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.