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Why Blogging Still Matters

Gran Canaria - Puerto de MoganIt’s been a little while since the last time that I had a chance to write another post over here in this blog, so I guess it’s now time for another experiment then. No, I know what you may be thinking, but I am not going to stop blogging nor give up on writing for that matter. I still feel it is one of the very few pleasures out there on the Social Web, and still rather relevant, apparently. If I could, I would spend the whole day blogging away like crazy the several hundreds of ideas and drafts I have got in my brain that are rather desperate to come out. There is just so much that I would want to share, talk about and throw out there on the Web that writer’s block has never been an issue for me in the last 10 years that I have been blogging. The issue is, as usual, time. As in where can I find the time to blog? Well, this is where that new experiment will kick in, because I’m just about to switch from where do I find the time to blog, on to, how can I make time to blog? At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about: choice.

Lately, as you may well have duly noticed, work itself hasn’t given me much of a choice though in terms of my external social networking activities. As I am about to enter the 3rd month in the new job as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections, I am finding that I am spending more and more time in social networks behind the firewall than on the Social Web out there, resulting in me dropping off plenty of my external social activities in detriment of participating in internal conversations. Now, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, but it’s certainly starting to have an impact on my external presence that I am not too sure I would want to give up on it that soon yet. The challenge though is that after rather long, exhausting, but exciting work days, the last thing my brain wants to do is to spend time participating on more social networks. It just basically needs a break. And so do I.

For Seth Godin showing up daily is not an issue though, as much as it appears to have been for me as of late, as he brilliantly wrote about on his 5,000th post anniversary article. But he mentioned something that I can certainly relate to myself on this brilliant quote he shared across on why blogging still is very much worth it:

[…] it’s learning to live with the fact that I can’t say everything I want in a single post, that the trade-off of reaching people easily is that you can also lose people easily. It’s a journey, for both of us, and I’m thrilled to be taking it with you

And it gets even better when he continues to explain why he still shows up every day to his blog:

For me, the privilege is sharing what I notice, without the pressure of having to nail it every time… I treasure the ability to say, “this might not work”

Well, perhaps that is my main issue, that every time I aim at pretty much nailing it and that’s probably the very same reason why more often than not, if I cannot make the time for blogging I just don’t. And I end up watching how days go by without those blog posts coming along. That’s why it may well be a good time to shake things off a bit and experiment. Play. See if I can shake off that perfectionist flavour when blogging away over here. Now, on the other hand, here I am smiling away reflecting on the fact that, at least, my Inbox is not broken :-)

The thing though is that there is always time to learn new tricks on blogging, no matter how long you may have been going at it. There is always an opportunity out there to learn how you can juggle with it, along with work, family and other commitments. It’s just a matter of establishing priorities and stick around with them, which is essentially what I will be playing with from here onwards.

Like I have mentioned above, I have got no intention of giving up on blogging, or hanging out on external social networks, but I am certainly going to shift focus and intentions on how I would want to stick around with it all from here onwards, which is essentially when this new experiment will kick off. All along you may have noticed how blog posts over here have got a tendency to be on the long form, sort of mini-essays. So I am thinking that while not neglecting such opportunity of writing longer pieces I’m going to start playing around (again, as I have attempted to do it in the past a couple of times already …) with the opportunity of sharing shorter reflections on things that come across my mind, whether work related, or not. Pretty much a la Euan Semple, if you know what I mean :-)

I know you may be thinking that perhaps there is an opportunity to share those shorter thoughts on other social venues like Twitter, Google Plus, Tumblr and what not, but I am thinking that while those other options are out there, there is still a place for some of those reflections to happen over here, in this blog. Specially, for one particular use case, that one where I am thinking about sharing a thought or two across that I would want to come back to over time, something that it’s proved to be quite a challenge in multiple other social networking tools, due to poor quality search capabilities. Never mind the fact that this blog still is my home, whereas all others I am just passing by  and the door can be shut down any minute, any day, any time. At least, over here, the door will always be open. For you and for me.

So … game on!

