Mon, 31 October 2016
Bruce Poon Tip is the founder of G Adventures, the largest adventure company in the world. The company is now 25 years old and today people from 160 countries book trips with G Adventures. He is also the author of Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business and Do Big Small Things.
G Adventures has a very different business model than any other travel company. Most travel companies offer customers a luxurious experience with the modern amenities of home. Today at least 75% of holidays are all inclusive and take place on a cruise ship or at a compound. Poon Tip believes that the travel experience should be different.
Poon Tip believes that if people want the comforts and amenities of home while they travel, then they should probably just stay home. He believes that traveling the world is about the experience of immersing yourself in another culture and truly seeing how other people live. His company not only gives customers an honest experience, but it also benefits locals in countries around the world.
According to Poon Tip traveling is the “greatest form of wealth distribution”. People are always traveling to poor countries, but instead of putting their money into the local government and people they are giving their money to hotel chains and cruise lines. G Adventures remedies this issue. When people travel with G Adventures they are going to have the chance to shop at local vendors, stay in local hotels and eat at local taverns and restaurants in order to build up the local economy.
G Adventures has a lot of different types of trips (over 700 to be exact). One type is local living. It allows people to travel to Africa and stay with a nomadic tribe, travel to Iceland and stay with a local family on their farm, travel and stay with locals in a small village in Italy. They also have projects in various countries that are helping locals achieve a better quality of life. One example of this is a cooking class G Adventures is setting up where travelers can go out and shop at local markets with children from a homeless shelter to get ingredients for the dish they will learn how to make. They can interact with the children and help them learn English. The travelers then go back and learn how to cook a dish with local teachers. Another project is one they are doing in India where they help women who are living out in the street by assisting them in getting a chauffeur’s license so they can make a living by driving travelers around the country. G Adventures wants to change the world and they believe that tourism can be the vehicle for that.
In today’s world people want to feel they have a purpose in their work and companies are starting to evolve to give more meaning to the work their employees do. Companies really can change the world. But who is responsible for creating this purpose at work? Is it the responsibility of the company to create this purpose? Or is it the employee’s responsibility to find this purpose in whatever position they have? The answer is it is a mutual responsibility. Employees should make sure they apply for a company that has values that line up with their own with opportunities to make a difference and employers should be sure to provide these opportunities for their employees.
Poon Tip plans to continue creating opportunities to improve the world through G Adventures. He sees his work more as a movement then just a job and he wants to continue using “tourism as a vehicle to change the world”.
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Sun, 23 October 2016
Natalie Foster, the advisor to the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative, discusses the gig economy and our growing need to re-write the norms of how work gets done.
Natalie Foster is the Advisor to the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative and the Open Society Foundations. She is a Fellow at the Institute for the Future and New America California and she co-founded and launched Peers.org. Natalie also previously served as digital director for President Obama’s Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee.
In the past it was considered normal for workers to stick with a job at one company for their entire career. Throughout the worker’s time at the company their benefits, such as healthcare, workers compensation, and paid time off was provided by the employer. The employee was taken care of until the time of retirement. Nowadays the gig economy is steadily growing, but where are these independent workers getting their “social safety net” of benefits?
One of the goals of the Aspen Institute is finding a bipartisan solution to support independent workers and to re-think capitalism. They are trying to find a “portable, prorated social safety net” for these workers so that they can have a flexible job while still ensuring they have access to the benefits of traditional employment.
One of the challenges in the freelance economy is our inability to fully comprehend the number of people who are actually working in the alternative work space. One reason for this challenge is the fact that there isn’t one agreed upon definition of this type of work. Just think about how many different titles there are out there for these types of workers. You have gig workers, freelancers, contractors, independent workers, entrepreneurs, etc..
So what do we know about the alternative work space? Upwork did a study that found that 40 million Americans do freelance work. The GAO found that 40% of workers are involved in some sort of alternative work (this includes part time work). Also, the rate of adoption of digital markets has been going up over the past three years.
