CRASH TEST DUMMIES UNIONIZE

April 1st, 2015

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In an unprecedented breakthrough decision today, over 177,000 crash test dummies were given final approval by federal labor regulators to form the Crash Test Dummies of America labor union (CTDA). The CTDA plans to fight for crash test dummies’ working conditions and fair treatment. According to the CTDA union organizers, Anita Karr, Moe Mentum, and Cole Lijjun, their top priorities are:

  • Limiting the quantity and types of crash tests per week.
  • Strengthening torso, limb, and head replacement parts entitlements.
  • Adopting a more compassionate approach to crash test dummy recycling.
  • Improving the pay scale by replacing Monopoly money with real cash.

The PETCTD (People for the Ethical Treatment of Crash Test Dummies) has endorsed the new labor union. PETCTD president Banng M. Hardar commented:

Being a crash test dummy is not an easy job. Most people could not handle the working conditions. We are very gratified that crash test dummies have taken a major step forward to receive the same wages, benefits, and equal treatment under the law that human workers take for granted.

The CTDA is in negotiations with various networks to launch a reality TV series to draw attention to the longstanding difficulties of being a crash test dummy. The title of the pending series is “Crashing Bad.” The CTDA plans additional kickoff events later this year. The union has already created its slogan:

When it comes to workers’ rights, we are not dummies!





WHEN THE BEST BEATS THE BIG

March 31st, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). I would like to focus for a moment on the top ten. Here they are as ranked on the list and with their number of employees cited:

  1. Google (44,862)
  2. Boston Consulting Group (2,701)
  3. Acuity (1,039)
  4. SAS Institute (6,647)
  5. Robert W. Baird (2,822)
  6. Edward Jones (37,164)
  7. Wegmans Food Markets (43,211)
  8. Salesforce.com (10,146)
  9. Genentech (12,895)
  10. Camden Property Trust (1,746)

Companies can be measured by many different characteristics and variables. For example, no one would demean any company for being on the Fortune 500 list. When companies are ranked by total revenue, even if your company comes in at number 500, that remains a significant achievement.

Total revenue is obviously very important, but it only tells us part of the story. For example, on the top 10 out of the 100 best companies to work for, we find just one company that also appears on the Fortune 500 list. Google shows up as number 46. The remaining nine did not show up anywhere on the Fortune 500 list. (In fairness, among the remaining 90 companies, some did make both lists, but as a whole, the best-workplace group still did not have a strong showing on the Fortune 500 list.) Perhaps this is a case of the best beats the big. This raises some interesting and challenging questions:

  • Is it easier for a non-Fortune-500 company to build an exceptionally great corporate culture and if so, why?
  • What will a Fortune-500 company have to do to build an exceptionally great corporate culture?
  • Can the drivers of high revenue be compatible with the drivers of an exceptionally great corporate culture?





ACUITY’S EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

March 30th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). After Google taking the top spot and Boston Consulting Group coming in second, insurance company, Acuity, has made an impressive first-time appearance in third place. Granted, many variables and dynamics affect how the list is created. Nevertheless, from a no-show to third-place is quite impressive. Here are some of the perks and corporate-culture qualities that contributed to Acuity’s achievement:

On top of perks like unlimited education reimbursement, compressed workweeks, a 10% company contribution to employees’ 401(k) funds, and healthier medical plans, [CEO Ben Salzmann] says Acuity has instilled employee loyalty by empowering them and giving them a say in the insurer’s future. Quarterly town hall meetings keep employees up to speed on the company’s performance. . . . [and on a regular basis] every employee gets a face-to-face meeting with executives.” (p. 123)

Additionally, as with many great workplaces, Acuity strongly believes in having fun. In one of its latest antics, employees created a YouTube video about the good points of working for Acuity—even after the zombie apocalypse! Hey, when having fun helps take you to third place, perhaps we all need to have more fun.





AROUND THE WORLD VIA BOSTON

March 27th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154). After Google earned the top spot on the list for the sixth time in eight years, the second position went to Boston Consulting Group. In assessing the company’s ranking, Fortune drew special attention to the social-impact factor:

“One of the allures of working for BCG is the ability to take a [paid] social-impact leave of absence for three to 12 months.” (p. 143)

Boston Consulting Group obviously takes social causes very seriously. Last year various employees were on paid leaves to help these organizations:

  • Techno Serve.
  • The World Food Programme.
  • The Clinton Health Access Initiative.
  • Education Pioneers.
  • Green Dot.
  • The Gates Foundation.
  • The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency.
  • Yunus Social Business.

Many reasons exist for Boston Consulting Group coming in at second place out of the 100 best places to work. Nevertheless, when an employee has a passion for social causes and the employer is able to facilitate the same, that company-worker bond only strengthens. Boston Consulting Group is not the first company to learn that lesson, nor should it be the last.





THREE BEST-WORKPLACE TRENDS

March 26th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154).  Given that this is Fortune’s 18th year of collaborating with workplace consultant Great Place to Work, certain significant trends are appearing.  From a talent-management perspective, businesses have much opportunity to capitalize on these trends to improve all aspects of how they recruit, hire, train, develop, and retain their employees.

Some observers like to deny the supposed trends or explain them away into oblivion.  That does not change the fact that the trends are what they are.  The sooner we acknowledge them and capitalize on them, the further ahead of the game we will be.  This is good for our stakeholders, our employees, our leadership, our customers, and our communities.  Here are the three significant trends Fortune identifies (pp. 141–143):

The Best Workplaces Are Getting Better.  By becoming the best, these workplaces do not just know how they got there.  They know what to do to stay there.  They are not resting on their laurels and deciding it is time to kick back.  Instead, they are continually searching for ways to refine everything they do.  One example cited was overall training and development.  Compared to 1998, today these companies are giving almost 80% more training and development to their workforce.  They also focus on trust and wellness.

More Business Leaders Are Focused On Workplace Culture As A Competitive Tool.  Never underestimate the power of workplace culture.  When you have good workplace culture, it’s very good.  When you have bad workplace culture, it’s very bad.  A fundamental reason these companies are so successful is that their corporate cultures are so positive.  When employees are immersed in a positive corporate culture, it inspires them to bring their very best each day and on each task.  When we understand it this way, how could we not think that workplace culture is a competitive tool?

Leaders Are Genuinely Listening To Their Employees And Crafting Distinctive Policies And Programs That Suit Today’s Workforce.  It seems the two prior trends automatically drive this third one.  Today’s workforce is not the same as yesterday’s workforce.  Companies that do not hear what the labor market is saying will miss the best that the labor market has to offer.  However, for the companies that hear what the labor market is saying, and respond to it, those are the companies that will continue to show up on this list.  Are we really listening?

These are powerful and important trends.  They give us much to ponder about how companies treat their people.  Related to that, Scott Scherr (founder and CEO of Ultimate Software) has made the weighty observation (p. 143):

‘The true measure of a company is how they treat their lowest paid employees.’





A GOO-GOO GOOD PLACE TO WORK

March 25th, 2015

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Fortune has published its annual “The 100 Best Companies To Work For” (Milton Moskowitz and Robert Levering, March 15, 2015, pp. 97–154).  The top position went to none other than Google.  This is likely getting old for Google given its previous number-one ranking on the same list five times in the past eight years, not including this one.  Fortune emphasized some family-friendly fringes that added to Google’s special appeal:

New parents, regardless of gender can now get up to 12 weeks of fully paid baby-bonding time.  Google also provides $500 in ‘bonding bucks’ to all new parents to use during the first three months of their new child’s life.” (p. 143)

From a fiscal standpoint, it could be easy to criticize Google for these very generous benefits.  However, these happen to be benefits that touch people’s lives at their most crucial life seasons.  These are things people do not forget.  Those memories directly and indirectly accrue back to Google’s benefit:

Google’s leaders explicitly attribute the company’s financial performance to its benevolent people practices.” (p. 142)

People are important to Google.  Families are important to people.  Google has figured out the family formula.

The family formula can work everywhere else too.





KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR FIELD

March 24th, 2015

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Sometimes job prospects for new college graduates can change almost more rapidly than students can even plan, depending on the field.  Such has been the startling case recently in the realm of petroleum engineering.  The national oil glut has forced many of the energy companies to reassess their staffing needs as Zain Shaulk reports (“Grads Hoping for Oil Job Riches Are Worried” Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/9/15–2/15/15, pp. 27–28):

The oil crash that’s forcing energy companies to slash billions from their budgets and cut tens of thousands of workers is derailing an industry campaign to attract top college graduates.” (p. 28)

Historically, chemical engineering majors have had a very steady track record of strong job prospects at graduation time.  That is what makes this development especially unusual.  Although this makes career planning difficult for those about to graduate, it is not a showstopper in the end.  Chemical engineering graduates are needed by many more companies than just the energy companies.  Moreover, the overall long-term positive prospects for employment and lifetime income just by virtue of having a college degree are not to be underestimated.

