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    HR Happy Hour - With some Special Guests

    So last night Mark Stelzner tweets:


    As I tend to agree with the sentiment in Mark's tweet, I offered this reply:


    After a quick convo on Twitter where Mark agreed to call in, and a hasty round of promotion and soliciting other callers, about 25 minutes later we went live on my Blog Talk Radio show, (the one I normally use to record interviews for my HR Technology Class).

    It was a blast!  By my reckoning the following folks were live and participating on the call at one time or another:

    Mark Stelzer, Charee Klimek , Shauna Moerke (you may know her as the HR Minion), Sharlyn Lauby (the HR Bartender), Joyce Chastain, Becky Allen, Michele Wagner, Susan Burns, and Michael Krupa.

    Since the call was not planned, scripted, or rehearsed in any way, the conversation was pretty free-flowing and ventured into many topics: what is happening with JobAngels, an update of the upcoming Social Recruiting Summit in June, and some interesting discussions about employer branding from Charee and a great story from Shauna about 'coming out of the blogging closet'.

    You can listen to the 'Happy Hour' here:

    I really had fun doing this, and if there is interest from the HR community to do more of these, I am certainly happy to organize and host.  Hit me up in the comments, or sent me a Tweet.

    Thanks so much for everyone that called in, and anyone who listened live to the show.


    Have an Idea?

    One of the benefits of writing an HR Technology blog is that from time to time I get alerted to new products in the HR Technology space.  Recently I heard about, and had the chance to try out Kindling, an online solution for capturing employee ideas or suggestions, a mechanism for other employees to vote up or down submitted ideas, an approval process for ideas, and finally a way to allow employees to 'volunteer' to work on approved ideas.

    I took Kindling for a quick test drive, assisted by Ben Eubanks from the Upstart HR blog, (thanks Ben for helping out).

    Step 1 - Submit an Idea

    The first step in the process of for an employee to submit an idea. The process is incredibly simple, they enter a title, description, tags, and optionally an attached file to their idea.

    Other employees can also add comments and questions to ideas, so a conversation and dialogue can form around any individual idea.

    Step 2 - Vote on your favorite ideas

    Once some ideas get submitted, each employee is allotted 10 'Votes' to indicate which ideas they like. Votes can be all allocated to one or two ideas, or they can be spread around many ideas. But an employee can only use 10 'votes' at any one time, once an idea is approved or rejected, they can 're-claim' any voted used on those ideas. 

    It is a simple concept really, ideas that receive the most employee votes are popular, and potentially deserve some managerial review for possible implementation.

    Step 3 - Approve ideas

    Once ideas are submitted and voted upon, the system administrator can 'Approve' or 'Reject' the ideas.  Once an idea is approved or rejected the votes for those items are released back to the employees and can be re-used on new ideas.

    Step 4 - Make it happen

    The last step in the Kindling process is for an employee to 'volunteer' to make an idea 'happen'.  This can mean different things to your organization, but essentially the idea is 'assigned' to the volunteer as this point.


    Kindling offers three subscription levels, $49/month for up to 40 users, $99/month for up to 100 users, and an 'Enterprise' level that has negotiated pricing for more that 100 users. All plans offer a 30-day free trial. Some additional features that are offered are e-mail digests of idea related activity, RSS feeds, and simple usage reports. 'Enterprise' users can also map a custom domain and implement custom skins for integration with a corporate look and feel.

    Value Proposition

    Kindling offers a tight set of functionalities in a clean, simple, and easy to use manner. Capturing employee ideas for new products/services, for improvements on existing processes, or for ways to cut costs or improve productivity are all potential uses of an idea platform.  The additional features of employee voting and commenting on ideas helps to foster a sense of inclusion and openness.  Basically, platforms like Kindling provide a modern and enhanced view of the old company 'suggestion box'.  If your organization is interested in trying to more effectively harness the ideas in the workforce, and to give your people more of a voice and a view into decision making, then Kindling may be worth a try.


    Innovation in the Classroom

    This week I have the opportunity to participate and present at two sessions at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Faculty Institute on Teaching and Learning (FITL).

    FITL is an annual two-day conference, where faculty members at RIT present to other RIT faculty (and this year to selected faculty from Nazareth College, SUNY Geneseo, Syracuse and other local colleges) on new research and the application of technology in the teaching process, while recognizing, sharing and celebrating teaching excellence at RIT.

    On Wednesday, May 27 I will be participating in a panel discussion, ‘Using a Wiki in Your Online, Blended or Campus Course: RIT Faculty Explain Why, When and How’.

    Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge proponent of wikis for use as a teaching and learning tool, and have made extensive use of the technology in my recent classes. In this panel, I along with three other RIT faculty members will discuss how wikis were used in our classes, offer some advice and recommendations for introducing wikis into a class, and finally do a brief demonstration of the wikis that were used in our recent classes.

    As my last class did so many fantastic things in the wiki, I am really looking forward to the chance to ‘show-off’ their work a bit to a larger audience.

    Then on Thursday, May 28 I will be co-presenting and facilitating a session titled, ‘Fostering Innovation at RIT: Best Practice Tools and Techniques’ with RIT Professor Donna Dickson.

    This session reviews some leading theories on innovation, introduces some strategies and approaches that faculty may introduce to encourage increased student innovation, and finally discusses some specific tactics and methods that I personally have used in my classes to try and encourage more innovative practices.

    My part of the session is mostly about the various ‘community outreach’ efforts that I have employed, facilitated certainly by use of social media (this blog, Twitter, SlideShare, etc.), to expand the depth and breadth of the course content. Some of the specific aspects I will discuss are my partnerships with the HR Technology vendor community, (SpectrumHR, Halogen, Tomoye), my use of this blog, and finally a bit on the vibrant community of HR and HR Technology professionals on Twitter that I have been able to ‘tap' for advice, support, and expertise that have all directly improved my knowledge, and the quality of the HR Technology course.

    It should be a fun two days, and I am interested in seeing how the audience of faculty takes to some of the more unorthodox approaches that I have used in class. Hopefully, I can win some more ‘converts’ to the cause of technology, community participation, and transparency.


    Memorial Day

    Buddy Poppy (105/365)
    Originally uploaded by kimberlyfaye

    As those of us in the United States get ready to start the long Memorial Day weekend, I want to pay my respects to the honored fallen men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Those who have worn the uniform of the nation, placed themselves in the line of fire, and sadly did not return are owed our deep admiration and gratitude.

    The sentiment was never better expressed than by Abraham Lincoln, in November 1863 during a ceremony dedicating a cemetery near the site of an American Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, PA.. A portion of that speech, more famously known as the Gettysburg Address:

    "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

    I will be doing all the classic Memorial Day things, baseball games, barbecue, etc. But I will take some time to remember all the heroic men and women whose sacrifices have made these celebrations possible. And like Lincoln, I hope we never forget what they have done.

    Happy Memorial Day everyone.


    Trapped in a Box

    The company organization chart.

    Every company has one. There is an entire class of software applications to help companies generate them, (my favorite is OrgPublisher from Aquire), and maintaining them and making sure all the correct names are in the correct boxes and the lines are all connected properly can be a full-time job in larger organizations.

    In some organizations the chart is sort of a sacred document, informing managers and employees of crucial information like who is in charge of what, how many folks do job 'XYZ', and who might be the likely successors for a given person if they were to move to a different position, or leave the organization.

    But organization charts, can be limiting, and can effectively 'trap' individuals and teams by defining them in too Flickr - Stefannarrowly drawn roles. If the culture of the organization is not inherently 'open' or 'collaborative', then the chart is a tool that can also serve to maintain separation in the organization. If your position on the organization chart is Web Designer reporting to the Marketing team, then you do web design work for marketing, and may not typically get much exposure to the web designers that work on the company's internal sites or intranet, as the responsibility for those functions falls elsewhere in the organization.

    With the growing popularity and increase in the easy availability of tools and technologies to facilitate collaboration and communication, it seems very likely that many medium to large organizations have multiple, and isolated activities underway to explore and deploy these kinds of tools.

    A mid-sized organization that I am familiar with has at least four different wiki platforms deployed in various parts of the organization. These are all set up, maintained and administered locally, and some are successful and some are not. But even the successful ones do not really have much of a chance to impact or influence the broader organization, chiefly because of the culture and the strict adherence to the organization chart. The company does not have the ability to 'break free' from the constraints of the chart, and individual local administrators of these wikis are not allowed or encouraged to work with other parts of the organization to share information and potentially work towards developing a solution that may benefit the organization as a whole.

    It is actually very ironic that the recent availability and relative ease of adoption of tools to promote collaboration are bringing to light the lack of collaboration across this organization.

    The number of tools for collaboration and communication are growing everyday, but if the organization still clings to the org chart, like construction crews cling to blueprints when erecting a building, then in many cases the full potential of these tools will never be realized.