Costly Labour Issues

Productivity Insulation: How your business could save $27,000

Overlooking your biggest investment

One of the most overlooked parts of owning or managing a business is the need to safeguard your labour. In the vast majority of businesses, labour is the biggest portion of an organization’s operating expenses. Depending on the size and type of your business, it can be between 50-75% of your total overhead. Yet, most businesses and organizations do not put much focus on protecting and maintaining the productivity of their staff. If you look at it from a completely financial perspective, it is mind boggling! If a business has a piece of equipment that is a major expense, let’s say, 15% of your entire operating costs, it would be taken care of extremely well. Business owners and managers know that protecting and maintaining your important assets is how you ensure the best productivity and profitability from your business.

The Problem

This begs the question, why is it that people are quick to protect and maintain their equipment, but will not put the same focus on protecting and maintaining their labour?

Maybe, it is because equipment is seen as an investment, and labour is seen as an expense? Or maybe it is because equipment is a tangible, noticeable asset. Where labour is your staff, a bunch of people doing different things and different times. It’s less noticeable and more subtle.

Regardless, the why is puzzling, but not the most important thing to understand. What is important to understand is that, as with your equipment, if you do not invest time and effort into your staff, you are losing A LOT of money. This could damage the financial future of your business.

Labour Value Loss

The impact of not investing time and effort into your staff is called Labour Value Loss. It is the very scary consequence of neglecting to protect and maintain the productivity of your staff. It is the financial toll that common labour problems have on a business.

For example: According to the Center for American Progress it costs the equivalent of 20% of a person’s salary to replace them. The costs associated with replacing staff include, but are not limited to:

  • Paying overtime
  • Recruitment costs
  • Drop in productivity
  • Any associated customer loss

Labour Value Loss is a startling reality for most businesses. What makes it so concerning is that the money lost is slow and subtle, like a leaky faucet or a poorly insulated roof. This is happening everywhere, every day.

So, the real question is how do we fix it? Well, just like a drafty home, we fix it with insulation.

The Solution

To address Labour Value Loss, you need Productivity Insulation. This is the way you protect and maintain the productivity of your staff. The easiest way to think of Productivity Insulation is to look at it as robust HR policies and Employee Engagement. HR policies are important to make sure rules and procedures are clear and transparent, keeping businesses compliant and employees informed. However, the lion’s share of effective Productivity Insulation comes from Employee Engagement.

Employee Engagement is the efforts that organizations make to create a high level of motivation and enthusiasm in employees. For Employee Engagement to be effective, it doesn’t need to be complicated or costly, it just needs to be understood and consistent.

The return on your investment from Employee Engagement can be astonishing. The Labour Value Loss from Disengagement, when employees have a low level of motivation and enthusiasm, is 34% of their annual salary. This number alone makes Labour Value Loss expensive. Add other elements, like Turnover or Absenteeism, and you have a costly problem that you cannot ignore. The future of your business depends on it.

If you would like to learn more about Labour Value Loss, here is a short video. This video is part of a FREE, on-demand, 30-minute course we provide to businesses called: Rethinking Labour Costs: Increasing Profits and Productivity. Click here to check it out.

Oh, I almost forgot!

You are probably wondering where the $27,000 in the title of this article comes from. Well, that is the average Labour Value Loss that a business will experience from Disengagement each year. If you would like to know how it was calculated:

Here is where we got the numbers for our formula:

Here is our formula:

(# of Staff) x (Annual Salary)x (Percentage of Employees Disengaged)x (Cost of Disengagement)= Total Labour Value Loss due to Disengagement
4 Employees x $41,000   = $164,00050% of employees are disengaged     x 0.50disengaged employees cost 34%     x 0.34= $27,880

This is a conservative, yet well supported, number. However, it is only one aspect of Labour Value Loss.

To learn more about Labour Value Loss, and to calculate how much your business may be losing due to Disengagement, Turnover, Absenteeism, etc., take our FREE course.

Rethinking Labour Costs: Increasing Profits and Productivity.

Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support reach out to us at

How SALT Can Help You Learn Online

Learning and education are critical to a functional society

Learning and education are critical parts of any society. Passing down information is a fundamental part of the human condition. It is a critical part of how we evolved from our more primitive origins and progressed from the dark ages through to the digital age. However, learning hasn’t always been an easy exercise for us. As information evolved and became more complicated and specific, the methods we employ to turn that information into knowledge has also become more complex and individualized.

