Is your company noble, moral, virtuous or ethical

15 03 2007

The terms noble, virtuous, ethical or moral seem out of date.

In fact they seem to be words right out of a fairy tale.   Words and  concepts that have faded away with the modern world and it’s complexity.

Perhaps it’s not cool to be labeled as virtuous, moral or ethical.

Is it because we live in a complicated world that has us making more decisions about the “gray areas”?

We don’t read about organizations being ethical or noble.   In fact we hear about unethical companies and employees much more often.

Business magazines doesn’t write front page articles about virtuous executives and CEO’s (I hope this is because it’s not popular and not because there aren’t any).

Are there any reasons to promote and reinforce these values in your organization?

Are there good reasons to avoid discussion of them?

Perhaps the fact that unethical behaviour is reported, and considered scandalous, is a clear signal that it is outside of “normal” business conditions and draws attention.

Let’s begin with definitions, that should clear up some of the confusion.

Moral – Conforming to a standard of what is right and wrong, correct, trustworthy.  How could anyone want to work with others who don’t know right from wrong and behave?

Ethical – Principles of conduct governing an individual or group, a set of moral values, a guiding philosophy, decent, respectable.   OK, this one sounds like it should be part of the package too.

Noble – Moral eminence and freedom from anything mean, petty or dubious in conduct and character.  In simple terms doing the “right thing” all the time, excellence.  If it looks bad, don’t do it…pretty good advice and words to live by.

Virtuous – Implies moral excellence in character.   Not only knows good from bad, and adheres to it, but is exemplary in their behaviour and practice of their beliefs, honest, good, without reproach.  I can’t find any customer, shareholder or employee who wouldn’t want their company to be virtuous.

Which of the terms can your company live without in their employees?

Are any of these characteristics that should be found and promoted in your management and leadership?

Which of these concepts and behaviours are important to you, your customers and your organization now and in the future?

Do you have a written policy in place to promote, identify, and create noble employees and a virtuous organization?

Do you point out and recognize when a person or organization has done something noble, virtuous or ethical?

Related Links

Corruption, bribes, mordidas and tips – Doing business in Mexico 

Where do you draw the line 

The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

Advertisements




The future of our entry level workforce – gloomy

19 10 2006

Will our future entry level workforce be competitive and competent?

Are we ready to build a nation full of entrepreneurs and world class workers?

I highly recommend you read the study published by the The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, entitled:

Are They Really Ready To Work? Employers’ Perspectives on the Basic Knowledge and Applied Skills of New Entrants to the 21st Century U.S. Workforce”

According to this study of 431 companies in the US, representing over 2 million employees in a variety of industries and geographic areas, the future is bleak.

“The future U.S. workforce is here—and it is woefully ill-prepared for the demands of today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.”

The basic skills and knowledge identified and considered to be very important elements for future employees include:

  • English Language (spoken)
  • Government/Economics
  • Reading Comprehension (in English)
  • Humanities/Arts
  • Writing in English (grammar, spelling, etc.)
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics History/Geography
  • Science

The applied skills, which are increasing in importance as criteria for success in the future:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving—Exercise sound reasoning and analytical thinking; use knowledge, facts, and data to solve workplace problems; apply math and science concepts to problem solving.
  • Oral Communications—Articulate thoughts, ideas clearly and effectively; have public speaking skills.
  • Written Communications—Write memos, letters and complex technical reports clearly and effectively.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration—Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers; be able to work with diverse teams, negotiate and manage conflicts.
  • Diversity—Learn from and work collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints.
  • Information Technology Application—Select and use appropriate technology to accomplish a given task, apply computing skills to problem-solving.
  • Leadership—Leverage the strengths of others to achieve common goals; use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others.
  • Creativity/Innovation—Demonstrate originality and inventiveness in work; communicate new ideas to others; integrate knowledge across different disciplines.
  • Lifelong Learning/Self Direction—Be able to continuously acquire new knowledge and skills; monitor one’s own learning needs; be able to learn from one’s mistakes.
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic—Demonstrate personal accountability, effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, and time and workload management.
  • Ethics/Social Responsibility—Demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior; act responsibly with the interests of the larger community in mind.

Excepts from the study:”Business leaders must take an active role in outlining the kinds of skills we need from our employees for our companies and economy to thrive.”

