This is my last post as Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. This podcast is a conversation between incoming Executive Director Chris Mullen. Like the Beatles said, Hello Goodbye.

This is my last post as Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. This podcast is a conversation between incoming Executive Director Chris Mullen and me. Like the Beatles said, Hello Goodbye.

This is it, the last post from me. When I wrote my first post, on October 2, 2007, I never foresaw that I'd still be posting almost thirteen years later. At that time, we were experimenting, but not sure how far we'd take the Workforce Institute.

We've taken it pretty far. Over 800 blog posts and podcasts. 4 books. And so many wonderful HR experts who've lent a hand as board members, guest bloggers, podcast interview subjects, and book contributors.

I am thrilled that Chris Mullen is picking up the reins. Chris is a current Workforce Institute advisory board member and director of human capital management (HCM) strategic advisory services at Kronos. He has more than 15 years of experience as an HR leader and practitioner, having served as director of HR for Housing and Dining Services at the University of Colorado, where he managed the HR needs of more than 2,000 employees. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado with a research focus on work-life balance and the use of mobile technology.

In this, my last podcast for the WFI, I ask Chris about his vision for its future and he asks me how I'm feeling about walking away. You can listen in on our conversation on the player below.

Joyce Maroney welcomes Chris Mullen as new Executive Director of the WFI

Goodbye, everyone. It's been a great ride!

This is my penultimate post for the Workforce Institute! I've distilled 42 years of mistakes into my top five career lessons learned. I hope they'll help you save time and prosper.

Over the years, I've been asked for career advice or assistance many many times. How do I find my first job? I hate my job, how can I find a path to something else? I just got laid off and I don't know what to do. I'd like to work for your company, can you connect me there? My boss is great, but not helping me advance. My boss is terrible and sucking the life out of me. I'm only staying in this job because I need the money. How can I get a job like yours? The list goes on and on.

I'm retiring in five days, and have been thinking a lot recently about my own career highlights and disappointments. Everybody's different, but I think the following five lessons are relevant to most people. Like eat less, exercise more, they are both obvious and often hard practices to implement. Moving on to lesson 1...

You are in charge of managing your career

I know you have bills to pay and a boss to answer to. Those aren't reasons to remain unhappy indefinitely at work. Every job has its boring, routine, or downright unpleasant aspects. However, if you never feel excited or optimistic at work, it's worth it to figure out a different path.

BTW - I'm not saying that making a change is easy. You may need to go back to school. You may need to sacrifice compensation or perks. You may need to sacrifice a title. I experienced all of these and lived to tell about it. Don't let fear or ego stop you from doing what you need to do to get to a better place. In fact...

A little fear is healthy

Progress has a price tag in every aspect of life, but especially at work. New jobs, better projects, acquiring new skills, promotions, increasing responsibility and the other good stuff should stretch you to learn new things and operate outside of your comfort zone. Don't let yourself get stuck because you're afraid of appearing incompetent. One of the best ways to become more competent is...

Ask lots of questions

For me this was never hard, because it's in my nature to ask a lot of questions. I also started my career in science, and so was trained to ask lots of questions. I've noticed, though, that this can be hard for a lot of people.

Question why you're doing something before you do it. Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand the objectives and how success will be measured. Ask why "we've always done it this way". Ask others outside your firm how they do it. I can't remember a single significant example where I suffered negative consequences for asking questions. I can remember things that didn't go well when I failed to ask more than I did.

One of the most important questions to ask is to make sure you understand who needs to be part of a project or process before you start changing it. The human element is the most powerful of all in any organizational system. Which brings me to lesson 4...

Put yourself in the other person's shoes

I mentioned that I was educated and even worked for a few years as a scientist. In science, you think in terms of systems. You seek to understand the interdependence between the players in a system. That skill has always served me well.

We're all part of larger systems. Our decisions and actions affect other people for better or worse. Putting yourself in others' shoes isn't just about the Golden Rule (though you should practice that too), it's about stepping far enough back from a situation to understand the goals and constraints of the other players.

This technique is one I learned from Getting to Yes, a terrific book on negotiating. In the book, the technique is referred to as "stepping to the balcony". From the balcony, you can assess how your behavior and assumptions are helping or hurting your case with others.

Speaking of the needs of others...

Don't neglect the life part of work-life balance

My last lesson is one that I often struggled with. My husband and I were fortunate to have challenging and rewarding careers. We got to travel the world on somebody's else's nickel and meet so many smart and accomplished professional colleagues. We were able to give our children the gift of an undergraduate education with no student debt. That all had a cost.

