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Every year, the PR firm Edelman releases their ‘Trust Barometer’, an extensive research report into the levels of trust in society, which conveniently uncovers a complex picture which can be demystified by buying lots of their services.
Amidst all that though, this year’s research included a study of 7,000 employees around the world, their working lives, and their trust in their employers.
The study tells a story of employees who care more about an employer’s values and work/life balance than compensation, and having seen their existing firms fall short on issues like burnout and social impact, are looking to move on.
Here’s seven highlights that might be relevant for your own team and company:
Stripe’s Patrick McKenzie chose last week to have a little go at Google’s performance management processes…
After acknowledging that the post was a little snide, he explains his opinion that to get promoted as a product manager at Google, you need to have very visible product releases with large numbers of users.
Chat apps fulfill both those criteria.
So Google ends up building and updating lots of chat apps and features. Not because it’s good business, but because it’s performance management processes incentivise it.
It’s a quick anecdote which points to a much larger topic for consideration in all our teams. Do we reward the work that matters most at our organisations?
This is a question which requires constant revaluation as the priorities of your team and your firm change. But the work is worth doing to make sure your team stays focussed on what matters most. Otherwise you might just find yourself with a bunch of chat apps.
Like so many other aspects of management, doing reference calls as part of hiring is just seen as something you’re meant to be able to ‘do’.
Yep, just call up a stranger, and ask whatever questions you feel would be helpful to determine a potentially life-changing career opportunity for someone.
It’s bizarre, but here we are.
She recommends asking the following:
Charlie Warzel is a successful journalist and yet his latest piece on the topic of careers, by his admission, has been 20x more popular than his other writing.
There’s some lessons for managers too.
Titled ‘What if People Don’t Want ‘A Career’, Warzel attacks the notion of career-building as just a game of limited reward that is increasingly being questioned by employees, to the extent that many are thinking about quitting their current jobs.
He suggests that for too long, the notion of the importance of ‘your career’ has been used by employers and managers to pressure employees into working practices that ordinarily they might reject - poor pay, work/life balance, or job security.
This is the key passage:
‘The modern understanding of a career in most knowledge work fields involves a non-trivial amount of sacrifice. You are expected to pay your dues, work your way up, and ride out the rough patches. Endurance is key. If you stick it out long enough, there’s something great on the other side — primarily security. Even in jobs where management is less cynical and exploitative, the focus is always on the long term: It might suck now, but you’re building toward something. And that something — the resume at the end of your life — is a genuine measure of a person’s worth. What the career skeptics are asking is a simple question: What if all that reasoning and endurance language is bullshit?’
If Warzel is right, and employees are asking these questions, what does that mean for managers?
Warzel’s not saying that firms can’t provide great careers, just that some bad firms use the rhetoric to justify poor practices and fail to keep up their end of the bargain.
It’s a good reminder to assess the opportunities that your team provides.
You probably do encourage your employees to build their career at your firm. Are you giving them enough good reasons to?
Some of the examples Warzel quotes are of employees being asked to work late or on the weekends, and when they show reluctance, having their commitment to their careers quesitonned by their superiors.
As he points out, this is just a horrible way to manage. If you want people to go the extra mile for your firm, they’re probably willing to, if you do it in the right way.
‘Good management is about clear communication and expectation setting. In this case, a good manager might say, ‘Hey, so this sucks but it looks like we’re going to need to put in some extra time over the next week on X project. I know this isn’t ideal but I wanted to tell you in advance to give you time to plan around it.’ Then, the manager should offer to compensate for the extra work with overtime or a comp day. In the event that the job demands constant communication and an ‘always-on-call’ mentality (it probably, actually doesn’t), then this should be communicated in the interview process, where a lot of expectation setting takes place.’
Springing extra work on people for no extra compensation and then beating them over the head with a threat to their ‘careers’, not so much.
Of course, this could all be conjecture. But at 20x the readership of Warzel’s other posts, people sure seem interested.