marketing, technology

4 Pillars for Building a Remote Workforce

remote-workforcePopularity of working remote has increased since 2005. Per Global Workplace Analytics, the latest in telecommuting statistics state that: “Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 115% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce.”

Not only is it a popular job perk but there are several benefits of a remote team. They are:

  • Garner the best talent, regardless of location.
  • Ability to provide clients with more comprehensive support coverage. [24/7/365]
  • Increased flexibility may offer a better quality of life for some, like:
    • Lessening a commute
    • Flexible schedule for working moms and dads
    • Ability to work outside of general working hours

The following are 4 pillars to building out a top-notch remote workforce.

1.The Right Talent. Finding and on-boarding talent can be a challenge for any business. Finding the right talent for a remote workplace can be even more difficult.  There are specific skills to look for in a candidate as well as effective steps to on-board your talent that can makes things easier. When hiring the right talent make sure you ask the right questions to get an understanding of  their past work experience. Questions like,

  • Have they worked in a remote job before?
  • Have they ever been in business for themselves before?
  • Have they made lateral moves within the same company?

Get face to face with an interview and look for other signs indicative of a quality remote workforce candidate. Are they OK with asking for help? You can tell if they probe with questions seeking clarity during the interview. Setting clear expectations of the job role right from the get go during the interview will help you both understand if the partnership will be symbiotic.

On-boarding your talent is also another integral step. In order to ensure success, provide training opportunities on software used, provide playbooks for internal processes, SOPs (standard operating procedures) that must be followed, and any SLAs (service level agreements) that must be met. It will be important for your remote newbie to also have someone they can shadow for a brief period of time to help them get acclimated. A mentor so to speak, someone who will be there to teach them the ropes and someone they can depend on to answer questions in the beginning.

2. Align Company Culture. Build a culture of leadership and empower your remote workers by providing autonomy instead of micromanagement and ensure the management team is ready to provide that autonomy. Nothing’s worse than being overly directed from someone who is many miles away or wasting time to answer their constant questions. Which leads me to the next part. Provide some fun! Setting up event functions like going to a movie, the bar, or perhaps something that promotes team building like an escape room, can help bring people together for fun and provide an opportunity to break away and bond.

If remote workers are too far away from each other then try inventive ways to bring them together like, setting up an Xbox for your ‘gamer workforce’. This way they can play and challenge each other while enjoying some fun during their lunch breaks or after hours.

Encourage conversation and create a way to say ‘Thank You’. Set up a virtual water cooler. This will help manage moral and build comradery. Use group chat tools like Slack, Yammer, etc. to establish a friendly, casual place to post updates about work, life, and of course, memes. Because we all know a high-quality meme can bring a smile that may turn a day around. For minimal effort, you can create a sense of connection that can also preserve motivation.

3. Foster Effective Communications. art-communicationCommunication is a major key to remote workforce success. Anyone who has ever experienced working remotely can attest to this statement. Ensure you have the proper channels in place to streamline information and open the door for transparency and communication amongst all your workforce. Incorporate daily communication through the use of internal chat tools, quick check-ins, and visibility into each other’s calendars.

Process and documentation are super important factors of effective communication for a remote workforce. You cannot be efficient without process. When processes are well documented, trained on, and transparent, the bottom line can mean the difference between a customer and a raving fan. Ensure your remote workforce has a clear understanding of business processes. Set clear expectations of service level agreements and transparency of metrics and KPIs gathered.

4. technologyInvest in Efficient Technology. No doubt today’s technology can empower your remote workforce. Procure simple to use tools to help manage service delivery, communications, and your resources. Added bonus if you can obtain a suite of business solutions from a single vendor. The convenience of working with few vendors can enable your remote team to level up.

At the end of the day focus on the basics to ensure you’re getting the right candidates through the door, align your company culture, encourage communication and award for it. All these pieces along with using the right tools can set your remote team up for success.

