Friday, November 23, 2007

How Social Awareness Work

Social awareness refers to the behavioral range that runs from instantly sensing the inner state of other people, to understanding their feelings and thoughts, to comprehending the meaning and significance of complicated social situations. This awareness includes:
Primal Empathy: To sense the non-verbal emotional signals of others and to feel what they are feeling.
Atunement: To attend and attune to others with a sustained receptivity that leads to rapport.
Empathetic Accuracy: To consciously and accurately understand another person's thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Mirror neurons function at a subliminal level, but we often need to add prior experience with the immediate challenge in order to consciously grasp and appropriately respond to the real intentions of the other person (such as in contract negotiations, or when confronting an assailant).
Social cognition: Knowing how the social world works (such as the appropriate behavior in restaurants and museums, the appropriate conversation for various social settings). Social cognition emerges out of the development of primal empathy, attunement, and empathetic accuracy.
To simply sense how other people feel, or to know what they think or intend, doesn't guarantee fruitful interactions. Social skills build on social awareness to allow smooth, effective interactions. The spectrum of social facility includes:
Synchrony: To interact smoothly with others at the non-verbal level. This includes the ability to automatically read and respond to nonverbal cues (such as knowing when to smile and frown, how to orient our body). While these skills develop effortlessly in many children, the awkward behavior of others reduces the quality of their social life.
Self-Presentation: To present ourselves effectively in social situations, so that others can easily understand how we feel and think about the issues at hand.
Influence: To help shape the outcome of social interactions in a manner that is acceptable to others. Most social issues require at least some negotiation, so it's very important to learn how to negotiate fairly and effectively.
Concern: To care about and appropriately act on the needs of others. The behavioral spectrum is broad—from simply holding a door open for a person laden with packages to contributing to charitable and cultural institutions. We're a highly interdependent social species, and so it's inappropriate for us to expect others but not ourselves to contribute to common needs.
The functional elements of social intelligence identified above constitute the heart of the book, but what's especially fascinating is how Goleman draws on recent brain research to ground these functions in neurobiology. These forms of awareness and behavior do have an underlying biological explanation. This means that we can move towards the educational enhancement of social intelligence, and to effective interventions when the system goes awry.

Education & The Social Intelligence

To survive and thrive, we have to understand how the world's various systems function. This encompasses such things as knowing the flow of days and seasons; whether a dropped object will bounce, splat, or break; and how water shifts among its fluid, frozen, and gaseous states.
Human life is a major subset of the world's systems, so much of our time and energy is focused on trying to understand and get along with each other. Last month's column focused on the sense of gratitude we feel when objects and other people enrich our life. This month's related column will focus on an excellent new book by Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relations (2006).
Goleman rose to international prominence a decade ago with Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than I.Q. (1995), an informative, easily read book that synthesized the dramatic developments that had been emerging out of emotion research. The conventional wisdom had previously viewed our emotional arousal system as a disembodied and often unruly phenomenon. Goleman demystified it by explaining its underlying neurobiology, and by then suggesting how we can consciously use this biological thermostat as a force to enhance the quality of our life.
In Social Intelligence, Goleman similarly synthesizes the growing body of cultural and neuroscience research on how we develop social awareness and manage our social relationships. We can thus consider the two books as companion volumes—about understanding what occurs within (Emotional Intelligence) and what occurs between (Social Intelligence).
What occurs between can be thought of as the range of relationships that exist within a social continuum. At one end we're simply emotionally neutral and detached from a person with whom we're interacting (such as a supermarket checker). At the other end, we're rude and exploitative, assuming that the other person exists at the level of an object, to satisfy our needs. Psychopaths and sociopaths would exemplify behavior at that far end of the continuum.
The relationships in the center of this continuum imply a close empathetic human relationship that's temporarily or permanently tuned to the experiences, needs, and feelings of another person. Goleman suggests that we are constantly involved in both close and detached relationships, and that our relationship with a person can appropriately shift back and forth between close and detached, depending on the circumstances.
Many relationships are better off detached, in that most folks don't appreciate intrusive restaurant waiters; and realize that the professional judgment of one's physician, attorney, or counselor may be negatively affected by a close personal relationship.
Exploring a Social Brain
Neuroimaging technologies have revolutionized the study of complex brain properties and systems. Our brain has been described as a social brain, because hundreds of separate processing systems collaborate in the execution of thought and behavior, and because our brain is organized to empathetically connect us to the thoughts and behaviors of others.
Social decisions and behavior are especially complex, and so they require the collaboration of many processing systems. The research technologies capable of imaging such processes have emerged only recently, so Goldman's explanations and discussions of the relative brain systems thus have an exciting immediacy about them.
Our Social Brain
Like objects and fluids, social relationships can also bounce, splat, break, flow, freeze, and even disappear into a gaseous state. Since an organism's potential resources and survival are enhanced within a collaborative setting, the development of good social relationships creates a decided advantage. Social competence has thus become a central human property.
Goleman explores and explains the various brain processing systems and combinations of systems that allow us to be sociably adept. Chief among these is the recently discovered mirror neuron system that is central to social thought and behavior. Mirror neurons prime our own movements, but they also activate when we observe another person make the same movement. Since any goal-directed motor behavior involves sequences of actions (such as to focus on, reach for, grasp, and then throw a ball), the neuronal sequence that regulates the overall movement thus activates in parallel in the brains of both the actor and the observer. We can therefore infer the intentions and motivations of another person, and act accordingly.
Mirror neurons also activate when we observe an emotional reaction in another person, and so provide the neuronal basis of empathy. Mirror neurons thus help to create the contagious behavior that is so integral to social life—the shared grief at a funeral, the shared joy at a birthday.
Goleman explores social intelligence as both a functional and biological phenomenon. Social intelligence allows us to develop an enhanced awareness of the mind of others, and to develop the skills that we need to maintain appropriate relationships. Goleman also explores these functional elements in terms of the cognitive processing systems that regulate various social behaviors.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Full Time Home Based Jobs

How would you like to work from home? No hustling out the door 10 minutes late, no fighting your road rage or battling for the last seat on train, no fast food lunch and no noisy co-workers. Sounds like heaven doesn't it?

More than ever, workers are attracted to the 30-second commute, thanks to social and economic trends. Technologies necessary for setting up a home office are widely available, relatively inexpensive and getting easier for people to use. And more workers are seeking flexible schedules to care for aging parents and children.
In Depth: Work at Home Home-based working is growing rapidly, according to a 2004 survey by ITAC, the association for advancing work from anywhere. The number of employed Americans who worked from home, from as little as 1 day a year to full time, grew from 41.3 million in 2003 to 44.4 million in 2004.
Many people associate working from home with starting a home-based business and becoming an entrepreneur, but more and more employers are offering this option to workers in order to attract and retain top employees. In fact, 7.6 million employees conduct work from home every month.
Don't fret, there are jobs that you can find with established employers. Even if the job is advertised as office-based, these positions are telework-friendly and could be in your future.
Administrative assistantAlso known as virtual assistants, home-based administrative assistants use office experience and computer skills as support personnel. Many skills easily transition into this position which offers many part-time and temporary opportunities.
Advertising sales agentIt's said that Americans are exposed to more than 3,000 ad messages a day. Advertising sales representatives sell or solicit advertising space in print and online publications, custom-made signs, or TV and radio advertising spots.
Computer software engineerComputer software engineers are projected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations over the 2002-2012 period. Duties include design, development, testing and evaluation of computer software, and continual training is suggested for the quickly evolving industry.
Corporate event plannerEmployed by a private company rather than a hotel or convention facility, a corporate event planner coordinates staff activities including group meetings, client presentations, special events, conventions and travel.
Copy editorCopy editors mostly review and edit a writer's copy for accuracy, content, grammar and style. This is a competitive field; however, the growth of online publications and services is spurring the demand for writers and editors, especially those with Web experience.
Desktop publisherDesktop publishers use computer software to format and combine text, images, charts and other visual elements to produce publication-ready material. Duties of this fast-growing profession include writing and editing text, creating graphics, converting photos and drawings into digital images, designing page layouts and developing presentations.
Data entry clerkLike administrative assistants, job prospects should be best for those with expertise in computer software applications. By typing text, entering data into a computer, and performing other clerical duties, these workers ensure companies keep up with information and technology.
Insurance underwriterInsurance underwriters serve as the main link between the insurance carrier and the insurance agent. Underwriters analyze insurance applications, calculate the risk of loss from policyholders, decide whether to issue the policy and establish appropriate premium rates.
Market research analystMarket Research Analysts gather data on competitors and analyze prices, sales, and methods of marketing and distribution. They often design surveys, compile and evaluate the data and make recommendations to their client or employer based upon their findings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Exploring Employees Performance Potential

