Archive for management skills

Employers of choice?

These days, many companies call themselves “employers of choice”. 

However, the Australian Human Resources Institute survey: Employer of Choice: A Reality Cheque, found a deep-cynicism about the EOC label that many companies attach to themselves. Over 52 per cent of respondents said they rarely or never took notice of a company’s claims to be an EOC, and 24 per cent had worked for an EOC company that hadn’t lived up to its promises. A further 15 per cent had been penalised for trying to access touted EOC benefits, while 26 per cent claimed to know of co-workers who had experienced similar treatment.

Being able to express what your company stands for is an important part of attracting top performers. The psychological bond is as much emotional as it is rational.  The real race for the White House is between Barack Obama and Sarah Palin. Like them or loathe them at least you know what they stand for. Like Tony Blair before him, Barack Obama has built his core message around change.  While Sarah Palin’s core message is built around being a ‘hockey mum’, so that Middle America can instantly identify with her and her values.

People relate to a compelling vision, especially if you take the time to ask them about their values and ambitions and show how the two are aligned.  As employers, it is up to us to give our employees work meaning.  It is we who must create the psychological bond between employer and employee.

This psychological bond can be cultivated from the moment a candidate is selected for employment.  One of my clients aims to establish a connection between the candidate and the company at the final interview.  How?  He presents the candidate with a business card with their name on it.  It makes saying ‘no’ much more difficult when an employer is able to demonstrate so much commitment to a candidate and their future career.

Your compelling vision doesn’t need to be sugar coated to attract and retain employees.  Just ensure it is honest.  A few years back, while I was working for a large consulting firm, the global CEO was addressing an internal conference. He was asked by a female manager about promotion opportunities to partner level if she had children and took time out to be with them or asked to work part-time. He replied that he was “supportive of her making those decisions, however promotions would continue to go to those people who worked long hours and were focussed on the company’s success”.

Brutal?  Perhaps.  But it was also honest and demonstrated his core values. Everyone knew how it worked.  And they never had trouble attracting employees who wanted to work hard.

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Boosting enterprise IQ

For a company to achieve competitive advantage, people are more important than ever.

A critical underpinning of internal intelligence is how the enterprise leads and manages people – and a significant part of the enterprise’s intellectual property is vested in the minds and commitment of its people.

People no longer ‘belong’ to an enterprise, though – they will attach themselves where they perceive their contribution is most valued. And ‘value’ is more than a simple compensation package – it includes a combination of rewards, responsibilities, work environment and life style arrangements. Increasingly, employers need to understand the unique and individual motivations of each employee if they wish to retain them.

Peter Drucker noted that knowledge workers are people who know more about what they are doing then their managers.  If that holds true, then the old models of leadership will simply not work.  So, what’s a leader’s role then?  To be a guide.  To share information.  And to know how to ask rather than how to tell.

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Start a conversation

There are many models for implementing performance management systems, but they all have one thing in common – a recognition that managing people and their performance is a daily activity, not an annual one.

So, start a conversation with each of your employees.  Smart managers hold regular performance reviews, linked to key company goals and a mixture of measurable qualitative and quantitative KPIs that includes training and feedback. Managers must feel confident and trained to provide feedback in a constructive manner and in the appropriate place. They must also look for opportunities to reinforce, reward and celebrate accomplishments and, most importantly, provide the role models for the behaviours that build success and trust among team members.

A word of warning, however: if you ask for suggestions or comments be prepared to listen. Workers these days will get tired of employers who pay lip service to their ideas.

The things that engage your people on an on-going basis can be different to the things that made them join you in the first place. Securing their appointment is like a sprint race; continuing to keep them and get the most from them is like a marathon.

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Finding square holes for square pegs

Often, when there are people in your organisation who aren’t performing as you’d like, the problem can be in know-how and training, which is quite easily fixed.

However, it becomes more complex if they are a “round peg in a square hole”, or a “square peg in a round hole”, or their work environment is not positive.

The solutions for someone who is in the wrong position can include finding a better fitting position for them in your company – or finding them a better fitting position for them outside your company.

If you do nothing and you elect to tolerate mediocrity, you will end up with a problem you wish you didn’t have.  You will lose credibility, trust and respect as a leader – and you will likely experience productivity, quality and morale challenges… and the list could go on.

Research shows around 25 per cent of Australian employees change jobs each year. And when you consider staff turnover costs are up to 150 per cent of a person’s annual salary, this represents a significant cost to business.

The cost of replacing even a B performer, let alone an A (if you can find one in today’s environment) is incredibly high – downtime, impacts on existing team members, management distraction in re-hiring, cost of recruitment, lost sales relationships – all these things have a massive impact on your business.

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The buck starts here

In the 1970s and 1980s it was common for CEOs to have a sign on their desk, which said: “The buck stops here”.

This might have been appropriate when all information and power flowed to the top but it is not appropriate now. It was only appropriate when one person could keep their finger on the pulse and the world moved more slowly.

Nowadays, it’s not so much ‘command and control’ as ‘command and connect’ – connect to those who have the knowledge of current markets and current opportunities. 

Perhaps the sign on the CEOs desk should say “The buck starts here”?

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Your boss is younger than you. So what?

With three generations of employees all working together, bridging the generation gap is something most of us deal with on a day-to-day basis.  But what happens when one of the younger employees becomes the boss of an older employee?

According to a study by US staffing company Randstad, one-fifth of employed adults in the States are older than their bosses. And that number keeps increasing as more and more older people stay in the workforce even after they hit retirement age.  But only about half of employees say they relate well to older workers. And more than three-quarters of employees say that younger workers don’t seek advice from their older, more experienced co-workers.

The Trump Blog (yes that’s right, Donald Trump has a blog) says that this is just bad business.  “Just like younger workers can bring fresh ideas and new techniques, older workers bring incredible insight and knowledge,” Trump says.

While it’s not uncommon to find tension in younger boss/older worker scenarios, there are several ways for both the boss and his or her employee to work well together.  Wikihow has a number of suggestions, such as:

  • For the employee: learn from your new boss. Treat your young boss like you would any other boss: with complete respect from the word go. Ask questions about new tactics or strategies and watch your boss to learn skills you don’t have.  And take stock of your own skills. Although your boss is younger, you have plenty to offer – experience, maturity and the knowledge of how things will often pan out.
  • For the new boss: learn from your employee. You have a great opportunity to learn from an experienced employee who has seen many different management styles and can provide great feedback and opinions to you.  Use the skills that your employees bring.  While you may know more about the latest and greatest technology, you may learn about networking or sales skills from your older employees.

Are you working for a younger boss, managing an older employee, or know someone who is? Let me know what you think.

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The n+1 Principle

The real challenge for leaders in today’s world of work is to shape their own roles – before it is reshaped for them!

This means a commitment to pursuing life long learning goals, and facilitating and encouraging others to do the same. For leaders to stay ahead they must step outside the boundaries of their own organisation and competency to ensure they are informed about trends in population, the environment, technology, social contexts and the economy.

I like to apply the ‘n+1 Principle’ for myself and my staff. For every n (number of conferences attended in your own industry or competency), attend one that is outside your field, and use the information to make positive change.

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