This situation does remind us of a very important lesson.  Regardless of where you are at in your career path, always keep a close eye on your industry.  Both short-term and long-term industry changes can enhance or derail your career planning.  If that occurs, it is always better to be on the proactive side of things rather than the reactive side.





GROUNDING AMAZON

March 23rd, 2015

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Amazon.com has been working on an innovative approach to its last-mile delivery strategy.  The idea is to have automated drones drop off packages weighing no more than about five pounds.  Conceptually, technologically, and innovatively, many people like the idea.  Count me in!  Nevertheless, figuring out the angles on safety, public acceptance, and regulatory compliance will be complex.  Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration threw a monkey wrench into the mix with these rulings about what Amazon.com is allowed to do with a drone:

  • The drone can only operate during daylight.
  • The drone must not exceed an altitude of 400 feet.
  • The drone must be continuously visually monitored by an operator.
  • The drone operator must be a traditional licensed pilot.

By the time you throw in these four stipulations, the drone idea has quickly become much more complicated and expensive.  First, the automated drone idea is grounded.  Second, a 400-foot altitude limitation will add airspace challenges.  Third, how much more will a licensed pilot require in wages versus a traditional delivery driver?  Fourth, we can only imagine the regulatory, legal, and liability challenges the automated or nonautomated drone concept presents.

The multiparty dialogue continues.  In the meantime, I wouldn’t be expecting your next Amazon.com delivery to be dropped down from the sky.





DESIRE FOR CHANGE AND COMMITMENT TO THE COST

March 20th, 2015

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Leadership is one of the most interesting and powerful topics we can ever study.  I continually search for leadership lessons because I am still learning.  Brian Goldner (president and CEO of Hasbro) shares a life lesson about leadership that definitely caught my attention (Michelle Fay Cortez, “How Did I Get Here?: Brian Goldner” Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/9/15–3/15/15, p. 88):

Leadership evolves.  You have to be flexible.

Do you desire change?  Unless we genuinely desire change, our leadership will not evolve.  The desire for change is a precursor to leadership evolution.  Furthermore, if there is truly a desire for change, then there will be a commitment to the cost.

Positive change always costs something.  Some people want leadership development but they do not want to commit to the change and the cost that come with it.  That is a contradictory position to hold, yet people hold it.  Somehow, they view the leadership development as a gift without cost.  When it comes to leadership development, there is always a cost.  The only question is who will pay and who won’t pay?

Which one are you?





OBSERVATION’S POWER

March 19th, 2015

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Leadership is one of the most interesting and powerful topics we can ever study.  I continually search for leadership lessons because I am still learning.  Brian Goldner (president and CEO of Hasbro) shares a life lesson about leadership that definitely caught my attention (Michelle Fay Cortez, “How Did I Get Here?: Brian Goldner” Bloomberg Businessweek, 3/9/15–3/15/15, p. 88):

Leadership evolves.  You have to be flexible.

How good of an observer are you?  Without observation, you give your leadership no chance to evolve.  With observation, you create opportunities for your leadership to evolve.  Allowing your leadership to evolve is the only way that it will become better.

If we are constantly observing people and situations, there is no limit to the valuable lessons we can learn.  Here are just a few ways in which we can use our observational powers to look for ways to develop our leadership:

  • Watch the way your boss conducts a meeting.
  • Watch the customer service clerk handling the customer in front of you in line.
  • Watch the customer in front of you in line negotiating with that customer service clerk.
  • Watch how different organizations conduct business meetings.
  • Watch how renowned experts speak to those outside their field.
  • Watch how a father speaks to his daughter.
  • Watch how a mother speaks to her son.
  • Watch how a restaurant manager responds to a disgruntled customer.
  • Watch how a politician behaves in different situations.
  • Watch the judge in a court of law.
  • Watch your best friend.
  • Watch your worst enemy.
  • Watch yourself.

That is just a short list.  My point is that we all have an overflow of opportunities for observation.  Those observations will reveal opportunities for us to enhance our own leadership.

Some of what we observe might be good and some of it might be bad.  Remember that we can learn as much from a bad leader as a good one.  What is important is that we do in fact, learn.  That is how we will evolve in our own leadership.