Wednesday, July 27, 2005

In the 1980s, when Japanese-made cars were making major inroads in the American car market and Toyota's management practices became famous, Americans formed an image of Japan as the working (if not the economic) powerhouse of the world. We saw that the Japanese worked long hours in long careers for corporations that guaranteed their employment; some even taking their work so seriously they committed suicide over it.

But a new Gallup poll has a different take on all that. According to The Gallup Organization's most recent Employee Engagement Index survey of Japan's workforce, only 9 percent of Japanese employees are "engaged," or psychologically committed to their jobs and their employers, at work. Sixty-seven percent just pick up a paycheck and aren't particularly enthusiastic about their jobs. And another 24 percent are actively disengaged; they don't care about their jobs and they're vocally unhappy with the company. Researchers at Gallup estimate that employees like these cost Japan the equivalent of $232 billion each year.

The scenario is similar in other Asian countries in Thailand, for example, only 12 percent of employees are engaged. But the western half of the hemisphere faces similar problems. The numbers are a little better in the United States, with 29 percent of employees describing themselves as engaged but that means almost three-quarters of the workforce is either disengaged or actively disengaged. The problem seems universal. Is there something about work in general that just isn't working for people?

The answer, or part of it, may lie in the nature of work and what people get out of it. Gallup recently interviewed Richard Florida, Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and a Gallup senior scientist. Florida's work has focused in recent years on creativity at work. He is the author of The Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, books about what he calls the "creative class," the sector of employees who use their creative powers to create wealth in the economy. In the interview he suggests that what many employees need is an opportunity to exercise their creativity and intelligence at work and that's just what many of them don't have.

"We have a dilemma in the United States," Florida says. "Thirty percent of us, and in some other advanced industrial countries, maybe 40 percent of us, get to do creative work, are paid well, and can express at least some part of our identity in our work and enact ourselves through work. But there's 60 percent or 70 percent who do not.

"My hope," he continues, "is that 20 or 30 or 40 years out, we will have reached the stage of development where we essentially 'creatify' more and more manufacturing work and more and more of the service work."

Read the entire interview at Gallup. Read the rest of the article on Japan's engagement crisis.

Blogged on 6:53 PM by Upay



Sunday, July 24, 2005

When it comes to major change and the future direction of the organization, the CEO should lead the way by communicating a clear and compelling vision.

In an article taken from the latest issue of The Business Communicator, Paul Sanchez, practice leader, and Brendan McCann, senior consultant at Mercer Communication Consulting in the UK, share advice to help CEOs talk about goals, change, values or strategy.

Communicating goals
Platitudes about the "employee as the company's most important asset" that are not reinforced and/or supported by formal HR systems and processes are at the very least poor examples of employee communication. Neither should you just reiterate communication sent to the financial community and market – it's not targeted at employees specifically and will only serve to alienate them.

Instead, explain the company's performance targets to key personnel, including senior- and lower-level managers. Encourage them to think what this will mean for their own areas and how they can contribute to the bigger picture. They will act as champions even through hard times.

Communicating change
Don't dictate and impose change that pursues short-sighted slash and burn techniques that cause disconnection among employees, ignores their points of view and needs. In short, don't use a communication style that appears autocratic. Actively prepare others for change, clearly articulating the risks for the status quo, build the case for change, and present a compelling vision of the future. Involve colleagues and build their ownership for change through effective communication. Visibly and vocally champion successes and best practice.

Communicating values
This is not about communicating the company's values and the "right way" that is later challenged or contradicted by word or action, policy or process. Nor should it highlight rhetoric-reality gaps or insincere discourse.

Instead, it should represent the company's value system and tackle the hard issues with consistency, candor and courage. It should also manage complex communication encounters, always assuaging conflict and stress and pursuing win-win outcomes. Integrity should be demonstrated by making sure that words and actions convey a consistent message and leaders lead by example.

