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Category: What’s your Opinion? (Page 1 of 10)

Can Millennials Be Productive When the Power Goes Out?

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‘by Paul Hebert, http://www.eremedia.com”

One of the benefits of writing a blog that is focused on bringing interesting research analysis to the HR community is that people (vendors, academics, researchers, associations) send me all kinds of research reports.

I receive cool data analyses every day. And, I learn a lot reading through them.

Here’s a funky little survey analysis that won’t surprise anyone, but it brings up a good point.

The research goal of Generational Trends in Employee Desktop Expectations and Behaviors, sponsored by AppSense, was “to capture hard data on experiences and attitudes towards desktop experience among business users.”

The methodology included a series of online surveys that were given to independent sources of business professionals, all of whom worked at companies with more than 500 employees (1,000 employees in the U.S.) and lived in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, The Netherlands or Australia. All in, a total of 258 full-time business professionals who use a desktop computer for than 10 percent of their work participated in the survey.

Another big generational difference

If we needed to see more data that would drive a wedge between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers, this would qualify — except that the data isn’t surprising.

Millennials grew up with technology in their hands, pockets, and backpacks. Boomers grew up with almost no technology, and when it did appear, it wasn’t personal, mobile, or transportable.generational-trends-2-october-2015

So, while we all get distracted when our desktops are slow to load, how we spend our time while waiting is different. Evidently, Millennials only know how to be productive on a computer.generational-trends-october-2015

On the face of it, it looks like Boomers try to be more work productive while waiting for their slow desktops to catch up with them, and Millennials tend to be more personal productive. What we don’t know is how much time these activities take – seconds, minutes, or more.

Being productive when the power goes out

As I said, this is a funky little survey analysis. You certainly wouldn’t create any policy changes based on these findings. But, you might ask questions about how much time is actually spent waiting for slow computers at your organization.

If it’s minutes a week versus hours a week, you’re probably fine. If the available time due to slow computers is hours a week, the investment in alleviating the down time might be well-spent.

But the more interesting question this brings up for me is whether or not our workforce, now dominated by digital natives, can be productive when the lights go out. Are we’re teaching them how to be productive off the digital reservation?

For sure, the Boomers can go Old School and use paper, spreadsheets, telephones, and other relics of bygone business eras to get work done if the systems go down. Is it possible that our younger colleagues don’t know non-digital ways of being productive? Is this funky survey and analysis an inadvertent call to ensure that productivity isn’t bound by turning on a computer and being connected to the Internet?

Can your workforce continue to serve your customers and be productive if the systems go down for an hour? For a day? For several days?

10 DIY Ways to Get More Visits to Your Website

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by Lisa Furgison, http://www.verticalresponse.com”

 Every business needs a website to survive, but is your website getting as many visitors as you’d like? It’s a rhetorical question, really. What business wouldn’t want to increase visits? After all, when potential customers visit your website, you can increase brand awareness, educate consumers and drive revenue.

However, you might be stumped on how to get more folks to visit your website. Not to worry. We’ve created this list of ten ways to increase visits. This list of actionable, do-it-yourself ideas is aimed at busy businesses just like yours.

1. Register your business with online directories

There are dozens of online directories that you can take advantage of. Think of them like electronic telephone books, but better. With online directories like YellowPages you can create a business profile, which includes a link to your website. Here’s an example.

There are several benefits to online directories like this. First, you can make them as detailed as you’d like. From business hours to a profile picture, you decide how much information to put in. Second, they’re free. Any opportunity to increase your audience through a free service is worth looking into.

Below you’ll find a list of the top five most popular business directories with links to get your profile started. You can also check out our post, The Top 20 Places Your Business Should Be Listed Online.

  • YellowPages
  • Google My Business
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Yahoo! Local Listing
  • Merchant Circle

Pro tip: For service-based businesses, Angie’s List is a great online directory. It has become the go-to spot for customers to find reliable service providers. Customers can rate your business and generate positive word of mouth.

If you need some help getting your business listed in directories, our sister company, Orange Soda offers a service called LocalSync to manage your business profiles across 40+ local directories, apps and mapping sites to make sure your local customers get the right information every time.

2. List your business website in your email signature

You’re constantly writing and sending emails, right? Well, every email you send is an opportunity to get your website out there. Make sure your business website is listed and “clickable” in your email signature. If you need help setting up a signature, just check out these support links below:

  • Outlook
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo!

