Applicants: Make a Mark in Social Web

A good printed or PDF application portfolio still applies as a door opener to companies. However, many employers consider much more meaningful what they read in the social networks.

By Jens Kügler

Privacy? Not at all. Everything that’s on the social web is public and accessible to everyone—also to bosses and HR managers. The embarrassing party photos on Facebook may make friends smile. But whoever is applying for a new job will receive nothing but drawbacks by the man who signs the paychecks. A study last year by the German digital association Bitkom revealed that almost half of all companies check the profiles of their applicants in the social networks. And one-third of them take care of the photos.

Of course, data about job and career is much more important. And, of course, the business portals like Xing or LinkedIn play a much more important role with 39 percent evaluators than networks with a more private character such as Facebook with 24 percent. Therefore, it is even more important to sharpen and update one’s profiles in these professional portals. 89 per cent of employers are interested in the professional qualifications given in the network. Contributions to business issues are interesting for 72 percent. 56 percent note comments on the company or its competitors. And—attention, Facebook trap: 44 percent are interested in hobbies and leisure activities.

When do they click and check? This is very different. About two-thirds look for information before they invite the candidate to the interview. Just over a third do this after the interview to check if the statements are true. Just under a third visit the profiles immediately right after the first review of the documents. And shortly before signing the contract, 12 percent reassure themselves on the basis of the profile whether the candidate really fits.

By the way, the Bitkom digital association had questioned 408 personnel managers in companies with 50 employees or more.

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Drowned in the Mailbox

A study from Adobe recently revealed what is most annoying for office workers concerning the use of e-mail. In short, it is the sheer volume … but not just that.

By Jens Kügler

Is this situation familiar to you? You were on a customer meeting in the mornings and came to the office not before eleven … and your mailbox is so full that you have to scroll deep down just to see who wrote to you and why. And then? Until you have answered the last mail, lunch break has begun. Everything really urgent remains undone.

You know that you are not alone. But a study of Adobe attests it black and white. It was published in early October 2016. Across Europe, more than 3,000 office workers were interviewed about their e-mail behavior and their opinion on this medium and its use. And most of them were annoyed by the flood of e-mails they were supposed to read. To present an exemplary result: the Germans spend up to 62 working days a year just with their mailboxes. Moreover, they check their mails for more than four hours a day as today, in the world of iPhones and similar gadgets, the time spent for professional and private messages can hardly be separated. Almost 70 percent read their smartphone mails immediately or several times a day.

In professional use, 17 percent complain about being wrong addressees—for example, form colleagues who click on “all @ …” or “respond to all”. 15 percent hate it when the boss gets every issue by cc. For 13 per cent, forwarded mails which they had long since received are annoying. Eight percent of all Germans eventually do not like criticism by mail. Very many people prefer the personal or telephone conversation, especially on critical topics.

And what about the personal mail-flow strategies? 38 percent respond instantly as they fear that too many unread e-mails might occur. More than one in five read and respond only the last mail of a long thread, and 16 percent use filters or tags.

Nonetheless, one in five Germans still rate the e-mail as their preferred medium for communication among colleagues. Emojis become increasingly popular—even when communicating across hierarchical levels. And then there is a seemingly positive result among all the negative values: 55 per cent of all Germans prefer the e-mail as medium when they want to be informed about brands and offers. So email marketing can still perform very well if it’s well done and not coming too often.

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Where are the best Bosses?

Is the American way of life the better managerial culture? Or do European managers and leadership boards make employees feel more comfortable? Questions like this are subjects of a recent study.

Written by Jens Kügler

Dissatisfaction with superiors and workplaces—that is not a local, national or cultural phenomenon. It’s worldwide, as the current “Dale Carnegie Global Leadership Study 2016” reveals. The franchise system for training and personal development, which is present on every continent, asked more than 3,300 full-time employees in 14 countries. Their positions ranged from small employees up to CEOs in a mix of many industries, in companies from SMEs to trusts.

To go into all the results would be too much for this blog article. Therefore, at this point I’ll only mention a few exemplary figures and draw some comparisons between Europe and the US. Globally, only 17 percent of all employees are very satisfied with their job. 44 percent are somewhat satisfied, 20 percent altogether are somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Incidentally, the most satisfied are the Mexicans and Brazilians with 29 percent stating “very satisfied”, while in Asia and Europe, only 21 percent said that. 16 percent of all respondents are currently looking for a new job. Nearly one out of six …

According to the study, the “Top 5 behaviors” of executives worldwide are respecting other opinions, showing sincere appreciation, truly listening, valuing contributions and admitting mistakes. Around three quarters of all respondents said that a leader who gives praise and honest appreciation would be more likely to inspire them than someone who is focused on getting the job done.

