Are you thinking about the future of work?

Cover of "The Future of Work: How the New...

Cover via Amazon

There is no doubt the workplace is changing dramatically.  Here a few things you need to know about the changing nature of work. Increasingly workers are Telecommuting, and communicating with managers, co-workers, customers and partners using Skype, Google chat, Yammer, and Instant Messaging.  Web workers source and deliver their work on the Internet. Knowledge workers can work for different organisations around the world, without ever setting foot in the organisation HQ.  Increasing workers are being valued on their ability to contribute to team projects.  The person that can contribute the most is most likely the leader.  The future of work looks likely to be much less formal and hierarchical and much more performance driven.

Added to this is the rise of the Green Economy and the creation of a new set of Green jobs, related to environmental, and community sustainability.  The drive for clean energy and consumers’ desire to high end high tech goods will impact on the types of industries and jobs that establish themselves in your community.  New jobs are likely to be based in knowledge work, which is good for maths and science graduates, but also for those who can communicate across the medium of web technology. Health and education jobs will grow, as new technologies are adopted in these domains.

The essential skills for the knowledge work include the ability to manage the customer, organise people on mass, (Facebook fans), digital community management, project management, management of teams or teams of teams (tribes).  Lesser work will be contracted out to people who will work for less than you or I.

Organisational and personal values will collide. The Internet brings greater transparency in personal and business life. This will impact on organisations’ ability to attract high quality workers. Employees of the future will be more inclined to measure doing well, by doing good.   Their work will be much more visible to family and friends and workers will want to build a reputation for good work, in worthy organisations.  Personal values are more likely to affect career choices., so values such as honesty, integrity, responsible citizenship, respect of others, and accountability will be key drivers at work.

How will people interact at work? Knowledge workers will not exclude older workers, they will remain in the workplace, in part-time and flexible roles, consulting, contributing on a project by project basis.  Generation Xers and Y will be less loyal and more mobile.  Management will become more conservative as decision making is more transparent.  Decision making is likely to be more co-operative and less hierarchical.  Everyone, management, customers, workers, suppliers  will be connected professionally and socially.  Managing information and ideas across multiple channels will be a key business challenge. Identifying the source of original ideas will be a high priority. The boss will not longer be able to steal their employees ideas and pass them off as their own.

Disney was right, the world will become smaller, with technology breaking down geographical and societal barriers.  Workplaces will become much smaller, as they are currently costly to establish and maintain. More workers are likely to work from home, the coffee shop or local technology hubs. Houses will be smaller, but more high tech, with careful management of energy and connectivity.

Learning will be on tap and personal.  That is not to say personal interaction is not important, but it will have strong online elements, especially the tools of learning.  We will be able to learn anywhere, anytime, and this is going to make us more useful to our organisations.

What does this mean for us as workers, learners, managers and coaches? It means we need to anticipate constant change in our work and workplaces in the next 10 years. Anyone who works in a place that “stays the same” will be unique, and quite possibly vulnerable. We need to consider how to establish and integrate our own brand and brand promise in the new world of work. We also need to consider how our values stack up in a more transparent world.  Is our management style one, we would want our friends and family to know about and respect?  We need to become masters of project management and problem solving. To be flexible, self aware, and self managing. We will need to be able to take responsibility for our actions, and be producers of value rather than consumers of workplace resources.

There is plenty for us to think about in the next few years. Are you ready for the future of work?

Time: The Future of Work

The Future of Work by Thomas W. Malone.

Is collaboration tech bad for office autocrats too?

Posted in performance, workplace | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The value of good data in assessing our performance

Image from bernsteincrisismanagement.comAt the beginning of any project or strategy, we take time to set our goals and performance measures. The performance measures are important as they will reveal whether we are successful at delivering on our goals or not. When setting our performance measures, I suggest you adopt observable outcomes, those are things which are apparent in outcomes or behaviours rather than perceptions and beliefs. So for example, if you are setting performance measures to evaluate the value of a new strategy you would look to gathering data on specific outcomes, for example, increased productivity, quality or profitability. These outcomes are often measured against previous years data, and are easy to obtain. Gathering data on behaviors is a little more difficult, unless you have in place specific technologies to track buyer, employee or customer behaviour. The data can be gathered, but it takes more time and forethought to execute well. I do believe there is great value in this information and at least one of your performance measures should be based on behavioural data. What your customers, buyers, team or employees have done or can be observed doing. To gather this data you may need audits, snapshots of activity or reviews. One of the strengths of these methods of data gathering is removing the element of self interest, that skewers the final results.

