Monday was my first day back in the office after a ten day vacation in France. We spent the weekend and Monday in Dordogne. We knew the region was rural and it might be slim pickings for dinner options and souvenir shopping, but we were completely baffled by the fact that no businesses seemed to be open – EVER.
Later, in Paris, a very special scarf caught my eye in the window of a shop near the apartment we had rented. But the shop was closed – at 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. I kept a keen eye on the shop for the rest of the week—plotting my victorious return to the states with the world’s most beautiful scarf. But every time we walked past the shop, it was closed. It was either too early in the day, too late at night, or conveniently some time during the traditional two hour lunch breaks that the French are notorious for.
The lack of opportunities to throw away my hard-earned-dollar-turned-€uro was beginning to tick me off. When we were in Dordogne, it was literally an issue of survival. If you can’t buy a baguette, then how is your ignorant American @$$ going to eat?!?!?
The whole experience left me wondering just when the French people actually DO work!
So I did a little research into the standard French work week when I got home. A little Googling quickly revealed that the French:
- MUST take 5 weeks of vacation per year;
- work a 35-hour week;
- are not ALLOWED to work overtime; and
- typically take a leisurely two-hour lunch break.
Remind me why I came home again?
While I pondered adopting this new better way of life upon our return to the states, my partner quickly pointed out that the French economy just recently slid back into its third consecutive recession since 2007. I won’t ignore that our economic systems and governments are completely different, thus setting the stage to allow for such remarkable differences in our work-styles – but I can’t help wonder what the happy medium might be between these distinct approaches to work.
Because the fact remains that the French GDP ranks 5th in the world (teetering neck and neck with the UK for the spot). Why? Because when the French people actually ARE at work, they are HIGHLY productive.
It seems the secret to productivity lies, at least in part, in spending LESS time at work!
It about killed me, but I forced myself not to grab lunch and bring it back to my desk yesterday. Instead, I holed up at my favorite lunch spot and played Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone for thirty minutes. Hey, it’s a start! Maybe some day I’ll get to that enviable 35-hour week. In the meantime, I’ll try to commit to more leisurely lunches.
So, take a break today. And if your boss gives you crap about it, tell them you’re just trying to boost your productivity.
This week, a couple of articles about women in the workforce have caught my attention.
First, the “1943 Guide to Hiring Women,” from Transportation Magazine found its way into my hands. The article offers up such ridiculous advice as:
- “general experience indicates that “husky” girls…are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.”
- “when you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside of the home at some point in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are incline to be cantankerous and fussy.”
- “numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work for themselves.”
- “A girl has more confidence and is more efficient if she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick, and wash her hands several times a day.”
Needless to say, I felt cantankerous and fussy after I read this. But I tidied up my hair, re-applied my lip balm and washed my hands of this stupidity.
Later this week, Warren Buffet offered a refreshingly modern perspective on the topic of women in the workplace. In the May 20 issue of Fortune magazine, he expresses his optimism for the recovery of the American economy, noting that “Our secret sauce has been a political and economic system that unleashes human potential to an extraordinary degree.” He goes on to note that we have succeeded in spite of our efforts to fully empower both genders. And he believes that we are now learning to effectively engage women as leaders in the workforce.
I was raised by a somewhat understated Feminist. Mom is a pretty fierce lady in her own understated and Southern way. When I was growing up, she worked two jobs to help make ends meet in our household. But they were jobs where she could still spend time with her kids. We tagged along after school where she was the Director of an after-school program. It was there that I got the rare experience of seeing my Mom juggle her role as Mom, teacher, social worker, bread-winner and leader.
Later, when I was in high school, I remember coming home and moaning about my boss wanting me to work an hour later. When my Dad caught the pronoun “she” in my whiny teenage rant he stopped me and said, “SHE?!?! Your boss is a woman?!” I laughed at him, of course. “Yes, Dad, my boss is a woman.” There we stood—two men with completely different worldviews. Where I stood, it was a non-issue that my boss was a woman. Where my Dad stood, it was completely foreign.
My professional experience and background have been completely different than my Dad’s generation. I grew up in a class of 27 kids – 20 girls, 7 boys. I went to college at a former’s women’s school where the ratio of girls to boys is still 3:1. Half of the bosses I’ve had in my career have been women. My business coach is a very successful woman. And I’m in a mastermind group where I’m the lone male in a sea of 25 very enlightened and successful women (pictured below).
So I can’t help but think that Warren Buffet is right—the true empowerment and engagement of our female leaders has the potential to unleash unprecedented greatness for the world. But it doesn’t just happen. We have to commit ourselves to it. I’m proud that my business employs women at every pay band based on their experience – not their gender. I couldn’t have built my business without them.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I can’t help but think that many of these changes in our society are due in great part to the women of my mom’s generation. So thanks Mom, for leading the way for your son. Knowing how to work with women has been and will continue to be a huge contributor to my success. And I have you, Mom, to thank for that. Happy Mother’s Day.
Probably not everyone walked away from the recent SHRM Conference in Atlanta thinking, “I should just get out of these clothes.” And certainly no one went back to their offices to do so. At least, I hope they didn’t.
So, even though it looks like I’m probably HR’s biggest nightmare – the pervy CEO – I promise you the video IS SFW (Safe for Work)!
Check out the video below and let us know what YOUR biggest takeaway was from this week’s SHRM Conference! I showed you mine, after all.
Before I get all suited up and start looking like a professional businessman tomorrow, I wanted to share a quick tip with my fellow SHRM Atlanta Conference attendees. Check out the video below and prepare your minds for a fun conference here in Atlanta.
I spent the morning looking through the sessions and presenters and I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with our clients, and meeting some new and interesting HR leaders at the conference this week! Get some rest this afternoon, and save me a seat at the cool kids’ table!
“Tell me about your best boss and your worst boss. What was so great or horrible about working for them?”
It’s one of my go-to interview questions. It tells me a lot about a person’s general outlook, whether they are able to distinguish between a good and a bad boss, and what it is they’re looking for in a leader.
On a recent interview, as a candidate went on and on about a bad boss in way too much detail, my mind began to drift to my own answer. (Note to future candidates: I can only listen to a whiney bullshit victim story for so long.)
I wondered, who WAS my best boss? What WAS the best company I ever worked for?
I had to stifle a smile when the answer came to me—my management team at the Gap. I was a little shocked that my answer took me all the way back to a part-time college job. It was kind of disheartening that I couldn’t think of one boss in my corporate career who stood out as “the best.” It just seemed like that should be the “right” answer.
I started worrying what my answer said about me. And here’s what I realized…
My bosses at Gap had “drunk the Kool-Aid,” as they say. They BELIEVED in the mission of the company. Our shifts started off with one-minute-meetings to bring us up to speed on the company’s focus for the day, often with additional explanation of how our daily goals tied into the week’s, month’s and even the year’s goals.
Every Gap employee started his or her day with a clear intention that tied their contributions back to the company’s vision.
So when I was “perfect-folding” (that’s Gap-speak, by the way), re-sizing and replenishing a wall of 1,500+ pairs of jeans, I was crystal clear on how that tedious task tied into the company’s vision. I wasn’t just folding a bajillion pairs of jeans, I was creating an optimal shopping experience for my customers. Yes, I too drank the Kool-Aid at Gap, Inc. And it was good.
But why DID I love working at the Gap so much? What made that management team rise to the surface as my “best” bosses of all time?
The answer is simple. They were crystal clear in how my efforts contributed to the Company’s vision. They told me in very precise terms at the beginning of EVERY freaking shift!
I’ve rarely seen such clarity, leadership or teamwork since.
The Gap really got it. Their vision leapt off the pages of their internal communications and became a living, breathing force within the company.
If your Company’s vision is just some statement you trot out once a year for new hires or annual meetings, consider the making the following changes to breath new life into your people:
- Connect the dots – tell employees how routine (even unpleasant) tasks, changes in procedure, or new corporate initiatives relate to the Company’s vision.
- Pour it on thick – your vision should permeate your internal communications. Consistently bring your peoples’ attention back to the Company’s reason for being.
- Shake things up – don’t have time to meet regularly with employees? BULLSHIT! I just told you about a one-minute meeting that shaped the best work experience I ever had. Stop thinking of meetings as hour-long death sentences. Check in more frequently with your people (and yourself too for that matter).
What Will SCOTUS’s ruling on DOMA and Prop 8 Mean for Employers?
