Thursday, April 23, 2015

How To Create An Amazing Workplace In 5 Simple Steps

Want your company or organization to amaze people? "Google" it!

For 6 years Google has ranked #1 on Fortune's list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. This is not a mistake. They've earned it through their empowerment leadership style and years of tweaking what works.
Google's history is a familiar story of a garage start-up from the 90s whose founders dropped out of school to pursue their disruptive idea. Pooling together all of the funds they could find they set out to change the Internet - and did it.

Today the company provides seemingly endless opportunities for their employees to implement smart ideas by engaging in a people strategy that goes beyond the standard "you have a job with benefits and great pay" mentality that some companies still have. They go above and beyond for their employees and as a result their employees go above and beyond for the company and its clients. 

Simple, right?

Google's SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock recently published "Work Rules!: Lessons From Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead" where he provides insights on why the inmates should run the asylum, how culture eats strategy for breakfast, and ways Google staffs its super talented machine. This article isn't a Bock commercial, but I thought it fitting to mention his book in light of what I'm about to say.

So how does a company go from people management to people amazement in 5 simple steps?

It's quite simple really. "Google" your environment and get there one step at a time.


[STEP 1] Insist On Autonomy

I don't know many self-assured professionals who like to be told what to do let alone how to do it. Autonomy is a trait that human beings begin to nurture by the time we turn 2 years old. Sure there are times when individuals may need additional guidance or adjustments in order to deliver the desired work products. However, if you've selected the right talent then there's no need to hover. 

Let employees do their jobs their way as long as they deliver. Stand back and watch them create magic for you with their natural talents and unique skills. Google recruits Class-A talent with the expectation that they will fully and autonomously act on their creative ideas to make the company amazing - and they do.


[STEP 2] Nurture Innovation

In my experience creativity and innovation are not timed events. The best solutions come to me when I'm not focused on work or on anything in particular. Answers come at random times like first thing in the morning when I wake up or when I'm at the grocery store or driving down the highway. I keep a pen and pad (or an iPad) handy to catch the waves of insight as they come. 

Make space for innovation to occur in its own time throughout the work day. Google's 70-20-10 approach is an example of making room. Employees are encouraged to work on off-budget projects and personal interests to keep their creative energy flowing. Your employees will be amazed when you allow them to "play" during their working hours.


[STEP 3] Reward Generously

News last week highlighted a decision by Gravity Payments Founder Dan Price to set the minimum wage for his employees at $70,000. He took a pay cut from his $1,000,000 salary to make it happen. While this may seem like a crazy gesture or publicity stunt it's actually quite brilliant. Reportedly Price based his assessment on a Princeton study that noted ~$70,000 as the "feel good" salary.

...Technology companies that hire the smartest young people around all but guarantee themselves a high churn rate. A lack of employer loyalty is a defining feature of Generation Y... [i]


On the other hand Google's average salary is $107,000 yet their average tenure has been estimated at less than 1 year. The market for the most creative minds is fierce and these minds exercise their free will to roam frequently. Regardless of what may happen in the future reward generously those who are making it happen for you today.


[STEP 4] Remove Roadblocks

Remove every single stumbling block so that the work you're paying for can actually get done. Unnecessary bureaucracy, unclear accountability, and lack of urgency kill momentum and creativity - and ultimately kill revenue. The most innovative and creative employees will find a way around or through any roadblocks that have been set up, but why make the additional maneuvers necessary in the first place? 

Time spent is time that can't be regained. Don't waste time with roadblocks. Google's leadership works to remove bureaucratic and lifestyle barriers so their employees can act decisively on the ideas that they come up with. Remove your roadblocks and step back to be amazed by the focus and attention that you get from your empowered employees.


[STEP 5] Allow Napping on the Job

Since Arianna Huffington published her book "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder" companies and countries around the world have taken notice that employee well-being is critical for bottom lines and GDPs. The knowledge economy requires more creativity than brute force productivity to get results. Leaders who recognize this and take action to better care for their human assets will remain out front while others will quite literally burn out. 

