Is a Two-Word Dress Code Good Enough for General Motors?

Is a Two-Word Dress Code Good Enough for General Motors?

Since taking up the position of CEO at General Motors in 2014, Mary Barra has undertaken to transform the culture of the storied American automaker. As the automotive industry and other legacy manufacturers find themselves increasingly in competition with big tech companies for talent—in Detroit’s case, a product of the race to market self-driving cars—they have had to expand their talent attraction strategies outside their traditional blue-collar comfort zone and reach out to candidates with very different expectations and values, as well as more diverse backgrounds.

Barra’s approach to culture change at GM has focused in part on simplifying rules and policies that might strike this new generation of talent as arbitrary and overly bureaucratic, such as the dress code, which she shrunk from a detailed section in the employee handbook to just two words: “Dress appropriately.” Barra told the story at the Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia last month, from which Quartz’s Leah Fessler passes it along:

After replacing GM’s 10-page dress code treatise with a two-word appeal, Barra received a scathing email from a senior-level director. “He said, ‘You need to put out a better dress policy, this is not enough.’ So I called him—and of course that shook him a little bit. And I asked him to help me understand why the policy was inept.” The director explained that occasionally, some people on his team had to deal with government officials on short notice, and had to be dressed appropriately for that.

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Microsoft Wins Back Boomerang Employees with Culture Change

Microsoft Wins Back Boomerang Employees with Culture Change

Since taking control of the company in 2014, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been on a mission to transform its culture from one of fierce internal competition to the collaborative ideal of “One Microsoft.” Nadella’s tenure has seen an increase in the number of “boomerang” employees returning to Microsoft after stints at other companies, Seattle Times business reporter Rachel Lerman observes—over 2,200 in total:

During the few years before Nadella stepped into the role, about 12 percent of the company’s new hires in the U.S. each year had previous job stints at the company. But that number ticked up to 16 percent, or 621 boomerangs, between July 2014 and July 2015, starting a few months after Nadella took over as CEO.

These returning employees, who remember how Microsoft operated a decade ago, are particularly attuned to the change in the company’s dynamic, which in many cases, was part of the reason they decided to return:

When [Dean] Lester, an engineering director, left the company at the end of 2009, he was craving some time off and new challenges, but he was also feeling frustrated with the way Microsoft teams were being run — they were so focused on rapid project launches that people were burning out. That was changing, the chorus of former co-workers told him. He should take another look. …

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Study: Alcohol at Work Doesn’t Necessarily Attract College Graduates

Study: Alcohol at Work Doesn’t Necessarily Attract College Graduates

Companies that allow or provide alcohol in the workplace often do so in order to attract young talent with an image of a fun, friendly, work-hard-play-hard culture, but a recent study suggests that booze might not be as attractive a perk as many startup founders seem to think it is. Oregon State University’s Michelle Klampe presents some new research from OSU business professor Anthony Klotz and Serge da Motta Veiga of American University that investigated the reactions of college students and recent graduates to the availability of alcohol in prospective workplaces. finding that in fact, drinking cultures often turn them off:

“Students preparing to enter the workforce ask a lot of questions about alcohol and job interviews and the best way to navigate those situations,” Klotz said. “And generally, people are confused about how to deal with alcohol in the workplace. Not everyone finds it appealing.” …

In both studies, participants were also asked questions relating to their level of political skill, which refers to the a set of social abilities that helps them effectively understand others at work, influence others in ways that enhance their own objectives and navigate social situations with confidence. Klotz and da Motta Veiga predicted that those with high political skill are more likely to be comfortable at alcohol-based events, while those with low political skill may be unable to take advantage of the social benefits that the combination of alcohol and work provide.

The studies showed that participants with lower levels of political skill were less likely to see themselves as fitting in and wanting to work at the company when the recruiting advertising and dinner out included alcohol. “This is a specific condition where alcohol is harmful in recruiting prospective employees,” Klotz said. “However, we didn’t find any significant upside to including alcohol for the participants that showed high levels of political skill.”

The authors don’t take a position on whether a culture of drinking at work is good or bad in general, but recommend that employers be up-front with candidates about the role of alcohol in their culture in order to avoid hiring employees whose interests and values don’t align with it.

