Companies gauge employee morale with weekly pulse surveys

With offices in the U.S., China and Europe, executives at Retail Solutions Inc. found it difficult to know what their 380 employees were thinking about their jobs and the company.

To solve the problem, the fast-growing company — which provides big data analytics for the consumer products industry — began “pulse” surveys of employees with cloud-based software from Seattle-based TINYpulse.

Once a week, employees get emails for pulse surveys, both in Chinese and English, that ask questions such as, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you at work? What are two to three things we could be doing for customers that we’re not? Does your management team set clear company goals?”

Answers are anonymous and can be invaluable, said Karl Waldman, senior vice president of worldwide customers operations at Retail Solutions, which is based in Mountain View, Calif. “Our corporate culture is a critical part of our success, and if you build a strong culture and empower employees, their innovation and passion will result in better care of customers,” Waldman said. “That is the ultimate goal.”

He said the service costs the company $300 a month, or less than $20 a month for each executive who uses the information.

Waldman said the surveys have prompted some changes since they began in August 2013.

Managers used to meet monthly to discuss financials, he said, but the pulse surveys showed that employees believe the financials don”t change much month to month. So, the meetings were changed to add group updates, recognize interesting projects and facilitate knowledge sharing across the organization. The agenda was also changed to include feedback from teams in the field who are hands-on with retailers.

Waldman said he was surprised by some survey results. He discovered that some anonymous employees had health issues and he passed the information along to human resources to help employees deal with the issues.

“With a global team, it is hard to know all the challenges and what the company can do right,” Waldman said. “There are some things you would never know.”

Pulse surveys increasingly popular
Such “pulse surveys” have grown in use in recent years, part of a movement by companies to use more data in making decisions. The surveys are also offered by vendors such as BlackbookHR, The Marcus Buckingham Co., Qualtrics and Harris Interactive.

Evren Esen, director of survey programs at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va., said pulse surveys are generally unlikely to replace annual surveys. Although some companies are ending them, annual surveys are important because they serve as benchmarks and provide a broader sweep of employee attitudes and job satisfaction, she said.

Anonymous daily, weekly or monthly surveys can still be helpful at certain organizations because they help employees feel part of the process and demonstrate that the organization values their opinions, she said.

However, companies must be prepared to take concrete steps to show they are listening, demonstrate they are recognizing concerns and perhaps explain the reasons employee feedback may not fit with the business strategy. Otherwise, employees might feel the surveys make little difference. Fewer workers will participate and the surveys could become ineffective.

Accolade for TINYpulse
Accolade, a fast-growing company based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., launched TINYpulse in July 2014 to collect and respond to real-time employee feedback and improve the company’s culture, retention and results. TINYpulse replaced an internal “one point in time,” survey, said Courtney Schneider, senior manager of talent management at Accolade, whose health assistants help employees of self-insured companies negotiate the healthcare system. Accolade wanted to give employees an anonymous way to provide feedback every other week, she said.

The company gets “pretty good” mid-50% response rates from its 600 employees, she said. To gauge the effectiveness of the survey itself, Accolade asked employees what they thought of TINYpulse. Two hundred and fifty responded, and 80% were very favorable.

TINYpulse was “incredibly quick and easy” to implement, provides good support and integrates well with the Microsoft SharePoint, Schneider said. However, while the data from the surveys is easy to obtain, it takes a great deal of effort to drive optimal action with the findings, she said. Support from leadership and a strong executive sponsor are critical to bringing about change.

The surveys have been an important way of providing questions for CEO Tom Spann, who holds quarterly town-hall-style meetings with employees.

However, the company received mixed responses when it asked employees, “If Accolade were an animal, what would it be and why?”

A leopard, an elephant, a loyal dog and a chameleon were among the answers. Some workers liked the question, but others said the survey should be serious, Schneider said.


Are You Confused About How to Organize Your Leadership? Here Are 6 Approaches to Consider

As a company grows, the top levels of the organization must change. Going from a founder with a few early employees to a billion-dollar company with multiple divisions and operating units involves many intermediate steps in the leadership structure.

As a leadership coach, I work with many different types of companies and different types of teams to help them through these transitions. Below are the some of the main strategies that we use to organize and group the leaders of a growing company, and what each of them focuses on, and how they operate.

1. Leadership team
The leadership team is a general term for the group of the highest leaders in each department or domain of the business. This is also called the C-suite as it contains all of the C-level people in the company: the CEO, COO, CFO, and CMO. Not every company want to give these leaders “Chief” titles, so I tend to just use leadership team to represent this group, rather than C-suit or C-team.

The main focus of the leadership team is to develop company strategy and set the high-level execution targets. They also coordinate the high-level activities of each functional unit (finance, marketing, operations, etc.) and set the parameters for company operations and high-level policies.

In the early stages of a company, the leadership team might only be the founder and one or two key players in the business. As a company grows and the separation of the business functions become more formal and leaders are appointed, the leadership team will expand and grow.

2. Management Team
The management team consists of the leadership team plus any other executives who are directly involved in the implementation of the business strategy. These are the people who are responsible for implementing the strategy, high-level quarterly development priorities, and action items that will drive business initiatives.

The another key role of the management team is to gather data and perspective on issues that need broader input. This group is required when the leadership team doesn’t have enough on-the-ground knowledge to handle everything because the company has become bigger and more complex

3. Strategy Team
When the leadership team is large and the strategy work is more complex and nuanced, I will often create a smaller strategy team, using a subset of the leadership team, who can dig deeper into the issues, topics, data, and research.

I generally keep this team limited to three to five key people, selected from the leadership team, including the CEO and COO and often the CFO and CMO. This team could also include the top leaders in sales, product design, legal, and technology. In some cases we’ve included one or two experts from other parts of the company who are not C-suite such as technical or subject matter experts.

4. Leadership Subcommittees
When topics come up on the leadership team or management team around specific policies and operational parameters, a leadership subcommittee can be a great approach. Keep them to three to five people and give them a clear scope. They should collect data, do analysis, and make recommendations.

5. Board of Advisors
Not to be confused with a board of directors, a board of advisors doesn’t have any decision making powers or fiduciary responsibilities. They are purely an advisory group that helps with strategy development and setting priorities. The key to a good board of advisors is to balance and extend the leadership team and to cover gaps and blind spots.

6. Ownership Team
In the case of a privately held company, I will often create a separate ownership team. These are the people who have real equity in the business. The scope of the team can be just advisory, or they can participate in strategy and management discussions. At a minimum they need to handle the governance issues required under the articles of organization including membership meetings and voting on key matters. For family-owned companies, this is also where we tackle issues of multiparty voting rights and succession planning.

Few companies need all of the these teams, and no companies needs all of them at the beginning. It’s about iterating and adapting to your changing needs and finding a solution that gets the work done effectively, and efficiently.


Small Businesses – Think You Can’t Work With Influencers? Think Again

Everything I thought I knew about marketing was challenged when my oldest daughter became a consumer. Growing up with Instagram and YouTube, she wasn’t just influenced by what she saw online, she sought out recommendations from the people she followed. And it wasn’t celebrities giving her advice, it was everyday people who had used their platforms to position themselves as “expert consumers.” Even though sites my daughter followed, like fashion blog Something Navy, were getting paid for nearly every item they promoted on Instagram, my daughter still viewed them as trusted sources rather than salespeople. This, I would later learn, is the magic of influencer marketing.

While the fashion, food, and fitness industries tend to dominate the conversations around influencer marketing, the truth is that influencers exist everywhere products are sold. Consider an example from the music industry: Canadian producer Andrew Huang has grown his YouTube following to more than 1.5 million followers by creating captivating videos that show him making music with unconventional “instruments” like fireworks, pumpkins, and airplane seats. Brands like Gillette and DiGiorno have partnered with Huang on videos about making music with shaving supplies and pizza, respectively, to get their products in front of his music-loving audience in a fun way that doesn’t look or feel like advertising.

But you don’t have to have Gillette- or DiGiorno-sized budgets to work with influencers. In fact, micro- and nano-influencers with smaller (but loyal) followings can drive better outcomes for small businesses working to connect with niche audiences. According to a study by influencer marketing agency HelloSociety, micro-influencers—which it defines as accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers—deliver 60% higher engagement rates and are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with more followers. Like those odds? Here are a few tips for getting a micro-influencer marketing campaign started:

Look inward. Take a peek at your current online fanbase. You might be surprised to find that you already have a few followers that cater to an audience similar to yours (or the one you’d like to build). Guitar stores offer a great example. Small, local stores tend to naturally attract the attention of musicians of all levels in the area. If a local musician has already expressed interest by following a shop on social media, the foundation for an authentic partnership is already there. If your online social media following is a little on the light side, talk to your customers and your employees. Who do they follow, trust, and interact with online?

Participate in the conversation. Get in on the discussions about your industry that are already happening on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and elsewhere online. Monitor, follow, and use hashtags relevant to your business—the more specific, the better. Follow the users, big and small, who are leading and participating in the conversation. Not only will you naturally start to learn who drives engagement and shares values similar to those of your business, but you’ll also show future partners that you’re a valuable member of the community.

Collaborate on campaigns. Once you’ve found your perfect micro-influencer match—someone who believes in your product and aligns with your company’s tone and goals—be a good partner. Come to the table with ideas that will feel natural for the influencer while communicating the value of your brand. One of Reverb’s most successful influencer campaigns involved partnering with a talented French guitarist to give away a guitar similar to the one she uses every day. Helping one of her followers score a cool instrument was “on-brand” for our company, and giving fans the chance to win the guitar she plays felt natural (and exciting!) for the guitarist.

Influencers not only help brands get in front of targeted audiences, but they also add a level of credibility that is difficult for brands to obtain elsewhere. For small businesses, micro- and nano-influencers can provide genuine and impactful advocacy for a more manageable price tag. If it’s in the budget, consider working with multiple influencers to drive engagement across a variety of targeted audiences. Create campaigns that are repeatable so that you can track their impact over time. And don’t forget to hook your influencer partners up with swag and discounts when and where you can.


Study: Automation impacts employees less than mass layoffs

Dive Brief:
Automation isn’t the total wipe-out of human employment it’s often made out to be, according to research published by Boston University School of Law. In the study of both new hires and tenured workers with at least three years on staff, research results showed that relatively few workers were negatively affected by automation and only about 2% of long-term workers left their jobs the year automation spiked at their company, a number that rises to 8.5% after about five years. Researchers collected government records data from 2000 to 2016, covering about 5 million workers in private, non-financial companies in the Netherlands.
In an article for Harvard Business Review, the researchers rejected the belief that automation has the same effect on workers as a massive layoff. In the Netherlands, about 3.5 to 7.2% of workers lose their jobs in mass layoffs; only 0.7% of workers leave due to automation. Researchers found, however, that automation’s biggest negative impact on workers were lost wages and periods of unemployment. Automation impacted higher paid, higher educated workers more often, but hit low-wage, less educated workers the hardest in terms of pay and job loss.
In other findings, the likelihood of leaving a job because of automation varied little by age or gender; recently hired older workers were more likely to leave than other groups of workers; and losses were greater in manufacturing, although evident in all industry categories. The researchers do note that the impact of automation “might worsen” in the future.

Dive Insight:
Automation doesn’t appear to be replacing workers en masse, as many have predicted and others feared. In fact, technology is causing some employers to hire even more people, according to a new report from ManpowerGroup. The results showed that 87% of employers polled said they planned to maintain or increase their head counts because of automation. A 2017 report from Gartner predicted that artificial intelligence will create 2.3 million jobs and eliminate only 1.8 million.

Of course, certain industries and job titles will experience greater takeovers from automation than others, such as cashiers. But with hundreds of thousands of jobs to fill and a skills gap that continues to be a serious challenge for employers, forward-thinking HR leaders are preparing their organizations for impending changes by learning how to be agile. They’re hiring more contingent workers so they can adjust staffing levels according to market fluctuations, and they’re investing in training, upskilling and reskilling employees to build a capable workforce and to keep their organizations competitive.


Would Human Resource Turn More Resourceful?

HR function has expanded its scope significantly in the past few years. From hiring people, retaining outgoing employees and managing payroll to strategic functions like learning and development, organizational design and talent management that includes competency management, performance management, succession planning, leadership development etc. There are many startups like CoCubes, SutraHR etc., that serve each of these sub-functions through technology ever since the likes of Flipkarts and Zomatos came into existence around 2007.


In more than a decade, however, there have been few takers for the opportunity that this sector offers as most of the startups have been lured by other markets disrupted by technology like e-commerce, food, transportation, logistics etc. Nonetheless, the past 12-24 months have seen some green shoot investments driving the market sentiments up to create a large enterprise. The market size, on the other hand, varies from $34 billion to $400 billion as per various reports by Gartner and Deloitte Consulting. One of the reasons which can be attributed to this shift is that many companies’ attitude towards the technology impact in HR functions has changed. A recent survey of HR managers by jobs site TimesJobs found 75 percent respondents are using technology to boost their HR practices such as centralized processes, better data management and improved productivity. While, the remaining 25 percent are still reluctant to adopt technology — a possible reason being the return on investments (ROI).

“The ROI in technology solutions for HR functions is not clear, unlike a sales software which gives a measurable increase in ROI. Can you say that your revenue would increase with better employee engagement? Hence, there might not be a direct correlation between them,” says Saurabh Jain, founder, Benepik, a Gurugram-based startup that helps businesses engage and reward their employees via app, and provides them customized surveys and deep analytics. Radha Kizhanattam, investment director at seed-stage impact fund Unitus Ventures, which backed BetterPlace, a digital trust platform for managing blue collar employees, says, “If the HR solution is addressing softer aspects such as improving employee morale via better rewards and recognition programs, organizing fun employee engagement activities etc., measuring RoI in monetary terms is difficult. However in other areas like recruitment which directly impact the firm’s business performance, there is straightforward RoI measurement.”

