Optimism: The Future of Talent Strategy

Campaign/FTC disclosure: I will receive compensation for promoting this campaign. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Xerox has hired me as a brand ambassador for this campaign because of my influence on social media and in talent management. I am not formally employed by Xerox. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of Deviantart.net

According to Merriam-Webster, Optimism is defined as “a hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.” I believe every new employee starts out with an abundance of optimism for their career pursuits with a company. It’s sort of like you waking up with an abundance of money in your bank account, but due to cost of living and other expenditures the money becomes less and less and more often than not- it is depleted. Optimism works the same way. The pot of optimism is essentially there to be nurtured, invested and increased. The issue is companies that are unaware of its value and impact will blindly deplete it.

Where does the love go?

We are still hearing reports about 70% of the workforce being disengaged. Why don’t more companies get it? The problem is business leaders understand the business but they seldom have their finger on the pulse of the true motivations, intentions or wishes of their employees. Furthermore, they seem to be missing the mark on keeping that account of optimism funded as the employee continues to work for them.

Being able to harness and sustain the enthusiasm for the company’s objectives as well as providing meaningful work experiences will be key factor in deploying a successful talent strategy in the future. Today’s top talent comes with high expectations, fleeting loyalty and a drive to make an impact. Companies that are able to inspire and sustain enthusiasm will likely be most successful in being able to retain and mobilize their employees to achieve business objectives.

All along, we thought that retention was about nurturing employees such that they would remain with a company. Given this notion that Xerox puts forth of the Return on Optimism (ROO), we come to understand that when individuals are recognized and understood by the business-the company realizes increased productivity, teams are more innovative, clarity around business objectives is commonplace and in return the company retains happier employees.

It’s not a generational thing

It doesn’t matter what generation you belong to, most people prefer to do work that is meaningful for them. If we had to define what ‘meaningful’ would look like – it would be a cross between something you are great at and something you are passionate about. Businesses have a choice of having a miserable workforce that will likely be unproductive and even destructive to the business or they can intentionally ensure that they do all that is possible to help people succeed in their careers.

How many times during the course of your career, have you been asked about what you are good at and the work that you enjoy?

In my case, I have seldom been asked this question. Admittedly, it is a loaded question since the answer will vary from person to person. What do we gain if companies looked at aligning people to their goals; while also satisfying individual career goals and aspirations? All things being equal, you would have your people doing what they love and excel at-which would in turn empower them to give you 100% of their effort in achieving business outcomes. There would be less heavy lifting where it comes to performance management, because we all would be speaking the same language of constant improvement and building on successes. Sounds like a simple solution to a nagging business issue.

How do you see “return on optimism” being used to develop talent strategy?

Want to see how your company stacks up? Take Xerox’s “Return on Optimism” quiz for further insights from top executives at Xerox and other Fortune 500 companies. Click here. Also, see my survey results here.

Is Too Much Cross-Function Killing Your Business?

We have heard of and discussed the many jobs and/or industries that have been either lost or tremendously condensed since 2008. Let’s deal with the tremendously condensed jobs for a second. Due to the financial crisis of 2008, many businesses had to trim the headcount in their organizations. Essentially, the headcount was trimmed, but as expected the work didn’t go away. The result was lots of reorganization within companies and a redistribution of work in support of keeping business going as usual.

As an employee, you don’t want to be seen as not being a team player when asked if you can take on another job or function. It is usually proposed as something temporary and a great help to the organization. The problem is the redistribution continues in many companies and they keep batting their eyes and asking for more and as such employees are now doing the job of not one-but three people.

Boo-hoo-hoo you say…

Yes, it is great to get experience in different areas. It makes you more marketable. It allows you to contribute in many different ways. It may even lead to management seeing you in a new light and possibly considering you for a promotion. The  reality is that many are just stuck in a rut. There are no promotions coming their way that they know of. Are they marketable? Maybe to some company, but at the moment they are barely surviving each day trying to handle the multitude of work and demands that have come along with this hybrid role they are in. Contributing is an understatement, they are serving as staff member up to an including executive depending on the project and/or role they are focused on at the moment.

Consequently, sales may look good and dollar signs may make the CEO’s heart flutter, but there is major damage being done to the staff and business. Despite a society in love with doing the most, the truth is we can do only one thing well at a time. If one of your staff members is in charge of branding, recruiting, handling diversity and employee relations -how effective are they being? If they are effective, are they being compensated and rewarded appropriately for their efforts?

If they have been sold the typical- “we can’t raise your salary “bit, they are likely miserable, burnt out and searching for a new gig.

Consider this…

I did a job profile for someone to understand what they do and how they may be marketable within their industry. They happen to have a background in Accounting. However, due to downsizing this person not only handles accounts payable but handles receivables, does journal entries, can add and delete invoices all without any checks and balances. Her job is too cross-functional and she could be robbing the company blind- if she was not a standup citizen. This kind of job overlap with no checks and balances goes against every good accounting principle there is. The person that pays money shouldn’t also receive the money etc.

However, the owner of this business is gleaming, because the work gets done and he is saving on three salaries and maybe four when we consider her total compensation hasn’t been raised or adjusted since taking on this extra work.

I’m not suggesting that there be absolutely no cross-function. A healthy dose of cross-function or job sharing can be helpful in mitigating the impact of temporary or small permanent gaps. That said, anytime the extra work to be taken on amounts to more than 40% time equivalent it is time to hire another person.

Here are some tips to use in evaluating the potential for cross-function:

1) If you must downsize or terminate staff, evaluate the work they did and the time it took them to get it done before you start redistributing. Sometimes you will find unnecessary gaps in turnaround time for tasks and other times work is turned around within reasonable time limits.
2) If the people lost are tied to a significant amount of work, consider utilizing temp staff to pick up the slack even if it for just a few hours a week.
3) If your employees must become cross-functional, be sure there are no conflicts of interest from a legal or ethical standpoint between their current and new roles.
4) Keep communication open and honest. There are times when businesses have to cut back releasing burdens onto employees. If more work is coming and it is temporary, keep your employees informed about your timeline to resume normal operations.

Does this sound like your business? Let us help you put things in perspective? Contact us.

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