What Would You Do If Your Candidate Refused To…

The war for talent is hot.  Last week I wrote about a company who recently lost many of its top sales producers to a competitor.  This week a client called me in a panic after 3 key skilled workers left – at the start of his busiest season. Employee turnover is climbing and several surveys recently reported that the time to fill vacancies has increased since the beginning of the year.  (It has been steadily rising before then!)

Confused workerWith skilled workers hard to find, it is tempting to compromise hiring requirements and standard practices and to make exceptions for some candidates.

So how far would you (and your company) go to make an exception for that hard-to-find skilled applicant who tries to circumvent your process or refuses to comply with your selection process?

I hope you will take just a minute to respond to the 5-question survey at the end of the article.  I plan to report back the results (if we have enough participation) at the end of the month.

Let’s begin by asking you to imagine this scenario. For many of you, you don’t have to think too hard – the situation is very real.

You have a job opening for a very key position in your company.  After exhaustive sourcing and recruiting for several months, a colleague calls you with the name and contact information of a candidate who appears to meet all your qualifications and more. You immediately contact her but are met with one or more of the following objections. What would you do? Would you stick to your process or make exceptions?

She submitted a resume directly to you via your email or LinkedIn account but refused to complete one through your online system.She refused to complete parts of the application until after she was granted an interview.

She refused to answer certain interview questions because she considered them too personal (even if they were legal, job relevant, and important to your hiring process.)

She refused to complete a personality test (or other types of testing) because she believes her personality should have nothing to do with her job qualifications.

She refuses to join you and a few co-workers for lunch because she “keeps her personal and business lives separate.

We’d love to hear your opinions. Please click here and take a minute to complete the anonymous 5-question survey. We will post results at the end of the month.

9 Workforce Trends Worth Knowing

In 1999 I coined the term “Perfect Labor Storm” to describe the multiple factors working in concert to create a critical shortage of workers.  At that time the situation was a bit different – more jobs were being created than we had available working age adults.

Well 16 years later, the Perfect Labor Storm is still alive and growing. While its consequences are still the same- employers struggling to find enough qualified workers. Today we have enough “bodies” but the quality and quantity of skills required is much more advanced. Today we have enough workers to fill every job and still have a surplus. The problem is that not every worker has the skills for the jobs being created.

What follows is a list of trends that every employer (and job seeker) should know. While the exact number or percentage of jobs is off a few digits or the timing is not exact, the trends are real. They are changing the future of work and the workplace as you read this. While the exact timing of the Perfect Labor Storm is always a work in progress, the path on which we are headed is inevitable.

1. Cheaper, better robots will replace human workers in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade. Only 10 percent of jobs that can be automated have been taken by robots. By 2025, machines will take over 23 percent of jobs.

Source: Boston Consulting Group


2. Sophisticated algorithms could substitute for approximately 140 million full-time knowledge workers worldwide.

Source: The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation,  Frey and Osborne


3. Jobs employing up to 47 percent of today’s workers are likely to disappear by 2033.

Source: Trends Magazine, November 2013


4. Workers aged 55 and older will make up approximately 26 percent of the labor force by 2022; up from 14 percent in 2002 and 21 percent in 2012.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


5. Four out of 5 CEOs worry about availability of key skills

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


6. Only 42 percent of executives believe that students entering the workforce are prepared for the available jobs; even worse, only 45 percent of these young people think that they are prepared. Maybe worst of all, 72 percent of education providers believe the young people are prepared.6.

Source: McKinsey and Company


7. Thirteen (13) percent projected increase in STEM jobs from 2012 to 2022

Six (6) percent projected increase in STEM graduates 2011-2019

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP


8. More than 80% of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage in highly skilled resources.

Source: Manufacturing Institute


9. In 2015 the business community must face the reality that there is little slack in the U.S. labor market. As skills shortages grow, businesses will need to begin raising wages to attract and keep workers for the long term.

Source: Edward Gordon, Imperial Consulting Group

More Under Skilled Job Applicants Coming Your Way

The last thing that employers who are seeking skilled workers needs is job hunting advice like this:

4 Steps to Getting Hired When You Aren’t Completely Qualified

That is the headline of a recent Fast Company article. The subtitle continues:

Don’t meet all the requirements for the next move in your career? No matter!

Candidate Sourcing Resu-mess,Applicant ProcessingPosting a job and receiving applications from enough qualified candidates is driving managers crazy. In a recent survey conducted by PeopleMatter, 89 percent of the companies surveyed are having a difficult time recruiting enough qualified workers.  Seventy percent do not find it easy to identify the best candidates quickly. The problem is compounded by high turnover rates and costs (70 percent).

With jobs requiring more skills, often specialized, advice to fake it until you make it sounds like nails screeching on a blackboard to the frustrated hiring manager.

The article then opens with these pearls of wisdom:

… if you’re in the market for a career move, you don’t have to limit your search to positions you totally qualify for.

WOW!  (That advice might even warrant a WTF!)

The truth is the finding skilled workers is getting harder.  There are simply more skilled jobs than there are people who can do the work.  The problem is exacerbated when companies “upcredential,” the process of requiring college degrees for jobs currently performed by high school grads. And as long as we discussing things employers don’ t want to hear – companies are only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding enough skilled workers.

As Boomers retire and technological disruptions mount, skill gaps will widen and shortages will mount. Finding qualified workers will become more difficult and the time to hire will increase. Receiving more unqualified applicants without a plan and process to screen out high-risk and poorly qualified applicants is like dumping more hay on the stack, burying the prize deeper. Advice like that suggested in this article only creates more work and requires more resources to sift through all the noise to find that one-of-a-kind diamond employee.

But to be fair, the advice offered in the article is not totally off the wall. There are good reasons for managers to look outside traditional credentials and experience when hiring.  When focused on competencies like innovative capacity, customer service, managing people, planning and organizing – these skills are transferable from one job to another, from one industry to another.  For sure, some jobs require technical skills and/or a level of proficiency.  But many positions don’t.  And even when they do, technical and administrative skills can be training and developed.  If the candidate has the potential, abilities, and motivation, then hiring a candidate who doesn’t fit the traditional mold makes sense.

But that requires a high functioning screening and selection process. And most companies don’t have the systems, the technologies, or the processes in place to quickly screen out poor fits and identify high potentials accurately.  In many organizations, screening and selection is still a people-intensive fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants crap shoot.

So even when a company thinks they have figured out how to manage the flow of candidates, someone comes a long and throws a wrench into the works – like suggesting that candidates reach for the stars even if they don’t have the qualifications.

Is The MBA and Other Graduate School Degrees Worth It?

(Thanks to Patti Connor for revisiting this topic and writing this guest post.)

In recent years, it has become difficult to defend the costs of graduate school degrees, specifically the MBA. We wrote an article in 2012 titled MBA Tuition Doubles; Salaries Flat – Is The MBA Worth It?, in which we explored this issue with an eye on the numbers. At the time, the picture was quite clear: MBA tuition was growing increasingly more expensive, and the degree was doing less and less to guarantee any type of career boost. Strictly from a financial perspective, the idea of paying for MBA education seemed foolish.

Career ladderBut have things changed since 2012? Inc addressed this issue in the fall of 2014 with an updated infographic analyzing the benefits of an MBA from a top-10 program. It’s tricky to address the question specifically from an ROI standpoint while looking only at top programs, but it’s fair to say that the overall picture is at least slightly more positive. According to the infographic, 2014 forecasted a 16% growth in MBA hiring rates. Even more encouragingly, the article looked at “the 5-year MBA gain”: essentially, the net cumulative amount an MBA graduate would earn in five years compared to what he or she would have made with a previous career path. The lowest amount for a top-10 program was just under $60,000, with the highest just under $100,000.

Keep in mind these aren’t total income numbers; they’re the differences between MBA career earnings and pre-MBA career earnings. Those are pretty significant differences, and they make the idea of paying back tuition loans, at least for top programs (where it’s often been toughest in the past), seem more feasible than in previous years.

It’s also worth addressing that the bulk of these numbers, and this conversation in general, comes with consideration of the job market. We’re inclined to measure the value of an MBA by how many graduates are hired and what their career paths offer. But in 2015, that’s not the whole story, as many also seek advanced business degrees for purposes of personal entrepreneurship. Some may argue that a path to personal entrepreneurship makes an MBA even less necessary—why pay $100,000 or more for a degree when you’re trying to start your own company and don’t need to impress anyone with your resume? But for entrepreneurship, it’s important to measure the potential benefits of an MBA from a perspective of personal growth and direction.

