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March 2, 2017 - No Comments!

SBCo March Newsletter – Future Leaders

Great leaders often go through a process of figuring out who they are and what they want to achieve for themselves, their people and their customers. We spoke with Tammy Heermann, SVP in Leadership Transformation for Lee Hecht Harrison around the world. She shared her process of self-discovery and her work to help other leaders discover their path to navigate this high stakes business environment.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about your personal leadership journey?

Tammy Heermann: It started when I built the learning and development function from the ground up at a global software company. I started thinking about what goes into creating a strategic, people-centered plan. Then I had the opportunity to build a leadership development practice at a consulting company. During this time I was able to live my own journey as I taught others how to live theirs. Through 360 feedback research, I learned that women were perceived as less strategic then men. I saw it in my own 360 data. It required me to reflect and then shift my mindset and behaviors which resulted in successful promotions over the years.

SB: What did you do differently to make those promotions happen?

TH: I pushed my comfort level to delegate more to create the space for me to work “on” the business, not just “in” the business. I started to show up in meetings differently in how I communicated. I found better results when asking questions in a way that showed my thought process. I also learned how to speak with a point of view that was informed, assertive and confident. It was a very different way of just giving an opinion. I also dramatically shifted how I spent my time. I was better at what I said “yes” and “no” to. And finally, I started building valuable relationships. Leadership is about relationships and we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing coffees and lunches to build important relationships around, within, and outside of the business.

SB: What holds women back from self-awareness and making this shift?

TH: The biggest barrier is making the mental shift ourselves. A leader has to be courageous and be just as dedicated to their own personal leadership as they are to their teams and their customers. We are no good to others, if we aren’t good to ourselves. You can’t please everyone. You have to be OK that people may get angry or disagree with you. You have to let go of perfection and taking everything on yourself at work and at home. That’s the biggest shift that has to happen first.

SB: What has changed to make the advancement of women a front-and-center topic in businesses today?

TH: There are three things converging at this point in time. First, from an organizational standpoint, there have always been sectors that are proactive in advancing women such as tech, consulting and financial services. But there are many others that are being driven by grassroots efforts – speaking in town halls and challenging their leadership teams to create change. Customers too are challenging their suppliers to achieve diversity goals if they want to get or keep the business. Secondly, there’s political factors. There are news stories of gender reform: female leaders are being elected and women around the world are demanding change. Lastly, there are societal influences. For instance, for the Super Bowl, GoDaddy had new ads celebrating women in computing, which was very different from their earlier content. Society is expecting to see change. Everything is converging and it gives me hope.

SB: How can we accelerate progress? What can I do to start things with some teeth to it!

TH: If you want to have some teeth to your initiatives you have to treat this as a cultural shift in the organization. It’s common for companies to create networking events or implement policies just to check the box. These things don’t have a true impact because they don’t create real opportunities that women need to advance. You have to create a culture of accountability towards a diverse and inclusive workforce. Leading companies expect their leaders to be accountable for developing talent at all levels because it is just as important to the future of the company as it is meeting sales and financial goals. All the development programs and flex policies mean nothing if women hit conscious or unconscious barriers that are engrained in the culture.

SB: Looking back, do women want something different now than they did 10 years ago?

TH: I’m not sure that the wants of women have changed. I think it’s just more acceptable to push, to protest, to vote with your feet. Women in every generation have desired financial and educational freedom, fair treatment and equal opportunity for advancement. Today we are talking about it more, fighting for it more, and making different decisions about where we choose to work.

SB: Is there a reinvention of how we develop future leaders?

TH: There’s a big movement right now in how Millennials are pushing the way we work differently; work-life flexibility, choosing to work at organizations where they feel connected to a cause, or finding a culture that values feedback is high on their list. Millennials have gotten negative press for being demanding, but I think that other generations needed the same things too. It’s not that we have to do anything different; it’s that we have to do what we said we were going to do all along. Build accountability for giving feedback. Provide development opportunities and transfer knowledge. None of this is new. Today’s successful companies are modeling talent practices that should have been in place all along and now the rest of us are trying to catch up.