In the olden days, putting family first wasn't typical company policy in most places. You were expected to show up and do your thing. I was a working mother when that was still a somewhat novel concept. I missed events that were important to our children or friends and family for work stuff I can no longer remember. I never wanted to create the impression I wasn't completely on board.

The good news is that many (not all) leaders have come to understand that they get better results when their workers have the time and flexibility to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities. They understand that they are "borrowing people from their lives", a quote I love from Charlotte Lockhart. If your employer doesn't see the world that way, find one that does.

In closing

I hope some of these ideas will help you. I wish you good health and great adventures. Take care of yourselves.

Today's post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. Here she reflects on what it means to be retiring in a pandemic.

It wasn't supposed to be like this, right? When I thought about retirement for the last 42 years, it was never in the context of finding new things to do inside the 4 walls of my home. It was an amalgam of travel, volunteering, grandchildren (some day), quilting, and exploring new interests. But here we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are few people whose lives and plans haven't been upended, including many who may delay their retirements. I'm retiring on June 30th.

For most of my working life, retirement felt like a distant fantasy. There were so many hurdles to jump to get there. Get an advanced degree. Find a career path. Marry a soul mate. Have a daughter. Have a son. Raise those children. Put them through college. Help our parents through their later years. Deal with our own medical challenges. Save for retirement and hope there would be enough to pay the bills and have some fun.

There weren't just those big milestones. There was life. Go to the grocery store. Do the laundry. Soothe the bumps and bruises and wounded feelings. Commute. Plan the work project. Call the plumber. Talk to the teacher. Resolve the work crisis. Train the puppy. Find a helmet big enough for the largest noggin on the T-ball team. Deal with the new boss. Make the theater costume. Pursue the promotion. With 12 hours notice, find business attire for the 16 year old for Harvard Model Congress. Race to stay ahead of the expanding work load. Take some risks and hope for the best. Pine for the weekend. Plan the vacation. Fantasize about retirement - some day.

A podcast guest I spoke with earlier this year said of employers, "we borrow people from their lives". We were discussing why the 40 hour work week was no longer relevant and what it takes to create trust between workers and their employers. I love that way of re-framing the employer-worker contract, and I wish I'd embraced it long ago. There's no world where juggling won't be required between life and work, but I wish I hadn't spent as much psychic energy worried about the work part.

Because the life part of the last 42 years is what's really mattered. All of it. The peaks and the valleys.

The pandemic is an unexpected bump in the path, but certainly not the only jolt I've experienced. The unrealized career in medicine. But finding that as a trained scientist I had so much to offer business. The frustration of dating many bad fits. Oh, there you are, finally.

The thrill of becoming a mother and the privilege of parenting those children with a wise and loving partner. First smiles, days you're just glad to be alive, feeling every inch of your children's wins, being there for a final breath. So much more life was lived outside of work. And the setbacks only made the wins sweeter.

Bring it on, COVID-19. My future is still out there.

Today's post comes to us from board member and HR BartenderSharlyn Lauby.

Years ago, when I worked in the hotel industry, the company's labor attorney would call once a year to ask a favor. It was for reservations in our restaurant on New Year's Day. Every year. Reservations on New Year's. Finally, I got up the nerve to ask him why he wanted the reservation. He explained that he and his wife would have a super long lunch on New Year's to talk about the future. They discussed their life, jobs, etc.

I thought this was a great idea. So, when we started our company, my husband and I started having the same conversation. Now we did do things a little bit differently. Instead of lunch on New Year's, we call ours a strategic planning meeting. And it included a conversation about retirement.

As the owner of a small business, we knew it was important for us to think about what we wanted our retirement to look like. And when we wanted to start retirement.

During these conversations, there was one thing that kept coming up - how much we liked blogging. We had no idea when we started HR Bartender ten years ago that the blog would have grown exponentially and that we would love writing, marketing, and interacting with a community of readers.

So, we decided to start a blog about retirement. But in doing so, we realized that what we were really creating was a blog about having something to do instead of traditional retirement. Hence, the concept of unretirement was born.

Since we launched the blog last year, I've talked to many individuals who are thinking about the same things that we were in terms of their own unretirement. Employees who enjoy working and want to continue contributing, albeit on a reduced schedule. Individuals who would like to pursue their encore career.

Organizations have a huge opportunity here. With unemployment at record lows, companies need to find ways to tap into the talents of individuals thinking about retirement and unretirement. There are three ways to consider doing it:

All jobs are not necessarily full-time jobs. When work needs to be done, the organization needs to ask the question, “Is this a full-time job?” It's possible that the organization could engage a part-time, on call, or freelancer to get the work done.