3. Facebook ads

When it comes to social media advertising, you have a lot of options. However, one of the easiest ways to bump your website visits is through Facebook ads. When you set up an ad, Facebook asks you to pick an advertising goal. In this case, you can select ‘increasing website traffic’ as your objective.

Once your objective is set, you have several ad options. A lot of small businesses chose to set up an ad that appears in the News Feed. This ad typically offers a discount on a product or service, which gives customers enough incentive to click on the ad and land on your website to place an order.

4. Leverage your LinkedIn audience

Many businesses don’t have time to write and manage a blog. Instead, you can use your LinkedIn page as a mini blog. LinkedIn has a popular publishing feature that allows you to post articles right to your page. Your connections can see the post in their feeds.

Not sure what to write about? Share your thoughts on recent industry changes, write a post about a news story that involves your line of work or talk about a new tool that’s helped your business grow. You want to write something that’s thought-provoking, not promotional.

This idea is especially helpful for service-based businesses. When you’re selling a service, you want to show your authority in the niche.

Of course, to send visitors back to your website, you have to include links. Make sure you link several spots within your post to lead people to your site.

5. Be a resource for reporters

As a business owner, you have expertise in a certain field. Reporters are constantly looking for experts to help with stories. How do you connect with these reporters? Take a look at this website: Help A Reporter Out.

On this site you’ll find a list of stories that reporters need help with. When you find a story that’s in your wheelhouse, you can send the reporter an email through the platform. If the reporter likes your response, he or she will reach out to you and set up an interview. You’ll be quoted in a newspaper article or blog post, and a link to your website will be included in the article.

You need to set up an account, but you don’t have to pay to belong to it. It’s a great way to get free publicity for your business and drive traffic to your website.

Pro tip: MyLocalReporter is like Help a Reporter Out, but in reverse. Business owners can search for reporters that fit their niche and reach out to them. It puts business owners in control, rather than waiting for a reporter to post a query that fits.

For more tools to get free publicity for your business check out this post.

6. Set up an online store

Does your website serve as an informational placeholder? In other words, does it offer basic information about your business and product with minimal interactive features? If so, it might be time to upgrade. Many visitors expect a more interactive e-commerce experience. 

To get your website up to speed, check out Shopify. Using this do-it-yourself platform, you can create a website that has shopping features. You can set up a digital store, create an online shopping cart, enable credit card payments, collect taxes, set up shipping options and track your sales.

If you don’t want to do a complete website upgrade, you can start by adding a Buy Button to your current website. It’s a nice way to take Shopify for a test run.  

Pro tip: When you use Shopify, you’ll be able to collect email addresses at checkout. VerticalResponse is integrated with Shopify, so all of those new contacts will flow seamlessly into your VerticalResponse email account. You’ll be able to use these new contacts to encourage even more website visits.

7. Send visit-boosting emails

With so many websites out there, you need to remind your audience to visit yours. How? Email. Your email list is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have in your arsenal. By sending targeted messages to your customers or clients, you can funnel them to your website to schedule an appointment or make a purchase.

So, which emails offer the visitor influx you’re looking for? While every email has the potential to boost your visit numbers, here are three emails that we suggest sending:

  • Promotional email

Get your customers to visit your website by emailing a promotion or an incentive. If you sell a product, offer a discount or free shipping. If you don’t sell a product, you can still use promotional emails, you just have to be more creative. An insurance business can offer free consultations, a cleaning service can offer 10 percent off services, a software company can offer free demonstrations to any company that sets up an appointment, and a furnace repair company can offer homeowners a free energy audit. There are no limits to promotional ideas. Offer free webinars, small gifts or ebooks. 

  • Email invitation

Hosting an event? Send invitations via email. First, make sure you have a page dedicated to your upcoming event on your website. Make sure that page has all of the event details on it, including a way to RSVP for the event. Now, head over to your email account and prepare an invitation. The call to action in this email will take the reader right to your event page. In addition, the email should contain at least one link to your website’s main page.

  • Announcement emails

When you have a new product or service, share it with your email subscribers. Describe what’s new, how the item benefits them, the cost and how they can get it. Your call to action should direct customers to your website where they can sign up for the service or buy the new product.

Here’s an example of an email that Picjumbo sent out for a new product.

8. Invest in affordable marketing materials

Headed to a conference? Is your business exhibiting at a local trade show? Anytime you’re meeting-and-greeting people, you should be able to offer some sort of “takeaway.”

