Culture & Structure

What’s Your Corporate Policy Concerning GROWTHH Time?

You and your children may live to 100+. How will you have a fulfilling work-life balance?

Companies are learning that, in the longevity economy, people prefer not to stop working at the “traditional retirement age”; they want to stay productive for a number of reasons, only one of which is economic. In a world with tight labor markets, how do these companies avoid losing people with expertise and experience?

The answer to both questions involves the effective use of “time-off”.  We call it GROWTHH time: Goal Re-Orientation with Time for Health & Happiness.

Just as constructing a brick building requires the proper cement between the bricks, so too does the need for time between careers/jobs for proper work-life balance. People often take a “break” after concentrating time in one “job” in order to re-calibrate for the next.

Students take a “break” after finishing school.  In Israel, people completing their army service take time to explore the world and themselves, before starting their job. Bill Gates, realizing that Microsoft had not developed an effective plan to harness the power of the internet, took time off to gain a fresh perspective and develop a plan. Like many other corporate leaders, he continued to take time off periodically to explore and think things out. Teachers are granted “sabbaticals”, time off after several years, to refresh and reinvigorate. Forrest Gump took time to run across the country to make sense of his world. People take “gap years” to stop doing what they’ve been doing and think through what should come next.

Another way in which we recognize the need for workers to get in touch with their new roles and appreciate them is to give them time off for work-life balance shifts. If you’re having a baby, you get maternity/paternity leave; some companies give time off to take care of family members, to grieve losses, etc.

The world has changed and we all need more time to reflect on our elongated lives and the longevity economy. Fewer and fewer people have one lifetime career and retire from it and/or in some cases continue working in one “encore career”.  Today, people have more jobs/careers than every before and do so for longer periods of time. Indeed, Roberta Golinkoff & Kathy Hirst-Pasek, the authors of Becoming Brilliant, predict that children today will probably have 10 careers during their lifetimes.

Now is the time for companies to develop policies which give workers of all ages sufficient GROWTH time both to ensure they can lead a fullfilling life and maximize their contribute to the company’s future. This means enabling workers to think of their futures and plan appropriately. Fundamental to all is an open line of communication between the worker, supervisor, HR and leadership.

Older workers, who were raised  believing that they’re “supposed” to retire around 65, need to know that there are many options. The traditional practice of ”cold-turkey” retirement – today you’re working here and tomorrow you’re not – is just one. Many companies are experimenting with “phased retirement”models  that benefit both worker and company. For instance, in a phased retirement process where someone reduces the number of weekly workhours over a few years, the extra time can be used as GROWTHH time to explore next steps: travel, relocation, entrepeneurship, etc. Further, during this period of time, they can explore other ways the worker can contributing in the company: training younger workers, serving as mentor, contributing on innovation committes, providing advisory conulting services, serve as back-up workers, etc. Clearly this is preferable to losing a worker to “leisure retirement” who gets bored and chooses to rejoin the workforce later, including working for your competitor. Phased retirement is a win-win policy.

Why You Need Succession Planning..At All Levels

Whether you build a company or form a government, the goal usually is to make it sustainable not just for the time you’re in office, but afterwards.  Most leaders focus on what all the strategic components of running a coompany – leadership, strategy, talent management, operations, finance, sales/marketing, etc. Succession planning at all levels – makign sure you have the right people in place with the leadership and technical skills to continue the process – often is often until someoone is ready to  leave or is not ready able to continue in the function – and that can undermine the future of the enterprise.

Three different situations drove home this key point.

  • Developing democracy in Myanmar has been very difficult. It’s taken decades, including many years when Aung San Suu Kyi, the symbol of democracy and current civilian leader was under house arrest by the miltiary leaders, for democratic practices to begin to be adopted. Making sure that a new generation of leaders would be available to continue the process should have been a priority. Yet the Wall Street Journal reports that the “graying leadership of the nation’s ruling party lacks new blood to inherit power”. When the 71 year old president resigned, a 66 year old Suu Kyi loyalist was picked to replace him. Two thirds of the ruluing Executive Committee is over the age of 66 – the male life expectancy is Myanmar. The government seems to be “recycling the same top leaders”. The author observes that the National League for Democracy “risks losing its struggle with the (military) institution if it fails to groom a new generation of leaders”.  Clearly, encouraging a new generation of democratic leaders in a country still run by the military leaders who took power in 1962 is not easy; but it should be a priority.
  • A CEO who made a decision recently to join Vistage, explained that his main reason was a desire to retire in a few years and build a solid management team that can take over the company. An analysis of the senior team revealed that many were there a long time and not very effective and had not considered devleoping people below to help take over should something happen to them. Turns out not all of the team members were as competent as he thought, and left. So now, the CEO has to postpone the effort to expand the business to make it more valuable to the next owners, and focus on identifying who can take over their divisions (from inside and/or outside) and tain them to be effective leaders. Further, there are some capable people within the company that have not been earmarked for future leadership roles and can be fast-tracked, with supervision, to see what they really can do. All this extra work is draining substantial energy. We now have a race to do a lot within the allotted time period.
  • Age Brilliantly advocates allowing talented people to continue working in companies as long as they want to do so and continue to be productive – regardless of age – either in their jobs or as SharExers where they “share their expertise and experiences” with others to groom new leaders and help innovate processes and products. Recently, a CEO, who runs a company that uses lots of specialty equipment, mentioned having a few employees over the age of 70 that are quite skilled; they haven’t initiated discussions about “retiring” for their jobs, and neither has he. Periodically, we discuss how they’re doing… and raise the question of who will take over when they want to, or need to, leave. It’s been flagged as an issue because no successor exists in the company and no outside search is being initiated. (“Ostrich, keep your head in the sand.”) Recently, the conversation changed…two are thinking of moving on. So now we’re scurring to find ways to “phase their retirement plans” for the good of the company and these valued employees. Stay tune for how the SharEx model gets adopted by this company!

Everyone benefits when we begin succession planning early on.  What are you doing in your company?  Share with us your experiences and solutions.

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!

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