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What Does It Say When Companies Take A Joke Diversity Website Seriously?

When Arwa Mahdawi attended the Stupid Hackathon for stupid ideas, she thought she had a hilarious one: a Rent-A-Minority website that spoofed the diversity tokenism rampant in the media and tech industries. It was a funny idea, but also…after 91,000 clicks, a Mahdawi realized her fictional service was being taken seriously as an option by companies seeking to increase diversity in their workforces.

Diversity’s become something all businesses want these days — or feel legally obligated to have, anyway — having been linked statistically to retention, innovation, and productivity. “I created the site because I felt frustrated with the surface-level manner in which diversity issues are often dealt with,” Mahdawi told the Mail&Guardian.

Mahdawi may have wondered at first if her comedy was too broad. It has a hilarious tagline of “Get Ethics with Our Ethnics,” and an opening spiel that starts off:

“Rent-A-Minority is a revolutionary new service designed for those oh-[expletive] moments where you’ve realized your award show, corporate brochure, conference panel is entirely composed of white men. For, like, the fifth year in a row.”

And yet, companies actually thought the site was a legitimate staffing resource. Never mind that it offers to provide minority staff like Cheerful Woman of Color who won’t make you uncomfortable by being “an angry black woman.” There’s also Smiling Muslim Woman, “certified not to support ISIS (or your money back)” and Intellectual Black Guy to “stand next to you while you say racist things at parties.” It’s all pretty hilarious.

According to Haley McEwen, research co-ordinator at the Wits Centre of Diversity Studies (Wits is a real school and not part of the joke in case you’re wondering), companies may be in search of a pre-packaged diversification solution if management doesn’t see itself as having anything to contribute to diversification, or if they’re really only interested in diversifying to avoid a fine.

Rent-A-Minority is not that pre-packaged solution.

Naomi Thalenberg

Naomi is a reporter for TINYpulse, living and breathing everything employee engagement. She does this by always keeping her workstation fully stocked with dark chocolates.

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Manufacturing and Production Companies Step Up for Their Employees

Great Place to Work has just released its list of the Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production, and today’s employee experience  in these industries is miles apart from how many of us picture it. We may think of how it used to be. It’s apparently pretty great in 2016.

The top-rated company is Hilcorp, which garnered a 96% approval rating from 1,108 employees. (Curiously, the #2 company, Tactical Electronics, had a 100% ranking.) Hilcorp had plenty of competition, with the top 11 companies all having ratings of 90% or higher. The survey questioned 34,900 randomly selected employees at companies in the manufacturing and production sector.

As CEO of Great Place to Work Michael Bush told HRE Daily, “The best workplaces in the industry know they can’t just churn out their products with warm bodies. They need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent by putting people first, in a high-trust culture.“ Forget about the old image of factory workers laboring tirelessly and never getting ahead. Hilcorp, for example, awarded each of their employees $100,000 (based on their hire date) after the company met a five-year goal.

Hilcorp is the largest privately held oil, natural gas, electric and power company in the U.S., headquartered in Houston, Texas, with offices in Maurice, Louisiana, North Slope and Anchorage, Alaska, and Refugio, Texas. They have 1,400 employees. Here are four things the company does to keep its workers so engaged:

Buy-In Incentive Plan — Full-time Hilcorp employees can participate financially in company projects, allowing them to build wealth over time.

Bonus Program — An employee’s yearly bonus is tied to company goals, and bonus payout percentages are the same for everyone. During the past five years, employees bonuses have averaged 36% of base pay.

The Hilcorp Giving Program — The company offers to establish a $2,500 charitable trust that allows employees to support any U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization, and helps employees give by providing ongoing matching gifts of up to $2,000 a year.

Mega Plans, or “BHAG’s” — A BHAG is a ”Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” and every five years Hilcorp sets one. It’s a stretch goal with outsized rewards. The most recent, for example, sought to double the company’s rate, reserve, and value by 2015. (This was the $100,000 employee reward mentioned above.)

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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What to Do About ROAD Warriors In Your Office

We’re not talking Mad Max here, or Furiosa. The ROAD warrior we’re talking about here is a R.O.A.D. warrior, with the initials standing for “Retired On Active Duty.” This is the employee whose motto would be “Just in it for the paycheck.” This type of worker may technically be doing his or her job, but only by exerting as little effort as possible. Excellence is totally out of the question. If they do something well, fine. If they don’t, just as fine as far as they’re concerned. One ROAD warrior is a concern; when you have multiple ROAD warriors, your office culture has a serious problem. These people act as motivational black holes, taking zero initiative, and setting an utterly dispiriting example for coworkers with whom they’re not likely to connect anyway.

Jason Forrest, writing for Builder, says companies needs to fix a ROAD warrior problem, one way or another. He says, “I believe wholeheartedly that with enough coaching from their leaders, everyone will either be coached up or coached out. You don’t have to go around firing everyone.” He sees two things that should be done.

Forrest believes the ROAD warrior’s direct supervisor is the key to revitalizing the employee’s interest in the job. “People don’t quit on companies so much as they quit on managers,” says Forrest. A manager needs to invests enough time in developing a stronger relationship with a ROAD warrior to create a feeling of being cared about, supported, and empowered. This can, in turn, stimulate the ROAD warrior’s personal loyalty to the supervisor and thus a desire to excel.

Second, Forrest points out that the best employees feel a sense of camaraderie with their coworkers, and a ROAD warrior’s relationships need to be strengthened. He suggests team-building efforts that have the ROAD warrior needing to collaborate with others to accomplish an achievable goal — this gets the coworkers to work together, learn to depend on each other, and then cement their bond with a feel-good success.

If it all goes well, your ROAD warriors may find unexpected satisfaction in their jobs, and be great for the company. If it doesn’t, since no one really wants to be a ROAD warrior, the employee will probably wind up hitting the, um…well, you know.

Naomi Thalenberg

Naomi is a reporter for TINYpulse, living and breathing everything employee engagement. She does this by always keeping her workstation fully stocked with dark chocolates.

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Constituency Statues Protect Companies’ Ability to Innovate and Thrive

In this world of incredible pressures to produce short-term profits, business leaders can become understandably skittish about taking a longer view that encourages both innovation and their company’s long-term health. With anxious stockholders demanding one dazzling quarterly report after another, and with the constant threat of hostile takeovers, it’s hard to devote the time and patience required to develop new products and services. To remedy this, 34 states in the U.S. have enacted little-known “constituency statutes.”

A constituency statute is a state law that offers companies that legal right to consider stakeholders other than their stockholders, in particular employees and the community within which a company resides. Aleksandra Kacperczyk of MIT recently released a study that examines whether these laws, which first started appearing in the 1980s, actually work. Spoiler alert: They do.

Kacperczyk used patent records as a concrete way of measuring how constituency statutes protect and encourage innovation, more and more a top priority for business. But there’s a difficult “trade-off that you face between short-term profits and the long-term view, in that innovation takes longer to develop,“ as Kacperczyk puts it.

The report — co-authored with Caroline Flammer, assistant professor at the Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario — found that in states with constituency statutes, the average patent rate rose by at least 6.4 percent. And, ”There were not only more patents, but they were more original and influential,” says Kacperczyk, with the number of citations — other companies incorporating innovations they contain — increasing by 6.3 percent, according to the study.

Constituency statutes were initially designed to protect local communities from losing their businesses due to hostile takeovers by stockholders impatient for profits. According to Kacperczyk, “Hostile takeovers can be detrimental to workers and communities, so they really needed this. This is precisely when the interests of shareholders are being pitted against the interests of stakeholders. You need the stakeholder supremacy model to protect the interests of stakeholders.” The first state to adopt a constituency statute was Ohio in 1984, while Texas was the most recent to do so.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Something About Boomerang Employees Is in the Air

“Boomerang employees” are people who’ve left a company to work somewhere else and have now returned. The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and WorkplaceTrends.com have recently completed a study of boomerangs and have discovered, among other things, that 40% of workers would consider returning to a former employer. And 15% already have. Why not? Maybe they left for some upward mobility that they’ve now achieved.

