9 Myths of Social Media

Social Media Myths and Reality

I have heard all of these, and there’s some truth in each one, but they’re mostly myths. Here’s my take on 9 of the most pervasive myths.

1 It’s Free

100% myth.

The reality, the platforms are free to use. But as a business you will pay for people to create and publish content, you will pay for tools to monitor what is said about you on social media. In the beginning (back in maybe 2009) you could build an audience with great content. However those days are gone, you will now “pay to play“. You will pay to promote your content, or your accounts, and you will pay to advertise on social media.

2 Big Follower Numbers is Success

50% myth.

There are plenty of services out there offering to sell you followers, periodically there are articles where a celebrity has been caught out; if only it were that easy. The reality is that you need to think about the quality of those who are your fans/followers, bought followers are unlikely to be interested in your content, unlikely to engage with your brand, unlikely to follow your content to your website or (eventually – see myth 7) make a purchase. Big follower numbers are not the whole story.

However if you’re tweeting with zero followers you’re talking in an empty room. So you do need to build an audience, and generally speaking, a brand will want a bigger audience because;

  • it represents more of their consumer base
  • the potential to grow an audience as a way to “meet” new potential customers.

3 You Content Can”Just Go Viral”

95% myth.

The reality is that brand-produced content that “goes viral” does so with massive budgets behind it. End of story.

Here’s a list of costs by one viral agency willing to publish their prices. They give a range between $3,500 – $350,000.

4 Be On Every Platform

80% myth.

The reality is that you need to be on the platforms where your consumers/clients/stakeholders are, provided you can support your activities there well. I’d suggest you can also play with new platforms or tools, to see if they fit your business and audience. But be very wary of opening everything at once. I’ve seen a number of “social media strategy” documents advocating opening accounts on multiple platforms, without regard to whether the organisation can sustain the accounts. I’d advise start with one or two, as you learn consider more.

5 You Can Post The Same Thing On Every Platform

50% myth.

The reality is that each platform has its own characteristics, from how the platform functions, to image sizes, to audience expectations. So the best practice is to publish separately created posts to each platform.

However – and there’s two parts to this – you can be referencing the same story/video/campaign with the multiple pieces of content.  You may be using different platforms or different accounts to address different audiences. Philips Hue is a good example of this.

Social Media posts

The second reality check is that many small organisations do not have the resources to be creating multiple version of content, yet need to manage both Twitter and Facebook accounts (for example). In this case go ahead with using the same images, but try to put in an extra few minutes work to craft text that works for each audience. Please please please don’t just link from Twitter to Facebook or Facebook to LinkedIn, it’s annoying.

6 The Audience Will Just Turn Up

95% myth.

The 5% of truth is that people who are already famous will attract massive audiences in social media as soon as they arrive. When Edward Snowden joined twitter he gained half a million followers within hours (and the follower numbers are now above 2,5 million).

The reality is that you will need to work hard to build an audience and it will take time. You can promote your accounts on existing websites and events. You will need to pay to promote your content and/or your account. (See Myth 1). If you’re not providing useful, valuable content your audience will quickly dissolve, so you also need to have something to say.

7 You Can’t Run Your Social Media In-House

75% myth.

The reality is that many organisations can and do run their social media from within the company, and if you can resource the social media management within the company it’s the best option.

However many companies cannot completely resource their social media efforts, in much the same way as call centres are outsourced social media service channels are often outsourced to specialised companies.

In terms of content creation not all organisations have the resources to create the images in-house and hire freelancer design people to work on it for them. The reality is that for many companies it doesn’t make sense to have this skill in house full time.

8 Social Media is a Sales Tool

75% myth.

There are frequent announcements of “buy now” buttons being launched on various platforms; Pinterest lets people shop without leaving the site, Instagram has a shop now button. However both have reported low sales results, so far social has not been a good sales tool.

Dominos pizza via twitterThe reality is that social media comes earlier in the consumer purchase decision process when a person is researching a product, and later when a consumer is looking for product support.

This is a space to watch though, pizza orders can now be made via WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook messenger using just an emoticon. When it’s that easy social media becomes more interesting as a sales option.

9 Social Media Needs Its Own Strategy

55% myth.

