3 Ways to Increase Employee Productivity that Doesn’t Entail Pain or Torture!

The holy grail of great leadership is simply getting the most positive productivity for an extended period from your team. That. Is. It.

If I take your current team and I get them to do more work that is of the same or higher quality, I am a better leader than you are. “Yeah, well, they don’t like you as much as they like me!”

I wasn’t hired to be friends. That’s a different game that I can also win if you want to play!

Productivity is the ultimate measure. It leads to better business outcomes. Highly productive employees stay at their jobs longer and have higher rates of job satisfaction. While that end measure of productivity is a great measuring stick, actually getting increased productivity in a positive way is super hard!

I’ve found three ways to get increased productivity where both the leader and the employee feel good about the outcomes:

  1. Deliver career value to the employee. 

An employee that truly believes you have their best career interest at heart will run through walls for you, but they really have to believe you are helping their career. That means you have to be very transparent about how this increase in productivity will lead to what they want, not what you want and the organization wants.

Also, if you lie about this and don’t deliver, you’ll lose this employee forever. You need to put in the time and work to put yourself in the position to start acting like their career mentor, it just doesn’t happen overnight. Be clear of the path and process you’ll be taking them on.

  1. Acknowledge individual productivity increases in a public way, especially to the senior most leaders of the organization. 

Appreciation is paramount in getting and extending productivity increases in your employees. One way I love to support the leaders in the organization is to manage-up to those leaders by giving them information on specific individuals that I want to have them give appreciation to.

I will send the leader a message that states specifically the person, their email address or phone number, and what they did that was above and beyond. Then, I go one more step! I will tell the leader specifically what I expect them to do with this information!

It sounds like a bit of micro-managing but in reverse. What I’ve found is leaders are busy and they love that I give them all the information and what specifically I expect them to do with that information. They know that the employee will love getting the appreciation, and they love giving the appreciation, and in how I’ve delivered this to them makes it super easy for the leader to execute!

  1. Define, specifically what ‘extra’ is and what the employee will get in return. 

Too often, I find, employees believe they are going above and beyond when the leader only sees them doing the job they were hired to do. Great performance management is about defining what is expected in the role, and specifically what it takes to thrive in the role.

Once you do this as a leader, getting more is just a function of seeing which employees want to reach that next step and rewarding that effort. No yelling. No kicking and screaming. Just acknowledgment of great work done by employees who want to be successful in their chosen job.

To learn more about Increasing Productivity in your Workforce check out the great resources at Trakstar!

It’s 2019, Money still motivates more than anything else!

NO IT DOESN’T, TIM! YOU ARE AN IDIOT!

Well, you’re half right! I’m an idiot most of the time, but finally we are beginning to see what I’ve been saying for a decade, money is still the best motivator when it comes to getting extra effort.

For almost a decade the media and influencers perpetuated this belief that it was other things, rather than money, that motivated individuals to do more. They sited weak studies, if at all, but mostly it was antedotal evidence from people saying it wasn’t money, it was time off, it was feedback, it was…

A recent study puts this to rest, and it clearly shows that if you want ‘extra’ effort out of an employee, money is the single biggest motivating factor, overall, to get the effort your organization is looking for.

What I love about this study is they went out to over 200 experts in the field and first asked them what they thought. They were comprehensive in their analysis of the results and the most recent literature on the subject and the findings were straightforward:

We find that (i) monetary incentives work largely as expected, including a very low piece rate treatment which does not crowd out incentives; (ii) the evidence is partly consistent with standard behavioral models, including warm glow, though we do not find evidence of probability weighting; (iii) the psychological motivators are effective, but less so than incentives. 

Psychological motivators are effective, but less so than monetary incentives!

It’s not that things like working for a great leader or having time off aren’t also effective motivators to getting extra effort out of your employees. They are. But we have to stop telling ourselves that they are more important, because they aren’t!

Again, this is overall. You might have some individuals working for you that are more highly motivated by non-monetary incentives. But overall, in a large workforce, money will still get you better results.

So, why do we love saying that it’s not about the money?

If you think about how this concept became popular, it really tells the story. A decade ago we were coming out of the Great Recession. We didn’t have a ton of money to throw around, so it became popular to espouse the idea that people were really motivated by other things, rather than money.

