What Reality TV Tells Us About the Future of Work

Aug 18, 2014 Posted by

Even workplaces aren’t safe from America’s addiction to reality shows. From Donald Trump’s finger pointing in “The Apprentice” to bullfighting scenes in “America’s Toughest Jobs,” embellishments of people’s professional lives continue to entertain TV fans.

Now “Human Resources,” a new docu-comedy series from Pivot TV, follows the goings-on at a young recycling start-up whose mission is to “eliminate the idea of waste.” Geared toward Millennials, the show cheekily emphasizes how this generation seeks meaningful work. Employees of TerraCycle, a real-life, Trenton-based company that emphasizes awareness and reuse of hard-to-recycle materials, regularly take yoga breaks and bring their dogs to work.

“Young workers are looking not just at what the paycheck is and what the concrete objective benefits are, but what’s the subjective side? What is the purpose of the business? Is there a social or environmental cause?” asks TerraCycle CEO Tom Szacky in a video interview with the Wall Street Journal. While Pivot’s aim in airing the show likely is to get eyeballs, the show also underscores how Millennials value company causes more than previous generations.

At TerraCycle, employees are excited about trash. “For us, we’re on our way to eliminating waste and every detail of our office is made from garbage.” TerraCycle works with more than 100 brands in the U.S. and 22 countries to repurpose waste into innovative materials sold in retail stores. Think bikes turned into earrings and Capri Sun bags transformed into tote bags.

In a recent survey from the Case Foundation, more than half of Millennial employees said that a company’s involvement in various causes influenced whether they accepted a job. “It’s interesting how cause-related work has morphed from a little side thing, in terms of a company’s thinking, into something that could — and hopefully will — become one of the strongest tools in the arsenal for recruiting,” Emily Yu, the Case Foundation’s vice president of partnerships, tells Fast Company.

“Human Resources” first aired on August 8, and Pivot has filmed 10 episodes. Will HR departments take notice?

[Image via Facebook/TerraCycle]


Forget Goal Setting: Write a Business Plan For Your Department

Aug 14, 2014 Posted by

Confession: I am an “I’ll know it when I see it” kind of manager — particularly when it comes to setting goals for individuals on my team and reflecting on their performance. Defining performance expectations is difficult because, well, “I’ll know it when I see it.”

Now, because I am usually the one designing and administering the performance management program, I do what I am supposed to do. I set goals collaboratively with my team, try my best to review them regularly with team members, ask for their input on their performance and complete the evaluation process. I struggle to find the value in the administrative requirements of the process.

What Setting Goals Really Looks Like in Practice

Something I started with my own team about five years ago was to create a goal map. It was just a plain old Excel spreadsheet, but it showed the organization’s goals, cascaded to my team’s goals, and then to each individual. It became a one page print out that everyone would keep handy. We didn’t have a technology solution for goals, so this worked for me as I couldn’t justify putting all of the energy in setting goals without having them paint a picture of how our work drove the organization’s success.

My peers thought I was going overboard. Oh well.

I know that there are technology products that can do this flow chart, goal setting for you and I’ve used many of them. Some are very good, but many are clunky and seem overwhelming both to frontline managers, and to those who administer the system. Plus, the concept of cascading goals down or linking individual goals up seems to baffle managers who aren’t very good at writing goals anyway.

Truth be told, setting goals is a valuable way to clarify expectations and facilitate conversations around progress so that managers can do what managers should do: set expectations, drive performance and develop talent.

It just doesn’t seem to work out quite that simply, though. In reality, the process means the organization has to first set its operational goals for the performance period — usually annually with its planning process. Here’s where it starts to break down: many organizations either don’t set operational goals, or don’t do it in a timely manner.

Why? Perhaps the business landscape is changing or perhaps there is an unwillingness to set incentive targets (operational goals) in a concrete manner for fear of not knowing where the market is going. For whatever reason, the uncertain cyclicality of setting goals has put a ding in the credibility of the process. canstockphoto3444710

Performance Management Matters

Let’s step back for a minute and remember the purpose of performance management, in the first place.

Most programs have a report card design. You have what you do (e.g., grades or goals) and you have how you do it (e.g. behaviors or competencies). Typically the purpose of the program is twofold:

  • Measure and improve performance
  • Develop talent.

The “what you do” is reflected in the goals portion and the competency portion provides a guiding beacon for development.

What would happen if we didn’t spend up front time writing goals for every individual on a team, but, instead, wrote a business plan for the department?

Help me think this through…

  • The organization sets operational business plan and goals.
  • The department/team reviews the operational and business goals, and writes their operational business plan which is approved at the next level up.
  • The approved plan is dissected into chunks of work and employees are assigned to the chunks and their regular work (that stuff they have to do even without goals set) is discussed in terms of where it fits in the business plan. Existing metrics are included in the business plan as a team.
  • Each month, the leader has a discussion with each team member, using this business plan as a frame of reference.
  • At the end of the year, the employee reflects in writing on his or her contribution to the overall plan, and the leader provides commentary as well.

Of course, this would need highly skilled and motivated leaders. Part of the reason we have such onerous performance management programs is really to force managers to do what they’re supposed to do anyway — talk about performance and development.

Would it be a better investment of time in teaching leaders to lead,and not on building infrastructures that they’re just going to complain about anyway?

I’m still noodling, obviously. I’d really like to hear from you. What are your thoughts about replacing goals with a business plan?

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Power of Positivity: Use Appreciative Inquiry to Improve Engagement

Aug 13, 2014 Posted by

Appreciative inquiry expert, positivity strategist and TEDx speaker, Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, says that the tone of the first question we ask influences the quality of the interaction — by first asking (not telling) and then focusing on the positive, we engage others to participate with us more openly and more personally.

Appreciative Inquiry in the Workplace

Let’s consider this perspective in the workplace. Most managers still communicate more with their employees by telling than by asking. Here is the value of shifting to asking instead of telling:canstockphoto18874729.jpg

  • It encourages action or forward movement.
  • It encourages employee ownership and accountability.
  • It invites interaction and expansive thinking.
  • It creates opportunities and possibilities previously not considered.
  • It creates a balance of power – employees and management are all involved at the same level.

Once shifting more to questions than statements, then focus on the tone and language. As identified, a positive word and tone changes the nature of the interaction. We become actively involved instead of defensive or checked out; we are engaged by the inquiry instead of put off by it.

Practice with Performance Reviews

As an employee engagement consultant, I regularly see managers tell more than ask and focus more on the negative events of the day instead of the positive. This challenges the organization’s energy to find solutions, engage and feel capable of making progress.

Here is the most pervasive example of this. Many organizations still host recurring employee reviews (though I always recommend that this process be updated to regular feedback instead of a once or twice a year performance review — a post for another time). As I watch how these reviews are hosted, they regularly start of with a manager’s summary (statement, not question) about what employees need to work on to be better. The negative tone diminishes the employee’s energy to fully participate and to take ownership for his or her performance. Employees become defensive and remember more of what is wrong than what is right. How are employees encouraged to move forward with this approach?

Appreciative inquiry reminds us that we should both ask more questions and phrase them positively. Whether at an employee review or just in the course of the day. Here are some examples of statements rephrased into appreciative questions.

  • I see three big problems that are affecting our customers: What opportunities do you see to routinely impress our customers?
  • Here are two things that you need to improve before your next review: What areas create the greatest growth for you before your next review?
  • Sales are off again this month: What sales challenges are in our way and how might we meet them?
  • I need you to hire better people: What do you see the great companies do to attract and hire high performing employees?

Shift from telling to asking. Shift from negative to positive language. Both encourage a more dynamic interaction with employees — one that activates their thinking, emotions and commitment. Positive language is a powerful tool in managing performance. What are the best ways to use language to improve your communication and personal connection with your employees?

How to Get HR Tech Buyers To Fill Out Your Form: A DIY CTA

Aug 12, 2014 Posted by

Note: I’ve written a lot of landing pages in my time. And while the text may change, the subtext remains the same. So if you’re thinking of selling into HR or recruiting, here’s a handy guide to help convert any practitioner to answering your call to action. Note to the note: Obviously there is some […]

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos: Recruit Candidates Who Have Failed

Aug 11, 2014 Posted by

When recruiters look at resumes, GPAs and past experience, they’re looking for successful candidates with “wow” factor, but not all executives want to hire those with a long list of accomplishments. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, prefers to hire people who have faced failure and had to get back up and keep going, […]