Tag Archives: Millennials

Sustainability in 2014: The Language of CSR

Data Point Tuesday
GreenBiz Group Inc.
recently released their 2014 Sustainability & Employee Engagement Report, content generated from responses of more than 5,600 members of the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel (executives and thought leaders in the area of corporate environmental strategy and performance). GreenBiz’s report “examines aspects of corporate environmental and sustainability education initiatives at companies at varying stages of program development and provides a quantitative understanding of the evolution of employee engagement” and notes that while sustainability professionals commonly think of challenges in terms of the physical or fiscal impact of their efforts, the most problematic challenge for this area today may actually be its use of language. Take the term “employee engagement” as an example. While sustainability professionals frequently use this term to describe their attempts to motivate a company’s employees to participate in furthering the sustainability or CSR program, it’s likely that HR executives already have a definition for the term and a way to measure it. HR commonly defines engagement as an employee’s willingness to apply discretionary effort toward meeting the company’s goals and to do more than merely meet job requirements/customer needs and measures this via an index approach using employee answers to survey questions. For example “are you proud to work at this company?” or “do you feel this is a great place to work?”

If HR and Sustainability teams have different definitions of terms like employee engagement, it can cause disconnect and communication barriers. GreenBiz uses the example of a CSR professional who ran into resistance when he met with HR to talk about how to improve employee engagement efforts at his organization. When he changed the language of the conversation however, and asked to discuss how they could increase the participation numbers in the company’s sustainability programs, he was meet with much more enthusiasm. GreenBiz points out that another potential language gap occurs when Sustainability and HR professionals discuss how to achieve greater participation from employees in furthering the sustainability mission. While 73 percent of respondents indicated that their company is educating employees across the organization about its corporate sustainability goals, in a recent study by The Conference Board, only 5 percent of the S&P 500 have instituted employee CSR training. This highlights the differences in association and potential confusion that can occur between the terms “training” and “education,” where training is generally more skills based and education often refers to broader and more general learning activities.

Sept 16 sustainability definitions chart
Understanding the kinds of language used in CSR and HR programs, and how to frame such language, can be a vital tool in breaking down communication barriers within an organization. With this in mind, let’s look more closely at what GreenBiz’s report uncovered, starting with the basic definition of “sustainability” initiatives. Over the last six years the term “sustainability” has become the standard for describing such initiatives. 51% of respondents report identifying with this term, up from 49 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008. While this term is increasing, two terms have lost value in describing sustainability initiatives, “environmental, health and safety” and “greening” (see chart above). Another sustainability trend for 2014 is the convergence of social and environmental issues. When GreenBiz looked at the extent to which environmental and social issues are linked today vs. five years ago, they noted an increase across all companies regardless of size. The largest increase in the correlation was at large companies, from 87% to 94%. When it comes to educating employees about their corporate sustainability goals, almost all companies participate. 73% of respondents at small companies indicated their organizations are providing this education, as did 80% of respondents at large companies. Interestingly, which department champions sustainability education efforts most seems to be dependent on the size of the company (see graphic below).

Sustainability champions grapic
When it comes to the topics on which departments focus for employee sustainability education programs, the top 5 have remained steady over the last six years and are: “general information about sustainability initiatives,” “the company’s sustainability successes and accomplishments,” “Actions at work to conserve or protect resources,” “environmental footprint of the company,” and “volunteer programs.” For 2014, the top three motivators for employee participation in corporate sustainability activities were: “concern for the environment and society,” “evident CEO support or mandate,” and “sustainability goals included in performance evaluation.” GreenBiz’s report also cites internal hurdles to sustainability education, which include executive commitment, education and communication, budget/resources/competing priorities, and time.

This data around participation by employees in corporate CSR or Sustainability programs, links nicely to last week’s post about Millennials’ participation in “cause work.” Coming at this topic from both directions – desire on the part of Millennials to participate and corporate CSR/Sustainability professionals’ desire for higher participation levels – creates significant opportunity for everyone. Building trust levels , creating opportunities for growing camaraderie and making strides in being good stewards of the Earth, the economy and our communities in one fell swoop could be a monumental win/win for all of us.

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Filed under China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Data Point Tuesday, Great Place to Work, GreenBiz Group, Sustainability

Core Employee Needs: Not All or Nothing!

data point tuesday_500

It seems as though we are consistently seeing data that show decreasing levels of employee engagement and feelings of fulfillment at work. This data can be, and has been, attributed to many factors, such as a lean post-recession workforce, an increasingly competitive talent landscape, and the uber-connected, uber-informed and uber-on business world in which we operate. I’d agree that all of these can create barriers to an engaged workforce, or challenge an already highly engaged workforce. There’s also data indicating (as I discussed in my post on what Millennials look for in a great workplace) that high amounts of stress, feelings of low-engagement or no work/life balance are not as significant as we may think. There are, on a positive note, data that suggest workplaces are doing much to negate issues of engagement and work/life balance, but much of this research comes from companies classified as “Best Workplaces” and considering the frequency of content reporting low levels of engagement, trust, and happiness, such companies may be few and far between. Ultimately, we can only take data at face value. The real importance of looking at such workplace statistics is to inform ourselves and build our “bigger picture” – know what’s out there, know what’s conflicting, and create solutions and approaches that are right for our own people, culture and strategic goals.

Some data I recently found interesting comes from an article published in The New York Times, “Why You Hate Work” which included research from The Energy Project, an organization that aims to increase employee engagement and sustainable performance for organizations and their leaders. The article, by The Energy Company’s CEO Tony Schwartz and consultant Christine Porath, discusses how “the way we’re working isn’t working” and that it’s increasing common for both middle managers and top executives to feel overwhelmed and disengaged. In an effort to understand what’s impacting people’s engagement and productivity at work, The Energy Project partnered with The Harvard Business Review to survey 12,000 + mostly white-collar employees across a range of industries and organizations. They found that employees are considerably more productive and engaged when they have the opportunity to: regularly renew and recharge at work, feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks, define when and where they get their work done, do more of what they do best and enjoy most, as well as feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. The study attributed these four areas to four core needs: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

Energy ProjectIn terms of the core physical need at work, The Energy Project’s study determined that employees who take breaks every 90 minutes find themselves with a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take one or no breaks during the day. These employees also report a 50% greater capacity to think creatively and a 46% higher level of health and well-being. Also interesting, is that when employees feel encouraged by their supervisor to take breaks, their likelihood to stay with any given company increases by nearly 100%.  For the core emotional need, feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has the biggest impact. Employees who noted having more supportive supervisors were 67% more engaged. The core mental need? Respondents that were able to focus on one task at a time reported being 50% more engaged (although only 20% of respondents reported being able to do this). Comparably, just 1/3 of respondents reported being able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time. In regards to the core spiritual need, the Energy Project’s research found that employees who derive meaning and significance from their work reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and were 1.4 times more engaged at work.  In a nutshell, this data show that how employees feel at work has a huge impact on their engagement and productivity.

One last valuable nugget of data to note from this study is that when employees have even just one of the core needs discussed above met, versus none, all variables of their performance improve (from engagement, to loyalty, job satisfaction, positive energy at work, and lower perceived levels of stress). This is good incentive for organizations to work on things one step at a time. It clearly isn’t an all or nothing proposition. Positive changes in employee engagement don’t necessarily happen from massive culture changes or vast implementation of new programs. Baby steps are okay folks; and the more core needs are met, the more positive the impact!

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Filed under Career Planning, Center on Education and the Workforce, Millennials, Talentism, Uncategorized, Workplace Strategies

Failure to prepare…

Data Point Tuesday


…is preparing to fail. – John Wooden, legendary NBA player and UCLA Head Coach

We constantly see media coverage discussing the business world’s negative perceptions of younger workers. At times it seems like an unfair piling on for a generation that’s been bombarded with negative labels like entitled, unwilling to pay their dues, and unprepared. The good news is that much of the coverage is now discussing the reasons why such labels persist based on research, analysis and facts rather than a common starting point of “…when I was starting out…”

In a study released last Tuesday by Bentley University and KRC Research, which examined the preparedness of Millennial workers by surveying over 3,000 business decision-makers, corporate recruiters, young workers, students, parents and higher education influentials, 51% of business professionals who participated stated that their companies tend not to invest in young workers’ development because of the perception that they are likely to leave the job soon and aren’t worth the investment. This is a startling example of one of the perceptions perpetuating negative views of Millennial workers:  they are short-timers. It’s a real Catch-22 – it’s hard for a business to invest in the skill development of employees they believe to be short-timers. Where’s the ROI in that investment? But thinking through to the next question, “what can we do to increase the likelihood of retaining this cohort?” is occurring more and more. Orlando Barone, from the Wharton School of Business, is quoted in the study as believing that Millennials “perceive themselves as more loyal to their values than to a particular company…” And this gets to the heart of the Millennials vs. the Business World grudge match that many observe.

