Management Watch

Moving beyond telework: What's next?

Telework is so yesterday. But not in a way you might think.

“Telework, in our eyes, is very passé -- we’ve moved on,” said Anthony Macri, a staff member with the General Services Administration’s Office of Administration’s Workforce Transformation Team.

The focus has now shifted to ways to modernize the workplace and the workforce, as well as figuring out how to reframe the traditional thinking about what might be called management by sight.

“A lot of times I get the question, ‘Well, how do I know employees are productive, how do I know they’re meeting objectives?’ I just turn the question: How do you know now? It’s no different,” said Macri, who participated in an April 16 panel discussion on how to govern beyond the desktop at the Federal Senior Management Conference in Cambridge, Md.

Telework has enabled GSA to double down on efforts to reduce its real estate footprint in the Washington area, by consolidating buildings and making better use of space, Macri said. That shrinkage also means means no private offices for GSA employees.

“Hoteling, in a simple sense, means you don’t own any property in the agency,” he explained. “You don’t have a desk, you don’t have an office. You live in a virtual world with your team. But you do have a landing spot.”

Telework also requires a new way of thinking about management and demands squashing the fear or misconception that off-site employees are less relevant to the organization than those who come into the office, Macri acknowledged.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, performance is the most crucial element around telework. For GSA, that includes eliminating schedules of when employees work remotely.

“We telework where it makes sense,” Macri said. “. . . It’s about trusting your employees to telework where it makes sense.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 17, 2012 at 12:19 PM5 comments

Help-desk requests: Weirder than you thought.

There seems to be no shortage of weird requests IT workers get, judging from readers who commented on the April 11 Management Watch entry, "Have a sense of humor? Become an IT worker."

A survey from Robert Half Technology showed that CIOs had been asked all kinds of oddball questions. "How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?" and "How do I pirate software?" Help-desk professionals had encountered requests such as “Can you help me repair a washing machine?" and "Will you show me how to use the mouse?"

We asked you to share your own experiences, and just when you thought it couldn't get stranger, it did.

Reader DC submitted this anecdote:

I once had a customer call in to report that her coffee cup holder was broken. When I went to her office to find out what she was talking about, I discovered that she was using her CD tray to hold her coffee cup. The weight of the cup and coffee made the tray come off the track so when she tried to close the tray it wouldn't move; thus the call to IT...

Another reader sent this gem:

How about this one: A lady says, ‘My computer won't turn on.’ Short moment of silence. Then she says, ‘does it matter that the power strip it is plugged into is under water?’

And reader Utah told this story:

I once had a customer call for help because the communications equipment in her facility was failing (this was back in the late 1980s). When pressed, she revealed that she'd been preparing for an inspection of the computer room by ‘soaping it down’ and shortly thereafter it had just ‘started a-smokin’. *sigh*

Have any other weird requests? Keep ‘em coming.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:19 PM3 comments

Have a sense of humor? Become an IT worker.

What’s the most bizarre question you’ve been asked in your role as an IT professional?

Whatever your answer is, I hope it equals – or even tops – the hilarious examples given by IT workers who were polled in a survey about strange requests.

Developed by Robert Half Technology, the survey is based on phone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs from U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. Responses also came from help-desk managers.

The question: “What is the strangest or most unusual request you or a member of your help desk or technical support team has ever received?"

Some response from CIOs:

"Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer?"
"How do I clean cat hair out of my computer fan?"
"How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?"
"I dropped my phone in the toilet. What should I do?"
"How do I pirate software?"

And among help desk professionals:

"Can you help me fix my toilet?"
"We need you to fix the microwave in the lunchroom."
"Can you help me repair a washing machine?"
"How do I start the Internet?"
"Will you show me how to use the mouse?"

So, now we would like to know: What’s the strangest request you’ve gotten? Anything that beats these replies?

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 11, 2012 at 9:03 AM8 comments

Feds work less, earn more than private-sector employees -- or so people believe

How’s this for public opinion: A recent poll shows that most adult Americans believe government employees have an easier job and make more money compared with their industry counterparts.

