Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What Does IT Have to Do with Corporate Responsibility?

Apparently everything, according to some workers. A Deloitte online poll showed that more than 40 percent of employees believe their company’s IT department is very involved in corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts. They aren’t so far off the mark in their expectations, but as far as actual demonstration of proof, there is still a ways to go.

The survey showed that 25 percent of companies have a green IT program in place while another 9 percent plan to have one within the next year. In addition, close to 17 percent reported that IT is directly involved in their corporate responsibility and sustainability strategies, programs, and activities throughout their company, rather than just limited to carbon management.

The poll was conducted during a Deloitte webcast called “Competing in the Low-Carbon Economy: The Essential Dialog [sic] between the CIO and C-suite.”

“Companies today are relying more on CIOs to help drive business strategies and innovation, and our polling indicates that IT is becoming recognized as an essential enabler of sustainability efforts throughout the enterprise,” said Lee Dittmar, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Dittmar advised that CIOs need to be prepared to make a business case for IT in evolving sustainability strategies and programs. Points of preparation he suggested include knowing how to establish baseline measurements; aligning with corporate responsibility and sustainability goals and investments; determining information needs to measure progress at all levels; ensuring information availability and accessibility; and evaluating IT capabilities to measure, monitor, and report corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Moving Employee Mobility Programs Forward

The 2009 Total Employee Mobility Benchmarking Report, released by Runzheimer International in early October, shows that though businesses are investing in remote workforce programs, they do not have control over the associated risks, costs, or benefits.

Some of the major report findings included that 51 percent of the workforce is mobile on any given day, whether that means traveling, working from a virtual office, or driving for business. This number has gone up by 31 percent since 2006.

The total investment in workforce mobility has also gone up considerably in the past four years, and the number per-employee, per-year is $7,426, a figure that has gone up three percent year by year.

Despite this steady growth in investment, 73 percent of respondents have no policies in place when it comes to virtual office programs while another 56 percent are unaware if the programs they have instituted are productive. Sixty-four percent of companies reported that corporate travel costs are loosely managed.

One possible reason behind this lack of metrics could be that mobile workforce programs often involve multiple departments. For example, 80 percent of employees full into multiple categories of drivers, travelers, and virtual offices, and often have to interact with more than one department in order to fulfill their job responsibilities.

Since the mobile workforce is a growing body, and not an issue that will disappear anytime soon from organizational agendas, what are steps companies can take to better harness employee mobility programs?

Friday, December 11, 2009

When Your Boss Is Too Boss to Keep It a Secret

Do you wish other people outside your company could know about your boss who goes above and beyond his responsibilities? Well, now there’s a new website for that very purpose. is a recently launched site that reviews employers and highlights jobs that have great bosses. Potential candidates can read the reviews which are completed by current employees.

The website rating system is composed of professional online profiles with an employee review element. All reviewer responses are kept anonymous and all employers can follow up on any anonymous comment by starting a private online chat with the relevant employee in order to receive helpful feedback and improve upon their management styles.

Furthermore, if the boss likes the review, she can link it to a job ad for prospective applicants to read, or also to her resume for executive recruiters or head-hunters. If a boss does not like her results, she can choose not to share them with anyone.

“We're not here to penalize bad bosses but rather to celebrate great ones,” notes the site’s CEO Gavin Symanowitz.

Job applicants may also be more willing to be financially flexible if they know that they will be in good hands at their prospective place of employment.

"High-quality career-seekers are far more negotiable on salary if they know they will be working for a high-quality boss," says Symanowitz. "By showcasing their management skills, great bosses are therefore able to keep their staff costs down.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Australians Value Work Culture

What is more important to you: workplace culture or salary.

According to a recent study by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, 96percent of Australian employers use engagement activities, flexible work options, or incentives to create a quality work environment.

Family and caregiver leave, and part-time work are the most common flexible work options available. More than half of all employees surveyed consider flexible work arrangements as one of the five most important contributors to job satisfaction.

As we slowly move out of this economic recession, organizations are going to need to evaluate employee engagement and really find out what makes employees satisfied and engaged with their work. Myriad studies are finding that many employees will jump ship when the economy turns around, so how can you as workplace learning and performance professionals engage and retain your high potential employees?

What matters to your employees? If you don't know the answers, you better not waste time before finding out because sooner rather than later, it's going to be too late.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Career Resolutions May Mean Pursuing Ambitions Elsewhere

The impending arrival of a new year may mean the desire for a new job for many employees. Sixty percent of respondents intend to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010, according to a survey of more than 900 North American workers by Right Management.

In addition, 21 percent self-identified as “maybes” that have been networking in case something sparkly and better might come along.

“Employees are clearly expressing their pent up frustration with how they have been treated through the downturn,” says Douglas J. Matthews, president and CEO of Right Management. “While employers may have taken the necessary steps to streamline operations to remain viable, it appears many employees may have felt neglected in the process. The result is a disengaged and disgruntled workforce."

Only 13 percent of workers indicated that they intended to stay at their jobs, with another 6 percent saying a job change was unlikely though they updated their resumes to be safe.

“A segmented, customized and flexible talent strategy is critical to stem the alarming levels of employee turnover anticipated next year,” says Matthews.

I guess it’s not so far-fetched to say that as the recession reluctantly makes its way out of the hot buzzword arena, it just might bump into talent management brashly pushing its way back in.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Getting the Most out of Your Meetings

Have you ever been sitting in a meeting just watching the clock tick?

Well, now there’s a product that measures exactly just how much money is being wasted during unproductive meetings.

From Bring TIM! LLC comes Bring TIM!®, a time management cost calculator and clock. Users simply enter the number of attendees and the average hourly rate, and then press the start button to begin calculating.

Brad Johnson, president and founder of Bring TIM! LLC, created this device out of his own experience with meetings that ran four hours or longer.

A light-hearted gift with a valuable lesson, this machine literally demonstrates the meaning of the expression, “Time is money.”

Bring TIM!® is available for order now from for $24.95 plus shipping and handling.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Are You Undermanaged?

According to Bruce Tulgan, author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy, more employees are undermanaged than micromanaged—missing the two-way communication that is craved by many employees.

Just as micromanagers can cause employees to lose interest in their work or leave the job, those managers who undermanage—fail to give the day-to-day feedback to employees—also lose their employees to disengagement.

The job of the middle manager is complex and is often overlooked when it comes to training. Supervisors and managers need to spell out expectations every step of the way, ensure necessary resources are in place, track performance constantly, correct failure and reward success.

Middle management is one of the most important jobs in the organizations—as learning and performance professionals, you must take the time to give managers to skills and development they need to succeed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Stealing Focus at Work

There is more at risk of being nabbed at work than just your lunch leftovers.

An OfficeTeam survey found that 29 percent of employees have had an idea stolen at work. Even more surprising is that 51 percent of these employees have done nothing about it in response.

In contrast, 26 percent of these employees spoke up to take credit for what was their idea while 13 percent told a manager and another 13 percent confronted the person who stole the idea.

One major reason behind this behavior could be a competitive and anxious workplace atmosphere due to the current job climate. Employees are eager to look like active and useful contributors, and may unconsciously pounce onto someone else’s idea.

OfficeTeam lists a few recommendations to prevent intellectual property theft in the workplace.

Firstly, give your manager regular status updates so that she is reminded of your ideas and their progress.

Also, look for patterns. Is one of your ideas being stolen a one-time occurrence, or is your work regularly attributed to others? This could be a sign that you are not assertive enough.

Finally, don’t act too hastily. If someone takes credit for your idea, make sure you hear his side of the situation. Similarly, if you are wrongfully given credit for someone else’s idea, make sure you clear up the situation to demonstrate your integrity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are You Engaged?

A survey by MidlandHR finds that although most companies agree that employee engagement affects retention and overall organizational performance, 49 percent of the companies don't understand the level of engagement of employees and 42 percent don't know how to engage them.

The survey of more than 100 business leaders in the United Kingdom's public, private, and charity sectors had some astounding results. Almost a quarter of all companies don't conduct employee engagement surveys. Of the companies that do conduct surveys, only 23 percent conduct them annually, while 14 percent do one every two years.

Do you do employee engagement surveys? Are they anonymous?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Engagement Loses Ground

Apparently having a job when many others don’t is no longer sufficient.

More than 50 percent of workers say their jobs are stagnant, according to a recent survey by DDI.

Among the reasons employees cited are having no room to advance, not being asked to do more, and not being challenged enough. The reasons are ironic given that many workers say they are burdened with too much work following layoffs and budget cuts.

Were it not for the abysmal job market, even more people would look to better horizons. Half of the respondents who said their jobs are stagnant plan to look for a new job when the economy recovers.

What the survey indicates above all else is that just because people are busier does not mean organizations should ignore engagement. It’s something leaders should focus on regularly.

The number of people who choose to do something else at work other than work is likely the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago. Social networking sites are just a new diversion for bored employees. Spring and summer fever is not new either. Twenty percent of employees called in sick as many as three times over the summer.

We should not read too much into the statistics and ignore the larger problem. Engagement of employees is an ongoing issue, not something that emerged in the Internet age. It is just as easy to ban use of the Internet, social media or personal phones as it is to find challenging roles and assignments for ambitious employees.

Actually Sick, or Just Sick of Working?

While we are entering flu season and people are lining up to be vaccinated, some employees may stay home because they just don’t feel like going to work. According to CareerBuilder’s annual absenteeism survey, 32 percent of employees have played hooky from work at least once this year under the pretense of being sick.

However, not all bosses are pointing fingers, or think that their staffs are lazy. Twenty-eight percent of employers reported that they think their workers are using fake excuses because they are burned out or stressed due to the recession.

Regardless, some employers are vigilant as to their missing people. Twenty-nine percent reported they have checked in on an employee who called in sick with 70 percent requiring a doctor’s note and 17 percent even driving by the employee’s house. Fifteen percent of employers have fired an employee for missing work without an acceptable excuse.

Twelve percent of employees who reported calling in sick said it was because of a work-related item such as missing a meeting, giving themselves more time to work on a project, or avoiding a supervisor or colleague. Other reasons for missing work included a doctor’s appointment (31 percent), needing relaxation time (28 percent), catching up on sleep (16 percent), running personal errands (13 percent), catching up on housework (10 percent), or spending time with family and friends. Nearly one-third of employees (32 percent) reported they didn’t feel like going to work that day.

The survey sample included 4,700 employees and 3,100 employers.

Employers shared some of the more unusual responses they’ve received from employees for missing work. Some of the more creative ones included:

“I hit a nun with my motorcycle.”

“A random person threw poison ivy in my face and now I have a rash.”

“I got sunburned at a nude beach and can’t wear clothes.”

“I got caught selling an alligator.”

“A bee flew in my mouth.”

“I’m just not into it today.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Abundance of Talent

The year 2006 seems like a decade ago. At the time executives sounded off about how difficult it was to find and retain the “right” people.

Now there’s definitely more talent in the marketplace. Instead employers are concerned with slogging through the pile of resumes in their inboxes and spending more time with the qualified candidates and less time with the undesirables, according to a survey by TalentDrive.

The recession turned the whole talent “war” into a myth.

With more people competing for scarce jobs, employers list improving their search techniques as the top priority for the coming year. Selecting the brightest just got a lot harder.

Online job boards are a giant void. Employers realize that to find the best workers among the younger generation, they must cast their nets online and through social networking sites. Their ease of use means a lot of unqualified people simply send their resume out hoping for the best, like buying a lottery ticket.

Employers now have to spend more time wading through resumes sent by people who should not have applied in the first place. Fifty-nine percent of organizations surveyed said the best means of finding top talent is through employee referrals.

Strangely enough, 54 percent of organizations said the quality of candidates was up to par once initial selections were made.

Maybe employer expectations are just too high. The best candidates are typically not in the market at the same time. They’re already working.

For all the false optimism about an economic recovery, there truly is no recovery until the job market is no longer flooded with resumes. Forty-eight percent of companies surveyed said their budgets for talent acquisition were cut or nonexistent. We’ll known when a true recovery occurs because at that point, employers will be looking for talent instead of people looking for jobs.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Attracting and Retaining the Mature Workforce

Just when you thought that Baby Boomers were exiting the workforce en masse, the economy went in the tank and the mature workers remained in the workplace. Some of the stereotypes about these workers haven't gone away either: Older workers can’t or won’t keep their skills current and older workers are not tech-savvy.

But as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre showed in last night's Monday Night showdown with the Green Bay Packers, mature workers still have a lot of knowledge, experience, and heart to help their organizations succeed.

Does your organization have strategies to attract and retain older workers? Do you have a mentoring process in place that includes these invaluable employees?

Baby boomers are not leaving the workforce anytime soon, so you need to find ways to keep them engaged and ways to incorporate all generations into one workplace. The time is now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

There's No Business Like Small Business

Bigger isn’t always better. A recent CareerBuilder survey finds that 22 percent of workers who were laid off within the past year found new positions with small businesses. Of those who didn’t find jobs, 59 percent reported that they were interested in working for a small business and 29 percent said they would like to start their own small business.

Small businesses employ half of all workers in the private sector and provide half of the private gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

There were a multitude of reasons that working for a small business was an attractive option. Some of them included the family-like work environment (56 percent); more recognition of employees (49 percent); a sense of being able to facilitate change (48 percent); and the lack of corporate red tape (46 percent).

What are some other perks of working at a small business?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Does Your Company Have Clear Expectations Regarding Diversity?

According to the Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace survey results—commissioned by Capital H Group and released today—91 percent of managers and senior managers from DiversityInc Top 10 companies and a comparison group of Fortune 500 companies report that their organizations set clear expectations regarding diversity.

92 percent of those surveyed said their company's current diversity and inclusion practices have helped their organization's ability to attract and retain talent.

Does your company have a diversity policy? What is your company's definition of diversity?

One-third of respondents said their diversity policy only includes gender and race/ethnicity.

When you look for a job, is diversity an important factor in choosing which company to work for?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Productivity at All-Time High

Last week, news surfaced that productivity—basically the amount of work per hour—increased at an annual rate of 6.6 percent during the second quarter. That’s the best performance since the summer 2003 and easily exceeded the 6.4 percent gain economists expected, according to the Labor Department.

So what does that really mean? Are workers being asked to do more in less time? If so, how is workplace training playing a part in this productivity?

Are the workers who are remaining on the jobsite the older, more experienced group or are those workers left behind during a RIF being upskilled quickly to meet the demands of the organization?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fear of Management

Did you see the most recent Harris Interactive survey that reported that most U.S. workers do not want to be managers? Increased stress is apparently the no. 1 reason why American workers are afraid to take on more responsibility.

Fifty-one percent of the people surveyed said they don't want to become managers, and 69 percent older workers—those over the age of 64—are not interested in moving up the career ladder.

Are you surprised? Why isn't more responsibility enticing for U.S. workers?

Are leadership development programs scaring away high potentials, or maybe it's the lack of good development programs that has workers weary of taking on more responsibility?

Whatever the reason, scaring away would-be managers is a sobering reality that could have company executives scratching their heads in the not so distant future.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Office Buzz, Buzz: All Talk and No Substance

During this recession period of bailouts, downsizing, pay freezes, and similar signs of doom and gloom, it’s important to circle back in the workplace and really reach out to leverage engagement among employees, and value-add whenever possible in creating cutting-edge, customer-centric solutions. It is what it is.