If, as in great workplaces all over the world, an organization’s values were in sync with the values of all of its employees, investment in skill development would be a no brainer because it would be ensuring the longer tenure of its entire workforce – not just its Millennials. It would be an investment in the bottom line as measured by lower turnover costs, lower talent acquisition costs, greater innovation and higher productivity.

Bentley University and KRC ResearchThe Bentley study shows clearly that business shares the accountability for lower retention of Millennials. However, this is not to say that everything we hear about young workers is unfounded. After all, the consensus from Bentley University’s study (as observed by both business professionals and Millennials themselves), is that Millennial workers are less prepared than other generations to enter the workforce. However, this unpreparedness is not necessarily due to a broad lack of passion, feeling of entitlement, or poor work ethic of the younger generation as many assume. This quote from the study sums up the idea well: “Despite the view of Millennials as the “it’s not my fault” generation, nearly four in ten grade their own personal preparedness as a “C” or lower”.  It comes down to a mutual shouldering of blame for why young workers are unprepared. While recent college graduates admit that unpreparedness is a problem among their own cohort, 49% of higher education influentials give colleges and universities a “C” or lower on how well they are preparing recent college graduates for their first jobs and 51% of business decision-makers give the business community a “C” or lower on how well they are preparing students for their first jobs. So everyone involved believes that many young people entering the economy for the first time are unprepared for success and unprepared to make a contribution.

A surprising outcome of this study is that 35% of business leaders give recent college graduates that they have hired a “C” or lower in being prepared for the job. Businesses are clearly not be connecting the dots as the study also reveals that 51% of business professionals are not investing in the development of young workers. Knowingly (one would assume) hiring an unprepared young worker and then knowingly (again) not investing in their development seems like missing the obvious to me. And pretty simple to solve: if you hire unprepared workers you have to be prepared to provide opportunities to ensure their preparedness or they will be gone in the business equivalent of sixty seconds.

The bottom line is this:  we must hop off the label bandwagon and jump on the training train. Millennials are faced with a different set of challenges than earlier generations as they enter the workforce, but current judgments of their work ethic or values are shortsighted and misinformed bases for non-investment in their development once they arrive in our organizations. It’s long past time for all stakeholders (higher education influential, business leaders and decision makers, students and their parents) to remedy the problem of unpreparedness vs. being a catalyst for it. Business leaders in particular can step up and begin to deliver development programs that will result in young employees who are more productive and more aligned. And if you’re worried about young workers “jumping ship” remind yourself that investment in their development could be just what they’re looking for to stick with you for the long haul.

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Filed under Bentley University, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Millennials

From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

This was a very popular post from April, 2012. The data is pretty much the same. And it bears repeating.

Managers and supervisors (especially in the Baby Boomer cohort) in almost every type and size of business have been known to lament the lack of loyalty and so-called business savvy in the Millennial generation.

  • “They want to be promoted too fast!”
  • “They don’t want to pay their dues!”
  • “They don’t understand how things work!”
  • “They want too much flexibility!”
  • “When things don’t go their way they quit!”
  • “Why won’t they stay?”

The bottom line is that organizations are finding it challenging to keep Millennials engaged and on the payroll.  In fact, with the average employment tenure of workers in the 20-24 year -old age group at 1.5 years (per the BLS), it’s challenging to keep all our employees engaged and the on the payroll.  (See my previous post on the Quits vs. Layoffs gap.  It might not be what you think!)

Achievers and Experience Inc. fielded their annual survey of graduating college students in January.  The data are eye opening.

Despite what we think we know about them, the vast majority of these about-to-enter-the-workforce Milllennials would really like to stay with their next (in most cases, first) employer for 5 years or longer!  Wait.  What?  Look at the chart below:

47% of the 8,000 college graduating respondents in the Achievers/Experience Inc. survey indicated that they expected to stay with their next employer five years or longer.  Note the language:  expect to stay not would like to stay!  That means when they join our organizations they have every expectation of making a career with us.  They’re not just accepting a job.  They’ve evaluated our EVP (Employer Value Proposition) as a match for the meaning they want to create in their lives through their work.  (Interesting to note that the biggest percentage of respondents expect to stay with their employer for 10+ years!)

So, OK.  This has got to be their youthful exuberance and relative inexperience speaking, right?  Well, I wonder if that really matters.

Employers need these Millennials.  Employers need these Millennials now.  Employers will need these Millennials more every day.  (See my recent post here.)

And employers need them to stay a whole lot longer than 1.5 years!

So what happens between “I expect to stay with my employer for 10 or more years…” and “…after one year with the organization I’m leaving for a better opportunity”?  I think we all know that answer to that question.

We don’t live up to the EVP we sold them.  We don’t engage Millennials the way they tell us they want to be engaged.  Instead, we…

  • make sure they fit into our existing career paths and job descriptions
  • focus on making sure they “pay their dues” – the way we did
  • keep our processes and rules rigid and unbending – and only pretend to listen when they offer up “different” ways of working
  • resist the notion that work can be done with excellence anywhere but in a cubicle
  • make it difficult for Millennials to interact with senior leaders
  • make it difficult for Millennials to collaborate with colleagues
  • designate social responsibility activities a perk instead of a foundational value
  • try to “lure” them to stay with tenure-based plaques and timepieces

These data are a wake-up call for employers.  It’s a message from our talent pipeline that they really do want to engage with us; they believe our employer brand marketing messages; they want to learn and grow with us.

It’s time to listen harder and make sure our employer brand messages aren’t experienced as bait and switch tactics.

I don’t know about you, but I’d hate for the Millennials to have such negative employment experiences at the beginning of their careers that they opt out of organizational life altogether before they’re 30.  We’d really be in a pickle then!

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Filed under Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, Engagement, Millennials, Rewards & Recognition, Student Job Search, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor

What Gets Your Employees Out of Bed in the Morning?

SHL Talent Analytics™ has published a white paper that you need to read if you are involved with acquiring, developing or managing talent.  And that would be everyone in HR.  The SHL Talent Report: Big Data Insight and Analysis of the Global Workforce is a thorough review of the state of talent – especially leadership talent – around the world.  Using their vast global supply of data from organizational surveys, almost 4 million assessments from almost 200 countries, and the work of 300+ occupational psychologists, authors Eugene Burke and Ray Glennon provide compelling insights into the state of today’s talent as well as opportunities to prepare tomorrow’s talent for success.

The white paper covers the following talent issues with data that is deep and makes it easily understandable:

  • Leadership
  • Innovation
  • Organizational Risk
  • Diversity
  • Global Distribution of Critical Skills

Each section is compelling and could stand alone in its organizational usefulness.  At 72 pages long, though, it’s a not a tough read.

I was particularly taken with the section on Diversity.  Its discussion of gender and leadership should be required reading for all those involved in the acquisition and development of talent headed to the C-Suite.  (I wrote about that here recently.)

But even more interesting was the discussion of generational differences.  This is a topic that won’t go away for those in the talent management business –for good reason!  Burke and Glennon believe “it’s not really about gender and generations…it’s about the best person for the job and having managers who know how to leverage differences effectively.”

Right.  How many times have we heard this?  But the data they share are compelling.

I’ve seen a great deal of analysis that show that, while the values differences between generations are more a difference in  order of importance than a complete difference in values, these data show the impact of the difference in order of importance in a pretty dramatic visual:

Think about the beleaguered manager in your organization who has all three generations represented on their team.  Do you think they understand these motivational and values differences?  Do you think they interact and communicate differently with their team members in order to engage their team?  Do you think they have the skills to leverage these generational differences in ways that motivate their team to greater productivity and efficiency?  Do you think they could use these insights to become a more effective leader?

What would be the impact on turnover, engagement and performance if all the managers in your organization had these insights and knew how to leverage them?

And, oh by the way, what gets you up in the morning?

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Filed under Baby Boomers, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, GenX, HR Analytics, HR Data, Millennials, SHL, Talent development