SB: Are there examples of earlier stage companies taking development seriously?

TH: I’m seeing it happen in pockets, but not nearly enough. Talent is a long game and when companies are in start-up mode, people investments are about getting the right technical talent to get the business off the ground and keep it afloat. It’s when they reach a size of around 100-200 that they realize that they need structure and great people leaders, which often the tech experts and entrepreneurs aren’t always great at. Early stage companies that “get it” understand that a longer term view is needed from the beginning, not just about the business plan, but the people that need to be brought in, developed and retained for growth. They are always asking, how can we make sure that great people see they have a future here?

February 6, 2017 - No Comments!

SBC February Newsletter: Learning from an Entrepreneur & Millennial Mindset

Ryan SBC FebruaryThis month, our creative director, Erik Benjamins, sat down with one of his close friends, Ryan Sheffer. Ryan is a Millennial entrepreneur and co-founder of Zero Slant, an AI-driven news agency that creates automated content from social media. His path from filmmaker and editor to programmer and entrepreneur is inspiring and representative of changes we see in the future of work. He’s crafted a unique path that’s been driven by asking ambitious questions about the future of our relationship to technology and the media. His highly successful blog has been a resource for other young entrepreneurs in the industry and beyond.

Erik Benjamins: How did you choose the path of entrepreneurship?

Ryan Sheffer: Up until I was applying for college, I thought that “becoming a business person” was the thing you did as a career. I didn’t know that becoming a filmmaker—or doing your own thing—could be a job. In my head, it seemed like something that others did. When I started to get into the technology industry about ten years later to start my own company, I didn’t know what venture capital was. I didn’t use the word entrepreneur to describe myself. I was just an editor doing my own thing. I had this inherent desire for freedom, but didn’t have a clear cut way to define it. I realized that the key to choosing a path was understanding that it’s there. We often define our ceiling because it’s what we’ve seen, what we know.

EB: When was that moment for you? When you shifted from working in the film industry to the tech industry?

RS: It was a process. I was always brought into the film industry as the tech person that you’d call when something was technically difficult. Around that same time, I made a New Year’s resolution to teach myself how to code. It made sense given my interest in the tech side of the film industry. A few months later I sat down with some coders and showed them what I built after dedicating a month to learning this new language and they thought it was pretty good. I walked away from that meeting thinking that this may be something I could do. It was a shift in perspective.

EB: Tell us about your interests in an open source education?

RS: Before teaching myself how to code, I taught myself how to use a camera. My desire to continually learn has objectively fueled my career path. When I first went out and tried to start a company, I felt like no one wanted to share the simple things. Everything I found online were either stories of great success or massive failures. There wasn’t any “brass tacks” information like what to do when hiring a lawyer. No one thinks these are interesting things to share, but it was all I wanted to know. I started a video series called 12 Months to share these brass tacks kinds of things I was learning as I was starting my own tech company. It didn’t do very well, but I did get a lot of emails from people thanking me for being open and honest about all the non-sexy stuff I had to go through.

My blog has been the most successful thing I’ve done in my career. It now gets hundreds of thousands of reads per year. My outlets for sharing these process, successes and failures have a lot to do with sharing outward, but also forcing myself to verbalize my process. It lets me understand and follow through on it.

EB: What have you learned about your professional trajectory thus far?

RS: I need to be building something ambitious. Success isn’t going to happen instantly so I want to build something that will light me up as I struggle through it. Setting ambitious goals lets me work as my best self. The most important thing for me is to pursue my own excitement about learning and discovering, pushing myself to be better and better.

EB: How do you see and engage with risk in your work?

RS:  I don’t see risk the way others might. With my first foray into the tech industry, I invested a lot of my own money I had been making as a filmmaker into a company that I eventually ended up shutting down. But I viewed that decision as an education. I could have spent the same amount of money for a masters or PhD, but I’d rather invest in this style of learning. That being said, I’m starting a family now and need to work in a more responsible way. Risk is important, but I also need to set hard deadlines. For example, I’m in the process of fundraising right now and if I don’t raise the amount I need, I’ll have to put the company on hold and find a job.

EB: What advice do you have for someone struggling with their identity as a worker, or someone interested in taking the non-obvious work path?

RS: If you find yourself working at a job and you feel like they can’t give you enough work to do and you have six other side projects going, you’re not an employee. You can either choose to refocus your energy towards being an employee or you can accept that this seems like the energy of someone who wants to start their own thing.

EB: How can upper management engage with entrepreneurial minded talent?

RS: I had an employee like this and my method was to put that person in charge of their own department. I gave them as much autonomy as I could without sacrificing the clarity of vision for the company. Once you identity someone with an entrepreneurial spirit you need to incentivize them with responsibility and autonomy. My experience in the film industry helped with this. The director is the dictator, but he or she surrounds themselves with department heads like lighting, costume, etc., that make large decisions without the director’s constant oversight. When it comes to managing Millennials, it’s about working with people who have a ton of passion and have a desire to have an ownership in what they do.

EB: Is this an experience that for you is generationally specific? 

RS: I don’t like using the phrase the “Millennial attitude”, but there is definitely an element of Millennials not wanting to hear you tell them your business. The counterpoint of empowering Millennials is that they may feel deserving of autonomy, but are unable to provide the output. The “Millennial attitude” lends itself to a side effect in which the second you micromanage, they are upset. It’s an attitude of “we do it differently and you don’t understand”. It may also have to do with the fact that jobs and work is shifting. For example, I don’t have folders and I don’t have an office. My whole company works remotely. There’s an element of needing to find people that work more comfortably in that environment, to be go getters and get stuff done. I think we’ll see a trend of a company having it’s separate sections run like individual companies.

EB: Lastly, who has been your influence or inspiration?

RS: My grandfather for always wanting to learn and my father for being the most dedicated family man I know.

Final Thoughts...

It never hurts to reflect on the powers, complexities, and new styles of the Millennial mentality as we continue flying into this new year.  It speaks to the changing nature of work and our ability to balance existing structures with entirely new ones so we can do our best work.

January 21, 2017 - No Comments!

Changing the Conversation – Women can Do it all not have it all

I read today that Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Sara Lee Corporation and also 22 years at Pepsi, passed away at too young an age.  In 1997, she had the courage to make personal choices that many did not understand at the time and created quite a stir for "resigning corporate America" to spend time with her children and focus on family. It prompted a discussion about whether women can have it all - family and career.

I am hopeful that we are shifting from the "have it all" conversation to "doing it all."  Listening to her daughter on NPR this morning made me think about the doing it all with the support of enlightened leaders and CEO's that get it.  This happens to be a month of hearing from women, men and diverse populations that they care about issues that impact them and this community.

Women need to work and want to do good work as well as care for their family.  Why aren't more companies who say they care about bringing women into their organizations and developing them, stepping up to policies that support them? I know a lot of good things are happening and I plan to ask more about what they are and write about it.

Two observations here:

First, I respect and admire our team here at S. Benjamins & Co.  We are fortunate to have amazing women who have designed blended life styles with family as priority and work (that we are proud of) that is meaningful and making lives better.  They inspire me and they deliver incredible quality work in a flexible yet highly accountable environment.

Second, I had the opportunity to meet the new head of HR, Legal and Finance at Patagonia two weeks ago.  They embrace family in a way I have just not seen and it was incredibly refreshing.  From the day care center to the kitchen in the morning filled with parents and kids before kicking off the day and learning of their family supporting policies, and commitment to the environment, inspired me beyond words.  I learned that 100% of their new mothers return to work because they are supported in such unique ways to be successful.  They believe in family in their words and actions.  A great outcome is their  tremendous passion for their work, succession and loyalty.  They take work life culture to a new level and their commitment to make the world better is serious.

If we want women and men to put family front and center (as I imagine you would want for yourself)  then our practices must change.  What is one step you can take to express your thoughts on this and start a new conversation with senior leaders and listen to what your workers value?

November 5, 2016 - No Comments!

Candidate Experience or Courtesy for 2017?

Forbes recently posted top workforce trends for 2017.  I was delighted to see at the top of the list that companies are focused on strengthening their candidate and employee experience.  There are several ideas around this that make it so powerful and relevant.

First, a great candidate experience means first understanding the power of common courtesy.  Being respectful of others matters for it reflects on who you are as a person and how your company brand is experienced. Our candidates tell us stories of prior interview experiences that make your hair curl and yes, we need more leaders to learn about being respectful of others.

Second, a great experience also means reducing the candidate's efforts to obtain feedback that matters to them.  I am not saying that we need to give everyone all of the granular data but where is common courtesy in this step?  We have heard stories where someone might be a contender for a cool role, interview, return for many discussions and then never hear what happened in the end, assuming there was an end to the process.  This happens to external partners of the company as well.  What gets in the way of closing loops?  I know everyone is very busy but it matters in building real connections that do result in good business.  Just like Zappos ability to connect to customers, track their questions, address challenges, every step of that journey is intended to be pleasant and respectful.

Third, relationships matter to your business.  These are relationships with candidates, parents of candidates, service providers that know candidates and it goes on from there.  You may not see a need for that candidate today or that service provider, but most likely you will tomorrow or next year.

How often are we creating experiences that connect everyone to what your desired intention is? Posting a job is one thing but offering an experience that turns the whole process upside down to say, "share your skills and passions with us, we wantEMM to know you" even though we don't have a job now, we want to know who you are, is powerful.  By seeking connections, there is a longer lasting benefit to everyone.  A great experience means a lot to those you want to work with, fans, loyal employees and even appreciative  partners."

Last thought:  A week ago I met Matthew Emerzian,  the founder of Every Monday Matters. He created a not-for-profit organization committed to creating a new normal where individuals and organizations understand how much and why they matter.  His book and education programs are taking off.  He captivated a room of business leaders looking to bring "purpose" into their culture.  Matthew said, "we have lost our ability to engage with each other."  He shared such a simple and powerful message that we all matter and can change from the inside out.   Let's look at both candidate experience and courtesy.

September 17, 2016 - No Comments!

Get Over it – New Workforce “Rules”

Are we over it yet?  Half of the workers in  your organizations will be under 30 and by 2025, everyone under 25 will be a digital native.  They grew up with all things tech. Innovation inside our companies will come from the digital natives.  So, why are we hanging on to old structures and ways of thinking about work?  Do we have leaders who just don't see this coming or chose to stick to models they grew up in?

It was great to see an LA Business Journal article last week about nontraditional work in LA.  There is an astounding number of workers who are self employed and data shows it is one in five or upward of one million people in this county.  They work in non-traditional jobs and are part of the underground cash economy.  They rule and love the entrepreneurial life.

There is a concentration in entertainment and creative however, this trend is spilling over into other sectors.  We are about 50% higher with number of self employed compared to other states in the country.   We are on a "fast - forward" when it comes to contingent workers, says, Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American studies at USC.

Remember our story about the creative economy that Otis College of Art and Design created?  Their 2015 report spoke about 166,000 non-employee arrangements and now we see that number increasing rapidly.   The government agencies will eventually have to deal with this new reality. It is not going away anytime soon.

Great talent is all over this -they don't need the structures of legacy systems.  They want to work in collaborative networks where skills matter.  Our clients are willing to pay for the skills they need, however, they are still hanging on to old models.  Now, we just need our Hiring Managers to get over it and think more about work, the plan to get things done, how to use technology and ensure that everyone understands the respected cultures in their network.  I know that is not easy.

What are the skills that will allow us to let go of controls that used to work but don't now?

  • Empathy - what do you want for the future and ask your workers what they value.
  • Anticipate Future - get the big picture and translate that into quarterly deliverables and ideal resources with options.
  • Match Maker - willing to look at the match up of resource and need in a variety of scenarios and factor in the cost of speedy or slow solution.
  • Piloting ideas - be okay with trying out an idea or new work arrangement. Tell others you are testing out feasibility and criteria for success.

Let's open up the conversations so that we can get over it and move forward.

August 26, 2016 - No Comments!

