01 December 2015

Two Questions for Leadership

"Although our intellect longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating."

--Carl von Clausewitz

With the year winding down, and a fresh calendar waiting to takes its place, this might be a good time to think about improving your internal communication as preparation for a promising 2016.  

Leadership tends to be clearer among itself than with employees when it comes to communicating priorities and goals, and how everyone can work together to achieve those ends. 

Defining purpose (why this business?) should be at the heart of what a CEO wants corporate constituencies to know.  Strategy formulation is superficial and imitative without a deeper understanding as to why the organization exists.

So what's the problem?

Most people are not mind readers and guessing what a leader or supervisor is thinking is a frustrating experience.  What can be done to fill workplace vacuums? 

The power of focus

Here are two straightforward questions to consider asking when attempting to be clear in a cluttered world:

Question No. 1:  What is it you're trying to accomplish?

That may sound like a simple question but it's not easy to answer. 

A leader knows (or should know) what's in their head but often can't get it out in a way that makes sense to those charged with implementation.  It takes lots of practice to be plain spoken, using candid feedback to improve our thoughts and close information loops.   

If communicating purpose, context, process, and results (a narrative, if you will) are that important to the future of the enterprise, then spending time honing an understandable message is worth the effort.

Without sounding condescending, a leader has a duty to explain how the total picture comes together.  What needs doing?  By when?  By whom?  What will be the sources of funding? 

Painting that picture is difficult which is why so few accomplish what they set out to do through others.

Question No. 2: What are you doing to get in your own way?

Instead of rounding up the usual suspects such as attitudes, culture, systems, policies, and procedures, have you ever thought about taking, when appropriate, some responsibility for poor execution?   

All of us are susceptible to "blind spots" such as failing to show appreciation, not sharing credit, and inappropriate emotional responses.  These are patterns of behavior that can get in the way and undermine trust in working relationships.  

Writing about this topic, the late David Viscott, M.D., an American psychiatrist, author, and businessman, said:  "You must sometimes endure a life of pain before you are ready to admit what everyone else can plainly see."  

Those who sign off on hiring decisions, plans and budgets, can improve those processes by asking the right questions, at the right time, of the right people.  Without being negative, probing from a C-suite perspective is the first line of defense in making sure there's congruency among business units toward a common goal. 

Failing to show up when it's your turn to engage in the process is one example of getting in your own way.

Are you sometimes the problem? 

It may be hard to get a straight answer to that question from those who serve at your pleasure. Leaders who are self aware and experienced are the ones most likely to give permission for subordinates to critique the boss's ideas or offer their own. 

Making candid conversations a safe habit improves everyone's performance which in turn becomes a positive influence on outcomes.

One more thing

Too much clarity can be as big a problem as too little.  Being highly prescriptive with direct reports is a way to lessen individual initiative, creativity, and responsibility. 

Someone has to pay attention to details.  However, micromanaging is a prime example of how to deflate passion. Is there anything less motivating than trying to carry out someone else's plan with most of the details filled in?

How to manage the creative tension between clarity and uncertainty?  Add that to your wish list for the holidays. 


www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.



   
  
   



01 November 2015

Millennials and More

"Demography is destiny."

--Richard Scammon and Ben Wattenberg

What do we really know about millennials, the demographic label which refers to a generation of young adults now between the ages of 18-34?

First, it's a heavily populated cohort.  A news release posted online by the U.S. Census Bureau in June 2015 shows that portion of the population, born between 1982 and 2000, now numbers 83.1 million and represents more than one quarter of the nation's population.  Their size exceeds that of the 76 million baby boomers.

According to the release, millennials are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2% being part of a minority race or ethnic group (that is, a group other than non-Hispanic, single-race white).  Even more diverse than millennials are the youngest Americans:  those younger than five years old.  In 2014, this group became majority-minority for the first time, with 50.2% being part of a minority race or ethnic group.

The myths

While millennials, the children of baby boomers, may be among the most studied demographic in the nation's history, it's important not to generalize too much and think their behaviors and lifestyles are set for good.  Like previous generations, they have unique characteristics (such as taking pets with them to job interviews) but continue to evolve in their tastes and lifestyles.  As their finances improve their consumption patterns will, too.

An article in TIME Magazine observed that "each country's millennials are different, but because of globalization, social media, the exporting of Western culture and the speed of change, millennials worldwide are more similar to one another than to older generations within their nations."

Nationally, there are now more than 53 million workers 18-34 years of age.  Millennials have passed baby boomers and Gen-Xers to comprise the largest part of the U.S. workforce, constituting 34% of all workers.  By 2025, three-quarters of adult workers will be millennials.

Media fascination with any subject can lead to misunderstandings.  The facts not as interesting as the story.  For example, here are millennial myths as reported on www.money.com:


1. Millennials don't like fast food.  Fresh food is important to this generation.  Yet surveys indicate younger consumers are far more likely to eat at McDonald's than at Chipotle, Panera Bread, and other fast-casual restaurants.  The Wall Street Journal reported that 75% of millennials said they go to McDonald's at least once a month, while only 20% to 25% of millennials visit a fast-casual restaurant of any kind that frequently.

2. Millennials want to live in cities, not suburbs.  This myth is part of the media attention paid to urban millennials.  Riding mass transportation or Uber, bicycles, or walking, is the picture we have of young adults in city centers.  They hold college degrees and have the latest tech gadgets.  (You don't hear much about 20-year old single moms in small towns, or fast-food workers in the suburbs trying to get by with only a high school diploma because they don't make good copy).   

Even if young people are moving to the cities it doesn't mean that suburbs are out of bounds.  Census data show that in 2014 people in their 20s moving out of cities and into suburbs far outnumber those going in the opposite direction. 

Two-thirds of millennial homebuyers prefer suburbs for settling down with 10% choosing the city. 

3. Millennials hate cars.  Maybe car buying is slow going in the early stages of a career due in large part to college debt or the cost of a vehicle.  Or both.  Yet a Deloitte study focusing on Generation Y, another way of saying millennials, shows that more than three-quarters of this age group plan to purchase or lease a car over the next five years.  Nearly two-thirds of millennials are in "love" with their car.

4. Millennials don't want to own homes.  Renting is better than owning.  Yet a closer look uncovers the fact that millennials want to own homes.  Again, the burden of college loans weighs on the home buying decision, at least initially.  Bloomberg News reported that millennials made up 32% of home buyers in 2014, up from 28% from 2012.   They are now the largest demographic in the market.

5. Millennials reject careerism and are allergic to being managed.  This too seems to be contradicted by the facts.  CEB, a consulting firm, polls 90,000 American employers each quarter.  From reporting in The Economist Magazine, CEB finds millennials to be among the most competitive:  59% said competition is what gets them up in the morning, compared with 50% of  baby boomers.  They may spend more time messaging with other millennials but they do not have much faith in them.  Fully 37% say they don't trust their peers' input at work.  

Forty-one percent of millennials agreed with the statement:  "Employees should do what their manager tells them, even when they can't see the reason for it."   

Workers across different generations have much in common.  They want roughly the same things regardless of when they were born:  to be given interesting work to do, to be rewarded on the basis of their contributions and to be given the chance to work hard and get ahead.  Those findings come from both CEB and the Center for Creative Leadership.

6. Millennials prefer the single life.  But the demographic trends suggest they will increasly be married, college-educated, well-to-do parents.  The trend among young parents, who are now primarily the millennials, will be toward a growing majority of children being born inside marriages, says Demographic Intelligence.  DI predicts that ultimately around 60% of the children of millennials will be born to married parents, up from around 45% today. 

Other habits

We've all read about millennials and their attitudes concerning "entitlements," "work/life balance," and "job-hopping" (not unusual for this age group). Here are some other interesting characteristics and habits:

-Fifteen percent of millennials live with parents. (Census Bureau)

-Millennials watch less TV and spend more time on smartphones than their parents.  

-Older millennials (25-34) watch more TV than their younger counterparts (18-24). 

-Fourteen percent of those 18-34 are cutting the TV cord and 12% never had a TV subscription.

-Thirty-four percent say they sleep with their smartphones in the bed.

