Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Ex-Factor!- HR Practices

Key learnings:

Corporate alumni programmes help organisations re-recruit employees with much greater ease

In case of sales-driven organisations these boomerang programmes offer the recruiting advantage and also give a major boost to the business by providing competitive intelligence

The economic recession is exerting pressure on organisations from all sides. Managers and leaders cannot stretch even an inch and therefore layoffs and indiscriminate delayering of the staff is rampant. As a result of layoffs and corporate delayering there has been a significant talent exodus into the corporate talent pool. There is enough talent floating around in the market and therefore, today may be the best time for organisations seeking to recruit employees.

Unfortunately not many are in a position to recruit. For preserving floating talent and keeping it in the active sourcing loop organisations are considering increasingly formal corporate alumni programmes. These programmes help maintain mutually beneficial relationship with ex-employees and others in the market.

The "boomerang programme" as it is called underscores the need to stay in touch with employees. They could spring back into the organisational fold with much greater ease. Also it saves the organisation and the employee a lot of effort and time. Re-recruiting people under the boomerang programme is much simpler as compared to starting afresh with the entire recruiting process. Besides recruiting benefits of the corporate alumni programme, there are other more business-oriented advantages. For instance, in case of sales- related jobs, re-recruiting sales people would not only save the organisation recruiting efforts but would also provide the added advantage that comes by virtue of the number of contacts that the sales executives would bring. Thus, corporate alumni programmes provide multi-dimensional benefits to organisations.

Back to the pavilion!

Employees are the best brand -builders for organisations. The "word of mouth" publicity that the staff give its employer is beyond the best marketing and brand positioning strategy. Hence, it is extremely important that organisations if not for humane reasons but for the sake of pure economics treat employees well and implement lay-offs amicably. This apart, there are other reasons that justify the need to pursue corporate alumni programmes. The reasons are both HR- related as well as business -related, and these include:

Reduction in recruiting costs Lowered employee change Greater employee satisfaction levels Better brand -building by re-recruiting ex-employees

In addition to the HR--oriented reasons for pursuing corporate alumni programmes, there are equally convincing economic justifications for the programmes. These include: Increase in the number of customer referrals

Enhancement of customer base by turning ex-employees into customers Leveraging competitive intelligence from employees

Inputs for product assessment

Thus, the aforementioned reasons make a rather convincing case for organisations to pursue formal corporate alumni programmes.

The mark of an effective boomerang

The following attributes make corporate alumni programme a success and represent the
worth of pursuing a corporate alumni programme:

A strategic business tool

HR leaders must build a strong business case around the alumni programme. Corporate stalwarts like Mc Kinsey Consulting, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ernst & Young have been known to position their alumni networking efforts more strategically thereby giving it a more serious feel. Leaders must shun the "HR fad" image of important initiatives like alumni networking to leverage its real benefits.

Prioritise alumni

Effective alumni programmes prioritise alumni on the basis of their performance record. This helps quicken the recruiting efforts of organisations and it enables managers to identify the right talent without wasting much time and effort

Tech -savvy

Effective alumni programmes use technological platforms to ease out the process. Unlike earlier when excel spreadsheets were used to maintain employee data base, today's technology is more advanced. The programmes use customer-relationship management software to accomplish the same job.

Leverage social networks

Alumni programmes must leverage public and private social networks to expand their scope. Social networks are by far the richest source of knowledge, information and contacts. Hence, leveraging this source can help boost the effectiveness of alumni programmes.

Use of an effective measurement tool

The efficacy of corporate alumni programmes needs to be adjudged at regular intervals. This would help the efforts stay in the right direction. Without an effective metrics system managers would fail to improvise the existing approach to alumni networking.

Incorporate alumni networking efforts in the onboarding programme

Organisations must familiarise employees about their alumni networking efforts right in the beginning . making this information a part of their onboarding exercise. Awareness about this programme would help employees feel more secure and enhance employee loyalty.

While the economic slump may have got depressing, probe deeper and you will see an opportunity. Making the most of this opportunity is a matter of choice, for those who leverage it, the possibilities are endless!

Ref: TheManageMentor

The Critical Need to Supplement Personality Testing for Recruitment and Development

Personality testing is popular, but research reveals it is a limited tool for selection and training. However, HR initiatives in 2009 can be bolstered by replacing or augmenting personality testing with best practice skills or competency testing.