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art, Music, Personal

GMF 2017

I GMF2017recently attended the Gasparilla Music Festival in Tampa, Florida. It’s an all day, all weekend music, local foods & brews, arts & crafts festival that is truly fun for the whole family! I was so impressed with this event.  Here’s why:

  1. There was something for everyone. For kids of all ages, there was fun around every corner. I felt most akin to the giant art wall and the musical tent designed to inspire and empower children to paint the next Mona Lisa or play an instrument they’ve never seen before.
  2. Live music.  There’s just something so wonderful about live music. Wouldn’t you agree? I was inspired to write this blog because of new bands I was introduced to at this festival. They had me buying their albums the next day and I’ve been listening ever since. This festival packs a cultural line up. Again, a little something for everyone. A kids corner for rockin’ out with the festively dressed Bears & Lions. Live music could be enjoyed from any of the four stages throughout the days with local bands from all different genres. From rock to indie to the big brass sounds of New Orleans all the way to Venezuela for some latin influence and of course, more mainstream headliners, Cage the Elephant and Ryan Adams, to bring it all home. It was a jam packed line up designed to cultivate and spark the senses.
  3. I love the cause. While researching, I discovered the festival is not only back by many local supporters, but also put on by local nonprofit. The Gasparilla Music Foundation is an arts and cultural organization dedicated to youth education through local music promotion. What a cool thing for my city! With continued budgets cuts to schools and in response, having to scale back on extracurricular activities like music education, it’s good to know I live in a place where the community can come together and fill the gap.
  4. The food and beverage selections. Every vendor was local. They didn’t populate the park with carnie food trucks, nope. They classed it up and went to the local restaurants. Each tent decked out the same and very nondescript. Instead event organizers let the aromas of delicious food guide you to the vendor. Local breweries, and there are many mainly because Tampainians like to drink, were decked out with their latest pours and well staffed to really execute and move the lines quickly.  Which is a major deal at large events like this. Another note worth mentioning was how clean everything was. I loved that not only did they place their garbage cans strategically, but they had constant maintenance of them to ensure they didn’t overflow. This is a small thing but such a big deal.  Good for you, event planners! You get a big A for Awesome on that one.
  5. And finally, the location. You could not ask for a better venue for this. Located in Curtis Hixon Park, right in downtown Tampa on the Hillsborough River side. This park provides wide open spaces and two levels. Perfect for separate stage setups. This park also has its own amphitheatre which naturally presents event organizers with another stage option. There is cause for concern because this park offers very little shade and in Florida, even in early March, the sun and heat can be brutal. Fortunately the event contained several large tents for festival goers to lounge under.

If you live in the Tampa Bay area, this is a must attend event! Check out the details about this event and more at: https://gasparillamusic.com or peruse pictures from this year’s event on Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/gasparillamusic/ 

See you next year. Cheers and rock on!
erinalbertson.com 

 

technology

Digital Security: 5 Ways To Protect Yourself

Security will be top of mind in 2017. I know it has been top of mind for me lately. The increase of my credit/check card being stolen has increased tenfold within the last two years. That’s just me too. I’m just one single person amongst billions of other persons on this planet, so you can imagine how others may feel on this subject. That is why securing data will be topics of conversation for many IT professionals this year and for the foreseeable future as we continue to see the rise of internet hacking and theft. End users and technology service providers alike will look to detection and response as forerunners to wage this new battle.  According to Gartner, worldwide spending on information security is expected to reach 90 billion in 2017 with a 7.6% uptick from 2016.

Why are we seeing this trend?

swiss-cheese-analogy-1In the last few years, with the advances of mobile technology and IoT, we are now accessing the internet through many unsecured means. Think of it as Swiss cheese and there is literally a Swiss cheese model describing security, learn more here. The WiFi network at the coffee shop, the device, the application on the device, we have made ourselves vulnerable by allowing the conveniences of our technology to create gaps in our cheese. If the technological means (WiFi, device & apps) are not properly stacked, the holes in our Swiss cheese become exposed.

What you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Stay up to date on your software updates, especially on your mobile devices. This includes the applications you use on those devices as well.
  2. DO NOT save or cache your passwords for major accounts you login and use to transmit payments. And do not link your credit/check cards to those accounts for easy access later.
  3. Change your passwords frequently. Every 90-180 days is reasonable without driving yourself crazy. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Example: Your email and bank account should NOT have the same password.
  4. Run AV/Malware software on your devices to prevent and detect an unwanted intrusion.
  5. Pay attention to suspicious emails with attachments. Usually you can spot a malicious email by its use of poor grammar but then again, hackers are getting smarter about it. Stay alert and check the email from addresses and double-check URLs are actually going to the site domain you are receiving the email from.

securityUnfortunately, there are a number of ways your card information can be compromised outside of email and infected computers. Card scanners are another increasing threat. What makes this rising threat frustrating is that scanners are so easy to get and even easier to use. Don’t believe me? Watch this.

