In my time with Simplicity, I’ve met with hundreds of clients. I’ve heard their business challenges and aspirations, their pain points and their wish lists. In those conversations, I’ve also observed key commonalities in what they value in a great consultant.
Those consistent themes are the foundation of our core values, SMILE. They’re how we show up—and why our clients continue partnering with us. They’re also an incredibly useful framework for you to evaluate whether a consultant is the right resource for your team.
I’ll guide you through each of our core values (S - M - I - L - E), highlighting what to look for and why it matters.
Our guiding principles inspire us to bring our best selves to work, each and every day. These five values—Self starter, Meaningful relationships, Innovative, Learning, and Energy—represent the things that our clients have consistently asked for in our 14 years of client service. Here are the things to look for in a great consultant.
This is one of the most important traits for a good consultant or on-demand resource. Regardless of experience level or role, a self-starter has the drive and internal motivation to take initiative and get things done.
Our business was built on relationships, and we and our consultants strive to add value in every interaction and in every relationship. Building meaningful relationships will enable your consultant to earn trust and establish rapport with project stakeholders—essentials for the project’s success.
Yes, it’s a buzzword, but an innovative approach is a differentiator in today’s fast-paced digital world. An innovative mindset will enable a consultant to think big and offer unique solutions.
We encourage a growth mindset in our staff and consultants. That appetite for lifelong learning translates to an expert who’s constantly retooling their skills and staying up-to-date with the latest tools, approaches, and techniques. That also means the humility to admit mistakes and recognize others’ areas of expertise.
Last but not least, let’s have a little fun! An infection infectious attitude and a willingness to jump in and contribute goes a long way. Look for that spark to find an expert that’s truly right for your team and the work.
Want more resources? Now that you know what to look for in a consultant, download our 7 Habits of Highly Successful Hiring Managers eBook to get the definitive guidelines for repeatable project success.
When you’re ready to put our on-demand experts to work for you, let’s talk.
Together, we are all navigating an uncertain path toward economic recovery as governments around the world order lockdowns, re-openings, and sadly, rollbacks of re-openings. When the lockdown began in March here in Washington State, I was already contributing to a story on an AI skilling solution in my work with the business incubation team within the broader Microsoft AI Marketing team. The pandemic has accelerated the need for tech innovation, including AI solutions, to help reimagine the future of work and re-train and upskill workers for a post-COVID-19 world. I set out to learn and share how thought leaders are looking at these challenges.
The focus on AI as a powerful tool to address skills gaps predates the pandemic—in 2019 Bernard Marr, an author and AI tech influencer, wrote in Forbes, “from how we are recruited and on-boarded to how we go about on-the-job training, personal development, and eventually passing on our skills and experience to those who follow in our footsteps, AI technology will play an increasingly prominent role.”
Then—in just the first three months of the pandemic—US unemployment claims outpaced those filed during two years of the Great Recession, according to the Pew Research Center. The crisis has disproportionately affected women, Black men, Hispanics, immigrant workers, and those with lower levels of education. The report also found that those with college degrees were six times more likely to have the option to telecommute than workers without a high school diploma.
In other words, the pandemic widened existing opportunity gaps.
Microsoft President Brad Smith addressed these growing gaps in a June announcement of a global Microsoft worker skilling initiative that will include an AI-powered job interview preparation feature.
“The pandemic has shined a harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap around the world—a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery,” Smith wrote.
The first of the Microsoft partnerships, with the City of Atlanta, was also announced in July.
"Through Accelerate: Atlanta, Microsoft, and its partners will help close the digital divide and ensure there is a place for everyone in our shared future," said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "The road to economic recovery must begin with pathways to opportunity that are inclusionary and accessible to all."
That same month, a consortium of tech companies led by Infosys announced an AI-based talent-matching platform “to meet the reskilling and employment needs raised by the COVID-19 crisis.”
To help local governments address gaps in opportunities, Smith also pledged that Microsoft would make data and analytics available to governments seeking to assess economic needs specific to their regions, as in the Atlanta partnership.
A May 2020 Deloitte Insights piece on the future of work observed: “COVID-19 showed people that while technology can augment and supplement work, it does not replace what is needed from humans. The health crisis gave people a greater appreciation for the fact that humans and technology are more powerful together than either can be on their own. Consider how telemedicine, manufacturing, education, and even grocery delivery drew on the power of integrated human-machine teams during the crisis.”
Examples include an IBM Watson-powered chatbot that helps public health workers reduce call wait-times, and robot assistants that help health care providers to safely care for the sickest COVID patients, while reducing the need for scarce personal protective equipment.
And yet, fears that the robots are coming to take our jobs are increasingly real.
In the absence of job protection or reskilling, says Hayasaki, many essential roles in health care and other fields risk elimination. And while some workers will be able to retrain as “robot wranglers” who can do things that robots can’t, says Hayasaki, there will be fewer of those jobs.
Ai-Jen Poo, the co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, struck a hopeful note for lower-wage workers in a recent interview: “Think of how much has changed in the last five months, and how much we have survived, thanks to our essential workers. Let’s make sure that five years from now, their jobs, health, and wellbeing are as secure as they kept us.”
Many thought leaders agree that the government will need to play a leading role.
“The government is the only actor that really has the capacity to act on the scale that’s needed,” David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, has said. “Let’s create a Marshall Plan for the US: Rebuild American infrastructure, invest in schools, and remake ourselves.”
The need for new legislation and regulation in AI tech is a hot-button issue. However, there is growing consensus among some leading tech companies that there need to be agreed-upon standards, and that companies should not be left to evaluate and self-regulate their own compliance.
