Thursday, December 29, 2005

Words of Wisdom

The year end special edition of Knowledge@Wharton has some great interviews from the newsmakers of the Year. Some of my favorites are given below.

Good Managers Focus on Employees' Strengths, Not Weaknesses (Marcus Buckingham) speaks about the manager’s role in developing employee’s skill and competencies.

According to Buckingham, the best managers share one talent -- the ability to find, and then capitalize upon, their employees' unique traits. "The guiding principle is, 'How can I take this person's talent and turn it into performance?' That's the only way success is possible."

And yet not everyone has that knack, Buckingham said. If he has learned anything from his years spent interviewing the best minds of the business world, it is this: Truly great managers, and truly inspiring business leaders, are rarer than many think. "Some of you in this room may not have that talent," he said. "If not, management can become a thankless task."

Giving Employees What They Want: The Returns Are Huge (David Sirota, co-author of The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want)

Sirota talks about the key factors which influences workers behaviour at work. He says managers should rely on common sense principles that allow workers to take pride in their work. He urges them to reject trendy, get-tough tactics that were promoted in the late 1990s, such as trimming staff even at healthy companies in order to improve shareholder value.

His views on what can managers do to boost enthusiasm .

First, provide security. Laying off people should be the last resort, not the first thing you do.

Second, where there are difficulties in getting work done, we talk about self-managed teams.

Recognition is also important. Employees do not have to be told that you love them, but you want to be appreciative of good work. It sounds very corny, but people are corny. People need this kind of feedback.

As for systems, we find the traditional merit pay systems with an appraisal and pay increase are quite negative. Workers feel no relation between what they do and their pay increase. A reward has to be felt as a reward. Research has verified a system such as 'gain sharing' in which a group of workers judges its performance over time.

AmEx's Ken Chenault Talks about Leadership, Integrity and Survival.

"It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those most adaptive to change. Over the past 10 years, the need for, and focus on, adaptability has accelerated."

A second key element of survival is leadership. "Many companies are struggling, and American Express is by no means perfect," said Chenault. "Any company, no matter how strong, is going to experience some difficulty. The question is, how do you develop leaders to manage in these times, how do you retain them and how do you excite them? That will be a continuing challenge for American Express and others."

Chenault believes that it's a lot easier to be a good leader in good times than in bad, but a reputation for leadership over the long term is established during times of change.

"Today, the stakes are incredibly high. The need for leaders to stand for something and act from principle is more important than ever. Things that were acceptable five or ten years ago will today cost you your career. You can make a few mistakes, not a lot ... a few. But if your people believe that you have the right values, they will tolerate a few mistakes. In fact, they will stay with you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Employees Engagement and Feel Good Factor

Wo! I feel good, I knew that I wouldn't of I feel good, I knew that I wouldn't of So good, so good, I got you Wo! I feel nice, like sugar and spice I feel nice, like sugar and spice So nice, so nice, I got you

These lines of James Brown famous song could be the dream goal for each HR professional. HR team can only dream that its employee sing these lines every morning when they come to office. Employees feel good factor and happiness level has been a key area of research work for Economists, Psychologists and Management thinkers.

Gallup Management Journal surveyed U.S. employees to probe their perceptions of how happiness and well-being affect their job performance. Gallup researchers examined employee responses to see which factors differed most strongly among engaged employees (27% of respondents) and those who were not engaged (59%) or actively disengaged (14%).

When American employees were asked how often they feel challenged at work, a majority of engaged workers (61%) said they feel challenged very often, while 35% said they sometimes feel challenged. In contrast, just 49% of not-engaged and 24% of actively disengaged workers indicated that they very often feel challenged at work; 39% of not-engaged workers and 42% of actively disengaged workers sometimes feel challenged.

Respondents were also asked how often they feel frustrated at work. Here, the differences were even more striking. Almost 4 in 10 engaged employees (39%) indicated that they rarely or never feel frustrated at work, while only 13% very often feel frustrated. In contrast, 6 in 10 actively disengaged workers and 26% of not-engaged employees said they very often feel frustrated.
These responses suggest that while engaged workers do feel challenged at work, they view these challenges in a much more positive light than do less engaged workers.