Foster believes that if we had a choice, most people would probably choose the “American middle class job” that you keep your whole life and retire from. But she says that those types of jobs have gone away for the most part. What we see taking the place of these middle class jobs are large employers such as McDonald’s, Walmart and KFC who offer the lowest wages and very minimum benefits. They also do not give their employees any control over their scheduling and no flexible work options. This is one of the reasons that the alternative work space is growing. People who have traditional jobs can no longer make ends meet and they don’t have the flexibility they desire.
In our move towards an alternative work economy we have to be able to re-write some of the norms to help independent workers get the same support as traditional employment. Foster talks about the changes we made in the work economy when we moved from an agricultural society to an industrial one. Things like the 8 hour workday, paid vacation, and not working on weekends were all things that were not in place when we worked in the fields. Now we are going through another shift so we have to figure out how to create a new set of norms.
The solution is to find a way to extend the “safety net” we have in traditional workplaces and offer it to the 40% of workers in the alternative workspace. Foster says there is already a model that is being tested by the New York BlackCar Service where there is an extra 2 ½% added to all payments that goes into a fund the company has in order to provide workers compensation to all of their drivers. Perhaps the same type of model could be incorporated into platforms such as TaskRabbit or Upwork where a percentage of purchases are put into a company wide fund in order to provide health insurance, paid time off, or sick days for their workers. Uber is also taking a step forward by accepting an independent drivers guild in New York that they will start using next year.
Foster also mentioned that over the last 40 years our GDP has gone up and up but our wages have been going down and down. She believes there could be a way that everyone could share in this value that we as a country are creating. The alternative work space is growing, so it is important for us to find ways to supplement benefits that in the past have been provided by traditional employment. This move forward will take a change in policies, an acknowledgment of this change in our economy and a step forward by employers.
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Sun, 16 October 2016
Karyn Twaronite, the Global Diversity and Inclusiveness Officer at EY talks about the importance of having a diverse organization, how to measure diversity in your company, and what steps you can take to move forward in this space.
Karyn Twaronite is the Global Diversity and Inclusiveness Officer at EY, formerly Ernst and Young. EY provides auditing, accounting, tax, due diligence, mergers and acquisitions and advisory services to companies of all sizes around the world. They have 230,000+ employees in over 150 countries. One thing that makes EY unique is that two thirds of their employee population are members of Gen Y.
Twaronite’s role at EY is really about helping the company to appreciate the unique differences and talents of all their employees in over 150 countries. She and her team help EY learn how to allow teams to best leverage those differences in order to create higher performing teams who can provide the best client service, innovations and creative problem solving techniques. This process doesn’t just stay in the talent department. Inclusiveness and diversity affects client relations, human resources, quality of service and market/brand recognition.
How does EY make sure that their team is diverse and inclusive? As Twwaronite mentions, diversity and inclusiveness in itself is very simple, however it is made into a complicated issue due to our human nature. EY has locations all across the world and so they deal with all different types of mindsets when it comes to the subject of diversity. Some countries are more open and excited about it than others. Overall, EY takes a look at their company as a whole with studies, surveys, discussions and data to find where they have gaps in areas where they could be doing better. Once they find those areas it is important for them to implement change from the top of the company down. Twaronite says at EY benefits are for everyone, not just some people. They go to great lengths to make sure they look at not just the typical subjects of diversity such as gender and nationality, but also areas such as educational experiences and differing areas of expertise.
When looking at diversity programs Twaronite says there are 3 Cs, compliance, character, and commerce. When diversity programs first started it was all about compliance. Companies were focused solely on numbers, and while that is still important to look at, it cannot be the full picture. The second C is character. It is important for your company to take at look at itself and figure out if diversity and inclusion is something you care about and believe in. This step is very important, but again it is not the full picture. The third C is commerce and it is something that is fairly newer. It is being able to look at diversity in how it impacts your topline and bottom line. How are you attracting talent, are you attracting diverse talent, do you have representation of a lot of countries around the world? This is not only important in regards to employee experience, but also in the way of quality of service for clients. Clients nowadays are looking for diversity in teams. EY has noticed that clients pay attention to the diversity of their teams and they have several examples of how their diversity has won clients over.
How can your company measure diversity? There are several ways, but one of the most valuable things you can do is have your employees talk about themselves and their past experiences. Sometimes a team that looks homogeneous may be more diverse than you think. It is also important to conduct surveys, look at trends in your market, and keep track of data analytics.
There is still a long way for us to go globally to make improvements in the way of diversity and inclusion. There was a study done in February that was sponsored by EY where 22,000 companies from 90 different countries were studied and two major things were determined. First of all they found that 50% of these companies had no women in management positions. Secondly, they found that companies with management teams made up of 30% or more of women had 6%+ more net margin.
The problem is that as humans we have biases and preferences and moving past these can be very difficult. Learning to work with a diverse team of people who have different mindsets, backgrounds, and experiences can make the process longer and trickier. Also, not all companies have the awareness and education needed to understand how to put diverse teams in place. But companies need to realize that the results are far more successful than with homogeneous teams.
When you implement diversity and inclusion into your company you improve employee experience. Employees are more successful when they feel that they can use their unique strengths and skills everyday. Also, when companies are more inclusive their employees feel a sense of belonging which is extremely important in building trust and productiveness.
What steps can companies take to become more inclusive and diverse? Twaronite gives three pieces of advice. First, look outside of yourself. Make sure you look at your industry and market to see what other companies are doing. Find some companies that you admire in this capacity and learn what programs and policies they have in place. Second, look inside of your company. Find some problems within your company that you want to solve. Find the most critical gaps and focus on those. Do you need to improve how your team deals with customer needs? Do you need to better balance out your teams?. Third, use data to measure your growth. Listen to your employees, conduct surveys, pay attention to analytics to make sure you are not just putting a plan into place, but that you are taking action.
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Sun, 9 October 2016
Tom Gilovich is a professor of Psychology at Cornell University with an interest in judgement and decision making. He is also the author of the book, The Wisest One in the Room: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights. He has studied many different facets of social psychology including sports decisions, political judgement and decision making, and relationship decision making.
What is the difference between wisdom and intelligence? A lot of aspects go into defining wisdom, but in short intelligence is more about being book smart and wisdom is more about being people smart. To have wisdom you have to be knowledgeable about people; why they do what they do and think what they think.
How can this be translated to the workplace? Gilovich discusses what managers normally do when employees are not performing as well as they should be. Most managers try to change the employee’s behaviors by pushing them in the direction the manager wants them to go. They push them with incentives, punishments, or motivation. But Gilovich says most of the time the poor performance isn’t due to a lack of motivation, it’s because the employee has a hard time “translating their good intentions into effective actions”. So instead of pushing, it is important for leaders in the workplace to understand their employees and to find ways to help their employees put their intentions into action.
Another subject that deals with understanding how people think and act is discussed in an article where Gilovich talks about the difference between experiences and material things and how they impact our happiness. He found three things to be true. Experiences connect us to other people more than material goods do, we are less comparative with experiences than with material things, and experiences contribute more to our identity than material things. In the end he found that people get more enduring happiness from experiences than material things.
Could this principle be used in organizations to make employees more happy and content with their jobs? We spend a majority of our time working, and yet it seems that most people become more and more dissatisfied with their jobs as time goes on. Perhaps if we could find a way to make work more of an experience people would enjoy their jobs and their satisfaction would grow over time. But who is responsible for this change, the employee or the employer? Perhaps a little bit of both. It is important for both parties to be a part of this change. Employers should focus on creating a better employee experience, however up to this point the responsibility has been put on the employer alone. It is also up to the employees to change their outlook.
Gilovich gave an example of two janitors working at Nasa, when asked what they do for a living one janitor said “I clean the floors and empty the trash” the other janitor said “I help put people on the moon”. Both janitors were correct, except one looked at the simplistic version of the job whereas the other one looked at the bigger picture. One of these two janitors is going to have a greater sense of purpose and a better employee experience based on their outlook.
