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Who’s going to win: Millenials vs Managers vs Headphones

This month’s millennial management question: Why are my millennial employees always wearing headphones at work?

This is a common question we get a lot, both from managers who feel ignored by their earbud-wearing young employees and by millennial professionals who don’t understand why headphones are a problem. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, it’s helpful to step into the shoes (ear canals?) of both perspectives.


Let’s face it, offices can be distracting. Noise — in the form of overheard phone calls, coughing colleagues, ringing cell phones or nearby construction — is a real problem, especially in modern open office layouts. One study from Oxford Economics found that “the ability to focus and work without interruptions” was a top office concern for two-thirds of respondents of all generations. Realize that for a millennial, popping in earbuds serves much the same purpose as you closing your door (if you’re one of the few who still has one).

Some studies indicate music can help workers concentrate, especially on repetitive tasks. Whether you buy the evidence or not, many millennials truly believe that music helps them work better. This is, in fact, the top reason younger workers tell me they wear headphones: because it helps them to be more focused and productive.

Background music is literally the soundtrack of millennials’ lives: In fact, a recent study found that millennials listen to 75 percent more music on a daily basis than boomers. While people of all generations love music, those of us in previous generations didn’t have access to personal headsets until we were much older. (The Sony Walkman wasn’t invented until 1979.)

Okay, so millennials can make a good argument for why they listen to music at work. What if it still bothers you?

As always, it is perfectly okay for you to set boundaries and let your employees know you’d prefer they not wear headphones at certain times; say, when clients are around or when you’re working on a team project with a lot of conversations happening all the time. The important thing is to explain why you want your employee to be earbud-free. For instance, you might say, “When you’re editing a spreadsheet or working on data entry, it’s totally fine to listen to music. But today while we’re working on this sales deck I really need us all to be available to each other.”

It’s also recommended reminding younger professionals that availability is an opportunity. If you are a boss and want to brainstorm with someone on a new marketing idea, who are you going to ask to join — the person who is available and attentive or the one who is lost in her music?

Finally, make sure you aren’t promoting the loner norm by closeting yourself in your own office. If you aren’t walking around and interacting with your team, there’s little incentive for them to take those earbuds out and participate in the ambient office action.


If you are the one craving music at work, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your music at a volume where you can still hear what’s going on around you, and where others can’t hear your music.
  • Let your manager know when you’re putting on your music and share why: “I really need to concentrate on this spreadsheet, and the earbuds help me tune out distractions. Is there anything I can do for you first?”
  • Devise a signal that your team can use so they’re not shouting at you to get your attention. Maybe they’ll knock on the desk in front of you or wave their arms. Make sure that you look up every now and then to be aware of what’s going on around you; you can have your music on and still be responsive.
  • Watch the lyrics in your music. Yes, everyone in the office is an adult, but there are still some lyrics that might be offensive to some, and you wouldn’t want to lift out your earbuds and have your supervisor hear a slew of obscenities.
  • Only use headphones when you really need to for concentration. A lot of learning happens when you’re just listening to overheard conversations and the buzz around the office. Being on high alert also allows you to know if there’s a situation where you could jump in to help.
  • Remember that even though having earbuds in constantly is normal to your generation, to others it signals that you are not involved or are tuned out — not the message you want to send your supervisor. If you’re always in your own world, it can be hard to build the working relationships that occur naturally just from the small talk as someone walks by.

This article originally published by Lindsey Pollak..


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It’s True, Team Building Is A Waste Of Time–But Trust Is Essential

In his recent Harvard Business Review article,  “Stop Wasting Money on Team Building,” Carlos Valdes-Dapena opens with a stark assertion: “Most corporate team building is a waste of time and money.”

He’s right, of course. At least, he’s right insofar as the absurd and pricey experiences that are often used in corporate organizations to facilitate team building. Ropes courses, trust falls and the assortment of team building games out there all aim to create an environment of uncertainty and stress that build bonds of trust between people. Though well-intentioned, these artificial activities are (at best) thin shadows of the real thing. The adversity is contrived, and so the trust needed to thrive within it is hollow and temporary. As soon as participants return to the natural habitats of their work domains, the suspicious distrust and self-focused motivations of old return, wreaking havoc on the ability of teams to function as a team.

