Corporations in virtual worlds

There has been a fair amount written over the last couple years of corporation running public presentations and employee communication sessions in virtual world such as SecondLife. Some of the largest users have been IBM, Sun Microsystems and Cisco, however most fo this work seems to have been public type presentations.

A couple of weeks ago Nortel conducted internal presentation using a prototype “virtual mixed-reality world”. This environment joined together several technologies such as voice, corporate security and identity management.

Everything was linked to our telecom infrastructure, corporate security and identity management systems. In other virtual reality experiences, like Second Life or multi-player on-line gaming systems, you need to go into their footprint and are limited by their capabilities. For example, although a name may be attached to an Avatar, you have no way of really knowing who that individual is in the real world. Yesterday, the virtual experience (complete with high-quality spatial audio) became part of our own IT ecosystem.

What will be interesting is how these environments scale, which is something Second Life has struggled with for years. Where each island (read server) is limited to about 50 simultaneous users which makes management of large scale events very difficult.

However these types of technologies (telepresence, virtual worlds etc) once mainstream will have a profound impact on the way organisations operate in the future, think learning and collaboration.

Innovating to Reboot

Over last several months I have gone through several changes in my life which has resulted in me reviewing many things.

I have been struggling with how to conduct this process, but I figured it is a bit like a reboot but I can’t really turn myself off and on again like a computer now can I. Then I remembered the 10 areas for innovation from Doblin, while designed for product and organisational innovation I figured it might also work for me to complete my “reboot” process, which in some part is a review of my personal brand.

The 10 areas for innovation are split into 4 main categories; Finance, Process, Offerings & Delivery, below I have outlines some of my initial thoughts on how they can be applied to a personal reboot.

Finance

The finance has two components your business model and you networks/alliances.

The first part business model, covers how you make money. Can you change this? Supplement it? Begin consulting or take a full time role in a company. If you are a consultant, could you create a “product” out of your knowledge and sell that on top of your billable hours, this sort of decision allows you to make money while not actually out working. Remember that this decision will either influence or be influenced by the rest of the innovation areas. For example it is not very good if you want to be a consultant but are not involved in a professional network.

The second covers your social/professional networks and alliances and what new arranges you could make for mutual benefits. Are there new or different groups you could get involved with? Could you take a more active role in an existing network? Involvement in networks and alliances increases your visibility and this will in time translate to additional work and income.

Process

The process section covers both enabling and core processes. Enabling process look at how you support core processes, for example time management, exercise, and social activities. Review these processes; can you modify or update to help support your new direction, will an update open the doors to a new direction? Remember if your enabling processes are not supportive of your overall requirements then you quite possibly will fail or not operate at 100% efficiency.

Following your enabling processes you now need to review your core processes. Your core processes are the things that make you and your offering function, for innovation here look at ways you can create new value, do you need to update your education, or if you are a consultant/product provider how about some aggressive volume/pricing/delivery contracts?

Offerings

The offerings area starts to get a little more complex, this area covers your performance, your systems or services. How can you innovate these fundamental items so as to modify what you deliver? Examples are can you adjust your product or service offerings and maybe package as a series of deals, example IT consultants could provide proactive system health check services instead of after the even reactive services. Think outside the box here, the more ideas the better.

Delivery

Having relooked at your revenue streams, processes and offerings, it is now time to look at how you deliver these offerings to the marketplace, in marketing speak this is your “Go To Market” strategy. Essentially you are looking at how you take your offerings to market. Examples if you physically visit clients can you do more virtual or remote work to allow more freedom? How to you communicate your offerings? Have you updated your resume, your web sites, brochures, blog etc. Do you need to update your wardrobe to reflect your new offerings? Do you need to market yourself as a brand? If you are now a brand make sure you pass the 15 words or less contest challenge to describe yourself & your brand. In fact if you follow Tom Peter’s advice on creating Brand You, you will most likely have rebooted yourself.

While I have looked at using the 10 areas for personal innovation, managers and leaders could do the same to reboot their teams or departments.

Hiring 2.0 is catching on

One of the problems of being immersed within an industry is you can quite often see things, the talk/blog about them a long time before real business actually takes these things on board.

Yesterday Stephen Collins shot me a note with a link to a post by Shel Israel on the Red Couch about Hiring 2.0.  My first reaction was, “So What? We’ve been talking about this for soooo long now” but then I realised that this is an example of the future of recruiting in practice, further Shel provides some good insight into the recruitment process.

At a basic level Shel states that the recruitment process needs to be transparent on both sides of the fence so that a better match is found. A great summary is in these 2 paragraphs:-

On the recruiting side of the table, people act as if this were the one company existing in harmonic bliss. There is no discussion of politics layoffs ridiculous customer or management demands. No one warns you that your co-worker has certain hygienic deficiencies The perspective employer is of one mind and voice and everyone working there seems delighted with the choreographed employee dance steps.

Both sides make decisions based on subtitles of what is not said in the recruitment ad or on the resume of what is not shown during the company tour.

A final thought from Shel:-

Ultimately, social media can not only restore the humanity to human resources. It can make the entire recruiting-hiring process a more accurate matchup at lower cost. Why would any company not move in this direction?

