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    Monday
    Aug032009

    HR and the Mini

    Am I crazy or does it seems that there are way more Mini drivers (no not her)

    Minnie Driver

    I am talking about this Mini:

    Mini Cooper S

    among Human Resources professionals that anywhere else you look?

    From a series of Tweets last week, and from some talk on last Friday's HR Happy Hour, I'd say the percentage of Mini owners in HR to be way higher than the general public.

    Does this mean anything at all?  Why do you think Human Resources types seem to gravitate to this car?

    Do other discipines have their own preferred car?

    Was I out of ideas for a blog post?

    Let me know, do you drive a Mini and have you noticed that many of your HR colleagues do as well?

     

     

    Friday
    Jul312009

    HR Happy Hour - Episode 6 - Viva la Revolution!

    Shauna Moerke, the HR Minion and I are back with the latest Episode of the HR Happy Hour show on Blog Talk Radio, tonight, Friday July 31 at 8PM EDT, 5PM PDT.

    Here is what is coming up on the the HR Happy Hour:

    Episode 6 - July 31, 2009 - 8 PM EDT, 5 PM PDT  'The HRevolution' - An open forum to chat about ideas for the very first HR Blog Conference.  Where should the conference be held?  What topics and sessions are you interested in?  Would you actually attend?  Set to appear are conference founders Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks and more.

    A reminder, you can listen to the show live at the Blog Talk Radio page, you can use the widget embedded here, or you can use the listener line, 646-378-1086, to hear the show via the phone, and you can come on the air by calling in to that number and pressing '1' on your phone and I will get you on the air.

    I hope you can join Shauna and I for the show!

    Thursday
    Jul302009

    Shareflow - A new tool for collaboration

    So by now unless you have been under a rock for the last two months you have heard about Google Wave, the upcoming tool from Google that promises to radically change the way people collaborate by merging or mashing up content (web pages, images, documents, social networking, etc.).

    But Google Wave is several months away from launch, and if you are anxious to get a feel for a Wave-like experience, perhaps you should give Shareflow a try.

    What is it?

    Shareflow is a tool for collecting updates from team members and organizing them in a live stream, called a 'Flow' that similar to a Twitter stream or a Facebook page. Short updates, links, or attached files most typically sent via email are the types of updates that will be captured in a Flow.

    These Flows can be shared to unlimited participants by using a simple 'Invite' link, and once the new user follows the extremely simple registration process they can get straight to collaborating on the Flow.

    Also, since offering an alternative to email collaboration is a prime use case of Shareflow, each flow has a unique email address that Flow participants can use to forward or copy emails right in to the Flow.

     

    What's so cool about it?

    But where the tool shows its strength, and earns is comparisons with Wave, is when multiple participants in the Flow are collaborating in real-time. Keeping the flow open and 'live' so to speak lets you share information and comments with the other members of the flow in a neat, seamless manner.

    Folks can scroll down the Flow to see how information or concepts were developed.  While it does not offer the dynamic 'replay' capability that is promised in Google Wave, this ability to collect and make available the history of a stream is far superior to a typical email centric work process.

     

    The embedded Google Maps capability is really neat, simply type in an address, an the Flow auto-generates a Google Map on the spot.  Additionally, Sharefow provides RSS feeds of each flow, enabling easy subscription to flow changes and additions in a feed reader and sends an optional daily e-mail digest to Flow participants. Finally, in a really cool feature, Shareflow enables drag and drop from your computer right into the Flow, simply highlight some content with your mouse, and drag it into the Flow and it automatically creates a new 'item' in the Flow.

    Who can use this

    I see a few obvious use cases for Shareflow; a group of students collaborating on a research project could set up a Flow for all members to share articles, links, and other content as part of the data gathering process.  People trying to organize or plan an event could leverage the platform in this manner as well. Since the Flow 'owner' can invite anyone to participate in the flow, project teams can easily collaborate with customers, prospects, or contractors on projects, without having to grant access to all of their flows to external users. Even an individual gathering ideas for a blog post or article could easily set up a flow to capture notes, ideas, etc in a really easy, lightweight manner. Really any time a give and take, or a simple exchange of ideas and comments needs to happen, a Flow might be a great solution.

    How do I get started?

    Go to www.getshareflow.com and register. Shareflow offers a free plan that allows 5 active flows and up to 25MB of storage, and from there you can upgrade to paid plans ranging from $20-$80 monthly that both increase the number of flows you can create and upgrade the file storage limits.

    I encourage you to give Shareflow a try, if nothing else to get yourself just a taste of what working with Google Wave might be like in the future.

    Note : Thanks to Ben Eubanks from the UpstartHR blog who helped me do some testing and provided some good feedback on Shareflow.

     

    Tuesday
    Jul282009

    What's old is new again

    Over the past weekend I caught up on some reading I had been meaning to get to for some time, mostly research papers and some Academy of Human Resource Development journals for an upcoming article I am helping to write.  After making my way though an article or two, and checking some citations to dig deeper into some areas I found myself really amazed on the dates of publication on some of the most seminal works in the areas of what today would be considered 'social networking'.

    Some examples:

    The Strength of Weak Ties - Mark Granovetter's theory of how 'weak' or more casual relationships in a network are more effective at diffusing or spreading information across the entire organization, enterprise or society, the theory that essentially underpins much of the design philosophies of community building, corporate social networking, and social network analysis today was originally published in 1973.

    In that work, while asserting that in making important personal decisions most people do not rely on or act on recommendations delivered via forms of mass communication, unless these 'mass-media' recommendations are also reinforced by personal contacts, Granovetter cites the title Personal Influence by Katz and Lazarsfeld, published in 1955.

    Some of the positions advanced first in by Katz and Lazarsfeld in 1955 are often echoed in current articles and thinking around social media and social networking.  Engage customers on their terms, build a community for your fans and supporters, stop broadcasting your message in an impersonal format, people don't trust corporate marketing speak, etc. all have some basis in theory from Personal Influence.

    Lastly, in the past few weeks I noticed several excellent blog posts discussing 'Trust'. A few bloggers explored trust in the workplace and the importance of fostering trusting environments. See HR Bartender, the Compensation Cafe, and HR Observations, for some recent examinations on Trust in the workplace.

    After reading those posts, I thought about offering my take on how trust might impact knowledge sharing; particularly in the context of online collaboration and knowledge management tools. As more organizations seek to adopt these platforms, to take advantage of and to try to enhance the organizational social network, the idea of trust is critically important. 

    In this research, I stumbled upon an incredible source for better understanding of social networks and social capital formation, a title from 1983 called Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy by Robert D. Putnam.

    What does a text on the political structure and institutions in Italy have to do with corporate social networking, collaboration, or workplace trust? Actually quite a bit. Chapter 6 of Making Democracy Work titled 'Social Capital and Institutional Success' focuses on the essential elements necessary for the development of social capital in organizations, trust, norms, and networks. On the idea of trust, Putnam strongly asserts the link between trust and the end goals of many of these new technology-based initiatives, 'Trust lubricates collaboration'. Putnam further explores the fundamental conditions needed to build trust in networks, like reciprocity and the virtuous cycle effect.

    The point of all of this?

    I think that at times many of us that participate, advocate, and attempt to implement tools and technologies for social networking, collaboration, and knowledge management think that we are truly in uncharted waters.  We can at times, get beguiled by the notion of 'newness'.  Since Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, etc. are all relatively recent inventions, it is easy to think that the scholars and researchers of the past don't have much to offer us today. My experience with just the three works I mentioned above (three out of potentially thousands) tells me that ignoring or dismissing these works as irrelevant just because the 'tools' are new would be a mistake.

    My recommendation to you - take the half hour you may have spent reading more 'How to be more effective on Twitter' posts and read the Strength of Weak Ties this week. Press the pause button on 'Personal Branding' for an evening and read Chapter 6 of Putnam. I guarantee you will find something in there that will help you today, tomorrow, next week, next year.

    I would love your comments and recommendations on other 'classic' works that you swear by.

    Monday
    Jul272009

    Guest Post - Choosing the Right Technology

    Note: This Guest Post was written by Loren Yademski, from Crimcheck.com. Crimcheck.com is a nationwide provider of background checks for employment screening purposes. Crimcheck.com background checks include criminal records, educational history, employment verification, driving records and more.

    Thanks to Loren for this excellent article that highlights some extremely important questions that should be considered in the evaluation of HR Technology, particularly for the small business.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It may seem that technology for human resources would be standard from one company to another. However, as one dissects the specific needs of an HR operation, it becomes apparent that technology must accommodate many different aspects of HR management. In order to choose the right system, the staff should be consulted so that the technology can be streamlined to be efficient and easily implemented.

    When determining your HR technology needs, you need to find a vendor that is reliable and helpful. If your vendor does not have the time or knowledge necessary to help you sort through your requirements, it is time to look for another vendor. There are many variables, such as flexibility in interfacing with accounting software, making it is essential to thoroughly understand your options before a final selection is made.

    The first thing to consider is the size and growth pattern of your company. Are you in a ‘fully grown’business that has reached a plateau in terms of size and number of employees? Is your HR system stable enough that you are sure of the amount of data that you need to import and the types and numbers of related software systems it must interface with? If not, you need to plan for growth and make sure that you choose a system with a flexible and easily altered code. For example, you may not currently import and export data to an accounting system, but as your company grows it may be essential in order to save time and eliminate potential data entry errors. Another example is that you may want to share data with Excel spreadsheets. The cost, potential for error and inconvenience of having someone manually enter this information would justify any increase in the cost of software with this feature.

    Easily exported reports from HR software are helpful for any company. By using software that allows one to extract information that benefits decision making and planning on the executive level, a company could easily recapture the cost of the software because of access to concise reports that distill information in a way that makes it easy for executives and owners to manage their businesses effectively.

    Once you find a system with all necessary technical requirements, you may feel like you are ‘home free’ and ready to write the check and make a purchase. There are other considerations that are yet to be reviewed. One must consider the interface for this system and how easy it is to use. You need to determine who will have access to the system and who will operate it. Do you have an employee who will be able to fully utilize the benefits of the system you are considering? Will they require special training and if so, are they already comfortable enough with HR technology to easily pick up the operation of a new system? It will do you no good to purchase a great system if you do not have an interface that is easy enough for your employees to use effectively. If you need to hire someone with more technical savvy, it is important to understand that before you purchase the system so that you can include that expense in your economic analysis of the system.

    By taking time up front to choose HR technology that fits your business, you can save a great deal of time, money, and frustration down the road.