Friday, September 30, 2011

The Work Alibi: When It’s Harder to Go Home



Although most executives’ private lives are not in terrible shape, there are some unresolved personal problems, which their devotion to work prevents them from attending to and it produces a feeling of guilt, indicating that they are at least partly responsible for these situations through neglect. There are three main cases when work is to blame for issues in private lives:

·         Negative emotional spillover resulting from a stressful work situation
·         Workaholism: escapism in work through overinvolvement
·         Being a “prisoner of success”: fallen in love with the job and the rewards it brings

Even though most executives do not confess and state differently, the time that they have available for private life is roughly equal to, if not greater than, the time they devote to work. Thus, it is not the lack of time to blame. The author identifies four factors that hurt private lives:
·         Incorrect assumptions. Most common incorrect assumption is that family life is easy. However, most people neither have full awareness of the problems that can arise in a marriage nor the skills necessary to establish an intimate relationship that is intended to be exclusive and last a lifetime. Hence, we need to learn them over time in a persistent way, which takes energy, commitment, and the gradual development of necessary skills.
·         Fear of confronting conflicts in marriage. While most people who have problems in personal relationships will state that they avoid difficult conversations because of fear of being rejected or focusing on the potential negative consequences rather than analyzing the possible benefits, the real fear comes from the fact that people don’t know how to go about conflict situations with their loved ones. The reasoning many people use when trying to decide whether to explore difficult issues openly often looks like this:
·         Legitimate distractions. Work and children are dangerous distractions from dealing with marital issues because they are such legitimate, right, and perfect excuses.
·         A “mañana” attitude. We cannot recover the relationship that we did not have (with our children, parents, etc.) and the experience a person misses today cannot be had tomorrow. People, who forfeit the present, risk the quality of their future private lives.

Even though it is not easy changing habits of thought and behavior, there are potential solutions to the above-mentioned problems:
·         Avoid saying “mañana”. Thinking of family life as a chore makes people find excuses to stay longer at work. Executives need to develop creative, appealing ways of being with their families and realize that they need to enjoy their private lives. However, there is a caveat that they need to be cautious and take a step at a time: closing emotional gaps too quickly might scare others off, even though they are your closest family.
·         Deal with conflicts. Both must believe in the idea that the marriage can be improved and determining what works and what does not in their relationship is the first step. Emphasizing the positive will create an atmosphere of warmth and trust, and in addition to that people need to learn two fundamental skills of dealing with conflict:
§  Continuous dialogue (not ad-hoc venting of accumulated emotions), which involves giving both positive and negative feedback
§  Dealing with persistent and deeper conflicts. “Buried” (latent) conflicts will constantly reemerge in fits of reciprocal blaming, explosion and withdrawal.
·         Become authentic. While not all relationships can be revitalized or launched anew, reawakening a sense of excitement and pleasure in a relationship is achievable. It involves (1) clarity in demands from each other, (2) learning both to get rid of excessive fears and unconscious fantasies and to be authentic, and (3) talking. Hope and trust are basic virtues that people have to develop (E.Erikson), which are impossible without transparency between the partners. Finally, when people are candid, communication might be painful but it is not in itself difficult.

It is never too late to begin, and the opportunity costs might be much higher (remember “mañana”!). To start with, it is important to abandon two incorrect assumptions: (1) having a good private life is easy or that people can easily acquire the necessary skills, and (2) personal relationships are too complex and difficult to handle, and therefore you should not even try. Then, you need to set clear and specific goals, which would talk to these questions:
-          What do I want my marital relationship to be?
-          What do I want my relationship with my child(ren) be?
-          What are my self-development goals?

Further, select one or two improvement projects at home (redecoration, family trip, improving relations with a family member, etc.), which must be modest (not revolutionary), measurable, pleasurable and must involve at least one other person. Results are more important than speed, hence improve “small” things first.

Finally, suspend your skepticism: small changes can make a significant difference!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Increase Social Media Visibility to Get a Job

Some researchers claim that 95% of people engage in soft job search techniques at least once a year. "Soft search" means updating your resume, browsing LinkedIn or Glassdoor, as opposed to "hard search", which involves active contacting of recruiters and going to interviews. In either case, you would want to be visible of the labor market, unless you deal in things that criminal or tax authorities would be keen to investigate.

