The search for happiness?

816tC2hjFELAs more and more organizations look at problematic engagement issues within the workforce, the more confusing the concept of engagement actually becomes. Engagement is a trendy buzz word right now, but like corporate culture, it’s not easily defined and varies greatly depending on the organization.

That uncertainty has led to a very disturbing trend that terrifies me beyond belief. For some reason happiness is often viewed as a synonym for engagement and total employee happiness is often presented as the utopic end state for an organization.


Do you feel connected? Finding fulfillment& comfort in a virtual world.

get-connected-300x225The other night I had the pleasure of sitting down for steak florentine, caprese salad, rosemary potatoes and pecan pie with my boss friend and his family. We drank wine, laughed, and talked about cycling for long enough to make anyone not named Lance cringe.

Largely due to the people at the table (two people in the leadership space, the head of school, a wellness consultant, a man that has started several companies and another that seemed to know something about everything), we talked technology, leadership, obsession with power, and flexible work masked under the umbrella of general questions like, “so, what do you actually do?”

The question that sparked the most debate (directed at me when I was talking about being in the office roughly one day a week for the last 8 years) was “do you feel connected?” (more…)

Lebron James:: Understanding his decision is understanding today’s workforce

Yesterday, countless sources (read, the explosion that was my twitter feed) reported the Kevin Love / Andrew Wiggins trade. Immediate reactions – mostly from male, Gen X, white, Canadian e-pundits – talked of shortsightedness, selfishness and mistakes. People used the trade to rehash complaints about how Lebron jumped ship. He was somehow wrong for leaving for a better situation instead of paddling doggedly to keep a sinking ship afloat.

We judged him and now the Cavaliers by static criteria, despite the fact we live in a fluid world. We questioned their decision to risk an uncertain future for a chance at immediate success. We assumed both would trade happiness and fulfillment for a sense of loyalty that no longer exists and we asked organizations to sacrifice today for a future that can never be accurately forecasted.

Not to pull a Wooderson, but the reality is sports writers and leaders are getting older while athletes and employees stay the same age. The generational divide forces them to assess a decision on criteria that are foreign to the people making the choice. It’s the same struggle we face trying to motivate, inspire, develop and retain talent in today’s organizations. Organizations no longer hold all the cards, and decisions are less black and white than ever before. (more…)

Social adoption:: Find their solution, don’t sell yours

img-collaborationIf you read this blog, chances are you’ve spent countless hours trying to sell the value of collaboration to business units or project teams across your organization. I’ve tried to creative tactics – honestly, I’d have a few less greys if Daniel Pink had published To Sell is Human years ago – focusing on business issues, value propositions, inspiration and potential.

I’ve sold the successes we had and retold the stories we shared. I’ve surfaced problem resolutions and surprising outcomes to help teams connect positive outcomes to their own situation. I dug and dug until I found something that connected with the target audience. Obviously, I see huge value in collaboration; sharing ideas, encouragement, support and expertise is what I do on a day-to-day basis and what I expect from others, but that’s not a universal truth and it’s important to remember that when you are trying to “help.”

In almost every org I’ve worked for/with, the training for social technology is to simplify the tools and site development to the point where any user can start building sites and sharing content as soon as possible. Make it easy to use and impossible to break. We develop templates to minimize the required starting lift. We create chunked support materials to allow employees learn only what they need to learn to perform a task.

Unfortunately, that simplification also makes it hard to control the flow of information and content on sites. Employees are routinely asked to fit a square peg into a (nicely designed) round hole. For our Jam sites, we ask teams to use the SAP created templates or a customized TELUS template. This makes it easy to create sites, but also makes it easy for the purpose of the site to get lost behind widgets and design. The general assumption is that if we can let teams hit the ground running, chances are they will be more interested in sharing ideas or content.

In reality, the most important collaboration occurs before you design or launch any new site.

Selling collaboration is one thing; creating a solution is another. Before a team creates a solution, there are many important questions that should be asked. At TELUS, we’ve stopped talking about the benefits of collaboration, and now simply ask why is the site being built, what value does it add and what will help it stay relevant over time?

If your new users can’t answer these questions, chances are even the best designed, easy to use community will stagnate quickly. Even worse, if users don’t know why they are visiting a site and are forced to hunt blindly for content, the platform will become a distraction that will derail productivity.

We’ve realized that standardization and simplification are important, but creating sites that allow users to ask a question, find an answer or consume content effectively is what will drive results and allow the user to get back to the task at hand. Alex Pang – author of the Distraction Addiction – offers this insight:

“There are times when it can be a lot more efficient to ask the person who knows the answer to a question, than to hunt around the corporate intranet or two-year-old crowd-sourced FAQ for the answer,” Pang writes. “However, we need to just do that judiciously, be mindful that your convenience may come at someone else’s expense, and do it only when necessary.”

