Culture


This morning, Brian Mageirski  pointed me to an article in TechCrunch about  a Reduction in Force at Jive Software in Portland, Oregon.  The post highlighted a former employee’s take on the layoffs, and his thoughts on why he felt the company mismanaged the process.  This employee was not laid off – he had already found another job and given his notice, but he was surrounded by the folks who were caught off-guard by the layoff.  Chris’s post and the associated comments didn’t say anything different than what we heard during the dot com bust.  There’s nothing surprising or outrageous here.  Nothing I didn’t hear from (or, for that matter, say to) my friends and family when my husband was laid off.  What’s different this time is the audience.  Chris is no longer sharing this with his closest friends and family – he’s sharing it with the world.  And the world is listening and responding.

And so are the world’s former and future bosses.  Uh-oh.  Are those bridges I smell burning?

This, of course, started some conversations internally.  I was talking to our Social Media Studette, Susan Scrupski, about it, and she mentioned that this was something she was already addressing.  We got into a discussion about how we have a choice as we move forward…  We either change the way we react to other people’s honest postings, or we encourage self-censorship to head off potential future problems. 

Social media advocates (like Susan) will say we need to change the way we react. They believe that this type of transparent, vibrant, open discussion is how we’re changing the world.   We need to “get over ourselves and our big egos” and encourage people to say what they feel, and use that to develop better processes and solutions in the future.   They’re drippy, lovey Liberals that way… 

I, on the other hand, am terribly old-fashioned.  I encourage self-censorship.  Thinking before you post.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again – the internet is pretty much permanent.   If you might be embarrassed by something five years from now, I suggest you refrain from posting it.  I’m a boring, old, humorless Conservative that way…

Back to Chris’s post, though…  There are some important points in this post.  Companies might be able to take away some valuable lessons about how you treat exiting employees.  Keeping their personal items isn’t just harsh – it’s sort of stealing.  And it looks REALLY bad.  Even if we don’t have all the information, it doesn’t matter.  Perception is 9/10ths of reality, and Jive’s going to have a hard time recovering their employment brand after this.  And, what’s worse is that it was a pretty cool brand before they kept people’s wedding pictures.

Employees might be able to take away some valuable lessons, too.  Remember that HR doesn’t generally make the decisions about who stays and who goes during a layoff.  That’s a decision that’s handed down from the business leaders.  And most of the time, HR doesn’t have a lot of input into severance packages and exit details.  So, projecting your anger on the messenger (HR) isn’t fair, and it’s not healthy.  HR people get laid off and find new jobs, too, you know. 

I can understand the anger (my husband was working and laid off during the dot com era, too), but I could appreciate who made the decisions and who had the unenviable task of delivering the news.  Be careful how loudly you cry and gnash your teeth – your potential future employers might not be able to fully empathize with your circumstances, and your on-line behavior may be used against you in your job search.  Google is a hiring manager’s best friend, after all, and in a market where there are more potential employees than there are open jobs, hiring managers will be picky.

I guess Chris got a lot of feedback, because while I was writing this post, I was alerted to another post by Chris, which comes across as much more positive.

The very best reply of the entire year came from someone claiming to be Chris’ mother:

Chris, you are blessed beyond words in so many ways. God protected you and gave you another job before this all happened. Don’t forget that Jive was a blessing for you. You made a lot of new friends and learned a lot. Changes in your life have always been for the better and this won’t be any different. Your new company will be better to have you just like Jive was!! I know you aren’t upset about this, just surprised that stuff in the world happens in the manner in which it did!!

If we’d all just listen to our mothers, our lives would be so much easier.

And, since it’s my birthday, I need to give a hat tip to my mother and father, Bernadette and Bob Carty.  Thanks folks.  I appreciate the gift of a very happy life.  Here’s to another 36+ years!

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One of the worst parts of being a virtual employee is that I rarely get the opportunity to physically interact with my coworkers. I sit in my office at home, and use the phone, Skype, Twitter, and Instant Messenger to communicate with the other BSG Alliance folks. So, when I have the opportunity to fly to Texas and have some face time, I always jump at the chance.

This week, my chance was the People Team meeting in Austin, TX. We’re sitting around, drinking copious amounts of diet Coke and discussing plans for making sure that we can effectively innovate solutions for our human resource challenges.

As part of the meeting, we had a working lunch from Jason’s Deli. They brought in a big platter of sandwiches, cookies, brownies, and a big old bag of ruffly potato chips. As we were eating, my boss held up a chip and said:

Wow! This looks like Texas!

Our Texas-marked chip

And it did. So Katie “Rockstar” Meenan, our new recruiter for the New York office, decided that it might be fun to put the potato chip up on eBay. As she was adding the eBay entry, our brainstorming took hold, and we had her add a link to the BSG Alliance careers site. After all, BSG Alliance paid for the potato chip, so we should get some benefit from Katie’s eBay sale!

Katie started the bidding at 50 cents. Within minutes, the bidding was up to $2.00. This morning, it’s at $3.25. Bidding ends next Monday. I fully expect that Katie’s winning bid will be well over $5. And I hope that the word-of-mouth we generate helps establish BSG Alliance as the kind of fun, innovative company that people really want to join.

UPDATE – 1/29/08 – 2:02 PM CST

Katie is donating the proceeds to the Austin Parks Foundation. Get those bids up there!

The bids are up to $74.  Let’s get this puppy above $100 and show Austin Parks Foundation that people really DO care!

So, today was a big day for BSG Alliance. We announced that we have acquired New Paradigm, a Toronto-based thinktank led by Don Tapscott, the co-author of the best-selling Wikinomics. New Paradigm’s business and technology innovation has paved a path to success for companies since 1993. Their ability to define where business and technology are headed is unparalleled in the marketplace, and now they’re helping BSG Alliance deliver our On-Demand Business Platform.

