Book – Managing Diversity

Diversity-bookAs the composition of the workforce is changing, many companies are faced with a challenge and an opportunity.  I remember reading an excellent article about diverse teams a few years ago as part of an MBA course.  Diverse teams might be less productive if they try to avoid conflict in the discussion and do not contribute unique perspectives of each team member to the problem solving.  The team might feel good about their work as a group of people who agree with each other, but the main advantage of unique expertise of the team members is lost.

I guess, general aspect of the workforce diversity is similar: it can give companies competitive advantage, but the road to this advantage is not intuitive, and may be uncomfortable.  The book Managing Diversity: Toward a Globally Inclusive Workplace is an excellent source for understanding the topic.

The book highlights the process of moving from homogeneous to a more heterogeneous workforce.  As birth rate in developed countries declined, immigration is contributing to this trend.  Change in status of women in many developing countries and intergenerational groups of people working on the same project also becoming more common.

continentsThe most significant problem in the diverse workforce is the exclusion – both overt and perceived.  “Individuals and groups are implicitly or explicitly excluded from job opportunities, information networks, team membership, human resource investments, and the decision making process because of their actual or employer-perceived membership in a minority or disfavored identity group.”

The inclusive workplace:

  • Values and utilizes individual and intergroup differences within its workforce
  • Cooperates with, and contributes to, its surrounding community
  • Alleviates the needs of disadvantaged groups in its wider environment
  • Collaborates with individuals, groups , and organizations across national and cultural boundaries

And – what might be counterintuitive – companies that practice inclusion benefit financially from this approach!  The mechanism is probably similar to the work of diverse teams – unique individual contributions are beneficial for the success of the project or the company, and simple agreement with the dominant idea puts the company at the competitive disadvantage.

Definition of diversity was also surprising to me – it was more broad than international and cultural differences; and I observed companies struggle even with obvious diversity issues.

Workforce diversity refers to the division of the workforce into distinct categories that (a) have a perceived commonality within a given cultural or national context and that (b) impact potentially harmful or beneficial employment outcomes such as job opportunities, treatment  in the workplace, and promotion prospects – irrespective of job-related skills and qualifications.

Interesting: people tend to exhibit prejudice and discrimination based on even arbitrary group categorization.  Considering that this phenomenon exist, it is not surprising that inclusiveness is so challenging.

This trait most likely had an evolutionary advantage over the history, but no longer useful (as our interest in high calorie food 😉 ).  When the environment changed, those organizations that can overcome their cravings will be fitter and more competitive.

Diversity management refers to the voluntary organizational actions that are designed to create greater inclusion of employees from various backgrounds into the formal and informal organizational structures through deliberate policies and programs.

Very interesting distinction: “The current business focus on diversity is quite different from equal rights legislation and from affirmative/positive action programs.  The latter are about trying to achieve equality of opportunities by focusing on specific groups and righting past wrongs.  Diversity efforts focus on managing and handling the diverse workforce to give the company a competitive advantage.”


Another interesting point: executives tend to lead in the manner consistent with their culture.  Understanding the culture can help to understand what type of leadership could be more effective in a particular environment.

Diversity programs implementation in the company can be enhances if managers bonuses are linked to diversity management performance.

Study of 127 large US companies: board of directors diversity was positively associated with both return on investment and return on assets.

Meta-analysis of 52 quantitative studies over 30 years of research indicated positive correlation between companies’ social performance and their financial performance.


Content Strategy Meetup – Developer and UX Designer Perspective

developmentLovely discussion – perception of a software developer and UX designer of the content marketing is very positive.  General approach: they do see the value (at least two smart gentlemen from the Nerdery, who were part of the presentation 🙂 ).

Software engineer compared his function to Tupperware: “My job is to build containers. Content is what we are building for.”  Content strategy was fascinating for him as it explained why what was needed to be built was actually needed.