So how can you help?

The biggest value I can add to any discussion about collaboration is perspective. When I meet with teams, the first thing I do is share a single .pptx slide.

What is the purpose of this site?

While this seems like an obvious question, it’s one that gets forgotten more often than not. Is it a marketing site? A support channel? A site set up because your director said we need to use the new tools? If you don’t determine the purpose of your site, you will most likely not showcase the best content or user experience.

If you want your Jam space to be a support channel – maybe an easy way to allow field technician to ask a question to a large group of technicians and capture that context – it makes sense to surface the Forums or even Feed Widget on your Overview page. If your site is more of a brochure site – maybe a Meet the HR team – it makes more sense to showcase the People widget (Featured Member) and work on an engaging Overview page. If it’s a Learning space, highlighting the appropriate content (maybe, using hashtags) helps direct users as soon as the page loads.

Bottom line, even though ideas like all content must be accessible in less than 3-clicks have been debunked, your site will be more effective is you surface appropriate content on the home page. In order to do this, you need to clearly understand the site’s purpose.

Will this site improve on existing process?

In large organizations, the creative workarounds teams come up with are incredible. When a tool or process doesn’t meet a team’s needs, it is morphed until it does. Asking a team to change for the sake of changing is a difficult and often detrimental to your working relationship. If you don’t ask this question, and proceed to implement a solution that impacts actual work, your business partners will begin to question your intentions.

Sometimes it’s best to simply walk away.

When I meet with teams and ask them to explain there current process and try to determine if changing how the team does something is worth the work and training required. If it’s not, I am honest with them. “Listen, this tool won’t make your team more productive or reduce the time required to perform specific tasks. If there are other issues you are having, maybe we can use our collaborative tools to help.”

I’d rather earn their trust and build a relationship so when I do find a problem that can be solved by our collaborative tools/methodologies, they know I actually understand there issues and am trying to help.

How can you keep group members coming back?

By definition, collaboration is a two-way street. A lot of group admins assume the two-way flow of ideas and content is the responsibility of the users. By asking this question prior to launch, you can model behaviors and pre-set the expectations of the group. How often will the content be updated? What is the expected reply time to questions asked in the forums? If a group admin doesn’t have a clear understanding of posting cadence and service level agreements, users may question the value of the site.

When we launched Jam, we asked technicians to use Forums to ask questions, promising timely responses. Because no SLA was documented, questions took a back seat to other tasks. Once technicians realized it was faster to call another technician or simply start scouring product documentation, they stopped using the site. We lost their trust, and almost instantly our collaborative space became static.

When we proposed a similar solution to another group, we talked expectations and commitments. Group admins committed to answering all questions within one hour. As a result, technicians began to trust the process and actively participate. The tool met the needs of the user group and as a result, the Jam space was successful.

Before you can help team use new tools and transform they way they work, I suggest you take a step back and determine if they are ready to support the transformation and if the shift is appropriate.

Are your learners finding the right content in SAP Jam?

2 men jigsaw pieceI spent most of last week in Vancouver for product meetings and TELUS team focused sessions. On Day 2 of our Performance Culture sessions, Jocelyn Berard (VP Leadership & Business Solutions International at Global Knowledge) sat with us to talk about leadership and influence.

The session was inspiring, but the big aha moment (or a-ha moment?) for me was a quote he shared from a physician placed in charge of a hospital. When asked what made a physician a good leader, the doctor suggested that before you can lead physicians, you need to prove you actually are a good physician.

The concept of being an expert before becoming a leader is something concerning in today’s world. Technology provides everyone a platform for thought leadership (undoubtedly, sharing ideas and theories helps progress leadership and collaboration at the speed of fiber optics), but it also changed the job description of most HR professionals. We are no longer expected to simply understand benefits and hand out forms; we are essentially tasked with being technology champions (for anyone that’s seem their organization migrate HR process to the cloud, we can commiserate over a drink) and solution architects in addition to any traditional expertise our roles might require.

We are constantly asked to display our knowledge and establish trust with the people we help on a daily basis, and as a result we need to be equal parts visionary and subject matter expert. We are not just asked to teach people about our tools, but how to use them most effectively. In simple terms, if we can’t help people how can we lead them?

