Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Fri, 19 Oct 2018 17:28:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Three Mega Trends to Watch For in 2019 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/three-mega-trends-to-watch-2019/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/three-mega-trends-to-watch-2019/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 13:39:55 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1533 Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe it’s the inevitability of the rapidly evolving world we live in. But, each year, I spend a good amount of time with colleagues thinking about how the major economic, sociological, technological, and cultural trends we are experiencing will impact us, our leaders, our employees, and HR professionals […]

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future of workMaybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Maybe it’s the inevitability of the rapidly evolving world we live in. But, each year, I spend a good amount of time with colleagues thinking about how the major economic, sociological, technological, and cultural trends we are experiencing will impact us, our leaders, our employees, and HR professionals in the coming year.

We like to explore multiple topics, always looking at issues through the lens of putting people first. Through these discussions, we extend and expand the ideas until we see emerging patterns everywhere we look. The value of analogous fields is never lost in this process, as we gather innovative and nascent solutions to the problems posed by these trends in unexpected industries and contexts.

Throughout 2018, our team focused on artificial intelligence, in particular “People First” AI, hyper-personalization and its necessity in leadership, and humanizing work with breakthrough diversity and inclusion initiatives. The growing research and attention paid to these topics by organizations globally has certainly advanced our understanding of these trends and has brought new solutions to the market from Ultimate Software and others.

So, we turn now to what 2019 will bring us.

The three mega trends below are not brand-new concepts, but they will take on a critical urgency in 2019 due to a convergence of technological, economic, and socio-cultural factors.

Well-being at Work

With the dizzying pace of change and the mind-blowing exponential growth of data and technology available to us showing no signs of letting up, we are all facing new levels of overload. The impact of this overload is manifesting itself in unanticipated ways. Our emotional, social, and physical well-being at work is directly impacted by the stressors associated with overload, and organizations will struggle to help employees cope and, more importantly, thrive in such environments without a new approach. Far beyond wellness programs, organizations will have to explore creative new workspace concepts, design work with overall employee well-being in mind, and offer transformative technologies to help monitor and change employee behavior. In addition, the work of inclusion and belonging will take on even greater importance for business success. 

Preparing People for the Future of Work

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. Yet, when we bring it up and read about it, it’s generally in terms of job loss due to AI and automation, the primary drivers of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The urgency in 2019 comes from the fact that, to date, we have done more talking and less doing – and action is needed before we reach a global skills crisis. HR and business leaders have done little to prepare people for the future of work by systematically and intentionally reskilling and upskilling them.

The future workforce is a blended one, with humans and machines working side by side. We cannot leave the future success of our businesses to chance, yet that is precisely what many organizations are doing by leaving reskilling entirely up to employees. We must ensure employees’ voices are heard throughout this daunting learning process, and every employee should contribute to defining their development paths, but not without guidance and support from their employers. The shift has to start with understanding a new hierarchy of needs for employees, in which we deeply understand their motivations and dreams and actively include them in their future performance development – all of which result in helping drive better performance for organizations.

Creating the Connected, Collaborative Enterprise

The third major force impacting our workplaces and workforces is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT manifests itself differently in the workplace compared with in our private lives, with our smart lights, thermostats, and connected kitchens. At work, we have new opportunities to create a highly connected and collaborative enterprise. With the IoT at work – smart work apps that might recognize when praise is given and record it, smart meeting spaces and wearable devices that pick up on stress and stressors – we can elevate the traditional employee and manager self-service models to completely new levels (at last) and transform the Digital Employee Experience into an insightful and interactive one.

With data democratization that both fosters higher levels of trust between employees and employers while enabling people to make better and smarter decisions for the enterprise and themselves, organizational outcomes will improve. We must also be aware of and balance the ethics of capturing new kinds of interaction data and the flow of information that moves between and within the connected and collaborative enterprise in the era of boundary-less organizations. It will be crucial to ensure we respect how people work and honor their private data while helping them thrive.

While these mega trends are not entirely new to the world of work and HR, they have certainly not been addressed to the extent they need to be to ensure our people can maximize their contributions to our organizations while achieving more meaningful levels of professional and personal growth and success.

For the sake of our organizations and, above all, our people, let’s make 2019 the year that changes it all!

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Women in Technology: United We Stand https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/women-in-tech/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/women-in-tech/#respond Thu, 06 Sep 2018 10:00:11 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1503 It’s conference season and at Ultimate Software, we are excited that preparations for our participation in the HR Technology Conference & Expo and the Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, produced by AnitaB.org—are in full swing. I am honored to be part of the Women in Technology track at HR Tech again […]

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women in techIt’s conference season and at Ultimate Software, we are excited that preparations for our participation in the HR Technology Conference & Expo and the Grace Hopper Celebration—the world’s largest gathering of women technologists, produced by AnitaB.org—are in full swing. I am honored to be part of the Women in Technology track at HR Tech again this year, and to be working with so many dedicated women and men who are committed to elevating the role of women in tech. All this activity gives me an opportunity to share some thoughts on the state of women in technology in a broader context.  Being a woman in today’s male-dominated technology industry (with persistently inequitable salaries, limited leadership opportunities, and all-too-frequent harassment) can be an exhausting challenge. I find myself reflecting on how women come to be leaders in their organizations—and on the barriers that keep them from doing so. Despite many of my peers in the tech sector sharing our stories and readily offering sponsorship and advice to other women through informal and more formal programs like Ultimate Software’s Women in Leadership program, we have work to do.

The statistics on this subject paint a vivid—and troubling—picture of these barriers. While women make up 46.8 percent of the American workforce, fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. According to McKinsey & Company, women are 18 percent less likely than men to get promoted to management positions. This percentage drops even further for women of color and women in tech: as of 2015, the proportions of Black and Latina women in computing occupations were 3 and 1 percent, respectively.

