Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Social Media & Job Search

I am posting this thought on using social media for your job or career search today because I continue to see articles that are either/or oriented on the topic of social media in any realm. Social or Digital Technologies are increasingly taking over traditional job search methods but they are tools, they require deliberate action to be useful. Making the best use of your time and achieving the best results in your search depends on your approach. The following was a comment I made on the BCHRMA LinkedIn Group recently and is likely to appear on the blog as well.

A job seeker can effectively use social networks as one type of tool to be found by recruiters and provide additional sources of job leads. I am not even looking for a job with an organization. I was contacted by several recruiters (both internal and external) over the last year asking if I would be interested in discussing a position. I have also found some of my current work projects directly from using social networks. This suggests that if you are looking for a job and you use the tools effectively it can be an aid to your overall job search strategy.

It helps to remember that digital technology = tools. How we use them determines the results we achieve. If you have not used any of the tools (if you are reading this then you are using LinkedIn) yet in your job search, take the time to learn as much as you can about using the tools for the best results for you. Which networks you use and your approach will depend on what type of job you are looking for. There is a lot of 'advice' available but be sure that you know the credentials of the person posting the advice, that it aligns with the industry, skills, career goals that you specifically are working towards and that what you find when doing research matches that advice. There is some really great advice and some not so great-again it depends on your specific needs. If anything the growth of the use of social/digital technologies in the job/career arena has offered not just a broader reach but also the opportunity to tailor your job search and approach or strategy effectively.

Connecting 'in real life' is also important, look for MeetUp groups in your area that relate to your profession or industry and join them. If you don't find one in your career area consider starting your own. Attend meetings and develop your skills -this will help you in interviews later-practicing talking about what we do really helps when the pressure of an interview is upon us. If there is a professional association for your career check out what they might offer and get to know people in those associations. Take a look at Rapid Times Network- they have multiple network groups and while most of the members are business owners/entrepreneurs-they are connected, they hire people, they offer opportunities and advice. The more options you get active in the more opportunities will show up for you.

Mentor: see if you can find a mentor, this also helps you focus your job search, understand what is considered important by the organizations you are interested in working for and can guide your career over time.

All of this takes time, a lot of time, and it is a learning process. It is worth it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Collaborative Cultures-Grow Your Own

A quick note that this fourth in the series will be the final in the series. As mentioned earlier, the way I perceived this in the beginning shifted as so many things do over time. Possibly because I am constantly seeking new information and talking to other people on these topics such a shift is inevitable.

In the last post we looked at the key skills for collaborative success:

• Accountability
• 360 Communications
• Emotional Intelligence
• Change Resilient
• (Servant) Leadership
• Self-motivated
• Problem solving/critical thinking
• Continuous learning and knowledge sharing

And took into consideration that companies that were created within the last fifteen years tend to be less hierarchical, have greater flexibility and understand the power of collaboration more so than organizations that have been operating for a longer period.

Learning Organizations-Matters More Than Ever

The concept of the Learning Organization is not new and many businesses have implemented some form of internal learning practices. Becoming a learning organization in a more substantial way is a basic need to 'growing' a collaborative culture in an existing organization. If you are not familiar with Peter Senge's work, reading his books and articles is an excellent place to start to understand what components make up a learning organization.

Establishing mentoring and peer coaching programs are excellent resources to get started with. Bringing people together in these forums offers excellent opportunities to build solid working relationships. Encouraging cross-functional mentoring pairings and peer coaching groups will create the basis for a collaborative culture. While some formal structure is needed to ensure these programs get traction, maintaining as much flexibility as possible and allowing for groups to develop their own operating codes offers a micro learning environment as they identify and resolve problems in the process.

Mentoring and Peer Coaching programs help to reduce the unwanted effects of silos, build bridges across functional teams, clears the way to mitigate the 'reporting up' issues often found in hierarchies. Ultimately this allows employees to focus outward on the customer rather than inward on meeting the needs of management. Dave Gray writes an eloquent book, "The Connected Company" that offers illumination to this concept.

Imagine that your employees focus is on meeting the needs of customers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cross-Functional Teams and Collaborative Cultures

Cross-functional teams are an excellent way to maximize the skills to be found across the organization for project work. Cross-functional teams can also be defined to oversee and manage organizational needs that require diverse skills thus improving administrative and customer service efficiencies. The surge in product launches for internal social network tools has captured the interest of some of the larger technical vendors as we see frequent purchases of applications to help round out the current offerings of these vendors.

Team effectiveness has been the topic and focus of many management interventions prior to and during the Knowledge Era, much of it based on research with some innovation applied when introduced to an organization. Bruce Tuckman (1965) became known for his “Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing” theory of how teams form and manage, which is still a reasonable framework to start with. There are several other similar team related formulas and we need to move beyond theory and into application. For the Digital Era, collaboration becomes a more critical skill, as the concept of ‘social’ business encompasses not only the integration of social tools but better supports multi-generational workforces.

In order to understand why some skills, such as those related to collaboration, require a fresh look in the Digital Era we need to first consider the difference between a team that collaborates and a collaborative culture.

