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Create A "Small Company" Culture Anywhere

What is it about small companies? Like a good restaurant or an undiscovered band, they often tend to attract a devoted following that can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Is it the quality of work? The people? The hours? The pay? What is that magical difference that makes small companies so attractive to top talent?

Does Size Matter?

The secret is culture. A strong company culture unites employees and gives them a larger purpose beyond their individual responsibilities. That’s why employees — especially Millennials — gravitate toward start-ups. They crave that “small-company” feel and want the chance to make an impact on culture.

That’s great news if your company is one of the little guys. But what if you’re at a large corporation? How can you offer employees the chance to make an impact if a reputation for process and procedure precedes you? Rules aren’t all bad, of course; structure helps turn chaos into order. But all too often when companies grow, they sacrifice cultural strengths along the way. What to do?

In today’s tough business environment, as large companies struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire top talent, you can’t afford to miss the cultural mark. Instead, why not approach culture as an ace up your sleeve?

Sustainable Advantage

A strong corporate culture can create a huge competitive edge. Driven by organizational values, business objectives, and employee engagement, it aligns your employees, creates fluid communication, and helps build resiliency that adapts to change. If you develop a unique, authentic culture, your employees can reap the benefits of a “small-company” feel, while driving “big-company” results that advance your business goals.

Want the best of both worlds? Here are 5 tips to create a unique culture:

1) Develop corporate values to align employees with business objectives and the bigger picture. Employees need to be inspired by something greater than themselves, so help them understand how their contributions affect the overall strategy.

2) Create a recognition program to reinforce behaviors that drive results. By consolidating recognition efforts with an online program, geographically dispersed employees feel more connected with your company. Recognition helps reinforce company culture — not the other way around.

3) Abolish the top-down hierarchy that’s typical at most corporations, and encourage leaders to be more approachable. When it’s clear that leaders are listening, it facilitates communication and creates an environment where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Host “lunch-and-learn” sessions or fireside chats where leaders and employees can discuss topics in an open, informal environment. Soliciting employee feedback often yields insights that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

4) Let employees know their contributions matter. In “10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You,” leadership consultant Mike Myatt noted that more than 70% of employees don’t feel valued by their employers. You can turn this around in your company by introducing public recognition into your culture. Create monthly luncheons to recognize top performers. Encourage leaders to recognize employees during team meetings. These are simple steps that can make a big difference.

5) Reconsider “years of service” programs that aren’t tied to business objectives or employee engagement. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. Ideally, employees should receive recognition or feedback at least once a week, yet almost 60% of employees say that doesn’t happen. Create a positive culture of reinforced behaviors by introducing frequent feedback to complement the annual review.

Beyond The Basics

Don’t stop with only 5 steps! While these tips will put you on the right path, you won’t gain that “small-company” feel without also recognizing that culture happens organically, over time. Ultimately, your people will create your culture. Give them the freedom to express themselves. Commit to an evolving process, and see how your culture takes shape.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Create A “Small Company” Culture Anywhere

What is it about small companies? Like a good restaurant or an undiscovered band, they often tend to attract a devoted following that can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Is it the quality of work? The people? The hours? The pay? What is that magical difference that makes small companies so attractive to top talent?

Does Size Matter?

The secret is culture. A strong company culture unites employees and gives them a larger purpose beyond their individual responsibilities. That’s why employees — especially Millennials — gravitate toward start-ups. They crave that “small-company” feel and want the chance to make an impact on culture.

That’s great news if your company is one of the little guys. But what if you’re at a large corporation? How can you offer employees the chance to make an impact if a reputation for process and procedure precedes you? Rules aren’t all bad, of course; structure helps turn chaos into order. But all too often when companies grow, they sacrifice cultural strengths along the way. What to do?

In today’s tough business environment, as large companies struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire top talent, you can’t afford to miss the cultural mark. Instead, why not approach culture as an ace up your sleeve?

Sustainable Advantage

A strong corporate culture can create a huge competitive edge. Driven by organizational values, business objectives, and employee engagement, it aligns your employees, creates fluid communication, and helps build resiliency that adapts to change. If you develop a unique, authentic culture, your employees can reap the benefits of a “small-company” feel, while driving “big-company” results that advance your business goals.

Want the best of both worlds? Here are 5 tips to create a unique culture:

1) Develop corporate values to align employees with business objectives and the bigger picture. Employees need to be inspired by something greater than themselves, so help them understand how their contributions affect the overall strategy.

2) Create a recognition program to reinforce behaviors that drive results. By consolidating recognition efforts with an online program, geographically dispersed employees feel more connected with your company. Recognition helps reinforce company culture — not the other way around.

3) Abolish the top-down hierarchy that’s typical at most corporations, and encourage leaders to be more approachable. When it’s clear that leaders are listening, it facilitates communication and creates an environment where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Host “lunch-and-learn” sessions or fireside chats where leaders and employees can discuss topics in an open, informal environment. Soliciting employee feedback often yields insights that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

4) Let employees know their contributions matter. In “10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You,” leadership consultant Mike Myatt noted that more than 70% of employees don’t feel valued by their employers. You can turn this around in your company by introducing public recognition into your culture. Create monthly luncheons to recognize top performers. Encourage leaders to recognize employees during team meetings. These are simple steps that can make a big difference.

5) Reconsider “years of service” programs that aren’t tied to business objectives or employee engagement. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. Ideally, employees should receive recognition or feedback at least once a week, yet almost 60% of employees say that doesn’t happen. Create a positive culture of reinforced behaviors by introducing frequent feedback to complement the annual review.

Beyond The Basics

Don’t stop with only 5 steps! While these tips will put you on the right path, you won’t gain that “small-company” feel without also recognizing that culture happens organically, over time. Ultimately, your people will create your culture. Give them the freedom to express themselves. Commit to an evolving process, and see how your culture takes shape.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Engage Your Workforce, No Coddling Required

“Doesn’t everybody love their job?”

