Ted Lasso's Leadership Problem

If you are a super fan of the Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso like I am, then you are eagerly anticipating the launch of the third season on March 15th.  If you have not seen the show, please stop reading because there will be massive spoilers ahead and I strongly encourage you to watch the first two seasons before doing anything else with your life.

Photo by Emilio Garcia on Unsplash

Ted Lasso is a show that covers a broad range of genres, the obvious being sports, rom-com(munism), and a deep journey into personal growth and mental health.  It is also a great show about leadership and the workplace.  The show has struck a chord with a diverse audience, from professional footballers to people like me that are focused on leadership and workplace dynamics. 

Coach Lasso is the epitome of a servant leader as a coach.  He leads from the heart.  His primary focus is getting everyone around him to become the best version of themselves, and in the process, building a cohesive team that produces wins.  Ted is a complex person – who projects infectious enthusiasm, is perpetually optimistic, and most of all he believes in what he is doing.  He gets people to believe in the mission he’s trying to accomplish. 

He is the kind of boss/Coach we should all aspire to be, or work for, as the case may be.  It’s no wonder that people are drawn to him (both in the show and the show’s rabid fan base).  As Sam Obisanya said in the first season, “We’ll die for you, Coach!”  He is what is known as an inspirational leader. 

If Ted is such a great leader, what went wrong with his protégé Nate the Great? 

How did Nate become so disgruntled that he would leak to the press about Ted’s anxiety attacks, and leave for a competing team? 

I have some insights, based on what I see in my recruiting practice. 

Every day I have deep discussions with job seekers about what they are looking for in their next role with a new company.  Sometimes we hear stories from job seekers of working for tyrannical or grossly incompetent managers – and that is what first comes to mind when people think of horrible bosses. 

It’s much more common that people are ready to find a new role because they are suffering from what I’ve coined as “benign neglect.”  Benign neglect is when an otherwise good manager neglects the needs of their employees without any ill intentions.  It results from managers who might mean well but spend their time and resources elsewhere.

Benign neglect is very common with high-performing, intrinsically motivated, individuals.  Managers know their high performers don’t need a lot of handholding under normal circumstances.  With the added stresses of business during the pandemic, these managers had more faith in them to self-manage while working remotely. 

Time is always a limited resource, and it’s natural for managers to spend less of it on the employees that are squared away.  It is the intuitive choice for most managers.  It is also the wrong one.

It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, if the Pareto Principle is true, then managers should spend most of their time with the 20% of employees doing 80% of the work.  Great managers should spend their time working with their high-performers to be even more effective.  Instead, they spend all their time with their low-performers – concocting performance plans, additional training, and hands-on leadership trying to turn a C-player into a solid B-.  In the meantime, the A players carry on in a vacuum. 

They put up with it for a while, and then start to question why they do.  Then they will start looking for a new job where they might feel valued. 

One of the unfortunate hallmarks of high-performers is they will give very few indicators that they are unhappy in their work up until they blindside you with a resignation.  

At the end of Season 2, Nate the Great reveals (in a brief form of an exit interview) that felt he was angry more about being ignored by Ted than anything else.  

Ted’s actions, or rather inactions, are why Nate left the team.

Great television needs drama and conflict, and if Coach Lasso was a perfect individual, there would not be a show.  If this were a real-life situation, perhaps the outcomes would have been different if Ted had communicated to Nate that he had some personal issues going on and he needed Nate to step up and carry more of the load. 

A great employee will gladly do more if asked by a great boss.  He could have asked Coach Beard to be a mentor to Nate in how to be a good coach, beyond just understanding game strategy.  Coach Lasso spending 1:1 time with Nate more often (ideally daily) would have potentially kept the feeling of being unappreciated and ignored at bay. 

There’s no getting around it - great leaders find that time to spend with their employees – all their employees, even the ones working remotely.  Great leaders get to know their people “off the pitch” as well as on it.  They learn what motivates them. What they need to be successful, even if that means the space to fail and learn.  Great leaders are like great coaches – they push them to be the best version of themselves and the team is greater than the sum of individuals.

This kind of leadership produces not only happy employees.  Inspired teams produce results.    

On display on the wall of Coach Lasso’s office is Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.  Coach Wooden developed this formula as a young coach, completing it in 1948.  He also won 10 NCAA championships as the head coach of UCLA.  He was also famous for the deep relationships he built with his players – many of whom attributed to him as the reason they became successful in life. 

It’s clear that is the kind of coach Ted aspires to be.   

I can’t wait to see what kind of coach Nate turns out to be.  I suspect that Nate gets something of a comeuppance – since head coaches get all the blame for losses as well as the credit for the wins.  

I also hope he has redemption.  Because like Coach Lasso, I believe in people becoming the best version of themselves, and I think Nate can finally become Nate the Great.    

If you are a leader, coach, manager, or parent, I also suggest you take a hard look at your performance of late.  Are you guilty of benign neglect? 

When was the last time you spent quality time with the people on your team?  If you “don’t have the time” then is it because you are too busy with unimportant stuff?  That is a problem of priorities.  Or is it because you just don’t want to have the time?  That is a whole other bucket of problems to unpack.    

You can be the leader your people need.  As Ted would say, I believe in you. 

If you read this and identify with the high performers feeling neglected and have reached a point where you are ready to explore new career opportunities, then we’d like to hear from you. 

Alternatively, if you are climbing the pyramid of success and you need people for your team, we’d like to hear from you too, and discuss how we can help.  We have a lot of great people looking to work for great leaders. 

Thanks for reading and go Greyhounds!

The Rivet Group is a Veteran-owned Executive Search and Consulting Firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina.    

