Monthly Archives: May 2011

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The Apprentice bragging game

May 14, 2011

The Apprentice is returning to British screens, bringing with it a slew of business buzz-phrase nonsense and baffling bravado from the candidates.

Each year they take the bravado, swagger and self-aggrandisement to stratospheric new levels. They mix it with the usual business jargon that drives people mad. Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway has often written about the subject, calling for an end to all the “blue sky thinking”, “going forwards” and “pushing the envelope”.

We’ve been thoroughly spoilt in previous series. Who can forget Stuart “The Brand” Baggs last year uttering the now infamous line: “I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony – I’ve got a field of ponies waiting to literally run towards this job.” What?

Here are some of the more eyebrow-raising lines from previous series:

“When you can break bricks with your hands you believe in your head you can do anything, and in business I take on the same ethic,” said Ifti Chaudhri in series four.

“Business is the new rock ‘n’ roll and I’m Elvis Presley,” said Philip Taylor in series five.

“Everything I touch turns to sold.” Really Stuart Baggs?

“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there’s footsteps on the moon.” One of this year’s candidates, Melody Hossani.

“I think outside the box, if I was an apple pie the apples inside me would be oranges.”Said Alex in series six.

Sourced from the BBC

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Confidence in senior management at record low

May 12, 2011

Employee confidence and trust in senior leaders has hit a record low as job security, satisfaction and standards of living fell, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has found.

According to the CIPD’s spring 2011 Employee Outlook survey, the net proportion of employees who have confidence in their senior leaders has fallen to -1 from +3 in the winter 2010/11 survey and is at the lowest level since the CIPD began collecting the data two years ago.

The survey of 2,000 workers found that trust in senior leaders has also seen a significant drop, falling to -8 from -2 in the previous survey.

Claire McCartney, CIPD resourcing and talent adviser, commented: ‘The survey findings highlight the importance of senior leaders in organisations putting even more emphasis during tough times on how they communicate, consult and involve staff where major changes such as restructuring or redundancies are being proposed.

‘Evidence suggests that where employees benefit from effective communication and feel their views matter, and are taken into account before decisions are made, they are more likely to remain engaged in their work and committed to the organisation.’

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Still think social media in business is a fad?

Angela blogs, ‘Almost every day I talk with business owners who think social media is a fad, and if they just hold out long enough that it will go away. In a time where people are using their Blackberry to check-in at a client meeting, their iPhone to record a video from a seminar and post it on Facebook, or CEO’s reaching out to connections on LinkedIn to find a new employee – social media is now more business than ever.’

As Angela further points out: ‘If you aren’t using social media to connect with your audience, you can bet your competition is. If you need proof in the pudding or know someone who needs it, take a look at the following infographic illustrating the reach of social media.’

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Short paragraphs boost online readership

May 11, 2011

When researchers for The Poynter Institute looked into what makes people read online, they found that one key predictor of attention was paragraph length. Researchers wrote:

‘The bottom line is that stories with shorter paragraphs got more than twice as many overall eye fixations than those with longer paragraphs. These data suggest that the longer-paragraph format discourages reading and that short-paragraph format overwhelmingly encourages reading.’

Are your paragraphs too long? Here are three ways to make them tighter:

1. Hit return more often
This may be the easiest single thing you can do to cut the clutter in your copy.

Your teacher taught you that paragraphs were one unit of thought. They are. Just as your entire piece covers one idea, your sentences are units of thought, your words each express a single idea.

You just need to see your thoughts as smaller, more discrete units.

2. Tweak it
Look for ways to shorten your paragraph by cutting sentences, phrases and words.

3. Break it with bullets
If you have a series of three or more items, break them out of the paragraph in a bulleted or numbered list. Bullets not only break up a paragraph, but they also cut words by eliminating the need for transitions.

This is especially important online, where readers skim even more than they do in print. In one test, usability expert Jakob Nielsen made a Web page 47 percent more usable when he made the page more scannable with subheads, bold-faced lead-ins and bullets

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Employee Engagement

Is the employee newsletter dead?

May 10, 2011

When it comes to choosing communication channels, employee newsletters are viewed as an anachronism by most organisations, says Dom Crincoli of Crincoli Communications Consulting.

Traditional newsletters have lost some lustre, he says, but we shouldn’t be too quick to say print is dead. It may be the communicator’s best option when it comes to non-tethered employees-construction crews, manufacturing or mailroom personnel, for example, who may have little or no computer access at work.

Online and traditional print newsletters have also lost none of their potency as storytelling vehicles to drive employee motivation and engagement, especially when information is properly chunked and arranged with sub-heads. What’s more, the opportunity for robust interaction through online newsletters provides senior leaders with feedback needed to make informed decisions.

Recognition by peers: Good writing and storytelling require a journalist’s intuitive ability to search out the story behind the story, reading between the lines to discover what’s really going on. This skill will never go out of style. Newsletters are a platform for highlighting the exploits of a workforce, providing an essential means of recognition among peers-and this is more valuable than anything a company could put in a paycheck.

Decision-making tool: We’re aware that online newsletters are interactive, and the ability to comment on posted stories is old news at this point. But the ability to measure the level of interaction is a point that’s often overlooked. Newsletters can be a treasure of valuable feedback, measuring the volume and tone of written comments, the number of “Likes” (Thumbs Up) or “Dislikes” (Thumbs Down), and the number of individual stories forwardedto colleagues.

Archived search capability: Still not convinced? Try using your newsletter to ladder up to something more strategic. I created a best-practice story archive (in SharePoint) for one of my clients, and we’re making it searchable by application. Interactive database functionality will take this useful information to another level, putting program-management information at the fingertips of subcontract program managers looking to benefit from the wisdom of lessons learned. How might a searchable best-practice archive be leveraged at your organization?

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Employee Engagement

The real test of employee engagement

We hear all the time about employee engagement and how it’s measured. Terms like “discretionary mindshare”, “active engagement” and others get bandied about like they actually mean something, writes Wayne Turmel in Management Issues.

He says he’s found a simple metric that reveals what employers and employees alike need to know.

In his new book, WE – How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, authors Kevin Kruse and Rudy Karsan offer a simple litmus test for how engaged people are in their work and with their employers.

The question is simple: when you speak about the company you work for, do you use “we” or “they”? Listen to the responses (including your own). If someone says “they make software for the widget liquidation market” it’s a very different relationship to work than if they were to say, “we make software for the widget liquidation market”.

If you’re a semantic like him, he says you’ll immediately understand the difference:

  • “They” do things to you like cut your budget. “We” work within constraints
  • “They” create policies that tie your hands and make you powerless to help your customers. “We” sometimes struggle to do our best but we’re trying and you’re not likely to throw the company under the bus in discussions
  • “They” are easy to distance yourself from emotionally. It’s just a transaction. If you’re using “we”, you have an emotional and psychological investment in the relationship. You’re less likely to bolt at the first excuse or better offer.

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National Trust's Wimpole Home Farm seeks online farmers

May 2, 2011

A National Trust farm is to be run by online subscribers voting on which crops to grow and livestock to rear.

For a £30 annual fee, 10,000 farm followers will help manage Wimpole Home Farm, in Cambridgeshire.The National Trust says its MyFarm project aims to reconnect people with where their food comes from. It was partly inspired by the online Facebook game Farmville.

‘By influencing the work at Wimpole, our farmers will start to understand the effects and implications of their own decisions,’ says Richard Morris, Farm manager.

Subscribers will be expected to make key decisions on which crops to plant, which animals to buy and whether to put in measures such as new hedgerows to help wildlife.

The MyFarm website will feature video updates, webcams, information about farming and expert opinion and subscribers will also be entitled to a family ticket to visit the site.

National Trust director general Dame Fiona Reynolds said the scheme was ‘all about reconnecting people with farming, giving them the chance to get involved with and feel part of the farming community and farming life and give them a greater understanding on how the food they eat gets to their shopping basket.’

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What a five-year-old can teach you about compelling communications

Tuning out irrelevant information is a skill that today’s five-year-olds have in spades, writes Thomas Stringham of Advertising Age in his blog.

He says that at business school he was taught about the importance of reach and frequency to run a successful campaignbut nothing that anyone ever taught him in a classroom prepared him for today’s fragmented media landscape.

‘For a real lesson on the importance of compelling communications I need look no farther than my five-year-old son. On a daily basis I have to repeatedly hound him to do some of the most routine tasks. I’ll say “dinner’s ready” half a dozen times as he continues playing with his toys, acting like he’s completely oblivious to what I’m saying. I can then take the same kid, put him in his room, close the door, and then proceed to talk about what plans for his next birthday party and he will literally hear every single word. It’s like he’s got this innate sixth sense that allows him to process the stimulus all around him, and then simply focus on what’s actually important to him.

Stringer says thisis representative of how the average consumer processes marketing messages nowadays. In a go-go-go society with literally thousands of messages around every corner, people have become desensitized to what we call clutter. There is so much noise, in fact, that we often don’t hear anything at all anymore.

He believes that every piece of communications we develop as a professionshould be something the audience seeks out rather than tunes out.

To do that, try to create material that’s engaging, and – when appropriate – entertaining.

‘Fundamentally, we need to realise that the line between marketing and entertainment is blurring; boring communications will turn people off faster than a bad horror flick. We’re no longer just in the selling business – we’re in the “hits” business. And if your communication isn’t something your target audience connects with and embraces, then you should probably be spending your money in better ways’.

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