When asked how difficult it would be for their employer to replace them, 54% of disengaged employees said it would be extremely or somewhat difficult for their employer to replace them, compared to 76% of engaged employees. Engaged workers also felt significantly more secure at their workplaces: 54% of engaged workers felt more secure at work than they did a year ago, but only 36% of not-engaged workers and just 18% of actively disengaged workers agreed that they felt more secure at work than they did a year ago.

To read more click here

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How to have Fun @ Work

Employee’s motivation and engagement is the key mantra for attracting, developing and retaining Human Talent. Organizations are striving to make work exciting as well fun activity so that they get greater employee involvement and commitment. Employee’s perception about work is believed to be the driving factor. To build this reputation and promote a fun culture here’ some essential guidelines for HR Folks.

Allow for flextime. Giving your employees some flexibility in their work schedules shows your concern for their personal lives. In addition, allowing employees to work from home occasionally can be a great motivator, making the days in the office a lot more productive and less stressful.

Schedule exercise breaks. There’s no reason you can’t copy what many larger corporations are doing these days -- squeezing in stretch/dance breaks throughout the day during which employees step out of their offices or cubicles to do a group stretch to music.

Cultivate fun.
Make your office an exciting place to be by holding frequent contests, celebrations, and team-building activities. Surprise everyone by ordering in lunch or by starting out the day with coffee and pastries in the kitchen. Be creative.

Lead with laughter. Understand that taking 15 minutes to laugh will increase productivity, not reduce it.

Encourage mini time-outs. Encourage everyone to relieve daily stress by taking a few minutes to do something they enjoy. A small break in the day’s routine can really reinvigorate a person’s thought process. Take short breaks yourself and encourage others to take them.

Find the humor in negative situations. Lead the way in joking about difficult situations in the company. When people can laugh in the midst of a impending deadline, make fun of themselves after making a mistake, or share the story of a horrendous (but humorous) customer experience, they can defuse a lot of tension and stress.

Create a fun squad. Ask for employees' ideas for ways to add fun to the workplace. Consider creating a “fun squad” whose job is to dream up ways to bring lighthearted fun into the office.

Build a “Wall of Fame.” Designate an area where you can post pictures of team members, thank-you notes from clients and customers, and clippings about the organization’s success.

Designate a humor corner. Transform one corner of your break room or other area into a humor corner. There you can post cartoons, funny quotes and pictures, and other illustrations designed to relieve stress.

To read more click here

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Effective E:learning Approach

E learning is going to be of the most preferred and commonly adopted mean for higher education. Its going to be all the more relevant for management education since it’s a wonderful mean for acquiring and developing new knowledge skill and competencies for high level of performance. However the learning ability and style of individuals has been well researched for the traditional method but the e learning mode of education has its own peculiar results.

In an article titled Learning Styles and Study Habits Ryan Watkins discusses about the challenges of e learning. He suggests ways to make the learning session more effective based on individual learning style suited for online method.

Learning Style Is Visual
As a learner who prefers visual elements in his or her instruction, what study skills do you believe are most useful in the online course environment? For example, drawing pictures or mind maps as you read online materials, paying special attention to the images or animated graphics, and/or envisioning the topic in your thoughts.

Learning Is Auditory
As a learner who prefers auditory elements in his or her instruction, what study skills do you believe are most useful in the online course environment? For example, developing an internal conversation between you and the text, reading aloud, and/or discussing the topic in verbal conversation with a peer, family member, or colleague at work.

Learning Is Tactile/Kinesthetic
As a learner who prefers tactile/kinesthetic elements in his or her instruction, what study skills do you believe are most useful in the online course environment? For example, taking careful notes while reading online material, using a pencil or highlighter to mark your notes, using an online highlighter (fir example, with PDF files or Microsoft Word documents), and/or keeping an online journal.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Best Ethical Practices Awards

Recently the 17th business ethics awards were announced by the Business Ethics Magazine and the winners list has the following names;

Intel:For leadership and excellence in corporate social responsibility management.
A computer chipmaker in Santa Clara, Calif., Intel has 90,000employees. It posted double-digit gains in 2004 for revenue of $34.2 billion. Net income for 2004 was $7.5 billion, up 33 percent from 2003. Long a darling of the social investing community, Intel is included in 50 different socially responsible mutual funds. Last year, it ranked No 5 in Business Ethics' 100 Best Corporate Citizens list. And it made the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the seventh year in a row. It was the sixth company in the U.S. to report in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative, a rigorous international framework for corporate social reporting.

South Mountain Company:For using employee ownership as the foundation of a
life-enhancing company.

