Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we watch the end of the Thanksgiving football games and eat the last of the dessert, we want to wish a very happy Thanksgiving (and Hanukkah). May this holiday and the entire holiday season be filled with family and joy. We are very thankful for you coming to read the blog and we wish you and your family a great rest of your holiday!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gap in the International Workplace

A few days ago we wrote about the multigenerational gap in the workplace for Astronology. As more companies fit into the mode of the global workplace, companies not only have to keep up with laws and policies related to employees internationally, but their different feelings toward work as well. As Marketwatch wrote, a survey, says that gap can be quite significant:

"What is striking about the findings is that the strength of a country's labor market doesn't necessarily correlate with workforce contentment. While workers in challenged markets may have had fewer opportunities to advance in terms of promotions or salary during the recent downturn, it has not necessarily affected their happiness, "said Chris Moessner, Vice President for Public Affairs, GfK. "Clearly there are many variables when it comes to job satisfaction - for example, Canada and Germany have enjoyed buoyant labor markets, yet they lie at completely different ends of the happiness spectrum some of which could be driven by broader cultural differences between the two countries. More generally though, workers internationally want more out of their work and seem to have just settled for their current jobs." 
The issues lie not only in their attitude towards working in general but also their attitudes towards each other and how happiness is defined in those workplaces. In the US, money seems to be a big driver of happiness in the workforce but 22% love their job so much they would do it without being paid at all--or so they say. The most satisfied country with their jobs? India, which came in at only 5% who claim to dislike/hate their jobs. The key is to figure out what makes them like it as much as see if that can be distributed across the different countries in your workforce. If not, figure out what makes people happy in each country and work towards that--even if it means slight unevenness across offices.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Other Soft Skills a Need Too

Earlier we talked about how communication skills are lacking for many job candidates and are hurting organizations, but TIME says that it's not just communication skills that are lacking, but a lot of other soft skills as well including critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and interpersonal skills:
As much as academics go on about the lack of math and science skills, bosses are more concerned with organizational and interpersonal proficiency. The National Association of Colleges and Employers surveyed more than 200 employers about their top 10 priorities in new hires. Overwhelmingly, they want candidates who are team players, problem solvers and can plan, organize and prioritize their work. Technical and computer-related know-how placed much further down the list.
So while many state cirriculums are focused on the math and sciences, maybe another focus would be better. The one thing that college curriculum need to focus on, however, should be internships. Schools like Northeastern have seen a jump in applications due to their co-op program but maybe other colleges should take a look at doing so:
One thing that does appear to make a difference is internships...more than 80% of employers want new grads they hire to have completed a formal internship, but only 8% of students say interning in a field related to their major is something they spend a lot of time doing....Overall, only about half of college grads say they’re prepared for the workplace — and the number of bosses who think they’re prepared is lower than 40%.

Among students who don’t intern, only 44% consider themselves ready for the job market. That improves for students with unpaid internships; 58% say they’re prepared for the workplace. But among students who complete paid internships, that number jumps to 70%.

Part of the problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know, as the saying goes. Harris Interactive found a huge gap between students’ perceptions of their abilities and managers’ perceptions of those same skills.
Just some food for thought...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Good Communication Skills Can Go a Long Way

My question to the applicant was "tell me what you know about our company." It's a simple question with a layup of an answer in that I didn't expect this applicant to know anything about what we do. It was just to see how they answered it and how good their writing skills were--instead, I got this:

"I know that your involved with insurance"


Let's just say that the job applicant didn't get the job. But this wasn't just an isolated incident of myself, as hiring manager, acting like a grammar nazi--this is a prevalent theme among job applicants (and their rejections) according to CNBC. And it's not just anedoctal evidence such as the one I just provided:
In a 2011 survey of corporate recruiters by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the organization that administers the standardized test for business school, 86 percent said strong communication skills were a priority—well ahead of the next skill. (When recruiters were asked in a separate question what changes business schools should make to meet employers' needs, the recruiters overwhelmingly called for something different: practical experience.)
The good news for job applicants is that the working world is starting to provide more training for those who may be grammatically disinclined--or just bad at communication in general. One workforce management consulting group quoted in the article said that they've seen an "increase of 20 to 25 percent in the number of clients investing in career development for employees, including improving their communication skills."

This is not just good for employees looking for their next position but for those people in the jobs they currently have--even if they're not client-facing. Many coworker-to-coworker issues can be improved with better communication skills and sometimes better training is all that is needed to fix that. With more companies willing to invest in that, it will not just make for better employees and better future employees, but a much more cohesive work environment as well

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making the Most of a Multigenerational Workplace

In today’s workforce, there are many angles to diversity. One area of particular interest is the multigenerational gap. Such diversity can be beneficial to organizations, and also challenging for any HR Representative to handle. In this issue of Astronology we examine the topic of multigenerational staffing.

