Tag: business

To Be, Or Not To Be…. “Ballsy?”

Posted on June 23rd, by Jennifer Payne in On My Mind. 3 comments

I recently found myself involved in an online discussion with some colleagues regarding the use of the term “ballsy.”  Let me set the stage: one colleague posted a link to an article and suggested that the content of it was “ballsy” considering the platform used.  A female colleague agreed.  Another male colleague pointed out that the use of the term “ballsy” could be perpetuating a sexist stereotype.  A discussion ensued as to whether or not that term was bothersome to women, and if it, in fact, perpetuated a sexist stereotype.

My contribution to the discussion was that I’ve known women who in fact had bigger said anatomy than some men….figuratively speaking, of course.  To me, the term has never bothered me, I’ve often used it myself, and it never really occurred to me that it could be perceived as sexist.  My friend and colleague Rayanne Thorn, said the following:


I guess I’m pretty “cocky” AND “ballsy” when I need to be.

…it doesn’t bother me.

I’m more bothered by the cat calls when I walk my dog or a Service Manager at my car dealership telling me, “perhaps your husband should bring the car in.”

Maybe women have to be cocky and ballsy in order to garner respect from certain men.
This discussion got me thinking about a few issues surrounding the terminology.


Ballsy or Gutsy?

Is the term “ballsy” inherently sexist?  As women, should the term bother us?  Should we insist on instead being referred to as gutsy?  Or fearless?  Or daring?  Do those words convey the same meaning, or is there a nuance to ballsy that we should embrace if we are, in fact, referred to as such?

Is it demeaning for a women to be called ballsy in that it implies that we are somehow trying to attain the standard of a man that we would not normally reach?  That such a level of daring in inherent to men and not women?


The Real Issue?

Or is the real issue what Rayanne referenced; that women in some instances NEED to be cocky, ballsy, or whichever word you may choose to command respect from some men.  That there are still men in the world that objectify women, continue to see us as a lesser sex in regards to certain issues, or refuse to see us as equals.

I don’t believe that’s the case with most men.  The men I choose to surround myself with, those whom I call friends, my family members….they are respectful and appreciative of successful and accomplished women.  I have been fortunate to have lived and worked in such environments where I haven’t felt implications of gender inequality.  But clearly there are still some who, intentional or not, make it necessary for women to embrace their cocky, ballsy, or gutsy side.   Does the ability to be ballsy put us on more of a level playing field with these types of men and do we need to embrace being so in such circumstances?


The Gender Equality Debate

The debate about gender equality in the workplace continues to rage on.  Women are under-represented in C-level roles.  Gender pay gaps still exist.  Women have to conform to men’s way of “playing the game” in order to gain respect, or struggle with “old boys networks” in some companies and industries.  Does the use of words such as ballsy or cocky perpetuate these issues, or should we embrace the ability to be so when we need to?  Are we too focused on the words used, rather than the approach required in some instances and the mindset that makes it a necessity?  What’s the real issue here?


As I mentioned earlier, the term has never bothered me.  I admire and respect the strong, successful women around me who have the guts to stand up for what they believe.  I hope that the men I associate with both personally and professionally respect me for my accomplishments.  Generally, I haven’t needed to be ballsy in many situations.  But if I had to, it wouldn’t bother me to be called out as such.


What do you think?  Are you bothered by such terminology or do you embrace it? 


Photo credit


About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Advice from Fiona Gathright, A Minority Business Owner

Posted on May 28th, by a Guest Contributor in Entrepreneurship. No Comments

In the fall of 2004, my business partner Juliet Rodman and I founded Wellness Corporate Solutions, a national provider of workplace health screenings and corporate wellness programming. Back then, our headquarters was my kitchen table — and for the next three years, Juliet and I were the only employees. We worked every day to become part of an exciting and rapidly-growing industry.


Fast-forward to 2015. We now manage almost 100 full-time employees and thousands of subcontractors across the country. Our corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is filled to capacity. Over the past ten years, we’ve worked with more than 500 private- and public-sector organizations, including Fortune 100 companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. Inc. Magazine has named Wellness Corporate Solutions one of the country’s fastest-growing privately-owned companies three years in a row.


As an African American and female small business owner, I’ve dealt with my share of obstacles along the way. But obstacles can be overcome, and I’d like to offer a few pieces of advice that may help you on your own journey.


