Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


Candidate Screening by Video Technology Reveals Mixed Success

As global talent assessment experts, HRS has spent many years researching success of video technology use in screening.  We’ve reviewed dozens of platforms and learned from thousands of employers.  Recently, with the continued emergence of videoconferencing use in business, video skills gain importance.  However, screening platforms are still showing flaws.

The first major flaw lies in the difference between skills just being on camera as opposed to actually “addressing” the camera.  These two skills have little or no correlation between them.  Addressing a known audience can be far more comfortable than addressing an unknown (camera) and vice versa.  Even the company’s sales reps appear “frozen” and ill at ease in certain platform demos.   Videoconferencing typically allows the visibility of and interaction with an audience, a different dynamic altogether. As a regular speaker, I find it infinitely easier to “come alive” with dynamics when I have an engaged and participative audience.  A flat, unresponsive audience is a challenge, and often a burden, to an educator.  Entertainers sometimes enjoy that challenge, yet entertainers and educators are two different characters.  Consider the actual video skills requirements of the job, and align the screening dynamic with the job’s parameters.

The second major flaw lies in the platform’s validation.  Some platforms align with the proven concept that the best interviewers often are those who have the most practice. Sales and substance are two different concepts, and for many, these are sadly mutually exclusive.  We researched several platforms which have specifically positioned themselves to major market employers whose keys to success lie in turnover versus employee retention. Not all organizations are talent based. In fact, many large organizations rely upon “plug and play” capabilities which create sustainability without reliance upon specific talent.  The important takeaway here is to find a platform which aligns with your corporate goals for talent lifecycle. You may adopt more than one platform if you do not find an integrated solution.
 
The third major flaw is legal compliance.  While the federal and state governments are mandating appropriate timing to potentially discriminatory data collection, inappropriately deployed video screening can heighten risks of noncompliance.  Structure a program consistent, compliant and true to the job description for best protection. These are the same risks discussed in our teachings on social media use in screening.

The fourth major flaw lies in BFOQ test of reason.  Unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) is prominent, the screening technique is at risk.  If video skills are not necessary to the job description, do not consider video skills in the screening.  How people present in person, in writing, via telephone and via camera are all unique characteristics independent of one another.

HRS has pioneered telework principles and use of global technology for decades.  We understand the benefits and the risks. Many technology options are available, appropriate to individual job requirements.  Video may or may not be the solution, and please adopt the platform which truly represents your best interests.  We use video technology often… but selectively according to the actual job requirements and career path lifecycle.  Detailed research is available from HRS.

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 





Top 2011 Initiatives for HR Risk Management & Cost Savings

This year’s most popular goals of employers large and small are to manage new legal risks, reorganize staff for best efficiency/future growth, and manage human capital for improved cost savings.   The following checklist provides framework to suggested 2011 initiatives.
 
 

1. Identify and control emerging legal risks.

More than 20 areas of statutory and case law have changed in the last year alone.  Government audits can newly be random rather than triggered solely by complaint as before.  Fines are a vehicle for government fundraising.  Employers must not only get compliant as cost control but must also gain reasonable care certification from 3rd party expert analyst. New ISO practices are emerging for HR.  Discreet compliance reviews are available to provide essential investigation plus affirmative defense certification. Avoid using non-profits in this role as they are not lawfully eligible to advocate on your individual behalf and can only advocate for their memberships on the whole.
 

2. Reassess HR needs.

With the wealth of HR/OD resources available, the best way to safeguard your HR initiative is to ensure no idle time and to ensure you have secured the appropriate change management resources.  This is not a time for old school thinking and rote maintenance behavior.  This is time for invention and transformation. Have full time resources for full time needs maintenance.  Draw upon external experts to suggest and design change.
 

3. Enjoy the ROI, cost savings and future planning benefits of employee assessments.

Deploy testing that predicts employee performance and learning needs throughout the life cycle: pre-employment, advancement, change, trainability and exit, at a minimum. Personality profiles do not get that done.  In baskets, role plays and job simulations provide meaningful data.  Expect at least a 100:1 return on your investment.  Reject instruments that fall short.
 

4. Create and enforce a lifelong learning culture for leaders.

Leaders who burn out or who miss opportunities to transform others are toxic to your environment.  Leaders should be seen learning.  Trainers should be seen learning to train.  Leading and training are not “common sense.” Commitment to external education sources is critical, but speaker seminars are the least effect learning venue.  Consider learning workshops in your environment at which real-time case studies can be explored and resolved to better apply learning and safeguard time away from work.
 

5. Stay in touch with employees to monitor engagement, troubleshoot, facilitate and be proactive.

Proactive solutions are typically 5-10% the cost of reactive solutions.  Accept that what is past may or may not be prologue.
 

External resources can provide outstanding facilitation to these action items, and please think of HRS during your proposal process.  3rd party objectivity, specialist research, multi-employer relevant case studies and flex talent bring value added your internal time simply is not licensed to bring, no matter how competent and no matter how dedicated.  The collaboration between internal and external talent is a powerful force.


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, March 27, 2011

 





Sensitivity Creates Results In Business… Don’t Misinterpret It

Old school culture teaches us to toughen up, be impersonal and stay objective.  All of these behaviors remain critical to business success provided we do not overlook the value of passion, deep analysis, empathy and unwillingness to fail.  These are characteristics of sensitivity.

The team member who overanalyzes, scrutinizes intention, predicts behavior and takes it personally can be the team member who serves as a predictive bloodhound for business problems and who goes the extra mile to get results.  Lack of sensitivity often leads to lack of creativity, mediocre effort and lack of foresight. Resilience is key to sustainability.  The hypersensitive can be extraordinarily resilient. Coping with sensitivity requires enormous strength. 

In the popular de Bono Six Hats Thinking model, four of our six problem solving hats require sensitivity, “gut” reaction and emotional posture.  Understanding perspective of others is recognized as a key concept to negotiation, leadership, motivation, customer service, sales and comprehensive business communications.  Your company’s performance feedback system needs to appropriately value these organizational toolsets.

The next time a member of your team misinterprets sensitivity as a business weakness, set them straight.  Success is a longshot without it.


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, February 27, 2011

 





Social Media Investigations May Be Essential to Hiring and Can Be Conducted Lawfully

Some attorneys will advise employers to avoid using social media as a recruitment and screening tool.  The caution is wise; however, avoidance may be impractical, and the proper use of social media can most definitely pay off.  In many cases, we consider it actually necessary. While risks of unlawful use exist and need be avoided, bona fide occupational qualifications can be investigated through proper methodology.  The following 3 rules are set forth to simplify legal compliance.

1) Timing is everything.  The EEOC is often more concerned about the timing and outcomes of collecting data than the collection of data itself.  That is, we know certain visual characteristics when we interview or videoconference a candidate, yet premature collection and use of this data is considered unlawful “profiling.” The investigation of social media after interview is typically safer than prior to interview.  A company that shows reasonable care and great diversity in demographics and advancement provides substantially stronger affirmative defense than a company with insufficient diversity and/or without reasonable care compliance. Protected characteristics are found not only in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but also in the legal changes and state regulations emerging ongoing.
 
2) Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) are still considered a lawful job requirement subject to reasonable investigation. How a candidate presents his/herself to the general public and company stakeholders is a legitimate public relations and credibility concern.   While off duty behavior may or may not be appropriate to monitor and discover as a BFOQ, how a candidate chooses to be known on the Internet as searchable by customers, co-workers, competitors, associates, vendors, investors and other stakeholders, is certainly a BFOQ.  Such a presence affects on duty performance, especially when easily detected by search engine or links to professional or company presence.  A great job description and strong company policies will validate social media investigations.
 
3) Outsource investigation and/or control consistency and chain of information.  HRS policy establishment, training and candidate investigation services are currently booming.  While we are biased that no competitor meets our standards, please know resources abound for outsourcing implementation or procedural design as risk management. If choosing to insource the effort, control documentation and custody of information. Appropriate policies and disclosures should be considered.  One size does not fit all here.  Social media usage and monitoring policies should match the company’s unique practices.  And, although the candidate may choose the “world wide web” to air private and personal information, the employer must remember to not further the information distribution except on a “need to know” basis. Use of search engines to collect data is recommended.  The method of collecting data should align with reasonable access to information by company stakeholders.

The appropriate use of social media in hiring provides cost-effective recruitment, often with cost savings or targeted candidate access impractical to ignore.  However, the very nature of recruitment via social media could grant us access to candidate social media profiles too soon. To use only social media for recruitment, in certain cases, may in itself be considered discriminatory.  Audience demographics should be considered to both control costs and to also ensure abidance with Affirmative Action Plans where they exist.

It is difficult to investigate certain social media sites, especially those of a personal rather than professional focus, without receiving information regarding age, race, nationality, military, family status, sexual orientation, religion, or some combination of the many, many lawfully protected characteristics.  Pictures, comments, links, interests and profile page data cannot be reasonably avoided. To better manage risks, we suggest directing the candidate to the company’s own application system rather than linking the recruitment response with the candidate’s social media profile.  Such a step allows the company to broadcast the recruitment via social media but to collect responses through traditional methods discouraging profiling. 

Upon reaching the correct stage and method of data collection, be certain to avoid risk of error and falsehood. Identities can be confused, and inaccurate information may be collected.  Be certain you have the correct individual, and be certain the information is true. Background check permission forms should collect necessary data to validate identity. HRS recommends and designs a sequential plan of using social media investigations lawfully, consistently, with proper timing and privacy controls toward the appropriate evaluation of BFOQs.  As an added safeguard, it is popularly recommended to involve an outside firm or an individual not participating in the employment decisions. That individual or firm should then be in position to report only on job requirements and BFOQs, thereby inherently controlling the distribution and use of data.

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, February 24, 2011

 





Is the Boss at Fault for the Blame-Shifters?

Blame-shifting in an organization is typically a barrier rather than a conduit to problem solving.  Playing “Where’s Waldo?” with blame or finger pointing to another target can be effective diversions strategically deployed by those afraid to accept the blame.  Often, unwillingness to accept blame can be a character dimension based on intrinsic motivation and longstanding experience.  In other cases, unwillingness to accept blame is situationally dependent based upon immediate leadership and company behavior.  The following 3 steps are a quick assessment and blueprint to resolution.

1. Objectively evaluate the company’s role in behavior modification.  Has leadership at all levels properly rewarded truth, or are employees afraid to admit their roles in an obvious problem?  Problems are opportunities and risks create inventive greatness.  Has the company paved the road to quality without jeopardizing the road to problem solving?

2. Which employees are most likely to shift blame?  Is it by department or reporting relationship? Is it individual or company-wide? Patterns are clues to the motivation behind blame-shifting.

3. While blame-shifting is in itself unacceptable, remember that those unwilling to accept blame are afraid to be wrong or at fault. These can also be powerful motivators to positive productivity, something to be salvaged. Teach employees that accepting ownership in a problem is the first step to being the problem solver.  Transformation may follow.
 
At the end of the day, we are likely to find a combination of variables attributing to the blame-shifting.  Some good information is likely to result, so keep listening.  Personality types of both leaders and those being led contribute to the dynamic.  At the end of the day, however, it is the boss’s job to create an environment which applauds ownership, truth and lifelong learning.

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, January 11, 2011

 





Employment Law Compliance: 6 Steps to Risk Management

1.Stay Informed via Reputable Experts

There is no acceptable plea of ignorance.  Laws are constantly changing and it is the employer’s responsibility to stay on top of it.  Government sites are improving, but state and federal governments often do not accept responsibility for creating clear communications via websites.  The courts look to reasonable care and actual workplace outcomes; however, complaints can be costly. Secure a source of compliance updates reasonably considered compliance “experts.”

2. Choose the Right Expert Source

Subrogate liability: find an expert willing to “take the fall” and back you. Compliance experts need not be legal counsel as long as they remain committed to advanced legal studies and ongoing compliance research.  HRS has proven it possible to attain 100% success in avoiding legal argument when compliance is deployed at the proactive stage. Reasonable care and due diligence are key. If you determine to use legal counsel as your “experts” and they have pulled you into the fire only to bill you going in and coming out, find new legal counsel or find an alternative remedy.  Insurance brokerages, payroll partners, TPAs and other HR related vendors offer valuable templates and perks for their customers.  Most, however, do not profess themselves as “experts” and non-compliant information potentially coming from them is on your plate, not theirs.  Several of these firms are proven to circulate bad information because it’s just not their problem. If you grab a tax advice flyer at the grocery store, you shall be challenged in holding the store accountable for bad information.  Several HR industry vendors hire HRS and other accredited experts to provide deeper quality risk management for clients. 