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Liberate Your Company Through Employee Engagement

Gran Canaria - Mount Teide & Roque Bentayga in the SpringIf there is one topic out there in the field of Social Business that has been bugging me for a long while, as perhaps one of my strongest pet peeves ever, way even before we first started using the concepts of Social Business and Enterprise 2.0, that would be the one on Employee Engagement. More than anything else, because all along I have always felt that employee engagement is a myth. A huge one, actually! It’s a one way lane that has been imposed over us by the business world as perhaps the Holy Grail  of social networking. Essentially, the main reason why the corporate world is looking into social networks as the next big thing, because there seems to be this notion that social networking empowers knowledge workers to be more engaged, therefore happier, more motivated and committed, resulting in happy employees delighting happy customers. How wrong!! My goodness! Why have we let employee engagement take over the entire conversation in the Social space, when it doesn’t even exist in the first place?!?

Yes, indeed, you are reading it right. Employee Engagement, as we know it, does not exist. It never has. It never will (Well, maybe … Read further on to see what I mean with maybe…). But the most worrying thing is that it will never become a reality unless we shift gears with regards to our mindsets in jumping forward on to what it would really mean nonetheless: a dual-lane highway of engagement between knowledge workers and their employers. And, for certain, we are not there yet, not even close! And here is why … 

Like I have just mentioned above, there has been some extensive and rather comprehensive coverage around the topic of Employee Engagement all over the place that I have been lucky enough to follow up over the course of time and build a pretty good research index of good quality reading materials that would keep you all busy going through for a while. You would have to excuse me this time around for including all of these various links to those articles, blog posts, reflections, analysis, dissertations and whatever else on the topic on this blog entry, but, like I said, it’s been one of my pet peeves for a good few years and if you go through all of those research articles you would probably be capable of venturing why I’m stating out loud that fact that Employee Engagement does not exist. I am including them all over here, so that it would give me a chance, over time, to cover some of the various different articles more in depth. A little bit like my own personal knowledges sharing system on engagement. So, no, don’t worry, this is not that odd article where I’m going to bash against Social Business, or Enterprise 2.0 or Engagement for that matter. I’m seeing it more as a touch with reality, i.e. a touch with what is really happening out there, in the hope that we would have a good chance to revert the tide and get things back on track on what Employee Engagement should be all about, and towards the end of this article I’ll be hinting what’s the ultimate goal of that so-called concept of (employee) engagement. 

But before we do that, let’s go and cover some of the ugly bits. Let’s talk about how an employee’s work life can be utterly destroyed in no time or find out further what are some of the main reasons as to why knowledge workers keep quitting their jobs, even in today’s tough environment where we are facing an unprecedented econoclypse and where you would expect that those knowledge workers would stick around with their jobs, because they would need to. The reality is that they aren’t. It gets even uglier when you get to read stunning blog posts like this recent one from Matt Monge under the rather provocative heading of “Stop the madness” where you will be able to find golden gems like this one: 

“[…] Unless you’re ready to commit to the sort of change your employees are clamoring and longing for, just stop. If you’re not really, truly prepared to invest the emotional and mental energy into cultivating an engaged workplace, then don’t even pay it lip service […]

See? That’s one of the many many reasons why Employee Engagement does not exist. Mainly, because knowledge workers would eventually give out their emotional and mental energy to re-engage themselves into the workplace, if given the chance to so, but when the second half of the equation needs to kick in, that is, when employers need to do their fair bit of walking through that dual-lane highway to meet those employees there is a huge lack of emotional and mental energy from their side that comes up with a rather insurmountable drawback: cynicism from knowledge workers. And before you realise it you end up having one of the largest issues we keep facing today in the corporate world: disengaged employees, utterly demotivated, rather cynical and skeptical AND fully loaded with a voice using all of these social networking tools to keep up with the dialogue that employers never cared to listen to in the first place. And then it still surprises folks when business keep blocking the use of these social networking tools…

And what you eventually thought would help you address some business problems all of sudden it’s turned out to be *the* biggest problem you ever thought you would never be facing again: talent wars. Talent wars, here they come! Here you have them snapping away your best talent into those other businesses that have shown how caring, nurturing and cultivating an engaged workforce is one of the key essential traits to become a successful social business. WOW!! Can you see the spiral effect, downhill, from employee engagement done wrong? Well, it’s happening. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow! And this is exactly what I mean with all of us needing to make a quantum leap within our mindsets and start shifting gears towards embracing a change that we would no longer be able to stop: if you do care for your employees, if you would want to empower and treasure happy workers, you would need to earn that merit, their merit, and work your way through it just as much as they do for you.