Project and strategy leaders have a strong desire to look good, but this is a double edged sword. We can all be tempted to include in our data gathering, feedback that supports our own position. However, this self interested data will look out of place in the overall results if it glosses over apparent weaknesses. So stay professional and resist the temptation to gloss over the project weaknesses. If you try to skewer results it will be apparent to your audience and your reputation will be diminished.

It is from the weaknesses and less successful elements of the project that we learn and grow. One essential element in this high level activity of project or strategy evaluation is leading with a culture of collaboration and trust, encouraging open and honest conversation and constructive feedback. To do this have the project team look to the statistical data, and the behavioural data. As they have been closest to the project, they will provide invaluable insights into what has worked well, and what has not supported the project or strategy. You can then analyse this data and provide a plan for further improvements over the coming months. Presenting both the successes and weaknesses of your project or strategy together with a plan for improvement indicates a high level of professionalism and accountability.

Over the coming weeks, the 2011 data will start to flow in your direction, and as we move towards the end of the financial year, profitability will become a hot topic in many businesses and organisations. Due to your forethought, and prepared performance measures you will have a range of data to evaluate your project/strategy or team performance, and now is the time to gather that data together to build a credible evaluation. The next stage is to think carefully how to present your data to your stakeholders. As you do this, consider your audience and your purpose and ensure your presentation aligns with your organisational goals. In this way your data will be easy to understand, and your suggestions for further development more likely to be approved. Best of luck for the reporting season.

Posted in performance, Strategy, workplace | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From training person to personal trainer

evolution of training
Following on from Jess Suter’s PR tips, Christopher Barrat gives the community a few more pointers for a more consultative approach to training.
If learning and development professionals want to have a real impact on their businesses then there is a strong need to shift the emphasis from being course providers to being development consultants.
Many have already taken steps down this path, but simply calling yourself a ‘business partner’ – as many have – is simply not enough. A new mental approach is needed; a more rigorous honesty about your existing ‘brand’ and a more focused set of actions as to how you target your stakeholders.

The Adult Mentality

Before you embark on this journey, you need to make sure you have the right mental approach. HR is not alone in this challenge – many other functions such as procurement and logistics can also suffer from the ‘cinderella syndrome’. This is where a group is doing good and worthy work, you are putting in the hours and hoping to be recognised for your quality and diligence, and hoping that this will eventually win through and get you to the ball. It won’t work. Many trainers will be familiar with the ‘I’m ok/you’re ok’ concept as well as the parent/adult/child positions of transactional analysis.
“If learning and development professionals want to have a real impact on their businesses then there is a strong need to shift the emphasis from being course providers to being development consultants.
Many functions who get into the cinderella position can easily slip into the attitude of ‘poor me’. Likewise in transactional analysis mode you would be adopting the role of compliant child, with only the occasional kick up into the critical parent role when you have had enough. Getting the adult position is critical to having a consultative approach. Only when you are firmly in that mode of thinking will people take you seriously as a partner.

Work out your existing brand

Here is a simple test: imagine you were to ask a few of your customers to give three adjectives that describe how they view your service – what would they say? Would it be ‘dynamic, insightful and invigorating’? Or is it more likely to be ‘low-key, useful and bureaucratic’?
It is important to take a cold hard look at the brand you have internally with your customers. You may not have to do any massive research; most of your own people will already have a good idea what your brand is, even though they may not like it. Once you have a view of this brand, you can start to work on it – how would you like your brand to be?
This also helps calibrate the gap you may need to close – if the gap is big you may need to take it one step at a time. Imagine if Ryanair decided to launch a campaign to say how caring and considerate they were. It’s too big a gap to have credibility. These gaps can be closed, and it takes time and consistent effort. Once you have a clear view of your starting point, only then should you progress to the next stage.

