Category: Work and Employment

Five tips for increasing your productivity in 2016

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 13 days ago

Extreme Productivity

Have you made your 2016 New Year's resolutions yet? If you're a high achiever, increasing your productivity next year may be on your list. Many executives come to MIT Sloan Executive Education seeking techniques for making themselves and their teams more focused, efficient, and productive, and several of our faculty are well renowned for their thinking on these topics. We've summarized some of their thinking below.

Tips for increasing your productivity in the New Year

  1. Robert Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of the best-selling book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hoursrecommends starting with setting and prioritizing goals. "Most professionals have not taken the time to write down their goals and prioritize them. Without a specific set of goals to pursue, many ambitious people devote insufficient time to activities that actually support their highest professional priorities," Pozen told us in our previous post, "Ready, set, prioritize."
  2. Dr. Tara Swart, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan recommends you make a serious and dedicated commitment to getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep. "There's a perceived 'cut off' at the neck. In reality, there is a strong brain-body connection. The conditions of our bodies directly affects the quality of our thinking," Swart comments in the previous post, "The leadership skill you’re neglecting? Sleep". Despite many people claiming they only “need” a handful of hours of sleep each night to be productive, science proves that’s a myth; 98-99% of people physically require the recommended amount of sleep.
  3. Pozen also advises people to cut through the clutter. "First, let's understand that professionals are held back from being productive by both external and internal forces. External forces are things like emails and meetings--burdensome tasks that can detail even the most promising schedule. And internal constraints, like procrastination and perfectionism, can make us our own worst enemy. Pozen provided tips for how professionals can cut through the clutter in "Five tips for improving every-day productivity."

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Companies and employees still struggle with work-life balance

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 month and 21 days ago

work-life balance

This post is the first in a series designed to help our readers achieve a more productive, healthy, and less stressful 2016. 

Work-life balance seems an ongoing struggle for both organizations and individuals. In fact, it's such a pervasive issue that Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research, and education, offers tips to reclaim work-life balance control.

On the one hand, there are organizations like Amazon that seem to shun the idea of work-life balance. A recent New York Times piece "Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace," described the company as one at which "culture stoked their [employees’] willingness to erode work-life boundaries." The exposé detailed a business that rewards employees toiling long and late and subjects employees to "marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends." The New York Times piece even quoted (on record) an Amazon employee who stated, "One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight." 

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Retailing during the holidays

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 9 days ago


Earlier this week, gear and sports retailer REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) announced that its 143 stores will be closed on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as "Black Friday," a day that many retailers view as the most important shopping day of the year. The Seattle-based retailer has launched a campaign "encouraging people to forgo shopping and spend time outside instead."

The issue of retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day has become a contentious one of late. While convenience stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores may be providing essential goods on the holiday, few people really need to go out and buy electronics and other gadgets on a day intended to be about family. As we highlighted on the this blog last year, most people who rely on retail jobs for their income are forced to work on holidays if the store decides to stay open. But the decision to close on the following day is nearly unheard of in the U.S.—especially considering that REI is paying its employees for the day off.

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Who will power the IoT economy?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 3 months and 22 days ago

By Peter Hirst, Associate Dean, MIT Sloan Executive Education

IoT smaller

From driverless cars and sensor-laden industrial equipment to connected kitchens and smart cities---the Internet of Things (IoT) is cropping up everywhere, or so it seems. Recognizing the tremendous economic potential, tech giants and startups are investing heavily in IoT products and platforms. A recent report estimates that "the IoT will result in $1.7 trillion in value added to the global economy in 2019." Yet many employers are struggling to find the talent to propel the rapidly developing IoT economy towards the full extent of its promised value.

At last year's Internet of Things Word Forum in Chicago, Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn, Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Services, presented startling findings based on data from CareerBuilder, IBSG, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • One-million shortage of qualified workers in the Internet security industry in the next five years
  • Two million jobs needed in information technology and communications in the next ten years
  • Over 11 million people unemployed in the United States at that time
  • 45% of employers unable to find qualified candidates for open jobs

 As of this August 2015, the number of unemployed people in the U.S. dropped to 8 million. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth came primarily from healthcare, social assistance, and financial services sectors--not technology companies.

