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Teamwork Lessons from an Intern

Quinn picture

Today’s guest post is written by Caroline Quinn, a college intern at Kronos.  Our intern program is designed to ensure that our interns have the opportunity to do “real work” and to experience the Kronos workplace as contributing team members.  Per Caroline’s post below, they are learning other life lessons as well.

(Photo copyright Edward Hewitt / Row2k Media)

As a 21 year old college student, I never thought that workforce management would mean much to me at this point in my life. Yet, working at Kronos as a fall intern quickly led to the realization that I actually had practiced a form of workforce management every day for five years.

As the team captain and varsity coxswain at Essex Rowing Club, my position required me to execute race plans, strategize quickly during unexpected change, and maximize boat speed. Rowing is the ultimate team sport: eight people are literally functioning as one unit-- there are no specific positions and no star players. I found out quickly that a boat is only as fast as its slowest rower, and learned to love the challenge of making small adjustments that would create huge changes in boat speed. This required knowledge of the sport, my teammates, and a mastery of our club’s strategy and goals. I analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of my rowers, based the practice plan on that information, and we turned that plan into record-breaking finishes for our team.

Four years later, I am drawing countless connections between that position and my experience at Kronos, especially as I learn more about The Workforce Institute’s soon-to-be-debuted third book, It’s All About Bob(bie) – Strategies For Winning With Your Employees. Winning is not just external, because a single focus on being better than the competition is not effective or meaningful. To win meaningfully and sustainably, it’s better to create an internal environment that will motivate your team to go win with you because they want to and they are proud to.

There’s a poster on the wall at Kronos about scheduling that says, “The right person, in the right place, at the right time.” I believe what’s best for a team is really that simple – not some complicated or vague mission statement in an attempt to motivate. Putting the right person in the right place at the right time while making them feel valued and necessary with the tools to success is what leads to winning performances, happy teammates, and better results than ever.


Strategies to Increase Women Leaders in the Workplace

The following guest post is by our board member, Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, Future Workplace, an executive development firm working with Human Resources leaders to re-imagine the workplace of the future.  Jeanne writes below about the current state of women leaders in the workplace and what can be done to increase their numbers.

As a mother of a professional working daughter, the under representation of women at every level of the workforce concerns me.  Women are 33% more likely to gain a college degree than men, and make up 47.5% of the country’s labor force, yet the gender gap remains.

In 1972 Katherine Graham of the Washington Post Company became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 firm. Today 4.8% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs, while the percentage of women executive officers has remained flat at around 14% since 2010.

New research entitled Women In the Workplace, conducted by and McKinsey, surveyed 30,000 men and women at 118 North American companies, paints a disturbing picture of how much work needs to be done to reach gender equality in the C-suite. In fact, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and Co-Founder of says it will take more than 100 years to reach the progress my daughter and I are looking for in the workforce.

 Challenges In Reaching Gender Equality In C Suite

The barriers to progress are well documented in the Women In the Workplace report.  While 74% of companies reported that their CEOs are committed to gender diversity, less than half of employees believed that to be true. Meanwhile, companies which have flexible programs for men and women find they are underused. More than 90% of men and women feel that taking family leave will harm their careers.

This is particularly troubling as in just under 10 years Millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce and Millennial women are seeking out employers with a strong record on equality and diversity. According to  a recent PwC research, with 40,000 Millennial respondents across 18 countries, entitled Next Generation Diversity: Developing Tomorrow’s Female Leaders,  82% of female Millennials identified an employers’ policy on diversity, inclusion and gender equality as an important factor when deciding whether or not to work for an organization. Employers must do more than’ talk the talk,’ on gender equality. Instead, they must put into place a mix of inclusive talent and advancement strategies, which demonstrate results.  The business case is simple: every company is waging a war for the best talent to meet the ever-accelerating rate of change. Why would any CEO want to be handicapped by 50%?

Three Key Questions to Ask Your Leaders

Let’s assume you are in a meeting and want to dig deeper on how your organization is progressing on gender equality. Here are three questions to ask your senior executives:

1)    Where And In What Roles Are Women In Our Talent Pipeline?

The easy first question is how many women hold senior executive positions in the organization. The tougher question is how and where are women moving through the talent pipeline from entry level to high potential and what targets if any are being set by the organization?  For example Marc Benioff, Co-Founder of Salesforce, recently created the Women’s Surge and set a target: achieve 100% equality for men and women in pay and promotion and make sure that at least one third of all participants at any Salesforce meeting was a women. As a first step, Benioff asked his senior team to identify their top female executives who would then receive additional leadership training.   Once the pipeline is visible then the next question needs to be asked: what percentage of women is occupying line and staff roles. In the USA, about two thirds of women in Fortune 500 companies start in line positions (positions with profit and loss responsibility) but with time these numbers are reversed with two-thirds of C Suite women in staff positions.  The Women In the Workplace research notes that more than half of women  at the VP level hold staff roles. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to hold line roles at every level of  the organization. This difference poses a potential problem because line roles frequently feed into senior leadership.

2) How Is Our Organization Dealing With Unconscious Bias?

