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Changing Skill Sets for Changing Times: 5 Focus Areas for 2021

What skill sets are employers looking for most in 2021? How can they partner with employees to develop these sought-after skills?

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic – alongside countless social justice movements – shaped the world in a new way. Now, employers must reevaluate their businesses and see what new skills match the world’s ever-changing landscape.

For employers in 2021, what follows are five of the most in-demand skill sets for our changing times. By enabling growth in these areas, employers across all industries will help their employees and prospective teammates thrive in our post-pandemic workplace.

Skill Set 1: Remote Teamwork

The most obvious change to come from the pandemic is the new work-from-home dynamic. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of employees were working remotely as of December 2020. Given this new landscape, employees need resources — primarily, they need technology to connect and work together.

Businesses should focus on hiring talented individuals who know remote working systems well. In addition, helping current employees further adapt by getting them the resources they need will instantly improve work efficiency. Critically, all workers must have communication channels available, like Slack or Google Meet.

A lack of teamwork causes a communication breakdown and disrupts the company’s goals. But the solution is to provide the right technology and assistance.

Skill Set 2: Time Management

With remote work, limited office capacities, and social distancing, many employers changed their schedules to accommodate health and safety concerns and physical space. Now, many in the workplace may start and end work at different times. These alterations force a focus on time management.

New and existing employees should demonstrate that they can independently manage their time, schedules, and projects. Employers and HR managers should emphasize helping talent learn to meet deadlines efficiently while assisting fellow employees stay on track, further developing time management across their teams.

Of course, employers should continue being flexible with remote work teams. Allowing employees to choose their own hours lets them build their work schedules around home commitments. They can then work when they’re at their most productive, distraction-free – which is the best possible form of time management.

Skill Set 3: Soft Skills

A people-first approach helps a company stand out in the crowd. So employers may not consider soft skills “soft” for much longer.

As social justice movements and awareness grow, soft skills add the human factor businesses need. These skills include adaptability, emotional intelligence, creativity, collaboration, active listening, and knowing how to help other employees thrive.

Soft skills also lead to solutions that put public safety first. For instance, curbside pickup and delivery have been a creative solution for shopping. Employers want workers who can come up with service and people-focused ideas like these.

Businesses also need to recognize and reward employees who can slip in and out of new roles depending on what the company needs. The pandemic has put pressure on companies of all sizes — and they all need employees trained to be adaptable to these changes.

Skill Set 4: Social Media Marketing

Social media has been around a long time; however, 2020 brought a new way to use these digital bullhorns. Specifically, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok help influence and reach the 3.6 billion people who used social media in 2020.

Instagram recently added a shopping tab, which companies of all kinds can use. Facebook Marketplace continues to have a significant impact on shopping habits. Combined with the growth of TikTok’s influence, employees will want to know how to curate a business page and list the company’s products or services in an engaging way. So smart employers are looking for new employees with these talents and will cross-train existing employees to further leverage e-commerce channels.

Moreover, social media is where social justice movements, new trends, and pop culture moments happen. If employees stay current, they can add meaningful or relatable approaches to the brand’s social media pages.

Skill Set 5: Cybersecurity

As the pandemic hit the United States, people wanted information about employment, finances, and staying safe. With countless people and businesses turning to the internet for resources, cybercrime shot up drastically. Still, as people try to get vaccines, phishing scams run rampant. The FBI reported between 3,000 to 4,000 cybersecurity complaints daily last summer.

If a business faces a breach, scam, hack, or malware attack, it could lose sensitive data, like employee or client Social Security numbers and bank accounts. To prevent this catastrophic loss of data and trust, businesses must focus on hiring cybersecurity professionals and upskilling entire IT teams. Simultaneously, managers are helping current employees learn the ins and outs of cybersecurity.

Still, the best employers know cybersecurity is an industry of its own, and specialization often requires years of training. Now more than ever, it’s in every company’s best interests to focus on retaining cybersecurity talent or securing reliable outside services.

Skill Sets 2021: A New Employee Landscape

The unemployment rate is still coming down from April 2020’s record high. On the positive side, there’s plenty of new, eager talent looking to make a difference. And existing employees are showing genuine interest in providing the reskilling and upskilling to update in-demand skill sets. By focusing on these five areas of skills development, your company can revolutionize your workforce and create lasting talent pipelines – even in changing times.

 

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The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag: #WorkTrends

If we’ve learned anything over the past decade, it is the power of a hashtag…

#WorkTrends has been on quite an adventure. Over the past 10 years, TalentCulture’s signature podcast has introduced us to great minds in the HR space. We’ve produced over 700 episodes — packed with insights, future-casting and anticipated trends.

We’ve had an incredible range of guests on #WorkTrends, from CEOs to technologists to practitioners, psychologists, data mavens and more. They’ve given us unparalleled perspectives and wisdom on so many subjects — leadership, recruiting, management, recognition, strategizing, coping, thriving. How, where, when, and even why we work is ever-expanding — and we’re proud to say our savvy guests predicted every pivot, and every moment. 

In our episodes and in our Twitter chats, we’ve heard some groundbreakers I’ll never forget. Listing the many names would take pages and pages, so to all our guests so far I’ll just say this: Thank you for gracing the #WorkTrends stage with your presence and your brilliance. 

And now it’s time to expand these amazing discussions… it is time to release them into the world.

The Power of Change

Even before the massive changes of 2020, TalentCulture was planning our own set of changes: a new website, an expanded community, and a new way to bring #WorkTrends to our growing audience. We recognized that in today’s business world, we’re connecting across digital space more than ever before. And we realized there isn’t a better time than now to broaden our discussions. 

So we’re inviting everyone to join the #WorkTrends conversation beyond Twitter — and across more social media channels. We’re taking #WorkTrends to LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and beyond. Of course, you’ll find the same dynamic conversations about key work topics and all the issues that matter. Instead of exclusively through a weekly Twitter chat, though, #WorkTrends will be an ongoing discussion.

We believe the world of work is limitless: it’s a wellspring of energy and engagement. And to honor that, we’re opening the gates. 

The Power of a Purposeful Hashtag

#WorkTrends is now a legacy hashtag. It’s become a classic that represents all the best minds and conversations. We’re excited to watch it grow wings — and move across time zones, borders, and barriers. So please join us. It’s going to be another wonderful adventure!

Be sure to tune into our weekly #WorkTrends podcasts and recaps. And to learn even more about how we’re growing the podcast, check out our WorkTrends FAQ page.

As always, thanks so much for tuning in and being a member of this amazing community. You #inspire me — every day!  

Photo: Dylan Ferreira

6 Tips To Improve Your Video Presence

Video is more important than ever for the vast majority of businesses trying to stay open during the pandemic, which you can see just by looking at how well online collaboration platforms have been doing lately. For example, Microsoft Teams grew its daily active users by 70% in a single month, while Google Meet added about 3 million new users daily in April alone. And since the spring, many businesses now conduct town hall meetings, executive presentations, and company updates entirely via video, often using the collaboration platforms mentioned above.

So if you’re relying on video for business a whole lot more than usual, you’re in good company! But as you might have noticed, not everyone is a natural when it comes to using video regularly, especially when it comes to video presentations that aim to teach viewers something new. Some people have a great camera presence that can capture and keep the viewer’s attention from the beginning of the video presentation to the last word. Others need a little — or lots! — of work to engage viewers. If you feel like you fall into the latter category, that’s okay. You can easily improve your on-camera presence by putting the following tips into practice.

 1. Don’t Be Too Scripted

 Many people who aren’t confident in front of the camera assume that writing out a full script to follow will instantly make them better. But it often does the opposite! You definitely don’t want to be reading from a script on camera if you want an impressive video presence. Doing so will make you seem overly rehearsed and even robot-like, which is not appealing to people.

 Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to go completely off the cuff and make up all your talking points on the fly. There’s a middle ground here, and it involves writing a brief outline to follow. This way, you can glance down at your notes to stay on topic, but you’ll still spend most of your time looking at the camera and speaking naturally as you present.

 If you plan to use PowerPoint while you present on video, glancing at your slides can help you stay on topic, too. Just don’t expect to read them word for word. Use them as quick reminders of what to talk about, and then expand on the topic as you speak freely from your heart.

 2. Speak to Your Viewers, Not Your Camera

Another important detail to remember is that your camera lens is not your audience! Your audience is made up of individuals, and you want to make a good impression on them. So have an image in your head of your viewers before you start the video presentation. Picturing a specific person or team that you talk to regularly at work can help.

 If you’re struggling to imagine talking to a specific person, go ahead and actually do it! Record yourself sending a message to one of your employees or clients. You could be wishing them a happy birthday or telling a joke. What’s important is that you record it with the intention of sending it to that person — even if you end up not sending it after all.

Once you’re done, watch the recorded message and take note of how authentic and engaging you are. You probably look like you have passion and energy in front of the camera, and that’s a great step toward having a better presence on video! Just be sure to keep that same energy for every video you make, even if it means pretending that you’re just talking to your favorite client or team of employees every time.

3. Focus on Your Body Language

 Another way to improve your presence in front of the camera is to work on your body language. Just sitting in a chair facing the camera isn’t usually enough to engage viewers during your video presentation. You also need to have good posture while you present your information.

For instance, you should avoid hunching over. Instead, keep your back straight and put your shoulders back. And if you normally keep your hands in your pocket — or just feel awkward, not knowing what to do with them — try using them to your advantage. You can use your hands to communicate with body language while you talk, gesturing to illustrate your points. Let your head sway in a natural way while you talk, and keep your feet firmly on the ground during your video.

Having good posture will help you feel more relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. But even better, it will give you a more trustworthy, authoritative look to viewers. Speakers who have good posture tend to come across as more charismatic, confident, and worth listening to in general! So work on improving your posture in your daily life in order to look and feel more prepared in front of the camera.

4. Use Feedback to Improve

 As you use these tips to improve your video presence, make sure you take the time to watch yourself on camera. In fact, it’s a good idea to watch your first few videos and take notes on what you think you can improve. Then, as you work on your posture and learn additional ways to improve your video presence, watch your newer videos so you can compare to the old ones. How have you improved, and what can you still work on?

Consider some details in particular. Do you talk too fast due to nerves? Do you notice any nervous tics you didn’t even know you had, such as clearing your throat often, cracking your knuckles, or moving from foot to foot as you stand? Do you use filler words, like “um” and “like,” a lot? If so, take note of these habits and work on stopping them.

