Being a Public Health major, in undergrad we spent quite some time studying the Affordable Care Act (also referred to as Obamacare) and the idea of universal healthcare. In multiple courses I reviewed different country’s healthcare systems and the results greatly varied. Since undergrad I have always wanted to pursue my MBA, gain more experience here in the US, and then go abroad to learn what it is like working in a different healthcare model. The country that interests me the most is Germany.
The two largest differences were individualism and long term orientation.
Individualism is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. Now this one did surprise me. The United States ranks very high in this category based on its premise of freedoms and liberty, and mentality of the American Dream. We are raised to believe if you want something you have to work hard to get it because no one or no entity is just going to give it to you. Other countries rank differently based on their values and the amount of government support the country members get. In Germany, they are also very individual and the focus is more on your direct family and not much past that.
Long term orientation is how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future. Germany was described as a pragmatic country that adapts to the changing times and adjusts traditions and ideations to the current situation. I can also see why the United States would rank so low on this.
I know regardless of many of these various factors that I would take the opportunity and that this may actually be a reality for me. My husband is in the Air Force and Germany is at the top of our list for the next big move. While I may not have much of an extended support system, we would have our family and know that what we are doing brings value to those around us. This is enough for us.
I scored very low for the stress inventory. While I wasn’t surprised after reviewing the various life events listed, I do still feel like I have significant life stressors that are not listed. I don’t personally want to share these with the class but I just wanted to note that I feel we all have external stressors that may have not been considered in this list.
For the coping and stress management skills test, problem-focused coping was my highest score. Again, I don’t like to disclose much about my personal life but I do know that I am able to handle the stress of situations by focusing on the problem itself rather than the emotion. If I get caught up in the emotion I am not able to see things clearly and it is harder for me to recover from them. As mentioned in the text above, this can be difficult when issues are not in my control or cannot be easily fixed.
Ok, this one I am confused about. I do not consider myself impatient or irritable but the score of 30 seems low so I am not sure what to take away from this one. I do recognize that I have some Type A tendencies and preferences but I would not consider impatience or irritability as one of them.
I currently try to manage my stress in a number of healthy ways. The first is keeping organized and knowing my schedule. While working from home during the peak of the pandemic, my husband, dog, and I shared one tiny office. Talk about stress! We quickly learned that we needed open communication and each morning we would list when we had Zooms or lectures that required quiet from the other person. This tiny communication saved us many tiny fights! Second, I try to exercise 3-5 times a week. This is a positive outlet for me and allows me to clear my mind. I also leave to go home for lunch (I am lucky I live 1 mile from my work) and take my doggo for a walk. Removing myself from the workplace, and going outside, allows me to come back for the second half of the day refreshed. Third, create personal boundaries for work and life. I have had positions in the past where I had no delineation between the two and it can be consuming. I no longer have work or school email on my personal cell phone and on the weekends I leave my work laptop turned off and in the office to avoid the temptation to work. This has been very important for me. Lastly, I take mental health days when I need them. As mentioned in our text, job burnout can be shown through emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. My employer actually encourages mental health days acknowledging we all need a break at times.
Other ways to manage stress include:
-Get enough sleep
-Have a positive support network
-Dedicating personal time
-Listen to music that makes you happy
Some unconventional ways to reduce stress at work:
In my previous blog post When “And other duties as assigned” has gone to far, I talked about how I absorbed multiple people’s job duties and when I asked to reclassify my position I was denied. After being denied I began actively and aggressively looking for new positions. For me it wasn’t solely based on compensation. The reclassification process was laborious and frustrating and in the end to be awarded no change was very discouraging. In a way HR was saying, “we acknowledge that you are now doing the work of multiple people’s job roles but we don’t think your work is valued any higher.” Talk about a tough pill to swallow.
When I was looking for a new position it wasn’t for a target compensation but more for a position and company that I thought would be a good fit for my skill set. I was satisfied with my current compensation as long as I was only doing one person’s assigned duties. Employees want to feel appreciated and proper compensation is part of that package.