This has sparked generations of great minds to deconstruct the learning process and give us better insights into the intricate system of the human mind. Theorists and educators, like Neil Flemming, gave us insight into how people learn through visuals, aural, reading, and kinesthetics (VARK). Academics and researchers, like Howard Gardner, brought us ideas like multiple intelligences and how to engage and reach a variety of minds by encompassing an array of learning preferences. Over the past few decades, we have started to see formal education systems, such as schools and institutes of higher learning, adopt more progressive understandings of the learning process and shift the methods of education to address the uniqueness of how we think and learn.

Fast forward to today, the formal education system that has been making gains in helping people learn more effectively by meeting their unique learning needs is now shifting to a new medium – online learning. Online learning or e-learning, is not only becoming the new normal for many types of education it is becoming big business. According to, Projections show the e-learning market worldwide is forecast to surpass 243 billion U.S. dollars by 2022.

This move toward online learning has a lot of benefits; fewer limitations of location, a greater variety of course and topic selection, and more convenience and flexibility in time and duration, just to name a few. However, these benefits can only really be seen as advantages if the online learning method works with how you learn.

What makes learning online challenging?

One of the challenges associated with the move towards online learning is that we seem to be starting over in our efforts to meet the unique needs of the learner. In-person or classroom-based learning has allowed progressive educators to meet the unique learning needs of their students by providing meaningful interactions and using multiple methods of instruction. Many online learning options haven’t quite figured out how to create the same amount of meaningful interactions or how to incorporate multiple methods of learning. Evidence shows that online learning is not yet able to meet the effectiveness of in-class learning.

Part of the challenge with some online learning, especially self-directed learning, is that it is often heavily dependent on reading and writing. Current online learning is similar to what formal learning was like decades ago, before we started to incorporate strategies like Flemming’s VARK and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence theories. Online learning interactions cut out most of the personal interactions and can often limit the meaningful group-based discussions and personal connections that are essential to many people’s learning experience.

What is needed are new ideas and new strategies to help educators to create a better understanding of the complex nature of the modern online learner, which will in turn allow those learner take control of their learning journey.

There is where Roman 3 comes in

Over the past number of years, Roman 3 Operations has been working on new ideas and strategies to address the challenges of online learning. We have developed an experimental learning theory that brings together a collection of best practices from learning, intelligence, and personality theories and a strong understanding of how these practices work together during the learning process. This theory has been a passion project of mine, W. Coby Milne, since I finished my Master’s degree in Adult Education. I call this theory the Collective Operation of Learning Domains (COLD). The four domains of COLD are: Acquire, Process, Equate, Execute (APEX). We call our experimental theory the COLD theory of APEX.

The development of this experimental theory comes from years of academic research and the experimentation of applied strategies. While we still have work to do in the academic validation and in the peer review processes, we feel that we truly have something of value in the practical strategies, based on our current research and experimentation. In light of the changes to the world as a result of COVID-19, we felt it necessary to make the themes and strategies available to people who are being forced to engage in online learning like never before. The desire to improve the online learning experience for both the educator and the learner is what led us to the creation of the Strategies for Accessible Learning Tool (SALT).

SALT can support more engagement with online learning

A fundamental concept in Adult Education is critical reflection that can lead to a type of transformation in your learning (Mezirow, 1993). This leads us to the benefits of self-awareness in learning. Conventional wisdom and historical theories support the idea of self-assessment tests, like those used in Flemming’s VARK and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theories, providing a valuable critical reflection of how we think about our learning. When learners reflect on how they learn and develop a better understanding their uniqueness in cognitive preferences, they can better apply the strategies that will maximize their education. Studies have found a positive relationship between applying strategies that reach a student’s learning preference and increased engagement in the learning process, both in class and online.

This is the goal of SALT; to provide a simple and engaging assessment that identifies the learning preferences at different stages of the learning process. It then seeks to provide practical suggestions and strategies that can empower the learner to be more effective in their online learning, even if the courses they are engaged in are not designed to use multiple methods of instruction to meet unique learning needs and preferences.