Security is a constant moving target and the best way to combat it is to never lose sight of it. Stay aware of new threats as technology changes, stay up to date on your devices and apps you use, and finally, stay alert to accounts you maintain an online presence with.

 

http://www.erinalbertson.com

marketing, technology

Defining the Customer Journey

Gartner predicts by 2018, those organizations that excel in personalization will outsell companies that don’t by 20%.

In today’s information age where the Internet rules, marketers are scrambling to keep up with ways consumers can now engage with a brand. Consumers are investigating new products online, they are reading reviews in real time and are actively engaging with the brand well before making the actual purchase. To a marketing professional, these are customer touch-points. Each point is simply a step along a path that a customer will make before the purchase of something, be it a product or service.

If the brand is notable and already established, brands like McDonalds, Best Buy, Microsoft, to name a few, then consumers already have preconceived notions of what the experience should be before making the purchase. Companies competing in today’s marketplace must acknowledge expectations and introduce delightful experiences into the buyer’s journey if they want to remain competitive.

buyerjourney

How do we start?

It starts with a persona. Understanding who your buyer is and then personifying them. Personas give the company a much richer picture of their customers so that they may be able to tailor a memorable and effective experience. Personas are usually derived from a combination of the following types of data:

  • Demographic – Defined by population based on geography, income, level of education and other attributes.
  • Psychographic – Focused on values, opinions, interests, aspirations, attitudes and lifestyles.
  • Ethnographic – Information gleaned from surveys and studies conducted by watching subjects in their daily routines and capturing what isn’t explicitly reported.
  • Transactional – Insight from a customer’s history with the brand, including first and third-party purchase histories and post-sale service records.
  • Behavioral – Captured data through engagement with websites, mobile devices and other media outlets.

Once you have your persona(s) defined, take the time to carefully identify all key business moments your persona must take when interacting with your brand. List each key moment including buying decisions and begin to prioritize them. Fully flesh out any opportunities that may not exist today but could be implemented to enhance the experience. Start to design your buyer experience by mapping each moment along a timeline.

It may be helpful at this stage to create stories. Stories help paint the picture of what the persona wants. Stories can be used to find missing business moments along the way. I find it’s always insightful to share your stories with someone outside of your circle as it offers up different perspectives and could encourage innovation in your process.

In the end, your customer journey will be defined by your personas (the profile of your customer), their stories (a picture of what the customer truly wants), and a map of business moments (points where your brand will delight).

Once your journey has been defined, evangelize it to the rest of the business. This offers the awareness and transparency of customer motives. This also is a vital step in the continued success of the customer journey. Success can be achieved short term but cannot be maintained unless the customer journey grows and evolves.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

marketing, technology

Your Brand; Your Identity – 10 Tips

Brand Business ConceptTop 10 tips on how to put yourself out there:

  1. Know your audience. Who do you want to reach? Who will listen? Envision your ideal audience for your message and put yourself into their shoes. What do they want to know?  You can tell them. It’s your destiny!
  2. Build a strategy. Nothing screams success like a well formulated game plan. Take some time to think through your strategy. Build up a project plan with detailed steps necessary to reach your goals.
  3. Construct a calendar of events. Define your content and lay it out on the calendar. Situating tasks for each day to deliver your message will be an important step to stay organized and on track.
  4. Speak authentically. Be yourself when conveying your message. No one likes someone who tries too hard. Keep it real and keep it simple. If using complex vocabulary is not normally your thing, then don’t start just because you may want to sound smarter. You’ll end up only pushing your audience away because your words won’t seem natural.
  5. Weave in the personal. Emotion is a powerful source of truth and can create instant connections with people. Use it to tell your personal story and capture the hearts of your audience.
  6. Focus. This can be tough. Your message must be clear and concise. There is only so much brain space and time you have before your reader loses interest.
  7. Use powerful headlines. You have only seven seconds to make a great impression when meeting someone. Headlines work the same way. They are the bits of information we use to judge whether we want to pursue something more. Get over the hump by using inviting, captivating headlines that draw the reader in.
  8. Make your content easy to read. Your reader should be able to glance through your material and understand the main points without having to do further research. Include bullet points, headings, numbered lists, etc. to achieve this.
  9. Include a call to action. Give your reader a purpose. What do you want them to do with the information you’ve put out there? Provide additional links  for further information or offer up images, a sign up form, etc. to provide your user with another opportunity to interact with your brand.
  10. Finally, go the extra mile. Be helpful. Start by answering any possible questions you think your audience may have. Discuss your products and/or services further or even offer a feedback loop so your audience can contact you for suggestions on improvement.

