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    Wednesday
    Aug112010

    Disconnect

    This diagram from the xkcd.com blog about the disconnect between what features and information are prominently displayed on many University websites and what visitors to the site are actually looking for is quite amusing, and likely pretty accurate:

    I think the general premise of the chart could also fit many of the workforce systems organizations deploy, and even many of the interactions managers and leaders have with their teams.

    Just a few that come to mind - 

    Company intranet or employee portal - How prominently is the Payroll schedule displayed?  You know everyone cares about that. What about the holiday calendar?  The menu in the company cafeteria?  I bet these are some of the most popular and searched for items on the portal, make them easy to find.

    Corporate job site - Is the 'apply now' or 'send your resume' button or link clearly featured?  Or is it effectively buried by that super awesome video of your CEO in a shirt and tie (no jacket because he is sending off a 'hip' vibe) about how fantastic it is to work at your company.  

    Quarterly senior management 'all hands' meeting - Are we all still on track to get our bonuses?  Can we work half days on Fridays during the summer?  Sure, go over the financials, but once the company gets to a certain size, recitation of financials often devolves into an arcane review of accounting acronyms like EBIDTA.  Talk bonuses, raises, is the company holiday party still on?

    What else?  Where else is there a disconnect between the information that you want to provide, and what the intended recipients really want to receive?

    Probably 85% of the conversations with my 9 year old, but that is another story entirely.

    Tuesday
    Aug102010

    Resigning in protest

    The story of the Jet Blue Flight Attendant that resigned from his position as the great Marv Albert would describe - In dramatic fashion, has been all over the news the last two days.  Cursing out a plane full of passengers, activating the emergency slides, grabbing a couple of beers, and making a run for it makes for a fantastic story.

    Lots of folks have fantasized about marching in to the boss' office and firing off a pointed screed or diatribe and proudly walking out into a glorious future of happiness and success (or in the case of our friend from Jet Blue, possible jail time).

    Sure, the flight attendant was fed up, had to deal with what sounds like an incredibly annoying and entitled passenger, took a shot to the head from said passenger's luggage, and seemingly just snapped. It happens.  Usually not as cool and newsworthy as this episode, but it happens.  People get fed up and quit their jobs every day.

    But I wonder about  other scenarios that might make employees resign in protest.  These could be sub-standard working conditions, a hostile work environment, or even inept management.  

    I mean really inept.  

    The kind of management that would welcome back to the organization a notorious ex-employee.  A person in whose tenure as a high ranking and highly paid member of upper management left a history of failure, poor leadership, shattered public relations, and just for good measure was sued by another former employee for sexual harassment, dragging the organization through a public and embarrassing court case.

    This just in - The New York Knicks to bring Isiah Thomas back to the organization as a consultant.

    Yes, the Isiah Thomas that in four plus years as Knicks GM and Coach led the team to exactly one playoff appearance and made a series of colossally bad personnel decisions resulting in the team being burdened with a slew of bad contracts for under performing and below average talent.

    And did I mention the sexual harassment lawsuit?  Ok, just checking.

    If you were an employee of the Knicks, and your leadership openly welcomed Thomas back into the fold after his legacy of failure and embarrassing behavior what would you think?  Could you take it any longer? Would you feel compelled to head for the emergency exit, grab a beer, pull the slide, and make a run for it?

    Could your management make such a colossally bad hire that it would make you resign in protest?

     

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    Footnote - apparently there is no truth to the rumor that Knicks owner Jim Dolan is looking to bring in Mark Hurd to get the back office operations in shape.

     

    Monday
    Aug092010

    Have a better idea?

    Over the weekend I read an interesting post on the User Interface Engineering blog titled 'Please, let me redesign your airline for you' that chronicles some well-known, (and some lesser-known), attempts by unaffiliated designers to suggest improvements to American Airlines' website, Delta Airlines boarding cards, and the main portal page for Delta's Sky Club. Redesigned Delta Sky Club Portal by Zach Evans

    In all cases these re-designs and suggestions for improvement to existing systems and processes were unsolicited by the airlines that 'own' them, but were put forth by customers, the true end users of these tools and products.  In some cases, the designers are extremely dedicated and loyal customers, and by offering up their talents and time to contribute these ideas and improvements, they are almost begging American and Delta to please improve the user and customer experiences to a level that is commensurate with the dedication and loyalty they have demonstrated over the years.

    Sure, the AA home page and the Delta boarding card as they currently exist probably do need an upgrade. And yes, as is noted in some of the comments on the UIE blog it is pretty easy for any designer to slap together a mock up for a new web page or to offer up an improved user portal design without having to consider any of the real and practical restraints that the actual designers and administrators of these systems simply have to contend with.

