Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


Gamechangers: New Rules in Employee Motivation

Culture of entitlement, questions regarding capitalism, redefining “success” and Gen Y characteristics are some of the many gamechangers affecting today’s organizational outcomes. While we do not advocate creating a leadership culture that entertains repetitive and burdensome employee questions, we do advocate an employer-driven commitment to education which enhances engagement and motivation toward shared employee-employer success. This article discusses considerations and blueprints toward that success.

Today’s Gen Y career entrant speaks in terms of “I feel,” phraseology we Baby Boomers were taught to be unacceptable. America’s leadership postures for votes by touting principles of entitlement, birth right, refusal to work and socialized benefits.  These characteristics feed a de-motivation to work harder or smarter than the next person. In an era where state government leaders can organize an initiative to refuse work which arguably outweighs their initiatives to demonstrate work, how can we expect impressionable youth to grasp real work ethic? When we are willing to question our constitution, why shouldn’t employees question workplace rules?

Collective bargaining was created in an era where employees worked hard and employers often lacked principle and know-how to properly keep checks and balances toward mutual economic success.  Today we find employers committed to lifelong learning while many employees cannot construct a meaningful sentence. Checks and balances are once again off while the best workers in America are held back by concepts of seniority and union dues, at least until employers have as much power as self-serving, dues collecting unions who are among the biggest businesses of all… next to government.  Nonetheless, we recommend employers do not entangle with the NLRB unless willing to wage a costly war.  Except for some successful adjustments by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, employers need to recognize that unions have more “solicitation” leverage than that allowed of employers.  The general population continues to listen to the loudest voice in the room.

Financial success is being undermined, capitalism and its complexities are in question, and profiteers take advantage of conflict, sensationalizing every issue. Employees are more uncertain than ever before as to their own goals and how to attain them. 

Amidst this chaos we have worked hard to simplify the steps for employer response. The blueprint for workplace best practices is a 6-step program:
1) Problem Recognition:  Accept and understand the larger de-motivation of the community at large.  Accept reasons behind de-motivation where it exists.
2) Apply Appreciative Inquiry:  Assess and create focus upon what the organization does best.  
3) Evaluate Unique Organizational Demographics & Motivation Trends: Assess the motivation culture of your company’s own workforce and evaluate trends. Consider the power of workplace outcomes and how they are affecting the overall mindset of employees. Each organization is unique and is affected uniquely by the impact of the community at large. Local success can overpower widespread deficiencies. If it is not broken, do not attempt to fix it.
4) Tap Into 3rd Party Solutions: Reach out to field experts as means to deploy proven toolsets, to optimize credibility and to avoid appearance of bias. Refuse to experiment in this risky area offering noteworthy ROI for success. Consider HRS as an expert resource here.
5) De-Politicize the Company Stance and Comply with NLRA Regulations: Work ethic, wealth and big business versus small business topics all evoke personal politics. Today’s politics are quite polarized. Avoid biases and stick with the facts. Discussion of unions and collective bargaining risks NLRB repercussions or heightened collective bargaining activity. Stress merit-based outcomes without indicting union methodology. Derive merit-based incentives that work well and are easily communicated. 
6) Be Consistent, Build Trust and Deliver on Promises: False promises will create long term damage, but failure to inspire will cause such short term damage that the long term becomes jeopardized.  Apply practices consistently and within policy. Create and troubleshoot an action plan before broaching this highly essential topic.

Democracy is complicated, and motivation remains fragile. HRS recommends a keen eye on changes and a quick and accurate response to keep engagement on track.  Case studies and specific solutions are available upon request. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, February 11, 2013

 





Team Motivation Principles: Debunk the Crazy Propaganda that All CEOs are Greedy!

With a small percentage of “hired gun” CEOs being called out for ridiculous greed… and flaunting it, our legislative and media communities are creating a dangerous misperception which threatens not only the immediate workplace but also the US’s global position.  Simply stated, so many CEOs are not greedy, and these are the people who can really impact the economy. So, why do we rake them over the coals?  Having devoted my career to advocating sharing wealth among team members… proportionate to results contribution… I see how wrongful mistrust of the right CEOs negatively impacts workplace results.