-The top mobile news source for this group is the Huffington Post with 9.2 million unique visitors to the app and site (recorded in March 2015). 

-About 67 million millennials listen to radio each week.  Country is the top format. 

-Only 27% of millennials say they attend religious services on a weekly basis, compared with 38% of baby boomers and 51% of adults in the silent generation. Nearly one-third ages 25-32 now indicate their religious preference as "none," a nine percentage point jump in this group since 2007. (Pew Study)

Nielson Study

In addition to anecdotal stories which are plentiful, reliable data are available if you know where to look.  Below is a link to a "Nielson Report on Millennials."  If this demographic is important to your business or nonprofit, the Nielson study may be worth your time to download and review with the leadership, product development and marketing teams. 


We will monitor and report on other studies for Gen-X, baby boomers, and the silent generation in the coming year. 

Closing thought

Of course there are more market opportunities than just millennials.  Multi-generational consumers are plentiful.  The sweet spot for household spending and giving to charitable causes overlaps among the 25 million older baby boomers and younger members of the silent generation, those between 65 and 74 years of age.      

Demographic transitions are always bookends--a younger cohort on one end with an aging populous on the other.  This time the middle is populated by 40 million individuals known as, Generation X. 

These combined forces are reshaping cultural norms, and in some cases, causing long-standing businesses to adapt or run the risk of a slow death. 

It's a situation and season that's hard to ignore.


www.strategist.com

(C) Bredholt & Co.

   


01 October 2015

How to Kill an Idea

Have you ever suggested something in a meeting and had the idea immediately knocked down? 


Several years ago I was in a small-group setting when someone offered a new way to fix an old problem.  The response from one person at the table was a quick dismissal of what was being proposed.  The oxygen for creative thinking often leaves the room after that kind of exchange. 


Who decides whether an idea is good or bad?  Is there a need to be more measured in our response to something we are hearing for the first time?  


Just as there's more than one way to skin a cat, there's more than one way to kill an idea.


Here are ten ways to dash even the most of promising ideas, courtesy of The Synectics Corporation:

1.   See it coming and quickly change the subject.

2.   Ignore it. Dead silence intimidates all but the most enthusiastic.

3.   Feign interest but do nothing about it. This at least prevents the originator from taking it elsewhere.

4.   Scorn it. "You're joking, of course." Make sure to get your comment in before the idea is fully explained.

5.   Laugh it off. "Ho, ho, ho, that's a good one, Joe. You must have been awake all night thinking that up."

6.   Praise it to death. By the time you have expounded its merits for five minutes everyone else will hate it.

7.   Mention that it has never been tried before. If the idea is genuinely original, this is certain to be true. Alternatively, say, "If the idea's so wonderful, why hasn't someone else already tried it?"

8.   Say, "Oh, we've tried that before"—even if it's not true. Particularly effective with newcomers. It makes them realize what complete outsiders they are.

9.   Come up with a competitive idea. This can be a dangerous tactic, however, as you might still be left with an idea to follow up.

10. Stall it with any of the following: "We're not ready for it yet, but in the fullness of time..." — "I've been wanting to do that for a long time, but right now..." — "Let's wait until the new organization has settled down..."
 


© Bredholt & Co.


 

