There's plenty of buzz going around about the potential for a recession and the waves of layoffs that always go with that particular economic event. Working Girl points out that none of us are immune to economic cycles no matter how much we think our job is safe. Not to fear, though - she offers some great, encouraging tips for organizing your life to help you survive (and thrive) in any economy.
I love her conclusion:
"The trick is to choose money-saving methods you can live with, even enjoy. Don’t make yourself miserable. Life is too short. Instead, find the power and happiness you get from knowing how to manage your money."
Check out the entire posting here.
It's so very rewarding to support someone in the painful throes of a job search, and then to be able to rejoice with them when they achieve their goals.
Today I got a lovely note from from a woman that I worked with several months ago. At the time she had been working hard at her job search and was not having success. After months of applying good, basic job search techniques - figure out what you want, figure out how to articulate it, do informational interviews, lather-rinse-repeat, etc. - she landed a terrific job with a terrific company.
She started her note by saying some wonderful, encouraging things to me about my work which totally made my day, then reflects on the search process and notes:
"This job hunt has been one of the most daunting experiences that have altered me as a person, and I feel that I am better for it. I have learned not to take things for granted and that working really hard for something and how you do it is always the part that actually matters...I want to be extremely successful one day and I believe this year gave me the kind of solid foundation I will need for a fulfilled future where I will be a resilient woman despite the odds that are bound to come in my way."
I love that she doesn't just say, "Whew - the search is over" and leap ahead to the next thing. Instead, she takes the search process and makes it an integral part of her life story and will use it as a springboard to propel herself forward.
I teach an undergraduate HR Management class at a local university. The students have a variety of reasons for choosing to return to school at night and pursue an HR degree. I spend the semester explaining what strategic HR is, and correcting the the occasional misperception that HR professionals are either 1) cops; 2) counselors; or 3) party planners.
After watching hours of the Olympic gymnastics over the past week, I have concluded that if Elfi Schlegel worked in HR she probably would not get a coveted "seat at the table" because she engages in each of these approaches as she announces gymnastics. The contrast between Elfi and her two male counterparts is so strong, that I have found myself cringing each time she speaks.
For example, the two male announcers will often discuss strategy. They have analyzed how the Chinese teams have focused on daring moves that gain them huge start values rather than obsessing over "sticking" every landing - they are willing to take the .1 deduction for a small step in their landing in favor of the big impressive moves that wow the judges and crowd alike. Elfi stands by randomly blurting out observations such as "Oh! He just stepped off the mat. That's going to be a big deduction - at least two tenths." (Cop, anyone?!)
The male announcers will also discuss context, explaining how Nastia Liukin's father was a Russian gymnast who won Olympic gold 20 years ago and now coaches his daughter. Elfi turns counselor on us as Nastia takes a minor tumble by pontificating "Well that was a big fall. You know her dad didn't like that."
She also briefly put on the party planning hat as the Chinese crowd roared at their team's victory "Look at those smiles. The whole stadium is celebrating with Team China!"
Now in fairness to Ms. Schlegel, she did have a better showing at the women's all-around finals. When her male peers asked her opinion, she gave a comprehensive and articulate analysis of how various favorites will approach the competition based on their planned start values for each event.
But in HR, we can't sit around pointing out obvious problem and waiting to be asked for our analysis so we have a chance to show what we know. We need to be the ones asking good questions, conducting external scans, spotting/forecasting trends, and bringing players together to develop sound solutions.
Happiness is a big topic of interest to researchers these days. People - Americans in particular - what to know what makes us happy and what can we do to increase our happiness? The ISQOLS listserve is an electronic bulletin board established to help quality-of-life (QOL) researchers post messages and announcements that may be of interest to QOL researchers. This recent posting my Michael Frisch, PhD at Baylor University is interesting.