You should also get feedback from other people and listen to them. Ask your employees or coworkers to watch some of your best videos and let you know how you can improve. And if you think you’ve already improved, thanks to tips like these, ask your team to compare your old videos to your newer ones to see how much difference there is.

5. Look at Analytics for Your Videos

 Another type of feedback you should use is the data you can see from any analytics programs you use. You should be able to see important metrics, such as how many views you got and how long each viewer watched the video. This will give you an idea of whether you have a good presence on video, or if you need to make some improvements.

 An easy way to track analytics is to use Hive Insights 2.0, which reports aggregated event metrics that matter. They include viewer participation, viewing time, network impact, video quality, and more. You’ll even get ranking lists that show your viewers and locations by size, video experience quality, and other details.

 So when you look at the feedback you get from Hive Insights 2.0, you can get an overview of how your videos are doing. And since your on-camera presence does affect the performance of your videos, this information will undoubtedly be helpful for you to have!

 6. Remember That Practice Makes Perfect

As with anything, you’re going to need to practice your new on-camera habits before you can perfect them. So instead of reading these tips and then quickly creating a video that you send to everyone right away, make it a point to make some videos just for fun. Think of a topic and an audience, and make a few videos with those details in mind.

Then watch them and take notes of what else you can improve. You might notice your posture is better after just one or two videos, but you could still work on leaving out filler words. Or maybe your speech is great, but you just can’t easily break your bad posture habits and will need more time to improve.

That’s okay. No one becomes an expert on making engaging videos in just a day or two. It will take some time — and lots of practice videos — to improve your video presence. But if you’re making lots of video presentations for your business this year, it’s worth your time to get good at it to ensure your messages really resonate with your viewers.

That’s especially true when you’re trying to reach employees who have been working from home for months and are likely experiencing some video fatigue as they connect through video constantly. Those types of viewers deserve a great presentation — not a lackluster video — that will keep their interest.

FAQs: Social Media Background Screening

The words “social media background screening” can strike fear into many people’s hearts. As HR professionals, we get it: On the surface, it can all sound a tad Orwellian. But rest assured. As the president of the leading social screening company, I take concerns about privacy and online life seriously, and the industry has responded to changing concerns and practices over the better part of a decade.

Keep reading for answers to frequently asked questions about consumer privacy and social media background checks.

How Do You Make a Reliable Match?

How can you be sure a candidate is being correctly identified at the start of a social media background check? At Social Intelligence, we’ve been doing these checks since 2010. We’ve looked hard at our data and systems to ensure sure that our ID procedures are 100 percent accurate. It’s much more complex than Googling. Using matching criteria provided during the employment-application process is the best, most comprehensive way to identify a candidate correctly online.

An email address is a good example of a reliable positive match that can be used to screen online activity. Other identifiers, such as names, must be combined with other provided information to make a match — such as employment history, education information or an image.

Who Should Do the Screening?

As a best practice, employers should never review candidates’ social media profiles internally. By choosing an outside firm to conduct reviews, companies can respect candidate privacy and eliminate the potential legal risk of a boss or co-worker viewing a candidate’s personal life before the hire: Employers reviewing social media content themselves could lead to accusations of discrimination. From hiring managers to HR directors or CEOs, a company could be at risk if employees are Googling candidates in-house (and according to a CareerBuilder study, about 70 percent of them are).

Analysts should be reviewing activity only for content that presents workplace safety concerns. Searching for specific information could be legally dangerous: anything related to race, religion, national origin, disabilities, pregnancy, family status, gender presentation, sexual orientation, age, or military status is off-limits.

What About Consent?

Getting consent before a social media background screening is mandatory per the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Even if you have an FCRA-compliant social-screening setup in house — one that would remove all protected class information before the hiring manager sees anything — you must notify the candidate and receive permission to review their social media content. Make sure to read your consent forms thoroughly and take a look at sample social media reports to see if your reporting practices match up.

At Social Intelligence, we only review publicly available information. Hacking, asking for a password or friending someone that is a candidate before hire could be a violation of state laws — and is most certainly a violation of trust. So, build a “privacy curtain” into your hiring practices and hire a third party to manage social media screenings and track social media activity on your behalf.

This post is sponsored by Social Intelligence. Social Intelligence is the only social media consumer-reporting agency whose process and product have been reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission. Contact us to view a copy of our Letter of Review from the Federal Trade Commission’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, check out our FAQ page here for more on social media background screening or contact us with any questions you might have.

#WorkTrends: Social Screening and the Future of Talent Acquisition

You can learn a lot about job candidates by their social media profiles and posts. But how do you accurately and fairly screen applicants, at scale? What’s legal, and what’s appropriate when it comes to social media screening?

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to Bianca Lager, president of Social Intelligence, a background-screening company with a focus on social media. Social Intelligence launched in 2010 to provide employers with pre-employment screening that’s ethical and applicable. Social Intelligence is the only social media background check company that has been reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

 

What is Social Media Screening?

You may be wondering, “What is social media screening?” According to Lager, “it’s getting data from social media, understanding what people are saying online, what kind of content they’re creating and then applying that in a background-screening capacity to an employment decision.” Lager says Social Intelligence was an early pioneer in the industry.

But social screening isn’t about just Googling a job candidate’s name, which is time consuming and can results in errors. “We invest really heavily in machine learning to automate and scale social media screenings,” Lager says. Social Intelligence can identify and analyze people’s social profiles quickly, which is important to companies of any size, but especially large organizations with a lot of candidates to sort through.

But Social Intelligence isn’t interested in posts about the time you had too much to drink and took a photo with a lampshade on your head. “We’re looking for really egregious behaviors, things like racism, violence, bullying, stuff that can really affect the workplace.” Some people may wonder if it’s right or ethical to search for this type of information, but Lager says, “People are already Googling you.”

Why You Shouldn’t Do Your Own Manual Social Media Screening

While some companies believe that they can conduct their own social media background checks, Lager says there are several reasons why they shouldn’t. First, she says, your boss or the person hiring you should not be looking at your Facebook profile. “They shouldn’t know what church you go to, they shouldn’t know your sexual orientation or all sorts of other factors that could bias them against you in a hiring or employment decision.” And Social Intelligence doesn’t focus on that type of information.

She says it’s also a waste of time and resources for companies to conduct their own pre-employment checks. “When you have an intern in HR Googling someone, it’s probably not the best use of their time — and you’re exposing at least one person to a bunch of information that just shouldn’t be seen.”

Companies also run the risk of screening the wrong person. “John Smith might not be putting out real information on himself in terms of date of birth, et cetera, so how are you actually getting to the bottom of that?” Social Intelligence has worked with some of the top employment lawyers in the country to develop processes that align with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission did a full audit of the company. “We had to answer some questions from the Senate Privacy Committee, and the FTC determined that Social Intelligence was acting as a consumer reporting agency when we provide these types of reports for employment purposes.”

Why Human Input is Still Important

As great as artificial intelligence is, Lager says that human input is still important. A machine can’t detect whether someone is being sarcastic or not, so a human needs to step in and provide emotional intelligence and context. “That’s why we have a review program, very similar to Facebook, to make sure that we understand the innuendos, the sarcasm, whatever it is, at a human level.”

Say that someone uses the phrase “filthy pig.” “If you’re saying it aggressively, or in a threatening way, or as a derogatory term against police officers, that’s the type of thing that we double-check for, and our human analysis is there, too.” Because, she says, you could just be talking about your filthy pig farm — which is perfectly acceptable.

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

This week’s #WorkTrends is sponsored by Social Intelligence. Visit http://socialintel.com/podcast to get 10 free social media hiring reports.

Fixing Your Company’s Social Media Mistakes

If you are a small-to-medium business, chances are you are doing social media wrong. Your follower base is small, and there are only a few sporadic comments on posts. Let’s take a look at what you are doing, and how to increase followers and engagement.

Where’s the blog? 

“Social media” means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and a dozen other platforms. But, when you post content on there, you occasionally want to link back to a longer blog post. If your company does not have a blog, there’s nothing to link to. This is the pillar holding up your social media, and creating or improving your blog is one of the most important steps in the process.

No matter the industry, show your expertise by writing articles both in general and in niche categories. For example, discuss recent news in your industry, and give your company’s expert opinion and analysis to prove you are the right company for potential clients.

Sporadic posting 

If you already have a blog, but the last post was from two months ago, your company isn’t much better off than not having a blog at all. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business cites that business owners being too busy is one of the top reasons they don’t post to social media. But not engaging means losing out on more prospective clients or customers, and easily spreading your company’s name.

About 69 percent of the American public uses social media, with 68 percent of adults using Facebook. If your demographic skews younger, 88 percent of Americans ages 18-29 use Facebook, while 59 percent of that demographic uses Instagram. In other words, posting to social media potentially means a large number of eyes on your content.

Vilfredo Pareto and the 80/20 Principle

Material wealth. Peas in pea pods. Products that make a company’s profit. How much of Italy was owned by a part of the population at the turn of the 20th century? These four things all have a ratio of 80/20. This principle was discovered by economist Vilfredo Pareto in the 1800s, but it still holds up. Today, it is most often used in a business setting.

In this context, it means not making promotional articles. In short, 80 percent of your content is not focused on being promotional. Instead, it simply engages your audience, inviting comments and shares. For example, discussing migration patterns in America or providing an infographic of entrepreneurial statistics. The key is to offer valuable information to readers — or at least post something interesting — rather than promoting your newest product or service repeatedly. SEO giant Moz refers to this as the “BuzzFeed Approach.” Here’s another example: Red Bull doesn’t just splash their energy drink and logo across every post; their audience wants to see extreme sports. Take a look at their Instagram videos: Downhill skateboarding with neither a can of Red Bull or the logo in the video has more than 618,000 views. The other 20 percent of what your company posts can be promotional content that showcases services you offer, a new product, or a sale. Even so, provide information that will benefit the consumer. This metal detector company explains what the best metal detectors for finding gold are while providing products that they sell that fulfill that role. It’s promotional but still informative. These posts can also point to a landing page, as well, acting as an ad that you don’t have to pay for.

Post at the Right Time

If you want to drive engagement on a specific post, there are a few key rules to follow, especially in considering the timing of the post. For instance, Facebook users respond most to posts made on Thursdays around 1 p.m., local time. Instagram users, on the other hand, respond well to posts on Monday, at 2 a.m., 8 a.m., and 5 p.m. Going for the professional look on LinkedIn? Post at noon or 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday,  when most workers are on lunch or just getting off work.

