Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 3:47 pm Post subject: The Workplace
Zabeen Hirji explains why inclusion is becoming a competitive imperative in the future of work
To discover how clusters can attract the best talent and empower people to contribute their best, European Cluster Collaboration Platform (ECCP) sat down with Zabeen Hirji, Global Advisor, Future of Work at Deloitte, and former Chief Human Resources Officer at RBC. In addition to discussing how to mobilise talent and diversity in an inclusive way, Zabeen explained why it’s important for cluster practitioners to act on diversity and inclusion with intention.
ECCP: At the TCI Network’s global conference in Toronto last October, you spoke about why diversity and inclusion matter. Can you recap that for us?
Zabeen: Diversity and inclusion are about getting the best talent and creating conditions in which everyone can contribute their best. I think of this as a win-win. When we enable people to unlock their potential, they thrive as individuals, as do the organisations they work for. Diverse teams are more creative and drive innovation, and they serve markets and customers better - and that improves the bottom line. It’s a pretty straightforward business case.
Research studies back this up. For example, Deloitte Canada’s report, Outcomes over optics, found that 49 percent of highly inclusive organisations were more likely to invest in research and development, and reported faster revenue and employee growth, while two-thirds were more likely to bring new products and services to market.
Drawing on my experience at RBC, we similarly learned that to serve the market, we needed to hire the market, and that diverse teams challenged the status quo, generated more ideas, and drove innovation. One concrete example is RBC’s Amplify program, an intensive summer internship program that brings together university students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. The program has resulted in numerous market-disrupting solutions and products, as well as a number of patents.
So, inclusive organisations empower individuals, enable communities to prosper, and are good for the economy - making diversity and inclusion the right thing to do, and the smart thing to do.
Microsoft calls it a key skill of the future. Here are 4 steps to mastering it
With increasing talk of job disruption and automation, it’s important to think about the skills that will be most in demand in the future.
Microsoft, in its latest research, defined those as digital skills, analytical abilities and continuous learning capabilities. In particular, the tasks that require strong analytic abilities will call for a creative approach, explained Kevin Wo, Microsoft’s managing director for Singapore.
“I think there’s a need for them to learn about skills around design thinking,” Wo said of employees.
“Design thinking” is a term for a particular method of problem solving, which dictates that individuals should try and get into a customer’s shoes to generate practical, user-friendly solutions. That could mean creating a new technology or product, such as Apple’s iPhone. But the strategy can — and should — also be applied to other job functions, design thinking specialist Kasia Miaskiewicz told CNBC Make It.
“You can apply it anywhere,” said Miaskiewicz, a director at UBS Evolve, the Swiss bank’s center for design thinking and innovation. “As long as there is a user, a recipient – and there always is – there’s always an opportunity to apply design thinking.”
Speaking at a recent careers conference in Singapore, Miaskiewicz said the strategy can be broken down into four key steps.
The Stormtrooper Problem: Why Thought Diversity Makes Us Better
Diversity of thought makes us stronger, not weaker. Without diversity we die off as a species. We can no longer adapt to changes in the environment. We need each other to survive.
Diversity is how we survive as a species. This is a quantifiable fact easily observed in the biological world. From niches to natural selection, diversity is the common theme of success for both the individual and the group.
Take the central idea of natural selection: The genes, individuals, groups, and species with the most advantageous traits in a given environment survive and reproduce in greater numbers. Eventually, those advantageous traits spread. The overall population becomes more suited to that environment. This occurs at multiple levels from single genes to entire ecosystems.
That said, natural selection cannot operate without a diverse set of traits to select from! Without variation, selection cannot improve the lot of the higher-level group.
This is why I find it frustrating that we often seem to struggle with diversity of thought. This type of diversity shouldn’t threaten us. It should energize us. It means we have a wider variety of resources to deal with the inevitable challenges we face as a species.
Imagine that a meteor is on its way to earth. A crash would be the end of everyone. No matter how self-involved we are, no one wants to see humanity wiped out. So what do we do? Wouldn’t you hope that we could call on more than three people to help find a solution?
Ideally there would be thousands of people with different skills and backgrounds tackling this meteor problem, many minds and lots of options for changing the rock’s course and saving the life as we know it. The diversity of backgrounds—variations in skills, knowledge, ways of looking at and understanding the problem—might be what saves the day. But why wait for the threat? A smart species would recognize that if diversity of knowledge and skills would be useful for dealing with a meteor, then diversity would be probably useful in a whole set of other situations.
For example, very few businesses can get by with one knowledge set that will take their product from concept to the homes of customers. You would never imagine that a business could be staffed with clones and be successful. It would be the ultimate in social proof. Everyone would literally be saying the same thing.
The Stormtrooper Problem
Intelligence agencies face a unique set of problems that require creative, un-googleable solutions to one-off problems.
You’d naturally think they would value and seek out diversity in order to solve those problems. And you’d be wrong. Increasingly it’s harder and harder to get a security clearance.
Do you have a lot of debt? That might make you susceptible to blackmail. Divorced? You might be an emotional wreck, which could mean you’ll make emotional decisions and not rational ones. Do something as a youth that you don’t want anyone to know? That makes it harder to trust you. Gay but haven’t told anyone? Blackmail risk. Independently wealthy? That means you don’t need our paycheck, which means you might be harder to work with. Do you have a nuanced opinion of politics? What about Edward Snowden? Yikes. The list goes on.
As the process gets harder and harder (trying to reduce risk), there is less and less diversity in the door. The people that make it through the door are Stormtroopers.
And if you’re one of the lucky Stormtrooopers to make it in, you’re given a checklist career development path. If you want a promotion, you know the exact experience and training you need to receive one. It’s simple. It doesn’t require much thought on your part.
The combination of these two things means that employees increasingly look at—and attempt to solve—problems the same way. The workforce is less effective than it used to be. This means you have to hire more people to do the same thing or outsource more work to people that hire misfits. This is the Stormtrooper problem.
Creativity and Innovation
Diversity is necessary in the workplace to generate creativity and innovation. It’s also necessary to get the job done. Teams with members from different backgrounds can attack problems from all angles and identify more possible solutions than teams whose members think alike. Companies also need diverse skills and knowledge to keep a company functioning. Finance superstars may not be the same people who will rock marketing. And the faster things change, the more valuable diversity becomes for allowing us to adapt and seize opportunity.
We all know that any one person doesn’t have it all figured out and cannot possibly do it all. We can all recognize that we rely on thousands of other people every day just to live. We interact with the world through the products we use, the entertainment we consume, the services we provide. So why do differences often unsettle us?
Any difference can raise this reaction: gender, race, ethnic background, sexual orientation. Often, we hang out with others like us because, let’s face it, communicating is easier with people who are having a similar life experience. And most of us like to feel that we belong. But a sense of belonging should not come at the cost of diversity.
I was two weeks into my job at an intelligence agency on September 11, 2001 when the world suddenly changed.
The job I had been hired to do disappeared. I had a computer science degree; I came from a world of 1s and 0s, not people, families, and interpersonal dynamics. I was thrust into a series of promotions for which I had received no guidance, that came with responsibilities I had no idea how to navigate. Suddenly, my decisions affected not only my employees but their families. Not only my country but other countries. The only problem? I had no idea how to make decisions. I only knew I had an obligation to make the best decisions I could.
To improve my ability to make decisions, I looked around and found some mentors. I watched them carefully and learned from them. I read everything I could about making decisions. I even took some time off work to go back to school and earn my MBA, hoping that I would finally learn how to make better decisions — as if that was some end state rather than a constantly evolving journey.
My belief that the MBA program was a good use of my time eroded quickly. When I showed up to write an exam only to find out it was open book test I realized my expectations were entirely wrong and in need of updating. Some days, I couldn’t tell whether I was in a master’s program or grade school? And yet that is where everything changed for me.
Thanks to the internet, I was no longer limited to the best teachers in my organization or university. I went from theoretical classroom examples that were completely divorced from the real world to the wisdom behind the achievements of one of the most successful businesses of all time. What I discovered in Warren Buffett and his longtime business partner Charles Munger opened a door that has never shut.
What a 16th-century mystic can teach us about making good decisions
Decision-making is a complex process. As individuals, working through our daily lives, we often take a number of shortcuts that may not always serve us well. For example, we make impulsive decisions when stressed or allow others to make them for us, at times with disappointing or disastrous consequences.
But most of us can do better. Among the many decision-making methods for life’s big decisions, one that stands out is from an early 16th-century soldier-turned-mystic, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
As a clinical psychologist, I first became acquainted with Ignatian discernment during an internship program in spirituality and have found it useful to incorporate it in my research on mindfulness and other reflective practices.
Ignatius uses the language of faith, but, I believe, anyone can apply his method to make more informed decisions.
6 surprising little things hiring managers judge you on within the first 15 minutes of a job interview
Hiring managers take a lot into account during the interview process — and every little action counts, from your body language to the tone of your voice to the things you say.
Within the first 15 minutes of an interview, their top priorities include determining whether you’re capable of maintaining positive workplace relationships and being a team player. Sure, your actual skills and experience matter, but how you interact with your potential co-workers and and handle your responsibilities directly impacts a company’s success, your career advancement, workplace satisfaction and even your mental health.
To ensure success, you’ll want to avoid the most common behaviors that hiring managers judge you on within the first 15 minutes of the interview
When I'm at work I want to talk about work. Not my hair or skin.
It’s impossible for me to catalog all the times I’ve been in a professional setting when someone thought it appropriate to tell me about my appearance.
Most recently, I was at a literary festival in Georgia. I had just talked about my book for a little under an hour: the 10 years of work I’d put into it, the research I conducted to feel confident inventing a cult of domestic terrorists, and the personal grief and loss underlying the novel. In the signing line afterward, a woman complimented me on my remarks and said she was excited about my book. Then she added: “You’re adorable. I wish I could adopt you.” With a big smile, she walked away.
There was also the bookstore event at which, during the question-and-answer portion of the evening — and in front of a packed crowd with whom I’d just been discussing craft, books, literature — a woman told me how cute she thought I was. There’s the time I guest-taught at a graduate program, and a fellow professor called me and my friend — both of us on the faculty and both of us Asian-American — “little lambs.” There are the innumerable times professional colleagues, people I barely know, strangers even, have told me my skin is alabaster, and my hair silklike and shiny. My skin’s not especially pale, and even if it were, this would be weird, and diminishing. It’s objectifying.
Why is it so weird, you might be wondering. Aside from the colorist comments about my skin, some of these words — adorable, cute, silky, shiny — could be taken, incorrectly, as compliments. I acknowledge that there’s luck, and privilege, in inhabiting a body that others might find appealing. But when I’m at these events, I am at work. I am talking about my profession, not about my hair or skin or any perceived cuteness.
Stockpickers make a distinction between a share’s price and its true worth. Many studies have shown the benefits of buying stocks with a low price-to-book. But not recently. As the industrial age gives way to the digital age, the intangible assets that increasingly matter are not easy to put a value on. Fixed capital assets and current assets typically make up the bulk of book value. But these days a firm’s value lies as much in its reputation, its processes and relationships with customers and suppliers.
What the Failed All-Female Spacewalk Tells Us About Office Temperature
In a for-men, by-men world, the little things still really do hurt women.
It’s an important reminder that while we often focus on major systemic issues facing working women — problems like gender-based wage gaps, family leave policies, career pipelines for women in underrepresented fields — the “little things” really do matter. Things like the lack of adequate lactation rooms in most office buildings, antiquated office dress codes that require women to wear high heels to work and the size of safety gear available for female astronauts.
In my current role, leading an all-girls school, I know that these seemingly small things make a big difference in how our next generation imagines their futures. My students are well aware of the institutional barriers they are likely to face, particularly if they follow a passion for computer science or engineering, want to become an entrepreneur or pursue any of the various professions in which women are still greatly underrepresented. They know that they will be held to a different standard, their style of leadership may be questioned, and gender norms will make it that much harder to juggle family and work. They understand what obstacles to expect and are ready for what’s to come.
But we less frequently and effectively prepare them for the little stuff. Like the fact that the temperature setting in most workplaces is calibrated to men’s metabolic rates, so women are often uncomfortably cold, especially when the air conditioning kicks in. Or that until recently, even the White House did not have enough lactation rooms for the moms who wanted to work there. These are unfortunate realities that shouldn’t be ignored. Not simply because if we don’t shine a spotlight on the issues, things will never change, but also because our girls need to understand and be prepared for the world that awaits them.
Doing the Enough Thing: My Interview with Basecamp CEO and Co-founder Founder Jason Fried [The Knowledge Project Ep. #54]
Basecamp CEO and co-founder Jason Fried gives us a peek behind the scenes of his company and discusses his philosophy on doing great work, making a positive difference, and learning to breathe in the fast paced culture of today’s workplace.
The hustle and grind culture has taken over. The expectation of longer hours, increased workload, and doing it all faster has become the new standard. And while the bottom line might benefit in the short term, today’s guest suggests a better way.
Jason Fried (@jasonfried) is the CEO and co-founder of Basecamp, (formerly 37signals), host of the popular REWORK podcast, and the co-author of four books, Getting Real, REWORK, Remote, and most recently, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. Jason’s books serve as a clarion call to entrepreneurs, business owners and employees everywhere that building something successful that you can be proud of and running yourself ragged do not have to go hand in hand.
In this discussion, we talk about how teams are given autonomy at Basecamp, Jason’s unconventional method of measuring success and failure, the real reason burnout happens in a workplace, and so much more.
The Death of Expertise: Why a Few Generalists Will Rule the Future of Work.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution Has Arrived
“A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”
― Isaac Asimov
According to a 2017 Mckinsey report, between 400 million and 800 million jobs globally could be automated by machines by 2030. Meanwhile, another report published by the University of Oxford, noted that a conservative estimate of 47 percent of total US employment is at risk of automation.
The mass human cleansing is already underway: driverless cars and trucks, artificially intelligent radiologists, surgeons, chess players, lawyers and accountants.
A quick examination of the drastic differences in the number of employees amongst the world’s largest firms of 1962 versus those of today, should have set off the siren.
In 1962, AT&T had market cap of $20 billion and 564,000 employees, whilst General Motors had a market cap of $12 billion and 605,000 employees. 2
Conversely, in 2017, Apple had a market cap of $800 billion and only 116,000 employees, whilst Google had a market cap of $679 billion and only 73,992 employees. 3
What makes today’s digital revolution so different from the others? After all, humans have collectively survived and prospered throughout the three major industrial revolutions since the 18th century.
The difference is subtle but dramatic: machines are beginning to learn and think for themselves in quantum leaps.
Any doubt that a machine could potentially out-think, outperform and outmaneuver a human, was thrown out the window when the google algorithm beat the worldwide champion of the ancient game of Go—a strategy game that is much more complex than chess.
So-called traditional skilled white-collar jobs that were once deemed as a safety net for graduates, are now ironically the most at risk of being automated.
And old school coveted skills like leadership, management, social influence and time management, have been forcefully overtaken by critical thinking and creativity skills.
According to a world economic forum survey of leading global employers, the top five most in demand skills by 2022 will be: 4
Analytical thinking and innovation.
Active learning and learning strategies.
Creativity, originality and initiative.
Technology design and programming.
Critical thinking and analysis.
The most coveted job roles of the future look nothing like those of the past, incorporating these in demand skills: Innovation managers, Data scientists, Software and Applications Developers and E-commerce and Social Media managers.
By 2022, it is estimated that no less than 54% of all employees across the globe will require significant re-and upskilling, as single-skillset job roles rapidly decline.
And those who continue to pursue specialization with zest run the risk of becoming extinct, much sooner than they think.
As automation continues to wipe out repetitive tasks once occupied by skilled workers, entry and middle-level jobs will become scarce, specialists will compete fiercely with one another for lower wages, and eventually, economically viable jobs will only reside at the senior level.
Meanwhile, organizations that fail to innovate and adapt quickly will die a fast and painful death.
Recent history is littered with the graveyards of so called “”too big to fail” corporations that fell off the wall: Kodak, Blockbusters, HMV, Hummer, Toys R Us, and most recently, Walmart is in the biggest fight of its 68-year history against Amazon’s disruptive innovation.
Bullish Investors and entrepreneurs are already jostling to win the AI gold rush and dethrone the old guard firms. Venture capitalist Investment into AI start-ups has increased sixfold since 2000.
In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, the line of communication between Millennials in the workforce and Baby boomers who lead corporations, has completely broken down—a deloitte survey of workers across 36 countries, discovered that 43% of Millennials plan to quit their job within the next two years, while only 28% of Millennials would be willing to stay beyond five years. 5
In a frantic effort to calm the storm, organizations have resorted to the “gig economy,” whilst policymakers battle with one another over a universal basic income to cushion the impending job crisis.
