Research Careers Blog

Strategies for engaging Millennials in the workplace

Editor’s note: Aimee Lucas is a vice president and customer experience transformist at Temkin Group, a Boston-area customer experience research and advisory firm.

Millennials in the workplaceEngaged employees are valuable assets, yet organizations are having difficulty engaging the fastest growing portion of the workforce, Millennials – employees born between 1980 and 2000. Temkin Group’s 2014 survey of over 5,600 U.S. full-time employees – 33 percent of which were Millennials – found that just over half of this generation were moderately or highly engaged, putting them behind both Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Further research into this generation revealed the differences between Millennials and their older colleagues is not as distinct when it comes to what they look for in a workplace or in their bosses. While the following characteristics are not exclusive to this generation, our research found Millennials are:

  • Group-oriented. Millennials prefer team-based, collaborative work. Relationships are important to them and they interact with an extensive network of personal and professional connections. Our research found that compared to other employees, Millennials put greater importance on working with people they can learn from.
  • Progress-driven. This generation wants to make a difference at work right away. Our research shows that compared to employees from other generations, Millennials favor jobs with a boss who teaches them and helps them progress in their careers.
  • Socially conscious. Millennials seek meaningful work and will look to work for employers whose principles align with their personal values. Despite the desire for meaningful work, the study found that nearly 40 percent of Millennials do not understand the overall mission of their company, making them the least mission-connected of the three generations primarily represented in today’s workforce.
  • Autonomous. Millennials prefer choices over mandates. Compared to respondents from other generations, Millennials seek jobs that have flexible work hours and that encourage creativity, rather than bosses who provide specific directions for getting work done.

 

Companies are recognizing both the challenges and the opportunities associated with Millennials and are using a variety of approaches to engage this generation with their work and employer. We expect this focus to continue through 2015 and beyond as this generation continues to grow in number and begin to become leaders themselves. To understand how to best capitalize on this generation we interviewed a number of companies and identified five specific strategies that can be integrated into a company’s existing employee engagement efforts:

Expand job descriptions. Millennials want opportunities to grow and showcase their skills in meaningful ways, and they desire feedback confirming they are making valued contributions on the job. Companies should clearly define performance expectations and what success looks like and create a variety of opportunities for this generation to expand their knowledge and skills.

Create connections. This generation is used to working on teams and collaborating with others. They actively seek opportunities to form relationships both inside and outside of their organization. To fulfill Millennials’ need to build relationships, companies should foster network building within and across generational lines, organizational levels and functional roles.

Make work matter. Meaningfulness is a powerful intrinsic motivator, especially for Millennials who want to make a difference in their company and in the world at large. It’s important that organizations help this generation connect to the company’s values, culture and causes employees care about.

Make work more flexible. Millennials have grown up in a world that affords them many opportunities to choose where, when and how they communicate, learn and complete their assignments. To keep pace, organizations need to demonstrate adaptability in how they communicate, train and expect work to be done.

Develop Millennial leaders. Savvy companies need to help managers and leaders across the organization understand generational differences so that each group evolves its approaches and processes that touch employees.

HR must step up

If organizations want to actively engage Millennials, then their primary employee-focused programs need to adapt. Here’s a primer for HR groups that want to make an impact on the Millennial generation:

Hiring and onboarding. Millennials evaluate potential employers across many dimensions, including brand reputation and alignment of values. Thus, HR organizations should have a well-defined company brand and communicate that brand through the channels that Millennials naturally gravitate toward, particularly in the digital/social realm. Branding stories should center on “employees like me” and highlight how Millennials are making an impact at the organization. During the onboarding process, HR should reinforce the brand and company values and help new Millennial hires form meaningful internal relationships quickly.

Training and development. Most Millennials are used to more interactive forms of learning. So while traditional classroom-based programs might be the norm today, HR organizations need to incorporate technology-based training and collaboration tools into their Millennial learning plans. HR must facilitate growth and development outside of the classroom through stretch assignments, special projects and formalized coaching or mentoring programs. HR organizations should encourage managers to provide more frequent feedback, and train them on how to offer clear and specific coaching that recognizes both the good and the bad.

Performance management. Millennials are ambitious and have high expectations about how they will progress within their organizations. They look for very clear success criteria and want to see the path ahead of them. To appease their need for advancement, HR organizations should develop clear career paths that include more frequent milestones that emphasize individual skill development and that recognize growth even without formal promotions. This also means that HR must help managers let go and allow Millennials to take new jobs inside the company, otherwise these young employees may leave the organization to find opportunities elsewhere.

Recognition and incentives. Millennials, like generations before them, want to hear that they are doing a good job – they just want to hear it more frequently. Millennials are accustomed to structure and regular praise, and in the workplace this translates into a desire to know how they are measured and a need to receive recurring validation and approval that they are on track. HR organizations should establish non-monetary recognition programs that encourage managers and peers to find Millennials who are demonstrating the behaviors required for success. HR should also examine its formal incentive programs and incorporate rewards for demonstrating the company’s values and for exceptional team performance – both workplace elements that are important to Millennials.

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The secrets of employee motivation

Editor’s note: Beth Pearson is co-founder and HR lead at B2B research company Circle Research, London.

employee motivationResearch is a people business. Our raw materials are the opinions of respondents. Our product is the insight extracted from these raw materials by clever folk. An agency or client-side researcher can only make a difference if they’re skilled at building relationships with key stakeholders. This all means that attracting, developing and motivating top talent is critical to our industry’s future. What’s the secret?

We recently conducted a survey of more than 800 white collar employees from a variety of industries to find out.