Yeah, I call myself a social media strategist and I’m saying this is partly myth. But here’s why; the reality is your social media activities should be supporting your business strategy. You cannot develop a social media strategy without first understanding the company’s vision, strategy and the communication/marketing messaging. Social media won’t work if it’s not consistent with your company’s other activities. You do need a strategy though, built on the foundations of the company’s strategy and communication goals. It’s just that it isn’t an independent thing.

We live in a decimal world but I couldn’t think of a tenth myth. So there’s my nine myths of social media and the reality in my experience.

Images: 

Dragon  |  Jeremiah Tran  |  CC BY-2.0

The Komodo Dragon  |  Adhi Rachdian  |   CC BY-2.0

 

Powerpoint Bunny

Sept2016Powerpointbunny

A while back the head of the department came to me with an urgent request at a particularly busy time; he needed a powerpoint presentation “rescued”,  he knew my team was busy but was there any way someone could help. I said everyone in the team was busy as well, but I was pretty good with powerpoint – if he could show me what he wanted perhaps I could do it.

Long story short I volunteered to do the work for him on the condition that he didn’t tell anyone else because I did not want to be the person who always fixes powerpoint.  There’s now a term for that person – POWERPOINT BUNNY.

The Office Life gives the definition as;

Someone who is dedicated to the art of putting other people’s hard work into cheesy, over-animated slideshows.

For my the presentation for my boss I didn’t add animations or cheese graphics, I’d like to think I improved the slides. I spent some time last week working on someone else’s presentation.  In this case I did put transitions in (the presentation needed to loop), but no animations, and I may have added one or two cheesy images – in my defence the text demanded it.

But I do find myself itching to “fix” presentations of colleagues or sometimes at conferences. Particularly slides that have dull images, too much text, don’t support the speaker’s story, or so much content that I stop listening to the speaker. Here’s a video of all that can go wrong with powerpoint.

I’m willing to be a Powerpoint Bunny from time to time, life is too short for bad powerpoint.

Image: Keep Me Safe  |  Kevin O’Mara  

 

Holacracy

holacracyHolacracy is often linked to a boss free work environment, a flat organisation structure,  and having the freedom to choose what to work on. The same characteristics are cited by those in favour and against the concept of holacracy. To me those characteristics sound good, I like having autonomy at work. When I studied organisational design we talked about entrepreneurial organisations, machine bureaucracies and ad-hocracies according to Mintzberg’s model. At that point Holacracy hadn’t been invented, but some of the ideas around self-management were evolving.

What is Holacracy?

Holacracy is a system of company governance that enables colleagues to self-organise around the work. There is still an organisational structure, but now it’s based on circles of work rather than a hierarchy. Roles are defined, and a person may have be part of more than one circle and fulfil a different role in each. The specific system was developed by HolacracyOne, and has been adopted by around 300, mostly small, organisations.

As with any new idea there’s a fair amount of hype, with supporters and detractors talking about it in equal amounts. There are numerous articles, explaining how it works,

it gets a fair amount of hyper and an equal amount of detractors.

There is a decrease in the bureaucracy of planning and approvals that you see in a standard hierarchy, instead there are monthly governance meetings and processes specific to maintain the holacracy.

Who is it for?

Every company sits somewhere on a continuum from reliability to adaptability. Holacracy enables faster decisions to be made closer to the customer, as a system it is probably going to work best in younger, smaller, creative companies at the adaptability end of that scale. Of course older, larger, regulated companies can (and do) adapt the ideas of self-management into their teams but I think would struggle to deploy a full holacracy at scale.

Advantages and Disadvantages.

Companies have reported specific quantifiable benefits from using various systems of self-managed teams; FedEx cut service errors by 13% in 1989 for example. But strong results on holacracy are harder to find, that’s partly because it’s early days – we’ve had a hundred years or more of business hierarchies, it’ll take a while to figure this out. Even one of the founders, Brian Robertson, predicts that it will take a few years for a company to embed the Holacracy system and move into working within it in a stream-lined way.

Benefits cited are; increased employee engagement, increased adaptability, decreased office politics (although one article regarding Zappos casts some doubt), increased transparency, increased focus on organising around work.

It also sounds good, so what’s the downside?

