Tag Archive for work

I Want it Now: Entitlement in the Workplace

Veruca SaltEntitlement: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges) Merriam-Webster


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the damage that can be done – unintended consequences for the most part – when organizational leaders or well-intentioned HR professionals devise activities, reward programs, benefit packages, or other conditions of employment that create a feeling of entitlement amongst employees.

These sorts of things often start off quite innocently and are usually designed to address a critical business need. Countless HR directors have rolled out Attendance Bonus programs designed to ensure employees get to work on time and them scratched their head in wonderment when the only employees actually receiving any Attendance Bonus payouts are the same employees who have always reported to work on time.

And that’s not the only one that’s a favorite for HR folks to turn into some sort of ‘program’ – they’re also quite fond of over-thinking and over-crafting things like providing free snacks in the break room, running employee referral programs, and providing employer-covered supplemental benefit programs. I’ve seen HR professionals run in circles to provide free monthly car washes in the employee parking lot. I watched an HR manager wear herself out managing the logistical nightmare created when she decided to provide on-site flu shots for, at the end of the day, a meager percentage of her company’s employees.

So why do it? Oh sure, sometimes there’s a strategic reason related to talent attraction/retention. Or so company executives and talent acquisition leaders will say.

But seriously? At what stage did we enter this alternate universe where stuff like ongoing access to sleep-pods and the correct type of kale on the (free) salad bar in the cafeteria is expected in the workplace? Demanded by applicants? A reason whether an employee will prolong the employment relationship with a specific company?


Now I’m certainly not saying we should never strive to do the extras or provide added enticements to either attract candidates or enrich the employment experience for employees. If the pay is where it should be (or better) and the working conditions fit the talent pool and meet the needs of the business, then go  as wild as you want having pizza day, putting bean bag chairs in the conference rooms and providing pet insurance at no cost. Knock yourself out.

These sorts of things are nice and fluffy and let over-worked and under-appreciated HR ladies feel good about themselves. Of course it’s quite likely they’re not much more than window-dressing even though they land you a spot on some local “Best Employer List.” It’s also highly probable these initiatives are doing nothing to ‘impact the bottom line’ (which you like to tell your executive team at the quarterly staff meeting) since I bet you’re not performing any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

And maybe that’s OK; sometimes within a manageable scope and scale we just like to do nice things. Or maybe everyone in HR just wants to be able to bring their dogs to work too.

Just remember …  Yahoo ended work from homeBest Buy cancelled ROWE and that worn-out HR Manager cancelled the annual flu shot extravaganza.

So ask yourself this: “If, one day, we need to eliminate this activity, reward program, benefit package, or other condition of employment, how will that play in Peoria?”

THAT – my friends – is the million dollar question.

Culture: You Can’t Fake It

Nancy Drew Old ClockI think by now we all have a pretty clear sense of what company culture is: the collective behavior of the people who are part of the organization as formed by organizational values, norms, systems, beliefs, symbols and traditions. Culture affects the way individual employees and groups interact with each other as well as how they interact with customers, clients and other stakeholders.

It’s the foundation that impacts ‘how stuff gets done.’

In any given organization, there is not one person (or group) who defines culture. There is not one person (or group) who owns it. There is not one person (or group) who controls it.

Yet many who work in HR and Recruiting (or, sometimes, those who advise them) dash around in misguided efforts to categorize their culture as something it’s not.

Perhaps there’s a need to pump up college recruiting efforts to meet projected growth and hiring needs. It’s entirely possible that turnover is picking up and there’s a mass exodus of employees so the HR Department feels an urgent need to re-brand because a member of the HR team sat in a session about branding at a local SHRM conference. Employees (per the latest annual engagement survey!) are demoralized, un-challenged and just not feeling it.

“Hey,” says Debbie the HR Leader, “until we can change the culture, let’s promote what we want it to be.”

See what’s wrong there? First of all, neither Debbie nor her team should believe they can change culture through some sort of voodoo HR. And they most assuredly should not communicate a misleading version of today’s reality. Their culture, whether they consider it great, mediocre or downright evil, is-what-it-is.

But Debbie and her team may still persist in promoting the organization’s ASPIRATIONAL culture as opposed to the ACTUAL culture.

I sat through an event the other week in which the speaker (who had no specific recruiting experience by the way) promised to share the secrets to winning various recruiting and retention wars, battles and skirmishes.

At one stage she advised the audience members to review their company’s career sites. ‘If you don’t have any smiling faces on your career site make sure you show people being happy at work!’ she advised. ‘That’s how you’ll get people to apply!’

Oh bullshit. For so many reasons.

Stock photos on a company career site are as inauthentic as Kim Kardashian. A contrived employer brand is false advertising. A counterfeit value proposition is worthless. And the goal (no matter what this speaker told audience members) is not to get more people to apply; it’s to get the right people to apply. If a company culture is controlling, formal and efficient then THAT is the story to tell; there are candidates who desire a work environment like that – and they can be found.

So Debbie feels good (and HR smart!) when she heads to the quarterly Executive Team Meeting and unveils new tag lines for the company career site: “We have a collaborative culture” “We’re creative and innovative!” “Our culture promotes teamwork and consensus building!”

But she’s just gotten into TAO Nightclub with a Fake ID. She bought a rip-off Gucci bag. She pulled a Nancy Drew.

Is she really satisfied? Or is she just glad it’s over?


image courtesy of Nancy Drew Sleuth

The Circle of (Employee) Life – #EWS2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 5.50.56 PM(This post is sponsored by my friends at Spherion but any thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. See below for full disclosure). 

One of the things that drives me mad in HR and in organizations is the tendency to compartmentalize or ‘disconnect’ the elements of the Employee Life Cycle. Sure, this sometimes pops up due to size, scope and scale: as an organization grows, and with it the HR function, in order to get stuff done we end up silo’ing HR responsibilities; Talent Attraction resides over here…Recruiting resides over there…and On Boarding/Talent Management/Performance Management/Career Development and Planning reside in a gazillion other places.

Oh – and we don’t talk to each other. Ever.


It has to stop. And it’s easier than ever to stop it.

Today we have multiple ways (ahem – ‘think social!’) to connect-the-dots as people progress along the pathway from candidates to applicants to employees. All those folks are increasingly using their social networks when deciding whether to enter a conversation with a company (candidate), express an interest in working for a company (applicant), or go to work for a company (employee).

Spherion has released the findings from the 2014 Emerging Workforce Study which was conducted by Harris Interactive earlier this year in which they surveyed more than 2,000 workers and 230+ HR managers/leaders. Spherion has been examining the issues and trends impacting the workforce for 15+ years and this year’s study examines several primary themes aligned with the employee life cycle: attraction, recruitment, engagement, retention, advocacy and leadership.

Check out this infographic for a few key findings:

Spherion EWS Employment Life Cycle Infographic (first 3 phases)

Bottom line for HR and business leaders? Our understanding of these things has been changing, shifting and evolving for a number of years but now – NOW – it’s time to further develop your insight on how these areas intersect across the employee life cycle: things like job satisfaction, #workflex, the changing workplace (how we work!), and social technologies. I encourage you to check out the survey and read up on how you can bridge the gap (an ever widening and disconnected gap) between what employers think and what candidates/applicants/employees think.

It IS a circle! Let’s connect the dots.


Disclosure Language:

Spherion partnered with bloggers such as me for their Emerging Workforce Study program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any idea mentioned in these posts. Spherion believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Spherion’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

More Than a Feeling: Relationships at Work

notes time capsuleIn the mid 90’s I left my position as HR Director with a 100-employee not-for-profit agency to slide back into in-house recruiting as the Employment Manager with a much larger organization (4,800+ employees). I wanted to get back into managing a recruiting function as well as work for an organization with, let’s face it, deeper pockets than the NFP where we used scratch pads and paper clips instead of wasting precious dollars on Post-It notes. (We also didn’t have our own fax machine because it was too expensive. To send or receive a fax – mid 90’s remember – we walked two blocks to the neighboring hospital where we were allowed to use the fax machine in the hospital CEO’s office. In Wisconsin. In winter. I am not even kidding.)

So I made a move. And even though I knew I was making a strategic career change, I hesitated before accepting the new opportunity. Why? Primarily because I was leaving peers, colleagues and friends with whom I had built extraordinarily tight bonds. Yes – even as the head of HR (also managing 8 staff members in various departments) I had friends; people with whom I built deep and abiding relationships.

Why? Because our culture supported, promoted and encouraged it. We went to each others’ homes and attended weddings, funerals and christenings together. I used to go for dinner and chill out for hours at my boss’ house drinking wine. I babysat her dog. I once took a vacation with some co-workers. (“Oh the horror! You worked in HR” I can hear some of you saying).

I adored those people.

On my last day of employment there was a going-away party at a local watering hole filled with laughter, pictures and merriment. While I received lovely tchotkes and gifts from various people, I received one item that caused me to break into tears right there with my vodka and tonic in hand. I received a “time capsule” container into which every employee in the organization had placed a handwritten note for me. I was told to read them (en masse or one at a time) whenever I wanted a reminder of what I meant to people or how I had impacted the organization. Yeah. See why I wept?

I thought about this when I read through the Globoforce Mood Tracker Fall 2014 Report. While much of the research is geared towards years of service anniversaries, the summary of findings are applicable across the spectrum of HR, whether we are devising strategies related to culture, engagement or retention:

  1. Peer relationships are critical to the modern work experience.
  1. Having friends at work increases commitment to the company.
  1. Years of service awards that include all colleagues yield better results.
  1. Years of service awards with emotional impact are more effective.
  1. Social Recognition amplifies the effectiveness of years of service programs.
  1. Workers yearn for a more shareable and meaningful milestone experience.

note: check out a nifty Infographic here


Those memories from almost 20 years ago stuck with me; that celebration was meaningful, emotional and shared with employees from all across the organization. Even though, obviously, this was a ‘farewell’ event and not a service award event I still remained committed to the organization as I continued to serve as an adviser and as a committee member with the Board of Directors.

The Globoforce Mood Tracker Report is enlightening. I encourage you to download it whether you’re exploring recognition, years of service or just looking for ways to make the employment experience at your company more meaningful. As the Mood Tracker Report points out: “There is room for improvement in today’s milestone experiences. Employees are looking for more shareable service awards that respect their memories and contributions.”

C’mon HR; we can fix this.

More than a feeling.


I’m partnering with my friends at Globoforce as a paid contributor and, as I should, am disclosing this to you in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.