It would appear that all hope is lost. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
As more disruptive technologies penetrate the workforce in rapid succession and skills gaps widen even greater, those who survive and prosper will be agile lifelong learners.
Their expertise will not be deep like their forefathers, instead it will resemble that of a polymath—a wide knowledge base across unrelated domains.
They will hold the keys to innovation because as studies have found, the best ideas emerge from combining insights from fields that don’t seem connected. There is no one better poised to do so than a generalist. 6
And as the Pareto principle kicks into high gear, there will be a radical shift in the balance of power that mankind has never witnessed before.
For the first time in history, the generalist will rule the specialist.
The Fox Has Overtaken the Hedgehog
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
― Stephen Hawking
The truth is, not all fairy tales have a happy ending. And it would appear that perhaps we have reached the end of the romantic fairy-tale: that of a specialist and a machine working together in harmony.
The breakneck speed of technological improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, are beginning to shake the very foundation of the nature of work.
Traditional career paths and the educational institutions that feed them, are no longer the bedrock of job security as they have been for centuries.
And old guard firms and leaders that continue to stubbornly hold onto the notion that “we’ve always done it this way,” will vanish as quickly as fallen autumn leaves swept away by a sudden gust of wind.
The Luddites raised the alarm over 200 years ago. They warned us that a day would come when the specialist would become endangered.
Perhaps it’s time we pay close attention and heed their warning.
Today, many hedgehogs freely roam the hills and rule over the few foxes. Tomorrow, only a few foxes will rule the many hedgehogs.
The era of the specialist has come to an end. The future belongs to the generalist.
Stop me if this sounds familiar. There is a person who toils alone for years in relative obscurity before finally cracking the code to become a hero. The myth of the lone genius. It’s the stuff of Disney movies.
Of course, we all have moments when we’re alone and something suddenly clicks. We’d do well to remember, though, that in those moments, we are not as independent as we like to think. The people we surround ourselves with matter.
In part, because we tell ourselves the story of the lone genius, we under-appreciate the role of a team. Sure, the individual matters, no doubt. However, the individual contributions are supercharged by the team around them.
We operate in a world where it’s nearly impossible to accomplish anything great as an individual. When you think about it, you’re the product of an education system, a healthcare system, luck, roads, the internet and so much more. You may be smart but you’re not self-made. And at work, most important achievements require a team of people working together.
The leader’s job is to get the team right. Getting the team right means that people are better as a group than as individuals. Now this is important. Step back and think about that for a second — the right teams make every individual better than they would be on their own.
Another way to think about this is in terms of energy. If you have 12 people on a team and they each have 10 units of energy, you would expect to get 120 units of output. That’s what an average team will do. Worse teams will do worse. A great team will take the same inputs and get a non-linear outcome. The result won’t be 120; it’ll be 360.No matter where you’re going, great teams will get you there multiples faster than average teams.
Here is a quote by Steve Jobs on the importance of assembling “A” players.
I observed something fairly early on at Apple, which I didn’t know how to explain then, but I’ve thought a lot about it since. Most things in life have a dynamic range in which [the ratio of] “average” to “best” is at most 2:1. For example, if you go to New York City and get an average taxi cab driver, versus the best taxi cab driver, you’ll probably get to your destination with the best taxi driver 30% faster. And an automobile; what’s the difference between the average car and the best? Maybe 20%? The best CD player versus the average CD player? Maybe 20%? So 2:1 is a big dynamic range for most things in life. Now, in software, and it used to be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; maybe even 100:1. Very few things in life are like this, but what I was lucky enough to spend my life doing, which is software, is like this. So I’ve built a lot of my success on finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for “B” and “C” players, but really going for the “A” players. And I found something… I found that when you get enough “A” players together, when you go through the incredible work to find these “A” players, they really like working with each other. Because most have never had the chance to do that before. And they don’t work with “B” and “C” players, so it’s self-policing. They only want to hire “A” players. So you build these pockets of “A” players and it just propagates.
Building a team is more complicated than collecting talent1. I once tried to solve a problem by putting a bunch of PhDs’ in a room. While comments like that sounded good and got me a lot of projects above my level, they were rarely effective at delivering actual results.
Statements like “let’s assemble a multidisciplinary team of incredible people” are gold in meetings if you work for an organization. These statements sound intelligent. They are hard to argue with. And, most importantly, they also have no accountability built in, and they are easy to wiggle out of. If things don’t work out, who can fault a plan that meant putting smart people in a room.
Well … I can. It’s a stupid plan.
The combination of individual intelligence does not make for group intelligence. Thinking about this in the context of the Jobs quote above, “A” players provide a lot more than raw intellectual horsepower. Among other things, they also bring drive, integrity, and an ability to make others better. “A” players want to work with other “A” players. Accepting that statement doesn’t mean they’re all “the best”.
In my experience solving difficult problems, the best talent available rarely led to the best solutions. You needed the best team. And the best team meant you had to exercise judgment and think about the problem. While there was often one individual with the idea that ultimately solved the problem, it wouldn’t have happened without the team. The ideas others spark in us are more than we can spark in ourselves.
The Richest Man in China Is Wrong. 12-Hour Days Are No ‘Blessing.’
Working nonstop hurts employees as well as the managers who praise the culture of overwork.
Jack Ma, the richest man in China and founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, is a big fan of extreme overwork. He recently praised China’s “996” practice, so called because it refers to those who put in 12-hour days — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — six days a week. This “is not a problem,” he said in a recent blog post, instead calling it a “blessing.”
