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A man is hiring for an accounting position and is conducting interviews for each of the hopefuls. The first accountant walks in and starts to introduce himself.

Accountant 1: “I’m here for the accounting position.”

Boss: What’s 2+2?”

Accountant 1: “4.”

Boss: “Get out.”

Sad, disappointed, and a little confused, the accountant slowly leaves the office. Then, a second accountant comes in.

Accountant 2: “I’m here for the accounting position.”

Boss: “What’s 2+2?”

Accountant 2: “4.”

Boss: “Get out.”

Just as confused as the first accountant, the second accountant leaves thinking that if the boss is that stupid he doesn’t want to work there anyways. On the way out, a new accountant walks into the office.

Accountant 3: “Hi. I’m here for the accounting position.”

Boss: “What’s 2+2?”

Accountant 3: “Anything you want it to be.”

Boss: “You’re hired.”

Recently a phenomenon that’s become global and a big headache for companies is the “the great resignation”. Since April, a record number of US workers, the overwhelming majority in low-skilled jobs in the service sector, have quit, no longer concerned that they will struggle to find a new position. (ST, 10 Dec 2021)

Who is affected? Which sectors are affected? Types of jobs?

What is the cause of this great resignation?

What can we do to mitigate this?

When I say “we”, I’m referring to both companies, as well as career counsellors, government and even individuals in our job search.

Understanding the cause or reasons can help in the most important question, solution.

Traditionally, labor economist look at demand and supply conditions, say the economic recovery, and the short labor supply, and conclude that salaries should increase. This is true.

But is that the only perspective?

A very useful piece by Jeremy Engle to look at this Great Resignation as a discussion piece to brainstorm critical thinking in class which I’m using in my 3rd year Human Resource Management course.

Some have called covid-19 the “The Great Realisation” and the number of deaths and surreal happenings have pushed people to either an emotional meltdown or treasuring relationships more than status and significance in their career ladder.

A friend of mine, decided to move his family back to Canada, to be near his aging parents and help his young son enrol in a better education experience. Both him and his wife decided that they will put in their best efforts to make changes in their career.

Reflections

What are your thoughts on the Great Resignation?

What can companies do to help employees navigate this Great Realisation of work-life harmony?

How will this impact the Future of Work?

A recent HBR article dated 21 Sep 2021 proposed some retention measures, what are your thoughts on these measures? Do they resonate with you? Any that you might suggest instead?

“The Great Realisation” by Tom Foolery (aka Tomos Roberts)

“Tell me the one about the virus again, then I’ll go to bed”.

“But, my boy, you’re growing weary, sleepy thoughts about your head”.

“That one’s my favourite. Please, I promise, just once more”.

“Okay, snuggle down, my boy, but I know you all too well.

This story starts before then in a world I once would dwell”.

“It was a world of waste and wonder, of poverty and plenty,

Back before we understood why hindsight’s 2020

You see, the people came up with companies to trade across all lands

But they swelled and got much bigger than we ever could have planned

We always had our wants, but now, it got so quick

You could have anything you dreamed of, in a day and with a click

We noticed families had stopped talking, that’s not to say they never spoke

But the meaning must have melted and the work life balance broke

And the children’s eyes grew squarer and every toddler had a phone

They filtered out the imperfections, but amidst the noise, they felt alone.

And every day the skies grew thicker, ‘till you couldn’t see the stars,

So, we flew in planes to find them, while down below we filled our cars.

We drove around all day in circles, we’d forgotten how to run

We swopped the grass for tarmac, shrunk the parks ‘till there were none

We filled the sea with plastic because our waste was never capped

Until, each day when you went fishing, you’d pull them out already wrapped

And while we drank and smoked and gambled, our leaders taught us why

It’s best to not upset the lobbies, more convenient to die

But then in 2020, a new virus came our way,

The governments reacted and told us all to hide away

But while we were all hidden, amidst the fear and all the while,

The people dusted off their instincts, they remembered how to smile

They started clapping to say thank you and calling up their mums

And while the car keys gathered dust, they would look forward to their runs

And with the skies less full of voyagers, the earth began to breathe

And the beaches bore new wildlife that scuttled off into the seas

Some people started dancing, some were singing, some were baking

We’d grown so used to bad news, but some good news was in the making

And so when we found the cure and were allowed to go outside

We all preferred the world we found to the one we’d left behind

Old habits became extinct and they made way for the new

And every simple act of kindness was now given its due”

“But why did it take us so long to bring the people back together?”