 

This ivory tower perception of “me against you” in the employee-employer relationship tears down employee confidence and teamwork necessary for corporate bottom-line success.  While we all know, “if it bleeds, it leads” in the press, this concept sells publications only because people buy in to this concept.  Blame the media all you want (and I can be heard griping often), the media sells only what the public buys.   

 

Successful corporations are those that have endured hardship, challenge and downturn.  Discussing the resilience of corporate leadership can lead to positive outcomes.  Without discussing concepts the employee isn’t qualified to process, keep it audience adaptive.   Frame these discussions to build confidence, and don’t present them in a manner which presents weakness or creates fear.   We know overcoming adversity depicts strength while dwelling upon and empowering the obstacles depicts weakness.   The target is not to whine.

 

The problem is that most people are not the risk takers of entrepreneurism, so if we divulge hardship to those while we’re in it, they may become fearful to buy in and contribute when needed to do so.  There’s nothing wrong with being more conservative here, so we don’t wish to lose the engagement of this audience.  Risk takers “suck it up” and keep their sacrifices private.  When they don’t take a paycheck, when they mortgage their home to pay employees, and when they make lifestyle choices which sacrificed personal or social time, it’s typically not visible.  Later on, the Mercedes-Benz is visible and some people complain of greed.   Those who complain are those who didn’t make the same sacrifices and don’t get it. 

 

Many CEOs are not "silver spooners."  The plain truth is that most Americans have opportunity to be CEOs themselves and they choose not to.   They choose against the start-up risk, they choose the bar over the office or maybe they have family needs needs which become rightfully prioritized.  To choose not to be a CEO is not wrong.  Personally, I find the “pillow test” the ultimate test of success.  If you’re comfortable with what you did that day when your head hits the pillow, you are successful.   Yet, while emerging CEOs are choosing work over party time, the bars are filled with people complaining about their bosses.   Backstories are emerging right now, illustrating the personal sacrifices made by some of the great US CEOs who have created jobs, shown philanthropy and endured hardship which benefits us all.  Let’s not lump these good people in with the greedy few. 

 

There are some amazingly great employees out there!  It can be just as difficult to take direction as it is to give it, especially from some of the bad bosses out there.  Amazing employees will probably never realize the benefits of the new COBRA subsidy, as they will probably never see “involuntary termination.”  In most reasonable estimations,  over time less than 1% of corporate downsize decisions are not directly attributed to employee poor performance.  Most downsize decisions are selective.  Employees do have a choice. Absent union protection of service length vs. merit or bad management, top performers typically keep their jobs.  In many cases, better employee performance would have saved the company that need to downsize.  That being said, we hold this to be true:  it is the supervisor’s direct responsibility to ensure the right people are doing the right things.  It’s not a blame-shifting game.  Everyone has a role.

 

Right now we’re living in a country that penalizes those who create jobs and rewards those who are terminated for cause.  Many believe we live with an administration that seeks to deny free choice under the disguise of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Surely this is no way to compete.  Keep this discussion on the table without creating destructive conflict.  There are facts to be shared and teamwork to be built.   Clearly, government and media are tearing down this important sense of capitalism.  CEOs and organizational development leaders must counteract with the right amount of information needed to restore faith in organizational alignment.   Chances are, the employees who don’t currently buy in are not reading this, so they need to hear it from you!

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, March 08, 2009

 





Will the New Administration Fix It?

With the trilogy control of Presidency, House and Senate by the Democrats, we have “thrown the keys” to a single party and allowed them to “fix it.” 

 

For the good of our economy -- and quite frankly our wellness -- the backstabbing, blame-shifting and treasonous undermining of our leadership must cease.  Please think twice before resorting to the same ol’ same ol’ belly-aching that has undermined hope and destroyed confident spending over the past 8 years.

 

We certainly must question the legitimacy of employee free choice actually existing within the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, and we must think globally, creating work ethic policies that allow the US the ability to compete globally while building positive relationships.  Let's set an example of diplomacy and respectful disagreement in doing so.  Perhaps we can understand that by regularly skewering the important leaders in our country, we jeopardize ability to attract top talent. 

We can be empassioned without being destructive.  We must discontinue behavior which has adversely affected new generations and created current economic downfalls.  We can think twice before "bailing out" employers not likely to thrive and reinvest into our economy.  We must stop blaming all CEOs for the greed of a few.  We must remember and embrace "free enterprise."  We must rreat the USA with appreciative inquiry.
 
Politically, let me be one of many to say passionately advise our current administration “You’ve got the keys, now FIX IT!”  The world is watching with anticipation.  Every citizen also has a role and a responsibility in "fixing it."  It is most certainly a team effort!


Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, November 28, 2008

 





Catch Someone Doing Something Right!

An essential tool of leadership and motivation is to “catch someone doing something right.”  This single key principle allows us to achieve better results with corrective action and allows people their greatest level of hope, inspiration, buy-in and accomplishment.  While intrinsic motivation begins in childhood and can be difficult to change, extrinsic motivation is among the most volatile of variables in people.

 

So, why do we offer the exact opposite to our country in the face of economic crisis and election of new leadership?  Why do we allow negative campaigning that destroys hope and motivation, which in turn adversely impacts economic prosperity?  Why at the most visible and widespread level do we allow the opposite of desirable behavior?

 

Election propaganda, stereotyping and irresponsible journalism need to be called out and controlled.  Let’s catch our candidates doing something right.  Let’s catch our business leaders doing something right.  Let’s catch “Joe Six-Pack” doing something right.  “Joe Six-Pack”… really? Do we think calling our average American a lazy beer guzzling non-intellectual is upholding the right standard?  Joe should step away from the six-pack and produce some results.  Economic prosperity should be earned.  Results are to be rewarded and effort to be applauded.

 

Kindness, integrity, pride in a strong work ethic and the golden rule can go along away.  At the end of the day, how you feel when your head hits the pillow can be an indicator of personal success.  Hope creates success. Generation Y is mixed with regard to work ethic, partially because they’ve been raised with too much tragedy and negativity in their living room.  Some respond with conviction to overcome, while others are de-motivated by lack of hope. We de-motivate when we place bad news on page 1 and good news on page 36.  The media should get that.  Our political campaigners should get that. 

 

Let’s catch someone doing something right every day and make an example of that!  Let’s think things through before we automatically tear them down.  Let’s avoid dangerous stereotypes and look for positive exceptions.  Let’s stop creating fear of US businesses as a whole because of the greedy unethical actions of a few.  What I’m looking for in a candidate and political party is integrity and the ability to inspire.  Inspiration will have a positive impact on our economy.

Why should our country’s leadership be exempt from the rules of appropriate corporate leadership?  We call out inappropriate corporate leadership but we don’t enough call out inappropriate campaigning and inappropriate media behavior.  Both political parties talk of change, but I’m watching them use the same political tactics already.  Let’s enforce the standard to “catch someone doing something right!”

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, October 11, 2008

 





Election Debate: Impact of CEO Salaries on the Economy

It is most certainly an organizational development question to determine the take home pay of top executives.  We can similarly discuss the high compensation for entertainment celebrities and sports athletes.  As CEOs can create jobs, impact work-life and stimulate the economy, we should safeguard salaries to CEOs proportionate to their results at such – as we need to attract top talent there!    
 

While CEO “greed” is certainly alive and well, it finds many exceptions and is not necessarily a direct fallout of tax breaks.  In fact, taxation needn’t have substantial impact on executive salaries at all.  Wherever you find a greedy CEO, you find a CEO who will take whatever s/he can regardless of net profit impact.  Compensation in any US company can be more a factor of supply, demand, job retention and market conditions than anything else. 

 

Tax breaks are intended to lure corporate behavior likely to create net positive impact on the economy.  These incentives are used to create jobs, stimulate economic spending and increase the many other taxation opportunities which fund our government.  Tax breaks to “big oil companies” could be considered in exchange for actions that heal the economy, such as the lowering of fuel costs to the public.  With proper structure and surrounding conditions, this tax break could provide a positive net economic impact.  Additional discussion on this point is well summarized at this CNN article.   While we need to avoid tax incentives as “currency” to special interest group and campaign fundraising, let’s keep the discussion focused on the “how” and “why” we propose tax breaks.  Let's also consider the individual taxes paid on salaries, personal spending and economic impact of the personal investments of CEOs.  Without that language, we haven’t enough information to comment. 