And, it wasn’t really a lie. We are motivated by many things, money just being one.

The lie was that the other things motivated us to a higher level than money. Those don’t. I’m completely motivated by a great leader, if I’m getting paid what I think I should be. I’m super motivated by extra time off, if I think I’m getting paid what I should be. I’m not motivated by any of that, if I have a monetary issue I’m facing in my life, which most people do.

If my partner is a successful doctor and she makes way more than we need to live very well, money isn’t my primary motivation for effort, it might be a lot of other things. But, if I’m struggling to pay my mortgage, and my kid is about to go to college, I could care less that my boss is nice to me. Just pay me!

My top 5 most read posts of 2018!

I love lists! I love lists when I’m on them. I love lists when I make them. Lists are great!

I had an incredible year. I had the most traffic ever in my decade of blogging. I launched my book, The Talent Fix, in April and the traffic to the blog has been exceptional! I’ve got some great stuff planned for 2019, so please keep coming back and enjoying the content.

Here are my most read blog posts of 2018:

#1 – My New Favorite Interview Question!

This one post was read by over 70,000 people, and I didn’t expect it to actually do this well. Interview question posts always do well. For some reason people Google “Interview questions” a ton, both on the candidate side and the hiring manager/HR side. Want some easy clicks? Write a post on interview questions!

#2 – I’m in Indeed Jail, Help me! #FreeTimSackett

Yeah, my co-dependent relationship with Indeed got me into trouble in 2018, and it all started with this post. I wrote another post later in the year – Indeed takes away free traffic from Staffing firms! Which also got a ton of traffic, and I thought was pretty ‘fair and balanced’ from the Indeed side.

#3 – The Reason You’re Being Ghosted After an Interview

Like I said above, interview content tends to be popular! In 2018 we saw a ton of ghosting happening on both sides of the fence. Companies are ghosting candidates and candidates are ghosting companies, and apparently we have all lost our minds! I mean come on, treat others like you want to be treated!

#4 – The Top 100 Applicant Tracking Systems in 2018!

Hat tip to my buddy Rob Kelly, this was actually mostly based on his content, which I sited and love! Turns out most of us have issues with our ATS systems and we love seeing what everyone else is using, because it must be better than what we are using! BTW- we started using Loxo in 2018 and LOVE it!

#5 – Lifesaving Advice I Gave My Son When Someone Starts Shooting Up his School!

This one breaks my heart. This post was directly from my heart, shouting out to the world, as a father, for help. A lot of people agreed with it, and yet, here we are basically in the exact same place.

How to get promoted to the job you want!

I read an article recently where a “former” Google HR executive shared his wisdom. (editor side note – are all Google HR executives “Former”? Have you ever heard from a “current” Google HR executive? Why does Google have a hard time keeping HR execs?)

The dude’s name is Justin Angsuwat and he’s the current VP of People at Thumbtack, which not ironically does not make thumbtacks but it would awesome if they did. And he give his inside Google advice to Business Insider on how to get promoted. Are you ready?

Why is this promotion important to you?

Justin Angsuwat

Um, what?!

Seriously, that’s your advice Justin?

Okay, I’m sure Justin is brilliant, he’s Australian and worked for PwC and Google, and let’s face it, American’s will hire any idiot with an Australian accent, but I’m sure Justin is not an idiot, but I hate the “I’m going to answer your question with a question” because that’s how ‘real’ leaders do it.

What Justin is saying is most people have no idea why someone wants to be promoted. We just get this idea in our head that’s what we are supposed to do, so as leaders we need to figure out why, because most don’t really care if they get promoted, they just want you to pay attention to them!

Okay, Justin, I’ll agree with that. Now tell me why there are so many former Google HR executives!?

What do you really need to do if you want to get promoted?

  • Tell you current boss you want to get promoted and why.
  • Tell the boss that you’ll be under when you get promoted that you want to get promoted and why. This is a must-do if your current boss is a tool and won’t raise you up to the organization.
  • Get a specific development plan around what the organization needs to see from you to get promoted. If you can, try to get some realistic timing around the plan. Understand, 90 days, is not realistic. 3 years, might be. I find most people who want to get promoted believe they have already put in the work, but those above them don’t see it that way.
  • Do the work and be patient.
  • Be a positive advocate for your boss and for the company. Yes, you might even cheerlead a little. Don’t ever underestimate the power of positivity on your ability to get promoted. Executives hate promoting assholes. Right, Justin?

