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Workforce Development: Using AR and VR to Strengthen Your Company

The 21st Century has seen enterprises across all industries scramble for the latest technologies and team-building strategies to enhance workforce development. For a good reason: It’s no secret that efficiency begins with an efficient workforce.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have become popular powerhouses for employee training, recruitment, and several other HR processes. These new technology waves have made it easier to evaluate employees’ performance, test their knowledge, improve training and strengthen their teams.

What are AR and VR Technologies?

Simply, augmented reality is a highly interactive experience of a real-world environment. It enhances objects in the real world by computer-generated perceptual information. Think Snapchat filters, Pokemon Go, and even Waze.

Virtual reality, a similarly interactive experience, is a simulation of a completely different environment from the real world. The computer-generated simulation of a 3-D image or environment can be interacted with in a seemingly real way. For a truly immersive sensory experience, users must wear appropriate electronic equipment, such as a headset and gloves fitted with sensors.

Using AR and VR in Recruitment: A Two Way Street

Companies are deploying AR/VR technologies in their recruitment processes to maintain a competitive edge in the market. They need the best talent the labor market has to offer, and these technologies can help filter candidates by the most relevant skills. However, it works both ways; the best talent will look for the best and most inspiring work opportunities. And VR, in particular, helps candidates experience work environments remotely.

Recently, Lloyds Bank implemented VR into its assessment process for the Graduate Leadership Program. During the screening process, Lloyd’s asks candidates to solve puzzles in a simulated environment. Based on their results — which clearly demonstrated their strengths and weaknesses — the company more easily made recruitment decisions.

By providing a simulated view of the company, AR and VR can play another vital role in the recruiting process. After all, prospective employees can spend considerable time commuting to and from, as well as being in, a company’s workplace during the interview process. Virtual reality-based simulated environments can reduce that time and expense by providing candidates with a virtual yet holistic understanding of the working environment and team they could join. With AR and VR, a candidate can now be sitting in Shanghai as they gain a genuine feel for a company’s culture in Manhattan.

Gamification for Job Applicants

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, it’s never been more important to use innovative ways to engage with the best talent in a limited pool of qualified workers.

The use of gamification has proven to stand firm against the traditional application process since it offers something new, exciting, innovative, and — perhaps most importantly — efficient. Gamification significantly increases the interactivity of the recruitment process. Consider this, rather than gather essential candidate information through manual forms and resumes — such as qualifications, experience, and skills — a gamified approach can interactively reveal this information.

Innovative augmented reality platforms have grown to serve this growing application in recruitment screening. ActiView, for example, uses AR technology to help recruiters detect various behavioral habits and attributes required for the job.

AR and VR for General Training

Once employees are on board, training them can be costly, time-consuming, and ineffective. Virtual reality (VR) can help orient employees with all the technical skills related to their roles. By providing an immersive environment for new employee induction and training, new team members can familiarize themselves with new processes without wasting resources. Additionally, companies naturally expect employees to become more efficient in their roles with time. VR can help speed up these processes, and workforce development in general, as they get new employees more engaged and efficient faster.

For example, the hands-on training experiences opened up by VR allow employees to enter an immersive environment and gain experience using and navigating complex machinery and technical parts within a training room. By eliminating the boundaries between the real and virtual environments, employers take advantage of both realities in one setting — generating efficiencies and enabling faster learning.

 

corporate trading trade-off

 

As the graph above shows, the trade-off associated with traditional corporate training is offset by VR technology and immersive training. As illustrated, one-on-one expert mentor training is indeed an effective method. However, it’s time-consuming and expensive, which hinders a company’s ability to scale. On the other hand, reading a quick manual and watching a 2D video might be cost-effective. But precedent shows us this is the least effective training method.

AR and VR for Safety Training

Many industries, more than we initially imagine, operate to some degree in unsafe environments. This is particularly true within plants and facilities with heavy-duty machinery, chemicals, and life-threatening procedures. Virtual reality can play an essential role in facilities where safety is key.

For example, in the firefighting industry, VR-based training on new challenges has been massively beneficial. Specifically, it curbs training accidents and helps eliminate underperformance while demonstrating real-life scenarios. Trainees can apply the lessons learned anywhere an associated risk is part of the job spec.

Employers and organizations can provide a virtually created life-threatening or risky situation within an immersive environment to trainees. There, they can learn best practices and remedies and be better prepared to take on the challenge in real-life.

AR and VR for Team Building

Business managers, HR specialists, and young entrepreneurs have long since recognized the importance of building and maintaining company culture. Themes have shifted towards connectivity, embracing differences, inclusivity, and team-building strategies. Now, more than ever, they have turned to remote options to sustain a culture in a forced work-from-home environment.

When planning an in-person team-building event, of course, there are many options — from bars to restaurants to bowling alleys and pub quizzes. In these relaxed environments, team building can take many forms with different goals. Of course, these venues also come with their own sets of challenges — especially during a pandemic.

On the other hand, virtual reality is a notable and powerful team-building tool where anything is practically possible. Hang out with the team in virtual gathering rooms where everyone can join in playing games, get competitive and collaborate — from anywhere. The Rec Room is an excellent example of a multipurpose VR-based gaming resource. The platform provides companies with access to thousands of user-generated and custom gaming events that enable team building.

Workforce Development in a Nutshell

Ultimately, AR and VR eliminate the workforce development challenges faced — from recruiting to team-building — in a pre-technological world.

To strengthen your company, start leveraging the immense capabilities of AR and VR today.

 

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The Remote Era: 6 Ways to Cultivate a Strong Company Culture

In the remote era, where face-to-face meetings aren’t routinely possible, how do you cultivate a strong company culture?

Before the global health crisis hit, our experiential travel company, Moniker, planned creative corporate retreats, off-sites, and incentive trips for clients worldwide. Think ‘Amazing Race’ using tuk-tuks in Thailand or sailing on the Amalfi Coast. Or maybe hosting a game of ‘Survivor’ on the beaches of a Caribbean resort. Things changed rather quickly when global travel restrictions started piling up back in April. Soon, all (literally, all) of our clients began to cancel one-by-one until what initially looked like a banner year of sales and growth for our company became one chilling glare at a giant zero for the rest of 2020. 

The Eureka Moment: Company Culture 

As the old saying goes…

Out of crisis comes clarity.

As the situation unfolded, we realized what we were to our clients beforehand wasn’t a travel company. Instead, we were a one-stop-shop for them to outsource culture-building experience(s). We were co-architects of their company culture. As companies moved into a remote-work setup, engagement became more of a challenge. So, clients would lean on us to boost morale. We would help them maintain strong engagement and keep their teamwork and company culture strong in a remote world. 

We decided to create a limited series of nine virtual concepts over six months, from scratch. With no prior experience, no existing product, and quite frankly no idea of how to do it, we crossed over the $100,000 sales milestone in a short span of three months. Now, after seven months, we have just crossed the $1 million mark. Along the way, we’ve learned several things both large and small companies can do to engage employees, jump-start team (re)building, and cultivate strong team cultures in the new remote-work era:  

1) Shared Team Experiences

It could be as simple as introducing a company-wide, at-home fitness challenge. Perhaps rewarding employees or teams when they meet critical deadlines or hit work milestones works in your company. Or maybe facilitating a bi-weekly virtual ‘Coffee Chat’ so the group can discuss a book or movie everyone has watched. An optional after-hours ‘Cooking Club,’ where people can learn new recipes and techniques from colleagues with different culinary backgrounds, was quite well-received.

Whatever you choose, finding new ways to get people participating in something outside of work helps foster a strong sense of camaraderie. Don’t be afraid to get partners and children involved either. After all, involving employees’ families creates a more personal connection to their colleagues and positively impacts team morale.

2) WFH Swag 

Gone are the days of getting dressed up for work or attending meetings with company-branded stationery. The reality is that most of us in the work-from-home setup have embraced a much more casual approach to work attire and have carved out a little niche in our homes as our new office space. We’ve also gotten wise to “below-the-screen” (vs. “on-camera”) wardrobe, where comfort is king. 

Consider getting everyone some premium-quality, company-branded jogger sweatpants, Or maybe comfy indoor shoes, or a ‘go-to’ work top for team meetings and client-facing calls (a black crewneck sweater with your logo works well). Not only is this swag practical, but you’re also taking some of the thought out of what to wear to “work” each morning. 

3) Non-Traditional Rewards

Just as appreciated as physical items and gifts, non-tangible rewards are another great way to let employees know they are valued. Acknowledge hard work or major milestone achievements with a day off for everyone. Or give teams some flexibility with the option of starting later one day or shutting down the laptop early on Fridays around the upcoming holiday season.