“Well, sometimes you’ve got to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better

Now, lie down and dream of tomorrow and all the things that we can do

And who knows, if you dream hard enough, maybe some of them will come true

We now call it The Great Realisation and yes, since then, there have been many

But that’s the story of how it started and why hindsight’s 2020”

Today I threw away 30 years of namecards in my rolodex. I struggled as I contemplated if they will be useful.

30 years of contacts in your network if not kept in touch are not assets. Most are no longer in positions stated on the namecards.

On the way to the rubbish chute, surprisingly I felt lighter. Grateful for #Linkedin, a better way to keep in touch.

Let go of past hurts. Fixed mindsets. Old patterns of thinking for breathing space.

Is there anything you need to reinvest or let go?

*CORPORATE JOKE*

Agency: ” Sir, we found 3 candidates as per your requirements. How do you want their placements, sir?”

MD: “Put about 100 bricks in a closed room. Then send the candidates into the room and close the door, leave them alone and come back after a few hours and analyse the situation:

1. If they are counting the bricks, put them in Accounts department.

2. If they are recounting the bricks, put them in Auditing.

3. If they messed up the whole room with the bricks, put them in Engineering.

4. If they are arranging the bricks in some strange order, put them in Planning.

5. If they are throwing the bricks at each other, put them in Operations.

6. If they are sleeping, put them in Security.

7. If they broke the bricks into pieces, put them in Information Technology.

8. If they are sitting idle, put them in Human Resources.

9. If they say they have tried different combinations yet not a single brick has been moved, put them in Sales.

10. If they have already left for the day, Put them in Marketing.

11. If they are staring out of the window, put them in Strategic Planning.

And…

12. If they are talking to each other and not a single brick has been touched, Congratulate them and put them in Top Management.

(NB: Jokes I received. If you wrote these jokse, let me know and I will happily attribute you as source.)

Note to self

How useself are selection tools or profiling instruments in recruitment?

Recently some of my international MBA Students asked me about recommendations for recruiting in India. This set me about researching for dome resources to start them off.

How do you choose a consultant?
1. Start with a reputable firm in your market segment.

2. Like all services, it depends on your chemistry with the person, and a match between the firm’s skills, your skills and interest. The only way to find out, is to call and try.

Here are some recommendations, albeit not comprehensive.

ABC Consultants: Top Recruitment Services Company in India
https://www.abcconsultants.in/

Career Net

Randstad

Accord Group

Talent Mappers

Software:
3leads

Job Portals
https://www.naukri.com/

Other international firms like Adecco, Kelly Services, Manpower, Michael Page will also have offices in India.

Companies in India

Comments
How were your interactions with consultants in these firms?

Are there any, you can recommend to help me update this list?

Thank you for your feedback.

Generalist vs Specialist Skills. What skills are needed in the workplace? Which will help me advance in my career?

Specialisation is better

https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/career-advice/career-progression/specialists-vs-generalists

A saying goes: Jack of all trades, master of none.

Mastery of skills gives humans satisfaction. Specialists, with a deeper understanding of subject matter, can better spot and seize on emerging opportunities. Specialists may also have an easier time collaborating because it’s clearer how the work can be shared.

According to the Hays Asia Salary Guide 2019, 65 per cent of Singapore employers favour technical skills, like project management, over soft skills, like problem-solving, when hiring new employees. 

Division of labor and specialisation is a chief source of productivity gains using the example of factory assembly line. Output per worker increases in multiples; the factory becomes extremely efficient in producing items.

Should I specialize my career as a specialist or as a generalist such as consulting where I’m exposed to a variety of experiences and skills?

According to “structure” proponents, organizing by function allows for task specialization leading to process efficiencies and production consistency (no variations in the end product). https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-data-science-teams-need-generalists-not-specialists?referral=03759&cm_vc=rr_item_page.bottom

When is specialisation not so hot?

Specialisation increases coordination costs whereas Generalists are better at moving between functions. 

