Thoughts on living in New York

Obviously this is just my opinion based on observation after spending 9 months in New York and others might completely disagree. I’m simply just answering the questions that a lot of people are asking me on my opinion on (working in) New York, Americans and America in general.

I think in the end everything turns normal and even an absolutely crazy city like New York feels normal and I feel at home in the city. Dance performances in the subway, people rude and screaming at you, people being so nice it surprises you, saying the word ‘like’ 15 times in a sentence and a tiny glass of wine for 13 dollars, it’s everyday life now.

After almost a year here I can say there are still a lot of aspects I don’t understand of this country because the contrasts are so big. The only thing on television and newspaper is politics yet nobody talks about it. I have seen a lot of jobs divided by race and there is still a lot of discrimination in daily life. People are either really well off or pretty poor without health insurance and they refuse to see a doctor. I’ve seen someone panicking because someone called him an ambulance but could not afford it. I have seen a lot of homeless people and honestly many of them were in really bad shape mentally and physically. From men to veterans, to a lot of (young) women. I just don’t understand the social system in the country and how it can be allowed that people are treated like this. It seems like life is more uncertain than I am used to. One day I had to help translate a conversation where a woman got fired on the spot at the end of her shift without any prior warning or a  bit of time to find something else.

We Dutch people might be direct, and Americans think we are but I’ve found people many times being very rude at me, especially guests and clients. Screaming in my face or being very angry. On the opposite, many times people approach you on the street if you’re lost to help out or a friendly stranger starts conversation with you which is pretty rare in my culture. When I travelled to New Orleans the people were extremely nice but also a little wary of tourists (although I can’t blame them).

Another question a lot of people asked me is whether it is possible to make any friends. Well, I think everyone in New York is really caught up in his own bubble and people mostly work. In general, I think it is a lot easier to make contact with someone than in Europe (West Europe especially) and it is really easy to get into a conversation or even coffee with a stranger, or go for drinks with people from work. However, I think it is a lot more superficial and you don’t just have close friends in New York.  For some people this works though, I prefer to have a few close friends. Also, a lot of people work six days a week or several jobs so people have other priorities like getting promotion. So yes it is easier to meet people to go for a drink with but I found it hard to build friendships with Americans. I did made some great friends but they are all foreign.

Don’t get me wrong, I love New York and its energy, its interesting and talented people, the opportunities, the endless amount of things to do and explore. It is challenging to work with the staff and the guests but that is also what makes it interesting and in the end it depends on your ability to adapt because you are the foreigner.

 

Advertenties

Society struggles 1: dating

Since  I am not that busy in Barcelona with studying and work as I usually am, I got some time to think. Sometimes I get really annoyed with our society and especially two things: our obsession with appearance and modern day dating.  My generation tries so hard to be special different with the trips we make, interesting internships abroad and places we hang out. We have quite a big ego but we are afraid to express our feelings or take a guess and tell someone we like him or her. Why are we so afraid to be vulnerable?

The question if you are together with someone is a tough one. Lots of calculations and complicated analyses of Whatsapp messages are involved. What to answer when people ask you if are you together? ‘No’, you say. ‘We are just dating’. But what is that supposed to mean? The word dating might be even too strong, I think the right word is ‘just hanging out’.  I am not that much a believer of traditional relationships but I have to say this is confusing for both parties. In the end, it seems like we are always waiting for someone better/nicer/prettier to come along. So if this person doesn’t come along we just stick with the one we are  ‘just hanging out’ with? I wonder what we are afraid of. To make a choice? Why not respect the person and actually focussing on what you have instead of looking around for better.

Another example is that you don’t even have to break up with someone or tell the person you are not interested. No, you simply stop replying on any of your online devices. Why bother being honest or vulnerable when there is an easy option? Thing is you only leave the other person wondering why. Don’t get me wrong, I have done this many times till it happened to me and I actually started to wonder why this person stopped talking to me. I got annoyed with the other person but also with myself because I did it to other people as well. Why don’t we respect each other? The least we can do is give each other an explanation.