Follow Google's or Huffington's example. Build "nap pods", "sleep rooms", or human recharging stations to allow time and space for quick power naps throughout the day. Watch as your employees are amazed at your commitment to their well-being and will clamor to do more for you in the time that they are awake.


...Imagine being in a meeting with someone and suddenly realizing, "Oh, wait, we need to stop here; I'm only at 10% - I need to take a nap and recharge...
Arianna Huffington, Thrive [ii]


Technology, robots, and all other really cool things that are coming on-line today wouldn't be possible without the millions of human minds who have or who are giving their substance throughout their life spans. Inspiring a little amazement in the workforce will go a long way to unlocking even more creative potential.
"Google" and amaze your workforce in 5 simple steps - one step at a time...
  • [STEP 1] Insist On Autonomy
  • [STEP 2] Nurture Innovation
  • [STEP 3] Reward Generously
  • [STEP 4] Remove Roadblocks
  • [STEP 5] Allow Napping on the Job

What are some other ways to amaze people at work?

Thanks for reading my latest article! Comment, like, or share and let's see how many more amazing ideas we can come up with.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Equal Pay Is About The Future

Equal pay is about the future: Yours. Mine. Ours. (#Ask4More)

In March 2004, Congress passed Resolution 316 to recognize April as National Financial Literacy Month. Since many of us are spring cleaning our homes, closets, yards, and garages we may as well go the distance with our finances. 

Oh yeah - taxes are due as well. Yikes!

Perhaps it's no coincidence (and maybe it is) that April also captures "Equal Pay Day" as an opportunity to focus on equal pay for equal work. I wish we didn't even have to talk about this, but we do so let's get to it.

Two years ago marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The National Equal Pay Task Force delivered a report marking the history and progress over the years. At that time women were making on average $0.77 for every dollar paid to men. Today there has been an uptick of $0.01 to $0.78. Still no congratulations are in order as companies around the country continue to constrict women's pay.



If you've been following my articles you know that I could go on and on with BIG DATA details outlining how this happened, how long it's been an issue, and what we need to do to change it. Instead I'll simply say that it's wrong and we need to correct it.


How many of us want our girls growing up in a world where their male counterparts get paid more than they do for the same work? 


They're in diapers - together. They lose their baby teeth - together. They learn - together. They get new teeth - together. They grow up - together. Then they go out into the world that we've built for them - one where equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality. They've been robbed before they even start out on their own and they don't know it. The take-home funds are already lower than they should be because we - their parents - haven't yet resolved the dilemma of equal pay for equal work.

Future mothers will graduate in astounding numbers way above the rates for men with all types of college degrees - bachelors, masters, and PhDs. They will enter the workforce and will work extra long hours doing what they believe is necessary to shatter glass ceilings yet they will receive only a portion of the pay or promotions that their male colleagues get simply because they are female and someone decided that they should make or take less. 

...a woman who worked full time, year round would typically lose $443,360 in a 40-year period due to the wage gap, and have to work 12 years longer than her male counterpart to make up this gap...

National Women's Law Center Report [i]


Does this sound like insanity to you? It does to me but it's all too real...

Short of crying, screaming, or curling up in a ball on the couch it's worth it to get a chuckle when one women discovers the pay gap in this BuzzFeed video (I first saw this on Facebook's Lean In Community).

If the angelic faces of our daughters don't move us to action then we must appeal to our own self-interest. Do it for ourselves! Get this - everyone is impacted by the gender pay gap so we all must work to close it in every possible way. Here's how.

Solutions For Closing the Pay Gap

If you're anything like me you're reaching for some concrete actions that can make the bad news stop. Five areas where each of us can take action to make a difference include:

  • [Action #1] Boost Your Intellect - Examine the details of pay gaps in your industry, across all industries, across the globe. Reports from reputable research agencies and organizations such as U.S. Department of Labor, Pew Research Center, Gallup, OECD, World Economic Forum, The Clinton Foundation, United Nations, and many others will give you a great boost in your knowledge.