Bringing New Paradigm into the BSG Alliance provides us with an even greater to potential to do what Don Tapscott believes we’re poised to do

This company is going to change the world.

Here’s the press release

Have a great weekend,  If you’re interested in knowing more about the merging of these two powerhouses, take a look at the live webcast, which will be at 1:30 PM Eastern today (11/29).

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.

First, I have a crazy sense of loyalty to Steve Papermaster. The man gave me my first job out of college, and kept in touch with me in the intervening years. When he was ready to start BSG Alliance, he asked me to be a part of his team, even though I’d been out of the paid workforce for 6 years. He’s engaging, funny as all-get-out, and someone who people just naturally want to follow. I love BSG Alliance because it’s a place where I have the opportunity to work with Steve again.

Second, BSG Alliance has given me the opportunity to embrace an entirely new career path. I’ve always been a people person – I freak out my family with my ability to remember names and faces (an ability I am proud to have passed on to my oldest child, Emma), but I was also a very good programmer (if I don’t say so myself). When Tom and I made the decision that I would stay home to care for our kids, I really didn’t know where I might fit when I decided to come back to work, which I knew I would. BSG Alliance has given me the opportunity to use both my people skills and my technical knowledge to really a make a difference.

Another reason I love BSG Alliance is because my co-workers really care about whether or not I succeed.  This week, one of my colleagues (Mike Corino) took time away from his wife and 2-year-old son to give me an excellent overview of the Financial Services marketplace.  He also took the time to really understand my constraints (both budgetary and time constraints), and I feel that it gave us both a great foundation for a strong working relationship.

There are lots of other reasons I love BSG Alliance.  For example, many years ago, I zipped one of my co-workers in a suitcase.   I get to work with him again.  How cool is that?  And, I get the opportunity to use all sorts of Enterprise 2.0 technologies.  6 months ago, I don’t know that I would have been able to tell you what a wiki is – today, I use a wiki constantly, and I understand its benefit! I also get to help people find career paths that are in line with what they want out of life.

BSG Alliance is a great place. It’s a place where excellence is not only rewarded, but expected.  It’s a place where you can grow your career, and a place where you have mentors to help you move forward.   It’s a place you should consider joining.

Have a great week!
-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.

I’m a very, very spoiled woman. I work from the comfort of my own home. I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s noises or smells invading my workspace. I only have to worry about the odd smell from the baby when he gets too close to my office door. But, he can’t help that. He’s only 14 months old, for goodness’ sake. I am isolated from the distractions of others, and I kind of like it. I can concentrate a lot better when I don’t have to hear someone else clacking away at the keyboard or singing along to their iPod. Yes, even though you think headphones make you silent, they don’t – they make you louder. And your voice is horrible.

I have a very close friend who is dealing with a tough workplace situation right now. She works for a company that often utilizes contractors. One of the contractors they hired is, to say the least, difficult. My friend says that the co-worker does his job well, but he has these personal habits that drive the other co-workers mad. For example, his gum chewing is noisy. Jackhammer noisy. Bird in an airplane engine noisy. And, if you’re trying to write detailed client reports about very important financial transactions, the last thing you need is someone slapping their gums together in harmony with all that surrounds him.

Plus, my friend’s coworker talks a lot. He comes in each and every Monday morning and provides the gory details of his weekend. He does a lot of things that are considered less-than-mainstream, so his stories not only take up a lot of valuable time, but they also leave people feeling like they need a shower. Apparently, for example, he no longer wears underwear. He’s become “so minimalist that way.”

It’s a difficult situation for my friend. At this point, she’s not in a position to terminate the co-worker’s contract, and the person who is in the position doesn’t feel that it’s the right move. After all, the co-worker completes his tasks when he says he will, and they are technically sound. The problem isn’t really the co-worker – it’s the people around him, who are unable to concentrate on THEIR tasks, and, therefore, unable to get their work done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

I counseled my friend that it’s time to take a stand – she needs to let the holder of the purse strings know that by not taking action on this situation, the holder of the purse strings is creating a culture where respect is not valued. Basically, the etiquette-challenged co-worker doesn’t respect his colleagues, and by not working to solve that situation, the holder of the purse strings shows a lack of respect for the the colleagues. Management by Ignorance – the holder of the purse strings ignores the problems, hopes they’ll go away, and enforces the discontent among the other colleagues, who are all high performers.

In order to maintain an organization where the delivered products (whatever they might be: cars, technology products, boxes of cereal) are better than the competition, managers must, first and foremost, respect their employees. The employees are the center of value creation, and when management allows situations like the one my friend finds herself in, the employees begin to focus less on the job, and more on the inherent icky-ness of the situation. They do not see that their contributions are valued, because they are more focused on the day-to-day working conditions, which are far less than desirable.

And the hit to productivity can be significant – in my friend’s case, she plans her time so that she spends as little time at the client site when the co-worker is there as possible. Luckily, her job is a little flexible in that way – she has several clients, and can schedule herself at other places when she knows the co-worker will be at the office. But, a lot of jobs don’t offer that flexibility, and you run into people hiding in break rooms and coat closets just to get away from the problem employee.

If the holder of the purse strings would simply take a step back and look at the situation more objectively, I think he would see that the time has come to take action on the co-worker, and show some respect for the other employees. The other employees will see that their opinions and work are respected, and will see immediate gains in their productivity.

Have a great week, and make sure that you turn up your iPod so that you don’t hear me singing along to “Irreplaceable” in the background.

-Katie

P.S. I am sure that some people are wondering what I mean when I say “take action on the co-worker.” I think that the manager needs to address the outstanding issues, and offer a performance improvement plan. If the co-worker continues to show blatant disregard for the other employees, it’s time for the contract to be terminated.