Even though these numbers have been widely circulated in HR circles, I continue to come across corporate annual reports that feature a variety of diverse employees on the cover page. The subtext of this imagery, inferring that the organization behind the report champions diversity and inclusion, could not be more clearly at odds with the difficult reality the above statistics reveal. How do the distressing stories and statistics on women in tech (and in business as a whole) keep coming at a fever pace, when virtually every company today claims D&I as an important issue or initiative?

Interestingly, many companies appear to be downplaying their D&I initiatives of late, according to a recent report by software provider Atlassian. The report chalks up the backpedaling to what it calls ‘diversity fatigue’. A key factor in this inactivity is an over-focus on increasing diversity statistics, instead of creating truly inclusive workplaces, the report concludes.

“People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talk not turning into impactful action, and overwhelmed by the number of issues to address and the scope of what must change,” the report states. “While respondents continue to say that they care about diversity and inclusion, action declined across the board.”

As a woman whose work involves helping companies design superior experiences for employees to achieve purposeful and productive jobs, I am committed to finding ways to break down the barriers that keep women from rising to the ranks of tech industry leadership. This task will not be easy, but I do have a few suggestions:

  • An employer that offers competitive compensation packages and great benefits to all new employees, does not always have a truly diverse and inclusive work culture.
  • Enviable diversity statistics are positive but don’t mean the company is also inclusive. Ask the recruitment officer for evidence of inclusion—real examples demonstrating that the contributions of all people are valued and that women and other under-represented groups are staying.
  • Ask for promotion statistics across different job types and demographics. If they can’t offer up the goods when asked, proceed with caution.

Companies that hope to weaken the glass ceiling must make inclusion more than a priority, it must become the fabric of their business’ success. They must take bold action now to promote women and men of all ethnic and racial backgrounds at similar rates, ensure that incidences of discrimination are met with real consequences, and create simple and confidential processes to empower their people to report evidence of unfair treatment and harassment.

What’s in it for businesses that take these steps? That’s easy. They will become employers of choice, successful companies composed of workforces that are the envy of their competitors. They will foster within their organizations the sense of disarming comfort that I experienced when I first went to the Grace Hopper Celebration—and realized I was not a minority in the tech ranks. Now is the time for all companies to turn the statistics around and reap the benefits of truly diverse and inclusive leadership… because at the end of the day, putting all people first is the key to business success.

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Employee Engagement in the Augmented Age https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-augmented-age/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-engagement-augmented-age/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 13:08:58 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1494 Fretting about the security of your job because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? In our marvelous age of cognitive computing technologies, the good news is that people will perform less boring and repetitive manual tasks. The bad news is that individuals may lose their jobs as a consequence. The widening knowledge of human displacement by […]

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cognitive computing employee engagementFretting about the security of your job because of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? In our marvelous age of cognitive computing technologies, the good news is that people will perform less boring and repetitive manual tasks. The bad news is that individuals may lose their jobs as a consequence.

The widening knowledge of human displacement by robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, augmented intelligence, natural language processing, and image-recognition tools is sending shivers across some workplaces. Not just administrative, entry-level, or task-based roles are at risk of being replaced by robots; business professions like accountants, loan officers, and insurance underwriters also are vulnerable.

One cannot blame companies for deploying technologies that make their organizations and operations more efficient and competitive, executing work at much greater speed, consistency, and quality. Since the Industrial Age, anytime a new technology is introduced, there are always labor implications. The difference now is the breadth and scope of potential job displacement and wide-scale awareness of its imminence—even if this is many years in the future.

Businesses avow that their investments in cognitive computing will free up people to provide them with more interesting, value-added work. There is much truth in this. A case in point is Finance, where RPA is being widely deployed to perform account reconciliations and journal entries. Rather than crunch the numbers, accountants are now liberated to make sense of them for strategic decision-making purposes—certainly more interesting work.

While not the dystopian picture that some critics of robotics paint, the truth is that, over time, some jobs will disappear. People know this: According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans (67%) predict that, within 50 years, robots and computers will do much of the work they currently perform.

Since we’re human beings, we like to think the worst won’t happen to us. The Pew survey underscores this quirk of human nature, noting that 80% of the respondents believe their own jobs to be safe. Obviously, there is a disconnect here.

Since my passion is workplace transformation and its impact on human beings, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a future in which bots of one form or another are ubiquitous in the workplace. How might this affect employee engagement as we move forward?

My work entails helping companies create work experiences that enable all people to find and engage in productive jobs and meaningful careers. If people are worried about retaining their jobs—even many years in the future—how can they possibly perform their roles today with passion and diligence?

To delve further into this subject, I reached out to Jeremy Scrivens, whose life’s work has involved liberating people to be all they can be at work. Jeremy is a respected work futurist and collaboration catalyst. He’s the director of The Emotional Economy At Work augmented again in Western Australia, where he focuses on guiding organizations and teams to create exceptional collaboration capabilities through a highly engaged workforce.

Jeremy is highly tuned in to the emotional qualities of people in their work. “The problem with work today,” he told me, “is that people who have been the operators of processes since the Industrial Age are suddenly dispensable. If people are going to be displaced to some extent by robots in future, why they need to work at all must be reappraised.”

Cognitive computing technology, Jeremy believes, is not just a way to free people from being cogs in a machine—it is also an opportunity for companies to liberate people to make deeper connections, augmenting our abilities to be more fully human at work. It requires businesses to start with a fresh sheet of paper that accepts that certain tools are now available to humans that were not available before. The question then becomes: How can a business reimagine itself to provide meaningful and consequential responsibilities to people for them to make the world a better place?

For one thing, Jeremy advocates that companies replace their current organizational paradigms of flat, hierarchically structured work responsibilities with collaborative engagements in which everyone co-innovates a shared future. This is the work he does in his projects for companies and governments. In all cases, he creates a physical “appreciative inquiry summit” and a virtual “social room.” Both call for bringing together people in open discussions.