For the last couple of years we grew accustomed to three accounts that were organizing the communication streams of our lives:

  • Facebook - to make sure that our friends tag us in most unseemly postures and situations;
  • LinkedIn - to maintain contacts in the work space, and
  • Twitter - to link the two together and KISS (Keeping It Short and Simple).
Recently the humanity has acquired Google+ as well, but so far I do not see a lot of activity there, but definitely there is lots of potential there, given that the search capabilities are much greater than those of the competitors.

A lot of my friends have accounts in all of those social networks but rarely use them. This is most unfortunate, because search algorithms love recent activity, links and powerful search phrases. Hence, the least you can do to stay afloat and visible in the job market is to follow these simple recommendations on various social engines:



And here are a couple of articles specifically about job hunting through social media:


Good luck!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Emancipation is not a once-off deal

Yesterday two bits of news came in. Seemingly different, they hit the same point: getting to Women 3.0 is a long way ahead in some cultures.

Australia lifts female combat ban

Australia has lifted all restrictions on the roles that women can carry out in its armed forces. 

Saudi woman driver to be lashed

A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a woman to 10 lashes for breaking the country's ban on female drivers. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

MBA Hiring Soars

The 2011-2012 QS Jobs and Salary Trends Report is now live. 

Over 12,000 companies in 42 countries responded to the international survey of recruiters in the Spring, of which 2157 are actively recruiting MBAs.  The report shows an overall 36% increase in demand for MBAs in 2011 compared to 2010. This represents a turnaround in MBA job opportunities from the 5% decline experienced only two years ago in 2009.

Why should you read the report?
What industries are recruiting most heavily?
What part of the world is experiencing the most growth in MBA salaries?
What companies have been hiring the most MBA’s?

Key findings
  • 57% surge in MBA hiring in Latin America - multinational companies planning for future growth by stocking up with talent, especially in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
  • Asian employers report a 43% increase this year in MBA jobs followed by a further 19% and then 33% increase in subsequent years - a doubling of MBA opportunities forecast by 2013.
  • North America and Western Europe MBA demand increased by 24% and 21% respectively.
  • A 21% increase in MBA hiring in 2011 in the Middle East and Africa was lead by energy companies.
  • CONSULTING:  MBA consulting jobs are back at record levels in 2011, with a 28% jump in demand in 2011 and a 17% jump in demand is forecast in 2012.
  • FINANCE:  Jobs in finance are creeping up following decreases in previous years. In 2011, there is a 27% increase and a further rise of 14% forecasted for 2012.
  • IT:  Demand for MBAs in Technology and IT on the rise with over 30% growth in MBA jobs.
  • PHARMACEUTICALS:  MBA jobs in pharmaceuticals and healthcare declined in 2010 but are recovering in 2011 with growth of 20% followed by a 26% growth forecast in 2012.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Finnair Quality Hunters: Excellent PR Campaign

Today I received an in-mail on LinkedIn inviting me to take part in the Quality Hunters program organized by Finnair. The idea is simple: if you take a job, you´ll get to travel the world and all you need to do is to seek for quality improvement opportunities and actively use social media to keep the world updated on your travels:



Even before the program started, there is already lots of activity on Twitter @qualityhunters. I believe this is a great initiative on increasing media presence in social networks (see Social Networks and Marketing for more great examples on using social media in promotional campaigns) if you consider that:

  • Finnair will be putting their Quality Hunters on unsold seats, so, basically, at zero cost;
  •  the targeted profile is Generation Y, so social media is virtually their mother milk - they will be very productive even if they do not get the job;
  • another characteristic of Gen Y profile is that right now many are struggling to get a job but are very eager to travel the world, so they will jump at this opportunity;
  • there are multiple options for tracking performance of Quality Hunters: (1) quantitative - the amount of content generated by them online and (2) qualitative - the nature of the content + actual quality improvement ideas;
  • quality improvement ideas come from creativity, so getting young and bright to do it is probably the coolest thing ever. Now compare the costs of this program to costs of hiring a bunch of consultants from BCG or McKinsey (where creativity is synonymous to "you don't work here anymore") - do you get the ROI potential?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Must Success Cost So Much?