Medium moved away from holacracy earlier this year, and while they still embrace the principles behind holacracy they found that “the system had begun to exert a small but persistent tax on both our effectiveness, and our sense of connection to each other.”

HBR published an excellent article “Beyond the Holacracy Hype“, and they point to downsides relating to increased complexity particularly around doing work – if an employee is in multiple roles each with a set of responsibilities then it becomes hard to know where to focus their effort, Zappos went some way to solve this by evolving a “marketplace” that assigned points for work allowing the company to set priorities via the Lead Links (team leads).

When someone has multiple roles compensation becomes more complex, as does hiring – including internal hiring.

It becomes hard to scale up to complete initiatives that would go across several circles – it’s also hard to do this across departments in a traditional organisation, but it seems the effort of co-ordinating this becomes even steeper in a fully self-managed environment.

Who is using it?

The Holacracy site claims that over three-hundred organisations currently use their system, of the four on the front page the largest is Zappos – and they are now moving on to become a Teal Organization.

Given that both Zappos and Medium have moved away from using Holacracy, but still maintain the principles of self-management, I wonder whether the full Holacracy model will be seen as a stepping stone in the future, a transition to go through as you redesign your company or whether companies will evolve their own systems of self-management without spending time in a rigid holacracy

What’s the future?

The principles of self-management are good; positive for employees which has to benefit customers and the company. Holacracy as a system embeds transparency and forces a focus on the work, but seems to place a burden on the company in terms of added complexity, and it may limit scaling – or need to evolve to enable scaling.

However even large, older, regulated, dinosaur companies have been borrowing what makes sense for them and creating hybrids of hierarchy and self-management. It may be a slower track to the company of the future but they’re benefitting from the experiment as well.

Image: I made it

Just Stop Putting Public Content Behind a Paywall

Just Stop It; annoying internet
Newspapers are struggling to make money online, so paywalls make sense I get it.

But if your whole story is about a couple of tweets then that story does not belong behind a paywall. Here’s what inspired this post.

A story came up on facebook, I clicked on the link and saw this;

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-16-28-05
From the story description and preview I could find enough keywords to find the story on Yahoo.

I could also find the original tweets;

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-16-33-15

and then JK Rowling’s genius response which I think is probably what attracted the Telegraph to report it; screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-16-33-25

I do pay for a couple of online subscriptions, where the content is extraordinary, quality, original, researched and well-written. This story is none of those things, it’s a witty aside to the real news. Telegraph did not create the content, it’s not unique to them, they have no ownership rights to it, but feel entitled to put it behind a paywall. Just stop it.

How to Fly a Horse

Sept2016BOTM

How to Fly a Horse; The Secret History of Creation and Discovery

Kevin Ashton

Who discovered how to cultivate vanilla?  How did the American Airforce develop jet engines in a matter of months?  Why does Woody Allen (almost always) avoid the Oscars despite almost two dozen nominations?

This book is a collection of lessons about creativity with a myriad of examples – some of which will be familiar and some of which you won’t have heard of.  It begins by attacking the myth of creativity, the very pervasive idea that creativity is the province of a certain type of person, that creativity is a gift, an amazing flash of inspiration.  Instead he posits, with significant evidence, that creative thinking is in everyone’s reach, in fact it’s just thinking. We only get to call it creative when we see the results.

creative thinking

While we’re all possible of thinking, and of generating creative results the outcome, or rather the impact may vary. New ideas aren’t believed, our own cognitive biases make us favour the status quo. It takes the remarkable persistence of someone like Judah Folkman, whose work on blood supply to tumours is now considered a breakthrough. But for more than ten years he pursued what his colleagues considered a “dead end”.

In order to move our opinion away from the status quo we need extraordinary, convincing evidence.

evidence for new ideas

The challenges to creativity and inventiveness grows as organisations grow and compliance becomes more important. But the history of the development of jet engine at Lockheed Martin offers an example of how creative results can be supported within an organisation; it took leadership, a dedicated team in their own environment, a clear goal, freedom to challenge the status quo. They benefitted from an existing culture of “show me”, so an inventor can convince their colleagues by showing their idea works rather than endless discussion. (In another chapter Ashton laments time wasted in meetings with discussion)

The book is worth reading for the histories of inventors and creativity alone, but it goes beyond that in encouraging everyone to practise their creativity, setting out the work needed, and showing the challenges you’ll face. passion fuels creativity

How to Fly a Horse was awarded a “best business book” award earlier this year, however to me the specific applications for business seem less than those for individuals. I would recommend this book for anyone who feels “stuck” in their creativity.

