Friday, October 9, 2015

Oh Great, Everyone Has "Digital Amnesia" Now

Quick! Do you know your work phone number without looking it up on your phone?

If so, then count yourself lucky because a new survey finds 39% of working Americans can't be bothered to remember their work phone numbers anymore!

It doesn't stop there: Slightly more than three-fourths (77%) can't remember the phone number of their child's school, while less than half can remember their closest friend's phone number. A full 40% of us can't remember our kids' phone numbers.

The good news? Roughly 71% of us can still remember our spouse's cell phone number.

These are among the findings of a new poll from internet security firm Kaspersky, which concludes that many of us have something called "digital amnesia." We're so used to letting our devices (or The Google, depending) store information for us that we're no longer committing anything to memory.

Hey, I should give you my phone number. Why don't I just send you a text? That way, you'll have it.

What's the problem with that, you ask? Technology makes our lives easier, you rotary phone-remembering Gen X geezer!

Sure, it does -- until we either lose, or break, our handheld devices. Then we're wandering aimlessly around a Dystopian digital landscape, wondering what so-and-so's phone number is so we can text her to say that we talked to the client. We could swear her phone number starts with a 5. It's 5-5-5...aaargh!

It's right there, on the proverbial tip of our tongues.

In fact, Kaspersky found more than 70% of us would feel "panicked" not only to lose our phones, but also to realize that we have to remember what's stored on our phones because, most likely, the information isn't stored anywhere else. And we never bothered to memorize the handful of most important numbers!

Gee, we'd let our teenage kids know we're running late to pick them up, but we can't remember their cell numbers.

By contrast, slightly more than two-thirds of Americans surveyed (67.4%) can still vividly remember their house phone number from their teenage years. Amazingly, it rolls right off our tongue as if it were only yesterday!

So what do these results mean for the average workplace?

Overall, we need to be more aware of our informational laziness and, for lack of a better phrase, smartphone dependency.

If our systems crashed today, which small subset of phone numbers and other digital addresses (workplace and otherwise) would we need to remember in order to function? We need to make sure we're still committing the most important data to memory***, or at least writing them down on scraps of paper that we immediately proceed to lose.

Yet, for more than 91% of those Kaspersky surveyed, the Internet is now the "online extension" of their brain. Why commit anything to memory when it's right there at our fingertips?

Just for fun, do a lightening round around the conference table. Let's call the game "What's My Cell Number?" Gaze upon a sea of frightened faces suddenly tasked with coughing up your phone coordinates on the spot. The game would be informative and fun, if not a little bit frightening.

Now imagine the lost productivity if they manage to lose their phones. Go ahead and call them on it. Wow, you've sure got their number, right?

*** It's okay to include the pizza guy on this list.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Are You Underpaid? Now There's An App For That

A new app allows employees to post their salaries on a map, along with their gender, ages, average commute times and other details, either anonymously or publicly. Let the 21st Century salary transparency games begin!

Like Glassdoor, the new app Wagespot is a way to find out how much people earn, and where. Wagespot's founders are calling it a "Zillow for salary data."

The data are only beginning to emerge, since the app was launched on Tuesday. Bottom line, though: It's getting harder for companies to keep a lid on salary and benefits information in our "sharing economy."

Not only do we have salary-sharing apps such as Glassdoor and Wagespot, we also have "anonymous intra-messenger" apps such as Memo for venting and sharing all kinds of office gossip.

In fact, a new Adecco work trends study finds 65% of job seekers "frequently or sometimes" scan job listings via their mobile devices. A growing number of recruiters are mobile friendly these days, too.

Not surprisingly, some companies aren't always giving this newfangled workplace transparency a thumb's up.

The question is, will managers be forced into dreaded compensation conversations, or are many employees still in a Great Recession state of mind -- meaning they won't broach the topic for fear of losing their jobs?

Here is where we were economically, exactly seven years ago today. The S & P ended down 500 points, and international banks were making emergency rate cuts, among other dire economic measures.

Given the long, hard slog the last seven years have been employment-wise, many employees may not feel brave enough to raise the topic of a raise. Yet. For now, they're simply doing their research, keeping an eye on the job market, and networking, networking, networking.

