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    Entries in culture (69)

    Monday
    Jun112018

    The weekend company culture test

    NOTE: I am re-running a piece (with a few light edits) from a couple of years ago about company email culture. I was at an event this past Friday where I overheard a few people talking about this very subject - who in their organization was always emailing them throughout the weekend, and how that practice was really getting under their skin. Enjoy!

    I am of (pretty) firm belief you can tell just about everything you need to know about company culture from tracking and analyzing email usage patterns, traffic levels, and response expectations.

    Sure, not all organizations, and certainly not all roles in organizations, are overly reliant on email as their primary communications, collaboration, and general project management tool, but for those that are, and I suspect that would include just about everyone reading this post, your email Inbox is largely a proxy for your 'work' in general.

    Very few initiatives actually get started without first sending an email to someone.

    Progress is communicated and monitored on those tasks in ongoing series of emails.

    Organizational structure and power dynamics are reflected in who you are 'allowed' to email, and who will or will not respond.

    You overall stress level and relative satisfaction with your job can be extrapolated from the point in time condition of your Inbox.

    Finally, you probably leave the office with a warped sense of accomplishment if, at the end of the week, you have successfully triaged all of your incoming messages, sent the necessary replies, and achieved that most elusive of states, so-called 'Inbox Zero'. You pack up shop for the week and head home, (or to Happy Hour).

    And that is when my favorite test of company culture begins, what happened to your Inbox from say, 6:00PM on a Friday up until 6:00AM on Monday. (this is what we used to call the "weekend".)

    As you enjoy whatever it is you enjoy this (past) weekend, think about these few questions:

    Who in your company is (still) sending emails on a Friday night? On Saturday morning? Or on Sunday evening when you are clinging like grim death to your last few precious hours of downtime?

    Who is responding to weekend emails? And no, I am not talking about genuine business or customer emergencies, just 'normal' kinds of things. You know, the kinds of things you worry about on Tuesday.

    Are your management or senior leaders making a habit of tapping away message after message (always "Sent from my iPad") all weekend long while they are ostensibly watching Jr's soccer game?

    Are you checking or at least thinking about checking your work email on Saturday afternoon when, I don't know, you're supposed to have something better to do?

    Finally, when you get one of those weekend emails do you respond? Are you expected to? And if you do are you now "at work?"

    It's odd for the one piece of workplace technology that we all probably use more than any other, that we think about and really try to understand it's usage so little.

    Email is just always there. It is always on. We engage with it constantly.

    But we don't ever think about what it might tell us about the organization, the power dynamics, and most importantly, what it can tell us about the culture of an organization.

    So, were you on email this weekend or were you offline?

    Have a great week.

    Wednesday
    May302018

    Corporate uniforms and what they say about the workplace

    My airline of choice is Delta, the best airline in the world, (or at least that flies out of my home city), and because of my loyalty to Delta I read with interest a recent piece on Business Insider, 'Delta's 64,000 employees now have new designer uniforms', covering the news that soon Delta's uniformed employees would soon be wearing a new set of uniforms designed by Zac Posen. See below for a pic of the new duds:

    They look pretty sharp, right?

    Seeing the pics of the new Delta uniforms got me to thinking about workplace 'uniforms' more broadly - not necessarily for airline staff or retail workers or any kind of business that actually has an official uniform - but rather the kinds of uniforms or perhaps more accurately, how standards of dress come to be adopted in workplaces and industries where people have a wide set of options about how they dress in the workplace.

    And by that, I'm not talking about 'dress codes', that fun HR topic from the 90s, but rather the more subtle, cultural drivers that lead people to dress in certain ways, what 'looks' are accepted and which are not, and how adaptive and flexible workplaces are to fashion trends and evolution. Thinking about this quickly, (and with the caveat that when I'm not on the road, I work from home, so NBA t-shirts are the 'dress code' most days for me, and that I am largely considering this from a male POV), I think what, how, and when people make certain choices about workplace uniforms break down into the following categories:

    We all wear the same five things- Doesn't matter if your workplace is business, business casual, or casual - everyone's work wardrobes revolve around tiny variations of the same five pieces. If it is business, think gray and navy suits, white or blue shirts, brown shoes, etc. If it is business casual, everyone wears the same khakis, gingham or polo shirts, blue blazer if things are a touch more dressy, and brown/tan loafers. Think what an accounting convention looks like - a sea of middle aged dudes in blue jackets and tan or gray pants. Finally, if the office is totally casual - jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies. Stan Smiths or if you are a flush tech company - Yeezys.