10 Warning Signs For Layoffs in 2022

Man leaving office.
Photo by Jornada Produtora on Unsplash

At The Rivet Group, we have worked with thousands of job seekers who have been part of a layoff.  Many were totally blindsided.  They showed up to work one day and their boss and HR were waiting for them.  And just like that, they found themselves out of work and their life upended.

If they had been looking, they should have seen the warning signs long before they were walked out…but for one reason or another, they were either not paying attention or didn’t know what to look for.  Here are ten of the more common red flags for you to be on the lookout for:

  1. A sudden interest in extreme cost cutting.  I call it “The Paperclip Memo.”  Someone very high up in the finance and accounting side of the organization, like the CFO, sends out an email about everyone pitching in to cut costs – even routine costs of doing business like printing and office supplies.  If the CFO is worried about how many paperclips and post-its the company is consuming, layoffs are imminent.  If you survive the layoffs, you’ll be doing 2-3 jobs with no increase in pay or pay raises next year.  Get out ASAP. 
  2. Perceptible decrease in revenue – less sales, less orders, less goods in, less customer traffic, new and able competitors taking market share, changes in consumer tastes, supply chain issues or product recalls.  We are currently seeing this in pandemic darlings like Shopify, Wayfair, and Peloton, or companies like Meta (Facebook’s parent) whose lunch is being eaten by Tik Tok. 
  3. An increase in unexplained visitors in suits – The appearance of strangers in suits is usually not a good sign.  They could be from the corporate office,  management consultants, auditors or investors.  If they are not introduced to anyone and there are lots of closed-door meetings, the company could be having financial problems, or is about to be sold. 
  4. Hiring freezes, even for positions that are vacant or have been approved and budgeted for.  Easier than layoffs, but sometimes just a band-aid.  At best, you’ll be tasked to get all the work done while being understaffed, or at worst, hiring freezes become hiring squeezes.    
  5. Decrease in communication or availability of your manager or other managers – frequent closed door meetings at the executive ranks, off-site meetings, avoiding employees.  Any change in normal patterns can mean that something is up – especially if your boss won’t look you in the eye.
  6. Equity events – Any changes in ownership or dramatic mergers or acquisitions (either acquiring, or being acquired) or changes in ownership.  Within 6-18 months, there is usually some “rightsizing,” especially with support functions like HR, IT and Accounting.  Sometimes companies looking to be sold will proactively reduce payroll to polish up the company balance sheet.  I once picked up a 40-person supply chain planning department that had been let go “out of the blue.”  Two months later, the company was acquired.
  7. Executives start leaving unexpectedly – They might have more information than you do and are leaving on their own terms, a luxury you might not get.  They might cover up the departure with platitudes like “leaving to pursue other interests” or “leaving to spend more time with family.”
  8. You start getting cut out of the loop – If you stop getting invited to meetings or ignored by the management team, it could be subconscious, or intentional.  Likewise if they start asking you to “cross train” someone else on your job functions.  This can be particularly acute if you are a remote employee.
  9. A new leadership team.  While not a given, a new CEO, especially one hired from outside the organization, can often purge one team to bring in people from their previous companies.  Do some digging and find out if they have a track record from their previous companies and were brought in to make changes – nicknames like “Axe-man Al” or “Chainsaw Mike” are usually deserved. 
  10. Changing macroeconomic conditions – things like a wide-spread economic recession or a downturn in your industry.  If the whole industry is hurting, your company probably is too.    There are other factors at play, like your employer’s financial position, but just because a company is sitting like a dragon on a hoard of gold doesn’t mean they won’t cut costs. 

If you start seeing the signs, there is no need to panic and jump overboard – you can make sure the lifeboat is stocked up, so to speak.  Refresh your resume & LinkedIn profiles, start reaching out to your network letting them know you may be on the market.  Make sure you have a couple of months’ savings in your war chest or consider paring back expenses on your own to weather out a protracted job search.  Let recruiters you have worked with in the past know you are on the market or build relationships with new ones.   

Remember, the best time to find a job is when you have one.  Unless there are substantial reasons hang in there (fat severance, stay bonuses, stock options that will vest if you are laid off) it is better to be proactive than reactive. 

At the Rivet Group, we specialize in direct-hire recruiting for growth companies, if you are ready to look for a better role and advance your career, we’d like to hear from you.  You can also find us on LinkedIn.

Happy 5th Anniversary To The Rivet Group

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

I’m celebrating the fifth anniversary of starting my company, The Rivet Group. 

All my life, I have struggled with not giving myself much, if any, time to reflect when I accomplish something.  I tend to zoom off to the next thing.  I was having coffee with one of my dear friends and she told me that a five-year anniversary for any business is kind of a big deal and challenged me to humble brag about it.  If you indulge me for a bit, I’ll tell you why I started this journey. 

When I set out to start my own recruiting shop, it was for a variety of personal and professional reasons. 

One of the primary drivers was to focus more on quality than quantity.  Recruiting agencies, like many sales organizations, are a numbers game: “Hire X recruiters to Interview Y number of candidates and throw them against Z number of searches and inevitably some of them will make placements and therefore money.” 

In that formula, the “ideal” client company for agency recruiters to work with are the ones who regularly churn through temps or employees with a high frequency that a recruiter can keep refilling, ideally after they made it past the guarantee period.  Get enough of those clients, I was told, and you can make a great living. 

I know that model is incredibly numbing to job seekers, who hate to be treated as “inventory” or “sold” on a bad opportunity.  Likewise, I heard from clients about the bad behavior of recruiting agencies.  Either slapping the hiring manager with dozens of marginally qualified candidates they scraped up or outright lying to everyone in the process to make that next placement.