01 September 2015

If They Won't Change, You'd Better Move On


You know the people I’m talking about: she says she wants to change, but when it comes time to do so, she makes excuses and doesn’t follow through; or he says he’s eager for a new life, and then defends his old ways at every turn. It’s exhausting to keep up with the denial tactics, finger-pointing, arguments, and justifications that people who really don’t want to change can come up with!
If I’ve learned one thing over my 35 years as an executive coach, speaker and author, it’s this: change has to come from within. It can’t be dictated, demanded, or otherwise forced upon people. A man or woman who does not whole-heartedly commit to change will never change.
That seems self-evident, but I didn’t absorb this simple truth until my twelfth year in the “change” business. By then I had done intensive one-on-one coaching with more than a hundred executives, nearly all successes but a smattering of failures too.
As I reviewed my failures, one conclusion leapt out: Some people say they want to change, but they don’t really mean it. I had erred profoundly in client selection. I believed the clients when they said they were committed to changing, but I had not drilled deeper to determine if they were telling the truth.
Not long after this revelation, I was asked to work with Harry, the chief operating officer of a large consulting firm. Harry was a smart, motivated, hard-working deliver-the-numbers alpha male who was also arrogant and over-delighted with himself. He was habitually disrespectful to his direct reports, driving several of them away to work for the competition. This development rattled the CEO, hence the call to me to coach Harry.
Harry talked a good game at first, assuring me that he was eager to get started and get better. I interviewed his colleagues and direct reports, even his wife and teenaged children. They all told the same story. Despite his sterling professional qualities, Harry had an overwhelming need to be the smartest person in the room, always proving that he was right, winning every argument. It was exhausting and off-putting. Who could say how many opportunities had vanished because people loathed being pummeled and brow-beaten?
As Harry and I reviewed his 360° feedback, he claimed to value the opinions of his co-workers and family members. Yet whenever I brought up an area for improvement, Harry would explain point by point how his questionable behavior was actually justified. He’d remind me that he majored in psychology in college and then analyze the behavioral problems of everyone around him, concluding that they needed to change. In a mind-bending display of chutzpah, he asked me for suggestions in helping these people get better.
In my younger days, I would have overlooked Harry’s resistance. Mimicking his arrogance and denial, I would have convinced myself that I could help Harry where lesser mortals would fail. Fortunately I remembered my earlier lesson: Some people say they want to change, but they don’t really mean it.
It was dawning on me that Harry was using our work together as another opportunity to display his superiority and to reverse the misperceptions of all the confused people surrounding him, including his wife and kids. By our fourth meeting I gave up the ghost. I told Harry that my coaching wouldn’t be helpful to him, and we parted ways. (I felt neither joy nor surprise when I later learned that the firm had fired Harry. Evidently the CEO had concluded that an individual who actively resists help has maxed out professionally and personally.)
I often call up my time with Harry as a stark example that, even when altering our behavior represents all reward and no risk – and clinging to the status quo can cost us our careers and relationships – we resist change.

Guest Blogger:  Marshall Goldsmith
Posted with permission.

© Bredholt & Co.


 

01 August 2015

Time Management--Making Things Worse

Guest blogger: 

Tony Crabbe 


"Imagine your life without time, without a constant sense that you’re running behind, frustrated that yet again you are losing the battle against the irresistible force of the ticking clock. Imagine not wishing there were more hours in the day."


Find out more by reading the full article...


http://qz.com/447193/time-management-is-only-making-our-busy-lives-worse/

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonycrabbe


Check out his book, "Busy." 

Link posted with permission. 


©  Bredholt & Co.

01 July 2015

David and Goliath



"If you do the calculations on the ballistics, on the stopping power of the rock fired from David's sling, it's roughly equal to the stopping power of a [.45 caliber] handgun."


--Malcolm Gladwell


Looking for ways to overcome giant obstacles in work and life?  Then take fifteen minutes to learn from a 2013 TED Talk by best-selling author, Malcolm Gladwell.  






© Bredholt & Co.


 




