email: geoff@cultureofus.com

Introduction - Slide1

How to attract and retain good staff for small business

Thank you for taking time out of your day to come to this session today. I’m really pleased to be here today, to discuss a topic that has been a passion of mine for sometime. I’m also keen to hear about your stories. Just so I understand who is here today. Who here is a small business owner? Who works for a small business? Who works for a medium business? Anyone work for a corporate? Thanks.

First up I want to say, that I really admire people who have started their own business. You have started something. You are initiators.

I hope from this session today, you take a few things away with you:

  1. You think about what got you started in small business and use that motivation to help attract others, and
  2. That you think about how you lead your business and the people you are trying to retain in your business.

I’m not here today to tell you how to try and run your business, or reveal any ‘sure fire ways’ to attract and retain people to your business. I’m merely someone that hopes to challenge your mindset and inspire you to think about things in a different way. I want you to think about what your unique employee value proposition is for attracting and retaining staff in your business. An employee value proposition simply describes the different discrete elements that make your business attractive for others to come and work with your business.

Why are you in small business?

So, for those in the audience that are owners of a small business, I want you to discuss with someone near to you, your story. I want you to try and remember, if it was a long time ago, what made you decide it was a good idea to mortgage your house, or invest some money you had worked hard to save, in order to pursue your dream.

What was that dream? What is it today? Is it still the same?

If you are working in small business, share what get’s you out of bed in the morning. Why do you turn up to work? Obviously we need money to live, so talk about what other than ‘making a living’ gets you motivated to get up in the morning. Spend 2 minutes then sharing with someone near to you your story

Poke the Box

Chances are, given many of you work in small business today, that you are initiators . You are tinkerers. You like to try new things and see how they work. So how do we become good at the things we do?

In Seth Godin’s recent book, ‘Poke the Box’, Seth talks about the value of initiators and the ownership they can gain by ‘poking’ and initiating.

“How do Computer Programmers learn their art? Is there a step by step process that guarentees you’ll get good?

All great programmers learn the same way. They poke the box. They code something and see what the computer does. They repeat the process again and again until they figure out how the box works.

The box might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only one way – by poking.

When you do this, what happens? When you do that, happens? The box reveals itself through your poking, and as you get better at it, you not only get smarter but also gain ownership. Ownership doesn’t have to be equity or even control. Ownership comes from understanding and from having the power to make things happen…

It has been observed how willing we are to surrender control to the objects and organizations in our life….

As soon as we willingly ad blindly accept what’s given, we lose all power. Only by poking, testing, modifying and understanding can we truly own anything, truly exert our influence.

No one has influence, control, or confidence in his work until he understands how to initiate change and predict how the box will respond.”

Like you have experimented with your businesses to get where you have got to today, I encourage you to think about how you will be able to experiment with some of the key insights from today, in order to be more effective in attracting and retaining talented individuals to work with your business.

The search for help today

Who here would like to tell me a story about their struggle to find help today? What are your struggles? Finding good people? Keeping good people or both? What age group are you targeting? Where do they leave to go to?

Who struggles with just the thought of finding someone new? Not just finding someone, but finding someone that fits into your business well. Connects with the people they need to work with, including ourselves and our customers?

In many ways, we subconsciously look for reflections of ourselves. Someone with similar values and similar work ethic. If we are know our personal flaws well, sometimes we will also look for people that have strengths to cover our weaknesses.

Knowing who you are, your own strengths and weaknesses and what sort of attributes you need of a person, in order to achieve what you want to achieve with your business is a great starting point for attracting the right sort of people to your business. It is fundamental stuff, but important never the less.

Good people are great for business.

You have probably heard about the ‘war on terror’, but have you ever heard about the “War for Talent”?

Back in 1997 McKinsey & Co, a top tier consulting firm did a study that determined how hard it was to attract and retain talented people in organizations. In 2001 they updated the study and found some interesting facts about the difference between high performers, than average performers.

This data tells us that high performers can achieve significantly better results than average performers. For sales roles this was 67%. The potential for small business to get the equivalent of up to an extra 67% of productivity from one person is immense.