Dr. Frisch reports on a new study that was released: Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory Bruce Headey; Social Indicators Research, April , 2008, vol. 86(2), pp213-231. He discussed how the study indicates that having life goals is a critical component of our happiness - in particular, having non zero-sum (i.e., altruistic) goals makes a difference. Frisch writes:
"Over a 15-20 year period, conscious life goals matter both to overall happiness and to accomplishing goals. It is not all genetic. Having life goals can change your happiness set-point and your overall happiness at any point in your life. The Set-Point theory of happiness needs to be revised to account for the effects of life goals on happiness and important changes in happiness...Non-zero sum goals, which include commitment to family, friends and social and political involvement, promote life satisfaction.
Zero sum goals, including commitment to career success and material gains, appear detrimental to life satisfaction. One speculation is that gains in zero sum domains are not satisfying because of the competition involved; all you have got to look forward to after one set of goals is achieved is renewed competition. By contrast, an improving family life or satisfying social activities may be found
intrinsically satisfying. Further, one is likely to receive positive feedback from family members and other people closely affected.
What makes for a happy person? Part of the answer seems to be a desire to pursue non-zero sum family related and altruistic goals."
If you find this article interesting and want to get regular postings on the topic of quality of life, you can subscribe to ISQOLS Listserve by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate in the body of the message: SUBSCRIBE ISQOLS-LISTSERV.
Ann Bares has an articulate and thoughtful post on the content and potential ramifications of the national Paycheck Fairness Act. While government intervention to equalize pay across occupations despite market demand may sound in theory like a nice, progressive thing to do, it has potentially detrimental implications for the workplace.
"I don't deny that gender pay differences exists; in fact I've posted on this topic before. I do believe, however, that the influences behind gender based pay differences are varied and nuanced. And my 20+ years of experience in compensation convinces me that aiming an instrument as blunt and misguided as the Paycheck Fairness Act at U.S. pay administration practices will have consequences that are more harmful than good - particularly in its aim to negate the impact of the market. I see the market performing an important task for society in exerting its influence on pay. The market drives pay differences for a purpose, the purpose of meeting society's demands for different kinds of work and contributions.
Ann goes on to explain the value of market-based pay (as imperfect as it may be at times) in situations such as the United States' current need to attract more students to the science and engineering fields. Simply paying women in non-scientific jobs on par with men in scientific jobs may sound nice on the surface, but harms the greater good overall by unduly emphasizing work tasks that don't drive the economy in the same way.
I've dealt with enough unhappy employees to know that pay alone does not drive worker satisfaction. And most employees want to truly pull their weight - mature individuals don't tend to feel as confident about themselves and their contributions to the organization when they have an inflated title or salary that is not congruent with their cost to the business. For these reasons, both women and men should be opposed to falsely assigning value to a job in the name of fairness.
Read the rest of the posting here then take some time to leave either me or Ann a comment and let us know your thoughts!
This article healthcare legislation that was recently passed in Japan offers an interesting perspective on the concept of national healthcare. Are we individualistically-oriented Americans really ready for this:
"One regulation, effective in April, requires all citizens over the age of 40 to have their waists measured every year. If a man's waist is more than 33.5 inches or a woman's more than 35.5 inches, they are considered at risk and referred for counseling and close monitoring. The government is also requiring companies to slim down their workers or face higher payments into the national insurance program."
How does your waistline measure up? And are you ready for your bosses to have part of their incentive pay based on your health habits and results?
From a more encouraging perspective, one interesting workplace wellness option is being piloted here in Minnesota in an innovative study by the Mayo Clinic. In the study, workplaces were outfitted with treadmill workstations. Employees set the treadmills for about 1 mile per hour and slowly move along while they answer e-mail, take calls and do other routine desk work. One company even outfitted the conference room with the treadmill workstations and held walking meetings. As an avid walker, I LOVE this idea!
What do you think?