Let’s not even mention the rules. The rules, which are unwritten but crucial in our modern dating life. The first struggle is interpreting a text correctly. Is the person happy with you or angry, because there is no smiley or no ‘xx’. You don’t call someone to ask him or her out. No, you send an unclear text stating ‘We should hang out someday’, well when, where? Does the person genuinely want to hang out or is it just to say something polite? You can’t reply too fast because then you are too eager. You can’t reply late because then you are rude.

I think in the end I can conclude that nowadays we are afraid to be vulnerable. You can’t show you like someone. You just don’t. We are always waiting for a better person and people don’t let us know if they like us. I mean, we would only open up to become vulnerable and then get let down, because we were only hanging out, right? We might miss out on an amazing person. We travel the entire world alone, we are tough, we are cool but we are also afraid. What if you get rejected? This won’t hurt your perfectly created online image, but would actually hurt your feelings that are somewhere behind this image and ego.

 

Does globalization of the American food culture change global health?

Nowadays, with this huge amount of international travel,  import, export, the internet and social media we seem to become more global than ever. Globalization is defined as a world with a homogenous society, dominated by American culture. Coca-Cola, Starbucks and McDonalds are imbedded into our daily lives and could be declared as symbols of the American fast food industry. Globalization seems to cause changes in food preference over the world. One can wonder to in what extent local societies are influenced by this new food culture, that also result in an increasing amount of Western diseases. Is globalization a cause of chances in global health? How are children affected by these food habits?

The documentary ‘Way Beyond Weight’ portrayed shockingly how children deep in the inlands of Brazil are wining and crying for more Coca-Cola and chips. These children are overweight and some even diabetic at the age of 11. They refuse to eat fruit and did not recognize a cucumber nor kale. Scholars in the documentary identified this issue as a global pandemic of obese children. The main question asked in the documentary was who is to blame for this global pandemic. Causes given are the food industry, the parents, advertising agencies and the government. In the documentary, globalization is pictured as a negative occurrence due to its huge and negative impact on global health. According to Caprio (2008) globalization can affect obesity through promotion of travel and migration, trade of high-fat products and food marketing.

One can wonder that if these children around the world are already this obese and even diabetic, what the world would look like in 50 years. Before, a child with type 2 diabetic was rare but nowadays it is much more common. It seems like the problem is too big already to stop, especially with several multinationals with so much power. The change needs to come out of these corporations but one can wonder if that will ever happen. Governments could also have great positive influence, though they seem to be reluctant and probably influenced (or under pressure?) by the multinationals.

There are many aspects to globalization, but in terms of food cultural there seems to be occurring a problem so big that it cannot be turned around anymore. Globalization is often seen as a positive occurrence, but in terms of health it can be concluded it is not.  The main question is how this will develop further, taking into account the extent to which children already are influenced. Societies seem to adopt the same cultural identity in terms of food, all leaning towards the American culture. It is sad to realize that in the end, the most innocent people of our world, children are the ones that are influenced.

Reference list:

Caprio, S. et al. (2008). Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood Obesity. Diabetes Care, 31, 2211-2221. doi: 10.2337/dc08-9024.

Nisti, M. (Producer) & Renner, E. (Director). (2012). Way Beyond Weight. Brazil. Retrieved on March 16th from http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/11987/Way-Beyond-Weight

World Health Organization. (2016). Global report on diabetes

The picture is part of the documentary Way Beyond Weight.

The truth about an online degree

In the United States, a growing number of students are deciding to take their degree via online education. Within one year, the amount of online enrolments has risen by 21%, while the overall higher education population has risen by 2% (Allen & Seaman 2010). Technology that makes these changes in higher education possible continues to develop at a fast pace, and the opportunities of using online education is growing. People in favour of online degrees state that online education makes it possible for everyone to receive education, that it is easier to receive a degree online than a traditional degree at a college.  In the United States of America, a rising number of students are taking their college degree through online education, but the passing rates and the job prospects of an online degree are worse than those of a traditional degree.