I am a huge fan of involving people more directly in these changes by having a say in their reskilling, future roles, and work—something we don’t do enough of today in corporate America. As Jeremy explains, “The future of work must begin and end with the restoration of the individual.”

Jeremy recently put his concept of open discussions to collaborate and create the future of work on behalf of Acivico, a Birmingham, England-based provider of design, construction, facilities cleaning, and catering services. The company wanted its next chapter to be one of greater collaboration and social good. “You can’t innovate without collaboration,” Jeremy explained.

Recognizing that social good and business success in today’s Digital Age can easily co-exist and are preferable to many younger workers, Acivico’s CEO at the time, Trevor Haynes, asked Jeremy to work with a core team of employees to create a social room. This room would serve as a virtual meeting place for people in the company and the local community to engage more personally with one another through social media. A social native himself, Jeremy first connected with Haynes (who continues to serve on Acivico’s board) via Twitter.

The collaborations gave rise to #ACIVICommunity, a Birmingham Social Room hosted by Acivico. People who participate in the social room have the opportunity to engage in social-good projects and collaborations across Birmingham. “They can use the platform to initiate or follow social-good projects they believe in,” said Jeremy. “These projects are open to the community to join with Acivico employees to enable more social good and business to be done at scale.”

One example is to leverage the social room to collaborate on solutions to the city’s homeless crisis, providing every homeless person with daily sleeping accommodations and meals. Other examples include working with local businesses to create job opportunities for ex-offenders who struggle to get second chances, and engaging schools and students to become more involved in social activities. Certainly, the latter would assist the early development of the next generation of community and business leaders. The possibilities are inspiring and endless.

What does all this have to do with robots? In the new Augmented Age, the efforts of a single person or organization can reach far beyond what we could imagine in the past and can transform the experience of people for the better—as in the case of the people of Birmingham, who through social collaboration and the assistance of local business, are reimagining a more connected and positive future benefitting both business and society. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to create such an organization, one driven by people sharing their respective brilliance to create a better world for all.

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A Culture of Real Inclusion https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/diversity-inclusion-work/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/diversity-inclusion-work/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2018 10:00:45 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1464 Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has hit the mainstream and moved beyond the realm of HR of late, in part due to many highly publicized cases highlighting the persistence of inequities in the workplace. In fact, D&I is increasingly becoming a component of companies’ employee-recruitment and customer-branding strategies. Businesses promote their D&I statistics to candidates in […]

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diversity & inclusionDiversity and inclusion (D&I) has hit the mainstream and moved beyond the realm of HR of late, in part due to many highly publicized cases highlighting the persistence of inequities in the workplace. In fact, D&I is increasingly becoming a component of companies’ employee-recruitment and customer-branding strategies. Businesses promote their D&I statistics to candidates in online recruiting solutions, noting the percentages of employed women, African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented employee groups, while those organizations that do not must answer to candidates who want to know how diverse their potential workplaces are. Progress has been made.

The problem is that these statistics focus on diversity, which is fairly easy to tally up. Inclusion, on the other hand, is harder to measure and prove, yet is just as important a component of D&I. One without the other is only half-baked.

A workforce of diverse individuals can show that a company is committed to creating a well-balanced team or has an openness to people’s differences. Inclusion—the feeling of belonging that comes about when employees are treated equitably and are free to bring their authentic selves to work—indicates the company welcomes their ideas, perspectives, and opinions.

Tremendous business opportunities are available to companies that value the contributions of all employees, whether they’re gay or straight, black or white, American or foreign by birth. The more extensive the diversity of people in an organization, the greater the possibility of generating unique ideas and innovating.

While diversity is valuable to the business, due to government regulations and the social conscience of business leaders, many workforces have become diversified. Energy now must be put into creating cultures of inclusion.

These thoughts were top of mind during a recent lunch discussion I enjoyed with a colleague I deeply admire, Viv Maza, Ultimate’s chief people officer. Viv has been the heart of the company since its inception in 1990, when the workforce consisted of four people in two cubicles and not the 4,300+ employees we have today. While inclusion is a buzzword today, Viv has always been using the word—long before she was part of Ultimate’s founding team.

Viv agreed with me that diversity and inclusion are two different things, yet many companies tend to lump them together, believing a diverse workforce is an inclusive one.

“Inclusivity is one of our core principles at Ultimate,” said Viv. “Since day one, my job has been to take care of all our people, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. This is deeply embedded in my DNA and defines who I am.”

As the mother of two gay children, Viv has a personal connection to the need for all individuals, LGBTQ employees in particular, to be fully themselves at work as they are in life. “When someone comes out as gay, telling their parents or their employer, they’re so nervous,” she said. “I recall this one employee who came out to me. I told him that being openly gay didn’t change the dynamic of the special person he was. I wanted him to be as comfortable with himself as I was with him.”

Viv pointed out that the company has many other talented and gifted employees who are gay, but not all of them are out. “The decision to come out, of course, is up to them, but I can promise them that this is a safe place of belonging for all our amazing people,” she said. “We value each and every person’s contributions, regardless of their differences. In fact, we cherish their differences.”

Viv’s feelings about inclusion extend to other aspects of personal self-identification. She recalled a job interview with a young woman last year that mentioned her previous employer had fired her because she had purple-colored hair. “I told her purple hair looks amazing and if that is how she defines herself, bring it on,” said Viv. “Twenty years ago, we might have questioned her choice. But this is a new age in which things that weren’t acceptable at work are now seen as liberating. Work cultures used to be so conformist. Today, they’re dynamic, and that’s a good thing.”

Viv’s point resonated with me. I’ve come to see corporate culture not as a fixed set of standards, but as a living, breathing, and evolving entity. When a new person joins a team, the culture of the group changes and expands, enriched by the new person’s experiences and perspectives. If the individual feels he or she has to conform to the dynamics of the team, the group suffers the loss of the person’s unique viewpoint. The new employee might feel uncomfortable expressing a novel thought or a different opinion without fear of embarrassment or, worse, humiliation and eventual exclusion. Yet, all it takes is one extraordinary idea to upend the status quo and move the business forward.

We’ve always prioritized and valued our remarkable culture at Ultimate. We all know that an optimal culture reflects an organization’s strengths and reinforces its brand, reputation, and ability to attract the best people and deliver industry-leading solutions and support. But what exactly is an “optimal” culture?

One way to find out is by assessing the reality of an organization’s culture today, as well as where the organization’s culture might go in the future depending on key decisions and strategies. I refer to this as “Culture Casting,” and it has three components, the first of which is to take an honest appraisal of the current culture—casting a bright spotlight on it.

The second component is to identify the culture’s “cast of characters”—the different people within the organization—to understand what drives them and what impact they have on the culture. Are they detractors or promoters? And the third component is to project and communicate a vision of the ideal culture the organization wants to have in future. It is particularly important to include employees in the vision of the future to ensure the discussion is authentic and realistic, and addresses perception gaps between leaders and employees.

What does this have to do with inclusion? Certainly, by knowing each person, their perspectives, and their perceptions in a scalable fashion, the organization can ensure their contributions are accorded equitable weight and value, with respect to what is most important to the organization itself. Without this understanding, inequities and biases come into play and can erode inclusivity in a culture.

As we finished our lunch, Viv commented about a future in which every employee feels their unique selves are making a difference in their shared journey to designing innovative solutions and providing meaningful service. “Labels are meaningless,” said Viv. “What’s crucial is to create an environment where people feel safe and supported to be who they are.”

We are beyond fortunate to have her as our Chief People Officer!

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Equity at Work: “No Excuses,” Please https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/gender-equality-at-work/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/gender-equality-at-work/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:53:08 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1303 As a mother with a daughter entering the workforce, I wonder if, and hope that, she will receive career opportunities on par with what men in the same job will receive. I try to be optimistic, but the reality is that statistics on the inequitable income of women in the workplace are staggering. They also […]

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equity workplaceAs a mother with a daughter entering the workforce, I wonder if, and hope that, she will receive career opportunities on par with what men in the same job will receive. I try to be optimistic, but the reality is that statistics on the inequitable income of women in the workplace are staggering. They also strike to the heart of an issue that is much deeper than pay. Still today, in many organizations around the world, women are not treated equitably when it comes to promotions, access to leadership positions, and, worst of all in my opinion, having their voices heard. Their ideas and perspectives are all too often not given equal standing with the views of men, adversely affecting their career progress. Don’t get me wrong. There are companies that value people equally and serve as great role models for what can be. I’m fortunate to work for one!

According to a 2016 study from McKinsey & Co., more than 75% of CEOs list “gender equality” as one of their top 10 business priorities, yet women are less likely to receive a promotion or be on a path toward leadership. U.S. companies promote men at 30% higher rates than women during their early career stages, and entry-level women are significantly more likely than men to have spent five or more years in the same role, the study states. Take the practice of “skipping” giving women a merit increase when they are on maternity leave because they are “not present at work, so why give them an increase?” This is more common in countries with extended maternity leave benefits, but in happens in the United States as well. That practice alone can result in women being paid 10% less than men over time if they have two or more children!

There are other unsettling facts to consider. For example, women attend college at higher rates than men, yet they earn less. Men working in financial services firms receive double the bonuses received by women in the same businesses. And women account for two-thirds of all national student debt, in part because pay-equity gaps make it more difficult for women to pay off their loans.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Gender inequity is systemic, and although getting better in some sectors, remains a serious socio-economic issue. What’s truly disturbing is the message this sends to young women and girls—that no matter how hard they try, no matter how well they excel, they may never get their fair due in the workplace.

These thoughts were top of mind as I sat down to chat with Martin Paz, a respected HR leader in the healthcare field, about his daughter Dana, who is close to receiving her master’s in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. It’s a profession that requires topnotch mathematical skills and practical experience. It’s also a career heavily populated by men.

Through a colleague, I was introduced to Martin, who grew up in South Texas in the 1970s and witnessed the corrosive effects of racial discrimination firsthand. He used the experience as a form of fuel in a relentless drive to better himself.

“I was constantly reminded in middle school and high school that I was different,” said Martin. “I developed a very competitive attitude. To play and excel on the basketball team, I had to determine how to overcome a height disadvantage. I simply would not allow myself to make excuses. If you think you can’t achieve something, you won’t achieve it.”

Martin passed on his “no excuses” mantra to his three children. “If homework need to be done, or music practiced, we said ‘go get it done—no excuses,’” he said.

As the kids got older, he and his wife encouraged and supported them to push past their comfort zones and take on more challenging levels of achievement—academically, artistically, and physically. “Obviously, we loved them above all else, but we also had very clear expectations of their behavior and accountability,” he explained. Martin also shared a great story about when the family watched the Disney animated film Mulan. In the movie, Mulan’s father, a leader in the Chinese military, becomes ill. Mulan, the young protagonist, wants to fulfill her father’s obligations, but as a girl in the patriarchal regime, she is technically unqualified to serve. So, she impersonates a man.

The key word here is “impersonates.” “In saving China, Mulan does not use brute strength as a man might; rather, she deploys her cleverness,” said Martin. “In our discussion of the film afterward, I emphasized this feature to my children.”

Martin, as many of you do, strongly encouraged his children to explore their interests. Dana was creative, intensely curious, and very hands-on. She loved to make and do things that required organization and following detailed directions, such as craft, sew, woodwork, bake, and play sports. “Or do whatever her older brother Jordan was doing,” said Martin.

These skills extended to her aptitude in math. Martin was concerned that, in high school, teachers would not treat her math skills with the same attention they provided boys with the same skills. He instructed Dana to sit up front in class, ask questions, and express her opinions.

