Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pseudo workaholics

Many employees just act as if they would work more and harder than others. And they are often very successful with that.

Does he seem familiar to you––your colleague Mr. Irreplaceable? In the morning he is always the first one in the office. Every time he pretends to be busy but he still takes each additional job. He makes everyone believe that without him virtually nothing would run in the company. Of course it’s him who leaves the office last at night. He lets the boss know that he is constantly available even after office hours, or even more, all around the clock. 80 working hours a week are a matter of course for him. He never takes all of his annual working holidays. He’s never sick, and if so, he still toils in the office, no matter how much it torments him.

The boss is pleased about all that. And when it comes to promotions, salary increases or commendations, the top candidate is Mr. Irreplaceable. But does he really do twice as much work as others with corresponding results?

A young professor at Boston University wanted to know how people really work in a certain company. She interviewed 115 employees of an international consulting firm in her city. The result revealed that the majority of the employees actually work longer than “nine to five” average workers. However, just about one third of the people only pretend as if they would be available and toiling all around the clock. Nevertheless, these “act-as-if-workaholics” received the best marks from the superiors.

In fact, it turned out that these people just buy time. For example, they prefer to schedule appointments with clients in the vicinity so that they can visit them almost on the way home. They bring to account three hours but spend actually only one and a half hour at the customer’s place and go home right after this very early in the evening. In the workplace, they make an unusual number of creative breaks and perform their private activities undetected. And if out for a longer business trip, they prolong it pretending to be involved in difficulties.

But what does it look like with those who don’t want to be fully monopolized? Those who insist on more flexible working hours and actually take their holidays completely? They get significantly worse ratings by the executives––despite to the fact that their work results are as good as those of the seemingly over-diligent. Usually, their productivity is even higher as they work far more concentrated in their limited working hours. And as you probably guess: The latter are mainly women. Men manage to feign diligence and importance. Women punish themselves by their honesty and modesty.

This survey investigated only a handful of workers in one single firm among thousands of consultant companies worldwide. Yet the results seem to be representative or better say typical and universally. It’s like a mirror in which we all may see us.

By the way: 60 percent of all online purchases in the US are done between 9 AM and 5 PM. Over here, too, nearly everybody surfs to Facebook and other social networks at the workplace. Just take a look at what times your friends write their emails or Whatsapps to you. To discreetly wrap all this in the guise of tireless efforts for the company is the masterpiece of colleagues like Mr. Irreplaceable.

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The perfect CV: A Question of Formalities

The do’s and dont’s for one of the most important documents of your life…

“Congratulations, you’ve got that job,” or “We regret to inform you …”: What you get in response to your application depends not only on your qualifications and the professional overall appearance of your application. The key may be in the form of your CV. So take your time to make the CV as perfect as possible and put your skills in the right light.

It is important to include some contact details as your CV may be forwarded to a decision maker without your cover letter. It does not have to be the full home address: Simply insert a phone number––e.g. of your cellphone––and your email address. The email address should of course not be like chaospirate@ …, PorkyPig@ … or anything like that, but sound reputable and ideally contain your name. This makes typing easier. If you have a Xing or (useful) Facebook presence, you may add the link. Another option is a photograph that leaves a good impression of you.

Begin your resume with a heading. This should make clear who you are and what you can offer as the most important quality to the company. The headline can be critical because it may motivate to read your resume or not. Just think about the so-called elevator pitch where you say in a few words why you are the best candidate.

Next comes your professional experience. List up in chronological order––ascending or descending––in which companies and which positions you have worked for how long. Ideally, you set the text in three columns: in the left one the data and periods, in the middle your position and the description of your tasks and in the right column the special skills you have acquired or used there.

Your school career is not interesting at all for the employer except you are a professional starter. After the first few years and experience as a professional, you can skip this part almost completely. Only mention your last, highest degree, for example, high school diploma or completed course of study. What’s much more necessary to be listed are all your special skills that the company may benefit from––even if this is already identifiable in the part of your professional experience. To list it separately makes it immediately noticeable. This section may also appear at the forefront under the heading. Hobbies? Private passions? Mention them if you have leisure activities that complement your professional skills according to the demands of the job description. Otherwise leave them out.

In a section that you can call “Extras” or similar, list completely your specialist courses, certificates or awards that you have won. Is your CV now already two or more pages long: Stop it. Two should be the maximum. A proven way to keep the resume short and in a reader-friendly format are keywords with bullet points. They allow the reader to skim through and absorb your information in brief. The most important keywords should also appear in bold or underlined. By the way, the best fonts are serif fonts such as Times New Roman in sizes from 10 to 12 points. This makes it all easier to read.

