Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What’s in Your Email?

This morning I watched our local senator, Carl Levin, read expletive laden emails written by executives at Goldman Sachs in which they complained about their own products. Several years ago I completed a business ethics training program that included what to write (and not write) in an email. Apparently the folks at Goldman Sachs never got that training.

My question to you is: “What are your employees writing?” While emails are an outstanding method of fast and efficient communications, they are also extremely easy to forward, misunderstand, and they never really go away.

But this conversation shouldn’t stop at email. How many people do you know maintain blogs, Twitter or Facebook accounts? Since people spend the majority of their day at work, that’s what they are likely to write about. I routinely Google and do blog searches of my name, my company (and occasionally my kids) to see what is being posted. Sometimes you can find interesting stuff. One notable example was an employee at a sister location of my employer who wrote a blog about her experiences working on third shift. It wasn’t bad, but it did describe her co-workers in detail by name.

What should you do to avoid being questioned by Senator Levin about the email messages your employees send?

• Make certain that you have a clear policy that covers all methods of electronic communications and what your expectations are.
• Train your employees on the risks of electronic communications.
• Make certain that they are not typing up assumptions about product liability, business ethics, or human resources issues that could come back to haunt you.
• Clearly explain that there is to be no expectation of privacy for anything written at work or while using company equipment, like computers and cell phones, including text messages.
• Include provisions for posting comments about the company on line – when is it appropriate and when is it not?

Take a few minutes this afternoon and try the Google test yourself. You may also want to read through that policy one more time…If you need help, let us know.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Public Speaking like a Rock Star

At the beginning of this month, I gave a presentation to a large group of fellow HR professionals. I regularly present to smaller groups, but this presentation was quite a bit larger, in a lecture hall format, and one in which I really wanted to make a positive impact. Prior to my presentation, I read as many articles as I could on public speaking and even used pizza and beer to bribe a group of friends to let me practice the presentation on them. Through it all, I learned a lot and ultimately the presentation went well.

This past week I went to a performance of our local American Idol hero Matt Giraud. He’s a talented musician and singer and the concert was excellent. As we were leaving, it occurred to me that he knowingly or unknowingly incorporated the key elements of successful public speaking into his performance. What did he do? Consider this:

He chose a topic that he is passionate about, his music. He told us about his past and even performed a song that told his story, making a personal connection with us.

He made the audience feel special by repeatedly thanking us for coming, but not in the usual “We love you (fill in city name here) kind of way.” He used specific examples of what we had done to help him when he provided his praise and gave humorous examples to make his point. He said he wanted to call each McDonalds that posted “Vote for Matt G.” on their sign and say “I’m going to come buy a McFlurry from you!”

He raved about the musical talents of the other performers on his team and demonstrated his own technical competence by playing the drums, singing and most impressively, improvising on the piano while simultaneously talking to the audience.

By the end of the evening Matt had successfully befriended an audience of 1,500 people. At a meeting the next morning, the coffee pot discussion was all about his performance the night before – I obviously wasn’t the only one he impressed.

So the next time you have a big presentation to make, pick a topic that you love and are passionate about, do your homework so you know the subject matter inside and out, personalize your message for the audience, and engage them by sharing personal examples. You too can do public speaking like a rock star.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Michigan’s Healthcare Reform Surprise

While at a local coffee shop this morning I came across a newspaper article on healthcare in Michigan that made me almost fall out of my chair. Believe it or not, one of our current state senators, and Republican gubernatorial candidate, has introduced legislation for healthcare reform in Michigan (SB 1242.1245). Senator Tom George M.D., from Texas Township states:

“It is no secret Michigan is struggling and health care in the United States is broken. These issues have been ongoing for years. This was an issue last year and it was an issue two weeks ago. Especially in light of recently passed federal legislation, Michigan needs to address our problems sooner rather than later.”

In a statement on his website and in a recent speech at CMU he explains that 30% of Michigan’s current budget is spent on Medicare and that it isn’t sustainable without change. He also says that we can’t wait until 2014 when many of the provisions of the recently passed federal legislation take effect.

George’s decision to introduce this legislation is absolutely amazing because not many Republicans are gutsy enough to back healthcare reform in our current political climate. He is also bucking the trend by working with a Democrat to co-sponsor the bill. (Rep. Marc Corriveau, Northville HB 6034-6037)

As a practicing physician, George clearly has some strong opinions about health care reform – this is not the first time that he has sponsored legislation on this topic.

Regardless of your opinion of the health care debate, you have to admire someone who sticks to his guns regardless of the political climate. In this case, it may be helpful that Mr. George is a physician. He’s taking a big gamble with this legislation so it’s a good thing that he has a career to fall back on. He may need it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Change is Inevitable

There’s an old saying that “Change is inevitable except from vending machines.” While change certainly is inevitable, it isn’t something that comes easily. Change is coming at businesses faster and more frequently than ever before. Unfortunately, people usually react poorly to change. The question for us is: “How do companies implement change without scaring employees and losing valuable productivity?”

A few years ago, the company I was at had a recreation committee which organized company events. The Christmas party was traditionally the best attended event and the format had remained basically unchanged for several years. The committee, of which I was the treasurer, decided to change things up and go with a disco theme. When the disco theme was announced, people were angry. Letters were sent to the president and some employees promised to boycott the party.

The anti-disco rebellion reached the executive committee and I was asked to defend this particular party plan. Being a relatively well organized pack rat, I brought with me the letters that had been written to the president about the party. Not the disco version, but the five year old letters from the last time the party format was changed. Interestingly, they contained the same themes: This idea is bad, no one will come, why would you change our party?

So how can employers make change go smoother? First, the topic matters. Ironically, areas that I call “comfort items” like the cafeteria, company events, office arrangements, and the dress code bring forth the most emotional responses. Business plans? Not so much. Here are a couple of tricks for successfully communicating change:

• Share information about potential changes in advance
• Ask for employees to provide feedback
• Actually listen to employee concerns

Then, pick the right thing (not necessarily the most popular) and do it. Communicate how you came to that decision and don’t waiver once you’ve done it. Remember, being a leader isn’t a popularity contest, but it is about leading, listening, and setting a vision.

Curious about what happened with the party? After it was over, our executives said it was the “best ever”. So, put on your tight pants, unbutton your shirt, and play that funky music. Change can and should be fun.