ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. Kate and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time. These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.
KNOWING YOUR ZOMBIES
Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:
- Negative zombies – Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
- Minimum-contributor zombies – They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
- Status-quo zombies – These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
- Shortcut zombies – They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE
To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:
- The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
- The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
- The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
- The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.
MAKING THE CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management. Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory. Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.
Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.
Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.
Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.
Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs. No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.
Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.
Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.
- Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
- Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
- Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
- Do managers confront negativity?
- Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
- Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
- Does a strong zombie-screening interview process exist?
- When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?
The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.
Author, KRISTINA PODNAR is a digital policy innovator. For over two decades, she has worked with some of the most high-profile companies in the world and has helped them see policies as opportunities to free the organization from uncertainty, risk, and internal chaos. Podnar’s approach brings in marketing, human resources, IT, legal, compliance, security, and procurement to create digital policies and practices that comply with regulations, unlock opportunity, strengthen the brand and liberate employees.
Just as we have gotten used to the idea that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a fact of life and have made modifications in our data collection procedures, the Brazil General Data Protection Law (LGDP), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and waves of proposed new data privacy laws are swirling in the calm forewarning of a privacy tsunami heading our way. In the middle of such deep acronym swirls, it could be easy to be overwhelmed. However, all the privacy regulations share a number of commonalities and by addressing these now, you will be on high ground as the waves begin to pound.
The compliance life raft
While you will need to pay attention to the details of individual data regulations as they arise, whether already adopted, pending adoption, or only proposed, all the regulations share certain commonalities that you should consider addressing as part of ongoing operations.
Accountability and governance
At the heart of data privacy requirements is the aim to have organizations develop a plan to self-manage data in a way that respects end users. To address accountability and governance requirements in your organization, consider, have you:
- Reviewed the applicability and risk to the organization from data privacy issues, and considered alternatives, including insurance, in case you are fined?
- Mandated that data privacy become part of the policy program, including staff training, measurement, and compliance reporting?
- Clearly documented roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines to embed privacy compliance
Consent and processing
A fundamental privacy regulation concept is that end users are aware when and why their data is collected, and what happens to it once it’s given. To address these requirements, ask yourself whether you have:
- Reviewed that the data being collected and used is necessary and for the benefit of completing a desired action by the user?
- Identified sensitive data and ensured it is treated as such through the use of special encryption or by validating vendor storage practices for sensitive data, etc.?
- Confirmed that user consent for data collection is clearly captured and documented, and that user data can be modified or erased?
Notifications and data rights
Gone are the days of legalese or simply taking data from users because we can. Data privacy regulations require transparency, user awareness, and forthright behavior by businesses. To ensure you get this right, ask yourself whether the organization has:
- Written user notices clearly so they can be easily understood—properly targeted to children where relevant—and are reflective of specific data collection and usage purposes?
- Created and tested processes to correct and delete all user data if needed?
- Developed a solution to give users their data in a portable electronic format?
Organizations that treat privacy as a core design principle will always be in alignment with data privacy regulations. In my consulting experience, I see many self-disciplined organizations that have historically had good privacy practices and have little to address with each new law. To get to that state, ask whether you have:
- Created or updated the policy and associated process to embed privacy into all technology and digital projects, including those outsourced to vendors and partners?
Data breach notification
For many organizations, the question nowadays isn’t whether the organization will have a breach, but rather when will it happen and how will they respond. To address regulatory breach aspects, ask whether the organization has:
- Created (or reviewed and updated an existing) data breach policy and response plan to reflect detection, notification, and the actions to mitigate loss?
- Considered and obtained insurance for a possible data breach and regulatory penalties that the organization may face but not be able to handle on its own?
- Incorporated data breach terms and requirements into all vendor and third-party contracts?
New data privacy regulations state where data physically must be stored, and if transferred to another country, what are the requirements for doing so. Your organization will be well positioned to meet this requirement if it can answer:
- Have we identified and updated all cross-border data flows from the country where the data is collected, and reviewed data export for on-premise and cloud solutions?
Children’s online privacy considerations
Data privacy regulations are concerned with end users, but are even more strict about children and their online data protection and rights. It is best to get ahead of these issues by asking whether the organization has:
- Defined what data it collects from children, whether as a business practice or through efforts like “take your child to work day”?
- Are user notifications and online privacy statements written in a way that a child could understand them, and do they state that parental consent is required?
Contracting and procurement
Most businesses may struggle to understand exactly what personal user data is collected via websites, mobile applications, and other digital platforms, especially through third-party software solutions and vendors. To make sure that your organization isn’t caught out, ask whether you have:
- Reviewed and ensured that all vendors, customers, and third-party agreements reflect data regulatory requirements?
- Defined procurement processes such that privacy is integrated into all products and services the organization buys, including regarding data minimization, the visibility of onward data flows, and data ownership?
By Ted Janusz
Can you relate to this? John Wannamaker, the Philadelphia department store magnate, said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” But there is one form of marketing, that ALWAYS works … what is it?
WORD OF MOUTH!
Of course, now with the internet and social media, you could call it WORLD of mouth marketing. People are six times more likely to rely on the word of other people when making a buying decision rather than advertising.
In fact, 80% of consumer buying decisions are based on personal recommendations. Here’s why it works …
The average American adult knows 400 people … people you work with, went to school with, or people you know socially. If you assume each of those 400 people know 400 others (of course, there will be some overlap – but let’s keep it simple), you now have an immediate network of 140,000 people.
And if you assume those 140,000 people know 400 others, you are up to one-third of the US population. And what will people spread about your business, good news or bad? Right! Bad news!
Your average satisfied customer will tell 5 to 8 others. But your average upset customer (if you have any) will 10 to 16. In fact, one in five will tell 20 people how upset you have made them.
In their book Creating Customer Evangelists, authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba say, “Competition for entertainment dollars – where Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he competes – is fierce. To succeed, he must continually focus on increasing the average lifetime value of a Mavs season ticket holder. In 2002, that figure was $300,000, according to Cuban. “The Chicago Cubs, you’ve got to wait in line to get your season tickets,” he says. “That’s the goal … then I don’t have to spend lots of money on salespeople and all kinds of support efforts – I’ve just got to keep [customers] happy. It’s a lot easier to keep ‘em happy than to go out and get new ones to replace ‘em.”
Now the lifetime value of one of your customers may not be $300,000 like it is for the Dallas Mavericks. But once you determine what that value is for you, you’ll realize how important to keep those customers happy – since they, bar none, are your best source of marketing.
Ted Janusz, MBA, CSP is a Certified Speaking Professional who has delighted audiences for more than 5,000 hours, in 49 of the 50 United States, in Canada from Halifax to Vancouver, in Australia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Learn more at www.januspresentations.com.
By Amanda Peterson, Enlightened Digital
The marketing landscape is nothing near what it was 10 years ago, or even 5. As technology continues to evolve and expand its capabilities, marketing has transformed into an industry that requires constant learning and adaptability. It demands an increased aptitude for technical skills, so it’s vital that marketing professionals hone their technical skill set. TEKsystems Digital reports however, that 95 percent of surveyed marketing leaders have been negatively impacted by the lack of qualified talent.
With technology advancing at rapid speeds, it might seem like there’s a lot to master— but there are also some great ways to get your technical expertise up to speed quickly. Here are four of the top technical skills that marketers need to learn.
1. DATABASE QUERYING
Learning how to run database queries is one of the most important technical skills a marketer today can have, as it enables them to understand how customers and prospects are behaving. Most companies use SQL-based databases, which are used to query, insert, update and modify data. For example, if a marketer wants to know the average transaction value within a certain time frame for a user within a certain demographic, having the ability to perform database queries means they can answer these questions on their own.