  • [Action #2] Ask For More - Know what your position is worth in your industry and market and ask for it. Most women don't negotiate because we don't know that we can. Many of us are afraid of how we will be perceived if we ask for what we deserve. Take a course in negotiations to build confidence. Get support from mentors. Decide what you want or need and move towards it.

  • [Action #3] Increase Your Advocacy - Open your eyes at work. If you're a family man consider that you're being robbed by the pay gap especially if your wife is bringing home only a portion what she has rightfully earned. Advocate for gender equality in pay and in positions. Do what you can within your power to move the dial. If you're a boss - male or female - then make it happen!

  • [Action #4] Update Your Policies - Restructure your policies with pay fairness as a back drop. I know this may be a novel concept for some businesses, but it must be done. Set gender-neutral base pay for all positions. Implement methods that remove gender bias from hiring practices. Share the updated policies and flat pay scales with your employees. After all there are firms like PayScale and GlassDoor who share these types of details readily.

  • [Action #5] Show Your Hand - Cultures of secrecy around pay have led to gross negligence allowing pay gaps to spread and persist. Transparency will undo a significant portion of that damage. Agencies and companies who show their hand on pay find that their workers have greater success in achieving higher pay. Seems simple enough. If you know what to expect for pay then you can plot a course to get there.

Here we are with another day to reflect on Equal Pay. We've made some collective progress because our world is all abuzz with discussions and actions for tackling gender equality issues such as this one. 

As a mother of a bright pre-teen daughter I want her to have the best possible future where she can make the climb and know that she'll be rewarded for her efforts in equal measure. I'm certain that the same thing will benefit all daughters.

So let's go - let's make that future a reality. Let's ensure equal pay for equal work across all industries - like for like. Equal pay is about that future: Hers. Theirs. Ours.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my latest article. Share your insights by commenting, liking, or sharing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Imminent Reality of Gender and Work Locations Follows You Home

Does it matter where you work as long as your work gets done?

Yes - it matters. The data says so.

Dame Stephanie Shirley's recent TED Talk was both an inspiration and a kick in the rear for me. She founded a software company in the 1960s to provide opportunities for women with dependents. She recognized the challenges and opportunities - and then she built a solution.

After many years in business her company was subsequently valued at $3 billion USD and she created a significant number of millionaires to boot. She continues to contribute through philanthropy and other endeavors.

Her idea to employ women with dependents wasn't really ahead of it's time considering that mothers have always existed. It was however an outstanding solution for leveraging an untapped talent pool. Working from home has been and will continue to be a workforce option. 

Studies show that over 20% of working Americans are remote today and the number is expected to climb to 63% approaching 2018. Formulating strategies for handling remote work assignments for individuals and for handling remote workers for corporations appears to be an imminent necessity. 

Here comes a key question:

Question #1: Can the gender equation be balanced more quickly through working-from-home (WFH) opportunities?

As with most questions on gender equality this one has a complex answer. While 90% of women feel that working from home provides for a number of distinct advantages such as increased flexibility and increased productivity, they may also be reluctant to take advantage of remote work opportunities due to fear of being "out of sight" or being thought of as less committed than their work-long-hours-all-times-of-the-day-and-night co-workers (I was one of those!).


...women who do choose those more flexible schedules are often punished

... companies tend to reward people who stay late and work long continuous hours, over those who chose the flexible schedule - even if those two employees are equally productive

 Smithsonian Magazine (Harvard Study) [i]


This unnecessary punitive challenge helps to explain why fewer women than men take advantage of remote work opportunities as captured by the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. One study shows an even wider gap between WFH women (23%) and men (36%). Yet the profile of a remote worker is quite similar for men and women. 

Going forward the choice of whether to work from home or in an office will become less of a choice as more opportunities are outsourced to at-home workers. Whether your work-life gets balanced will be up to you.

What does all of this mean for individual earning power? Well - that's a deeper question requiring in-depth examination of the types of opportunities that are being sent to the homestead. 

The work may be part-time or full-time, knowledge-based or activity-based, etc. Work requirements will help to determine pay differentials.

Of course there's the nagging reality that average pay is already unequal - at home or at the office. 


