About Us

Karen Martin and Beverley Ireland-Symonds promote the value of having effective communication skills for individuals, teams and organisations.
Monday, 20 September 2010

Twitter and Facebook – Do you consider the future?

I feel as if I’m still getting to grips with twitter. I love the opportunity to learn new things.  Yesterday I did some research on the Swedish voting system thanks to my friend Anders Sporring. Anders had tweeted that he was going off to vote that day and I was intrigued that the Swedes were voting on a Sunday – not something that we do in the UK

I also learnt a new word “pandiculation” – from Gary Day-Ellison, who I was chatting to for the first time.When he said that he was pandiculating I tried to find the word in an online dictionary to no avail and thought that perhaps it was a made up word.  However, Gary kindly sent me a link to the Quality Health website and the word certainly does exist.  For anyone who hasn't come across it before - it is a medical term for stretching and yawning at the same time – something I am more aware of my dog doing than of doing myself.

Of course I learnt lots of other things as I dipped in and out of twitter throughout the day (and half the night). At nearly midnight GMT I read a tweet from SmartaHQ that asked if there were any insomniacs out there who needed some business advice.  As I was still up I sent a request and was delighted to be sent some information on cold calling.

I’m not sure that I contributed very much beyond general chit chat about food, moving house, music, exercise – all topics raised by people in different parts of the world.  I chose to block a couple of people whose tweets were full of swearing because I think it's unnecessary.

I don’t express political or religious views, not because I don’t have them – simply because I don’t know who’s reading what I write and I can’t really be bothered to get into an argument.  Nor do I make negative comments about well known figures even though at times I’m sorely tempted to. I deplore the practice of both the famous and not so famous carrying out their private arguments in public. And why am I so cautious? Despite a natural tendency to outspokeness,  I've always been aware that once you've said something it can't be undone. That's especially true when something you've written is floating around cyberspace somewhere.

Some people still appear to think that it doesn't matter.  But that's being naive.  If in doubt readSusan P George's blog “Increasing demand for social networking in the job market.”  The blog asks whether social networking is a waste of time. It  makes the case that it isn’t,  citing the sharp rise in the importance of social networking in the job market. Whether you're looking for a job now or in the future or forming relationships to do business, there is an ever growing possibility that potential employers or business associates will look for information about you.  And it's not just being savy about your privacy settings, remember friends can also post information, photographs and forward your blogs and tweets.  Donna Svei makes a similar point in "How to Avoid the Top 10 Faux Pas Seen in Twitter Profiles" having investigated some of the words that people write in biographies and provides an excellent list of timely reminders of things that is unwise to include.

Of course it's up to each of us what information we share and the method we chose to do it.  No one can remain ignorant.  There is a lot of good advice out there.  I only have one suggestion

Tip: Look to the future, pause for a moment and proceed with care.

Thanks to the following people for providing me with the inspiration for this blog.
Sunday, 19 September 2010

Migrant workers filling UK skills gaps

According to a recent article in People Management, employers are having to turn to migrant workers to fill skills gaps. This is apparently becoming more of an issue as the economy recovers with certain vacancies being hard to fill. Out of the 600 employers who completed the CIPD/KPMG Labour Market Outlook survey, almost half said they had vacancies which were hard to fill, particularly in IT, accountancy; finance and engineering.

The proposed introduction of a 'migration cap' by the government is worrying a number of employers as this could impact considerably on their ability to recover from the economic downturn. Even though the number of graduates struggling to find work is on the increase, many employers are still finding it difficult to fill skilled vacancies.

If employers are unable to fill vacancies with migrant workers, Vince Cable, Business Secretary, believes that they may be forced to move some of their operations overseas. According to Cable, any immigration cap that is introduced needs to be flexible enough to, 'meet companies’ skills requirements and the economy’s growth needs.'

If the UK wants to address these skills shortages then something has got to be done to ensure that people are coming out of universities and colleges with the skills that are needed. This is not a new problem, yet not enough seems to has been done to ensure that businesses and the education sector are working collaboratively.

Should UK businesses be putting more pressure on the government to review immigration policies?
Saturday, 18 September 2010

Do you know how to use social media effectively?

I've been reading and listening to lots of advice recently about how important it is to use social media to promote and market your business.  As someone who is fairly new to using social media websites, I have found most of the tips and advice extremely useful and can totally see how using these sites can be beneficial for my business. However, there is something crucial missing for me as nobody talks about how to actually use social media sites!

I went to a Business Link seminar a few months ago to learn about Twitter. There were lots of people at the event, and from the comments in the room, I believe that most people were new or newish to using social media. Whilst the speaker was very engaging and encouraged us all to go away and start using Twitter, which I did, I didn't really understand what I was doing. I signed up for Twitter and half-heartedly attempted to use it, but I can't say it really grabbed me as I didn't know what I was doing.

I continued hearing about the great benefits to be had from using social media but this didn't mirror my experiences, so I must admit I wasn't convinced by the whole social media 'thing'. I then got talking to a social media trainer at a networking event and decided to invest in some training, which was money well spent. I now understand how to use social media sites, what I need to be doing and how often. Admittedly I'm still learning but I now feel confident that I'm on the right track.

My advice to anyone about to start using Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc is to find out how to use them properly at the start - it will save you a lot of wasted time!
Friday, 10 September 2010

A sad tale of isolation?

I have to confess that since I started using twitter over a month ago - I have not been a great fan of it. I can honestly say - I just didn't get it.  I was also frustrated because it took some time to write a message with only 140 characters.

I had lots of sound advice from Lesley Aveyard at Conversation Matters who is passionate about the value of twitter as a tool for business and friendships.  Well I have persevered and feel priviledged to have met some wonderful people from all over the world that I would never have had the opportunity to talk to.  I have been offered so much information - some good, some bad and some indifferent, but in one month I have learnt so much I have to be careful to avoid information overload.

I have found people working in the same areas as myself - coaching, training and; consultancy; those who share a love of fashion, interior design and  dogs and those who have offered me advice on tackling insomnia and eczma.  I have also enjoyed a fierce debate about whether something was racist and held conversations about swedish film directors.  I also get to practice my very poor swedish skills with my new friend in Sweden and no I don't use the available translator and he's very tolerant of my many mistakes. I have also made some very useful professional links.

I have exchanged information in the early morning, during the day, evening and night.  That's the wonderful thing about this form of communication - there are always people awake somewhere in the world.

So Thursday night I was just sending a tweet - when disaster.  I had a message telling me that my account was suspended.  I was incensed - I hadn't done anything wrong.  I sent a sharp email complaining about it - not knowing that the message was only being sent to a machine. The machine kindly sent me a response to check their rules.  I did - I hadn't broken any. Another email to another machine and a third one a couple of hours later complaining that I hadn't had a response.  What really shocked me was that I felt bereft.  Was I suddenly addicted to this twitter world that I had been against?

Well no I'm not addicted.  I spent the day and a half before my account was restored doing lots of other work and ignoring the random feelings of isolation and concern that people might forget about me. I thought these feelings were a bit over the top and told myself not be so self-indulgent but it's heartening to discover others have had the same experience and felt exactly the same.

So it was great to have my account restored and catch up with people. If you think it's just the general chat that I missed. It wasn't.  It's the sharing of ideas and work related information.  Check out The Absolute PA Blog - When Alicia wanted some help she tweeted a question and  got  help from other tweeters including me. 

If I'm completely honest, I still don't feel as if I have entirely got to grips with understanding all the benefits of twitter, but I certainly missed it and that's something I never expected to say.
Thursday, 9 September 2010

Explaining internet security to kids

Have you ever tried to explain the importance of internet security to your children? It's not easy is it? You don't want to frighten them, but you know that they need to understand how to keep their Facebook or MySpace pages secure so they' are only sharing information with people they know and trust.. Too often children share information that should never be shared with complete strangers on the entirely false premis that these people are their friends.

Having been in the position of explaining internet policies to children and adults in an educational setting on numerous occasions I think I have a pretty good grasp of the issues and could make a reasonable job of it . Still I'm not sure that 'reasonable job' is good enough and I know from ecxperience that if the document runs to a couple of pages and is over wordy then people will simply switch off. Apart from resorting to paraphrasing a lot of text, I have never had a document that has been well received by the intended audience.  So today I was thrilled to receive a retweet  from Sue Atkins (@PositiveParents).about internet security and children.

I clicked on the link because I know from experience that Sue's links are always useful.  As well as writing authoratively on many subjects herself, she's always on the lookout for information from other sources that she can share. So I clicked and was directed to 'Internet Contract' at Bsecure. This one page document is a must for all parents with children who want to explain about internet safety in easily understood terms.  But I believe the best bit is that this document is a contract that both parent and child sign which emphasises the importance of it. If your're not sure about security - you learn together.  If you are - the work has still been done for you, so don't reinvent the wheel.

As a communication skills trainer I can see how BSecure have clearly considered who they are targeting and written accordingly. More organisations could follow their lead and produce documents and notices that can be understood by the expected audience. When I'd finished reading the document (twice) I was excited by it because I can clearly see that it will be used.  However, I did think there was one aspect that was missing...

Having worked with children and adults with learning difficulties and disabilities I thought that there needed to be a version of the contract for those children who find it easier to access information with pictorial support. I suggested this to BSecure and they immediately replied back to say they would produce one. So an organisation who not only thinks about their target market, but is happy and willing to respond to feedback.  You can't get better communication than that. It'sgreat service!

So parents/grandparents/carers/guardians don't hesitate - download the contract and start using it.

So how old should children be before you start explaining the ins and outs of internet security?  I would welcome your comments.

I'm indebted to Sue and BSecure for inspiring this blog.  To keep up to date with the fast changing environment of online protection for your children follow BSecure on twitter @BSecureOnline and bookmark their website. I you aren't familiar with Sue please visit her Postive Parents website
to find information that you didn't even know you needed
Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Being a first time manager should be fun..(or not!?)

Most people probably wouldn’t put having fun as a priority if they were asked to list what they wanted  from their first management job.  Of course it depends on what the word means  to us individually and as we know interpreting other peoples meanings  can be problematic and inaccurate. 
So what would you expect from your first management job?  Perhaps an increase in pay, the opportunity to influence change, endless meetings,  less holidays...  Some ideas will come from friends or colleagues in management, or from studying management theory  and inevitably some ideas  will  be drawn from the experience of being managed. Whatever prior knowledge someone has, they will  draw their own mental picture of what to expect.
Well whatever we imagine – there’s a chance that the reality will be very different - some things will be better, some different, some unexpected and some much worse.  We however believe, that there is one thing that is almost impossible to imagine even closely is just how much first time managers are expected to be experts in areas  (like finance, chairing meetings, dealing with bullying and harassment....) that they  have no experience of or training for.
Now we’re not suggesting that this will be a problem for everyone, but research has shown that many staff have little respect for their managers and we believe in part this stems from the insufficient support or effective training the managers receive in their first post. At best some new mangers are being put under  unnecessary stress and at worst are being set up to fail.
One of the reasons why the driving test has become more rigorous over the years is that it is recognised that once a driver picks up a bad habit then it is hard to lose it – especially after they have passed when there is no instructor beside them. Well the same applies to first time managers.  If they pick up bad habits in their first job in the way they manage themselves and their teams, they will often carry these on through their management career. And we are speaking here from experience. The fact is that managers are developed – no one is born one.
So starting today we are launching a series of blogs and downloadable tip sheets to assist first time managers with ideas, advice,  and tried and tested practical examples that could be used as suggested or adapted for your own context.
Click here for Ten Top Tips – Communicating effectively with your team
If you get it right – that first time management job should be fun ... or not!?