Another thing we have to understand is that there are times when we misevaluate things in our lives. Gilovich gives the example of riding a bike. When you are biking and you face the wind you cannot deny it is there; it is in your face and you feel it. However, when you turn around and have it at your back you are grateful for a minute but then you don’t even notice it after awhile. This demonstrates how the things we have to overcome are the things we pay attention to, because we have to. Those hard times in life or the barriers that stand in the way of our happiness, we have to focus and work hard to overcome them. But the things in life that give us “a boost”-- a pay raise or a new car, the good times--those are the things that are easy to forget.
Because we easily forget the good, easy times we have the tendency to look at others (possibly co-workers) and feel that the other people have better lives. We have a tendency to claim life is “unfair” when we see others get raises, promotions, or good things in life.
How can we be the wisest one in the room and put it into practice in the workplace? We spend about 30% of our lives in the workplace, so happiness and fulfillment at work are important. In order to improve the employee experience it is important for both employers and employees to focus on cultivating experience. How can employees have a sense of purpose at work, how can employees and employers connect and form relationships, and how can employees attain more freedom while still performing their job? All of these things play into the big picture of employee experience and how to be the wisest one in the room.
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Mon, 3 October 2016
David Klein, CEO and Co-founder of CommonBond discusses the exciting work culture and hiring process his team uses to bring in the best talent.
David Klein is the CEO and co-founder of CommonBond, an online lending company for student loans. It allows student to refinance their debt into a loan that consolidates several loans into one single loan and it provides a lower interest rate. David Klein co-founded CommonBond with two other MBA students whom he met in college when they realized there was a strong need for this type of service.
CommonBond has around 80 employees and their corporate culture is very important to them. They were rated one of the 50 best work places by Inc Magazine. David Klein believes that creating a great workplace is largely dependent on employees and that is why hiring is so important to him. In the hiring process he looks for four qualities in every applicant. All new hires must have strategic acumen—really good business judgment and the ability to act independently—the ability to execute, internal drive, and good character.
In creating the work culture, Klein and the rest of his team understand the importance of transparency. They hold weekly meetings on Fridays called Lunch and Learn where they spend the first 30 minutes listening to someone from the company talk about something new that is happening within the company and in the last 30 minutes they get to have a Q&A with Klein. During the Q&A session they can ask anything they want and Klein commits to giving them open and honest answers.
They also have a social mission where they promise to give assistance to a student in need for every loan that they fund in the US. It is their way of giving back to the community and they are the first and only financial company to offer a one for one social mission.
Some of the other unique things they are doing include a 12 week paid maternity leave and a 4 week paid paternity leave, unlimited vacation, catered lunches on Fridays, student loan assistance and monthly happy hours called Common Brews. All of this is planned by their culture team, which is a team of people that is randomly selected from their employees and rotates every quarter.
Their workspace is also worth mentioning as it speaks to the importance of transparency in the company. It is an open floor plan with high ceilings and wood floors. All of the conference rooms have floor to ceiling windows on 3 sides and they have common spaces with couches and chairs.
In order to work with CommonBond one must go through a unique hiring process. It starts off familiar with a resume drop, a phone screen and then an in person interview, but if you move past this part it becomes different. In the last step of the interview process every new hire has to do what is called a prompt. They are asked one big question or a few meaningful questions and they have to present their answer in some sort of presentation. The presentation could include a PowerPoint, an excel spreadsheet, or anything else the person can come up with. These prompts give CommonBond insight into the new hire’s personality.
So why do they spend so much time and detail in the hiring process and in creating an exciting work culture? Well, as Klein discusses, the more they focus on hiring and retaining great employees the more it creates a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where new people come in and they want to work at CommonBond because of the people they meet in the interview process. They want to work with smart, kind, compassionate, hard working people. And with this hiring process and work culture, those are the types of employees they bring in and retain.
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