Archive for October, 2008

Strength in uncertainty

In tough economic times, when we watch venerable institutions go to the wall, workers look to companies that are solid and reliable.

If exciting jobs are associated with higher employment risk then candidates do not want to pursue that option. In 2007, the number one employment destination for university graduates was government – both federal and state government agencies. I see no reason why this will not be the case in 2008.

I was talking to the Commonwealth Bank internal HR team a few weeks ago and reminded them that right now an organisation that displays security and adherence to governance is a desirable employer. Internally, the bank has transposed its 1963 slogan – “Get with the Strength” to “Strength in Uncertainty”.


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Motherhood shouldn’t carry a career penalty

A survey out of Cambridge University suggests that a growing numbers of people are concerned about the impact of working mothers on family life.

Researchers compared results of social attitude polls from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s and found that in 1998, 51 per cent of women and 45.9 per cent of men believed family life would not suffer if a woman went to work.

This had fallen to 46 per cent of women and 42 per cent of men in 2002, amid “growing sympathy” for the old-fashioned view that a woman’s place was in the home.

It seems that the idea that support for women taking an equal role in the workplace is a myth.  Instead, people’s perceptions are that women’s changing role is having costs for both the women and the family.

While it may be a case of the super mum syndrome wearing office, it is also the case that, until workplaces start to offer true flexibility, women are caught in an endless tug of war between the home and office.  We also read endless reports about how family life, children’s school achievements, not to mention a woman’s leisure time, all suffer.  The result that many women feel that motherhood carries a penalty.

So, what is the solution?  Work and family life can coexist in harmony. I’ve seen it in my own life.  Sure, some compromises do need to be made, and you can’t have it all, all of the time.  But if we are to ensure that mothers realise the same career opportunities that fathers do, we need a seismic shift in attitudes – and that means flexible work options.�

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Claiming your brand on social networks

Following on from yesterday, Dan Schawbel, in his Personal Branding Blog, recommends three steps that everyone should take to claim their personal brand online.  These are:

Domain names
This means going to your local hosting service and registering immediately, before someone else takes it from you.  You can do so for around $7 including tax, with the promotional code OYH3.

Social network names
Claim your name on the leading social networks to secure your personal brand.  The reason for this is because the top social networks rank very high in Google, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and blogging services, such as WordPress and Blogger.  As with your domain, someone (a competitor or someone with your actual name) can take this from you as we speak.  You’ve heard the story about Exxon Mobile and how someone registered this brand name on Twitter , right?  The moral of the story is that people can do damage to your brand (name), unless you protect yourself.

Check your user name
Now that you think you have your name on various social networks, it’s time to do a test run.  If you go to, you can check which social networks you’ve claimed your name on.  Don’t freak out if you haven’t registered your name on “Colourlovers” or “12seconds” because many of you haven’t even heard of them.  If you’re smart, you will take action on the leading networks.

So, off you go.  Go out and file your claim.

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Survival of the fittest?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive,
nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.”
Charles Darwin

Could you predict what you’d be doing today five years ago?  And what you will be doing in five years time?

The next fifty years of change will happen in five to ten years, say the authors of the BT Technology Timeline.

Fifty years ago we were impressed with supercomputers the size of warehouses.  Today, we carry memory sticks with more power around in our top pockets.

The employees of the future are technology natives that cannot fathom a life without remote control, have never heard the sound of a telephone dialling, and don’t understand what the phrase ‘you sound like a broken record’ means.

Young people already find all their information online, spend their leisure time in virtual worlds, sending SMS, IM and email.  They are never far from a screen or keyboard and have the ‘I want it now or I’m off mentality’.

This response to technological innovation will enable us to improve productivity by working smarter, not harder.  And that means creating a knowledge economy in the borderless world.

Knowledge has no upper limit.  Unlike labour, capital and other quantifiables of the industrial age, knowledge doesn’t deplete with use.  For example, 161 billion gigabytes of knowledge was created in 2006 (according to IDC).  I’m not sure what was generated in 2007, but I do know that in 2006 we generated three million times the information in every book ever written.  In the next three years the digital universe will expand six fold.

The rules have changed, the tyranny of distance is irrelevant and geography is history.  Whether you are living in Sydney, Singapore, San Francisco or St Petersburg we now all have access to the same information.  So, the borders restricting us are no longer geographical, but those between young and old, and between technology haves and have-nots.

So, we must direct resources into innovating business models, access high value competitive skills through global resourcing and integrating globally.

The iron clad law of the flat world is this: “if it can be done, it will be done.” The only question is will it be done by you or to you?

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Weathering an economic downturn

Results from a recent Talent2 survey suggests that Gen Ys are getting nervous.  The current economic uncertainties have got them thinking about potential employment insecurity – something they haven’t experienced in their working careers.

Y Genners in Australia are worried about their jobs and one-third believe employers will lay off staff. 

But Gen Y wasn’t the only category of workers concerned about their jobs – more than half of the 2,700 survey respondents expect downsizing within months.  And of course, if unemployment does rise, Gen Ys, Xs and Baby Boomers will all be vying for fewer positions.

So, what does this mean for the Gen-Ys that are yet to experience such a downturn? Put simply, it just means you need to work hard.

Smartcompany has a list of survival tips to ensure long term success in an economic downturn:

  • Head down, bum up – this is the time to knuckle down and contribute. Forget the demands for more Friday night drinks and staff discounts – just do your job to the best of your ability.
  • Teamwork – team players are vital, particularly in times when morale may be down, so keep up your spirit and think of the team, not yourself.
  • Communication – stay close to what is happening in your business, areas of opportunity and areas for improvement. If needs be, put your hand up for the difficult tasks. People want to see employees roll up the sleeves, not run and hide.
  • Lead – not in a style reminiscent of Mussolini, just lead by example.
  • Exceed expectations – deliver what you say you will and even a bit more. If that means you have to put in extra, then do it.

Of course, anyone serious about their career should already be doing these things.   And if you are, then your company will be looking at ways to retain such a valuable employee!

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HR and Personnel make way for Talent Departments?

Seth Godin has a suggestion worth considering: change the HR Department to a Talent Department.

His argument runs that in days of yore, factories consisted of people and machines. The goal was to use more machines, fewer people, and to design processes so that the people were interchangeable, low cost and easily replaced. The more leverage the factory-owner had, the better. Hence Personnel or HR. It views people as a natural resource, like lumber.

“Like it or not, in most organizations HR has grown up with a forms/clerical/factory focus. Which was fine, I guess, unless your goal was to do something amazing, something that had nothing to do with a factory, something that required amazing programmers, remarkable marketers or insanely talented strategy people.”

He says his suggestion to change HR to Talent makes some people uncomfortable because “it seems like spin, like gratuitous double speak. And, if you don’t change what you do, that would be true.”

“But what if you started acting like the VP of Talent? Understanding that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage. The VP of Talent would have to reorganize the department and do things differently all day long (small example: talent shouldn’t have to fill out reams of forms and argue with the insurance company… talent is too busy for that… talent has people to help with that.)

Microsoft and Google both have a very healthy focus on finding and recruiting Talent. McDonald’s recently announced that they want to hire people who smile more. The first strategy works, the second won’t. Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.

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