A down economy need not prohibit organizations from launching effective business strategies. In tough times strong organizations survive while weak ones die. Unfortunately, not every company understands that the way to stay viable and strong is to invest in its people. This oversight therefore offers a tremendous competitive advantage for organizations who believe that training and professional development are critical for retaining and maximizing the most from the talent that leaders count on to pull their organizations through. In short, employee and organizational development equal business development.

Psychometric assessments can be a cost-effective and efficient strategy for evaluating individual and team effectiveness, identifying training needs and selecting the right people. Strategically speaking, good assessments help your business develop its strengths, minimize its weaknesses, seize opportunities and deal with economic threats. That said, it is not widely known that personality tests - traditionally popular with training and development professionals - are incomplete tools for selection and development. Take time this first quarter of 2009 to review your HR and training department's practices to see if you need to supplement any of your initiatives that rely on personality testing.

What is Personality Testing?

Personality refers to innate and relatively mental structures that provide general direction for individuals' choices and behavior. Among the many theories of personality, the "Big Five Model" is arguably the most popular and well-validated. The Big Five dimensions represent broad traits believed to encompass the range of normal personality.

a) Agreeableness: Highly agreeable people tend to be altruistic, warm, generous, trusting and cooperative.

b) Conscientiousness: Highly conscientiousness people are typically efficient, punctual, well-organized and dependable.

c) Emotional Stability: Emotionally stable individuals are usually calm, relaxed and generally free from worry.

d) Extraversion: Highly extraverted people are typically highly sociable, assertive, active, energetic and talkative.

e) Openness to Experience: People high in openness tend to be imaginative, original, unconventional and independent.

Some important points about this model...

First, the traits are dimensions, not types, so people vary continuously on them, with most people falling in between the extremes. Second, the traits are stable over a 45-year period beginning in young adulthood. Third, the traits are, at least partly, heritable or genetic. Fourth, cross-cultural studies have confirmed that the traits are universal. For all of these reasons, personality testing is often used in an attempt to help gauge the interests, motivations and broad behavior patterns of candidates and incumbents.

Is Personality Testing Useful for Recruitment and Training?

For decades personality tests have been popular for pre-employment screening. Despite the validity of the Big Five model (or any model of personality) , personality traits have serious limitations when applied to industrial-organiza tional psychology. Research shows that personality tests are poor predictors of workplace performance, whereas measures of general mental ability (reasoning, planning, abstract thinking, comprehending complex ideas and learning quickly) and job-specific skills are stronger and more consistent predictors of performance. In fact, the popular 0*net database of job classifications and corresponding requirements describes positions in terms of skills and competencies rather than broad personality traits. It is not surprising therefore that many companies are either replacing or supplementing personality testing with competency testing.

Simply stated, personality tests do not provide sufficient measurements or insights to give you an accurate understanding of a person to help you make a sound hiring or developmental decision. Moreover, it is questionable whether most of them yield legally defensible information. Measuring "how" people express themselves in general circumstances is good information, but it is markedly incomplete.

In today's competitive market where the best candidates for positions are aggressively
pursued, using the best tool for hiring and training is not a luxury, but a necessity. The best practice approach to selection and training is not personality testing but rather skills assessment - i.e., measuring cognitive performance and competencies related to the service-hospitality industry.

How Does a Skills Assessment Supplement Personality Testing?

Relying on a personality test to guide your hiring, performance analysis and training initiatives is much like relying on a road map to guide your vacation choices - it is interesting but terribly incomplete information. As one reasonable critic of personality testing put it, "Without weather forecasts, resort reviews, activity guides and price data, a long-planned, restful excursion could end up at a wilderness boot camp." A skills assessment, on the other hand, is a specialized tool that analyzes the attitude and skill set of a candidate or incumbent. Similar to the roadmap analogy, a well-constructed skills assessment provides the critical information left out by the simple personality tests so often touted by consultants and vendors as the golden keys to recruitment, results and retention.

Personality variables are not synonymous with skills and abilities. You cannot truly develop employees based on personality given the fixed nature of the Big Five traits. But leaders can impact learned attitudes and behaviors that underlie important skills and competencies. Therefore, the results of a skills assessment can be leveraged in powerful ways that add immediate and lasting value to businesses. First, they help managers hire better employees. Next, they are used to troubleshoot performance problems with existing employees. Finally, they benefit in helping develop employees into better performers. It is also important to mention that some skills assessments utilize legally defensible analytics, which protect test takers and organizations from unfair results and biased hiring or development decisions. Therefore, unlike personality tests, the results from skills assessments have superior validity and can be used across the employment cycle for an individual.

