Social Networking in HR

I attended the monthly Portland HR Management Assoc. (PHRMA) luncheon yesterday, and the speaker was Isaac Dixon, the current HR Leader at Lewis & Clark College, who has over 25 years experience in HR!  The topic was “Pro’s and Con’s of Social Networking“.  The luncheons are always held at DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, usually on the 2nd floor.  Yesterday when I entered the banquet entrance of the hotel 10 minutes before the start, I noticed a line at one of the large rooms on the first floor.  Each time I have attended previoius luncheon’s, they have always been on the 2nd floor but to my surprise, the line on the first floor was for the PHRMA luncheon.  I learned later that there were over 300 people in attendance, and not all HR professionals!  I met some Sales & CPA’s there…all to listen Mr. Dixon talk about social networking!  Such a “hot” topic in HR.

I was pleasantly surprised that the main focus was not the “con’s” as I have heard at other presentations.  Yes various social networking sites such as facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. can be tempting for employees to abuse while at work while, decreasing performance as well as possibility of employees, intentionally or unintentionally, posting defamatory or confidential remarks about the company or company employees, perhaps exposing the company to liability(s).  However Mr. Dixon used the beginning of his presentation to emphasize the rapid increase of social networking, the demographics of people using it (for example, he mentioned there are over 250 million facebook users, 1/2 of them are “active” or login daily and that the fastest growing segment of population is NOT teenagers or young adults, but women over 50 years old!!).    His main point at the introduction – social networking is here to stay, no use in trying to stop it!!  Instead, HR should try to channel the energy into positive communication and other strategies for the company.

The presentation moved to the Advantages (pro’s) and Disadvantages (con’s) of social media, some that I may have thought of in passing, but not realized!  Some of the advantages he mentioned were:

  • helps build communities throughout the world and increase understanding of other people/culture
  • can encourage thinking outside of one’s own box
  • an “outlet” for people who work or live in isolated environments (people who work by themselves)
  • individual’s own passion and identity can be channeled/expressed  (i.e. able to re-engage employees who may have a passion for this way of communication who don’t normally have external, customer facing job duties, companies can tap that passion in positive ways for the company)

Of course, from a HR point-of-view, there are Disadvantages to social networking as well, the presentation pointed out some of these such as:

  • can breed over reliance on this form of outreach, instead of using good-ole face-to-face (F2F) communication
  • can INCREASE isolation of some people (instead of F2F, just tweet or text someone)
  • can breed in-the-box thinking, by connecting with ONLY those who have the same thoughts/views/opinions
  • commercialization of social networking can lead to “commercial content”.  An example was given of getting paid by a company to blog/tweet/text about a company’s products

The main point of the discussion is that as HR professionals, we should learn & understand this form of communication better and then capture the good that social networking presents itself.  Although there needs to be boundaries set, rules and procedures written, communicated (at least annually!!) and enforced at the company, HR should think of ways to capture the natural tendency of employee’s creativity.  Social networking is an avenue which our way of thinking could broaden and realize (again) that other generations do not view the world in the same way as we do.  Social networking is growing and no company policy will stop it, denying the fact that employees want this form of communication will not change it.

Mr. Dixon concluded that the marketing & sales functions of organizations and businesses will continue using social networking for their purposes.  Therefore, it will be natural for employees to want to extend those efforts and include their personal touches outside of business.  HR leaders need to better understand the power of social networking and look for ways to integrate them with work tools to allow employees and business to operate more efficiently.  Social networking is a tool, not a world unto itself and people simply want to connect to other people, therefore social networking is just one of the tools available for them to connect.

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The “salary question” asked in a interview

Having a goal for 2010 of (trying) to read blog posts for about 10-20 minutes a day,  I ran across a (very) interesting discussion on “Punk Rock HR” blog about how candidates should answer the “salary question” when in a interview.  The discussion on that blog started in the early morning of Dec 29, 2009 and there was over 20 responses by noon (there are 63 total responses as of writing this)….as I have always thought, salary is the most personal connection between employee and employer.  It is the one universal fact employees compare themselves to others and employers use to compare other employees (within and outside their company)…maybe that was the reason for so many responses?