During the heat of a #TChat event last week, our partners at TalentCulture challenged the Twitter community with that tongue-in-cheek question. And now I suggest an appropriately tongue-in-cheek response: The answer is no.

So, how do we fix it? And should we fix it?

Employee engagement moves business forward, and should be a priority for any human resources professional. But as the prevailing sentiment among #TChat participants indicated, coddling disengaged employees is not an HR function. Nonetheless, if your employees feel that they aren’t respected or their work doesn’t matter, you need to deal with larger issues than engagement scores.

It’s important to recognize employees for their contributions — in part to increase engagement, but mostly because it’s a vital factor in business success. Several years ago, Gallup estimated that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy $370 billion annually. High employee disengagement leads to high employee turnover — which, in turn, means increased recruiting and training expenses.

So, if your company is looking to increase overall engagement in a sustainable way, it’s essential to help your workforce understand the meaning and importance of their contributions.

3 Sources of Positive, Tangible Engagement

1) Executive Sponsorship  If your C-suite dismisses the importance of engagement, that will ultimately be reflected in the attitude of managers and employees. Engagement needs to be a priority at the highest levels. Executives who live company values are leading by example. Prove to all levels of the workforce that workplace culture is purposeful — not accidental — and everyone becomes invested in making it the best it can be.

2) Clear Communication  Get the team on the same page by articulating company goals and clarifying how individual goals relate to the bigger picture. True engagement — the result of a satisfying job and not office perks — can only be achieved when employees see how their individual contributions fit into the organization’s mission, values and objectives.

3) Individual Relationships  A great first step in helping employees feel respected is actually demonstrating respect on a personal level. Employees who feel anonymous are at risk of becoming disengaged, and dragging down others’ productivity and engagement. In large companies, it can be challenging for leaders to build relationships across their span of control, however this is essential. Different people respond differently to different motivators. The key to motivating employees is to understand each person well enough to recognize the factors that will help them develop and perform at their best.

For more information on building a culture of engagement, download our 2013 Guide to Recognition.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Recognition: Meaning and Motivation #TChat Recap

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome one of Team TalentCulture’s new editorial interns, Ana Mijailovic. She’s an accomplished university student with mad writing skills, and we’re thrilled to add her perspective on the “world of work.”)

After a week focused on recognition in the workplace — what have I learned? It’s clear that today’s workforce is increasingly disengaged, and lack of recognition is a primary culprit.

So, how can we turn that around? On one hand, a simple “thank you” is free and easy to share, anytime or in any situation. On the other hand, it’s not so free or easy for organizations to practice recognition consistently and effectively.

Case In Point

My first job was at a hospital as an office assistant. At first, I loved working there. I was excited to start making my own money, to cash my own paychecks. The tasks were fairly simple — filing patient charts, filling out medical billing sheets, making copies, everything you would expect from an administrative assistant. The repetition was actually relaxing at first, and my boss constantly acknowledged my speed and work ethic. However, after after several years, my productivity slipped. I met expectations, but without the original energy and speed.

A Problem of Motivation

What’s my point? Even when recognition “looks right” on the outside, it doesn’t necessarily empower employees. Although I loved my boss, my work environment and my colleagues, I was bored. Why? To quote the movie “Office Space,” it was “a problem of motivation.”

Motivation is largely intrinsic. In that situation, no salary increase or external encouragement could motivate me further. What I needed was a challenge. I had mastered the required skills. I had proved my competence. I was ready to reach for the next level, but that option wasn’t made available.

This isn’t uncommon. Managers are often so focused on immediate goals, they forget that many employees want to grow and develop. Offering them a new challenge is a form of empowerment. It demonstrates trust. It demonstrates good faith in the future. It demonstrates commitment to employee success. For those of us who value growth, it’s a promise that helps us keep striving to reach our full potential.

Key Takeaway: Be Mindful and Meaningful

The larger lesson is this:  Every individual is motivated by something. For recognition that really matters, managers should consider what each employee values most, and tailor recognition accordingly.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check the ideas below from this week’s guests and #TChat events. There’s inspiration and advice for employers and employees, alike!

#TChat Week in Review

SAT 5/18

Stan Phelps and Max Brown

Watch video hangouts in the #TChat Preview post…

Setting the Stage:  “Recognition Done Right: 9 Points of Light.” One of our expert guests, Stan Phelps, framed the week’s topic with real-world recognition examples from his new book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish – Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Drive Engagement and Reinforce Culture.”

SUN 5/19

#TChat Preview:  Our community manager, Tim McDonald, served up “sneak peek” video interviews with Stan and our other guest, S. Max Brown, Principal of Leadership Directives at Rideau Recognition Management Institute. See what they think matters most about recognition now in “The Business Wisdom of Recognition: #TChat Preview.”

MON 5/20

Forbes.com Post:  TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro examined startling workforce statistics and suggested remedies in her Forbes column, “Employee Engagement is Every Leader’s Imperative.”

TUE 5/21

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show

Related Post:  Achievers CEO, Razor Suleman, brought a unique twist to our blog by bridging two back-to-back topics in his post, “Workspace Design: Form, Function and Positive Feedback.”

#TChat Radio: Stan and Max joined our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman for a 30-minute deep dive into issues and opportunities surrounding recognition and organizational culture, while #TChat-ters chimed in on the Twitter backchannel.

WED 5/22

Related Post:  Career management blogger, Ritika Trikha, offered different point-of-view, with advice for employees who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve, in “Where’s the Love? Recognition DIY.”