I teasing Justin, but I actually really like his question. Way too many people chase titles, but don’t really know why they’re chasing it. They get there and it feels unsatisfying because the reality is it’s not what they expect it to be.

Getting promoted because you want more money, probably isn’t the reason you really want. It’s legitimate, but you won’t be happy. Wanting to lead teams or functions is better, wanting to help others reach their goals is even better, wanting to help the company reach its mission and you’re all in on the company is probably the best.

Most of us don’t even think about those things, though.

Employee Holiday Gift Guide

It’s usually HR’s job to come up with the annual employee gift. Most companies are lame and will do the exact same thing every year. If they don’t give a turkey on Thanksgiving, they’ll definitely give out turkeys at Christmas. If they did give a turkey at Thanksgiving, you’ll likely get a ham or a fruitcake for Christmas.

Can I just say Christmas, instead of the “holiday season” or list all the possible options? My family is Jewish, but we get it, almost no company will ever recognize Chanukah, and if they do, it’s usually insulting, “Oh, isn’t that the Jewish Christmas?!” Ugh. Most of the American workforce follows some Christian-based religion that celebrates Christmas, so it’s just easier to play along with the majority.

At some point, usually, right around the pagan holiday of Halloween, someone in HR will raise the question to leadership, “Hey, what are we doing this year for ‘Christmas’ for the employees?”  What they really are asking is, “How much money are we spending per employee for some gift that looks more expensive than what it really is?”  Depending on the organization, it’s a wide range!

Here are the worst holiday gift ideas to give your employees:

  • Company Logo Portfolio – you know those fake leather bound binders with a legal pad inside. Twenty years ago those were so hot! Now, they’re sad. If you give this out as a gift you should be shot. “Oh, great, thanks, a pad of paper I can’t wait to take a picture of this and post it on my Snap making fun of the lame company I work for!”
  • Company Logo Bag – Any bag really. Duffle. Messenger. Backpack. The only time this isn’t lame is when it’s a really nice bag. Meaning the bag, minus your stupid logo, better cost at least $100 per bag. Your $12 limit per employee just makes any bag you choose, sad. Oh, it’s a Herschel bag, okay, you’re good, send me one to!
  • Any Company Logo Item Your CEO Wouldn’t Buy For Themselves – Let’s face it no one wants a crappy polo shirt, or cheap hoodie, or water bottle made in China. If your leadership team wouldn’t buy this on their own and use it, don’t buy it for your employees. If your CEO is a cheap SOB, ignore what I said above and just skip logo items altogether!
  • Any Mass Pre-packaged Food Items – You know what really sucks? Getting a gift basket of elf-sized trial-sized food items made to look gourmet that were probably made seventeen months ago.
  • A Charitable Gift in “My” Name – I love being charitable. I hate when some tries to be charitable on my behalf. You don’t know what I support! I might hate sick puppies and I don’t want money going to them. That’s not your call. My favorite charity is my kid’s college fund! Are you giving me money for that?

Employee gift giving, especially the bigger your organization is, is a tough game.  You don’t want to be cheap, but if you have 10,000 employees, that one endeavor becomes super expensive! The best thing to do is just stop it all together!

You go through one negative year of people complaining they didn’t get their lead-based painted candy corporate logo candy dish, then the next year no one remembers. Instead, let your hiring managers throw potluck lunches and have some fun. People will remember those, have more fun, and they might actually interact with each other!

401(K) Program – Retirement Plan or Student Loan Repayment Plan? Both!

If you didn’t see this week the IRS ruled on a request by a private employer to use their 401(K) plan to be utilized as a sort of a student loan repayment program. Here are the details:

“Here’s a quick (but not complete) summary of the plan proposal. According to the PLR, the taxpayer (who is anonymous in publicly released PLRs) proposed to amend its 401(k) plan to offer a student loan benefit program. Under the proposal, the employer would make nonelective contributions on behalf of the employee conditioned on the employee making student loan repayments (“SLR nonelective contribution”). The program would be voluntary and after enrolling the employee could opt-out… 

Under the program, if an employee makes a student loan repayment during a pay period equal to at least 2% of the employee’s eligible compensation for the pay period, then Taxpayer will make an SLR nonelective contribution as soon as practicable after the end of the year equal to 5% of the employee’s eligible compensation for that pay period.”

