motivation

Companies with older workers less productive

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j0415797They’ve been called a “drag on productivity” in a study that examined the performance of hundreds of companies in Britain and Germany.

It found that the more over-50s a company employed the less likely it was to increase productivity over a two-year period. Even a 1% increase in the proportion of older staff led to a greater chance that the company would stand still rather than improve its output.

The situation was much worse in Germany than Britain. There 57% of the companies had workforces with at least 20% of the staff over 50, compared to 41% in the UK.

Productivity was not reduced by older workers working more slowly but by the company’s reluctance to invest in training them.

The less successful companies also had weaker appraisal systems meaning that individuals were not held accountable for their productivity levels. Well appraisal systems have come in for a lot of criticism lately and in this case it suggests that it might be management not doing their job rather than the workers.

Certainly there are companies, such as BMW, that look after older workers better.

And they need to because there are more older workers around. Three quarters of people aged over 50 are in employment in the UK according to the ONS compared with two-thirds in 1994. And one in eight aged over 65 is still in work.

Discriminating against older workers is counter-productive. Often older workers have the unwritten knowledge about the company; their attendance is usually better, and they generally have a more positive attitude and are more loyal. Here’s an American take on this.

Management Training – but not as we know it

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fortune_cookie_message_1600_clr_7951A motivational trainer in China has been forced to apologise for spanking under-performing bank employees.

With a cry of “get your bums ready” Mr Jiang Yang walked behind them with a stick hitting each of them four times.

Now I’m not saying some bankers don’t need public humiliation but actually spanking them, and in some cases shaving men’s heads and cutting women’s hair, seems over the top.

The punishments were filmed on a phone and widely circulated online as a result of which a couple of executives have been suspended (not sure by which part of their bodies) and the training terminated.

The 8 employees – four men and four women – who were made to stand in a line of shame were among 200 from the Chanhi Zhangze Rural Commercial Bank in Shanxi province who were attending a 3-day training camp.

The unfortunate eight were the lowest performing participants on the day. They were made to confess their shortcomings e.g. “I didn’t exceed myself”, “poor teamwork”, “not brave enough” before the beatings were delivered.

The Shanghai-based trainer, who charges £10,000 a day, has apologised to his client but not the victims, some of whom had apparently thanked him “for changing them“.

Jiang Yang says he’s been punishing trainees for years using sit-ups and head shaving. “Physical punishment can also be called ‘touching flesh’ a way of waking up a person’s vigour. This kind of positive-energy physical punishment is a better teaching method because pain is an effective way to wake up a sleeping spirit” he said.

He’s been accused of spanking the women harder than the men so obviously needs some equal opportunity counselling and diversity training.

One blogger was concerned that “there was no man on the spot to stand up and protect the beaten female colleagues“.

It brings a whole new dimension to managing performance. Perhaps I should discuss the possibilities with my consultant colleague before our next workshop (and also review our fees)?

Original report in The Times

If you want to get brighter, only mix with the brightest, or suffer the consequences

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head_gear_500_wht_2011That’s according to Professor James Flynn, who was once considered controversial because of his research which suggested that people were getting more intelligent each generation – the Flynn Effect.

In his new book “Does your family make you smarter” he proposes that intelligence, rather than plateauing at 18 years of age, can increase throughout adulthood, providing you have a stimulating lifestyle.

Households where people talk, challenge, joke  and share cultural pastimes can boost the IQ of family members by several points.

And workplaces that impose intellectual challenges on staff can over time raise their individual intelligence.

The opposite is also true. People who share a home or workplace with dullards for any length of time risk seeing their IQ enter a sharp decline because of lack of stimulation.

Flynn says “Intelligence has always been thought to be static … the new evidence shows that this is wrong. The brain seems to be rather like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. That means you can upgrade your intelligence during your lifetime“.

He suggests the best way to improve your IQ is to marry someone smarter than you, find an intellectually stimulating job, and hang out with bright friends.

Up to now we’ve believed that intelligence is controlled by genes influenced by our nutrition and environment up to age 18 when it stabilises.

Flynn’s research took 65 years of IQ tests from the US and correlating the  results with the age of the people creating IQ age tables. From these he draws two conclusions. The cognitive quality of a family alters the IQ of all members but especially children i.e. it can lift them or hold them back.