As with many job onboarding processes, when I began my current position they assigned me something around 100 hours of online training to be completed. These trainings consisted of powerpoint slides with voiceover that you could not skip to the next slide until the voiceover was finished. (We all know those boring modules that HR requires you to watch) This took forever and the content was very dry. Not only did I dread logging in each day, at the end of the trainings I could not tell you one important thing I learned. The reason this type of training was not successful for me was because I don’t learn that way. I am more of a hands-on learner who needs to go through the motions or apply the material in order to understand it. Trainings that are successful for me allows me to walk through the motions and ask clarifying questions along the way, or relate the information to situations around me for further understanding.
For a fun contrast, each month I participate in a cookie decorating class. The instructor not only shows you the steps in a photo series, she tells you them highlighting important tips, and then you get to do it yourself. Then while you are doing it yourself, you can always ask for help. This is successful for the entire class because some are visual learners, others are audible learners, some have to do it themselves, and some need a combination. Of course I would much rather participate in a cookie decorating class instead of online training modules, but it is the understanding of how people learn that is really important here. The cookie instructor presented her content in a variety of methods to best capture the attention of everyone in the class.
I was hired into my current position in July of 2021. First, I completed a standard application, cover letter, and resume. There were no personality tests or writing prompts (thank goodness). Then about a month after submitting my application I was invited via email to answer some virtual questions via an online platform. These were more structured behavioral interview questions ie: tell me about a time you experienced BLANK and how did you handle it. Luckily by now I was quite versed in Zoom and this wasn’t a difficult task. What was difficult was lack of any interaction or feedback. You are alone simply answering questions. Following this I had no idea about the hiring timeline, candidate pool size, and had lots of questions regarding the position and company. About a month goes by and I get a phone call from an HR member inviting me to a Zoom panel interview. I was shocked because an entire month had gone by and I had heard nothing from them. While on the phone with the HR team member, I asked her to please send me a copy of the position description again as it had been quite some time since my original application. She sent me a simple email with time and Zoom link and the attached PD, that was all. Upon my arrival to the Zoom interview, there sat a full window of 11 interviewers on the panel. They opened up with, “We have 10 questions to get through and only 30 minutes for this interview, we have another one scheduled right after this so we have to get going.” If that doesn’t make you stressed I don’t know what will! To make matters worse, they proceeded to let all of the panelists introduce themselves, many of which being very long winded and cutting into our 30 minute time limit. The questions were very structured behavioral and situational scenarios. I answered them to the best of my ability, to look back at a screen of blank faces. We managed to get through all of the questions, but I was only left with about two minutes to ask my questions. Of course, I wanted to know the hiring timeline, what a typical day looked like in that role, and other logistical items. They provided vague answers that left me more confused than before. This interview style continued two additional times with new interview panelists. Finally in my last interview they provided me with a test scenario and federal regulations that I had to read and review to provide what I would do in the position. This exercise was a very practical way for me to see if this role was something I truly would enjoy and for them to evaluate my ability. Only issue being, they sent me pages of documents only 15 minutes before the interview in which I had to have my response crafted and ready.
Looking back now, and with what we have learned about recruitment and interview strategies, I have some suggestions for my employer.
First, be clear and transparent about the hiring timeline from the beginning. Many ads on Indeed and other hiring sites will include phrases like, “looking to fill position by X date.” The interview process is already stressful enough on candidates and having a timeline can help them to know what to expect and when.
Second, limit large panels. Having more than five new people to focus on and engage with during an interview is almost impossible.
Third, allow enough time for the interviewer to answer the questions thoughtfully and don’t book your next interview too close. At the end of my second interview I was full of questions but due to too many questions and too little time, they weren’t answered. Also, hearing about the next interview being directly after mine was disheartening.