Don’t Avoid Comments 

Twitter’s community can heap praise or cut to the bone in just 140 characters. Because it is so easy and quick to craft a tweet, and because other major corporations will respond, Twitter has ushered in a new avenue for customer and client support. Microsoft’s @XboxSupport, for example, is well-known for quickly addressing issues of its customers. Use Twitter to your advantage, fielding a Q&A session, or just answered random questions throughout the day. Set aside an hour once a week, announce to your followers that you or your customer support team are available, and use a hashtag unique to your company to easily find questions.

Follow these tips, and your social media game will be strong. You’ll have plenty of followers eagerly awaiting your next quality post (and they don’t mind occasionally seeing your listings promoted). They’ll be happy with Q&A sessions, learning more about the real estate industry, and remember your name when they need a real estate agent to buy or sell a house.

Photo Credit: Recent Magazine Flickr via Compfight cc

Why Annual Social Media Policy Reviews Are Necessary

With new social media platforms cropping up all the time, workplace social media rules must go beyond simply discouraging employees from putting off deadlines to play with Snapchat filters. In fact, your corporate social media policy could probably use some updating right now, and on at least an annual basis moving forward to reflect industry changes. That is—if you even have one! Only 51 percent of people said their employers have social media guidelines, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

No matter the size of your company, ask yourself this: When was the last time you reviewed your company’s social media policy? And if you don’t have a policy in place, what’s holding you back?

Developing a social media policy and keeping it up to date will ensure that your employees are aware of what they can and cannot do, help your company avoid violating any rules, and ultimately, serve to cover the company’s you-know-what.

Here’s a closer look at why you’ll want to make an up-to-date social media policy a priority so you:

Avoid legal scandals. All you have to do is recall Chipotle’s gaffe from 2015, in which it lost a lawsuit for firing an employee who posted negative items on social media. However, the court found Chipotle’s social media policy actually violated federal labor laws. Ouch!

Your takeaway: Work with your legal team to update your policy, so it jives with legal changes coming out of the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Your old policy needs to reflect the current legal standards. For instance, the FTC has clear guidelines regarding disclosures and endorsements, so check that out to see how it affects your social media marketing.

Protect company secrets. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) explains, a social media policy may actually help safeguard sensitive data from potential hackers and online scams, especially in a BYOD environment. Employees should also know what proprietary information about the company must never be shared—another aspect that needs to be regularly updated as the business grows.

Your takeaway: Protect your company’s information by identifying what is considered confidential, such as marketing tactics, non-public financials, future product launches, and other “for internal use only” communications. Check out GM’s Social Media Policy to see how they spell it out for their workers.

Make it clear what type of social media activity is and isn’t allowed. While it might be obvious that posting illicit, offensive, or insensitive material on a company-branded social media page is a no-no, it still happens. For the people running social for your company, what checks and balances are in place to avoid a public relations disaster? Are the rules different for each platform? Beyond that, though, there is a lot of gray area regarding if and how employees will be held accountable for what they post on their personal pages—and who will monitor that.

Your takeaway: As I’ve written before, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and be as specific as possible in your social media document. And if you needed another reason why it’s so important to continually update and periodically review your policy as new platforms come into play, this is it.

Ideally, effective social media policies should be fluid and responsive to the fast-paced digital world. But at the very least, taking the time to perform a yearly review can save your employees a lot of confusion, and help your company avoid potential pitfalls.

A version of this was first posted on Entrepreneur.com.

Why Social Media Is Shaping The Future Of Work

Lists of social media disasters are like new versions of worst-dressed lists. And there’s no such thing as not being on social media. If you’re not actively pursuing your brand on social, someone else is, and probably not the way you want to be. And being the butt of a joke you never intended to make has staying power: things do not disappear on the Internet. The bottom line is that you’re a brand whether you have no control over it (bad) or you control it (good).

This isn’t just about consumers, either: it’s about your workforce. Social media has helped erase the wall between consumer and job candidate. Most candidates are well aware of a company via its messaging on social well before they consider applying for a job. So a messaging miss is a missed potential candidate, too.

So here’s a simple playbook for people and brands of all sizes to start with. First, the two most important rules: Be social. Try not to mess it up.

Here are 5 tips:

1) No canned ham please.

Impersonal content plastered onto your social media presence is like serving spam at brunch, only without the “aren’t we so Mad Men” irony. We have an 8-second attention span and that’s shorter than a goldfish’s. And we like things that are relevant to us and grab at our impatient hearts. So personalize it or it won’t count. Moreover, once you’re branded as spammy, that window of influence shuts. Potential candidate-wise, if you’re trying to pull one over on the world, you could also smokescreen employees.

2) It’s not just about Facebook.

Some people say Facebook is so 2011. Why? To share content the way we used to in 2011, we have to pay for it now. Which is, um, advertising, a.k.a. spam. Sponsored content is faux-real, as opposed to for real. It’s still relevant, but consider other platforms, such as Snapchat (100 million + reported users), Instagram (420 million), Flipboard (70 million and rising), and Whatsapp (1 billion). And of course, talent portals like LinkedIn.

3) Don’t ignore your target.

What’s your market? If it’s grownup grownups (ages 55-64) then you’d best be on Twitter, where that’s the fastest growing new age group. If it’s teens, you’d better be on Instagram. If you want to recruit Gen Y and Gen Z candidates, don’t try to do it through traditional methods. Assume you are going to reach them via smartphone and social, and message accordingly.

4) Think first.

Remember what I said about irony? Same with cleverness: along with our quick attention span is a well-honed bullshit reflex. The wall of social media shame is filled with examples of facepalm social media moves that backfired. Especially true with tweeting, such as LG’s smartphone campaign, which mocked the iPhone via tweets sent from an iPhone. Trying so hard that you fail is not a draw from potential employees. D’Oh. 

5) It’s not just about ROI.

I’ve gone over this before, but social is the future. We’re expected to have 2.5 billion social media users worldwide by 2018. And right now, 90% of adults age 18 – 29 are using social media. A solid one third of all Millennials say it’s their preferred channel for communicating with businesses. Their habits are not going to change. What’s trending now is going to be normal later. And this is where your workforce comes from. Even if you can’t quantify, dollar for dollar, or even hire for hire, what the value of social is, at some point very soon, that’s all going to be a non-issue.

Social media allows us to be more agile. Immediate. Fluid. Transparent. Honest. Candid. Also, unfiltered, thoughtless, blockheaded. But more than anything, social is the way we exist. It’s far more than just sending a tweet or posting an announcement. It’s an entire currency of thought, and it’s the future of work. #Goodluck and keep me posted please.

A version of Forbes.

Technology Revolutionizing Workplace Wellness

Wellness in the workplace is a huge and growing trend these days. Makes sense, right? A healthier employee is a happier employee—and also a more productive one. That’s why employers are introducing wellness programs in droves, and at the same time turning to technology as a tool to monitor, promote, and reward their employees’ fitness achievements.

Currently, 70 percent of U.S. employers offer a wellness program, an increase from 58 percent in 2008. It’s no secret that investing in employee wellness is worthwhile in the long run. Not only do wellness programs help employers to lower healthcare costs and reduce sick days, but research shows they improve employee engagement and retention as well.

Getting employees to take advantage of a wellness program is not a slam-dunk, however. Participation is sometimes low, with employees citing lack of time or interest as two of the primary reasons. That’s where technology comes in, making getting involved easier for employees—and a whole lot more fun.

The fun kicks in courtesy of a group dynamic that promotes good-natured competition to achieve wellness goals, which aligns with another trend among employers: offering rewards or bonuses to employees who complete health and wellness objectives. Currently, four in 10 employers offer these types of incentives, with another 8 percent planning to implement them within the next year.

So, just how does the latest technology help get—and keep—employees healthy, thereby boosting employer profit wellness? Let’s examine the various options.

Wearables

At any gathering of a half-dozen or more employees, look at their wrists; chances are at least one will be wearing a fitness tracker. Nearly 40 million American adults are currently using such devices, and that figure is expected to double within the next three years.

The most popular brand is Fitbit, but companies like Garmin, Apple, Jawbone, and Misfit are also in the wearable tracker game. These devices allow employees to monitor various fitness activities, such as how many steps they’ve taken, how many flights of stairs they’ve climbed, and how many calories they’ve burned. Such measurables lend themselves nicely to interoffice competition. Whoever comes out on top will earn company bragging rights—or something more tangible like a trophy or monetary prize.

One savvy move for employers wanting to increase workplace awareness is to subsidize wearable trackers for their employees. A lot of companies do that—not only for their employees but sometimes even for employees’ spouses or partners. Whether companies pay for the devices or employees do so themselves, expectations are that wearable technology usage will continue to rise. Xerox Human Resources Services conducted a 2015 survey of 200+ employers, in which 37 percent reported using wearable technology; another 37 percent said they were planning to adopt the technology in the years ahead.

Gamification

Gamification marries technology and game-playing in a way that engages participants and helps them achieve their goals. There are three components of an effective gamification strategy: rules, rewards, and social interaction. The best thing about gamification is that it is a great motivator. Participants strive to win a challenge, whether it’s losing weight, eating healthier, or achieving measurable fitness goals.

Implementing a gamification strategy with monthly or quarterly incentives is a great way for employers to build a wellness-oriented culture. With the camaraderie and feedback that such competitions generate, employees have stronger incentives to reach their goals.

Apps

Apps for fitness trackers are just one of many tools that allow employees to monitor their health. There are mental health apps like Headspace, which features proven meditation and mindfulness techniques. Sleep apps, which track users sleeping habits and in some cases help them drift off to sleep with calming music, words, and sound effects are popular. And food tracking/nutrition apps, which keep tabs on caloric intake and the nutritional content of the food the user eats. Wellness-minded employers will encourage employee use of those apps that best fit the fitness and health objectives of the workplace.

Program Analytics

There is also technology that allows employers to analyze their wellness programs and redirect them to meet the needs of their employees better. It’s not just about return on investment, but also about employee satisfaction. Analytics allow employers to pinpoint aspects of their wellness program that are receiving less-than-favorable ratings. Responsive employers will then use this information to make modifications that will improve their employees’ satisfaction and boost participation.

Social Media

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder/CEO of corporate wellness platform ShapeUp, identifies social interaction as the biggest technological trend over the past decade. How do you add social interaction to a workplace wellness program? Kumar recommends focusing on these four elements: peer coaching, friendly competition, group support, and social accountability. There are many social tools for encouraging interaction, including apps, forums, and Facebook groups—to name just a few. Social media has the power to drive such interaction, which increases employee interest and ultimately determines the success of a corporate wellness program.