The advantages of WFH are expansive and inclusive - for companies, for women who are mothers, for women who aren't mothers, for men, across generations, for families, and for the planet. There are few areas in life where almost everyone agrees that the benefits outweigh the costs. Working from home (or working remotely) is one of those areas. 


...if Americans who hold work-at-home compatible jobs did so 50% of the time, U.S. companies could collectively increase their bottom lines by between $525 and $665 billion USD as a result of savings in real estate, absenteeism, turnover, and increased productivity

Global Workplace Analytics [ii]


Anyone who works in an office knows that you often have to go home or get out of the office in order to get your work done. If you google "working from home" you'll instantly get ~900 million responses on the topic. Do the same for "studies on working from home" and you'll come up with ~800 million responses. Ask anyone if they'd like to work from home for at least part of the time and 90% of them will say yes.



In study after study, employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention increase when individuals are allowed to work from home at least part of the time. There are compelling stats across reams of studies covering everything from saving employers money to reducing the brain-drain from retiring boomers to expanding opportunities for the disabled to increasing individual empowerment and engagement.



75% of women in the 25-44 age range participate in the labor force compared to 90% of men

25% of women work part-time compared to 10% of men

Global Workplace Analytics [iii]


The answer to the Question #1 appears to be "well-maybe?"

If more women enter the workforce approaching 90% or more of the female labor force OR if more women take on full-time remote work OR if women are simply not penalized for working remotely OR if more women get paid the same as men THEN WFH opportunities may help to move the dial towards the gender balanced position.

Work location challenges aren't just here at home. The impact is felt in other places around the world. According to Fiona Cannon, Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Lloyd's Banking Group in the UK achieving their 2020 objective of 40% women in senior leadership roles is doable yet is hampered by traditional working models.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- of the biggest obstacles is the traditional working model on which most organisations are based: Nine to five, five days a week. Start work at 16, retire at 60. Commute into offices in the town centre. Follow a linear career path. This model no longer reflects the lives we are living...

Forbes Magazine [iv]


Are you overwhelmed with all of the data about where we work, when we work, how we work, and what will happen in the near future about work locations? I certainly am. I prefer Ricardo Semler's unconventional approach.

Think ahead - if you haven't already! Plug in some numbers with this gender-neutral HP Telework Tool to estimate how much you could save yourself and your employerDame Shirley had it right way back in the 1960s as one of the first companies willing to offer flexible work arrangements to an untapped female talent pool.

Question #2 - Can you use the info provided in this post to prepare yourself for WFH opportunities?

Answer - YES! 

Thanks for reading my article. Keep climbing and share your insights by commenting, liking, or sharing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Are There "Good 'Ole Girl" Clubs For Professional Women?

For women it's "what you know" versus "who you know"...

The opposite is true for men. No - that's not an April fool's joke.

Building social networks is easier than ever these days given all of the technologies and platforms that we have available. However, cracking the code of strong, responsive, and timeless support systems is tough. Always has been - especially for women. 

Just ask the "good ole' boys"...

Building social capital is not as simple as connecting via social profiles, liking pages, or going out of your way to help others at work, at home, or in your community. Strategy and persistent effort are required. This is the art of networking and it causes problems for professional women

That's not too surprising - or is it?


A new study suggests that career advancement for women isn't dependent on social connections in the way it is for men.

Instead, professional success for women is dependent on "documentable and measurable competence" or basically, a proven track record

Vivian Giang, Fast Company [i]


The new study completed by INSEAD evaluated the impact of connections (social capital) and performance (human capital) on career outcomes for men and women on Wall Street. Even though women in the study were slightly more connected through Ivy League institutions (quantity), men were rewarded more often through their connections (quality).

I've aligned the gender dichotomy with quantity versus quality for the sake of simplicity, but there are many other significant factors at work. The bottom line in the research and in practice is that women and men are virtually always weighted differently even if we start out on equal footing. This scenario repeats itself across our life span.


Question #1: Can "good 'ole girl" clubs for professional women help to counteract inherent gender imbalances?

