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    Friday
    Apr222011

    HRevolution Sponsor Spotlight - PeopleMatter

    Note - The third HRevolution Event for Human Resources professionals will take place April 29, 30 in Atlanta, Georgia. This post continues a series where we recognize and thank the generous sponsors that make the HRevolution event possible.

    PeopleMatter provides talent management software for the service industry. PeopleMatter's software tools help their customers in the service industries like hospitality, convenience stores, restaurants, and grocery stores to manage the processes for hiringscheduling and engaging their talent - all from a single, integrated platform.

    I first met Nate DaPore, CEO of PeopleMatter at the HR Technology Conference last fall.  Nate, along with his colleague Charles Wyke-Smith were kind enough to take some time to talk with me about PeopleMatter's Talent Management solutions, and to review some of their ideas and vision for the HR technology space, and more specifically, where they felt PeopleMatter could continue to innovate to deliver leading-edge talent management solutions for their customers.

    PeopleMatter focuses squarely on developing solutions to meet the need of the service organizations; the type of customers that have significant talent management challenges. Traditionally high turnover, seasonal swings in talent and staffing requirements, the need to quickly and efficiently onboard high volumes of new staff, while simultaneously meeting myriad regulatory and legislative requirements for filing and reporting. Anyone that has tried to work in HR in these kinds of environments will attest to these conundrums.

    Think about the importance of talent management to service providers like restaurants or hotels - their employees are face-to-face every single day interacting with customers, customers that often have lots of choices about where to spend their time and money. For service providers, having the 'right' employee, properly trained, and engaged enough to deliver superior customer service, can make or break the customer experience. And in the age of social media, we all know what one bad customer service experience can do to a brand. One tweet, one YouTube video, one ranty blog post and boom - years of hard work and accumulated capital and goodwill gone. PeopleMatter helps their customers better manage this challenge and uncertainty with their suite of integrated tools for hiring, onboarding, and engaging staff.

    Nate DaPore, CEO of PeopleMatter will be attending and presenting at HRevolution next week, and if you are attending, be sure to connect with Nate. He is a super guy and has some great ideas about how to improve the talent management space that just might make that next trip to Starbucks or 7-Eleven a better one.

    Thanks Nate, and to the team at PeopleMatter for your support of the HRevolution 2011!

    Connect with PeopleMatter on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

     

    Thursday
    Apr212011

    Freedom of Choice in Workplace Technology

    There is a growing technology trend in workplaces both large and small called 'Bring Your Own Device', sometimes abbreviated as BYOD. Bring Your Own Device simply means that organizational IT departments are allowing individual employees to use their personal or preferred 'devices', (smartphones, tablets, laptops), to access the corporate systems and tools they need to accomplish their work.

    BYOD, while certainly more complex for centralized IT teams to support and administer, is an admission and realization that often an individual's attachment and bond to their personal productivity tools is so powerful, that forcing them to adapt and adopt to the corporate footprint is counter-productive and even deflating.  Think about it, if you hire a new sales executive, that has years of his or her industry and corporate contacts resident on their iPhone, or saved to a cloud-based service they access via an Android app, does it really make sense to hand them a new BlackBerry and tell them to 'deal with it, because that is what we support.'

    Proponents of BYOD will contend that allowing employees to bring their own devices can reduce training costs as well as the amount of IT support calls on an ongoing basis. Despite supporting 'more' devices, the argument is that each employee already knows how t use and manage their preferred device. As in the example of the new sales rep above, not having to transition from a device and set of tools to a new 'official' platform, can make employees more productive, and reduce time to achieve desired performance levels. Finally, they make employees happier. People LOVE their iPhones, Androids, iPads, whatever. Making them break those ties when they come to the office is painful for many.

    The arguments against BYOD typically center around data security, lack of resources to deploy and support a myriad of devices and platforms, and cultural drivers that tend to resist the kind of openness and freedom that BYOD programs foster.  But it does seem likely that as we see the major shift in consumer preferences towards iPhones, iPads, and Android devices; and away from the traditional enterprise deployments of BlackBerries and Microsoft-based PCs, that progressive organizations and IT leaders will simply have to embrace these shifts, and figure out a way to support what their employees really want, while balancing their need to maintain IP and data security.

    Recently Clorox, an 8,300 person strong maker of consumer cleaning products adopted a kind of modified BYOD program, by offering its workers a choice of corporate-supported smartphone. Previously, BlackBerry had been the corporate standard. Workers could choose from iPhone, Android, or a Windows7 device. The result - "the company has issued 2,000 smartphones, 92% of which are iPhones. About 6% of the smartphones chosen were Android-based while 2% were Windows Phone 7 devices."

    This isn't a knock on BlackBerry, I personally am a happy BlackBerry user, but rather an observation that prior to having a choice of device, almost all of the employees at Clorox were not happy with the 'provided' device, and given the opportunity to move to something more aligned with their preferences, they jumped at the chance. Clorox didn't make this decision to be nice or kind to staff, they balanced the value of the increased effectiveness and engagement of staff against the cost to procure and support the suite of devices and have determined that rather than being a perk to employees, it is simply just a good business decision.

    I think we will see more BYOD programs taking hold in the coming years as new entrants to the workforce carry in their tools and preferences and expect them to be supported in the workplace.

    I wonder if the next trend might be BYOHRT, Bring your own HR Technology? What might that look like?

    Wednesday
    Apr202011

    Looking for the positive, (and Phil Collins songs)

    The crew over at Sonar6, a Human Resources Technology solutions provider, have released a new 'color paper', (kind of like a whitepaper, but in color, and way more fun to read), called '(you've got to) accentuate the positive'. This color paper is all about how as managers, and as humans, we tend to focus on the negative. We have performance conversations with employees that fixate on the one or two 'problems', while ignoring, or at least de-emphasizing the areas in which the employee excels.Phil Collins

    And for the employee, this overweighed attention to the negative aspects of their performance can leave them frustrated, de-motivated, and perhaps even doubting their own ability and value as a member of the team.  The need to look for the positive and to end any performance related coaching conversation by 'closing upbeat' was also one of the themes in a webcast I participated in last week with Mike Carden from Sonar6 and Kris Dunn from Kinetix.

    In the webcast Kris indicated a 3 to 1 ratio of positive feedback to negative (but constructive) feedback was probably the sweet spot for coaching team members whose overall performance was generally solid, but from time to time may need a tweak or a nudge to correct a behavior once in a while. Your mileage may vary, but I think most of us would admit, a relentless focus on what we are doing wrong, and why we stink, eventually drives us to the point where we would either shut down, rebel, of simply walk away.

    So why was Phil Collins mentioned in the post title?

    I recently came across an article (apologies but link to the original post is now dead), in which the author had a kind of litmus-test question he asked of people he met, that he might work with, or perhaps even hire on to his team. He would ask them to list their Top 5 Phil Collins songs. The idea being that Phil Collins has a large and wide enough catalog that just about anyone should be able to find at least something positive in what is considered by some a morass of negative.

    This question, while certainly not scientific, provides some insight into the way a person thinks. Can they really find something to like, to single out for praise, and are they generally inclined to see things and situations in that manner. It stands to reason if you believe that in performance coaching in the workplace, that finding and accentuating the positive aspects of a team member's performance is one of the keys to making lasting improvements, then you had better have managers that can actually find the positives, even, as in the case of the Phil Collins catalog, they can be hard to uncover.

    What do you think? Would you ask a managerial candidate to name their Top 5 Phil Collins songs?

    What's your Top 5?

    1. Easy Lover

    2. Sussudio

    3. Fill in the rest in the comments...

    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?