Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Just Don't Know What to Do With My iPad...

My husband was recently awarded two iPads at work in recognition for separate projects, making us a two iPad household. That means I now have an iPad, which is fair because I'm his creative muse (which I'm sure he would agree with, at least if he wants dinner).

My oldest daughter wanted the iPad but I was like, 'You're 7 years old. Go play with a ball or a stick like I did when I was 7.'

The problem is, I'm not sure what to do with the iPad. Yes, I'm a seasoned software professional. Yes, I spend most of my day on a computer. And yes, my company has amazingly cool iPad applications.

But I write. All the time. I'm writing right now. Even when I'm just browsing I need a proper keyboard in case I want to write something. Plus, I switch mediums constantly, so if I use the iPad for tweeting or Googling I have to switch back to my computer to pull up a document or type a longer email...

And I don't really want to play the bird game.

The problem here is clearly me because 11 million consumers can't be wrong, right? My husband thinks I'm weird. Well, more accurately, he still thinks I'm weird after all these years.

Maybe he's right. I mean, even the Pope uses an iPad, which means we can now receive the Papal epiphany of the day from any location. The Pope is more current than I am.

(I may be a late adopter but when they finally offer space travel with holodecks and replicators I'll be first in line.)

If I don't start using the iPad my husband will take it back and give it to someone more deserving. Like the Pope. So here are a couple of ideas I've come up with to incorporate the iPad into my daily family life:



Monday, June 27, 2011

Rock Stars Need Not Apply

Some people love rock stars - Mark Zuckerberg, for example, thinks they’re 100 times better than everyone else.  I myself think they're about 3 times better and there are probably some people who think they're 5 or 20 times better.

Others think they’re more trouble than they’re worth and that a team of solid performers is the way to go.

And then there are people like my project social partner Dave who're happy if people just show up and do the work: ‘I’m not in a creative industry.  I don’t need to recruit the top students from MIT and couldn’t get them anyway.’  More wisdom from Dave here.

So, all kinds of opinions.  What is seems to come down to is what you’re trying to accomplish and whether it's being measured.  For example, in revenue generating jobs like consulting or sales, everyone loves rock stars.  If they’re a little full of themselves or hard to work with it's OK as long as they’re making money.

Rock stars are also tolerated in really hard jobs that no one else knows how to do (as are scraggly beards, madras shirts and Birkenstocks).

In other areas of the business - even in creative industries - it’s less clear.  No direct revenue is lost, for example, if a report or a presentation is not rock star quality.  Over time valuable hours may be wasted and the company may be less successful but the consequences of mediocrity are hard to spot where nothing measurable is at stake.

Rock stars have a reputation for being difficult to work with, doing things their own way, having better ideas (or thinking they do), putting uncomfortable truths into words and a host of other grievances.  They may be as important to company success as they think they are but that doesn't mean people want to work with them.

The average manager, for example, neither wants to deal with someone who challenges them nor with someone who potentially threatens their own job.  Ditto with colleagues, who don’t want anyone raising the bar on work quality or competing for opportunities. 

They aren’t bad people, they’re just… people.

Of course, no one says to themselves, ‘I’m intimidated by this person so I’m not going to hire them.’  What they actually say is more like, ‘I don’t think this person will be a good cultural fit.’  Or, ‘They’re overqualified for the job and will probably leave in 6 months.’  Or, ‘They don’t have the industry experience we’re looking for.’

Sound familiar?  Of course, sometimes these statements are perfectly true.  It's a subtle problem.

Bottom line: If your managers and employees feel threatened rather than exhilarated by talented people you can talk about the importance of talent all you the hand.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Global Leadership Roundtable

Are you in a global leadership role or working in a global team?  Join us for the global leadership round table at Focus next week:

Managing an organization made up of people from the same cultural and linguistic backgrounds is a difficult task, but imagine if you were asked to lead a company that's spread out across the world. Would you be able to lead with a global perspective? What skill sets would you need to develop and refine? A panel of Focus HR and leadership experts plan to discuss:
  • How to define, "global leader"
  • How leaders can prepare to be global leaders, and necessary skill sets
  • The pitfalls that impede global leadership success
Whether you are in a global leadership role or part of a global team, join the discussion and expand your global horizons.