3. Reject Cookie Cutter Advice

Compliance is more about judgment than templates.  Non-profits can be a great source of templates and education; however, by the nature of being non-profits, they are ineligible to advocate for any individual client and can only serve the “membership as a whole.” Although we’ve caught one or two professing themselves in the “management consulting” field, please know this is categorically impossible. Take their information as one component of your research and adapt it to your company’s unique variables.  Call upon experts who can bring widespread case studies where you prefer assistance. There are some valuable non-profits, they can be highly beneficial; however, they cannot be a “one stop shop” for your compliance needs.  

4. Document Policies and Incidents

Do not let deniability work against you.   The courts look for evidence and reasonable care in forms of currently compliant employee handbooks, related documentation and proof of receipt.  For top risk management, an employer needs to prove the employee knew what was expected, received no confusing/contradictory messages, was capable of meeting expectations, knew the consequences of failure and chose to fail.  Consistency of enforcement without discrimination is critical.  Incident reports, valid job descriptions and clear compliant performance appraisals are each contributory toolsets.   Legal postings must be up to date and accessible to employees.  (Flat annual fee poster services can be a great partner here.) Maintenance and access to employee files must be controlled on a “need to know” basis according to HIPAA, EEOC, DOL, GINA and countless other emerging and ever-changing standards.  Consider a voluntary compliance review for risk management and to build “affirmative defense” through reasonable care.  Non-profits are ineligible by status to protect individual members/customers, so please do not deploy a non-profit organization in this capacity.

5. Train, Train, Train

Enforce a culture of lifelong learning and properly train employees not only in operations procedures but also in legal compliance to include anti-harassment, risk management, liability aversion, documentation and diversity.  While the employer is not ultimately expected to control each and every workplace action, the employer is held accountable to “reasonable care.”  Proper training averts risks, and the act of training builds “affirmative defense.”  Training by 3rd party experts brings additional reasonable care and promotes exceptional questions and learning. Remember most people are not classroom learners and bear learning threshold of 2.5 hours typicalmaximum.  Consider kinesthetic learning bullets. (Hint and shameless plug: contact HRS!)

6. Stay Current and Prepare for Change

The employer who has been non-compliant and has “never had a problem” is probably due.  Granted those employers are probably not taking the time to read this, invulnerability is a myth. Everyone is vulnerable.  Don’t waive it off. The government is fundraising.  Many people would rather fundraise than work.  Some lawyers are fundraising.  Insurance companies, like any businesses, will protect their interests.  It is your responsibility to protect your own interests as an employer.  Stay up to date with regular compliance reviews for practices and policies. The right 3rd party expert partnership is excellent “reasonable care.” Secure updates and review for compliance regularly. 


Please contact HRS for more information regarding answer desk, compliance review, handbook services, kinesthetic learning bullets to include anti-harassment, referrals to HR partners who rely upon actual experts and other risk management reasonable care programs.


Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, December 16, 2010

 





Employers & Employees Agree to be Rightfully Cautious of Holiday Expenditures

Employees continue to be skeptical of lavish employer holiday parties, and employers find opportunity in containing holiday costs.  With the economic damage of the past several years, cutting back and cautious spending is greatly appreciated by all.  Employees who have suffered economically do not wish to see their rewards sacrificed for a holiday blowout.

75% of employees tell us they’d rather see bonus or investment into their advancement/security.  80% of employers tell us they are holding to the same cost-wise practices with no more than modest increase over the past few years’ practices.  Some are even cutting back further after learning past years’ efforts were not as appreciated as hoped.

The days of the “boss” calling employees onto the carpet to “kiss the ring” are over, and employers of choice recognize that employees want holiday celebrations that actually provide reward and appreciation.  Mandatory participation can be a deterrent from perceived value.  Allowing employees to plan their own rewards is the most appreciated choice.  To facilitate good sense outcomes, guidelines and budgets need to be set for employee committees.  The employer needs final control to ensure risk management and organizational goal attainment.  Structured properly, employers earn great ROI and everyone prospers.