The response from others in China was swift. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children,” one person argued on the same platform. “Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, the children who need company?” It even prompted a response from Chinese state media, which reminded everyone, “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical.”
Managers who think like Mr. Ma can be found the world over. Here at home, Elon Musk, a co-founder of Tesla, has argued that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” Uber reportedly used to use the internal mantra “Work smarter, harder and longer.” (It’s now just “smarter” and “harder.”) The company has also rebranded second jobs as clever “side hustles.” WeWork decorates its co-working spaces with phrases like, “Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you are done.” Other tech and business gurus try to sell us on “toil glamour.”
The truth is that they’re all wrong. Workers certainly suffer when forced to put in extreme hours. But business fares just as poorly. No one benefits from people pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion.
Forget the 5-day work week—just 4 days results in ‘a healthier, more loyal, more engaged staff’
If you want a more productive employee, give them a paid day off from work every week.
That’s the philosophy of Andrew Barnes, founder of the New Zealand company Perpetual Garden. He tried the experiment last year, and the results made both Barnes and his employees happy. Now his workers enjoy a permanent four-day work week.
“This is all about working smarter, not working longer,” said Barnes, whose firm manages wills, trusts and estates.
“We have this perception that you’ve got to work five days a week, 9-5. What we are really talking about is changing how people are behaving when they are at the office,” he recently told CNBC’s “The Exchange. ”
In other words, less goofing off and more focusing on work. The idea is that employees give the company 100% productivity. They still get 100% of their salary, but only work 80% of the standard hours.
It’s a success because employees get the perk — and they concentrate more consistently on work during that time than their 9-5 counterparts do, suggests Barns.
Several studies back him up. According to a U.K. study done in 2017 by deals site Vouchercloud, the average employee spends two hours and 53 minutes each day working productively.
Separately, a 2018 survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos found that more than half of full-time workers thought they could do their job in five hours a day if they didn’t have any interruptions. It polled 3,000 employees across eight nations.
For one thing, they recruit too many employees from outside their ranks
PERHAPS the oldest management cliché is that “people are our most important asset”. If that were true, companies would rigorously assess their own hiring practices, and record, to ensure that they are indeed recruiting the best people. Remarkably, many fail miserably at this task. Only a third of American companies check whether their recruitment process produces good employees. That is one of the striking revelations in a recent survey of hiring by Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School in Philadelphia.
When companies are asked why they do not monitor the effectiveness of hiring, the most common response is that measuring employee performance is too difficult. Given that staff costs are the single biggest expense item at most companies, this is a startling admission. And, as Mr Cappelli points out, there are some simple things employers could do: check how long newly hired workers stay at the company, or ask a supervisor whether they regret the hiring decision.
A British judgment on preaching to colleagues and clients
BY HER own lights, Sarah Kuteh was evidently convinced that she was doing the right thing. But some of the patients who were interviewed by this devoutly Christian nurse, as they were being prepared for big operations, felt disturbed by her insistence on bringing up her beliefs. One man, facing cancer treatment, said she offered him a Bible and induced him to sing part of a Biblical Psalm with her. It felt like a scene out of Monty Python, an old British comedy show, he complained later.
This week a British employment-law judge reaffirmed that a hospital in the south-east of England had been acting within its rights when it dismissed Ms Kuteh after she persisted, despite warnings, in having rather assertive religious conversations with patients. (It was sometimes part of her job to ask patients what religion, if any, they professed, but she had been told to keep such enquiries very brief.) The verdict was a nuanced one, though, which made clear that its aim was not to ban all talk of religion from the workplace.
THE REPORT was devastating. The working environment at the organisation was described as “toxic”, there was widespread bullying of staff, a bunker mentality among senior management and 39% of employees developed mental or physical health issues as a result of their work. An investment bank or a technology firm in Silicon Valley? No. This was Amnesty International, a human-rights charity. Five managers have just left the organisation following the report’s findings.
Workplaces create their own hierarchies regardless of whether the aim of the operation is to help people or make money. Two female partners at KPMG, an accountancy group, recently left out of concern at the behaviour of a male colleague. Coming from a family of teachers, Bartleby can attest that school staff rooms are beset by bitter rivalries. Universities are famous for their internecine disputes, as captured in the adage that “academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”
Wellbeing impacts not just our personal comfort, health, and happiness; but also our work and working environment in a variety of ways. In fact, when levels of wellbeing in organisations increase; turnover, absenteeism, and presenteeism - showing up to work but not being productive - rates decrease significantly.
Mawlana Hazar Imam has often spoken of the central importance of quality of life. In Islam, quality of life extends beyond physical wellbeing, and includes the preservation of sound mind. Enjoying healthy and happy lives is key to thriving and living to our full potential. In a speech in Toronto in 2014, Hazar Imam said, “We are a community that welcomes the smile.”
The concept of ‘Wellbeing’ has become an increasingly widespread subject of discussion, especially within the workplace, from small start-ups to large multinational organisations. However, despite the growing interest, many organisations only pursue wellbeing initiatives as a cursory exercise. Initiatives such as Mental Health Awareness Week are great examples of this, with plenty of organisations conducting workshops or talks throughout the week but falling short by not following up the rest of the year. Arguably, the most effective way to implement wellbeing initiatives in an organisation is by ensuring they are being pursued consistently and effectively throughout the year, rather than sporadically.
It is important for employers to empower their staff to work on wellbeing initiatives that encourage both personal health and happiness, as well as strive toward familiar targets such as increased performance, engagement, and productivity. The first step, however, is to explain why wellbeing is worth the time and effort. One way to illustrate the benefits would be to invite a specialist into your organisation and run a workshop, ensuring all staff attend.
What is wellbeing, and how does wellbeing benefit our work?
A notorious forecast about the automation of jobs has been hugely misunderstood, says one of its authors
Such misperceptions, irksome as they are to Mr Frey, are also telling. For, he says, they reflect the polarised nature of the debate about the nature of automation and the future of jobs.
At one extreme are the doom-mongers. They warn of mass technological joblessness just around the corner. One advocate of this position, Martin Ford, has written two bestselling books on the dangers of automation. Mr Ford worries that middle-class jobs will vanish, economic mobility will cease and a wealthy plutocracy could “shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones”. The unemployed masses will subsist on a universal basic income. At the sanguine end of the spectrum, classical economists argue that in the past new technology has always ended up creating more jobs than it destroyed. Everything will work out fine in the long run, these optimists reckon, though the short term is likely to be bumpy, as it was during the Industrial Revolution, unless governments take action to smooth the transition.
Mr Frey is often assumed to be in the first camp. So plenty of people are stunned to discover that he is, in fact, closer to the second. He has now laid out his position in more detail in a new book, “The Technology Trap”. This has allowed him, he says, to put the 47% figure in “the right context”. That context is largely historical. Building on his original paper, he revisits the history of industrialisation and asks what lessons it provides today.
One is that new technologies take time to produce productivity and wage gains. It was several decades before industrialisation led to significantly higher wages for British workers in the early 1800s, a delay known as Engels’s pause, after the theorist of communism who observed it. Another lesson is that, even though it eventually increases the overall size of the economic pie, automation is also likely to boost inequality in the short run, by pushing some people into lower-paid jobs. Mr Frey is concerned that automation will leave many people worse off in the short term, leading to unrest and opposition, which could in turn slow the pace of automation and productivity growth. Everyone would then be worse off in the long run. This is the titular “technology trap”. Whereas many people assume he worries about a world with too many robots, Mr Frey is in reality more concerned about a future with too few.
Inside an Amazon Warehouse, Robots’ Ways Rub Off on Humans
A machine-dominated workplace can make employees more mechanical themselves. But there is room for initiative, and small acts of rebellion.
The robots have raised the average picker’s productivity from around 100 items per hour to what Mr. Long and others have said is a target of around 300 or 400, though the numbers vary across teams and facilities. The robots help explain why Amazon managed to ship more items than ever during last year’s holiday season with about 20 percent fewer seasonal workers than the year before. (Amazon said another reason was that it was focused more on permanent hiring in 2018.)
Robots have also made the job far more repetitive. Unlike pickers in manual warehouses, the pickers on Staten Island have almost no relief from plucking goods off shelves, other than their breaks. A picker named Shawn Chase said he motivated himself by competing with a friend in a different part of the warehouse to see who could earn the higher productivity ranking.
“Last week I was 41st in the building,” he said. “This week I’m trying to be top 10.” The company has taken this logic even further in a handful of warehouses, The Washington Post has reported, creating video-game interfaces that allow workers to accumulate points and badges for completing these tasks.
Amazon has periodically fueled rumors that it plans to fully automate picking in the near future, even sponsoring a contest for engineers who develop robotic picking arms. But the truth is that human pickers will be around for years.
According to Russ Meller, who runs a group that designs warehouses at the engineering consulting firm Fortna, it would be hard for a robotic picking arm to navigate the shelving units that carry goods around Amazon’s warehouse. The shelves are too large a target, and the bins may be too cramped or too deep. “They really complicated it for the robot,” said Mr. Meller, whose firm has not designed warehouses for Amazon.
In effect, Amazon calculated that there was so much productivity to be gained from reducing the millions of miles its workers walk each year that it was better off finding robots well suited to moving goods all those miles, not worrying whether the system would later be compatible with robotic pickers.
The difficulty of automating pickers puts pressure on the humans to become more productive. “We try to eliminate any wasted movement,” LeVar Kellogg, a picker who trains other pickers at an Amazon facility near Chicago, told me. “If you have one second that’s adding to the process, it doesn’t seem like a lot. But if you do that 1,000 times a day, that’s when it starts adding up.”
Sometimes these are strictly physical movements whose elimination almost no one would mourn. In other cases, the steps being removed involve thinking, too. Pickers at robotics facilities consult a monitor displaying a picture of the next screwdriver or watch or bottle of vitamins they’re supposed to grab, as well as its location on the shelving unit’s grid of bins. Some pickers have developed techniques for remembering this location, like yelling it out loud — 3F! 4H! — so they don’t have to glance back at the monitor multiple times.
But at the Amazon center on Staten Island, there is no need to remember the bin location. The bin holding the needed screwdriver or watch or bottle of vitamins simply lights up, turning the exercise into a gentle game of Whac-A-Mole.
This steady stripping of human judgment from work is one of the most widespread consequences of automation — not so much replacing people with robots as making them resemble robots. “The next pod comes, and a pod comes after that, and after that,” Mr. Long told me. “All day till you get off.”
Facebook, Boeing, and too many other firms are losing the public’s faith. Can they regain it?
Businesses put an awful lot of effort into meeting the diverse needs of their stakeholders — customers, investors, employees, and society at large. But they’re not paying enough attention to one ingredient that’s crucial to productive relationships with those stakeholders: trust.
Trust, as defined by organizational scholars, is our willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others because we believe they have good intentions and will behave well toward us. In other words, we let others have power over us because we think they won’t hurt us and will in fact help us. When we decide to interact with a company, we believe it won’t deceive us or abuse its relationship with us. However, trust is a double-edged sword. Our willingness to be vulnerable also means that our trust can be betrayed. And over and over, businesses have betrayed stakeholders’ trust.
Consider Facebook. In April 2018, CEO Mark Zuckerberg came before Congress and was questioned about Facebook’s commitment to data privacy after it came to light that the company had exposed the personal data of 87 million users to the political consultant Cambridge Analytica, which used it to target voters during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Then, in September, Facebook admitted that hackers had gained access to the log-in information of 50 million of its users. The year closed out with a New York Times investigation revealing that Facebook had given Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon access to its users’ personal data, including in some cases their private messages.
So, in the middle of last year, when Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would launch a dating app, observers shook their heads. And this past April, when the company announced it was releasing an app that allowed people to share photos and make video calls on its smart-home gadget Portal, TechCrunch observed that “critics were mostly surprised by the device’s quality but too freaked out to recommend it.” Why would we trust Facebook with personal data on something as sensitive as dating — or with a camera and microphone — given its horrible track record?
Companies from Apple, Facebook and Tesla to Bain, KKR and Starbucks are offering employees fertility benefits
When apple and Facebook began paying for employees to freeze their eggs in 2014, this generosity was met with cynicism. Critics dismissed it as another attempt at social engineering from Silicon Valley, no bastion of female-friendliness. Rather than empowering women, they feared, it would press them to delay motherhood; Apple would do better to install child-care facilities at its brand new headquarters.
Such gripes have not stopped employers from embracing such schemes. Quite the opposite. More than one in four large American companies now pay for some fertility treatment, according to consultants at Mercer; one in 20 covers egg-freezing. In America Bain, a consultancy, kkr, a private-equity firm, and Tesla, a carmaker, pay for unlimited ivf cycles (which can cost $100,000), according to Fertility iq, an educational site for fertility patients. This week Starbucks said it would raise its fertility cover to $25,000, including for baristas who work over 20 hours a week for more than six months. For part-timers on $12 an hour that can add up to twice their annual salary.
Most American states still do not require insurers to cover infertility treatment. So companies use the benefits to differentiate themselves. This helps recruit and retain staff, says Jake Anderson-Bialis of Fertility iq. It found that 62% of workers whose employer had paid in full for ivf said they were more likely to stay in their job. Firms keen to promote “diversity and inclusion” see health plans with ivf or surrogacy as a way to attract lgbt employees.
I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account.
At the moment, this makes me an outlier, but I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.
This claim, of course, runs counter to our current understanding of social media’s role in the professional sphere. We’ve been told that it’s important to tend to your so-called social media brand, as this provides you access to opportunities you might otherwise miss and supports the diverse contact network you need to get ahead. Many people in my generation fear that without a social media presence, they would be invisible to the job market.
In a recent New York magazine essay, Andrew Sullivan recalled when he started to feel obligated to update his blog every half-hour or so. It seemed as if everyone with a Facebook account and a smartphone now felt pressured to run their own high-stress, one-person media operation, and “the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone,” he wrote.
I think this behavior is misguided. In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.
Professional success is hard, but it’s not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. This is a philosophy perhaps best summarized by the advice Steve Martin used to give aspiring entertainers: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If you do that, the rest will work itself out, regardless of the size of your Instagram following.
Due to advances in technology, the landscape of work and jobs has changed significantly in the last 30 years. Some industries have progressed rapidly, while others have declined, which has shifted and disrupted standards of living and career aspirations. As the relationship between virtual and real becomes ever more blurred, how can we prepare for the next 30 years?
On many occasions, Mawlana Hazar Imam has said that in order to keep up with changing times, we must adopt best practice in our professional and academic lives. A key theme of the Diamond Jubilee was an encouragement for Institutions and members of the Jamat to adopt best practice and to strive for excellence in all fields of endeavour.
In 2017, the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) in Tanzania conducted a research assignment to predict the future of jobs in East Africa. The effort was part of a three-year strategy by AKEB to improve how the Jamat in Tanzania learned, and to envision how young peoples’ future prospects might look like, both locally and internationally.
Through the study, three essential skills emerged that were evident in all rising industries and job roles:
From ‘back to school’ to ‘learning in the flow of life’: Three practical steps to prepare the workforce for the future of work
It doesn’t seem to matter how old I get, or how long ago I graduated. When late August arrives, that “back to school” feeling returns. That feeling of nervous excitement is almost automatic. But lately I’ve been reflecting on the very expression “back to school” in the context of the future of work―what it means and how it needs to change.
According to a report from RBC, over the next decade 25 percent of jobs in Canada will be heavily disrupted by technology and 50 percent will require a significant overhaul of skills. Many employers are already struggling to find the talent they need. It’s increasingly clear: to succeed in a rapidly evolving labour market, Canadian workers will need to continuously develop new skills, upskill, and reskill.
Simply put, the traditional once-and-done model of learning is passé, as is the idea of going “back to school.” We should never really leave school. Learning must be a lifelong activity, integrated into the flow of life.
Business, government, and education leaders know we need to reinvent learning. In fact, learning was the top trend identified in Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends survey. Reinventing it will require large-scale systemic change to how we approach education, skills, training, talent practices, and social policy. And, most importantly, it will require new models of cross-sector collaboration, with businesses, governments, educators, workers, and community organizations experimenting and creating together.
However, employers face choices now and can’t necessarily wait for systemic changes. Business leaders often ask me: What actions can I take today to prepare my workforce for the future? Here are my thoughts on three practical steps:
1. Have radically transparent conversations
2. Invest more and be more inclusive in skills training
3. Build human skills, because the future of work is human
A new book reveals the excessive attention paid to how executives look
PICTURE IN YOUR mind the typical chief executive. The chances are that you have thought of someone male, in a suit and distinguished-looking. In part, that is because most bosses look like that. It may also be because people instinctively defer to such types.
