Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wrongway Rangel

Your employer brand is based on your employer value proposition–which has it’s foundation in values.Our experience tells us that workers appreciate working for an ethical employer. In focus groups it is cited as a positive when it is done well and a negative when it is not. People want to work for an employer that is perceived as unethical. People don’t want to work for a boss that doesn’t “do the right thing”.

Great piece from a great blog -- Libby Sartain writes about my own Congressman Charlie Rangel. He walked out on his ethics hearing, but was later found guilty on 11 counts of ethical violations.
Apparently, the rules in the House of Representatives carry a range of penalties, up to expulsion. However, experts familiar with the rules are predicting that Range will receive no more than a slap on the wrist, a formal reprimand, for his violations.
Rangel, among other violations, didn’t pay taxes on income he received from rental property, yet he was the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee–the chief tax writing committee of our House of Representatives.

A senior congressman, with 40 years of service–who undoubtedly knows better gets to stay, and will get his full package of perks and benefits when he finally decides on his own terms to leave office.

How can we expect to establish ethical standards and uphold them, if our highest government representatives are allowed to violate the very rules and laws that they establish?

Charlie Rangel has damaged the reputation and brand of the House of Representatives. His misdeeds with an appropriate punishment should serve as an example for the new freshmen congressional representatives as “How Not To Behave In Washington”.

Why do we allow our government leaders to get a “free pass” when they don’t uphold their own standards and laws?

Service Excellence for Nurse Managers

The topic of service excellence for Nurse Managers is dear to our hearts because we've created Sims for their skill development.

Here are six key strategies for service excellence:

Step 1: Strategize for service

Where does service fit in the strategic initiatives of your department? Defining your unique service culture is akin to having your own secret pickle recipe.

Step 2: Organize for service

From the physical layout of department to the use of technology, there are proven strategies for creating a culture of service excellence.

Step 3: Select & train for service

Remember back in the day, when folks said, “she’s a great nurse, she’s just not nice”? This is no longer acceptable. Using behavior-based interviewing questions and validated pre-hire assessments allows nurse managers to select staff who already embrace the service standards of your department.

Step 4: Deliver excellent service

Well defined service behaviors which are competency based provide the foundation for service delivery. The expectation is that these behaviors are demonstrated daily and with ease.
Positive first impressions play a major role in setting the stage for service excellence. When problems do occur, service recovery procedures need to be set up to allow staff to solve service problems at the front line.

Step 5: Manage for service

As steps one through four are being implemented, the nurse manager has a major responsibility for insuring the success of the process. Communicating strategic alignment is the first step toward culture change. Do staff members in your department really understand the service vision?

Step 6: Sustain service momentum

Measuring patient satisfaction provides important data for making better decisions. Standardizing operations to decrease variation on the job is another key element.


The ties that bind

Today's most effective employer brands are those that describe the broader world the organization is trying to reach and the big ideas it intends to pursue.
Ever since a can-do company called Southwest Airlines invented what we now consider the tenets of employer brand, the internal aspects of companies' brand promises have thrived within corporate walls.
The fundamentals of the employer, or internal, brand were first formed by applying what worked on the outside, with customers, to what needed to happen on the inside, with employees, largely in order to recruit and retain talent in a competitive job market. Southwest, and a few other companies with equally strong vision, added the essential element of "corporate soul" to its efforts to brand from the inside and thus engage employees as never before.

"A brand is a company's DNA," explains James D. Lynch, ABC, vice president of communications for American Express. "It's that simple and that powerful. But a company cannot only wear its DNA on its sleeve to its customers and the public. It must also ensure its DNA is alive and well among its employees."

Towers Watson's 2010 Global Workforce Study revealed that "company reputation [and] the perceived brand reputation are consistently top drivers of attraction, engagement and retention," notes Gus Bentivegna, account director for the global consulting firm. "A sense of pride is essential to a strong brand's appeal. Everyone can identify with a well-known brand. When you tell your friends and family where you work, you want them to feel that as well.

How important are values?

Values that built a brand over decades if broken could destroy it in a millisecond.

How important are values?

Company values are not just important, they're vital to the overall success of building a business. Whether that business employs 10 or 10,000, without company values there is no foundation in which employees can build their success. Values show us the way to act, how to be consistent. Because like it or not, every single thing employees do either contribute to that consistency or diminish it. The more united a company is in celebrating and enforcing those values, the more value they add, collectively, to the company.Values should be at the very heart of any business - ideally, it’s what you start with - even before there is a name, an office or any employees.

No matter how big or how small the organization, often the egos of the founders can suffocate any attempt at creativity or originality. But companies where the employees are really driving the vision and the values are often the fastest growing - and the most profitable.

Read more

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

....is it a creative act to replicate real life accurately?

The lawsuit by college football star over his likeness in EA game may go to Supreme Court.

Sam Keller’s name did not appear in the NCAA game, there was little doubt that he was the inspiration for the Arizona State quarterback. The virtual player shared Keller’s jersey number, 9, as well as his height, weight, skin tone, hair color and home state. The virtual quarterback even had the same playing style, as a pocket passer.

Keller was seeking compensation for himself and other college athletes whose names were not used but whose images he contended were being illegally used by the company.

But to the media conglomerates, athletes, actors, First Amendment advocates and others who have recently weighed in on the case, Keller’s lawsuit is about much more than video games.
The case is drawing attention because it gets to the heart of a highly contested legal question: when should a person’s right to control his image trump the free-speech rights of others to use it?

In February, a judge, rejected a request to dismiss the case, arguing that Electronic Arts did not sufficiently “transform” the images into a work that would qualify as free speech.

Keller and his supporters have said that sports video games should not be protected because they are simply trying to replicate real life and are not creative in nature.

In its appeal, Electronic Arts argues that Wilken mistakenly considered only Keller’s image and not the entire game, which qualifies as a creative work.

....is it a creative act to replicate real life accurately?

“We have a new medium that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago, and I think we’re starting to see these issues sort out,” said Alonzo Wickers, a lawyer for Electronic Arts.

The outcome could rewrite the rules that dictate how much ownership public figures have over their images — and the extent to which outside parties, including media and entertainment companies — can profit from them.

Thought Starters on 12 Best HR First Impressions

Thought Starters on 12 Best HR First Impressions

How to take good care of the candidates walking in the door.

1. Check Your Employer Brand:

2. Have a Well Coordinated HR Team

3. Involving the Manager or Supervisor

4. Be On Time:

5. Make Sure You Have All Materials Required

6. Present the Company in the Best Light

7. Inform the Candidate of Status

8. Connect Informally

9. Don’t just OK the candidate

10. Communicating Your Onboarding Process

11. Smooth Induction or Onboarding Process

12. Be Prepared for Talent that Come from the Left Field:

For the full article

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Astroturfing 2010

Is it right, and is it effective, for companies to tilt the conversations taking place in social media and use its employees as its online cheerleaders?
Is it cheating when companies hire interns to post positive reviews about their products online?

Will the shill and the lack of transparency come back to bite? There’s a term for it now – called ‘Astroturfing ' -- the brand of synthetic grass designed to look like natural grass.

Like those FOX News pumped tea party events that became news when covered.

Using employees as brand evangelists and cheerleaders should be any brand’s first step online – after all, if your own people don’t like your brand or not display that liking, why would others? But, there is a way to do it…to make it seem transparent and meaningful.

There are some big boys who don't play by these rules. In politics, it's business as usual, but in business and brand building it is not.

It is still advisable that before starting any online engagement , key decision makers should understand the broad internet usage patterns within the organization. and create customized employee guideline for social media usage that aim to explain the use of meaningful, transparent outreach on behalf of their brand/employer and repercussions of not doing so. More at Traal

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When Avatars Smile

Today, the term "virtual world" means a lot of things to a lot of people. To many, it means 2D online social games like Club Penguin. To some, it means large-scale massively-multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft.

