Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Talent Knows No Bounds

India-based HR consultant Gautam Ghosh has an interesting entry about talent communities, where he muses about the future:

~ "I hope one day this role (of talent community manager) becomes an overlap between marketing and HR, becoming the real custodian of the employment brand."

I'm reminded of a talk that OD consultant Anna Tavis gave a few years ago at FDU, where she talked about talent membranes, suggesting that talent knows no arbitrary organizational boundaries.

For a harbinger of what Gautam Ghosh is sensing, I would point to David Zinger's Employee Engagement Network on ning, which, in just over one year, has attracted a horde of talent (over 1,000 people) from around the globe, all passionately concerned about employee engagement.

As a job hunter, I am swimming in talent. Every job search support group that I visit is filled to the brim with talent. Talent that is dying to get back to work.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 31, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Start Your Own!

I'm happy to report that the little guide for starting your own job search support group, that Janice Lee Juvrud and I wrote, is reaching people across the country.

It was even noticed by Gerry Crispin of CareerXRoads and The Riley Guide which added it to their networking resources page.

To request your free copy, send an email to terrence.seamon@gmail.com

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 29, 2009

Friday, March 27, 2009

Going Green

This morning, I attended a breakfast briefing at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ, on the subject of Green Jobs in New Jersey. Fascinating!

Moderated by Jeana Wirtenberg of ISE, there were three panelists:

1. Michael Winka of the NJ Board of Public Utilities who focused on the Energy sector of the economy in the state of New Jersey.

2. Jennifer Cleary of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, who focused directly on the "green jobs" and how we need to further define them, as well as the skills and career pathways that must be developed.

3. Elizabeth Reynoso of the NJ Social Justice Institute, who spoke about the gains being made in inner city programs to train the disadvantaged for the green economy.

Three words bubbled up during the panel presentation: Exciting, Emerging, and Evolving.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 27, 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Every Solution Generates New Problems

I recently switched my home phone service from my phone company to my cable company. Now my wireless router won't connect.

Many years ago, when I was a TQM (Total Quality Management) Guy, conducting training on the tools and steps for process improvement, I learned many sayings, including:

~ Every solution generates new problems.

Take a look at some of the solutions being implemented right now to solve the global economic mess. These are "big hairy audacious" solutions, in the billions of taxpayer dollars. Many are wondering if these solutions will really work . . . and what the unintended consequences may be.

A couple days ago, I blogged about SMART goals. You can apply the SMART principles to solutions too.

Another aspect of the saying "Every Solution Generates New Problems" that I like is that it can be viewed as a corollary to Murphy's Law, that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong:

~ "Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

So, if you expect that problems will be created by your solutions, you can actually anticipate them.

I had a feeling that my wireless router might be a problem after the switch to cable. I was right.

If anybody has any ideas, let me know.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One Small Thing

A few weeks ago, I got my wings by becoming a Job Angel.

As Jenna Papakalos, at Connecting Redefined, says: "JobAngels is a non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to help the job seeker find his/her next opportunity. All of JobAngels’ services are provided by volunteers, so there is no cost to the job seeker. The main goal is for each member to help just one job seeker find employment, it’s that simple."

One of the great things about JobAngels is that you can be one, right now, by helping someone. It’s as simple as that.

JobAngels is a great example of what I call the “One Small Thing” philosophy that says, If everybody did one small thing every day to make the world a better place, we could collectively transform our world.

I believe that there is a power in small things, small gestures, small acts. Sometimes we do nothing because the problem seem too big. We get paralyzed. The antidote, I think, is to do something small. And keep doing small things. And get others to join in. Before you know it, you've taken a big chunk out of a seemingly insurmountable problem.

That's what Mark Stelzner did by starting JobAngels.

There are a lot of people out of work right now, struggling to find employment. How can you help? Find one and ask. Just ask, "How can I help?"

Why don't you get your wings today?

Added Note: Great article in WSJ.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Making It Up As We Go Along

Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed random acts of exploration and discovery; in other words, "making things up as I go along." For example, my love for mystery rides, which I got from my mom. "Let's try this road. We've never taken it before," she would say. And off we would go on an adventure.

I know that in this culture's socialization process, we learn that "making it up as we go along," is not a good thing. It smacks of not having a goal or a plan, of wasteful meandering, of aimlessness.

Thanks to David Zinger, I found author Richard Oliver's manifesto on "purposive drift" where he meditates on this bias, wondering why the "machine culture" of goals, schedules and project plans, has triumphed over the improvisatory navigation of "making it up as we go along" as a way of being in life.