Targeting your stakeholders

Armed with your key brand messages you can then start the task of targeting your stakeholders to get them to think of you differently. Start by mapping out all your key internal stakeholders in a grid that matches the impact they can have against the strength of your existing relationship. This will give you some names – and it has to be individual names not departments – in the box where they are high impact but you have low involvement. These then form the basis of your plan, and you target them with specific individuals and contact points so you do not leave anything to chance. This can sound a bit like Jason Bourne hunting the office corridors, and that is no bad thing. It’s a time-consuming task with a high-value pay-off, so it is worth doing with rigour.


The final piece in the consultative sell is to consult. That means you are keen to ask questions around their subject: don’t offer solutions too quickly – make sure you have really understood their needs even if they were not very clear to themselves. Likewise don’t be too quick to offer solutions that are clearly already in existence. You may not be able to make every course bespoke, but just showing that you have tweaked something specifically just for them will help enhance your brand as a valued consultant who listens.
“Few things destroy a consultative relationship faster than when all the high-level talk and discussion is let down by simply poor delivery.
Lastly you have to make sure your core product delivery is slick and effective. Few things destroy a consultative relationship faster than when all the high-level talk and discussion is let down by simply poor delivery. If you don’t believe your delivery team is operating well, then your focus should be on them first before you start upselling your relationship to the wider company.
The good news is that there are pockets of excellence already out there – it is certainly very possible to do. With the right mental approach, a clear brand to develop and a targeted audience, a consultative relationship can flourish.
Christopher Barrat is a motivational speaker and communications expert to those in the public eye. He can be contacted at
Posted in Education theory and design, performance | Leave a comment

Learning kindness

Cover of "On Kindness"

Cover of On Kindness

I recently read Ann Kerwhin’s, The Philosophers Column in the HERDSA news. Her topic was kindness, particularly educating for kindness.  She pointed to Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor, and  their book, On Kindness (2010) where they observed that wealthy productive nations now seem to value independence, self-reliance and competitive achievement over beneficence.  Kindness while covertly cherished is overtly undervalued.  Education programmes, particularly higher education do not pay much attention to developing kindness in their graduates.

I recognised that I have written about achievement, performance, independence and autonomy at length, but I have not written about learning for kindness.  I wonder, would our families, workplaces, communities and world, be better places if we learnt and overtly practiced and valued kindness? Let’s take kindness through the six dimensional model.

What do we know about kindness? What are they key concepts and principles? Kindness is not just a concern for others it is an action.  Kindness is derived from the word kin. Kin are any social group you belong to including your family, friends and communities.

Aristotle laid down the key elements of the concept of kindness. He explained it was an act of helpfulness to someone in need, given not for any advantage of the giver, but only to help the person in need.  This mean selfless giving, not self interested giving.  That distinction is important.

There are other concepts which are complimentary to kindness, sympathy, generosity, altruism, benevolence, humanity, compassion, pity, empathy, and open-heartedness.
What are acts of kindness? How do we recognise and experience kindness? What are kind actions?  Acts of kindness are primarily gifts, of time, support or resources to another person.  These gifts are made without an expectation of anything in return. We experience kindness when someone observing our situation or circumstances gives us something to help us.  They make it clear in the giving that they expect nothing from us. An authentic act of kindness is based on genuineness, and is not exploitive.

It is worth considering what kindness is not. It is not taking, rather than gifting. It is not expecting something in return for gifts given. It is not selfish but self less. So next time someone gives you something consider whether the gift is in fact kind or something else.

What values are present in kindness? The ethos of kindness lies in the values of caring and respect for others. I think there is a strong element of responsible citizenship in kindness.

How do we bring kindness into our own lives? Wenger has said we are social beings, possessed with feelings, social relationships and responsibilities. We also are observers of feelings, involved in social interactions, and in need of kindness.