Talent Talk! – The Future of Workplace – The Great Department Debate

There is no denying that we have reached an era of digital disruption.  In the workplace, many CHRO’s are beginning to see the effect of digital disruption through a changing employment style. There is a new workforce rising through the “gig economy” (also known as contingent work, sharing economy, agile talent, non-traditional work relationships, or alternate forms of employment). Gig Economy companies include Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, UpCounsel, Instacart, and TaskRabbit.  The rapid growth of the gig economy represents one of the most significant and all-encompassing challenges faced by human resources professionals. The fundamental challenge for HR leaders is demonstrating the agility to lead the change in culture, programs, processes, and policies originally designed for work completed by full-time employees to a new era where more of the work is being completed by contingent workers (also referred to as gigsters, free agents, temporary help, agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors, or freelancers).

To gather some perspective, we decided to reach out to Nick Horney, Ph.D., the founder and principal at Agility Consulting. In addition to leading the Leadership Agility Practice, he has published numerous books on agility and change management and recently published an article on this very topic in HRPS.

August 6, 2016 - No Comments!

Find the One – What Does This Mean?

Don't we all want to work with amazing people? There is plenty of research and real life experience that says investing in who decisions pays off.  Finding the one for your company means achieving success or just getting by.

Enlightened CEO's place the importance of people decisions at the top of their list of important skills to develop and invest in. I grew up as an HR professional at American Hospital Supply (AHSC) - later acquired by Baxter Healthcare.  From the first introduction to the company through thoughtful and interactive interviews, to a well articulated offer and then onboarding, I was fortunate to have a world class experience.  I can say that now. After 20 years plus in the field and working with many companies as we help them find the one, they still struggle with this work and more importantly, in getting the process right.

Joining American at the time felt like joining a family. There was great care and planning on making us feel welcome, immediately connected to resources and people that cared about our success.  Thank you Bob Ruh for inspiring me even with that high bar for performance!  We were always clear on what the responsibilities were and where the challenge could take us.  I was very early in my career and had come from a company that offered little development and almost no conversation about the business.  It taught me to take initiative.  AHSC  prepared me for doing my best work with incredibly talented people.

It is important to find the one.  And, it means getting the first part right and then ensuring that you have all the other parts in place; integrating the one into your culture, developing their skills, stretching them with challenging assignments and having a plan for development.  Oh, and I almost forgot, scheduling conversations with key influencers and your boss about how it is going and what is needed to keep you on track and engaged.

Finding the one means;

  • having regular meaningful conversation with people.  It seems many have lost that focus for there is so little time to commit to this today.  There are way more initiatives on everyone's plate and little time to reflect and care for the ones that contribute.
  • looking at entirely new options for your workforce.  Frankly, the one you want may get more excited about a gig, a project, an experience with  you rather than the full time position you have posted.  John Boudreau masterfully talks about these options in his book, Lead the Work. To continue to find the one, we now have to look at other ways for our talent to contribute.

This future of work offers a huge upside to individual workers and their leaders.  Think about it; we see how younger professionals, mid-life or late stage careerists are taking on what they want, when they want it and where they want it. Let's get over the old model of employment and think more about what "the one" defines for themselves.  You will be surprised how committed and aligned those workers will be if we ask, listen, share perspectives and help each other grow.

June 17, 2016 - No Comments!

Talent Talk Episode 4!

Talent Talk Episode 4

This episode is focused on The Future of Leading – Is Bottom up Listening the Answer?

Employees are bringing new attitudes, ideas, values and expectations with them into the workplace. These are all getting passed up to managers, who are being forced to adapt in order to attract and retain top talent, and managers in turn are passing it up to the organization, and in some cases driving broad-based change across the entire company. So we wanted to find out, are we seeing a complete reversal from top-down to bottom-up? Are the demands of employees causing a shift in the way leaders lead and/or organizations operate?

