Featured in today's briefing:
- What employers should prioritize in times of transition.
- The motivating effect of pay transparency.
- Why deodorant sales are rising.
The Macro Context
- A new World Bank report predicts that the global economy will grow at an average annual rate of 2.2% from 2022-2030, the most sluggish pace of the 21st century. The World Bank noted that the slowdown is driven in part by declining labor-force participation, changing demographics, and “reversals in human capital triggered by the health shock, school closures, and learning losses” of the Covid pandemic.
- Just 21% of US adults believe life will be better for their children’s generation than it is now, according to a Wall Street Journal/University of Chicago poll.
- The World Health Organization has updated its Covid vaccine guidance to say that healthy children and teens may no longer need vaccines or boosters, in contradiction with the ongoing recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that all children stay up to date on their Covid shots.
Focus on How to Manage Through the Rise of Generative AI and Other Large-Scale Transitions
Thousands of HR and people leaders spent much of this week at the Transform conference in Las Vegas discussing their problems and what’s working for them. We participated and listened in, and here are some of the practical tips we took away:
Build an artificial-intelligence strategy that positions AI as a partner to human creativity. As organizations figure out how to best incorporate ChatGPT and similar technologies into their work, Abhay Parasnis, CTO of Adobe, argued that generative AI policies should rest on the assumption that these tools are in service of creativity, rather than a replacement for it. “Computers are going to evolve from simply being productivity machines to creative collaborators and partners,” he said. But “the notion of human creativity will be the driving force behind the innovation and progress we see over the next couple of decades.”
Open strategy conversations to all employees. Dean Carter, chief people and purpose officer at the employee-upskilling company Guild Education, shared his organization’s practice of hosting optional "Strategy for Breakfast" sessions. They’re open discussions where all workers can weigh in on the executive team’s high-level decision-making.
Rebrand sick days. Framing sick days as “health days” can make it clear that employees don’t need to be physically ill to take time off, which in turn can help empower them to address their mental-health needs.
Solve problems by adopting the mindset of a new employee. To break out of the inertia and defensiveness that allow bad processes to remain in place, “imagine that you are walking into your first day—it’s your job to figure out how to make this better, and therefore you’ll be rewarded if you can recognize this thing we’ve been doing for the past six months is flawed,” said Ariela Safira, founder and CEO of the mental-health platform Real. “That mindset has really enabled me to think beyond ego and to be much more clear-minded around what makes sense right now.”
Focus on improving the experience of taking paid leave. Complexity across the country and heavy paperwork for employees have resulted in a wave of new startups to make it simpler for workers to navigate bereavement, medical, and other types of leave. For example, one platform focuses on handling end-of-life logistics for employees’ loved ones, providing users with step-by-step checklists and guidance for tasks such as writing obituaries, canceling accounts, and handling wills.
In times of transition, prioritize simple communication and support. “People often focus on the action part of managing through change,” said Elizabeth Gulliver, cofounder of the workplace-connection company Kunik, “but to successfully drive impact and lead through change, you also need to focus on some fundamentals, primarily building relationships and trust within your team and the org at large. At the root of change is communication.” David Landman, global head of talent development at Goldman Sachs, agreed: “We’ve been experimenting with how to best support managers over the years,” he said. “Right now it’s back to the basics. The simpler the support, the better it is, because it’s more likely to be consumed.” As an example, Landman cited how-to resources that guide managers through performance conversations over the course of the year, from goal-setting at the start to a coaching conversation in the middle of the year to a lookback conversation at the end.
The concept of who “owns” workers’ time is changing. Briana van Strijp, CEO of the investment platform Anthemis, highlighted an ongoing shift toward empowering employees to claim ownership of their working hours and supporting them to make good decisions with their time.
Give younger workers something to build. Noting that a majority of Gen Z employees report wanting to be entrepreneurs, Rei Wang, co-founder and chief product officer at The Grand, recommended a “learn by doing” approach to their development, providing them opportunities to create something from scratch as a way of furthering their skills. That could be something like developing a new series of team-bonding events, spearheading an employee-learning series, or pitching and leading a new social-impact initiative.
Go a level deeper in evaluating your partners’ diversity commitments. A tactic to differentiate between tokenism and true representation: Require any prospective partners to show you what their board and advisors look like.
Charter Pro members received a video recap of the Transform event with additional analysis and ideas for leading their workplaces into the future. Pro can help people leaders dive deeper on the most pressing topics of the day, with actionable guidance and specific advice. Learn more about becoming a member.
What Else You Need to Know
Updated guidance from the National Labor Relations Board retroactively voids most non-disparagement clauses. The NLRB this week clarified a February ruling limiting employers’ power to include overly broad non-disparagement clauses in severance agreements.
- This latest update clarifies that the new rules also apply to past agreements, meaning that many workers who lost their jobs in the most recent rounds of layoffs may now speak to colleagues or media about working conditions at their previous employers.