It’s also important to acknowledge that working from home comes with its own set of challenges. The reality is, even after several months of experience, some remote workers struggle to separate their work lives from their personal lives. Show you understand this problem by encouraging them to take a vacation (even if it is just a staycation). Then respect that time by leaving them alone during their PTO. 

4) Ask for More Frequent Feedback and Encourage Input

For companies used to providing employee feedback in person, change your approach by engaging employees more frequently. Also, adapt the conversation to a remote-first situation.

Consider introducing quarterly or even monthly “Pulse Checks,” asking about their opinions on work performance or the business and asking for insight into their mental, financial, and physical wellness. Please encourage them to share their thoughts on how they are adapting to the new setup. Ask if there is anything that would help improve their situation (a second screen perhaps?). Finally, solicit ideas on how to improve morale. Most importantly, be upfront and sincere about your willingness to incorporate their input into implementing changes going forward.

5) Virtual Team-Building Activities

In addition to the shared experiences mentioned above, consider hosting monthly or bi-weekly virtual team-building events. During these events, be sure to mix up teams of employees who don’t often work together. Also,  introduce a few games to lighten the mood and break up the cycle of daily work. 

There are thousands of options out there – a simple Google search will turn up everything from pub quizzes to escape rooms. At-home scavenger hunts and improv comedy classes are popular. Are you feeling more adventurous? NASA-inspired lunar disaster scenarios and virtual murder mysteries can bring teams closer together, even when far apart.

6) Show Appreciation

Unfortunately, we underappreciate the simple gesture of a personal thank-you — a powerful motivator and culture-building tool. According to a Glassdoor survey on workplace retention, 81% of employees work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. That is a staggering number for what can be as easy as a personal note of sincere thanks or shout-outs during a team meeting.  

Sure, mass messages are an effective means of communicating. But they don’t necessarily come off as thoughtful when used to show appreciation. Instead, opt for a personal phone call or draft individualized messages in Slack or e-mail. In the process, show you’re paying attention by point out the specific contributions made by the employee. This gesture often leads to significantly higher productivity and engagement down the road. 

As we adapt to the remote-work era, these are several ways companies can show appreciation and boost morale. For more ideas on building strong cultures in a virtual world, check out Moniker’s blog here.

 

7 Tips to Manage Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity! It’s an important topic we’re talking about a lot lately. Here’s something to think about: We often talk about diversity and inclusion within the confines of training and programs. But what about the day-to-day challenges and best practices of managing a diverse workforce? Here are seven tips from HR experts to help you successfully manage a diversity in the workplace.

Stop Thinking of Diversity as a Buzzword

HR is full of buzzwords these days, but diversity isn’t one of them — nor should it be treated as one. Too many organizations fall prey to superficial efforts to increase diversity. Programs and initiatives can be great tools, but they’re ultimately temporary.

Instead, remember that building a diverse and inclusive organization is something you must work on every day, just as your sales team hustles for leads and your accounting team keeps the books in order.

Make Diversity Part of Your Hiring Process

Building a diverse organization from the ground up takes time. Try auditing your hiring process to ensure that you’re interviewing a diverse slate of candidates. “Mandate that before a requisition can be closed, you have to be shown that you had a diverse slate,” says Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, chief human resources officer at Symantec.

Taking this actionable step is small, but it ensures that hiring officers aren’t simply hiring people who remind them of themselves. “It starts at the hiring process,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. If you want to show that you’re serious about building a more diverse organization, you have to look critically at how you assess and hire candidates.

Build Connections to Create Talent Pipelines

It’s enormously important to build internal talent pipelines for your organization, and ensuring that you have standards in your hiring process for interviewing diverse candidates is an important step toward creating a more inclusive business and culture.

But in order to create a truly diverse pipelines, companies need to look outside their walls, says La’Wana Harris, diversity and inclusion consultant and author. Harris recommends that companies reach out externally to organizations devoted to promoting diversity in the workplace, as well as educational institutions such as historically black colleges and universities. You’ll find plenty of talented candidates, and also will expand your hiring base.

Make Sure Leadership Is Aligned with Your Goals

Managing a diverse culture can be challenging at times. But without buy-in from leadership from the very beginning, it may be a lost cause.

As you look to address issues of diversity in your organization, be sure that leadership is briefed and on board with your plans. “If you don’t have leadership support, these things fail,” Cappellanti-Wolf says. Additionally, leadership’s behavior and actions will serve as examples for all levels of the organization, and set the tone for what’s expected of employees.

Examine Your Policies to Fight Systemic Inequality

Creating a more inclusive organization takes effort. But no matter what actions an organization takes, it must also be aware that its policies may be promoting systemic inequality. “Workplace policies, systems and processes can disproportionately impact historically marginalized populations,” Harris says.

To counter this, audit your policies. Ensure that your family-leave policy is supportive of LGBTQ parents as well as traditional couples. “Remote-work policies are another point of consideration for building a truly inclusive work environment,” Harris says. “Remote work can open up opportunities for individuals with visible and invisible disabilities.”

Create a Culture of Empathy and Forgiveness

Just as with any process within your organization, there will be hiccups with diversity and inclusion. But both Cappellanti-Wolf and Harris say that’s OK — and it’s no big deal. “We’re all struggling with the same challenges,” Cappellanti-Wolf says.

Leaders need to admit to mistakes, and to encourage others to do the same. Harris says that one way leaders can do this is by adopting a servant leadership mindset. “How do you bring out the best in someone else?” she says. “I’m a proponent of leaders making it their No. 1 goals to mine their employees: mine for the genius, mine for their power, mine for their brilliance.”

Ultimately, it’s about unlocking the potential in your employees. By tailoring your leadership philosophies to meet their needs, you’ll be better able to empathize with them, and when hiccups occur, they’ll understand that an honest mistake was made.

Find Your Blind Spots

Leaders must have the self-awareness to know that they’ll have certain blind spots when it comes to their employees and their employees’ experience. For example, maybe a leader doesn’t know the pronouns an employee prefers.

But what’s most important in these situations is that leaders be aware of their blind spots — and that they work to solve them. “I like to look at it as mirrors, windows and doors,” Harris says. “You look in the mirror and that’s self-awareness. You look out the window and you get perspectives from others to try to get a clue about your blind spots.”

The final step is the door — “What actions do I need to take to build an inclusive environment?”

This article was originally published in 2016 and substantially reworked in July 2019.

What is the Point of Corporate Team Building?

Love them or hate them, team building activities are a part of the modern corporate landscape. But as you and your colleagues outstretch your arms to catch Jackie from accounting for yet another trust fall, part of you might start to wonder: what’s the point?

Team building exercises, particularly ones which are somewhat left-of-centre, are swiftly gaining in popularity. Increasingly, companies are holding team building exercises alongside conferences or business expos, as this list of team building ideas in Chicago, all within traveling distance of a popular Chicago conference venue, makes clear.

The team building-averse may be disappointed to hear it, but there is a large body of research that suggests team building is worthwhile, and there are many practical reasons business leaders still use it.

Team building works even if it doesn’t

If you don’t like team building exercises, you may have wondered what’s the point. But if you really don’t like them, you may have wondered what evil mad scientist invented this. The second question actually has a concrete answer: an organizational theorist named Elton Mayo. We shouldn’t call him evil or mad; Mayo’s experiments gave us a lot of what we know about office-based productivity and teamwork. As HR Review tells it, Mayo’s studies at the Hawthorne Works factory produced the so-called “Hawthorne Effect”.

It happened like this: Mayo observed two groups of workers. The first group had the lights turned up brighter in their office, the second group didn’t. Productivity was higher in the first group. The key finding was what happened when the lights were turned back down. The first group remained more productive. Mayo concluded that the boosts in productivity before were not due specifically to the changes he had made to the working environment.

Instead, the workers became more productive simply because their employer was paying attention to how they were getting on, and attempting to help them increase productivity. This experiment proved conclusively that no matter how pointless or ineffective the actual team building activity itself is, the very fact that the boss is attempting to boost team morale is enough to improve productivity.

Team building to build morale and leadership skills

An alternative to traditional team building exercises—trust falls included—could be just to train up employees, and pay attention to the day-to-day development of the team. There are, however, advantages that team building activities offer for their own sake.

What team building provides that traditional training exercises do not is fun, or at the very least, a level of informality. Putting employees together in a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere can work wonders for a team. According to Corporate Challenge Events, team building shows that “significant results can actually be achieved when fun is involved.” This is an advantage which should not be overlooked. It’s all well and good having a highly skilled workforce. But if they don’t have fun doing what they do, they won’t enjoy their jobs. This could lead to anything from reduced productivity to low employee retention.

