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!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

September Musings-Coaching, Leadership, Digital Era

People who know me know that I often seek out change as a way to develop skills, keep an open mind, and to try to stay flexible. This means, as I know I have mentioned before, that keeping track of my ‘resilience’ capacity is important.

This year I have been considering where I am right now and what is the best option for me going forward. One thing I have finally concluded is that the HR world is one I have stepped quite far away from-not entirely as there are collaborative opportunities in staying connected with those working in the field.

I did recently post that I think it is time to change the parameters of HR significantly, both to fix the long simmering problems that don’t get resolved and to bring the people practices in organizations into alignment with the external changes occurring everywhere. My proposal is that HR retains the records maintenance, compliance, and compensation specialties and that a cross-functional team of strategic planning and deployment professionals take on the rest of what falls into the HR world now.

It is clear that more than a decade of “C” title executives have been unable to clearly define and develop a form of HR that truly meets the needs of most organizations and it is time to stop complaining and simply make sweeping changes. That does not mean that HR needs to hop to it and reach yet another not quite clear set of goals. It does mean that the “C” title executives need to get clear on specifically what is required from the people practices in their organizations and pull it together. First, though, they need to understand what the Digital Era means in terms of how business will operate, and that is a crucial point. A key factor in success in the Digital Era is the ability to collaborate effectively, to know when collaboration is the right choice and when it isn’t. And that means breaking down the silos in education and in organizations. Many people believe that the ‘flattened’ organizations of today have broken down the silos but they haven’t, not by a long shot.

I will be posting a series over the next six weeks that outlines my ideas about communication, collaboration, cooperation, cross-functional teamwork and effective methods to begin to systemically integrate improvements to all those important skills into the cultural fabric of an organization.

This September also sees me embarking on the certification process for Executive Coaching-something I have considered, deferred, rejected, reconsidered over and over again. After the recent encouragement of quite a few people I respect the opinions of I decided to go for it and am in the registration process today. Now, it makes sense, as it will be a very nice skill to add to my plans going forward with helping to develop leadership in the Digital Era.

So, what are you doing now? What is new? What are you thinking about? What seems important to you right now? Do you feel that your life is where you want it to be?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A Social Media Story With A Twist-Just For Fun

I decided to post this on my blog as I quite enjoyed the twists in the story. The Canada Post labour conflict is a long running one but it is starting to resemble a good summer beach mystery read. That and it includes a social media inclusion which I enjoyed. I wonder how many mediators thought this would be a factor?

Administrative Law Matters: Knowing who your friends are (and what that might ...: An interesting decision from the Federal Court of Canada today, the latest installment in a long-running labour relations saga at Canada Pos...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Using Social in Hiring-Silly Season?

Continuing my observations on the use of social technologies (media) in the recruiting and hiring process, today is a note on why taking a strategic and systemic approach will save time, money and potentially legal actions.

Susan Avello at HR Virtual Cafe posted her perspective on using Klout to screen job applicants, a practice that appears to be rumour based at this point.http://hrvirtualcafe.com/2012/07/31/using-klout-to-screen-job-applicants/

If recruiters and hiring managers are using Klout as a measure of an applicants 'influence' it is a practice they need to rethink, quickly. As I do with many new products, I signed up with Klout as often the best way to understand something is to use it. I found that it showed I had 'influence' in categories that I had never posted anything online about and know next to nothing about; it did not include categories that I frequently post about and in some cases have quite a lot of knowledge (or opinions) about and that the 'score' is based more on how often one posts than the quality of ones content. In other words you don't need to have any particular knowledge or expertise, you simply need to take the time to schedule mega numbers of postings to get "Klout" scores that suggest you are 'influential' in social media.

Using such poorly constructed scoring systems in any way in the recruiting and hiring process really does move us into the silly season. Quality over quantity counts in many areas of life and in the hiring process that is still important. I am still waiting for the 'influence' product that takes quality into the equation, then it may be time to take notice. Until then, leave the Klout scores for amusement and keep them out of the hiring process.

Have you ever experienced or heard of a recruiter or hiring manager using Klout scores as part of the evaluation process? Have you heard of any other similar products being used in this manner?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

CEO + HR + Customer/Employee Experience

Following my post yesterday regarding HR in the Social Business Era, Josh James, CEO of Domo posted his thoughts on the use of ‘social’ by big company CEO’s-in that they are almost invisible in this realm. http://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriabarret/2012/07/12/ceos-afraid-of-going-social-are-doing-shareholders-a-massive-disservice/

The comment from David Churbuck is a great example of a failure to see the opportunity in using social channels both internally and externally to develop a stronger link between the employee experience and the customer experience. The content of what a CEO or an HR person posts to any social network is within their control and provides an excellent opportunity to share knowledge, respond quickly to problems, and match the branding message to the humans inside the organization.

It is the silence of the people with the “C” level titles to recognize that the more remote they are from the employees in the organization and the customers the more difficult the recovery will be. When problems arise, be it a dive in the stock value, a large recall due to quality issues, a class action lawsuit based on poor employee relations practices, an oil spill etc., the more difficult the recovery will be. People are no longer content with the stock PR responses to problems as they tend to generate distrust based on too many experiences with a PR response that does not reflect the real actions of the company decision makers.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating experiences for a customer is that the marketing and advertising messages bring one to a business only to discover that the people behind the brand do not reflect the expectations set out. A significant contributor to this disconnection is internal communication weaknesses that can be found in many organizations but the larger the organization, the bigger the problem. This type of problem is often found in the presentation of a role and company culture by a recruiter and hiring manager vs. the experience of the employee once on staff.

Consider this one point for now: the outsourcing of many jobs overseas has resulted in not just job loss locally but in an upsurge in customer dissatisfaction. There are noted problems with quality, shipping issues for tangible products, difficulty understanding the CSA, inability of the CSA to satisfactorily respond to a problem. Yet, companies are still taking this tactic in a bid to save short-term dollars while ignoring the long-term costs. This has become such a huge issue for large corporations in particular that customers and employees alike are no longer committed to the success of the business.

There is sufficient evidence in the social network realm for any CEO to gain awareness of how significant the problem is-yet they remain invisible, only briefly showing up behind a PR façade.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Social + HR + New Reality

Michael Brito posted his thoughts on the role of HR in Social Business in this article:


The comment from Elizabeth Lupfer came the closest to reflecting my perspective on the HR role in social, which is something I also noted in my e-book. I do think that we need to break out HR somewhat as the compliance based roles will be the last to be able to see the opportunities in social and adapting those roles to 'social' will require some careful thinking.

I find myself alternating between believing that it is simply time to use the HR title for compliance and compensation specialties and rebrand and rethink the rest of the HR realm. Rather than seeing "Humans" as resources or assets-perhaps we need to adapt a new approach to the Employee Relations and Organizational Development areas-one that more closely reflects the people focused community (employee experience to the customer experience link).

Rather than seeing "HR" as a 'strategic partner' a more practical role would be to have a team of strategic thinkers/implementers- directly linking the organizational goals to the team goals to the individual goals-with the big picture of the organizational strategy as the magnet for the output of that role.