You may or may not have noticed that Facebook is an unusually garish shade of red today.
People are changing their profile pictures and timeline headers to various red icons and duo-tone photos in support of gay marriage as the Supreme Court prepares to hear two landmark cases that could grant same-sex couples the right to marry.
While a ruling won’t likely come down until some time in June of this year, people are in a frenzy of speculation about the possible outcomes.
From an employer’s perspective, this could mean radical and swift changes in the way you administer your benefits—especially those provided to spouses.
Should the legal definition of “spouse” change in the states where you conduct business, you might soon have a surge in qualified life changes as employees celebrate their new unions and same-sex spouses become eligible for employer-sponsored benefits.
Many corporations – including big names such Apple, Goldman Sachs, Levi Strauss, Nike and Xerox – have signed a brief in support of Edith Windsor, who filed the challenge against the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Our law firm, like a lot of large employers, have got any number of gay employees who are legally married in states where we have operations and Doma creates a real burden,” said Daryl Lapp, who signed the brief. “It’s very complicated to administer benefits when you’ve got people who are legally married under state law but not legally married under federal law. The second thing is just as a matter of employee relations. We feel that being forced to comply with Doma makes us the face of discrimination relative to our employees. We want to treat our employees equally and yet here is this federal law that effectively requires us to treat people in different ways.”
If the DOMA is found unconstitutional, more than 1,000 laws will be affected by the new definition of the term “spouse.”
As with all of the other workplace changes we’re facing in light of the Affordable Care Act, communications and strategy will be the key to guiding employees through these unfamiliar territories.
How are you preparing for the possible changes? Are you aware of the potential costs your company faces if required by law to cover same-sex partners with the same benefits currently provided to spouses? Are your medical and insurance vendors prepared for a surge in qualified status changes and new enrollments? What messaging will you draft to be proactive in supporting your employees who are newly eligible for benefits?
Whenever I travel, I find my eating habits significantly challenged. I recently discovered a reasonably acceptable on-the-go breakfast, only to discover this weekend that the “Starbucks” in my hotel didn’t serve the damned things! Grumble, grumble.
So Saturday morning I stood in line staring at the muffins, cakes, and doughnuts in the pastry case and thinking, “If I eat this crap, I have to go for a run—on my vacation. And if I eat this crap, I won’t feel like running. I’m screwed.” Fortunately, they did have oatmeal. So I didn’t go off the deep-end with my eating habits.
I mentioned my frustration when I sat down to eat my oatmeal with my friends. And then I steered the conversation towards my recent light reading material from the plane ride up – emerging healthcare trends resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I have wonderful friends to indulge me in my obsessive fascination with the PPACA over coffee on a Saturday morning!
At this point in their careers, most of my friends are managers or leaders of some sort in their various lines of work—so I pretended I was doing them a favor by making them consider this.
One friend, let’s call her Bernice, spoke pretty candidly about her frustration with her overweight diabetic co-workers who regularly bring in doughnuts for each other, never pass up dessert at lunch, and routinely max out their sick leave sometimes before the year is even over. We all politely agreed that to some extent it’s none of our business if Rebecca in accounting orders a cookie every day at lunch. But we also agreed that we shouldn’t bear the cost of her nutrition and health decisions, especially if we’re all paying into the same collective healthcare pool.
It’s a dicey situation. We believe in freedom of choice, but we also believe in personal responsibility.
The question I then posed to our group is “how do you create a culture of wellness in your office? How do you stop teaching people that doughnuts=rewards? And instead teach them that walking to lunch or eating a healthy breakfast is a better behavior?”
When I was part of the Michelin team at Aon Hewitt, I marveled at their commitment not just to creating wellness programs but to marketing them through some pretty creative channels.
Most impressive to me was their use of vending machines to market their wellness brand. They didn’t just put a poster in the break room with a generic “eat right” message. They actually labeled the snacks INSIDE the machines with their wellness program’s logo (a healthy green apple). It was undeniable what Michelin wanted employees to choose when that next junk food craving struck. They drove the message home all the way down to the very point of decision where employees purchased snacks daily.
Healthy people are made one small decision after another. That’s how habits, lifestyles, and cultures emerge.
Michelin has figured this out. And they have made a significant investment in shaping their culture through communications that intercept employees at the very point where they’re most likely to go off-track with their wellness goals.