As protesters gathered around the world to support Black Lives Matter, top tech companies including IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon announced plans to permanently discontinue or suspend sales of facial recognition technology to police departments. Smith said Microsoft’s suspension of sales would continue in the US until “until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights, that will govern this technology.” In a letter to members of Congress, IBM opposed use of any technology that violates basic human rights and freedoms.
To some degree, this thinking extends to their customers. According to a March 2020 O’Reilly enterprise AI adoption survey, 40% of companies in the evaluation phase ranked fairness, bias, and ethics as the second-highest risk factor. For businesses with more mature AI implementations, the same risk ranked third, with 48% reporting that they already check for fairness and bias during model building and deployment.
Facebook announced plans to set up its own “internal teams” to examine racial bias in its Facebook and Instagram algorithms. As many journalists—including Kara Swisher, in her New York Times columns and Pivot podcast—have documented, the company has served as a model for why regulation is needed.
In January, IBM had already announced IBM Policy Lab, which advocates for “precision regulation” of AI “based on accountability, transparency, fairness, and security,” along with the appointment of AI ethics officials to act as watchdogs.
Academic researchers, including Joy Buolamwini, Timnit Gebru, and Inioluway Deborah (Deb) Raji, are receiving attention for their groundbreaking work to push tech companies to reduce racial and gender bias in AI. In their study, the AI tech of leading companies failed to accurately classify iconic Black women such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams.
“As more people question how seemingly neutral technology has gone astray," Buolamwini said, “it’s becoming clear just how important it is to have broader representation in the design, development, deployment, and governance of AI.”
AI has the power to narrow—or exacerbate—the skills and opportunity gap. Narrowing the gap requires responsible and effective use of AI … and our collective attention. I encourage you to do your part.
Take whatever action you can to help narrow opportunity gaps, such as the network gap. Join the conversations around closing the skills gap and creating more equity in AI innovation. Follow and engage with thought leaders in the space, including those mentioned in this post.
I was thrilled to help organize a two-part training series to 1) help leaders break through communication barriers, and 2) provide communication tips for overcoming workplace conflicts.
Chances are, you answered yes to at least one of these questions. We’ve all been there. Communication can be challenging, especially in the workplace, yet it plays a fundamental role in our daily lives.
A huge thank you to Julie Schaller, a longtime friend of Simplicity and cofounder of Empower Coaching, for sharing her time and knowledge with our community.
Get actionable strategies for overcoming the most common communication challenges. Julie Schaller uses the Myers-Briggs personality type framework to help you better understand your communication style and how your style relates to other in the workplace.
In this 30-minute LinkedIn Live presentation, Julie shares pro tips for overcoming communication conflicts in the workplace. This training will help you:
Why it matters
The art of communicating effectively at work is a barrier for many professionals, especially in this increasingly digital era. It can cost you the promotion of your dreams, a life-changing deal, or career advancement.
For some, good communication comes naturally, but for others, it can be challenging to articulate their thoughts and feelings in conversation, often leading to conflicts and fundamental mistakes. Whether you are an effective communicator or not, it is essential to understand the importance of effective communication and how it can help you progress in the world of work. This is especially true for professionals in marketing and business management where effective comms ensure that teams work together and are in line with the company's objectives, giving others a sense of belonging and resulting in increased performance, constant innovation, and brand advocacy.
On Friday, February 28, I was knee-deep in Microsoft Research’s largest event of the year, TechNext. Hundreds of researchers from around the world were getting ready to board planes bound for Redmond, WA, to showcase their cutting-edge demos—content they’d been preparing for months, even years.
And then the coronavirus hit stateside. Within 48 hours of the tragic first fatality in Washington State—mere miles from the Microsoft campus—all of the company’s large scheduled events switched from live to virtual, and my role as an event and video producer for Microsoft forever changed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what events will look like moving forward. The tried and true keynote & demo video format that’s used by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and more has been obliterated. How will we reimagine live events that fill NBA arenas? How will tech companies showcase their latest technologies? How do we engage 50, 5000, and 50,000 people online? Nobody has this figured out yet.
I’m on a quest to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can. You may recognize my teachers—Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and John Oliver. I’ve become a late-night comedy addict. They are setting the stage for what will work—and what won’t—for virtual events. We get to learn and laugh at the same time.
Here’s what I’ve learned from the kings of late night.
Authenticity is paramount. Nobody wants over-produced content anymore—and they won’t once we’re out of this, either. We like Jimmy Fallon’s graphics drawn in crayon by his daughters. We feel for Colbert as he’s trying to figure out how to work from home without an audience. We know that Tom Hanks is our dad after joining him in his kitchen on SNL. We feel connected to the late-night hosts because we are in their homes and in their lives.
If it’s too slick, audiences will notice, and they won’t engage.
Trevor Noah is killing it. His recent interview with Bill Gates looked good, but not too good. He’s using multiple cameras and a good microphone, and he’s working with his graphic designer and editor. All of the late-night hosts are using 4K cameras, or iPhones, and a good mic—not the web camera on their computer.
My video team at Microsoft created an at-home-studio kit with a microphone, mini tripod, and one of the small circular lights that the Instagram influencers use. We send it to our video subjects, so they look somewhere between webcam and production house. These small tweaks make a big difference in the quality of your video or event.
Networking is the primary reason that people attend events.
But how do you replicate the hallway connection or the buffet-line conversation? Can you get the same face-to-face connection online? The race is on to figure this piece out.
We’re experimenting with this now. For example, we’re creating multiple chat rooms to replicate happy hour conversations, where attendees can chat in one room and then jump to another.
I’m inspired by how the hellos in SNL’s virtual open makes you feel like you’re part of the cast. I’d LOVE to see something like this for Microsoft: Satya Nadella pops up, and then Microsoft CFO, Amy Hood, and Brad Smith joins in. You get the idea …
Jimmy Fallon, Sting, and The Roots had a fantastic virtual connection with Don't Stand So Close to Me. They aren’t live, but it sure it feels like it.