The current silo of HR vs. the rest of the organization in many cases is a result of traditional management styles-HR handles the messy people stuff and the compensation stuff and the rest of the employees do the *real* work. A fully integrated resolution to that picture doesn't exist unless we radically shift from Industrial Era process to Knowledge Era realities. The Industrial Era process put HR directly in the middle of Management and Employees and at the end of the day-no one is particularly happy with the result. When I worked in the field the image of the "pig in the middle" game often popped into my mind.

How much longer will executives in business continue to complain that “HR doesn’t ‘get it’ rather than simply rethinking the role and making a wholesale change?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

CEO Messages + Reality + unLeadership

Following the RIM problems over the past several months has been a study in abject failure of leadership and while predicting the mass layoffs was a given it does leave me with a feeling of sadness and frustration that 5,000 people are losing their jobs-not because they failed-but because of a failure of leadership. To read this morning that the RIM CEO, Thorsten Heins, actually stated to the media that "there is nothing wrong with this company" http://mobilesyrup.com/2012/07/03/rim-ceo-says-theres-nothing-wrong-with-the-company-as-it-exists-right-now/)must come as a blow to those 5,000 people. Thorsten Heins isn't losing his job so perhaps he simply doesn't realize how truly heartless his comments are to those that are losing their jobs.

There is plenty wrong with a business that had so much opportunity to be a resounding, sustainable success and simply failed to take advantage of that opportunity. There is much wrong with announcing that 5,000 jobs are lost because of a failure of leadership without ever showing any sense of responsibility for that failure. This is far from the first business in which the purported leadership turned out to be anything but leadership, in which the 'leaders' took care of themselves and saw the massive job losses as "not personal, just business"-yet given all the examples that business "C" suite types have to improve on, they simply are not doing so.

And they wonder why employees are not engaged, committed, and loyal? It isn't that hard to understand-is it?

On a brighter note-RIM had some great employees regardless of the unLeadership steering the organization-and now-they will have the opportunity to show what they know they can do and hopefully for a business that understands what leadership should be.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Generation Social + Kickstarter=A Social Project

Today, I am sharing a link to this Kickstarter project in part because it fits well with my interest in "Social" from an organizational and cultural perspective and because it is a "made in Vancouver" project and supporting local matters.

For anyone who is struggling to understand the many ways in which a 'social' mental model, which supports communities and improves the lives of many, is supported by the use of social tools (commonly referred to as Social Media although that really isn't a good descriptor)this documentary, when completed help.

For anyone who has a project idea, without backers, and struggling to find support, consider Kickstarter as a possibility. I am funding two projects right now, one technology related tool based and this documentary.

Perhaps you will join me in funding Generation Social, you can fund from as little as $1 with many other options available.

Take a look, check out the project and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Progress of Social in the HR World

Three years ago when I first decided to write an introductory e-book for social media in organizations 99.9% of the available information was directly related to marketing. The remaining scarce sources of information were mostly about how an employee at some business or other had posted something inappropriate related to their employment online. In discussions with HR practitioners most of the comments were either flat denial of any need to even think about social media in the business context to viewing it a something to be forbidden. It was a rare but refreshing conversation when an experienced HR practitioner saw the same possibilities I thought could be available in organizational use as well as understanding that ignoring or forbidding it will create long-term problems going forward.

Today, "social" as an important aspect of the HR role has become mainstream and this has mostly occurred in the past eight months. There is growing awareness that it is far better to take charge of the 'social' promise of these tools early on to mitigate problems and to take advantage of the opportunities to improve communication, knowledge sharing, project innovation, idea generation, and connection. I read a cross section of blogs in various disciplines, participate in a lot of online forums, and check in with knowledgeable connections in entirely different fields to keep refreshing my knowledge and keep my mind open to the possibilities. I have also learned to filter more effectively as my poor brain has some limits and have also learned to use various online tools to save items that may be valuable later but not today.

One thing that comes along with adoption of social tools is that the information overload you thought you had before seems like nothing pretty quickly. So my above noted filter progress has been mandatory. I mostly use Evernote to clip and save information for later, make notes in client meetings, seminars, webinairs etc. I use it for work, volunteer and personal activities and it has made a huge difference to my ability to readily filter when I check into my social sites on weekdays. I also like Evernote because regardless of which device I enter information on, it automatically syncs to all devices which means I am never without what I might need.

I also have a rule for myself, on weekends and vacations, any social activity is personal-professional or work related activities are banned from those time frames. And that is okay, because the internet is like a big old archive, you can search and catch up later if you need something. And going offline for awhile rarely has the negative effects that people worry about-it usually is just the opposite-people feel refreshed and ready to jump back in. So, if you have been reading those, must be online all the time advice givers, ignore it.

What progress have you made in adopting 'social' into your work life? What tools do you find helpful? Most importantly, how have you grown in your professional capacity because of your online connections? What have you introduced to your organization that has the projected results?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Social Media, Adaptive Change & HR

The advent and adoption of social media tools and the rising importance of learning to communicate and network effectively, both in person and online, is reflective of the shift we have been observing towards a knowledge culture. If the extensive collection of books on change, leadership, engagement with customers and employees are any indication of the importance and complexity of this shift, we may need to rethink how we approach change. We seem to be adapting much slower than the rate of change suggests, and in part, this is because we are now needing a level of complexity in mental development greater than needed for career success in previous eras. We are essentially 'feeling' our way into a new era when traditional thinking no longer achieves the goals we set for employees and/or meets the strategic needs of the organization.

One distinction that I often make when talking about workplace skills, competencies, abilities (whatever you call them in your organization)is that technical skills are substantially different than what are often referred to as 'soft' skills.

Ronald Heifetz (1994) poses two kinds of change challenges to consider, that are relevant to this topic:

1) Technical-skill sets necessary to perform these (complicated) behaviours is well-known.

2) Adaptive-can only be met by transforming your mindset, by advancing to a more sophisticated stage of mental development.

He also suggests that "the biggest errors leaders make is when they apply technical means to solve adaptive challenges" which better describes my belief that the way we approach developing technical skills is different than the way we develop 'soft' skills.

Social Media tools perhaps often creates the need to consider both technical change challenges and adaptive change challenges as key needs when introducing, integrating, and developing skills sets to use the tools effectively. The tools are relatively easy to learn how to use from a technical aspect, and regardless of how frequently they are updated or new tools developed our previous experience with computers offers us a relatively simple learning curve. We must also consider that not everyone has the computer experience depending on the job they do but may need to learn it for the future of those jobs. The real challenge and one that is more difficult to learn is to look at how well developed the 'soft' skills are. This includes learning the differences between how we may be perceived in an online interaction and how we that may be perceived quite differently when we interact face to face.

HR practitioners must consider both the technical and adaptive needs of the people in the organization as one without the other is the reason we see the amount of public discussion on the pros and cons of social media use and the effect this has on the organization's reputation both with customers and as an employer.

What challenges are the most perplexing to resolve in your organization? What challenges are the most difficult in your own change adaption?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Social Media & HR –Part 3-Hiring

The discussions as to whether or not an employer should use social media networks as part of the hiring criteria goes on and not a lot changes in the content of these discussions. An article is posted about employers demanding Facebook passwords and using the content to make a hiring decision and the comments following this generally fall into a few categories, privacy, validity of the information being used for the purpose stated, and counter-measures if you are asked to do this in a job interview process. The following excerpts are responses I posted in a LinkedIn group to statements made by HR practitioners. Some comments encouraged me that HR practitioners are finally starting to pay attention to this Digital Era topic and some reminded me that there are still misconceptions about social media, how it works and what is true or not true. One comment that I have seen not just from HR practitioners but on other online sources, such as national news media is to advise people to lie to the interviewer if asked for a Facebook (or other online network) password during the hiring process. When we encounter misinformed or unethical behaviour from an interviewer, there is a way to respond and maintain ones own integrity.

In Canada, both BC and Alberta now have specific guidelines within the privacy legislation to address social networks in the employment cycle and the federal government believes that the generic wording in the federal legislation includes by default, social networks. And of course the use of information gleaned through social networks is rife with "protected class" information so employers should be using common sense before heading down this path. Candidates and employees need also to remember that if they cave and hand over access to their employer or potential employer they are giving that access to their 'friends' without these 'friends' permission; and given that not everyone is savvy about privacy settings in Facebook, this is very problematic.

So far, there is only anecdotal evidence that some Canadian employers are ignoring legislation and asking for access to social network accounts but I have read commentary from at least one person displaying the CHRP designation after her name claim that she believes that employers have a right to do so and that it is valid information to use in the hiring cycle. I find this really disappointing that someone using those credentials would find this practice legitimate but fortunately the majority of HR practitioners in the US and Canadian groups are showing a much better understanding of what is right, ethical and fair. From that, I believe that while some people will abuse social networks, this is not a majority.

Things to consider:

A Google search in a candidates name will show easily if they have a social media account. You may not be able to access the content but it will show that you have an account. Try it on your own name and see what happens. I suggest that people Google their name a few times a year to see what pops up but always do so before you submit your name for a job application.

I do not advocate lying to a potential employer about not having a social media account. Trust is important in the employment relationship and starting out with a lie is not a good way to start off. If the employer is attempting to do something that contravenes employment standards, human rights, privacy legislation and anti-harassment/bullying legislation then deal with it honestly, professionally and directly. Slipping into negative counter-behaviour does not serve anyone well and it is more likely to spiral into a messy situation. You can set your privacy settings to prevent people from seeing most of the content on your Facebook page but you cannot hide that you have one. A Google search will quickly show that you do have one.

Lying about this is problematic on two levels:

1) You will be found out because it is easy to determine if you do have an account.

2) Starting off an employment situation by lying does not bode well for the employment in future.

3) Playing games or being dishonest wraps us up in a spiral mess -it is so much simpler, more trustworthy and better for the future to simply say: (if you in fact do have one) "I have Facebook account that I use for personal use only. My privacy settings are set to protect everyone connected to me on Facebook and to protect me. I am happy to discuss what you need to know to determine my fit/ability for this position, but the information in my Facebook page is not part of that."

In response to a comment that some people have a Facebook account on business cards:when you see a Facebook link on a business card it is more likely that the Facebook account is a business account, not a personal account. "Don't assume" is good advice when looking at information related to social media/network accounts.

There seems to be a lot of myths and misunderstandings about Facebook-what it is used for, what it does, what the rules, guidelines and laws are regarding it. But Google said it as simply and easily as possible "Don't Be Evil" and-this is just common sense-read the rules and guidelines that Facebook has readily available, understand the applicable privacy guidelines, laws and regulations. Know that much of what goes on with social media accounts from a legal perspective is still unfolding, one case at a time, in the legal system in several countries.

But if you approach social media decisions by starting with: Don't be evil and take the time to research the information that is available-and you will likely stay reasonably clear of trouble.

Don't lie, don't be evasive, don't apply assumptions and beliefs to what you may see on a Facebook page (or any social network)-there isn't any science to support that. Some initial studies have been conducted but even the authors of those studies agree that the validity factor is not available.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Social & HR-More On This

More often we see HR and Agency Recruiters using Social Media to attract applicants for positions and in some organizations to build external candidate pools for future hiring needs. Great stuff you say-it gives you a broader reach and the cost is lower than traditional methods provided. What we also are hearing more about though is that the experience an applicant may be offered through recruiting methods doesn't show up once hired. In a few instances there have been anecdotes that it doesn't even make it to the first step of the interview process. So, you are asking (wise people that you are) - what is the missing link here?

Like anything in HR when we consider what we will do in individual pieces rather than systemically, the results show up in not so great employee and candidate experience. When planning your recruiting practices using social media tools ensure the message (or brand if your into that) that goes out to potential applicants matches what they will experience in the interview process, the hiring process, the orientation (or 'onboarding' if you must), the performance management and employee development cycle. Think about it this way-if Company Superb Experience has the best advertising/marketing program you have ever seen and you decide to become a customer-but that experience does not match the advertising/marketing campaign-the customer loyalty the business was hoping for will disappear pretty quickly. Same goes for the employee experience.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Digital Era Leadership-An Update

Further to my post referring to the work on "What Does It Take To Be A Digital Era Leader?" the link below has some information you will find helpful.

Here’s a link to a diagram that offers some ideas on how to think about leadership skills in the Digital Era, based on the initial round of feedback we received:


We’d love your feedback on the diagram, the initial set of comments, and/or the core questions we posed in the post. Thanks!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What Does It Take To Be A Digital Era Leader?

Today I am sharing a link to a blog post at the Global Center For Digital Era Leadership that I think is important in today's Digital Era but it can also be helpful if you are working in an environment that requires you to 'think globally'. Courtney, Jerry and I invite you to share your ideas, thoughts, perceptions and questions on this timely and interesting topic.

The link to the blog post is:

This is a new project for me although it is aligned very nicely with the work I have been focussing on over the past 3 years. I love working on defining skills and what some now call 'attributes'and looking for ways to help others develop the skills they need to continue to be successful in their careers and to meet their personal goals. This project fits that interest exactly so I am excited to be working on it with two leaders in the field, Courtney Hunt and Jerry Carducci.

Please share your ideas on this topic directly on the Global Center For Digital Era Leadership site, on LinkedIn groups such as SMinOrgs and GCDEL. You are also most welcome to share your thoughts right here on HR Concise & Leadership and I will include them on the primary blog (anonymously) unless you tell me otherwise.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

More Musing On Hiring and Social Networks

It is true that people must take responsibility for what they post online but that is only one part of the overall equation.

* Humans tend to make snap judgements of others

* Humans tend to label and box others into groupings that make them feel comfortable

* Humans have biases and fears based on a lack of understanding or a belief system embedded early in life

* Complex employment laws, human rights acts, anti-bullying/harassment and privacy legislation have come into being because of inequities commonly inflicted on others based on humans being humans.

In other words-regardless of how professional, positive or reasonable ones posts online are, there will be someone out there who will see it differently or react to an inherent bias. That reaction does not need to be reasonable, rational or fair, but it can disadvantage someone. I have read so many odd comments by people in a position to hire/not hire or affect ones job candidate status based on a snap judgement coming from a strongly held belief that I consider it to be a good reminder of why we have all that complex legislation.

Humans are humans-the ones posting and the ones looking at those postings to judge others are all inherently flawed. Because we are human. It is too easy to discredit someones competency or job worthiness based on online content-or the content of someone they are connected to, but it simply isn't reasonable to do so in many cases. And in the situation where it may be a valid concern-a bona fide occupational requirement-or the potential harm factor-the decision maker is obligated to ensure that what they think they see/belief/assume is in fact accurate. If you are in Canada a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) is defined at this link, although it is good advice regardless of where in the world you are hiring. http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/preventing_discrimination/page4-eng.aspx

Which is why discussions on topics that have the potential to change our understanding of acceptable social norms is so important. And technology based social networks are changing our understanding of acceptable social norms-we collectively will be better off if we consider the angles.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Most Benefit, The Least Harm

There was a lengthy article in the Globe and Mail today, the full text of the article can be found here:

It isn’t surprising to hear that unions are struggling, if you think back about 15 years ago we saw unions such as the CAW recruiting new bargaining units from industries that were not related to auto workers at all, such as hotel employees; at that time the auto industry was experiencing many challenges and the CAW went looking for other arenas to grow their membership in.

Now, with a tanked economy, a divisive federal government, and business owners with a public outlet creating incredible pressures against union demands in both the public and private sectors it is little surprise that union leaders are publicly admitting just how devastated their organizations are now. Add a public who have seen their standard of living erode and the increasing loss of a sense of being heard and any advocacy organization will have increased challenges.

Are they out of touch with the workforce of today? Maybe. It is also true that there is a perception of union membership being that of people, who are vulnerable, under-educated and overpaid; or alternately of a ‘thug’ mentality as some would depict union members. This of course, ignores the professional unions but in this case they seem to be categorized as lazy and greedy. If a business owner believes that a union will cut too deeply into their profits or make day-to-day operations more difficult then attributing negative characteristics to the members of a union appear to be one way of discouraging employees to apply for union certification. If a government is closely aligned with business owners then using legislation to essentially negate the bargaining strength of the union negotiators is a way to not only appease those business friends but it leaves the union members with a sense of hopelessness in the bargaining process. It also helps alter the way voters may look at unions that closely identify with unions, making them appear to be ineffective and out of touch. To the taxpayer who is self-oriented, an attitude that they do not want a union member to have a pay scale or benefits that the taxpayer does not already have. Perhaps it creates a negative impression that they are paying for those pay and benefits out of their tax dollars or increased product prices at a loss to themselves. Us versus them is an attitude that we are seeing increasingly in this country. Read the comments after the article and you see an unfortunately typical response, pitting citizen against citizen, without a reasonable solution in sight.

I am not pro-union or anti-union. As I do with organizations that affect large groups of people I look at the facts, the pros and cons, what will produce the most benefit and the least harm, and what takes into account the future, not just today. But when we descend into name-calling and promote adversarial approaches to issues that affect people each and every day and the future well being of many, we lose. No matter what we believe in, no matter whom we support, when we descend into that behaviour, we lose. And so does the well being of the citizens of our country.

HR & That Social Stuff

Recently there have been a bit of a storm about employers either asking for Facebook passwords or demanding that job applicants sign into their accounts while the interviewer looks over their shoulder to read their content or that they ‘friend’ a person in the organization thus giving access.

It should not be news to any HR practitioner that this practice is unacceptable and raises serious concerns about hiring practices in general. There is some consensus that this is not something that is widespread but there is little in the way of gathered data to know one way or another. It is possible that it occurs more often than one might think or less often that the media storm suggests. We just don’t know. It is, however, worth discussion and that this is taking place is a good thing. What has been highlighted is how little understanding there is among the general population about social media, hiring practices, employment law, privacy legislation, human rights and ethical norms.

The use of social network products has become widespread especially since mobile devices have become much more user friendly and allow simple everyday actions to be photographed, tweeted, posted on a social network and thus shared across a much broader range of people than ever before. This has put some pressure on the lines of privacy that were previously considered cultural norms, resulting in a flurry of activity in updating privacy legislation in many countries and creating discussions about appropriate behaviour from many angles.

In hiring practices the general principle is that people being considered for employment are assessed based on their ability to perform the requirements of the position. In some roles that also includes considerable intrusion into a person’s character and behaviours in addition to evaluating their technical abilities. For example, in roles that include access to financial data or accounts a credit check may be required, in some jobs a criminal record check may be required. These reports are acquired from a third party, financial rating organization or a police department and only include relevant information. However, social media products have opened a door to access to information about candidates that would not have been available previously unless you have private detectives following people about or interviewing their friends, family and neighbours.

Smart employers will have a third party conduct a social media review and that third party will only pass on information that is applicable to the position being hired for as defined by the employment laws and human rights acts. To do otherwise not only opens an employer up to legal actions or human rights complaints but it can lead to a backlash via that very same social media if an applicant believes they have been unfairly eliminated from a job competition based on information that does not relate to the role they applied for.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Outsource or Not-What Are The Human Costs?

Outsourcing Has Human and Financial Considerations

Often when I read articles talking about whether or not to outsource support functions in organizations, they focus primarily on financial costs and metrics that refer to customer satisfaction surveys. I have also seen articles that talk about the benefit of outsourcing much of the administrative nature of HR so that HR practitioners can be freed up to focus on strategy. I have worked through HR task outsourcing and IT outsourcing and I am not convinced that those ideas are always as great as they appear to be on paper. There is a human cost in all this outsourcing that business executives would prefer not to discuss in any meaningful way. When mass layoffs occur they often outsource some aspects of that activity to a third party.

Understand the Financial Perspective But…
I understand the value of outsourcing from a financial perspective, but my question lies with whether the ‘on paper’ financial value really does outweigh the value of doing things in-house. Having heard all the arguments for that to date, I still am not entirely sure which is the best answer. But perhaps the “Occupy” movement provides some clues-the loss of community, the loss of jobs, the seemingly unfeeling nature of placing a dollar value on everything and seeing that dollar value as being more important that the humans that are affected. Perhaps the backlash costs provide some clues as to some of the very real costs that are ignored in these decisions.

Humans-Remember Them?
If your job title includes the word human or people in it-isn’t direct interaction a significant part of the deal? And what is lost when we send opportunities for face-to-face interactions out to a third party? Do we gain more than we lose? This is something that is hard to measure and as outsourcing has been around for so long now it would be hard to measure the impact as many people won’t remember what it was like to have a person within the organization to talk to when having problems with benefits or signing online for programs in the organization. Or the value of having a competent IT support person to show up and help with a problem, face-to-face.

Culture, Trust & Communities
Another point to consider is that when we outsource any role to a third party we are also displacing people within our organization, which has a deeply unsettling affect on the culture and the level of trust in the organization. We see so much about ‘engagement’ these days but if you are wondering when your job is going to be outsourced just how engaged do you feel like being? Outsourcing also affects the communities the business operates in and it is not likely that the effect can be measured in financial or statistical terms precisely, but it seems within the realm of reality that it is a significant effect.

Hiring Unemployed People?
I read another one of those discussions about why some companies refuse to consider unemployed people for employment recently-they have been popping up quite a bit since the recent economic meltdown. The argument that people get laid off because they are incompetent or lazy or a troublemaker seems to be the going thinking among some. Yet when we look at the massive numbers of layoffs (we have seen numbers such as 15,000, 30,000, 3,500 etc.) in some organizations it defies logic to believe that an organization could have recruited hired and retained that many problematic employees. That would say a lot more about the executives that laid those people off than it does about the employees. Is it really reasonable to believe that if a company laid off 30,000 people that all 30,000 were as described by those who refuse to consider people who are unemployed? And what about outsourcing-about two years ago a very large local data processing company decided to outsource 80% of the jobs held locally to India. That does not mean those employees were in any way at fault-it meant that the business, which by the way is a multi-billion dollar business, wanted to reduce costs by outsourcing to a country where they could pay far less in wages than they can locally.

Right or Wrong?
I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer and it is likely one of those “it depends” situations. I do believe it is time we started placing a higher value on humans than we do on dollars. It isn’t necessarily good business to take the “profit as the only goal” strategy when the potential human costs are so high.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Are External Recruiters Providing ROI?

March 2012

Last year I started a small consultant business, hoping to work with small and growing businesses. The intent was to help these businesses be successful over the long term because while most business owners are focused on sales and wowing the customers with their great product/services the day to day support of the people who work in those businesses is often left aside as something to think about ‘later’; some human resources requirements are not prudent to leave to later as there are legal implications which, ignored, could lead to very expensive and devastating circumstances. In addition, paying attention to the people that work in your organization matters over the long term because the way they feel at work affects the way they approach their work.

A Change Sort Of

Recently, I applied for a position with a crown corporation. This may seem counter-intuitive to switch from an independent consultant to a public service role, but the agency in question had hit the news in a big splash last year over allegations of egregious bonuses paid to executives and mismanagement in general. This year a recruiting agency posted a job for a Director, Human Resources in which they proclaimed a desire for change. If one was to believe the job posting they truly wanted change, truly wanted to become better able to provide excellent service to their clients. But I was not sure how sincere that was. I was also intrigued, enough to submit my application for consideration because if they did, in fact, want that kind of change, it would be an exciting role. Crown corporations are not known for efficiency or excellent customer service. And I wasn’t looking to work full time for someone else. But the prospect of real change, the kind that gets people excited about their work and energized to accomplish more-that did intrigue me. So I submitted my application to the recruiting agency.

My Lesson As All Negative Experiences Are

Now, I think it would have been best if I left well enough alone although I will take some time to learn from the experience and perhaps provide better service/products to my clients.

What Happened

About a week or so after I submitted my application I received a call-I had just walked in the door and was headed back out for a meeting. It was the recruiter from the agency screening for the crown corporation. She wanted me to talk right then and there without warning. I noted that I was on my way to a meeting and requested a scheduled date/time. I did get the impression that this was not well received but it was conceded to, after, some complaining about a “busy schedule loading quickly”-which is designed to force me to accept a time suitable to the recruiter with little if any consideration for my schedule. But, hey, I am a flexible person. So I agreed to her time the next morning and then set about rescheduling my entire morning (including inconveniencing other people) to suit her. Not that she appreciated that at all. Instead she spent time complaining that she had tried calling me numerous times the day before and the calls would not go through (no one else that day complained about a problem at all and since her supposed calls did not register on my line at all the problem was likely at her end) but she left me feeling like it was my fault. She even commented that she wasn’t even going to try again. I think I was supposed to feel that she had done me a favor by calling this time. This whole conversation did not make me feel comfortable by any stretch of the imagination but as is my style, I approached the next day with a positive mindset. After all, this was the external recruiter, not someone from the organization.

So: 11:30 AM the next morning comes and goes. I am in a quiet space suitable for a discussion about a job but my phone does not ring, and does not ring and does not ring. I start to wonder if the phone problems she announced the day before were occurring. I start to wonder if I wrote down the wrong time (not likely, but you think about these things) and I start to wonder if I should just get on with my day. What if she was not going to call as promised at all? Then 14 minutes later, (14 minutes feels like a lot in limbo) the phone rings and it is the recruiter. Asking if I am at work, if I can talk ……even though we specifically scheduled this time the day before-did she assume I would not have been prepared?

The whole phone call went steadily downhill from there. I ended up bowing out at a point when I realized if I spent any more time on the phone with this recruiter that I could only feel worse. She was extremely condescending, very dismissive of my accomplishments over the past seven years (she only considers being a paid employee of a corporation or a crown corporation to be valid as indicating competency) and by the time I realized I had to end the call, blatantly insulting. It was a truly horrible experience and if the organizations that hire their services are unaware that they are treating people this way they are not getting a good return on their investment.

So, if you use external recruiters, do you know how they treat applicants? Do you really know-because not only I have encountered rudeness before (although this one was by all means the worst) I have heard from quite a few people that they have experienced some really disrespectful behaviour from external recruiters. Do you use ‘mystery shoppers’ to determine if your external recruiter is representing you in a positive manner? Because like it or not-the way they treat people they do not even forward on to you is the way those people view your organization. When was the last time you really truly understood what the commission based recruiter was providing and how they represented your organization? Some are great at what they do and some are not. It pays to run a quality check.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Spring, Greener Pastures and Change

Now that a new season is near it seems fitting to think about what to let go of that may clear the way for new adventures and possibly improving our current relationships and work experience.

Change is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about; mostly to the ways it affects organizational culture and how that culture and the people within it responds to change. However the way it affects our non-work life also can show up in how we manage at work, something HR people help others to deal with on a daily basis.

Change, Control & Insight

Some changes we have a certain amount of control over and some we do not, but what we more often do have control over is how we deal with it. There is something that right now feels like a big giant obstacle that affects me every single day and has been doing so for several years. It is one of those things that create a conflict within because it relates to some really fundamental needs; things that help me stay comfortable and happy. It affects my sense of self and my outlook, my energy levels and how I view events as they unfold. I tend to be a pretty even-tempered, calm and happy person but when my “Maslow” bottom tier needs are under pressure ‘normal’ starts to feel like work.

It is within my control to change it but the only solution that I have control over, after looking at things from several angles, is one I am not prepared to use. And hence my dilemma, a concern that the solution to a problem will create a situation that may not be enough of an improvement. In some ways it is like that “greener pastures” dilemma-and certainly something we all encounter from time to time. On the other hand I also have the feeling that I am missing something, a solution, that regardless of trying various ideas to resolve the problem simply hasn't popped up. And I can't shake that feeling, a certain logic says there is another answer.

I can make a change that will resolve the problem, what I can’t be sure of is whether or not that really is the core problem or if something else is going on. There is a sense of missing something. The why of this dilemma is one that is seemingly simple; I can’t change someone else or force that person to act. I can only choose how to deal with a problem and make a decision based on my own requirements. As I only see one solution my decision will not affect just me-it will affect another person significantly.