One of Oliver's images is a cork bobbing along in a stream, carried by the current to who-knows-where. It reminded me of putting a leaf into a running stream and watching it get carried away by the moving water. I've always loved to do that. And when my sons were little, it was something they enjoyed doing too.

I guess I'm more of a purposive drift type than a machine type. More imaginative, creative, and open to the magic of chance.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Engagement Does/Does Not Matter

Yesterday, India-based HR consultant Gautam Ghosh posted a blog entry on a fascinating piece at CFO.com about HR, Finance, and Employee Engagement.

It appears that a noted HR professor gave a talk in Orlando to an audience of financial executives. Though it's dangerous to pick apart a talk that only appears in snippets in a magazine article, I wonder what to make of these two quotes:

- "But there is no evidence that engaging employees impacts financial returns."

- "You want people who are excited, enthused, and understand how to contribute to what you do, as opposed to those who simply want to find a good place to hide out."

Both are statements about engaged workforces. One says there is no evidence to support investing in one. The second says that having an engaged workforce is what you should want.

Huh? Which is it? Does engagement matter or doesn't it?

Maybe this is a case of "taking someone's words out of context," but my crap-detector is sensing a whiff of something else here.

Employee engagement initiatives are happening in organizations all over the world. For evidence of this, see the Employee Engagement Network on ning. And the second annual global conference on Employee Engagement, coming up in April in Barcelona, features such organizations as T-Mobile, Vodaphone, Virgin Atlantic, Nokia, Lloyds, and Fedex.

At the HR Summit in Singapore in 2008, Dr. Judy Bardwick shared this message:

"Organizations that simultaneously value their employees while never losing sight of their business goals have higher levels of growth, market value, return on assets, and returns to shareholders. The key factors are levels of employee and management commitment and engagement which are leading indicators of how well an organisation will do financially."

So if I were in the HR professor's shoes, and had the chance to talk to an audience of CFO's, I think I'd be very clear and go directly to the point:

Engagement matters.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 19, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SMART Goals Again

A couple years ago, I blogged about a new take on the old SMART approach to setting goals and objectives, called START NOW, from San Francisco-based executive coach Sandy Piderit (whose new blog is The Wisdom of Managing Change).

Yesterday, while revisiting my ORPA approach to engaging performance, another flash occurred to me on SMART goals. I'm also calling it SMART. Here are the elements:

S = Shared

M = Managed

A = Aligned

R = Reinforced

T = Tracked

Let's look at each piece.

Shared - Goals need to be shared. For me, this has a few facets.
- Since goals represent key aspirations of the organization, there should be a shared understanding of the goal. What we are trying to accomplish? Why? Do we have a shared vision?
- We reach this shared meaning through conversation about the goal. It may take several meetings to socialize the goal with key stakeholders. Seek their input. Give them a copy of the goal in writing. Engage them around the goal.
- If there are others who share in the actual work that will be undertaken toward this goal, it would be important to clarify roles and responsibilities.

Managed - How often are freshly written goals put into a file, only to be quickly forgotten as we rush back to the "fire fighting" of the moment. What happened to those goals? They stay in the dark until, months later, they resurface for the year-end review.

Instead of this "goal filing," how about managing toward your goals? This includes:
- Keeping your goals visible. They could be entered into your favorite computer application or thumb-tacked to your cubicle wall.
- Ensuring that you are moving toward them, even if only by inches, each and every day
- Testing your actual expenditure of time and energy against your goals to be sure you are actually doing goal-directed work
- Periodically revisiting your goals to see if they are still suitable in view of changing conditions.

Aligned - This is the strategic part of the new SMART model. Goals need to "line up" like magnetized shavings, all pointing in the same direction as indicated by the organization's mission and strategic plans.
- Every member of the organization, regardless of functional area or level, needs to know where the organization is desiring to go.
- With that understanding, they can fully engage in setting goals.
Aligned goals ensure that each person is doing something to contribute to the common movement for the organization.

Reinforced - By "reinforced," I mean strengthening your capability to attain the goal. Do you have what you need to reach the goal?

Think of a car trip to a distant vacation destination. What do you need to get there? A good map. A full tank of gas. Four good tires. You get the idea.

What information, tools, skills, and other resources will you need to reach the goal? Do you have the energy? Do you need training? Would it help to enlist a consultant? A coach?

Tracked - Finally, but critically, do you have a way of knowing the progress you are making? Along the way to a goal, it's likely that you will encounter obstacles and interruptions which could slow you down or throw you off track altogether. Conditions could change so significantly that the goal itself might come into question, be revised, or dropped completely. How will you keep track? And keep others informed of your progress?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Everybody Get Together

One of the great anthems of the Sixties was the song "Get Together," famously recorded by the Youngbloods. Here's the refrain:

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

I'm happy to report, that spirit of getting together, is alive and well. In response to this global economic calamity, job search support groups are popping up all over the landscape.

