Thursday, 31 March 2016

How social media is changing organisations

Social media has had a big impact on our personal lives. Think of how many people we’ve reconnected with, who we never thought we would see or speak to again. Or how we’re able to stay up to date with what is happening in our friends’ lives even when our schedules are too busy to allow us to see them in person.

Similarly, social media is changing the face of organisations, in many different ways. It’s affecting everything from ways of communicating to productivity to maintaining client relationships.

Here’s a quick look at some of these changes.

Social media provides new ways of communicating and collaborating

One of the big revolutions that social media sparked is the way in which communications are presented. No matter whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, we have what is generally called a “timeline”. This gives us a central “dashboard” showing a wide variety of communications from other people, from quick text updates to video sharing.

Attached to this is usually an instant direct messaging system, which integrates the general communication on the timeline with personal communication. It gives us the ability exchange private messages with those same people, in real time.

This has increased the efficiency and richness of an organisation’s communications, both internally and in the marketplace.

The instant messaging systems can also be used to transfer documents, allowing for better and faster collaboration between members of teams.

Social media changes the marketing conversation

Social media has completely changed the nature of the conversation between an organisation and its stakeholders and customers. For the first time ever, this is now a two-way conversation – the people we talk to with our marketing and media can talk back to us, and discuss things with each other – all in the same public forum, be that Twitter, Facebook or any number of customer feedback platforms.

This has changed the way in which organisations must engage with their customers. They must speak more personally and engage directly with customers individually. They must be aware that their voice is only one part of the conversation, no longer the only part.

Social media allows better customer service

This two-way conversation created by social media, along with its immediacy, allows organisations to hugely improve customer response times and service levels. They are able to become immediately aware of customer issues, respond to customer communication instantly and sort out the issue as soon as possible, while maintaining a constant, real-time conversation with the customers.

It also allows organisations to become more innovative and responsive to customer feedback. Social media provides immediate, live feedback so companies don’t need to wait for results of surveys, for example. They can gather customer information in real time and respond to changes in customer demands and tastes immediately.

This all translates into a more agile, modern and effective organisation.

Social media lets you use mobile

Mobile has overtaken PCs, laptops or tablets as the most common way of connecting to the Internet in Africa. What’s more, a significant proportion of time spent online with a mobile device is spent on one of the various social media platforms.

Social media thus provides a direct channel of communication through the device that most people use most often – a powerful tool for organisations to use.

Unfortunately, social media also comes with a warning

For the very reason that social media has connected business activity and communication with personal interaction, organisations have become vulnerable on completely new fronts.

As the same channels are used for both business and personal online interaction, lines between personal representation and business representation have become blurred. The result is that social media has presented organisations with a reputation management challenge.

It’s all too easy for a careless employee to post something damaging to an organisation, even when they are acting in a private capacity on social media. We can just call this the “Penny Sparrow effect” and move on.

There could also be more malicious intent, such as posting an opinion on the organisation’s activities or an exposé of working conditions, after resigning.

All of this means that an organisation needs to constantly monitor and manage social media - astutely, empathetically and responsibly. Used to its full potential, social media represents one of the most important large-scale changes to the world of communications and marketing in history. Forward-thinking organisations are changing in response, and reaping the rewards.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter @EduloanSA

Thursday, 24 March 2016

10 tips to prepare for the world of work

It’s all very well knowing what career you want and what you need to study to get there. At the same time, there are many other ways of preparing for the world of work that you’ll also have to pay attention to if you want to give yourself the best chance of success.

Develop an open and inquiring mind

This is one of the most important things to learn. By keeping an open mind and always asking questions you’ll be able to develop the right kind of understanding of any topic or task that you’ll need to tackle in your career. It will ensure that you always keep learning, developing and improving.

Learn to work to deadlines

One of the most difficult things to adjust to when you first start working is the constant deadlines and the pressure they create. At most you will be used to essay and assignment deadlines, which were presented in more or less a tightly ordered structure. In the workplace, however, things can be more chaotic, with many more deadlines constantly calling for your attention. You need to develop a resilience to this pressure.

Learn time management

Being able to successfully manage your time is one of the most valuable things you will ever learn to do. Doing well in your career will require you to be able to juggle many demands, cope with diverse pressures and pay attention to a multitude of details – all at the same time. The only way to do this successfully is to learn time management. It might not be a bad idea to take a short course in this.

Get into productive habits

Part of managing your time successfully is developing the right habits – so that productive behaviours become an automatic part of the way you work. Learn which things distract you from working and what enhances your focus and effectiveness. You might find that an early morning meditation is the best way to start the day, or that taking a short walk at lunch re-energises you. Turn these activities into habits.