Communicating strategy
A glib communicator can utilize spin or be inappropriately vague at key moments. This is not what is needed to adequately communicate strategy or vision. Nor is a communication style that's abrasive and insensitive – particularly when challenged or at times of moderate stress or crisis.

The aim should be to credibly represent the company vision and strategy internally and externally – with professionalism and poise. Always speak in straightforward terms that are easily understood by others. Continuously seek and give feedback and use that feedback to educate leaders on the company image.

taken from ...

Blogged on 6:46 PM by Upay



Creating a dedicated CEO web page

The following question was recently posted to the Communicators' Network:

Q: "I'm interested in creating a dedicated CEO page on our intranet? Does anyone have any tips for success?"

The following response came from Wayne Clarke of Celerant Consulting Ltd:

"Our CEO has a dedicated homepage where he has the ability to make his personal interests explicit to the rest of the business. In fact our CEO and the executive management team all have the ability to share their personal experiences (i.e., anything from the type of dogs they like, to recent holiday and family pictures). They all have the ability to update their homepages through an "idiot-proof" web authoring tool which allows them to add text and images; so it is completely self managed.

These personal pages give a great insight into our leadership especially from the perspective of new joiners who have the ability to get some real background information on the leadership team and CEO. In addition to these 'personal pages' we have a CEO page on the intranet which is managed and co-written by internal communication which includes high-level information on the organization from the perspective of the CEO with links to recent strategy updates or anything you would expect from the CEO's office.

The enabling technology for this is Microsoft Sharepoint Portal Server; essentially its a portal product which allows each individual throughout the business to have their own homepage which also acts as blog if they so wish."

taken from..

Blogged on 6:38 PM by Upay



Communicating during difficult times

Events in recent weeks remind us that we can all be subject to disruption ranging from terrorist attacks to natural disasters and organizational change; so it pays to know how best to act during difficult times.

Al Siebert, Ph.D, author of The Resiliency Advantage and director of The Resiliency Center, has a wealth of experience of crisis communication. "When people are emotionally distracted by upsetting world events or by internal organizational disruptions, it is essential to manage group meetings in a skillfully sensitive way," he says.

Here are his pointers for facilitating meetings when people have heightened emotions:

  1. To facilitate well, you must first deal with your own feelings. Remember not to impose them or your values on others.
  2. Conduct a group "check in." If people are feeling emotional about organizational or world events, focus on their feelings first, before trying to cover agenda items.
    Ask each person to comment on how they feel about the events, express any concerns they have, and comment on how they feel about being at the meeting. Look at each person closely while they are speaking to judge for yourself how "present" or emotionally distracted they are.
  3. Discuss the agenda – ask each person to say if they feel they can be involved in discussions about the agenda items. Make it safe for them to say no if they can’t. Acknowledge their feelings, don’t suppress them, then focus the group on the things that must get done.
  4. Reschedule some items on the agenda if necessary. If the majority of the group says they don’t feel that they can focus on the meeting, then table all agenda items that require open discussion until a later date. Limit the meeting to essential information items that are very time relevant.
  5. Be prepared to postpone to a later date. Meetings usually require a relaxed atmosphere conducive to open discussion — this may be difficult in times of stress. Resiliency research shows that feelings of distress, anguish, anger and anxiety will constrict and narrow cognitive processes. Postponing a meeting is a rational course of action when involved group discussion, analysis, problem solving and goal setting is required.

Source: The article "How to hold team meetings during emotional times" appeared in the June 2005 issue of The Business Communicator.

Blogged on 10:17 AM by Upay



Preparing for a Crisis

The following question was recently posted to The Communicators’ Network:

Q: "What best practice ideas do you have for communicating a disaster recovery plan to users of business and finance systems?"

The following response came from Judy Jones of The New York Times Company:

A: "We have extensive documentation for each work group, including up-to-date telephone and e-mail (not work e-mail addresses) trees.

And we have hot sites that can be established within a few hours and allow all essential business operations to function.