The current version of SALT is designed to be a free tool to support learners with their online learning journeys. However, this only the beginning for SALT and our experimental COLD theory of APEX. The courses offered by Roman 3 Operations, both in-class and online, are designed with the best practices of the COLD theory of APEX approach and supports learners by incorporating the strategies and preferences identified through the use of SALT. Our goal is to provide the best learning experience we can through our learning projects. But what we really want is to help change the learning landscape and support best practice learning programs for everyone. The free SALT assessment will be available to everyone, forever. Furthermore, we will continue to improve the tool and the strategies it uses in order to support learning institutions and online learning companies around the world. In addition, we aim to increase the accessibility of online learning for everyone. As we have already said, learning and education are critical parts to any society and we want to do our part.

The Takeaway

An essential part of maximizing education is by designing learning experiences that meet the needs of the learner. Learning styles and preferences are an important part of meeting those needs. Roman 3 has created a tool, called SALT, to identify individual preferences and recommend strategies, based on our experimental COLD theory of APEX. SALT incorporates best practice approaches to learning that will allow individuals to the most out of their online learning experiences.

If you would like to try out SALT yourself, please use this link.

Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, learn to collaborate, become progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support, reach out to us at

Does Your Workplace Have a Culture of Complacency?

Don’t you just love order and predictability?

It is human nature to look for order and comfort. There is a sense of harmony in predictable environments that ultimately lead us to what we all strive for – Safety. Feeling safe is really the ultimate goal. It is the natural by-product that comes from meaningful relationships, financial security, and continuous employment.

As with anything, too much of a good thing can cause problems. Accordingly, the comfort that comes from a sense of safety has its dark side too. The inherent problem that comes from too much comfort and predictability is that we become acclimatized to it; we become dependent on it and will go to great lengths to keep it, even to our own detriment. As individuals, this dependence on comfort often manifests itself as complacency. We become complacent in our lives, stop pushing ourselves, and often abandon our ambitions in order to stay comfortable – don’t rock the boat. In addition to the individual dangers that come with complacency, there is a much greater threat – working in a culture of complacency.

From an organizational and business perspective, the dangers of a culture of complacency can erode the very foundation of an organization’s business plan, as well as ruin its employee base. In short, a culture of complacency can act as a cancer to an organization’s current and future success.

What does a Culture of Complacency look like?

There are many symptoms of complacency, and they can reveal themselves in many ways. In his book A Sense of Urgency, John Kotter (2008) explains three ways in which these symptoms can manifest themselves.

– Low overall performance standards, often in organizations that have fallen asleep with the same people in leadership positions for more than a decade with little turnover.

– A lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources, such as not really listening to customer complaints to realize that the products do not meet the needs of the client.

– A kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low candor, low confrontation culture, often, found in family-owned businesses where influence does not go both ways.

A Forbes article titled: 10 Signs Your Employees Are Growing Complacent In Their Careers highlights some symptoms that look like:

– Employees stop asking questions

– People stop taking the initiative

– Everyone is playing it too safe

– No one is showing passion in their work

What is a Culture of Complacency?

The Elements of a Culture of Complacency can be summarized into 4 main components.

Comfortable and Traditional Methods

Phrases like: “This is how we have always done it” and “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” accurately summarize this element. People naturally default to the steps and processes that are familiar and routine because of the comfort that comes with them. There is also an unwillingness to break from tradition, an inherent fear of change, and a fear of failure that can cause an aggressive adherence to what is comfortable and familiar.

Rigid Thinking

In a Culture of Complacency there is often a lack of awareness of what is happening outside an individual’s normal environment, as well as a lack of outside perspective to the internal habits and practices of the organization. Naively looking at information, ideas, and opportunities as good or bad overlooks the inherent complexity of most situations. Rigidly looking at the extremes of things is a common symptom of a Culture of Complacency. If you only see things as black or white you miss the grey, which is where most of the world operates.

Finding the No

When approached with a new-found opportunity or new idea, many people’s first instinct is to find the quickest way to say no. This is one of the most prominent elements of a Culture of Complacency. When something outside the norm or comfortable flow is brought up there is a compulsion to find a way to delegitimize it or over complicate it, so that it fails. This is a problem-focused approach, where people put effort into finding problems and roadblocks to stop something that does not fit into their common practice. This is the opposite of a solution-focused approach, where individuals put effort into discovering solutions and adaptations in order to establish a way to make something work that is considered outside the common practice.