In the future, we expect even more employers to adopt wellness programs. And why wouldn’t they? With technology advancing so rapidly, the ease of implementation is great—and the rewards for employer and employee even greater.

#WorkTrends Recap: Cyberslacking is a Workplace Epidemic

Improving employee productivity is a constant struggle. Social media and mobile devices have increased employee distractions and led to a new epidemic in the workplace.

Cyberslacking. This is not a word common to many people, but it’s a workplace condition that has become a problem of epidemic measures.

According to a Harris Poll for CareerBuilder, it was reported that twenty-four percent of workers admitted they spend at least an hour a day on personal email, texts, and personal calls. More than half of the employers surveyed said the biggest distraction at work comes from employees using their cell phones and 44 percent saying the same about the Internet. Whatever the gains from the application of new technology, cyberslacking is eroding American productivity from the inside out. It is being chewed up by the use and abuse of Internet access to social media and apps for non-work purposes.

This week host Meghan M. Biro was joined by best-selling author William Keiper to discuss how to combat this epidemic.

Here are a few key points that William shared:

  • The average smartphone user in the US is reaching for their phone 1500 times a week
  • The impact of cyberslacking is, just in the U.S, hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity
  • When people are hyperconnected they become disengaged

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:  http://bit.ly/2fHeulv

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next week the #WorkTrends community will be dark in honor of Thanksgiving. We will be back live on Nov 30 and I will be joined by Rachael Mann to discuss the importance of connecting business and academia to support STEM.

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

 

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Why I Won’t Play Pokémon Go

Do you struggle to maintain concentration? Technology and its foreboding “nowhere to hide” mindset has certainly not helped. Thankfully, there are ways we can limit workplace distractions without having to abandon our smartphones.

Unlike most smartphone owners, I have not downloaded the app sensation, Pokémon Go. While I am typically first in line to consume pop culture, I’m familiar enough with my bad habits to know that the minute this game is uploaded to my phone, I would become obsessed to the point of atrophy. Case in point, I am still haunted by the wasteful Candy Crush summer of 2012.

My refusal to play Pokémon Go certainly puts me in the minority. A recent study from MFour Mobile Research, has found that a third of U.S. Android smartphone users have downloaded this game, surpassing Twitter as the most popular current mobile app. For those of you who are not familiar, Pokémon Go is a virtual scavenger hunt. Players explore the real world with their smartphones, hunting for 151 different cartoon characters at grocery stores, parks, and coffees shops. Did I mention that they are also playing Pokémon Go at work, as if our team needs another distraction.

Office workers are interrupted approximately every eleven minutes, academic studies have found. Once distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California.

Another study, published by Carnegie Mellon, measured the amount of brainpower lost when someone is interrupted. Two subject groups were tasked with reading a passage and completing a test—one merely did the assignment, while the other was told they “might be contacted for further instructions” at any moment via instant message. When the second group thought they were going to be interrupted but weren’t, they were 14% less likely to answer correctly. When they were interrupted, their scores dropped another 6%.

Distractions steal our time, hurt our productivity, impede our creativity, and damage our efficiency. Even worse, many of our distractions are our own fault, making them wholly avoidable. Larry Rosen, author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us, states that these self-induced distractions are becoming more prevalent and difficult to manage. There is a compulsion to check email, text, social media, and games like Pokémon Go. “We might be in the middle of a meeting but if we don’t check in we start feeling anxious,” Rosen says.

To effectively manage self-inflicted interruptions, we must build our ability to concentrate and minimize distractions. Here are a few tricks that (along with discipline) may work:

  • Take tech breaks. Give yourself a pre-determined amount of time to read through social media or hunt down a Pikachu. Then, silence devices and set the timer. Until the buzzer sounds, you work on that one assignment. No flipping through emails, responding to tweets, or switching screens.
  • Be less accessible. Close your door and tape a sign saying “Do Not Disturb. Genus at Work?” Do this at a set time throughout the week to ensure you are allowing yourself time to work undisturbed.
  • Hide. If your workspace is too distracting, find somewhere else to work. Leave your phone in your desk and retreat to a less visible area.
  • Stop pop ups. On your smartphone, tablet, and laptop turn off the notifications that interrupt you throughout the day. This includes banners, sounds, vibrations, and badges.
  • Get help. If motivation is the issue, download apps like Freedom and Zero Willpower that will block alerts and social media access at the times of your choosing.

Don’t fall victim to the Pokémons lurking around each corner. They want to break your concentration and take you off task. If you can control the urge, you remain the hunter; however, if you succumb to their temptation, they are now hunting you. You and your team do not have to become prey to a bunch of pocket monsters. Fight the distractions so you can spend time on things that really matter… like Tetris.

 

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Handshake 3.0: Staying Human In The Digital Age

In the age of working social media, Twitter is the water cooler, FaceTime means smile at the phone, Instagram, Pinterest is for eye candy and the closest encounter your team may have is via a networked chat or a Google Hangout. No worries! If we follow the same set of rules for good relationships that have always existed, but translate them into our digital world, we’ll be fine. It’s something that is top of mind for many brands now. People hire people. People work with people. People learn from people. People care about people. This will always be the long game in my view.

Take the handshake. Let’s take a look back at it’s history for moment:

Handshake 1.0. Back in the day, this involved a face to face meeting of human beings, and the following advice: keep your grip firm but not overpowering, relaxed but not limp, and make eye contact. Eye contact was critical, be it for a boom of a first impression or to seal a deal. It transmitted integrity, authority, enthusiasm, energy and emotion. Caveat here: the more global our business, the more we came to understand that not all cultures put the same stock in the handshake. Take a bow much?

Handshake 2.0. As the top of our desks became desktops, this involved a meeting of machines: Mr. Fax learned to talk to Ms. Copier, etc. Most of us didn’t know what was being transmitted besides data, but there were times when everything got along and times when they didn’t. Caveat here: During this era of holding our breath until a successful mechanical handshake, we also learned terms like “Wait for the tone,” “Incompatible,” and “IT guy.”

Handshake 3.0. Circa the age of social, we’ve taken back the handshake to involve people again. But now there aren’t any hands. Face to face may involve a visual presence (Twitter Chats, FaceTime, Google Hangouts), but it just as well may not (Twitter, Social, Forums). In this new context, our contact point isn’t skin. It’s bytes and bites (sound, words that is). But we’re still trying to transmit the same qualities as we did originally, though with a far more evolved sense of emotional intelligence.

Integrity goes (and excuse the phrase coming next) hand in hand with digital culture or at least it should be like this. In order to transmit all those positive qualities via this new definition of the digital handshake, we simply transfer them to digital. It’s a boon for everyone, from leadership to teams, Marketing, HR to finding talent so long as we understand the new rules:

1) Do Your Diligence. When you’re making contact with someone via social, pay attention. Visit their bio and get a bead on who they are. It demonstrates an authentic interest in them, which we all know is critical in good relationship building. Hint to candidates: you can make it easier. A recent study found that 84% of job hunters found a personal website helped pave the way.

2) Name Names. Even if they have a different handle, make an effort to find out their name. That makes a critical connection.

3) Be ResponsiveHuge issue in recruiting talent. I’ll never forget a heartbreaking comment I received in which a job applicant received only 1 out of 10 responses from the companies she applied to for a new role.

4) Be Quick. The social age and its broad spectrum of connected generations means dramatically shortened acceptable response times. Even if you’re busy, overwhelmed, can’t breathe, send a quick reply. Timing is everything: if you don’t have time to provide answers, it just shows you’re listening.

5) Be Empathetic. In place of the traditional signals of physical proximity, we’ve got to develop a keener emotional intelligence. We need to understand both sides: known our own emotions and reactions, be able to read people’s feelings and reactions, and be able to adjust our tone to foster, not alienate, connection.

6) Speak Small. Nothing negates an impact more than broadcasting. Make sure you’re inviting dialog. The back and forth in social is fertile ground: it drives engagement and nurtures associations into friendships, and friendships into collaborations. Social has inverted the proportions of how we relate: the bigger the statement, the less we invite connection.

Whatever side of the relationship you’re on, the influence embodied in social is powerful, and it works both ways. We see it in HR, we certainly see it in branding, marketing and consumer relationships. But whether in real time or a Facebook feed, authenticity is the real deal. One thing it depends on: translating your brand, be it personal or company, across multiple platforms with transparency and consistency. We all like to know whose hand we’re really shaking, after all. That’s never going to change. And that’s a good thing.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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Networking: The Path To Becoming A Brand Ambassador

How many networking events do you participate in monthly? One? More than five? Do you loathe and avoid networking events? Or do you love meeting new people and building exciting new relationships? Are they online or IRL (In Real Life)?

Many people I talk to are terrified of networking. Typical formal events are held after-hours, when they’re feeling tired and a bit beat up by the day’s work. Meeting with people with whom they have flimsy connections, often in a noisy bar with cheap wine and flat beer, is an act of will some people simply can’t or will not manage.

Yet networking is essential, whether you’re happily employed (only 13 percent of people admit to this, according to an October 2013 Gallup survey) or merely trying to broaden your social connections. Even in the healthiest, most functional workplaces, there is only so much opportunity to expand your connections – think of them as people horizons.  And people horizons are where job satisfaction comes from, where you can engage and learn, and even where you may find your next career opportunity.

So if you are not willing or able to network at events, what are the options? Well, we live in a connected, social web world. It’s simple if you decide to commit the time, and effective, to connect virtually, via LinkedIn, Google, Instagram, Pinterest and many other social channels. Virtual connections work if you maintain a reasonably active social profile, if you add value in social interactions, and if you present your online brand in a genuine, engaging way.

Here’s a story about how a friend virtually-networked his way into a new job using the powerful engagement platform, LinkedIn and became a powerful brand ambassador for his new employer. My friend Ted is an accomplished information architect and has mad skills as a writer. Ted is one of those rare people who can simplify the abstract, tie marketing messages and technologies to market trends, and explain the business value of a range of technologies. He’s also somewhat shy and reserved, making it uncomfortable for him to schmooze at networking events. His personality can seem distant and chilly, even though it’s complimented by a dry sense of humor. For Ted – as for many – virtual networking was the solution to broadening his base of connections and expanding his network.

