Keeping Your Job

The fretting began in September, as soon as Barclays said it would buy Lehman Brothers ‘ North American banking business for $1.75 billion. Who will be laid off? We’ll soon find out.

Over the next few months, Barclays will lay off at least 3,000 employees to eliminate job duplications between the two banks. The process will likely involve so-called “stack ranking”; managers will evaluate employees on various criteria, then assign each person a score. Everyone above a certain score stays; those below go.

That scenario, or variations of it, will be repeated in the coming months as more troubled companies get gobbled up by bigger ones. But it’s not a foregone conclusion you’ll be let go. That’s where you come in.

In Pictures: Keeping Your Job

You have to have the right attitude. As a former Lehman Brothersemployee, now a Barclays staffer, says, “It’s become a very creative time here.” If you want to keep your job, convince the higher-ups you’re indispensable.

“If it’s a job you really want, it’s worth the fight.” says Michelle Winkley, director of human resources for an Internet-based company and previous HR manager at Pricewaterhouse Coopers and AIG .

The first to go: Staffers who resist change. Those are the people who complain about the new parent company and refuse to get on board–not a good idea.

Think of this as a new job. Set up meetings with your counterparts in your new parent company, particularly the managers and decision makers. Demonstrate that you’re curious about how they do business and ask how you can help. If committees being formed to make the transition smoother, volunteer for them.

Don’t beg to keep your job. Instead, explain to your bosses that you understand some people will be laid off. Ask how you can help them make the best decision even if you’re not chosen to stay. “Ultimately, it pays you back,” says career coach Linda Dominguez. “You learn, but it’s also networking. In many cases, the boss’s job is a duplication too, and that person will go somewhere else. Maybe he’ll bring you along.”

If you work in a department that doesn’t generate profit, like human resources, do more with less. If you work in a profit center, ramp up your sales.

But none of that will matter if you’re difficult to work with. Sure, technical proficiency in your job is important, but even more important is your ability to get along with others, communicate and motivate colleagues.

“Many times, when I have been a part of the discussions, the tie-breaker is behavioral and not technical skills,” says Ron Wince, chief executive of consulting firm Guidon. “Do you come to work on time? What is the quality of your work over the long term? Are you always ready to jump in with both feet, or do you have to be sought out?”

One way to show the bosses your enthusiasm is by staying current. Take classes to sharpen your skills and learn new ones. Attend conferences. Don’t be shy about letting the higher-ups know you’re doing this.

Says Wince, “Sometimes it does come down to skills, and you want to be at the top of your game.”

And be nice–it goes a long way.

E-Learning and the Impact on Employee Engagement

As learning professionals, we know the importance of learning on employee engagement and turnover.  According to the National Research Business Institute, 23 percent of employees leave for lack of development opportunities and training. The costs associated with losing talent, including money, lost productivity, recruitment expenses and training investments, have been well documented.

As important as learning and development are, for today’s workforce it’s even more important to consider how they are accessing these opportunities.  By 2014, half the U.S. workforce will be comprised of Millennials. This generation plus the ones immediately before and after, Generations X and Z respectively, live and breathe technology. They are intimately connected to the Internet, and one another, through their electronic devices. And as such, these groups are continuously learning. They expect their employers to supply 24/7 access to resources, data and colleagues via internal systems. In fact, 52 percent of employees surveyed said that a company’s use of technology was a major factor when selecting an employer (Accenture, 2009). The simple fact is – the tech-savvy employees of today will not suffer through hard-to-use interfaces and lackluster media. Want to compete (and win) the talent war?  Get on board.  This may require a culture shift in your organization and an investment in technology – better platforms, enterprise solutions – but the return on investment cannot be ignored.

Employee engagement improves company performance. Alex Edmans, MIT Sloan School of Management, analyzed the financial performance of a portfolio of stocks selected by Fortune magazine as the “Best Companies to Work for in America” from 1998 to 2005. By the end of 2005, these stocks “earned average annual returns of 14 percent by the end of 2005, over double market return” (Karen Renk, The Incentive Marketing Association). This is just one example of very clear correlation between employee engagement and business success factors like financial performance and customer satisfaction. In fact, Harvard Business Review counts Learning Capacity as 1 of 5 human capital management (HCM) drivers that impact organizational performance. Core practices like training, learning management systems, career development, organizational (and leadership) support of learning, and embracing innovation all contribute to improved organizational performance.

