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Smarter Workforce; Government Leadership Forum

This week I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend the Smarter Workforce Government Leadership Forum hosted by IBM in Canberra. I was invited by my Executive Director for HR because he needed to take along a Gen Y’er, and seeing as I was familiar with the technology being discussed it was a good opportunity for me to talk about this stuff and its application specifically to the public sector.

The idea of the forum was to talk about how social networking technologies and Web 2.0 can help the public sector work in more efficient ways.

Public sector and efficiency? I can hear some sniggers already but I’ll persist. Although there are those jokes floating around like:

Q. Why don’t public servants look out the window first thing in the morning?
A. Because they’d have nothing to do in the afternoon

I would like to say that there are loads of public sector employees that are really passionate about what they do and work really hard.

IBM Forum

Time to get off the soap box now and tell you about the forum. Stephen Collins of Acidlabs (@trib) was opening speaker and you can catch his speech here.

One of the best things about this opening speech is the definition of Government 2.0.

Government 2.0 is not specifically about social networking or technology based approaches to anything. It represents a fundamental shift in the implementation of government — toward an open, collaborative, cooperative arrangement where there is (wherever possible) open consultation, open data, shared knowledge, mutual acknowledgment of expertise, mutual respect for shared values and an understanding of how to agree to disagree. Technology and social tools are an important part of this change but are essentially an enabler in this process.

It’s not just talking about using things like twitter or facebook, but it’s about being more collaborative and knocking downs the barriers to creativity and efficiency that often plagues government workplaces.

This kinda set the scene for the day with some attendees at the forum arguing that the government needs to be more transparent with the public (but that first they would need to be transparent internally with employees) and that fear is actually stopping governments from embracing these changes which could improve efficiency.

Others were maintaining that communication needed to be properly checked before it was released and this takes time. Consequences include being answerable to the minister etc. It isn’t a risk many are willing to take.

Essentially, in using some of these technologies we are asking the government agencies to let go of the control of their brand which is not something Comms staff are ready to do at this point. What if someone says something offensive? What if staff say bad things about our agency? Can we trust our staff with this technology?

For starters, if people are saying bad things about your workplace they are already saying it. To their friends, in meetings, in the corridors, via email etc. These new technologies just gives the agency an opportunity to respond to the comments. Acknowledge mistakes where necessary or offer to take the issue offline to be discussed in greater detail if required.

Secondly, there are still laws in place. People can’t just go around and say whatever they want online and not suffer the consequences.

For instance in Western Australia, an academic was charged for defamatory statements which were published in an online science bulletin board (Rindos v Hardwick). Harwick made a statement which imputed that Rindos had engaged in sexual activity with a minor and that his entire career has been built not on field research at all, but on his ability to berate and bully. Whilst gossiping is rife within most workplaces, these statements were published online where approximately 23,000 academics and students have access internationally and subsequently Hardwick was ordered to pay $40,000 in damages to Rindos as he couldn’t justify the comments. People will need to be accountable for the things they say online, and having the right guidelines and policies in place will help you with this.

Finally, I actually reminded the group that people first thought the internet was scary and that we couldn’t trust people with having an email account. Sounds silly now, but at the time people were concerned. These days almost everyone has a work email address and often personal accounts as well.

I wonder if we will look back on web 2.0 technologies and think the same thing?

*More posts and information to come about this forum

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Your impact on HR

A few weeks ago I was explaining to a colleague, why I started HR Club Sydney. I was saying that it was basically about sharing information, learning form others and meeting people who have the same passion for HR that you do. I reasoned that while some things within an organisation may need to be kept confidential for a certain period, if we were all sharing all our best HR initiatives with each other there would be a huge flow on affect for the profession.