Ultimately, Dana caught the attention of a high-school physics teacher, Dr. Danielle Kayal, an industrial engineer and mentor, who recommended she consider a career in engineering. She took the advice, subsequently majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Last summer, she interned at SpaceX, one of the companies founded by Elon Musk. When Dana graduates from Stanford this year, she plans to land an engineering position at an advanced, cutting-edge tech company. “My hope is that they look at her broad practical experience and technical bona fides, not her gender,” Martin added.

I hope so, too, and I’m optimistic. The world needs people like Dana who don’t let the statistics on workplace inequities drag down her ambition. The world also needs companies that speak out on the issue of gender-based imbalances and then walk the walk, as does Ultimate. With close to half of our managers being women, it’s something we take very seriously.

There is simply no excuse—work performance and pay should be judged on how well we leverage our skills to the benefit of the organization, irrespective of our gender.

I hope this is an issue we continue to think about and tackle as a society, not only today on Equal Pay Day, but every day moving forward, until we’ve ended the pay gap for good.

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Shattering Stereotypes and Ceilings Along the Way https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/shattering-stereotypes/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/shattering-stereotypes/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 15:03:31 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1232 Women in the world of business have long complained about barriers to their professional advancement. So have many minorities (and justly so). While there are laws that prevent discrimination with regard to job promotions, these career obstacles often are hard to prove, much less enforce. Many companies make it seem like the sky is the […]

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women glass ceilingWomen in the world of business have long complained about barriers to their professional advancement. So have many minorities (and justly so). While there are laws that prevent discrimination with regard to job promotions, these career obstacles often are hard to prove, much less enforce. Many companies make it seem like the sky is the limit for all smart, hard-working employees but instead some of us bump up against an invisible obstruction designed to preserve the generally male-dominated executive status quo.

I’m referring, of course, to the “glass ceiling.” Nearly 40 years after the metaphor was coined in a 1978 speech by Marilyn Loden, author of the book, “Feminine Leadership, or How to Succeed in Business Without Being One of the Boys,” the glass ceiling remains firmly in place, discrimination laws aside. A 2017 survey by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org of 30,000 men and women employees indicates that while both genders want to be promoted in approximate percentages, women are 18 percent less likely on average to actually receive one. This gap is even more pronounced for women of color.

“Women fall behind early and lose ground with every step they take (in the workplace),” the study states. Since women are underrepresented in line roles at every level of the corporate pipeline, by the time they reach the level of a senior vice president, they hold a measly 21 percent of these positions. “Since the vast majority of CEOs come from line roles, this dramatically hurts women’s odds of reaching the very top,” the researchers comment.

This lack of advancement is especially staggering for women in technical roles. According to AnitaB.org, the representation of women technologists declines by 50% from entry to mid to senior and executive levels. At this rate, researchers maintain that it will take 100 years for women in technical and non-technical roles combined to reach parity with men in the C-suite!

What is most bothersome to me is the message the study sends to young women and girls about their chances of becoming business leaders—not tomorrow or next year but in this century! So, I’d like to share a remarkable story of a customer I met who has blown up the glass ceiling with grace and aplomb! Few women have gone as far as Kim McWaters, who began her career more than 30 years ago as a temporary switchboard operator at Universal Technical Institute and has served as the company’s CEO and chairwoman since 2003, overseeing more than 1,880 employees today. Universal Technical Institute is a publicly traded nationwide provider of technical education for students seeking careers as automotive, motorcycle and marine technicians—what used to be euphemistically considered “guy jobs,” but now include many women.

Kim recently shared her remarkable journey with me. The irony, if that’s the right word, is that she had no big dreams of someday running a big company. As a favor to her uncle, she took a part-time summer job to operate the switchboard at Universal Technical Institute. She was 20 years old, a single mother needing the income to feed her one-year old son. “What I learned as a receptionist is that I liked helping people solve problems,” Kim said. “My job was essentially to coordinate someone’s needs with someone else who could assist them.”

Most of these needs came from students and their families. Gradually, Kim learned who in the organization could best handle each caller’s specific issue. “In a matter of weeks, I became very familiar with the entire organization; I got to know each person’s functional area of technical expertise,” she said. “More importantly, I learned that a business is like a village; to succeed there must be close interdependence. Every single person in a company is important.”

The summer she learned this, Kim also found meaning in Universal Technical Institute’s purpose. “Every three weeks a new group of students came in,” she said. “These were people who weren’t particularly successful in the traditional academic setting. Most lacked self-confidence, walking in with their heads down. By the time they graduated, the transformation in them was astonishing. The reason was our world-class facilities and equipment and especially our people. Everyone here is committed to changing people’s lives through education.”

I asked Kim what she thought about the fact that so many women eventually collide with their organization’s glass ceiling, knowing she had successfully worked her way up the ranks at Universal Technical Institute from the switchboard through admissions, customer service, marketing, and operations before blasting through the glass ceiling to become CEO. “Shortly after I became president, I launched an initiative called Breakthrough Performance, where we brought every one of our 900 employees at the time offsite for three days and nights, stripped them of their titles, and asked them to act like consultants in helping us make the company better,” she said. “We empowered them beyond their titles to provide constructive solutions.”

Kim learned that this was how the company should always be run. “Every employee must have a voice and every voice must have equal weight, irrespective of the person’s role, gender, nationality, and so on,” she explained.

I also chatted with Kim about the 2016 Gallup study stating that women leaders were better than men when it came to engaging employees, resulting in lower absenteeism and turnover, and higher productivity and profits. Was this consistent with Kim’s experience as a leader? “I generally believe that women are more nurturing and empathetic (than men) and are better able to tap into others’ talents,” she replied. “Women have a different way of motivating people to accomplish their goals. On the other hand, I also feel that some women can be very crippling to other women in the workplace because they’re trying to survive in a male-created business world. That’s changing now.”