http://www.erinalbertson.com

art, Personal

Art To Take Away The Pain

fridakahloI recently attended the Frida Kahlo exhibit at The Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Words cannot express how her artwork moves me. It’s almost as if you can feel the pain. And the pain is so compelling and awe-inspiring that you cannot look away. Her art seems to beg the question of a desire for pain in order to transform into something more profound, balanced and pure. As if the pain was meant to be a part of the transcendence.

If you are not familiar with Frida Kahlo, a brief background update can be found here. Or you can check out her biography Hollywood style by watching the movie, Frida. It’s playing on Netflix these days. I really liked the movie and thought Salma Hayek did a fantastic job. It’s worth the watch.

At the age of 18, Frida was in a horrible traffic accident and it is from that experience her life of pain and art began.

frida2Frida’s work and life presented at The Dali include several of her more well-known pieces as well as numerous photographs from her life. This is what I find most fascinating about the exhibit. The photographs. Those are the ‘real’ moments. Glimpses into reality and truth. It’s probably why I’ve always been drawn to the photographic art versus art paintings. The imagination can paint wonderful images but they are a stark comparison of an actual moment in time, which often offers up something more perverse and meaningful.

As I looked through the photographs in the exhibit I began to see a common thread. Frida did not smile much. Perhaps her tumultuous marriage with the artistic philanderer, Diego Rivera, or the constant pain from her accident and the isolation of it all drove her sorrow. I could feel it. It was palatable as I reviewed the images. I was moved with emotion.

If you are unfamiliar with Frida Kahlo give her work a view. It’s beautiful, weird, full of pain and emotion and will surprisingly uplift you in the most unassuming way. With her use of color and imagery to describe her world, you too will be transcended.


the-two-fridas

fridaart1

kahlo_deer

http://www.erinalbertson.com

technology

NEXT-GEN DATA SECURITY

securitycommunityTo understand what next generation security may mean to us in the future, we must understand what it means today. Let’s boil the term security down.  What are we trying to secure? Data, right?  In today’s digital age, the evolution of 1’s and 0’s dominates the way we manage our lives, our finances, our businesses, and lately with the adoption of big data, we now allow the data to make decisions for us. Maintaining the integrity of the data, now ruling such a significant portion of our lives, could then be determined a top priority. We don’t want to go off making poor choices because we got the facts wrong. Ultimately, data security is simply the understanding and recognizing of the link between mastering data and protecting it.

idc-logoAccording to an IDC survey conducted, “84% of US Consumers expressed concern regarding the security of their PII (personally identifiable information) and 70% told IDC that their concern is greater today than just a few years ago.”

IDC goes on to explain just how much demographics can play a factor in preconceived notions of data security.  IDC finds that younger consumers, those aged 18-35, demonstrate a higher concern than the slightly older 36-50-year-old counterparts. So, we can see an uptick in a risk-adverse generation of users. These are the same consumers that will contribute to the adoption of new technology being pushed across all market sectors. It will be important for companies to maintain trust between those users and their data if they want to remain relevant.

iotMore devices are connected to the Internet than ever before. From our smart phones to our smart watches and fitness apps, to our smart homes, the rising phenomenon of the Internet of Things proposes security concerns alone. Per a new report from the Ponemon Institute, IBM, and Arxan, a staggering 80% of IoT applications and 71% of mobile applications are not tested for vulnerabilities raising more concerns for data security.

A new dawn is rising and the transformation of the digital landscape is changing. With new technology comes new threats, next generation data security will look to evolve from a data-centric solution to an extended, distributed networking solution which leverages many endpoints, multi-layer authentication, data tokenization, masking, and data loss prevention. We are already starting to see the expansion of this platform in financial industries with the increased adoption of Blockchain technology.

As the technology learns to advance, so will the rise of the cybersecurity professional. Job postings in the cybersecurity field have increased over the past 5 years, up 74%.

Digital transformation efforts are underway at most companies looking to deliver more value to their customers, but it does not come without the next generation costs to rise against new data security challenges presented.

http://www.erinalbertson.com