Posts Tagged ‘survey’

The generational debate rages on in today’s workplace if you want to put any one generation on the defensive, talk to a baby boomer (aged 45 – 63) about the work ethic of generation y, (born after 1982, end-date to be determined) the youngest generation to enter the workplace

The generational debate rages on in today’s workplace

If you want to put any one generation on the defensive, talk to a baby boomer (aged 45 – 63) about the work ethic of Generation Y, (born after 1982, end-date to be determined) the youngest generation to enter the workplace. It is not unusual to hear this new generation described as “the entitled generation”; one that is sometimes described as spoiled, lazy, cocky, brash, selfish, impatient, irresponsible, disloyal and disrespectful.

At the crux of these perceptions is a clash of values resulting in misunderstandings and resentments between the generations at work. According to a recent survey by Lee Hecht Harrison, more than 60% of employers say they are experiencing tension between employees from different generations. The survey found more than 70% of older employees are dismissive of younger workers’ abilities and nearly half of employers say that younger employees are dismissive of the abilities of their older co-workers. None of this can be good for morale or the bottom line; therefore it is crucial to the success of any organization to educate its workforce regarding the reasons why we see the world and the world at work from different vantage points.

Understanding frames of reference

Generation Y often perceives their baby boomer parent’s generation as one that needs to get a life and have more fun. The reality for the boomers, however, is that work has given them a sense of identity and pride for many years. The traditionalist generation, or “radio agers”, (born 1925-1946) taught their boomer offspring that the key to career success is to be grateful they had a job, respect their employer, work hard, go above and beyond and you will reap the financial rewards, as well as a promotion, job title and maybe a bigger office. They passed on their experience of showing appreciation and dedication to their employer by hard work and long hours…understandable when we remember their values and attitudes toward work were shaped by two significant watershed events of their time; World War II and the Great Depression. Boomers learned these values but began questioning them during the recessions of the 1980’s and 1990’s when they personally felt the effects of a post-Woodstock world and a changing economic landscape. Many lost their jobs due to downsizing and restructuring (are you feeling a sense of d?j? vu?). It is my view that many of us boomers are still conflicted regarding our own work values. In fact, we have been sending our children mixed messages. On the one hand, we taught our Generation X’s (Born 1964 – 1981) and Generation Y’s to be resilient, self-reliant and at the same time to respect their career path, yet we seem disgruntled when the new generations we now work with have less trust in management and complain about feeling undervalued.

Paying your dues…A clash of generational values

It should therefore come as no surprise that our younger cohorts have a completely different take on the idea of career. They have grown up in a post 9/11 world where altruistic causes are of great interest to them. In addition, they have been afforded the highest level of educational opportunity than any preceding generation from parents who have communicated loud and clear that the world is their oyster. They have not known a world without cell phones or computers. We think that this generation’s social skills have been compromised by the amount of time they spend on Facebook, text messaging, etc. Yet, they feel more “connected”. Who is right?  The internet and social media have given them exposure to a powerful form of self-expression. As a result, they are savvier and deeply interested in their environment. Many are seeking fulfilling employment with an organization that demonstrates a commitment to making a meaningful difference at a global level. A job for life is more like a life sentence for the “Ys” who cannot imagine being with one employer forever.  For this new generation, a job is a stepping stone to the next opportunity. When their parents or managers talk to them about climbing the corporate ladder to achieve professional success, they are speaking a foreign language. Gen Ys are thinking “aren’t you the same people who told me I could be and do anything I wanted?”

When baby boomer managers or co-workers tell them to “pay their dues”, generation Y feel that they already have; in terms of years acquiring an education and student loans. They want to be treated as equals…working “with” but not “for” a manager. They are frustrated with the traditional manager/subordinate dynamic. For boomers, career success and job satisfaction has always been closely aligned to a heightened sense of self-worth. From their vantage point, generation Y consciously choose a “work to live” philosophy and as a result, have created an awareness amongst all generations for a re-awakening and re-prioritizing of the term work/life balance. The ideal workplace is one where differences are appreciated; where the younger generations can learn from the wisdom and experience of their older coworkers and conversely, the older generations can learn from the enthusiastic, tech-savvy younger generation. From a core value perspective, how different are we? We all have a deep desire to be understood, valued and appreciated.

Recognizes issues, problems, or opportunities and determines whether action is needed

Recognizes issues, problems, or opportunities and determines whether action is needed.
What sparks the decision-making process? In some cases it’s a request, such as when your leader asks you to choose equipment to purchase, reduce costs, or delegate work. In other cases you might be aware of an issue that needs to be addressed. For example, you:

  • Receive repeated feedback from customers about a product problem.
  • Believe an improvement to a current process could bolster productivity.
  • See an opportunity to increase market share by improving a product feature.

