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7 Characteristics to Mark Your Spot

Management is somewhat like technology, as soon as you get accustomed to a specific process then someone comes along and re-invents the whole system and we suddenly find ourselves having to adapt, learn or re-tool new managerial methods and executive strategies.  Thankfully it doesn’t happen as often as the changes we witness every 24 hours in the world of technology…but we are starting to see an increased rate of modifications to management styles in order to adapt to an ever-changing global market and to appease the public eye that is more adamant about transparency at all levels.

Well, I propose that these following seven characteristics will help lift your management style to an advanced level – not just in your management position, but across your whole organization.  I’ve bulked these characteristics together in what I call the “X Characteristics” and they serve as the foundation to the information I share through my blog “X…Marking Your Spot.”  So, if you really want to mark a spot in your organization, implement these characteristics and you will begin to see a new level of activities and responses that will keep you in sync with your supervisors, employees and others as the world enters into this era of the new normal:

  1. eXpress – You are seen by most of the world as ‘what you do’; so remember your actions are communicating the type of person you are to others.  What type of message you are conveying?
  2. eXcel – To be exceptional at what you do, you must be better than the rest and surpass the expectations of others.  What are you doing to excel as a manager?
  3. eXpect – Be on the lookout for issues to address; presume there will be challenges ahead and try to plan accordingly now so you can deal with them when they occur and then keep moving forward.  What can you expect to happen in the next week?  Next month?  Next Year?
  4. eXamine – Making decisions each day require you to study or analyze information on an ongoing basis – either consciously or subconciously.  You should take time to observe things carefully before reacting or making a decision.  What tools can help you enhance how you examine things?
  5. eXplain -Verbal communication with others sometimes is more effective if the message is plan and comprehensible.  You can score a lot of points with your workers if you simply offer reasons for the actions you are requesting.  What steps can you take to be certain your instructions to others are clear and understandable?
  6. eXplore – Being creative and innovative means you must explore for all possibilities.  Learn how to investigate issues systematically in order to remain objective keeping in mind that the purpose is to discover new information or confirm existing information.  How do you search for new and creative ways of doing things?
  7. eXceed – Push yourself to be greater than others and to become better than your best.  Go beyond the limits of your job description and make a positive, life-changing impact on those that are near you.  What can you do today to get out of your comfort zone and become exceptional?

Take a few moments to view the video, leave a comment below, and then begin marking your spot right where you are at…today.  Also, you can follow me on Twitter at @craigholloman.

Video:  The first portion of the video is credited to the National Association of Workforce Boards, an organization devoted to bettering our communities one day at a time.

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The Future Is Coming: Have a Policy for That?

For centuries, organizations have been extremely slow to adopt new or revised policies related to new processes, controversial practices, increased technologies and a host of other modern issues that seem to spring up more and more every day in the routine workplace operations.  To me, there’s only one thing worse than not having effective policies in place to address common employee issues…and that is having policies that you fail to follow and/or enforce.  For auditing purposes, it’s easier respond to a finding that says “no policy is in place” than it is to deal with the consequences of violating your own written words in what you say you will do.

There is a new, more competitive global market out there that is constantly evolving; and if we, as organizations, fail to modify or develop new policies to help monitor and promote specific workplace behaviors then your business could quickly be left in the dust by your competitors.  So, how can you stay ahead of the curve?  You must anticipate more and more changes will be required of your current policies as societal issues will force closer scrutiny of how organizations operate…and trust me, if you are lacking in any certain areas, then eventually you will be called out – either by headquarters, your own workforce, local government officials and/or the general public.

Therefore, if you haven’t already started considering policies to address the ‘new normal’ in conducting business, then you may want to start looking at the following areas now before even they become obsolete and are replaced by more advanced and complexed issues:

  • Digital Communication – If your business doesn’t already have a policy dealing with social media, then you are WAY behind the competition.  However, the social media trend is already here and happening right now.  What you need to begin to consider for the future is how you plan to police all forms of ‘digital communication’ from the organizational stand-point.  You need to think futuristic – because in the technology world, those futuristic ideas will pop up tomorrow.  Examples are Google Glass, telepresence robots, avatar technology, etc.
  • Cyber Security – Closely aligned with the rise of digital communications comes the rise of cyber crimes and cyber war.  How is your organization protected?  Your organization’s knowledge and information is a source of competitive advantage that will become increasingly difficult to protect as we see cyber attacks on information systems.  Expect to see upward trends in litigation surrounding cyber security and a push for increased government control.  Therefore, any policies you develop related to cyber security should be thoroughly researched and detailed to withstand any legal arguments.
  • Virtual Employees – With technological advancements in communication and connectivity you will see a significant rise in the use of virtual employees – those employees that work from home or some other location.  We’ve seen many businesses experiment and implement tele-commuting practices; however, I expect to see that trend develop to a whole new level as demand for more productive employees increase in ways that can provide greater cost-savings to the organization.  Being prepared to deal with such employment issues is critical to any organization that wants to remain in front of its competition.
  • Interactive Technology – Welcome to the world of FaceTime, Skype, video messaging and a host of other advanced interactive programs that allow you and your employees to speak face-to-face with others all over the globe.  Interactive programs such as these are projected to increase significantly over the next 5-10 years.  There’s already talk about a new and interactive LED-laden beer bottle – of all things!  So, it makes sense to get a handle on it now and begin to let employees know how you plan to utilize it to better the mission of the organization and what the consequences will be if its availability and usage is abused.  This tool is very closely aligned with digital communications; however, you may want to consider a separate policy that focuses on specific video technology uses – especially if your employees will be on a video channel with customers (or talking to a beer bottle).

Of course, these ideas are only a small fragment of what you can expect to see in the future.  As new and innovative processes are born, we all have to adapt – whether we want to or not.  That’s the name of the game…and the only way to remain competitive in this ever-changing world we live in.  So, consider other areas in the organization that may possibly need a policy revamp…such as, financial systems (because banking as we know it today will be obsolete soon), purchasing and shipping systems (because we will trend toward a more environmentally conscious society), employee benefits and eligibility issues (because definitions to ‘family’, ‘dependents’, etc. are already changing every day) and there’s a host of other issues.  So, begin to think ahead and get your team together to explore ways your business can be prepared for when the future does arrive.

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Transparency: How Can You See It?

transparencyOver the past several years in the public and private organizational worlds, there has been an increasing cry for transparency in how decisions are made and carried out.  There are thousands of articles and books on the subject of transparency – especially related to the corporate environment and government sectors – that promote the implementation of transparency methods at all levels of the organization.  And although I am not a research scientist nor have I spent much time in reviewing the implications of transparency, it doesn’t take much to recognize that using the word ‘transparency’ in your organizational communication is viewed as a positive characteristic in the eyes of the general public.  However, as a leader and a manager, I really struggle with what level of genuine transparency can really be achieved before it becomes just another manipulation tool to persuade the perception of others.

For an organization, one definition of transparency says it is basically a metaphor implying visibility in contexts related to the behavior of individuals or groups.  Another business definition says transparency is a lack of hidden agendas and conditions…and also it can be considered an essential condition for a free and open exchange whereby the rules and reasons behind regulatory measures are fair and clear to all participants. Now, maybe it’s just me…but when was the last time “rules of regulatory measures” seemed clear to you?  In some instances like this, even if all the information is published and made available for everyone to see…it is still difficult to comprehend exactly what is occurring.  So, do you think managers who put out such information purposefully do so with the intent to confuse us or make it difficult to understand?  Do you believe that when a company says it is making decisions in a transparent fashion for employees to see how decisions are made…that those same employees are actually seeing everything there is to see?