When “containers” do not fit the content, it is the failure of the process. Good web site design happens after content strategy process has been completed (ah, the audience would completely agree, but many businesses are still lack this understanding).

As the Nerdery helps companies to build web sites and apps for their needs, the consultancy is facing usual challenge: many organizations can not answer the question around content ownership.  It is not clear who will decide which content stays on the site and which one can be cut.  Other questions that are usually not addressed related to the web site maintenance.

One of the aspects of content maintenance is training people who will be doing the work to use the tools. WordPress is one of the most evolved content management tools. Curious: 18% of “the web” is on WordPress.  Major media organizations use WordPress for governance.

Though everybody in the audience was very clear on the benefit of user experience and content strategy, both of these services are still hard to sell to customers.  In many cases, the customers want agencies to “just design a web site;” the approach that will cost more in the long run.

One meeting attendee shared that he explained the need for content strategy to small business owners very simply: “Content strategy will help you to sell more staff.”  Small business owners understood instantly. 🙂

Book – Employees First, Customers Second

employees-firstAs management theory is moving away from intuitive hierarchical structures of previous century, several business books and classes mentioned a more innovative approach – a business decision to put employees ahead of customers.  In this case the shareholders moved further down in the hierarchy, and short-term interests can be ignored for the sake of long-term benefits of the organization.  How “Employees First, Customers Second” can even work?  The book demonstrates that this approach can work spectacularly well in times of economic down-turn and also during business expansion.

  • Any business transformation requires innovation both in what you do and in how you do it.  As most of the business world is concentrated on “what,” paying attention on “how” can be the greatest opportunity of accelerated growth.
  • The author noticed that his customers appreciated the employees in the “value zone” – the consultants who were working with customers – rather than any other aspects of the organization. The “value zone” was the most important for the business and needed to be in the center of company.  Current organizational structure had been designed to exalt those with hierarchical power rather than those who created customer value.  The CEO started changing the structure.
  • The company opened financial information of different business units to the entire organization, (and later other business information) as a step to reach more transparency.  Though some leaks happened, the overall result was positive – well performing teams felt recognized, and it was clearer what would be needed for improvement.
  • workAnother step toward transparency: an online forum where any employee could post a question for management. Initially the system was clogged with complaints, much of which were true.  However, the trust to management increased – employees believed that management was willing to acknowledge the dirt – there were less gossip and rumors in the organization.  Employees also tried to solve problems posted by others.  “Simply by allowing questions to be asked, we had improved the likelihood that the answers would emerge.”
  • Customers were more understanding than expected.  They realized that by putting employees first, the company provided the most valued for them.
  • Managers’ 360: anyone who gave the feedback can see overall results. As it was a sensitive situation, the CEO started from posting his own 360 results for the entire organization to see, and the rest of senior managers followed.
  • An employee could choose to do a 360 evaluation of any of the managers they believed had impact on their ability to do their job (positive or negative).
  • The 360 evaluation was used for development, not for appraisals (similar approach used by Google – the objective is improvement rather than punishment).
  • Engaging “passion” – the organization created employee councils around specific areas. Employee councils dedicated to business-focussed issues generated new ideas for the business. “It is my belief that innovation especially in our business, often thrives in an unstructured process like this one.”
  • Company created “Value portal” to encourage communication between customers and employees. More than 100 customers joined, and employees generated thousands of ideas with the potential of saving hundreds of millions of dollars for customers.
  • Planning meetings transformed into recorded presentations available to a much wider audience, including the manager’s team.  “The amount of knowledge sharing outside the walls of the formal hierarchy as extraordinary.”
  • successEconomic downturn – the company decided not to do layoffs. The company asked employees for ideas – and received suggestions that became basis of several beneficial initiatives. “The ultimate impact of the initiative was less on cost-cutting initiatives than it was on increasing revenue.”  (Interesting – similar approach used by successful retailers, who invest into their employees.)  The company’s market share grew 20% year after year during the worst period of the recession. Customer satisfaction score went up by 43% during the recession.