At face value the answer was obvious. One fifth named remuneration (18 percent) or their work/life balance (17 percent) as the single most important sources of happiness at work. But as researchers we all know that the obvious answer isn’t always the true answer. So to uncover the true drivers of happiness we ran a regression analysis between overall satisfaction at work and 23 workplace attributes. The results were revealing. Base salary and work/life balance actually have only a moderate correlation with job satisfaction. They matter along with a handful of other factors related to working conditions but are really just the basics. Outstanding employers seem to add three secret ingredients: They inspire through their leadership; invigorate by providing people with enjoyable, stimulating roles; and they make people feel valued individually while at the same time creating a sense that they’re part of something bigger – part of a tribe which shares a common identity and has bought employees into the same vision.

That rings true with my own experience.

I lead HR at Circle Research and when talking with peers in similar roles elsewhere over the years I’ve noticed a pattern. When agencies are good at retaining and motivating talent, there seem to share six common features:

  • They have a clear vision. Human beings have a need to belong and feel a purpose in their life. As most people spend the majority of their waking hours in the office, the workplace forms an important role in fulfilling these ambitions. So as an employer if you communicate a clear vision in an inspiring way, then you’ll tap into these powerful fundamental human needs.
  • They are inclusive. If you want people to buy into a vision and feel part of it, then you need to involve them. At the very least that means providing regular updates on company strategy, financial performance and progress toward key goals. But why not take it a step further and invite everyone to give their own input on the company strategy? Not only does this foster a sense of ownership, you might find that opening it up to a wider team brings a fresh perspective.
  • They are results-focused. If you’re serious about rallying people around a vision, then you need to make it clear that they’ll be judged on their contribution to reaching it – the results they actually achieve. This also means that you can be flexible in your working practices and let people work where they want, when they want (after all, as long as they achieve the results, does it matter how?). This freedom is a big motivator – it lets people better manage their life and shows you trust them.
  • They are meritocracies. Being results-focused goes hand-in-hand with being a meritocracy. If the result is what matters then reward shouldn’t come simply because of time served or skill in navigating internal politics. Rather, once someone has the skills needed for the next job role, promotion should come immediately and automatically.
  • They provide career direction. Most people are ambitious and if an employer is vague about how they can help fulfill this ambition, one of two things usually happens. Either they’ll give up and let their ambition fizzle out, or they’ll find another employer who nurtures their ambition. So clearly detail the career roadmap in your company, including the skills and behaviors needed to progress from one stage to the next, and use this as the basis for performance appraisals.
  • They engineer stimulating jobs. Let’s be frank. Doing the same thing day in, day out gets boring, especially for the intellectually curious types attracted to a career in research. So if you create boring jobs, expect your people to be demoralized. But if you build variety in their role and ensure that they’re constantly being pushed just outside of their comfort zone, you’ll engage and grow them.

 

So ask yourself this – truthfully, do people in your company have a reason to be excited about coming into work?

 

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7 women who are shaping the future of MR

Editor’s note: Sinead Hasson is managing director of market research and insight consultancy Hasson Associates, London.

Businesswoman Throughout Women’s History Month, I read many brilliant and passionate pieces about women who have had an amazingly positive impact on the lives and careers of both women and men. But then I realized I hadn’t read anything about the women who’ve shaped market research.

Now, if you were asked to name the women in history who made a significant contribution to market research, who would you name? When I asked colleagues and clients that very question, we were spoilt for choice. But after a lot of thought, I developed this list of women I believe are playing leading roles in making our industry successful:

Wendy Gordon – Gordon is a Fellow of the Market Research Society, author, conference speaker and media commentator. She was honored by The Women’s Advertising Club of London as one of its Women of Achievement, all while working with a variety of clients, spanning many business sectors and geographies.

Phyllis MacFarlane – MacFarlane has been chair of the Market Research Society and chair of GfK’s U.K. business GfK NOP. Most recently she has been promoting and developing MR across Africa in her role as global training director for consumer experiences.

Elizabeth Nelson – Nelson co-founded Taylor Nelson in 1965 and was awarded an OBE for services to eco-labelling in 1992. Since then she’s worked as chair of an NHS trust and been CEO of three charities. Throughout her career, Nelson has pioneered research innovation and industry governance and has continued this work as part of her role on the Market Research Society’s main board.

Rita Clifton – During her time as chair of Interbrand, Clifton recognized the importance of the digital age and set up new digital branding services. Clifton was also responsible for presiding over the annual league table of the 100 most valuable brands in the world. While president of the Market Research Society, she made many significant contributions to the industry and most recently was awarded a CBE in last year’s Honors List.

Jane Frost – Frost is currently the CEO of the Market Research Society and is championing its modernization and value for members. In addition, her work to introduce the Fair Data trust mark is seeking to safeguard the public. Beyond the private sector, Frost’s work in revolutionizing HMRC’s customer intelligence and corporate strategy earned her a CBE.

Betty Adamou– Adamou is renowned in the industry for Research Games – a term she coined herself. A frequent conference speaker and writer, she’s shared her work on games and research at countless market research events worldwide, inspiring the industry at large to appreciate the benefits of adopting this approach.

Kristen Luck – One of the original pioneers of the multimedia online research business during her time at ACNielsen, Luck is also a regular speaker at industry conferences and a columnist for Research Business Report. She’s also been the recipient of the American Marketing Association’s 4 Under 40 Award and a 2010 Stevie Awards finalist.

Shaping the future of market research

When young female candidates in our industry ask me for examples of mentors and ambassadors the women above are the first names I offer. In my opinion, they’ve never stopped striving to improve the industry as a whole, innovating and disrupting with equal measure.

That said, I am worried that we’re not doing enough to attract the next generation of female industry leaders to follow in their footsteps.

As you read this, there are thousands of female undergraduates across the country preparing for final exams and considering their career options. The competition for talent has never been as fierce.

For this reason, I’d ask the industry to create a hall of fame for people who’ve shaped our industry. Men and women. But we shouldn’t stop there. We need to shout our achievements from the rooftops to make sure we attract the best and brightest if we are to secure the rightful future for this amazing industry.

