Workforce

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How to Bring Belonging Back

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October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

Early in my career, I was recruited to sit on an association’s board of directors and given the opportunity to spearhead a priority initiative for the organization. I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity to take on such a prominent role. Imagine my disappointment when I attended my first board meeting and the initiative was tabled. The next several meetings I attended, the initiative continued to be backburned. It wasn’t long before I found myself feeling frustrated, unappreciated, and overlooked. My admiration for the association and passion for the project waned. I felt like I no longer belonged. Feeling like we don’t belong is a feeling we can all relate to, yet many organizations are struggling to foster a sense of belonging – and have been for quite some time. We know this to be true because most associations have reported declining membership trends for the past decade, just as employers have reported declining levels of employee engagement. And here and now, the workforce turnover is so massive, this era is being referred to as the Great Resignation. Belonging by definition means two things: ownership and a secure relationship. We feel like we belong when we’re invited to actively contribute and share our opinions and ideas, and we are listened to, respected, and positively encouraged. In the late 1990s, belonging began to transition. From workplaces to membership associations, the same trend was observed: Young people were less likely to join/stay/engage/renew. In other words, young people were less likely to feel like they belong. Why the sudden shift? And why have so many organizations struggled to re-engage young people? I’ve spent a lot of time researching this trend in an effort to find the answers. The answer is quite complex, but here’s the condensed version: The shift in belonging is a direct result of significant social change and the era during which younger generations have come of age. Young people are wary of forging connections and…

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Leader holding a paycheck out.

The Price is Right: Why Higher Salaries Won’t Single-Handedly Solve the Workforce Crisis

October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

Six years ago, Dan Price, the founder and CEO of Gravity Payments, set off a media firestorm when he raised the firm’s minimum salary from $35,000 to $70,000 and slashed his own $1 million salary down to $70,000. He was hailed a hero by some and harshly criticized by others. Many analysts predicted the company would soon be bankrupt. But that has not happened; instead, the company is thriving. Six years later, revenue has tripled, the number of employees has doubled, the turnover rate was cut in half, and both the starting salary and CEO salary remain at $70,000. Here and now, wage increases are top of mind as employee turnover is skyrocketing and prospective employees are being wooed with higher starting salaries and sign-on bonuses. Undoubtedly, pay raises are needed. The wage gap is significant. According to the Economic Policy Institute, average CEO compensation is 320 times more than the salaries of their typical workers. (Six years ago, it was 265 times.) But make no mistake about it: money can’t buy love. For 20 years, Gallup has reported 70% of the workforce is disengaged, and companies have thrown money at the problem investing more than ever in perks and bonuses to try to reverse the decline. Yet, employee engagement hasn’t improved. At all. If money isn’t having the desired effect, what will? Trust. The organizations thriving and successfully engaging employees are trustworthy. Specifically, employees believe their leaders are credible, honest, and fair, and that their leaders respect them. Some people will read Price’s story and only see dollar signs. Those people are missing it. Employee engagement can’t be bought. While fans and critics alike marvel at Price’s pay structure, that’s only half the story. His team has been referred to as fiercely loyal which can only come from a trusting, people-first workplace culture. Here’s how one employee described Gravity Payment’s leadership during the pandemic:   “They didn’t do any layoffs. They didn’t raise merchant fees. They let the…

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Kick the Quit: Why Work Isn’t Working and What to Do About It

October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

The Great Resignation. The Talent Tsunami. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the speck of sand in our eyes – it stings, it’s anxiety-inducing, and it’s become impossible to ignore. We knew this moment was coming. For decades, government leaders and demographers warned organizations to plan for the Baby Boomer retirement wave. For the past 20 years, Gallup has reported high, unyielding rates of employee disengagement. Then the turnover rate among young professionals hit a historic high and retaining talent was cited as the top management challenge globally. Work hasn’t been working for a while now. The pandemic made an already miserable and fleeting workforce rethink their career and life trajectories and take action. As a result, a record-breaking 11.5 million workers quitting their jobs within a three-month time span – April-June 2021. (U.S. Dept of Labor) This is just the tip of the iceberg. Studies indicate several thousand more workers are likely to jump ship within the next 3-6 months. It took time to get into this mess, and it’s going to take time to get ourselves out of it. Best to start working on work immediately.   To engage people is to understand them, and that can only come from time spent in a relationship with them   As with any crisis, addressing the situation is best achieved once one understands what is causing it. I’ve spent the past two decades researching workforce engagement trends and it all comes down to three undeniable truths:   We inherited institutions designed for the 20thcentury, which are unable to cope with the mounting pressures of constant change and disruption in the 21st century. When leaders fear change and struggle to be open to new ideas, technologies, or people, employees immediately disengage. Appreciation, respect, care, trust, and a sense of teamwork and belonging are considerably more influential in an employee’s decision to engage than compensation, benefits, or workplace perks.   Employees are more unhappy and more likely to leave because many leaders and…

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How to Deal with an Organization in Denial

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October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