Aside from the oft-needed morale boost, team building exercises often allow team members to exhibit and develop leadership skills. Most team activities will allow certain people to take certain roles, and because there are no financial consequences, they are a great chance to see how the more junior members of the team cope in positions of responsibility.

Doing this is the least threatening, least stressful way for business heads to both train and scout for future leaders among their staff.

Team building has high ROI 

Signing up a group to a team building exercise will cost a business money, and it is very difficult to measure its return. However, experts argue that it can be the “most important investment” that a business leader makes. Especially when they really go the extra mile, and put real money behind a team building experience.

Brian Scudamore at Forbes recalls the trip he and his team took to a NASCAR racetrack, where employees could drive a car at 145 miles per hour. When they got back to the office, the momentum kept going, and productivity increased.

As Elton Mayo’s experiments showed us decades ago, bosses paying attention to employee development has benefits no matter what. Team building exercises are a fun and exciting way to do this, whilst also boost morale and encouraging the team to try out new things. Though you may not be able to track it specifically, the business benefits of corporate team building make it more than worthwhile. That, in the end, is the point.

Photo Credit: INNOVACIÓN EN PREVENCION Y SALUD Flickr via Compfight cc

Using Science and Data to Build Your Teams

I’m sure we’ve all been to a company retreat where we took personality tests aimed at helping our teams work more effectively. In my experience, these usually happen after a huge team blow-out or meltdown. In fact, I’ve been to quite a few, and I always found the information enlightening. The only problem: there was rarely a lack of meaningful implementation once my team returned to the office.

Enter: data. Yes, big data is no longer just for customer and business analysis. It’s now helping business leaders map personality traits within their teams to help them work more effectively. Deloitte recently created a system called “Business Chemistry” that utilizes a mix of brain chemistry, business-relevant personality traits, and statistical models to determine four major work styles typically found in modern office environments. The system has been featured in the Harvard Business Review and has been used by nearly 200,000 people. But to what effect?

Deloitte’s four main work personality types include: The Pioneer (creativity, innovation), The Guardian (order, pragmatism), The Driver (momentum, results-driven), and The Integrator (connection, diplomacy.)  While everyone has a bit of each type, most of us lean more heavily toward one or two. And that’s where most work challenges come in.

During digital transformation, business leaders are already working hard to find their company’s place in the digital marketplace, adopt smart new technology, and determine a digital vision. Analyzing team personalities doesn’t usually make the top of the list. But in today’s business environment, where things are moving so quickly and efficient work relationships are key, it’s becoming increasingly important to focus on creating tight-knit team environments, rather than just tech-savvy ones. So, if you’re one of the many companies today hitting a roadblock when it comes to team work, Deloitte recommends the following:

Understand Your Own Bias

First and foremost, leaders need to understand their own personal working style, and how it may contribute to biases in their working environment. If you’re a Pioneer, for instance, consider how constant change with little clarity could cause stress or concern for Guardians on your team. Take time to think from each perspective when making big decisions or creating processes that might alienate or threaten other personality types. 

Mix It Up

Although we all want diverse workplaces, diverse personalities can often create friction, especially in fast-paced environments. Take time to understand the personalities of those on the teams you manage, and vary processes and incentives to ensure each group has something to lean on. As Deloitte warns, “[w]hat motivates one group can suck the life out of another.” Alienating one personality type with only create lop-sided thinking and results.

Elevate the Minority

Deloitte notes that when teams are dominated by a single personality, certain “cascades” or biases will form, creating momentum for ideas or projects that might not be the best choice. For that reason, it’s important to involve the personality types that are in the minority to find holes in arguments, flaws in thinking, and other new ways to address the issue or opportunity.

Invite the Introverts into the Discussion

Remember: the loudest voices aren’t always the ones you want to heed. Be sure to invite the more sensitive introverts into the discussion, even in a sidebar conversation if they feel more comfortable. They often have incredibly sharp insights to share that could make your project even stronger.

Know Your Company’s Challenges

Creating recognition of the importance of personality types in the workplace is not always easy. Our awareness of different styles usually goes out the window when we’re facing a huge deadline or dealing with lots of stress from above. Legacy businesses with clunky infrastructure have an especially hard time adapting to any type of change, let alone interpersonal ones. If you know that your company is change-resistant or dominated by a cultural working style, take time to change the cycle. As a leader, you can model a new way of involving—and valuing—all working styles to create even greater success.

In today’s workplace, employees are facing burnout at unprecedented rates, not just because of work but because of increasingly collaborative processes and environments. It’s not always easy to work with other people! In fact, we’re all so different it’s often a wonder we get anything done at all. As you move your company forward, be sure to consider when collaboration is necessary (or not), and where you can empower different personality types by delegating decisions and planning. Doing so will enhance the employee’s reputation, help others find value their work style, and keep things moving more smoothly overall. After all, an agile company is a winning company. When you think of each personality type as one more tool in your business arsenal, you’re able to adapt and change more effectively—especially in today’s digital transformation.

Additional Articles on This Topic:
Removing Silos in the C-Suite
Addressing Burnout: Protecting Employees for the Future

Photo Credit: Vulnerable Sync Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.

Team Building Exercises That Won’t Cause Eye Rolls

We’ve all “been there and done that.” I am referring to those team building exercises that leaders come up with that are supposed to result in comradery and bonding. The concept is a good one. Get people together in non-work environments and have non-work activities that will “force” them to work together. The problem is this: the same tired, old, and, quite frankly, boring activities are planned—thus, the eye rolls.

As a leader, you can avoid the eye rolls by selecting some more creative and unique team building activities that may make you a hero while still serving the bonding purpose for which they are intended. Here are some activities you might consider suing with your team:

  • Perform Community Service

Community service is a team-building event that is rarely thought of—do some good while you bond. Plan a day to clean up a park or to serve meals to the homeless. Plan two half days to go to a hospital and read to young children. People feel good about themselves and their colleagues when they are contributing.

  • Have an Airband Battle

Divide people into groups of three. Each team picks a song (you’ll need a device with the ability to pull up the song and hook it to a small speaker). One member of each group will be the guitarist, one will be the drummer, and one the singer. Give each team a bit of time to practice. Then they each perform playing their “instruments” while the singer(s) lip sync the song. Have a third party judge.

  • Trivia at the Office

Divide the participants into teams of three or four people. Give each person trivia questions that are all related to the office. How many windows are there? What is the color of the floor tile in the staff lounge or cafeteria? How many people are in the HR department? What is the brand name of the desktop computer monitors?

  • Learn to Juggle

Provide simple instructions for learning to juggle (There is a book called, Learn How to Juggle Today or play a YouTube instructional video). Each team gets three bean bags for juggling. The idea is that everyone in the team learns how to juggle. As one team member is learning, the other team members are coaching him or her. If anyone in the group already knows how to juggle, that person moves from group to group providing coaching as well. The first team to have all members able to do at least two “jugs” with three bean bags wins.

  • Drawing Back-to-Back

This exercise is done in pairs. They sit back-to-back. One member gets a piece of paper with a simple picture on it – a geometric figure, a house, a tie, etc. the other person gets a blank piece of paper and pencil. The partner with the drawing begins to describe how to draw the object, without naming the object. When finished, they compare their drawings. You can run this one several times, changing partners and drawing in many different ways.

  • The Tower

Each team of three to four people is given a roll of tape, a marshmallow, 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti, and a yard of string. With these items, the team is to build a tower that will stand free for at least five to six seconds. The rules are this: the goal is to make the tallest tower possible; the marshmallow must be at the top; and the tower must stand alone.

  • The Rembrandt Activity

Each group of three to four members is given a good-sized canvas, paint, and brushes. As a team, each group will decide on a painting to create. At the end, the paintings can all be grouped together to make a long mural for the office, or they can be individually hung on walls around the office. The mural idea is probably the best, because each time they walk by it, it will remind the team members that they created this “masterpiece” together.

  • Derby Race

Any of your team members who were boy scouts will remember the Pine Box Derby competition. Buy enough kits for teams of three to four people each. They will construct a Pine Box car from the kit. You can also buy the wedge for about $3.00 for the “hill” to race them. The kits allow for variations, so that teams can “play” with aerodynamics before they finish their mini cars for the big race. Have a tailgate party beforehand. A variation on this is model airplanes, with competitions for distance or length of time in the air.