We’ve had run throughs of scenarios, which have revealed some issues and have led to new approaches.

We also have a 'dark' 800 phone number and website that can be switched on in case of need. All employees have the phone number and web address on stickers on their ID cards, desktop phones and on bulletin boards, etc."

Blogged on 10:15 AM by Upay



Getting to grips with new technology

When a new software program is launched internally, communicators can play a more important role in its successful take-up than simply creating a launch campaign. Betsy Pasley, a senior communicator at a Fortune 200 financial services company in the US, makes the case for getting involved in performance support.

"Over the past decade, I’ve forged a strong belief that communicators can help bridge the technology gap in more ways than just the typical publicity campaign that tells employees how much they should love their new desktops," says Pasley. "We can apply our strong writing and messaging skills to other often untapped areas, such as pop-up windows, error messages and on-screen text."

Pasley shares the following examples of ways to make a difference:

  • On-screen text – you may be able to convert programmer jargon into the actual language of your users.
  • Workflow e-mails – many applications include automatic e-mail messages, often using standard language for the subject line and body of the message. Change that "Update from server; ID file appended" subject line to "Action needed: employee change approval required" and you’ll make lots of friends.
  • Pop-up messages – there may be some leeway with the software provider to make those "Fatal Error; application aborted" messages understandable. I once coerced a client to send brief pop-up messages to employees screens before they received a new software update. It gave them advance notice and provided a link to an overview of the changes.
  • Online help – hopefully your help information is already written into the program. But if it isn’t – or it’s written in cryptic terms – you may have a chance to influence or edit for clarity.

A word of warning from Pasley: "While I enthusiastically advocate these approaches and have successfully used them in my client work, it’s important you confirm early on that your IT partner has the flexibility to make changes like this."

Source: The above is an extract from an article appearing in the latest issue of Strategic Communication Management entitled "Time for a Technology Intervention."

Blogged on 10:11 AM by Upay



Tuesday, July 19, 2005

From Melissa C. Stoppler, M.D., - Your Guide to Stress Management

Whether meddling but well-intentioned or blatantly confrontational, coworkers are cited by many people as the number one stress-inducing factor on the job. In contrast to your private life, you rarely can choose the people with whom you spend the majority of each working day. Across professional and workplace boundaries, difficult coworkers tend to fall into one of several categories. See if you can recognize these coworker types, and read suggestions for managing coworker stress.

1. The Chatty Neighbor
The type: The Chatty Neighbor need not be in geographic proximity to your work space, but when he feels like a chat, he's always there. The topic isn't so important as the Neighbor's need for chatter and distraction. Generally well-meaning, he views his willingness to shoot the breeze all day as a sign of good will and solidarity. If the constant babbling doesn't get to you, the time lost from your other responsibilities will.

The solution: Create an illusion of psychological distance (if physical distancing, such as shutting the door) isn't an option. You can "wall off" a workspace to a certain extent with bookshelves, plants, etc. Try responding to the conversation with short yes/no answers or "hmms" that won't encourage further discourse. You can head off "chat attacks" before they start by appearing totally engrossed in an activity or picking up the phone. If all else fails, respond with, "Oh, sorry, I didn't hear you at all - I'm so busy with this deadline."

2. The Slanderer
The type: Not the least well-intentioned, the Slanderer is, just as the name implies, determined to achieve personal rewards by discrediting others. The Slanderer's well-timed gossip tidbits about everything from your work habits to your personal life may be twisted versions of the truth or outright lies. This coworker type may appear friendly and open, as she hopes you'll reveal some useful material about yourself.

The solution: Absolutely refuse to get into a character assassination war or office feud. Spreading negative rumors as revenge about the Slanderer will only lower people's estimation of you and your abilities (after all, no one will remember who started the attacks; you'll both be viewed as petty and untrustworthy). Prove the negative rumors wrong through your capabilities and performance.