#TChat Twitter: The highlight of every week! With Stan and Max leading the way, hundreds of community members gathered around the #TChat feed for an open, thoughtful exchange about workplace recognition. The conversation was so popular that we trended on Twitter again. (It’s becoming a habit!) Were you along for the ride? If not (or if you want a refresh), see highlights in the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “The Business Wisdom of Recognition”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-the-business-wisdom-of-recognition.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Stan Phelps founder of 9 Inch Marketing, and S. Max Brown, Principal of Leadership Directives at Rideau Recognition Management Institute. We’re inspired by your insights and passion for the power of recognition!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workforce recognition? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just 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 — if you are fascinated by social business practices (who among us isn’t?), you won’t want to miss this! We’re exploring enterprise community management, with special guests, Maria Ogneva, Director of Product Marketing at Salesforce Chatter Communities, and Jeff Willinger, Director of Collaboration, Social Computing and Intranets at Rightpoint.

Until then, as always, 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 lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

Ana Mijailovic-001Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend…and we’ll see you on the stream!

(Author Profile: Ana Mijailovic is a student at Boston University studying Economics and Business Administration. Her experiences in the classroom and in the workplace have taught her the importance of teamwork, collaboration and leadership in organizations. She is one of four bright, community-savvy interns who are contributing to the TalentCulture mission this summer.)

Photo Credit:  Stock.xchng

 

Workspace Design: Form, Function and Positive Feedback

“First we shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.”
Sir Winston Churchill

What a wise observation. I love the idea that we have a hand in creating a world that eventually influences us.

When I first heard this quote during last week’s “World of Workspaces” #TChat Radio show, I was fascinated. Workplace design expert, Chris Congdon of Steelcase, shared the concept as she talked about developing work environments that support organizational goals.

Among other things, Chris explained how physical workspace influences the way we feel and act. For example, if a company wants to foster collaboration, creativity and innovation, merely filling an office with tall cubicles and fluorescent lighting just isn’t going to cut it.

Great Workplaces: Beyond Tangibles

Her primary message was this:  The best places to work are designed from the inside-out. It’s not enough to consider only the tasks that must be accomplished in a space. Nor is it enough to focus on ergonomics that make those workflows more comfortable or efficient. Before we can build business spaces that optimize performance and engagement, we must understand human motivation and behavior in workplace settings.

Actually, on a larger scale, isn’t that how leaders approach corporate culture? Our mission is to create not just physical space, but complete ecosystems that bring out the best in every contributor. And in turn, that ecosystem rewards us in ways that reflect and reinforce our brand vision and values. It’s a continuous loop.

“First we shape our culture; thereafter, our culture shapes us…”

So, just as color schemes, work surfaces and lighting must be carefully considered when developing any physical workspace, we must be equally deliberate in developing organizational culture, piece by piece.

Snapshot Assessment

That conclusion triggered a reality check for me. I quickly took a mental inventory of the physical environment and the organizational “vibe” at Achievers. Here are several highlights, and the intentions behind them:

Achievers Toronto1) Open Design:  Our workspaces are based on open floor plans and are surrounded by lots of natural light. There are very few individual offices. That’s intentional. We want our environment to encourage the kind of energy and enthusiasm that we hope is synonymous with our product.

2) Visual Cues:  Our Toronto office features a giant red wall inscribed with our company values. It’s one of the first things you see as you enter the front door of the building. Such a public display of company values may not guarantee that all employees internalize them, but it’s a constant reminder to employees, customers and business partners of what we want to represent.

3) Flexibility:  Steelcase reminds us that individuals prefer to structure their own tasks throughout their day. That’s why we offer a variety of options — group seating for collaboration, as well as various quiet and private areas. The more options we offer, the more likely our employees will feel they “fit” into the environment — regardless of their mood or work requirements. Actually, this philosophy aligns with employee recognition best practices as well (our area of expertise at Achievers). It’s human nature. Under some circumstances, a person responds best to public recognition. Other times a private, sincere expression of gratitude is more effective. Variety is the solution.

4) Reinforcement:  We believe that the most critical step any company can take in creating a workplace is to build a culture of “thank you.” Of course, employee recognition isn’t as visible as desks or chairs, but it is likely to be the most durable investment you’ll ever make. If you reinforce behaviors that move business goals forward and encourage employees to embrace core values, these intangibles will become as integral to your organization as the furniture.

Bottom line: When designing a workplace — don’t forget to decorate early and often with recognition!

Image Credit: Pixabay

Office Space: Work in Progress #TChat Recap

Every organization needs the right balance of caves and commons. What that precise balance is depends on what the organization’s particular goals and challenges are, and more granularly, what the immediate situation of a work team is.
Leigh Thompson, Harvard Business Review

This week, the TalentCulture community took on “The Office” as our primary topic. No, we didn’t talk about today’s finale of the long-running TV show. Instead, we focused on real-world workspace — what our physical environment means to us, how it influences our mood and behavior, and the role it plays in our creativity and productivity as individuals, teams and organizations. (For highlights from the #TChat Twitter event, see the Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Special Guests: Workspace Wizards

Perhaps no other company understands the concept of workspace better than Steelcase. That’s why we invited experts from that company to share their insights at this week’s #TChat events. If you think of Steelcase as a file cabinet manufacturer, think again. It’s now a global leader in design and furnishings for business, healthcare and education markets. I’m familiar with Steelcase from its work with schools. Just as office space shapes business behavior, classroom configuration has an impact on student learning.

This brief video of the Steelcase “Learning Lab” is a great way to see how Steelcase views workspace:

Key Takeaway: “Place” Matters

Yesterday’s #TChat Twitter conversation was the live-action conclusion to our deep dive into workspace issues and ideas. We seemed to agree on one key point:  These days, “workspace” is often determined by our location at any given moment. Many of us are in constant motion, and we take our work along for the ride — for better or worse. That means flexibility and choice are essential.

But all of us have a primary spot that we call “ours” — even if it’s in a bedroom corner. So, throughout the Twitter chat, many participants (including me) shared pictures of our workspace, or our vision of the ideal setting. Not surprisingly, those images are as diverse as the hundreds of #TChat participants who join us each week! One of my favorites is the Pons Huot Office, shared by Katja Matosevic. (Check out the #TChat Highlights Slideshow below for more, or look at this Forbes gallery of 10 Cool Office Spaces.)