A powerful transformation is underway: more successful small and
mid-sized businesses are embracing “strategic HR” to drive higher
performance, productivity and profits. But you probably know it hasn’t
always been this way…
That Was Then
Historically, HR has not been viewed as a key businesses driver, unlike “vital” functions such as sales, marketing,
or operations. It’s no wonder, then, that HR unfairly earned a reputation as a tactical back-office task, or worst
case, completely unrelated to the overall health and success of the company.
…This Is Now!
Today, the role of HR has been radically redefined and more emphasis has been placed on effectively managing every
aspect of the employee lifecycle, from talent acquisition, to performance measurement to employee compensation.
This amazing shift in HR starts at the most fundamental level: helping raise the bar on individual performance not
only helps employees realize their full potential, but also the company as a whole. In other words, strategic HR is
ensuring that companies aren’t leaving huge amounts of money on the table in the form of missed profits due to
unrealized performance and productivity.

1. Make Sure Employees’ Daily Efforts Contribute
To Your Company’s Business Objectives
The first step in unlocking your company’s true potential is ensuring your
employees understand how their specific job/role contributes to achieving
your company’s business objectives. Without a consistent process of setting
goals for each individual employee that map directly to your company’s
objectives, they may be spending too much time on the wrong activities.
In fact, leading industry analysts estimate nearly 95% of workers are
unaware of their company’s top objectives. And, that’s often because an
effective process to communicate and track progress against these objectives
does not exist. So how can your company expect its people to work toward a
shared vision — and deliver bottom-line results — if they’re unclear what’s
expected of them?
Establishing a formal process for creating relevant goals for each employee,
and monitoring/measuring performance against company objectives,
unquestionably results in both individual and company success. The benefits
of this approach deliver a host of positive results, such as:
• Employees and managers achieve more — through greater visibility
into both individual and company-wide goals.
• Employees and managers see the goal plan — and understand how
their individual goals fit into the company’s business objectives.
• Creating shared employee responsibility — by cascading his or her
goals with others in the company.
• Managers more easily stay in touch with employees’ progress —
during every phase of goal completion, and offer immediate reinforcement
or coaching to keep performance and deadlines on track.
Keep in mind your success in aligning employee and company goals depends
on an open and ongoing dialogue with management. This is the only way to
ensure business strategy is woven in to all HR efforts, including an
automated process.

2. Keep Employees Energized and Engaged
Jack Welch, former CEO of GE — and one of the most respected business
leaders of our time — wrote the book on motivating people. One of his key
insights to driving phenomenal performance shows how much faith Mr. Welch
had in the power of engaging and inspiring people; in a nutshell, he believed
the ultimate goal of managing is not to get an employee to perform as
expected, but to have them willingly go above and beyond the call of
duty — because they want to.
Building a culture in which employees are energized and engaged to perform
at maximum levels (and beyond) requires both strong management skills, and
a consistent process for providing accurate, quality feedback. Easier said
than done, of course. But recent progress in HR-software designed specifically
to address this challenge is helping significantly. There are now effective means
like writing assistants and coaching tools that can significantly improve the
overall quality of feedback, and help managers provide:
• More relevant reviews — writing and goal management tools help
managers deliver meaningful, accurate reviews so employees understand
their performance against goals.
• Richer, more meaningful feedback — built-in writing tools ensure
consistency between managers, and deliver a deeper level of feedback.
• Stronger, more relevant coaching — managers receive specific,
actionable suggestions for coaching employees through a range of issues.
Ultimately, quality feedback is what keeps your employee’s head in the game
and can be used to inspire and fire them up. It also increases job satisfaction
and reduces turnover — two critical factors that most small- to mid-sized
businesses say they are concerned with on a daily basis.

3. Develop, Implement and Reinforce a
Pay-for-Performance Culture
The importance of having the best people in key areas is critical to the
success of your business. It’s no secret the key to retaining the best and
brightest talent is recognizing and compensating top performers. According
to Giga Information Group, retention can be improved by meritocratic
management — or pay-for-performance — by up to 27%.
Establishing a pay-for-performance culture is considered the #1 tool for
achieving financial results by senior executives. Today’s HR technologies
now give managers easy access to all the information they need to reward
individuals for actual performance — 360 degree feedback, goal alignment
metrics, review data and performance notes taken throughout the year.
This allows managers to make consistent, quantifiable and fair decisions,
and avoid compensating the wrong people. Other positive benefits include
the ability to:
• Track employee progress against performance goals.
• Identify who is delivering against expectations,
and contributing the most.
• Improve ongoing job satisfaction, productivity and retention
by recognizing and rewarding exceptional effort.
• Avoid overcompensating by seeing where compensation
and performance are not aligned.

