Collaboration


I’ve been doing some reading on Generation Y. You know – the kids born from 1976 to 1995, inclusive. The kids who’ve grown up in the digital age. The kids who can’t remember a time before cable television, self-service gas stations, video games, and computers. The kids who have no idea what a turntable is, since the music they listen to fits into a 1.5 inch square piece of machinery called a “Shuffle” (mine’s pink, by the way). Vinyl is what we use to make pleather pants, not music!

There are a lot of great things coming out of Generation Y. These kids have a deep social conscience – they care about issues beyond themselves, and understand that they are vital members of a world outside their bedroom windows. These kids are team players – they understand the value of collaboration in problem-solving, and they work together to develop faster, better, smarter solutions. They understand technology, and the benefits it can bring to their social and professional interactions.

Bob Morison, Tammy Erickson, and Ken Dychtwald pointed out in their 2006 book Workforce Crisis that there are several key things to remember when dealing with younger workers. Young workers, according to Morison, Erickson, and Dychtwald share the following traits:

  • Independent, not only intellectually (as the baby boomers tend to be) but also functionally, having “grown up fast” and managed themselves from a relatively young age.
  • Situational more than structured, and so they feel free to ignore policies and procedures that they find restrictive.
  • “Digital” in how they process information and communicate, and sometimes digital at the expense of interpersonal (by their parents’ definition of the word, anyway)
  • Diverse and comfortable with diversity, so that one-size-fits-all policies and management methods will likely alienate significant numbers of them. (Dychtwald, et. al., Workforce Crisis, 2006, p. 106)

Morison, Erickson, and Dychtwald go on to explain that many employers may perceive these characteristics as indicative of a poor work ethic. Without a true understanding of the circumstances that have led Generation Y workers to adopt these characteristics, employers are doomed to what the authors termed “endless churn.” Workforce Crisis argues that Generation Y employees won’t change their workplace behavior, so employers who don’t change the workplace (or at least meet the Generation Y worker halfway) will continually suffer from the inability to hold on to the brightest workers.

While I agree that there are significant benefits to opening up traditional organizations to welcome (and support) the collaborative, innovative efforts of the younger workforce, I see a problem that’s not being addressed by current efforts to welcome Generation Y employees into dynamic companies. I see a lack of leaders.

My husband volunteers time each college admissions season to interview candidates who have applied to a very prestigious technical university in the Boston area. This school looks for more than just a high GPA (the admissions office is, frankly, inundated with high GPA candidates). This university looks for students who show leadership, drive, and initiative. What Tom is finding, though, is that the students he has been interviewing over the past several years have shown a glaring lack of those three important qualities. Tom will be the first to tell you that these are bright kids – they’ve done a lot of interesting things in their academic careers – but he has only interviewed one student who has gone out and actually shown initiative to do something other than what he’d been assigned. These kids have a ton of teamwork, given that their teachers recognize the value of team projects in building strong workers. But all their projects have been collaborative. No one has been groomed to be a leader. No one understands how to make the tough choices that have to be made, because no one has been asked to take on roles where making the tough choices is required. No one has been asked to be a LEADER.

In short – Generation Y is suffering from leaderphobia. They are afraid to seek out opportunities for advancement, because the value of teamwork has been drilled into their heads. They’re perfectly willing to do as they’re asked, but shy away from finding new opportunities to provide valuable, bottom-line benefits. Because of their ingrained sense of social justice, they don’t want to make it appear that they might be more talented than their teammates. The problem is, there are kids out there who are genuinely more talented, and we’re not taking advantage of what they have to offer.

An entire generation is being groomed to be collaborative, and we’re losing sight of the fact that, without leaders, we’re doomed to failure. Our organizations will crumble because no one is there to lead with a clear vision of the future.

Fast-forward 30 years. The Baby Boomers will be long gone, their ashes spread across oceans and over mountain tops. My generation will be enjoying our active older adulthood, playing golf at Del Webb’s Sun City, and drinking margaritas on our lanais. The Generation Y workforce will be in charge of the economy. Their efforts will put bread on the table of the world. But, without leaders, what will we have? Chaos? Well, maybe not chaos, but certainly not a clear direction, a clear vision for the future. And it will affect an organization’s ability to remain competitive on a global scale.

Leaders are born, not made. But it’s up to us to recognize the leadership potential in our youth, and do what it takes to guide and foster the natural leaders. What can we do to ensure that these talented leaders of tomorrow are not lost in a sea of mediocrity? Well, I’m not one to pose a question without some thoughts on answers, so here goes…

  • Establish well-defined mentor programs within organizations. As leaders are identified, they are matched with executives who can help them understand their potential and use it to make the organization a better, more profitable place. Many companies have been doing this for years, either officially or unofficially, and have been able to grow strong leaders with a deep sense of loyalty, to help the organization move forward. It’s time for all companies to understand the benefits of mentorship to their future success.
  • Make sure that there are roles within teams that are available to those employees who show the natural tendency towards leadership. Even a small team could benefit from the leadership of a younger employee. Providing opportunities to lead particular efforts – for example, setting up a team wiki, or developing a peer code review protocol – can open up avenues for natural leaders to excel.
  • Promote individual accountability. It is important that the team succeeds, but it is also important that each team member be held responsible for items relating to that success. If organizations promote individual, as well as team, accountability, they will be expanding workers’ mindsets from total groupthink into a more balanced team/individual outlook.
  • Reward innovation and leadership throughout an organization. Workforce Crisis points out that Generation Y employees are motivated by rewards, so organizations should look for unique ways to reward the desired leadership behaviors. It doesn’t always have to be about money – natural leaders are often more motivated by opportunities than they are by cold, hard cash.

What are some other ways we can encourage the development of leadership in today’s younger workers? Let’s take some of the best practices that the Generation Y workforce provides (openness and collaboration) and use them to come up with solutions to make our organizations stronger in the future.

Okay, this is more a call for help than a real blog post. If you’ve got input, please feel free to comment….

I am in the process of looking for an expert in C++ performance tuning. The person I need must understand high-volume, real-time transaction processing systems, and must have experience in tuning those systems in the past. I’m not going to be using third parties for this search, so I’m working to find the candidate myself.

My first step is always to use the job board to which we are subscribed. I didn’t find anyone using my standard Boolean searches on the board:

C++ and (“performance tuning” or “performance enhancement” or “improved performance”)

Coming up empty-handed, I moved on to my super secret Google searches. Well, they’re not super-secret. I use inurl and intitle to help me limit my results to resumes, and I use standard Boolean logic to construct the search (thank goodness I was a programmer before I became a recruiter, and I actually deeply understand Boolean logic). So, I run a Google search that looks like this:

(inurl:~resume OR intitle:~resume) “New York” C++ (“performance tuning” OR “performance enhancement” OR “improved performance”)

This isn’t all that fruitful, either. So, I pull a trick from the Bag o’ Recruiter Stuff, and start to think about where I might find a website where C++ performance experts congregate. Maybe I could find a niche board. I’ve had good luck with niche boards in the past – fixprotocol.org, for example, is an excellent place to post for people with experience in FIX Protocol implementations. I commenced searching. And, much to my chagrin, came up with very little. Where do all the C++ programmers hang out? I found a community that focused on Quantitative Finance, but it’s run by a publishing company, doesn’t appear to be very vibrant, and has no job board. I also found a couple of C++ usenet groups, but they don’t allow job postings.

I’ve searched LinkedIn, and even though I’ve got over 2.5 million people in my LinkedIn extended network, I haven’t come across anyone with the skills I need. I’ve got a trial of ZoomInfo, so I’m going to try that, although I’ve been warned that it’s more focused on higher-level executives than mid- to senior-level programmers. I don’t mind cold calling – I’ve just got to get the names.

So, here’s my plea… Some of you awesome recruiters out there must have some thoughts on where to find these stellar C++ experts. I could use your guidance. I’m still new at this, and I know when to ask for help.

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

-Katie

BSG recently launched a new section of our website dedicated to careers. We want our potential employees to not only learn about our amazing organization, but we also want them to become a part of our on-line community, where you can share ideas, learn about new technologies, and collaborate around the world.

BSG Alliance delivers Enterprise 2.0 technology to the corporate world. We’re building NGEs – Next Generation Enterprises… Organizations that know how to take advantage of the tools, collaboration, and innovation that surrounds us on the internet. We bring strategy, delivery, and applications together to help companies remain flexible and agile in the hypercompetitive global marketplace.

At BSG, you’re free to be… NGE. Free to collaborate. Free to seek out new and better ways of doing things. Free to drive your career where you want to go. Free to be a part of the Next Generation of the internet. Free to be NGE.

 

Check out the new career site, and feel free to email me if you have any comments, suggestions, or complaints.

 

Have a great Thursday evening and a wonderful Friday!

-Katie

 

Well, I finally have a minute between calls and emails and lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Now, I can sit down and write a little review of the Recruiting Roadshow Unconference. Overall, let’s just say that it was not a waste of time (scared you, didn’t I, Paul?). In fact, I gathered so much good information, I think my little newbie head might just burst.

The morning started with donuts. Lots and lot of donuts. Pink donuts. Chocolate donuts. And some danishes. I heard that they were good, but I was a good girl and ate none of them. I had to save my calories for cookies after lunch.

Then, John Sumser spoke about the Generation Gap in hiring. John is a Baby Boomer, and spent time explaining the tightening job market, and how it affects your recruiting processes. John’s main point was this: there is one worker for every job, and you have to know how to attract and retain employees who may have a different work ethic than you do. Which, from what I gathered, was no work ethic. John pointed out that a Generation Y employee will do what he is asked, but will not sit in the office if he’s not tasked with something at that moment. Paraphrasing John: “I’ll do what you ask, but if you don’t give me something to do, I’m going to the mall.” Then he pantomimed sending a text message to all his friends telling them to meet him at the Food Court. Here’s my concern with that mentality: if I haven’t given you something to do, why aren’t you proactively seeking out new challenges? The Recruiting Animal had an interesting post on this subject this week. Hippies. heh-heh. He said hippies.

Anyway, John was an interesting speaker. As I have heard said, he can be somewhat, um, what’stheword?, abrasive, and can rub some people the wrong way. He tried to do that with me, by claiming that educated women don’t have a lot of children, and adding something to the effect of “he doesn’t blame them.” After the conference, when I was hanging around being a groupie, I called him on it by engineering an introduction that began with “she has 4 kids.” He’s a good sport, though, and we had a laugh.

Some important points from John: Transparency. Collaboration. Flexibility. Employment Branding. Sounds like BSG to me!

And so we move on… Next up was Steven Rothberg of CollegeRecruiter.com. Steven started his presentation with a lead in from the Wall Street Journal about the perceived entitlement mentality among the Generation Y workforce. Steven hypothesized that the Generation Y fascination with themselves (a.k.a. self-absorption) is exasperated by social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. Thus began his very informative discussion of the whats, whys, and hows of using social networking to build a workforce.

Important points from Steven’s presentation: be careful what you look for on MySpace and Facebook, since how you use the information you find could put you in a big old pot of boiling water. Utilize MySpace and Facebook to build an employment brand. Social networking can be beneficial to your recruiting efforts, especially when used correctly.

Steven also briefly mentioned Second Life, but only to say, and I quote “It’s really cool, it’s useless, and it’s really cool.”

