Empty Nesting

empty nest

Both my kids left home this past week. They’ve done it before. They may do it again. It’s not quite like a generation or two ago when leaving home was a definitive cut-off and a one-way trip. These days there’s the term ‘boomerang kids’ for those who keep coming back (no matter how far you throw them). And, apparently, in Italy they never leave.

They first left home a year ago to go to university in a different city but they were staying in halls of residence and they were together – regularly checking in with us, and back each term break. Given how much time they used to spend out or in their rooms, it really didn’t seem that different. This time round it seems more real. They’re flatting separately and we’re now also missing things from our house as well as them. Still, how many frying pans does one really need?

Also- that’s two drivers off Auckland’s roads lessening our household’s contribution to the congestion by 50%. I challenge all other Auckland households to do the same. Hey, Auckland Transport, I’ll expect some congestion charge discount in your planning thanks.

In my new presentation about change and how to build resilience in anticipation of inevitable if unpredictable change, I briefly reference the Sigmoid Curve. It’s an oldie but a goodie as a mental model for understanding natural processes and lifecycles. Originally noticed in the world of nature, it’s subsequently been applied to lifecycles of products, organisations, societies and relationships. Picture a seed and its growth as a graph. Initially growth is negative as it gears up and stores resources for the big sprouting then it shoots and grows up to a peak then declines then [spoiler alert] some terminal point.

sigmoid-pic

The trick, experts say, is to pick a point before the decline and either start another curve or reinvent the current one so that it is, in effect, a new one. Timing is important as you need the resources to begin again and no one is giving resources to a declining curve.

I want to make the analogy to work teams, using both the kids leaving home and the Sigmoid Curve.

As fast as two decades of parenting has zipped by, the change in our home ‘team’ was inevitable, even if the specific circumstances and timing were unpredictable. This is true in work teams and at a much faster rate. I led one group for over a decade and one of the things of which I’m most proud was that at the time of the initial recruitment and building of my team, I was also developing plans and processes for the inevitable reinvention of that team. It did take longer and I didn’t HAVE to do it, but within only a few months my righthand person had to quit and go overseas due to a family health crisis. I was ready and whilst surprised and supportive, I wasn’t shocked – family health crises happen. Not only was I able to instantly implement plans to temporarily and permanently replace that person, I was able to have that person involved in the process, thus helping me out and giving them a lessened sense of guilt and a heightened sense of closure.

One of the most dangerous phrases in business and life is, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. That’s super naive and dangerously unrealistic. I”m not saying deliberately break things (although I”m not saying not to do that) but we all have a spare tyre in our cars because a flat tyre is inevitable. We try to save a bit of money and have a few spare frying pans and advice for when our kids leave home. So, regardless or perhaps because of, how optimal you think the team you’re leading right now is doing, start prepping for the inevitability of change and someone – a key person – leaving the nest.

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Never stop learning and be open to new ways of learning in the workplace

never stop learning

A recent survey found that a third of teachers didn’t understand basic fractions. The irony of this is that third are the very people who don’t know what “a third” is. On average, teachers are wonderful people, only a third of whom you might need to explain what “on average” means. They’re also passionately committed, two thirds are really well educated and they’re collectively really well organised. So, I hope they’ll be forgiving after being the butt of a cheap joke at the start of my article. (OK, three jokes but only a third of which was cheap. OK, four.) They’re also fantastic people to be in a committed relationship with. If you ever fail to satisfy them as a lover, it’s not that you’ve failed, it’s that you’ve ‘not yet achieved.’

There’s a ratio that gets trotted out in workplace training. (And by ‘training’, I mean ‘building workforce capability.’ And ‘ratio’ is another term for a ‘fraction.’) 70:20:10. 10 percent of learning by workers is courses and reading. 20 percent is from bosses or co-workers in semi-formal efforts to upskill a newbie. The 70 percent is from “tough jobs.” The research is generally accredited to the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) and “tough jobs’ was their phrase. The ratio sounds about right to me. As a trainer, I used to be precious and disproportionately enamoured with training – out of self interest as much as any interest I had in my trainees. I was lucky in that I had a 20 and a 70 experience that flipped my perception. The 20 experience was some very specific and useful feedback from a boss. The 70 experience was a tough job I endured as a result of initially not heeding that boss’s advice.