First, consider ‘branding’ as it used to relate to the organization but not the people that work for the organization. Now, in the Digital Era with the proliferation of social networks being used for job and candidate searches, a gradual shift from employee to free agent and the change from considering one or two workplaces for an entire career to multiple workplace changes frequently throughout a career, branding is now something that we are asked to do on a very personal level. Our brand is something we take with us from employer to employer or throughout multiple contracts. This change in workplace norms has in conjunction with the growing use of social network tools also started a shift in organizational cultures. A business, such as Zappos that has been in business for less than fifteen (15) years will likely already have a culture that is suited to the concept of social business and have a collaborative culture. Organizations that have been in business for longer than that may find that more attention needs to be paid to how ready they are for this. Now we have an organization populated by a myriad of people with personal brands that all must work together to achieve the overall goals of the organization.

Team members can learn to work collaboratively on any given project in which the outcome is shared and each member is responsible for the success of the project. When the project is completed they may join another project team or return to a specific position in the organization. These days we want the skills used in those project teams to be continuously employed when the project is over.
The skills used in this context are key to establishing a collaborative culture within an organization though they do require that members of the organization develop a higher level of these skills than may be required for relatively independent teams. We are used to seeing in management literature that the organization’s leader must create the vision and communication shared goals to the rest of the people in the organization. A collaborative culture will have shared goals as well but accountability for reaching those goals will be more widely distributed that in a siloed organization.

It is also important to define when collaboration is the best approach to problem solving or project management and when collaboration needs to be set aside. A failure to be clear on this in an organization can lead to a sluggish response when a quick action is required.

The key skills for collaborative success:

• Accountability
• 360 Communications
• Emotional Intelligence
• Change Resilient
• (Servant) Leadership
• Self-motivated
• Problem solving/critical thinking
• Continuous learning and knowledge sharing

With these skills in place and continuously upgraded an organization can benefit from the experience and knowledge of multiple generations, efficiently co-ordinate the skills of cross-functional teams and maximize the value of social tools. This will create a customer experience that sets the organization apart from others in the market.

When should collaboration be set aside? How clear is that in your organization and how quick is the response when needed? Can you think of other skills that are important to collaboration?

Friday, October 26, 2012

And Now, We Have This

Welcome back, here it is, the next blog post-the publish dates on these posts are unpredictable against all pro blogger advice that you have predictable dates. However, as the transformation of my business unfolds, the outcome is unpredictable to some degree and I believe it is realistic to post as things occur rather than posting for the sake of posting. So, unpredictable it will be for awhile yet.

It has been awhile since the last post which provided some definitions to set up how we will be talking about ‘social’ or ‘connected’ going forward. The original plan was a five part series covering culture, communications and leadership and that is still the plan although the content will look a little different than when first envisioned.

The reason for this is that as I go through the transformation of my business, some of the peripheral topics will be less visible and some may no longer show up at all. So you will start to see this transformation as it happens through the posts as they appear on the blog.

First, I have been deeply immersed in learning as much as possible about social media from a variety of aspects and while doing so the recurring theme of leadership, collaboration, communication, and connectivity stayed firmly up front in my thought patterns. Regardless of what the focus was, whether I was at a seminar on Facebook for business; a workshop on Twitter; or completing the first two levels of HooteSuite University, or in one-to-one discussions with professionals–the importance of those four skills seemed, to me, to be the most important thing to focus on. And since they just happen to coincide with my primary interest (some people call this passion but we can chat about that some other time) all of this has led, finally back to the beginning.

I will be focusing on leadership development and the skills that support excellence in leadership. Going forward, this will be in a much more dynamic, positive, and powerful way than ever before. Because all of my research and learning adventures over the past three years have added a few ‘ah ha’s’ and several new tools and instruments to the mix that were not part of the leadership development realm a few years ago.

I am happy that you are here, on this journey with me, and my wish is that you will want to engage in topics that capture your interest.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Social - What Do We Mean?

Here is the first post in the series taking a look at ‘social’ or ‘connected’ opportunities in organizational life. This first post defines some terms as they apply to the overall theme in order to set the stage going forward. I am especially interested in any thoughts you have on the way these terms are defined here and whether or not it resonates with your ideas about what opportunities the use of social media tools offer us in organizational or community settings.

Let’s start with a brief recap of Systems Thinking which is an excellent framework for thoughts about networks, being connected, how the introduction of a social tool may affect parts of an organization (or the people within) unintentionally or in a different way than first imagined.

Systems Thinking (Systemic Application)

The following excerpt(s) from O’Connor and McDermott (1997) “The Art of Systems Thinking: Essential Skills For Creativity and Problem Solving, is important in ones understanding of organizational culture in the Digital Era.

“Systems thinking is seeing beyond what appear to be isolated and independent incidents to deeper patterns. So you recognize connections between events and are therefore better able to understand and influence them.” (Introduction)

“Interconnecting parts functioning as a whole. Changed if you take away or add more pieces. Its behaviour depends on the total structure. Change the structure and the behaviour changes. (p.3)

“The relationship between the different parts of the system determines how it works, so each part, however small, can affect the behaviour of the whole.
All parts of a system are interdependent, they all interact. How they relate to each other gives them the power to affect the whole system. This suggests an interesting rule for influencing systems, particularly groups: the more connections you have, the more possible influence. Networking brings influence. Indeed, research suggests that successful managers spend four times as much time networking as their less successful colleagues.” (p. 15)

Many organizations are set up into departments with some crossover among departments that rely on one another to complete specific tasks. Such departments are generally organized to be efficient by reducing ‘noise’ – not having distractions that are not directly related to the day-to-day activities of the specific responsibilities of the department. However, this can also create Silos in organizations with strong Command/Control features that also have limited communication channels.

Silos can thus reduce efficiencies; further contribute to ineffective communication; does not take into sufficient account how actions (or inactions) affect other parts of the system. This can waste time and resources as the people in one department (silo) will realize more effort to locate expertise or support that is not within their immediate ‘network’. The duplication of effort that also occurs in this set up can create significant frustration over time and leave both employees and customers with a sense that it is difficult to do business in that organization. This leads to a negative impact on collaboration, communication, and cooperation. All of which can lead to a negative effect on morale, engagement and motivation.

Deciding what and how to make changes to an organization that may be feeling those effects of silos depends on what makes sense for the specific business, industry and size of the organization. The following thoughts on Integration, Cross-Functional teams and the concept of “Social” provides some clues to how one may reduce any such concerns.

Wikipedia defines Vertical integration as follows, “combines different products or services under one ‘owner’ to satisfy a common need. Horizontal integration-consolidates like companies to monopolize an industry. And Integration as: “The mixing of people or groups previously segregated. An act or instance of combining into an integral whole. “

Cross-Functional: completing a goal or project using members from teams with different purposes and skills. How effective this is in an organization depends on the culture and communication style predominant in the organization.

Business/Organizational context Also referred to as “Enterprise” by some software/technology retailers. This is a combination of:

(1) Culture- people focused
(2) Organizational Approach- experience driven
(3) Customer Involvement -co-creation and/or engagement
(4) Social technology –social processes that use technology to enhance communication, learning/development/knowledge management and collaboration.

There is some discussion regarding the use of the word ‘social’ as being contrary to business as a productive and efficient orientation and this has given rise to alternate terms being used that encompass the use and effect of social tools; you will see words in various forms such as connected and collaborative that attempt to depict the true value and impact of social tools in organizations.

The next four posts in this series will assume the above is intended as descriptive of the thoughts regarding the opportunities and affect of social tools in organizations. While looking at 'social' from an organizational change perspective over the past five years the gradual shift in the words and terms used has been continuous. In some part, because of the unease with which some business executives view 'social' in a workplace setting, but primarily as the tools and applications have evolved to provide greater opportunities to a wider audience new terminology is needed to be appropriately descriptive.

What do you think? Do you find the many different uses of common words confusing, overwhelming or helpful?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Get It Done & Priorities

I wrote a few weeks ago that I am writing a 5-part series for this blog that will look at some thoughts on social in the organizational context, what happens in organizational cultures when we introduce tools that open up communication channels, and some thoughts on how to work towards a fluid culture that can adapt to the 'new' that keeps on giving.

I am working on those posts and the first one which is sharing some terms and definitions that relate to this topic so that as readers continue through the next four posts a common understanding will provoke some thoughts and ideas to share. That first in the series will be posted on Tuesday, October 09, 2012.

This series is important to me as it fits in with other projects I am working on; it is taking longer than planned because the major change I am making to my business brand and products is my first priority and will be over the next six months. And realizing how much is now on my to do list prompted me to acknowledge that my calendar can not be as 'flexible' as it has been over the summer.

This means that decisions as to what gets a yes or a no are more tightly and clearly defined;speculative ventures are off the table for now; ill-defined or vague proposals about new projects will likely garner a 'no thank-you' for a while rather than the explorations into new ventures of the last year. My priorities right now meet all my needs which makes it much easier to stay on track.

Where are you in your priority setting? Do you find it easy or hard to make quick decisions on what will or will not be on your list? Most importantly, what really grabs you enough to make you want to hold on to a new project?

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers! We are enjoying one of those beautiful sunny days that make outdoor pursuits very enticing-a great way to give balance to the feast indulgences.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Is Your Comment Style?

While working on my upcoming series of five posts on looking at social tools from a cultural perspective in organizations with some of my favorites ideas in the mix I became curious about how people would describe their style of commenting on social networks.

One thing I have noticed is that while I get several comments sent to me via email and often from people I interact with 'in real life' there are rarely comments on my blog specifically. When I ask people why they choose email or in-person comments the most common response is that they feel more comfortable going off-line.

So are you willing to help me out with my curiosity? Will you comment here and let me know how you describe your own preferences for commenting on any online network? Maybe, if you are feeling generous you could include some thoughts on why you think this is your preference. Would you make a different choice if you were posting on an internal network at your workplace than if you are posting on an external network? Why or why not?

Lots of questions today!