So, a couple of thoughts on this proposal:

  1. While this isn’t a perfect or complete solution, it’s something and as employers, we have to help out our employees who come in with life-altering amounts of student loan debt.
  2. Holy crap – this is really great, innovative HR work by some private employer who is really trying to figure this stuff out! I want to meet the HR Leader/Pro who even thought of this.
  3. It’s the chicken or the egg scenario. Do you start your retirement savings or do you first pay down debt? Obviously, this employer believes you need to solve the debt issue first, then go back and focus on the retirement.

The HR Nerd in me loves this stuff!

You had an employer who saw a major pain point with employees and hiring of potential employees. They started to brainstorm and somehow came up with an idea, what if we gave the employees money into their 401K which then would be used to pay down student loan debt, and because we are doing it through a qualified plan the IRS will work with us to make it non-taxable?

Um, what!?!?

99.9999999% of HR pros would give up on this as soon they heard IRS! But this employer decided to just ask the IRS the question and it sounds like the IRS was like, “Yeah, this makes total sense, for sure we need a few rules around this, but let’s do it!” The freaking IRS did something that makes sense?!?

So, this is a lesson for me and my HR brothers and sisters. I’m not saying anything is possible, but many things are possible if you keep trying to innovate, try stuff, and just every once in a while be naive or smart enough to just ask the question.

Keep HRing out there!

It’s Going to be Hard, but it’s Going to be Fair.

I heard this quote recently, it was used by an old football coach to his players:

“It’s hard, but it’s fair.”

He wasn’t the first to use this and probably won’t be the last – but the line stuck with me because of how I don’t think many people in today’s age really think this way.  Many want to talk about what’s fair, few want to discuss the ‘hard’ part.  The football coach’s son described the meaning of what he feels the phrase means:

“It’s about sacrifice,” Toler Jr. said of the quote. “It means that if you work hard that when it’s all said and done at the end of the day, it will be fair based on your body of work. It’s about putting in the time, making sure that you’re ready for the opportunity.”

I think we all think our parents are hard on us growing up.  I recall stories I tell to my own sons of my Dad waking me up on a Saturday morning at 7 am, after I was out too late the night before, and ‘making’ me help him with something, like chopping wood or cleaning the garage out.  He didn’t really need my help, he was trying to teach me a lesson about choices.  If I chose to stay out late at night, it was going to suck getting up early to go to school.

He shared with me stories of his father doing the same thing, one night my Dad had gotten home late, so late, he didn’t even go to bed, just started a pot of coffee and waited for my grandfather to get up, figuring that was easier than getting a couple of hours of sleep and then hearing it from my grandfather the rest of the day.

As a HR Pro, we see this every day in our workforce.  There are some who work their tails off, not outwardly expecting anything additional, they’re just hard workers.  Others will put in the minimum, then expect a cookie. It’s a tough life lesson for those folks.  Most usually end up leaving your organization, believing they were treated unfairly, so they’ll go bounce around a few more times.

Eventually, they’ll learn to put in the work, put in the time and more times than not, things work out pretty well.  Sometimes it won’t, so you go back to work even harder.  It’s been very rare in my 20 year HR career that I’ve truly seen a really hard worker get screwed over. Very rare! Now I know a ton of people who think they work hard, but they don’t, and they’ll say they get screwed. But the reality is they don’t work hard, they do the same as everyone else.

Do some idiots who don’t deserve a promotion or raise sometimes get it? Yep, they sure do, but that doesn’t happen as much as you think. The hard workers tend to get the better end of the deal almost always.

I hope I can teach my sons this lesson:  Life is going to be hard, but if you keep at it and put in the work, it’s going to be fair.  I think that is all we can really hope for.

Is employee experience really all about your manager? #Maslow #Drink!

So, I’m sharing a post I wrote over at EXJournal.org (EX = Employee Experience). It’s site started by some brilliant people from all over the world and they invited me to write to bring down the overall quality of the site! I wrote this post and immediately thought, “Hey, I just leveled-up from my normal poorly written stuff!”.

