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    Tuesday
    Apr192011

    Everyone's a Trainer

    In the age of social networking, increased participation of wide segments of the workforce in the social conversation, and the ease with which any employee can share pretty much anything online about work, it has become more widely accepted that some traditionally centralized corporate roles are becoming more dispersed throughout the organization.

    Once employees start blogging, tweeting, engaging on LinkedIn or Facebook, whether or not in an 'official' or sanctioned capacity, then in some ways, they all become marketers, communications, Public Relations, and even Recruiting. In the recruiting space specifically, in the last few years a number of software solutions have hit the market, all designed around this new 'every employee is a recruiter' mindset to more effectively tap into the reach and power of employee networks for recruitment marketing and referral generation.

    If you are not familiar with these solutions, check out (among others), SelectMinds TalentVine, Jobvite, Work4Labs, MeshHire, or SocialBios. I know there are many more out there, if you care to, please share any additional solutions you like in the comments. But the larger point, beyond specific solutions or manifestations, is that the notion of 'we are all recruiters' seems less exotic and more mainstream all the time.

    Switch gears to another traditionally centralized corporate function that could also seemingly benefit from the same kind of 'dispersion of responsibility' we are starting to see in marketing and recruiting, namely the corporate training department. Despite the influence, or potential influence, of the same kinds of factors (better tools, social connectivity, willingness to share information and knowledge), the idea of 'we are all trainers', has not yet really resonated in most organizations.

    For the most part, even while training, (delivery, timing, methods), has changed significantly over the years, the responsibility for the creation, administration, and communication of 'training' in its various forms still is often the responsibility of a central training and development staff. And certainly this can be explained on one level - sending out a tweet or forwarding a link to an open position to a Facebook friend is not nearly as complex as generating and sharing more robust training material. And the tools for developing really informative and relevant training content are definitely not as easily accessible and as user friendly as public social networks, nor the new breed of social recruiting technologies like the ones listed above.

    Simply put, even in this socially connected, sharing inclined, more technically aware environment we operate in, the right tools for the simple and fast creation of organizational training content by people that are not training 'experts' have been few and far between.  Mostly if you had an idea for some training content, or wanted to develop a new course or module, you contacted the training department, let them know what you were after, and left them (the experts), to build or procure what they thought you needed.

    But as sure as social sharing and networking is changing recruiting, a new tool called MindFlash is hoping to have a similar, sort of revolutionary effect on corporate training. The basic premise of MindFlash is to provide a simple, cloud-based environment that will allow anyone in the organization the opportunity to sign up for the service, configure a course, and invite their first student in 15 minutes or less.

    There are more advanced features like the ability to add quizes, embed video, and track who's taken a course, but the ability to quickly and easily tap into organizational subject matter experts to generate 'courses' at the new speed of business is the compelling feature here.

    It seems reasonable to think that with the availability and ease of use of a tool like MindFlash, that early adopters will see training start to bleed out of centralized training departments and become the responsibility of all employees. And 'training' itself will also likely change, from more traditional and long blocks of content (hours, even days), to more targeted, quick hitting, and timely bits of content, shared and developed not necessarily by training 'experts' but by the true subject matter experts.

    What do you think? Would making the ability to develop and offer training as a more flexible, rapid, and distributed function help your organization?

    Note: MindFlash has a number of licensing options, from a 'Lite' free version, and scaling up to 'Enterprise' levels of up to 1,000 trainees for $999/month. All plans come with a 30-day free trial.

    Monday
    Apr182011

    Designed Here, Made Somewhere Else

    Sunday morning should be left to more interesting pursuits, but on another cold, windy day more like late November than mid-April, a portion of my Sunday was spent watching a C-SPAN2 talk recorded in February by Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical and author of the recent book - ‘Make It In America: The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy’.

    The book (which I have not read yet, but will definitely pick up), focuses on the importance of the manufacturing sector, particularly the advanced high-tech manufacturing industries, to the short and long-term American economic prosperity. Liveris contends that manufacturing creates sustainable, and consistent value at a scale far surpassing most service industries, and that American institutions can’t simply be satisfied to cede the actual manufacturing of new and innovative advanced technologies to places like China and India.

    The part of the talk that intrigued me the most was when Mr. Liveris discussed the common hypothesis that blames the relatively high labor costs in the United States for the continued flight of not only less complex manufacturing like clothing and textiles,  but also the more advanced technologies like smartphones and solar panels.

    Why thesis is wrong, or at least incomplete, is that it fails to account for the success in advanced manufacturing of other high labor cost countries like Germany, and it also ignores the significant structural issues in the American economy, (lack of coherent energy policy, widely differing state by state requirements, educational reforms that fail to materialize, etc.), that also contribute to individual firms’ decisions to move high value-add processes and manufacturing operations to foreign soil.