For example a bright child of 10 with siblings of average intelligence will suffer on average a 5-10 point IQ disadvantage compared to a similar child with equally bright brothers and sisters.  A child with a lower IQ can gain 6-8 points by having brighter siblings and educational support.

The effects are more clear in the early years with arithmetic skills strongly controlled by the home environment up to age 12 and verbal skills affected up to teenage years.

He also believes, based on this research, that although genetics and early life experience determine about 80% of intelligence the rest is strongly linked to our lifestyle as adults.

As you leave childhood behind the legacy of your family diminishes but the game is not over. A large proportion of your cognitive quality is now in your own hands. You can change it yourself and your IQ can vary through life according to your own efforts” says Flynn

“Going through life feeling your childhood is holding you back is misunderstanding how much power you have to improve yourself”.

I don’t know if his book (out next month) makes any reference to the use of technology and social media and its impact of family interaction because that would have some impact.

This is certainly a game-changing idea and will undoubtedly be challenged although there has been other research which suggests there is something more to IQ than commonly believed.

In 2011 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania said that they found that high IQ scores are a result of high intelligence plus motivation whereas low IQ scores could be because of the lack of either intelligence or motivation (published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

They also said that students offered incentives improved their IQ scores and suggested that people with high IQs may be not only more intelligent but also more competitive

There is also research that shows you can improve the collective IQ of a group by adding more women.

Research in Scotland found that people with mentally stimulating jobs suffered less cognitive decline as they got older.

And recently researchers at the University of Texas found that busy over-50s had higher cognitive scores than younger people.

Experts in emotional intelligence have long held that EI, unlike IQ, continues to develop into adulthood. Now it seems we have the capacity to develop both our cognitive and socio-emotional skills.

Employee Engagement….something missing?

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Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

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Some radical new research shows what creates “employee engagement” (don’t worry, this is the latest fad amongst management thinkers) in the workforce.

Most of the above I would suggest is blindingly obvious, but then why do so many organisations and managers get it wrong. It would seem that some kind of metamorphosis takes place when people become managers resulting in personality  and behavioural changes, often to the detriment of those they are managing.

My favourite definition of management is “applying common sense to uncommon situations” which sounds easy in theory but is very hard to put into practice.

Going back to the table above, I note that there is one fundamental motivational element missing i.e. being paid a decent salary! But let us not dirty our hands by mentioning “filthy lucre”.

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Anatomy of a true leader?

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green_stick_figure_stand_out_crowd_1600_wht_1832In the Sunday Times business section this weekend Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners and the Centre for Entrepreneurs, set out his list of the most important characteristics that a managing director should possess.

In brief these were:

The ability to motivate. The boss who can enthuse a workforce will generally do better than one who rules by fear.

Domain Knowledge. They must have sufficient technical understanding to gain the respect of their team.

The ability to listen. The best bosses don’t dominate debates but encourage feedback and leave their doors open. They listen to the shop floor by going there in person.

Decisiveness. Ultimately companies cannot function as pure democracies and someone has to make decisions rather than procrastinate. Employees need a sense of direction.

Financial literacy. Must be able to interpret financial statements and analyse accouts.

A sense of humour. Life is too short not to enjoy going to work .

Reliability in a crisis. Someone who doesn’t panic in the face of adversity and gets down to work in a diligent and professional way without histrionics.

Frugality. Having a thrifty approach to business. Extravagant CEOs set a bad example especially if they live beyond their means. A lean operation is the only way.

Delegation. The only way for start-ups to become large companies is for the proprietor/managers to learn to identify, promote, trust, and empower talent.

Adaptability. Modern companies need to be flexible and intelligent leaders thrive on change and are constantly learning.

Bravery. Outstanding leaders need the courage to make unpopular decisions. Those who fail to speak out on controversial issues and follow the consensus are followers not leaders.

That’s Luke Johnsons’ list and I can’t say I disagree with any of them. An interesting mixture of personality traits e.g. adaptability (being open to experience) and learned skills e.g. financial knowledge.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who meets all those criteria however! And when it comes to frugality it’s hard to say it abounds. When the average pay at the top of organisations is 130 times pay at the bottom and CEOs get rewarded for failure e.g. the Barclays CEO walking away with £28 million it’s hard to believe it exists at the very top of organisations.