The HR tech market can be put into two categories: transactional HR that includes solutions such as ERP to manage payroll, attendance, recruitment, etc and transformational or soft HR (which is hugely underserved) that caters to employee engagement, growth opportunities, setting the right culture to share feedback etc.

“There isn’t any integrated experience platform and that’s what drove me to launch Benepik. A bank, one of my clients, has been doing this offline but didn’t have the technology to integrate all. Many companies have built fancy platforms around customer experience and journey for customers, we want same consistent experience for employees too,” adds Jain. Adit Jain who runs an HR chatbot company Leena AI to automate HR helpdesk with instant replies, employee queries such as salary break-up, leave queries etc, also looks at improving transformational side of HR functions.

With clients including Coca-Cola, Marico, Pidilite, Axis Bank etc, Jain is also exploring the behavioral aspect of employees for better retention by the companies. The Y Combinator-backed startup has also acquired a company (name undisclosed) that uses its experience in augmented reality, virtual reality, and analytics to build solutions. He says, “There is a shift that has happened in HR as their job role to make sure operations (such as administrative services, recruitment, job analysis) run smoothly is limited to just 10 percent today. This will soon be reduced to twothree percent. Getting the right talent and talent engagement will become the central focus and from that perspective, we are in a very strategic position in a company’s HR functions because it is not possible to individually understand thousands of employees in a company.”


The market is still far from creating a unicorn. Some of the well-funded startups like HackerRank (a coding talent evaluation platform) and Belong (a predictive hiring platform) are yet to reach a significant valuation milestone. HR as a function always has a set budget allocated from management of a company and is a cost center for the company.

By that logic, as an HR startup, one is always automatically limited by the revenue that one can generate from the company. Hence, the pie of opportunity has been small to vie for. So, with many customers but with only a few million dollar revenues, it is doubtful to turn into a big company. However, the same cannot be said for across sub-sectors in HR.

“Consider a platform like LinkedIn. It is a classic HR product which went beyond simply creating a job portal to building a professional community, allowing individuals to build networks, find jobs and also get themselves trained. If you create a platform that is not limited by your customers being only the HR/learning and development functions in organizations (hence limited by the budgets they have), you will definitely be able to scale globally and build a unicorn,” adds Kizhanattam. Vidyarthi Baddireddy understands that too. The co-founder at Reculta – a software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup that assists colleges and companies to conduct hassle-free campus placement processes claims the concept of SaaS never emerged earlier for campus placements.

“Companies like launched for campus hiring but that didn’t succeed because they had the business-to-business model simultaneously running with a business-to-customer model,” he says. So while was working with institutions, it was also telling students to upload profiles online for recruitment. “Institutions, hence, showed resistance to Firstnaukri. CoCubes also tried this but it pivoted to doing assessments on behalf of companies in engineering colleges. We are a SaaS model and hence we are in the right place at the right time,” adds Baddireddy.

The startup automates the placement process by providing insights to the placement team and the students. From every campus the data gets filled in a uniform format and the recruiter can objectively evaluate the candidate. The industry is yet to see the disruption similar to what happened in transportation with Ola or in hospitality with OYO. But it changed the way organizations recruit and manage people. However, there would be a few pockets of change that would grow big. For example, freelancing would gain pace tremendously for certain skill-based projects for a particular duration.

Secondly, robots would occupy a larger presence in the HR functions by conducting interviews and recruiting people using artificial intelligence and machine learning to help in more objective and unbiased assessment of people. They would also be better in observing non-verbal behavior such as body language, eye contact, self-confidence etc. For HR personnel, on the other hand, the role will be increasingly strategic. “They will be more empowered to make data-driven decisions at the right time. For instance, if the bot alerts that an employee is planning to leave then it would be the HR’s job to get involve before he or she quits and retains the employee,” adds Adit. Setting the culture right early on in the life cycle of a company is critical for its success. Particularly, when startups raise money and scale, apart from operational challenges, the culture of the organization risks getting diluted.

Technology, here, can help bring some uniformity and efficiency in processes, for example, newemployee training and onboarding. “These sub-functions and other HR process-related functions can be supported with technology solutions freeing-up time of the HR team to handle more peopleintense activities like recruitment, internal relations etc.” says Kizhanattam. It is thus, companies that offer integrated HR experience would dominate the market in the next five years. And those focusing merely on one or two aspects might be acquired.


How Improving Employee Onboarding Can Boost Your Bottom Line

We get it. You’re busy running a business, your team’s under pressure and there’s a gap that desperately needs filling. But with up to 20 per cent of employee turnover occurring within six weeks of starting a role, recruitment doesn’t stop when your new starter signs on the dotted line.

Getting employee onboarding right is critical to retaining top talent. A Robert Half study found 93 per cent of candidates considered leaving a role before the end of their probation, and onboarding problems is why 36 per cent leave new roles.

And if you need more reasons you should invest time and money into proper onboarding, consider that:

Revenue is directly related to employee engagement, which is why company executives are obsessed with it. In a study, Aon Hewitt found a five per cent increase in employee engagement can lead to a three per cent revenue increase the following year.

Recruitment costs thousands more than advertising and other costs that hit your cash flow. Think intrinsic costs (time sorting applications, interviewing, etc.) and productivity lag, with new employees taking an average of eight months to become fully productive.

Existing staff put up with the additional workload for a long time, with an average of 68 days to fill a vacancy plus time to get someone up to speed. The quick exit of a new hire can affect morale and make others question whether pastures are greener elsewhere.

Negative onboarding experiences spread quickly, which can damage your reputation as an employer, hinder your ability to attract talent, and deter others from taking a role with you.
Most businesses are great at getting the mechanics right, like start date, contracts, payroll etc. But the human side of onboarding has increasingly been lost because we’re stressed and under pressure.

So here are some ways to increase staff retention and give your new starter a positive experience.

Tools of trade

Your new hire is there to use their skills to add value to your business, not spend the day on the phone to IT trying to print. At best, you appear disorganized. At worst, your new starter may think you don’t care.

Organizing things like computers, office access, logins, phones, etc., before they start will not only minimize downtime, you’ll make a positive first impression.

Countless people arrive on the first day with no computer or desk available for them, or spend hours trying order business cards on an incomprehensible system because the team assistant couldn’t be bothered helping.

Nothing is less welcoming than having nowhere to leave your things, and there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to do what you were hired for.

If something continues to be a problem, assign someone to help. Your new starter is there to be challenged and use their skills to better your business. Give them tools to do so.

Introduce them to their new environment

No matter how busy you are, make time to welcome your newbie and show you’re pleased they’ve chosen to work with you.