Good People are Great for Business

Now this report was developed for corporate America, but if you think about the implications, for small business they are quite interesting. In the report it states:

“Demographic and social changes have played a growing role in this trend. In the United States and most other developed nations, the supply of 35-to 44-year-olds is shrinking. And many of the best-trained people entering the workforce are not bound for large traditional companies: last year, a full 30 percent of MBAs in the United States preferred to work for a start-up or a small business.” (The War for Talent – Part 2, McKinsey 2001)

These statistics are also a telling trend about where our talented people are going. Whilst you may be losing your people to large organisations, large organizations are losing their people to go and start small businesses. Sort of ironic I think. Don’t you?

But not surprising really. Think about it. In the last 10 years, companies have been born, offering new products that previously didn’t exist. People are ‘poking the box’. Starting something new. Some good examples are obviously in the technology sector, like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. You may not have heard about a site called Zappos.com. Zappos.com started out as an online shoe retailer in the US and now sells a bunch of different shoe and clothing related items. Zappos.com is unique for its’ offering to consumers, but because of what they offer their employee’s.

How much is a good employee worth?

Call centre’s are notoriously tough places to try and attract and retain good people to. Quite often there is a survival of the fittest type of approach going on in a call centre, resulting in turnover rates that I have seen, anywhere from 25-48%! With around 35% being the average. The figures I quote you here are Australian companies, not call centre’s based overseas.

In the US, they also have a high turnover rate for call centre’s. Zappos.com, decided to do something about the turnover in the company. Zappos core values is a key part of how they differentiate themselves and try to compete with attracting people to their organization. Their values are:

“1. Deliver Wow Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble”

Daniel Pink, in his 2010 best seller, Drive, tells the story of Zappos and what they did to concentrate on getting the right sort of people.

“Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com (which is now part of Amazon.com), thought there was a better way to recruit., prepare and challenge such employees. So new hires at Zappos, go through a week of training. Then, at the end of those seven days, Hsieh makes them an offer. If they feel Zappos isn’t for them and want to leave, he’ll pay them $2000 – no hard feelings. He’s using an “if-then” reward not to motivate people to perform better, but to weed out those who aren’t fit for the sort of workplace he is creating.”

Think about it…

Would you pay for someone to leave your business if you thought they were not giving your customers the sort of experience that fit your dream you outlined in the first activity we did today? Is your dream that important to you?

Zappo’s embraces their purpose and what they are about to really connect to the sort of people that are going to make their business successful. On their website, they even target the sort of people you may be losing to big business today. They say:

“I’m free from boring work environments, go-nowhere jobs, and typical corporate America!

Why join men? A fun, collaborative environment that’s all about innovation. An extensive benefits package including free lunch, 40% employee discount and no dress code!

A work-hard play-hard start-up with solid management and resources; what more could I ask for?…”

The key take away for me from this case study is that if you are really deliberate about the sort of culture and company you want to build, you will be rewarded in return by very loyal, hard working, bright and dedicated employee’s. Zappos.com knows what it takes to be a valued member of their team and would prefer to pay you to leave rather than have you as a destabilizing force in their business.

So why is your small business dream important?

I mentioned Daniel Pink’s book Drive before and I am going to use the framework within his book, to think about some of the fundamental things we need to consider in order to better hire and retain the sort of people that are going to not only work for us, but lift the bar and challenge us to take our businesses to the next level.

Pink explores a new concept for how we motivate people. Pink contends, through a number of proven scientific experiments, that the current way we operate our businesses today, relying on external carrot and stick motivators, doesn’t actually work for most people and is likely to do more harm than good. Pink outlines a new way to think about motivation, which he refers to as Motivation 3.0. (In case you’re wondering, Motivation 1.0 refers to cave man times when we were driven by our physical needs, thirst, hunger, temperature etc, Motivation 2.0 is about rewarding or punishing people for what they do and don’t do, which has been a function of how we have tried to motivate people since the the industrial era.)

Pink’s view on how we motivate people has three essential elements:

  • “Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
  • Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives
  • Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters”

I will now go through each of these in a more detail and ask you to relate these concepts back to your own situation to start thinking about what your unique value proposition is to attracting and retaining your employee’s.

