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    Yammer it up

    Today we had a mini-crisis with our application that lets Student employees self-register for an Employee Self-service account to view their Payslips, sign up for direct deposit, and view other personal information online. The existence of the problem became known to me when I received an e-mail with the relevant details.

    The specifics of the problem are not important, but it was sufficiently complicated that from report to resolution I received a total of 17 e-mails from four different people in less than one hour.

    A total of six people were copied on the original e-mail, so in classic e-mail fashion as everyone who jumped into the issue kept checking 'Reply All' every time the web of the e-mail trap spread and spread.  And of course, each message itself got longer and longer and larger and larger as all prior messages were appended to the next message.

    So in total we ended up with 102 distinct e-mail messages, with the entire content of the original message included in full on each and every message.  That must be some great e-mail that we now have 102 copies of it stored on our server.

    And all this because across the organization, no other collaboration tools are widely used.  Sure one or two of my HR colleagues uses IM to contact me, occasionally we open an IM chat room.  I have started a wiki that only has been used my me and one other colleague (although I suspect he is starting to give up).  

    I claimed my organization's domain on Yammer - which would have been the perfect tool for all this dialogue.  Almost all of the 102 emails were a sentence or two. And other folks who may have been of assistance may have seen the exchange, impossible in e-mail if they were not included from the start. So far only three others in an company of 3,000 have signed up. And two of the three are the HR folks who just IM me anyway.

    So many tools are so far superior to e-mail for collaborative work and problem solving, why am I not able to get my organization to see that?

    Any suggestions? Because I am not getting the message across.





    I know of an organization that does not want their IT folks who support the enterprise HR and Payroll systems to have IM clients installed on their desktops. The reason for attempting to place a wall between them and the people they support? 

    photo credit - FlickR -Joriel "Joz" JimenezThe IT development manager is afraid that the HR and Payroll end users (who are all IM users), will directly contact the IT staff with questions, issues, problems, rather than following the established protocols of sending all issues and requests to the IT manager first, who then by some shadowy process assigns out tasks one at a time to the development staff.

    Prohibiting IM use by the IT staff doesn’t make any sense, and anyway with services like Meebo, Twitter and Yammer, as well as web versions of the other major IM environments, isn’t even practical or enforceable anyway. But putting that aside for a minute, let’s consider some reasons why organizations would choose to operate this way.

    1. A need to ‘control’ workers rather than ‘manage’ an organization – in today’s world this is really not sustainable for too much longer. Staff will tire of this arrangement, turnover will increase, and positions will go unfilled as the ‘buzz’ on the environment starts to spread.
    2. A general lack of a collaborative spirit or said differently, an environment where problems are either ‘your problems’ or ‘my problems’ never ‘our problems’. It seems like too many IT departments want to spend quite a bit of time making sure that IT isn’t ever blamed for things going wrong or things not getting done.
    3. Lack of the correct tools and technologies to enable better collaboration between the ‘real’ users and the IT staffs meant to serve them. This is the area that is most interesting to me, and an area that I try to focus on in my HR Technology class. Wikis, Zoho applications, internal social networks, Ning, heck even Facebook can all be utilized in one way or another to better foster and enable collaboration across the organizations.

    The truth is that the walls and barriers will come down anyway. Banning IM use is folly, would an organization also remove telephones, e-mail or talking?

    Smart organizations should be making efforts to increase openness and collaboration, not the other way around.




    I made my first Flowgram today. 

    Flowgram is a web-based tool for developing demonstrations with narrative that can include web pages, videos and photos.  The Flowgram tools allow you to explain your concepts, web pages and photos.  Potential uses include training type demonstrations, adding depth and context to 'flat' content such as photos, or creating a more interactive way to describe web information.

    Here is the results of my first efforts at Flowgram, it is a very brief overview of our faculty wiki:

    Honestly, I found the tool fairly easy to use, but I do wonder how much value I can realize from it in the context of my class.  I do not think I would assign my students any type of project that would require Flowgram.

    Anyone else seen or tried this out?



    Workday Envy

    This week I had he chance to attend a webinar from Workday centered on the annual Benefits Enrollment process.  It was an excellent session, that showcased Workday's cool user interface, intuitive design, and powerful features. Let's just say I left the webinar with an extreme case of 'system envy'.

    For the last few years myself and a colleague in HR have been responsible for ensuring the smooth running of our organization's annual Open Enrollment, which has been done entirely online for four or five years.  In fact, online or web-enabled benefits enrollment is not that novel a concept any more.  If you went to an organization that was still passing out paper enrollment forms, you would probably be surprised.

    But Workday takes the process a major step further, with their concept of the 'Workday Benefits Network'.  Essentially, Workday will (for a fee) take over the responsibility of creating the interfaces from your HR system, to the benefits providers for the purposes of enrolling employees in plans and recording changes. I can't begin to describe how much time, effort and cost we have endured in developing and maintaining (on our own) the necessary file feeds from our HR system to our various providers.  It is an annual exercise it seems, us tweaking and modifying our custom code to meet the providers new or changed formats, waiting to hear back from their tech staffs, and us making still more modifications.

    Frankly, it is a low-value, behind the scenes activity that is important, but invisible to our employees and managers.

    I would love for our ERP provider to take ownership of all of those processes, but I doubt that would ever happen.

    Can we switch to Workday now?  



    Your HR Director should blog

    Either I don't know the right Google search terms, or almost no HR Directors or VPs of HR are publicly blogging.

    This seems odd to me, for in these times of forecasted talent shortages, fierce competition for skilled workers, and difficulty in keeping your best assets, the VP of HR really should assume the role of 'Head Talent Marketer'.

    So many of the largest consumer brands have invested significant time, resources, and funds in corporate marketing-type blogs aimed at sharing and conversing with customers, prospects, and media.  Some well-known examples:

    General Motors - GM Fast Lane

    Kodak - 1000 Words Blog

    Delta Airlines - Under the Wing

    All of these blogs do a great job of shaping a message, helping to define a brand, and connect with their various audiences.

    Why wouldn't this work for a VP of HR?  A blog led by the Head Talent Marketer and supplemented by other thought leaders of the organization I think would be an important addition to your recruitment efforts. The leader in the Recruitment efforts can and should be the biggest cheerleader for the organization. 

    Why is this a great place to work?  Here are some incredible things that are going on here. Look at some of the superstars you'll get a chance to work with if you come on board. Those are just a few topics that the Head Talent Marketer can address.

    I can't be the only one who thinks this is a decent idea, so my question is - where are the VP of HR blogs?

    If you know of one - send me the link or leave a comment.