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The Future of Work: AI Transforms Career Progression

What is the shelf life of your professional skills? According to research, not very long. In fact, one in three skills from an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance, or sales is obsolete due to continued digital innovation. If that stat doesn’t shock you, it should. The skills we have today are expiring fast, with some experts estimating their life expectancy at just two to three years.

While we can’t place blame solely on the global COVID-19 pandemic, it and other world events have accelerated us toward an environment of unrelenting business transformation and permanently pixelated work arrangements. Employers must now prioritize a more inclusive, purpose-driven culture through broader strategic skilling investments to retain and attract top talent.

Leveraging AI for skill proximity

As our skills become increasingly outdated, new skills will replace them. So, how can employees expect to excel in their careers when today’s business landscape is continuously evolving? It boils down to one word: visibility. A barrier many employees face in the workplace is a lack of visibility into career advancement opportunities. Employees are also largely unaware of the resources and connections available to help them achieve their career goals. This obstacle stems, in part, from a prolonged debate regarding who within a business owns career development. Difficulties aligning the needs and wants of the employee with those of the organization has also contributed to the issue.

Through skills proximity, employers can provide greater visibility. Companies should prioritize an employee’s distance between skills and identify how skills correlate to expedite development. If businesses can find a balance between where employees want to take their careers and where they might be able to take their careers within the organization, they can recognize and foster the skills needed to help them grow.

AI technology has a role to play here. For employees to proactively pursue a growth plan that accelerates career mobility, we need to leverage AI to make skills data and qualification information readily available. Resurfacing relevant learning content and development opportunities is also paramount to an employee’s future success. Done right, it can deliver a broad range of business benefits too. Improved organizational agility and workforce productivity, as well as increased transparency and DE&I, are all advantages attributed to AI.

In addition to AI technology, learning and development content is another tool necessary to ignite career development at work. However, human resources and talent leaders first need to identify a way to connect learning and development to performance results–and annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it.

Employees and businesses each play a role

There is no one size fits all approach to employee engagement. For employers to maximize the success of their training programs, they must first personalize the content available to each employee. Lessons should be adapted according to an employee’s needs, learning style, and preferred delivery method, in turn allowing the employee to more easily navigate their own development and gauge how their skill-maturity aligns with their overall career goals.

Businesses also need to reconsider how they measure learning and development. Self-directed learning pathways require an element of unstructured exploration required for career growth. Currently, however, course completion and time in course are the metrics being utilized. While important, we need to pivot and explore other factors, including course engagement and the focus of content employees primarily seek out.

Ultimately, employee learning is the foundation of high performance and a key motivator for those wanting to stay at their current company. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, managers are 3.3x more likely to still be with their company in two years if offered the room to learn and grow. Proof that when you invest in people, they will invest in you.

Employee experience is critical for overall company success

The bottom line is the best way to help employees achieve their full potential is to provide career growth opportunities. An AI-driven platform can provide employees with a unified view of skills. It can provide a measurement of the proximity of different skills. Also, it can provide continuous monitoring of the new skills required for continued career progression. Organizations that utilize comprehensive skills data will have a better understanding of their talent’s existing skillsets. Additionally, they’ll understand what will be required of them in the future to adapt.

Between artificial intelligence and the careful deployment of skills-oriented content, anyone with the intrinsic motivation to grow can benefit.

Photo: Rodion Kutsaev

#WorkTrends: Remote Working: Craving Knowledge and Skills

Is working remotely actually working? At this point, it has to. And the good news is we want it to.

Remote working was already on the rise before mandatory work from home orders. From leaders to managers to employees, we were already anticipating — and in many cases, making — the shift. So Meghan M. Biro invited SkillSoft’s CMO, Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, to #WorkTrends to discuss the nature of remote work right now. The upshot: it’s working. But there’s plenty we can do better. 

Companies need to further support remote working by providing more opportunities and channels for learning, and managers need to empower their employees to have a “growth mindset,” as Michelle said. This conversation should be both “easy to access and rich in delivery,” she added. By doing this, organizations are not only maintaining engagement and culture, they’re also giving their workforce the learning and the means to stay relevant. 

Michelle (who’s known as Michelle B.B.), said Skillsoft has opened up access to Percipio, their immersive online learning platform: 90 days for university students; 60 days for everyone else). And many are taking advantage of the access, including managers, whose hunger for remote strategies is evidenced by the record number of searches on the platform for “collaboration” and “management.” 

While employees are doing their part by finding solutions to improve as remote individuals and teams, managers must also do their part by guiding them through this transition as humanly and empathetically as possible, both Meghan and Michelle concurred. As home life, school, and workplace collide (and combine), being mindful of employees’ emotional well-being is just as key right now. That may mean informal check-ins to increase the connection. And finding out what employees want and need.   

When Meghan asked for Michelle’s perspective on what comes next, Michelle noted that shifting to remote work has taught us that “physical proximity isn’t the only way to connect.” In fact, she noted, we’re becoming more socially connected — both online and offline, and that will likely continue. The challenge and adventure of remote working during this global crisis is a reality shared by so many, she added, and it’s bringing us together. And when we have access to digital learning it’s far easier for us to do our jobs, no matter where we are. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions                                                                                                           

Q1: Why are many organizations struggling with remote work?  #WorkTrends
Q2: How can learning platforms help improve the transition to remote work? 
#WorkTrends
Q3: What can leaders do to help create better remote workplaces? #WorkTrends

Find Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek on Linkedin and Twitter

This recap is sponsored by Skillsoft.

Photo: Kevin Ku

#WorkTrends: The Human Impact of Data Literacy

Jordan Morrow joined Meghan M. Biro for this #WorkTrends podcast sponsored by Qlik. The topic: data literacy. It may sound simple enough, but it’s far from it.

Meghan notes that 60% to 73% of all enterprise data is never analyzed. “Data remains a value that’s trapped by our own lack of understanding,” she said as she introduced Jordan. As global head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Advisory Board for the Data Literacy Project, Jordan has long been involved in studying data literacy and had a lot to say about why we aren’t using data the way we could — or should.

Citing recent findings from a Qlik/Accenture report on the human impact of data literacy, Jordan explained why organizations around the globe miss countless opportunities because their employees aren’t trained to better use data. The report found that just 21% of the global working population are fully confident in their data literacy skills. In other words, the data on data literacy is pretty clear. There’s a huge productivity gap caused by our lack of data literacy.

In part, Jordan pointed out, we don’t know how to use data because we either think it needs to be isolated from any human experience, or we’d rather just go with the human experience and leave out the data. The truth is, we need both, he said. “To realize true potential with data, you need to combine the human element with the data and technology element.” 

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Meghan said, and asked Jordan if our current state of data illiteracy surprises him. He said it doesn’t. He’s been watching this evolution for years, and he believes that we’re way behind in terms of how we educate our young talent, not to mention students in schools. And of course, both agreed that data literacy should be taught in schools.

In general, we need to stop worrying about people making mistakes as they learn to use data. Curiosity, creativity and critical thinking all have to be developed from a young age, Jordan said, and then we’ll be on our way.

“Let them muddy the puddle,” he says. It’s all part of embracing technology, embracing change, and becoming comfortable with this new way of approaching information. And it will certainly get us to the future of work faster.

What’s at stake?
[23:19] Data and analytics is not going to slow down. So companies that want to succeed in the future have to embrace data literacy. They have to, so you have to have those skills.

Listen to the full conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast, so you don’t miss an episode!

 

You can find Jordan Morrow on Linkedin and Twitter

Employee Advocacy = Engaged Employees

A great work environment with happy employees is the start for creating sincere and enduring employee advocates. When people experience a wonderful culture in action and believe in the reputation of their company, they become your most effective spokespeople.

Why Does it Matter?

There is a lot of research out there that supports the direct correlation between employee satisfaction and its impact on customer satisfaction.  When employees are engaged advocates, they will go the extra mile for the customer, seeking out alternate and better ways to deliver service that amazes and delights. These employees don’t mind spending extra time with a customer to ensure their complete satisfaction, has been met, and are more likely to set achievable expectations for customer service delivery and timing.

Additionally, employee advocacy humanizes your brand. It puts a face to the brick and mortar of your business and allows people outside the company to better identify with your people-driven mission. It’s like word-of-mouth advertising… a very powerful weapon in the war for customer satisfaction and their dollars.

What’s in it for Employees?

Empowerment allows employees to become stakeholders by having them take part in decision-making processes. This empowerment enables them to take responsibility for their role and manage their behaviors and outcomes.  A culture of trust allows people to do their job, autonomously. Employees want to create their own successes, and with that find greater satisfaction in themselves and with the culture around them.

Feedback is a powerful tool in the workplace. It enables people to see how they contribute to the bigger picture of the organization. It’s important for each employee to see how her specific role impacts the organization. Show employees, directly, how their work is improving customer retention, profitability, or the metric that is most closely related to their position. This will motivate them in their jobs, in attainable goals, and increase their engagement.

Skills and knowledge training provides the growth and expansion employees need to keep improving and advancing in their careers. Challenge them to find learning opportunities that can be applied to their jobs and allow them to put this new-found knowledge to work. The empowerment and satisfaction they can reap from this experience will encourage them to look forward to future learnings to continue growing their skills and knowledge.

Collaboration across an organization opens the door to team spirit and engages people at a more root level because they believe every employee is approachable for conversation. Being able to collaborate on projects with colleagues will increase employee engagement, and make the projects more satisfying and effective allowing employees to ideate, give peers feedback and bring solutions to the forefront. In other words, to take ownership.

Why You Need Advocates

Employees who are advocates for their organization cast a wider net not only inside the organization but externally, as well. They reach a larger audience and position themselves as the voice of the organization. They will increase your brand engagement with potential new customers and employees, which from a monetary value, can save companies dollars in advertising and marketing promotions. As engaged employees, advocates are tremendous agents and defenders of your company’s reputation, again positioning themselves as a voice for their employer. Further, research has shown that employee advocates can increase the stock value of organizations by over two and a half times versus organizations that do not support employee advocacy and engagement.

