Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: statistics on the workplace

Thoughts on Millennials, Workplace Aging, Conflict, and Innovation

Three different articles this morning got me thinking about the workplace. One was by Lisa Woods about ideas to manage conflict in the workplace. It is posted up in her Managing Americans blog at this location and was referenced in a LinkedIn posting. It focuses on positive ways to look at and deal with conflict as it occurs.

The second piece was about the aging workforce. It referenced a book called The 2020 Workplace, which is about how the workplace will look.  It is by Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd.  The basic point is that our aging workforce will push 5 different generations of workers into the workforce soon.

I also recently posted on the issues of team performance, collaboration and managing workforce age diversity in my blog. In it I focused on some ASTD research about how people are choosing not to retire and how that is impacting the workplace, which is actually getting OLDER rather than younger as people deal with the economic uncertainties of our times. (Read this blog article here.)

It says, in part:

And. according to a new survey by the Conference Board, two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 60 are now planning to DELAY their retirement and work longer. That’s a 20-point jump from 2010 – when only 42% of workers had plans to put off their retirement. Job losses, low salaries, and declining home values are some of the main reason why Americans can no longer stick to their retirement plans and plan to keep working.

The new workplace will apparently have 5 tribes, each bringing their own technical and cultural perspectives and each with its own worldview. These groups will have to co-exist and also collaborate in order for companies to generate desired outcomes and results. Think about the elderly customer who calls into customer service and gets the young kid, or the young kid that calls in and gets one of us Oldsters to handle their problem. There are all sorts of opportunities for mismatching and poor communications. The Millennials may see their co-workers as simply elderly:

Millennials have different views of Traditionals

While the older workers may not appreciate all that the younger workers represent:

Millennials may appear to be Potato Heads

Getting the younger workers to get up to speed on how things work may be an interesting challenge, since many workplaces have traditional ways of structuring and managing transactions.

Are training people really ogres?

“Traditionalists” are probably a bit more resistant to new technologies — teaching my mom how to use a cell phone has been interesting. Using the remote control is sometimes even a challenge when the one-button push gets out of synch and some devices are going on while others are going off! Coaching over the phone is fun. So, imagine the Traditionalist calling in and being told they need to give their pin number and access their account online in a conversation with a person who has been online and had a iPhone since they were two.

While the younger workers feel like so much is old-fashioned and not up to modern standards, some questions may arise as to whether we are using the newest of technologies:

Questions always arise if we are using new technology

Similar issues arise as systems and process get upgraded and no longer work like they used to. Some of the older workers may simply feel pressed to adapt to new technologies that are uncomfortable, so there may be some issues of resistance:

Defense wagon yellow 70

To make progress we need to consider workplace conflict a GOOD thing. It generates discomfort with the way things are now and also helps generate “considered alternatives,” things that might be done differently if we choose to do so. But, if an alternative is not considered, it cannot be implemented — it is good to have people thinking out of the boxes we are in… Conflict supports that, for sure.

Having a workplace in some level of conflict is what generates creativity and innovation and forces changes in how things work.

At the same time, a clarity of mission and vision, alignment of measurements and feedback systems to support the generation of desired results, plus sufficient non-direction and the ability to build intrinsic reward mechanisms is important.

We cannot just bring new workers into the workplace and set them free to do what they do. After all, they have no idea as to how we got to where we are and what our history looks like. We have, in so many workplaces, a long history of successes.

Cave Wall yellow 70

And we have a management team that has helped to bring us to our current point. Consider that good, but that it also represents a solid opportunity for a lot of organizational and leadership development. We need some new tools and some new approaches to getting things done.

Cave Wall Writing yellow 70

The reality that there will be FIVE generations of workers in the workplace by 2020 is mind-boggling, and that the workplace will actually keep AGING as people keep working instead of retiring (all sorts of drivers). I posted up some thoughts and statistics about this before: ( ).

So, let’t look to drive MORE conflict and chaos, but let’s make for some effective conflict managements to help direct the focus and energies in our workplaces. We do that by being tight on missions and goals and purposes but being a little looser on processes and procedures. And keep people throwing mud at the wire fence — it is the only way to see what might work.

