26 November 2015

The Impact of Culture on Business Success – Italy

ItalyNext up and the second stop on my business culture blog series is Italy. A country rich in culture and once home to an empire that stretched from Scotland to Syria, Italy has its name firmly etched in the history books. Look no further than the countries capital city Rome, a city that legend has it was founded by twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, sons of the Roman god Mars! Inspirational architecture throughout the land and exquisite cuisine, Italy is unique and wonderful and definitely worthy of a place in this blog series. As before, in our analysis of their business culture we will examine four key categories – communication, ice breakers, general business etiquette and a selection of  recommended do’s & don’ts.  


Italians are very expressive people and in fact, love to use gestures to emphasise their speech. According to popular joke, to stop an Italian talking, simply block the use of his/her hands. This is no different for them when conducting meetings, negotiations or interviews. It is just the way they are. Although this level of passion and enthusiasm may not be as common in your country, it should not be a concern. However, despite this level of passion and openness, it is important not to overstep the mark when talking to new associates and be careful of sensitive or stereotypical topics like politics, the family environments or the mafia. This could have an implication on the success of your meeting/interview or negotiations.

Another factor to consider when going to Italy is language. 90% of companies would prefer to speak Italian during any meeting or business exchange. It’s important to make sure that they have translator for you, to facilitate any meeting and to avoid ant interruptions or topics becoming ‘lost in translation’. Global companies will have a less concerns about using English, but make sure you email them to clarify beforehand what language is required from you. English language is now an essential subject in schools, so this is likely to become less and less of a problem in coming years. As always though, it is nice (if you can) to have a little knowledge of the Italian language prepared. It will be easier for you to start the conversation, and efforts to learn simple phrases and introductions, well received.

In terms of channels of communication Italian people like to hold meetings face to face rather than using phone, skype or other technology. However in recent years, there is a slow transition from most organisations that sees them moving towards technology as a viable form of communication. When addressing each other, it is common to address them in the third person. You should not use the first names unless invited and should use Sir/madam, Mr and Mrs, initially! Be very careful as Italian people could get offended when you call them by first name.

Ice Breaker

The Italians are incredibly warm and friendly people who will try hard to communicate with you, so ice braking should not be hard at all. They are very open-minded, so throwing some jokes at the first meeting particularly if aimed at yourself is never a bad idea. Another way to keep your Italian colleague smiling could be a little gift from your culture. For example chocolates, wine or flowers, just remember it is not really about the present itself, it is about how you going to wrap it up. Strange? Well the same case appeared in French culture. Do not wrap your gifts in black or gold, as these colours are reserved for funerals.

In line with my comments above, there are few things that you cannot use in order to break the ice. Firstly do not make jokes about mafia or politics, also keep the conversation, light and bias free until you get to know them better.

Business Etiquette

Greeting in Italy in general are very similar to the French culture outlined in my first blog. It is common to expect kisses to both cheeks and maybe a hug. Like France, it is not recommended to kiss or hug someone at an initial business meeting, interview or negotiation. Hand-shakes will normally do and convey enough professionalism. However, if you know your counterpart better or feel you have built a decent bond with them, then I see no harm in trying the more traditional greeting on a second or third time meeting. They might love it! Another thing to understand is that many Italian people are relationship-orientated; they usually prefer to establish direct relationships, even superficially, before ‘getting down’ to business. So who knows maybe at the next meeting, introduce the popular “La Bise” when greeting your Italian counterpart.

If you are going to negotiate something in Italy, be prepared, as Italians tend to carefully evaluate advantages and disadvantages, which could take some time. However be patient, it is important to give time to your Italian colleague, once they made decision they will strongly believe it is the best options for their company.

Dress code is another notable factor of etiquette, dress “formally” to make a serious and clean impression. Many of the greatest designers in the world are Italian; expensive add-ons to your outfit will be something extra in your Italian colleague’s eyes. ‘Bella figura’ (good impression) is something very important, and you can easily show that by wearing smart cloths which will express appreciation for the hospitality offered.

Be patient and be prepared for some delays at the meetings, punctuality is not really treated seriously in Italian culture. They tend to multitask, preferring to do many things at once; therefore if you expect your Italian colleagues to meet strict deadlines make sure they clearly know about this.


