Monday, February 23, 2009

Thinking outside of the box

In these difficult economic times, modern business leaders are exploring creative ways of doing more with less.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Global Talent Management

Germans are known for being (compared to Americans) stern, phlegmatic and practical. German bosses in particular are not given to being excited about you or emiting unnecessary compliments like 'nice job'. So if you work for a German, don't expect lots of feedback about how much you rule.

Unless you totally screw up, interactions with your German boss are more likely to go something like this:

German boss: How's your project going?

You: I finished Tuesday ahead of schedule and met with Global Dynamics Wednesday to walk them through it. They loved it and want to do a bigger project with us next month.

German boss (nodding): OK. Anything else?

You: Well, I put out a small kitchen fire this morning with my bare hands and skipped lunch to finish a prototype I'm working on that predicts stock prices up to five years out and has so far been completely accurate for a two year sample. I noticed two guys trying to steal our video conferencing equipment and was able to stop them using martial arts. My cancer vaccine is also coming along nicely. Oh, and I baked you some brownies. They're on your desk.

German boss (nodding and making a few notes): OK. Do you have any vacation planned this quarter?

To be fair, German bosses are also sensitive to the ingrained suspicion all Germans have of insincere compliments. I once managed a German project team and early on (before I really got the Germans) I sent a short 'nice job' email to one of the consultants. He responded, 'What is the meaning of this?' I took the hint and immediately desisted with unwanted personal observations and everyone was much happier.

Key Takeaway: Management styles are different everywhere and the successful global manager should keep this in mind and adapt his or her management style accordingly.

Disclaimer: Most German bosses don't actually look like Til Scheiger.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Non-Monetary Benefits

Much of the recent literature around performance and talent management has focused on the importance of non-monetary benefits such as recognition and internal mobility. Non-monetary benefits reward performance, just like monetary benefits, but are good for the bottom line because they're often free.

Public recognition, promotions and even Starbuck's discount cards are all very well, blah, blah, blah, but I want to share with you an example of a real non-monetary benefit, the kind that costs nothing and ensures undying loyalty: the autographed picture.

It just so happens that my manager is related to one of my favorite actors and under her thoughtful direction he sent me an autographed picture of himself with some other girl. This is what he wrote:

'Just in case we don't get a chance to [censored], this picture will have to hold us until we find a window. I love you. You know that.'

THIS is what I'm talking about, people.

So, what does this mean for companies that want to put a stake in the ground around non-monetary benefits? No problem! Just include 'related to someone famous' on your manager job qualifications list and watch the non-monetary benefits start rolling in.

Think about all the money that can be saved on manager selection, training and accountability practices with this one simple strategy. Even if your managers totally suck, your top performers will cut them plenty of slack if they're Brad Pitt's younger brother or Penelope Cruz's mom.

In fact, this idea may revolutionize Talent Management as we know it. . .

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The future of business applications?

Facebook is a popular social networking tool and there’s no doubt it has shaped how people use the Internet to network. And I definitely think there’s a place for it in the workplace, where your success may well be dependent on your social connections.

But is it more than that? Does FB represent the future of business applications?

To answer this question, I’ve interviewed a leading authority in the field on Human Capital Management, Dr. Laura.

Me: Dr. Laura, do you think businesses will start using Facebook as a team management tool at work?

Dr. Laura: Interesting idea, but challenging when you get down to it because it doesn’t seamlessly include the business applications your teams probably use, like document management, etc.

Me: Could businesses at least use data mined from FB to help determine which employees are most connected, or use Twitter statuses to monitor what people are working on?

Dr. Laura (laughing): Businesses could likely get some very interesting data points if they had access to the Twitter statuses and conversation logs of their employees. The problem is, people don’t use FB to tell people, “I’m working on my functional design now,” because that’s, well, boring. Most people use FB to put their most glamorous, funny, exciting self forward, which may be of some interest to business in a broader context but perhaps not really germane to daily operations unless someone’s really crossing the line.

Me: What if businesses wanted to use FB to track project and work status, internal communications, etc.?

Dr. Laura: There’s something to that, since more and more employees are on Facebook ever day. But once you introduce ‘Big Brother’ to Facebook it would lose its spontaneity. It would no longer be the grass roots social phenomenon that business are trying to harness. Think about it this way: A status of “I’m watching Pimp My Ride naked with a beer and a pepperoni pizza, come on over!” that is visible to all your friends doesn’t really mix with, “I’m conscientiously following up with Global Dynamics about their critical security problem with our product,” which is intended for a smaller audience.

Me: Could it be re-designed to do a better job separating personal and professional information?

Dr. Laura: Absolutely. But there's a cost. For example, adding things like tags and security filters so you can share private stuff with your friends and communicate upwards at work appropriately would make it more cumbersome and less fun to use. That doesn't mean it can't be done and done well, it just means it's not there today.

Me: I’ve also heard rumbles about using FB as a core system of record for business applications but I don’t see it – the information that, say, a global HR system needs isn’t there and even the information that is there is spotty. For example, if my company wanted to get my employment history from FB it would look like I only ever had one job.

Dr. Laura: I completely agree. As a core business application I don't think FB is quite there, at least not in its current form. But it is definitely meaningful for business and will probably evolve over time to play an even more meaningful role in business. Business is about people, after all, so business can't dismiss anything that has captured the imagination and mindshare of so many people. And I think that the journey of collective intelligence/networking/thinking/sharing has just begun.

Me: Thank you Dr. Laura, for your time and insights.

Dr. Laura: My pleasure. By the way, this is one of my favorite blogs.

Me: Thanks!

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