Bonding for Remote Teams 

If a team is working remotely, it is more difficult to plan activities that will promote bonding and working together. It will require greater creativity, but here are a few suggestions for relationship building with remote team members:

  • Trivia Via Conference Call

This is standard trivia only it is done via digital conferencing venue. Team members compete individually, or they can be paired up and have a private chat feature in place to collaborate.

  • Play Charades

Again, this is the traditional game with everyone taking turns of acting out a book, movie, or TV show title.

  • Office Guess

Everyone on the team takes a picture of their offices and sends it to you. There can be no identifying stuff in the picture. Then present a picture and have team member guess whose office it is.

  • Team-Played Online Games of Strategy and Problem Solving

If you have a relatively small team, they can become a team playing some of the online games that have multi-player teams. These can be on-going so that the teams can schedule a “play date” when it is convenient for everyone. Or you can set a schedule for play during the workday.

The activities provided are just a small sampling of the kinds of things you can do to build a team. There are many books on the market now with new and unique angles on team-building exercises. The important thing is that you follow-through with additional exercises after the initial few, so that your team re-bonds periodically.

Photo Credit: teambuildinggallery Flickr via Compfight cc

March Madness: Look Beyond “One Shining Moment” for Lasting Results

This is the time of year when sports fans pay attention to college basketball: The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament – a.k.a. “March Madness” – officially kicks off with the “First Four” on March 15 and wraps up with the traditional playing of the song, “One Shining Moment,” at the end of the championship game on April 4.

While no team will enter the tourney with a dominating record, Villanova and Kansas have certainly had great seasons. It’s also interesting to note that the two teams have relied on experienced talent: Villanova has eight juniors and seniors on its 14-member roster, and Kansas has 10 juniors and seniors among its 16 players. In addition, juniors and seniors have served as the top three scorers for both Villanova and Kansas for much of the season.

Not all programs go about team-building in the same manner. Take the University of Kentucky and its head coach John Calipari, who is famous for targeting what are called “one and done” high school stars – blue-chip athletes who play at Kentucky during their freshman year, then leave for the NBA. Last season, however, Kentucky came to the tournament with a perfect record but lost in the Final Four to a far more experienced Wisconsin squad. And while Duke won the championship last year primarily with freshman superstars, the two prior winners – Connecticut and Louisville – were led by upperclassmen.

This demonstrates that winning schools don’t always build their programs with “elite” blue-chippers. Many prefer high schoolers who perform just under that level but are more likely to play three or four years, to derive longer-term value. Organizational HR/talent management executives should consider a similar approach. Why? Because, in recruitment, there’s a risk in focusing solely on job candidates from the most exclusive and high-profile colleges and universities. Frequently, these candidates join a company to earn some impressive resume bullet points quickly, and then immediately move on to the highest bidder.

For example, I once worked with an HR department which encountered this. Its managers sought graduates coming out of top-tier schools with 4.0 GPAs, and they were thrilled when they landed these grads, thinking they had “won” the recruitment game. But they were wrong. The 4.0 graduates only lasted with the organization for a short time before (to borrow a famous quote from NBA star LeBron James) “taking their talents” elsewhere. Through analytics, I was able to show the department that it was getting more out of its 3.2 GPA college grads because these employees stayed for years while earning superior performance reviews. Within a reasonable period, the same staffers developed as key leaders.

The lesson learned: Vision and analytics must come together to implement a talent management strategy that fosters a “game plan” of lasting, continuous improvement, bringing the following benefits.

Continuity. With analytics, you assess the traits of candidates who are likely to remain with an employer while meeting or exceeding performance expectations. Which schools do they come from? What are their GPAs? What academic and community activities do they participate in? Where did they serve as interns? Then, you deploy analytics to determine which onboarding, training, mentorship and other support programs help these employees succeed. To extend needed continuity, allow analytics to predict when key contributors are likely to retire, so you can plan ahead to replace their skill sets. Thus, you recruit and develop an indefinitely stable and productive workforce.

Investment/ROI. Since you’re not seeking “one and dones,” you’ll reap the rewards of employees that will hopefully stay with your organization for longer than average. While you still need to keep recruiting and remain on the lookout for top talent, you’ll gain the most bang for your recruitment investment, and not waste onboarding and training costs for people that won’t stay around.

Leadership. Once again, pure talent doesn’t automatically translate to a “title.” Plenty of “Cinderellas” make an impact in the “Big Dance” of college basketball, like George Mason’s Final Four season in 2006, or Butler’s back-to-back finals appearances in 2010 and 2011. Leadership has proven essential here, enabling a team to rise above its collective skill level. At your organization, talent management analytics can help you gain a competitive edge via the intangible but still critical component of leadership. First, analytics can identify the common characteristics of leaders, involving factors such as productivity, performance quality, and engagement levels. Then, you accelerate their progress through training. Hence, you nurture an environment in which expectations for everyone – both leaders and the staffers they inspire to do better – are surpassed.

In talent management, there are all kinds of ways to “win the big one.” But do you want to do so through a repetitive, time-consuming – and expensive – “one and done” model? By taking advantage of analytics to align recruitment/development to long-term strategies, your organization will prosper in a lasting, impactful way, at a significantly lowered cost.

After all, why settle for “One Shining Moment” when you can enjoy success – over and over again?

Photo Credit: paid.highly via Compfight cc

Avoid The Echo Chamber: Build Diverse Teams

It is election season, and with it comes all of the dreaded debates and political ads that make many people cringe. Continuously having your opinions challenged can be stressful, and you may find yourself increasingly flocking toward like-minded people.

You may start to get more use out of your unfollow button on social media as users make their previously hidden political stances known. You might also find yourself reading articles or watching the news stations that you agree with.

Mostly, these are relatively harmless aside from making you a less informed voter. However, it may be a problem if this behavior is bleeding over into how you’re hiring new employees. For the same reason that reading only bloggers that you agree with stifles your learning, building teams of like-minded individuals can hinder your company’s performance.

Notably, research has found that companies led by diverse teams are better performers than those that aren’t. While the effects are best seen at the C-suite level, it is just as important to focus on diversity in your team-building practices at lower levels.

Why Diverse Teams Thrive

The main reason for the value of diversity is that diverse teams have a wide variety of perspectives and experiences that inform and craft their outputs. In other words, opposing opinions and viewpoints are the bedrock of strong ideas. While this can lead to conflict and difficulty in forming consensus, it also ensures that your team’s ideas have gone through the wringer before they see the light of day.

Building Diverse Teams

Diversity goes beyond races and genders. While these are the most important and provide the most productive contrasts, other aspects of your employees’ lives also shape their experiences such as their industry experience, regional heritage, political views, age and religious beliefs.

By building teams that are as heterogeneous as possible in these areas, you can also increase the variety of challenges that your team is prepared to face. By having a wide spectrum of experiences and beliefs, your team will in turn have what’s needed to adjust to new tests, especially as your company targets new markets.

Foster Productive Debate

Just building teams in this way, however, only gets you halfway there. You also need to foster the debate that will fuel your idea factory. Try these tips to encourage worthwhile discussions:

  • Play Devil’s Advocate: As a manager, the best way to teach this behavior is to lead by example. Without being disrespectful, occasionally offer viewpoints that challenge the prevailing opinions within your team. Even if these are just straw men arguments meant to strengthen an original idea, it will help demonstrate the behavior that you desire.
  • Acknowledge Dissenting Opinions: As your team members begin to adopt this behavior of their own, make sure to call attention to the fact that they are contributing in a way that helps the team. This positive feedback will encourage them to continue to speak up moving forward.
  • Stay Calm: There is always the potential that a debate can turn into an argument. Protect your team against these damaging effects by staying calm, and projecting a relaxed demeanor during the discussion.
  • Assign a Decision-Maker: If neither side of a debate is able to definitively make their case for a way forward, a debate can continue indefinitely. Avoid this situation by ensuring that someone fills the role of decision-maker during these discussions. Even better, set a deadline for forming a consensus.

Building homogenous teams can be holding your team back. Bringing in new perspectives and backgrounds is a strong catalyst for the kinds of discussions that generate fresh, new ideas that have shown to grow businesses. Just make sure to encourage the productive debate that is fueled by diverse teams.

photo credit: Cauldron Graphix via photopin cc

The Amplified Moments of Every Single Pitch and At Bat

He threw heat like a wild man, his bulging arms and legs flailing from wind up to release. Every third pitch winged my at-bat teammates causing them to duck, or swing their midsection backward or forward. And every time he threw his mad-hatter ball, he smiled a mouthful of perfect pearly whites.