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10 tips to help you move beyond surface networking

Editor’s note: Nancy D. O’Reilly is a clinical psychologist, an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life and founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc.

women networkingIf you want to join the women-helping-women movement, you’re already looking for opportunities to make deeper, more meaningful connections, support each other and make the world a better place. But just going to the conference, fundraiser or team meeting isn’t enough. You have to know what comes next – what to say or do to connect with other women in ways that yield real relationships and change lives (including yours) for the better.

Here, excerpted from my book, Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life, I offer 10 tips to help you supercharge your new connections:

  • Make the mental shift from “What can I get from you?” to “What can we create together?” Simple as it sounds, this really is the first step and the key to successful connections. When we think of networking as a self-serving exercise, we really don’t want to do it. It feels bad. But when we infuse sharing and giving into the process, suddenly it feels good. And it works.
  • Go to functions alone. This will force you to meet people rather than spending the whole time chatting with friends and colleagues. At first, it’s really hard for some women to do this (probably most of us) but we are hardwired to connect. When you get over your initial anxiety, you will see how natural (and fun) it feels.
  • Sit beside a woman you don’t know. Like showing up alone (though perhaps a bit less scary), this will force you to get to know someone new. Be friendly: introduce yourself, introduce her to others and find something in common.
  • Have three or four good “go-to” questions in the bag. This will be a huge help in case a conversation grinds to a halt. (Awkward!) It doesn’t matter what the questions are but you might consider thought-provokers like, “If time and money were no object, what would you be doing right now?” or “What is one goal you’d like to accomplish before you die?” or “What have you done lately that was fun?”
  • Practice being interested rather than interesting. The old style of networking involved a lot of selling your skills and showcasing your knowledge. Resist the urge. Instead, when you’re talking to someone new, ask her about herself and really listen to her answers.
  • Probe for people’s passions. Then stick to that topic for a while. You can tell when someone is excited about a subject. Her eyes light up. Her voice gets animated. When this happens – whether it happens when she mentions snow skiing, Civil War history or helping African women support their villages – keep the conversation going along these lines. Passion is a powerful energy source for making connections.
  • Read three relevant articles before the event. If you are at a business convention, you might want to scour the trades for new trends, products and processes. This gives you fodder for discussion. The idea isn’t to use it to show off or impress the other person but to bolster your own confidence, which makes you comfortable enough to connect.
  • Gravitate toward women who are smarter than you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to be the smartest, most interesting, most successful person in the group. Try not to feel threatened by other amazing women – instead, ask yourself what you can learn from them.
  • Ask, “What can I do to help you?” (Then follow through.) This may catch people off guard. They probably expect you to ask for an interview or a chance to pitch your product. When you ask a woman if you can, say, introduce her to an influential colleague or bring your therapy dog to the children’s hospital she runs, she will be delighted.
  • Avoid phoniness at all costs. Be real. Don’t hide or downplay your true nature or your beliefs to fit in or to make sure the person you’re connecting with likes you. Healthy relationships are built on transparency, and people respect this … even if you don’t agree on everything.

 

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The 12 types of bosses

Editor’s note: Geoffrey James is a business journalist writing for Inc.com, Boston.

There are 12 types of bosses, each with a different management style.

Business and authorityEveryone needs a field guide to identify which type of boss they’ve got and how to get the most out of the experience.

1. The visionary

Visionaries are more concerned with the future than with what’s going on here and now. They manage by creating (or trying to create) a reality-distortion field that makes a team believe they can accomplish the impossible.

While visionaries can be fun to work for, they can also be intolerant, overly critical and sometimes throw tantrums when they don’t get their way.

If you’re working for a visionary, drink the Kool-Aid, work the long hours and learn to repeat this mantra: “This product will change the world.”

2. The climber

Climbers are interested in you only insofar as you can help or hinder their ascent to the corner office. They spend most of their time and effort figuring out how to win status, claim credit and build alliances.

Because they’re obsessed with their own career, they see you (and everyone else) only as either a help or a hindrance to achieving their personal goals.

If you’re working for a climber, become the person who has his back when his fellow climbers try to stab it.

3. The bureaucrat

Bureaucrats want everything run by the book. They are resistant to change because they see their current situation as the best of all possible worlds.

Bureaucrats thrive inside large enterprises but falter in smaller firms because the lack of a crowd makes it too obvious that they really aren’t doing all that much.

If you’re working for a bureaucrat, document everything you do and limit your activities to what’s been done in the past. Warning: Bureaucrats can grind your creativity into dust.

4. The propellerhead

When engineers get into the management chain, they bring a technology-oriented worldview with them. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does mean you’ll be judged almost entirely on your technical competence.

The propellerhead boss prefers employees who are experts in some technical field – the more obscure the better. They consider all nontechnical types (like MBA holders) equally stupid and useless.

If you’re working for a propellerhead, become fluent in nerdy pop culture references. If possible, illustrate business points by quoting lines from specific Star Trek episodes.

5. The fogey

Fogeys have been around since the days when “secretaries” (whoever they were) used “typewriters” (whatever they were). They’re wise in the ways of the world but clueless about what’s actually going on.

Fogeys who are close to retirement are often quite jovial and easy-going; those who must continue to work because they can’t afford to retire can be meaner than dyspeptic weasels.

If you’re working for a fogey, don’t assume that every duffer is a doofus. Reassure your boss that he’s still relevant and then recruit him as a mentor.

6. The whippersnapper

The flip side of the fogey is the barely-out-of-college go-getter who’s assigned to manage a group of seasoned employees.

Whippersnappers are energetic, enthusiastic but secretly afraid that nobody is taking them seriously.

If you’re working for a whippersnapper, respond enthusiastically to the energy they bring to their job and never, ever remind them of their relative inexperience.

7. The social director

Social directors consider the personal interactions that happen in the workplace as important as (and sometimes more important than) the work itself.

Social directors manage by consensus. They call a LOT of meetings and spend a LOT of time letting people air their opinions and ideas.

If you’re working for a social director, build alliances and garner supporters before trying to get any decision made. Also, be the one who brings the donuts to the meeting.

8. The dictator

While most people find the “my way or the highway” boss irritating, working for a dictator has some advantages. They make decisions quickly, without over-analyzing.

On the other hand, dictators are impervious to outside opinion and brittle when it comes to change. When they fail, it’s usually on an epic scale.

If you’re working for a dictator, simply follow orders and hope for the best. But be ready to job hunt before the dictator drives your organization over a cliff.

9. The sales star

Selling is part of every job, and every boss should be able to sell his or her ideas. The problem with sales stars is that’s the only thing they know how to do.

Sales star bosses are usually created when top sales professionals are promoted into management, which is stupid because managing people requires a different skill set from selling to customers.

If you’re working for a sales star, encourage them to sell for you! Bring them into situations where a deal must be closed or terms negotiated.

10. The hatchet man

Hatchet men (or women) are brought into an organization to fire people as quickly as possible, usually to make the company more attractive to investors.

There are only two roles available for people who work for a hatchet man: henchman or victim. Ultimately the favored role, that of henchman, is temporary: They often get canned too.

The best way to deal with a hatchet man is to be long gone by the time he or she arrives.

11. The lost lamb

Sometimes people who have no management talent end up in a position of authority, usually because a manager left and the organization needs somebody to “hold the fort.”

Lost lambs continue whatever policies were previously in place and dread doing anything that will be held against them once they’re pushed back into the ranks.

If you’re working for a lost lamb, move your projects forward without forcing your manager to make any difficult decisions.

12. The hero

Heroes prefer to coach others than to do things themselves. They have a knack for figuring out exactly what their employees need in order to do a superlative job and then how to get that for them.

Heroes always give their teams credit for the wins but take personal responsibility for the losses. They believe that “the buck stops here” not that “shit rolls downhill.”

If you’re working for a hero, enjoy it while it lasts, because chances are the hero will get promoted upward or be recruited to work elsewhere.

Adapted from Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know by Geoffrey James.

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Why Six Sigma may stifle innovation

Editor’s note: Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration, author of Lear or Die: Using science to build a leading-edge learning organization and Batten executive-in-residence at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.  

Dell. 3M. Motorola. General Electric. They are just a few of the organizations that have embraced Lean and Six Sigma over the past couple of decades. And no wonder. There’s something so appealing, so elegant, about the concept that drives these systems: Take what we already know, replicate it, improve it and repeat. It’s so easy a robot could do it – and that’s precisely the problem.

Perpetual motion with broken light bulbs and glowing bulbVery soon the tasks that Lean and Six Sigma have helped operationalize will be handled primarily by robots and smart machines.

That’s a good thing. Nothing beats a robot in terms of efficiency and perfection. But here’s the real question: How good is your company at doing all the things robots can’t do well – such as innovate?

As you’ve no doubt heard, the only real competitive advantage these days is the ability to learn and innovate. That means your organization must be okay with risk – and the screw-ups, missteps and waste that inevitably accompany it. The problem, of course, is that an organization steeped in the lore of Lean and Six Sigma naturally views them as sins to stamp out.

So am I suggesting we abandon the quest for operational excellence? Well, no. We must allow Lean or Six Sigma or whatever operational excellence system we follow to coexist peacefully with a deep desire to learn and try new things, even when the outcome is unknown.

Yes, it’s a paradox. But it’s one that must be hardwired into the fabric of an organization through a learning culture, because learning is the fundamental process that underlies both operational excellence and innovation.

Lean and Six Sigma just need to happen in the context of a hybrid business model, one that also prioritizes the need for innovation while keeping in play the best aspects of operational excellence – for example, its focus on relentless, constant improvement.

If you want to survive the coming Digital Age of Machines (a.k.a. the 21st century), you MUST create a learning environment with these five key elements:

Give employees permission to try and fail. Perhaps the most popular reasons Lean and Six Sigma are used by companies are to increase efficiency and reduce costs. However, when you worship efficiency, you also can handcuff learning and innovation. Employees must be given conditional permission to fail within proscribed financial tolerances, with the knowledge that they won’t be punished for their mistakes so long as they learn.

Bridgewater Associates, the biggest and one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, is passionate about the power of mistakes. Bridgewater actually encourages employees to get excited about their mistakes because each error that employees learn from will make them better faster. Employees are instructed not to feel bad about their mistakes or failed experiments, or those of others. Learning from mistakes, being honest about personal weaknesses and stress-testing one’s thinking, the company believes, is a reliable strategy for long-term success.

Shift leadership toward coaching-ship. The knowing and telling that can make up leadership under Six Sigma-style systems can stifle independent thinking. If you want an adaptable learning (thinking) organization, you need to humanize your management models, and that requires many leaders and companies to fundamentally change their attitudes and behaviors toward employees. This paradigm shift from command and control leaders to developmental coaching is pivotal to creating a culture where employees are not fearful of making mistakes and feel safe enough to try. Humility, empathy, emotional intelligence and self-management are required leadership capabilities for today’s companies. These qualities nurture the very human capabilities that are at the root of adaptation and innovation: the ability to ideate, create, emotionally engage and learn in conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity and rapid change.

Allow the best ideas to rise to the top. In an idea meritocracy, the best ideas win out regardless of the position held by the thinker-upper. Innovation and creativity are what matter, not hierarchy.

Google has successfully built an idea meritocracy to drive innovation and experimentation – in other words, trying new things. To support this culture, pay level is irrelevant in decision making, and so is experience or tenure – unless the experience provides data used to frame good arguments. In fact, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman, stated in the book How Google works that Google employees are told not to listen to HiPPOs, or the highest paid person’s opinion just because of their position.

Make candor with a duty to dissent the gold standard. Operational excellence can lead to command-and-control, hierarchy-based cultures. Unfortunately, these cultures have a tendency to stifle dissent and limit learning.

At Google, employees have a duty to dissent. This means that relative rookies can – and do – raise objections and present alternate ideas when they disagree with their bosses. A similar duty to dissent can be found at UPS, which has an employee-centric culture of constructive dissatisfaction, meaning that everyone has the duty to find ways to improve.

Candor and permission to speak freely without fear of punishment are critical to becoming an innovative organization. This is evidenced at Google, Bridgewater Associates, Pixar Animation and W.L. Gore and Associates.

Teach employees how to overcome their weaknesses. We cannot learn when we constantly seek to be right, actively avoid the risk of making mistakes or ignore those who disagree with us. Employees must work around these human tendencies in order to become better thinkers, learners, and in turn, innovators.

We are sub-optimal learners. In order to learn, we have to be open-minded and be willing to constantly stress-test our beliefs against data and we need to really listen to people who disagree with us. In other words, we have to be willing to be wrong! Overcoming the strength of our ego-defense system requires management of our emotions and quieting our egos. We need to decouple our beliefs (not values) from our egos. We are not our ideas. Yes, in order to optimize the good things our human brains can do, we must overcome the bad aspects of our humanness. That requires a learning culture and the rigorous daily use of best thinking, listening, and collaborating processes.

Ultimately, Lean and Six Sigma systems thrive on eradicating variance. Innovation, on the other hand, thrives on variance. Reconciling that difference along with the different tolerances for failure can be achieved under an umbrella learning culture.

I believe that technology advances will make operational excellence a commodity, making innovation the key organic growth strategic differentiator. That means the organization of the future has to be both operationally excellent and innovative. That is made easier with a learning culture.

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11 tips for connecting with other women in business

Editor’s note: Nancy D. O’Reilly is a clinical psychologist, an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life and founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc.

Competing with other women is out. Connecting with other women to share ideas, work together on projects and offer support is in. The changes brought about by the global economy have made collaboration and innovation must-have skills, and the great news is that women tend to be naturals at them. And that is why the women-helping-women movement is really picking up steam.

Two business womenWe’re making a shift to what I call connecting 2.0. It’s more meaningful than the “mile-wide and inch-deep” type of connecting we associate with social media. It’s based on sharing and co-creating, not self-interest. It’s authentic, it feels good and it works.

This deeper approach to connecting works so well, in fact, that we are creating an ever-expanding network of resources offering expertise and support to women in business, government, education, philanthropy and other fields. The idea is not just to advance our careers and make money but to make life itself richer, more exciting and more creative.

This is more than a trend; it’s a movement – and women love it. More and more smart, amazing women are connecting to help their “sisters” live their very best lives. These like-minded women are passionate about making the world a better place – so they are finding one another and building strong, supportive communities.

The women-helping-women movement is nothing like the phony, self-serving, let’s-exchange-cards-and-move-on networking that most of us hate. Sure, connecting with other women does pay off in amazing ways but the rewards flow organically from our feminine strengths and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

You may be wondering, where do I sign up? The answer is everywhere. This is not some exclusive club – it’s open to all women with passion, enthusiasm and a yearning to live a richer, more fulfilling life and maybe even change the world. But I know you may not be used to thinking in this way. That’s why I offer the following tips:

• First things first: aim for a good mix of online and face-to-face connecting. It’s easy to send an e-mail message, and it’s really easy to like, share and follow in the world of social media. That’s why so many women do it. (It’s easy to push a key or click a mouse after all.) And while there is nothing wrong with social media, it’s also no substitute for real-world human interaction. The women-helping-women movement depends on both types of connecting: virtual and face-to-face.

If you’re burning up social media, consider taking an online contact offline. Tell her you’d love to meet her for lunch the next time she’s in town. Conversely, if you’re proudly old school and are neglecting your social media presence, dive in. You really need a foot in both worlds.

• Join a new group that interests you and really attend the meetings. Make them a priority. It doesn’t matter what activity it’s based on. This may be a book circle or a kayaking club or a community cause. What’s important is that you’re getting together with other women who share a common interest – and that you go to meetings and events often enough to let these strong connections develop.

It’s the shared passion for the activity that generates the connections. And those connections take on a life of their own. You may end up forging alliances, finding jobs, winning clients – even though that’s not the purpose for the group.

Get on a different team at work. We tend to stick to our comfort zone. But shaking things up from time to time keeps you sharp and in the path of exciting new people. When you work with women you don’t know on projects you’re unfamiliar with, you will learn, grow and often discover vital new talents and interests.

• Get involved in a philanthropic cause that speaks to your heart. Women who care enough about others to volunteer their time, talents and treasure are the kinds of women you want to meet. They tend to be other-oriented and want to make new connections, too. So whether your cause is homeless animals, kids with cancer, adult literacy or clean oceans, get involved.

I actually met the 19 women who co-wrote my new book Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life, through my Women Connect4Good, Inc., foundation. In fact, the book is living proof of the kind of collaboration that happens when women make connections based on their desire to serve.

• Think about what you need to learn. Seek out mentors who can help you learn it. Let’s say you have a small catering company specializing in weddings, parties and family reunions. You’d like to expand into the health care conference arena but know nothing about the field. You might reach out to someone who plans such conferences and offer to trade services – perhaps cater an upcoming event for free or for a greatly reduced price – in exchange for the chance to learn and get a foot in the door.

• Likewise, give back to women who need your expertise. In other words, don’t just seek out mentors. Be a mentor to women who can benefit from your knowledge and experience. It’s good karma and it can pay off in unexpected ways.

• Take a class. (And don’t just sit there! Talk to your neighbor.) Whether it’s continuing education for your job, a creative writing class at the local community college or even a martial arts training session, actively pursue new knowledge and skills. This will bring new and interesting women into your life – women who, just by being there, show that they have a zest for life and learning.

• Volunteer your speaking services. Yes, yes, you hate public speaking. Many women do. But taking to the podium is a powerful way to get your voice heard, to build up your confidence and of course to make new connections with those who hear you speak. And there are many civic and service organizations – like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club – that need speakers.

• Handpick five to 10 powerful women in your community and ask them to participate in an event. This might be a roundtable discussion that takes place at an industry conference or a community fundraiser, for example. And don’t think that busy, important women won’t have time for you.

Remember, women love sharing stories, best practices and ideas. You might be surprised by how many will say yes.

• If you’re invited, go. When someone invites you to an event or gathering – whether it’s an industry trade show, a party or a hiking trip – go if you can. Yes, even if you’re tired, out-of-sorts and feeling blah.

Say yes if it’s remotely possible. There are always reasons to say no and some of them are good reasons. But overall, life rewards action. Life rewards yes. The more times you say yes, the more connections you will make. The more connections you make, the richer and more creative your life will be.

• Set a goal to meet x-number of new women per month. Insert your own number, depending on your circumstances and personality. Hold yourself to this number (it will help greatly to keep track in a journal or calendar). If you take this metric seriously, you’ll figure out how to make it happen. And while meeting isn’t the same as connecting, it’s the essential first step.

Let’s say your goal is to meet five new women this month, and it’s the last day of the month and you have two to go. You can always pop into the spin class at your gym, or maybe go to an open house or political rally. While you’re there, of course, strike up conversations with at least two women and introduce yourself. Voilà! You’ve met your goal!

Most of us are so busy and overwhelmed that we just don’t make it a priority to connect with other women. We really do have to be deliberately purposeful about it. The benefits of connecting with other women are incredible, so we owe it to ourselves – and each other – to make it happen.

 

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How to communicate employee survey results

Editor’s note: Hilary Write is marketing manager at Quantum Workplace. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Communicating employee survey results: 10 do’s and don’ts.”

Tcloseup of a blank employment survey with red penhe first step of following up after an employee survey is communicating the results to employees. An action-planning best practice is to communicate in phases about your employee survey results, starting with high-level results and then filtering results down to individual teams for a closer look. In each phase of employee survey follow-up, these communication dos and don’ts are applicable for both company-wide and manager-to-team survey communication.

 
Don’t:

1. Don’t guilt trip employees
Employees should never feel like they have to retract their survey responses. If you make them feel guilty about your organization’s survey results, they are less likely to trust the survey process and you.

2. Don’t debate who is right and who is wrong
Employee survey follow-up conversations aren’t about debating which opinions are right and which are wrong. Employee surveys reveal employee perceptions, and right or wrong, perception is reality. Debating right versus wrong sends the message that not all employees’ feelings and experiences are considered valid and that disengages teams.

3. Don’t try to change opinions
Communicating employee survey results isn’t a time to campaign and persuade employees to change their opinions. You need to open up communication about results to find out what changes need to take place in the organization first.

4. Don’t plead the organization’s case
Presenting employee survey results is a time for humility. Being defensive or trying to convince employees that their survey responses are wrong can ruin the employee survey process.

5. Don’t play who said what
Employee engagement survey responses should be confidential. When reviewing employee survey results, the conversation should never turn into speculations about who said what. This diminishes the credibility and integrity of a confidential survey process.

 
Do:

1. Be open
Being open and honest is critical to communicating employee survey results. Don’t try to position results to be better or worse than they are. Talk openly about the results. How you talk about survey results sets the tone for receiving continued honest employee feedback and their ideas for improvement. Being open builds trust.

2. Be objective
When communicating survey results, do your best to play the role of an impartial observer. Communicate the findings without interspersing personal opinions. If you are conducting an employee focus group, your personal opinions could sway employee opinion and steer the discussion off course. In addition, employees might be unlikely to share opinions if they’re dissenting from the perceived group leader.

3. Be clear
Employee survey results can be difficult to understand. Be as clear and concise as possible when you share the results with employees. Avoid jargon and commentary that will create confusion.

4. Be inviting
Invite employees to comment as you discuss survey results. Make employees feel as though you’re talking with them instead of at them. This will help foster an ongoing conversation.

5. Ask for questions
Always ask for questions. If you’re presenting the survey results during an employee focus group, ask for questions after each data slide. If employees seem quiet, let them know you’ll be asking direct questions during the discussion.

 

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Using surveys to attract and retain top employees

Editor’s note: David Miller is an educational researcher and contributing author with ProProfs, New York.

The employment landscape is changing. Millennials are different from previous generations in many ways, including not only their digital skills but also the expectations they have for their workplace. Also, employees’ needs are changing, especially as mobile technologies blur the boundaries between work and real life. Finally, companies’ needs are evolving with many organizations focusing more on workplace culture and putting emphasis on soft skills than on hard ones. In today’s ever-shifting environment, how can you keep up?

One effective and affordable way to stay current is to use online surveys to assess the attitudes and behaviors of these various groups. Creating surveys is easy with online survey software, which can not only deliver your surveys but also track the results. Here are a few ways you can use surveys to help you attract and retain top talent in your organization.

Recruiting better candidates

If you want to recruit better candidates, you need to know what your ideal employees want from their work experience. For example, according to SuccessFactors Recruiting’s 2012 HR Beat: A Survey on the Pulse of Today’s Global Workforce report, more than 40 percent of Millennials want mentors. If your organization doesn’t have a mentoring program, you may be missing out on the opportunity to attract a large portion of that generation. What else might you be missing out on? Create survey questions to assess the needs of your target employees – you might be surprised at what you learn. Recruitment surveys can also be used to measure employees’ goodness of fit with the organization and predict future performance.

Retaining great employeestime to feedback date

More than two million Americans quit their jobs every month. There are many reasons people quit but the vast majority of them can be classified under the general category of low job satisfaction. Unless they are asked, many people do not voice their dissatisfaction – they just look for a new job. Conducting regular (e.g., monthly, quarterly or yearly) employee satisfaction surveys is an excellent way to assess how your employees feel about everything from their salaries and benefits to their manager’s leadership style, the organizational culture and the opportunities for training and development. Giving your employees the opportunity to express their opinions will in itself contribute to increased job satisfaction. To get the most accurate picture possible, create survey environments that allow employees to submit their answers anonymously.

Increasing productivity

The productivity numbers from Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report are rather grim – only 30 percent of employees report being engaged and inspired at their jobs. The other 70 percent are either just putting in their time or are actively disengaged. Surveys can help you both measure productivity and identify potential obstacles to productivity. Create survey questions that assess management’s effectiveness, individual effectiveness and team dynamics. Ask employees when they are most productive individually and in a group and what factors contribute to or detract from their personal senses of productivity and engagement. The answers to these questions can help you advise managers on how to form more effective teams, use better leadership strategies and even schedule more productive meetings.

Learning why good employees leave

The exit interview is not generally considered a place for honesty and this perception deprives companies of the opportunity to learn anything when their good employees leave. Using an online survey, particularly if it is anonymous, is one way to elicit more candid responses, which can help your organization address problems and keep from losing more employees. Don’t miss out on this valuable information.

Surveys are powerful tools you can use to help your organization improve its recruitment, productivity and general employee relations. It is easy to develop, distribute and track the results of surveys using online survey software. Transform your HR practices by creating effective, informative and engaging surveys today.

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8 steps to surviving the tech tsunami

Editor’s note: Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration, author of Lear or Die: Using science to build a leading-edge learning organization and Batten executive-in-residence at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Tsunami wavesYou know technology is advancing by the day. You may know that over the next 10 to 20 years, according to two experts, 66 percent of U.S. employees have a medium-to-high risk of being displaced by smart robots and machines powered by artificial intelligence. (Just read the study by University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.) But here’s a twist you may not have considered: To hone the human strengths that will carry you through this tech tsunami, you first must conquer some very human failings.

Ironically, being human helps us and hurts us. We possess extraordinary abilities that machines can’t replicate, including the ability to ideate, create, emotionally engage and empathize. But (here’s the irony!) to tap into these abilities when the tech tsunami hits, we’ll have to overcome our human nature.

Research in neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics has offered up an unflattering picture of the way we think and learn. While humans have the capacity to be highly efficient, fast, reflexive thinkers, our autopilot thinking isn’t very critical or innovative. Instead, it’s rather lazy and is hobbled by our egos, biases and emotions. This is the humanness we must overcome to stay competitive.

Here, I spotlight eight things you (and, if you’re a leader, your employees) need to do to de-humanize yourselves so you can think better, learn better, collaborate better and emotionally engage better:

Put less stock in being right. When we’re right, our egos (in other words, the views we have of ourselves)are reinforced and validated – and that feels good. So we instinctively seek out situations that validate our views of the world and of ourselves – and we selectively filter out information that contradicts what we know to be right. The problem is that none of this supports the cultivation of better thinking and learning.

Effective learning requires us to uncouple our egos from our beliefs by admitting that as humans, we’re wired to be suboptimal learners. In order to learn, we have to be willing to look closely at our mistakes and failures and to really listen to people who disagree with us. In other words, we have to be willing to be wrong! Overcoming the strength of our ego-defense systems requires deliberateness, mindfulness, management of our emotions and quieting our ego – more on those things later!

Emotions at workOvercome lazy thinking. Believe it or not, it takes a disproportionate amount of energy to learn. Although the brain comprises only about 2.5 percent of our body weight, it generally uses 20 percent of the body’s energy. As a result, the human learning machine prefers to operate in a low gear – on autopilot – as much as possible to conserve energy. Nobel laureate and behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman puts it this way, “Laziness is built deep into our nature.”

What this means is that no matter how intelligent or experienced you are, you probably aren’t doing your best thinking. Especially in situations with important consequences, you need to deliberately think about how you, well, think. Are you proceeding based on impressions, feelings, impulses, or a desire to protect your ego? Or are you unpacking and questioning assumptions, weighing alternatives, and digging deeper?

To start “strengthening” your thinking, mentally rehearse each upcoming day by thinking about what instances, meetings, occurrences, decisions, and events may need higher-level thinking. Then in the evening, take 15 minutes and replay the day with an eye to identifying situations in which your lazy thinking may have gotten you in trouble. Over time you’ll be able to create a checklist of the types of issues, problems or situations that require deliberate thinking. And forewarned really is forearmed.

Stop being so judgmental. Our human drive to be right – combined with our predisposition toward lazy thinking – causes us to be judgmental of other people and situations. We do it in work and in life all the time: That’s a terrible idea. He’s an idiot. She didn’t try hard enough. I know better. And so on. The problem is that judgments like these set the stage for division, resentment, and roadblocks, not collaboration, dialogue and progress.

Suspending judgment has always been a particular challenge for me. My mind always wants to formulate a response or counterattack instead of really listening to what the other person is saying. (Maybe yours is the same way!) I have to remind myself that interactions with others are not guerilla warfare; nor are they tools to help me confirm what I already believe. They are stress tests to help me evaluate and – if necessary – change what I believe.

