Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Starting off on the right foot

Did you know that your hiring process and the first days of work for a new employee have tremendous impact on how they settle in to their new job?

If your hiring process is straightforward and transparent, it goes a long way towards establishing mutual trust and respect from the very beginning. As we highlighted last week, communication from the receipt of the application to the scheduling of interviews is key. Is your process clear to the candidate?

Once they're in for the interview, if the hiring manager takes the time that's needed, both to get to know the candidate and to answer any questions s/he may have, you'll be much more secure in the knowledge that you're hiring the right person. We've heard of situations where the candidate didn't even ever meet the person who would be his/her new manager until after he/she was hired! This sets everyone up for potential failure, as the chemistry between people cannot be underestimated and it's only fair to both sides to have the opportunity to meet.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brand reputation and hiring habits

Real tweet!
In all our years working and consulting, we have noticed a wide spread habit regarding hiring. We call it a habit because in our research and reading, we can find no mention of this as a best practice or in any way a recommended way of doing business. It seems to be just an ingrained, taken for granted way of hiring. And we'd like to challenge it.

The habit boils down to essentially the treatment of applicants for jobs. Ages ago before the wonderful invention of email, some companies decided not to send out "acknowledgement of application" or "thanks but no thanks" letters as a cost saving measure. Since the invention of email and the ubiquitous use of online and email applications, there is absolutely no reason not to send these little notes out. Yet many business still do not and it simply is not a good idea.

The application process is a chance for business to build a network and good-will. A fanbase, if you will. It is also an opportunity to make some enemies. These days applicants share their application experience through Facebook, Twitter and other social media. If they have had a good experience, ie the online form worked smoothly, or an email was sent to acknowledge receipt of application, or a nice "thanks but no thanks" email was sent, then they will feel good about the company and most likely share those good vibes with others. On the other hand, if they feel that their application disappeared into the ether and they received no receipt or thanks for applying note, then they are going to share their disappointment or their anger.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some Thoughts on Technology's Impact on Work-Life Balance

iPhones galore

We've been pondering the impact of technology on the workplace every since watching Stefana Broadbent's short TED talk on "How the Internet Enables Intimacy."

Friday, August 12, 2011

The politics of the out-of-office reply

Summer... ah the time of holidays and out-of-office replies to email. These automated messages are about communication - externally and internally. Yet, like so much in the workplace, there is a surprising amount of politics involved in the out-of-office/vacation reply for email and voice mail.

We believe it is both good etiquette and good business sense to let people know if you are away. In an international world, businesses cannot assume that there is shared knowledge about holiday timings, such as duration and length. International contacts may not know that, for example, July is the preferred holiday month and three weeks the usual length of break. Similarly, in our short attention span world, contacts may not be willing to wait three weeks if they haven't received alternative contact details. Managing those external communications includes setting up good out-of-office replies.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

a space of one's own

We recently completed a treehouse for our 10-year-old daughter in our garden. It's about seven square meters of real estate located two and a half meters above the ground. It has two windows, one of which opens with a special mechanism and a door that locks from the inside, as well as being fitted with a padlock on the outside, of which our daughter is the only one with a key. She loves it and has already spent a significant amount of time out there with a friend, concocting Harry Potter-style potions.

This evident desire we as humans have for a space we can call our own got me thinking about the trend towards flexible workspaces that we're seeing in the work world. These flexible workspace initiatives often mean that people don't have an assigned desk and so desks are available on a first come-first served basis. I can understand this from a company perspective. If you have a department where people don't sit at their desks all day because, say, they're out servicing customers or teaching for most of the day, those empty desks are a waste of precious office space.  However, these plans often don't take into account the human side - how territorial people are and how they want to have a space they feel is theirs and where they feel they belong. These flex-desks can be a very upsetting thing for many people.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

values and vision: creating happiness at work

Blue sky thinking
We've written about happiness at work a few times: when we wrote about flexible working increases employee satisfaction and about counting the right thingssuch as employee satisfaction. It is a subject dear to our hearts as we are convinced from the countless studies and personal observation, that employees who are satisfied with their work are better contributors and colleagues at work and that they are happier in general.

We are also quite excited about how thinking sustainably helps both the environment and ultimately the bottom line of business. What can we say, we like things that have dual benefits! It seems to make sense to us.

So, we were quite pleased to read a recent study by Cassandra Walsh and Adam Sulkowski published in Interdisciplinary Environmental Review. Using regression analysis and other statistical methods, they found in their survey of 113 companies, that, "there is a significant positive relationship between perceived environmental performance and employee satisfaction." Or, in more concrete terms: "having a reputation for being a relatively more environmentally-friendly company can result in having happier employees." This is great news of course!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Whoever is the last to leave, don't forget to turn the computers off!

Just a quick follow on from last week's post about green buildings and work cultures. This is a finding from a staff habits survey at the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency. According to the Scotland on Sunday, they found that of the agency's 1,700 computers, 400 were regularly being left on at night and of those only 100 were deemed necessary to do so. So, at least 300 computers were being left on when they didn't need to be. Of course, many people are aghast that the agency meant to protect the environment was wasting so much energy. I think though it shows how hard it is to change work cultures and how easily we slip into habits. Sometimes, it is as simple as people not realizing it is their responsibility, sometimes it is about scheduling whereby someone leaves their computer on thinking they will be back in the office before the end of the day but isn't, and sometimes it is simply a habit. SEPA discovered these habits through a staff survey and have now taken measures to turn their computers off at night. Seems like a good idea to me!