As an added bonus, skills assessments also benefit the broader organization by allowing leaders to benchmark the competencies for positional success, evaluate the effectiveness of training programs in an unbiased manner and facilitate more specific and useful job descriptions and succession plans. The use of a well-validated and industry-specific skills assessment is a business strategy to seriously consider adopting in the current economic climate. It is an important, cost effective and easy-to-implement step in making your HR and training departments profit centers in 2009 and beyond.

[About the Author: James Houran holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and is President of 2020 Skills Assessment. He is an 18-year veteran in research and assessment on peak performance and experiences, with a special focus on online testing.]

Include Employees in Leadership Transition Conversations

"Uncertainty" is a common word these days, used to describe everything from the economy to the future for America's businesses and workers. Having a succession plan for key management positions is one of the most valuable HR initiatives a company can leverage. During uncertain times, it's imperative for businesses to make sure employees have as much job certainty as possible, but succession planning often is neglected for more immediate concerns.

Just as the country had two and a half months to transition into Barack Obama's administration after eight years of Bush leadership, companies benefit greatly from a planned transition between incoming and outgoing top-level management.

But it's not always that easy. Generally, there are three kinds of transition:

1. An internal candidate's successful transition. This is only possible when a company knows the executive is leaving and has identified a likely successor. It eliminates surprise and enables a smooth, transition with the least amount of distraction and lost productivity.

2. An executive leaves unexpectedly. This is a good opportunity for companies to promote from within, but the news can lead to power jockeying and interpersonal struggles.

3. A company brings in an external candidate. When companies go outside for a new leader, they are implicitly saying to current employees: "You're not good enough to lead," or "Whatever you have been doing in the past, it is not what we need you to do in the future."

Planning is the lynchpin to ensure organizational stability during a change of power. For example, Hilton Hotel Corp. identified succession planning as a top company priority and emphasized this by creating a separate, dedicated succession planning department within the company's corporate structure. Hilton is able to identify different competencies for the most critical management positions company-wide, while highlighting employees with the appropriate competencies who are on track to succeed in different divisions. The company can identify successors for every executive position and ensure minimal confusion and uncertainty in the midst of change.

People likely do not fear change as much as they fear uncertainty. Uncertainty over leadership creates anxiety which leads to decreased productivity and increased turnover. Further, the more uncertain people are about the potential actions of a new leader, the more they may view that person as a threat.

Further, when there is change at top, employees naturally wonder what's next. Defining roles in advance of succession can set employees' expectations and allow them see where they fit into the organizational picture. Transparency and communication before, during and after transition reduce uncertainty and keep performance high.

The fewer surprises a company has, the better it is for employees and the organization as a whole. Creating a robust and active succession plan not only safeguards against surprise, it can contribute to higher productivity and employee satisfaction. Successful succession plans are the byproduct of a smart performance and talent management program that gives companies a clear window into its workforce's skills, strengths, competencies and goals.

Strategic succession plans engage employees at all levels in a dialogue about their company and the future of its workforce. They also empower executives to build the company's bench strength, improve individual employees' career development plans and save time and money.

Nothing communicates the employee's value in a company more than programs that actively seek to develop and advance careers within the organization. The key to succession planning is not to go into the process blind. Using the right tools, including a performance and talent management system, companies can plan for most contingencies in C-level exits. All they need is a little planning.

[About the Author: Steven T. Hunt, Ph.D., SPHR, is the chief scientist at Kronos Inc., a company that empowers organizations to effectively manage their workforce.]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving ahead during tough times

It is a seesaw-like situation for executives in the corporate world as each executive tries to justify his personal and professional goals. Pressure times compel top class executives to reveal their true personality. Their determination and composure in such tiring situations reveal their leadership qualities. However each employee can be a leader in his own stride by inculcating perseverance to survive in today's tough world.

Fear factor

Often pressure builds a sense of urgency and forces an individual to arrive at logical solutions for practical problems. When an employee is apprehensive of the outcome of a business strategy he generally tends to evade it thereby complicating the situation. Evading must be the last thing on an employee's mind if survival is his goal.

Away from...

To mobilise organisations, immediacy must be created. Employees though slip into a fear psychosis when faced with immediacy. Fear moves them into immediate action but not necessarily in the same direction. Therefore, all that fear does is to misalign the efforts of individual leaders to motivate employees towards common goals. Fear only brings to naught leaders' efforts to motivate employees. This is further compounded by the stress it produces.