We worked out a connection strategy centered on Ted’s personal blog, then incorporated a social media presence on Twitter and Google+, tying the package together on LinkedIn. Why LinkedIn? As of February 2014, the platform had 277 million users, adding new users every two seconds. More than a third of LinkedIn users are US-based, and the site has nearly 190 unique monthly users. There’s power in those numbers. But how could Ted make those numbers work to build connections? He took the following steps:

  1. Join LinkedIn Groups.It’s a simple matter to look at the people already in your network and see which groups they participate in, and only slightly more involved to research and join groups in your areas of interest.
  1. Identify Thought LeadersFollow them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Ted knows a fair number of IT and SW industry influencers. He followed them on Twitter, added them to G+ circles, and LinkedIn with the top tier.
  1. Daily Maintenance. It’s fine to set up a strategy, but it won’t pay off without care and social feeding. Ted blogged twice a week on his own site and posted those links to LinkedIn, G+ and Twitter. He also turned his daily morning news scan into an opportunity to post links to relevant articles and blogs, with a few insightful comments. Daily visits to LinkedIn helped him see responses and engage in interactions with his connections.
  1. Content Marketing. Ted generates top-rate content on his blog. It wasn’t immediately obvious to him how to use that content to market himself, so he did a quick study of content marketing strategies and tactics using books and material from the Content Marketing Institute.
  1. Regular Profile Tuning.LinkedIn is most powerful when you continually improve and evolve your profile.  Think of it as life maintenance, like getting your hair cut or teeth cleaned. You need to invest in the health of your profile to forge strong connections.
  1. Careful Attention To Keywords.Knowing which keywords are likely to draw the attention of recruiters and potential connections is as simple as figuring out what you want from a job, or from a connection. Become a student of others’ keywords and update yours no less than monthly.

Over the course of three months, Ted picked up 200 connections in his area of interest, some of them industry influencers. Equally important, since he was looking for a job, he attracted the attention of recruiters as well as a few companies he was interested in. Several reached out, and one connection was more powerful and interesting than the others. In a matter of weeks Ted had a new job. Today, his social profile and connections make him an ideal brand ambassador for his new employer. And he’s happy at work. Guess what? He is blogging about this experience.

The lesson is clear for individuals, leaders, recruiters and brands: LinkedIn takes talent acquisition “lead generation” and retention to whole new levels.  People can build strong profiles, and stronger connections, with a modest investment of time and energy, and the right amount and use of content – theirs and others’. Leaders, Recruiters and HR pros can also use LinkedIn to continually attract, find and engage with their ideal candidates by leveraging content marketing, influencer relations and much more.

Even if you can’t bear the thought of another networking event, you can be actively networking via virtual channels. Keep your network strong, forge new connections, and pay as much attention to marketing yourself as you do to advocating for your employer. Expanding your people horizons will pay off, both in personal confidence and external perceptions of The Brand You.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

 

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7 Characteristics Of A Social Leader

Okay, it’s time to come clean: Besides HR and Talent Management – I’m obsessed with social media, community, leadership and continuous learning. And I have been for years. I feel like the world is catching up with what for three years I’ve (obsessively, publicly, passionately) and many others who are champions of social community and learning have been saying – this innovation is a game changer for the world of work.

The full implications and scope of social media and community learning are still unfolding, but let’s look at 7 ways leaders can use it to build a cohesive, charged-up, firing-on-all-gigabytes culture.

1) Communicate. Social media is one of the most effective communication tools in recent history. It turns your entire organization (and beyond) into the town square – also known as an online social community. And even though it’s all enabled through technology, there’s an intimacy to online communication; everyone is participating on their own device so there’s a sense of being spoken to, and speaking, directly. Change initiatives can be broadcast (and monitored) with ease; glitches and roadblocks are spotted and correctly far more quickly. And not only leaders can communicate more effectively. Employees are given a voice and often feel more engaged when this tool is used effectively. You do not have to be an extrovert – all personalities are invited. You just have to be willing to take the leap.

2) Collaborate. This one is off the charts. By now many of us have been involved in social media chats, blogging riffs, G+ Hangouts and webcasts where things just take off. Somebody posts an idea, a video, a photographs, an article – and people start commenting, one thought bouncing off the next, people are riffing, free associating, inspiration and creativity is unleashed and then – pow! – something innovative, amazing, and actionable is right there in front of us. Leaders that encourage and enable this kind of employee engagement and cross-pollination in every nook and cranny of their organizations win points in the social enterprise.

3) Educate. Social media is an awesome learning and community building tool. It turns an organization and social enterprise into a global classroom. Everything from a prosaic process change that has to be learned by rote, to a guest lecture from one of the world’s most brilliant minds, can be broadcast to the desktop and mobile devices of every employee. It’s also an unparalleled arena for questions to be asked and answered delivered. Remember the best college course you ever took, the one that left you high with inspiration, juice and fire in your belly? You can now recreate that in your organization and your community.

4) Engage. With social media every employee (and leader) can engage on a new, highly personalized level. This is an amazing morale builder. Just to know that you can voice your concerns, seek and offer help, and be part of a community, effects a deep change in attitude. When people are engaged, they feel respected and valued. And when that happens, they dig deeper, give more, and are just plain happier. And that’s a beautiful thing, both because it’s the right way to live, and because happy employees deliver amazing results.

5) Monitor. Social media allows leaders to keep in touch of what’s happening in close to real time. Successes are revealed more quickly, and resources can be added to parlay or sustain the gains. Setbacks are easier to spot, and losses can be cut, adjustments made, or reinforcements sent in. Social media creates a central nervous system that is sensitive, responsive and revealing. Social media has a rhythm and a pulse, and leaders must learn how to respond to the rhythm and check the pulse. When they do, they discover they have a whole new set of eyes and ears.

6) Maximize. Social media usage is evolving at a rapid pace. And so is the definition of social media itself. Both are growing evermore exciting, varied and sophisticated. YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, G+ are handing leaders and employees new tools that take the value of social media to new levels. Think employee-generated tutorials and videos. And who says Brandon in shipping’s amazing attitude won’t inspire Christine in the boardroom? Brainstorm with your smartest and savviest and most-plugged in employees on ways to ride this cresting wave.

7) Enjoy. I’ve said it before (and I’ll probably be shouting it until my final days on earth the way things look now): Great leaders and great employees love what they do. Coming to work is coming to play. Of course, there are days (weeks, months) that are stress fests, tension conventions, hell’s bells, but the more you enjoy what you do, the better you will be at. And social media is a wicked (that’s Boston slang that I rarely use) blast. It connects us, gives us a chance to be our best selves in a public forum, is a stage to express our individuality and sense of humor, and is just a flat-out fabulous work tool if you take a chance on it.

It’s been very gratifying and exciting for me to watch millions of people plug into the electricity of social media and community building. Organizations large and small, profit and non-profit, are utilizing this evolutionary leap in new and exciting ways. How can social media take you to the next level? What are you feeling challenged by? I realize often it’s not easy to know where to begin. Let me know please. I’m always here for a listen.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.

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#WorkTrends Recap: The Explosion of Live Video Streaming

Snapchat, Blab, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook Live, the list is growing… Live video has exploded onto the scene and now everyone can emulate their favorite talk show host. While video has been around for a while and we’ve witnessed YouTube sensations become legitimate celebrities, this is a whole new breed of social media.

Every day different people and businesses are tapping the potential of live video to connect with consumers, businesses, shareholders, employees and clients. The type of media consumption is changing the way businesses work.

This week, special guest host Tim McDonald and guest Brian Fanzo, millennial speaker and change evangelist, joined the #WorkTrends show and dug into the current trend and future promise of live streaming video across all industries.

Here are a few key points Brian shared:

  • Live video offers an behind the scenes look into companies so consumers know what they’re getting
  • Live video forces people to be real and authentic
  • It is an easy and free way to connect directly with the consumer, employee or client

You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here.

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next Wednesday, June 29, host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by Scott Thomas and Maria Orozova, a husband and wife team that has figured out the balance of working together as spouses.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: The Explosion of Live Video

Snapchat, Blab, Instagram, Periscope, Facebook Live, the list is growing… Live video has exploded onto the scene and now everyone can emulate their favorite talk show host. While video has been around for a while and we’ve witnessed YouTube sensations become legitimate celebrities, this is a whole new breed of social media.

Next week, special guest host Tim McDonald and guest Brian Fanzo, millennial speaker and change evangelist, will join the #WorkTrends show to dig into the current trend and future promise of live streaming video across all industries.

The Explosion of Live Video

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Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, June 22 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends guest host Tim McDonald and guest Brian Fanzo as they discuss the explosion of live video online.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, June 22 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1. Why is live video streaming so hot for job seekers, employees and brands? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2. What new applications do you foresee for video and live streaming?#WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3. What talent strategies can be revolutionized by using live video? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community, LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!

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TalentCulture Corner Office Talks Marketing, Branding And Innovation With Brian Carter

In this Corner Office article, Cyndy Trivella, Events Manager with TalentCulture, spoke with Brian Carter, Founder and CEO of The Carter Group and Co-author of the best-selling book The Cowbell Principle. Brian is one of the most innovative people in business, and a marketing and branding genius. He went from a state of unemployment to building one of the biggest and most successful non-traditional agencies in the social marketing space.

Cyndy and Brian talked about the struggles people face with marketing, managing their brands, the challenges of business ownership, and value of innovating responsibly. In line with our series, this article will highlight the perspective and experience of someone who has made the move to the “corner office.”

Cyndy: Brian, I can understand why you easily engage with people. You always have a thoughtful way of explaining things and I know our readership will appreciate your comments. So let’s begin with you. What are the top challenges you face in your current role?

Brian: We’re currently facing growth challenges in my consultancy, the Brian Carter Group. We’re hiring and streamlining our back-office, CRM, accounting and client onboarding processes. And because we don’t want to use the typical agency model, we emphasize only having experts doing our clients’ work. So we grow personnel slowly, which means a lot of work for each of our experts. This means morale, communication and efficiency are critical to our clients’ success and to ours. I work directly on our communication systems and make sure we stick to processes that will keep us efficient.

Cyndy: I applaud you for breaking the mold on the stereotypical agency model and it sounds like a lot of high-quality work is being produced because of it.

So in full transparency, the thing that brought you to my attention, well over a year ago, was your book, The Cowbell Principle. You and your co-author, Garrison Wynn, take an interesting approach to offering career advice in the book using the cowbell to help people recognize their unique gifts, their personal brand and how to capitalize on them to find success and happiness. So tell me why is finding and sharing our personal cowbell so difficult?

Brian: A cowbell is a passion, talent or skill that you enjoy and so do others. To start, a lot of people don’t develop their skills, or don’t know what their talent is, or don’t pursue their talent. And sometimes they have emotional hang-ups about the thing they love or pursuing what they love.

Conversely, there are people who believe they should pursue what they love no matter what effect it has on others— that’s not a cowbell either. It has to be something that is valuable to others.

Honestly, a lot of people want to do “good-enough” work and go home and watch Netflix. I feel that temptation, too. Finding or developing a cowbell requires a desire for greatness and a rejection of mediocrity. If you’re not driven by something, or toward something, you won’t excel and you won’t stand out.

Cyndy: What you’ve just said is very impactful, especially about not understanding our skills, strengths and gifts. No doubt, some people struggle with brand identity and marketing their attributes. What’s odd is, I see this same problem affecting companies and in many ways they suffer with the same issues. So why do companies struggle with marketing their brand?

Brian: First off, a lot of companies don’t have a brand, or at least not an exceptional, interesting, developed one. And just because you created a logo doesn’t mean you have a brand. There are a lot of crappy logos out there.

Branding is about identity. Who are you? Who is your company? How are you unique? Just as with the cowbell question, a lot of people don’t have an answer to the uniqueness question. They aren’t doing anything unique.

It takes work to find that thing. Exploration. A commitment to a difficult search within.

And once you find it, the guts to stick to that brand. Not wanting to be all things to all people. Being willing to turn some people off in order to turn others on. That’s scary, it really is. But leaders need to have that kind of courage. And when you don’t have courage, you don’t have a great brand.

Once you have that brand, marketing it is easy — if you know what it is, you should be able to convey it in video and blog posts and other media. If you can’t, you may not really know what your brand is yet.

These days, it’s a good idea to let customer feedback influence how your brand develops. When you see what Facebook posts they like and don’t like, which ones they share or don’t share that tells you which parts of your brand resonate with customers and which ones don’t. If you want your brand to move customers to take action, you need to pay attention to how they respond to it.

Cyndy: Great advice to people and companies, alike. Without a unique value proposition, it’s impossible to distinguish one person or company from another. So I have a last question. If innovation keeps companies relevant and timely, why do some companies and employees believe business should continue as “we’ve always done it that way?”

Brian: You should never innovate just because something is new. The innovation has to be better than the old way, and the benefits of adopting the innovation have to outweigh the costs of changing.

Every time you change how things are done in your company, you create inefficiencies, even if they’re temporary. And you may find that some of your employees just can’t adjust. They might quit or you might have to let them go, which is costly. And further, there’s a cost to replacing them.

So it’s important to ask if the innovation is worth it. Is it going to last? Who is going to have trouble adapting to it? How big of a problem will that be?

It’s always hard to get people to change, and there are smart ways to get them to adapt, so you’ll never be able to avoid the grumbling and inefficiencies that come with change, but make sure the change is worth it before you implement it.

Cyndy: Change, even when for the better, can be scary for many people. Weighing the pros and cons makes a lot of sense when considering the benefits and consequences of innovating.

Brian, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. Thank you for your time and insights.

Brian: I appreciate it and enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

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The Benefits of Allowing Employees to Build Personal Brands

I recently attended a talk on personal branding given by Dorie Clark, bestselling author of “Stand Out,” at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

At the conclusion of the talk, I asked Dorie her opinion of employers that restrict employees attempting to brand themselves using social media. I was in agreement with Dorie’s answer that employees should be allowed to build their personal brand.

Employers are concerned that employees frequently writing and posting could embarrass or negatively impact a company’s reputation. What employers fear are employees who build their reputations outside their business, making them more attractive to recruiters and other employers.

I used to observe employers attempt to retain employees by denying them training or asking them to work long hours to make it harder to network and attend interviews. Today I see employers creating processes for approving employees social media posts that are often arbitrary, slow moving and without transparency.

Some employees have told me that their posts have lost some relevancy as weeks and months pass waiting for employer approval. Employers in the financial industry, hiding behind the excuse of compliance and regulatory approval, have told employees to stay completely off social media.

The courts and the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) have weighed in a with variety of opinions, many of which have tilted in the direction of employees having some right to free speech. I understand employers’ point of view and their concern about protecting their reputations. I also would advise employees to not use social media to rant about their work grievances, how much they dislike their boss or to speak ill of their employer. An emotional outburst on social media disparaging an employer could stay with the writer throughout one’s career.

Employees creating original content, or commenting online, is an opportunity for employees to further intellectually engage, stretch themselves and grow as leaders in their field. This growth is beneficial to the employer as new relationships are formed, employees think of new ways to analyze and solve problems, and the company enhances its reputation having an emerging industry superstar as a member of their team.

Employers that hold back their employees, and don’t let them grow, run the risk of sliding into obsolescence. Employees pushing the boundaries of their expertise will bring new knowledge that has been vetted online (and likely offline as strong online relationships can lead to strong offline relationships). This gift of constantly flowing knowledge into companies will keep employers updated on changes in their industry. Employers can use this as an effective feedback mechanism to allow themselves to pivot quickly when necessary.

Job security is a relic of the past. Anybody can be fired at any time for any reason. Every employee needs to create their own career insurance. Writing and posting on social media allows employees to expand their network of contacts. Employees can show the marketplace their insight, expertise, skills and desirability as a potential hire. As the global economy continues to progress towards a knowledge-based, gig job market the competition for employment will become furiously competitive.

Advanced degrees and specialized education are becoming so commonplace that these credentials will transition from being competitive advantages to being minimal requirements on a job listing. References have lost much of their impact on the hiring process as many employers, worried about the threat of litigation, provide nothing more than basic information about an employee when asked about an employee’s performance. A person’s ability to stand out from a crowd will be crucial to obtaining employment. Having a strong social media presence in one’s field will be a key tool necessary to differentiate oneself from the thousands that will be seeking every work opportunity of the future. TalentCulture’s CEO Meghan M. Biro wrote an excellent article, “Five Reasons Why Social Media Should Be On Your HR Radar,” that details the importance of your social media brand and recruiting..

Employers must let employees write and comment on their social media personal pages about their industry. Employees need to be thoughtful and professional about every post they write, and every comment they make as they are creating a permanent record for all potential employers. All posts should contain an employee disclosure that their posts and comments are personal and do not reflect the views of their employers.

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Your Digital Footprint and the Permanent Job Search

“Don’t post it online if you wouldn’t want your employer to see it.”

Plenty of people have heard this sage piece of advice before, even if the advice itself is no more than 10 or 15 years old. The reason it’s become so pertinent is that your digital footprint defines who you are now more than ever. Almost everything you do nowadays is passively recorded, tracked, and stored on the internet by third parties, and modern employers are tapping into that data to make hiring decisions before they’ve even met their prospective employees in person.

What Are Employers On the Lookout For?

The truth is that the internet has become the biggest, baddest, and most comprehensive research tool for almost every aspect of life. According to a CareerBuilder survey from 2015, 52 percent of employers use social networking sites and search engines to research job candidates, a significant rise from 43 percent in 2014, and 39 percent in 2013.

Employers aren’t necessarily looking for reasons not to hire prospective employees. In fact, the same survey posits that 60 percent are looking for reasons to hire, either by the way of official or unofficial qualifications for the job in question. There are the employers out there that do admit they’re actively looking for reasons not to hire a candidate, but that only accounts for 21 percent of those surveyed.

Unfortunately, looking or not, the survey showed that roughly 48 percent of hiring managers who have screened candidates on social media found something compelling them to make the decision not to hire in 2015. Fortunately, that’s a drop from 51 percent in 2014, and though it’s not that significant of a difference, hopefully we’ll see the trend continue into 2016 with potential candidates becoming more savvy with how they use their online profiles. The most frequent “social media infractions” that have led employers to make the decision not to hire include:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs (46 percent)
  • Information about candidate drinking or doing drugs (40 percent)
  • Bad-mouthing previous employers or fellow employees (34 percent)
  • Poor communication skills (30 percent)
  • Discriminatory, sexist, or racist comments (29 percent)

Harvard Business Review uses the term “Permanent Job Search” to describe the way the personal information that makes up your digital footprint is constantly collected, analyzed, and evaluated in terms of hireability. Whether you like it or not, this Permanent Job Search, and, more importantly, your digital footprint, has turned you into a brand.

The Job Search Has Turned You Into a Brand

“You too are a brand. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not.” – Marc Ecko

In 2011, Business Insider released a pretty extensive article titled “Brand: You. Creating and Self-Marketing Yourself to Find a Job During Tough Times.” The advice listed is still pertinent for the most part, but, more importantly, comes from an interesting time in humanity’s history: the midst of the digitization of the human experience. Of course, we still have a way to go–but we’ve crossed a threshold since then in terms of interconnectivity, social visibility, and how much privacy our culture will allow its individuals to retain.

There is no better way to properly express this than by pointing out the simple fact that nowadays we don’t trust anybody that doesn’t have a social media account, let alone digital footprints. Tech has become so integral to our society that we’re more likely to believe that somebody is hiding something than we are that they actually have no online presence. We do the same type of analyses with businesses–if there is clearly more benefit from embracing and engaging in the techno-zeitgeist, why wouldn’t you dive in head first?

As a job-seeker, a brand, and a participant in the world of social media, it’s worth it to define yourself to your audience clearly. New age technological literacy means always living with the rules of job searching and digital marketing in mind, including perhaps the biggest rule of both, which is knowing your audience–or, at the very least, knowing what your audience should and shouldn’t see.

The same CareerBuilder survey that lists what employers turned down applicants for in relation to social media posts also made mention that 32 percent of hiring managers in 2015 actually found information online that caused them to hire candidates instead of pass on them. This includes:

  • Background information supporting job qualifications
  • Overall personality indicating a good fit with company culture
  • Good communication skills
  • Information showing candidate is creative

The hard part is figuring out what you should highlight, and how you should cater to members of your specific job market. Fortunately, what not to show an employer is pretty universal, no matter what job you’re applying for.

Cleaning Up Your Digital Footprint

Whether you’re entering the job market for the first time or you’re a vet looking for a new position, it’s always good to make sure that your digital footprint looks pristine for the job search. JT Ripton, contributor to College Recruiter and The Guardian, lists seven basic ways you can clean up your footprint and strengthen your chances of hireability. Be they for recent graduates or for experienced vets back on the market, the steps are the same:

  1. First, Google yourself. See what pops up. If your name is common, add variations including your hometown and high school. If anything that you wouldn’t want an employer to see pops up, contact the site and ask them to take it down.
  2. Beef up your privacy settings. Think of them as the new business clothes of the real world.
  3. Remove risqué content. This one is most essential for high school and college graduates, but everybody on the job hunt would do well to give their “photos” section a once-over.
  4. Delete your inactive profiles. They make your footprint look sloppy and serve as nothing more than security risks.
  5. Check blogs and forums too. While your social media profiles might look pristine, those two or three unscrupulous AngelFire blog posts from ten years ago might still be around.
  6. Use a pen name. There’s nothing wrong with having hobbies not considered “business professional.” For the most ardently adventurous, romping-ly risqué, and wonderfully weird subjects… consider a pen name.
  7. Stay vigilant. Concerts, bachelorette parties, weddings, and nights in Las Vegas won’t stop happening just because you got a new job. Just make sure your media is under control, and you won’t have to scrub again.

That last one deserves a post all of its own. It does no good to weed a garden if you intend to let that garden become overgrown again.

The Importance of Your Digital Footprint – Now and in the Future

Most Millennials have had a digital footprint since age two, and the first generations of humans to lay down a digital existence since birth already grace this planet. It’s interesting to think about this symbiotic relationship we’ve created with data, to think about humans before, during, and after the technological revolution. Some think that we’ll become so inextricably intertwined with our digital footprints that we’ll start using our data as currency, stored in a sort of digital footprint wallet.

Whatever the case for the future, the fact is that your digital footprint already affects your ability to make and spend money, as it could be the deciding factor behind why you did or didn’t get a job. We’re entering an era where somebody’s digital footprint is akin to the cover by which you judge a book–make sure that yours represents you well.

 

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Tweet Naked: Using Social Media to Build Your Brand

Social media is one of the best marketing tools available when it comes to building and a brand. However, people and companies are missing an opportunity to connect with consumers by not utilizing it effectively.

Today’s #WorkTrends guest, Scott Levy, author of “Tweet Naked”, shared tips and tricks to help you get the most from your investment of both time and resources in social media marketing. Scott also touched on the brands that have mastered social media marketing and why we need to emulate what they do. Here are a few great takeaways shared by Scott:

  • If you want to continue seeing great content on social media, reward people with likes and shares
  • The brands that we should copy are the ones focusing on customer service and social listening
  • Contribute – not for likes and followers – but because you genuinely want to help

The #WorkTrends conversation that ensued was insightful, especially Scott’s advice on personal branding and bringing value to a conversation online.

Check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Haven’t had the chance to tune into a #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next Wednesday, May 11, we will be joined by Rebecca Macek, Director of Recruitment of CareerBuilder, to discuss why we should rethink the candidate experience to get better hires.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

 

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5 Lessons In Learning And Leadership

Here in the Boston, Cambridge we are lucky, there’s a college around every corner. Harvard, M.I.T., Wellesley, Boston University, the list goes on and on. Our streets, libraries and local coffee shops are clogged with passionate students shelling out 40k (plus extras) a year for the privilege of earning those coveted diplomas.

I hate to be a bubble-burster, but some of them may be overpaying. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of education, and a degree from a top-flight school still counts. But we’re seeing a sea change in the kind of learning the marketplace is demanding. That start-up in Silicon Valley or Williamsburg, Brooklyn cares more about your passion, social-media skills and ability to keep learning than it does about that little piece of paper from your alma mater. And established companies are realizing that they need people who have their pulse on emerging knowledge, innovation and markets. In a nutshell: these days the learning curve stops at the grave and starts very early in our careers.

So whether you’re a leader, manager, employee or freelancer, it’s time to start actively learning to maintain career momentum. Please, no groans. I’m not talking about homework and pop quizzes. I’m talking about igniting your curiosity, following your bliss, and exploring the infinite possibilities of real-world, social media and online learning.

Here are 5 steps to jump start your adventure in learning:

  1. Take inventory. What are your strengths, and more importantly, what are your weaknesses and limitations? This is both in relation to your organization, and to the larger world of work. Write them down. Be honest. This inventory is your roadmap to action.
  1. Know your options. You need to know what’s out there: where are the on-line courses, social media, and real-world, non-digital opportunities to learn? Stay focused on two things: first, what will help you bolster your strengths, up your performance, and grow as a leader; and second, what excites you. Which leads me to:
  1. Follow your passion. We all remember sitting through classes that bored us to tears. Invariably we did poorly in those subjects. There may be some basics you need to know for the specific demands of your work. Nail those. Then turn to what turns you on. Follow your natural curiosity. Obviously, this can’t be the extinct birds of Borneo? Or can it? If some subject or endeavor really stimulates you, it may well contain nuggets of applicable, actionable wisdom. Make a list of what excites you. Find online communities of like-minded people. And watch the sparks fly and the learning start.
  1. Put first things second. Once you’ve got the learning bug and know where to go to find your fix, start thinking in terms of your current project. At the end of the day, delivering sustained, stellar performance is what learning is all about. Find that piece of the project that most ignites your passion, and dive into the learning pool in search of actionable knowledge, skills, and insights. Look at your current project through this learning lens. Today.
  1. Teach to learn. Teaching is an amazing learning tool. Find someone whose curiosity dovetails with yours, but where you have more knowledge and/or skills. Mentor this person. Pass on what you know. Engage. Give back. In the doing, your own know-how will be refreshed and replenished. And you will learn from your mentee. I guarantee it. His or her questions will force you to expand your knowledge, and her beginners’ minds will deliver fresh insights. You will be renewed. A variation of this is to find a peer and become learning partners. Two brains are better than one; your curiosity and hers will spark new explorations, your passionate exchanges will strengthen you both.

Lifelong learning used to be a cozy catchphrase popular in retirement communities aiming at the PBS/NPR demographic. No more. Today, it is an imperative for a sustained, successful, fulfilling career. And that’s the most important lesson of all. Every single generation. Every one of us.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.

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Want the Best for Your Business Social Media–Tweet Naked

Social media is one of the best marketing tools available when it comes to building and developing personal brands or company brands, yet many people are not utilizing social media effectively. Want the best for your business from social media? Well, we’ve got you covered!

We’re excited to feature Scott Levy, author of “Tweet Naked” on this week’s #WorkTrends show and can’t wait to hear the tips and tricks he’ll share to help you get the most from your investment of both time and resources into social media marketing. We’ll talk about favorite tactics, best tools to explore, how to manage your business social media presence without going crazy, and also what you need to consider when thinking about having an agency manage your social media presence.

Scott is a fantastic presenter and he’ll bring real-life examples of companies using social media correctly and incorrectly. He’ll also share with you what he does personally to build his brand and his business across multiple platforms, including Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and, his favorite, Twitter. You are sure to walk away with some actionable insights that you can put immediately to use in your business’s social media marketing efforts, so make it a point to join this don’t miss episode of #WorkTrends.

Want the Best for Your Business Social Media–Tweet Naked

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Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, May 4 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guest Scott Levy as they discuss how to use social media effectively for business.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, May 4 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the radio show, the team will move to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. We invite everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1. How does social media impact your daily life? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2. How does social media enhance organizational brands? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3. Where do you see social media in 10 years? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

If you can’t wait until Wednesday we invite you to keep the discussion going on the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ communityShare your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community any time. See you there!

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Free Agent Nation Romance: The Good, The Bad, And The Unknown

You know the story. Once upon a time, companies courted new talent with the promise of a lifelong relationship. “Work” meant employment, training, benefits, and job security for years, if not decades. But for many, if not most companies and employees, the romance has died.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 40% of all U.S. workers now operate on a part-time or contract basis. Josh Bersin adds:

“Bottom Line: the workforce of today is specialized and highly virtual: working part-time, mobile, from home, and often on a contract basis. Our research shows that among large employers upwards of 32% of all positions are now “part-time” or contract-based.”

Bersin argues that social media have enabled employers and a fast-moving, trained workforce to link up with “local projects, local tasks, and local jobs.” He gives the examples of the rapid growth of job boards such as TaskRabbit and GigWalk, and notes that “this mode of work has hit the corporate market as well. . . . But they don’t see what’s really coming – an explosion of mobile, virtual, local workers. One can think of these new services as “mobile-enabled, local job-boards” – but what they really are is enablers of the younger, more virtual workforce.”

Here’s the bottom line and our collective reality check. Bersin sums it up nicely here “the contingent workforce is now a permanent fixture, so many elements of talent management, recruiting and engagement are being extended to these mobile ‘free agents.’

Really? Just how well are leaders rising to the occasion in this “highly scalable” new world order they’ve created?

Let’s take a closer look at this Brave New Free Agent World of Work. 

1) The Good

Flexibility. For both employers and employees. Lots of my friends, especially my mom friends, like having freelance jobs for that reason.

Varied work experiences. Freelances can try different kinds of work and companies, without committing to any of them. They are “pan-opportunists.”

New skills. We like having the chance to reinvent ourselves and gain new skills. We never stop dreaming. This is very exciting.

Savings for companies. Firms save millions by not giving benefits or providing training or career ladders, and by freely expanding or contracting their workforce as needed. (All of which gives us a fascinating meaning to the word free in “free agents” and “freelancers” . . . )

Adapting to the new culture. “The fast-moving, technologically dynamic global economy has forced leaders to think about work in modular, ever- shifting ways. Organizations that can adapt, change, and innovate quickly have an advantage today. [Having] contingent and contract workers can facilitate this change.”

2) The Bad

No bennies. While my freelancer friends like the flexibility, none of them likes the lack health care, sick time, vacation pay, or other bennies. Many of them would willingly give up the flexibility if they could find work at firms offering these benefits.

No job security. Ever had that pit-in-the-stomach feeling as one project ends and you can’t see the next one over the horizon?

No training. No comment. There is no excuse for bad leadership. This should be a must for all companies and leaders. Even for “consultants” or “free lancers”

No engagement. What’s being done by leading-edge companies to ensure that contingent workers fit into the culture and engage with the organization? In fact, in nearly every way you can name, contractors are still considered “second-class citizens” in most corporate settings.

Less stability. The most stable firms are those that have stable and loyal employees. Oh no. Not good.

3) The Unknown

Have companies and their employees broken up for good?

Williams and Bersin seem to agree that contingent work is here to stay, in massive numbers. And so do I. The facts speaks for themselves.

Williams:

“Dana Shaw, former senior Vice-President for Staffing Industry Analysts, reported that in the Fortune 100 companies, contingent workers make up 20-30% of the workforce, but predicts it will soon be 50%. Statistics Canada reported that by 2009, 52% of all temporary jobs were contract jobs, 25% of them were professionals. . . . McKinsey &Co. reported that 65% of U.S. corporations have restructured their workforce and have no plans to return to pre-recession employment, but rather are opting for contingent and contract work when the need for expansion takes place.”

What about innovation? What does freelancers’ “pan-opportunism” mean for innovation? The results aren’t in. All I know for sure is that innovation generally comes from companies who nurture their teams, support their passions, and given them scope to imagine and produce. This does not sound like a description of a company dependent on a contingent workforce.

As freelancers begin having families, needing health care, wanting stability, and so on, will they change—and insist on more meaningful relationships with companies? And, therefore, will we have the happy ending: with these protagonists getting back together in more permanent ways, both wiser than before?

Social media is awesome. It has done astounding things, producing cultural transformations in HR and Leadership and Technology we never dreamed of even a few years ago. Surely we should—and can—use it to foster fidelity between leaders and contract employees. Can we agree that building a fair, meaningful relationship between these parties is a good thing . . . for leaders, free agents, and our global world of work?

So. Light the candles . . . put on the mood music . . . And think strategically about the kind of relationships that will allow us to live happily ever after in our careers.

Will social media combined with this unstable jobs economy forever lead companies and employees into the arms of many different suitors, relationships, careers?

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com.
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Social Learning Leadership: A New Panacea For Ignorance?

A dear friend’s TWINS (yes all caps) just entered a prestigious New England university. They are bright, driven, focused students and they’ll do well. They’d better, because it will cost my friend north of $100K a year to keep them in New England college splendor. Smiles.

It would have been more costly at Harvard, which in 2012-2013 provided cost guidelines for undergraduates in excess of $62,000. Of course a recent graduate, if he or she were fortunate enough to find a full-time job (almost half are not so lucky, according to a recent study) might expect to receive an annual salary of $42,000. Not much when you add in an apartment, or a car, or an IRA, or student loan repayments. No wonder so many college graduates still live at home (spoiler career alert – they’ll need that IRA?) Heaven help you if your student holds a degree in fine arts or journalism. Don’t say no one warned you on this career move these days. Always a risky proposition so do your homework please.

Perhaps as leaders we need to re-examine the learning business or the business of learning. On the job, in your career, which part of your studies contributes to success? I’m betting the semester in Prague has yet to pay dividends, and the minor degree in psychology, while it may enable you to pop-diagnose personality disorders in co-workers, hasn’t helped you get a report done, contributed to critical thinking skills necessary to problem-solve, or helped when you needed a Word or Excel shortcut.

In short, classroom learning – what the experts call formal learning – has limits. I’m a believer in the value of an education but it has limits and our system is in need of care and social innovation. Anyone who’s slogged through 12 years plus in the classroom will agree. Then there’s informal learning – stuff you do on your own, for the most part. Read any good business books lately? Ah, no, ok then.

Finally, **queue social learning** like so much else today it’s an outgrowth of social media. I’ve been living the social learning lifestyle online for a few solid years now (plus actually – I’m in denial). I host two chats on Twitter that are dedicated to the World of Work and HR Technology = Social Learning Leadership in ACTION.

The good news: it turns out companies are looking at social learning, and many are opting away from classroom, which they can control but which costs money – part-time classes at Harvard run around $5K per class per semester, for example – and also forgoing informal learning, where they tell an employee they’d better read a certain book and be prepared for the pop quiz. These days everything is social, so why not social learning?

Who knew all that time at Starbucks was finally going to pay off?

Social learning, as my friend Sharlyn Lauby points out, happens pretty much anywhere, with or without social (media) tools. Remember when you started a job at a tech company, tried to query a database, and had no idea what MySQL was? Bet someone helped you, gave you just enough info to get the job done without worrying about making you an expert. Then you passed that skill on at an all-hands meeting. Voila, social learning!

Social learning takes the relaxed nature of informal learning and the expertise and rigor of classroom learning to make something more suited to today’s on-the-job learners. It adds the context of the workplace, subtracts the expense of the classroom, and informs the experience with the social element so necessary in today’s interactions.

Bingo, as they say. I’m a big fan of Twitter as a classroom for social learners.

So Let’s Celebrate Five Advantages of Social Learning Leadership:

1) Social learning advantages millennials while also benefitting other age cohorts. It’s a multi-generational party! Let’s face it, if you run a company, HR or internal training, you need to manage all the generational populations, but you’re probably biased to the needs of the millennials, the generation inheriting the jobs and wisdom of Boomers. Very little downside here – you’re covering the entire employee population, at a lower price point than classroom learning.

2) Social learning is not time-constrained. No need to call a two-day training that takes out 75 percent of the department. Make it social, create many entry points and create a rewards system to ensure most employees participate. Don’t worry about the hold-outs – they will, in time, pick up the knowledge gained by those who took the class (see informal training.)

3) Social learning encompasses an explicit and visible rewards system for those who participate. Everyone wants the gold star, real or virtual. Making the award visible across the employee population, using social media, is common sense.

4) Links to business value must be explicit. People need to know their contributions are valued by the organization. Social leaning is no exception. You will need to construct a value-investment chain; many organizations, free or fee, can help.

5) Social learning is strategic, not tactical. Sure it’s a tactical benefit when someone learns to code a spreadsheet formula without taking a three-day class. But look for strategic value: an employee who attends Edward Tufte’s visual presentation of data seminar has enormous value. His or her ability to present quantitative information in a visually appealing form will reinvigorate employees who can’t go to the seminar but are bored to death with PowerPoint or Prezi. Invest in social learning in such a way that all learning becomes social, even when it begins in the classroom. Make it creative and engaging to your audience.

Finally, remember that creating a learning environment is an exercise in smart workplace culture, and an investment in creating competitive advantage for your company or your community.

Social is the how, not the why. Focus on the how, and social learning will make sense.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com on 9/11/12

Photo Credit: Terence Dillard via Compfight cc

Who Owns Your Company’s Brand

I’ve written a lot about the positive aspects of brand, brand humanization, allowing employees to be brand ambassadors, and to free up their personal brand to evolve just as real people do.

What I haven’t talked about as much is who owns your company’s brand. Does the organization? Do the brand ambassadors? Where do you draw the line, and when?

I’ll tell you a story about a software technology company (one of my clients) which hired a well-known thought leader to be the brand ambassador for one of its product lines. The company allowed the brand ambassador to Tweet and blog under his name, although the product line had an established social media presence on a number of channels – among them Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+.

The result? You guessed it: people interested in the brand started following, and having conversations with, the brand ambassador, who refused to use the brand handle and insisted on using his handle. The company’s product line social media efforts didn’t build a following; everyone was watching the man behind the curtain. In two years of employment (and talks with management which belatedly realized what was happening,) the brand ambassador assured the company this was best practice, followers understood the brand was separate from the ambassador, and all would turn out well.

Shocker alert: the person’s personal brand left the company for greener pastures, and so did the person’s (and the brand’s) thousands of followers. The company scrambled to hire a brand ambassador who understood the need to separate church and state. The new ambassador was hired: a person with a less fragile ego and more commitment to the company. Nevertheless it took over a year to build back a following for the product line’s brand. Kind of a complex situation overall if you dig deeper.

Could this have been avoided? Of course, with a little care, and perhaps a better understanding of human motivation and personal brand.

I believe everyone owns their own personal brand. Companies and leadership must see the value of this concept for a successful social workplace recipe. If a brand ambassador chooses to represent the company and/or its brands, the individual should do so in a transparent way, e.g. set up a separate twitter handle incorporating the person’s name or handle and the brand handle or company name.

An example: @SusieQBrandX, instead of @SusieQ. In this way the company respects the individual’s personal brand while providing a company-blessed channel for the individual to share information about the company, employer brand.

Some people share my sentiments and many do not – I’d love to hear your thoughts – but we’re all working towards the same goal: making it simple for brand ambassadors to represent the company, while ensuring messages are consistent and authentic. It’s important to ensure the line between the company’s brand and the person’s brand is documented and respected. It’s also important to ensure followers of the brand aren’t confused.

Another company I consult with hired a social community manager who also is responsible for social media and employer branding. This individual is very political in the Party sense, so an agreement was reached before employment to protect both the individual’s right to communicate her political thoughts and also support the organization’s point of view. This was accomplished by creating a new handle for the community manager (see the @SusieQBrandX example above) and supporting its launch with a blog. So far, all is well. No lines have been crossed and everyone involved has declared the arrangement a success (so far, so good). Susie still has the freedom to voice her views on her own handle on her own personal brand.

So what are ground rules for ensuring your employees, who are brand ambassadors, can represent the company’s views and still profess their own?

Here are five social ideas for leadership:

1) Create a best practices guideline document for brand ambassadors. This doesn’t have to be as bulky or draconian as most employee handbooks. The goal is to establish do’s and don’ts for employees who choose to represent the company on social media. Have a use case for those who don’t want to dilute their personal brand and another for employees who are willing to co-brand a social media identity.

2) Ensure the social media/brand ambassador guidelines are incorporated in your onboarding process for new employees. Remember: the goal of HR is ‘never surprise anyone’. Be transparent from the beginning, and be consistent in your management of the practices. It’s your brand, after all.

3) Create the post of Chief Listening Officer. (hat tip to Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute fame) and make sure the CLO has the Twitter handles of all employees who choose to act as ambassadors. Plan B is to have really good scans set up to catch slips in process before they compromise the brand.

4) Don’t be apologetic. If you are the employer it’s your brand, which means it’s IP. Protect is as diligently as you would from hackers or those who might not share your views on IP, brand ownership, etc.

5) Invite your employees to be brand ambassadors. Make them your workplace champions. Provide them with ground rules, message training, and other business supports. But also be vigilant for those who are trying to build their own brands on your clock. There’s a line – make sure you cover this in the Brand Ambassador Guidelines.

Social media is critical to personal or employer brand maintenance. You want to encourage employees to be brand ambassadors while protecting all parties involved. It’s not hard or mean; it’s just putting up guardrails so everyone stays on track.

After all, social media is growing up. It’s time for a few rules to keep it clean and safe for both brands and brand ambassadors. Have big fun with it.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes.com on 8/29/12.

photo credit: Edgethreesixty branding via photopin (license)