Gen Y at Work: Rewarding the Global Generation

On Tuesday 11th February, Mark McCrindle had presented a piece on Managing Generations at Work, which reinforced the fact that there are strong trait variations between the generations at work and how to manage the variations.

In addition to a fantastic session on the day, Mark and his team have provided the attendees with resources found on the McCrindle blog and online library.  Here is a very interesting article found on their blog.

Gen Y at Work: Rewarding the Global Generation

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Generation Y is the most educated, entertained and materially endowed generation in history, with a novel perspective on work that makes attracting, engaging and training them a challenge for employers to get right. High turnover rates among the emerging generations have posed questions around remuneration and how much is right to engage this flighty cohort.

The global outlook of Generation Y and their desire to travel, fused with their focus on lifestyle and priority focus on work-life balance give insights into how managers can best engage with them. Remuneration remains a key factor in the equation, but it is just one of many retention factors, and by no means the primary one.

Getting remuneration right:
a critical issue

Even in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis, the attraction and retention of good staff is still a key issue and a growing one as we face growing labour demand in a recovering economy and declining labour supply with an ageing demography.

The ageing of populations and with that, workforces is a challenge across many developed countries. The median age in Japan, Germany and Italy is 44; in France and the UK it is around 40, and in Australia and the United States it is hovering around 37. In Australia we are approaching the point of “peak labour” – where there will be more full time employees retiring from the workforce than there will be younger people entering it. Indeed Australia’s population is growing by more than 300,000 per annum however the increase in the working age population is less than half of this.

Therefore filling skills shortages, ensuring talent recruitment is taking place, dealing with leadership succession, and developing young staff are all essential functions for managers wishing to “future proof” their businesses.

Adding to this strain of attracting employees are the retention challenges faced by many employers, with Generation Y leading the revolution of job churning and career changing. In Australia, our annual turnover rate of 15 per cent per annum means that the medium length of time people stay in their roles is three years and four months. If this trend continues throughout the worklife of Generation Y, they will have 17 different employers and five separate careers during their lifetime (that’s allowing for Gen Y workers entering the workforce at 19-20 and finishing work at 79-80 years of age). In this climate, it’s not only the recruitment and retention that is important, but also re-recruitment. Keeping in contact with departing talented workers has proved very useful for many managers who have been able to re-employ members of this boomerang generation.

Attracting the new generations

Generation Y don’t seek a job as much as they seek an opportunity. They have multiple expectations of an organisation. It isn’t just the job description, but the workplace culture, the variety, fun, training, management style, and flexibility that drives them. In light of this, it is not enough to focus only on financial benefits as a tool of attraction and retention.

We have conducted many studies of young job seekers, we have surveyed thousands of working Australians and conducted dozens of focus groups and interviews with Generation Y investigating the employment factors which attract and retain them and the results of the different studies concur: the size of the employer and or the recognition of the employer brand did not define an employer of choice but rather the job opportunity and challenge, varied role and career pathway, workplace culture, lifestyle benefits, management style, and work-life balance. These were factors often offered by small employers and non-profit organisations, not just larger corporates. Interestingly, salary alone wasn’t the main drawcard, and out of the many interviews remuneration was mentioned less than these non-monetary factors and rewards.

Moving past traditional incentives: retaining Generation Y

Generation Y has grown up in a world where everything is incentivised. Customer loyalty is bought with frequent buyer programs, points, or discounts. And accordingly, so is employee loyalty. By understanding and meeting their needs, motivating through relevant reward and recognition strategies, better retention can be achieved.

Flexibility to study, travel and achieve work-life balance is a basic expectation of new job seekers.

Flexibility to study

Generation Y is the most formally educated generation in history – a title they are set to keep long term with many predicted to return to formal study multiple times in their lifetime. Indeed, the 21st century life is rarely linear and sequential. Life stages were once clearly defined, starting with education, followed by work and perhaps after a career change or two, retirement. Today, the education phase extends well into adulthood, and throughout the work life. The multiple career paths taken by Generation Y will lead them to retrain several times, with an increasing likelihood to take their careers overseas. Flexibility to study is therefore crucial for this cohort.

Flexibility to travel

Having grown up in culturally diverse landscape, where 1 in 4 Australians were overseas-born, it is no surprise that Generation Y is globally connected. New technology and social media allows them to network with friends around the globe, while cheap travel allows them to travel overseas not just interstate.

