3 Ways You Can Extend the Work Lifecycle of Older Employees

One of the biggest biases we have as leaders is ageism. If you’re 35 years old and running a department and you are looking to fill a position on your team that will be your righthand person, the last thing you’re looking for is a 55-year-old to fill that spot! That’s just me being real for a second.

You and I both know that 35-year-old hiring manager is looking for a 25 – 28 year old to fill that spot

That’s mainly because at 35 you’re still basically stupid. I was. You were. We think 35ish is the pinnacle of all knowledge, but it’s really when we just start learning for real.

So, we have this core issue to deal with in workplaces right now. Our leaders are mostly Millennial and GenX, and Millennials are increasing into these roles at a rapid rate. Because of the Boomers leaving in large amounts, there aren’t enough talented young workers to replace the knowledge gap that is being left. So, we are left grappling with what we think we want (youth) with what really needs (experience!).

A recent study at the University of Minnesota found that employers need to add programs to focus on older workers:

The study argued that programs aimed at training workers won’t be enough to satisfy the state’s need for workers between 2020 and 2030. New policy directives and incentives may be needed, including offering pathways for baby boomers to delay retirement, drawing in workers from other states and supporting immigration from other countries

“There’s all this focus on workforce development, but none of it is guided to older workers,” said Mary Jo Schifsky, whose business, GenSync, advocates for meaningful career pathways for older adults and who helped initiate the study for the Board on Aging with the U’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. “We need career pathways for older workers just as much as we do for younger workers.”
 
In the U survey, managers ranked baby boomers high on loyalty, professionalism, engagement, and their commitment to producing quality work.
Employers need to find ways to extend the Work-Life Cycle of the older employees that work for them until the workforce, technology, and retraining programs can catch up to fill the void. Most employers are only focused on programs that are looking at younger workers.
So, what can you do as an employer to extend the life cycle of your older employees?
1.  Have real conversations with older employees about what they want. Most employers shy away from having the ‘retirement’ conversation with older employees because they think it’s embarrassing or illegal. It’s not. It’s a major reality of workforce planning. “Hey, Mary, Happy 55th Birthday, let’s talk about your future!” Oh, you want to work 18 more years! Nice! Let’s talk about a career path!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard a hiring manager say, “I don’t want to hire him because he’s 59 and is going to hire soon.” Well, I spoke to him and he wants to work until he’s 70 (11 years) and our average employee tenure is 4.7 years. I think we’re good!
2. Stop, Stop, Stop, believing that all you can do is hire full and part-time FTEs into roles. If Mary, my 63-year-old financial analyst wants to give me five more years of work, but only wants to work three days per week, in role ‘traditionally’ we’ve only had a full-timer, I’m taking Mary for three days! HR owes it to our organizations and hiring manager to push them out of the box when it comes to schedules and how we have always filled positions. 3 days of Mary is probably worth 3 weeks of an entry-level analyst in the same role!
We do this to ourselves. I hear it constantly from hiring managers, “HR won’t allow me to do that.” Why? Have you asked? No, but HR doesn’t allow us to do anything. We need to come to our hiring managers with solutions and let them see we are open to doing whatever it takes to help the organization meet its people’s needs.
3. Develop programs and benefits specifically designed to retain older employees. I work with a plant manager who developed an entire engineering internship program around having his retired engineers come back and work three days a week with interns and paid them ‘on-call’ wages for the days they weren’t there, so interns could call them with questions at any time. These retired engineers loved it! They could come to do some real work, help out, and still have a great balance.
It went so well, he kept some on all year, on-call, and partnered them with younger engineers who needed the same support and assistance from time to time. The on-call rate was pretty inexpensive, the support and knowledge they got in return, was invaluable.
It all comes down to flexibility on our part as employers to extend the life cycle of our older employees. We no longer have this choice where we can just throw our older employees away and think we can easily replace them. We can’t! There physically isn’t anyone there!
This is about using each other’s strengths. Younger leaders will be stretched and we need to help them stretch. We need to help older employees understand their roles. In the end, we need to find a way where we can all see each other for the strengths we bring to the table, not the opportunities.
It’s our job as HR professionals to work on how we can extend the life cycle of each of our employees.

The Worst Hire You’ll Ever Make!

A crazy thing happens almost every day in professional sports, and it’s the one thing that separates great teams from the pack. Talent selection will make or break a team’s success and in professional sports, it’s about getting the right talent for the right price.

The problem with most professional sports teams, regardless of the sport, is they continually try to improve their roster incrementally. “Oh, let’s pick up Pitcher A because he’s a little better than Pitcher B”.

Great Pitcher A is better than Pitcher B, but did Pitcher A truly solve the issue you have?

That’s the real issue!

The worst hire you can ever make is one that doesn’t solve your problem but just make it a little better. “We suck at sales, let’s hire Tim, he’s not great, but he’s better than Bob.” Wonderful, now you only slightly suck less at sales!

Never make a hire that doesn’t solve your problem completely that you are having in that specific position. Upgrading doesn’t always fix problems, and many times it actually continues your main problem longer instead of fixing it completely.

We have this belief that all we need to do is continue to get a little better each day, each week, each month until we eventually have fixed it. The problem is that this isn’t how most problems are actually solved, by getting a little bit better over time. Most problems are fixed by implementing one solution that solves the problem.

It’s basically this crappy failure paradox we continue to get sold by seemingly everyone with a platform. “Just keep failing and eventually you’ll find success!” Which is complete and utter bullshit, but we LOVE hearing this!

In hiring, you can’t keep failing and find success. You will actually find failure even faster and be out of business. In hiring, it’s critical you find success and hire the right people who will solve your problem the first time, not just make you a little better.

Another great example of this is in the NFL. It’s critical in the NFL that you have a great quarterback, but they’re extremely hard to find. So, if you don’t have an elite quarterback, most teams will continue to try and upgrade with average quarterbacks.

The better advice is to work with what you have and make it the best you can until you get the opportunity to hire, or draft, that one great quarterback that can truly change your franchise. Constant change and churn, just to get a little better, is slowly killing your organization.

Make great hires. Organizational change hires. Individuals who have the ability to make things right. Too often, and we’ve all been there, we make hires that feel safe, knowing they won’t hurt us, but they probably won’t help us much either. Those are the worst hires you can make.

The Weekly Dose: @VaultPlatform – Workplace Misconduct Reporting Tech

Today on the Weekly Dose I take a look at a timely technology in a world of #MeToo #BLM #Covid-19! Vault Platform helps organizations resolve workplace misconduct including that related to Me Too, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and all other workplace issues with a safe speak-up app for reporting incidents.

Let’s be clear to start, this isn’t your parent’s workplace 1-800 hotline, where you called some third-party company that would listen to your story, filter it, and then pass it along to HR, who then call you in. Vault is a technology, mobile-first, platform that allows employees to report any type of workplace harassment, fraud, corruption, racism, etc., and document their experience. Then, when they feel the time is right, they can actually send this forward to be responded to.

Each time an employee reports it is dated and time-stamped and the employee has access to their actual record the entire time. Once an employee decides to move forward it gets sent to the appropriate parties within the organization to resolve the issue.

What I like about Vault:

– “Go Together” – when talking about things like sexual harassment and racism, many times an employee does not feel comfortable reporting on their own, but they also don’t trust others when they say they’ll also report. Vault’s “Go Together” allows an employee to report, but only move it forward once another employee reports the same or similar behavior, so they are not making these accusations on their own. It’s really a brilliant idea!

– Vault dashboard works as a case management dashboard so HR, legal, D&I, etc. can check and track that reports are being resolved and how they are being resolved. It allows executives to instant insight access to the real problems that are going on in their organization, unfiltered, right from their employees.