Are you inspired yet? Read on!

#TChat Week-in-Review

SAT 5/11

Sneak Peek: Organizational Pyschologist and #TChat Ambassador, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, helped us frame the week’s theme in her TalentCulture blog post, “Your Workspace: How’s It Working For You?”

SUN 5/12

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro identified “5 Habits Of Leaders Who Create Workspace Culture” in her weekly Forbes column.

MON 5/13

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio recording now

#TChat Preview: Our community manager, Tim McDonald, posted a detailed the week’s theme and key questions in a preview post: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk.”

TUE 5/14

#TChat Radio: Chris Congdon, Director of Research Communications at Steelcase, offered fascinating perspectives about the human psychological and physical factors that influence workspace design. In particular, she focused on the importance of choice in satisfying diverse preferences and multiple work modes.

WED 5/15

Related Post: Sourcing specialist and #TChat Ambassador, Ashley Lauren Perez, offered another spin on workspace design — specifically its role in supporting talent acquisition and retention. Read her post, “Employer Brands: Big-Company Ideas for the Rest of Us.”

#TChat Twitter: The community conversation was so fast and furious that once again, we trended on Twitter! Did you get in on the action? If not (or if you want a refresh), see highlights in the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-if-these-workspace-walls-could-tal.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Chris Congdon and Steelcase for sharing your perspectives on workspace design and organizational culture. It feels like this discussion has only just begun!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workspace issues? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just 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 — reward yourself! Join us for events focused on recognition and employee engagement, with special guests, Stan Phelps founder of 9 Inch Marketing, and S. Max Brown, Principal of Leadership Directives at Rideau Recognition Management Institute.

Until then, as always, 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 lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

We’ll see you on the stream!

 Photo: Thanks to Tom Bolt for the Einstein inspiration

Clearing Hurdles to Employee Engagement

Recognition is a key component of Employee Success. What gets recognized get repeated. Recognizing employees for hitting targets and exemplifying corporate values reinforces behavior that impacts the bottom line. According to recent research by Aon Hewitt, organizations with high engagement rates are 78% more productive than disengaged organizations. The powerful combination of engaged employees and brilliant performance is critical to business success.

But it’s not that easy. As with any major organizational initiative, there are obstacles to integrating recognition into company culture. Securing buy-in and participation is always challenging, especially when the program seems “touchy-feely.” But from what I’ve seen, recognition is a critical business tool.

It can seem perilous to mess with established customs, but creating a strategy around recognition makes recognition—and business—more effective. To guide you through the process and ensure you come out a winner, our team put together this infographic.

In general, we see companies encountering six main hurdles on their journey:

  • Employee participation
  • Making time
  • Securing executive buy-in
  • Engaging managers
  • Budget
  • Measuring success

Each one presents a unique challenge, but none are insurmountable. As with any obstacle course, the proper training, preparation, and team work will get you over the finish line and improve your bottom line. Check out the infographic for a guide to making your company a recognition winner.

Overcome the Obstacle Course of Disengagement

(Legal Note: Employee Success is a trademark of Achievers Corp.)

Feature Image Credit: Pixabay

Diversity in a New Key: #TChat Preview

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? Read “#TChat Recap: The Creative Power of Diverse Ideas”

INNOVATION. Where does it start? It begins with diversity. Not just diversity of cultures. Diversity of perspectives and personalities. Diversity of ideas. A recent Forbes research report underscores that point:

“Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.”

When asked about the relationship between diversity and innovation, a majority of respondents agreed that diversity is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that foster innovation. Senior executives and employees alike are recognizing that a diverse set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation and the development of new ideas in and outside the workplace, as we find our career passion.

This week, expanding on ideas inspired by the book “Think Like Zuck,” by Ekaterina Walter, the TalentCulture community wiill explore how innovation grows from diversity. Research, as well as experience from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and other innovators, is teaching us just how desperately we need to include all voices to achieve more effective outcomes. Does crowd-sourcing help innovation? Are all voices and ideas equal? How can Zuckerberg be an example of innovation through diversity? (Doesn’t he represent the ultimate lone inventor?)

Diversity isn’t just about demographics — although that is a first and a key component, without which our companies cannot move forward. Starting with demographic diversity as our foundation, we propose an expanded definition of diversity — not a counterpoint to the demographic meaning, but a flourish upon it. Let’s embrace diversity even more, and explore its power to lead to innovation in the world of work and beyond. This week, relying on diverse views to help us think about this, we’ll seek your voices in exploring these questions:

Q1: What are your unconventional definitions for diversity in the workplace? How is it more than demographics?

Q2: In the world of work, how do leaders nurture and cultivate diversity in its many non-demographic forms?

Q3: How does conventional diversity (i.e., diversity of demographics) play into diversity of ideas?

Q4: What role does #hrtech play in encouraging or discouraging #innovation & diversity of ideas in the workplace?

Q5: How do we exercise unconventional notions of diversity in our approach to #leadership?

Click to see the preview or listen to the show live, Wednesday 1/30, 7:30pm ET

As per the new usual, the #TChat goodness happens twice this week. First, on Tuesday, Jan. 29, there’s #TChat Radio from 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT. Our guest is a long-time member of our community, Rob Garcia (@RobGarciaSJ), director of product strategy & marketing at RiseSmart, a company that is delivering innovative next-generation outplacement solutions.

Then, on Wednesday, Jan. 30 — from 7-8 pm ET (6-7pm CT, 5-6pm MT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) — we’ll tackle this topic on #TChat Twitter, where Rob will return, along with our other guest, Ekaterina Walters (@Ekaterina), herself.