I asked Kim to elaborate. “For one thing, many women now realize they don’t need to program themselves to act like men to become successful business leaders,” she said. “The extreme male traits that have made men successful don’t necessarily work for us because we’re different. Women also are learning that their feelings and emotions are positive characteristics in motivating others in the workforce. We’re able to be successful leaders because of our many dimensions.”

I couldn’t agree more. Female qualities are equally needed to manage today’s highly diverse workforce. Young people of myriad nationalities and cultures are self-defining their sexuality and gender. Women must simply refuse to believe it will take more than a century for women to match the number of men in the C-suite. We cannot wait. As Kim has proven in her life and work, everyone can have a chance, but we need to create more of them for women and minorities in order to level the playing field.

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2018 HR & HCM Technology Trends: Three Forces Reshaping the Future of Work https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/2018-hcm-trends/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/2018-hcm-trends/#comments Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:58:31 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1219 Rapid advances in technology—from the distributed computing reality of the  Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) to increasing workforce fluidity (as described in our 2017 Trends Blog)—are combining to reshape today’s workplaces. In addition, there are some broad cultural trends that are impacting HR technology, pushing us well beyond the automation of traditional […]

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2018 hcm trendsRapid advances in technology—from the distributed computing reality of the  Internet of Things (IoT) to artificial intelligence (AI) to increasing workforce fluidity (as described in our 2017 Trends Blog)—are combining to reshape today’s workplaces.

In addition, there are some broad cultural trends that are impacting HR technology, pushing us well beyond the automation of traditional manual tasks and redesigning performance management processes, to rethinking the way we manage employees.

First, AI is everywhere, but not without its challenges (for example, machines learning from biased data)—so its newest incarnation will have to be focused on not just mastering the science of AI, but also on the art of collecting better, more accurate data. Cloud-based AI, machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and virtual reality experiences have already been changing the dynamic among people, work, and communication—and we’re going to see more application of these technologies in the workplace in 2018 and beyond.

Second, hyper-personalization—from designing your unique, one-of-a-kind Nikes, to M&Ms with personalized messages, to online shoppers for clothes and groceries that remember your preferences and customize recommendations for you—is coming to employee management in 2018, and HR must help its managers lead with a higher degree of personalization and understanding of each of its direct reports.

And, finally, with technological advancement comes the risk of becoming removed from the “messy” human work of fostering belonging and shared purpose for our teams. Creating and maintaining an inclusive culture requires knowing a lot about people, empathizing with them, and sustaining that commitment long term. Current diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts need to be redefined and updated to bring ongoing positive change for people organizations.

With this in mind, I believe there are three pivotal trends that must be of interest to HR and senior business leaders in 2018, each interconnecting with the others to transform the near-term future of work.

Megatrend #1: People-First Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning and Human Intuition Combine Forces

In 2018, businesses will migrate from AI focused on automating tasks formerly performed by people to more complex AI technology that augments and amplifies human intelligence and capability. This next evolution of AI underlines the assistive role of the technology to enhance human performance, by allowing people to scale and undertake more rather than replacing human skills and experiences. The application of AI in the world of HCM reinforces the role of human intelligence in solving problems individually and collectively.

People-first AI means organizations and managers using machine learning to better understand what motivates employees, how to more effectively recruit and retain talent, and how to improve on the employee experience at work by using both their own skills and knowledge combined with the near-instantaneous analytical power of AI. This type of AI supplements the work that HR and managers already do, rather than replacing them—for example, by alerting managers to increasingly negative sentiment in employee feedback from one particular office that may have a morale issue, or by suggesting ways to reword a job posting to be more inclusive.

Megatrend #2: Hyper-personalization: Individualized Leadership Replaces “One-Size-Fits-All” Management

An astonishing 95% of people want to feel whole at work—free to be their authentically unique selves. Prior corporate leadership models frequently embraced a rigid, hierarchical “command and control” structure based on an employee’s perceived skills and capabilities, or encouraged managers to manage everyone on their team in the same way in order to be perceived as fair and equitable. Today’s workers prefer a culture in which leaders seek to develop the whole person, with a deep understanding that one-size-fits-all management is not an effective approach—and that different people need different styles of management to best motivate them. Some employees prefer public recognition and others prefer a private thank you or a handwritten note. Some employees thrive in complete autonomy while other employees work best when they receive confirmation from a manager or co-worker on each step of a project.

This obligation to lead and develop the whole person at work requires that leaders understand the needs, motivations, concerns, challenges, and goals of people in many dimensions. Leaders must nurture the cognitive and emotional development of people, beyond the typical physical-wellness offerings of many organizations, to help their people achieve meaningful, purposeful, and productive work and careers. The most effective managers will be able to flex and adapt their personal management styles to the individuals they manage in order to help their employees put forth their best effort and succeed at work.

Megatrend #3: Humanizing Work: Breakthrough Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Modern Age

A workforce culture in which all people can feel they belong and be themselves—and one that taps into the most powerful combinations of talent and experience—requires a broader consideration of the tapestry of human diversity, and a mind shift from compliance-driven D&I models. Many organizations recognize that human diversity generates unique perspectives that foster greater innovation, sustainability, and cultural competence. But today’s D&I must go farther than categorizing and measuring to more broadly recruit for differences in opinion, experience, lifestyle, and background, and to also ensure concrete actions and follow-through to drive progress.

Rather than consider D&I merely as a must-do initiative or a socially responsible action to become an employer of choice, modern diversity, equity, and inclusion will apply advances in virtual technologies and neuroscience that allow organizations to move beyond the talk and numbers, to evaluate and overcome unconscious bias in the entire work experience—from recruiting to performance management to pay equity—to help companies create workplaces that are truly inclusive beyond traditional categories of diversity. Impactful diversity, equity, and inclusion effort requires attention on individual, team, and company levels—not just looking at an organization as a collective whole, but analyzing and assisting the company at all levels and providing concrete guidance beyond just static reporting—to result in better business performance.