With a focus on lifestyle rather than just wealth accrual, Generation Y is spending more time living at home, delaying some of the traditional benchmarks of adulthood such as buying their first home, marrying, or starting a family. Nearly 1 in 4 Australians (23%) aged between 20-34 continue to live in the parental home. Of these, nearly half have moved out and returned again with most (52%) lasting less than two years before returning home. For the majority of these, their decision to move back in is often financially motivated.

Flexibility and work life balance

Workers today look to have multiple needs met at work. Of course, working is about achieving task outcomes and receiving financial rewards, but for Gen Y it is also about fun, social connection, training, personal development, greater fulfilment and even environmental sustainability. A job for Gen Y is more than just delivering a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. They have an expectation that it will also help them achieve social, training, and lifestyle goals as well.

Gen Y employees need to feel that their jobs are equipping them for the future, that they are being invested in and valued. The increase in workplace ping pong tables, lunchrooms equipped with coffee machines and sandwich makers, and work meetings held in the local cafe highlight the recognition of staff wellbeing, team engagement and activity-based working in achieving better retention and commitment. The favour is likely to be returned as well – with the advent of technology Generation Y is likely to be found checking their work emails frequently out of hours, as well as working on the weekends as well.

It is self evident that every business, team and brand is just one generation away from extinction. Only by recruiting and engaging with the next generation of employees will we maintain an innovative outlook, a relevant workplace culture and a future proof organisation. Oh, and it will probably be a dynamic and fun place to work too.

End Article****

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14 tips to mitigate end-of-year function risks

Last year around this time, we posted a blog which is directly related to the end of year party season.  We do, however, feel that this issue will not disappear anytime soon.  So we’re bringing the post back!

Here are 14 tips to mitigate risk at your celebrations found from the HR Daily website.

14 tips to mitigate end-of-year function risks

15 November 2012 7:26am

Speech time at the work Christmas party is a good opportunity for employers to pause the flow of alcohol and help prevent incidents arising from excessive consumption, says the Australian Drug Foundation’s head of workplace services, Phillip Collins.

He suggests not serving alcohol while formal proceedings are conducted to allow people to eat more food and drink water, which will reduce their alcohol intake.

The Australian Drug Foundation has developed a checklist, as part of its Good Hosts program, which helps HR professionals and employers plan work events that avoid alcohol-related harm and corporate embarrassment.

Employers should follow all of the steps in the checklist to ensure a fun event that isn’t too focused on alcohol, Collins says.

The first step is to implement an early intervention strategy to prevent incidents occurring at an event, he says.

If someone at an event is consuming more alcohol than everyone else, employers should have a procedure in place to identify the risk and how to handle it, and consider ways to “mitigate any risks in the future”.

For example, increasing the amount of water provided to the person, table or group could be beneficial. Employees should also know who the person responsible for the event is.

This is “absolutely critical”, he says, so that if something happens at the event, there is someone to turn to who will have an action plan.

Employers should also control the flow of alcohol, bearing in mind how they have served alcohol at previous events and whether it was successful, Collins says.

“So historically it could have been you [had] alcohol in a big ice bin and people [could] simply go and grab what they want, or there could be an arrangement on the table.”

Requiring employees to go to the bar to get a drink can help reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, he says.

Alcohol should not be the focus of the night, and instead the event should focus on entertainment, such as speeches or having arcade games at the venue.

Employers should consider whether some of the people attending the social event are non-drinkers, and “engage them in activities where they can actually enjoy themselves without having to… think they need to have alcohol to have fun”, Collins says.

To avoid rapid consumption of alcohol, an event should not have any kind of drinking games, he adds.

Further, employers should avoid placing an emphasis on alcohol consumption, for example by not promoting “drink until dawn” on a communication flyer or having alcoholic-based lucky door prizes.

Employees must know when to leave the venue and how they are getting home, and employers should make them aware of this before the event, “as opposed to on the night”.

Employees should be advised of the event’s start and end time, and whether public transport is available, or if taxis will be provided, Collins says.

Further, if someone at the event consumes a lot of alcohol and is evicted from the premises, “companies must have a policy in place to ensure that that person does get home safely”, he says.

This safe transport policy should require the employer to place the evicted person in a taxi, give clear directions to the taxi driver to take the person directly home, and pay for that trip.

Depending on the length of the event, substantial food should be served regularly to help prevent intoxication. Collins says food should be available within an hour of the bar opening.

It is also important for employers to cater for the diversity of their workforce, so that all employees who might be drinking alcohol can “have that food intake to balance everything out”.