  • Do wear stylish clothing; Italians take pride in their appearance. Dark suit, with expensive ties, cuff links and watches. Women should dress stylishly with make-up and jewellery.
  • Do carry cash that is only enough for the day, and leave the rest in the hotel safe.
  • Do use public transportation, which is usually capillary and fast.


  • Do not use first names in Italian business. Personal and professional titles are used repetitively in either causal conversation.
  • Do not enter a taxi without a meter (from my own experience, you will pay much more)
  • Do not show up ten minutes early, You Italian colleagues will be late anyway, be prepared to wait 10-45 minutes before meeting starts.

Overall, the Italian culture is very exciting, and worth to explore. Italians are very explosive, passionate people that will strive to know you better on your meeting. They like to talk a lot which I believe will help with ice breaking at your first meeting. Remember Patience, patience and patience again… ‘Benvenuti in Italia’! 

19 November 2015

Building a Talent Community? Invaluable Resource or Administrative Burden

State-of-CommunityTop Talent is in high demand. Evolving trends in workforce demographics see shorter employee lifecycles and many job-seekers selecting their next role by organisational fit, rather than the traditional remuneration considerations. The proliferation of technology, the opening of the perceived talent borders and a fluid, digital-driven landscape means organisations must begin to engage with suitable candidates much earlier in order to build those first-line relationships, convey their vision, understand it’s meaning to their employees and avoid falling into that dreaded ‘Talent Gap’.

If all the analysts are to be believed, there is a skills shortage coming, and it’s coming soon. However it may not be a case of just a skills shortage, but a people shortage as one of the major UK workforce demographics begin to retire in the next five years.

So how can organisations start to identify that next generation of talent, engage with them so they buy in to the vision and protect its business against the inevitable churn of employees?

One method that addresses these challenges is the development of Talent Communities or Enterprise Social Networks. Formerly considered Talent Pools, the main differentiation is the collaboration and open networking functionalities leveraged through social technologies. According to Bersin by Deloitte, against a backdrop of increasing time-to-hire statistics, it’s notable that candidate communities are among the fastest growing source of new hires.

Using Talent Communities or networks, organisations can engage with a range of Stakeholders, from those actively seeking roles, to enabling communities such as recruitment and career advisory professionals, right through to alumni and current members of the workforce. This is not about lists of candidates stored digitally and reviewed when needed, but an environment that promotes open two-way dialogue between community members. It is a forum for the organisation to interact with target groups and to promote opportunities and developments within their business, whilst reinforcing and promoting the employer brand through a digital embodiment of what the business stands for.

It is also a great way of expanding the reach of your business through referrals. Community members are encouraged to share the network with relevant peers and promote the value of the organisations beyond traditional means, saving thousands on recruitment costs. However, like any community it is the quality of the contributions that derive the value, and the effort required to create such a network should not be underestimated. The most successful platforms engage users with targeted content across multiple sources; they educate their internal teams to both adopt and contribute, whilst they systematically add to the community from slick referral processes, silver medallist candidates and successful marketing filters. It’s important to remember as well that the ‘value’ delivered to members must be taken into consideration at all times, as it is the only way to keep the community engaged and active.

To find out more about Talent Communities and how they can become a part of your Talent Acquisition process, join our webinar with enterprise social network experts Hollaroo on the 2 December @ 1pm. To register please Click here.

16 November 2015

Pick the People Who Learn on the Job

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and now management guru, introduced the phrase “pick the people” and his grid for deciding on who to hire and who to fire. Although at the time he spoke of managers, it’s not just a tool for hiring managers, but at all levels and at all times in the employment cycle. But is this model still viable? With necessary skills, technical innovations, mobility in the workforce and other general conditions changing rapidly in recent years?

