Today’s “remote” worker faces an unfair uphill battle.
No one respects you.
OK, so that might be taking it a bit far, but today’s remote worker certainly doesn’t enjoy the advantages as those who work in the traditional office environment.
Consider the following two scenarios–assume both of these people are star employees who are looking to climb the corporate ladder. Which person is more likely to enjoy advancement opportunities?
- Scenario 1: 35-year-old woman decides to work from home 3 days a week to have more flexibility to spend with her growing family. She’s only in the office two days a week so she has to call in to a number of team meetings and meetings with business partners.
- Scenario 2: 35-year-old woman works in the office full time. In fact, she’s probably there close to 60 hours a week. She is constantly in meetings–often booked throughout the day.
You’re kidding yourself if you think the woman in scenario #1 has a chance against the woman in scenario #2.
Two words: Face time.
The woman in scenario #1 has little. The woman in scenario #2 has a ton of it.
And culturally, most organizations, it seems, are still fully predicated on a “face time, butt-in-the-seat” kind of mentality.
What am I basing this opinion on?
First-hand experience–especially on the corporate side.
Despite what many say, when you say you’re “working from home”, that phrase still carries a negative connotation for many on the corporate side.
You may as well be saying: “I plan to sit by the pool tomorrow and drink a Miller Lite.” I truly believe that’s what some people still think.
I’ve seen it with former employers.
I’ve seen it with friends.
And, I’ve experienced a little bit of it as a consultant.
Because it’s a similar dynamic.
Consider the following scenario for me: I’m at a party with a bunch of folks I don’t really know. So, I need to introduce myself and talk about what I do for a day job. If I were working on the corporate side, it would sound like this:
- Hey–Arik Hanson here. I work at Best Buy where I lead social for the organization. I’ve been there for 5 years. Before that I worked for General Mills and Target in similar roles.
Or, I would introduce myself this way (which is actually what I do at parties and events currently):
- Hey–Arik Hanson here. I’m an independent digital marketing and PR consultant. I work mostly with large companies in the Twin Cities like Sleep Number, Andersen Windows & Doors, Trane, Thermo King and a host of other brands. I’ve been at it for seven years now. And I mostly work from home.
Which intro is more impressive? #1 for most–and it’s not close. Why? Because big companies carry credibility, sure. But also because once people here “independent marketing consultant” and “work from home” they think “woefully unemployed” or “complete bum.”
I’m hardly exaggerating.
My point in all of this: While technology has made it easier than ever for people to work remotely and for people to have more flexibility in their schedules, corporate cultures and attitudes (largely) haven’t caught up.
There is still a “butt in the seat” mindset within many corporations.
Want to make director? You need to be visible.
Want to make VP? No way you can work from home–how will you ever work the required hours?
Now, I know not every corporation behaves this way. Certainly there are many that have adopted the opposite mentality.
But, I would argue those companies are in the minority.
And I’m not sure I see that changing anytime soon–despite what many may hope.
So, the sad reality may be this: Want to work remotely with more flexibility in your schedule? Don’t expect the same advancement opportunities as others who work in the office.
That might be the unfortunate trade-off for now…
I want to talk about a little thing that’s been bugging me lately.
It’s not a big thing. It’s not really all that critical to my overall life satisfaction.
But, it’s bugging me. Nagging at me. Consistently.
It revolves around how people talk about their work teams.
Here’s what I hear from some people in our industry:
“I asked my team to look at it. We’ll have an answer to you shortly.”
“My team is made up of social media strategists and community managers.”
“I’m getting my team together for a brainstorm later today.”
What is consistent about all these statements? The use of the word: “my.”
Why is that a big deal?
Because we’re talking about a TEAM. Not a person.
And once you start saying “my team” it makes it about you–NOT the team.
Instead, notice the difference when the statements include “our”:
“I asked our team to look at it. We’ll have an answer to you shortly.”
“Our team is made up of social media strategists and community managers.”
“Our team is getting together for a brainstorm later today.”
OK, so you’re laughing. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill, Arik. This is not worth writing about.
I beg to differ.
I think how you talk about your team makes all the difference in the world.
Think about a basketball team. More specifically, listen to any coach after an college basketball game. What do they say? You hear a lot of “our guys” and “our team”–you RARELY hear the coach of an college (or NBA, for that matter) basketball team say “my team.” And why would he? It’s not HIS team–that goes against every logical meaning of the word TEAM.
A team is comprised of multiple people all working toward a common goal. That’s a team. Multiple people, each doing something to move the team forward.