Purpose

Pink defines purpose as the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Chances are your small business dream had a goal that was greater than just making a living. It doesn’t have to be saving the planet or making world peace. It might be as simple as putting a smile on all of my customers face because I serve them coffee and show them I care, but ensuring they get to enjoy something they really look forward to having every day.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

At Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, we “aim to be Australia’s leading customer connected bank.” Part of the origins of the Bendigo and Adelaide bank, included the establishment of the Community Banking model.

A Community Bank® branch is a locally owned and operated company, which functions as a franchise of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank provides the coverage of its banking licence, a full range of banking products, training of staff and ongoing support.

Depositors are protected by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s track record when it comes to the security of depositors’ funds. We are one of Australia’s oldest financial institutions, we have operated since 1858 and have declared a profit in every year and we have without fail honoured our depositors. Deposits are also currently protected by the government guarantee.

The Community Bank® model is based on the sharing of effort, risk and reward. Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and the community company share the revenue on core banking products 50/50. The local company is responsible for paying branch running costs such as staff wages, property rental and equipment leasing. Bendigo is responsible for the supply of all banking products and services, all computer systems and provides guidance and advice on matters of compliance and legislation.

When the local company begins to make a regular operating surplus, after the payment of branch running costs, the remaining funds are available to be reinvested back into the community through dividends to shareholders and grants to community groups and projects. To date, in excess of $50 million in Community Bank® branch profits has been returned to community projects and more than $15 million has been paid in dividends to more than 63,000 local shareholders.

The Community Bank model was originally developed to return banking services to communities who had lost them and has now spread to more than 270 communities across rural, regional and suburban Australia.. The model is unique in Australia (and internationally). Community banking is about building a win / win relationship with your customers. Investing in what is important to them, in return for their business with their community bank.

Why is purpose important?

Community banking, not only provides a unique sales proposition for our customers, it also provides a unique opportunity for attracting our staff. To be a part of an organisation that is working at the grass roots level with other community focussed organisations, which gives back something to our communities in a very connected way, is an attractive proposition to potential staff. It is one of the reasons I was excited about joining the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank.

If your business doesn’t have a purpose you strongly believe in:

  • What are you selling your customers that makes you any different from your competitors?
  • How are you planning to attract people that are going to work with you to add value to your business, because they believe in your purpose?

Purpose is about know what you want and then understanding what others want. Then looking for people who also believe in your purpose and at the same time helping them to achieve what they want to achieve.

Activity – confirm your puropse

Take 30 seconds now and write 5 things down that are either were key drivers to choose why you did what you did in business, or things that you now think differentiate you from other businesses. These things will be likely be a part of your unique purpose.

Autonomy

Autonomy is about the desire to direct our own lives. There are many upsides to offering your employee’s autonomy, in that they are making decisions every day that affect the way your business is perceived by your customers. You can’t direct their every interaction, so they need to feel empowered enough to be able to take their own actions in a way that will provide a positive outcome for your business.

Are you currently offering people in your business the opportunity to work autonomously? Or is your business is it about taking orders?

Think about why you started a small business. Chances are you didn’t want to be taking orders from others. So how can we still employee people and not be seen to be telling them what to do?

Autonomy – it even happens in the military.

In 1997 I consulted to the US Air Force to help them implement a new aircraft maintenance system for their equipment. A few things struck me about working for their Air Force. They had their purpose really clear and people knew it. ‘To Fly, Fight and Win”. If you weren’t helping them somehow get their aircraft in the air and being successful in battle, you had no purpose and hence no job in the Air Force. The US Airforce really gets purpose.

But how about autonomy? Isn’t the military all about command and control? Isn’t the military the reason we have hierarchy in organizations today?
Well it is, but I think there are always exceptions.

Orders in the military and people following those orders can save lives in a number of ways. For example, aircraft maintenance is a pretty finicky business. There are lots of parts on a plane that have a used by date, which means they have to be serviced or replaced at certain intervals. The only way to keep a track of this with any degree of precision, is to ensure every part and every change on a plane is entered into a computer system. There is a policy or ‘order’ that this data is to be entered and for a good reason.

