We provide organizational consulting & coaching:
Get in touch! 1.415.440.7944
Contact us

What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?

August 24th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

VacationWhen I was in school, often our first assignment was to write an essay about what we did for our summer vacation. You probably had the same assignment, and were able to write, as I did, about lazy days on the beach (in my case, the Jersey shore) or at camp or on a family vacation or anywhere that was not school or work.

Fast forward to TODAY. If you were asked to write about your summer vacation, would you have a good story to tell? Or would your response be “What vacation?” If the latter, you wouldn’t be alone. A survey conducted by Skift, who tracks American travel habits, found that in 2014, 42% of Americans didn’t take a single day of vacation. Why is that? Some often-cited reasons (ahem, excuses) are: heavy workload, lack of money to “go anywhere” and the perception that people who take time off are less dedicated.

It may also stem from the fact that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require its employers to offer their workers paid vacation time. In their report, No-Vacation Nation Revisited, researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that:
• Nearly one-fourth of U.S. companies offer no paid time off
• Those companies that do offer an average of only 10 days vacation per year

Compare this to European countries where employers are required by law to offer at least 20 days per year. And they expect their employees to take it! In Austria, the typical employee gets 25 days annual leave plus 13 paid holidays. Now that’s a vacation!

It amazes me that so many people in the U.S. who DO have the opportunity to take time off don’t take it. Even those working for companies that have unlimited or more generous than average time off policies. Back to that 42%. If you’re in that category, you are missing out on myriad benefits from getting away from the office. And I mean REALLY getting away. Not just moving your electronics to the beach! Research shows that time away from work:
• Improves overall health
• Increases creativity (New experiences! Different scenery!)
• Provides for quality time with family
• Ignites neural connections (Increasing your brain power, and that’s got to be good!)
• Increases productivity upon return

So what are you waiting for? There are still a few weeks left before summer officially ends. Do yourself a favor and use up some of those vacation days to take a well-deserved break. Even if you take a “stay vacation” (note: without electronics). You’ll feel better for it. Your family will feel better for it. And, yes, the company will survive while you’re gone.

Get working on that essay!

Till next time,


Health, Jersey shore, Life, Work-life balance


Resist “Flavor of the Month” People Initiatives

August 12th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Flavor-2One of the common concerns among the leadership teams I work with at various organizations is – “How do we keep our key employees from leaving?” I typically start by asking them what they’ve done so far. Often the conversation then goes something like this:

Client: We did a survey, and built some initiatives around the results.
Me: And how did that go?
Client: Well, we created cross-functional teams to work on each of the top four areas from the survey, but then_________ (fill in the blank from the following): a) their recommendations were too costly, or b) the team fell apart because of members’ work obligations or c) there was a shift in priorities due to business needs...


For years now, companies have been trying to turn around the widely reported low employee engagement scores. Tons of articles have been written, myriad solutions advised, and numerous remedies tried. It’s become “the flavor of the month” for employee engagement and retention. But here’s the thing. You can’t be everything to everyone. And in my experience with the multitude of clients I’ve worked with over the years, those who retain their top talent are the ones who:

1. Prioritize and commit to their people initiatives
2. Communicate consistently and ask for feedback on progress
3. Align their initiatives with the company culture

As a talent leader or learning and development leader, you need to get very clear about what your people initiatives are going to be. You need to prioritize based on your company culture, input from your employees, and the needs of the business. Once you prioritize, it’s critical to communicate and commit to those priorities so that your employees understand, and can get on board with them. Naturally, you can make tweaks and updates (communicating along the way), however changing things midstream, or trying to do too much at once, is confusing and disheartening to employees.

How are you going to keep your employees? Make them feel valued, connected, challenged, and recognized. Create an environment where individual, team and organizational goals are aligned so every employee knows how their work impacts overall success. Provide employees with a menu of options for continued development and growth. If you want to be an “employer of choice,” employees need to trust that you have their best interests at heart. That means resisting the “flavor of the month” and committing to initiatives that will have the best results for your people.

Till next time,

Communication, company culture, Engagement, Leadership, People