As leaders, one of our challenges within the organization is to change the behavior of our employees, as needed, in order to reach our intended goals and objectives.  Therefore, if leaders are aware that the decisions and actions being taken are going to be transparent to their employees, then leaders will take additional time to carefully plan how to be “transparent” in order to best change those behaviors that will move the organization toward its goals.  So…is that using transparency skills or manipulation skills?  That’s a good question and definitely an area I plan to explore and research in the future.  But for now…here are just a few ways a manager can best display transparency in carrying out his or her responsibilities:

  • Be honest about what you know…and what you don’t know
  • Be responsive to inquiries from your employees…and communicate information regularly
  • Really listen to what your employees have to say…without interjecting your own opinion
  • Be open about plans for the future…and how those plans may affect your employees

These four simple actions will speak volumes to your employees and will move you forward in being more transparent, as well as a more trusted and respected leader within your organization.  Take time this week to look at ways you can modify some of the small things you are currently doing in order to become more transparent to those around you as you mark your spot.  Give me your thoughts about transparency…is it real or fake?  Is it good or bad?  Is 100% transparency even possible for a company to attain?  Leave your comment below and have a great day!

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Workforce Planning: Your Blueprint to Success

planningIn the aura of workforce and economic development, we always hear about workforce planning and how various entities are heavily involved in developing planning tools to help existing businesses and to recruit new businesses to their respective communities.  However, when you think about it…’what the heck IS workforce planning?’  Many businesses are conducting workforce planning without even really knowing that it is occurring – it’s embedded in the grain of the organizational operation.  Most workforce plans are written documents, policies, etc., but unfortunately many managers just tend to “wing it” when it comes to organizing the work schedule of his or her employees.  Hopefully, this article will help you to understand how important workforce planning is to your business…not just for the HR department, but for the organization as a whole.  So, regardless if it’s a call center, a restaurant, grocery store, manufacturing plant or a global corporation…workforce planning is critical in helping your business in the following areas:

  • Responding to Customer Demands – Your organization must be adequately staffed to be able to respond to your customers in a timely manner.  Therefore, management must plan to have enough workers on duty to meet your customers’ demands at all times.  That means, you must know the high traffic peaks and low traffic peaks of your business; you must know the volume of incoming calls and the time frames that you will receive the highest number of calls; you must have workers stationed at the cashier’s desk so that paying customers can checkout when they are ready to do so.  All of these steps and many others, depending on your type of business, will make huge strides in your workforce planning so that it will be efficient and effective.
  • Managing Organizational Costs – Salaries and wages of your workers will most likely be one of your highest costs in the organization.  Therefore, it is vital to have controls in place that prevent these costs from spiraling out of control.  Effective workforce planning means finding that optimal balance in making sure you have just enough workers on duty at any given time to meet the organizations objectives.  Too many workers on-site can result in unnecessary wage costs and too few workers on-site can result in an increased level of unsatisfied customers.  So it is very important to gather information and data so you can plan and schedule your workforce accordingly.
  • Adapting to Needed Changes – If you have a workforce plan in place, your business can more easily adapt to changes as they are needed within your organization.  For example, if your business is preparing to implement new technology or software systems, a proper workforce plan will help you to predict the time and cost savings that can be made and allow you to adjust staffing levels.  Without an effective workforce plan, then you will be operating on a trial and error basis with a high risk of wasting precious resources as you go through the organizational change.
  • Training and Re-Training Workers – Workers must be fully trained to do the job they have been tasked to do.  This is management’s responsibility to see that workers are adequately equipped with the skills needed to successfully complete their assigned tasks.  Workforce planning allows managers to identify skill gaps and areas of needed training in order to improve overall performance and/or productivity.  Careful workforce planning to meet these training needs will ensure that your workers are trained appropriately.
  • Identifying Inefficiencies – A workforce plan will help managers visualize how available labor resources are being utilized.  This will assist the organization in focusing on areas that are most costly to the company and develop practices that can reduce or eliminate wasteful spending, especially as it relates to salaries and wage costs.  Using an effective workforce planning document in this instance can also encourage more creative thinking that may result in new and innovative techniques being developed that will make the organization more competitive.

Regardless of the type of business you manage, if you have employees – then you should have a workforce planning tool in place that will allow you to make the best and most informed decisions about the operations of your organization.  This tool will help streamline operational practices and make your company more efficient in multiple departments and move you one step closer to marking your spot in the industry.  How is your organization’s workforce planning tool impacting the bottom line?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.  And be sure to follow me on Twitter here.

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Listen Up: Local Is Out – Regional Is In

Many years ago, communities all across this great country thrived on providing quality jobs, superior craftsmanship and secured lifetime employment for its citizens.  As a teenager, if I wanted a job, then I just had to ask someone in my neighborhood and within a day or two I would be working at the local mom and pop store helping stock shelves, serve food or repair a lawn mower.  There were no applications, no background checks, no drug tests and certainly no requests to view my Facebook page.  My how times have changed!

Through technological improvements, stronger regulations, free trade agreements around the globe and a greater cry for transparency in all aspects of business, the local mom and pop shops have been quickly overshadowed and absorbed by major conglomerates with a focus on gaining a top position in their respective industry and they bring a lot of money to the table to make that focus a reality.  All of us have seen this transformation occurring over the last 20 years or more; however, for whatever reason…townships, cities and even counties have failed to recognize that operating solely within their own demographic boundaries is not going to promote their community to the next level in economic development.  The answer:  expand, expand, expand.

If your community is going to be successful at bringing in new jobs, increasing living wages, enhancing the quality of life and marking its spot in this globally competitive world, then you have no choice but to network with your surrounding communities…to expand…to think and compete on a ‘regional’ level.  Again, this will mean sharing of resources – money, capital, labor – to attract the type of companies you want residing in your area.  This type of transformation brings with it a whole new set of challenges, naturally.  But…local officials need to quickly realize that we are no longer competing with the town that’s 30 miles away or the State adjacent to us….we are now competing with China, India, Mexico, Canada and the rest of the world.

If your community fails to expand and develop regional goals and objectives for its economic development and workforce development initiatives, it will be left in the dust and eventually become non-existent.  So, what can you do?  Erase geographical boundaries, merge planning groups together that have a common goal, market the assets that are bountiful within an expanded region (not just in your local municipality), change your mindset that you are no longer competing with your neighbor – you’re now competing with whole countries, identify and promote a special niche that only your region can provide, seek out challenges and opportunities to expand “outside the box,” and last, but certainly not least, equip your regional workforce with transferable skills that can be adapted to meet any organizational need.

Open a dialogue with your community leaders and encourage them to help your region mark its spot by bringing together all stakeholders – including representatives from existing businesses and industries – to develop regional plans on how to rise above the status quo and become more competitive in the global market.  There are many examples out there of just how communities have successfully developed regional initiatives.  Do your research, ask questions and get involved in making your region the best it can be.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment or examples on what your community is doing.  Also…you can follow me on Twitter here.

Photo Credit:  CNN

 

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The WIB: Your Community’s Greatest Economic Asset

workforceIf you don’t already know, every community in the United States is associated with a Local Workforce Investment Board, commonly known as a ‘WIB’.  These are regional entities created to help implement the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and to direct federal, state and local funding toward workplace training and workforce development initiatives.  The Workforce Investment Board members are appointed by local elected officials to represent specific areas of interest with at least 50% of the WIB’s membership coming from representatives of private businesses.  Other designated seats are for representatives of workforce agencies, labor unions, educational institutions and a host of other workforce-related organizations.

If you are a workforce development or economic development professional, then it is critical that you be aware of your local WIB and its members.  This body is a driving force of regional development planning and provides employment and training services to citizens within its service area.  One important aspect of the WIB and the Workforce Investment Act is the mandate to provide oversight of a One-Stop Career Center system where jobseekers can gain employment skills, develop career pathways and connect to multiple workforce programs with a goal of gaining new or better employment positions at a higher wage.  These “One-Stop Centers” consist of virtually every available workforce-related program, i.e. unemployment insurance programs, vocational rehabilitation, youth programs, older worker programs, education and training institutions, and many others.

Within your community, the WIB is charged with the responsibility of meeting labor demands for the skills employers need today and in the future.  Therefore, the organization has valuable data that guides the training and development needs of its citizens to equip them with the necessary skills needed most by businesses and industries.  In addition, most WIBs have very innovative strategic plans related to high-demand, high-wage positions.  This information is utilized by local educational institutions for planning curriculum and designing training classes to meet the WIBs strategic goals.  To facilitate job growth, the WIB also works in collaboration with local economic development entities so that prospective companies being recruited to the local area will have an insight on the type of workforce that is currently available, and more importantly, how that workforce can be quickly re-tooled in a different skill or trade in order to meet service and/or production expectations.

Take a moment this week to locate your local WIB and nearest One-Stop Career Center so you will be aware of the invaluable job-related services available right in your own community.  You can find more information on the workforce investment system by clicking here.

Photo Credit:  California WIB

 

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3 Myths of Unemployment Insurance

unemployment-numbersMost all of us at one point have received unemployment insurance or know someone close that has received unemployment benefits.  These benefits serve a great purpose as a temporary measure to help individuals and families bridge the gap between jobs.  However, there are a lot of misconceptions about unemployment compensation – what it is, where it comes from, and so forth.  But first, let’s see how this benefit came into being.

The idea of unemployment insurance in the United States originated in Wisconsin in 1932 and quickly expanded to 50 state unemployment insurance programs plus one each in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Through the Social Security Act of 1935, the federal government effectively encouraged the individual states to adopt unemployment insurance plans.  So, as workers lose their jobs or are given layoff status for a period of time, then these funds are available to assist them with living expenses while they search for new employment.  It is classified as a social welfare benefit.

Unfortunately, through my experiences in working with workforce development I have seen a significant increase of individuals who abuse the system so they can receive unemployment compensation while they basically stay at home and watch television.  Whereas, there are many hardworking individuals who have utilized the benefits properly to help them quickly get back on their feet and return to the ranks of the working world.  Here are some of the major misconceptions or myths related to unemployment benefits:

  • It’s My Money – No, it’s not.  Most states have a law requiring employers to pay into an unemployment insurance fund based on the size of the company they operate and the number of workers employed.  These funds are mainly assessed by taxing the employer – not the worker.
  • I am Entitled – No, you’re not.  Just because you are unemployed does not entitle you to unemployment benefits.  Normally, these benefits are reserved for qualified workers who lose their jobs due to no fault of their own – meaning they were laid off or downsized due to other reasons.  If you are terminated for just cause or you decide to quit your job, more than likely you will not be qualified to receive unemployment benefits because your employment ended based on your own actions and not some other factor.
  • I Can Stay Home and Get a Check – No, you can’t.  Most states are cracking down on those who abuse the system by reporting false information related to their job search and/or work status.  There are specific deadlines and criteria to receiving unemployment insurance benefits including the filing of an application, notifying the state on a regular basis that you are looking for work and the possibility of paying back benefits if it’s discovered that you’re working ‘under the table’ or are reporting fraudulent information.

Hopefully, you will never need to utilize these benefits but it’s good to know there is help available in the event you ever find yourself unemployed and in need of financial assistance.  So, let’s educate and inform others about the true purpose of this unemployment system and move forward in getting people re-employed as quickly as possible.  What are your thoughts about unemployment insurance benefits?  Let me know by leaving a comment…and take time to follow me on twitter at @craigholloman.

 

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