– It allows employees to communicate in a way that is most comfortable to them, mobile messaging, not a phone call talking to a stranger.

– Employees can record for as long as they want without reporting and always have access to their own words, an organization can not delete or edit the employee’s own records. Many times something happens to an employee but they aren’t sure if it’s actually harassment, but as they see a pattern of behavior begin to happen, it becomes clear. Keeping these records makes it easy for the employee to give proof of how long and how much this is happening.

Right now every single organization on the planet is concerned with the experiences their employees are having. Me Too, BLM, COVID, etc. have shown us that our employees are having very drastic differences in their experiences, and we need to give our employees access and the ability to share these with us quickly and easily if we want to truly make changes and improve their experiences.

I first saw Vault at the HR Technology Conference right after Me Too and I liked it. With the additional social and health issues today, it’s even a more relevant technology. Vault Platform happens to be the perfect workplace technology at the perfect time. I highly recommend you take a look and a demo.

Are You Struggling to Find Happiness at Work?

In 1942 Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist, was taken to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents.  Three years later, when his camp was liberated, his pregnant wife and parents had already been killed by the Nazis. He survived and in 1946 went on to write the book, “Man’s Search For Meaning“.  In this great book, Frankl writes:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

What Frankl knew was that you can’t make happiness out of something outside yourself.  Riding the Waverunner doesn’t make you happy. You decide to be happy while doing that activity, but you could as easily decide to be angry or sad while doing this activity (although Daniel Tosh would disagree!).  Frankl also wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

I get asked frequently by HR Pros about how they can make their employees or workplace happier.  I want to tell them about Frankl’s research and what he learned in the concentration camps.  I want to tell them that you can’t make your employees happy.  They have to decide they want to be happy, first. But, I don’t, people don’t want to hear the truth.

Coming up with ‘things’ isn’t going to make your employees happy. You might provide free lunch, which some will really like, but it also might make someone struggling with their weight, very depressed.  You might give extra time off and most of your employees will love it, but those who define themselves by their work will find this a burden.

Ultimately, I think people tend to swing a certain way on the emotional scale.  Some are usually happier than others.  Some relish in being angry or depressed, it’s their comfort zone.  They don’t know how to be any other way.  Instead of working to ‘make’ people happy, spend your time selecting happy people to come work for you.

In the middle of a concentration camp, the most horrific experiences imaginable, Frankl witnessed people who made the decision to be happy. Maybe they were happy to have one more day on earth. Maybe they were happy because, like Frankl, they discovered that the Nazis could take everything from them except their mind.

Provide the best work environment that you can.  Continue to try and make it better with the resources you have.  Give meaning to the work and the things you do.  Every organization has this, no matter what you do at your company.  Don’t pursue happiness, it’s a fleeting emotion that is impossible to maintain.  Pursue being the best organization you can be.  It doesn’t mean you have to be someone you’re not.  Just be ‘you’, and find others that like ‘you.’

You’re not fired, you’re uninvited!

I’m not terminating anyone ever again.

I can’t terminate anyone, because I don’t hire anyone.  I do invite people to join me.  Join me on this journey, on this path. It’s going to be a great trip.  I invite them to be a part of my family.  Not my ‘work’ family, but my actual family.  I spend more time with my co-workers than I do with my wife and children (in terms of waking hours).  So, when I invite someone to join us, it is not something I take lightly.

That’s why, from now on, I’m not terminating anyone.  From now on, I’m just uninviting them to continue being a part of what we have going on.  Just like a party.  You were invited to attend, but you end up drinking too much and making a fool out of yourself, so now you’re uninvited. You can’t attend the next party.  I don’t know about you, but when I throw a party, I never (and I mean never) invite someone I can’t stand.  Sometimes a couple has issues with this, where one spouse wants to invite his or her friend, but their spouse is a complete tool and it causes issues.

Not in my family, we only invite those people we want to be around, life is too short.

