Monday, July 31, 2017

Survey: Unhappy Workers = Unhappy Customers

Companies like Zappos often are seen as the standard bearers of the top-notch customer experience, but some companies trying to emulate them may find they fall short because they are missing a key component: an equally top-notch worker experience.
The issue of worker satisfaction being tied to customer satisfaction is drawing enough attention that earlier this year Appirio commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate “the maturing of worker experience across industries.” What researchers found may have companies re-evaluating how they approach the worker and customer experience connection.
Among the findings:
  • Business leaders agree that giving workers a good employee experience engages them to provide a better customer experience, which ultimately impacts the bottom line.
  • Most organizations are in the early stages of improving the worker experience. Organizations acknowledge they don’t know where to put their efforts to improve the worker experience or how to measure them once they do.
  • When asked to name potential worker experience improvements, the majority of managers named getting workers to share knowledge with colleagues and business partners, along with leaders supporting workers who find a better way to do their jobs. However, the leaders also selected a variety of other initiatives as priorities, a scattershot approach that shows they struggle to identify the drivers of a good worker experience.

Defining “worker experience”

Researchers define the worker experience as building a corporate infrastructure that “fosters worker productivity, engagement and agility” to ensure workers “can design, deliver (read more here)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Signs You're Ignoring That Show Your Job is in Jeopardy

You can't exactly put your finger on it, but somehow your job has started sucking the life force out of you.

Every day you feel a little more depressed, a little more like maybe you should just call in sick and sit home and binge watch "Friends."

Still, the thought of looking for another job is even more depressing. There's the business of writing the resume. You know you'll face rejections. You'll have to go on interviews, and that means you're going to have to iron something to wear. Ugh.

OK, maybe things aren't that bad at work, you think. Maybe you will somehow pull yourself out of this rut. After all, it's better to keep bringing home a paycheck than going through the hassle of a new job hunt. Who knows...the next job might be even worse.

Stop. It's time to listen to your gut and what you're trying to ignore: You need to look for another job because your current position is in trouble. 

How do you know your time is limited in your current job and you need to get your resume together? Consider these signs:

  • The paper trail. I'm always amazed when people don't understand that a case is being built against them whenever they start getting those snarky memos from managers, using words and phrases like "failed" and "falls short" and "not up to standards" and "missed deadlines."
  • The "whammo" performance evaluation. Sort of a Whack-a-Mole game for managers, where everything positive you bring up is slapped down. Another sign a case is being built against you.
  • You have tread marks on your back. Those are signs that others have been running you over on their way to promotions that should have been yours. Missing a couple of opportunities may not be a big deal, but more than that means you're on the fast track to doomed.
  • You repel money. Pay raises? Forget it. Your budget is reduced or put under the jurisdiction of someone else. You're not part of a project that is expected to bring in big money or spend big money. The office manager always seems to lose your request for new equipment.
  • Everyone is too busy for you. Your calls are not being returned, and your e-mails seem to suffer the same fate. You're not included in key meetings, and no one stops to shoot the breeze with you anymore. While you may think this is OK, it's really a sign that others perceive you as someone on the outs.

Finally, keep in mind it's much better to be looking for work on your terms. It's always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Don't wait until it's too late and you're forced to join the unemployed line.

This is an updated version of an earlier column.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Your Workers Think You're a Bad Boss

I don't think anyone sets out to be a bad boss.

Most managers I meet are really decent people. They work hard, try to help the people who work for them and really want to make a difference for their company and their team.

But somewhere along the way, bad bosses happen. Maybe they feel they have to be "tough" to get results and so bully their workers. Or, too many team members take advantage of them, and they become defensive and vow never to give anyone a break. Perhaps their bosses are a**holes, and they figure that's the way you lead.

BambooHR recently conducted a survey about bad boss behavior and notes that managers may simply be unaware that they're being jerks.

Among the worst boss behavior, according to the 1,000 people asked:

  • The boss takes credit for your work (63%)
  • The boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62%)
  • The boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58%)
  • The boss doesn't advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (57%)
  • The boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56%)
  • The boss doesn't back you up when there's a dispute between you and one of your company's clients (55%)
  • The boss doesn't provide proper direction on assignments/roles (54%)
  • The boss micromanages you and doesn't allow you the freedom to work (53%)
  • The boss focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths (53%)
  • The boss doesn't set clear expectations (52%)
When I look at these results, one thing comes to mind: A failure to communicate. 

While it may not be so in every case, I think many of these issues could be resolved if bosses had more conversations with their team members. These don't have to be hour-long discussions -- they can be more on-the-spot short chats that give the boss an opportunity to provide feedback that will help the employee be more productive and effective. 

For example, after a meeting a boss may pull a team member aside and say, "I thought you did a great job preparing a really compelling case for your idea, but you left out a critical element. No one -- not me or the senior leadership -- will approve such an idea until you give us the hard numbers on what it's going to take to launch such an initiative. If you can put that together, I'm happy to look over the numbers and then let you present it again in a month."

This is the kind of conversation that can help alleviate an employee's belief that a boss doesn't advocate for him or her, hogs the credit, doesn't set clear expectations, etc.

The solution isn't always so simple, and I know that many workplace cultures subtly support the bad bosses because they believe these kind of managers get results. 

I will agree with that belief. These jerk bosses do get results -- people walk out the door, trash the company online and make the organization less competitive and productive. Those aren't the kind of results any company seeks.

If you're a manager, it's time to pay attention to the above results. You have much more impact that you believe, and the solutions are simpler than you know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This is What You Have to Do to Be Invaluable

We often over-estimate our worth at work. Just look at the number of people who lose their jobs because of layoffs or downsizings or mergers, and you'll find a lot of them thought there was no way they would be let go. Maybe Slacker Suzy or Psycho Phil would be let go, but not them.
Then they find themselves out of work.
One of the keys to avoiding such a fate is to make sure that you're valuable to the boss and the company -- and never letting them forget it.
But such a strategy means more than just showing up for work on time and doing your job. The real way to show others that you're critical to the company's success is to:
  • Show you understand it's about the bottom line. Before you submit a proposal or an innovative idea, show that the time and the money will be worth it. Use data or other information to show how it helps the organization, such as improving the customer experience.
  • Look for ways to boost efficiency. Maybe you can’t figure out a way to generate extra money, but companies are always looking for ways to cut expenses. For example, with a little research you may discover ways to cut down on the air-conditioning bill.
  • Serving as quality control. While you want to make sure you’re doing work that is as error-free as possible, you can become a critical employee if you’re able to stop ineffective or defective work by others. If you view even one mistake as critical to the company’s bottom line, management will begin to depend on you more and more.
  • Hang on to customers. Even though you don't work with customers all the time, you come across one that is unhappy. Rather than passing her onto someone else, you find a way to give her a partial refund, which satisfies her and saves the company a full refund.
  • Know what you cost.  Experienced workers are more expensive. They not only earn more, but they often have accrued more vacation time or have higher healthcare costs. Your position can become more precarious when you take more from the bottom line, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re finding ways to pay for your position by either generating more business or finding cost savings.
  • Document it. Make sure you get credit for your contributions by sending e-mails or making reports that show when you made the suggestion. This not only helps your current job, but can be key proof for future employers that you can deliver what you promise on your abilities.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The 4 Questions That Could Make You Invaluable

Recently the New York Times staff protested  cuts to the copy editor staff, saying in a letter to management that they believed such a move would damage the quality of the product.

One senior reporter described the copy editors as "the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones.”

This is so true. Any journalist will tell you they sleep better at night when they've gone several rounds with a copy editor. Despite our whining, writers want to be challenged. We want to be questioned. We want to know that when a copy editor is finished with our story, it's concise, free-from-errors and makes sense.

It's typical in a newsroom to hear copy editors questioning reporters, ensuring they thoroughly understand the story before letting it be released to the public. These editors are fearless in asking questions (some reporters can be a bit, er, argumentative) -- and that is a quality that may be missing today in many organizations. 

James E. Ryan, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, points out  that organizations would be better served if leaders asked more questions. Just because you've been doing something a long time doesn't mean that you should stop being curious and creative, he says.

Ryan offers questions he believes are valuable for anyone in a position to lead or influence others:

1. "Wait, what?" Don't jump to conclusions -- ask for more detail to make sure you understand an issue completely.

2. "I wonder why....?" or "I wonder if...?" Is something being done because that's the way it's always been done? If so, is there a better way? This can help spark creativity and interest by others when you ask such questions.

3. "Couldn't we at least...?" This can help you get unstuck on an issue and help find a common ground when there are disagreements.

4. "How can I help?" Do you just jump into an issue, trying to save the day? By asking how you can help, you prompt the other person to think clearly about the problem to be solved and whether you can actually provide some assistance.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's Worth the Effort in Job Searching -- and What's Not

It can be exhausting looking for a job. There's the old saying that "looking for a job is a job." In addition to writing a resume and cover letter, you're now supposed to monitor social media and look for ways to "brand" yourself to prospective employers.

But Illana Gershon, an Indiana University professor of anthropology and author of "Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find and (or Don't Find) Work Today," offers some good news for job seekers: you can cut back on some of your efforts because they are a waste of your time.

Specifically, Gershon says that no one on the hiring side cares about personal branding. She says that personal branding takes a lot of time, and simply isn't worth it.

What does work?

She says it's worth your time to:

  • Research potential employers. It's important to know about companies, their culture and the kind of work they offer. It doesn't make sense to seek an interview with a company that has a very conservative culture when you want to work in a place that lets you keep your blue hair and bring your pet guinea pig to work every day.
  • Stay active on LinkedIn. Many recruiters search LinkedIn profiles to see if they can find a good fit, so using the right keywords is important. 
  • Reach out to your strongest ties. Don't waste your time trying to find where the jobs may be -- seek information from people you know. "Having someone who knew you from a previous job and can talk about what you are like as a worker -- was very helpful for people," she says.

Monday, July 10, 2017

7 Tips That Will Make Your PowerPoint Better Than Ever Before

When was the last time you gave a PowerPoint presentation and no one turned to their phone to check email or play "Word Cookies"?

If the answer is never, it's time to rethink the details of your PowerPoint and learn ways to keep your audience focused on your presentation.

Research has shown that you can keep people interested in your PowerPoint by:

  • Ensuring that your type is at least 24 point, so even those in the back of the room can easily read the information. Also, don't get cute with the typefaces or headlines. You're trying to convey information, and you distract the audience when you switch things up.
  • Using the sans serif typeface instead of serif typeface when writing captions. Serif typeface (the one with the little feet) can become grouped together awkwardly and make reading difficult. Typefaces such as Alegerian also can be tough for your audience to read.
  • Only using white backgrounds on your PowerPoint if the room is going to be partially lit. You can give your audience eye strain if you use a white background in a dark room and cause them to see "after images" when they move their eyes.
  • Employing warmer colors for your text compared to what appears in the background. Warm colors such as red and yellow will appear to be in front of cool ones such as blue or green because of how light is focused in the eyes. Such a practice will allow your audience to automatically focus on the text instead of the background.
  • Making sure your title grabs attention by using a more eye-catching color. That way they focus on your key thought before jumping to other images or text.
  • Using a more eye-catching color for the title compared to the text so that audience members focus on the key thought first.
  • Avoiding any deep, heavily saturated blue color. The eye can’t focus on it properly and it will even appear blurred around the edges.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

4 Tips That Will Help You Influence Others

Communication seems to be a problem in the world today. It's not that we don't have plenty of ways to communicate, it's that we expect the tool (text, phone, email) to do the job for us. That's never going to work because good communication requires human effort.

Years ago I interviewed communications expert Ben Decker, and he provided some great suggestions on how you can become a better communicator -- and use it to help boost your influence at work. His suggestions:

1. Critique your performance. It's easy to judge reality television stars on everything from how many times they use "like" in a sentence to the hair-twirling conversations they have with friends and family. But you may not realize that you have many bad communication habits, Decker says. Set up a video camera or tape your voice so that you can critique your energy, friendliness or speech clarity.

2. Have more face-to-face communications. Keep tabs on how often you have in-person conversations at work. Do you text or email when you could take 10 steps and speak to someone in person?  Could you set up a coffee meeting instead of  playing telephone tag with a colleague or new contact? If you find yourself dodging in-person interactions, you need to rethink your strategy because it's those in-person conversations that can make a real difference in your career.

3. Smile more. If you're always serious, always zeroed in on only talking business, you alienate people. When having business conversations, try to mix in some relevant story-telling so that your audience feels more at ease. You should always make the effort to lighten the stress with your listeners -- they'll be more open to your ideas.

4. Take a breath. Don't use speech fillers such as "um," "uh," "like" or "actually." If someone asks you a question, don't begin your answer with "So..." These are verbal crutches that undermine your ability to communicate effectively. They can be distracting to your listeners, and make you seem unsure -- not a boost for your career. It's OK to simply take a breath if you don't know what to say, as you'll be seen as more thoughtful in your response.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Small Way to Be Innovative That Has a Big Impact

If you want to send shivers down the spines of many company leaders, all you have to do is say one name: Kodak.
The Eastman Kodak Co. has become the poster child for big, successful companies that failed in a spectacular way after missing opportunities that were critical for its evolution and survival. In Kodak’s case, it was digital photography, which it invented.
While Kodak emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, its failures – and the resulting thousands of lost jobs – have become the cautionary tale for company leaders who fear their businesses may suffer the same fate if they don’t embrace radical innovation.
But what is missing from this “disrupt or be disrupted” discussion is that Kodak’s tale if often repeated – but it is not the norm, says David Robertson, professor of practice at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Instead, it’s stories like Gatorade’s that are more common, he says.
Specifically, Gatorade’s sales were stalled in 2007 after inventing the sports drink category in the 1960s. While it was pursuing some more radical, disruptive inventions (a chemical that would help the body process oxygen better that later turned out to be impractical for many reasons), it also began looking at innovation of its core product or “complementary” innovations.
Using market data, Gatorade knew that serious athletes were sticking with the brand despite cheaper competitors and so began developing products such as nutritious gels, bars, smoothies and shakes that were designed for before and after exercise.
This sort of innovating isn’t seen as ground breaking, but it is often underutilized by company leaders who feel they must begin with radical innovation before trying other options, Robertson says.
Robertson says research shows that revolutionary innovations have a 60% to 75% failure rate, while incremental improvements have a 25% to 40% rate of failure. But what Gatorade did is what he refers to as “The Third Way” in his book, “The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation.” The approach worked for Gatorade because the products were diverse, they were targeted toward specific customers and they posed little strategic risk, he says.
While this third alternative is not a replacement for incremental improvements or disruptive innovations, it does provide another option that businesses need to understand and consider when faced with (read more here