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She Works Hard for the Money

With all of the talk of the Yahoo flexible staffing changes, much conversation has been had about measuring productivity.  Some have argued that working from home means that there is no supervision and therefore less work is really being done.  Some have said quite the opposite - freedom in flexibility drives people to work harder.  Both sides have presented stats to support their position.  So how do you decide?

In some ways, I'm a bit old school.  I believe in hard work for great results.  I believe in an honest day's wages for an honest day's work.  I believe no one owes you anything.  Most of this perspective comes from my family.  I was raised with a work ethic that was without excuse.  My dad was out of work for over a year in the mid to late 70's and he tried to find a job in his field while he was remodeling kitchens and hanging Sheetrock/drywall on the side.  He worked weekends and evenings.  He knew he had a family to provide for and that was his mission.  He wasn't too proud to lift a phone, a frying pan, a hammer.

Now, I understand that nostalgia is just that.  It's a sentimental remembrance of a time gone by.  Time moves on and things change.  I know that there are numerous people in an unemployment line today that feel that same passion to provide.  I am heartbroken for the families that are struggling today and searching diligently for work.  What I, also, know is that each week, I hear from a different person who brings up the feel of the workplace today and the air of entitlement that is pervasive throughout.  Nostalgia aside, somewhere we've lost drive.

Where did it go?  Are we lazier?  More tired?  Stretched too thin?  Burned out?  Disenfranchised?  No longer hungry?  You tell me.  I have read the "experts"; I have read books by some smart people.  I have read countless blogs telling me what's wrong.  So what do we do?  I am practical in my business sense.  In human resources, I don't believe in programs for programs-sake.  Everything that HR does should point to the business bottom line.  If it doesn't, then stop it.  Time and resources are too precious.  We've got to create an action plan to get motivated and get working again.

As some of you have learned, you can only control what you can control.  I didn't learn that from a fortune cookie (although, I should look into starting a business making them...side note!).  I learned this from experience.  When I was in my 20's, I was going to change the world.  In my 30's, the world crapped on me.  And now in my 40's (man, that's still hard to write), I have become laser-focused in the ways I can make change happen.  I do have control over behaviors and actions; I don't have control over the world or all of life.  The action plan we can create to conquer should be based on behavioral and attitudinal change along with clarity in mission.

We should be on a mission to get back to hard work.  The turn-around is not going to be easy.  We are living in a country that is falling down the list as measured against other countries.  We're 12th in GDP, 6th in innovation and technology and 7th in overall global competitiveness  (And if you're in HR and you don't know what some of these measurements or terms are, then you had better get an education quickly.)  It was not that long ago that the US was 1st in everything.  To lose this much ground is unsettling and it should cause us to want to roll up our sleeves and work hard.

We're in a war for talent.  Yahoo is implementing the changes to flexible staffing and schedules because they want to know that the talent they are investing in is returning a profit for the company.  Measurement is telling them otherwise, hence the changes.  I would argue, though, that we're not in a war for talent...we're in a war for GREAT talent.  The pool of people who really fit the bill for what an employer is looking for has shrunk. Companies wind up settling in hiring because they just cannot find the superstars needed.

Some of this can be remedied by expectation from the employer.  Not everyone can be the verbose sales manager that wins over a room with his/her personality and charisma.  Not having those traits does not make someone a less desirable candidate.  Can you imagine an office full of Michael Scotts or Chris Varicks or Joe Isuzus? (Google them if you don't know).  It would be way too much.  Superstars run the gamut of personality and approach, but can still produce results.  Dig deeper in interviews; be situational and behavioral in questioning.  This is where the work should happen in bringing the right people on board.

Another part of this can be remedied by each and everyone of us.  We've got to work harder.  I'm serious.  There are millions of us who've been infected with the entitlement bug.  Take some antibiotics and move on.  We deserve what we really work for.  One of my favorite business biographies is about Hershey's. Milton Hershey failed seven times in business creation and went bankrupt a couple of times.  And yet, he awoke each day determined to make what he knew would work.  He refined candy making processes, he sought out better ingredients and he went door to door and in every venue he could to showcase his results.  He worked hard for his success.

I know that there are some of you reading this who are already traveling this road and have this perspective.  I see the work you do and I know the results are measurable and real.  Allow me to say "Bravo" for not only your work, but for your example to others.  You are most appreciated and very much needed in our businesses.

For those who will take the time to reflect on this, perhaps it will inspire you to take some action steps.  Have you gotten a bit lazy in your work ethic?  Is there an entitlement issue at the core?  Identify, create a remedy process and seek out accountability in a trusted business friend.  Hold yourself to the highest standard you can; forget about what everyone else is doing or isn't doing.

I believe in working hard.  We work hard to earn a decent living.  We work hard to set an example for future generations so they'll know what it takes to maintain and surpass.  We work hard to influence societal greatness.  We have done it and we can work to do it again.

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