Here’s the deal.  When you invited someone into your family, you usually end up falling in love with them.  It’s that way in business. It’s the main reason we have such a hard time firing on bad performers.  We fall in love with those people we hire.  “Oh, Mary, she’s such a nice person!”  But, Mary, can’t tie her shoes and chew gum at the same time.  So, we give Mary chances, too many chances, and pretty soon Mary is part of the family.  It’s really hard terminating part of the family.

I would rather just not invite Mary to attend work any longer.  “Hey, Mary, we love you, but look, we aren’t going to invite you to work.  We’ll still see you at 5 pm over at the bar for drinks.”  Sounds so much easier, right!?  It happens all the time.  I use to get invited to stuff, but somewhere down the road, the group stopped inviting me.  I might have been a little upset over it, but it didn’t last and I’m still friends with everyone.  Termination is so permanent, it’s like death.

Being uninvited sends the same message, but there’s a part of being uninvited that says “you know what, maybe it was you, maybe it was us, but let’s just face it, together it doesn’t work.”

You’re Uninvited.

5 Traits That Make Your HR Business Partner Great!

I use to think the title ‘HR Partner’ was played out and it probably was for a time.  There was a point a few years ago when every HR Pro had to change their title from HR Manager, HR Director, etc., to HR Partner.  It always made me feel like we were all apart of a bad cowboy movie, ‘Giddy up, Partner!’

I’ve actually grown to really like the “Partner” in the title of an HR Professional.  While many HR Pros just changed their title, I’ve met some great ‘Partners’ in HR who have changed their game, to match their title change.

What makes a Great HR Partner Great?  Here are 5 things I think makes them game-changers:

1. Great HR Partners know your business.  Now, wait.  I didn’t say they ‘knew their own business’, they know the business of who they support. But wait, there’s more!  They know the business of who they support, the way the person or team they support knows it. Say what?!  It’s not good enough to know the business of your organization.  You have to know how those you support know and support the business.

That could be different, based on the leader.  One leader might be ultra-conservative in their business practices, another risky. A great HR Partner knows how to support them in the way those they support, want to be supported – while still being able to do the HR part of their job.

2.  Great HR Partners have a short-term memory. Great baseball pitchers don’t remember one pitch to the next.  Each pitch is new. Each pitch has the potential for success.  If they remembered each pitch, the last one, that was hit for a home run, would cloud their judgment about the next pitch.

Great HR Partners are willing to change their mind and try new things.  They don’t carry around their experiences like a suitcase, pulling them out and throwing them on the table each time those they support want to try something new.  Don’t forget about your failures, but also don’t let your failures stop you from trying again.

3. Great HR Partners allow risk.  A great HR Partner is able and willing to accept that organizations have risk.  It is not the job of HR to eliminate risk, it is the job of HR to advise of risk, then find ways to help those they support, their partners, to achieve the optimal results in spite of those risks.  Far too many HR Partners attempt to eliminate risk and become the ‘No’ police.  Great HR Partners know when to say “No” and when to say “Yes”.

4. Great HR Partners don’t pass blame.  If you are a great HR partner and you work with great partners, you will all support each other in the decision making process.  A great HR Partner will never pass blame but will accept their share as being one of those who supported the decision to move forward.

This doesn’t mean you become a doormat.  Behind closed doors, with your partners, you hash out what there is to hash out.  When the doors open – all partners support the final decision that is made.  A Great HR Partner will have the influence to ensure they can, and will, support that decision when those doors open up.

5. Great HR Partners don’t wait to be asked.  A great partner in any capacity is going to support those they support with every skill they have available to them.  In HR we have people skills – so when those who we support have issues, we offer up our ideas on what we can do to help the team.  Great HR Partners don’t stop at HR advice!  In a time of brainstorming and problem solving the idea that goes unshared, is the worst kind of idea.

I might not know operations, and I will say that up front, but I’m going to put myself out there and tell my partners that eliminating the rubber grommets on the bottom of the widget is a bad idea because while it saves us $.13 per unit, it also makes our product slide around and that ultimately will piss off the customer.

