Culture & Structure

Internships Should Be Part of Your Culture

“Finding great talent” is almost always reported to be one of the three greatest challenges by our clients. For smart ones, they use intern programs both to compliment staff on projects and to identify new talent who will fit into their culture. So, many interns are you taking this summer?

Providing students with internships is key for society as a whole. Researchers report that the failure ….

That’s why it was great to see Andy Kessler’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed piece encouraging companies to create internships. However, his conventional approach –that internships are programs that require external funding sources and therefore serve only a limited number of students – misses the bigger opportunity to do more. Companies should….

The research results of this failure to give students quality internships opportunities are tragic:

  • The youth unemployment rate is double that of the national average.
  • An AP study found that 50+% of all college graduates have not found jobs commensurate with their skills.
  • A McKinsey study found that many young people do not even know how to launch themselves on a viable career path.

Internships shouldn’t be thought of as learning opportunities that companies should offer students, often relying on external funding sources. Instead, companies should view offering quality internships as being as essential to serving our communities as is mentoring new staff and/or participating in community services.  Parents know that their kids often have little basis for making good career decisions because they don’t understand the world-of-work, which requires both hard and soft skills.

But here’s the real problem: they want their kids to have experiences but don’t advocate becoming mentors for students in their own companies! It’s really amazing getting calls from parents seeking help in finding suitable internships for their kids while defending the fact that their companies, with hundreds of employees, only serve a handful of summer interns.

During my career (in many sectors of the economy), I’ve hosted 600+ students to participate in “mentoring internships” year-round, so they can make better career decisions. While a mentor guides each intern, many staff members interact and contribute to the learning process. Interns work on meaningful projects where they can apply what they’ve learned, develop new skills, expand their base of knowledge and learn about new tools. They experience the workplace: how people collaborate, communicate, manage time, etc.; they discover the relationship between corporate strategy, group activities and individual contributions. They leave smarter and wiser, knowing more about what they can do in the future, including new classes and schools to attend, and careers to pursue.

Most important, the ROI for such programs can be quite high. Companies save money on projects using less-expensive labor; mentors get projects finished; employees learn how to supervise, delegate and manage others; and the company wins twice: by serving the community and often identifying highly qualified candidates for future jobs.

Any company can offer mentoring internships by creating a culture committed to learning. We call them CILOs (Continuous Improvement Learning Organizations). Encourage ongoing learning by employees and young people in the community so they can make better career decisions – regardless of whether that means they will later work for your company or someone else’s!

(A free e-book on setting up such programs is available at www.MentoringInternships.com).

Another Stereotype Hits the Dust

Working with Age Brilliantly and teaching the Psychology of Aging, I have the opportunity almost weekly to see current data destroy a stereotype. This week, I read one that affects the workplace – an increasingly important part of this industry  — as people plan to keep working in current jobs or new (full-time, part-time or volunteer) ones into their 70s+.

Harvard Business Review (February20, 2018) reported on a study conducted by Adam Grant and members of the Facebook to discover basic motivators for people at work. Focusing on three big “buckets”: career, community and cause, they found that Millennials, GenXers and Baby Bookers had the same core-values – and in the same order.  In other words, Millennials “want essentially the same things as the rest of us.”

What surprised the authors was that “contrary to the belief Millennials are more concerned with meaning and purpose”, there were virtually no differences among age groups. They actually found tiny differences: Millennials cared slightly less about cause, and slightly more about career than “older” people. In fact, adults 55 and over were the only group at Facebook who cared significantly more about cause than career and community.

For those of us focused on how our sense of purpose and passion changes as we age, all of this makes sense. Most prior studies reporting contrary data on Millennials, did so years ago, when they were in their late teens and early twenties. At that time, they were in school, lived in parents’ basements, and  had fewer obligations making it easier to focus on the bigger social issue. Today, they enter their thirties, more often buying apartments and houses, and getting married. Not unexpectedly with greater financial and social responsibilities, comes a shift in motivators.   Similarly, as older adults start shedding some of their responsibilities (e.g., kids through college, mortgages paid down further, sometimes completely, they can focus on the bigger picture.

So the stereotype of generational differences needs to be dropped; the more accurate approach is to understand the life-stages of people and their priorities. As the authors conclude (and we concur), when it comes to an ideal job, most of us are looking for a career, in which we’re hoping to find our what, who, and why.

What are your thoughts? Share them!

Tips for Delivering Bad News

 

For many people, December was mostly filled with good news: holiday cheer, raises, promotions, etc. Life isn’t always like that, and there’s bad news. A contract is cancelled or the new budget requires eliminating jobs and you need to let people know they’re out of a job. Unfortunately, two colleagues presented such cases last month, and asked me for advice.

In November, Entrepreneur magazine featured an article on the topic, “How to Give Bad News”. Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of Science of People advises four guidelines.