Storytelling must shift in this moment. Speakers who don't acknowledge that the world is dramatically changed are going to come across as tone deaf.
And while you’re at it … ditch the tech speak: you’ll lose people. Don’t overwhelm them with jargon & dry technical descriptions. Act like you’re talking to them at a cocktail party about a cool feature.
This is tech’s time to shine. The technology for captivating demos already exists—take advantage of it. Check out this incredible Julie White Hologram Demo from Microsoft Ignite.
Event producers have the biggest challenge and the greatest opportunity of their careers. We have a huge opportunity to shake up the traditional model and try new things. Nobody thought that a virtual SNL would work. Part of the excitement of this moment is seeing the creative ways that people are DIYing their content and shows—events can do the same thing.
I’m excited to dive in headfirst, after a few more late nights spent laughing and learning. We’re all starving for connection and authentic experiences in our lives and our work. Creating authentic experiences that offer people that connection will be the bar for success.
What about you: How are you thinking about virtual events? Let me know. I’m available almost anytime but 11:35 pm.
Melinda Morrison made us laugh—and reflect—in her blog post. So, we felt like recording a follow up. Here are some clips from our conversation with Melinda:
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been struggling at some level to adjust to this new normal. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home, it’s not just adjusting to working fully remotely—it’s also dealing with headline fatigue and the stress of looming economic uncertainty, trying to homeschool and/or keep your children alive and fed while also working, coping with a friend or loved one who’s sick, supporting someone who’s unemployed or at risk of losing their job, or feeling isolated and alone. It’s A LOT.
We wanted to hear from our community on how they’re staying connected … while staying apart.
Lisa Hufford, our CEO and founder, [virtually] sat down with a handful of our experts—a group with 60+ combined years of remote work experience (!!!)—to talk about remote work in this current environment, from leading remote teams and creating an at-home work environment to communicating with empathy. Here’s the full conversation.
The chat window was lively during the virtual conversation! Here are a few of my favorite comments and suggestions:
“Home schooling is not working!” Same, Daniel H., SAME.
“We've been doing virtual coffee chats on Wednesday morning and including families in the chats. And a women's virtual lunch on Mondays.” Love these ideas, Linda B.! We may need to replicate at Simplicity HQ!
“Is it ok to wear yoga pants EVERY DAY?!” Another hard same. Carrie M., you are all of us.
And from Farida S.: “I started a notebook to take 5 minutes a day to write down my challenges and during the night I spend 15 minutes to think about those and see how I can work on those for the next day :)” Yes, Farida! We just instituted a daily morning Gratitude & Goals video meeting. It’s been wonderful to start the day with a grid of smiling faces and an outpouring of gratitude.
“I use TimeTrade to help with ensuring that I have a buffer between conversations by setting up ‘rules’ for when I forget to do it for myself on Outlook.” Hot tip, Erica L. I will definitely be giving this a whirl.
And lastly, a few remote work resources:
Stay connected while staying apart: Our team shares their tips for working remotely—ranging from tech hacks to self-care reminders.
5 tips for staying productive (and sane!) while adjusting to remote work: To everyone who's adapting to working from home for the first time, this one's for you.
5 tips for successfully managing remote employees: Remote work is still just work. If these sound like just being a good manager—they are! However, these best practices are even more important when dealing with remote workers.
Our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, shares in Forbes what skills are in demand, how to build confidence and credibility, and thinking outside the traditional employment model.
When I left the world of creative and academic writing for technical marketing work, I vowed to use my powers for good.
I scorned businesses that used showy, shadowy language to manipulate buyers. Even as a software technical writer who worked on admin guides and help files (remember those?), I strove to make personal connections, even if they were only in my mind: Whoever reads this will do their job better. Or at least hate it less. I sympathized with end users who probably read my words through clenched teeth anyway, only consulting documentation when things were already going wrong.
Ideally, I wanted to make them feel better—heroic, even—about their work.
Storytelling is what led me to become a case study writer. Along the way, I grew fascinated by the ways businesses function, and I gradually fell in love with the idea of helping to make them successful. And it turns out that telling their stories on the individual customer level is a critical exercise in achieving communications success. Product positioning and message frameworks are important, but until companies reach their prospects on a human level, they're bypassing the opportunity to truly engage the decision makers and influencers who will hopefully see their vision and buy their stuff.
Customer stories are among the most influential content types in B2B software purchase decisions. A well-chosen, well-executed case study project benefits all involved.
Case studies have a familiar structure: Here was the business problem; here's what we did about it; and here were the results.
As knowledge workers, we apply this reasoning repeatedly when generating use cases for our ideas—but as long as it's us talking, the ideas are hypothetical, and we're limited by the credibility of our own bias. It's one thing to say what you're good at; it's another thing when you get happy customers to say it on your behalf. And so, companies create case studies as customer evidence to shore up their own claims about what makes their offerings market-worthy.
I write case studies because they use the art and force of storytelling to make technology solutions and services come to life for my clients. Interviewing their customers gives me the perspective to understand how a real business operates in ways that relate to the value my client offers. By talking to actual people about how they do their jobs, I learn about my client's solution from every angle and can expand on their value proposition to craft true stories that are concrete and vibrant, not smarmy or abstract.
It's one thing to say what you're good at. It's another thing when you get happy customers to say it on your behalf.
This can be a jarring perspective shift for many marketing departments who are stuck in the gerbil wheel of rote benefits recitation and side-of-the-box feature fluff. The usual message-based content tactics still matter, of course, but on their own they don't connect with humans until you provide a picture of actual problems being addressed and solved by people who behave, more or less, like them.
The Featured Customer website ran an article a few years back highlighting the proven benefits of storytelling based on customer evidence, and citing studies conducted by TechTarget, HubSpot, and other marketing data providers. Among its conclusions, it notes that customer case studies are among the most influential content types in B2B software purchase decisions, citing studies from Publicis Hawkeye and Content Management Institute.
As for ROI, as I tell my clients, an investment in my time to produce a meaningful customer story can yield disproportionately positive results. I've tried to track actual metrics on this over the years, but my only hard evidence is that the same clients keep hiring me back for more.
If you look at the problem-solution-results cadence of case study construction from a customer-focused perspective, it becomes something more like this: Challenge, innovation, benefits.
When I interview my client's customer, they know I'm there on behalf of a technology vendor, so they often want to dive right into the ones and zeroes. But I guide them to back up and tell me more of their own story—what the company does, and what challenges they face, independent of technology altogether. What's a day in the life? I also ask about the interview subject's individual role. To put it all into words, I want the full context that makes their own story and their company’s story unique.
The effect of this is sort of like a magic trick. These are, generally speaking, very smart people who are very good at their jobs—but they're not used to talking about it, or answering outside questions. Much like my clients, they're absorbed in the world of their own competence and passion, and don't naturally step outside of it long enough to fathom the end-to-end perspective. So I do it for them.
And once I've drawn out the story, and I write a draft and send it back to them, I often get a surprised response: By golly, you're right—this is what I do, and this is how our technology solution story actually went down.
In the best cases, when my client checks the story from their standpoint, it triggers new levels of awareness on their part as well. Often, they knew the value they offered was good, but they hadn't thought of all the specific ways their solutions might make people's jobs easier or better.
Case studies expand on your value proposition to craft true stories that are concrete and vibrant, not smarmy or abstract.
And here's where the critical cognitive hook comes in for the case study readers. It doesn't matter whether they are in the same business or industry as the customer interviewed for the story. It doesn't even matter if the customer's problem space doesn't reflect their own. In the course of reading a story, they gain a deep, contextual understanding of what a particular technology enables, and they grasp it in a way they never could have via abstract messaging. The experience of reading about one company's dilemma starts the gears turning in their head: Okay, so what if I applied these results to my situation?
You know what comes next. Get those gears turning, and you're several steps closer to closing a sale.
In my experience, it all ends up in a win-win-win, for the client, their customer, and … well, me. A well-chosen, well-executed case study benefits all involved:
One of my favorite coronavirus Tweets so far reminds us to be gentle with ourselves in these far-from-ordinary times:
It can be incredibly difficult to concentrate right now—I’m writing this while dismissing news alerts, with a kindergartener doing math worksheets to my left and a 2YO playing with imaginary suitcases at my feet—let alone stay connected.
Now that we’re fully remote, our team has a new ritual: Friday video all-hands to connect, share, and end the week on a positive note. In our first of these v-chats, we each shared our suggestions for staying connected … while staying apart.
We hope that these tips—ranging from tech hacks to self-care reminders—help you weather this storm with your spirit intact.
If your home office also doubles as a bedroom or you don’t want to share your messy workspace with clients and teammates, there’s hope! Blur your background (or upload to virtual background) in your video conferencing tool of choice.
We use Microsoft Teams for most internal and external video calls, so here’s a quick look at how to blur your background in Teams during a meeting: Select More options … / Blur my background.
from Sheryne Cadicamo, Client Success Manager
Turn to technology to replicate in-office conversation, whether it’s collaborating on a project or comparing Netflix binge notes.
Here are some ways we think about using Teams:
From Stephanie Chacharon, Content Marketing Director
We’ve all enjoyed getting these virtual glimpses into our team’s lives—messy-faced toddlers and barking dogs included. Facilitate a virtual show & tell session—whether there’s a rotating host for your weekly team meeting or a dedicated channel for people to share pieces of their world, based on their personal comfort levels.
And just like we used to do in AIM (throwback!), set your status. (Teams and Slack both have this option.) Beyond the automatic calendar-sync status changes, you can let teammates know that you’re heads down on a project or taking Frankie the Pup out for a quick walk.
From Madeline Obernesser, Business Operations Manager
As the newest member of Team Simplicity, Brianna’s onboarding was abruptly shifted online once the coronavirus hit the Seattle area. She’s appreciated the use of screensharing within Teams to continue training with her team.
And ditch your webcam fear! I used to cringe at the thought of turning on my camera during a meeting, but now I rely on it all day to long to connect with the team. It’s a great way to feel connected and read the room, plus it holds participants more accountable to stay focused.
From Brianna Mueller, Business Operations Coordinator
Create a positive, dedicated workspace
We can’t all have the home office of our dreams, but we do have control over how our workspace makes us feel. It can be as practical as a comfortable chair or as simple as a jar of fresh flowers, but find ways to make your workspace feel positive and energizing. And please, don’t work from bed. Try to contain your work to a part of your living space where you can unplug from at the end of the work day.
From Joan Yamamoto, Financial Analyst
Work creep is a thing, especially when you’re working from home. 22% of remote workers say it’s their top challenge! In the absence of the physical cues of entering and leaving the office, don’t fall into the trap of never turning work off. Set a start and end time to your workday—and stick to it.
If you struggle with focus, try breaking your day into 30-minute chunks.
From Erica Bueno, Digital Marketing Specialist
End each day by closing your computer and making a list of all your outstanding to-dos and lingering thoughts. Getting them out of your head and onto paper will help you turn off your work brain, and it will give you a great start for tomorrow’s workday.
From Amanda Swahn, Talent Manager
Move! We underestimate how much walking we actually do on an average day—going up and down the stairs, across the street for coffee, around the corner for lunch, back and forth to the kitchen for water breaks, and so on … At home, it’s not unusual to look up from your screen and realize you’ve been chair-bound for the last few hours. So be intentional about moving.
Slot walk breaks into your daily schedule. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can have anti-anxiety effects. Turn your 1:1s into walking meetings—and encourage your teammate(s) to walk on their end, too! Use the time you would have spent driving to lunch to fit in a quick jog, workout, or neighborhood walk.
And it’s SO easy to snack the day away at home, so try to stock up on fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks, so you can easily reach for something other than Double Stuff Oreo's and chips.
From Carrie Morris, VP, Client Services
The current news cycle is incredibly overwhelming. Avoid spinning into negativity and anxiety by sharing positive news and keeping a positive outlook.
We’re using our new Teams channels—Good Vibes (Only!) and Puppies & Kittens & Kids & Stuff—to share lighthearted memes, cute cat videos and pet chicken (yes, chicken) pictures, heartwarming news stories, and assorted other things from the non-dark side of the internet.
From Cheryl Kolodzaike, Finance Director
Recharge between meetings by taking short breaks. Stand up, stretch, walk around, grab a drink of water. You’ll return to your work re-energized … and ready for yet another video call.
From Markelle Linstedt, Talent Manager
We’ll say it again: Maintaining healthy work boundaries while working remotely takes discipline! Just because you’re now technically always “at work” doesn’t mean you always need to be on. Take breaks and step away from your virtual office and into your home. That means shutting your computer and placing it out of eyesight at the end of the day and not replying to emails at all hours of the night just because you can or feel like you should.
Set boundaries and stick to them.
From Jennie Woolridge, HR & Finance Specialist
I loved this line from Lisa’s latest letter to the team:
"In a world where so much feels out of our control, I find comfort in reminding myself that it’s up to me to choose fear or opportunity. Fear is a downward spiral that leads to stress, anger, and resentment with no solution. Opportunity opens our minds to creativity, possibility, and innovation."
Let’s choose opportunity—and help others in our community find it, too.
From Lisa Hufford, Founder & CEO
Last, but not least, this is a difficult time, so reach out if you’re struggling. Ping a coworker, text a friend, talk to your boss, or whatever you need to find connection and support. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.
Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.
When I started out as a business owner, I wasn’t thinking about being women-owned—I was focused on being successful. And I was, for more than 25 years. I built a business to fit my values and my family’s needs in a way that corporations weren’t doing.
These days, in addition to my work as a consultant with Simplicity, I volunteer as a site visitor with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). I visit women-owned companies to certify that the company is, in fact, legitimately owned and run by women. I’ve sat with female founders, leaders, and bosses—ranging from sole proprietors to CEOs of global corporations. While each leader is different (I think there are as many variances within our gender as there are across genders), I’ve observed the following commonalities.
(Let me be clear: Not every women-owned business adheres to these trends! However, many of the organizations I’ve observed through WBENC or as an employee, customer, vendor, ally, or friend, do.)
We connect with our employees, clients, vendors, and the community.
Lisa Dupar is an amazing example of this and one of my local heroes. Go to Pomegranate Bistro if you haven’t already. She’s built deep relationships during her 30+ years in business, and she lifts up her vendors, while supporting her network of long-time employees and partners. She gives back to many community events and has sponsored other small businesses as a mentor and to give them visibility.
We build webs, not hierarchies.
Women- and family-friendly businesses are resourceful. Small or large, they make sure that people know each other’s work and how to cover for each other. Got a sick family member? Go focus on your family, and someone else will get it done. We trust that you will do the same for us when necessary.
If anyone has participated in Female Founders Alliance, you’ve seen this in action. How do you throw an awards event while 39-weeks-pregnant with your second child? Leslie Feinzaig delegated many things before, during, and after the awards ceremony to her entire team, including my colleague Sara LeHoullier.
Decision science shows that seeking diverse input and avoiding group-think leads to better innovation, risk-avoidance, and ultimately higher profitability. You can have healthy conflict as long as you have psychological safety and methods for reconciliation for team members after tough meetings and hard decisions.
As the former leader of a company that did business with Microsoft, I knew my competition and saw them regularly at different events. I admired many women in that group of competitors, and I have great relationships with them. We recognized the need to support each other because, like it or not, it’s still a boy’s club in many ways. And if you can’t do something for a client due to constraints, it’s great to be able to refer that client to someone who will do a good job. Partnering with other women and minority-owned firms gave me the ability to look bigger and learn from working with other great people. That’s a huge advantage for small firms.
The weight of running a business is heavy. As a single parent and business owner, I needed to understand the problems that I was hired to solve and get to a solution quickly. My mantra was Mothers invent solutions by necessity. If you bring the same grace, humor, positive discipline, and problem solving that you use at home, you aren’t guaranteed success, but no one is going to keep you from developing an awesome business. There are plenty of amazing women-owned-business role models out there, including Simplicity Consulting, which has been a very happy place for me to work.
This content was repurposed from a presentation that Markelle gave earlier this year to the Women in Business group at UW Bothell.
In my role as Talent Manager at Simplicity Consulting, I meet with hundreds of clients and consultants. Those conversations have given me a front-row seat to what hiring managers are looking for.
Early-in-career job seekers, keep reading for tips and tricks on how to stand out, what hiring managers really want, and what works (and doesn’t!) in an interview.
As our founder, Lisa Hufford, says: When you own your brand, you own your life.
What you say about yourself matters. Be intentional about your personal brand story to attract the work you want.
If you’re not sure what story you want to tell, that’s ok! Lisa’s Personal Brand Playbook & virtual personal brand workshop are incredible resources. Her five steps will help you define and build your brand.
Then, once you know the story you want to tell, tell that story consistently—everywhere. There’s nothing worse than seeing a candidate who positions themselves one way on LinkedIn, but tells a completely conflicting story in their resume.