Being an ‘HR Partner’ has very little to do with HR.  Those you support expect you have the HR expertise. What they don’t expect is how great of a ‘partner’ you can be.  Great HR Partners focus on the partnership, not on the HR.

Ugh! Being an Inclusive Employer is a Lot of Work!

It seems like being an ‘inclusive’ employer would be super easy! You just accept everyone! Can’t we all just get along!?

The reality is, being an inclusive employer is hard, because being inclusive isn’t about accepting everyone. What!? Oh, great, Tim has finally lost his mind, buckle-up!

I wrote a post about Jeff Bezos’s annual letter and how he lays out a great framework for how organizations and leaders should management performance. Many people liked the post, but there was also a strong reaction from a lot of people who hate Amazon’s culture.

They hear and read media accounts of Amazon being a bad place to work. About Amazon’s hard-charging, work a ton of hours, you don’t have a great work-life balance, etc. Some people go to work for Amazon and tell themselves during the interview process that “yeah, I’ve heard the stories, but I’m different, I want this, I want to be a part of a giant brand like Amazon, I can handle it because it’s a great step in my career.”

That’s when they find out they actually lack self-insight and they should never listen to their inner voice because it lies to them!

So, what does this have to do with ‘inclusion’?

If you truly believe in inclusion, you then believe that Amazon is a great place to work, for those who desire that type of culture. It might not be a culture you would ever choose to work. Amazon actually likes the people that self-select out! It makes their job easier because they don’t want you anyway!

If you stand up and shout Amazon is an awful employer, you don’t understand inclusion. No one forces you to got to work at Amazon, and Amazon does not hide who they are. In fact, Amazon might actually be the best company on the planet to show exactly who they are as an employer and what you’re signing up for if you decide to go to work there.

Amazon is giant and the vast majority of its employees love working for them. Those employees thrive in that environment. It’s what they were looking for. It’s how they are wired. If you put them into another what you might consider, ’employee-friendly’ environment, they would hate it and fail.

Inclusion is hard because it forces you to think in a way that theoretically every environment is potentially a good fit for the right person. We struggle because in our minds something that is opposite of what we want must be bad. Because it’s so hard for us to even consider someone else might actually love an environment we hate.

Being an ‘inclusive’ employer is about accepting all types of people (race, gender, religion, etc.), but it’s also about only accepting all of those people who actually fit the culture you have established. That’s the hard part! Amazon accepts everyone, but you better be ready to go a thousand miles an hour and never stop.

Being an inclusive employer is hard because if it’s done right, it’s not just about being an accepting employer of all, it’s about being accepting and then only picking those candidates who actually fit your culture. The outcome can be awesome. The work to get there can be overwhelming. And if done incorrectly you go from being inclusive to exclusive.

Working Outside of Your Time Zone Sucks!

For most of my adult life, I’ve worked mostly in the timezone I lived in. So, when I worked in the mountain or central time zones I lived in those time zones. For the vast majority of my career, I’ve worked in the Eastern time zone. I’m not trying to be time zone conceded, but I think most business people live on EST.

If you ranked the top five most workable time zones, globally, I think most people would have it something like:

  1. EST or GMT-4 (New York, D.C., Boston)
  2. GMT+1 (the UK)
  3. WST or GMT-7 (LA, Seattle, San Fran)
  4. GMT+8 (Singapore)
  5. CST or GMT-5 (Chicago/Houston/DFW)

What do you think? Agree, disagree, don’t care.

For a couple of weeks, I decided to work from home from St. George, UT (GMT-6). My team is all EST, so I was two hours “behind” them. I usually get to work around 7:30 am, which meant text messages, Teams notifications, emails, etc. started around 5:30 am.

