Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Work” - in the 21st Century - JOBS

Jobs in the 21st century, 2012, present.

While knowing “the news”, what is being reported about our workplace, from the “Media”, “Social Media” too, now, (meaning TV and Internet) is important. Let’s face it, if you still don’t earn enough to support yourself, and your family, their news is still wrong... for you

Sometimes our answers are found slowly, in small pieces, or links even. So, included are interesting discoveries about our marketplace of free-enterprise that should, in fact, be large enough for us all…to survive, and as Our Constitution supports in its entirety, “We, the People, shall have the right to secure shelter, clothing, food, supplies…, make a family of our own, find a home, share our talents, contribute; love and live.” I confidently speak on behalf of our team at LAC Group: we are doing our best to help almost 23 million people find their ability to stand on their own again.  No, of course we don't have 23 million jobs to offer, nor are there 23 million in our field.  The point being that we work as if it is on our shoulders.

International Labour Office: Global Employment Trends of 2012 White Paper.

MSN Careers: (Article) Bestbets for jobs in 2012, By Debra Auerbach.

US News, MONEY: 25 BestJobs, (2012).

Simply Hired: SimplySalary (Job Salary Calculator)

During my years of work, in the late 20th-century & now early 21st-century, technological knowledge continues to increase in demand and importance, translates to work always available. And, the one constant, especially in information, is change. Learning new things, trying new tools and evolving are the keys for adapting to those changes. I do find our field fascinating, I suppose that doesn’t hurt either. Ask yourself: Do you love what you do? Sometimes we need to just "do" but you should always be striving to do what you love.

The truth is that adaptation is key. Some times we learn at different speeds, or learn different things at the same time. Just keep learning and growing, adapting, evolving. No deficiency or weakness, just new direction, translates to change. As Dr. Sheldon Cooper eloquently put it, “I don’t like change, they say change is good, but they lied; It isn’t.”   

It appears, from my seat, some drastic changes have been for the better for individuals who may be preparing for something new, something greater than they may have imagined for themselves. Believing in the possibilities does matter, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

“Work” - in the 21st Century

With the advent of the Internet and email, followed by the social networking technologies of Facebook and Twitter, and enterprise networks like LinkedIn and Yammer, the one constant all business professionals can depend on is change. As the great financial collapse and recession of 2008 is barely behind us now, and millions still struggle to find work, or adapt to the rapid changes of commerce in America, it seems prudent to dedicate this next series to “work” in the 21st century.

Work satisfaction is minimally connected to salary. Although, for those Americans still without jobs, or currently under-employed, obviously income does matter a great deal. Join me during the next four weeks as I cover - 2012 job trends, salaries and satisfaction; techniques and tooling for professional development in the online marketplace to increase your opportunities to find work or a job period; resume formats and keywords that pop; and, even how to find more satisfaction in the work you do.

“In all of our contracts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted that gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Technology & Tooling “Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series" - Implementing Yammer

A few weeks ago, I posted this weeks update on Greg Lambert's 3 Geeks and a Law blog, and the last few weeks have been a prequel to our #Yammer implementation.  Next week I will be discussing our 1st quarter - what's working, what's not, etc.

#LAC Group decided to make the bold move to eliminate internal email about June 2011.  Over the course of a year we tested 4 different products, finally settling on Yammer. 

We set out to resolve four key issues:
  1. How do we preserve contributions after an employee has left?  Preserve our corporate knowledge?
  2. How do we protect internal material from being emailed to the wrong party? Or being forwarded by mistake outside the org (we have all had this happen to someone we know…if not ourselves…and know that hitting the “Recall” in outlook only makes the person actually read what you are trying to recall.
  3. How do we cut down on task duplication/trip/quad/etc... what happens when you need something done right away and email 4 people...and they ALL do it.
  4. How do we bring together a team spread across 7 offices and two continents?

Top 5 reasons our staff has found that internal messages on Yammer are better than email:
  1. Yammer is a completely searchable tool that outlives any individual employee (eDiscovery compliant/accessible as well) - preserving content even post departure, rather than ending up in an archived email folder sitting on a DVD on someones shelf. It is a central repository for all messages, which enables continual growth of knowledge vs starting over/mining data (which we all know rarely happens due to time and expense).
  2. Yammer helps organize a conversation to keep track of input and eliminates the need for multiple people to have to do the research/fact finding, etc. Increasing organizational productivity.  Employees are working together to get tasks completed.  While email has tried to address “conversations” it’s simply a roll-up based on subject…and we’ve all lost a message or two that happened to have the same subject.
  3. Yammer can be as easy to use as email...or easier.  And can be faster as well!
  4. Yammer can be private – not everything has to be “public” - having a discussion that should only be amongst certain individuals - using private messages you can limit to one or several people.
  5. Yammer builds a corporate repository that allows us to search to see if we have ever had a discussion on a particular topic, client, situation, employee, etc.

BONUS: Yammer enables a concept I call working publicly.  So many times we want to know what’s going on (as managers) and rather than have to stop an employees productivity to prepare an email (ugh) to update us – we are always updated.  It’s a similar effect to what TR did with their cubicles… brought the height down – working publicly increases collaboration, cooperation, organizational awareness/knowledge and most importantly productivity.

