Getting Connected: Networking Communities

In past blog postings, I have written about topics involving social media communities and talent communities. Of course, I am very passionate about both of these types of communities but the main reason behind my feelings towards it is what these communities offer. If individuals get involved in these types of situations, many will be happy to find that the communities offer some incredible networking opportunities. Not only do they offer networking opportunities but they can also be a great resource for learning, development, and thought leadership. So, what can networking communities do for you?

Here are some potential networking communities you can explore:

  • Networking groups: Recently I discovered the website www.meetup.com. It’s a great way for people to discover specific groups who are meeting up in your area. There are plenty of groups meeting up for specific reasons, whether it is for business, certain interests, or generally just to meet people.
  • Professional clubs: professional groups that meet regularly are also a good way to network with people in different industries. For example, in Charleston, SC there is a professional club called the Charleston Young Professionals. They typically set up monthly events to allow people to have fun and also mingle for business contacts.
  • Social media: websites like Linkedin and Twitter are fantastic ways to connect with individuals. Discussion groups and chats that are based on specific professions, topics, or industries can also make it easy to casually connect with individuals.
  • Work events: surprisingly, work events can also be a great place to network. Sometimes in office settings people don’t have the time or ability to talk to people outside of their department or to individuals they don’t directly work with. This can be a great way to get to know about others in your company.
  • Conventions: conventions are a way to meet people who are in a specific industry or specific role. This will allow you to connect with people that could potentially be in the same industry/role as you. Therefore, it may be a quick way to form a bond.

Some of the benefits of networking:

  • Business connections: networking with individuals can help you find business connections that can assist you with specific business needs or business development.
  • Learning and development: networks can help open up opportunities to learn and develop. For example, social communities can present online learning, training, and development opportunities for those who want to extend their learning outside of what their company can offer.
  • Resources: networking can help you discover some really interesting resources. For example, when I was starting my blog I came across some useful reference material that helped me add something extra to my posts. It’s also a great way for people to discover job opportunities or companies that they may never have heard of.
  • Thought Leadership: networking groups can promote discussion, which can ultimately promote thought leadership. I’ve witnessed occurrences where a simple group discussion resulted in a solution that helped better a business and situation.

Since I’ve been networking in some of the ways mentioned above, I feel like I’ve developed greatly as a person. I could almost kick myself for not partaking in this sooner. The individuals I’ve met have been unbelievably inspiring and have helped pave the way to build my knowledge to grow personally and professionally. Being involved in networking communities has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. How about you?

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Are you a Good Coach to Your Employees?

Recently, I had the pleasure to discuss some human resources, management, and leadership topics with Nick Sarillo, founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza and Pub. He initially reached out to me regarding my passion for company culture and engagement and conversation took off from there. I absolutely loved his outlook on how he manages his employees and he even was kind enough to share some links to articles discussing this. Today’s blog post will discuss one of Nick’s qualities in terms of management: managers should be coaches.

I think many of us can remember back when we first entered the workforce and were simply trying to figure out how to gain the skills to be successful at our jobs. I’m sure we’ve all had the situations where a boss or manager were maybe a little too harsh, too impatient, or too judgmental when it came to a task we hadn’t quite mastered yet. I know that myself and many others would feel a bit deflated in these types of situations and maybe even had a sense of doubt of whether or not we’d ever get it down. Even if you aren’t a new employee and have been working for several years, these types of situations still can arise. But what can managers do to make it better?

Nick had told me about how he coaches his employees and manages them by “trusting and tracking.”  He decided that the best way to help engage his employees is by training them thoroughly and giving them all the necessary skills and knowledge they need to perform a job duty. From there, he stands back, let’s them take charge and be accountable for the results. He noticed that this method had helped employees take pride in their work and actually take more initiative when it comes to their growth and development.

Nick built on this method, taking the time to update his training and then allowing his employees the space to develop their roles. Although Nick trusted his employees to progress, he still made sure he monitored them to help them in areas that they were struggling in. Even if he needed to step in, he still made sure the feedback was positive to allow the learning and training experience be a good one for his employees. Some tips that Nick suggested in regard to this are:

  • Make sure you are not giving constant orders and criticism.
  • Offer training, coaching, support, and positive reinforcement.
  • Build training systems into your company and management.
  • Provide helpful feedback on a regular basis.
  • Make expectations clear, track progress, celebrate met goals, and give help when needed.

I was very inspired by this management style and was happy to hear that Nick stuck with it even though other business owners (including his own father) told him he was crazy. This style has helped Nick’s business become one of the top 10 independent pizza companies in the United States. Moreover, Nick has some of the lowest turnover found in this industry.

Nick Sarillo is the founder and CEO of Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake and Elgin, Ill., and the author of A Slice of the Pie: How to Build a Big Little Business (Portfolio; hardcover). www.nicksarillo.com.

More Links:

Bosses Should be Coaches not Cops

Nick Sarillo’s book, “A Slice of the Pie” on Amazon.com

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Investing in Your Employees’ Learning and Development

Throughout my career, I have taken notice of the efforts that my employers had attempted in order to train and hopefully develop new employees. I’ve also participated in continuous training and workshops as a refresher on the knowledge and skills I had gained throughout my employment at the company. Although I find all of this very important for your employees and your workforce as a whole, I can’t help to wonder if there are additional opportunities that employers are offering their employees. Are employers investing in the employees’ futures, as well?

One of the most inspiring things I have researched was the fact that some employers truly take notice to what their employees’ natural talents are or what their goals are for the future. Some employers also even help present opportunities that will allow employees to gain the skills they need to get where they want to be. But, these types of situations only really occur if an employer somehow takes the time to discover these additional talents or if the employees actually speak up to say what they really want to accomplish while employed there. But what if we tried to do things differently? What if we gave all employees the chance to be open and voice what they want as part of their learning and development? It seems as if though the training that the employees are involved in help them become experts at what they’re currently doing but doesn’t really offer them the ability to expand beyond that.

Call me crazy but I would love it if employers took the time to ask their employees what their career paths were and what type of training they would like to partake in. Give them the empowerment and options to pick what training they need and assist them in getting it. Investing in your employees this way can not only increase engagement, but could also increase loyalty and could even help your organization progress in ways it never could before. You are giving them the ability and the tools to help them be a super-asset for your company.

Too often, I hear employees leave companies because they feel like they have nowhere to go and no chances to grow as a professional and/or personally. So they venture elsewhere looking for the ability to learn and grow. I suppose that this post is more of me thinking out loud because I know that there is much more that is involved when it comes to L&D. Regardless,  I would be impressed to see that employers are giving their employees the options to pave the way to their future within the organization. I would also love to see employees take these chances and see how much it changes them.

Food for thought.

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The Multi-Generational Workplace: Learning from Each Other

Last Wednesday’s #TChat touched upon the multi-generational workplace. The discussion talked about how the workforce is changing and now includes Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers all within one workforce. As expected, a good portion of companies can feel some strain caused by the differences of the generations. So what’s the best way to understand one another and open up chances to collaborate? Create opportunities to mentor one another, and that includes reverse mentoring.

Typically, Gen Y is mentored by the older generations because they have had more experience in the working world. Although this makes perfect sense, it is also very important to allow Gen Y to also mentor Gen X and Baby Boomers on the things they are “experts” at. Essentially, everyone has the ability to teach one another but you must create a workplace environment that encourages this type of mentoring.

  • Create weekly or monthly meetings where different generations can host a “Lunch and Learn” session.
  • Assign groups of people who represent different generations to collaborate on different projects.
  • Create learning events almost similar to speed dating: have set tables for different topics and have your employees move around and learn from one another.
  • Create incentive or recognition programs for those who go above and beyond to teach others things that will benefit the company.

Opening up these opportunities can help generations understand one another and truly respect what individual attributes and qualities they possess. These ideas can help open up the minds of those in the workplace to show that we honestly can learn from one another, despite if you are a seasoned professional or a recent grad just entering the working world. With this mentality, businesses can benefit and grow together.

Here’s a #Tchat Recap for your viewing pleasure.

Thanks, Sean Charles, for the schnazzy picture.

If you’re interested in learning more about #Tchat topics, be sure to join us on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

How to Promote Social Learning

#TChat has done it again! Another wonderful chat last Wednesday has given me some really great information for today’s blog post. Last week we discussed the importance of promoting a learning culture in the workplace. Many participants chimed in and let us know what they suggested in order to create in an environment where social learning could succeed. As usual, the chat is comprised with some really fantastic people that had some great input on the topic.

An environment and workplace culture that promotes continuous learning is key in aiding a company towards a constant, successful future. Here are some ways you can encourage learning within your workplace:

  • Don’t hand out answers: If someone comes to you looking for help or an answer, make them think.  Ask them questions that could help them learn where to look for a useful resource, or ask them questions to help them critically think and potentially come up with the answer on their own. Sometimes people know the answer, they just need a question to help them lead to it.
  • Create a safe environment: Allow people to feel like they can freely voice their thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns without being judged.
  • Encourage people to challenge the status-quo: Things change because people question if what’s currently in place is relevant. Allow people to challenge what is currently there so they can investigate new trends and resources and hopefully come up with a better solution that will work presently or in the future. This can allow business progression.
  • Encourage people to share: Allow people to come to you and openly share new resources for learning and information. Sometimes people can find new things that the L&D or HR department may have never stumbled upon.
  • Be adaptable: Things change fast, so be sure to keep up. Don’t teach things or use methods that are out of date, otherwise you may have reversed learning and growth rather than helped.
  • Be open to different learning options: Many people think that learning is only conducive in classrooms and workshops but technology has opened up other outlets for learning. For example, I learned so much from different professionals that I networked with via Twitter chats and LinkedIn discussions. I never thought those social media sites would be as useful as it truly was.

Learning is important for your employees’ personal and professional growth. When your employees grow, they are able to bring more to the table and help your company reach new heights. Promote learning in your company- it can benefit all that are involved.

For more information about this topic, check out Meghan Biro’s article in Forbes and the #TChat Slideshow that Sean Charles created.

Also, be sure to join #TChat on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

Managing Gen Y in the Workplace

One of the topics that I’m interested in and passionate about is Gen Y (Millennials) in the workplace. Being a Gen Yer myself, it is interesting to read about some of the qualities that I possess that seem to be the norm. It’s also been interesting to see how my fellow Gen Yers are challenging the current practices and procedures that workplaces have been doing for years. Many companies are starting to realize that Gen Y will be dominating the workplace and have started to restructure in a way that will work well with this generation.  Therefore, today’s post will discuss how to manage Gen Y.

Last month, I wrote a post about what Gen Y wants from an employer. As a refresher, the main points I made were as follows:

  • Gen Y values company culture.
  • Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback.
  • Gen Y wants workplace options.
  • Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact.

Although those are only a few off of the long list of qualities that this generation hopes that their employer has, these seem to be the most common. In order for a company to know how to properly manage this generation of workers, they must know and understand these. Additionally, they must find a way to tie them into their restructured management style. Here are some tips on how to manage Gen Y effectively:

  • Show them a connection: Gen Yers know that more often than not, they are bound to leave their employers within the first few years of employment. One of the main reasons they leave is because they do not feel that the company culture (something they value) is aligned with their own personal values. To ensure you are hiring and retaining quality talent, be sure to discuss the culture and what the company has to offer. Ask the candidate what they highly regard and what would be a deal breaker down the line. Determining the connection of company offerings against candidate values can help reduce turn-over in the long run and increase employee engagement if the candidate is hired.
  • Set clear rules and expectations: Gen Yers can be extremely self-sufficient and driven; however, gray areas can hinder some of their performance. The best thing a manager can do is to let the employees know what the rules, expectations, and goals are straight out of the gate. Additionally, they should place this information in an area that is easily accessible for employees’ reference.  Having these clearly defined can help the employees know exactly what they can and cannot do, and go from there without second guessing themselves.
  • Provide useful feedback on a regular-basis: Receiving regular feedback is not just expected by Gen Y, but it is demanded. This generation of workers is focused on finding solutions and making improvements. In order to get valuable insight and discover resources to do so, they rely heavily on the feedback from their peers, clients, and managers. Making this a routine task of management can prove to have significant benefits for the organization.
  • Get your scheduling done ASAP: Gen Y is an expert at multi-tasking. They grew up in the technology era, which makes doing three things simultaneously a breeze. However, they are only able to take on this much work by learning how to schedule things properly. In order to ensure that your employees are keeping up with their abundant workload, be sure to stay on a set schedule for meetings, quotas, goals, and so on. Also, if you need to schedule something that isn’t part of the norm, try to give them a time and date as soon as possible so they can reschedule and plan accordingly.
  • Track their performance: This generation wants to know that their efforts and contributions are making a difference. They want work to be meaningful and feel like they’re doing something for a reason. One way to make them feel that way is by keeping track of their performance and incorporating those details into the regular feedback you provide. Gen Y is also goal-driven so be sure to show them how their performance ties in to their career path and goals. If necessary, give them additional mentoring in areas they need to improve. Showing that you are invested in their professional growth will help gain their commitment and trust.

Gen Y can be tricky to manage if you don’t take the time to understand how they think and why they do the things they do. In order to manage this generation effectively, managers must create an open, two-way communication with employees. Participative leadership style may be key in keeping up with them. This can help managers learn what the employees need from them in order to get the best response and performance. Lastly, please listen and try to follow through with any promises you make. Trust me; they’ll hold you to it.

More links on the subject:

Manage Gen Y and Interns.

Managing Gen Y Infograph.

NBC- Managing Gen Y Effectively.

Leadership Development for Gen Y.

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