01 June 2015

The Overstimulated Mind



“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
--Sir John Lubbock


The cover story of the 1 June 2015 TIME magazine is entitled, “Who Killed Summer Vacation?” A companion piece might be, “Who stole your life?”
As someone observed the U.S. is becoming known as the "no-vacation nation."  The culprits identified in the article include: the rise of the service economy full of unskilled and interchangeable workers; the decline of organized labor; that vacations are expensive when wages are flat; technology that tethers you to work; and insecure workers afraid to take off a week, let alone two weeks back-to-back.
The downside to this human and economic predicament is the potential for an unsafe, unhealthy, unreflective, and unproductive workforce. 
What’s happening to us?
Over the course of time our minds take in more than they can process--and delete.  There isn’t enough space between meetings to think about the latest great idea, let alone implement it.  The result—too much stimulation and not enough assimilation.
In an excerpt from the book, The Mature Mind, by H. A. Overstreet, here is what we learn about an overstimulated mind which apparently begins at an early age:
A child, we now know, is likely to be halted in its growth toward psychological maturity if it is subjected to too many stimuli that call for an immediate reaction, and if it is given too little leisure and privacy in which to assimilate what it has experienced.
It is simply not good for a child to have too many toys, so that it never has time deeply to love one; or to be too consistently surrounded by people; or to be too consistently on the go; or to have so many activities organized for it that it never has time just to be itself in a kind divine idleness.
The process of psychological maturing is more than the process of receiving impressions, one after another.  It is the process of savoring these impressions until they yield up their meaning.
It is the process of letting new experiences turn around and around in the mind until they find the angle at which they want to settle down among old experiences.
We as a people are, in many respects, like children who have been exposed to too many changing stimuli in too rapid a succession; we are both excitable and emotionally fatigued; both ready for the new, whatever it is, and unready for any of its meanings that are not on the surface: both ego-centered wanters of more and more and generous givers of what we have—less in the spirit of those who will divide their last crust than in the spirit of those who feel that they will soon have something better to take the place of what they give away.
Overstreet penned those insightful words in 1949.
Stress is costly
What's the antidote to partial attention?  Multi-tasking?  Interruptions?
Mindfulness. 
A 2010 Harvard study found that people spend 47% of their days thinking about things other than what they're actually doing.  That statistic goes a long way toward explaining why some are prone to errors, having to do the same tasks over to get them right, a cost that eventually finds its way into the price of goods and services. 
Renewing the human spirit
Consider that in 2013 American workers with access to paid time off left 429 million vacation days on the table, an average of 3.2 days per worker (U.S. Travel Association).
The research also showed that while some employers allow workers to bank their time off from year to year, or to receive payouts for unused time off at termination, nearly 170 million vacation days came from “use it or lose it” policies and vanished into thin air.
By not taking all the time they had coming, the study reasoned that Americans did $52.4 billion worth of work—for free.  A seemingly good deal for employers, but in the end, not really.  
As summer approaches more employers (The Motley Fool, TED Conferences, and Rand Corp.) are putting in place incentives to encourage scheduled idleness. It may not be as idyllic as "watching clouds float across the sky" but it does include going off the 24/7 grid for a time to achieve a rested body and mind.  Even indispensable employees need to recharge their batteries.
A corporate HR vacation policy that helps renew one's outlook on career and life may be the most important bottom-line decision a business can make.




© Bredholt & Co.


 


 


 


 


 

01 May 2015

Help Wanted

 
“Let us realize that: the privilege to work is a gift, the power to work is a blessing, and the love of work is success!”

--David O. McKay

 
With college commencements getting underway here’s some news for graduates (and parents) that they may or may not want to hear—it doesn’t much matter where you went to school.  What matters is how you go, so says Purdue University President Mitch Daniels.

The former Indiana governor and onetime director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington D.C., is basing this "how" idea on the results of a Gallup-Purdue Index, a national survey of 30,000 college graduates released for the first time in 2014.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the survey is an attempt at quantifying not only what a graduate earns but also how well they are navigating adult life.

According to the study, only 39% of college graduates report feeling engaged with their work.  In that group as many come from the top-100 schools as don’t.

The three most important contributions that college makes to a sense of workplace achievement after graduation:

1.    Having one professor who made you excited about learning

2.    Feeling as though the teachers cared about you

3.    Working with a mentor

Graduates who marked those boxes on the survey were more than twice as likely to sense they are flourishing at work.

The Gallup-Purdue Index shows that only 14% of those surveyed said they had attained all three in college.

Other positive factors in the study from undergraduate life:

·       Working on a long-term project

·       Having an internship

·       Participating in extra-curricular activities

The point:  Where graduates went to college barely registered as a predictor of job satisfaction according to the Index.

The benefits of college

While cost is a major consideration, and not everyone must go through a bachelor degree program to succeed in life, the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is near a record high.  Among millennials, ages 25-32, earnings for college degree holders are $17,500 greater than those with high school diplomas only.  This according to the Pew Research Center.

In addition to total earnings over a lifetime, the short-term benefit to completing a college degree is employment. 