Fourth, avoid the overuse of generic structured interview questions. As the lectures mentioned, these types of questions are a good way to gauge one candidate to another and to learn about how they have/or will respond to a situation but also don’t tell you much about the individual. As the Google article states, when looking for new hires they should be looking for people who possess leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability, and love to learn and re-learn. As someone who has conducted many interviews, I find it hard to see these types of qualities by using the more structured behavioral and situational questions. I think a blend of some structured questions and time to be more unstructured allows you to learn about who that individual is.
My last suggestion, if you are going to use a testing method, allow enough time. I was rushed to read pages and pages of federal regulations and a test prompt. This was a very realistic test of the current position but the timeline wasn’t. If they had sent me the prompt the evening before I could have produced a more thoughtful answer that would have reflected truer to me. In previous positions I have had to produce an article in response to a prompt right on the spot. While it may have been an indicator of how I produce under pressure, I normally spend a lot of time reviewing my work and making edits. The work I produced within a tight timeframe does not truly reflect the type of work I produce on a day to day basis and thus doesn’t show the interviewer a good representation of me.
In a previous position, when I was hired it was a team of eight. Slowly people began leaving for one reason or another, and their job duties began dispersing to the rest of us. Then as my skills grew, I started getting additional projects that were previously not in my assigned role. Before I knew it, we were down to a team of three and I was doing everything. At this point I did ask for my position description and compensation to be reviewed because I had absorbed five people’s jobs. Long story short, HR for this employer did not see the additional roles as being outside my job scope and the phrase And other duties as assigned covered any basis for the extra projects that had come my way.
After reading about the importance of building a clearly defined job description and reviewing it at least annually, I realize I could have saved myself so much hassle. A well defined job description helps an employee to know what is expected of them and what they are responsible for. As these new projects came my way, if I had an awareness of my job description, I could have prompted my supervisor that maybe it was out of my job duties. Additionally, reviewing a job description regularly can help point out any changes that need to be made whether it be with the position or within the company. Maybe we need to hire additional help for XYZ, or maybe this person should be considered for a new position since their skills have outgrown this job description. Job descriptions are valuable for workers to refer back to and have a better understanding of what their role within the company is.
As we read in Buckingham, M. & Coffman, C. 2016. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, there is a strong link between employee productivity, business profitability, and employee satisfaction. To review this further, this week I looked at the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2020 to see what their employees were saying. When selecting my companies I tried to find something from various sectors: REI (retail), Box, Inc (technology), and The Cheesecake Factory (restaurant industry). Below are each company’s word cluster diagrams highlighting what employees think makes their workplace great. Between the three some common words included people, team, community/family, support, care, inclusivity, and culture.
Each of these three companies has at least 90% of staff agree with the following statement, “When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome.” Evidence-based management techniques used by Google and many other organizations, use employee-driven feedback to help guide leadership styles. These word cluster diagrams are very telling of what employees perceive as important for their workplace. Workplace culture has become a very important part of business and has a strong impact on employee retention, productivity, and growth. Breitfelder, M. D., & Dowling, D. W. (2008). Why Did We Ever Go Into HR?, highlights two Harvard MBA graduates and their perception as to what HR is and how it brings value to an organization. HR’s role in a business starts in the hiring process and follows all the way through the end of their time with the company. Like with our current business school studies, HR helps to bridge gaps between management and employees to help build a supportive and enriching workplace environment. Lastly, as highlighted in the Buckingham & Coffman article, manager’s have the most direct impact on employees. HR helps to choose who they hire as managers, what types of training they receive, and also who goes into their teams by using evidence-based information. All of this helps contribute to a productive, profitable, and sustainable workplace.
Currently, I strive to be a manager who is willing to jump in and help at any point. I feel very strongly that I should never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. Following some of the guidance mentioned in just this first week’s materials, using open-communication and feedback like Google, finding things to celebrate and make people feel unique, important, and useful like Lankford-Sysco, and build a culture that is supportive for employee growth. These are some of the tools I strive to use in being a manager.