Archive for the ‘Jobs’ category

Economy No Deterrent; You Need a Retention Plan

October 1, 2009



 By John Riley

 After months of a wrenching economy, the generally accepted philosophy is that employees have hunkered down and  put any notions of changing jobs on the back burner, at least until economic conditions improve. A study by Salary.Com, a payroll and compensation consulting firm, earlier this year reveals exactly the opposite is true.

 The study reports 80% of employers believe it will be a few months before employees start a job search, however 65% of the employees have already started searching passively or actively and say they will be intensifying their efforts.  Over 7,000 employees and 363 human relations professionals were covered by the survey.

 According to Nicholas Camelio, senior vice president,, “Employers were out of touch with their employee’s satisfaction levels and were over estimating the tough economic environment as a deterrent to job seeking. Consequently, many employers have not placed enough emphasis on important retention strategies. This could lead to their best employees defecting during the next year, just when this talent will be most needed to help turn  businesses around.”

 When employees were asked about various industries, financial services, construction and retail were at the top of the list of extremely dissatisfied employees.  The Internet, education/government, non-profit and software and networking came out on top with extremely satisfied employees.

 In another study, this one by Career Systems International  in 2005, over 7,400 employees from diverse industries were asked about things available in organizations that engendered commitment and a willingness to stay.  The most influential factors:

1)      exciting work/challenge(48.4%)                                       

2)      career growth/learning (42.6%)

3)       relationships/working with great people (41.8%)

4)       fair pay (31.8).


With the economic and employment uncertainty, it is no longer easy to plan a career path. As a result, employees, especially the top performers, may rely on mobility as the solution to increased compensation and a better title. Recognizing the situation, many employers are starting to focus on professional growth and skill development as retention tools.

 However, that may not be enough and policies may be incorrectly implemented.  For example, an employer may interpret the employees’ desire for exciting work/challenge as an opportunity for management to reassign a laid off worker’s responsibilities to the employee. For management, it is a logical step in several to help the business survive.

 Then the employee learns that the work isn’t sufficiently different from what he is already doing and neither his compensation nor his title will be changed. So rather than motivate the employee, the transfer of responsibilities becomes a millstone.

 Employee retention is the most critical element in the future success of the business and a strategy to survive should not conflict with a strategy to retain the company’s most important asset. It’s not too soon to revisit your strategies for the future and make sure employee retention is not only on your list, but at the top.


Ageing Consumers Key to the Future

September 26, 2009

LONDON: An ageing population and an increasingly inter-connected world are two of the main factors companies will have to consider when making their long-term plans, according to the speakers at an event looking at the key developments which will shape societies over the next few decades.

Hosted by Intelligence Squared, the event – covered in more detail here – featured speakers from the James Martin 21st Century School, a “unique collaborative research effort with the goal of formulating new concepts, policies and technologies that will make the future a better place to be”. 

Dr Ian Goldin, the school’s director, said we are now living in what could be a “golden age” of possibility, although while there is much “potential”, the choices that are made every day will shape what life will look like in 2050.

More specifically, he suggested the internet is an example of the inter-connected nature of the modern world, but the movement towards true globalisation could also have negative consequences, such as an increase in the number of pandemics.

Professor Sarah Harper predicted that the advances in medical science could lead to an average life expectancy of over 120 years old in many countries in 40 years time.

Indeed, Japan already has over 40,000 people over 100 years of age, and this development, combined with falling birth rates, will have profound implications for brands, governments, and societies.

From a purely commercial perspective, it was argued the ageing population is badly served by manufacturers at present, and this must change when almost a third of the population is made up of consumers over the age of 50.

The dangers of climate change also mean there will be a need for new green technology to transform the automotive and energy sectors, and this is an area which will receive a heightened emphasis in both the short and long term.

