Are you more productive working at home? #WFH

If you want and like working from home, your answer is “Yes!”

If you hate working at home and can’t wait to return to work, your answer is “No!”

The truth?

Some people can be productive anywhere. You could put them on the moon and they would find a way to get done what needs to get done. Many of us, need a great deal of structure and guidance, and proper motivation.

We have this giant Work from Home experiment going on right now and a lot of HR folks are pointing to this and going, “See! I told you it would work!” But, is it really working?

The problem is what most of us are doing right now isn’t truly working at home. If you are trying to do childcare to co-habitat with multiple people in a house all trying to do work, it’s not really what a normal work at home situation would be.

Pre-Covid most studies on Work at Home were done by folks who had a mission to get more people to work at home, so quite frankly, I think most of those studies are crap. They didn’t really set out to see what situation would be better, only that working from home is better.

One of the main issues we see with working from home is that your real workers, those ten percenters who put in the most work, put in even more when working from home which could lead to burnout of your best talent. So, you might see productivity gains, but it’s not equal across the board. Like most work, the vast amount of gains is coming from folks who already probably gave you the most!

I’m not a work from home hater by any means. I think it’s a great way to add some flexibility for those employees who need it and can actually make it work. To be very clear, that is not all of your employees. The vast majority will not be more productive at home. And those who love working at home the most might actually be your least productive.

So, should you allow your employees who can continue to work from home? I think during a pandemic the answer is yes! I think once this is all behind us, we have to look at productivity in a normal work from home environment and make those determinations on our own.

In the small sample size, I have with my own company I know there are folks who would kill it no matter where they were working, and I have some folks who better get ready to return to the office!

The key to working from home isn’t your ability to actually be able to work at home. It’s your ability to be as good or better working at home as you were working from the office, in a normal business environment. We are not in a normal business environment. So, you working at 40% compacity at home doesn’t mean you’ve proven anything.

So, during this great Work from Home experiment, do you think you are more productive, less productive, or about the same? Hit me in the comments and let me know what you think!

Are We Still Pissy About Unpaid Internships?

Back in the height of the Great Recession (think 2008-2010), when we had double-digit national unemployment numbers. It was dark times, especially for those students who were graduating and those trying to get internships.

Most organizations in hard times cut internship programs. It’s not that they are not important to recruiting, it’s just the ROI drops as unemployment numbers rise. If you have a lot of candidates, it’s tough to spend valuable resources on interns who aren’t really adding much value, if any, to most organizations.

Internships, at its core, is mostly a one-way proposition on the front side. We hire you to get experience. We pay you. We hope you’ll come back and take one of our open jobs and in the future help us be successful. It usually works out, but it’s not a guarantee. In hard times, “not a guarantee” is a hard budget item to get approved!

During the Great Recession the idea of offering “Free Internships” was being used by many organizations and a lot of people lost their minds!

“You have to pay people for the job they do!” “All Interns should be paid fairly!”

Basically, this all went away pretty quickly because the economy took off and we got to the point where we weren’t just paying interns, we were competing for interns and developing all kinds of programs and incentives for interns because talent was so scarce.

The argument wasn’t really solved, it just disappeared because it was no longer relevant. Well, say hello to my little friend! The Free Internship concept is back! Thanks, COVID!

Let’s talk a little bit about our current internship situation!

  • Most organizations have canceled internships for this summer. There will be significantly fewer internships for the summer of 2021, as compared to summer 2019
  • As unemployment rises and layoffs grow, more will cancel these programs.
  • New graduates who can’t find jobs, need experiences to build their resumes.

Should we offer Unpaid Internships? 

YES!!! 1000% YES!!!

Now, let me explain. If you can afford to pay your interns, but be a dick and not pay them! If you can’t afford to pay interns, but you can afford to give students and graduates valuable experiences, give them those experiences!!!

I never understood the argument that you must pay interns for their time. I did student teaching as part of my undergrad degree. I worked a full semester as a teacher and I paid full tuition and never got a dollar for that work! My wife is a Physical Therapist and she did many practicums (medical internships) where she had to pay for school, work full time without pay. Many professions have this happening.

We turn a blind eye to these examples and just believe it’s part of getting that degree, but it’s truly no difference. The reality is, the experience you get, the ability to put that brand on your resume and have a professional reference is very valuable. So, working for free almost always works out for the best for those who take on those experiences and give it there all.

