Hey Santa, What I Really Want Is…

Well, I haven’t completed my list yet, but I’m sure it’s not a vacuum. Turns out though, that for some people a new vacuum was exactly what made the difference between feeling appreciated vs. taken advantage of as an employee.

Then it got me thinking. Over the last year, I have heard several similar stories from friends, colleagues, and family members suggesting that sometimes [most times] it’s the little items that really can get us down. For some, it might be having an approved business-use PDA be rejected from higher up the expense approval chain, or maybe something as simple as having to pay for a favorite notepad used exclusively for work out of your own pocket. Others have noted that the removal of aspirin from the company first-aid kit rubbed them wrong and some have had to personally pay for frames for employee appreciation certificates. In most cases, it is not the cost of the item but the perceived lack of consideration for the individual that presents the issue. 

In my own experience, I once worked for a company that was so seriously cheap that we felt compelled to bring our own office supplies from home for fear of not having things like sticky notes or paper. In fact, it has only been this last year that I have given up on the practice of buying my own pens. Oh, and don’t get me started on the excellent decor of this startup: orange shag carpet and authentic 70’s wood paneling — sexy!

You can imagine how nice it was for me working out of the PeopleSoft HQ with its Pottery Barn inspired decor, I even felt good about my interior cave of an office in such a nice facility. Then, after the acquisition, I moved to Oracle HQ and was over the moon at the beautiful facilities. A gym that is beyond description and a cafe with an unbelievable array of pastries and the wonderful smell of fresh bread and coffee in the morning. Last week, and I am not making this up, there was even a holiday concerto in the lobby. Why? I’m not sure, and unfortunately couldn’t attend, but just the idea amazes me. 

So, what is the point? Why the post? Some time back, Jake mentioned the fact that Building 300 is being remodeled. And here is where we come back to my Christmas wish to Santa that is about to be granted. For me, one of the biggest things I want is some decent chairs

Now, my own office chair is not too bad, not anything to write home about, but not an ergo or comfort issue. Every other chair on the floors I frequent, however, not so lucky. The guest chairs in my office have had several near injuries of co-workers. The conference room chairs really defy description. I’ve come to think of the 2nd and 3rd floors of Building 300 as the burial grounds of the chairs at Oracle, and I’m really looking forward to that issue being fixed. 

So, thanks Santa, for getting my letter and taking it seriously enough to schedule a refurbishment of this building, to include some decent chairs. I truly hope that I make it until we all move back into the new floor before I take out any additional hostility on the chairs that are left. I realize it’s not their fault that they died years ago and no one gave them a proper send-off. 

Here’s hoping that you and your co-workers are as well considered this holiday season because sometimes it really is the little things that make the big difference.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

The Value of Teams

Back in school (go Cats), it was all the rage in the business program to have the majority of our work be team-based. The thinking being that in a work environment it is really more about teams than individuals. 

Lately, I’ve been reading and thinking about teams and Talent Management. Of course, this has taken me all over the place a bit, but I’ll do my best to make a point vs. forcing you all to wander all over the place like I have been. 

One place I ended up was an article on emotional intelligence of teams. To summarize, it’s not just important for individuals to have emotional intelligence, it’s also useful for teams (duh!). 

This article points to an HBR study that gives three contributing factors to high functioning teams.

  1. Trust among members
  2. A sense of group identity
  3. A sense of group efficacy

Okay, so teams need to trust each other, define themselves in terms of the group, and they must feel, that as a team, they have the ability to actually get something done. Again, duh!

Turns out that for some cultures (and for some people) a team dynamic is not just a nice to have. Thanks to Mark for pointing me to this article that suggests that in Asia the team might be the biggest factor in engagement (see, I told you I’d attempt to bring this to a point).

In talking to customers about teams, there are several head scratching elements that HR groups face in trying to build teams that work well together. Why do some teams work well and others not? Is it one person? How do we predict which teams will succeed? And so on. 

In my mind, it is for teams that the value of the social network can be brought to real business benefit. I would like to predict that companies that learn to leverage their social networks as both a productivity tool for teams and as a tool for proactively identifying team members will find a new competitive advantage for their talent. And, if the insight into Asia is accurate, there might be exponential benefit to this strategy as well.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Girl on a Rant

Warning! Any relationship with HR and Talent in this post is going to be accidental. 

I was complaining about something yesterday to a friend and he suggested that it might be time for a blog entry. Entirely possible this was a “change the subject and shut her up” tactic, but I decided to take him literally anyway.

As a bit of background, I should confess that I’m not a particularly good representative for the female norm. While I do understand some stereotypically female things such as how a “charger” could relate to a table setting vs. just electronic devices, many traditional female “strengths” are lacking for me. 

For example, I have always preferred sleep over complex grooming rituals, I have never enjoyed talking on the phone, I prioritize foot comfort in shoe selection and [gasp] I do not enjoy anything about shopping. 

In addition, I really can’t complain about personal discrimination. Any “glass ceiling” that I have experienced in my professional life has to be attributed to my gift for inserting my foot into my mouth, more than any bias against my gender. As a general rule, working in high tech is a good place for a woman to be, maybe since there are so few of us, general expectations tend to be low… probably should think about that, but don’t plan to today.

I was, however, surprised to find that the Oracle OpenWorld conference had a very strong gender bias. I was surprised by this since I personally saw a good attendance of females at the conference. I know we were there because I was actively using the conference as personal fashion research (Was the short skirt and tall boots a good choice? Turns out yes.) and I didn’t have any trouble finding a representative sample. 

So, why was it that the restrooms at Moscone were configured (yes it was news to me as well that there was the ability to configure the restrooms) to have a significantly smaller number of women’s stalls than men’s stalls? Those of us who had the misfortune to wait in line for facilities were left wondering, was this a bias based on registration numbers? Or had those who planned the conference not heard about the Women’s Restroom Equity Bill

Then there was the question of the Cow Palace (the venue of the concert/appreciation party). While standing in the line after the concert this topic came up. One person in line suggested that since this building was old, maybe it was built before … suggesting it was built before people have been made aware of the need to have a different male-to-female ratio in facility planning. But, my sharp colleague who was standing next to me asked the wise question of “what? the building was constructed before there were women?”

So, I ask the question, should I just realize that tech conferences at Oracle have a male bias? Or, should I add this to the list of things that women need achieve in technology? Makes me wonder if a similar restroom bias exists in SAP conferences? Apple Conferences? Anyone know?

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

Is Employee Engagement a Manager’s Job?

We’ve been talking about Employee Engagement for some time. How do we engage people, why do we need to engage people – all that touchy/feely stuff that causes some of us to feel warm and fuzzy, and others of us to hold back a gag reflex.

I’ve also been thinking about a manager’s role in the overall Talent story for some time. I think that to really do innovative things in Talent you not only need software and an HR vision, but you also really need solid line managers. Initiatives like building, sharing, and retaining talent fall down quickly with bad managers. As the saying goes, people join a company, but they quit their manager.

I’ve read a few things lately that are food for thought for those of us who are managers. Now, I do not intend to suggest that we as individuals yield our own responsibility to define, nurture, and grow our own careers, but for those of us who are managers, it can’t hurt to check in and see if we could be doing more.

Here is a quick article that talks about employee engagement and how “managing with a human touch” is a necessary ingredient for that to happen. 

I also recently read The Three Signs of a Miserable Job and found an interesting assertion on the responsibility of a manager. This book focuses on how a manager is responsible to make the job of their employees something that they can feel positive about. The most interesting thing that he points out is that the work is not really the most significant factor. In other words, a movie star, a super model, or a professional athlete can be less engaged in their job than a cashier, a janitor, or a factory worker. His core points were that: 

  1. People need to be recognized – he used the word anonymity as the problem. Managers need to engage with their teams as people first and employees second. Yes, here is where the touchy/feely part comes in – if it makes you squirm as a manager then guess what? Maybe you shouldn’t be in management. People often confuse what is not legal to ask in an interview process with what they should not ask an employee. So, the question is: do you like your team? Do you know them? Do you care about them as people? 
  2. People need to be able to measure their work (immeasurement) – if you can’t measure what you do, or worse, if you are measured on something that has no clear connection with what you do, then you are probably less satisfied with your job. 
  3. People need to see a value in their contribution (irrelevance) – people want/need to know that they make a difference in the lives of others with their contributions. One very interesting point he raised is that managers are often not comfortable being clear to their teams that they need them. So, in case there is any doubt for my team – ohmygod do I need you guys 😉

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.

HR Transformation — Are We Sick of it Yet?

I’ve been thinking about HR Transformation for quite some time and I’m starting to wonder how we can move on from HR transformation to “Beyond HR” when we never actually transformed in the first place. 

I have some concern that maybe we are just distracting ourselves to avoid actual measurement and accountability. Are we witnessing a real desire to change the role of HR or are we just a manifestation of Corporate ADD?

It’s an OD problem, no, it’s a recruitment (excuse me — talent acquisition) problem, no, it’s a performance management problem, wait, it’s a succession planning problem, no, I think it’s a web.20/community problem. And don’t even get me started on the idea that it might be an analytics problem!

The more I study this market and talk to companies attempting to truly transform their organizations, I come to realize that it is, and always was, a leadership problem. I know I risk a good ducking here, but I believe that chasing the latest software fad without real vision and leadership will fail. Not dissimilar to how a weight loss program that doesn’t involve diet and exercise will ultimately fail for you (it might work for someone else, but it will not work for you, trust me on this one!).

So, where to start and what to do? First and foremost, you need to find leadership. Hopefully you can find that leadership in yourself, but if not there, find someone who has it first. Once you have acquired the will to lead, then you can begin to benefit from the flywheel effect and realize results. 

If you cannot find the will to lead, I suggest you stop now before you spend important resources and energies on the hard part of a transformation (the starting) and never actually receive the benefits of the work. At the risk of stating the obvious, I also suggest you use the same philosophy for your holiday (or post-holiday) diet plan. 

Quit spending your time trying to find the silver bullet out there, you know that it doesn’t exist. Instead, first analyze your own capabilities and then look to see how you can use technology to implement your vision.

This blog was originally posted on TalentedApps.