Introduce them to people they’ll see daily and who they’ll be working with. Include management if you can: at the very least, you’ll minimize the risk of your new start embarrassing themselves in front of someone important.

Little things matter too: kitchen, amenities, where to find stationery, facilities (showers, change rooms, bike storage), where to get lunch or coffee, etc..

Share the tour guide and introduction duties: you’ll reduce the risk of one person feeling burdened as work continues to pile up, and it gives your new starter an opportunity to get to know someone different.

The Business Induction

Providing framework and context for your new employee will work help make them feel part of something greater and ease into the role more quickly.

Whether it’s formal or scribbled on a whiteboard: outline what different areas do, and what the goals and vision of the business are. Let them know where to find policy or procedure manuals, or who to ask if they need them.

By giving your employees knowledge, you empower and give them confidence as they navigate their way around their surroundings.

Some businesses organize one-on-one meetings with the management team for all new starters to learn about the business first hand. It’s especially valuable if your newbie is naturally introverted, and it provides an opportunity for them to network internally and build rapport with others in the company.

Set Expectations Early

I had a client whose employer didn’t provide them with KPI’s until nine months after starting their role, which is a very long time to be uncertain about what’s expected of you.

Make sure you’re both aligned on what the role entails from the outset. Be specific: run through the job description and how they’ll be measured.

It’s also a good opportunity to reassure them they’ll have leeway to settle in. Ask them what support they’ll need, and leave the door open for them to come back to you.

Assign a Buddy, Share the Training

Everyone has different skills to offer. Sharing the training will allow new employees to build rapport more quickly with others and see how the business operates from different perspectives.

Many organizations have buddy systems that work well, but be mindful that not all individuals will gel, and negativity from existing workers can be contagious.

In more sinister cases, some buddies are reticent to help or work in the best interest of new staff.

No organization does things the same way, including expense claims and leave requests. Every business is different so take the time to show them how you do things.

Regular Check-ins

Checking-in regularly allows you to identify issues before they become chronic. If you’re happy with their progress, tell them (positive feedback can boost confidence). If they’re struggling, ask what help they need or arrange to have someone else to assist them.

Feedback is an opportunity to improve, so create an environment where they can share without consequence. Employee turnover costs your business dearly in both dollars and productivity, so it’s in your interest to learn if there are issues that need addressing.

Your employees can be your greatest advocates. Lots of little things going wrong can make them question whether they’ve chosen the right employer.

But when employees are engaged, they’re more likely to remain loyal, resilient and happy to go the extra mile for you. And getting the onboarding process right is a key step to meeting the needs of the business, and making your employee’s experience a positive one.


Get what you give: The art of retaining talent

On average, how much would you estimate the cost of reinstating a high performing employee to be? What if we redirected the same question to ‘How much of value will it add to the business if my current star performer stays longer?’

With the existence of the ‘Cost of Employee Turnover’ calculator, one could keep a check on the future expenses as well as immediate expenditures. What would be really great would be a ‘Return On Engagement’ calculator! Imagine knowing the possible pitfalls, the impact of absenteeism on annual turnover, and being able to prevent them, saving the company a huge cost.

“Satisfaction is a rating. Loyalty is a brand” said the customer service expert Shep Hyken.

Decisions need to evolve with changing times
Consider a situation when you have stringent company policies in place that have been adhered to for generations. Would you still live by all the rules in the book even if you knew that it is harming your employees? Or, would you make efforts towards looking for an alternative handbook that is a little less harsh, but equally disciplined?

Is it the work-life-integration? Or is it emphasis on skills and learning? Here’s what we believe some of the companies are doing right to ensure that their retention rates are on a rise and attrition gets kept at bay.

Building the right pressure
Tweaking traditional thinking to work in tandem with modern contemporary functions. Healthy competition versus critical comparison, will not only make the hard-working ones stay, but also aspire the competent ones to excel.

Leveraging memories to celebrate milestones
Why has nobody considered uploading Instagram stories and Facebook posts about the internal initiatives and top performers? If you already believe in giving credit where its due, make it grand and give it with pride.

Team decisions over individual opinions
An atmosphere where the hierarchies remain on paper for organizational structure purposes. But when it comes to taking the brunt, the praise, as well as the lashings, the team stands as one.

Nurturing a culture of ownership
Accentuating organizational commitment routed via autonomous engagement. Making the right decisions to invest in ‘People development’ for business growth motivates employees to keep coming back for more.

Personal conversations over digital communications
Every relationship demands its own space to foster, be it client and agency, or employer and employee. Taking the onus to encourage inter-departmental as well as cross-functional interactions leads to a more open-minded culture.

Mindfulness and wellness first
The ‘People First’ approach has been in practice for a while. But companies that really look after their employees with flexible work timings and recreational activities, have automatically put in place a culture of employee advocacy.

A smart number game
While a survey conducted by Nintex claims that 53% of employees do ‘not’ expect to stay at their companies beyond a tenure of five years, another survey by Gallup determines that six in 10 millennials are prone to the concept of ‘job-hopping’. In a dynamic country like ours with developing skilled workforce, one can only empathize with the challenges that organizations have to tackle.

The very same thought makes one wonder ‘How do I save this additional cost and retain my existing talent?’ Throw in a bit of annual perks, bi-annual internal initiatives for team building, a huge cake for all the birthday celebrations in the month, get-togethers at every festivity, and you have a perfect recipe for retention?

Mistaking peripheral engagement as happiness at work, is what leads to these upsetting statistics. It’s time to start giving better to yield significantly measurable results.


Strategies for the Modern Workforce: How to Boost Productivity Anytime, Anywhere

The workplace today is a vibrant and exciting space, comprising multiple generations, cultures, and work approaches under one roof. Add to that the complexities of digitally native workers and rapidly transforming systems, and you have a space that’s both challenging and full of new opportunities.

We reached out to Isaac Oates, CEO of HR technology disruptor Justworks, to understand how technology can amplify people possibilities in the modern office. Interestingly, HR transformation isn’t a magic bullet – it goes hand-in-hand with tried-and-tested practices to create positive man-machine synergies. “Every new generation that enters the workforce requires companies to adapt in some way. Gen Z is just entering the workforce, for example, but when it comes to skills and work, some things remain pretty constant,” said Isaac.

Here are his four recommendations on how to create a productivity-focused workplace and engage your entire workforce.

1. Ask Yourself if an Offsite Employee Actually Fits the Role at Hand
While the gig economy is nearing maturity and organizations across the globe are increasingly open to offsite workers, they aren’t always the best fit for every role. If collaborative tasks, customer-facing responsibilities, and a rapid growth curve, is essential to your everyday workflow, consider looking at onsite talent.

Also, remember that an offsite employee may be either on your direct payroll or an independent consultant. High-value projects are better suited to contractual or gig workers, while at more junior ranks – involving a steeper growth curve – fulltime employees are advisable.

