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Words of Gratitude (#7) to Tim Sackett
Words of Gratitude (#7) to Tim Sackett 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Note: I’m writing a note of gratitude on the blog each day in November leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. My hope is that these posts will inspire you to do the same. Write an email, Facebook post, or a text to tell people they have made an impact on you. Gratitude is contagious. 


Anyone who knows me very well knows how much I love my work. I love to talk about work and the workplace and engagement, etc. Probably too much.

I’m also a pretty relentless relationship builder, always looking to connect to new and interesting people.

This combination of things has led to having a network of friends all over the world who share a common passion for the work. These are people who, when we get together to have a few beers, end up in long conversations about what else…how to make work better for people.

My professional journey has led me to connect with some really amazing people who I now consider friends.  One of those people is Tim Sackett.

Tim is a prolific blogger, speaker and crusader for better HR and recruiting practices. If your work involves recruiting and you don’t know about Tim, you need to fix that. He published a book this year called The Talent Fix: A Leader’s Guide to Recruiting Great Talent that you should probably buy.

Tim and I first connected through social media and then in person at a variety of HR and Talent Conferences over the years. One of the things that immediately drew me to Tim beyond his passion for his work, was his willingness to take a stand and occasionally espouse an unpopular opinion. While I may not always agree with Tim’s opinions, I always respect his authenticity and courage.

As I have been ramping up my business, Tim has been among the most supportive people in my network. Tim has been generous in his advice and support. He’s even helped me find business. One of my awesome clients, PeopleDoc, would not be doing work with me today if Tim had not introduced us.

Friends are those who come through for you when you need them. And Tim has done that a number of times for me.

Earlier this fall, one of my longtime friends and I had decided we wanted to go to a football game at a stadium neither of us had visited before. One of the options on our list was to go see a Michigan State football game in East Lansing.

Tim happens to live in that area, so I reached out and asked if he could help us find tickets. He did far better than that. We had the opportunity to have dinner with Tim and his wife the night before the game and then he invited us to tailgate with his friends. It was an awesome experience that would not have happened without Tim’s generosity.

Tim, I am grateful for your friendship, support, and time. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities we’ve had this year to hang out talking about work and life. Your help and encouragement as I grow my business has been incredibly important. You have come through for me every time. That’s rare and amazing. Thank you. 

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Why Performance Management Still Sucks
Why Performance Management Still Sucks 395 120 Jason Lauritsen

I’ve spent a large part of the last year writing a book about performance management.  

One of the big questions I wrestled with was “how did we get this so wrong?” That question isn’t all that hard to answer when you look at the history of management and discover that it was based on a contractual, compliance-based model.

This helps explain how we ended up with compliance-based processes like the annual performance appraisal and performance improvement plans. They make sense in the historical context in which they were created. 

But times have changed. And work has changed. A lot. 

Performance management hasn’t. 

A majority of organizations are still running these same compliance-based processes today. Taken in the context of our climate of work, they make little or no sense.

Employees hate it. Managers cringe at the mention of performance management. And HR keeps running the system despite knowing that it doesn’t really work.  

It’s glaringly obvious that it’s a broken system. It’s been obvious for decades. Why is it taking so long to fix?  

This might be the more important question. 

Performance is the lifeblood of any organization. Without it, the organization withers and dies.  What could be more important than the management of performance?

And yet.

No one owns it.  

Everyone participates. Everyone is impacted.

No one owns it. 

Managers are charged with the day to day responsibility of ensuring employee performance. Leaders are broadly responsible for organizational performance.  And HR is where the formal, compliance-based processes for the appraisal of performance.  

But who is responsible for designing and deploying and maintaining a system for managing performance across the organization? 

Certainly, HR is the assumed answer. 

But, I think I’ve only met a handful of HR professionals in my life who’s primary job role and function was performance management. 

This fall, I facilitated a panel of HR leaders at the HR Tech Conference to discuss the evolution of performance management. I asked each of them how performance management fit into their overall HR structure. Each of the four companies was different. 

In one case it was part of total rewards (i.e. benefit and comp). In another, it was viewed as part of employee engagement. In another, it was under the banner of employee relations (i.e. compliance). 

In two of the four cases, the main reason HR undertook the process of changing performance management was that executive leadership demanded it.  

It’s crazy. 

A well-designed performance management system should be the operating system for your organization. It ensures a sustainable and consistent employee experience that unlocks individual and team performance. Most organizations today are still running a performance management operating system written in the 1920’s.

It’s way past time for an upgrade. But, that upgrade will never happen unless you make it a priority.  

Every organization should have a role or team dedicated to performance management systems. If you don’t like the phrase “performance management,” then call it performance enablement or performance processes.  

It can be in HR or it can be elsewhere. It will depend on your organization. 

We would never let something like sales or financials or technology go without an owner who has the responsibility to ensuring process effectiveness.

Why do we allow it with something as vital as the management of performance?

Let’s change that. 

Technology’s Evolving Role in HR #HRTechConf
Technology’s Evolving Role in HR #HRTechConf Jason Lauritsen

The HR Technology Conference has become one of my favorite events of the year. It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for the broader trends in HR and work.  

Each year, I try to take in a few sessions and spend some time walking the Exhibit Hall. My goal is to try to understand what the technology vendors think is important to the HR community. This comes through loud and clear through their marketing messages and positioning at the event.

Based on my observations, this year’s overarching theme seemed the same as last year. Everything is about AI (artificial intelligence). Apparently, we are all so fascinated by the potential of AI that nearly every vendor is feeling the pressure to show how they are in the AI game.

I personally think that most of the talk about AI is distracting us from what really matters in making work better. That is an argument for another day. The bottom line is that for the second year in a row, AI was the dominant buzzword of the conference.

Another thing I love about this event is the conversation and presentations about the future of work. Technology companies are rightfully interested in understanding how work is evolving and what the future might look like so they can enable that future through their products.

Based on what I heard from Josh Bersin and others, it seems to me that there are some real shifts coming (and needed) in terms of what HR technology looks like and how it works.  There were three big things that I took away from this year’s event.

  1. HR technology tools need to be where the work happens. Almost all of today’s HR technology tools are part of a stand-alone platform or product. This means that the employee has to leave the technology that they primarily use to do their work (email, calendar, CRM, etc.) to find and log into another application before being able to take their desired action. It’s no wonder that we struggle to get employees to consistently engage with these tools. It feels like a hassle. The next generation of HR tech tools will be built into where you do work to make the employee’s experience much more fluid and intuitive. Keep an eye on companies like Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, and Slack as they are already starting to build some of their own integrated tools. It seems like there’s about to be a lot of innovation in this area. 
  2. We need technology to support wellbeing. Earlier this year, Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer published a new book titled, “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It.” He argues that work is literally killing us. Much of that boils down to the immense stress that people are feeling today from both work and life. I’m convinced that tending to the wellbeing of employees will emerge as a business imperative over the next five or more years. Technology has contributed significantly to this problem in the past by enabling 24/7 connectivity. Now we need new technology to help us begin to fix it.  
  3. The future of work is teams. Bersin stood in front of a room full of HR technology marketers and declared that while more companies are organizing work in teams, today’s HR technology tools are almost exclusively designed around individual work performance. For those who work in a project team or agile environment, you can probably relate to how different it is to manage the performance and engagement of teams compared to individuals. As the way we work and our management approaches shift more and more towards teams and collaboration, we will need new tech tools to support that. And, it doesn’t seem that there are many tools here yet. I expect that to change quickly. 

Those are my takeaways from this year’s HR Tech Conference. If you are interested in technology and the future of work, I highly encourage you to give this conference a look next year. If you decide to go, look me up. I’ll be there. 

Does your company discourage vacations?
Does your company discourage vacations? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting chat with my Lyft driver on the way to the airport in San Francisco.

He was a career business development professional who uses Lyft to supplement his income. Our conversation turned to company culture and work experience (shocking, I know).

He told me about how he had changed jobs and moved his family to Sacramento because he worked for a company that consumed every moment of his life.

When he wasn’t traveling, he was expected to attend client events in the evenings. His wife and family hardly ever saw him.

Then there was the whole issue of vacation. He shared a story with me about a time early in his career when he’d qualified for a company-paid sales incentive trip to Hawaii.

He invited his girlfriend to go along. She agreed based on one condition–that he leaves his laptop at home. She knew that if he brought it, he’d work much of the time. He knew it too but didn’t feel like he had a choice. He chose the laptop and ended up making the trip alone.

At this same company, he described the ritual guilt trip that would be applied by management every time he tried to request vacation days. They’d always say the same thing, “We’ve got so much going on right now, can’t you find another time to go?”

He felt so tied to his work that he couldn’t disconnect, ever.  And, it had an impact on him and his family. Thus, he finally left.

I wish his experience was a unique one and that he just happened to work for a company that was getting it wrong. But, I know too many people who have had the same experience to think that’s true.

And, the data seems to suggest the same.

According to the 2018 Work and Well-being Survey recently published by the American Psychological Association, despite 76% of respondents saying that taking vacation time is important to them, only 41% reported that their organization’s culture encouraged taking time off.

That’s 6 out of 10 organizations where the employees feel like they are discouraged from taking a vacation. Let that sink in.

So, it probably shouldn’t be too surprising that 65% of respondents reported that the positive benefits they feel as a result of taking a vacation (when they do take it) either disappear immediately or within a few days.

This is crazy.

And it’s symptomatic of much deeper cultural and performance issues. If you feel like you cannot be gone from work for fear of lost opportunity or what might happen while you are out, that suggests a teamwork or trust deficiency.

If you don’t want to take vacation time because you feel penalized by a backlog of work that occurs while you are out, that’s a process and work design problem.

If you don’t want to request vacation because of how guilty your manager makes you feel about it, that’s a leadership failure.

The pace and intensity of work have increased steadily over the past couple decades thanks largely to technology. We spend more time connected to work than ever before.

That makes vacation time more important than ever before. People need time away from work to rest and connect to the things that are important in their life (family, friends, travel, etc.).

This weekend, I’m leaving for a week of summer vacation with my family. I didn’t realize how much I needed the time away until it started to draw near. It’s been a pretty intense year so far and I have not unplugged in a long time.

Time away from work is necessary to recharge.

Organizations should encourage employees to use their time off, even require it if necessary.  And, when people leave for vacation, expect them to disconnect and give their full attention to whatever they do while they are out.

Your organization’s posture towards vacation is a good indicator of how well you are tending to an employee’s overall well-being and engagement.

If you aren’t sure how you are doing, take a peek at how much vacation time is being used. Or even more simply, go ask some employees if using vacation time is encouraged.

Relationships and Accountability
Relationships and Accountability 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

If you’ve been following my work over the past couple of years, you know that I’ve been evangelizing the message that “work is a relationship, not a contract.” Because employees experience work this way, work and the workplace should be designed around the same principles that make a relationship healthy–things like appreciation, acceptance, and commitment.

As I speak and write more about what this means, I’ve been encountering an interesting objection.

 

“What about accountability?”

The assumption is that if we treat work like a relationship, it’s all about feel-good emotions without any regard to performance and getting things done. The fear, it seems, is that if we treat work like a relationship, accountability and performance management go out the window.

I was caught a little off guard by the question at first. But as I’ve thought about it, I think I understand where it comes from.

There are many kinds of relationships. Friendships, acquaintances, family, neighbors, and many more. If you imagine the work relationship as a friendship or a neighborly acquaintance, then it’s hard to connect the dots for how it translates into performance.  

The work relationship between employee and employer is a formal, mutually-committed relationship in the way that a marriage is in our personal lives. Both parties have made the choice to enter into this relationship. And while there are some laws in place that outline certain parameters of the relationship, what sustains the relationship and makes it work is an ongoing shared commitment to one another, reinforced by the experience of the relationship itself.

There is nowhere in my life that I feel more accountability than in my relationship with my wife, Angie. I often say that one of my life philosophies is “Happy wife, happy life.” And while that usually gets a chuckle from whoever I’ve just said it to, it’s true. To me, it means that I’m committed to doing what is in my control to keep her happy.   

I can’t control how Angie (or anyone else) feels. But, I recognize that how I show up every day, the way I behave, and what I give to the relationship can have a profound impact on her and how she feels.

I know when I don’t contribute around the house adequately, it will have consequences on our relationship. As a result, I try to do what I can every day to pull my weight and check in from time to time to see how it feels to her.  

If we don’t make time for one-on-one time together to talk, it causes us to fall out of balance. So, I make time when we need it. These are but two examples of many of how being accountable to the relationship is what makes it work.  

 

Accountability is core to any healthy relationship.

In the employee-employer or employee-manager relationship, the problem is that the accountability goes mainly in one direction.  Employees are held accountable and expected to be accountable to the organization, but they aren’t often rewarded with the same commitment from the organization.  

For example, if you do something that makes your boss feel insulted, there will be some backlash for you as an employee in one way or another. But, if a boss does something that makes you feel insulted, it can feel like there’s no way to even address that in a safe and constructive way. One way accountability.

Healthy relationships are reciprocal and balanced. Each party actively invests in and is committed to the other. When it’s one way, the relationship starts to deteriorate.  If you’ve ever been in a relationship where one person was far more committed than the other, you know how that usually ends. It’s not good.

Accountability in a relationship of any type requires these basic things:

  • Clear expectations. You can’t live up to expectations you aren’t aware of or that you don’t understand.
  • Communication. Being in an ongoing conversation about how things are going and what is changing is critical. These conversations produce feedback about how things are going and provide the opportunity to learn and adapt.  
  • Commitment. Being accountable in the relationship means that you will sometimes need to do things that you don’t want to do or could get away without doing. You do these things willingly for one another.  

That last bullet is a big one, particularly in the work relationship. Decades of layoffs and downsizing have created an expectation for employees that commitment from employers is conditional and often fleeting. That means that employers and leaders must go above and beyond to both articulate and demonstrate their commitment to employees.  

As you prepare for the weekend, I’d challenge you to think about how you could demonstrate and reinforce greater commitment to your employees as a way to strengthen the relationship.