One of the biggest barriers to making progress in gender equality rests in the minds of men and women, and it is known as unconscious bias.  Catalyst, the non-profit organization promoting inclusive workplaces for women, defines unconscious bias as an implicit association or attitude about race or gender that operates out of our control, informs our perception about a person or group of people and can influence our decision making and behavior toward a person or group of people.  Companies deal with unconscious bias in various ways from formal training on the topic to recognizing it exists and setting goals to change it. The latter is much more effective as we how difficult it is to move from awareness to changing behavior

One company that stands out for their commitment to closing the gender gap is  Kimberly Clark, who since 2009 has seen a 90% increase in the number of women holding director-level and above leadership positions and received an award from Catalyst in 2014 for making developing diverse talent one of the metrics by which it judges its leaders across the globe. It even ties bonus money to it. “To be an exceptional leader at Kimberly-Clark Corp, you have to develop talent that looks, thinks and behaves like the people who use our products,” says Sue Dodsworth, chief diversity officer for Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Recently the company put into place a Rule of Two: for appointments at the VP level and above, leaders must bring three candidates for consideration and no more than two of them should have a similar demographics profile.

3)    Now What: What policies can we put into place to move our organization toward gender equality?

While acknowledging unconscious bias is a first step toward understanding how stubborn the barriers are to making change, companies also need to put into place a range of new policies to effect change.  Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her recent NYT article entitled A Toxic Work World, proposes a number of policy changes companies need to consider to compete in the global war for talent, and they include:

  • High quality and affordable childcare and elder care;
  • Paid maternity and paternity leave;
  • A right to request part timework;
  • Comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers;
  • Higher wages and training for paid care givers;
  • Reforms at elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of our digital workplaces.

To this impressive list, I will add one more: mandatory paid paternity leave. Sounds far fetched? Some countries are already doing this. Sweden  offers a generous family leaves policy of 16 months of paid time off to care for newborns, and this is  split between both parents. Then a new law will go into effect in January 2016 requiring fathers to take a mandatory three months of paid paternity leave, allowing fathers to take part in bonding with their child. This also is a major step in reducing the perception that childcare is a women issue.

Are you a working Mom or Dad? What policies would you like to see your company offer you? How can women be more equally represented in the C suite and in executive leadership positions in your company?

(This post originally appeared on



Strandbeests: Lessons on Innovation, Patience & Humor

I am at the beginning of a large, multi-year project at work. I have always enjoyed building new things. In fact, I have a patience challenge when it comes to the necessary responsibilities of stewarding things that are already well established. That being said, the prospect of the bold new initiative simultaneously fills me with optimism and dread. The opportunity to fill white space with something wonderful is energizing. But what if I can’t make the reality match the vision?

I have a new hero who inspires me to embrace both the excitement and the inevitable reality checks that accompany innovation. He is Theo Jansen, a Dutch Renaissance man who is equal parts artist and scientist. For the last 25 years, he has been evolving his Strandbeests (literally, beach animals), wind propelled kinetic sculptures that move with animal-like grace. Jensen has said, “Within the next 20 years I want the animals to be independent from me, so they take their own decisions — when to walk on the beach, what to anchor themselves against during storms or when to move away from the water.”

After many years of experimentation, the beests are fantastical and intricate and still fashioned from ordinary materials that can be found at a hardware store. Theo talks about them as though they are animate, indicating that he expects to create beests in the future that can reproduce. Of course, they already have. People flock to see them and to create their own. The beests are reproduced every time they inspire a viewer.

strandbeest evolutionThere’s a lot to learn from Theo when it comes to tackling business innovation challenges like mine. Innovation begins with a vision for what success will look like. Theo has held fast to his vision for 25 years while improving his beests through incremental innovation. This “evolutionary history” of the beests at the Peabody Essex Museum exhibition in Salem, Massachusetts shows how he has continued to reinvent them over time. The earliest beest wasn’t much more than a box with four legs. Every generation has introduced new ways for the beests to adapt to changing wind and terrain challenges. Theo has continually cannibalized older beests to create new ones, much like successful innovators preserve the elements of their successful experiments while being willing to do away with the parts that don’t serve their objectives.  If you watch the video at the top of this article, you’ll see just how far he has come.

I had the opportunity to chat with one of the gallery assistants at the Peabody Essex exhibit and asked if Jensen actually believes his beests are animate. Much of what I’ve read about him in the past indicates that he might. The assistant, having met him, indicated that while Jensen is passionate about evolving his beests, he knows they are machines. Perhaps, though, his showmanship underscores the importance of engaging others in your story if you expect to achieve successful change.

Jensen has accelerated his vision by publishing his secrets — with the result that makers around the world are hacking their own. He’s sharing the DNA so “reproduction” can happen. This kind of collaboration is necessary for business success as well. Networking with others who’ve worked on similar projects can both fire up your inspiration while sparing you from wasting time on dead-end efforts. Sharing what you’re doing inside your organization helps you build an army of advocates who can help promulgate change.

My project won’t involve PVC pipe — the main material in Jensen’s beests — but it will require patience, persistence and collaboration to achieve. I’ll let you know when I get there.

strandbeest driver