The author argues that the “Employees First, Customers Second” approach could work in good and bad economic times and does improve company’s performance.  Hopefully, more companies will adopt similar philosophy in the future 🙂

Social Media Breakfast – Content Marketing

SMBWow – I did not realize that Social Media Breakfast was so popular!  Packed room and great presentation – all I was missing with early morning meetings at work 😉

Lee Odden gave us an insight into the industry and his company – a nice morning treat beside the usual staples of the event.

Content is the reason search began anyway

Content marketing evolution from Lee’s perspective:

  • We need to create more content…
  • We need to align the content with personas, customer journey, etc.
  • We should not forget how people feel when they read our content
  • How do we measure the result?  How it helps us to make money?

scoopLee mentioned a couple of new (to me) tools:

  • Scoop It  – a tool that helps to discover and curate content for your efforts.
  • Buzz Sumo – tool allowing to see how well content performs – quite interesting.
  • Copy Blogger has some great content marketing-related content 😉

The conversation also touched on fantastic creative pieces of content that need to be promoted to realize their marketing potential.  Content is a “product” that requires promotion.

What is a bad advice in the area of content marketing that might be floating in the industry right now?  The idea that SEO is the purpose of content marketing.  This is incorrect – content is for the reader – it is important to give the reader something useful and help to solve his or her problems.  The best objective is to create value for the target audience.

New book to check: How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination  (I liked the previous book of this author – this one is also available on Audible).

Modular content – Lee suggested thinking through how the content will be used in different channels in advance, rather than try to “modularize” it later.

A lovely expression related to content’s usefulness:

Give your audience something practical and tactical 🙂

Book – Work Rules!

Work-RulesExcellent inside view on HR in one of the most interesting companies! This insight about recruiting, training, and value of good management is fantastic.  Though some of the conclusions seem common sense (of course, transparency is beneficial for business!), they were supported with data – Google is marvelous source of data 🙂

Note on motivation and productivity

fundsThree group of employees called potential donors and asked them to donate funds to a university.  The control group did not receive any additional information, group two read stories about the benefit that this job brought to the employees, and the group three read stories how scholarships resulting from the fundraising changed people’s lives.  As a result, group three increased donations over 100%, while there was no change in the performance of other two groups.

If reading about students who received scholarships was so effective, meeting scholarship recipients for five minutes and be able to ask questions increased fundraising effectiveness over 400% for the next month.  Having workers meet people they are helping is the best motivator. 

Value of employee freedom

Two identical plants making T-shirts were managed differently.  One was tightly managed and another one allowed more freedom for the employees.  The plant with more freedom had higher productivity and lower cost per T-shirt.

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Approach to hiring and training (very interesting – and makes total sense!)

  • Google invests more into hiring than into training.  Google is very selective and prefers to take time in finding the right candidate rather than just hire anybody.  This approach is also described in Who – The A Method for Hiring book.  The philosophy is tested by sports teams – “hiring” the best athletes for the team increases chances of winning.

Unfortunately, many other companies put hiring managers in a sad situation when if the position is not filled quickly, the hiring manager would loose the position, and, in some cases, would be blamed for lack of capacity and expertise in the team. These companies will be easily out-competed by companies with policies similar to Google’s approach 🙂

  • Google invests more resources in recruiting, and “saves” resources on training – includes only training that truly change behavior and involves talented employees in giving training to their colleagues.
  • Limitation of manager’s power on hiring decisions – hiring by a committee
  • Google had a hiring process that took too many interviews, took too much time from the company and was exhausting from the perspective of the candidates.  Google used data to determine the optimal number of interviews, and to increase experience for even rejected candidates.  As a result, the number of rejected candidates who would recommend applying to google to their friends increased dramatically.
  • Google tried and rejected some unusual ways of trying to find good candidates, such as cryptic billboard


Google did not hire anybody based on the effort.  People who could solve the puzzle (not that many), may be specialists in very narrow fields, and may not be able to work in the team environment Google requires.