 

Zombie Project

2016oct-zombie

If you’ve ever been in a project that limps along with extended deadlines, never taking off but never quite failing you may have been on a zombie project. I admit I’d never heard the term until a friend used it in a bit of a rant recently.

Projects are started with the best intentions; a good idea, a business reason, feasibility analysis, management sign off and resources allocated.  Some projects never really take off and make the expected progress, for a multitude of reasons – I’m sure you’ll recognise one or two of these;

  • a change in the business environment affecting the company’s finances or priorities
  • a competitor does something unexpected
  • management support dwindles
  • technology doesn’t work as planned
  • a key stakeholder withdraws
  • legal/regulatory/risk concerns start to slow progress and/or outweigh the project’s potential benefits.
  • competing priorities from other departments/teams

Often the momentum of a project will carry it on through some of these setbacks and it will go on to be successful – even if it’s delayed. Sometimes the delays accumulate and the momentum drops, progress meetings become further apart with much less to report. But the optimism behind the initial idea makes it hard to kill the project and it lives on in a strange half-life – your project just became a zombie.

We’re good at ignoring bad news, and bad at acting on what, to an outsider, might seem obvious. Our initial optimism and emotional investment in the idea make us reluctant to point out when something is not working. In addition failed projects have a way of being penalised when it comes to performance review time.

However zombie projects consume resources, and therefore have a drag on the companies bottom line. Logically companies will want to review their project portfolio and kill any zombie projects. One way to do this is to hold a “zombie amnesty”, where projects are reviewed and if they no longer promise value to the company are killed. In one HBR report a company found 20% of its IT projects fell into this category. For this to be successful you will need;

  • transparent criteria for the assessment of each project, you should ignore sunk costs and look at the cost and benefits from today
  • an independent reviewer or review team, it’s hard to be objective from inside the project
  • a “celebration” of the projects that are closed, you need to communicate the reasons for stopping the projects, and the benefit to the company as part of the no penalty clause and as a way to encourage future zombie killings.

In your assessment you may find some projects that are languishing on the border of the zombie zone but they have potential to provide value. You then have a choice to kill or relaunch.

Don’t relaunch just because there is value, check all the issues that led to the project failing. Change it up, add resources, tighten the governance, get a new – more demanding – executive sponsor. It needs to feel like a new project.

If the project is killed it may be resurrected in a shiny new form in a year or two. Try not to be the person that says “we tried that already”, but examine it as a new project.

I’ve talked about this from a manager’s perspective, but I promise you the people on the zombie projects already know that their work isn’t valuable to the company. If you can edit the projects and focus on the ones that will provide value they’ll thank you for it.

From the perspective of a project team member try to avoid these projects, they’re draining and will never reflect well on you. If it’s unavoidable then be brave enough to call time on the half-dead.

 

Image: Businessman Zombie  |  Lindsey Turner   |   CC BY 2.0 

 

Mental Health at Work

Mental Health

Yesterday was International Mental Health Day,  sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO).  This year the focus is on psychological first aid, WHO points out that in times of crisis it’s not just physical help that will be needed but also psychological support. I think they’re thinking of people working in the field and addressing the immediate aftermath of a crisis, however we will see people who have encountered crisis in the workplace, we need to learn some of the same skills.

I’ve worked with people who have been dealing with some personal crisis, suffering from “burnout” or who have diagnosed mental illness. I’ve come up with some “rules of engagement” that work for myself.

  • confidentiality
  • listen
  • ask for clarification, but don’t ask for more than the person is willing to share.
  • comfort in; dump out (within the bounds of confidentiality)
  • keep contact even if the person is struggling
  • allow person space for their own thoughts
  • bring the person’s attention back to work
  • be aware of my own limits and don’t be afraid to set boundaries for my own self care (this is hard as it feels selfish)

This is a pretty close match to the UN’s own guidelines, which validated my instincts.

How does this play out?

When you’re a manager and someone in your team is suffering from burnout you have to listen to them. You don’t explain or justify it. You believe them.