Of course, you have to be careful. You can spend a lot of money on business swag, so you’ll want to come up with a plan. Have something like a brochure or postcard. Offer an educational reference that allows customers to recall your business or service later on. We also suggest a trinket or fun giveaway. Whether you opt for branded pens or key chains, it’s up to you. VerticalResponse offers a wildly popular brand box with over 1400 promotional items. 

9. Go old school

Handing out marketing materials might seem a little old school, but there are plenty of offline ways to promote your business that you should consider. Here are a few ideas:

  • Put your website on your business card. Every time you hand out a business card, you’re introducing a prospective customer or client to your business. If they want to learn more later on, they’ll look to your business card to get more information.
  • Become a public speaker. Offer to speak at your local chamber of commerce meeting and be sure to include your website in your presentation.
  • Hang fliers in local establishments. Ready to launch a new product? Hosting an upcoming sale? Create a quick flier with tear-off website information and hang them at local hotspots like laundry mats and community centers.
  • Sponsor an event. When local charities are looking for sponsors, consider contributing. Look for possibilities where your name, logo and website are placed in front of an audience. For example, a local theater company could highlight your business and website in its programs.
  • Use your vehicle to advertise. Every business owner travels around town. Why not advertise while you’re headed to the bank or post office? Consider purchasing a sticker for your back window or a magnet for the side of your car that has your business name and website on it.

10. Try something out of the ordinary

When you’re trying to promote your website, it’s good to get creative. Here are a few out-of-the-box ideas to turn heads and drive website visits at the same time.

  • Chalk art advertising. Know an artist? Several brands have had success with chalk art advertising. When Planet of the Apes came out, Warner Brothers used these chalk drawings to promote word of mouth and website visits.
  • Flash mob. Ready to get your groove on? Try a flash mob to promote your website. What’s a flash mob? It’s a group of people who meet in a public place and break out into a choreographed dance. Leave your website address in chalk on the sidewalk behind you, or hand out fliers to the audience after.
  • Project your website on your building. Turn heads with a projection of your business name and website on your building. Projection advertising is a popular way to drum up attention, so why not give it a try for your business? You can go all out and hire a company to do something like this, or you can buy a small projector and project your website address in your window at night.

How do you get more visits to your website? Please add to our list in the comment section below.

© 2015, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Base Pay vs. Recognition: What’s More Important?

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“ By Cord Himelstein, mcfrecognition.com”
What’s more important: base pay or being appreciated for your work? A recent survey released by Boston Consulting Group polled more than 200,000 employees around the world to create a definitive list of the top 10 factors for on-the-job happiness. By Cord Himelstein Tags: Company Culture Employee Recognition Job Satisfaction Performance Reviews Motivation Employee Productivity

What’s more important: base pay or being appreciated for your work? A recent survey released by Boston Consulting Group polled more than 200,000 employees around the world to create a definitive list of the top 10 factors for on-the-job happiness. They found that employees value the following (in order of importance):

1.   Appreciation for their work

2.   Good relationships with colleagues

3.   Good work-life balance

4.   Good relationships with superiors

5.   Company’s financial stability

6.   Learning and career development

7.  Job security

8.   Attractive fixed salary

9.   Interesting job content

10.   Company values

Interestingly, recognition, work-life balance and personal relationships took the top spots while salary ranks eighth, contradicting other surveys on the topic. In a round-up by Smallbiz Ahead, they cite three other surveys from Tinypulse, SAP and SHRM that show compensation as the number-one concern. The diverse results can cause confusion.

We all know that base pay is always a huge concern for everyone, but if salary is a major concern in your organization, no amount of recognition will make your employees forget it. And if your employees aren’t getting enough recognition for what they do, no amount of money can buy their loyalty. These polls tell us that salary and recognition are both top concerns simultaneously, and what’s needed is a nice balance between the two.

Striking a balance

Anyone worth their salt in Human Resources is familiar with Frederick Herzberg’s hygiene theory, which states that base pay is a hygiene factor, meaning it must meet a certain expectation, but after that expectation is met, its power as a motivator is diminished.

Why? Because for all its importance, people would rather not struggle with salary. It’s awkward; it’s messy; and nobody I know looks forward to a conversation about it with their boss. People would rather get paid what they’re worth from the get-go, so they don’t have to worry about it and they can do their job without the extra stress or burden.

The motivational ‘sweet spot’

And here’s the kicker: There is no guarantee that increasing base pay will increase the output of your workers. High salaries don’t correlate too well with high performance. Why? Intrinsic motivation, or our internal psychological desire to achieve things, has been proven to have more substantial and predictable motivation effects than extrinsic motivators like cash and material goods.