I understand the activity math equation.  It has produced results for decades for the industry.  I felt like I had outgrown the model.  It just wasn’t for me. 

I started by out by targeting growing companies that had a lot to offer a candidate and were a great place to work.  I chose to avoid high-turnover companies that “eat their young.” 

Instead of talking to dozens of job seekers each week to pad my “inventory,” I chose to spend much more time finding a handful of exceptional candidates, or finding candidates genetically engineered to fit a role my client needs. 

So far, it’s been working.  I have a fill rate around 90%, in an industry where 25% is considered pretty good.  That is mainly due to limiting which clients I work with.  I work with a fraction of the candidates I used to, which is giving me more time to spend with each one, or and to be available if they need to discuss something about their search. 

I find that recruiters are often like plumbers or mechanics – generally off the radar until there is a problem that needs to be fixed.  But apparently what I do and how I do it does get noticed.  Most of my business at this point is referrals, which is an amazing compliment. 

The past five years have absolutely been a journey – and I hope to continue for many more. 

If you find yourself in the middle of a career crossroads and want to have a conversation, let me know.  If you are just ready to find a new job with a new employer, or are building a great team of your own, I can help with that too. 

Thanks for reading and here’s to many more years together.   

The Price of Loyalty

What is it really costing you to be a loyal employee?

In the past, many employees spent their entire careers at the same company. Company loyalty was expected and incentivized. Typically they started in an entry-level job in the mail room, the typing pool, or the factory floor. Over time, some could expect to work their way up into a management position and potentially retire out as a senior executive. Many employees could expect to do the same job at the same company for decades.

Over the past fifty years or so, many of the “golden handcuff” mechanisms to keep employees in place have faded away.  Pensions have given way to 401K’s or 403b’s.  Healthcare has become more of an employee’s responsibility, and with the enactment of the ACA, has become more portable.  Union membership, which generally encourage seniority and longevity, has been in decline as well.

Concurrent with the weakening of the traditional employee anchors, corporations have widely adopted layoffs as a quick cost-cutting measure, either in times of financial uncertainty or more cynically, so the CEO can goose the stock price prior to executing options. 

Employers still look for and expect loyalty from their employees, but often offer little reasons to stay.  From a career growth and compensation standpoint, there is a compelling argument to job hop. Changing companies every few years can have a significant lifetime impact on your career growth and your earning potential.

Here is a hypothetical example:

Steve and Terri were classmates at school, had the same major and GPA, and were hired by the same company when they graduated. Their starting salary was $45,000.

Two professionals looking at monitor
Photo by Desola Lanre-Ologun on Unsplash

Their company averages 3% pay raises per year. They also have rigid salary bands in place, and pay increases are smaller over time as employees approach the ceiling within the band. Internal promotions typically result in a 7-10% pay increase.

After two years, Terri left to take a promotion at another company – and got a 20% pay raise.

Steve stayed put.

Four years after they graduated, Steve was promoted to a higher grade and received a 7% pay raise. Terri took another promotion to another new company and was given a 15% pay raise. It was Terri’s first supervisory role.

Steve, ever the company man, was promoted internally again at year 10 and 18, receiving 7% and 10% raises. At year 10 he was promoted to be a supervisor and at year 18 to manager.  He was not yet eligible for his company’s bonus program.  He did get four weeks of PTO, however.

Terri, took continued her mercenary approach, and found another career opportunity and promotion at year 8 with a company willing to pay most of an executive MBA (almost $80k in tuition), along with a 12% pay raise.

Four years later, MBA in hand, she made another move to a director-level role that came with a whopping 30% raise and was eligible for an annual bonus at a target 20% of her salary.

She changed companies again at year 18, accepting a promotion to a vice president-level role, and along with a 20 % pay raise + 30% bonus target, she also began receiving annual allotments  of stock options of around $40,000 as part of her compensation.

After twenty years in the industry, Steve and Terri were at the mid-point in their careers. Three promotions later, Steve was a manager making $82,474 a year at the same employer. Terri, who was at her fifth company in twenty years was at $150,264 in salary, but also was receiving a bonus and long-term incentives in the form of stock options. At the mid-point in their careers, Terry had earned $963,906 than more than Steve – almost $1M in earnings.  

Breakdown of compensation and promotions for Steve and Terri, and how much loyalty could be costing Steve

In addition to much higher compensation, Terri has also moved into the executive ranks, has earned an MBA, which will make her increasingly competitive for future roles.

Assuming they each will work at another twenty years; the gap will continue to grow over time.

And that’s not including how much bigger her retirement accounts due to the magic of matching contributions and compounding interest.

Compensation for Steve & Terri

While I consider this exercise realistic, it does not take into account some other variables:

There is no guarantee that salaries will always go up. Like we discussed earlier, it is not only possible but likely that professionals these days will experience a layoff at least once in their career.  A job loss could mean settling for a new job with lower compensation.

Compensation is not the best benchmark for success. This hypothetical also ignores the fact that compensation does not correlate to job satisfaction or overall happiness. Steve might have loved every day of his job and be extremely happy in his work.  Terri might have been miserable.

That said, I strongly encourage professionals to take more control and ownership of their careers.

Corporations will be happy to have you in a role for as long as it suits them, not necessarily if it suits you or your career. If circumstances change and your services no longer become necessary, you will be let go, no matter how long or how much loyalty or ability to take one for the team. That may sound cynical, but I have had thousands of conversations with professionals who were surprised to find out they lost a game of musical chairs they did not know they were playing.