If you want to comment or add to the list contact him at: luke@riskcapitalpartners.co.uk

 

 

Motivating staff – the Dan Pink seminar

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Motivating staff is not the easiest thing to do. In fact is it possible to motivate someone else to do something at all?

We can coerce or threaten and, to use that horrible word, “incentivise” people but most people only really do things they want to unless in desperate straits. In other words motivation, for most people, is internally generated.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the idea of people seeking self-actualisation may be considered old hat now but you can still see evidence of that human potential philosophy in the field of positive psychology.

Similarly Herzberg’s two-factor theory distinguished between motivators – which were intrinsic to the job, and demotivators, or hygiene factors, which constantly need attention like money which motivates for a while but then loses its incentive value.

Dan Pink’s seminar on this topic is interesting and thought-provoking and you can watch it here.

He also has a presentation about his book “Drive”

First posted on Sganda

Is working from home more productive?

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carrying_house_pc_1600_wht_4461Marissa Mayer made the news when she banned employees at Yahoo from working from home.

Was she right to do that? Recent call-centre research by Nicholas Bloom at Stanford University found that allowing staff to work from home over a 9-month period led to happier, more productive staff, with fewer leavers.

The company originally thought that productivity would drop but that would be offset by saving money on office space and furniture. In the event the home-based staff completed 13.5% more calls than the office-based staff.

The researchers thought that 1/3 of the productivity increase was due to a quieter environment with the remainder du to the home-workers working longer hours.

The home workers started earlier and had shorter breaks and because they weren’t commuting worked until the end of the day.

Sick days also plummeted (so more like self-employed workers in that respect).

It may be that because call-centre work is more robotic and easily measured that such big benefits were found. It might be different for creative or knowledge workers. And if there is low morale people might start slacking.

So was Mayer right to ban home-working? We don’t really know what the situation was at Yahoo but it generated negative publicity when she had a nursery built next to her office with an element of the Queen Bee syndrome.

Not everyone wants to work from home. It seems that younger people, whose social life often revolves around work, are less likely to want to work from home compared with older workers who are married with established families.

In the call-centre example the home-workers self-selected so might have been more motivated to start with. Some opted to go back into the office at the end of the 9 months and these turned out to be the poorer performers.

The biggest resistance appears to come from middle management who worry about losing control of people working remotely.

Perhaps the best solution is to let people work a couple of days a week from home, especially in bad weather or as in London when they held the Olympic Games. These could be mandatory days or on a rotation.

Main source: HBR January-February 2014

Cuddle a banker? You’re joking…

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giving_hug_pc_1600_wht_3332It’s been suggested by accountants PwC and the London Business School that we shouldn’t scold ‘bad boy bankers’ but treat them like babies and give them the equivalent of a cuddle (Sunday Times today).

The study says threats of punishment for bad behaviour are counter-productive when trying to improve ethical standards. Instead praising good performance and good behaviour is much more effective.

The research also says that competition is damaging and bankers are twice as likely to behave unethically when they feel anxious about competing with colleagues. Then they are more likely to cut corners and make mistakes. Or just cheat perhaps?

The research among 2,500 bankers, insurance companies and wealth management firms which suggests that the key to changing behaviour and improving ethical standards is praise rather than retribution is just wrong-headed in my view.

Some of these ‘bad boy bankers’ at the top of companies are sociopaths and narcissists and praising them will only feed their belief that they are always right.

But you might expect people from financial services to say that (even if one of the PwC team is said to be a behavioural science specialist). Given that banks are reported to have paid out over $200 billion dollars in fines since 2008 but no banker has been convicted of fraud or theft I wonder what cloud these researchers are sitting on.

The report says regulators and financial services leaders should focus on the positive outcomes of good performance – and I’d like to see a definition of that – instead of the negative behaviours they want to stamp out. But where is the evidence that it will work? Is it just the bankers etc being surveyed saying “be nice to us and we’ll behave better‘? Given the outlandish financial rewards financial services seems to offer do you think they are motivated by anything other than money?