Last but not least: Check the grammar again and again. Let at least one further person read your resume, one who is “fit” in terms of language. Because you know, for our own mistakes, we are blind. And the smallest spelling or punctuation errors can act like the scratch on the new car and trigger the unconscious “no-go” in the reader’s mind. Someone who lets happen mistakes probably does this in the job, too, that’s the impression of many bosses and personnel managers. Is everything perfect? Well done: Good luck in the new job!

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Which brands do consumers trust?

That much is clear: The confidence in brands counts more than the supposed user benefits of their products. But how can trust be created––and who do the Germans trust most?

It is Nivea skincare. And this is not necessarily surprising. With this brand, consumers associate tradition and the feeling to buy a quality product. This confidence may be the result of over 100 years of consistent brand management which Nivea always brought into line with a “good feeling”.

The marketer MDR Advertising and the IMK Institute for Applied Marketing and Communications Research wanted to know it: They asked 3,000 Germans to spontaneously name the brand they trust most and to justify this just as spontaneously. On second and third position came Samsung and Apple: Corporations that communicate and position themselves by visions or brand ideals instead of USPs (see last posting).

Number four to ten are German classics: Adidas, Maggi, Volkswagen, Miele, Mercedes-Benz, Dr. Oetker and Bosch. Brands that have been settled in consumer sentiments for generations and obviously seldom or never abused consumer confidence … something that can not be said of Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) or Lufthansa: They play no role in the study as they broke the trust too often.

The managing director of the MDR Advertising, Niels N. von Haken, says about the benefit of the study: “The spontaneous mentioning is the hardest value because only the brands with a maximum charisma make it into the hearts and minds of consumers”. IMK-CEO Sören Schiller finally adds: Consumer’s confidence is the hardest currency––and the full confidence is the greatest thing that any brand may achieve.

Conclusion: It’s not the product quality nor any USP. Above all ranks the brand ideal, the continuity and honesty.

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Some brands are Stars. What’s the reason? WHY.

What makes Apple or Coca-Cola so successful that we find them “sexy” and sometimes even pay much more for their products than for the competitor’s?

In any case, it’s not the products themselves. Because–let’s be honest–the smartphone from HTC is as stylish as the iPhone and does not offer less features. And the cola from Auerbräu at Rosenheim tastes at least as sparkling as the one from the world brand of Atlanta, which is, incidentally, produced under license in Germany for our domestic market. So what is the secret of success?

Take the example of Apple. Steve Jobs never used communication focussed on USPs like ‘WHAT do we produce and WHAT makes our products better’. While an estimated 99% of all companies advertise with benefit promises and explain what their product can do better than others, brands such as Apple communicate a vision: a “WHY do we exist”, a brand ideal. That may be very idealistic, sometimes even sound lifted like “we want to improve the world.” But that’s just what inventions, products and services are for.

“The brand ideal is what inspires customers. And inspiration leads to increasing sales and brand loyalty,” says Ute Hagen, adding: “I am convinced that no entrepreneur has established his business completely without any ideal”. However, the visions that make founders and their most loyal employees work hard every day go beyond the usual mindset and form of communication. It is not just about providing the best or cheapest product or service. The view behind this is important.

“There is a flame of passion burning in every entrepreneur. Be it for the product, the customers or both”, as Ute Hagen explains. “In everyday life, however, many people forget what once made them start their business.” Yet the visions are not the only approach to elicit the WHY, reveals the personal and corporate consultant. “Why not asking your customers which emotions or even enthusiasms they share with your product. Especially those emotions who they consciously or unconsciously feel when they use it.”

Questions like these make clear that not only large companies can develop such brand ideals. A cafe or restaurant chain can easily be a place to relax, to falling in love or for special moments in life. The fact that the customers enjoy the right meals and service quality in these moments is regarded as self-evident and does not require to be mentioned. Another example: A care product can give the pleasant feeling of simple beauty––not the unrealistic beauty of conventional advertisings with models, but the everyday beauty in all of us, which contributes to our self-esteem.

In the company Berges Business Facilitation, founder Christine Berges has formed a “WHY” team together with Ute Hagen and some other peers. The task is to identify the WHY’s of their client companies, to embed them among the employees and to communicate them. Christine Berges is convinced that “… the WHY or the brand ideal can be found or developed for every company and every brand. Not to do so means to miss the chance and waste the potential that lies in each brand”. And that potential is huge. According to a ten-year empirical study, the profitability of the 500 companies in the US S&P index has developed by an average of -7.9% of the value. The profitability of the top 50 brands––among them such as Apple, Starbucks or Dove––rose by almost + 400%. The reason is simple: These brands inspire.

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