However, the raw impact of extrinsic rewards like cash make them excellent short-term motivators. Cash can only go so far, but there is strong evidence to suggest that if you pay a competitive salary and also give people recognition for their work on top of that, amazing things can happen. But it’s not automatic — it’s a constant negotiation to find that motivational “sweet spot” between decent salaries and a positive work environment. That’s when you become number one.

Get Comfortable With Giving Negative Feedback

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By John Scott, PerformYard contributor

Long ago, I received an especially confusing piece of negative feedback:

“Remember three or four months ago at that event? You did something wrong. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I remember that it wasn’t good.”

I was baffled and didn’t gain much from the conversation.

What I did learn was that getting comfortable with giving effective negative feedback can be a challenge for managers, new and old alike.

Often, the main hurdle is a concern about discouraging or demotivating your employee. To combat this initial concern, put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to be told you were doing something wrong, or would you rather keep doing it?

Still, constructive criticism needs to be thoughtful to avoid negative consequences, but it’s important to remember that you work with adults that can take constructive criticism and use it to grow. As long as you trust that you are hiring mature professionals, you can safely brush this concern aside.

Beyond the fear of derailing an employee’s progress, delivering negative feedback is much like delivering any other message. Ideally, it should be a part of a calm conversation. Your message should be timely, specific and direct. Finally, you should follow up to confirm the message was received.

Stay Calm & Don’t Speculate

The quickest way to lose credibility with criticism is to deliver it in a loud and angry way. If you’re yelling, the person getting yelling at is likely to lose the message and tune you out. On the other hand, talking with calm confidence projects that you’re being thoughtful, which is much easier to receive and understand. Practicing what you are going to say in advance can also help you deliver the message confidently.

Further, you might find that an angry reaction to a behavior is driven by speculation about what might have caused your employee to act a certain way. Did they come to a meeting unprepared because they don’t respect you? Did they miss a deadline because they don’t care about their work?

Ultimately, it’s hard to predict the causes behind a poor performance, and typically the real reason is never as bad what you imagined it to be. Unless you’ve been burned by the employee before, it’s often more beneficial to start a conversation with your employee about what went wrong, and offer advice on how to overcome the problems in the future.

Be Timely, Direct & Specific

First and foremost, the feedback needs to be timed as closely to the behavior as possible while the event is fresh in everyone’s mind. This ensures that your employee best understands what they did wrong.

Next, get to the point. A good rule of thumb is to get right into the issue in the first sentence of your conversation, “I want to talk to you about…” Don’t confuse your message by mixing it with initial words of encouragement. Focus on the behavior and try to get to the root of the problem.

For example, “I want to talk to you about being prepared for a client meeting. At this morning’s meeting, you didn’t come prepared and had trouble fielding questions and sorting through your notes. What do you think held you back from putting your best foot forward this time?”

This highlights the issue, adds detail with specific behaviors, and opens up the discussion with a question to gets them involved in working on a solution. Once the conversation has started, focus on providing actionable advice – what can they do differently in the future to get better?

Confirm Receipt

The most important result of your conversation is to ensure that your employee understood your criticism and the next steps. To this end, you might ask them to restate the next steps at the conclusion of the meeting. You might also want to send a follow up email outlining the discussion.

Afterwards, make a note to check in a couple weeks down the road to see how things are going. Since professional growth is an ongoing process, additional guidance or kudos may be useful to further drive home the point.

With some practice, giving constructive criticism doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. In fact, it’s a vital part of being a manager of a high performing team. What are your tips for delivering effective negative feedback?

 

Change Your Mindset: Office Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

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Article courtesy of Career Advancement blog

When my client, Miles, heard the phrase “office politics,” it brought up negative associations (backstabbing, kissing up, gossip, who you know gets you to advance). One way to embrace and capitalize on office politics is to get rid of the actual words “office” and “politics” so you won’t feel so charged by these words. Instead think of it as “company culture” or “building relationships” or “how work is done.” When you have a better and more positive perspective, you’ll be able to embrace what is actually happening and leverage it to your benefit.

Once Miles changed his mindset, he was able to use these eight tips to harness the power office polit… er, “company culture,“ and you can do the the same:

1. Persuade others to your opinion.
Nobody exists in an environment where everybody agrees. You will work on projects and assignments in which many different approaches will be used by a variety of people. It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from and their different perspective. At the same time, you want to work on getting others to buy-in to your perspective. You can do this by providing factual information backed with logic. Also, strive to build a reputation that creates immediate respect. This will help you get the things accomplished you need to get done.