Creating Advocacy

Focus on your culture to understand how employees view the company. To truly understand how successful an advocacy program will work, you first need to understand what people are thinking. If you guess you may guess wrong and that could produce a myriad of consequences. Leadership needs to have the courage to ask, “What do you like and dislike about working here?” This information is gold to the wise employer. With this in hand, set out to better understand what your employees are seeing and that may even include how they view the leadership within the organization. Be prepared to leave your ego at the door, as the feedback may be a wake-up call for management, but if the goal is to create a better workplace, recognition of what works and what is failing miserably must be addressed.

Communication is key here. Employees are inspired by leadership that is open and authentic with communications. Strong leadership that has a clear idea of the company’s direction will be viewed much more favorably than a waffling leader that is out of touch with the company’s mission. When communications flow back and forth between leadership and the employee population, the likelihood of misunderstandings and mistakes lessens.

Measure the results. Whenever possible, track the metrics that will gauge the outcomes of employee advocacy. For example, if increased customer retention is the goal, design a program to determine what a successful outcome will be. Communicate this goal to your employees, then provide them with the resources and opportunities to explore and expand on their knowledge and skills in support of the goal. By tracking the data, you can adjust how you communicate and incentivize your employee advocacy initiatives for future goals.

Trust and Opportunity

Organizations need to believe in their employees and want to help them to promote the organization, but first they need to give them good reasons. Pressuring them rather than encouraging them will not work. Advocacy needs to flow naturally for it to be believable. Leadership can, however, empower employees with knowledge and tools to promote the benefits. With a minimal amount of direction, companies can offer opportunities for employees to exercise their bragging rights in a public, social way. I know of companies that had business cards printed for each employee so if that person was interacting in a social setting and felt the opportunity was right, they could hand their business card to potential new customers and even use it as a referral card for job seekers.

Of course, having a set of “Do’s and Don’ts” is helpful so employees understand what would fall outside the parameters of advocacy. No organization can tolerate proprietary information being shared with people outside the company, so establishing parameters that address items such as this, is important.

The Dividends

Essentially, the value of having employees who act as brand advocates offers a value next to priceless. What better way to market your organization, espouse the features of your products and spread the word in a social manner that is much less expensive than traditional marketing and advertising.

To me, employee advocacy is when employees look forward to pitching the benefits of their organization and do it because they’re excited and energized, not because they’re specifically prompted by management. What sets these advocates apart from other employees is they’re engaged with their employer and find their workplace environment a satisfying atmosphere where communication and opportunity to grow and collaborate occur with consistency.

And most importantly, organizations need to give employees a reason to advocate for the company. An engaged employee advocate is the best bet you have for increasing customer satisfaction, and to experience business prosperity in an organic manner that is natural and unprompted. And the best aspect is, it’s one of the best methods for retaining valuable talent and attracting more of the same.

Photo Credit: martinlouis2212 Flickr via Compfight cc

How Assessments Create Successful Manufacturing Hires

Want to make the right manufacturing hires? A 2016 MRI survey on recruiting found that 80 percent of all hires are mistakes that cost companies time and money. In manufacturing, according to research by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, nearly 3.5 million jobs may be needed over the next ten years. Some 2 million are expected to go unfilled due to the skills gap, however. This serious issue requires a serious shift in perspective: Discovering the right fit needs to be about more than skills. A pre-employment test can accurately evaluate aptitude and personality to assess a candidate’s real potential. The good news is that there are tests to do the heavy lifting and there’s no reason not to take advantage of these tools.

Aptitude: The Key Differentiator

A pre-employment assessment, that looks at a candidate’s potential, shifts our criteria to more effectively look at talent to address today’s realities. We’re staffing up in a super-tight job market that’s also experiencing a marked skills gap, so an open position can have a direct impact on production, as a 2014 study conducted by Accenture for The Manufacturing Institute uncovered. The talent shortage is costing American manufacturers an average of 11 percent in annual earnings— or $3,000 per existing employee.

The key is to recruit for aptitude as well as skill. A pre-employment test for mechanical aptitude, for instance, may convey that a potential hire will be able to ramp up fast and learn into the job. Recent research on hiring shows that aptitude is generally a far more effective indicator of on-the-job success: it’s twice as predictive as a job interview, three times as predictive as job experience, and four times as predictive as education level.

Pre-Hiring Tests Help Shape Careers, Not Just Fill Jobs

In the big picture, successful hiring is also about considering the candidate as talent, not just a pair of eyes and a pair of hands; and acknowledging that from their point of view, it’s not just about walking into a job and staying there. We know that in general, candidates prefer organizations that offer opportunities for growth.

Additionally, manufacturing may not be perceived as having the same kind of growth potential as other fields. Not to put too fine a point on this, but manufacturing was actually ranked last by Generation Y as a career choice in that Deloitte / Manufacturing Institute study. If the perception is that you won’t be hired if you don’t already know everything and have every skill, then the company is going to lose out on applicants from the beginning.

But companies can convey the potential for growth by demonstrating that they’re screening for it. Businesses that provide tests to measure aptitudes and potential for the future may be perceived as more competitive, and therefore more desirable to candidates. As a compelling piece by my colleagues at SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) pointed out, when companies make an effort to demonstrate that there’s a tangible skills ladder to climb, they may attract more applicants.

Metrics for Better Performance

Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that 80 percent of manufacturers have at least a moderate, if not a severe, shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly skilled production positions. The basic skills most lacking among applicants include:

  • Computer and technology skills — 70 percent lacked
  • Problem-solving skills — 69 percent lacked
  • Technical training — 67 percent lacked
  • Math skills — 60 percent lacked

So if you’re looking for new talent, screen for these as aptitudes — and then provide the training and growth that cultivates them into specific skills.

Companies can also establish benchmarks based on existing best-performing employees — a new but proven strategy that’s catching on. Take this example from Criteria Corps website: Criteria stands at the vanguard of pre-hire testing, enabling firms in the manufacturing sector — from small businesses to larger ones — to winnow out top talent efficiently. Criteria works with companies in a whole range of fields, to be sure. But here’s an example from manufacturing: an American installation and repair service company wanted to decrease turnover rates and improve the productivity of more than 3,000 service technicians. The solution: Set a standard, and go from there.

The company first administered the Wiesen Test of Mechanical Aptitude (WTMA) to one group of its techs to create a standard. What emerged was a set of scores associated with high performance that could be used as a baseline for pre-employment testing. The result with this kind of process is that everyone is happy. The candidates are happy to participate in a process that’s data-driven and transparent. Companies are satisfied because the process works. Hiring managers and recruiters are assessing candidates based on qualitative data rather than hunches, which drives a new kind of commitment we all want in our workplaces.

In terms of engagement and alignment, here’s how it works: The candidate experiences, firsthand, the company’s commitment to both making a fair hire and investing in a candidate’s learning and development. The company gets a candidate motivated to do the legwork to grow. The results: better hires, better performance, but also a better workplace. That’s better, in my book, than gambling on guesswork.

To read more from Criteria Corp about manufacturing and assessments, click here.

This post is sponsored by Criteria Corp.

Photo Credit: mycos2012 Flickr via Compfight cc

How To Hire the Right Applicant Through All The Noise

It doesn’t matter how good a candidate looks on paper (or screen), what happens in the interview makes a bigger impact. We want to know how it feels to interact with these paper applicants to get a real feel of who they are and how they’ll work with others. That’s why the interview is often the tipping point for applicants.

And because we’re human, it’s natural to click with people who can instantly connect with others (and usually this happens more quickly with extroverts who are comfortable talking to pretty much anybody). Introverts who usually are nervous—and perhaps whose sentences don’t come out quite right—can get overlooked. Even if they’re the most qualified for the job.

One study done by UCLA (based on its own MBA students) showed that most people considered extroverts—those who stated they “liked to have people around [them]”—were considered better work contributors, while introverts—those who felt tense more often—were assumed to not contribute much. The long-term study showed that the extroverts actually contributed less than anticipated while the introverts contributed quite a bit more. So those applicants who stand out more in the interview may often be less effective than they make you believe—especially when it comes to a team setting.

Frankly, it’s hard to distinguish good “gut” feelings that arise from having an easy conversation with an applicant. Here are five questions to ask yourself about every applicant to make sure you’re choosing the right applicant—not just the most outgoing:

1. Is the candidate just nervous? Or is this applicant a socially awkward person who will make team members uncomfortable to work with? I think one of the most important things you can do to determine this is to get the applicant comfortable and relaxed. Offer the applicant a bottle of water; make sure the seating is comfortable. Then start off the conversation (note I said, “conversation” not interview) by asking some questions that aren’t related to the job or its function. Smile and make sure they know you’re interested in them as people, not just job fillers. After the interview, check references so you can learn how the applicant really functions in a workplace setting. Also, you can check out their profiles on social media to learn even more.

2. Is the position better suited for an introvert or extrovert? Let’s face it: Some jobs are more suited for different personalities. I think of developers as more introverted because they focus on writing code for long stretches. However, that doesn’t mean that someone who is extroverted can’t do the job. In the same vein, just because someone is more introverted, it doesn’t mean they can’t talk well with others. It just might take them some time to warm up. Consider the position but give yourself wiggle room.

3. Is the applicant a team player? Of course you want to hire someone who has the skills necessary to do the job, but you can never underestimate the power of teamwork. Being an effective member of a team trumps any individual work. How does the applicant refer to previous work? Does s(he) take all the credit and say “I did this” or does s(he) say “we” when referring to previously accomplished work? “Teamwork . . . is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

4. What kind of personality will complement the existing team? Really think about the people you have on the team already. Do you have a lot of the same type of personalities? Where do you see holes that need to be filled? If you have a team full of introverts, an extrovert might be your choice. “…the only way to create a team that’s worth more than the sum of its individual contributors is to select members on the basis of personality, soft skills, and values.” Which begs another question: Is this person also a good culture fit?

5. What is the applicant’s skill set? Skills tests don’t care whether people are extroverts or introverts; they tell you if the applicant has the right skills. That’s why they’re a great idea so you can look past all the noise to find out which applicants really know their stuff. You’ll still need to consider other factors, of course, but this is a great way to evaluate for skills.

“Extraverts and introverts each bring unique gifts to the workplace.” Remember, it’s about adding a contributing member to your team; rarely is an employee’s work a solo effort. These questions can help you keep it all in perspective when you need help choosing the right balance for your team.

 

Image: bigstock

Growth From Within: 7 Ways to Compete on Employee Talent

Does your business compete primarily on product and price?

That kind of old-school strategy may win you customers in the near term. However, competing on price or product is really just a race to the bottom.

Along the way, you’ll miss the broader opportunity — the chance to win a sustainable position of market strength.

Rethinking Business Strategy

Competing on price and product is finite. Eventually, either or both will stop yielding the desired business results. Then what can an organization do to kick-start momentum? There are several choices: 1) Retire the product, and replace it with a new one, or 2) Develop a new pricing strategy.

Either option can breathe new life into sales, right? Sure, but only for a limited time. Price and product can be duplicated or replicated. But there’s a source of competitive advantage that is nearly impossible to duplicate or replicate — and that is your workforce.

The Human Element

Does your organization compete by tapping into your people’s infinite, unique potential — their talents, skills, knowledge, experience, energy and creativity?

Access to any of these is boundless. These inherent strengths can be directed toward developing the next great product your customers need, or that pricing strategy that paves the way to increased market share. For example, think of Southwest and its refusal to charge customers for flying with luggage. Southwest was expected to earn over $200 million from baggage fees. Instead, the airline earned over $1 billion by choosing not to charge.

In the 21st century, people are celebrated as the cause for success that catapults organizations to the top. So, what does an organization do to shift its focus to compete on employee talent? Here are seven people-centric ways that signal organizational commitment that puts people first.

1) Identify how employees set your company apart

Spend time understanding how your employees’ skills, experiences, strengths can help advance your strategy. Focus on how they differentiate you from competitors. You should be able to answer this question with confidence: “How does our work environment let our employees’ talents thrive and grow?”

2) Invest in true workforce development

Don’t just send employees to compliance training. Involve them in training that elevates their skills and knowledge. At its best, workforce development makes it possible for employees to learn on-the-job skills that are crucial for their growth, and helps them contribute more effectively to your organization’s goals.

3) Adopt a customer-centric strategy

Look to build and deepen relationship with customers by transforming products, services and the customer experience. Align your employees to create solutions in each of these three areas. This work is meaningful: it helps employees see how their work ties to the bigger picture. Plus employees want to “be in” on important work.

4) Align your reward mechanisms

Are your reward programs considered irrelevant or worse? Employees should be recognized in ways that are meaningful to them. Rewards must be appropriate and timely. It’s important to motivate people with a mix of regular quick-wins and long-term incentives.

5) Modernize how and where work gets done

Mobile technology and remote work policies can transform how and where your employees get work done. They want the responsibility and flexibility to choose. It’s time to begin trusting your employees to be accountable for when, where and how they contribute. Mobile is not going away.

6) Reevaluate workload

Is there a healthy tension between employee workload and time to get it done? If expectations don’t support optimal performance, then your environment is likely creating distress. Excessive stress leads to anxiety, as people begin to feel undervalued and question their well-being. That’s the start of a long downward slide to disengagement and attrition.

7) Invest in learning employees strengths

Strengths-based leadership is about understanding the kind of work that energizes employees and leads them to perform at their peak. Just as your business must adjust to external factors, it is essential to reshuffle employee responsibilities on an ongoing basis. The more time employees spend in the zone of peak performance, the more likely you’ll see creative contributions from their efforts — and the more meaning you’ll bring to your organization’s value proposition.

Today’s topsy-turvy marketplace sometimes scares executives into behaving like cash-hoarders. But organizations that compete on employee talent position themselves to outwit, outplay, and outlast their competition.

What ideas would you add to this list? Please add your comments.

(Editor’s Note: This post is republished from SwitchandShift, with permission)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Job Auditions: Secret to Successful Hires?

By Matt Mullenweg, Founder, Automattic.

Hiring potential employees on a trial basis can help you quickly discover things about them that you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks. Here’s how it works in our organization.

Automattic (the fuel behind WordPress.com) employs more than 225 people who live all over the world, in 190 different cities. Our headquarters office is in San Francisco, and it operates similar to a coworking space. Employees who live in the Bay Area can choose to work from that location if they wish. However, most of our employees choose to work from other sites.

For us, this arrangement makes sense — our business is based on open source software, which is a decentralized product. However, outsiders have been skeptical as we’ve moved forward with our distributed work model.

At the outset they said, “That works great when you have 10 or 15 employees, but when you reach a team of 30, it falls apart.” Eventually we passed 30 employees, and we started hearing that the magic number is 100. Then people said Dunbar’s number — 150 — would be the point at which it didn’t work. Yet we keep blowing past these thresholds. We hired more than 100 people in 2013.

What’s special about us? We don’t hire the way most companies do — both in our mindset and our actions.

Mindset: We Think Differently About Work

In many businesses, if someone shows up in the morning and he isn’t drunk, he doesn’t sleep at his desk and he’s dressed nicely, it’s assumed that he’s working. But none of that takes into account what he’s actually creating during the day — and that’s really what matters.

Many people create great things without having to follow established workplace norms. Our organization measures work based on outputs. I don’t care what hours you work. I don’t care if you sleep late, or if you pick a child up from school in the afternoon. It’s all about what you produce.

This arrangement isn’t for everyone. But a lot of people like the autonomy we offer, and that’s important. So we’ve arrived at an unorthodox hiring system that serves our needs perfectly.

Behavior: We Hire by Audition

Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract. They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 an hour, regardless of whether a job candidate wants to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.

During the trials, applicants perform actual work. If you’re applying to work in customer support, you’ll answer trouble tickets. If you’re an engineer, you’ll address engineering problems. If you’re a designer, you’ll design.

Seeing Is Believing

There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone — working with them day by day. It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews or reference checks.

At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone — it’s a mutual tryout. Some candidates decide we’re not the right fit for them. For others, the experience solidifies their commitment.

The Payoffs of Careful Hiring

Overall, we end up hiring about 40% of the people who try out with us. It’s a huge time commitment — coordinating the short-term work our applicants perform — but it leads to extremely low turnover. In the past eight years, only about 10 people have left the company, and we’ve let go of another 25 or 30. Those are great numbers in today’s work environment, so it’s a system we plan to keep utilizing.

Today, I spend at least a third of my time on hiring. And even though it’s a small part of our process, I still look at every resume the company receives, and I conduct the final interview with everyone who joins us.

It’s worth the effort. Nothing has the impact of putting the right people around the table. The aphorism is true: You can’t manage your way out of a bad team. We’ve done experiments to find the best way to hire based on our unique organizational structure. I encourage your business to do the same.

252691_10150856254811651_681132284_n(About the Author: Matt Mullenweg is the founder of Automattic, the company behind the open-source blogging platform, WordPress.com, as well as Akismet, Gravatar, VaultPress, IntenseDebate, Polldaddy and more. Additionally, Matt is a principal and founder of Audrey Capital, an investment and research company. Connect with him on Facebook or on Twitter.

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from a post at Brazen Life, with permission. It is based on a talk by the author at the December 2013 Lean Startup Conference. It originally appeared on Harvard Business Review. For more information, visit the Insight Center on Talent and the New World of Hiring. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credits: Wikipedia (feature) and Kevin Abosch (author)

Applicant Assessments: Testing The Waters

(Editor’s Note: We invite you to discuss candidate screening techniques in more detail with the entire TalentCulture community, this week at #TChat Events on Wednesday, February 19th. For details, see the #TChat Preview post: Hiring Great Talent: How Do You Decide?)

Can you tell from a resume if an applicant has the skills needed to succeed in a job? How do you know if someone is really the right fit for your company?

If you’re unsure, perhaps pre-employment tests should be part of your evaluation process. Knowledge is power — and assessments can be a powerful addition to any hiring toolkit.

Evaluating Job Candidates: A Smart Strategy

Increasingly, organizations are relying on screening tests to improve their hiring and workforce development decisions. In fact, in a recent survey by Aberdeen Group, 49% of companies said they have an assessment strategy in place — up from only 40% in 2011.

Infographic - How to select assessments for employee screening

See Details: How To Choose Job Candidate Testing Tools

Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton Staffing, explains that, with the correct type of test, employers can evaluate candidates effectively across multiple dimensions, including job skills, professional  knowledge and cultural fit. It’s even possible to make behavioral predictions and gain insight into core values.

“Properly constructed assessments look below the surface information presented by applicants to systematically predict which one will be the best hire for a position,” explains Dr. Charles Hanler, president of Rocket-Hire, a consultancy that helps improve organizational hiring practices. He compares the resume review and interview process to the tip of an iceberg. The bulk of an iceberg is what remains below the surface — what you can’t see and touch.

Choosing Applicant Assessments

It’s essential to choose the right type of assessment for your goals. Tests can produce a mind-numbing array of candidate metrics — personality, cognitive abilities, professional knowledge, work skills, physical and motor abilities, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, drug use and even values like integrity. Yet, when evaluations are properly applied, employers can more quickly and confidently identify candidates who are best qualified for open positions and most likely to succeed in the organization.

As the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology explains, there are pros and cons to each of the many types of employment assessments. But before deciding how you’ll test candidates, it’s important to determine what kind of information matters most to you. Tests vary according to their mode of administration (web-based tools vs. paper and pencil), content focus (interpersonal skills, mathematical ability), level of standardization or structure, costs, administrative ease, and other factors.

Although there can be significant benefits from using tests in the employee selection process, there are also multiple issues to consider. In particular:

• Validity  Does the test actually measure the characteristic it is designed to measure? For example, does it actually predict future job performance or success?

• Reliability How consistently does a test measure the target characteristic? If an assessment tool isn’t highly reliable, it will be of little value in predicting a candidate’s future job performance. As with validity, a test’s reliability should be verified before it is administered.

• Legality Because employment tests are periodically challenged in court, employers must make sure assessments do not violate federal, state, or local EEO laws, including Title VII.