4. Automate Performance Management
From Start To Finish
Technology designed specifically to help organizations manage and optimize
employee performance has advanced considerably over the years. Yet it’s
interesting to note that most companies still rely on paper-based processes
and outdated performance management methods. By adopting a system
that manages the entire employee lifecycle — from performance assessment
to goal alignment to employee retention — it’s safe to say automation can
truly transform your business.
A tangible example of how automation pays off can be seen in the massive
improvements around performance reviews. Once a source of great pain and
often viewed as a waste of time, performance reviews have been converted
by HR technology into a simple, cost-effective process. The result: managers
are freed to up to focus on the tasks that are most meaningful—and critical—
to achieving company goals. This clearly illustrates how both employee and
company-wide performance potential can be unlocked by HR automation.
Here are other key benefits your company can realize by automating
performance management:
• Easily implement performance management best practices
• Increase goal visibility and boost shared accountability
• Use data more effectively to gain powerful insights
about company performance
• Ensure compliance and employee participation
• Eliminate paperwork hassles
• Improve feedback quality and strengthen management skills
• Save time
• Give employees honest, objective, and open feedback
• Improve your bottom line

A final thought to help you raise employee (and overall company)
performance: HR professionals in organizations of all sizes consistently
report that providing their management with visibility into HR achievements
is essential. Your managers need quantitative and qualitative information
to support your strategic decisions about human capital. And just as
sales or marketing must justify technology investments in light of business
strategy, HR must also learn to do the same. . . Changing.

Bridging the Generation Gap

Young people, we hear, want to play video games all day, while thinking they should be in charge the Monday after they start. They are disloyal and will leave the job at the drop of a hat. Young people need praise all the time, yet they are non-conforming and don’t understand the rules of workplace.
Stereotypes of older people are equally common, including that they are RIP (“retired in position”) and unwilling to leave their jobs until someone drags them out. Older people can’t learn new things - especially technology.
People tend to have these implicit mental conceptions of who older people and younger people are, and what they can and cannot do. For a counter point, however, consider this hypothetical job description: Well-paid interesting work, with opportunities for learning and advancement, a supportive boss, credible leaders and trustworthy peers and subordinates.
Who wouldn’t want that job? The truth is people of all generations want jobs with those characteristics. So is there really a generation gap?
Demographic Realities and the Leadership Pipeline
At the Center for Creative Leadership, we constructed a survey on the topic and gathered data for more than five years. As of April, 2007, we had more than 6,000 respondents from more than 100 organizations on 6 continents. The results reported in the book (and in this article) are based on the 3,200 respondents both born and currently living in U.S.
We broke our American respondents down into five cohorts:
 The Silent Generation, born 1925-1945
 Early Baby Boomers, born 1946-1954
 Late Baby Boomers, born 1955-1963
 Early Generation X-ers, born 1964-1976
 Late Generation X-ers, born 1977-1986
What most people don’t understand about the generations is their relative size, and that is critical. It affects everything from retention to advancement to the need for learning. The defining demographic fact of Generation X is too few bodies, especially as compared to the Baby Boomer bulge; there are more than a million fewer Gen X-ers than there are Boomers. As the 1994 McKinsey & Company study War for Talent said, in the short term, the demand for young talent will far outstrip supply.
Because organizations face a leadership talent gap, they are likely to be paying more for young talent. At the CEO level, it’s not much of an issue because we can always import CEOs. But five levels down in the leadership pipeline, it is an issue; if you have too few bodies to fill jobs at the bottom or middle of the pipeline, you potentially have a real problem.
The take-away here is that stereotype of young people having an “entitlement mentality” is based in demographics; supply and demand underpins everything in the workplace. Gen X-ers are a scarce commodity, and they can demand more because the market will bear it. This understanding is critical because it affects the way you deal with requests like pay raises. If you walk in thinking, “They feel so entitled,” you are going to deal with them differently than if you are thinking, “Their demands are not personal, it’s just a matter of economics.”
Everyone Wants to Learn
I’ve had people come tell me, “If I know an employee’s generation, I can develop a training system for them; their age is all I need to know.” I find that outlook rather frightening, in large part because our research found surprisingly high levels of similarity across generations. In other words, age is not the critical piece of information people think it is.
When we asked respondents about learning on the job, 97% across generations said it was important . . . and when do 97% of people agree on anything? This finding is particularly important because it means you can walk in assuming most people of every generation want to learn; you don’t have to spend time convincing them. Happily, 90% of respondents reported they were learning on the job.
Why do people want to learn? Many respondents said the work contract has changed: they don’t think they have a job for life. Their desire to maintain their viability on the job market creates a driving desire to learn. Again, happily, 79% said they were developing skills they need for future. What’s important for employers to realize is that on-the-job learning is about as important as pay when it comes to retention, and that can be especially important for younger people who are bumping up against non-retiring Baby Boomers.
Learning Depends More on Level than on Age
So people of all generations are motivated to learn. But what do they want to learn? The common wisdom holds that older people want training on big picture things like vision and strategy, while younger people can’t see the big picture and therefore want only skills and tactics. Yet, when we offered respondents 40 different areas of learning, there were no substantial differences among the generations in what training they wanted.
When we looked at level-in-organization, however, we found a strong pattern. Everyone wants leadership training. As people move from professional to executive positions, their desire for skills training goes down, while their desire for strategy, vision, managing change, and team building goes up. Only those in management positions are strongly interested in strategic planning. Therefore, if you want to know what training someone wants (and believes that they need), it is more productive to look at their position in the organization than their age.
Though level and age are highly correlated, we found that position in the organization was more relevant to what people wanted to learn than their age was. In other words: a 30-year-old executive and a 50-year-old executive are likely to want the same development, and what they want is going to be different from a 30-year-old and a 50-year-old professional.
Surprising Facts about Computer-based Training
How do people want to learn new skills? We gave respondents 15 options, including three that were computer based. Before we began the study, many people assured us: “Younger people want to do everything on the computer, and older people don’t want to touch the computer at all.”
What we found was remarkably consistent across the generations. When it comes to soft skills, such as leadership and communication, respondents from every single generation rated “on the job” as their first choice; computer-based options did not appear in the top five choices for any generation.
With hard skills, such as accounting and project management, older workers said they preferred live classroom instruction, while younger groups still liked on-the-job learning best. What explains this discrepancy? Our best guess is that many younger people are in school after work, so they are already putting in classroom time and would prefer learning through some other method.
Surprisingly, Late Boomers were most likely to say they wanted computer-based training for hard skills. Why is that? We theorized that since Late Boomers are more frequently in management and upper management, they may perceive computer-based training as the most efficient use of their time.
Everybody Wants a Coach
One of the most striking findings of our research is that everyone – regardless of age or level – wants a coach. Across generations, nearly 85% of each generation said they wanted a coach, someone who helps and advises them on their job, career, and leadership development. There were some variations across age and level. Early X-ers wanted more focus on their careers, while professionals wanted more focus on their job, and managers wanted more focus on leadership development.
What form do employees want their coaching to take? I have heard that web-based coaching is the new thing, and that young people in particular want coaching over the Internet. In fact, our data show that an overwhelming majority of every generation say they want face-to-face coaching. And the majority of employees don’t just want it face-to-face, they want it frequently, as often as every week or every other week.
This would seem to pose a practical dilemma. How can employers possibly fulfill this widespread desire for frequent, face-to-face coaching? First, let’s remember the old maxim, “The best way to learn is to teach.” Second, it is helpful to realize that in many cases what people want is simply someone to listen to them, and luckily that role can be filled by peers. Third, when we asked employees, more than 75% said they thought they could be coaches, and that number increased with age and level in the organization. One possible solution, then, is to use your own employees as coaches. Of course some training would be required, but more than training, employees would need time to serve as coaches for one another.
The Bottom Line
You can’t change the birth rate from 20 or 30 years ago, but you can accelerate the development of the leadership talent you already have. The ace up your sleeve is that 97% of people of all generations want to learn on the job, and such development is arguably as important to retention as pay. But you need to remember that what people want to learn is related to their job, not to their age. Given that nearly everybody wants a coach, I believe using employees to coach one another is an efficient, targeted way to develop leadership talent on the job. The best part of the strategy is that you already have a population that wants it.