2. Don’t intimidate superiors. Try to avoid going over your superior’s head.
Most bosses feel a need to establish and maintain their authority. Often, based on their title and that they are a superior, they feel they can leverage and take advantage of their power and authority. It’s important for you to not intimidate them or go over their head because they will feel the threat of your actions and thus could undermine your career.

3. Make your boss look good.
Watch out for your tendency to avoid making your boss look good. Constantly look for opportunities in which you can help your boss shine. Making your boss look bad or saying something negative about him or her will come back and bite you.

4. Cultivate a positive, accurate and likable image.
The image you project can directly impact how well others trust you, like you and want to work with you. If you project a negative and unlikable image, it makes it easy for people to judge and question you.

5. Communicate accurate information.
If you constantly communicate accurate information, people will be less suspicious and less inclined to question your integrity. When the work politics start to get out of hand, others will rely on you because of the established honest and respectful image you have projected.

6. Be aligned to many groups – not just one.
It’s easy to be aligned to one specific group in your company. You either get drawn or exposed to a few people in one group and latch on to them. However, aligning yourself to many groups will help you when the influence of one group gets diminished or removed. You will want to rely on other groups and create a coalition to champion your ideas and projects.

7. Create allies who like you, support you and will go to bat for you.
Having a strong and wide network of allies is vital when the work politics start to disrupt and damage things around you. You’ll see how beneficial it is to have allies who can help mitigate negative situations.

8. If all else fails, move on.
After exhausting all your resources, talents and abilities in working the political system inside the company and getting nowhere, it might be time to move on. Sometimes the politics are so bad that you need to remove yourself from the toxic environment and make a fresh start in a new company.

 

White People and Political Correctness

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By Kris Dunn, Founder of fistful of talent

The first thing I want you to know is that this post has nothing to do with with things you might expect based on the title.  Let me give you some examples of things this post is not about:

–Ferguson, MO or any of the fallout from that situation (Are there any moderates in this situation I should be reading?)

–The case involving Eric Garner in NYC, who died after an officer choked him while attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. (Nothing to be conflicted on with that one)

–Old White Guys with stalled careers due to many factors—globalization, changing skill needs, etc., who claim that reverse discrimination is now the norm.

It’s obvious that white folks should think twice before commenting on a lot of things, because it puts you in a no-win situation. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting that being white is a burden, but I am suggesting that as a white person, you might have something to add to the dialog on race, support to give, etc. and based on the audience, your personal delivery skills and a million other factors, it might go horribly wrong.

So most balanced white people do the smart thing.  They shut up, especially at work.  Since this is a blog about work, it makes sense to talk about it here.

The white people with the most interesting things to say in any situation involving race are the ones who shut up.  Think about it: The bigots generally are the ones who are the most vocal and disruptive.  The ones who generally are wrestling with it all and really trying to get to the right place on any item involving race? You won’t hear from them.

Here’s another reason smart white people are conditioned to shut up on any item involving race: There’s a whole group of politically correct white people (these would be the liberals of our “ilk” who love to evaluate anything you say and—you guessed it—criticize you for being insensitive at best, racist at worst.)

Need an example? I thought you’d never ask.  I recently used the word “Kemosabe” in the following post.  Here’s a snippet from the post on recruiting to get you in the mood to judge me:

“You’re wounded and walking with a noticeable physical limp from the resignation.  It’ll be a cold day in hell before you take that referral seriously, right?

Not so fast, Kemosabe.  Your heart is in the way of your head.” 

My use of Kemosabe is not guided by any background in Native American history or a love for the Lone Ranger series. It’s driven by the way I’ve heard references to the way the always goofy Matthew McConaughey talks.  But that doesn’t mean someone can’t call me insensitive or racist, which actually happened off that post in this comment:

Kemosabe?? Seriously? Have you read any anti-racism literature lately?

  • Dr. Goddard, of the Smithsonian Institution, was reported as believing that Kemo Sabe was from the Tewa dialect. He supported his contention by calling on the “Ethnogeography of the Tewa Indians” which appeared in the 29th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1916). It seems that in Tewa, “Apache” equates to Sabe and “friend” to Kema.
  • Jim Jewell, who directed “The Lone Ranger” until 1938 said he’d lifted the term from the name of a boys’ camp at Mullet Lake just south of Mackinac, Michigan, called Kamp Kee-Mo Sah-Bee. The camp had been established in 1911 by Jewell’s father-in-law, Charles Yeager, and operated until about 1940. Translation of kee-mo sah-bee, according to Jewell was  “trusty scout.”
  • A scholar from the University of California at Berkley thought that Kemo Sabe came from the Yavapai, a dialect spoken in Arizona and meant  “one who is white,”  since the Ranger always wore a white shirt and trousers in the earliest publicity photos.  The Yavapai term is “kinmasaba” or “kinmasabeh.”