    Apple is famous for the disclaimer is places on many (all?), of its products - ‘Designed by Apple in California, assembled in China’. While most of us read this statement and reflexively conclude that the ‘hard’ or ‘modern’ or ‘innovative’ aspects of the creation of say, the iPad, are still performed here in American, and that we should not be too concerned that the relatively less complex (and interesting), and more mundane assembly tasks are farmed out to what are certainly lower cost countries. Liveris wants us to think about this statement differently, for in his view shifting advanced assembly to China (or any other place really, but China is the one country he feels high-tech manufacturers should fear the most), is just the first step in a industrial capability evolution that only starts with contract assembly.

    Assembly leads to invention.  In other words, shifting assembly overseas leads to the development of local manufacturing plants to make product components, which are then developed and refined to integrate into more complex systems and products.  Finally countries like China then build Research & Development centers and innovation hubs to better align the ‘design’ effort with the manufacturing effort. Essentially, when manufacturing of high-tech goes elsewhere, R&D will follow, and innovation will follow.

    As Mr. Liveris wrapped up his talk, which was recorded at the Wharton Business School, a place well-known for feeding the major business consultancies and financial services companies with a steady supply of new recruits, he questioned, (and really sort of lamented), the shifts in the American business psyche that have come to place such an enormous premium on the allocation of capital, and the financial services industry that acts as the ‘middle-man’, in brokering the distribution of capital from those that have it, to those who seek it. As Mr. Liveris observed, certainly in advanced manufacturing industries, as both ends of the transaction come to be dominated by foreign interests, that leaves only the ‘broker’ role left to fill here in the USA.

    And while he acknowledged the need for the financial services role, he challenged the Wharton students in the audience to think of manufacturing, and it’s associated design, development, and tangible benefits as an equally important, and certainly more noble set of pursuits than the Wall St. path. Sure, as Wharton grads you’ll likely make a lot of money, but as the middle man you’ll only serve the owners of capital, and eventually, just like iPads are ‘assembled in China’, eventually the services you offer will likely follow.

    What do you think? If you are American, does ‘Designed in California, Assembled in China’ make you concerned?

    Should it?

     

    Friday
    Apr152011

    HRevolution Sponsor Spotlight - Monster.com

    The 3rd iteration of the HRevolution Conference for Human Resources professionals is coming up in just two short weeks, April 29-30, 2011 to be precise.

    This event is pretty special to me, as one of the event organizers, and to the small, but extremely tight-knit community of HR professionals that support, attend, and present at the event each year. HRevolution in some ways is a high-point in many of our busy professional schedules. There are lots of HR events to attend, but none are quite like the HRevolution. We will not have a giant expo hall, booths full of swag, and a series of presentations put on by consultants and lawyers. You'll get no strategic credits here.

    If those things are what you are after, there are plenty of opportunities for that elsewhere.

    It is a kind of unique, almost 'family' vibe, and truly the people that give up their personal time, and reach into their own pockets to attend, are a special group.

    But this event would not be possible, at least not in the form that it currently enjoys, without the consistent and generous support of a very small, but very important set of corporate sponsors. And across all three HRevolution events, one sponsor that has been there since the beginning, and demonstrated a consistent and genuine concern, interest, and fantastic amount of support in what the HRevolution events are trying to achieve, has been our friends at Monster.com.Monster.com Mobile Apps

    The relationship between HRevolution and Monster.com is a pretty special one. For the biggest, most long-lived, most widely-known career site in the United States to get behind a small, grass-roots event like HRevolution is a testament to Monster's commitment to the practice of Human Resources and Recruiting, and more importantly, to their respect and commitment to the  practitioners of Human Resources and Recruiting. 

    And that is pretty cool.

    So while you don't need me to tell you about Monster's services for employers, or that thousands of candidate resumes and open positions are loaded to the site every day, or that Monster has continued to push the envelope on the development of advanced technologies for Human Resources, or has embraced the mobile and tablet age, and has created new and exciting Job distribution and advertising platforms; you might not have been fully aware of the level and commitment the organization at Monster, (and truly, the people of Monster), have shown to their core constituents. These are the front-line, in the tenches, passionate and dedicated HR and Recruiting professionals that make up the HRevolution attendees.

    On behalf of the HRevolution organizers, and the professionals that will be attending in Atlanta in two weeks, many thanks to the team at Monster - it is fully accurate to say there would not be an HRevolution without you.

    See you in Atlanta!


    Note: For more on the possibilities of the evolving world of work, visit Monster’s Thought Leadership Blog,www.monsterthinking.com.  For more Monster Thinking, follow @monster_works and @monsterww on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

    Thursday
    Apr142011

    Do Bad Reviews Really Drive Away Candidates?

    Some background from the Digital Marketing blog Econsultancy.com:

    Between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service, according to a Lightspeed Research study.

    Here is the chart from the research report that reflects this conclusion:

    In the consumer and retail world these days pretty much no matter what the purchase situation - big ticket items like cars or consumer electronics, or even less costly and more ethereal kinds of buying decisions like, 'Where should we have dinner in St. Louis?'; it seems like the majority of folks spend some time online,either on commercial websites, crowdsourced review or rating communities, or on social networks before making the decision on where to spend their time and money.

