While a growing body of research shows that taking regular vacations makes employees happier, healthier, more productive, and less likely to burn out—a win-win for the individual and their employer—getting employees to actually take vacations is still a challenge for many organizations. One proposed solution to employees’ reluctance to take breaks is to offer them unlimited leave, but critics of this approach point out that it can backfire, discouraging employees from taking time off because they don’t know how much they are really allowed or expected to take.
To correct for that tendency, some organizations offer employees incentives to take vacations, such as annual travel stipends that they must either spend on leisure travel or forfeit. Others have taken this a step further and make vacations a requirement rather than an option. To that end, Neil Pasricha and Shashank Nigam write at the Harvard Business Review about an experiment they conducted at Nigam’s small aviation strategy firm, SimpliFlying, where they required employees to take one out of every seven weeks off, on a regular schedule. Employees were strictly forbidden from contacting the office while on vacation, losing their pay for the week if they did:
After this experiment was in place for 12 weeks, we had managers rate employee productivity, creativity, and happiness levels before and after the mandatory time off. (We used a five-point Likert scale, using simple statements such as “Ravi is demonstrating creativity in his work,” with the options ranging from one, Strongly Disagree, to five, Strongly Agree.) And what did we find out?
A growing body of research indicates that diversity and inclusion are not just matters of corporate social responsibility, but in fact have benefits that strengthen an organization’s culture and can boost the bottom line. One of these benefits is that diversity is thought to enhance creativity and innovation by diminishing groupthink and exposing employees to a wider range of ideas and experiences from their colleagues.
A study last year found that 81 percent of tech startup founders believed that a diverse workforce enhanced creativity and innovation—although most of their companies did not have diverse workforces. This connection is particularly salient in creative industries like advertising, where clients have been pushing agencies to diversify their creative teams so that they more closely mirror the customers they are trying to reach.
The precise relationship between diversity and creativity is not so clear-cut, however: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzik weighs the evidence at the Harvard Business Review and warns that employers who hope to use diversity as the key to unlock their teams’ creative potential may end up disappointed:
There’s a difference between generating ideas and implementing ideas. While diverse team composition does seem to confer an advantage when it comes to generating a wider range of original and useful ideas, experimental studies suggest that such benefits disappear once the team is tasked with deciding which ideas to select and implement, presumably because diversity hinders consensus. A meta-analysis of 108 studies and more than 10,000 teams indicated that the creativity gains produced by higher team diversity are disrupted by the inherent social conflict and decision-making deficits that less homogeneous teams create. …
In an increasingly interconnected global economy, the ability to operate in a multicultural and multilingual environment is an increasingly desirable trait among employees, especially in leadership roles. Major companies are looking to add more international experience to their boardrooms, and a lack of intercultural skills can derail the careers of global leaders.
Accordingly, fluency in more than one language is one of many soft skills employers are looking for in talent today. The value of polyglot employees is the subject of Gabrielle Hogan-Brun’s new book Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism? Writing at Quartz, Hogan-Brun lays out the case for how multilingual employees, and particularly multilingual teams, can give an organization a leg up in innovation:
Observations of multi-language work teams show that mixed-language groups have a propensity to find innovative solutions for practical problems. This is because they use a range of communication strategies in flexible and dynamic ways. When speakers from different language backgrounds work together using a common language, they draw on subconscious concepts that lie below the surface of the language they happen to be conversing in. …
So what is going on in the heads of these polyglots?
Amid a general shortage of employees with critical science and technology skills, many organizations around the world are having a particularly hard time filling cybersecurity roles, partly because the skills cybersecurity professionals are new and aren’t typically taught in college IT or computer science programs. So rather than looking for candidates who already have the skills, cybersecurity recruiters often need to look for those who have the ability to learn them quickly and successfully instead.
One way companies can fill the cybersecurity gap is to focus their hiring efforts on women, who are severely underrepresented in the field. Another potentially promising strategy, Fast Company’s Cale Guthrie Weissman writes, is to look for candidates with creative backgrounds, particularly in music:
[Level 3’s chief security officer Dale] Drew has been working as a computer security professional for decades and finds that the best people to hire are the malleable ones. “We tend to focus on the technical expertise of the person first, and then train them.” Which is to say that a lot of his underlings knew nothing about security, but instead had a solid grasp of the technical underpinnings of computers.
Over the years Drew has seen a “huge contingent of people” who understood the basics of security, but “didn’t know the purpose those things served in the overall business.” The best employees are the ones that understood what a company does at a holistic level and could see beyond the tasks they did every day. With this, Drew has noticed that a great deal of the people on his team have some music background. “Those personalities are more creative,” he says. They’re able to “think outside the box; able to think on demand, or construct complex elements into patterns.” …
A quiz question from the Original Thinkers site (Kimberly-Clark)
ERE editor Todd Raphael takes note of the personal care product manufacturer’s new recruitment marketing campaign, which advertises the company as “on a quest for Original Thinkers to solve problems and create solutions”:
Frans Mahieu, global marketing director, people strategy, at Kimberly-Clark, says that a little over a year ago the 144-year-old company realized “the market for top talent is becoming tighter and more competitive.” It asked itself what it could do better to get top talent, particularly to its large Neenah, Wisconsin, location. The end result is a new Kimberly-Clark website. It features a variety of “original thinker” employees: one developed a bladder-support product. A couple others changed the way Huggies are marketed. Two more developed vitamin-infused facial wipes.
Part of the site involves an “original thinkers” quiz. You’re asked, for example, how you’d run a local recycling program. Create a slogan? Gather opinions from neighbors? Or, would you question why this is a priority in the first place, over safety and security? The quiz then tells you what sort of original thinker you are, such as a “dreamer,” or “nonconformist,” or “inventor.”
In quantum physics, the observer effect refers to the principle that the act of measuring a phenomenon can influence the outcome that is being measured: a concept famously illustrated in the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. Discussing his approach to “quantum team management” at First Round Review, James Everingham, head of engineering at Instagram, describes how he has seen the observer effect play out in the workplace:
The observer effect is real in the workplace, and you can affect the outcome of any project as a manager simply by inserting yourself. Often, a manager will take their team into a room and say, “Here’s what we need to do,” or “Here’s what I’ve been thinking,” or “Here’s one way we can think about this…” as they start sketching on a whiteboard. They’re trying to add value. We always want to add value. But if you’re in any position of authority and you do this, you’ve just limited the number of outcomes and your path to success pretty dramatically.
Jillian Richardson, a freelance journalist and comedian, works out of several different coworking spaces in New York City, where the market for this type of office is large and growing. Writing at Quartz, she explains what she enjoys about that work-style, despite its downsides, and why she’s not the only one who likes it:
Originally, independent workers and startups would invest in memberships to a single space. However, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to travel between multiple offices—a set-up that offers some unique benefits for employees. “For some people, co-working provides flexibility of location,” workplace strategist Peter Bacevice says. “Place attachment is less important to these people. Rather, they value choice and the ability to work from a variety of spaces around the city—especially if they are on the go, running from meeting to meeting in various locations.” …
Many employees find that it’s a refreshing change of pace to work alongside people from other industries who have no idea what they do—and are interested in learning more.