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Is your lean startup violating labor laws?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 4 months and 14 days ago


Many entrepreneurs today are well familiar with the principles of a lean startup. In a nutshell, they are guiding ideas on how startups can operate with much less waste. But over the years, what was really a theory on how to quickly build products that would be accepted in the marketplace became a practice on how to create entrepreneurial organizations with minimal financial investment. "Bootstrapping" and "working on a shoestring" have become synonymous.

Operating as leanly as possible makes much sense to most entrepreneurs--especially those who have not yet been funded. Many startups will leverage free and inexpensive services and technology to cut costs, and others will forgo hiring employees and instead rely on contractors to perform much of the work. While the latter may seem like a wise approach to building a lean organization, there is growing risk in that model. There are fundamental legal differences between a contractor and an employee, and startups fueled by the work of contractors need to be aware that government (state and federal) are cracking down on organizations that are intentionally or inadvertently violating labor laws.

Workforce magazine refers to the misclassification of employees as independent contractors as "the topic du jour in employment law." According to the U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division's formal interpretation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, “Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is found in an increasing number of workplaces in the United States, in part reflecting larger restructuring of business organizations." The government advisory concludes, "In sum, most workers are employees under the [federal law's] broad definitions."

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Did McDonald's take a step toward the Good Jobs Strategy?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months ago

After several starts and stops, the U.S. established the modern national minimum wage in 1938, at $0.25 per hour. Since 2009, the national minimum wage in the U.S. has been $7.25 per hour, with 29 states setting the minimum wage higher than that mandated by the government. The issue is a contentious political issue, both on the national and local levels.

But the thing about minimum wage is it's just that: the bare minimum organizations need to pay workers. And some organizations are beginning to realize that the classic model of paying as little as necessary does not lead to higher profits; in fact, some companies--such as Trader Joe's and Costco--have proven that paying higher wages results in greater profits.


McDonald's, one of the top companies in the Fortune 500 ranking, recently announced it would raise wages and offer benefits to 90,000 employees in its corporate-owned stores. The plan is to increase wages to at least $1 more than the local minimum wage, bringing the average worker wage to $9.90 per hour, and, by 2016, to $10 per hour.

“We know that a motivated work force leads to better customer service, so we believe this initial step not only benefits our employees, it will improve McDonald's restaurant experience," said McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, as reported by The New York Times. Investing in employees is one part of what Zeynep Ton, Adjunct Associate Professor of Operations Management at MIT Sloan refers to as the "The Good Jobs Strategy.”

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High tech's shifting glass ceiling

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 10 months and 17 days ago

The current lawsuit in Silicon Valley by Ellen Pao against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins is drawing more attention to hot button issues in high tech, namely the very real and varied gender gap that continues to plague the industry.

According to the Forbes article, "Women in tech are losing, from top to bottom," only 9% of all CIOs are women. Why is the technology career path a tough road for women, and why do their numbers dwindle as they climb up the ranks? A recent study from MIT shows that women already inside the technology industry are experiencing what is known as a shifting glass ceiling, and it starts with the recruitment process.

Internal promotion vs external recruitment

In his paper, "Gender Sorting and the Glass Ceiling in High Tech," Roberto Fernandez, Professor of Organizational Studies at MIT Sloan, challenges the popular assumption that the prominent glass ceiling in the high tech industry is the result of disparities in the internal promotion processes. Instead, Fernandez claims that glass ceilings can also be the result of external recruitment.

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When snow days are no longer fun

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 11 months and 23 days ago

Some of you may look back fondly on the "snow days" of your youth, recalling the excitement and anticipation of hearing the announcement that meant a day to stay home and play. For those of us who currently reside in Greater Boston, however, snow days have lost their allure.

Since January 15, 2015, the Boston area has had an unusual number of snow storms resulting in an unprecedented amount of snow. We've had our snowiest month since record-keeping started in 1872, and (so far) the area is marking its third snowiest winter on record, with 89.2 inches. To put that in perspective, Boston has seen more snow in three weeks than Chicago has seen in an entire winter.

What's worse, the resulting snow days are wreaking havoc on businesses in the area. According to the Boston Globe, the snow has "cost Massachusetts companies more than $1 billion in lost sales and productivity." For large businesses, the decision to remain open or to close may be easy. Some businesses, like chain restaurants and retail stores, may have the analytics to back them up--data to understand how much revenue they’d need to earn to offset the cost of doing business that day. But smaller businesses--particularly restaurants and boutique stores--struggle with that decision. 

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