Lavish expenditures are often resented by employees who suffered pay cut or layoff.  A sensible demonstration of company pride, forward movement, optimism and team appreciation is, however, a wise investment.  Safety and liquor liabilities remain primary concerns.  Depending upon team demographics, popular substitutes to parties include bonus, gift certificate or “your choice” menu items. The latter two offer repeat value.  For many, cash disappears as it hits the pocket, creating only single impact of reward.  Certificates can have more lasting and/or multiple impacts of reward.  The reward comes not only in the receipt but also in the use.  If the use is a lasting experience, the employee enjoys a more lasting reward. 

One year ago this month we commented our findings as the expert source to The Business Journal.  The topic was so well received and the findings so valuable, that the article was quickly globally syndicated with a cover bullet.  The popularity of this topic has not wavered, so we have accordingly provided this annual update.


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, December 06, 2010

 





Don’t Be Fooled by Salary Negotiation Strategies Generated by the Unemployed: 6 Rules to Success

Countless unemployed individuals with plenty of time to write are emerging again with salary negotiation strategies.  While it is true that strategies should change with market conditions, in many cases, negotiation should disappear completely. While many form their viewpoint based upon experiences with one or a few employers which eventually “outplaced” them, our analysis is based upon statistical knowledge working with thousands of preferred employers plus extraordinary research concerning hundreds of thousands over three decades and adapted to present conditions.

The following is a proven 6-rule blueprint to getting the most from “employers of choice.”  Sure, there are plenty of bad bosses and exploitative companies out there who do not follow appropriate protocol. However, if you are a candidate worthy of a top employer, ignore what happens at substandard employers and subscribe to what works at top companies.

Rule #1:  Top employers offer compensation based upon compensable factors, internal/external equities and merit-based performance proven within the organization.  For top employers, the base compensation component is non-negotiable at organizational entry, except possibly at C-level. 

Rule #2: Top employers do not pay you for what you did for someone else, but rather what you will do for them.  Success in one environment is not necessarily transferable to another.  Top employers know this.  Top employers also know that overall organizational development is optimized by practices which favor merit advancement from within.

Rule #3: Top employers request salary histories up front not to set your pay accordingly but rather to evaluate equities and expectations before continuing the very costly pre-employment screening process. Failure to provide history when requested risks indication of unwillingness/inability to follow direction and/or indication of something to hide.

Rule #4: Salary negotiation is effective in a very limited sector. It can be effective only when handled correctly and in cases where the job description requires heavy amounts of negotiation implementation. Time, place and audience are paramount.  Don’t be the first to bring up money, and don’t wait too long after money is mentioned to reveal that your requirements are higher.  Attach compensation requests to your delivery of quantifiable results to the new employer.  “I respect that the company has valued this position based upon specific metrics and expected outcomes.  Based upon my history of success, extraordinary knowledge and my determination to succeed, I expect to deliver outcomes beyond those benchmarks.  Is there opportunity for me to share in those financial successes? Can we set my quotas higher?”

Rule #5: Attempting negotiation risks the entire deal. It expresses discontent with the company’s existing practices and with the immediate job.  Just as a counteroffer constitutes an offer rejection, negotiation of any types constitutes rejection of the “as is” opportunity. There is usually another candidate right behind you who is appreciative of the opportunity to earn rewards without staunch demands.

Rule #6: If the relationship begins with negotiation, expect that you have set the tone for continued negotiation.  Rather than being awarded what you have earned, expect that you shall need to always negotiate for it.   The best way to avoid constant negotiation with your company as an “opponent” rather than a “teammate” is to negotiate all at once a gain-sharing program with pre-determined financial rewards for the outcomes and results you facilitate.

When an offer is presented, please know that taking time to consider may risk the opportunity.  Some companies will volunteer a proposed timeframe for your decision. Many will not. It is a myth that immediate acceptance makes you look “desperate.”  Actually, failure to immediately accept makes you look “hesitant” and possibly “disinterested,” either of which can immediately sandbag the relationship. If you believe it is best to take time to consider, state your unwavering interest up front.  Consider a safe explanation of the rationale behind your decision delay.  If the screening process was thorough and involved multiple steps, you should have entered the offer stage ready to accept if offered.  Your questions should already be answered and your interest should not falter.

Company cost control, lifelong learning, succession planning and sustainability are key organizational goals.  Age discrimination can be a factor, and advancement from within is typically a preference.  Employers are reluctant to pay you for what you did for someone else, because too many over time have “rested on laurels.” Employers typically have more leverage than employees in this situation.  Know your power. Evaluate the dynamics of your specific situation and reject “cookie cutter” advice. 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, November 29, 2010

 





Social Media Etiquette & Tips

For most, social media is no more complex than any social or communications event.  Many find it easier.  All rules of kindness, diplomacy, message, audience and delivery apply.  Used properly, social media can teach, make you laugh, improve social skills, reconnect with long lost friends, find a job, grow a business, explore new cultures, build relationships, enhance wellness, save time and save money.  It is not only a “real life” but can also enrich your life and enhance productivity. As with everything in this world, not everyone “gets it.”  It is a complete myth that you don’t have time for social media.  Used well, social media creates more time in your busy day.  Used improperly, the same facets to life can be adversely impacted. 

We recently addressed this topic at Loyola University, and it has become popular at our own newly emerging facebook page. The following guidelines are offered to ensure getting the best outcomes from the social media experience.  These are relevant to both users and to employer training in proper etiquette. 

5 Rules to Getting the Best Out of Social Media…

Rule #1 – Be discrete and filter your comments.  Remember it is the world wide web, and privacy controls are not 100% effective.
Rule #2 – Learn and use the privacy controls.  They help substantially.  Understand privacy limitations and the licensing you authorize by using a certain site.  It’s very easy to protect your privacy but only if you invest the 5-10 minutes necessary to research and apply knowledge.
Rule #3 – Research the topics, guidelines, options and expectations to a certain site before you participate.  These are available at each site and differ from one site to the next.  Knowing helps you select the right forum and keeps your experience on track.
Rule #4 – Understand that each social media site or application is a business in itself, creating jobs with need for compensation and need for sustainability, job security and hopefully job growth.  It is easy to anticipate what will happen next if you understand the objectives.   
Rule #5 - Apply the “golden rule” at all times.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Kindness and courtesy are expected.  Respect others’ privacy.  Stick to the site’s guidelines and respect how others’ use the site if within guidelines.  Avoid or be careful with controversial subjects including but not limited to politics, religion and sexual innuendo.

Do Not Insult or Attack

When you befriend or connect with someone, you imply a social contract of mutual respect and courtesy.  Negative energy is now out of bounds.  Insulting and attacking your friends in social media not only results in the insult/attack itself, but it catches them with guard down and in a highly public forum.  Re-read your comments to ensure they are not misinterpreted.  Trust shall be difficult if not impossible to recover.  Delete, recant or apologize if something gets by that you regret or did not intend.  Understand that de-friending can be an insult.  Should you de-friend someone due to corporate policy, tell them why to avoid insult.

Control Privacy for Yourself and Others

Remind yourself constantly that it is the Internet, as we all forget from time to time in the comfort of it all.  If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t post it.  Without full use of privacy controls, social media posts are likely to land at or around the #1 ranked page for you or others on the Internet.  Search engines can then link to employer, family, schools, charitable causes, other people and organizations.  Guide yourself accordingly. Privacy controls are extremely but not entirely effective.  Every individual has a right to privacy… controlling the perspective of his or her employer, family, neighbor, banker, pastor and any other stakeholder who can form a bias or purport action based upon social media. 
You are legally responsible for any damages incurred by others due to your actions… on line, in person and through any form of media.  Without specific permission, any information, name reference or pictures/videos of others are both illegal and unethical.  This concept is by no means limited to social media… but social media can have immediate widespread distribution.  While a site will protect itself through disclaimer, you are still responsible and can be sued for damages when tagging or posting photos, videos or content.  Create notifiers or prohibit altogether others’ ability to post/tag photos of you. 
Don’t be intimidated by these potential problems, but don’t take unnecessary risk either.   We don’t stop crossing the street because there is traffic, but we learn to look both ways beforehand and we learn to not push others into a vehicle’s path.

Observe Topic Boundaries and Avoid Frequent Complaint

While you cannot create change without stirring the pot at least a little, constant complaining and negativity will hurt your relationships and ability to succeed with audience and credibility.  Additionally, respect how others use the social media site.  Embrace differences.  Keep politics, religion, negativity and all controversy off of sites not specifically targeting to those topics.  Keep business on business sites, personal on personal sites; stick to specific topics and/or causes in their respective forums.   Avoid crossing boundaries.  Universal charitable causes are typically welcome in any general forum … just don’t wear out their welcome. 