Does the previous paragraph sound familiar in that there are a lot of hot-topic terms and expressions used but not much is actually being communicated or clarified? All the italicized words turn out to be some of the most overused terms in the world of business jargon.

In an Accountemps telephone survey of 150 senior leaders from 1,000 of the world’s largest companies, executives were asked, “What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?"

Some examples included:

• Viral: As in, "Our video has gone viral."

• Game changer: As in, "Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company."

• Disconnect: As in, "There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides."

A similar survey that was conducted in 2004 had many repeated expressions and words from 2009 including “think outside the box”, “on the same page,” and “at the end of the day”, and also words such as “synergy” and “customer-centric.”

“When business or industry terms become overused, people stop paying attention to them," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps. “The best communicators use clear and straightforward language that directly illustrates their points.”

At a time when organizations are doing more with less, perhaps budget cuts need to include office buzzwords.

Friday, August 14, 2009

New Dynamics in Mentoring Women

Not long ago the thought of men being ideal mentors for women would have sounded absurd. How could a man possibly understand a woman’s experience in the workplace?

Not only has the workplace changed, but the debate has changed along with it. If the end goal is to promote more women into positions of power, who better to teach them than the men who are already there? Most women agree that women seeking to become executives should find a male mentor.

When building an internal mentoring program, common ingredients for success do exist. There needs to be an active facilitator who pairs a mentor with a protégé. Throughout the process the woman interested in being mentored must take the initiative. Observers agree that absent a real determination from a woman seeking to learn from colleagues, an informal program whereby the organization sets the table and then steps out of the picture is unlikely to work.

The most effective mentoring relationships should last for one year. Partners should meet monthly. If time constraints do not permit such frequency, they should meet for an extended period of three hours per quarter. No topic should be considered irrelevant.

There are plenty of issues to discuss such as how to prepare presentations, speak the language of the board or build rapport with male executives. Maybe a female protégé needs to work on strategic thinking or develop greater financial acumen. Whatever they choose to focus on, the protégé should select an area that is crucial for them to reach the next level.

What distinguishes men from women in terms of mentoring is men’s willingness to seek and be guided by a mentor. Too often, according to workplace analysts, women fear asking for advice on professional matters out of fear that they will be perceived as incompetent or under qualified. On the flipside women are still reluctant mentors to other women.

Why are women at the executive level often unwilling to take on a guiding role? Reasons vary from a shortage of women in power to the limited time and heightened spotlight that the few at the top operate under. Possibly they suffer from the same affliction as doctors who express little sympathy for the brutal hours required of residents. If they had to struggle through days of 12-hour shifts without sleep, then why shouldn’t the next generation suffer the same?

Structured mentoring programs are effective. What makes or breaks it is the willingness of the protégé to keep the process going. It is not up to the mentor to set a schedule or select topics to discuss. The protégé has to take charge of the process.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Downturn Spurs Proactive Ingenuity

One could argue that the recession has inspired many people to reinvent their careers and seek new possibilities. The Foundation for Job Creation is one of the phoenixes that has risen from the ashes of the current economy.

Founded by inventor and entrepreneur Mark Nejmeh, attorney Francis X. Taney Jr., and businessman James Flattery, the purpose of the non-profit corporation is to “support ideas, innovations, and concepts through development and into prototype.”

Says Nejmeh, “We can no longer ignore ideas that are born in unexpected places…This new Foundation must mine the brilliance of the ‘can do, will do’ modern American scientists, creative minds, and entrepreneurs in garages, basements, and elsewhere.”

The industries of focus for the Foundation are entertainment, biotechnology, renewable energy, and any type of high- or low-tech industry. All development projects must create jobs and profit, as well as be strong candidates for export outside the U.S.

The foundation is open for various forms of membership, ranging from volunteer status (at no cost) to lifetime membership at $25,000. General annual membership amounts to $175 with significant discounts for those who are retired, serving in the military, students, or educators. A key benefit of being a member includes the right to vote on development of technology and the allocation of funds.

Some of the organization’s plans include creating three to five think tank-like facilities across the U.S. as well as one laboratory and prototyping facility, all open for member use by mid-2010. Anyone is allowed to apply for assistance with intellectual property protection, engineering software, business plan software, website development, branding, engineering services for assisting in concept and prototype design, and professional business mentoring and prototype production at these service centers.

The first fundraiser for the Foundation, Lift America Up, is slated for November 2009, and is a national bench press contest that is open to all individuals as well as schools, gyms, and military bases. A $5000 prize will go to the gym, school, or military base that cumulatively lifts the most weight among all the registered participants. Individual prizes of $1500 are also available.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Learning in Tough Economic Times

This economic recession has brought many challenges in the corporate world. From the market fluctuations to reductions in staff, all companies and all employees are feeling the effects of this downturn in the economy.

ASTD recently partnered with i4cp to produce a research report on how the learning function can partner with organizational leaders to help organizations increase employee productivity. Thirty-eight percent of survey participants reported that this recession is much more challenging than past downturns, and 70 percent of learning executives are looking for ways to become more efficient at delivering learning.

Explore the specific methods that organizations are using to cope with deep financial uncertainty and read about the best practices that learning organizations are using to survive this economic recession.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Measuring What Really Matters

Training is an investment. If your organization is investing money in workplace training, then training and development should be treated like any other investment—goals need to be aligned with business strategies, and accountability needs to be measured.

The recession has magnified the need for accountability. Learning professionals need to show how learning affects corporate performance by speaking the language of business when communicating the value of learning to executives, and by identifying ways in which the learning function supports the organization’s goals.

It is critical that professionals know what to measure, how to measure it, and how to present the results to the rest of the business. This includes understanding the business, the needs of employees, and how the training strategy links to business results.

To help learning maintain credibility, learning executives must think about results, measures, metrics, and analytics when designing and delivering workplace training programs. It is time to start delivering the data that executives demand, because if you fail to prove value, learning programs may be perceived as a waste of time and money.

Read Jack and Patty Phillips' article in this month's T+D.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Power of Talent Management
When I scanned Google News for workplace training and development, two of the top five articles focused on "safeguarding and developing talent" and "engaging and retaining Millennials." Managing talent has never been more important.

During these tough economic times, people are your most valuable asset. The difference between competing businesses comes down to people, their performance, and their service to customers. Cost savings may be front and center on the minds of business executives, but cutting corners on employee development may be fatal to a company's future success.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Resume Versus Interview

Even if you found a potential employee with the perfect resume, it’s still too early to relax. The job interview could quickly damage her image in your eyes, especially if your expectations were already high from what you read on paper.

Seventy-two percent of senior executives reported that it is common for job candidates with strong resumes not to pass muster in the interview, according to a survey by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance.

"In making crucial hiring decisions, nothing replaces in-person interaction to ensure the candidate has the requisite technical qualifications and the soft skills that will likely make him or her a good fit with the organization,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International.

Robert Half International offers several tips for employers to avoid running into this common hiring pitfall including networking, creating finely tuned job ads with strategic placement, narrowing the initial candidate pool with a phone interview, bringing in workers on a temporary basis, or using specialized recruiters.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SMS Your Way to Success!

Those Twitter skills may do more than broaden your professional network; they could land you your next job.

Teimlo, a British mobile phone content provider, has a position open for a new marketer, but here’s the catch. The company is only accepting job applications via text message—160 characters or fewer. All applicants who make the shortlist will be texted back.

The announcement on their website reads, “If you are qualified, sassy, good with words, dynamite at events, Adobe compatible, have working knowledge of mobile and social media, and are a determined multi-tasker and networker we want to hear from you.”

Those who make the cut will be invited to send in their CVs and eventually, may be lucky enough to land a face-to-face interview.

Though only Britain-based candidates are allowed to apply, the gimmick does offer a glimpse of a future where everybody has a tagline for his own unique personal brand.

What would yours be?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Workplace Readiness

Just as the Obama administration pledged to provide $12 billion to community colleges this week and focused a light on the training and skills workers will need for the jobs of tomorrow, a new report shows that U.S. employers continue to struggle with an ill-prepared workforce, finding new hires lack crucial basic and applied skills. For the most part, employer-sponsored readiness training is not successfully correcting these deficiencies, according to the report, The Ill-Prepared U.S. Workforce: Exploring the Challenges of Employer-Provided Workforce Readiness Training, produced by Corporate Voices for Working Families, the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), The Conference Board, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

“In any economy, having a knowledgeable, skilled workforce is critical for organizations to grow and be successful,” said Tony Bingham, ASTD President and CEO. “As the skills gap widens among new entrants to the workforce, it's clear that all stakeholders –employers, education, and the public workforce system – must collaborate to effectively prepare workers to be successful on the job.”

This topic is crucial if laid off individuals are going to find new jobs, spark the economic recovery, and compete in a challenging global business climate.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bonding Together Through Hardship

Work relationships, sometimes fraught with tension in times of stress, seem to be holding up well despite the recession.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported they have a “very good” or “good” relationship with their supervisors, according to a recent survey released by Accountemps, a staffing service for finance professionals. That number jumps to 95 percent when respondents were asked of their relationships with other co-workers.

When compared with the same survey distributed in 2005, the numbers were surprisingly consistent at 87 percent for “very good” or “good” relationship with supervisors and 91 percent for “very good” or “very good” relationships with co-workers.

“Workers who enjoy interacting with each other not only make the office more pleasant, but also produce better work,” says Max Messer, chairman of Accountemps.

Do you think the economic downturn is actually strengthening office relationships, or rather, are employees afraid to report the truth in these risky times?

In shades of gray, the truth may lie somewhere in between.
The Working Lives of Men

Yes, men are racing home to be with the kids in higher numbers than before.

Guess that whole work/life balance is starting to sink in. According to a recent survey by Accenture, 68 percent of men said it’s important for them to be available to their families when needed, compared with 49 percent of women.

The survey focused on attitudes about vacations and work/life priorities. Another surprise is that men are now more likely than women to take advantage of working from home. The breakdown was 91 percent of men versus 75 percent of women.

Once they go on vacation however, it’s back to work. Men are more likely to be tethered to email or calls from colleagues. The whole concept of separating work from vacation is still cloudy. Ninety-four percent of men said they work on vacation. Whether that means completing quarterly financial reports or simply browsing company emails, the survey did not make clear.

What has changed in the past generation as everyone with an iPhone or Blackberry knows, is that you no longer have to be in the office from sunup until sundown to get work done or schmooze a client. There’s only a slight gap between men (52 percent) and women (44 percent) who participate in conference calls while away from the office.

Really, both men and women need to get one thing straight when on vacation: go back to the beach.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Surviving a Corporate Meltdown

ASTD's monthly online publication, Learning Executives Briefing, talked with Ed Cohen,
head of Satyam’s learning organization, about the role his Satyam Learning World team played in first communicating the crisis, then helping the workforce to deal with its unexpected ramifications.

Corporate crises are all over the news, but the tale of Satyam Computer Services and its corrupt CEO sent shivers through the IT world. Read how the company’s learning organization dealt with the unenviable task of communicating with a workforce that had no real experience with job loss or the loss of respect and status. Read about it here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Federal Reforms

I was shocked to see a recent article in that said that the federal government spent 1.9 percent of their payroll on training between 1997 and 2000. In contrast, the private sector spends averages about 4 percent of its payroll on employee training.

Most of that training money is on upgrading efficiency on job-related tasks, not soft skills pertaining to customer service relations or helping managers communicate with employees.

Apparently, the Obama administration finally recognized the injustice and is set to legislate action to set mandatory spending levels for employee training, retool the performance appraisal process, and create a performance-based pay system.

What percentage of your payroll is spent on employee training? What percentage of payroll should be spent on employee training?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Eye Toward Better Performance at Scripps Health

Perhaps the bigger a company grows, the more conscientious it gets in terms of tracking the quality of its workers.

For example, one of the tools used for performance management at Scripps Health, a San Diego-based non-profit community health care system, is called "The Eye Chart."

Designed by an outside consulting firm, "The Eye Chart" is a large-scale visual tool that looks at factors such as leadership performance and cultural engagement across the entire company.

After compiling data from employee satisfaction surveys, the feedback is transformed into a bottom-up multi-rater leadership assessment. Departments that have healthy "mini-cultures of excellence" are represented in green and yellow quartiles while those that are struggling or failing are represented in orange and red quartiles.

The chart is intended to help managers find both the good and the bad aspects of their department, and to aid executives and operational leaders in making staff decisions.

What other types of performance management tools help companies find the pulse of their workplace cultures?

To find out more about performance management at Scripps Health, read "Prescription for a Turnaround" in the June issue of HR Magazine (SHRM members-only on the web). It details how matching talent with business needs and using rewards-tailored compensation for high achievement helped the company recover financially.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Mother of Innovation

In a world starving for fresh ideas, innovation is being tossed around like pennies as the solution to corporate ills.

If only it were so simple. Employees and managers don’t fall out of bed one day, decide to be innovative and voila, a new idea enters the marketplace. Most innovative companies dedicate resources and significant staff time to scouting new ideas. Oftentimes such companies find a niche before the average consumer and the marketplace is ready for it.

Being innovative does not mean creating a new gadget that did not exist in the marketplace. It refers to addressing a customer need or improving an existing product or service.

Decades ago IBM hired an expensive marketing firm to research the potential of high speed copying machines, according to Scott Anthony in his book, The Silver Lining. There was no need for such technology, marketers said. Good thing IBM didn’t listen.

The conservative nature and absence of creativity inside the walls of most organizations are two prime reasons why innovation is stifled. When executives declare that it is an employee’s job to be innovative that fails to inspire anyone. 3M famously allowed employees to spend 20 percent of their time generating ideas. Spending human capital is just as crucial as greenbacks.

It is possible to be innovative even among laggards like General Motors which developed the On Star hotline service, a highly successful mobile service that customers are willing to pay for.
Where is the best place to start? Try talking to customers first because they are the ones who are most likely best able to express their needs and wants. Few businesses do this today, focused as they are on survival or maintaining unrealistic standards of growth just a few years ago.

The perceived high cost of failure is another barrier to innovation. Most executives blanch at the thought of investing money in an idea that might not yield high returns.

For innovators, failure is only temporary as 3M discovered when its early attempts to create a semi-permanent glue planted the seeds for Post-It notes. Innovation requires the kind of thinking that breaks established convention, the kind of person who says why can’t we do this? It means not being afraid to submit an idea that others shy away from out of fear that it is “stupid” or might draw ridicule.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Serious Gaming in the Workplace

Is serious gaming being taken seriously in your workplace?

What if I asked the same question a different way: Does your organization support simulations as part of your training regime?

Is the word "gaming" scaring off organizations? It shouldn't, because more and more companies are beginning to accept high-tech gaming software as a necessary part of blended learning.

Serious games can be powerful educational tools, allowing users to experiment, learn from their mistakes and safely experience risky or dangerous situations.

It is time to change the perception of "gaming" among CEOs and other corporate executives. It is a valuable learning tool that is taking too long to become a mainstream part of everyday learning.