A quick recap of the grid: On the vertical you measure results, how well a person delivers. On the horizontal axis are the values of the company, your mission and vision, your culture and the things that make your company the shining star that it is. Measuring cultural alignment is all about behaviour; your behaviour is what defines if you are living by the values, or just faking it. The simplified way to remember it: Willing and Able. This grid gives you four types of employees or managers: Blog 4     


  1. Willing and able
  2. Willing but not able
  3. Not willing and not able
  4. Not willing but able


The number ones, we tend to call them stars are (seemingly) easy – delegate, promote, encourage. Number twos we advise and train to see if we can help them make the numbers, they get at least a second chance. Number threes should be an easy decision, help them to pursue their careers elsewhere. They are not necessarily bad performers, but they don’t fit in where they are now. And number fours is the group that managers find the hardest to deal with. This is the group of people that come as a surprise to new managers and are the most dangerous: they deliver, and that’s sweet, but they are sending all the wrong signals in your organisation. The message they are bringing is that it’s alright to behave in any way you want, as long as you deliver the numbers. This behaviour will ruin whatever trust you have in your workplace, and make no mistake, everyone in your organisation knows who they are - and so do you, right?

It’s a good grid, it clarifies core features to look for when staffing, but it’s not always easy to live by. In times of major changes in your company, when your vision is changing to adjust to whatever development is going on in your field, when your numbers are unsure going forward - in all of these cases, Willing should not only mirror the values you carry, but also the changes ahead. And Able should definitely cover the ability to learn - homo discens.

Willingness to learn on the job is more than mastery; it’s more than being able to learn on your own. For any company today, learning is just as much about teaching and sharing knowledge with your colleagues. The information age or the age of competence, whatever you call it, most businesses are in this situation today. We need to learn at the speed of business and very little of that learning comes from formal education. Internal L&D needs to be on track to support this. There are many ways to build the learning organisation from within; making sure learning does not only happen in the traditional classroom setting. It’s not about more money for fancy e‑learning either. If L&D don’t get this, the future of internal L&D is questionable. If employees are not learning a little every day, then very shortly, they will not be able anymore.

Learning and sharing knowledge is just as much with your clients too! The future belongs to those with the imagination to create it, and business value comes from the experience of the customers, co-creation being the key-word whether it’s products or services. Even your number one can become a number four if “my/our way is the way that has always worked, the client just don’t know their own good” is part of his or her attitude. 

So if innovation is or isn’t in the company culture, the good managers remember, while sorting their staff in the Welsh Grid, to also consider people’s willingness and ability to learn, to adapt and make continuous changes. Then the grid can still be standard equipment in every manager’s toolbox.

12 November 2015

Five Proven Tactics for an Impactful Onboarding Programme

LEGO-Collectible-Minifigures-Series-7-Computer-Programmer-by-Chris-ChristianIf I had to summarise all presentations at the recent annual HR Tech Conference in Paris in one word, it will have to be engagement. From analysts, to vendors and HR professionals, the question of engaging the workforce and the candidates was a key focus. And why wouldn’t it? After all engaged employees mean happier customers and a flourishing company performance.

Engaged organisations have powerful and authentic values, employ trust and fairness based on mutual respect, where commitments made by both employees and employer are understood and fulfilled. But engagement cannot be forced or manipulated; it needs to be truly authentic and the desire to foster engagement needs to permeate every interaction between employer and employees.

When is the best time to start cultivating engagement?

It starts in the recruiting process, from your career pages; how easy it is to search and apply for jobs and how timely your response is after receiving an application. Every single interaction in hiring a new employee should show your commitment to engagement:

  1. Transparency about the position, challenges, and expectations in the first three months of the job.
  2. Commitment to help you and the candidate evaluate if this is the best place for them by allowing them to meet as many people of their team as possible and learn about the organisation.
  3. Flexibility and openness to fulfil their goals while staying committed to yours in your offer terms.

What’s next?

One very key time to help you cement that engagement is the onboarding phase.

The research on the value of onboarding for improving company performance is copious. Analyst firm Aberdeen determined that firms with a standardised onboarding process experienced:

  • 2x customer satisfaction compared to the industry average
  • 3x higher customer retention
  • 2x higher employee engagement
  • 50% higher employee productivity

But how do you do this?

