All posts by Elena Davidson

Introducing: Janel Steinberg

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Tell us a little about your background:

I’ve done PR for a large variety of industries from high tech to consumer, representing some of the world’s top brands such as Oracle, PayPal, Rolls-Royce, Nestlé and Johnson & Johnson.

My work has included strategy and planning, media outreach, event planning and execution, material development, executive communications, content development and crisis communications. I love bringing creative solutions to my work and finding interesting stories to tell for the brands I’ve worked with.

Why are you excited to support Liberty and our clients?

I’m excited to work with Liberty because they are not only smart and good at what they do but they are also genuinely nice people, which is not a given in this field. The clients represent technology that people will be talking about in the future or they offer a unique take on something that is already being done, both of which make them fun to work on.

What are some of your hobbies?

Travel is something that’s very important to me; if there’s an opportunity to explore a new place or visit an old favorite, I’m in! I also love to try new restaurants and I probably watch far more movies and TV shows than the average person.

What was the last book you read or song you listened to?

The last book I read was Elon Musk’s biography, which I thought was fascinating.

What was your favourite top tech trend of the last 20 years?

The smartphone is so ubiquitous that I can’t imagine life without one.

Join us on 11th June 2018 to hear how PR can help you

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Our creative industries here in the UK are some of the strongest in the world. And now the data shows how much we are helping fuel Britain’s economy growing at twice the rate of the overall economy. The sector now makes up more than five per cent of the UK economy’s GVA with much of the increase being driven by a boom in computer and digital services.

As a player within both the booming creative and technology spheres, we are proud of how much our talented creative workforce is contributing to the economy, and whilst the UK Government is doing its bit to fuel future growth (such as the pledge to invest £500m into technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), 5G and full fibre broadband), as an industry we need to continue to challenge ourselves and innovate.

We also need to make sure we protect, support and nurture our precious creative industries as we approach Brexit.

At Liberty we are committed to supporting future creative talent through our Liberty Academy programme and on June 11th 2018 will be hosting the first of a series of free creative workshops focused on helping businesses understand a little more about how creativity in PR can help grow their business.

The workshops are open to anyone interested in hearing more – from strategic recommendations through to practical tips and more. We’ll be here at 30 Stamford Street (part of London’s buzzing South Bank) from 10am-1pm. Drop me a line if you’d like to join us: edavidson@libertycomms.com – we’d love to see you there!

Liberty’s Mobile World Congress 2018: Day Two and we’re heading to the moon!

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It’s day two at Mobile World Congress 2018 and the news keeps coming. This morning was dominated again by 5G. FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, told the conference in his keynote that the US plans to launch 5G auctions later this year. Pai stated that the US needed “modern, flexible, light touch network regulation,” to help it progress rapidly with the development and roll out of 5G services.

Meanwhile, for the UK, the national telecoms regulator, Ofcom, announced it has approved six telecoms operators to take part in the forthcoming auction of 4G and 5G friendly radio spectrum, which will see 40MHz of frequency in the 2.3GHz band and 150MHz in the 3.4GHz band being distributed. Vendor, Airspan and urban Wi-Fi provider, Connexin have been named as two surprise bidders alongside mobile operators EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

In further 5G related news, Sprint announced that it will be bringing 5G networks to Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston first, with the six cities beginning to experience “5G-like capabilities” from April whilst China Mobile plans to start large scale 5G trials in the second quarter across 17 cities.

And taking a more stratospheric view, Nokia and Vodafone Germany have launched plans to build a network weighing less than a bag of sugar to live stream HD video from the moon. In addition to Nokia, Vodafone Germany is working with PTScientists, a volunteer group of scientists and engineers, and Audi in what has been described as the first privately funded moon landing.

What will tomorrow bring? Stay tuned and we’ll fill you in! As for us, we’re off to apply our blister plasters and hand sanitiser and walk the halls with a tortilla sandwich at the ready! See you tomorrow!

Make sure to follow Liberty on Twitter for all the latest updates at MWC this week.