These three Megatrends—people-first AI; individualized leadership; and  diversity, equity, and inclusion—intersect in powerful ways. For instance, people-first AI is an enabler to leadership that is tailored to every person individually, allowing leaders to break out of the one-size-fits-all approach to development, and ensuring employees remain engaged in their work, feel good about their place in the organization, are physically and emotionally healthy, and are able to collaborate freely, openly, and confidently.

People-first AI also empowers leaders and organizations to gain an entirely new understanding of people and how their diverse perspectives come together to solve business problems. This new technology is poised to help organizations create more innovative and effective teams, as well as understand and respond to the needs of their diverse customers.

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Previewing the Top-Three HR and HCM Megatrends for 2018 – #12DaysofHCM https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/previewing-top-three-hr-hcm-megatrends-2018/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/previewing-top-three-hr-hcm-megatrends-2018/#respond Thu, 21 Dec 2017 11:00:47 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1209 As we wrap up an innovative 2017, HR technology is well on its way to expanding beyond the automation of traditional manual tasks. Cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and virtual reality experiences have already been changing the dynamic among people, work, and communication. Looking ahead, there are three pivotal […]

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artificial intelligenceAs we wrap up an innovative 2017, HR technology is well on its way to expanding beyond the automation of traditional manual tasks. Cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, image recognition, and virtual reality experiences have already been changing the dynamic among people, work, and communication.

Looking ahead, there are three pivotal trends I see impacting HR professionals, business leaders, and the workforce as a whole in 2018, each interconnecting with the others to transform the near-term future of work:

  • Artificial Intelligence: From AI to A2I (Augmented and Amplified Intelligence)
  • Hyper-personalization: Personalized Leadership
  • Humanizing Work: Breakthrough Diversity and Inclusion (D&I)

Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of all three, and insight into how organizations can remain ahead of these HCM trends, coming soon to Ultimate Software’s blog.

Ultimate Software’s #12DaysofHCM is back by popular demand! For the rest of the week, we’ll continue recapping some of the most talked about topics from 2017, and previewing what’s ahead for 2018.

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The Reengineering of the Workforce https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/reengineering-workforce-fluidity/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/reengineering-workforce-fluidity/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 14:03:44 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1156 The transformation of the workplace—relinquishing many of the entrenched work and leadership structures that many companies and HR leaders hold dear, such as org charts and hierarchical management roles, in favor of promoting more fluid ways of people working—is a sea change that, unfortunately, has not gained widespread momentum. Many companies understand the value of […]

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workforce fluidityThe transformation of the workplace—relinquishing many of the entrenched work and leadership structures that many companies and HR leaders hold dear, such as org charts and hierarchical management roles, in favor of promoting more fluid ways of people working—is a sea change that, unfortunately, has not gained widespread momentum. Many companies understand the value of workforce fluidity, but they struggle in their resolve to make it happen.

Workforce fluidity is an all-encompassing term I coined to describe job fluidity, organizational fluidity, and identity fluidity. Job fluidity describes a workforce where people are not tied to or identified by a specific job description; rather, they flow among initiatives and supervisors to maximize their contributions. Organizational fluidity accepts the reality of how work gets done these days, generally through collaborative efforts with diverse minds and skills coming together. And identity fluidity encourages new levels of self-definition and expression, with the knowledge that feeling safe in our authentic uniqueness will foster innovative ideas.

These tenets of workplace transformation stand in sharp contrast to yesteryear’s rigid organizational structures, regimented ways of working, and uniform definitions of what constitutes a leader. Certainly, those ways made perfect sense in the post-Industrial Age, when small shops gave way to large, unwieldy business organizations with a need to control the labor force. The use of divisions, departments, and jobs based on a person’s specific expertise ensured that work was appropriately doled out, supervised, and completed.

The problem with this static structure today is that it clashes with the dynamism of the global business environment and the current needs of people in the workforce. Thanks to distributed technology advancements, today’s business is conducted in real time. Layers of management and delegation authority slow down the required speed and flexibility of work.

At the same time, employees are increasingly being asked to participate in different projects and other initiatives under different supervisors. Titles and job roles seem almost superfluous in this multi-skilled, multi-task setting. Yet, most companies are still stuck with org charts, trying to shoehorn these modern workforce realities into an inflexible hierarchy.

Why is this the case, and how can HR become more nimble and lead the necessary change? According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey of more than 10,000 business and HR leaders from 140 countries, 88% of respondents say building the organization of the future is an important or very important issue; yet, only 11% understand how to do it. To get a better sense of why this is the case, I reached out to Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Josh began by recounting his own workforce trajectory. “When I joined the workforce out of college in the late 1970s, I was given a job description and title and told how much I would earn,” he recalled. “My boss told me what to do and wrote up my performance appraisal at the end of the year. The goal was to stick around and get a promotion to buy a house, have kids, and retire in comfort. This workforce concept was based on the old industrial-scale model, which is now a disadvantage for companies, as it slows them down from reacting quickly.”

Josh’s view is affirmed by Deloitte’s survey. Only 14% of respondents believe the traditional hierarchical model involving jobs based on a person’s expertise in a specific area is effective. “It’s pretty clear to me that just about everything in organizational management needs to be reengineered,” Josh said. “The ways that work gets done are fundamentally changing, with leading companies moving to a more agile, collaborative, and flexible way of working. Instead of a hierarchy, there is more of a network organizational structure.”

When asked for an example of this work type in action, Josh pointed to the now-common practice of forming a team of people from across the organization to take on a specific project. “People are collaborating with others who are not from their business area, lending their unique expertise and experiences to the task at hand,” he said. “They jump on and off such projects on a routine basis. Yet, in the background, there still is the hierarchical work structure that has little to do with reality.” I wholeheartedly agree and would add that, as a result, people’s work is often evaluated by someone who isn’t seeing the whole picture, also removed from reality.