WHEN THE EMPLOYEES ARE THE OWNERS, and they are charting the course, essential business priorities change,” says John Abrams, founder of South Mountain Co. "Improving the community where we live and raising our families become part of our basic priorities.All of this is made possible by the firm's ownership structure.

After Abrams split with his two founding partners in 1985, he transferred ownership to a worker-owned cooperative corporation (in which he shares ownership). Today, there are 16 employee owners and another 14 working toward ownership. After five years employees can buy into ownership. Since the company has no outside investors and no non- employee board members, Abrams writes, "We decide what kind of business ours will be.”

That means, among other things, that South Mountain pursues a policy of conscious
growth rather than maximum growth.

New Leaf Paper: Environmental Excellence Award: For mainstreaming ecological
principles into the paper industry.

San Francisco-based New Leaf Paper Co. has since 1998 been in the business of saving trees -- nearly 700,000 to date, since over half the fiber used in its papers comes from post-consumer waste, rather than virgin pulp from trees. That's not to mention the 34 million pounds of solid waste no longer in the waste stream, thanks to the company's sustainable line of paper products, considered the most environmentally responsible on the market today.

In its first full year of operation in 1999, New Leaf Paper generated $4 million in sales. In 2005, it expects revenues to exceed $18 million. Yet with only 18 employees, this small firm is having a significant impact on its industry. "The mission of our company is to inspire the paper industry to move toward sustainability. We essentially married our own success with our environmental goals,” said founder and CEO Jeff Mendelsohn.

Weaver Street Cooperative, Living Economy Award: For its sustainable products, community focus, and democratic governance.

Weaver Street is more than a food market. It runs a restaurant, Panzanella, also devoted to locally produced and seasonal foods, which hosts frequent special dinners and wine tasting to show off local producers. The cooperative donated staff time and unused real estate to create a new community radio station. And it created a nonprofit to build affordable housing. When residents nearby wanted a second market, they approached Weaver street to open one. It did so, and 600 subscribers signed up to finance the venture.

To read more click here

Friday, December 16, 2005

Designing an Effective Learning Program

On of the biggest question which any learning Manager faces today is designing and customizing a training program. Often one wonders about the likely efficacy of a program for a particular role and position.

Glen Spielbauer has given some useful tips for learning officer in designing any learning activity. He feels that as the chief learning officer, you must be the driving force to push your company’s productivity to higher levels. To truly empower your organization, be proactive, not reactive

Include all your employees, not just the managers or professionals: Do not neglect the rank-and-file employees who truly determine your bottom-line success. Individual contributors are the ones who build customer relationships and put quality into your product or service.

Don’t reinvent the wheel: Make sure your training adds to the knowledge that employees already have from their college training. (This includes both two-year and four-year graduates.)
Utilize those with two-year and four-year degrees: It is essential ensure that all managers understand the advanced level of graduates of two-year community colleges and technical institutes. Graduates of two-year associate degree programs have expertise that often overlaps with four-year graduates and should be treated as professionals in their own right.

Incorporate local community colleges: Use local community colleges as an integral part of your corporate training strategy. Many community colleges provide regular and custom-designed short courses for corporate clients, sometimes even on-site. These include customer service, e-commerce, quality assurance, project management, technical writing, telecommunications and computer network technology.

Your overall agenda must be coherent and unified, not piecemeal: Include all departments and all levels and types of employees. Although specific training may be targeted for certain functions (such as marketing or manufacturing), all training objectives must be a part of a “top-down” design to be truly effective.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Andy Grove :Leadership Redefined

Intel's former CEO Andy Grove is one of the great technical evangelist who is also revered as a great leader of his times. He is also considered a great management guru and has some great works to his credit including 1983's High Output Management and 1996's Only the Paranoid Survive, whose title entered the lexicon along with its phrase "strategic inflection point," which Grove defines as "a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change."

Richard Tedlow's is coming up with a new book titled The Life and Times of Andy Grove .HBR has come up with a review on his work.

“Tedlow calls Grove “America's greatest student and teacher of business,” and this essay describes several key decisions that reveal Grove's brilliance at grasping profound changes in the business environment and steering the company's big bow into new waters.

