Skip to content

Posts from the ‘All Blog Posts’ Category

Talking About the Good Jobs Strategy with Zeynep Ton

zeynep tonRecently I had the pleasure of talking to Zeynep Ton, adjunct associate professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, about her book “The Good Jobs Strategy”.  I’ve written about this excellent book here before.  Zeynep’s core message is that excellent financial returns don’t have to come at the expense of employees.  In fact, her research indicates that investing in  employees as a driver of strategic advantage vs. treating labor as a cost to be minimized will ultimately drive higher returns for all stakeholders.   You can listen to a podcast of our discussion about the lessons from her book  below:


Zeynep was kind enough to invite me to MIT Sloan School last night for a symposium on the recent Market Basket story – wherein loyal employees and customers successfully organized and disrupted store operations in response to the ouster of  their trusted CEO.  Market Basket is widely known for applying many of the principles Zeynep reviews in her book.  In fact, Zeynep and some of her colleagues will be writing a case study on Market Basket for aspiring business leaders to study.  Several hundred students, faculty (and members of the public like yours truly) packed a sold out auditorium to hear management and labor experts talking about the lessons to be learned from Market Basket.

One of the more interesting observations last night came from MIT finance professor Andrew Lo, who said the Market Basket approach proves “Finance doesn’t need to be zero sum game.”  His point, and that made by others on the panels, was that Market Basket employees act like owners.  They care about their bonuses and profit sharing – and they understand that maximizing their personal returns is dependent on doing right by their customers. They’ve been empowered to do what it takes to keep those loyal customers coming back, a “distributed leadership model” as one professor noted. In the end, those ties that bound the Market Basket employees to their embattled CEO and each other during the standoff were also connected to their customers.  And ultimately it was the customers’ willingness to boycott the stores in order to preserve the brand they loved that turned the tide.

Relevant Links:

News coverage of the symposium on

Seismic Shift – Waking Up to the Strategic Value of Workforce Management

New York Times article “Thinking Outside the (Big) Box”

Good Jobs Strategy = Happier Employees = Better Customer Service








Top Ten Rules for Keeping Customers Happy in the Cloud

experience you expectIn addition to my Workforce Institute responsibilities, I also manage the voice of the customer program at Kronos.  The image to the right expresses our core service message.   We do a great job with customer service at Kronos, and have the awards to prove it.  We keep it that way by by actively and constantly soliciting feedback through multiple channels.  We receive over 20,000 customer surveys a year – and we review all of them.  Of course we hear about problems through those surveys, but we hear a lot more feedback like this:

“Your representative was very easy-going & informative – made having to call in about the ticket a pleasant experience. Has very good customer service skills!”

We use this feedback to identify and prioritize improvements needed in our products, services and processes.  We help different parts of our business do ad hoc analyses to dive more deeply into specific areas.  Today, I got a question about what constitutes the ideal cloud customer experience.  Here’s my response – the top ten expectations I believe that cloud customers have of their vendors.

From what I’ve seen from Kronos customer feedback, my own experience as a VP of products and services for a SaaS company before I came to Kronos, and my experience as the manager of two SaaS vendor solutions for Kronos, the following are key expectations of SaaS customers:

  1. If there’s a problem with my environment, tell me.  Don’t make me stumble across it.
  2. When there is a problem, tell me when and how you’re going to fix it.
  3. Your privacy and security measures meet objective standards and protect me and my organization from any compliance issues.
  4. Upgrades are friction-less events; i.e. no disruption in my environment.  Adding new features that become available in a release should be up to me  and easy to configure.
  5. The more I can control my environment through self service measures, the better.
  6. It should be easy to get my data out of your solution – for reporting, integration, or other use cases I need to support within my environment.
  7. I am likely to be a non-technical user.  Speak to me in my language.  I probably don’t care how you make the sausage, I just want it to work – all the time.
  8. Provide me with a test environment so I can vet new features, and so I can update training and documentation materials that support user adoption of your solution.
  9. You know how I’m using your system, you have my data.  Can you provide real time analytics to help me use your solution more effectively?
  10. You have lots of people’s data. Can that be used to help me benchmark my organization against others like mine?

Do you use cloud solutions?  What criteria for a great experience would you add to this list?

STEM Skills Gaps Aren’t Limited to Women and Girls

“I have watched many very capable girls and women steer clear of the sciences because of the active discouragement of authority figures who dispensed very bad advice. In some cases, the girls (as students in primary and secondary school) were probably way smarter than the people who told them they were not cut out for math and science.  This kind of thing burns me up.  Besides handing boys and girls the same kinds of gadgets to take apart and put back together in Grandpa’s Labs, and introducing them to Scratch (or other coding camp tech) from an early age, what can we do to level the playing field for my granddaughter?”