Now to how we did it (short version).  We first ran a very tight test group, making sure that the technology worked, testing the concepts put forward by Yammer's implementation team, etc.  We decided that we would design specific groups and not allow random group creation.  One of the groups is called "Water Cooler" and has strict instructions...no business discussed here...keep it fun - bring people together...a place to blow off (of course we also have word monitoring set in the system to prevent too much creative license with words...we still have to keep it clean). 

We also put out a corporate mandate that we were transitioning internal communications and assigned our Yammer champions to re-direct to Yammer.  So when people slip, and they do, and send emails, these champions will forward the email to a group on Yammer (each group can receive posts via email as well)...and then respond within Yammer.

We officially launched Yammer June 1st.  Many of those on LAC Group’s Yammer had not actually met each other...so we made photos a must.  Each person was also required to fill out their profile (completely) so that people could get to know one another (and their skills, areas of expertise, etc).  Then it was off to the races.  Within the first few days, one of our staff members in DC asked a question that would have taken them 5-6 hours to research...a staff member in NY (who had never met the person in the DC office...or even knew they existed) answered the question in 3 minutes (had done the same search the week prior).  While this happened by chance, creating/manufacturing a similar exercise during roll out would be advised, as adoption immediately soared. 

When we signed up for yammer, the sales staff told us of their most successful clients where internal email was down by 40-50% - our current stats are internal email is down by 80% (and still going).  Team collaboration is up (significantly).  Teamwork where there wasn't any...and people are getting to know their co-workers, not just across the cube...but across the country.  Duplication of effort (for us this was huge) is down to almost 0%.  Working publicly is working, it’s been a real shift in our corporate culture.
Ending (internal) email isn't easy, but it doesn't have to be hard either.  The key is finding a reason for each individual in the company - if there is a personal gain, there will be adoption. 

Success factors:
  1. Running a solid test group - creating Yammer champions – you have to have believers for any cause.
  2. Setting up the right way - Yammer implementation model of just let people go at it and they'll get it, isn't the right model (IMHO).  Orchestrate success – that’s how to ensure it happens.
  3. Make it fun... and have a champion for that - we have a daily post in our Water Cooler that keeps people going.  Have a stash of gift cards and make up prizes for most collaboration, most helpful this or that.
  4. Consistently push to Yammer - make sure that the team is posting there, vs email.
  5. Have some real "wins" for people - use a carrot - sticks will only get you so far.
  6. Set up email to Yammer aliases to auto-send to yammer from email - helps with adoption…and your employees don’t need to remember the long cryptic email addresses Yammer assigns to the various groups.
  7. Send regular posts on Yammer tips and tricks to help make adoption stick.  Just because we have reduced email by 80% doesn't mean it will stay there.  Have to help back-sliders.  We have a daily tip post that goes in our Yammer 101 group.
  8. Dispel myths about email being faster - set up SMS notifications for groups and individuals, as well using the Yammer app (iPhone, Android, BB, iPad, PC, Mac, etc.) to show speed and ease of use.
  9. Use @mentions and #tags to draw attention to people and organize topics.
  10. Find a success factor for each and every participant - it's got to personally benefit each person, or they won't use it.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Technology & Tooling “Exploring Alternatives to Emails” Series Enterprise Networking Technology - Yammer

As COO for LAC Group, I recently went through the exploration process to find new technology to supplement internal email communications and alleviate the current deficiencies highlighted in last week’s post. While “open” social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, have their own perks, and are both tools we currently employ, the setup, organization, management and cooperation from employees, remains somewhat tedious, to date, and neither provide the information exchange function we need within a secure environment.

As I hinted in last week's post, we found one of the newer technologies to be the most promising: #Yammer. Yammer is an enterprise social networking tool that is both private and resides in a secure environment, allowing for company collaboration, file sharing, and knowledge exchange for our team.

How Yammer Works

The Yammer enterprise network technology has given LAC Group the ability to establish an employee intranet with social networking capabilities, exclusive to all of our employees within our electronic mail domain. Employees have access to interact with, share, post and exchange information with other LAC Group employees sharing the same email extension of lac-group.com (or other domains under the corporate umbrella like ccmchase.com and lac-legal.com).

Deficiencies Resolved

LAC Group has hundreds of employees, many of whom work from client sites all over the country and world, employees often don’t know each other on a personal basis much less know the names of all of their co-workers. Email is prohibitive of important information sharing in large organizations like ours, as employees would need to direct messages to a specific co-worker by name, or send a message to a large group distribution group...still not knowing who might see their message. Even then, email communications are still a “closed” two-way exchange of information between those two employees, for the most part.

With Yammer, LAC Group employees are able to post information and updates, ask questions, participate in a group dialog, and more. With Yammer, all employees in our organization can discover and respond more timely, and with the confidence that their communications are secure within our internal business network. As David Sacks of Yammer said, “There’s nothing discoverable about email. It’s either addressed to you or not.”

So far, Yammer is proving to be a valuable option for LAC Group to increase efficiency and knowledge throughout our team worldwide. Librarians in the field especially feel this tool gives them more access to what is going on not only within LAC Group headquarters, and with others like them stationed in the field, but within the library management services industry as a whole.    

Deficiencies Not Resolved

While Yammer addresses internal messaging and collaboration, we still don't have an answer for external client communications.  Currently email is the best we've come up with so far...but that doesn't mean we haven't stopped looking.

 “Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities.”  – Terry Josephson