Corporate health

Stress is the causative factor for many an ailment in the corporate health, leave alone employee personal health. Stressful employees lack creativity and become inefficient. Their perspectives are narrowed down and their problem-solving abilities slacken and learning ceases. Even employee morale diminishes leading to disengagement. Disengagement cannot contribute to peak performance!

The motivating duo

The duo that influences the success of businesses is fear and quite surprisingly leadership. Truly, fear scatters the efforts of employees in random directions. Leadership balances the negative effects of fear in employees by aligning their goals in the desired direction.

Sharing is winning

Pre- defined goals help employees visualise the path they would be treading. Sharing the organisation's vision, mission and values is key to its success.

Good, bad and the best

Identification of ultimate goals unlocks creativity, enhances problem-solving skills and helps utilise resources towards a purposeful mental state. Working towards challenging goals, creates eustress, a positive stress syndrome, which channelises energy. However, directionless movement creates bad stress. The balance between the good and bad stress needs to be delicately managed. Coordination is crucial here. Lack of coordination could paralyse an employee's ability to take on challenges. Therefore, good stress and coordination must complement each other.

The pull effect

Pulling the workforce back into powerful, productive mental state requires effective leadership. Leaders must be positive and shun negative attitudes at the workplace to radiate stress effectively. Spreading positive feelings throughout the team creates intrinsic motivation.

Towards leadership

Extraordinary leaders thrive despite the restrictions imposed by tough and challenging times. That every employee is a leader in himself implies that there must be a storehouse of some intangible inherent characteristics.

Bigger is better. The leader must view the problem in its entirety not in parts. Vision differentiates a leader from a follower. It helps him disentangle the nitty-gritties of a problem that prevent him from resolving it.

Fire from within. Unwarranted faultfinding leads to ineffective teamwork. Leaders must act rationally and objectively, without being carried away by internal conflicts.

First and foremost. Sacrifice is an important characteristic of a good leader. A leader who sacrifices first for his team will earn the loyalty of his subordinates and colleagues.

Calm and composed. A relaxed mind enables employees to make better decisions.
Move them forward. Leaders emphasise on being optimistic motivators during rough times, thereby moving the employees forward towards their goals.

Small leads to the big. Goals must be split into smaller achievable targets. Employees must be rewarded when those goals are achieved. A consistent win in small goals keeps the track of success steady for the employees while motivating them.

Have more of humour. A decent sense of humour even during tough times helps maintain the tempo of work/life balance.

Tripod balance

A motivated team relies on the tripod stand fundamental. So building a motivated team during hardships requires the top management to hire, train and communicate constantly.
Hiring the best is essential because, they make the job of motivating easier. A bad hire for the right job is difficult to motivate.

All employees cannot be perfect but are undoubtedly trainable. A right mix of technical skills, people skills and self-management skills is essential for appropriate training. Training must not only be appropriate, but also adequate. Once trained, employees must be encouraged to take a holistic perspective of their company and replenish their capacity for creativity.

Training promotes competence and therefore, confidence, the latter being an internal motivator. Competence also reduces stress and increases productivity besides improving attitude.

If employees' contributions are not acknowledged, they get demotivated and withdraw. Employees work enthusiastically if their ideas are valued. Talking about uncertain situations help defuse anxiety, which may lead to stress. Truth is an antidote for uncertainty. Therefore, constant communication is an imperative.

Reconnecting people

Once stress is reduced, the onus lies on the leaders to provide a direction to the employees and motivate them adequately and appropriately. Over-motivating the employees could have negative impact too, so leaders must be cautious.

Productivity is about moving forward in a uniform direction once it has been determined with the team consensus. Anxiety and fear are imaginary monsters and employees must avoid fighting them to perform well.

Learning in a Tough Economy

Although there seems to be no shortage of bad news in the business world these days, there is a bright spot for learning leaders: Economic downturns often present opportunities to make learning more effective, thereby making organizations more competitive.

When the economy slows, corporations are forced to respond. It's a simple financial matter: Less money coming in means less money available to spend. Common fiscal belt-tightening techniques include budget cuts, spending and hiring freezes, and reducing the size of the employment base through buyouts, attrition or layoffs.
As organizational leaders weigh tough decisions on where to cut costs, they should ask themselves one simple question: "Do we still want to be in business after the downturn?" If the answer is "yes," one area in which spending should not be cut without some serious strategic thought is employee learning and development.

True, adjustments may be needed. The learning and development department probably should reduce spending just like everyone else. Instead of cutting all initiatives in equal fashion, smart organizations retain initiatives that are critical to business success and cut back on those that may simply be "nice to do." Think of it this way: It wouldn't be prudent for a restaurant kitchen to eliminate fire extinguishers to save costs in lean times, would it?

