Monthly Archive: September 2014

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology

Business Ethics in the Age of Technology“Business Ethics” is a dangerously murky term with real and profound effects. Ethics are a vital part of every decision, not just hiring practices and the handling of corporate resources.

With the prevalence of social media and the ease of accessing information through technology, training your employees on ethics is more important than ever. Every single decision has the chance to drastically affect how the public perceives a company.

Companies that have invested in ethical compliance education for their entire staff have achieved praise from critics and fervent support from consumers. Conversely, companies that have shirked this responsibility have been met with exorbitant legal battles, vocally dissatisfied customers, and critical condemnation.

Although many aspects of business ethics seem obvious, every decision made has an ethical component. Without a clearly defined and understood corporate code of ethics, seemingly insignificant decisions can lead to enormously expensive legal gray areas.

You can never take it back

In an attempt to solidify his core demographic, Mike Jeffries, the CEO of clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, publicly belittled the people he felt did not fit the company’s image. During an interview, he casually condemned those who did not meet the brand’s image as being unworthy of wearing their clothes. Consumers found this statement to be offensive and unethical, resulting in a 15% drop in sales and a 10% drop in share price[i]. However, the remarkable part of this incident is that the backlash came six years after the comments were made.

In 2013, social media websites brought the CEO’s comments to a much larger audience than imagined at the time of the interview. The permanent and public nature of social media and electronic record keeping changed a forgotten comment into an irreversible and hugely expensive PR nightmare. Almost every major news outlet picked up the story and these articles still appear prominently with a simple Google search of Abercrombie & Fitch.

The CEO’s unethical comment, along with ethical issues of racial discrimination in hiring practices, have resulted in millions of dollars in legal fees, a diminished clientele, and highly expensive restructuring of ethical training and policies for A&F. However, offhand remarks or discriminatory hiring practices are by no means the only unethical actions with drastic tolls on businesses.

Who owns the information?

Poorly drafted IT policies regarding the ownership of information created on company computers can also place a business at risk of being perceived as unethical. The lack of clear policies and workforce training regarding the content of e-mails, accessing social media, and personal communications on company computers create easy opportunities for issues of harassment. Only proper training in ethical use can help shield a company from liability.

Ethical decision-making has a direct and profound impact on a company’s brand and can result in substantial expenses if not handled properly. Taking ethical compliance education seriously, drafting and implementing clear policies and guidelines are of vital importance in today’s business.

With successful startups like uber, giants like Comcast, A&F, and the Livestrong Corporation being crippled by unethical behavior, business ethics are a pressing need in every workplace.

Interested in safeguarding your business from ethical issues? Click here to learn more about Merit Career Development’s business ethics training courses and consulting services.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/business-ethics-in-the-age-of-technology/

Create project management training with a focus on fun and engagement

Engaging project management trainingIn order to get the most out of your training investment, project managers should use fun, engaging teaching methods that employ interactivity. Here are four examples of training techniques that help teams learn better.

1. Involve corporate culture

Every business has a specific culture among its employees, services and leadership. Training that doesn’t take the organization’s culture into account can come off as boring and out-of-touch. Chief Learning Officer (CLO) magazine recommends that managers engage employees through understanding and adopting the corporate culture as their own.

“Understanding a company’s cultural strengths, then effectively tapping into the energy and emotional commitment those strengths engender in employees, provides incredible momentum to accelerate transformation,” CLO explains. “Learning leaders can instill a sense of employee pride and commitment. Look for ways to connect workers to something larger than a new policy on paper.”

Using culture as a tool is a subtle but powerful leadership technique that can bring people into the conversation. This can mean appealing to pop culture—a marketing firm implementing metaphors or examples from “Mad Men”—or the office culture. Integrating culture into training reinforces a sense of community, but it can also be played for humor. Does the office have a notoriously small kitchen? Is there a row of coveted parking spaces in the lot? Use these as corporate “in-jokes” to reinforce the content of your presentation.

2. Take advantage of simulation training

It doesn’t matter how important the information being taught is if it’s put into practice. Simulation training allows you to teach, test, and improve your team’s habits for quick decision-making in high-pressure situations without the risks of an actual crisis.

Customized simulation training solutions engage a team more than standard presentations because they force employees to learn and apply the information in real-time. With multiple team-based training sessions, simulations they’ll work under accelerated time lines. For example, by turning weeks into minutes within the realm of the simulation, the ticking clock function of simulations allows employees of a pharmaceutical company to balance Food and Drug Administration approval deadlines with website redesign projects ahead of launch within a span of a few hours. This allows employees to have real experience about prioritizing one project over another and managing time and resources.

3. Leave room for improvisation

While practicing a training exercise or presentation is important for effective execution, Tom Yorton, CEO of Second City Communications, explains in Training magazine that leaving space for improvisation in your presentation can be an excellent tool for engaging a diverse team. Yorton suggests starting light and negative. Discuss ten bad team management ideas that people have experienced. This can be fun and will bring people into the conversation. From here, you can talk about why these didn’t work and bridge the conversation to new ideas that will work. Everyone’s brains will be firing on all cylinders as they improvise fresh ideas.

By using the same techniques that improv comedians use, Yorton argues that corporate managers can think better on their feet, be more receptive to new concepts, and come up with cost-effective solutions that are out-of-the-box. This method can help engage employees because it’s focused on participation from everyone and thinking about concepts from different angles.

4. Incorporate cross-training or cross-teaching

It’s important for team members to understand their own roles. Set some time aside during your training to allow each member to teach or explain their role and how it affects the other employees. Not only will this improve tolerance among team members, but increased understanding can help streamline tasks through the project. Rather than burdening the project manager with questions, team members may be able to better communicate issues directly among one another.

Cross-training or cross-teaching improves engagement among team members in multiple ways. Not only do they get a chance to learn about other positions, they’re also involved as presenters within the training session.

Think back on the most memorable lectures, classes, or training sessions you’ve experienced. Chances are, they engaged you because they shared certain qualities: Entertainment, a feeling of inclusion, hands-on practice, or improvisational exercises, to name a few. Take these qualities to heart and make them a part of your own memorable management training.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/create-project-management-training-with-a-focus-on-fun-and-engagement/

Bringing Generations Together in the Workplace

By forming mentor teams and blending communication styles, managers can ensure that all generational values are respected in the workplace.The modern workplace is now home to four generations of employees—Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z. Each has its own unique perspectives and varying experience levels. Although generational differences can affect everything from team building to company morale, managers can leverage these differences to create a cohesive work environment and an effective training experience.

In our previous posts, we discussed Generations X, Y and Z. Now it’s time to look at all four generations and discuss how leadership can bridge communication gaps in the workplace.

Using generational differences to improve training

Training magazine explains that the core values of each generation can vary widely. Gen Xers and millennials desire an even alignment between work and home life, while Generation Z longs for social opportunities. As a result, older generational employees may view Gen Zers as less loyal to the business. And in turn, the youngest staff members might see their counterparts as workaholic stalwarts who refuse to change.

But playing on these differences in the training setting can increase learner retention and build relationships between the generations. Managers should mix generations during instructor-led training and design the training to include activities that energize each generation like lectures, group activities or online polls. Gen Xers can impart experiential wisdom to their younger constituents, who can reciprocate by sharing their knowledge of the latest technology and cultural trends.

Accommodating for communication styles

The generations also handle communication differently from one another. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers tend to prefer direct and immediate contact, such as phone or face-to-face conversations. Conversely, millennials and Gen Zers tend to favor e-mail and text messaging. However, they all want frequent, quality feedback.

To avoid crossed signals, Forbes suggests that managers set clear guidelines for what’s expected from company communications. This way, all age groups are aware of one another’s learning preferences and aim to bridge the gaps. Too much reliance on a single approach might alienate some employees, so a combination of face-to-face meetings and emails is the right medium to communicate across generations.

Ditch the stereotypes and mentor instead

Finally, the three generations of employees are driven by different motivators. Generation X workers have entrepreneurial spirits that are fed by completing projects individually, while both the younger generations enjoy working collaboratively with like-minded, creative people. Millennials and Gen Zers seek more guidance and acknowledgement in comparison to Gen Xers, which can cause misunderstandings, Forbes magazine explains.

As with most things, responsibility lies with all the parties. Leaders need to understand the importance of feedback, but Generations Y and Z have to realize that praise isn’t handed out with ease. The beginning of real communication is understanding what the other person prefers, and finding a good middle-ground. Assuming particular intention—like a Baby Boomer accusing a millennial of disrespect because she emails rather than picking up the phone—is a recipe for conflict. And relying on stereotypes—like Baby Boomers are technologically challenged or Gen Yers have no loyalty to the organization—can really get in the way.

One way to aid this kind of understanding is to form mentoring partnerships between employees of the different cohorts. Each generation has something to contribute, and it’s often in one-on-one relationships that this becomes apparent. Managers and trainers can use this technique to enhance learning, deepen understanding and build stronger communication between the generations. Realizing that there is more than one way to see the world, and learning from each other, can lead to employee growth, new ideas and unique solutions to business problems.


© 2014 Merit Career Development. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact Jim Wynne at jwynne@MeritCD.com.

Permanent link to this article: http://meritcd.com/blogs/bringing-generations-together-in-the-workplace/