Consider a benefits package for part-time employees. In many organizations, benefits are for full-time employees and if you're not full-time, you have no benefits. As companies build a contingent workforce, think about the possibility of establishing a benefits package for part-time employees.

Train managers on the best way to engage contingent workers. It's absolutely critical for managers to engage part-time employees and freelancers at the same levels of full-time staff. The company still expects high levels of performance from all workers.

Organizations cannot afford to let their talent simply “retire”, taking years of knowledge and experience with them. Allowing employees to unretire for a few years could be a real win for both employees and employers. But it takes planning and open, honest conversations about the future.

Last week, I wrote about my semi-retirement strategy.  Today's post comes to us from our board member John Hollon, a fellow boomer who is taking a very different approach.  
OK, I admit it -- I was inspired by Joyce Maroney's recent Workforce Institute post about her move to a "phased" retirement where she is "transitioning to a part-time position as a means of achieving more work life balance without giving up the personal and economic benefits of work."
I'm incredibly envious of her and that she has been able to transition to "the more leisurely rhythms of life as a part time worker after 40 years of go-go-go."
Well, I wish I could do what Joyce is doing, however my life seems to be accelerating and go-go-going in the opposite direction.
I'm not retiring just yet, or going to a part-time schedule either. In my case, I just can't afford to give up "the economic benefits of work."
No, my plan is to work for as long as I can or until I'm flush enough that I can travel with my wife as much as I want for as long as I want. But getting to that point keeps me pretty busy.
I've got a new job as well as a gig as an adjunct professor at a local university. I'm building a consulting business on the side, serving here on the Workforce Institute Board, and volunteering time for both my Homeowners Association board and my church.
Plus, I'm writing and writing a lot -- as one of the resident experts at Fistful of Talent, in my role as Editor-at-Large at ERE Media, and on occasion, here at The Workforce Institute.
Sounds pretty busy, I know, but somehow that's not enough.
While Joyce is down-shifting to part-time work and finding fulfillment traveling and meditating on life in places like Japan, I've got my foot on the gas and headed 100 mph the opposite way.
Yes, instead of travel and phased retirement, I'm taking on as much as I can, including starting up my own blog called ... big drumroll please ... The Skeptical Guy.
The name comes from my friend Laurie Ruettimann who had a blog called The Cynical Girl. I liked the sound and cadence of that, but I'm much more skeptical than cynical, so I settled on The Skeptical Guy.
Having spent my career focused on leadership, talent management, human resources, and smart workforce practices, I'm naturally examining a variety of workplace issues from my skeptical point of view - from the very good reasons Millennials job hop to what are the most popular jobs on LinkedIn and why. I'm also exploring more local issues like my frustration at the California Legislature wasting time designating surfing as the state "sport" and completely arbitrary topics like how hearing Amazing Grace Reminds Me of Pete Conrad Walking on the Moon. I figure at my age, I'm entitled to write about what moves me - whether it's workplace-related or not.
So, as my friend and WFI Board cohort Joyce Maroney watches for spring as she sits in 34 degree temperatures in Massachusetts, I'm a continent away in California sweating out a 90 degree April day and our first early blast of summer.
She's cool and easing down while I'm hot and cranking up.
Just goes to show you that our Baby Boomer generation will be re-defining what "retirement" looks like in a variety of ways.
What do you want your retirement (or un-retirement as fellow board member Sharlyn Lauby calls it) to look like?

It is April 6 in Massachusetts and currently 34 degrees with wind chill making it feel like 29.  Although crocuses and daffodils have been valiantly trying to bloom during sunny periods in recent weeks, we're all still tromping around in warm socks and down coats.  The folks who braved Fenway Park yesterday for a 12 inning opening day game were treated to near freezing temperatures - though perhaps consoled by the Sox 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Even if the current forecast for some snow this weekend dampens our spirits, we know that spring will eventually be here.  We'll put away the down and wool, and break out the sandals.  We'll applaud the change in seasons, confident that spring will give way to our brief and glorious New England summer.  By late fall, we'll be looking forward to the first flakes of snow, because to live in New England means that we have selective amnesia that allows us to endure winter over and over again.

In our work lives, similar cycles play out year after year.  The excitement of a new year, project or opportunity brings with it highs and lows as the reality of execution meets the challenges of not-quite-enough resources and changing circumstances.  Bosses and coworkers come and go.  If we're lucky, we hang on to a few good relationships beyond the workplace.  And at some point for all of us, we'll transition out of the workplace altogether, leaving its peculiar circadian rhythms behind.

In January of this year, I joined the ranks of Boomer workers who are approaching retirement age, and transitioning to a part time position as a means of achieving more work life balance without giving up the personal and economic benefits of work.  In their 2017 Retirement Confidence Surveythe Employee Benefit Research Institute reported that although 79% of workers plan to work for pay in retirement, only 29% of retirees reported that they had actually done so.  Almost all who did so worked for reasons that weren't solely financial: staying active and involved (90%), enjoy working (82%), or a job opportunity came along (47%).

I'm still adjusting to the more leisurely rhythms of life as a part time worker after 40 years of go go go.  I am only responsible for myself after having led teams for 25 years.  As I discussed with Sharlyn Lauby of the Unretirement Project a couple of months ago,  making the transition from full time to part time work is a process.  As Pete Seeger sang in Turn! Turn! Turn!, quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1-8,  "To everything there is a season...a time to plant, a time to reap".  As this first spring of semi-retirement begins, I look forward with great anticipation to seeing what this new phase of my  life will yield.

Picture taken in Tokyo, January 2018.  Semi-retirement means more time for travel, among other things!




Today's post is from Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

As we have for the past few years, we asked our board members to predict the 2018 global workplace trends that will be on practitioners' minds this year.   You can watch a video of their individual predictions here.  We've synthesized those individual predictions into five key themes below.

As has been the case in recent years, we continue to predict a growing focus on employee experience as a means of acquiring and retaining great workers.  We've also predicted the growing importance of people analytics and leadership development in the past.  New this year are predictions related to artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace and the accelerating workplace impact of Boomer retirement.

Check out our predictions below and let us know what we got right and wrong by commenting on this post.  Happy New Year to you all!

Workforce Institute Board Predictions for 2018:

  1. Top organizations treat employee engagement as a financial strategy with a creative focus on the employee experience. We've devoted billions of dollars to chasing the white whale of employee engagement - yet engagement has remained stagnant worldwide for decades. Worse, many C-level leaders are questioning the ROI of culture-driven investments on the bottom line. HR must change their vernacular to better connect engagement with business challenges while using operational data to show how engagement is financially driven (e.g. better productivity, fewer customer escalations, optimal scheduling, retention of top performers). Simultaneously, to attract and retain the best talent, employers must weigh all the different “currencies” accepted by today's workers (e.g. pay, benefits, flexibility, learning and development, work environments, meaningful connection to the business, people, and the community), while thinking creatively about the entire employee experience lifecycle, matching expectations during the recruiting phase all the way through succession planning.
  2. Employee appetite for accessible, applicable workplace data grows. Outside the workplace, people expect fast and easy access to information of all kinds - from what nearby restaurants have the highest reviews to which recommended television shows to binge next. Yet when they get to work, good, valuable information across their organization can be hard to access and near impossible to process in order to make an informed decision in the moment. Employers are increasingly expected to provide a consumer-grade technology experience in the workplace with one-touch access to information that helps employees - both laptop-toting and frontline workers - work smarter and work their way.
  3. They're here: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for HR and operations. Workforce management and HCM innovation has simplified the delivery of data intelligence to help solve real business problems that directly impact an employee's daily work routine. AI can dramatically speed up time-consuming, everyday tasks while proactively identifying potential compliance risks and employee burnout concerns before they become a problem. Machine learning algorithms deliver better forecasting while enabling technology to act as a digital consultant. Managers and employees alike must be properly trained to strategically utilize and, above all, trust this unprecedented ability to mine information, while transforming their daily responsibilities to accomplish more strategic tasks they didn't have the time to complete before.
  4. A focus on the human side of leadership. As innovations in workforce management and HR technology increasingly automate daily tasks, managers have more time to interact with employees than ever before. Yet many people managers are lost with these newfound opportunities for human interaction thanks to historically weak manager onboarding programs combined with years of hiding behind devices, remote work, and mountains of administrative tasks. Since people managers are the number one driver of the employee experience and, in turn, productivity, organizations must focus on programs to help managers forge relationships, develop their people, and build the courage it takes to be a great leader.
  5. Retirement moves from a casual conversation to a full-blown crisis. Organizations aren't prepared for the loss of inherent knowledge as thousands of Baby Boomers retire each day. Many Boomers plan to ease into retirement by working part-time hours or taking on an entirely new, lower-paying job with more meaning. Many more retirement-aged employees aren't financially capable of leaving the workforce. The perfect storm of these trends will challenge organizations to test their succession planning, deliver meaningful roles to employees sun-setting their careers, and maintain productivity and engagement of employees who are continuing to work because they can't afford to retire.

The Board Members contributing to the 2018 Workforce Institute at Kronos predictions include:

David Almeda, chief people officer of Kronos Incorporated; Veronica Baz, founder of and former general director of the Center of Research for Development (CIDAC) in Mexico; Natalie Bickford, group HR director at Merlin Entertainments; Bob Clements, senior principal at Axsium Group; David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research; John Frehse, senior managing partner at Ankura Consulting Group, LLC; China Gorman, a human capital management consultant, speaker, and writer who is former CEO of the Great Place to Work® Institute and former COO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM); John Hollon, editor at, award-winning journalist, and nationally recognized expert on leadership, talent management, and smart workforce practices; Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender and president of ITM Group, Inc.; Joyce Maroney, executive director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos; Dennis Miller, chief employment officer at Cal Poly Pomona Foundation; Neil Reichenberg, executive director of IPMA-HR; Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and partner and research director at Future Workplace; and Mark Wales, workforce management industry advisor.

For a full list of Workforce Institute Advisory Board Members from the Americas, Europe, and China, please visit

I'm having an adventure.  I should say, WE, are having an adventure.  Dennis and I, in the full throes of empty nest syndrome, are restless about what comes next.  The good news is that we still enjoy each others' company and are excited about the next chapter of our lives.

Which is where things start to get confusing.  Having worked for the past three decades to afford a home, a family, and two NYU diplomas, we find ourselves without a concrete vision for what comes next.

So, we started to talk about moving back to Boston - where we both lived at the time we met.  Those years between college and settling down were fun for both us, but we didn't know each other then.  Twenty-seven years ago, we met, married and moved to a very small town within a few months.  We never shared an urban adventure, and so we started looking at condos in the city of Boston - big bucks, little spaces, but a level of energy that's hard to match out on the tombolo.

And we started to talk about timing for retirement - a milestone that's seemed like a fantasy for so long it's hard to imagine it will be reality within a decade or less.  We've done the financial planning, we just haven't crafted the vision for how we spend our days.  I've written about my great fortune in matters matrimonial before.  One of the reasons our marriage works is that Dennis is good at soaring vision, while I'm good at project planning and management.  Between the two of us, we generate a lot of forward momentum.

Which brings us back to the question of moving - or not.  We came to realize we weren't ready to leave the tombolo, but decided that didn't need to stand in the way of an urban adventure.  We moved into a condo in Boston for two months to test our resolve while we get some work done on our house.   Leveraging a lot of years of change management experience, we're  "piloting" a different way of living without abandoning the foundation we've already built.

In life, just as in work, half the battle is just getting started.  Stay tuned.

Earlier this month,  I had a discussion with Workforce Institute board members David Creelman, Mark Lange and Dr. Tim Porter O'Grady about their perspectives on how changes in the age demographics of the workplace are likely to impact organizations.  There have been multiple stories about this in the news lately including this recent NPR broadcast about delayed retirement, this Towers Perrin report on attitudes toward retirement, and this article by Peter Cappelli in HRE on the need for changing perceptions of older workers as more delay retirement.  All of these sources point to a trend toward later retirements, driven not only by economic factors like the recession and needed health benefits, but also by the desire of older workers to stay engaged in the world of work.  On the other end of the demographic spectrum, younger workers are entering the workplace with an equally keen desire to work, although arguably under a different employment contract than their elders were willing to accept.

I asked our panelists to talk about both boomer and millenial workers and what the future holds.  We recorded the discussion of these questions.  You can access their responses by clicking on the links below.

Question 1: For the better part of the last decade, there has been a lot of discussion and much written about how the retirement of the baby boomers would create significant deficits in the supply of labor.  To what extent do you think those predictions have or will come true?

Panel Discussion of Baby Boom Retirement Implications for the Workplace

Question 2: There are mixed reviews of the Millennial generation - generally thought of as those born after 1980.  What are your thoughts about the newest generation of workers and what contributions they're likely to make to the organizations that employ them?

Panel Discussion of Millenials' impact in the workplace

Bonus Feature! Readings and video suggested by our board members during this podcast:

Millenials Rising - Howe & Strauss

Drive - Daniel Pink

Dan Pink video about surprising aspects of what motivates us. (Hint - for knowledge work, it's not money...)

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