When a colleague who has mental health issues confesses to a history of abuse, you don’t tell anyone else – even if it becomes apparent that other people also know.

When a New Arrival in your country starts working with you don’t introduce him to everyone as a refugee – that’s just an immigration label and it invites the question “how did you get here?” Introduce someone by their name and the role they’ll perform. Let him/her talk about how they got here when they’re ready. Which may be never.

There are thousands of new arrivals who will become our colleagues, there are people who already have PTSD, sufferers of depression and other mental illnesses. We may all need psychological support through tough periods in our own lives.

Take the time to think about how you can help, think about how  you would lead your team in supporting someone who was struggling. If you see someone struggling, reach out, invite them for coffee and a chat… and keep the invitation open if they’re not ready right now.

Image: Thoughts  |  Derek Bruff  |  CC BY-NC 2.0

Where Did the Honesty Go?

2016sept_honestyOn Thursday afternoon last week I went to take some money out of an ATM. I had to wait in a queue, but when it came to my turn I saw that the person ahead of me had forgotten to take the cash with him.

I took it, and turned looking for the guy, who had by then crossed the road. I shouted, but my voice was lost in the traffic. I made my transaction and raced after him on my bike. I couldn’t find him and after about 15 minutes I gave up and went home.

It wasn’t a small amount, so I contacted the bank via a twitter DM. Based on that discussion I went into a bank branch on Friday to hand in the money. I had to wait. No big deal, I simply read a book, until a very grumpy man began shouting at me (not kidding), I didn’t understand what his problem was but offered to move “Yes move” he shouted. I moved, other customers were as astonished as I was.

It was pretty busy, and the bank staff came to check on what everyone needed as a sort of triage to help people faster. I explained; “Please wait” I was told

I waited.

My turn at the desk came, and it took a phone call and a bit of searching to figure out what to do, apparently this is not a usual situation. I gave them all the info I could, including my own transaction information so that they might be able to track down the poor guy who missed out on his cash.

The bank gave me a small thank you gift in appreciation – super kind of them and certainly not expected.

Now here’s the bit that really struck me. Everyone I encountered was surprised at what I was trying to do. The initial messages on twitter begin with “Wauw” (Dutch for “wow”), the clerk I spoke to reported that the previous customer had heard my statement and commented that “she’s still here having been yelled at trying to do the right thing – we need more people like her”, the clerk herself thanked me and when I said it was what my mother taught me added “we need more mothers like yours”.

Here’s the thing; the money wasn’t mine.

A million years ago I found a watch on a public path, my parents took me to the local police station to hand it in. Some months later the watch hadn’t been claimed and it was returned to the finder – ie; me. I don’t remember what happened to the watch after that, it was a large, man’s watch and not really my style. But the lesson was learnt, if it’s not yours you don’t just take it, you try to get it back to the owner.

So I tried to return the money, and apparently this is so unusual that people are surprised. It’s the honest thing to do. Indeed to me it was the only thing to do.

Does this mean that any of those other people would just have taken the money? Would you have taken it?

Do we really need my mother out there teaching people about being honest and not taking things that aren’t theirs? She’s up for the job I promise you.

When did honesty become so surprising?

Image: Untitled  |  Jane Cockman  |   CC BY-NC 2.0

Externalities

Sept2016ExternalitiesI did just one university course in economics and learning about externalities was pretty much my favourite thing. Suddenly it explained a bunch of things that are wrong with how consumerism works. I still see externalities behind a number of environmental, business and humanitarian issues. In fact globalisation and our use of digital make things worse rather than better.

A quick definition; an externality is a consequence of an economic activity experienced by someone else. The consequence could be positive or negative.

The most common example of a positive externality is the beekeeper who benefits from the neighbouring orchard. Since both parties need each other this seems closer to a symbiosis in biological terms but for the economists it counts as a positive externality.

A common example of negative externality is rubbish; in the above picture the rubbish has a negative impact on the environment, on any business relying on the environment. However the neither the producer of the containers, the restaurant packaging it’s food, nor the consumer making the purchase and dumping the packaging take responsibility for disposing of the rubbish and the cost of clearing it will probably fall to a government entity.

We, as a society, try to limit externalities by putting rules in place to limit the effect, and by providing services – well placed rubbish bins on a beach for example. All of which is funded by taxpayers. This more or less works on a local level.

Globalisation

On a global level it doesn’t work out so well.

My mobile phone was probably manufactured in China and used components or elements extracted in a dozen other countries. Some research indicates that up to 50% of the pollution from a phone production occurs at the first step. There’s a long and complicated chain of manufacture but I’m pretty sure zero eurocent of the amount I paid for the phone made its way back to the mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo where coltan.  (Oh wait, I paid nothing for my phone.)

Digital World

Our digital world is creating brand new externalities we haven’t thought about.

Yep, the Pokemon craze is laden with externalities, that’s why museums, locations, city councils, traffic controllershealthcare officials and governments are making a fuss.

In the Netherlands one tiny town, Kijkduin, has been somewhat over-run by Pokemon players, they’re trying to get Niantic to change the game to reduce the number of Pokemon in the town, they’ve found the numbers overwhelming, and there’s a risk to a neighbouring nature area. The town has already put up more toilets and rubbish bins to cope with the crowds. The cost of that is an externality. It’s a cost the small town is paying for the consequences of Niantic’s popular game.

If I were organising events in the town with such a large attendance I’d need a permit, there’d be a fee, and I’d be the one paying for security and clean up.

So when globalisation and digital collide the potential externalities grow, and right now we don’t seem to have a good way of handling them.
Image: Pollution 2  |  Kim Etherington  |  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

How Dumb are Those Rules?

Law books - company rules

I’m not a fan of bureaucracy, I try to avoid, reduce or eliminate it when it’s in my power to do so. However I’ve also worked for large companies where a certain amount of bureaucracy is inevitable and I’ve worked in regulated industry where the regulation is there there for a reason; to protect the health or the finances of customers.

So when I came across and article that talked about 10 dumb rules that make your best people quit I was initially cheering.  But some of those rules are there for a reason; sometimes the reason is the law and sometimes it’s a real risk and sometimes it’s just that not everyone is honest. So I decided to unpack the rules further think about the reason companies put such rules in place and discuss how there might be a different way to work with such rules.

1. Dumb rules for hiring.

This is a lament about the black hole a resume goes into when you apply for a job. I absolutely agree with this, the process used by many companies is so disrespectful. It is not difficult to make a humane process for handing job applications, whatever the size of your company.

  • Respond to every application; since applications are made online this is an email. It can be a standard email for those who don’t make the shortlist.
  • When people make the shortlist or the short-shortlist and have been unsuccessful at the interview stage send a personal email saying what was missing.
  • Be clear about the decision timeline and stick to it.

My best recruitment experience was one where I did not get the job.  Since then I’ve tried to follow that example – that might be a separate post for a later date.

2. Dumb rules for performance reviews

“Performance reviews are a waste of time. Brilliant and talented people deserve better than being slotted into some bureaucratic five-point scale once a year.” begins the complaint on performance reviews. I agree, but performance reviews aren’t about feedback.

In a large company you need to find a fair way of distributing the rewards, aka pay rises, and the performance review system is what has evolved to fulfil that task. I have written about performance management before and agree that it’s a flawed system; it’s not always fair, and even when people get good reviews they don’t like the process. Some companies are testing other methods, moving away from rigid review and stacked ranking systems. However all companies need to find a fair way to judge the performance of employees.

I think it needs to change. In the meantime managers can improve the process for teams by giving feedback throughout the year, and by being honest about the purpose of the dreaded performance review.

The article ends this subject with “Trust them to produce, and if they are not producing let them go” it’s not that easy under EU law to just let people go, and I think if you’ve hired someone and they are not performing you have a duty to coach for improvements.

One last reason to have a system that attempts to be fair; lawsuits.

3. Dumb rules for onsite attendance.

Agree. With the tools we have available now onsite attendance can be optional in many jobs. I’ve always agreed to work from home agreements for team members. That trust has been more than rewarded; it’s meant that one team member avoided 6 hours of commuting per week, another could extend time with his family in his home country, and a colleague could help a sick relative. I have never seen any decline in work delivery – if anything the team members feel more dedicated.

I have often connected with the team member via some chat app. Not to “check up” on them, but to emulate the office situation and maintain a connection.