Further research into the commenter indicated she was a self-proclaimed expert on diversity and yes, while she has not completed a self-ID form, whiter than post-rehab Courtney Love at a legal hearing.  She felt compelled to wag the finger at me for my use of a word she tied to the Native American culture without doing the research.

Tonto actually called the Lone Ranger “kemosabe,” not the other way around.  Interesting.  At best, I called my readers “trusty scouts,” at worst I called them “white.”

Sorry about calling you white.  My bad.

The point? The more the politically correct segment of American chooses to wag the finger and call reasonable people insensitive or racist rather than engage in meaningful conversation, the more white people avoid dialog on all these topics.

That’s bad for America, and it’s bad for your workplace.

When Are We Ever Going to Get That Kinder, Gentler Workplace?

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By

I have this recurring fantasy that corporations of the future will be kinder and gentler.

I know there’s danger in judging the world according to my personal experiences only, but nevertheless, experience tells me it’s not too nice out there.

I wish it were nicer. For example …

Earlier this week, TLNT published an article about screening applicants using social media. I’m not a huge fan of the practice, but so what? 

Opinionated people are a problem?

That said, this line really jumped out at me:

Hiring opinionated … employees runs the risk of offending others, tarnishing your brand, and poisoning the workplace environment.”

Being a loud mouth myself, my stomach did a flip-flop when I read that.

Seriously? Now having an opinion is a problem for some organizations?

News flash to employers: People who work for you have opinions. And we should be able to have opposing opinions, even strong opposing opinions, and still work peaceably and productively together. It’s called respecting others’ differences. It’s called tolerance. It’s called maturity.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s any of your business whether I believe men should only marry women, or whether I believe that such thinking is gender bias. Not everyone who believes differently than you is a liability.

From the knowledge economy to the human economy

So while I get the gist of the article, honestly, this is too damn much.

It’s as though humanity and the workplace are oil and water, when they should go together like peanut butter and jelly.

So imagine my delight when I ran across an article from the Harvard Business Review titled From the Knowledge Economy to the Human Economy.

The author, Dov Seidman, says we’re now seeing a shift from the knowledge economy, which values brain over brawn, to the human economy, which values humanity over traits that “can’t be programmed into software.” He writes,

In the human economy, the most valuable workers will be hired hearts … [they’ll] bring to their work essential traits … like creativity, passion, character, and collaborative spirit—their humanity, in other words.”

From your lips to God’s ears, Mr. Seidman.

Hold your horses, sister!

So you say, “Geez, Crystal, I think you’re missing the boat on this one. Nobody’s suggesting all opinions are bad. The author of the TLNT article was simply saying it’s a good idea to protect your business from people with the poor judgment to post their distasteful opinions on social media for everyone and their Grandma’s third cousin twice removed to see.”

Hmmm…

Yeah, well, all I know is for every thought I could ever have, there’s someone in the world ready to take offense at it.

Enough already. At some point we must learn to separate people from their ideas (even ideas with which we strongly disagree) and move on. There’s no evidence, for example, that someone who thinks abortion is murder can’t respectfully serve a manager who’s pro-choice, or vice versa.

Shoot, if I’d decided I couldn’t work with anyone whose world view differs from mine, I wouldn’t have a single day of gainful employment to my name.

No (fill-in-the-blank) need apply

And that’s the most disturbing thought of all — that I, as a mere worker, can’t afford the luxury of avoiding every manager in the universe with beliefs I dispute, but a manager should feel comfortable excluding from the workforce anyone who doesn’t quite see things the way he (or she) does.

I’m sorry, that’s wrong, and it’s flippin’ lazy too. Stop looking for shortcuts, dude.

Listen, I’m not naïve. The hiring process is subjective, and it always will be.

But come on. We’re taking things too far. Job seekers shouldn’t have to present on social media as neutral drones — devoid of any potentially “offensive” opinion — to be deemed job worthy.

Costco’s Call: Why Staying Closed on Thanksgiving is a Good Idea,

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Article by Cord Himelstein, TLNT.com

Last year, Costco took a controversial stand by refusing to stay open during Thanksgiving, citing the need to dispel the trend of retailers opening earlier and earlier on the busiest shopping days of the season.

Wal-Mart, for instance, is open 24/7 (except Christmas), and will ask 1 million employees to show up to work on Thanksgiving. Kmart and Macy’s are also asking employees to come in at 6 am and 6 pm respectively on Thanksgiving Day, jumping ahead of their usual midnight Black Friday opening.

Kmart will remain open for 42 hours straight afterward — yikes. 

Perception shift

Does 6 am on Thanksgiving Day sound like a shift anyone would want? How about a 4 am swing shift?

These are the questions Costco CEO Craig Jelinek considered last year when he took the risk of closing down on the biggest shopping days of the year. But as we know, Costco did not get put out of business and arguably have the most engaged employees in the country.

Their proof of concept worked, and this year almost two dozen major retailers are joining them.

Who’s Who of who is closed

Forbes, Mental Floss, and ThinkProgress helped compile a list of retailers planning to give workers an actual break over their Thanksgiving break, and we think they deserve some recognition:

  • Costco;
  • DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse);
  • Nordstrom;
  • Dillard’s;
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club;
  • Burlington Coat Factory;
  • REI;
  • American Girl;
  • Crate & Barrel;
  • Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores;
  • T.J. Maxx;
  • Marshalls;
  • Pier 1 Imports;
  • Publix;
  • Sierra Trading Post;
  • Barnes & Noble;
  • Sam’s Club;
  • Home Depot;
  • Patagonia;
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond;
  • Lowe’s;
  • Talbot’s.

Old-fashioned ideas

The United States is also the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee that workers can take paid holidays, and we tend to work more than any other country in the world, which is probably how we got into this practice of keeping people apart on Thanksgiving.

Not forcing employees to show up at 6 am for Thankgiving is not only good for engagement, it’s the decent thing to do. BJ’s Wholesale Club CEO Laura Sen said it well: “Call me old-fashioned, but I feel that it’s an easy decision to make.”

Should meetings be fun?

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By Wayne Turmel, Management-Issues.com Contributor

Can (or should) webmeetings be fun? This isn’t an idle question, and the answer seems to be a lot more controversial than I thought it was. I’m throwing the virtual doors open for your input here.

When you write a book, you never know what people are going to like, and what they’re going to react negatively to. That’s the case with Meet Like You Mean It. I have gotten a lot of positive reviews, but one person took me to task for the notion that one of the reasons for having a meeting – not even a main one, just one of many – was so that a team can have fun together.

His attitude is (to paraphrase): Fun isn’t the point. Meetings take too much time as it is. Our job is to do what needs to be done and get back to work. I hate meaningless chatter and fluff.

I get this a lot, although not everyone feels obliged to offer feedback (which, presumably and ironically, takes time) and I do appreciate it. Because this gives me a chance to make an important distinction between fun (making something enjoyable) and fluff (activities designed to make people feel better but don’t add any value to the process).

Project teams or other groups build trust and their collaboration culture based on their interactions. Can someone be counted on? Would I feel comfortable relying on their wisdom or knowledge? Do I enjoy working with these people?

Wait. What?

Yes, enjoying your working environment includes not being completely miserable, especially with the other human beings on your team. At work, there are plenty of non-work opportunities to indulge that human desire for interaction: coffee breaks, face-to-face meetings over the cubicle wall, even a pint after work. These activities build up what psychiatrists call social capital and what most of us just call getting to know that Sherry is actually a pretty good person.

Ignoring this fact is why many project teams suffer over time. Agile scrum meetings are known for being focused and time-sensitive. That’s great. But when the need to limit all conversation in the interest of time outweighs the ability to get to know and work better with each other, then form is suffocating function. You need relaxed, informal communication as well for people to feel comfortable delivering feedback and offer assistance voluntarily.

We instinctively know that we work more productively and with less stress if we know, like and trust the people we’re interacting with on a regular basis. The problem is that in a virtual world, there are few such unstructured opportunities. The only time you interact as a group is on a meeting or conference call.

A good leader knows that setting an environment where team members can get to know each other, and create human connections that ease the flow of critical work information, is critical to long-term team success.

So what’s the difference between fun and fluff?

Fun is taking a moment to ask people as they join the meeting what they did on the weekend. A minute or two is all it takes to learn that Rajesh is sleep-deprived because of a new baby (a universal problem and might explain why he’s slow answering your email) or that Marianne’s running a 10K next week, or Wayne’s Chicago Blackhawks lost in overtime to Dan’s LA Kings (followed by good-natured teasing and bonding).