I have written before about workplace lessons that can be learned from the game of soccer. It's not that I'm obsessed per se, but since I am the Team Manager for my daughters U12 team, I'm involved in a lot of details and as a Type A personality I tend to give it my all. Over the course of the Summer 2008 season I have a learned a lot of lessons from hiring a coach that can be useful when it comes to hiring and taking advantage of good talent in the corporate world:
#1 - Be willing to pay for talent. For the last two summers the group of girls my daughter has played with have done "ok" but they simply haven't played to the potential that we parents sensed that they had. It wasn't about the win-loss records, it was about their frustration at wanting to get better and not being sure how. For years various parents have volunteered in the role of coach and have done a great job of encouraging the girls and sharing what knowledge they possessed. This summer, however, we determined that the parents had done as much as they could and it was time to hire a coach. The parents agreed to pony up the cash to hire a coach with the training and background to help the girls develop their potential.
#2 - Get help finding the right person from people who care. To start the search, I cast a wide net and talked to several people that had potential to refer me to potential candidates for the coaching job. I spoke with Board Members at our soccer club, the principal at my kids' school, and coaches at local colleges and universities. I got several recommendations for interesting candidates.
#3 - Pick someone who wants the job. I spoke with 3 potential candidates and only one of them seemed to be a possible match. Then at the last minute I got a call from the soccer coach as a local college. He had run a camp during the summer that several of our girls had attended and he thought that one of his players who had coached at the camp would do a good job for us. When I called the first candidate I had considered back and asked him about his interest in the position he replied, "The other position I am considering pays more, but you guys are closer and it will save wear and tear on my car." Hmmm. Then I spoke with the last minute candidate - Jake. He said, "I remember these girls from camp. They have a lot of talent and I think it would be really fun to coach them." I was sold!
#4 - Once you hire them, let them do their job. As summer practices started, it became clear to me that Jake's style was VERY different than mine, and the other parents who had previously coached these girls. He was generally upbeat, but relatively quiet and not overly complimentary. He stuck with basic drills and worked his plan. I admit that as the season started his apparent laid back attitude was confusing to the parents at times, and more than once I spoke to him after a game or practice to get a sense for what he was thinking. Each time I was always surprised at how much thought he had put into what he was doing, and how each action was calculated. I finally concluded that we had hired good talent, and I needed to step back and let him do his job.
#5 - When you hire good talent, give them the resources they need to do their job. One of our parents stepped up to the plate right away as assistant coach. He managed the equipment, helped get the goalies warmed up before games, and generally backed Jake up in all aspects of practices and games. This freed Jake up to observe the players, make plans, and manage the team from a psychological perspective - something we found as the season went on was an incredible gift Jake brought to the team.
#6 - Early on, accept qualitative results. When you make the investment to hire strong talent in a particular role, it's easy to get caught up in "silver bullet thinking" and imagine that this one individual is going to instantly make a difference. The summer soccer season is long. A team can work incredibly hard to post a 1-0 win against one team, and barely break a sweat beating another team 4-0. So initial numbers simply don't mean that much. What we parents noticed with our girls right away however, was that the tension and sniping of the prior seasons was gone and that the girls will smiling, laughing, and joking as they left each practice and game. Winning games was nice, but seeing girls from 7 different schools slowly becoming a team that trusted and communicated with one another was more exciting to the parents than any quantitative result.
#7 - Celebrate small successes along the way. If you made a good decision and hired real talent, the results will eventually come. As they do, take time to celebrate them. Early on in the season, our girls played in a tournament where they made it to the playoff round. This was the first time they had made it to the finals, and even though they lost and ended up with 2nd place, they celebrated making it to the finals. As the season went on and the girls began racking up a winning record the team and parents embraced the chance to celebrate in little ways like having ice cream after a game or going swimming.
Of course, we saved the biggest celebration for this past Friday night when we went out to a local family sports bar & grill for good food, laughter and even some dancing...Why? Because the girls concluded a great season by WINNING THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!!!