You can watch this news story to learn more about the Center, which includes more than 50,000 square feet of learning space. The Center is the largest training facility for the building trades in the State, and more than 700 students will utilize the space for courses and labs in carpentry, electricity, welding, HVAC, plumbing and more.
FCC's growing Construction Management & Building Trades Institute is training students in emerging technologies to ensure that they can best meet local workforce needs.
One of the neatest ones is the voicemail-to-email service. This feature is becoming quite popular among the caffeine-fueled techno-set. The idea: multiply the effectiveness of your cell’s voicemail. Rather than calling in and listening to our voicemail, you can have it automatically forwarded to your email as either a sound file (mp3) and as transcribed text. A nifty speech recognition technology underlies the text option.
One premise for the transcription option is the fact that people can generally read 5 times faster than they can speak. So, you can cruise through your voice mail by skimming the text on your blackberry or computer, without having to wade through your messages in sequence.
The voice to text transcription isn’t perfect. There are word substitutions that can be confusing—I occasionally need to listen to the actual voice recording to get the real meaning. If the person leaving the message is calling from a squawky cell connection, the text transcription can be close to gibberish. But, you always have the voice recording attached to listen to, so nothing is lost.
Even with that drawback, there’s a real gem in this idea—that of the unified messaging system: geek speak for a way to get all your messages into one format and location that can be archived, forwarded, grouped, etc. So your voicemail messages become part of your hoard of emails. Oh, joy…
It’s not a bad thought, actually—haven’t you had one of those long, detailed messages that you listened to (while driving, for shame), only to have to replay and transcribe in an email later so you could forward it to someone else for action?
Enter your new message system—voicemail becomes email automatically, you read/listen and forward, and it’s automatically archived in your sent mail. Click here to connect to a Youmail message to see what I mean.
Some of the vendors out there are
All except YouMail charge a scaled monthly fee based on messages. Each has a free trial of sorts.
True devotees of this kind of technology would tell you that some services have ways to link into blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. One can call in updates to a personal page and have the text posted without turning on your PC. I guess it is up to you to decide what could be so important that you need to call it in to post on your personal page—directions to the big party, maybe, or a which gas station has fuel that costs less than a week’s paycheck.
If you haven’t been following it, some folks are worried that the massive (17 mile) proton collider could create a black hole that will swallow the solar system in the blink of an eye--or 15 months, depending on the quality of the science being cited. Some point to the September 10, 2008 test of the beams in the collider that resulted in a shutdown. They haven’t restarted it, and have yet to actually collide particles.
Of course, the brilliant minds at CERN downplay the possibility of creating a black hole. See their reassuring explanation here: CERN reiterates safety of LHC on eve of first beam. One hopes that they are right—in fact, if you are reading this, you have not yet been dispersed into a mist of sub- atomic particles. They won’t be restarting the collider until Spring 2009, in any case--add 15 months to that and you’ve lost any reasonable excuse to procrastinate.
On to business-- for those of you who are just too busy to worry about black holes popping up, here’s a link to a techno-trove of time savers: Lifehacker.com.
If you need to find a faster, easier way to compress and decompress files, or install and maximize iGoogle ( a personalized home page) this might be the site for you. You’ll even tips on defining and writing your personal goals. Be warned- there exists the danger that you waste enormous amounts of time surfing the site’s posts.
These guys don’t think so.
Today’s workplace requires flexibility and creativity; we can do our work best when we are relaxed, free of stress and in good spirits. A workplace culture that values fun and laughter makes it easier for us to work together productively. When co-workers, even managers and employees laugh together, they show respect to each other, they encourage more open communication and teamwork. Dr. David Abramis of Cal State Long Beach has found through research that people who have fun at work are more productive and better decision makers and that they have fewer absentee, late and sick days than people who have less fun.
Learning to have fun can also be good for our careers. A survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that executives are more likely to hire people who have a sense of humor, and they believe that employees with a sense of humor do a better job. Finally, consider this: a Robert Haft International research study found that 85% of all people fired are let go because they can’t get along with others!
Of course, we have to consider our boundaries. Chances are that your boss doesn’t want to see you climbing on furniture and rough-housing like those folks in the video clip above. It’s important that workplace humor be safe and respectful of others and the business.
Here are a few ideas for developing a culture of fun and laughter that is workplace appropriate:
- Create a Joke Board for jokes and cartoons. This gives you a chance to model appropriate humor.
- Encourage breaks and have a fun break room. Put games, puzzles, joke books, etc. in your break room to give employees a chance to have some fun together.
- Have surprise “snack attacks.” Everyone loves food, right? Well, we love it more when it’s part of a nice surprise break.
- Start or end meetings with a funny joke or story contests.
- Recognize Fun! When you hand out awards, include one for that person who helps to keep spirits light.
- Laugh at yourself! Nothing makes a manager seem more human than when they lighten up and show that not everything has to be heavy and serious.
For more about creating a fun and productive workplace, check out this book.
I have one from Achieve Global, a leading publisher of corporate training materials, which lists the basic principles of a collaborative workplace. These five principles are worth a few minutes of any manager’s time. Not that I advocate taking my leadership tips from the most recent cup of joe, but hey, I say take wisdom where you can find it.
The Basic Principles are:
- Focus on the situation, issue, or behavior, not on the person
- Maintain the self-confidence and self esteem of others
- Maintain constructive relationships
- Take initiative to make things better
- Lead by example
Ahh, like most things-- easier said than done. I had one supervisor who could violate all of these principles in one sitting without breaking a sweat. I had another whose overly- developed concern for others’ self esteem and confidence caused him to soften the message so much that we subordinates would often miss the point entirely.
If you could pick just one to work on this week, which would it be?
For me, it is "Take initiative to make things better." Why?
Mostly because it allows me to work in a baseball analogy—You see, I think workplace accomplishment is a team effort—and like baseball is a game of singles, the effort individuals make to move the whole team forward a step at a time—incremental improvements, small scores—all add up to a winning team. What lineup can routinely hit homers every at bat?
If each leader in an organization can take one step every day toward making things better, the payoff would be huge for the team.
Customers are notoriously difficult; customers can be rude, fickle, distracted... you name it. This is really no surprise since they hear as much as we do that “the customer is always right!” With such an established sense of entitlement, we’re lucky customers aren’t worse than they are. It’s challenging for even experienced professionals to keep their “customer service hats on” in the face of challenging behavior.
It can be a little easier maintaining our calm, professional demeanor when we remember what’s in it for us to provide great customer service. Customer service isn’t only about making the customer happy; it’s also about making our own lives easier.
The first and most obvious reason is that you want them to come back. Customers ultimately pay your salaries, and satisfied customers come back to keep on paying it. Satisfied customers also tell others about you, so even more people can come pay your salary. Satisfied customers also don’t call us or our bosses to complain. They are more likely to be understanding when we make mistakes and they are less likely to request a refund or a discount on service. Don’t forget the special bonus satisfaction and even gratitude when we somehow win over a disgruntled customer.
All of these are great reasons for providing high quality customer service. Still, I think that the most important reason is a little more personal: satisfied customers are just plain nicer to be around.
The gist of her story is that, in tough economic times, a mean or petty boss can transform into a truly abusive Genghis Khan. Workers are often driven by fear of the same economic uncertainties, and tend to suffer in silence--encouraging even more bad behavior. Morale plummets and productivity spirals.
I heard a story from a business acquaintance about how her boss maintained a climate of fear by threatening to banish employees to “the cooler”—a windowless office that was known as the last stop before the unemployment line. His trick was to rescue them at the last minute after extracting promises of closed-mouth loyalty. Anyone who has suffered under such a boss can imagine how ratcheting up the stress even more would affect everyone’s mental health.
Are times really that bad? I have yet to see former executives selling apples on the corner of Church and North Market Street. Our increased stress is fed by a daily diet of bad news in the national media, and we can all probably relate stories from closer to home about the impact on our neighbors and colleagues. With little good economic news to counter the bad, is the ambient level of workplace civility suffering?
I am an optimist: While it’s true that a mean boss will only get meaner under stress, most people don’t behave that way-- and tend to apologize if they slip up with a sharp remark. I also like to think that colleagues and neighbors band together when times are tough.
Tahmincioglu does give some suggestions in her article. The first one is to talk to your mean boss about his or her behavior. I guess it’s worth a try…The one I like best is “Say Goodbye”. But in this economy, that may not be an option. There might be some other strategies before one hits the streets.
Regardless of the current state of your organization’s training program, it can be useful to think through what a workforce development plan might look like for you. Simply considering a plan will help you think more strategically about your organization’s existing training program, while developing and executing a formal plan will fast become a very valuable function of managing your organization. While there are countless variations in how organizations can develop and structure such plans, there are also key issues that are useful for anyone to consider.
A workforce development plan documents training that is currently provided to managers and employees, and identifies and addresses new training needs. At a minimum, a plan needs to include training topics required and/or desired for target audiences within the organization. At its most complete, a workforce development plan is specific to the level of individual development plans, and career development opportunities designed to prepare staff for job enlargement, or promotion.
Processes for creating a workforce development plan can be as varied as the plans themselves, and must therefore be customized for every organization. Some organizations will have a permanent training department complete the plan, while others will rely on individuals, a management team, or even a temporary committee. Still other organizations hire vendors. It is best to engage people from throughout the organization in creating a plan. Employees might be heavily involved, such as being involved in a workshop or they might be represented in the planning by individuals or teams. Some companies elect to incorporate employee perspectives through employee feedback, such as through interviews, surveys, focus groups or town hall style meetings.
All workforce development plans will address several topics. These topics include developing an idea of the “ideal state” of training and other learning activities for an organization, comparing the existing training program to the ideal state which leads to a gap analysis, and finally a plan to address the identified high priority needs, or gaps.
For more on this, look for our upcoming post “Part II: Creating a Workforce Development Plan.”-Marc