In some ways, this aspect of the MBA experience begins even with the application and continues throughout the process of earning the degree. Menlo Coaching, an online service meant to help with the MBA application and school selection process, makes it clear that one of the most significant parts of pursuing a business degree is determining one’s own professional goals and ambitions. The site’s testimonials reveal a number of clients who are grateful for the assistance they receive in realizing and clarifying these goals and ambitions, and many find that this personal exploration ultimately becomes the beginning of a career in business or entrepreneurship. In short, the process of earning an MBA can give students the nudge they need to figure out what it is they truly want to do, and how best to accomplish it. Particularly for hopeful entrepreneurs, this benefit can outweigh any financial concerns.

Similarly, many young people find a benefit in pursuing an MBA simply out of a desire to change course or switch careers. This may sound somewhat flippant to those for whom an MBA is an oppressive financial burden. However, for those who have solid careers and are looking for something different, it’s a valid perspective from which to determine the value of an MBA. In its own analysis of the value of an MBA, Bloomberg addressed this perspective, stating that “many go to business school less for the potential financial return than from a twenty-something desire to change course.” This is a common reason for graduate school in general. Many graduate college, start respectable careers, and find in their mid- or late-twenties that they want to change course. Graduate school, and for the sake of this discussion an MBA, can serve as a valuable catalyst in such cases.

None of this is to completely defend the cost of an MBA. There are certainly many people for whom the wiser course of action is to continue in a career and never bother with the cost of even more education. But the outlook is somewhat better than when we last addressed this topic in 2012, so don’t discount the MBA’s benefits completely.

Work Trends in 2015 Are Anything but Routine

The future of work (and life in general) is not what it used to be. Nor is the future what many of us were told it would be. 


This is true for every company and every person.  But it seems even more relevant for those of us involved in human resources.


paradigmaHuman resources professionals find themselves working harder and running faster. It’s no wonder why because they are really running two races simultaneously.  First of all many are trying to close the gap between the needs of the past and demands of the present.  Progress has been slow due to the diminutive endorsement given it by management and the failure of HR to adapt and respond fast enough. Concurrently many are attempting to respond to a very different looking future. Whether it is recruiting candidates, complying with new regulations, or managing what is now a 5-generational workforce (Yes – the oldest Gen Z is graduating college this year!), the workplace and business environment are in a constant state of flux. Policies, tools, and strategies that seemed to work well yesterday have almost no effect and relevance today.  


Depending upon your attitude, all this change is either daunting or exciting. It sets a cascade of emotions in place that leads a person to believe in economic apocalypse or entrepreneur-driven optimism. It’s your choice how you respond to these changes.  But regardless of which option you choose, the following mega-trends will shape your workplace, your workforce, and your outlook in the coming months. 


With that I offer my list of disruptive mega trends for 2015. Using the proverbial forest and trees idiom, here’s a view of the forest:


#1 – Average is over. Tom Friedman hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one: “In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius…Average is over.”


#2 Change is happening faster. Change has always made some jobs obsolete but created new jobs, new products, and new services. But this time it’s different. It’s happening at an unprecedented rate. What once took several decades and even a century or more to play out, now evolves in a few years. With each advance in globalization and the technology revolution, the best jobs will require workers to have more skills and different education to make them merely average.


#3 Productivity and worker’s pay gap widens. It’s inevitable. Technology and global competition will continue to force companies to compete by increasing productivity. This will continue to push the demand for skilled workers higher. For this skilled worker group, wages will rise significantly. But let’s be clear.  Wage stagnation will continue for most average skilled and under-skilled workers – just like as it has since 1973. The writing has been on the wall for over 40 years. Yes, that’s correct – for over 40 years. Wage stagnation compared to productivity gains has essentially been ignored. While focused on an impressive productivity increase of 74 percent, the hourly wages of middle-wage workers were stagnant, rising just 6 percent-less than 0.2 percent per year (Economic Policy Institute). And most of that increase is thanks to a brief burst in wages during the late 1990s. The wages of low-wage workers fared even worse, falling 5 percent.  Those trends will continue for at least the near future.


