Thursday, February 11, 2016

Should your business run a competition?

Every few weeks I receive a telephone call from someone asking me if I can answer a survey - "It will only take 10 minutes."

The conversation usually goes something like this: "Good evening sir, I'm Billy Bloggs from the Acme Polling Company and I'm wondering if you'd like to do a short survey for us."

Me: "What's it about?"

He: "Superannuation and banking."

Me: "How long will it take?"

He: "Only about 10 minutes."

Me: "Now let me get this straight. Someone has hired you to do a survey and you get paid for it. Now you want me to spend my valuable time answering your survey for free."

He (spluttering): "Yes, but your name will go into a competition to win a new iPad."

Me: "How many people are you surveying?"

He: "60,000 across Australia."

Me: "So, how may iPads are you giving away?"

He: "I'm not sure, just one I think."

Me: "So, my odds of winning the iPad are 1 to 60,000."

He: "I guess so."

Me: "Thank you, but I don't wish to do your survey."

He: (Now annoyed) "Well why didn't you say that in the first place?"

Me: "I needed to know" (Click) ... end of conversation.

I often wonder how many other people respond in the same way and whether anyone actually wins an iPad.

These surveys are regular, so the offer of an iPad is an incentive for people to respond positively. Unfortunately, I think almost everyone on the planet who can read and write has at least one iPad, so the enticement is probably of very low value.

A company called Career One had monthly competitions in which people won a trip overseas with $20,000 spending money. At present they are running a $100,000 competition for Australian Residents.

What benefit do they get?

People who join the competition have to watch a short video (which is quite well done), provide their email address and are asked to send details of the competition to Facebook and Twitter. They are also asked whether they would like to receive information about courses.

The main benefit is probably the viral effect of this type competition. They are probably getting much more publicity for their $100,000 than they would placing ads on the internet, in news media etc.

Giving something away or a chance to get something is a draw card for many people. Some are tyre kickers like me (I'm not looking for a job or any further education - been there, done that), but others are still in the career development stage.

Should your business run a competition?

Depending on the business, your sales budget, and how much you need to promote your business, it's probably worth at least considering.

It may be more cost effective. It might bring in new customers.

You will need to provide an incentive that is worthwhile - don't offer an iPad, everyone else is doing it.

What do you think, is a competition something your business could use constructively that would benefit the company?


Saturday, February 6, 2016

When you walk into an organisational disaster

It's happened to most of us from time to time. 

You start a new job or transfer to a different department and find that it's totally disorganised. Everyone does things differently and what was done one way Tuesday is done a different way on Friday.

It seems that nothing is organised. Nobody knows exactly how "things" are done and the place simply stumbles along with great inefficiency and plenty of frustration.

I've walked into these scenarios several times during my career and suspect it's a common challenge in numerous work places.

Fortunately, I was either a senior manager or had high autonomy and could rectify these inefficient situations. But, even if you are at the bottom of the hierarchy, you can still do something to improve your lot.

Nobody wants to go to work and become frustrated with dysfunctional systems. If your senior management won't address the issues, do it yourself.

How do you fix the problem?

Everything in business is related to processes and procedures.

A process describes a series of activities that lead to a particular result. A procedure is how you attain that result.

The process is the big picture - the overview of what happens and the procedures detail the way you make it happen.

So, to rectify organisations that are running like a dog with a broken hip, you have to identify what the processes are and then develop procedures that will get you there.

The benefit of procedures is that everyone can read how to do things the preferred way and eventually everyone begins singing to the same tune.

When new people start, they can be inducted using the procedures (standard operating procedures) of the department. Here's a case study from my own experience:

I worked as Head Lecturer at a Correctional Centre and part of my job was to purchase courses for prisoners from local training providers. (The process). When I arrived there were no standard procedures to follow to make this happen.

I set up a procedures manual for this and other activities which went something like this:

  1. Identify a suitable course provider (say for welding) 
  2. Identify suitable prisoner students
  3. Obtain a quotation to run the course and details of the course content
  4. Accept the quotation and raise a purchase order to cover the cost of the course
  5. Purchase whatever equipment was required
  6. Decide on a date and time for the course
  7. Advise prisoners who were to attend of the date, time and duration of the course
  8. Get approval for the course presenters to enter the prison
  9. Provide a brief to the presenters about conduct requirements while in the prison and safety aspects
  10. Run the course
  11. Obtain the results from the presenters
  12. Authorise payment 
  13. Issue certificates to prisoners
Because I organised numbers of courses at any time, this procedure leant itself to use of a single page checklist, the advantage of which was I could look at any of the checklists and know exactly what stage the process was at. All documentation related to the courses was clipped under the checklist.

If I was sick and someone else had to take over - which I never was - they could see at what stage of the process every course was at.

When all the admin for a course was completed, I filed the documents.


If you are faced with a similar experience, you can either go with the flow and bob around like a cork in the ocean or you can take control of the system and set up procedures to make your working life more interesting. 

It's your choice.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Risks of Emailing from Work

Do you send personal email from work? Most of us do.

When you send personal email from work using your employer's email client, server and PC or tablet, anything you send may be viewed by your employer or their agent.

You send an email message to the hot chick or guy in accounting asking for a date. You place a bet, send your partner an anniversary email promising a wonderful evening of passion.

It's all legally viewable by your employer. Any privacy you think you have doesn't legally exist.

Even if it did exist, you never know who in the IT Department may be reading it.

Recently, the European Court of Human Rights dealt with a case of personal email being sent on a company computer and found in favour of the company.

Most firms I know have a published IT policy that sets out what their IT infrastructure, including email, may be used for, when, and how.

The Northern Territory Government (Australia), for whom I worked, had a policy that stated that minimal personal use was acceptable but, any transmissions were allowed to be monitored by the IT Department to ensure the use met guidelines.

Further, all formal email messages had to be retained under the government's open and accountable record-keeping policies.

The message here is: don't write a formal or personal email with content you wouldn't want to be made public.

There are scores of cases of people whose careers have taken a hit because of email - just think of Hillary Clinton and the problems she had and how she used a personal server for government email. This is a bit different, but highlights the problems that can occur with something as simple and ubiquitous as email.

Don't get caught doing the wrong thing.