I thought this because it’s an idea I’m passionate about and truly believe. I think we get lied to a bunch by HR vendors who are just trying to sell their shit. We’ve been lied to for a long time on the concept – “People leave managers, not companies” – that’s actually not true…enjoy the post and check out the new EXJournal site!


“Employees don’t leave companies. Employees leave managers.” 

How often have you heard this over the past decade? A hundred times? A thousand times?

We love saying this in the HR, management consulting, leadership training world. We use it for employee engagement and employee experience, to almost anything where we want to blame bad managers and take the focus off all the other crap we get wrong in our companies.

The fact is, the quote above is mostly bullshit.

Employees actually care about other things more

The truth is, employees actually leave organizations more often over money than anything else. We don’t want to believe it because that means as leaders we have to dig into our budgets, make less profit, and pay our employees true market value if we want them to stay.

Managers might be the issue if you’re getting everything else right. So, if you pay your employees at the market rate. Ifyou offer market-level benefits. If you give them a normal work environment, then yes, maybe employees don’t leave your company, they leave their managers.

But you forgot all that other stuff? Maybe the ‘real’ reason an employee left your company wasn’t the fact their manager wasn’t a rock star. Maybe it was the fact you paid them below market, gave them a crappy benefits package, and made them work in the basement?!

The dirty little truth about Employee Experience is that managers are just one component of the overall experience, and we give them way too much weight when looking at EX in totality. We do this because we feel we don’t have control over all of the other stuff, but it’s easy to push managers around and ‘train’ them up to be better than they actually are.

Rethinking Maslow for EX

There is a new Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Employee Needs when it comes to Employee Experience and it goes like this:

Hierarchy of needsLevel I – Money – cash!

Level II – Benefits – health, fringes, etc.

Level III – Flexibility of Schedule – work/life balance

Level IV – Work Environment – short commute, great design, supportive co-workers

Level V – The Actual Job/Position – am I doing something that utilizes my best skills?

Level VI – Your Manager – do I have a manager who supports my career & life goals?

We all immediately jump to Level VI when it comes to EX because that’s what we’ve been told is the real reason people leave organizations. Which actually might be the case if all of the other five levels above are being met. What I find is that rarely are the first five levels met, and then it becomes really easy to blame managers for why their people leave.

Managers aren’t the difference maker

When I take a look at organizations with super low turnover, what I find are that they do a great job at the first five levels, and they do what everyone else does at level six. The managers at low turnover organizations are virtually the same as all other organizations. There is no ‘real’ difference in skill sets and attitudes; those managers are just managing employees who are pretty satisfied because most of their basic needs are met pretty well.

I think the new quote should be this:

“Good employees leave companies that give them average pay, benefits, and work environment, that don’t utilize the employee’s skill set, and that make them work for a crappy boss.” 


(Tim note – Why the #Drink? It’s a game that my fellow HR/TA speakers and I play. We hate when someone uses the Maslow pyramid in a slide, so we make fun of it by claiming every time a speaker mentions “Maslow” or shows the pyramid the entire audience should have to take a drink – like a drinking game for bad speakers! The more you know…) 

Want to make more money? Be an extrovert!

New research out of the University of Copenhagen finally puts to rest the age-old argument around what’s better: being an extrovert or being an introvert? I have friends who are on both sides and super successful in their careers, but it’s still one of those things where if you are one or the other, you usually believe what you are is the best.

Well, in terms of lifelong earnings the data is pretty clear you want to be an extrovert! From the study:

One striking result is how much the trait of conscientiousness matters. Men who measure as one standard deviation higher on conscientiousness earn on average an extra $567,000 over their lifetimes, or 16.7 percent of average lifetime earnings. Measuring as extroverted, again by one standard deviation higher than average, is worth almost as much, $490,100. These returns tend to rise the most for the most highly educated of the men.

For women, the magnitude of these effects is smaller (for one thing, women earned less because of restricted opportunities). Furthermore, extroversion is more strongly correlated with higher earnings than is conscientiousness, unlike for the men.

Yeah, that’s a half of million dollars! That’s life changing money for most people!

