Archive for IBM

Employees Can Be Your Most Important Change Agents

Employees as change agents

Employees as change agents

The Internet and the explosive growth of social networks have changed the way companies do business.

They must choose among many communications channels to build their brands.

Their employees can help but are often ignored by companies who still rely on advertising to push out their products and services. Read More→

Woman to Head IBM and No One Mentions It

"Virginia Rometty"

Virginia Rometty

Dow Jones reported late yesterday afternoon that Virginia M. Rometty will become IBM’s new president and chief executive. History was made because the Dow Jones article did not mention her gender. No headline that a woman is taking the reins. Just a straightforward story. Oh, have we come a long way, baby.

I just had to write about this because it’s so significant for the women who were the pioneers in establishing equality for women in the workplace. It took a long time but a woman CEO is no longer considered unusual. There still aren’t enough of them. This condensed Dow Jones article is another sign that it isn’t unusual for a highly-capable woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company without it being a big deal. Whoopee!

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) tapped company executive Virginia M. Rometty as its new president and chief executive, electing a company insider who was long seen as a front-runner to succeed current chairman and CEO Samuel J. Palmisano. Read More→

President Obama Pushes Jobs Program In LinkedIn Town Hall

President Obama on LinkedIn, Getty Images

LinkedIn hosted President Obama on a live webcast this afternoon to answer questions that were submitted online by LinkedIn members and  LinkedIn employees in the studio audience.

This astute President knows the viral power of social media. While watching the broadcast live, viewers could also follow a stream of Twitter and Facebook updates that would spread to millions of followers and their followers.

If you missed it, here are the key topics he covered:

Job Creation

This was at the top of the list in most questions. The President, as might be expected, pushed for the Congress to pass his American Jobs Act. This includes an expansion of the payroll tax break, along with more spending on school and road projects. He said that independent economists estimate the legislation would generate a 2% increase in GDP and 1.9 million in jobs.

He took special note of the programs to help veterans find jobs. For example, if a 25-year-old veteran has spent years as an emergency medical technician in the service and wants to attend nursing school he shouldn’t be required to start all over. There should be programs in place for veterans and employees in the private sector to credential them for their work experience. Their skills should translate directly to jobs.

He noted that the problem wasn’t with the people out of work – many of whom have the skills and credentials to find jobs. It’s the state of the economy.

Small business

In answer to a question about onerous taxes and regulations on small business, he claimed that his administration had cut taxes on small businesses 16 times. He said business would get tax breaks for hiring, making capital investments, hiring veterans and other measures. He’s also proposed no capital gains on a start-up new business.

President Obama seemed a little startled – and certainly happy – when an audience member asked him “Will you please raise my taxes?” Turns out he was retired from a start-up search engine company (he left us to guess which one). The questioner asked in particular that tax cuts expire that benefit the wealthy.

The President said he has also instructed government agencies to “look back” at old regulations to re-examine the ones that have outlived their usefulness and to eliminate bureaucracy and red tape.

Education

Getty Images

The President commented that the U.S. had fallen woefully behind other countries in graduating students from high school and college. He encouraged more technical training and for community colleges to train its students for jobs that exist now and not old jobs.

He pointed to an IBM program with the New York City school system. If students commit to work hard and follow the program, IBM will hire them at the end of the process. It will be a practical application for what they are learning in school even if they don’t have a four-year degree. He lauded the concept of apprenticeship and vigorous training for potential careers.

Social Security and Medicare

In a response to a young women’s question in the audience about her 65-year-old mother, Mr. Obama said Medicare and Social Security will always be there as a safety net. But he acknowledged that long-term challenges will have to be met to keep the programs viable. With people living longer, fewer workers are supporting retirees. Adjustments will have to be made. He suggested one – to lift the cap on payroll contributions so that millionaires will pay their fair share.

He pointed to technology – such as sharing electronic medical records – to help reduce Medicare costs.

How Did He Do?

President Obama, as usual, seemed relaxed and smiled often in exchanges with the audiences. You would never have thought his popularity in the polls has dropped so precipitously. Maybe he was just glad to get out of Washington. I’m sure that was a temporary tonic for what ails him as he struggles to help lift the economy.

Is Twitter Frying Our Brains?

Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, thinks so. In the Sunday magazine section, he writes a rare bylined article entitled: “The Twitter Trap.”

His main premise: “Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and ‘Real Housewives.’ But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.”

Why So Negative?

He knows he will get “blowback” but I admire him for going on record with what a lot of people are thinking.  First, where I stand.  Social media is gobbling up a lot of people’s time. Remember, it’s still so new. We’re all learning how to use it so that it works for us as individuals – such as connecting on Facebook with far-away friends and relatives or looking for a job on LinkedIn. So, in my mind the jury is still out on its long-term effects on our brains.

Where I take exception to Keller is that he devotes his column almost exclusively to the negative aspects – “Twitter and YouTube are nibbling away at our attention spans…why remember what you can look up in seconds?” he asks.

Social Media Spurs Innovation

I predict that 2011 is the year that companies will jump into social media with both feet. Those on the sidelines will find they need to catch up to the early adopters. Enlightened companies such as IBM have an army of employees writing blogs under the IBM imprimatur “IBMers’ blogs: A menu of expertise and insight from a passionate crowd”  – with the links to dozens of employee bloggers. Note the words “expertise and insight.” By unleashing their employees the company has an army of brand advocates reporting on IBM’s newest innovations.

The web has revolutionized customer service. At Comcast’s Twitter account @comcastcares customers can get their complaints taken care of by a team of Comcast employees, such as Bill Gerth, “also known as @comcastbill. We are here to Make it Right for our customers.” He’s posted some 74,000 tweets.

Web-based Communities

The internet has enabled many companies to form communities of employees from around the globe  – focused on innovation, problem solving and client service. In the past, if an engineer in the U.S. needed an expert to help solve a sticky problem, it’s doubtful he would know the very person he wanted works in the Hong Kong office. The web has changed that. We can even have face-to-face communications via Skype, making the connection personal.

I won’t even go into how Twitter is forming communities that are forcing radical changes on governments around the world. You’ve read all about that.

So, Bill Keller, while I appreciate your frustration with a lot of the dreck that passes as discourse on social networks, the good far outweighs the bad. We don’t need to memorize books like they did in the olden days. After we take a minute to find what we need in a web search, we can take the time we would have devoted to memorization to reflect on new ideas that will make things easier, cheaper, faster and maybe even earn some money.