Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hire Everybody

Let's say your company has about 1,500 employees and annual revenue of about $1.4 billion, and you want to develop the next product innovation that will boost revenue and increase customer retention. What if I told you that you could hire tens of thousands of people from all over the world (some of whom already work for companies like AT&T and Yahoo!) to devote time to the project for three years, and you would get a three-year marketing campaign to go with it. What might that cost? Well, for Netflix, it cost exactly $1 million.

Last month, Netflix awarded its one-million-dollar Netflix Prize to the first team who could improve the company's movie recommendation service by 10% or more. It may sound like a lot of money, but when you add up the work hours that some of the most talented developers, engineers, and mathematicians from more than 100 countries put into the project, and the marketing buzz that accompanied it, it appears to have been well worth it. So much so that Netflix has already announced round two of the initiative, aimed at improving movie recommendations based on demographic data.

This type of crowd-sourcing contest is not new, but the fact that the goal was an algorithm that would belong solely to Netflix and benefit the company in terms of revenue and customer loyalty makes the Netflix Prize kind of unusual. There was no "for the greater good" motive here. Netflix simply realized that it had maxed out its own brainpower to create its current recommendation system and needed help to make it better. To illustrate the type of brainpower that exists outside of a company's walls, the first team to beat Netflix's own system, which was five years in the making, did it in about three weeks.

The other key is the prize. There are plenty of crowd-sourcing options out there where people solve problems just for the satisfaction of finding answers. But the million-dollar prize attracted some of the most talented people, while keeping participants focused on the task and what others were doing. In many cases, teams realized they weren't getting any further on their own, so they joined forces with other groups. The winning team was actually a combination of two smaller teams.

There are companies out there whose business is facilitating this kind of crowd-sourcing. InnoCentive is sort of a marketplace for challenges, and NineSigma specializes in finding the right crowds for specific tasks. The Institute for Corporate Productivity is here to crowd-source your HR challenges. Is there a problem you're dealing with that could use some outside brainpower to solve? Post a question on our Website and call on the combined wisdom of our network of member companies and internal analysts. And while we might not have $1 million to give away or the capability to launch a spacecraft, it's quite likely someone else has already dealt with issues similar to yours and has some good solutions that could end up saving your day.

Thanks to David Wentworth Is An Associate At the Institute for Corporate Productivity. / AMA

Friday, December 4, 2009

Email Etiquettes - An Important Aspect of Professional Communication

Email etiquette and manners have been around for years, but they are far more important in this age than ever before. Implementing proper email etiquette into daily cyber communication should be a custom for everyone. A person, who displays proper etiquette while writing an email message, not only feels good about himself he also makes those around him feel important and respected. Email etiquette are important in a social environment, as well as in a business setting. Displaying proper email etiquette will get you noticed and, obviously, being noticed is great in many aspects.


'Netiquettes' is the name given to the email etiquettes by the cyber gurus, which means the etiquettes of communication via Internet. Although netiquettes concerns all the various customs and conventions we follow when writing and sending messages through Internet, but in this article we will particularly discuss the emailing etiquettes of both the current employees and the job seekers.

People normally adopt email etiquettes by observing what others do, and gradually incorporate their actions into our own communications. We expect that after reading this article you would be able to develop your own style of writing an effective email.

Basic Manners Of Communication

"Please" and "Thank You" are two simple words, yet they carry a great deal of meaning and are very powerful. These words are the basic etiquettes of communication and are potentially influential on the sender's image. People may not notice these words when they are mentioned, but if you forget to use them, you will look disrespectful and ungrateful.

Be Brief and Concise

When writing an email for either a potential employer or a current boss, try to be to-the-point. Get to the subject of conversation as quickly and briefly as possible. However, in doing so, please do not leave out necessary details.

Accurate Spelling and Grammar

Accurate spellings and correct grammar are one of the most essential elements of email etiquettes. Do not try to guess the spellings of a word. Use the spell-checker; however, do not rely entirely on it. Good grammar is equally important. Usage of incorrect spellings or grammar in the email leaves an idea of an incompetent or careless correspondent.

Subject Line

Write the subject line in such a way that it summarizes the body of the e-mail. While writing the subject line, ask yourself, 'will the recipient know what this e-mail is all about'. A well-written subject line makes it easier for the receiver to understand the essence of the message.

Do Not Use Abbreviations

Usage of abbreviations in emails, sent from either a professional or a job seeker makes your message look awkward and unprofessional. People use 'U' instead of 'you', 'plz' instead of 'please', and 'thanx' instead of 'thank you'. It is fine to use abbreviations for personal emails or chat, but business email should have a formal format. Of course, frequently used abbreviations such as Mr. and Mrs., FYI, FYC, inc., and etc., are fine, but usage of slang language is not appropriate.

A Decent Email Address

Take a look at your email address. Is it appropriate enough to be sent to a prospective employer? Email addresses like are awkward and ridiculous for professional usage. Try to get a more formal address; perhaps your first initial and last name would be good. If do not want to change it for some reason, consider making a separate one for professional use only.

In case, you are working at a place and have a company registered email account, you are advised not to use it for job hunting purposes; use a personal account only.

Forgetting Attachments

If the reason for sending an email is to send a file, remember to include it. Professionals and job hunters, both sometimes forget to attach files, which results in absolute embarrassment. One strategy of avoiding such a blunder is to attach the file before writing the email.

Tone Of Communication

No matter who you are sending the email to, the pitch or tone of your professional communication should be moderate and respectable. Avoid writing your message using all upper case letters. It looks like you are shouting out your message. Also, do not use all lower case letters as it will make your email sound like you are mumbling.

Email writers often use 'emoticons' to convey a certain tone. If you write to someone frequently and you have a less formal relationship then emoticons are okay. However, if, you are writing to a prospective employer, it is better to stick to words only.

Confidentiality Of The Email

One should realize that emails are never confidential. It is laughably easy for others to read the contents of your email without your knowledge or permission. So, it is advised to avoid writing anything obnoxious or absurd in the emails.

Also, if you are working in a company and are using their official account, it becomes more likely that every email that you send and receive is scanned for certain words that are held 'unacceptable'. Emails with such content are isolated and are kept in a record. People can be restricted or even fired if continue to send or receive these kinds of emails frequently.

Replying To An Email

Writing a reply to an email is also very important and requires much concentration. Do not 'Reply to All', unless it is necessary. Perhaps only selected people need to see your email. Also, when replying to an e-mail, use the 'Reply' option in order to keep the message in the 'thread', and make it easier for the recipient to follow-up with the previous conversation.

An email may be your introduction to someone you have never met before. Job seekers should keep in mind what a prospective employer might think on receiving a poorly written message, because your correspondence says a lot about you and your personality. Under no circumstances should you use offensive language. Make sure that you paint your picture as  a respectful, friendly and approachable person in the receiver's mind. Take your time putting together a proper and well-written message and read it over several times before you send the email. Sometimes, just rearranging your paragraphs helps a lot. Once you hit 'Send' you would not have another chance to correct what you have written in the email message.