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HCA works in industries that demand repeatable and highly reliable business processes. We work with clients to align workforce development, technology, and business processes with competitive strategies. All engagements target practical and implemented solutions that can be measured and monetized. Our work commonly targets 3 outcomes: the Employee Experience, Business Results, and the Customer Experience.

Vikings and Snowflakes - How to make the most out of diverse talents in your company

A positive by-product of the political rancor that we have collectively endured over the past several months leading up to the mid-term elections can be found in a piece by Jordan Petersen, the Canadian clinical psychologist. In it, Petersen posits that business leaders need both liberals and conservatives to effectively manage their success. Through his psychological studies of people in business and politics, he has identified accompanying personality traits associated with political types that match up well in contrast - and that provide positive outcomes. So the silver lining to the elections is that the country may become better managed. 

This notion is not lost on investors either. The stock market, as well, operates on the premise that a fiery crucible of ideas and thoughtful, patient action is better for the economy and, generally speaking, the stock market does well with a divided government. As of this writing the day after the mid-term election delivered a divided Congress, the Dow Jones Industrials shot up 545 points and a little over 2% in total value proving some of this theory.

The question for managers and business leaders revolves around how to implement a diversity strategy that will work for you – particularly with a natural predilection to hire and surround yourself with people like you. It is generally accepted that personality types also are better suited to different areas of your business and we see this most clearly in personality archetypes in Salespeople, Engineers, Financiers, and Mechanics for instance. In a tribal sense, we often refer to Hunters, Gatherers, and Nurturers all contributing in their own way to the ‘Survivor’ Tribe that has just been dropped on some remote Island and needs to survive – or potentially thrive in its existence.

Five-Factor Model of Personality

Psychologists and Business architects take these tribal traitsone step further in their personal and organizational definition of the 5 Big Personality traits – or the Five Factor Model (FFM). The FFM suggests that in each of us and, as an extension, in each organization exist traits that we all hold to one extent or another. The gradient of each of these gives you (and your organization) unique personality:

  1. Openness to Experience: This may relate to the innovation quotient in your business.

  2. Conscientiousness: This may relate to how organized and dependable your organization is.

  3. Extraversion: This may relate to the collaborative nature of your work culture.

  4. Agreeableness: This may relate to partnerships and how your organization is perceived by peers.

  5. Neuroticism: This may relate to process fastidiousness and quality control measures.

By looking inward at the outward expression of your company’s Five Factor traits, you can begin to design a strategy that will promote appropriate diversity and that can actually provide you better outcomes in a ‘this is who we are and this is who we would like to become’ process.

Vikings and Snowflakes

There is something romantic and uniquely John Wayne American about the idea of the totally self-sufficient and capable Cowboy, Native American, or Viking plying the plains or the seas with no one to answer to and in need of no safety net. 

The 10th Century Persian Explorer and Geographer, Ibn Rustah said, in relation to his observation of the Vikings and Viking culture in Eastern Europe:

“They have no fields but simply live on what they get from Slavs’ lands. When a son is born, the father will go to the newborn baby sword in hand and throw it down. ‘I shall not leave you with any property’ he says ‘You have only what you can provide for yourself with this weapon.’”

Clearly, this observation predated the Fidelity U Fund – the Massachusetts 529 Investment Fund, Venmo, or the Shared Family Cell phone plan.

A company full of Vikings will be off the charts on Factor 1: Openness to Experience, High on Factor 2: Conscientiousness - in a ‘Live by the Sword’ way but likely through the floor on all of the other traits so that organization needs some balance. Vikings are also a management challenge all by themselves and who is going to tell them they have bad hygiene. Enter the Snowflake Generation.

Simon Sinek, the Bestselling author of ‘Start with Why’ has done a wonderful piece on Millennials in the Workplace. He claims that Millenials (those born after 1984), are tough to manage and in his words,

“narcissistic, self-interested, unfocused, impatient, and lazy”.

Sinek cites failed parenting strategies (I am guilty), participation medals, and a group who have grown up thinking,

“they can have anything they want in life because they want it.”

He makes a siren call to acknowledge and alter the technology based, social media environment and for businesses to take an active role by giving these workers challenging, skill based work, while fostering an environment that allows them to build deep and important relationships among co-workers. Sinek contends, and we agree, that business has a role in promoting the culture that will allow this unique group of workers to succeed.

I contend that there is another important dynamic afoot among this generation of uniquely American workers and it is from a real hard wired perspective that the grass is likely greener on the other side and their impatience to find out if that is true. We see this in high levels of attrition and important and difficult discussions that management is having around what these workers want – because they want to be happy at work. This dynamic is magnified by social media and pervasive Customer and Employee Experience tools like GlassDoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed, among others.

“I can get better service, lower price, more benefits, more pay, a better work environment, whatever…over there. I am going… and if it works for me, I’ll call you and you can come, too.”

In an interesting twist on the helicopter parent, award for everyone, grade inflation, impatient for success culture, this group unleashed is the reality that they are creating innovations and challenging management like never before. They stand to be the motivators of our economy’s vibrancy for years to come. Standing next to them in that next selfie, they may just see that marauding, intrepid Viking that they thought they would never become.

Winning organizations would be smart to engage this group and to thoughtfully consider how they enhance and reflect your corporate culture by contrasting new skills and traits with those you already have. This is an important challenge that many of our clients are seeking to address. It and they are the future.


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