Unconfident and Low-Profile Leadership

Perhaps the most impactful element of a Culture of Complacency is unconfident and low-profile leadership that creates an expectation of mediocrity. In an environment where leadership is focused on a “don’t rock the boat” mentality it creates an environment where the other 3 elements of complacency are able to fester and grow. This type of leadership is most commonly a result of two major factors; apathy and inconsistency. When leaders do not inspire their teams and inspire in them a sense of confidence in their work, teams usually turn to safety in traditional and common practice. This is often the only way to survive. A leader’s job is to make their team feel safe; safe to ask questions, safe to bring new ideas, safe to take risks. Without this sense of safety (which we stated earlier is something we all strive for), a sense of complacency starts to grow in its place.

How to Identify a Culture of Complacency

The first thing for a person to consider when attempting to identify if they have a culture of complacency is to ask – do you spend your days trying to be busy, or do you spend you time trying to be better? Many people spend their entire career going into work every day, putting in a full day of work, and being very busy while they are at work. Nevertheless, they still live in a culture of complacency. Some of the questions for a person to ask in order to determine if they are in a Culture of Complacency include: Are you trying to be as busy as yesterday or better than yesterday? Is your goal to be in a predictable environment or a productive environment?

If you would like to learn a little more about the impact and signs of complacency, check out a discussion on our podcast where we dig into this idea in much more depth.

How to Combat a Culture of Complacency

When endeavoring to challenge a Culture of Complacency, it can be tackled on two fronts: Individual and Organizational. When attempting to challenge it on an individual level, people need to first embrace the paradox of finding comfort in being uncomfortable. Look for challenge and personal/professional growth as where comfort can be found. The excitement that comes with being better every day needs to be what sustains individuals rather than the predictability of the job itself. When attempting to challenge Culture of Complacency on an organizational level, the first step is to institute a cultural shift toward a Culture of Innovation. This needs to start with leadership and it needs to happen both top-down and bottom-up.

The Takeaway

A Culture of Complacency is a very complex and layered concept. Its impact extends beyond the productivity of an organization and affects workplace safety, customer satisfaction, employee turnover, governance, and more. The negative impact it has on virtually every aspect of the workplace can be the breaking point of any organization.

It is important to be reflective of both your situation and that of your organization and to understand the warning signs and effects that a Culture of Complacency has on your professional life. It is important to take the time to ask yourself “Are you looking to protect your predictability or protect your productivity?”. It is also important to recognize that discomfort, innovation, and a willingness to take risks are the beginnings of both evolution and progress.

Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support reach out to us at

Quantum Thinkers Have Real Superpowers – Are You One of Them?

Quantum Thinking: What is it?

There is some confusion about what, exactly, quantum thinking means.  Some think it’s connecting your mind, body and spirit; some think it’s a tactic to better understand and embrace physics, and still others think it can be a magical way to live a happy and perfect life.

Now, I don’t know about any of that. I won’t tell you how to connect your mind, body and spirit, or help you understand physics or promise you a perfect life. I want to talk about quantum thinking from a cognitive, adult learning perspective. Quantum thinking is about a depth and speed of processing that could be a vital and game-changing skill when it comes to leadership, innovation, management and education. It involves using multi-dimensional thinking and thematic analysis to discern and synthesize complex information from seemingly random memory, in real time. In an overly simplified way, quantum thinking is about developing a seemingly limitless mental capacity. Who wouldn’t want that?

I first came across quantum thinking, or to be more to the point, “high capacity” quantum thinking, when I was a grad student doing research on cognition and transformative learning. I was reading a book by celebrated adult educator Jane Vella. She only touched on this concept in the book, but it peaked my interest and I dug further into it.  I discovered that different kinds of thinking can be expressed as an upside down hierarchy in terms of capacity and depth. In this model, linear thinking falls on the bottom, creative thinking (spreading your thinking outward) and critical thinking (reflecting and analyzing information) sit in the middle and high capacity quantum thinking has all of it and more.

So, again: What is it?

High capacity quantum thinking is the ability to simultaneously and systematically connect six different skills:

Creativity – explore alternate options and pathways, even unconventional ones.

Intuition— trusting the information, higher-order concepts, and ideas that come to your mind.

Unrelated storage – being able to learn and store information without immediate relevance and then recall and connect it once it becomes relevant.

Information integration – the ability to integrate information from all sources into actionable and practical concepts

Synthesis – creating foundational and practical knowledge from the information and concepts created and stored.

Accelerated Processing – being able to make connections, process and learn information, and master new tasks at an intensely quick rate.

How can I use this information?

The real question is, how can high capacity quantum thinking help you?  For the purposes of this article we’ll talk about how to look for signs of quantum thinking in your potential job applicants.

High capacity quantum thinkers are a gift to some industries and a curse to others. If you’re looking for employees to just tow the company line, be given tasks to repeat the same way everyday until they retire, maintain status quo, and think within the box, then you need to stay clear of high capacity quantum thinkers. They will drive you crazy, be unhappy, and most likely will not use their hyper accelerated thinking skills to make your life easier.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for more efficiency in your process, looking for new and meaningful connections, need answers to questions you haven’t even thought of yet, and want all of this yesterday—then you, my friend, need to be in the market for a high capacity quantum thinker.

So where do you find them?

That’s a tough one. Most high capacity quantum thinkers don’t even realize this is what they are. They tend to believe that having a mind that goes a mile a minute and sees all the angles is what everyone experiences. Interestingly enough, many high capacity quantum thinkers may have been misdiagnosed as having ADHD as kids. This might be because ADHD is marked with having a need to have your mind stimulated, and looking beyond the task you are currently engaged in to find that stimulation.  The undisciplined high capacity quantum thinker may appear to be scattered, unfocused or having poor follow through. This is because having information and inspiration constantly coming at you can be overwhelming and extremely distracting. Like most super powers, they’re a burden until you learn to harness and control them.

So, let’s reframe the question.

Where do you find DISCIPLINED High Capacity Quantum Thinkers?

It’s likely they’re already applying for positions in your company. High capacity quantum thinkers know what kind of work and projects interest them and they’re eager to seek them out. You will find them among the resumes and cover letters that speak about their potential, their achievements attained in a short period of time, will likely have had three or four jobs in a ten year span, which they’ve left to pursue more exciting prospects. They won’t have the twenty years of experience you’re looking for, they will be the ones who sound confident and engaged, but whom you thought were probably “too green” or inexperienced to consider as a serious candidate.

Overlooking high capacity quantum thinkers is understandable. Lots of people claim to be great and able to meet all of your needs. Hiring people is risky, so you play it safe and go with the most experienced candidates.  It makes logical linear sense. But if you’re going to choose people who have done the job before, you’ll likely get employees who will do things the way they’ve always been done. However, if you want to increase the capacity of your business, you need to invest in increasing the “High Capacity” of your employees. The best advice I can offer to help you spot them is to look for people who have been able to complete excellent work in surprisingly short time frames, people who routinely over-deliver in terms of quality and deadlines, and people who can find connections, unique perspectives, and transferable elements in seemingly random or limiting situations. If you can harness the power of a quantum thinker you can have your very own super hero at your disposal, and again…who wouldn’t want that!


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support check us out at 

Putting a Giraffe in the Fridge – The Power of Ridiculous Interview Questions

The problem with interviews

Okay, we’ve all been there: sitting in a job interview (on either side of the table—it doesn’t really matter) and we’re thinking, “Do these questions really highlight the skills and qualities needed to be successful in this job?”

If you’re the one doing the hiring you’re also thinking, “How can I find the best employee and not just the best interviewer?” If you’re the candidate, you’re thinking, “How can I show them I’m exactly what they’re looking for without sounding like I’m telling them what they want to hear?”

Here is the crux of the problem: the skills needed to make a good impression in an interview are rarely the skills needed to do the job. For example, if you’re interviewing for a management job, it’s difficult to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills to lead, organize and make hard decisions when you’re just sitting answering questions that you had time to prepare for. If you’re doing the hiring, it’s hard to see the qualities and skills that fit your needs when the person you’re interviewing could be misrepresenting their skills and experience.

What you’re really looking for

As everyone who does hiring knows, what you’re looking for in a good employee is fit. You want someone who not only has the experience, but also the transferable skills to thrive in the position for which you are hiring. (If you want more on the importance of transferable skills check out previous article: Skills vs Experience) The real question is whether you trust people when they say they have the skills you are seeking. When applicants say they work well in stressful situations, you just have to take them at their word. There is really no opportunity to prove it, which is a huge disservice to both you and the candidate. Sure, there are options for you to give them an opportunity to prove themselves—like telling them they have thirty seconds to create a new jingle for your company’s flagship product while you dangle them out the window. But your lawyers will likely advise you against that. So what can you do?

