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Diversity in today’s workforce is not only about gender, nationality, religious beliefs, culture, but also age and generational differences. Inc.

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Photo credit: Himself taken in Naha, Okinawa, 2017

Different generations bring a diversity of perspectives as well as skill sets to the workplace, adding creativity and better ability to service customers.

Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964)

They are likely to be already working in the company, and in leadership positions. Gallup found that by age 68, only one third are still in the workplace. As Baby boomers possess institutional knowledge and experience, this can result in a significant brain drain. They can be tapped to provide knowledge transfer to Millennials.

Challenges faced by Baby Boomers include health problems and disabilities, and the need to take care of aging family members.

What companies can do [Dona Dezube, Monster] :

Courtney Templin, president, JB Training Solutions, Chicago and author of “Manager 3.0: A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management” suggests:

  • Start a mentor program to engage Baby Boomers to mentor Millennials
  • Part-time consulting and coaching to transfer knowledge
  • Offer a phased retirement option to employees who wish to work part time, drawing part-time salary, partial retirement benefits and must spend 20 percent of their work time mentoring coworkers.
  • Adapt the workplace to be more senior friendly
  • Set up a forum where older workers can share ideas for workplace improvements (BMW).
  • Set up multi-generational workgroups to share knowledge

Personal Motivation: What should I look for in a Job and Maslow

Recruitment/ Hiring practices

Individualist cultures – individual is hired based on his/her competencies (skills). Trust is based on one’s skills.

Collectivist cultures – loyalty to one’s in-group/ company is valued, hence there is a preference towards hiring those with similar social ties, value and social norms. Trust is based on not letting down one’s in-group

Different Attitudes Toward Conflict

In individualistic cultures, people tend to be verbally direct: they value communication openness, differences in views are aired openly

Collectivist group, indirect communication is preferred. Disagreement or Conflict is seen as embarrassing or demeaning. Differences are best worked out quietly and indirectly. Managers who work in cross-cultural environments must learn how to adapt their communication/ leadership styles accordingly.

This view towards conflict and communication hence affect the HR performance appraisal process

Individualist – direct feedback especially on areas to improve is accepted.

Collectivist – indirect feedback is preferred. Receiving negative feedback is received badly as shame, a loss of face and weakness.

Rewards and promotion

Individualist cultures – rewards and promotion is based on individual’s achievement, self interests.

Collectivist cultures – rewards is based on loyalty to team and company. Promotion may even be based on loyalty to company, e.g. years working in company, and seniority is respected.

  1. Examine how your company structures its compensation and rewards.

When I switched careers from the foreign service to the private sector, I was very impressed when the senior leadership went for a 2-day team bonding exercise. With high expectations, I asked my boss, “Are we going to have more cooperation from Dept A after this?”

Today, I’m much wiser. As much as a company wants to promote team work, there is a need to go beyond socialisation and games we play. The type of people you hire. Driven by win-lose or win-win. The way rewards and status are structured. To promote company loyalty, organisations give out company shares or team bonus.

2. How is status ascribed?

Do employees come from a certain school, e.g. Havard/ Ivy League graduates? Children of a certain social class? If so, you are more collectivist than you think.

3. What stories are told of your heroes?

Examine the stories people tell about heroes in the company. Is it about the risk they take, and the money they make? Or whether they live out company values of trust and teamwork?

4. How are differences resolved?

Is there a blame culture or pointing fingers? When your back is turned, people say nasty things.

5. What values are you bringing into the company?

Beyond the color of your skin, the accent and the gender, do you bring in people who embrace your values? Who are you attempting to change ?

Beyond Herman Miller Chairs or free lunches and corporate values emblazoned on company walls, what is unspoken and hidden may say more of your culture (National, organisational or even profession).

Have a coffee chat with a friend, instead of visiting company website or attending corporate presentations to understand what the real corporate culture is.

“What is your greatest weakness?”
“What is something you regret having done in the past?”

Interview questions you hope not to get. If you are not looking for a job, the feared performance appraisal meeting with the BOSS.

What exactly am I expected to say? The good news is that everyone has a weakness. No need to be defensive.

1. Use your judgment
Dont cite weakness in areas which are critical in your job. Such as “lack of attention to details” in accounting. Or something irrelevant like not being able to sing, if you are a banker.

Interviewers are also not expecting “confession box” answers. The interviewer is not a therapist, so now is not the time to talk about the skeletons in the closet. It may also reveal a candidates lack of common sense or not having done sufficient research by checking out critical competencies. I recall candidates who let their guards down to talk about feeling inadequate and not being sure if they are up for the job. Leave it out, or better still, don’t apply for the job. Maybe a recruiter appreciates your being candid? Not often.

