happy-employee

It’s Not All About the Money

How can we get our employees to become committed, motivated and engaged? This is a question which business owners, managers and consultants often ponder. The answer is surprisingly simple: give them what they care about.

The inevitable follow up question is: “What do employees care about?” This is where most employers go wrong. They think that what employees care about is a paycheck. Basically, they assume that if they can pay employees huge salaries, and generous benefits, then they will become motivated, committed and engaged.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Granted, people do care about money (they have bills to pay). However, money is often way down on the list of what is most important to employees. There are far more important things which no paycheck, no matter how big, can compensate for. Five of the most important things which employees care about are the following.

1. Purpose

Human beings are wired to seek meaning in their labor. As such, there is nothing more demotivating than purposeless labor. If employees feel that their work is meaningless, the size of the paycheck will not go far in soothing their feelings of emptiness.

How do employees find purpose in their work? Simple, by feeling that they are contributing towards something worthwhile they realize that they contributing to something bigger than themselves.

The best way this can be achieved is by clearly articulating the vision of the company or organization the employees are working for. Then it is important in making employees believe in this vision. After this, it is a matter of making every employee understand how their work contributes towards the overall vision.

This understanding will cause employees to develop a sense of pride in their work. This will in turn arouse commitment and devotion. Such devotion can inspire employees to remain loyal even when an organization hits a rough patch and employees have to take pay cuts.

2. Appreciation

Everyone craves to be appreciated. This is just human nature. Employees are no exception. When an employee has done a good job, they expect to be recognized and appreciated for it. If such appreciation doesn’t come, they can become demotivated and disengaged.

The appreciation doesn’t have to be something big, like a huge bonus or a gift at the end of year party. Something as simple as “Thank You” can be sufficient. If the “Thank You” is delivered in the presence of other team members, it can be more motivating.

The lack of appreciation is among the most cited reasons for quitting. The most extreme form of this is when a manager or supervisor takes credit for an employee’s impressive results. Many employees can bear being unappreciated (at least for a while). However, someone else taking credit for their performance often just pushes them to leave.

3. Growth and Development

Employees want opportunities to grow and develop. There are very few employees (if any) who want to remain at the same level forever. Most employees want to keep moving forward. They want to grow and develop in terms of knowledge, skills and responsibilities.

In most cases, they look to their employers to provide them with the opportunities to grow. Employers can provide such opportunities in three ways. The first is through regular feedback and counsel from managers. This enables employees to make small improvements on a continuous basis.

The second is through providing training opportunities. The training can be conducted either internally or externally. Such training enables employees to expand their knowledge, skills and competencies and thus become better at their jobs.

The third is through creating opportunities for advancement and promotions. The availability of such opportunities can be a motivation for hard work. If employees know that their efforts will be rewarded with promotions, they stay focused, committed and hard working.

4. Autonomy and Respect

Every employee desires to be treated with respect. In fact, many expect it. One of the most often cited reasons by employees who quit their job is lack of respect from their bosses. In these cases, the bosses are rude, abusive or fond of embarrassing employees in front of their colleagues.

When employees constantly feel disrespected, no amount of money can be motivating enough. They may remain for a while because they have bills to pay. However, as soon as they sniff an opportunity elsewhere, they will quit.

One of the ways employees feel respected is through being given a level of autonomy. There are few things employees hate like being micromanaged. Having every single decision dictated upon them is a sign that their manager doesn’t trust and respect them.  At a minimum, employees desire to control how they perform their key tasks. They also want to be consulted on some key decisions regarding their work.

When employees feel respected, they realize that they are important to an organization. This feeling of importance can motivate them to work harder, stay engaged and remain committed. The reverse is also true.

5. Challenge

Employees seek feelings of accomplishment in their work. They desire opportunities that push their limits and show what they are capable of. Few employees want tasks which offer no challenge at all, tasks which they can perform while half-asleep.