For the record, I have paid my interns. I will pay my interns this year. But, I can’t tell you I’ll always be able to pay interns. At that point, I have a decision to make. Not have interns, which only hurts those kids who need an internship, or have unpaid interns. I’m completely comfortable having unpaid interns, as I know the value it gives those individuals.

I’ve gotten questions recently about unpaid internships, as I hear so many people canceling their internships for this summer. “Can we have an intern work remotely and be unpaid?” Well, it’s not officially an employee, but if you want to “mentor” a student, and that student what’s your mentorship, nothing is stopping you from helping that person out!

Understand, if you aren’t going to pay someone, you get what you pay for. But, I also truly believe that a student who says, “Hey, I can give you twenty hours per week to learn the business” we have a moral obligation to help these students out in a time of crisis!

Okay, hate me in the comments – but we need to be open to Unpaid Internships!

Would you choose to live at your job 24/7 for a month? These workers did!

40 employees of Braskem America in Marcus Hook, PA unanimously decided they would lock themselves in their plant for 28 straight days, so they could safely make N95 masks for healthcare workers. Day and night, they worked, ate meals with each other, and slept at the plant to ensure there would be no spread of the virus to the products they were making.

The workers spent 12-hour shifts making polypropylene and a non-woven fiber in N95 masks, hospital gowns, and sanitary wipes.

Braskem has given the workers “enhanced employee compensation” for their work.

They were provided an onsite kitchen and supplies to sustain them as they operated the manufacturing facilities in isolation, according to Braskem.

Workers got TV breaks and drive-by visits from family during the 28-day period.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, I would do the same thing!” Especially given that most of us have just spent a full month or more with our families in lockdown in our houses! And I believe many people would have sacrificed as these employees did for the betterment of the healthcare workers who desperately need this PPE.

But don’t kid yourself, I’m sure this was an emotional decision for many! It’s not like the workers of a manufacturing facility do this on a normal basis. Most probably don’t travel for work, so they see their family and friends every single day. Going a month without that contact had to really difficult! I don’t like going for three days without seeing my dog!

The HR person in me loves this story and also knows that somewhere out of this probably comes a wedding, or bad breakup, or a baby! You just don’t keep 40 people together for 28 straight days, day and night, and not have some stuff go down! If HR has taught me anything, it’s humans will be humans!

I know the reality of this situation is this company was doing what companies do. Because of a crisis, they have a very short-term opportunity to make some great money and in the process help healthcare workers, help their employees, and help the stakeholders of that organization. It’s a win-win-win all the way around. It doesn’t stop this being a great story and we need all of those we can get!

So, my question for you today is, would you be willing to spend 24/7, for a month with your co-workers and your co-workers only!? Working, eating, sleeping, side by side? Hit me in the comments!

I loved that one of the workers being interviewed said one of the things they took for granted was being able to work next to someone and sit down to eat next to someone and not have to be six feet apart or even worry about that. When they came out into the ‘real’ world they realized they took stuff like that for granted.

Do you have your CEOs cell phone number?

The world is moving pretty fast right now. Seems like you can’t step away from the news cycle for a minute without something new popping up and changing what we thought to be fact just seconds before.

That’s why I found it refreshing this week when I read a story about Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick giving out his personal cell phone number to all of his employees. If you work for a small or even medium-sized business you might not find this to be a big deal, but Bobby has 10,000 employees!

“The uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic can take its toll on employees. For the 10,000 or so who work at Activision Blizzard around the world, one person they can call is CEO Bobby Kotick

“About a month ago, we sent out an email from my email address with my phone number and we encouraged every single employee that has a concern that relates to their health care to just contact me directly,” Kotick told CNBC’s Becky Quick on “Squawk Box.”

Kotick said “a few hundred” employees have reached out to him since that email. “But we’re fortunate. Very few actually tested positive so far for Covid-19.”

I’ve met a lot of great CEOs in my time. Some wonderful, extremely caring folks, and a few assholes. There are not many who would do this with this number. There would be meetings with PR and Comms and HR, and eventually, there would be this rollout of a hundred underlings who would be taking your call directly.

The decision would be made that the CEO would do a weekly town hall, live, and you could send in your questions to be answered, etc. All of those questions would be washed and pre-loaded, and the CEO would say the exact right thing. That is how the sausage is made kids!

The vast majority of CEOs would tell you they would do the exact same thing as Bobby, but they haven’t and they won’t. I don’t know if Bobby is a great leader, but that was a great leader move.

Your people are nervous and scared and frustrated. They don’t want a perfectly prepared Q & A. They just want to let you know how they are feeling. The best CEOs I’ve worked with would find that information priceless. They search out unfiltered news from the trenches!