Virtual worlds like Second Life captured the public's attention but haven't managed to push the technological bar forward much since then. One could argue that virtual worlds have even taken a technological step backward, as most of the energy in the space these days is being put into building 2D Flash worlds for kids, or Facebook games played by the masses. It's big business, but hardly cutting edge. The biggest danger at the moment for those who want to see rich, 3D virtual worlds take off right away is the massive popularity of social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The Second Lifes of the world missed an opportunity to give mass numbers of people the kind of personal connection they really wanted, and that the key is to find a way to mix the virtual and the real. Only a few minutes of Facebook can help people satisfy that need. But they will want more down the line, and that's something that fully immersive experiences will have to offer.

Facebook right now speaks to the deep human desire for real life connections and instantaneousness that new types of virtual worlds have to learn from. But the future's not going to be all text and Flash windows. Social networks like Facebook that put everyone in the real world one click away as the foundational piece that was missing from a lot of last generation virtual worlds.

Read more:

Can you Trust an Avatar?

The current technology for creating computerized avatars for human interactions is relatively primitive; we tend to be surprised if a computerized representation can perform even vaguely human behaviors. Judith Donath of MIT's Media Lab argues that as programmers respond to the demand for more realistic human behavior in avatars, they will necessarily create the technology to manipulate human trust via the results.

Donath notes that even seemingly simple human behaviors are accompanied by collections of body language and expressions that can reinforce or undercut the messages we intend to send. Right now, even the most sophisticated avatars accomplish only a small subset of these behavioral collections. Although putting all of the components of these behaviors under user control is viewed as too complex, Donath cites work in which entire suites of behavior could be controlled by a single command. For example, an avatar commanded to end a conversation can nod its head, wave, and break eye contact. Users of such systems found them natural and more engaging, and they found their conversation partners to be more expressive.

Research is also revealing that other factors play into an avatar's trustworthiness and credibility. For example, simply making an avatar appear more human (including providing it with a clear gender) caused them to be rated more trustworthy. Other research has shown that trust can also be manipulated via more subtle techniques. Teams of people paid greater attention to an avatar that was created with a "team face," one that combined features from the members of the team. Individuals found political messages more persuasive when they were delivered by an avatar with a subtle resemblance to the listener's own face.

Read More

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is your corporate culture too nice?

Do you avoid conflict? If you do, you're not alone. Conflict avoidance is one of the most common characteristics of corporate cultures. At the same time it is one of the most pernicious and dangerous sources of unintentional complexity in organizational life.

The tendency to avoid conflict -- albeit inconvenient -- is very human. Most people want to be liked and unconsciously fear that arguments, disagreements, or negative messages will create tension with people they interact with on a day-to-day basis. Compounded with the environmental pressure to respect authority and the organizational stress on teamwork, this creates a great deal of anxiety around stirring up trouble.

Given these psychological and cultural forces, it's no wonder that so many managers -- from CEOs to shift supervisors -- avoid conflict. Unfortunately this avoidance creates disconnects between business units, unnecessary revisions in project plans, and lower standards of performance -- all of which complicate organizational life.

Not long ago I worked with a well-known company that was struggling to grow in a difficult market. In talking with the executive team it was clear that each of the product divisions had put a lot of time into their growth plans -- but they had spent little time aligning the plans with each other. As a result, R&D was uncertain about how to prioritize its projects, and centralized marketing dollars were spread around like peanut butter. There also were too many IT projects, most of which were under-resourced, and the sales force lacked focus. When I asked why the plans had not been better integrated, the excuse was that separate functions were expected to work it out amongst themselves. But in these "nice" cultures where people don't regularly ask the tough questions, "working it out" never happens.

This kind of conflict avoidance is not only prevalent in large-scale strategic discussions, but in day-to-day office interactions. We've all made decisions in meetings only to be undone later when a silent dissenter is found to disagree. And how many times have we heard about an employee jarred by a poor performance rating, simply because her boss had never given her honest feedback? One such conflict-avoiding company even asks project teams to run stakeholder "acceptance analyses" throughout the course of a project, in the hope that eventually everyone will get on board and the senior manager won't have to directly tell anyone to cooperate.

There is no easy formula for learning how to engage more effectively in constructive conflict. But here are three suggestions that may help you move in that direction:

1. Reflect. Look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself an honest appraisal of your readiness to challenge, give bad news, or otherwise create a degree of conflict. Can you think of situations where you should have spoken up but didn't, or where you tempered your words too much? Are there any particular types of conflict you avoid more than others, such as pushing back on authority?

2. Get feedback. Talk to friends, family, or colleagues. What is their perception of your willingness to engage in conflict, and your ability to do it constructively? Ask them about specific situations or patterns that they might see but are not obvious to you.

3. Correct the problem -- gradually. Do some experimenting, particularly in the areas that are habitually difficult for you. Try pushing back on a request from your boss that doesn't make sense. Speak up in a project meeting when you don't agree. Give someone feedback that you've been withholding. No matter what you do, start the conversation by saying that you are trying to get better at dealing with conflict situations, and that you hope this comes across constructively. This way, you will position yourself as speaking honestly and trying to learn -- and not just picking a fight. Hopefully this will reduce your anxiety (and that of your audience), which will allow both of you to make the conflict more constructive. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The economic imperative of achieving diversity

Around the globe the pressure to raise college completion levels is growing. Many political and business leaders recognize that prosperity, within a rapidly changing global economy, requires more knowledgeable workers: Today's employers expect workers to be, among other things, critical thinkers, effective communicators, ethical decision-makers and effective team members.

Given these realities, the educational community faces significant challenges--and opportunities--in ensuring that all students are equipped with the skills that are vital to America's long-term economic success.

Who are these current students? Are they ready to become future workers? Are we ready for them? Current demographic trends show that today's workforce is more diverse than in previous decades. In years to come large proportions of Americans entering the workforce will come from low-income and racial/ethnic minority groups that have been the least well served by our schooling systems and, correspondingly, that have the lowest rates of high school and college completion. According to the U.S. Census, by 2050 racial/ethnic minorities will comprise 55% of the working-age population, with Latinos at 30%, African-Americans at 12% and Asian-Americans at 8%. These rates reflect a sizable increase for Latinos (by 100%) and Asian-Americans (by 33%) over current statistics.

To ensure that all workers have the skills to succeed in the workplace, our nation's leaders, as well as leaders of our higher education institutions, recognize the importance of promoting diverse learning environments--not for the sake of diversity itself but precisely because of the economic (and educational) benefits that flow from learning that takes place in a diverse setting.

Within the higher education community, the term "diversity" often reflects the array of student backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and characteristics that add to the mix of college campuses. Research has confirmed numerous benefits associated with a diverse learning environment. Diversity enhances the educational experience, fostering students' academic and social growth. It encourages students to think critically, enhances communication skills and fosters civic engagement. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The role of employee engagement in the return to growth

Unless they reach out to dissatisfied workers, companies will face an employee exodus as the strengthening economy offers more job opportunities.

While facing the recent recession, the threat of employee turnover seemed low due to a rigid labor market. During that time, however, employee engagement levels dropped. Today, as employees see signs of recovery, they increasingly plan to leave their positions suggesting a looming employee-retention problem and a talent exodus that could have long-term impact on corporate performance. In fact, Corporate Executive Board's Corporate Leadership Council conducted research that finds less than one quarter of employees (23 percent) exhibited a high level of "intent to stay," a leading measure of turnover, in the second quarter of 2010.

The extensive employee engagement study also found that the employees most committed to their organizations put forth 57 percent more effort and are 87 percent less likely to leave their company than employees who consider themselves disengaged. It should be no surprise then that employee engagement, or lack thereof, is a critical factor in an organization's overall financial success.

Most companies use surveys to anticipate and respond to these types of employee engagement and emerging workforce challenges, but analysis has shown that they struggle to arrive at the desired results. The engagement surveys used today typically only provide a read out on the levels of employee engagement within critical workforce populations, enabling the organization to understand where there might be future retention or productivity issues, but not providing the types of actionable insight that aid in addressing them.

