Making the Most Out of a Networking Event

Last year, my fiancé decided to go back to school to pursue his passion and obtain a degree in Software Development Engineering. Although he is learning a great deal from classes and independent learning, unfortunately he doesn’t know many people in this field and sometimes lacks the network he needs to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. Last month, I discovered that there was a CODEshow occurring in our local area of Charleston, SC. After days of convincing him that it was important for him to attend, he finally agreed that it would be in his best interest to learn from the individuals in this industry. To make the most of this learning and networking event, I utilized my inner HR skills and prepped him the best way I knew how.

The things I taught him this past week can be relevant in almost all networking events. Here were some useful tips I shared with him:

  • Make sure your professional social media is up to date: a couple nights before the event, I took the time to update his Linkedin and Twitter profiles. I ensured that: his pictures matched across social media channels; that his pictures were professionalish; his work title/experience was up to date; that his skills were accurate; and that there were links to connect his social media channels together so individuals knew they had the right person.
  • Do a little research: The night before, he and I researched things involving the Codeshow. We read articles, researched what people were saying on social media, and so on. He was able to locate a few people who stated they were attending and sent them a quick message about connecting at the show.
  • Live-streaming at the event: sometimes it’s a little hard to multi-task. I get it- trust me- but you’d be surprised by how much easier it makes it for you to have warm networking leads. A trend I’ve noticed was live tweeting from events in which participants would quote presenters, take pictures, and provide feedback. This would be a live stream and would include a hashtag specific to the event/conference. Live streaming allows you to see who is at the event and creates an easy opening for virtual conversation that can lead to in-person conversation during breaks.
  • Connecting after the event: make sure you get business cards or contact information from the individuals who presented or who you spoke to. Be sure to reach out to them through professional sites like Linkedin and include a personal note in the invite to remind them of how you two know each other. This is a great way to stay connected and build relationships post-event.

My fiancé was beaming when he came home that night, completely buzzing from all the amazing things he learned from the presenters. He had some great conversations with people in the industry that not only sparked his passion more, but confirmed that his decision to change career paths was the right one. He seemed to have a natural talent for understanding the art of software engineering. What’s more, he was able to build relationships with other engineers in the local area so he could totally geek out with people that understand and love the languages. He had great success with the steps that I taught him and appreciated the fact that I helped him make the most out of this situation. And yes, I did gloat about it for a bit.

Make the most of your networking events/conferences and try the steps above. Even introverts can find this to be an easy way to break the ice and build relationships.

Photo Source

Advertisements

Consumer Brand vs. Employer Branding

Last week seemed like it was a hot week in the social media world in regard to branding. I was involved in a few different webinars that focused on brand ambassadors. I listened to #TalentNet radio show and participated in #TChat , as well, to hear more about the different perspectives when it came to effectively branding.  I learned all about the difference of influencers and ambassadors. I also learned about the importance of adding “personality” to your brand to engage an audience while still maintaining a bit of control. But one of the most interesting things I learned  was that a good portion of companies don’t realize there is a difference between consumer brand and employer brand.

For all my HR and talent acquisition people out there: it’s important to have an employer brand in order to attract talent. Additionally, it has to be a strong and consistent brand. In today’s job seeking world, candidates EXPECT to find more information on your company’s brand in order to determine if it would be a company they would be attracted to. Job seekers don’t care about the brand you use to tell people about your products and services. It might initially give them information about your company being a potential lead for employment, but it’s not going to engage them in the way you need.

First thing’s first- learn the difference:

Consumer Branding: As the article in Chron had stated: “Consumer branding is a concept that relies on the creation of visual, and possibly audio, elements that help to create recognition of the product. These branding options may include the shape of the packaging, colors, characters and even the shape or feel of the product itself.”  Needless to say, this branding is usually utilized to generate sales.

Employer Branding: As stated in WSJ: “The key is to align the brand with the company’s business plan, meaning the brand is designed to attract and retain the kinds of workers the company needs most — those who can help it increase sales, profits and market share. And the key to doing that is to borrow a tool from the product-marketing toolbox.”

Just like in consumer branding, it is important for employer branding to be engaging, transparent, show all of the “features”, give the “inside scoop”, and regularly update their audience about what’s new within the organization (i.e. partnerships, new career opportunities, changes in culture, and so on). Employer branding should be high on your list of “to-do” when it comes to talent acquisition and the results you get can not only bring in the best and brightest of talent, but can also allow your business to advance in ways you hadn’t imagined before.

Photo Source

HR Tech: HR Cloud On-boarding Platform

The other day, I had the pleasure to speak with the individuals from HR Cloud again. As stated in my previous blog, I found their platform to be particularly interesting. I loved the fact that everything an HR professional would need was located in one, easily-manageable interface. Additionally, I really enjoyed how customizable these features were, which not only saves a lot of time but also helps strengthen the internal employer brand. After initially getting an overview a couple months back, I was happy to connect with HR Cloud so I could get a closer look at each portion of their platform. This time, we focused more on the on-boarding piece.

Here are some interesting features:

  • Landing Page: this page can be the “Welcoming Page” for a new hire. Your organization can provide a username and password for the new hire so they can get some of the on-boarding processes done before their start date. This landing page’s layout and widgets can be customized to include: videos, specific HR forms, tasks with due dates, a welcome message, and so on.
    • Key take-aways:
      •  Reduce time and money by having new hire paperwork on this platform, rather than shipping, printing, faxing, etc.
      • New hire paperwork can include additional paperwork or customized paperwork for specific job role or department. Digital signatures can authenticate paperwork.
      • You can build an employer brand and strengthen the culture by including videos, internal information, welcoming messages, and anything else that can help increase transparency of your organization to the new hire.
  • Administrative Tab: this tab can be utilized by HR professionals and department heads. The tab can be configured for specific needs, help reduce time, and keep everything organized and on track.
    • Key take-aways:
      • HR and department heads can send out messages/forms/tasks either to a collective group of people or to individuals.
      • Checklists and tasks are easily visible to allow HR and department heads to know what needs to be completed.
      • IT will receive an automatic alert to help prepare for new hires. For example: an alert to order laptops/computers/equipment; and to create passwords/usernames.
  • First Day Activities: This feature streamlines new hire paperwork processes and training to help your new hires jump right in.HR can create a task to-do list so new hires can be productive in their on-boarding. This feature will also include an organizational chart so employees know who they will be reporting to and who they’ll be working with. The organizational chart will be complete with avatars so new employees can put a name to a face.
  • Form Creation and Customization: This feature allows the system to upload any forms into their PDF creator. These forms can include the usual 1-9s, W-4s, direct deposit forms, and so on. Also, companies can create forms that are specific to job role, industry, department, or their company. These forms can also be auto-populated with employee details to save time and ensure that information is accurate.
  • Career Planning: Employees can review the expectations and goals of their current position so they can properly position themselves on their career path. This transparency can allow employees to take control of their professional development.

The on-boarding process can be grueling, both from an HR perspective and a new hire perspective. Time can be wasted if: forms aren’t completed properly; you have to wait for shipping and receiving; or you have to wait to give/receive directions on your first day. To do lists and checklists can make it easier for the organization to keep track and make sure everything is squared away, which will potentially limit any headaches down the line. The first day activities and organizational chart can help a new employee feel more comfortable in the transition. The interface makes navigation effortless and it’s very user-friendly, which can cut down time and frustration. Overall, I think this platform is organized, effective, and can make the process stress-free for all individuals involved.

Contact HR Cloud today for a demo.

 

Spotlight on HR Technology: HR Cloud

Recently, a contact of mine reached out to me when he noticed that I had a love for technology, especially when it dealt with Human Resources. He informed me that his employer, NEOGOV, had come out with a platform geared towards the private sector. After a quick chat about what this platform did and the future of it, I was eager to be shown a demo.

HR Cloud really takes HR management systems and HRIS to a different level. It allows you to have a full view of your employees by centralizing all your employees’ data and records. Anything you need to research on an employee (such as position, performance reviews, pay, PTO, and so on) can be easily accessed on one cloud-based platform. HR professionals that work remotely or travel over a region can appreciate being able to access this secure information from anywhere.

I’ve done the operational side of HR before, so I know how annoying and frustrating it can be to have to log into multiple systems or deal with a slew of paperwork when handling on-boarding or off-boarding processes. It was nice to see that HR Cloud was a one-stop shop for all your on-boarding/off-boarding needs. HR professionals are able to customize the necessary paperwork and processes to fit their specific needs. Additionally, it is organized nicely so HR can see what has been completed and what still needs to be done. Having all these processes located in one place makes it quick and efficient.

HR Cloud even offers a self-service portal for new hires. This can help new hires get prepared and engaged before their start date, on their own time. They can do anything from: completing pre-employment paperwork; review the organization’s mission and values; and even get involved in trainings and videos. This can help ease employees into their new role with the company and get a head start.

Being a lover of social HR, I enjoyed the fact that this platform supported social collaboration. You are able to get feedback, manage projects, visually see organizational charts, and pass along real-time messages. Along with this, it also has options for employees to see their career planning options. Employees can easily compare their current role and skills against the position they’re targeting. Additionally, they can learn the necessary steps they’d need to take to achieve that career goal. Expectations are clearly communicated and employees can easily track their progress. It’s always nice to see that employees are able to take charge when it comes to their professional development, and this platform really makes that an option.

But it doesn’t stop there- managers also will be able to track their employees’ progress, as well. With the performance management system, managers and HR can easily monitor individual performance against goals and expectations. The platform allows them to easily track, cross-organizationally collaborate, and document. All information is neatly stored there so auditing and referencing is easy. Managers can effortlessly see how employees are progressing and provide solid feedback with reporting and visual dashboards.

After being impressed by the demo, HR Cloud informed me of some of their future plans to make this platform even more mobile. Needless to say, I think HR professionals can sincerely benefit from this solution, mainly because it organizes it all in one user-friendly platform. No more logging in to multiple systems, toggling screens, and cross-referencing against multiple resources. It’s all right there: visually; analytically; and documented. And even if you do have trouble finding the information you need, status updates can show you who the last person was that updated the record so you can easily reach out to them for clarification. Sounds like a dream come true for the HR professional!

Read more about HR Cloud and schedule your Demo today: http://hrcloud.com/

 

Bitrix24: Social Workplace Collaboration Made Easy

 

Recently, an employee of Bitrix24 had reached out to me in regard to their social workplace collaboration platform. Of course, I was intrigued by this because I find these types of tools to be fascinating. Over the past couple years, I have been researching, testing, or using different SaaS to see how it can help organizations be more efficient. Naturally, I wanted to hear more about this and learn about the features it can offer an organization. Stephen Ankenman of Bitrix, Inc. was kind enough to speak with me in regard to their concept.

Ashley Perez (AP): What is the core concept of Bitrix24 and why did you decide to develop this idea?

Stephen Ankenman (SA): “Small businesses need classic intranet tools and social collaboration just like enterprises. Our driving philosophy is to unite the management of a company to a single platform that can handle all standard company operations: vertical and horizontal, internal and external.”

AP: What are some key features that help employees collaborate and coordinate more effectively?

SA: “Content can be shared instantly to any subset of users, whether it is a comment or file. Internal notifications, automatic reporting, and the activity stream replace a lot of email and greatly reduce the need to repeat information. For some companies, simply having anywhere, anytime access to files, tasks, and other data is a game-changer. There are also Business Processes available in the CRM and file library which can draw on other parts of the intranet, such as the company structure, instant notifications, and tasks to keep operations running smoothly.”

 AP: How does this SaaS help all levels of employees communicate and socialize?

SA: “The Activity Stream keeps users informed of everything that pertains to them and provides commenting and other methods of instant feedback (public or private). The social layer of Bitrix24 provides discussion threads directly attached to objects such as tasks and files, and spontaneous conversations can be started, shared, and enhanced with new files, pictures and videos.”

 AP: How has this helped project management?

SA: “Any number of project groups can be formed. Tasks inside groups can be viewed as a Gantt chart and are visible to all users.  With a group-only activity stream on the front page, it’s very easy to get a snapshot of what is going on.”

AP: What are the different features that help employees navigate to find relevant documents, knowledge-base, information, and resources?

SA: “ Search is very powerful in Bitrix24.  Search covers file content, comments, tasks, wiki entries, the CRM and other objects. It’s important to note that simply having all of these objects under one roof provides a distinct advantage for Bitrix24’s search.”

AP: Is Bitrix24 flexible and mobile? If so, please explain.

SA: “Bitrix24’s CRM is highly customizable to reflect products, sales stages, contact types, and all other nuances that are unique to each company’s sales process. In the intranet side, the access system lets you share what you want how you want and with whom you want.

“Business processes, available in the CRM and document library, allow highly specific workflows to be created according to the very specific needs of a company concerning approvals, conditions, and drawing in information at various stages of the workflow.”

Recently, I spoke with an individual, Jim Sweeney, who had started using Bitrix24 for his start-up company’s needs. As he had stated, “I’ve used other platforms before that seemed much more entailed and weren’t really necessary for smaller companies and start-ups like my own.  Bitrix24 helps with communication, organization, and project management. It’s simplified and user friendly so it’s very easy to find the information that you’re looking for. It helps organize each person in our group so we can clearly see what the next milestone is and what the next due date is. It helps us easily link our tasks to our process mapping.

“I can see it being really great for project management, and is especially good for inter-office communication. This is extremely helpful because all of the team members of my company is scattered throughout the country. The communication features are so clear and easy to use that we can get straight to the point rather than having to mess around with customization features.

“The selling point for this platform over larger platforms is the pricing (it makes it easy for small start-ups) and that its simple- I don’t need all the features that larger organizations need. It works for us. There is a very small learning-curve. For smaller companies, we don’t have time to waste on trying to learn every aspect of a platform. We’re more concerned about getting our product/service up and running. Bitrix24 takes away the hassle and allows us to get to what matters.”

After speaking with Stephen about Bitrix24 and also hearing some real, customer feedback, I’d have to say I’m impressed with this. Sometimes having too many customization features can be daunting, confusing, and can actually slow down productivity. I like the fact that Bitrix24 allows companies and users to get straight to the point and makes using the SaaS a lot easier.

If you’re interested in learning more about this company, please feel free to go to www.bitrix24.com

Can HR Upgrade to 2.0?

This past Wednesday’s #TChat was quite an interesting one. Of course, I loved it because it dealt with Human Resources, technology, and keeping up with the fast-paced business changes. Apparently, though, I wasn’t the only one who found this topic thought-provoking. 340 contributors on Twitter had taken the time to participate in our hour long chat which had resulted in 2,100 tweets and 11.7 million impressions. I definitely want to say thank you to those who contributed- your offerings made the chat one of the most enjoyable ones to date. And of course, you have helped spark ideas for today’s blog posting: why HR sometimes seems to lag during fast business changes.

Can HR be agile like the rest of business? Sure they can be, but their purpose is much more complex than that and being agile could potentially prevent them from doing their proper due diligence. Human Resources are there to protect the company and also the employees. They must edit their plan of action to not only protect them presently, but also in the future. This involves careful planning. With every organizational change, HR needs to consider and update the following:

  • Job descriptions: sometimes these organizational changes can also change the roles of the employees. This means HR needs to reconsider the descriptions, duties, and expectations for these new roles.
  • Compensation Benchmarking: HR now needs to consider and compare the new roles against others in the industry. They must ensure that they are now compensating employees properly to be competitive.
  • Career path planning: HR may need to restructure some of the paths that these new roles will lead up to. After all, they wouldn’t want to create a job that ends there with no room to move upwards or laterally. That could ruin their efforts of retaining talent.
  • Performance reviews: new criterion and expectations need to be created to ensure that employees are meeting the requirements satisfactorily. This means that management and HR need to create new objectives to ensure that the role is progressing appropriately for business needs.
  • Recruitment efforts and assessments: recruiters will now need to know what the new profile and basic requirements are to help them discover the best talent. New assessments will have to be created to help recruiters determine that candidates have the appropriate skills and knowledge to perform well at the new role.
  • Employer branding: HR needs to determine what marketing and branding efforts will need to be restructured to ensure they are presenting the company in a way that is aligned with the new changes. These efforts need to be carefully thought out to appropriately attract new talent and retain current talent.

Some individuals may question why HR can’t keep up with “the speed of business”, especially with new technology emerging. Yes- technology has helped HR exponentially. However, a lot of the functions above require a “human” touch to review, plan, and consider long-term effects. HR is the department that keeps the organization and workforce ecosystem steady. Therefore, their role in organizational changes may be a little bit slower, but overall, their efforts make more of a difference than some may realize.

If you like topics like this, be sure to join #TChat on Twitter – Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More links to this week’s chat:

HR Shifts to the Fast Lane by Kathleen Kruse

#TChat Storify by Sean Charles

5 Ways to Rock Star HR Leadership by Meghan M. Biro

Talent Culture

Photo Source