The summary of the discussion fell into 4 basic categories stated in one post:

– Candidates should keep their salary history confidential
– Candidates should reveal their prior
– Sorta want to keep it confidential but it’s not realistic
– Sorta understand where the recruiter/company is coming from but it’s really none of their business

As a HR professional and currently in transition, I see both sides of the table (very) clearly!  Employers (could) have a couple of reasons for wanting to know a person’s salary:  budgetary reasons, validity of candidate (one of the easiest details to confirm), and perhaps a “clue” of the candidate’s worth to prior company in the prior company’s value scheme.   Candidate’s reasons for not revealing the number vary from “its confidential” to “it doesn’t matter to what prior companies paid me” and everything in-between.  It is thought that who ever gives up “salary” number first looses in negotiations.

Being part of both sides, I do understand the reality that organizations exist either to “make money” (for-profit organizations) or “advance some cause” (non-profits), and at some point revenue/income must be equal to or greater than expenses!  At the end of the day (or fiscal year) the salary (or in HR, what we call total comp. which includes benefits, employer taxes, etc.) of all employees plus the other expenses must be less than the revenue/income or the organization doesn’t exist!  Therefore, candidates need to do their homework and understand what their worth is, then be prepared to inform employers who ask, what their salary expectations are…and not be afraid to answer the question.  Revealing salary history may be a little more tricky and one needs to determine for oneself if that is appropriate at that part of the negotiation, but salary expectations are just that, based on your homework, my expectations are X.

If interested in reading the entire discussion (and it is real good reading)…see http://punkrockhr.com/salary-history-confidential/

Does the act of leadership need to change?

I had “fun” and learned a lot at the Toastmasters District 7 Leadership meeting today in Wilsonville, OR (for more info, see agenda at:  http://tr.im/JV5L).  The opening session was title “The Magnificent 7-1/2: Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times” by Erick Rainey, who is a professional coach, trainer and master practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  He gave a list of 7 competencies that leaders need to master.  But what intrigued me was how he started this discussion.  He broke down the word leadership into 2 parts:  first being “leader” and the second being “ship”.  One of the definitions he used to described “leader” is to be in front.  Which I believe is very true, a leader must have a vision and be in front of his “team” to guide them to that vision.

As for the second word “ship“, we know that to use a ship to work, the ship must be in good repair and well maintained to be able to withstand (i.e. float) both calm and turbulent waters.  It should also be outfitted with correct parts so that it can float (i.e. be used) safely.  This is also true with leadership.  There was mention that there are several words that end in “ship”, such as friendship, membership, championship, etc.  One thread that these words that end in “ship” all have in common is the need to be involved or interact with others. 

I took that thought and blended with a thought I was left with at a recent OEN HR Workshop I attended.  At this workshop,  there were 3 panelists (a “baby boomer”, a “Gen X” professional and a “Gen Y” professional) taking turns answering questions interesting aspects of the 4 generations working in today’s workplace.    Amongst the topics that were discussed was (generally) the different ways people in each generation communicate with each other.  Traditionalists (pre-Baby Boomers) like face to face, Baby Boomers like email and phone, Gen X & Gen Y people like using social media (i.e. instant messaging, twitter, etc).  Again, these are generalizations, but the  thought I blended with the “leadership” thought was the fact that each of these generations want to interact with leaders, but each generation desires to interact differently with the leader!!

I believe that leaders must learn to use these different methodologies to communicate to their followers.  I believe thatcommunication is perhaps the most important quality leaders need and those that have this quality can be on the way to be good leaders.

Would enjoy others who have an opinion on this!

A little staycation – Wildwood Trail Hike

During these difficult economic times, the word “staycation” has become somewhat popular, in which an individual or family stays around one’s own neighborhood or takes day trips around their home to area attractions.   Although one lives in the area, you think “I have all the time in the world to visit, I will go some other time” or something similar and never really visit.  I remember when I was in Hawaii and never really visited the tourist attractions such as Arizona Memorial, Aloha Tower, Punchbowl, Polynesian Cultural Center, etc. until the last couple of months I was living there.