2. A strength overplayed can become a weakness

One possibility is to talk about how our strengths can work against us. A double edged sword of sorts.

Fear your strengths“, Robert Kaplan advised. When you have too much of a good thing, it can interfere with your leadership. In his research, Kaplan cited Enron’s Schilling who was a forceful character to the extent that he would bulldoze audit checks.

Dont just understand your strengths, understand what happens when you overuse them.

Example. Steve Jobs was famous for his attention to detail and design for his products. However, if attention to details cause you to miss deadlines, that becomes a serious problem. One must be ready to ship.  

Also avoid overused labels like ‘I am a perfectionist’ which indicates lack of self awareness or condescending to others in the team.

Kaplan’s Leadership Versatility Index (LVI®) measures versatility on two major pairs of opposing but complementary leadership dimensions:

Forceful vs. enabling
Strategic vs. operational

Image result for leadership versatility index

http://kaplandevries.com/leadership-versatility-index

What can I do?

3. Self Awareness and Willingness to get feedback

Show the interviewer that you are aware of this gap, and how it can interfere with your team’s productivity.

Building on the example above, show your willingness to listen to feedback or proactively sought feedback when you observed that the strength had become a weakness.

Leaders need a team to keep themselves in check.

In “Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts”, Marshall Goldsmith suggests that  getting feedback is our first step in becoming more mindful about the connection between our environment and our behavior.

4. Working on your weakness.

  • Choose small changes
  • Adopt a regimen
  • Get counterweights or people in place to remind you (deferentially) or
  • Using “triggers” like a photo or a 2×2 card as reminder
  • Accountability
  • Daily reflection question

On that note, top coach Marshall Goldsmith comes up with a list of 40 questions and pays someone to call him daily as a commitment device.

A leader who is forceful, may need to dial back, and be more enabling. Spend time listening and supporting, rather than rushing forth to take charge of a situation.

This was something Linda learned as a manager, over-talking when her subordinates remained quiet.  Something she learned, was to refrain from over-talking and using the “pause” to help her, and asking for feedback.

So what’s your strength?

 

Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem: Robert E. Kaplan, Robert B. Kaiser

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be
By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (2015).

#21st century skills#

Photo taken at Gardens by the Bay, Sep 2018. Sunflowers in honour of Vincent Van Gogh.
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Its internship application and interviewing time. One of the common questions I get from students are: what competencies should I include in my resume?

Look no further.

1. Examine the job advertisement
Most companies include competencies that help candidates succeed. Sometimes its under the Key Requirements or the Qualifications section

2. Full time applications
Even those that do not include the competences, such as those from DHL for their data science internship (below), will have a detailed writeup in their full time job applications. Similar competencies in identified by different full time opportunities in same company hint at the company culture and values.

3. Company website
Check out the company website. “What we look for in our candidates”. Writeups or profiles of employees and what they say.

4. Check out companies in same industry
Most companies in the same industry look for similar competencies. Sometimes they differ, depending on organisation culture.

5. External sources
Vault, wetfeet and other insider guides. Bear in mind that they could be subjective.

Analyst, intern, McKinsey
https://www.mckinsey.com/careers/search-jobs/jobs/business-analyst-intern-0003

Associate Intern, McKinsey
https://g.co/kgs/osTswf

FSO/ MFA
https://www1.mfa.gov.sg/Careers/Career-Opportunities/Foreign-Service-Officer-Functional-and-Corporate

FSO / MFA
https://www1.mfa.gov.sg/Careers/Career-Opportunities/Foreign-Service-Officer-Political-and-Economic

Moody’s
Intern (Corporate Finance) – Contract until end of 2018
https://g.co/kgs/wJbHRN

Investment Bank/ DB
https://sg.gradconnection.com/employers/deutsche-bank/what-type-of-candidate-do-we-look-for/

Market Data Analyst, Summer Intern
Bloomberg
https://sg.neuvoo.com/view/?id=n705ddhv6v&source=gfj&utm_campaign=google_jobs_apply&utm_source=google_jobs_apply&utm_medium=organic

DHL
Data Scientist, Analytics Lab
https://g.co/kgs/UWYr9N

Intern (Customer Analytics), DHL
https://g.co/kgs/ERfHU2

Manufacturing Intern, GE Aviation (Jan 2019 intake)
https://g.co/kgs/knfCWB

Intern, Automation; Robotics (Jan 2019 intake), GE
https://g.co/kgs/qTAcWc

Research from Centre for Creative Leadership

Sometimes we focus a lot on working behind the scenes and achieving, doing. Interestingly, the Centre for Creative Leadership lists relationships as major make or break.

