Category Archives: Management

The Problem with Accounting for Employees as Costs Instead of Assets

Source: Ethan Rouen, Harvard Business Review, October 17, 2019

You hear it all the time: companies touting employees as “their most valuable assets.” But under current accounting standards, that is simply false. By definition, employees are not assets since companies do not have control over them. Workers must convert raw materials – be they commodities or blank computer screens – into finished inventory to be paid, but if these workers want to quit, they can take their skills and training with them.

The distinction matters because it allows companies to hide behind platitudes and not disclose whether they invest in their workers in ways that promote long-term success. The current lack of disclosure related to employment practices prevents policy makers and investors from rewarding or punishing companies for how they actually treat their employees. Right now, there’s no universally accepted way to track the management of human capital. We need a new way to account for labor so that we can track and reward companies for how they actually treat their employees.

How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams

Source: Joan C. Williams, Sky Mihaylo, Harvard Business Review, November–December 2019
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Companies spend millions on antibias training each year. The goal is to create workforces that are more inclusive, and thereby more innovative and more effective. Studies show that well-managed diverse groups outperform homogeneous ones and are more committed, have higher collective intelligence, and are better at making decisions and solving problems. But research also shows that bias prevention programs rarely deliver. And some companies don’t invest in them at all. So how can you, as an individual leader, make sure your team is including and making the most of diverse voices? Can one person fix what an entire organization can’t?

Although bias itself is devilishly hard to eliminate, it is not as difficult to interrupt. In the decades we’ve spent researching and advising people on how to build and manage diverse work groups, we’ve identified ways that managers can counter bias without spending a lot of time—or political capital.

The first step is to understand the four distinct ways bias plays out in everyday work interactions: (1) Prove it again: Some groups have to prove themselves more than others do. (2) Tightrope: A narrower range of behaviors is accepted from some groups than from others. (3) Maternal wall: Women with children see their commitment and competence questioned or face disapproval for being too career focused. (4) Tug-of-war: Disadvantaged groups find themselves pitted against one another because of differing strategies for assimilating—or refusing to do so.

The second step is to recognize when and where these forms of bias arise day-to-day. In the absence of an organizational directive, it’s easy to let them go unaddressed. That’s a mistake. You can’t be a great manager without becoming a bias interrupter. Here’s how to do it.

3 ways to combat gender bias in the workplace

Source: Sara Brown, MIT Sloan School of Management, October 11, 2019

Many stand to benefit when companies embrace diversity and inclusion. Women, people from different perspectives, and people of color challenge cognitive biases, prompting higher quality ideas and innovation, according to MIT Sloan senior lecturer and research scientist Renée Richardson Gosline. Women also score higher than men on 17 of the 19 most important leadership skills, according to a recent study.

While some companies focus on creating inclusive practices, women continue to battle bias as they navigate their careers. Doing so while becoming a strong leader isn’t easy, according to three business execs who shared their experiences at the recent MIT Sloan Global Women’s Symposium. What have they learned along the way? Learn to say no, get comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics, and help others coming up behind you.

Helping Employees Speak Up

Source: Larry Johnson, Government Finance Review, May 2019

…. The question for all managers is how to make sure their employees aren’t afraid to tell them what they need to know. There are three critical things a manager can do to encourage honest feedback from subordinates:

1. Make It Clear that You Want the Feedback.
Let people know — repeatedly — that you are not perfect and you expect them to help you make the best decisions possible, so any help they can offer will be appreciated, especially if they see you about to do something stupid.

2. Don’t Be Defensive.
When someone gives you this kind of feedback, control your defensiveness. None of us like to be criticized, and it’s easy to argue and even respond with hostility when a subordinate suggests there might be another, better, approach. You aren’t going to agree to something you know to be wrong — you just need to listen openly to the incoming information.

3. Thank the Employee — and Mean It.
Whether or not you take the advice the subordinate offers, be sure to thank her and express your appreciation for bringing the matter to your attention. Reinforced behavior tends to get repeated, so if you want people to give you more feedback, reward them for doing so…..

Minority Public Administrators: Managing Organizational Demands While Acting as an Advocate

Source: Kristen Carroll, Kenicia Wright, Kenneth J. Meier, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 7, October 2019
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From the abstract:
Building on the work of Adam Herbert, this research examines how minority managers navigate the pressures of their organization versus the pressures of their community. Organizational socialization suggests that the socialization process will introduce employees to the goals and priorities of the organization and result in similar behaviors among managers. However, social identities (i.e., race, gender) also significantly influence the values, attitudes, and behaviors of a public servant. Navigating these two competing pressures, minority managers often experience role conflict in their work. We theoretically explore and empirically examine how race affects minority managers’ perceptions, networking behaviors, and hiring outcomes. We test our hypotheses using 6 years of school superintendent survey data. We find that racial minority managers behave in similar ways to their White peers as they have similar perceptions of their role in the organization and engage in professional networking behavior at similar rates. However, minority managers separately address the interests of their same-race minority community by hiring same-race street-level bureaucrats. As public organizations have grown increasingly diverse, this research revisits the experiences of minority public administrators and contributes to our understanding of how race and social identities contemporarily influence public managerial behaviors.

How to Optimize Onboarding

Source: Dave Zielinski, HR Magazine, Vol. 64 no. 2, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

The right tools can make new hires more productive more quickly and save time for HR…

Good onboarding practices can reduce turnover and greatly improve new hires’ time to proficiency. But next-generation onboarding technologies can also eliminate much of the manual work, reduce the chance of problems or delays, and leave more time for HR and line managers to train and socialize new employees.

Using customized portals, today’s platforms allow new workers to complete essential digital forms, learn about teammates and begin developing short-term goals even before their first day on the job. Many also feature artificial intelligence (AI)-driven virtual agents to answer commonly asked questions. These portals can customize workflows to match an organization’s orientation needs and send automated reminders to ensure that all onboarding tasks are completed on time.

The stakes are high for choosing the right onboarding system, since nearly one-third of new hires grow dissatisfied and look for a new job within their first six months of employment, and those who stay take an average of eight months to reach acceptable levels of productivity, according to new research from Gartner. A recent Gallup study found that only 12 percent of employees strongly agree that their organization does a great job of onboarding new hires…..

Making Onboarding More Effective
• Define your objectives. Determine the structure and content of your onboarding program. Give careful thought to what new hires need to know about the organization and their roles.
• Identify key players. Onboarding is more than an HR initiative. People throughout the organization need to take ownership of their part in the process by contributing content, serving as mentors and building connections with new hires.
• Stay engaged. Onboarding can last from a few weeks to more than a year. Develop timetables to ensure that new hires stay on track, and suggest resources to help them develop throughout their employment journey.
• Keep tweaking. Gather feedback from new hires about how the onboarding process worked for them and how it can be improved…..

Building a Better Boss

Source: Dori Meinert, HR Magazine, Vol. 64 no. 2, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

Bad managers can make or break your organization’s ability to achieve its goals. Here’s how you can help them improve. ….

…. Bad bosses—whether they’re on the front lines or in the executive suite—can make employees’ lives miserable. The behavior of a poor manager lowers morale and increases stress. Ultimately, research shows, organizations suffer from increased absences, lower productivity and higher turnover. ….

Great managers understand the impact they have on their team members’ work environment.
“Good managers consciously and deliberately choose to create an environment for the team where good things happen,” Deacon says. “A great manager will figure out what each individual can and should contribute, and what the collective ambition should be, and will be very clear on what that looks like.”
The best managers are constantly asking: How do they need my help? How can I help them grow? By encouraging their employees’ growth, they give them something to work for—and create a more productive team as a result, he says. ….

To Prevent Burnout, Hire Better Bosses

Source: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Harvard Business Review, August 23, 2019

…. Yet, there’s still one, big unaddressed issue that keeps popping up: burnout. In the U.S. alone, workplace stress costs the economy around $300 billion per year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, and legal and medical fees. Unsurprisingly, study after study shows that stress and burnout are major drivers of staff turnover, accidents, injuries, and substance abuse. Even among the top companies and the most desirable places to work this is a problem — and its generally the consequence of one thing: bad leadership.

In theory, leaders should be shielding their followers and subordinates from stress, operating as a beacon of calmness and safety throughout difficult times. In reality, however, leaders are more likely to cause stress than to reduce it. This problem is far more common than it should be. Millions of employees around the world suffer the consequences of bad leadership, including burnout, alienation, and decreased mental and physical wellbeing. This is particularly true when managers practice abusive behaviors, but at times, it’s their sheer incompetence that demotivates, demoralizes, and stresses out their teams. Lacking technical expertise, having no clue how to give or receive feedback, failing to understand potential, or a general inability to evaluate their subordinates’ performance, are just some of the common signs of incompetence.

To that end, here are four critical lessons you should consider:
There is no better cure than prevention. ….
It is more profitable to remove toxic leaders than to hire superstars. ….
Resilience can hide the effects of bad leadership. ….
Boring is often better. ….

Absence Management—Curing “Friday-itis”

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Volume 36 Issue 17, August 20, 2019
(subscription required)

…Employers should not permit employees to continually extend their weekends by faking illness. By paying attention to patterns and intervening early, employers can reduce the number of days lost to faux sickness at the beginning and end of the week….