Summary of an HBR article Must Success Cost So Much? by Fernando Bartolomé and Paul A. Lee Evans

Many people who reach executive levels in organizations do so at the expense of their personal lives. Success at work does not guarantee a well-functioning private life, and for women balancing home and career can be more difficult than for men. While all successful executives are characterized by professional commitment, they deal differently with emotional spillover – overflow of positive or negative emotions from business into private life. When individuals feel competent and satisfied in their work, negative spillover does not exist, but the manager who is unhappy in his work has a limited chance to be happy at home. All of us experience spillover in our careers, but we must be aware of not being trapped into a never-ending spillover. The effects of such are twofold: fatigue (physical) and emotional tension, such as worrying. Feelings that spill over from work are acted out at home, expressed through psychological absence (withdrawal) or even acts of aggression. Partners are children are often prime victims of such behaviors.

Individual and organizational interests can be in harmony, while executives who fail to manage the emotional side of work achieve professional success at the expense of private life. Healthy professional life is a precondition for a healthy private one, and we will look at three ways of managing spillover:

Issue
What is it about?
What to do?
Coping with a new job (after promotion, reorganization or moving to another company)
Tension following a job change is natural and necessary, spillover effects will eventually fade away. Still, top managers often fail to assess correctly the magnitude of change, allowing minimal psychological availability in their family for up to a year. However, sometimes such challenges are positive and bond the family.
·  Analyze the change carefully with your family before the move
·  Negotiate the decision with them;
·   Openly express the problems you will all confront
·  Do not promise what you cannot deliver
Most partners will understand and accept.
Taking the right job. Job misfit occurs in three dimensions: competence (absence of skill), enjoyment (dislike for the job) and values (moral misfit, values clash). Continuum: perfect fit to total misfit (none of the conditions fulfilled).
People take the wrong job for four main reasons: external rewards (choosing rewards over fit), organizational pressures (since management pays little attention to anything else other than the competence fit), inability to say “no”, and lack of self-assessment or self-knowledge (accurately recognizing one’s strengths and weaknesses).
·  Realize that personal life will inevitably suffer from job misfit
·  Analyze thoroughly the intrinsic characteristics of the job and the extent to which it fits them
·  Assess consequences and make right but tough decisions, learn to say “no”
·  Learn from past experiences, find a mentor, and strive for total job fit.
Learning from disappointments.
Disappointments are inevitable particularly as the career flattens out below the expectations level. Inability to recover from severe disappointment leads to being stick in dead-end jobs: self-esteem drops, while both professional and private lives become hollow and empty.
Two conditions to cope well with disappointment (A. Zaleznik):
·  Ability to analyze own emotions;
·  Capacity to deal with disappointment objectively.
Those who effectively compensate for their disappointment by enriching their present jobs (e.g. being a mentor) or developing leisure activities, regain their enthusiasm and self-esteem.

Although it is individuals who are primarily responsible for managing their own careers, management in organizations bears the responsibility for practices and policies that might facilitate maintaining the work and life balance in four ways:

·        Broaden organizational values: encouraging a commitment to what interests employees themselves rather than a blind commitment to their companies. Organizations ideally need a few ambitious and talented high-fliers who fit their jobs and a majority of “solid citizens” rather than many “jungle fighters” striving to get to the top.
·        Create multiple reward and career ladders: solely the managerial ladder is not appropriate for all – differentiated reward models are necessary to motivate various categories of employees. Edgar H. Schein distinguishes five “career anchors”, i.e. motivational factors: managerial, technical/functional expertise, creativity, need for security and need for autonomy.
·        Give realistic performance appraisals: managers help their subordinates best when they honestly discuss their (subordinates’) strengths and weaknesses. Such candor might create short-term unhappiness and even make them leave the company, but in the long-term lack of candor about a subordinate’s chances for promotion can be most destructive.
·        Reduce organizational uncertainty: managers can help reduce unnecessary stress and uncertainty by protecting their subordinates from worry about events over which they have no control.

Thus, even though many might claim that an executive’s private life is none of the organization’s business, interference between the two is inevitable. Responsibility for job fit and adaptation is shared between the individual and the organization, and companies need to face the need that more integration efforts need to be done, particularly due to changing values and increasing numbers of dual careers.

Another Year: Exercise in Loneliness

The movie I saw yesterday cannot be called light. Depressing neither. Yet, it does throw you into into a lapse of deep thinking about the existential pain we go through, death, devotion and the cyclical nature of life.