We’ve all heard the saying: “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team'”.
Yet, I continue to hear people talking about “my team” in the PR world all the time.
I’ll tell you why. One word: Ego.
People use “my” because it’s all about them. Sure, sometimes it slips and people just say it. I get it. I’ve heard some of my best friends in the business say it–sometimes it just slips.
But, other times, I hear people say it over and over again. And to me, that’s a red flag. An indication that this leader really isn’t a leader. And, he/she is certainly not a coach or mentor to anyone. People that are successful coaches and mentors don’t talk in terms of “me”, “I” or “my”. They talk in terms of “our” and “we.”
Language matters, people. Really, it does.
People pay attention to the words you use. I know it doesn’t seem like it most days–but I believe they do.
So, if you’re in a leadership position, think about the way in which you talk about and to your team. Are you using inclusive words like “we” and “our”–or are you slipping and using the “Is” and “Me”s too much?
Time to really think about the words we use when we talk about our teams, folks.
By now, most of us have been in the following situation.
“We’re revamping our web site–this is big news! Shouldn’t we write up a news release and alert the media?”
“Yeah, I mean, we now have a more ‘mobile-friendly’ site–that’s news, right?”
“And we completely changed our navigation and added bigger, splashier photos, too!”
And what has our answer been (especially the last 5-6 years in this age of “what have you done for me in the last 3 seconds?”): Re-launching a new web site is NOT news. Not in this environment. Not anymore. Not really, ever.
Except, if you’re Target.
When you’re Target, and you’re one of the biggest companies in town, everything is news. Even when you relaunch a “mobile” web site.
Because that seems to be what Target did this weekend. My “proof”: The front page of Saturday’s Star Tribune business section (see above).
This is a little comical for a few reasons (with quotes right from the story):
- “Target Corp. has long had different websites for smartphones, tablets and desktops. Now, it’s cut them down to just one site that can be viewed from any device.” Now, I’m no “web expert”, but isn’t that called “responsive design”? And, hasn’t that concept been around for like 4-5 years?
- “For consumers, the most apparent changes are less text on the home-page and more pictures and a more visual experience.” Breaking news, folks. Customers respond to visuals!
- “So many guests shop in different platforms. Having an experience that looks similar across those things is more intuitive. We know that’s what guests want.” Is that quote from 2013?
I don’t mean to rail on Target. And I’m not even saying this was the wrong thing to do. After all, when you’re Target, and you’re one of the biggest companies in town and you’re a huge employer in downtown Minneapolis, ANYTHING you do is news. Including launching a new web site. I don’t fault them for that at all (Note: the real story here is how Target is trying to make advancements on the tech side, an area of their business where they are really trying to focus at the moment and make up ground vs. the Amazons of the world).
But, I do think this is a continued cautionary tale for all other brands who have names that don’t start with “Target” or “Walmart” or “Amazon.” Despite the story here, re-launching a new web site ISN’T news. Very few people care about your new mobile app. No one even knows that you just adopted responsive design. It’s just not newsworthy (again, unless you’re one of the biggest companies in town).
Save your pitches folks.
In a previous life, I spent my days working for a large health care organization based here in Minneapolis.
I had taken the job as a “step back”. As a way to get a better handle on my career, and survive those early years with my kids (young parents—you’ll relate).
But, one thing I found fascinating about this health care company and its marketing/communications function was this: Most people did seem to see any reason to network beyond its four walls.
No one said that, in those certain terms. But, they didn’t have to. Their actions spoke much louder than words.
Very few people joined and participated in professional associations like PRSA and AMA.
Very few people had semi-regular coffee meet-ups with people outside our industry.
In fact, the only time I really saw people networking and grabbing coffee when was layoffs were imminent and people were fighting for their jobs.
I’ll give you another example locally: Target.
If you work in the Twin Cities, chances are you know someone who works at Target.
But, when was the last time you had a networking coffee with anyone from Target?
When was the last time you saw someone from Target at an industry event?
I’m not saying it never happens. All I’m saying is you don’t see as many people from Target attending industry events as you do from other organizations in town (they do most of their networking WITHIN Target).
It’s a common issue for folks at large corporations: They fail to network outside the four walls of their organization.
Lots of reasons.
1 – I have my “dream job” (or some form of it). Why do I even need to network?
2 – I’m too busy. I don’t have time to network.
3 – I know enough people—I don’t need to expand my network.
To those people, I would say: See you in the unemployment line (OK, I’m being dramatic–I couldn’t help myself).
Networking is the lifeblood of any successful PR and marketing professional. Who you know is every bit as important (and I would argue more so, in many cases) than what you know.
And it’s not all about jobs either. Networking is a critical component of professional development, too. You know, that whole “improving yourself” thing.
In fact, I would argue networking outside your organization’s four walls could be seen as a core requirement for all employees as a professional development strategy.
Think about the benefits to the organization:
1: More new ideas from outside the organizations. So many orgs suffer from a prevalent “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. Networking with others gives you insight into how other industries and companies address common marketing challenges.
2: More access to talent. What’s the first thing any corporate team does when a new job comes open on its team? They ask “Who do we know that might be a fit?” Everyone pings their networks to see if they have a friend or colleague that might be interested. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you had a few people on your team that had expansive networks, in this case?
3: More access to vendors. See #2 above–except substitute “talent” for “vendors.” Exact same situation. Before you start interviewing agencies, wouldn’t it be helpful to have a few people weigh in on those agencies based on personal experience and their networks’ personal experiences?
Now, the jobs piece, which is more confounding to be honest.
Why people refuse (or ignore) to network outside the four walls of their company has always seemed a bit odd to me.
Here’s how I think about this:
When I worked on the corporate side, I took every job knowing full well we operate in an “at will” employment environment. That means: A company can hire and fire me whenever they like (essentially). And, I can leave whenever I want.
I knew that people (good people) get fired all the time. Sometimes through layoffs. Sometimes through reorgs. Sometimes by way of performance.
So, if that’s the case, I wanted to give myself the best chance to survive those (impending) layoffs (and if you think it’s weird I use “impending” go ask your friends how many of them have been laid off once in their careers. You’ll see a bunch of hands go up).
The best way to make sure you are inherently employable isn’t merely to “do a great job at work” (although that certainly is a component of it). It’s also means you have to have a solid, extended network.
Because, if you get laid off, what’s the first thing you’re doing? Calling on your network for help.
So, doesn’t it make sense to ensure you have a large network that is motivated to help you when you need that help?
This is exactly why when I was working on the corporate side, I made the extra effort to build and nurture my network. That meant organizing coffees before work. Attending industry events. Reaching out to folks on LinkedIn and Twitter.
All that paid off in a big way when I was looking for my next opportunity. I asked people in my network questions about starting a solo business. Asked others about social/digital opportunities in the local market. Asked yet others for help with connections.
And, for the most part, they all said “yes” and helped. Why? Because I had put in the time on the front end through coffees, industry events and other communications.
Yeah, networking is a lot of work. It takes a lot of time.
But you know what? It may also end up saving your career. Or, making it more lucrative. Or, extending it by 5-10 years.
Go forth people. Network. You’ll thank me later.
I’m not a career agency guy. I didn’t cut my teeth at Spong. I didn’t work my way up from intern to VP at Weber. I just don’t have a ton of experience in the agency world.
But, I did spend time at two agencies earlier in my career (Concept Group–a small marcom shop in St. Paul, and Beehive–a PR shop in St. Paul).
And I can tell you this: The agency billing model is broken.
Sure, we’ve read all about this before. And sure, it’s probably not changing any time soon.
But, most of the articles I’ve read don’t touch on the REAL reason the model is broken.
It doesn’t reward your top performers.
Think about it. Agencies make money when they win big accounts. Big accounts = more billable hours. More billable hours = more money for agency owners.
But not necessarily more money for top performers.
Sure, top performers raise up the ranks faster than others. They might earn more money in the long-term due to their work ethic, ingenuity and innovative spirit.
But, they’re not rewarded on a day-to-day basis for those things. In fact, the system actually rewards those who work SLOWER and more INEFFICIENTLY.
Take the following scenario.
Let’s say Joe needs to write a blog post for a client. Joe is a high performer, so he’s pretty darn efficient. He can bang out the post in 5 hours, including research, writing time and editing.
Sue, on the other hand, is a middle-of-the-road employee. For the same request, Sue can write the post in 10 hours.
Who made the agency more money? Sue, right? 10 hours vs. 5 hours.
What’s more, Joe was efficient. So, his reward for that efficiency? TAKE ON MORE WORK! BILL MORE HOURS! MAKE US MORE MONEY!
That’s a broken system, ladies and gentleman.
I know I’m simplifying it immensely, but at the crux of it, that’s the problem as I see it.
Now, I don’t know what the solution is. And, truth be told, I don’t care. Thankfully, I don’t run an agency–and I don’t have any aspirations of doing that any time soon.
All I can do is tell you it’s broken.
I’ll let the agency owners figure it out.