Employers should ensure they have an adequate number of security guards for the event, and that those security guards know the employer’s requirements.

They should be briefed on: the number of people attending the event; the employer’s alcohol policies; how and what people are being served; who’s in charge; and how to take an evicted person out of the venue, Collins says.

“Having security guards there is not only to stop people coming in that shouldn’t be there, but also to ensure that the [employer's expectations] are actually met,” he says.

Lastly, after an event has taken place, employers should debrief about the event, and discuss what they did right, what they did wrong, what they can do in the future, and document it for next time.

Managers should set the standard

According to Mills Oakley partner Luke Connolly, the biggest mistake employers make when planning end-of-year and other functions is failing to communicate to managers the importance of modelling desired behaviours on the night.

“Management themselves don’t lead by example. They tend to forget who they are and who they’re representing, thereby creating a culture of partying that breaches a number of standards that ought apply at these type of events,” he told HR Daily.

“Ultimately managers need to lead by example. It’s management that the junior staff will look at on the night, to see how they’re behaving. And how they behave will dictate how juniors think they can behave – it becomes a cultural lead by example thing.”

In general, he says, employers tend not to take a highly disciplined approach to Christmas parties, in communicating to employees “what they’re really for, and that is to celebrate the year as opposed to getting as drunk and wild as you can”.

Employers should communicate to employees before the event what the expected behaviours are, and what won’t be tolerated, he says.

“It’s about setting those boundaries and culture prior to the event, and making sure that management live and breathe those cultural boundaries. By not doing that, and by everyone throwing their hats in the air and kicking off their shoes and going berserk, they put themselves at huge risk.”

Posted in Holiday Season Tips

Follower Frenzy

Paul Jones, of Magneto Communications has just released another eye-opening blog post.  It talks about how people automatically look to their surroundings to gain cues for actions during times of uncertainty.

Click here to visit the article source

For those that don’t like clicking away, here is the article

How to leverage social proof (consensus)

Follower Frenzy, or Social Proof?

This is the third in a six-part series on influence and persuasion, loosely based on Dr Robert Cialdini’s work

If you’re writing a proposal or pitching a new approach or idea, this concept is central to you getting a YES.

The idea? Your readers are sheep. Well, they (like all of us) can act like sheep when making decisions.

Ever catch yourself checking what others are doing when you’re uncertain about your situation? We all take cues from others about whether to eat chicken with fingers or a fork, how fast to drive, and how to dress at work.
This is Social Proof in action.
How much more ‘sold’ are you on an Amazon book when you see hundreds of others have ‘rated’ it highly? ‘All those people can’t be wrong!’ (you think).
And the more similar your ‘reference’ is to your reader, the better. For example, a banker’s testimonial will sway an accountant more than one from a plumber. See how Salesforce does this.
Humans, especially time-poor ones in business, love shortcuts; they often react based on only partial evidence. Naturally that means it’s not always right; blockbuster hits, for instance, are more luck than anything else, and if everyone else is selling their shares, you may be smarter to think rationally before selling yours.

Still, knowing the triggers can help you maximise your influence. Here are my thoughts on leveraging social proof in your writing:

  1. Testimonials. Ask for them straight after you’ve worked for clients, and include them in your marketing. But keep them short (edit them for brevity and ask your client to approve the change).
  2. Case studies and success stories. Especially powerful when you include the specific, measured results you achieved. Keep these short, too.
  3. Big names. These have big impact, so highlight well-known and respectable companies who’ve used your business. When possible, use their logo, not just their name.
  4. Big crowds. Don’t be shy about sharing that you have 40,000 Twitter followers or subscribers to your blog.
  5. Big profile. Have you or your business been in the media (for the right reasons)? Let readers know.
  6. Visuals. Pictures of your typical target audience enjoying your product/service will reassure your clients they’re in the right crowd. Likewise, if you’re pitching to the big end of town, ensure your graphic design and branding is top quality.
‘Paul, STOP! These are too sales-oriented. I just write “normal” business documents.’ Think again. You can adapt most of these tips to your situation.

For example, if you’re convincing your boss to buy System X, your ‘testimonial’ could be mentioning informally the fact that Jack, in IT, used System X at his last company, and loved it. Be creative when applying these.

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Melbourne Cup: Should you really be celebrating?

In light of the Melbourne Cup and the “Race that Stops a Nation”, an interesting article had floated into my inbox.  Good for a read about the time from now until the New Years.  Well worth a look at the article and the comments.