There are five proven tactics to get your new hire into an engaged, fulfilled member of your team;

  1. Communicate a lot and early

Your new hire just accepted the offer and is starting in a month or two. Job done? Think again. Make it a point to get in touch with them regularly during their pre-boarding phase (that’s the phase between offer accepted and day 1 on the job). Below are a few ideas on topics to engage on during the pre-boarding phase:

Week 1: Tell them how great it is to have them on board and that you would be putting together some materials for them to read.

Week 2: Ask them about a bio with a photo and a few fun facts to add to their welcome message to the team/department/company. Comment on a few things that made an impression on you. Send them a few company videos to watch or relevant documents to read.

Week 3: Try to encourage other team mates to reach out as well. Maybe they met and connected with a colleague during the interview process and they would like to go for a coffee to get to know each other?

Week 4: Write them a quick note about what your expectations for the first week are. If they are going to attend a new starter training, who they would be meeting, etc. Let them know you will be organising a welcome dinner/lunch and invite them early on.

  1. Get the admin stuff sorted before day one

Onboarding technology can really help you with that. You need to get the mundane stuff sorted like getting a laptop, phone, badge, desk, business cards, and access to company systems. These items should all be ready for your new hire’s first day.  New hires notice when this stuff is not done properly while a smooth sailing goes a long way to cement how welcome they feel.  

  1. Keep the momentum

The first weeks could be a distressing experience for a new hire if they don’t know what to expect. Help them settle by scheduling a few introductory meetings with key people. Have a suggested plan in place for their first few weeks. Plan a couple of social events, these could be as simple as taking them for a coffee/lunch. Meet with them often to check on their progress.

Pre-booking a few more formal check-in meetings is also great to signal milestones to completing probation/onboarding: good times would be at four weeks, eight weeks, 16 weeks, 26 weeks. The point is that both you and the new hire have time to talk through how the onboarding is going outside of other meetings. Remember to come prepared: ask a few people how your new hire is doing compile your feedback and prepare some recommendations/suggestions.

  1. Be clear, open and transparent about goals

The worst thing for a new hire is that they don’t  know what is expected of them. Think through three goals you would like them to strive towards during their first 90 days. Be clear how success will be measured and what your ideal outcome looks like. Discuss with your new hire what your working style is and how you prefer to be kept in the loop. Ask them what theirs is and agree on a mutually acceptable way of working together. Perhaps you like a quick five minute update at the end of each day or you prefer a longer weekly 1:1 meeting?

  1. Small, thoughtful gestures matter

I have seen a lot of small, inexpensive ways that a company can use and make a new hire feel welcome and engaged;

  1. A welcome hand written card from the CEO (works best for smaller organisations) or the department head/hiring manager.
  2. A box of pralines or some sweets. Encourage your new hire to share these with people sitting around them. It is a good ice breaker and conversation starter and sweets make people happy.
  3. Prep a company swag box (t-shirts, mugs, USB keys, pens, notebooks…you get the gist). These are usually items you have on stock from conferences and such, but packaging them in a nice box is a nice little touch.
  4. Gift card for a lunch/coffee spot nearby. Encourage your new hire to take a work “buddy” to get to know the organisation better. This “buddy” could be suggested by you as you might know who would have good knowledge of the company and would be a good person to join. £20 or £25 cards work well enough.
  5. A team lunch/dinner in their honour. Isn’t that a wonderful way to get your team in a more informal atmosphere and feel special?

The above tactics will be successful but ultimately you need to believe in the value of onboarding and also in the value of spending energy and time into it. Time is hard to come by and we can often become complacent once a new hire is brought in. But if we do spend it, the return will be tremendous, both from a personal perspective (having happy, engaged employees) and from a professional perspective (having a kick-ass performing team). The choice is yours and the power is with you no matter what the organisation is.

09 November 2015

Customer Success and Driving Advocacy

New-Movers-and-Brand-Loaylty-Your-Relationship-for-SalePreviously a customer of Lumesse, I’ve now been working for Lumesse as a Customer Success manager since June 2014. I find it such a privilege to work with customers on a first hand and daily basis, to be welcomed into their world, and for them to trust me to become part of their organisation. 