“A successful hybrid talent strategy shouldn’t make concessions when it comes to skills or the scope of remote roles. Every company’s culture and remote work policies will be different, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Some jobs (e.g., software development) are more conducive to flexibility, whereas others (e.g., sales and operations) need more structure or have to be covered at different times,” says Isaac.

Also read: Top Job Boards That Help with Remote Technology Jobs

2. Understand where Experience Matters the Most
When it comes to remote roles, the experience can make all the difference. A candidate who has previously worked around processes such as these will know exactly how to leverage collaboration tools, online business applications, and digital HR to boost remote workforce productivity.

As Isaac puts it: “A candidate with remote experience has a better understanding of what it takes to work and communicate effectively while away from a physical workplace. They’ll require less of an adjustment than a new remote worker.”

We recommend embedding these specifications into the job posts when initially sharing with your candidate pool. A background assessment software could then verify all these details, helping select the right talent for maximized remote workforce productivity.

3. Find Innovative Ways to Gauge Resourcefulness
According to Isaac, being resourceful is an essential trait of any successful gig worker. Every day, new workplace scenarios will arise and your employee will have to adapt and adjust without any face-to-face connect with the workplace or their team. This requires a keen understanding of the available channels and getting the job done in line with your remote workforce productivity targets.

“Since a candidate won’t be part of your immediate team environment, their creative energy and ability to adapt in different work situations is essential,” Isaac believes. “Someone who has a variety of different work experiences or an impressive track record of successful side projects is usually more equipped to succeed without being told how to do so on a daily basis.”

4. Have a Rigorous Process and Stick to it
There are several recruitment and onboarding tools out there to help define your hiring strategy and enforce the various checks and balances. It’s important when hiring offsite workers to not deviate from these guidelines.

While maintaining a certain level of flexibility and openness, always ensure that your remote workers undergo the same recruitment procedures as your regular employees. “Always put in the extra time to find the right person,” says Isaac.

In Closing – Reimagine the Office for the New Workforce
To engage their multi-cultural, multi-generational and multi-locational employee base, large companies are placing a lot of emphasis on wellness, remote work policies, and flexible benefits. While this focus on work-life balance is extremely important, the office itself should be conducive to collaboration and productivity.

“Open office plans are extremely common these days, but they often hurt employee productivity instead of helping it. Getting “in the zone” is important. If your workplace is one where the only way for employees to do this is by putting noise-canceling headphones on and listening to music — you’re going to undermine creativity. Especially the critical kind of creativity that happens 1 on 1 or in smaller groups. There’s no one perfect way to lay out an office but being aware of the varied needs of a productive team is a good place to start,” Isaac opined, as we closed the revealing discussion.


How to prepare employees to work in a global workforce

As technology has made the world smaller, the workplace has become smaller as well, with more employers hiring foreign nationals to work at U.S. offices and more workers collaborating with colleagues around the globe.

But there are hurdles that go beyond time differences. There can be a divide between cultures and values. Luckily, however, there are simple steps HR can take to bridge those gaps.

The workforce, in general, is more globally engaged than ever, Jim Link, CHRO of Randstad North America, told HR Dive in an email, “so really, the shift is less drastic than we may think as employees are already well-equipped to work with foreign workers.” Their own Workplace 2025 research shows that virtual or remote employees make up 22% of organizations today — and that globalization is a top reason to build an agile workforce.

Prepping for global colleagues
First, execs must consider how they can make sure employees feel connected to each other, the culture and the company’s values, no matter their location, Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, told HR Dive in an email. To do this, she said, “leaders need to make sure their overall employee integration strategy focuses on creating a positive work environment and an exceptional employee experience for all.”

Alison Egeberg, chief HR officer at Adform, is immersed in such an environment. She is from the U.S. but works in Denmark. “I’m so lucky to sit in our office with 40 people from 12 different countries which is very common in a lot of our bigger offices,” she told HR Dive in an email.

Diversity is a big selling point for Adform when recruiting foreign nationals, she said. “They can immediately feel at home because of the inlay of diversity. Imagine a place where you’ll hear a lot of different languages spoken and where people automatically switch to English if someone is present and not speaking the same language, where you get treats from around the world, and where you get to challenge your own assumptions and have interesting debates like where Santa Claus is from (North Pole, Greenland, or Lapland).”

But working with global teams must be planned for and supported from the top down, Link said. He recommended short- and long-term strategies, processes and, of course, the right technology. Another consideration is compliance — assuring a company meets all local, regional and global rules and regulations.

Communication and collaboration with existing workers is key, Sally Hunter, senior vice president of Europe Service Delivery at Cielo, told HR Dive in an email, and that includes involving current employees in the onboarding process, regardless of whether the new employee is local or remote.

Training is key, both near and far
Unconscious bias training is needed, and likely should be mandatory, Hunter said. Such training can help de-mystify cultural differences and define the best ways to communicate with international colleagues. “We also recommend lunch-and-learn sessions — possibly including ‘foods of the world,’ that give all employees the opportunity to present their national food and share with colleagues,” she added.

Moreover, diversity and inclusion training should be continuous for all teams working with global employees, Link said. “Arguably, the most important thing a company can do for a foreign national and their family is a cultural immersion program,” he added. “These programs should be done as early as possible in the employee’s assignment and can incorporate both country and company immersion.”

Cultural awareness training educates employees about what to expect regarding cultural similarities and differences and how to support and work successfully with non U.S.-based colleagues, Tara Quinnette, senior HR consultant at OneDigital Health and Benefits​, explained. For leaders, Egeberg recommends situational training that provides tools for dealing with varying scenarios and how different cultures may respond or relate.

The same online training, Hunter added, should ideally be offered to employees abroad to ensure everyone is treated equally and they’re all on the same page. Equal training can help ensure a common understanding of cultural norms and provide the means to communicate effectively across any cultural divides. Cielo recommended a face-to-face visit with new colleagues early on in a new employee’s tenure to ensure strong working relationships; video conferencing can have a positive impact on integration as well. And to ensure training is actually useful, Link suggested working with partners or companies in the same location as foreign workers for local training, including diversity and inclusion programs.

Adform, for example, uses interculture/intraculture training, with professionals leading discussions on how values and beliefs influence behaviors. The company also discusses how different cultures approach things, like persuasion. “One way isn’t better than another but rather a ‘norm’ of the culture / country which we should be aware of when working with and again checking our assumptions about ‘why’ someone behaves the way they do,” Egeberg said.

Synchronized messaging
Acknowledging differences is important, as is clear communication that everyone will be respectful of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, Hunter said; “In many cases it has been helpful to have a message from the CEO that is broadcast across the business clearly stating why a diverse and harmonious workforce is important to the organization.”

The tone has to be set from leadership and implemented through managers, Quinnette said. “Culture is created by every individual that works for the company, no matter where they are located physically,” she explained. “It’s up to organizations to provide information, set expectations and empower employees to be part of the process in a culturally appropriate way.”


How to Cope With a Mid-Career Crisis

Kieran Setiya, a philosophy professor at MIT, says many people experience a mid-career crisis. Some have regrets about paths not taken or serious professional missteps; others feel a sense of boredom or futility in their ongoing streams of work. The answer isn’t always to find a new job or lobby for a promotion. Motivated by his own crisis, Setiya started looking for ways to cope and discovered several strategies that can help all of us shift our perspective on our careers and get out of the slump without jumping ship. He is the author of the HBR article “Facing Your Mid-Career Crisis.”


ALISON BEARD: Welcome to the HBR IdeaCast from Harvard Business Review. I’m Alison Beard. You may have heard me on the show before, but this is my first as an official co-host, joining the amazing Curt Nickisch and producer Mary Dooe, and I’m really happy to be here.

We want to bring you the best ideas in management from the world’s leading thinkers, and help you connect them to your own lives, so you can run your business more effectively, and better navigate the world of work.

Today I’ll be talking about mid-career crises with Kieran Setiya. He’s a philosophy professor at MIT who wrote a book called Mid-life, and the HBR article, “Facing your Mid-Career Crisis.” I’ll admit that I tracked him down partly for personal reasons.

I spent my entire career in journalism: a year at a local newspaper in Virginia, a decade at the Financial Times, and for the past nine years, as an editor at HBR, which is a terrific place to work. But a few years ago, around the time I turned 40, I started to ask myself if I was really doing the right thing with my life. Had I advanced far and fast enough? Was I happy in my job? Did I want to do something different?

Of course, it’s common to feel this way at midlife. Just listen to Billy Crystal describe it in the movie City Slickers.

BILLY CRYSTAL: When you’re a teenager, you think you can do anything, and you do. Your 20s are a blur. 30s, you raise your family, you make a little money, and you think to yourself, What happened to my 20s? 40s, you grow a little pot belly. You grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud. One of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. 50s, you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure. But it’s a surgery.

ALISON BEARD: Now, I wouldn’t normally turn to a philosopher for help, but when I read Kieran’s book, I found it really helpful. That’s why I wanted him to be my first guest. Kieran, thanks so much for coming on the show.

KIERAN SETIYA: Thank you for having me.

ALISON BEARD: So what evidence do we have that lots of people suffer, not just from a midlife crisis, but a mid-career crisis? Are they two different things, or linked?

KIERAN SETIYA: I think they’re linked, and they run in parallel. So the most recent reliable research on people’s life satisfaction by age comes from economists David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald. And it suggests that, in general, life satisfaction has this gentle “U” shape. It starts high in youth, it bottoms out in your 40s, and then it picks up again in older age. But some of their earlier studies were specifically on work satisfaction. And it also has the same shape. So it bottoms out, I think, in the work satisfaction studies, it bottoms out a little earlier around 40, exactly the right time for you. So I think these two do run in parallel and probably have some of the same kinds of causes and explanations and maybe treatments.

ALISON BEARD: What are some of those specific things that start to get in our heads when we hit middle age?

KIERAN SETIYA: I think it’s a cluster of different things. I think talking about the midlife crisis, or the midlife malaise is a little bit misleading. There’s really many midlife crises. You know, there’s plenty to go around. And I think some of it has to do with a sense of sort of backward-looking regret or missing out or things you haven’t done, or mistakes and misfortunes — parts of your past that you now have to come to terms with that constrain what options you have and what your life can be like.

And some of it is more focused on what you’re doing in the present, and often midlife — at work and in one’s personal life — is a time of feeling like it’s project after project. There’s so much that has to be done just to keep your family or your business running. And that can feel very oppressive.

ALISON BEARD: Yeah. And we do spend so much of our lives at work, so it seems natural that this sort of backward-looking regrets about the past, a lot of that does center not on our relationships or sort of our social life our in the real world, but you know, in the office.

KIERAN SETIYA: Yeah, certainly for me, that was the initial and main focus of things, was the sense that I had spent 25 years working on a career with a fairly linear trajectory and had been incredibly fortunate to end up with a job as a philosophy professor, and this is something I ought to have been grateful for.

And yet, that was the point when the rush of needing to get tenure and get promoted sort of calmed down, and I thought, What about all the other things I haven’t done and now I’m not going to do? My life is sort of relatively constrained. There was a puzzling sense that even though it was worth doing, the thought of just doing it over and over again for another 20, 30, 40 years felt dispiriting.

ALISON BEARD: Yeah. And so unlike most people, you turned to philosophy for help, which makes sense, given your background. But it’s not something most of us would do. Most of us would go to career coaches. We might read HBR. A lot of the advice is about how to make changes at that stage. But you took a different approach and focused more on how one could manage it in place. Tell me a little bit more about what you found out in your research.

KIERAN SETIYA: In a way, this came out of my personal experience. It was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t going to make a dramatic change. I wasn’t going to give up tenure and leave my job. And at the same time, I thought, well, this is a kind of ethical problem. It’s a problem about how to live, how to think about the shape of a human life. It ought to be the kind of thing that a philosopher like me — who works on how to live and what’s a good human life — would have something to say about it.

And so I did turn to philosophy. I was surprised in a way that, on the one hand, philosophers had rarely, explicitly talked about midlife. On the other hand, I found a lot of resources in philosophy for thinking about the kinds of errors or confusions about value or about the passage of time that underlies some of the negative feelings we have around midlife.

So, in effect, what I was beginning to do was a kind of abstract cognitive therapy, trying to unearth philosophical mistakes that might underlie negative feelings and see if there was room for a philosophical therapy for the midlife malaise.

ALISON BEARD: What particular strategies did you find most therapeutic for you when you were trying to figure out how to still be happy as a philosophy professor?

KIERAN SETIYA: I mean, for me, a starting point that I found very simple, but in a way very helpful, was just to think about what philosophers call incommensurability, or the incommensurability of value, or the plurality of values. So in a way, there are decisions in which you take a better option, and you have no regrets. If I say to you, do you want $50 or $100, you’ll take $100. You will not feel conflicted about it. But that’s actually a comparatively rare case.

Most decisions that we make, even when we make the right decision, involve different kinds of values, and so involve a kind of loss. So I might have tickets to see a concert and then get a sudden offer of tickets to the first game of the World Series. And for me, baseball fan, I’m going to go to the World Series. But there is a kind of small-scale loss there. I won’t get to hear that concert.

So there’s a way in which regret is compatible, some kind of loss is compatible with even having made the right decisions. And I think a phenomenon people often experience when they reflect on their lives in mid-career is a version of that writ large. It’s thinking, Now that I’ve spent 25 years doing this, it’s pretty clear I’m never going to be a medical doctor, which my father wanted me to be. And I look back and think, Yeah, there’s a real loss there. There are all kinds of ways my life would have gone, and things that would have been really valuable that I have missed out on and will miss out on.