TYPES OF CANDIDATE TESTS

Assessment Centers Often used to assess interpersonal skills, communication skills, planning/organizing and analytical skills. Typically involves exercises that reflect job content and types of problems faced on the job.
Biographical Data Uses questions about education, training, work experience and interests to predict success on the job. 
Cognitive Ability Tests Assesses aptitude or potential to solve job-related problems by focusing on mental abilities such as verbal or mathematical reasoning, or perceptual abilities like speed in recognizing letters of the alphabet.  
Integrity Tests Assesses attitudes and experiences related to honesty, dependability, trustworthiness, reliability and pro-social behavior. 
Interviews The most common type of employment test. Typically assesses interpersonal skills, communication skills and teamwork skills, and can be used to assess job knowledge.
Job Knowledge Tests Typically uses multiple choice questions or essays to evaluate technical or professional expertise and knowledge required on the job.
Personality Tests Measures traits related to behavior at work, interpersonal interactions, and satisfaction with different aspects of work. 
Physical Ability Tests Uses tasks or exercises that determine ability to perform. Measures physical attributes and capabilities, such as strength, balance and speed.
Work Samples and Simulations Measures specific job skills or job knowledge, but can also assess general skills such as organizational, analytic and interpersonal skills.

How Do You Evaluate Job Applicants?

Do you use pre-employment tests to screen applicants before they’re hired? Has this been effective for your organization? How does this help or hinder your company’s candidate experience? Share your experience in the comment area.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Soul Search — Then Job Search

Written by career consultant, Maggie Mistal

Most of us assume that the best way to find a job is to look at what’s available in online listings, or to follow someone else’s advice. However, these methods often lead to unfulfilling career choices.

You only need to look at the latest job satisfaction surveys to recognize how unfulfilled most workers feel. For seven straight years, The Conference Board has reported that less than half of U.S. workers are satisfied in their careers. So what can you do to find job satisfaction and fulfillment while still making a great living?

Uncover Your Core Genius

“Core genius” is the special contribution that each of us brings to our professional life. It’s what you are in this world to do that only you can do. It’s the unique package of skills, experiences, passions, interests, talents, abilities and attitude that you possess.

Take my client Laura Rolands. Laura was a hard-working Human Resources executive at Chrysler. She’s also a mom. When Laura’s son was diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), she got to work and investigated how to best help him with attention strategies at school and in life. Through this experience and through our career coaching work together, Laura realized she had a talent and an interest in helping people with attention issues.

It led Laura to start an attention coaching business shortly after accepting a voluntary buy-out from her position in the automotive industry. Her business is in a relatively new field, focused on coaching people to overcome challenges associate with ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Actually, you don’t need a diagnosis to benefit — anyone who feels overwhelmed or distracted in today’s hyper-connected environment will find value in Laura’s services. Her clients have developed time-saving personal routines, and have improved their academic and business performance.

The Path to a Successful Career Fit

In 10 years of coaching, I have seen that we are each uniquely built to fulfill a specific purpose. And I am proud to have many success stories such as Laura Rolands. However, too often people take their unique talents for granted. In fact, the real challenge is that most people have no idea what their purpose is. That is where I help.

I believe the best way to find your purpose — your core genius — is to conduct a formal Soul Search, and get specific about all the elements of your ideal career. It starts with helping clients assess themselves in 8 essential dimensions, as part of the “Soul Search, Research and Job Search” process I developed.

These elements include: 1) your top interests, 2) key motivators, 3) skills you want to employ, 4) ways you want to contribute, 5) best qualities, 6) best work environment, 7) activities you enjoy most, and 8) salary and benefits.

Soul Search Before Job Search

By working through exercises and self-reflection questions, we prioritize what’s most important and brainstorm career possibilities that match those elements. You can gain even deeper clarity with my downloadable (PDF) Soul Search workbook.

This workbook contains over 30 pages of exercises to help professionals uncover the eight core elements of your core genius. The insights developed from each exercise are designed to correspond with a section of your own personalized career guide. This helps you easily organize and interpret the information as the basis for brainstorming new career possibilities and making sound decisions about the best options for you.

So stop looking at want ads and instead start talking to anyone and everyone about the ways you are already of service. Carefully process all of that input, and you’ll see viable new options ahead. Take seriously the value you bring to the table, and (like Laura Rolands) believe that you can get paid to deliver it. Let others know about the high-value service you are prepared to provide. Then deliver it consistently and professionally. Soon, you’ll find you have more than enough work in your new role — and you’ll be making a living while loving what you do.

Have You Discovered Your Core Genius?

Are you in touch with your core career strengths? What steps did you take to gain that awareness? And how have you applied it to your career? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

Maggie Mistal(About the Author: CNN dubbed Maggie Mistal “one of the nation’s best-known career coaches.” A former Learning & Development executive at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she is a certified life purpose and career coach who, for seven years, hosted “Making a Living with Maggie” on SiriusXM, and now airs a monthly podcast on iTunes. Maggie has been featured across major media, including NBC’s Today Show, Fox Business, CNN and The New York Times. Connect with Maggie on Twitter, or LinkedIn or Facebook.)

(Editor’s Note: For a limited time, in conjunction with her February 2014 appearance at #TChat Events, Maggie is offering special pricing for her “Soul Search” career planning workbook to anyone who mentions #TChat when contacting her. Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh perspective on your core genius!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Managing Your Career: What Would Richard Branson Do?

Written by James Clear

In 1966, a dyslexic 16-year-old boy dropped out of school. With only a tiny bit of seed money and a friend’s help, he founded a magazine for students. Fueled by advertisements he sold to local businesses, he ran this bootstrapped operation from the crypt of a local church.

Four years later, seeking ways to grow the fledgling magazine, this enterprising young man started selling mail-order records to his student subscriber base. Within a year, record sales were sufficient to help him build his first record store. After two years of selling records, he decided to launch his own record label and studio.

The small recording studio rented space to local artists, including one named Mike Oldfield. This was where Oldfield created his hit song “Tubular Bells,” which became the record label’s first release. The song eventually sold more than 5 million copies.

Over the next decade, the fearless entrepreneur grew his record label by attracting bands like Culture Club, Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones. Along the way, he continued adding businesses to his portfolio — an airline, railway, mobile phones, on and on. Almost 50 years later, his conglomerate included more than 400 companies.

That young boy who left school behind but kept starting things despite his inexperience and lack of knowledge is now a world-renown billionaire — Sir Richard Branson.

How I Met Sir Richard Branson

When I walked into the Moscow conference room, Branson was sitting in a chair only 10 feet away. A hundred other people surrounded us, but it felt like we were having a private conversation in my living room. He smiled and laughed frequently. His answers seemed unrehearsed and genuine.

At one point, he told the story of how he started Virgin Airlines, a tale that seems to represent his entire approach to business and life. Here’s what he said, as I best recall:

I was in my late 20s, so I had a business, but nobody knew who I was. I was headed to the Virgin Islands and a very pretty girl was waiting for me, so I was, um, determined to get there on time. At the airport, the final flight to the Virgin Islands was cancelled because of maintenance or something. It was the last flight out that night. I thought, “this is ridiculous,” so I went and chartered a private airplane to take me to the Virgin Islands, which I did not have the money to do. Then, I picked up a small blackboard, wrote “Virgin Airlines: $29” on it, and went over to the group of people who had been waiting for the cancelled flight. I sold tickets for the rest of the seats on the plane, used their money to pay for the charter fee, and we all went to the Virgin Islands that night.

Successful People: What Habits Make a Difference?

After speaking with our group, Branson joined a panel of industry experts to discuss the future of business. As everyone around him filled the air with buzzwords and mapped out complex ideas for our future, Branson said things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it,” closely followed by things like, “Why can’t we mine asteroids?”

As I watched the panel, I realized the one person who sounded the most simplistic is the only one who is also a billionaire. So what sets him apart from the rest?

Here’s what I think makes all the difference:

Branson doesn’t merely say things like, “Screw it, just get on and do it.” He actually lives his life that way. He drops out of school and starts a business. He signs the Sex Pistols to his record label when everyone else says they’re too controversial. He charters a plane when he doesn’t have the money.

When everyone else balks or comes up with rational reasons why the time isn’t right to move forward, Branson gets started. He figures out how to stop procrastinating and he takes the first step forward — even if it seems outlandish.

Start Now — Even If You Don’t Feel Ready

Of course, Branson is an extraordinary example, but we can all learn something from his approach. If I summarize the habits of successful people in just one phrase, it’s this — successful people start before they feel ready.

I can’t think of anyone who embodies that philosophy better than Branson. Even the Virgin empire name was chosen because Branson and his partners were business “virgins” when they launched the company.

Branson has spearheaded so many ventures, charities and expeditions throughout his career — it would have been impossible to prepare fully before launching them all. In fact, he was likely not prepared or qualified for any of them. He’s a perfect example of why the “chosen ones” choose themselves.

The Truth About Getting Started

If you’re working on something important, then you’ll never feel ready. A side effect of pursuing challenging work is that you’re simultaneously pulled by excitement and pushed by uncertainty.

When you begin a new endeavor, you’re bound to feel uncomfortable and perhaps even unqualified. But let me assure you — what you have right now is enough. You can plan, revise and delay all you want, but trust me, what you have now is enough to start. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to start a business, lose weight, write a book or re-energize a career. Who you are, what you have, and what you know right now is good enough to get going.

We all start in the same place — no money, no resources, no contacts, no experience. The difference is that some people choose to start anyway. And only those who start can reach the finish line.

So, what are you waiting for?

james-clear-circle-250(About the Author: James Clear is an entrepreneur who leverages behavior science to help you master your habits, improve your health and do better work. For useful ideas on improving your mental and physical performance, subscribe to his newsletter or download his 45-page guide on Transforming Your Habits. Connect with James on Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Kris Krug Flickr

Startup Leadership: Lessons From a Runner's World

Written by Adii Pienaar

Most of us with entrepreneurial drive have a similar passion for other pursuits. For me, it’s about long-distance running. For example, in a recent month I ran 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), including a half-marathon.