Last year, in collaboration with a team of parishioners, I helped to start one at my church. We call it The St. Matthias Employment Ministry and it is going strong, reaching out to help those who are looking for work in central New Jersey.

And many more such groups are emerging at this moment.

These groups are providing both psychological benefits such as comfort and stress relief, as well as practical benefits such as resume review, interview prep, network building, and job hunt accountability.

Recognizing this wonderful wave, my OD colleague Janice Lee Juvrud and I have written a guide for forming and launching a local job search support group. It will be published either this week or next. If you would like a copy, send me an email (terrence.seamon@gmail.com) and I'll send it to you.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 9, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009


There is a lot of focus on leadership, and leadership development, these days.

~ What is leadership? How do you develop it? What practices work best to develop leaders?

All good questions to be sure.

But I feel like we are missing the point at this moment in history. Look around at the massive global crisis: economic, environmental, and social.

We need more than improved leadership development processes in organizations. We need a new vision for leading.

More than leadership, we need LeaderShift.

LeaderShift is leading that:

~ goes beyond problem solving and addresses transformation

~ looks at the system and sees what needs to change

~ is less concerned about productivity and profit than about purpose and prosperity

~ is highly collaborative and brings diverse voices to the table

~ calls people to step up and take responsibility

~ liberates people to act, be creative, and decide for themselves

LeaderShift starts with a deep and honest look into the mirror. LeaderShift holds fast to deeply rooted values about what is right and good.

LeaderShift is unafraid of taking action. LeaderShift keeps its commitments.

LeaderShift is reinventing the game so everyone can win.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 7, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

What About the Survivors?

Boston-based Learning & Development professional Mary Ellen Donovan asked an important question at LinkedIn:

~ "What about the survivors? The economy is forcing companies to reduce staff through massive layoffs. What are these companies doing to assist the people left behind?"

After one of my downsizing experiences, I remember hearing from a former colleague, "It felt like a drive-by shooting." One moment I was there. The next, I was gone.

The survivors are emotionally shaken by the experience of suddenly losing co-workers.

Since my most recent downsizing, I have tried to keep tabs on some of my former co-workers who were not let go. The most common expression I hear is "It's crazy here."

The survivors are left with more work to do than they had before. In addition to feeling overwhelmed and stressed, chances are that everyone is hunkering down in fear of the next shoe to drop.

What are companies doing to help the people who are still employed? I don't have much data, but I'll offer my two cents on what they should be doing:

- Stress management and wellness support to keep people healthy

- Process improvement to get rid of any non-value-adding work

- Employee teams to brainstorm and come up with ways to help the business survive and thrive

What else would you add?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 6, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Engaging Voices - Sybil Stershic

Consultant Sybil Stershic --author of the Quality Service Marketing blog and the book Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care-- is charting the connections between customer engagement and employee engagement. In her own words: "My professional passion is internal marketing - taking care of employees so they can take care of customers."

I'm pleased to present Sybil Stershic as the next Engaging Voice in the series.

Where In The “L” Are The Employees? by Sybil F. Stershic

I’ve been reading a lot of marketers’ advice to consumer and B2B companies on how to weather the economic storm. The recurrent theme found in this advice can be summed up as:

- Listen to your customers
- Learn their hot buttons and
- Look for opportunities where you can be of value to your customers

Their advice is sound, but I find it lacking. Besides applying this “listen-learn-look” approach to customers, companies need to focus equally on their employees.

Here’s what I suggest.

• Listen to your employees. Supplement your customer research with qualitative feedback from frontline staff and other employees who have customer contact (such as sales and account reps). Ask employees to share what they’re hearing from customers and be alert to any changes in brand perceptions about your company and its competitors.

• Learn employees’ ideas on how to better serve customers within a framework of limited resources. Sharing the results of your customer research and collective feedback, encourage employees to explore how the company might be able to creatively and cost-effectively enhance the customers’ experience.

• Look for opportunities to strengthen workplace engagement. Besides getting their feedback and ideas on serving customers, involve employees in identifying and developing the resources they need in this challenging environment. For example, employees may find ways to effectively share their in-house expertise with each other when the training & development budget is limited.

Being attentive to employees can help your company in the short term ala the Hawthorne effect. By also responding to their input (i.e., don’t let employees’ ideas collect in a black hole) and recognizing their involvement in the process, you’ll be able to better engage both employees and customers in your company’s future.

[Copyright 2009 by Sybil Stershic. All Rights Reserved.]

Posted by Terrence Seamon, March 3, 2009