A year ago, President Trump was under fire by experts and pundits for being in denial about the seriousness of the pandemic. In the early weeks, the President referred to the virus as a hoax, refused to issue a federal stay at home order, and hesitated to fully utilize the Defense Production Act. Unfortunately, leadership denial isn’t exclusive to presidents or pandemics. Henry Ford’s denial ended up costing the company a whopping $250 million. Model T sales were declining, yet Ford dismissed the figures because he suspected rivals of manipulating them. One of his top executives warned him of the dire situation and Ford fired him. When he finally decided to make a new car, Ford shut down production for months and the company lost its lead in the market. Denial is a prominent problem among leaders, and it can lead to serious consequences. I was thinking about the power of denial recently while facilitating a meeting with a company’s leadership team. Even after presenting data to indicate irreversible decline unless the company changed course, the team struggled to see the problem. Their conversation immediately turned to a quick fix, which was the equivalent of throwing a rock into a raging ocean. Solution aversion is a powerful barrier to organizational change. Research indicates the majority of leaders rely on the ‘ostrich’ response to change, denying or ignoring the need to change until something forces a response. A popular meme, which features a cartoon dog surrounded by flames, captures this sentiment perfectly. The caption says: This is fine. There’s brain science and social science involved in our responses to change, but the bottom line is this: When the path to a solution seems too overwhelming or difficult, we prefer to avoid it. From backburnering a diet to avoiding a tough conversation, the struggle is one we can all relate to in our personal lives. Likewise, in the workplace leaders will downplay the importance of investing in a…

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How Cancel Culture Will Change Your Organization

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October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

Given the opportunity to time travel, would you choose to visit the past or the future? I was participating in a virtual happy hour when this question popped up. Some experienced professionals jumped in, sharing moments in history they wanted to visit. The conversation was bubbly; people were happily caught up in their imaginations of what it would be like to experience a bygone era. Then a student from Georgetown University spoke up, and just like that, the mood shifted. “I want to visit the future”, she said. “I want to visit the future to see how much damage has been done by the actions of our society today.” Gen Z (1996-2009) are the teens and early 20-somethings who have become largely renowned for holding up the mirror to society, forcing us all to take a closer look. Under  their watch, the concept of cancel culture has been trending for most of the past year, which has become a polarizing topic of debate. Regardless of age or experience, feeling ignored drives  people to disengage, quit, protest, and cancel. The process of ‘canceling’ usually goes like this: A public figure or organization does or says something offensive. A public backlash, often fueled by political views and social media, ensues. Then there’s call to take away their cultural cachet, whether through boycotts or disciplinary action. Cancel culture has been referred to as a mob mentality, encouraging lawlessness, censorship, and the erasing of history. It’s also been referred to as a long overdue way of holding people accountable for propagating racist and sexist ideas, toxic behaviors, and making unethical, immoral decisions without any regard for others. Although it started as more of a political debate, cancel culture has now moved into the arena of generational debate. In 2019, the OK boomer meme and videos were an attempt by Gen Z to ‘cancel’ the generations that came before them. OK boomer was meant to be cutting and dismissive; a snarky…

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Why They Quit: How To Retain Young Talent

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October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

As vaccines are being distributed, there is hope the worst of the pandemic is nearing an end. But if research is any indication, another kind of crisis may just be heating up. As SHRM defines it, a “turnover tsunami” is brewing, with more than half of employees surveyed planning to look for a new job this year. Employers were experiencing high rates of turnover prior to the pandemic. In fact, voluntary turnover had been steadily rising since 2010, and was cited as a chief global concern by both the UN and World Economic Forum. When the pandemic hit, quit rates reached their lowest level in nine years – and now they’re bouncing back. Just this week, I’ve heard from three executives lamenting the loss of young talent. The fact remains that professionals under the age of 39 account for more than half of all voluntary separations. Why? Increased employee turnover is the outcome of a shift in workforce needs and values, and it’s a shift that is here to stay. This is a topic I’ve researched a great detail and the answer is quite complex. In brief, here are two reasons why young professionals are three times more likely than other generations to quit: Inclusion We’re observing an ever-widening gap between twentieth century managed organizations and twenty-first century raised workers. Young professionals don’t understand the management processes and hierarchies common throughout the past century. These generations have only known a world powered by innovation, collaboration, globalization, instant gratification, knowledge, acceptance, and access. They struggle to comprehend why decisions can’t be made on the fly, why they can’t have a seat at the decision-making table, and why it’s always been done ‘that way.’ Stability Millennials came of age during the Great Recession-the worst economic decline our country had experienced in 70 years. Gen Z has come of age during the most disruptive         decade in history. These experiences have shaped the career trajectories of young professionals in more…

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Inclusion efforts that really work – and those that don’t

October 23 @ 6:17 pm CDT

Why is inclusion a target many organizations struggle to reach? This is a question I’ve pondered since entering the workforce. Early in my career, I found myself working in a role where I was one of the youngest employees. In my next role, I would work for an association struggling to engage young members. Both of these experiences led to the launch of this business and research on how to successfully manage and build inclusive organizations.  An inclusion strategy can’t exist on good intentions – it’s about intention meeting impact.  There have been many points in history when society reflects on its inclusiveness. Here and now, racial inclusion is at the forefront of our discussions, and leaders are seizing this moment to advance diversity efforts at their organizations.  While their intentions are good, an inclusion strategy simply can’t exist on good intentions alone.  Throughout my work in this area, I’ve seen organizations misunderstand what an inclusion effort actually involves and make costly mistakes in the process. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid. During Black History Month, many brands were eager to show solidarity, distributing campaigns and posting commitments. The same reaction occurred after the #MeToo movement. Similarly, many organizations believe social media campaigns are a surefire way to engage young people. Inclusion ensures everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources, and can fairly and respectfully contribute to the organization’s success. It is not a marketing strategy. Right now, many C-suites are thinking about hiring a head of diversity and inclusion, and membership organizations are considering adding the role to their boards of directors. This could be a great addition, but thinking a designated role will make all the difference is a mistake. Inclusion has to be owned, developed, and supported collectively. One person can’t achieve systemic organization-wide change. An inclusion strategy can’t exist on good intentions – it’s about intention meeting impact.   Practice cognitive diversity, consistently bringing people of different ages, skills, and backgrounds to inclusively work on projects…

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