In addition, workers who engage in workplace Internet leisure browsing are 9 percent more productive than those who don’t (Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne).  And they are adding to their knowledge base every day, which contributes to the company’s business objectives. According to Maria Azua, author of The Social Factor, the old adage “knowledge is power” has been replaced by “sharing knowledge is power.”  Never before have employers been able to harness the intellectual power of their workforce in real-time, regardless of geographic boundaries, and drive results in a whole new way. In addition to the brain power we’re able to tap into, the mobile nature of today’s workforce means good ideas are happening anytime, anywhere, 24/7 which allows business to keep up with the changing market and business climate.

E-learning systems support the needs of the new workforce and drive employee engagement in a number of ways:

  • 24/7 access to training materials. Educators can add and revise materials as business needs or trends change.  And employees may contribute to content themselves. It all adds up to continuous learning and an empowered workforce.
  • Familiarity with the platform(s). Your employees are already using these platforms outside of work. They understand the technology and have made it an integral part of their lives. Therefore they have increased expectations for the systems their employers are using.
  • Connection to subject matter experts. Employees can connect with SMEs to tap into their expertise.
  • Real-time collaboration and sharing of best practices. Real-time problem-solving and collaboration are one of the primary methods that businesses are using today to resolve issues. “Two heads are better than one; why recreate the wheel” – we now have the ability to really practice what we preach.
  • Personalized learning. Organizations can more easily tie learning goals to competencies, objectives and priorities.  Employees have the flexibility to learn at their own pace and investigate other areas of interest with ease.
  • Engaging content formats. Gaming, augmented reality, webinars, skyping, podcasts – as technology changes this list grows and enables us as learning professionals to capture our audiences attention in new and exciting ways.  Partnered with classroom learning our reach is better than ever before.
  • Freedom to fail. Fear of saying the wrong thing or making a mistake holds people back – now employees can learn in the privacy of their own office, home, coffee house, etc.
  • Greater efficiency and environmental consciousness. Employees take note of environmental awareness and prefer employers who take active measures to reduce their footprint. Decreased materials usage leads to decreased costs and greater employee retention.

The options are many and even if you don’t have a lot of resources, there are easy-to-implement tools that you can utilize to get started. Consider creating a SharePoint, Google docs or wiki site to share materials, create a leadership blog or develop a community-centric intranet that is focused on areas of interest like management best practices or new product development. All of these are simple, quick ways to begin your journey into e-learning.

For an interesting case study on the impact of e-learning systems on employee engagement, read Bill Ives’ fantastic series on Booz Allen’s enterprise knowledge sharing system Hello .

Colleen Longstreet and Michelle Winkley, partners at talentdistinctions.com, a comprehensive talent management, human resources and recruiting solutions firm. Colleen can be reached at colleen@gingerhr.com or on twitter @GingerHRConsult. Michelle can be reached at michelle@talentdistinctions.com or on twitter @mwinkley.

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

The Layoff Waiting Game

In October Ann Moore, the chief executive of Time Inc., announced that some 600 people working for her would be laid off by year’s end. Immediately, staffers began having trouble concentrating on their jobs.

Wherever they went–the elevator, the restroom, out for coffee–the talk turned to layoffs and the anxiety level rose. When a manager went into another manager’s office and closed the door, furious e-mailing followed.

Work? How can they expect us to get work done when there’s so much uncertainty?

That’s a question thousands of employees across the country are asking. The first answer is, try not to get caught up in the gossip mill. Hunker down and try to keep your focus on work. It may be challenging with so many distractions, but it’s how you can show your boss that you’re committed to the company.

In Pictures: Seven Ways To Get Ready For Layoff Time

You’ll feel better taking control, even if it’s in small ways. First, avoid gripe sessions. Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s a way to mitigate anxiety and keep your focus on the task at hand. This isn’t the moment to be seen in a crowd of gossipers milling around the office.

The best thing for job security, though it’s not foolproof, is to try to make the boss feel as though you’re indispensable. Come up with cost-cutting measures you can suggest and ways to win new clients. Ask how you can help by taking on extra responsibilities.

Meet informally with your manager to tell him or her how much you like your job and want to stay at the company. Be enthusiastic. Explain that you’d be open to trying a different role if it made you more valuable to the firm.

Let the boss know how busy you are, too. If you’re involved in a long-term project, deliver an interim report. If you’ve completed a project, file a report about the results.

Don’t assume that the higher-ups will remember all the good work you’ve done. Gently remind them that you’ve met the goals set out in your last performance review and refresh their memory about any big projects you’ve successfully completed. Be sure you’re providing information, not overtly selling yourself. Since your direct manager may be in the line of fire, have this conversation with several managers.

Help your boss meet his or her own goals and point out solutions, not problems, says Kevin Daley, founder of the management consulting firm Communispond Inc., and head of its executive coaching unit.

Meanwhile, be assertive about looking for a new position–while keeping that job search discreet. Avoid posting your résumé on job boards like Yahoo! Hot Jobs and Monster.com.

“There’s a chance someone from your company will see it,” says Michelle Winkley, director of human resources for an Internet-based company and previously human resources manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers and AIG . “Recruiters may be laying off in one area and hiring in another.”

Instead, respond to specific ads. That will keep your job search from being available for all to see. And don’t send out an all-hands message on Facebook about your job search, especially if your Facebook friends include work colleagues. Network quietly among former colleagues, with industry leaders at trade association gatherings and with other professional contacts and friends and family.

As a precautionary measure, copy all important contact information and examples of your work off your work computer and transfer it to a personal computer. Only take what’s yours, though. Follow company guidelines and don’t remove any proprietary information.

Most important of all, try not to get caught up in the whirlwind of speculation. That’s bad for both your mental health and your work output.

The Future for Trainers, Organizational Development and Human Resources Professionals

Anytime human resources (HR), organizational development (OD) and training professionals are together in a room, someone inevitably asks the question, “So, what is the future of our roles?” After many years of effort, we finally have a seat at the table. However, the table has morphed from a long, wood plank in the middle of the room to connections between smartphones, Skype, the Cloud and other electronic devices. If we keep doing what we are doing today, will we be able to maintain our hard-fought positions?

What’s changed in the workplace?

  • The competition for talent is ON.  Manpower’s latest survey found that 52% of American companies are having trouble filling open positions.
  • With the advent of social networking, information flow has gone from top-down to coming at us from every direction. Upper management does not have the same level of control over messaging and information dissemination.
  • It is reported that now only 30% of learning happens in the classroom.
  • Companies are doing away with traditional HR constructs such as performance reviews and classroom training.
  • There is an increase in the use of contingent workers.
  • Telecommuting is more prevalent than ever before.
  • There are so many generations in today’s workforce — Baby Boomers through Gen Z, all in one place, working together with different values, motivators and learning styles.

How do we add value in this new environment?

The value of HR, OD and training professionals has changed.  We are moving from being subject matter experts to facilitators – of information and, knowledge. Our focus today is on:

  • Retaining top talent
  • Encouraging collaboration, innovation and learning
  • Creating an engaging employment experience
  • Increasing skills to meet business objectives in an ever-changing environment

With this new mission, we are starting to see the roles of HR, OD and training overlap in ways we haven’t seen before.  Companies are hiring OD professionals for HR functions, HR professionals who can also train, and training professionals who straddle business operations and development. Many HR functions are being outsourced completely, leaving talent management and development to line staff.

The competencies all HR, OD and training professionals need going forward include:

  • Utilization of e-learning and social media platforms for collaboration and knowledge sharing
  • Influence skills – creating communities of interest, facilitating conversations about learning and development and talent
  • Use of employee engagement tools and knowledge of intrinsic motivators of different generations
  • Understanding your business and how to use skill gap analysis and needs assessments to support future initiatives
  • Outstanding verbal communications and platform skills

This last point is critical – as our focus shifts we will be required to convey information and encourage collaboration in ways we’ve never had to before. Now is the time to brush up on your influencing and negotiating skills!

OD, HR and training professionals need to work hard to maintain the momentum we’ve achieved in the workplace. Staying tuned into technology and becoming master facilitators will enable us to push learning and employee retention to new levels.  Become a driver of innovation and collaboration. Yesterday’s saying of “knowledge is power” has converted to “sharing knowledge is power.” How will you help your employees share knowledge?

Colleen Longstreet and Michelle Winkley, partners at talentdistinctions.com, a comprehensive talent management, human resources and recruiting solutions firm. Colleen can be reached at colleen@gingerhr.com or on twitter @GingerHRConsult. Michelle can be reached at michelle@talentdistinctions.com or on twitter @mwinkley.

Written for TrainingIndustry.com

Google and the Unexpected Consequences of Social Media

Google’s company culture has been an example for many businesses. Tech companies try to copy it; more traditional companies can’t quite buy into it. As a leader in the Internet space, Google encourages collaboration through many avenues, including the use of social media. This has suited Google well—but what happens when the unplanned happens?

On October 12, 2011, a Google employee posted a rant that was critical of Google+ externally. The employee immediately took it down and explained that the rant was intended to be an internal document. This could have been disastrous for the company. In situations like these, there can be damage to the brand, and confidential information can reach unintended people. In this rant, the employee pointed to the lack of Google+ use by a senior executive, which could have hurt the public’s perception of the product.

What would your company have done in this situation? Would the employee be fired? Would your company be able to react quickly to the publicity from this event?

Google handled it in a manor consistent with its culture. Google has an open culture and, therefore, did not freak out about one person’s opinion being shared publicly. They had an effective PR strategy for downplaying the event. Lastly, they did not fire the employee because they believed him when he said that it was an accident that the message was posted publicly.

Lessons can be learned from this event:

  1. Be ready to react to a social media incident.
  2. Evaluate all the facts of what happened before letting an employee go.
  3. Make sure your top executives support your social media endeavors.
  4. Always check to whom you are sending emails before hitting the send button.

This is another incident that shows that social media comes with many rewards, but companies still need to be ready to handle the potential negative effects. This example was an unfortunate mistake that had little effect of the company, but this is not always the case.

Kudos to Google for its handling of this situation.

Harnessing Genius Through Social Media

My friend and mentor Terrence Wing always talked about harnessing the genius that exists in the workplace through social media, and I completely agreed with this approach. With the use of social media, people can share ideas, experiences, and answers to problems, leading to innovation, efficiency, and a positive work experience for employees.

I started to think about the idea of harnessing genius in more depth. Can all companies harness genius? Does genius exist in every company? Could harnessing genius retain top talent and motivate employees?

I look at companies like Zappos, Google, and Whole Foods, where the workforce drives their success. They certainly harness their genius.

Here are the steps to make it happen:

  • Hire the right people. Make sure they fit with your culture and can contribute to the company’s goals.
  • Let people do their thing. If you give people the tools and motivation to accomplish their goals, they will.
  • Encourage people to share ideas and collaborate. People like to work together to create success.

Yes, sometimes employees will say things you would prefer they don’t, but the use of social media memorializes genius and allows other to build on great ideas. Don’t let a few unflattering comments keep you from embracing people connecting through technology.

Allow everyone to use his or her strengths. The group’s product will be stronger than what individuals can do.

Terrence was always willing to share his genius with friends, colleagues, followers, and anyone who wanted to learn more about social learning or e-learning. Terrence was a social learning evangelist and, through his passions, mentored many of us to successful careers by encouraging us to share our genius and connect with others.

Terrence passed away unexpectedly on December 1, 2011. Because of his love of harnessing genius, his knowledge and inspiration will continue to touch people who believe in connecting with one another. Terrence’s vision was really about helping people make a difference through working together. Technology was just the vehicle to make it happen. Thank you, Terrence, for all that you have given us. You will be missed.

This tribute was written by Michelle Winkley and Colleen Lauria.