That’s a lot of time on the road — just me, some music, the sound of my (sometimes ragged) breathing, and most importantly, my thoughts.

Lately, I’ve used some of that time to think about the similarity between my progress as runner and how to apply that mindset in running a company. What did I conclude? Here six suggestions based on my experience:

1) Work only when you’re productive and focused

I used to motivate myself in a very threatening, reactive way. I would decide to run a half-marathon, and then “demand” (of myself) to run specific distances in specific times. Regardless or how I felt, I was “forced” to comply with those requirements.

Recently, I decided I wasn’t going to set a rigid, arbitrary goal of running in a specific half-marathon. Instead, I decided to run just because I love it.

Sometimes at the start of a run, I can feel that my body isn’t responding, or I’m just not in the right mental space. On those days, I cut the run short and go home. On the flip side, sometimes I plan to run 5km but end up running 10km instead, because I feel good. That’s double the return for “doubling down” on that good feeling.

Entrepreneurs are guilty of this. We force ourselves to work, even when we’re not being productive. Stop. Get up. Do something else that’s unrelated to work. But when you discover you are in the zone, double down and you’ll achieve much more, instead.

2) Avoid burnout

Earlier this year, I got greedy and, for about a week, I pushed myself too hard, aggravating an injury. Instead of just stopping, I kept pushing. The result was that I developed a severe case of shin splints that kept me out of running for two full months.

As entrepreneurs, we know how to push (hard), and we know how to use adrenaline to fuel us. However, burnout is a very real threat and should not be dismissed lightly. The problem with injury or burnout isn’t the pain; it’s the frustration. Once you’ve injured yourself, there are no more shortcuts. You have to do the time.

So don’t give burnout a chance to stop you in your tracks. Try getting eight hours of sleep a day. Eat nutritious foods. Exercise regularly and immerse yourself in non-work activities, too. All of this will help strengthen your entrepreneurial fitness, so you’ll have a consistently high level of ambition and drive.

3) Reward yourself

When I eventually recovered, I decided to get a weekly sports massage to help prevent shin splints from recurring. Although these treatments began as preventive work for my muscles, the pampering began to feel more like a reward. I loved this downtime, and it became a motivating factor for me to run even more.

The same is true with work. For me personally, money isn’t enough motivation to work harder or do more. But rewarding myself with experiences does work. On the expensive end of the scale, that translates into traveling as much as I can. But on a more regular basis, I reward myself with a bottle of fantastic red wine.

The key is to connect the dots between the work and the experience, knowing both need to be present to make that connection.

4) Nurture consistency

Running every-other day has become a routine for me. This consistency is one of the primary drivers behind my ability to run 120km in a month. Running has become a habit.

I’ve seen the same scenario with my inbox. All of us get a boatload of email, and it’s probably the number one complaint of busy people. But when I’m disciplined and consistently keep my inbox neat and clean, I avoid the problem. As soon as I lose that consistency, it becomes a mess.

As an entrepreneur, these habits are key to helping you get stuff done, stay focused on what matters, and keep moving forward. Consistency is your friend.

5) Shed excess weight

Running with excess weight is hard work. Now, I’m not obese, but you probably won’t see me on the cover of GQ, either. So about six weeks ago, I started the Paleo diet, and I’ve since decreased my body fat 5%. It makes running a lot easier.

In business and in work, excess weight can take many different shapes and forms. I used to take responsibility for things that either I didn’t need to do myself or weren’t important. I was really bad at prioritizing my time. Now I focus on the most important things every day. I get more done, and I am happier.

Shed the excess weight on your to do list. I guarantee that, afterwards, you’ll run easier.

6) Run your own race

While running my last race, I realized we’re always competing. We’re always measuring ourselves against other entrepreneurs and their companies. We read about how they do things, how they manage to be successful and how we should be applying all of those things to our own lives.

In fact, you’re doing that right now, but reading this post.

But this is your life. In every race, you can only run against yourself, and try to improve on your personal best. What the other runners (or business leaders) are doing shouldn’t influence the way you run your own race.

Do things for yourself — and rely upon your own instincts, for a more satisfying outcome. Be a little selfish every now and again, and remember to invest in yourself.

What are your thoughts? How can leaders apply athletic training principles to run their companies more effectively?

ce07b0f37a0fc570882f6337d7258d9f(About the Author: Adii Pienaar is the ex-CEO and Founder of WooThemes. He has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs, making new mistakes (of his own) and, as such, is working on his new startup, PublicBeta. He is also a new dad, ex-rockstar and wannabe angel investor.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life via The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Neerav Bhatt via Flickr

Startup Leadership: Lessons From a Runner’s World

Written by Adii Pienaar

Most of us with entrepreneurial drive have a similar passion for other pursuits. For me, it’s about long-distance running. For example, in a recent month I ran 120 kilometers (about 75 miles), including a half-marathon.

That’s a lot of time on the road — just me, some music, the sound of my (sometimes ragged) breathing, and most importantly, my thoughts.

Lately, I’ve used some of that time to think about the similarity between my progress as runner and how to apply that mindset in running a company. What did I conclude? Here six suggestions based on my experience:

1) Work only when you’re productive and focused

I used to motivate myself in a very threatening, reactive way. I would decide to run a half-marathon, and then “demand” (of myself) to run specific distances in specific times. Regardless or how I felt, I was “forced” to comply with those requirements.

Recently, I decided I wasn’t going to set a rigid, arbitrary goal of running in a specific half-marathon. Instead, I decided to run just because I love it.

Sometimes at the start of a run, I can feel that my body isn’t responding, or I’m just not in the right mental space. On those days, I cut the run short and go home. On the flip side, sometimes I plan to run 5km but end up running 10km instead, because I feel good. That’s double the return for “doubling down” on that good feeling.

Entrepreneurs are guilty of this. We force ourselves to work, even when we’re not being productive. Stop. Get up. Do something else that’s unrelated to work. But when you discover you are in the zone, double down and you’ll achieve much more, instead.

2) Avoid burnout

Earlier this year, I got greedy and, for about a week, I pushed myself too hard, aggravating an injury. Instead of just stopping, I kept pushing. The result was that I developed a severe case of shin splints that kept me out of running for two full months.

As entrepreneurs, we know how to push (hard), and we know how to use adrenaline to fuel us. However, burnout is a very real threat and should not be dismissed lightly. The problem with injury or burnout isn’t the pain; it’s the frustration. Once you’ve injured yourself, there are no more shortcuts. You have to do the time.

So don’t give burnout a chance to stop you in your tracks. Try getting eight hours of sleep a day. Eat nutritious foods. Exercise regularly and immerse yourself in non-work activities, too. All of this will help strengthen your entrepreneurial fitness, so you’ll have a consistently high level of ambition and drive.

3) Reward yourself

When I eventually recovered, I decided to get a weekly sports massage to help prevent shin splints from recurring. Although these treatments began as preventive work for my muscles, the pampering began to feel more like a reward. I loved this downtime, and it became a motivating factor for me to run even more.

The same is true with work. For me personally, money isn’t enough motivation to work harder or do more. But rewarding myself with experiences does work. On the expensive end of the scale, that translates into traveling as much as I can. But on a more regular basis, I reward myself with a bottle of fantastic red wine.

The key is to connect the dots between the work and the experience, knowing both need to be present to make that connection.

4) Nurture consistency

Running every-other day has become a routine for me. This consistency is one of the primary drivers behind my ability to run 120km in a month. Running has become a habit.

I’ve seen the same scenario with my inbox. All of us get a boatload of email, and it’s probably the number one complaint of busy people. But when I’m disciplined and consistently keep my inbox neat and clean, I avoid the problem. As soon as I lose that consistency, it becomes a mess.

As an entrepreneur, these habits are key to helping you get stuff done, stay focused on what matters, and keep moving forward. Consistency is your friend.

5) Shed excess weight

Running with excess weight is hard work. Now, I’m not obese, but you probably won’t see me on the cover of GQ, either. So about six weeks ago, I started the Paleo diet, and I’ve since decreased my body fat 5%. It makes running a lot easier.

In business and in work, excess weight can take many different shapes and forms. I used to take responsibility for things that either I didn’t need to do myself or weren’t important. I was really bad at prioritizing my time. Now I focus on the most important things every day. I get more done, and I am happier.

Shed the excess weight on your to do list. I guarantee that, afterwards, you’ll run easier.

6) Run your own race

While running my last race, I realized we’re always competing. We’re always measuring ourselves against other entrepreneurs and their companies. We read about how they do things, how they manage to be successful and how we should be applying all of those things to our own lives.

In fact, you’re doing that right now, but reading this post.

But this is your life. In every race, you can only run against yourself, and try to improve on your personal best. What the other runners (or business leaders) are doing shouldn’t influence the way you run your own race.

Do things for yourself — and rely upon your own instincts, for a more satisfying outcome. Be a little selfish every now and again, and remember to invest in yourself.

What are your thoughts? How can leaders apply athletic training principles to run their companies more effectively?

ce07b0f37a0fc570882f6337d7258d9f(About the Author: Adii Pienaar is the ex-CEO and Founder of WooThemes. He has a passion for helping other entrepreneurs, making new mistakes (of his own) and, as such, is working on his new startup, PublicBeta. He is also a new dad, ex-rockstar and wannabe angel investor.)

(Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Brazen Life via The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Neerav Bhatt via Flickr

Gut Check: Leadership and Emotion #TChat Recap

We’ve all worked with them. Brilliant intellectuals who hold managerial titles — yet they struggle to form and sustain effective professional relationships.

They lack self-awareness, and seem even more clueless about how to deal with others. As leaders, they may be tolerated, ignored or even undermined. Despite their impressive credentials, they’re like fish out of water in the workplace.

These leaders desperately need an emotional Intelligence intervention. A gut check. Fortunately, talent development specialists agree that essential “soft skills” can be learned — although the process may be hard.

That’s the topic we tackled this week at #TChat Events with guest, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.” As one of the nation’s premier experts in emotional intelligence, leadership and personal transformation, Steve helped us explore the connection between EI and the ability to influence others.

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

Defining Emotional Intelligence: What’s Inside?

At its core, emotional intelligence (EI) is about our ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Almost a decade ago, psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman, defined the 5 core components of emotional intelligence:

1) Self-awareness: Deep understanding of their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest — with themselves and others.

2) Self-regulation: Like an ongoing inner conversation, this frees people from becoming prisoners of their feelings. Self-regulators feel bad moods and emotional impulses, just as everyone does, but they’re able to control and even channel those responses in useful ways.

3) Motivation: Virtually all effective leaders display this trait. They’re driven to achieve beyond expectations — their own and everyone else’s. The key word here is achieve.

4) Empathy: This is the most easily recognized aspect of EI. We’ve all felt the empathy of a sensitive teacher or friend; we’ve all been struck by its absence in a stoic coach or boss. But in business, people are rarely praised, let alone rewarded, for their empathy.

5) Social Skill: As a dimension of EI, this is not as simple as it sounds. It’s not just friendliness — although people with high social skill are rarely mean-spirited. Rather, social skill is friendliness with a purpose. It’s about moving people in a desired direction, whether that’s agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.

Emotional Intelligence: Leadership Secret Sauce?

Why is EI so vital? Today’s business environment is increasingly collaborative and team-oriented. To succeed in almost any mission, leaders must inspire and influence others. That’s where EI skills make all the difference. For better or worse, every interaction we have in the workplace has an impact on emotions, attitudes and motivation within us and within others. High-performing leaders understand this, and use it wisely.

What did our community have to say about this topic? Check out the resource links and highlights from this week’s #TChat conversation, below. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and opinions! Your experiences make concepts like EI more meaningful for us all.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Emotions, Leadership and Influence

SAT 12/14:

Steve Gutzler (2)

Watch the Preview hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post and “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Steve Gutzler. Read the Preview: “Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out.

SUN 12/15:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested ways that leaders can up their EI skills to help the talent in their organizations shine. Read: “Leadership Is About Emotion.”

MON 12/16 — WED 12/18:

Related Post:Psst! Leaders, Are You Really Listening?
Related Post:Managerial Magnets: Becoming a Leader Others Want to Follow

WED 12/18:

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Listen now to the #TChat Radio replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Listen to the Radio replay now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as I moderated an open, crowdsourcing conversation focused on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Leadership, Emotion and Influence

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Steve Gutzler for sharing your perspectives on emotional intelligence and leadership success. We value your time, your passion and your expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how leaders can be more successful by developing emotional intelligence? We welcome 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: Happy #TChatHoliday!

Our weekly #TChat Events are on hiatus until the New Year — mark your calendar for January 8th. We’re preparing to start 2014 strong, with a full month of forward-looking #TChat guests and topics that you won’t want to miss!

Meanwhile, the lights are always on here at TalentCulture, where we’ll continue to post relevant “world of work” content over the holiday. And as always, the conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. and elsewhere on social media.

So make merry, enjoy this festive time of year, and we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

What Do Interns Really Want? [Infographic]

Developing an extraordinary internship program can be a long and winding journey. You’ll face plenty of bumps in the road, and perhaps lots of trial and error. And as we’ve seen in the news recently, you may even discover some controversy.

But overall, internships can be very beneficial for organizations — not just because enthusiastic young workers are contributing to your business goals. Internship programs can also open the door to a more diverse workforce, help add fresh perspectives to your brand, attract other young talent to your organization, and more.

Of course, employers aren’t the only ones who benefit. Although the state of the internship has shifted over time, its overarching goal remains the same — students and recent grads should gain something educational from their work experience. So, what do today’s interns really want to accomplish, and what else should employers know about them?

The following infographic, based on student employment data from InternMatch, offers insights to help employers map out a more effective internship program. Here are some highlights:

•  38% of interns want better pay
•  30% want opportunities to perform meaningful work
•  47% are interested in access to executives and mentorship
•  California, New York, and Florida are three of the top states for finding college talent

Do any of these statistics surprise you? Check out the full infographic below, and share your thoughts in the comments area.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced these trends — as an intern or as an employer?

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

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?

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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!

1+ Million Ways to Bridge the Skills Gap #TChat Recap

Many Paths Can Lead to Change

Wow, where to begin?  The #TChat Twitter stream blazed last night as the TalentCulture community brainstormed about how business organizations can help create future leaders. Paging all professionals — our students need your help!

Learning advocate and writer, Angela Maiers, moderated a passionate conversation focused on students’ need for opportunities to solve real-world problems, and mentors to guide them. She introduced us to the Quest2Matter, which challenges every student in three essential ways:

  • To accept that they matter
  • To accelerate the message that everyone matters, and
  • To act on a problem that breaks their heart.

As Angela explained in a recent Huffington Post column:

“Students are willing to not only be the change we need; they are willing to lead the change. They are not asking for permission. They are asking for respect. They want to express their passions in meaningful ways. They want to show the world that in spite of their years, they are a force to reckon with.”

Choose2MatterOur community is partnering with Angela’s organization, Choose2Matter in this important venture. By offering encouragement and expertise, business professionals can support students who are ready to solve problems that they define and “own.” Investing in our young people is an easy win for business organizations, because it develops skills that lead to a more employable work force.

There are many ways to make a difference in the future of enthusiastic students. Mentoring through Choose2Matter gives us an opportunity to do more than talk about the potential pathways. It gives us an opportunity to put our community’s innovative ideas into practice — with real-world impact.

Stay tuned for more information from Angela, as the initiative moves forward. But why wait? Reach out to Choose2Matter today, and let us know where your life as a mentor leads you!

#TChat Week-in-Review

SAT 5/4

AngelaLg

Watch our sneak peek interview with Angela Maiers

This week’s guest, Angela Maiers, framed the week’s events in a special blog post, “Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters.”

SUN 5/5

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, suggested “5 Ways to Build a Future Leader” in her weekly Forbes column.

MON 5/6

#TChat Preview: Our community manager, Tim McDonald, posted a special “sneak peek” video interview with Angela, and outlined the week’s theme and key questions in a preview post: “Business Case for Mentoring.”

TUE 5/7

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Listen to the #TChat Radio recording

#TChat Radio: Our hosts spoke live with Angela and her Choose2Matter partner, Mark Moran about workforce readiness issues, and the potential for mentoring to make a positive impact.

WED 5/8

Partnership Post: Meghan explained why partnering with Choose2Matter makes sense for TalentCulture, and invited community members to join this mentoring movement. Read “Did You Learn Today? Pass It On.”

#TChat Twitter: Angela and Mark returned to lead the community in a real-time discussion of skills gap issues, and suggested solutions. The feed lit-up with great ideas throughout the hour. But perhaps the most important takeaway was this:

Exactly! Are you inspired? See more highlights in the slideshow and call-outs below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “The Business Case for Mentoring”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-business-case-for-mentoring.js?template=slideshow”]

 

Looking for a quick peek at Qs & As? Here’s a snapshot:

Why do you think education is falling short in the US? Or do you?

“Strong focus on standardization & grades. Not a lot of focus on learning in several ways.” @VizwerxGroup

“We need to teach kids how to think, not what to remember.” @heatherbussing

What can employers do to improve the readiness disparity (expectation vs reality)?

“Hire for culture, train & then trust.” @zacharyjeans

School-Business Partnerships Resources (shared by Jerry Blumengarten ‏@cybraryman1)

How can mentoring help make the unemployable employable again?

‏”Mentoring someone shows that you care + respect that person. That respect alone can change people” @PhilKomarny

“Skill building. Every day youre unemployed, your skills depreciate. Its important to keep them fresh.” @AshLaurenPerez

How can business leaders help bridge the skills gap and create jobs?

‏”Business leaders can share their stories w/o telling others the solutions. It’s reciprocal > Listen & learn” @AlliPolin

“Internships a must at university level & start earlier than that. Teaching at all levels can include more biz concepts.” @wmchamberlain

What technologies will help enable education-rich organizations?

“Use technology to innovate, creat,collaborate, share and engage to make a difference in bridging the skill gaps” @sonaleearvind

“Tech gives even the quietest person a voice to be heard globally.” @cybraryman1

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Angela Maiers and Mark Moran for sharing perspectives on why and how mentoring can bridge the skills gap. Your enthusiasm is infectious!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about mentoring or related 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, we have a very special topic in the works! Look for a preview post this weekend.

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!

(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Angela’s point of view, read her TalentCulture blog post, “Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters. Or listen to her December 2012 appearance on #TChat Radio “Back to the Future” Edition — when she discussed key trends in talent acquisition and development.)

 

Did You Learn Today? Pass It On

“To teach is to learn twice.”  –J. Joubert

I love my work. But there are challenges (understatement). Keeping pace with 21st-century talent and technology trends means commitment to a perpetual learning curve.

The “human side” of business is now a vast and fluid domain. It’s a melting pot, churning in overdrive, with talent-recruitment-engagement-performance-management-HR-bigdata-leadership-development-socialmedia-and-career-skills all colliding and transforming at every turn. Each day brings more than anyone can absorb. We all feel it. This sensory overload is the new norm.

Learning as a Way of Life

I can’t stop learning (and couldn’t if I wanted to). My career demands nothing less. I just got back from an exciting HR conference in Philly where I met fascinating, bright, dedicated people, and discovered jaw-dropping, radically innovative tools. In a word, I learned.

To be honest, there is nothing in the world I love more than learning — anywhere, anytime. Exchanging ideas in any social environment is an experience that makes my pulse race. And these days, I often feel like I’m experiencing a non-stop adrenaline rush!

It’s exhilarating to see smart people rewriting rules (even at this moment). And although it’s often exhausting to be at the heart of a global learning community like TalentCulture, I also feel alive and engaged every day. I hope you feel that way, too — and that’s why you participate.

Learning as Leverage for Others

Along with the adrenaline highs, sometimes on this “world of work” odyssey, I’m exposed to alarming challenges. And as my friend Angela Maiers explains, one of the most alarming issues today is the increasing shortage of skilled talent. It’s a reality that the business world can no longer afford to ignore.

Simply put — we are not preparing students sufficiently for today’s economy — let alone for the future of work.

On one hand, this leaves behind millions of potential workforce contributors who are considered unemployable by most standards. On the other hand, companies are struggling to find qualified talent for unfilled positions. Adding insult to injury, companies have slashed recruiting and development budgets to the bone in recent years, while simultaneously increasing their expectations for finding capable talent. This is not a recipe for success.

We Can Matter — As Mentors

AngelaLg

See the #TChat Preview & sneak-peek video

Something must change. I know that TalentCulture community understands this.

The good news is that each of us is equipped to lead the way — with whatever time, knowledge and skills we have available. Even more good news — there are ready-made ways to “pay-it-forward” as mentors. And one of those ways is through Angela Maiers’ bold educational initiative, Choose2Matter.

Angela isn’t waiting for government or big business or educational institutions to fix the problem. Instead, she’s using her brains, her passion and her professional network to unleash a tiny movement that can make a lasting difference in the future of every student that Choose2Matter touches.

This fearless approach to “future-proofing” our nation is why Choose2Matter’s leaders are joining us this week on #TChat Radio, and on our #TChat Twitter Chat (see the preview: “Business Case for Mentoring”). And it’s why TalentCulture is committed to support Choose2Matter, going forward.

Together we can bridge the skills gap, one student at a time. All it takes is enthusiasm, business experience, and a commitment of your time to help students work productively toward their dreams.

The goal is to encourage the genius in every child. The kids are ready. So let’s give these amazing dreamers the support they need to achieve to their fullest potential. As a talent development champion, I’m in. Why not join me?

(Editor’s Note: To learn more about Angela’s point of view, read her TalentCulture blog post, “Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters. Or listen to her appearance on the #TChat Radio Show: “Choose to Bridge the Skills Gap.”)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Creating Future Leaders: A Mission That Matters

(Editor’s Note: We’re thrilled that Angela Maiers was our guest this week at #TChat forums. She’s a passionate, highly visible education advocate who helps create life-changing learning experiences for today’s youth. We invited her to share some thoughts about her mission — creating better ways to prepare students for success in tomorrow’s world of work. To see an inspiring video interview with Angela, see “The Business Case for Mentoring #TChat Preview.” OR for a full recap of the week, see “1 Million+ Ways to Bridge the Skills Gap.”)

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”  Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

The world is changing at an ever-accelerating rate. This has been the case at least since the invention of the personal computer in the 1980s, and became ever more so with the introduction of the commercial Internet in 1993.

In light of this drastic change in the workforce, how much has the US education system changed? Let me assure you of this: if you are under the age of 65 and if you returned to high school today, you’d feel right at home. Does that surprise you?

Educational Standards: A Reality Check

The “world and workforce” standards to which every school in our nation subscribes are not standards that the business community sets. They are standards “our community” — educators — are comfortable with. We can handle critical thinking, good communication skills, impeccable grammar and computation.

But schools do not encourage students to become bold thinkers, dreamers and doers.

Sure, schools have computer labs and some of them even have a computing device for every student. But instruction has changed very little. Indeed, with the never-ending growth of standardized assessment tests, US schools have become narrowly focused on teaching students how to fill-in the proper bubble on a multiple-choice, standardized exam.

Did you see any transferable work or life skills in the above paragraph?

Opportunity Cost: Priceless

Jack Welch may have it exactly right. While some pundits are forecasting a “revolution” in public education, most observers see these words as totally incongruous. Sure, public schools will continue to exist — at least (as educational consultant Peter Pappas writes) until parents find somewhere else to send their kids all day. But school is quickly becoming largely irrelevant to a student’s learning experience.

Every second that a child is “being educated” without insight, experience and real-life support from accomplished adults is a wasted opportunity to maximize their education — and their potential contribution to the world.

Mentoring Can Make All the Difference

Into this breach comes Choose2Matter and the TalentCulture World of Work Community.

Choose2Matter recently launched the Quest2Matter, which challenges every student in three essential ways:

  1. To accept that they matter
  2. To accelerate the message that everyone matters, and
  3. To act on a problem that breaks their heart.

Students have boundless energy and enthusiasm for taking action. What they lack is real-world savvy and the ability to find authoritative and comprehensive information on how to tackle a problem.

Where do they find this insight? Enter the TalentCulture World of Work Community.

Choose2MatterThese future world-changers can and will do incredible things. Members of the TalentCulture community can greatly enhance the students’ contribution by serving as mentors to these amazing young people.

As they work on selecting, curating, and moving forward the top world-changing ideas, TalentCulture members will be guiding them every step of the way.

Merely by knowing that accomplished professionals take their ideas seriously will profoundly impact the seriousness with which students approach their contributions.  For mentors from TalentCulture, this is an unparalleled opportunity to provide real-time, real-life leadership to budding leaders of the world. This will help redefine what the TalentCulture community stands for, and will establish a paradigm of professional and student mentorship for the entire world to follow.

As one talent-minded professional to another, I hope you’ll consider offering your expertise and enthusiasm to help shape the future of tomorrow’s leaders. Looking forward to discussing the Choose2Matter mission in more depth in #TChat forums this week — and I’m excited to collaborate with the TalentCulture community, going forward!

 Image Credit: Pixabay

Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap

Why in the world of work would anyone sit online for an hour and share serious answers to a list of questions – along with random bits of wit and wisdom that come to mind?

No, I’m not talking about watching “Game of Thrones” and tweeting with my friends. I’m talking about our chat — #TChat — the weekly Twitter chat where TalentCulture community members come together to talk about today’s “world of work.”

Learning Together: A Surprise Inside

No subject is off limits, except maybe “Game of Thrones” (which, by the way, trended lower than #TChat on Twitter last night). No offense to that show, or to this week’s historic #MarriageEquality trend line (which also was less active than #TChat during our session last night). In fact, we’re honored to trend with both of these popular topics.

But I digress. Once again, I ask, why would anyone devote an hour each week to a Twitter chat like ours? I remember asking myself that question when we launched #TChat over two-and-a-half years ago. I never thought it would last a month. I love telling that story because, well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Collective Knowledge: Sharing Adds Value

This week, the TalentCulture community dug deep into the concept of “learning.” In particular, we’ve been exploring social learning — that amorphous, organic, continuous, “knowledge sharing” activity that was originally ignited in the Garden of Eden. (“Adam, would you like a bite of this juicy apple?”) Or if you prefer, that point in human evolution when our frontal lobes sparked cognitive thought, we began hunting for information, exchanging it with others, and making decisions on behalf of ourselves and those in our social circles.

Social learning can be as simple as a single moment: an incremental yet transformative interaction where one person shares a piece of information that another receives, absorbs, adopts and applies in a new context that propels him or her forward. This process of information exchange, reinforcement and transformation lights up pleasure centers in the brain, as ideas pass from one person to another in an “additive” way. With each hand-off, information evolves, and is modified by the next person who absorbs, adopts and applies…

Layers of Learning That Live On

And so it goes. This is the beauty of social learning. And this is why I participate in #TChat forums.

It is why I’ve found value in showing up nearly every week for over two-and-a-half years. Participants offer ideas that continue to build on one another. As I step back and look at this community’s body of work it’s similar to the formation of rock over a geological span of time.

We can dig through #TChat archives and see the layers of growth and progress. We can see how continuous interaction has created a context that helps our community evolve – absorbing the bad with the good, and establishing more useful understanding as we move forward. It’s a community where a better world of work emerges every week from the layers below — generating a new level of wonder and wisdom.

The beauty astounds.

#TChat “Social Learning” Week-in-Review

MichaelClark

Watch the sneak peek interview with Michael Clark

To dig deeply into organizational learning and talent development issues this week, we joined forces with two brilliant experts: Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, and Justin Mass, Sr. Manager of Learning Technology & Design at Adobe. The richness of their contributions added tremendous value throughout the week.

We invite you to revisit insights on this topic anytime! Just follow the links below…

SAT 3/23  “Sneak Peek” Video: ReCenter’s Michael Clark kicked-off the week by defining key terms with our community manager, Tim McDonald.

SUN 3/24  TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro, outlined 5 ways that professionals can leverage learning in her column at Forbes.com.

MON 3/25  #TChat Weekly Preview “Igniting Social Learning” laid out the week’s premise and questions.

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Listen to the recorded #TChat Radio show

TUE 3/26  #TChat Radio: “The Social Learning Show.” Our hosts joined forces with organizational development experts, Michael Clark, and Justin Mass, to examine social learning innovation and its role in optimizing talent in today’s workplace. It’s a fascinating 30-minute session for anyone interested in improving professional and organizational performance through learning.

WED 3/27  #TChat TwitterJustin and Michael gathered around the Twitter stream with hundreds of other participants to expand and amplify key issues in workforce learning and development. See highlights from the conversation in the slideshow below…

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: Igniting Social Learning

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

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: We extend our gratitude to Michael Clark, and Justin Mass for leading our community through the social learning discovery path this week. Your expertise in learning tools and techniques is inspiring and invaluable.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about social learning and talent development? 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, we move to yet another level of talent discovery, as we explore the notion of “Humans as a Service (HaaS), with Jason Averbook, Chief Business Innovation Officer at Appirio, and Richie Etwaru, Group Vice President of Cloud and Digital Innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management.

Until then, we’ll continue to tackle World of Work conversation 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 this redesigned blog/community website. TalentCulture is always open and the lights are always on.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Stock.xchnge

 

Developing Talent in a Social Business World

(Editorial Note: This is post 1 of 2)

Now more than ever, talent development is a life-long process, transcending education, career, technology and social media. It cuts to the core of why we’re here and what it means to be human.

We are here to become more — to maximize the development of our talent by improving performance in every aspect of living. And, we are here to guide and support others in doing the same.

Consider the countless number of hard and soft skills it takes to navigate a single day of living in the 21st century. We’re swimming in a contextual field of opportunities, challenges, goals and choices!

Social Business: What’s New?

Business has always been a social endeavor. Despite relentless change — including the recent arrival of revolutionary social media tools — many of the essential skills for business success have remained the same throughout history. No mystery there. Business is and will always be about creating and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships.

So what’s changing at a revolutionary level? According to “Social Era” author, Nilofer Merchant, the most successful businesses are adapting and integrating traditional relationship-building skills and processes into the digital landscape.

Professional Life and the New Social Norm

Of course, the implications of social business don’t stop at an organizational level. Work and personal life are merging, as workloads increase, and mobile technology and social platforms grow more prevalent. The traditional boundaries and walls that separated life roles are being erased. Social and mobile channels are morphing work-life balance into a work-life blend.

Our diverse roles are becoming synthesized into a single life style. We work, we play, and we live — engaging anywhere, anytime, with anyone we choose. Many people now live in a blurry space between “real” life and digital life, professional and personal, internal and external.

Filtering the Social Clutter

IBM estimates that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. What does that mean for social learning? We have too much information, not enough transformation. Despite extensive learning, education, training and development, people think, feel and react in the same ways over and over. Think about the volume of content you absorb on a daily basis. What percentage of that information actually helps you create a positive impact in your life, or the lives of others?

Here’s a tool to help cut through the fog and chaos of today’s deafening social noise. I call it the “social business contextual field.” This filter helps brings clarity and precision to individual and organizational goals, strategies, learning, development, communication and transformation. It is based on six core components.

Social Business Contextual Field

These six concepts represent all the complex relationships within social business. We can draw endless connections between words. For example, we think about how we feel. How we feel impacts how we think. Our thoughts and emotions largely determine our reactions and choices. We think about people, spaces and technology. We’re emotionally connected to people, spaces and technology. We physically engage with people spaces and technology.

Social business success hinges on learning how to develop and continuously improve connections, communication and collaboration among all aspects of the contextual field. Specifically, when individuals and organizations align, integrate and transform both sides of the contextual field, success follows.

Engagement-Performance Transformation

As I explained in a recent TalentCulture video, engagement-performance transformation is an essential social learning skill. It’s a  solution to seizing opportunities, overcoming challenges, boosting productivity, realizing goals and amplifying social business success.

In our work, we mash the two words “engagement” and “performance” into a single word, “engagement-performance.”

  • Engagement: The moment we recognize and seize opportunities to improve parts of the social business contextual field.
  • Performance: Everything that happens intellectually, emotionally and physically from the moment we engage, and as we move thorough the experience.

Engagement-performance transformation is above and behind all skill development. Consciously or unconsciously, we are engaging and performing every moment. Social talent development centers on transforming our capacity to engage-perform-produce more, better, faster, now — no matter what’s happening in or around us.

Three Steps for Engagement-Performance-Transformation

A culture of social learning, backed by engagement-performance transformation, does not happen by accident or good intentions. We must do three things to create and sustain engagement-performance transformation:

  • Take personal responsibility for transforming intellectual, emotional and physical engagement-performance.
  • Learn, practice and apply real-time power tool strategies for engagement-performance transformation in the midst of intense situations, persistent challenges and diverse people.
  • Proactively embrace the process of engagement-performance transformation, in self and others, from moment-to-moment, day-to-day, week-to-week, and year-to-year.

Editorial Note: This is Part 1 in a series by Michael Clark. Part 2 will be published soon. Sign-up for TalentCulture.com email updates or via RSS feed, to follow Michael’s posts.

Image credit: Stock.xchng

Social Learning in Business: Sneak Peek

(Editorial Note: For the full preview of this week’s topic, read “Igniting Social Learning.” Or to see the weekly recap, read Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap)

Engagement performance. It’s a key to learning in today’s world of work. But exactly what is it, and how can we leverage this concept to achieve desired business results?

As Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, suggests in this video, it starts by aligning engagement with business goals, and applying social tools that help us perform more effectively.

Michael views “engagement performance” almost as one word – performance is everything that happens after the moment we decide to engage. And in today’s social workplace, it means that individuals and organizations can transform the way they conduct business in profound ways.

During the coming weeks, TalentCulture will explore this concept and offer opportunities for hands-on social learning skills development.

Join us this week, and let’s explore the potential of social learning skills together:

If you don’t see the video window above, watch the sneek peak on YouTube.

Lose Job? Keep Career! #TChat Preview

The official word, that there’s economic uncertainty, is so 2012. We’re all cheerful and happy the economy produced 155,000 jobs last month (not completely, but we’re trying for some enthusiasm here).

So have we turned the corner? Can we all relax and think about careers instead of jobs? Well, perhaps the answer is a guarded yes. And besides, it’s always time to move beyond hanging on to your job — time to begin with active career management.

More than anything else, active career management is what helps you to stay employed, wherever your career  takes you. While job creation numbers might be less than auspicious, it’s time, yes, for employees, leaders and HR pros to get back in the game. Take control. Manage your life, your career and your future prospects. No one else will — but they’ll certainly manage to find someone else, who does.

This week’s #TChat World of Work and #TChat Radio are all about career management — what, how, when, where, how and why. We’re going where we haven’t in a year or two — to take a look at what it takes to actively manage a career, with stops along the way to look at barriers and challenges, and at how the topic has changed.

Here are this week’s questions:

Q1: What are the biggest career management challenges for professionals today and why?

Q2: What are the top three activities job seekers should focus on this year and why?

Q3: What are the hot professions today, and what are employers looking for in every employee?

Q4: Will the online profile eventually be the demise of the resume? Why or why not?

Q5: What are the best technologies job seekers should be using in their search and why?

Click to visit #TChat Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Join us Wednesday night, Jan. 9, from 7-8 pm ET (6-7pm CT, 5-6pm MT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) for a #TChat where we’ll talk about getting back to being in control of our careers. Mark Babbitt (@YouTernMark), CEO and founder of YouTern, will be our moderator, backed by yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman).

And, on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT, Mark will join two other guests for #TChat RadioKeppie Careers Founder Miriam Salpeter (@Keppie_Careers) and Andy Osburn (@Equals6Cares), CEO of Equals6.com. Tweet and chat with us!

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Employing Our Veterans: #TChat Preview

The long-term unemployed get airtime and programs to help them retrain and find new career paths. Millennials looking for the first big job, and a way to pay school loans, draw lots of attention. But we could probably spend much more time, as a society, talking about military veterans and the challenges they face reentering the civilian workforce.

Vets have tremendously strong skill sets. Depending upon their service, they may have skills such as people management, logistics, mechanical engineering, IT, aircraft repair, med tech, civil engineering/construction, language arts and more. Most importantly, they understand teamwork and the practical, rather than theoretical, value of collaboration. So why is it so hard for them to come home to civilian jobs?

The country faces huge cuts in its defense budget. The government is trying hard to wind down one war, and equally hard to avoid formal engagement on other fronts. Caught in the middle are tens of thousands of servicemen and women — and their families — who may need a slot in a shaky civilian economy. What can we do to help them? How can we best manage them? What skills do we, as leaders and HR people, need to refresh or acquire to accommodate our veterans in today’s world of work?

These are tough questions, practical and pressing concerns. And we’re going to take them on this week on #TChat. Here are a few questions to guide our discussion:

Q1: US legislation is creating skill certifications for military experience. What else could be done?
Q2: What management styles work best when leading an employee with military experience?
Q3: What’s the biggest challenge for veterans in the civilian world of work?
Q4: Does long-term loyalty help or hinder the career of a veteran in today’s workplace?
Q5: How can HR/recruiting tech help internally assess and translate veteran assets to employers?

You may not know anyone who served in a war, and you may not know much about the Korean conflict or the Vietnam War. That’s OK. Just do some research — i.e., talk to your parents, uncles, aunts and friends. Then, join us for a very special #TChat this Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 5-6pm MT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are).

We’re not afraid to take on difficult topics, and we know you aren’t either.  Our guest moderator this week is Brenden “Bo” Wright (@BrendenMWright), director of information technology recruiting at Laureate Education and, as a veteran marine, a former nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist. Yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and the rest of the #TChat gang will be there, too. We look forward to Brenden’s thoughts and yours. Tweet with us!

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Leaders Young & Old: #TChat Preview

Here’s a pop quiz: When was the last time you reported to a manager older than yourself? Younger than yourself? The workforce is multi-generational, but unlike 10 or even 20 years ago, age is not the primary determinant of management status. Many organizations are less hierarchical by design; matrix management may have fallen out of favor as a leadership style, but in many workplaces it’s the de facto organizational structure.

From an HR or leadership point of view it’s clear talent shouldn’t be chosen by age, but for raw ability, skills and vision. Leaders must combine strategic understanding of the business’s goals with tactical ability to execute to plan. They need soft skills too — lots of capable individuals don’t have what it takes to lead.

So we’re puzzling here at TalentCulture World of Work about multi-generational workforces, why (or if) it’s problematic for older workers to be led by the younger ones (because they say “like” every other word, perhaps?), and how to achieve cultural fit when managers are younger than their staffs.

The term “reverse mentoring” has come up, but we’re curious what the crowd thinks, so we’re throwing it open to our #TChat tribe to help us find clarity. We’re also wondering if there’s technology out there that may help smooth out the younger manager–older worker dynamic. Here are a few of the questions we’ll be discussing this week:

Q1: Used to be, age was synchronous with seniority & mgmt. How has the multi-generational workforce changed that?

Q2: Does leadership come when experience meets the right context of strategy, tactics & soft skills? Why or not?

Q3: Why is it so hard for older workers to be led by younger ones beyond the usual cliches?

Q4: What can orgs do better to assess & execute cultural fit as well as employee & leadership development?

Q5: What technologies can help facilitate the older employee/younger manager dynamic and how?

Please join us Wednesday night, Sept. 26, from 7-8pm ET (6-7pm CT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are). Look for yours truly (@MeghanMBiro) and Kevin W. Grossman (@KevinWGrossman) on the #TChat stream. We’re open to your thoughts on reverse mentoring, culture and multi-generational workforces, so bring your thoughts (in 120-character blocks) to this week’s TalentCulture #TChat.

We’re fortunate to have guest moderator Mark Babbitt (@YouTernMark) and the team at YouTern (@YouTern), where Mark is CEO and founder, lending their wisdom this week as we all explore reverse mentoring, culture and the many roles workers will fill as they progress through life.

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