Learn how to balance work with the rest of your life

Tertiary studies are a step up from school. Everything seems busier and your workload is definitely heavier. In the same way, the workplace is an even more demanding environment. One thing is for sure: you’re only going to get busier from now on.

This makes it very important to learn how to balance your work schedule with the other aspects of your life. Know what your priorities are, and make sure that you plan your days in such a way that you can pay attention to all the important facets of your life.

Know how to present the right appearance

It’s true that first impressions count, but the lasting impression you make is also important. So you need to develop the right way of presenting yourself, which is appropriate to the career you wish to follow.

Different careers have different norms, ways of behaviour, levels of formality and degrees of conservativeness. Find out what these are for the career you want and develop them in yourself so that they become second nature. For example, a banker is expected to be sincere, serious and prudent – so if this is your intended career, that is the image you need to learn to project.

Know your subject

This may seem like an obvious thing to say – however, it’s easy to forget that much of what we learn in our studies needs to become lifetime knowledge, when all we are concentrating on in the moment is the next exam. Instead, focus on accumulating a body of knowledge about the subject of your career, and try to become an expert in it.

Develop the confidence to take initiative

Allied to knowing your subject is the confidence to present your knowledge. Too many people know a lot, but are hesitant to voice their opinions or demonstrate too much competency in the workplace. There are different reasons for this.

You need to have the confidence in your knowledge and ability to work independently, without having to be told what to do all the time. Don’t be shy about showing your knowledge and ability – without being overconfident or arrogant.

Have a clear career path

For some people this will be really easy; for others it will take quite a bit of thought effort. Of course certain careers have more defined paths than others – for instance, someone wanting to become an advocate will have to follow clear steps to get there. With other careers you may have to define your career path for yourself. The trick is to decide where you want to end up, and plot your path back from there. That way it will be easier to see a clear route towards your goal.

Use as much technology as you can

Technology is already defining almost every aspect of the workplace, and this is only going to continue, at ever-increasing pace. Technology not only provides us with work tools; it also influences the ways in which we work and our behaviour in the workplace. This makes it very important to become comfortable with technology and to try and keep up with it as much as possible.

Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Digital convergence – will you be ready?

The near future workplace will be quite different to what it is now. There are several technological developments that are going to have a big influence on the way that we work.

Two of the most important of these developments are hyperconnectivity and digital convergence.

The future workplace

A technological sea change is about to occur in the workplace, with the emergence of hyperconnectivity and the "Internet of Everything". In this scenario almost all devices and office appliances will have chips in them, allowing them to communicate with each other, and with the broader business network and the Internet.

This hyperconnectivity will have a big impact on the ways in which we work. For instance, any flat surface that we pass will be able to have a customised touchscreen projected onto it, with which we can interact. Cloud computing will deliver the data and information that we need, so that we can work from anywhere on any device, using apps delivered over the network.

Unified communications with presence notification will allow us to locate and contact colleagues, business partners and clients. We will know exactly when they are available and the best way to contact them, be that by instant messaging or video-calling.

And in the midst of this will be a move towards digital convergence – a single device that is able to use all of this new technology.

A single device for everything

Convergence will become almost all-encompassing. We will use a single device for everything that we do – and we'll be able to use this device virtually anywhere.

Using always-on Wi-Fi we will use our device to connect to the Internet or company network. As soon as we have logged in the entire interface will be customised for our individual requirements, work habits and priorities. All the software or apps we need will be ready for us to use. Any information we need will be delivered via the cloud.

These devices will also have unified communications software that will detect when our contacts are available across all channels (voice, instant messaging, video, mobile and so on).

With this device we can also control the office environment, using hyperconnectivity to connect to lights, air conditioners, coffee machines, presentation screens and many other appliances and devices.

Of course we are already seeing the beginnings of digital convergence with our smartphones. These devices now allow us to do a huge variety of tasks, from keeping track of our gym schedules to posting on social media. They are cameras, music players and voice carriers. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, however.

Preparing for the future

What all of this means for you, as someone who will work in this future work environment, is that you need to keep up all the time. You don't only have to stay abreast of the latest technology, but also of the latest ways of using that technology.

As technology emerges, so do trends in the way it is used. We only need look at the smartphone once again to see this. The primary use of the cellphone used to be to make and receive calls. However, the convergence of different communications channels on a single smartphone (voice, video, text, instant messaging, social chat, and apps like Snapchat and Tinder) has given people many more choices. The result has been a change in communications behaviour – people, especially millennials, no longer use voice as their main communication method: their preference is for instant messaging apps.

It's only by using the latest technology and being immersed in the ways of using it that you will be able to stay up to date with the new ways of working that you are emerging, and that you will experience when you enter the workplace one day.