#4 Non-degree credentials will begin to replace traditional educational requirements for jobs. Traditional college education has missed the boat. The attempt to put everything into a 2-year or 4-year framework has left businesses struggling to fill jobs and students gasping under the weight of debt. While the academic and government bureaucrats propose ways to make traditional education more affordable (and effective), the “micro college” will begin to emerge. As Michelle Weise so eloquently described in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The call for more education compensates for the imprecise signaling power of a college degree.”


 creates a need for new skills and more training. Every time a business automates a process, upgrades software, or purchases new equipment, workers need to learn new skills and retire some old ones. Whether the skills are for more basic jobs like data entry and driving a truck or advanced skills for virtual reality, specialized 3D scanning, 3D printing, mobile apps, Internet of Things, flying drones, or reputation management, the need for tech-savvy fast-to-adapt talent pools is growing. It’s growing quickly. And the supply is dwindling – or at the very least not growing fast enough.

7 Trends That Will Change the Way You Hire, Manage, and Retain in 2015

“Average is over,” according to Tom Friedman and the pace of change is accelerating.  These trends spell both doom and opportunity to the world of human resources. Beneath the cloud of these megatrends lies a groundswell of trends likely to change the way companies hire, manage, and motivate employees.

What are these trends that will pop-up during the year that will disrupt and potentially derail many company strategic and business plans?  What do these trends mean for companies that plan to grow with more skilled workers.

New Skills#1 – Skills gaps will widen and worsen. Increasing productivity is the key to remaining competitive. As a result, the competition for workers with the right skills and temperament will increase dramatically.

#2 – Skilled worker wages will rise.  The price to attract and retain a skilled worker will rise. In some industries and/or geographies the increases may be substantial.  Wages for the “typical” worker with average- or low-skills will continue to stagnate – unless of course it is artificially propped up by minimum wage legislation.

#3 – Flying by the seat of your HR pants is dead. HR analytics if available at all has been abysmal. Traditional means of recruiting, screening, and selection are becoming increasingly ineffective. Hunches and gut instinct have no place in talent management. The need to manage talent with the scrutiny and precision companies use for cash flow, inventory, logistics, and supply chain is here and now.

#4 – Source wider and mine deeper. To find talent companies will need to throw out a wide net. That means the quantity of applicants will increase. The diamond in the rough will be buried deeper. Recruiters will need to mine more data faster and more accurately, requiring the use of technology.

#5 – One HR hat does not fill all.  Managing compensation, benefits, and compliance is overwhelming.  Recruiting and retention becomes an after-thought. Like most other jobs, the skill requirements for HR positions are changing. The sooner those companies realize that sourcing, recruiting, selection, and retention require specialized skills and dedicated responsibilities, the more effectively they will compete in the war for talent.

#6 – The employee turnover door will revolve faster. With rising demand comes increased employee turnover. A recent ADP report revealed that turnover is on the rise. But so far the change has been largely industry and/or geography specific. Turnover is not universal – yet. But that should not lull companies into complacency. The competition for key skilled workers is just heating up.  With wage growth for a worker who changes jobs nearly 500 percent more than those who stay (ADP Workforce Vitality Index 2014), companies will need to improve employee engagement significantly and compensate competitively and aggressively.

#7 – Company-led training and development is overdue. As business models evolve and get cannibalized by new technologies, employees need to stay employable and job ready. Waiting for the government and academia to fix the skills gap is foolish. As the comedian Ron White says, “you can’t fix stupid.” Re-skilling America won’t happen over-night. For the time being, companies that expect to have an ample supply of skilled workers need to provide the training and resources to upgrade skills and the opportunity to re-train for new jobs.

4 Types of Workaholics: Which One Are You?

How many people do you know who are afflicted with workaholism?  Our research has recognized 4 types.  You might even recognized yourself in one of the types.

First, let’s sort out a little confusion. Often times employee engagement is confused with workaholism. While many of you may work hard and be engaged, others might be busting your butt…and disengaged.

multitasking workaholicMichael Haberman in a recent post nailed it when he wrote “being a workaholic is not the same as being engaged.”

Engagement is positive. Despite the hard work, long hours, and sacrifice, some people truly love their work. In a quote attributed to Confucious, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” That’s engagement.

Workaholism, on the other hand, is negative, according to University of Georgia professor Lindsay Lavine.

According to Clark and her team, workaholism is like an addiction. Like the addict, workaholics experience the initial “high” but quickly get overwhelmed, stressed, and irritated. Work isn’t fun but something they must do. They can’t stop thinking about it. They become obsessed. They work more and work harder to get another high.

For the workaholic, self-esteem is intertwined with work. If not working hard and/or not getting acknowledgement for all his sacrifice, his ego is hurt. Work isn’t a means to an end – it is the end figuratively and literally.

Workaholics defend their addiction like alcoholics defend their drinking. They make excuses. Beyond the stereotypical denial, they downplay and deny the problem. They rationalize by blaming others for the workload. “What does it matter? I’m not hurting anyone but myself,” they say. “I can stop anytime I want,” they tell themselves.

Companies, management, and even society even encourage and reward workaholism. Workaholics are applauded and put on a pedestal for their dedication, commitment, and loyalty just like the alcoholic is “admired” for the amount of alcohol he can consume and still appear sober.  Rewarding workaholism is like designating the alcoholic as your driver because he’s the most sober in the group. No matter how much he contests or you rationalize, he’s still impaired.

Ultimately workaholism takes a personal toll. The associated negativity and stress doesn’t stop at the office because even when the workaholic isn’t at work, he’s thinking about it. From broken marriages to stress-related illness addiction to work carries a heavy price. Divorce, family conflict, and poor health (both mental and physical) are all possible consequences of workaholism.

Employers might ignore these personal issues if the problems don’t just stop there.  But workaholics make more mistakes. They are involved in more accidents. Their workaholism becomes their badge of courage. It becomes synonymous with self-esteem. Decisions they make are made to protect pride or build ego, not for the good of the team and company. Many workaholics are sleep deprived.  Others are so stressed and burned out that clarity is long gone.

A propensity for workaholism can be uncovered using the Quality of Motivation Questionnaire. It’s important for individuals and organizations to recognize workaholism and help those “afflicted” to it.  Managers need to encourage engagement and not contribute to workaholism. The consequences and implications can be devastating to the employee and the company.

Here are four types of workaholics we have identified:

1. Defeatism. The defeatist denies himself pleasure. This is one of the strongest drivers of workaholism. Excuses abound for the defeatist in action:

“I don’t have the time.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“The work will just pile up if I took any time off.”

The defeatist gets his fix through personal sacrifice. He’s the one who works late and misses his children’s game and school play so a co-worker can go golfing or get a manicure. He’s the one that gives up his favorite lunch because a co-worker forgot hers. The “thank you” initiates a warm feeling – it’s the quick fix. Unfortunately the guilt sets in soon after he realizes he missed again something he might enjoy.

2. Sabotage. The saboteur loses things he values… or at least used to value. Carelessness marks the workaholic afflicted with self-sabotage because he’s distracted and obsessed with work. He might neglect his health – no time to waste at a doctor’s office. He forgets his wife’s birthday and cancels an anniversary dinner because his boss asked him to finish a project. He misplaces a “thumb drive” that has all of his presentations on it but didn’t take time to back it up.

3. Punishment. This is the one of the most common causes of workaholism. “Nothing comes easy” and “no-pain-no-gain” have become the battle cry of the American work ethic. Now I’ll be the first to admit that effort and sacrifice are essential ingredients for success.  In fact, some degree of self- punishment is required to build pride.  It’s a given that we gain confidence when we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and achieve something we didn’t think we could do. But when hard work becomes addiction to work, we begin to take more and more risks. We build a tolerance and then have something more to prove. If something isn’t working out despite all our effort and hard work, it must be because we aren’t working hard enough!  Punishment once engaged becomes a self-sustaining negative behavior. We ignore warning signs and endure unhealthy levels of pain and stress. We become overconfident in our ability to recognize our limits. Courage leads to fearlessness and then to recklessness. The punisher starts by injuring only himself but over time begins to put others at risk too.

4. Martyrdom. Misery loves company personifies this behavior. This is the “woe is me” source of workaholism. It stems from a sense of hopelessness and futility.  Even when opportunities to lessen the workload or get relief present themselves, the martyr declines the help.  “What difference will it make?” he thinks.  “You just can’t find good help today” brings a chorus of agreement which is exactly the response that gives him the “jolt” to keep going.  At least he feels that someone understands him.  Martyrs don’t really want to stop working so hard. They want others to feel pity and agree that life’s a bitch.

Perhaps you recognize yourself in some of the examples.  What steps should you be taking on the road to recovery?

Success – however you define it – doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice everything. Work-life balance doesn’t work either. It forces you to think about work and life as a tradeoff.  If you think about work or life, you will always think in terms of what you have to give up.

The most successful people in life are those who figure out how to integrate work-and-life. How well are you doing? How successful are you at integrating work and life?

Thankful for Your Employees? Show It This Thanksgiving

Family, friends, and health would likely top many personal lists of gratitude given around the dinner table at Thanksgiving. For most people work is probably low down on the “count my blessings” list.  That wouldn’t be surprising since fewer than 3 out of 10 workers in the U.S. are “engaged” in the workplace. One out of 5 is actually actively disengaged according to Gallup.

The only association between the holiday and the workplace it seems is that it provides a day off.  For a fortunate few it might even mean a long weekend away from the office. For others Thanksgiving has become just another work day due to earlier starts to Black Friday sales.

Despite this disassociation between work and Thanksgiving, the origins of this holiday are rooted in work. At first, Thanksgiving was a day to celebrate the hard-earned bounty of the harvest. The very first Thanksgiving feast in America came about when the Pilgrims wanted to express their gratitude to the Wampanoag Native Americans who had helped them survive their first year in their new home. In a sense, the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way of celebrating the workplace values of hard work and cooperation.

Since work plays such a vital part of many people’s lives, the American Management Association posed a question to readers of one of its publications. It asked them what made them most thankful at work.

First on the list was “the professional satisfaction it provides me.” The Pilgrims would be beaming with pride since the satisfaction of a job well done was an emotion shared several hundred years earlier.  Pride and fulfillment produce natural highs for employees. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The joy people get from pride in their work is priceless. It’s a simple management principle mostly ignored but when embraced is the gift that just keeps giving.

It should come as no surprise that “my co-workers” came in second. Personal relationships play an important role in our happiness at work. For many workers, co-workers is family. Many of us spend more time at work and with co-workers than with our own families during a typical week. The workplace is where we form some of our closest and most enduring friendships. Friends at work help us deal with stress at work and provide a support network for problems at home.

Work friendships are beneficial from the organization’s perspective as well. Tom Rath in his book Vital Friends reveals that people who have a best friend in their workplace are seven times more likely to be engaged in their work. As a result, these companies have more satisfied customers and tend to innovate and share more new ideas.

Based on years of research by Gallup, Vital Friends also reports that when asked if they would rather have a 10 percent pay raise or a close friend at work, respondents overwhelmingly chose the close friend. That’s a powerful testimonial to the priority that we place on friendship in the workplace.

“My boss” ranked third on the list of things that workers were thankful for. Almost as important as feeling good about the kind of work we do is feeling good about the person we do it for. Contrary to popular opinion that all that employees care about is money, it doesn’t take much to earn the thanks of the people who report to you—show them that you’re grateful for their efforts, and they’ll repay the gratitude.

Not unlike many other surveys, “my salary” ranked lowest on the list.  That’s challenging to management because salary is the easiest tool to use when companies are trying to increase their employee engagement and earn their gratitude.

As we think about what we’re thankful this Thanksgiving, we might want to consider something that many of us take for granted – be thankful for your employees.

Here’s a few very simple, inexpensive but very rewarding things you can do this Thanksgiving to show your gratitude to your employees.

Say Thank You, Of Course!

It’s so simple but so easily forgotten. Showing your appreciation can be as simple as just saying thank you. This is a great time of year to just greet each employee face-to-face and with a handshake. Whenever possible, greet them by name!  It goes a long way.

Hand written notes work well too. By the way, appreciation notes to your customers and vendors are a great idea too.)  Email is acceptable but a poor third choice.  But anything note of appreciate is better than nothing. But even if it has to be email, make sure you address each employee personally. Don’t send out a generic message. Be as specific as possible. Thank your employees for work on a particular project or extra effort. This is the easiest and most meaningful way to let your employees know you appreciate them and are thankful for their hard work.