- Certain kinds of non-disparagement clauses remain legal. Companies can still prohibit former employees from defaming the company with false public statements or revealing trade secrets, and broader clauses can still apply to supervisors.
Pay transparency policies can motivate employees to work harder. New studies from researchers at Indiana University, Harvard Business School, and the University of California indicate that policies that reveal workers’ compensation can boost productivity.
- In one study, employees who discovered they outearned their peers were spurred to prove their value. In another, workers who saw that their managers’ salaries were higher than anticipated were more motivated to reach the next step in their own careers.
- Pay transparency doesn’t always boost morale, however. The Indiana University study found that in situations where pay transparency revealed high levels of inequity, overall productivity decreased.
- For more on implementing pay transparency policies that promote fairness and equity at your organization, download Charter’s free playbook here.
Artificial-intelligence experts are calling on developers to pause development of more powerful AI tools. A group of 1,100 experts and leaders in the AI field, including Tesla’s Elon Musk and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, recently signed an open letter urging researchers to halt work on generative tools more powerful than GPT-4 until AI governance systems and oversight bodies can be created.
- The job market surrounding AI technology is currently booming, with new roles such as “prompt engineers” paying salaries as high as $335,000 per year.
- Most workers will likely be affected by generative AI, as 80% of workers hold jobs where at least one job task can be performed more quickly by the technology, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI.
- Many white-collar workers are anxiously watching these developments, with some 62% of job seekers reporting concern that AI could derail their careers, according to a new survey from job-search site ZipRecruiter.
- The Italian government has ordered OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to block the chatbot in Italy on the grounds that the company had illegally collected user data.
Business leaders overestimate employees’ trust. Some 79% of business executives report thinking that employees trust the company, while just 65% of employees agreed, a 14-point gap, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2023 Trust Survey.
- When asked to name the most important challenges related to building trust, business leaders ranked current company culture as the biggest barrier, with the PwC report noting that leaders may view remote and hybrid arrangements as an obstacle to building a culture based on trust.
Return to workplace speed round:
- New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that opportunities for remote work are at an all-time low, with some 72.5% of firms reporting that employees teleworked rarely or not at all in 2022. However, Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom argues that the study’s design is flawed, telling Fortune that the BLS’ definition of teleworking “would include WFH as one employee doing work email once for 10 minutes at home. So how did 72.5% say no?”
- Communications company Twilio has committed to continuing remote work, with periodic in-person events to bring together its distributed team. “We can treat folks as responsible adults, focus on the work outcome and output,” CEO Jeff Lawson told Bloomberg.
- A new Pew report reveals that many hybrid workers want to spend more time working remotely than they do currently. Among workers who currently work from home most of the time, some 34% report wanting to work from home all the time if given the choice. Among those working from home some of the time, half would increase their remote working to all or most of the time.
- Occupancy rates at higher-end, luxury office buildings dipped in the last quarter of last year. Combined with high-profile defaults affecting luxury office buildings, so-called Class-A buildings are beginning to be hit by the vacancy woes that have plagued the rest of the commercial real estate industry since the beginning of the pandemic.
- Meta has told hiring managers they can no longer include a remote option in job postings, a move a company spokesperson called “purely temporary.”
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Put a picture of a familiar face near your laptop camera. Job interviews conducted by artificial intelligence may be increasingly common, but they’re still often disconcerting. Make the experience feel more natural—and help yourself come across as more engaging—by talking to a nearby photo rather than directly into the screen.
- Use the COM-B framework to identify blockers. It consists of three self-reflection questions to foster behavior change (the B in the acronym). One, do you know what needs to change, and do you have what you need to act on that knowledge (capability)? Two, how can you create the conditions that enable change to happen (opportunity)? And three, what would happen if you did nothing or got it wrong (motivation)?
- Pick the right altitude for employee-sentiment surveys. Asking how people feel about their team, rather than the organization overall, will yield answers that more accurately capture workers’ experience each day.
- Direct your complaints to your manager. One study found that while venting to colleagues is linked to worse performance, workers who focus their complaining upwards see an increase in performance, likely because they’re bringing their issues to someone with power to change them. Just make sure to come to the conversation with your own suggested solutions.
Passes the smell test. As the office return accelerated last year—and employees retooled their grooming habits for full days around other people—Unilever reported an increase in sales of deodorant and hairspray.
That’s a lot of coordinated dances. New research from Morgan Stanley estimates that a TikTok ban would free up roughly 53 billion hours of time each year, based on 95 million Americans using the app 90 minutes each day.
You’re not the only one who can’t read your own handwriting. As digital communication makes penmanship an increasingly obsolete skill, some people are turning to Reddit to help them decipher photos of their own messy scrawl.
- Some attempts are more successful than others. “I was like, please, I don’t know what this says,” one user told The New York Times of a Post-it note she shared. “Still a week later, the only comment on it is, ‘Hey, do you speak any other languages? Could this possibly be not English?’”