When I say everywhere, that includes:
There’s no magic template or formula: Do what works for you.
If you’re a creative, it’s always good to showcase that. If you’re a PM, it’s okay to be more straightforward. There are lots of great templates out there, including on Canva and in Microsoft Word.
The most important thing: Make sure your resume is clear, concise, compelling, and typo-free. Whenever possible, focus on results and impact over activities. For example, “Built and executed email marketing campaign that drove 6% increase in sales” vs “Built and executed email marketing campaign.”
Remember that your resume is an opportunity to tell your personal brand story. Ensure that your language, experiences, and supporting details all ladder up to that story.
And keep it brief! While you undoubtedly have a laundry list of accomplishments, employers will only look at the first page so pare it down to the essentials and prioritize the relevant information.
If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, build one. It’s the FIRST thing employers will look at. 77% of recruiters are on LinkedIn, and 35.5 million people have been hired by someone they connected with on the platform.
A few LinkedIn profile tips:
Limited work history? That’s okay. You know more than you think.
You still have lots of valuable experience that you can leverage. Don’t discount things like internships, club and group involvement, especially if you played a leadership role, and even school projects.
Our clients always ask for people who know specific tools, so don’t forget to reference the tools & programs you know. And if you don’t know many, turn to resources like LinkedIn learning to build your arsenal.
Don’t have experience? Find some.
Find a non-profit that needs some help. Build a website around one of your interests. Volunteer to run the social media handles for a club you belong to. (I’m looking at you, whoever runs the Instagram account for UWB’s WiB group—reference that! You’re doing great work that’s just as relevant as on-the-job social experience.
Look for every opportunity to gain experience.
When you do land that interview, show up with a SMILE—these are our core values, based on what clients want from our conversations with hundreds of hiring managers.
Our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, shares in Forbes what skills are in demand, how to build confidence and credibility, and thinking outside the traditional employment model.
Is your company feeling a little homogenous? You’re not alone. 71 percent of companies want an inclusive culture, but only 12% have reached a “mature” level of diversity and inclusion (source: Breezy HR).
Here are 3 easy ways to increase the diversity on your team. But first, let's look at how we typically find that next great employee.
Telling your friends and posting on LinkedIn are tried and true methods. But, drawing from our existing networks all but guarantees more of the same. And if you keep hiring people with the same background, the data shows that you are going to be less competitive, productive, and innovative over time. Companies with diverse employees are more productive than “highly performing homogenous teams” according to University of Michigan research. Additionally, diverse teams are more likely to mirror the make-up of their customer base and avoid group think, the ultimate creativity killer.
Payscale researched referral networks and who benefited. It found that holding all else constant, women of any race and men of color are much less likely to receive referrals than their white male counterparts. White woman are 12 percent less likely, men of color are 26 percent less likely, and women of color are 35 percent less likely to be referred.
That network gap isn’t going to increase your diverse hiring very quickly. Doing so will require doing things differently.
Next up: How to hire who you don’t know.
Most large companies have employee resource groups, or ERGs. And most ERGs encourage posting of internal jobs to their members. Even if their members aren’t interested, they will know people who you don’t.
Pro tip: Use a link that external people (non-employees) can access and ask that they share the role with their friends and networks.
There are so many ways to expand your network, with varying degrees of effort required.
Don’t underestimate the power of seeking out events beyond your existing circles – like going to meetups or joining new professional organizations and associations, either as a participant or speaker. You can also encourage your company to financially sponsor an event or volunteer to host chapter meetings at your office. Take a look at local chapters of AfroTech, Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) if you are in tech, to name a few.
More easily still, reach new groups by posting your roles on diversity hiring job boards or seeking out universities and community colleges with diverse student populations and posting on their current and alumni job boards. We’ve been impressed by the graduates of Year Up and students from the UW Bothell School of Business.
Many large companies have built their own internal diversity recruiting teams that build relationships over time with professional and alumni groups. If you’re with a big company, check to see if you have that in-house expertise. You will be amazed at how fast they work.
If you don’t have access to those internal resources, engage an external recruiter who focuses on hiring diverse candidates, like SM Diversity. They’re easy to find locally and nationally via a quick LinkedIn search.
These methods are easy and successful. They will work for you, and your team or company will benefit from diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.
But remember that hiring diverse candidates is just the beginning of building successful, innovative, and high performing teams.
It’s important to ensure that all of your candidates have a great experience throughout the process—from applying and interviewing all the way through employment. After you hire the right candidate, it’s essential to facilitate and maintain a culture of inclusion to ensure that all are included in your team and its everyday rituals and culture.
This post was originally published by Stephanie Chacharon on LinkedIn.
Two things are true: I love my work. And I’m an amazing mom.
Those truths don’t have to be at odds with each other. But for me, something’s got to give with the traditional 9 to 5 employment model. If you want to keep me—and the countless others like me—employed, flexibility is a non-negotiable.
Ok, so at thirty-something I’m an elder stateswoman of the millennial generation—I grew up playing Oregon Trail in keyboarding class; reached for our household set of encyclopedias when researching school projects; and didn’t get a cell phone until the geriatric age of 19. And while I roll my eyes and take another bite of avocado toast at the endless parade of hot takes on millennials in the workplace, I do identify with the stereotypically millennial desire for purpose, creativity, diversity, and meaning in my work and life.
At Simplicity, we talk a lot about the current market (unemployment is down! retention is the challenge du jour! talent is in control!) and the realities of the new world of work: the speed of business is faster than ever before; leaders must leverage remote & on-demand experts to reach the full talent pool; and not everyone wants to be your full-time employee. In fact, half of freelancers say that no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job. And with more than 1 in 3 Americans freelancing in 2018, that’s nothing to laugh at. In this landscape, talent is decidedly in charge.