Jet planes work are basically controlled around a series of controlled explosions. Whilst I was consulting to the Air Force, there was an incident where an F-15 like the one in this picture caught fire on the runway. The pilot escaped unharmed, but there was some sort of mechanical fault or human error that caused this issue. Knowing what parts were on the plane and in what working order they were before this happened is pretty important, as if you don’t know, you may end up with lots of aircraft falling out of the sky and not knowing the cause.

But even the military, bastions of the command and control mentality, can see why autonomy rocks. A good recent example was the mission to capture or kill Bin Laden. One of the helicopters used on the mission went down with a mechanical fault, yet again proving the importance of the people following the orders around maintaining the aircraft. Although, noted in this case the helicopter was most likely from the US Marines and not the airforce.

But how about the Seal team that went in? They had orders and a plan, but that plan just went into a tailspin when that aircraft went down. Navy seals include decisiveness as one of their top five characteristics. They ‘must have the ability to take quick decisions’. Through the Navy Seals own autonomy, they made a number of key decisions on the spot, including as to whether to abort the mission or find a new entry point into the compound, as the planned full roof based entry had just been ruled out. They were well trained and well drilled, they knew the layout with their eyes closed, but they had to make a decision then and there as to how to finish that mission.

So even if the organizations that are built around the concept of command and control can learn the value and power of autonomy, I think everyone can.

Why is autonomy important?

Spend a minute trying the following exercise. Write on a piece of paper the following table. Now do a quick comparison. Think of all the pros and cons for each sort of leadership style and make notes. Or simply put a tick or a cross for the winner or loser of each of the considerations.

Don’t be afraid to change or add your own criteria.

This exercise is about you and your leadership style. Seeing the benefits of different approaches to leadership in your own business, will help you to think about how your style is going to ultimately enhance or potentially detract, from your overall employee value proposition.

Mastery

“Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters.”

In ‘Drive’ Pink talks about Mastery as one of the key factors for internal motivation. He talks in depth about the concept of ‘flow’, which we sometimes call ‘being in the zone’. Being a Geelong supporter in the AFL, over the last few years, I’ve seen the team have periods of flow in a game where things just link together and the team seems to perfor

m at the most unbelievable level. But working at that level is not easily repeatable and requires many hours of hard work, dedication and practice in order to be anywhere near that level.

If you think of flow as being the state when you are achieving your best, then how can we help our people to reach that flow state, when they may be completing the most routine tasks, that have to be done on a regular basis? One way is by turning work into play.

Pink gives a good example in drive, where two business school professors studying the phenomenon of turning work into play among hospital cleaners, nurses and hairdressers.

“They found, for instance, that some members of the cleaning staff at hospitals, instead of doing the minimum the job required, took on new tasks – from chatting with patients to helping make nurses’ jobs go more smoothly. Adding these more absorbing challenges increased these cleaners’ satisfaction and boosted their own views of their skills. By reframing aspects of their duties, they helped make work more playful and more fully their own. Even in low-autonomy jobs… employees can create new domains for mastery.”

Another way to help contribute to employee’s mastery is to employee some Kaizen principles. Kaizen, very briefly, is the Japanese word that describes the methodology behind continuous improvement, made famous by Toyota. One Kaizen concept that is popular in large organizations, is the idea of thoughts into actions. Thoughts into action, empowers the workers with some tools and templates for employee’s to think about how they do their work and provide suggestions on way’s to improve it. Then the leaders work with the employee’s to make those changes a reality. Having the employee’s fully engaged in the continuous improvement process, not only helps build their own mastery, it helps build your business and encourages incremental innovation that may help even further differentiate your business from your competition.

So why is mastery important in context of a small business, attracting and retaining the right people? Mastery is important for a number of key reasons I think. For one, it is a key part of intrinsic motivation and will be crucial for retaining your best and brightest employee’s. If people don’t have the ability to continue to learn and innovate, they will become stale and less engaged. Mastery is also important for keeping your business innovative. As a small business, you know you only have limited resources, so getting the most out of your resources, including the people you employee is essential.

Ensuring you provide an ongoing challenge will be beneficial to both your business and your people.

Your Employee Value Proposition

Hopefully today has given you some things to think about in relation to your business.

I want to leave you with the following exercise to think about, and complete after this session today. Write up the following matrix and think about the different questions I have posed to you today and the information. Determine some key actions you can take to improve how you help demonstrate to your people or potential people your purpose, autonomy and mastery. Also document what you think the benefit is for your employee’s or any potential employee’s. Turn these points into a short story about your business and a greeting pitch you can use to sell the benefit of working with you to any potential employee prospect you meet in the future. Or make your 140 character greeting pitch a job add to attract the people you want to make your business successful.

Remember, it is your dream you are asking people to work on with you. You need to help them understand what that dream is and also understand what their ambitions are and help them to reach their goals as well.

For more information and a full transcript of my session today, go to my blog, cultureofus.com. I will also have the books I mentioned listed today on the site and you will be able to print out the templates and slides.

I would be really interested in your feedback, so please write your comments about the session on my blog today.

Thanks again for your time today. I hope you have got something out of it and can work on attracting and retaining the best possible people for your business.

Resources:

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who are your A team?

If you are looking for inspiration in life or something to motivate you even more so than you already are, then look no further than Seth Godwin’s ‘Poke the Box‘. The main contention of Seth’s book is that the world has plenty of capacity to make stuff or do stuff, what it needs is people to initiate stuff. Seth makes a strong point that the most valuable people are those that try something new. They often fail, yet continue to keep on trying through learning and revising what they do.

The “box” is a metaphor for the system which is the world we live in. By poking it, you deliberately disturb the status quo. You challenge boundaries. Ask ‘what if?’. By doing so you become a ‘poker’, a high value add initiator creating something we do not have today.

The book is structured as if you were reading Seth’s blog posts in an RSS reader, which although can seem a little disconnected, are actually interrelated around the key theme if initiating and poking the box.

Seth’s book got me thinking about the types of people in an organisation, and the respective value add they can bring to a company. I will start with Seth’s ‘poker’ and add a few I think are common place.

Your A side

Clearly top of the list is your ‘Poker’. The ‘Poker’ someone who initiates change in an organisation. Ideas and staring stuff tops the list, but you definitely need a resource person. Lets call them the ‘Stoker’. They are stoking your initiator’s fires, through their own hard labor or funding the initiator.

Your B side

Keeping the wheels turning are your ‘Brokers’. They are brokering your Pokers solutions and their own ability. These players are chasing the action, turning some cogs, but generally just doing what they are told to do occasionally reinventing themselves to do some new things. With the right encouragement they can come off the ‘bench’ and play a role in your A side.

Your C side

Unfortunately there are always some passengers in the work place, one of which I call the ‘Stroker’. The Stroker likes to stroke ideas, projects or initiatives that are going somewhere or on the way up. They then take credit for some or all of the work and bask in the glory. Great at self promotion, but low value add on most other levels, strokers can be hard to detect, especially if they have made a career out of it.

So why do these people fall into the B and C team you ask? I think Seth sums it up best in his story ‘The Fear of Wrong’.

“It’s not surprising that we hesitate. Starting maximizes the chances of ending up wrong.

Here’s the nightmare, and it’s a vivid one: The boss finds someone who did something wrong and she hassles / disciplines / humiliates / fires her.

If you’re not wrong, that’s not going to happen.

On the other hand, there’s the other scenario: The boss finds someone who didn’t start, who never starts, who always stuies or criticizes or plays devil’s advocate, and she hassles /disciplines / humiliates / fires her.

Oh, forgive me for teasing you; that never happens.

The typical factory-centric organization places a premium on not-wrong, and spends no time at all weeding out those who don’t start. In the networked economy , the innovation-focused organization has no choice but to obsess about those who don’t start.

Today, not starting is far, far worse than being wrong. If you start, you’ve got a shot at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if you don’t start, you never get a chance.”

Go ahead, start something today!

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Note:  It is good to be back blogging! After a hiatus with a new job that has been keeping me more than a little occupied.

