By: WSJ Online | February 10th, 2012
Posted in: Graduate Students, Undergraduate Students
What kind of company do you work for?
LeadershipIQ, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, identified four distinct workplace cultures, defined as the way an organization functions internally, in everything from communication to decision-making to how it handles promotions: “Hierarchical” companies are built on tradition and rely on clearly defined roles; “dependable” companies are process-oriented, where change happens slowly; “enterprising” companies are creative, competitive and meritocratic; “social” companies emphasize collaboration, trust and relationships.
Turns out, employees engage differently in different workplace cultures, too.
LeadershipIQ had expected to find that employees would be most excited about being in a social environment where everyone gets along, says Mark Murphy, the firm’s chief executive. Not so.
Enterprising cultures fostered the highest levels of employee engagement—the degree to which employees give 100% effort and recommend their firm as a great place to work. On a seven-point scale, engagement at enterprising firms was rated 5.1. At social companies, the engagement score was 4.8. Dependable firms came in at 4.6, and hierarchical companies had engagement scores of only 3.9.
“Employees wanted meritocracy and competition more than they were concerned with everything being very collaborative and harmonious,” says Mr. Murphy.
In total, most executives surveyed (1,463 total drawn from U.S. companies) said their work forces were under-engaged (43%) or disengaged (10%). Of those who said their employees were disengaged, the majority (52%) were at hierarchical firms.
LeadershipIQ also found that hiring an employee at any level—from CEO to rank-and-file—who doesn’t fit into a firm’s culture can spell disaster. For example, a lawyer who is risk-averse and thrives on rules might loathe working in the legal office of an enterprising firm that values new ideas and creativity.
The costs can be far higher at the executive level. When new leaders don’t explicitly grasp their firm’s culture, they often work at cross-purposes and then wonder why change is so difficult. “When you see a real CEO flameout, it’s often a cultural mismatch,” Mr. Murphy says, citing, for example, Bob Nardelli’s rocky tenure at Home Depot Inc. Home Depot declined to comment.
Even a little weekly exercise can tame a testy boss.
Just a half-hour of exercise once or twice a week can reduce a manager’s tendency to put down, humiliate or snap at underlings, according to a study released by Northern Illinois University’s College of Business.
Researchers selected 98 full-time employees from a wide range of professions—including accounting, engineering and banking—and asked them to anonymously rate the verbal abusiveness of their bosses on a seven-point scale. In a separate questionnaire, the bosses were asked to record their level of work-related stress and frequency of exercise. The employees were selected from a pool of part-time M.B.A. students in the fall of 2010.
The merged findings showed a strong correlation between a manager’s aggressiveness and frequency of exercise. While exercise didn’t necessarily lead to reduced stress, it seemed to temper bosses’ reaction to stress, thereby acting as a behavioral “buffer,” says James Burton, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of management. The type of exercise didn’t seem to matter, he adds.
Students are still interested in Penn State. Even in the wake of the sexual-abuse scandal that rocked the campus in the thick of college-application season, Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business is seeing a significant uptick in applications for both its undergraduate and M.B.A. programs this year.
Through Jan. 31, undergrad applications at Smeal were up 7.4% to 7,265 from the same date last year. Overall, undergrad applications to Penn State are up nearly 2.6%. At the M.B.A. level, applications have spiked 17%.
“Before the end of 2011, we thought we may get hit pretty bad,” said James B. Thomas, Smeal’s dean. “We weren’t really sure what was going to happen.”
Interest in Smeal’s undergraduate program has been growing recently as the school rises in national rankings, thanks in part to a concerted effort to address recruiters’ demands and an overhauled curriculum. After falling by 12% in 2010, applications more than bounced back last year, gaining 23%. “If it hadn’t been for the events, the increases [this year] could have been even bigger,” Mr. Thomas said, referring delicately to the fall’s scandal.
Smeal isn’t the only business school with undergraduate applications on the rise. Through the end of January, applications were up nearly 19% from the prior year at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. The job market remains tough for undergraduates, and schools say students are beginning to weigh their college majors more carefully to improve their employability after graduation.
New college graduates who majored in business have a 7.4% unemployment rate, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Humanities majors notch a 9.4% unemployment rate, while the rate across all majors is 8.9%.
But not all schools are experiencing such a marked upswing. University of Michigan received 3,771 applications expressing interest in “preferred admission” to the Ross School of Business as of Feb.1, up just 1% from last year. Applicants to Michigan can indicate interest in more than one school. So far, the university has accepted 1,246 applications that Ross is now reviewing, up 9% from the prior year.
Just as encouraging to Smeal as applicant interest is enthusiasm from recruiters. Mr. Thomas said he’s received “a lot” of unsolicited calls from executives at Fortune 50 companies saying that they will continue to support hiring at Smeal. So far, it’s not just talk. There was a 27% increase in the number of companies participating in a January job fair for supply-chain positions, while an upcoming event for marketing jobs is expected to be double last year’s size.
Mr. Thomas said that while recruiters might mention the fall’s events as “small talk” during an interview, “They’re not getting ‘What would you [have done]’ questions.”
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