According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) about 70 percent of U.S. professors are not in a "tenure" line. Of these, about 40 percent are adjunct or part-time faculty members. Sure, many may choose to work as adjunct faculty. Those who adjunct by choice are likely to be experienced professionals in other fields, holding full-time jobs elsewhere or leading their own businesses. Not all adjunct faculty, however, do so by choice. Many have not been able to locate academic employment and see themselves falling behind in academic studies (see Glenn, 2016). They have no benefits or job security and often receive low pay.
The problem is not limited to universities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017, 5.9 million people held temporary jobs in the US in 2017. Sure, this number represents a relatively small percentage of US workers (3.8 percent). Other workers, however, report "alternative work arrangements" including contract work (10.6 million or 6.9 percent), on-call (2.6 million or 1.7 percent), workers employed by temporary help agencies (1.4 million or 0.9 percent) and 933,000 (0.6 percent) workers employed by contractor firms. And, while most contractors choose to work independently (about 80 percent), most workers from the other alternative categories do not.
My question, today, is: What are the consequences of non-traditional and contingent work arrangements on the remaining employees and for the organization? I can think of several potential impact areas:
For item three, note the emphasis on the word "could." According to William Kahn, engagement relates to one's feelings of safety. A contingent worker could experience less safety, knowing that he or she could easily be let go. The story, however, is complicated, as contingency workers are quite diverse. The Gallup Organization found that while independent contractors are more engaged than the general population, on-call, temporary, and contractor organization workers are not (only 19% of these workers are engaged).
My final point: Both in and outside Academia, having a certain percentage of contingency workers may make sense. In Academia, experienced professionals could bring "real life" and practical examples to the classroom. Outside universities, independent contractors could bring to their client organizations special expertise and outsider perspectives. At the very least, however, the issue deserves thoughtful debate.
What have your experiences been with contingent and non-traditional work? Please share!
Today is my first day in a series of research projects. As always, I struggle getting started: Do I move first to completing the Institutional Ethics Review Board forms (IRBs)? Do I write my goals on a to do list? Do I start with the literature review? My main problem: I have three projects and no clear direction. The sheer amount of work to get these projects completed seems daunting.
Not knowing where to start, I chose something I love to do: Setting up a research Pbworks wiki, where I can upload my literature, tag all articles, organize my to-do list, link my research journal, etc.
I guess my main lesson today to procrastinators is just that: Look for something you love. Procrastination is just your brain letting you know you are afraid. The best way to curb it is by doing that which may not make you scared as long as you choose a task related to your end goal.
Some may say that's a bad idea. By creating a research wiki I am just postponing the pieces of my puzzle I do not like. My retort. Sure. However, by picking a piece of the puzzle I do like, I am also conquering the worst of all demons: Not getting started at all.
Of course, I wouldn't recommend that you start your project by doing something entirely irrelevant. My wiki is a helpful research tool. The page gets me organized, and lack of organization kills any multistep project. My point is that you should get something done, even if that something is not the most important component of your project. Even if it's just something you love.
Today is day 1 of a daunting mission - and I will conquer this demon.
I teach Ethics at a graduate leadership program. One of my challenges is to help our leaders understand the impact of lack of fairness. Specifically:
Of course, these discussions are hardly new. One of my favorite philosophers, John Rawls, argues that a fair society results from a "Veil of Ignorance." This "Veil" forces future society members to make blind decisions, without knowing whether they will be rich or poor, intelligent or unintelligent, members of a top or a lower class. They do not even know their personality traits or abilities. Under those "ignorance" conditions:
To help leaders experience inequality, I use a game called "The Kingdom Tycoons." I assign participants to three groups (upper, middle and lower class), provide different resources to each group and then observe the resulting group dynamics. Here is how you can reproduce the game:
Good luck! If you come up with a different version, how about sharing what you did? Also, let me know what happened!
Countless leadership authors encourage leaders to be inspiring, visionary, and brave. Followers are attracted to these powerful and charismatic leaders like moths to a flame. That is hardly surprising: Who can, after all, resist a hero?
Interestingly, the image of a leader painted by these authors seems to lack common human emotions. Nowhere do I see fear, reluctance to lead, or insecurity. The leader knows he was born to lead. The leader knows she will be followed.
Or does she?
Enters Katniss Aberdeen, the heroin of the Hunger Games series. Katniss had no intention to lead. As she told President Snow in a moving scene from Mockingjay: "I only wanted to save my sister and keep Peeta alive" (if you know nothing about the Hunger Games Trilogy, you may catch up in this brief summary).
So why then does Katniss lead? As I reflected on the answer, I came across three clips. In the first, we hear about the origins of the "Mockingjay" (a mutant bird who imitates human sounds, a symbolic pin Katniss wore early in the series for protection).
The second clip requires an introduction, especially if you are not familiar with Suzanne Collins' books. When the leaders of District 13 ask Katniss to help inspire the revolutionaries, they plan a series of propaganda clips (called "propos"). Katniss tries to recite inspiring words written by someone else. The result is a total disaster, as fake and empty as the set. Watch as Katniss' friend and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, explains the problem.
Finally, Katniss is allowed to go to the front lines. She talks to the revolutionaries, witnesses their pain first hand. Fueled by anger and passion, she delivers an inspiring and game changing speech, warning President Snow: "If we burn, you burn with us!" (watch the final official trailer, with a brief clip of this speech).
The story of Katniss is not one of charisma or vision. Instead, Katniss becomes a leader through a powerful combination of survival and protective instincts, passion, and, above all, authenticity. Katniss can only be a leader when she is allowed to be real.
Perhaps most of these leadership books have it wrong. One can't really "learn to be a leader." Leaders are as different as the people who follow them or the causes for which they fight. Instead, we should focus on helping leaders find their core. Their passion. Their cause. Their personal Mockingjay.
What is yours?
Last week a friend posted on Facebook a beautiful "Flash Mob" video. A group of students from the vocal group Academia da Voz (Voice Academy) performed an impromptu rendition of "Somebody to love" at a university in the state of São Paulo, Brasil. Watch the video below. It will make you smile!
The video got me thinking about collaboration and community building lessons we can learn from flash mobs.
Total Immersion: Flash mobs don't take place in sterile stages, isolated from the audience. Performers are right there where the action is, unafraid to recruit new members and train them "on the spot."
Joy: Flash mobs are often joyful events, a beautiful culmination of hard work and preparation. Performers work for free, as a gift to the audience. Just look at the faces of the performers in the "Somebody to Love" video - they seem to be having an amazing time.
Collaboration: Flash mobs are no different than any other perfectly executed team project. The main job of each team member is to make other members "look good."
Planned improvisation: Something as beautiful as this "Somebody to Love" performance is the result of hard work. I can only imagine the number of rehearsals and planning sessions to get the performance just right! Flash mob participants, however, must be ready to improvise. After all, they will be performing in a public place, coping with the unpredictable reactions of the public. The whole experience reminds me of teaching advice I received from colleagues from University of Minnesota once - "Plan like crazy, then let it go!"
Courage: It takes courage to perform unannounced and unexpected. What if someone doesn't like the performance? What if someone is just busy and feels like the performance is an inconvenience? Flash mob performers ignore what ifs. They just do it.
What does all this have to do with community building? Well, first, one does not build a community from a sterile place. One must be willing to engage with community members, interacting with people in their natural settings. Joy is a critical ingredient - I can't imagine growing a community without a sense of energy, excitement, and pure fun. Collaboration and planned improvisation are vital for founders and early members, who must work together in the background to make things happen. Then, collaboration becomes critically important as the community grows. Finally, courage is an invaluable final ingredient. Everyone must be ready to take risks, tolerate some level of failure, and move forward when things don't work.
What are your own best practices for building a community?
In the young adult movie "The Maze Runner" a group of young boys are sent to a place surrounded by a mysterious "Maze." The Maze is impenetrable, dangerous, and populated by "Grievers" (robotic beasts). As the protagonist - Thomas - finds out early on, no one can leave this prison - or enter the Maze. Watch this clip, when Thomas is introduced to the Maze.
Now - Thomas' prison is not that bad - that is, it's not that bad as far as prisons go. It works. The boys have learned to cooperate and trust one another. They grow their food and have shelter. They may hate their imprisonment, but they are alive. And then - as you can imagine - Thomas tries to convince them to leave. He is strongly opposed by another boy - Gally. Gally plays the role of the staus quo keeper, rule protector, efficiency manager. Gally desperately wants things to be as they were.
I wonder when we are Gally. We try so badly to keep things as they are that we fail to see that we live in a ticking bomb. We see rules as sacrosanct and fear anarchy is we ignore them for good cause. We become guardians of someone else's ideas, defenders of policies that used to make sense and no longer do. We think we're defending the organization - and could, instead, help destroy it.
What do you think? Can you find other parallels between leadership and The Maze Runner?
Recently I distributed a survey to the members of HRCI Voices - a LinkedIn group for those certified by the HRCI or interested in procuring a certification. The group currently has about 5,600 members and is growing rapidly (only a few months ago there were approximately 1,700 members!).
I included in the survey the following main open-ended questions:
In general, participants seemed supportive of both the HRCI and the HRCI certifications, expressing their willingness to maintain and promote their existing certifications. Many were highly critical of and disappointed with the SHRM move to create a new certification process. Several urged the HR community not to "jump on the bandwagon" of the SHRM certification just because it's free and easy.
As far as what the HRCI can do for its community, members asked for more communications, transparency (many want to know exactly what happened), and, in particular, support for recertification activities. Members asked the HRCI to connect to providers of educational activities and share information on learning opportunities. There were also various calls for the HRCI to support local HR chapters by pre-certifying their events and requests that the HRCI focus on speed and quality of service.
What do you think? Would you add anything to these findings?
A preliminary summary of the findings is included below.
Take yourself back to the days in which you were offered your most important jobs. How did you feel? You were likely excited and hopeful, happy to have the opportunity to prove your own worth. You may also have been determined to not repeat any past mistakes or political faux pas.
For most of us, the first day at a new job may include a complex array of emotions - enthusiasm and fear, confidence mixed with a nagging feeling of "oh boy, what did I get myself into?" It is unlikely, however, that you would start a new job disengaged.
Engagement - a close connection between who we are and what we do - involves three main components: physical, cognitive, and emotional engagement.
Now, consider the following consequences of the above definitions:
Unfortunately, "stuff happens" at work. Maybe you were given more to do than you could handle. Maybe your energy was drained by lack of resources, excessive demands, and confusing requests. Maybe it felt unsafe to be you at work - you may have faced the pressure to pretend to act or feel like someone else. Finally, maybe you simply discovered that your job did not match your interests or capabilities.
My question today is: When did you become disengaged ... and why? Perhaps if we could understand the sources of disengagement, we could:
When did you lose "the light in your eyes"? Can you tell us about it?
A disclaimer: You may want to share experiences from days gone by, rather than your current experiences - remember that anything posted online tends to stay there.
The newly released Disney movie "Maleficent" is another must see - yes, even for you who don't have young kids. Actually, the beautiful symbolism of the movie might be totally lost on children - this is a movie for grownups to enjoy. Watch the trailer below.
Warning: Spoiler alert - if you don't want to know anything about the movie yet, go watch it first, then come back to this blog. I won't tell anyone the ending, though.
In this new take on the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was once a beautiful fairy who loved flying over her beloved moors. She also loved Stephen, whom she had met as a boy. Young Stephen, however, had powerful ambitions. He wanted to become king. When the dying king promised the crown to whomever slayed "the winged creature" Stephen took his chances. He attracted Maleficent to his side, pretended to love her, and clipped her wings. Thus, when Maleficent issued her powerful curse on Stephen's child, she was acting out of revenge and bitter grief.
Aurora grew up to become a sweet teenager, beloved by all. Watch the clip below, when Aurora tells Maleficent how she sees her.
I won't say more so as not to spoil the movie experience for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Instead, I'll address the "two Maleficents": The evil and powerful fairy whom everyone fears and the loving protector Aurora sees. Who is the "real" Maleficent? The villain or the hero?
Arguably, both - and there lies the beauty of the movie. Maleficent reminds us that leaders are not all good or all evil. Instead, leaders could be molded by love and grief, support and hostility, excitement and disappointment.
This "human quality" of leaders has three interesting implications.
First, no amount of "development" will trump the complexity of human nature. The same leader could be a hero to some and a villain to others. Good and evil may lie "on the eye of the beholder."
Second, the good of a leader may depend - at least in part - on others. Like young Aurora, some followers may have the power to transform villains into heroes.
Are you planning a leadership development process for your organization? Then consider this. Maleficent did not become a better leader after completing a 360 assessment or participating in a leadership training workshop. She did not hire an executive coach. She simply had the gift of a follower who loved her.
Remember the followers. They are leaders too.
Don't you hate it when two organizations you respect and enjoy are on opposite sides of the fence - and you feel that you have to "take sides"? I suppose this is one of those times.
I do respect SHRM. In particular, I have had wonderful experiences with members of the Iowa SHRM Council Board and the Central Iowa SHRM.
Over the last few years, however, (in my capacity as Director of Certification for the Iowa SHRM State Council) I have worked closely with the HRCI. I have become acquainted with their work and with the seriousness of their efforts. So yes - I am saddened (and considerably surprised) by the national SHRM's move to create its own certification. Here are my reasons:
Call me old fashioned but I like the idea of a "separation of powers" between those who develop and maintain a certification exam and those whose business model includes preparing candidates or providing recertification credits. Here is why:
SHRM has not yet shared with its members a strong enough reason to justify such a major shock to the system. Confused candidates or certified professionals may stop trusting the certification process in general, regardless of who offers it.
Do SHRM's hopes for a "competency based" test convince me? Not yet - at least not until I receive more in-depth information. The word "competency," after all, involves a complex combination of skills, traits, attitudes, and knowledge. Is SHRM really going to test competencies? Or just knowledge of competencies? I guess we'll need to wait and see, but a truly valid and reliable competency based test is extremely hard to build. SHRM might need to incorporate in the testing processes the review of real work products (an analysis of portfolios, perhaps?), and other time consuming (and likely costly) methods.
SHRM is our association - we, the members, should have a say in something as important as the launch of a new professional certification. Instead, SHRM chapters have been operating in the dark, working hard to promote the current certifications to employers and candidates. Frankly, I feel betrayed.
So here is my message to the national SHRM. You play a valuable role to your members and to the HR field. Right now, however, you are sharing a poor example of strategic planning, communication, and cooperation. HR professionals should be able to play nicely in the sandbox.
I wonder if these competencies will appear in the new certification exam?
An important "postscript": I plan to keep my SPHR certification, which I very much value. I'm proud of this certification and grateful for all the doors it opened for me in the HR community.
For the record, I do not plan to seek the new SHRM certification. In fact, the idea of "transferring" a certification (something SHRM has suggested) makes absolutely no sense (perhaps it only makes sense in the minds of marketing colleagues). Do I plan to obtain further HRCI certifications? Absolutely - GPHR is next on my plans, as soon as I take care of tenure requirements at my university.
About the Author
Dr. Cris Wildermuth is an Assistant Professor at Drake University, where she coordinates and teaches at the Master of Science in Leadership Development.