Worth a Second Cup?

The other day I highlighted 3 blog posts that I thought were particularly good… and then realized I forgot one!  How could I have forgotten Dan McCarthy’s hilarious post on Boomer Bosses and Millennials?

Why do I like this post so much?  Well, aside from it being such a gracious and funny post the note from the millennial to the Boomer is so insightfully snarky:

“Whether you like it or not, Boomers, you are being replaced. This is called change, evolution. Don't worry though. Keep being crotchety. It will prepare you well for your upcoming retirement. Drink your cheap coffee. Plan ways to spend your social security. I'll do my best to stay off your lawn.”

No offense to the Boomers but I had to laugh out loud about the coffee.  I still remember visiting my mom’s office as a kid where the coffee even smelled stale.  And to this day, while she doesn’t object to a good cup of coffee, she also doesn’t insist on it.

The coffee snobbery of my generation may be a subtle form of rebellion.

The Boomers as a generation have had an enormous impact on our world.  They were the first generation to embrace the modern culture of self-gratification, consumerism and waste that endangers our planet today.  They were also the first generation to 'do it my way,' laying the foundation for future generations to express themselves freely and pursue non-traditional career paths. 

More so than any other generation, if it weren’t for the Boomers this world of ours would look a whole lot different, in both good ways and bad.  Boomers, I salute you.

Now, how 'bout some real coffee?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

My 3 Posts: Letourneau, Doody and Big Daddy Paul

In the spirit of project social, Dave, Lyn and I wanted to share some of our favorite posts with you.  Since we all hate lists with more than 10 items (OK, I hate lists with more than 10 items) we’re each picking 3.

For a total of 9.

It wasn't easy.  There are many great posts out there and I’m probably forgetting several that really moved me at the time.  But I tried to come up with three that I think are particularly good and a little off the beaten path.

  • And finally, my favorite post of all time: Ugly Malcolm Photos by Big Daddy Paul.  Since I tend to post pictures that make my life appear perfect and effortless, I admire Paul’s honesty and hilarity as a parent.  I recommend you check out this post and his very funny blog.

So, that's my three.  To complete the list and get your full money's worth, click over to Dave's picks at HR Official and Lyn's at The Bacon Hut!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Employees, Aging Parents and You

Guest post by Susan Avello

If you are responsible for taking care of an elderly relative or friend, it will likely impact your health and your employer’s bottom line.  Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, costing employers an estimated average additional health care cost of 8% per year, or $13.4 billion annually, according to the MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Cost.

These family caregivers are juggling their responsibilities to their own families and to their parents and have now been labeled “The Sandwich Generation.” They are trying to juggle children, parents and work and are experiencing considerable health issues as a result of their focus on caring for others. The need for flexibility in the workplace and in policies that would benefit working caregivers is likely to increase in importance as more working caregivers continue to remain in the workplace and put off retirement.

As the percentage of employees who are caregivers continues to grow, there will be greater demand on employers for help and support. Caring for family while trying to fit it into an already stressful work situation can be challenging and negatively impact physical health and workplace productivity. Although most employers offer family medical leave of absence they are also starting to see the need to incorporate strategies for flex-time and are looking for a creative approach in helping their employees with the myriad of life changes they are currently facing.

Who Can Help?

Aging Info USA has been working closely with corporations and employees in the workplace since inception and closely monitoring these issues to provide the best in education and training both for employee caregivers and for executive management. Our goal is to partner with employers, evaluate the cost of employee care giving to their specific situations and create solutions to increase productivity, employee engagement, reduction of health care costs and increased revenue.