Leading companies are now moving beyond just understanding the levels of their employees' engagement, and are using surveys to understand the drivers behind it. These insights inform proactive and plan-specific interventions to improve engagement effectively and realize business results. Companies that use an employee engagement survey as a change management tool—rather than a data source—can reduce voluntary turnover in at-risk populations exponentially and also improve discretionary effort. Click here to read the full article.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The hidden workplace

There's the organization chart - and then there's the way things really work. Some smart companies are bringing power structures out of hiding.

Anyone who has ever worked knows that the org chart, no matter how meticulously rendered, doesn't come close to describing the facts of office life. All those lines and boxes don't tell you, for example, that smokers tend to have the best information, since they bond with people from every level and department when they head outside for a puff. The org chart doesn't tell you that people go to Janice, a long-time middle manager, rather than their bosses to get projects through. It doesn't tell you that the Canadian and Japanese sales forces don't interact because the two points of contact can't stand each other.

In every company there is a parallel power structure that can be just as important as the one everyone spends stressful days trying to master. Jon Katzenbach, founding partner of New York City-based consulting firm Katzenbach Partners, and his colleague, principal Zia Khan, have spent the past several years trying to bring the shadows to light. In a study released exclusively to Fortune, "The Informal Organization," they argue that successful managers must understand this "constellation of collaborations, relationships, and networks," particularly in times of stress and transition. "We're not saying you can formalize the informal," says Katzenbach. "We're saying you can influence it more than you do." Click here to read the full article in Fortune Magazine.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mark Hurd and “Mad Men”

Don Draper forgot his keys. The same week, H-P CEO Mark Hurd resigned on the heels of sexual harassment charges.

Have attitudes and life style changed – or just the ramifications of getting caught? Technology and societal attitudes are driving new thoughts about what constitutes harassment and new approaches to enforcing ethical behavior in the workplace.

In Mad Men , the ad men drink at work, cavort with their secretaries. Woman are openly disrespected. These were the days before Title VII. There were virtually no checks on office behavior. Most everyone in the office is white as well, except for the occasional black repair men or elevator operator. These were the days of openly coercive sexual exploits at work and racial discrimination. That was part of American culture and those days are not so long ago.

H-P’s investigation found that Hurd violated HP’s “Standards of Business Conduct". It seems like Hurd, who is married (at least for now), was entangled in a personal relationship with a hired contractor— an affair he tried to obfuscate with some fudged expense reports. Hard of know since we still don't have the full story of his relationship with actress/reality show contestant/Congressional staffer/marketing consultant/real estate executive Jodie Fisher. The 50-year-old Fisher has appeared on a reality TV show, and in a string of movies that place her on the fringes of Hollywood fame. Her acting resume includes such films as “Intimate Obsession” (1992), “Body of Influence 2″ (1996), “Sheer Passion” (1998) and a bunch of other movies that might be hard to explain to your spouse if they popped up on the pay-per-view cable bill.

As The Atlantic points out, Mad Men bombards us with how bad it was Back Then in very obvious ways (including blatant sexual advances in the workplace) while allowing some viewers to gloss over the aspects that are still with us, in the workplace and beyond:

Our inability to identify misogyny, even on a show that presents it so melodramatically, points to the truth behind sexism, and oppression at large. To people who actually lived through the 1960s, the sexism of their culture didn't seem dramatic; the men who objectified and infantilized women probably bore no specific malice, and the vast majority of the women who found their lives constrained by those men didn't imagine that things could be different. Their oppression was invisible, because it was normal. In other words, they were like us. Sexism is still around, and in the vast majority of instances it doesn't present itself as some portentous, shocking occurrence. It's just the fabric of daily life, a little ugliness that we take for granted.

Calling out that ugliness, piece by piece, and separating it from what we consider standard operating behavior is the first step.

So….$10 billion in share value evaporated as the news broke. Is Hurd accountable?
Many people are objecting to Hurd's severance package, which may be worth as much as $50 million. While most CEO contracts exempt poor performance as a reason for "termination for cause," there is no reason to permit a departure following an ethics violation to be characterized as a resignation - when the result is a $50 million payout that would otherwise stay in the corporate bank account.

Hurd's contract makes it clear that he is an "at-will" employee who can be terminated at any time. It describes the consequences of termination for cause (eliminating most severance payments) without defining it. There is nothing to prevent the board from sending Hurd a letter telling him he has been fired and then stopping payment on all those severance checks.

In the post-Enron, post-meltdown world, the government insists on seeing how violators are treated. And if a middle manager would be fired for fiddling with his reimbursements, then the guy who's been paid more than $100 million has to be fired, too. Beyond that is the actual (not just apparent) tone at the top, which is the board's responsibility. They cannot keep in place an executive who has demonstrated such a failure of judgment and responsibility. They cannot keep in place an executive they cannot trust.

These days, harassment is (usually) not about the stuff you see on Mad Men, and it's not chasing the secretary around the desk. "It's rare now that somebody in the office says, 'Sleep with me or you're fired,'" says David Bowman, a labor and employment partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. "Now it's about managers being very flirtatious at the holiday party. It's about getting drunk together at happy hour and something inappropriate being said or done. People are now aware that certain things are not acceptable, but they still stumble over the subtle areas."

Much of the problem is that newer technology — e-mail, IM, texting or posting on social-networking sites — makes it much easier for comments to be misconstrued on many levels. If you admire an employee's new haircut while she is in your office, she can read your tone and body language; and you can read hers. However, a late-night text message admiring your employee's new haircut can take on a lascivious tone, even if that is not the intention.

Social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace can be another potential source of trouble. Innocent vacation photos of you in your bikini may unwittingly draw unwanted attention at work. Brenner recommends having separate profiles for professional and personal contacts, or just sticking to a professional site like LinkedIn for your work colleagues.

BrandGames featured in Forbes!

When playing videogames makes dollars and sense ... Check out the article here.

Videogames that make you productive at work

Work Games

If you get caught playing these games at the office, chances are you'll get a pat on the back. That's because companies like Microsoft and government organizations like the U.S. Army have turned to videogames to train employees and increase productivity. Courtesy of Forbes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get immediate value from your new hire

To see ROI from employees just starting out, you need to impart an understanding of the company's inner workings and culture

There are many theories on how to correctly "onboard" someone to an organization or a team. Most focus on how to provide the new hire with the information and skills she needs to succeed. But that can only take her so far. She will need connections and an understanding of the inner workings and culture of your company to be truly successful. Whether she is transitioning from another part of the organization or is brand new, you can get her up to speed more quickly by going beyond the basics and explaining how things actually get done.

What the Experts Say

According to Michael Watkins, the Chairman of Genesis Advisers and author of The First 90 Days and Your Next Move, there are four domains that new hires need to master: business orientation, expectations alignment, political connection, and cultural adaptation. The last two are often the hardest for managers to convey, and yet the most critical for the new person to understand. Watkins' research shows that lack of cultural adaptation is the most common reason newly-hired managers fail. "It's also the hardest area for managers to provide good advice, in part because they are embedded in the culture and not necessarily reflective about it," he says. Jon Katzenbach, Senior Partner of Booz & Company, author of The Wisdom of Teams, and co-author of the forthcoming Leading Outside the Lines, notes that "a lot of onboarding focuses on the formal side of the organization and is programmatic." But helping new hires understand the informal side of the organization will accelerate their acclimation. Follow these three steps to get your new employee productive faster. Click here to read the tips.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tech executives stop cutting and get strategic

With the economy growing, CEOs want chief information officers to help with marketing and sales. Are the techies ready to step up?

Filippo Passerini knows that a customer who likes to lather up with Pantene shampoo is probably in the market for Olay moisturizer products too -- and as chief information officer at Procter & Gamble, a growing part of his job is making sure that the company makes both sales.

Passerini's team of computing experts uses technology to analyze the $80 billion consumer giant's online shopping data -- like the shampoo/moisturizer connection -- to boost retail sales of P&G (PG) brands like Tide, Gillette, and Pampers. "We connect the dots with the information we have," he says.

After a year of hunkering down and slashing costs, many corporations are growing again -- and techies are leading the way. CEOs such as P&G's Bob McDonald increasingly view technology as a strategic tool for increasing revenue -- not just a way to make workers more efficient. A recent Gartner survey found revenue growth trumped cost cuts as CIOs' top priority for 2010.