3. The Best Friend
The type: The Best Friend is completely and unconditionally open with all the details of his/her private life, and expects reciprocation. No matter if you're uncomfortable hearing about the last fight with his ex or what her gynecologist said, you'll wind up on the receiving end of a lot of unwanted information. The Friend generally subscribes to the rule of the office as family; intrusive questions are the behavioral norm.

The solution: Recognize that you're not the one being inappropriate and don't feel compelled to discuss any topics you consider off-limits. Don't encourage further personal revelations by offering advice or asking for more information when the Friend opens up. You certainly are not required to answer personal questions; often a laugh or joke is the best reply to an offensive question.

4. The Thief
The type: The Thief is always on the lookout for opinions and ideas that she can pass along to others as her own. Victims of office Thieves have been astonished to hear their own ideas mentioned later by the boss as "brilliant suggestions" from the Thief herself.
Thievery can also occur with written projects - your ideas mysteriously appear in someone else's report.

The solution: Once burned, learn from the experience. Crying "she stole my idea" isn't going to win you any points or respect. As with the Slanderer, don't get into an office war, and limit your discussions with this person to topics such as the weather.

5. The Clinger
The type: The Clinger, like the Best Friend, views the office as one happy family. If you work together, the Clinger sees no harm in -and even welcomes - spending weekends, evenings, and holidays together. He's always suggesting going out after work, playing ball,
or some other group activity. If you're enthusiastic and willing to socialize with the office crowd, this type isn't a problem. The problems arise when you want to maintain some distance.

The solution: Decide how much of your private time you're willing to share with office-mates. Participate in group activities when you have the inclination, and resist the need to apologize or provide excuses when you don't.

6. The Secret Agent
The type: Everyone has encountered the office spy- he's the boss's eyes and ears. Luckily, this person generally blows his Secret Agent cover fairly rapidly. Unfortunately, there are always victims who must learn about this type the hard way.
The solution: Same as for #4, the Thief. Learn from your experience and move on.

Blogged on 2:10 PM by Upay



Saturday, July 16, 2005

If your job applicants receive a rough ride you risk losing out onhighly skilled people to competitors, as well as negativelyaffecting your employer brand. As companies begin to realize thatevery candidate is also a potential customer, they're taking steps to ensure all job candidates have a positive experience.

PatriceBarbedette, executive director and founder of Jobpartners, shareshis top five tips:1. Produce clear, easy-to-find job descriptions.

First, make jobseasy to find on your website or that of a third party and provideplenty of information about the job role and the applicationprocess. Include an HR section which must be as attractive andclear as possible, with employee testimonials and extensive jobdescriptions. This will help give candidates an idea of the companyculture and what they can expect from the job if they aresuccessful.

2. Respond quickly and efficiently. Too many companies fail toreply promptly to candidates, and some fail to reply at all, whichimmediately creates a poor perception. The initial response must be the process. Be clear on what\'s expected next from the candidate orwhat can be expected from the company.

3. Create a talent pool. If you receive a good application butdon\'t have a suitable job opening, keep it on file so you create atalent pool to refer to in future. Offer talented applicants theopportunity to create a personal profile that can be updated at anypoint.

4. Ensure management involvement. Effective communication betweenthe recruiting department and managers helps create a streamlinedprocess that's time and cost effective. For example, managementinvolvement will make sure job descriptions are completely alignedwith managers' needs and the right candidates are put forward.

5. Build excellent one-to-one relationships. Make the candidatefeel they are unique throughout the recruitment process. Whenpossible, send personalized answers, offer the opportunity to applyfor other relevant jobs and ensure you keep all notes and feedbackfrom everyone involved in the recruitment process. Finally,remember to keep promises made to new employees - the inductionprocess should also be personalized to ensure that, after all thehard work put into recruitment, the new recruit doesn't walk out thedoor in the first few weeks.