Know your business. The fundamental hurdle most minority business owners face is access to capital. Forming lasting relationships with lenders, investors, and equity firms is absolutely crucial. To be successful, you must understand every aspect of your business and become fluent in the language of finance. Be comfortable discussing your business’s fundamentals: cash flow, revenue, overhead, profit margins, capitalization, and market share. Make it a priority to absorb everything you can find that relates to your industry. Corporate wellness was a relatively new concept in 2004 and I faced a steep learning curve. Even today, I’m still reading about industry best practices, the movement of my competition, shifts in the market, and legislation that could affect my business. The learning never stops.


Become certified. Wellness Corporate Solutions is certified as a minority business enterprise through the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and as a 100% woman-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). These relationships have given us the opportunity to network with other minority-owned businesses, which I believe is essential. We should seek out and support each other whenever possible. From a business perspective, certification has also helped us connect with large organizations that are actively seeking to work with minority-owned businesses, often to meet internal supplier diversity goals. Certification can and does open doors.


Make the case. In our company’s early days, Juliet and I pitched to (mostly) male CEOs and CFOs time and time again. I met with countless high-level corporate executives who did not look like me. You may find yourself in similar situations, making the case for your business under challenging circumstances. But when you have genuine passion for what you do, difficulties become what I call “teachable moments” that just prepare you for the next challenge, and the next. Never forget the passion that drove you to start your business in the first place. In my case, I often hear from people who attended one of our health screenings and found out they had a serious health condition — serious, but treatable. Knowing that our work is changing lives for the better is what motivates me every single day.


Owning your own business requires tremendous energy and commitment, but if you’re truly committed to your mission and are willing to learn, go for it. You already have what it takes to succeed.


Photo Credit

About the Author: Fiona Gathright is the founder and president of Wellness Corporate Solutions, an award-winning woman-owned business that builds customized, high impact corporate wellness programs. WCS clients include media companies, law firms, associations, non-profits and private employers nationwide.


The Independent HR Practitioner – Achieving the Success You Deserve

Posted on April 7th, by a Guest Contributor in Entrepreneurship. No Comments

Editor’s Note: Although we typically feature content targeted at HR practitioners and leaders, from time to time we also like to highlight guest authors who bring entrepreneurial experience and advice for HR consultants or business owners.  Today’s post is by Ruth Hinds, who has previously been a guest writer for Women of HR, and features her advice on that topic.


When you’re running your own HR business, one of the most important skills that you can cultivate is the ability to attract the right clients and grow your operation. Of course, your HR knowledge matters and is vitally important, but if you can’t sell it effectively to the right people, you aren’t going to have a business for very long.


The truth is though, if you’re solely trading your time on a one-to-one consultancy basis, you’re inevitably going to reach the point where further growth just isn’t possible. What exactly do you do once you find that all your billable hours are booked up, you’re already increasing your rates steadily and regularly, and you also have a family life and other responsibilities to juggle?  It’s all well and good suggesting that you should ‘lean in’ to the opportunities that are out there, but as a business owner, you sometimes have to engineer your own.


Here, we’ll look at three strategies for leveraging your time, so you can grow your HR business to levels that you never previously thought possible, without burning yourself out.


Package up your knowledge into information products

If you want to expand your reach and help more businesses to get their HR practice in order, you might want to consider adding information products to your offerings. This is quite simply about packaging up your knowledge so buyers can take it away, digest it in their own time, and implement what they’ve learned. It could be in the form of webinars, online courses, workbooks, or podcast sessions.


The beauty of this tactic is that you only have to create the materials once, and you can sell them time and time again. Having options that are lower priced than your one-to-one consultancy services can also ensure that you have something available for those who are interested in what you offer, but don’t want to make a bigger commitment just yet. If you can create information products that are crammed full of value, your buyers will often go on to work with you in greater depth in the future.


Sell adverts to complimentary businesses in your email newsletter 

If you don’t already have a database of email subscribers who receive your updates on a regular basis, you should start at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s one of the best and most valuable assets your business can ever have, and it gives you a pool of people who are interested in what you have to offer and have given you permission to market to them.


The benefits of this are crystal clear. Next time you create a new service or want to run a special offer, you have an engaged audience that already knows, likes, and trusts you, and wants to know more about how you can help them. It doesn’t end there though. Many businesses create a lucrative income stream by selling advertising space in their email newsletters. It’s essential that you always put the experience of your readers before anything else, and thoroughly vet any potential advertisers. Get it right though, and it’s a relatively hands-off revenue generation tactic for your business.


Earn a commission from promoting products and services that you already recommend for free

You’re probably already recommending products and services to your clients, just because you’re passionate about those particular solutions. Maybe there’s a people management software that you think no small business should be without, or perhaps there’s a book that you always shout about to clients.