To free up resources -- and time -- for their new-found strategic roles, CIOs are farming out IT drudgery like server maintenance. P&G's Passerini has outsourced many of the basics to Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), allowing him to cut $800 million from the IT budget over the past seven years while keeping roughly the same number of workers. What are those folks doing today? Passerini has repurposed IT guys as business-unit consultants who dream up ways to make better products and sell more of them.

Case in point: Passerini co-led the "Proud Sponsor of Moms" marketing campaign -- his team kept daily tabs on it, tracking data about every advertisement and media mention, and he used the campaign to pilot a new tool that tracks P&G's buzz on Twitter and other digital forums. Running a marketing campaign may not sound very high tech, but for the modern CIO, it is all in a day's work. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Leadership training gains urgency amid stronger economy

Fearing a shortage of qualified managers as business picks up, some companies are bolstering leadership-development efforts.

Layoffs and training cutbacks in the past two years have thinned manager pipelines. And employers worry that baby boomers who postponed retirement during the recession will start to depart as recovering stock prices reinflate retirement funds.

Already, some companies say they are finding they don't have the managers to spearhead new projects or step in for departing executives, a problem as companies try to shift into growth mode.

Employers cut spending on training by 11% in both 2009 and 2008, according to human-resources consulting firm Bersin & Associates LLC. Now about half of companies plan to increase their leadership-development budgets in 2010, according to a Bersin survey of 750 corporations conducted in May. Almost a quarter plan to increase spending by more than 10% this year.

In addition, 88% of about 400 human-resources executives said they have recently revamped, or plan to revamp, their leadership-related training and development programs, according to a May survey by Mercer, a consulting unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Putting a value on training

Training programs generate greater value for organizations when the curricula reflect key business performance metrics. Testing real-world outcomes is crucial.

All organizations train their people, and most spend significant sums doing so. Yet they generally don't have any idea whether they're getting any business value from training. Beyond teaching new employees the specifics of their jobs, most companies train staff in areas such as leadership, communications, performance management or lean operations. But they typically measure training's impact by conducting surveys of attendees or counting how many employees complete courses rather than by assessing whether those employees learned anything that improved business performance.

This approach was, perhaps, acceptable when companies had money to spare. Now, most don't. Yet more and more, organizations need highly capable employees--90% of the respondents to a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey said that building capabilities was a top-10 priority for their organizations. Only a quarter, though, said that their programs are effective at improving performance measurably, and only 8% track the programs' return on investment.

The story of one social-sector group, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), illustrates how organizations can make the most of their outlays for training programs by doing a better job of understanding which of them create business value, and how. The answers are remarkably straightforward and have lessons for retailers, manufacturers, and a range of other organizations as well. Click here to read the full article and learn how BGCA did it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On leadership: a few words from CEO Tony Hsieh

Read what Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh has to say about leadership. He has a new book coming out, Delivering Happiness, and he knows a few things about workplace communication and what it means to truly engage your workforce.

Tony Hsieh: For us, the whole belief is that our culture should be our number one priority, and if we get the culture right then most of the other stuff -- like great customer service, building a long term enduring brand -- will just happen naturally on its own.

We actually have ten core values, essentially a formalized definition of our culture. A lot of companies have what they call core values or guiding principles and so on. The problem is that they are usually very lofty sounding and they read like a press release the marketing department put out, and maybe you learn about it on day one of orientation but then it becomes just a plaque on the lobby wall.
For us we wanted to come up with 'committable' core values, and by committable I mean we are willing to hire and fire people based on whether they are living up to those core values, independent of their actual job performance.

When managers from other companies join us, we tell them we expect them to be spending 10 to 20 percent of their time outside the office, hanging out with their team, getting to know the people they work with. They are initially surprised and ask us, "That sounds fun, but is it really working?" Then we ask the people who have actually done it, 'How much more productive and effective is your team because of the higher levels of trust?' Communication is better; people are willing to do favors for each other because they are doing favors for friends not just co-workers. The answers we get back as far as increased productivity is anywhere from 20 percent to 100 percent.

Tom Heath: So, as a leader, happy employees translate into healthy bottom lines?

Tony Hsieh: It is necessary but not sufficient. There are so many companies where the company culture goes downhill as the company gets bigger, and not only do we not want that to happen, we actually want it to scale, and to get stronger and stronger as the company grows.

Every employee understands that part of their job description is actually to live and inspire the culture in others. A lot of it is done on the front end; during the hiring process we do two sets of interviews. The first set is kind of the standard -- the hiring manager and his or her team will look for someone to a fit within the team, relevant experience, technical ability and so on, but then we do a separate, second set of interviews with our HR team, and they look purely for a culture fit, and they have to pass both in order to be hired. We have passed on a lot of smart and talented people that we know can make an immediate impact on our top or bottom line but if they are not a culture fit, we won't hire them. Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Online training a boon

Nothing frustrates managers more than the catch-22 of having employees who need training but not having the time or money to let them take that training.

Web-based learning is beginning to solve that dilemma for some managers, according to industry experts. As the availability of software packages and online services swells, more companies are turning to the Net to boost employee knowhow.

Web-based training is an application placed on a server that an employee can download to learn more about software packages, educational tools, common tasks or company information such as medical benefits. That application can reside on a company's intranet or out on the Web at a trainer or vendor site.

"It's just making it easier for people to get trained quickly," said Christianne Moretti, manager of IT training and education research for IDC Canada. "It is also taking away reasons for employers to object to training.'' Most Web-based training can be done at work and does require travel or time off in addition to course costs. ''Right now, training is an event." In fact, Diane Gayeski, a professor of corporate communications at Ithaca College, said the word "training" is a misnomer. The information people receive will be in the form of quick information bytes, case studies and examples, and will involve very little actual training. Click here to read the full article.

Monday, August 2, 2010

How top companies breed stars

The world's best companies realize that no matter what business they're in, their real business is building leaders. Here's how the champs do it.

You couldn't be blamed for rolling your eyes when American Express chief Ken Chenault says, "People are our greatest asset." CEOs always say that. They almost never mean it. Most companies maintain their office copiers better than they build the capabilities of their people, especially the ones who are supposed to be future leaders, and for decades they've gotten away with it. But now their world is changing profoundly - and at long last we're going to find out which self-proclaimed people-cherishers actually mean it.

A fast-growing number of CEOs - including Chenault - are demonstrating their sincerity. With Amex (Charts, Fortune 500) at No. 19 on our North American list, he has built an exceptionally rigorous leadership-development program packed with metrics, incentives, goals, values, and calendars (for more about the program and Chenault, see "No Holds Barred").

More broadly, companies that were never especially serious about leadership development are getting serious. Companies that were always good at it are getting better - and finding that the world wants desperately to learn what they know. General Electric (Charts, Fortune 500), No. 1 on our new ranking of the world's Top Companies for Leaders, reports getting five to ten requests each week from companies wanting to benchmark its practices. Click here to read the full article.

How gaming became the future of social media

Gaming is already wildly popular. A recent spate of deals with Google, Disney, and Gamestop, suggest that social games have the promise to be wildly profitable, too.

FarmVille. Mafia Wars. Pet Society. With their collective userbases numbering in the hundreds of millions, social gaming is as ubiquitous and mainstream as primetime TV programming.

But for years that wasn't the case -- skeptics disregarded social games, with their Super Nintendo-like graphics and simplified gameplay. Despite early successes like Diner Dash, which game maker PlayFirst announced raked in $35 million revenue almost two years before FarmVille came along, social gaming was branded a fad. Only when Zynga's farming simulator skyrocketed to success and eventually enlisted a whopping 80 million active monthly users paying for virtual goods like tractors, fuel, and animals, would potential investors say otherwise.

Now, not only are those same investors taking social gaming seriously, they're negotiating for a piece of the action. Google reportedly (GOOG) invested anywhere between $100 and $200 million dollars in Zynga, the maker of games like FarmVille, Mafia Wars, and Zynga Poker. The company has reportedly raised around $500 million in the past year, including $150 million from Softbank Capital and $180 million from Digital Sky Technologies and Tiger Global.

Earlier this week, the social gaming love continued: Walt Disney (DIS), which had picked up iPhone gaming start-up Tapulous earlier this month for an unspecified amount, also bought Playdom Social Games, announcing it will pay as much as $763 million -- $563 million upfront and $200 million more if the company behind Facebook games like Sorority Life and Social City reaches certain unannounced growth targets. What's more, Gamestop (GME) purchased online-game maker Kongregate, signaling the retail category killer desire to (finally) capitalize on social gaming's success.

What's the attraction? Attendees of Fortune Brainstorm Tech this past weekend heard earfuls about how social games are transforming media and the Internet. Activision Blizzard (ATVI) CEO Bobby Kotick, who has been playing in the video-game field for two decades, noted that 29% of kids and teens today multi-task while watching TV.

Many media conglomerates see that videogames are an ever-growing piece of the average consumer's leisure activity — and want to get in on them. Games like Zynga's new FrontierVille broke records when it claimed 20 million users in 36 days. In contrast, nearly four years passed before the massive online multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft could claim 11 million active players. Hence, the opportunity for interlopers to deliver content on platforms beyond TV and the desktop computer.

Ideally, this will be paid content. This would include products consumers shop for -- maybe via games while they watch TV. "It's a great time for e-commerce again," speculated Demand Media CEO Richard Rosenblatt. Another Brainstorm attendee, Los Angeles-based venture capitalist Dana Settle of Greycroft Partners, said that she jotted down in her notebook: "Interactive TV really is here."

Games happen to be the most clever and efficient way to get Internet users to provide credit card info. "Games are the path of least resistance," said Keith Rabois, VP of strategy and business development at Slide, an online game-and-entertainment company launched in 2005 by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin. Turns out, 55-year-old women are the most lucrative gamers for companies like Slide. They spend gobs of real money on virtual gifts... maybe because they're bored by TV? Click here to read the full article.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Make the connection

Senior leaders should take the lead on employee engagement - for the sake of the organization

With vast cutbacks and recruitment freezes on the horizon the delivery of services and meeting the high expectations of the public makes these challenges times for the civil service.

To deal with these challenges leaders need to tap into employee engagement. Employee engagement is a state of mind, a positive attitude where individuals are happy to channel their energies into the application of work.

Senior leaders play a vital role in cultivating this attitude and are in a primary position to set the culture and values of the workplace and provide the some of the conditions that foster engagement.

Be a role model and connect with your people

Take an active interest in your people. A few minutes building a relationship is time well spent. Involve people and give them the responsibility to provide input on the decisions that affect them. Be honest and straight forward with people and demonstrate the moral courage to deal with difficult decisions.

Wen things do not work out make sure you take full responsibility. Make use of all formal and informal opportunities to communicate with your people and keep them fully informed with what is going on in the organisation.

It is also important to lead by example and model the attitudes and behaviours you could like to see in others. It is easy to overlook how often people look to their leaders and pick up on their behaviours and actions.

Culture and climate

Provide the opportunities for feedback and consider and act on that feedback. Staff surveys are only a small part of this. Actively encourage people to voice their views and opinions and demonstrate an appreciation for this, and if employees suggestions are not feasible take the time to fully explain why.

Acknowledge people's contributions and reward people for their effort. Recognition can have an immense effect on a person. Highlight where mistakes have been made but do not chastise individuals for this. Focus on the learning that can result from mistakes. These actions help to create a workplace where people feel secure and valued.


People are often concerned with their own development. Committing to staff development shows that the organisation is prepared to invest in their people and values their people. You cannot rely on development budgets and training courses alone for this. You must provide the opportunity for people to apply and demonstrate new skills and knowledge. Development can be achieved by placing people in situations where they address new challenges, and can learn from others, as well as teaching others what they know.


Remind people of what the organisation, the department and the team are trying to achieve and where they fit into this. Create a line of sight from individuals' roles to the future achievements of the organisation and highlight the benefits for the public in meeting these goals. Make the effort to know what values your people hold and align these with what the organisation is trying to achieve and how the organisation is planning to do this. This can create a sense of purpose and pride in what people are doing.

This is about people, connecting with people, valuing people, supporting people and developing people. Employee engagement is related to many positive outcomes; productivity, employee wellbeing, and job satisfaction, just to name a few, and leaders cannot let this be undervalued in the current climate. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Serious games and learning

Check out this report from Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture, regarding the relationship between serious games and learning. The study takes a look at gaming technology and how industry advances may seriously affect, and enhance the learning process. Click here to download the report.

Infogroup announces findings of employee engagement study

Infogroup, a leading provider of global market and business research, announced yesterday the findings of its 2010 employee research study, which examined comparative levels of employee engagement across the globe. A key finding from the study offered insight into the degree to which US employees are interested in striving for and staying with their current employer.

“However, less attention has been given to the impact of high engagement from an employee perspective. We now measure sustainable engagement through our Healthy Workplace Index, and this helps ensure that high levels of engagement can be maintained without leading to burn-out.”

Compared to other countries, the USA performed strongly on certain aspects of engagement, ranking 6th out of the 17 countries included in the survey, with India ranking #1. The findings also indicated that US employees tend to be more positive about striving for their organization and are motivated by their organization to contribute more than is normally required in their work (54% positive, 5 percentage points above the global norm). They are also more likely to recommend their organization as a place to work compared to the global norm (57% positive, 6 percentage points above the global norm). However, intentions to stay with their organization for the next 12 months are below the global norm by six percentage points. “As employees’ motivation is high and commitment is in line with the global norm, this may suggest that portfolio careers are a more prominent feature of US culture,” said Lisa Wojtkowiak of ORC’s Employee Research practice. “To increase the length of stay for employees, it is not only important to measure employee engagement, but to ensure engagement will be sustainable by creating a healthy workplace.”

On the issue of healthy workplaces, the US ranked joint third with Australia and Switzerland, with a Healthy Workplace Index score of 57% or 5 points above the global norm. US employees were more likely to say that health and safety issues are taken seriously in their organization, and that there are policies in place to support employees who experience stress or pressure. “Employee Engagement has long been regarded as important for an organization’s success,” Wojtkowiak said. “However, less attention has been given to the impact of high engagement from an employee perspective. We now measure sustainable engagement through our Healthy Workplace Index, and this helps ensure that high levels of engagement can be maintained without leading to burn-out.” Click here to read the full report.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ethics, corporate responsibility, and digital media

The issue of ethics in the business world is a hot topic at present, as confirmed by the Institute of Directors and other similar organizations. Reputations are built and destroyed in the commercial world by personal and corporate ethics, and they are a key part to our individual careers, our relationships and commercial success. Yet, there is little public discussion about them and the enormous role they play.

Every person, in both their professional and personal lives, experience situations that test their own personal value systems and moral frameworks. These situations may come to define our successes, failures and reputations. The globalized world of business and culture is changing ever more quickly, and many of these changes will have their effect felt, not just in our private lives, but also in the commercial worlds we inhabit.

Every major industrialized economy in the world is in a situation that is unprecedented (Jones Lang LaSalle 2009) and so the wider changes that are occurring will need careful consideration to how our ethical frameworks will fit with them.

How do we make the most of these new economic circumstances and play a positive personal and corporate role, in the wider socio-economic world we inhabit? What role do ethics have to play in mission statements? How do we navigate differences in values and resolve tensions between revenue and customer satisfaction? Click here to read some tips and advice!

Corporate responsibility a must in retaining talent

It is by now an article of faith that employees who are skilled, creative and driven to satisfy customers are essential for differentiating a company from its competitors. Increasingly, success comes from being able to attract, motivate and retain a talented pool of workers. However, with a finite number of extraordinary employees to go around, the competition for them is fierce.

There is growing evidence that a company's corporate social responsibility activities comprise a legitimate, compelling and increasingly important way to attract and retain good employees. For example, in a bid to burnish their images as socially responsible companies and thereby attract and retain talent, CEOs of high-profile companies such as Home Depot, Delta Air Lines and SAP recently pledged to deploy millions of employee volunteers to work on various community projects. Their efforts appear to make sense: Jim Copeland, Jr., former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, puts it this way: “The best professionals in the world want to work in organizations in which they can thrive, and they want to work for companies that exhibit good corporate corporate culture..." Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Entrepreneurs get an edge playing videogames

In the early 2000s Silicon Valley-based business guru John Hagel III was involved in a high-tech startup and hired Stephen Gillett, a young man right out of college. Less than a half-dozen years later, Gillett was named a senior vice president and chief information officer for Starbucks--the youngest CIO of a Fortune 500 company at that time.

And Hagel thinks he knows a primary reason for his one-time employee's meteoric rise. Everything that Gillett needed to know, Hagel said, he learned while becoming a guild leader in the popular online game World of Warcraft.
The co-chairman of a tech-oriented strategy center for Deloitte LLP, Hagel told the annual Wharton Leadership Conference that Gillett--just like other top players on the massive online multi-player game, with an estimated 8 million participants--reached out independently to build a large team of allies that solved complex problems and developed winning strategies.

Guild leaders in World of Warcraft "require a high degree of influence," noted Hagel, a successful author and longtime consultant. "You have to be able to influence and persuade people--not order them to do things. Ordering people in most of these guilds doesn't get you far."

The look inside World of Warcraft and its relevance for today's complicated business environment was part of a recent research project and book by Hagel and two co-authors--John Seely Brown and Lang Davison--that examines how companies re-invent and revive themselves by moving away from secretive, proprietary shops and toward a more open, collaborative business model. Their findings resulted in the recent publication of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.

The bottom line, they found, is that American companies will continue to fall behind their counterparts in emerging markets such as China or India unless they move toward what Hagel called "the edge," which is where passionate, change-driven employees collaborate with others on the kind of innovations that prevent a company from seeing its core business model slowly erode. "The only thing that succeeds," Hagel said, "is to take those initiatives on the edge and pull more and more of the core out to those edges--rather than trying to pull them back in." He asserted that chief executives who stick to the conventional wisdom and cling to secretive proprietary business systems are doomed to fail. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Knowledge management strategies that create value

There is no one-size-fits-all way to effectively tap a firm's intellectual capital. To create value, companies must focus on how knowledge is used to build critical capabilities.

A firm that had invested millions of dollars in a state-of-the-art intranet intended to improve knowledge sharing got some bad news: Employees were using it most often to retrieve the daily menu from the company cafeteria. The system was barely used in day-to-day business activities.

Few executives would argue with the premise that knowledge management is critical—but few know precisely what to do about it. There are numerous examples of knowledge-management programs intended to improve innovation, responsiveness and adaptability that fall short of expectations. Researchers at the Accenture Institute for Strategic Change have been exploring the roots of the problem and have developed a method to help executives make effective knowledge management a reality in their organizations.

Knowledge management is still a relatively young field, with new concepts emerging constantly. Often, it is portrayed simplistically; discussions typically revolve around blanket principles that are intended to work across the organization. For example, companies are urged to emulate knowledge-management leaders such as British Petroleum and Skandia. And most knowledge-management initiatives have focused almost entirely on changes in tools and technologies, such as intranets and Lotus Notes.

These approaches have little relevance for executives contending with the day-to-day reality of running a company. Knowledge management is complex and multifaceted; it encompasses everything the organization does to make knowledge available to the business, such as embedding key information in systems and processes, applying incentives to motivate employees and forging alliances to infuse the business with new knowledge. Effective knowledge management requires a combination of many organizational elements—technology, human resource practices, organizational structure and culture—in order to ensure that the right knowledge is brought to bear at the right time.

Many companies have implemented sophisticated intranets, common repositories and other systems, largely ignoring the complex cultural issues that influence the way people behave around knowledge. By and large, those companies have seen little improvement in their ability to manage knowledge. Too often, companies implement state-of-the-art technology and then discover that culture and behavior are slow to change.

In short, simplistic solutions and "one-size-fits-all" approaches leave executives with little in the way of practical advice about how to transform the entire knowledge-management system. What's more, this fuzziness makes it difficult for executives to see a clear link between their knowledge-management investments and business value. Click here to read the full article.

Do serious games work? See the results of 3 studies

"Military recruits and entry-level civilians of today not only understand technology in everyday use; they expect it," says Mark Oehlert, the Department of Defense's director of Game and Simulation department at the Defense Aquisition University.

These young workers are digital natives, raised in an environment where they were surrounded by inexpensive, yet highly interactive systems. Today's college generation grew up with video games from infancy. With games and technology at their fingertips, they process more information faster, and in a much different way, than most older people do.

See the study. Read the report. Click here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A new strategy for employee engagement

The weakness of the economic recovery has real implications for the workforce -- and for HR executives charged with maximizing worker engagement and productivity. Do the typical initiatives to increase employee engagement work in this environment?

Aggressive head count reductions have interrupted talent strategies at many top companies. As smart employers strengthen the value proposition and focus on engagement (anything to increase engagement is a good thing), others are losing valuable contributors and dropping the ball on important training and staff-development programs.

There is a better way:

Beware the scourge of overwork. The average "job footprint" has increased by 1/3 in the recession, with the reward being frozen pay and shrinking perks. While so far workers have felt lucky to keep their jobs, workers who claim to be "disengaged" has doubled to 20% -- "engagement" as a vital source of innovation and creativity is evaporating.

Address emotional as well as economic needs. In The Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win, Dave and Wendy Ulrich focus on a notion of "abundance" and suggest a list of seven questions for leaders to ask:

Who am I?
Where am I going?
Whom do I travel with?
How do I build a positive work environment?
What challenges interest me?
How do I change, learn and grow?
What delights me?

While these questions seem unrelated to the bottom line, the answers can provide a powerful catalyst to engagement - and customer satisfaction and profitability.

Broad-based employment gains from entry-level positions to senior management are coming… are you ready?

Read the full story from HRE Online.

Human capital management predicts stock prices

Human capital management is fast emerging as an essential core competency (possibly the essential core competency) for organizations.

Firms that invest significantly in training and developing their employees generally outperform the market. Investment managers would be well-served to pay attention to broad measures of human capital management as a factor in portfolio selection. Engagement = Revenue.

With very few exceptions, an organization's greatest assets do indeed "walk out the door" at the end of each business day. For those who are eager to measure human capital more accurately, who then wish to create a much greater return on investments in human resources for their organization, The ROI of Human Capital is a must read on this subject. This book is an absolutely indispensable resource for helping to achieve these objectives.

For most human resource professionals, measurement remains a critical area of weakness. To allow their organizations to tap the full potential of human capital as a source of competitive advantage, HR strategists need to engage the emerging field of human capital analytics. This would make it possible for organizations to develop and execute human capital strategies that are grounded in actionable business intelligence - rather than relying on the old standbys (intuition, one-size-fits all benchmarking, or accepted measurement myths within the HR profession).

Only then will organizations truly reap the benefits of unleashing their employees’ full capabilities.

For more see the White Paper.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does employee engagement really drive productivity?

The subject of employee engagement as a measure of productivity and management strategies to increase engagement have been hot topics since the original Gallup organization research was published.

The Gallup organization defined employee engagement as "an employee's involvement with, commitment to, and satisfaction with work." Research conducted in the past decade has shown that employee engagement has declined significantly in most industries, with some research citing as few as 29% of employees being actively engaged in their jobs. The Hay Group found in its research that in among office workers who were actively engaged, they were 43% more productive. Various research studies have shown that the following factors influence employee engagement: Employers' commitment to and concern for employee welfare; employee perceptions of job importance; clarity of job expectations; career advancement opportunities; regular dialogue with superiors; quality of working relationships with co-workers and superiors; perceptions of the ethos and values of the organization; and employee rewards and recognition. Click here to read the full article.

Social media and employee communications

AON Consulting published a study which looks at the relationship between social media and employee communications. It's fascinating... and it's free... so check it out!

Click here to download the full report for free

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Employee well-being: more serious than you may think!

Your well-being is a serious business matter. And so is your employees'. It affects profits and productivity, for better and for worse.

The pressure to undo the damage of the past few years may tempt the leaders of many businesses to focus only on the balance sheet and ignore what turns out to be a quantifiable and manageable lever that is proven to affect the bottom line: the well-being of workers. You might assume that well-being is a "soft" issue and not a management problem to solve. That would be a mistake.

It turns out that well-being, like many other management matters, is both quantifiable and manageable. After extensive research, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, sociologists, physicians and other scientists, and various in-depth analyses, including random samples from more than 150 countries spanning 98% of the world population, the Gallup Organization have identified five universal, interconnected elements that represent what people across nationalities, faiths and cultures look for in life and what causes them to thrive. They are:

Career well-being, meaning how you occupy your time and simply liking what you do each day.

Social well-being, having strong relationships and love in your life.

Financial well-being, effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase your feeling of financial security.

Physical well-being, having good health and enough energy to get things done throughout the day.

Community well-being, your sense of engagement and involvement with the area in which you live.

People with high levels of well-being in all five of these categories thrive, and those with low levels of well-being in even one category suffer. And as individuals go, so go their workplaces. When organizations invest in their employees' well-being they reap significant reductions in costs and increases in value over time.

Employees with thriving well-being are also much more likely to be engaged in their workplaces, and thus are more productive and cost-effective. Additionally, they help improve their communities and the brands of the organizations that employ them. It's clear that what's best for the employee is best for the organization. Increasing employee well-being means a more efficient and higher-performing organization. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Teach for America as competitive as being accepted to an Ivy League

Alneada Biggers, Harvard class of 2010, was amazed this past year when she discovered that getting into the nation’s top law schools and grad programs could be easier than being accepted for a starting teaching job with Teach for America.

Ms. Biggers says that of 15 to 20 Harvard friends who applied to Teach for America, only three or four got in. “This wasn’t last minute — a lot applied in August 2009, they’d been student leaders and volunteered,” Ms. Biggers said. She says one of her closest friends wanted to do Teach for America, but was rejected and had to “settle” for University of Virginia Law School.

Will Cullen, Villanova ’10, had a friend who was rejected and instead will be a Fulbright scholar. Julianne Carlson, a new graduate of Yale — where a record 18 percent of seniors applied to Teach for America — says she knows a half dozen “amazing” classmates who were rejected, although the number is probably higher. “People are reluctant to tell you because of the stigma of not getting in,” Ms. Carlson said.

When Robert Rosen graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2009, he did not apply, fearing he would be turned down. Instead, he volunteered in a friend’s classroom weekly for the next year, to see if he liked teaching, but also to build a credential that would impress Teach for America. Asked how hard getting in is, James Goldberg, Duke ’10 said, “I’d compare it with being accepted to an Ivy League grad school.”

Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Rosen, Ms. Carlson, Mr. Cullen and Ms. Biggers count themselves lucky to be among the 4,500 selected by the nonprofit to work at high-poverty public schools from a record 46,359 applicants (up 32 percent over 2009). There’s little doubt the numbers are fueled by a bad economy, which has limited job options even for graduates from top campuses. In 2007, during the economic boom, 18,172 people applied.

This year, on its 20th anniversary, Teach for America hired more seniors than any other employer at numerous colleges, including Yale, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgetown and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At Harvard, 293 seniors, or 18 percent of the class, applied, compared with 100 seniors in 2007. “So many job options in finance, P.R. and consulting have been cut back,” said Ms. Carlson, the Yale grad.

In interviews, two dozen soon-to-be-teachers here in Houston, one of eight national Teach for America centers that provide a five-week crash summer course in classroom practices, mentioned the chance to help poor children and close the achievement gap as major reasons for applying. Victor Alquicira (Yale), who is Mexican-born, and Kousha Navidar (Duke), who is Iranian-born, said it was a chance to give back to a country that had given them much. Click here to read the full article.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Technology is critical to 21st century learning

A national survey presented last month at a Congressional briefing highlights administrators' concerns and districts' barriers to providing 21st century learning environment. A common thread documented in the study is the need to have an effective technology infrastructure. The 2009 Speak Up Survey was conducted by Project Tomorrow and sponsored by Schoolwires.

In the national survey of more than 368,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers and administrators, students shared their vision for 21st century learning that includes:

--Social-based learning - students want to leverage emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.

--Un-tethered learning - students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets or even teacher knowledge or skills.

--Digitally-rich learning - students see the use of relevancy-based digital tools, content and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Emerging need: cultivating leaders

Rapid, unpredictable changes in market conditions, boundless opportunities, fierce competition—that's what emerging markets are like. Unfortunately they're also short on executives with the leadership skills needed to succeed in this kind of environment.

As a result, many companies in these markets don't come close to fulfilling their potential, or they fail outright. So, how can companies in emerging markets develop the leaders they so urgently need?

To study the problem, the China Europe International Business School's Leadership Behavioral Laboratory, in collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership, interviewed 100 successful midlevel and senior executives from various industries in China. We asked each of the executives recount three critical events in their careers that contributed to their development as managers.

Their answers revealed several keys to leadership development in emerging markets:

SET AN EXAMPLE. Senior managers' words, deeds, temperament, charisma and standards are powerful role models for their subordinates. In a market where companies are struggling to assert themselves amid rapidly changing conditions, it is doubly important that managers have stable leadership to look to for guidance and inspiration. More than one-third of the managers we interviewed mentioned the great influence that executives they admired had exerted on their careers. Senior executives can't just issue orders; they need to exemplify the company's values in everything they do.

NEVER STOP TEACHING. Many executives stressed the importance of continuously learning about their business and about business in general throughout their careers. In emerging markets, where companies and entire industries are growing and evolving at an accelerated pace, open-ended learning is crucial.

For many companies, learning typically involves sending potential leaders to classes at business schools, where they learn management theory and practices. Such training is, no doubt valuable. But it shouldn't be the only form of management training, or even the focus. Rather than spending huge amounts on external leadership consultants, companies should focus on strengthening their own coaching practices.

What would that look like? For one thing, fellow managers who have experience and expertise and are well versed in a company's corporate culture can help junior managers find practical, effective solutions for the challenges they are facing at work. This shouldn't be left to chance—a mentoring program should be set up to ensure that all junior managers are receiving proper guidance.

Companies should also systematically rotate talented employees among various jobs and divisions of the company to broaden their knowledge of the business.
Junior managers also should be included in critical task forces so they garner firsthand experience in the process of managing big issues. The managers we interviewed repeatedly mentioned the importance of their involvement in projects like developing new products, opening up new markets, implementing new business plans and setting up new branches. Restructurings, mergers, share offerings and public-relations crises are also excellent learning opportunities. Experiences like these teach managers not just to adapt to change but rather to embrace it.

MAKE SURE THEY LEARN FROM THEIR FAILURES—AND SUCCESSES. When things do go wrong, make sure there are mentors or coaches ready to help junior managers confront and draw lessons from their mistakes. That can be the difference between talented employees becoming discouraged or feeling that they have grown from the experience.

Successful leaders, of course, learn from every experience. But the introspection that allows for such continuous learning doesn't come naturally to everyone. Companies should include in their training programs sessions designed to help managers develop systematic habits of introspection. Managers should have regular group meetings where they not only reflect on the lessons of their own experiences but also learn from the experiences of others. Click here to read the full article.

The Latest Career Training Tools: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs

Girl Scout cookies have been blamed for many things–unethical behavior by parents pushing cookies on co-workers, mindless munching that packs on pounds at the office, fundraising overload among parents.

But in this tough economy, more attention is being paid to such fundraisers as a career-training tool–that is, as a way for budding saleswomen and managers to learn business skills. In a recent New York Times interview, Barbara Krumsiek, chief executive of Calvert Group, credited her youthful experience selling Girl Scout cookies with some of her early success in management. Ms. Krumsiek says she enjoyed vying for cookie-sales awards and working in a positive way with a group of peers. This helped her a lot, she says, when at age 30, she was promoted from working as a solo contributor to managing 200 people.