Well….not motivated to take a “staycation” per se, just have some free time and wanted to check out part of the 40-mile loop in Portland, so decided to take my dog Cutie on a little hike on part of this 40-mile loop.  I decided to try the Wildwood Trail.  This trail is over 30 miles (not all of it on the 40-mile loop) and I have heard many friends talk about this trail, how its not so difficult and they enjoyed it.

I started out at the trailhead located just South of Portland Audubon Society parking lot.  Walking North, the trail climbs about 400 feet kind of quickly then levels off.  The trail was clear and wide enough for people to pass on either side.  There were other hikers with their dogs and people used the trails for cross country running.   I had a good time walking about 2 miles (30 minutes) at a leisurely pace.  There were many trees and some birds, even saw a couple of what I think were squirrels?  Took a break where there was a bench and took a couple of pictures…then headed back the 2 miles to the car.  Great relaxing way to spend an afternoon and to explore one’s own city!  I think I am going to make it my goal to hike the entire 40-mile loop!

Finished walking about 30 minutes

On the way home, took time to climb a log with my dog Cutie

Interviewing with Skype

The other day I had the interesting experience of having a phone interview, with a little twist…using SKYPE! As you probably already know, Skype is program that uses the internet for voice (and images) to call other people, worldwide…for FREE!! It is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends in far away places.  The only limitation is…one must be in front of a computer screen.

My interview was with a company in North Carolina and I was informed that there would be 5 people interviewing me (panel interview).  I’ve been to panel interviews before so I thought it would be no problem!  For a Skype interview, one does need a headset with microphone (using a built-in computer microphone will take-in the background noise) and if you want to see each other, you also need a web camera.  I did have a webcam already, but I purchased a mid-quality headset with microphone.  I set up my account in skype (easy to do) and tested with a friend before the interview.  It seemed simple enough!

The day of the interview came…the recruiter informed me the time would be 1:30pm but suggested I be online and ready to take the call by 10 to 15 minutes before.  One must input the other party’s skype username into one’s contact list before a call can be completed and I thought I would do that about 15 minutes before the scheduled interview and then make last minute preparations.  Well, as soon as I inputted the other party’s skype username, they were already connected and the act of inputting the name (since they were online already), completed the loop and the call was started! It caught me a little by surprise, but luckily I was already dressed and prepared!

The interview went as any normal panel interview…the voice and picture quality were good.  There is only a camera, and the video was a little choppy, therefore it was a little difficult to get “read”body language and focus attention on one speaker (they were sitting at a table).  I had the advantage of having notes, out of sight of the camera and I was taking notes too.  One must be aware of the background too, otherwise you may be showing a disorganized area (my office in my house is not the best looking area of the house).  All-in-all, it was a positive experience and the recruiter informed me that the interviewers also thought the interview went well.

In the future, if that interview didn’t work out and I get a chance at a phone interview again, I am going to request using skype!  Video can be powerful and give an edge to one candidacy?!  Love to hear other’s comments…

Black Friday Shopping Experience

Don’t you think family traditions are great!!  Many family traditions involve or center around food, but not our family.  We enjoy our first seasonal Christmas “celebration” by getting up early and participating in the first “official” day of Christmas shopping season, otherwise known as Black Friday.   This tradition is rather new for us, started about 10 years ago and I must admit, the excitement is not as great as the first couple of years were.  But none-the-less, we do enjoy it.

Yesterday we decided to have roast beef dinner instead of turkey and had a beautiful dinner.  Then dutifully, looked at the advertisement inserts to the Thanksgiving edition of the Oregonian.  There must have been over 50 different inserts.  I remember when we first started this tradition, stores would open up at 6am, this morning there were a bunch of stores open at 4am!!  Can you believe that?!  We always start out at 5am or so and this year was no different.

So we woke up at 5am, left at 5:30am and went to JCPenny at Clackamas Town Center first.  We received the miniature Christmas snowglobe ornament like we have received for every year…then started  a looking for “door buster” bargains and found some.  By 6:15am we were on the road going to our next stop, Walmart.  Approaching the parking lot from the street, we saw a lot of cars parked on the street and thought is there that many shoppers here?  When we got into the parking lot, circled around for several minutes until we found a parking spot we realized all of Portland must be in the store!  It was packed!  As soon as we walked into the store, we saw lines of people lining up to pay for their merchandise.  Every cash register was open and there must have been at least 50 people or so at each of the 15 cash registers we counted.  Same long line was at other cash registers located in electronics, pharmacy and garden center.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seemed most people were buying mostly toys and electronics and clothes…

We left that store and went to Target close by…very similar crowd.  Wow, we’re in tough economic times yet the stores are this busy?  This was probably the busiest I have seen it.  A couple of years ago, I was one of the crazy ones to wait for hours (not camp overnight) at a Toys-R-Us to buy the newly released Wii game console, but the line was never more than 50 people…and it was only one line.

Maybe next year, we’ll rethink this tradition and start another one tradition…any thoughts?

Answering a difficult question

Throughout my career I have been able to be in front of audiences and have no fear of speaking, but wanted to improve myself so I joined toastmasters about 6 months now.  I have given 5 prepared speeches, have been assigned several meeting roles such as grammarian, speech evaluator, timer, etc.   and I have also participated in the impromptu speaking part of the meeting called table topics.  Being similar to an interview, I relish giving the questions, but have found that I am somewhat  not so good at being asked the question and answer it….on Saturday, I was actually “stumped” by the question and feel like it was a learning moment for me!

Our theme was “What Lies Ahead” and the toastmaster gave several references to what this could mean and personalized the theme for him.  We had two great speeches and then the Table Topics part of the meeting arrived.  Our Table Topics master started by asking the question and then calling on volunteers to answer .  Don’t remember the first question but there was a volunteer that answered it.  Don’t exactly remember what 2nd question was but it was something like “what strength or quality has people complimented you on“.  No one volunteered, therefore the Table Topics master called on me.  I was hesitant at first, but did get up to answer the question.  I was thinking as people were clapping and I got to the stage, I have no ideal what people compliment me on. I stood on the stage (we meet in a upstairs chapel of the church, where there is a small stage). and almost froze…literally!!  I couldn’t think of a single thing.

I knew I had to speak for at least 1 minute (table topic guidelines), and I was trying to think the last time I was complimented?  I really don’t take compliments well (don’t most people?), and couldn’t remember any.  The only thing I can think of how some people appreciate me going out of my way to help them.  I thought how can I fill 60 seconds with that…after a few nervous seconds, I started out by trying to say something funny to “warm up” the audience and mentioned how people complimented me on my good looks.  No one laughed (does that mean they don’t think I’m good looking?  Just joking!!) so I was even more nervous of how to talk about helping others.  I used some stories of when I was in Japan on the train trying to help, but I know the words came out weak and unsure.  The story I told probably wasn’t viewed on as me “helping”, but I was at a loss of how to save this story.  I bumbled on, not sure if I made any sense and mercifully, I somehow managed to talk for about a minute…I walked down off the stage when I was finished wondering what the heck did I just say??

After the meeting I confided to the table topics master that I was not sure if I spoke well enough, it was a real tough question for me.  When I got home, I looked on toastmaster international website and found an interesting article on how to answer difficult table topic questions.  One piece of advice is to shift the question to an area I know something about or I am more comfortable.  Being in job search mode right now, I have developed an answer for the always asked “tell me what your strengths are” question…I could have easily talked about a couple of these AND it would have been great practice in front of a friendly audience that could even critique me, give me feedback on how to improve.

Oh well, it was a good lesson for me to learn, on how to answer the difficult question.

By the way…visitors are always welcomed at my toastmaster’s club…we meet on Saturday mornings from 9am to 10:15am at Rose City Methodist Church (5830 NE Alameda Street, Portland – near Sandy and NE 57th)