Here is the advice I share with the professionals we work with considering new roles:

Reasons to stay at your current company:

If you have these elements in your job, we recommend you stay put.

Reasons to leave:

If you are experiencing any of these – you should start exploring your options. Remember, the best time to find a job is when you have one.

If you are ready for a promotion or greater responsibility and do not have the opportunity at your current employer, consider shopping around.  The labor market is still strongly in favor of the employee.  You should target a 15-20% increase in salary (at a minimum) as well as negotiating for the same or more paid time off than you currently enjoy.

If you decide to relocate, you must also factor in cost of living. Moving to a higher cost of living or higher taxed state can easily wipe out any pay raises.  Moving to a lower cost of living might come with a pay cut, but an increase in real earnings.

If you are ready to explore new job opportunities or at least want to talk it over, we would like to get to know you and your career goals. We help many professionals each year take that next step in their careers. Let us know how we can help.

Talking to us just gets you on the radar for future opportunities – it is not a commitment to quit your job (until a better one comes along).

If you are not sure what you want to do next in your career, we have professional career coaches who can walk you through the process and help you find the right path forward. The time and effort can reap dividends for the rest of your career.

Let us know how we can help!

The Rivet Group is a Veteran-owned Executive Search, Consulting, and Coaching firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

10 Ways to Restart Your Resolutions

Time to get those forgotten resolutions back on track.

Three months have passed since we were able to put 2021 the past and wake up to a New Year, full of possibilities…if you are like most people, the “New Year, New You” resolutions were gone before the groundhog saw its shadow. 

As boxer Mike Tyson famously said, "Everyone has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth." If it’s any consolation, about 90% of people who set resolutions fail.  If your “New Year, New You” goals got derailed, you can reboot and restart right now, smarter, and with more chances of success. 

Trying to break old habits or setting new ones can be very, very difficult, especially when it is a dramatic departure from your current state.  One day builds on another, and another…good or bad.  Which is kind of the point, considering that today’s topic is about streaking.

I’m NOT talking about Will Ferrell’s scene in the movie ‘Old School’ where a drunken Frank the Tank tries to get a mass streaking event fails, miserably.

I’m talking about putting together your own streaks - consistently building one day of success after another – resulting in lasting, positive habits, breaking bad ones, or making gradual progress towards a personal or professional goal.

Screenshot of Apple Watch award.

Habits - both good and bad - tend to obey Newton’s first law of motion: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and a body at rest tends to stay at rest. The more you do them, the more momentum builds from “occasional” to an everyday event. Committed runners can attest to this. As can smokers.

Tracking your streaks is a way to build and reinforce positive habits or break bad ones.  The pandemic allowed both good and bad habits have flourished with some people. Here are a few examples from professionals we know:

“While working from home, I have started taking an hour at lunch to walk my dog while listening to audio books. In the past year, I have listened to over 50 audio books and lost 30 pounds. My dog has lost ten. Before the pandemic, I read maybe two or three books a year.”

“Drinking for me had always been a social activity, usually having a few glasses of wine with friends on the weekend. Over the past year, I started rewarding myself for another pandemic day the books with a glass of wine. One glass became two. Two became ‘I might as well finish the bottle.’ I was finding excuses to go to the store…to buy more wine.  I don’t know where the border is between a habit and an alcohol problem and didn’t want to find out.  I quit cold turkey.  It’s been six months since my last drop of alcohol. I miss it but am not going back.”

“I started journaling to help process the disaster that was 2020. On average, I take 5-10 minutes each day to write. I’ve done it every day for the past 400 days and it helps cope with the stress.”

“Since the pandemic started, making in-person sales calls has been impossible, and that was always my strength – so I switched to the phones to make sure I make 20 extra calls each day. I get a lot of voicemails, but the people I DO get on the phone are often just happy to have a real conversation. I’ve gained twenty new clients…all without having to leave the house.”

Building streaks can also help get you through inevitable droughts in motivation. For example, if you have gone on a walk every day for sixty days, and one day it’s cold and rainy and all you want to do is sit on the couch and eat cookie dough and binge-watch Netflix, the fear or regret of having to start your streak over your streak might be enough to go get it done, even if you don’t enjoy it that particular day.

Unless you are really public with your goals, nobody will know or care if you break your streak (unless we are talking about a substance abuse relapse, then I really hope you have someone who will care). If you do break your streak, you can always restart and try to beat your previous streak.  Try to get back on that horse as soon as possible before one day becomes two, then a week, and before you know it, it’s December 31st and you are telling yourself that this year will REALLY be the year for change. 

Here are ten recommendations to help get started successfully:

1. Set realistic & achievable goals. Losing 50 pounds, running a marathon, writing a book, or starting a new career might be great long-term goals.  But if you start with “I will lose 50 pounds” the sheer magnitude of your goal might be so intimidating you never get started.  While your end-state might be to lose 50 pounds, a great sub goal might be to start with “I’m going to lose three pounds over the next four weeks.” If you hit your sub-goal, then set a new one. Then a new one.  Before you know it, you have lost 50 pounds. 

2. Get support. It’s much easier to stick to a plan when you go with others.  Join accountability or support groups on Facebook or Reddit. Talk to your friends and family about your goals so they can support you and maybe join you on the journey.  Get a running buddy or sign up for a class with friends.  Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who will know and care when you start to slack off, sleep in, or fall back into old habits. 

3. Plan for success. Plan to remove as much friction keeping you from doing the thing you either want to achieve or stop doing. For example, purging your house of junk food, or going to bed early to exercise before work.

