Most people would agree that pace of change is accelerating. Some would even say the pace of change has hastened to an alarming rate. News travels seemingly at the speed of light. Social media has accelerated the pace at which news hits and spreads virally across the globe. Software updates are being issued even before the kinks are worked out of the previous version. The next generation of smart phones is released scarcely before we’ve had a chance to even crack the glass on the previous device. Transportation is also getting faster with high-speed trains and supersonic jets revolutionized the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Medical advances are also being discovered more rapidly. Seemingly daily, innovations in medicines, devices and therapies are being introduced that combat the most devastating illnesses. And fashion no longer adjusts according to the seasons. New styles are popping up in magazines, programs and window displays every week. As soon as one trend gains traction, another look emerges pushing the previous one into design history.
Indeed, the lightning-fast speed of change is redefining concepts such as old, historical, dated and passé. There isn’t even time to get comfortable and used to something before it is outmoded and updated. In some ways, this is a good thing. After all, who can argue against advances in medicine? But, for businesses, it is difficult to keep up with such a relentless pace of change. As things change, people’s skills must be updated so that they stay current and fresh. Technology must be updated. Systems must be replaced. So how can businesses and employees keep up with the ruthless onslaught of change that seems to make something obsolete even before there is time to learn and adjust to it?
Attention employers everywhere (that means any organization that has people in any department, any profession, and at any level providing a service to others): What comes to mind when you think about customer service? Patience. Attentiveness. Knowledge. Positive attitude. Cheerfulness. Speed. Accuracy. Intuition. Composure. Flexibility. Yes, these soft skills are important in delivering good customer service. But they don’t top the list of the most critical customer service skills. Whether it is in working with patients, clients or customers, the most successful people are those who consistently provide clear and complete communication, are genuinely compassionate, and demonstrate real kindness. Being ‘likeable’ is also important. That’s right: Communication. Compassion. Kindness. Likeability.
Yet, these skills or qualities aren’t taught in vocational programs, colleges or universities. Why? While customer service is considered somewhat important, it really isn’t valued as highly as hard skills at most organizations. Certainly, a world-renowned cardio-vascular surgeon is valued more for his deep knowledge and ability to perform cutting-edge surgeries with precision rather than his charm, gift of gab or bedside manner. His hard skills are why he is paid ‘the big bucks’. However, studies are finding a critical connection between great customer service and profitability in many occupations; even more important than hard skills. In fact, in some occupations, good communication, compassion, likeability and kindness is the difference between a thriving business and one that is drowning in expenses, lawsuits and complaints. If the name of the game in business is to make money, then employers need to hire nice, friendly, caring and communicative employees in order to enhance the business’ bottom line. The good news is that these skills can be taught!
When a company owner or someone in a position of power hires and promotes family members for choice jobs, it is called nepotism. This type of favoritism is widespread and reluctantly accepted as the perks of those in positions of power. But there is another form of favoritism that is also widespread: cronyism. However, cronyism is highly resented by employees and is often forbidden by employers. Cronyism is providing friends and associates with jobs, positions of authority and special opportunities without regard to their qualifications and merit. It really is a lot like nepotism, but for those who aren’t family members, just friends of those in power. Unlike nepotism which is typically handled out in the open (ie father passes the helm to the son), cronyism is often handled covertly, probably because it is such a huge bone of contention.
Indeed, a lot of subterfuge is expended disguising acts of cronyism. But the subterfuge is pointless. A 2011 survey by the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University found that 92% of senior business executives had seen blatant favoritism influence the filling of a job position. Of those, 84% said they had seen it at their own company. So no one is being fooled by the attempt to hide the practice. The question is whether cronyism is really bad for business. If so, why do business people – who are supposedly focused on the company’s success — persist in the practice?
Nepotism can be found in practically every industry in the world, even in the highly competitive fields of construction, real estate and finance. Billionaire real estate tycoon Donald Trump has always given his adult children special employment opportunities. His son, Donald, Jr., age 35, is Executive Vice President of the privately-held Trump Organization. His daughter, Ivanka, age 31, also works in her father’s organization. His son Eric, age 29, is Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions. It is doubtful that even the most exceptionally brilliant, well-educated and hard-working 29-year-old could land an EVP position at a billion dollar organization unless he was related to the owner. In fact, Trump’s children openly admit that nepotism got them in the door, but also assert they’ve had to pull their weight after landing the job.
If nepotism is that widespread and prevalent in businesses big and small, it stands to reason that there must be some benefits to nepotism. Certainly, it could be argued that the children of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are likely to have attended the finest schools and have a keener understanding of the family business than any outsider. Yet, many human resource experts have come to regard nepotism as ultimately damaging to business. That is because it often interferes with a company’s operations and possibly creates an environment that is demoralizing to employees. Even though widespread, nepotism as a strategy to fill the best jobs has some serious drawbacks.