company book clubCompany Book Club vs. Developing an Employee Reading Program

In a previous blog post titled hire for attitude, train for everything else, I wrote about the importance of considering a required reading program for your employees (takes it a step further than the corporate library, right?). At the time, it was just an idea spawned from observing another company and how they operate. However, I am now giving this kind of idea serious consideration in my own organization. See, this year we are going to focus on emphasizing our corporate culture as a recruiting tool, and this is just one more thing (strategy) to set us apart from the average employer.

Why I Believe in Reading (And Why HR Should, Too)

Before I try to sell this idea, I want to explain why reading matters to me. According to some (terrifying) statistics, in 2002, nearly 90 million adults in the US did not read a single book. That might not have an impact on you; but it should. I’ll put it another way.

Those are our employees. Those are our managers. Those are the unemployed who so desperately want to find jobs.  Continue reading

How to rock your next team building session

team building sessionRecently I learned of a unique team building session idea that I have been itching to try out. I was able to wrangle a friend into testing it out at her office, and it had very positive results. Today we’ll be looking at what I’ve come to call the Twenty Minute Challenge. (I heard someone at HRevolution mention this a few weeks back, but I can’t remember who! If someone knows, please tell me so the person can get the credit for this.)

The purpose of the Twenty Minute Challenge

More so now than ever, we need people on our teams who can think quickly, respond coherently during high pressure situations, and present complex information effectively. This team building session is focused on helping your people do all three of those things well. Continue reading

Slow and steady wins the race

I am going to speak frankly today. Some of you will hate it, and others will appreciate it. Ya can’t make everyone happy at once, so here we go. :-)

Recently I received a copy of a survey that indicates 43 percent of workers believe their careers have slowed down and it will be harder and will take more time to achieve career growth as a result of the economy.

My initial thought?Those 43% of people probably wouldn’t be successful even if the economy had been booming.

In case you didn’t know it, people all over are getting better jobs, earning more than they ever have before, and reallywinning in their careers every single day. And they don’t give a darn about any recession. Why? What’s the difference? Continue reading

I was intrigued when I was approached about reviewing the book Change Your Life Not Your Wife: Marriage Saving Advice for Success Driven People. The idea of a marriage book for business people was an interesting mix, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The authors, Tony Ferreti and Peter J. Weiss, put their cards on the table early on with a statement about the relationship with a spouse being the most important item after a person’s spiritual well being. I’m not ashamed of my faith, and I’m glad the authors took the extra step to make that important distinction. Let’s hit on some of the big picture thinking featured in the book.

Happy home life helps make happy work life

If you’re married, stop for a second and consider this scenario: you come home one day from a long day at work to find out that your spouse has packed up and moved out, completely destroying your home life. How well do you think you will be concentrating the next day at work? Do you think they will be getting the best that you have to offer? If you are not married, just imagine the same sort of fallout with someone you truly care about, and you’ll get an idea of the impact of this sort of crisis.

That quick little scenario was just an easy way to depict how much employee family problems can be affecting your workforce on a daily basis. We already know that some productivity issues exist for employees, but these events can have an even higher impact on someone’s productivity and creativity than a little Facebook time. Continue reading

How to read a book a week

Someone reached out to me the other day to ask what books I might recommend for an HR Generalist. I’ve been doing a handful of book reviews lately, and I also saw that my good friend Trish wrote on the topic as well, so this seemed like a great time to bring up my philosophy on business books.

Get an MBA… From books?

One of the best resources I’ve come across with regard to organizing and explaining the need to read books is PersonalMBA.com. Josh Kaufman has put together a resource to help business leaders learn everything they need to know without adding in the time and monetary cost of going to school for an MBA. A few places to start:

My take on reading

I helped set up a corporate library. I am a firm believer in employee reading programs. Obviously I’m a fan of books. But why? Am I a nerdy bookworm? Well, yes, but there are other reasons for reading as well.

Books make you smarter in all areas of your life.

“The difference between where you are today and where you’ll be five years from now will be found in the quality of books you’ve read.” – Jim Rohn

I make mistakes. Sometimes too often. But I learn from them. I do what I can to figure out where things went wrong and make a course correction. Imagine if you could learn from the mistakes of others as well. What if you could hear their take on how they could have changed their actions or beliefs to avoid problems and costly errors.

You can.

Not every book has something valuable in it. I recently reviewed a book that was an interesting read, but I really didn’t get any value from reading  it. Other books on my shelf at work are highlighted, dog-eared, and tattered from reading and re-reading the lessons they contain. To sum that up:

“Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others.” – Brandon Mull

Don’t be crazy

I don’t sit around reading HR textbooks all day. I mix up my reading between contemporary/classic fantasy (Jim Butcher=favorite), science fiction (F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series), self improvement (marriage, parenting, etc.), and whatever else looks interesting. But while the some of those are purely for enjoyment and stress relief, I still make time to slip books in that I can learn something from to apply in my work or life.