Things That Help

I have always been a big fan of journals as they often help us uncover the solution to a dilemma when we look back on them; and they can show us where we stand on the change resilience factor. In addition to journals, I have utilized professional coaches and wise friends often enough. But this time, having tried all those routes, I am still left with a problem that requires a solution I do not want to act on.

And the signs of Spring showing up outside my window create a sense of urgency, that it is time to make a decision and act. It is part greener pastures and part a simple rite of Spring but it makes a situation feel bigger and the need to change it feel more compelling. Although maybe in reality it is no more urgent or compelling than it was last year, or the year before. It is puzzling in some ways as I am not used to this type of indecision and it is my ongoing hesitation that has me wondering what is missing-what key factor is escaping my attention.

What dilemma is creating the sense that you need to act in your world? What helps you when faced with really difficult choices? What do you do when all your 'go to' methods don't work?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Integrity, Respect, Metrics & HR

I spend a lot of time thinking about what happens in organizations from how cultures develop and evolve to how individuals can manage to survive and thrive in a change driven world. Over the past several years I have moved from using social media tools to increase and improve my connections with others and to learn and share information to considering social tools in the context of organizational culture and change resilience. It has been an interesting path and I have come across some really interesting perspectives. Some competencies hold true as aiding HR practitioners in navigating through constant change and the pressure inherent in being the go to person for people focused topics. And there are some things HR practitioners should just stop worrying about because if you are honing these competencies the rest will take care of itself.

(1) Systems Thinker: able to use systems to design and explain the key aspects of programs or interventions you wish to introduce in a manner that also shows how those interventions will affect the culture, the people and other programs. This is mandatory and if you are not familiar with systems thinking Barry and Karen Oshry are very knowledgeable on this topic. Google them. You can also read "The Art of Systems Thinking" Joseph O'Connor and Ian McDermott for a fairly decent grounding. Understanding this will make a huge difference to how you approach everything you do in your work. It should be mandatory as a competency for all HR practitioners.

(2) Collaborate: what exactly does this mean? HR practitioners should be role models for this competency. This means collaborate with people who work in radically different fields than you. It is amazing how much more effective everything you do will be. Oh, it is also a competency that is enhanced by a good understanding of systems thinking. Collaborating also requires that you learn how to incorporate diverse ideas into one effective program or process and when compromise may be required.

(3) Don't worry about the seat at the table. It will suddenly show up when you aren't thinking about it if you are accomplished at (1) and (2).

(4) Stop referring to the people who work for the organization as "talent", "capital", "assets" or "the bottom line". They are humans. They bring some pretty great stuff into the workplace and some kind of messy stuff too. Deal with it as a whole. Reducing them to stats, numbers, things and buzzwords won't get you where you need to be. And they pretty much cringe when they hear that kind of talk-so please stop doing that.

(5) Business acumen: uh oh, what does that mean? It means-understand the way business in general works and the way organizations in general work (see #1). Then go out of your way to understand the business realities that the operations managers and all the other employees face every single day they are at work; not just about the company you work for but the industry you work in and if some other industry might just be taking market share away because they have a better widget or whatever. Just understand it. Job shadow as many roles as you can, ask questions-lots of them. Get the concept so you know what every decision/program/policy/advice you offer will do to the people that work there and the business itself.

The number stuff- you don't have to be a mathematician or a statistician- but be able to understand what the numbers on the annual report mean, what the costs you incur mean in terms of gained revenue or customer engagement. That stuff. The finance people will do the rest. As for the metric fad, be realistic. Not everything in HR can or should be measured and it is possible to create more harm than good in going too far with the metrics. Also, how much time do you spend measuring things and writing and analyzing it all? More time than you do interacting with people? If you do and your primary job responsibility is not metrics you may want to rethink your approach.

(6) Integrity and courage: they kind of go together. Sometimes you have to gather up the courage to do the right thing. To stand up to the person with a "C" title when they are about to do something really wrong. Sure, your job means you protect the organization from unnecessary legal problems etc. but not at the cost of the respect, dignity and fairness to the people who work in the organization. Your role is not to be pro this side or that side but to figure out how to accomplish the best outcome with the least damage to all concerned.

(7) Respect, intercultural and intracultural: understand what it is and what it means to diverse populations. This is pretty hard but it is very rewarding for the organization-it really, really is.

(8) Humour-have a lot of this. Be able to laugh at yourself.

(9) A Ducks Back: what??? Okay, I live in a rainforest and "water off a ducks back" has been a saying I have heard my whole life. Or maybe a Teflon shield works for you. Whatever it is-sometimes you will get it wrong, sometimes you will get it right and sometimes you will be on a fence somewhere. You are human. Integrity, respect, courage and humour-that will get you a long, long way in HR. And those things are a nice way to role-model for others.

(10) David Letterman taught us that lists have 10 items. Sorry but this is as good as number 10 is going to get. However, it is also an opportunity for you to provide #10. What do you think-is there a number 10 that really counts?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Enterprise 2.0 Needs A Behaviour Change

I am very pleased to be able to share this thoughtful, on point, post by Dan Pontefract. You can find the original attribution through this link:

To Really Drive Enterprise 2.0 Forward We Need A Behaviour Change

Original date Posted: 27 Jan 2012 06:45 AM PST

At the beginning of the year, on January 2 in fact, I wrote about reciprocity. My hopes were that we’d begin using the behavior of reciprocity both within the walls of our organizations as well as being members of society at large.

It’s my personal belief that we’ve taken some positive steps forward in society (think you, as a person) but within the construct of organizations (or work life) we’re not where we should be.

A joint effort of Capgemini Consulting and theMIT Center for Digital Business resulted in a wonderful report recently published entitled, “Digital Transformation: A Road-Map for Billion-Dollar Organizations”.

One key line struck me:

Whether using new or traditional technologies, the key to digital transformation is re-envisioning and driving change in how the company operates. That’s a management and people challenge, not just a technology one.

And there’s the rub.

In 2011, I don’t believe organizations have fully comprehended what ingredients are necessary to ensure an organization (management and people) is in fact going to become more productive.

Why do I land on productive, and not collaborative, or engaged, or learned, or reciprocal, or connected?

Being more productive is the end game. What an organization does with its employees and their blocks of available time to perform in the workplace is the quintessential Rubik’s Cube puzzle.

Today, towards the end of 2011, it still feels scrambled and unsolved. The mistakes I see happening far too often (and more than any list of successful examples) are when organizations manually pop the pieces off the cube and forcibly push them into place to ‘solve the puzzle’.
Contrived? You bet.

I also believe we continue to employ “if you build it they will come” attitudes in the organization. Dropping Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything tools into the company theater is not going to guarantee your employees/leaders are collaborating and it’s certainly not going to drive reciprocity.
Enterprise 2.0 or Social Anything, if we’re not careful, could simply turn into the next ERP.

And we all know how that’s going, don’t we?

Laurie Buczek writes “the big failure of social business is a lack of integration of social tools into the collaborative workflow.” Whilst I don’t disagree that integration into the workflow isn’t a huge opportunity, to me, we need to stop the press and acknowledge that it’s the behavior of people that has to change in parallel with the deployment of any Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything technology.