More Help On the Way

In Fall 2011 we will launch, an interactive online 'one-stop shop' to help employee caregivers navigate the continuum of aging care through educational videos, blogs, webinars, interactive discussion boards, Skype conferencing and podcasts centering on care giving and work/life challenges. will also be an interactive training portal for HR and management to stay ahead of the game in the area of work/life issues associated with eldercare and all aspects of care giving.  In addition to providing training and education in the form of webinars, videos, podcasts and virtual events, will offer continuing education certification through our partnership with Human Resource Certification Institute.

We are excited about the launch of CaregiverLife coming in the Fall of 2011 and helping employees and employers alike navigate these critical life changes.

Susan Avello is Vice President and Partner of Aging Info USA and is based in Chicago, IL. Aging Info USA directly supports employee caregivers, HR and Executive Management by implementing creative approaches in education, resources and training in regard to eldercare and family caregiving and work/life challenges. She is the author of two books as well as The Working Caregiver and HR Virtual Cafe blogs. You can connect with her on Twitter @susanavello.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Attrition: What Is It Good For?

Our new project social team member Lyn suggested today’s post topic: Attrition. (Our little team is growing. Now we just need someone who looks like Sabrina.)

Dave and Lyn plan to talk about the downside of attrition, i.e., how it can negatively impact the rest of the team - you can read all about it over at HR Official and The Bacon Hut, respectively.

To mix it up a bit, I want to focus on the upside of attrition. Voluntary attrition, that is.

Here’s why: Attrition creates opportunity. Opportunity creates hope and fuels healthy competition and creativity. If no one ever leaves you have stagnation.

Look, it’s always sad when someone really terrific that everyone loves leaves. If it’s a colleague and friend the ‘survivors’ feel lonely and left behind. If it’s a great boss they worry about how the change will impact their job. And the person leaving may leave a big fat skills gap in their wake.

But we all know people who do an adequate job in a role someone else could probably do as well if not better. If they leave voluntarily everyone wins: no one gets fired and a new opportunity opens up for someone else.

Another point to consider is that at some point an individual has gone as far as they can go at one company. If they still have higher career ambitions, it may be better for all concerned if they move on.

"If you're the second runner up for a position that isn't changing hands any time soon, you may have reached the end of your career at a particular company... Career development is a bit of a ponzi scheme, after all - barring wild growth, it only works if people at the top periodically move out of the way. In fact, attrition may be key to retention because it helps companies retain the people who haven't yet reached the end of their career tether.
Source: Is Attrition a Key Component of Retention?

So, although a lot depends on why the person left and how the new team dynamic shapes up, I think voluntary attrition helps keep it fresh.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Work / Life Balance, Graphic Design, Blogging and HR... Oh, My!

Guest post by Lyn Hoyt

Laura Schroeder, my new Project Social partner, is fascinated by work-life balance and was curious about how I manage it all. I wonder sometimes myself. Is work balance all about “bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan?” 

I have 3 kids, a husband/business partner, I participate in social media, volunteer for my kids school, volunteer for my local SHRM chapter and design awards for corporate recognition as well as manage, market and assist in operations for my small ecommerce / manufacturing business. It's a lot on my plate.

In fact writing this out in black and white kinda freaks me. I’m no super woman. We were late for art camp this AM.

My work-life balance is heavily reliant on time management and support from my husband. We are well matched with complimentary competencies, the numbers/MBA guy and the creative/marketing gal. Goal oriented, VERY flexible, love what we do, terribly independent. I'm trained as a graphic designer but Human Resources responsibilities fall on me as well as understanding the industry we sell in. My husband and I share everything, from home to warehouse.

It is all about running a business and raising a family.

If I had to sum it all up in one word it'd be FLEXIBILITY. You have to be ready to change course suddenly and laser focus on the task at hand. When I return a call or set a meeting, I work to make that time valuable to the people I engage. When hanging with my kids I want that time valuable as well. Compartmentalizing tasks, whether it is employee reviews, changing stock on a website, designing donor recognition awards, writing a blog post or doing laundry, I try to carve the time and give my best.