Gerri (Ruth Sheen) is a counselor at a hospital. Daily she lets through her heart and mind the pain of her patients. After work she takes care of her family and her drinking degrading co-worker Mary (spectacular Lesley Manville). We see how those relationships develop over four different seasons. It is a film about the autumn of our lives, but also about many springs of our relationships. What Another Year lacks in action, it overcompensates in emotional intensity and the subtlety of nuances. The movie has won numerous awards (not to mention an Oscar nomination), but I have to warn you that it's closer to the art house than the blockbuster type.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Office Romance

From experience I can say that the possibility of having to deal with office romance can easily top the list of issues that a manager fears most, alongside with demotions, body odor and giving negative feedback. Sometimes the work affairs are secret, sometimes they are out in the open. The views on such behavior differ, but most of my friends with an Industrial Psychology degree coincide in believing that "a healthy dose of office romance is beneficial to the productivity of the work force. Excessive work affairs harm normal functioning of the organization".

If you have never observed romantic behavior in the office, probably you should look again, because the Vault research proves that it is a common practice in the majority of cases:
Where lies the line between "tolerate it" and "this must stop" I cannot really say since all will depend on a situation. Many companies have a clause in their internal rules that family members (including romantic partners" cannot be in the same line of subordination, but all that is paper stuff and real life is much more difficult to manage.

Here is the list of 10 things to remember when you deal with office romance, but the most important one (I think) is that you cannot prevent employees from hooking up:
1. Accept it
People meet romantic partners at work every day, and rather than rant or fume about it, a smart manager will accept that reality. Work is a wonderful place to meet a mate or a summer fling; after all, how better to observe a person and verify that he or she is not crazy, violent, or otherwise unsuitable than to watch him or her in action at work? You can’t stop people from being attracted to one another, so keep a level head and a sense of humor about the whole thing.
2. Talk about it
Managers ask for trouble when they establish a subtle or not-so-subtle cultural norm that tells employees not to discuss social or romantic topics in the office...
Continue reading at <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44109813/ns/business-small_business/

Managing Yourself: HBR on Breeding Engagement


The featured article in September's Harvard Business Review is about managing yourself. Empowered team = improved performance, hence personal greatness is key to engaged team around you. HBR claims one can reach that in 6 steps:
  1.  Be modest
  2. Listen Seriously and Show It
  3. Invite Disagreement
  4. Focus the Agenda
  5. Don't Try To Have All the Answers
  6. Don't Insist That A Decision Must Be Made

While it feels just like another "10 easy steps and you'll have a flat stomach" silver-bullet management mantra, I always appreciate the personal stories and real-life examples shared  by the authors. What always frustrates me about these "how-to" life lessons is that it is common sense, logical and understandable, and tantalizingly difficult to implement :(

Read the full story here:



HA3TQAF7SPFK

Monday, September 19, 2011

Women 3.0

How would you explain the fact (McKinsey) that:

Companies with three or more women in top-management positions achieve higher scores for each criterion of organizational effectiveness than do companies with no women at the top.

The business case for women has been made and heralded through and through. But…
Despite significant corporate commitment to the advancement of women’s careers, progress appears to have stalled. The percentage of women on boards and senior-executive teams remains stuck at around 15 percent in many countries, and just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women (Source).

The journey we have traveled so far is impressive. Just think of 1960s and take a look at these newspaper ads to get the idea where we started: http://bit.ly/raZIDj. I can't help myself posting one of those here:


If you don't recall the Women, Know Your Limits video, I urge you to watch it again before we continue the conversation:


Women 1.0: Set the ground rules
Getting policies and procedures in place was an important step: it ensures the legislative base and empowers people to stand up for their rights. Unfortunately, not always what is written becomes what is out there in reality. However, in most Western countries this hurdle is cleared. I make this "western" caveat, because if we look deeper into most Asian or African societies, there is a long way to go.

Women 2.0: Women buy in
It is tougher out there for women, no doubt about that (recall the Executive Women and the Myth of Having It All article), but the number of role models, success cases and female entrepreneurs is steadily growing:

What is really tough is the next step -

Women 3.0: The world buys in
This month McKinsey published their new think piece on this topic: Changing companies' minds about women:
The last generation of workplace innovations—policies to support women with young children, networks to help women navigate their careers, formal sponsorship programs to ensure professional development—broke down structural barriers holding women back. The next frontier is toppling invisible barriers: mind-sets widely held by managers, men and women alike, that are rarely acknowledged but block the way.

