Stretch Projects to Increase Development and Engagement

Recently, I came across something pretty inspiring. I learned that a department manager has taken the time to learn the individual needs and passions of each of her subordinates, regardless of how insanely busy she was in her own role. She regularly takes the time to speak to them one on one to learn what their career goals are, what skills they want to develop, and address any concerns. Although that is impressive in itself, she doesn’t stop there. She takes the time to find opportunities for her employees to develop the skills in order to work their way toward their personal and professional goals. Since she started doing this, the increase in engagement has been phenomenal.

If you are a manager that’s looking to increase engagement in your workplace, consider trying this:

  • Regularly schedule one-on-one talks with your employees in an open atmosphere.
  • Make sure you talk about your employees’ career goals so you can get a feel for what they’re looking to accomplish.
  • Discuss some of the tasks and skills they would like to develop.
  • Talk to other managers in your organization to learn of different tasks or projects they’d need assistance on.
  • Discuss these opportunities with your employee to see what they’d be interested in pursuing and what would be feasible for them to do on top of their current workload.

The extra work involved in this might seem overwhelming but the benefits are worth it:

  • Employees will feel more accountable and appreciative to have a chance to develop themselves.
  • Engagement and morale will increase.
  • Turnover may decrease because employees will feel like they have professional and career growth opportunities within the organization.
  • Employees will develop skills that can help them become more of an asset to your company.
  • Departments using the employees for their projects may be more efficient with the extra help.
  • Opportunities like this can allow departments to build a stronger bond and work better, cross-departmentally.
  • Employees can gradually work their way into a role or even determine if the role or career path fulfills their passions as much as their originally had assumed.
  • It can bring in new perspective and fresh ideas.

Sometimes extra training or promotion might not be feasible in your organization due to budget, financial, and hiring issues. But, in the interim, this could be a great way to keep your employees engaged and happy while working there. It promotes continuous learning and in a way they are truly passionate about. This can create a stronger and better workforce.

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Will Your Company Benefit from Social Media?

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding social media in the workplace. Different individuals in this discussion had debated whether or not using social media would be beneficial or counter-productive. Although I do agree that some organizations wouldn’t find social media helpful, there are plenty of other companies that could use it as a useful tool. Today’s post will help educate companies on how social media can be functional.

The individuals debating that social media would be counter-productive mainly thought that it was only for personal use. They wondered how “gossip” or quirky status updates would help and believed that this would distract employees from doing their jobs. Although those are true points, there are also different social media sites that are geared towards business use. For example, Work Simple, Salesforce, and Yammer are three companies that come to mind.

If utilized properly, social media could be beneficial to companies for the following reasons:

Collaboration is easier. Technology is allowing businesses to be able to reach audiences on a global scale. To be able to keep up with this: employees are now available around the world; are working remotely while traveling; or are working different shifts to be accessible to all time zones. If all employees can’t participate in business meetings, it can be very hard for teams to effectively work together. Social media can allow employees to collaborate at any time and in any location so no one ends up missing out.

Employees get more exposure to executives and managers. Social media allows managers, HR, and executives to easily see which employees are influential. Many employees can have a hard time proving they are worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool will allow management to see employees’ documented efforts. It will display their progression and contributions in a way that validates their eligibility for promotion or rewards. It is a social recognition and performance management tool.

It can increase employee engagement. Social media can empower employees by giving them a voice. Additionally, having a tool that keeps a record of employees’ suggestions or ideas can make them become accountable for following through.

It can allow employees to communicate in a way that creates a solid community within the organization. Employees might work in different departments, locations, or time zones. Or, employees might work in a role that has them strapped to a desk or on the road. With those being realistic factors, employees can’t always converge in a way to get to know each other. Social media can allow employees to communicate throughout all levels of the business-spectrum. This is a team building tool that can create stronger cross-departmental teams and company community.

Employees will know who the correct point of contact is. I know I’ve wasted so much time trying to figure out who I need to contact for more information or assistance. This tool can allow employees know who does what in the business so they can get what they need faster. It can also help employees follow up easier by letting them to see who else was working on a project/task. This feature permits them to contact that person for clarification, status updates, or help. Pictures can also help employees put a name and job function to a face.

It can encourage learning and development. Employees can connect with others throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions. Additionally, this can be used as a knowledge base in which employees can find information faster so they can do their job more efficiently or help customers quicker. In addition to this, those using the tool can expose other users to helpful information by posting useful resources, invites to webinars, and so on.

It is a brainstorming tool. Great ideas don’t always get formulated right away. Discussion boards can be used as brainstorming meetings which will let employees provide thoughtful, innovative, and creative ideas when it comes to them. Having suggestions easily available can allow other members to jump in, build off of it, and develop it into something functional.

There are so many benefits to using business social media that I could go on and on about it. I feel that majority of companies could use it to their advantage if they utilize and customize it in a way that suits their industry, mission, and culture. Hopefully this information can open up minds to the endless possibilities that can come from using this tool.

If you want to read more about the benefits of business social media, please click on the following links:

Yammer-Business Benefits
Work Simple- Performance Management for Social Goals
Salesforce- The Social Enterprise Solution

The Importance of Hiring Employees That Ask “Why?”

It seems to me that too many companies are reluctant to hire candidates that have a strong sense of curiosity, especially in terms of why company policies and procedures are the way they are. The reason why companies choose to pass on these candidates is because they feel that they will be too hard to manage. Additionally, most people are defensive when it comes to change. However, sometimes this change is necessary.

In the past, employees only got information from education and what their employers taught them. They rarely questioned if there was a better way because they didn’t have access to information to make them wonder. But now, things are different. Candidates in this job market have the advantage of technology at their fingertips. They can research information on subjects, explore different ways to do things, and network with people around the globe to get different perspectives. With this knowledge, people tend to start questioning an employer’s current practices and offer suggestions for better ways to handle business.

I believe that this is the age of “why” and some people have dubbed the new Gen Y as Gen “why” because of this. The issue is that many employers seem to shy away from this rather than welcome it. They may fear that the worker that asks “why” will cause issue in the workplace and cause chaos because they will influence other workers to start question “the way things are.” Although that is a valid concern, I think that more employers need to embrace that and find a way to channel it in way that can benefit the company.

To gain a competitive advantage, you need to be one step ahead of your competitors. You need to know how the market is shifting, what the consumers are demanding, and how to create a product or service that can be addicting to the public. How can a company be one step ahead and look forward to new opportunities if their whole workforce dutifully follows all policies, procedures, and practices that they were taught? To move ahead you need to have the people that challenge what is. You need to encourage innovation, allow employees to express their ideas and suggestions, and find a way to control the idea enough to make it work for your industry.

Too much regulated structure in education and the workplace will kill creativity, and ultimately your competitive edge. Do not deny the person that questions things. These will potentially be the people that find a way to have three steps ahead of the competition rather than one. Be open to it, encourage it, and listen to those who have the courage to speak up. I often wonder how many companies have kicked themselves for denying a candidate or employee that seemed to go against the grain, only to have that person go on and create their own empire. I think of people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates that got denied jobs and went on to outshine the companies that turned them away.

Companies need to stop telling people that things can’t be done because they’ve never been done before. Stop closing your minds to new ideas. Why not be the company that wows the world once they show them what is possible? Why not go down in history as the company that took that chance? Why?

Find the candidate or employee that asks you why- they will be the one that changes the business world.

Here are some other articles you can read on the subject. Enjoy:

http://www.inc.com/harvey-mackay/the-power-of-why.html

http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/18393/power-of-asking-%27why%27-how-it-makes-employees-think-grow

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/03/change_your_employees_minds_ch.html