Follow the Money for Answers

Nothing in this world is completely “free,” and this is no exception.  Each of these sites is costly to develop and operate.  Advertisers, membership fees and specific application/gaming fees are popular revenue sources.  Ownership of content, development, features control and level of advertising is dictated, of course, by the sponsors of these platforms.  Arguments are emerging regarding free vs. paid membership.  You may wish to entirely avoid sites pretending to be entirely free, as you are likely to expose yourself to spammers, malware and/or sale of your personal info.  We’d rather know who is getting paid while safeguarding our systems and privacy. 

Choosing a Social Media Forum

The primary consideration to site choice is the intended use.  The first choice is “business” or “personal.”  It is easiest and safest to draw a line between the two, although great advantage can be realized by those who learn to successfully mix the two.  It is essential to know and adhere to topic boundaries at each site.  Blindsiding others with topics they don’t want will create failure.  With appropriate judgment deployed, random and creative banter can be the most interesting, desirable and memorable content you deliver.  A little consideration goes a long way. 
We use each of the following for different reasons, audience and with different approach/expectations.  The writers herein have no affiliation with any social media site or vendor.  While this white paper is complimentary, our business interest is ongoing education and consultation with companies.  One of many hot topics right now surrounds social media.  Our firm encourages employers to address social media, creating policies and encouraging practices which protect everyone’s interest, company-wide.  

facebook
Originally targeted to college students, then high school students, facebook is intended to reconnect or maintain connections otherwise difficult to manage in a busy world.  No longer strictly by invitation, features have been changed, removed and added over time.  Not originally part of the fabric, businesses are now present, primarily as advertisers to consumers.  This site is used for personal relationship building, socialization, reconnecting, reciprocity, a sense of community and meeting new people through gaming, common interest and mutual friends.    Age range is unlimited and multi-generational.  Social sites such as facebook can provide a forum for busy productive people to enjoy positive energy, wellness and socialization without abandoning a productive life.  As with everything, abuse is of course alive and well.

LinkedIn
Used entirely with a professional business focus, LinkedIn also began building by invitation only.  LinkedIn is designed for business promotion, professional networking, job search, discussion forum and to use business “connections” as a toolset.  Specific connections are visible or invisible to others as a matter of individual strategy and privacy setting.  Currently both paid and unpaid memberships exist.  The extent to which you post on LinkedIn is directly proportionate and related to your professional position.  Additionally offering opportunity to showcase company websites, blogs, publications and twitter accounts, LinkedIn currently holds more than 60 million registered users in more than 200 countries.

Twitter
Used for both personal and business purposes, Twitter ignores relationship building and succeeds or fails based entirely on the quality and keywords of information.  “Tweets” are text-based posts of up to 140 characters delivered to “followers.”  Account holders can “lock” their timeline for privacy to only followers with some but not entire privacy.  Without such lock, a “tweet” can immediately find itself the #1 ranked item by search engine for the author.  Re-tweet exposure can be substantial.  Twitter offers both facebook and LinkedIn interfaces.
Blogs (Weblogs), Discussion Boards, Forums and More
Endless and constantly emerging/disappearing, the Internet is full of opportunity to comment, blog, post, vote, upload and express yourself.  Each individual site is likely to offer description of topic, questions controlled by the site or existing discussion threads to follow.  Choose accordingly and stick to the format for the site.  Each will likely offer legal disclaimer and instructions.  Read them and comply. 

What You Should Post/Not Post

Ask 10 people and you shall receive 10 different answers.  This is a draw for most social media users and an advantage to the concept. The differences between the posts of one and another users is a matter of among others… personality and timing.  Witty banter that insults no one is always welcome.  Do not expect to interest everyone with a post and do not expect to be interested with every post you see.  Attempt to avoid repetition.  What would you say at a party?  Who is your audience?  Same considerations apply.   Be yourself at your best whenever you can.  Sites will typically provide discussion forums, content, games and/or applications that are good points of exchange.   Most social media is not about the conversation but rather a more brief exchange of ideas.   Chime in only as you wish.  Sound judgment will help you.  If people are interested, they will typically let you know.  If not, find something else to say or a new room/time to say it.

Boundaries:  Business vs. Personal

Actively mixing business and personal relationships is always a risk and warrants consideration and boundaries.  Social media is no exception.  The ability to successfully mix the two, however,  can be your greatest advantage. What if your boss, client or investor befriends you on a social site?  This problem is largely solved by rule #1.  If you are concerned about its visibility, do not post it on the world wide web.  While it is extremely beneficial to use privacy controls and selection rules, again these are not entirely effective.

Preparing for and Handling Abuse or Disagreement

The rules for social media are the same as for any communication, in person, written, electronic, or telephone.  One great thing about social media is that you can more easily avoid, delay or rehearse your response.  Use these opportunities to ensure your message is exactly how you want it before it is out there.  When you build quality relationships through social media, you have also likely improved or practiced certain aspects to in-person social skills as well. Be nice, don’t attack or insult.  On the Internet as in all phases of life, communicate with the assumption there are no bad people, just bad acts.  Social media should not be anti-social.  It will work best for you if you stick with positive energy.  Be careful approaching controversy.  It is controversial because people disagree passionately.  You will undoubtedly insult and aggravate at least some of your friends… so be prepared for the fallout.  People disagree on how to “keep it light” and as always, “teasing” and thoughtless communications are inconsequential to some, the “end of the world” for others, and somewhere in between for everyone else.  Controversial communication creates conflict including disagreement on severity, how to interpret and how to handle.  Be nice and remove the point of conflict. 

Social Gaming Etiquette

Gamers provide a great deal of revenue to social sites, and their contributions to subsidizing everyone’s use should be respected.  At current time, facebook gaming posts are extremely easy to hide if you do not wish to see them.  A simple hover and click on the hide button (currently immediately to the right of the post) will hide every post to an entire application.  Therefore, etiquette between gamers is more essential for discussion. 

Gamers - please consider that your gaming friends have little or no opportunity to hide your individual posts without hiding you or the game altogether.  Peppering the feed with low value posts impedes another’s ability to find the posts actually necessary to gameplay.  Additionally, monopolizing the feed with items of little or no value/interest to others creates the same social impact as monopolizing a conversation.  Often, less is more… and quality here typically outweighs quantity.   

Game developers – remove the temptation to destroy gaming experience by removing the options to do so.  Consider controls on frequency and volume of such posts per user. We know you need to promote your game, but you probably wish to keep gamers playing, too, right?

Social Applications, Groups, Polls and Gifts

These items can be great “ice breakers” and turnkey socialization tools.  With these items you can reach out to someone without other consideration as to what to say.  What users rarely consider is the extent to which profile information is accessed and shared with undisclosed recipients.  Consideration should also be given to system performance when these applications are allowed, as they may be running in the background while not visibly in use.   It is typically quite easy to de-authorize these applications when no longer desired.   It is important to read the disclaimers before using these applications, and it is important to courteously understand why someone may not accept your gift or invitation.  This decline is not an indictment of friendship gesture but rather a de-selection of the system performance impact invited by the application.   Choose applications carefully, enjoy those you choose, respect others’ rights to choose for themselves, and remember… nothing is free.
 
Please visit AskHRS.com or contact HRS for employer tips in creating social media policies to include anti-harassment and intellectual property risk management.  

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, November 22, 2010

 





Being a Leader is a Trained Skillset, an Innate Talent and Definitely a Practice

Contrary to what temp services and unemployed consultants are currently blogging about, it is essential to understand that while being a leader requires consistent practice and execution, effective leadership is also both innate and learned… nature and nurture.

Make no mistake. Effective leaders need a deep understanding of the discipline, tasks and environment in which they lead.  Those who believe a management degree or diploma somehow qualifies them to lead in an unfamiliar environment are sadly mistaken, likely BS’d by their college recruiter.  Simultaneously, great implementers are not necessarily great leaders.  The most common mistake in business is empowering the wrong leadership, either promoting implementers without leadership skills or hiring great sales artists with no leadership substance. 

Good advice is hard to come by.  Bad advice is abundant.  With advancement the #1 workplace motivator, promotions from within not only best engage the whole team but allow leaders to have deep understanding of that which they lead.  Nonetheless, self-starters and independent achievers typically do not “get” the average worker and do not know without formal leadership training how to effectively motivate and modify behavior in others.  If others do not become better performers directly due to those who lead, the leaders “lift right out” as ineffective.


Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, October 02, 2010