where i’d work

14 09 2007

this month’s big question on learning circuits blog is a topic close to home for me. Tony Karrer’s question is simple, Where to work? smedium sized Big Question logoince i’ve been involved in a somewhat prolonged job search having decided that the consulting schtick isn’t quite right for me – at least for now – i’ve spent alot of time thinking about what the ideal, and not so ideal, workplace for me might be like.

let me preface all of this with the statement that i can only speak for me and my preferences. to think that there is any “correct” answer to this question would be foolish.

the key is to look carefully and honestly at what motivates you and what you find fulfilling and then being honest in both your evaluation of potential employers and in the fit between the environment and your needs. failure to be diligent in this analysis or compromising on your principles to “just get a job” will only lead to stress, frustration and, eventually, leaving that job. i’ll be honest, i’ve made the mistake of overlooking glaring misfits between my motivators and a company i’ve gone to work for. it wasn’t enjoyable and the money, while objectively good, wasn’t worth the pain. i’ve also had the great fortune of having jobs match my personal style and motivation. in these jobs I excelled, worked hard, and learned about myself both professionally and personally. So what’s important to me?

  1. challenging scope of work – i ideally want a role which will stretch my skill set. i love to problem solve more than i like to implement the same solution for the 250th time.
  2. expectation and ability to learn – related to the scope, i want to be in a position in which I’ll be expected and have the opportunity to learn. learn about business, learn about leadership, learn about new markets, learn about new technologies and business processes. and, well, duh! i am a learning professional!
  3. opportunity to lead – i don’t necessarily need to have a large staff of direct reports, but having the opportunity to lead projects, drive change, and create new opportunities for the organization to excel are things i enjoy and desire.
  4. a collaborative and innovative environment – i prefer to work with others drawing upon our varied backgrounds to create new solutions to both new and old challenges. team work, reflective practices, and an openness to ideas are all a part of such an environment.
  5. inspired leaders – i want to work for leaders who know why they are coming to work every day. i have loved working for men and women who have a vision of how they are making the company and the world a better place through their work.
  6. it’s a new world – the organization must be focused on today and the future. while past success is great, an organization that thinks yesterday’s solutions will solve today’s and tomorrow’s problems is not a place i want to spend 50-60 hours a weeks toiling away for. new relationships with their customers, new technologies, new organizational structures, and new products/services to meet today’s challenges are all signs i look for.

herzberg defined certain workplace factors as hygiene factors in employee motivation. these are factors must be present, otherwise the employees will lose motivation. but they do not provide positive motivation. my hygiene issues include:

  • salary – most employers have benchmarked open positions against industry standards. i expect that the jobs i’m applying for will be competitive in the salary they have budgeted, so salary is not a major issue for me.
  • benefits – basic health, disability, retirement savings are fundamental. vision and dental are great. anything else is gravy.
  • diversity – i value a diverse workplace that protects the rights of all of its employees. this should be standard these days.
  • work/life balance – i’m ready to put in the time i need to acheive the goals my role demands, but the organization has to understand that sometimes life happens in the hours between 9-5 on weekdays.
  • value learning – seems a no brainer, but this learning professional wants to work in an organization that believes that learning is fundamental to its success.

So there you have what i look for in a workplace environment. How do you value where you work or are looking to work?

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Related News:
Perks for productivity – Sydney Morning Herald

A Ybrant workforce – Express Computers

Understanding and Strengthening your own Emotional Intelligence Skills – Autochannel (press release)

Communication is really the key – Deccan Herald

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against training

2 09 2007

Every once in a while I bump into an article or piece of research that I’ve read before, but have allowed to drift into the dark recesses of my long-term memory. fortunately, such an occasion is always an opportunity to revisit the ideas presented in the article – usually with a new mind set. today it happened with john taylor gatto’s against school – a powerful and damning condemnation of modern american schooling that was published in harper’s magazine in september 2003. if you haven’t ever read against school, click on the link above and do so.

in the article, gatto discusses the historical ties of modern education to the social control policies of the Prussian empire which desired to create a semi-illiterate, docile populous which would not question authority and would efficiently be swayed by governmentally driven propaganda. this dominant approach to education in germanic culture fit very snuggly with the emergence of Ford’s assembly line production model and corporate america’s need for workers who could function more as replaceable cogs in the machinery of the industrial revolution than independent thinkers who might not follow orders willingly.

his article and subsequently published book, The underground history of american education, were clearly focused on public education and have been key support for home schooling initiatives and school voucher programs. even supporters of public education are now using a similar argument that the system is totally wrong rather than broken. hillary clinton is making great use of mentioning that today’s classrooms are identical to the classrooms where she was schooled as a child.

but the new twist on gatto’s article for me is that, while not mentioned, it clearly has a similar call to alarm regarding workplace learning. apathy runs rampant. facilitators “just try to cover everything in the materials.” butts-in-seats is still a major metric out muscling actual learning or transfer of knowledge to the job. senior management views training as a “fix-it” for problems rather than a means to develop and educated and creative workforce. to paraphrase gatto, “clearly people learn what they need to know about doing their jobs. but knowledgeable is an entirely separate issue from ‘well trained.'”

his last statement could easily become a meme for supporters of informal learning and the free-range learner:

After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

gatto finishes his article by saying that children can still be educated to become knowledgeable, productive adults – but don’t count on schools to do it. is it too late to avoid the same being said of workplace learning?

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Related News:
Schools boss Joel Klein talks education reform with News – New York Daily News
Edwards describes stands on health care, energy, Iraq – San Jose Mercury News
Presidential Candidates Challenged to Rock Education by New Hampshire – Associated Content
Cargill says merit pay for teaches will improve state’s education … – Norman Transcript

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