    And we see from the results of surveys like the one referenced in the Econsultancy piece, from anecdotal evidence and observations, and from just examining our own behaviors we know this to be true. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant without checking out the website, or seeing if there were any reviews on Yelp?

    In the consumer space the potential detrimental effects of a negative review on sales, market share, and reputation are increasingly seen by marketers and brand managers as very real and relevant. Sure, there remains and will continue to be differing opinions as the correct strategy that consumer brands should adopt in response to these negative reviews, but there no longer is much serious discussion that they do have an impact at some level on the brand. The Lightspeed survey that is the subject of the Econsultancy piece takes this realization a step further by quantifying the impact of these negative reviews on purchase decisions. Which is pretty neat.

    Let's spin this forward to the workplace, and specifically to the recruiting/employer branding space. It has become pretty much accepted that similar to the consumer market, that organizations not only need to carefully monitor their employer brand, and be mindful and aware of negative mentions and reviews of things like the application experience, the work environment, and the organization's reputation as a good or bad place to work on sites like Glassdoor and on social networks, that they may also need to take positive steps to ensure their messages about the unique employer value proposition are being clearly communicated.

    What seems to be missing though, in the organizational employer branding space, is a better understanding of the specific impact that both negative and positive reviews or mentions have on the potential candidates attitudes towards the organization, and ultimately their willingness to apply for positions.

    At the recent HR Executive Forum in New York City, several senior Human Resources leaders from some of the largest companies in the country talked about their companies and their CEO's reviews on Glassdoor.com. Quite frankly I was surprised how much this rating and information site had caught the attention of these HR executives. But while they were all aware of the content that had been posted on the site about their organizations, none seemed to offer any real understanding of just what, if any, real impact the information on Glassdoor had on things like applicant numbers, quality of applicants, and lasting impact to their ability to attract the talent they are seeking.

    It is obvious that bad reviews of the organization as a place to work are, well, bad. But just how bad? When and how should HR and recruiting organizations respond?

    How many bad reviews on Glassdoor or digs on Twitter add up to a meaningful and harmful impact?

    Is there any way to know? I'd be curious to hear if anyone is aware of any data on the recruiting side similar to the consumer data referenced in the Econsultancy piece.

     

    Wednesday
    Apr132011

    Limitations, Assumptions, and Brain-Control

    Yesterday the MIT Technology Review had a piece about a new breakthrough technology that supports a type of 'brain-control' interface allowing users to dial the numbers on a cell phone simply by thinking of them.Credit - University of California, San Diego

    From the MIT Technology Review piece:

    'Researchers in California have created a way to place a call on a cell phone using just your thoughts. Their new brain-computer interface is almost 100 percent accurate for most people after only a brief training period.

    Like many other such interfaces, Jung's system relies on electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes on the scalp to analyze electrical activity in the brain. An EEG headband is hooked up to a Bluetooth module that wirelessly sends the signals to a Nokia N73 cell phone, which uses algorithms to process the signals.'

    The system has obvious benefits to people with disabilities, that for whom even dialing the numbers on a common cell phone can be an extremely difficult challenge.  Once this type of technology is enhanced and improved, one can envision the 'mind-control' interface evolving beyond the relatively simple act of dialing a phone number, to more complex computer interactions (sending short text messages, clicking buttons, searching for content, etc.).

    But beyond the obvious cool factor of computers and smartphones reacting to our thoughts, I think this story is a reminder for any of us that design and deploy systems in our organizations, or are tasked with creating effective and important communications and messaging. The audiences that we are trying to reach all have their own set of challenges, that often causes friction in their acceptance of our new systems, or that curtails their willingness and capacity to absorb our messages.

    Mostly we realize these challenges and limitations exist. But we also assume that our position in the organization will make whatever we are doing seem important enought that employees will simply have to get over their problems and deal with it.

    We create the standard and necessary communication messages to distribute to all employees and in the next breath say 'But we know no one pays attention to these emails'. We litter the screens of our online Employee Self-Service systems with help text and links to dense 27-page User Guides, with the full realization that busy managers and employees don't want to be bothered to read them. Our IT departments support corporate BlackBerry and lately iPhone and iPad, but almost none of the HR-related interaction (messaging, training material, access to HR systems and information), are available on these mobile platforms.

    So employees continue to ignore messages, work around the set of systems and processes we have installed, or require what we interpret as irrationally high demands for support to use systems that we think should be simple, intuitive, and frictionless.

    But often we fail to see our end of the problem in these situations. It would be, as in the example of the mind-control cell phone, if the cell phone manufacturer blamed disabled people for their inability to make a simple phone call.

    So today I am thinking about the tools I have deployed, and the communications that surround them, and considering whether or not I have done the equivalent of handing a cell phone over to someone without the ability to dial.

    But until I can deploy systems in the enterprise that operate on 'mind-control', I think, as you may agree, we have a longer and tougher road to go.