T+D November 10 // Intelligence //

Social Networking Catches on With Execs

By Phaedra Brotherton

A growing number of executives see social media as a good way to advance their careers.

More executives are realizing that social media represents an effective way to manage their reputations and boost their professional presence.

In a recent survey of 1,400 chief financial officers by staffing service Robert Half Management Resources, social media came in second—after connecting through professional groups—as the best way to increase professional visibility. Publishing articles, speaking, and volunteering for charitable groups were tied for third.

Paul McDonald, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, says that for some time he has advised executives to participate in their professional societies or alumni associations. Now he’s glad to see that executives are “going a step further” by engaging with social media. “The added aspect of
networking has been recognized,” he says. And today, he adds, “It’s not so much what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

Participating in social media networks is a proactive way to become known. The most popular social media sites for executives, says McDonald, are LinkedIn, which is good for professional networking, and Twitter, which provides an easy way for executives to share links to articles and relevant blogs. Writing a blog that shares professional expertise is also a great way for executives to enhance their professional reputation, he says.

Because time is limited, McDonald advises executives to choose which networks to focus their efforts on and to carve out regular time (at least once a week) to participate in discussions or post information to build a following. Other pointers to get the most out of social networking include

  • Participate in discussions. For instance, professionals can join LinkedIn special interest groups to discuss various business topics and share information.
  • Be selective about whom to invite into your network and whom to introduce to colleagues.
  • Fill out profiles completely by sharing professional and some personal background.
  • Help others share their expertise. For example, if a colleague posts something useful on Twitter, pay it forward by retweeting the post.
  • Stay on top of privacy policies. Social media sites continually update these policies, so it’s wise for executives to periodically check to see if they need to adjust their settings.

Learning professionals can give guidance on what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate by developing a social media policy, says McDonald. He also advises sharing information on how each of the major social media outlets works, as well as the policies and guidelines via email, intranets, and other avenues.

T+D November 10 // ENGAGEMENT //

Employee Engagement Remains Stable

By Ann Pace


With recent studies predicting that attrition rates are on the rise as talent begins to flee for greener pastures, it may come as a surprise that employee engagement remains stable, according to a recent Sirota Survey Intelligence report.

“Understanding Post-Recession Attitudes” analyzed data from approximately 1 million employees working in more than 50 global, multinational, and U.S.-based companies of all industries and sizes. The report compared 2007 prerecession data with 2009 postrecession data and found patterns of stability, improvement, and decline.

“We were surprised that employee engagement levels remained stable pre- and postrecession,” says Patrick Hyland, director of research and development at Sirota. “We saw this not only on a large-scale database level, but also in case studies, and even within organizations that had massive layoffs, stress, and inefficiency.”

This stability may be explained by social comparison theory, which argues that people compare themselves to others when forming attitudes and opinions. In the midst of the recession, as many workers suddenly lost their jobs, health insurance, and retirement funds, survivors felt lucky to have steady employment and benefits. This “attitude of gratitude” most likely contributed to steady engagement.

As far as progress, the 2009 data shows an increase in organizations’ communication, involvement, and efficiency since 2007. Town hall meetings, enhanced communication plans, and a greater focus on effective work processes during the recession are possible causes for these improvements.

On the flipside, employees feel that service, security, and development have decreased over the past two years. According to the 2009 data, 67 percent of employees report that their organizations are knowledgeable about customer needs, and 61 percent say that their organizations respond quickly to meet changing customer needs, down from 81 percent and 74 percent, respectively, in 2007.

“There is a relationship between employee perceptions of customer experience and customer perceptions of customer experience,” says Hyland.

“If employees sense that something is off, and customers aren’t getting the level of support they once were, that’s a real issue.”

Development is also on the decline. Seventy-two percent of employees report having opportunities to learn and grow at their workplaces, compared to 81 percent in 2007. According to Hyland, studies show that nine out of 10 employees are interested in their development.

The moral of the story? Engaged employees do not necessarily equate retained employees. “Employers should not be lulled into a false sense of security just because engagement scores are stable,” Hyland warns. “If you’re seeing that these other critical items are in decline, you might be setting yourself up for a mass exodus once jobs return.”

T+D November 10 // WORKPLACE 2020//

Staying Current With the Nature of Work Is Critical

By Eileen McKeown

The world of work has changed drastically during the last 20 to 40 years. The next generation of workers can no longer expect to obtain or even find jobs that their parents have traditionally held, and the boundary between work and nonwork life has become blurred.

As many organizations have become multinational in drive and scope, the working world has grown smaller and more global. Manufacturing has shrunk, giving rise to the demand for service industries, and we have clearly seen a decline in manual labor jobs as the need for knowledge-based employees has risen. Business models are changing every day and will continue to evolve as technology and employee turnover continue to accelerate.

Gartner Inc., a U.K.-based information technology research and advisory company, predicts that the nature of work will continue to change dramatically through 2020. According to its research paper “Watchlist: Continuing Changes in the Nature of Work, 2010-2020,” organizations will witness 10 key changes in the next 10 years, and adaptation to at least one if not all of these changes is a must if an organization intends to stay competitive and thrive.

Key findings state that people will “swarm” more often and work solo less. They will work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the enterprise. Work will become ad-hoc and urgent, requiring dynamic and spontaneous real-time results. Executives will be forced to continuously think in terms of a hyperconnected enterprise—one operating in a complex fabric of business relationships, none of them completely under the control of the enterprise.

“Work will become less routine, characterized by increased volatility, hyperconnectedness, ‘swarming,’ and more,” says Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner fellow. “In addition, simulation, visualization, and unification technologies, working across yottabytes of data per second, will demand an emphasis on new perceptual skills.”

Other findings state that most nonroutine processes will become highly informal, with a light-handed approach to collecting information emerging as the new norm. Spontaneity as a more proactive and less reactive work model will become an advantage. “Pattern-based strategy” will help organizations working off of linear-based business models predict with greater accuracy what will happen in the less- transparent future, and the virtual workplace will supplant the company-provided physical office and desk.

Current business strategies can cripple an organization’s effectiveness if they are based on impractical or defunct work models. To circumvent the chaos and volatility of the changing world of work in the next decade, organizations will need to become aware of and adapt to impending changes in the work environment, according to the findings.


A Culture of Silence Threatens to Impede a Safer Workplace

By Juana Llorens

A new study from VitalSmarts— “Silent Danger: The Five Crucial Conversations That Drive Workplace Safety”—reveals that only one in four employees speak up to address safety concerns, despite being aware of safety threats. Based on the responses of 1,600 frontline employees from more than 30 companies, the findings uncover a great deal about the cultural norms that impede workplace safety, and what learning departments and organizational leaders can do to change these standards.

“Leaders must establish a culture of candor and accountability,” says Joseph Grenny, co-founder of VitalSmarts and co-author of the bestselling book Crucial Conversations. “For example, employees often know that once an unreasonable deadline or goal is imposed, safety is put at risk, but few speak up.”

According to the research, there are five specific conversations that represent the most common, costly, and undiscussable risks that employees take: unsafe shortcuts to complete a deadline; unsafe conditions due to incompetence; unsafe exceptions to normal procedures; violation of safety precautions to benefit their team or their customers; and violation of
safety precautions employees think aren’t needed.

Learning and development has an important role to play in confronting these risks. According to Grenny, a handful of best practices can help learning and development professionals “to both address these crucial conversations for workplace safety when they face them, as well as build systemwide organizational competence at resolving them”:

  • Bang the drum. Share information across the organization on the nature of these issues, and start a dialogue around how to build a culture of accountability.
  • Baseline and measure regularly. Regularly survey how well people are doing at addressing these kinds of crucial issues (survey available at www.vitalsmarts.com/safety).
  • Invest in skills. Train the silent majority to possess the confidence to address these politically sensitive issues and actually lead the discussion. Doing so helps ensure a shift away from a culture of silence.
  • Hold senior management accountable. Hold sponsors, managers, and executives accountable for responding to and welcoming these crucial conversations. Investing in employee competence is necessary, but it is insufficient on its own.
  • Reward. Publicly highlight and reward the first employees who take a chance and initiate these conversations on the job. It can be the key to getting their peers to also speak up.

But again, the leadership piece of the equation is imperative and cannot be overlooked. “The first step to changing culture in an organization is gaining the leaders’ commitment to influencing measurable change,” Grenny states.

Learning and development professionals can work with leaders to establish metrics and baseline measures, set goals, perform quarterly measures, and hold themselves accountable through an incentive system. “If leaders are serious about behavior change, they should put a minimum of 25 percent of their incentive pay at risk based on whether or not they achieve their change goals,” Grenny says. “If they don’t, they aren’t serious, and they will consider this effort a hobby rather than their job.”

T+D November 10 // fast fact//

Taking Responsibility for Preparing Students to Succeed

There is so much in the news about job preparedness and skills gaps. The Education Summit in New York City, which took place in September, highlighted the need to groom students for college and the workforce. The world of work is changing at a rapid pace, and some are making an effort to educate students to succeed in the workforce.

One organization in Iowa is giving its high school students a head start in the job market. With a mission to “develop our future workforce by connecting business and education in relevant, work-based learning activities for K-12 students and teachers in Area 10,” the Workplace Learning Connection is creating on-the-job learning opportunities for students—Iowa’s future employees—through internships, job shadowing, classroom speakers, career fairs, mock interviews, and worksite tours.

In late September, 20 students from Iowa visited the University of Iowa’s Health Sciences department to experience firsthand a day in the life of a medical school student. They learned everything from what it takes to get accepted into the program, to how to take a medical history and diagnose and treat a patient in mock examinations.

While many students are proficient in teamwork, diversity, and technology, many surveys show that employers think incoming workers lack critical thinking and written communication skills (how to write memos, letters, and complex technical reports), professionalism, and a work ethic.

T+D NOVEMBER 10 // Infograph //

Stretched Thin

If leaders feel stretched today, it's only going to get worse in the future, according to new research by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Finding structural efficiencies by expanding spans of control has become a necessity in the current economic climate.