By the 1970s, for example, the company had made its fortune in computer memory chips. IBM was not only its largest customer; it was its largest shareholder, too. But as memory became a commodity in the 1980s, Grove decided to follow a bet-the-company strategy to charge into microprocessors even while risking the loss of IBM's business. The move, of course, not only paid off for Intel but also helped launch the PC revolution.Studying Grove, says Tedlow, will help today's managers cope with the accelerating rate of change. “Grove is the best model we've got for doing business in the twenty-first century,”
Fortune has a preview of the work and it’s a fascinating stuff to read.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

IT Industry biggest Challenge

A recent article in New York Times has reported that India is going to face an acute shortage of Engineering talent required for its IT industry.

Its not just the IT talent which is going to be in short supply ,also highlighted is the fact that we are going to short of current hot spots for IT industry which has the majority of these industrial units. The fact that congregation of huge workforce requires scaling up of infrastructure and other basic facilities is largely being ignored till date.

"India's information technology industry faces a shortfall of 500,000 professionals by 2010 threatening its dominance of global offshore IT-services, warns a report to be published this week by business consultancy McKinsey and Nasscom, India's leading IT association.

The prediction comes as multinationals, such as Microsoft and JPMorgan, increase their presence in the world's largest offshore services industry, adding to labour-market pressures caused by a widening mismatch between the supply and demand for technology talent.

The "war for talent" is one of the most striking signs of the success of India's offshore IT sector. It expanded by about 30 per cent from 2003 to 2005 and is expected to grow by at least 25 per cent a year over the next five years, sustaining the county's rapid economic growth."
To read the complete article here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Employee's Communication:The New Mantra

One of the biggest challenges which organizations face today is communication. Employee communication is considered to be the most effective indicator of its people practices. It is believed that communication is the key to superior performance and good work ethics.

In a study conducted by Watson Wyatt it was found that effective financial performance of the organization was linked to its Employee’s communication. Some of the major findings of the study are:

Companies that communicate effectively have a 19.4 percent higher market premium than companies that do not.

Shareholder returns for organizations with the most effective communication were over 57 percent higher over the last five years (2000-2004) than were returns for firms with less effective communication.

The 2005/2006 study found evidence that communication effectiveness is a leading indicator of financial performance.

Firms that communicate effectively are 4.5 times more likely to report high levels of employee engagement versus firms that communicate less effectively.

Companies that are highly effective communicators are 20 percent more likely to report lower turnover rates than their peers.

Two-thirds of the firms with high levels of communication effectiveness were asking their managers to take on a greater share of the communication responsibility, but few are giving them the tools and training to be successful.

Global firms are not customizing their messages to meet local needs or cultural sensitivities.

On average, firms within the financial and retail trade sectors rank among the most effective communicators. Health care, basic materials, telecommunications and other service companies rank among the least effective communicators.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Craig Barrets on Science Graduates in Amercia

Intel's Charirman Craig Barret is on India and having talks with industry experts and political leaders on the future investments prospects. In a recent article published in Business week he seems to be worried at the rate which China ,Korea and other nations are churning out quality science graduates and on the other hand the quality and quantity of science grads coming out of US universities have dropped considerably.

Here’s what he has to say about the erosion of resources in America“We have a graduation gap: While the number of jobs requiring technical skills is increasing, fewer American students are entering -- and graduating from -- degree programs in science, math, and engineering. Why does this matter?

Science and technology are the engines of economic growth and national security in the U.S., and we are no longer producing enough qualified graduates to keep up with the demand.

These graduates -- like the Intel STS students -- represent a resource vital to American competitiveness that is eroding at home while being produced more rapidly and efficiently abroad.

He shows his concern at the overall share of engineering graduates who were awarded degrees. For the past three decades, about one-third of U.S. bachelor's degrees have been granted in science and engineering.

Asian nations far outstrip that figure, with China at 59% in 2001, South Korea at 46% in 2000, and Japan at 66% in 2001.Of those degrees, the number awarded in engineering also varied greatly: In China engineering accounted for 65% of all science and engineering degrees; in South Korea for 58%; and in Japan for 29%.

In the U.S. that figure is less than 5%.How did we get here?

A report released earlier this year by Achieve, a nonprofit organization that helps states raise academic standards, contends that we have institutionalized low performance through low expectations. Our high schools expect only a small number of students to take the advanced math and science courses such as algebra and geometry.

Another Achieve study showed that much of the math content on state high school exit exams is basic at best -- similar to material covered by foreign students in the eighth grade.
To read more click here

Friday, December 02, 2005