The next presentation was a round table of sorts about blogging. I am a bad woman because I didn’t get everyone’s name, but I assume mnheadhunter.com will have that up soon. This was enlightening, especially since Paul took the time to introduce a wonderful new blogger by the name of Katie Tierney. Perhaps you’ve heard of her? I hear she’s absolutely amazing and terribly humble. But, I digress…

The panel provided various points of view for why people should blog, and how to go about getting started. The consensus was that blogging is important to building an employment brand, and that people interested in blogging need to read the blogs first, and then find their voice.

I know that Josh Kahn (who graciously convinced Best Buy to allow us to use their facilities) was on the panel, as were three other great people whose names I just flat out don’t know.

Last, but certainly not least, Nicole St. Martin and Doug Berg of jobs2web.com provided a great presentation on search engine optimization and employment branding. This was a great look at how you can make simple changes to your career communications that will engage candidates for the long-term, rather than for short-term, need-it-now searches.

Main points to take from Nicole and Doug: candidate communities are essential to effective long-term recruiting and staffing. Communication should be bi-directional, media rich, interactive, relational, and easily accessible via RSS and XML feeds.

Overall, this was a great unconference (what does that MEAN??). I had the opportunity to meet lots of new people, saw an old MOMS Club friend, and had some great conversations about recruiting and life in general.

I want to thank Paul, Steven, Josh, and John for putting together a program that didn’t suck. In fact, it was great, and I was lucky to have been able to attend.

Have a great weekend!

-Katie

Update – 7:21 PM – Paul posted a nice little entry that named all the folks in the blogging roundtable (well, they weren’t at a table, and it was more of a straight line, but you get the point). You can check it out here.

So much has changed since I was last in the workforce. It will be 7 years this September that I last had a paying gig (until, of course, this one). When I left the workforce back in 2000, people still used email as their main form of communication. And Lotus Notes was as “collaborative” as it got. We sent Excel spreadsheets back and forth, trying desperately to ensure that no one made changes while someone else was making changes. We even had a checkout sheet on one of the Lotus Notes databases to try to prevent double-edits. If I lost someone’s email address, it was unlikely that I would ever be able to contact them again. And my cell phone weighed more than 6 ounces! Everything was bigger, and nothing was better.

Now, we have wikis, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Amazon, and everyone knows my name!

I log into Amazon, and it knows what I like to read. It’s an intelligent website, and I sort of like that it takes some of the research work off my plate. Yes, I would like to read Utilizing Military Techniques in Child Discipline, thank you. Click. It’s purchased and on its way to my front door.

So, I want to figure out how to leverage these new, Enterprise 2.0 collaborative technologies in my Recruiting life. We already use wikis and social networks at BSG, and our collaboration is quick, easy, and oh-so-efficient. But how can I extend that to “Sourcing?”

I am trying a couple of different things. First, I used LinkedIn to search for people with the skill sets I need. Then I can contact them through my network or through InMail. I haven’t gotten a lot of responses this way, so I think I need to revamp my initial communications. I’m also answering questions related to any BSG-type topics, such as Enterprise 2.0, collaboration, or our verticals. That, I hope, will build some visibility for me, making the name BSG more commonplace in the career market.

Second, I am gathering information from collaborative websites that are dedicated to recruiting in the electronic age. It’s fascinating to see what specialized Google searches can bring you.

Third, we’re using the (relatively) old-fashioned job posts on our BSG community site. The nice thing about our site, though, is that it is a community, and people are welcome to join, and discuss the various things that make up Next-Generation Enterprises. Again, this builds BSG into a brand, and a brand that people will want to work for.

And, finally, I am trying out Twitter! Every so often, I post a job description (in ten or fewer words), and hope to get a hit. We’ll have to see what happens with that – it’s fun, anyway, and a bit addictive.

For my future plans, I am looking towards Facebook. We’ve just started a BSG Alliance group, and I am going to think about some ways to utilize Facebook to attract stellar candidates to the BSG fold.

What else does the future hold? Only God and Steve Papermaster know. ;)

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