Your main focus should be an applicant’s soft skills—over the education, over the experience, over the technical training. So the real question you should be starting with before you begin writing the interview questions should be, “What are the essential skills needed to be successful in this job?”

The right fit on soft skills is essential. A study by Watts and Watts (2008) indicated that hard skills contribute only 15% to one’s success, whereas 85% of success is due to soft skills. Another study by Klaus (2010) found that 75% of long-term job success depends on personal skills, while only 25% is dependent on technical knowledge.

So, again: How can the candidates prove it to you?

What a ridiculous question can do for you

Enter the ridiculous questions. Now, I may be getting off to a bad start by calling them ridiculous. I prefer the term “abstract”, however for the formal and rather stuffy setting of a job interview they are certainly unconventional— but that’s part of their brilliance. These kinds of questions fracture a candidate’s overly-polished and prepared responses and give you direct insight into the person behind the carefully crafted first impression.

The skills you need to ask ridiculous questions

Being able to get the information you need from one of these abstract questions takes some skill. Skilled interviews can infer parallels and patterns in people’s answers.   They can help you read the person and frame the kind of answer you are looking to get out of the question. It’s about analysis and synthesis: analyzing how people respond to your questions for deeper insight into their thinking process, and then synthesizing the meaning to establish proof of the skill you are seeking. Knowing the right questions to ask takes practice and you may have to dig deep into your memory, back to high school when you were analyzing poems about gardens and cloudy days, looking for the meaning and symbolism. I just hope you didn’t miss that day.

Questions and their intended results

Here are some sample questions and their potential benefits to give you an idea of how this works:

How many ways can you get a needle out of a haystack?

This question is great if you’re seeking people who can look at complex situations and assess possible solutions. Notice that the question asks how many ways?  This is important when you’re looking for someone to not get stuck on a single solution and who will look for new ways to get the job done. The answers you want to hear from positional “problem fixers” will demonstrate openness to looking at multiple angles, a logical and impactful problem-solving method, and creative approaches to challenges. I like to suggest this question to organizations looking for “problem fixers” such as Economic Developers, Career Counsellors, Auditors, etc.

How would you explain Facebook to your Grandma?

This question focuses on attention to detail, patience and understanding the perspective of the customer. It’s a good one to ask in environments with highly technical or industry-specific language where it’s easy to forget that clients may not be familiar with industry vocabulary or concepts. Your best front line people will be employees who can put themselves in the shoes of those you serve.  The answers you want to hear will be compassionate and easy to understand, using accessible language and thorough details.

Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

This was an internet favorite from a few years ago, but is still a great abstract question. If you’re hiring for a job that needs to take theoretical, hard-to-visualize information and make it accessible, then this is an excellent question. Being able to quickly respond to a weird question like this can really show the processing speed of your applicant. Skills like being able to visualize complex verbal descriptions are a large part of many jobs like marketing, programming and customer service. The answers you want to this question are quick, logical and practical. This can also be a great way to access the sense of humor in a candidate if that’s needed for the job or team they would be joining.

Could be a game changer

This simple shift in the way you think about interviews can have profound effects on talent acquisition. I urge all my readers to put more weight on transferable and soft skills than on experience, because experience is not the same as quality of experience.  Soft skills can be taught (it’s my bread and butter) — meaning you can help shape the quality of a person’s experience to suit the needs of your company.  It’s a much larger investment, but it’s worth it.    

Before you interview applicants, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of the skills you’re looking for in prospective employees. You’ll also need a strategy for discerning the presence of these skills during the course of the interview.  Asking ridiculous questions is one way to have job candidates demonstrate, rather than just talk about, having the skills you’re seeking.


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support check us out at 

Surviving a Challenging Workplace

What is your workplace like?

We have all had jobs we didn’t like and jobs we loved. Often the reason for the distinction is the people we work for and with. I can tell you I have had some jobs where my role was exhausting, dirty, and not overly lucrative, but the people I worked with were amazing, so this was a job I actually liked and was sad to have left. On the other hand, I have had easy, engaging, and well-paying jobs, but the people I worked with were really challenging, so this was a job I really disliked and was eager to leave. I am sure you have all had similar experiences. In a similar vein, sometime there are conditions that other people must deal with in their jobs that make it challenging for you to work with them, things outside their control that make their jobs harder for you to do yours.