To gather some perspective, we decided to reach out to an expert in the field of Organizational Health and a great friend of SBCo. As the President of Table Group Consulting, Jeff Gibson has responsibility for managing the global consulting organization as well as new business develop and all aspects of client service. Whether he’s working with a CEO and his/her leadership team, addressing hundreds of senior executives during a conference or simply counseling a client over the phone, Jeff brings his passion, enthusiasm and contagious optimism for organizational health to every client he touches. His clients span a broad spectrum of industries, including technology, financial services and health care. Beyond his work consulting, Jeff has been instrumental in the development and refinement of The Table Group’s original methodologies and subsequent books authored by Patrick Lencioni.

To Learn More About The Table Group Head to: http://www.tablegroup.com/ 

** Please note: Jeff's title was misstated in the podcast introduction. He is currently the President of Table Group Consulting. Our recording states that he is the Vice President of Consulting at Table Group. **

March 5, 2016 - No Comments!

Optimists are the future – Are they Genius?

There is a sense of anxiety in our world today.  Just read the newspaper or try following the political scene for a few days.  It is crazy making.  The financial markets have calmed down for the moment however, there is little confidence that we have a smooth sailing year ahead.  So, is it hard to find the optimists? Maybe. Settling for a pessimist view is not the answer.  Bill Taylor, speaker and author of Mavericks at Work and a new book soon coming out called; Simply Brilliant: How Great Organizations Do Ordinary Things in Extraordinary Ways, talks about a future outlook that sounds promising and "optimistic."  He sees a fierce optimism in companies that are ordinary but blend new ideas, have deep commitment and are resilient in the face of change.  I want to meet those companies and their leaders!  I would like to help them find additional leaders as they grow.  They embrace the positive and not the negative.

There is so much being written about great leaders and those guided by purpose.  Are those leaders defining success so that they stand for something special (as Bill Taylor suggests)?  Yes, they are successful for they have a business, product or service where they think about where they have come from, but re-invent the future with a keen eye moving forward with  a clear line of sight.  They might be genius to achieve that - however, think about the definition of genius as another favorite author of mine, David Whyte, a poet that touches the heart) defines it.  "Genius is something we possess", says David Whyte.

  • "Human genius lies in the geography of the body and its conversation with the world. We have a unique signature and stories from our lineage that have not been fully explored.  Genius is a gift and a possibility that has not yet occurred; it is not a fixed commodity but a conversation to be followed, understood and celebrated."

The optimist continues to believe and has the confidence to create a play book for the future.  I would like to start a new conversation with our clients about hiring for genius.  Let's listen to what the CEO believes tough minded optimism looks like in their company.  The, let's translate that.  It could be, as Bill Taylor reminds us, that optimistic leaders know how to use what they already know but are willing to re-frame it tenaciously for a positive future and not a negative one.

 

November 25, 2015 - No Comments!

Labor Shortage – What it means to you?

If you are a recruiter or have responsibility for finding top talent, then you know about the talent shortage.  If you read the news, listen to podcasts or talk to business leaders, you know the scarcity of talent is here in many key areas and will arrive soon in others.

The Wall Street Journal is hosting a great series, which started November 23rd on "Demographic Destiny 2050."  The series will talk about how we work, how we will age, and live in the coming years.  This is not a US centric issue - it is much bigger and complex as it impacts many economically producing countries.  There are too few people.  (WSJ.com/2050)

Next year, for the first time since 1950, the world's combined working population will shrink 5%.  Slower population growth impacts economies and competitive advantage.   We are not alone in encouraging our older workers (including me:) to work longer.  There is plenty of opportunity for potential workers in Europe and US to retire later.  We see that happening more and more.

Today on NPR radio I learned of a new series this week that will address aging and the science of helping us live longer.  Sounds interesting but let's focus on what we can influence now.  Our health, our people and commitment to developing others.  Let's engage the hearts and minds of our workers.  Create a work culture that you are proud of and model the fact that we can work hard and separate from work to enjoy life, our families and breathe.  Whether you are a small entrepreneurial business, start-up or middle market company there are people needs that if not met will impact your success and hold you back from a balanced life.  Read this series, think about talent in new ways and share what the 2050 demographic "time bomb" as stated in the article mentioned, means for your business and your life.