Category Archives: People

Engaging colleagues with new online tools

Getting people to actually use new tools in the workplace is pretty hard.

No matter how cool your new social platform is, your colleagues (except for the super keen) won’t suddenly leap into using it.

Instead, you need to think tactically about how you engage workers with new online tools.

Here are ten ideas for making it happen. If you can’t see the embedded document below, then you can download the PDF version.

My thanks to Steve Dale and Anne McCrossan who gave me some great advice when I was putting these together.

It would be great to get your views on these ideas – and whether you have any to add?

Where does the talent lie?

talentI was working once for a pretty big organisation, who wanted to start a blog. This was about ten years ago, so for a lot of people blogging was kind of new.

Despite the fact that I was working there, and had been blogging for a while, and actually had a bit of a reputation (admittedly outside the organisation), the decision was made to pay a communications consultant to come in and set the blog up, write the posts and so on.

The money spent on this project could have been saved by getting me to do it. It also might have been done better by me. It certainly would have cheered me up to be doing something I found genuinely exciting and engaging as part of my day job.

How many times does this happen in your organisation? The problem is that nobody knows what anyone knows. People finder tools on the intranet rarely tell you what skills and interests people have. You just know their job title and which team they work in.

There are lots of ways around this problem, but here are two.

First, have a more networky way of finding people in the organisation. Get people talking about their interests and passions, and to list the stuff they are good at. That will surface talents and skills you never knew your people had.

Second, when you need help with something, ask for it. Have a way of communicating across the whole organisation to say (to use my example above) “we want to start a blog, who can help?”.

So often a new project is handed to a manager to run, who then looks for someone in their but of the org chart to deliver it, regardless of whether they have the attributes to do it well or not. Easier, surely, to broadcast a request throughout the organisation to identify the best person for the job?

More on recruitment and talent management

GeeknRollaFollowing up on my earlier post on good things to look for in people when you are hiring – Recruit the internet-savvy – I picked up on some useful notes whilst at TechCrunch‘s GeeknRolla on recruiting into startups, which I think are useful for pretty much any organisation. I also think it’s interesting to think how public services can learn from the culture of startup businesses, including around recruitment.

The talk was by Pete Smith from Songkick, which is a service that lets you track all sorts of information about your favourite live music acts, such as upcoming concerts, videos and recordings.

Here’s the notes:

  • Hiring is a top challenge for a startup and getting it wrong can serious affect momentum
  • Always be hiring
  • Better not to hire though, rather than to compromise on talent and drive
  • Very inefficient to hire from outside your network – plan for this
  • Grow your network as it’s the best way to hire good people
  • Have a hiring roadmap, build it into other choices: buildings, perks, and the tech you use
  • Risk taking in hiring comes later in a startup’s life, not early on
  • Vet applications ruthlessly before even meeting people
  • Spend as much time growing your network as you do looking at ‘non-network’ candidates
  • Hiring devs – use coding exercises then phone interview, then tech interview, then a ‘pairing session’ (not sure what that is)
  • Everyone you hire initially is vital to establishing the culture of your startup
  • How to recover from hiring errors: make sure you leave things on a good note. Don’t let people leave under a cloud. Make decision quickly but manage the exit – don’t let it drag on. Better to leave work undone than allow the wrong people to keep going.

These thoughts chime in with some activity coming out of the IDeA with regard to talent management, recruit and workforce planning. In the current financial climate, there is a lot of talk of cuts and redundancies which has the potential to be incredibly damaging.

So, the IDeA have launched an online resource, on ‘organisational redesign‘ with some useful case studies and guidance. A thriving community of practice also exists too (with various layers of sign-up required).

I honestly believe that local authorities could make massive improvements to their efficiency and levels of service if they recruited better, and made better use of the talent they already have. I consider myself to be a great example of the failings of local government workforce management. Some of the things that are important, I think, are:

  • To get people to do a good job, they need a good job to do
  • Innovators and the enthusiastic should not be treated as troublemakers or weirdos, but be treasured and made to feel special
  • Staff should be trusted. If you genuinely can’t trust all of them, give the good ones leeway
  • Give people the tools they need to be able to do their job well
  • Value things like curiosity, generosity, cooperation and openness
  • Allow the good people in your organisation to find each other
  • Have proper systems and processes in place for inventive people to be able to suggest and progress good ideas

The IDeA are also organising an event in Birmingham on 19th May, called ‘Designing a fit for the future organisation‘. I’m going, because it sounds pretty interesting. Hope to see others there.

Recruit the internet-savvy

The Telegraph had an interesting article this week: MI5 dumps spies who can’t use Facebook and Twitter:

Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Parliamentary subcommittee on counter-terrorism, told the Daily Mail: “As terrorism changes, counter-terrorism officers have to adapt to keep up.

‘Our enemies use every available method to attack including using technology. We have to be aware of the imminent threats of cyber attacks and the old generation of MI5 have to be completely comfortable using computers and the latest technology.”

You might not be surprised to learn that I’d recommend hiring internet-savvy candidates, no matter what position it is you are trying to fill. Think about it – what makes a good member of a team?

I reckon that the behaviour and attitude that the internet encourages are things that make for great employees:

  • curiosity
  • generosity
  • openness
  • cooperation

Of course, if you do hire people like this, you’ll need to provide them with a working environment in which they’ll want to stay.

“Always hire the internet-savvy” is a similar message to what the 37 Signals guys say in Getting Real about good writers:

That’s because being a good writer is about more than words. Good writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. They think clearly. And those are the qualities you need.

Mary blogged about recruitment recently, referring to a speech by the American academic Dennis Kimbro. Some attitudes about this issue in local government, as Mary notes, are worrying.