Unfortunately, Valdes-Dapena takes this observation as proof that trust itself is not the necessary starting point for effective teamwork. This confuses the uselessness of silly corporate trust-building efforts with the usefulness of building the real thing. Instead, he proposes that trust is a naturally occurring byproduct of “dedicated people striving together” to achieve their own individual objectives, as clarified and aligned using his proprietary “collaboration framework.”

This is the hope of leaders and managers everywhere: to find a new organizational structure with clear definitions of roles and finely tuned incentives that enable group performance to excel whether people trust each other or not. The thinking goes: once you build that, trust can organically grow as the group’s goals or reached . . . or not. In this model, trust among team members is nice to have, but not a must-have.

The goal of finding a way to manage the trust problem is understandable but misguided. It suffers from the twin problems of misunderstanding what teamwork really is and how it is built.

Understanding teamwork

Teamwork is a much deeper concept than simply group work. In a group work model, such as an assembly-line factory, the group effort is orchestrated by the design of the plan. Not much is required of workers beyond doing their own, individual tasks. While the parts of the whole are connected, they are not interrelated. The group can achieve its objectives with little to no relational coordination. So long as everyone does the task in front of them, the design of the system and its coordination from the authorities above will transform individual contribution into group production.

True teamwork requires more to achieve the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” payoff. Watch high-performing teams in any domain, and you will see a group of people operating with a shared sense of mission and a feeling of camaraderie. They experience an esprit de corps that unites more than their collective efforts: it unites them. In this unity, members of a team care about more than just their own individual responsibilities and compensation. They care about the team’s mission and are invested in each other’s success as well. This state – colloquially described as “team chemistry” in the sports world – is now becoming the stuff of serious statistically study, as noted by Harvard Business Review four years ago with its article titled “Team Chemistry Is the New Holy Grail of Performance Analytics.”

Beyond chemistry, teamwork requires constant and open communication. This is so for reasons more important than mere sharing to be a “good team player.” As General Stanley McChrystal illustrates beautifully in his book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, the predictability of the industrial age of complicated machines has now given way to the unpredictability of the information age of complex networks. In this new environment, qualities such as flexibility, agility, and speed are more important than ordered precision and operational efficiency. To achieve the level of coordination needed for teams to thrive in this new paradigm, rapid communication, and transparent information sharing are paramount. As McChrystal put it in Teams:

“Through this combination of dense connectivity – trust – and their understanding of the situation and commitment to an outcome – purpose – teams like the SEALs can tackle threats more complex than any leader can foresee.”

Why trust matters

This requirement of teamwork to quickly and selflessly share information is why trust matters.

As anyone knows who has ever operated in a bureaucratic environment (whether public/government or private/corporate), all too often information is treated like both a currency and a weapon. People hoard information to make themselves more valuable to the organization (in general) and their bosses (in particular) by the ways they choose to share it. At the same time, how information gets shared or not can damage a rival teammate’s chances of success or a rival division’s ability to get a needed piece of the corporate budget. In these types of environments, people don’t freely share information because they don’t trust others not to use that information to their own disadvantage. Without trust, membership on a corporate team ends up resembling a Hobbesian state of nature, only with health insurance and a 401(k) plan.

As communication atrophies among members of teams – whether cross-functional or adjacent in nature (sales teams responsible for different territories or products, for example) – moments of conflict arise to steal the valuable time and attention of all involved. A vicious cycle then ensues: the breakdown in communication triggers conflict and conflict reinforces the lack of trust that results in even more communication problems.

The consequence to the business for this lack of trust is one of the lost opportunity costs. How much more productivity and creativity could be unleashed during the time spent in conflict cycles like this? Better yet, how many new ideas simply don’t get through because of the lack of shared information at the right time for serendipity to do its magical work? No amount of organizational redesign, incentive restructuring or role clarity efforts can overcome the problem at the heart of it all: distrust. For teams to be willing to communicate in the ways needed for true teamwork to occur, a foundation of trust has to be built.

How trust is built

There are no easy shortcuts to building trust. It takes time, intention and the crucible of hard work. In the physical arenas like sports, trust is built through the sweat of practice and the pressure of performance. Talk to any veteran of military service and they say something similar: the rigors of military training forges a bond of trust among fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

In matters less physical, the formula is still the same. Whether among partners in a marriage or peers in business, building trust requires embracing the hard emotional work of vulnerability.  In his bestselling book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, author Patrick Lencioni zeros in on trust as the foundation of a healthy leadership team. According to Lencioni, the door that leads to that kind of trust is vulnerability:

“When everyone on a team knows … that no one is going to hide his or her weaknesses or mistakes, they develop a deep and uncommon sense of trust. They speak more freely and fearlessly with one another and don’t waste time and energy putting on airs or pretending to be someone they’re not. … At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the collective good of the team.”

Yes, it’s true: the expensive off sites and goofy games fail to build the trust that makes teamwork happen. But proving the former are largely useless isn’t the same as proving the latter to be unnecessary. In the rapidly changing environment facing every business now, effective teamwork is needed now more than ever. This means doing the hard work of looking team members in the eye and embracing the vulnerability that starts the process of building trust. And if you’re the leader? It means you get to go first.

There’s no other way.

Source: Forbes.

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Company’s Year End Celebration Tips

It’s that time again for companies to bond and have fun at the end of 2017. This means it’s time for companies to start planning their year-end celebrations. Here we offers a few tips.

Leaders can show their staff how much they care about them through celebrations, too, and a good time to do it is usually at the end of the year. “Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to celebrate both individual and organizational accomplishments as a means to acknowledge the time and efforts of those who contributed to the success,” said Edward Yost, manager of employee relations and development at the Society for Human Resource Management. “Doing so helps to answer the question of why we do what we do and why should we continue to make such an effort in the coming year.”

But what’s the best way for organizations to celebrate? The answer, Yost said, depends on the company. “It is important to understand the company’s culture to effectively identify a truly meaningful way to celebrate.” he said. With that in mind, here are a few tips for planning your company’s celebration:

Consider your culture. 

The celebration itself can be simple and inexpensive—like a potluck. It is more important for the celebration to fit the culture of the organization and for it to be perceived as genuine and sincere.

Consider an activity.

Sometimes planning a staff outing is a refreshing change of pace for a company. For a more active employee group, perhaps an outing of some sort would be a good way to celebrate. For example, a day trip to a national park for hiking, trail bike riding, and the like. Also acknowledged that not all staffs would welcome the idea of an outdoor excursion. For those groups, we suggested that company rent out a movie theater, a bowling alley, or a Top Golf-like venue for the end-of-year celebration.

Consider family. 

If your company considers itself to be family-friendly, then the end-of-year celebration could be a good time to live this mantra out by including family in whatever celebration you choose. As we all know, our families sometimes sacrifice time with us, especially when there are significant work projects and changes occurring at the office. So, recognizing their sacrifices can be important.

Consider the timing.

The end of the year is a busy time for just about everybody, so it’s important that company plan their celebrations well in advance to ensure they select a date that works for as many staff members as possible. The closer to the end of the year that an employer begins planning for such a celebration, the more limited the options an employer may have. So, if your planning is running behind and you can’t secure the venue you want, consider holding the celebration in January instead.

Consider liabilities.

Company should also consider the likelihood of injuries—especially if a more physical activity is chosen for the celebration.

The year-end celebration allows the company to reflect upon all that has occurred over the period and to ensure that all staff feel recognized and appreciated for their efforts, contributions, and sometimes their sacrifices, which helped drive the company forward. Research shows that effective employee recognition can result in increased employee engagement, productivity, retention, customer service, and morale. All of these will be important going into the new year.

How does your company celebrate the achievements of your staff at year-end? Please leave your comments below!

This article is originally published by Associations Now.

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Next Big Thing from Corporate HR

Human Resources (HR) has come a long way, since it first found its way into corporate consciousness in the early 1980s. Today, there are few companies left that do not have an explicit recruitment strategy, engage in talent management, have carefully thought-out incentive systems, and regularly run various leadership development initiatives.

But this — that pretty much everyone undertakes these processes — also means that they have commoditized. And with it, that they can no longer be a source of competitive advantage for a company. For that, there are further (and perhaps even tougher) nuts to crack.

As Freek Vermeulen, a professor of Strategic Management, there are three key steps that form HR’s next frontier.

First, HR needs to become more strategic.

That says with the following: : When we ask a top manager about their HR strategy, we are typically shown a few PowerPoints with charts and frameworks. But when we ask the same manager about their company’s business strategy, usually a much more detailed expose follows: An explanation of a precise value proposition, exactly what customer profile they are aiming for and what the key internal processes are given the specific fit is between the two. Most companies have developed a much deeper and more detailed understanding of their product market strategy than of their labor market strategy.

But this isn’t always optimal. The first frontier for HR is to develop talent management strategies that are just as sophisticated and precise as their companies’ product-market strategies, in terms of their value proposition, employee profile and internal organisation. If done well, in some cases, such a sophisticated HR strategy might come to form the very heart of a company’s entire business model. For example, the strategy consulting company Eden McCallum offers a service that is not all that different from other, traditional consulting companies, but its talent management strategy — based on operating a pool of freelancers — is unique, giving it a competitive advantage in the labour market. More companies may find that real competitive advantage can be found in the market for employees rather than in their product markets.

Second, HR needs to move on.

From designing formal talent management systems towards the management of informal processes and mind-sets, because that’s where the real value lies.

When Cisco, for example, reorganised from client- into technology groups, it found that its old informal employee networks, formed around customers, effectively complemented its efficiency-based technology groups. It obtained the necessary technological efficiencies through its formal, technology-oriented structure, yet maintained its famed customer focus and problem-solving skills through its informal networks. This created an efficient yet adaptable organisation. Deliberately managing such informal systems to complement the inevitable shortcomings of a firm’s formal structure, in Vermeulen’s view, forms HR’s second, much-needed frontier. Managing the informal organisation is not an easy task, but it can create real, enduring value for a company.

Third, HR programs — and talent management in specific — are focused on individuals.

Recruiting, training and retaining superior employees. But genuine competitive advantage comes from superior organisations; not from superior people. For an HR strategy to deliver competitive advantage, it will need to shift from hiring and developing individuals to the management and creation of inter-personal processes.

HR has professionalised enormously over the past few decades. The next big thing for HR is to move on from being a mere staff function to being at the heart of Corporate Strategy itself. Organisations are groups of people. Creating better and unique ways for those people to work together can add real, sustainable value to corporations. The three steps described above represent pivotal ways in which this can happen. Do them well and HR becomes the prime, long-term driver of a firm’s profitability.

Source: Freek Vermeulen

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3 Advantages of Hiring a Bilingual Candidate

Having bilingual employees in the workforce can only bring benefits to the company. Studies have shown that bilingual people are good at multitasking and have excellent communication skills. Any company looking to expand or to have global reach should have at least 5 bilingual employees on their payroll. The most common language combination nowadays is English/Spanish. However, Chinese, German and French are languages also being sought after by recruiters. So if you are a job seeker, start looking for the best language school in your neighborhood, and if you are a recruiter or a company owner and you are not yet convinced bilinguals will eventually rule the world, here is a small list of the advantages of hiring bilingual candidates:

  1. International reach.
    Bilingual employees not only know how to speak the language, but, in most cases, they also have knowledgeabout their native country’s culture, which is always an advantage when dealing with international clients.
  1. Translation made easy.
    Having a bilingual employee makes using localization services a breeze. The staff member could be in charge of proof reading the translation of the content of the website and can assess the localization process. He or she can also adapt the information for what is more suitable in the different regions.
  1. Multitasking.
    A recent study showed that bilinguals can switch between tasks a lot quicker than people who know only one language. Researchers found that people who spoke several languages could process information faster and more efficiently than monolinguals.

What are you waiting for? It’s time to hire a whole lot of bilingual employees! Make sure to use a bilingual recruiter who can test their skills and that will be able to make a decision based on the candidate’s skills. Languages are the future, what do you have to lose?

Your job search starts in Indonesia.

Oswaldo Contreras NEUVOO
Strategic Alliance Coordinator

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How to Keep Your Employees Motivated in the Workplace

One of the most important things in running a good business is to keep your employees happy, making them feel they are truly a key part of the business. Employees at all levels already know that no one is indispensable, however, true leaders don’t show or tell their employees that they can easily be replaced. Remember most employees are likely to reflect and show how they feel about their jobs or company in the way they treat their clients and even their coworkers.