A growing number of girls today are making the cookie-career connection and setting some tough sales goals for themselves. Praised as “marketing mavens in the making” three school-age girls were recently sent to a Coral Gables, Fla., spa for selling more than 1,000 boxes each in 23 days. Some Scouts sell as many as 2,400 boxes apiece.

They are also plying some savvy sales tactics. Two Florida eighth-graders recently turned a mom’s Chevy Tahoe into a mobile cookie booth by covering it with messages, such as “Don’t Just Tagalong – Buy Thin Mints Too.” They also donned Thin Mint and Samoa costumes to hawk cookies in front of local stores. Each was intent on selling 2,000 boxes of cookies to help finance a Girl Scout trip.

Cookie sales served as a career lesson years ago for my daughter, with the opposite takeaway – they showed her what she did not want to do. We always required her to sell the cookies herself, which meant accompanying her on a lot of door-to-door visits and supermarket parking-lot shifts. If my daughter had ever thought of a career in sales, I’m sure the experience of selling cookies quashed the idea. As hard as she tried, she never chalked up more than a few dozens boxes sold – usually less than one-fourth as many as those who took the top sales awards. That was a valuable lesson in itself.

Readers, do you see fundraisers as skill-building exercises for your kids? Or are they just another task to get out of the way? Are kids just too busy these days for intense fundraisers like this. Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Culture Club

The ability to consistently marry compelling corporate leadership opportunities with the right executive is what distinguishes the best headhunters and employers. An individual's fit—or misalignment—with the organization's mission, culture, and workforce will quickly dictate how both the company and the executive perform.

Yet a well-documented decline in executive tenure, and the damage done by misfit leaders, suggest cultural compatibility remains a low priority when it comes to corporate management succession. That's especially unfortunate given the degree to which an organization's future depends on its selection of executive leaders today.

Cultural Matchmaking

One reason for a poor fit is that too often executives are hired based on where they're coming from without enough thought given to where they are going. A candidate who impresses the board or the boss with his or her credentials might get the nod because on paper he or she appears to have the right range of experience from a respected, market-leading company. Yet an impressive résumé doesn't guarantee an individual will be able to elevate a company's performance in a new environment and/or a new role.

The ability to effect real change in a new position or company hinges not just on the candidate's assets but also on institutional assets such as employee engagement, customer brand awareness, and talent magnetism. Any of these may or may not have been building blocks of organizational culture and higher financial returns in the executive's prior job.

"Cultural awareness is one of the most neglected and yet most powerful predictors of executive success and it's also one of the things executives know the least about," says Kenneth Siegel, a managerial psychologist with Beverly Hills-based Impact Group, who works with boards and executive teams to improve performance.

Just because someone worked with a high-performance organization in the past doesn't automatically mean they are the right person for an important management role elsewhere, Siegel points out. He suggests board members and others engaged in hiring senior management ask themselves a simple question before hiring their next executive: "Will this person enhance the culture we have here or be devoured by it?"

A Uniform Vision

One way to improve the likelihood of achieving a true cultural fit between an organization and a new executive leader is to understand that individual leaders aren't always the human personification of the market-leading brands for which they've worked in the past. That's not to say previous leadership experience is inconsequential. But it's critical to know that if executives don't fit from a cultural perspective with a new employer, they've never going to have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of their experience with their former employer.

A classic type of mismatch, according to Siegel, is when an executive's view of how customers should be treated differs from the organization's expressed mission for meeting customers' needs. Another reveals itself when a new executive begins to recruit other new management leaders who are more closely aligned with his or her distinct leadership style, even though they may conflict with the organization's screening criteria.

Those involved in the most senior executive selection decisions need to be confident the new leader brings cultural compatibility to his or her new role and isn't just a charismatic communicator who will attempt to convince customers, employees, and shareholders that his or her vision—however untested and perhaps lacking true organizational buy-in—should prevail.

Looking Within

Finding a way to build bridges and earn respect from constituent groups is the foundation from which change, momentum, trust, and higher performance emanate. That again points to why culture fit is so important a consideration when it comes to issues of management succession. Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Benefits of diversity: more than what's on the surface

America is at a new frontier when it comes to diversity. The nation has its first African-American president, and more and more women hold positions of corporate power. With the click of a mouse, we can connect and collaborate with practically anyone anywhere, thanks to the Internet. We are more likely to come into contact with people unlike ourselves than ever before, and in every aspect of our lives.

Ask someone what's good about diversity, and you'll likely be told that it's beneficial because different people bring different perspectives to discussions. Today's executives may wonder: Is there really something of value to get from all this diversity?

We often bring outsiders, socially distinct newcomers, into our organizational groups in hopes of introducing new perspectives. We tolerate these outsiders because we understand that people with different cultural, gender and national backgrounds will, with contrasting experiences behind them, offer differing perspectives and opinions about any given problem. We're likely to assume that a black manager and a white manager working together on a problem will come up with divergent ways to solve the problem.

Such assumptions have implications that we tend not to think deeply about. The first is that when individuals work together in a group, any unexpected perspectives will come from the people who are different. The black person in a group of whites, or the marketing person in a group of engineers, will bring forward a different point of view that the group can benefit from. A second and even more important implication is that people who appear to be similar to each other, such as two middle-aged white men, will share the same views. But is it really sensible to assume that all superficially alike people think alike?

Of course not all people who look alike think alike, and not all people who look different disagree. And the benefit of diversity does not principally come from people who are "different" offering "different" perspectives. Katherine Phillips recently published research with co-authors Katie Liljenquist of Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Management and Margaret Neale of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, that found that members of a social majority are more likely to voice unique perspectives and critically review task-relevant information when there is more social diversity present than when there is not. Moreover, this is true even when the people who are "different" don't express any unique perspectives themselves. Our research suggests that the mere presence of social diversity makes people with independent points of view more willing to voice those points of view, and others more willing to listen.

When anyone in a group has perspectives, opinions or information that vary from the consensus, our research suggests, the mere presence of social diversity will make them express, and others consider, those perspectives in a way that benefits the group.

Whether trying to solve murder mysteries, develop new products, enter new markets or overhaul work processes, employees in organizations work harder when diversity is present, and a little bit more hard work is exactly what we need in corporate America. So as you think about diversity and its effects in organizations during this tough economic time, recognize that the most robust practical value of diversity is that it challenges everyone in an organization. We are more thoughtful, and we recognize and utilize more of the information that we have at our disposal, when diversity is present. That is diversity's true value. Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A few tips for high employee retention

It’s been an employer’s world for awhile now. Employee retention, especially of key talent, has not been a strong focus for the last two years because most employees held tight to their jobs due to economic uncertainty. However, the numbers are beginning to improve and employment experts expect that larger numbers of employees will start seeking new opportunities. Employee retention saves money and protects the morale of the entire company. What can you do to retain your key players?

Understand employee motivation. I’ve talked about it at length here and here, but know this one thing: keeping employees satisfied is not all about money and fringe benefits.

Maintain an open door policy. A significant number of employees cite their direct supervisor as the reason they are leaving their positions. Employees need to have the freedom to discuss supervisory issues without repercussions.

Be careful that you don’t inadvertently punish employees for loyalty. Pay inequity tends to punish the most senior employees because raises haven’t kept up with the external market. New hires often make more, particularly in larger companies, than their loyal, well-trained counterparts. And despite confidentiality agreements, employees DO talk. Review salaries frequently and keep your most valuable employees fairly rewarded.

Watch the micromanagement. One of the key motivators for employees is autonomy. Once well-trained, give them the leeway to perform on their own and to sometimes fail. Often more is learned from failure than training. Employee retention improves the more employees are left to manage their own performance.

Grow a solutions-oriented culture. If employees come to you with complaints about people or processes, always ask them how they would handle the situation. This does three things: it empowers the employee to take a more positive, solutions-based approach, it acknowledges the importance of the employee’s opinion AND it can give you real tools with which to work. A culture where employees are made to feel like they have a role in improving the workplace also improves employee retention.