I received this note from an old friend – who is about to become the grandfather of a girl.  He’s a mathematician, working in industry.  And he’s wondering what it will take to ensure that his granddaughter will have an open playing field when the time comes for her to choose a career – especially if that career interest is in the realm of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).  He asked me because I have this platform (the Workforce Institute) and because I’ve had a long career in technology.

He’s right that there are still challenges for working women.  They are more likely to be the primary caretakers of children and aging parents.  They are likely to be paid less than their male peers.  And they still face biases in the workplace based on their gender.  Reporting from the frontlines of the workplace, though, I’d encourage him to ask a different question.  Because the data suggests that both men and women are abandoning STEM careers at pretty high rates during their college years.

According to statistics from the US Department of Education, from 1999–2000 to 2009–10 the percentage of degrees earned by females remained between approximately 60 and 62 percent for associate’s degrees and between 57 and 58 percent for bachelor’s degrees; i.e. women outpaced their male peers when it came to pursuing post-secondary degrees.  Another more recent report from the US Department of Education indicates that about 28 percent of 2003−04 students beginning a bachelor’s degree  chose a STEM major at some point during their enrollment between 2003 and 2009.

Among bachelor’s degree students entering STEM fields between 2003 and 2009, nearly one-half (48 percent) had left these fields by spring 2009.  Proportionally more females than males left STEM fields by switching to a non-STEM major (32 percent vs. 26 percent), whereas proportionally more males than females left STEM fields by dropping out of college (24 percent vs. 14 percent). This same report notes, however, that the attrition rates for STEM fields of study are not higher than those for non-STEM.  Anyone who has been to college or sent children to college knows that this is a time for exploring options.  People change their majors as they learn more about their interests and future opportunities in those fields of interest.

While the data does reveal that women are more likely to abandon STEM than men, it’s also worth asking why 48% of all STEM students abandon those degrees for alternatives like business and healthcare.   Are other options more interesting, more lucrative?  Or is it that students need help envisioning how those STEM skills will help them in all kinds of cross-disciplinary ways?   A recent NPR story noted, “In the United States, more than 40,000 temporary employees known as postdoctoral research fellows are doing science at a bargain price. And most postdocs are being trained for jobs that don’t actually exist.”  That explains why students might steer clear of the path to PhD, but there are lots of jobs in the US that go unfilled due to organizations’ inability to find candidates with STEM skills.

What to do?  On the personal front, my friend should encourage his grandchildren to explore STEM by helping them take active interest in how the world around them works.  If they become interested in STEM careers, he should remind them that although these topics can be hard to master, they set you up for success in all manner of jobs after school years have ended.  He can tell them that math isn’t only for mathematicians, but also for a whole range of professionals ranging from the manufacturing shop floor to the highest reaches of business.  And science isn’t strictly the realm of scientists, but is about questioning the world around us in order to understand ourselves and our place in the universe.

As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but ‘That’s funny…”



What we’re reading this week:

Your Culture’s Counterculture via @RobinSchooling

The Impending Leadership Crisis via @hrbartender

CHART OF THE DAY: Read this while you’re eating lunch by yourself via @SteveBoese

Valuing Culture via @HRExecMag

10 Things You Need to Know to Be a Great Leader - James Altucher

Kronites are writing about:

Kronos Customers Rapidly Adopting #Mobile #Hiring Solution

Webinar: Relieving compliance concerns in the #ACA era

9/24 Webinar: Calculating Overtime Correctly Under Fair Labor Standards Act #FLSA via @HRExecMag

Why #IT loves the #KronosCloud: #Cloud

Join the biggest and best #KronosWorks yet! Register now and save $100.

One in one hundred million – Fire & Rescue #1in100MM

New Time Well Spent #Cartoon: #election #overtimelimit

RT @SmarterCafe: Election season aka “Royale w/ Cheese” is here! So is #ACA compliance for many @KronosInc customers

Podcast: How @WhistlerBlckcmb Delivers a Memorable Mountain Adventure – One Employee at a Time

It’s cool and in demand to be a “data geek” via @SmarterCafe

RT @SmarterCafe: Watch a young @ZamberP of @KronosUK tell the story of workforce management on whiteboard @KronosInc

Job skills gap? “It’s you, not me” via @SmarterCafe