I have a home office, a staff of awesome craft-minded employees and some contracted web help. And I organize my time to chauffeur kids or be at our warehouse if necessary. Summer changes this dynamic remarkably with kids’ camps, and wifi at the pool, which sounds ideal but does not always work out as well as it sounds.

Take last Friday. I had some recognition event deadline that had to be attended to. It was the first week of the summer and we had yet to make it to the pool because “mommy is working.” Proof approvals had to be in by 1PM so the warehouse would have time to build and ship but I knew I could manage everything else pool-side if I needed to. Everyone was excited. I mixed some margarita, packed some snacks and we were off. Only to arrive and find the pool closed for 24 hours because some kid took a dump in the pool. Talk about a party pooper!

Maybe being real is the other component of work/life balance? It is sometimes beautifully ideal, other times terribly awkward when wanting to be available for my family. Technology makes it possible to keep long professional office hours for my nationally based customers and it's sometimes hard to unplug. But, when I do it is a conscious effort. When I make mistakes I own them and learn from them. When we miss attending a friend’s birthday party because of a deadline I try to make that up.

I am NO housekeeper. And I hate to file. In fact, to many on the outside, things might seem chaotic. But, I am charged by the variety, my kid’s constant curiosity, my husband’s sense of adventure and our ever-dynamic work situation, my HR community and the customers I serve. And when I loose balance I pick up and try again, cooking bacon while standing on one leg.

Thanks Laura for allowing me to share my story. I look forward to more of your Project Social inspiration and your terrific writing.

Lyn Hoyt is a graphic designer, entrepreneur, mom of three, techie and HR professional from Nashille, TN.  You can read more from Lyn at the Bacon Hut or follow her on twitter @designtwit.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Project Social: Water Off a Duck's Back

When I proposed we write about gender differences for our next blog post my project social partner Dave was less than thrilled: ‘I’m a white guy in HR.  I can’t write about gender!’

He didn't actually say that but I bet he thought it.

So I’m flying solo this week but be sure to check out Dave’s latest post on talent management and stay tuned for Lyn's guest post here at working girl.

So, gender.  What is it good for?

The other day an assertiveness coach was on the radio talking about how hard it is for women to say no clearly and firmly.  One reason is that women are more empathic than men and therefore more likely to feel guilty for offending or inconveniencing another person. 

Hmmn.  Maybe.

About a year ago, I had the following day planned: Yoga in the morning, work through lunch, product demo in the afternoon, pick up the kids from their play date, drive my husband to the airport, make dinner, put the kids to bed, work some more...

The product demo ran late.  I drove and my husband called the other mom who’d collected our kids from Kindergarten, taken them to gymnastics, picked them up, brought them to her house and fed them a snack - and who expected us an hour ago.

From my end their conversation sounded like this (only in German):

'Katja, hi, it's Ralf. . . yeah, I know, I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. What? I know, I'm so sorry. I can't say sorry enough times. We just couldn't get out of our meeting, they nailed us to the. . . what? I know, I'm just so sorry. Yes, totally our bad. We're on our way now, we'll be there in. . . what? Yes, I know, you're right, we'll be there in 20 minutes. Right. Yes. Thanks a million, we owe you big time. I know. Sorry.  Bye!'

Now, there’s nothing very gender specific going on here - if I'd been the one to call we'd probably have had about the same conversation.  Possibly a tad more abject but only a tad.

But here's the thing:

I felt guilty after this conversation and started thinking of ways to atone, such as inviting her kids over on the weekend or bringing her a box of chocolates.

Whereas my husband hung up the phone, smiled easily and said, 'See? No problem. It's totally fine.'  Then he started playing with his iPhone and apparently forgot all about it.

Gender difference or just an iPhone thing?  You decide.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Free Financial Advice?

Offering financial advice to employees to help them prepare for retirement is the topic of my most recent post at Compensation Cafe.  You can read more about the pros, cons and gotchas of offering financial advice here.

Additionally, please join the discussion on this topic at


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