  • Stay Positive: No one wants negative feedback which is viewed as a personal attack, rather than a constructive aid. One way to reduce the often automatic defensive reaction is to deliver the information is a positive tone and frame the information as an opportunity for growth.
  • Focus on the facts. Most negative feedback is backed by verifiable reasons for it; therefore use facts to deliver the bad news. By reducing the emotional aspect of the message, the listener’s defensive radar doesn’t rise as quickly. The conversation then shifts to what actions are now possible, rather than dwelling on personal loss
  • Show you care. Take time to think through what you want to say; don’t rush into it. In one case, the decision was made to not notify people about the contract loss the day before the Xmas holiday, but to wait till after the weekend; in the other case, the presenter spent time identifying new ways the recipient could move forward before having the meeting. Ask sincere questions about how the recipient is experiencing the bad news. Then focus on solutions to the problem that are viable.
  • Help them get better. After delivering the bad news, promote a growth mindset by encouraging the person’s belief in their own ability to move forward and help find support. If the news is really bad, the person may need time to recover from the shock, so help the person have reasonable time expectations so they can bounce back. Most people are resilient, when they realize they have the capability of moving forward.

What’s your experience being the barer or recipient of bad news?  Share tips with us!

Is Your Company Creating Careers?

For decades, we’ve been making an effort to help young people make better career decisions through our mentoring internship program. We’ve had 600+ interns from the US and internationally. Several years ago, we launched the Mentoring Internships program to help larger companies adopt our approach.

Over the last months, we’ve noticed a number of other programs focused on helping you people and we though we’d share a few.

With increased longevity – people living to 100+ – more people also ending up needing geriatric services. This is a professional marketplace not on the radar of most young people. Accordingly, a Geriatric Career Development program was developed to give teems a pathway to a career, and provide the host with a supply of workers in an industry with exploding demand.

The New Jewish Home, an elder-care non-profit in NYC launched the program to train teens to work in a nursing home, while providing mentoring school tutoring, college prep and life-skills training. (See details.) The program accepts NYC public schools beginning in the sophomore year as long as there is genuine interest to work in the field and to graduate high school. Over the years, almost every student in the program has graduated from high school and 94% are enrolled in college or employed. Two students have gone on to medical school and two others are pursuing Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology.

Recently, there was been discussion at the federal level on spurring the creation of apprenticeship programs to give people an opportunity to learn trades. Not everyone wants to go to a 2-4 year college to work in an office, fast-food establishment or some other company where the liberal arts training has little applicability to what they will do. For centuries, Europeans have been offering high school students the option of hands-on learning in trades like construction, plumbing and electrical, with the prospect of joining the firms. Maybe the time has come to adopt more apprenticeships.

Bloomberg Business featured one company whose pitch is “Want a $1Million paycheck? Skip college and go work in a lumberyard”. 84 Lumber Co, one of the nation’s largest building-supply chains spent millions on this message. It pays manager trainers about $40K a year; those in charge of top-grossing stores can earn $200K a year, and some earn more than $1Million, including bonuses.   With skilled and high-paying blue-collar jobs going unfilled, their program offers a solution to meet the need. While society today encourages millions of young people to take out loans to pay for college degrees, studies report that about half of the students then fill jobs in which they’re not really using the skills the acquired (e.g., learning Roman history may not be  helpful for a fast-food burger server.)

What are you doing to help young people explore their career options to make the best possible decisions?

Share with us your experiences!

Key Teamwork Traits

Does hiring the best candidates really produce the best teams?  So many times we find companies bring in superstars who don’t “gel” into a high performance teams, especially in sports.  So what should we be looking for to generate high performing teams?

Google recently conducted a study of its employees to discover the “secrets” to team effectiveness.  Many executives believed that building the best teams meant compiling people with Advanced degrees (e.g., PhD, MBA0 from the best colleges would generate the best teams.  As Julia Rozovsky, Google’s chief analytics manager noted, “we were dead wrong”.

Project Aristotle studied 180 Google teams, conducted 200+ interviews and analyzed over 250 team attributes, over a period of two years – and found no clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a “dream-team” generating algorithm. However, when they switched to psychological and sociological perspective addressing how groups function, five characteristics of enhanced teams emerged, with the last being the most important:

  • Dependability – Team member understand the expectations and get things done on time and meet the performance standards
  • Structure and clarity – High performing teams have clear goals and well-defined roles with the group context.
  • Meaning – each member should be engaged in the group activity through personal and group-goal meaningfulness.
  • Impact – The group as a whole believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts on the greater good.
  • Psychological safety – When group members fear seeming incompetent in front of the group, they hold back questions or ideas. In a culture where there is psychological safety, and managers provide air cover and create safe zones, members are more likely to take risks, voice options and ask judgement-free questions. Google found that teams in “safe environments” were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity and ultimately more successful.

As a psychologist with special training in personality, social, organizational, and leadership issues, the findings aren’t surprising.  A successful group is more than the sum of its parts. Employers need to hire people and organize them into existing or new teams and to create new teams. Further, as companies move from traditional hierarchical organizational models to the “network-team model” (which we’ve spoke about in prior blogs), finding people who can flourish in a team-of-teams approach will be essential.

What are your experiences in these areas?  Share insights and questions.

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