Who’s singing your praises? If it’s no one, you’ve got a problem (review of Brittany Hodak’s Creating Super Fans)

You’re tired of being a best kept secret.

You need to get the word out to drum up more business. More sales. More subscribers. More registrations and enrolments.

You’re convinced that the world will beat a path to your door once they get to know all about you.

Good luck with that.

Your problem isn’t a lack of awareness. Your problem is apathy.

“When I consult with new clients, they often tell me they have an awareness problem: not enough people know about their amazing brand and the wonderful products and services they sell,” says Brittany Hodak, an award-winning entrepreneur, founder of an entertainment start-up and author of Creating Superfans.

“This is sometimes the case, but much more often I find that lots of qualified prospects and leads are aware of them. Many of these people have even considered them before but didn’t convert.”

Here’s the hard truth. Your prospects and leads don’t care enough to buy whatever you’re selling. They’re apathetic in large part because they’re not hearing from your current and former customers. The people you’ve done business with aren’t singing your praises because your best kept secret isn’t actually the best.

You’ve left them underwhelmed, unimpressed and uninspired. “The product was fine; the service was okay. It was all very…forgettable. Ordinary. And so, when the time came to purchase again, they rolled the dice and tried another solution.”

No one raves to family, friends and strangers about a product or service that’s ordinary and forgettable.  And that silence is deadly when so many of our purchasing decisions are driven by reviews, recommendations and testimonials.

“If your customers aren’t telling their friends about you, you’re in trouble,” says Hodak. “You can’t afford to let your customers become numb, comfortably or otherwise. Apathy drives attrition and eats away at your profits. If you’re not paying attention, your customers can shrug and move on with their lives. Your customer always has other options.”

So what’s the cure for apathy? Superfans. These are the customers who create more customers for you because they love what you do. They’re incredibly loyal and very vocal.

“A superfan is a customer or stakeholder who is so delighted by their experience with a brand, product or service that they become an enthusiastic advocate,” says Hodak. “Superfandom is real, authentic enthusiasm from true supporters.”

You can’t buy superfans. You have to earn them.

And you do that by delivering outstanding personalized experiences that exceed expectations. “Find a way to create as many net positive experiences as possible. Can you pay an invoice early? Deliver something sooner than promised? Provide real-time updates before you’re even asked? Say ‘thank you’ with a handwritten note? Acknowledge someone’s contribution ni front of a group? Set the bar high and then systematically raise it with your actions.”

You also need to find a way to overlap your story with your customer’s story. “Stories accelerate the path to connection,” says Hodak.

“To connect your story with every customer’s story, you’ve got to understand the struggles that led them to this point, the transformation they’re hoping to undergo, the options in the customer’s minds that are competing with whatever you’re offering, any reservations they have about moving forward and whether you are the best solution to their problem.

“If you do your job correctly, your customers will talk about you (and, more importantly, get their friends listening) – it makes them feel a sense of ownership in your brand. Your story becomes part of their story.”

So if you’re tired of being a best kept secret, don’t jump to getting the word out. Instead, do a better job of being exceptional in a way that’ll win over the customers you have. Show them some serious love. Tell them your origin story, understand your customers’ stories and weave the stories together. Some of your customers are ready to be your biggest superfans.

Jay Robb serves as the communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Take the Cellophane Standoff and other ways to root out gender biases at work (review of You Should Smile More)

Your partner takes a month of parental leave and gets a Husband of the Year trophy and induction into the Great Guy Hall of Fame.

You take the other 11 months of leave and get interrogated by family, friends and coworkers.

Why aren’t you taking the full 12 months? Did you force your partner to take a month off? Are you comfortable putting work ahead of family? Will you stay home once your leave is up? Or at least work part-time?

Do you even need to take 11 months off? Can’t your partner spare more than a month? Are you comfortable putting family ahead of work? Aren’t you worried about losing out on promotions and being seen as less than fully committed?

And by the way, are you sure you’re not having twins? You’re absolutely huge.

“While companies can’t legally have policies that discriminate against pregnant women, the practice still happens,” say the five senior executives who wrote You Should Smile More. Dawn Hudson, Angelique Bellmer Krembs, Katie Lacey, Lori Tauber Marcus, Cie Nicholson and Mitzi Short – who call themselves the Band of Sisters – first met while working at Pepsi.