What simple changes or additions to your communications plan have helped transform the health of your workplace? Tell us in the comments section below!
I admit it, I love the Biggest Loser. And like most Americans, I sit on the couch snarfing down my Ben & Jerry’s while I cry and cheer on total strangers as they work out to the point of ralphing on the treadmill in hopes of losing just one more pound before the next weigh-in.
I applaud anyone who is brave enough to change their lives for the better—especially in front of a national television audience. That’s why I’m excited to see that businesses continue to be increasingly interested in how their employees are taking care of themselves outside of work.
In the past few weeks, a couple of reports came out (from Aon and Towers Watson) discussing trends in employee benefits for the next three to five years. We’re particularly excited about the expected rise of employer-sponsored incentives programs in 2014!
Could it be that our bosses are the next Bob Harper or Jillian Michaels?
It would certainly pretty up the workplace and make it easier to swallow the recent trend in abolishing work from home policies.
“Hey there Hottie McBossman. How YOU doin’?”
To save you from reading another report chock full of dry statistics, here’s a high-level overview of some of the more dramatic trends we noticed in the reports from Aon and Towers Watson:
- 20% more companies plan to use financial rewards for employees who participate in employer-sponsored health management programs in 2014.
- 37% more companies expect to reward (or penalize) employees based on biometric screening outcomes by 2014.
- 36% more companies plan to extend health incentive programs to employees’ spouses and dependents by 2014.
These changes represent a significant change in the way that employers look at their health care investments. Employees who demonstrate healthy behaviors are going to reap the biggest rewards as health care reform goes into effect. And those who fail to modify their behaviors will bear the additional financial burden.
Companies who wish to lead their employees successfully through the sweeping changes associated with health care reform need to solidify the changes they will be making to their workplace health and wellness programs sooner rather than later.
Having a clear plan in place will allow you to communicate early and often about the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Employees who have more time to review the information will be better poised to adapt and take full advantage of the many positive possibilities that the new programs will afford.
How are you preparing to coach your employees through the changes ahead? Will they be effortlessly shedding the excess baggage or will they be crying and ralphing on the treadmills wondering how they got to this point in their lives? As their trainer, IT’S UP TO YOU to steer them in the right direction!
I literally almost fell off of the treadmill when I saw the news this morning—Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo! announces that the company will be ending its work from home policy in June of this year.
HR managers around the globe gasped. Did you hear them?
The new turn taken by Yahoo! is widely viewed as a productivity killer that will hinder the company’s ability to attract new talent. The policy will also likely jeopardize the employment of anyone working a considerable distance from their nearest office. And the media buzz surrounding the announcement will only fuel employees’ fears and frustration unless the company gets out in front of the buzz to address how it plans to support employees in this 180 degree change in direction.
It’s especially surprising that a web company would shun the very product it’s peddling as a means of improving its own workforce.
I’m still reeling from this excerpt from the memo that was sent to Yahoo! employees this morning: “the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.” Wow. Not only do you need to come get chained to your desk, but try not inconvenience us with your personal errands either.
This change seems like an edict from a by-gone era. Any competitive company in today’s modern market knows that flexible work options are at the top of the list when it comes to attracting top talent.
We want to know – what are your thoughts on working from home? What are the pros and cons? Should it be an “all or nothing” policy?
Tell us in the comments below.
But I feel obligated to share when I ferret out little nuggets of wisdom like this one we found in Deloitte’s recently published survey on creating corporate culture.
Executive leadership and employees are on opposite sides of the coin when it comes to what they feel makes an organization exceptional. According to the survey:
- When considering what factors impact workplace culture, executives rank tangible elements such as financial performance (65%) and competitive compensation (62%) among the highest, whereas those factors were among the lowest for employees
- In contrast, employees rank intangible elements such as regular and candid communications (50%), employee recognition (49%), and access to management/leadership (47%) highest.
Of particular interest to us, is that 50% of employees crave “regular and candid communications.”
As a human resource manager, you’re often “just the messenger.” But what if you were the facilitator of REAL conversations? What IF you could lead BOTH of these groups and help them come to a better understanding of where your company wants to be and what challenges are keeping it from getting there?
Tell us in the comments section below what challenges keep you from regularly reaching out to your employees?