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Showing posts from July, 2009

I'm on Vacation

I'm taking a much-needed summer break to rest and refuel. I'll be back with new posts on August 3rd or 4th. I hope you're having a relaxing, enjoyable summer.

Until next week, Chris

Twitter as an Internal Collaboration Tool?

The other day, I spoke with Tim Young, founder of Socialcast, an entrepreneurial firm in California that makes on-demand employee collaboration software.

We started talking about Twitter from an employee collaboration perspective. A lot of companies are using Twitter for marketing and PR, and they're just starting to ponder it as a recruiting tool. But what about Twitter's potential as an internal, collaborative brainstorming tool for employees?

Now I'm the first to admit that I'm not a technology writer by training, so please pardon me if what I have to say is akin to being five years late to the prom. That's always my fear when writing about technology. But what Young has to say interested me.

Twitter, he said, is all about building relationships for companies. But to build those relationships, companies have to be able to collaborate internally with employees in real time to generate answers for customers and to arrive at new ideas more quickly. "This whole co…

Should Employees Talk Politics With Customers?

I had an appointment the other day, and walked out all the better for the services provided.

But I also left with something I didn't expect: An unsolicited overview of one employee's political opinions.

During my appointment, the employee told me how the threat of socialism is destroying small businesses owners, and lamented how Jimmy Carter "just needs to shut up." The employee wondered out loud if Hillary Clinton could have made it as far in politics without Bill. Then I found out who this person respects most in politics.

"I just really like Sarah Palin, you know?"

I said "huh" and "hmm" the whole way through. For a variety of reasons, I really didn't want to go there. I wanted to move on to another topic of conversation.

Why do I share this story, you ask? Well, it segues into a topic I've been thinking about for quite awhile: Whether or not employees should freely discuss politics with the customers they serve.

First, let me say…

Wednesday is the Deadliest Day for Employees

Workers are more likely to kill themselves on Wednesday than any other day of the week.

A new study finds 25 percent of people end their lives on Wednesday, compared to Monday and Saturday, which are tied for second place at 14 percent.

Why is Wednesday the chosen day for one-quarter of employees who commit suicide? According to the researchers, job stress plays a major role:

As for the spike in suicides in the middle of the week, Kposowa suggested that the increase may indicate job stress. “People may be fed up and stressed by their jobs by the middle of the week,” he said. “By Wednesday, the traffic has gotten to be too much, their co-workers are getting on their nerves and they can’t figure out how they’re going to make it to the end of the week.”

I always thought that Monday morning was the deadliest for employees, but my thinking is based on a study I read years ago about employees who have start-of-the-week heart attacks due to job stress.

Anyway, the article is interesting and I t…

Japanese Railway Workers Are Getting "Smile Scans"

Now this lends new meaning to the phrase "service with a smile."

Railway employees in Japan are getting "smile scans" every day where an image is taken of each employee's face to rate smile quality.

Employees with sub-par smiles are told how to improve their grins. Employees receive a daily printout of their smile to carry with them, just in case.

I'm not kidding.

According to an article in Britain's The Daily Telegraph:

After scanning a face, the device produces a rating between zero to 100 depending on the estimated value of the fulfilled potential of a person's biggest smile.

For those with a below-par grin, one of an array of smile-boosting messages will op up on the computer screen ranging from "you still look too serious" to "lift up your mouth corners", according to the Mainichi Daily News.

Somehow, I can't see U.S. workers putting up with this tactic for very long. Some employee somewhere would be calling the EEOC to compl…

CEO Confidence vs. Employee Fears

There are some new numbers out today regarding CEO and employee confidence levels.

The Conference Board's measure of CEO confidence --- a survey of 100 leaders in a variety of industries --- increased from 30 in the first quarter of 2009 to 55 in the second quarter of 2009.

CEOs are feeling better about the economy as a whole: 32 percent feel conditions have improved over the last six months. Compare this number to last quarter, when zero percent --- yes, zero percent! --- felt conditions were improving.

CEOs see a brighter economic future, too: Almost 55 percent think economic conditions will get better over the next six months, as opposed to 17 percent last quarter. In regard to their specific industries, 45 percent of CEOs think the next six months are looking up --- a 19 percent increase over last quarter.

New Challenger, Gray & Christmas numbers out today, meanwhile, indicate fewer CEOs are jumping ship. CEO departures in June were 17 percent lower than last June.

It all soun…

Are Potential Employers Scoring Your Social Media Profile?

Does it really matter how many people are in your social network if you're job hunting?

I've been talking to social media experts who tell me that yes, it does matter for certain jobs. It's a bad sign, they tell me, if an applicant for an outside sales job has only 25 connections on LinkedIn and maybe 30 "friends" on Facebook. Such paltry numbers scream to potential employers that this applicant isn't very good at networking --- a key skill for any salesperson.

There are certain jobs, however, where having too many connections can make potential employers suspicious. A defense contractor, for example, might get a funny feeling if an applicant for a job that requires heavy security clearance has 1,500 friends on Facebook, is active on Second Life and Flickr, and in general comes across as an untamed social animal online.

Basically, your social profile should fit the job you want.

You should also be aware that some employers are starting to use quantitative &quo…

Background Checks in the Age of LinkedIn

My latest story is up on Entrepreneur.com. The topic is how companies can use social media more effectively for recruiting.

It was a fascinating topic to cover.

One thing that intrigued me is how companies are using sites like LinkedIn for additional reference checks on applicants. It used to be that an applicant would turn in a handful of references with the application, and the potential employer would call these references as a part of the background checking process. Unless they had a mutual contact that wasn't included on the list, the employer went with the references the applicant listed. This scenario gave the applicant more control over the reference-checking process. At least the applicant knew who the employer was contacting, right?

Well, not anymore. All an employer has to do now is go to LinkedIn and peruse the applicant's network of contacts for other people who might offer an additional reference. For employers, this reference-checking end run is a way of filling …

Have You Hugged Your HR Person Today?

I know what you're probably thinking.

"Hug the HR person? Yeah, riiiight."

A lot of people view HR as a necessary evil. I've known rank-and-file employees who believe the human resources person is there just to spy on them all day.

When I think of HR, I think of manager Michael Scott's relationship with beleagured HR guy Toby Flenderson on "The Office". Scott makes no secret of his rabid dislike of HR and Flenderson --- in a humorous way, of course.

But a new Workforce Management survey reveals this recession is no laughing matter for HR personnel. Workforce's HR Anxiety Survey of 372 HR professionals in late May-early June found that they're dealing with their own anxieties due to lay offs.

So how are HR people handling their own stress? Well, 23% are "occasionally" turning to substances like alcohol and/or cigarettes to cope. A significant percentage of HR people (35%) are contemplating a job in another field. Some (9%) are signing up f…