Customer Success is a relatively new concept but it has most definitely taken off and I’m excited to be part of it. As an early pioneer of Customer Success within Lumesse, I’ve had the opportunity to shape and clear the path for other CSMs to follow. I am passionate about my customers’ success and I’m often asked what the job is like. Aside from being really busy, I describe it as being a mix between technical, creative problem solving and relationship building. I also usually emphasise that although I build relationships, I’m definitely not a salesperson!

Someone whom I hadn’t seen in a while recently asked me how it was all going. My response was simple; “I LOVE my customers”. They liked my response and it got me thinking about ‘how’ and ‘why’ I love my customers and ultimately my job. 

What is Customer LOVE?

Put simply, I think it’s about seeing things from the customer’s perspective. Really understanding each person’s or companies’ specific needs and then providing genuine care and advice to address those needs.

We all know, as customers ourselves, that if we are unhappy we can easily share our opinion with the masses through social media and the web. On the flip side, we know that happy customers refer other customers. My job is ultimately about making my customers happy. To make this happen, I need to make sure they are getting the promised business benefits they signed up for. Hygiene factors include customers not being frustrated with bugs or performance issues and ensuring there are no missing features, or integrations with any other products they use. In addition to this, they also need to see and feel the LOVE!

How to LOVE Customers?

I think the no. 1 thing that people, and customers alike want, is to be heard. When a customer is frustrated, a common reaction, which I’ve seen countless times (and have done myself), is to ramble off a solution to their problem without firstly making it easy for them to fully explain ‘why’ they are frustrated. The very best relationships work when we’re able to stop talking long enough to listen to what the other person really needs. So, to LOVE customers is to give them the time and space to tell us exactly what they need. The parts that make them delighted and the parts that they are frustrated with.

I’ve listed my top 5 tips for showing customers the LOVE:

  1. Truly listen and hear what customers are saying.
  2. Understand each particular customer and get close to them; the better you know a customer, the better you can serve them. This means interpersonal, human interactions and genuinely talking to them. You can’t help people maximise the value from the service if you don’t know the service inside out. This means knowing features and functions and how different customers use them.
  3. Act on customer feedback and follow up on your promises. Be responsive; if you can’t respond right away, send a quick note to let them know when you’ll get back. Better still, encourage them to submit their question to a community and get them connected with other customers.
  4. Be accountable and communicate any change; tell customers when something has gone wrong or when something has gone right. Honesty is crucial, especially when it comes to mistakes!
  5. Always be educating; don’t assume customers are reading emails your organisation sends them. Focus on educating customers on topics that will not only help them use the product more effective, but will also help them in their career.

There is an abundance written on Customer Success, lots of theory, so many different delivery models and tools! However, the goal is really simple: keep delivering value to customers with every interaction! Or, just trust the words of the classic Beatles song, which was played for the 1st time on 25 June 1967 and broadcasted in 24 countries, “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE”!

04 November 2015

Achieving the Perfect Work-Life Balance? Impossible!

There are simply not enough hours in the day for us to exercise, walk the dog, have meaningful interactions with our kids, read a book, learn something new, help others, go out for dinner, work on our personal relationships, make a personal effort, watch TV, have fun and don’t forget do your work! It will never result in a healthy work-life balance and trying to achieve it will only add to the frustration and anxiety about wanting it yet failing to achieve that utopia. Therefore please let me introduce you to my friend ‘Chaos’: a state of confusion and disorder. Now I am not saying enter into complete chaos but just let a little of it enter your life to allow some flex in the balance.

So here's the question: How do you strike that perfect balance? Is there any such thing as perfection? In fact what does that actually mean? To me it means getting the proportion of time spent with family, myself and work spot on but that in itself is challenging given that each life requirement brings with it different levels of complexity.

Picture a pie chart, now segment it up into the time you spend on the following items:


It’s overwhelmingly apparent that work takes a significant proportion of our time and we actually let it do that. What is it that keeps us in this state of conflict around work-life balance? 

Technology today makes our work accessible 24/7 which in turn makes us work even longer hours for very little reward. In a recent Harvard Business school survey a massive 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week. It doesn’t take an expert to tell you that this never-ending work day is overwhelmingly damaging. It hurts relationships, health and overall happiness and I believe this has affected most if not all of us in some way or another.

