Category: Business

Being Normal Is Absurd

“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”  – Ellen Goodman

Why Invest In Employees?

TechCrunch has a great article by Vivek Wadhwa on Why America Needs To Start Educating Its Workforce Again.  I’ve quoted my favorite section of the article below:

“…Large corporations do offer some employee training programs, but managers often discourage their workers from participating in them. Why invest in workers when there is no clear payback? After all, training requires time off, and costs the department money. And bosses fear that once their subordinates gain new skills, they will be more likely to jump ship — to a better-paying competitor. That’s the common belief.  But as lessons from the unlikeliest of places show, these assumptions are wrong. Workforce education increases productivity, decreases turnover, and leads to greater corporate growth. I was myself surprised to see this correlation when I researched the secrets of the success of Indian industry.

Recruitment: When you’re looking for a job, what’s the first thing you do? Create a good résumé. What does a good résumé tell about a person?  Simply the ability to write a good résumé. The résumé doesn’t reflect skill, potential, or aptitude. Indian companies figured this out long ago. So they started putting applicants through batteries of psychometric tests and rigorous interviews. They hire for general ability and aptitude, rather than specialized domain and technical skills. Indian companies also learned to cast a wider net when looking for people with potential. Instead of hiring only from elite engineering colleges, technology companies such as Infosys, HCL, and TCS recruit from second- and third-tier colleges all across the country, and also in arts and science schools. India’s largest call-center operator, Genpact, has set up branded storefronts in 19 cities, where applicants can learn about the company and apply for a job; no resume required.

New-employee training: Companies in India assume that new recruits will have to be trained practically from scratch. So most large companies have built dedicated learning centers, and some employ hundreds of training staff. The Infosys Global Education Centre at Mysore can train 13,500 people at a time. New recruits attend a 16-week boot camp that strengthens their technical, communications, and management skills. For its arts and science recruits, TCS provides an additional three months of training. That’s right: fresh recruits get four to seven months of training before starting work.

Continuing training: Employees are typically required to participate in a wide range of education programs, including not only technical and domain training but also a wide range of soft skills and management skills encompassing training in quality processes; communication; and cultural, foreign-language and personal-effectiveness skills. It is common for companies to mandate one to four weeks of yearly training for employees. That is more than the vacation time that many Americans get. And these workers get rewarded for improving their skills: career advancement and salary increases are usually tied to the completion of training.

Companies don’t just offer online courses. They have programs of mentorship by senior executives; peer learning and knowledge sharing; and job-rotation programs. Take the example of Cadence India.  Its CEO, Jaswinder Ahuja, instituted a “leaders as teachers” program under which every manager is required to spend one to two weeks teaching internal classes. Not even the CEO is exempted from this rule. Training is considered so important that the most senior executives do their part. Trainers are often the most skilled and successful employees rather than those who couldn’t cut it in customer engagements.

Performance management and appraisal: Companies use ERP-like systems to manage the human-development process. Employees usually get reviewed at the end of every project. They are prescribed training if found to have weakness. (Yes, the performance review is used to guide development, rather than to protect the company from lawsuits in case they need to fire you).

Mechanisms such as 360-degree reviews (wherein you review your bosses and peers) and balanced-scorecard reviews are widely used. Managers are evaluated on a variety of non-financial measures, including employee satisfaction, attrition rates, and mentoring.”

What Is A “Waste Of Time”?

This is a fantastic post from TheSimpleDollar.com:

“Successful people attempt to minimize the time and money they spend on things that do not provide genuine value to them or to others. They also look for ways to spend their time and money on things that provide more value to them or to others than whatever it is they’re currently doing.  This requires focus. You have to evaluate everything you do in a given day. “Why am I doing this?” “Is it something that I really personally value?” “Is it adding value to my life?” “Is it adding value to the lives of others?” “How much value am I really getting from this in terms of personal growth, financial gain, or relationships built?”

Asking those questions will lead you to some surprising revelations. For me, for example, I found that spending twenty minutes with my eyes closed in a dark room while trying to focus on clearing my mind of all thoughts was far more relaxing (and thus valuable) than an hour spent watching television. I found that making dinner for my family (and often with them involved in the process) added far more value to my life than the time spent going out to dinner with them. I found that getting adequate sleep each night was far more valuable than cutting an hour of sleep out to “get more done.” I found that practicing the piano was just as relaxing and far more valuable (for me) than that same amount of time spent playing World of Warcraft. I found that spending some time each week reading and some time writing a short story or two was more valuable than spending that time forcing myself to write something strictly based on personal finance.”

>> Read the full article

Pluralistic Ignorance & The False Consenus Effect

“In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.” – Robert Cialdini

I just read about pluralistic ignorance which I found fascinating.  According to Wikipedia it is: “A situation where a majority of group members privately reject a norm, but assume (incorrectly) that most others accept it…It is, in Krech and Crutchfield’s words, the situation where ‘no one believes, but everyone thinks that everyone believes. “This, in turn, provides support for a norm that may be, in fact, disliked by most people.

Pluralistic ignorance can be contrasted with the false consensus effect. In pluralistic ignorance, people privately disdain but publicly support a norm (or a belief), while the false consensus effect causes people to wrongly assume that most people think like them, while in reality most people do not think like them (and express the disagreement openly).

For instance, pluralistic ignorance may lead a student to drink alcohol excessively because he/she believess that everyone else does that, while in reality everyone else also wish they could avoid binge drinking, but no one expresses that due to the fear of being ostracized. A false consensus for the same situation would mean that the student believes that most other people do not enjoy excessive drinking, while in fact most other people do enjoy that and openly express their opinion about it.”

I’m sure my workplace is like yours and if that is true, I see pluralistic ignorance on a daily basis.  How great would our society and the companies we work for (or run) be if we publically (not privately) rejected something we disagree with.  How great would it be if everyone realized everyone doesn’t think like us (note: I think I tend to suffer from the false consensus effect)?  Your way of thinking may not be popular but privately others may actually be in support of what you disdain.  Is the secret to take a stand and speak up?  I’m still learning…