I had a choice to make. Sleep and work like a normal person and get going around 8 am “my time” at where I was at, or totally just keep my companies EST working time. I decided to try and live normally in Utah, but it was strange. Being two hours off most of your team means you feel like you’re playing catch up all day, and then they get done around 5 pm and you have two hours with almost no interaction at the end of your day.

With more and more organizations going to work at home “forever” and allowing people to work remotely wherever they want, I see this issue increasing. I know global organizations have been doing this for a long time and for many this is a new concept. You’re right, it’s not new.

It just sucks!

I’m sure you get used to scheduling meetings in the middle of the day so it works for everyone or working late into the evening or early morning for those leaders with teams on the opposite side of the world, but when the majority of your team is in one timezone and you are in another, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing out.

It’s probably more difficult for those who have worked in one timezone and then move to another, versus all of those people that worked in a different timezone since the beginning. If it’s all you know, it’s all you know.

So, I’m wondering. How do you cope with living and working in a different timezone than the majority of your team? How do you stay connected and not feel like you’ve missed out? Hit me in the comments with your strategies.

#CoronaDiaries – The Travesty of Hero Pay!

I’m back in the office and I’m feisty as ever about all this “Hero” pay going on across the world! I love Heros, I mean who doesn’t love Heros, but…

Can I be real a second?
For just a millisecond?
Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?

Also, beyond excited that Disney+ is releasing the Original cast of Hamilton on July 3rd! In the comments give me your over/under number of the amount of times I’ll watch Hamilton on Disney+? (I’ll tell you what my wife’s number on me was after a bit!)

Do you root for American Companies to Succeed?

(I wrote this original post in 2010-ish – but I could have written it today! Updated for today’s COVID crisis.)

As HR Pros I think we have the slight ability to come off as anti-union and pro-management, emphasis on “slight”! It probably comes from too many interactions where we feel our hands get tied with contract language that either negatively impacts our ability to do our jobs effectively, or language that just lacks plain common sense.

The one thing I always hope for though is, in the end, the union and management still have the same goal (I said I hope!) to make the company successful. Having a successful company usually ends up working out well for both parties. A successful company has more profits, more profits allow for larger pools of dollars to negotiate over, and while both parties never get everything they want, both get more for sure. If the company isn’t successful both don’t get more. Pretty easy to figure that out.

Years ago, 60 Minutes interviewed then General Electric CEO, Jeff Immelt, and he made a very interesting comment at the end of the interview when talking about his own employees at GE, that got quite a bit of media play –

They root for us. They want us to win. I don’t know why you don’t.”

The “you” at the end of his statement, was America!

His point is that people around the world “root” for their local companies to succeed. In Germany the German citizens root for Siemens to be the best in the world, the Japanese want Toshiba, Honda, Toyota, etc. to be wildly successful.

In America, we have too many citizens who think our big companies are “evil” if they are succeeding. Isn’t that strange?

I get why this tide has turned too many big companies have done bad things so we think it’s alright to put them all into the same bucket. But that goes against all common sense. If we want a strong economy and more jobs, we need our companies to kick butt!

I hear people, in the media, on blogs, in person, etc. rail against American corporations for being profitable, for hoarding cash, for basically being a successfully run company. My company works with General Motors. During the Great Recession when GM declared bankruptcy and the government bailed them out, as a supplier, we had to make some concessions if we wanted to continue that relationship (I think anyone of us running the company would have asked for the same thing). GM has once again become profitable, they renegotiated our contract and increased our contract.

Now, GM doesn’t determine if my company stays in business or not they are a small part of our overall business but I root for them to succeed. I hope they make a Billion dollars a day! I hope Marriott and Amazon and Apple do the same. I hope all the Banks succeed. We need all of our American companies to be successful, globally.

Here’s what I know. I have friends and neighbors who work for GM some in management, some on the line. When they go out and buy a car/truck/SUV they buy GM.  They want their company to succeed. They want their company to make money. It’s good for their family, it’s good for their cities and it’s good for America.

I root for American companies to succeed (quite frankly I root for all companies to succeed!).  Do you?