Think about it.
• We’d be more aware of the latest things, trends and technology
• We would have a better understanding of how something has worked/hasn’t worked in real companies (with an Australian flavour)
• We would start achieving better results for the business, resulting in a greater appreciation of the HR profession; meaning a great position at the table (for those who don’t already have it)

Just imagine… great HR activities happening all over the place… just because we started sharing more with our colleagues.

buddha3

I’m a bit of a believer in the more positive energy that you put out there, the more you’ll receive and in saying that, giving (or dana) is one of the essential preliminary steps of the Buddhist practice. They say that sharing, giving and good deeds will bring happiness in the future, so perhaps remember this next time a peer asks you for help on something.

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Cows milking themselves these days; what does that mean for HR?

Yesterday I was on twitter, and one of my favourite twitterers @SteveBoese sent this tweet below:

Some cows in Michigan can milk themselves – http://bit.ly/TpBqg, how many employees still need HR help to change their address?

cow

Whilst I chuckled at the comment, little did I know that I was about to receive a ripper of an email that day from someone about what I should and shouldn’t be doing in my job. This prompted me to think about the different expectations employees have of HR and whether this varies depending on the environment that you work in.

In the past, I have worked in cultures which are cutting edge, young, savvy and ‘with the times’ so to speak. They respect professionals alike, and seemed to understand that HR is not there to simply follow employees around, get coffee and organise lunches or meeting rooms. Whilst the client groups I’ve looked after have been different, and no doubt challenging- they have always seemed to respect the HR as a profession and see the strategy behind it. I also think a key part of this was the message that the CEO sent with regards to people and performance. One CEO really valued leadership and saw it as the number priority for managers in the business and this made a huge impact on the culture. Huge.

In contrast I have worked for clients who demanded that I fix their pay, couldn’t understand why I didn’t know which employees were sick on any given day, asked me for site access or ring me to tell me that something isn’t working in the building. Now while I understand that we are a support function, and in some smaller companies this might be the way it works, but I work in a large organisation and none of these actions actually falls within my job description. I try to be as helpful as I can, referring them to the correct person but there are times when this isn’t enough to the employee and they walk away wishing to return to the old days. I even get called ‘the girl in personnel’ sometimes!

So given that employees often only see the frontline activities you do for them, and not the hidden strategic work you do, how do you convince them that you are competent in what you do?

I know that most of my key managers believe in what I do and know how hard I work. I also believe that employees who have come to me with a real issue which I have handled, have walked away very satisfied. There does seem to be the odd person who still just doesn’t get it though.

What are your experiences at places you’ve worked? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Changing the way things have always been done with a banana

I was watching this video on youtube the other day and it made me think about problem solving at work.

For a start, I’ll admit I really really love bananas. I mean- I love them on cereal, in smoothies, on toast with peanut butter, in pancakes- pretty much anywhere. When I got to Thailand I must eat at least two a day.

banana

It’s like they are my secret power food because they give you a sustained and substantial boost of energy.

They are also good for:

Anemia
High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia (women- this means you!)

Blood Pressure
This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt making it the perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit’s ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power
200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.

Constipation
High in fibre, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

Depression
According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain trypotophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

Lethargy
One of the quickest ways of curing lethargy and fatigue is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey.
The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

Heart-burn
Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heart-burn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Nerves
Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Weight Control
Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and crisps. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs.
The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady.

PMS
Forget the pills – eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

Smoking
Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

Stress
Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body’s water-balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, there by reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack. (Source).

Wow- they are amazing- is there anything they can’t do??

Well that isn’t why I am talking about them actually. For those of you who can’t view the youtube video, it features a boy who has been struggling his whole life when opening a banana (the thing that makes this video full of awesome is that it combines my love of bananas with my boy’s love of monkeys!). Sounds a bit lame, but when you watch it- I’m sure you will have opened a banana in exactly the same way. So we as humans have been opening bananas in the same way (from the top) because that’s the way its always been done.

A friend then suggested to this guy that he should open his banana like a monkey (from the bottom) and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is. How many times in life are we faced with problems and when we try something different and find the solution- we wonder why we never found this simple solution before?

