by Julie R. Neidlinger from the Lone Prairie blog

The concepts of what work is, has changed.

What we think work is, both in culture and how it fits into our lives, has changed in the 21st century. Entrepreneurship, including micro-entrepreneurship, has lead the way, with 21st century workers wanting to work for themselves instead of for someone else.

Concepts of co-working, a tough economy and job market, and technology that allows for a low-cost entry into owning their own business, have helped push younger workers (and some older ones) into owning their own businesses.

This drive towards entrepreneurship and making a success of a business plays into the steady increase in more hours per week being dedicated to work.

Technology has made significant changes in how and what work is done. Fewer people are required to generate the same manufactured output thanks to technology, allowing (or forcing) people to shift to urban centers and find other kinds of work. Technology has allowed human workers to be unshackled from the office, giving them greater freedom.

Work in the 21st century is about being flexible and mobile, ready for change both in skills and financial savings.

TIP TUESDAY: Building a Company Culture that Puts People First

by Matt Rizzetta, CEO of North 6th Agency, Inc. (N6A), a brand communications agency based in New York and Toronto; from Monster.com

As a business leader, it’s easy to confuse company culture with the trendy perks that make a work environment seem attractive from the outside.

As a CEO of a growing company, I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. Come to our office and you will see such things as roulette wheels lined with wellness and travel rewards, and catered lunches every Thursday.

Such perks make the office environment a cool place to work, but they don’t define the company culture. Ultimately, true culture comes down to people.

If you’re a business leader who’s looking to make an investment in people to build a meaningful culture, here are some people-first tips to keep in mind:

1.    Remember Your Survival Days
When you’re starting out in business you’re in survival mode, plain and simple. You’re simply doing everything you can to earn respect. This is when the ethos of your company’s true culture is born. As your company gets bigger, ask yourself, “What did our company do when we were in survival mode? What did we stand for when we first started that made us successful?”

In our company’s case, our survival mode days were all about an underdog journey, a tale of beating odds and being told that we were wrong. A tale of loyalty and giving back. The companies that tend to build culture the right way — and do it for a sustained period of time — are the ones that embrace their roots and make it a core part of their culture as they get bigger.

2.    Visuals Are Key
The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words rings especially true when reinforcing company culture.  It’s one thing for employees to hear about company culture, but it’s another thing for them to actually see it.

Every quarter we sit down with our entire company and host a checkpoint. We kick each one of these sessions off with a photo album of cultural events, highlights and bonding moments from the previous quarter, as if we were a family flipping through a photo book and reminiscing over the moments that brought us closer together.

Employees hear about the company’s culture all the time — in recruiting materials, company handbooks and on your website. Help them see it and feel it.

3. Align Business Values With Life Values
Don’t be afraid to get a little personal when it comes to creating culture.

Perhaps the best way to build genuineness and integrity in your culture is to take what you believe in in your life and apply it to your business.

I run our business with the same core values and the same approach that I apply to my life. What matters most to me in life is exactly the same as what our corporate culture represents — it’s a symbiotic relationship. Be loyal to those who got you there, give back, compete, care, and experiment.

Chances are you have your own set of values that are near and dear to your heart. Embrace those values, and don’t be afraid to let them spill over from your life into your business.

To read the rest, click here.

WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: 4 Facts to Know About Hiring Good People

Everyone talks about the importance of “hiring good people.”  Meaning what, exactly? Skills and experience? Character? Eagle Scouts? People like you?

Keeping these following facts in mind will help you hire employees who will be a good fit in your organization—they may even turn out to be simply good people.

1. People lie.

For whatever reasons, it is common for job candidates to exaggerate—or even just outright lie—on resumes and application forms, and even in interviews. This happens at all levels, including some infamous failures in hiring for the C-suite.

Some employers put it down to the intense competition applicants feel in a kind of escalating ground war with other similar candidates who may look better, but the reality is that lying to get a job is an indicator of the person’s character, and there is no reason to think that similar behavior won’t happen again when the person becomes part of your organization.

2. Turnover is expensive.

When you think about the costs to recruit, interview, and train, combined with the lost knowledge, lost productivity, and stress on staff who remain while the position is being filled and the ‘new person’ is getting up to speed, the costs are undoubtedly great.

Everyone knows there will be a certain amount of turnover in an organization, but you want to avoid mistakes in hiring that lead to premature departures. This puts pressure on you to devise a hiring process that is systematic and thorough even though that might seem to cost more in the short run. The ultimate quality of your candidates is affected at every step of the hiring process.

3. Blanket Exclusions are Dangerous – and May Be Unfair

For convenience or efficiency, employers sometimes choose to reject applicants based on simple or even single factor criteria. For example, some employers have excluded applicants, without further research, based on a single statement that they have a criminal conviction in the past. This strategy may expose you to litigation by rejected applicants and potential action by regulators, and it likely leads you to miss out on good hires.