After the fiascos of recent years most people would be happy to see bankers and similar financial sector workers taken down a peg or two, not least in respect of their ridiculous bonus levels. The bottom line is that we don’t trust them to behave honourably.

Drive – the secret of motivation

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drive_book_pageI saw the video, then read the book. Drive by Daniel Pink is fascinating.

He takes us back to the work of Harlow (more famous for his surrogate monkey mother experiments), McGregor’s “Theory X, theory Y“, and Type A/B theory.

He reports numerous studies showing that altruistic behaviour can be tainted by financial incentives and suggests that financial incentives only work for certain kinds of work and that even then over the long run they don’t – remember Herzberg’s 2-factor theory?

He asks why people contribute to Wikipedia and devote hours to work for which they receive no financial recompense. It’s not always about the money.

In fact he believes that it’s more about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

He suggests that you can be a Type I or a Type X which he describes as:

Type I behavior: A way of thinking and an approach to life built around intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivators. It is powered by our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Type X behavior: Behavior that is fuelled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and that concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads.

If you want to know which you are, go to his web-site and complete a free self-assessment questionnaire.

And if you haven’t seen his presentation on motivation on RSAnimate on Youtube it’s here.

Hierarchical Management had it’s day

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down_the_chain_1600_wht_5908Back in the 1960s when behavioural scientists roamed corporate boardrooms every executive claimed to know about Herzberg’s two-factor theory and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Even here in the UK where firms like ICI invited Herzberg over and took his and others’ ideas on board, introducing a Weekly Staff Agreement (moving employees from hourly to weekly pay) and similar initiatives.

One idea that came out of this approach to motivating people was the introduction of autonomous working groups in the mid 1970s. In the UK we heard reports of how Swedish companies had adopted these methods in car production and Philips TV makers at Eindhoven (overlooking work by the Tavistock Institute in British coal mines starting over 20 years earlier). 

A lot of water and ideas about managing production have passed under the bridge since then although you could argue that with companies either mechanising or offshoring to reduce production costs Taylorism is still alive and kicking

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently published the results of a 13 year study into a Norwegian company which adopted autonomous work groups and moved away from a hierarchical structure in line with the national and organisational culture of labour empowerment (reported by A Fradera in The Psychologist)

They described a system where different team members took on the spokesperson role for a week at a time. The workforce was initially enthusiastic saying things like ” the flat structure has come to stay” and “.. no more foremen pointing fingers and telling us what to do” .

After 8 years however some problems were identified. The transient role of the spokesperson meant they could skimp on onerous duties or things they thought less important like sharing information. Because the spokesperson was responding to team needs it was more difficult for them to resolve disputes or enforce decisions that were unpopular for individuals but good for the organisation.

They concluded that self-management optimised the comfort of the individuals and the team but possibly to the detriment of the company.

So they introduced a system where different people were responsible for different aspects, a distributed leadership model. The 5-M model had someone looking after staffing (Man), someone looking after Machine and so on. This was an improvement and also meant the M-leaders could get together to decide plant-wide issues in their own area of responsibility.

Unfortunately not every problem falls neatly into one category and sometimes problems were passed backwards and forwards. Concrete and immediate problems were resolved but not those requiring coordination, clearly a challenge to a company that wants to empower the workforce.

The researchers don’t say whether or not the company reverted to a more hierarchical system – perhaps that would have been admitting defeat.

It also raises some interesting questions about whether people can develop their leadership skills when they don’t have continuity (doing it only 1 week in six) and whether everyone is temperamentally suited to undertake a leadership role?

Historical note

9780486147758_p0_v2_s260x420Post WWII manufacturing industry was largely adhering to Scientific Management or “Taylorism“, an economic approach and belief that there was one right way.

People known variously as “Time and Motion experts” and “Work Study or Industrial Engineers” analysed jobs and broke them down into (very) small chunks so that operators on production assembly lines were more easily able to assemble a switch or put wheel nuts on cars (before robots took over).

So Scientific Management both de-skilled workers and led to mechanisation where possible.

Dividing the total assembly time of a product into tasks of a few minutes and of equal duration was sometimes quite a challenge. The work was pretty boring and relentless and conveyor belt breakdowns, often operator induced, provided welcome breaks from the monotony.

In the UK the Tavistock Institute for Social Research had been using a socio-technical approach (combining social, technical, and economic needs in coal mines since the 1950s and were later involved in Quality of Working Life initiatives, a forerunner of the concern about work-life balance. But their work wasn’t widely known.

Following the introduction of new ideas about employee motivation by Herzberg and others ie it wasn’t just the financial incentive (although it appeared to be for car assembly workers whose objective was to earn as much as possible to buy consumer goods (called instrumental motivation) and which was said to have enabled the growth in package holidays – but I digress) many companies tried to make the work more interesting. In some cases they also tried to reverse the de-skilling that had been the hallmark of previous approaches.

Job rotation was one easy way to provide variety and it also up-skilled the operatives. Job enlargement was combining similar jobs together on a permanent basis and thereby increasing the cycle time. Job enrichment was vertical job enlargement which usually meant including some quality/inspection or supervisory element.

And then in the mid-70s we heard that in Sweden at Saab and at the Volvo Kalmar plant, and at Philips in Eindhoven they had gone a whole step further and introduced autonomous working groups. The Kalmar plant was new and small teams worked in assembly bays rather than straight assembly lines. In both the new Volvo plant and the re-organised Saab plant assembly cycle times rose from 2-3 minutes to 20-30 minutes.

Autonomous working groups can include single skill workers or incorporate features of job enlargement and job enrichment by taking responsibility for purchasing, quality control and absence management. There was usually less need for first line supervisors.

Teams were given the facilities to organise the work themselves, within limits. For example, at the Philips plant teams were allowed to decide how they assembled TV sets either in the traditional flow line method or with each person assembling a whole set.

Sweden had a well-educated workforce and companies had high absence rates put down to boredom with the production lines. By the 1980s we were hearing that autonomous working groups had improved job satisfaction and helped to reduce absenteeism but not necessarily improved productivity.

Eventually new methods and approaches came along eg Quality Circles and the use of BPR, and autonomous working groups seemed to fade from the spotlight.

Flexible working not for everyone

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geek_icon_1600_wht_9297Flexible working seems to be on the increase, desired by many workers, and even welcomed by many employers.

However it seems that many Generation Y (those born between 1980s and early 1990s) employees think people who work flexibly are not as committed to their jobs as those who work from the office every day.

At least according to a survey by a company of employment solicitors.

They found that while Generation Y employees were quick to complain about discrimination they were also more likely to display hostile attitudes towards equality policies.

The report said it reinforced the reputation of these younger workers as being “awkward” and “difficult to manage“.

It does seem a paradox that these Generation Y employees, who love their technology (ideal for flexible working) and work-life balance are so disapproving.

Make a team more intelligent – add more women

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women_raising_hands_1600_wht_7873Putting a group of highly intelligent people in a team doesn’t always produce the best results.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT Sloan School of Management have found there is no correlation between individual IQ scores and group intelligence.

Participants were first given standard intelligence tests and then randomly assigned to teams. The teams were asked to brainstorm, solve visual puzzles and one complex problem, and then each team’s collective intelligence was assessed.

The teams that had members with higher IQ scores didn’t score much higher than the average but teams that had more women in them did.

Factors such as group cohesion, motivation, and satisfaction were not predictive of the teams’ performance but gender diversity was correlated. The researchers put this down to what they call social sensitivity (which sound similar to the emotional intelligence factors of empathy and awareness of others).

Teams displaying social sensitivity would be more open to feedback and constructive criticism. Teams that had smart people dominating the discussions didn’t turn out to be so intelligent as a group.

So in theory a group of high IQ members could score better on the team tests but it would probably be because they had higher levels of social sensitivity as well. Women score higher on this than men but if you had more socially sensitive men that would work too.

The researchers also suggest that extremely diverse groups and highly homogeneous groups aren’t as intelligent as groups with a moderate degree of variety in IQ scores. They also see the potential for improving IQ at organisational level through changing the make-up of a group and rewarding collaboration, although the larger a group gets the less opportunity there is for face to face interaction.

This research is interesting because it uses collective IQ as a predictor. We know now that IQ scores can vary depending on the motivation of the individual and that when you are stressed your IQ level drops. Putting people in a more collaborative and supportive environment probably contributes to the enhanced group effect.

Source: HBR June 2011