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Photo credit: Himself taken on streets of Bangkok

By comparing successful managers to those who derail, CCL identified 5 specific factors that increase a leader’s odds for derailment:

⚓problems with interpersonal relationships; cold, aloof and arrogant

⚓difficulty building and leading a team; cant manage subordinates

⚓difficulty changing or adapting during a transition (conflict with upper management or unable to adapt to boss with a different style)

⚓inability to think strategically, too narrow of a functional orientation.

⚓failure to meet business objectives (eg too ambitious, betrayal of trust, and poor performance)

8 enduring success themes
1. Ambitious with a Desire to succeed
2. Establish strong collaborative relationships
3. Good track record in performance
4. Can motivate and direct subordinates
5. Intelligent
6. Willing to take risks
7. Able to adapt to the environment
8. Problem solver and entrepreneurial

If you still still think discovering your purpose or your ‘WHY’ is too touchy feely, listen to the podcast interview by Jacob Morgan of “The Future Organisation” with Tim Munden is the Chief Learning Officer at Unilever.

Company background
Unilever owns several brands including Dove, Ben and Jerry’s, Knorrs, Walls ice-cream. Unilever is found in over 100 countries with more than 160,000 employees.

Tim talks about putting 14,000 of Unilever employees of all levels through a workshop involving the discussion of their personal motivation WHY and linking that to their learning and development needs, bringing the whole self to work.

From the “Future Organisation” website,
Tim’s career started to have focus when someone asked him two questions:
1. What do you really love?
2. What do you want to learn about?

Tim’s advice for managers is to know how to answer– what is the purpose of our business? Keep asking why, why, why. Go on the journey with the senior leadership team.

Also, ask yourself what is the business case of the potential of all of your people. All the passion and energy. What is the price of not doing this? The well-being of employees, not just physical but mental.

Tim’s advice for employees is to make sure you challenge your own humanity, don’t check it at the door. Don’t be shy to bring yourself to work.

His main challenge at Unilever? Getting people to collaborate and share knowledge in a way that creates new learning. These sessions are part of the process to get there as well as reverse mentoring. Partnering older people with younger ones and have young ones teach the older ones.

What You Will Learn In the Episode:

● What Unilever is doing to help their people find their purpose
● Why do companies need to focus on purpose?
● What learning looks like at Unilever and how it has evolved over the last 25 years
● How to create a culture of curiosity and hunger to learn at work
Link from the episode

“It’s not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along,” I responded. “And that might be one of the additional superpowers that women who don’t ask for the raise have, because that’s good karma. It’ll come back. Long-term efficiency solves it.” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft said in 2014 at a Conference of Women in Computing when asked what advice he had for women seeking a pay raise who are not comfortable asking.

The comment went viral and met with much criticism.

Nadella subsequently apologised and explained that he had received this advice from his mentors and followed it. But this advice, he noted, underestimated exclusion and bias – conscious and conscious. Any advice that advocates passivity in the face of bias is wrong. Microsoft has since gone on to link pay to diversity and progress.

Source: Fast Company
 

Nadella’s mentors had advised him that human resource systems are short term inefficient but long term efficient. However, underlying that efficiency are advocates or mentors in our career. If no one is advocating for you, then its important that you start doing so for yourself.

In a few months time, we will be preparing for conversations with boss, setting goals for the next quarter. Anticipating more work, ie job enlargement, how does one ask boss for raise, if deserved.

Are there magical words that I can say?
Or the magical resume that can open all doors.

Four seconds, all the time you need to stop counter-productive habits and get.the results you want” by Peter Bregman.

Bregman notes that” it is natural to think the performance review is the perfect opportunity to ask for a raise. But you need to prepare for that conversation a year in advance, zeroing on top priorities and delivering on them.”

I recall my own mistake of working hard without doing the work of finding out what matters to the organisation and delivering on those priorities.

Some things are more important than others. Are we clear on what those are?

Bregman lists a few areas sapping our time. Are you overloaded doing too many things.

Do you spend time:
♤Answering emails that dont matter.
♡Offering opinions that arent necessary.
◇Spending time on issues whose outcomes we cant impact.

Bregman’s formula:

1. At the compensation conversation – ask how you can add value

2. How does your department impact on revenue and what is important to your direct manager and the top leaders?

3. Keep a few of these areas on top of your #to do list#.

4. Share the to do list with your manager make sure you are on the same page.

5. Quantify the impact of the results.

6. If you have a manager who starts asking you to do things outside the top two or three things, have a conversation. (Interestingly I have heard of anecdotal accounts of managers who ask staff to run their personal errands and reward based on these assistance. Some balance is obviously necessary. You have to ask if this is your long term career goal. )

In addition, I have noticed that your manager may have a different scale from you. Do you know their heart beat?

