Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Trim the Learning Curve for New Workers

It’s often been said that it can take a new employee from six months to a year to really become effective in an organization, but in today’s fast-paced environment that’s like saying it’s OK to still use dial-up.
Organizations that hope to remain competitive must ensure that they’re not only hiring qualified workers, but that these new employees will be able to trim their learning curve so their input will be felt as soon as possible.
But onboarding new workers can often be a difficult task, and many organizations fail. For example, half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days, while half of all senior outside hires fail within 18 months in a new position, research shows.
In a report for the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation on effective onboarding, Dr. Talya N. Bauer of Portland State University in Oregon notes that “the faster new hires feel welcome and prepared to do their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.”
One of the companies cited in Bauer’s report and is often included in “best practices” for onboarding is L’Oreal USA. The company doesn’t end onboarding after a few weeks or months, as do many employers.
Instead, it starts with a welcome of new workers on their first day and then supports each hire with a two-year, six-part integration program. Called“L’Oreal Fit,” the program includes training and roundtable discussions; meetings with key insiders; on-the-job learning supported by line management; and individual mentoring. In addition, new hires at L’Oreal get field and product experiences by being allowed to visit different sites or shadow programs.
“Research shows that organizations that engage in formal onboarding by implementing step-by-step programs for new employees to teach them what their roles are, what the norms of the company are and how they are to behave are more effective than those that do not,” Bauer says.
In other words, employers that use a “sink or swim” approach for new employees may not only delay the effectiveness of their new workers, but drive them out the door.
Mary Ann Masarech, lead consultant of the employee engagement practice at BlessingWhite, says that many development efforts by employers fall short (read more here)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why You Need to Think Like a Rookie

If you could be a rookie at work again, would you?
You might immediately think, “heck, no” considering all the mistakes you made when you were new to the job.
But if you think harder, you might begin to realize that even though you stumbled sometimes, you were a rookie with passion, with drive and with an innovative mindset.
What happened to that person?
That’s what Liz Wiseman believes a lot of people wonder. As author of a new book, “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work,” Wiseman argues that in our rapidly changing workplace, experience can be a curse while inexperience can be a blessing.
She says that through her research, she finds rookies often have a different mindset at work that makes them operate with higher levels of self-awareness and move faster than their experienced peers. Because of their inexperience, rookies are driven to ask questions of those with greater expertise. As a result, they often walk away with better solutions. A more experienced worker, she finds, is more likely to solve an issue on his own without seeking outside expertise or simply follow standard practices.
Wiseman says that while some may consider rookies to be bumbling clods, the reality is that many rookies have nothing to lose so they are often open to new possibilities. They don’t get bogged down in old practices. They are optimistic as they explore new territories, focus on doing things differently and don’t worry about why they can’t do something.
Wiseman and her research team looked at nearly 400 workplace scenarios, noting how rookies took on work assignments compared to veteran workers. That enabled them to identify traits of successful and unsuccessful rookies and veterans.
They found the distinct rookie smarts mindset included:
  • The “backpacker” rookies who had a mindset unencumbered by past practices or experience. They were open to new possibilities, explored new territory and didn’t get mired in stale best practices.
  • The “hunter-gatherer” rookies looked for experts (read more here)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kraft Workers Embrace Innovation

Barry Calpino, vice president of breakthrough innovation at Kraft Food Group Inc., recently noted in a radio interview that there is an effort within Kraft “to push our organization and our innovation teams to shoot for bigger opportunities, more incremental white space, new categories and new usage occasions.”
While he admits that driving innovation was one of Kraft’s “weaknesses” in the past, it is “now one of our biggest strengths,” he says.
Part of that strength comes from hiring more innovative-thinking employees to join the company, which has more than 22,500 workers.
“Our people are our competitive advantage. When we recruit, we’re always looking for a diverse profile of talent. Our objective is to bring together diverse talent and unique perspectives … which, in turn, drives innovation that reflects the needs of the consumers we serve,” Calpino says. “With our big push toward Innovation, we’re particularly focused on finding creative, conceptual thinkers – especially for roles that involve ‘white space’ innovation.”
Such “white space” innovation means looking for new opportunities in a crowded marketplace,  an initiative that has proven successful for the company. Calpino points to Kraft’s leadership as making a “huge difference” in that effort.
“Our business unit leaders set the tone and set the example with their sponsorship of innovation – and innovators. It’s important to have empathy to what it’s like to work in white space, given the high rate of failure,” he explains.
In addition, Kraft has created dedicated innovation teams in all of its business units, “which helps keep the fire lit red hot all the time,” he says, noting teams “feed off each other.”
Further, Kraft takes seriously its commitment to innovation by providing training, speakers and town halls, which “again, keep that fire burning,” he says.
Calpino acknowledges that while innovation can be exhilarating, it can also be difficult. One concern is ensuring that Kraft workers don’t feel they’re taking on too much.
“We have a strong stage-gate process that is designed to help teams (read more here)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Veterans Can Find a Job in the Private Sector

I originally wrote this story a couple of years ago, but it's still valuable advice for vets.
Joe Kearney retired from the Army after 23 years and has two words of advice for fellow veterans who will be looking for a job in the private sector: "Start early."
Kearney, who now works as a project manager for Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson in Plano, Texas, says jobs are out there for veterans, but finding them takes a lot of planning and hard work.
Sitting by a scenic lake near his Ericsson office, Kearney recalls a brief stint as a government contractor after leaving the military and uses the lake as an analogy for his job-hunting strategy.
"Instead of wading in the shallow end and continuing to work as a contractor, I decided I wanted to jump in the deep end and do a cannonball into the corporate world," he says.
Despite Kearney's enthusiasm for a new career, he admits, "I spun a lot of wheels initially" by applying for jobs online.
The move turned out to be a dead end for several reasons. One of them was that Kearney, like thousands of other veterans looking for work, didn't know how to translate his military experience into civilian language that can attract employers.
Hiring managers cite veterans' ability to show how their skills can be used in the private sector as a top negative, according to the Center for a New American Security.
Kearney says he began tapping into sites like Afterburner to help educate himself more about the business world and began using LinkedIn's resources aimed at helping veterans.
Another source he found helpful was RallyPoint, a professional military network launched by former Special Forces Capt. Yinon Weiss and former Army Battalion Logistics Officer Aaron Kletzing, who first met in Baghdad and reunited at Harvard Business School.
"We had this idea that we literally wrote on the back of a napkin," Weiss says. Just completing its first year, RallyPoint is often touted as a LinkedIn for troops.
It asks users to share their permanent change of station dates from their current position, which helps others know when a position might be opening up in the armed services. But the network also allows military members to explore job options with employers such as Amazon, General Electric and Lockheed-Martin.
Employers are vetted carefully to ensure that vets will get the support they need from a designated veteran advocate with the company, Weiss says.
"A lot of companies don't understand the military language, and they may feel intimidated about hiring vets," he says. "Someone with the company that is former military can help advise and guide."
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines leaving for private industry also may not realize the value of networking and may think the only thing they need to do is send their resume with their qualifications, Weiss says.
Kearney says he often used networking to get desired positions within the military, so he was convinced of the value of networking and quickly saw the potential of a site like RallyPoint.
"You don't want to call a former member of the military and say, 'Can you get me a job?' But you can call them and say, 'Can you tell me how you made the transition?' " Kearney says. "They can help you understand how not to overvalue or undervalue yourself."
Troops who want to enter the private sector should begin their research and homework two years before they plan to depart, Kearney says. That gives them time to learn how to translate their military skills into civilian terms; to network via sites like RallyPoint, Twitter and Facebook; and to tap into free services that provide career coaching for veterans.
Simple things often can make a big difference, such as dropping the "Yes, Sir," from a veteran's language and using a colleague's first name, Kearney says.
"You've got to get rid of the robot in you" and lose the bravado, he says. Earning online certifications and receiving training in civilian management practices can be helpful when applying for jobs.
Military personnel moving to the private sector should not be afraid to ask for help because so many are willing to give it, Kearney says.
"There are a lot of opportunities out there," he says. "But you've got to plan ahead and control your own destiny."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Your Career Needs Reverse Mentoring

When older workers witness young IT employees making workplace gaffes like referring to the CEO as “dude,” they may shake their heads and sigh, knowing that the young employees have a lot to learn.
But when young IT employees watch older workers struggling to understand new technology, well, dude, they may shake their heads and think the same thing.
That’s why more employers are starting to explore reverse mentoring. At Mastercard, for example,  Chief Human Resource Officer Ron Garrow admits that while he’s not a technophobe, “I recognized that I had a lot to learn about operating in this new world.”
So Garrow, 51, began participating in the employer’s reciprocal mentoring program. He was partnered with 24-year-old Rebecca Kaufman who taught him how to use Twitter and get more out of professional networking sites. He says that Kaufman not only taught him how to better navigate online connections, but also gave him greater insight into younger consumers and how they are changing the industry.
Lois J. Zachary, director of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, says reverse mentoring allows a young IT person to gain exposure to a senior-level person, “and the senior-level person gets to learn something” from the young employee.
“Senior people benefit from learning what younger people are thinking about. This can help, for example, if they’re developing a new product. A senior-level person needs that input,” she says.
The young employee benefits from the “face time” with a senior employee, also allowing them to learn something such as better communication or organizational skills, she says.
Research shows that employees often learn more from one another than they do from formal training, but successful reverse mentoring programs should be structured and overseen by a human resources department, Zachary says.
She also encourages such programs to set expectations (see more here)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Moxie Matters

Have you got moxie?

A new book by John Baldoni asks this question, and it's worth considering if you're a leader. Do you have the courage, the get-up-and-go to take action when it's necessary?

In the book, "Moxie: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership," Baldoni profiles a number of leaders from business, politics, sports and the arts. He provides insight into how they exemplify moxie, and how others can follow in their footsteps.

He writes that leaders can use the word "moxie" to remind themselves of the necessary ingredients to make themselves and their teams better.

  • Mindfulness: A mindful leader knows the situation as well as his capabilities and those of the people around him.
  • Opportunity: An opportunistic leader looks for ways to make things better.
  • X factor. A leader with the X factor radiates character and uses ambition to focus on the right goals.
  • Innovation. An innovative leader knows that life is not lived in a linear fashion. That means thinking and doing things differently.
  • Engagement. An engaged leader knows that he can achieve little by himself. These leaders engage the talents, enthusiasm and spirit of others in order to advance organizational goals.
"Moxie is the essence of what makes a leader tough on the inside and easygoing on the outside," Baldoni says.