Sometimes we hit his fastball, and sometimes it hit us. Four and a half innings into six of our Little League playoff baseball game, our team, the Indians, trailed the Yankees by one run with only one out.

The Yankee parents hurled insults at ours; the Yankee players hurled insults at us. They were known for being poor winners and every losing team felt their wrath. We, the reserved underdog Indians, cheered each other on, and our coaches and parents echoed the positive affirmations…

KWG Indians Baseball

…I had been on deck, and after yet another wild pitch and a walk, the bases were now loaded. I remember how palatable my fear was walking up to home plate; I was thin and not the strongest hitter on our team. My throat cramped gritty and dry and it felt like a baseline chalk on hard-packed dirt in the hot sun. The Yankee catcher laughed at me as I approached.This memory came to me recently when a co-worker’s son played on a team that made it to the Little League world series. Every day there was an update on our internal social network of who his son’s team played, and whether they won or not – and win they did. Over and over again. While this winning buzz only excited a small group of us following along online, I imagined the electric thrill his son felt and all his teammates, the coaches and the parents, the local crowds, game after game after game while…

“This ain’t no hitter,” he called out to the wild man on the mound. “Easy out, easy out.

I looked up at our coach who gave me an intricate string of baseball signs, all of which translated into one action…

…and that’s when my co-worker posted the fact that they were in the final world series game against South Korea, which was always a tough opponent because…

…he wanted me to bunt. Bunt?!? I thought. If I turn into that fireball I’m a dead man. But step into the batter’s box I did. Wild man wound up, released the ball and then…

…two days later the news that they won the whole kit and kaboodle was posted, which was huge, and I kicked myself for not watching it on TV, the electric thrill of elevated Little League play and amplified moments of every single pitch and at bat…

…when I squared into the baseball hurling toward me, the Cheshire Cat smile ear to ear on wild man’s face, I realized instinctively that the ball was nowhere near my bat – it was headed at my chest – but instead of rolling out of the box away from the pitch, I put my hand up to stop it…

In the end, we lost that playoff game, and thankfully I kept my hand intact without it breaking. It was sore, yes, but my teammates and I left that game happy with our performance because we had played together with supportive coaching and parenting around us, abuzz with that playoff feeling that lifted our heart and soul.

Patrick Antrim, former professional baseball player with the New York Yankees and founder of leadership & coaching firm LegendaryTeams.com, told us on the TalentCulture #TChat Show that leaders and employees alike should aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace.

Even if once and a while you get hit with the ball, which will happen kids. No doubt.

But if we can replicate just a smidge of that playoff feeling, focusing heavily on the employee-customer relationship first and foremost, performance always fares better in driving the amplifier effect of winning outcomes. This means the business impact of driving deeper levels of employee engagement is dramatic.

For example:

The data don’t lie, which is why the amplified moments of:

  1. Every single pitch. It’s a bitch to sustain pitching accuracy inning after inning, but in the near- and long-term, it’s the collective strikes and outs that make all the difference between your players and your competitors. We all want to win, we really do, and we all want to string that feeling together as much as we can year round. Just as long as your “team” understands what the strike zone is and gets guidance and practice to throw heat like a mad man and woman.
  2. And At Bat. Deeper engagement from amplified “at-bats” drives better talent outcomes and better business outcomes. When your “players” make the hits, and when they ultimately have individual and group wins, even when they’re the incremental wins during the regular season, they feel more capable and confident, and that translates into happy major leaguers who are then more likely to be candid in communicating and advancing the business and driving innovation.

This is the stuff of legendary teams. And the best companies – the winners – that aspire to that championship game feeling every single day in the workplace perform nearly two times better than the rest of the world. That’s a world of work sports fact.

“Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today…”

photo credit: shoothead via photopin cc

#TChat Preview: People, Performance And Building Legendary Teams

The TalentCulture #TChat Show is back live on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, from 7-8 pm ET (4-5 pm PT). The #TChat radio portion runs the first 30 minutes from 7-7:30 pm ET, followed by the #TChat Twitter chat from 7:30-8 pm ET.

Last week we talked about why HR pros need to support each other and help each other thrive, and this week we’re going to talk about people, performance and building legendary teams.

In two months’ time, we’ll be cheering for our favorite players and teams during the baseball Fall Classic, these will be legendary teams that have been performance focused to drive winning outcomes.

In business, the same is true. Focusing on people and their performance is what drives better outcomes for business.

When your people win, they feel more capable and confident, translating into happy people. They are then more likely to be candid in communicating and advancing the business and driving innovation.

Businesses have three primary customers, but leading companies always focus on their employee-customer first. Allowing employees to reach their potential as they drive results for any and all shareholders, and of course, their paying customers.

Join TalentCulture #TChat Shows co-creators and co-hosts Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman as we learn more about people, performance and building legendary teams with this week’s guest: Patrick Antrim, an author, speaker, entrepreneur, leadership coach and CEO. Patrick is also a pro baseball mentor and a former New York Yankee, and his leadership & coaching firm, LegendaryTeams.com, is focused on winning in life and business.

Sneak Peak

 

We hope you’ll join the #TChat conversation this week and share your questions, opinions and ideas with our guests and the TalentCulture Community.

#TChat Events: People, Performance And Building Legendary Teams

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio — Wed, September 3 — 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show with our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman, as they talk with our guests 

Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter Chat — Wed, September 3 — 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and our guests will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where we’ll continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What does it mean to have a “legendary team” in the world of work? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q2: Who are the most important business “customers” today and why? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Q3: What three things should business leadership do to improve their people potential? #TChat (Tweet this Question)

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed, and in our new TalentCulture G+ community. So feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!!

photo credit: 드림포유 via photopin cc

Behavior In Business: 8 Human Insights Leaders Should Know

It’s impossible to be in the business world each day and not feel psychology at work. Each of us brings our human nature to a job — regardless of our title, expertise or organizational setting.

Leaders who value the psychological aspects of work life are much more likely to gain trust and inspire top performance from their teams.

These concepts may seem simple, but they can complicate workplace dynamics, and their impact is often measurable. That’s why they deserve attention from anyone who works with and through others to achieve business goals.

Are you thinking today’s leaders already “get it”? If so, this may surprise you…

Leadership Has Evolved? Not So Fast

Recently, the Wall Street Journal published an article, “Now You Know Why Your Boss Is Such An Ape.” It reminds us of how strong and predictable the force of nature can be — especially in a business context. It can be easy to forget that we’re animals — yet we share 99.9% of our genes with apes. In fact, if we compare their behavioral patterns with ours, the similarities are striking.

For example, in both cases, leaders often act cold, or even show disrespect to subordinates in an effort to claim dominance as the “alpha male.” On the other hand, those same leaders are likely to display an incredible amount of respect when interacting with their superiors.

8 Key Behavioral Concepts For Leaders

Psychology offers many more striking insights. Here are 8 that should serve every leader well. It’s not important to remember the terms — but if you remember the concepts, you’ll have a clear advantage in the world of work:

1) Observational Learning

Human learning begins with observation. This is vital for leaders to remember, because employees tend do what you do, not what you say. Those who look up to you will want to model themselves after you. And if your words and actions don’t align, the consequences can harm your organizational culture.

This kind of behavior starts early in humans, as was illustrated in the famous Bobo doll experiment — where children were asked to spend time in a room with an adult. After witnessing the adult display aggressively and verbally abusive behavior toward the doll, children acted in a similar way.

2) Social Contagion

This is the theory of how ideas and emotions spread and go viral. It’s important to recognize this tendancy, especially within a company culture. If a few employees become disengaged, the negativity can spread across the entire company quicker than you might expect.

This concept was illustrated in a University of Michigan study that monitored the spread of eating disorders throughout college campuses. It’s important to look for early signals and work proactively to reverse the impact.

3) Groupthink

Groupthink can be particularly dangerous, so it’s important to remain alert. It’s tricky, because team building activities are beneficial, but too much cohesion can be detrimental.

Groupthink tends to surface when teams take on a mind of their own — usually because members want to avoid conflict within the group. This leads to poor decision making, because groups don’t fully evaluate circumstances, and members are influenced by the rest of the group to comply.

Sometimes groupthink can be an unintended consequence of brainstorming. Rather than creating an atmosphere where multiple participants are inspired to generate a broader spectrum of creative ideas, the brainstorming process itself dampens the creativity of each member.

4) Minimal Group Paradigm

We’ve all seen “cliques” develop in schools and other social environments — that’s essentially minimal group paradigm in action. It’s about arbitrary distinctions between groups (for example, differences in the color of clothing) that lead people to favor one group over another.