Source: Strategic HR Review Vol. 4, Issue 5, July/August 2005

Blogged on 2:59 PM by Upay



Wednesday, July 13, 2005

MasterCard International has launched the MasterIndex of Women’s Advancement in order to gauge the power of the female consumer in Asia, and give the region a benchmark to measure women’s social progress. Highlights of the findings include:
- Women’s participating in the workforce came close to that of men in Thailand (82.9), Australia (81.0), Hong Kong (73.6), Korea (72.8), Japan (70.3), Singapore (69.8) and Taiwan (68.8).
- In the area of tertiary education, women’s representation exceeds that of men in Thailand (131.9) and Australia (103.4). Women are also well represented in Hong Kong (88.6), Singapore (85.3) and Korea (74.4).
- The ratio of women in managerial positions surpasses that of men in Malaysia (119.4) while scores in Taiwan (73.9), China (70.5) and Thailand indicate near equality between the sexes.

In the area of earning above median income, women in Malaysia (82.4) and Thailand (81.4) are close to achieving parity with men.

MasterCard will share the information with member banks, retailers and other partners, so they too are in a good position to understand female consumers.

Adapted from “Measuring the progress of women in Asia-Pacific” in the current issue of Corporate Responsibility Management.

Blogged on 7:34 PM by Upay



Environmental accounting covers both the physical flows of materials and energy, and the associated financial costs and benefits. Forum for the Future, a UK sustainable development charity focuses on financial environmental accounting, which can help make the link between financial and environmental performance and so give management the information they need for win-win decisions. Financial environmental accounting has three different faces:

1. Tracking the benefits and costs to the company of its initiatives.
The costs of environmental activities are all too prominent but the benefits are often hidden. Many projects have environmental and financial benefits: avoiding fines, creating cost efficiencies or leading to new sources of revenue while increasing resource productivity and reducing waste. More intangible benefits come from motivating employees and enhancing a company’s reputation. Unless these benefits are brought to management’s attention, environmental activities only look like a cost center. Bringing the costs and benefits of environmental activities together allows companies to build the business case.

2. Measuring the externalities created. An externality is the costs borne by other people, now and in the future, from an activity which was not included in the transaction price. For instance, the price of a taxi journey does not include the costs to future generations of climate change. It’s possible to calculate the externality a company is creating but, because externalities are by definition outside of the market’s price setting process, any valuation is judgmental.

3. Calculating the cost and benefit to the company of avoiding its environmental impacts. A company needs to know the financial exposure of having to internalize its externalities. Companies can be quickly asked to reduce their environmental impacts – either through regulation and taxes (such as the Climate Change Levy or Landfill Tax) or from changes in stakeholder expectations (disposal of oil rigs such as Brent Spa). With an account of how much it would cost the company to avoid or restore its main environmental impacts, a company can move to limit its exposure, improve its decision making and report progress to stakeholders.

Adapted from “Convincing the finance department with environmental accounting” in the current issue of Corporate Responsibility Management.

Blogged on 7:31 PM by Upay



TOP TIPS: Transitioning from charity to community investment at Marks & Spencer

In April this year Marks & Spencer celebrated the first anniversary of Marks & Start, which is the UK’s biggest company-led work experience program. It is part of the UK retailer’s plan to make its community giving more strategic. In addition to giving disadvantaged people in the community a chance to work for two weeks at a Marks & Spencer store, it also involves employees. Around 1,000 employees have acted as mentors, known as “buddies” to the people doing work experience. Here are four lessons organizers learned from developing the program.

1. Getting the quality of the programs right is critical, much more than the number of people that pass through the program.

2. Partner with organizations that are experts in specific areas to ensure seamless delivery. Marks & Spencer partners with the Prince’s Trust, DisabledGo, Business Action on Homelessness, One Parent Families and Parentline Plus.

3. Gain support from all levels of the business, from stores up to the board of directors

4. Keep elements of the program flexible to ensure suitability to the placements, but stay focused on end results and business benefits.

Adapted from “Transitioning from charity to community investment at Marks & Spencer” in the current issue of Corporate Responsibility Management.

Blogged on 7:28 PM by Upay