    But the fact that these redesigns were developed independently and offered up to the organizations freely indicates three things about the current situation with these systems:

    1. There are passionate and loyal customers

    2. The systems themselves are lacking in some important ways

    3. There are many users able and willing to offer improvements and new ideas

    Loyal customers, systems that are lacking somehow, and a population of users some of which able and willing to assist, especially since as frequent, even constant users of the systems and processes can likely tell you exactly what is working and what can use some rework.

    I think that the same can be said for many of the systems and processes that HR organizations present to their user communities.  

    The redesigns for the airline industry tools and sites tend to focus on making things simpler, identifying and presenting the most important information more plainly and clearly, and finally serving to make the actual business transaction better and more efficient.  No one buys a ticket on AA for their cool website, but they want the website to help make their ultimate goal, getting to their destination safely and on time, easier.

    I think the same could be said for most workforce technologies. They exist primarily to make employees and managers jobs easier, but often they get lost in a stew of features, links, and help text serving eventually to frustrate and confuse users.  I would bet that many of your employees and managers have some great ideas about how your systems could be redesigned to support them in their jobs more effectively.

    That's my challenge for you today - ask one employee or one manager how they would change one of the key workforce systems that they use every day.  You just may get an incredibly useful and powerful suggestion. 

     

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    Friday
    Aug062010

    The most useful social media site for business is...

    What is the most useful social media site for business purposes?

    LinkedIn?

    Twitter?

    Facebook?

    What about the less publicized but more widely utilized social network called 'None'?

    I was reading through the Rochester (NY) Business Journal print edition the other day, and I spotted the poll results that are in the image on the upper right.  Apologies for the poor quality, I could not locate the poll results online. 

    Essentially of the about 600 respondents to the poll, and for now lets assume most people reading and responding to a poll in a local business newspaper are professionally engaged, 62% felt that social media sites were either 'Not at all important' or 'Not very important' for them in their work or profession.  

    Pressed for more insight as to which social media site these professionals felt was 'most useful in your work or professionally', the leading choice was 'None' with 43%. LinkedIn as could be expected was the second choice at 37%, with Facebook and Twitter barely registering on the 'usefulness' radar.

    I really don't have any profound comments or conclusions to draw from a small poll of professionals, in a small city, from a business journal that I bet is only read by folks that live here. 

    Maybe it just sends a message that Rochester is in many ways an insular, kind of behind the times city. Perhaps the business community here is so small and tight-knit that traditional face to face, over the phone and/or email networking still predominates and is sufficient to help professionals meet their objectives.

    I am not really sure, but I just wonder if I need to set up a new profile on the 'None' network and make sure my latest posts, tweets, and bizarre articles I share in Google Reader make it over the the 43% of folks hanging out there.

    What it is like in your city?  Does the 'None' social network dominate as well?

     

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    Thursday
    Aug052010

    What do you hate the most about work?

    What do you hate the most about work in general, or your job in particular?

    The low pay?

    The crappy hour long commute to the office just to sit in a cube and spend all day communicating electronically with your colleagues, thinking all the while, 'I could have done all this sitting home in my PJs and saved two hours in the car'.

    The shaky bathroom habits of your co-workers?

    How about this one - the annual performance review?

    Yep, the annual performance review typically rates pretty high on the list of unpleasant activities that employees and managers have to endure.  We (mostly) hate them, we (generally) feel that they are a valuable and necessary activity to try and ensure employee efforts are aligned with overall organizational objectives, and that employees are provided the platform and opportunity to learn, develop, and simply become more engaged in the jobs and careeers.

    And (theoretically) we tie the outcomes of the annual performance review to some if not all compensation outcomes.  The whole 'pay for performance' idea, (I bet you have heard about it).

    But generally, despite the decades of managerial attention, scholarship, and execution, many if not most of us have come to the conclusion that 'performance reviews suck'.

    Tonight on the HR Happy Hour Show we are going to take on this topic head on, with two of the founders of an interesting and innovative technology company called Sonar6.  Sonar6 makes performance review and succession planning software that promises to help your organizations execute a performance management process that doesn't suck.

    How can technology impact the performance process in such a dramatic manner? How can a new and different approach turn 'suck' into 'fun'?

    How can a couple of guys from New Zealand make a big impact in the world of HR Technology?

    Tune in to the HR Happy Hour Show tonight, 8pm EDT, to talk with Sonar6 CEO John Holt and Co-founder Mike Carden and find out.  Better still, jump into the conversation by calling in at 646-378-1086.

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    Note : If you are not familiar with Sonar6, take a look at this 'Brief History of Sonar6' video:

    Thanks guys at Sonar6 for staying up late calling in from the future to join us on the show.