Of course, harmful cliques can develop among adults in corporate cultures. However, leaders can avoid this by encouraging team building that reaches across arbitrary boundaries, and supports everyone as part of the same larger group.

5) Social Loafing

Initially I assumed this was about people who lie on the couch while browsing on Facebook — but it’s really much more interesting than that. Over 100 years ago, a study found that people put in 50% less effort when playing tug of war in a team of 8 compared to playing it alone. In other words, we tend to slack off when our efforts can’t be distinguished from the efforts of our teammates.

As important as team building is, autonomy and individuality is an important way to keep people motivated. This sounds counter-intuitive to need for humans to feel they belong to groups. However, there’s a delicate balance between motivating humans as individuals and as team members.

6) Stanford Prison Experiment

This is one my favorite lessons from the realm of psychology. In a Stanford University experiment, participants were assigned roles as prisoners and prison guards in a pseudo prison environment. Guard adapted to their new roles much quicker than expected, and guards became very authoritative and abusive toward prisoners.

This is obviously important for leaders to understand, because job roles clearly have an effect on our perception of ourselves and others. Be careful how you assign titles and responsibilities, and how you manage those expectations within your ranks, over time.

7) Prisoner’s Dilemma

This is another famous psychological experiment that underscores the importance of accountability within teams.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a game where the “rewards” are prison terms. There are 2 prisoners, A and B. If both prisoners betray each other, they each serve a 2 year jail sentence. If prisoner A betrays prisoner B, prisoner A goes free and prisoner B gets 3 years (and vice versa). If they both remain silent, they each serve only 1 year. Of course, it’s in both players’ best interest to stay silent. However, typically, the fear of betrayal leads both to betray each other.

This reminds us that trust and communication is essential for individual and team success — and that the definition of “success” is influenced by self interest.

8) Halo Effect

The halo effect is a popular concept among brand marketers, but it also can apply to perceptions of an employee. In marketing, humans develop positive perceptions of a product when respected sources describe it in positive terms, or when the brand develops strong associations with other attractive brands.

In the workplace, the halo effect involve bias that is either positive or negative. For example, when a leader likes an employee, they may attribute other positive traits to them (e.g. they’re smarter or more committed than others) even if it’s not accurate. This can obviously become a problem, if it affects the leader’s decisions. The best way to avoid this trap is to focus on objective measures of performance.

Obviously, this is just a taste of the behavioral research that can inform workplace leadership. But anyone can learn more — there are tons of great learning resources available online.

How do you see psychology at work in your organization? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

JacobShriarAbout the Author: Jacob Shriar is the Growth Manager at Officevibe, an employee engagement platform. He’s passionate about company culture, and he blogs regularly on productivity, employee engagement, and career tips. When he’s not reinventing the world over a glass of scotch, he likes to find new skills to learn. You can also follow him on Twitter.

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

 

Intrapreneurial Talent: How Do You Find the "X" Factor?

Written by Susan Foley, Managing Partner, Corporate Entrepreneurs & Hans Balmaekers, Founder, SA.AM

Recently, we’ve seen a groundswell of interest in intrapreneurship – the process of developing organizational cultures that unleash entrepreneurial innovation from within.

Although intrapreneurship can be a powerful engine for business innovation and growth, it’s really not about generating ideas — it’s about turning ideas into profitable ventures. Intrapreneurs are the instigators who make that transformation happen.

Where can you find this special breed? We suggest that you start by taking a fresh look at your existing workforce. Even if you don’t recognize these innovators as they roam the halls of your company, we can assure you, they are there — and they’re likely to respond favorably when you offer support. But before you can move forward, you must first identify the right talent.

How can you spot the best bets? You may actually know some contenders. However, if your organization is large, you may not have crossed paths with some of your most promising candidates. They’re not typical high-potential or C-level mavericks — although they do possess traits that distinguish them from the usual corporate soldier. Keep these attributes in mind as you look for the right match with your initiatives…

7 Traits of Successful Intrapreneurs

1) Intrapreneurs tell us that they feel like they don’t fit. Their organizations don’t understand them or appreciate what they do or how they do it. They see the world through a different lens. They’re independent spirits and independent minds. They think, act and make decisions differently. They often find themselves championing the opposite side of issues.

2) Intrapreneurs are a distinct group of individuals. They have a unique combination of competencies that set them apart from more traditional workers. They are self reliant, they like to explore new things, and they’re totally engaged in their heads and hearts. They actively seek out new challenges, effectively manage limited resources and stay focused on getting things done.

3) Intrapreneurs make significant leaps in thinking that are not always linear or fact-based. They’re able to connect the dots. They work with what they’ve got, not what they think they need. They rapidly test and refine ideas, to push them through each stage in a decision process. They make sense of uncertain and complex situations more quickly than most. And they’re resilient — tending to fail and recover quickly.

4) Intrapreneurs think differently. They view situations from a more holistic, “systems” oriented perspective. Many are “whole brain” thinkers who embrace both their analytical and intuitive nature. They’re integrative problem solvers who can consider two totally opposite concepts, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, they creatively combine ideas to form a new solution. They balance thinking and action, and they learn from the outcomes of those actions.

5) Intrapreneurs approach decision making differently. They resist diving into data too early. They don’t simplify things too quickly. They linger in complexity because it presents more options. However, they are decisive. They don’t allow caution to paralyze them. They will change direction or even shut down a project when new data suggests a different course of action. They effectively balance short term and long term demands. They’re willing to base decisions on insufficient data, rather than waiting for perfect data to become available.

6) Intrapreneurs have different motivations and aspirations than others. They are not interested in a traditional career path. They are self motivated and good at motivating others. They like to build things. They’re energized by the excitement of creating anything that moves their company forward. They want to work on the big stuff — the bigger and more challenging, the better. They like to start with a clean slate, because it gives them more freedom to be creative. They are highly curious, avid learners, and they constantly ask themselves if there’s something else they need to know. This also means that they’re restless and may easily become bored.

7) Intrapreneurs operate through action. They’re inherently creative. They typically don’t generate ideas — however they recognize the value in others’ ideas, and turn them into viable business options. They find iterative planning useful, because things are continually changing. They embrace the unexpected. They like surprise because it refines their understanding. They take calculated risks — looking at both the upside and downside of a decision. They deal with uncertainty by acting on it, rather than sitting back and waiting to see what happens.

Finding the right kind of talent is essential to developing an intrapreneurial culture. These are just some of the characteristics that successful intrapreneurs display. Of course, every individual is unique, but if you look for these traits, you’ll be well on your way to creating a team with the strength you need to move your organization into the future.

Learn More: “Business In Your Business” Conference

To better understand the relationship between corporate entrepreneurship and innovation, or if you’re looking for ways to implement intrapreneurship in your organization, check out the “Business In Your Business” International Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona, Spain, December 12-13, 2013. Experienced intrapreneurs and inspiring experts will share how the process works for them and explain how you can implement it, too. BONUS DISCOUNT: Get 10% off on your attendance fee — enter the code “TalentCulture“ when you register online.

Susan Foley Intrapreneurship-001(Author Profiles: Susan Foley is Founder and Managing Partner at Corporate Entrepreneurs, LLC where she helps companies leverage intrapreneurship strategies that accelerate business growth. An experienced corporate entrepreneur herself, Susan has guided organizations through intrapreneurial endeavors that have generated millions in revenue. She is also a professional speaker and author of the book “Entrepreneurs Inside.” She teaches Corporate Entrepreneurship in the Executive Education program at Babson College, and is a Fellow at the Center for Innovation and Change Leadership at Suffolk University. Connect with Susan on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Hans-Balmaekers-founder-sa.am_-001Hans Balmaekers is the Founder and Director of SA.AM, a resource for young professionals who care about their future, want to make a difference, and want to develop the mindset and skills to become change-makers. Recently, SA.AM launched an online intrapreneurship course to prepare aspiring and new intrapreneurs for success. Connect with Hans on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.)

Image Credit: Marginal Boundaries

Intrapreneurial Talent: How Do You Find the “X” Factor?

Written by Susan Foley, Managing Partner, Corporate Entrepreneurs & Hans Balmaekers, Founder, SA.AM

Recently, we’ve seen a groundswell of interest in intrapreneurship – the process of developing organizational cultures that unleash entrepreneurial innovation from within.

Although intrapreneurship can be a powerful engine for business innovation and growth, it’s really not about generating ideas — it’s about turning ideas into profitable ventures. Intrapreneurs are the instigators who make that transformation happen.

