Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is This You? More Online Thoughts about Respect

Recently I wrote about your Social Networking Profile talking mostly about sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Today I am taking this further to talk about how we refer to to others online as there seems to be an increasing trend towards labeling groups of people and then referring to them in demeaning or derogatory terms and this is being done by people whose business or professions rely to a large extent on their online or 'social' presence.

One person I follow on Twitter re-tweeted the following: "people who use twit validation services are lazy and don't get the point of Social Media. Brands that use it are even worse." A Business Insider contributor wrote a scathing and insulting article call "Why I will Never, Ever Hire A Social Media Expert: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-i-will-never-ever-hire-a-social-media-expert-2011-5. Both writers used broad generalizations and demeaning terminology to describe entire groups of people. I wish this was something that rarely happened but unfortunately it isn't and the Business Insider article was retweeted many times, it showed up in my stream 47 times in two days so one can only imagine just how viral it became.

Would you speak to a customer face to face like that? Would you speak to co-workers, your boss, your friends or family like that? If 'social media' is about relationships does it make sense to develop those relationships based on trust and respect? What do you think? What thoughts go through your mind when you read this type of article, tweet or blog?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Donations, Giving, Volunteering and Community

I am going a little off topic today but bear with me, there is a workplace mention in here as well. The topic of giving back to our community, sharing with others when we can and ensuring that when we can we help our fellow humans out is something that I find myself revisiting frequently. With the advent of Social Media the requests to help out with a cash donation, clothing or household products and your time we are now inundated with such requests multiple times every single day. It isn’t possible to meet every request and we need to sort through them all to decide which we are going to contribute to.

In one week alone I received requests for cash, goods, lottery purchase or time as follows:

Hospital Foundation- cash-via snail mail
Cancer Society – cash-via email
Cancer Fundraisers (outside the agency) – 8 requests to support various people in various fundraising events; via email, Twitter, snail mail
Heart & Stroke – cash
Lung Association-cash in the form of support for an event
Orphanage in Africa- cash plus time support for a fundraising event-via email
Big Brothers-clothing or household goods-via telephone
Lottery Ticket Purchase for a hospital foundation (different hospital) fundraiser-via snail mail
Japan Tsunami Fundraisers- 7 for cash-via Twitter, Facebook, on the street
Slave Lake Fire Fundraiser- 12 via Facebook, Twitter and email
Doctors Without Borders-cash-via email
School Fundraiser-to purchase a product as a fundraising effort for school activities
We are Just Girls-on the street (time)
Various Eco Groups-on the street- 4 requests for time
Request for cash for 2 different animal care related fundraisers; via Facebook, Twitter and email.

All that in just one week, and I did not even list the number of people on the street who simply ask for cash for themselves, the inquiry as to whether I want to donate to whatever charity the grocery store or drugstore is sponsoring conveniently at the cash register and then there is the Food bank donation boxes right at the exit from the store. A little overwhelming but this has become a fairly typical week. Even if I were to not read email, listen to voice mail or answer the phone, stay offline entirely and not open my snail mail box-if I leave home, I will be asked for money or to “take a minute to hear about” whatever organization has volunteers on the street that day. Lately several organizations have started posting 2 people on each corner at each end of a one block area where there are many shops that have a large customer base –so as you go about your daily shopping and household related errands you are asked by 8 different people to “take a minute” to listen to their pitch.
These requests also permeate the workplace: our coworkers ask us to sponsor them in runs, walks, climbs, cycles etc. in which they are fundraising. Parents bring in whatever product their child is selling as a fundraiser-wrapping paper, gift cards, chocolate covered almonds etc. The executive teams ask employees to donate to certain organizations by sponsoring the United Way payroll deduction program and offering paid time off to volunteer. In addition job seekers with little experience or who are temporarily out of work volunteer in order to gain experience and skills to show potential employers what they can do. Volunteering in many organizations has come to resemble the same process as obtaining a paid role-multiple interviews and background checks take place so you can provide your expertise and time to the organization.