Like Zillow can instantly connect potential home buyers with local real estate agents who can show them a listing, Wagespot hopes to connect interested, potential job seekers with local recruiters who can show them to their new, corner office.

So, there it is: Real estate meets job market online, cherry-picking our best, app-savvy talent right and left. No word on whether there's a "swipe left" feature for employers, though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Let's All Phone It In On Customer Service Week

Do you know that it's Customer Service Week? Okay, let me update that: It's now the middle of Customer Service Week.

I know, I know. The service on this workplace blog is too slow, and you'd like to speak with a manager! According to a new OfficeTeam survey, so would a lot of other people.

More that four in 10 employees surveyed (42%) told OfficeTeam that they encounter poor customer service at least once a month, and 79% will report examples of poor customer service to a company.

The good news? A full 7 in 10 surveyed said they will gladly contact a company to report an instance of great customer service when they see it.

The question is, how many times a week are customer service reps circling the bottom of our receipts and imploring us to "take part in a survey" and, you know, to give them a shout out for doing a good job while we're at it? And how often are we taking them up on their offer? Anyone, anyone?

Now I understand the hesitancy to go online and fill out a survey. It takes time, and we might have to offer personal information we'd rather not share with companies. In this case, we can always find a manager to say how the employee who helped us is awesomely competent, personable, and is an asset rather than a cost.

In a pinch, we can look up the company's social media page and leave some positive feedback there.

Unfortunately, too many customer service reps will hear only the negative feedback, even if they're doing their best on the job. The customer wasn't happy with you. You didn't do this right, you shouldn't have done that, why didn't you do this instead? No wonder 70% of customer service representatives will quit their jobs within a year.

Let's all take the customer service challenge. Sometime over the three days, take a moment to single out someone in a customer service position who did a great job for you.

If anyone needs good feedback to stay motivated, it's the entry-level customer service representative who deals with the public day in, and day out. Not only are the best customer service representatives dealing with the prickly public, they're most likely picking up some slack for their less-motivated co-workers. The best customer service reps could be doing the work of two or three people, and making it look easy.

Customer service reps can also feel stuck between management and the customer, which can be a tricky place to be if the customer is angry and the company tends to be nebulous at best in advising employees on how to handle tough calls (or special deals and new coupons, as the case may be).

Great customer service reps are worth their weight in gold, and companies can't do without them. They need to hear a good word from us customers. This week is a good time to do it. So let's all represent and help them out a little bit, shall we?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

80% of Employees Are Avoiding Their Co-workers

A new survey says that 80% of employees prefer to work alone, because their work environment is either too hostile or largely unhelpful. Oh, no. It's time to call a team meeting, stat!

That's right, folks. When it comes to the workplace, we're all a bunch of Greta Garbos wanting to be left alone.

Nearly 2,000 U.S. and Canadian employees participated in a survey sponsored/conducted by The Faas Foundation, Mental Health America (MHA) and the Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH) regarding workplace bullying and psychological wellness. The findings are, well, kind of depressing.

In addition to learning that 80% of employees surveyed prefer to work alone because their current work environment doesn't work very well, 83% also said that their company is "overly focused on trivial activities."

Of course, "trivial" can mean different things. Perhaps it means there's too much busy work. Perhaps it means too many molehills are being turned into mountains. Perhaps it means there's too much office politics, or too much focus on silly, isolating social media.

However "trivial" is defined, many employees refuse to miss a minute of it: 41% surveyed said they "rarely or never" miss a day of work due to work stress, even though their workplace remains hostile and largely unhelpful.

Roughly 67% of employees surveyed think they could be fired any minute now. Talk about stress.

So we're feeling alone, together. We come to work, but we can't bring ourselves to work. And we don't want to interact with the vast majority of our co-workers while we're there. It isn't a trivial matter for today's employers, who still need a fair number of productive, in-person workplace interactions for the work to get done well.

Sometimes, we as employees have to take the initiative with our co-workers in the absence of engaged management. We might ask a largely unhelpful co-worker to lunch one day as a personal team-building exercise, or make ourselves eat in the break room occasionally (with our jealous co-workers, ahem) as a way to feel more connected to our own workplace. Such ice breakers might be worth a try, or not.

In the end, at least we can say that we tried our best to broach the unhelpful, hostile barrier at work before returning to our regularly-scheduled programming of kindly contacting our testy, foot-dragging co-workers exclusively via email, instant messaging and text. I'll let you go to the team meeting now.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hey Boss, Here's Why Your Compliments Never Work

Have you ever complimented an employee and felt like it went over like a lead balloon? Gee, was it something you said?

Well, maybe. A new University of Greenwich study reveals that verbal rewards (a.k.a., "good job!" and "thank you") from the boss go only so far to motivate us on the job!

While employees respond well to compliments regarding inconsequential work matters ("I really like how you sharpened these pencils!"), compliments have less meaning to us the more complex a project becomes ("Overall, I like how the first 250 pages are going").

In other words, we're more likely to work harder when we're complimented for small accomplishments, but compliments regarding large scale projects? Eh, stop it boss, because you're making me lose interest in the work!

What is going on here? Who doesn't love the occasional, verbal, "keep up the good work" compliment in regard to a lengthy, in-depth report or project? Being told that we're making good progress should be music to our ears, but the researchers found the opposite to be true for employees. According to

The research found that individuals reported lower intrinsic motivation if they expected to receive a verbal reward for a complex task -- in other words, they enjoyed the task less, and had a reduced desire to do it.

For simple tasks, on the other hand, respondents' intrinsic motivation was higher when they expected a verbal reward -- probably because if the task in itself is not motivating, then the extra encouragement is helpful.

Ahhhhh, now it all makes sense! Simple, repetitive tasks are boring, and so we need a verbal Scooby Snack to get us through them!

Meanwhile, if we're working on a lengthy, involved project, then we may be expecting occasional compliments -- and gushing ones at that! So when a "compliment" (employees' air quotes, not mine) finally rolls off the boss's tongue months into the work, it might fall flatter than a pancake because we were expecting so much more given the scope of the project.

Whew! I'm glad I'm not a mid-level manager who has to figure out how, and when, to issue the perfect compliment to today's workforce. I'm just sitting here writing a book (a lengthy project, in case you're wondering...) and so far, I haven't been complimented for it. Curiously, I haven't lost motivation -- yet. Overall, I do like how the first 250 pages are going.

I will now go compliment my coffee maker so it will continue the boring, repetitive task of brewing my coffee.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Psst, Millennials Are Sharing Their Work Passwords

What's your password at work? You might not be willing to share it, but a new survey finds the Millennials are coughing up their workplace passwords here, there and everywhere!

Okay, perhaps not everywhere, but one-quarter of employed Millennials are sending their log-in vitals via text, sharing them over work email, including them on unprotected spreadsheets, and writing down their passwords on torn scraps of paper around the office.

It's one of the findings from password management firm Dashlane, which surveyed 3,000 employees in the United States, the U.K. and France. Dashlane estimates 60% of employees in the 16-to-34 age range are sharing their passwords at work.

Older employees aren't exactly keeping quiet about it, either: 40% of middle-aged employees are willingly sharing their workplace passwords, too.

Now in employees' defense, sometimes passwords must be shared for the work to get done these days, especially with everyone's head in the Cloud. There are times when we must hand off (dump?) an online project to (onto?) a work colleague, and sometimes that might require sharing a password.

Besides, we're living in a "sharing economy," right?

The sharing runs deep, too: 45% surveyed said they can still access the computer system at their previous employer, because their old log-in credentials are still valid for some reason. But at least we've unfriended our ex-colleagues on Facebook, right?

Meanwhile, companies could be spending thousands, if not millions, of dollars on cybersecurity when their workplaces may not be all that far off from this hilarious Jimmy Kimmel skit.

So, it might be a good idea to remind employees (of all ages!) about password security. Maybe this will require a meeting, maybe not.

If you have a meeting, then make sure the meeting is long enough and that it's something employees can remember the next time they log into the system so they don't have to hit the "reset" button.