Over the last year, my role has switched from big picture visionary to task based efficiency. Truthfully, I’m okay with that. If we are asking employees to change how they work, why they work and also learn how to use tools to help execute on either transformation, as an HR professional, I need to be able to help when questions are asked. At TELUS, three of us are tasked with promoting JAM (our social hub) and collaboration. We’ve spent the last few months creating demos, providing tips and tricks and hoping to show employees how social collaboration can improve business efficiency and drive results.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of the tips here. Ideally, people will read these tips and want to share their own. Mine will be focused on JAM, but collaboration is about capabilities, not tools.

Sharing targeted content in Jam

One of the biggest complaints we get from our users is that there is just too much information being shared. The feeds move faster than they can process/digest, and groups become unruly within weeks. You often hear that too much collaboration is a problem that most orgs would love to have, but in reality, too much content is as scary as not enough content for many users.

To help “promote” relevant content, you can use the Featured Content option, but that is a very manual and restrictive process. If you use the Featured Content (or any of the default settings), you cannot feature specific, user generated content over time. Instead, we made the decision to filter content widgets by hashtags. Using the hashtag is an incredibly easy way to promote content that aligns to key corporate objectives or is timely and appropriate (for example, we leveraged the hashtag for our career development process and yearly objectives to coincide with the deadlines for both).

In most cases, your Content widgets will be filtered by type. Whether you chose “Featured”, “Last Updated”, “Most Viewed” or “Most “Liked”, you are basically locking into a singular strategy for content promotion.


You are either leaving the decision to the group admin (featured content) or the voice of the crowd (any of the filters that rely on views or updates). In this example, our Content widget is filtered to display the last five documents (this includes a video, pptx, image file, Jam poll and a wiki page) that were updated within this specific group.



Using hashtags allows you filter the content displayed but still leverage the voice of the crowd. You can surface documents based on key topics, but allow update date, likes or even views determine what documents get highest priority. In this example, we want to showcase any content applies to leadership. By adding the hashtag “leadership” to the Content widget, we ensure that only users will only see content that has been tagged appropriately.

To add the leadership hashtag:

  1. Click Edit to switch your wiki page into edit mode.
  2. Navigate to your Content widget.
  3. Click the Edit button.
  4. Type “leadership” into the Filter by tag text box.
  5. Click OK.

When the page reloads, you can see that the Content widget now only displays the content that has been tagged.


Instead of five documents, you only see three. Essentially, the group admin has determined what topics are most important to the group, but allowed the group to determine what content is most effective or important.

Hopefully this tip will help you streamline the user generated and social content and provide a more tailored and effective environment for your group collaboration.

If you have any strategies you’d like to share, please leave links or comments.

Fresh start: TELUS Transformation Office

services_hero-300x139Wow. Yesterday already seems like a distant memory. For most of the last year, I focused on building marketing materials, doing research, creating strategy & recommendation documents and working with pilot customers in preparation for a new role within TELUS. Knowing that as of yesterday we finally moved from planning to reality hasn’t quite sunk in – you know, forest through the trees type of thing – but my work  life has changed completely.

Yesterday, we launched TELUS Transformation Office, a future of work consulting wing within TELUS that aims to help organizations improve corporate culture and improve employee engagement. Ideally, we can take our experience, insights and successes and help other organizations in their own attempt to evolve leadership, digital readiness, career & talent services, and the onboarding experience.

Without question, this is a new type of mentality for us. Learning is a unique space. I honestly believe that there are very few walls between people in this industry. We’re all in the business of helping people, whether it’s internally or externally. We share freely on blogs, wikis, chats, twitter, at conferences and basically in every forum possible. We all have the same, altruistic goal; to make work better for the people we support.

Right now, most of this sharing is done informally and meant to inspire, not transform. By formalizing the process, we hope that organizations can get the traction not only to start the journey, but to continue it. The end goal is too important to have it pushed to the side of the desk or the left to the energy and influence of a few dedicated workers.

I was in a very fortunate position. I loved my job and I love working for TELUS. In terms of Enterprise learning/collaboration and corporate culture, TELUS is pushing the boundaries and changing the conversation. It was no longer a desperate ask of “how can we fix this?” When we talk to anyone about the state of learning, collaboration and culture, they ask “how did you fix it?” It’s no longer theoretical knowledge. Great culture and collaboration is reality at TELUS.

In my (almost) five years at TELUS, we’ve gone from virtually no social technologies and very little cross functional collaboration to an industry recognized success story. We’ve incorporated a leadership model that encourages collaboration and as a result, we’ve deployed new tools and cultivated a workforce that not only understands how to share and leverage technology, but why collaboration is vital to our business and can dramatically improve the customer experience. Simply put, we’ve taken our ideals and moved them from an HR project to a organization-wide vision. The difference is huge.

