Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bye bye, Monday Morning Blues

This morning, unhappiness wouldn’t take place. And instead of going to work with sadness over the past weekend and the long week to come, I was only looking forward to my work. How did this happen?

By Jens Kügler

“Hands up high, weekend time!”. A customer had mailed this to me after an extraordinarily turbulent Friday afternoon. I hat told her I could not complete her copywriting order before her finishing time. With her mail, she indicated to me: It’s ok for us if you deliver on Monday, now enjoy your free time! The text should not go online before Monday or Tuesday anyway. Perhaps she had written her mail to me estimating that the text would be all the better if I finished it on Monday morning relaxed rather than under pressure at Friday night.

In fact, I turned off the Mac unfinished and went out to meet some friends. I enjoyed Saturday and Sunday with beloved people, it was the first springly sunny weekend in this southernmost of all German state capitals. The job had time until Monday.

What was the ordered copywriting about? I should write the company history of an exciting, visionary and innovative business—to be published on their new website. An exciting history is the favorite subject for me as story-teller and hobby historian! So this Monday morning, I started the completion of this story with joy. In fact, I had been looking forward to that moment during all that pleasant weekend. That moment when, on Monday morning, right after sunrise, I would walk to the office under an enlightening blue sky. I would run up the Mac to the sound of beautiful classical music. I would fill the coffee machine with beans and let it do its work, producing its fragrant and refreshing hot drink. Then I would complete the last sentences of this exciting company history, send the mail, receive the thanks. And delete the job from the calendar—as done!

Then I remembered what a friend of mine had once told me. She is a professional psychotherapist and I talked to her about the topic of how I could motivate myself on a Monday morning—at the potentially most unpleasant and critical hours of the week. What did she advise to me? Start into the week or even into every single working day with a task that you love and easily do, if possible! Try to delay any difficult problem-solving and any deeply important decisions to the time when you got into the working routine and when you have the best mental and physical power. Say, in the later morning hours, after lunch, after the first success of the day.

This morning, I realized how right and important this advice was. I have always tended to start and finish the apparently most important and the most urgent things first. It’s these things that you don’t like to do and only did according to the old German saying “First work, then pleasure.” However, if you really want to be motivated, you have to set priorities differently. These priorities shall be against the Monday morning blues. In the future, the good-mood-tasks will be the first ones on my calendar, whenever possible. What will happen if I made myself a total slave of external planning and most urgent items? Maybe a burnout one day. No, I rather follow this good advice. It really works, as I have found out this morning.

What strategies have other people developed to start the week with thrusts of motivation?

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Unemployment Despite Of Job Record: What’s To Be Done?

27 years after its East-Western reunification, Germany is divided as never before. On one side, there is a tremendously rising shortage of skills. On the other hand, there are still so many unemployed. It’s a social paradox. However, one way out is qualification.

By Jens Kügler

Germany 2017: The labor market is upside down. There are still 2.7 million unemployed people and some six million recipients of social welfare. Yet, there are as many job vacancies as never before. For the fourth quarter of 2016, market researchers revealed the number of over 1.04 million unoccupied jobs. The reason for this is Germany’s strong economic growth. And this growth is endangered by precisely these unoccupied jobs. How does that fit together?

In addition to exports, domestic demand is booming in Germany. This means that many companies have orders which they can’t fulfill unless with additional staff. By the way, no immigrants take any “jobs away from us”, as right-wing populists again and again try to let us know. On the contrary: The refugees are even responsible for a boom because hosting and caring for them and building and running camps has produced tens of thousands of new jobs.

But in fact, the deficit of skilled workers is a dangerous handicap for the economic growth. While in the beginning of 2010, a vacancy was occupied after 70 days on average, companies needed an average of 85 days for this in the fourth quarter of 2016. Only speculation can be made as to how high the additional costs of the job search and, above all, the economic damage caused by the order losses will be.

For many applicants, all this sounds good at first. Suddenly, even the second best have a chance. And people over 50 see prospects again. In the high-tech country of Germany, well-trained and experienced specialists are being sought. Only they can carry out the increasingly complex services for the more and more demanding customers. So the long-term unemployed and unexperienced are the losers of this development. Their chances decrease.

Another value stands for the dark side of the job boom. In fact, in 2015, only one in two jobs have been newly created due to the need for additional staff. Around one third of all vacancies were open just because the employees had gone for getting a new job. In boom times, the employees use their higher career chances, too, and therefore change their jobs more frequently. For staffing these vacancies, the employers, of course, only looked for people with the appropriate qualifications.

It is not the unemployed who compete for vacancies. Instead, it’s only the professional colleagues, the qualified, the experienced. By the way, the same was true in the world economic crisis in the early 1930s, which in Germany lead to Nazi dictatorship. The sheer mass of the more than six million unemployed in 1932 were the unskilled workers on the assembly lines. The relatively few well-qualified people were far less affected.

Today, education, training and learning are all the more important. We have to learn during all of our lifetime. The 60-year and older needs to master his PC and use the Internet. This is not just his chance. This is the opportunity for all of us. So this is a plea for education …

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Equality can easily be achieved

Too few women in leadership positions––that is reality in 2017. But it does not necessarily be like that forever, as a small view outside the box makes clear.

By Jens Kügler

Reykjavik, Iceland, March 9, 2017. No financial crisis, no ashes-spewing volcano with unspeakable names: it was something advanced that was announced from the island of some 330,000 inhabitants to the world. A message––as sensational as the success of the Icelandic men team at the Soccer Euro 2016 where they were only stopped in the semifinal. This time, however, it was something sensational for women.

This Wednesday, the Icelandic government passed a law. It forces public as well as private companies to pay exactly the same wage to men and women—and thus to all employees—in the same positions. This equality shall be fully realized by 2022. Iceland is the first state in the world to introduce equal wages by law. For a number of years, the pioneer country in the global north has always been at the top of of the Global Gender Gap Index. Women currently earn “only” 14 to 19 percent less than men in Iceland. In Germany, this figure is significantly higher, at around 21 percent.

The date of the Icelandic government decision was no coincidence. It was one day after the World Women’s Day on March 8th. On this day, the unequal treatment is pointed out every year, mainly through the publication of studies. A recent survey by Ipsos showed that around 63 percent of all Germans recognize a lack of social, political and economic equality for women. Another study was presented by the economic information agency Bürgel. It analyzed more than 2.8 million management positions in about 800,000 German companies. These positions were managing directors, board members, supervisory boards and company owners. The result: only 22.5% of these positions are held by women. This is hardly more than in the previous year 2015: At that time, it was 22.4 percent.

The study cites two main reasons for the low women’s quota. One is the dominance of men in the decisive bodies. The other is the difficult balance situation of work and family. However, the Iceland example shows that these problems are obviously solvable. Even in Germany there are regional differences, as the Bürgel study also revealed. The East is clearly better than the West! The federal state of Brandenburg, East Germany, tops the list with more than 26 per cent of women in management positions. All other East German states are also well above the national average, at 24 to 26 percent. By the way, the bottom position is held by the economically strong state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in the southwest with just over 20 per cent.

Certainly, the fact that Eastern Germany performs better in this case may still be an aftermath of it’s hundred percent supply of kindergartens which had been guaranteed by the communist leadership in cold war times. This ‘accomplishment of socialism’ was, of course, due to the striking shortage of skilled that the totalitarian state suffered from. Highly qualified persons had hardly any great career and merit chances in a state-directed economy and a society with the ideal of being classless. The best ones had therefore massively escaped to the West. So the state needed the female workers and created the infrastructure to supply their families.

However––all this shows that the causes of the non-equality are solvable … with a bit more East Germany for the West and much more Iceland for the world.

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How to Become a Company Culture Builder?

A company is more than the sum of its heads. It must embody values. And these values are by no means casualties. They are feasible.

By Jens Kügler

As mentioned last week, the company culture is, according to a recent Glassdoor study, the first priority of employee desires. It affects the motivation and satisfaction of employees most of all—even more than salary or work-life balance. But this is also clear: if you do not have a positive corporate culture, you have to create it in order to win the best minds. But how?

A great slogan, a few nicely arranged team photos and confessions in the image brochure—all this is definitely not enough. There needs to be more than a good will, too. Fundamental is a corporate vision, which people really “live”. Most companies are SME in which the founder, boss or owner has to be a role model and transfer his enthusiasm to the employees.

Let us take the example of an industry that is—in Germany—generally poorly regarded: the estate brokers. I know brokers who are proud of their profession. Because with their activity, they fulfill their customer’s dreams selling them suitable houses and sought-after living space. And through honesty and above-average customer orientation, these brokers consciously and distinctly stand out from their professional colleagues, who are sometimes burdened with the reputation of ruthlessness. From my own apartment search, I know broker office staff, which gave me the impression that they could be the boss themselves as they enthusiastically described to me the advantages of the apartments shown to me. Why can’t also the sanitary installer who has set up my beautiful new bathroom also show the same pride and love to his profession?

Pride, conviction and corporate vision are the answer to the question: Why do we do what we do?–and these are the most important basics for an enterprise culture. But there are also practical ways to embed these values which are by no means virtual. Employees love the feeling of being involved in decision-making or at least to be asked for their opinion. Through involvement or feedback, most employees feel much more valued than with “lonely decisions” made by the boss, even if this is the right of a corporate owner or entrepreneur and thus the right of the entrepreneurial risk bearer.

As the aforementioned Glassdoor study revealed, career opportunities are also at the forefront of employee popularity. Those who provide their employees with further training and promotion opportunities will promote their loyalty and thus strengthen their team’s feeling of common identity. What has proved to be effective, too, is a recognition which does not necessarily have to be associated with ascents or salary increases. Each form of personally expressed and honestly acknowledged by the boss gives the employee the feeling of being important. Who loves to be dispensable?

Is the boss as role model really everything that counts? Not at all. Equally important are the employees themselves. They must share the values of the company, too. When recruiting, an employer should pay attention not only to the CV and professional skills. Psychometric personality tests allow conclusions about character traits, personal attitudes and aims. It is essential that candidate and culture match each other for those who do not share the values of the company will not be able to develop loyalty. After three or six months, the position is vacant again. What can entrepreneurs do to save themselves from the constant intensive search and keep their team from constant setbacks? They should invest in recruitment and training as well as in marketing or research and development.

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