“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people.
Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify
new and creative solutions.”

We assume that our schools are producing graduates with fundamental business abilities, why isn’t it happening?

Are we going to accept that the training of the future workforce is in the hands of private business, and not the educational system?

What is the cost to business when new employees must be given remedial training, just to get them up to entry level?

What is your organization doing right now to ensure, or create talent for the future?

Read the study, pass it around the office and makes sure the boss and human resource people get copies.

This is no longer someone elses’s problem.

“ The numbers don’t bode well for the future—the future of our workforce. It is in our interest to help solve the problem. And business has the capacity to help solve the problem by partnering with education and community leaders to create opportunities for young people to practice the skills they need to be successful.” – Bill Shore, Director, U.S. Community Partners, GlaxoSmithKline

Related Links

The Conference Board: Are they really ready for work?

Are they really ready to work (PDF)

Most young people entering the US workforce lack critical skills essential for success

Young Workforce is “Ill-Prepared”





An alternative to the traditional hiring process

13 09 2006

I bumped into this cool idea about hiring at The Chief Happiness Officer.

It’s an innovative strategy and procedure for hiring that seems to have worked for Menlo Innovations.  They call it Extreme Interviewing.

I really like the fact that they use the exisiting team in the process, the personality of the candidate is an important factor in the evaluation, and the focus is on increasing output, not just filling a position.

The hiring process is intensive (up to 50 applicants a week) and involves the entire organization.  It becomes an important internal event, provokes communication and idea exchange and has clearly defined objectives.

The entire company is involved and committed to making the new employees a part of the team as quickly as possible.  No wonder it’s successful.

Related Links 

The coolest way ever to hire developers:  Extreme Interviewing 

Re-inventing the job interview





Re-inventing the job interview

6 09 2006

I’ve been monitoring with great interest the idea and reactions to Seth Godin’s post The end of the job interview. He questions our current job interview process and proposes an interesting alternative.

Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at our hiring and interview processes. Are they serving our needs and requirements or creating future problems?

Reinventing the job interview and hiring process makes perfect sense when we reflect that it was developed for a 20th century workforce that consisted primarily of manufacturing laborers.

The 21st century, brings an abundance of knowledge workers and forces us to ask what is the best method to determine if they are right for our organization. The interview and process required in order to understand the potential employees abilities are very different for knowledge workers.

The top leadership and management jobs in our companies have always been filled by candidates that have come with recommendations from other companies or executive networks. This provides a certain level of security that they had the skills in the old job, but no guarantee they will succeed in your organization and corporate culture in the future.

We are already seeing a shift in how we hire and select candidates. The use of networking and on-line social networks are allowing job seekers and employers access to individuals (at all levels of the company) who come with a certain degree of “recommendation”.

Dr. Ellen Weber has added her opinion to Seth’s ideas at Brain Based Business. Her piece Seth wants to bury job interviews for his own alternatives adds scientific and psychological perspectives as to why or why the concepts might just work.

David Maister lends his voice to the discussion with a resounding “I’m of the belief that the overwhelming majority of recruiting interviewing is a complete waste of time. In Screening for Character he argues that we should be hiring attitude and character, and our goal in the hiring process is to identify these traits. But there is a catch. We are not trained to do this. He suggests that candidate recommendations from others that we respect and trust are our current best method to assure “success” in the hiring process.

It’s a profound, extensive and obviously well known dilemma in our society and organizations. We know exactly what’s broke and not working well.

Now, who knows how to fix it?





10 Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

24 08 2006

To complement my list of 10 things you should do on a Friday afternoon (Link), here are some of the activities that should be avoided on Friday afternoons.

Things you should never do on a Friday afternoon

  1. Initiate a major project
  2. Schedule any type of meeting or seminar with customers or employees
  3. Give an employee review
  4. Make important strategic business decisions
  5. Ask people to work extra hours
  6. Give bad news to the office, your team or co-workers
  7. Raise your rates or product prices
  8. Obsess about or relive any failures that occurred during the week
  9. Go out for a 3 martini lunch and come back to the office complaining
  10. Give the boss an ultimatum or try and force a decision

Related Link

10 things you should do on Friday afternoon





What does it mean when you don’t like the boss

8 08 2006

One of the major reasons given by people who desire to open their own businesses is that they want to be free of working for a boss.  It’s a bit naive to think that by trading corporate life for entrepreneurship you will avoid working for a boss.  There is always someone monitoring your performance and work.

