Study: Majority of white-collar workers perform ‘soul-crushing’ busy work

Dive Brief:
A new Conversica poll of 1,000 knowledge workers found that half of them spend much of their workdays performing repetitive tasks bordering on drudgery. The boredom and frustration that result have negatively affected their emotional wellbeing. The survey also uncovered optimism from respondents about new artificial intelligence (AI) developments, which could free them up to perform more fulfilling tasks that are challenging and creative.
Other findings in the survey showed that 80% of respondents find aspects of their job below their skills level; 62% said their work has a significant amount of drudgery; 42% spend 30 minutes of every hour doing “busy work”; and 71% said that too much busy work makes them feel as though their lives are being wasted.
Half of respondents advocated automating their busy work, and almost all (97%) said their brains work better and they’re happier, smarter and more efficient when they’re engaged in new and challenging work. If freed up by AI, 44% of respondents said they could focus on more rewarding work; 42% would be motivated to get more work done each day; and 32% could showcase their true abilities and talents.

Dive Insight:
HR professionals know well how technology has freed them up from a range of burdensome administrative tasks. Sourcing applicants, scanning resumes, administering benefits, maintaining employee data and using analytics to measure outcomes are just some of the HR tasks automation has streamlined. In fact, technology has allowed HR professionals to focus on higher-level, more strategic initiatives. AI could also free up white-collar workers to focus on the duties they were hired to perform, based on their skills and knowledge.

According to a recent study by the University of London, workplaces that adopt AI and robotic process automation (RPA) are 33% more likely to improve the employee experience and see higher returns on performance than workplaces that don’t leverage the technology. The negative impact of repetitive, mundane tasks on skilled workers’ self worth, mental health and other human emotions brings up concerns about employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and the employee value proposition (EVP), in general. HR leaders can step in to see that EVP is a priority in their organizations and that technology has a decisive role in achieving that mission.


Four ways businesses can hardwire learning

Businesses often focus on engaging employees during training, but embedding learning should take centre stage. Find out how the L&D sector can help UK firms hardwire learning.

Digital technology has helped revolutionise learning and development. Not only has it brought new delivery methods and ways of engaging staff, such as online video content, webinars and even virtual reality, it is fundamentally shifting the balance of responsibility of learning from the employer towards the employee.


YouTube perhaps embodies this change best – you can find a ‘How to’ on just about anything. Clearly the quality is varied, but there are a surprising number of in-depth educational videos available and often dedicated to niche subjects.

Paid-for services, such as and SkillShare, take this concept even further by merging the interactivity and visual engagement video offers with a more structured framework and qualified lecturers or experts.

People vs. platforms
However, it’s absolutely crucial UK businesses don’t rely on platforms such as these, nor the eagerness of employees. We simply must continue to offer effective training in the workplace that can be applied in the real world and to make sure that training is hardwired.

Embedding learning is the end goal and it’s up to the learning and development sector to help guide their clients in achieving this endeavour.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are some key steps any business can take to move towards hardwiring learning. Here are four ways we can begin to ensure training at work is both engaging and effective.

1. Develop a strategy
It seems so obvious to us in the L&D sector, but many UK employers don’t have a strategy in place for training.

Depending on the brief from the client, we aren’t always able to directly influence this, but where possible we should aim to place embedded learning at the heart of any strategy.

Essentially we need to establish:

is there a training strategy?
is it aligned with the business objectives?
are the staff equipped to achieve those objectives?
Asking these types of questions provides an idea of what you have to work with, as well as beginning to shift how the client approaches training. Our role is then to support every training programme, so that the learning is effectively transferred back into the workplace.

Consider showing some example strategies you have developed in the past to debunk the myth that a strategy has to be a great tome – a simple sheet of A4 will do.

2. Make it personal
One of the first stages in hardwiring learning is to ensure it is personalised. This doesn’t mean a bespoke training programme for each individual, but making sure the programme fits the employee. If he or she can’t see the reason for the training, it’s unlikely to sink in.

An effective way of achieving this is by using interactive theatre techniques, such as forum theatre, to clearly demonstrate the need for learning. By experiencing how ‘not to do it’, individuals engage with the need to change and start to take ownership of finding appropriate solutions. It’s also key to get your clients’ line managers on board to enable a personalised training scheme, as they should know their teams best.

3. Make it real
There are still too many organisations that are offering great classroom-based training or engaging e-learning, but without sufficient thought to how the new skills will be used in real life.

It’s clear that the imbalance between enhancing knowledge and the ability to transfer that knowledge to the workplace needs to be addressed. With a greater focus on relating training to the actual workplace, we can continue to improve the working environment, productivity, worker skillsets and, ultimately, the bottom line of the business.

Drama-led training techniques, such as interactive theatre, real-play and hot seating are a great way to let employees explore and test out new skills. It’s a fantastic way to make the training relevant to the actual job.