And what stops us from finding these simple solutions? Thinking in exactly the same way that we have in the past. We absolutely have to try new things and think differently if we are hoping for a different outcome (i.e. solution to the problem).

Innovation is something I try to focus on in my work and I try to look at every task with a fresh set of eyes. Challenge what you are doing in HR each and every day- don’t settle for the ‘that’s how things are’ approach.

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Top ten effective habits of a highly successful networker

With our very first HR Club Sydney networking event coming up (get tickets here), I thought it was only fitting that I blog about networking because let’s face it- sometimes it isn’t something we do that well in HR. We think we probably should be good at it, but we aren’t always willing to invest the time in having an actual conversation with people about their experiences because we are ‘too busy’. If I can liken it to the way that I think about my own work, I know that being strategic is where I’m going to get the most bang for my buck from my clients (although the transactional can you help me with my pay seems to be the most pressing issue at the time for the client).

And I think about networking in the same way. I value it as a strategic tool which assists my personal development- and that’s why I invest time in social networking, blogging and attending events.

I’m lucky enough to have a guest post today from Anne Marie Cross who is a Career Coach & Personal Branding Strategist, Consultant, Speaker, and Author of ’10 key steps to Ace that Interview!’ She is also the founder/principal of Advanced Employment Concepts – Career Management and Personal Branding Strategists offering powerful programs for people striving for career success and fulfillment, as well as savvy companies committed to building and retaining their most important asset – their staff.

Alongside Keith Keller, Anne Marie co-hosts Career Communique Radio which is a community page committed to providing inspiring career-related topics to support individuals in accelerating their level of success in the job market and the workplace. Check out the website for podcasts of the radio show, articles, forums and event details.

CareerRadio

With a tightening job market numerous job seekers have increased their networking endeavours with the hope of tapping into the hidden job market, where 70-80% of unadvertised opportunities are located.

While networking should be an integral part of your search (and overall career management) efforts there are some secrets which can make a significant difference between not really generating much success and the potential for networking burnout in comparison to building influential and productive relationships that open the doors to potential job opportunities.

To avoid networking burnout, ensure you’re adopting the top ten effective habits of highly successful networkers.

A highly successful networker:

1. Is clear on their job/industry target and can clearly articulate this when seeking support or communicating with members of their network.

2. Has a clear understanding of their personal brand, their unique selling proposition and can professionally communicate their brand both in person and in online networking opportunities.

3. Has up-to-date personal marketing material, (which can include professional resume, bio, leadership addendum, web portfolio, personal blog, and profiles on multiple social networking platforms) that highlights achievements and value offered to a potential employer.

4. Is able to speak confidently (not arrogantly) about their strengths and successes so that potential hirers are able to grasp the WIIFM (what’s in it for me – the company) should they be lucky enough to have you on their team.

5. Has a powerful and memorable ‘marketing pitch’ that can be utilised as an introduction to networking events and that question ‘So what is it that you do?’

6. Has a written strategic networking plan that encompasses regular attendance of both online and offline networking activities that allows them to continually expand and leverage a diverse personal network.

7. Utilises a network management system to effectively track their networking endeavours and important information about each member of their network.

8. Adopts an approach of regularly sharing relevant information with people in their network with a mindset of no expectations in return. They continually nurture their network as part of their long-term career management plan and not just when seeking new job opportunities, so that when they need to seek help from their network, people are far more open to supporting them.

9. Knows how to frame and deliver the right questions to whom they are speaking to enable ongoing expansion of their network or an opportunity to speak to a key decision maker.

10. Surrounds themselves with positive and supportive people who continue to strengthen and enhance the enthusiasm they portray during their job search activities. This is in complete contrast to being surrounded with nay-sayers who can seriously undermine your enthusiasm and ultimately your job search outcomes.

If you’ve ticked all ten areas, then congratulations – you’re a highly successful networker and are communicating your brand professionally and prominently in readiness for when that ideal job opportunity presents itself.