Today’s new ways of working are good for companies, increasing employees’ sense of purpose, engagement with their work responsibilities, overall productivity, and personal happiness. People feel more in control of their lives. Hopping from one initiative to another also puts them in close proximity to others who have different talents, increasing everyone’s range of skills.

Best of all, people are able to coalesce around what is most important in business—serving the customer. “Instead of focusing on efficiently executing the same task over and over, employees are empowered to make the customer happier,” Josh said.

What will it take for more companies to let the sea change happen? The first step is to realize that workforce fluidity is already underway. The digital transformation of business is a powerful undercurrent tugging the organization toward more fluid ways of working.

Once this reality is accepted, business leaders can make the most of it, and HR agility can truly take hold, ushering in a more fluid, inspiring, and modern workplace. Some of Josh’s suggestions for navigating this shift include creating mission-oriented project teams composed of individuals from marketing, sales, customer experience, and other functions, and empowering them to make decisions that benefit customers. To that, I would add the need for empathy—the capacity to sense how people around you in the workplace feel about their work.

True leadership entails the ability to unite people in a shared purpose. Work that is personally fulfilling will always be a motivational force that creates organizational health and success.

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What is the Best Way to Lead? https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/great-leadership/#comments Thu, 19 Oct 2017 12:48:40 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1126 What are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic. Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and […]

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leadershipWhat are the traits of great leadership for the future of work? It’s a question I am often asked by audience members during my varied speaking engagements. It’s a great question, since leadership—like everything else in today’s blistering pace of change—must be dynamic.

Leaders must evolve as employees do, to direct organizations that operate and are managed differently. I’m referring to the movement in many companies toward project-based teamwork involving both full-time and non-permanent employees, tasks performed on a mobile “anywhere” basis, and the positive trend toward employee inclusiveness, in which each person’s self-defined uniqueness is seen as the asset it is. (See my related post, Are You Ready for True Workforce Fluidity?) Certainly, this is not your grandfather’s business to lead.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, companies were often run with military precision. During World War II, 10 high-ranking management theorists were recruited by the U.S. Air Force to enhance operations. When the war ended, Ford Motor Company snapped them up. They inserted the military’s “org charts” into Ford’s structure, creating divisions, departments, and jobs based on a person’s specific expertise. This ensured work was appropriately doled out, supervised, and completed. Other companies soon incorporated similar structures across the industrialized world.

As one might imagine, leaders of these businesses were akin to military generals. They commanded the organization from the boardroom, rather than the war room. This structure was right (for the times) and proved its merit. American companies quickly became the best in the world. And then the Internet, smartphones, the cloud, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things burgeoned to seriously change things—democratizing decision-making and communications.

So what is today’s definition of “great leadership”? To draw a clearer picture, I turned to the source of the last century’s business leadership model—the military. I asked Lieutenant General George Flynn, now retired, for his perspective on the subject.

Lt. Gen. Flynn enjoyed a distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration and the Commanding General of the Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia. He is an advisor to Ultimate Software and many other corporations, and is a brilliant resource on leadership strategy.

You may know Lt. Gen. Flynn as the inspiration for a book by the best-selling author Simon Sinek. Sinek had interviewed him to learn more about the Marine Corps’ style of leadership. He boiled it down to these three words—“Officers eat last.” Sinek was so taken with the response he named his book after it (Leaders Eat Last). I recently sat down with George to ask what he meant by his comment.

“It’s really pretty simple,” he said. “If you treat your team as the most important resource in your organization, they become committed to you and the purpose of the organization. It shows your respect and the fact that you care so much about them that they deserve only the best. And that includes eating first, beginning with the most junior officer and ending with the most senior officer.”

He added, “That’s the ‘cost of leadership,’ as I explained it to Simon.”

This leadership philosophy seems at odds with today’s corporate guidance. Few CEOs know the names of employees other than their direct reports. Many of them eat with other senior executives in a separate part of the company cafeteria and have large offices away from the rest of their employees. Certainly, this is not an “officers eat last” approach. Rather, it suggests rank—people separated based on their perceived value and contributions to the success of the organization. There is a shift happening in some companies where CEOs are forgoing offices for shared office space, and the impact is significant for employees. As George put it, “Whoever is leading must form trusted relationships with those being led.”

Our discussion moved on to today’s millennial workers. George commented that this generation of employees tends to demand more from its leaders. “They want to know the ‘why’ before they buy into the project,” he explained. “When they believe in the value of what needs to be done, they’re very giving of their time and effort. They’ll go the extra mile if they understand the purpose behind the tasks and believe in that purpose.”

Without this understanding, millennials (really all employees) are more likely to search for new employment. To keep them, leaders must ensure they have meaningful work that leads to the development of new skills. “Millennials need to be trained and empowered to take risks on behalf of the organization, to progress in their careers,” George said. How can today’s business leaders, particularly those at the helm of large, far-flung organizations, ensure full buy-in from the “troops”? George responded that there are specific times on any given day when a leader can demonstrate valued leadership. “We call them ‘defining moments,’” he said. “The moments differ, but examples include how the person makes a difficult decision or handles a mistake. Word of mouth quickly spreads to form an opinion about the leader.”

These opinions are the basis for following the leader. “In my experience, I’ve come across three levels of leadership,” said George. “The first is when people follow you because you’ve been given the authority to control them. The second is they follow you because they trust you and will, therefore, take risks for you. The third level is they follow you because they believe in you and your mission. At that level, they’ll make personal sacrifices for you. Down deep, all people want to be part of something bigger than themselves.”

I couldn’t agree more. When we feel we are part of something important led by a leader we believe in, work becomes much more than just work. It becomes part of our purpose and identity.

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