 

Happy Birthday Liberty – 20 technology innovations from the last 20 years

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In our first series of blog posts as we enter the 30 day countdown to our 20th anniversary in March we thought we’d have fun looking look at some of our favourite technology highs and lows.

It’s incredible thinking back 20 years and remembering we didn’t have much of the technology that today we take for granted. Much of this technology has helped shape our current lives – helping make it easier to connect with and enjoy the things we love. For me one of the main things was the introduction of online streaming and it’s add on services.

I can still remember the times I would go to Blockbuster to rent a film which came in a big plastic box. In 2007, Netflix introduced online streaming to personal computers and the next year saw the addition of streaming to Xbox 360s, blue ray disc players, and TV set-top boxes. At Liberty we have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the biggest names in this space helping make TV on demand a reality for many.

The last 20 years has also seen a whole slew of new mobile technologies capture the public’s imagination – from smartphones to MP3 players, USB sticks and touchscreens to Wi-Fi, 3G and now 5G and more. As a nation we have become increasingly plugged into an always-on, totally portable, always-connected existence.

But whilst these innovations may have helped change the quality of our lives in the lucky developed world, it’s the technological changes further afield that I think really matter – those advances that have literally changed lives – helping give people access to clean water and electricity for the very first time, to immunisations and healthcare services and to education.

As consumers in the UK and US, our view of ‘technology’ is often limited to smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that make our daily lives better but there is so much innovation happening –ways in which technology is changing people’s lives for the better, where poverty is high and quality of life can be poor.

It’s this innovation which I think is so humbling. It certainly makes me proud to be involved in tech!

Celebrating 20 years of Storytelling

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It’s hard to believe, but today marks the 30 day countdown to our 20th anniversary celebrations. And what an incredible 20 years it has been! We’ve worked with some of the best in the industry, partnered with some amazing companies, connected with inspiring people and helped launch the careers of so many rising PR stars.

In this next succession of blog posts we will look back on the last 20 years – celebrate some of the milestones that have helped shape our industry, make predictions for the next 20 years ahead and have fun remembering some of our highlights.

Thanks for sharing the ride with us – we are looking forward to continued collaboration with you all in the months, years, and decades ahead.

What We Learned at Learning Technologies

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I’ve just got back from Learning Technologies at Olympia – with more than 8,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors it was buzzing! I was lucky enough to meet with some fascinating people – all of whom shared the same view that development in education technology is moving at a rapid pace. In fact the EdTech market has changed more in the last 5 years than in the previous 100 years that came before it. Digitisation, personalisation, automation and globalisation are ripping up old models, bringing out a massive change in how people learn and train.

But looking at the long view – where do we go now? How do you create brands that are global and will be digitally recognised? Currently, 2.5% of education has been digitised but we need much more than that to truly drive change. According to one person I spoke to we need to see a $100 billion spend in digitisation in education by 2020. The money is there but we need the drive behind it to make it happen. Done right, education could be the economic driver of the 21st century. That’s really exciting and makes events like the one today feel so important.

If you want to talk through how we could help your brand do get in touch!

The World of Work is Changing

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The workplace of today is dramatically different than it was a few years ago. From the ways in which people find their jobs to the means with which a workforce communicates with each other, the differences are stark. The professional spaces people also use to work have also changed. Hot desking and flexible working are now the norm and the idea of a traditional 9-5pm job seems to be disappearing.

The traditional hierarchical structures which used to exist years ago have also given way to a more flexible, flat system – with opportunities for everyone (regardless of their level) to be part of something bigger.

At Liberty we are really trying to embrace these cultural and social shifts for the benefit of our clients, the business and our team. Whilst for our clients a global team means 24-7 support, for our team it means the opportunity to work flexibly, collaborate more across time zones and work in a strategically more efficient way. We are a modern business with a modern team but to make it work we need to listen to each other, to trust each other, be sensitive and never forget the human touch.

Liberty is more than just a PR consultancy – we are a brand of our own using all of the tools available to us (many of which we are lucky enough to count as clients) to keep growing our company across time zones and geographies. We are not an agency made up of separate offices – we are one company with one team and one vision. So as we approach our 20th anniversary this year, whilst we’ll never be able to predict perfectly what the future will hold, we can be sure we will be prepared, constantly learning and evolving and listening to each other so we are in a stronger position for whatever the future holds.

Voices from the Pulpit!

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It’s day 3 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona! With the sun shining, the show is well under way now and whilst most of the major launches have taken place already there is still lots of news to be had!

 

 

Deutsche Telekom’s CEO, Tomotheus Hottges, called for the harmonisation of data protection laws in his keynote yesterday. Noting that in Europe there are 200 operators, compared with four in the US and four in China, he called for a more supportive regulatory environment to help the telecoms industry evolve to meet changing consumer connectivity expectations.

 

BlackBerry’s CEO, John Chen also made news by announcing two new smartphones borne from the company’s partnership with Foxconn. With a focus on the enterprise, Mr Chen also announced a new version of its BES 12 platform, an alliance with SAP and simplified pricing for corporate customers.

 

 

Speaking at the Global TD-LTE Summit, China Mobile’s CEO, Li Yue called for more cooperation amongst operators. Giving his backing to RCS he said he expected commercial RCS and VoLTE services later this year.

 

 

And continuing the theme of connectivity, European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes warned Europe that it faces being left behind once again unless it takes steps to speed up the development of 5G mobile technologies. Speaking at the show, Kroes said 5G would spur growth in the European technology industry but in order to truly flourish, cooperation was needed and not just between European governments and companies, but worldwide. However, almost in response to Kroes’ comments, the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) announced the launch of its 5G initiative. The first stage of the NGMN’s 5G initiative is to be driven by its 21 operator members. The alliance will initially define use cases for 5G networks. Once operators have specified their needs, they will start in 2015 defining the architectures that can implement and deliver them.

 

 

Looking to the rest of today and tomorrow, Mobile World Live will be showing IBM CEO, Ginny Rometty’s keynote. Make sure you don’t miss it! Enjoy and until tomorrow, hasta luego!

What will 2014 hold for the tech industry?

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It’s that time of year again – a time when we regret the excesses of Christmas and stumble forwards, insistent that we will do things “better” this year!

 

 

But before we worry too much yet about failed New Year resolutions, put them to one side for a moment to take a read of our top 10 predictions for the world of tech this year! Will they be right? Only time will tell but we’ll make sure we go back to them this time next year and let you know!

 

  1. Looking at the telecoms space, LTE will continue to be a big topic in 2014 with wholesale LTE networks being launched in mature markets. Voice and SMS revenues will continue to decline and although data revenues will grow, the additional cost of carrying data will not be enough to offset the decline in voice revenues. As our friends at Coleago Consulting predict, this will lead to more operators sharing networks in 2014 to reduce costs. In some cases this will also lead to mergers and acquisitions.
  2. Smartphone growth will continue to be dominated by China – but India could be close on its heels with millions of people set to receive their first smartphone in 2014.
  3. With 2014 being the year we will see the app store for Google Glass open, it looks set to be the year wearable, immersive technology takes off. From an entertainment perspective, 2014 also looks to be the year gaming goes galactic! Three interesting space exploration titles (Star Citizen, No Man’s Sky and Starbound) will launch this year – promising ventures into new, unexplored galaxies.
  4. The physical world we live in is also set to become even more tech savvy. Hot off the heels of this year’s CES, 2014 will mark the start of what Cisco’s John Chambers has termed the “internet of everything” ie a new wave of innovation driving the connection of people, devices and things. While this wave will be powered by an explosion in the number of connected devices it will be about far more than that. Cities will become smarter with more and more authorities and councils using technology to better enhance the environment and how we live in it. Whether its street lighting switched on via Twitter or bins emptied via text message, 2014 will be the year social media connects with infrastructure. I’d like to see 3D printing really take off this year too with uses that go beyond the novelty to the useful and practical.
  5. One trend I won’t pretend to understand but will continue to no doubt increase, is the growth in crytpocurrencies. Whether it’s bitcoins, altcoins or dogecoins, their popularity looks set to continue. I’ll continue to watch in amazement!
  6. If 2013 was the year of Edward Snowden, 2014 will be the year people look to tools and services to help them keep their online lives more private. Expect a new set swathe of privacy companies and services to cater to a growing consumer need.
  7. Every year seems to be the year cloud computing really takes off but in 2014 expect consumers to finally truly embrace cloud storage. The push for more personal cloud technologies will also lead to a shift toward services and away from devices. The type of device people own will be less important – the personal cloud will take over.
  8. 2014 won’t be the year of 4K but it will be close. 4K TV prices will continue to drop and whilst we won’t yet see an explosion in availability, it will rise steadily. Who knows, by next year Christmas films in 4K may even be top of our children’s wish lists!
  9. The rich landscape of advertising looks set to get even richer with advertisers embracing more ways to connect with consumers. Whether it’s through pop artists singing about their favourite brand in the next number one or TV programmes integrating product names into their scripts, 2014 could be the year advertising takes traditional product placement to new levels.
  10. Perhaps the most fascinating area of technology for me has been its use in healthcare. 2014 will no doubt continue to astound me as breakthroughs in cancer, Alzheimer’s and vision and hearing loss don’t look too far off.

Can global campaigns follow the same formula?

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PR Week recently published an article that delved into how large businesses organised their global communications programmes.

 

 

The conclusion after gathering insight from a number of in-house and agency sources was that there isn’t necessarily a best practice, rather a list of ways in which this can be done.  This is a fair reflection of the reality of global comms; there isn’t a one size fits all solution and it very much depends on what you are trying to achieve.  It also isn’t the case that multi-territory campaigns always require pots of cash to implement.  Many clients are taking advantage of media globalisation and realise that by choosing the right media, creating engaging content, and carefully controlling messaging, you can be very frugal in your approach.

 

Liberty works with a number of clients on global campaigns.  One of our multi-territory clients is a global contract manufacturer in the high tech space for whom we’re helping to extend its marketing beyond the US and into Europe, directly supporting sales activity.  The campaign is centrally managed out of the UK and includes developing digital assets and then using global digital media outlets to engage and take audiences on a journey through to sales.  Regionalisation is handled centrally, and because messaging is sales focused, on-the-ground sales teams will feed into approvals and amendments, through our global client in San Francisco.

 

Similar to this, but in consumer marketing, was the recent launch of the new Range Rover Sport in New York.  This a great example of a centrally managed global campaign without local territory support.  Hiring a global icon to front the launch – Daniel Craig, aka James Bond – and the controlled use of global media distribution channels via Richard Young, an iconic society photographer in his own right, meant that this story was always going to cross borders.  So no need for regional offices to curate the content; it was a media juggernaut that had to be managed centrally.

 

Where local offices can be very effective is on-going marketing and PR support where there is a clear benefit.  Regional press offices, for example, that simply must be on the ground to recognise locally-specific issues and cultural differences, particularly where politics is involved.  Another is media buying, either at a country by country level or wider regional level, such as APAC, where relationships and volume can make a big difference to placement and buying power.

 

Because there will never be a one size fits all global model, the most sensible happy medium for marketing agencies that work on global business is to take the central hub approach covering off key regions; that way you’re never too far away from being able to tailor your approach from campaign to campaign and client to client.

Our winning ways!

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Last night saw us reach a really significant milestone in our history. We are delighted to have won the 14th annual Media Employer of the Year Award at the W Hotel in London.

 

 

The awards, which recognise and celebrate the innovative talent attraction and retention initiatives from organisations within the media sector, was judged by an independent panel who included Martyn Hill, Business Development Manager of Firefish and 2011 winner of Media Employer of the Year; Katherine Varian, Head of HR at Cohn & Wolfe; Bruce Macrae, IIP assessor & owner of Media Network; and Aliya Vigor-Robertson, Managing Partner at Journey HR.

 

Suffice to say the competition was significant with big names such as Publicis and Total Media all very worthy shortlisted candidates. We gained a significant amount from the whole process (with fantastic support from the team at Pathfinders throughout) but to hear our name called out as the winner was incredible!

 

For us, it means a tremendous amount. As an agency we are embarking on a significant chapter in the agency’s growth and to know our employee strategy and approach to staff can support this growth is important. It also marks an important personal achievement for our MD, Dee Gibbs who has grown the agency over the last 16 years to what it is today.

 

As we look to 2013 our top 5 tips for helping other companies in the same position are as follows:

 

  • Work as a team – you may have brilliant products and fantastic clients, but unless your people are working together as an effective team, your company is unlikely to fulfill its potential.
  • Put a people strategy in place which matches your culture and ethos – Getting the most out of staff is of course a matter of leadership, but in all except the smallest companies it also essential to have a people or workforce strategy in place. Key to our strategy has been understanding the requirements of our organisation as we have grown. That means listening to what our employees and clients say and reflecting the feedback in the support, policies and procedures we have put in place. Equally important is recognising how efficiently our team has been working. You can’t do things alone so having a team that is behind you and working towards the same goals is critical
  • Drive performance – Creating a motivated, loyal and efficient team has been the bedrock to our growth. You need to incentivise and encourage staff though fair and competitive benefits (regularly bench marked), pro-active approaches to training, robust appraisal systems and of course the magic word, thank you. Remembering to take the time to say thank you for a good job well done goes a long way!
  • Recruitment – as with the retention and motivation of existing staff, finding the best people as you grow does come down to competitive salaries, company benefits and opportunities for advancement. But it’s also worth remembering that the way your business presents itself is important. If you wish to attract self-starting, entrepreneurial and creative members of staff, that’s the image that your company should present. Also, don’t forget to get out and about. We live in a small world – knowing people opens doors!
  • Have fun! Work becomes so much more engaging if you not only enjoy the work but also the people who work with you. Take the time to get to know your team and don’t forget the socials – let your hair down and enjoy yourself – especially as the Christmas party time approaches!

New survey proves social media plays a key role in delivering great customer service

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There’s no doubt that social media has (and is still) changing the way consumers interact with brands.

 

Social media key to customer service?

 

From a customer service perspective it has never been more important for brands to recognise this and put strategies in place to ensure they are quickly and accurately responding to customer requests. According to a recent survey from NM Incite, nearly half of social media users have sought customer service via social channels, with 71% of those who did so (and had a positive experience) stating they would recommend the brand or company publicly, compared with just 19% of those who got no response.

 
It’s clear that people engaging with social media channels expect a quick response from the company they are engaging with. It’s clear too that if they are happy with the response that they will endorse the organisation to their networks. There’s a lot of potential reward in having a good social media strategy in place – if you would like more info on how we can help you do this we’d love to chat to you!

Apple’s Genius Training Workbook – a guide to great customer service?

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Recently, you may have seen that Gizmodo reported on a leaked copy of Apple’s Genius Training Workbook. Described by Gizmodo as “an exhaustive manual to understanding customers and making them happy”, it provides a fascinating look into Apple’s approach to customer service.

 

 

Whether their motive is to genuinely provide the best client service possible or something more commercial to increase revenue, one thing remains: they are still a brand universally known as keeping their customers at the heart of their business.

 

If you have ever worked in customer service for any company this guide won’t come as much of a surprise. I remember something similar when I took my first job in HR for women’s fashion retailer, Principles. Their mantra was to create a fantastic customer journey, which was felt from the moment you walked into the shop. The company invested thousands in creating the right look and feel for customers – from the music playing as people entered the shop, through to the perfume at the cash desks, the lay out of the store and most of all the people. Everyone was trained on the right approach to greeting and engaging with people – with the aim to make you more comfortable and happy, in order to increase sales.

 

This is something we do at Liberty too. We have developed our global standards document of procedures and processes to make sure our team always provides our clients with the best possible experience. There’s nothing more disappointing to us than a disappointed client and we invest in our teams to make sure they are the best they can be. Now, this comes down to people being willing to grow and learn and take on new approaches but with the right attitude, correct training and fantastic reward and recognition policies we can help our teams to make sure they are the best they can be.