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UK Organizations Publish Employer Toolkit to Combat Sleep Deprivation

UK Organizations Publish Employer Toolkit to Combat Sleep Deprivation

Business in the Community, a nonprofit organization in the UK, and Public Health England, a government agency, have launched a toolkit for employers to use in their efforts to reduce the impact of sleep deprivation on their workforce, Ashleigh Wight reported last week at Personnel Today:

Their Sleep and Recovery Toolkit encourages employers to create the right sleep culture in the workplace. This includes measures such as providing access to natural light, introducing flexitime for employees who travel or work across different time zones, and avoiding or reducing the frequency of emails sent outside of working hours

The toolkit also provides steps for early intervention before sleep deprivation becomes a problem. These include signposting information that may help employees get a better night’s sleep, redesigning individual workers’ jobs if it becomes apparent they could be tired, and encouraging staff to speak up about issues with sleep. A number of measures to aid with recovery are also suggested, such as making sure employees stay hydrated, take screen breaks and use all of their annual leave entitlement.

While sleep deprivation has been a workplace problem at least since the dawn of the modern era and the advent of shift work, advances in neuroscience have enabled researchers in recent years to pinpoint exactly how not getting enough rest makes us worse at our jobs. In addition to diminishing cognitive function and performance, sleep deprivation can harm emotional intelligence, making us more prone to interpersonal conflicts, while leaders who neglect sleep are less charismatic and have a harder time inspiring their teams.

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Uber Hires First Chief D&I Officer as Part of Culture Overhaul

Uber Hires First Chief D&I Officer as Part of Culture Overhaul

As part of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s efforts to turn around his embattled company’s public image and organizational culture after a series of scandals last year, Bo Young Lee will join the ride-sharing startup as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer in March, Johana Bhuiyan reports at Recode:

Lee’s hire — the third executive appointment under newly minted CEO Dara Khosrowshahi following chief legal officer Tony West and chief operating officer Barney Harford — is an important one for the company as it attempts to refurbish its image and address the many issues first brought to light by Susan Fowler’s essay in February 2017. … Lee, who was the global diversity and inclusion officer at financial services firm Marsh, will not be reporting directly to Khosrowshahi and Harford; she will report to Uber’s chief human resources officer, Liane Hornsey, for the time being.

An independent investigation conducted last year by former US Attorney General Eric Holder had recommended that Uber promote its current global head of diversity, Bernard Coleman, to the role of chief diversity officer, reporting directly to the CEO and COO. The company may change up Lee’s place in the chain of command later, Bhuiyan adds:

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How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Director Survey: Boards Lack Visibility into Culture

Director Survey: Boards Lack Visibility into Culture

The National Association of Corporate Directors’ 2017-2018 Public Company Governance Survey, which came out this week, identifies several issues that directors say are matters of concern for them, as well as what they are not getting enough information about from management and want to spend more time discussing in board meetings. Among these issues are cybersecurity threats, which only 37 percent of respondents said they felt confident that their company was prepared to defend against; and business strategy, with 71 percent saying their boards needed to improve their understanding of and contribution to management’s strategic decisions.

The third item on the list is corporate culture, which directors say they are hearing plenty about from upper management, but are not getting enough insight into what culture actually looks like further down the org chart, as Vincent Ryan notes at CFO:

Eighty-seven percent of directors said they had a good understanding of their companies’ tone at the top, but only 35% of directors said they had a good understanding of “the mood in the middle,” and just 18% of them indicated they had a good grasp of the health of the culture at lower levels of the organization.

While directors generally were confident that management could “sustain a healthy corporate culture during a period of performance challenges,” 92% of directors said they relied totally on reporting from the CEO about the health of organizational culture. According to the survey, it was rare for a director to get a direct take on corporate culture from functions such as internal audit (39%), compliance and ethics (30% ), and enterprise risk management (20%)[.]

These takeaways are largely consistent with our own latest research at CEB, now Gartner. One reason why boards are talking more about culture because shareholders are: our Investor Talent Monitor (which CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can check out here) shows that questions about talent topics, including company culture, are coming up more often on CEO calls with investors. Another reason why culture is on boards’ radar is that so many recent scandals have revolved around allegations of toxic company cultures: Boards today need a better view of culture because its impact on the bottom line has never been more apparent.

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