Where can you find this special breed? We suggest that you start by taking a fresh look at your existing workforce. Even if you don’t recognize these innovators as they roam the halls of your company, we can assure you, they are there — and they’re likely to respond favorably when you offer support. But before you can move forward, you must first identify the right talent.

How can you spot the best bets? You may actually know some contenders. However, if your organization is large, you may not have crossed paths with some of your most promising candidates. They’re not typical high-potential or C-level mavericks — although they do possess traits that distinguish them from the usual corporate soldier. Keep these attributes in mind as you look for the right match with your initiatives…

7 Traits of Successful Intrapreneurs

1) Intrapreneurs tell us that they feel like they don’t fit. Their organizations don’t understand them or appreciate what they do or how they do it. They see the world through a different lens. They’re independent spirits and independent minds. They think, act and make decisions differently. They often find themselves championing the opposite side of issues.

2) Intrapreneurs are a distinct group of individuals. They have a unique combination of competencies that set them apart from more traditional workers. They are self reliant, they like to explore new things, and they’re totally engaged in their heads and hearts. They actively seek out new challenges, effectively manage limited resources and stay focused on getting things done.

3) Intrapreneurs make significant leaps in thinking that are not always linear or fact-based. They’re able to connect the dots. They work with what they’ve got, not what they think they need. They rapidly test and refine ideas, to push them through each stage in a decision process. They make sense of uncertain and complex situations more quickly than most. And they’re resilient — tending to fail and recover quickly.

4) Intrapreneurs think differently. They view situations from a more holistic, “systems” oriented perspective. Many are “whole brain” thinkers who embrace both their analytical and intuitive nature. They’re integrative problem solvers who can consider two totally opposite concepts, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, they creatively combine ideas to form a new solution. They balance thinking and action, and they learn from the outcomes of those actions.

5) Intrapreneurs approach decision making differently. They resist diving into data too early. They don’t simplify things too quickly. They linger in complexity because it presents more options. However, they are decisive. They don’t allow caution to paralyze them. They will change direction or even shut down a project when new data suggests a different course of action. They effectively balance short term and long term demands. They’re willing to base decisions on insufficient data, rather than waiting for perfect data to become available.

6) Intrapreneurs have different motivations and aspirations than others. They are not interested in a traditional career path. They are self motivated and good at motivating others. They like to build things. They’re energized by the excitement of creating anything that moves their company forward. They want to work on the big stuff — the bigger and more challenging, the better. They like to start with a clean slate, because it gives them more freedom to be creative. They are highly curious, avid learners, and they constantly ask themselves if there’s something else they need to know. This also means that they’re restless and may easily become bored.

7) Intrapreneurs operate through action. They’re inherently creative. They typically don’t generate ideas — however they recognize the value in others’ ideas, and turn them into viable business options. They find iterative planning useful, because things are continually changing. They embrace the unexpected. They like surprise because it refines their understanding. They take calculated risks — looking at both the upside and downside of a decision. They deal with uncertainty by acting on it, rather than sitting back and waiting to see what happens.

Finding the right kind of talent is essential to developing an intrapreneurial culture. These are just some of the characteristics that successful intrapreneurs display. Of course, every individual is unique, but if you look for these traits, you’ll be well on your way to creating a team with the strength you need to move your organization into the future.

Learn More: “Business In Your Business” Conference

To better understand the relationship between corporate entrepreneurship and innovation, or if you’re looking for ways to implement intrapreneurship in your organization, check out the “Business In Your Business” International Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona, Spain, December 12-13, 2013. Experienced intrapreneurs and inspiring experts will share how the process works for them and explain how you can implement it, too. BONUS DISCOUNT: Get 10% off on your attendance fee — enter the code “TalentCulture“ when you register online.

Susan Foley Intrapreneurship-001(Author Profiles: Susan Foley is Founder and Managing Partner at Corporate Entrepreneurs, LLC where she helps companies leverage intrapreneurship strategies that accelerate business growth. An experienced corporate entrepreneur herself, Susan has guided organizations through intrapreneurial endeavors that have generated millions in revenue. She is also a professional speaker and author of the book “Entrepreneurs Inside.” She teaches Corporate Entrepreneurship in the Executive Education program at Babson College, and is a Fellow at the Center for Innovation and Change Leadership at Suffolk University. Connect with Susan on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Hans-Balmaekers-founder-sa.am_-001Hans Balmaekers is the Founder and Director of SA.AM, a resource for young professionals who care about their future, want to make a difference, and want to develop the mindset and skills to become change-makers. Recently, SA.AM launched an online intrapreneurship course to prepare aspiring and new intrapreneurs for success. Connect with Hans on Twitter, or on LinkedIn.)

Image Credit: Marginal Boundaries

Anatomy Of A Leader: Not Just Skin Deep

(Editor’s Note: This week at #TChat Events, the TalentCulture community is looking at what it will take to prepare the next generation of leaders — regardless of current age or organizational rank. We think the following commentary by Dan Newman, author of “The Millennial CEO,” is an ideal backdrop for any discussion about what is at the core of an effective leader. What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments below.)

By definition, leadership is grounded in action and not in title. We may tend to associate leadership with professional titles — such as president or CEO. But of course, simply holding an executive title doesn’t make anyone leader. In reality, the only way to be a leader, is to lead.

Let me explain. During the past few years I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to meet and work with some fantastic business leaders. I’ve also met some individuals with great titles who couldn’t even lead a conversation about the weather, let alone a business organization. Yet somehow these people have risen to enviable professional positions. It’s impossible not to wonder — how can that happen?

Enter The “Extroleader”

One of the most interesting leadership trends I have noticed over the past several years is the emergence of the “extroleader.” What is an “extroleader,” you ask?

The term is one that I created. It applies to leaders that operate effectively as the face of an organization to the public — customers, investors and other stakeholders. The anomaly about the “extroleader” is that many of them have no internal leadership skills whatsoever.

So, while they are able to shape public opinion and they give the appearance of success to the outside world, they may not even be able to convince their assistant to schedule a lunch appointment.

Often this type of leader is driven by ego and excessive interest in personal branding, more than by interest in developing the organization and its brand.

This can be a subtle, but deadly nuance for growing organizations.

Here’s what is most interesting about this type of leader. Typically they find a way to the top because they are so capable at driving behavior outside the corporate walls. The world at-large may be enamored of an “extroleader” CEO that looks charismatic. But looks can be deceiving.

Leadership Inside Out

Great leaders are genuinely able to drive the best from everyone around them. Because they’re human, they have deficiencies, but that’s not what sets them apart. What makes them effective is their ability to make others want to be better.

For leaders in any organization, the biggest mistake is building a leadership facade that speaks to the outside world, while inside the corporate walls, your army will not fight for you. Because organizational culture is essential to achieving your business vision, you must have all hands on deck. This starts by demonstrating and reinforcing your vision, message and values within your organization.

It requires commitment to an inside-out approach — recognizing that you’ll be paid dividends by earning the respect of your team and closest stakeholders before focusing on external constituents.

A Higher Degree of Leadership Difficulty

Coming up with witty and charming content for the outside eye can be quite easy. Think about how we are often fooled or misled by politicians, athletes and media celebrities as we hang onto their every word, wanting to believe them. It’s much harder to prove yourself, day in and day out, to those with whom you work.

This is because the things you say can’t stand on their own. Others will look to see how closely your words actually match your behavior and your value system. That is critical as your team determines whether or not to follow you.

The more difficult path actually builds a more loyal following. When you prove your vision, mission and values to your team, they will fight to build and protect your organization and its brand. Ultimately, that brand will be built on a stable platform that is far sturdier than the glass house that “extroleadership” creates.

External Leadership IS OKAY!

Having said all of the above, let me clarify one important point. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a strong outside-facing leader. In fact, an effective public “face” is an important part of growing any organization.

But here’s the key: Outside leadership must match communication and behavior within the walls of the company. It’s all about consistency.

It isn’t egomaniacal to want to create an impressive organization, if the intent is good. However, when a leader paints a picture that the employees can’t see, trust or respect, the organization will struggle endlessly to reach to its potential.

So, if you’re a leader — or if you aspire to lead — I encourage you to take a close look at the source. Ask yourself honestly: Are you looking outside, first? Or are you starting within?

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Age Bias At Work: Bad Business #TChat Recap

“Discrimination due to age is one of the great tragedies of modern life. The desire to work and be useful is what makes life worth living, and to be told your efforts are not needed because you are the wrong age is a crime.” Johnny Ball

Who wouldn’t agree with that statement, in theory? But in fact, age discrimination persists. Why? And what should talent-minded professionals do about it? These were the core issues we tackled at this week’s #TChat Twitter forum.

