Monday Mornings with Madison

Yearly Archives:
2016

Impossible…. An Apostrophe Away from “I’m Possible”

Arguably, no word in the English language is more daunting and discouraging than I-M-P-O-S-S-B-L-E. It is like a giant flashing red stop sign that halts impetus in its tracks. It drains energy from any endeavor. It is just a really long word that means N-O. No, it cannot be done. No, it is not achievable. No, it is not realistic. It is the favorite word of skeptics, naysayers and negative ninnies. It renders requests as unreasonable and ideas as ridiculous. Impossible is the destroyer of potential, promises and prospects. As the word says so clearly, impossible is the slayer of possibilities.
And yet, the history of the world is littered with the multitude of things that were once thought “impossible.” Flying machines, now known as airplanes… a $706 Billion Dollar industry. Motorized carriages without horses, now referred to as cars…. A $1.2 Trillion Dollar industry. Devices that let you talk to a person on the other side of the world; the ubiquitous telephone… also a $1.2 Trillion dollar industry. Walking on the moon, which now seems quaint and dull. Image-capturing mechanisms, better known as the camera. Portable music players; first the Walkman and then CD player. And more recent impossibilities. Self-driving cars. Smart phones. Digital cameras. Hoverboards. Living in space.
The list of things once thought impossible goes on and on. Given how much of what was once deemed impossible has become possible, do we even need the word “impossible” in our vocabularies? What would it take for a person to start seeing that impossible is just one small keystroke away from I’m possible? And what might a person who thinks anything is possible be able to accomplish? Continue reading

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Recruitment 2.0 – Acquiring Companies to Get Top Talent

Once upon a time, in the age-old, gritty world of business mergers and acquisitions, the focus was on acquiring companies in order to get its patents, property, products, processes, power or prestige. Think of AT&T acquiring Bell South in 2006 for $83 Billion and Exxon acquiring Mobile in 1998 for $80.3 Billion. The advertising industry used serial mergers to achieve a global presence, attain substantial influence over media, and offer a full range of marketing services to international clientele. In some cases, corporate acquisitions have been used to keep patents out of the hands of those who might be tempted to assert them against a mega corporation. But, while companies still want to acquire innovative institutions and inventive ideas, corporate acquisition efforts have taken an odd and interesting turn in the 21st century. Instead of buying the competition’s better widgets or customer base, today’s mega corporations are acquiring companies just to get its employees.
Big business has begun acquiring companies – sometimes lackluster startups — just to get the staff who work there. The world of corporate acquisitions has expanded into the realm of recruiting and HR. It is perhaps the ultimate confirmation that a company’s greatest assets are its people. But this approach is now becoming a common – if not a common sense — approach for tech giants fighting to hire the most brilliant leaders, engineers and programmers in the world. The real question is whether this approach to talent acquisition is effective and can it work for other industries too? Does it make sense to spend money – sometimes big money — buying a company in the hopes that the talent will stay long-term? And does that mean, in essence, that companies are selling “human talent”? Continue reading

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Building a Woman-Friendly Workplace – Part 2

The idea that there is still gender disparity in compensation and opportunities in 21st century American business may seem ludicrous to some. After all, there are some very powerful women leading some of the world’s biggest companies. Mary Barra is CEO of General Motors. Ginni Rometty is CEO of IBM. Indra Nooyi is CEO at Pepsico. Marilyn Hewson is CEO of Lockheed Martin. Safra Catz is CEO of Oracle. And beyond Fortune 500 companies, there are female trailblazers such as Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Jill Abramson, Executive Editor of the New York Times and Oprah Winfrey, creator of O Network. These women are not just successful, but the companies they lead represent a cross-section of business sectors from aviation to automotive to technology and beyond. But the real story is in the numbers. While the 2016 Fortune 500 list shows that 21 companies have women CEOs, those are fewer than the 24 female Fortune 500 CEOs in 2014 and 2015. More importantly, of the 29 companies that were added to the Fortune 500 list this year, only one had a female at the helm. The decline in female CEOs in the Fortune 500 this year is due to retirements, mergers and other factors that had nothing to do with gender or the quality of their leadership. But, with so few females to begin with (just 4-5% in all), any loss of female representation at the top is more noticeable.
The real problem is that while some women have moved to the top of their fields, they are few and far between and there aren’t many other females following in their footsteps. This lack of female leadership is found not just in business, but also in government, sports, judiciary, higher education/universities, and beyond. And this imbalance can be found at every level and bleeds into compensation practices and workplace policies that are unfair or unfriendly to women. There are steps businesses can take to rectify these issues and create workplaces that are fair and equitable to both genders.
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Building a Woman-Friendly Workplace – Part 1

As of July 2014, women comprised over 50.8% (162 million) of the total U.S. population and 47.4% of the total U.S. labor force. Of the 123 million women who can work (ages 16 years and over), 75.6 million or 57%, are labor force participants—either working or looking for work. (Comparatively speaking, 69.2% of men 16 years old and older are labor force participants.) More importantly, women are projected to account for 51% of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018. And yet women in the U.S. still earn only .79 per dollar that a man makes doing the same job. They also make up less than 25% of all state and nationally-elected government leadership positions and less than 5% of all CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies. Economists and leaders see this disparity in female earnings and female representation in government as a problem if the nation wants to stay competitive in the global marketplace. But what can be done to make things more equitable?
Businesses can play a part in solving these problems. For business, it starts by making the workplace more “women-friendly”. Some big companies have already made big strides. But there are still many business leaders who think that their company is already woman-friendly enough, and that any further accommodations will only hurt and interfere with the company’s productivity and efficiency. Given that nearly half of labor force’s growth will be comprised of women, it could be argued that it just makes sense for companies to made workplaces more female-friendly. The first step it to identify and understand the barriers.
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Bosses’ Top 10 Pet Peeves about Employees

There are all kinds of bosses in the world. Management styles vary as widely as people’s personalities. There is the “do it the way I tell you” directive boss, and the “firm but fair” authoritative manager whose goal is to provide long-term direction and vision. Then there is the affiliative supervisor who seeks to create harmony amongst employees and management, as well as the “everyone has input” democratic director who is focused on building commitment and encouraging teamwork. There is also the pacesetting exec who is all about setting high standards and accomplishing tasks and the coaching boss, whose focus is on providing opportunities for professional development.
But while there are as many management styles are there are colors in the rainbow, most bosses seem to have one thing in common. They share many of the same pet peeves about their employees. According to LinkedIn survey conducted in 16 countries with data from 17,653 professionals, including 1,953 people in the U.S., bosses worldwide all seemed to have the same bêtes noires about staff. Here are the top 10 complaints bosses had about staff. Continue reading

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Relocating for Work

With advances in technology, telecommunications, and transportation, the business world has gotten a whole lot smaller. Companies, once compelled to expand in geographic proximity to their corporate headquarters (because greater distance would strain management and communications), can now do business on a global scale. The global marketplace has become more reachable. For example, in 1936, DELAG Airline — the world’s first airline to use an aircraft in revenue service — offered passenger flights from Friedrichshafen, Germany to Lakehurst, NJ (4,000 miles) that took 53 to 78 hours westbound, and 43 to 61 hours eastbound. That made managing a far-away business challenging, especially without Internet, fluid phone service, or computers. Today, 80 years later, a direct flight from New York to Hong Kong (8,047 miles) takes only about 16 hours. Aviation, cell phones, Skype, computers, and the Cloud have all but erased many of the hindrances of doing business internationally… making the world a whole lot smaller. But, it could also be said that the business world has also gotten bigger. Global markets have multiplied business opportunities exponentially, and not just for mega multinational corporations. Opportunities to grow abound for even the smallest startups. In that sense, the business world has gotten exponentially bigger.
These changes have spurred companies to pursue opportunities wherever they may be. But, to expand globally, companies often must relocate at least some of its staff to their new locations to establish operations. For example, a mid-sized real estate developer based in New York might relocate two key managers to thriving Austin, Texas to start a team developing apartment complexes. Or a small nursing home operator in Chicago might relocate several of its staff to open facilities in Arizona, retirement capital of the U.S. Or a multinational restaurant chain based in Atlanta might relocate an entire team of managers to the Caribbean to expand its fast food dynasty to new markets. Whether across the country or across the world, relocation for work is not without its challenges. What are the main considerations for employer and employee alike? Continue reading

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Marketing Focus: Client Acquisition vs. Client Retention

Every business wants to increase their bottom line. And every company promises growth in revenue and earnings, but only one in nine companies is able to achieve sustainable, profitable growth. That explains why businesses spend a lot of money on activities to achieve profitable growth! Statista, the Statistical Portal, estimates that over 180 billion U.S. dollars was spent in advertising in the United States in 2015. And that is expected to reach $200 billion this year. Those funds are being spent basically to either acquire or retain customers. Or both.
While some companies focus on customer acquisition because they view it as a quick and effective way of increasing revenue, other companies focus on customer retention because they are marketing to customers who are already engaged with the brand, making it easier to capitalize on their experiences with the company. But which is more cost effective at driving up sales and increasing revenue? And should it be an either/or approach, or should companies focus equally on both? Given the amount of money spent on marketing, it is a question that should be carefully considered. Continue reading

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Living “In the Moment”

Michael drives to work. He passes hundreds of other drivers, obeys all the signs and heeds traffic lights, avoids pedestrians, merges lanes, adjusts the speed of his vehicle and ultimately parks. He does all this and later has practically no recollection of it at all. He got from point A to point B on “mental auto-pilot”, where his brain drew on habits to navigate, while his thinking mind was elsewhere. He might have been planning the day ahead. Or he might have agonizing about a cacophony of demands in his life. Or worrying about a problem. But for the 45 minutes it took him to drive to work, his mind was elsewhere. The real question is: how many tasks are performed in a day with little or no thought at all? Brushing teeth. Getting dressed for work. Drinking a cup of coffee. Eating lunch. Working out at the gym. Carpooling. Cooking dinner. Each day blends in with the next, and suddenly the year is half over.
While everyone does some tasks “mindlessly” at least once in a while, there are folks who are on “auto-pilot” a lot. Absent smiles. Perfunctory greetings. Blank stares. For them, life is zooming by while they are disengaged. The problem is that time – the scarcest commodity – is passing and it will never come again. Time spent on auto-pilot is basically time missed. After all, when Michael drove to work but can’t recall the drive, was he really present? Given how precious time is, can anyone afford to be “absentee” from even a single minute of life? How much more productive and happy would a person be if he were fully engaged and savoring every moment of every day? And, at the end of his life, how much might he give to be able to get back all those “auto-pilot” moments? Now there’s something to dwell on! So is there a way to stop zoning out and live more “in the moment”? Continue reading

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Traits to Avoid When Hiring a New Employee

According to a survey by Monster.com of 639 small business owners in the U.S., it cost an average of $6,480 for small business owners to replace a “wrong hire” in 2015. That estimate is on the low end of the spectrum. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates it can cost on average one-third of a new hire’s annual salary to find a replacement. Others believe it’s even higher than that. According to a study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), it can cost up to five times a wrong hire’s annual salary, depending on the circumstances. The person’s position, how long that person was in that position, and the size of the company all contribute to this cost. According to SHRM, a “wrong hire” at a big company earning $80,000 per year (having been in that job over a year) could cost up to $400,000 to replace. And the “wrong hire” of a CEO in a national company can cost millions to replace.
The expense of a “wrong hire” comes right off the bottom line. That is money spent that adds no value to the business, except perhaps in shaping future hiring practices. A “wrong hire” might teach a manager what to avoid in the future; but often doesn’t even do that. Still, it would be nice if that lesson could be learned without paying such a steep price, especially since Harvard Business Review indicates that as much as 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Perhaps, then, it would be helpful to know which types of people to avoid hiring and how best to recognize those flaws.
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10 Invaluable Qualities in Employees that require Zero Talent – Part 2

When looking to hire employees, managers often confuse talents, skills, knowledge and strengths. A talent is an innate ability, while a skill is an ability that is learned and nurtured over time. A person might be a naturally-gifted writer even while never having taken any kind of writing class. That is a talent. That same person might also take a course in online advertising and attain the Google Adwords Certification. That is a skill. If that person attends a college and takes a host of classes in business, sales and marketing, that person attains knowledge – and perhaps a degree – in business administration. If that person then gets a job in which she is using her writing talents, online marketing skills, and sales and marketing knowledge, over time this will become her strength. A strength is the ability to consistently produce a positive outcome through superior performance of specific tasks. When a company recruits and hires staff, it looks for people who have particular talents, skills and knowledge.
However, there are certain qualities that are very important for employees to have which are not innate talents, nurtured skills or learned knowledge. These are often traits that are simply a part of who the person is. Over time, some of these traits can be honed, but they are generally not “learnable”. Last week, we considered five of these innate qualities: being on time every day; having a strong work ethic; putting forth maximum effort; having affirmative body language; and having a passion for work. While these might seem like things that can be learned, the truth is that people don’t generally change their work ethic, effort, passion, or body language. They can try to improve those things for a short time, but they usually revert back to their normal level of energy, their true degree of passion, their ingrained body language and their usual work ethic in time. The same is true of their attendance and punctuality. A person might do better for a while, but eventually a person who has a problem with punctuality or attendance will revert back to those bad habits. That is why screening for these qualities in new hires is so important.
Here are five more invaluable qualities that an employee should have and employer should want that requires absolutely zero talent. Continue reading

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