American author Robert Lee Fulghum is best known for a book he created entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book’s title is from the first essay and poem in the volume, which was published in 1986. The author lists the lessons normally learned in American kindergarten classrooms, and he reflects upon how the world would be improved if adults adhered to the same basic rules as children. Those rules? They include listening, sharing and living a life that balances work and play. We’re now seeing those principles in employee communications systems and HR training.
Initially, some might say that the premise behind the essay is saccharine, and in the scramble to the top of whatever career ladder a person is climbing, there’s no room for “lessons from kindergarten.” Really? Let’s take a closer look.
Listen: The Importance of Good Employee Communications
Listening to what peers and bosses say is vital, as no one works in a vacuum. Now some wags might remark that astronauts are indeed working in a vacuum, but even in space, the same rules apply. In fact, the support team working with astronauts numbers over 1,000 per rocketeer. Communications between the ground team and the space team need to be crystal clear.
Similarly, emergency personnel such as first responders rely upon maintaining clear, open lines of communication. The horrifying ordeal of 9/11/01 was hampered in part by the inability of firefighters and police to talk to one another. The September 18, 2015 article for The Atlantic by Brendan Sasso noted: “…a police helicopter pilot circling the remaining tower reported that the top 15 floors were ‘glowing red’…. Most of the police officers in the North Tower heard those warnings and were able to evacuate. But that information never reached firefighters, for a simple reason: Radio systems for the Fire Department, the Police Department, and the Port Authority Police were all incompatible with each other.”
Most situations in the business world involving employee communications and training are not fraught with life-or-death consequences. But the lack of effective communications can mean the life or death of a business entity. Human Resources pros are the cornerstone of assessing and improving employee engagement. An Entrepreneur magazine article from July 24th, 2015 penned by David Krantz, CEO of YP, lays out 5 simple “tasks” that HR implement to create an alignment of goals:
• Weekly, company-wide emails. A CEO can present thoughts on what has been achieved so far, what needs to be addressed, and even new ideas or goals.
• What’s not working? Create a company culture where problems can be aired easily.
• Hold town hall meetings
• Create a conference meeting for the top senior managers
• Answer employee emails within 24 hours
Share: Collaboration and Training Is Integral to Success
Sharing applies to teamwork on the job. Whether it’s a think tank devising the newest widget, the assembly line creating it, or the salesforce marketing it, a team impels things forward. The killer in the “share” category is stress. The March 14, 2017 report by the American Institute of Stress notes that there’s a perception of having little control and huge demands: 46% of employed Americans feel their workload is too high. The CDC’s NIOSH team cites the following statistics:
• 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
• Three-fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago
• Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems
What can Human Resources do to alleviate this issue? Promote sharing – ideas, resources, personnel. This will lighten the load for all. Collaboration at work is great. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Play and Work Every Day: How Millennials Are Changing the Workforce
By the year 2020, there will be five generations in the American workforce: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (millennials) and the yet-to-appear Generation Z. Millennials seek a balance between work lives and personal lives, coming the closest to Fulgham’s observation that little ones play and work every day. Attracting and retaining millennials for companies around the globe is one of the biggest obstacles in talent acquisition. What tools can HR use to attract the best and brightest? SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) suggests 4 key tips:
• Use a personal touch to reach out directly to worthy candidates
• Update the style and messages of the company’s communication network
• Use social media
• Highlight both the corporate culture and the corporate mission
There are other observations Mr. Fulghum makes about kindergartners. An HR person should look up the essay and read it. It does stand true that what one learns in kindergarten can be readily applied to the workplace, including the value of warm cookies and cold milk. Suggest that for the next work break.