As millennials and gen Z continue to rise through the professional ranks, we’re demanding a new way of working that doesn’t involve being chained to a desk from 9 to 5, working for a company until retirement, pushing papers at a soul-less corporation, or even traveling to an office at all.
I love my work. I love writing and marketing and helping female leaders tell their stories and reach broader audiences. I’m motivated by working with great, talented humans and using my brain for something that’s adult and mine.
But I struggled to find my way back at work after having my kids. It felt truly revelatory when I realized that the rules of employment from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were starting to erode and that I had the ability to create my own set of rules and requirements. The increasingly more visible examples of women who are dictating their own terms of employment gave me life. My own boss, Lisa Hufford, reminds me that life has seasons and that meaningful work and meaningful time with family can go hand-in-hand.
And at this season in my life, I’m both a marketing leader and a mom of two young boys.
My boys are 5 and pushing 2. The baby, bless his sassy little heart, goes to bed at 6:30pm. That means that if I leave the office at 4:30, sit in Seattle traffic for an hour (please don’t get me started on that!), pick him up at daycare and drive the remaining 20 minutes home, I have approximately 30 precious minutes with him before he goes to sleep. That’s hardly enough time for him to fling spaghetti on the walls and splash around in the tub before getting whisked into his footie pajamas. That doesn’t sit well with me.
Sleep schedules aside, there are doctor appointments and sick days and teacher conferences and school schedules that were not designed for working parents and the list could go on and on and on.
For me to work and mom, flexibility isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a non-negotiable.
That means some days, I work from home. Usually, I have the house to myself on my WFH days, but sometimes my 5 year-old works next to me with his crayons and those adorably oversized pencils that they user in Kindergarten. Other days, I head into the office and leave by 4:30, but do some of my best, most focused work in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.
I’ve gotten incredibly efficient at working because my time is more precious than ever before. I’m fortunate to work for an employer who has allowed me to build a work schedule that includes days in and out of the office (shout out, Simplicity!) and a husband who's committed to being an equal partner. Working from home means that I get at least two back that I’d otherwise spend cursing in traffic. It means more time focused on work AND more time with my family. If I’m lucky, I might even sneak in a quick run with the dog or get to walk my kindergartener to school.
But it’s not just about being a parent. It’s also about how I work best.
I rely on my WFH days to focus and dig in. Without the distractions of an open office, I have uninterrupted space to make meaningful progress on the tasks at hand. While I enjoy my days in the office, I truly work better from my home office. And tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom enable me to stay connected with my team while I’m working remotely.
Business leaders, take note. There are millions of people like me—more than 56 million, in fact.
We love our work, and what’s more, we’re good at it! But we also value intangibles like flexibility, remote work, and values-focused employers. If you want us to work for you, we’re going to need a little flexibility. And if you won’t give it to us, we’ll find it on our own.
The GeekWire Summit did not disappoint.
We learned. We laughed. We met some of our local heroes. And we left feeling inspired by the future of tech and the incredible talent and innovation in our region.
Here are a few of our favorite moments from the event:
Thursday’s conversation with UW president Ana Mari Cauce, DreamBox Learning CEO Jessie Woolley-Wilson, and Marilyn Strickland, president and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, included so many gems.
Charlene Li delivered an incredibly powerful presentation on disruption and why some organizations fail when others transform. She challenged us all to examine our organizations’ current beliefs and get clear on which will move you forward—and which will hold you back.
To drive forward, Charlene believes that organizations must embrace openness, agency, and bias for action.
Microsoft President Brad Smith shared his big-picture views on the future of tech.
He discussed the importance of being curious and not just asking questions, but asking the right questions.
He also stressed that humans must be able to press the off switch as AI continues to progress, citing the example of plane crashes that claimed lives because the pilots were unable to take control.
Via Geekwire: “That should speak to us,” Smith said. “That is not just something that should speak to one company or just one industry. It should speak to everybody who creates technology, who uses technology, in every part of society, and that’s a lesson we should remember. We’ve got to be able to create good technology and we’ve got to be able to turn it off.”
Marc Levalle, Executive Director of R&D at the New York Times, shared a glimpse into how the news machine is using cutting edge tech to bring news to life. We loved this view of the Times’ customer journey map as they think about how consumers engage with the news throughout the day.
The fan-favorite inventor was 12-year-old Nir Pechuk, CEO of Extentek and creator of Galina, a device to help visually impaired people avoid over-filling a container when pouring. Nir nailed his elevator pitch and wowed us with his journey from LEGO prototype to market-ready product.
Our heads are still swirling with stats, strategies, and inspiration from TalentConnect. We joined 4,600 members of the global talent community in Dallas, Texas, in pursuit of our shared goals of building winning teams and changing people’s lives.
LinkedIn won our hearts with the Texas-sized welcome (and personalized bandanas), and the presenters moved our hearts and minds on topics from authentic DEI like Beyonce to negotiating tactics from a former FBI agent. Also, there was Michelle Obama. (Did we mention Michelle Obama?!)
Here are our top 5 takeaways from the 10th annual LinkedIn TalentConnect conference:
At Simplicity, the new world of work is also a new way of thinking about work and teams. It’s about on-demand, project-based work and the ability to quickly build and assemble the right team at the right time for the right work. The full-time employee (FTE) model is quickly shifting to teams with a capital T: a collection of FTEs, consultants, vendors, and agencies that flex with the speed of business.
As a [mostly F-bomb-free] Gary Vaynerchuk said in his keynote, until the robots take over and kill us all (which, let’s be honest, they might), it’s people—always people.
Patagonia’s Dean Carter really struck a chord.
He defined values as those things that you value beyond the bottom line. Patagonia’s foundational value? They’re in business to save our home planet.