There are jobs where a hard and fast rule for exclusions exists, such as rejecting applicants for law enforcement jobs if they have a criminal conviction. But your hiring process should be built largely around screening applicants for their qualifications based on job-related criteria and be sure the hiring process aims to evaluate the individual fairly for his or her own circumstances, and how they do or do not fit the position.

4. The social media ‘goldmine’ can just as easily become a minefield.

Employers have easy access to a trove of personal information about candidates via social media. But keep two things in mind before you succumb to the temptation to peek inside your candidate’s personal life.

First, remember that once you look into the candidate’s accounts, you cannot “unlook” at it. In other words, you cannot pretend not to notice things about the person’s history, political views, or any other matter of private belief or lifestyle. You are accountable for knowing what is in there.

Second, the use of any information you find in a social media account is protected by the same laws that protect the use of offline information. The rules about privacy are evolving, but some courts have found social media accounts to be off limits for use in employment decisions. You may need to look at this kind of information, but you are best served by giving the job to a third party agency that will follow the laws diligently.

No doubt about it: good people make companies great…. and with these facts in hand you are better equipped to bring more of the right people on board .

TIP TUESDAY: Can You Hear Me Now?

Whether you are an entry-level account executive or the CEO of your firm, one of the most important skills necessary to thrive in the workplace, is to be a good listener. But what does it mean to be a “good” listener and how can you use this skill to excel on the job?

Everyone has their own way of communicating, both verbally and physically. Below are tips to help you become a better listener in the workplace and throughout your career.

Understanding Various Styles of Both Verbal and Physical Communication

Understand that there are several different types of communication styles, and that the background of the person you are speaking with may be different from your own. Keep in mind that this includes more than just the words a person is speaking. It’s necessary to pay attention to things like tone, facial expressions, gestures, and posture to fully interpret what a person is saying and how they’re feeling.

Building Relationships with People You Frequently Talk To and Work With

Building meaningful relationships with your colleagues will help you get a grasp on their communication styles and will also help to create a positive work culture. Developing this rapport will not only allow you to learn their approach to communication, but it will also make the communication process more efficient.

At times, you may encounter individuals who are very soft-spoken and others who are loud and passionate in their delivery.  You will certainly meet people who like to communicate with their hands and make a lot of movements, some that are very direct, and others who are verbose and may take longer to articulate their message. Being patient and focusing on the speaker will allow you to better understand the point they are trying to make.

Listening to A Complete Message or Thought

Regardless of the speaker’s approach, allow them to completely finish their thoughts before responding. Interrupting could cause them to lose focus and forget important details. Listening to their complete thought will also allow you to digest the whole of what they are saying instead of in fragments. Additionally, if you are speaking about a subject that is sensitive to you, don’t make assumptions and try not to overreact or get easily offended. Listen, comprehend, and respond in a calm manner.

Asking Questions to Illicit the Best Response

If you don’t understand something that was said, you should never leave a conversation with lingering questions.  In order to illicit the best response, be direct with your language and don’t be afraid to rephrase your question if their answer still doesn’t make sense. Remember, no question is a bad question and it’s better to get a clear understanding of the situation now rather than have to revisit the topic later.

After a conversation, meeting, or presentation is over, it’s helpful to recap the conversation either verbally or in writing to ensure that you not only listened but understood the message correctly.

TIP TUESDAY: 13 Tips to Stay Motivated in the Dog Days of Summer

from Entrepeneur magazine

You may not want to admit it, but you’re probably longing to take a dip in a pool instead of working. Unfortunately, an entrepreneur’s 24/7 work schedule rarely allows for much of a summer break.

So, we went to the experts, including pro athletes, authors, happiness experts and, of course, entrepreneurs, to find out what they do to recharge. Read on for 13 ways to stay inspired to work hard this summer and even cull out a few minutes to decompress.

1. Power through it.
“It’s tempting to take a break, to slow things down in the dog days of summer. But there’s somebody out there who wants to be in your place. That person might be working on the next big thing that will compete with your business.

2. Make a (reasonable) list.
“Every night, jot down the things you need to get done the next day. Try to move through all of them, but if you don’t, just add them to the next day’s to-do list. Keep the list manageable during the summer and get a bit done every day.

3. Create your own “quitting time.”
“It’s tempting to work around the clock or at least to feel that you should be working–and that means that you don’t have a feeling of leisure. By telling yourself, ‘After 7:30, no more work’ or ‘Sunday is a day off,’ you ensure that you get the rest and relaxation that are crucial to being productive. I remind myself, ‘To keep going, I have to allow myself to stop.'”–Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (Harper Perennial, 2009) and the forthcoming, Happier at Home (Crown Archetype, 2012)

Click here to read the other 10 tips in the article in Entrepreur magazine