After all you can’t learn to swim by reading a book – individuals need to have the opportunity to practise – if they are to gain confidence, improve their skills and relate learning to their workplace. The benefit of practice as an integral part of the training, means they can ‘trial run’ in a safe, consequence-free environment.

4. Reinforce it
It’s important to make sure the investment in training has a real effect on the business. To do this, training solutions simply must include opportunities for learners to practise their new-found skills and knowledge so they can ‘hardwire’ it.

The previous stages of learning – engage and explore – are crucial in this process, but it’s the final reinforcement stage where the learning is truly embedded and hardwired.

It’s not a one-off, either – continual reinforcement and practice is needed to ensure the learning actually becomes a learned behaviour.

In addition to real-life practice, allowing the learner to continue his or her development can also help reinforce the new-found skills. This is where blended learning and self-directed learning can have the most impact, alongside learning foundations already in place.

No time for complacency
With Brexit looming, the skills required to move the economy forward will increasingly be homegrown, so it’s an absolute necessity that UK businesses put the measures in place to enable this.

We must ensure we are not left lagging behind other economies and make sure the training is not lacklustre, half-baked or rushed.

Embedding learning is absolutely crucial to ensure training is effective, efficient and has a lasting impact on the staff and business.

For more information and advice, visit


‘Engagement is about putting employees at the centre of design thinking’

It is a common myth that leaders are a company’s biggest assets. Instead, engaged, enthusiastic, absorbed employees are the biggest assets for any organization today in this VUCA world. Consider for a moment, the findings from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, which shows that only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs – i.e. only 15% of them are emotionally invested in committing their time, talent and energy in advancing their organization’s initiatives. Further Gallop research shows that employee disengagement costs the US more than $550 Bn billion a year in lost productivity.

No wonder, with 85% of employees disengaged, organizations can no longer ignore this issue. It becomes more important in today’s dynamically changing workplaces. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Siu Ming HONG, Senior Vice President – Head of Group Rewards and Employee Engagement and Head of HR Business Partnering at Great Eastern Life, Singapore reveals how engagement is all about putting employees at the center of your design thinking.

You have a versatile experience in people strategy, culture strategy, and employee engagement. What are some of the current HR trends that are shaping engagement in the APAC region?
Most companies are starting to take the notion of employee engagement more seriously. HR in the past was really more transactional, allowing employees to transact with the employer. However, in the last decade, the role of HR has transformed in a lot of ways. Today HR is thinking about how to enable organizations to activate its workforce so that there can be real, tangible productivity that drives employee behavior.

How HR is evolving is by using technology to create unique experiences for employees. This is what employees wanted as well. Today we have multi-generational workforces within an organization. Now you have 3-4 generations of people working together. Each of them thinks differently and has different motivations. So how do you create an environment that allows them to collaborate for the greater good of the organization and the business? How do you use data to drive digitization across HR policies and practices?

What are some of the factors which affect engagement within employees in the life insurance, financial advisory, general insurance, bancassurance, and asset management industry?
In my view, employee engagement is really about expectations. An employee has a certain basic set of expectations. However, if an employee has expectations of an aspirational level, you will have to surpass them to create engagement.

The insurance sector is very closely linked to the banking sector. The banks have always been ahead of the game in terms of aspirations of employees. The same applies to our industry-it is all about managing expectations and giving them something beyond their aspirational levels to keep them engaged. That’s where the challenge is.

How can technology be employed to increase engagement within this industry? In Singapore, how are companies doing the same?
In Singapore, many people talk about data analytics and people analytics but there are four to five stages before you get to predictive analytics. That is what most organizations aspire for because only when you reach a stage of prescriptive and predictive analytics, would you then be able to make a meaningful interpretation of data to affect employee engagement.

Trend analytics tells you what happened in the past but that might not happen in the future. So many organizations are stuck in this dashboard or trend line phase and are not able to move to the predictive modeling phase whereby they are able to use the employee data to create unique and personalized experiences or what could be called human-centric experiences just like customer-centric experiences.

Especially for the millennial workforce, who want to create a deep impact on their society? So HR today is focused on creating policies, programs, and business outcomes centered on the employee experience. However, not many organizations have been able to do that because of issues around competency and the fact that HR is still not considered at par with the business units in terms of order of priority.

What are some of the best practices employed by Great Eastern Life in keeping employees engaged?
Our employee value proposition is a tripod model-where we focus on work experience, work value, and competitive rewards. When we internalize the brand proposition for our employees as we do for our customers, our proposition is that we will create an opportune work environment for you to gain meaningful work experience, so that your work value can be enhanced. For you to be independent and take care of yourself, with or without the company, these are lifelong skills you can acquire. We ensure that you are taken care of and skilled enough to do a job very well. And at the same time multi-skill yourself to future-proof yourself.