Sixty-six percent of respondents in an April 6 Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey said private-sector employees work harder than those in government. Only 8 percent say government employees grind away the most.

Astonishingly, many government respondents agree with these perceptions. Forty-six percent of government workers say their industry colleagues work harder, while nearly one-third says the contrary is true.

More than half (56 percent) of the respondents also believe the average government worker has a bigger paycheck than the average private-sector employee, while 23 percent say those in industry make the most money. Twenty-one percent are uncertain about which of the two rakes in the most dollars.

When it comes to job security, almost 70 percent of respondents believe government workers have better chances of keeping their jobs than those in the private sector. And most government respondents agree with that; 62 percent said they have greater job security than those in industry.

Respondents were also asked what impact would an expanding federal workforce have on the economy. Forty-four percent said more public-sector hiring would have a bad effect on the economy, while 38 percent said adding more civil servants would have a positive results.

The survey was based on the responses from 1,000 American adults, with more respondents citing Republican party affiliation (37 percent) than Democratic (31 percent). More women than men were polled (54 percent vs. 46 percent), and the largest age demographic was those in the 18-to-39 range.

What's your take on the survey findings?



Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 10, 2012 at 12:19 PM15 comments

SoMoClo ... huh?


If you’re a technologist or work in IT, you’re most likely very familiar with BYOD and what it stands for. But do you know what SoMoClo means?

Research firm Aberdeen Group came up with the term to illustrate the convergence of social media, mobile and cloud. What used to be three siloed technologies have now begun merging, thanks to an infrastructure that allows them to “collapse” into each other and form a new IT construct, a recent Aberdeen report said.

From an IT manager’s perspective, this new fusion of technologies presents various questions to ponder. How do you best consolidate and leverage these mobility initiatives? How do you control access (both physical and virtual) to data? What happens if a device is stolen or lost? And how do you set up the support side?

A majority of respondents from the “best-in-class category” seemed well aware of the risks with SoMoClo: 94 percent said they were given secure remote mobile access to their organization's’ network, and 73 percent said their organization has a process in place to handle lost, stolen or dysfunctional mobile devices. Three-fourths of best-in-class organizations also reported they conduct regular security assessments of their IT procedures.

The report posited that SoMoClo has potential to establish CIOs as forward-thinking technology leaders and offers them a converged vision and roadmap for tomorrow’s IT infrastructure. However, don’t expect CIOs to jump right in and start touting SoMoClo as the next big thing: Much work remains to be done before this concept is fully enterprise ready, the report said. 

The survey was based on the responses from 263 organizations in 45 countries across industries such as IT, government, telecommunications, finance and education. Most respondents were from North America (46 percent), followed by Europe (24 percent) and Asia (22 percent).

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 06, 2012 at 12:19 PM3 comments

Management tips, traps and trends: How to stay current

Old habits die hard, but amid morale problems, pay freezes and anti-government rhetoric, Bruce Tulgan has a suggestion for government managers: Skip the chitchat already. 

“Have an ongoing dialog, spend time with your employees but don’t just shoot the breeze,” said Tulgan, a management and workplace expert who’s written several best-selling books on leadership and management. “You don’t have to be their best friend or therapist, but what you have to do is provide them support, guidance and direction and set them up for success.

Like any other trend, ideas around management change frequently, but Tulgan said the foundation always remain the same. The basics of leadership, management, and supervision are as old as the hills: Spending time one on one with your employees, talking about the work that needs to be done, making expectations clear, following up regularly, monitoring, measuring, documenting, providing feedback and tying rewards directly to performance, he said.

Tulgan took some time between his speaking engagements to discuss some of the emerging management trends – and fads best forgotten.

Trends to take up:

Boundaryless work: Flexibility in time and place -- when and where people work – has emerged as a key trend, driven by technology that facilitates employees in doing their work outside traditional workspaces. It’s also a win-win situation for employers: The more they can tailor work schedules and work locations, the better positioned they are to recruit, motivate and retain the top talent.. But allowing this flexibility to all employees is impossible. “You cannot do everything for everyone,” he pointed out. So what is a manager to do? Tulgan said managers need to do more for some employees and less for others based on what the employee deserves based on the market value of his/her work and based on ability and willingness to perform consistently at a high level. “Above and beyond flexibility should be earned with above and beyond performance,” he said.