Carter preached a regenerative approach toward our planet … and our people:
And then there was First Lady Michelle Obama.
She echoed many of the same themes we’d heard this week—our shared obligation to expand our networks and the importance of flexibility, authenticity, and regularly communicating with our people on a personal level—and shared other gems:
If you read nothing else, read this:
It’s no secret that there is a gap in access to equal opportunities, but the numbers are still staggering:
Those who come from wealthy neighborhoods, attend top schools, and work for top companies are 12x (TWELVE TIMES!) more likely to have a strong network. And referrals are 9x more likely to get hired.
That delta in access—what LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner calls the network gap—is what LinkedIn is striving bridge with its goal of providing equal access to opportunity.
Which brings us to the #PlusOnePledge.
It's an intention to share your time, talent, or connections with people outside your network who may not have access to the same resources you do. By taking the Plus One Pledge, you’ll help others and strengthen your own network.
It doesn’t mean not taking care of people in our networks, but it means being intentional about not precluding people outside of our networks.
Weiner asked all 4,600 of us to join him in taking the plus one pledge. To pay it forward for someone without the same access that we have. To reach back and help someone else up.
Jeff, we’ll join you.
And you, dear reader: Will you join us?
Events are essential to an effective marketing strategy. Nearly 90% of execs plan to grow their event budgets in the next year, and 30% of marketers believe that events are the most important marketing channel. Whether online (webinar, virtual summit, live stream, etc) or physical (conference, tradeshow, seminar, workshop, or breakfast/lunch/dinner), events drive brand awareness, lead generation, customer engagement, and education.
But delivering a compelling, impactful event experience requires planning, strategy, and a mix of the right skills and experience. Here’s how to build the team you need to successfully bring your event to life.
The ideal event marketing team consists of a combination of resources, including full-time employees (FTEs), consultants/contractors/freelancers, agencies, and vendors. Consider the following when weighing what type of resources to engage:
Do you need an FTE or an on-demand resource (such as a consultant, agency, or vendor)? Consider how long you'll need each specific resource, how integrated each role will be with your core event team, and whether there are skills gaps on your existing team.
Do you want to assemble a SWAT team of experts with specific skills (project-based and on-demand) or go with an agency team (retainer model)? Do you value building relationships with specific experts or working with a team that may not provide full visibility into its members or process?
Full-time or part time? Year-round or seasonal? Onsite or remote? Not all event marketing roles demand year-round, on-site resources. Consider what’s right for each component of your event support team. For example, a graphic designer may work remotely for 10-20 hours a week in the months leading up to the event, while it makes sense for a project marketing manager to work onsite year-round to manage the many moving pieces of an event series.
Do you need someone who can set the strategic direction or a doer to execute against that event strategy—or someone who can do both?
In that same vein, can a bright, but relatively inexperienced resource get the job done or do you need a seasoned event pro? For example, a social media manager with a few years of experience could do a stellar job managing the event’s social presence, while a presentation coach would benefit from past hands-on experience working with speakers on a range of topics and presentation formats.
Does your event require historic or institutional knowledge of the event, industry, or company? Or is it more important to have experts around specific skillsets, such as social media, event branding, event management, and so on? Is past experience with your type of event (format, size, audience) a need-to-have or nice-to-have?
Effectively marketing an event requires a coordinated effort before, during, and after. While events vary wildly in scale and type, here’s our dream event marketing team:
All successful events have one thing in common: incredible organization. A project manager(s) can wrangle all the many details surrounding an event, from planning (things like topic tracks & speaker CFCs, venue & registration details, branding & strategy development) and development (tracking digital and creative assets and managing things like stakeholder communications, speaker submissions, and agencies and vendors) to execution (coordinating on-site resources, managing timelines, handling last-minute changes). Whether an employee or a consultant, the ideal project manager for your event is a hyper-organized, excellent communicator and multi-tasker, who thrives on making order out of event chaos.
You’ll want an event and marketing pro to help set your event’s marketing strategy, including identifying who your target audiences are and how to reach them and building an event brand that reflects your goals and speaks your attendees’ language. Depending on the size and reach of your event and how integrated it is with other elements of your business, this could be a FTE or an on-demand resource who sets your event marketing plan before handing it off to specialists to execute.
A good graphic designer (or team!) can truly set your event marketing apart. They understand your event brand and audience inside and out and create the print and digital assets you need to market your event, including website assets, ad creative, digital banners, social media assets, printed agendas, banners and signage, presentation decks, and more. Identify the full scope of your event marketing BoM and the complexity of the design before weighing whether to engage a consultant (or few) or a creative agency.
From event messaging and PR promos to digital & print content, email campaigns, interview briefs, and speaker talking points, you need talented storytellers who can craft your event narrative and clearly communicate the essence of your event.
Before, during, and after your event, you need an expert (or a team of experts) to plan, create, and post content from your brand/event account. Hashtags, platforms, creative assets, and social listening—they'll help you drum up and sustain interest leading up to your event; identify and engage with thought leaders and influencers; and create and amplify real-time event hot takes.
Public speaking—especially compelling, persuasive public speaker—is an art form that takes practice to master. Presentation coaches help your subject matter experts (SMEs) and speakers turn their expertise into a polished, interesting presentation that works for your event, audience, and session format (keynote, workshop, panel, etc). Ideally, a coach will also work with presenters on creating or ideating any companion content such as slides, hand outs, or activities.
Whether conducting on-site interviews, live-streaming keynote presentations, recording sessions, or filming promo B-roll, an experienced video production team can capture your event experience and extend its reach far beyond the actual event.
Our event marketing experts bring event experiences to life. Here’s how we can help:
To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We pledge to:
We invite clients and consultants to join us in an effort to help close the network gap and support BIPOC.