This little video explains being kind to yourself.  The message is simple and the setting, in the snow with intelligent and loving horses, wonderful.

How do we bring kindness to the lives of others without being salutary or officious, or patronising?   In the book On kindness, the authors pointed out that, people need other people not just for companionship or support in hard times but to fulfill their humanity. Without kindness humanity becomes less human.  The trick behind kindness to others lies in the underlying values, your acts of kindness are acts of care and respect. They are authentic, and without expectation of something in return.

What do we need to be kind? What do we need to access, to evaluate and to share?  Surprisingly, very little.  You can give your time, your support, or tangible material things. Sharing what you have is an act of kindness. I was listening to the BBC yesterday, and a young squatter told of moving into an abandoned building as Spain becomes colder and he was not longer able to live on the streets. After he moved in he received furniture, food, and blankets from neighbours.  These are acts of kindness, and the essence of caring and respect for humanity.

How do we integrate kindness into our lives? Little by little, day by day, is the answer.   A well honed character, is practiced at kindness to themselves and to others.  A kind person is recognised and respected and they are essential for making our communities human and worth living in.

Kerwin, A. (2011) On Kindness. HERDSA News, September, 29-30.

Phillips, A., &  Taylor, B. (2010) On Kindness. New York: Farrar, Strausss and Giroux.

30 Minutes of Kindness:

Posted in performance, Values, workplace | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

5 ways to keep your rockstar employees happy

By Daniel Debow, Rypple Oct. 15, 2011, 9:00am PT 4 Comments

Rock on

The Googleplex, Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View California, is legendary for its perks. Employees have access to unlimited free meals, haircuts, dry cleaning, massages, and even onsite medical care.

Yet earlier this year, when Google interviewed its employees about what they valued most at work, none of these extravagant benefits made the top of the list. Neither did salary. Instead, employees cited access to “even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

Tangibles like salary and benefits aren’t enough to guarantee that your best and brightest creatives will remain engaged. Indeed, a recent landmark study by Arnold Worldwide of 3,000 employees and 500 executive leaders across a range of communication and advertising firms found that 30 percent of the advertising workforce say they’ll be gone from their job within 12 months.

Take Jill, an outstanding, experienced copy editor whom Agency X recently recruited at considerable expense from one of its chief rivals. Despite her outward success, she’s unsure how she’s performing, where she stands in the company, and how she fits into the overall goals of the agency. Her pay is great, she loves the Friday office happy hour, but over time, she finds herself feeling demotivated by the lack of communication, and checks out.

The loss of star performers like Jill doesn’t just leave a talent vacuum to fill; it also leaves a gaping hole in the bottom line. Indeed, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal calculated that it typically costs a company about half a position’s annual salary to recruit for that job ¾ and several times that if the position requires rare skills.

So how can your company keep its stars engaged? It comes down to creating a culture of communication — one in which employees know where the organization is headed, how they fit into these plans, and what’s expected of them. Here are a few key strategies your agency can employ to make this happen.

1. Create a culture of education

The average Starbucks barista gets more training in a year than the average employee in a communications company, according to the Arnold Worldwide study.

For employees, the single most important motivational factor was the ability to learn. Yet the study found a huge disconnect when it comes to perceptions about company training. While 90 percent of employees say they learn by figuring things out on their own, only 25 percent of executives think that employees learn independently.

To keep employees motivated, agencies need to build a culture of learning, where employees leave more enriched at the end of each day.

2. Provide regular, consistent feedback

Employee feedback is a critical part of the education process, and shouldn’t just be relegated to the annual review. To be effective, feedback needs to be specific and actionable. But that’s not always how it works.

In a study by Leadership IQ, 53 percent of employees said that when their boss praises excellent performance, the feedback does not provide enough useful information to help them repeat it. And 65 percent responded that when their boss criticizes poor performance, it doesn’t provide enough useful information to help them correct the issue.

Feedback, both positive and constructive, is most effective when given right away. Negative feedback given a month after the fact can lead to a passive-aggressive environment in which an employee feels powerless to act on the advice.