In this direction, we have launched some initiatives. Two years ago, we did away with a traditional hierarchical setup. We realized one of the issues around engagement is about leadership. In that setup, most employees would progress in terms of delivery and outcomes. But when you start blending in the notion of leadership, there will come a time when you not only expect functional delivery but managerial delivery as well. Now some people might not be equipped on the managerial delivery. But this doesn’t mean that we forestall their progressions. So we thought of the entire career progression model and changed it to where we broke it into particular streams- managerial stream and a professional stream. For a managerial stream, you are measured on how you empower your team. In the professional stream, you are not judged on your leadership skill set as much as your professional track.

How does HR need to prepare for the future of work as far as employee engagement is concerned? Will engagement become more challenging for HR as digitization increases?

How do you create processes not around how organizations like to operate but around how employees consume the experience? How do you create a user-centric experience? So how do you personalize all HR processes? How do you create a unique experience to make life easier and more meaningful for employees so that they can spend time delivering valuable business rather than spend time-solving problems. That’s what true employee engagement is. Because that is what people aspire for- creating value in an organization than to do firefighting every other day.

For the finance sector, engagement will become more challenging as digitization increases as the issue of governance will always be there even though we are big on disruption. But we need to remember that today big financial companies are competing with startups that can provide more meaningful and unique experiences. So as an industry we need to evolve and be nimble and balance regulatory considerations to attract young, talented people.


What It Takes To Beat The New Normal

In a previous article, I argued that Google’s list of “best manager” qualities didn’t go far enough. It focused on promoting internal company activities rather than engaging with a worker’s wider career agenda. To put it simply, the conversation seemed one-sided. However, the recent shift toward cloud-based talent management solutions provides a new opportunity.

Traditional large organization talent management systems were built by a company’s own computer division, and very much tailored to the company’s own needs. McKinsey management consultants urged that each organization develop a “talent profile” that met its own circumstances, and set out to “attract, develop, excite and retain highly talented managers.“ Yet, cost pressures on those prescriptive talent management systems have driven a migration toward cloud-based solutions. These begin with a generic talent management model, and raise a new question. Can the customization of those generic models make them more amenable to your own career agenda? Are you invited to represent your career in the new systems, or will there still be a one-way conversation?

Software giant Oracle is now marketing such a generic system, and its website offers three “white papers” on their approach. Those papers provide a series of clues about what you can expect.

The Business Proposition: The first white paper makes a very clear acknowledgment of your importance, stating that talent management has “changed dramatically” in recent years. Not long ago, employers “had the upper hand” and could attract “highly qualified candidates.” In contrast, today “the reverse is true” so that candidates, not employers, are “in charge of the hiring process.” When Oracle reaches out to customers, it has you, the career owner, in mind.

A Red Flag: What comes later is something of a red flag, and echoes the McKinsey language of seventeen years ago. Oracle argues “forward thinking businesses will select a talent acquisition solution that allows them to fight and win the talent war with enterprise companies and still maintain a reasonable total cost of ownership.” Fair enough, companies need to compete with one another. However, the “talent war” metaphor suggests company strategies, positions and career ladders are already mapped out. Your obligation, if hired, will be to find your way around that company map.

Getting You Going: The second white paper echoes the introduction of the first one. There has been a shift to “a candidate-centric approach, with candidates searching for employers like they would for consumer goods.” Once more, there’s a clear acknowledgment of your individual career agenda. However, once you are recruited, the focus turns to helping you “hit the ground running.” That is to be achieved through “effective onboarding” designed to accelerate your productivity. The program lists a series of company-centric goals, which include ensuring you “have access to the right knowledge and training.” The anticipation is that you will feel “valued, satisfied, and confident on the job,” but there’s no further interest in your own career agenda right now.

A Company Career: The final white paper carries the evocative title “Turning top talent into top performers.” Again, this begins well for your own agenda. “Even the best job in the world will eventually lose its luster if there’s no room to grow. Likewise, a job that ceases to be challenging will also likely cease to be engaging. When that happens, your employee is already halfway out the door.” The solution is to provide: training as you demand it (but from a centralized company platform); learning (from both internal and third-party providers); insight (about your own learning and wider company procedures); and filling of skills gaps (that can be tailored to your individual career path, but must also be aligned with the organization’s goals.)

Your Next Career Move: Oracle’s business lies with your prospective employer, and it makes sense that the value proposition is largely focused on that employer. Moreover, there are regular reminders that you are likely to have outside opportunities which employers need to anticipate if they wish to keep you. Yet, it’s troubling that your individual career path only gets mentioned at the end, and even then it needs to be “aligned with organizational goals.” What’s missing from the Oracle approach is any systematic way to bring together your own and the organization’s future agendas, and for each party to communicate effectively with the other, as time passes and employment circumstances change.

The result of the above is that you will still need to manage your own career agenda, in parallel with your employer’s talent management system. However, the Oracle approach points toward a different model. It would be a model that captured your own career interests at the time of recruitment, and insisted that those were updated annually through conversation with your line manager. The model would also call for further conversation to address the future fit between the company’s interests and your own. How about it Oracle?


Workers less likely to quit if given more training opportunities, survey finds

Four in five (86 per cent) UK workers believe employers which provided ongoing career development were less likely to have high staff turnover, according to a study released late last week.

The survey of 2,042 British employees by online training company Staff Skills Training found 90 per cent believed regular training was vital to their career.

“Staff want ongoing training, both to help them in their existing positions, but also to boost their own individual career development,” said Chris Morgan, Staff Skills Training CEO. “At the same time, we know that companies which invest in their staff through [L&D] programmes are less likely to have a high turnover of staff because their staff are more content and feel valued.”

The link between training and happy workers was even more prevalent for those aged 55 and over, with 90 per cent agreeing or strongly agreeing there was a link between regular training and content workforces and 95 per cent believing L&D was crucial for their careers.

Naeema Pasha, director of Henley Careers at Henley Business School, told People Management older workers were often “switched on” to career development.

“Often with older workers, they have the benefit of hindsight, and they have had more experience to know how effective L&D and training is in their career,” Pasha said. “With retirement being delayed, older workers know even more that career development is needed to stay in the market and maintain economic viability.

While older employees have more experience, Helen Jamieson, CEO at HR and training consultancy Jaluch, said that everyone, regardless of age, is being affected by the changing world of work.

“The speed of change is so great that no one in work has the luxury of not keeping up with technology, new communication methods and increasingly diverse cultures,” Jamieson said. “Things are changing in every function of a business, and people need training, educating, supporting and coaching to keep up.”

However, the survey also found over half (55 per cent) of UK workers thought time spent training – and away from their jobs – was an issue, particularly when considering whether to attend training courses. This was more prominent for workers aged 18-24, with 64 per cent concerned about spending time away from their desks for training.

Andrea Gregory, managing director of HR and development consultancy People Business, told People Management staff sometimes need encouragement from managers and supervisors to “step back”.

“I think the reason why some workers at the early stages of their careers are hesitant to leave their job for training is because they’re often in the engine room of organisations,” Gregory said. “Stepping back is really key, and the role of supervisors and others should be to encourage their staff to keep their heads up to see how they can grow.”

Ros Toynbee, founder and lead coach at The Career Coach, said HR “get frustrated” by “misconception” that taking a course or time away from work is the only way to develop skills.

“This can be an inefficient way to learn,” Toynbee explained. “Managers and HR can explore the many options for on-the-job and collaborative learning as well as exploring more formal means of learning like books, face-to-face, e-courses and increasingly YouTube.”

Greater gender diversity an economic advantage

Organisations need to take immediate steps to improve diversity and correct any gender imbalance already present in the workplace, lest they leave themselves at a major economic disadvantage, experts at the Global Women In Leadership Economic Forum (Global WIL) said.

Sylvia Metayer, CEO for corporate services worldwide at Sodexo, noted that while the situation had vastly improved over the past couple of years, many organisations were still putting themselves at a “strategic weakness” by not improving the number of women working for them.

“Plain common sense tells us that at a time when all organisations are fighting for talent, it seems silly to cut yourself off from 50 per cent of it; or more, if you consider that 60 per cent of college graduates are women,” she said at the forum. “Secondly, 70 per cent of all consumer buying decisions are made by women, and so it would make sense to mirror that in how products get designed, made, and sold; think of the smart women financial advisors who found the way to tap into the market of women investors that men had overlooked.”

She also stressed that there was lots of concrete proof that gender balance contributes to better business. “A study run by Catalyst found that a 10 per cent increase in women on the board correlates to a 21 per cent increase in women in executive positions. This in turn leads to return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital.”

The event also saw the launch of the UAE Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Survey Report, which revealed that diversity and inclusion appears to be a clear strategic priority for more than half of UAE organisations. Commissioned by international law firm Winston & Strawn, in conjunction with the Global WIL Forum and conducted by YouGov, the survey results showed that 57 per cent of respondents describe workforce diversity as a top priority where they work.

Overall, 61 per cent of respondents agreed that women are well represented in management at their organisation, with women (69 per cent) notably more positive than men (54 per cent) about the level of female representation in management. The survey also found that 74 per cent of women in the UAE workforce aspire to senior leadership roles within their organisations (versus 66 per cent of males), while 62 per cent were happy about their opportunities for advancement.

However, there are clear opportunities for improvement, with 24 per cent of women also believing their gender would make it harder for them to advance their career – compared to just 17 per cent of men.

Sophie Le Ray, CEO of Naseba and founder of the WIL Economic Forum, said: “The survey results demonstrate that women want to take on leadership roles, and organisations that successfully harness this desire can improve their chances of securing fresh leadership talent as well as the new ideas and perspectives that they bring with them.”

“According to the World Economic Forum, it will take 217 years to bridge the gender gap if we continue at this rate of progress. This is not okay for me or any one of us that wants to see a fair inclusive world harnessing the potential of every single person. I dream and I promise to strive with our fellow sisters and brothers to create a gender blind and gender agnostic view to achieving a balanced and more progressive world for the benefit of all,” said Alisha Moopen, executive director and CEO for hospitals and clinics in the GCC at Aster DM Healthcare.



Succession planning is tricky, even for the experts

Merle Good makes his living by telling other people how to put together succession plans. But he got a taste of his own medicine when daughter Annessa came back to the farm.

“Doing it is a hell of a lot harder than talking about it,” said Good, owner of GRS Consulting. “It’s a lot of work to try to get the different personalities and skills and attitudes to merge. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

It’s a familiar story on farms across Canada. On many farms, young people are returning from post-secondary schooling or after working in other industries. And with a third of the current farm workforce expected to retire (or hand over the reins) by 2025, the generations will have to learn to work together in the farm business.

His experience isn’t unusual — it’s tougher than you’d expect, said Merle.

“When these children come home, we see it in some ways as a threat to our stability,” he said.

“So there’s fear and apprehension, no matter how much we think of their skills.”

There’s fear on the other side, too — fear of failing.

“The younger generation has been stereotyped for so long as being ‘impatient’ or demanding,” said Annessa Good, who recently returned to the farm and joined her father’s consulting business. “But we’re dealing with completely different numbers. We have the pressure of having these massive farms and the risk that comes with that.”

And going from a parent-child dynamic to being business partners means both sides have to adjust. The older generation is used to being in charge and wants to share their expertise and experience. But the younger generation have their own skills and experience, and want their ideas to be heard and valued.

“Even when I was a brand new intern working at ConocoPhillips in downtown Calgary, we were constantly being asked what our opinion was or what we thought we could do better,” said Annessa. “So when you come back to the family farm and say, ‘I think we should do it this way,’ it’s very commonly taken as a challenge.”

Give and take
Both generations have a role to play in changing that dynamic, he added.

“If you keep on thinking questions or inquiries are challenges to your ability and authority, you’re not going anywhere,” he said of the older generation.

Read more: Big farms equal big headaches — but will you pay for an adviser?

The younger generation, on the other hand, needs to “take a step back” and approach these conversations differently, with more thought and respect, said Annessa.

“All of us have to recognize that our parents have been running the farm sustainably enough that there’s even an option for us to come back home,” she said. “They know what they’re doing nine times out of 10.”

For Annessa, shifting that parent-child dynamic meant treating her work in the farm business like any other job.

“It’s a family farm, but it’s also a business,” she said. “So the biggest thing I’ve had to learn coming back to the farm is that these are my bosses. You’re suiting up to work as soon as you walk through the door. You have to treat it like that.”


For Merle, it meant clarifying roles, responsibilities, and expectations.

“One of the major things I’ve learned is that the younger generation needs a lot of clarity,” he said. “If we sit down on Monday morning and make a list, the week goes very well. If we don’t, it doesn’t. It’s more formal than I thought it would have to be.”

But the pair has found that putting things down on paper helps both generations understand their changing role in the operation, and that’s been vital to their success, said Annessa.

“Sitting down and having a business meeting and making it formal is hard — there’s always something else to do — but it just opens channels of communication,” she said.

It isn’t just about formalizing roles and responsibilities, though, but also clarifying how the business structure will change to allow the child to become an owner.

“If all we’re going to talk about is roles and responsibilities, all you need is a hired hand,” said Merle. “You have to start there, but then you’ve got to have a path to ownership. If you provide that clarity of purpose and direction, the day-to-day frustrations will work their way out.

“If you don’t have that, you’re working on a promise rather than a plan.”

Boot camp
And without that plan, the business can’t move forward successfully, said Merle. In his experience, farm businesses can expect to see gross revenue increases of up to 15 per cent within three years of a child returning home to the farm, even if that child isn’t working in the business full time.

“You’ll see 10 to 15 per cent of gross revenue increase without one dollar of capital purchase or one more acre of land,” he said. “You’ll have new ideas and you’ll be doing things differently. You’ll just have different opportunities.”

But in any successful succession, the older generation needs to “create the proposal and quit trying to create the plan.”

“If the parents make the plan, the children aren’t taking responsibility of the direction,” he said.

“The second generation has to take the proposal and create the plan, and then come back to the parents and say, ‘Can we make this work?’”

It’s a shift from the traditional top-down succession planning process that was common in the past, said Merle. That’s why he and Annessa created a new succession planning ‘boot camp,’ which will be hosted with Agri-Food Management Excellence in Calgary on Dec. 12.

“Even after going to school and working, I still felt like I didn’t know enough to go forward with Dad when I came home,” said Annessa. “I felt like we just needed a quick boot camp to cover these topics.”

The ABCs of Intergenerational Succession Planning is a one-day course covering traditional topics such as navigating farm business structures, creating operational clarity, and managing roles and responsibilities. What’s different is it’s being given by two people who are thick in the middle of the process.

“For the first time, the younger generation will see someone standing up there who’s like them and sharing in their perspective,” said Annessa.

“For years, we’ve had succession planners stand up there and say, ‘This is how it needs to happen.’ But it’s different to have someone up there like you who can show you how to move forward with these operational clarities.”

That will be a welcome change for Merle, whose primary focus has been on the older generations in past workshops.

“For most of my seminars, the parents are coming and bringing their children,” said Merle.

“In this one, I’d like to flip that around. I’d like to see the children coming and bringing their parents.



So You Want To Lead? Make Yourself Worthy Of Followers

In today’s world it’s easy to be confused about a term like “leader.” Sometimes the title may be applied when it’s not really accurate. Some people may have authority to act, but they are not necessarily “leaders.”

Occasionally in a coaching session with a group of clients I show a PowerPoint slide with a simple message:

“We are facing a serious problem! I need you to give everything you have over the next several weeks to help us solve it. I’m afraid you won’t sleep much or be able to spend much time with your family until things are back to normal.”

After they’ve had a chance to ponder the message, I ask the people in the room: “Would you follow this person? ”

Naturally, they want to know who it is. So I put a face on the request. The next slide shows photos of a wide range of people—Ronald Reagan, Pope Francis, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moses, Martha Stewart.

“Which of these people would you follow enthusiastically?” I ask. Then, “Which of these?” and I show a third slide with even more people—Martin Luther King, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Jack Welch, Mother Teresa, George Bush, Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Gandhi, Yasser Arafat, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Gates, Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump.

I point out that each of the people has (or had) a formal leadership position. But you would not want to follow them—or anyone else—unless and until you had confidence in three things:

Character—the person’s integrity, motives, principles, values. Character is what a leader is.
Competence—the person’s skills, gifts, talents, ability to deliver on promises. Competence is what a leader does.
Cause—the person’s reason for leading, his vision, goals, his “end game.” Cause is what most often motivates and inspires. Cause is the “why” of noble and compelling leadership.
After some lively discussion about character, competence, and cause, I then ask the people in the room: “What about you? What are you doing to inspire confidence in your character, in your competence, and in your cause?”

Great leadership is no accident. It’s the result of deliberate effort and attention to detail. This involves managing values, the “core doctrine” of what you profess to stand for.

Nobody understands this more clearly than Dr. Timothy R. Clark, founder and CEO of LeaderFactor, a consulting and training firm focusing on leadership, change management, engagement, and strategic agility. He’s author of Leading With Character and Competence: Moving Beyond Title, Position, and Authority.

Rodger Dean Duncan: You point out that people who lack competence remain ineffective. But competent leaders who lack character become dangerous. Without naming names, what are some of the warning signs of a flawed character in the workplace?

Timothy R. Clark: Two things. First, leaders stop listening. Their advocacy-to-discovery ratio goes way up. In other words, they talk a lot more. They think talking amounts to leading and so they are prone to move into a very annoying rhetorical mode. They simply can’t shut up. And when they do listen, they listen based on the status of the person talking rather than the substance of the message. If you’re not important, don’t expect an audience.

Second, they simply forget—assuming they once learned—that leadership is stewardship for others and the resources we share. They become focused on their own advancement and they see leadership as a glittering path to their own rewards. In short, they become self-serving, greedy, and small.

Duncan: What advice do you give someone who’s been temporarily caught in the moral fog and is making a good faith effort to retrieve lost trust and reputation?

Clark: Understand that trust is the outcome of a slow-build. You can’t demand trust. It can only be granted by others.

If you think about the compounding principle, it applies here big time. It’s the consistency of small, ethical choices that build trust. Have you ever seen a 3D printer build something? Well, that’s how trust is built, layer upon layer.

Remember, trust is predictive understanding about another human being’s intent to do the right thing. It takes only one ethical breach, one lapse in judgment, to torpedo your credibility and break trust.

Leaders live on their reputations. If you are trustworthy to a certain point, but for sale after that, you are still a human vending machine. Trust means there are things in life that are not for sale—at any price! Show me a leader with that kind of conviction and I’ll show you a team that will achieve astonishing things. If you need to start over to build trust, do it. Start now.

Duncan: To what extent is there a competence component in character? In other words, can someone increase in competence at genuinely being and behaving as a person of character?

Clark: I’d actually put it the other way: Is there a character component in competence? The answer is unequivocally yes. To become really good at something, to develop deep expertise in any area, you have to learn, respect, and apply the principles that govern that domain. If I want to become a great leader, but don’t want to invest in developing leadership skills, that’s an integrity problem. Everything has a price. Figure out the price. Acknowledge the price. Pay the price. Competence is never cheap.

Duncan: You use a character-plus-competence model that illustrates four types of leaders that have nothing to do with title, position, or authority. What are those four types and how is that model useful to someone who sincerely wants to succeed as a leader?

Clark: The four types are—

Ineffective leaders (high character/low competence)
Failed leaders (low character, low competence)
Great leaders (high character, high competence), and
Dangerous leaders (low character, high competence)
The point is to use the framework as a mirror. Just look around and you’ll see that people really do conform to these four types. If you’re willing to do a fearless personal inventory, you’ll be able to identify areas of character and competence that you need to work on. Prioritize your development needs and then go to work!