To help us take a collective look at the impact of age discrimination on today’s workforce, two of the HR community’s sharpest thought leaders joined our moderator, Cyndy Trivella:

Steve Levy, a prominent workforce sourcing expert and popular recruiting blogger.

Heather Bussing, an employment law attorney who is also a founding editorial advisory board member and contributor at HR Examiner.

Here are some top takeaways, followed by resource links and the #TChat highlights slideshow:

Ageism “Sniff Test”

TChatTwitter_logo_020813Age discrimination is often not as overt as other forms of bias. When interviewing for a position, older candidates may be told that they’re not the right “fit” for an organization, or they’re “overqualified” for a job. Younger job seekers may be told to pursue unpaid internships to “gain more experience.” Either scenario may be appropriate — but when a pattern emerges, it’s most likely a systemic problem. Similarly, if employees “of a certain age” are consistently left out of communication loops, meetings and business decisions, discrimination is a likely culprit.

Ageism can be a factor at any stage in our lives — and tension seems to be mounting at both ends of today’s workforce, as the economic slowdown continues and more employees are retiring later in life.

What’s The Source?

Discrimination based on age (or other arbitrary criteria) stems from our need to categorize the abundance of information that surrounds us each day. Classifying information helps us process the world more efficiently — but not always effectively.

Fear seems to be a common factor in age discrimination. We tend to feel more comfortable with things that are familiar, and we fear things that we don’t know or understand. An older worker may fear that a younger counterpart is more energetic, or offers more creative ideas. While a younger worker may fear that an older employee contributes more depth of knowledge in a particular area, or resists fresh ideas. These feelings may not be rational, but the fear can be very real. Yet, ironically, no one likes to be stereotyped.

Keeping Age Discrimination Out Of The Office

To move past age discrimination, we need to embrace diversity, in all of its forms. A culture of  inclusion starts with leaders who leave age at the door. Smart leaders know that a diverse workforce contributes to innovation, and adds to a company’s value in the marketplace. It creates a “virtuous cycle” effect that encourages more collaboration among teams and employees. On the other hand, a one-dimensional workforce can breed “group think” that weakens a company’s competitive position.

How Can Leaders Foster Workplace Diversity?

Start with the hiring process. Hire the best candidate for the job. Use performance based hiring to avoid age discrimination. Consciously strive for a fair, inclusive, transparent recruitment process.

Create a cross-mentoring program. This makes sense for employers in the face of today’s talent shortage. It encourages knowledge sharing and helps support succession planning. It can also boost employee engagement.

What Can Each Of Us Do?

Consider listening and inquiry your personal weapons in the war against age discrimination. Never stop learning — no matter what your age. Embrace technology and use it as a tool to network with others and learn from them. Look for opportunities to grow personally and professionally, and share ideas with others at social forums, like #TChat Twitter — where diverse thinking is always welcome!

For more inspiration, see resource links and #TChat event highlights in the Storify slideshow below. If this post inspires you, be sure to add a comment below or jump into the #TChat stream any time. In our world of work, everyone is welcome, at any age!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Age Discrimination Perception + Reality

SUN 10/6:

SteveandTim

Watch the #TChat Preview video now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald set the stage for this week’s event in a preview post that featured a fun G+ hangout video with guest Steve Levy. Check it out: “Old Dogs + New Tricks: Will HR Learn?”

TUE 10/8:

Related Post: This week’s other special guest, Heather Bussing, offered a very human perspective on discrimination in a post at HR Examiner. Read: “Why Age Discrimination Should Matter to You.”

WED 10/9:

Related Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 steps that business leaders should take in overcoming workplace age stereotypes. Read: “How To Break The Age Bias Habit.”

#TChat Twitter: This week, we by-passed #TChat Radio. Instead the entire community set the #TChat Twitter hashtag on fire, as our guests joined moderator Cyndy Trivella in a lively discussion about 6 key age discrimination issues. The hour flew by, as thousands of ideas and opinions hit the stream. For highlights, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Age Discrimination Perception + Reality

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GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Steve Levy and Heather Bussing for shining a light on workplace age discrimination. We welcome your enthusiasm and perspectives anytime!

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

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week we focus on next-generation workplace leadership with our special guest, YouTern CEO, Mark Babbitt! Watch for more details in the coming days.

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

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Tim Tyrell-Smith at flickr

How To Break The Age Bias Habit

Want to know a deep, dark secret? OK then. Just between us — there’s some truth in all those stereotypes that swirl around about Baby Boomers, Millennials and other generations. That’s actually why they became stereotypes in the first place.

But wait. There’s another truth that no one in the workplace can afford to ignore. Discrimination is a career killer. Age bias may be as old as the hills, but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or even legal to let it poison your company culture. And in today’s transparent world of work, that kind of behavior is bound to be exposed, sooner or later. So let’s step back and re-frame this issue.

Smart Leaders Know Age Is Not A Factor

Today’s global economy is highly competitive. Successful organizations need all the creative, useful ideas they can get. It doesn’t matter if the source is old, young or in between. As French playwright Moliere said, “I take my good where I find it.”

Yet the labels persist. You’ve heard it before: Gen Yers are lazy, entitled, and preoccupied with digital connections. Gen Xers are cynical, alouf, and make lousy team players. Baby Boomers are stodgy, inflexible, and can’t relate to younger people. Can you find individuals who perfectly fit these descriptions? Sure you can. But can you find many other people who smash these cliches to pieces? I certainly hope so! I’m one of them.

Removing Age From The Workforce Equation

If you’re serious about your success — as well as your organization’s success — you’ll reach to the best and brightest no matter how old or young they are. But how can you avoid the trap of generational stereotypes? Here are 5 steps to consider:

1) Be aware and be vigilant. Take a quick personal inventory. Do you see some signals that shouldn’t be there? You’re not alone. All of us let age stereotypes creep into our thought patterns and behavior. It happens more than most of us want to admit. Come on. Own up. Face it by formalizing it. List the age-related assumptions you make about people. Become mindful. You can’t stop stereotyping until you’re willing to recognize how you do it.

2) Disprove the stereotype. Now that you have your list, find people who make a mockery of it. The Gen Xer who has worked 80 hours a week at the same company since college; the Gen Yer who created a cohesive, winning team; the Boomer who invented a wildly exciting new technology product.

3) Retrain your brain. Now that you know who and how you stereotype, and you know how false and limiting your “reality” is, train yourself to stop believing the lie. Be prepared to practice. Making snap judgments about people based on obvious attributes is deeply ingrained in us all. Unlearning this behavior takes time, but every step is a move in the right direction. When you meet someone, pay attention to your internal response — both intellectual and emotional. If you stereotype them, consciously tell yourself to look past it, and instead look at other characteristics that are more relevant.

4) Be open to “see” the person “in 3D.” There’s a word for someone who doesn’t measure individuals by their unique strengths and talents. That word is “fool.” You’re working to build a successful career, project, or enterprise. Why in the world would you limit yourself by refusing help from willing and able contributors? Embrace the talent that is available to you. Judge people by their past performance and potential to add value in the future. Age is irrelevant in that context. You need everyone to deliver their best effort. Stay open to possibilities and reach out.

5 ) Make it a habit. The goal is to build a network that transcends stereotyping. Make a conscious effort, at least once a week, to spend time with someone whom you would have stereotyped in the past. If you’re a Gen Yer, take a Boomer out to lunch. Listen to their story and soak up lessons from their experience. If you’re a Boomer, seek out a Gen Yer to mentor. Ask what’s on their mind and how you can help. Then listen closely to how they respond. No matter what age you are, be willing to discuss personal limitations and ask for input and feedback. Too often we assume it’s a sign of weakness if we admit our concerns and shortcomings. But actually it’s a strength. As Moliere suggested, take your good where you find it. I’m not sure how old he was when he penned that advice, but honestly, it doesn’t matter!

Bottom line: In the workplace and in every other aspect of life, stereotyping is self-destructive. It denies our basic humanity, and the ability we all have to transcend superficial categorization. Smash stereotypes, celebrate individuality, and you will learn, grow, and build stronger relationships. You’ll also be a business leader that others will want to follow.

(Editor’s Note: Join the TalentCulture community tonight, Oct 9 from 7-8pm ET, at #TChat Twitter,  where we’re discussing age-based discrimination in the workplace. Everyone is welcome! Learn more in the preview post…)

(Editor’s Note: Meghan M. Biro is an active contributor to Forbes.com. This article is adapted from her Forbes blog, with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay