Monday, May 20, 2013

Blame Game: IBM CEO's Video Leaves Impressions

IBM's CEO, Virginia Rometty, took an unusual step recently in an effort to catalyze the company's recent disappointing performance: She taped a five-minute video in which she essentially told the company's 434,000 employees that they have to work faster and be more responsive to customers

Did Rometty do the right thing? Sort of. More on that a bit later.

The internal video message made a big splash after IBM shared it with the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper said the video "salted the praise for employees in [Rometty's] regular post-earnings pep talk with unusually blunt comments that the company needs to speed its shift to new computing models to get back on track."

In the video published on IBM's internal web site, the newspaper said, Rometty said, "Where we haven't transformed rapidly enough, we struggled. We have to step up with that and deal with that, and that is on all levels."

IBM has been struggling to adapt to new digital platforms, and its sales and earnings have been sluggish. In that environment, it can be especially damaging when a company misses out on big deals, and that's exactly what Rometty said happened during the first quarter when IBM salespeople failed to close on a number of valuable hardware and software contracts.

"We were too slow to understand the value and then engage on the approval and the sign-off process," Rometty said in the video. "The result? It didn't get done."

She went on to lay down new rules aimed at correcting the situation. If a client has a request or question, IBM must respond within 24 hours, Rometty said. "And if anything slows you down, call it out," she urged. "Engage management, engage leadership, and let's deal with it."

Was Rometty's direct broadside a good idea? It's probably easy for many within IBM to figure out exactly whom Rometty was calling out with her specific criticisms, in addition to her general upbraiding of the slow pace of the entire company. You can be sure those targets are now very engaged in trying to correct their failings.

As far as the company as a whole is concerned, we believe that Rometty simply said what needed to be said in her efforts, after 16 months on the job, to transform and encourage the organization toward exceptional performance. For that reason alone, her message will likely lead to higher engagement levels by IBM employees going forward.

However, Rometty apparently failed to make a broad invitation to her colleagues to invite their ideas, suggestions and potential solutions to the problem that she so clearly laid out. And that should have been a part of her prescription for getting IBM back on the right road.

Rometty's blaming exercise therefore left something to be desired. It'll be interesting to see if, even in its flawed form, her bombshell video message moves the needle for IBM in the months ahead.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

To 'Office Facebook' Or Not -- That Is the Question

Like people in most offices around the world, we face a dilemma about the use of Facebook by employees when they're on the job at Inward Strategic Consulting.
Should we be annoyed at the prominent role that Facebook has come to occupy in our work environment, often distracting employees when they use the site for personal reasons?

Or should we be embracing Facebook as the next major tool for gaining still more engagement by our employees?

We're coming down on the side of harnessing Facebook to boost employee engagement, particularly as the site's operators continue to evolve it.

The coming debut of Facebook Home may be the tipping point on this question, for our company and others, because it will encourage separation of personal and enterprise use of Facebook -- and provide an easy way to bifurcate them.

Already, we're hearing about the trend among our clients to find ways to use Facebook as a medium for communicating with and among employees. A major retailer, for example, has newly launched local-store Facebook pages for store managers and associates to communicate with one another. In turn, this new use of the outlet presumably gives them more reason to become brand advocates.

We also are seeing more businesses make Facebook an integral part of the "Start" menu on employee desktop computers. Clearly this reflects the fact that, to many Millennials now entering the workforce, continual access to social media ranks as a huge priority whether they're on the job or at home.

Sure, we continue to wonder whether employees really need to be tethered to Facebook and Twitter all day, making status updates and checking others' -- sometimes literally by the minute. We continue to believe that it's simply rude, maybe even insubordinate, for employees to mentally and physically "check out" of meetings for a social-media update.
But on balance, we think it's incumbent upon enlightened employers to pull a jujitsu move on Facebook and find a way to make it their friend instead of an annoyance.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Now, That's What We'd Call Employee Branding!

Of course, we don't recommend this for every employer -- or probably any employer! But a New York City real estate company has come up with a unique way to engage its employees: pay them to tattoo its logo on their bodies.

We usually like to see organizations engage their employees in more cerebral ways. And while tats are pretty mainstream these days, you've got to imagine that some employees of Rapid Realty were taken aback when owner Anthony Lolli offered a 15-percent pay raise to any employee who was willing to don the Rapid logo -- permanently.

But according to the local CBS affiliate, about 40 employees so far have been tattooed with the Rapid Realty logo, a stylized graphic, with some including a silhouette of what apparently is the Brooklyn Bridge.

There are no requirements for size or placement of the tattoo.

Lolli said it wasn't his idea; an employee came to him and said he was going to don a logo tattoo as an expression of loyalty to the company. It caught on, and Lolli has been picking up the $300-apiece tab for the employees who want to participate.
And Lolli told the TV station that he's going to get around to being tattooed as well.