Duncan: Leadership, you say, begins with character, and character has four cornerstones—integrity, humility, accountability, and courage. How are those four elements mutually reinforcing?

Clark: Integrity is obviously the bedrock foundation. Everything springs from it. For example, humility is simply an acknowledgement that we don’t know everything and we need help from others. It takes integrity to admit that.

Next, accountability is the realization that we need to be answerable for our performance and results. It takes integrity to internalize and live that principle.

Finally, courage is the willingness to challenge the status quo and create new value rather than lounge in your comfort zone and tell yourself soothing storiesabout why you shouldn’t rock the boat.

Duncan: Of character’s four cornerstone elements, which one seems to be the greatest challenge for most people?

Clark: Humility—especially if you have tasted success. For some reason, ego seems grows proportionately with success. That’s when things get dangerous.

Duncan: You make a point of encouraging people to have the courage to avoid profanity. What do you see as the effect of language on a leader’s effectiveness?

Clark: Profanity snuffs out psychological safety. It’s arrogant. It’s bravado, and it can be threatening and intimidating to others. If people have a right to work in an environment free of shaming, harassing, and bullying behavior—well, you very quickly come to the conclusion that profanity is not your friend. It doesn’t make the cut. Plus, the English language is beautiful. Learn to harness its power!

Duncan: The four cornerstones of competence you suggest are learning, change, judgment, and vision. Again, how are these four elements interconnected or mutually reinforcing?

Clark: Let’s go back to the fundamental definition of leadership: It’s the ability to influence others to create and achieve meaningful goals. These four elements connect with that definition. You need a vision or you have no place to go. You need judgment to figure out how to get there. You will meet obstacles on your way, so be ready to change and adapt. Finally, to lead is to learn. You’ve never been where you’re going. Be ready to learn your way there.

Duncan: As for learning, what do you regard as the most important mindset and most important behavior for someone who wants to be an effective leader?

Clark: Two things—

First, think of this basic distinction in life—contribution vs. consumption. Leadership is about contribution, not consumption. You have to sign up for contribution.

Second, and this is related to the first point, you have to find within yourself a deep psychological need to create value. Consumers don’t feel that intrinsic drive, but contributors do. That’s the mindset—”I’m a contributor. I’m here to create value. That’s what I do!”

Duncan: How can you tell if someone new to leadership is going to thrive in the hyper-competitive 21st century?”

Clark: I look for three things: First, are you an aggressive, self-directed learner? This is critical. Peple who rely on an institution for their development are last century. You have to own your own development. It’s yours. The organization can support you, but you’re in charge. Find your own development gaps. Create your own curriculum and go for it. The world’s learning assets are at your fingertips.

I look for people who demonstrate evidence of intense self-directedness. For example, we interviewed a gentleman who is an accomplished break dancer and free runner. I asked, “How did you learn these amazing skills?” His answer, “I taught myself. Lots of videos and hard work.” Wow! That’s a special kind of DNA.

Second, think above your role. It doesn’t matter what your job is, learn to think above and beyond it. If you don’t, you’ll be trapped in the prison of your tactical thinking. You may work in a particular function—accounting, finance, marketing, sales, research, IT, operations, procurement, whatever. That’s great. Master what you do, but as you do that, learn to think far beyond the boundaries of your role. This will help you understand how value is created and you’ll become much more able to contribute to the process of innovation. You’ll become a disruptive thinker and a walking incubator of new ideas.

Third, is it emotionally expensive to challenge you? If it is, if you struggle with constructive dissent and intense collaboration, this will limit your ability to thrive in the 21st century. But if you can take a hit, if you can discuss ideas on merit and not get defensive, if you can learn to fail and learn to be wrong, I want to hire you! The 21st century is your native habitat.

Duncan: This age of digital commerce and near instantaneous communication seems to spawn both quicker business success and quicker business collapses. With that as a backdrop, what’s your counsel to any leader who wants to develop a smart vision?

Clark: A smart vision satisfies a felt need in some meaningful way. But that need may not last long. That’s what’s changed.

In this age of acceleration, there is a compression of time frames. The average span of competitive advantage is shorter, so be ready for your vision to become obsolete. Above all, develop your adaptive capacity as a leader. Let me give you an example from my own shop.

At LeaderFactor, we provide a market-leading emotional intelligence assessment called EQometer which is used by leaders from more than 50 countries. In this case, I’ve learned to let customers help create that smart vision. When they asked for mobile compatibility, we did it. When they asked for on-demand microlearning videos, we did it. They asked for better data visualization, and we did it. They asked for an individualized dashboard. We did it.

Do you see what’s happening? Customers are willing to educate us and inform a dynamic, smart vision if we are listening, humble, and have a high tolerance for candor.

Parting words of advice: Buckle up and be ready!