What Homer Simpson taught me about implementing Kaizen

Brainstorming and creative thinking is always aided when you add a new perspective, or ‘lense’, to the problem at hand. A common tool is Debono’s Six Thinking Hats that encourages lateral thinking, requiring people to put on a different ‘hat’ or take a different perspective on a given topic. Today I attended a workshop, focussed on how we can implement a common set of Kaizen tools across the organisation, utilising some creative thinking perspectives. The three perspectives on offer for this exercise were; Apple, Generation Y and Homer Simpson. Apple and Gen Y, may seem pretty straight forward, but how could you get anything serious out of a Homer Simpson perspective? Well here is the list we come up with and I will let you be the judge:

“Borrow” tools from Flanders

Why would Homer bother to make or buy his own tools, when he could ‘borrow’ someone elses, like Ned Flanders?

In organisations we often look to make, hone and refine our own toolkits – be that any sort of tools, including change management, project management, or Kaizen tools as in this case – yet in large organisations there is bound to be someone, somewhere with a tool kit that has proven to do the job just fine. So why not use theirs? Are your people that different? Really?

Support the path of least resistance

Homer has never been one for going out of his way to do anything, so why not just integrate the tools we want him to use into what ever he does?

If using the toolkit becomes so easy to adopt and part of the natural way of doing things, then you can not help but use it. Why would you resist using something that is just part of the natural flow and the way things get done?

Remove competing interests

Homer isn’t subtle and isn’t afraid to break things that frustrate him, if he is confused or annoyed by it, well chances are, it could get broken!

Why in organisations do we constantly confuse our people, by having multiple and competing tool sets for similar challenges? Focussing our people on the most practical and appropriate methodology (or toolset) to achieve what we want to in a consistent way, just seems like good old ‘Homer’ sense really.

Get others involved in doing the work

Homer is pretty lazy, why would he do something if he could get someone (Bart collecting grease) or something else (the drinking bird pressing the ‘Y’ key on the computer) to help him do the work?

Kaizen, like most things involving organisational change, really only works when people are empowered to make the changes themselves. Enlisting the people closest to the change to help make the change just seems logical really.

Leverage people with passion

Be assured if there is a cause in Springfield, Homer Simpson will be leading the charge, with blind passion and enthusiasm. Especially if there is beer involved (aka Homer the Beer Barron)!

Finding the people who have the passion for what we are trying to achieve in organisations is a great way to provide the energy required to implement change. Tools such as social network analysis, can help us to find people whom are the natural connectors, that have the skills and the enthusiasm required to generate peer acceptance of a change.

Failure is OK

“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is….” I’m going to take some license here and cut off Homers tag line (never try) and offer the alternate view that ‘if we fail and learn, that is OK’.

When utilising Kaizen, or trying to implement any sort of good sustainable change, failure and refinement are two important ways to improve. It is amazing how much can be learnt from a good failure. Nobody sets out to fail, but the reality is not everything we do works. We just need to learn from it. Creating an organisation culture that embraces failures and learns from them, is key to creating more innovative and adaptive organisations.

We all knew Homer was a man of many talents, who knew he could offer such insight on organisational change?

Please feel free to comment below with some of your organisational change lessons from Homer Simpson.

*With thanks also to my table buddies, Micheal Fromberg and Peter Willoughby.

NB: The tools in the workshop were from a toolkit called: ‘What would X do?’ from Inventium.

Image: Via Leo! – Flickr

Is your life on repeat?

I was in a meeting with a stakeholder the other day and they said something that grabbed my attention. To the tune of “I’ve been doing this sort role for five years now, I know what I’m doing, I just have to press play”. It especially caught my attention, having recently been on an offsite where this video, “Is social media a fad?” (on Vimeo) was played. It got me thinking about, what has changed around us in the past five or so years. A few facts I dug up include:

  • Facebook launched in 2004, and now has over 600 million users.
  • “Facebook is the single largest repository for user-generated content such as pics, videos, links and comments.”¹
  • Twitter established in 2006 has an estimated 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day.
  • LinkedIn launched in 2003 now has approximately 90 million users in over 200 countries.
  • “If Skype were a telecommunications carrier, it would be the largest carrier in the world, with 521 million registered users.”¹
  • “The average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.”¹

The way we work, communicate and play has changed around us. Although we are creatures of habit and tend to repeat behavoiurs that are positively reinforced.  If we continue with our current behaviours will we be left behind? Will we be forced to help our businesses to realise what has passed us by, once we have already lost the edge, ala Nokia? Or will we take advantage of this new world, embrace the environment around us and continue to survive – or even better, evolve to the next level?

