The Future of Hiring

“I want to see evidence of video and audio skills. I want to see evidence of familiarity with CSS, RSS, HTML and every other acronym of new media. I want people who live online, consume content on mobile devices, use social-bookmarking tools and participate in Web communities. I want people who don’t think they need some gray-haired, middle-aged man like me to give them permission to create — I want bloggers and page designers and database builders who have made things even when they weren’t getting paid.” – Paul Conley

Retention is a Measure of Motivation

Ron Baker’s ‘Your Employees are Volunteers’ is a much needed post. It includes gems like:

“Today, knowledge workers themselves own the firm’s means of production in their heads.”

“In fact, your people are actually volunteers, since whether or not they return to work on any given day is completely based on their own volition.”

Thanks Ron. The attitude that employees need employers isn’t limited to the legal profession.

We Need to Build More Parks Not More Prisons

Smarter people than I can debate the title of this post literally, I’m using it as a metaphor for web development and customer relationships overall.

Vendors don’t have full control over their customers. Never did. Best they can do is encourage, support, and remove obstacles impeding their customers’ success. Especially if the vendor wants to build any notion of community among their customers.

This is where the metaphor comes in.

Each business needs to be an ecosystem where customers are free (free to move to a different vendor, free to congregate) rather than locked-in or “allowed to”. The same reason file formats should be plain text, xml, or another standard format, is the same reason DRM is a bad idea – it’s not usable if the vendor disappears.

The next question is whether we build one big park or a system of smaller ones. Personally, I’m a fan of the system (if I wasn’t I wouldn’t publish regularly to multiple blogs). It allows focus and gives you the power to say, “No, We don’t do that here – we do it over there.”

In the end, best we can hope for is customers leave the place better than they found it.

Update 21 January 2006:

“…you don’t try to force a behavior change, you look for a behavior change and try to make products for it…” – Joichi Ito

IBM Employee Podcasting Guidelines

In an age when every employee and customer is a few mouse clicks from their own weblog and podcast and Forbes is spreading blog FUD it’s refreshing to see Big Blue is not only publishing podcasts, but encouraging their employees to do the same.

As a nearly hundred year-old company that no one ever got fired for choosing, you might anticipate a hundred page document signed off by every lawyer this side of the Mississippi. Nope. Just seven very reasonable, sensible points in the IBM podcasting guidelines.

I agree with 6.5 of them.

I only half agree with high audio quality. As you’ve heard me say before – if we as people were concerned with high audio quality, telephones wouldn’t exist. That said, higher quality audio quality is easier to listen to over the wind noise in my car. There is a different expected level of quality with the IBM-brand than say, MOMbo.org. IBM is admitting that.

Kudos to IBM for leading the charge for sane employee guidelines.

An Emotion Connection Tells Us What Matters

In Newsweek’s cover story “Reading Your Baby’s Mind” on baby’s brain development, new research is profiled into the “babies learn foreign languages easily” phenomenon. The research states, a baby can easily learn a second language easily only if the secondary language is spoken by someone the baby has an emotional connection with.

“…without the emotional connection, the babies considered the tape recording just another background noise, like a vacuum cleaner.”

That’s right, language tapes in the background are just that.

This isn’t something we outgrow.

The New York Times article Team-Building With a Twist details the pains companies are going through to connect their employees on an emotional level.

As with babies and foreign languages, it only clicks if the parental figure finds it valuable enough to join in:

“Without a doubt, we’ve been able to map our chapters’ development based on whether or not the chapter president went through this experience.”

Worst We Can Do is Go Bankrupt in the Morning.

I’ve mentioned this before in Job Security is the Ability to Get a Job, there’s a line in the Princess Bride that I think accurately describes the modern day employer-employee relationship:

“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” – Dread Pirate Roberts

Today, Seth Godin said the same thing while channeling Tom Peters:

“Almost all organizations spend their time and energy looking for security and stability. This is nonsense. The only security you have is in your personal brand and the projects you’ve done so far.”

Overtime Hurts the Everyone

Late last week, a client and I were discussing a struggling project. The client mentioned his project team regularly works nights and weekends to meet the deadlines he had scheduled. I was stunned. This was months into a years longs project.

    There are 3 things fatally wrong with this management strategy:

  1. It devalues both the worker and the work.
    If the work doesn’t need alert, well-rested, and focused people – a machine should be doing it. Conversely, if the people don’t need to be alert, well-rested, and focused to accomplish the work – they’re on the wrong assignment.
  2. It hides the need for additional people and better tools.
    Regularly working overtime means there’s demand for more people and the company would rather exploit their existing staff than fill the demand. Productivity actually decreases throughout the day and after long enough, turns negative. This work-longer mentality keeps helpful people unemployed while others are overworked – both cases destroy health and families.
  3. It hides the need for realistic project scheduling.
    We all may be able to work faster, 9 women can’t have a baby in a month. Things take as long as they take, regularly working overtime hides this fact. Putting lower-quality time (overtime) into project introduces more defects, actually prolonging the project.

For other arguments against overtime, crunch time, and aggressive planning, I recommend:

Better Email Tips

On MPR the other morning, they had consultant and author Marilyn Paul talking about ways to spend less time in your inbox.

Her suggestion is to institute email subject line tags. You include these tags in your email subject line. Here are the one’s I remember:

  • ty: thank you
  • nrn: no reply necessary
  • nbd: need response by date

More tips on increasing your effectiveness available in her book: It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys.