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Training Your Team—Like Oil on Water?

March 20th, 2015 by FlashPoint in Talent Management

Oil on WaterAt FlashPoint we spend a lot of time talking to organizations about how they train their teams. And while a lot of people are excited about the opportunities they offer, we often hear frustrations creep in. Sometimes, it seems, the training is like oil on water—floating on the surface with no great reach throughout the organization.

Some examples:

  • “We hold quarterly lunch and learns for our employees . . . but it’s limited; we want to do more and don’t know where to begin.
  • “We offer employees access to e-learning modules to develop their skills . . . but interest and participation are low.
  • “We grow our managers by offering frequent leadership development programs . . . but even though enthusiasm is high at first, participants quickly go back to their daily routine and don’t incorporate the ideas.
  • “We invest a lot of money on training . . . but we don’t seem to create sustained change.

If you have frustrations similar to these, of course you want to work through them. You want to spend your valuable resources on training opportunities that promote improvement throughout your organization. But how do you begin to do this?

A good place to start is by asking some important questions up front:

  • What strategic objectives are we as an organization trying to drive?
  • What habits and behaviors are we seeking to change?
  • By improving these habits and behaviors, what is the intended business outcome?
  • How can we ensure that individual and organizational objectives are clearly tied together?
  • What can we do to ensure lasting impact?

Take time to reflect on these questions before taking action. Involve others by asking them what they suggest. This can come in the form of a survey to all employees, interviews with organizational leaders to understand their needs, or a cross-functional team that openly discusses needs and solutions.

Once you’ve narrowed your focus and can clearly articulate training opportunities that support organizational objectives, create a program that ties all learning activities together. Make it a point to define activities, outcomes, audience, timing, and roles and responsibilities.

When establishing the program content, be sure to consider pre- and post-session work that reinforces the learnings and ensures lasting impact. Pre-session work may include readings, assessments, or meetings with managers that lay the groundwork for a positive experience. Post-session work may include action learning; follow-up webinars; meetings with managers to foster engagement; individual and/or group coaching; reassessments; and quick learning bursts in the form of articles, videos, e-mail reminders, and other tools.

Of course this is just a high-level look toward taking training to a new level, and to really be effective you’ll have to dedicate intense focus and energy as you plan, design, build, and facilitate your program. But considering the overall picture is a good start, and it’s an important step as you begin the process of eliminating the oil and ensuring that training permeates your organization.

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability, execution, and results.

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Accelerate Leadership Development through Action Learning

March 13th, 2015 by Linda Dausend in Talent Development, Talent Management

Action TeamLeadership development is changing—for the better. In many organizations it is no longer solely a classroom experience. Instead it often involves multiple components that accelerate learning. Examples include combining classroom training with webinars for reinforcement or providing coaching in order to customize individual learning experiences.

Another development tool that’s increasing in popularity is action learning. Action learning involves all of the training participants in a real-life organizational challenge so they can build and use new skills—and significantly benefit their organization at the same time. A wide community of businesses, governments, nonprofits, and educational institutions are recognizing its effectiveness and using it.

Action learning includes:

  • A real problem that is important, critical, and usually complex
  • A diverse problem-solving team
  • A process that promotes curiosity, inquiry, and reflection
  • A requirement that talk be converted into action and ultimately a solution
  • A commitment to learning

Many action learning projects utilize an external coach who is responsible for promoting and facilitating learning as well as encouraging the team to be self-managing. The coach helps the group to:

  • Succinctly reframe the problem
  • Identify the goal
  • Strategize actions
  • Take action

One benefit of action learning is that it helps participants “learn how to unlearn.” This is vital because employees often start to think the same way, merging ideas into a group mindset that eventually becomes established as part of the organizational culture. When they become action learners, on the other hand, team members learn how to question, probe, and free themselves from what they “know.” They practice setting aside assumptions, preconceived notions, and what they believe to be true. The critical inquiry they develop helps them to think more creatively and strategically, both to their personal benefit and the company’s benefit.

Solving complex problems by using new ways of thinking demands a wide range of skills across the team, and as a result individual team members can develop a customized learning agenda for themselves. The action learning approach is quite different from the “one size fits all” curriculum that is characteristic of many training and development programs. The individualization often means that participants become more engaged, commit to learning, and grow as leaders. The skills and knowledge they acquire can be applied to solving other important problems.

Of course all of this has a positive impact on the company too. Organizations are being challenged by their local and global clients to change their business models, delivery channels, and even products or services. In many cases there is also pressure to streamline processes. Through action learning, the company establishes teams (often consisting often of the best minds from a cross-section of the organization) to tackle these real-world problems and come up with viable solutions.

With proven results, action learning continues to grow and evolve. More and more it takes place not only in brick-and-mortar organizations but also in virtual environments, offering a cost-effective solution at all levels of the organization. This broader availability has added to the acceleration of learning. As a result team members are developing much needed leadership skills for a new era, and organizations are seeing both short-term and long-term return on investment.

Linda Dausend is a consultant at FlashPoint. She collaborates with clients to develop more strategic approaches toward managing talent and to help them prepare leaders who actually lead.

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Turnover Taking Its Toll? Consider These Strategies for Securing Top Talent

March 7th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

PinnacleTurnover is a profit killer, so of course you want to minimize it. As you work to do so, however, forget about gimmicks and flavor-of-the-month management techniques. Focus instead on becoming a magnet for top talent. If you build a company that attracts and retains the best people, you’ll solve the turnover issue.

Attracting and retaining top talent begins with knowing what employees want most. Based on numerous studies, today’s employees value five things over all else:

  1. Competitive compensation. Compensation equals money, benefits, rewards, and recognition. It is critical that your organization offer the whole package, even if you pay well in terms of salary.
  2. Training and learning. You will attract more higher-quality job candidates (and keep them) if applicants know that your organization offers training, learning, and career development opportunities. In particular, Millennials need assurance they won’t fall behind the marketplace by working for your organization.
  3. Service/product and employment brand. Most corporate relations efforts aim at potential customers. To become a talent magnet, you must also develop your organization’s employment brand. Survey your employees: “Why do you work here?” Get their answers on video and on your website.
  4. Management style and corporate culture. Management style determines corporate culture. The key is to be honest about who you are and how you do things. Talent magnets hire to fit their culture.
  5. People want to work for successful firms. Share your successes on your website.

Now that you know what draws employees, let’s next consider some foundational strategies you can implement. To become a talent magnet organization, do the following:

  1. Make high-quality recruiting and retention part of your strategic plan. Set a strategic goal to improve recruiting and retention, especially for key positions. Set measurable goals for all supervisors and managers and hold them accountable. In particular, make improving retention of younger employees a goal since they tend to switch jobs more frequently.
  2. Build and communicate a top employer brand. Start to think of yourself as an employer of choice. Tell your employees, “We want to become a known as a best place to work.” To build your brand:
  3. Hire well or not at all. Stop hiring average performers. Make hiring a personal and organizational competency. Train your managers so they can hire well and with confidence. Define the competencies (skills and behaviors) of top performers. Start hiring star performers.
    –  Develop your managers, including their behavioral interviewing skills.
    –  Provide onboarding programs that integrate new employees and make them feel welcome from day one.
    –  Conduct performance reviews on time.
    –  Give plenty of rewards, recognition, and opportunity for promotion, learning, and skill development.
    –  Pursue awards.
  4. Treat all employees as if they were customers. Customers often form close ties with employees, and employee engagement strongly impacts customer satisfaction. Given this close connection, remember that the interactions you have with employees and the relationships you build with them are just as important as the ones with the customers themselves.
  5. Retrain and develop all employees for tomorrow’s needs. Business is moving faster than ever, and client expectations keep ratcheting up. Annual training is being replaced with ongoing training and continual learning. Use articles, books, discussion groups, and other resources in addition to classroom training. Offer tuition reimbursement. Offer paid memberships to professional organizations.

Top talent gets to decide where they work. Help them decide to work for your organization, keep them, and eliminate costly turnover: Employees want the whole package, from money to opportunity to the right culture and great managers. Delivering all of that requires making it part of your strategic plan, setting goals, and following through on a consistent basis.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Leading with a Sense of Direction

February 13th, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Development, Talent Management

100-Yard DashDo you and you team start your days like the Monty Python skit about the 100-yard dash for people with no sense of direction—where everyone gathers at the starting line, the gun is fired, and the runners go in every possible direction? If so, then as team leader it’s your responsibility to get everyone on the same page. Otherwise the team will suffer from low engagement and productivity and will fail to achieve strategic goals.

Many leadership development workshops (including Work of Leaders® and The Leadership Challenge Workshop®) feature 360-degree assessments that evaluate how frequently the participants demonstrate essential leadership behaviors. In the workshops I facilitate, the questions related to “inspiring vision” often have the lowest scores. Most leaders are weakest at helping employees to see why their work is important, what it means to be a part of the team, and the value they bring to the organization. No wonder employees can feel scattered.

Have you communicated your vision for your team? Do team members understand what success looks like for them individually and for the team collectively? Leaders at all levels should be able to set a vision for their teams, even if they’re part of a larger division that has no articulated vision. How do leaders at any level do this?

The first step is to ask, “What do I want us to achieve as a department, function, or team?” The second question is, “What do I want to inspire my staff to become?” Remember that teams want leaders who look beyond the here and now, who seek possibilities, and who are open to options. Vince Lombardi famously started his visioning process with his team by saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” From there he went on to help them see themselves in a new way—as winners.

Every leader must lead from where he or she is. At a particular point in time the leader’s vision might not be very lofty. It might be simply to “focus on the fundamentals.” Yet achieving that goal might be a tremendous leap forward for a team that is struggling with the nuts and bolts of its responsibilities. For a different team, the vision might be grander: “To provide thought leadership in our industry.”

No matter how basic or lofty, once you have developed a vision statement, share it with your team or department. Be sure to answer the key question around WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?” Once you’ve articulated your vision, weave it into every team meeting, every one-on-one meeting, and every performance review.

Visions change over time as marketplaces change, technology changes, and leadership changes. But the need to inspire a shared vision never changes. Warren Bennis, widely regarded as a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies, said, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” With a clearly articulated vision, you and your team will be on course to make it a reality—and you’ll have a much greater chance of winning the 100-yard dash.

Bill Mugavin is a consultant at FlashPoint. He focuses his consulting on talent systems and processes, as well as leadership and management development.

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Ten Ways to Better Manage Performance

February 9th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Performance ManagementMany organizations completed their employees’ annual performance reviews at the end of last year, and for many the process was once again ineffective. Why aren’t more managers and employees pleased with the outcomes? Why is there such disconnect between performance management and strategic goals? To get at the heart this, consider these 10 ways to improve your performance management process for 2015.

  1. Link performance management to projects and goals that support the strategic plan and/or to competencies (skills and behaviors) deemed critical to the success of the organization. Too often, mundane issues such as timeliness, attendance, and attire appear on reviews. Instead, the reviews should focus on outcomes (actual project results) or competencies (skills and behaviors such as internal and external customer service, strategic thinking, resilience in the face of change, etc.). Anything less truly is a waste of time.
  2. Define the rating scale or scoring system. If performance is rated on a scale (e.g., 1 to 5) without a specific definition of each level, disagreements will never end. On the other hand, if the review form defines level 3 as “Meets Expectations,” where the “employee displays solid performance that consistently meets expectations and position requirements,” it offers more clarity.
  3. Develop a performance evaluation form that makes sense for the position reviewed. An administrative professional has completely different requirements on the job than a sales representative or an executive. Most organizations have separate evaluation forms for administrative staff, non-management staff, management staff, sales staff, and executive staff. For these organizations, the outcome is an easier, more targeted review process.
  4. Make self-review part of the process for everyone. Employees may provide vital project or competency achievement examples unknown to the manager, and this insight can be helpful as the manager prepares for the review. A self-review also provides discussion content for new expectations and definitions of quality, timeliness, etc.
  5. Require both employees and managers to provide examples that support their ratings. When employees self-rate, they need to provide metrics or reasoning to support the rating. Similarly, the manager needs to offer examples of the behaviors and achievements that warrant a specific rating.
  6. Consider a multi-rater process. Sometimes the manager providing the reviews has the least amount of contact with, and is the least affected by, the employee’s day-to-day performance. In these cases, the manager should solicit input from customers (internal and external), peers, and any direct reports that the employee has.
  7. Provide training for managers and employees. Both employees and managers need to understand the performance management process (e.g., the schedule, scoring system, technology used, and connection to compensation and career advancement). Managers also need to be trained on how to conduct effective reviews (e.g., how to give meaningful feedback and have difficult conversations).
  8. Include a development plan. Every employee needs continual learning, and the performance review is a good place to spell out the details. Managers should focus on a few skills (no more than three) that the employee needs to develop and then discuss and document these during the review meeting.
  9. Have draft reviews approved by the next level of management and/or human resources. Some managers are easy graders (often with “favorites” who inconsistently deliver results but consistently get a raise every year). Other managers are hard graders (believing that they hired superstars who should provide superhuman performance in order to get a “Meets Expectations” rating). These differences in approach can contribute to low engagement and high turnover. To level things out, another party should review the managers’ work and ensure consistency across the board.
  10. Set review dates in advance. No manager or employee wants to find out December 1 that reviews are due December 24. HR should provide the performance review process schedule early in the year (and send regular reminders for key steps) so that both employees and managers can prepare and keep performance management top of mind.

A well-designed and executed performance management process can be a positive motivator for employees. Building it takes some work, but the outcome is a more engaged, productive staff and a better bottom line.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Actionable Tips to Improve People Management Skills

January 30th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

Leading the TeamGreat people managers help their teams get the job done. They inspire passion, no matter what the job at hand because they manage individuals individually. They capture not just “mind share” but “heart share.” How do they do it? They practice good people management skills every day.

Here are some of the things great people managers do that you can do too:

  1. Build relationships with employees. Open your door. Set up one-on-one meetings with employees every week or every other week to discuss their work and explore how you can support them so they’re 100 percent productive. No matter how busy you get, keep the appointments so that you demonstrate commitment and develop a strong working relationship.
  2. Be responsive. Be available to your team. Answer their e-mails and voice mails within 24 hours, even if it means making calls or sending emails after work hours.
  3. Ask your staff to interview job candidates and prepare them with behavioral interview skills. Excellent hiring is the hallmark of excellent managers. By including your team members in the interviewing process and training them to ask good questions, you help them to feel involved, and you increase the odds of hiring the best candidate and ensuring a good fit. It also connects your team to new hires early on, helping to jump-start the onboarding process and minimize ramp-up time.
  4. Prevent “buyer’s remorse” among new hires. When it comes to building strong employee relationships, the new hire’s first day is an important milestone. Be there when the new employee starts and plan to take him or her to lunch. Arrange tours and introductions and consider posting a banner or sign that says, “We’re glad you’re here!” Ask absent colleagues and even senior management to send welcome e-mails on day one.
  5. Demonstrate inclusion management for all employees. Maximize communication and productivity by making all employees feel included, no matter their tenure, work arrangement, viewpoint, background, life experiences, or other diversity dimension. Listen to team members without interrupting. Give credit. Affirm remarks. Mention all employees’ successes in group meetings. Encourage all staff members to contribute to meetings and to respect others’ opinions. Ensure confidentiality. Expect to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Keep your sense of humor.

If you’re a manager, you play an essential role in achieving organizational objectives, and to succeed you have to demonstrate strong people management skills every day. Begin to apply the ideas offered above and see how they transform your team. Watch as mutual trust grows, information flows, and productivity increases!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Creating Lasting Impact with Training

December 31st, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management

LightbulbImproving organizational performance—and the bottom line—begins with improving individual performance, and today more organizations are expanding their training offerings to help develop employees. Many must justify the additional dollars for their budgets, however; in order to expand training budgets, they have to prove that training makes a difference.

Why does making a difference matter except to the “bean counters”? It matters because training is a significant investment—it costs a lot of beans! Training budgets are on the increase: they rose 15 percent between 2012 and 2013 according to Bersin and Associates’ The Corporate Learning Factbook. The average spent per learner is $1,169, with the technology sector in the lead at an average of $1,847 per learner.

Providing training with impact also matters because training and development are key engagement factors, and engagement increases profitability!

As your organization plans for 2015, you want to put development dollars where they will have the greatest effect:

  • Solving business problems by optimizing the performance of specific individuals or functions
  • Focusing training on roles that have the greatest impact on strategic direction
  • Developing existing talent and identifying career paths both upward and toward specialization in order to keep top talent
  • Building a learning culture where employees continually hone skills as their jobs change in response to the marketplace
  • Using training as a value-add for employees in order to increase the productivity of key individuals and increase retention

As you invest in training, here are five steps to ensure that it has lasting impact:

  1. Align training with a business need. Training for training’s sake is fun—but not effective. When “one off” training fails to develop competencies that align with business goals, there is no motivation to implement the new learning. Participants need to understand the business need in order to learn and incorporate new behaviors and processes.
  2. Evaluate and measure outcomes. Decide prior to the training what metrics will matter after the training is conducted. How do you know now that the training is needed, and what changes will tell you that the training was effective? Include but go beyond typical satisfaction measurement (was the content relevant and understandable?, did the program achieve stated objectives?, what was your overall impression of the learning experience?, etc.). Consider other measurements such as knowledge gained (did the participants learn the desired behaviors?), utility (how well did the training solve a specific problem?), individual performance (did the participants achieve specific goals?), and organizational goals (are there measurable increases to engagement and retention levels, for example?).
  3. Involve executives and other stakeholders. Executives, managers, and even customers may enhance training and learning by cofacilitating modules, providing follow-up mentoring to reinforce skills, or coaching the learners as they integrate new skills into their processes.
  4. Engage participants through an interactive experience. Nothing is more deadening than sitting in a classroom all day with one-way information flow. Vary group and individual exercises. Change media for learning. Break up the learning into chucks of information that is delivered a variety of ways over weeks or months.
  5. Apply new skills and behaviors to the business need. In the end, the new skills and behaviors must be applied appropriately, correctly, and completely. They must become part of the fabric of the culture. Use of the new skills must become an expectation of the participants and their managers.

Your organization can use training dollars wisely and well! By definition, high-impact learning organizations align training and development efforts with strategic business goals and involve key partners such as HR, lines of business, and external providers. Becoming and remaining a high-impact learning organization is a constant effort, built on a foundation of strong organizational capability in areas such as developing a learning culture, providing strong learning content, and utilizing targeted learning measurement. High-impact learning organizations distinguish themselves as employers of choice who achieve growth and profitability goals.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is a business development consultant at FlashPoint, where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Make Meetings Matter

December 24th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

MeetingLook at your calendar for this week. What percentage of your “work time” is taken by meetings? Twenty-five percent? You’re lucky. Fifty percent? You’re in good company but probably are struggling to get your work done. More than fifty percent? You’ve likely thrown up your hands and are so ruthlessly prioritizing that you’re neglecting critical actions and your staff.

Meetings are supposed to be a management tool that moves the organization forward—but too often there are too many of them and they’re focused on the wrong things.

If you’re meeting to focus on old business, you’ll fall behind because past activities are being given priority over strategic decisions that will enable the organization to improve customer service, remove barriers to top performance, initiate a needed project, or move in a new direction.

Here are ways that to make meeting content more useful and spend meeting time more wisely:

  1. Schedule regular meeting times but meet only to discuss and make decisions. Meeting time is hard to carve out unless it is planned well in advance. When meetings are meaningful and there is content that affects everyone, meetings are useful and welcome. If the agenda is not full of appropriate discussion/decision topics, cancel the meeting.
  2. Determine whether there should be a meeting at all. If the meeting purpose is to share information of immediate value to the decision making and direction of the majority of attendees, then meet. If the meeting purpose is to listen to reports from everyone in the room, send the reports in advance and spend time at the meeting time solely on discussing and solving any issues that the reports indicate. Parties with issues need to get the topics on the agenda in advance of the meeting. Further, if the issues do not involve the majority of those at the meeting, wouldn’t one or two face-to-face meetings be more effective at solving the issue?
  3. Send the agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Send it earlier if you are soliciting additional items.
  4. Share a “time boxed” agenda at the meeting itself. Have a time keeper (not the facilitator) speak up at the midpoint allotted for each topic (“five more minutes” or “three more minutes”) to keep the meeting moving. If a topic requires more time, schedule time later that day or after hours to finish the discussion.
  5. Share meeting notes as soon as possible with attendees and absent team members alike. Increase cooperation among attendees by reinforcing the discussions and decisions, and catch up those unable to attend. More will attend if the content and decisions are relevant.
  6. End meetings early if possible. Who says a meeting must be a certain length? Too often discussions about work expand to fill the time available. If the agenda items have been covered, adjourn.

Every hour that passes is an hour gone forever. Time is the most precious resource we have in business. Use it wisely to benefit both you and the organization.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Develop Your People and Grow Your Company

December 19th, 2014 by FlashPoint in Talent Development, Talent Management

GrowIf your organization is offering raises, implementing learning and development opportunities, and focusing on employee engagement, then growth is likely in your future. If not, then you’ll probably be spending much of 2015 filling job openings and ramping up new hires. Which of these scenarios do you prefer? Wouldn’t it be better to grow your people and grow your bottom line?

