Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Panel on Entrepreneurship at the French American Chamber of Commerce

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel called "Entrepreneurship - Myth and Reality" sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce

It was a fun lively evening with lots of stories of starting a company from the heart. 

Perhaps it was the European setting or the fabulous wine and cheese spread, but this talk went beyond the normal discussions on entrepreneurship where people discuss finding the product-market fit, fundraising, etc. 

This was a more thoughtful discussion on what it means to start a company and the impact we can have on the people around us. 

The panel included...

Olivier Ceberio - COO at Resolute Marine Energy
Tara Cousineau - Founder of BodiMojo
And Myself 
Enjoying a laugh
Samuel Gosselin Director of Operational Alliances at Novartis moderated our discussion.

We don't have video, but there were three recurring themes of the night which are worth sharing. 

1. Who are your people 
Each of us on the panel discussed "our people". 

For Olivier it is people who represent communities in need of clean energy. For Tara it is teenage girls and at Kango we aim to make it easy for you to say thanks and celebrate the small moments either at work or in your personal life.

Who are your people? 

2. Focus on bringing joy, not reducing pain
Tara and I share a mentor and he always reminds us that it is much better to be in the "joy business" than the "pain relief" business. 

The idea is that many companies offer a way to do something faster, better, cheaper. In some ways they are making something less painful like filling out forms or helping you be more productive. Microsoft traditionally has been in the business of doing things this way and has done an amazing job in building one of the largest companies in the world. 

In comparison, Apple has created products that do many of the same things yet they create an emotional response from people. This abstract notion of joy while hard to capture is one reason why Apple is one of the largest companies on the planet. 

This is a simple example, but the spirit of our discussion was that by focusing on your people and ways to bring joy to them, a new endeavor has the potential to create an emotional connection in ways you haven't imagined. 

3. The US market doesn't have to be the starting point
An easy point, but an important one. In various types of industries, your earliest customers can come from anywhere. 

In Olivier's case, his company's first customer is a country in Africa! For us at KangoGift, we received an award from the French government to evaluate expanding to France later this year. When starting something new, it's much easier to work with customers who want to work with you rather than have to go out and convince them. 

Closing Thoughts
This was a fantastic evening and a fun chance to look at entrepreneurship from the human side and share how we are all are focused on bringing some form of joy to our people, no matter where they are. 

Thanks to the Chamber and the CIC for hosting such a great event. I must say that the snacks at the French events are some of the best in Boston. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Self Service Employee Recognition and BYOD

Recently I was fortunate to have a conversation with Brent Skinner from HRO Today. The article "Control Your Own Destiny" discussed the emerging trend in the workplace of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the ways in which people are choosing the tools and technologies that make the most sense for them to be better colleagues. 

To those not familiar, the trend of bring-your-own-device refers to the rise of the smart-phone in the workplace where people are using their own phones and apps to be more productive. 

I want to keep it positive and am not suggesting there is a army of rogue managers out there using whatever tools they deem necessary. Instead we are entering a phase where managers will use the most appropriate tools that ensure they are efficient, timely, and effective.

This trend has encouraged many organizations to recognize that people are becoming their own IT departments and choosing the most appropriate technologies to be productive. This combination of self service and connectedness is really changing the way we work. 

Looking at this trend through the lens of employee recognition there are a few highlights worth noting. 

1. The Instant Workplace - People now crave immediate feedback and managers have embraced the idea of using their phones to give quick, targeted, feedback. 

There is almost a sense in some corporate cultures that if a person doesn't receive immediate feedback something could be amiss. Some people feel like they are playing catch up and others have embraced an instant feedback and praise system. 

Given the challenge instant provides, people are choosing their own methods to offer informal recognition in a timely way. The rise of the smart phone in the workplace means managers and peers now have tools available to them to be accessible and instant. 

2. Convenience - This BYOD movement taps into the ability to have convenient tools right in your pocket. 

It almost seems like the smart-phone has become an "HR, Swiss Army Knife" where all productivity tools are easily accessible. If it's reviewing a candidate, entering time, or giving recognition, people are using their phones and apps to  do their job when and where they want. 

One example we hear of frequently is the manager walking from one meeting to another and giving quick recognition to a co-worker for doing a great job. 

This convenience has also increased the rate of recognition since people may no longer forget or delay recognition until they get back to their desks. 

3. Remote Workforces - Immediate recognition in the hallways and by the water cooler is becoming more difficult as people work remotely and spend time outside of the office. 

New HR self serve tools help remote groups stay connected and updated. News feeds, peer recognition, and collaborative tools are well suited for people to do from their own phone. 

Closing Thought

The following quote from the HRO article brings these abstract trends to life and connects how the rise of self service tools and the BYOD movement can help companies foster a truly engaged and recognized workplace. 

“Immediate recognition tends to improve engagement between both the sender and receiver of the recognition and aligns with McKinsey’s findings that immediate recognition is 70 percent effective in motivating a person,” says Todd Horton, founder and CEO of KangoGift. “This simple act of kindness scored higher than all other forms of motivation including cash and taps into how self-service can be used for aligning instant recognition to company values and goals.”