Monday, February 29, 2016

Improving "customer" service--government-style

Tracey Haugen and Jodi Simco, Nextgov, Feb 24, 2016, both with Deloitte Consulting's Federal Human Capital Project, says many agencies are trying to increase customer satisfaction with their services--customers, of course, are citizens and others needing govt assistance.

The consult Gallup and other sources, but also do their own research.

But--these two say--the agencies may be overlooking a valuable source of info--the front-line employee, who may have signed on to the government to help and finds their agency is not really helping.

This can reduce employee engagement, leading to sloppy or slow handling of people's problems.

Ever heard of dopey or slow service from an agency? Well, who hasn't?

What are signs that all is not well in the employee ranks?

--Passion but reluctance to advance.  The employee may opt to stay where he or she knows the ropes and can help--and does not believe the agency can produce the promised results from the higher level.

--Trouble attracting and keeping talent. If an agency can't keep IT and cybersecurity people, this may be a warning sign.

--Employees are also frustrated dealing with the agency for themselves or family members.

--Customer experience data. People complain in surveys, on forms, by email, by complaints to press.

What can agencies do...

--Establish a better line of right between front-line employees and customer needs. Ask the help line people, for instance, what people bitch about most, the irritating phone robot, dropped calls, many searches for a supervisor, etc.

--Try to be more customer-centric. IT programs deal with transactions--but this may put the human being into more than one jackpot, as I call them. Think is terms of helping the person, not turfing him or her around to different depts and specialists.

--Imagine an environment in which the customer is at the top, and the frontline employee is next. Everyone else is there to service those two tiers. Heaven, right?

It would also help if you do not ask the person's phone number twice, say how much you value them when you obviously don't or at least not enough to hire more people, and hand them around from rep to rep with a cheerful, "So-and-So will help you now..." And So-and-So then says, "Hi, what can I do, but first what is your phone number?"

Apparently nobody in customer service has caller ID--and this includes the phone company.

Friday, February 26, 2016

How about that gender gap?

As an early-days feminist (1960s-80s), I keep getting into smackdowns with feminists now who tell me feminism has changed. They are never too specific--it's just different.

CareerBuilder did a survey--what do workers think?

Well, 55% of workers did not believe men and women are paid equally.

Let's go to the scoreboard:

Earning under $35,000:


Earning $50,000 or more:


Earning $100,000 or more:


Women see this--35% of women think pay is equal and 56% of men do.

Yet, women may not want to move up as much. Nineteen percent of women would like their boss's job, 27% of men.

Not surprising, younger women tend to believe that women are on equal footing.

Well, maybe they have us "old feminists" to credit for even this perception, to the extent it's true.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Job security--People will always get sick

CareerBuilder has some suggestions if you want to work in health.

After all, health is one of the fastest growing industries and seems like it will remain so.

So...what could you do?

Nurse anesthetist. Median hourly--$74. Typical entry education--Master's. Expected growth through 2020--21%.

Pharmacist. Hourly--$58. Education--Doctorate or professional degree. Growth through 2020--24%.

Nurse practitioner. Hourly--$46. Education--Master's. Job growth through 2020--28%.

Physician assistant. Hourly--$46. Education--Master's. Job growth--31%.

Occupational therapist. Hourly--$38. Education--Master's. Growth--25%.

Speech-language pathologists. Hourly--$34. Education--Master's. Growth 30%.

Genetic counselors. Hourly--$34. Education--Master's. Growth --35%.

Registered nurses. Hourly--$33. Education--Associate's degree. Growth--18%.

Diagnostic sonographers. Hourly--$33. Education--Associate's degree. Growth--35%.

MRI technologist. Hourly--$32. Education--Associate's degree. Growth--16%.

So there you go--future on a plate. Go after it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Office romances--where else can you meet people?

If you tire of the hookup apps like Tinder and the produce dept at the store ("Do you know how to cook this kale stuff?")--what's left? The workplace.

A new CareerBuilder study, according to Debra Auerbach, says 37% of workers have dated a colleague--and a third of those led to marriage.

Coworkers have similar interests and knowledge bases, and spend more time together than with others--but this can be tricky.

