About Workforce Echoes

Monday, May 2, 2011

Twitter.. Why do I need to know this?

Why Do I Need to Know This?

Why+You+Should+Ask+Why.jpgDo you ever get that question when helping your students learn or helping your children understand their homework?  I have a daughter who is in college.  She recently went to a seminar about Twitter.  This seminar was given by an invited speaker at a business fraternity meeting.   She says she was bored stiff.  In the end, the speaker mentioned that this was the first time he had ever given this particular talk to college students.  He said that he normally taught 40-50 year olds.  My daughter says that she realized the problem immediately.  He had spent an hour telling them, step by step, how to use Twitter when they all could have figured it out on their own in about ten minutes.  What they wanted to understand was why they’d want to use Twitter and how it would help in their career.  I saw this as a wonderful example of how kids learn differently these days and how some teaching methods need to switch gears.  This speaker’s baby boomer audience wanted step by step instructions.  His college audience was bored by that. 

I ended my last blog by mentioning my need to teach my son about transient and intransient verbs.  He too asked the question, “Why do I need to know this?”  I have to admit that I struggled with the answer.  It was clear to him that I’d made it through life without this knowledge so he figured he could too.  It definitely created a blockage in his desire to learn.

Switching gears, school administrators may also want to consider answering, “Why?” when they introduce new rules, procedures, curricula, etc.  People don’t really like change unless there’s good reason for it.  If you can successfully convince faculty and staff why change is needed, you’ve won half the battle for that change to be successful. Similarly, if teachers can successfully explain the, “Why?” to today’s students, I think they’ve won half the battle as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Organizational Values / Echo Principle #4 Make People Feel Important

I was watching “A Bug’s Life” with my sons over the weekend.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this Pixar movie, it’s essentially about a battle between domineering grasshoppers and hard working ants.  The grasshoppers rule over the ants until the very end of the show.  The ants finally realize the power they have when they join together.  It helps that they outnumber the grasshoppers by a huge margin.  As a united team, the ants fight off the over controlling grasshoppers, and live happily ever after.

mga15.gifWatching this movie made me think about all the unhappy employees out there with over controlling bosses.  They, like the ants, feel as if they have little power to make big changes.  As a result, they just try to mind their own business, do their job, and get their paycheck.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?  I tend to write blogs for those few people at the top of an organization, the grasshoppers, who can actually make major changes to the work environment if they set their mind to it.  But employees outnumber bosses and in reality they often have MORE power to influence the work environment than even their boss.  Think about the new policy that no one follows unless the boss is watching! 

Our Echo 4 principle is about the value of making people feel important.  This principle is based on the notion that if I don’t feel important, I’m not going to try very hard.  Clearly there are things a manager can do to make every employee feel like an important part of the team, but even if you don’t manage a large team, you still have tremendous power to change the work environment.  Rather than settle for a boring job that has little meaning to you, here are a few ideas to consider.

·         Think of something about your job that you really dislike.  If you were the boss, what would you do differently?  Gather ideas from others.  Research the topic.  Formulate a plan that clearly shows how this idea will improve customer service, profit margins, or something else equally important to the boss.  Present it with a positive attitude.  Offering solutions will serve you better than offering complaints.  Even if the boss doesn’t go for your plan, you can develop a reputation as a creative problem solver and perhaps you’ll be considered for that next raise or promotion.

·         Make your boss look good.  Consider the people whose advice you are willing to take.  Are they the people who criticize you behind your back or try to come across as being much smarter than you?  Probably not.  Put yourself in the manager’s shoes and try to offer helpful advice and assistance.  Building a trusted relationship will make it much more likely that the boss will let you run with that next great idea.

·         If you’re bored in your job, maybe there’s something more exciting you could do.  Perhaps there’s a better way to do the same old thing.  Maybe there’s a new twist on an old product or service.  Take some time to learn.  Many of us focus on proving ourselves in what we do well rather than on developing ourselves and learning more.  The more you learn, the more ideas you’ll develop and the more opportunities you’ll recognize.

Feeling powerless in your work environment is certainly a good way to zap all your energy and enthusiasm.  I don’t think that any of us is ever truly powerless; we just choose not to act.  But life can get kinda miserable and boring when we feel that way!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Outstanding Customer Service is an Outstanding Result (4 in a series on hiring)

All businesses have to define the results they strive to achieve. These targeted results help everyone focus their efforts and work as a team. As I sat down to write this article about defining results, I couldn’t help but think about the consistently horrible customer service I’ve received this week.  No matter what business you’re in, even if you work for a non-profit, there are always customers (or members or students) to serve. So, it seems like the “right” results would always have something to do with offering excellent customer service. Actually, as I think back on all the businesses I’ve dealt with over the week, I truly think that the key to soaring above the competition is simply to offer an outstanding customer experience.   
In today’s ever changing world, it’s challenging to think of ways to be different in business. Your competition is watching and new ideas, new services, or new products can be copied.  Remember when Beanie Babies came out?  Soon stores were filled with copycat beanbag animals.  Look at all the imitations that came after the iPhone.  How about reality TV?  Once producers noticed it was a popular concept, it took over our TV channels.  As soon as you make something successful, that something will be copied.  But here’s something that no one can copy.  No one can copy how YOUR TEAM treats YOUR CUSTOMERS.  That customer experience is what will make you memorable.  Simply hiring friendly people is a good way to start!  You can’t train people to be friendly.  I also believe that employees treat customers similar to how the boss treats employees.  For example, if the boss has no time to pay attention to employees and make them feel valued, employees will find little time to pay attention to customers and make THEM feel valued. 
Watch for our new book, coming out in April, titled “Inside Out: Creating Work Environments That Lead to Exceptional Customer Service.”

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Right Way - Right Results (3 in a series on hiring)

Right Way – Right Results
The Echo 3 Principle stresses the importance of doing things the right way to lead to the right results.  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  Well, actually it is often overlooked.  The employee who achieves the “right results” is often allowed tremendous flexibility with methods.  The boss will overlook those occasional infractions because, well, they achieve results.  Keep in mind that accepting certain behaviors or methods that SHOULD be unacceptable, is building a lousy culture for your organization.
What about the “Right Way Wrong Results” employee?  Have you ever dealt with someone like this?  This is the person who is kind, caring, and follows all the rules.  Everyone likes them.  However, they are ineffective.  They don’t achieve needed results.  The boss may overlook this problem as well because the person is just “so nice.” 
Here’s an idea.  Take a look at your performance appraisal process.  Make some changes so that “right way” and “right results” are clearly outlined.   If you want a high performance values based culture, both must be defined and both must be important.  The employees you reward and promote, your superstars, should be only those who achieve the right results the right way. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Management Training ($100 referral fee)

TIME SENSITIVE OFFER: Did you know that we offer both on-site and pre-packaged soft skills training seminars for mangers? Well, we do! For the next two weeks we are offering a $100 referral fee for any contact that leads to a paying client. We offer courses in Communications, Hiring Right, Performance Management, Motivation and Engagement, Performance Appraisals, and Conflict Resolution. www.workforceechoes.com

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Policy and Procedure Overkill! (2 in a series on hiring)

Picture this.  A small local business has a total of 25 employees.  One of those employees is consistently late to work.  The boss has mentioned it a few times, but nothing changes.  One morning the employee comes in late on a particularly bad day for the boss.  The boss has had enough.  She orders a time clock for the office, and writes a new policy that everyone must clock in and out.  A few weeks later the boss notices a customer standing around waiting for help.  Another employee, who should be assisting the customer, is distracted because she’s on her Facebook account.  The irritated boss writes another new policy.  Employees are no longer allowed to go on any social networking sites while at work. 
This scenario points out a very common habit; rather than deal with an employee problem, the boss writes a new policy and expects the problem to be resolved.  With each new policy, your star employees are further punished and left wondering why the policy is needed.  Over time, this habit leads to restrictive environments and rule books that are too large to memorize.
Organizational values can help.  If you hire, fire, train, reward and communicate towards defined strategic values, restrictive and detailed rules are no longer needed.  The “right way” is known without the rule book.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say that ambition is one of your core business values.  One of the ways you’ve defined this to employees is by stating that everyone is expected to practice exceptional time management skills.  You explain the “why” behind this.  It’s discussed in interviews and new employee orientations.  It’s listed on job descriptions.  Employees are rewarded for exceptional time management practices, and training to improve this skill set is provided.  When an employee consistently comes to work late, you don’t need a new restrictive rule or a time clock.  They are not meeting the expectation, made very clear, of exceptional time management.   They are not adhering to the core value of ambition.  Now deal with it.  Similarly, when an employee’s time on Facebook leaves a customer standing around with no help, that’s not practicing exceptional time management either.  You don’t need a new rule; you just need to deal with the problem.  An added benefit is that employees are more willing to accept expectations that are tied to values, than they are to accept a constantly growing rule book brought on by unresolved problems.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Organizational Hiring / Make Three Right Turns - The Right People! The Right Way! The Right Results! (1 in a series on hiring)

Minimum Qualifications: Helpful or Harmful?

I was reading through some job descriptions recently written by a client, and the idea for a blog posting came to me.  It’s an exciting topic; minimum qualifications.  Yeah, sounds boring, but I’ll keep this short and hopefully make you think carefully before your next recruitment efforts.

When we create job descriptions, we so often just make up some minimum qualifications such as requiring two years experience or a college degree.  I realize that for some jobs, there are legal and safety reasons for requiring certain educational and experience backgrounds.  I’m not talking about those positions.  I’m talking about those jobs where success is highly related to having certain attitudes, natural talents, or personality characteristics, rather than a very specific background.  If you can get someone who likes to learn, who is enthusiastic, and whose values fit in well with your organization, you often can train them to do their specific job duties.  I’d rather hire someone whose attitude is great and who can learn needed skills, than someone who has learned specific skills yet has a lousy attitude.  My point is that if you haphazardly define minimum qualifications, without careful evaluation, you may greatly reduce your best applicant pool, and may end up focusing your attention on the wrong things during interviews.

Here’s an example.  Colleen Barrett just recently retired from Southwest Airlines.  She was the President.  She never attended college.  Have you ever seen an executive position advertised, for a multi-billion dollar corporation, that didn’t require AT LEAST a Bachelor’s Degree?  Colleen learned everything she knew with on-the-job experience.  She loved to learn and had the right values and attitude.

To find out what it really takes to be successful in a certain job, talk to someone who already is.  Better yet, have them help you do the interviews.  Minimum qualifications are important; just make sure they are truly related to job success.