Google evaluated managers and determined that good managers do matter, and people are less likely to leave the company if they have good managers (moving from a good manager to a bad one and the other way around influences the employee’s happiness and propensity to leave based on manager’s quality).  Google decided to understand what good management is, and Project Oxygen gave the answers.

  1. ManagerBe a good coach.
  2. Empower; don’t micromanage.
  3. Be interested in direct reports, success and well-being.
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results-oriented.
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team.
  6. Help your employees with career development.
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Have key technical skills so you can advise the team.

Interesting point: the book highlights that technical skills are mandatory, as if the manager can not code, he or she will not be taken seriously by the team. However, the other points are more important for good managers, who already passed the technical knowledge bar.

Google does help managers to improve – managers are evaluated by their teams (wow!) as managers.  However, Google HR divorces developmental and evaluation feedback – this is necessary to assure that people won’t try to game the system and will truly be interested in feedback.

Google has a great manager award, but the condition of winning the award is training others.   🙂

Awards and recognition

The author suggests “paying unfairly” – disregarding the restrictions of pay grades and increasing compensation for more productive employees.

Google had a significant cash award system for remarkable projects…  what made everybody unhappy.

  • some non-engineering functions could not possibly be included
  • some projects would be unlikely to be included (not critical projects)
  • some awards were rather small – people were disappointed
  • some people participated in the multi-year projects partially, and could be included or excluded from the award arbitrarily
  • even winners of significant awards were not happy  – they realized that their group would not be eligible for the award next time and tried to switch teams

awardGoogle also experimented with determining which types of awards would give employees more “happiness.”  If asked, majority of employees preferred cash.  However, “experience” awards, such as a trip for the team to Hawaii, generated more “happiness” even months later, and, in some cases, the perception of the award were even more positive months after the award was given.


Google opens more information to its employees than other companies to achieve business benefits and suffers about one leak per year.  However, the cost of leaks is smaller than the openness all enjoy.

Treating your people well is the mean to the end and an end in itself

Marketing Stack – Definition and a Template

Marketing-Stack-template-quThe interest to “marketing stack” concept is now registering in Google Trends, though not quite extensive to generate much insight from Ubersuggest 🙂   The passion for the topic is also high – as marketers love their technology, and we most likely will develop more attachment to the topic.

Looking through webinars and articles describing different arrangement of marketing technology, I discovered a few general themes:

  1. There are well-defined core components for marketing stacks, though the industry did not create an established “platform,” and the components are somewhat in the flux
  2. Many marketing stacks place the same tool into the stack template more than once, as a specific tool can fit into different  parts of the template; there is a wide variety of “templates” for the marketing stack used by organizations
  3. Before describing their marketing stacks, marketers often start from their teams – the marketing organization that uses the technology to achieve a specific goal – and the goal itself defines emphasis on particular parts of the stack the technology selection

In this case, the definition of the Marketing Stack could be: organization of marketing technology based on business strategy and available human resources.

If it is the case…  what would be a reasonable “template” for the Marketing Stack?  I would love to have a template where any organization can “plug” its existing tools and immediately see if its marketing technology matches business priorities and available resources.  An attempt below tries to connect these objectives.

Marketing Stack Template


The template above is a guess with a touch of wishful thinking, however, it probably could create general framework to make marketing stack creation thought process a little easier.

Marketing Stack Template is organized by the general stages of the buying cycle.  Some of the tools can be used throughout the buying cycle, but, typically, they have a “home” as a specific stage.  Arranging the tools should visually give an idea if company’s emphasis is in the expected (or unexpected) location.

Ad platforms and research – my guess, this bucket can be used for market research, keyword research, and any advertisement technologies.