How to read a book a week

I lamented earlier this week that I’ve spent my Books a Million gift cards from Christmas already. And I’ve finished the three books I purchased. How did that happen in less than 30 days? Well, I carry my books with me wherever I go. Sitting in the car waiting on the kids to get out of school? There is time to get a few pages in. Waiting at the doctor’s office? You can read whole chapters. ;-) Seriously, though, those little pieces add up. I spend a more concentrated 15-30 minutes each night if I can fit it in, but honestly having those little pieces here and there during the day can easily add up.

If you put your mind to it and take reading a book per week seriously, that would be over 50 books this year alone (with two weeks off as cushion). If you’re only halfway successful, that’s 25 books you may not have otherwise read. That knowledge can never be taken away from you. A large portion of adults never read another book after they graduate. Don’t be included in that statistic!

Hopefully I’ve imbued you with some of my own enthusiasm for reading. Now, I’d love to stay and chat, but my book is calling me…

I’m always looking for good recommendations, so if you have one, please feel free to share!

Offering a corporate library to employees is a great way to encourage learning and give people low-cost opportunities for growth and development. We have been kicking around the idea of establishing one for a while (especially after my article about how to develop an employee reading program), and in October the right things came together to make it happen.

National Book Month

At Pinnacle, we do a monthly social awareness campaign to give employees some food for thought. October is National Book Month, so I was trying to see if we could get a book for every employee. That was going to be tough to do on our timeline, so instead we decided to pull a few books together and start the Pinnacle Library.

How It’s Set Up

We have a very basic set up since our office is relatively small. Clara, our property whiz, agreed to give me a hand, so she catalogs new books and puts them on the shelf. She also maintains the checkout list in SharePoint, so anyone can see what is checked in or out at any given time. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s a great start! (If anyone else wants more details, templates, etc., leave a comment or email me and I’d be happy to share).

Zappos.com’s Model

Zappos offers a large stash of books for employees to borrow or keep. They are large enough to afford the purchase of hundreds of books per year, but they tie it into their core values for people to be constantly learning and growing, so people know that it’s expected of them to grab a book and start developing their knowledge. It’s a great way to be, and I hope one day we are large enough to offer free copies as well. You can also do book reviews in newsletters and other company communications to help generate some interest.

Our Books

The books to start were all donated (and most by me) :-) so it’s a random mix, but as we add to our corporate library I have a short wishlist of books that will be more targeted toward our software engineering focus and some of the other programs we have going on. To name a few:

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  2. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
  3. Perform Like a Rock Star by Orna Drawas
  4. Be Bodacious: Put Life in Your Leadership by Steven Wood
  5. The 1% Solution for Life and Work by Tom Connelan

Even Easier

If you don’t have the time or resources to have your own in-house corporate library, definitely take advantage of your local one instead. If you have an admin or staff member who you can send to the library once a week, they can take the library cards for your people and check out books for them. That opens up access to a larger body of resources and saves you the time and effort of administrating a corporate library on your own.

If you didn’t check out the post on why you need an employee reading program, I encourage you to do so. It has a fantastic framework for proving the necessity of such a program to your leadership.

Does anyone else use a corporate library? How has it been going for you?

I covered the concept of the “what” and the “how” of work long ago in my review of The Pursuit of Something Better.

In the book, U.S. Cellular is going through a dramatic culture change, and a large aspect of that is the shifting mindset from focusing on the “what” to focusing on the “how.”

Here’s a good example. Many years ago when the majority of the workforce was employed in factories performing manual labor, companies dominated the “how” of work. They told employees when to be there, how the work was to be performed, and when they could leave.

But that’s obviously not the case for most work these days. Companies are realizing that giving people control of the way work is accomplished (the “how”) is a great way to get employees engaged in their jobs.

Back to U.S. Cellular. The company started putting less emphasis on the “what” (sales targets, number of calls received, and other metrics) and more on the “how” (communication, ethical behavior, etc.). Despite the critics’ belief that they would fall on their face for taking their eyes off the all-important numbers, the company actually flourished. And, in time, the numbers looked better than ever, because the leaders within the company had the courage to focus on the bigger picture.

Take a moment to think about your own workplace. Is more emphasis being put on the “what” than the “how?” Are people pursuing good numbers and letting their ethics and morals fall by the wayside? Are managers using intimidation and fear to get the results they want instead of offering a thoughtful, considerate point of view?

Sometimes it can be difficult applying these abstract concepts to the way real work is done. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Coaching managers on how to change their thinking won’t be simple, but it is worth the effort. Doing so can mean the difference between success and failure for your people!