Turns out, all you have to do is email your cell phone number out to the email list titled”
All Employees” and hit send!

 

The Cancer of Speaking Up!

There was a post on TLNT by Tim Kuppler titled Society is Holding Organizations and Leaders Accountable for Their Culture. Go read it, it’s really good. I agree with so much of what Tim wrote in the piece.

There is one concept though that I’m beginning to question. Kuppler wants to believe that we have a problem in our society and that problem is people are afraid to speak up to their leadership.

About a decade ago I would have 100% agreed with him. In fact, I probably spent more time in training sessions working with leaders on how to get employees to open up, than any other single thing in my HR career a decade ago!

In 2018, we do not have a problem with employees speaking up. In fact, it’s a full-blown Cancer! Yes, I want employees to speak up when they have something of value to add to the conversation, or if they or another employee are being wronged. No, I don’t want to hear your idiot opinions that have nothing to do with anything we have going on to make us better!

I get it. Everyone should have a voice! We are in a time when people have the right to speak up.

Just because you have the right, doesn’t mean you should open your dumb mouth! You have employees in non-leadership positions who should open their mouth and add to the conversation. And, you have employees who make you dumber when they open their mouths.

Your company isn’t a democracy. Turns out businesses don’t run well as democracies. When everyone has a say, we tend to get very cautious and very vanilla, and no innovation happens, as we try to take into account every single opinion. The business gets pulled to the middle. “Middle” is not a good position for businesses.

The challenge we have as leaders and HR pros is not giving everyone a voice. It’s finding the best and brightest in our organizations, regardless of race, gender, etc., and making sure ‘those’ people have a voice.

The fastest way to failure is to listen to everyone and take into account every opinion. That isn’t helpful. Having the foresight to understand there are really great voices beyond your leadership team could be your greatest insight of all, but understand it’s not everyone.

In a representative government, you want all voices to come through. In business, you want the voices to come through that can actually make a positive difference. Unfortunately, that isn’t everyone who works for you.

In business and leadership right now we have a cancer that is growing out of control and that cancer is a belief that every voice matters. That’s wrong. Every voice does not matter, at every time. Do you think Steve Jobs listened to every person at Apple? No, he barely listened to anyone! What about Elon Musk? Again, no. What about Marissa Mayer? Heck, no!

Great business and great innovation don’t happen by listening to everyone. They happen by listening to the right ones. That might not be popular right now in society, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right!

Compromise Kills Innovation!

The most innovative leaders of our time were mostly assholes. Why? They refused to budge on their idea. Everything in their body told them what needed to be done to make their idea happen, and they refused to compromise on even the smallest details. This is how greatness happens.

True change only happens when someone is unwilling to listen to their critics.

This is also the exact way more careers are killed than any others. It’s all or nothing. Greatness happens at the edges, not in the middle.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well in most corporate environments. Most MBA programs don’t teach you to be a tyrant. Leadership development, in today’s corporate world, is about bringing everyone to the middle. Finding ways that we can all get along. Even suppressing those who push the envelope too far.

We want everyone to line up nice and pretty. To play the role they were hired to play. To be the poster children for compromise.

It’s important for leaders to understand this concept if your job as a leader is to drive innovation and change. You don’t drive this through compromise and you need some renegades on your team, that quite frankly you might not even enjoy being around.

It took me so long to learn this because I was a renegade as an employee. I couldn’t understand why my leaders kept pushing me to compromise when I knew the right way to do something, the better way to do something, the new way to do something.

Once I became a leader I acted the exact same way towards those who were like me. Get back in line. Run the play. Do what the others do. That was the leadership I was taught. I didn’t value those who seemed to be fighting me, just as I use to fight. New leaders struggle with this because we take it personally.

We feel like those renegade employees are actually fighting us. When in reality they’re fighting everything. It’s our job as leaders to understand that the fight they have is super valuable if directed at the right target! To get them to understand they don’t need to fight everyone and everything but pick some fights that help us all and then support that fight.

This isn’t everyone you lead. It’s actually a really tiny number, but it seems bigger because they take up a lot of time and cause a lot of commotion amongst the drones who want to stay in their box. But, this is how change and innovation are born. By one person who is unwilling to compromise because they know a better way and they’re willing to fight to make it a reality.

This isn’t to say it will always work. Most ideas fail, but those who are willing to make an uncompromising stand for their idea, stand a better chance of seeing that idea succeed.

Here’s where I struggle. If we believe the above premise is true, it seems exclusionary. So, can we be innovative and inclusive of thought all at the same time? I’m arguing above that you can’t. What do you think? Hit me in the comments.

The 1 Factor You Must Have to be an F500 CEO!

It’s not what you think.

Right now you’re sitting there reading this thinking, “I need to know what this is so I can see if I have it or can get it because it’s in my life plan to be an F500 CEO!” You probably are thinking it must something like grit, determination, maybe smarts, attractive looks, or maybe it’s Tim talking about this it’s probably height because he’s a short motherf@cker!

Something truly, statistically interesting has happened over the last 14 years to CEOs of the Fortune 500. It really defies logic.

In 2005 the average age of an F500 CEO was 46 years old. Feels about right. 46 feels like young enough but also old enough all at the same time. The perfect combination of youth and wisdom.

In 2019, do you know what the average age of an F500 CEO was? You would think in 14 years that line would probably stay about the same. Maybe because of all the Baby Boomers leaving the workforce we would see it fall, but probably not too much. If a few Boomers were hanging on, we might see it rise a little, but again, it’s hard to move the average all that much.

In 2019 the average age of an F500 CEO was 59! Basically, over 14 years, the average age went up one year every year! It’s hard to even imagine that could be the case!

So, what’ the one factor you need to be an F500 CEO? 

You need to be a Baby Boomer!

That’s right. Stop going to that Ivy league college and working on your MBA. Don’t worry if you’re ugly or short or fat or female or black or white or a dude. The only thing you really need to be is OLD!

Turns out, big giant companies like Old folks running their company!

Why?

If you are running a multi-billion dollar company, maybe even closing in on a trillion (Trillion is the new Billion!) you don’t want some kid at the wheel. You want someone with seasoning who will tend to be less reactive to major events. They’ll be a bit slower in how they move the company, a bit more conservative in how they manage the assets and resources.

Also, think about what’s happened over the past 15 years. We came out of the great recession. We had this young 45-ish CEO taking the lead in turning us around and putting us back on top. It actually worked! We’ve had this great decade of prosperity! Do you know what companies do when things are going really well? They don’t change anything! Including their CEO!

In fact, many times if the CEO wants to retire, and they trade that CEO in for a younger one, and 12 months in the company is slightly underperforming to expectations, they’ll fire that CEO quickly and bring back the old one to right the ship!

So, 37-year-old Millennial who is chomping at the bit to take over. Calm down and wait until you’re old! You really only have about twenty more years to wait until it’s ‘your time’. That isn’t that long, just 25% or so of your life. You’ll get there, be patient!

Are you a “People Person”?

I was listening to an executive the other day talk about what he needed in an employee. Of course, there were the job skills and competencies, formal education was one, and then that magical phrase came, “Oh, and the candidates better be a ‘people person’!”

A People Person.

What the living hell does that even mean?

A People Person: A person who enjoys and is particularly good at interacting with others. 

Oh, so like a normal person who isn’t an asshole?

The skill of being “A People Person” might be the most over-valued skill of all time. And not because it’s not important, not one wants you to hire an asshole, but because have you ever met someone who when asked said, “You know, I’m just not A People Person!” No! You haven’t! Everyone, from the beginning of time, says they are A People Person!

The reality is, we ask for it because we know the truth, most people don’t enjoy interacting with others. We put up with idiots we run into every day, some of us are better at than others, no profession really does better than another.

In HR, we like to say, “We the People Person People”, but I find it’s actually the opposite. Most HR pros I run into might have the worst People Person skills, but they are paid to do a job, so put on the act fairly well. Once in a while, you find that true kind soul who seems, almost naively, to get along with everyone. “Oh that Mark, he’s a stinker, but you know he once opened a door for me, he’s good people!” Those people might be only real people persons in the world.

I’ve been labeled A People Person in my career. The reality is I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my interest, so I just have a skill of finding those few things I have in common with people I meet, so conversation comes easy for me when I meet new people. But, I dislike people at the same rate as others. I would consider myself as much of an asshole as most people, I might just hide it better at the right times.

Maybe that’s the true real skill of A People Person. Not being an asshole at the wrong time. Or at least limiting those times you’re an asshole.

Here’s the thing: The next time you hear someone say or ask for A People Person, just smile and chuckle a bit on the inside, because what they are really saying is “I just want someone who isn’t that much of an asshole” but saying “A People Person” sounds so much more professional!

 

This isn’t about “Fit”, it’s about your Bias is showing!