If not, be ready to face little facts like that one that claims that only 29% of employees are truly engaged (Yes, not even 30% of your employee workforce is engaged, right now!, at work for what they do today!). Under the title “The Facts on EngagementMark Toth highlights beautifully the 6 E’s of Engagement: Envision, Empathise, Enhance, Empower, Evaluate and Encourage as perhaps that magic formula that you could make it work to revert the change, and I am thinking that we would probably be much better off as well if we would start addressing, AND fixing!!, some of the various different reasons why Mark himself mentioned employees are ready to quit their jobs, and see whether those 6 E’s would eventually be able to make the cut. To name those reasons briefly: 

  1. “Limited career opportunities
  2. Lack of respect
  3. Money
  4. Lack of interesting / challenging job duties
  5. Lack of leadership
  6. Bad work hours
  7. Unavoidable reasons
  8. Bad employee relations
  9. Favouritism
  10. Lack of recognition”

I bet you would be thinking by now that those 6 E’s would probably be able to address the vast majority of those reasons, although I am finding it incredibly fascinating how both intrinsic AND extrinsic motivators come up really high on that list altogether. I mean, who would have thought that limited career opportunities, lack of respect, and money would be ranking amongst the first, don’t you think? I know what you are now thinking though, yes, but extrinsic motivators, as Dan Pink described beautifully on “The surprising science of motivation” no longer make the cut with regards to keeping your employees engaged. You would need to focus on intrinsic movitators as well. Hummm, it looks like that’s no longer the case, if Money comes up 3rd as the main reason why employees quit their jobs today, don’t you think? Plenty of food for thought on that one in today’s financial turmoil that surely is helping everyone focus more on Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs, specially, the primary ones, than anything else. And understandably. Very much so.

So, we are back at square one, that is, employee engagement, or the lack of, seeing how employers keep failing to deliver on that emotional and mental energy, probably because at this stage most of them are thinking that employees are just happy to have a job, giving today’s circumstances. Well, how wrong again! Remember, talent wars? They are coming, and fast! In fact, it’s going to be one of the biggest issues we are going to face in the business world in the next 20 years where, according to some statistics, only in the US, every second there would be a single knowledge worker turning 60. Every single second for the next 19 years! Imagine for other older countries what that ratio would be like. Where is all of that knowledge and expertise going to go if you are not capable of retaining your younger talent as your mature knowledge workers start retiring in the next couple of years? See? This is the main reason and biggest issue why most companies are talking about employee engagement as a way to retain their talent, but why they also keep failing to deliver, because they aren’t capable of coming through to meet the needs of that social contract. 

We are starting to witness though how a good number of companies are offering various different perks that fall outside of the usual kinds of benefits you would expect, and I am certain we are going to continue seeing plenty of those in the rise as a growing trend, if they would want to keep attracting younger talent to be that new blood for that existing business; the challenge still remains though on how to sustain that engaged employee over the course of the years without being forced to seeing them let go, because you could no longer commit further to them. Right now, there isn’t a single indication out there for how businesses would be able to keep up with it in the long run… Till you meet up Issac Getz, who, just recently, gave one of the most inspiring, thought-provoking and mind-boggling TEDxTalks that I can remember at TEDxESCP under the incredibly refreshing title of “Liberate your company!“. 

The presentation lasts for a little bit over 14 minutes and, I tell you, it’s worth while every single second of it. It’s short, sharp, witty, humorous, insightful, unprecedented and a completely new and refreshing manner of looking into how employee engagement could be made a reality. Yes, that good! Here is the embedded code you can watch it right away: 


In that short speech, Isaac comes up to state the purest definition of what I would consider a true knowledge (Web) worker nowadays: every employee [who] is free and responsible to take any actions he / she decides are the best for the company. WOW!! Can you imagine that? That’s probably the final frontier for employee engagement right there: total freedom for the knowledge workforce to act accordingly for what would be of mutual benefit for the company AND for the employee him/herself. It just cannot get better than that, I am sure.

Well, it does … because further on into his presentation Isaac gets to introduce the topic of how you eventually get to build such companies where that freedom rules over everything else. He builds up further into it by talking first about the % of engaged employees in those organizations that he researched over the course of 5 years and to him that number is a whooping 27% (He calls them the roosters!). Then there would be an alarming 59% of *not* engaged employees (What he calls tired dogs) to then develop even further into a more alarming % of the knowledge workforce: 14% of *actively* disengaged employees (He calls this bunch the foxes). But things were never like that from the beginning, so what happened? Where did things go wrong for that 73% of disengaged employees to take over the corporate world? And most importantly, what can we do to liberate every company from them? 

That’s essentially what Isaac gets to develop towards the second part of the presentation; to him, it’s all down to liberating your company in three easy steps: 

  • Intrinsic Equality: take the initiative, because you are competent and trustworthy enough to get the job done effectively.
  • Personal Growth: build an environment where knowledge workers can learn to become better at what they do.
  • Self-direction: build an environment for it where you trust your employees to do what they know best. Excel.

Now, I am not going to spoil all the fun from his pitch while he gets to describe each and everyone of those simple steps towards liberating your company, instead, I would strongly encourage you all to have a look for yourself into the video clip, sit back, relax, and prepare yourself to be WOWed big time. Because I am sure you will!

At this point in time, you would probably agree with me that we still have got a lot of ground to cover to realise that golden dream of Employee Engagement. At this point in time, you would probably also consider that employee engagement still is a myth, even today, and that we would have to do plenty of really hard work, from both sides, employees and employers alike!, to turn the tide upside down and start moving things forward slowly, but steadily. The good thing is that we are not starting from scratch. We already have got some great examples from businesses out there that are truly pointing us all in the right direction towards realising that dream of keeping their employees engaged, motivated, focused, recognised and appreciated, amongst several other things. And right now, at this very moment, one of my all time favourite leading examples is that one from Lenovo, that earlier on in the week were in the news, although not as big  as I thought they would!!, when they finally got rid of one of the biggest, most negative, demeaning and demotivating influences of ill gamification in today’s corporate world: bonuses for executives.

That’s right, earlier on this week, Lenovo announced how the company’s CEO, Yang Yuanqing, spread the wealth of his $3 million bonus to 10,000 lower level employees as a token of gratitude for their hard work and engagement shown so far this year. Goodness! Talking about intrinsic (AND extrinsic!) equality, personal growth and self-direction! It probably cannot get better than that as far as employee engagement is concerned and as far as I know that would be, to me, the new standard under which I would consider true employee engagement for any business. Anything else would be, most probably, a waste of time, resources and energy, like it’s been over the last few decades, if you come to think and ponder about today’s % of disengaged knowledge workers in the current market. 

I wonder which other companies would be going up next, showing us, and demonstrating it at the same time, what employee engagement is all about and how we need to move away from engaging employees to engaging networks and communities alike, so that instead of fighting against one another, like it is happening today, we eventually grow up into helping each other at becoming better at what we already do. From the individual to the collective, from hoarding and protecting your knowledge and position to caring, sharing, and demonstrating empathy and respect for those who have been working really hard on liberating whichever company through their own engaged employees.

That’s the new standard for employee engagement. The fight worth while battling for. The one and only worth it. Forget about the rest. 

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Back to Blogging, Again: Boira (2010 – … )

BoiraIf someone would have told me at the beginning of 2011 that the last three months of the year would have been sheer madness without me no longer of control of things and trying, barely, to keep up with it all, including a massive round of business travelling, I would have told them they would be just plain crazy. No way it was going to happen! No way I would go ahead and tolerate such run-over of one’s work and personal life without trying to do something about it. Ha! Guess life has always been having its own agenda and the only thing we can ever do is probably to try to adjust, be flexible enough, react on time, and take things as they come, hoping the damage would be somewhat limited. Well, that’s probably what I have been doing all of this time lately. And I seem to have survived. Barely. Today it’s my last working day of the year, before I embark on a massive detox, unwinding, relaxing and chilling couple of weeks of a much deserved vacation, if I may add, where I just basically don’t even know where and how to start!! Seriously. Just crazy!

Did you notice the last time I created a blog post over here was on 11/11/11 to treasure the living memory of one of those loving creatures one learns to love, appreciate and live with in unconditional terms over the course of the years? By the way, many thanks to all of those folks who have kindly shared their comments and experiences. Even today it’s still helping a lot! Thanks for that, everyone!

And did you notice the last time I put together another article before that one? Yes, it was another month in between! See what I meant when I talked about losing control of everything around you and put together the automatic pilot just to try to catch up with things hoping it won’t hurt too much?!? Gosh, exactly! I know some folks out there would relate to that feeling as well… Not enjoyable at all, for certain, but what an adrenaline rush, eh?

Anyway, I am back to my usual, regular blogging activities. You may be wondering I may be a bit too insane attempting to pick up my blogging mojo again, while on vacation, but the true thing is that I have missed it. I really have! Yes, you are probably not going to believe it, but not having blogged on a regular basis, like I usually do, over the last couple of months has certainly had an impact on something I never thought I would miss so much till I eventually bumped into it again: writing!

I have gone rusty with my own writing. I hardly recognise my blogging style anymore; putting together these few words in much longer sentences than 140 characters, or a couple of paragraphs here and there, is proving to be a challenge. A good one, for sure, but it just feels weird! That’s why I need to come back to the blog and write and pick up my blogging mojo once again, before I decide to give up on it and move on to other things. I just owe it so much to it that I feel is part of me, an integral part, actually, so you can imagine how tough it’s been in the last couple of months to be exposed to hundreds and hundreds of ideas, thoughts, experiences, very interesting readings and many other wonderful conversations and not being able to prioritise good enough to talk and blog about them.

I need to get started again. It’s probably going to be like a re-birth. A new beginning. A new start where I may also need to work a bit extra hard to recover my Google juice, as well, because it’s almost gone and I guess I just can’t neglect my business card any longer. And while I thought it was going to be a tougher challenge for me to pick up my blogging again, I must confess that it hasn’t been the case. More than anything else, because of a good number of rather inspiring blog posts that I have bumped into as of late, offering plenty of really good advice and additional reflections and helpful insights as to why blogging still is one of the most powerful personal branding tools out there. Check out, for instance, the blog entries put together by Om Malik, Brain ClarkDan Frommer, Tracy Gold, Arkarthick, Garth O’Brien, Lisa Barone, and, of course, the always inspiring Darren Rowse for some great articles that would surely help you convince anyone that blogging is here to stay as it is thriving nowadays more than ever!

So, I am back! And talking about new beginnings, somewhat new fresh starts, I thought I would get back to blogging today giving folks an opportunity to learn what happened after Fosca’s passing away. There have been many many reasons that have prevented me from blogging in the recent weeks and over the course of time I will be sharing further insights on each and everyone of those, but one that, for sure, has had an impact for yours truly during the course of November and beginning of December was that rather painful experience of seeing a tender, loving and caring pet moving on. Till something else happens…

Allow me to introduce you folks to Boira (“Fog” in catalan); the latest addition to the family! A male belgian shepherd dog (Groenendael) that has quickly captured the hearts and minds of the entire household and to no remedy. He is a bit over a year old now, so you can imagine what that entails. Indeed, lots and lots of physical activity all around! In fact, he’s been one of those other reasons why not just blogging, but also being online has had a bit of a hit in my own social presence out there. And I can imagine you know why. Having such an energetic pet in the house can be quite demanding and rather exhausting, and, even more so, lots of great fun! It’s taking me a bit over a month to eventually manage to take some good, decent pictures that I could share along over here, despite taking him out for long walks day in day out. He’s just as temperamental as Fosca was, but equally charming and amazingly smart. So much so, it’s scary some times what he gets to learn doing by just observing and performing once!

It’s been lots of good fun. You folks should see the state of our roof; I probably should take a picture or two and share it across, but right now it looks, literally, like a war zone. The plants we used to have there, the sprinkler and hose to water them, and a bunch of other things are now history. All destroyed, all bitten to no end, all gone! So imagine what he’s done inside the house!

Like I said, it’s been lots of good fun. And still having a blast with him. A few folks who cared to comment privately on the loss of Fosca mentioning how getting another pet relatively soon to heal the pain gradually were just spot on. She is still very much missed every single day that goes by, but Boira quickly comes up to remind everyone that what matters now is the present, right that moment he wants to live with each and everyone of us. To remind me, as well, in this case, that as wonderful as the Social Web is, it doesn’t help him get out for a walk, of getting fed, of getting lots of attention and playful moments. He just cares about now and if you don’t pay enough attention, he will just move on. So excuse me for a second, while I get the leash, and we go out for a lovely walk to enjoy the beginning of, I am sure, a wonderful holiday!



(Thanks much, everyone, for sticking around throughout all of this time, too, and stay tuned for more blog posts to come along in the next few hours … I am not going anywhere and I surely plan to catch up! But with a twist … or two … You will see shortly. It’s good to be back!)

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