Think of it this way: no one wants to go a full day knowing their price tag was hanging from the back of their shirt, or the remnants of the salad they had for lunch were still stuck in their teeth. If an employee does something well, that activity should be encouraged. And if there’s room for improvement, they should be given the opportunity to learn for their next task.

3. Set time aside for weekly 1:1 meetings

At first, most employees and managers will cringe at the idea of yet another meeting. But instituting weekly 1:1 meetings can be the most important step you take to retaining your top performers.

In its quest to build a better boss, Google discovered that its worst managers weren’t consistent in their 1:1 meetings; some focused on meeting with people who were underperforming, while others met primarily with the top performers.

Consequently, Google implemented the best practice of 1:1 meetings with all team members.

These meetings can cover anything and everything ¾ from upcoming projects to the latest client news. With each week, discussions about goals, feedback, and concerns become a lot more natural ¾ unlike the awkward, starchy conversations during annual reviews. Over time, it becomes easier for both sides to raise potential problems and deal with them early on, before they fester into something destructive.

4. Manage the grunt work properly

Not every project is going to be awesome. That’s just the way business works. And chances are your employees understand this.

However, managers need to handle such projects responsibly and that means a few things. Boring projects should always be balanced with more stimulating work. Employees should always be told how any grunt works fits into the overall needs of the company (“If we do a good job on x, we’re hoping the client will give us their cool launch next year”). And specific parameters should always be set for the boring stuff ¾ meaning employees should always see light at the end of the tunnel.

5. Publicly acknowledge good work

All too often, managers see motivation in terms of financial compensation, but money is far from the only way to effectively reward talented employees. A 2009 survey by McKinsey Quarterly asked which incentives were the most effective in motivating employees. The top two responses were: “Praise and commendation from immediate manager” (67 percent), and “Attention from leaders” (62 percent).

Praise and commendation go a long way in making employees feel noticed and valued. And the impact of a pat on the back is multiplied when it’s done publicly. Through public commendations, employees not only feel the support and respect of their manager, but the entire organization as well (including top-level executives). Creating a framework for “social recognition” will encourage a culture of appreciation throughout your firm.

Keeping your rockstar employees on board has always been important, and don’t think that economic uncertainty will keep your employees around. Your company has worked hard to recruit some bright people and great talent; make sure an opaque work environment doesn’t drive them into the arms of your competition.

Daniel Debow is co-founder and co-CEO of Rypple, a social performance management platform.

Posted in performance, workplace | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

by Daniel Stamp

Mismanaged use of email, smart phones and a battery of new wireless organizers in the workplace and at home can cause a “Digital Malaise”. This is a feeling of being powerless and unable to keep pace, leading to skyrocketing stress levels and decreased productivity. By the time we learn to use the latest software program or tech device we feel pressured to upgrade to the newest version.

Today’s technology offers fantastic potential but many people find themselves controlled by it. If you aren’t careful technology can actually increase your workload rather than increase your productivity. It can cause you to forget the skills that help you cope, manage and lead – literally causing a skills amnesia.

Here are the five symptoms of Digital Depression:

Stressed by accessibility: Being constantly available by the latest wireless device, means being constantly interrupted. Each call or message you respond to is diverting your attention from your key priorities. The inability to “unplug” contributes to increased stress.

Insecurity due to Digital Darwinism: An anxious feeling based on the belief that a technological evolutionary process is taking place and only those who master every program, every upgrade and every gadget will survive.

Continuous partial attention: An inability to concentrate on one task until completion – brought on by a 24/7 world with shorter deadlines and a faster pace. Urgent matters take precedence over important matters and time isn’t taken to reflect on decisions or “sleep on it”. Personal productivity declines as a result.

Victim of Device Creep: The pressure to acquire the newest wireless all in one cell phone-digital assistant-remote control device-to augment existing collection of gadgets and toys, regardless of whether it enhances productivity.

Cognitive Interruptus: A state of ‘permanent interruption’. Whether it’s the phone your iPad, Playbook or email alarm, every interruption deters you from your daily plan, increases your workload and sense of anxiety.