And quite frankly, I think many organizations are failing at this very concept.

According to Bluewolf Consulting, 60% of organizations don’t yet support ‘social’ inside the company. The better question to ask, however, is what type of productivity gains, employee engagement improvements and customer satisfaction increases have occurred with the 40% of the organizations that have deployed ‘social’ inside their company.

The ROI of Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything is not how much did it cost to deploy the technology; it’s what gains have we seen in productivity, employee engagement and customer satisfaction as a result of new collaborative behaviours that are aided and propelled by Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything technologies.
And there’s the rub, part two.

Through my travels, interactions, conversations and social threads in 2011, there are three interesting camps that have formed:

• Technologists
• HR / Learning Professionals
• Vendors

The technologists are happy discussing Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything features, gizmo’s and futuristic trends … but they forget about the behaviours that are needed to actually make the software more effective in the first place. They forget adoption occurs only when people behave in a way that allows collaboration to manifest across an organization.

The HR / Learning Professionals are having massive difficulty adjusting to a world with Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything technologies, but they can’t get in front of it in time to actually establish the behaviours for an organization … even if they knew what behaviours to depict in the first place.

The vendors aren’t helping either. Their focus is on the technology and not the collaborative behaviours that need to be employed at a company in parallel. As a consequence, to me, many are simply selling an ERP destined to fail. The ‘social’ ERP. Snake Oil.

As McKinsey & Company points out in their 5th annual Business and Web 2.0 Survey, adoption rates of Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything is on the rise, but they confess that “benefits remain consistent over time.”


And why do they further assert:

Many believe that if organizational barriers to the use of social technologies diminish, they could form the core of entirely new business processes that may radically improve performance.

The organizational barrier of Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything is the requisite behaviour change that is necessary within the organization itself, within the people that work there.

But all is not completely lost.

Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald of Gartner recently penned the book, “The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees”. The beauty of their book is they focus on the behaviour of building community and collaborative practices.
Paul Adler, Charles Heckscher, and Laurence Prusak in the July-August 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review wrote a brilliant piece entitled, “Building a Collaborative Enterprise”.

They opined:

Collaborative communities seek a basis for trust and organizational cohesion that is more robust than self-interest, more flexible than tradition, and less ephemeral than the emotional, charismatic appeal of a Steve Jobs, a Larry Page, or a Mark Zuckerberg

They continue:

Collaborative communities share a distinctive set of values, which we call an ethic of contribution. It accords the highest value to people who look beyond their specific roles and advance the common purpose.

Which now brings me full circle to my original thesis.

2011 has not seen the level of reciprocity as I had hoped. Enterprise 2.0 / Social Anything technologies continue to be the lead news story, with the more important tenet of collaborative behaviours shoved to the back page.

As a result, there continues to be systemic challenges to increasing productivity, engagement and customer satisfaction.
But, if we focus on those behaviours, if we seek out the right model for leaders and employees to share, consume and contribute that is more common sense than non-sensical, we’ll have both reciprocity and productivity in 2012.

Then again, if all else fails, you could always touch a teddy bear. (seriously)

As Senior Director / Head of Learning & Collaboration at TELUS (www.telus.com), Dan is responsible for the overarching learning & collaboration strategy for the company. He has driven a philosophical and cultural shift in the way TELUS views and experiences learning called “Learning 2.0”; the shift to a social, informal and formal learning and collaboration model for all 35,000+ team members, bringing TELUS to the forefront of learning leadership. In addition to these actions, Dan championed the introduction of the TELUS Leadership Philosophy (TLP), an open and collaborative-based leadership framework for all TELUS team members.

Dan is a passionate leader in the learning and collaboration space and is uniquely skilled to ensure an organization can move from traditional models to those that embrace continuous, connected and collaborative frameworks.

I send my Thank-you to Dan for kindly providing agreement to post this article on my blog. I appreciate the opportunity to up the content quality!
I have followed Dan on Twitter (@dpontefract) from the time I was gathering information for: A Social Media Primer: The Starter Guide For People In Organizations. At that time (February 2010-March 2011) there were very few people leading the way in ‘social’ from an organizational perspective. Dan Pontefract was quoted in the few resources available, in a way that anyone responsible for leading change, learning and communications in an organization could relate to.

Note: I originally received the post by an email subscription to Entreprise Collaborative. If you are interested in social learning and collaborative organizations this site has some thought provoking articles. www.entreprisecollaborative.com.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Who Are You?

In my work I often find an issue that crops up for people when they move outside their comfort zone and that is in being able to determine what you should adapt to and when you should choose to default to your personal style.

I have found myself in situations at times when a decision had to be made-do I bury who I am in order to meet someone else’s expectations, to avoid a penalty of some kind, or to gain a benefit of some kind?

This is different than meeting expectations of conducting oneself in a respectful manner or making a compromise to reach a workable solution to a problem. This is about who you are and when or if you should put aside an aspect of your personality for one of the reasons noted.

I have on a few occasions made the decision to ‘bury’ an aspect of who I am in order to meet someone else’s expectations and in two situations it turned out well and in three it did not. In the situations where it did not turn out well I was left with the task of figuring out how to improve my ability to make the best decision next time. When it did turn out well I still had a lingering feeling of unease, as if the positive outcome was earned at a price too high. More often I choose not to bury who I am and whether it turns out well or does not at the end of the day what does turn out well is that I feel positive about the outcome, regardless of what it is. And now, that is my decision every time.

What do you do when faced with such choices? Have you ever made a decision that turned out well and you were fine with it overall? Have you made a decision when it did not turn out well and how did you use that situation as a learning opportunity?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rejoice! Employee use of social networks has tripled!

Rejoice! Employee use of social networks has tripled!

I am sharing this article today ( a first for sharing via my blog rather than one of my other social sites) because I believe it is well written and very clear on the status of 'social' at work right now and provides some hints for the future. What is your current status regarding social business and where does your organization stand at this point in time?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Confident HR - Are You Ready?

Okay HR Professionals it is 2012 and way past the time when we should be 'wearing' our professional competencies with confidence. There are a mind numbing number of articles out there that question, criticize, blame, denigrate and disrespect HR -they don't even call out specific HR practitioners for less than stellar results but use HR as if every single HR practitioner and team out there is incompetent.

And what do HR practitioners do? You got it-agonize over it, discuss without resolution. For 2012 lets just put all that aside and focus on the great accomplishments that many, many HR professionals pull off every single day.

It is time to start a new conversation and move forward. Are you going to join in and start wearing your HR with confidence? Do you have some great stories to share about leadership in HR? I think you do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Performance Conundrum-Take Charge

As we begin a new year the articles and forum questions on performance at work begin to trickle through the various social streams yet most of these simply restate the same information over and over again. Yesterday I read an article that proposed to be offering a different perspective by giving advice to the employee as to how to prepare for a performance review. There were some good points offered, but it wasn’t new and simply reflected the advice often offered to managers on how to conduct performance reviews.

A performance review is a lagging indicator and at best it simply summarizes what was discussed throughout the year between the manager and the employee. There seems to be quite a bit of agreement that many people really don’t like performance reviews because they are poorly done and do not improve effectiveness. Which suggests it is time to ditch the idea of performance reviews as being anything more than a document that simply records a years worth of discussion. It is possible that ongoing performance discussions will only take place if you (the employee)-yes you-take charge. It is your career after all.

If your organization uses outdated and ineffective performance reviews then take charge of your own performance management.

Why wait for the year-end performance review to find out what your manager is thinking? Initiate ongoing conversations regarding your work throughout the year and journal those chats soon after so you can see patterns/trends in what you are hearing.

This is value added for a few reasons:

1) You are telling your manager you are committed to doing a good job and are looking for ways to improve. You also want to receive feedback on what you are doing well that you want to keep doing.

2) There will be less chance of surprises at the year end wrap review.

3) Course corrections in real time are far more effective; hearing in January that you have been doing "X" wrong all last year is not helpful and it will create new problems. Learning at your performance review meeting that if you "had only done Y" you would be in line for the promotion you have your eye on won't get you where you want to go either.

4) You will not waste time and energy dealing with unhappy news that is received too late and thus you will be able to focus on being innovative and on picking up new skills before they become skills that might derail you.And you will be able to correct erroneous assumptions about your work immediately.

As mentioned in my last post employee engagement is a hot topic these days and engagement demands ongoing communication that builds trust, openness and clarity. If your manager isn’t creating this type of culture then it is up to you to get started. It is your career, which is something that you spend a lot of time working on so it makes sense to initiate the communication you want to see in the organization you work for. Performance management may be your managers job but it is your responsibility and you have the biggest stake in how well you do.

One last thought-as the shift to social business escalates your participation and ability to initiate conversations will be a very valuable skill-your performance on the job is a good place to start developing this skill.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Customer + Employee Engagement The Whole Picture

Employee engagement and customer engagement are two very hot topics lately but oddly very few discussions tie the two together and yet, they are inextricably linked. Woven into all these discussions is the concept of trust, which makes sense as trust is a key requirement for engagement and to be successful in the emerging social business concept as a new way to operate.

Social Business is the best way available to discuss how organizations will have to adapt to reflect the changes that social technologies bring to every aspect of the workplace and the customer experience. While social business purports to require the breaking down of silos, increase the use of collaborative processes and most of all promote 'engagement' it is odd that the concept of engagement for customers and employees are discussed as stand alone ideas-as if they each belong in a silo or place of their own. Yet the customer experience will depend on the employee experience. It is not realistic to change the processes or tools used to engage customers while retaining current processes and tools to engage employees. Or for HR and Marketing to do their own thing as if employees are not connected to the customer experience.

Who Is Talking About Engagement in Your Organization?

So, why is HR talking endlessly about employee engagement and marketing is talking endlessly about customer engagement but they are not talking to each other? And let us not forget our IT colleagues who are dealing with all sorts of new challenges given the advent of "bring your own device" and security concerns and learning how to effectively integrate new social tools into existing structures with tight budgets.

Check in With IT

It seems to me that HR, Marketing and IT all have similar challenges with social business and that social business requires a fundamental shift in how we approach our work. And one key requirement to be successful in the social realm is the ability to work together, to collaborate on moving forward, and to show leadership in taking on these challenges before getting run over by the competition.

Remember The Butterfly Effect?

This concept is as true of any process or tool in an organization and a key message from the 'butterfly effect'. Wikipedia provides a more extensive explanation of this but in short it means: "In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before."

Worried About GroupThink?

An article by Susan Cain, NYT, (January 13, 2012) on "Groupthink" claims a negative stance on collaboration but like too many articles these days it uses "one person" as evidence to support their claim and weakens their argument by dismissing collaboration by presenting it as something that is replacing individual work wholesale which is not realistic and not considered to be the ultimate solution to anything. Collaboration is one tool that if used when and where it is most effective and applied appropriately (just like every tool or method in existence) can be very effective.

When the topic of discussion in your organization is engagement think of the experience for both customers and employees at the same time and see what happens.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Employer Wellness Programs-Great Stuff?

I mentioned December that I would post my 2012 predictions for HR soon but given the seemingly endless stream of such posts flitting by over the past 3 weeks it seemed to make sense to either wait until later or choose not to follow the path of so many others. So today will not be a prediction post as so much as already been said on that topic.

Oh, except a nod to an increased focus on "social" as an HR imperative-it is an opportunity for HR professionals that I predict will become a mandatory part of their work by mid-2013.

Today will be about the trend of introducing wellness programs into organizations, a little about why this is a good idea and some cautionary thoughts about remembering that we hire employees for the competencies they bring to their roles. There are laws designed to prevent discrimination in hiring that encompass health status so are some of these cost saving measures crossing a line?

There are certainly great reasons to encourage wellness practices among employees by providing information; supporting fitness activities and ensuring that food and beverage options offered in the workplace include foods that provide important nutrients. Employees that are meeting exercise and nutrition requirements needed to maintain a reasonably healthy lifestyle miss less time due to illness, have more energy to get through busy workdays and have lower health care costs.

Offering support for health related initiatives to employees is possible for any size organization regardless of budgetary considerations as there are many excellent resources and ideas available through links such as www.healthyworkplacemonth.ca/browse that are free. Organizations with more room in the budget for such initiatives can design very fancy programs that make it easier for employees to take advantage.

So, this is all great stuff right? Yes, everyone can gain benefits from focusing on wellness. Is there such a thing as too much and what implications does this have for privacy concerns and how far an employer should go in getting involved in employee wellness choices?

I have read several articles over the past year that provide details of wellness programs that offer incentives for people meeting certain criteria. For example they may offer discounts on health care premiums or cash back for meeting certain wellness goals. There are also stories of employees being fired because they smoke cigarettes off the job.

This raises questions and thoughts for me as to whether some of these practices violate a persons right to keep work and their private life separate. How far is reasonable?

1) Employees are required to submit personal health information that goes beyond a normal employer/employee relationship in order to earn the incentives thus ending confidentiality.

2) In the US HIPPA rulings allow companies to set certain goals to be met that can affect ones employment-not based on their ability to do their job but based on whether they meet specific health related goals. If you Google “employee fired for smoking tobacco” you will find several articles in which employees were fired for smoking – not at the workplace-but in their private life. Smoking tobacco is a legal activity although there are more and more restrictions on where one can smoke doing so in your own home is legal. While I would love it if I could go anywhere and not encounter cigarette smoke I do not want someone to lose their job because they smoke outside of the workplace.

3) It may create instances of unintentional discrimination. Some illnesses are largely thought to be lifestyle based only-in other words if you get lung cancer or Type II Diabetes it is your own fault for smoking or not eating or exercising enough. But both those illnesses can occur in people that never smoke, exercise regularly and eat a well-balanced healthy diet. There are underlying genetic components to many illnesses and while a healthy lifestyle may keep the illness at bay for a longer period of time it is not a guarantee that a person will not be diagnosed at some point with one of these illnesses.

It is easy to understand why employers see wellness based programs as a positive for several reasons but I believe that it is important to be sure that these programs do not cross a line that creates unreasonable barriers to competent employees.