Pay for performance. “I applaud the notion of differential rewards based on differential performance,” Tulgan said. “I think you get what you pay for and you should deliver for what you get paid.” However, pay for performance works only when managers communicate exactly what an employee needs to do to get paid more. The system also relies on managers to monitor, measure and document each employee's performance continuously, and failure to do so leads to differential rewards being given out, but the connection between reward and individual performance is not clearly made. “Over and over again, I have seen pay-for-performance initiatives result in disastrous morale because managers failed to do the necessary work,” Tulgan said.

Forced ranking: Many managers are so reluctant to make distinctions between and among employees and single out individuals for blame or reward, most leading organizations are moving to some form of "forced ranking,” Tulgan said. This practice require managers to make candid evaluations of every employee according to a tight distribution of grades such as A, B, and C. “Sadly, while evaluation and differentiation are key, this is an exercise in annual guesswork unless managers are monitoring, measuring and documenting every employee's performance on an ongoing basis, ” Tulgan said. “Once a year doesn't do the trick.”

Approaches to abandon:

Hierarchical, long-term relationships: People shouldn’t be expected to make short-term sacrifices one after the other in exchange for promises of the distant future, Tulgan said. “Seniority has an important role in the business world, but I prefer to look at it in terms of skills, knowledge, institutional memory, relationships and the old-fashioned work ethic,” he explained. Seniority or time served per se and rewarding longevity itself also don’t go over well with younger individuals who are just entering the workforce, he said. “Managing people by promising them long-term rewards just doesn’t work anymore,” Tulgan stressed.

Sink-or-swim mentality: Throwing young people into a sink-or-swim situation and expect that the best will rise to top is another outdated management method, according to Tulgan. “Nowadays, if you do that, the best people get out of the pool and go work somewhere else,” he said. “Some people will drown and some will swim in the wrong direction. Others will go to the shallow end and play.” Tulgan said many managers think, “well, nobody held my hand; I paid my dues and climbed the ladder with a bunch of people, and the best survived.’ But that sort of approach in which young employees are systematically weeded out shouldn’t be how managers manage a modern workforce, he added.  

False empowerment: Some managers believe the best approach to management is to leave employees alone and let them manage themselves. Wrong, says Tulgan, who calls this approach the Myth of Empowerment or False Empowerment. This hands-off, nice-guy approach promotes the idea that employees should do only work they love, and managers should generously dole out praise. The problem arises when no one wants to do the grunt work because it’s not fun or satisfying. False empowerment also dismisses the fact that not everyone in an organization is a superstar. “This idea of false fairness that somehow the way to treat everybody the same -- I don’t think that works anymore,” he said.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Mar 28, 2012 at 12:19 PM0 comments

Internet use clouds millennials' ability to read body language

Millennials may be much tech savvier than other generations, but all that Internet browsing, Facebooking and tweeting have impaired their social skills. But that doesn't have to mean they're hopelessly maladjusted.

“Compared with people who didn't grow up using computers and the Internet, [millennials] may be slower to pick up on nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language,” John K. Mullen, a senior federal executive, writes on the Harvard Business Review’s Blog Network.

Mullen says these arguments are backed by some solid evidence. In his own research, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Mullen argues that exposure to digital media reconfigures the neural networks of young individuals, possibly at the expense of empathy and social skills.

His research also suggests that many millennials are unsuitable for jobs that require face-to-face relationships, and their inability to pick up on nonverbal cues could be a liability. Another study he cites concludes that after spending enough time online, millennials “display poor eye contact and a reluctance to interact socially.”

Being a digital native is not all bad news, though. Research indicates that millennials are great at processing complex information and integrating sensations and thoughts because there’s higher baseline activity in the part of their brain that controls these areas, Mullen says.

Mullen is offering some key pointers for millennials who are looking for employment in areas that require human interaction. You can read all about them in his fascinating blog post here.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Mar 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM3 comments