What is everyone’s favorite part of Thanksgiving? The food!  Bring in some Thanksgiving-themed treats for your employees to enjoy. Plan a potluck event.  Allow your employees to come together and enjoy the holiday. Nothing says thank you quite like food – except the heartfelt personal thank you.

If you want to go the extra mile, gift cards and/or certificates for free turkeys at the local grocery store work too. And if you want to get the biggest bank for your time and buck, deliver the cards personally.

Flexible Holiday Work Hours!

For many employees, Thanksgiving means family. If possible be flexible with your employees. If you can afford to give them a day off or even just a few hours to prepare dinner or extra travel time to spend time with family, do it.

Show your employees how much you appreciate them this Thanksgiving and deliver a little “thank you.”

Work Ethic: Is There An Ambition Crisis In America?

A lack of work ethic is one of the biggest complaints heard from employers about their workers and job applicants. Just ask just about any manager or business owner who is over 40 years old and the mere mention of “work ethic” into the conversation creates a wince, angst, and maybe even a few colorful words.

screening employeesThe complaints are targeted at mostly young people, the Millennials specifically. For years I’ve defended young people upon the principle that it’s not a lack of work ethic but a different work ethic. My response wasn’t academic or theoretical. It was based on interaction with 20- and 30-somethings working multiple jobs to make ends meet, pay off school loans, support a family and so on.  Just like generations before them, many of these young people I met worked hard – very hard.

***** Listen to this interview with Ira S Wolfe about “Trophy Workers” *****

But over the past few years I began to encounter more and more workers afflicted with “work-ethic-deficiency syndrome.”  Contrary to popular belief, this syndrome affects people of all ages – from the teen worker to the aging Baby Boomer.  A sense of entitlement certainly underlies much of the affliction. Many young people feel entitled to the good life promised them by parents, politicians, and educators.  Older workers feel entitled to security on the job and comfort in retirement in exchange for hard work, sacrifice, and loyalty.  Both groups feel betrayed. For some, they are justified in their disappointment and even resentment. For most people, the problem runs much deeper.

Based on our research, it seems a lack of work ethic is only the symptom. The cause is a lack of ambition.  A quick search for the definition of ambition reveals the following:

  • a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.
  • desire and determination to achieve success.
  • an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
  • An eager or strong desire to achieve something, such as fame or power.

Note the common thread with descriptors such as strong, determination, earnest, eager, strong.  Desire simply isn’t enough.  What is glaringly missing is the passion, purpose, and pride necessary to convert a want and desire to achievement and success.

Whether it’s the need for immediate gratification, a sense of entitlement, or lack of accountability, it’s clear many workers lack ambition – plain and simple. For sure, I’ll get the argument how hard many people have worked to find a job or remake themselves. I’ve heard in great detail, often flavored with colorful language, about the sacrifices made to secure a college degree. Others point to the number of resumes sent and how many times they were interviewed. I agree these people deserve an “A” for effort.

But effort and ambition are not the same. Ambition requires a passion, intensity, and perseverance.  It includes a sense of optimism and hope that keeps you going when everything seems to be going against you.  Ambition requires effort but making the effort does not qualify as ambition. Effort is ambition without emotion. Without purpose, pride, and passion, people just go through the motions.  They expect success to come to them rather than creating and taking accountability for their own future.

Let me explain.  You won’t produce heat in your fireplace by putting a few logs in the fireplace.  You must find the logs, and then light the fire if you want heat. You then have to add more logs to sustain the heat…and keep doing it over and over to keep the fire burning.

Like the fire, many people believe that acquiring the logs is enough.  Others expect the heat to continue in perpetuity without keeping the fire lit. Ambition is continuous. It derives from a passion to attain personal success and prosperity.

Most people go about achieving success and prosperity backwards.  They expect their purpose, pride, and passion to drive ambition when ambition (along with accountability, awareness, and agility) is what fuels purpose, pride, and passion.

Work-ethics deficiency is an epidemic.  Its root cause is a lack of ambition. The loss of ambition isn’t just a lack of emotional response but the lack of a skill.  Too many people simply have lost the ability to attain things on their own. For those people not waiting for the next handout, there are just as many looking for the safety net.

Life is about finding a purpose, pursuing challenges, taking risks, accepting accountability for mistakes, and learning how to recover from setbacks. While a technical skills gap is hurting and constraining many businesses, an ambition deficit will eventually cripple them.

***** Listen to this interview with Ira S Wolfe about “Trophy Workers” *****

Workers Get “F” for Effort

The debate rages on whether a lack of skilled workers is the reason millions of jobs are going unfilled. I’d like to suggest that it’s not the skills as much as lack of effort. In fact, I give many workers an “F” for effort.

lack of effort by workersBut that doesn’t mean it’s all their fault. That doesn’t mean they don’t try hard. It doesn’t mean that parents, educators, bureaucrats, and employers haven’t contributed to the problem. In fact, they might even have set many workers up for failure.

Graduating valedictorian, getting accepted into a prestigious college, landing a job at a reputable firm are all indications that success will come easy, right?

Not so fast. That is far from a foregone conclusion. New research reveals that the less effort it took to achieve these accomplishments, the more likely the individual will not live up to expectations.

In other words, while a quick mind, a charming personality, and a silver spoon might open up a lot of doors, potential does not always convert to performance. And when it does, a lot of the potential goes unused.

You might ask, why should I care if an employee leaves potential on the table if I’m getting what I want? If 50 percent effort gets the job done, who cares? Yes, that’s true. If the job is routine, predictable, and changes little, then there’s no problem. But what happens with the job requires the employee to adapt quickly, manage and solve unanticipated problems, recognize how one innocent decision might have widespread ramifications? What happens when the environment is in a constant state of flux and uncertainty, ambiguity, and change are the norms?

While admission to a prestigious school like Harvard or Stanford is a significant achievement, it doesn’t guarantee unfettered success. Graduating at the top of your class and being the star quarterback of a championship team means nothing when everything came easy. Natural talent opens doors but only carries you so far. It doesn’t prepare you to deal with those unfriendly and unpredictable life challenges that pop up regardless if you grew up on the streets or in the Hamptons.

It’s EFFORT that makes the difference. It is effort that differentiates those presiding over others because they have the title verses leaders who inspire people and champion change. It differentiates “high-potential” employees who exceed expectations and those whose careers plateau and disappoint. Effort is what allows people to thrive when confronted with the most challenging times in their lives.

Effort is defined as the “conscious exertion of power.” Conscious exertion implies that people have a choice – they can do it or not. We all have met, managed, or even married people who exert themselves a lot. We undoubtedly also can name quite a few people who choose not to make any effort when the road is paved with a few bumps and adversity strikes.

It is becoming painfully clear that we have educated and trained a lot of people for sunny-day success. We’ve done a horrible job at training people to deal with and manage adversity. We’ve educated an entire generation or two to think that failure, setbacks, and unforeseen events can be ignored or outsourced at will.

We’ve removed the option of losing in sports, getting an “F” for a grade, and getting a trophy for just showing up. When a student struggles in school (or an employee struggles at work), it’s rarely the individual’s fault. It’s never due to lack of presonal effort, low motivation, or poor attitude. It’s always because the job is too hard or the manager is unrealistic. We don’t hold people accountable to stretch themselves; we lower our expectations so the individual can win.

We have essentially stopped teaching our children and our workers how to deal with adversity, how to solve difficult problems, and how to achieve? Most importantly we have tied self-esteem to success. A setback or mistake implies failure and damages the psyche. We have become so obsessed with building and protecting self-esteem that we forgot to teach people how to deal with even the normal stress and pain that is part of life. We have dumbed down requirements to get an “A,” graduate from college, and even write a resume. We have prepared people to get an interview and a job, but not to work.

Ironically it is the euphoria of mastering a new skill, overcoming a challenge, or recovering from a setback that builds confidence and self-esteem. It is learning from mistakes and failures that encourage people to grow and develop. We don’t need more people who can survive only when the sun is shining. We need to teach people the skills to thrive when things don’t go their way.

Getting a job is not the destination but the beginning of a journey. Success in life requires a conscious act. Too many “talented” people expect to sleep walk through life. Personal power is what drives effort. Personal power is a skill that too many people lack. It’s time that we begin to teach, train, and develop more people who have the personal power to achieve their own success, to enjoy and appreciate that success, and to most importantly, navigate and manage adversity.