MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Work and Employment

True operational excellence means everyone wins — employees, customers, and shareholders

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 7 months and 29 days ago

good jobs are good for business

Conventional wisdom holds that bad jobs are the unavoidable price of low-cost service. The rule of thumb for many companies in industries like retail, hospitality, banking, and health care has been to drive down wages and operating costs, creating a vicious cycle of disinvestment in search of higher profits. But there is a shift taking place. Companies are realizing that happy, engaged workers are more productive, provide better service, and are more loyal. Good jobs are, in fact, good for business.

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Why "good jobs" are necessary for a sustainable economy

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 8 months and 24 days ago

Zeynep Ton at the 2018 MIT Sustainability Summit

The 2018 MIT Sustainability Summit, held March 8 at the Four Seasons in Boston, focused on the long-term sustainability of future workforces, widening inequality, and the recent proliferation of contract labor. Keynote speaker and MIT Sloan Professor Zeynep Ton explained why “good jobs” are critical to a sustainable economy. She teaches the new program Achieving Operational Excellence Through People: Delivering Superior Value to Customers, Employees, and Shareholders.

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Getting a tax cut? Invest in human capital.

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 months and 10 days ago

Invest in training

In our increasingly complex marketplace, the need to train and educate our employees is greater than ever. Technology is drastically disrupting industries, and companies are eager for their employees to gain competency in emerging fields such as big data, machine learning, and the internet of things. That’s just one of the reasons why many organizations—especially those enjoying a tax cut this year—are choosing to invest in their employees’ education. If your company is wondering how best to allocate the windfall from the recent tax act, consider an investment in hard or soft skills training for your employees.

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Are merit-based decisions in the workplace making us more biased?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 3 months and 20 days ago

Are merit-based decisions in the workplace making us more biased?

Earlier this month, a memo written by (former) Google employee James Damore went viral. The controversial, ten-page letter suggested the company has fewer female engineers because men are better suited for the job. Damore argued that Google’s initiatives to increase diversity is actually a discriminatory policy, and that a liberal bias throughout management makes it difficult to discuss the issue internally. The debates kicked up by this event continue to rage on.

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Are “Good Jobs” finally becoming fashionable in retail?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 5 months and 3 days ago

Zeynep Ton's Good Jobs Strategy in Retail

Retail jobs have long been considered undesirable. Back in 2013, Zeynep Ton, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of The Good Jobs Strategy, told a TedxCambridge audience that retail jobs “are not just bad because they offer low wages and chaotic schedules, but because they make workers feel meaningless.” She shared how one retail worker had told her, “We are throwaways who are a dime a dozen.”

Thankfully, albeit slowly, the retail industry is changing how it views, treats, trains, and ultimately retains its employees. The President and CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), Matthew Shay, recently published a piece on LinkedIn titled, “Good Jobs Change Lives.” In this post, Shay unveiled a new initiative by the NRF to help workers secure jobs in retail and advance in their careers. The program provides hands-on training in topics such as retail tools and technologies, customer service, and retail math. Participants receive credentials they can put on their resumes and cite during their job searches. More than 30 retailers, foundations, and non-profits are collaborating in this initiative.

The NRF itself has approximately 700,000 entry-level openings. According to the organization, “individuals who hold a certification or license are significantly more likely to be employed and have 34-percent higher earnings.”

Training is a proven cornerstone of Zeynep Ton’s Good Jobs Strategy. In her recent Harvard Business Review article, “How 4 Retailers Became ‘Best Places to Work’,” Ton and co-author Sarah Kalloch share strategies and policies that have made HEB, Costco, TraderJoe’s and QuikTrip successful, innovative companies staffed by employees who are happy and eager to work hard.

“For Costco founder Jim Sinegal, retailing is fundamentally a people business, which means it has to get the people part right,” writes Ton. “Costco hires good people, teaches them and pays them well, and gives them opportunities to advance. In return, Costco gets better productivity.”

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Visual persuasion in the digital age: Tips to improve your LinkedIn profile

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 7 months and 5 days ago

Whether you're a power user or a casual participant, LinkedIn is a great place to research people and companies, expand and leverage your network, and find new opportunities. It's also the first place people go to learn about you.

So what does your LinkedIn profile say about you? Are you making a good impression? Here are some tips for optimizing your profile.

  • Think carefully about your title ("headline"). Be specific and include keywords.
  • Don't skip the summary! Make it detailed but keep it warm, inviting, and in your own voice (first person).
  • Include a complete career history.
  • Take advantage of the Projects section. This is an area where you can expand on professional work you have done, and it's great for keywords, making you more likely to surface in someone's search results.
  • Keep your contact information--email, phone numbers, job title--up to date. This shows you are accessible and active within your network.
  • Include original, published content to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
  • Strengthen your profile with third-party recommendations (as opposed to endorsements) that support your professional efforts.
  • Don't over post. Studies suggest a good rule of thumb is 20 posts a month.
  • Proofread your content and posts (or ask someone else to help)--typos in your profile will keep people from taking you seriously. A tip: type your information into Microsoft Word first (or any software with a spellcheck function), then copy and paste it into your profile.

Visual components are important, too

Your LinkedIn image is a crucial part of your online presence, and may play a larger role in how your profile is received than you realize. In the MIT Sloan Executive Education webinar, Visual Persuasion in the Digital Age, MIT Sloan Professor Ed Schiappa discusses the importance of visual impressions in today’s digitally based society and how a visual message can often be more persuasive than a verbal one. An expert in the field of digital communications, Schiappa says that different parts of our brain decode verbal and visual stimuli (a concept known as dual coding) and we typically decode visual stimuli very rapidly and without much thought. In other words, "We are hard-wired for quick judgements," says Schiappa.

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Gaining competitive advantage with people analytics

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 11 months and 18 days ago

Gaining Competitive Advantage with People Analytics

In the past decade, analytics have taken significant guesswork out of decision making and scenario planning in fields like sports and finance, replacing gut feeling with big data. In the years since Tom Davenport's bestselling Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, organizations have used data and analytics to identify their most profitable customers, accelerate product innovation, optimize supply chains and pricing, and leverage the true drivers of financial performance.

Analytics is now coming of age in the World of Work, bringing a healthy dose of science to the art of human resource management. While most hiring, management, promotion, and rewards decisions are based on intuition and corporate belief systems, "people analytics" offers a more data-driven approach to making those decisions. Recent studies are showing how the application of science to the selection, management, and alignment of people can result in better hires, significantly increased profits, and even a correction of systemic workplace bias.

Better HR decisions with data

It makes perfect sense: just as finance, operations, and business units have volumes of data, so does the HR function—companies are loaded with employee and performance data. Leading-edge organizations are building analytics teams and adopting more sophisticated analytics tools in an effort to enhance their competitive advantage and attract and retain top talent in increasingly talent-constrained industries. They are using their data to analyze flight risk, identify characteristics of high-performing sales and service teams, predict compliance risks, assess engagement and culture, and identify leadership candidates.

Here are some of the ways analytics are being used to improve the management of human capital across various industries:

  • The sports industry has been a pioneer in the analytics revolution, using data to win games and run profitable businesses, and the implication of these techniques continues to evolve. As reported by Davenport and co-authors Jeanne Harris and Jeremy Shapiro in an article for Harvard Business Review, the soccer team AC Milan created its own biomedical research unit to help the team gauge players’ health and fitness (drawing on 60,000+ data points for each player) and to help make contract decisions.
  • Analytics can be used to help correct workplace bias. According to groundbreaking studies by MIT Sloan Professor Emilio Castilla, merit-based reward practices can unintentionally lead to pay disparities based on gender, race, and national origin—the very biases that those systems seek to prevent. People analytics can play a key role in defining clear processes and criteria for hiring and evaluating employees. (In 2017, Castilla will lead a new MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Leading People at Work: Strategies for Talent Analytics, which focuses on the strategies that can be used to successfully design and implement people analytics in an organization.)

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Business leaders agree: It's time to start talking about race in the workplace

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 days ago

Business leaders agree it's time to start discussing race in the workplace

Discussing race, religion, and politics at holiday gatherings and in the workplace has been taboo for decades. Even in safer spaces and among friends, conversations about race are particularly difficult and anxiety provoking. But in the wake of heartbreaking events around the country, conversations about racial inequality and cultural divide have forced their way into the national consciousness. Social media is abuzz with chatter about the degree to which prejudice is at work. And yet the one place where we spend most of our time--at work--is noticeably bereft of dialogue. Should we make race and racial bias an open platform for discussion at work?

Many business leaders say yes. While such dialogues can be difficult to navigate, they are essential to helping us face the tragedies that surround us. When we avoid constructive conversation about our differences, communication deteriorates and productivity suffers. Perhaps most critically, open dialogue about race at work helps address the fact that the same racial bias that underscores these events also exists inside corporate walls.

Edith Cooper, Head of Human Capital at Goldman Sachs, recently authored an article for Business Insider, “Why Goldman Sachs is encouraging employees to talk about race at work – and why as a black woman I think this is so important," where she writes, "Ultimately, our experience at work is a collection of interactions with the people around us. When those interactions are stimulating and challenging and take place in an environment of inclusivity and collaboration, you have a better experience and, in turn, you perform better ... because as a result of those varied inputs and insights, you are better."

Cooper shares that Goldman Sachs is working to provide forums for their people to engage in and advance the diversity dialogue. “The pervasiveness of current events affects everyone at our firm from summer interns to senior leaders. With impassioned questions pertaining to race, fair treatment and equal opportunity being asked both in public and in private, we knew this was not a topic we could ignore.”

After Ferguson, Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, drew a lot of heat for his “Race Together” campaign, which tried to get employees to engage customers in conversations about race. While some disparaged the effort as poorly planned, others praised him for trying to be part of a solution. At a candid panel discussion among executives held in Chicago earlier this year, Dorri McWhorter, CEO of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, said Schultz's initiative was a move in the right direction.

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