 

The key is also encouraging everyone to listen – truly listen – to clients. It’s only then can we truly develop campaigns that will make a real difference. We communicate regularly, ask for feedback and never rest on our laurels. The personal touch goes a long way too – remembering to offer a hand of help if they have a particularly busy week, saying thank you and sending surprise gifts and flowers go a long way – as well as the obligatory well deserved lunch of course.

 

Now no company will become the largest company in the world (like Apple) by being nice just for the sake of being nice. Apple is cool, but it is a much more disciplined cool, that is focused on the bottom line. But I don’t think that being nice is a bad thing. After all, it’s much nicer to go into a store where you are treated nicely with empathy, get polite answers to your questions and actual help with your problems. It’s no wonder their team of “geniuses” actually help to generate sales. In fact, on the same day Gizmodo reported their story, TechCrunch reported that according to a study by NPD Group, “nine of every ten Apple owners are somewhat or much more likely to make another Apple purchase following their tech support experience.” Furthermore, one percent of those polled said they have a better perception of Apple after getting technical help at the Genius Bar.
One thing is for sure – would we really complain if we got a positive experience from a store we visited or organisation we had dealt with? I don’t think so.

Tips for a better appraisal system

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In my role I am often asked whether I feel appraisals are a waste of time and what we can do as either the appraiser or appraisee to make them more effective. In this blog post I have tried to answer some of these questions and help provide some tips to getting the most out of appraisals.

 


In my opinion, most people’s dislike of appraisals comes down to the experience they have had with them. For appraisees their dislike can be a result of feeling like appraisals are used as a stick for management to beat them with – rather than a forum to focus on their development and growth.  For appraisers (managers) their dislike can result from knowing they are expected to get people to change but not knowing how. However, done in the right they can be a fantastic tool to help inspire and grow your employees.
In my view the key to a good appraisal system hinges on these key elements:

 

  • Communication – many appraisal systems are introduced without spelling out the benefits which means people participate half-heartedly because they are forced to. Like anything communication is key
  • Training – Most managers are not trained in conducting appraisal interviews. As a result, almost everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The appraisees don’t get the motivating feedback necessary to improve their commitment and productivity; the appraiser doesn’t learn how he or she could manage better; and the company doesn’t get the data it needs for planning and improving what it does. Poor interviewing by appraisers reinforces people’s worst fears and sometimes creates more problems. Likewise setting unclear or unrealistic  objectives and measurement following reviews can also be detrimental
  • Job descriptions – Without adequate job descriptions there is no sound starting point for the appraisal and there is no way of measuring improved performance. It is the performance of the various tasks in the job description that must be appraised and improved
  • 360 degree feedback – without gathering feedback both from above and below it is impossible to get a rounded picture of a person’s performance. Annual reviews should be 360 degree reviews with feedback taken form a cross section of people and teams the individual works with.
  • Time – the biggest reason appraisals fail is often due to time. People don’t prioritise the development of their staff and push appraisal meetings back. It’s easily done especially in a busy communications agency where client commitments often take precedent. But making sure appraisals happen is so important. Making sure the right preparation is done too is key. All too often, prep is often left to the last minute meaning the right investment is not made
  • Ongoing improvement – the final area which is often missed is to leave meetings about a person’s development until appraisal times. For an appraisal system to be effective a person’s performance should be appraised more regularly than every year. In my view appraisals should be done every 6 months with more regular catch ups scheduled in between (as is deemed appropriate for the individual). Obviously for very junior members of staff their development should be driven by their line manager and helped and supported through the process of line management. However, for managers and above (especially those with experience of line management) it’s important for the individual themselves to drive their own development. Everyone is different so being able to tailor an approach accordingly is key to making sure everyone gets the most out of the process

 

Without doubt, properly conducted appraisals are one of the most powerful tools for enhancing your people’s performance and your business’s profits. Find ways to avoid these mistakes and your people will learn to enjoy appraisals with all the benefits of improved performance.

 

http://www.prmoment.com/1133/are-appraisals-a-waste-of-time.aspx