“We’re big on CULTURE and fit!” We’re looking for the “right” person, not just skills!” “We just kind of know if they’ll fit or not…”

Of course, it’s not The Project if we don’t have some sports analogies that I tie back to some HR topic! That’s how this puppy was founded, probably won’t change. So, you might have missed a great sports-HR topic that popped last week!

LSU is the top college football program in the land and their head coach is Ed Orgeron. He’s beloved by a lot of people and has a great coaching pedigree. It’s surprising, with all of his success at LSU, that USC could have had him as their head coach, but he was passed over. And last week the truth of why he was passed overcame out!

“Specifically, Feldman said certain people in the Pat Haden administration “couldn’t get past what Ed Orgeron sounded like.”

“They didn’t listen to the players. They didn’t listen to the staff,” Feldman explained. “Ed Orgeron’s not a country club guy. I think he can relate to just about anybody…I think he can read people very well. I don’t think Pat Haden, who was the decision-maker at the time, that’s just not kind of guy he wanted. And I don’t think he could get past it.”

USC as an institution is elitist. They have graduates like Matt Charney and Neil Armstrong and George Lucas and OJ Simpson. Pat Haden, himself a USC graduate and Rhodes scholar, was the Athletic Director at the time Ed Orgeron was the interim head coach.

Can you imagine one of your hiring managers coming to you and saying, “Yeah, the resume is awesome, the references are awesome, but you know the candidate sounds dumb, so I’m going to pass!” That’s culture and fit. “We’re great” and we need someone who is going to “represent” us in a way where he makes us believe we are still great.

Pat had a bias. I want a head coach who ‘looks’ and ‘sounds’ like a head coach of USC. What does that mean? Looks good in a suit. Sounds like an educated person, probably white (at least sounds white). Heterosexual with a pretty wife. It was a look, an image. It wasn’t about results.

Pat Haden and USC were just doing what most organizations constantly do. They were hiring for fit. For “culture”. Believing somehow they had it figured out. Turns out, for Ed’s sake, they made the right call, because he is in a position where he is valued and they actually like his accent!

If you find yourself in an interview debrief and the conversation starts going down a path of “Fit” understand you’re about to hear someone’s bias coming out! Maybe you’ll even catch yourself and your own bias. We all have some and they mostly come out when we really can’t determine a real reason of why we don’t want to hire someone!

DisruptHR Lansing! March 19th – Call for Speakers is Open!

Lansing, MI is about to get all Disrupted and Stuff!

Everyone already knows I’m a big believer in DisruptHR events. I’ve spoken at many, I’ve been on the team running DisruptHR Detroit from the beginning, and I decided to start DisruptHR Lansing in my own backyard!

Our first event, DisruptHR Lansing 1.0 will take place in Downtown Lansing on March 19th in the evening (more details to follow) at The Exchange. Great speakers, free food and drinks, and disruptive HR talks throughout the night!

What is DisruptHR?

  • 5-minute hr-based micro-talks. Might be HR, talent, employee experience, leadership, rap music, who knows!
  • Each talk has a very specific format – 20 slides and each slide moves automatically every 15 seconds.
  • The goal is to be fast and challenge the status quo of the people side of the business!

CALL for SPEAKERS is NOW OPEN! 

We’ll be selecting a great group of speakers. I encourage HR pros and Leaders from the Mid-Michigan area to throw your names into the hat for speaking spots!!! It’s a great way to get yourself on stage with a group of fellow HR peers who’ll support you and laugh at our bad HR jokes!

Speakers also get a professionally recorded version of your talk. This is an awesome parting gift for your own development, and to show other conferences, etc. if you decide you want to speak in a longer format in the future. Almost every conference I know now asks for some proof of your ability to speak, as such, this becomes a very valuable piece of content!

Why Speak at DisruptHR Lansing 1.0? 

1. Well, I’ll be there!

2. Lansing, MI is the capital of Michigan. The epicenter of all things people in our state. It’s also might be the one place in Michigan that needs the most HR disruption!

3. HR pros need a network. We need to support each other. This is a great event to make that happen!

4. Cocktails & Hugs! (which ironically is the name of one of my upcoming future books!)

5. I’ll owe you!

Let’s face it. It’s March 19, 2020. We’ve just spent the last 120 days in pure grayness. We need to get out and do something! The event space will be intimate, the energy will be high, and we’re going to have some fun! Come join us! Tickets will go on sale after the holidays. We wanted to open up the Call for Speakers first!

If you want to get an email when tickets go on sale, leave your email on the comments below and I”ll make sure you’re the first to know!