Most employees want tasks which can enable them to show off the knowledge and skills that they have acquired. Performing such tasks well can provide them with a sense of pride and joy in their work.

Besides challenge, employees also prefer clear-cut goals. They want clear targets to pursue, targets which they can know when they have hit. Going after such targets can be extremely motivating. Hitting the targets can be exciting and invigorating.

In a nutshell, employees care about than more than just money. This is because most employees consider their jobs as more than just opportunities to earn a living. They also find purpose, meaning, self-worth and a sense of accomplishment in their work.

entrepreneurIn today’s world, being an entrepreneur is about the coolest thing around. Entrepreneurship is highly glamorized. This is partly due to the well-publicized successes of people like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, people whose entrepreneurial creations have transformed how we connect, work and play.

For many people today, becoming an entrepreneur seems the surest path to freedom, wealth and success. Breaking out and starting a business seems the best way of achieving one’s dreams. As such, many people dream of starting their own businesses. Unfortunately, many do not meet the success they anticipated.

Grim Statistics

The statistics on the failure rate of businesses is staggering, and makes for a rather grim reading. Here is a selection of the most often cited statistics:

  • 80% of businesses fail with the first 18 months (Bloomberg)
  • 75% of start-ups fail (Wall Street Journal)
  • 20% of startups fail within the first year, 40% within the first 3 years and 65% within the 10 years (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 50% of businesses fail within the first year, and 95% fail within the first 5 years (The E-Myth)

Granted, these statistics seem to contradict (and are the subject of fierce debates among academics, entrepreneurs and journalists). However, the point here isn’t to spark another debate. The broader point is that, whatever statistics you choose to believe, the failure rates of businesses is extremely high.

With the exception of perhaps Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who believe in the “Fail Fast, Fail Often”, mantra, it is unlikely that many people who start their own businesses anticipate failure. Unfortunately many do end up failing. There are many possible reasons for this. However, one reason is that many of those who start their own business are actually not cut to be entrepreneurs.

The Entrepreneurial Seizure

In his groundbreaking book, The E-Myth, Michael Gerber perfectly explains why someone who isn’t fit to be entrepreneur can actually end up starting a business. He calls it having an entrepreneurial seizure.

The entrepreneurial seizure is the moment someone decides that it is a good idea to start their own business. For some people, it may be something as bizarre as their boss yelling at them. They get angry at the harsh treatment, and decide to become their own boss so that no one can yell at them anymore.

Mr. Gerber also points out that an entrepreneurial seizure is often driven by a mistaken belief that being good at a technical skill means that someone is able to run a related business. For instance, being an excellent accountant means that someone can run an accounting business, or being a great mechanic means that someone run a car repair business.

This belief causes people who are technicians step out and form related businesses. They assume that since they enjoy their work, and are good at it, they will be able to run the business. However, once they launch the business they realize that there is a lot more necessary skills than they had anticipated. 

On top of their technical work, they now need to manage employees, interface with clients, deal with banks, manage cash flow, handle suppliers, etc. Many aren’t just ill-equipped to handle these extra tasks, they absolutely hate it. 

This is when many people who start businesses realize that they aren’t fit to be entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, by this time they have already invested their time, resources and egos. A few of them adapt or find a business partner skilled enough to handle the business side of things. Some cut their losses and bail out. The majority soldier on until the sheer weight of responsibilities causes some to burn out and shut down the business.

Why Not Everyone Is Fit to Be an Entrepreneur

It is Extremely Hard Work

An entrepreneur has to work extremely hard. In some cases, entrepreneurs work 80 to 100 hours per week for weeks on end. In most cases, the work isn’t even compensated. It is basically long hours of laborious, uncompensated work. With entrepreneurship, such compensation is often not assured, especially during the early stages of the business.

