Saturday, September 22, 2018

Declining Corporate Skills – part 2

The continuing erosion of skills in an environment where supply is chasing demand

I blogged on this subject recently, but thought it worth revisiting as new material keeps coming up. I spoke to a twenty-something the other day, who worked in a call centre of one of our large communications companies. I was shocked to hear of what went on in those concrete cages around which ambulances hovered daily, anxious to take the fallen away and hide the evidence of gladiators hurt in combat.

It’s all about numbers: average handling time AHT (low), number of retained customers (high), amount of customer revenue earned (high), number of new products cross-sold (high), number of customers up-sold (high). Wait a second! There are some conflicting ratios here. Take the pissed-off long term customer who is calling to cancel her account because the company is gauging her with those ever increasing “fees.” If our hapless agent salvages the client, by first listening patiently to her vent, and then by giving her a rebate for the next 6 months, he has failed on all but his customer retention score: his AHT will be higher, his customer revenue is lower, and he dared not have up-sold or cross-sold anything more to this irate customer on that call. But he saved the company its greatest embarrassment: the customer badmouthing her experience to 20 other people, as is taught to us in all the text books that no one reads these days as everyone is so busy texting and twittering.

It gets worse. Bonus plans are introduced without considering long term implications. In the beginning, these plans promise great earnings potential; then targets get raised to the point that bonuses look like mirages in the desert, and then they are yanked away completely. Talk of motivation!

What about leadership? There are increasing occurrences of the leader who runs to his or her manager to get a decision and has to wait for that manager to run to his or her manager for the same thing, and so up the chain, until everyone is in the President’s office. And what started this frantic migration? Oh, the poor bloke at the bottom of the chain needed a day off! “Sychophant” should be a ubiquitous word in the corporate lexicon today, along with the usual buzzwords of “synergy,” “take-charge” and “pro-active.”

I tried to understand this shift. When I arrived in Canada in the late ‘80’s, we were told that employees needed to be kept motivated because there was nothing to stop them from walking across to the competition. We were told that employees left bad bosses, not bad jobs. It was an environment of employers chasing good employees. I felt so relieved at the time, because I had left the Third World where employees were treated like commodities and bosses had little or no leadership skills because they had often been appointed through nepotistic connections.

Now, thanks to globalization, automation, and a financial crash, the situation has reversed and the Third World working environment has made landfall in North America. And it’s been going on for five long years, so the change is more structural this time. The big losers will be the corporate leaders of tomorrow, the ones cutting their teeth in this new environment today, who are of the opinion that employees are disposable and leadership lies only with the Big Boss. It almost begs comparison with the concentration camps of WWII when the mantra was, “oh let ‘em work or die, there is another trainload coming in next week.” And the ambulances will be doing heavier duty outside. Even Dilbert will become more popular as one wonders whether it is a cartoon strip anymore or harsh reality portrayed in a digestible form.

So for all you pointy-haired bosses out there, pay heed, the world goes around in circles, gravitational and economic. Those former concentration camps were eventually razed, the slaves were freed, the perpetrators were punished and the world went into a cycle of unprecedented growth that we only lost five years ago. And that can happen again. What goes around, comes around, they say – so gird up your loins, dust off those management books of yore and be prepared to show some respect again, especially when mass retirements start in a decade from now and employers start chasing employees again.

About the Writer

Shane Joseph is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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3 comments on Declining Corporate Skills – part 2

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By Barbara MacDonald on March 03, 2013 at 10:16 am

Very well said Shane...I love the sarcasm in Dilbert...thought you might appreciate this that I recently read ...great article.

Quotes from Quality Leadership A magazine recently ran a "Dilbert Quotes" contest. They were looking for people to submit quotes from there real life Dilbert-type managers. Here are the finalists: 1. "As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks." (Winner of the contest) Microsoft Corp, internal memo 2. "What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter." Lykes Lines Shipping 3. "E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data!. It should be used only for company business." 4. "This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it." UPS 5. "Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule." Unknown 6. "No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them." R&D Supervisor, 3M Corp. 7. "My boss spent the entire weekend retyping a 25-page proposal that only needed corrections. She claims the disk I gave her was damaged and she couldn't edit it. The disk i gave her was write protected." CIO, Dell Computers 8. "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say." Marketing Executive, Citrix Corporation 9. My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my boss, he said she died on purpose so I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said, "That would be better for me." Shipping Exec., FTD Florists 10. "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with employees." Swithching Supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Div. 11. We recently received a memo from Senior Management saying, "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the memo mentioned above." Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division 12. One day my boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said, "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!" Business Manager, Hallmark Greeting Cards 13. As director of communications, I was asked to prepare a memo reviewing our company's training programs and materials. In the body of the memo in one of the sentences i mentioned the "pedagogical approach" used by the training manuals. (Pedagogical- (to summarize) a too formal approach to education, where undue attention is paid to formalization of the rules and art of learning rather than the actual learning. Laz) The day after I routed the memo to the executive committee, I was called into the HR director's office, and told that the executive vice president wanted me out of the building by lunch. When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn't stand for perverts (pedophiles?) working in her company. Finally, he showed me her copy of the memo, with her demand that I be fired, and the word "pedagogical" circled in red. The HR manager was fairly resonable, and once he looked the word up in his dictionary and made a copy of the definition to send back to her, he told me not to worry. He would take care of it. Two days later, a memo to the entire staff came out directing that no words which could not be found in the local Sunday newspaper could be used in the company memos. A month later, I resigned. In accordance with company policy, I created my resignation memo by pasting words together from the Sunday paper. Taco Bell Corporation Here is one from my company: A memo with the following words in 25 point bold letters accross the top... "If you are not an e-mail user and do not have an e-mail account, you may delete this message now." Guess how the message was delivered. You got! By e-mail. :)

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By Shane Joseph on March 03, 2013 at 04:49 pm

barbara - thanks for this!i liked the pedagogical one the best. my next article will be on the declining vocabulary in the corporate world.

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By Barbara MacDonald on March 03, 2013 at 05:30 pm

I thought it was quite funny in such a sarcastic way...I liked it a lot. Sometimes sarcasm makes the point so much better...I look forward to your next article.

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