4. Pace yourself.  Most people try to do too much, all at once.   Incremental progress is better than no progress.  If you have not been to the gym in years, don’t go for three hours on the first day.  You end up painfully sore at best or get hurt, at worst. Instead of setting massive goals like reading or writing for three hours a day, try ten minutes. Even reading for ten minutes when the current streak is no minutes is 10 minutes more than you were doing. Progress might be slow but will build over time and ultimately be more sustainable.

5. Treat yourself. Positive reinforcement works – either in small treats like having a favorite show you only binge when on the treadmill, or for milestones like buying a new gym outfit when you hit 60 days, or new wardrobe.

6. Shoot for 21 days at first – studies show that the average for any activity to become a habit that sticks is 21 days.

7. Get back on the horse. Don’t give up if you break your streak. Start again as soon as possible. You’ll end up competing against yourself. Maybe that “sixty days in a row” becomes “61.” Don't wait until next New Years to try again.

8. Track your progress. Remember that what gets measured gets managed. Find something that works for you and will help keep you motivated. It might be as simple as putting a big “X” on a calendar for each day. Or use a spreadsheet or app to track everything from sales calls to “scales calls.” 

9. Use Cheat Days, Rest Days, or Deload Weeks (or go for 100%). Some habits will be much more successful if you program in a break – like having a weekly cheat meal to look forward to or having a guilt-free rest and recovery day, especially if you have been working hard (at the gym, or office).  Your rest day does not have to be completely inactive, take a walk, do some yoga or mobility exercises.   Professionally, it might be a day where you dedicate to training, networking, reading, or shadowing someone you are trying to become.  Keep in mind however, some habits, like smoking, do not allow for a “cheat day” so plan accordingly.   (See #7 above)

10. Get professional help. No matter what you are trying to accomplish, there are professionals out there that can help make the process easier and faster. The bigger the goal (“lose 100 pounds”) or problem (“I cannot stop drinking”) the better your chance of success will be if you get some professional help involved. Certified personal trainers, dieticians, doctors, therapists, counselors, coaches, etc. It will be worth the investment in time and money.

Speaking of money, keep in mind that self-help and self-improvement is a multi-billion-dollar industry.  There is no end to the books, podcasts, systems, programs, supplements, pins, tweets, groups, and videos all professing to have the solution for what you need.  Some programs are highly effective and backed by real science and experience.  Some might be someone honestly sharing “this is what worked for me.” Many are just there to take your money (even most gyms make money by not having paid members show up).

I subscribe to the philosophy that when everything else in your life is in balance, whether it’s personal relationships, physical health, creative endeavors, self-reflection, or learning new things and skills, your professional life will be much better as well. Your productivity will be off the charts if you are healthy, rested, and your brain is running in top form.

While I talked about mostly personal goals today, if you are finding yourself consistently out-of-balance, it it’s your job that is causing it, we can help.  I have a team of people that can coach you or help you need help either with professional coaching or find a better job.  Let us know!

If you found this post helpful, kindly consider sharing it so others can read it too.

Thanks for reading!

Everything has Changed - 10 Post-Pandemic Predictions for Workforce Management.

It was two years ago that everything about how we work changed, forever.

The “two-week COVID lockdown” transitioned to “we should be fine by summer” which in turn transitioned to “we’ll come back in the office once everyone is vaccinated” to the, well, “this is us, now” that will continue for some time.  Workforce Management has never been more complex or important than now.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst that has changed how we work and how we mange.  It has changed expectations of what work is, what employees are willing (and not willing) to do, and what they want to earn while doing it.  It has fundamentally changed the relationship between leaders and their people.  What worked in the past might not work now. 

I frequently have a conversation with clients – about what is next.  Many are struggling to reframe their expectations – and are still clinging to a pre-COVID mindset of everyone in the office all the time. 

Uncertainty can be scary.  Change is scary.  Rapid change more so.  I get that.  For the past two years, we have been sailing in the part of the chart that has sea monsters and dragons on it.  However, for organizations that take the lessons we have learned over the past two years to heart, there are massive opportunities to be had.  Here are my top 10 takeaways & predictions:


  1. Remote work is here to stay.  95% of workers who can do their jobs remotely report that they want to do their jobs from home at least some of the time.  Most would prefer a hybrid schedule with a few days in the office each week.  This is especially true of working parents – whose children have had just as tough time of it the past two years.  With big populations of the workforce aging out, being able to attract and retain younger workers is critical.  Remote or hybrid-work is a benefit employers can provide (for free) that is at the top of every job seeker’s wish list right now.  Taken further, hiring remote workers opens the talent pool up to a national level.  Your next director of marketing, for example, might be an absolute all-star, but you will not have to pay to relocate them and they can stay put in the city or town where they currently live. 
  2. Employees expect to be trusted to do their jobs.  Before the pandemic, management push-back against remote work was nothing would get done.  Workers now have a track record of getting their jobs done – often under extraordinary circumstances, and very little supervision.  Telling them they now need to be observed in the office ever day is telling them they are no longer trusted to do their jobs as they see fit.  Leaders adapting to outcome-based results vs. time in the office has been hard but worth it.
  3. Knowing how to lead a remote & hybrid team will be a valuable skill set moving forward.  Dispersed teams are not a new phenomenon.  Leaders who can do this well will be able to write their own ticket.  Not being able to adapt will make organizations question the value of certain managers. 
  4. Some executives will fail.  The simple fact is that many of the management paradigms enjoyed by executives no longer work.  Adaptation can be very hard, especially when you have been doing things “the old way” for decades.  How do you do “management by walking around” when there is nobody in the office?  How do you have an open-door policy when only a third of the office is in on any given day?  I can tell you this – just “returning back to normal” will not work, especially because COVID is expected to be a part of our reality for the foreseeable future.  Recently, one investment bank found out the hard way when only half of their bankers showed up to “mandatory back in the office” rolled around. 
  5. Compensation will continue to rise – particularly for in-demand jobs.  Demand in areas like ecommerce or technology has increased.  The voracious appetite for tech workers continues and big companies like Google and Apple are building a network of offices centers across the country.  Where those offices land, they will bring higher wages than the markets surrounding them, which will also add pressure to increase wages.  Costs traditionally felt by younger workers have increased exponentially.  Education, healthcare, housing, transportation, childcare have made it necessary for workers to seek out higher wages, or lower costs of living, despite potentially being happy where they are.  Demographic shifts as Boomers retire will continue to reduce the labor pool.  Likewise, dysfunctional immigration system does not allow skilled labor to help much. 
  6. Camaraderie needs to be aggressively curated and encouraged.  The biggest (valid) criticism for remote work is that it’s hard to build team cohesion.  Even little interactions in the break room between coworkers in different departments or lunch with colleagues are hard to come by.  Turning dispersed teams into a cohesive one will be a big challenge moving forward.  But the benefits of remote work outweigh the negatives by a significant margin. 
  7. Gen Z Will have a tough transition.  For younger employees, starting a fully-remote job straight out of school can be a challenge.  How will they learn how to do their job well?  How will they build the social capital internal to the company that can help them get their career started?  Managers will have to be very intentional in how they train and interact with new employees.  It will take a lot more work for leaders.
  8. Labor laws will take years to catch up.  Before the pandemic, it was much easier to manage an in-person workforce – they showed up and “clocked in.”  Now, there is much more ambiguity surrounding working hours, and what is considered paid and unpaid time.  One surprising impact of the remote workforce was higher rates of burnout, with many employees using their regained commute time to start working earlier and stay working later.  European countries tend to be more progressive in labor laws than the US and several have enacted laws limiting activities like email after hours or managers contacting employees.  I would not expect new laws getting passed in the US, but there could be rule changes that will change guidelines.  The savvy move is for managers (and HR, as referees) to treat their teams like professional athletes – making sure they are healthy and able to play for a full season, not burn out after a year and quit.
  9. The office will continue to change.  Many companies are making significant changes to their office footprint.  Less space overall but more space in what’s left to social distance.  More meeting spaces.  Better ventilation.  More day-desks and less assigned spaces.  Cubicles making a comeback.  Open floor plans less so.  Some companies have done away with their expensive leases altogether. 
  10. A boom in solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, and startups will accelerate.  A lot of workers have been “outside the matrix” of the office for so long that they have begun to reevaluate their career goals.  For some, they have an idea they want to turn into a business.  For others, they want the freedom to set their own schedule, or be available for their families, or not sacrifice their physical & mental health so their CEO can earn their $22 million compensation.  Whatever the reasons, new company formation has exploded in the past 24 months.  I see that trend continuing.

The future of work is constantly evolving – and the pandemic accelerated that in ways we are only just beginning to understand.  I’m sure there will be many unforeseen consequences, both good and bad, that will come up as we move forward. 

Workforce Management in the best of times is a very complex topic – if your organization is struggling to wrap their head around it, let me know if I can help.  I’m always down to have a conversation.  Lets work through it together. 

The Rivet Group is a recruiting and consulting firm that focuses on placing world-class leaders with mid-sized organizations.

Improve Employee Engagement and Avoid Groundhog Day with these 10 Steps.

Groundhog looking for his shadow.
Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

Today is a great day to recognize a classic film about engaged employees and personal growth. If you have not seen Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day, you should. Bill Murray plays an obnoxious weatherman named Phil Connors who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the annual rite of Groundhog Day.

Even before he goes, he's over it. He gets trapped in a time loop and keeps waking up to re-live the same February 2nd while retaining all his memories from his previous run-through of the day. Phil then goes on a hero’s journey to find the worst, then finally the best, version of himself, no matter how long it takes (Phil is stuck in February 2nd for somewhere between 40 and 10,000 years).

As we turn the corner on the 3rd year of the pandemic, the feeling that we are all stuck in our own time loop is acute. Especially if you are working from home and have to find excuses to leave the house.

As a headhunter, many of the jobseekers we talk to are looking for a new jobs because they are stuck in their own personal Groundhog Day…a repeating loop of days with little prospect for change or challenge. They might have the best boss, and work with a great company, but are terminally bored. Some see no upward mobility until their boss retires in ten years. Others are stuck in a "too important to move" role and as such will not consider letting they try new things.

Let’s be honest. Few employees, especially best and brightest, will not be happy with the status quo year after year. This can lead to disengagement, AKA "going through the motions."

A disengaged workforce will see reduced innovation, lost revenue, increased costs and safety issues, and excessive turnover. The consequences to an organization can get very expensive, very quickly.

Employee engagement is a complex and moving target – and should be a strategic priority for any company. As a leader, you unquestionably make the largest impact on engagement for your team. While you might not be able to influence what your company does as a while, you can take responsibility for your team. Here are ten strategies you can use to reduce Groundhog Day in your workplace:

1. Have an employee review process that involves asking your employees what their career goals are. Some might be perfectly happy where they are. Others might want to be groomed for bigger roles. You cannot help them get there if you don’t know where they want to go.

2. Offer formal and informal training. The broader your employees’ skill set, the better the organization will function, and the more engaged your team will be. Give them company time to train, put it on the calendar, and stick to it. Avoid the temptation to cancel training because "we are busy." You will always be busy. If professional development is left to “when we have time” there will never be a time. There are many cheap and free resources you can access to train and develop employees. Consider more intensive off-site training for new managers or other mission-critical skills.

3. Cross-training and shadowing-days. Invite people from different departments to spend time outside their normal work group. For example - have Finance, Operations, or Engineering go in the field with Sales to meet your customers. Have HR pull a shift in the warehouse over the weekend. Have accounting spend a day with the design team. It gives new perspectives on how all the pieces of your organization fit together and strengthens internal teams. This is even more important with remote employees to feel engaged with other departments.

4. Keep promises. If your receptionist expresses interest in moving into a customer service and has the potential to learn the job, set them on a path that makes that happen. If your Director of Logistics is chomping at the bit for new challenges and has no room to move up, consider a lateral into another functional area where they can continue to grow. Whatever you agree to, set a plan and make it happen. We get calls all the time from employees who have experienced broken promises.

5. Get creative with job responsibilities or titles. Take advantage of your talent. It’s OK to create new titles or types of positions where everyone wins. For example, a client had an extremely talented engineer not interested in becoming a manager. To keep her engaged, they created a role of a “super engineer” and only assigned her the most complicated projects and gave her mentorship assignments over junior engineers. She was able to progress in her career without moving into a management role.

6. Offer extracurricular activities. Volunteer opportunities, sports teams, mentorships, attending trade shows, fitness classes, or other activities to flex different muscles and parts of the brain than the normal work day offers. It can break up the monotony of work-rest-repeat and build relationships.

7. Reward and celebrate success. Ship more units in one day than ever before? Close a big account? Get a great review by a customer? Record sales month? Celebrate your wins on a company, team, or individual basis. Don't just pay bonuses to the executives or dividends to the share holders. I talk to many candidates whose companies who focus only on the losses and ignore the wins. Why do you think they are looking for a new job?

8. Allow room for creativity. The best suggestions never come from the corner office. Give your employees a mechanism to suggest improvements in how you do business, how they could do their job better, where the choke points or failure points are, let them try new ways of doing things, or running with projects that might be outside their job title.

9. Have fun. There is no rule that says work has to be a grind. Your employees devote over half of their waking hours to you. Make it fun. Even if the job is difficult or unpleasant, you can find ways to have fun. Take the job, but not necessarily each other, so seriously.

10. Set them free. If you have a great employee and what they want or need is not what can provide, it’s OK to let them move on. Thank them for their service to your organization. Don’t take it personally (unless you are the reason they are leaving). Better yet, find a bigger role at a supplier or customer. What kind of relationship with a customer do you think you’ll have if you send them an A+ employee with a glowing recommendation?

Keeping great employees engaged should be top priority for every company.

It’s not a coincidence that the companies with the best employee engagement are more profitable and more successful than their peers. They attract better talent and keep them for longer.

On a personal basis, as a leader, your job will get easier and easier and you will find greater success the more engaged your team is. Want to learn more?

Here are some good resources:

Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable About Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery - Patrick Lencioni

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action - Simon Sinek

1001 Ways to Energize Employees - Bob Nelson, Ph.D.

Do you have tips that have worked for you to engage and motivate your team? Let me know in the comments or shoot an email to edvoelsing@rivetgroupllc.com. I love connecting with exceptional leaders and helping their team and career grow.

Like what you read? Kindly like and share to your networks. Thanks for reading!

#Leadership #management #employeeengagement #Teamwork #Productivity

13 + Essential Tips on How to Video Interview Like a Pro and Get Hired

How to video interview and get hired for the job you want like a pro takes time, preparation and practice. Here are some tips to show you how.

How to Video Interview
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Before the pandemic, video interviews were something of a rarity. Job seekers could expect a phone interview or two, followed up with an in-person interview. Now many companies are conducting the entire interview process from initial screening to onboarding using videos. With the rise in user-friendly platforms like Zoom, they could be here to stay. As a job seeker, you should expect that you will encounter a video interview during your search and prepare for them long before you have one on your calendar.

How to Video Interview like a Pro

In addition to the normal preparations you should do for an interview - like company research and practice interviews - video interviews have additional items you must address. Some of which are obvious, and some more subtle:

Your Environment:

  1. The background should not be distracting and should be professional. Do not have a bed behind you under any circumstances – that is weird. You can use your background to flex if feel you need to (diplomas, military memorabilia, etc.) but you don’t need to overthink it. I am also a fan of a bit of personality, but not going over the top on anything. If you need examples, you can check out the Twitter account: Room Rater. There are plenty of professional-looking virtual backgrounds you can use if you must, but the opportunity for them to either distract the audience or to have a technical glitch is real enough that I would go without if you can.
  2. Your interview should be conducted in a quiet setting. Try to minimize any external background noise: pets, kids, neighbors, traffic, leaf blowers, etc. Try to make the space acoustically flat so there are no echoes. If your “Zoom Room” has bare floors and walls, it will echo a bit. You can add rugs and drapes for a more permanent fix or bring in blankets, quilts or anything that will absorb sound.
  3. The lighting should be plentiful and as natural as possible. Try to avoid shadows across your face. Typical fluorescent lighting can make you look like a cadaver, so consider incandescent or LED bulbs that cast a natural light. Cart in a couple extra lamps from another room if need be or even consider buying lights specific to the task. Thanks to the unfortunate rise in social media influencers, there are thousands of cheap options for “video lights” on Amazon but I would not go out and buy one for just one interview.
Photo by Croissant on Unsplash

Your Technology:

  1. There are dozens of video chat platforms but Zoom, Skype, and Teams are the most common. They are usually accessed via a website or an app that you can download to a phone, tablet, or laptop and are free to use. My personal preference for video interviews is my laptop, which allows me to use the integrated camera and microphone. Since I have a second screen setup, I can put a resume or other relevant documents on the second screen. If you use a mobile device, consider a tripod or something to prop it up on so you don’t have to hold it the whole time.
  2. Practice. Do not wait until ten minutes before you interview to download and install the program you will be using. Practice using basic controls such as logging in, muting and unmuting your microphone, and switching between speaker and gallery views. Don’t get fancy with the settings. One of the best moments of 2021 was the “Lawyer Cat” incident where a lawyer accidentally had a kitten filter on instead of his face that he could not figure out how to turn off. Like it or not, your ability to handle the technology will be graded in the interview – especially for job seekers “of a certain age” like the lawyer in the video.
  3. Your internet connection is important – if you are using Wi-fi, make sure you have adequate bandwidth to have a good connection. If need be, turn off any unnecessary streaming on your network (Netflix, gaming, music, etc.) to conserve bandwidth. Or you can go old-school and hardline directly into the router. If you have unreliable internet service at home, it would be better to request a phone interview than to sit in the Starbucks parking lot.
  4. Headphones are OK, but my preference is for subtle, unobtrusive ones like earbuds, not the noise-cancelling gaming headphones you use to play Call of Duty with your friends. That can be too distracting.
  5. Backups.  Hopefully everything goes smoothly – but sometimes no matter how much you prepare, there can be a glitch.  How you react will be judged.  Don’t freak out – work to solve the problem.  If it’s audio, dial in to the meeting using your phone.  If it’s video, offer to continue via audio. 

Other considerations:

  1. Dress for success. Wear business attire unless specifically told not to. That means a jacket and tie for men and formal business attire for women. While pants have become optional in the Zoom era, I would HIGHLY encourage you to dress as if you were in person, lest you forget you are wearing sweat pants and somehow get caught on camera in them.
  2. Eye contact takes practice. Because the camera is usually a few inches higher than the screen, making eye contact is hard. You faced with a choice to either looking at the camera and looking at the interviewer(s) on your screen. It can take some practice to make it natural.
  3. Camera height and distance matters. Looking down at the camera can give you an unflattering double-chin situation. Consider putting your device up on a box or a stack of books to raise the camera height. Practice finding the Goldilocks distance between you and the camera. Too far away, and you will be out of reach of the microphone. Too close and the viewers can count your nose hairs.
  4. Body language is not easy. I find it easier to focus on the person’s words & intonation easier over the phone than in a video interview. Likewise, when in-person, it is easier to read people’s body language. When you only get the person’s head and shoulders, you lose some of that. If they stop looking at the camera, they could be taking notes or losing focus and returning a text or checking email.
  5. Hide self-view…or not. Many people find it easier to hide their own face on a video call – so you can focus on the people you are talking to, not worrying about how you look. Some people prefer to see themselves so they can check how they are being perceived – friendly, serious, intelligent, etc. Practice either way to find your preference.
Photo by Good Faces on Unsplash

For the Interviewers:

If you are one of the people doing the interviewing, either hiring manager, human resources, or other stakeholder, there are some other things you need to be mindful of as well.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Dress professionally. You might be fully capable of doing your job while in casual clothing and bed-head on a normal work-from-home day, but for the interview, make an effort. You will be representing your company in the interview and it shows respect to the prospective employee.
  2. The same Zoom Room and technology considerations that apply to candidates apply to you too. It might not be your corporate office, but you are representing your company.  Try to be as professional as possible. 
  3. Limit participants to no more than three. If there are ten people that have a say in the hiring process (which is about seven too many, in my opinion) getting all ten involved in one video interview will probably overwhelm the candidate and result in a bad interview. Better to schedule a few interviews (preferably over 1-2 business days) than one big inquisition.
  4. Embrace the flexibility. Video interviews can allow you to do them outside of normal business hours as the office doesn’t have to be open. Consider scheduling in the evening or even weekends if the job seekers are still employed. For what it’s worth, candidates that are already working from home should have an easier time scheduling an interview  – but be mindful that can put them in the morally-dubious position of stealing company time when they are supposed to be working, especially if they are hourly or billable.
  5. Consider opening the candidate pool nationally.  Flying a candidate in for all but final interviews will be a thing of the past. Non-local candidates can be vetted via video interviews for a fraction of the time and expense.  For that matter, if a position can be there is a strong argument to be open to a remote employee for a position.  This can save the expense of having to relocate candidates, especially for highly in-demand skill-sets or for companies in high cost of living areas or areas that struggle to recruit people.  (Looking at you, North Dakota.)
  6. Have empathy. This is the most important thing you can do.  Imagine if you were trying to find a job in the middle of the pandemic and how stressful that must be. Video interviews are a highly artificial and often uncontrolled environment. Not everyone has a private office they can go to. There might be interruptions from young kids or pets. None of those distractions should detract from the ability of a candidate to do the job you are interviewing them for. Give them points for doing their best and do not take points off if things go off the rails a little bit.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Companies and candidates have adapted remarkably well during the pandemic, and while not ideal, the alternatives right now are worse – either leaving jobs open, or job seekers unemployed for the duration. It can be done well.

If you need help figuring out how to do it well, let us know.

Video interviews are most likely here to stay, so let’s make the most of it.

Thanks for reading!

Ed Voelsing is a Navy Veteran with 20 years of recruiting experience.  The Rivet Group is an executive search firm that works with companies to fill their key positions – the rivets that hold it all together. If you are a job seeker or looking to add to your team, let us know how we can help.