Here is something else that came out of the study that I thought was fascinating, people who are ‘agreeable’ by nature, actually make less money!

It may surprise you to learn that more “agreeable” men earn significantly less. Being one standard deviation higher on agreeableness reduces lifetime earnings by about 8 percent, or $267,600. In this context, you can think of agreeableness as meaning a person is less antagonistic and more likely to consider the interests of others. You might have thought agreeableness would be correlated with higher earnings but alas not.

So, here we are as HR pros telling all of our employees who want to be leaders they should be more ‘agreeable’, put the interests of others above your own, etc. What we are really telling them is “hey, here’s how to ensure you’ll make less money in your career!”

I think we see this in our world today. We tend to want to believe we all want ‘servant leaders’ when it comes to someone leading us individually, or leading our companies. But, for the most part, most of our great leaders we can point to, male and female, are still overwhelmingly extroverted and mostly directive in their style of leadership.

One last thing that came out of the study is that being smart and being extroverted is not correlated. Why does this matter? Well, being smart does correlate to higher income as well. So, when we go try and select great employees we tend to just look at intelligence. Which is necessarily bad. If you are going to try to increase your talent, starting with smart people is never a bad idea, but in the long run, it’s more than just IQ:

Another interesting result from the data is that IQ and conscientiousness are not very well correlated. That implies that finding ideal workers isn’t so easy. The quality of openness, however, is moderately positively correlated with IQ, so you might expect that the smarter workers are more willing to experiment and try new things.

So, do you have to be extroverted to make more money? No, but it’s easier and more likely if you are. If you’re introverted, by nature, it wouldn’t hurt to work on your outwardly extroverted self. We all have the ability to be extroverted and introverted in certain situations. The key for earning more income is being extroverted in a professional setting.

Okay, my introverted friends! Tell me why this research is complete B.S.!

Upgrade Your Employee Experience with a “Nap Experience”!

Okay, I already know that there are some “ultra-cool” employers our their with sleep pods, but let’s face it, ‘real’ employers don’t have sleep pods in their work environment!

Yes, I just said it. If you have sleep pods in your work environment you’re not real. You are a Unicorn. That’s fine a lot of people love unicorns! The reality is, though, most of us in HR and Talent don’t work for unicorns. We just work on regular old employee farms.

But, just because you’re not a Unicorn doesn’t mean you can’t offer your employees that unicorn-level Nap Experience! Casper Mattress (you know the mattress company that for $1,000 will send you a mattress to your house in a box and you get to pop the plastic wrapper and watch it grow like a sponge animal in water) opened a “Nap Store” in New York City:

“Right next to its New York City store, Casper has launched a branded nap destination called the Dreamery. For $25, customers can catch a 45-minute nap inside little sleeping pods, furnished with Casper mattresses (obviously) as well as Casper sheets, pillows, blankets, socks, and an eye mask. Staff will provide fresh linen for every nap, and also on loan are pajamas by Sleepy Jones, a toothbrushing set from Hello, face wash from Sunday Riley, and audio tracks from Headspace — you know, all the necessary sleep accouterments any Instagram-fluent millennial could desire.”

Yep, for the low cost of $25 you can give your employees a little ‘nap’ bonus and it doesn’t even have to be taxed!

Let’s face it. No one really wants to sleep at work in some gross sleep pod that Ted from IT just spend the last two hours in hiding while playing Fortnite! What we want is our own private, clean area to sleep during work, before we go home to watch Netflix until 3 am, so we can then go back to work and get another one of those great Nap Experiences!

I want a Nap Experience right now!

I once spent a $125 to jump off the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. It took 12 seconds to fall to the ground. For $125 I could have a 225 minute Nap Experience!!! Let me tell you, right now, I’m always choosing the 225 minute Nap Experience over jumping off a building!

You in 2018 we really haven’t had anything come out yet that has had real impact on increasing the Employee Experience. That was until this week!!! I’m going to go out a limb here and say that the “Nap Experience” might become the biggest thing to ever happen to sustain a positive workplace culture!

The other idea that hasn’t been tried yet, but would also totally work is “Rent-A-Puppy”. If you combine Nap Experience with Rent-A-Puppy experience you might be able to take over the entire world!

So, hit me in the comments below – are you Pro Nap Experience or Con Nap Experience?