Conflict is good. Manage it well.

And let’s figure out how to get there from here!

Rainbow Wagon green 70

Our Square Wheels toolkits and our team building games offer some powerful, bombproof and inexpensive ways to improve teamwork and impact organizational effectiveness. Talk is cheap, but directed focus on issues and opportunities is effective in generating alignment and collaboration.

Spring of improvement and change poem


Addendum – from an article at

Older workers doing better than younger counterparts, study suggests
(by Joe McKendrick in SmartPlanet, with Scott’s rewriting)

There has been a lot of discussion about the plight of older workers and their supposed disappearance from today’s hyper-competitive economy. Anecdotal stories of age discrimination abound. A study funded by the Social Security Administration, however, shows older workers are more educated, more productive, and make more money than ever before. And with the increasing numbers of Baby Boomers hitting age-60 mark, these trends are accelerating as few choose to retire because they can’t.

Older workers also earn premiums over younger workers, and tend to have the same educational levels. 20 years ago, only 20% of workers who were high-school dropouts remained in the workforce past age 60, versus 60% of those with doctoral or professional degrees. This metric stays essentially the same for men, but has risen for women. Plus, since average educational levels are rising for older workers, greater labor participation rates are coming with it for non manual labor workers.

Employees between the ages of 65 and 69 have had 30%-point gains in income between the years 1985 and 2010. In addition, 70-to-74-year olds saw their income grow at least 28% points higher since 1985. The issue is that they are not allowing for a lot of hiring of younger workers

Incomes of workers 25-29 dropped 7%, and those in the 45-49 group dropped 1% since 1985.


For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
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Here is a bit more interesting information: This from

A new survey of employers finds the cost of replacing a ” Millennial” employee — an individual in his or her 20s — ranges between $15,000 and $25,000.

Cost to replace a Gen-Y employee: up to $25,000

by Joe McKendrick

That’s the conclusion of a survey conducted by Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, and, an online career service.

Actually, the cost of replacing any employee across the generational spectrum is high. A recent study by the Center for American Progress puts this number at about 20% of anyone with a salary up to $75,000 or less. By this estimate, assuming a Millennial employee is making about $50,000, this means a $10,000 replacement cost — a little more conservative than the Millennial Branding estimate, but still something to ponder for organizations.

What adds to the Gen-Y replacement cost is their greater proclivity to job-hop: the Millennial Branding study finds that the average worker under the age of 30 changes jobs every two years, compared to the five-year job-hopping rate of Gen X-ers (30 to 50 years of age),  and seven-year-itch of Baby Boomers (50 years or older).

The major costs associated with replacing employees includes training and development, interviewing, job posting/advertising and on-boarding.

Also, as Millennial Branding put it: “Considering that approximately 40% of companies currently employ 50 or more millennial workers, these costs are expected to rise dramatically over the years to come. With current data showing more than 60% of millennials leaving their company in less than three years, employers are facing a very expensive revolving door.”

What can be done to keep to attract, rather than repel, needed talent?  Some thoughts:

Don’t compartmentalize the solution within a “program”: Millennial Branding states that some companies have “retention programs” to keep employees in the fold. However, keeping people engaged and excited about a company means a cultural change across the board, a different way of looking at management — or even better, a more management-free workplace.

Promote entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship: Nothing creates passion and personal responsibility more than being able to build one’s own business. Provide ways to ensure incentives and rewards for innovation. Don’t be afraid of employees even proposing disruption — creating a product or service that turns the mainstream business on its head.

Remove the barriers between employees and customers: Organizations that remove employees from meaningful engagement with the customer risk souring those employees. As a great example, look to the customer call-center function — a hotbed of turnover. Those companies that provide career tracks, training, and decision-making discretion to customer-care representatives see far less turnover than those that just want warm bodies at the call stations. At another level, employees caught up in a bureaucracy — and are far removed from customers — also are likely to be disenchanted.

Use social media: In its report, Millennial Branding points out that while 62% of HR professionals use job boards and corporate websites to recruit millennials, only 9% use LinkedIn, 3% for Facebook and 1% cited Twitter as a resource for recruiting purposes. You have to go where they live.

Some Old Thoughts and Data on The Workplace

I’ve been collecting stuff forever, saving statistics and quotes and tidbits into computer files, so I have tons of stuff, old and new. And recently, I came across a paper document showing statistics from a Steelcase suevey done in 1991 and that got me looking at some old files and, well there you go and here we are…

It seemed that a trip through the archived data might be interesting, and if you like this, I can do similar things every now and again… These are just some factoids and some food for thought along the lines of how things change (and sometimes remain the same):

•  VW’s 243,256 employees – 57% who work in Germany –  get 6 weeks vacation a year – paid – and work 30 hour weeks.  The average earns $39 in salary and benefits compared to a US average of $25 and an average in Japan of $27.  Call this an infrastructure gap.  (From Forbes, April 7, 1997)

•  The number one issue of American office workers is that “Management provides me with the tools and resources to get my job done.”  Of U.S. office workers, 89% feel it’s “very important to them” and 51% feel it’s “very true on their present job.”  (Steelcase survey, 1991)

•  Most executives (88%) thought that employee participation was important to productivity yet only 30% say their companies do a good job of involving employees in decisions that affect them.  Only 38% of employees report that their companies do a good job of seeking opinions and suggestions of employees, which has dropped since 1989.  And even when opinions are sought, only 29% of employees say that the company does a good job of acting on those suggestions. (The Wyatt Company WorkUSA Survey, 1991)

• Towers Perrin surveyed 250,000 workers at 60 companies and found only 48% thought their bosses listened to their ideas or acted upon them.  That’s a 3 percent drop from 3 years ago.  And only 60% of employees think their bosses keep them well informed. (Charlotte Observer, 9/24/92)

•  The fourth most critical issue of office workers was that “Top management provides clear goals and direction for the organization.”  While 80 percent feel it’s “very important to them,” only 29 percent feel it’s “very true on their present job” — a 51 percent gap! (Steelcase survey, 1991)

•  A study of 4000 American managers produced the startling finding that only 46% give their best effort at work.  Only 36% feel challenged by their jobs; 52% have not attained their personal objectives; and more than 43% feel trapped in their jobs.” (Dale Carnegie & Associates, 1992)

• Chief executives from 150 organizations nationwide (US) say the skills they would most like to develop in members of their executive team are:

47%            Team Building
44%             Strategic Thinking
40%             Leadership
34%    The Ability to Motivate Others
(Source:  Manchester Partners International, Inc. Philadelphia — from Human Resources Executive, October 20, 1996  pg. 63)

• Thirty five percent of 1,885 executives polled nationwide are dissatisfied with their jobs and 78% have revised their resumes (compared to 68% in 1993);  69% have sent resumes to prospective employers (compared to 58%) and 64% had actually gone on interviews, compared to 53% in 1993. (from Human Resources Executive, October 20, 1996  pg. 63)

• The average tenure of CEOs has dropped to a new low level of 2-3 years with burnout tendency now at 85%,
• An average of 83% of employees are NOT engaged with their work and the problem isn’t getting better;
• 1/3- 1/2 are seeking employment elsewhere with the price-tag on these two issues alone reaching billions of dollars;
  (Above from John Keenan’s ILGE Flyer, 2011)

• In 1989, the Registration Accreditation Board was founded by ASQC to assure competency and reliability of ISO auditors and registrars in the US.  At the time, it was estimated that the pool of auditors would grow to about 300.  As of 1995, there were 3,397. Today, over a million international organizations are certified in ISO 9001 alone, and there are dozens of competing standards — no guess as to the numbers of auditors or the cost of compliance.

Many of the above stats have changed for the worst, from the kinds of things we can find in the literature. Ah, the good old days of things we could have done differently! If you like this, let me know and I can dredge out more of these kinds of factoids.

Commitment to Employee Development is good! Engagement? Coaching?