Fluff is mandating that every person contribute every meeting something funny that happened on the weekend or do an ice-breaker exercise that has no bearing on the work at all.

Fun is allowing people to make jokes or digress for short (!) periods of time in the interest of helping people feel relaxed and comfortable with each other. Communication flows better when you know how to approach people, and nothing reveals more about someone than what they find funny or amusing. You only learn that over time and through exposure to each other.

Fluff is letting those discussions drag on and eat up precious time, or not prioritizing those discussions so that truly critical work gets done in the time allotted.

It’s important to remember that meetings have two important functions: to communicate what needs to be communicated right now, and to create a long-term environment where people are willing and able to work together comfortably.

Yes, work can be serious, and there’s a time and a place. If someone is really seeking help, and the conversation is all about the latest cat video, it can be frustrating. On the other hand, if killing all social interaction in service to the latest spreadsheet is the alternative, your team will suffer over time.

Fluff is distracting. Fun is…. Well, a lot more fun.

What’s your take?

Workplace Conflict: Some Surprising Benefits of Office Friction

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By Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro

Many workplace leaders consider conflict between employees a dangerous thing, and it’s no wonder. We’ve all seen the results of clashing personalities and company politics: distraction, discontent, resentment, gossip, lost jobs, resignations, and other productivity killers. As a result, some managers go to great lengths to avoid conflict. But overcompensation can prove equally dangerous when it devolves into complacency, or worse, groupthink—where everyone thinks alike and disagreement can’t or won’t be tolerated. “Yes men” have doomed more than one company, especially when the groupthink became tinged with arrogance (think Enron).

For a newer example, consider Blackberry. Once the fastest-growing company in the world, it recently faded into near obscurity, becoming a relatively minor acquisition of Canadian holding company Fairfax Financial. Rather than face the reality that consumer rather than business applications would drive smartphone sales, Blackberry execs collectively mistakenly decided otherwise, turned their backs on consumers—and lost their market share to iPhones and Androids. Perhaps a little dissention in the ranks would have done some good.

The Flip Side of Conflict

Does this mean you should give workplace conflict a chance? To some extent, yes. Conflict doesn’t have to stifle innovation or bring your workflow to a screeching halt, but dissention definitely has a place within workplace discussions. You may not agree with or listen to everyone, but at least they’ll have had their say and have ownership in the final decision. If nothing else, this lets people blow off some steam and feel more engaged—crucial factors in performance and productivity. Better yet, you may hear some innovative ideas with the potential to revitalize your business or fatten the bottom line.

Let’s look at a few other reasons to let team members clash occasionally.

1. It sparks healthy debate and competition. When people can argue about where they’re going, you avoid the blind agreement that characterizes groupthink. It also stirs up the team culture, especially when handled in a polite, professional manner without fear of ridicule. If an idea looks like it won’t work, let debate sort it out—don’t just cut it down immediately. Some ideas need a little time to mature. As for competition, friendly rivalry (especially in pursuit of a reward) can increase motivation, pushing productivity and end value higher for everyone.

2. It results in better understanding of others. When you air your differences, you learn why other people think the way they do—and this might change your own mind. At the very least, the discussion can provide new insight into another person’s approach and beliefs, even if you continue to disagree.

3. It strengthens the team when you work through conflict—either in the sense of surviving it together when it comes at you from outside, or in the sense of overcoming it within the group. The team ends up stronger and more productive.

4. It gives everyone a voice in decision-making, making sure no one feels left out, thereby enhancing commitment and engagement.

5. It allows constructive change. Well-reasoned disagreement, especially when the dissenter stands by it, can result in improvement not just for one project, but for subsequent ones as well. Remember the play and film 12 Angry Men? If one juror hadn’t stood by his beliefs and disproved the “evidence” one point at a time, an innocent man might have been convicted. In challenging the status quo, the solo juror shattered long-held assumptions.

6. It short-circuits worse problems. Rather than allowing resentment to fester into something truly dangerous, properly-handled conflict allows individuals to resolve their differences before they explode.

A Delicate Equilibrium

Neither all-out warfare nor colorless groupthink serves you well in business. But dominant species or not, human beings remain products of nature—and nature rewards those who strive the hardest for the betterment of the group. So within specific guidelines, allow your people some level of conflict within their work lives. Careful handling of honest disagreements can inject a much needed breath of fresh air into the workplace atmosphere.

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