I fully support the use of social media to restore the human side of HR I would temper this in that Recruiters/Managers need to remember  that they are seeing the human side of a candidate. This means you are now seeing the personal lives of the candidate in a way that has never been possible. This means you will likely see and read things about their personal lives that you might or might not agree with. The trick is to understand which of those items will influence their ability to do the job?

8 random facts about me

I have been watching this meme float around the Internet for a few weeks or is it months, well not to worry, anyways a couple of days ago it hit me when Alison Young tagged me.

So the background/rules:-

  1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  2. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
  3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So here we go 8 random facts about me:-

  1. I lived in Papa New Guinea when I was 2 while my Dad worked on one his archaeological digs, I even have a vague memory of some events.
  2. I have traveled to more countries & done more sight seeing by myself then with other people. Unfortunately it is not the best way to sightsee, for example walking the Great Wall of China alone watching mist rising over the mountains while the rain gently falls all around you is an amazing experience, but better if I had been able to share it with someone else.
  3. I never got a university degree. Generally this is not an issue, other than for recruiters who tend to look at job applicants in a ticker box fashion.
  4. For about 5 years I suffered on and off from depression, but quite possibly I have suffered for longer.
  5. I absolutely, hands down, no contest love the snow and skiing. I might never make an Olympic ski team but I tend to be happiest in the mountains surrounded by snow.
  6. I love to cook. There is not a lot better than cooking up a superb meal, well yes when you do it with friends.
  7. I do not do details. Of any sort.
  8. As a kid I was heavily involved in the Scouting movement and am a Queens Scout.

I’m tagging the following lucky souls, if you have done it let me know:-

Hiring failures

This morning I wasted invested in reviewing a great site providing advice candidates. The advice. what NOT to do within the hiring process. The site Not Hired.

To quote their site:-

We are a group of HR monkeys and hiring managers who have worked with some of the largest search engines, vertical portals, and social-networking sites on the Internet, as well as for hardware and software manufacturers, universities, federal agencies, and accounting and consulting firms. In our jobs, we see thousands of cover letters and resumes every month. Some of them desperately need to be shared ;-)

If you come across a cover letter, resume, or job posting that you think everyone would enjoy, please send it along! We love user submissions and will post (anonymously, of course!) anything that makes us laugh.

Some of the ones that made me laugh:-

I hope you enjoy the laughs.

Personal productivity and motivation

Over the last couple of weeks I have had two discussions on productivity that struck home. recently.

Firstly how for many people they only get things done when there is a negative outcome for not doing things, ie they lack motivation. For example self financial fines or performance rating by managers. But what happens to the self employed consultant or small business owner who “kicks their butt”? Well how about a Personal CEO?

Sounds like a good idea, but unless you can afford to hire one it ain’t going to happen. Hence, my excitement when I found The Printable CEO. A series of free downloadable forms designed to keep you focused on your productive outcomes. Forms provided include:-

The forms are very clean and simple making them easy to use, for example below is a picture of the Concrete Goal Tracker:-

The other discussion was around setting appointments for yourself to complete tasks. Many people do this, but then ignore the appointment because they are doing something else that is deemed more important. This is a very bad habit as the more you do it subconsciously value of these appointments diminish as your brain knows you are “lying” to it and eventually it will impact all of your goals.

Like most people I tend to use the setting myself an appointment for my own personal goals. You know the type the ones that really help you get through life, exercise, self reflection, planning, time with family, paperwork etc. Hence my excitement about finding this post on ZenHabits (via LifeHacker) which provides some great tips for managing your personal goals:-

1. One goal at a time.
2. Make sure you really want it.
3. Make it your top priority.
4. Reduce your commitments.
5. Keep it simple.
6. Stay focused.
7. Block off time.
8. Make it your most important appointment.
9. Show that you’re serious.
10. Find your time wasters.
11. Make it a part of your daily or weekly routine.

5 Ways to Engage Employees

Over the last few days there has been a really stir over Jason Calacanis‘s “Fire non Workaholics” statement. While he has updated the words in his post (completely I disagree with his first version) I feel the bottom line message is still there. Jason wants his employees to be engaged and committed with him on the journey of his company, what CEO wouldn’t? But a large majority of employees will not be fully engaged or committed to a company without a reason. As a CEO, manager or leader you need to provide the right environment.

So here are five ways to engage your employees:-

  1. Show you care about them as a person, take 5 minutes each day to get to know one of your employees. You need to understand them, their struggles, frustrations and desires both professionally and personally.
  2. Invite them to join you and your organisation in doing something meaningful.
  3. Once you have invited them to something meaningful make sure you provide individuals goals. But not just any goals, sexy goals! They need be a driving force, give your employees chills down their spine when they talk or think about them. Your employees need to be able to deeply connect to their goals.
  4. Ensure timely recognition of performance, not just at an annual performance review. Send a quick handwritten note to someone who has delivered, not just above & beyond, or who has had a hard day.
  5. Provide your employees with extra responsibilities, allow them to grow and explore new areas of personal and professional growth. This is easy if you have completed step 1.

Once you have engaged employees then they will be fired up about your organisation and its goals. They might even act as workaholics for a period of time. But ensure this is balanced so they do not burn out, otherwise they will then disengage. By the way if you have completed step 1 above you won’t let them burn out because you will see and treat them as people, not machines.

Finally to quote Sir Richard Branson:-

“Loyal employees in a company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders. The process sounds easy but it’s not, and it has defeated some of the bigger organisations of the twentieth century.”

Zoho launches Zoho People for the SME market

A couple of days ago SaaS vendor Zoho launched their latest product Zoho People, designed for small to medium sized organisations. The product has 5 modules up front:-

    Organization Module:
This module is used to define the structure of your organization including departments, designations/titles and also the Org Chart.

Recruitment Module:
The Recruitment module eases the hiring process in an organization. It automates the steps involved between searching a candidate from resume database to hiring him an employee. This module also lets managers raise job requirements and admins post openings on the website.

Forms Module:
The Forms module has a set of pre-created forms (mini-applications) for common tasks in an organization like filing expense reports, reporting leave etc. With Zoho Creator integration, this module lets admins create new forms or customize existing forms and make them available to all employees.

Checklist Module:
This module lets admin automate business processes and define the flow based on conditions. Tasks can automatically be assigned to users or groups based on defined flow.

Self Service Module:
This module acts as a self-service module for Employees and Managers. All the employees have access to this module. Managers can define job openings and organize their team structure. Employees can submit information to the HR department using the forms defined by the HR team (like submitting an Expense Report or informing about a leave etc).

Roles and Permissions :
This module is used by admin to define fine grained access for different roles based on permissions – which drill down to field level, action level and form level.

The product is free for less than 10 users and will require a monthly fee (approx $50pa/employee and $50/admin) for larger organisations. You can take an high level review of the product on the Screenshot tour or on the video tour.

The UI looks very clean and reasonable easy to use, however it was still easy to get lost in setting up my account. Zoho have packed a good number of entry level features in to the product which will definitely get HR managers to consider the product. In fact many of these features are included in any phase 1 HRIS deployment. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to cover the full product at this stage to determine the real depth or the flexibility of modules such as recruitment. However with the inclusion of Zoho Creator and the Checklist module organisations should be able to build out any missing the functionality.

Zoho claims the product has zero installation, while this is correct from a technical point of view, the implementation/deployment still needs to be executed. Any HRIS consultant will tell you it is in the implementation is where HRIS projects fail, not that the products features are lacking.

Overall a very interesting development in the HRIS SME marketplace and I would agree with other commentators, organisations like WorkDay, Taleo, SuccessFactors etc need to keep en eye on what is happening with Zoho People. Yes I know those others are focused on the larger end of town but the midpoint is where the real battle could be played out.

Another thought. I could see consulting opportunities here to help implement Zoho People in to SME organisations.

Further coverage:-

Fire non workaholics?

Oh man what a storm.

Jason Calacanis has triggered quite a storm in the tech community with his post “How to save money running a startup (17 really good tips)“. Overall the tips are very very good, but the one that caused a lot of the stir was:

Fire people who are not workaholics. don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or stabucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

As you can see Jason edited the statement after the storm, but the damage was done. Duncan Riley seemed to be the first big name to take offense with his post on TechCrunch. Well after that is seems to have been on for “young and old“:

So now where? My thoughts.

  1. Burn rates matter to all companies, startups need to watch them a little more closely than established ones. But is wouldn’t hurt established firms to be a little more careful with their money either.
  2. Good people make or break a company.
  3. Engaged employees make or break a company.
  4. Having to replace employees costs you lots of money.
  5. Not everyone wants to or should have to work in a startup. The reserve is also true.

Jason is right that employees who love their work tend to produce more than ones who turn up just for a pay check or are disengaged. But Duncan is right you can’t just fire someone who is not in love with the job to the point of being a workaholic. Don’t hire them to start with! Hiring the wrong people will kill any company and in a startup wrong people means that the owner/founder/CEO has screwed up.

If you do have someone who was all fired up and now isn’t, it is again most likely the owner/founder/CEO’s fault. Why? Because something has changed and they did not see it. Has the employees personal situation changed, or are they no longer in love with your idea, what has happened? Find out, try to fix it otherwise it will be far more expensive to fire them and rehire.

In summary the trick is when hiring make sure you hire correctly up front, that way you won’t need to fire anyone.

UPDATE: Another Aussie perspective from stilgherrian. Also this is a very complex and difficult issue to cover I have lots of other thoughts just not the time to write them all down.

Carnival of HR

It’s time for another Carnival of HR. Ok don’t leave you might learn something.

Gautam Ghosh (who seems to be everywhere these days) hosted the long running Carnival of HR over on his blog.  There are links to 8 or 9 great blog posts from all over the global, including a audio post. Even on of this blog’s favourite guys Wayne Trumel, played with a post on Management Issues about generations gaps in the workplace. Other topics covered are performance management, recruitment and technology, and management of virtual teams, very important in this web working world so many of us are in.

You can follow the carnival over to Three Star Leadership for March 19th.