In 2010, employers spent more on employees’ development than ever before: businesses in the United States spent $171.5 billion on employee learning in 2010, up from $125.8 billion in 2009, according to ASTD in their recent survey. Apparently, companies are seeing a benefit in investing in the development of their people and that there may be payoffs for that in terms of employee retention and improved performance.

Training can be good!

Companies need to invest in employee development

Numerous surveys are finding, however, that the levels of employee engagement are low and that many are ready to leave their present organizations should another job opportunity appear. Training may not be actually working all that well to improve results…

A Fierce, Inc., survey of more than 1,400 corporate executives, employees, and educators across industries found that poor communication between decision-makers and employees, which heavily impacts human capital ROI. Some findings include:

  • 86 percent of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures; similarly, 92 percent of respondents also agree that a company’s tendency to hit or miss a deadline impacts results.
  • More than 70 percent of individuals either agree or strongly agree that a lack of CANDOR impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally.
  • More than 97 percent of those surveyed believe the lack of alignment within a team directly impacts the outcome of any given task or project.
  • 90 percent of respondents believe decision-makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision; approximately 40 percent feel leaders and decision-makers consistently fail to do so.
  • Nearly 100 percent (99.1) prefer a workplace in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, yet less than half said their organization’s tendency is to do so.

While ASTD’s report found that the value of a highly skilled workforce continues to rise, companies are still missing the boat when it comes to training. Training will not solve the kinds of problems mentioned above. Skill training often seems to generate results that look like this:

Even with improved training-related strengths, failures to improve the workplace and involve and engage workers will not lead to great improvements in performance

Skills are important. But what are we doing to better engage workers in workplace improvement? Businesses with highly engaged workforces have many advantages over its competitors:

• On average, they rate 86% higher with their customers and build higher levels of customer loyalty, which has many positive impacts on sales and referrals, marketing costs, etc.
• They have 70% more success in lowering employee turnover
• They are 70% more likely to have higher productivity
• They enjoy higher profitability, have better safety records and deliver greater earnings per share to their stockholders

Senior executives seem to understand that a highly skilled workforce, and the continued development of those employees, can be a strategic differentiator in today’s competitive business environment. What they seem to miss is the issue of involvement.

While the expenditure per employee increased, learning hours per employee remained the same — the amount of training is the same, but the costs have risen. My guess is that they have downsized their training departments so much that they now rely more on outside vendors, spending more for each hour of learning content used. Some other key findings include:

  • Use of technology to deliver training, especially mobile learning, continues to grow – Fortune Global 500 companies set a new high of 40.1 percent of formal learning hours used being delivered via technology-based methods.
  • Managerial and supervisory training was the most offered content (12.8 percent) followed by profession- or industry-specific content (11.3 percent), and mandatory and compliance content (10 percent).

Sounds like same old, same old, right? For zillions of years, companies chose to not involve and engage workers. This tended to be a basis of the initial formation of unions so long ago (Read Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” for a view of how things were in the workplace around the turn of the 20th century).

People were trained to do the job at hand, but they were NOT a part of the company. They were cogs to be trashed when they were broken. They did not have any workplace ownership involvement and were not treated as humabn capital. They were a cost.

Now, look at GM and Chrysler and Ford and what they are doing with a more involved workforce (and a union). They have productive, skilled, knowledgeable, involved and let me say productive people again. If we treat workers well and involve them in workplace decisions and keep them aligned toward expectations, goals and the future, we can accomplish a lot more than by simply training them to perform some task, in my opinion.

The Round Wheels are already in the Wagon!

If we focus more on Managers as Trainers, and focus more on teaching more of the existing Best Practices in the workplace to more of the people in the workplaces, and we focus more on engaging and motivating the people in the bottom half of the organization, can profit-improvement be far behind?

We should focus more attention on coaching the below-average performers to improve. They have the skills to improve, but not the support

You can see a short video presentation on this on my YouTube Site — it is about coaching the below average performer for workplace improvement:

If we’re not getting more better faster than they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better or more worse.

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