It Requires Dealing with Setbacks

There are extremely few businesses (if any) which take off smoothly. Most businesses suffer a number of setbacks before picking up. Being an entrepreneur requires one to deal with such setbacks. For most people, putting in time, effort and resources only for something to fail is too painful to bear. They cannot handle the feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration. An entrepreneur not only has to deal with such feelings often, they also have to shake them off and move on.

There Is No Guarantee of Success

In entrepreneurship, there is no guarantee of success. All the time, effort and resources invested can end up yielding nothing. An entrepreneur basically has to take this uncertainty in stride, and give their best efforts for months, or even years. The whole idea of quitting their jobs, and investing their savings in something which may not succeed is downright scary. As such, they don’t even try it.

It Requires Leadership Skills

An entrepreneur often has to be able lead people. This is true except in the rare instances where a person forms a one-person business. In order to lead people effectively, the entrepreneur requires excellent leadership skills. As such, any would-be entrepreneur either needs to already have those skills or be willing to learn them.

The main reason why people sometimes jump to launch businesses is that they don’t realize how tough it will be. This is because media coverage of entrepreneurs rarely shares their behind-the-scene struggles. They make it seem like those who make it enjoyed overnight success.

When people realize the struggles involved in starting a business, many opt out. A story shared by Shawn Osborne in the Harvard Business Review, perfectly illustrates this. Osborne, who is the CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, often organizes BizCamp – a program which teaches entrepreneurship to disadvantaged kids.

In one instance, before starting the program, 91% of the kids said that they wanted to start their own company. Upon being presented with the truth about the struggles of building a company, the percentage dropped by 85%. At the end of BizCamp, only 6% of those who had initially stated that they wanted to form their own company, still wanted to do so.

Therefore, instead of just glorifying the achievements of entrepreneurs, the media should also highlight their struggles. They should also let people understand the difficulties involved in starting a business. This would enable would-be entrepreneurs to prepare themselves for the challenges ahead and thus increase their chances of success.

Sources

Harvard Business Review (March, 2014) – Young People Need to Know Entrepreneurship Is Hard (https://hbr.org/2015/04/young-people-need-to-know-entrepreneurship-is-hard)

E-Myth (November 28, 2005) – Entrepreneurial Spirit (http://www.e-myth.com/cs/user/print/post/entrepreneurial-spirit)

Forbes (September 12, 2013) – Five Reasons 8 out of 10 Businesses Fail (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericwagner/2013/09/12/five-reasons-8-out-of-10-businesses-fail/#24f6be8a5e3c)

Forbes (June 25, 2015) – Here’s Why Your Startup Will Fail, And What to Do About It (http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/06/25/heres-why-your-startup-will-fail-and-what-to-do-about-it/#4ac8e2864a15)

good hireHiring right is every recruiter’s ultimate dream. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. The whole process is often complex and confusing. What adds to the complexity is the myriad of tips provided by so-called hiring experts. Every “expert” has their own views on sourcing, screening, interviewing and hiring. Listening to two or more experts can often lead to confusion rather than clarity.

What every recruiter secretly wishes for is a simple, foolproof criterion which works in every hiring situation. Given that every hiring situation is different, finding such a criterion seems daunting.

Warren Buffet, the renowned billionaire, offered the following life quote which could provide direction for the hiring template. “Look for three qualities in a person – intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”

A candidate who scores poorly on any of these qualities will be a liability to the organization in one way or another. RecruiterBox perfectly maps out these deficiencies in the following article: http://recruiterbox.com/blog/what-warren-buffett-wants-to-know-before-he-hires-you/. Mr. Buffet identified the criteria behind his quote.

  • A person with low integrity, high intelligence and high energy is most likely to be a smart, smooth-talking, and fast-moving swindler or thief.
  • A person with low energy, high intelligence and high integrity is most likely to be a drag, who isn’t a self-starter and thus cannot be an engine for growth.
  • A person with low intelligence, high integrity and high energy will make a good functionary, but lack creativity and problem-solving capabilities.

Basically, the best hire should have the right balance of all these three qualities. This means that during the hiring process, a recruiter should test for these three qualities in order to ensure that they are hiring the right person.

1. Integrity

This is the first quality mentioned by Mr. Buffet. And for good reason, it is the one quality on which there can absolutely be no compromise. An employee without integrity is one who cannot be trusted with company information. He/she could put the employer and the organization at risk.

Unfortunately, integrity isn’t an easy test. The best way is through conducting a comprehensive background check. The first step is by verifying everything which is indicated in the candidate’s résumé. It is no secret that people often lie in their résumés. This should be a red flag right from the beginning.

The next step is by contacting former employers and carrying out a character audit on the candidate. People who are crafty often leave a trail of complaints about their behavior from superiors, colleagues and subordinates. It should be noted that often employers are not required to offer subjective information but can certainly verify employment dates, attendance and the employees title.

2. Intelligence

This is actually the easiest quality to measure. Ironically, it can be the most difficult quality to accurately assess. The reason for this is simple: there are different kinds of intelligence. Also, being intelligent in the technical aspects of the job doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is well suited for the job.

Let’s take computer programming for instance. One person can be a genius at coding but lack writing and communication skills. Another can have moderate coding skills but be a genius at dealing with people. When hiring a programmer, the first person may make a better choice. However, when hiring someone to lead a team of programmers, the second person may make a better choice.

The bottom line is that measuring intelligence isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It is important to first define what “intelligence” means in the context of the job. Only then can tests be designed which accurately measure whether a candidate has the job required intelligence or not. Generally speaking, there are different kinds of tests which can be used to gauge intelligence. Right from the interview room, the way candidates answer questions can give insights into their intelligence. Recruiters can also use games, puzzles and simulated work scenarios to test for problem solving, ingenuity and strategic thinking. 

3. Energy

Most people equate energy with being outgoing, exuberant and fast-talking. Granted, such qualities may be necessary for certain jobs e.g., sales and marketing. However, the kind of energy which organizations often need is mental energy.

A person with mental energy is mentally alert, always thinking and capable of maintaining sharp mental focus. These are the kinds of employees who will come prepared for meetings, remain active and actually have something to contribute.

Apart from mental energy, organizations also need physical energy. A person with physical energy is capable of putting in a good shift, especially on a long, tedious working day. Such energy is contagious not only to co-workers but also clients.

How a person answers interview questions can provide clues as to their level of mental energy. A person’s energy level can be spotted by body language and dialogue.

Another great way of gaging energy levels is past accomplishments. High energy people tend to be active. Even those coming fresh out of school will have a string of accomplishments such as leadership positions held, community activities participated in and even personal projects completed.

In summary, there are three basic qualities which every right hire, irrespective of the job, should have. These are integrity, intelligence and energy. Therefore, any recruiter who desires to hire the right person should focus on assessing these qualities of their future employees.

no work life balanceThe legendary former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch, famously said: “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, you make them, and they have consequences.” Mr. Welch’s words seem to run counter to one of the most popular ideas in the modern workplace, the idea that it is possible to achieve the perfect balance between workplace and personal life. The assumption is that if people can strike the perfect balance between their personal and work lives, they will be happier and more fulfilled. Happier people not only make more productive employees; they are also make better members of a society. So, the idea of a work life balance seems beneficial all round. The only problem is that work-life balance is an often unattainable ideal. As such those who go in pursuit of it often end up getting frustrated. They end up feeling guilty, powerless and angry. In the end, the pursuit of work-life balance often leads to frustration, unhappiness and stress, the opposite of what it is intended to achieve.

