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INSIDE THIS ISSUE:
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IT and Engineering Workers Unemployment Rates Remain Well Below the National Average
The national unemployment rate continued to move downward and ranged from 6.1 to 6.3 percent in Q2 2014. However, the news for those in IT and engineering professions was almost universally better with unemployment rates generally ranging between 1 percent to under 5 percent. Only one engineering profession – nuclear engineers – came in above the national unemployment rate.
The Perils of Making Up Your Social Media Policy as You Go
Social media and its close relative, social CRM, allow you to connect with customers in new and meaningful ways, on a greater scale and at a greater velocity than ever before.
When it’s done right, that is.
When it’s done wrong, like anything in this era of increasingly automated communication, your mistakes are amplified and intensified by customers who now have the ability to reflect your failure to their peers.
That possibility of a major social faux pas has some business leaders living in fear. They keep a tight rein on what their employees can do, and they allow opportunities to connect with customers to pass. That’s a shame, because avoiding social CRM failure is pretty easy.
It boils down to three P’s: people, policy and paying attention.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
“People” refers to the employees you task with social media roles. That can be a very broad group of folks, considering how many people have blogs or comment about their jobs on Twitter, Facebook and other sources. You need to hire wisely and assign employees to roles carefully; these should be people you trust.
“Paying attention” means the devotion of time and talent to listening to what’s being said about your business, in response to your business, and about your customers. It also means paying attention to what’s going on in your industry, your business and the world to ensure that you don’t say the right thing at the wrong time.
“Policy” is what to focus on here. It’s the one element that businesses have the most control over — they can write their policies, explain them to employees, and enforce them without worrying about the variable of the customer.
Sadly, most businesses don’t bother with policy. They let their employees’ use of social media evolve without any input from leadership. Then, when things go awry, the leadership blames the employees. That may make people at the top feel better, but it does nothing to safeguard the company against a future disaster.
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Don’t Wait for a Social Disaster
What you should do now — not after a social media meltdown — is create a social media and social CRM policy. It doesn’t need to be a long document. In fact, shorter is better, since you want your employees to read and internalize it, and because you’ll need it to be flexible, since it’s unlikely the social space will remain unchanged for long.
What should be in this policy?
The basics: Employees need to have it made clear that their behavior in social media needs to remain professional when they’re representing the business, and if you have a definition of what that entails, put it in there. You might also want to include procedures for routing social media messages about the company to the right part of your business.
For example, do your employees know where in your business they should steer a tweet about a customer service issue? How about a discussion forum thread asking about the differences between your company and two of your competitors?
Without codifying the process for getting the right people involved in these discussions, you can’t expect your employees to handle them on an ad hoc basis.
The other thing to include in this policy is a reminder: If you’re blogging about your work, that’s great, but don’t spill the beans too early. By providing an early stage preview of what’s coming from his or her company, a developer writing excitedly about a feature being created for a software application is a real boon to the company’s competitors. Let everyone know that there are deadlines, embargoes and release dates for a reason.
When Your Social Manager Leaves
Those are useful things for the employee policy. However, you also need another set of policies for managing your social channels.
Have you developed processes for managing access to blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages or discussion forum administrator roles? What happens when someone tasked with such a role leaves or is asked to leave? Many companies have to start from scratch as the passwords leave with the employees. Others take a hit when their social media accounts continue under the control of ex-employees until they can shut them off (by working through the social media provider, a difficult and uncertain process).
Here’s an example: A blogger working for a tech company was laid off, but his erstwhile employers had never developed a policy about what they would do when people managing social media channels were let go. The blogger went home, accessed the blog — and wrote a pleasant farewell post. That blogger could have caused significant mayhem in any number of ways, but there’s no reason his former company should have invited that risk.
Your business has policies for almost every eventuality. Why would you allow social media, with its ability to reach unprecedented numbers of customers and potential customers, to be the one area you make up as you go along?
Think about your employees, your use of social media and the ways you move social media information into CRM, and write a policy that makes sense for you.
How to Motivate Your IT Team After a Setback
It can be difficult enough to manage and motivate your teams when things are going well, but keeping morale high and people productive is even tougher if you’ve suffered a setback – a failed project, layoffs, losing a major client – or if personal issues are affecting a member of your team.
“Morale is important because it directly affects creativity and also productivity,” Palazzolo says. “If your employees are in a slump, they’re just going through the motions, robotically, and they’re not engaged or motivated. You’re not making the best use of your available talent.”
Step 1: Empathize
“The relationship with their manager is one of the major reasons workers tell us they feel engaged and motivated at work,” Palazzolo says. “So, as a manager, you shouldn’t be blind to what’s going on in employees’ lives, both at work and in their personal life. Personal situations can affect morale just as much as work-related events. If you notice a slump, or a time of lower productivity from an employee, you don’t have to be nosy or intrusive, but show you care – a simple, ‘You’re not your usual self. Is there anything going on with you at home that’s worrying you? I want to help if I can,’ can go a long way.”
"You and your team deserve recognition. I think what distinguishes you from other firms is that you truly pre-filter based on our specific requirements. As a hiring manager, I myself am a tough customer! I have been very happy with our new employees."
Being able to “read” your employees and respond appropriately based on their unique strengths and weaknesses is one of the secrets to good management, and can help workers feel more engaged with and empowered by their companies.
“Just by virtue of different personalities, some workers are going to be more resilient and ‘bounce back’ more easily than others,” Palazzolo says. “You have to be able to accurately ‘read’ your people to know what they need – a lunch out? A team-building event? A new project to distract them? Sometimes, the best morale booster is to be busy again; you have to acknowledge issues, but don’t dwell on them.”
To that end, after acknowledging that a failure or a setback occurred, the focus should then shift to bouncing back and recognizing that there’s always a positive to be found.
Step 2: Focus on the Positive
“Emphasize that there’s always something positive to learn from every situation,” says Palazzolo. “Try to get your team focused on what worked: did you learn that you need to work more effectively as a team? Did you find that your process, scheduling, resource allocation was very effective?”
If you’ve identified these areas, make sure you’re praising your teams for what they did right, not just on where failures occurred. But beware of hollow praise, as that can be detrimental in its own way, says Connie Kadansky, a thought leader, speaker and sales coach.
“Yes, you have to recognize that there was a problem,” says Kadansky, “And also acknowledge strengths and successes. But go beyond, ‘Great job,’ which just builds ego, and emphasize specific, substantive achievements to help your feedback make a greater impact. ‘Your ability to set goals, follow through and persevere in the face of obstacles sets a great example for the rest of the team and for the company’ is a much more effective way to motivate,” she says.
Making sure to acknowledge your employees’ and teams’ efforts rather than their achievements can go a long way toward boosting morale and overall engagement, and can give a much-needed boost to motivation and drive, she says. If possible, Kadansky adds, delivering recognition and praise of this kind in a public forum – at a meeting, or a company-wide email – can also be effective at motivating workers.
8 Tips to Make Sure Your Staff Meeting is Worth the Time
Bob Ronan – CIO
DO use the staff meeting for recognition. People love to talk about the work being done in their areas and employees love it when their work is recognized. An easy technique is to start every staff meeting with a simple question—who is doing a great job for us? This allows your direct reports to hear about the important work that is happening across the organization. Plus—and here’s the big nut—you can have a huge impact on your organization by taking the time to pen a quick note to each of the people who are mentioned. This does not need to take a lot of time—for me, it was a three line note that took less than a minute to write.
Line 1 — tell the person they were talked about at your staff meeting (+ who talked about them)
It is simple but I can’t tell you how many people came straight to my office from the mail room to thank me for the note or how many notes I saw posted in people’s cubes.
DO use the time to provide an overview of what is happening across the organization. Comments from the leader are an area that people embrace—they want to know what is going on and they want to know what you think—so make this a key component of the meeting.
DO spend time solving problems. Too often, we schedule special meetings to solve the problems of the organization. Why not spend time in the staff meeting working on real issues—after all, you already have everyone there and people feel productive solving problems.
DO send a recap of your staff meeting to your organization. A long time ago, I noticed one of my direct reports taking notes in my staff meeting. I asked her why she was writing things down and she said—so I can tell my staff what we talked about in this meeting. And it hit me that I had lost control of the message if that is the way people hear about what I am saying. So, I started sending out a recap of my staff meetings and this became very popular. After all, most people are curious about what goes on in these meetings so why not tell them? I found this was a great communication vehicle where I could make sure the entire organization understood where we needed to be focused in order to achieve our goals.
Sometimes, we might spend a short time talking about a topic in the staff meeting because everyone there had history with the subject, but I might spend half my recap making sure everyone else understood why the issue was important, what had happened so far and what we needed to do moving forward.
Of course, there will be other topics that might take a lot of time in the meeting but aren’t appropriate to share with a larger audience. But, most topics can be shared and you will be surprised at the response.
One final point: This is not a task that can be delegated. This works when it is a personal message from you to your entire team covering the topics of importance to the organization.
DO NOT have outside speakers. Ok, sometimes you want them—for example, you definitely would want one of your key business partners to come and explain their strategy—but often outside speakers are simply used to fill time. There are always MANY people who want to speak at your staff meeting and most of these presentations are BORING. Try this test: If you had a policy of not having outside speakers at your staff meeting, would you schedule a separate meeting on the subject the speaker wants to present?
DO NOT cancel your staff meeting if you can possibly avoid it. What do cancellations say to your direct reports? They say something has come up that is more important than them! This is fine if it seldom happens but, if it is common, it is sending a very bad message to your staff.
Too often, we schedule special meetings to solve the problems of the organization. Why not spend time in the staff meeting working on real issues—after all, you already have everyone there and people feel productive solving problems.
DO NOT have long staff meetings. A staff meeting that is an hour or an hour and a half needs to be crisp and things need to move along. This keeps people engaged and that is what you want. I remember one staff meeting I attended that was all afternoon every other week. So, what happened? People went on unproductive tangents while others spent a great deal of time on their BlackBerrys and the meetings were very painful. Which brings me to my final point.
DO NOT allow people to use BlackBerrys or similar devices in the meeting. Have a policy that—if something comes up that is important—the person should leave the room to deal with it. Otherwise, you will often have people doing their email rather than listening to the conversation. And, the behavior will spread—once one person starts doing emails, lots of others will reach for their devices.
Hopefully this has provided you with some good ideas and—the next time you do need to cancel your meeting—your staff will be anxious for it to be rescheduled rather than singing the song their favorite football team plays when a touchdown is scored.
Last Minute Tips to Get Your Employees in the Holiday Spirit
It’s too late to plan a big company holiday party – and you and your staff have been too busy to deal with it. Now, all the venues you wanted are booked up and the caterers are busy. No worries.
If so, find out what these organizations are doing and what they need help with this time of year. If not, check your local newspapers’ listings or talk to your chamber of commerce, Lions, Kiwanis or Rotary club to find out how you can help.
Also think outside the box: Homeless shelters often have more volunteers than they can handle at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but charities such as animal shelters or battered women’s centers may be less swamped.
Eat and Be Merry
Or get creative: Have staff members bring in food from their family heritage, set a theme like Mexican or Cajun cuisine, or do a dessert bake-off where everyone brings in a sweet treat. (Bonus: You’re sure to have leftovers people can take home).
Be sure to decorate festively and plan for appropriately themed music and silly games. Put an enthusiastic employee or employee committee in charge, give them a budget and see what they come up with.
Take Time Off
See You Next Year
Bonus: In addition to looking back at the past year, a post-New Year’s party gives you a reason to look ahead and get everyone psyched up about the plans you’ve got for even greater business success in the coming year.
THE FINAL WORD