For more than a decade now, I’ve struggled to define what fuels the most sustainably productive work environment — not just on behalf of the large corporate clients we serve, but also for my own employees at The Energy Project. Perhaps nothing I’ve uncovered is as important as trust.
Much as employers understandably hunger for one-size-fits-all policies and practices, what motivates human beings remains stubbornly complex, opaque, and difficult to unravel. Perhaps that’s why I felt so viscerally the shortsightedness and futility of Marissa Mayer’s decision to order Yahoo employees who had been working from home to move back to the office, and Hubert Joly’s to do the same at Best Buy.
Here’s the problem: Employees who want to game the system are going to do so inside or outside the office. Supervising them more closely is costly, enervating, and it’s ultimately a losing game. As for highly motivated employees who’ve been working from home, all they’re likely to feel about being called back to the office is resentful — and more inclined to look for new jobs.
At its heart, the problem for Mayer and Joly is lack of trust. For whatever reasons, they’ve lost trust that their employees can make responsible adult decisions for themselves about how to best get their work done and add value to the company. Distrust begets distrust in return. It kills motivation rather than sparking it. Treat employees like children and you increase the odds they’ll act like children. You reap what you sow — for better and for worse.
As an employer, I stay focused on one primary question about each employee: What is going to free, fuel, and inspire this person to bring the best of him or herself to work every day, most sustainably? My goal is to meet those needs in the best ways I can, without undue expense to others.
In the end, I’m much less concerned with where people do their work than with the value they’re able create wherever they happen to do it. The value exchange here is autonomy (grounded in trust) for accountability.
As CEO, I myself work from home for an hour or two in the mornings most days because it’s quiet and free of distractions. I find it’s the best way for me to get writing and other high-focus activities accomplished, and I know that’s true for many other business leaders.
One of the senior members of our team is a 35-year-old woman with three children under the age of nine. She lives 90 minutes from work. I’d love to have her at our offices every day, because I enjoy being able to interact with her around issues as they arise. I also just like having her around as a colleague.
But to make that possible she’d have to invest three withering hours commuting each day — a huge cost, not just in time, but also in energy, for work and for her family. Demanding that she make that trip every day would only prompt progressive fatigue, resentment, and impaired performance.
Instead, we settled from the start on having her come to the office two days a week, which is when we schedule our key meetings. Those days also provide time for spontaneous brainstorming of ideas across the team.
Another one of our team members, a woman with two teenage kids, travels frequently in her role. When she gets back from trips, she typically works from home the next day — both to recover, and to have more time for her family.
Two of our other staffers — one male and one female — work mostly at the office out of personal preference, but also have young kids and work from home on some days when their kids are on vacation, or get sick.
Two younger, married team members recently requested permission to move to Amsterdam for eight months — for no other reason than they wanted to experience another culture. For a moment, I bridled. But since technology makes it possible for them to do their jobs from anywhere, we were able to make it happen. They agreed to work during our regular office hours, and to visit our office for a week every two months. So far it seems to be working seamlessly.
Every one of these people is highly productive. I do have moments when I find myself wishing all of our team members were in the office more, and even wondering what they’re doing when I haven’t heard from them.
When those feelings arise, I take a deep breath and remind myself that my colleagues are adults, capable of making their own decisions about how best to get their work done, and that all good relationships involve some compromise.
It gets back to trust. Give it, and you get it back. In over a decade, no employee has ever chosen to leave our company. The better you meet people’s needs, the better they’ll meet yours.
– courtesy: http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2013/03/treat-employees-with-trust.html
Don’t despair. It may take some extra effort to land a job after a long period of unemployment, but it is absolutely possible. Here are five Es to guide you:
First and foremost, it is a mistake to hope that employers won’t notice that you are currently out of work. A gap in your LinkedIn profile or your resume is certain to raise a red flag. You need to address it directly.