Learning to query a database independently means that marketers can consistently understand how their customers are changing and reacting to a product. It allows marketers to make data-driven decisions, make decisions faster and unpack key insights that lead to more efficient and effective marketing.
As digital marketing tactics become more prominent, marketers can benefit from learning some coding basics. HTML provides the structure of a web page and outlines the elements each page will contain. For example, HTML might specify that a web page contains a site title, navigation bar, sidebar and content in the form of page copy or a blogroll.
Whether it be writing blog posts or designing a new product page, many marketing roles involve a great deal of online content creation. Learning HTML will expedite the process of getting that content set up correctly, and looking good. You no longer need to wait for a developer to tweak an email template, format your landing page or make an important update on your website. Even if your role never requires you to write code, being familiar with HTML, at the very least, can make cross-team communication much easier.
3. MOBILE VIDEO PRODUCTION
Online video marketing has grown significantly in 2018, as it’s been popular for both consumers and brands alike. As social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube expand their features for livestream and short-form video, many brands have recognized and capitalized on its potential to boost consumer engagement. As Amber van Moessner, Director of Content at Livestream, states, “Audiences spend more time with live video, and are willing to show up, participate, and join the conversation on social media more so than with VOD (video on demand) or blog content.”
Marketers that master video production for mobile platforms can ensure that these videos are as polished and compelling as possible. Learning how to produce this style of content can put brands ahead of their competitors and capture the attention of today’s mobile-focused consumer.
While you don’t have to be an SEO (search engine optimization) profesional, it’s important to have a general knowledge about how SEO operates and how it relates to marketing. Organic search results have the potential to be much more powerful than paid ads, especially if they make it to the first page. This is vital for marketers to improve their brand recognition or generate leads. In fact, 57 percent of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative.
Best practices for SEO are constantly evolving, so this is one skill that might require consistent refining. Marketers who do understand SEO best practices however, can create content that increase engagement, site traffic and sales conversions.
CONTRIBUTING WRITER, LEIGH ELMORE. LEIGH SERVES AS THE EDITOR -AT-LARGE FOR ABWA’S WOMEN IN BUSINESS MAGAZINE AND ACHIEVE NEWSLETTERS.
Pioneering Astronomer Nancy G. Roman was “Mother of the Hubble Space Telescope. Nancy Roman knew from a very early age that she wanted to be an astronomer. Her greatest challenge was convincing the world that she could be a very good one. Overcoming traditional gender roles in the scientific community was almost as daunting a challenge as paving the way for the Hubble Space Telescope, an achievement for which she is most remembered. Roman, known as the “Mother of Hubble,” passed away on Christmas Day 2018 at the age of 93. She was NASA’s first chief of astronomy and one of the first women executives for the agency. Her achievements will live on
Her family moved around the country frequently when she was growing up. Roman cited both of her parents’ interest in the natural world—and her time beneath the clear night skies of Reno, Nevada—as an inspiration for her early interest in astronomy. Fueled by a fascination for the stars, she began her own astronomy club with a group of neighborhood girls when she was 11 years old. Though she knew she wanted to be an astronomer by the time she entered high school, her guidance counselor, who belittled her desire to take mathematics instead of Latin, discouraged her.
A promising student at Swarthmore College, Roman still had to ignore warnings from the Dean of Women and other teachers about studying science, ultimately earning her B.A. in Astronomy in 1946. She later recalled that the only encouragement she was given during her undergraduate years was by a teacher who told her, “I usually try to dissuade girls from majoring in physics but I think maybe you might make it,” National Geographic has reported
Roman went on to receive her Ph.D. in Astronomy at the University of Chicago in 1949, where she worked for six more years at the Yerkes Observatory as an instructor and assistant professor.
Seeing little chance for tenure as a woman, Roman took a position at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where she eventually won the trust of her peers and began to work in radio astronomy, geodetics, and microwave spectroscopy.
She attended a lecture on the origin of the moon given at the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the late 1950s where she was presented with the opportunity to work for NASA and set up a program in space astronomy.
As she told National Geographic, “The idea of coming in with an absolutely clean slate to set up a program I thought was likely to influence astronomy for 50 years was just a challenge that I couldn’t turn down. That’s all there is to it.”
She dedicated her time at NASA to promoting, initiating and supporting in-space observation, from satellites to the Scout probe. In 1964, her name was even given to a newly discovered asteroid, 2516 Roman.
But Roman’s crowning achievement at NASA was perhaps the greatest gift ever given to astrophysics: the Hubble Space Telescope, the groundbreaking satellite observatory that has generated more than 1.2 million observations and 14,000 scientific papers. Roman tirelessly laid the foundation that eventually made NASA’s space-based observatory a reality.
She retired from NASA in 1979 having prepared the way for Hubble’s eventual launch in 1990. “My work helped others explore the evolution of the galaxy,” she told National Geographic. “I did not let the fact that I was a woman deter me.”
Source: National Geographic, Dec. 31, 2018
The life of an entrepreneur – or at least the idea behind that life – can seem enticing to just about everyone. You launch a new enterprise that makes millions – and maybe even changes the way people lead their lives. But why do some people follow through on such visions with great fanfare and success, while others fail miserably – or never follow through at all?
“There’s just this mindset that the very best entrepreneurs have that positions them for success when others around them are struggling and unable to stay the course,” says Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com), an attorney, entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book The Accidental Life.
Strauss says that anyone who is feeling the entrepreneurial tug, and wants to mimic the most successful entrepreneurs, would do well to consider these three points:
- Remember that fortune favors the bold. On the outside entrepreneurs may appear confident and assured in their actions, ready to take the steps needed to achieve success without hesitation. In reality, Strauss says, most successful entrepreneurs have a voice inside them imploring them to wait, to not take that chance. The difference between them and others is they ignore that inner voice. “In my career, I tried to prepare myself as best I could for my next step, but I always had to take a leap of faith to some degree,” Strauss says. “There’s never going to be perfect time or situation that is a guaranteed win. For any significant opportunity, there is always a risk.”
- Take the “life gives you lemons” approach. Things don’t always work out the way we hope, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept defeat. Strauss points out that Steve Jobs was once fired by the board of the company he founded. “Steve Jobs easily could have decided that his life as an entrepreneur was not meant to be,” Strauss says. “Instead, he built another company and eventually found himself back at the helm of Apple. Jobs knew that whatever happened, his was not going to be a story of failure.” It’s inevitable that life will throw you curveballs, he says, so learn to hit them. “The good news is that adaptability can be learned,” Strauss says. “The more you train yourself to see possibility in the curveballs, the more you will adapt to hitting singles, doubles and even home runs.”
- Understand the “family” connection. Businesses often describe their organizations as “family.” Sometimes that’s just lip service, Strauss says, but in the best corporate cultures the team respects one another and holds each other accountable – much like a family. “If you are in a leadership position, it’s up to you to instill this mindset and to be the role model for it in your company,” he says. He even discovered that the business family he created as an entrepreneur helped make him a better parent. “If I don’t set clear goals and expectations at work, I can’t be disappointed or surprised when my team falls short,” he says. “The same holds true at home. Framing expectations as a dialogue will make your family and your team feel valued.”
“Ultimately, no matter the obstacles, entrepreneurs just find a way to persevere and get the job done,” Strauss says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are real risks involved. People rarely see all the ins and outs and ups and downs of what it takes to reach a place where you feel real success.”
About Peter J. Strauss
Peter J. Strauss (www.peterjstrauss.com) is an attorney, entrepreneur and author of several books, including the soon-to-be-released The Accidental Life. He is the founder and managing member of The Strauss Law Firm, LLC, on Hilton Head Island, S.C, and also the founder and CEO of Hamilton Captive Management, LLC. He is a graduate of the New England School of Law and of Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program.