Make Time for a Career Check-up


We all want work-life balance. We recognize that the best employers have flexible scheduling and acknowledge that employees have a life outside of work. In fact, ‘work-life effectiveness’ is the current phrase and I like that: it recognizes that ‘balance’ is tenuous and short-lived, while effectiveness / results is the real goal.

Do you know about the ROWE approach taken by Best Buy? ROWE is Results Only Work Environment and in its application, employees are expected to get results v. showing up for their assigned shift and putting in their time. [Note: ROWE is a business strategy that’s been shown to improve productivity by 40% and reduce turnover by up to 90%…nice numbers by anybody’s measure.]

When employers get to the place that results are what counts (v. time or dues or politics), they will be ready to recognize that something I’ll call Career Health goes a long way toward driving those results. When employees partner with employers on their career paths, they provide results that consistently make for a win-win.

Career Health Matters

Career Health Matters

To be healthy, or effective in your work, you must pay attention to 4 areas: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. Each of these areas has two aspects that you—regardless of your position or job—can assess, leverage and strengthen. You might decide that your career health can be improved in your current job and organization or you might find that another direction serves you best

Physical effectiveness means Energy and Resilience.

From a physical perspective, you are most effective when you are energized by your work and you can manage the stress associated with it. When your work energizes, you’re able to be creative and step into challenging and unfamiliar situations with confidence. Even if you’re doing work that doesn’t naturally energize you or that is highly stressful, you can take steps to neutralize that. Resilience means having the ability to handle life’s little (and big) disappointments… and resilience can be strengthened. Waiting for a better position to come along or for the stress to go away is giving control of your work life to someone else.


Mental effectiveness requires Challenge and Growth.

You’ll provide the best work outcomes and have the greatest satisfaction when you are challenged and stretched every day. Challenges move you away from stagnation and boredom and encourage you to reach and contribute for your own improvement as well as better product and service outcomes. Tackling and meeting the challenges means growth and change, and also builds confidence and self-efficacy. If you’re in a position without challenge, then it’s up to you to create some. Go after (on your own!) new knowledge and skills; additionally, you can decide which of them will move you toward more challenging work and develop a plan to get there. Now you’re taking responsibility for your own work satisfaction.


Spiritual effectiveness uses Strengths and Values.

Those with greatest satisfaction in the work they do use their talents/strengths each and every day…not just once in awhile or on a rare occasion, but every day. Do you know what your strengths are, and how your work uses them? Do you know how you can leverage your strengths to do more of the work that’s so easy it’s like play? When you use your innate talents, you play in a bigger world and contribute from your purest authenticity. It’s this same authenticity that thrives when you can “walk” your own values in your work environment—when your values align with those of your organization. When they don’t match up, your frustration grows because you’re compromising one or more of those values…and that’s an uncomfortable way to live.

Emotional effectiveness includes Engagement and Contribution.

Engagement is when you immerse yourself in your work because you have an intense pride in making a contribution. The contribution doesn’t have to be big or recognized as key, but it does have to be real and known to you. Emotional connection to your work creates a caring that comes through in service and pride of accomplishment; without it, results are often half-baked and of minimal quality.

The Gallup Organization continues to find that less than 30% of all people are truly engaged in their work: emotionally connected to the outcomes, going above and beyond to get results. The remaining 70% are either not engaged in their work (I call them “seat-warmers”) or are ‘actively disengaged’ in their work (better known as seat-burners)…they literally destroy work done by others.

Career health/effectiveness requires attention to all four.

Being effective in the work you do is lots more than having a good job with some stability that you show up for most days. When you have a healthy (even balanced) career, you produce results that make an impact on your customers who can choose any number of providers in the global marketplace. Why not look around at your work and your work environment and assess how you measure up in each of the four areas? Examine both of the characteristics of each area and measure your level of each characteristic. If you’re missing one or more, take responsibility to develop it or strengthen it or go after it in work that fits you. Create your career health.

Why not spend one-third of your waking life doing work that works for you?

Paying the Piper


The May 11 print issue of Business Week has a must-read article for anyone who is in the job market, worried about job security, or generally recognizes that our employment market isn’t quite as effective as we think. The author notes that in the midst of the high-unemployment across the country, there are about 3 million job openings that aren’t being filled.

Why? The short answer is that job-seekers don’t match the jobs. The jobs require skills sets different than those held by people looking for work. We’ve known for years that a number of industries are shrinking (e.g. manufacturing) and other industries are growing (e.g. health care). Even with this information, employers in shrinking industries did little retraining of their workforces and employees in these same shrinking industries thought little about becoming trained for another line of work. That gets us to today: jobs going begging for people to fill them, while workers by the millions are collecting unemployment. It’s time to pay the piper.

Here’s the Big Question: Who is responsible for retraining and retooling? The organization or the worker? Rather than facing reality and stepping into the responsibility, each points the finger at the other while saying loudly, “we have no money to retrain.” This leads to more of the same, while the market imbalance only increases. We are so quick to place blame and so slow to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

work_retraining

Let’s look at both perspectives.

Employers
Fact: some industries cannot hire enough qualified people, e.g. health care, education, professional services and government.
Their options: continue understaffed, shut down parts of the business, inflate hiring packages, or hire under-qualified people and train them.

The last option of the four makes a lot of sense…and maybe that’s why it’s not often selected. For whatever reason, employers expect that their employees will come with 110% of position requirements… fully trained with short or non-existent learning curves. Given the current pool of unemployed workers, this expectation is beyond a mismatch…it’s a fantasy. Most employers will take one (maybe all) of the first three options before they even consider training people. Why? Because ‘we’ve always hired this way.’ Or, it’s too expensive. Yet, these same employers don’t calculate the true costs of the first three options. So, employers’ expectations aren’t aligned with their business needs.

Workers
Fact: many people searching for work have outdated, irrelevant skills yet they continue to search for jobs that use those skills. Of course, the jobs aren’t there.
Their options: blame the economy and continue to feel worthless, expect additional unemployment benefits from the stimulus money, wish that things were the same as they were twenty years ago, or retrain for another industry or work function.

Again, the last option of the four makes the most sense…yet it’s often not pursued for lack of money (and a guaranteed return) or for lack of confidence. Probably because of Industrial economy paternalism, employees see training as what employers do, and so their expectations get in the way of a common sense solution to the employment market blues.

So, who must take accountability to create a match between employer needs and worker skills? Both.

It does the economy little good to have employers unable to compete globally; it does society little good to have great numbers of unemployed; it does families little good to live in depression and exist on welfare; it does workers little good to lose pride of contribution and self-efficacy.

If you’re an employer who doesn’t believe you can afford to train or retrain–think again, because you can’t afford not to. Can you afford to lose customers while you continue to search for the ideal employee? Can you afford to cut back on services while you search?

If you’re a worker who doesn’t believe you can afford to update your skills or retrain for another industry, think again…you can’t afford not to either. You must do one or more of these things:

1. Visit your local community college, and talk to a counselor; investigate their retraining programs for growth industries. Ask about loans and grant monies to pay for the training because it’s out there. It’s time to stop making excuses for why you can’t find work.

2. Get on the internet and find out what industries are growing and figure out your best path to invest in yourself and your (and your family’s) future. Visit The Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine what interests you, the education and training requirements for positions in that industry and how you can get that training. Another sound source of occupational information is O*Net; visit the site and investigate opportunities for a new direction.

3. Talk to a career coach or counselor to help you define a path. There are plenty of low-cost and no-cost services within any community if you look around. Check out faith-based and social service organizations; these are good sources of and good referrals for community career services.

Whether you’re an employer looking for skilled workers or a worker looking for stable employment, take another look at how you’re doing things. If you’re coming up short, making little headway in the employment marketplace and you want to dance, you have to pay the piper. Now’s the time.