Employee incentives are designed to reward their performance in the workplace; they highlight individuals that work hard and get the job done in an outstanding manner. Here are few tips any company can use to keep their staff motivated:

  • Show appreciation: It should be the starting point; appreciation can be shown verbally, letting your employees know that if the business is doing great, it was because of their hard work, and that they could benefit from that accordingly.
  • Offer special bonuses or rewards:this isthe most commonly used incentive by companies and it works most of the time. However, not many companies are willing to increase the rewards once their employees keep achieving the established goals, since what they do is only raise the goal, most likely creating some type of discomfort for the employee.
  • Time rewards also count: Sometimes lessis more. Companies can use time as an incentive based on performance, giving a paid half-day or a day off is definitely a good incentive that everyone can appreciate and work hard to achieve.
  • Reward great ideas: Listen to your employees and reward their ideas.They usually have a better insight on what truly is going on in a business and on how they can improve it, so make sure you listen.
  • Have a casual day: Working in a corporate environment can be tiring, especially on Fridays. Allow your employees to dress casually on these days to make them feel more relaxed, so they can feel the weekend has already arrived.
  • Be creative: Many things might come to mind regarding incentives. Try to use some type of entertainment to reward your employees, such as rewarding their efforts with restaurant gift cards, subscriptions to some type of software, etc.

Don’t let that daily work routine bring your employees down; change it up a bit and everybody will definitely appreciate it. Always remember that when you use incentives, try not to only raise the goals, but the rewards as well, or otherwise,you can drive away your best employees.

Give your employees new challenges and tasks to grow professionally and create new opportunities for them to excel and keep on rewarding them from what they do.

Your job search starts in Indonesia.

Oswaldo Contreras / NEUVOO
Strategic Alliance Coordinator

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4 Tech-tips to Upgrade HR Communications

From performance reviews to PTO requests, most HR professionals understand that HR communication can be tricky. You need to collect a lot of information from your employees (which often entails tracking down individuals and sending countless reminders), but you also need to avoid over-communicating so you don’t clutter their inboxes with HR emails.

Here are four strategies you can use to cut down on administrative tasks, limit massive email communications, stay organized, and improve HR communication for your business.


Integrate an email marketing system

Email marketing systems aren’t just for marketing teams—HR can use them for internal communications as well. On average, employees spend 28% of their time reading and responding to email. With such a captive audience, HR teams should integrate employee data into automated emails for events like birthdays and work anniversaries. This boosts morale by making employees feel special and also saves time for HR teams. It’s a win-win.

Automate reminder emails for deadlines

This is another instance in which an employee portal will aid in document collection. New hires are often required to submit forms, copies of identification, and other employee authorization documents. In the initial craze that comes with starting a new job, these documents often fall by the wayside, delaying essential HR functions.

To avoid the hassle of following up with individual employees and tracking each form, HR departments can implement a system to track form completion progress, view which employees have submitted the form, and send automatic reminder emails to other employees to ensure they meet the submission deadline. This also eliminates the possibility of over-communication and reduces stress on both sides.

Make employee request forms easily accessible

Excessive paperwork is a typical pain point for employees and human resources when it comes to forms like PTO requests, expense reimbursements, office supply requests, complaint forms, and others. According to a McKinsey report, employees spend nearly two hours per day searching for information—a tremendous loss of productivity.

One way to remedy this is to create an online employee portal that allows for all these forms to be stored in one easy-access location. This keeps employees from having to dig through their inbox or hunt down hard copies of forms that float around the office, and HR professionals don’t have to worry about tracking the progress of each form submission. It’s a streamlined process for all.

Use mobile-friendly communications

Employee engagement is becoming increasingly important in the business landscape. According to Access Perks, disengaged employees cost employers between $450 and $550 billion annually. In order to improve this, HR teams need to think outside the box to connect with employees.

Employees expect concise information that’s instantly accessible from their mobile devices, so your team should invest in virtual messaging and mobile employee engagement tools. People expect to be able to access and interact with anything and everything on their mobile device, and HR communications are no different.

These are just a few ways technology can streamline communication between employees and the human resources department. Take the time to discover which methods work best for your team and you’ll see improved communication across your business.

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This article written by Miranda Nicholson from Formstack and originally posted on HRDive.
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