This came easily to me, perhaps because I’m used to working online, for many managers new skills might be needed.

4. Dumb rules for approvals

“Do you really want your best workers to spend their time chasing people for rubber-stamp approvals?”

Oh man. This is one of my biggest complaints. At one company I had authority to make spending decisions on items in the tens of thousands but would have to get a 20 euro expense invoice approved before it was re-imbursed. In another I had a team member based in another country – the CEO of that country organisation had to approve her expenses that were being paid from my budget. (He did, and after the first time it was no issue).

This comes down to regulation. If you’re in a publicly listed company accountancy rules come into play and the company has to double, or triple check expenses and spending to ensure there is no fraud. Even though the company knows you’re trustworthy they can’t actually trust you.

Although I understand the need the approval request systems make me grumpy.  my team used to make jokes and take me out for coffee after I’d been filing expense reports. Perhaps the answer is coffee vouchers for every approval request?

5. Dumb rules for time off

“If a dedicated employee doesn’t feel good enough to come to work, what’s the point in making them drag themselves out of bed to get a doctor’s slip?”

Here’s a win for the European way! I think it takes six weeks absence before a doctor’s note is needed. Absences are monitored, repeat absenteeism is a sign of stress or longer term health issues. But the Dutch system is sensibly generous about this.

6. Dumb rules for frequent flyer miles

The article assumes that this is a reward for work travel, and should accrue to the employee doing the travel. That’s the system I’m used to here, but I have also worked for a government department where we could not legally accept frequent flyer miles. But then no-one could which is annoying but fair. I also know of one company that collates them and reshares them across all employees. Work travel in that company is usually only by senior people and is widely seen as a benefit and the idea that should only accrue to senior managers seems unfair to them.

I’d stick to it as a reward for work travel if I were making the rules, but it’s not a deal breaker in the grand scheme of things.

7. Dumb feedback methods

“I have worked with companies that put complete faith in employee engagement surveys, but frankly I believe they’re a sham.”

Agree. Having worked for a financial services company right through the financial crisis and seen the outcome of annual engagement surveys I noticed that the engagement scores trailed the fall and rise of the share price.

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-15-10-03Few companies consider the cost of conducting an big scale engagement survey. In a company of 100,000 employees it could be 15-20 full time employee equivalents to complete it (assuming 70% response rate), do you get a commensurate value of improvements?

I’ve worked through the feedback process numerous times, and it becomes so complex and unwieldy that little is really achieved. I think you could do more by talking to people, using smaller targeted surveys, asking for feedback on your sites, and making smaller – more useful – changes.

8. Dumb rules for cell phones

Apparently some companies make staff check their phones in as they enter the company. I haven’t encountered this, although I have been asked not to photograph or record in certain areas of a company. I can understand the need in, for example, the design lab at Apple. But it’s not a rule that shows trust in employees, for most companies it’s overkill.

9. Dumb rules for internet use

I’ve seen Facebook and LinkedIn banned, and in fact blocked from company computers out of a fear of what employees might post. Well it just shifts the problem to out of work hours. A better solution is to talk to employees, make it clear what can and can’t be posted online. Employees can understand that discussing client information, sharing company results early, or dissing their manager might be a problem. Even better give them some good news to share!

10. Dumb probationary rules

Many organizations still have the throwback rule that employees have to be in a position for six months before they can transfer or be promoted”

While I’ve never come across a defined limit I can understand that in general as a manager you want people in the job you hired them for, it’s a pain in the neck to re-hire people all the time. My personal attitude is that if a person wants to move then it’s time for them to move – regardless of my assessment of their abilities or performance. I’m far more likely to recommend someone who has performed well for 18 months, than someone who’s been in the role for 3. But the roles I’ve managed have expertise levels that require a bit of learning. I might feel differently about managing wait staff in a restaurant for example where the skill set is simpler and success is more a question of personality.

I don’t love the bureaucratic rules, but having worked in regulated industries I grudgingly admit that I can usually understand the business need. That makes it possible for me to adapt and find the smartest process that will work for everyone – most of the time. Of course I still get frustrated, but then I take a coffee break and move on to the real work.

Image:  Law books  |  Waikay Lau  |  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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