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Is Corporate Loyalty Dead?

December 4, 2013

Nope, but it is a former version of itself.  It doesn’t look the way it looked 30 years ago…gone are the days (for most) of working at a company for 25 to 30+ years and retiring with the gold watch.  So if loyalty from employees is different…what is it, how do you define it, and most importantly…how do you capitalize on it?  Consider this example…

In my local December 1st paper there was an article on airline frequent flier miles and transferable policies.  It compared the largest U.S.-based airlines on clear and published polices vs. vague, unpublished and inconsistently applied policies.  It also compared on specific policies like if the accumulated points were transferable and if a fee was charged, or not, on transferring the points.  Another policy compared was whether there were limits to whom you could give your points too, especially after death.  (In case you are wondering, US Airways was the clear winner on providing clear guidelines and in my opinion had the best consumer policies.)  And the last sentence of the article packed the biggest punch…”the average American is a member of 22 loyalty programs.”  Twenty-two!  A quick look in my wallet had me as a member of 16 loyalty programs.  I was kinda surprised…who knew I could be so loyal?  The research firm in the article – Colloquy – estimates that “memberships in such programs increased more than 26% in the past 2 years, and all those miles, points and rewards are worth some $50 billion.”

Clearly Americans love loyalty programs.  Why?  While the programs provide repeat customers to the company, in the consumer’s eye they benefit greatly, and in some cases in really big ways. (Think lots of free flights.)  A loyalty program puts me at the center…I get sneak peeks on new items, first notification of big sales, free products and some special treatment.  Loyalty programs put ME first (or for the most part I have agreed to believe they do)!

But companies are different with their employees…they expect loyalty before giving you big rewards. Consider that for the most part all I have to do is sign up for a consumer-based loyalty program and I’m accepted.  So what if companies flipped the idea of “loyalty”.   What if loyalty was no longer equated with job stability or employment for life, as it is defined today.  But what if it was defined as how a company invests in you – from day one.  Put the employee at the center, support them in their development, provide clear, published expectations and throw in some fun rewards!  And remember to remind me of why I am loyal…a consumer-based loyalty program reminds me every time I check out and get a discount with my card or redeem my miles/points for free stuff.  Companies need to do the same too.

Final thought:  To all the companies…It’s true, I may not be employed with you for the next 20 years but we could have a good 3-to 5-to 7-year run in which I do right by you and you do right by me.  Loyalty, redefined.

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What have you fixed today?

November 21, 2013

I should clarify…what have you fixed at work today?  Not to downplay the importance of the things we fix at home (Superman has me to thank for getting his head back on), but let’s focus on work.  Think back over your day, your week…what problems did you solve, what issue did you fix?  Showing up every day at work — in your office, cubicle, window table at Starbucks, or dining room converted into a home office — did you add value by solving a problem?

For some it is an easy question with an easy answer…for others, not so much.  In the September issue of Talent Management magazine, a column by Jac Fitz-enz, talked about an experience he had at a hospital in which the doctors told him he had a problem and they were going to figure out what it was and fix it.  He discusses the “massive” investment in the machines, technology and facilities the hospital had made and pinpoints the real competitive advantage…”all that technology would be useless without the knowledge and skill of the people to leverage it.”  And in this case they leveraged it to fix him.  Now his article focuses on what HR/OD/TM divisions within companies should do to help fix business problems.  His argument is strong, but let’s take it one step further.  To you.  Yes, you add value to your company, to your team, to your clients and vendors when you solve problems…but more importantly you add value to yourself.

So look around…do see an issue, concern or problem…are you the one to fix it?  As 2013 quickly wraps up end your year strong by adding value to your work world (and take some time to add value to your personal world as well).

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Well That is Just Depressing

November 7, 2013

I recently read in my local paper an article titled “Not happy with work? Wait till you’re 50 or older.”  The article provided data from a study conducted by The Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  The study found that 9 in 10 workers who are 50 years or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.  It seems older workers, regardless of who they are, reported higher satisfaction with their job.  The assumption drawn from the study was that “older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense.”  The study also reports that 38% of young adults express deep satisfaction with their work as compared to 63% of those 65 years and older.

So if I’m not engaged and satisfied with my work I should just wait until I get older?   That can’t be right.  Yes, I understand the subtle point the article is making…there are more variables to cause me unhappiness in a job the younger I am.  And as I age I can become more settled in the direction of my life and my career.  But waiting till I am 50 years or older to be satisfied in my work is just depressing.

When I work with companies or teach classes/workshops on employee engagement I break engagement down into four parts, four equal parts yet some are truly more important than others.  Those four parts are the individual, the manager, the team, the company. (For smaller companies there may only be three parts as the company isn’t large enough to have different teams.)  Engagement starts with the individual so the idea of just waiting around to grow older to become satisfied or engaged doesn’t add up.  You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated but it is an employee’s responsibility to show up willing, with a mindset, that he or she wants to and can be engaged in their work.  And that doesn’t just happen with age.  That happens by choice.

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Do you care for me?

October 21, 2013

I recently conducted qualitative research for a graduate school thesis…how employees perceive leadership as told through their worst boss stories.

At the heart of looking at worst boss stories is being able to peel back what is hard to articulate in a positive boss relationship.  Worst boss stories allow you to drill down to what is really important when a relationship isn’t what it is supposed to be because what is actually needed is able to come through more clearly.  This research provides a back-to-basics step in clarifying what employees really want from the relationship with their boss.  My research shows there are two overarching themes…employees expressed a need for task support and emotional support.  Now this is not a new revelation but the research provides an additional body of research from a different perspective, one not told in academic research.

So why study leadership and the boss/subordinate relationship?  Some would consider it to be an over-exhaustive subject.  Because we are human and we like to study relationships.  Outside of marriage and raising kids there is not another relationship we focus on more than the boss/subordinate relationship, which is at the heart of leadership.  Let’s face it, when something is a main constant in our lives we have a tendency to obsess about it.  In fact, as a society, we are obsessed with leadership.  A recent Amazon.com search pulled up almost 85,000 books on the topic of leadership.  Which provides another reason for my research – to cut through the enormous amount of styles…situational, country club, charismatic, authentic, and what about being creative…and focus on the relationship.

From the stories told and understanding what task and emotional support is as defined by my research provides a simple, though often overlooked reality of the boss-subordinate relationship.  When you drill down to the heart of what employees are looking for they need three things from the boss subordinate relationship which I call the Leadership Covenant³™.  The tenants of the covenant are:

1. Care about me
2. Guide me
3. Speak up for me

Employees want to know you care about them.  In a recent article in the Fortune magazine Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot talked about the first step to improving customer service is to “start by taking care of the associates.”  Blake goes on to talk about the first question an employee will ask of the company, which isn’t about training, but is “Does the company care about me?”  It is a basic first step in building the relationship.  Companies must care and bosses must care.  I believe when you stop caring about the people you lead you cease to be a leader.

Employees want to be guided.  They want direction, but they don’t want to be controlled or dis-respected.  Academic research shows that one of the three reasons someone stays at a company is direction.  To be engaged and a contributor to the company’s success you have to know what you are doing and what is expected of you.

Employees want a boss to speak up for them.  Be an advocate…look out for employee’s interest, help them develop their skills and career, understand what drives and motivates them. And when you are speaking up for the employee, don’t take credit for what they did.  Simple enough, surprisingly hard for many to execute on.  (Read this article if you have a boss who takes the credit and blames the failures on you.)

The Leadership Covenant³ is simple to understand, but execution seems to provide the most hurdles.  So what do you think?  Take our poll and don’t forget to share your comments.

 

 

 

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Levels of Aspiration

April 25, 2012

Do you have a “level of aspiration” when it comes to your work and career? When you mash Tamara Dembo’s and Kurt Lewin’s “level of aspiration” theory with David McClelland’s work on achievement motivation an interesting concept starts to take shape.  Some of us will reach a level within our work or career and will not desire to go any higher.  According to McClelland some of us are just not born with a high desire to achieve.  But of course some of us are.  Makes sense, right?

So if this makes sense why do companies tie themselves in knots trying to figure out why employees may not want to reach the corner office, become a partner, or at the very least take that next promotion?  Now of course this is the opposite of the Peter Principle (which is being promoted to a level of incompetence).  If you have a boss who suffers from the Peter Principle – remember he or she allowed themselves to be promoted to that level (and they may not be aware of their incompetence, which is always the kicker).

But I digress. The level a person wants to reach in terms of title, responsibility, expected connectivity and stress is different for each person and in society we tend to frown upon those who don’t aspire for more.  But is the reality that there is a lack of desire to become a corporate executive alive and well?

One new study from Intelligent Office (IO) found in a survey of 1,075 people no one, not even one person, aspired to become a corporate executive.  More than half, 65%, want to work as an entrepreneur or independent.  The “Work IQ” survey found a shift in work styles as well with an emphasis on more flexible work hours, have more mobility in life, and access to technology (like laptop or iPad) that affords the desired mobility.

The survey results bring up three thoughts for me…
1. Were the results a fluke due to our economic environment?  I mean there are approximately  157,000 students in MBA schools across the country (rough estimate from AACSB accredited schools).  Aren’t most MBAs in school because the masters degree could lead to the next promotion and possibly to a position as a corporate executive?
2. IO didn’t provide a breakdown of the demographics in the release so I’m not sure if their survey respondents reflect more of our working society versus their customer base (Intelligent Office is the leading virtual, professionally staffed office space for mobile executives and small businesses in North America).  If the respondents mirror their customer base then the results make sense.  If the respondents mirror more of the workforce as a whole then the results are a cause for concern.
3. Considering the results mirror our current workforce then it does mean a new trend is being highlighted.  Could a shortage of corporate executives be on the horizon, exacerbated by the Baby Boomer retirements?

What would a shortage of potential corporate executives mean for your company?

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Bubble-Wrap and Mass Protection – Guest Blog Post

April 18, 2012

I am working on a blog post about Millennials, entrepreneurship and leadership when I read Cathy Maday’s recent post on bubble-wrapping our opinions and thoughts to the determinant of our company’s success, our individual success and our sanity.  I thought my readers would enjoy her thoughts so her blog post is posted below in its entirety and with permission.  Cathy Maday owns Wingspan Coaching and can be reached at www.wingspancoaching.com.  I’ll follow up with my blog post next week.  Happy Reading!

Bubble-wrap and other annoying weapons of mass protection! 

Sadly, many of us have learned to bubble-wrap our opinions/thoughts/ideas/feedback for a number of reasons:

– The first manager you ever had taught you that bubble-wrapping worked because he is uncomfortable with conflict, so he avoided it. And so did you. (Heck, what did you know? You were fresh out of college and just wanted to do well at your first job!)
– Your employee who bursts into tears every time she’s given feedback has taught you to avoid the situation altogether. (Understandable!) So you avert your eyes, keep a healthy distance and bubble-wrap the hell out of everything you say to her. You don’t want to look like the big bad wolf in the office.
– Nearly everyone around you takes things personally, so they favor approval over effective, healthy growth, real conversations, and oh yeah, profit.
– The company you used to work for had a culture of blaming/making-wrong/mistakes-are-bad/stay-under-the-radar, so you learned that bubble-wrapping might help you keep your job.
– Your last boss was a bully who only liked himself, his ideas and his way of doing things. So you learned to bubble-wrap and put up with it because your husband just got riffed from the bank and your family needed the steady paycheck.
– You attended a two-day leadership training that taught you to empower your employees! Give them the good-bad-good feedback sandwich and have a 30-minute conversation about their feelings every time they missed a deadline or performed under par. (I agree, that trainer ought to be shot.)

Yes, many of us have learned to bubble-wrap for reasons that are understandable at the time. The problem is that we’re each incredibly intelligent, creative and resourceful. So, our brains quickly make these communication patterns a habit. Then we’re on auto-pilot. And even though we get different jobs with different companies or we escape Corporate America and start our own business, we often bring along our behavior patterns. And many of them are now outdated and no longer useful.

[This happens in our relationships too, btw.]

Bubble-wrapping is a waste of time, money, resources and energy that could be put toward fun, exciting ideas, products and solutions! And greater versions of ourselves!

You can say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean. Plus, you’re so much more interesting and the conversation is more colorful when you don’t bubble-wrap.

Let go of your need for approval, your fear of rejection and your weapons of mass protection!

Take a healthy risk. Entrepreneurship and leadership are not for the weak.

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Who is Gen Z

March 28, 2012

During the month of March I gave two presentations on Gen Z.  Have you heard of them?  Well if you haven’t you soon will.  Let me be the first to introduce you to them.

Gen Z by the Numbers
Some demographers and researchers describe them as the 1990s babies (born 1990-1999) and others use the 1995 – 2004 birth years as the defining age range.  Which means the years which define Gen Z are fluid (for now), unlike the generations we have been chatting about for years…Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, and Gen X.  Being born in the 1990s (or up until 2004) places a Gen Zer in the 8 year-old to 20 year old range.  Which means Gen Z is the basically the second half of the Millennials.  The first half of the Millennials were born in the 1980s and are now in their 20s…you know, that young kid working beside you.  (Just so I don’t confuse anyone the term “Millennial” and “Gen Y” can be used interchangeably.)

Generational Disclaimer Alert:
When I or anyone discusses the generations we are talking about 10s of millions of people and we make broad generalizations for a group of people that spans 10 to 20 years.  You are stuck in your generation because of your birth year (blame your parents if you don’t like your generation) but that does not mean you won’t have commonalities with another generation’s characteristics.  And understanding someone by their age is just one slice of the onion when it comes to understanding why someone is the way they are.

What Goes Around, Comes Around
Strauss and Howe explain that generations are cyclical and we go round and round between two types.  A team generation is followed by an individualist generation which is followed by a team generation and the cycle continues. So the theory goes Baby Boomers are a team generation, Generation X is an individualist generation, Millennials are team and Gen Z will be individualist. But Gen Z is basically the younger version of Millennials so this point could still be up for debate.  Remember – the cycle impacts how companies respond to the growth and development needs of the workforce.  Do you need the work environment to support working in teams peppered with constant feedback, or not?

World Events
For those who study the generations (or just find them interesting) you know we look at two big areas for information on what will shape a generation.  First is world events impacting the formative years and parenting styles.  Some world events to consider which will shape the perceptions and values of Gen Z are 9/11, the recent recession on a local, national and global scale, the constancy of war, global civic unrest, and new advances in technology.  Pop culture also influences a generation as well but to a lesser degree.

Impact of Technology
Most people have been describing Millennials are digital natives but when you look a little deeper, the older Millennials were in their 20s when tablet fever took hold. True, computers and cell phones were very much part of their daily lives but the speed of communication and new technology introductions really began to take hold throughout the last decade or so, meaning older Millennials didn’t grow up with that kind of technology from birth.  To be described as a native…you need to not know life without it.  Many claim Gen Z will be our true digital natives but I question if the generation following Gen Z – those under 10 years old (and all generations that follow) – will more likely deserve that label.  Consider the 5 year old who tried to change the TV channel by sliding the screen (and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working) or the growing number of 3 year olds with their own iPads.

Who Are Their Parents and Why Do We Care?
Gen Z parents are in their 30s and 40s – for the most part – which means Gen Z is being raised by Gen X.  How Generation X raises their children will say a lot of about who they become, as a collective.  What we do know …the ‘every kid is a winner and deserves a trophy’ mantra and mindset continues for adolescents today.  And it is creeping into our preschools.  Parenting magazine (It’s Only a Game, p. 23, April 2012) ran an article on the growing trends of preschools opting to remove games with clear winners and losers.  In addition there is some traction being reported that parenting is moving from the flurry of activities (the more the better) to “slow parenting” or “free-range parenting” in which the idea is to not over-program your kid.  The recession of course plays a big role in this as well as the squeeze on the middle class.

So Gen Z is here to stay…what are your thoughts on them?

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