Fall 2018

Fall 2018 • Talent Economy

Editor’s Note

Lauren Dixon, Senior Editor
ldixon@talenteconomy.io

A

s a child, my parents would occasionally take vacations that involved scuba diving, leaving me to spend quality time with my grandparents (read: eating lots of delicious food and candy). Upon their return, my parents would relay tales of their adventures, including swimming with wild dolphins and dancing underwater with turtles. Amid the exciting stories, my mom shared with me how divers communicate underwater. Before I ever earned my certification, I knew the symbols for boat, shark and other basics.

When scuba diving, verbal communication is limited. I can hear my mother’s muffled cursing when her underwater camera freezes up (often), but communication is otherwise limited to hand gestures, underwater writing slates, noisemakers or use of lights. As dive groups find certain creatures, they often know the corresponding hand gestures to indicate what they see.

The elusive spotted drum is a black and white fish that features a long dorsal fin and, naturally, spots. To share with other divers that we’ve found one, we mime playing a snare drum.

When we see a shark, we place a flat hand on our heads as if we have a dorsal fin. We also keep our distance.

In business, without knowing how to communicate certain concepts or projects, a shark might surprise the group, taking a bite out of performance.

Divers encounter miscommunications when they have no symbol for certain creatures or when don’t know what the animal, algae or other mystery object is. On a recent trip to Belize, I spotted a squid egg casing floating around the water’s surface. I knew what it was from perusing the ever-present fish and creature identification books, but I confused other divers when I began pointing up. In these sorts of encounters, we must wait to get back on the boat, regulators out of our mouths, to discuss more in-depth and refer to our books.

Another solution to this problem is to discuss before going underwater how we will communicate. Prior to a night dive in Honduras, dive guide Raynell shared that we would likely see a toadfish. This fish tends to hide under rocks, snatching up any small fish that are unfortunate enough to cross the monster’s path. The camouflage of this (really, quite ugly) fish includes barbels that protrude off of its face and resemble coral growth. We decided that our symbol for this animal is to put our hand under our chin, fingers protruding to mimic the barbels.

Similarly to scuba, to most effectively communicate, business leaders must know how to best speak with each other — verbally and nonverbally — to share concepts, have everyone on the same page and create ideal outcomes.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY KATIE LUKES

Fall 2018 • Talent Economy

Contents

Fall 2018 • Talent Economy

Open Floor Plans Crush the Soul

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Office gossip, overheard conversations and endless chatter: Why everyone hates the open office trend.

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By Sarah Fister Gale

A

decade ago, the world of work became enamored with the idea of open office floor plans. Google, Facebook and Microsoft spent millions of dollars remodeling their old cubicle farms into partition-less spaces featuring shared tables, mobile furniture and coffee shop-style seating. These sociable layouts promised to promote collaboration and create unexpected collisions between unrelated teams that would naturally generate disruptive innovations, all while using the office footprint more efficiently.

But in reality, this trend has been a productivity disaster. Several studies found that employees dislike open floor plans because they are noisy, disruptive and lack basic privacy. “Open-office spaces rob employees of the liberty to be frustrated, confused, upset or tired without becoming a spectacle, a distraction or a social pariah,” lamented Claire Mason, liens negotiator for Joseph Farzam Law Firm in Los Angeles. She knows from experience.

Why Communication From Leadership Is Essential for Success

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Employers who fail to communicate their business plans properly to their staff and dismiss their points of view are missing out on engagement.

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BY LADAN NIKRAVAN HAYES

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s workforces age and skills gaps widen, it’s imperative for leaders to bring together strategy deliberation and execution. According to research commissioned by consultancies SuccessFactors and Accenture in April of 2011, 80 percent of leaders recognize they are not doing their best to communicate strategy through the organization. Further, according to findings from a survey of 1,400 corporate executives and employees announced in May of 2011 by leadership development and training firm Fierce Inc., more than 70 percent of respondents either agree or strongly agree that a lack of candor impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally. As executing the organization’s strategy remains a priority, leaders should reverse traditional information flow and facilitate a bottom-up flood of opinions and ideas rather than one-way delegation from management.

Instant Messaging: The Future of Communication, With Caveats

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How instant messaging and AI are taking over workplace communication.

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BY Sarah Fister Gale

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he days of face-to-face meetings and group emails may soon be coming to an end. From texting job candidates and using Slack for project management, to building artificially intelligent chatbots that answer questions about human resources, communication technology in the workplace is evolving. All of this is a good thing, said Sharon O’Dea, a digital and social media consultant based in the U.K. These tools enable faster, more efficient communication, via the devices employees have in their hands all the time, she said. “We all use instant messaging in our personal lives. It is natural to see that shift into the workplace.”

Avoid Ambiguity in the Workplace

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When it comes to company culture, leaders should be clear in the organization’s mission and values.

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By Camaron Santos

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n today’s hectic work climate, it is increasingly difficult for an organization to keep its mission and vision clear, and it can be even more of a burden on executives, managers and employees when everyday tasks are overshadowed by ambiguity. Brad Deutser, president and CEO of Deutser LLC, a consulting firm, said organizations with a clear and simple vision are often more effective and successful.

Meet Your New Colleague: AI

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Put the quirky, sexy or scary robots of sci-fi aside; in reality, communicating with inhuman tools like artificial intelligence is more transactional than fantastical.

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BY Andie Burjek

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rtificial intelligence is increasingly people’s interviewer, colleague and competition. As it burrows its way further into the workplace and different job functions, it holds abilities to take over certain tasks, learn over time and even have conversations. Many of us may not even be aware that who we’re talking to isn’t even a “who” but a “what.”

In 2017, 61 percent of businesses said they implemented AI, compared to 38 percent in 2016, according to the “Outlook on Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise 2018” report from Narrative Science, an artificial intelligence company, in collaboration with the National Business Research Institute. In the communication arena, 43 percent of these businesses said they send AI-powered communications to employees.

How Business Leaders Should Respond During Crises

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Amid natural disasters and violent attacks on the public, business leaders supporting their employees is crucial. Here’s how they should respond.

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By Lauren Dixon

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hen Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, HR consulting company ADP jumped into action to support its 36 employees living in the U.S. territory.

In the event of a major emergency that impacts its employees, ADP conducts associate safety and welfare checks, which involve an emergency notification system that reaches out to workers via call, text and email to ask if they need assistance, said Zona Walton, senior director of global business resiliency at ADP. Her team achieves 100 percent response in these instances, no matter what it takes. In the event of Hurricane Maria, though, ongoing power outages made these safety checks more challenging and involved search and rescue efforts.

The Past, Present and
Future of Internal
Communication

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While certain aspects of internal communication continue to change, informing employees of basic internal functions remains important.

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By Lauren Dixon

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ffective communication with internal staff ensures that all parties are on the same page. Without alignment on company goals, mission and values, confusion can easily ensue. That’s where Robyn Hannah steps in. As senior director of global communication at Dynamic Signal, an employee communication and engagement platform based in San Bruno, California, she leads the communication strategy both internally and externally, ensuring that employees know how to complete items as fundamental as signing up for health insurance to as complex as delivering business goals.

In an interview with Talent Economy, Hannah shared her observations of internal communication practices, what she sees for the future and suggestions for how to start a strong internal communication strategy on a dime. Edited excerpts follow.

Time for
Some Zs

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Gen Zs are digital natives who prefer text over talk, and expect to find their first job via social media.

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By Sarah Fister Gale

T

he next generation of workers is already trickling into the workforce. Don’t be fooled; these are not mini-millennials. Generation Z brings a vastly different set of skills, expectations and life experiences — and they will be in hot demand, said Penny Queller, senior vice president and general manager at Monster Worldwide Inc., an employment website company based in Weston, Mass.

Heading Off Harassment: How to Create an Open and Honest Workplace Environment

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Zenefits’ chief people officer
shares how she conducts
anti-harassment training.

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By Beth Steinberg

T

he #MeToo movement has sent a strong message that has been reverberating around workplaces across the nation. Story after story of sexual harassment and discrimination at work has fueled a new level of long-overdue awareness, accountability and discussion on the subject. But for all the good that #MeToo has brought, it begs the question: How can we preempt and prevent this misuse of power in the first place?

Clearly, policy alone doesn’t do it. My guess is every company has a harassment policy in place. Company culture, examples set by leadership and attitudes toward reporting and harassment in general have made it difficult for people to come forward when issues arise and tough for employers to respond effectively.

Successfully Communicating Across Cultures

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Language and social norms
change across the globe.
Employees need targeted
training to effectively
communicate across
cultures.

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By Ave Rio

I

n early 2016, Emma Seddon picked up her life in the U.K. and moved across the world to China on a three-year international secondment in her role as talent development manager at Jaguar Land Rover. Her colleagues who had previously completed long-term assignments in China warned of “shang-highs and shang-lows,” and gave her as much advice as possible.

Of course, some things must be learned on one’s own. Seddon recalls trying to order noodles without meat in her best Mandarin and the server responding with a stream of Chinese she couldn’t understand, to which she said she was left noodle-less, hungry and frustrated. At work, language differences also posed challenging. Seddon said meetings would often slip into Chinese, which put her at a disadvantage if she missed chunks of the discussion. “I’ve found that making an effort to learn the language really helps; local colleagues appreciate this, and it can be a good way to break back into the conversation,” she said. For example, she might say “I heard you say ‘yi bai wu,’ is that 150?” “Then they will laugh as I will have undoubtedly got it wrong, and switch back to speaking in English,” she said.

Tackling the Language Skills Gap

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As the business world becomes more global, language skills continue to lag. Here’s what companies should do to improve their employees’ bilingual capabilities.

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BY Katharine Nielson

B

ilingual workers are in demand. According to one estimate, the number of jobs for people who can speak more than one language has nearly doubled in recent years, with employers adding positions for speakers of Chinese, Spanish and Arabic in ever-increasing numbers. And demand exists across the talent continuum. Although the need for bilingual workers remains high for low- and middle-skill service workers in industries like customer service and hospitality, the fastest growing categories include “high prestige” jobs, a category that includes financial managers, editors and industrial engineers.

How to Balance
Transparency and Secrecy

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Even as a call for greater transparency takes hold in business, some information is best kept secret.

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By Lauren Dixon

O

n Feb. 7, 2017, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tried to read a 1986 letter from the late Coretta Scott King, expressing her opinion that then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) was unfit to serve as a federal judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then silenced Warren through the Senate’s Rule XIX, which states that “no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Warren persisted, with her response promptly appearing on Facebook Live and across the internet as she read the letter to an audience of millions. If Warren simply read the letter without opposition, some might argue, the event would likely have gone unnoticed.

Communication at Center of Almo Corp.’s Learning Efforts

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Almo Corp. and Caliper Corp. partnered to improve communication among Almo’s distributed workforce.

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By Lauren Dixon

W

hen Lynn Buschman came to work for Almo Corp. in May 2016, her task was to connect all company employees, remote or otherwise. As its first-ever learning and development manager at the Philadelphia-based company, she needed to create a learning initiative to improve communication for the organization, an independent distributor of appliances, electronics, furniture and professional A/V equipment and services.

With nine regional distribution facilities and approximately 600 employees across the country, connecting them would prove quite a task, which Buschman took in stride.

Don’t Underestimate the Effects of Poor Communication

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Although available communication tools abound, using them effectively remains a challenge.

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By Mariel Tishma

T

he workplace is increasingly connected, with 24/7 email, instant messaging and phone calls pulling employees into work matters both during and after business hours. But that doesn’t necessarily mean employees are better connected to each other. Often, all that information can become white noise.

The study “Communication Barriers in the Modern Workplace,” conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Lucidchart, has taken stock of communication in the workplace today, and the results suggest leaders have some work to do.

A Distracted Workplace
Costs Far More Than
Productivity Loss

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Distracted workers contribute to much more than simply a loss of productivity. Here’s how to fight back.

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By Brad Killinger

A

ccording to a survey conducted by Udemy Research — aptly named “2018 Workplace Distraction Report” — nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70 percent) say they feel distracted at work. As organizations place an ever-increasing focus on adopting new technologies to aid collaboration toward a more responsive, real-time business, we’re now on full-tilt communication overload.

A few years ago, research showed the average employee received 304 business-related emails weekly, took around 16 minutes to refocus attention after handling incoming email and checked email 36 times an hour. The same survey found the average employee lost 31 hours a month in meetings and was disrupted around 56 times a day, taking two hours daily to recover from these disruptions. Recent studies show the situation is only growing worse.

Fall 2018 • Talent Economy

Contributors

Katie Lukes

is a freelance designer & illustrator based in Chicago. When she’s not creating branded content for small businesses such as Threadless or Bucketfeet, she’s illustrating fun things for clients such as Snapchat, Uber and Walgreens.

Ave Rio

is an associate editor at Human Capital Media. She’s a summa cum laude graduate from Illinois State University, where she was editor in chief of The Vidette. Now, she writes and edits for HCM’s business publications Talent Economy and Chief Learning Officer.

Andie Burjek

is a Talent Economy associate editor. She’s a graduate of University of Wisconsin at Madison, where she never learned to like sports but learned to love cheese, beer and brandy old-fashioneds. She writes about benefits, health care and workplace wellness.

Ladan Nikravan Hayes

is a former senior editor at Human Capital Media and has written profiles and feature articles for Chief Learning Officer, Talent Management and Diversity Executive, all sister publications of Talent Economy. She now works in corporate communications in Chicago.


Volume 3, Issue 3
Fall 2018

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER John R. Taggart
PRESIDENT Kevin Simpson
VICE PRESIDENT, GROUP PUBLISHER Clifford Capone
VICE PRESIDENT, EDITOR IN CHIEF Mike Prokopeak
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Rick Bell
EDITORIAL ART DIRECTOR Theresa Stoodley
MANAGING EDITOR Ashley St. John
ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR Christopher Magnus
SENIOR EDITOR Lauren Dixon
ASSOCIATE EDITORS Andie Burjek, Ave Rio
VIDEO AND MULTIMEDIA PRODUCER Andrew Kennedy Lewis
CONTRIBUTING ILLUSTRATOR Katie Lukes
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sarah Fister Gale, Ladan Nikravan Hayes, Brad Killinger, Katharine Nielson, Camaron Santos, Beth Steinberg, Mariel Tishma
VICE PRESIDENT, RESEARCH & ADVISORY SERVICES Sarah Kimmel
RESEARCH MANAGER Tim Harnett
DATA SCIENTIST Grey Litaker
MARKETING SPECIALIST Kristen Britt
MEDIA & PRODUCTION MANAGER Ashley Flora
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Nina Howard
VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Trey Smith
EVENTS CONTENT EDITOR Malaz Elsheikh
WEBCAST MANAGER Alec O’Dell
EVENTS GRAPHIC DESIGNER Tonya Harris
BUSINESS MANAGER Vince Czarnowski
REGIONAL SALES MANAGERS Derek Graham, Robert Stevens, Daniella Weinberg
DIRECTOR, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Kevin Fields
DIRECTOR, AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT Cindy Cardinal
DIGITAL & AUDIENCE INSIGHTS MANAGER Lauren Lynch
Digital Coordinator Steven Diemand
LIST MANAGER Mike Rovello
BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION MANAGER Melanie Lee

To submit an article for publication, email editor@talenteconomy.io,
Letters to the editor may also be sent to editor@talenteconomy.io.


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