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Archive for the ‘pay fair’ Category

Could Your Organization Grow Your Spirit?

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LEED-like certification for human-spirit-sustainable workplaces

LEED certification is a rating system that recognizes a building’s sustainability. LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, rates a new building project using five different categories:

  1. Site location
  2. Water conservation
  3. Energy efficiency
  4. Materials
  5. Indoor air quality

Businesses and organizations with the highest ratings display them as a sort of badge of honor for the public to see.

What if there were some system to measure and rate the culture within a company or organization? Since we worry about bullying at school and we’re starting to recognize bullies in the office and toxic corporate cultures, does it make sense to start thinking about organizations that sustain people rather than beat them?


For instance, what if any organization was judged by these four categories:

  1. Bias toward collaboration
  2. Employee engagement indicators
  3. Mix of top-down messaging with true conversation
  4. Ratio of CEO-pay to rank-and-file pay

Seem ridiculous?

It would be difficult to measure many of these, especially since most of the categories seem so subjective. And yet, would it be impossible to measure? Would it be worthwhile to measure? Are we already moving in that direction?

In Minneapolis/St. Paul—like any set of cities—insider talk has long identified those cut-throat corporate and institutional cultures that routinely toss human capital to the side. Insider talk also identifies those bosses, managers and C-suite people without empathy and/or ethical moorings. New employees are generally forewarned when they sign up.

Of course, business is still about earning a living for the people involved even as the organization serves some human need. So don’t think I’m championing some communistic collective. Profits will and must be made to help society move forward.

But as we move toward fuller employment, workers will become more choosy about where they spend their days. And those cultures that have a less sustainable ethos will not be the winners.

I’m not convinced I’ve identified the right categories to measure. What categories would you include?


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Joe Lueken: The Grocer With Something To Teach CEOs About Leadership

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Joe Knew Where His Success Came From

Are you one of those poor souls who does not read the obituaries?08012014-ows_140676680423001

Pity: so many memorable stories.

Like the story of Joe Lueken. A couple years ago Mr. Lueken turned down the opportunity to make buckets of cash by selling his Bemidji-based grocery store chain. Instead, as he retired, he set up an employee stock ownership program and transferred the company to his workers.

 “My employees are largely responsible for any success I’ve had, and they deserve to get some benefit from that,” Lueken told the Star Tribune in 2012….

He was a philanthropist who stocked shelves and took his break with the other workers in the break room. And—most telling for me—the people who worked for him had great respect for him. He was a guy whose work ethic and his caring demeanor touched lives. And it seems—at least from my reading of a couple of articles—he did so with joy.

Mr. Lueken died on July 20 after a long battle with cancer.


As we watch the explosion of CEO salaries and look with wonder on the board members who agree to these ridiculous payouts, it’s hard not to wish many of the current batch of muckety-mucks had worked for Joe. Maybe his humanity would have rubbed off.


Image credit: StarTribune

No, Really: What does a Philosopher do?

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When Adjuncts Escape

Helen De Cruz has done a fascinating and very readable series of blog posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) tracking the migration of philosophical thinking from academia into the rest of life. As low-paid, temporary workers (that is, “contingent faculty” or “adjuncts”) take over more and more university teaching duties (50% of all faculty hold part-time appointments); smart, degreed people are also starting to find their way out of this system that rewards increasingly narrowed focus with low pay and a kick in the butt at the end of the semester.

Ms. De Cruz has a number of excellent interactions with her sample of former academics (at least one of whom left a tenured position!). I love that Ms. De Cruz named transferable skills. What would a philosophy Ph.D. bring to a start-up? Or a tech position? The answers she arrives at may surprise you.

Why the Nichols Station Apartments look different.

Why the Nichols Station Apartments look different.

I’ve always felt we carry our interests and passions and skills with us, from this class to that job to this project to that collaboration. And thus we form a life of work. Possibly we produce a body of work. We once called this a “career,” but that word has overtones of climbing some institutional ladder. I think we’re starting to see more willingness to make your own way—much like Seth Godin described his 30 years of projects.

The notion of “career” is very much in flux.

And that is a good thing.

Of particular interest to me was the discussion Ms. De Cruz had with Eric Kaplan. Mr. Kaplan found his way out of studying phenomenology (and philosophy of language with advisor John Searle!) at Columbia and UC Berkeley to writing television comedy (Letterman, Flight of the Conchords, and Big Bang Theory, among others). If you’ve watched any of these, it’s likely you’ve witnessed some of the things a philosophical bent does out loud: ask obvious questions and produce not-so-obvious answers. And that’s when the funny starts. It’s this hidden machinery that will drive the really interesting stuff in a number of industries.