Marketing automation – as practically all b-to-b (and probably more and more b-to-c) companies either have or thinking about marketing automation, it is a good separate category.  Marketing automation often lacks staffing – the bottom part of the template could show that at a glance.  Tools used in conjunction with marketing automation could probably reside in the same bucket, including data cleansing tools, etc.  Email analytics tools, such as Litmus, I think, should be in the Analytics bucket.

CRM – CRM could also be a “bucket” for related tools in the area of sales support.  It is possible to add sales training tools, phone routing tools, etc. to the same category.  Hm…  would customer care tools be in a completely different bucket?  Most likely…

Web Experience – this is a wast area that can include CMS, tag management, any testing tools and tools used for online experience, including mobile.  However, product-related apps I would classify as part of company product, rather than marketing efforts to promote the product.

Analytics – everything from BI tools to ubiquitous Google Analytics, to click mapping tools and surveys.

Productivity – this category would include any project management software, and, my guess, Excel, as it is more of a productivity tool rather than an analytics tool, even if this is where most of data analysis is often done (at least in my experience 😉  ).  I would probably place here Tebleau, but many passionate marketers might disagree 🙂

The bottom part of the Marketing Stack Template indicate three more visual points:

  • Ownership (sometimes, in large organizations, a part of stack can lack clear ownership, what duplicates efforts and creates wasteful competition for resources)
  • Administration  – people who are responsible for the tools and have administrative rights
  • Users – people who use the tools in each category

I guess, it would be possible to add the cost of the tools in each bucket to the Marketing Stack Template, but it might give a wrong impression to people without marketing knowledge – as  marketing fundamentals, such as CRM and marketing automation platform, might consume more resources than dozens “nice to have” tools in other parts of the stack.

Thanks to Chief Marketing Technologist Blog and Lattice Engines – Show Me Your Stack! Webinars, we have a few excellent examples of marketing stacks to review.

Livefyre Marketing Stack


Clarabridge Marketing Stack


Informatica Marketing Stack


Influitive Marketing Stack


Kapost Marketing Stack


Uberflip Marketing Stack


Five9 Marketing Stack


CM Insights simply published its marketing stack on their blog 🙂  CB Insights Marketing Stack.


Based on these examples of marketing stacks, and my personal experience, I made a few unexpected (for me) observations:

  • Smaller companies could have a more robust marketing stacks.  Ah, I love some of the tools so much!!  And in many large organizations acquiring or connecting a new tool may be an insurmountable task for an enthusiastic marketer.  In many cases, smaller companies also have better staffed marketing departments (as there is no point in purchasing a tool if the company does not have a knowledgeable person to use it).  My guess, smaller companies will develop Marketing Stack Template that will be used in the future.
  • Difference between tools that have been purchased and tools that are actually used.  In many large organizations this difference is rather significant.  For example, a specific package of web analytics is purchased on the corporate level, installed, and managed by IT.  It may not be complete, it may not be quite configured correctly, it may not have been upgraded to the latest version, and marketers may or may not have needed level of access, and definitely do not have needed training (as training is expensive and difficult to obtain).  As a result, regions and divisions add instances of free Google Analytics to do needed work of marketing.  In this case, company is paying for one tool, but using the other.
  • Integration and connection between marketing stack pieces.  I noticed an attempt to highlight the data flow or connection between different parts of the marketing stack.   Maybe, indication is not needed, as generally, almost everything can be connected, and the decision if the connection should be made is a business decision of the company.  An attempt to avoid organizational silos might be all what is needed to assure that desired integration would happen organically.
  • Companies that sell a particular tool, seem to consider this tool as the critical part of their Marketing Stack.  I don’t think it is just promotional tactic (though this approach is also helpful for promotion of the product 😉 ).  My guess, these companies understand their own tool the most and can take true advantage from its functionality.  I guess, it underscores the investment into training and human capital needed to use the tools for the benefit of the business.

The future of the concept of a Marketing Stack is very promising!

A fantastic post with 21 marketing technology stacks is a treasure for marketers thinking on their own stacks. All 21 slides are included below in the presentation from the post – this is a treasure of information!