As individuals, the opportunity is ours to grasp. We have the tools now to bring the thought seeds of change to us. Personal knowlege management allows us to filter and learn in the moment, at a pace that suits our busy lives. But what is the cost of being too busy to improve and adapt?

If we continue to hit the repeat button do we not get the same results? If you continue to get good results, the temptation is there – but for how long will that last?

Patterns are comfortable. Change is painful. But change hurts even more when the change is being forced upon you because you haven’t got ahead of the curve.

A good mantra to have?

Evolve your play list, find a new track, before the world skips you by.

Social Media Revolution from Whispr on Vimeo.

¹New Study Shows the Mobile Web Will Rule by 2015 [STATS]

Photo: cdrummbks – Flickr

Leaders provide a key link to learning

Leaders play a significant role in assisting their people to learn. Whether it is to help raise self awareness of a learning need, provide ongoing coaching or to proivde an opportunity for their people to apply what has recently been learnt, as I documented in my post on sales training, the leaders role can not be under estimated.

A systems mapping analysis I worked on last year looked at some of the barriers that prevented capability development initiatives from being more successful of which people leaders were identified as a key barrier. Therefore a key goal of the ensuing capability strategy is to provide leaders with some context as to what role they play in peoples development.

The challenging part of this task is that this sort of leadership activity is currently seen as something you may complete a couple of times a year. Typically when completing an individuals development plan or maybe in a conversation regarding the attendance of a training program. Building capability for many people leaders is seen as an outsourced function to be performed by training courses and leaders role in relation to a persons capability is simply to solve any problems that come up in between those times.

‘LearnFest – People Leader Insights’ was developed as a way of engaging leaders to further develop the focus areas of the Personal Banking capability strategy we had previously created. The idea was to have a hybrid learning event. LearnFest was partly based on a world cafe style of idea generation to gain some more insights to better help people leaders execute themselves. Partly it was designed to provide some action learning experiments for the leaders to then implement with their teams. The event content was to be light and highly interactive. To achieve this we provided the heavier theoretical content via an engaging interactive portal available pre and post the event. The content on the portal was then largely delivered through short narrated slide shows.

One of the major challenges I have been trying to overcome in my organisation is the adoption of social learning tools to enhance more colloborative learning. As a enabling strategy for LearnFest, I introduced a ‘paper tweet’ functionality, whereby participants would tweet, comments, questions and key takeaway from each of the experiences they attended. These paper tweets were then logged on a live Yammer feed, which would allow participants in the room to get a feel of which of the other experiences they should consider attending. It also provided a continual feedback mechanism for analysis later and allowed other people to attend the event virtually.

Key insights gained from our LearnFest event included:

  • Keep large content dumps out of face to face events – The experience needs to provide enough insight to allow for in the moment experimentation, which can then be applied back in the workplace.
  • Integration of live events and virtual events through the use of social media tools such as Yammer is a great way to begin to build a social learning culture.
  • Be deliberate about what you want to achieve within each experience, by providing very specific action learning experiments for the participants to take back and try with their team.
  • Focus on less experiences, moving from the 5 experiences at LearnFest, to 3 – 4 experiences in the future.
  • Provide a structured check in, 30-60 days post the event, as a great way to enhance the collaboration and embedding of activities that were learnt in the event and enhance a social learning culture if targeted via collaboration tools.

For more information view the event set up slides and look at the following 3 minute video summary of the event.