Unemployment rate by education level, adults ages 25 to 34:

No H.S. diploma                         13.8

H.S. diploma, no college              8.4

Some college, no degree             7.2

Associate degree only                  5.8

Bachelor's only                             2.0

Master's                                        2.2

Advance professional                   4.4

Doctoral                                        1.1

Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2015

Universal qualities

A great deal of attention is paid to technology in a 21st century economy, and rightfully so.  Yet technology is a sword that cuts both ways--it's a net job creator while removing routine work.

Since 2008, 44% of U.S. firms have reduced their head counts in part because of automation.   Nearly 50% of U.S. jobs are at high risk of becoming automated in the next 20 years according to Oxford University research published in TIME Magazine.

How does anyone prepare for such an unstable work environment?  Keep learning; remain flexible; and avoid routine work.  As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people now in their 50s have changed jobs 11.3 times on average over their working lives.  New jobs require new skills.

However, in marketing to prospective students and parents maybe colleges and universities are overlooking universal qualities and skills that employers seek when hiring--some of which can be honed while in the hallowed halls of ivy.   Or in certain cases, online.

The time to start developing the more sought after hiring skills is when traditional students are in their college years.  This is a period which allows for trial and error more so than a first or second career job where grading is often on a much harsher scale.

The well-rounded person

What are the attractive skills a person should consider pursuing that are just as integral to the education, training, and experience for specific kinds of jobs?  The National Association of Colleges and Employers asked employers responding to their Job Outlook (2013) what skills they prioritize when hiring.

Here are the top 10:

1.    Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization

2.    Ability to work in a team structure

3.    Ability to make decisions and solve problems

4.    Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work

5.    Ability to obtain and process information

6.    Ability to analyze quantitative data

7.    Technical knowledge related to the job

8.    Proficiency with computer software programs

9.    Ability to create and/or edit written reports

10. Ability to sell or influence others

Note that soft and hard skills are evenly divided on the list. 

Orientations more than commencements

Higher education might want to focus on four areas that could make a significant difference in the college experience:  build awareness for universal qualities in freshman orientations; enlist faculty to make application within a chosen field of study; place the qualities inside all degree programs, especially science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and link the qualities with internships. 

Steve Jobs, a college drop-out, often described Apple as “the intersection of technology and liberal arts.”  That business model, a philosophical legacy from Jobs himself, is currently sitting on $194 billion in cash and long-term investments. 

Once inside an organization—high tech, banking, nonprofit—all who want to be engaged and contribute have to eventually figure out how to work with others to accomplish common goals.  This is where cultural fit comes into play. 

To achieve a higher level of performance early in a career it would be better to know what the hiring skills are at the outset of college life than learn about them for the first time at commencement.  Or, during a job interview.  

Final thoughts 

In looking to the future, and based on the research, how can colleges identify, hire and reward more professors who are capable of helping students “light the wick” of learning?   

According to the Gallup-Purdue Index, teachers with a gift to inspire contribute much to how we learn, to our character-building and workplace achievement.  That has proven to be my experience, for which I am grateful.


Special feature

If you're looking for a job, know someone who is, or are hiring, then I encourage you to read the story, "New Year, New Job," from the 2 January 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal.  Click here for the article.

 

© Bredholt & Co.

 

 

 

01 April 2015

Best Places to Work


“Culture’s what it’s all about.”

--J. W. “Bill” Marriott, Board Chair, Marriott International

Thirty years ago, in anticipation of working on a Marriott engagement, I went to Miami, Florida to observe the grand opening of the Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel.  I remember asking my waiter at breakfast if by any chance then CEO Bill Marriott would be here for the occasion.  Pointing toward the serving area, he replied, “There’s Mr. Marriott in the kitchen.”  

So it is that Marriott International, with a penchant for detail in its DNA, and now led by CEO Arne Sorenson, shows up as one of 12 companies which have appeared on all 18 of Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” lists, currently ranked at No. 53. 

What the report has to say

If you’re looking for ways to become a better workplace the 15 March 2015 issue of Fortune is worth buying and studying.  The "Best Companies" list is a result of research conducted by Great Place to Work using a “Trust Index” survey which is distributed to a sample of employees at each company.   Workers vote their companies onto the Fortune list using criteria related to the quality of their workplace cultures.