In its section on generation-gap staffing, the Department of Defense website notes, “Just as financial experts tout portfolio diversity as a hedge again economic uncertainty, generational diversity is important to sustain stability and stimulate innovation in a multi-functional workplace.” Any group of employees has its strengths and weakness.  However, some of their concerns will certainly be different.  It is important that all employees feel valued by and included in the organization. These feelings will encourage employees to feel welcomed to share their perspectives, making teamwork easier.

What are the Concerns of the Generations?

Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials. Each of these groups has defining moments that have shaped their views of the world and their values in the workforce. The chart below explains:

Baby Boomers
Generation X
Generation Y
Shared Defining Events in Life
·   Berlin Wall existence
·   JFK, MLK, and RFK Assassinations
·   Watergate
·   Vietnam
·     Falling of the Berlin Wall
·     Challenger Disaster
·     OJ Simpson Trial
·     First Gulf War
·     Terrorism Attacks on American Grounds
·     Global War on Terrorism
·     High School / College Shootings
·     Corporate Scandals

Key Values
·   Fulfillment
·   Indulgence
·   Balance
·   Equality

·     Freedom
·     Reality
·     Self-Reliance
·     Work / Life Balance
·     Diversity
·     Flexibility
·     Empowerment
·     Service-Oriented

Employers should avoid keeping stereotypical views of workers strongly alive in the workplace.  Instead, what do you do to enhance the best in your employees, while keeping in mind the background to each generation? Three simple steps can assist in achieving this goal:

  1. Open Communication: Make employees feel as though their opinions and perspectives truly matter. When change occurs within the organization, make sure all are aware. Encourage employees to communicate with each other in order to bridge the gap between different generations.
  2. Active Interaction between Managers and Employees: Managers should be able to communicate to employees that they view their dedication to work as valuable. Provide different assignments that challenge while maintaining individual interests. For example, Generation Y employees are notoriously known for their quick grasp of technological advances. If your organization is looking to expand or find creative solutions that involve forward moving with technology, why not involve Gen Y employees in team meetings? This will allow them to feel involved in subject matter they may find interesting, while allowing current leaders from other generations to identify where they can possibly nurture the employee. 
  3. Continual Review of Employee Satisfaction: remarked that: “85% of the workforce wants to be provided the opportunity to continually improve and grow. This is not new. The difference today: If employees are not learning and growing, they are leaving.”   So how do you ensure that your employees feel like they are growing and learning? Quite simply…ASK them. Some employers feel the annual review is the perfect time to find out how an employee feels about his / her work achievements and progress. Others find creating an employee survey and conducting it at a separate time from the annual review works best. Still others create an environment where employee engagement is so high that employees feel comfortable speaking up at any point when they feel like they aren’t being challenged enough.

Overall, as long as employees are happy and feel accomplished at work – irrespective of their generation – they will continue to give their best to their organizations.  A multigenerational workforce can bring great success to any organization when employees receive active communication and recognition.  Astronology has a question for you, however.  What challenges do you see in your organization with multigenerational workers? What are you doing to overcome these challenges?  We look forward to hearing your stories and insights!  Please share them with us today!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Lonely Commuter

The office environment seen on television shows people carpooling on their way to work and then working in large office environments with tons of collaboration and teamwork. Unfortunately, that's not totally indicative of how most US companies work, and, most startling, how most commuters get to their place of work. So how are they getting to work? Public Transportation? Biking? Unfortunately, despite attempts to make those more appealing for workers, neither according to the Wall Street Journal: it's commuting, and most of it is solo.
Credit: WSJ
Last year, about 76% of workers 16 years and older drove to work alone—just shy of the all-time peak of 77% in 2005, according to data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Driving alone dipped slightly during the recession, but it has been ticking back up as the economy revives.

Meanwhile, just about every other way of getting to work has either languished or declined.
The one big uptick shown has been in people who work from home. Technology has allowed for more of Americans to be able to do this and despite a few high-profile CEOs objecting, the trend has certainly increased as time has gone along. I was one of these "telecommuters" for the past 10 months, helping to add to the national number of 4.4% of Americans who work solo.

So what does this trend show and what does it mean? Well the solo commuting is really bad for people who are trying to save the environment and solo working is bad for those offices trying to build camaraderie. But the growing trend is that people are living further away from where they work and they need to either go into the office alone or stay at home alone in work. With 45% of Americans not able to access public transportation, the choice isn't always easy. But as telecommuting becomes more popular, the hope is that the commuting alone numbers start to decrease a bit and the office-place doesn't suffer as a result

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