Archive for March 31, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

It seems that everyday we read a new article or see the results from the latest survey telling us that  49% – 67% – 84% (!) –  of employees across the US have said they’re contemplating changing jobs.  Some of these employees are merely testing the waters and keeping their options open, but some are fully prepared to bolt from your organization.

So what to do?  How about focusing on retention, otherwise known as ‘keeping the good people around?’

To kick-start some thinking, check out the free eBook titled “Where do you think you’re going? A guide to employee retention” put together by Ben Eubanks from UpstartHR.

Special thanks to Shauna Moerke for promoting the guide through the HR Carnival channel.   Check out the contributors who’ve put together some great content: Tim Sackett, Heather Vogel, Benjamin McCall, Chris Ferdinandi, Paul Hebert, Laura Schroeder, Dave Ryan, Keith McIlvaine, Stuart at 1.00 FTE, and yours truly.  You can find links to each of these contributors’ websites within the guide.

** and enjoy Mick Jones singing lead vocals on this tune from The Clash

Silos Belong on the Farm

I grew up in Wisconsin where, contrary to popular belief, we did NOT all live on dairy farms and raise cows.  (note – apparently this is my week for blog posts referencing my Wisconsin upbringing).  However, I certainly had quite a bit of exposure to farms – driving to and from my college in central WI and taking regular trips to the outskirts of the suburb in which I lived brought me face-to-face with the pastoral life. And tickled the nose, if you know what I mean.

I saw the gorgeous lush fields, the majestic herds of docile dairy cows grazing in the fields and random chickens and ducks wandering aimlessly.  At sunset, if that’s when I happened to be driving past, I glimpsed the setting sun peeking from behind the silos skirting the perimeter of the farm.

Now that’s the perfect place for silos.  Because they DON’T belong in an organization.


We say corporate silos exist when we’re working to define isolation in an organization.  We toss about the term when we have teams, departments and sub-units operating independently of each other without any connection or communication.  They’re often woefully unaware of what others are doing, or, even more dangerously, have no CONCERN about what others are doing.

So how does this happen?  How do these silos get built?

Sometimes there’s an element of control.  Managers, for example, who wish to build their kingdom and then protect their turf.   So they do things such as create convoluted processes which they then enforce.  No one understands WTH anything accomplishes but everyone learns they better do it anyway.

Occasionally, organizations inadvertently create silos by hiring lots and lots of subject matter experts who all control their spot on the board game.  They don’t overlap
nor are they encouraged to do so.  Byron stores everything about subterranean particles in HIS brain, and Janice retains everything about cosmic toaster crumbs in HER brain…yet they never connect to bring an idea, goal or vision to fruition.

You know you’ve worked in a silo when you’ve had to approach projects or new tasks with little to no idea of the scope or impact.  You’ve BTDT when you’ve worked diligently to complete assignments only to find out that no one really needed the end result. You’ve built and maintained your own silo when you don’t pay attention to organizational initiatives other than those within your own department or function.


So BUST down those walls.  Build some cross-functional teams; get out there and talk to each other.  Leaders – don’t let your managers build internal kingdoms.

Get rid of the silos; we’re not on a farm.

Safe at Home

I grew up on the outskirts of Milwaukee in a town that was every suburban cliché come to life in the mid 70’s.  We walked to school, we rode our bikes to the neighborhood park, and we stayed out playing until the streetlights/houselights came on.  We had tree houses and hidden “forts” in the overgrown and empty fields where the older kids (once they hit 7th or 8th grade) hid their contraband cigarettes and Playboy magazines swiped from either dad’s dresser or the closet of an older brother.  Very few people locked their doors and we ran into/out of each others’ kitchens as if we were all part of the same family.  A few folks had swimming pools and nothing was better than being able to take a dip on a hazy, humid Midwestern summer afternoon. We had older brothers and sisters who wore bell bottoms and smoked pot and wrecked cars back in the day when the drinking age was 18 which meant everyone was drinking by age 16.

And we played baseball. Lots of baseball.

Before the empty lot across the street from my house was subdivided into 3 lots in order to build a few more houses to up the population density, and thus the tax base, it served as our neighborhood baseball diamond.  We played almost every day, sometimes beginning in the morning, with a break for lunch and dinner, and then going back at it again until it was too dark to see anymore and/or our parents began to call us through the screen doors.  (Speaking of which, why does no one seem to have screen doors anymore?)

We were a mixed group; more boys than girls, although there were often 4 or 5 girls at any given time.  We had athletes and stoners (as we called them); we had the decidedly non-athletic (that would be me) and the kids who never played but hung out with us all day anyway.  We ranged in age from around 10 to 15, with a few younger siblings occasionally filling in when we needed more players.


Now I was never the most stellar of players.  And unless I happened to be the captain, and thus the assembler-of-my-team, it seems to me that I was quite often one of the last chosen when we were picking teams.  But that was OK; no one put too much pressure on each other and we played for the sheer joy and exuberance of being outside, hanging with each other, and earning neighborhood bragging rights.

Interestingly enough, when the school year began, none of us really “hung out” much AT school.  We moved in different circles – the brainiacs, the band and theatre geeks, the detention kids.  Our baseball club had straight-A students and those who had been held back a year…or two.  Oh sure, we played a bit in the early days of fall; and we resumed in spring before school let out for the year.  But primarily we played in the summer.  For a few brief years.

On those glorious sun-filled days, with our thermoses and snacks; our hand-me-down gloves, our wooden bats and our aluminum bats, we WERE a team.

And we were safe at home.

Dollar Bill Y’all

I got to hang out at Women of HR the other day and talk about the need to set aside gender differences when planning for retirement.  Guys and gals – pay heed.

So go check it out.  Listen to a little Coolio while you’re reading.  And while you’re over there, make sure to catch up with all the other writers.