For instance Hofstede observed that managers from collective (group) cultures reward based on trust, loyalty and your effort to build team culture. Those from individualist or achievement culture value individual performance.

Subtly observe what is important to your manager. Do you know his/her heartbeat? What priority keeps their mind up at night?

I am reading “Four seconds, all the time you need to stop counter-productive habits and get.the results you want” by Peter Bregman.

https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-negotiate-salary-37-tips-you-need-to-know

June is a popular month for weddings. I have been invited to at least 3 weddings.

Because some of us could not make it across the bridge to our workfriend’s wedding, we decided to come together for a simple meal.

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Here in this photo, ZH is tying the red ribbon flower balls (adapting a Chinese custom) on the chair for the groom to be. The groom was made to untie and collect the “balls of happiness”. No scissors allowed. We had lots of fun in the process. (More information on Chinese customs)

In agrarian society, people had celebrations several times a year – feasts which serve to bond people together. Eat, laugh and have fun. In Japan and Korea, companies sponsor drinks and dinner after office a few timed a year. You may not want to be best friends with your colleagues, but its important to hang out socially.

Other Asian companies hang out with colleagues during lunch or breakfast.

Is there a reason to celebrate? A colleague survived her daughter’s first week in school. Someone new joined the team – welcome them. We clinched a new customer or completed a new project. Bake a cake, get out the balloons.

Roar.

Name 12 reasons you have to celebrate

How often do you laugh at the workplace

How often do you like to?

What is this lack of celebration costing you?

How to Ask for a Salary Increase. Joke I received from Whatsapp.

An employee sends a letter to his boss asking for an increase in his salary!!!

Dear Bo$$

In thi$ life, we all need $ome thing mo$t de$perately. I think you $hould be under$tanding of the need$ of u$ worker$ who have given $o much $upport including $weat and $ervice to your company.

I am $ure you will gue$$ what I mean and re$pond $oon.

Your$ $incerely,
Norman $oh

The next day, the employee received this letter of reply:

Dear NOrman

I kNOw you have been working very hard. NOwadays, NOthing much has changed.

You must have NOticed that our company is NOt doing NOticeably well as yet. NOw the newspaper are saying the world`s leading ecoNOmists are NOt sure if the world may be headed for aNOther recession. Looking at ecoNOmic fundamentals, things may turn bad.

I have NOthing more to add NOw. You kNOw what I mean.

Yours truly, Boss

How do organisations train employees for contingency? Does the star person at the top matter more for your company brand or the employees?

On 26 Nov 2011, the unthinkable happened at the Taj Mahal palace hotel in Mumbai when terrorists attacked the hotel, where 31 people, including 11 hotel employees died and 28 injured.

Some of the staff who were evacuated returned to man the phones, calling each room and instructing hotel guests. Efforts by employees who were empowered to make decisions saved the lives of 1,500 guests who were in the hotel.

In an article “Ordinary Heroes” which appeared in the Havard  Business Review and a TED Talk, Prof Rohit Deshpande and Anjali Raina attributed the exceptional behaviour to organisational culture.

The multimedia case study ‘Terror at the Taj Bombay: Customer-Centric Leadership’ by HBS professor Rohit Deshpande documents “the bravery and resourcefulness shown by rank-and-file employees” during the attack. “Not even the senior managers could explain the behaviour of these employees,” Deshpande is quoted as saying in HBS Working Knowledge, a forum on the faculty’s research and ideas. According to Deshpande even though the employees “knew all the back exits” of the hotel and could have easily escaped, many of them stayed back and helped the guests. “The natural human instinct would be to flee. These are people who instinctively did the right thing. And in the process, some of them, unfortunately, gave their lives to save guests.” 

Can organisational culture play a part in how employees handle situations/crisis they can never be ready for?

The authors suggest that the unusual hiring, training and incentive systems of the Taj Group combined to instill an extremely customer centric work ethic.

For instance, Taj prefers to recruit from smaller cities such as Pune rather than metropolitan like Mumbai.

Criteria for selection include traditional Indian values such as Respect for elders, Humility, consideration of others. Traits such as respect for elders, cheerfulness and neediness.

Trainees go through 18 mths (instead of industry average of 12 mths) of training in  one of 6 residential Taj Group skill certification centres.

At the managerial level, company recruits from lower tier B schools as MBAs who prefer to build careers with a single company are better suited for customer centric environments.

良禽择木而栖
liáng qín zé mù ér qī

Excerpts from “What the CEO really wants from You” by Gopalakrishnan