Here are three trends from the “100 Best” report:

·       The best workplaces are getting better.  With the same basic methodology nearly two decades of comparisons can be made.  In 1998 the average amount of training for managers and professionals was 41 hours.  Hourly and administrative staffers received 33 hours.  This year the numbers were 78 and 94 hours respectively, nearly 80% higher

·       The best employers are better because more business leaders are focused on workplace culture as a competitive tool.  Most firms on the list are winners in the marketplace as well as the workplace.  Google explicitly attributes financial performance to benevolent people practices.

·       Each of the "Best Companies" has leaders who genuinely listen to their employees and craft distinctive policies and programs that suit today’s workforce.  Perks are only the tip of the iceberg in workplace cultures.  As Scott Scherr, founder and CEO of Ultimate Software observed: “The true measure of a company is how they treat their lowest-paid employees.”

So who’s No.1?

At the top of the list is Google, Mountain View, CA, with 44,862 employees and 2,500 job openings.  Perks include:  Free food; up to12 weeks of full paid baby-bonding time.

Rounding out the top five:

2.    Boston Consulting Group, Boston, MA, with 2,701 employees and 1,000 job openings. Perks include:  Social-impact leave of absence for up to three months.

3.    Acuity, Sheboygan, WI, with 1,039 employees and 150 job openings.  Perks include:  No limit on tuition reimbursement; no cap on paid sick days for full-time employees.

4.    SAS Institute, Cary, NC, with 6,647 employees and 350 job openings.  Perks include:  On-site childcare; fitness centers; pharmacy; and subsidized meals.

5.    Robert W. Baird, Milwaukee, WI, with 2,822 employees and 98 job openings.  Perks include "the Rule":  No jerks allowed. 

A complete list of all 100 company profiles and job information can be found on fortune.com/bestcompanies.

What else do we learn?

That the healthcare industry is dominating the market for female talent by offering flexible work options and promoting many into leadership roles. 

The top five companies for women:

1.     Meridian Health

2.     Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

3.     Perkins Coie Law

4.     Alston & Bird Law

5.     Novo Nordisk Pharma

Other important takeaways

The tendency when reading these kinds of stories is to look at the perks.  As good as they are perks alone don’t seem to get companies on the "100 Best" list.  What else to look for?

§  That the essence of a great workplace is just that:  an essence, an indispensable quality that determines its character.  And to build a corporate organization around it. That process and practice is hard to copy since it is unique to each organization.

§  Those that show up high in the surveys focus on personal relationships, not transactions.  “The key to creating a great workplace was not a prescriptive set of employee benefits, programs, and practices, but the building of high-quality relationships in the workplace.”

§  Companies gain a competitive advantage by attracting and keeping the most valuable workers.

§  Knowledge is becoming a commodity.  What differentiates today are those who excel at team building, collaboration, and cultural sensitivity.  (Oxford Economics)

§  The goal for leadership is not always having the best ideas but harvesting them from others.

§  It's not wealth or prestige that motivates people; it's respect and help from peers.

How important is culture?

A company’s culture ("the way people behave from moment to moment without being told") is even more important than its leadership according to a Deloitte survey of 3,300 executives.  I would add that it's more valuable than corporate strategy.  

“Culture” was Merriam-Webster’s 2014 word of the year.

Unfortunately, the report indicates that most employers have no clue where to begin when it comes to creating the culture they need.  The report offers some hints at what might be helpful:

Mission.  Pursuing a bigger purpose and making sure everyone knows what that purpose is.

Colleagues.  The best people want to go where the best people are.

Trust.  Show people that you consider them trustworthy and they’ll generally prove you right.

Caring.  Don’t say it.  Show it.

So what was Bill Marriott really doing in the kitchen?

Continuing a long-held corporate tradition, established by his father, the late J. W. Marriott, Sr., when he opened the Hot Shoppes (A & W Root Beer) in Washington, D. C., in 1927.  On that grand opening morning in downtown Miami Bill Marriott was caring for his employees, who now number just over 100,000 worldwide, making sure they had everything needed to do their jobs. 

Leadership by example has proven essential to Marriott's long-term success. That includes paying attention to the right details, especially when your name is on the door.


© Bredholt & Co.