The modern workplace is all about being "flat" -- that is, eliminating the hierarchies, job titles, and traditional corner offices more associated with the Industrial Age than the Digital Age. But while many employees thrive in the egalitarian culture of a flat organization, others who are more familiar with the promotions, titles and other perquisites of a vertical workplace worry about a potential drawback: their own career advancement.
It doesn't have to be that way. True, flat organizations have far fewer leaders at the top, but that doesn't mean employees can't expand their skills and position themselves for a better job down the road. The key is to look beyond the classic rewards for a job well done and to pursue other ways of learning new skills, fulfilling your ambition, and boosting your worth. Here are four ways to do just that:
Become a Master of Your Trade
Jason Fried, the CEO of Chicago-based software company 37signals, doesn't often promote employees to managerial roles. He doesn't have a chief technology officer, a creative director or customer support manager. Instead he divides his 40 or so workers into teams and gives them the freedom to manage themselves. The programmers program. The designers design. The customer support staff, well, supports customers. Instead of one designated team leader, the company rotates each team member into the role each week.
"Instead of rewarding high performers with managerial responsibilities -- which often drives people further away from the job they are actually good at -- we reward with responsibilities closer to the work," Fried writes in a regular . Promoting a great designer to creative director would only take her away from the day-to-day work she's so good at, he explains. Instead, the company lets her lead more projects and truly own her work.
The moral of the story: master, don't manage. Expand your depth and breadth of knowledge to truly master your craft. You may not technically be "climbing the ladder," but you're certainly adding skills and grooming yourself for a better position down the road.
Be Your Own Boss
Valve, a Washington-based developer of video games with some 300 employees, has never had a boss in its entire 17-year history -- nor does it have traditional pay scales, hierarchies or office hours. Yet, Valve's per-employee profits reportedly top those of Google and Microsoft.
The egalitarian structure allows all employees to participate in major company decisions, including individual compensation. Leadership and product design are handled by whomever steps up and makes something happen. By giving everyone a vote and the opportunity to participate, the company places the onus on employees to manage projects, develop and execute on strategy, and lead.
"You don't necessarily need leaders or people in positions of authority, but you need people and systems to empower everyone else," said Nick Stein, senior director of marketing and communications at Salesforce.com. The company has developed software that helps companies identify their goals, motivate employees to achieve them and reward top performers in both flat and hierarchical organizations. "It's about empowering people to take more control of their destiny," Stein said.
Be a Mentor
Just because you're not officially in charge of a team doesn't mean you can't share your know-how. By mentoring new employees, you not only reinforce your skills but also show initiative. Plus, making a difference in the lives of others is one of the best forms of fulfillment, writes Susan Krauss Whitbourne, an acclaimed psychologist and expert on fulfillment.
Learn What You Can, Strike Out on Your Own
A great way to advance in a flat organization is to focus on mastering skills and, together with your passion, starting your own company. Fried recounts how an employee who wasn't perfectly suited for 37Signals' more freewheeling structure wanted a new job title with managerial duties attached. Eventually she left -- amicably -- to launch her own business. She now runs her own team and also turns to her former boss for advice.
Whether it's taking charge of an internal team at your company or branching off on your own, opportunities abound for career growth beyond traditional hierarchies.
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4 Ways to Expand Your Social Media Recruiting Strategy
Social media is ubiquitous, and companies are using it in many different and innovative ways for enhancing their sales, marketing and customer services. So why is it then that many HR departments still fail to see social media as more than a job board? Outside of the office, the same HR people happily engage with friends on Facebook, share news and ideas on Twitter, look at pictures on Instagram and send snaps on Snapchat. But when they put their work hat on they seemingly forget why they use social in the way they (and hundreds of millions of other users) do every day, and resort back to just posting jobs (in a boring way) on social media! Of course there is nothing wrong with job posting, and it's often an effective approach to reaching an audience, but not all of the time. According to LinkedIn, only 12 percent of the working population are actively seeking new employment. So, if all you do is post jobs on your LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook page, you are consciously ignoring the other 88 percent of the working population who might be interested in hearing more about your company in general. Creating and sharing interesting content about your company such as employee stories or volunteer days help bring your employer brand to life. It might even trigger people to reach out to you and find out more about your job opportunities. In truth, mixing up your social media feeds with a variety of content will provide more depth and candidate engagement. Here are four ways to expand your social media strategy and engage with new potential candidates. 1) Candidate Sourcing With people using an average of more than five social networks, sourcing talent via social media makes absolute sense. Branch out from just using LinkedIn and look to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to search for and engage with prospective talent. Try search tools like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios for keywords and job titles, a clever Chrome browser extension called Intelligence Search that easily searches Facebook and using the search bar at the top of Google+. They will help you identify new talent. If you are looking to build social media pipelines then try Hello Talent. It is a great free tool that allows you to build talent pipelines from many different social networks by using a browser extension. 2) Competitor Monitoring Social media is a fantastic source of information and data. By using tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, you can monitor the social media activity of your competitors. Both of these tools allow you to set up search columns, where you can enter things like keywords, hashtags, Twitter names and track when any of these are mentioned on sites such as Twitter. You can use the interact or use the insights accordingly. 3) Resources for Candidates Consider your Facebook page (or Twitter channel) as a real-time customer services channel for you to engage and communicate with both new and existing candidates in the recruitment process. Provide links to your social media pages to candidates at all stages in the process and encourage them to visit the pages and ask questions about any part of the process. You can also share useful information about working for the company, including locations, employees and other relevant news. 4) Live Recruitment Events Not everyone can attend the many recruitment events happening every month. But by using social media like Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram and Snapchat, you can easily provide live commentary for these events you attend or host. Real-time video via Facebook Live and interaction via Twitter chats are superb examples of ways to regularly engage with a live audience of potential candidates. With social media firmly established in our working lives, I question how much more evidence HR departments will need to fully embrace this "new" form of candidate engagement. Photo: Twenty20
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Cartoon Coffee Break: Unconventional Recruiting
Editor's Note: This post is part of our "Cartoon Coffee Break" series. While we take talent management seriously, we also know it's important to have a good laugh. Check back every two weeks for a new ReWork cartoon. Missed the Recruiting Trends conference? From the state of recruiting automation adoption, to the role that the human element still plays in recruiting, our recap covers everything you need to know. Header photo: Creative Commons
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The Latest Office Benefit Is Tackling Student Debt
Modern companies are more than just employers — increasingly, they are also gyms, cafeterias and even laundromats. As perks like yoga class, free lunch and complimentary dry cleaning become the norm, companies continue to push the boundaries on ways to attract and retain top talent by providing much more than a paycheck to employees. The latest in the slew of new workplace benefits? Student loan assistance. In April, Chegg partnered with Tuition.io to give full-time employees extra cash for student loan reduction. Then in September, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers announced it would provide up to $1,200 to help employees pay off loans annually. As a benefit, student loan assistance programs are certainly still in their infancy— one survey found that only 3 percent of companies offer such a benefit. But experts say that may soon change as companies seek to differentiate themselves in a competitive hiring environment. "We think student loan benefits are poised to be the next big benefit; similar to what 401(k) matching was when it was first introduced," says Dana Rosenberg, who leads employer and affinity group partnerships at Earnest, a lender that offers student loan refinancing and works with companies to create loan pay-down programs. The Burden of Student Debt Such programs could be extremely attractive to debt-laden Millennials. Around 40 million Americans collectively carry $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and the graduating class of 2015 was the most indebted class in history with an average debt of $35,000 (a superlative they won't hold for long come May 2016.) For employers looking to adjust benefits to correspond to the changing demographics of their employee base, student loan programs hit the mark. "In 2016, our employees will be 80 percent millennials, and we also hire close to 11,000 employees directly out of school each year," says Terri McClements, Washington Metro managing partner of PwC. With student debt often preventing young people from participating in 401(k) plans and reaching traditional life milestones, the benefit could potentially make a large impact on employees' financial and personal well-being. A study from the American Student Association found that 73 percent of people with student loans reported putting off saving for retirement or other investments due to their debt, 75 percent reported delaying a home purchase and 27 percent reported it was difficult to buy daily necessities. "Student loans can be a very stressful thing to deal with, so if we can give our employees peace of mind, that's great," says Caroline Gennaro, corporate communications manager at Chegg. The Allure for Employers Student debt assistance programs aren't just attractive to employees, either. Rosenberg says there are significant benefits for the organizations that offer them as well. "Employers that offer programs to help their employees get out from under their debt load are seeing big benefits: increased retention, more competitive recruiting and, perhaps most importantly, happier employees who have additional cash flow to put towards their life goals," Rosenberg explains. Rosenberg says happier employees are more engaged employees, who tend to be more productive. Studies show that companies with high employee engagement experience lower turnover and have double the rate of organizational success than their less-engaged counterparts. Student loan benefit programs may also lead to a more diverse workforce, attracting employees whose financial backgrounds meant they had to take on more debt for their education. "Diversity and inclusion are also very important to us, so the ability to offer this benefit can help minorities who come out of school with a higher debt burden," says McClements. A Promising Response Companies say the response to their student loan assistance programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Chegg has had more than 80 people sign up since they started their program this summer, and they've already eliminated roughly 86 years of collective loan repayments for their employees. Companies are also finding these programs are a way to differentiate themselves from organizations that may offer more generic benefits. "As a company in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are always looking to attract the best and brightest in the industry, and this benefit is a big draw," says Gennaro. Photo: Shutterstock