Printed with permission of World Advertising Research Centere. Data sourced from WARC Sept. 24, 2009

Management Loves Teams; You Should Too

September 18, 2009

By John Riley

On October 17, 1994, the Wall Street Journal ran an article talking about Frito Lay’s use of teams to resolve various plant problems. That story captures the reasons managements everywhere have become instigators of teams to deal with their most vexing issues. The thrust of the article:

 “Since pushing most of its Lubbock (TX) plant’s work, and accountability to teams in 1990, Frito Lay has reduced the number of managers from 38 to 13 while its hourly workforce has grown 20%. Despite less supervision this plant has seen its costs cut dramatically and quality jump. Teams are responsible for everything from potato processing to equipment  maintenance, cost control, and service performance.”

 Using teams to tackle problems and find solutions can be traced back to the late 1920’s when the concept grew out of a research study to determine what happened to workers under various conditions.

Researchers found workers built a sense of group identity, developed social support and cohesion brought about by worker interaction.

 Today, the degree of team sophistication has advanced significantly. And yet, some learned souls have expressed an occasional reaction to working on teams, “I could have done this project by myself in a third of the time.” It can be a valid critique when a team is not properly organized and led. Therein is the opportunity for managers and supervisors to step in and demonstrate their leadership skills.

 It’s very important the individual selected to be the team lead insist on training for that role if training is not offered at the time of his/her appointment. Receiving guidance on such things as conflict resolution, process and proper communications can make a big difference in the team lead’s performance.

 Another key consideration is the decision on whether the issue should be referred to a team. Complex and important issues and decisions lend themselves to team approaches. It is also true when the potential for conflict is great and there is no time pressure.

 Establishing sharply worded and concise objectives for the team is essential. It isn’t easy because various departments of the company will probably be represented on the team and each representative may have a different set of interests.

 Once meetings are underway, the Team lead’s most important responsibility it to generate and maintain good relations among members. People and problems need to be separated and options explored by the whole team. When conflict arises, persuasion is needed to restore harmony and direction.

 Leading a team successfully requires the kind of skills management is looking for in their future leaders, skills such as organization and planning, communication, problem solving and managing people.  That’s why the wise manager or supervisor who has an opportunity to lead a team should welcome the challenge and grasp it firmly.

Pew Research: Labor Force Trends: Older Workers Increase, Younger Workers Decrease

September 12, 2009

By  John Rileysun with chart

As the U.S. labor force grows between 2006 and 2016, 93% of that growth (11.9 million) will be from workers ages 55 and older says one government estimate.  This is attributed to many gray and aging Americans who are healthy and active. They want to be productive and feel useful well into their later years.

 Younger Americans,  between the ages of 16 and 24, are a declining share of the labor force with 57%  today versus 66% in 2000.  However, a rising share of this age group are in school.

 There are  two factors that help explain these changes.  First, is a belief in the need for a college education  to be successful.  Nearly 75% of the public feels this way now versus 49% in 1978.

 Second, is the impact of the recession on young people. Many are believed to have dropped out of the job market.

 This, and other findings about America’s changing  work force, come from a new national survey, Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends project.

 Other results:

—  the number of women who have a job or are seeking one is no longer growing, but holding at 59%.

 That’s a change after five decades of growth.   Men rank about 13% higher.

—  most working mothers and only 19% of men prefer part time jobs.

 Pew based its findings on data obtained from the Census Bureau  and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Company Culture as a Firewall

September 9, 2009

By John Riley

Company culture is so pervasive and omni-present, it often goes unacknowledged.  And yet it is one of the most powerful business forces impacting on employees trying to do their jobs and outsiders seeking to do business with the company. The casualty rate can be high.

 For example, take the up and coming young manager who is trying to sell his management on changing the production process of a major product.  The unwritten cultural norm that developed over time says each product would be inspected by the Quality Assurance manager or his designate rather than using a statistical sampling system which the young manager advocates.  If the young manager is going to succeed here, he will need to know how to change the culture.

Cultural habits and norms are powerful reinforcements of the status quo.  If you don’t understand the culture, you can’t change it.

When a consultant tries to do business with a company and is retained to undertake a project, she walks into a cultural environment of which she knows nothing.  Her acceptance and ability to be effective in the company depends on how well she assimilates the nuances  of the crowd and quickly identifies the informal thought leaders with whom she will need to bond.

 Because the outsider is not of the company organization, her ability to change a cultural element will depend largely on her creditability with and trust of the CEO or President when she makes her report and recommendations.

 A culture develops over time, is deeply rooted and varies by industry.  Most often it is directly or indirectly driven by the CEO and his or her management style. 

 Whether an employee or an outsider, a culture change may be the only solution to achieving a desired result. It may not be quick nor will it be easy, but it can be done. Here are five approaches to consider.

 Change performance measures and incentives and realign employee objectives

Set up a pilot project to test the new method; let employees experiment with the new method.

Bring in new people with new ideas

Brainstorm different approaches to the quality inspection process

Benchmark best-in-process organizations

 Firewalls, or in this case the company culture, generally serve the best interests of the company, however, there will be those occasions where change is essential to the further development and success of the company.  The key is knowing what and when.

How do I Become a General?

August 31, 2009

By John Riley

This commentary is for the young businessman or woman starting a career. It is an attempt to answer the foremost question in his or her mind, “what is the secret to success?”  I offer it here because it is so profound and  so true.

 Former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Power recently related a story he learned while a young infantry officer at Ft. Benning in an interview by Fortune Magazine July 6:

 “There was a brand new second lieutenant who  was very ambitious and wanted to be a general. One night at the officer’s club, the young officer spotted this old general sitting at the bar, and he went up and said, ‘How do I become a general?’  And the general Answered, ‘Son, you’ve got to work like a dog. You’ve got to have moral and physical courage. There may be days when you’re tired, but you must never show fatigue. You’ll be afraid, but you can never show fear. You must always be the leader.’

 “The young officer was so excited by this advice.  ‘Thank you, sir,’ he said. ‘So this is how I become a general?’  ‘No,’ said the general, ‘that’s how you become a first-lieutenant, and then you keep doing it over and over.’

 After telling the story, General Powell added, “Doing your best in the present has to be the rule. You won’t become a general unless you become a good first-lieutenant.”

 For anyone entering the job market in today’s business environment, this is sound advice.

Does Your Boss Like to do Your Job?

August 29, 2009

By John Riley

 These days, it is not surprising to find someone who has a boss that does her job for her.  Most people would call that micro-managing  and attribute it to insecurity brought about by a fear of making a mistake or having one’s subordinate make a mistake during these uncertain times.  I think it’s more complex than that.


While insecurity is certainly one factor at play here, there is a professional element as well. I’m talking about the person who is a perfectionist and feels that their subordinates do not share the same attitude toward their work. As result, the fear comes from concern a subordinate might make a mistake and the lack of professionalism would reflect on the supervisor.

 Another possibility that fosters micro-managers is a greater feeling of power.  It probably stems from their feeling that what got them promoted was what they should do as a supervisor except to a greater degree.  That produces a doer rather than a manager and has its own set of problems.

 Unfortunately, whatever the reason, employees resent micro-managing bosses.  And why not?  It shows little respect for the subordinate, prevents their professional development and provides no chance for recognition.  Yet, management seems to tolerate such behavior because the work gets done.

 A common management  justification is, “we’ll deal with it after we get through this difficult period”, but that never seems to happen.   A micro-manager response is, “if I don’t control everything, something bad will happen because my people aren’t up to speed yet”.

 Most observers offer advice to the suffering employees when it is the supervisor that should be dealt with.  Specifically, management should add a remedial action item to the supervisor’s job goals after discussing it with him, the supervisor should be sent to a Manager training program, and he should be scheduled for a performance review in six months.  If, after these three steps, the supervisor’s behavior has not changed, management should find a non-managerial position for him.

 Does your boss like to do your job?   If so, leave a copy of this article near the copy machine.