Canceling an arbitrary portion of training initiatives across the board creates the illusion of savings - some real via eliminated travel expenses and some potential under the assumption that freed-up staff time is put to good use. But without strategic thinking about where cuts should be made, such moves could end up damaging the differentiators responsible for competitive advantage.

Planning to Outlive a Recession

Development is a key factor in ensuring people stay engaged in the organization and continue to have an impact on the company's bottom line. Giving current and potential leaders the development they need helps a company weather the storm and continue to excel. So how can necessary cuts be made with minimal long-term damage? What can be cut, and what should remain?

To guide the decision-making process, company leaders should sit down with line managers and talent professionals to examine the key factors to business success and which training and development initiatives enhance these factors. Smart companies proceed strategically so that reduced learning and development spending won't blunt long-term corporate success.

Look at Talent Management as a Response to Economic Downturn

Don't spread reduced training dollars as if they were peanut butter and you were trying to make 10 sandwiches with only enough available for five. Such a nonstrategic approach simply reduces effectiveness across the board - including in the areas responsible for a firm's competitive advantages.

Instead, choose more carefully who you need to invest in and which types of behavior you need to impact. This means you have to determine which offerings have the most immediate and direct effect on the business and on customer experience. It also may mean you have to be more selective about who is invited to participate.

Take the example of Company X, which has a significant development initiative for high-potential leaders. This program has shown visible impact for participants and their managers. As the economy enters a soft period, Company X opts to cut spending for the coming year. How will this initiative be changed to compensate for this cut? Should the program be eliminated for a year or two? Should it be adjusted so it's less intensive? In the end, a decision is made to retain the initiative as its current level of intensity, but to offer it to fewer individuals.

Let's look at the impact of this decision:

a) The nomination criteria for the program are strengthened. This results in more in-depth discussions by senior leaders and managers about who should attend and increases the value of this initiative in the minds of these influential individuals.

b) Chosen participants benefit from the same high-quality program as participants from previous years, and any feelings of being cheated by having to settle for a second-rate version are avoided.

c) Management takes the opportunity to communicate to those who didn't make the cut. They're told of the reduction in slots this year and are reassured they will be reconsidered for participation the following year. They are disappointed they won't get to attend this year, but are glad that when their turn comes they will not get a second-rate version of a program that has become well-respected.

d) Those who did make the cut are told they were among a smaller group chosen, leading to a clear understanding of the company's desire to retain them over the long term and even more accountability to put what they learn into visible practice.
In this way, a spending cut ends up positioning the company to reinforce its commitment to a development program that really makes a difference. Most companies tell their employees that they are the firm's most important asset. Company X found a way to walk that talk.

Ensure All Training Efforts Are Critical to Continued Business Success

The key issue here is deciding what behaviors, industry gatherings and activities are truly critical to business success. When budgets are cut, learning and development managers need to ensure a clear line of sight exists between training efforts and the value they provide for the business and its customers. A good example comes from the manufacturing sector: A downturn is not the time to scale back training on quality or safety technique. Any refinery manager will tell you the same thing in a heartbeat.
On the other hand, an economic downturn probably is a good time for a company expanding in Latin America to limit Spanish-language instruction to only those being deployed there in the near future. Broader training across the talent pipeline in this area can be resumed once the economic storm has passed.

In truth, a time of universal economic contraction may even be a time when expanded training efforts become necessary. Key customer relationships may cool due to less frequent in-person visits and increased reliance on voicemail and e-mail. This may happen at precisely the moment when the customer is looking for its own ways to cut spending.

Companies in this situation would be wise to invest in new or enhanced targeted sales training to ensure confidence and credibility in dealing with nervous clients. It's human nature. We all want to affiliate ourselves with the strong, the confident and those who will survive. Customers of organizations are no different. They want to know that the entities they outsource to or buy products from will still be there after an economic downturn has run its course. Such a strategy not only serves an immediate business need but also positions the company well for when the economy regains its health.

Leverage Learning From Work Experience

An economic downturn is a great time for companies to think beyond the traditional workshop format. Much can be learned on the job and in collaborative groups. Simulation-based learning, increased coaching and mentoring, and looking to company leaders to teach others based on their own experiences all can have a deeply positive impact on the leadership pipeline.

Whether the format looks like a community of practice, an action learning team or simply a facilitated discussion group, learning and development leaders can help get people talking with each other about their own experiences and what they have learned.

Look to Technology

Technology-enabled learning can extend development investment when economic times are tight. Similar program content can be delivered without the associated travel costs, and if done well, an atmosphere of engaged group learning can be maintained.
Let's look at another example, this time from a firm we'll call Company Y. This organization has professionals based in locations around the globe. These individuals gather in person twice each year to review case studies, swap notes and discuss the latest trends. Company Y anticipates a slowing economy and makes a decision to eliminate these twice-yearly gatherings to save travel and accommodation costs.

But Company Y doesn't stop there. In fact, its corporate leaders have been researching lower-cost alternatives ever since the meetings' costs were tagged for discussion. After all, the value of these best-practice exchanges are tangible and are one reason why Company Y's people are so clued in to the needs of their clients. Although Company Y eliminates the twice-yearly in-person gatherings, a quarterly webinar is instituted in its place to cover the same topics. The employees experience continuity of best-practice information flow. True, employees miss the face time with colleagues, but at least they know their needs for connection and development still matter as Company Y realizes cost savings.

Companies should look to intranets, online chat rooms, SharePoint technology or other existing resources to enable collaboration and idea exchange between teams and colleagues geographically separated from one another.

Move From 'Training' to 'Development That Makes a Difference'

Learning professionals know that, as engaging as any training event can be, the lessons learned quickly can dissipate and fail to translate into meaningful changes on the job without an effort to make the learning "stick."

To reap full the benefit from resources spent on learning and development, companies need to effectively communicate expectations to the individuals who will be taking part, as well as to their managers. Success is more than just showing up at a training event. Insights must lead to action, and action must translate into practical improvements in performance.

Taking a realistic approach to learning and development means ensuring people know what needs to be improved, they are motivated to improve and they get useful knowledge and tools to address their targeted areas. They also need opportunities to apply what they have learned, and they need to be held accountable for improvement. These strategies can help drive effective integration of new skills. They're also another example of a reaction to an economic downturn that can have a lasting positive effect on the company long after the economy has improved. Learning professionals can seize the moment to drive best practices into place.

Foster Dialogue About How Competitive Advantage Can Be Maintained or Enhanced

An economic recession is like any other type of organizational change, only this one is imposed from the outside. Employees and management can't hide their heads in the sand waiting for the recession to pass or for the "other shoe to drop." The challenge needs to be faced head-on.

Learning and development leaders can help foster dialogue among employees about what the business needs to do to be more competitive than the next company. After all, the whole industry is in the same situation. Issues need to be addressed with emotional engagement, not just a set of dispassionate adjustments. This is the time to increase communication in all directions and encourage employees to respond thoughtfully. Ask them to help prioritize how development dollars get spent. Such discussions often yield surprising and valuable insights.

Set the Stage for Increased Competitive Advantage

Recently, Personal Decisions International conducted a survey of human resources professionals and other business leaders around the globe to uncover organizational approaches to retention of key employees in the slowed economy and what tactics they have found to be most successful. Among the 530 respondents, 93 percent said retaining key employees is even more important during an economic downturn.

Perhaps counter intuitively, the survey found "accelerating the development of key employees" to be a more effective tactic to retain these individuals than "competitive pay and benefits." These responses offer real-world evidence that employees want development opportunities and will stay with the company that offers them.

Skillful learning and development leaders can foster a common vision of what it looks like to be successful, even in a recession. Those who do so will mobilize and focus energy across their organizations, both for today and tomorrow, as they become catalysts for action and learning.

Author: Marc Sokol
[About the Author: Marc Sokol is the senior vice president and global practice leader of development solutions at Personnel Decisions International. ]

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Efficiency at the Workplace

When countless office hours are wasted efficiency, productive and profits of a company are affected. To boost efficiency HR managers must take control, spur employees to work faster and smarter for competitive edge.

Often employees waste countless office hours affecting efficiency and productivity and also the profits of the organisation. Onus is on you as HR manager, for enhancing efficiency and productivity of your company, and ensuring the greater profits.

Mr Ramesh Gelli launched the Global Trust Bank during the 1990s envisaging efficiency and service to the customers as a prime differentiator. In a short span of time, GTB has become a success story. Today it is noted for its efficiency, profitability and prompt service.

To achieve efficiency at the workplace, the HR manager must take control of the workflow. For this, proper planning and new technological tools can help the HR manager to streamline his work The technological support will help the boss to enable his subordinates to work smarter and faster. In doing so they both work better as a team. As a result the company gains the competitive edge.

Top class efficiency at the workplace means more quality time and greater profits. To know whether you as the HR manager are efficiently running your company, look into the following three aspects:

  • Time and money;
  • Taking control of the workflow; and
  • Options for the future.

Time and money - Employees waste countless hours in preparing and maintaining files. This old method of office management is highly counterproductive and inefficient. To improve the situation, you can switch over to the technology age and do away with the mountain of files. It not only saves workspace but also lowers the operational costs. However, examine the computer system to see if it is the best industry-specific system available. If the company is having separate computer systems for different tasks it will be losing productivity, which affects the bottom line.

Taking control of the workflow - By being more efficient the HR manager can take control of his workflow. New technology can help him to be more efficient. In turn, this will spur the employees' to work faster and better. Interestingly, a designer computer system that allows multitasking and shared data will inspire the staff to work in cooperation. Double entries can be avoided and thus time and money saved.

Options for the future - When the company cuts costs and increases efficiency, automatically profit margin goes up. However, as a HR practitioner, you should not be satisfied with it. Because a feeling of stagnation will set in. To avoid that condition, look ahead. You may want to extend your resources beyond your office environment involving remote employees. It allows employees to be able to work wherever and whenever they want. In turn this cuts down overheads for the company. When technology saves time and money, and improves efficiency, productivity gets a boost. Automatically, business grows. By being more efficient the HR manager can take control of his workflow. New technology can help him to be more efficient. In turn, this will spur the employees' to work faster and better. Interestingly, a designer computer system that allows multi-tasking and shared data will inspire the staff to work in cooperation. Double entries can be avoided and thus time and money saved.

Post Appraisal Blues- The Friday Syndrome

Recently promoted supervisors are often victims of the so-called "The Friday Syndrome". Management promotes them on Friday afternoon and expects them to be effective leaders by Monday morning!

The transition from an employee to a leader is not easy. Employees are often promoted because they are good at the current job. Management assumes that a good employee will make a good supervisor. This is often not the case.

Employees who are good at what they do, often do it instinctively. They do it without thinking about it. It is often difficult for them to explain how they do so to others. They sometimes get impatient when people don't learn or understand as quickly as they do.
New supervisors need training. Unfortunately, it cannot always be provided. Someone has to help them make a good start. In a perfect world, their managers would take the time to do it. Most often they don't. HR can step in to fill the void by giving managers an outline for the discussion. If the manager doesn't take the hint, HR can take the initiative to do so.
Few tips to help the supervisor to get off to a good start:
  • Help them choose their priorities carefully. New supervisors often try to fix everything at once. They have to be taught to focus their attention on the most important things first and work on one or two of them at a time.
  • Help them focus on the positive. Sometimes new supervisors are so busy trying to make things better, they forget to show their appreciation for people doing things right. Nothing builds credibility faster than a sincere 'Thank you'. New supervisors need to be sure to demonstrate appreciation for people who are doing things right.
  • Make them aware to be firm, but fair.
  • Help them in learning to get all the employees in the department involved.

Most of us get comfortable doing things the way we have always done them. When someone comes along and starts telling us to do them differently, we get defensive. Whenever possible, new supervisors need to give people a chance to contribute to their finding new ways of doing things.

Ref: TheManageMentor

Performance Appraisal - Management by Objectives

Once an employee has been selected, trained and embarked on his duties, it is time for performance appraisal. What is performance appraisal? Why do companies need to take up this task?

According to Heyel, “it is the process of evaluating the performance and qualifications of the employees in terms of job requirements, for administrative purposes such as placement, selection and promotions, to provide financial rewards and other actions which require differential treatment among the members of a group as distinguished from actions affecting all members equally”.

This concept dates back to the First World War and was then called “Merit rating programme”. Over a period of time, this concept has been through an ocean of change. The areas of evaluation have also changed.

Importance and objectives: Performance appraisals have been considered to be the most significant and indispensable tool for the management as it,

  • Provides useful information for decision making in areas of promotion and merit rating and compensation reviews.
  • Links information gathering and decision making process, which are the basis for judging the effectiveness of personnel subfunctions such as recruiting, selecting and compensation.
  • Helps pinpoint areas of concerns in the primary systems like marketing, finance and production.
  • Enhances understanding for training and counselling needs.

Methods of performance appraisal

There are several methods for evaluating performance. Management by objectives is the most popular one.

Management by objectives is primarily to change the behaviour and attitude towards getting an activity or assignment completed in a manner that it is beneficial for the organisation. Management by objectives is a result-oriented process. In this system, emphasis is on results and goals rather than a prescribed method.

For instance, the number of quality articles to be churned out in a week, at a publishing house is, let’s say, five. This is the goal of the organisation. This goal has to be set in coordination with the writers. The emphasis here again would be on accomplishing this task flawlessly over the week rather than the setting of a method to accomplish the same. You are giving them a free hand to decide as to how they want to work in order to accomplish target. This gives the employee both responsibility as well as authority to do a job. The employees are now responsible for its success and failure and it is their baby. It is a VERY SMART MANAGEMENT TOOL where the employee is involved in the decision making process.

The fives magic sutras

The mystery of management of objectives has the following basic steps.

Set organisational goals. This envisages that organisational goals and business strategies are expressed clearly, concisely and accurately. They are periodically reviewed. They should be challenging enough to motivate the employee. Clear and attainable goals help channel energies towards desired behaviour and let the employee know the basis on which he will be rewarded.

Joint goal setting. This step establishes short-term goals, which are performance oriented, between the management and the employee. The responsibilities are clarified to the employees through organisational charts and job description. The goals decided by the employee need to complement the goals of the management. They also need to be flexible to accommodate new ideas without losing individual responsibilities. Moreover they should be easily quantifiable. For example,

To prepare, process and transfer to the office superintended, all account payable vouchers within three working days from the receipt of the voucher.

To hold weekly meetings with all employee.To use program evaluation and review technique (pert) for all new plant layouts.

Performance reviews. This step suggests frequent performance review between the manager and the employees. During the initial stages the meetings be held once a month and later could be quarterly. For maximum benefit these meetings should be scheduled for more than once a year.

Set check posts: Establishment of major check posts to measure progress. This is merely to check that the employee surges towards his premeditated goal without any disruptions. These check levels should be higher in the initial stages and then gradually reduce. This demands that the manager should be on constant alert and exercise sound judgment.

Feedback: The employees who receive frequent feedback about their performance are highly motivated than those who do not. However, one has to ensure that the feedback is relevant and specific. This helps the employee and the manager understand where they stand.

The five-sutra process of management by objectives ensures that the manager and the employee define and establish goals and objectives for an employee to be achieved within a prescribed period of time. The employee is to be supervised and evaluated, periodically. To this extent, a frequent feedback and superior-employee interaction model must be evolved.

Ref: TheManageMentor

The Three R's of Motivation

The greatest untapped resource to its full potential in any organisation is its work force. It has been estimated that an average employee at any given time works at less than 50% of his capacity. If this were true a good manager can increase productivity by:

  • Helping the organisation make a profit.
  • Motivating the sales team to achieve its full potential.

Conventional wisdom dictates that money and benefits are all that are necessary to attract and maintain a world-class sales organisation. The truth is that beyond a certain point, money and benefits are important only in keeping employees satisfied. Then what 's it that motivates people?

The Three R's

Recognition: Managers reinforce employees' desire to continue doing the right things by focusing on and rewarding positive behaviours, appreciating and being attentive to the good things employees do. This builds a positive self-image, leading to a positive attitude.

Unfortunately, most autocratic leaders tend to criticise, condemn and complain, never forgetting a negative performance ignoring good performances. Lee Iaccoca said many years ago, "When I reprimand, it is always orally and in private; when I praise someone, it is always in writing as well as in public."

Rewards: Napoleon observed, "Men will die for ribbons." Telling employees you appreciate them is a good beginning, but etching it in stone is even better. A personal thank-you card that recognises in detail a special accomplishment gives the recipient a form of praise that endures. It can be shown to colleagues, friends and family. A certificate or plaque is a permanent reminder!

Reinforcement: Singling out an associate every month for praise is probably the most popular form of individual recognition, as with a salesperson - or employee-of-the-month programmes.

Any form of reward can be effective - some for short periods, others for much longer. Regardless of how managers recognise achievement, they must consciously reinforce the behaviours associated with peak performance.

Best Motivator of All

Motivation is more than a well-thought-out reward programme. To really stimulate a team, a climate of self-motivation that promotes growth and personal development should be created.

The best way to motivate employees is to build their self-confidence. That's why provide employees the skills needed to excel in their profession.

Continuous training and education are necessary to keep a company thriving. The highest compliment an organisation can pay its employees and the greatest message it can send to the entire staff is, "We believe in your potential; our future and yours are long-term. Therefore, we are investing in your personal development, which ensures our company's growth and yours."

Ref: TheManageMentor