It is all so convenient now-you don’t really have to make much effort to donate and then feel like you have contributed-made a difference or helped someone. Many fundraisings now include the potential to win something in return for your donation. You can volunteer your time and gain references to pass on to potential employers.

This is great –right?

How do you feel about it? How do you decide who, what, when and how much you will donate or contribute to any of these organizations or fundraiser events? Do we know how effective our donations are? How much goes to providing whatever the donation is meant to provide and how much goes to pure administration? How much of your donation ends up in the bank accounts of the marketers that set up and run the fundraising programs? Also, how much money via your tax dollars are the various levels of government giving to all these requestors?

This whole donating/contributing machine has become a rather large industry, it employs hundreds of thousands of people brings in vast amounts of cash, utilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours and likely is making a significant inroad onto reducing suffering, bringing education to more people, providing basic needs to those who require some assistance and more. Yet, when you consider the sheer volume of requests for funds each and every day-do you ever wonder if your contributions are as effective as you would like them to be?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Performance Reviews, 360's, Personality Tests-What Is Really Happening?

Managers in organizations seek out ways to measure and improve the performance of employees and develop "high potential" employees for placement in the company succession plan. You likely have experienced some or several versions of performance reviews, perhaps participated in a 360 Review process or been asked to complete an assessment such as the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (registered trademark) or the Emotional Intelligence/Quotient questionnaire. So what do these have in common, how are they different and how are they intended to be used?

Traditional forms of performance review focus on the past, the manager completes a form that assigns a rating on some type of scale. Most of these reviews have a mid-year assessment and a year end assessment and some will include areas of development for the future. Critics of such reviews point out that regular feedback throughout the year has a greater impact on performance than simply completing a form twice a year  that focusses on events that are too far in the past. Another common complaint about this process is that managers use these forms as the only method of communicating problems with an employees performance, often blindsiding the employee at review time. Organizations will also use the ratings from these forms to determine pay increases where merit increases are in place and in some programs they will also use them to determine year over year performance for promotion or termination purposes.

360 Reviews are best used for development purposes and not intended to be used as performance reviews or for determination of pay or promotion. 360 reviews can provide valuable information to the subject of the review as to how peers, direct reports and their managers view their performance and cultural fit. They are however, subjective reviews and can be affected by recents events around the person being reviewed. Employees that do receive 360 reports should have allocated coaching time to help them determine what to focus on and how to write a development plan for competency areas that will affect their career.

Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) groups respondents into 16 different types (self-report style) which are made up of people's preferences for four mental processes and the tendency to focus more on the outer or inner world. It is important to remember that these types are preferences and do not provide any information regarding ability. The MBTI-Step II includes 40 additional facets which further identify individual preferences. This type of information is very useful for team development purposes, developing interpersonal skills and as one aspect of career planning. The MBTI is not to be used for hiring purposes as it does not provide information about ability but it is useful during employment in helping employees work effectively together. It can be used in career planning as one aspect of helping people identify what they enjoy doing and researching careers that will include those activities.

The Emotional Intelligence report reflects, in simple terms, an individuals self-report on how they manage their own emotions and respond to those around them. This instrument can be a useful starting point for people who would like to improve their relationship building skills and can be valuable in an organizational setting where one will be working with a diverse range of people.

All of the above assess an individual in some way and provide opportunities, if used effectively to improve skills or recognize when it is time to take on a new challenge or consider a change in a career path. Managers in organizations often bring such assessments into the workplace in an effort to improve productivity, reduce turnover, increase their competitive edge-all great goals.

It is important to ensure that you are choosing the right instrument, that you understand that each instrument has limits to what it can accomplish and that any instrument can only accomplish the desired goals if used effectively and if it fits into other initiatives within the organizational strategy.

I will be talking more about some of these instruments over the next few weeks, the good, the bad and the dusty shelf syndrome included.

What experience have you had with any of the above? Please share your anecdotes and what you learned from the experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Professional Social Networking Profile

While conducting my research into social media last year it became clear that many people don't view their online activities from a professional or personal image perspective. Some people will post a reasonably professional profile on LinkedIn but their Twitter account too often has problematic tweets and I think most of us are aware of just how problematic Facebook postings can be. Often I have seen profiles on LinkedIn that are fine but then the owner of that profile posts inappropriate content in groups or falls into the flame wars syndrome thus lessening the effectiveness of their profile. Other people post a profile on LinkedIn that  is so poorly done that recruiters will pass them by quickly and they may then lose an opportunity at a job.

I follow a few people on Twitter who readily identify with the organization they work for but some of their posts are inappropriate for an online forum which alters the opinion of readers regarding the poster but also gives a less than stellar image of the company they work for.

The prevalence of swearing on all social networks is disturbing, not only are those words losing any real impact as they are repeated so frequently but they leave you wondering if the posters lack the ability to discuss or disperse their thoughts with some sign of critical thinking.

I read the link to Justin Goldborough's blog (http://justincaseyouwerewondering.com/2011/05/08/the-growing-need-for-a-tact-counselor) which coincided with a discussion I had this weekend regarding the need to teach people how to handle themselves online. The problems cited included my points above but also pointed out that among the high school, college and university crowds social networks have become another source of bullying and the serious mental health issues that arise from this. The conversation also covered the perhaps surprising results that many well educated professionals make mistakes online as well. When I think back over similar discussion over the past year and the increasing number of workplace disciplinary actions or firings over online postings it is clear that a much stronger focus needs to be put on this topic for everyone.

Inappropriate posts on any social networking site or blog comments section can derail a career, deny you admission to the post secondary school of your choice, get you fired or find you the target of a lawsuit. In many cases you may not even know that you were passed over for a job, promotion, contract or school because of something on a social networking site as the people researching these will simply eliminate you without telling you why.

I am offering a Professional Social Networking Profile consultation (Spring Promotion is $50 or a group rate can be negotiated for groups of 12 people or less) to help registrants develop a professional profile and clean up any online data they may already have. This is not a course on how to use social networks from a technical or marketing standpoint but how to present a positive image for you online.

If you or someone you know are interested in registering for this consultation or wish to arrange a group session in the Vancouver area please email me at kwills@telus.net.

Friday, May 06, 2011

toonlet: HR Is Fun-Right?

toonlet: HR Is Fun-Right?

Just for fun on a rainy Friday. Chris Burns http://potential-chrisburns.blogspot.com/ told me about Toonlet, so I *had* to try it out.

I am curious to hear more tales from the field-what are your experiences with HR? What do you think they do? Tell us your fun, sad, weird and odd stories-oh- and if you have some happy, positive stories we absolutey want to hear about those.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Personal Energy Rules-What Are Yours

Rule number one: direct your energy where it is most likely to make a positive difference
Rule number two: when you feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall, refer to rule number one.

Rules one and two are one version of 'advice' I have often resorted to in my work with people over the years and in my personal life. It wasn't always well received and I was somewhat puzzled as to why - after all it seemed pretty logical to me. It was in my work with an executive coach years ago that the light bulb finally clicked on, she mentioned one day that I often don't say out loud everything pertinent to a topic, almost as if I am assuming that the other person is filling in the blanks themselves. She noted that I often defended others who do some ranting by pointing out that people often need to vent, be heard and calm down before they can move on to constructive action or problem solving. Yet when I blithely hand out rule number one and two, I just might be forgetting to mention the venting requirement. This leaves some people who receive this message with the impression that I don't understand just how overwhelming the problem they have feels to them. Years later I still have to remind myself to complete my thoughts out loud as the Vulcan mind meld has yet to assert itself.

The rather divisive nature of the political discussion in this country in the past 7 years brought another aspect of rule numbers one and two alive for me-some people are firmly hanging onto their opinions and are not open to discussion-they state in a very directive manner that their version of the ways things are is correct and not open for discussion. In this case rule number one and two stand alone-there is little to be gained from trying to engage in discussion on that topic with people who have made up their minds-you can however continue to direct your energy where it is most likely to make a difference. We have limited personal energy and resources-it makes sense to use them wisely.

Do you have 'rules' about how you spend your personal energy? Do you have any anecdotes about when sticking to your 'rules' made a positive difference? I would love to hear your stories.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Interviews-Are You Getting Good Advice?

Having read many articles, participated on LinkedIn discussions and visited interview advice websites lately my question this week is: Are you getting good advice? 

Much of the advice comes from people who by their profiles would appear to really *know* what they are talking about, however much of the advice is generic or outdated and the diversity of opinions in the discussion forums make it clear that this type of advice simply is not going to work for everyone.

These are my thoughts on the topic, based on interviewing many people over many years:

 What to do before the interview

(1) If you know someone that works at the organization you have an interview with ask them what the dress code is and what type of clothing people are expected to wear at an interview; if you do not know anyone then call the person who first contacted you to arrange the interview, or the receptionist or the HR department and ask them what appropriate interview wear is for their company. I read an article this morning that advised all interviewees to wear suits (and women to wear 'skirted' suits) for interviews. Yet a friend who recently interviewed with a technology company was told specifically to wear jeans; one workplace I worked in asked interviewees to wear business casual, another workplace asked for clean, neat one step up from jeans casual and another requested suits. It makes sense to ask the question of the organization you are interviewing with specifically what is appropriate for their workplace.

(2) Ask how long you should expect to be at the location for the interview so that you can plan any dependent care, transportation needs and other scheduling needs around this. Add at least one hour to the expected time frame as often these things can run late. If not you get an hour back-enjoy it.

(3) Research the organization thoroughly, read everything on their website, check their stock performance if applicable, read every news release or industry article you can find, ask people who work for the company (or have worked for the company) about the internal culture. It is not enough to spend 5 minutes on the web page, it can become pretty clear in a well conducted interview that you haven't done your homework if that is all you do. Search social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter streams and if applicable Facebook for further information. Prepare your own questions to ask, questions that show you have done your homework and are interested in the future of the organization are best. If it is a first interview asking about vacations and other benefits may not be your best choice, it often turns hiring managers off. You may be asked about salary, be ready to answer this question and try not to make it a waffle answer-if you are willing to take a drop in pay for a coveted position say so in a way that lets the interviewer know you have thought it through.

(4) Once you have established appropriate dress for the interview ensure well ahead of time that you have that attire clean, neat, ready to wear (and if you haven't worn it for awhile try it on :)). Do not wait until the day of the interview to do this.

(5) Ensure that you know exactly how you will get to the interview location, yes go so far as to try out your transit/drive route ahead of time (preferably at the same time of day that you will be going on the day of the interview); then add at least 30 minutes to your travel time on the interview day. This will allow for any traffic problems or other problems that may arise on that day-being early can be managed by going for a walk or having a cup of coffee nearby; being late is hard to overcome. If you need to make daycare arrangements for that day ensure you have a back up plan in case your arrangement falls through.

(6) Jot down notes about your accomplishments, your specific contributions to projects, dealing with difficult customers/co-workers and who inspired you and why.There is a good chance that you will be asked the weakness/strengths question so decide what the answer to those are ahead of time, and do not follow the not good advice to turn a weakness into a strength-few people fall for that. Be honest, for example if you have difficulty with meeting deadlines say so and say what you are doing to learn to overcome this. Why make notes about this ahead of time? Because all too often candidates draw a blank during the interview, preparing ahead helps avoid this. Also, ask previous co-workers or teachers to tell you what strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and contributions they observed about you-you may well be surprised at how much you have forgotten.

(7) Prepare a list of at least three references ahead of time, contact each one and make sure to get their agreement to act as a reference. Include several forms of contact information for each reference listed if available, phone numbers, email address and snail mail address.

(8) Bring a copy of your resume with you even if the interviewer already has one, sometimes they have one that may not be current if they retrieved it from a job board and as sometimes happens, the interviewer may show up unprepared-but that doesn't mean you should.

(9) Before leaving at the end of the interview ask for contact information such as email so you can send a thank-you note to the interviewer(s) later. Some people like to send these by regular mail or to drop it off later but these days many people find email an appropriate method.

Preparing carefully ahead of time will not only impress the interviewer(s) but will help you be more relaxed and therefore able to respond to questions effectively and feel more confident.