to have a newsflash that reminds this company that people are, um, people? They have hopes. Dreams. Desires. And they will find a way to get them if they feel like they are not appreciated or supported appropriately.

Drivers receive different commission rates and bonus targets, being left in the dark as to how it is all calculated. Plus drivers believe they are not given rides when they near reaching a bonus. One of the first lessons you learn in HR? Don’t screw with someone’s pay. Whatever you do, be transparent and don’t make people guess about how their compensation works, or you run the risk of creating a black hole of negativity and gossip that will swallow the company whole.

In a previous job a big part of my compensation was a quarterly bonus that my family depended on. It never failed that each and every quarter the deadline for payment would pass, I would raise the question, and eventually it would get paid. But why make me or any other employee have to go through those hoops for that? It makes me wonder if I would have ever been paid ANY of it if I hadn’t brought it to their attention. When it comes to how pay is structured, be clear about the expectations, be transparent about the process, and for goodness’ sake pay people when you say you will.

Okay, that’s enough from me. What are your thoughts on this specific issue or these general issues? Am I on point? Off the mark? 

What Female CEOs Can Teach Us About Growth and Success [Podcast]

The HR profession is mostly women (look around you at any event and you’ll see). Yet when we look at the representation of females in the C-suite, whether in HR or in general, the blend is more evenly mixed or even weighted towards men. Why?

were-only-human-logoThe 2016 HR Technology Conference had a new feature: the Women in HR Tech Summit. The event was a success by all measures, but one person heard about the summit and started to wonder, what do female executives in HR technology do differently? What makes them successful? What lessons can we translate to the HR community at large, helping women to achieve greater success in their roles as executives, HR leaders, and business professionals?

In episode 6 of We’re Only Human, I interviewed Lynn Miller, a researcher exploring the interesting world of female founders and CEOs in HR Technology. She talks about what separates this group from their male counterparts and also explains the value they can bring in terms of customer satisfaction and more. (Subscribers, click through to listen to the embedded show below.)

For more information about Lynn’s research, check out her LinkedIn series .

To check out other episodes of We’re Only Human or learn more about what I’m up to, check out the Podcast page.

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Why do you think this mix of females diminishes at higher levels of responsibility? What can we do to fix it, if it should be fixed? What would you want to know from these CEOs and high achievers if you had a chance to talk with them one-on-one?