Tag Archives: employees

The Learning Continues

27 Jun

3 Suggestions for New Grads

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Guest Contributor:

Matt Hillman, Creative Director

As I approach a quarter century working in the marketing & advertising field, I’ve begun exercising my hard-earned right to be a curmudgeon. And a recent article in AdWeek offered some interesting reflections on the latest batch of graduates headed out to “conquer” the advertising world, and that helped me get in some quality scowling.

The article’s subhead “Traditional job titles can be shackles for multitalented grads” really grabbed my attention. It got me to thinking about not only new grads coming to advertising, but to the workforce in general.

The article opens:

Meet Jason. He’s an art director/filmmaker/editor/web designer. Or say hello to Sarah. She’s a writer/art director/journalist/photographer. Over there’s Ayusha. She’s a planner/art director.

From the rest of the article, it would seem like these new grads, nurtured by advances in technology and social media-fueled collaboration, are a force of multidisciplinary wunderkind poised to change work as we know it.

But the first problem as I see it isn’t in their state-of-the-art training or access to vast information, it’s their lack of experience—or rather, their confusing of ability with expertise. The notion that graduates arrive at agencies or offices or warehouses or any full-time job with a fully functional collection of self-defined skill sets is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.

The tricky thing about experience is that it takes experience to gather it, and time to realize that knowing is not the same as understanding. One of my favorite parts of the film Good Will Hunting is where Robin Williams’ character explains life to the young, troubled genius played by Matt Damon:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling, seen that.”

The desire for those entering the job market to somehow bypass the vitally important experience-phase seems to have grown more pronounced in recent years, perhaps fueled by the interactivity and immersion available from the internet. But there is no substitute for actually working in a real-world environment, removed from the safety and surety of the classroom.

The second problem is the idea that job titles are “shackles.” Job titles are intended to define a function or role, but not a person. And this is not a new idea. People coming from the exact same educational program with the exact same degree would still offer very different skill sets because their backgrounds, personalities, and experiences are different.

If job titles were what defined a person’s abilities, then based on my own skills and education, I could have easily started my career 24 years ago as a “writer/editor/illustrator” or even a “designer/coordinator/announcer” or any number of combinations that would have tried—futilely—to capture what I could contribute.

But instead, I selected one job title and worked to master it. I made a decision and commitment to be the best I could in that one area before setting out to tackle any others. And in the process, I not only made valuable mistakes, but I was able to surround myself with incredibly talented people in the fields that touched mine. In other words, I continued to learn well past graduation.

And that’s where I found the idea for 3 simple suggestions for new grads—let me know if you don’t agree:

Your 20s: Find Your Strengths.

Brimming with information, ideas, theories, and youthful exuberance (do not discount the value of that!) this is the time to figure out what you’re truly good at. Choices will need to be made routinely that will impact the course of your career and life; spend this period honing your skills in the real world, daring to be bold, taking risks, and asking questions. And in that process, learn from mistakes and build on successes.

Your 30s: Know Others’ Strengths.

Once you’ve sorted out what your core strengths are, surround yourself with talented people who are different—and even better!—than you are and learn how you can benefit from their strengths. Continue to polish your craft, but figure out how it relates to those of others. Whether it’s through helping directly, anticipating needs or simply having everything accounted for on your end, focus your energies on being the person everyone else can count on—that person who “gets it.”

Your 40s and Beyond: Understand the Balance.

By this time, you’ll have had some struggles—between life and work, between the job you have and the one you want, between your role and those of coworkers, between being someone who does the work and someone who leads it. This is the stretch where applying what you’ve learned comes into play. Understanding what’s really important and what really isn’t can only come from experience, and now is when you apply what you’ve learned over the years. This is the period where those hybrid job titles aren’t so farcical because they’ve been developed over time and are backed up by tangible experience.

While having multiple talents and being versatile can definitely be an asset, there’s an inescapable truth to the term “jack of all trades, but master of none.” With the ability to move laterally in different roles, the generalist will always have a place in an organization, but being a true master of your craft is the surest way to move up instead of just around.

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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 2/2)

12 May

4 Steps to Find and Develop “Freds” in Your Organization

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I recently wrote a blog post on Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor. While that post focused on explaining what a Fred is (long story short: a passionate employee who delivers an extraordinary customer/client experience) and how to identify one, this blog post will dig into how you can find and develop Freds within your own organization.
But first, why go to the effort? Quite simply, Freds—the most passionate people in your organization—are different. They do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Not surprisingly, Freds are also generally happier because people doing good work feel good, and people doing exceptional work feel, well, exceptional.

Sanborn uses the acronym FRED to explain how to develop “Freds”:

  • Find: There are three main avenues for finding Freds within and for your organization:
    1. Let Freds find you. If you really want your company to be world-class, it must become the kind of place that attracts Freds. To accomplish that, you must empower the Freds you have so their impact will be felt not only in the work your company does externally, but also in your internal culture.
    2. Discover “Dormant Freds.” There are many employees, also known as Dormant Freds, whose inner Fred has yet to blossom. To find them, watch for people that do things with flair (not to be confused with showing off or trying to attract attention)—an exceptionally well-done project, an elegant client meeting, or a clever suggestion are all possible tip-offs that a Dormant Fred is hiding in plain sight. Here are some questions to ask yourself about a potential Dormant Fred:
      • What do I remember about this person?
      • What’s the most extraordinary thing he or she has ever done?
      • How badly would this person be missed if he or she left his or her current position?
    3. Recruit and hire Freds. When you have exhausted your internal Fred pool, you may have to look externally to find them. Here are some great interview questions to find those prospective Freds:
      • Who are your heroes? Why?
      • Why would anyone do more than necessary?
      • Tell me three things that you think would delight most customers/clients/consumers.
      • What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a customer?
      • What is service?
  • Reward – Implement a rewards program to make sure Freds are recognized and appreciated, even if you are only recognizing good intentions and not a good final result. While nobody likes to fail, it is important to encourage employees to take chances. When people feel like their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies. My company, ER Marketing, recently implemented an award system in which employees nominate each other for exceptional work and attitude. This is meant to encourage employees who live up to the ER Marketing values of Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Performance (yes, we know what that acronym spells) with peer and management-level recognition.
  • Educate – Find examples of “Freds,” (both inside and outside of your organization), analyze those examples for commonalities that others can learn from, teach others to act extraordinary everyday—not just when there is a crisis—and set an example (invite others to act similarly).
  • Demonstrate – Set an example by inspiring, involving, initiating, and improvising. Here are some ways you can set an example and inspire employees to better serve your customers, vendors, and fellow employees better:
    • Inspire, but don’t intimidate.
    • Involve by creating a “Team Fred” of leaders in your organization.
    • Don’t wait for the “right” moment. It will never come—you have to make it.

One final, important thought from the book: Pull, Don’t Push. You can’t command someone to be a Fred. You can’t require someone to practice the Fred Factor. Command-and-control short-circuits the spirit of the Fred Factor, which is about opportunity, not obligation.

Invite people to join you. The most powerful tool you have to spread the Fred Factor throughout your organization is your own behavior—the example of your life and the effect it has on others. The best “Freducators” are themselves Freds. As John Maxwell says, “You teach what you know, you reproduce who you are.”

 

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Creativity in the Building Products Industry

22 Mar

Practice Creativity to Get the Best Results

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“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Creativity is a funny thing. People often label themselves as creative, or more likely they say, “Oh, I’m not the creative type.” If you’re in the former category, its time to rethink your creative position.

Especially in the building products industry, creativity is more than designing a great product, putting together a fabulous sales presentation or making your meetings exciting.

Creativity sparks innovation. Have you heard of the artist Henri Matisse? Old age and illness made using his hands more difficult and he became bedridden, but he didn’t let it be a hindrance. In fact, he made a breakthrough in his final years with a new form of art. He found that he could still hold and use scissors, so he cut out colored paper to form beautiful work. He made creativity a choice. He opened his mind to being creative and reached outside of his comfort zone. Are you doing the same thing? Here are some tips to add creativity to your life:

  1. Stretch yourself. Be like Matisse and don’t accept limitations. Set a goal that makes you make choices that you haven’t had to make before. This could be as simple as going for a walk over lunch, meeting in a new spot or rearranging the furniture in your office.
  2. Choose to connect with life and other people. Start a creative network of people that you can share ideas with and provide support to each other. This could be a professional organization in your area, a handful of like-minded people in the office or a new group waiting to be formed.
  3. Change. Think about the rules in your life… Do they need to change? Change can be scary, but it can also be powerful. The building products industry has been doing a lot of things because ‘it’s the way its been done’ but our industry is changing and now is the time to make changes to thrive in the future.

Bottom line – choose to be the best you. Take the best ideas around you and improve on them and don’t hold back for the risk of failing.

For more information, check out Sam Harrison of Zing Zone, a creative author and speaker.

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The Building Products Tablet Revolution

16 Oct

Masonite’s homepage, as seen on an Apple® iPad®

Are Your Dealers There Yet?

In the marketing world, we’re consistently early adopters of new technology, from social networks (anybody remember Gowalla, Brightkite or Whrrl?) to devices like tablets. By now, if you’re like many of us, you may have already gotten rid of your first or second tablet and upgraded. With normalcy like that, it’s easy to forget that in our industry, technology isn’t always adopted so quickly. This is especially true at lumber and building material dealers. To help, we’ve put together a quick list of ways dealers should be thinking about tablets as a marketing tool, written for them:

Websites

  • Is your website built to work correctly on tablet devices? Some websites require little or no change here, unlike mobile devices (smartphones). But if your website utilizes Adobe® Flash® technology, it’s time to budget for some website upgrades. Talk with whomever manages your website about updating anything created in Flash to work using JavaScript® or HTML5, both of which are as close to universally acceptable programming languages as you can get, and can duplicate a lot of what Flash offered.
  • Resource – a short guide to the differences between traditional desktops/laptops and tablets when designing: http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/12/how-to-design-web-sites-for-tablets/

Showroom

  • Looking for a relatively inexpensive way to incorporate displays into your showroom? Tablets can be a perfect way to showcase video of a specific product, offer a way to view your entire product offering, handle special orders, contest entries and more. And thanks to other companies using them in showrooms, as well as tradeshows, there’s a wide selection of applications to utilize, as well as lots of different mounts, podiums, frames and other ways to securely utilize your tablet in a showroom.
  • Resource – how a remodeling company uses tablets as a mobile showroom: http://www.daily5remodel.com/index.php?action=article&rowid=1018

Salespeople

  • If your organization has outside salespeople, tablets can be a huge time and money-saver. If you utilize one of the major CRMs, such as SalesForce®, Sugar CRM® or Microsoft® Dynamics®, there’s an app designed that your salespeople can use to manage the sales process while they’re traveling. If you’ve ever had issues getting salespeople to fill out activity reports, giving them the ability to do it via a tablet could be the answer.
  • Even if you’re not ready for CRM management via tablet, they can still prove useful for a salesperson in the field. Instead of lugging around order forms, brochures, catalogs and more, you could equip your salespeople with a tablet, loaded with all the product catalogs in PDF form, which can easily be reviewed with a customer/prospect and emailed right to that person if needed. Those catalogs could be supplemented with video or a photo gallery showing your company’s work in that product category. Once a quote is needed or a sale ready to submit, the entire thing could be done right there on the tablet. Orders can be submitted faster and you should be able to eliminate the need for someone back at the office to enter orders that were written down or submitted by fax.
  • You can even collect payments from customers via credit card, securely & instantly, using a tablet!
  • Resource – here’s how a Midwestern builder revamped their production process using tablets: http://www.prosalesmagazine.com/technology/ipad-invasion.aspx
  • Resource – here’s how an Arizona independent car dealer remade its sales process around tablets: http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/profiles/rcauto/

The possibilities of what can be done with a tablet continue to grow; remember, we’re only in the 3rd year of them reaching the critical mass stage! Beyond the flashy, “cool” factor of using one, there are true, tangible cost savings that can be realized by incorporating them into your business in places that make the most sense. Ready to get started but not sure how? Check out Apple’s guide to using tablets for business: http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/

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5 Steps: Work with HR to Create More Engaged Building Product Employees

2 Oct

Working with HR can create more productive and engaged employees

As a building products CMO, you’ve no doubt crossed paths with HR, but how closely do you work with them on messaging to your employees? HR continues to evolve into a more strategic role as they focus on talent attraction, engagement and retention and they can be your greatest advocate and help create a stronger company built on a foundation of productive and engaged employees. How do you achieve this? The first step is to pair your strengths at brand messaging with HR’s perspective and expertise on your workforce. Here are 5 steps for working with HR to create a stronger workforce:

1. Gauge employee engagement

  • The first step in creating more engaged employees is to see where they stand now. Begin with research to get a pulse on your workforce. Send out an online survey to see where your employees stand and how they feel about your building products organization. Even this step shows your employees that your organization cares about them and is working to make improvements.

2. Create an employer brand

  • Use what you learn from the employee engagement survey to create a brand that your employees can connect to, while also furthering leadership’s vision for the future. A brand workshop using the data you receive and a few select executives is a great way to establish the right brand for your organization.

3. Work with HR to align employees with company goals

  • Create a plan to bring the brand to life. Host employee meetings, send out emails, hang break room posters, send a direct mail piece to your employees homes – whatever it takes to let them know that you are listening and value them.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • Once the brand has been developed and communicated, develop a strategic communication plan to build employee engagement. This should include ongoing communication like newsletters, videos, emails and other consistent touchpoints.

5. Test your progress

  • In order to see if your efforts are paying off, send out an employee engagement survey each year. While a lot of factors play into employee satisfaction, a consistent communication campaign can make a big difference over time.

Committing to a plan to strengthen your workforce ultimately strengthens your company. Engaged employees are more productive, more efficient and more likely to bring fresh, new ideas to your organization. They are more likely to over-deliver and your customers are more likely to come back again. So, what are you waiting for?

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