The main differences between Europe and North America? On this side of the Atlantic, 81 percent prefer leaders who give praise and appreciation, while in the US and Canada, these are only 76 percent. Only about 60 percent of Europeans want bosses who encourage them and make them believe in their abilities to improve. In North America it’s roundaout 80 percent who stated that. In other topics around praise, motivation or the ability of self-criticism of their bosses, Europeans and Americans indicated quite similar values.

Conclusion: The “best of all bosses”-place does not seem to exist. We face quite the same management deficits in both sides of the ocean.

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Start Franchising. Rent a Successful Brand

Future entrepreneurs, take note: After the summer holidays, franchise systems are again increasingly looking for new partners. So take a chance!

Written by Jens Kügler

Do you dream of being your own boss? But you lack a truly promising business idea? Simply use an existing one that you can implement at your city. “Lease” an established brand name and concept! What I’m talking about is franchising. Take a look at the virtual franchise exhibitions: Now, after the end of the holiday period, many franchisors are actively again and start new advertising campaigns for their systems to find new partners.

Franchisees operate the business of the franchise chain in an exclusively reserved distribution area, for example in their city or district. There they run the hip urban organic salad and smoothie bar, the popular burger restaurant, the fully equipped tool rental, the modern EMS gym, the stylish tea shop or the modern beauty and wellness studio , Their main advantage: Under these brand names and with this specialized offer, dozens or perhaps even hundreds of other franchisees have already been successful in other locations. The business model has proven that it works. And each new founder starts with better opportunities because his brand is well known and he benefits from the nationwide advertising of the franchisor.

Franchising is not branch acquisition: The franchisee builds up his business by himself, buys the goods and finances everything by 100%. He is economically fully responsible and—as free entrepreneur—also has the full risk. Moreover, he usually pays a system entry fee and a fixed monthly or revenue-based franchise fee for using the brand and getting the expertise transferred. Also, the franchisee is not completely free in his decisions. In the franchise contract, the franchisor instructs precisely how he has to produce the goods and how to fulfill his customer service. The corporate design has to be absolutely the same. Every franchisee business has to look like a copy of all others to the customer so that he always knows exactly what he gets.

But the advantages are obvious. It is not only the strong brand and the proven success concept. Franchising means division of labor. The franchisor’s central plant does not only train its franchisees or provides them with promotional materials. It takes many administrative tasks, for example, organization, controlling or benchmarking—and often accounting or bookkeeping. In addition there is almost always a common central purchasing with benefits in terms, because the franchisor orders in large numbers for all the network. Oh, and he takes care of delivering the purchased. Most franchise networks have inventory control systems making everything run automatically.

Franchisors also provide their partners with market and location analysis, the preparation of the business and financial plan and the loan negotiations because they have the contacts and have done precisely this for a hundred or more franchisee companies before. The purpose is to allow franchisees a faster start and give them more time for their core business, the sales and customer services. This means more revenue for the franchisees and mostly also more fee income for the franchisor. This is why an increasing number of apparently branch systems in reality are franchise networks. Because they are more powerful on the market.

Ok, you are not a professional chef? As franchise caterer or restaurant owner, you don’t need this. You are not a certified fitness trainer? Doesn’t matter, you can open your studio soon. Franchise companies usually offer a very special product or a highly specialized service. This is also their unique selling point. And therein you—as a non-professional beginner—get trained by the franchisor for two, maybe three weeks. What qualifies a franchisee, is above all that he’s a good seller and loves the interaction with customers. If then also the financing works, the start to an (almost) safe entrepreneurship has no more obstacles.

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Advanced Trainings motivates, standstill frustrates

How much potential lies the magic word qualification? An example illustrates this, a study shows it in black and white.

Written by Jens Kügler

Imagine you are working as business administrator for event technology in an event agency. Your boss calls you into his office and asks: “Müller, what do you think about this. I would like to offer you to a training course for master of event technology and event management?”. What does this mean to you—Müller? It means that you have the chance to climb the ladder and acquire knowledge that you will use for your benefit and for the benefit of the company. But it is much more. Between the lines, your boss just informed you that he is satisfied with your performance as a business administrator and that he’s sure you can do more. He praised you and offered you the training as a present, too. Saying thank you for your work.

Training is an instrument for motivation and employee retention. What you feel as employee—you have been recognized and encouraged—is confirmed by a study that quasi transmits this feeling in its name. It is called, roughly translated, “Motivation, Retention, Education” and was commissioned by the DUW (German University for Advanced Training). For DUW, the opinion research institute Forsa asked more than a thousand workers. The institute also conducted expert interviews with HR managers, consultants and psychologists.

The result? Overall, 54 percent of workers would like to choose their employers specifically by the offers for training. However, 19 percent are dissatisfied with the offers of their current employer. That means: companies with training opportunities are sought. Thus they are one step ahead in the war for talents. But staggered by age group, the study result revealed a very differentiated picture:

For 43 percent of the 25 to 35 year olds, continuing education courses are utterly important and for 60 percent even a decisive criterion when it comes to take a new job. However, among older workers the desire for further education shrinks enormously. “Very important” was only cross-chosen by 30 percent of the over-36-year-olds. And of the 56 to 65 year-olds, only 17 percent rated qualification trainings important.

What does this mean for a business? Well, bosses should recognize and acknowledge the skills of their staff members closely and promote them. This is best possible by dialogues and specific questions for needs and wishes. Bosses should communicate the vision of the company and the values ​​of their activities to their employees. In any case, for the young workers of the so-called Generation Y, the meaningfulness of their work and their self-realization are usually more important than—say—the salary.

And what about the elderly? Is their less interest in training a reason for the entrepreneurs to save money and not offer them further education? No. Even older employees work the better, the more motivated they are. And the boss has to go in advance. Knowledge is aging, too. And a 60-year-old worker would feel as good as a 30-year-old in a scene like described above.

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Your Customer, the Unknown Being

Entrepreneurs are convinced that we have the best product. And so they communicate. But do they really know what their customers want? The best “products” to check this out are regular feedbacks.

Written by Jens Kügler

In the first quarter of 2009, an agent of mobile phone contracts lost as much as 80 percent of purchasers compared to the fourth quarter of the previous year. There were many reasons, including the weak business after Christmas, the poor economic situation in the euro and banking crisis and the market saturation with mobile phone contracts. Above all, the reputaion of the company’s poor service had spread in the market—via negative blog posts, exchange of customers on the Internet and critical press reports. And there was virtually no complaints management. The customers felt left alone and stayed away at last.

Recently, a survey of Oracle & Harris Interactive revealed that 89 percent of customers have switched to competitors because of negative buying experiences. 86 percent even stated they would pay more if they had a positive buying experience. This means that product features and price are not the relevant purchase criteria anymore. What is important to customers is the experienc and emotion that they combine with the product or brand. For companies, this means that they have to have dialogue. They have to listen and take their customers seriously. Or, as Ute Hagen expresses: They must love their customers.

First, brands and products have to be “charged” emotionally and to be identifiable with values. Storytelling is a way to get there. Steve Jobs has shown us. No one really needs the iPhone, there are cheaper phones with comparable or even better features. Yet, the customers love the gadget from Apple. But what is it that customers want the most? They want the provider to listen to them in regular dialogues. This, of course, goes far beyond the friendly service at the POS. It includes communications on all channels because customers expect this more than ever in an always-on world.

Regular customer feedbacks give companies not only insights into the desires and feelings of their clients. They also allow companies to even anticipate the purchase decisions of their customers and adapt their offerings to it. For customer feedbacks, there is a variety of methods today. They range from questions by the friendly service employee in the store to online or telephone surveys, studies and community-analysis. Modern technology and multi-channel marketing make it possible and easy.

If customers feel a sustainable perception of them and their interests by the brand, they do not only become loyal customers. They also appear as enthusiastic and inspiring brand ambassadors among family, friends and colleagues. So they contribute more to the brand’s image than any advertising campaign ever could.

Speaking of colleagues: Companies today need to listen more than ever to their own employee’s demands, too. This is part of the indispensable employer branding. The own employees can—and want to—contribute ideas and optimization approaches. Meanwhile, about 30 percent of all employees in Germany are “digital natives”. In 2025, expectedly three quarters of all employees will belong to the so-called Generation Y. These young people are used to be flexible, take part in decision-making, identify with their work and conduct open dialogues across all channels. They expect to be taken seriously. Regular feedbacks are therefore indispensable also internally.

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Motivator Multitasking

Last week the blog post was aboout the “motivator stage-fright”. Today, the article deals with another characteristic feature. A feature with a much too bad reputation.

By Jens Kügler

Put up the wireless haedset, dial into the telco, listen to an interlocutor, thereby browse the emails, read the most important ones and even answer them. Meanwhile, you pass over a paper file to your colleague next door who just asked for it. At the same time, you respond to your girlfriend’s Whatsapp, still actively participating in the telco … that’s typical multitasking. Some people get overstrained by it, others get challenged by it to peak performance.

For years, the overstrained have dominated the world of work and media, as it seems. Whether psychologists or coaches, all teach sentences like: Who is doing many tasks at the same time don’t get finished any. Everything has to be done well sequentially—that is the mantra of today. For every task there has to be a slot. Three slots the day for emails, one for colleague’s consultation—and in between just focusing on a job. With a “Do not disturb” sign at the door. “For everything, there is a season” sang The Byrds in their famous song “Turn Turn Turn”. Well, that’s an oldie.

However, recent studies with managers and executives revealed amazing results. They found out that business with lots multitaskers raised higher sales than similar companies with few. Basically our brain can run multiple tasks simultaneously. At any given moment, only one of them is perceived consciously, the others run in the background. But the brain saves all thoughts and results and can easily “zap” from one to another.

Switching between multiple activities can motivate instead of disturbing only. We’re making small breaks from the main activity and thus receive other impulses and inspirations. A psychologist at Princeton University examined the vita of 40 scientists. The most successful of them worked in an average five subject areas—all at the same time and in constant change. Many successful entrepreneurs run several companies and are association presidents and local politicians.

Imperfect as the human brain may be, in one aspect it’s better than any computer. The PC only carries out commands and performs in one single activity. In other words: Whoever does only monotonous tasks and always the same activity is threatened by automation. The robots or driverless metros are only examples. Multitasking is something primal human. Something creative actually.

Last but not least: Multitasking can be trained. The recommendations range from crossword puzzles to Sudoku. Fast video games are also considered as good training if they consist of many levels while processing scenarios. There are also numerous so-called brain calisthenics exercises. If you google you will find them.

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Stage-Fright—our best Motivator

It’s time to hold a speech. Or it’s customers expecting a presentation. And then? The heart beats faster, we sweat and feel panic. The hands are wet and shaky. So what’s to do?

First of all, anxiety is not an illness such as depression, but a natural reaction of our body with our Savannah brain. That brain has not changed significantly since that time some 50,000 years ago when the first modern humans emerged and lived in a perilous wilderness full of deathly beasts. Still when we’re in situations that we perceive as threatening, the body releases stress hormones and adrenaline and leads us to fight or flight readiness. Fortunately, because this helped Homo Sapiens to survive!

We have no fear for our lives in today’s situations. But what we do feel is fear of failure and rejection. However, that stage fright has characteristics that we can easily transform to the opposite effect—to motivation! Stage fright can even inspire us to peaks performance. But how?

The adrenaline can give us a kick and help us to sharpen the senses. We become more attentive and are therefore able to focus on the speech or presentation. Excitement can turn into joy. And to relieve the tension, we use the walk-off instinct and actually do sport exercises. Even a walk outside or up and down the corridors can help. Many experienced speakers successfully practice the repeated tightening and loosening of muscles.

In addition to the “reversal” of stage fright, there are other tricks to gain confidence and hold a speech successfully. Some scientist had found out that the first seven seconds are decisive for the impression that the listener gets of a speaker. Therefore, the entry to the speech is the most critical moment. A joke, an anecdote, a pictorial scene—and the audience is won.

It is utterly important to prepare well for the speech and to act it out again and again in our head. How may the audience react? What critical issues might arise? Anyone dealing with that is not easily confused at critical points during the actual speech. This method is used professionally in telemarketing. Each call center agent has a list of so-called single-wall arguments or objection points before him.

In every audience there are potential “boo shouters” and “hooray cheerers”. Good speakers are always trying to make eye contact with those people who agree with them and look over the pessimistic ones. Thus, speaker and audience encourage each others. This creates a momentum that makes the whole scene move.

Speakers almost always have a glass of water in front of them, for good reasons. In stressful situations less saliva is produced and the mouth gets dry. Therefore: Prior to and during the speech always have a drink! The nervous movements of the hands can be turned into gestures that accompany the presentation. Avoid clothing that is manufactured from synthetic materials, because we sweat easily therein. Better is cotton or—if possible—breathable clothing. And of course a shirt in bright colors on which welding is barely visible.

Last but not least: Whoever repeats speech situations instead of avoiding them becomes a well skilled and qualified presenter.

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How Leadership Women Communicate Properly with Men

Why are women still underrepresented in leadership positions? Clearly: it’s up to them! They don’t find the right words to tell male counterparts what to do! That’s at least what a US satirist believes. So she gives hints how to communicate.

 By Jens Kügler

In one of its latest newsletters, the German advertising magazine w&v this week published a link to the page of the American blogger and comedian Sarah Cooper. I just want to reflect briefly the main content of the blog posting “9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women”. They are of course not really meant seriously. Rather, they show: This lady is humorous and holds up a mirror to women and men.

So, shall men accept strong women and not feel challenged by them? Yes, as Cooper writes. Provided that the ladies do not provoke them. Rule one: When setting a deadline, the power woman does not say to the male colleague “This has to be done by Monday.” Smarter, of course, is the question: “What do you think about getting this done by Monday?”. What do you think—that question is most important to men who want to feel to be important!

Rule number two is about sharing ideas or who is creative director. Instead of “I have an idea”, the sensitive female executive takes herself not so important and by using the words: “I’m just thinking out loud here.” The third rule concerns the e-mail traffic. Of course, instead of writing “Send me the presentation when it is ready”, she softens her email with emojis and nice words: “Hey Jake. :-) Can I take a peek at your presentation when it’s ready :-) Thanks !! :-) :-) “.

Strategy number four deals again with the question of ideas. This time it’s about what she has to say when the idea has been stolen from her. Incorrect is a disappointed face which expresses “Yes, but that’s exactly what I just said.” Correct: a smiling “Thank you for articulating that so clearly.” Rule five concerns sexist comments. Instead of saying something like “That’s not appropriate and I don’t appreciate it”, she simply smiles embarrassed over it with an awkward laugh.

And what if her male colleague wants to tell her something that she has already known for long? This is subject to rule number six. She does not say it like “I’m the one that taught YOU this six months ago”, but “I’d love to hear you explain it to me again”, so he feels useful! Rule seven is about her discovering his mistakes. Threatening would be: “These numbers are wrong!”. Non-threatening is: “I’m sorry, are these numbers right? I’m not 100% sure , I hate numbers”.

Rule number eight concerns collaborating. Of course, she does not write faster than him by rapid touch typing on the keyboard with all ten fingers. She works slow using only one finger. The last rule, number nine, advises women for correct behavior in case of disagreement. And that is really quite simple. If she says: “That strategy will not solve our problem”, she should wear a mustache. Then, as the blogger believes, the male colleague will agree. So easy goes female leadership!

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Immigrants—Germany’s Jobmakers

Entrepreneurs with foreign roots are a stimulus-movers in Germany. A recent study reveals this impressively.

“Foreigners out”—people calling inflammatory slogans like these are usually not only afraid of foreign cultural influences (a still permitted party of the radical spectrum uses the term “alienation”). Another one of their motives is often the fear of loss of jobs taken by immigrants. But that’s utterly nonsense. Foreigners do not take jobs away. They create them!

One of the good news of this week has been making the rounds since yesterday: It is the result of a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, carried out by Prognos AG. Thereafter, the number of sites that have been created by entrepreneurs with foreign roots, increased by 36 percent from 947,000 in 2005 to 1.3 millions in 2014. In the same period, the number of entrepreneurs with an immigrant background rose by around 25 percent from 567,000 to 709,000.

Kebab shops? Chinese restaurants? Kiosks? Greek vegetable shops? So—all just micro or family businesses? No, these are old clichés. Nearly half of all non-German origin entrepreneurs work in the services sector, one in five in the manufacturing industry. Only 28 percent are engaged in trade and catering.

But the workplaces that foreign-born entrepreneurs create spread very unevenly across the 16 states of Germany. In other words: They are mainly located in the west. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone there are 300,000 such jobs. In the five former East German states they are altogether just 31,000. However, these states still have the highest unemployment rates, but also the biggest and loudest manifestations of xenophobia. It’s an irony for a society that the jobs don’t come where they are most needed because of people afraid to lose something.

Previous studies have already shown that in Germany the founders rate among people with a migration background is about twice as high as among people with indigenous roots. One of the reasons for this is actually a form of discrimination: people with foreign names—especially those sounding Mediterranean or Oriental—find it difficult to rise to leadership positions in German companies. They lack the confidence, but also the networks in the management level. They start businesses because they have to be self-employed if they have ambition, entrepreneurial spirit and want to earn good money.

By the way: More Bertelsmann studies arrive at results as “National welfare benefits from immigration—22 billion euros relief” or “Germany needs more immigration from non-EU countries to close gaps in the labor market”. Nice if some more news like these would be published and discussed. Instead of crude simple slogans.

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