Interns Should be More Than Your Coffee Lackey

Many years ago, interns used to be called “apprentices.” In these roles, the mentor would teach the apprentice how to do the job, provide details about the industry, and give a realistic expectations. The mentor took time to add value to the individual they were teaching and, as a result, allowed the individual to gain skills and knowledge to perform well once they were ready to start their career. In present day, interns are joked to be the “coffee lackey” or the “errand runner” for the company they’re “working” at. Sadly, these terms came about because some companies have delegated these tasks to the individuals who initially came there to learn. But how is getting a coffee order right going to help anyone?

As a support system and mentor for some of my interns, I often have a weekly call with them to discuss some of the things they’re learning from the team/department they’re interning in. I’ll attempt to answer any questions, build a support system, and offer some guidance. Of course, I’m always intrigued to hear about their previous interning experiences compared to their current ones and also to hear about their dislikes and likes from each experience. Needless to say, it shocked me when I heard that there are plenty of times when these interns literally were delegated the bare minimum. They’d tell me that these situations didn’t allow them to learn anything useful and that they felt like they wasted their time. More importantly, their experience at the company made them want to rule it out as a potential employer down the line.

What bothers me about this situation is the fact that we’re not doing anything or anyone justice if we aren’t utilizing our interns the best that we can. These interns come to companies in hopes to get a realistic view of what the world of work really is like. They came to put their school studies to practice and build their skills in ways that textbooks and classrooms can’t provide. They’re making a conscious effort to build their resumes so they are an attractive candidate once they’re ready for full-time work. They came to your company because they potentially wanted to build a relationship so you could consider them once you had a relevantjob opening. And how are they repaid for their effort? By having companies waste their time and make them feel expendable.

Here comes the irony: I often hear recruiters and hiring managers complain that there isn’t enough good talent for their entry-level positions. The reason for this is because some companies have turned internships into an opportunity to have someone do the unfavorable tasks that they don’t want to do rather than actually mentoring them. This could be an opportunity to allow them to reach their potential. As a company that has internship programs, it’s your responsibility to help build the talent for the future workforce. If you want great employees coming out of college, then it’s imperative for you to help them build their skills at a time where they are eager and inspired to learn.

Interns come to companies with natural motivation, desire to learn, drive, and ambition. They’re hopeful for their future and are looking up to their mentors to guide them in the right direction. Essentially, mentors of the internship programs are the ones who are helping shape our upcoming workforce. What are you doing to help contribute?

If this topic interests you, be sure to join in or listen to the #InternPro radio show.

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Social Media Uses for the HR Professional

I’ve always been interested in human resources but lately I’ve really been on a social media kick. Some of my Twitter and LinkedIn followers poke fun at me because it seems as if I’m posting all over the place. Although this is somewhat true, there is a reason why I’m becoming more present on social media sites. As I become increasingly involved in the discussions and chats, I’m learning more and more. There are so many wonderful people out there that are supportive, informative, and helpful. I appreciate everyone that I’ve connected with because they’ve exposed me to so many interesting things. This experience has really allowed me to see that there are more uses to social media than the typical stereotype.

A lot of people and companies feel that social media is a distraction and do not associate it with being useful in the workplace. Those people would be correct if they only used social media in the most general of forms. However, internal social media can also take a business to great heights if utilized properly. I recently researched and wrote a post about social media uses in the workplace that touched upon some of the effective ways to apply it.  One of the areas I mentioned was in regard to the ways that human resources can use it as a tool. Today, I’m going to dig deeper into this topic.

Human resources can use social media as:

  • As a performance management tool: Social media is a way to have information in one central location throughout the business-spectrum. It also can have customizable reporting to allow human resources and management to be able to gauge how the business is doing. Metric reporting and scorecards can compare employee output against organizational goals. This allows the business to determine how they are performing as a whole, departmentally, and can even score each individual employee. Human resources professionals can take the individual reports and use it for regular feedback and performance evaluations. This can also help HR and managers know what areas in training need to be improved and what tasks individual employees need additional mentoring on.
  • As a rewards and recognition tool: Social media allows collaboration throughout the organization. It also helps managers and HR to easily and openly see what employees are coming up with the creative/innovative solutions and which employees are truly putting in 110% contribution towards the organizational goals. With this information being accessible, HR professionals can reward employees accordingly, whether it is with monetary bonuses or even just recognition. It is becoming more apparent that employees appreciate the regular feedback that they can receive via social media. Additionally, employee engagement has increased due to the social media recognition programs that companies have implemented. Who would have known that simply saying, “thank you” would make that much of a difference?
  • As a training tool: The training aspect of human resources can really be brought to life via social media. HR can put up training tutorials, documents, SOPs, and videos for employees to easily reference. These training materials can be updated quickly as processes change. Employees can use it as a knowledge base and have easy access to these materials at all times. This can assist them in gaining the information and knowledge they need to complete duties accurately. It can also allow them to be more efficient because the information is instantly available, therefore, they do not have to rely on or wait for someone else to assist them. In addition to materials, social media can give employees the ability to connect with other individuals throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions.
  • As a promotion and/or internal mobility tool: Social media can keep a detailed, documented history. This means that all employees’ contributions, projects, and efforts throughout their employment are easily visible. When it comes time for an employee to ask for a raise or a promotion, this tool can allow human resources to review supporting documentation and decide whether or not the employee displayed characteristics worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool can aid recruiters and HR in seeing which employees show potential to do further things than just their current job and expected career path. This can benefit employees when they are attempting to prove that they’re capable of a lateral or upwards move in the company.

The more I research this topic, the more I get excited about it. Some of these uses can be more efficient than the combined practices and procedures HR have used in the past. If social media can be this valuable just in one department, think of how beneficial it can be for all departments. The possibilities that can arise for an organization are endless.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, please feel free to join the following chats on Twitter:

#SWChat held on Thursdays at 4PM EST

#HRtechChat held on Fridays at 2PM EST

#TChat held on Wednesdays at 7PM EST

Some interesting links:

The Social Revolution of Rewards and Recognition: http://www.thesocialworkplace.com/2011/09/23/the-social-revolution-of-rewards-and-recognition/

Social Media Performance Appraisal Process: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1073216/could-social-media-revolutionise-performance-appraisal-process

Social Media for Performance Management and Reporting: http://sustainablebusinessforum.com/joan-justice/58610/using-social-business-tools-increase-performance-management-and-reporting-sustain

Social Media Corporate Training: http://www.sayitsocial.com/

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

Micromanagement Kills Productivity

The other day I had posted a conversation on Ted.com and was delighted to get an interesting comment. This individual had mentioned that her ideal employer would be one that explains why we do certain processes. Also, another ideal quality would be an employer that does not micromanage. I was so glad that these things were brought up because it is a subject that my peers have passionately discussed in the past. Why do managers think that micromanaging is actually helping? In reality, it does more harm than good.

To start, I’m going to dive into this post by discussing the first part of this person’s comment: why the company exists and why do we do the procedures. Nothing is worse than being trained by someone who only shows you how to go through the motions but doesn’t give an explanation. It is important for employers to train in a way that allows employees to get a full understanding of why they do certain things and how it impacts the business. If all an employer does is train an employee how to do “A. B. and C.” and nothing further, then the employee’s thought process most likely will end there.

A good training program should almost be like a story. For example, a trainer should show an employee how to do “function A.” but also explain what that function’s purpose is and why it’s important to the company. Giving this background and additional information will allow employees to have a clearer picture and retain information easier. Additionally, giving employees those details can allow them to be innovative. If an employee truly understands why they do specific tasks, they may be able to figure out a better and more efficient way to get to the end result. Essentially, you’re allowing employees to have the knowledge and ability to take their job duties a step further.

Once the employees get the swing of things, managers need to learn how to loosen up on their micromanagement. It is perfectly OK to mentor them this way in the beginning since new hires are bound to make a few mistakes through the first few months, but managers need to eventually give them room to do their job without breathing down their necks. Micromanagers feel like they need to be in control of things because they believe that is the only way they can ensure results. Contrary to their belief, it actually kills productivity rather than helps.

These employees were hired for a reason: they are competent; they are educated; and they have experience. In other words, this isn’t their first rodeo. Once they learn the basics of how your company works, what the processes are, and what the expectations are, then they should be good go. If they are micromanaged after that point, it can cause a few issues:

• Employees will be distracted by constant monitoring.
• Employees will feel like they aren’t trusted by the employer.
• It will cause stress and frustration.
• It will limit employees’ feelings of empowerment, accountability, and responsibility.
• Micromanaged timelines may actually slow down efficient employees.
• Constant updates and status meetings will take time away from the actual task at hand.
• It will kill employees’ drives to be creative, innovative, and find better solutions.
• It will make employees question their abilities and limit their professional growth.
• It will make employees feel disrespected.
• And—it’ s just generally suffocating.

When I was recruiting, I used to hate it when I received a job order alert, and within a minute my manager was hounding me about filling the order. At that point, I had barely even got time to read the job requirements before she was down my back. (I often wondered if she had some sort of super power to read the e-mail and get to my desk that fast). Anyway, she started to come off hostile by doing this and employee morale went down tremendously. The stress from being micromanaged caused employees to be unhappy at work to the point where absenteeism and turnover became high. Without these employees present, the company lost a lot of business because there wasn’t enough manpower to keep them competitive.

If you want employees to be happy and engaged, then give them the freedom to do their work. They are capable professionals. The best thing a manager can do is to give employees clear goals and timelines then allow them to work on it without having their every move observed. Even without micromanaging, managers can still make themselves available to the employees if they have questions or need guidance. Perhaps this is a suggestion to keep both ends happy?

If you’re a micromanager, please try to loosen up the control a bit. Your employees will appreciate you for it and you may end up discovering that giving them the empowerment will allow them to be more productive. Giving them the “why” in their training can allow them to be exceptional employees without the need for hand-holding.

Links:
Ted.com
Forbes-How to Manage a Micromanager