As technology around us is ever evolving we find ourselves forever with a phone, tablet or laptop in our hands. Work never seems to cease for you or others and in turn this means you become accessible around the clock. Making a conscious effort to switch the work phone off, stop texting when you are with your kids and give your family the time and attention they need. You will soon start to realise that you are not needed for every business decision or be immediately available. The world will continue without you for a few hours! It’s so important to step back and really evaluate what you need to be involved in, what's important and remove yourself from those items that don’t need you. I know you think you are indispensable but the reality is that you are not. Understanding and accepting this is actually quite liberating. 

Balance means something different to us all but I truly believe that if we focus on a few key areas of our lives we can make a fundamental difference to how we approach our work, feel about our time and where it's spent and generally find a little bit more happiness.

I've always classed myself as a perfectionist and most of us either think we are there already, striving to get there or need to be there, but do we really? As we grow up and our lives change and become more demanding, striving for perfectionism can become damaging therefore why not replace perfectionism with excellence and look to be excellent in what you do. Focus on the things that will ultimately make the difference to you and those around you, That will make you successful without self-destructing. I no longer strive for perfectionism in everything I do and this has lessened the pressure I place myself under.

Stop being a control freak! 

Harsh as that may sound but delegating tasks - whether in your personal or work life - allows you to free up time, remove stress and gives others the chance to take control and develop new skill sets and take ownership. It’s quite liberating. Saying no to just one thing each day is also reducing the stress requirement of wanting to be all things to all people. It only dilutes your impact on those things that make a difference to you and others around you.

The golden rule is to start small. Even baby steps of change will lead to a greater sense of wellbeing, accomplishment and overall will deliver a happier, more balanced you!

02 November 2015

HR Tech 2015: Worth the Queue


Stuck in the registration line for nearly two hours, encountering numerous problems getting hold of that sacred wristband, my enthusiasm dwindled slightly, but finally, after many frustrating conversations the serious looking security staff allowed me to take my descent on those towering escalators, the pilgrimage was over, I had reached the Mecca of HR. Level 2, which strangely, was on the third floor, the show floor. All frustrations were immediately elapsed after a hug from an astronaut and a glass of champagne on arrival.

Back to work, Lumesse, stand 214. Our photographer had arrived and was ready to take headshots at the stand, all the preparations were in place to create plenty of HR Heroes, and that we did. At first people were timid and frightened to get their photographs taken. But after the first few were bold and “stepped into the frame” word of mouth spread (champagne was consumed) and there was a real buzz around the stand. The snowball effect was artic; people were flocking for their headshot, desperate to get their new Linkedin photo. Exciting enough that this enabled us to engage and enhance relationships with those familiar with Lumesse, but perhaps what was even more exciting was the few that hadn’t heard of Lumesse and the great conversations and connections formed.

Then suddenly the show floor emptied as every man, woman and tie poured into the main stage to get a glimpse of Sir Richard Branson. These ties were quickly wedged under seats as Branson began to blast the corporate suit and tie culture and the stifling impact it is having on creativity in businesses. Perhaps the most meaningful takeaway from Sir Richard Branson is his promotion of a listening culture “Being a good listener is the key to being a good leader”.

HR Tech had something for everyone; it was a world of demos, where crazy new start-ups were keen to show their innovative solutions off and of course the well established players likewise. Even if none of that took your fancy, there was a range of peer to peer networking opportunities; speed dating and some fantastic keynotes. This being my first real HR event, I was refreshed by the clear passion people had for HR. As a younger person, people were genuinely curious of what my generation would expect and what the HR Tech space would look like in the future. This billion dollar question was also a key theme of the survey we conducted at the stand. Alongside the clear ambiguity, the main consensus was that HR technology will become a necessity. As you can tell HR Tech is more than business, there is plenty of fun to be had; the Human in HR is very much alive. 

Watch our six seconds of #hrtechconf

If you are interested in learning more about our HR Hero series of the selections Lumesse offer, then why not visit our 'HR Tech Resource Library'.

Get our latest posts

Subscribe by e-mail:

Voices of Lumesse


Meet the Lumesse blog squad

Contact us