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Ruth Bramson on Developing Women Leaders

THE GIRL SCOUT LAW

I will do my best to be:
honest and fair, friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring, courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
and to respect myself and others, respect authority,
use resources wisely, make the world a better place,
and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

This is a big month for our board member, Ruth Bramson.   Ruth is CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and March 2012 is the centennial of the Girl Scouts of America.  Ruth heads an organization that touches the lives of 45,000 girls in 178 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts, supported by the efforts of over 17,000 volunteers.  Ruth’s had a lot of significant leadership positions in her career, but this is clearly the one about which she’s most passionate.  Ruth shared some of her advice to young women who wish to become leaders in this recent article on Forbes.com and to the organizations who need to cultivate women leaders in our recent book, The Elements of Successful Organizations.

The mission of Girl Scouting is to build girls of “courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place”.  Ruth and I recently spoke about the lessons she’s learned as a female executive in the retail, services, public sector and non-profit worlds as well as the areas she and the Girl Scouts are focused on to develop the next generation of women leaders.  These efforts include STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives intended to engage girls’ interest in these subjects that not only can lead to rewarding careers, but also fill much needed gaps in the talent pool required to keep Massachusetts (and the rest of the nation) competitive as a high tech hub.  The recent  “Generation STEM” research published by the Girl Scouts indicates that stereotypical attitudes about girls in STEM fields continues to inhibit young women’s pursuit of careers in these disciplines.

I asked Ruth, given all the advances women have made in the past 30 years, why we still need organizations to pay attention to the development of girls and women.  You can listen in and hear her answers here:  Ruth Bramson on developing female leaders.

Going Global? Get a Translator

Today’s guest post is from our board member, Bob Clements and addresses the wisdom of engaging local expertise in the design and implementation of global workforce management systems.


In 1981, President Carter toured Japan and China shortly after leaving the White House.  During this tour, he was asked to speak at a small college in Japan.  Everybody at the college – professors, students and the students’ parents – was nervous when he arrived for his speech.  President Carter decided to put the audience at ease with a joke to start his speech.  He knew the joke wasn’t his funniest, but it was short which he felt was important when translating from English to Japanese.

When his speech started, he told his joke and waited for the translation.  To his surprise, the audience roared with laughter. People were literally falling out of their chairs, as the story goes.  President Carter said that it was the best response that he had ever had to a joke in his life.

After the speech, the President asked the translator how he told the joke, because while the joke was amusing, he was surprised by the reaction.  At first, the translator dodged the question, but finally, he admitted that he did not translate the joke.  Instead, he said to the audience, “President Carter just told a funny story.  Everyone must laugh.”  And they did.

When President Carter recalls this story, he quips how good it is to be the President.  However, when I hear the story, I see how important a good translator is.  In this case, the President’s translator did more than regurgitate language.  He translated culture and social norms.  He knew that the Japanese audience would not understand President Carter’s joke.  He also knew the Japanese would be polite and laugh if asked.  And they did.

In my job, it seems like every company I speak with, regardless of where they are headquartered, is talking about taking their workforce management system and/or processes into one or more new countries.  This may be driven by a strategic initiative to open operations in a new country, the result of an acquisition, or a desire to streamline operations and standardize on a single system or set of processes.

Regardless of what is driving the initiative, I’m always surprised by the lack of knowledge and awareness – dare I say, naiveté – most organizations have when it comes to making a global deployment successful.  Even organizations that have deployed systems and processes globally forget that when you start talking about workforce management – or just about any other human resource-related initiative – you are affecting the way people are scheduled and paid, and when you mess that up, people get really upset.

Making matters more challenging, the rules that govern how people are scheduled and paid can vary dramatically, not just by country, but by region, facility, department, and job.  Variation can even occur by individual.

You cannot succeed in this complex environment on your own.  You need a translator like the one President Carter had.  This isn’t just someone who can speak the language.  It’s someone who understands the culture, and the way that people at your company work in that country.  For many organizations, the translator may be a local HR representative or seasoned manager who knows the local workplace as well as the workforce and the rules that govern them.  Ideally, he or she is well known and respected by the workforce.

Your translator is a strategic part of bringing your workforce management initiative into a new country, not just some lackey there to push through a corporate initiative.  He or she should be identified and involved as part of the project team from its inception.  Early in the project, your translator helps identify cultural, legal and contractual requirements that need to be addressed.  Later in the project, he or she can be your feet on the ground to help introduce the new system or process.  He or she can be your eyes and ears to understand issues with adoption and help identify solutions to overcome such challenges.

Bob’s mention of Jimmy Carter reminds me of another one of his unintended bloopers. In a speech in Poland he said ‘I want to know the Polish people,’ which was translated into Polish as, ‘I want to have carnal knowledge of the Polish people.’

What unintended consequences have you experienced trying to do the right thing, but doing it the wrong way?


Healthcare Providers Don’t Have to Sacrifice Quality Care to Stay on Budget

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Joe Hyland, Product Marketing Manager at Kronos. The benefits and challenges of using “big data” to transform business is a popular topic today – and especially so at last week’s SXSW Interactive and CEBIT conferences where issues ranging from data ownership to data privacy were hot topics.  Joe’s post below focuses on the implications of big data for healthcare workforce management.

The driving force within healthcare is delivering exceptional patient care. Yet just as is the case within other industries, hospitals and health systems need to provide quality care while maintaining profitability. To accomplish this, healthcare providers often walk a fine line trying to scheduling the optimal mix of nurses or supplemental agency workers to meet the needs of fluctuating patient volume.

Approximately 28% of a hospitals’ workforce is comprised of registered nurses (US Dept of Labor Statistics). With most RNs being paid hourly and eligible for overtime,  healthcare organizations have an significant motivation to  leverage analytics to control and improve upon this significant manageable expense. But how?

With the recent release of Workforce Analytics for Healthcare, healthcare organizations have a more powerful solution to gain the visibility into their workforce to make intelligent, fact-based decisions on their workforce scheduling.  As Dr. Tim Porter O’Grady noted in his recent post about healthcare scheduling, to do so effectively  is virtually impossible without the ability to find correlations within complex trends.   Adjusting schedules is the easy part. But what are the repercussions? Workforce Analytics for Healthcare allows healthcare organizations to answer critical questions about how absence affects the delivery of quality care, the impact of overtime on patient outcomes, and whether or not shift length is contributing to errors or negatively impacting patient safety.

The right analytics and decision support solution enables healthcare organizations to fully understand the impact of their staffing decisions and overtime utilization. The result? Maximizing quality care while staying on budget.