I flipped on a dime really from being me-centric and training others to a mindset of being learner-centric facilitating an optimum learning environment. It seems a small thing but it is not and it is not just semantics. CCL identifies one of the benefits of their “tough jobs” approach is that the pain of the failure or feedback drives a motivation to improve, part of which is addressed by learning – a learning that is self-driven by the learner, which is the best kind.

Workplaces vary wildly. They vary in their support of their people who want to do the 10 percent and read and attend formal courses. But the good ones acknowledge the importance and try. The good ones develop their leaders and performance management systems so the 20 percent can be managed systematically and effectively, linking that learning strategically to organisational goals. The wildest variation, in my experience and observations, comes in the 70 percent. If it is true that the vast majority of workplace learning occurs during tough jobs, how many workplaces plan and prepare for that? And upskill the team leaders on delegation and providing feedback? Traditionally the focus may have been on the 10 – listing courses and ticking off attendance. Now I’m often super impressed by the number of workplaces with competencies dripping off simple but effective skill matrices that everyone understands and sees the benefits of. Identifying gaps in current skills needs and development opportunities for individuals and collectvely, and planning to fill those gaps. Organisations need to put as much effort into planning the 70 and the 20 as they do on the 10.

This is a great time and opportunity for e-learning. To me, the number one advantage of e-learning as a delivery method, regardless of its shortcomings, is that it can be delivered just in time. It can be created in anticipation of tough jobs – both before and after. It’s never going to replace an effective team leader’s coaching before and during, or feedback after, a tough job but it usefully augments it in a timely way. If the learner genuinely gets some motivation out of the tough job in anticipation or experience and a useful e-learning resource is easily available, why wouldn’t that self-motivated learner take advantage of it?

Other words to describe CCL’s 70:20:10 ratio might be experiential, social and formal. Tell me and I hear. Show me and I understand. Involve me and I remember – that’s experiential. Social is interesting. I read some research recently advising that a powerful lever of behaviour change for these millennials entering the workforce is social nudging. What we might’ve called the buddy system in our day. For all the use of closed in-house FaceBook groups, the principle of social learning remains the same. I saw a electronics chain use this method far more effectively than any intranet, memo or newsletter. Create and manage a closed group, advise staff that it exists and they start sharing – asking questions or revealing discoveries about new products. For them it worked.

Maori have a principle called Ako in which learning is a two-way street between teacher and student. One thing those in charge of workplace learning could learn from students is that there are new ways of learning.

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Just A Thought On Thought Leadership

thinker

I recently posted in the professional development LinkedIn group I run (https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4458256) and threw in a phrase that occurred to me in the moment: ‘thought distributor’. Everyone’s a thought ‘leader’ these days and, if everyone is, is anyone really? I was recently pitched some marketing material on how to commoditise and monetise my own thought leadership. Like the nutrition pyramid, there should probably be one for thought leadership; some thoughts have more carbs and less nutrients.

Most days I think I’m pretty great. (Self-employed have to). But there’s enough humility in me most days to keep myself in check. The last time I exhibited true thought leadership was when I upsized my combo and the three people in line behind me did the same. BUT I aspire to work my way up that thought pyramid and in my work help others do the same. SO, rather than hubristically (not a word) declare myself a thought leader, I’ll settle for now as a ‘thought distributor’, ‘thought curator’, ‘thought tester’, and ‘thought connector’.

Just a thought. www.brainbasedboss.com

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Bill Hicks’ Principles Of Comedy Applied To Professional Communication

hicks

If you don’t know who Bill Hicks was, you’re clearly not in the comedy business (art?) He is iconic and controversial – a comedians’ comedian. This blog isn’t about comedy though. Why mention him? He spoke up for what he believed and wore a ton of trouble for doing so. He kept on. I’m pretty sure most sensible business commentators / mentors etc would advise strongly against basing your professional communication on the model that was Bill Hicks.

I dunno though. The list below may or may not actually be from Hicks himself. Its one of those urban mythical things. That’s not important; Let’s assume that the principles are his. Have a read of the list. Put yourself in the picture. In your mind, change the references to being on “stage” to being in your market, role, industry, profession, whatever. You might want to change the word “funny” to whatever it is that you’re supposed to be. Change “audience” to “clients” or “customers.”

Go on. Give it a go. See how it makes sense now…

1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.

2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.

3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.

4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.

5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.

6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a hole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.

7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.

8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.

9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)

10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.

11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.

12. I love my roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.

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In Workspace, No One Can Hear You Scream

space

The tongue-in-cheek title of this article is a reference to the tagline of the classic movie ‘Alien’. Apart from a couple of iconic horror-ish scenes, much of the drama of that movie is suspense – long periods of nothing with intermittent interactions with the unexpected. That sounds a lot like office workspaces – long periods of nothing then getting quite startled by the smell of whatever the last person cooked inside the microwave. And, in the dystopian future of the alien franchise and in most offices, everything is done for the benefit of the company.

We’re regaled in LinkedIn posts and magazine articles about the sexy workplaces, usually in Silicon Valley with mini-golf courses in corridors and fireman poles connecting meeting rooms to a bat-cave. Those kinds of googly environments do exist, and even exist in New Zealand. TradeMe have quite a centrepiece in their office of a five-storey slide. At the top is a sign very clearly indicating it is unacceptable to “drink and slide”. Also, there’s some wisdom about not carrying laptops at the same time.

Whether you think it nice or silly or engaging to have such trinkets and playthings, there are many other more affordable and overtly practical trends and developments in work space design. As long as they’re pragmatic and purposeful and not just change or funkiness for its own sake or that of the ego of a designer, I do not have a problem with them. Novelty by its very nature wears off, like welcomes.

One trend is hiding the wires. Those of us with home offices or who like to muck in and help shift ourselves at work know the excitement of the Russian Roulette of unplugging cables, shifting, then attempting to re-plug things in. With LANs, HDMIs, VGAs and RCAs, it’s hard to tell that I made up one of those previous terms. (One is a record label that signed at various times Duke Ellington, Kenny Rogers and Britney Spears). Complete wirelessness is not yet with us so I look forward to hidden compartments and doors, ala Hogwarts, to keep cables out of sight and out of mind. Until, of course one of them stops working and who knows which one that is or where it’s hidden in spaghetti limbo?

Bringing the outdoors inside is a thing. We’re way beyond potplants now. Some countries are making rooftop garden spaces and parks compulsory. Even Auckland has beehives set up in the CBD for all those folks with balcony yucca, cherry tomatoes and small grazing spaces for ponies that will fit in a handbag.

Multi-purpose spaces are becoming commonplace. From ‘non-assigned seating’ to casual breakout areas to standing meeting spaces, I’ve even seen ‘town squares’ and a caravan repurposed as a meeting room with its own coffee machine with more tech than Apollo 11 had, which admittedly wasn’t that much.

Given that mobile devices are, well, mobile, spaces that used to be for cubicles, pods, or customer desks are now general lounge areas that can be used for laptop work, meetings or general lounging.

Areas within areas can be designated and differentiated discretely or glaringly by colour. The ‘red zone’ is for boisterous play where creative juices can run riot and innovations generated. If you’re trying to meditate in the red zone, that’s a rookie play. Wise up and head for the chill blue space. Duh.

Community tables are happening. Some look like King Arthur is expecting his knights to arrive at any moment but the general idea is sharesies. If the table seats 12 and you’re having a chat for two, don’t be surprised or offended if another two or more people show up and encroach your space. Outside of offices, I’ve been to cafes with community tables and they’re popular and I hate them. The thing I don’t like about being a people-person in my own time is the people. But, apparently, in workplaces, they’re collegial and collaborative. In fairness though, it takes a village to raise a project.

I’m not saying ‘Get Him To The Greek’ is a good movie but there is an amusing drug-addled scene in which various characters interact with a furry wall. Office designers refer to this premis in their new designs as influencing wellness and productivity with a variable texture vocabulary. I am actually a fan of this and have years of bubblewrap popping experience to back myself up. Flat is out.

Permanent layouts are out and flexibility is in. So, it seems like office space is being treated much the same as office people.

If you’re worried everything is changing, fret not, there’ll still be timeless classics like flickering fluorescent tubes, partitions blocking natural light, and Barry from Accounts trying to sell you his daughter’s fundraising soap. Whatever happened to fundraising chocolate?!


 

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Recruiting or Cloning? – Building The Perfect Beast

clones

I have a number of fears. I suffer from Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces. (Not to be confused with Angoraphobia – irrational fear of expensive goats-wool sweaters.) I suffer from axiquixotyltlatamsgpixzaphobia – the fear of mispronouncing words. Most recently, I have been gripped by the debate on cloning and genetic engineering and the fears raised by that debate.

I have recently conducted an extensive and elaborate exercise with an awful lot of job descriptions (as opposed to a lot of awful job descriptions.) I sat with my colleagues and wistfully compared our practice of pulling bits of roles from here and there to build a composite role to the practice of Doctor Frankenstein. How often when looking at an almost equal group of candidates have you said something akin to “If only we had a candidate with the experience of person A and the communication skills of person B?” Hmmmm.

Is genetic engineering a good metaphor for the recruitment profession? If scientists can grow a human ear on the back of a rat, then the technology can’t be far off. A call centre operator with extra ears can only be positive for service levels. Parking wardens with thicker skin. Used (sorry pre-loved) car salesmen with a conscience.

Genetic engineering is a big worry for me. Peanut plants are very sturdy and resistant to bugs and diseases so it is very tempting to use peanut genes in other crops. I’m very allergic to nuts. If I eat them I could die. If I go out to eat, the subject of my nut allergy always comes up. If I mention it to the waiter they always look at you funny (well, funnier than waiters normally look at customers.) If I don’t mention it, I might eat nuts then die all over the table. Either way, it gets drawn to the attention of people and becomes part of the conversation. “Excuse me, I like the look of the Thai style prawn. Does it have nuts in it?” The waiter or waitress generally gives me a look at this point that says “Fussy.” Anticipating this from experience, I then respond “The reason I ask is not that I’m being fussy. It’s just that I’m allergic and I could die or at least make a scene which could make the restaurant look bad in the eyes of the other diners and will adversely affect your tip.”

The point of that story started out being about genetic engineers messing with nature and the potential for unexpected and unpleasant consequences. By the time I finished the paragraph, I got side-tracked onto waiting staff. That’s an occupation with which we are all familiar and probably one where we’ve experienced the complete spectrum of service. Why is that? It is supposed to be an entry-level role isn’t it, with basic easily learnt skills? Yet service varies wildly. Exceptionally skilled people with wonderful attitudes can be recruited until the cows come home but if they are not working in an environment that supports them, they are constrained and likely to move on. In my experience, organisations of whatever size or nature have a “way of doing things round here.” Bring in a star-clone by whatever magical recruitment methods and they encounter that “way of doing things round here.” In a restaurant they way things are done round there is the way the boss done things round there. I recently worked in a large organisation with five divisions. It was almost as if it was five different organisations who just happened to share the same corporate wardrobe. You know how sometimes owners start to look like their pets? It was like that with these divisions and their general managers. This organisation was investing time, money and commitment in a corporate-wide approach to recruitment with no parallel effort in ensuring a corporately consistent “way things are done around here.” Maybe I’m stretching the cloning metaphor but I went to a website containing the most frequently asked cloning questions. One question was about how feasible it would be to clone Russell Crowe. The scientist’s answer avoided the ethics but apparently even if they could get close enough to grab some DNA, the development of the clone is just as affected by its developmental environment as it is be the genetic factors. So the metaphor holds true, even for our recruitment clone it is the environmental factors that can mess with our star-clone recruit. Might be an idea not to look at recruitment in isolation, but as part of an ongoing process including job design, orientation, performance management etc. (Actually, I can’t imagine it being a problem getting Russell’s DNA. More of a problem avoiding it.)

Even if it were possible, ethical and desirable, I’m still not keen on being cloned personally. German mythology has the doppelganger. They reckon everyone has someone who is their exact duplicate and when you meet them, you die. How could you avoid your doppelganger? If you weren’t of Chinese descent and went to live in China, you could safely socialise with a billion and a half people. Of course there was that Seven Years In Tibet movie where Brad Pitt played a German living in Tibet which is now under Chinese rule, so I suppose there is a small risk, if you are the exact likeness of Brad Pitt. In this case, my advice is to take your chances and place a call to Jennifer Aniston this very minute.

Genetic engineering seems like a great idea at first. Like my idea for a combination coffee thermos and cellphone. It seems like a great idea until the first solicitor’s letter arrives…

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Care

wash hands

Here’s an excerpt from my book ‘Live Work Love: #Add10QualityYears

  • Men repressing emotions are damaging themselves physically,
  • There are practical alternatives to talking about feelings,
  • Apreciating the small things you have makes you healthier.

Are we becoming less caring? A survey of Christmas wishes resulted in the following:

Top Result

2010   Peace and happiness

2011   iPad

That doesn’t necessarily prove anything. I included it for a laugh. But if we were more interested in iPads than peace and happiness, would it matter? I don’t mean would it matter in a moral sense but in a literal sense. Does caring more improve our longevity, health and enable us to be more productive? If it does, does it matter what we care about?

New Zealand’s Mental Health Foundation promotes their five winning ways to wellbeing:

  1. Talk and listen. Be there. Feel connected,
  2. Give your time, your words, your presence,
  3. Take notice. Remember the simple things that give you joy,
  4. Keep learning. Embrace new experiences. See opportunities. Surprise yourself,
  5. Be active. Do what you can. Enjoy what you do. Move your mood.

We flourish when we are being relied on. There is a necessity to being necessary.

Dr Laura Carstensen of Stanford University observed that once someone begins to consciously anticipate death, they tend to disengage – to not care.

It’s not enough to care; you need to express that you do. Many of the books and studies I looked at emphasised how men are the ones who die first. Often, a reason cited beyond the physical ones is a general reluctance amongst men to speak freely and express emotionally. I’m not advocating a total hugfest here but men need to pick up the pace. Michelle Duff on stuff.co.nz wrote that a New Zealand Ministry of Health report shows death rates are as low as they have even been since mortality data was collected, but men are far more likely to die of preventable causes than women. Heart Foundation medical director Professor Norman Sharpe said it is a gap that will continue to widen as a “new wave” of health problems caused by obesity start showing up in the statistics. Men are up to twice as likely to die from preventable illnesses like heart disease and diabetes. In 2010, the male rate of death from coronary heart disease was 85.3 percent higher than the female rate. When it comes to dying in motor vehicle crashes and suicide, the gender gap becomes a chasm. Men are three times as likely to die in a car crash and more than twice as likely to kill themselves.

There are lots of reasons why men traditionally do not take care of themselves and do not express themselves. More important is the question of what it will take to encourage them to do so as soon as possible. Recent years have seen social media and advertising campaigns such as Movember and Blue October have highlighted mens’ health issues. Celebrities have been drafted in to raise awareness. Former All Black great John Kirwan’s work around depression and his book ‘All Blacks Don’t Cry’ is an obvious and effective example of this.

