December 16, 2008

You Are Now Friends With…Your Co-Workers!

I’ve haven’t participated in a corporate social network, and based on the descriptions of some of them, I’m not sure I want to. One system I heard about enables colleagues to see all the books on your electronic bookshelf. That would be fine, except some people aren’t proud of their electronic library. What if that electronic library consists of a whole collection of books with the word “dummy” in the titles such as “Windows Vista for Dummies,” “Microsoft Office 2007 for Dummies,” etc? As it turns out, I don’t have any electronic library at all—either on my work computer or PC, but if I did, I imagine a lot of titles I wouldn’t be eager to share.

If you’re able to pick and choose what to share, the whole endeavor becomes meaningless. Instead of a true window into what helps your co-workers or managers perform so well, your colleagues (and you, too, maybe) become like the man in the fancy smoking jacket, with an expensive cigar in his mouth, and a whole library in his house of books he feels proud of displaying, though he never intends to read. One of the nice things about social networks like Facebook or MySpace is the sense you’re experiencing a piece of the person whose page you’ve gained access to. You suddenly have a window into their likes and dislikes, and maybe even some injudiciously chosen photos. The goals for a corporate social network are different in that it’s not of imperative importance that you understand your cubicle mate plays the harp and is fixated on saving white tigers. But to be effective, the network has to give you access to the tools they really use (not just those they’d like to brag about) to get their jobs done, and those tools that gave them support in their professional development. What I’m wondering about is how much of these corporate social networking sites are more about posturing than an honest exchange of ideas and feedback?

It’s tempting to jump into the corporate social network trend because you think it shows how hip and Millennial-savvy your company is. But before you do that, take time with your executives to decide what you’d like this “revolutionary” platform to accomplish. Maybe it’s not a good fit for your organization. Is it possible this new forum will be more of a distraction than a help to your workforce?  Maybe you need to put some controls in place, and publish some guidelines about use of the site, so your goals for it are realized. First, how personal do you want employees’ pages to be?  How much do you want these personalized entries to resemble Facebook?  On the one hand, you risk sacrificing professionalism and encouraging on-the-job distraction. On the other hand, maybe your workforce will collaborate better once they feel more comfortable with one another. Comfort is good, but then you have to ask yourself about legal entanglements like sexual harassment. No matter how loose and easy/breezy your social network is, you need to publish some guidelines about appropriate content, and point out that exchanges that wouldn’t be considered appropriate over the cubicle wall also aren’t appropriate on the company social network.

You also need to figure out whether employees pages will be universally accessible to other employees; whether they’ll just be automatically accessible to all those in their work group or business division; or whether you’ll leave decisions about access up to individuals. If you leave the decision, Facebook-style, up to individual workers, some social awkwardness, if not conflict, might arise. “Why wouldn’t you want everyone at your company, or at least in your work group, to see your corporate social network page?” colleagues denied access will wonder.  But if employees’ managers, in addition to their colleagues, can see their collaboration and (inevitably sometimes casual) exchanges with co-workers, won’t they feel too inhibited to take full advantage of the platform?

With so many more potential complications than the designers of MySpace and Facebook had to consider, don’t try to emulate these leisure-time networks too closely. Be sure to use employees’ personalized pages to push them to achieve for the company. The idea of a “Wall” on each worker’s page is great, but maybe you should particularize the “Wall” so it’s not just a “Wall,” but an “Innovation Wall” in which the primary exchanges are about ideas for new products and other ways to grow the company. After all, you don’t want your employees’ open exchanges on the network to concentrate on a highly intellectual debate about the merits of the chocolate martini versus the appletini.

The photo album portion of the pages also can be narrowed for use that’s mostly related to the company. You can specify that the only photos on these pages should be from company events, outings with workgroups, or, even better, photos that relate to a new idea for product, service, or company strategy. Instead of a profile of favorite “TV shows” and other non-immediately-work-relevant likes and dislikes, have profiles ask questions such as top tips for making it through a rough project; how each employee got his or her professional start; greatest professional accomplishment to date; and ultimate professional goal or dream.

Not entirely professional, but the status update isn’t a bad idea for your corporate social network. Wouldn’t you love to know what all your employees “are doing right now?” 


Have you launched a corporate social network yet?  What are some of your concerns about providing this type of forum to your employees? What are some of the key benefits, and how do you tailor the site so it meets your goals?


 

June 11, 2008

Second Life roundtable / corporate training

It’s hard to believe, but Second Life is officially turning five years old.  Linden Labs (the company behind the Second Life) is celebrating the anniversary with a series of expositions, discussions, conferences and other events.  The whole week, starting June 30, will be devoted exclusively to business uses of Second Life.  I was asked to run a round-table discussion "Starting Corporate Training Program in Second Life: Best Practices, Security Concerns and Future Developments".  We already have a list of respected panelists that includes folks from the industry who implemented Second Life solutions in training and marketing, analysts with well-known technology and market research company, business liaisons from Linden Lab and others. 

Given that you are reading this blog I think it would be inconceivable to miss this opportunity to gather more valuable information in one hour then you otherwise  would be researching for years.  And the best part:  you will be getting information directly from the people who has been involved in business implementations of Second Life solutions. 

Tentatively, we set up round table for Monday, June 30th at 9 AM Pacific / 12 noon Eastern.

Please, e-mail me at info1 @ deltaltraining.com if you would like to attend.

Right now we are researching possibility of streaming video+audio from Second Life using GoToMeeting for those who would like to be present, but their corporate network prevents them from connecting to SL directly.  If this works out, the number of people who will be able to connect using GoToMeeting will be limited to 15, "first come/first served, single computer connection from a company," so if your firewall "filters out" Second Life, but allows GoToMeeting connections, you might want to register asap.

November 19, 2006

Distance Learning Association Conference

Last week I had a pleasure of attending tri-state Distance Learning Association 4th Annual Conference & Expo ( PA/DE/NJDLA). One thing that surprised me most: number of attendees who came looking for vendors providing pre-packaged distance learning courses. Not that I didn't know about the trend beforehand, but as always, it's better to see once. Among the vendors, those who had pre-packaged modules were surrounded by really interested crowd whenever there was a window between talks. At this point I did not noticed overwhelming bias towards SCORM – compliant modules. However, it seemed to be a definite plus for those searching modules for web delivery. Everybody and his grandmother has a LMS nowdays and it looks like a no-brainer to select SCORM – compliant modules that can be used with that LMS. There are, of course, more than one side to this medal. If I was making a living teaching a set of courses in a regular class setting, I would be a little nervous. On the other hand, as often, “if you can't beat them, join them”. Now seem to be a great time to convert existing classes to e-learning format and capitalize on existing knowledge. Of course you are running the risk of cannibalizing some of existing business, but given forethought , negative effects can be minimized, while expanding potential audience and staying on top of the events might be a very positive outcome.

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Alex Heiphetz received Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Pittsburgh. After working for a consulting firm he started an independent company in 1997. Delta L Printing specializes in business services to training companies and educational institutions: training management software, publishing, audio and video production. Dr. Heiphetz can be reached via e-mail at alex.heiphetz@deltalprinting.com or through the company web site www.deltalprinting.com.

September 15, 2006

A Small Improvement in Business Communication Style

By Catherine Kaputa

"All the world's a stage," goes the Bard's familiar refrain. And in the business world, meetings are the primary stage on which one "performs." Smart executives all understand what it takes to be in control of an important meeting or talk. And you should work at your communication and meeting skills if you want to be more effective and successful to.

What is the point of communicating if you don't have an impact?  How often do you go into business meetings, make business calls, and have business conversations without a persuasive message?  How often do you say your message without saying it in a way that’s indelibly your own? How good are you are presenting a recommendation to a group of senior executives?

Communication—the ability to articulate and to sell your point of view—is core to business and life success.  It means you can persuade people to choose you for the job, buy your product or service or promote you to lead the department. 

Here are some of the ideas from my book, U R A BRAND! How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success, that show you how to build a stronger verbal communications style.


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August 22, 2006

Successful by Association

By Georgia Trusio

No matter who you are in the business world...you need customers!  Whether you are in the "steady-paycheck" category or the "self-employed", every activity that you perform is in direct proportion to your income and that income is usually derived from customers buying your product or service.   

My sales training covers 25 different vehicles to get to "new" business. 

I've always loved "cold calling" and since I trained QPMA (Qualifying Prospects & Getting Appointments) at AT&T, I would have to say that I'm highly skilled in "dialing for dollars." Unfortunately, I was not skilled in the "vehicle" of networking probably because I didn't think it was a skill, but that story will have to come in my next blog. 

For now, I would highly recommend that you research the vehicle that is best for your city. In Atlanta, the best vehicle would be "joining business associations."  Atlanta has more than 1,000 business organizations to choose from and most business professionals belong to at least two if not more.  This is how we get to our prospective buyer!

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