“Most women in the workplace recognize that despite laws to the contrary, pregnancy is something that can derail them at work. It was as if by getting pregnant they had been moved back to square one in their jobs. Indeed, many women believe that getting pregnant will unravel all the hard work they have done to convince their bosses and coworkers that they are valuable and reliable.”

If you’re the boss, don’t shy away from this topic. “Creating a culture that is supportive of pregnant women is part of your job,” say the authors.

For everyone else, we can do our part by avoiding and dispelling assumptions. “If you hear chatter about a colleague who is pregnant that suggests she’s now unreliable or uncommitted, call it out. Be a voice for challenging bad assumptions.

“And no tummy touching. At all. As they say in preschool, keep your hands to your own body.”

The authors call out dozens of gender biases in the workplace that don’t get flagged as issues or even noticed by men. “They are not ‘#MeToo’ moments. But they are not ‘nothing’ either. They are the particles that collect around us and create barriers to our careers. They are the walls that go up, one grain of sand at a time. They are the moments that slow-build until the unwelcome environment takes hold and women disengage.”

The authors draw on their own experiences to offer bias-busting strategies for women, leaders who want inclusive workplaces and witnesses who are ready to become allies.

Here’s a good test for your workplace. The authors call it the Cellophane Standoff.

Before the start of a meeting, put a cellophane-wrapped tray of cookies on the table. Watch what happens when your male colleagues wander in.

Do they unwrap and pass around the platter? Or do they stare at it and then look to you? Do they tear a hole in the cellophane to pull out a cookie for themselves? Or do they do nothing?

“The Cellophane Standoff is the unwavering obliviousness of our male colleagues when it comes to anything related to food services,” say the authors.

“Why focus on this rather benign behavior? After all, it’s not as if the men stand there and loudly demand a woman serve them. It’s more a matter of neglect. They’ll just avoid the chore rather than talk about who should handle it.

“We raise it because it’s part of a larger office phenomenon. It’s an example of the ways in which women are nudged towards doing the office housework.”

So it’s time for men to end the Cellophane Standoff and do their share of office housework. Don’t just unwrap the tray – be the one who buys and brings cookies to the meeting. And then encourage everyone around the table to join you in reading this essential how-to guide for dismantling gender biases in the workplace.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999

First and lasting impressions matter (review of Cindy McGovern’s Sell Yourself: How to Create, Live and Sell a Powerful Personal Brand)

Yovana Mendoza Ayres is either a cautionary tale in personal branding or another sign of the apocalypse.

Ayres was a social media influencer and raw vegan evangelist who called herself Rawvana. More than 1.3 million people followed Ayres on YouTube as she made vegan breakfast drinks and meals while wearing short-shorts and midriff-baring tank tops and reminding the world how she was living her best life.

But then Ayres committed the cardinal sin of walking into a restaurant and going off-brand. Someone posted a video of Rawvana eating fish. It was an entrée too far for Ayres’ faithful, and deeply invested, followers. They called her Fishvana and much, much worse.

Ayres posted a 33-minute video in her defense that only ramped up the backlash. So she quit social media for four months. She returned as Yovana, continuing to promote healthy living minus the veganism. While she’s rebuilt an audience in the hundreds of thousands, there are former fans who refuse to forgive, forget and move on with their lives.

It’s not only fish-eating social media influencers who go off-brand. Many us didn’t show up as our best selves in Zoom rooms during the pandemic. Bedhead, sweatshirts, never quite giving our full and undivided attention and routinely muting our mics and turning off cameras for extended periods of time became our pandemic brand.

“Your personal brand is how you behave, what you say and how you treat others,” says Cindy McGovern, author of Sell Yourself: How to Create, Live and Sell a Powerful Personal Brand. “It’s not only what you say about yourself, it’s what others think and say about you, based on how you behave and what you do.”

According to McGovern, we need to do three things with our personal brands.