So the thing that I think is therapeutic here is to realize that a certain kind of regret or loss around midlife is not a symptom of anything going wrong. It’s a symptom of basically your ability to appreciate many different kinds of values, and that in fact, that’s a good thing. It would be terrible if you were so narrow in your focus that there was really only one thing that you could see value in.

ALISON BEARD: But what about when you think back and actually it was a mistake? You know, you decided to be a corporate lawyer instead of pursuing your dream of dance.

KIERAN SETIYA: Yeah, so that is a much more difficult case.

ALISON BEARD: I’m sure you made a lot of money as a lawyer, but maybe you could have been an amazingly successful ballerina.

KIERAN SETIYA: Yeah, so the harder case, in a way, for thinking about your past and coming to terms with it is a case where you think, I’m really not sure I made the right decision. Or even, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I just really, I just made a mistake.

And it needn’t even be a decision. It could just be something that happened to you and a misfortune that you went through that you look back on and think, at the time I knew that was a terrible thing, and I was right.

ALISON BEARD: Or a situation that’s been forced upon you. You know, you’ve lost a job, or been pushed into a function that actually you don’t enjoy as much as you would have another.

KIERAN SETIYA: Exactly. So, I think the starting point for sort of rethinking this philosophically is to draw a distinction between mistakes, misfortunes, failures on the one hand, and regret on the other hand. And those things can seem inseparable. But actually, you can see that they come up even just thinking about simple cases like, I make a stupid investment — bad mistake. Through sheer luck, it turns out that I make a huge profit. So I don’t regret the mistake.

So conceptually, at least, there’s two phenomena here: how you should have felt the and how you should feel later. The interesting point is that they seem to come apart even more dramatically than just unexpected good fortune. Philosopher Derek Parfit talks about a case in which someone decides to have a child as a teenager, and they never lose that sense that it was a rash decision.

But later, looking back on that decision, holding their child in their arms, they might well completely reasonably think, I don’t regret it. And I think when you start to think through the ways in which your life course has been determined by things that at the time were mistakes or misfortunes, many of the kinds of attachments you form later — the people you meet, who you marry, whether you have kids, whether you have these kids or would have had some other kids — those kinds of attachments are highly contingent on your past.

And looking back and thinking, well, I wouldn’t have met my husband, or I wouldn’t have my daughter if I hadn’t made that mistake or if I hadn’t lost my job and had to seek this other career, is the beginning of a way or reframing one’s history and providing a narrative that makes it reasonable, I think, to feel differently about things that at the time you recoiled from.

ALISON BEARD: Yeah, and I think a point you make in the article and the book is this idea that it’s so easy to dream of an alternate reality that ended up perfectly, with no mistakes, because there’s no granularity to that life. The line you use is: “It’s the specifics that count against the grand cartoon of lives unlived.” You know, the relationships you have with colleagues at work, the people that you’ve mentored, the work you’ve actually produced and put out — none of that would have happened without you making the decision you did.

KIERAN SETIYA: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think it’s very easy to slip into a kind of abstraction where you just compare how good this life is and think, well, I could have had a better life. When you compare it in terms of better and worse, it can seem like it would be irrational not to just want the better life.

There’s a kind of counterweight to that in our attachment to the specifics of our lives. And so I think one strategy for evincing that, that you are pointing to, is to think about all the particular things you’ve done at work, the particular connections you’ve made, the people you know, the interactions you value, and to think about all of those details vanishing, replaced by something that in principle might be better, but it is completely unknown and to which you have no emotional connection.

ALISON BEARD: So the thing that really resonated for me was this idea of ennui in the present: you know, I’ve done everything I needed to do to get to where I am, and now I’m just going to keep doing that thing over and over again, and I don’t frankly want to blow my life up and do something completely different. But how do I get excited about the work again? Talk to me a little bit about the advice that you would give me. I’ve read the book, so I’ve already done it, but what advice would you give anyone who’s in that position?

KIERAN SETIYA: So there’s a couple of things I think are really helpful in trying to think through this experience, which I think is both emotionally and intellectually puzzling. And, to me as a philosopher, part of the puzzle was, it’s compatible. This feeling of ennui is compatible with thinking that what you’re doing is worth doing. It’s not that it seems completely pointless.

And there’s a kind of question: well, how can you be doing things that seem worthwhile, and yet think, something is missing? And there’s two ways that can happen. One of the ways in which I think that it commonly happens around midlife depends on this distinction I draw between ameliorative and existential values. So ameliorative value is the value of amelioration: taking something bad and making it better, or not bad, sort of neutralizing a problem. You know, colleagues having an argument at work, or there’s a glitch in a rollout of a product, or —

ALISON BEARD: Or editing a terrible draft.

KIERAN SETIYA: Exactly, yes. And you have to, there’s this problem you’d rather not be dealing with. And then you fix it. And then that’s worth doing. But, in a way, if too much of your life is occupied with amelioration — neutralizing problems — the best you’re doing is making things neutral. You don’t have a kind of vision of what’s positively good or of positive value in your life.

So the idea of existential value is the idea of value that’s not ameliorative: things that are worth doing but not because they solve a problem you’d rather not be dealing with, but are positively worth doing. And I think one kind of strategy around mid-career is to look at your life and try and classify how much of what you’re doing is merely ameliorative and how much space there is in your life, both at home with your family, and at work, for activities with existential value.

I mean, are there sort of “blue sky” problems you’ve been putting off for years that would have existential value? Maybe now is the time to think about them. Around midlife so much of our time is in demand. So much of what we do that’s worthwhile consists of things that we have to do in order to solve problems — with our kids, with our parents and at work — and that isn’t enough to make up a satisfying life.

ALISON BEARD: Yeah. I mean, it really is a mindset shift, right, in terms of how you think about work? You know, thinking about different ways that your work is valuable. You know, is my editing a bad draft ameliorative because I’m just fixing this problem? Or does it have existential value because, when it’s readable, someone can improve their work life because of it?

KIERAN SETIYA: Yeah, that’s true. So sometimes you’ll find that what you’re doing has value of both kinds and that you were just too focused on the ameliorative, and not enough of your time was spent focusing on the existential value.

I think that contrast shows up even more in this second distinction that I think is useful here, which is the distinction between two kinds of activity that I personally found most useful in trying to think about what was going wrong with my own relationship to work and philosophy and teaching.

This is a distinction between what I call telic and atelic activity. So the terminology comes from the Greek word telos, meaning end or goal. And the idea is that telic activities are ones that are directed at a sort of specific, completable goal, like finishing a draft of an article.

There’s something kind of structurally problematic about investing too much in products of that kind, activities of that kind. One way to see it is that if what you care about is completing some goal, satisfaction is always in the future, because it’s not done yet. And then as soon as it’s done, well, it’s archived in the past. So there is a way in which the present is sort of going to feel a little bit empty.

And it’s also true that by engaging with activities that have that shape, what you’re doing is finishing them. So you’re taking something meaningful, and what you’re basically doing is engaging with it in a way that’s going to expel it from your life.