Ultimately society can chip away at big changes like this. I’m more interested in what individuals like you can do right now. You need to have a powerful reason to want to change your unhelpful and unhealthy behaviours. Again, the question of why you should is probably going to be answered with a who. Post their picture on your car’s dashboard. Next time you’re on autopilot and your car is steering itself towards a fastfood drive-through, hopefully that person’s image can remind you to steer away. We need powerful immediate and personal motivators to overcome ingrained behaviours, many of which have been with us since childhood.

If the Government is serious about reversing the obesity epidemic, it must introduce tough new rules on the packaging of children’s treats, Consumer NZ says.

The consumer advocacy group is calling for the control of marketing gimmicks on food packaging – particularly cartoon characters, free toys and on-packet puzzles targeting children. As reported by stuff.co.nz, Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin said under-13s were particularly susceptible to tricks of the advertising trade. With a person’s lifelong food preferences formed at an early age, if companies rope them in young, they’ll likely be hooked for life, the watchdog’s report says.

American researchers have found children preferred the taste of McDonald’s-branded food over that in plain packaging, even though both were identical – and the same effect was seen with cartoon characters like Dora the Explorer. Chetwin said licensing kids’ characters from companies like Disney was costly, and companies would not invest the cash unless they knew it would pay off.

The problem with caring about things is that you get upset when the things you care about die, leave or don’t care back. That is a risk but the research clearly shows that life as an emotional roller coaster is more worth living than a flat emotional conveyor belt.

Counselling has its place but for situations that are less needing of expensive external professional intervention, try ‘Expressive Writing.’

Talking about stuff is random and disorganised. The process of writing requires you to think about what’s happened, its consequences, the alternatives and the future. Thinking then writing puts it into a structure and gives it meaning. And that’s what our brains require – to make meaning. We see shapes in the clouds because our brains like to find meaning in randomness. Until we get meaning, we do not get closure. The Expressive Writing technique has been shown to provide a:

  • Boost in a sense of personal well-being,
  • Reduction in health problems,
  • Increase in self-esteem and happiness.

Expressive Writing has been shown by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough to make people happier, more optimistic, healthier and even got them exercising more. And it’s not just for getting closure on traumatic events. It is equally effective for reminding us of the positive things in our lives for which we should be grateful and a gratitude attitude has physiological health benefits too. In the same way that we can walk into a room with fresh bread baking, get wowed by the smell then not notice it after a few minutes, we get desensitised. If you walk out of the room, then back in again, you re-notice the smell. Expressive Writing enables us to re-notice the positives. Once a week, make some entries in a gratitude journal. You should probably do it daily but let’s start with tiny habits… Complete the following:

Weekly, when I _____________________________________

Then I will update my gratitude journal.

 

A practical manifestation of caring is washing your hands. It is nothing but a hassle in the now but it saves lives. People might die from an infection caught off your dirty hands but it is unlikely. It is probable that they’ll get sick. Every instance of preventable sickness is another unnecessary experience of inflammation, non homeostatis and disruption that our bodies have to endure. If we cared for ourselves and others, we’d wash our hands, as evidenced by the interior of my friend Mike’s toilet door:

A survey of people declared that 91% of people washed their hands after visiting restaurant toilets. The actual truth was 82% which is less bad than I was expecting. It just means next time you and four friends are out to eat, you have to work out who that 18% of non washers at your table are. A 1992 study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 30-48% of staff at Intensive Care Units did not wash their hands properly. At this point, I’ll just finish by noting that Louis Pasteur refused to shake hands with anyone ever. Smart guy.

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Robotic Recruitment

grass-lawn-green-wooden-6069

At the risk of taking a defence from racists, I’m not a recruiter myself but some of my best friends are recruiters. I dabble on the edges of a number of overlapping industries so my LinkedIn network is awash with recruity foks and they seem to be quite prolific on the posting front. Online and IRL, I’ve observed one particular trend with concern: automatic applicant filtering systems. I get it; I really do. And I know, for the most part, it’s not actual recruiters driving this approach. It’s bean counters or time poor execs who view people as interchangeable commodities. My recruiter buddies are actually pleading for some humanity to return to the hiring practices of the primarily large employers employing robot recruiters.

Applicant Tracking Systems is one term. There are others. (SkyNet is one I suspect). I’ve been an employer. I appreciate that time is money and it may seem a super low-value use of time to have a human or humans look at early-stage applications. Even the time-old tradition of farming out the early-stage grunt work to recruitment agencies is diminishing. The latter’s argument, often true, was that they added value by having an expertise and an appreciation borne of specialisation. But that ain’t free or as cheap as a robot. And what most of these systems do is not added-value triage or assessment or filtering – it’s culling.

I’m not a tree-hugger, bleeding-heart type. Time is money. Open vacancies are a cost and a burden. Online job ads have created an influx of highly unlikely applicants. The obvious, instant and superficial benefits of robots is clear. But, I’m not sure their users appreciate the costs and risks. Babies and bathwater.

It’s even gotten to a point where a mini industry has mushroomed coaching potential applicants on how to write CVs and letters and tick boxes in online forms so as to cheat the test. I bet there’s an automated system you can pay to do your automated application for you.

One filter might be 5 years relevant industry experience. Humans might have that filter too but they can see a CV from someone who is a superstar in every other respect but they only have 4 years experience in a relevant industry. A human might toss that CV on the yes or maybe pile. A mindless, soulless robot culls without hesitation or appreciation of the consequences. A talent is lost to the employer, plus that system rarely replies in any meaningful way to the culled applicant, if at all.

My view is that one of the major attractors of genuinely top level talent to an employer is that employer’s ’employment brand’. I know there’s a lot of consultant-speak and management gobblegook terms but this one I like. If you’re an employer, even if you don’t know what an employment brand is, and you haven’t done anything conscious or deliberate to create one or mantain one or change one, you’ve got one. If you advertise a vacancy and a couple of talented potential applicants discuss it as follows, you’ve got one type of employment brand:

Talent 1: “Have you seen that job ad for ABC Limited? Are you going to apply”?
Talent 2: “I’d rather stick rusty fish hooks into both my eyes”.
Talent 1: “Yeah they talk a big game and dangle money but we’ve got choices and I hear they treat people like crap”.

Or words to that effect. Or the opposite of that. Or somewhere inbetween.

Would any of your current employees recommend you as a place to work to anyone they cared about who wasn’t absolutely desperate for any job? On a scale of one to ten? You don’t need to hire a consultant. This is pretty lightweight DIY inhouse research. Just like you might do some net promoter score research for your products or your brand-brand, how do you do with your employer brand? And, if it’s less than a nine on that scale of one to ten, what can you do about it?

There’s lots you do or don’t do (or say) that can nudge you in either direction but one that hits early on and one that affects more people outside your business who’ll tell their networks about you is that application process, especially that automated one.

A lot of manufacturing processes are automated and for logical, obvious reasons – efficiency, cost, time, etc. But you know what, they don’t trust those factory robots entirely. They have human intervention and assessment and quality control. They can’t affod to have a messed up Toyota make it past the robots or a perfectly fine Toyota get rejected by the robots.

I’m not saying to cull the culling systems. They have obvious efficiencies. But within the system’s electronic pathway needs to be a human element to the applicant’s journey. That’s not hard. There’s probably an AI robot that can write the code and you can play chess with them afterwards.

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More ideas at http://gettingbetterbuyin.com/

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Employee Engagement: Transactional vs Emotional (No one ever washes a rental car)

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Does it really matter if employees are genuinely engaged as long as they behave as if they are? This article gets all up in your grill on this topic. It back-refers to a previous article on how some employees, when surveyed about their engagement, might say what they think their bosses want to hear. One reader’s comment summed it all up nicely, “No one ever got a pig fat by weighing it.”

What I’m choosing to believe he meant by that remark was that engagement surveys are not how you engage people. A set of scales will definitely tell you the progress of fattening a pig. An engagement survey might tell the progress of engaging your people at work. And IF it does, that’s about all it does. And, as I’ve said before, most employees work for small employers who don’t have HR departments and tend not to be able to afford soft consultants. Engagement is important because it enhances performance and profitability. Obviously, some form of measurement and tracking would be helpful. Walking around and purposefully observing might be more useful and timely for the majority of employers.

I’m probably over-simplifying things when I say that when it comes to people at work, you cannot over-simplify things. By all means, have your HR departments pay consultants for surveys so you can tick a box that says you’re managing the engagement levels of your people at work. You might also be ticking boxes on workplace safety because you’re identifying risks and filing forms. BUT until everyone is emotionally committed to safety…

In my simple way, I like to stick to any definition of employee engagement that includes “discretionary activity.” People doing things at work that they don’t have to because they choose to. I don’t especially care if they’re happy or if they consider themselves to be whatever they mean by engaged. Don’t care. Well, maybe the world might be a more pleasant place if everyone was happy and thought they were engaged at work but that hasn’t been directly proven to be related to productivity and profitability in the same way that employee engagement in the discretionary activity sense has been.

The other quote I liked, again from a commenter and not the article, referred to how some employers treat employees in ways unlikely to support a culture of engagement. The quote was, “Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car.” (Hint: The employee is the car…)

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2 Dangerous Things A Year

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I have a brand-new presentation for conferences, associations and businesses and it’s all laid out at 2dangerousthingsayear.com. I talk about you deliberately doing things that scare you to exercise your resilience muscles and to stretch and develop yourself – to get better at getting better. I launched it last week in front of 300+ educators and the feedback was great: distinctive, memorable, entertaining, motivational, inspiring, challenging, practical, funny, entertaining, interactive…

I talk about you deliberately doing things that scare you to exercise your resilience muscles and to stretch and develop yourself – to get better at getting better. For you, your colleagues, your friends and family, it leads to a happier more productive life and less regrets looking back. I’m no one special. I’m just like you. I’m no adventurer like Indiana Jones. I’m no daredevil like Evil Knievel. I’m certainly no life-risking, challenge-smasher like Felix Baumgartner who based jumped from a balloon in space. But, I have since 2001 done 2 dangerous things a year. Dangerous by my own definition – things that scared, stretched and challenged me and yes even a few things that were literally dangerous by anyone’s definition. I focus on my ‘dangerous’ journey into becoming a stand-up comedian. I’m not talking about the glib cliché of ‘do something every day that scares you’. I’m talking about 2 things a year that have big pay-offs but could also go wrong.

I’ve experienced the benefits. I’ve done the study. I share these with my audience. More specifically, I encourage you, provoke you, and tool you up to do your own ‘dangerous’ things – to test yourself regularly so you’re ready when life tests you later.

Firstly, most people do not challenge themselves deliberately, proactively and frequently. I tell you why not. Secondly, those that do challenge themselves deliberately, proactively and frequently reap the benefits of significant personal growth across their life and I tell you what those benefits can be. Thirdly, I provide you an 8-part framework to get past those obstacles, get you started, keep you going, AND pass these ideas and encouragement onto others you care about.

Who Would Benefit:

  • Professionals and workplace leaders attempting to prepare or improve their and their team’s resilience for inevitable stresses and changes.
  • Sales managers wanting to move their people away from inertia.
  • Educators and community leaders wanting to safely provoke positive change.
  • Managers, Team Leaders and business leaders trying to snap their teams out of complacency and encourage their people to develop themselves personally and professionally.
  • Professional associations wanting to experience a session with practical, relevant and appropriate content that is interactive, memorable and engaging.

Terry Williams ‘2 Dangerous Things A Year’ Video Clip 1

Terry Williams ‘2 Dangerous Things A Year’ Video Clip 2

Terry Williams ‘2 Dangerous Things A Year’ Video Clip 3

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Learn more at www.2dangerousthingsayear.com

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