For the past 40 years I’ve consulted and coached leaders from the factory floor to the boardroom in some of the world’s best companies in multiple industries. Basically, I help people get good stuff done while avoiding the Dilbert Zone. Early in my career I covered politics … MORE
Rodger Dean Duncan is the bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today’s Top Thought Leaders Follow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan



Employees not receiving recognition are twice as likely to leave

Employees who have not received recognition recently are twice as likely to be looking for another job, according to a study by employee engagement organisation Tiny Pulse.

The Employee retention report 2018 surveyed over 25,000 employees across the world from January to October 2018 and found that 24% of employees who felt they had not received recognition from their direct supervisor in the past two weeks had recently interviewed for another position, compared with just 13% who had received recognition.

The report also found that employees who do not feel valued at work are 34% more likely to leave their employers within the next year, and employees who rate their benefits package highly are 11% more likely to stay.

Andrew Sumitani (pictured), director of marketing at Tiny Pulse, said: “In today’s competitive job market, there’s no magic bullet for retention. But as the report reveals, every organisation has an opportunity to improve its numbers. Whether that’s through benefits, career-pathing or management training, there are lots of areas to focus on. Ultimately, it all boils down to feeling valued at work. That’s what people want and the only way leaders can help employees feel that way is by finding out what’s behind that feeling.”

According to the report, employees who rate their work-life balance highly are 10% more likely to stay. The study also found that employees who rate their organisation’s culture poorly are 24% more likely to leave, and workers who believe their employer has a higher purpose are 27% more likely to stay.

Sumitani added: “Retention is top-of-mind for all the leaders that we work with. It’s hard to craft a great employee experience if employees don’t stick around. We’re uniquely positioned to assess what truly drives retention, because hundreds of thousands of employees answer questions anonymously through our platform each week. When compiling this report we were surprised to see the strong correlations across so many different drivers of retention.”


Faith in employees is key to success of entrepreneurs

For Indians employed in the private sector, the system of applying for sick leaves and casual leaves is all too familiar – a set number of days that keeps decreasing with every leave you avail. However, leaders from India Inc. are now championing a new approach to a company’s leave policy – trusting the employee.

At a panel discussion held as part of the Ascent Foundation Summit held in Mumbai on Thursday, industry leaders discussed the need to attract and retain the right talent for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and stressed on the need to build a relationship of faith between the employer and employees.

Speaking exclusively to Fortune India on the sidelines of the event, Harsh Mariwala, founder of Ascent Foundation and chairman, Marico said nurturing faith in the employees is crucial for any entrepreneur. He added that Marico demonstrated this by doing away with sick leave and casual leave several years ago. “If you’re sick, you’re sick; we trust you. Even if you’re sick for 20 days it’s okay,” Mariwala said. He added that culture building for an organisation has to start at the top, and policies and practices must reinforce the company’s values.

Lavanya Nalli, vice chairperson, Nalli Group of Companies, said she believed that employees feel a stronger sense of responsibility and ownership when they are trusted with autonomy. Nalli recounts that when her company removed the caps on allowances and accommodation expenses for travelling employees, they actually became more judicious with their choices.

She said that a company’s core values must be displayed in the processes. “Your frontline is the face of the organisation. We have empowered them; we have an apprentice model instead of just manuals and training programmes. They have a very strong induction program where they shadow a senior person,” Nalli said. The Nalli Group rarely hires laterally for mid-level positions as selections are usually made from within the company, she added.

Whereas Prabir Jha, president and global chief people officer, Cipla said he believes that companies must avoid falling into the trap of finding a ‘culture fit’ as a company’s culture cannot be static. “In these turbulent and disruptive times, we must be looking at ‘culture plus plus’, because the more plural your organisation is and the more diverse the perspectives and experiences are, your culture is likely to get more genetic strength,” he said.

Another mistake that entrepreneurs must avoid, according to Sunit Sinha, managing director, Accenture Strategy, Talent and Organisation, is believing the myth that what works in large global companies will not work in small organisations. “Human beings have the same needs whether they work in a global conglomerate, a small startup or a midsize company,” he said.

Commenting on the outlook for India’s startup space, Mariwala maintained that the trend for entrepreneurship in India is positive. “More youngsters want to start their own business. There is high degree of risk taking. There is a stronger support system, with a different set of financiers, HR services and consultants,” he said, adding that the ecosystem is developing at a better rate today than a few years ago.

Also Read
For Bengaluru startups, it’s raining money
Despite the global headwinds in terms of trade war concerns, volatile crude oil prices and currency fluctuations coupled with domestic uncertainties given the current market condition and the upcoming elections, Mariwala said entrepreneurs should focus on the opportunities and not worry about the macros.

“When each entrepreneur is starting something, it’s just a drop in the ocean. Entrepreneurs should identify the opportunities and not get dissuaded by the macros. As long as there is stability and law and order, don’t worry about the macros,” he said.

He also went on to say that the current liquidity crunch especially in the financials space post the IL&FS debacle is a temporary setback. “Obtaining credit also depends on how strong the business model is. If you have a strong business proposition I don’t see funds as a barrier.”

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube to never miss an update from Fortune India. To buy a copy, visit Amazon.