Basically, in terms of learning, my role was as close to the perfect fit as I’ve come across. I was able to explore tools, work with new people and really try to prove value in the methodologies and capabilities we’ve been preaching for years. We were able to successfully unite leadership, learning and collaboration. That’s probably why the possibility of helping other organizations do the same thing is so exciting. It’s no longer a pipe dream. The need is there, the technology is available and – without sounding like a documentary trailer – the time for change is now.

Society isevolving; it’s harder to get people’s attention and as learning professionals we need to constantly reevaluate our approach. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. We know that the fundamentals of leadership and learning should be blended with the move to a more technology based ecosphere to help people understand how to succeed and feel connected/supported. We know that people demand more from their job than just a pay cheque and that right now and we know that almost half of the people that go to work each morning aren’t happy. This needs to change and we want to help.

Watch this video to learn more about how we transformed TELUS, and how we can help you.

Ballad of a Collaboration Advocate (a.k.a. About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All)

This song, offered triumphantly by my friend as the opener on his last record, unknowingly documents the uncertainties, disappointments and small rewards of social change in an organization. The song is actually about Gertrude Ederle and her successful swim across the English Channel, but it became my unofficial theme for the “connected” journey at TELUS.

Whenever I speak to organizations or at conferences, people see the end game. They embrace the successes and happily envision that same strategy working within their own org. In reality, it was the failures that no one sees that tells our story.

Both feet together, Slowly progressing, Always in time.
Don’t count the feathers, Just count the wings.
Every day counting. Everything’s changing.

It’s hard to understand the situation until you are in the thick of it. Basically, the day to day consists of asking people to run at full speed into a wall repeatedly, promising one day they will miraculously explode through to the other side unharmed. It’s what is asked of me and shapes how I mentor people in our organization when it comes to collaboration. We count users and survey team members on the effectiveness of learning socially, hoping to reach the tipping point where people aren’t talking about collaborative learning they are simply doing it. The weird thing is, there is no magic metric that can truly say if we are successful.

ROI quickly became a metric that made no sense to me or any interested user / business unit. Engagement? Well, it was important for the HR equation, but the business was looking for a) better value for learning spend and b) better performance.

In the verse I quoted above, Mangan paraphrases nature artist Charley Harper, and hints at how we  must look past the intricate details and create movement and beauty from simplified actions. We must focus on the only the most essential elements of an animal’s form to truly represent its being. This idea extends perfectly to the adoption of collaborative tools. Speaking in language like career development, performance improvements and improved culture make sense on the executive level, but the people actually using these tools are far more concerned with things like feeling  supported in their job and finding an answer when they have a question. Those executive terms are crucial and a much needed measuring stick for the organization, but only surface after people see the value in the tools and buy in on a smaller, grass roots level.

One of my biggest failures – even within my own team (if the learning team isn’t buying into a learning initiative, it’s probably a good time to rethink your strategy!!) – was spending months trying to push enterprise wide use cases and big picture strategy to audiences more concerned (and rightfully so) with their piece of the pie. In reality, most people don’t have the time to invest in a social implementation plan without a lot of hand holding or they simply can’t see the benefits.

I was thrown in the boat, Cast out to sea.
Friendly with waves,
There were sharks below, Hungry for me
So I dangled my legs.

Anyone that’s ever tried to implement social learning knows how it goes. Day one, the early adopters sign up for an account and the rest of the team may sign up, but they probably won’t.  The biggest misconception that people make when it comes to social adoption is that the majority of users actually want the tools and want their processes changed as a result. Curiosity and interest are outweighed by skepticism.  I’ve said the line 100 times, but “if you build it, they will come” only works in Field of Dreams. Most teams still expect the social tools to fail, and are hesitant to dive in. That’s why we need to plunge head first into those shark infested waters.

The biggest advice I can give to anyone is to quickly shift from enterprise initiatives to a more consultative model. For me, global strategy became business unit cold-calls. “Look, I know I don’t know the intricacies of your day-to-day, but I can help you. These tools can help you, we just have to find out how.” You, not the customer, has to take ownership of finding the solution and proving the value.

Victories are often few and far between and the baby steps we take often feel like marathon like runs. I remember convincing a call-centre shift of the benefits of sharing skills informally, knowing it might only be relevant to a few people, and will only impact a few customer conversations. It wasn’t the numbers (obviously), but the created trust and productivity improvement. Maybe it’s one less customer we have to call back or one less person given inaccurate information, but when you talk about customer satisfaction and team member performance, every number counts. Success stories, no matter what the sample size, are the best weapon you can offer to any manager or director.

