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The Queen of Soul and Continuous Improvement

This may be my favorite song of all times, Aretha Franklin singing “Respect”.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care … TCB (taking care of business).

This is the time of year when we make our resolutions.  We make our bold proclamations to friends and family.  We set goals for ourselves and make vision boards.  And often we set ourselves up for failure because we shoot for impressive and noticeable transformation without creating a clear plan for getting there.

As I write this, I’m not thinking about “failing to plan is planning to fail”.  Rather, I’m thinking that most progress is made in inches, not miles.  Especially in the workplace, and especially if you’ve worked in the same environment for a while, there will be few truly breathtaking innovations that you can pull off.  It becomes easy to slip into complacency and blame the external lack of opportunities for your malaise.

So what is the antidote to feeling sorry for yourself because your efforts aren’t going to get you into the pages of business porn pubs like Fast Company where everybody’s job is an exciting award winning interlude between their triathalons?  Continuous improvement.  That’s right.   Every product and service is the sum of many moving parts of people, process, materials and systems that (best case scenario) deliver what the customer needs.  Since the world around us and our customers is constantly changing, those needs are changing as well.

Change is hard, especially when the current way of doing things isn’t broken.  But “not broken” is a far cry from “sock it to me” results.  (If you were born after 1960, ask your parents).  Talk to your customers and employees and find out how well that product or process is really working for them.  Be willing to make changes that make their lives easier and good things happen.  Accept that the accumulation of small changes can still have a big impact.

Like Aretha says in the song, “Now, I get tired, but I keep on tryin'”.  Go on now, TCB.

The Holiday Slow Down

As we noted in the published results of our survey this week, a lot of people will take time off over the next 10 days. The office is increasingly vacant and it’s clear nobody wants to start any significant new projects or discussions until after the new year.  Folks who do work next week will have lots of time to clean up the office and catch up on emails they haven’t had the time to read. Answer our poll and let us know how you’re spending the holidays.

How will you manage your job over the holidays?

View Results

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If you have the time and want to see what we’ve been reading this week at the Workforce Institute, read on.

Revenge of the Nerds ow.ly/gdYnU via @SmarterCafe

Elf and Safety! A Cautionary Word… ow.ly/gg1un via @simonmacpherson @KronosUK

The Zen of Santa’s Workshop ow.ly/g9THb via @SmarterCafe

Clocking In At #Kronos: The Evolving Workforce Management Business ow.ly/gam2F via @WBJournal

5 Good Holiday Gifts for Your Employees ow.ly/gc2JK via @Inc

How Many Employees Will Resolve to Find a New Job in 2013? ow.ly/gdXW7 via @TLNT_com

Lies at Work. Honesty in Life ow.ly/gdZOj via @blogging4jobs

The Secret to Being Happy at Work ow.ly/gfVDr via @TimSackett @TLNT_com

Some 2013 Tech Trends – Micro-networks and Human Appeal ow.ly/gg0PT via @SteveBoese

Flu-shot persuasion for workforce ow.ly/gancW via @BostonBizJournl

Distractions At Work: Employees Increasingly Losing Focus ow.ly/gamR3 via @HuffPostBiz

The Graying Work Force ow.ly/g9W80 via @nytimes -> DOL estimates between 2006 & 2016, the # of workers over age 55 will rise 36.5%

41% of Companies with Poor Training Have Employees Leave in 12 Months ow.ly/g9U7j via @blogging4jobs

Staying home for the holidays? Happy about it?

Our newest survey reveals that more people are planning to take time off between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day than was the case five years ago when we did similar research.  Specifically:

  • This year, 38 percent of those employed full-time say they plan to take Monday, December 24 off while 28 percent say they plan to take Monday, December 31 off. This means that more than a quarter of the U.S. workforce will be absent on these days, more than in 2007 when 14 percent of people planned to take off December 24 and 16 percent planned to take off December 31. Both days fell on a Monday that year as well.
  • On the other hand, when asked if they typically took off the entire time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, only 14 percent of people said yes in 2012, down from the 32 percent who answered yes to that question in 2007.  This is interesting in light of our findings that 26% of full-time employees say their place of work closed during the entire time between Christmas and New Year’s Day this year vs. only 18% indicating that was the case in 2007.
  • When asked to describe what their place of work was like in the month of December, answers varied: 68 percent said it was “business as usual”; 17 percent said December was their busiest time of year; and 15 percent said their workplace was “a ghost town”.

Reuters picked up our survey and asked some follow on questions about why we thought the results had changed the way they have in five years.  I think the differences may have something to do with the general decline in employee engagement we’ve seen in the last five years, but I don’t think that’s the major driver.  Most people who are fully employed now are probably a little more focused on staying in their employers’ good graces and hanging onto the jobs they have. This might be a reason we see more people saying they’ll take the 24th and/or the 31st, but not the entire week.   And people taking time off in 2012 may feel more entitled to that paid time off in a climate where merit increases and bonuses have decreased alongside their flagging enthusiasm for their jobs.

Reuters also asked if people are happy to be taking more time off at the holidays.  I suspect that depends on people’s individual circumstances.  For some people, this period is less busy at work, and so the “catch up” consequences of taking time off are lighter.  People want to be home when kids are home from school or college, or they’re looking forward to spending time with extended family and friends.   If they have accrued paid time off, and especially if they have to “use it or lose it” by the end of the year, then they are probably motivated to take that time off.

We also saw an uptick in people saying their employer was shutting down in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  If during these shutdowns employees are still paid, then they’re probably appreciating the time off.  If these shutdowns entail people losing pay when they would otherwise have been available to work, they may not be happy about it.

What’s happening in your workplace?  Are you taking time off?  Happy about it?

BTW- the picture above is the empty office of my blogging nemesis, Working Smarter Cafe.  Maybe he’ll take a few days off next week so I can catch up…