Even when you’re not the person who makes the decision, you can improve the quality of the decision by identifying problems and opportunities. As a result, people develop confidence in your ability to spot opportunities and contribute to good organizational decisions.

1. Recognize issues, problems, or opportunities.
Effective decision makers are proactive. They stay aware of issues, unresolved problems, or opportunities they can take advantage of. Chances are there’s a decision to be made if you have ideas for:

  • Improving work processes.
  • Reducing costs while maintaining quality or efficiency.
  • Improving customer service.
  • Increasing enthusiasm of associates.
  • Bolstering sales or profits.

Example: John noticed that his team’s overtime hours had increased over the past year, yet output levels had remained the same. When he asked the team why, John learned that requests for custom packaging had gone up 25 percent, but due to the current equipment, custom packaging orders took longer to fill. He also found out that the organization charged the same price for custom and regular packaging. By correctly recognizing the problems–increased overtime, amount of time to fill custom orders, and potential lost revenue on custom orders–John and his team faced two decisions: how to decrease overtime and whether the demand for custom packaging justifies modernizing the equipment and raising the price for custom packaging.

To determine if you have a “decision in the making,” ask yourself:

  • Are coworkers frequently complaining about work?
  • Are deadlines being missed or jobs being done incorrectly?
  • Are there an unusual number of misunderstandings or conflicts between/among departments?
  • Is there a trend in customer feedback?
  • Do I have an opportunity to provide a product or service that the competition can’t?

To obtain specific information about your potential decision, check the following sources:Includes sales or performance records, ideas taken from suggestion boxes, and informal communication gathered via your network, team meetings, task forces, and quality committees. Includes competitor information, research reports, and customer surveys and feedback.

  • Internal data.
  • External data.

2. Define the desired outcomes, criteria, and decision.
After recognizing that a need or opportunity exists, write a clear description of your desired outcomes, the criteria your decision needs to meet, and what you hope to decide. Doing this helps you:

  • Determine whether a decision or action is needed.
  • Confirm that you’re addressing the “right” situation.
  • Ensure that your decision yields the results you want.

Desired outcomes refer to the results you want to achieve (for example, exceeding customer expectations or increasing productivity). Outcomes also might include how people should feel about the results. When defining desired outcomes, consider:

  • What you hope to accomplish.
  • How you want those affected by the decision to feel or act.

For example, if you want to buy a winter coat, your desired outcomes would be to stay warm and to receive comments such as, “That’s a stylish coat.” are the measurable and observable characteristics the decision must meet. Criteria are broadly categorized into quality, cost, and time. Your criteria for buying a new winter coat might include:


  • Warmth provided (quality).
  • Money you’re willing to spend (cost).
  • The need to purchase the coat before winter arrives (time).

A decision states the specific choice to be made. By knowing the results you want, you can clearly describe the decision to achieve those results.

Defining your decision accurately depends on identifying the desired outcomes you want to achieve and the criteria the decision must meet. Another key element of your accuracy is involving others. Seeking others’ input helps to ensure that the right decision is made and that people support and understand the decision. Otherwise, if you assume the desired outcomes and decision criteria, you risk defining the decision incorrectly and getting results much different than what you expected.

Example: A large beverage manufacturer spent millions of dollars and many years trying to outdo its competitors’ packaging based on an inaccurate decision definition: “What bottle shape can we develop that will be as memorable as theirs?” However, the manufacturer’s actual desired outcomes were for people to drink more of their beverage and ultimately increase market share–not to have recognizable packaging. After reassessing its desired outcomes and redefining the decision accurately as, “How can we get people to drink more of our beverage?” the manufacturer freed its thinking and invented the successful large plastic liter bottle. Market share soared (Russo and Schoemaker, 1989).

3. Determine whether action is needed.
Now that you’ve defined the situation in terms of desired outcomes and criteria, and checked the decision to be made, you’re in a better position to determine whether action is needed. Consider the time and energy it would take to work through the decision and determine whether your and others’ efforts are worth the investment. Think about:

  • Who needs to be involved in the decision. Are they available, and will they be supportive?
  • What actions might need to be taken, and who will initiate them.
  • Whether your leader(s) would support your decision-making process.
  • What time and money are needed to research the decision.
  • How confident you are that you know the cause of the situation.
  • Who else might be working on a similar decision.

Compare the time and energy it would take to work through the decision to the impact of not making the decision. Is it worth the investment? Based on the information you’ve compiled, you might determine that action isn’t needed. If one or more of the following situations exist, don’t take action:

  • The process will take too long and the opportunity will be missed.
  • The effort is greater than the reward.
  • There is little to no consequence for not taking action.



Better communication skills start with the right choice of communications media.  Good intentions are sometimes lost in misunderstanding that could have been avoided with honest, face to face discussion.  Yet face to face is not always practical.  How do you make the right choice? 

A Real Example

This is a story I’m going to tell on myself.  It’s true, and because it’s a bit personal I’m leaving out some of the details.  You’ll still see the point. 

Recently I emailed a good friend and business associate to ask a small favor.  In the email I also asked how he was doing, and asked about family as well.  It was a sincere inquiry, since we are friends, but it was casual. 

In his response, my friend immediately addressed my request for a favor, positively of course.  He then answered the family question by mentioning problems he was having with one of his sons.  Very little detail, but it didn’t sound good. 

In an effort to provide a little hope, I quickly responded to him and told him a brief story about my brother, who had similar problems when he was at the age of my friends’ son, but had outgrown the problem and was now a successful CEO. 

In my efforts to keep the email brief, I apparently didn’t word it very well.  He immediately emailed me back with a note expressing concern and wishing the best for my brother. 

Think about it — here my friend had shared a personal problem he was addressing, and my email back to him must have sounded like “you think you have problems, let me tell you about mine”.  Now that was not my intent of course, but I hadn’t taken the time to carefully read my own email. 

The good news is that we were emailing in near real time — almost chatting, really.  So as soon as I realized the mistake I had made I was able to set it straight.  And it’s a good thing I did, because just as I suspected I had come off as insensitive and self centered to my friend. 

The Perils of Email 

As the above story illustrates, written communication is often misunderstood.  Nowhere is this more evident than with email, a media which often masquerades as letter writing, but without the care, proof reading and editing that a personal letter or business letter normally receives. 

I had a boss for whom I’d only been working a short while.  On a weekend when we were having some operational problems, this boss sent me an email in which he vented openly about the breakdowns we were having.  He was not subtle in describing his frustration, and he was not subtle in his threat that heads were going to roll the next week. 

Now the only recipient on this email was me, and at the time I was the guy who was busting my you know what to get everything fixed and back on track.  I was getting results and frankly others were not.  But I got the menacing email.  You can imagine how I felt. 

I got so mad when I got his email that I quickly wrote a strong and not very subtle response.  Thanks to what was probably divine intervention, I didn’t hit the send button. 

My boss actually trusted me implicitly — enough to vent to me by email.  He needed to blow off some steam before he addressed real issues with other people more professionally.  He trusted me, and I thought he was threatening to fire me! 

Here are some guidelines when it comes to email: 

  • The more important the communication, the less you should rely on email.
  • Never use email for feedback, even positive feedback, except to reinforce something you’ve already communicated in person.
  • By all means take advantage of email as a distribution mechanism for other written documents, for scheduling meetings and agendas, etc.

You’re going to violate these guidelines; we all do.  When you do, hopefully you’ll be more aware of the risks, and hopefully you’ll treat the email you’re writing more like an important letter.  Take your time writing it, read it carefully before you send it, let someone else critique it if necessary.  You’ll save yourself a lot of grief by adopting these best practices. 

What About Meetings? 

Ahhh, meetings — the bane of existence in corporate America.   

There’s a popular IBM commercial running these days featuring several business people in a conference room with sprinklers from the ceiling raining down on them.  They seem oblivious, and someone pokes their head in the room to ask what’s going on.  The answer from the meeting leader is “we’ve got this room until 3:30”.  And the inquisitor leaves, apparently satisfied with the response.  Oh by the way, the meeting in progress is about disaster recovery. 

There are too many companies where that commercial is not far off the mark.  Those of us who’ve spent a lot of time in corporate settings have developed a healthy distaste for meetings, and embraced some meeting avoidance and meeting reduction strategies. 

These include things like holding standup meetings, where there are no chairs, no coffee, and no opportunity to get comfortable.  Get together, share the necessary information, and get out.   

Another is 15 minute scheduling, which changes the culture in ways that make 30 minute meetings seem demanding and 60 minute meetings monumental. 

Of course, there is the old standby, the PAL (purpose, agenda, limit).  I’ve heard many people mock the PAL, but it should be a requirement wherever meetings are held.   

Use all of these tools, and any others you may have in your bag of tricks.  Never attend someone else’s meeting if they don’t provide a PAL.  Respect others time, and get others to respect yours. 

Leadership Communication Meetings 

After all I’ve had to say about meetings, this may seem out of place.  But leaders must have occasional communications meetings with the organizations they lead.   People who don’t hear from you, their leader, or only hear from you by email and press releases, won’t align as strongly with you as you need. 

Effective leadership communications have the following characteristics: 

  • They don’t become routine.  Usually they’re not regularly scheduled, but event driven.
  • They are focused and always provide limited, specific information.
  • They are followed up by talking points, management guides, surveys to determine whether the message was well received, or some other means. 

Leaders seeking better communication skills should strive to accomplish all of these. 

Phone vs. Face to Face 

Conference calls are a necessity in a geographically dispersed work force, and there are unique considerations to executing these successfully.  I won’t address them all here. 

It’s amazing, however, to see how often people choose to meet by conference call, even when they are located in the same building, even on the same floor.  If the meeting isn’t important, don’t go.  If the meeting is important, then nothing will make it more effective than face to face interaction. 

Face to face lets you see people’s reactions, the wrinkled noses, the nods of understanding and acceptance, the bewilderment or the confusion.  You can adjust on the fly, and you can engage people in real dialogue.  Body language is powerful.   

If budgets, time and practical considerations don’t allow face to face meetings, then do all you can to overcome the limitations of conference calls.  But if conference calls are being held when in person meetings are possible, that’s an unhealthy sign. 

One more point about leadership communication.  Regardless of how global the audience may be, the leader addressing their organization should be in front of at least some of their audience when they speak.  This helps the leader by giving him or her a chance to see body language and test their effectiveness.  It also goes a long way toward helping the leader seem more accessible. 

Leaders, use traveling roadshows to get in front of your teams if they’re spread out.  Video conferencing has come a long way as an affordable and effective technology, and may help bridge the gap as well.

Companies across the emea region entered the new year, with tighter spending and risk management controls, significant workforce and management leadership challenges, fiercer competition, more government regulation and, perhaps the biggest challenge of all, lingering uncertainty about where best to invest precious capital

Companies across the EMEA region entered the New Year, with tighter spending and risk management controls, significant workforce and management leadership challenges, fiercer competition, more government regulation and, perhaps the biggest challenge of all, lingering uncertainty about where best to invest precious capital.

If 2009 proved a year the world economy would rather forget, 2010 brings measured optimism for corporate growth across Europe, The Middle East and Africa. Improved management confidence in the global economy, prospects for higher corporate earnings, and more buoyant (though still somewhat stressed) credit markets seem likely to empower the rebuild of organisational assets and plans forced to abandonment in the challenging days of what’s been called “The Great Recession.”

With this new and especially fluid business dynamic shaping business decisions from Stockholm and Tel Aviv to Moscow and Cape Town, consumers and investors alike await more signals of economic strength whilst employers still wonder whether the recession really is over. What is clear is that nearly every business in the EMEA region is leaner than it was just one year ago, and perhaps smarter for having survived a torrent of economic obstacles on the road back to future-looking business planning.

The EMEA region is poised for better days in 2010, but critical challenges remain. In the calm after the storm of a worldwide economic dislocation and one of the severest downturns, industry leaders are cautiously optimistic as they look forward to the twin promise of better economic times and growth.

Alain Tanugi, Chairman TRANSEARCH International executive search firm, feels that the new decade brings interesting challenges highlighted by the following issues:

1. Success will be defined by organisation’s ability to ‘shrink and grow’ – in other words maintaining a focus on costs, while growing talent and productivity and profitability. It will become increasingly important to target the right talent, more so than ever before.

2. The executive compensation debate is raging as the extreme volatility of 2009 exposed executive remuneration programs globally. As organisations review their executive pay structure they will seek to find a balance between shareholders interest and the organisations’ need to attract and retain top talent.

3. The need for communication and strong leadership will be substantial as business inevitably picks up and employees review their options. The ability to engage employees and managing the uncertainty will be crucial as organisations aim to mitigate turnover risk.

4. Organisations might be reducing spend, but they are prioritising human capital areas for investment. According to a recent survey the areas include: leadership development and assessment; talent management and succession planning; learning and development; and work lifestyle benefits amongst others.

Tanugi concludes: “There is no doubt 2010 is going to be an interesting year. In 2009 we saw companies scaling down with wide-scale hiring freezes, now everyone is thinking about next quarter. We will see the competition for top talent intensifying as the year goes on – sustainable growth is just not possible without the human capital and leadership to drive it!”

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