--23% in the survey dated "up." Women more were likely than men to do this.

But this can lead to other workers thinking the boss is giving preferential treatment (you didn't think this stayed a secret, did you, although a third said they kept it hush-hush).

Also, 17% of office romances involved at least one married party.

And one in four said they had run into coworkers while out with their office fling. Ooops.

The affairs began...

--Late night on the job  (12%)

--At happy hour (10%)

--At a chance meeting off the job (10%)

At lunch (9%)

One in 10 said it was love at first sight.

When things went south, 5% said they left the job.

I had workplace romances back in the day--and I can attest that this is not really a smart thing to do.

Fun, maybe, but not smart.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What can the young'ins teach us?

No, no, let me show you, Ms Jones.
It's called reverse mentoring--young coaching older. Joe Eisenhart, senior VP of human resources, facilities, and philanthropy at Northwestern Mutual (writing on, says she recently asked a younger colleague to explain Twitter to her.

Apparently reverse mentoring has found its way into such companies as GE, Unlilever, Dell and Procter & Gamble.

Consulting younger workers brings fresh perspectives and a bridge between junior and senior.

Both sides benefit. The older people don't have to be such dinosaurs and the younger ones feel (and are) more respected.

Maybe the young IT folks won't ask first thing--Is your computer plugged in?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Executive calls for increase in number of females in science jobs

Breaking the "code." 
Monica Eaton-Cardone, a tech exec, says we can get more women into science jobs by upping the number of women in STEM programs.

STEM, of course, stands for Science-Technology-Engineering-Math.

Wait--what effect does gender have on IT innovation, product design, and production efficiency? As anyone who has been married knows, men and women approach problems differently. If everyone in a group has the same thought processes, you may get the same results time after time.

Just combining men and women can result in different results.

But men dominate IT. Yes, they do--at the moment--even though most people in college in general are female. Men stand up for themselves, grab credit.

Women need to make sure their achievements are brought to the fore and recognized. When women get more of a presence--more women will want to be in these fields.

What does Eaton-Cardone recommend to bring more women into these areas?

--First, encourage more YOUNG women. Talk up math and science at early ages.

--Emphasize the advantages and benefits of technology-based industries. It's best if women enter these fields early rather than transitioning after trying other fields.

It sound simple--but simple does not mean easy. Parents can play a role in making coding and math seem like normal, fun subjects--starting with the very young. Teach your daughters to be forward-leaning, assertive, and above all, crazy good at what they do.

When places like Silicon Valley quit being male-dominated clubs or frat houses, the time will have come.

Friday, February 19, 2016

New program in the works--RightSkill

RightSkill will be online--but you get
 the idea.
CareerBuilder and Capella Education Company are taking on the skills gap with a new program--RightSkill.

I am sure you have heard that as the almost moribund economy slowly stirs a bit, some employers are saying they have jobs but can't find qualified people.

At the same time, millions are unemployed or way underemployed.

Who should be training up the workforce--schools, employers, or the jobseekers themselves?

How about all three?

So under RightSkill, jobseekers pay for online learning from Capella geared to specific competencies--in 90 days and at a low cost.

From there, CareerBuilder will use its strong ties to employers to place candidates. If you are no placed within 90 days of completing the courses, you receive a full refund.

The program is just getting underway--there should be a website and details in a couple of months, You can keep checking for updates.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Manousch Zomorodi, Government Executive Magazine, Feb 10, 2016, says we shift our attention between online and offline every 45 seconds.

Zomorodi does a podcast called Note to Self, and he queried his listeners--65% said info overload affects their sleep. Almost half said it gave them headaches. Thirty percent had an eye twitch.


You could set a goal for information. That goal could be more time for yourself, more creativity, more specific knowledge (cat videos do not count),

You could give up multitasking. There is no such thing as being good at it--the brain does not work that way. Do one thing at a time, one site, one search, one text, one call.

Organize your apps. Delete all that don't bring you "joy."

Make it a point to discuss a topic with someone for seven minutes. That's how long it takes to see if a conversation is interesting or useful. Seven minutes! It can seem like a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How NOT to name a product or company

Alison Greenberg, a naming strategist at Siegel + Gale, has some advice on how to not go about coming up with snappy names for things.

(I used to name for Landor, a biggie in NY--so I am interested in this.)

DO NOT buy some people a case of beer and a few pizzas to see what happens. This form of brainstorming is not how the pros do it--names, trademark screenings, language analyses, naming architectures, and systems--these are serious deliverables produced by naming companies. I won't give away how I approached naming, either.

DO NOT TAKE a name based on initial associations. Yes, names can "remind" you of another name...but make sure it's a meaningful association. A fresh brand name does not have to be new to the world. Because it's already in use, say as a noun, does not mean it's stale. Take tumbler--sure, it's a glass, but it lost an "e" and became iconic. Personally, I never liked Accenture--sounded like "censure," not a good thing.

DO NOT CONSTANTLY REFER TO THE CLIENT'S BRIEF. A brief is a paper on what the client wants to convey...Memorability? A one-word description of the corporate culture? Respectabilty? Fun? Where does the name have to "work"--on the product, in headlines, in legal documents? Maybe you as the namer will come up with something better...don't be a slave to the brief.

DON'T COMPLETELY STAY AWAY from competitors' names. Look at competitors first. Then maybe tweak their name to make it new. There used to be a company called Data General--I created one called Data Specific.

DON'T BE LIMITED TO American English. We speak a lot of languages here--UBER is German for upper. Google is a twist on an impossible huge number--a googul. You have to be sure the name works in other languages, though--for instance, in the classic example, the Chevy Nova had issues in South America and Mexico--where no va means does not go.

See? Easy peasy...Hey--Peasy...that might work for something. Or how about EZ-PZ.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

When the boss breaks bad

When your boss makes an ethical decision, as opposed to a profit-driven one,--says an associate professor of management at Michigan State in East Lansing--he or she may lash out at employees the next day.

The study--online in J of Applied Psychology--deals with the subject of "moral licensing." This is an phenomenon where when people do something "good," they feel they now have the right to act in a negative manner.

The researchers looked at 172 supervisors in several sectors, such as retail, education, manufacturing, and health care, over a several-day period.

Ethical behavior led to mental fatigure and moral licensing, they found. And this led to being more abusive to workers.

These supervisors, suggested the researchers, should get more breaks and sleep more to prevent mental fatigue.

The moral licensing aspect? Companies should specifically require everyone to behave ethically--then it would not take so much out of supervisors to do it on their own hook.

When people thought they were being "big" about exercising ethical behavior, they were more likely to rebound and lash out at underlings as their "reward."

Dunno--what do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Companies must alter communication styles

The Boomers are one-foot-out-of-the-door and the Millennials are taking over the workplace.

Researchers at Baylor say this calls for a shift in internal communications style.

The Baylor people looked at information from 32 interviews with companies among the Fortune 100's list of best companies to work for.

Internally, there seems to be the need for more two-way communication between management and workers--not the "Now Hear This" style of old.

PR and Human Relations need to work together.

Millennials have different expectations--they want short messages and the use of mobile communication rather than the memorandum or duddy newsletter of the past.

Millennials also are interested in employer branding--what the company stands for.

And companies need to find ways to gauge employee engagement--page visits, returning visitors, time spent with content, referring sites. Other things to look at: Attendance at meetings and click-through rates for electronic newsletters.

Apparently all this needs to be spiffed up considerably.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Disabled and want to be a doctor?

Only a third of medical school websites say they'd accommodate a student with a disability.

Half were vague on the matter.

And more than half made it hard to find out where they stood.

Researchers at the Univ of Michigan Ann Arbor looked into this--and are recommending greater compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The schools to train osteopaths, by the way. were more compliant, but still had some issues.

Disabled doctors tend to treat those with their disability--so enrolling more would help that population.

For one thing, most schools need to update their technical standards or TSs, as required by the ADA.

TSs can include which technologies students can use to counter their disabilities. Amplified stethoscopes, motorized chairs or scooters, and the like. Still, fewer than 10 percent allowed intermediaries, such as sign language interpreters.

Schools are required to do all this. Yet, the researchers found language on some websites that was completely counter to the ADA.

I think these schools can do better...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Help--government getting even more jargon-filled

According to an article by Charles S Clark in Goverment Executive, the US Geological Survey and US Mint topped 30 federal agencies for readable, concise, orderly writing.

The editorial software maker Visible Thread, however, concluded that federal agency website communication is worse than five years ago.

The worst? Agriculture, Justice (FBI), and Health and Human Services. Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service won the booby prize--it got the worst of all.

Smithsonian was third from the top. The Interior Dept was fourth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau tied at fifth.

The sleuths looked for readability, complexity, long sentences, and passive voice.

Another group, the Center for Plain Language, did show more agencies improving.

So, of course, agencies release more documents to that one.

Sort of off-topic--I got a communication from Bank of America saying the economy was in The Twilight Zone...that was sort of kickin' and not boring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do you have a work spouse?

V-Day is coming up--but what about your work spouse?

Work spouses are members of the opposite sex with whom you have formed an inseparable bond at work, according to Deanna Hartley, CareerBuilder.

They deserve a Valentine because:

--They will always save you a seat next to them at a meeting. You two are probably thinking the same thing as the meeting progresses.

--You like the same TV shows, so can always converse.

--You never had to eat alone at the desk--you have a companion.

--You trust their opinion--and them.

--You have a private language and nicknames for coworkers.

--It is the WORST when this person is out or on vacay.

--You can travel with someone who will take the middle seat or not bitch when you do.

--If you have to stay late, your work spouse may make the sacrifice.

--You can throw shade on the spouse's enemies--and the spouse will return the favor.

--If you have a bad day--the work spouse will know it before you say it and make you feel better. Your real spouse will want to talk about his or her bad day.

I had a work spouse once. Now--only the kitty cat.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Stupid employee excuses

We're going...we're going...chill.
People are often late to work (a fourth of workers say at least once a week). You'd think they would have better "excuses."

Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder, notes a few of the lamer attempts...

--I thought of quitting but decided not to, so I came in late.

--My car caught fire from my blow dryer.

--Detained by Homeland Security.

--Had to chase the cows back in the field.

--My lizard died during surgery and I had to decide whether to let the vet dispose of it or bring the corpse to work.

--Fresh powder--so I had to ski.

--All of my clothes were stolen.

While the "old nine to five" may be morphing into more flexible systems, you will find that most employers expect you to show up on time.

Still, the dead lizard is a heartstringer plucker.

Monday, February 8, 2016

"On-ramping" can help female scientists get back into academia

Pursuing a career in industry or government after getting a PhD used to be considered deadly to having an academic career.

Now, the University of Washington is finding that getting such women back into the university setting has many advantages.

Researchers interviewed 10 women who had returned to university faculties after working in the government or private sector (J of                                                                     Technology Transfer).

These  women were interviewed at the UW Center for Institutional Change between 2009 and 2012.

They found these women needed a good road map on how to re-enter the university setting.

Some universities hire STEM faculty from other universities, but this does not widen the pool of such employees.

Many women out in the private or government sector developed products, not published papers. Some could not speak of their accomplishments, which were proprietary to their employers.

Others fear the male-heavy STEM areas in universities and wondered if this had changed.

But--they also wanted to do more than make a profit for a corporation and welcomed a way to do the world good by working with students.

UW offers development advice, workshops, and in-depth discussions of how such women can transition back to academia.

Sounds good--go to it!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Shouldn't everything be a video game?

Computer types at Colorado State in Fort Collins have joined with statisticians to turn disease outbreak planning into a video game.

Well, it has been a movie several times--why not?

This three-year project is funded by the Dept of Homeland Security--so it's not all fun and games.

Livestock outbreaks can spread fast across the country..or Bird flu...these illnesses not only affect animals but the economy and even humans.

When there is an outbreak, you need to know how severe it is, how long it will last, how many field personnel are needed, and what the economic consequences will be.

Computer scientists run "what ifs" like this constantly. They adjust for variables.

Disease planners, though, often work in isolation and don't know how their decisions affect the decisions others make.

The idea of  video game approach is to put all decision-makers in one virtual room--field agents to veterinarians--and plan.

This has to be useful in real time--no matter how many "players" or variables, Real time means milliseconds.

Challenging but with Zika and Ebola and bird flu etc popping up, probably timely.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Did you go back to the doughnuts this morning?

It's February--the traditional time to abandon the New Year's Resolutions.

Stacey Kendrick, a health educator at Vanderbilt, says making lifestyle changes takes time. Setbacks are part of it.

Often people give up when they have a setback (duh).

Did you forget to break your resolution into manageable goals--not lose 50 pounds, say, but 5% of your body weight?

And you cannot give up.

If you do have a setback--sleep through the alarm all week instead of going out in the cold to the gym or eating a need to act.

--Energize your goal, Kendrick says. Try a new gym, get new workout duds, walk with a buddy, join a support group.

--Review your history of setbacks.Try to discover the triggers.

--Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it. Not that you are a big weak clod.

Above all, I would add, just pick up where you left off and carry on.

And put that thing down, guy, you're freaking me out!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Will future leaders have good communication skills?

Talk already!
Communication guru Amy Castro, writing in Govt Executive magazine, said the government (but really all organizations) will be trolling the Millennials for effective leaders.

No matter how technnically perfect you are, you must be able to get this across. This requires six skills, Castro says.

--Intrapersonal communication. This is the conversation in our heads--what we worry about, what we tell ourselves about our decisions and ideas. Mastering this can increase self-confidence.

--Emotional awareness and control. We've all seen loss of emotional control on the job--profanity, sarcasm, calling out people in front of others, or people who are took weak to do any of this. Lders must communicate emotion without losing control.

--Interpersonal--One-on-one between two people. This means face-to-face, on the phone, texting or in writing.

--Conflict resolution. Conflict can be a way to get things in the open--but a leader needs to take into account individual conflict styles and how to reap a positive from it.

--Effective coaching and feedback. Feedback is more than a yearly performance review.  It must occur daily.

I would say if your office is full of people texting between desks or cubes, faces staring at screens, passive-aggressiveness such as the silent treatment, and so on--better communication needs to be emphasized.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Do you dog it when the economy is better?

First, the US economy is better, but still not great.

According to the American Time Use Survey, workers spend at least nine hours at work each weekday, but not all that time is spent working.

Well, duh.

This comes from a story in Govt Executive by Bourree Lam.

Personal work can consume as much as three hours or more. Didn't know it was THAT much.

Theoretically, if the economy is bad, employees would spend more time working in order to kepp their jobs.

Still, research done in the 1960s showed that labor productivity FELL during recessions.

But companies held onto their staff anyway--because of the cost of hiring and training someone new.

For most people, the more time spent at work means the more time doing personal work.

I guess personal work--surfing the internet, gabbing with colleagues--will always be with us...fear of firing being minimal.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Former employees can be an asset--if you do it right

See ya--but love ya, baby
When fast-rising employees quit, the assumption is usually that they were driven out by a bad boss. But University of Illinois researchers looked at this and found such employees often leave good bosses, too, and in that instance, an “alumni” of the company can be an asset.

The lead investigator, Ravi S. Gajendran, a professor of business administration, said these former employees or “alumni” can be assets to your company in terms of a source of future business or as a back channel of information.

So why do workers leave despite having such good  relationship with their manager?

According to Gajendran, people leave good managers, precisely because good managers invest in and develop their employees. They typically get a better job with more responsibilities at their next employer.

Even employees who are leaving can be valuable somewhere down the line, Gajendran says.

As a result, companies need to pay closer attention to the "off-boarding" process.

 "When people are leaving, you shouldn't just stop with an exit interview and a pat on the back. You should be thinking of them as a contact you can tap in the future,"

According to the paper, it also helps if managers at least make an overture to retain employees, even if they think it's unlikely they'll accept the offer to stay.

In short, if you're a manager who has poured a lot of resources into developing an employee, your first instinct might be to take their leaving badly. But it's to your advantage to keep good ties with them.

When I left my 16-year defense job, I was recruited back for a project. Never hurts to not burn bridges.