In their book “Messengers: Who We Listen To, Who We Don’t And Why”, Stephen Martin and Joseph Marks, two psychologists, outline how people respond to visual status signals. Just why are pedestrians likelier (three times as likely, according to one study) to defy traffic laws to follow a man across the road when he is wearing a suit than the same man dressed in denim? Similarly motorists stuck at a traffic light are slower to honk their horn if the car in front has a prestige brand.
One possibility is an evolved respect for those with a higher social position. This is not just about clothes or possessions. A further piece of research cited by the authors involved undergraduates who were shown photos of 50 chief executives from the Fortune 1000 list of big firms. Half of these bosses were from the most profitable groups and half from the least profitable. The undergraduates were asked to judge, on looks alone, which executives had qualities such as competence and dominance. Remarkably, the students tended to pick out those executives who led the most successful companies.
It is hard to disentangle cause and effect. But it seems more probable that people with a certain type of appearance are likely to get promoted than it is to believe they are innately more competent than everyone else.
Even if WeWork is in trouble the office is still being reinvented
"From nine till five, I have to spend my time at work,” warbled Martha and the Muffins back in 1980. “My job is very boring, I’m an office clerk.” Many of the hundreds of millions of people who trek into an office will feel as despondent at the prospect as Martha did. The office needs a revamp (see article). But the crisis at WeWork, a trendy office-rental firm whose boss, Adam Neumann, stepped down this week after its attempt to float its shares turned into a debacle, shows that businesses are still struggling to come up with a new format.
The large office, like the factory, is an invention of the past two centuries. The factory arose because of powered machinery, which required workers to be gathered in one place. Big offices grew from the need to process lots of paperwork, and for managers to instruct clerks on what to do. But now the internet, personal computing and handheld devices mean that transactions can be dealt with on-screen and managers can instantly communicate with their workers, wherever they are. The need for staff to be in one place has been dramatically reduced.
A new model may take time to emerge—electric power was first harnessed in the 1880s but it was not until the 1920s that factories changed their layouts to make full use of it. The new model will have to balance three factors: the desire of many workers for a flexible schedule; the high cost for firms of maintaining office space; and the countervailing desire to gather skilled workers in one place, in the hope that this enhances collaboration.
Steve Jobs: ‘Technology is nothing’—here’s what he said it really takes to achieve great success
It’s been eight years since Steve Jobs passed away on Oct. 5, 2011, but his lessons about life, work and success still live on today.
In a 1994, the Apple co-founder sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone. At the time, Jobs was at one of the lowest points of his career; he had long ago been booted from Apple, and the personal computer revolution seemed to be dimming. And yet, when asked if he still believed in the limitless potential of technology, Jobs answered yes.
“But it’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people,” he said.
‘Tools are just tools’
“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart — and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them,” he said. “Tools are just tools. They either work, or they don’t work.”
Put another way, Jobs believed that in order to achieve great success and create revolutionary changes in the world, we must learn to prioritize the intersection of technology and the humanities, because that’s how the best ideas emerge.
Jobs took this philosophy seriously. Years after he rejoined Apple in 1997, it was clear that he had become a far better leader. His goal, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs,” was to build an enduring company that prioritized people. Everything else — products and profits — while still important, would be secondary.
Jobs’ vision paid off: He had successfully shifted Apple’s focus back to making cutting-edge products, which resulted in a phase of unprecedented growth for the company.
Here’s how Jobs’ put his “faith in people” into practice:
1. He hired the right people and trusted them to perform
2. He delivered his demand for excellence in a inspiring way
In China, Working Mothers Say They Are Fired or Sidelined
Women who become pregnant say that employers discriminate against them in defiance of labor laws, and go largely unpunished.
The women’s accusations briefly lit up the Chinese internet. Three employees of a big Chinese logistics company said their bosses had fired them or cut their pay after they became pregnant.
In one case, the company, China Railway Logistics, did not send a representative to an arbitration proceeding. The company then went to court to challenge the award the woman received. But it backed off as media attention intensified and because the stakes were so small: The award was less than $5,000.
“It isn’t worth it to waste time on this little money,” the company’s lawyer told a local reporter for a state-controlled newspaper.
China’s leaders are encouraging women to have it all: a career and more babies. In reality, Chinese women are filing lawsuits and pursuing arbitration against employers who they claim are ignoring laws meant to keep mothers in the workplace.
Sick of round-the-clock work emails and Slack messages? Here’s some hope.
A German entrepreneur named Lasse Rheingans has become a subject of attention since The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a novel idea he has put in place at his 16-person technology start-up: a five-hour workday. Mr. Rheingans is not just reducing the time his employees spend in the office; he’s reducing the total time they spend working altogether. They arrive at 8 a.m. and leave at 1 p.m., at which point they’re not expected to work until the next morning.
This distinction between time in the office and time spent working is critical. In our current age of email and smartphones, work has pervaded more and more of our waking hours — evenings, mornings, weekends, vacations — rendering the idea of a fixed workday as quaint. We’re driven to these extremes by some vague sense that all of this frantic communicating will make us more productive.
Mr. Rheingans is betting that we have this wrong. His experiment is premised on the idea that once you remove time-wasting distractions and constrain inefficient conversation about your work, five hours should be sufficient to accomplish most of the core activities that actually move the needle.
To support this new approach, he has employees leave their phones in their bags at the office and blocks access to social media on the company network. Strict rules reduce time spent in meetings (most of which are now limited to 15 minutes or less). Perhaps most important, his employees now check work email only twice each day — no drawn out back-and-forth exchanges fragmenting their attention, no surreptitious inbox checks while at dinner or on the sidelines of their kids’ sporting events.
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