 

3 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement

If you work in a large corporate, you may be familiar with the following pattern. The annual employee engagement survey is announced, which you are encouraged to complete and sometime later you are debriefed about the results. You hear about areas that your business unit is doing well on and some areas leaders want to focus on. Plans are made to address area’s of concern for employee engagement, which are often in addition to what everyone is doing in their day job and then some of those changes are implemented. Leaders at some point in the future will remind everyone what was done since the last survey, a new survey comes along and typically there is still a to do list to work on, which may look pretty similar to the last employee engagement to do list.

So why didn’t things change? Chances are as an employee you may not of been part of the workgroup designated to work on the employee engagement issue, so not much personally changed for you. You may of been on the working group, but too busy doing your day job to do much, so you effectively said ‘*insert other department* is doing that, we will just let them do it’. Or you just may have had too many other things to worry about other than all that employee engagement stuff.  Sound at all familiar?

So how do we improve employee engagement? The key is a mindset shift when thinking about employee engagement. To increase employee engagement the following mantra’s are a good starting point:

  • Employee engagement is a part of everything we do – not an additional ‘to do’ list.
  • Employee engagement is everyone’s responsibility – not just leaders, senior leaders or the working group ‘fixing the issues’.

Following are some tips to improve employee engagement that embrace these mantras:

1. Regular conversations about what people are working on, discussing inputs and lessons learnt.

In an era of quarterly reporting, half yearly financials and metrics to measure anything that supports better financials, it is really easy for people in a large corporate to get fixated on the outputs.  But when you are constantly focussed on the output measures, you often neglect the most important thing -the inputs required to get the outcomes you are chasing.  Inputs, consist of the activities and the behaviours required of the people in order to achieve the results.

Leaders often ask ‘how do I motivate my people’, or ‘how do I get the best out of them?’. A good place to start is by listening to how people are going about their job, understanding what gets them excited and reinforcing efforts that are directed in the right place.  If people leader conversations are focussed on what’s working and exploring where things haven’t worked (& options to improve this),  then the dialogue will become more much more about personal learning. Allowing people to experiment, try, fail and then try something else, will ultimately provide a more powerful and engaging experience, instead of applying pressure to team members whose outcome measures are not stacking up.

2. Provide constant feedback to others reinforcing what has been done well. Be specific and targeted on areas of improvement.

I once had a team leader who constantly focussed on what was wrong with my work and rarely mentioned anything that was right. It was de-motivating and depressing. I managed to shift this around with a simple conversation that went something like this.

‘If you want to get the best out of me, tell me what I am doing right and I will keep doing that.’

Things improved a lot after that.

Whether you are a people leader or a team member, an environment when feedback is freely given and embraced, will be an environment that is far more engaging to work in. The key to fostering such an environment is to give a disproportionate amount of positive feedback. As a leader, you should be aiming for at least three positive points of reinforcement, for every developmental area you identify. The development area identified should also be unrelated to what is going well. The effect of a more constant and positive feedback environment is that it encourages people to behave in the way that is most supportive of achieving the groups goals. Positive reinforcement promotes positive energy, which leads to more positive engagement.

3. Shared problem solving, rather than relying on leaders to solve everyone’s problems.

An easy trap for leaders to fall into is the one that finds them the chief problem solver for the team. Everyone who has a question, issue or crisis comes to the team leader to have it fixed. The issue with this approach, is that it reinforces to the leader that they are the centre of their employee’s universe and thus employee’s can not act with out the guidance of the leader. For employee’s they may think that the leaders role is to set the direction and ‘solve any problems I have’ in order to achieve the goals set out by the leader. But here’s the rub. As a team member I begin to lose any sense of empowerment, enablement and eventually engagement, if I just believe I’m there to do ‘what the boss tells me’. As a leader, I find I end up blaming and resenting my employees for their lack of ability to successfully execute what I need them to do.

A better approach is for leaders to facilitate mutual problem solving. This could be on an individual basis, for example encouraging employees to solve their own problems through carefully selected coaching questions. Or it could be on a team level, through conducting meetings where barriers to progress are identified and actions are put in place to address the issues that will promote improved team performance. In the later exercise, the key is obviously to focus on the issues the team has control over and can be empowered to do something about. Anything that requires the team to modify their own behaviours is usually a good place to start.

Please respond to this post with any suggestions or approaches you have found valuable in increasing employee engagement.

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