An argument commonly used by opponents, people in favour of online education, is that it is easier to get a degree online in comparison with those earned in traditional college way. However, studies have shown that an online degree is not easier to complete than traditional courses. Students who take online courses often receive lower grades and are more likely to drop out. In addition, students who take online coursework in early terms were slightly, but significantly, less likely to return to school later terms. It turns out that students have difficulties with adapting to online education (Xu and Jaggers, 2011). Students are not used to self-directed learning. It is a step to change from traditional education, which the students have received during their primary and secondary education, to online education.

Apart from easier degrees, another argument opponents use is that online education makes it possible for everyone to receive education. Students who have historically been underrepresented in college, for example ethnic minority students, teenage mums and poor students are able to take on online education much easier than traditional education. Students following a course online also share the belief that an online degree is cheaper because money can be saved on matters such as online books, petrol to go to college and  is less need for day care. These arguments are not supported by facts. It turns out that minorities, like black and Asian students, are the ones likely to drop out in addition to students with weaker academic credentials, according to research (Xu and Jaggers, 2013) Facts show different outcomes with regards to money as well. To support this with an example, an online master course at Indiana University costs students about $52,000, while the exact same course in traditional setting costs $23,592 (Get educated, 2012). The gap between online and traditional education does not always have to be this big, but this example indicates clearly that an online degree is not necessarily a cheaper degree. Research by WCET (2009) found that among accredited colleges which offer the same online courses as on-campus courses, 49% of these colleges charge more for the online courses.

The final argument opponents argue is that employers value a traditional degree the same as an online degree. However, research has shown different results. A national survey about hiring employees showed that 96% of the employers would choose traditional degrees over applicants with virtual degrees (Wellen, 2006).

To conclude, research has pointed out some worrying facts about online education. Students are more likely to drop out compared to a traditional college setting. The main reason is that they have difficulties to adapt from traditional to online education. Ethnic minorities’ students are even more likely to drop out of online education. This suggests that these type of students are struggling even more in adapting to online education.  This is worrying because this could suggest that if online education would become bigger in the future; the gap between these students will be enlarged. In order to be successful, students have to consider if online education is the right way to study for them. They should research the online course thoroughly in advance of their studies, think critically if they can manage their own time management effectively and if they can handle self-directed learning. Changes in education like this are necessary to give students the possibility to prepare for and adapt to online education effectively and hopefully prevent them from dropping out of the course. Hopefully, the statistics about study results will eventually change and online education can become a more effective and beneficial way of learning.

References

Allen and J. Seaman. (2010) Class differences; Online Education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group, USA.

Get Educated, Inc. (2011). Online Masters degree cost more than traditional residential programs.

Gladieux and W. Swail, (1999). Virtual University & Education Opportunity. The College Board, Washington.

Wellen, (2006). Degrees of acceptance. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/30/education/edlife/conted.html?_r=0

WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. (2009). Online Education Programs Marked by Rising Enrolments, Unsure Profits, Organizational Transitions, Higher Fees and technical Training for faculty. Hanover Research, Pennsylvania.

Xu and S. Jaggers.  (2011). Online and Hybrid Course Enrollment and Performance in Washington State Community and Technical Colleges. Community College Research Centre, Columbia University, USA.

Xu and S. Jaggers. (2013). Adaptability to online learning. Community College Research Centre, Columbia University, USA.

 

Afbeelding

The war on talent – Retaining valuable employees

Nowadays, the ability of a company to retain talented employees seems to be challenging. From a company’s perspective, retention is an interesting concept to invest time in as it can decrease dysfunctional turnover, meaning strong performers leaving the company voluntarily. Turnover comes together with high costs and the hassle of a new recruitment process that needs to be started. Furthermore, keeping the right employees enables the organization to get a competitive advantage. The ability to retain valuable employees comes together with finding out what actually motives employees. Research shows that both intrinsically satisfying and extrinsically factors are involved in creating a work environment in which an employee is motivated (Heathfield, n.d). Therefore, both these factors will be explored. Financial incentives, non-financial incentives, company culture and recruitment & selection are factors that could positively influence an employee’s motivation and consequently its decision to stay at a company.

Financial incentives
A current trend seen in HR lately is a desire to promote equal pay, especially done by public sector unions and women (Gilmore & Williams, 2013). Even though this might seem a fair approach towards payment, in terms of motivation and retention this might not be the most successful one. On the contrary, financial incentives linked to performance of the individual employee is more and more often implemented by companies. Financial incentives help to get a good overview of an employee’s performance, as this way of payment will be monitored carefully and is not difficult to carry out for a company. However, research shows that a payment of 10-15% is necessary in order to motivate employees, (Harter & Smidt, 2002) implying that a strategy with lower payment will not be successful. Overall, if the company sets up a clear form of measurement for individual employees it seems that financial incentives can help in the retention of employees, if the amount is high enough.

Non-financial incentives
Non- financial incentives, such as development and recognition, should not be forgotten as intrinsic motivation of employees. Roberts (2014) stated that employees value personal development higher than career progression. However, the word ‘personal’ should be looked at carefully, suggesting that this means something else to every employee. Providing employees with the opportunity to learn and to develop could improve their intrinsic motivation to work for a company and therefore their decision to stay. In addition, the opportunity for employees to develop increased the loyalty of the employee towards the company (Roberts, 2014).  Recognition could be another non-financial incentive, for example rewarding an employee of the month. Recognition is an important factor in terms of motivation.  Furthermore, it can be a competitive advantage over other companies, as it is more difficult to match than financial incentives.

Company culture
Evaluating the company’s culture and communication could be a strategy in retention. Clear communication and transparency could be beneficial in terms of the motivation of an employee because it he could feel more part of the company and recognized more. Employees want to feel like they contribute to the company and to be taken seriously. This requires a specific management style, which is focused on appreciation of the employee’s work and mutual respect. These factors could improve the relationship between managers and employees. Research shows that employees hired in firms emphasizing on interpersonal relationship stayed 14 months longer than in companies that emphasised on work tasks (Sheridan, 1992). Furthermore, managers should monitor the employee´s motivation and satisfaction to continuously work on retention. To sum up, in order for the employee to be motivated and satisfied at the job, it is important to be recognised and respected. A company culture and management style focused on these aspects is required for this strategy.

Recruitment and selection
A retention strategy which might not be usual is analysing the recruitment & selection process of the company. Retention of employees could start from the beginning of employment, when looking for a good match with the right employee. According to Morgeson (2013), recruiting via employee referrals usually leads to new hires with lowest turnover rate. In addition, recording recruiting methods and sources can help in the long term to analyse which employees decide to leave the company. Another aspect in recruitment is providing a realistic job description and a description of the company culture in order to match expectations. When the job matches the employees’ expectations there is less reason to be dissatisfied. Overall, recruitment as retention strategy contributes to the idea that the focus of retention should not so much be on retaining employees a while after the employment, or when several employees left already but starting to find out what motivates employees right during the recruitment & selection process.

Conclusion
To conclude, after looking at several strategies it is clear that there is not one strategy for every company or a quick solution. In order to be successful in retaining employees, the motivation of an individual employee should be considered from the moment an employee enters the company and continued during the employment. Organizations should not put their main focus on retention of employees, but they should consider the fact of recruiting the right talent in the first place and finding out their motivation at the start of their deployment. It seems like combining financial, non-financial incentives combined with a pleasant company culture and good communication could motivate employees. However, focus should be on the individual employee, as everyone has a different motivation to work.

 

Reference list
Foot, M. & Hook, C. (2001). Introducing Human Resource Management. Essex, UK: Pearson Education.

Gilmore, S. & Williams, S. (2013). Human Resource Management. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Heathfield, M. (n.d.). What is employee motivation? Retrieved on 29-10-2015 from: http://humanresources.about.com/od/glossarye/g/employee-motivation.htm

Morgeson, F. (2013). Reducing Turnover Through Hiring – Improve Employee Retention Through Recruitment, Selection and Onboarding. Retrieved on 30-10-2015 from: http://www.healthcaresource.com/img/documents/nahcr-reducing-turnover-morgeson-0214.pdf.

Roberts, H. (2014). Development is key to staff retention, according to research. Retrieved on 29-10-2015. Retrieved from http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/development-is-key-to-staff-retention-according-to-research

Sheridan, J. (1992). Organizational Culture and Employee Retention. The Academy of Management Journal, 35,1036-1056