A Narrow Definition

The problem with the idea of work life balance begins with its very definition. In most cases, the definition is too narrow to cover the complexities of modern life. When talking about work-life balance, most people focus on attaining a balance between one’s career and family life. A few throw in social life as well. However, focusing on career, family and social life fails to cover the broad spectrum of what composes modern human life. This actually creates the possibility of someone remaining unfulfilled, even if they attain some sort of “balance” among these narrow spheres. In his provocative essay, “No, You Can’t Have It All”, the President of Axcess Worldwide, Eric C. Sinoway, identifies seven dimensions which make up the life of a typical modern-day citizen. They are:

  1. Family (parents, children, siblings, in-laws and so on)
  2. Social and community (friendships and community engagement)
  3. Spiritual (religion, philosophy or emotional outlook)
  4. Physical (health and well-being)
  5. Material (physical environment and possessions)
  6. Avocational (hobbies and other nonprofessional activities)
  7. Career (both short- and long-term perspectives)

A Complex Balancing Act

When all these dimensions are considered, the idea of balance becomes incredibly difficult. Sinoway uses the analogy of walking on a beam balance, while attempting to juggle an egg, a knife, a crystal glass and other fragile or hazardous objects. To maintain a balance, it is inevitable that some objects will have to be dropped. The same applies to real life. When attempting to juggle career, family, social life, health, spiritual life, material pursuits and hobbies, it is inevitable that some things will fall through the cracks. The real issue is how they fall through the cracks. Do they drop off accidentally because someone is distracted by more immediate concerns or does the person make a calculated decision on what to drop, and what to keep juggling? For most people, things fall through the cracks by accident. For instance, a company executive promises his 8-year-old son that he will be present at his first soccer game. However, upon reaching the office, he finds a full-blown emergency which causes him to forget all about the game. When he remembers (long after the game has ended), he is consumed by guilt. This may seem like a single incident, but for most parents such incidents pile up. They are therefore left with feelings of inadequacy and remorse. To avoid things accidentally falling through the cracks, one needs to make a calculated decision about what to drop and what to keep. To do this, it is important to have a clear idea of a one’s priorities. The starting point is understanding one’s purpose in life.

Life’s Purpose

To some people, the idea of a life’s purpose sounds rather grandiose. However, in this context, the term isn’t used in the mystical and spiritual sense. It is used to underscore a basic undeniable fact that people find fulfilment in different ways. Let us take children, for example. There are some people who find incredible joy, happiness and excitement in nurturing and raising children. To them, having children and watching them grow gives them an incredible feeling of fulfilment. It is about the best thing that can happen to them. For others, raising children is about as exciting as a visit to the dentist. Even if they find themselves having children of their own, they minimize contact with them. For such people, children aren’t a source of fulfillment at all. The same applies to almost all the other dimensions in life. The amount of fulfilment which a person will get from a career, social life, material possessions, spiritual life, family life, avocational pursuits and even physical health will vary from one person to another. Therefore, attempting to balance them makes absolutely no sense. It is much better to rank them in their order of importance, and then prioritize them accordingly.

Prioritization

Prioritization is a more effective approach than the so-called work life balance. It is more realistic because it forces people to identify what is more important to them and to easily drop the nonessential things from their life. However, prioritization isn’t just a matter of eliminating clutter. It is also about knowing what to do, and when. There is a time and place for everything. Focusing one’s efforts and energy at the right time and place is critical. Prioritization is giving maximum focus to what is most important at any given moment. In a nutshell, the idea of work-life balance is an unattainable fantasy. Those who try to attain it are more likely to end up frustrated, guilty and burnt out. A smarter approach is to identify what is most important in one’s life, eliminate any clutter and then use prioritization to focus their time and effort. This will increase one’s chances of attaining success, fulfilment and happiness.

Source:

Eric C. Sinoway (2012) – No, You Can’t Have It All (https://hbr.org/2012/10/no-you-cant-have-it-all)

Playing with the local kids of this school serving 120 students from the ages of 3 – 11.  The people of Kenya are my people. Everywhere you go, leave the world just a little bit better than you found it.

Tom with School Children

Tom ShiehWe were provided special governmental privilege to go inside a maximum security prison in Nairobi and personally interact with prisoners today on death row and life in person. The experience was truly eye-opening and life-changing.

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