We've all heard about cigar-filled back rooms, closed board rooms, or secret societies that identify and protect chosen ones who are selected to help advance a groups' position. These types of groups may exist, but the results that they bring into the world can be sketchy

Perhaps this kind of covert protection is required in order to break the gender gridlock that's been in play for generations. Though I'm not a "by any means necessary" women's advocate, I believe that unconventional methods like frequent and widespread Board Room Bootcamps may be needed in order to rebalance the equation.

This brings to mind another question...


Question #2: What can professional women do differently to change social capital dynamics going forward?

Here are three solutions:

  • Step 1 - Test your connections
  • Step 2 - Develop a social capital reallocation strategy
  • Step 3 - Get LinkedIn!


Step 1 - Test Your Connections

According to Forbes, if you have fewer than 25 people that you can call on who can help you get results at any given time then your network is too small - or you're not engaged frequently enough. 

How do you test your connections? Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many people can you call on for genuine assistance when you're interested in a business or job opportunity?
  • Who can you call on and what kind of power or influence do they have when you need to make direct contact with influencers or decision-makers?
  • When was the last time you attended a high-powered networking event that included politicians, educators, community leaders, business leaders, colleagues, or peers from various industries?
  • What is your network churn rate or how frequently do members of your network move on? 

The good news is that social networks and connections are renewable resources. Expect that there will be churn and develop a plan to counteract it. Sociologists have found that the 'seven year itch' applies to social networks as well as friendships. 

In a survey of over 1000 men and women between 18 and 65, the size of the social network remained fairly stable after seven years, but the contents of the network changed. Only 30% of the original participants were still around no matter how close they had been in previous years.

Nurture your relationships and connections if you value them.


Step 2 - Develop a Social Capital Reallocation Strategy

We have to be prudent about where we spend our valuable resources such as our time, our talent, and our treasures (heard that before?!). It's important to have a well-defined strategy for building, investing in, and maintaining social capital in light of what we know about how women are impacted in professional settings.

A few years ago I read a McKinsey study about resource reallocation which examined 1600 companies over 15 years. Results showed companies that adopted annual resource reallocation strategies reaped on average 30% to 40% greater shareholder returns than companies that didn't. 

For some reason the study came to mind when I was examining this topic. I suppose it might have something to do with making the most of our limited resources - time, talent, and treasure. The approach and terminology from the study fit well so I leveraged them in the "Social Capital Reallocation Strategy" summary below.

At least once per year commit to focused clean-up to seed, nurture, prune, and harvest your way to greater social capital and stronger networks that will serve you well into the future. The value of your social capital can be measured by how many prompt responses or effective results you get when you call or place a demand on your network.

As you optimize your network pay special attention to sponsor-protege relationships as the most important social capital connections to make and maintain. These are reciprocal relationships that will benefit both parties all the way to the top of your climb. Remember to give - don't just take!


Step 3 - Get LinkedIn!

In my quest to find out more about "good 'ole girl" clubs - the kind that I mentioned above - I've been on the prowl for a method to test and rank the strength of various networks and organizations. There are so many women's networks available that it can be challenging to sort through the details. As the World's Largest Professional Network, LinkedIn is a great place to start. 

There are a few insights in the diagram to show why professional women should spend more than the average 17 minutes on LinkedIn building social capital:

I recently became a board member for the 10-year-old non-profit group Empowering Women as Leaders (EWL). The group's passion and focus is providing scholarships, networking, and mentoring for non-traditional college women. The opportunity came to me through one of my LinkedIn connections. I've witnessed the power of EWL in action as STAR Scholarship recipients past and present have talked about the difference the organization has made in their lives. You can find them here on LinkedIn. Is this a plug? Sure is.

There are many other organizations like Million Women Mentors and that I could profile here, but I'll rely on your feedback in the comments section to shout out about strong "good 'ole' girl" clubs that really go the distance with professional women. Now that we understand it's "what we know" that elevates us, we can work to close gaps on "who we know" for a full-circle competitive advantage.

How do you build social capital and how has it helped you with your career climb?

Comment, like, or share your insights - and make all of us stronger.