Many businesses offer affiliate programmes for their products and services, so make sure that you find out whether it’s an option for your business. Amazon offers a scheme that you may be interested in if you’re a big book fan, and many software providers will reward you exceptionally well for sending business their way. Be sure to only consider promoting things that you’re confident of the value of, and always be upfront and tell your audience that you’ll earn a commission if they go ahead and make the purchase. Transparency and honesty are key here.


The bottom line is that you deserve to be rewarded for your skills, and the value that you can bring to the table for your clients. If you’re serious about business growth, you need the right tools in your kit, and you need to embrace the opportunity to step away from the traditional service provider business model. Advances in technology mean that there’s never been a better time to grow a savvy business that works for you, rather than drives you to the end of your tether.


How can you make changes going forward, to better leverage your time and reach your full potential?


Photo Credit

About the author:  Ruth Hinds is a leading expert in client attraction and business growth for HR consultants, and the founder and CEO of HR Consultants Marketing School. A former HR professional herself, she’s worked in senior HR management roles and has an MSc in HRM. She’s recently released her first Kindle book, ‘Skyrocket Your HR Consultancy: The HR Business Owners Guide To Creating Multiple Income Streams’. 

HR Tech Wrap Up: Key Takeaways for HR Practitioners #HRTechConf

Posted on October 23rd, by Jennifer Payne in HR Technology. 2 comments

Earlier this week I talked about my initial impressions of this year’s HR Technology Conference – how upon arriving back home and beginning to process everything I learned I was left feeling a bit overwhelmed, and how that feeling is actually a positive thing.  If you missed that post, you can check it out here.  Today I wanted to touch on some of the key ideas and themes I took away from this year’s show.


There’s an App for That

As our worlds outside of work become more and more connected, instantaneous, and mobile, there’s becoming more of an expectation that life inside work will mirror that.  Candidates and employees expect a consumer-like experience with their technologies.  In the session “How Digital Radically Disrupts HR,” Accenture’s Anthony Abbatiello discussed several trends that are reshaping the future of HR, and one of those was new channels for service delivery.  As HR learns to “break away from the desktop,” mobile and social technologies will augment our HR services, allow us to reach our geographically dispersed and extended workforces, drive new ways to engage our employees, and even allow us to better anticipate employee needs when we utilize social listening tools.  Not only do these social and mobile technologies help up to meet an expectation that our organizations are functioning like the outside world, but they allow us much more timely (even instantaneous) reactions to our employee and business needs.

Data, Data Everywhere

You cannot attend an HR technology related conference without hearing the term “big data” over and over.  But this year it started to become more of a discussion of not necessarily “big data,” but just data in general and how it can be used to make HR more effective.  Anthony Abbatiello in his session proposed that HR insight is the new leading edge – big data will help HR gather actionable insights for better business decisions, and that theme showed up throughout the show.  Andrew McAfee from MIT, in his keynote “Making the Right Choices in the Second Machine Age,” demonstrated how data based decisions consistently outperform gut based decisions, and talked about how the business world needs to become “geekier.”  As HR professionals, we need to encourage considering viewpoints beyond the “HIPPO” – or the “highest paid person’s opinion” – because they tend to be gut reactions rather than data based decisions.  In addition, we need to continue to encourage input from those that come from outside of our companies and industries, because that’s where some of the truly innovative thinking comes from.  In Thursday’s General Session, “Workforce 2020: How Data and Analytics will Shape the Workplace,” we were encouraged to use data to keep us close to the hearts and minds of our top performers; for instance using data to determine whether or not we’re losing the wrong people who are taking their knowledge and innovative thinking elsewhere.  Which HR professional wouldn’t want to know that?

Where Man Meets Machine

No, robots are not going to take over the workforce.  At least not yet.  But as technology gets smarter…to the point that it’s not just spitting out data, but actually manipulating data to tell compelling stories, we need to figure out where the intersection of man and machine is for optimal results.  Andrew McAfee talked about how humans are especially good at complex communication, but technology is getting surprisingly good at it too.  As our technology gets smarter, we’re getting closer to the point we can feed data into machines and get an actual story or narrative back.  Though, despite technological advances, humanity will never be pushed completely out of the picture, as HR pros we still need to start rethinking the balance between technology and humanity and how that affects our business processes.  It will become our jobs to find the best way to combine human and digital intelligence.


Every time I think I’m finally starting to understand all of the technology available to us as HR practitioners, and the implications of that technology, I attend the HR Technology Conference and realize everything has changed and evolved.

And THAT’s why I’ll keep going back.  See you in Vegas next October!


About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

HR Tech Wrap Up: Overwhelmed and Loving It #HRTechConf

Posted on October 21st, by Jennifer Payne in HR Technology. 3 comments

It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas.  I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference.  I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available.  It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for).  But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.

I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed.  You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint.  In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place.  So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge.  But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space.  So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective.  And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.

You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference.  And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well.  Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective.  Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.

Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”

Think about that.  What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology.  We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations.  And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space.  Is all of right for every organization?  No, of course not.  Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations?  You bet.

Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.


About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.



Human Resources & Marketing: Not So Different After All?

Posted on July 22nd, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace. No Comments

It’s been about a month since the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando.  By now, those of us who attended have settled back into the realities of our jobs and day to day life.  We’ve probably filed away our notes and stashed our swag, but have we thought about what we actually learned?  Have we spent any time at all considering how we can take some of the ideas we gathered and put them into practice?


One of the concepts that particularly rang true with me was the notion that Human Resources professionals need to start thinking more like marketers, an idea offered by David Novak, CEO of Yum! Brands.  Maybe I’m partial to this idea because my college degree was in Marketing, and though I’ve been practicing HR for over 16 years that marketing mindset has remained with me.  Or maybe I just believe the idea is not only genius, but necessary in this age of social media and transparency.  Either way, the concept really resonated with me.


I think that whether we realize it or not, Human Resources professionals have always been (or at least should be) more similar to marketing professionals than not.  Marketing professionals promote the business brand to the outside world; HR professionals must be the keeper of the employment brand and the story of what it means to be an employee of our companies to both the outside world (potential candidates) and inside world (current employees).   However, that line is even more blurred now, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of social media which allows nearly every employment related decision we make to be broadcast or challenged, and every claim we make about the reality of working at our organizations to be either be validated or debunked publicly.  Everything we do within our organizations, decisions that we used to generally be able to keep tightly under wraps, can now be put on display for the world to see.  Take the recent employee termination at Cracker Barrel, a story that caused quite a bit of an uproar on social media, and one of just many examples in recent years.  Perhaps we’ll never be able to prevent these types of stories from leaking, and every good HR professional knows there are always two sides to a story with the truth usually somewhere in the middle.  But good HR professionals should also realize that perception becomes reality, and with that we now also have the opportunity to be more proactive with our efforts, to assume the mindset of a marketer and shape the employment story that’s on display to the world.


Branding the Employment Story

Just as our marketing departments promote our business’s brand to the outside world, HR should be promoting our employment story to the outside world.  And ideally, that story should align with the business brand so a cohesive, united message is being disseminated.  Here’s the value proposition that our brand offers our customers, and guess what?  There’s a similar proposition as an employee.  A company’s social properties, both general company platforms and employment related platforms, are perfect places to shout out what it means to be a part of our companies.  Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages and groups, Glassdoor pages…good HR departments should be leveraging all of these to tell our stories.  But it doesn’t stop there; if we are truly thinking like marketers, we’ll realize that our messages need to be part of an integrated strategy with our story being told in any communication we have with our potential candidate public, and that includes our career pages, every job posting, and even our message in any interview we conduct.  We need to be promoting our employment story at every possible opportunity.



Ensuring a Cultural Match

A good HR department will also realize that promoting a great employment story is useless if our reality doesn’t match what our story asserts.  There may be some debate as to whether or not HR really has control over the culture of a company, and though we may not be able to entirely create it, we can certainly guide it.  We can do this through hiring for cultural fit; by advising and guiding our managers to make decisions in the spirit of our culture; and by helping our managers see that the culture they create within their individual departments ultimately plays into the overall culture of the company.  It is generally accepted wisdom that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers; stories of bad employment experiences, typically attributed to bad managers, can permeate our employment brand through Facebook posts or Glassdoor reviews, making good old fashioned word of mouth sharing multiply exponentially. Human Resources departments alone may not be able to create a culture, but we can certainly be keepers of that culture; a collective conscience of the organization.



Engaging Our Employees in the Story

Ultimately HR alone can’t tell our employment story, at least not as effectively as it can be told.  We can’t neglect the value of using our employees as brand ambassadors, or conduits for sharing our employment story.  Those social properties mentioned before?  It’s one thing for an official company or HR message to be shared, but how powerful when that message comes directly from your employees?  What’s more believable – a slick, programmed message from a corporate department, or real-life stories and experiences shared by the very people living and working within that company culture every day?  It again comes back to that concept of word of mouth marketing or personal endorsements, whether they be stories on your careers page, blog posts written by employees, YouTube videos featuring employees on the job, or positive Glassdoor reviews.


We’ll likely never eliminate all of the negatives, and we’ll probably never make every employee happy, but by thinking like marketers we can ensure that we’re leveraging and promoting all of the positive stories waiting to be told and buzz waiting to be shared about our organizations.


Photo Credit

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.




3 Ways Women Business Owners Are More Innovative Than Their Male Counterparts

Posted on July 17th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

Throughout the world there’s a huge gender gap in regards to business, and even in modern society women are still heavily discriminated against in the workplace. However, according to Inc., in the United States and Asia female entrepreneurs are both more innovative and more successful than their male counterparts. Here are the top three reasons why.


Women Take Fewer Financial Risks

A study conducted by the International Finance Corporation states that women are “less risky” than men. Taking fewer financial risks often leads to less debt and a slower rate of growth. Rapid expansion, however, can drive businesses into bankruptcy. This is because as expenses grow, so do costs, and they will often find themselves unable to cope with the demand. Women often prefer to keep their businesses smaller so they can focus on delivering a quality service and retain a better work/life balance.

A recent trend in this regard is the lack and women signing long term lease agreements for offices; and instead, opting for short term serviced offices. Unlike traditional office spaces – which often require a contract term of 3-5 years – serviced offices can be rented for as little as 1 month; provide services and facilities without overheads; provide a more prestigious working address; and most importantly, lower financial risk. Skyline Offices have compiled a case study exploring the benefits of serviced offices.


Women Often Seek Advice During the Startup Stages

70% of women who start businesses will seek advice prior to investing any time or money in their venture; and many partake in some form of government run business course. In addition, women are known to develop more thorough business plans and give their ideas more thought than men. Business leaders that prepare significantly increase their chance of success.

While seeking advice isn’t an innovative approach to conducting business, it can certainly help boost confidence and trigger more innovative ideas; especially in today’s remote working environment where high proportions of female entrepreneurs are starting new businesses online.


Women Place More Emphasis on Social Media

According to Forbes, women use social media a lot more than men; therefore, women business leaders tend to place more emphasis on social media marketing. It’s estimated that most female entrepreneurs invest roughly 79% of their online marketing budget on social media. While this may seem high; unlike other forms of online marketing, social media is a one-time investment because when a lead “follows” or “likes” a social network page or profile, they’ll be subject to free marketing in the future.

In addition to this paid traffic, Google looks favourably upon businesses that have an active social media presence and will reward them with higher organic rankings in the search engines. This can lead to a constant steam of free exposure.



Sadly, women are 18% less likely to believe that they can achieve success in business, which puts many talented individuals off the idea altogether. It’s going to take more than statistics to change narrow mindedness and gender discrimination; however, if women continue to yield successful results in the future, perhaps the faces of up-and-coming businesses will start to change.


Photo Credit: Jodie Womack


About the Author: Helen Wallis is a 30 something mum of one who enjoys reading and is a passionate blogger. Having worked in the big smoke for many years,  Helen now enjoys a quieter lifestyle and indulges in her passion for writing and cooking.

Making Yourself a More Valuable Employee

Posted on April 29th, by Amanda Andrade in Business and Workplace, Career Advice. 2 comments

Recently our training manager at Veterans United Home Loans presented management curriculum on Maximizing Value. The focus was on creating added value through customary avenues like time allocation, resource management, efficiency, and process improvement. We also highlighted a critical, yet often neglected area associated with Maximizing Worth. Namely, modeling behaviors that keep your role and team’s contribution an unmistakable ingredient of your organization’s success.

So, how do you become the employee or team that your organization fights to keep? Here are ten behaviors to make yourself more valuable at work.

1. Treat your manager and co-workers as you do your customers.

You know what good customer service is about from your own experience. It’s about being cheerful, flexible, prompt, and reliable. Work at delivering good customer service every day to your manager and co-workers. Give them reasons to want to work with you and not with someone else.


2. Maintain a positive attitude.

Everyone has good and bad days, but the people we appreciate for their consistency and enthusiasm don’t let their bad days ruin ours. They choose their attitude. And they choose to make it positive. You can, too. Here are some ways to accomplish this goal:

  • Make a list of the good things in your life or keep a file of accomplishments you’re proud of. Look at it when you start to feel down. Take yourself back to that time of the accomplishment; think about how energized you became, and why. This can help you get back to that positive state of mind. The momentum gained from this exercise should generate further momentum.
  • Remind yourself that problems at work aren’t all about you. Look at them as opportunities to fix something, not as criticisms of you. Don’t take it personal.
  • Spend time with people who have positive attitudes, both to get an emotional lift from them and to observe how they deal with challenges.
  • Make an effort to be pleasant and easy to work with, even when you’re not feeling that way inside.
  • Avoid the “blame game.” Instead of finding someone to blame when there’s a problem, focus on ways to fix it.
  • Be honest with yourself about what’s causing a negative attitude. Watch for symptoms of stress and think about what is causing it. Get help when you need it.


3. Focus on productivity.

Work at becoming as good as you can be at the most important functions of your job. Produce results that are highly valued. Look for opportunities to do work more efficiently, to improve quality and customer satisfaction, and to save the organization money. Make a point of offering new ideas that could enhance the business. Strive to get more work done by being efficient, overcoming procrastination, and reducing interruptions. Try to understand the work style of your co-workers and of other groups you work with.


4. Be an agent of change, not an obstacle to it.

Employees who embrace positive change and help make changes happen are appreciated and valued by their managers. They also have a head start in learning new work processes and finding out how their skills and talents fit into the changed organization. Be an employee who suggests changes to improve efficiency or quality and who helps to figure out how to make those changes happen. Notice problems at work, but instead of complaining take steps to find a solution. Help co-workers accept changes, too, by drawing their attention to opportunities that change can bring.


5. Build connections.

Make friends at work and with people doing similar work at other organizations. Have fun and help others have fun at work. Make yourself the kind of person others want to work with. Help out when your help is needed, teach valuable skills, and share work-critical information. Let people know about interesting articles or studies that you find. Network to make connections with people who can give you new and different work and teach you valued skills. Volunteer for committees or special events as a way to work with new people. Attend industry functions and trade association meetings when it’s appropriate. Meet experts in your field and ask them for feedback on your work or ideas about problems your organization is facing. Know your employer’s policies about online networking so that, if your organization permits, you can benefit from both “offline”  or face-to-face networking and from joining networking sites on the Internet.


6. Communicate clearly and directly.

Being a clear, direct, and thoughtful communicator can help you stand out as a valued employee. Share information that others need to know, and share it efficiently. Use e-mail when discussion isn’t needed. Call or talk in person if an issue truly needs to be discussed. Be prepared when you go to meetings so that you don’t waste people’s time. Get right to the point; eliminate unnecessary details. Always thank people for their time and their help.


7. Keep learning.

If you’re doing the same work in the same way you did it two years ago, chances are you’re being left behind. Take the time (your own time if that’s what’s needed) to learn new skills and to stay current with any areas of special expertise. Keep any licenses or certifications up-to-date even if you’ve moved into a managerial or other job that doesn’t require them. Stay informed about the business you’re in. Consider taking classes or professional development seminars. Commit to reading at least one book or professional journal in your field each quarter. As you gain new skills and knowledge, let your leader know. Find ways to use what you’re learning in your work.


8. Seek and welcome honest feedback.

Understand how your manager and others in your organization see your strengths and weaknesses. This will help you improve your knowledge and skills in the way that would help your employer most. Ask your manager, “What is the most important thing I could do to make myself more valuable to our organization?” Or, “What college classes would help most in my current job?” If you feel uncomfortable talking with your manager, consider requesting a confidential meeting with your human resources (HR) department and asking for clarification. Keep in mind that employers often place a very high value on aspects of performance, such as attendance and punctuality,  that employees may see as less important.


9. Make your value visible to others.

“Market” yourself to make sure that your value is noticed. Make sure your manager knows what you do, and especially what you do well. Your performance review is an appropriate forum for listing your accomplishments and explaining the challenges you’ve overcome. Regular one-on-one meetings with your manager are another. Make your value more visible by volunteering for high-profile projects, where your contribution will be noticed as part of an important effort. Offer to be a coach or mentor to new employees. Ask to represent your team or department on cross-functional teams. As you learn new skills, teach your co-workers. They’ll appreciate the help in solving the work problems they face, and it will give you a reputation both as a source of expertise and as a valued team member.


10. Be flexible.

In an up-and-down economy, employers may place a higher value on employees who have the skills and mental flexibility to do more than one job. Be ready and willing to take on some or all of the tasks of a co-worker who is absent or on leave or who has been laid off or furloughed. If your current skills or knowledge wouldn’t allow you to do this, make it a top priority to gain a few new ones.


We know that in today’s workplace, hard work and effort are no longer enough to assure success or even to guarantee continued employment. Advances in technology, innovations from competitors, and changing customer needs have pushed organizations to be adept at changing focus and direction. This almost always means changing requirements for employees. Accomplishment at work is no longer just about working harder. It’s about working differently, and ensuring your continued value. Modeling these ten behaviors is a great way to build your workplace security and team’s success.

If you’re interested in reading more on this subject check out a book called, “Getting the Job You Want” by David Roper.


Photo credit

About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors. She also has a doctorate in Environment and Behavior, focusing on highly profitable, employee-centric work environments. Connect with Amanda on Google+.

Integrity – What It Is and What It Isn’t

Posted on April 22nd, by Kristin Kaufman in On My Mind. 2 comments

Much has been written about integrity. In fact, in the hundreds of team meetings and board retreats I have facilitated, integrity is, seldom, NOT a team value. However, I intend not to focus on what we perceive integrity to be; yet, what integrity is not.

Let’s start with a common definition: Webster defines integrity as a firm adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Here are a few examples, from real life, which I believe shine a bright light on what integrity is not.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • A person hears a fabulous key note or presentation; and they believe it to be so fabulous, they take portions of it – change a few words – ‘just to be honest’ – and begin to tout this as their own brilliant idea.
  • A person asks someone for a treasured family recipe. They don’t really want to give it; yet rather than to say no, they give it to that person – less an ingredient. (Yes, that has happened to me, and yes, it does happen….often in the South)
  • A person/s are exposed to an idea, a word, a term or philosophy which rings true to them, on which someone else has built their methodology and often their company. They think that term is so unique and powerful; they take that term, a few key phrases, and build their approach around that same approach.
  • A person has the opportunity to speak the whole truth about an issue – personally, socially or professionally – and they opt to tell the truth. However, they don’t tell ‘everything.’ They just tell portions of the story – they omit key points; most often swaying the point, certainly to their favor. (You know the drill….think about a sales person’s sales participation and their quest for sales credit/quota commission, think about sales/consulting methodology aspects – the consulting world is full of intellectual property wars – even social and political issues…..just turn on the TV or log onto YouTube.)
  • A person says one thing to you, another version of what they have said to you to someone else, and yet, another version to another person of the same story. I wish I had a nickel for every time that has happened to me in my life!
  • A person is newly hired onto a team from outside the company and that person begins a quick study on how to usurp the person that hired them in a quest for fame, fortune, and power. Discrediting, sabotaging, back-stabbing, hording of ideas….the list is long.

I have had every single one of these happen to me in my career … some in the past few months.

Many in big business will say: this is why we have trademarks, copyrights, and intellectual property infringement law; and this is learning to ‘play the game;’ survival of the fittest. If someone doesn’t ‘have it’ – then they are ‘fair game’. Sure, I ‘get it’ – remember, I lived in that world for over 25 years. It goes without saying that we must protect ourselves, our company, and our work product.

However, the issue I am raising is much more systemic in our culture. For I am quite certain there are many in business today who don’t share everything with their internal counterparts for fear of being ‘poached’ of the good ideas. I am also quite certain there are those in business who perhaps don’t lie by commission; yet lie by omission – just not sharing everything, just sharing ‘enough.’

Where do we think this behavior is taking us? To a constant shade of grey? To a moral stance that is our interpretation instead of one that is based on honesty and integrity?

So what, you may say? “That is life.” Well, I firmly believe that is wrong.

We have an obligation to own up to our responsibilities – and that means stopping this insanity of stealing and poaching and, not respecting one another as creators, individuals, contributors, and builders of our companies, our communities, our nation, and our world.

Two things to consider:

First: Be Impeccable with your Word. A fabulous book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, A Toltec Wisdom Book became a ‘book of the month’ for many of my teams over my career. If you not have read it yet  – read it. One of the agreements is to “be impeccable with your word.” This basically means telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Often in today’s world, the operative word is ‘whole.’ Many just simply omit key facts or nuances. This is an interesting observation – just listen to national news, politicians, Fortune executives, Oprah, even personal acquaintances. It is amazing to watch the ‘spin factor’ and the power of just ‘omitting a few key facts.’ What is the whole truth?!

I will offer one personal test case of integrating this philosophy into life. With one of our most successful teams in a publicly traded software company, we used this book as a gauge for how we could grow and learn together as a team; and this book and particularly this agreement of ‘being impeccable with our word’ became our mantra. We were in the fast paced world of dot com frenzy, software sales and mergers, and greed was rampant. This agreement saved our team and company in more ways than we will ever probably realize. We were not always the most popular at the time; yet I know from the CEO through the ranks, we were the most respected and valued at the end of the day.

Second: Stop stealing. A person’s original ideas will always be more authentic, rich, and potent than anything they ‘borrow’ or steal. Period. A person can rationalize due to complacency, laziness, or their perceived belief that they can ‘take this idea and really make it come to life’ (yes, I have heard that one of late, as well).

What I would suggest is simply this: If a person loves the idea, thinks it had merit, power, brilliance, cache, etc., then simply get permission, give credit or notice to that company, and source the source. It is truly that simple.

Again, this conjures up ‘legal jargon’ and it certainly gives many an attorney a steady annuity stream; and yes, there will always be a need for the law. Yet, it does not have to be that complicated. Just give notice to those that deserve it! Also, folks, please realize that YOUR ideas will be so much more powerful if they are truly YOURS. That is the beauty of pure authenticity and the power of telling your story… not plagiarizing someone else’s.

This philosophy and principle of integrity starts with each one of us. One person at a time. A germ of an idea at a time. It does not have to be on a soap box, on the national stage, or even in a national court of law. It is in the small acts, small companies, and small businesses which have often set the stage for many of our greatest achievements.

  • We are responsible for protecting it.
  • We foster all ideas – ours and others.
  • We blow on all the embers of ideas of our fellow workers, our colleagues, our friends, our clients, our coaches, our partners….we don’t steal them.
  • We give credit. We give public and private recognition.
  • We make referrals expecting nothing in return.
  • We are frightfully honest – in all arenas.
  • We ask the questions of which we are afraid of the answers.
  • We own the answers.

We are impeccable with our word – written, spoken, acted – regardless of the consequences. That is what integrity looks like.


Photo Credit 

About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.

HR & Social Media: Mending the Uneasy Relationship

Posted on March 13th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

Society has gotten to the point where it is more interesting to find that a person does not use some sort of social media platform, than one that uses a platform daily. This deeply personal display of information, however, often finds its way into a workplace environment, and not always in a positive way.

There are numerous ways that Human Resources departments can use social media. For example, businesses have successfully utilized the content for team building, training, communication, work delegation, research and blogging. However, there are 3 fundamental areas that social networking sites could positively affect.

  • Communication: Clear communication between Human Resources and employees is critical for the health of a company. Through social media, it is much easier than ever before. Using these networks as a tool, Human Resources departments can easily communicate a message to everyone in the company, regardless of their location. A tweet or a status update can quickly convey a short message to hundreds in an instant.


  • Employee feedback: Long ago, Human Resources departments relied on suggestion boxes or private meetings for employee suggestions and concerns. Now, using social networks or online forums, employees can voice their opinions and have open discussions.


  • Recruiting: Human Resources departments know that today’s job seekers are online. Recruiting departments now use social media to market their company and talk directly to potential employees. Many Human Resources departments also use social media when conducting background checks on applicants, looking for additional information not provided in a traditional resume.


But what exactly can each social platform do for Human Resources? Let’s look at the 3 main networks.


The social media giant has literally millions of users from all over the world, making it a handy  tool for Human Resources personnel. Since Facebook is so popular, the chances of an applicant having an active profile are high. It is a great place to start additional research on a potential hire.



The professional social network, LinkedIn is perfect for recruiters looking for qualified applicants. With an active job board, it is also a good place to post a job ad that will be seen by the right people.



Twitter has an excellent search feature which allows Human Resources departments to look for potential employees by searching relevant hashtags and keywords. Like Facebook, Twitter is also a good screening tool for looking up applicants.


The way Human Resources departments run themselves have evolved as the use of social media has become crucial. And they continue to evolve. Here are a couple of issues that Human Resources need to keep an eye on and be ready for.


Employees using their own devices

Before the widespread popularity of smart phones, companies used to provide handheld devices for their employees. Today, Human Resources departments need to understand that they can’t control the communication channels of their employees, and prepare accordingly.


The ever-changing legal side

Since social media changes so frequently, some states are making efforts to regulate what employers can and cannot access on applicant’s social media profiles. Currently, 6 states have passed laws that prohibit employers from obtaining information on applicants via social media. While these laws haven’t hit the majority of states, it’s definitely something that could happen and businesses should watch the legal and regulatory developments.


Social media has become increasingly accepted in the business world. Once mainly used for marketing and advertising, social media networks now serve a purpose for Human Resources departments as well. It can be used to make companies run more efficiently, as a hiring and job search tool. Smart HR departments are now using social media to their advantage and keeping an eye on the constant changes that could help or hinder their efforts.


About the Author:  Today’s guest contributor for WomenOfHr.com is Mark W. Kirkpatrick,  an enthusiastic writer and infographic designer who focuses primarily on public relations, tech and the business globalization. You can also find more of his writing at 1800-Number.com, which covers all things related to business communications.