In the corporate world a boss is there to monitor your performance, organize and criticize your work, support and provide resources or strategy, and maintain work harmony between team members.  Conflicts with the boss can be broadly divided into two major groups; personal conflicts and professional conflicts.

Personal conflicts are those related to situations driven by differences in personality, jealousies, sexual harassment, race or religious differences, and insecurities of the participants.

Professional conflicts are those directly related to the work and final work output; lack of skills or ability, ethical issues, theft, absenteeism, addictions, failure to do quality work, failure to do the work on time.

If your reasons for leaving the corporate world are heavily weighted toward a history of personal conflicts with the boss, what does that mean?  Are you a problem?  Is your personality one that provokes or seeks conflicts?  If there is a pattern here?  Some strong introspection is required before you break out and open your own business.

If professional conflicts are foremost on your list, be careful.  These are signs that you and your work abilities may be at fault and not the boss.

If the history of problems with the boss can be summarized as strategic, control, or decision-making conflicts, then I think you may be correct in seeking to run your own show.

Entrepreneurs love to say they are free and work for themselves.  In a sense they are correct, they are 100% responsible for their success or failure, and this is exhilarating and does make one feel free.  But they are now “working” for the customer, the bank or lender, the employees, and their suppliers.

Sure these are different relationships from the traditional boss-employee structure we are familiar with, but still difficult to develop and maintain, as are all human and commerical relationships.  Failure to maintain them will result in a loss of income or increased costs, and ultimately business collapse.

It’s not easy to work without a “structure” and a boss for the new entrepreneur.  It’s not impossible, but does require a set of different individual skills, great motivation and organizational abilities.  If you are invigorated by strategy, decision-making, and taking responsibility, entrepreneurship may be a good decision.





Is hard work important, is it still valid?

28 07 2006

Working hard…paying your dues…are these concepts still important and valid in today’s information economy and jobs?

What characteristics do you think of when someone says “she’s a hard worker”?

Is being a “hard worker” a positive or negative trait, something you aspire to?

In the US, the Puritan work ethic still provides a model of how we should work to many people. The Puritans believed that hard work was morally important, physically demanding, difficult or exhausting, required sacrifice and discipline, long hours, and usually referred to physical labor (the dominant labor required at that time). If an activity was pleasant the Puritans were pretty much against it.

Perhaps a better definition of hard work, taking into account the new information economy, is better related to; preparation and research, creating and using your information networks, taking the initiative, follow-through and closure, discipline, focus, efficiency, finding and communicating the solution in a timely manner.

Perhaps hard work is no longer a valid term or concept to apply to information workers.

The time required to do our work has, and is changing. When our principal job was agriculture, long hours were required to plant and harvest. Long hours are no longer required in order to say that someone is working hard in an office, or are they?

As long are workers are hired for an 8 hour day and 40 hour week, employers want to see their employees at their posts, ….doing something. So for many companies working hard still means being in the office for many hours, and extra hours represents hard work.

Long hours in the office could be the result of; research and investigation (good for all), inability to finish your work during the prescribed time (inefficient or fearful employee or workload is too heavy, bad for all), enthusiasm and desire to do more than the norm (good for company and possibly for employee advancement).

“Paying your dues” and sacrifice are also part of our definition of hard work. Paying your dues is part of the initiation into an organization, industry or group. It’s a sacrifice (usually related to long hours) that is part of, or required for, that specific culture. A new employee in many companies might be expected to work extra hours and make personal sacrifices to show they are working hard and paying their dues, trying to become part of the corporate culture.

There is a trade-off for employees between their personal life and business life. In order to succeed and advance in business working in a corporate culture, you must be promoted. To get promoted you have to been seen as possessing profitable skills and be a hard worker and willing to make sacrifices for the good of the company. As our culture becomes more competitive, we are faced with more people willing to work more hours and make more sacrifices, reducing our time with family and friends.

This debate regarding work-life balance is gaining momentum in the US. Workers are evaluating what role work should play in their lives and how many hours they should dedicate to working, and where and who they should “give” their time to.

Our definition of work is changing and evolving, and with it our definition of hard work is also being modified.

At what point do our evaluation and compensation systems take into account new elements that reflect the new realities and definitions of work in the 21st century?