Get less rigid. Throughout history, rigid processes and procedures were (usually) a good thing for humanity. Do action X, action Y and get result Z, which provides comfort, shelter, sustenance, or some other desirable outcome. But in today’s rapidly changing world, doing things the way they’ve always been done is a recipe for obsolescence. We humans will have to start fixing things before they’re broken in order to stay relevant.

It’s okay to have preferred methods and procedures but it’s equally important to realize that risk, creativity and breaking new ground are all part of the learning process. To set yourself and your organization on the path to becoming more adaptable, I suggest following Intuit’s example by consciously choosing to bury the “modern day Caesar” – the kind of boss who dictates exactly how progress should and shouldn’t unfold. Instead, encourage creativity and self-efficacy.

In India, this policy allowed young Intuit innovators to conduct an experiment on helping farmers get the best price for their products – even though management initially wasn’t interested in the idea. After conducting research, these innovators found that the farmers had no information on what price wholesalers would pay on any given day in any geographical market for their crops. So, Intuit employees created an app for mobile phones that provided farmers with daily prices from various markets. The farmers could then choose to travel to the market that would pay them the highest price. Today, 1.6 million Indian farmers now use the successful program these innovators developed.

Young businessman holding card with a angry face on it Rein in your emotions. Emotions are one of the defining qualities of being human and they can certainly make life wonderful, worthwhile and interesting. But when it comes to doing your best thinking and learning, emotions tend to hold us back. Even if you consider yourself to be a very rational person, I guarantee that your emotions impact your attitudes, communications and behaviors, as well as your approaches to problems, new situations and decisions.

For example, a real-time critique by a difficult or unfriendly manager can elicit highly negative emotional arousal that adversely affects your listening, processing, and interpretation of what is being said. (In general, negative emotions restrict and narrow cognitive processes.) So instead of sifting through the manager’s words to glean useful criticism you can use to improve your work, your anger might cause you to discard everything that was said in the meeting. Alternatively, your self-esteem might take a huge hit and your feelings of shame and fear might cause your performance to further deteriorate.

Learning to self-manage your emotions is a valuable skill to develop. Tactics as simple as taking deep breaths or taking a walk to reduce physiological stress can help you begin to tame emotions. Although we can’t completely turn off our emotions, we can deliberately try to think rationally about the situation, causing the emotional reaction to turn on cognitive areas of the brain that can tamp down emotions. In many cases, this could help us make better decisions and be more open-minded.

Stop letting fear drive your decisions. From an evolutionary standpoint, fear is a good thing. It alerted our ancestors to danger and held them back from making decisions that might threaten the species’ survival. But in the business world, playing it safe because you’re afraid of the consequences is likely to have the opposite effect: A bolder colleague (or computer!) will step up to take your place. Abraham Maslow aptly stated that an individual would engage in learning only “to the extent he is not crippled by fear, [and] to the extent he feels safe enough to dare.”

Fear of failure, fear of looking bad, fear of embarrassment, fear of a loss of status, fear of not being liked and fear of losing one’s job all inhibit the kind of learning that’s essential for your long-term job security. To proceed more fearlessly into the future, you (and ideally, your whole organization) need to adopt a different mindset about mistakes.

Learning is not an efficient 99 percent defect-free process. Far from it. So mistakes have to be valued as learning opportunities. In fact, as long as they don’t violate financial risks guidelines and you aren’t making the same mistakes over and over again, mistakes can be good. The key is making sure you’re learning from them. And the faster and better you are at turning mistakes into learning opportunities, the less likely it is that you will be replaced by some machine. Acknowledging mistakes, confronting weaknesses and testing assumptions is a reliable strategy for long-term success.

Make it (whatever “it” is) less about you. Looking out for number one is engrained in human nature. We instinctively think about how situations and events will impact us and how we can use them to our advantage. I’m not saying you should stop looking out for your own interests, but I am advocating that you make more of an effort to empathetically consider how others are being impacted and how you can all work together to achieve desirable outcomes.

Humans have the best chance of surviving the coming technology tsunami when we band together. We’ll need to draw on our collective intelligence to innovate and adapt, and we’ll need to work in teams to confront and get past individual biases and egos. In my own work life, I’ve experienced the power of making it less about me. When I started to really listen to my team, to suspend my judgments, to pay attention to others’ emotional cues and to consider their views, my team began to perform at ever-higher and more successful levels.

Making it less about me – quieting my ego – became much easier when I realized I am not my ideas or my business beliefs, and as a leader, I don’t have to be right all the time. But I do have to get to the best answer all the time, and in many cases that involves others helping me think better. Humility will help you really hear what your customers and colleagues are saying, and humility will help you be open-minded and more willing to try new ways. Both make innovation and entrepreneurial activities more likely to be successful.

Stop the time traveling. The human mind has a tireless ability to dissect past events and project what might happen in the future. This power can be very beneficial when used for good – but too often we use it for evil. We obsess over past mistakes and beat ourselves up, instead of learning what we can and moving on. We stress about future what ifs over which we have little to no control – or we plan our responses to other people instead of actually listening to them talk. And in the meantime, we fail to use the present moment productively.

We must train our brains to be where we are right now, fully engaging with and responding to our current experience. This is especially important (and difficult) when we’re connecting with other people. Consider that while most people speak at a rate of 100-150 words per minute, we can cognitively process up to 600 words a minute! To fight cognitive boredom and keep your attention from wandering, listen actively by summarizing what the other person said and asking questions for clarifications.

I want to assure you that I’m not anti-technology at all. I’m excited by all the tech advances that are being made and I think there’s room for everyone – man and machine – if we humans focus on developing the skills that are ours and ours alone. As technology drives business change, not only will we have to rewire the way we operate as individuals but entire organizations will need to be radically restructured in terms of their cultures, leadership models, view of employees, innovation and collaboration processes and more. In this new environment, will you be prepared to utilize the competitive advantage your humanity gives you?

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