It promises to be a fascinating week. So, please add your voice to the conversation and let’s see what a diversity of ideas can do to move our community forward!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? Read “#TChat Recap: The Creative Power of Diverse Ideas”

Image Credit: PeopleDaily.com

Leaders With & Without Character: #TChat Preview

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See #TChat Recap: Leadership, Visible From the Inside Out

It’s a party! At least it’s a virtual party for TalentCulture World of Work. I’m very excited to announce the arrival of a new book from The Lead Change Group, “The Character-Based Leader,” with a chapter from yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and more than 20 other authors.

The book looks at characteristics of leadership, running the gamut from the ability to communicate, to humility and trust, with lots of stops in between. It’s a huge accomplishment and a group effort, and it inspired us here at TalentCulture to look at the notion of character for this week’s #TChat.

Book Image: The Character Based Leader - TalentCulture weekly topic leadershipWhat makes a leader? Is leadership an innate quality or a learned skill? Plenty of  business schools argue for the latter. You could argue both positions, really, and you could also say that what makes a leader is a combination of both those ingredients, with different combinations apparent in different leaders. For many of us, however, the ability to lead is innate, in a person’s bones.

We all know people who lead because they crave power. Others were in the right place at the right time with the right skill set, and they’re now leaders. It’s a long shot that either group contains many character-based leaders, those people of integrity, humility, emotional intelligence and energy who make leadership look easy. Yet leadership isn’t easy; it takes character, will, energy and commitment, and anyone who’s done time in corporate America recognizes the importance of character in leaders and colleagues.

So here are our questions for this week’s #TChat Twitter conversation:

Q1: Some draw power from their position. Are they effective? Have expectations around positional leaders changed? #TChat

Q2: Does the character of an org’s leaders & staff matter to the bottom line? #TChat

Q3: What might character look like in the actions of positional leaders vs. other leaders vs. other employees? #TChat

Q4. How can leaders nurture & reward character in staff & other leaders & thus have a positive impact? #TChat

Q5: How does good character underpin an org’s brand & affect frontline leaders & staff in treating customers? #TChat

How did fall get here so fast? Please join us on Wednesday, Oct. 3, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) to discuss what makes a character-based leader and how to help those who aren’t as gifted in the area of character to learn the attributes of a good leader.

We hope to see you there. Joining me will be one of my co-authors, Susan Mazza (@SusanMazza), a speaker and coach, as well as founder of Random Acts of Leadership. We’re excited to have  Susan co-leading this week’s discussion on Twitter. As usual, Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman) will be there, too, along with the rest of the #TChat gang — and you.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Demand for Great Leadership Exceeds Supply: #TChat Recap

I’m not going to throw you any softballs. We did enough of that in last night’s #TChat.

Instead, I’m going to throw the next pitch really fast – the money ball – straight down the middle. C’mon, let’s see you swing. I want to see you knock it out of the park.

Because for the most part, we’re not knocking it out. My hope has always been that future leadership leads us out of our corrupt economic quagmire and into new world of ethical capitalism.

I’m also still hopeful about my fellow brothers and sisters today, even when time and again our mindful presence fails us. Like in today’s business and politics.

What about personal leadership today? What about us?

Polarized incivility and corruption are celebrated by the fringe and given the mainstream spotlight – for business, politics and pleasure.

But the radical center in many of us worldwide is rising up. We’re demanding better leadership; we’re learning to lead ourselves out of this quagmire.

No business school or political party or leadership program or religious movement has done that to date.

This, from a recent The Economist article, The new middle classes rise up:

This focus on corruption suggests that, at the moment, middle-class activism is a protest movement rather than a political force in the broader sense. It is an attempt to reform the government, not replace it. But that could change. In most middle-income countries, corruption is more than just a matter of criminality; it is also the product of an old way of doing politics, one that is unaccountable, untransparent and undemocratic.

Great leaders don’t give in to destructive impulses. They may dabble in the dark arts, but we forgive when it’s for the greater good. We are human. We are fallible.

We are leaders, each unto ourselves

But we have to be personally responsible, to own our every decision and its ensuing consequence. All leadership sparks start with self, the true fiery heart of inspired innovation.

Fanning the flames won’t mean that everyone catches fire, and I don’t disparage tough business leadership and those who succeed while others struggle to feed their families with no job prospects in sight.

I do empathize, though. Empathy is a leadership quality still too often bullied and laughed at. But it’s experience by failure and emotional intelligence that fights back with the insidious subtlety of a dry-witted comic.

Who’s laughing with you, not at you.

Today, the demand for great leadership exceeds the supply. The good news? Most of us are willing to transform the economic status quo.

Read Matt Charney’s precap here and here were the questions from last night:

  • Q1: What role do leaders play in driving innovation? Collaboration?
  • Q2: What makes someone a “leader?” Is this a matter of role/responsibility or perception?
  • Q3: Which matters most for leaders: education, experience or emotional intelligence?
  • Q4: What can organizations do better to hire and develop future leaders?
  • Q5: What role does social media and technology play in determining leadership efficacy?
  • Q6: How is leadership evolving, if at all? What does the future of leadership look like in 5 years? 10?

The #TChat Twitter chat and #TChat Radio are created and hosted by @MeghanMBiro @KevinWGrossman and powered by our friends and partners @TalentCulture @Monster_WORKS @MonsterCareers @HRmarketer and of course @Focus.

Leaders Create Solutions, Not Dysfunction: #TChat Recap

There’s a scene in the movie The Company Men where a laid-off executive (Tommy Lee Jones) confronts his old CEO (Craig T. Nelson), who happens to be his partner with whom he started the now struggling shipping business.

The fired exec taunts his CEO about all the recent lay offs and his selfish focus on shareholder value. The CEO fires back “this is a business, not a charity.” And when the CEO reveals that the company was bought out at $X per share for a lucrative return, the fired exec says, “Good for you.”

Then the CEO asks his old partner pointedly, “How many shares did you have?”

I won’t spoil the plot any further with what happens next, but the story tells of the divergence in leadership choices, business and personal lives, and the ultimate impact of those choices. We’ve seen this plot play-out in reality again and again – through boom years – and most recently through the protracted bust.