Social change can’t simply about providing a collaborative tool and will fail if the training is a simple collection of how to documents. The required shift is in behavior, but the role of the learning professional is not to tell a team how to do their job better. It’s to provide solutions that fit into existing processes and hopefully make them better. It’s about understanding the problems and honestly determining if the social strategy is the right strategy for the targeted group.

People often try to gauge and define culture as a uniform entity. In reality, culture should never be homogeneous. Just because your organization values collaboration – ours does, and I strongly believe all should – it doesn’t mean that same culture needs to apply to every group in the same way. If collaborative tools don’t make sense for a business unit or slice of your org, but mentoring/coaching and fair process do, you can’t view that as failure or a business unit being wrong.

For your own sanity, you can’t continually run into that wall when you know it will never crumble. Knowing your audience is as important as knowing your tool or associated behaviors you are hoping to create.

Ideas that help open doors

In an attempt to share, here are a few ideas that helped me make inroads with various audiences. They might seems simple or obvious, but the results spoke volumes.

Using informal skills and micro-blogging not only to share knowledge, but to provide support: The more I talk with our customer facing employees, the more I understand their need for learning is not to learn new technologies or move up the corporate ladder. The bigger concern is feeling unsupported at work. If a customer has a question and they can’t answer, they have to act quickly. Sure, having skills shared freely across the organization helps identify gaps and foster talent, but for the individual – the person being asked to enter skills and answer questions from other employees – the sell is less wasted time. It’s estimated that 19% of a workers day is spent looking for answers, and by being able to identify people with the knowledge to solve the specific customer issue instead of a general knowledge base, we start to have fewer pointless searches. We develop improved trust with our colleagues and the certainty in the answer we give a customer. That’s a performance gain – fewer calls back, higher customer satisfaction – not a learning gain.

The fact the tool provides the channel to give informal recognition and say thanks for the help is just another plus.

Don’t be afraid to look outside of work for inspiration: It’s no secret that some employees view a job as a necessary evil. They cash  their pay cheque and often appear to care about little else. Chances are, those employees won’t care about a new work process that saves time or money, but the thing is, those same people you assume have checked out have passion outside of their job. Maybe they are in a role that they don’t like, or maybe they aren’t being challenged; either way, when you provide a social channel for green initiatives or charity work or create a forum to share hobbies like footie, biking or music, you connect people and get users on the tools for a reason they genuinely care about. They feel connected to other team members and more importantly, those users will start commenting, sharing and participating.

Sometimes, all you need is a spark.

I lit up like a match,
‘Cause I bled gasoline.
Made a torch of myself
‘Till the moon was mine.

Find a work related focus that people care about: Of all our social tools, we see the most traffic and more importantly, the most conversation on anything related to our Customers First program.

Within weeks of being created, the microblogging group was the largest at TELUS. The SharePoint crowd sourcing idea got thousand of responses. Why? Because CF ties into everything we do… including stock value, performance reviews and year end bonuses.

It’s easy to say that employees only care about money, but studies show that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Knowing they had a direct channel to something that will hopefully make TELUS a better place to work, a better provider for our customers and a better community ambassador was the trigger that people needed.

Don’t be afraid to bribe people: You would not believe how much traction a gift card or bonus points will create. I have a friend that once said he would go to any gathering (office, birthday, wedding, religious) if there was even the potential for cake. Let me reiterate. He was willing to show up for anything if he even thought cake was apossibility.

Obviously, the analogy is a bit ridiculous, but it fits. People will fill out surveys, sit in focus groups, email suggestions and spend hours performing tasks for the chance to win <em>anything</em>. It’s probably easier at my company because we have access to flashy gadgets, but Starbucks cards, Amazon gift certificates or even free lunch (with cake?) are enough to get someone to pay attention and contribute. The possibility of reward is all it takes to get someone to take the first step. After that, hopefully your message is enough to convert team members.

I know budgets are tight and social is often viewed as the free/cheap way to help people learn, but if it’s vital to your organization, a few carrots are required and worth every penny.

<h3>About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All</h3>

I wish I could offer a blueprint; these are just some observations and successes I’ve seen in our social journey. They might not work in your org, or you might have tried the same strategy and failed.

There’s no right answer, other than urging you try to connect in smaller chunks. You can’t help people that don’t want your help. You can’t force people to be social and collaborate anymore than you can make them be nice. At the end of the day, you can only show them how collaboration might help, and hope they get inspired.