    There's a little bit of experimentation, but it helps if the boss signals approval- this kind of workplace is almost the same as the above, but where it differs is how/when new trends are adopted and embraced into the uniforms. A great current example of this is the new'ish trend in men's sneaker fashion - the recent increase in higher-end, expensive, 'dress' sneakers as an alternative to dress shoes in business casual situations and even sometimes worn with a formal suit. The key here is do you as a cog in the machine feel emboldened to be the first person to rock a new trend like this at work, or do you need to spy the CEO wearing a pair of Lanvins before you think it is ok to wear your new pair of Greats to the office?

    Role-based uniforms- pretty straightforward and pretty common. Sales dresses a certain way (what they think will impress prospects), Execs wear nicer, more expensive versions of what Sales wears, back-office staff more or less follows the rules above, and 'technical' folks are left to their own devices - since no one wants to dare offend their delicate sensibilities by trying to place any guidelines or expectations on them. 

    Pretend Steve Jobs- this is more of an individual choice rather than a workplace norm, but it is worth mentioning because some high-powered types like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama became associated with the idea of wearing exactly, or almost the same clothes every single day, as a way to lessen 'decision fatigue.' If you rock the same dad jeans, black turtleneck, and New Balances every day, the thinking goes, you have more mental bandwith for the important things at work. If you have one of these kinds of guys in your workplace, be wary, chances are they are no Steve Jobs, and are just doing the turtleneck thing to make people talk about them.

    No one really cares - probably only really exists in really small organizations, where entire departments consist of one person. If there is only one person in Finance, what he/she wears sets the tone for whoever comes next. And so on across the company. Nothing resembling a uniform code forms in a department until you have at least three people. You need the dynamic of two people being able to sneak off and talk about what the third person is wearing, (behind that person's back) in order for some kind of cultural direction to take form.

    That's it for today, have fun out there in your uniform of choice.

    Note: My pal KD over at the HR Capitalist has promised me an in-depth look at one of the new trends I mentioned above, the 'dress' sneaker, so be on the look out for that.

    Wednesday
    Mar212018

    Introducing the Human Friendly Workplace Podcast

    I'm super excited to share with you the debut episode of the newest podcast on the HR Happy Hour Podcast Network - The Human Friendly Workplace Podcast hosted by employee engagement and workplace culture expert Jason Lauritsen

    On the Human Friendly Workplace Podcast, Jason will speak with HR and business leaders who are actively engaged with making their workplaces better - and more human.

    For Jason's debut episode, he talks with Graham Moody, People and Culture Manager at ansarada, an Australian company that has seen rapid growth, and has had to make sure their unique culture could scale.

    Here are the details for the show - and many thanks and a welcome to Jason - we are thrilled to have you be a part of the HR Happy Hour family.

    The Human Friendly Workplace 1 - Creating a Human Friendly Workplace

    Host: Jason Lauritsen

    Guest: Graham Moody, People and Culture Manager at ansarada

    Listen to the show HERE

    How can understanding employees’ personal values help create a stronger and more self-aware workplace? What does it mean to reevaluate and decide to change your company values, and how can you make sure employees connect with the new values?

    “We believe that values drive behavior and that behavior drives results.” - Graham Moody

    In today’s conversation Jason interviews Graham Moody with ansarada. Ansarada is headquartered in Sydney and has grown rapidly in the last 18 months, reaching nearly 200 employees while simultaneously pivoting its business model. Having strong company and personal values has always been deeply important at ansarada, and the recent changes posed a new challenge to the company culture.

    In the discussion, Moody will discuss how the company preserved the company’s culture during the rapid growth and a business focus shift. Listeners today will also learn why you should create a culture of servant-based leadership and also hear the one piece of advice he would give to managers on creating a human-friendly workplace culture.

    Listen to the show on the show page HERE, on your favorite podcast app, or by using the widget player below:

    Today’s episode is being powered by Small Improvements.

    Small Improvements is a feedback platform that helps employees grow and succeed. From Performance Check-Ins, Goals and 360s, it combines both ongoing and structured feedback to facilitate meaningful development.

    Subscribe to all the HR Happy Hour Podcast Network shows wherever you get your podcasts - just search for 'HR Happy Hour'

    Thursday
    Mar012018

    Learn a new word: Abstinence Violation Effect

    No, it's got nothing to do with THAT, get your minds out of the gutter for a minute.

    I admit to not being familiar with this term until seeing the accounts of the demise of former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo's new venture - an app called Chorus. Chorus was a kind of a social fitness app where groups of friends would sign up/join up together, share their goals for exercise and other healthy behaviors, and remain motivated to keep up with these goals leveraging their friends on the app to keep them going (and accountable).

    The idea for Chorus was that once your fitness goals were social and semi-public, you wouldn't want to let down your team and friends, (and risk some level of open embarrassment), by slacking off, or not keeping your commitments.

    But as it turned out, at least for Chorus users, this wasn't enough to keep users of the app from continuing to engage with their goals and their teams. Once users began to fall behind, maybe due to illness or travel or work or because exercising is a real drag sometimes, they simply stopped checking in on the app altogether. You could say they ghosted their fitness teams. They would not come back to the app once they had felt like they failed, (and everyone else on the team knew).

    Turns out this phenomenon has a name, (who knew?), called the Abstinence Violation Effect which can be described as when people hide from their support group (exercisers, people trying to quit smoking, people who buy too many pairs of sneakers) when when they fail to meet the group's expectations, instead of turning to the social group for help during these periods.

    The Chorus app users who had lapsed in meeting their fitness goals never really came back to the app, and since everyone who has ever tried to stick with an exercise regimen has likely lapsed at one point, the demise of the app was pretty explainable.

    Why bring this up, i.e. why should you care?

    Probably just to serve as a reminder that just having a support group in place and available isn't enough for a person who really needs help - to exercise, to quit a bad habit, to start a better habit, etc. Just being there isn't going to help the person who has really withdrawn.

    Setting smaller, tangible  goals along the way, with regular check-ins and rewards for effort and progress is probably going to give the user, (and the team) a better chance to remain engaged with the overall goals and with each other as a group.

    The support group isn't there to 'help you get healther' it is there to help you walk 5,000 steps this Wednesday, to buy some healthy snacks on Friday, and to go with you while you attend a yoga class on Saturday morning. These kinds of small, incremental, but tangible kinds of things can help both parties remain connected and accountable to each other.

    It is really easy to ghost a support group whose purpose is to 'help you get healthier'.

    It is much harder to pull a no-show at a Yoga class on a Saturday morning when your workout pal is already there at the studio waiting for you.

    Interesting stuff. And in case you were wondering, yes, I have purchased too many pairs of sneakers.

    Have a great day!

    Tuesday
    Feb202018

    Learn a new word: Conway's Law

    Have you ever noticed the tendency for large, complex, and difficult to navigate organizations to create to create large, complex, and difficult to navigate products, services, and policies?

    Alternatively, have you noticed, (I am sure you have), how many startup companies (especially tech companies), who lack size, complexity and bureaucracy in their organizations tend to create much simpler, easy to use and intuitive kinds of products and services? 

    It kind of makes sense, even if we never really consciously thought about the connection between the organization, its size, methods of working, and structure and the outputs of that organization. But it is a phenomenon, in technology certainly, that has been observed for at least 50 years, and it has a name - Conway's Law - today's Word of the Day.

    Mel Conway, a programmer, came up with concept in 1967, and by 1968 it was dubbed his 'law'. What does the law actually say? From Mr. Conway's website:

    Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.

    Later, the Law was expanded to encompass not just the idea that an organization's communication structure would influence (and mirror) the systems that the organization produces, but the broad 'culture' of the organization has a significant impact on its products and services.

    Think of a corporate website, which often has separate sections of information that copies the internal organizational makeup, not necessarily aligned and architected with how site visitors want to consume information. Or an enterprise technology product that offers complex and lengthy workflows for transaction entry, routing, and approval that tends to reflect the creating organization's own internal processes and hierarchies that do not always reflect what their customers want.

    These kinds of examples show Conway's Law in effect - the way the fundamental elements of how an organization operates internally show up in the products they build, the services they offer, and more broadly, how they 'see' the relationship between themselves and their customers, shareholders, and community.

    I have written in a few places that when making decisions around HR and other enterprise technologies that HR and business leaders should evaluate the culture and vision of any potential technology provider just as closely, (if not more closely), than they evaluate the capability and functionality of a particular piece of software.

    Capability and functionality can change over time, and in mature markets tends to run together amongst established providers. But organization culture changes much more slowly, if ever, and no matter what new elements of functionality are introduced to the solution, the essential nature of the provider (and the priduct too), is likely to be pretty well entrenched.

    Have a great day!