The reality is that business leaders are responsible for growing a business, which means they have an important hand in selecting who helps them do just that, which means their employees must be a partner in that if they want to share in any success, but not at the expense of all our humanity and our very livelihoods.

That sentimental gibberish used to get you shot in the executive washroom, but these times they’ve been a-changin’, again, with corporate social responsibility taking center stage in many early-stage ventures, start-ups and growing SMB’s with the focus on the talent that makes it all happen, as opposed to the focus making it all happen at the expense of the talent.

These new business leaders, and those of the reformed nature, understand that they need to work with their “talent” acquisition and development teams to align business strategy with needed competencies/skills and a splash of authenticity, transparency, salt and pepper to taste and bam! We’ve got the new age of talent management. Today’s street-smart business leaders know not everyone can be a complete “right” fit, but they’re smarter if they work with those with promise, actually welcoming them into the fold and talking with them directly about the business and their new role. Business leaders today also need the “crystal ball” insight into their talent with predictive workforce analytics, so then workforce planning can take promising shape. Without direct involvement and detailed insight, organizations are just flailing in the dark.

And as Matt wrote in his #TChat preview, “when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, active, engaged and innovative leaders provide a key competitive advantage. After all, it’s that magnetism they possess which creates a powerful draw for potential workers (and customers), not to mention providing a potent, and public, voice for communicating with both internal and external stakeholders.”

And as a leader, if you’re not part of the talent solution from the beginning, then you’re probably part of the self-serving dysfunction that destroys businesses and lives in the end, regardless of how much you cash in. Conservative and progressive leaders alike and all in between, if you’re not of mindful presence and high emotional intelligence, then as far as I’m concerned you shouldn’t be leading anything except a 12-step program. Everyone’s a leader of self and Me, Inc., but that doesn’t mean it’s at the expense of building and growing a company.

Inspire your team to own it as you do, baby. That’s the truest form of success.

Again, you can read the #TChat preview for the first ever, and highly successful, joint #TChat and #LeadershipChat last night. A very special thanks to Lisa Petrilli and Steve Woodruff from #LeadershipChat! Here were the questions we explored:

  • Q1: What is the role of a leader when it comes to making talent decisions?
  • Q2: What should a leader consider when addressing “talent alignment?”
  • Q3: How can a leader show genuine authenticity to new recruits and current employees?
  • Q4: How does being a genuine leader impact a workplace culture brand?

Superstar Leadership: Workplace Damage Control

I’ve written lately about various aspects of workplace culture…People are always the number one consideration in my opinion. This topic always directly relates to recruitment and employee retention. It’s inescapable. It’s part of your workplace DNA. Performing a workplace culture audit of a prospective employer and how to nurture company culture, both as a manager and as an employee are so key.  Let’s keep tackling the dark side – repairing a damaged corporate culture.

Every workplace culture/organization (and employee) has good and bad days. Culture takes little hits on the bad days, but a string of bad days or months can turn into permanent damage. Unfortunately as those days and months grind on it can become easy to miss the signs of damage. A stressed management team may be focused on keeping the company afloat; a stressed manager with personal issues or job challenges may turn a deaf ear to rumblings of dissatisfaction.

In the first example, if management fails to communicate its trials, distrust will flower and thrive. In the latter example, also, a failure to communicate, compounded by a lack of responsibility on the part of the manager, creates a breach between employer and employee. Into that breach will creep distrust and its close cousin, unwillingness to believe anything management says. This is not good and should be stopped in it’s tracks.

Communication and trust are the underpinnings of healthy workplace culture. Other culture markers – a shared sense of mission, shared goals, respect – are rooted in trust and communication.

When trust goes, so also goes culture, that valuable mix of the personality of the workplace and its brand and the collective experience of what it means to work in the organization.

A simple measure of damage to a company’s culture is employee turnover. One local small company I know has had 95 percent turnover in the past three years. Yep, almost 100 percent. This happens.

The managers’ reaction? A tone-deaf range of comments, from ‘It was time for those people to move on’ to ‘We’re glad they didn’t go to competitors’; even the suggestion that the massive turnover is a ‘sign of growth on the part of employees fostered by the unique culture at X Company.’

Once you’ve pulled your jaw off the floor, let me assure you this example is real. Not surprisingly, this particular workplace culture is in dire need of repair. The company’s survivors are hardened and sour and new recruits into the organization are often bewildered and leaderless.

Here’s the basic prescription I would suggest to the executives if asked and from there I would refer them to my list of colleagues who specialize in this specific arena of employee retention and engagement (although this culture is so damaged they haven’t sought advice):

First, assess what’s really happened:

  • Make a list of those who left and when. Review notes from their exit interviews and look for repetition of words and themes. These repetitions are the top-level clues to what is wrong with the organization.
  • Correlate reasons given for leaving. I predict there will be very few ‘uniques’ in this group.
  • Cross-reference the above data with time of year as well as acquisition (or loss) of business.
  • Review every email sent to the company announcing a defection and look for patterns describing the person’s reason for leaving.

Now you have a lexicon of words, a vocabulary of loss of culture and cohesion. The next step is to assess what remains. This step is best taken with the help of a third party, a neutral coach or consultant.

Survey the remaining employees and any new employees on basic measures of job satisfaction:

  • Is compensation competitive? Benefits?
  • Is training adequate?
  • Is the work challenging and rewarding?
  • Do employees have a reasonable level of autonomy and responsibility?
  • How are initiative and excellence rewarded?
  • Is the physical work environment adequate? Are tools and systems in place that improve productivity and reduce drudge work?
  • Do employees feel comfortable talking to managers? If not, why?
  • Do employees feel that management tells the truth?
  • How frequent and relevant are communications?
  • Is feedback used to improve the work environment? Is it ignored?
  • Would you recruit a friend?

Now it’s time to step back and look at what employees and line managers said.

At this point, it’s imperative to commit to, and communicate, intent to change.

  • Communicate results of the survey.
  • Take ownership for the issues, and do not try to deflect responsibility.
  • If something can’t be changed or fixed say why.
  • Create a change action plan with dates, asking employees to help prioritize change items.
  • Implement the change action plan, honoring dates and milestones.
  • Communicate at every step.
  • Re-survey in three months and again in six months, and communicate the results.

Then tackle the hardest part:

  • Assign team leaders and give them responsibility and power to enact change. Support them (or they may fail.)
  • Meet with team leaders regularly and listen to them. Don’t talk over them or challenge what you hear, listen.

Without thoughtful intervention, a broken workplace culture with disheartened people can’t really be repaired. This is often the sad truth. Retention and recruiting will fail too. Employees will continue to head for the exits, and customers may even follow.

Take a look here to read about three companies using workplace culture for retention. This is a very useful case study for all to absorb.

What steps would you take to rescue a damaged corporate culture?

IMAGE via Flickr

The Ever-Changing Face of Leadership

The term, ‘leader,’ can be such a broad word. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of ‘lead’  follows (I’ve bolded my preferred wording):

– To go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort.
– To conduct by holding and guiding.
– To influence or induce.

Scrolling down a bit, the definition of ‘lead’ also includes:

  • to command or direct.
  • To go at the head of in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.). Proceed first in.

I’ve been struggling a bit with the whole ‘leadership’ terminology for a while now. Possibly, it is because individuals anointed as leaders sometimes are perceived by non-leaders to be ego-driven, and that can be untenable and unattractive.

Or, perhaps it has more to do with the fact most of us don’t want to consider ourselves followers – most folks want to be important, in their own right. Whether we are considered a ‘leader’ in our field, ‘leader’ of a specific subject matter or, leader of our own self, most of us want to be independent and impactful, independently of others’ telling us how to be so.

Gripped by Inspiration, Not Dictated to by a Boss

Mike Henry, Sr., Leadership Developer and President, Lead Change Group, invited me into a radio conversation last year. During that interview, he used the term, self-leader. According to Mike, “No one wants to grow up to be a follower.” I agree!

In the best of situations, individuals never feel like they are following, but instead are inspired and compelled to engage their limited amount of energy into an initiative, event, project, program, etc.  The feeling of inspiration is so gripping, therefore, it seems that there just ‘happens’ to be a leader at the ‘helm’ who is doing the coaxing, inspiring and orchestrating of the collective energy to come together for a harmonic outcome.

I collaborate with leadership folks every day – they are my professional and executive clients who are either in the throes of career transition, wish to make a vertical or lateral move, and/or wish to propel their careers to new heights. Whatever the case, many of these folks have been bestowed the leadership moniker: Finance Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Engineering Director, Vice President of Technology, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer … and the list goes on.  Most of these leaders earned those titles through progressive career advancement and continual proof of leadership results, measured ultimately by corporate revenue and profit growth.

However, without an innate and well-honed ability to guide their teams through obstacles, challenges, change and other improvement and growth activities, these leaders would not be where they are today, at the helms of their own ships, steaming forward.

The Best Leaders Are Beacons of Light

The best of these leaders are both directors of initiatives and beacons of light to which their individual contributors, managers and teams aspire to reach. They are not ‘in charge’ of others, bossing them around; they do not wield their authority to ensure their plebes simply heed their commands, without question.

No, in fact, most successful leaders I have interviewed over the past 13+ years possess a unique combination of attributes including confidence and humility and a focus on individual and team needs equal to, and sometimes, above their own.

As one recent client divulged, during a merger and acquisition initiative, he selectively ‘took bullets’ for his managers so that they could better foster relationships with members of an acquired company. In other words, he didn’t put his own agenda over the company’s or individual contributors’ and managers’ needs. At the end of the day, in fact, he sacrificed his own position for the betterment of the company and the individuals thereto.

Moreover, the best of the best leaders identify the strengths of their staff and leverage those to create a win-win for both the company and the individual talent contributors. A focus on people’s talent strengths, versus exerting undue energy on what is someone’s weakness, therefore, propels an organization forward.

#TChat contributor J. Keith Dunbar, Fearless Transformational Global Leader, underscores this idea well, by saying:

“I leverage people’s strengths and put them in a position to be successful. By taking this approach, it positions the team, and ultimately the organization, for increased opportunities for success.”

Finally, strong, effective leaders lead by example. As Felix P. Nater, CSC, President of Nater Associates, Ltd., recently said on Twitter:

“Leading by example empowers adults.”

Sometimes We Must Simply Follow

That said, from time to time, we all put on our follower hats, and I believe there is a good reason to do so.

For those of you on Twitter, think about reasons you ‘follow’ others. Perhaps it is to learn from them as they fuel their Tweets with nourishing information, including thoughtful data, insights and blog post links that further drill down to the why, how, when, where and what of the matter. In other words, you look to that person for guidance, experience and lessons that you may incorporate in your own knowledge bank and day-to-day activity.

Or, maybe those you follow are more experienced in the job or industry with which you aspire to connect. In addition to wanting to learn from them, you may also want to model their behaviors, get to know them personally and network with them – perhaps tapping into their intellectual knowledge base and wealth of relationships to further your own career and business needs.

Our Roles, Regardless of Title, Assume Traits of Influence and Leadership

At the end of the day, though, each of us, as individuals, wants to assume a position of independence, specifically and uniquely contributing to individual and group goals. As well, we all, from time to time, regardless of our titles, switch from leading to following, then back to leading and then to following  … and (you get the drift). It’s a continuum and the roles of leading and following are not clearly distinguished by titles and job descriptions. In fact, the leadership ideal is one that we all carry around and exude in our individual and group, personal and work lives.

Social Media Meets Lightning Workplace Learning: #TChat Recap

Two camps.

One that digs social media as THE engine driving recruiting, learning and organizational development.

And the other that does not.

That was pretty clear during last night’s #TChat about social media in the workplace.  Some of you may have tired of the social conversation, but many of us have not.

Remember the resistance to e-mail and the Internet?  Good Gosh — what business value do those time-wasters and secret sharers have?

So much fantastic input last night — like workplace laser word tag.  Zap.  Zap.

Zap.

For me, “social” has always been about networking and learning outside and in the organization and taking the conversation offline to “live” to further discuss:

  • That job opportunity
  • That sweet hire opportunity
  • That business opportunity
  • That learning opportunity
  • That sharing knowledge opportunity
  • That mentoring opportunity
  • That business birth opportunity
  • That consulting opportunity
  • That collaborative R&D opportunity
  • That partnership opportunity
  • You know, these opportunities and more

Again, the key is taking these conversations offline to “live.” The anecdotal statistics are there for me and many others; I’ve generated many of those opportunities above as I’m sure many of you have as well.

But, the business metrics are still all over the place and underreported and overestimated.  Such is the life of a business metric, right?  I wrote a little about that yesterday in my post I say recruit how we do business, and do business how we recruit.

With the rise of the mobile/virtual workforce, I can’t imagine the world without organic and holistic social connectivity.

The “does not dig” camp is choking on the words organic and holistic right now.  We are here to share different views. Like a real workplace. Like a real social community.

Here were the questions we asked last night:

  • Q1: How has #SM specifically impacted the way you conduct a job search and manage your career?
  • Q2: Within your org, how have #SM platforms/tools been used to enhance HR/recruiting initiatives?
  • Q3: Within your org, how have #SM platforms/tools been used to enhance learning initiatives?
  • Q4: How have #SM platforms/tools been effective – or not – at any or all levels within your org?
  • Q5: What business metrics have you established to measure how effective your #SM efforts are?
  • Q6: What specific barriers do you see within your org that impede top to bottom acceptance of platforms/tools?
  • Q7: Be honest – how do you see yourself improving your efficacy in utilizing #SM platforms/tools within your org?

Thank you to all who participated.  It’s good folk like you who make every #TChat a lightning learning round of workplace laser word tag.

Zap.

Social is about us, not the technology.

Here were the top contributors from last night:

  1. @talentculture – 172
  2. @meghanmbiro – 129
  3. @KevinWGrossman – 105
  4. @IanMondrow – 89
  5. @JeffWaldmanHR – 79
  6. @gregoryfarley – 77
  7. @LevyRecruits – 77
  8. @CyndyTrivella – 64
  9. @dawnrasmussen – 53
  10. @Kimberly_Roden – 52

See you next week, January 25, 2011, 8-9 pm ET (5-6 pm PT).

The Impact of Social, Mobile & Video on Workplace Culture: #TChat Recommended Reading

I thought it would be useful to our readers to include weekly recommended readings in preparation for #TChat.

We will give this format a whirl from now into 2011. Wow, did I just say that? 2010 has been such an interesting year for workplace culture innovation. As you may know, I’m in love with ideas. It’s no big secret after all. Technologies like Skype and trendy cool mobile applications are revolutionizing the ways we connect at the office and virtual environments. So much fun.

Our “greatest hits” reading list for tonight’s #TChat is brought to you by our collaborators at @monster_works and @MonsterWW – They will be joining the #TChat conversation live every Tuesday night with from 8-9 PM ET, 7-8 PM CT, 6-7 PM MT, and 5-6 PM PT.

We also welcome global input and hope you can join from wherever you might be. We certainly want to hear from you. We are committed to creating educational content and social community here at the Culture of Talent. Learning is continuous here and we are nothing without people. People (AKA: human capital) are the most valuable asset to any organization or community.

Read more from MonsterThinking (originally posted by Matt Charney) on tonight’s #TChat topic. The Impact of Social, Mobile and Video on Workplace Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will see you tonight and look forward! Thank you for engaging with us on this channel.

Happy Holidays from our Community! Cheers.

Workplace Leadership Engagement: Challenge, Meaning, and Lots of Love

I grew up loving the Raiders.  Before the 2010 NFL season started, I had a Silver and Black rock and roll attack!

But for the first four weeks of this season, I had nothing but Silver and Black heart attacks. They were at the bottom of the AFC West.

Argh. Although when I take another look at the homemade video montage of the 2010 draft picks, I get all fired up inside all over again. Plus the fact that during the last four weeks they’re winning, winning, winning and movin’ on up (4-4)!

These big boys are still excited to work play. Ready to give 110% to just get chance to work play on the team they were hired to play for any given Sunday (or sometimes Monday, Thursday and/or Saturday).

The Raiders and their lore are personified by none other than John Madden — Mr. Football himself.

John was an inspiration who loved, lived and breathed his game everyday. His coaching staff loved the game. His players loved the game.

Love, Love, Love — there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.

Under Madden’s guidance, Oakland never experienced a losing season.

Can you imagine if your players employees worked that hard for your organization? There’s no way a team gets jazzed and exceeds expectations because they show up only to pick up a paycheck.

There’s a lot more to it than that — whether you’re playing in the NFL, selling clothes at Kohl’s, developing products for Apple, or reinventing the way we watch movies like Netflix.

The motivational sentiment of giving 110% is nice, but no one can really give more than what they’ve got. It’s much more realistic to get your staff to give 100% by challenging them to give their all, to be better at what they do and why they do it, and to love what they do while working hard doing it.

Leadership and HR expert Dave Ulrich touts that when workers find meaning in their jobs, they’re more productive and contribute more to the organization as a whole.

So in a very small space, here’s what we’ve got for why employees give 100%:

  • Inspirational Leadership
  • Challenge
  • Meaning
  • And Lots of Love

What better architect and facilitator for all of these but HR, right? In fact, if human resources and the organizations for which they worked focused more on empowering their leaders and employees rather than enabling them (as in non-productive co-dependency), then maybe we’d advance the workplace a lot farther than we have to date.

We should all know no other way to work play.

Be better and brighter.