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HR Flashback: The Way We Worked

(Editor’s Note: Want to learn more from Kevin and TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro about the transformation of HR and workplace learning? Listen to their CLO Magazine on-demand webinar.)

“What do you do?” asked my airport shuttle driver (I’ll call him Ben).

“I work for an HR software company,” I answered.

He nodded. “HR, huh? I remember when I worked in personnel.”

“Personnel.” That term got my attention — precursor to the “human resources” profession we know today. I asked Ben about his experience, and he told me about his days at Polaroid in the Boston area during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

By my estimates, Ben is in his early 60s — a fit man with short salt-and-pepper hair, a neatly trimmed matching goatee, and an infectious storytelling style.

Back in his Polaroid days he worked the line that manufactured the shutterfly housing for a new camera at the time. Two years later he was offered a personnel job.

“I thought I was going to have my own corner office, enjoy long lunches and play golf with the management team,” he told me, shaking his head. “I was 21 years old and extremely naïve. I had no idea the job would be as hard as it was.”

“HR is no free lunch. Not then, not now,” I said.

“Well, it certainly wasn’t then, that’s for damn sure,” he said.

He managed and staffed the “C shift” (11 pm to 7 am  — otherwise known as the graveyard) one of the hardest shifts to work, much less staff and manage. He had to continually wake up his team members as they dozed off on the job.

“C shift” workers were some of Boston’s poorest whites and minorities who had the basic skills to do the job. Ben had to interview, screen and hire 50 people a week for months, until he had a few hundred employees to help roll-out the new cameras.

And Ben managed it all manually.

“We had no HR software or systems,” he explained. “I was going through 150 to 200 applicants per week to hit my 50 target. We had a brief interview process and a skills proficiency test. Then there were tons of forms for each new employee, and all had to be completed in triplicate. There were stuffed file folders and cabinets that cornered me daily in my tiny office.”

“Mercy me,” I replied.

He continued. “Not only that. The new hire trainings were intensive and on-the-job, complete with product manuals that weighed about 100 pounds each. Needless to say, I got very close to the line I used to work with and the new line employees I was staffing for. These people struggled financially, had families to care for. Many were single moms. They had all sorts of personal stress outside of work that affected productivity and quality, but we managed to meet line quota every week.”

“Fascinating,” I said. “And painful.”

“Yes, it was. One of the hardest jobs I ever had.”

“It sounds like it,” I said. “I’ve only played HR on TV.”

He laughed. I sat fascinated by the conversation and the contrast to today. The whole time we talked, with my WiFi hotspot booted, I had logged into my company’s expense report system to review and approve reports.

Then I logged into our collaborative community platform to review some product marketing collateral and the latest entries in our organization’s global contest to name our corporate intranet. What a great way to promote creativity, diversity of thought and culture in a company that’s recently moved through multiple acquisitions, and now has multiple product lines and multiple office locations and many remote contributors.

There we all were, naming the very thing that kept us connected, and I was accessing it all from my tablet of choice.

I logged off, closed my iPad, and sighed audibly. Thank goodness we have today’s technology and software systems at our fingertips, I thought. It’s all about moving from the way we worked to the way we work now — complete with interconnected, platform agnostic devices tethered by the invisible magic of cellular and WiFi science.

Mobile recruiting has seen unprecedented recent growth, and now mobile screening, assessing, hiring, onboarding, training, learning, developing, recognizing, rewarding, and more are part of the “world of work” master plan — critical to an increasingly global, dispersed workforce of full-time, part-time and contract employees.

Again, thank goodness. Think about the old model of snail-mail offer letters, conference room paperwork and storage space stacked to the ceiling with file box archives. So horribly inefficient and administratively painful. Even e-mail has become cumbersome for many in today’s workplace, (although it’s not being replaced anytime soon.)

Fortunately though, highly configurable, mobile-friendly work spaces and systems are here. They mirror our day-to-day work experience and allow us to access the data we need, whenever its needed.

Your corner office is nestled comfortably in the heart of your favorite mobile device. I think Ben would like it that way.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Fun Times! Work, Games and Culture #TChat Recap

“When a player feels ownership, she innately wants to make what she owns better and own even more. If you feel ownership over your job, you will work harder.”
Gamification Pioneer, Yu-Kai Chou

There’s no denying that work is serious business. When companies fail, everyone loses.

However, that doesn’t mean work can’t be enjoyable. And with employee engagement at an all-time low, adding game dynamics to an organizational culture could be a winning move.

That was the premise for this week’s #TChat Events, featuring two innovators in workplace engagement:

•  Dan Benoni, Co-Founder & Product Director at Officevibe, a social employee engagement platform
•  Mario Coculuzzi, Eastern Canada Regional Director at Microsoft.

(Editor’s Note: See the #TChat Twitter highlights slideshow and resource links at the end of this post.)

How Does Gamification Make A Difference?

When determining how to improve employee engagement, one solution obviously doesn’t fit all environments. Each organization has distinctive cultural attributes that should be a natural basis for change. The challenge starts with understanding the particular motivators that are meaningful and appropriate for your employees. The smartest approaches apply three simple strategies, as one of our community members noted:

Choose Wisely

Once you’re confident about relevant drivers, consider the type of gaming techniques that can shape those dynamics. There are multiple options — but all are designed to enhance human factors, so work “flows” more naturally. At its best, gamification makes work feel more comfortable, enjoyable, fun. It helps individuals and teams attain business goals faster and more effectively — while helping everyone feel more challenged and rewarded as they contribute to overall organizational success. According to another participant:

Games Don’t Cure-All

#TChat-ters agreed that, if the fundamentals are missing, no amount of gamification or other “engagement” devices can compensate. For example, employees deserve the same level of respect, regardless of their title or position. They also need clear, consistent communication — not only about what they’re expected do (objectives), but also about why their work matters to the organization (purpose). These basics can have a powerful impact:

https://twitter.com/ReCenterMoment/status/393161476007276544

Continuous Commitment Counts

Another important point: Engagement doesn’t stop when a hiring contract is signed. Instead, employees should feel like they’re being recruited on an ongoing basis. How?

“Engaging” organizations encourage employees to develop and challenge themselves and others. Mistakes are leveraged as learning opportunities. And gaming dynamics are woven into the workplace fabric as a way to support and reinforce these cultural strengths.

Leaders can help gamification efforts succeed, by treating employees as a team and yet knowing what makes each individual tick. Moreover, leaders must embrace game concepts, themselves. The more vulnerable and open leaders are willing to be — the more they share stories about their own failures and learning experiences — the more likely employees will engage.

Engagement is the fruit of ongoing relationships and healthy workplace cultures. Gamification merely turns up the volume — but can do so in a big way.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Should Work Be Fun? Really?

DanBenoni

Watch the Hangout now

SAT 10/19:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed this week’s topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout video with one of our guests, Dan Benoni. Read the Preview: “Should Work Be Fun? Really?”

SUN 10/20:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested how leaders can overcome generational differences. Read: “5 Fresh Trends to Fuse Fun and Work.”

MON 10/21:

Related Post: Industrial Psychologist and LinkedIn Influencer, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, explored the role of Positive Psychology in driving workforce performance. Read: “Where’s Your Inner HERO? Positivity at Work…”

TUE 10/22:

Related Webinar Announcement: We invited the entire world of work community to join Meghan M. Biro and Virgin Pulse President David Coppins at a very special webinar on November 7. Join us at “Empowering Employees in 3D.”

WED 10/23:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with guests Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi about how gamification can help transform today’s world of work. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and guests joined the entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream as moderator Cyndy Trivella led us through a fun, freewheeling conversation about 5 related questions. For highlights, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Fun In The Workplace

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi for helping us explore the role of game dynamics in cultivating workplace culture. Your insights and enthusiasm captured our community’s attention and imagination!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about fun at work? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we dive into another emerging trend — how mobile tools are transforming the recruiting process — with guests Jessica Miller-Merrell and Rayanne Thorn. So save the date (October 30) for a double #TChat treat!

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

(Image Credit: Stock.xchng)

What Do Job Seekers Want From Hiring Managers?

Written by Val Matta

Hiring managers — are you scaring off quality job seekers by failing to do your job effectively?

Although the life of a hiring manager is far from easy, you could be making some critical mistakes that not only dampen the results of your recruiting efforts, but also make your organization look bad.

Weak Links: Case In Point

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 75% of job seekers never received any communication from prospective employers after applying for a position. How about you? Do you respond to all applicants? Even if a job posting attracts far more candidates than you can seriously consider, choosing not to acknowledge inquiries can hurt your company’s reputation.

In today’s social media environment, bad business practices are easily exposed and amplified. Therefore, it’s wise to handle applicants with more TLC. If you don’t, the best candidates may decide to look elsewhere, and publicly encourage others to do so. However, you can neutralize negativity by rethinking outdated hiring practices and making an extra effort. Even small changes can win over great talent, and build goodwill along the way.

So, with that in mind, what do today’s job seekers really want, and how can hiring managers help?

4 Ways To Improve The Hiring Process

1) Solid Job Descriptions

A poorly written job description runs the risk of attracting candidates who aren’t qualified for the position. Even worse, weak messaging may turn off the best and brightest talent. Still, less-than-stellar job descriptions are all too common: 43% of survey respondents say they found out during an interview that a job didn’t match what was promised in an ad. But who’s really responsible if a candidate advances to the interview stage before discovering that the job isn’t a fit?

Quick tip:  Feature as many details as possible in your job descriptions, including required duties, qualifications, and salary information. You may also want to link to your company website, which can house testimonials or videos that help tell your organization’s story and give potential candidates a feel for company culture.

2) Acknowledgement

Here’s food for thought: 82% of workers expect to hear back from a company when they apply for a job — regardless of whether the employer is interested. Yet, a very small proportion of applicants actually receive confirmation. Job seekers clearly consider acknowledgement a basic courtesy. It’s in your best interest to reach out and maintain goodwill with applicants — who may also be loyal customers.

Quick tip: If you don’t have time to connect directly with every job seeker, then automate the process. Email applications and applicant tracking systems offer personalized message capabilities. It may not be true 1-to-1 communication, but it certainly is better than keeping applicants in the dark, and it demonstrates your appreciation for their interest in the company.

3) Ongoing Feedback

The previous point speaks to the importance of acknowledging contact — letting applicant know you received and reviewed their resumes, or that they’ve been turned down. But it’s just as important to communicate with active candidates throughout the hiring process. Letting prospects know what they should expect, what they’re doing right, and how you’d like to move forward helps them stay connected and engaged. Don’t keep them guessing, or you may be lose some of your best options.

Quick tip: Keep your applicants posted through each step of the hiring process. For example, if step one requires a video interview, let them know how they should prepare. If step two is an in-person interview, provide some advance notice about the structure of the session, the people they’ll meet and the topics you expect to discuss. If you want to review portfolio pieces, indicate what types of work samples matter most to you. If they need to shadow someone in your organization as a test run, be sure you share logistical details. Communicating early and often keeps potential employees informed and engaged. It ensures an optimal impression — regardless of the hiring outcome.

4) Enthusiasm and Knowledge

Although it’s not your job to be a role model to job seekers, if you don’t seem enthused about the position, how can you possibly expect it from potential employees? Surprisingly, about 30% of workers who sought jobs last year found that company representatives weren’t knowledgeable about their own organizations. Another 34% say representatives didn’t present a positive work experience. You may be a candidate’s only impression of your company. Make sure it’s a good one.

Quick tip: Look at the job search process as a reverse interview. Make sure you’re enthusiastic about your organization and keep information about the company, the job and the hiring process at the ready. If you’re not sure of an answer, find someone who can help, and follow up. This reflects well on your employer brand, creates a great experience for the candidate, and streamlines the employment process for all.

The hiring process is about more than pinpointing great talent. It’s an opportunity to reinforce brand positioning with the community at-large, and foster stronger relationships with applicants who may be some of your strongest customer advocates. If you take time to create strong job descriptions, acknowledge applicants, provide ongoing feedback, and offer enthusiasm along the way, you’ll not only find great employees, but you’ll also win the hearts and minds of everyone who participates in the process.

What do you think? What else are job hunters seeking from hiring managers? How can employers respond? And why is this important? Share your ideas and opinions in the comments area below.

Val Matta(About The Author: Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for HR professionals and career seekers that gives job seekers complete control over their search. Val is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and has had her writing featured at Recruiter.com, CareerBuilderMashable, USA Today College Series and in other outlets. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Or visit the #TChat stream on Twitter anytime. Everyone is welcome! Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Should Work Be Fun? Really? #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a complete recap of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: Fun Times! Work, Games and Culture.)

Work and fun — do they fit together? Or should we save good times for vacation and weekends?

Traditionalists might say that work is serious business. However, one of the most creative and productive minds of the Industrial Age seemed to think otherwise:

“I never did a day’s work in my life; it was all fun.”
-Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

Learn more about Thomas Edison

It’s impossible not to admire Edison’s enthusiasm. But these days, with global employee engagement stubbornly stuck at 30% or less, companies everywhere are looking for ways to inject more of that spirit into their organizational cultures.

That’s why the principles of gaming are gaining appeal as a way to improve workforce commitment, development and performance.

But how can we create environments where work is naturally more engaging and enjoyable, without losing sight of business objectives?

That’s the topic we’ll explore this week at #TChat Events, with two innovators in workplace culture development:

•  Dan Benoni, Co-Founder & Product Director at Officevibe, a social employee engagement platform
•  Mario Coculuzzi, Eastern Canada Regional Director at Microsoft.

Dan and I spoke briefly in a G+ Hangout, where he suggested that successful approaches don’t focus on the work, itself, but instead focus on three essential human factors:

Also to help us prepare for the discussion, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, wrote a related article at Forbes.com. Read “5 Fresh Trends to Fuse Fun and Work.”

This topic promises to be great fun — and helpful, too. So please plan to join us this week to share your ideas and opinions about why and how game-oriented tools and techniques make sense in the world of work.

#TChat Events: Should Work Be Fun, Really?

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 23 — 6:30 pmET / 3:30 pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Dan Benoni and Mario Coculuzzi about why and how “fun” can be an effective way to improve employee energy, drive and focus. Follow the action LIVE online this Tuesday afternoon!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 23 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move this discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: How often do you see healthy company cultures? Examples?
Q2: Why is engagement key to creating/maintaining a vibrant culture?
Q3: Can “fun” team challenges and other activities really help?
Q4: How can leaders improve employee well-being and retention?
Q5: How can HR drive adoption of recognition and engagement platforms?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Generation X at Bat #TChat Recap

Do you ever wish you could instantly capture expert advice or opinions from across the World of Work?

Here’s an easy solution: Just ask a quick question on Twitter about generational differences in today’s workplace. Even better, ask that question during a #TChat event. I guarantee that, within moments, you’ll be drinking from a fire hose of thoughtful, passionate, articulate responses!

That’s exactly what we experienced on the #TChat stream last night with special guest, Mark Babbitt. As founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young professionals grow through high-impact information, mentorships and internships, Mark has developed strong opinions about the silent strength that Generation X brings to the workforce.

Do You Mind If I Talk About Your Age?

We were curious if the TalentCulture community agrees with Mark’s perspective. And we wondered how important generational similarities and differences are in shaping tomorrow’s organizations.

The conversation exposed what at first blush, might seem like opposing viewpoints. For example, on one hand, many participants emphasized the benefits of celebrating diversity:

“It’s not one-size-fits-all.” …and… “Let’s value the differences.” …and as Tom Bolt suggested…

Meanwhile, other participants emphasized the importance of focusing on similarities:

“Empower people; stop focusing on generations.” …and… “There are inspired, innovative, connected people in every generation.” …and as Kelly Blokdijk noted…

Of course, upon reflection, these perspectives are really two sides of the same coin. Both hold truths that can propel organizations forward.

But key questions remain — HOW BEST can we bring together both ends of this spectrum to create more effective organizational cultures? And how prepared is our next wave of leaders to accomplish that mission? Whenever human behavior is involved, there are many roads to the same destination. Some paths have many more detours and roadblocks. Organizations need smart navigators. Meanwhile, the business world continues to grow more complex and challenging. That’s why we’ll need extraordinary leaders in the future — regardless of their generation.

What’s Age Got To Do With It?

In the meantime, we look to one another for guidance. It’s actually phenomenal how much information has been created and shared about generations in the workplace. And yet organizations still struggle with how to “make it work.”

Just for fun, consider this quick, unscientific peek at the magnitude of commentary available online:

GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS:
“Millennials” work = 39,000,000
“Boomers” work = 37,000,000
“Generation X” work = 3,260,000

You’d think there are enough nuggets of wisdom in there to help us understand and resolve these issues. But ideas, alone, aren’t the answer. Action is also required.

I wonder what “old-school” sage, the late Peter Drucker, would have said about this, if he had joined #TChat Twitter last night? Perhaps only this:

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

After all, no matter how old or young we are, that’s really the only path to progress.

So let’s keep the ideas flowing. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. Let’s share what works, and toss out what doesn’t. But most of all, let’s encourage one another to be bold and try “something new.” Let’s keep trying, and learning, and growing, and evolving. Let’s look forward to creating that “new” future together!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

MarkB

Watch the Hangout now

SAT 10/12:

#TChat Preview:
TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed this week’s topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout video with guest Mark Babbitt. Read the Preview: “Gen X: Leading From The Middle.”

SUN 10/13:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested how leaders can overcome generational differences. Read: “5 Ways Leaders Bridge the Generational Divide.”

TUE 10/15:

Related Post: Dan Newman, author of “The Millennial CEO,” examined the source of effective leadership. Read: “Anatomy of a Leader: Not Just Skin Deep.”

WED 10/16:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with special guest, Mark Babbitt, about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Listen to the radio recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Mark, Meghan and Kevin joined the entire community on the #TChat Twitter stream for an open conversation about 5 related questions. For highlights, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Gen X: Leading From The Middle

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mark Babbitt for adding your voice to this week’s discussion. Your insights about Gen X have helped challenge our assumptions and expand our understanding.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about the multi-generational workforce? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another important “world of work” topic. So save the date (October 23) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Gen X: Leading From The Middle #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for a complete overview of the week’s #TChat highlights and resource links? Read the #TChat Recap: “Generation X At Bat.”)

I just discovered that I’m exceptional! Or to be more accurate, I’m unconventional.

I’m a member of Gen X — and according to those who analyze age-related attributes, I should feel disadvantaged and overlooked in the workplace. Fortunately, I’ve had an interesting and rewarding career path, so perhaps I just got lucky. Or perhaps the assumptions aren’t as universal as we think.

But that raises some related questions — Just how “real” is the generational divide at work? And what do those differences mean, as Baby Boomers begin to retire, and a new wave of leaders steps up to drive the world of work?

Last week at #TChat Twitter, our community collectively agreed that the office is no place for age discrimination. However, for better or worse, each generation brings a unique set of shared experiences to the workplace. Are Baby Boomers and Millennials stealing attention from those of us who are “in the middle”? If so, what kind of impact will that have on the future of work?

This week, we’re addressing those questions head-on. We want to give Gen X the attention it deserves. And we’ve invited an ideal expert to lead the discussion:

Mark Babbitt, Founder + CEO of YouTern, an organization that helps young talent develop professionally through high-impact mentors, internships and information.

I spoke with Mark briefly in a joint G+ Hangout, where he set the stage for this week’s topic:

No matter what generation you represent, we want to hear your thoughts about how organizations can prepare tomorrow’s leaders for success. So please join us, and bring your ideas and opinions!

#TChat Events: Gen X — Leading From The Middle

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 16 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Mark Babbitt about the unique challenges and opportunities that Generation X faces in today’s world of work. Follow the action LIVE online, and dial-in with your feedback and questions!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 16 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move this discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream for an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: Gen X is “forgotten” in today’s workforce — myth or reality?
Q2: How can Gen Xers elevate their visibility and value at work?
Q3: Why is it smart for employers to empower all generations?
Q4: How can today’s leaders develop tomorrow’s decision makers?
Q5: What could technology do to remove generational barriers?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Employees Quit Leaders, Not Companies

These days, there’s lots of talk about the plight of a generation filled with hungry souls looking for purpose in life. Many find themselves feeling restless in their current roles, or searching endlessly for the ideal career path.

Although most of us must work to pay our way in the world, I think the mission is larger than just finding a great job. It’s also about finding strong role models.

Do You Give Employees A Reason To Stay?

When we’re kids, serendipity “assigns” the leaders in our lives. Our parents, our teachers, our coaches. We don’t pick these people, but they have a huge influence on how we develop and how we come to view ourselves. They can encourage and inspire us to stretch and grow; or they can stifle us, bully us and crush our spirits.

Those early experiences have a profound impact on us — but how do they carry over into careers?

Here’s a theory: Perhaps once we’re thrust into “the rest of our lives,” we’re on a mission to reconnect with the types of leaders we remember most fondly from our youth. It’s impossible to forget those who lit a fire in our hearts and under our butts — the ones who had confidence in us and challenged us to stretch and grow. We trust those types of leaders to guide us. They’re the ones in whom we want to invest both our loyalty and our time.

What should workplace decision makers learn from this? If you’re building a company, keeping the best people on your team is not just about salaries, perks and benefits. What you bring to the table as a leader matters just as much — if not more — to the overall happiness and commitment of your employees.

Looking Back: Survey Says…

Leigh Branham, author of 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave analyzed over 20,000 anonymous surveys asking employees why they left their last job. Although most managers believe pay is the primary reason people quit, Branham discovered that the number one reason actually is “loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.”

The second reason? “Feeling undervalued in recognition, reward and pay.” Even though pay is included in that reason, it can be said that both loss of confidence and feeling that your work efforts are overlooked are actually leadership issues. “Undervalued” in this sense has little to do with money.

Some people might consider a new job at a different company because the pay is higher. However, the true seed of restlessness and dissatisfaction can be traced back to a disconnect between employee and employer.

Loyalty Breeds Loyalty

If employees quit leaders, not companies, then how can employers stem the tide? It starts with leaders who understand that to get loyalty from others, you must first give it. Leaders who take the initiative in demonstrating commitment to their teams are far more successful in gaining commitment in return.

Jo Romano, a work and life coach, suggests some simple ways for employers to demonstrate loyalty. These are our four favorites:

1) Clarify your values and goals, and encourage open dialogue with employees to be sure everyone is on the same page.

2) Trust your employees with important company information. An open door approach helps employees feel empowered and part of something bigger than just their immediate responsibilities.

3) Encourage growth opportunities by allowing employees to further their formal education or seek advice from other leaders, managers and supervisors. This shows them you’re secure in your role as leader and are invested in their professional growth.

4) Be sensitive to work/life conflicts to demonstrate that you see employees as people, and not just “workers.” Kindness and respect invariably strengthens any relationship.

The 21st Century Leader

The fundamentals of great leadership are timeless (passionate, confident, well-spoken). However, we like to suggest a few additions to the leadership playbook.

As Todd Wilms noted recently in Forbes commentary, today’s leaders should be willing to fail, be vulnerable, and set better boundaries. What? Failure, vulnerability and saying “no”? At first glance, that sounds like a recipe for disaster. But let’s break it down:

1) See Success Through Failure. These days, the saying is fail and fail fast. Quite simply, it’s imperative to try, to DO, even if you don’t achieve the desired goal. And that’s the whole point, to try, to test, to experiment, to innovate, to push the envelope and perhaps to fail. Then learn, tweak, iterate and polish. A journey from idea to execution, rife with failure, is better than than paralysis. Leaders who embrace failure by carving a path through it can empower employees and remove fear from the equation.

2) Find Strength In Vulnerability. Actually, it’s not just about vulnerability. The goal is to expose your humanity by being authentic, accepting, present and useful. Author and executive, James A. Autry, says these 5 principles set the stage for a leader/employee dynamic that is more open and functional. Be real and be a resource. Open yourself up to employees and lead by example.

3) Just Say “No.” It’s simple and logical, but many fail to remember that when you try to do everything, you end up doing nothing. Or you end up doing everything, with mediocre results. A great leader is an editor. It’s not about being a jerk or someone that everyone fears. The point is to keep people focused and leveraged. The trick is to say “no” with such finesse that it sounds more like a favor than a dismissal. Too many “yes’s” and you become a pleaser. But thoughtful, appropriate “no’s” make you an effective leader.

Great Leaders Attract AND Retain

Building and running a company requires juggling many moving parts and pieces — you can’t do it all yourself. But no matter what service you’re providing or what product you’re building, don’t forget that YOU are one of the essential reasons your employees joined the company in the first place. Keep this in mind so those moving parts won’t include dissatisfied employees, high turnover and loss of essential talent.

Of course, sometimes losing a key player or two may be unavoidable. But if a pattern arises and you’re losing more employees than you’d like, and you’re unsure about why, it’s time to examine your approach to leadership. Taking conscious, deliberate steps to nurture your leadership skills and employer/employee dynamic is never a waste of time. In fact, it might make all the difference to to your organization’s long-term health and prosperity.

What’s fundamental leadership quality matters most to your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: WarnerBros

Finding Daylight In The Dark Side Of Talent #TChat Preview

(Editorial Note: Are you looking for a full review of the week’s #TChat events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “It’s All Good: Employees Are People Too.”)

Positivity in the workplace. It may sound like a worthy goal, but what does it really mean for business? Is it a “secret sauce” that leads to employee engagement and effectiveness? Or is it overrated as a path to peak performance?

Humans At Work: Good, Bad And Ugly

No one is perpetually happy and upbeat. We all have a dark side — the never-ready-for-primetime part of our persona that doesn’t fit ideal workplace expectations. But when we’re less than 100%, how can we still bring our best selves to work? And if we’re not fully engaged, how long can we expect to sustain great results?

Imagine if the key to unleashing workforce potential started with celebrating each of us as we truly are — including characteristics that may be considered counterproductive. What if we felt free to express emotions like anger, fear, depression and grief in the workplace? Could that kind of authenticity lead to better performance?

Let’s Talk About Talent — The “Total Package”

This week at #TChat events, we’re talking about the consequences of “bringing your whole self to work” — for better or worse. Leading the way as our guests are two of the HR community’s best-known and admired commentators:

John Sumser, founder and editor-in-chief of HR Examiner. John is also an HR industry analyst who serves as principal at Two Color Hat.

William Tincup, CEO of HR consultancy, Tincup & Co. William is recognized as a leading thinker and advisor on HR technology adoption and social media use in HR.

I had a chance to sit down briefly with John, as he explained the importance and sensitivity surrounding this topic. Watch the G+ Hangout now, and I’m sure it will strike a chord, no matter what your role or history may be in the world of work:

This week’s #TChat promises to be an eye-opening discussion for talent-minded professionals everywhere. So please join us, and bring your ideas, questions, examples and concerns!

#TChat Events: Exploring The Dark Side of Workplace Effectiveness

#TChat Radio — Wed, Oct 2 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with William Tincup and John Sumser, about why and how to embrace employees as complete, unique personalities. Follow the action online, and dial-in LIVE with your feedback and questions!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Oct 2 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll move the discussion to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Anyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these questions:

Q1: Why are positive workplaces so hard to maintain? Should we keep pushing?
Q2: How can we bring our “whole selves” to work, even if we don’t feel whole?
Q3: Can business leaders develop stronger organizations by letting go of control?
Q4: If culture is the software of business, where does transparency fit in?
Q5: What technologies help business transform emotional power into insight and results?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stuart Pilbrow via Flickr

Want To Build A Business? Lead With Trust

If you could define business success, what would it look like to you? Would you focus on market share? Growth rate? Revenue? Profitability? Or something else?

At young companies, conversations tend to revolve around how to raise seed funding, where to invest capital, and how to compensate key contributors. Often, it seems that our perception of business success (or failure) largely revolves around money.

While it is true that a well-run company requires appropriate funding and sound financial management, I would argue that there is something even more vital to the sustained growth of any venture. It’s not something you can buy or sell — nor does it come prepackaged on a shelf.

I’m talking about trust.

Broken Trust: Good Examples Of Bad Behavior

From the Enron debacle to the Madoff scandal, stories of insider trading and fraud have captured headlines far too frequently. Our nation is losing faith in corporate leaders, and there’s a growing demand for corporate accountability and transparency.

The only way to turn this around is for those at the top to take responsibility and lead by example. We must create open, transparent cultures that promote accountability, integrity and honesty.

The truth of the matter is that employees need to know what’s going on in order to feel connected with their work and perform at their highest level. Staff concerns about the stability and the health of the company are a distraction that can erode trust, inhibit productivity and have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Creating an environment of trust goes far beyond releasing quarterly reports. It requires a daily commitment to transparency that’s infused into all aspects of business operations, and reaches all levels of the organizational chart. Most importantly, it requires team coaching and open communication across all functions, with management that listens and responds to constructive criticism.

Trust Is The Cornerstone Of Culture

Leadership legend, Stephen M. R. Covey said:

“High trust is a dividend; when it goes up you’ll find that everything happens faster and cost goes down. It’s that predictable.”

Although trust can take a long time to build, once we have achieved a state of trust, we often take it for granted. But the fact of the matter is that trust is at the core of the daily work activities that collectively make up company culture. As Deborah Mills-Scofield explains in the Harvard Business Review:

“Trust trumps everything. And everything flows from trust — learning, credibility, accountability, a sense of purpose and a mission that makes ‘work’ bigger than oneself.”

When it comes to trust, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. For example, many startups have created cultures based around staff perks like a ‘no vacation policy’ vacation policy, providing employees with top-of-the line equipment, offering flexible hours, and letting staff work from home. While benefits like these may attract and retain top talent, there’s also a higher mission. Companies that offer these unique self-directed work options are sending employees a message that says, ‘I trust you, and I trust your judgment in using these privileges.”

Earlier this year, HubSpot released its long-awaited Culture Code – a presentation that summarizes the organization’s nine core beliefs. The document is remarkable because it emphasizes that trust is at the center of Hubspot’s organization. Rather than creating binders full of company policies, HubSpot has created a simple three-word policy for nearly everything: use. good. judgment. From social media activity, to travel expenses, to sick days, HubSpot understands that a healthy company starts with trust.

The Trust/Time Ratio

Of course, trust is a two-way street. Not only is it essential for employees to trust management, but leaders must trust their teams, and feel confident in their ability to move the company forward.

As Stephen M.R. Covey explains in his book, The Speed of Trust, trust is the great liberator of time and resources. It’s also an essential condition for growth. He notes that “when trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down,” and that “when trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up.” Therefore, he concludes that the speed at which you can grow a business is directly proportionate to the time that you invest in creating trusting relationships.

Leading By Letting Go

One of the most important lessons I learned as a CEO was the importance of trusting your team. As the leader of any organization, large or small, your primary job is to communicate the vision; give your people the information, tools and resources to move toward it; and then get out of the way. This frees your staff to be as productive as possible, while allowing you to focus on your responsibility to drive the company forward, strategically.

The truth is plain and simple: if you’re a leader who wants to grow a company, you must have faith in your staff to get the job done – without you hovering around their desks. It is impossible to innovate while being bogged down in the daily minutia of your company. Trust allows you to remove yourself from the details and create necessary space to focus on long-term growth.

Trust is a natural human instinct, yet we tend to over-complicate it when we try to apply it to the business world. The best way to create a culture of trust is to begin by being open and honest with ourselves and those around us. By committing to being transparent in all our interactions, we will gradually create a culture of trust around us. And as trust grows, we should expect to see business results follow.

How do create and sustain trust within your organization? What results do you see?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more...)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Talent And Transformation: A Delicate Balance

Change: It’s not what it used to be.

As the availability of new information and technology continues to proliferate, there are direct implications for how organizations adapt and grow.

Within many companies, what used to be considered radical transformation is now merely change — often thrusting smaller organizations into a world once dominated by the Fortune 500. With each “out-of-nowhere” success, we become more accustomed to watching one disruptive innovation after another arise from startup status and send status quo players to the realm of obsolescense.

With each wave of innovation comes more knowledge — and with knowledge being the byproduct of information and context, we are becoming increasingly aware of the change around us. For most people, that is scary.

Change vs. Transformation

It wasn’t long ago that businesses ran with modest, almost unnoticeable change, year after year. Business inertia meant that employment was a lifelong commitment for many employers and employees alike.

For the human psyche, this was ideal. That’s because deep down people don’t like change. It isn’t so much because change is a bad thing. Most people in fact would probably suggest that change is a good thing.

However, the same group of people will become scared, resistive, or even combative when they feel change that affects them. That is because, regardless of their opinion on change, if change is unexpected and/or unprepared for it tends to yield less than satisfactory results.

So, if change creates problem, what happens within an organization when transformation rears its beautiful yet unforgiving head?

The idea of transformation vs. change (for anyone who is wondering) is that transformation takes the very definition of change and makes it exponential across all axes.

During typical organizational transformation, employees can quickly feel lost. Sometimes this is due to their own fear of what they see coming. With fear and change looming in their minds, this can trigger a mass exodus of those affected, or perhaps even worse, the loss of key employees who are outside of the “transformation planning” sphere.

When this happens, companies must face a myriad of problems, not the least of which is turnover, which can be cancerous within a delicate corporate culture. Beyond cultural disruption, turnover is extraordinarily expensive and it slows down the transformation process, which is how we arrived here in the first place.

To add insult to injury, some organizations choose to blame the exiting employees. While this is easy (kind of like sales saying “price” is the reason you lose a deal), it is often nothing more than a scapegoat. Simply suggesting that some employees weren’t “moving with the times” reveals both a lack of character and a lack of class. Further, it is most likely not true.

Leading The Way Through Transformation

This brings us to the best course of action. First, as an organizational leaders, we must continuously evaluate our workforce, focusing on which employees demonstrate the strongest cultural fit, and ability to adapt to change. Then we must do everything in our power to motivate those who best fit our culture to align their efforts with the company’s direction.

Finally, it’s essential to re-center our thinking and focus on control. After all, as leaders we are ALWAYS responsible for setting the sails of our proverbial ships, and we all know that a ship will move faster and more true to course with all hands on deck. Just look for that “Motivation” poster in your office…you know, the one that says “Teamwork.”

Of course, we can’t control the entire domino effect that occurs as organizations shift, we most certainly have control of most of it. This includes the messaging, the process of continuous communication that is required between leadership and the team, as well as the creation and cultivation of a culture of change.

The transformational organization isn’t going away. In fact, the velocity of change and transformation is only going to continue increasing. (This is emphatic, although I have no science to prove it). Just look at what is happening around us for the cues.

While we cannot reverse the trend, we can control our outcomes. This starts with a culture of resilient people, and ends with great leaders who value and protect that culture, as it embraces the future..

Shift happens. The essential question is: how will you make the most of it?

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared at Switch & Shift. It is republished with permission)

Image Credit: From Black Swan by Fox Searchlight

How To Skip The Negative Feedback “Sandwich”

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

How To Skip The Negative Feedback "Sandwich"

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

What Can Swarms Teach Us About Teams?

You may not work in an emergency room — but your organization may want to function like one. As critical issues arise, the ability to quickly shift resources and refocus energy can have a keen impact on continued business success.

This kind of workforce agility helps organizations meet challenges swiftly and succinctly. Which begs the question: Is your organization ready for a work swarm?

Swarming: A Closer Look

Borrowed from the rhythms of nature, the notion of “swarming” to assemble a cross-functional or cross-departmental team, could be considered a key factor in an organization’s ability to develop and thrive. Gartner described a work swarm as a “flurry of collective activity” to deal with non-routine workplace problems or opportunities. (See that discussion here.) Without this option, organizations can fall short in their quest to respond to stressors (or opportunities) in quickly changing internal and external environments.

Developing an ability to swarm is just as much an orientation toward the work itself, as it is a problem solving technique. Swarming needs talent and skills to flow quickly toward projects, as it capitalizes upon an agile culture and a fluid talent stream. This requires a modern view of organizational boundaries and talent utilization. There are challenges to swarming — and the process may not prove appropriate for all organizations. However, it may be an interesting option to consider.

Putting Swarm Theory To Work

Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1) Apply open-system theory. Work swarming requires talent to flow into the organization, as well as within its borders. Early structure theorists (See Katz & Kahn) discuss open-system theory. However, applications of that view seem more possible with the advent of relevant social networks.

2) Let internal structure flex. To enable swarming, the structure of an organization would need to become increasingly fluid. Talent within the organization would be allowed to cross functional lines more easily and routinely.

3) Seek diversity. Including a considerably wider range of knowledge bases when forming a team to problem solve is desired – as solutions can come unexpectedly, from a loosely “related” discipline or function. These sources can include suppliers and others in close proximity to core problems and customers.

4) Remember roles rule. Becoming crystal clear concerning the roles of team players is key. Role clarity can help focus more energy toward the actual content of the problem or issue – and help team members attack their portion of the task at hand more readily.

5) Utilize social platforms. Crowdsourcing platforms (both internally and externally focused) can be utilized to facilitate the problem solving process – where stubborn organizational challenges can be posted and exposed to greater numbers of potential contributors. (Learn more about Innocentive here.)

6) Curate talent communities. Building a pipeline of talent is imperative with swarming – but this should be developed in a manner that is meaningful. Mapping the skills and strengths of potential team players within relevant industries, becomes a critical goal. Furthermore, teaming applications can also help document the evolving skill sets of potential contributors.

Have you utilized swarming techniques to speed problem solving at your organization? If so, how well did it work?

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Photo Credit: Pixabay

101 Ways To Save The Day With A Paperclip #TChat Recap

“Better is possible. It does not take genius … It takes ingenuity. And above all, it takes a willingness to try.”-Atul Gawande

When I bumped into this quote, it stopped me in my tracks. It seems like the ideal way to summarize key insights from Wednesday’s #TChat events. However, the source isn’t a #TChat participant. This isn’t even a tweet. And it wasn’t written in the recent past.

Actually, it’s a quote from the 2007 book, Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. The author is a practicing physician, whose riveting narrative focuses on finding creative ways to be more effective as a professional within a complex, bureaucratic environment. (Does that sound familiar to some of you? At least you know you’re not alone!)

Of course, in Atul Gawande’s profession, a creative approach can mean the difference between life and death. With such serious consequences hanging in the balance, fear of failure is always a factor. But unless medical practitioners are willing to take clever, calculated risks, the standard of care will never advance. As Dr. Gawande explains in an interview, “In The Belly Of The Medical Machine”

“…I work in a bureaucracy with 10,000 employees. Functioning in such a world is not all that pleasant. But there are things that you can do only if you are in such an organization. So you just need to find the patterns of what has worked. Like Warren Warwick, of Fairview University Children’s Hospital in Minnesota – he’s a great example. He lives in the machine. Through sheer force of will and creativity, he makes it work – and the patients in his clinic live longer than in any other cystic fibrosis clinic in the country. It’s stunning. It’s inspiring.”

Pioneering doctors like Warren Warwick and Atul Gawande aren’t exactly saving the day with a paperclip, MacGyver-style. But in my view, they’re the closest thing we’ll see in real life.

They’re also shining examples of the ingenious spirit that we explored this week with #TChat expert guest, Marcia Conner. Marcia is Principal of SensifyGroup, a management consultancy that specializes in elevating workplace culture, learning and collaboration. A highly regarded social business thought leader and author, Marcia is developing a book focused on the the power of ingenuity in transforming our lives at work and beyond.

Marcia challenged us all to take a fresh look at the world around us to create better ways to work. And our community responded by storming Twitter with a rush of ideas and insights to kick-start that process. In case you missed any of the action, we invite you to review #TChat highlights in the slideshow, along with other related resources listed below.

If this week’s events inspire you to put ingenuity into action, let us know where that effort leads. Who knows? You may be surprised to find that a small, smart shift in your approach can make a huge difference. The evidence shows that we don’t need to be super-human to be ingenious. We just have to be willing to try.

#TChat Week in Review: The Transforming Power of Ingenuity

SUN 8/5

MarciaConner

Watch the G+ Hangout now

#TChat Preview: Our Community Manager, Tim McDonald, outlined the week’s topic in a post that feartures a brief G+ Hangout with Marcia. See the preview: “Transforming Culture: The Force Within.”

MON 8/5

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, offered advice about why listening is more important now than ever, and how leaders can improve their listening capabilities. Read “5 Leadership Lessons: Listen, Learn, Lead.”

WED 8/7

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Listen to the radio show now

#TChat Radio Prior to the week’s Twitter chat event, Marcia joined our hosts, TalentCulture founders and radio hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, to talk about what it means to be ingenious in our personal and professional lives. Listen now to the radio show recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, the entire TalentCulture community came together for an open conversation on the #TChat stream. In case you missed the action, check out the highlights in our Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: Transforming Culture: The Force Within

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-transforming-culture-the-force-wit.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Marcia Conner for sharing her expertise and enthusiasm about how we can tap into ingenuity in our personal and professional lives. You inspire our community to keep pushing the collaborative envelope.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about innovation, collaboration and corporate culture? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, technology analyst, Jim Lundy, joins us to look at innovations that are redefining the world of work! Stay tuned to TalentCulture social channels for details.

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or on other social channels. And feel free to explore our redesigned website. The gears are always turning here at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: ABC / HenryWinkler-JohnRich Productions

 

Transforming Culture: The Force Within #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a full collection of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “101 Ways To Save The Day With A Paperclip.”)

With employee engagement seemingly stuck at perilously low levels, today’s employers are on a mission to reignite passion and productivity in the workplace.

Many seek fresh perspectives by looking outside their corporate walls. But what about reinvention that starts from within? Why not tap more deeply into sources of ingenuity that are already within you — and within arm’s reach?

How can business leaders make that happen? That’s the focus of this week’s #TChat forums, as our “Summer Restart” series moves from looking at the power of collaborative learning, to envisioning how creative thinking can play a larger role in transforming business culture.

Leading the way is an expert in workplace learning, collaboration and transformation, consultant and author, Marcia Conner.

Marcia briefly framed this topic for me in a recent G+ Hangout:

#TChat Events: Powerful Ways To Transform Your Workforce

This week’s topic is sure to spark new ideas for talent-minded professionals everywhere. So join us on Wednesday, August 7, for another dynamic #TChat double-header. Bring your best ideas, and let’s talk!

#TChat Radio — Wed, Aug 7 at 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Marcia joins our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman  to explore how to kick-start cultural transformation from with an organization’s ranks. Listen live and dial-in with your questions and feedback!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Aug 7 at 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll go wide with Marcia for an all-hands community discussion on the #TChat stream. We welcome anyone with a Twitter account to join us, as we explore the role that ingenuity plays in transforming organizational culture. Key questions:

Q1: Why do organizations struggle to retain talent potential?
Q2: How can listening and learning fuel employee engagement?
Q3: How can we, as individuals, develop workforce potential?
Q4: What can business leaders do to ignite workforce innovation?
Q5: What technologies foster workplace learning and engagement?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Social Learning: The New Business Edge?

A recent #TChat Radio show really piqued my interest. The topic was collaboration and social learning, with guest, Nick Kellet. Nick is one of the innovative minds who founded Listly — a service that nurtures individual and collective growth by enabling people to discover, filter and share content easily within their digital communities.

Obviously, social learning isn’t a new concept. As Nick noted, it’s not really even “actually a thing” in itself. Rather it’s a by-product of the fact that we are social beings. Learning through interaction with others is naturally built into our work lives. And now, with content and tools that make it incredibly easy to collaborate online, social learning is gaining tremendous momentum in the digital space.

In fact, according to Bersin by Deloitte, U.S. companies spent 39% more on social learning initiatives last year than in 2011. That’s a huge jump, and it indicates how swiftly business is embracing the need to provide infrastructure for collaborative business processes.

Why Social Learning Is Essential: 3 Reasons

So what’s the big deal? Why is social learning suddenly such a hot business topic? Actually, I think it boils down to three fundamentals:

• Employees want to learn and grow.
• Growth contributes to engagement.
• Engaged employees stick around.

It’s just that simple.

Consider this: The Cornerstone OnDemand 2013 U.S. Employee Report indicates that 1 in 3 employees would stay at their company longer if their employer helped them develop their skills. That’s a significant number of employees you could retain — not to mention recruitment costs you could save — just by providing today’s workforce with better paths to learning.

Social learning options are an ideal way to respond to employees’ desire for development, because in addition to providing the knowledge and growth they crave, it also builds a sense of connection and belonging within your organization.

Building Competence and Connections

In responding to performance review questions, have you ever been asked if you have a best friend at work? Did you wonder why that question was relevant? It’s because employees who form bonds with their peers feel much more engaged and comfortable in the workplace. And connections that are good for individuals are also good for organizational culture. Social learning helps employees to connect — not just within their workgroups, but with peers around the globe — expanding their networks and strengthening their sense of belonging. That’s no small feat.

While the technology may be ever-changing, the concept of social learning is clearly here to stay. It’s wise to take a cue from the companies that increased their social learning spending last year, and make it a priority in 2013 and beyond. Your employees will thank you for your investment in their future — and ultimately, so will your bottom line.

Tell me: How is your organization enriching or expanding the learning experience? What hurdles have you faced? And what kind of difference do you see in your workforce? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s learn from one another.

(Note: If you’re not yet one of Listly’s many ardent fans, we recommend you take a closer look. We love it at Achievers. We’ve even created a Listly-powered Achievers resources collection.)

Image Credit: Niharb via flickr Creative Commons

How To Help Top Talent Thrive

Written by Mona Berberich

Back in college economics class, I discovered a common assumption about economies of scale — actually about returns to scale. In business, we assume that if we increase factors of input by a given amount, the output will increase by that much or more. This concept seems intuitive, and we rely on it to simplify the management process and maximize profits.

Recently however, while researching how companies treat their top talent, I’ve found that many organizations apply this “returns to scale” theory to their most valuable asset — their smartest, most creative people. In other words, leaders often think that, by doubling the number people with creative abilities, the organization will be at least twice as creative. But if innovation is the goal, this theory isn’t sufficient.

Finding More Of The Right Stuff

What really matters in this equation? It’s ultimately about organizational culture. When managers create an environment that inspires the brightest and most talented people to thrive to their fullest potential, that’s when business performance increases proportionately (or more).

That said, to foster a scalable creative culture, it’s important to understand the smartest and most creative among us. What motivates the top 2 to 5% of the workforce with genius in software design, molecular engineering, and other areas of specialized expertise? Better knowledge of this will lead to a more supportive environment for top talent.

Portrait Of An Innovation Star

I’m not saying that clever people are all alike, but they do follow similar paths and tend to share multiple characteristics. For example, unlike most of us, top contributors know what they’re worth. In today’s more mobile, global world, they have more opportunities. They know their value, and they expect employers to know it, too.

They also tend to share a single defining characteristic — they don’t want to be “managed.” This requirement can be quite a challenge for business leaders. Very talented individuals often are adept at accomplishing great things on their own. They tend to have no special bond with their employer, but they know how to behave to gain funding and support. On the other hand, they’re aware that their employer relies upon them. They generate the ideas that no one else brings to the table, and often they go the extra mile to breathe life into their vision.

Often high flyers demand organizational protection and ignore corporate hierarchy. Quite frankly, they despise titles and promotions, at least in the way that most people perceive those business conventions. Being part of an organization chart is often a thorn in their side. Meetings tend to be seen as waste of time — a by-product of bureaucracy. Bottom line: They prefer immunity from organizational activities because administration is what keeps them from doing what really matters — creating change.

The smartest people often have unconventional expectations. They’re likely to assume managers don’t understand what they are doing, but they want respect for what they do. They want managers to recognize their ideas, and reward them with access to corporate leadership, information and resources. They want freedom to explore new territory, and permission to fail, because failure ultimately can lead to better outcomes. The fact is, they tend not to speak the same language as others in an organization, and often they don’t even want a public voice in the organization’s discussions. What to do? Here are several suggestions…

How Can Your Culture Support Extraordinary Creativity?

1) Be a Guardian

The most talented contributors don’t need a boss, they need a guardian — a sponsor who opens doors on their behalf. Focus on helping to facilitate their work. Give them appropriate guidelines, but eliminate rigid rules.

2) Offer Praise

Create company-wide visibility and demonstrate appreciation by showcasing your rockstars’ projects at company meetings, and in other internal communications. In addition, provide opportunities for them to meet informally with senior leadership. For example, organize lunch with your CEO or top executives (but don’t force rockstars to wear business suits).

3) Grant Operational Immunity

Exempt your top performers from unnecessary meetings and departmental administrative activities. Streamline monitoring and reporting mechanisms, and minimize structural and procedural requirements. Above all, encourage trial and error. Be prepared to recognize failure (or even celebrate it) as an integral part of learning and progress.

4) Provide Freedom to Explore

Encourage your brightest stars to use 20% of their time to drive independent projects. Grant leave of absence for professional development or participation in industry conferences. Consider providing discretionary budgets to fund exploration and ideation — whatever may sparks fresh thinking. For example, a user experience designer might expand his frame-of-reference by operating as a “visiting fellow” at multiple leading-edge customer sites. Or a biotech product developer might “connect the dots” by creating a private virtual forum where life science incubators can share insights about basic research projects.

5) Acknowledge Achievement Beyond The Organization

Rather than evaluating rockstars on typical performance criteria, consider their role in the industry at-large. Perhaps replace classic one-over-one performance appraisals with peer-to-peer evaluations. And consider metrics based on industry awards and rankings, progress in securing patents, volume and quality of articles published or presented, and other indicators of innovation leadership.

How Do You Encourage Top Talent to Thrive?

Do you have extraordinary people in your organization who need to be led in a special way? What have you done to accommodate them? What kind of issues and results have you seen? Please comment — we’re interested in your thoughts!

Mona Berberich2(Editor’s Note: Mona Berberich is a Digital Marketing Manager at Better Weekdays, a Chicago-based company that has developed a platform to help HR leaders source, screen and develop talent based on job compatibility. She is a researcher and writer covering HR, career growth, talent management and leadership development. Contact Mona on Google+ or LinkedIn or Twitter.)

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Your Digital Domain: Who’s The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

JudyMartin2JPG

Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Your Digital Domain: Who's The Boss? #TChat Recap

“With great power comes great responsibility.” -Voltaire

Do you suppose this is what it felt like back in 1967, during the “Summer of Love?” Our country was weary from years of war and civil unrest, and people were searching to reconnect with their humanity. That’s when “peace” took on new meaning as a symbol of promise for individuals and a new world order.

Flash-forward to today, when many among us are weary and searching to rediscover our humanity — but in a different way. This time, it’s fueled by the digital revolution. Why? We’ve been deeply engaged for so long with so many forms of networked communication that it seems we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. Even the most intrepid “wired” geeks openly yearn for a certain kind of peace. And now, that discomfort is leading many to pursue serenity — either by dialing back on social channels or temporarily unplugging altogether.

Defining A Digital Destiny: To Each His Own

Grand as it may be, today’s “always on” social business experiment is taking a toll. And if this week’s #TChat forums are any indicator, workplace leaders are just starting to understand and respond to the consequences of an over-extended 24×7 workforce.

When do the productivity benefits of digital connections cross the line from the sublime to the ridiculous? When does hyper-connectivity become a drain on employee engagement and performance? How can workers maintain a healthy mindset in a world of nonstop demands? And how can leaders develop and sustain a healthy “connected” organization?

The TalentCulture community has only begun to crack the code on this issue. However, this week’s discussions revealed three key considerations:

1) Employers can no longer afford to ignore the cultural aspects of unrelenting hyper-connectivity. It’s actually a big-ticket business issue with implications that reach far beyond obvious security and privacy risks. Employee health costs, productivity and turnover are all expensive factors in this complex equation.

2) There are no single silver-bullet answers. However, there are a multitude of choices. The best solution for each organization will be different. But to find that solution, decision makers must take a mindful, active part in the process. As the digital realm unfolds before us, and choices expand, that responsibility becomes increasingly important.

3) This isn’t just about employers. Certainly companies must create processes and policies that address business interests and respect employee well-being. But at the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own productivity, performance and peace of mind. The fundamental question rests with every individual: When and how should I leverage digital connectivity to improve my professional and personal life?

With so much at stake, #TChat-ters were grateful to welcome two work-life management experts to lead the way this week:

Their insights helped us frame the issues and expose new ideas, as we engaged the community in our weekly “world of work” dialogue. Below, we’ve captured event highlights (including a tweet-by-tweet Storify slideshow from Twitter) and other resource links.

We hope this inspires further discussion within your organization and professional circles. As ideas emerge, don’t be shy! Let us know what’s on your mind. For those at the forefront of work-life integration, the responsibilities may be great — but together, this journey of digital discovery is always better!

#TChat Week in Review: Connected Work-Life Reality Check

SAT 7/6

JudyMartin2JPG

Watch the G+ Hangout with Judy Martin

#TChat Preview: On the eve of his own one-week digital sabbatical, Community Manager, Tim McDonald, asked Judy Martin to frame this week’s topic in a G+ Hangout. See “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

SUN 7/7

Forbes.com Post: In her weekly Forbes column, TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, opened up about her own attempt to disconnect. Read “The Digital Realities Of Work/Life Blending.”

MON 7/8

Related Post: While preparing for her #TChat appearance, Judy offered helpful guidance about how to frame this work-life integration issue and gain a sense of control. Read “Digital Detox vs Digital Redux in the Work-Life Merge.”

WED 7/10

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: 30 minutes prior to #TChat Twitter, radio hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman sat down with Judy and Heidi for a lively discussion about work-life integration — what it means for individuals, as well as employers, in today’s digitally dependent world. Fascinating stuff! If you missed the session, listen now to the recording.

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, our entire community came together on the Twitter stream to share ideas in real-time about the pros and cons of digital connections at the core of professional and personal life. Thanks to everyone who contributed opinions and ideas! To review highlights, watch the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights: “Digital Breaks: Rethinking Connectivity”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-digital-breaks-rethinking-connecti.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Judy and Heidi for helping our community think more carefully about how to manage the demands of digital life in more productive and personally satisfying ways. Your passion and perspectives are inspiring!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about work/life integration issues? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week at #TChat events, we’ll continue our summer “professional reality check,” as personal branding expert and author, Dorie Clark, helps us look at how to “Reinvent Your Personal Brand.”

In the meantime, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

The Steep Cost of Poor Management

Written by Tatiana Beale, Achievers

How do you feel about your job? Do you love it, hate it, or feel like you’re drifting in neutral? If you’re “checked out,” you’re not alone. According to the latest Gallup workplace research, 50% of today’s employees are disengaged. Another 20% are actively disengaged (in other words, openly miserable). That means 70% of today’s workforce is operating under a cloud! The business implications are staggering.

Key Issue: Bad Management

What are the core factors driving workforce disengagement? Gallup says that managers from hell are the primary reason. Poor managers are not only an obstacle to employee engagement — they actually drive employee disengagement. The net effect on business is huge — an estimated cost to U.S. organizations of $450-$550 billion a year. Yes, you read that right. The bottom-line message is clear. Managerial incompetence is not just annoying. It is potentially catastrophic.

What’s The Problem?

The stage is set for disengagement when employees don’t understand their organization’s mission, or see how their efforts contribute to that mission. Poor managers typically don’t emphasize big-picture context, or help employees understand the meaning of their work. They tend not to offer positive feedback when it’s deserved. And they fail to provide constructive criticism or coaching to help employees improve and develop professionally.

Weak managers don’t see value in helping their employees succeed. Why? Often they lack the insight, tools and competence to motivate others, and align their activities with business objectives.

The Upside of Manager Influence

However, there’s another side to this managerial coin. As Gallup’s research reveals, great managers have a highly beneficial impact on business results. Specifically, when leaders focus on building employee engagement and leveraging team strengths, their organizations outperform others across key indicators — earnings per share, profitability, productivity and customer satisfaction.

Every Organization Is Unique

Of course, the right employee engagement strategy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. As Gallup notes, employees come in a spectrum of generational and other shapes and sizes. Jobs are equally diverse. From blue collar factory workers to call center representatives, every situation demand an engagement approach that fits.

Research reflects a variety of issues. For instance, women tend to be slightly more engaged than men. And on average, Millennials are more likely to leave a job within 12 months than their counterparts from other generations. Also, interestingly, employees with a college degree aren’t as likely to report a positive, engaging workplace experience as those with less education. This suggests that more managerial involvement may be appropriate to keep highly-educated employees engaged.

Another point worth noting — engagement is even more important than workplace perks in boosting employee performance. In other words, benefits are no substitute for a personal connection with work. Engagement initiatives must take these realities into account.

Turning Disengagement Around

So, what can your company do to improve employee engagement? The Gallup findings are undeniable. Success starts with business managers. It’s important to select the right managerial talent, right from the start. And once managers are on board, coach them, support them, and hold them accountable. Help them understand why employee engagement is essential to business success. Work with them to connect with employees on an individual level. After all, your workers are human beings, not robots. Both effective managers and effective engagement strategies recognize and respect this fact.

For more ideas about the role of today’s manager in driving employee engagement and business success, read the Achievers 2013 Guide to Recognition.

What do you think about the findings summarized above? Do you believe managers from hell are destroying employee engagement? Leave a comment below and join the discussion.

Tatiana Beale (427x640)(Author Profile: Tatiana Beale is a Senior Marketing Communications Specialist at Achievers. She is passionate about changing workplaces for the better and inspiring Employee Success™ through insightful content. Tatiana believes that employee happiness is the key to a wildly successful company, and means it when she says “I love my job.”)

Republished with permission from Achievers Employee Success Blog.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Hiring Interns? Choose Wisely (Infographic)

“Good Enough” May Not Be So Good

If you’re looking to add value to your company, taking on an intern who’s only “good enough” just doesn’t cut it. Of course, every internship applicant isn’t going to knock your socks off with stellar skills, experience, and a fresh perspective. But what should you expect?

Let’s face it: Hiring interns can be a challenge. Although candidates may look good on paper, interviews often reveal a whole different story. Some students and recent graduates may stumble into your office lacking any knowledge or interest in your company. Others may offer attractive skills or experience, but want a hefty salary. And others may balk at an entry-level role that seems uninspiring.

What To Do?

Building a strong internship program starts with a long-term vision. It’s about finding talented young candidates who demonstrate potential to transform into full-time hires. What should you look for on you mission to find a rockstar? Consider the “best” and “worst” profiles in the following infographic from InternMatch, an online platform that specializes in connecting intern candidates and employers. It highlights some fascinating statistics about Millennials (aka Generation Y):

  • 89% say that constantly learning on the job is important
  • 40% think they’re smarter than their boss
  • 40% say they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance
  • 50% prefer unemployment to working at a job they hate

What Have You Discovered In Hiring Interns?

Do you agree with these statistics? What traits matter most when you hire interns from today’s pool of young talent? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

InternMatch Infographic Best and Worst Intern Candidates

Employee Communication: 4 Ways to Engage

A Too-Familiar Story

Let’s say you’re trying to buy a jacket online. There’s a problem with your purchase, so you call customer service, and they put you on hold. (Waiting…) Finally you reach a robot voice informing you that the call center is closed. You really want the jacket, so you persist.

Hours (or perhaps even days) later, you connect with a live representative who is unable to offer the assistance you need to resolve the problem. What seemed like an easy problem to fix has become a headache, a time-suck, and a shadow over your relationship with the company. Not only is this jacket transaction in jeopardy, but the next time you’re in the market for clothes, you’re likely to shop somewhere else.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

So, what really happened in this scenario? The company failed in a critical way — it did not provide clear pathways of communication and support to resolve your issue, at the moment of need. The brand has lost credibility with a “ready-t0-buy” customer, the company has damaged its relationship with you, and the outcome will translate into lost revenue now and perhaps in the future.

How does this customer experience story translate to the human resources side of business? The audience may be different, but the takeaway is identical: For both customer and employee engagement, communication is vital — especially when issues arise. Just like customers, employees want the ability to ask question, discuss problems, offer constructive feedback and propose suggestions. They want to feel that their concerns and ideas are heard and addressed.

These are the fundamentals of employee engagement. It is HR’s job to support engagement in the workplace, from end-to-end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to accomplish that.

4 Workplace Communication Strategies

When I think about my own experiences, both as a customer and as an employee, it’s easy to remember the times when I felt I was heard — or not. Based on those experiences, here are my top four communication strategies for boosting engagement:

1) Be Available:  To improve the way an organization works, employees need a champion — someone on the inside to share suggestions with. It doesn’t matter whether this ambassador is a manager, an HR representative, a colleague, or event a group of peers. What matters is that there is clearly a door through which individuals can bring questions, concerns and opinions.

2) Listen To My Needs:  Don’t be too quick to dismiss new ideas. Every employee has a unique perspective, and although every suggestion won’t be feasible, each one should be valued. Suggestions reflect your employees’ individual experiences, and therefore, represent part of your company’s culture. Validate ideas by acknowledging contributions, as well as the spirit behind them.

3) Be On My Side:  Every team needs a leader whom they can trust to represent their best interests. And every employee needs a champion who will be their advocate, even in their absence. When you demonstrate support for others, you reinforce their value within the organization. No one likes to feel unimportant — from there it’s a short step to disengagement.

4) Find A Solution:  Not all feedback can be put into action — sometimes for very good reasons. However, leaders and employees can work together to examine the root causes of a key issue, or to integrate appropriate elements of a suggestion, or to brainstorm and investigate other solutions. This follow-through shows employees that their voices matter.

Have you tried these or other communication techniques to improve employee engagement? What worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

Image Credit:Stock.xchng

Connecting With Collaborative Leadership #TChat Recap

Early in March, I wrote a column for Forbes.com, focused on the consequences of collaboration. It was based on a simple but powerful premise:

Collaboration is the keystone of leadership success.

By coincidence, only days later I met Dan Pontefract, who introduced me to a theory he brings to life in his new book, “Flat Army: Creating a Connected And Engaged Organization.”

From the moment I skimmed the pages of Flat Army, I knew that this would be a profoundly rewarding “mind meld” relationship. That seems to be happening more frequently these days. I guess it’s one of the perks of spending most of my waking hours connecting with people who are on missions to unleash the best of human potential in the world of work.

During the months that have followed since I met Dan, he and his “Flat Army” open leadership model have validated what I have always believed:

Collaboration isn’t about being best friends, or even necessarily liking everyone you work with. It is about putting your baggage aside, bringing your best self to the table, and focusing on a common goal — a higher purpose.

Finding Proof: What’s On Your List?

Here’s why collaboration can make a difference. Take a quick moment, and make a list five products or services that you that you never want to live without. No rush — I’ll wait. OK. Got your list? Here’s mine: The iPhone. Downton Abbey. Pinterest. Kit-Kat Bars. Twitter.

Now, guess what? Every one of those items is the result of a successful collaboration. And I bet there’s a team effort behind every one of your “must haves,” too. Sure, some half-crazy genius like Steve Jobs may bring inspiration to the table. But inspiration without collaboration is just a lot of great ideas that easily vaporize before they see light of day.

Collaboration: Why And How

Hopefully, I’ve made a convincing case for WHY collaboration counts. But that’s only part of the equation. We also need a roadmap for HOW to make it happen. And Dan’s “Flat Army” is just the ticket. Together, our vision is complete. “Just like peas-and-carrots,” as Forrest Gump might say. Or at least that’s how I see it!

So this week, it seemed natural to fire-up the TalentCulture social engine, and ask all of you to weigh-in with your ideas about both the “why” and “how” of collaborative leadership. And as always, we weren’t disappointed!  I invite you all to review this week’s highlights and resources below. And I thank you all for your collaborative contributions — this week and every week.

As I said in closing my Forbes post (and as I believe even more strongly now), if you want to see what the potential for collaborative success looks like, you don’t need to look far, my fellow community members. Just look in the mirror. It starts with you.

#TChat Week In Review

WED 6/5

DanP

Watch the G+ Hangout now

Introductory Post: Our guest, Dan Pontefract, Senior Director, Learning & Collaboration at TELUS and author of Flat Army, framed the week’s topic in a special post, The Future of Work: An Army Of Open Leaders.

SAT 6/8

#TChat Preview + Sneak Peek Videos: Our Community Manager Tim McDonald, briefly interviewed Dan in a G+ Hangout. See the video in Tim’s post: “Open Leadership: Going Deep.”

SUN 6/9

Forbes.com Post: In my weekly Forbes column, I examined some ways leaders can effectively connect with their teams. Read “Open Up and Lead.”

TUE 6/11

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show

#TChat Radio: I sat down with Dan to discuss in more detail the power of open leadership — not only in the office but in society as well. Listen to the recording now: How Open Leaders Win Employee Hearts and Minds.

WED 6/12

#TChat Twitter: #TChat-ters joined us on Twitter to share opinions and ideas about the role and impact of open leadership in today’s world of work. If you missed the event, or want to review highlights, watch the slideshow digest below:

#TChat Highlights: Open Leadership, Going Deep

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to guest Dan Pontefract! We’re inspired by your example and your passion for learning and leadership.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about your experience with workplace collaboration, learning and leadership? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, the Society For Human Resource Management annual conference takes Chicago by storm (#SHRM13)! That means we won’t have a Tuesday Radio show. But fear not! #TChat co-creator, KevinWGrossman and I will be reporting from the floor throughout the week — and we’ll drive two #TChat LIVE events:

1) A special “Margarita Meetup” panel discussion on Monday at 3:15pm in the Achievers booth;
2) A related #TChat session at our regular 7pm time on Wednesday.

For more details, see our related post: “Feeling The Future Of Work: #TChat Meets #SHRM13.” And join us anytime on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. The gears are always turning at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

See you — if not at #SHRM13, then most definitely on the stream!

(Editor’s Note: To see the original Forbes.com article by Meghan M. Biro, read  Smart Leaders And The Power Of Collaboration.)

Feeling The Future Of Work: #TChat Meets #SHRM13

(Editor’s Note: Looking for the #TChat Preview post? Read Stronger! #TChat Preview #SHRM13 Edition.)

Employment: An Emotional Experience

It’s the most overlooked aspect of employee engagement. And yet, it’s the aspect that matters most — especially if you’re in the graduating class of 2013, and stepping into a still uncertain, fragile global workforce economy.

I’m talking about the emotional element of the employee experience. And that’s not just a hunch. According to recent workforce engagement research, emotional commitment is 4x more powerful than rational commitment in driving employee effort. In other words, when employees are rationally committed to an organization, they’ll stay if they believe it is in their self-interest to do so. But when employees are emotionally committed — when they believe in the value of their job, their team, and their organization — they exert discretionary effort. And discretionary effort is where the engagement magic happens.

That news probably doesn’t surprise you any more than it surprises me. I’m a big believer that we’re loyal first to the work we do, then to the teams with whom we work, and last to the organization that hired us. A sense self worth and job worth is critical, if we want to feel valued on the job. But unfortunately, too often, organizations tend not to focus on these realities.

Time To Rearrange Priorities?

The chief workplace management and well-being scientist at Gallup suggests a fresh approach. In a recent FastCompany interview, Dr. Jim Harter explains that, because individuals have a core need to feel appreciated and valued, organizations should be extremely generous with praise and recognition. In fact, I’d argue that we thrive not only on praise and recognition — but also on continuous constructive feedback about where and how to improve. Both encouragement and guidance are keys to performance and growth.

Achievers Promo

Learn more about the Margarita Meetup at SHRM

But in truth — it’s a stretch to find either, in today’s environment. Harter’s research indicates that nearly 3 of every 4 U.S. workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged from their jobs. Over half are willing to show up for work, but generally do only the minimum required. And another 20% are intentionally counter-productive. I doubt there’s much positive feedback or encouragement happening in those scenarios.

How Do We Turn This Around?

We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. So I propose that we not only acknowledge the issue — but actively talk about how the “world of work” can tackle disengagement head-on. And what better venue than the SHRM Conference & Exposition next week in Chicago?

Come talk with us and other HR executives and practitioners about this and related issues! My TalentCulture co-creator and #TChat forum co-host, Meghan M. Biro, will join me as we work the #SHRM13 aisles and report LIVE throughout the conference. And don’t forget to save the date for a #TChat double-header next week:

MONDAY JUNE 17 — 3:15-4:00pm Central Time (4:15pmET/1:15pmPT)
Margarita Meet-up at Achievers Booth #2455“CLASS of 2013” Panel
Join our LIVE discussion, focused on results from a recent survey of 10,000+ graduating students. (We’ll post more details in this weekend’s #TChat Preview.)

WEDNESDAY JUNE 19 — 6:00-7:00pm Central Time (7-8pmET/4-5pmPT)
#TChat Twitter — A Closer Look at the Graduating Class of 2013.
For more details, look for our weekly Preview post this weekend, here at TalentCulture.

We’ll see you in Chicago — and on the stream!

Future Of Work: An Army Of Open Leaders

(Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled that business collaboration and learning expert, Dan Pontefract, will be a featured guest soon at #TChat events. To set the stage, Dan shares insights below, adapted from his new book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.)

Flat Army? What the heck is a Flat Army?

Work environments need not feel like a military camp or a ruthless command-and-control operation. The process of work should be fun, innovative, creative and very engaging. I believe that the best way to create a connected and engaged organization is by invoking a “Flat Army” mindset. Why? Let’s unpack that analogy:

To be flat is to be on a level surface, not in a hierarchy. To be in an army (from armata, the Latin term referenced in 1533, meaning a flotilla of vessels) is to be part of a large group of people who are committed to similar aims or beliefs.

An organization with a Flat Army ethos benefits from an unobstructed flow of coordinated, constructive, creative behaviors that arise from the common interests of employees, leaders, partners and customers. It is a shift from “me” to “we,” using collaborative, participative and growth behaviors. Flat Army is a playbook that moves organizations toward increased engagement and innovation.

Profile Of A Flat Army Leader

flatarmy_frontcoverIn our Flat Army model, a harmonious, connected leader creates a situation where both the team and the leader are as open as possible to performing business tasks and achieving objectives. In an environment where even mundane day-to-day tasks are conducted in this open manner, there is harmony among all contributors, regardless of rank.

Openness — both as a quality of the leader and an expectation of the team — fosters a harmonious relationship among all parties. It’s arguably a step in the right direction towards higher levels of engagement, productivity and business results. A harmonious, open leader connects with the team — parlaying the culture as if it can only be successful when all parties are united, equal in nature and committed to openness. And if we agree that leadership is for all, we also wish that everyone in an organization will participate as a harmonious, open leader.

Getting Under The Hood With Open Leaders

I define open leadership as the act of engaging others to influence and execute a coordinated and harmonious conclusion. Therefore, open leadership is essential for every Flat Army organization.

A.G. Lafley comes to mind when I think of stellar Flat Army leadership. His name may not ring a bell, but I can assure you, he sets a standard of excellence for openness and collaboration. Between 2000 and 2010, Mr. Lafley was the highly successful president and CEO of Procter & Gamble (P&G) — the consumer products conglomerate with over $80 billion in revenue and over 125,000 employees worldwide.

Throughout his decade at the helm, he helped double total sales and quadruple profits, while increasing P&G’s market value by over $100 billion. Furthermore, he helped grow P&G’s portfolio of billion-dollar brands (such as Gillette, Pampers and Tide) from 10 to 24. How did he do it?

In his book The Game Changer: How Every Leader Can Drive Everyday Innovation, co-written with management thought leader, Ram Charan, Lafley refers to the unique relationship between openness and ideas:

Open architecture is the organizing principle that enables a business and its people to open themselves up to get ideas from anywhere at any time. P&G collaborates with anybody, anywhere, anytime. P&G likes unusual suspects. It will even compete with a company on one side of the street, and cooperate with it on the other. In an open innovation system, anything out there is fair game, even if competitors are sitting on it. And that’s fine with both partners because it works.

At P&G, Lafley opened up everything. He wanted his leaders to be more collaborative, and just as importantly, he wanted his employees to be open. As a results, magic happened. He branded this open architecture “Connect and Develop” or “C&D.” The framework reached across all employees, regardless of title, and it drove not only revenue and profitability, but also employee engagement.

Lafley and Charan explain:

The single characteristic of C&D is the willingness of all people at P&G to be psychologically open and to seriously consider new ideas, whatever the source, thus building a truly open global innovation network that can link up — and be first in line — with the most interesting thinkers and the best products to “reapply with pride.”

Lafley’s leadership example demonstrates what’s possible when a harmonious environment is created through a culture of open initiative. That is Flat Army in action. And perhaps that’s a key reason why P&G just rehired Lafley last month to lead the company forward.

The Open Leader Toolkit

Hopefully now the concept of open leadership is clear. But what are these social business and collaboration tools everyone keeps talking about? An open, Flat Army environment can’t thrive if leaders suffer from technology blindness or ignorance. In truth, tools for communication and collaboration are as integral to a Flat Army mindset as they are to employee engagement and productivity.

If your organization doesn’t embrace tools that support dynamic exchange of knowledge and ideas, then be a catalyst for change. Look for ways to integrate capabilities such as blogging, micro-blogging, expert networks, discussion forums, video sharing or instant messaging into existing platforms and workflows. Start using them to demonstrate that you are a connected, collaborative and participative leader who assists your team (and your organization) in achieving their goals and objectives — even as you strive for a high level of employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

What are you doing to help your organization embrace a Flat Army ethos? I invite you to share your ideas and experiences.

Photo: Dan Pontefract, author and head of learning and collaboration, TELUS(Author Profile: Dan Pontefract is the the author of “Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.” He is also Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS where he is responsible for the company’s overarching leadership development, learning and collaboration strategy. Visit www.danpontefract.com for more about Dan’s professional experience, and his thoughts on the future of leadership and organizations.)

 

Image Credit: Pixabay