I believe that any problem can be solved if we look at it through the prism of communication: there is always either too much or too little of it. Advocacy, engagement and inquiry are nice big words but they are useless until you start putting meaning in them. Same goes for understanding, acceptance and ambassadorship.  Simply relating the message is not enough; that is one of the reasons why many good initiatives fail: the senior leaders, who are supposed to spearhead the initiatives, blurb out what has been written for them to say and forget about the whole thing as a bad dream. While it should be just vice versa.

Women 3.0 is not an unrealistic dream. Actually, it is more of a reality than you might think. Just like with the handicapped, LGBT, racial tension, age differences, etc.: all one needs to do is to see the point of view of the other.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Going to Work to Catch a Movie?

Facebook blocked at work? Simply use your personal smartphone.

Harris Interactive have revealed the results of their research on how much time (and on what, and how often, and who, etc.) office workers spend their time playing with their mobile devices, e.g.









Read the full results here: http://aol.it/ogCEPW.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fresh Talent in Demand

I had the pleasure of working with Monika Hamori, an IE Business School professor, who is rightfully among top 40 business school professors under the age of 40. I helped her with research on a number of topics, including labor market intermediaries, CEO careers and job hopping. Also, we worked on the topic of grad HiPos, i.e. high-potential employees fresh out of college or recent graduates with a few years of professional experience under the belt. Having gone through a few assessments myself, I have the perspective from the other side of the fence, and surely I can boast some professional hands-on experience, since I dealt closely with the Shell graduate program.


The article on HiPos and job hoppers will be published soon, and until then the only thing that I can share is a list of questions that one needs to consider before implementing or getting into a leadership development program, so this post will be interested both for practitioners and graduate job seekers.

So, what do you need to think about before tackling a graduate program?
  • what level of talent is targeted: fresh out of college, MBAs, grads with experience?
  • what is the talent supply on the market (local and international)?
  • are you targeting any specific backgrounds, e.g. engineering or investment banking?
  • what metrics do you use to rate the program effectiveness? E.g.:
    • the graduate attrition rates after 1/3/5 years
    • ROI: investment vs outcome
    • offer acceptance rate
    • total number of candidates vs enrolled into the program at various levels
    • # of staff administering the program
    • milestones: future assignments lined up, coaches ready, major program events carried out, etc.
  • what do people within the organization say (focus groups)? How do their opinions match with the opinions of the graduates themselves?
  • program design: 
    • duration
    • philosophy
    • talent-driven vs vacancy-driven approach
    • program elements (mentoring, trainings, personalized development plans, etc.)
    • number and types of assignments
  • what is the level of organizational support? Can you detect ostracism or cynicism with general staff and the management?
  • how would you assess internal equity of incoming graduates (total compensation & position matching)?
  • how do you market the program both internally and externally?
P.S. Personal observation: American Idol type of talent programs never works. This applies to those companies that draft HiPos from the market and then do not know what to do with them: as a result, both suffer. However, it is a topic for another post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How to Trick the Applicant Tracking System?

Getting through the online assessment tools may be the only hurdle you'll face on the way to the job of your dreams. Unfortunately, the ruthless and unyielding to pleas or flattery ATSs (Applicant Tracking Systems), keep their watch at all times to make sure that only those who KNOW how to play the game get through.

The Ladders have unveiled the ultimate checklist of proper resume submission to gain personal attention of the recruiters.

Read it here: Resume Checklist




More posts on resume writing:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tips for Making an Expatriation Decision


"Congratulations on landing this expat position!" you will hear from your boss and off they'll go and you will be left on your own ruminating over the imminent relocation. You start talking to your colleagues, friends, spend hours on expat forums and make up long lists of criteria based on which you are going to pass your judgment. Luckily, there are lots of resources, starting with general and all-encompassing, such as www.expatforum.com, and ranging to country specific, e.g. www.britishexpats.com, www.singaporeexpats.com, etc. or home country specific, e.g. www.britsabroad.com.

I am by no means an expert: I have only lived in four different countries so far, and there is a separate category of "chronic expats", whose way of life is changing countries every 3-4 years, taking their home, spouses, children and pets wherever they go. Still, I do have an insight into the expat life from both sides of the fence: as an expat myself and as an HR professional handling issues or expatriation, repatriation, painful expatriate separations and blood-sucking dealings with expat transfer desks and relocation agencies.

Here are, in my opinion, the most critical things that you need to keep in mind changing the country you live in:

  • Taxes: will you fall into a double taxation situation? Which country is the tax rate higher? Will you company compensate the potential loss in your income caused by higher tax rates? Which country are you a tax resident in? Make sure that you clear out all these questions before you agree to anything in writing.

  • Cost of Living: it's a no-brainer that living in Colorado-ville is less expensive that Oslo, Tokio or Moscow. Most companies will add a COLA (cost of living adjustment) payment into your new package, but to confirm for yourself you can use a variety of online resources, including http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living

  • Housing: there are expat ghettoes in practically every country and most often than not your company will take care of your accommodation. However, if you wish to experience the local culture and avoid those protected sterilized look-alike expat residential complexes, you may wish to take the factor of availability of safe decent-quality housing on the local market into account.


  • Health: living in areas where it is easier to get malaria, yellow fever or cholera is easier than catching a cold might deter you from moving there. However, there are boosters for virtually everything and if you take precautions you can successfully avoid the majority of dangerous local diseases. What plays a more important role is availability of superb medical facilities, especially if you have a condition or planning to have a baby while being on an international assignment. You can check out with the most renowned medical care providers about the situation with the medical facilities in the countries that you are considering moving to: Bupa and International-SOS.

  • Climate: if you have asthma, maybe it's not a good idea where there are many allergens, and if you cannot live in humid climates, probably you should stay away from the Asia-Pacific region. -50° C temperatures in Siberia are not for faint-hearted. High altitudes, extreme heat, long rainy seasons - figure out if you will be comfortable living there.

  • Schooling: if you have kids of school age, getting into a school with the native language of instruction for your child becomes a decisive factor. Check out the international schools in the city you are moving to and do spend some time calling the principals and the admission officers there to firm up the requirements and conditions in those academic institutions.

These seven points are by no means exhaustive, but I hope that they will help you make the right decision and avoid culture shock as much as possible.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Tale of How Spain Was Fighting With Its Own Economic Development


Once upon a time there was a country. It enjoyed many sunny days a year, beautiful beaches and colorful flamenco music, igniting the hearts of many of its inhabitants. Tapas with gazpacho kept them fed and sangria made them happier than, may be, they should be. It would be heaven on earth, had this little Mediterranean country, called España, a better government. The list of social and economic issues impeding its economic growth stretches from Paris to Tegucigalpa and on May 15 many Spanish people had to gather together on the central square of its capital and indignantly protest against the ruling regime.

The people of Spain also bear a part of the blame for the situation that the country has found itself in (see Spanish Youth and Cucumbers). The disillusioned, the revolutionary and the complacent have not done enough to be internationally competitive in the globalized world of today. Many Spaniards will vehemently object to being moved to a different city within the country, leave alone expatriation. With such attitudes it is difficult to imagine how they are going to develop the skills essential to manage business across the national and geographical borders. It always shocked me how the pharmacies work in Spain only from 10 am till 2 pm and then from 5 pm to 8 pm and still make money. A healthy siesta will always take prevalence over customer service; actually, I believe the phrase "customer service" should be eliminated from the Spanish context and substituted by the term "customer experience". If things continue as they are, soon someone will come up with a new business idea of outsourcing dealing with various call centers on behalf of the customer, because getting anything out of them (in case you manage to get through the numerous automatic switchboards and robotic messages) if you do not have the sufficient experience and patience is only comparable by intensity to giving birth, which in some instances yet might turn out to be less painstaking and irksome. 

However, the government can claim the first prize for the inefficiencies and dire faults in the societal tissue. Well, it's true that people have governments that they deserve, but I wish to hope that those who sit in the parliament or serve the administrative branch are part of the intellectual elite of the nation, charged with making things better, not worse. The current so much needed economic reforms are met with violence and rejection, which is an indication that the ruling few have entirely lost touch with their electorate, that they are unable to explain the necessity of severity measures and the previous attempts to handle the affairs were nothing but populist. Gayle Allard of IE Business School argues that the unemployment picture is getting bleaker. Only one look at the graph below would be enough to grasp the idea that not all is well. At soaring heights of 21.2%, the unemployment figures are even worse among those who are less than 25 years old - 46.2%:



Even if you have not attended a business school, you would intuitively agree with Peter Drucker's take on social corporate responsibility: the public sector is there to make money. Forget the rest for a moment. If there are frequent monetary (re-) injections into the economy, it generates a virtuous cycle as money tends to multiply itself. Even if a firm does absolutely nothing else with regards to CSR (corporate social responsibility), let us assume that making profit and complying with the relevant legislation would suffice. Spain seems to know better and is doing its best to keep the businesses from profiting.

What is the greatest asset of any company? It's human capital, right? Innovation and creativity do not come from complacency and spectator attitude. If a company wants to be successful and profitable, it has to get the best people. For centuries the prerogative to select and hire the professionals has been with the business and the government stayed away, since, frankly speaking, the bureaucrats have no idea whatsoever about running a particular business and even less so do they care about it. Therefore, it beats me why the Spanish authorities are trying to dictate the companies whom they should be hiring. You heard me right: whenever a company wants to hire a foreigner, it has to go through the motions of interviewing the "eligible" local candidates and providing the proof that those do not fit the job description. The process may last from 3 to 6 months. There is a special service (INEM) that checks its database for such candidates and does not grant a permission to proceed with the work permit until it is convinced that there is absolutely no one with a Spanish passport who can do the advertised job. Let's pause for a minute here:
  • Hiring foreigners is an expensive and generally burdensome practice. Why would a company decide to resort to such measure? Because there is nobody on the local market!
  • Always - I repeat - always a company will first scout the market with the help of search agencies and headhunters. Only after that step is done will they look abroad. So if the recruiters have not found anyone locally - there is nobody on the local market!
  • What sort of people will INEM offer? (1) Unemployed, (2) same as in the search agencies databases, and (3) rejected everywhere else. How can that candidate fit the job if all the headhunters have confirmed that… there is nobody on the local market!

It is my naïve logic, still I'll venture laying down my thoughts. Companies pay premiums for expatriate staff because they bring skills and knowledge unattainable locally. Being more qualified, these employees produce better results and pass their knowledge onto their local subordinates and colleagues. Better results lead to higher profits. Profit euros get reinvested into the economy creating more workplaces. Knowledge transfer and retention practices ensure upskilling of local staff up to the point that they can replace expatriates, driving fixed costs down and increasing profits, which get reinvested… you get the picture. The government does play its role, but its role should not be meddling, but rather regulating and supporting. All countries mark the playing field and establish the rules but then they give the business to make its own decisions within those regulations. Even the most stringent countries are at least reasonable when it comes to employment regulations, e.g. South Africa (linking labor force profile to state subsidization and governmental contracts eligibility) or Saudi Arabia (limiting expat tenure and demanding skills transfer). Those governments are also concerned with well-being of their citizens but they understand that companies need expatriate workforce for a reason.

Why does the Spanish government want to do it exactly in reverse?

It is undoubtedly honorable to be patriotic. It might also pay off to be nationalistic, particularly if you are a politician. It feels good to guard traditions and preserve the best of the past. But nobody has yet abolished common sense nor has cancelled logic. So being traditional, nationalistic and patriotic against the reason, logic and facts is at least irresponsible. At most - stupid. There is a limit in everything, even human vanity has it. I honestly, frankly and sincerely do not wish that Spain ends up like this unfortunate torero:


Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Way to Look at Coaching

Today is September 1st. In Russia, this is the first day of classes for anyone who goes to school, college, university or any other form or shape of an academic institution. So I felt that I had to write about personal growth and self-development, and one of the most effective individual development instruments, in my opinion, is coaching.

Many people when they are faced with a dilemma to define "coaching" resort to the sports analogy and it does hold water: no matter how talented you are, you need a wiser and older companion to ensure that you maximize your body potential and survive the turbulent waters of sports politics. Read the story of Coach K if you want a prototypical example.

I, however, would like to suggest that you look at coaching from a different perspective, and to do so I am presenting to you a picture of a coach... in its logistical meaning...



Now, without being moralistic or didactic, I let you figure out the analogy by yourselves, simply by answering the following questions:

  • What is the primary function of a coach (carriage)?
  • Who does all the work of getting the carriage from Point A to Point B?
  • Who is guiding the carriage?
  • Who makes the decisions of where the carriage is going?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of the main players here (the coachman, the horses, the person inside)?
  • How do the external circumstances affect the dynamics of the relationships?
  • Who loses most if anything goes wrong (e.g. a wheel falls off)?
  • Who gets the most benefit out of a smooth journey?

I hope I've got your creative juices flowing! 

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