Friday, July 31, 2015

Thank you to all the caretakers.

Thank you to all the caretakers. Those who are taking care of an ill parent or parents. An elderly veteran friend. Little children who can't yet meet their own needs. The disabled and struggling. Those who do it on the side of day jobs, those for whom it is your work, those who have given up working for pay to care for family or friends. Thank you for what you do day in and day out, tirelessly and selflessly. 

You know who you are, or you know some of them. They aren't catching a show tonight, or running a marathon tomorrow. They are helping someone else live better through the daily slog of must-do's: meals, cleaning, bathing, paperwork, doctor visits, laundry. We all need to be taken care of at different times in life. It is not easy to be the one in need or the one devoted to another. At times frustration, resignation, sadness, exhaustion, yet also joy, companionship, connection. Plenty of people eject when things get tough. I have deep gratitude and admiration for all all those who stay, and care.

To my buddy Howard who has cared for his disabled wife for three decades: your patience and dedication inspire me. So proud of you for finishing that built-from-scratch house she can get in and out of now. To my colleague Kev, who is standing by his wife during her battles with cancer: thank you for being there for her. To George, who has spent the last 12 years of his retirement caring for his business partner post-stroke, I can't imagine what you meant to him or what he'd have done without you. To my friend Jo, what you did to help your dad before he passed was all and more that you could do. To my neighbor Lisa, who quit working to care for her preemie now toddler, you are amazing and a pillar of our community. You are people that make the world one I want to be in. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being a Full Time Employee vs. a Contractor

Ever weighed the pros/cons between being a contractor or an FTE for similar work? If the choice comes up, crunch the total compensation numbers and consider lifestyle factors. Which one works best will vary by situation- both yours and the details of the offers. Look at the specifics, ask questions, and consider the whole picture before deciding.

Pros of being an employee include easier taxes, fringe benefits such as healthcare and retirement, and often, more job security. There might be a bonus structure and better support systems (IT, for example).  Social support with office mates might be a plus. Cons can include lower base rate, lots of internal time spent on administration and company meetings, and the like.

Pros of being a contractor can include a higher hourly rate, less organizational hassles, perhaps a more flexible schedule and location. Cons could include being lonely, if you don't work on site; being concerned for good reason about work drying up with little warning, lack of support systems, and lack of benefits. Some companies are using intermediary companies to manage their contractors, though, which provide healthcare, tax support and other helpful benefits- so that hybrid model may be appealing. Some sectors have ample work, so workflow may not be a con depending on what you do.

A friend of mine just decided to take a contractor position to a small company with a good reputation for lifestyle and growth, leaving an FTE position at a big company. The money may be less on the whole, although the salary is 25% higher, because instead of a stock bonus the compensation is cash, which is taxed at a higher rate. But he's doing it anyway for lifestyle tradeoffs and long-term opportunity. He will be managed by a third party company that will handle benefits and taxes, so that removes several cons. They promised to try to hire him on full time next year. Big company jobs are not always the best deal- it has been interesting to see one person's analysis. What have you seen or experienced?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Are Sleepaway Training Classes Outdated? More Choices Please.

 Corporate training programs sounds great in theory. Go away for a full week. Immerse yourself in self-improvement away from life’s everyday distractions. Bond with new contacts, hit the gym, enjoy long meals. The reality is usually an overpacked schedule of lectures and exercises with homework and group projects, so the downtime was hard to come by- not to mention catching up on day job work as needed. There are pluses, but by no means essential for all learning.

After I had a kid, these courses became much less appealing. Regular life doesn’t stop. When you add up other business trips and work obligations, more time away from home is tough. Tough to miss more time from the kid(s) than you already do, and tough to maintain a smoothly-running household before, during and after travel. If one is fortunate to have an available spouse or extended family to cover childcare, super; if not, a training trip means challenging logistics and high costs.

We work via remote teams in times zones across the globe effectively. Face time is great, but so is harnessing the skills and results of diverse teams. The old corporate one-size-fits-all programs might still be a good fit for some. Better for many could be combination programs, or choices about how to participate. For example, some distance learning with some in-person classes, organized around location hubs that already have a critical mass of people who can go home after a full day.

I rejected a training course opportunity in my own city because the program required sleeping at a local hotel for 2 weeks straight. I called and explained that daycare closed at 6:30, so I could attend all day including the weekend, take my child home, then dial in to group exercise homework after she was asleep. They declined to make an exception. This signaled to me that the company was not aligned with a modern workforce- their historic demographic has been men with stay at home wives.

Without more choices and alternate approaches, quality leaders miss out on training and professional development. That stinks for leaders with personal obligations. It stinks for the organizations relying on their performance. Let’s encourage programs to frame trainings around the needs of the participants, and highlight courses that do strike a good balance between intensity and respecting real life.