ALISON BEARD: And then the moment you do, you just sort of think, eh.

KIERAN SETIYA: Right, then it’s like, that’s done.

ALISON BEARD: On to the next one.

KIERAN SETIYA: Now I’m onto the next project. And so I think it’s really important to recognize that not all activities are like that. Not all activities have this telic structure. So take a simple example: as well as walking home, there’s just walking without any particular destination. Or, as well as getting the kids to bed, there’s the ongoing activity of parenting. Or, instead of writing this report, there’s the ongoing project of building the company.

And those ongoing projects, those what I call atelic, non-goal-directed projects I think don’t generate the same kind of self-defeat that you see in projects, telic activities. Because they’re not exhaustible in the same way. It’s not that they’re going to be finished at any point or archived in the past. And you’re not sort of deferring their realization.

If you want to be building the company or you want to be going for a walk, and that’s what you’re doing, well, you have what you want right now. There’s no more that those activities can be realized than they’re being realized right now in the present. And so a useful reframing in mid-career, in midlife of what one’s doing is to think about whether you’re too invested in and excessively valuing telic activities, too focused on projects and completable activities and not sufficiently focused on the value of the ongoing atelic thread that runs through all of those completable projects.

ALISON BEARD: Practically, though, and as someone who’s tried to implement all this advice, it’s hard to shift your mindset sometimes. So how do you do it? How do I make sure that I’m focusing on the atelic instead of the telic?

KIERAN SETIYA: I do think it’s hard. For me, in some of these cases I think the cognitive therapy worked for me as cognitive therapy. Like, I recognized that I was making a mistake, and that was enough to make a real difference. So some of the things that I’m missing out or regret for me were like that.

I think the case of shifting from the telic to the atelic was one where the recognition that I needed to do that came relatively quickly, and then actually doing it was much, much harder than I’d anticipated, in part I think because I’d spent 20, 30 years being sort of trained to focus on the next project.

So a thing that has been helpful for me and that I would certainly recommend people look into is a kind of mindfulness meditation. And everyone is into mindfulness these days. And I think it’s clear that there’s something value about it. And the question that’s interesting to me and puzzling to me is: what is the value of it? Like, why is it? What is it doing for us?

And I think at least one thing that mindfulness meditation can do for us is get us out of the mental orientation in which we’re always, we’re just looking forward to the next completion, the next project, to focus on what’s happening right now and learning to sort of recenter our minds on the value of, to begin with, very simple atelic activities, like just breathing and sitting and listening. And the hope is that that kind of capacity to refocus on what’s happening now, not the satisfaction of a project in the future, is something that we can carry into the rest of our lives and into our work lives.

ALISON BEARD: So I do want to push back a little bit because you hear tons of success stories about people who have hit these mid-career crises and jumped — you know, done something completely different. They have gone from being a corporate executive to working for a nonprofit, or they’re a journalist who’s decided to write a novel, just for instance. Why isn’t that a good strategy? Do you think that people should be doing that? Or should they try to stay in place?

KIERAN SETIYA: I think it definitely depends on your particular situation. I mean, it’s very hard to tell what is going wrong in mid-career. There’s a kind of diagnostic project to thinking: is this just the problem that everyone experiences of regret and missing out and the kind of grind of projects and what needs to be done? Or am I in the wrong job?

And so one kind of thing you can do is to try and use the strategies we’ve been talking about and see if they work, see if they make a difference. And if they don’t, well, that’s a bit of evidence that the problem is not how you’re relating to what you’re doing. It may really be that you’re doing the wrong thing. And, in that kind of case, yes, this might be the time to think about making a real change.

I mean, the one thing I would say is that, if you make that kind of change, these strategies for how to relate to your work and your life in general are not going to lose their usefulness. So, I think even if you ended up thinking, yeah, this just isn’t the job for me, I’m going to try something new at 40, it’s still going to be important to approach the new thing you’re doing and the new career you’re entering with a sense of mindfulness about the different kinds of value it has and the risks of becoming, entering the kind of malaise that we both have been in.

ALISON BEARD: Yeah. Now, you and I both had very traditional career paths. But not everyone has that nowadays. You know, people do move around. Has that changing world of work made this less of a problem? Do you think people in the future will have fewer midlife crises because of it?

KIERAN SETIYA: To be honest, I think there’s several factors there, most of which are think are likely to make it worse. So, in a way, the problem of missing out — this sort of sense of other options — that’s a problem that gets exacerbated really when you have more career possibilities. So, if there’s really only a few things you’re going to, or you’re going to follow the career that your parents followed in 19th century Britain, the sense of alternate possibilities will be less vivid to you.

Now, there are many bad things about not having those other options. But it does limit the scope for fear of missing out. So I think, in a way, the fact that people have a wider range of career options or the possibility of making more dramatic changes is likely to make it more salient that you could have done other things.

And I think that there are also changes, longer-term changes in how people relate to work that began in the late 19th, early 20th century that I think have made the kinds of malaise we’re talking about more prevalent. I think this sort of emphasis on efficiency at work, the increasing mechanization and automation of work makes people feel like they’re sort of out of touch and falling behind in mid-career. I think when I think about this in terms of my experience and the experience of people who are working in the corporate works, often it takes the form of realizing that you’re struggling at 45 to keep up with sort of IT innovations that the 25-year-olds relate to as natives. So I think those kinds of changes are likely to not make it easier for people to deal with the phase of their lives and, in fact, make the kinds of problems we’ve been discussing only more sort of troubling.

ALISON BEARD: So do you think that all of this thinking on your own behalf and helping friends will carry you through to retirement? Or are you worried there might be another crisis in the future?

KIERAN SETIYA: Well, I think it is true that it doesn’t feel to me like the issue in my own life is really resolved. It feels like the process of switching to this more atelic orientation is a long-term aspiration. It’s not something that happens overnight.

I also feel like the work I’ve done on this in the past, as I said, has been kind of conservative, focused on how to continue doing what we’re doing without making dramatic changes. And while I’m not planning to quit my job, I think my sense of the range of possible futures for me is wider now than it was a few years ago. It’s more likely now, having worked on this, that I will make changes in what I do and try to do new things than it was before I thought about it, even though most of what I’ve written about has been about how to be happy and satisfied, continuing to do what you’re already doing.

ALISON BEARD: Right. Well, I hope that we’re both on the upswing of the “U” curve now. Thank you so much for coming in.

KIERAN SETIYA: Thank you very much.

ALISON BEARD: That’s Kieran Setiya. He’s a professor of philosophy at MIT and the author of the HBR article “Facing Your Mid-Career Crisis.” You can find it in the March-April of Harvard Business Review.

This episode was produced by Mary Dooe. We get technical help from Rob Eckhardt. Adam Buchholz is our audio product manager.

Thanks for listening to the HBR IdeaCast. I’m Alison Beard.

This transcript has been edited to reflect the accurate title of Setiya’s HBR article.