The study surveyed over 1,800 HR professionals, and among the top findings are these:

  • While nearly half of the HR people surveyed said their companies previously had policies discouraging returners, 76% said they have a more favorable view of the idea now.
  • Boomerangs now pose a serious threat to other job applicants. 85% of HR people say they’ve received applications from ex-employees, and 40% say they hired about half of them.
  • A boomerang’s familiarity with a company’s culture obviously make training and integration easier than it would be with someone new. (Some HR people do have concerns that boomerangs may return with a stigma for having left, or with old company baggage.)

It’s hard to know what one’s professional future holds. Here are U.S. News Money’s suggestions for some things you can do to boomerang successfully.

  1. Leave on good, friendly terms: When you leave, don’t quit via text and give the company a full two-weeks’ notice. It’s also a good idea to send thank-you notes to your boss and coworkers.
  2. Make sure your performance reviews shine: When you return, it’s likely your reviews will get a fresh look as the company considers bringing you back. At least make sure you’ve corrected any inaccuracies in recent reviews.
  3. Stay in touch with friends at the company after you leave: Do what you can to remain part of the company’s “family.” Pay attention to things going on there via your friends’ social media updates.
  4. Leverage your knowledge of the company’s mission when they ask why you want a new job: You already know what the company’s story is. Bonus points for letting them know you’ve stayed in the loop on current company events (which you can do via continuing friendships with coworkers).

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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Netflix Has One of the Most Acclaimed Company Cultures. Patty McCord Created It.

It’s hard to overstate the central role Netflix plays in modern American life. As a fast and efficient DVD delivery service, it was among the most buzzed-about new businesses. And though there’s been at least one well-publicized misstep along the way, it’s now the world’s largest subscription streaming service, with original shows that are 2016’s Must-See TV.

A key element to Netflix’s explosive growth is believed to be its culture, a brilliant set of principles established by the company’s chief talent officer at the time, Patty McCord. (McCord is now an independent consultant.) It’s codified in a remarkable slide deck that’s been shared 13 million times on Slideshare. It’s a great read — you can see it for yourself below.

The deck grew out of an experience McCord and co-founder Reed Hastings had at a previous company. “We didn’t like how that company was when we left,” McCord recently told Fast Company. Instead of inventing their own collection of vague human virtues as values the company was supposed to care about, McCord and Hastings deliberately ignored other companies’ culture statements and got serious about what they themselves really considered important, and what they expected from employees. Throughout the years-long development of the culture statement, McCord deliberately ignored the outside world to concentrate on Netflix’s specific goals.

What they wound up with is a culture designed to work for “fully-formed adults,” to use McCord’s words. “I had had it with the baby attitude. No, you don’t get to whine about your T-shirt, you’re 40 years old. And you have a mortgage and family and car. And I’m supposed to tell you the policy on how much money is wise to spend in your department? That’s just stupid.”

Here’s the Netflix culture deck:

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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When Superstar Employees Don’t Get Along with Everyone Else

Mega-star employees come along every now and then. It’s great to have employees who over-perform. Unfortunately, though, sometimes the winning chemistry such a person enjoys with customers doesn’t extend to coworkers. In cases like this, an outstanding employee — while being an excellent source of income — can actually be toxic to the company.

HC Online spoke to HR expert Steve Rowe about how to deal with an employee like this. According to Rowe, “These people are often performing really well, but smashing everyone else in the process.” The trick is opening a dialog between management and the employee that doesn’t make things worse.

The first thing that’s needed is the buy-in of management that needs to be convinced that the long-term damage to company morale is at least as important as the results the employee is producing.

Next, the superstar has to be made aware of what they’re doing, and this is delicate. While the company wants to correct the problematic behavior, it doesn’t want to negatively affect their performance, or worse, cause an important asset to quit.

Rowe suggests a few strategies to try, beginning with a simple, honest conversation with the employee, where they are made aware of the problem. If that doesn’t produce results, another, less-diplomatic option is to assess a financial penalty for interacting badly with others.

Maybe the best solution is to make behavior an element of performance reviews. If what’s expected of all employees is made clear and concise on a company-wide basis, it’s easier to reward constructive behavior and manage issues as they come up.

Even when a company finds the problem can’t be solved overnight, both the value of the superstar employee and the importance of maintaining a positive work environment make taking the time to get it right more than worthwhile.

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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How a Changing Culture at Microsoft Is Changing Everything

Microsoft’s Windows Operating System and Office software was so successful — running on a staggering majority of the world’s computers — that the company’s corporate culture became one of preserving past successes rather than going out to seek new ones. And then world domination began to slip away and layoffs ensued. This culture of protection over innovation was central to the reign of former CEO and cofounder William Balmer until he was replaced by Satya Nadella in July 2014. The story of changes within Microsoft’s culture since then is more than a fascinating look inside one company: It demonstrates the critical importance of culture, and how simple shifts in perspective can change everything.

Windows Central interviewed three key figures at Microsoft 2016, asking them how they think things have changed: Chris Prately, Mike Tholfsen, and Chris Yu. All are MS executives. Prately’s been with Microsoft 21 years.

Microsoft is fond of buzzword-type campaign names — like Ballmer’s One Microsoft or Nadella’s Bold Ambition & Our Core — and the three execs see the dominant themes these days as being Customer Obsession, One Microsoft, and the Growth Mindset.

“Customer Obsession” means something especially profound at Microsoft, which for years pushed features designed to appeal to IT departments and buyers purchasing Microsoft products for companies. Now it’s all about the people who use the software.

“One Microsoft” means “we’re all in this together” so departments aren’t competing any more so much as collaborating. Anyone needing help from another department now just has to ask. “Sounds simple, but it wasn’t always,” says Prately.

Maybe the most exciting change is a switch to a “Growth Mindset.” This a fundamental shift from a cautious, defensive crouch to more of an anything-goes creative atmosphere to own the future. Partly says, “The support at all levels for trying things that might not work is tremendous. Such a focus on quick experimentation vs. polishing a first iteration to perfection, favoring action vs discussion, willingness to seek data vs. opinion.” The effect, they suggest, is absolutely freeing and exciting, and employees are thriving in this newly creative atmosphere.

Where Microsoft ends up in the long run is, of course, still unknown. But it’s safe to say that people working in Redmond are now having a great time getting there, thanks to a newly invigorated corporate culture.

Naomi Thalenberg

Naomi is a reporter for TINYpulse, living and breathing everything employee engagement. She does this by always keeping her workstation fully stocked with dark chocolates.

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Companies Reach Beyond Technophobia

The second-most popular, in fact, over-booked, event at the recent Davos World Economic Forum — second only to actor Kevin Spacey’s appearance — was the panel on digital transformation. The topic discussed was companies’ frantic struggles to do more than just keep up with new technologies. With the recognition that new tools enable new opportunities and ways to conduct business, companies feel like they’re under tremendous pressure to achieve mastery of them quickly and constantly. Many on the panel felt that company cultures actually presented the biggest roadblocks to fully embracing technology’s potential, not the tech itself.

The value of office cultures evolving is echoed in a new report from Accenture’s People First: The Primacy of People in the Digital Age. Its overriding conclusion is that a company needs to incorporate emerging technologies in more than just their customer-facing activities — these tools need to become part of the everyday work experience to become such a part of the way employees think that they lead to creative imagining of new products, methods, and even markets. Companies have to resist the trap of thinking business is now all about tech; it’s really all about how people utilize it.

The report cites examples of how some companies have dived in and found ways to use technology to improve their businesses. Virgin Airlines, for example, has experimented with in-flight social networks, an intriguing way to create a sense of a community and a sense of ownership, among passengers. The company also picked up two new gates at Dallas Love Field by getting 30,000 frequent flyers to sign a Change.org petition requesting the gates. Zappos’ intense focus on their customers has led them to clever data mining that lets them identify the customers they care most about and target them with ads more effectively.

The Accenture report also identifies some major trends and suggests some people-centric strategies to help companies go beyond just coping with them.

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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The Surprising Cost of Toxic Employees

The_Surprising_Cost_of_Toxic_Employees_1We’ve all experienced toxic players in our organizational culture. Whether those toxic people are leaders or team members, their self-serving behaviors erode trust, respect, and dignity in every interaction.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris is the author of the Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine, Leading At a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard, and five other books. Chris's blog, podcasts, research, and videos can be found at Driving Results Through Culture. Thousands of followers enjoy his daily quotes on organizational culture, servant leadership, and workplace inspiration on Twitter.

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