J2 Research can help you do a similar investigation in your business. Are your employees turning off their computers when they leave?

back to J2 Research

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Green buildings and work cultures

We have been thinking this past week about green buildings and work cultures. As we mentioned last week, green buildings are an important part of being a green company and should be a focus for any green minded business. While we both love the creativity and cleverness of the engineering and architectural solutions of green buildings, it occurs to us that the humans who use those buildings are often left out of the picture.  Indeed, even the United Nations Environmental Programme in their report, "Buildings: Investing in energy and resource efficiency"  note that "when considering the environmental credentials of buildings, the true measure of their performance only becomes evident with occupation, given the impact of factors such as behaviour (cultural habits, environmental expectations and life-style), climatic changes and particularities of the control of technical systems in buildings" (p.339). Although clearly the human side is important to measure, the UNEP points out that most do not.

So, since most people are not thinking about this, we will. In particular, we want to focus our thinking on green office buildings and work behaviours and cultures. Here is a list of some of the issues we think are important to consider:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Being green: thinking about product and production

Amongst all companies there is a growing awareness that taking account of the environment is important for business. Being green aware is good for the planet, the bottom line and can give a competitive edge.

We live in Denmark and quite rightly many Danes are proud of the wind energy sector and Denmark’s role in it. According to the Climate Consortium Denmark, Denmark is a specialist in producing offshore wind turbines. They claim that Denmark produces, “More than 90% of all offshore wind turbines worldwide” and “almost half the world’s wind turbines.” That’s a lot of turbines! And this is a growing market, growing at about 30% a year. This is an industry that in Denmark alone employs 25,000 people in about 350 companies.

But is it enough to simply produce things for the green economy?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Connecting Makes All the Difference

Frank, talking with his hands
in my box-filled dining room.
Frank Mejia is the eldest of eleven children. Like many eldest children, he is an over-achiever. During his long career, he has worked in government, learned the garment business from the sewing machine up, done import-export, did a stint as an economics professor, developed software, made creative audio visual presentations, shot wedding videos and now, after his ostensible retirement, he’s making eLearning for some of the largest companies in the world. He’s an entrepreneur who just can’t quit.

I invited him to my very old farmhouse for dinner recently and we had a very lively conversation on how it all fits together.

Fresh out of a Jesuit university in the Philippines, Frank went into government service. During those years of the Marcos regime, there were a lot of possibilities. One of which was the chance to study for two years in London. After that, Frank owed the government four years and in total, he stayed for ten. At the age of 27, he had married and a family soon followed. He began to feel that as an honest man in government, the salary wasn’t enough for his growing family.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly of ‘thinking outside the box’

Fish weather vane - thinking differently
There are many tired, overused words and phrases in the business world today. Rich words like innovation and creativity are losing their meaning because they’re applied to everything from the latest slick Apple product to banking practice. But no phrase is more overused than thinking outside the box. But why is this phrase ubiquitous? What does it convey that seems so meaningful that everyone wants to use it and to be seen to be doing it?

Let’s start with the good news first. The phrase began with good intentions. It is based on the Nine Dots Puzzle in which you have to connect nine dots using four straight lines AND without lifting your pencil. The solution to the puzzle involves drawing outside the rows and columns of the dots; that is, to think outside the box. Although the puzzle was from 1914, management consultants of the 1960s and 70s used it extensively in their work. For them, it was meant to signify new approaches and fresh solutions. And in a way it still means that, though it seems to be so universally used that it’s almost meaningless.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Creativity in the workplace

Creativity is a big buzzword in business these days - everyone's talking about it, but it seems to mean a variety of things - innovation, adaptability, flexibility. For some it conjures images of companies with trampolines in their board room and a quote from the ridiculously young CEO, saying, “jumping on the trampoline helps to get the creative juices going and keeps meetings short!” For others it refers only to creative professionals and the creative industry. Of course, creativity at work can be those things but it is also much more than that. It is about the everyday ways in which problems are solved, thinking differently occurs, and real people do their jobs. 

We sat down recently with Richard Lightbody, who is the Communications Coordinator at Maersk Training in Svendborg.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The allure of statistics

One of the reasons I started J2 Research is because of our focus on qualitative methods. I have trained in both quantitative and qualitative methods and actually enjoy them both. They do different things. Quantitative methods are great for big picture understanding. For example, how many people in a country, how many of different ethnicities, religions, or ages. Or in the workplace, quantitative methods can quickly tell us how many people hired, fired, or retired. All very interesting numbers that can quickly tell us something. And this is their appeal, their quickness, their appearance of certainty, and perhaps of the aura of math and science and objectivity.

Meat (qualitative) and bones (quantitative)
But they don't always do such a good job at telling us the whys, the hows, the feelings and the thoughts of the individuals behind the statistics.  I conceptualize this as the quantitative methods provide the bones while the qualitative methods provide the meat. They provide that deeper, richer, more substantial material about a subject.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Flexible working and unintended benefits

Fast paced modern life
Back in 2001, I wrote "Time Out: the case for time sovereignty" with Richard Reeves. We argued that organizing work by time rather than task arose from and belonged to the Industrial era. In the past, work was organized by task and we made a case for organizing work in the future in a more flexible way.

There are very good reasons for questioning the time structure and schedule of work. Not least, because it challenges the simple equation of hours in equals productivity. It questions whether there is a linear match between longer hours and more productivity. We all know that there is a point where working more is not the same as working smart or efficiently. In addition, measuring work by hour in rather than output can encourage behaviours like presenteeism. This is when people are present, their bums are in their seats, but they are not actively engaged in their work.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Counting the Right Things

We love to watch TED talks at J2 Research. TED brings together some of the greatest, most inspiring minds in the world. Listening to what they have to say in their dynamic 20-minute presentations can get your own thoughts flowing.

"What we actually count, really counts." - Chip Conley

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Institutional Education

I just finished watching this animation of a speech by Sir Ken Robinson to the British organization, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).

It captures so well my thoughts about education.