Specialisation may have its detractors, with some suggesting that it leads to the “dulling of talent where workers become ignorant and insular as their roles are confined to a few repetitive task”.

Specialization may provide process efficiencies, some say, but it is less likely to inspire workers.

Are some sectors more prone to specialisation skills, e.g. engineering, medical research or cyber security, u need specialist skills surely. But it’s good generalist skills that will get u to the top.

https://hbr.org/2018/07/when-generalists-are-better-than-specialists-and-vice-versa

Interestingly researchers Theodoridis found that generalists were “strongest in fields with a slower pace of change. Example, oil and gas, mining, it might be harder for specialists to come up with new ideas and identify new opportunities, while generalists may be able to find inspiration” connecting the dots from other areas.

If you’re a Manager, would you prefer to employ specialists or generalist?

In fields with a faster pace of change, eg quantum computers and gene editing, the researchers found that “generalists may struggle to stay up to date, while specialists can more easily make sense of new technical developments and opportunities as they arise.”

Research also discovered that generalist roles drive job satisfaction providing: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy in that they are not dependent on someone else for success. Mastery in that they know the business capability from end-to-end. And, purpose in direct connection to the impact on the business they’re making.

Generalists are more passionate about their work and making a big impact on the company.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnbaldoni/2020/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-its-not-personal-its-cultural/

Generalists =Mastery + Versatile + More tools in your toolbox.

Google’s Project Oxygen used internal company data to identify what makes a great manager. The list of traits of Google’s best managers revealed coaching, empowerment and inclusivity among the key skills for effective leadership. Tellingly, technical and specialist skills do not appear on this list. 

Read More

With an internal career platform where AI proactively recommends jobs to you based on skills, tenure, project work, rankings. No doubt, IBM will soon be trying to sell this career platform to other companies.

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Photo: Taken at a old postal town on the Nakasendo trail.

Employee centric or Big Brother?

MYCA—IBM’s internal career platform called My Career Advisor—no longer acts as a self serve system; instead the AI proactively recommends jobs to you based on skills, tenure, project work, rankings, and so on.

Does 95% accuracy mean self fulfilling prophecy?

Accurate by whose predictions? I will be quite hesitant to work in a company where my career is decided by a robot.

Sensing this, the AI no doubt will weed me out. Well, IBM is not going to be on my favourite list of great place to work.

If I want to keep my job in IBM (hypothetically), I will certainly say that I love whatever is happening. Employee engagement survey scores have seen an increase of 20% in IBM. Does one assume anonymity or alignment? The same AI that gives out the survey can now detect the unmotivated with greater accuracy. Is there a conflict of interest? What is HR’s role?

Will I want to buy this HR solutions which IBM may try to sell my company? Hmm, why not. It certainly is a powerful machine from a profit/ cost perspective.

I recently heard this exchange on a TED talk about machines and replacing workers.

Henry Ford was hosting the Union chief Walter Reuther at his Ford car assembly line.

Henry Ford II: Walter, how will you get those robots to pay your union dues?

Walter Reuther in reply: Henry, how will you get them to buy your cars?

Whether this exchange took place, Ford in his HR practice understood the need to motivate and stablise his workforce with a decent salary because it is a circular economy.

Employees who leave your company may be potential clients, customers or your adversary. Understand the ecosystem.

IBM’s Artificial Intelligence Strategy Is Fantastic, But AI Also Cut 30% Of Its HR Workforce

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2019/04/06/ibms-artificial-intelligence-strategy-is-fantastic-but-ai-also-cut-30-of-its-hr-workforce/

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Photo credit: himself in Tokyo, 2 April 2019

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What cause sakura to blossom?
Change in temperature. Ironically, the shock provokes the plant to give out its best bloosoms.

Citrus growers too understand this science of winterisation. Without the sudden drop and rise in temperature, there will be no lemons and oranges which need warm summers and mild winters.

Winterisation is to be feared and appreciated.

Why do we fear change? Should we?
Farmers know that plants need preconditioning and acclimatisation to the change or extreme shock will kill it.

In this season of exteme winds of AI, blockchain and machine learning, are you helping your employees acclimatise to the new environment.

Farmers sometimes water the soil of citrus plants during winter to help them tide over.

Your efforts will be rewarded. With beautiful blooms in Spring.