 

As a CEO who does not practice greed, I think and behave like many CEOs who think as shareholders, and I choose to protect company value, the supporting team/infrastructure and my future as the CEO.  CEOs are accountable to the shareholders.  These strategies are the subject of board meetings and MBA programs.  CEOs in large companies may have the shelf life of a pro football player, and if we want to attract top talent to these economy-driving opportunities, as a country we may choose to offer a large incentive package, again proportionate to results.  Where publicly traded companies may wish to empower a “celebrity” CEO to drive shareholder confidence, CEOs must be lured from one high paying opportunity to a higher paying opportunity.  Done well, this creates overall positive economic impact.

 

With the pyramid shape of a large company, competition abounds.  Power and high compensation are fragile here as many others are grooming and gunning for your spot.  If you don’t move up, you move out.  Once at the top, it’s far too easy to get pushed off that pedestal.  This may be career ending as experience isn’t entirely transferable and few companies wish to pay you for what you did for someone else.   

 

If you don’t believe the disconnect between corporate taxes and CEO salary, then spend a little time researching the high CEO salaries of the many giant companies who post annual fiscal losses – yielding no income taxes paid to the government. 

 

Anyone who has studied business in depth knows these principles to be true.  The United States needs first and foremost a President who inspires confidence.  It concerns me – no, disappoints me – that a political party would use lack of education as a weapon against the very sector of our population that it pledges to represent – and protect.  Less education can be a fallout of less financial resources – the people the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, professes to support.  So why make such wittingly false claims to the people you represent?  I love Democratic ideals and am a centrist at heart.  I tend to agree with Republican fiscal policies.  I tend to vote Republican because I believe in the foundation American principles of capitalism.  I believe the answer lies neither at extreme left nor extreme right.  I have specific ideals and blueprints for action.  I support the working people.  I support people who work as hard, and even not necessarily as hard, as I do.  I refuse to support those who don’t do their best and look for a payout due to some sense of entitlement.  There is no such entitlement.  If you don’t believe me, look up “free enterprise,” the backbone of US principles in business.

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, September 27, 2008

 





Unemployment Rate is Artificially Inflated!

Suffering the adjudication of sometimes economically and ethically irresponsible state workers, it becomes more costly to appeal the wrongful award of benefits than to simply pay the wrongful benefits.  This in turn erodes not only employee work ethic but also employer confidence in the “system.”  A state neglectful in maintaining this confidence misses opportunities to attract and retain tax paying and job producing employers.  The unemployment rate simply needn’t be as high as it is, and our economy allows for more gainful employment than currently experienced.

 

When we fail to hold employees accountable for their choices and reward them for unacceptable work ethic, we behave unpatriotically and simply don’t uphold the free enterprise values of the “working American.”  When we award compensation to those who refuse to work, how do we simultaneously advocate that we support the working?

 

I can’t imagine a better cause than helping those who cannot help themselves.  There is nothing more frustrating than being forced to help those who refuse to help themselves.  We empower people who either cannot or will not make that distinction.   As we look to political platforms that promise “change,” let’s move this need for change to the forefront.  Society doesn’t seem to be getting smarter and doesn’t seem to be working harder.  While to “work smart” is the goal, we need to focus on both words in that key phrase.

 

The upshot of awarding unemployment to those who should not qualify is the de-motivation of employers to even attempt to follow guidelines and suggestions of the unemployment compensation adjudicators.  Employers understand the futility of attempting to work with standards that, if followed, would put them out of business or at a minimum, force the reduction of jobs offered.

 

The re-label from unemployment “compensation” to “insurance” is a complete misnomer.  Too many are being “compensated” for items completely within their control.   With 25 years of operations in the state of Wisconsin, I love my hometown state and have difficulty finding employers who do not support these statements.   As HRS continues to expand our bases in Arizona, other states and other countries, data pours in as to why employers choose specific locations, the politics and legislation considered. 

 

Growing up, I recall the joke “National welfare is a bus ticket to Milwaukee.”  As a businessperson with clients in many states and countries, I assert this problem is not unique to Wisconsin and goes to the political roots in every state.  Let’s please recognize that protecting jobs and protecting wages begins with protecting employers.  Let’s also please redefine what “working” means and hold “workers” accountable to their “work.”  


Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, September 19, 2008