The original article is found here

Here is the article.

Melbourne Cup: Should you really be celebrating?

Engrained into many workplaces, Melbourne Cup Day is seen as the beginning of the end-of-year season. While HR should be interested in making sure productivity doesn’t dip due to the Melbourne Cup, they should also consider the potential alienation of pushing the event.

Steve Shepherd, group director of recruitment and HR services specialists at Randstad, stated that while organisations should allow employees to enjoy the race, they cannot let productivity drop as a result.

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“We all look forward to events like Melbourne Cup and the Christmas holidays, but business leaders need to maintain the energy and motivation of employees to ensure they remain engaged in these final weeks of the year. There are still eight weeks before the end of year, and businesses need to continue trading, often right through to 31 December, so high performance and productivity is required by all employees,” he stated.

Although the popularity of the Melbourne Cup is hard to ignore, HR should not forget that to some employees the event is offensive. Events to protest the races exist, such as The “Not The Cup” Celebrations, run on the same day as the Melbourne Cup.

Employees’ objections may vary – they may boil down to animal rights, an objection to gambling, drinking or a number of other reasons.

“Some employees, due to religious or family values or simply because they’re not interested, may not wish to participate in elements of Melbourne Cup day, particularly gambling and drinking alcohol. Employers need to ensure they provide options for staff who may not wish to participate in race day celebrations – the choice of those who do not wish to be involved must be respected,” Joydeep Hor, managing principle of People and Culture Strategies, said.


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Magneto: Should Leaders be Feared or Loved?

Paul Jones, our presenter for our October breakfast seminar “Writing to Influence”, has released a new post.  Rather interesting as it converts the findings of Zenger and Folkman and applies it to the world of copywriting.  Here is the full article and links to the original blog post on the Magneto Communications website.

Article Link


Should leaders be feared or loved?

 Thumbs up likeA mining engineer on my course once said he didn’t see the value in building much rapport with his team. ‘If I tell them to do something, they do it. Why worry if they like me?’
But recent research by Zenger and Folkman shows that leaders who aren’t liked much have only a one in 2000 chance of their leadership being rated as highly effective. Their lesson: Connect, then lead. Warmth is a powerful key to influence.
To do that, do these when writing:
  • Check your attitude. Do you really have your readers’ best interests at heart? If you do, they should sense it and trust you more. (Yes, I’m talking ‘trusted advisor.’)
  • Think ‘relationship,’ not ‘one-night stand.’ Don’t try to get them over the line too quickly. By all means ask for the sale (or whatever your influence goal is), but show you care more about them than the deal. Trite but true: ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’
  • Make it look good. How’s your branding, layout, neatness, and correctness? People warm to ‘classy,’ not ‘scruffy.’
  • Get feedback on your tone. How’s your writing sound to your intended audience? Sounding professional, helpful and/or friendly will win you more friends, and more ‘yeses,’ than sounding officious, abrupt or long-winded.How your writing ‘sounds’ to someone depends, too, on personalities. If you’ve done one of our courses, check your notes around the four personality types. Remember to adjust your style to suit your reader. E.g., for ‘Drivers,’ focus on results, for ‘Amiables,’ emphasise ‘relationship,’ and so on.
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How to Eliminate 50% of All Hiring Mistakes in 30 Minutes

Today on Linkedin, I had come across an article by Lou Adler
 in regards to avoiding first impression bias when interviewing applicants for your position.  As it was a very informative article with tips for avoidance, I needed to share it with everyone.

The original article can be found at the below link and also the full article:

How to Eliminate 50% of All Hiring Mistakes in 30 Minutes

More hiring errors are made in the first few minutes of an interview than at any other time.

If you’re so inclined, you might want to check out this report in Personal Psychology, “The Structured Employment Interview: Narrative and Quantitative Review of the Research Literature.” The study reviewed all of the literature regarding the predictability of the interview, coming to the following basic conclusions:

  • A structured interview is more effective than winging it, overvaluing first impressions, box checking skills, asking brain teasers, or trusting your gut.
  • Defining the work that needs to be done is more important that a laundry list of skills and experiences.
  • Specific guidance is required to convert the candidate’s answers into an accurate assessment. Yes/no voting, informal discussions, or judging someone on feelings, intuition or emotions are all ineffective.

Whether your company has an interviewing system like this or not, most hiring errors can be simply eliminated by controlling the tendency to make instant judgments about candidates based on their first impressions.

Despite the fact that there is no research showing any correlation between on-the-job performance and first impressions, many people remain unconvinced. If you’ve ever met or hired a person who makes a good first impression and is not a top performer, you have some proof of its inability to predict performance. If you’ve ever met or hired someone who doesn’t make a good first impression and is a top performer, you have all the proof you need. While a sample of two is insufficient to make the no correlation claim, it does suggest that controlling the impact of first impressions can increase the accuracy of the interview. It also can help when meeting anyone for the first time, whether at a business meeting, party, or first date.

The problem with first impressions is that those who make good ones are given the benefit of the doubt regarding competency. Those who are quiet, temporarily nervous, not natural interviewers or whose appearance is not up to expectations, are instantly assumed incompetent. The balance of the interview is then used to gather evidence to prove these initial false conclusions, or the meeting is cut short. The following tips will help minimize these types of self-induced hiring errors.

10 Simple Ideas on How to Minimize the Impact of First Impressions on Decision-making

  1. Wait 30 Minutes. Force yourself to delay any possible yes or no decision until you review the person’s work-history in-depth. As part of this look for the Achiever Pattern indicating the candidate is in the top 25% of his or her peer group.
  2. Do the Opposite of Your Natural Response. Note your initial reaction to the person and then reverse your normal response. If positive, become more cynical, seeking information where the person has under-performed. When negative, assume the person is fully-competent and seek out facts to prove this.
  3. Treat the Person as a Consultant. People who are considered experts in their field like doctors, lawyers and $500 per hour consultants, are treated with respect and assumed to be competent. Treat all candidates this way, regardless of how they look.
  4. Conduct a Panel Interview. Since they’re less personal and more business-like, a well-organized panel interview naturally minimizes the impact of first impressions.
  5. Conduct a Phone Screen Before the Onsite Interview. First impressions have less impact when the interviewer has already had a personal conversation with the candidate. It’s even better if the candidate has accomplished something important related to real job requirements.
  6. Ask More Questions About Team Skills. Ask everyone what teams they’ve been assigned to, how they got assigned to them, and how successful they were. If these teams are growing in size and importance, you’ll know if the person’s success is attributed to first impressions or leadership ability.
  7. Listen to the Judge. Collect all of the required evidence before making any yes/no decision. Once a decision is made, the rest of the interview is used to collect information to validate it.
  8. Determine if First Impressions Helped or Hindered Job Performance. Rather than being seduced by first impressions, seek out evidence to determine how it affected job performance. If first impressions are useful predictors, those with good ones should be better performers than everyone else.
  9. Measure First Impression at the End of the Interview. At the end of the interview, evaluate the candidate’s first impression objectively, when you’re not affected by it. Then compare this to your initial reaction to the candidate. You’ll soon know what triggers your first impression bias and, as a result, be able to more easily control it.
  10. Systemize It Out. It’s hard to fight human nature. While all of the above steps will help, creating a companywide system that ensures they’re all followed by everyone all of the time is essential.

Allowing first impressions to bias hiring decisions results in two classic hiring blunders. The first, hiring people who make great first impressions, but are not competent. The second, not hiring top performers who are temporarily nervous, or don’t meet your expectations of friendliness and appearance. You owe it to yourself, your company and everyone looking for a job to overcome the simplistic idea of deciding who’s good or bad on superficialities. All it takes is 30 minutes.

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What Makes a Great Workplace!

With the recent release of the “Best place to Work in Australia 2013” list by Business Review Weekly (BRW).  Here is an article published in the Chicago Times which lists 12 attributes that can help your business reach the top of the list. 

Read the full article here

What Makes a Great Workplace?

Chicago Daily Herald

July 23, 2013

Creating a great place to work is becoming more and more important as new generations enter the workforce with new priorities, values and goals for their career. Growth-oriented organizations will need to plan new ways to engage their employees in challenging, creative and worthwhile tasks. The Great Workplace Transformation, a book written by Tom Klobucher, founder and CEO of Thomas Interior Systems in Bloomingdale, IL, lays out 12 essential strategies for creating a great place to work in detail, but here’s a start:

1. Core values: Identify the organizations’ core values and talk about them frequently with customers and employees. These are the customer-focused values you will hire employees for … and fire employees for, if they consistently deviate from those values.

2. Creative workplace: Design and refine a creative work space. This will attract and retain creative problem solvers and people who care.

3. Human resource right fit: Put the right person in the right job. Use the personality tests at as a resource to help you accomplish this goal.

4. Understanding your employees: Give constant attention and understand the needs of the whole employee, as well as being intentional about learning their hopes and future career aspirations. The result is greater buy-in to the mission, deeper loyalty, and more intense commitment to the customer. Other needs could include flex time, shift swapping and extended leave when necessary.

5. Awards and recognition: Build public recognition for a job well done into the culture. Thank you cards and emails for colleagues (as well as for customers and vendors) need to become a part of daily life. These should reflect authentic gratitude for any and every job well done. “Most Valuable Player” awards promote an “all crew and no passenger” workplace philosophy, which ultimately serves the customer.

6. Collaborative environment: Support a truly collaborative workplace, both physically and emotionally. This kind of workplace design and interpersonal support promotes: problem solving, quality improvement, brainstorming, think tanks, and effective post-mortems when a project concludes.

7. Director of fun: Appoint someone as “Director of Fun.” Whether it’s a full-time position or an addition to someone’s current list of responsibilities isn’t as important as your team members seeing, and experiencing first hand, the positive experience they are supposed to be delivering to the customer. Find new reasons to celebrate and new ways to enhance enjoyment of the job!

8. Creative after-work events: Create after-work events that involve direct personal contact with customers. These kinds of events amount to a fun, collaborative team effort that improves all aspects of customer service. A few suggestions include: Bulls, Hawks, Cubs and Kane County Cougar games, as well as small group activities like golf, table games and picnics.

9. Community service events: Give something back to the community. Doing this as a group improves team cohesion, gives you a great PR opportunity, and helps customers understand your values. A few ideas to try: helping out with local homeless support groups, food pantries, PADS and adopting a needy family each holiday season.

10. A healthy ergonomics workplace: Ensure that each employee’s work space makes good ergonomic sense. This reduces stress, improves morale, and improves the quality of our interactions with customers (and everyone else)!

11. A learning organization: Invest in ongoing education and personal development for all employees. This pays off for everyone (Thomas University or Learning vs. Training).

12. Employee feedback and evaluation: Give employees regular feedback (recommended evaluation/review time: every six months). Evaluate them against your organization’s core values first and against performance metrics second.

Article End

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7 Surprising Truths about Body Language

The past 3 months has been a tumultuous time for Australian politics as we now have an ex Prime Minister returning to the captains chair.  During any time of political instability in any country, body language specialists return to the scene to provide subjective analysis on political leaders. An article on published back in October 2012 by Nick Morgan titled 7 Surprising Truths about Body Language, provides insight to the various interpretations of body language.  The original article can be found at the below link

Here is a copy of the article in full

7 Surprising Truths about Body Language

Thanks to TV shows like Lie to Me and so-called body language experts commenting on the candidates during the American election season, a number of misunderstandings about body language have become part of modern culture.  It’s time to clear the decks.  So here goes: 7 surprising truths about body language.

1.  Much of what the experts tell you about body language is wrong.  The biggest misconception perpetrated by many so-called experts is that specific gestures – of your hands, say – have specific meanings.  Rather, gestures are ambiguous.  They can mean many things.  If I cross my arms, I may be signaling my defensiveness, but I may also be cold, or simply tired and propping myself up with my arms – or just getting comfortable.  And I could be signaling all those things at once.  It’s possible to be simultaneously cold, tired, defensive, and desirous of comfort.

The misunderstanding comes from two sources.  First, the pressure on experts to sound definitive and give instant analyses for TV in an impatient world more interested in sound bites than truth.  Second, the history of the study of body language.  It began with what those of us in the field call “emblems”; those rare gestures that do have specific meanings, like the middle finger, the peace sign, the OK gesture, and so on.  As a result, it was natural to look at all the rest of gesturing with a bias toward specific meanings.  But the number of emblems in all cultures is quite small, and after that gestures don’t reliably signal specific meaning.

2.  The face is a poor place to start reading body language.   By the time most of us are adult, we’ve learned to mask our true feelings  — at least as they show up in our face – because we have to get along at work, at home, and in social settings.  So we pretend to be interested, we pretend to smile, we assume a bland expression when we’re actually peeved, and so on.

Of course, we’re not perfect at these polite deceptions.  We don’t always manage to stifle that yawn completely.  But for the most part, the face we present to the world is a polite mask that hides our true feelings.  And that’s a good thing, usually:  it helps us all get along.

3.  But the face does sometimes give away our strongest feelings.  You can learn to read what are called micro-expressions – sudden leakages of true emotion through the mask of the face – with some training.  These micro-expressions are fleeting – less than a second in duration – and it takes work to learn how to spot them.  And they typically only show up when we’re trying to hide a very strong feeling that is at odds with what we’re admitting to.  The expression of true feeling will suddenly and briefly break out across our face like a flash of lightning in the dark and be gone.

For more on learning how to read micro-expressions, look here. (I have no financial interest in the training, offered by Paul Ekman, who discovered micro-expressions and is one of the true greats in the field of body language.)

4.  Body language signals intent, not specific meaning.  What body language does convey, with pretty good accuracy, is our emotional intent.  In fact, brain research shows that whatever we’re feeling first shows up in our body, and only later (nanoseconds later) in our conscious minds.  So, if we’re hungry, or impatient, or angry, or happy, our bodies know first, and they will pretty reliably signal those feelings.  Learning to read body language, then, is a matter of learning to understand other people’s intents, not their specific conscious thoughts.

And while most of us our reasonably good at masking our feelings in our face, we’re not as good at disguising how we feel throughout the rest of our bodies.  That’s because our bodies know first.  By the time the conscious mind recognizes that anger, or that joy, it has already shown up in our bodies.  And that’s what you can learn to recognize and read.

5.  You’re much better at reading the body language of people you know than any expert.  The truly good news is, for people you know, you are already more expert than the experts at reading this intent.  Think about it.  You know already, unless you’re completely clueless, when your spouse is ticked off, or your child is bored, or your boss wants something done, now!  With people we know, we’ve already amassed many hours of study, and we know the signs.

Of course, even the people that we know best can deceive us, but not usually for long and not on the important stuff.

6.  To read body language accurately, don’t think about it.  As humans, we’re hard-wired to read other people’s emotions and intents.  We have mirror neurons in our brains that fire when our unconscious minds register an emotion in someone else.  We mirror that other person’s emotion so that we can share it and understand it.  This expertise developed on an evolutionary time scale and is an important part of our ability to survive as a species.  When we see fear, we react instantly, and unconsciously, in order to be ready to take quick action if necessary.

That unconscious expertise is your best ally in reading other people’s body language, because you already know what’s going on.  It’s just a matter of bringing that knowledge from your unconscious brain to your conscious mind in order to act on the information consciously.  So let your unconscious mind do the heavy lifting, and work instead on tuning in to your unconscious for reliable information about other people’s emotional intent.

How to get started?  Simply ask your unconscious mind, and wait for an answer.  You already know it; this is what people mean when they talk about “gut” or “instinct.”  It’s not magic, or the cosmos talking.   It’s your unconscious mind automatically registering the emotional temperature of everyone around you.  Just pay attention – listen to your gut – and your conscious mind will get it, too.  With practice, your abilities will quickly improve.

7.  You have 3 brains; 2 of them are good at reading body language.  Your conscious mind is poor at reading body language, because evolution pushed that chore down to your unconscious mind, which is much larger and faster and can handle the job in nanoseconds, reacting to danger long before your conscious mind could.  But you have a third “mind,” literally in your gut.  In fact, your gut has more neurons in it than a cat does in its head.  And that brain in your gut is wired to the unconscious mind in your head, so that when you become aware that you’re nervous, for example, that’s the end of a long process of your unconscious mind and your gut exchanging signals about that nervousness.  You do get butterflies in your stomach.  Your stomach is good at telling you if there’s danger or opportunity because it’s part of a complex sensing system with your unconscious mind (the one in your head) that is constantly scanning your surroundings and especially other people.

So start paying attention to your own expertise; that’s where the real body language insights will come from.

(end of article)

From a HR perspective, the following question arises.

How beneficial is body language reading as an indicator of performance, efficiency and effectiveness within your organisation?

Posted in Deception at interviews | Tagged , , ,


The decision for 2013 wage agreements has been released, here is an article for the decision as per FCB Group and link to the article here


The Minimum Wage Panel (“Panel”) has today handed down its fourth minimum wage decision which increased the National Minimum Wage, together with all Modern Award minimum rates of pay by 2.6%.

The effect of this increase will see the National Minimum Wage increase from 1 July 2013 to $622.20 per week, or $16.37 per hour.

Employers should also note that the minimum rates of pay within all Modern Awards will also increase, and it is important to note that minimum award rates of pay will go through the penultimate phase of transition from the first pay period on or after 1 July 2013.