Here are several cures:

  • Schedule time to unplug yourself from the job, to unwind and maintain a healthy balance in your life.

  • Invest in new skills training just as you invest in new hardware and software.

  • Always consider the cost/benefit and return on investment before purchasing new technology. You should be able to specifically define how the technology or device will make you more effective at your job.

  • Identify your priorities every day. Use these as the basis of your daily plan and stick to it
Posted in performance, Social media, workplace | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acheiving project success with programme management

Programme Management is the coordination, negotiation, mediation and monitoring of a large number of projects to ensure successful outcomes for all participants.  Internationally there are some large programme which require high level programme management.

Roger Chou in his recent post from the Project Management Institute highlights the value of good programme management.  He says,

“A report detailing the impact of the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition estimates that Taiwan brought in more than US$1 billion during the six-month event. These benefits were created by synergy, which was cultivated through centralized program management.

The event had an organizing committee, which was set up like a program management office (PMO). Endorsement from the International Association of Horticultural Producers (IAHP) gave the organizing committee the freedom and authority to be effective. IAHP provided the committee with clear objectives, which allowed committee leaders to establish concrete goals for meeting stakeholder expectations.

The exposition involved 377 projects and more than 23,000 participants. With so many stakeholders involved — all of whom were eager to stage events, exhibitions, shows and displays — the event’s success required all of their coordination and cooperation.”

Roger explains that all of these stakeholders’ concerns needed to be understood and met. To achieve this an organising committee was established which worked closely with local tourism and cultural bureaus, as well as the government. The committee had to negotiate, mediate and monitor the projects, and assist the stakeholders to achieve their own benefits, so as to maximize the synergy effect. The committee provided an overall strategy, values and principles to the programme. It was the committee that developed clear objectives for each individual project.

This is where our six dimensional model offers so much value.  It gives each project clarity, in terms of:

Knowledge: The ideas and information to be conveyed.

Skills: The capabilities required for project success.

Values: The do’s and don’ts of the project.

People: Who to work with, what relationships to form, who to communicate with.

Learn: What resources, and support are needed to bring about successful outcomes.  How are these support resources to be accessed and shared?

Integration: Successful integration within the whole programme.

Those who have developed project management skills can scale up their expertise to manage large programmes. However, the principles remain the same despite the size of the programme. The six dimensional model should give you confidence you can design a successful programme with ease.

Achieving Success through Program Management


Roger Chou, PgMP

 on September 27, 2011 11:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)

A report detailing the impact of the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition estimates that Taiwan brought in more than US$1 billion during the six-month event. These benefits were created by synergy, which was cultivated through centralized program management.

What do I mean by synergy? Cross-related projects benefit from efficiency and control when activities are combined rather than performed separately. The exposition is a good example of the kind of synergy that program management should bring — an example worth considering if you want to manage projects effectively within a program.

The event had an organizing committee, which was set up like a program management office (PMO). Endorsement from the International Association of Horticultural Producers (IAHP) gave the organizing committee the freedom and authority to be effective. IAHP provided the committee with clear objectives, which allowed committee leaders to establish concrete goals for meeting stakeholder expectations.

The exposition involved 377 projects and more than 23,000 participants. With so many stakeholders involved — all of whom were eager to stage events, exhibitions, shows and displays — the event’s success required all of their coordination and cooperation.

All of these stakeholders’ concerns needed to be understood and met. This was only possible through the organizing committee, which worked closely with local tourism and cultural bureaus, as well as the government. The committee had to negotiate, mediate and monitor the projects, and assist the stakeholders to achieve their own benefits, so as to maximize the synergy effect.

But it is not just strong, centralized management that ensures a program’s success. The program manger must also correctly identify clear objectives around which individual projects are organized.

As exemplified with IAHP and the committee, objectives of a program can only be defined from top to bottom, which requires a higher level of governance. Once the objectives of a program are set up, every project under the program shall be carried out in accordance with the objectives to ensure alignment between the execution and objectives.

What do you think? Does centralized management ensure a program’s success?

Posted in performance, Strategy, workplace | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment