Happy Halloween

I don’t usually post things about sentimental holidays like Halloween, but I just had to.

It’s always been a blast in our household – although this year seems to be the exception. It’s the first year where we have not decorated and have pretty much been oblivious to it.

How sad.

We have a ton of excuses: we are busy, we are working, we are doing renovations, the kids are too old, we don’t get any kids visiting the house.  Yes, we have a ton of lame excuses.

What we forgot was that we did “Halloween-ie” stuff for us, not because it was expected.  We loved the planning, the cheezy decorations, the bowls filled with candy that we ended up eating.

Somehow we forgot that.  And now, anything we do is just pitiful and half-assed.

I get that some of these annual rituals may seem outdated and overdone…maybe you think you should dtop because you’ve been doing them for too long and that they really don’t add value.  However, before you make that call – try to remember why you were doing them in the first place.  And if the reason is anything along the lines of “because it’s fun”…well, then maybe it’s not time to let it go.

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Gap Analysis

I’m all over the place these days – literally and figuratively.

Take this blog for example.

One minute I’m sharing how I feel like I’ve lost my creative mojo, then I’m comparing your work team to onions, and then the next I’m building a pedestal for the best candidate experience that I’ve had.  That makes sense, right?

Well, this post is following the same unpredictable trajectory.  Today I’m talking about Millennials.  Why? Because no one talks about Millennials.

I’ve put it out there here and here that labeling, especially regarding generations in the workforce, seems like a big ole cop out to me.  Want to bitch about the people younger than you…want to complain about the people older than you…want to justify why you and your friends are getting a raw deal.  Must be a generational thing.

Oh I know there is some truth in them there words, but like all over-generalizations, there is so much that is lost.

So all that aside, I recently went to a seminar that was talking about Millenials, but not from the perspective of recruiting, or managing, or retaining (entertaining) them.  This presentation spoke to the reality that we are so past that part – now we need to talk about this age group moving into leadership roles.

I read once that a blog is much more respected if it provides stats.

  • At the moment, Millennials make up 29% of the Canadian workforce.
  • By 2025, a mere 10 years away, they will be hovering around the 75%.

If those numbers don’t scare the crap out of you, well…then you are likely a Millennial.  For the rest of us, yikes.  Let me clarify though, what scares me about this number is that I worry that we are not giving them the development and opportunities to succeed in leadership roles.

It’s that catch-22 of needing experience, but not being able to get it…because you don’t have experience.

I went into this seminar armed with a secret weapon.  A Millennial.  I needed some sort of validation that what I was hearing was reflective of how some 20-somethings might be feeling and that it wasn’t just a bunch of bitter Gen-X-ers and Boomers ragging on the new kids.  I often get that impression and find myself becoming defensive.

After all, when you list out what Millennials are supposedly looking for, well they are what I’m looking for, and likely what those older than me are looking for; however, how we define these values and what they look like to each us is where things get blurry.

Flexibility, feedback, collaboration, transparency, work-life balance

These are not new buzz words that were created to accommodate a new generation…but what they mean and how they are asked for (or expected) is different.

Let’s take “flexibility”.  When I talk about flexibility in the workplace – I mean that I want to have the option to work from home when I feel I need or want to. I don’t want to feel that someone is glancing at their watch if I leave 30 minutes early. And really, if I can do my work in four days instead of five – isn’t that a good thing?

But if you talk to my senior management about flexibility – they would agree that we should allow employees to work from home…on an exceptional basis, and with pre-approval.  And flexibility means letting employees choose whether they start at 7:30am or come in at 8:00am…as long as they work 8 hours and stick to a consistent time.

And finally, if you were to poll our intern – she might say that flexibility to her means something similar to what I want, but magnified.  It might mean working when and where she wants – being able to leave mid-day and flexibility, well it means so much more than work schedules to her.

Generation gap? I say so.

Organizations need to go beyond the cool social media blitzes and hip employee handbooks to recognize that saying you offer flexibility may be interpreted differently by many.  In fact, using buzz words without any thought of how these will be applied to employees of varying ages is useless.

So back to my fear for the future leaders. The speed of delivery has increased, the speed of access to information, the speed of communication…they have all ramped up significantly.  And yet, many organizations still feel that career progression needs to take the tortoise route.

Considering that most employees, particularly Millenials, are not going to stay with one organization for 10-15 years, how can you expect their career development to take that long?

I’m not talking about fast-tracking people from entry-level to Director-level in 12 easy steps, but we really need to get past the “pay their dues / earn their keep / do the time” mentality.  Side note: I had a Director that constantly told me that she had more “battle scars” than I did.  This irritated the crap out of me – it was the business equivalent of saying “you don’t know what the hell you are talking about”.

Let’s sit back a minute and consider that whether we like it or not, whether we think they are ready or not, these young come-uppers are going to transition into leadership positions really, really soon.  You can fight it or you can get on-board, understand the gaps, what needs to happen, and then help make it happen.

And that is what I would consider being flexible.

Layers: Onions, ogres and your team

Okay.  Here is where I am at.

I’ve been percolating blog posts in my head for weeks.  At one point I think I had about five partially formulated posts and I wanted to write them out.  I truly did. But I didn’t and now I’m down to one idea.  Sigh.

I wanted to write, but

  • My bed was too cozy
  • There were movies to watch
  • Work is busy
  • We are doing renovations
  • I had chores to do, food to eat and books to read…

I’m thinking that the book I thought I might write someday, well it’s not happening anytime soon.  Oh the pressure of being a little-known blogger.

Seriously though, I would like to talk about layers.

Here in the great white north, layering is a must for two reasons: 1) it keeps you warm and 2) it hides the weight you gain in preparation for hibernation.  (BTW – that second reason may or may not be applicable only to me).  It’s true – layers have a purpose, but they can also hide a multitude of sins.

Every work group, team and department is composed of layers of people.  One quick glance at an organizational chart will confirm this.  There are layers defined by titles and responsibilities.  There are layers established by technical experience and years of service.  And then there are hidden layers that are created by a pecking order and ability to fly under the radar.

Ask a manager to tag his or her employees in terms of whatever ranking you see fit (A-players/ B-players; 1st line/ 4th line; Stars / Space debris) and they can do it.  They know who is the “one to watch” and who is dead weight. Or at least they think they do.

I find in interesting when employees leave (or are asked to leave) and the assumptions that were made about this person suddenly fall apart.  The golden boy…you know the one, the one you HAD to keep because of the amount of corporate knowledge he had…the one that would cause absolute chaos for the rest of the team if he wasn’t there….the one that when you started going through his files and work you realized that there were some serious issues…issues that are now going to bite you in the ass not only because they exist, but you didn’t even know about them.  That’s how good that golden boy was.

And there’s the opposite.  When you finally manage to rid your team of that toxic person, the slacker, the negative Nellie…there is a collective sigh of relief among your employees (led by yourself). That is until the next in line – the second most toxic slacker emerges.  The one that you didn’t know about because the departed employee was taking up your time, allowing others to stay off your radar.

What’s my point? My point is that you don’t know your team as well as you think you do.  My point is that your team is composed of defined and subtle layers and that until you remove or peel back these layers – you likely will never know what’s really in there.

Layers have a purpose, but they can also hide a lot of things.