In 2010, I predicted what the workplace would be like in the year 2020. Chapter 18 of "Surviving the Talent Exodus" is a two part examination. The first part describes the workplace as it would become. The second part is a story about a fictitious character named Trent, a 27 year old robotic technician considering a job change. We called millennials Generation Y in the old days. How much do you think has or is coming true? You be the judge!
“I will not pay for employees to train while I am paying them to work” said the CEO of a company. We are rapidly approaching 2019 and this thinking is a reality in the business world. It reminds me of the CFO that told the CEO, “If we train our people they will leave for a better job”. The CEO replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?” This polarized thinking forms the foundation for the challenge facing organizations in this hyperactive job market.
What is the plural of mongoose? In his famous eighties song Infatuation, Rod Stewart opined, “oh no not again, it hurts so good, I don’t understand” about a new love in his life. Love may not be the emotion leaders experience as we adjust to another generation entering the workforce. Tragically, many organizations (and supervisors) have not adjusted to millennials and are about to become two generations behind in reality. What does this mean for the modern workplace?
I now completely own the fact that I was a “driver” dad with my first son. Drivers push the child into every next stage in life. We push them to walk, play ball, read, and achieve. In retrospect, I believe this style is the genetic default. When humans did not live as long, survival required children to mature at a much faster rate. Drivers feel an overwhelming urge to push children to be better sooner.
Steve Jobs famously said “A” players are twice as valuable as “B” players. He went on to indicate that the ratio was 25:1 for software developers. Regardless of the occupation, this reality presents an incredible opportunity for most organizations. With people in such high demand, it is tempting to settle for “B” players. It is tempting to play with the team you have regardless of current performance reality.
I recently carried a gallon of pickles on stage in front of nearly 800 people. I sat the jar on the large podium and went to work. I made a point to refer to the jar several times during my speech. I even gave away 3 small shots of pickle juice to members of the audience that were brave enough to come on stage during my presentation. For the rest of the conference, people would see me and say “hey, you are the pickle guy.” I am totally ok with that reference as long as they remember the message.
The fact that so many companies lack a written plan while unemployment (3.8% nationally) is so low, is borderline corporate negligence. If indeed a written plan is hidden within the walls of corporate human resources, the plan probably lacks efficacy and more importantly, proper implementation. I hope this information accomplishes two things. 1) It forces the discussion in C-Suites. 2) It results in more companies understanding the necessity for action and making a written plan a necessity.
Earlier this week I heard someone say that it is better to be kind than right and it keeps rattling around in my brain. In the business world, being right is extremely important and often necessary for survival. The market is hard on businesses that get it wrong too often. From an early age, we are taught to do what’s right so it is natural for us to want to “be” right. The mental feeling of being right is justification for our ideas as well as our position on whatever topic or issue at hand.
Corporations spend billions of dollars out of fear and miss tremendous opportunities for the same reason. Think of every failed project or initiative in your past and possibly present. Markets change and so do the preferences of consumers. We can become so enamored with our work that we do not acknowledge these changes. Fear in business is the dirty little secret that nobody wants to admit exists. What drives this fear? How does it impact the bottom line? The following short story illustrates the root of fear and bias in the workplace. Any similarities with actual people or events are completely coincidental. Let’s go fishing with Phil and Larry.
Once an iconic presence in my life, Toys R us was the “go to” toy source when my now college junior was in search of the perfect birthday gift or ideas for his Christmas list. I remember walking the aisles with him in search of the best action figure or latest toy as seen on television. Each year, we would take his Christmas list, fight the crowds, and stand in long lines to spend money at this now dead company. It seemed like every friend’s birthday party was preceded by a trip to Toys R Us to find a cool toy. To be brutally honest, I am saddened but not surprised at the passing of another corporate megabiz.
OK I admit it; there are tons of leadership ideas in the business world. Much of it reflects the same thoughts revisited from different paradigms (consultant rule: one must use the word “paradigm” once daily to remain credible) and perspectives. However, there is much less consensus on the mindset we bring to work each day. I want you to think about your daily commute to work. Do you think about the problems and opportunities that need to be addressed? Or, do you think about the people you need to help become successful? This may seem insignificant at first glance, but is it?
How can such an intelligent and capable executive be so clueless in today’s demanding business environment? How can a company be so blind to pending challenges and opportunities? The answer to these questions and an honest assessment about current reality are why many chief executives are doomed to struggle.