What this means for you:

  1. Employers who pay above National Minimum Wage, or Modern Award rates of pay, are not obliged to increase their rates of pay but should make sure that they will not actually be underpaying employees once this increase is applied;
  2. Employers who pay their employees at the National Minimum Wage, or Modern Award rates of pay, will need to apply the increase in the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2013; and
  3. Employers who pay under an enterprise agreements (or transitional agreements) should ensure that those base rates are at least equal to or more than the respective increased minimum rates.

While the ACTU were asking for a $30 per week, or a 4.9% increase, the 2.6% increase more closely reflects a moderate increase expected by most parties. In line with the Federal Government’s submission, the increase does take into account “changes in living costs and the economic environment”.

In delivering the decision, the Panel noted their reasons for delivering a moderate increase included tension between economic and social considerations, GDP growth expected to ease, unemployment expected to rise, inflation expected to remain at about 2-3%, and the Superannuation increase being a moderating factor.

Posted in News & Awards | Tagged , , ,

Downsizing: The End or the Next Chapter?

Christopher Paterson from Alchemy CM, is facilitating our HR Forum Wednesday 15th May.  Here is some information regarding his session for those that can’t make it.

Managing survivors, their managers and their engagement.

Downsize planning is weighted to the front end, leading up to the change event itself and at the expense of the post change reality.  In all but a few cases, there is little planning or even thought dedicated to the experience of those remaining.  This paper discusses why most projects fail and how to drive staff engagement through to the next chapter for the business.

The Post-Change Reality

Change is hard, downsizing is harder.

HR teams focus on the staff members leaving.  This is not only the right thing to do, studies show that providing outplacement programs increases the engagement of the remaining staff (Aberdeen Group, 2011).

Then why do 75% of change programs fail?

John Kotter from Harvard Business School shows that one of the main reasons for change failure is declaring the project to be complete too early.  During a downsize, the ‘change event’ is only part of the process and we often see two groups being neglected in the planning and execution:

1. Survivors Remaining Staff

2. Managers Direct Line Managers with People Management responsibility

The Commercial Reality

So is it any wonder that the pain of the change event only results in greater challenges for the business moving forward.  Failing to support surviving staff and their managers quickly jumps from an HR issue to a commercial issue:

This is clearly demonstrated in the commercial research on downsizing events.

In a meta-analysis of 16 studies across over 2000 firms, not only was there a failure to achieve a financial result, the downsized businesses also failed to decrease costs, experienced a fall in productivity and a marginalised brand reputation (Gandolfini, 2008).

So what do the successful 25% do?

A Guide to Recommitment

The evidence and our own experience has taught us a thing or two about what works and what to avoid when navigating the challenging post-change environment.

Your Checklist

1)      Prepare for Post Change at the Start

2)      Managers are your Front Line

3)      Communicate Early and Often

4)      Provide Survivor Training

5)      Measure and Track Progress



Think about post-change at the start

Build your post change engagement initiatives and training into the upfront project plan. Prepare people early and get ahead of any negativity. When staff know that they are being supported, they are less likely to engage in destructive rumour and false information.


Managers are your front line

The overwhelming body of evidence clearly shows that an individual’s engagement at work is largely due to the relationship with their direct manager and the capability of this manager to lead. This is multiplied during and after a change event. Focus on specific change training for your managers including:

 Communicating change

 Push and Pull influencing styles

 Understanding the natural stages of change

 Coaching through change

Training should be practical, not theoretical.  Allowing managers to practice their learning in sessions significantly increases their application of these skills on the job.


Communicate Early & Often

Regardless of personality differences, the human brain dislikes uncertainty. This is magnified when the stakes are high; when personal income and careers are at stake.  Have a clear communication plan, scripts for all stakeholders and stick to it. Regular updates even to say that there is no update are better than a vacuum.

The message may not be pleasant, but the imagination is a powerful thing and people get consumed by nasty “what ifs” when we don’t communicate regularly.


Survivor Training

Remaining staff need to be given a bit of time to process the change and the tools to plan their approach. Survivor training gives them the knowledge and builds the skills they need to focus on what they can control and not get distracted by the world of things they can’t.

A little time here goes a long way in helping staff to refocus, reengage and recommit to their careers with the business.


Measure and track progress

Get a two way dialogue going to understand what people are thinking and feeling. A good diagnostic of the situation will allow you to identify what is working and focus on the key issues. Rather than assume or work with anecdotal evidence, get hard data through surveys, focus groups, interviews and track this over time.

Combining qualitative and quantitative data gives you the most complete picture.


Posted in Holiday Season Tips