It is funny how people and conditions can ruin experiences for us and sometime take the enthusiasm out of a great experience. That is why I wanted to write about this topic, so you can protect yourself from the challenges that might make you regret and opportunity that you likely work very hard to get.

Your workplace of often only as good as the people in it

One of the first things you need to do is really understand and identify the challenging personalities and habits that may exist in your co-workers. We often have people who, for one reason or another, are mentally and emotional exhausting to work with. There are a lot of similar qualities that create behaviours in our more challenging co-workers; things like rigidness, a self focus, and often, insecurity. These, and other types, of behaviours create common traits that can be identified and labeled if you know what to look for. I spent some time working with a HR team to identify, label, and recommend actions to properly limit the impact these people have on us. Have you ever dealt with Emotional Vampires, Hostile Drama Queens, or a Bliss Bandit? If any of these names sound like they might describe someone who you have worked with, check out my past article, called Do you have the Dirty Dozen in your life? Part I of II, for a list of 12 types of people and suggestions on how to limit their impact on you.

Uncertainty: a common way to poison the well

Beyond the types of people, another major challenge comes from people dealing with uncertainty. Sometimes people do not completely understand their roles, or how their roles align with yours. This level of uncertainly in how we see jobs, tasks, responsibilities, and hierarchy can make it really tough to work with people if the way that they are supposed to interact is unclear. A large part of working with people has to do with understanding how their job affects you and vice versa, so clarity is really important to good working relationships. This can often be gained by strong job descriptions, organizational charts, and a mapping of responsibilities. I have often advised or consulted for workplaces that are in rough shape and one of the best places to start is with an organizational role assessment and an inventory of HR policies and job descriptions.

Another major way that uncertainty creates major challenges in the workplace is with change. When a large change happens, it creates an extreme amount of uncertainty, maybe it is a change in leadership, or a change in strategic direction, or in mandate, or even just adding to an existing team, change can often bring out the worst in people because of the uncertainty. During a change people often get protective, or even possessive of what they do and the status quo because they become vulnerable and that makes people really uncomfortable. Managing change is an extremely important part of maintaining an efficient and hospitable workplace. I have written about managing change in detail in a past article titled: Unlocking Innovation (Part V of VI): Managing change, but the key is really about strong communication and getting everyone affected by change to buy in to its value.

Challenges beyond the people

It is important to understand the systemic conditions that greatly impact the environment of a workplace. One of the biggest conditions is unbalanced and out of date policies. Policies are the backbone of any workplace, whether is it s the HR policies, financial policies or conflict policies, just to name a few. If these are not strong and fair then the backbone of an organization will be as weak and skewed as the polices themselves. If an organization has gone to the lengths to hire the right people, focus on the right strategies, and crafted the right services or products to offer; but their policies and focus limit the impact or weaken the creative freedom of the staff, then they have bound the very hands hired to lift them. Part of the problem is the focus of many policies. There are often policies that focus on time spent at a desk rather than flexibility to get the best work done, or protecting the company from staff rather then empowering staff to do their best work, or are used to control the employees rather then develop them.

Another condition that creates a challenging workplace is how the employees are incentivize. Now there are a lot of opinions about how to get the most of out of employees. Some say money, some say promotions, some even say threats. But, however an organization decides to incentivize their employees the simple truth is, you get the best work out of happy and appreciated people. Happy and valued employees think more creatively, are bolder, put in longer hours, are more dependable, and miss less time. There is great work being done researching these claims in Positive Psychology, I would suggest starting with Shawn Achor, here is a great Ted Talk to get you started.

The Takeaway

The environment and people you work with are the largest factor to overall job satisfaction. As an employee the best thing you can do is to be open minded and assertive. That’s it. Those two things can make almost anything you deal with in the workplace manageable, from the annoying person next to you, to the stress of getting a new boss. Becoming open minded and assertive is a much more complex process, but understanding what you need to do is at least a place to start. As an employer the best things that you can do is to truly value your employees. Value them enough to have transparent communication with them, change your policies that were created to police them instead of empowering them, incentives them by letting them play to their strengthens and truly value the work that they do. That’s it. Value them and most importantly, show them they are valued. Empower them, support them, encourage them to support and empower each other. We shouldn’t all just look to survive our work day, we should look to thrive in our work day.


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