We can help you with this – if you need a technology loan while you're studying, speak to us.

Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)

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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Your career – a journey of a thousand miles

We've come to live in a virtually instantaneous world. Technology has sped up interactions between people and the delivery of items and services, and created within us a need for instant gratification.

In our communications we have become used to getting instant responses to our IM interactions; for our entertainment we now prefer watching several episodes of a series all at once, rather than waiting to watch one episode each week.

This culture of instantaneous results has become entrenched in our expectations – we now expect similar levels of immediacy in all aspects of our lives, from our romantic liaisons to our careers.

Unfortunately, life's not actually like that, as much as it may feel that way in this fast-paced, hyperconnected world in which we live.


Worthwhile things still take time

There are still many areas of life where the wheels turn more slowly. One such area is your career. Unless you're some kind of prodigy who graduated from university with a doctorate at the age of 15, you are going to find that your career is a long and winding journey, requiring dedication, effort and, above all, the right mental approach.

You need to gear yourself up for the long run, and realise that you are going to have to work your way through the various stages of your chosen career – it's not going to happen for you all at once.


How do you tackle something so vast?

There is a well-worn cliché that applies here – after all, clichés have become that because they have proven to be repeatedly true. It's this: a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

Almost all successful executives will tell you that the way they fulfilled their career ambitions was to approach their careers one step at a time. They didn't come out of university expecting to become managers immediately. They understood that getting to the top of a mountain unavoidably means starting right at the bottom, and putting one foot in front of the other to reach the summit.

This is the approach you should take to your career. By all means, set goals for what you want to achieve, and the positions you want to hold. Just realise that right now you need to concentrate on the immediate steps that are right in front of you. A very good way to do this is to remind yourself daily that your next step is simply to do 'the next right thing' that lies in your path. Whether it is delivering on a small task, or taking a course to supplement your education and advance your career – it's all about doing things step by step.


Why are things still like this?

There's a very good and simple reason why the career journey is so long. It is an aspect of life, like becoming a good parent or going on a banting diet, where it takes a long time to accumulate the knowledge, experience and ability required to succeed. It's very rare that one is immediately good at something this complex.

We need to put in the hours, show dedication, and constantly learn and develop if we are to reach our goals. Often we need to practise enough before we can take the next step.

So the best approach you can take to your career is to combine patience with perseverance, refuse to compromise on your ambitions, and realise that you need to commit to a long-term process.

That way you'll not only reach your goals and reap the rewards, but you'll have the satisfaction of always being able to say that you are investing meaningfully in your life journey.

Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter@EduloanSA

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Study tips for students

The world of tertiary study is very different to what you were used to the school classroom. For one thing, you will be required at university or college to use more of your own initiative and find additional sources to supplement the information you are given in lectures or seminars. You will have to work more independently than you may be used to, without the same level of guidance you received at school.

Here are a few tips to help you adjust to your new world of study.

Time management

This is something you'll want to develop and refine as soon as possible. From now on, in both your studies and your future career, time management will be an important skill to have.

One of the best ways to manage your time is to plan your schedule for each day in advance. Every day, create a list of things that you need to do, and a list of the things that you want to do. Obviously the first list will be more urgent, but it's important that you also plan leisure time and other activities in order to create a balanced lifestyle.

Next comes the really important part – prioritising your list. Work out the importance of each item, and then work through them from most important to least important.

Make sure that you allocate enough time to accomplish each task – you'll find that you get better at this the more you practise.

Be organised

It's much easier to work efficiently and get things done if you are organised. Organise the place where you study by yourself. Organise all your books, files and papers from the very start, so that you always know where to find items that you need. You'll waste a lot of time otherwise, searching for things.

Take regular breaks

There's a reason why lectures only last for a certain amount of time – they're based on the optimum concentration and information absorption levels that the average person has.

The same goes for you when you study alone. Work for about 45 minutes at a time, with short breaks in-between. This will help to keep your mind fresh and your concentration levels as high as possible.

While it may feel "wrong" to take all of these breaks, especially if you are under pressure, you will find that you are able to focus better this way, rather than studying for extended uninterrupted periods.

Look after yourself

It's not for nothing that there is the truism: healthy body, healthy mind. You can keep your brain working in top condition by eating healthily and getting enough of the right nutrition. Try to eat low GI foods as these will help to keep your blood sugar levels balanced.

Get enough sleep. We know that there are many reasons to lose sleep when you're studying at university or college – from workload to partying. Nonetheless, try to get enough regular sleep, as you'll function far better if you are properly rested.

Exercise regularly. Physical exercise stimulates the brain and helps to relax the body so that it is better able to deal with stress. You'll also find that you can concentrate better and have more mental stamina.

Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)