Depending on the reason for your time away and your personal comfort level, you can either explain the gap at the beginning of your LinkedIn profile Summary or in your InMail correspondence or cover letters to recruiters when you apply for positions. In whichever place you choose to give your explanation, do it quickly, honestly and positively.
Here’s an example if you stopped working because of a layoff:
I am a creative, client-focused public relations professional with deep experience in the financial services industry. Since ABC Public Relations closed its financial services practice in June 2012, I am currently seeking a new opportunity to join a large agency.
Here’s an example if you stopped working for personal reasons, such as childcare:
I am a corporate generalist attorney with substantial in-house legal experience. For the past three years, I have focused on raising my family and I am now eager to commit my substantial energy to a full-time position as an in-house counsel for a small- to medium-sized company.
Next, describe any professional endeavors you have pursued during your time away. This might include volunteer work, part-time work, freelancing, temping or helping out in a family business. When possible, demonstrate how this work is related to your desired career path.
Here’s an example of what the laid-off PR professional might say:
I am currently providing pro bono communications support to three nonprofits, one of which specializes in financial education. In these roles, I have further sharpened my skills in social media strategy and event promotion.
One of the fears an employer might have about a candidate who is not currently working is that his or her skills are outdated. You can counter this fear by showing that you have maintained — or, ideally, increased — your knowledge during your time away.
Be sure to completely fill out the Education, Courses, Skills & Expertise and Certifications sections of your LinkedIn profile. If you are currently enrolled in a class or recently updated a skill or certification, then it’s worth mentioning that directly in your Summary.
For example, in the case of the lawyer returning to work after time off with her family, she might highlight the fact that she recently completed her mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) requirement. The PR executive might include some of his most cutting-edge skills — perhaps some that he developed recently in his volunteer work — in hisSkills & Expertise list and invite his connections to endorse them.
If you know that your skills are rusty or that a mandatory professional certification has expired, don’t wait for a recruiter to notice. Do your best to get up to speed now, and include your current training or skill building in your LinkedIn profile to show that you are being proactive.
It is one thing to promote yourself as a safe bet despite your time away; it is another thing for someone else to say it for you. You can use LinkedIn recommendations andendorsements as strategic tools to address any concerns you believe an employer might have about your particular situation.
In the case of the PR executive, he might worry that an employer thinks he was laid off because he failed in his previous job. To counter this impression, he can request a recommendation from a previous boss, client or colleague to praise his successful results or mention that he survived three previous rounds of layoffs during the depths of the recession.
In the case of the attorney, she might fear that recruiters will assume her skills are rusty, so she can list her most cutting-edge skills in her profile’s Skills & Expertise section, which her contacts can then endorse.
Finally, it is crucial for unemployed job seekers to network extensively. Your best-case scenario occurs when a recruiter or hiring manager meets you or learns about you through a trusted contact before knowing that you have been away from the workforce for an extended period. The more impressed they are by you in real life, the less important the details and length of your unemployment will be.
The new LinkedIn Jobs page will alert you to your LinkedIn connections at companies with current job openings, or you can use Company Pages or Advanced Search to find an “in” with a prospective employer. When you find a friend on the inside, you can ask for their help with a polite and positive message that reads something like this:
I hope you are doing well. As you may know, I was part of the end-of-year layoffs at my previous employer and have been doing freelance PR since then. The freelance work is very interesting and I’ve built some new skills, specifically around social media, but I am eager to return to a fulltime role.
I noticed on LinkedIn that you have a connection at Edelman, whose work I admire greatly. Would you be willing to introduce me to your contact Bob Smith so I might chat with him about potential opportunities at his company? I would be very grateful for your support.
In addition to requesting introductions and referrals on LinkedIn, you’ll also want to ramp up your in-person networking by attending networking events and inviting professional contacts, such as former colleagues or clients, to meet for coffee. Remember, you never know which action might be the one that leads you back into the workforce and onto your next success.