If, on the other hand you haven’t ticked all ten areas, then my suggestion would be to select, work on and integrate one new area each week into your networking plan so that you too can become a ‘star’ networker.

© Annemarie Cross 2009

So how did your networking skills rate against these ten points?

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Fair Work Education Programs

Recently Julia Gillard (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) announced that funding offers have now been made for Fair Work Education and Information program.

Essentially the Government is working to ensure that all everyone understands the new workplace relations system and a total of $12.9m has been offered in grants to the organisations below.

workplace-relations

ACT Chamber of Commerce
Aged and Community Services Australia
Australian Mines and Metals Association
Australian Chamber Alliance
Australian Council of Trade Unions
Australian Hotels Association
Australian Human Resources Institute
Australian Industry Group
Australian Retailers Association
Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation
Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia
Job Watch
Master Builders Association
Master Grocers Association
National Farmers’ Federation
National Retail Association
Recruitment and Consulting Services Association Ltd
Restaurant and Catering Australia
Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce

These organisations will provide information and education services to employees, employers and small business operators about the Fair Work Act and how it will affect them.

For more information on these education programs you can visit the Fair Work Act website.

You may have noticed that AHRI have been provided with funding in the above allocation, and as a HR Professional you might like to check their services out.

AHRI has teamed up with Holding Redlich lawyers to develop a Fair Work Assist Resource Centre.

Resources provided by AHRI include:

• A free and interactive website
• Online fact sheets
• Online discussion forum
• ‘Ask the expert’ (and receive a response within three days)
• Phone hotline (to speak to an industrial relations expert)
• 45 information seminars
• AHRI e-learning module (available later in the year).

Get a head start and visit the website today which is http://www.fairworkaustralia.ahri.com.au/

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Are you fulfilling the role of the credible activist?

Just recently, in attending the AHRI National Convention I heard about the AHRI National Awards. I was thinking about entering these, and came across the criteria for the HR Leadership awards. These awards recognize leading HR practitioners whose contribution to the achievement of the business outcomes through HR practices is worthy of recognition.

If you are considering nominating yourself or someone else you’ll need to apply today as it’s the last day, but even if you aren’t you might want to evaluate yourself and see how you rate as a HR practitioner. You might even want to use this as a bit of a checklist or goal for the year ahead instead of how you want to be seen by your business.

woman with megaphone

Criteria:

1. Achievement: The applicant has been recognised for excellence in an academic or career capacity

2. Impact: The applicant has made a tangible contribution to the organisation

3. Progression: The applicant’s career demonstrates an upwards trajectory beyond the expected

4. Leadership: The applicant has demonstrated a capacity for leadership

5. Commitment: The applicant has demonstrated a passion for HR through service to the profession

6. Innovation: the applicant is ahead of the field in ideas and/or practices

7. Credible activism: the applicant demonstrates personal credibility but also a point of view about the business

8. Strategic architect: the applicant demonstrates an understanding of strategy and how HR will deliver strategy.

A few of these are pretty self explanatory but a few I found to be terms that I don’t think you hear a lot of- but hopefully it will be something we HR professionals refer to a lot more in the future. With regards to leadership, I guess it depends on how you define it.

Personally, I interpret it according to Zimmerman’s (2001) definition which is that leaders must play the role of a visionary, a collaborator, a salesperson and a negotiator. I’m sure reading this; you will agree that we play all these roles at some point as a HR professional.

The one that really sticks out for me is the ‘credible activism’ which comes from David Ulrich. It’s about being trusted, respected, admired and listened to, and most importantly holding a firm standpoint about the business.

Ulrich said in a press release, “HR professionals who are credible, but not activists, are admired but do not have much impact. Those who are activists but not credible may have ideas but will not be listened to,” he added.

It really made me think about my role here and will challenge me for the next year to make a serious impact upon the business. What are your goals for the next six months?

Read more from the Society of Human Resource Management on this, or click here to read an interview with David Ulrich.

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