Our colleges and universities are beginning to do an excellent job dispersing talent. That thoughtful diaspora will only grow as time pitches forward.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Stephen Hemsley, UnitedHealth Group, took home $28,139,070 in 2013

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Here’s my plaque-concept for employee appreciation

$2-3 million for an engraved plaque for every employee? Totally worth it.

Idea note_20140424_095040_01###

Via Patrick Kennedy CEO Pay Watch/StarTribune

Written by kirkistan

April 24, 2014 at 10:12 am

Cory Doctorow’s Story Keeps Me Up at Night

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“Makers” makes my mind spin

Doctorow’s notion of “New Work” generates a physical reaction in me.

Doctorow pictures a future U.S. that has been in decline for some time. Big work for big corporations is long gone and poverty is the new normal. This is a future where giant empty boarded-up malls and Wal-marts invite ad hoc flea markets. And these flea markets now represent the best of commerce as they inhabit high-end retail spaces formerly occupied by the Macy’s and Nordstroms and the like.

After the new economy stripped away the old dependable jobs, the New Work movement sprang up with people recycling waste technology and creating mind-bending, highly specialized products that created their own markets. Cottage industries formed in communities small and large all over the country and people jumped their remaining corporate positions to pursue their own visions. And then it all fell apart. Again.

The book’s vision makes my head spin because of the visceral sense of work as creating and owning. The vividly drawn characters create and collaborate in ways that are very easy to picture, amidst the volatile conditions that already exist in our culture. Maybe it’s the ups and downs of these spirited characters that keeps me awake at night. Doctorow’s vision of the future is that of decline with a sharp aftertaste of humanity striving and living and sometimes succeeding.

I’m only halfway through, but the book has my attention. I may need to finish it fast so I can sleep again.


Image Credit: Mondorama 2000 via thisisnthappiness

Written by kirkistan

October 15, 2012 at 8:24 am

Occupy Everything: Every Group Forms Around a Promise

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Anarchists organize for anarchy while pacifists plot their war on war. A church may promise a club-like space where everyone knows your name or it may work out the day-to-day look of those ancient texts that call for justice, mercy and rightness with the Creator.

Optimist/Activist Professor Reich

At the moment, Occupy Wall Street is a BYOP (Bring Your Own Promise) event. But commentators and talking heads are showing up to frame up their version of the promise. Also showing up: opportunists, would-be pornographers, and anybody with a beef. Robert Reich took to the bullhorn Wednesday at Occupy San Francisco with his version of the promise: “I really do believe we are on the cusp of a fundamental change,” Reich said.

Maybe so.

Maybe Occupy [whatever] is this generation’s 1968 moment. Maybe the greedy will be shamed into… what? Backing away from the system that hands out checks for the way they risk other people’s money? Maybe we are simply shining light on the scurrying rats of a corrupt and corrupting financial system. We also shine the light on our own culpability in a corrupt and corrupting system

The single, binding promise has yet to emerge. But certainly our conversation is different today. And that feels like progress.


Image Credit: SF Examiner

Written by kirkistan

October 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

Consumer Divide Grows while Lobbyists Paint over Excessive Executive Pay Packages

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This simple ratio can help shareholders see more clearly

Jack Neff at Ad Age reports on the growing divide between the rich who just keep getting richer and everyone else—and how that fact may reshape marketing efforts. That marketers see the divide and are changing strategies is a telling detail to this economy.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on the lobbying efforts to repeal the requirement that public companies disclose comparing executive pay with that of the average worker in the company. According to research conducted by MIT and the Federal Reserve, average executive pay was 28 times that of the average worker income in 1970. “By 2005, executive pay had jumped to 158 times that of the average worker.”

Nobody wants more rules for companies to follow, especially when those rules require budgeting for more government agencies to enforce them. But I would like to see the tone of our national economic conversation move toward simple, understandable terms that can help us see what is going on. Comparing executive pay to average worker pay can help the average person get a grasp on the crazy pay packages many executives receive.

What if shareholders demanded more than that companies “go green”? What if they demanded that companies “pay fair”? I’m not against executives who have agreed to the corporate tattoo receiving more—even much more. But today’s ridiculous executive pay packages remind of feudal economics.

The simple ratio of executive pay to average worker pay could make things clearer. Why aren’t shareholders asking for that?


Image Credit: Ruby Anemic

Written by kirkistan

June 27, 2011 at 8:55 am

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