We first need to put in the time and effort to create thoughtful, deliberate brands that are true to who we are and want to become. “The first step seems easier than it is, but because you are a complex, multifaceted person, your brand must also be complex and multifaceted. Like all things in life, your personal brand will be more successful – and so will you – if you spend time planning it. You can’t wing it. You have to intentionally create your brand or it might not stick.”

We then need to live our brand every day, without exception. “It’s hard work to live up to your brand every time you interact with someone, post something on social media or shoot off a quick text after having a couple cocktails or getting some unfortunate news.” Pay particular attention to what you’re saying on social media, especially if you’re forever yelling at clouds, picking fights, virtue signalling and trying to score likes at someone else’s expense. Think carefully if snarky, sanctimonious and bullying is really how you want to brand yourself.

Finally, we need to sell our brand whenever we’re presented with opportunities in our professional and personal lives. “It’s short-sighted to create a brand – even a great one – if you’re not going to sell it. That would be like plunking down a year’s salary on your dream car, but never driving it. Everyone talks about how important it is to ‘sell yourself’ but too many overlook the truly important world in that cliché – sell.”

It’s never too late to build or revisit our personal brands. This is especially true if you joined the Great Resignation or the quiet quit movement. To land your dream job, you’ll need to know how to create, live and sell the best, and 100 per cent authentic, version of yourself. You’ll likely need a new brand for a new career.

Personal branding can also help those of us who’ve passed our career peaks and have an unobstructed view of retirement on the near horizon. This is where branding turns into legacy. “All of us have a personal brand that we live and sell every day by the way we behave and treat others. And that is what will become our legacy. You get to choose.”

McGovern shows us how to make good choices whether we’re starting out, starting over or winding down.

This review first ran in the Sept. 10th edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

The one question you should (but probably won’t) ask a dream candidate (review of Talent by Tyler Cowen & Daniel Gross)

You just hit the jackpot and can’t believe your luck.

You’re interviewing a dream candidate who’s knocking it out of the park and checking every box when it comes to experience and education.

You’re ready to make an outsized job offer that’ll be impossible to refuse.

You may want to check in first with Tyler Cowen and Daniel Gross. They could save you from making an offer you’ll regret as your dream candidate turns into a nightmare.

Cowen is an economist and Gross is a venture capitalist. Together, they’ve studied the art and science of finding top talent.

They’d start by reminding you that if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.

They’d also want to know why someone as educated, experienced and accomplished as your dream candidate wants to work for you and your organization.

If you’re the industry leader and the best at what you do, the answer’s obvious. 

“It is different if you are from the middle or bottom tiers of your sector,” say the authors of Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives and Winners Around the World.

“In that case, not everyone will want to work with you, and perhaps most people won’t want to work with you, as they will be hoping for something better, whether realistically or not.

“If you are in this position, as many of us are, you need to think especially carefully about what is wrong with the people you are trying to hire. Why aren’t they already working somewhere much better? Why are they talking to you at all?

“Maybe they are totally lacking in self-confidence, or their personalities will turn out to be poison, or they plan on leaving after a year and they are just using you in the meantime.”

Also beware of the highly credentialed and supremely talented who are forever moving from job to job in a restless, unhappy search. “They are good enough to keep on getting hired, but still, most of the time you should avoid them,” say Cowen and Gross.

And finally, Cowen and Gross would tell you that you’re looking for a good match and “not some supposed vision of candidate perfection.”

If you’re running a start-up, small business or non-profit, look for undervalued talent. You can’t afford to pay a premium for the candidates that everyone’s chasing.

“Large companies can afford to overbid for the ‘obvious’ talent, but if you are in a smaller institution you might not be in a comparable position. These days, the top talents are paid what they are worth, and so there is a much stronger incentive to find quality talent that has not yet been identified as such.”

Even though it’s 2022 and we shouldn’t need to be told, Cowen and Gross recommend hiring talented women, minorities and people with disabilities. “Disability is a complex concept, the label probably is a bad one, and apparent disabilities can be correlated with some really good hires. Keep an open mind.”

Your search for talent will run smoother if you flush out what Cowen and Gross call the kludge and sludge that build up in overly bureaucratic hiring processes. 

“Virtually all of you are familiar with the standard bureaucratic interview setup. A bunch of people show up in a room, armed with scripted questions (and answers), often bored by the process and hoping for the best; they are trying to find someone who seems ‘good enough’ and capable of commanding consensus by being decent but most of all sufficiently unobjectionable.”

That decent and unobjectionable candidate likely lacks the creative spark needed to take your organization to a better place.

By delving into the research, Cowen and Gross will get you thinking in new ways about intelligence and personality and what to look for in potential new hires.

There’s also lots of practical advice. What to ask better interview questions? Try these. What are the open tabs on your internet browser? And how do you spend your time away from work. Studies show that our true personality’s revealed by what we do and don’t do during weekends and downtime.

Before making a job offer you might regret, let Cowen and Gross help you do a better job of finding overlooked and undervalued talent.

Jay Robb is the communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and spends his weekends reviewing business books for the Hamilton Spectator.

Lost a step at work? Prepare to jump (review of Strength to Strength by Arthur Brooks)

Brace yourself Gen Xers.

Our careers are about to peak, if they haven’t already. What follows once we’re past our prime is a swift and steep drop.

“When it comes to the enviable skills that you worked so hard to attain and that made you successful in your field, you can expect significant decline to come as soon as your thirties, or as late as your early fifties,” says Arthur C. Brooks, author of From Strength to Strength. “That’s the deal, and it’s not fun. Sorry.”

Brooks says we have three options. One’s bad, one’s sad and one’s our ticket to a new kind of success, greater happiness and a deeper purpose in life’s second half.

We can deny reality and rage against the inevitable.   This means working harder and faster, tempting fate with our health and hoping no one notices that we’ve lost a step.

This traps us in a vicious cycle where we’re “terrified of decline, dissatisfied with victories that come less and less frequently, hooked on the successes that are increasingly of the past, and isolated from others.”

Our second option is to give up and make peace with our slide into irrelevance. For a preview of where this leads, take four minutes and 20 seconds and listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days.

Or we can work up the courage to jump to what Brook calls the second curve where there’s a new strength waiting for us.

“If you choose door number three, congratulations,” says Brooks. “There’s a bright future ahead. But it requires a bunch of new skills and new way of thinking.”

In our younger years, it was fluid intelligence that fueled our career. It’s this intelligence that let us come up with new ideas, solve hard problems, learn quickly and focus hard.

As that intelligence fades, crystallized intelligence takes over and draws on our lifetime of knowledge and experiences.

“When you are young, you have raw smarts; when you are old, you have wisdom,” says Brooks. “When you are young, you can generate lots of facts; when you are old, you know what they mean and how to use them.”

So why are we so reluctant to jump? Brooks blames our addiction to success and our need to feel special. We’re not ready to give up the money, power, prestige and adulation.

“The symbols of your specialness have encrusted you like a ton of barnacles. Not only are these things incapable of bringing you any real satisfaction; they’re making you feel too heavy to jump to your next curve. You need to chip a bunch away.”

The trick is to redefine satisfaction. On life’s first curve, we believe that satisfaction equals continually getting what we want, success equals continually having more than others and failure equals having less.

There’s a different equation on the second curve. Satisfaction equals what we have divided by what we want. The key is to want less of what doesn’t matter.  Brooks recommends loving people rather than things. “To misplace your love is to invite frustration and futility – to get on the hedonistic treadmill and set it to ultra-fast.”

If you’ve hit the peak of your career, it’s time to gracefully step off that treadmill and put your crystallized intelligence to work on life’s second curve.   

 “No matter how you find your passion, early on, pursue it with a white-hot flame, dedicating it to the good of the world,” says Brooks. “But hold your success lightly – be ready to change as your abilities change. Devote the back half of your life to serving others with your wisdom. Get old sharing the things you believe are most important. Excellence is always its own reward, and this is how you can be most excellent as you age.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Getting out from under the social media influence (review of Gabrielle Bluestone’s Hype)

Who needs a business plan when easy money can be made with a little social media savvy and a whole lot of chutzpah.

In our post-truth and lonely world, there’s no shortage of easy marks online for scammers, grifters and fraud artists to overpromise and then shamelessly underdeliver or deliver nothing at all.

Nothing is what thousands of partygoers got when they flew to the Bahamas for the Fyre Festival back in 2017. There was no Instagram-gold weekend with supermodels and celebrities on a private island. Instead, they wound up stranded in a gravel pit with nowhere to sleep, no shelter from the sun and nothing to eat but cheese slice sandwiches. Meanwhile, Fyre Media CEO Billy McFarland was just offshore on a borrowed yacht living his best life thanks to other people’s money.

“Like most people, my first glimpse of the Fyre Festival was on Instagram,” says journalist Gabrielle Bluestone, who broke the story about the festival’s implosion in real time while working at VICE. “The slick commercial venture exploded onto America’s social media feeds in December of 2016, as hundreds of verified influencers – blue-check Instagram celebrities with tens of millions of combined followers – started posting the same ambiguous burnt sienna square, suggesting their fans #joinme by purchasing tickets to the mysterious event.

“The festival organizers who had hired the internet stars to promote the event were promising ticket buyers ‘two transformative weekends’ of fabulous luxury on a private island formerly owned by Pablo Escobar, where they’d be flown in on private jets, pampered by a dedicated wellness team and nourished with meals designed by celebrity chef Stephen Starr.”

Along with scamming thousands of ticket buyers, McFarland defrauded investors of $27.4 million. He’d eventually be charged with wire fraud and sentenced to six years in federal prison.

In her book Hype, Bluestone also takes a critical look at Insta-famous influencers like Danielle Bernstein and Caroline Calloway who fuel the hype machine.

Bernstein is a 20-something fashion influencer and founder of WeWoreWhat, an Instagram page with more than 2.5 million followers. She gets $15,000 per post to flog brands on her site.

“In a sense, she’s the version of me that I (and many other millennial women) could be if I weren’t too lazy to work out regularly, if I had an unlimited clothing budget, fashion sense and a general lack of shame around dancing in public,” says Bluestone.

“Calloway was someone who was clearly determined to become famous, but her goals didn’t appear to extend all that far beyond her follower count.” She pitched a mini-version of the Fyre Festival, inviting her 800,000-plus followers to sign up for cross-country $165 writing workshops, with the added bonus of handwritten notes in personalized journals, home-cooked salads and wildflower gardens to take home, which Bluestone says is “Influencer-speak for a bouquet of flowers in a mason jar.”

The pandemic may be making us more immune to hype and helping us remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Attention-seeking celebrities and affirmation-needy influencers who lounged in their McMansions or jetted off to parties and island vacations while telling us that we’re #inthistogether have come under increasing fire for being tone-deaf and self-absorbed. Once-faithful fans and followers who’ve been laid off, let go and holed up in studio apartments are pushing back, prompting tearful sorry / not sorry apologies from misunderstood influencers who seem too sad to even get out of bed.

“If any good can even be said to come of something like this pandemic, I think it was that it stripped away a lot of our everyday artifices,” says Bluestone. “And it turned a lot of cynical forgone conclusions into open-ended questions. What do we really need to survive in this world? To thrive? What kind of legacy are we leaving behind? What truly matters when every day is an emergency? Unfortunately, the celebrities did not get the memo.”

This review first ran in the April 24 edition of the Hamilton Spectator. Jay Robb serves as communications manager for McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton, Ontario and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.

Talk less and interact more with your online talks & events (review of Standout Virtual Events)

I was quick to register for a pair of free online conferences that featured four nights of very impressive people talking about very important issues.

But I never logged on.

Instead, I binge-watched Homeland with my wife and channeled my inner 80-year-old by working on a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

I’m Zoomed out. My attention span is shot. And the novelty of filling my pandemic days and nights with professional development webinars, workshops, talks, courses, summits and conferences is wearing off.

So how can you win over audiences like me when speaking and running virtual events for employees, customers and the general public?

David Meerman Scott and Michelle Manafy have some suggestions.

“The best virtual events reimagine what is possible rather than recreate what is familiar,” say the authors of Standout Virtual Events. You can’t simply move your in-person town hall or conference online. Hanging out in virtual lobbies and sitting through 45-minute keynotes will be a tough sell for Zoom-weary audiences.

“Virtual events are more like television than theatre. In a theatrical performance, the audience is present. Their feedback is immediate and palpable. You know right away whether your performance is resonating. You are on the big stage and have to play big and bold to connect with those in the back row.”

At a virtual event, every attendee has a front row seat. We want intimate conversations rather than performances. So look into the camera so you’re looking into our eyes.

“Speakers who are skilled at in-person events may not be skilled virtual speakers,” say Meerman Scott and Manafy. “If speakers play to an audience as they are used to doing in-person, rather than playing to the camera, they will not be as successful in delivering their messages and the entire event can suffer.”

We’ll also log off if you do nothing but talk at us. Passive experiences don’t work with virtual events. We expect to interact with you and each other.

Meerman Scott and Manafy recommend breaking your talk into a series of five to seven-minute segments interspersed with real-time polls, trivia contests, Q&A sessions, interviews with surprise guests, video clips and small group discussions in breakout rooms.

“If a speaker can do all of those things in 45 minutes, the talk will be quite different from an in-person talk but it is dynamic and engaging in a way that is ideal for a screen.”

If you’re organizing a virtual event, take the money you’ve saved on renting a venue and feeding and watering the audience and invest it in a skilled production team and host. Don’t saddle an intern or overworked executive assistant with the responsibility of running your virtual event.

A skilled host will bring out the best in camera-shy speakers and guide conversations that’ll hold our attention. “Journalists make terrific interviewers and many have experience in front of a camera,” say Meerman Scott and Manafy. “It will be critical to ensure that a panel moderator or interviewer for a fireside chat is highly comfortable with the subject matter, the medium and confident enough to lead the discussion if it lulls or heads off track.”

Meerman Scott and Manafy predict that we’ll be attending hybrid town halls, summits and conferences post-pandemic. Some of us will pay for the in-person experience while many others will opt to save time and money by logging in from work and home. The upside is that you’ll be reaching even bigger audiences.

So don’t keep postponing events until we can meet again in person. Start moving events online now and heed Meerman Scott and Manafy’s expert advice.

“The best virtual events are more than televised keynotes. They must go beyond the charismatic talking head. The best virtual events create a compelling and engaging digital experience. The key is that we need to use the power of the online medium rather than trying to recreate an offline experience.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton, has reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and never finished the 1,000 piece puzzle.

How to recruit & retain Gen Z as your Baby Boomer workers call it a career (review of Zconomy by Jason Dorsey & Denise Villa)

Want to win the next war for talent?

Fund scholarships, offer paid internships and help pay down the student loans of the freshly minted grads who’ll be replacing your retiring Baby Boomers.

Those moves will warm the hearts and win the loyalty of Generation Z. Born between 1996 and 2012, they’re financially prudent, debt averse and big savers. They watched their Gen X and Millennial parents get hammered by the Great Recession and buried in mortgage and student loan payments, credit card debt and home equity loans.

“The generation read the headlines of people losing jobs and houses, and certainly had a front-row seat to seeing many parents and adults lose their confidence,” say Jason Dorsey and Denise Villa, generational experts and authors of Zconomy.  Their book is based on more than 65 generational studies.

Expect Gen Z to be even more frugal once we get through the pandemic. Twenty-somethings have been among the first to get their hours cut, laid off or let go. The World Bank estimates the pandemic could cost 15-24-year-olds $10 trillion in lost income over their lifetimes.

Nearly 90 per cent of Gen Zers plan to go to college or university. Yet half of them aren’t willing to run up more than $10,000 in student loan debt. Nearly 30 per cent say they won’t want to take on any debt.

More than half say they’ll finance their education with scholarships and nearly 40 per cent say they’ll juggle work and school.

If helping to finance their postsecondary dreams is a recruitment tool, standing for something bigger than your products or services is one way to retain your Generation Z employees. “They want to know that their work is contributing to something bigger than the task at hand,” say Dorsey and Villa.

Equity, diversity and inclusion is table stakes for Gen Z. Declarations and noble intentions won’t impress them. They expect to join a diverse and inclusive workplace.   

If you’re the boss, drop the stiff and formal pontificating and go with candid, authentic and personal communications. Get comfortable talking on camera because 20-somethings would rather watch you on their smartphones then sit and suffer through an all-staff town hall. But know that they want your recognition for a job well done delivered in person.

Genuinely care about your Gen Z employees, mentor them, offer retirement matching (they’re already saving for their golden years) and invest in their professional development from day one.  Do this and Gen Z will be your best recruiters. They’ll go on social media and tell the world that you’re a great place to work. But they’ll also let everyone know if you treat people badly and you’re a lousy employer. Positive online reviews are essential because Generation Z looks for jobs the same way they shop.

Here’s the key takeaway for employers. Gen Z really wants to work and they’ll take whatever job you have if you just give them a chance. “They want to work hard,” say Dorsey and Villa. “Gen Z can make great employees. They want to work for a stable company (it’s true: they’re not all ditching traditional work for the gig economy). They don’t all want to be YouTube stars – many want actual jobs, and they want to grow within their company.”

Employers got caught off guard when Millennials joined the workforce. Dorsey and Villa have the research to help organizations get it right with Generation Z. “This generation is bringing a new worldview, talent and energy that can bring out the best in each of us. Yes, they are different. But in that difference is tremendous possibility if we take the time to understand them.”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton, has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and is the proud dad to two amazing Gen Zers.

Want your organization to thrive? Bureaucracy needs to die (review of Humanocracy)

Days can drag during the pandemic but the future’s arriving way ahead of schedule.

COVID-19 is accelerating changes in how we work, learn, shop and play. Trends that would’ve played out over years are happening within months.

While working from home is a hot topic, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini make a convincing argument for also rethinking how we work.  

The authors of Humanocracy say we need to seriously shrink our organizations’ Bureaucratic Mass Index.  

With a lower BMI, every job has the potential to be a good job.

Much of the work now being done by legions of well-paid administrators and managers could be transferred to frontline employees working in small, multifunctional and self-managing teams.

Turning low-skilled, dead-end jobs into get-ahead, automation-proof jobs would benefit individuals, organizations and our society as a whole.

And instead of wasting time, money and their careers on busywork, bureaucrats could be moved into jobs where they’d provide far greater value to their organization.

“Bureaucratic organizations are inertial, incremental and dispiriting,” say Hamel and Zanini. “In a bureaucracy, the power to initiate change is vested in a few senior leaders. When those at the top fall prey to denial, arrogance and nostalgia, as they often do, the organization falters.

“Worst of all, bureaucracies are soul crushing. Deprived of any real influence, employees disconnect emotionally from work. Initiative, creativity and daring – requisites for success in the creative economy – often get left at home.”

Bureaucratic organizations have timid goals, shun risk-taking, lumber along at a plodding speed, repress creativity, cramp autonomy, punish noncomformity and in return get tepid commitment from disengaged employees.

By comparison, a humanocracy maximizes everyone’s contribution. Organizations become as resilient, creative, innovative, adaptive, entrepreneurial and energetic as the people who work in them.   

“Rather than deskilling work, we need to upskill employees,” say Hamel and Zanini.

They profile humanocracy pioneers like U.S. steelmaker Nucor and Haier, the world’s largest appliance maker. These big companies show that it’s possible to have the benefits of bureaucracy – control, consistently and coordination – without the crippling costs of inflexibility, mediocrity and apathy.

“The experience of the post-bureaucratic rebels testifies to a single luminous truth: an organization has little to fear from the future, or its competitors, when it’s brimming with self-managing ‘micropreneurs’.”

If you work in a large organization, you already know the transition to humanocracy won’t be easy. Bureaucracies are fiercely defended. “People with power are typically reluctant to give it up, and often have the means to defend their prerogative. This is a serious impediment, since there’s no way to build a human-centric organization without flattening the pyramid.”

Hamel and Zanini’s book is a manifesto and manual for overcoming that impediment.

“Bureaucracy must die,” say Hamel and Zanini. “We can no longer afford its pernicious side effects. As humankind’s most deeply entrenched social technology, it will be hard to uproot, but that’s OK. You were put on this earth to do something significant, heroic even, and what could be more heroic than creating, at long last, organizations that are fully human?”

Jay Robb serves as communications manager with McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999.