In September alone, 2.8 million U.S. employees voluntarily left their jobs. Not since April 2008—several months before the financial crisis—have so many employees left their jobs. And they have somewhere new to go: the U.S. has added 2.3 million jobs so far in 2014.

This is expensive for employers. Replacement costs vary from one-half the annual wages of hourly employees, to 1.5 to 2.5 times the annual wages for non-manager replacements, to up to 4.5 times the annual wages of top sales reps and officers. When they lose employees, organizations take other hits as well in the form of lost client relationships, poor customer service, inability to fill orders, missed deadlines, and more. This spells difficulty—if not disaster—for the bottom line.

So your employees have choices, and unless you want to pay the high cost of replacing them, you need to be sure that they choose your organization as the place where they will bring their energy and ideas. Here are ways you can do this.

  1. Pursue a Best Places to Work award. The Best Places to Work award is built around employee feedback about the company. It’s a great way to find out what your employees think—before they answer exit interview questions. Tell your employees that you want to be named a Best Place to Work and let them know that their input is vital—that it’s used for award selection and that it will also help to guide future management decisions. Then make sure that you do in fact use it to improve the employee experience. The Best Companies Group manages the Best Places to Work program; its website lists its statewide and regional programs.
  2. Conduct a compensation survey. As more organizations add jobs and reach out to recruit your employees, you want to make sure that low pay doesn’t motivate your best people to start looking. Of course employee satisfaction is influenced by more than just pay, and you shouldn’t use compensation as your sole retention strategy, but ensuring that salaries are at the mid-point of your employee’s job category in your location can make it much less likely that they will start a job search.
  3. Conduct a 360-degree training needs assessment. What do your employees feel they need in order to perform better in their current roles and to position themselves as strong candidates for lateral or upward opportunities? What do their managers think they need? Chances are you’ll find communication, customer service, project management, and technology skills high on both lists. Then consider what your managers all levels need in order to become true leaders. What do the managers themselves think they need, what do their managers think they need, and what do their direct reports think they need? Take their input to heart and remember: management skills ensure that today’s work is accomplished well; leadership skills ensure that products and services continue to grow tomorrow.
  4. Implement a multifaceted training process that takes classroom training into the workplace. Changing behavior and thus achieving results is no small task. Involve newly trained staff at all levels in projects that require them to practice and master needed skills. Put a newly trained team on strategic projects to start the organization’s growth momentum. Have participants in the first round of training mentor the participants in the second. Add new skills to the performance management expectations of all participants.

Make 2015 a year of growth for your organization. Understand that growth happens not only when new markets are tapped or new services or products are sold, but also when employees are “upskilled,” engaged, and confident that they can stretch to meet new goals. Put your profits where they can grow more profits. Invest in the skills your people need in order to meet 2015’s strategic objectives.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is strategic account manager at FlashPoint where she interacts with human resource professionals, executives, and business owners in order to understand their organizational needs. She collaborates with our other team members to develop appropriate consulting solutions and supports prospects throughout the sales process.

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Resolve to Build Your Relationships in 2015

December 12th, 2014 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Management

NetworkingAs a new year approaches, many of us start looking ahead to new opportunities. With 2015 upon us, what do you want to tackle? Are you searching for a new job, seeking to enhance your interactions with team members, looking to develop new skills, or hoping to get a promotion?

As you define your goals, you’ll find that for a lot of them, success depends on the quality of your relationships.

It helps, then, to take stock. How true is your network? Are you just playing the numbers game, basing your success and value upon contact counts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or Vine (just to name a few social media outlets)?

If so, please reconsider.

Engagements via social media can be valuable, but collectively speaking the connections tend to be more passive and superficial. When it comes to networking and building social capital, a digital forum can’t match the power of face-to-face human interactions and relationship building.

So as you weigh your new-year goals, identify the role that relationships play in achieving them and then consider the depth of your relationships. Make a list of the top 10 people who can impact your success for 2015. If this list proves shallow, then the real work begins—it’s time for you to begin engaging more with your network. Whether you’re connecting with a coworker, manager, mentor, referral, or client, seek to understand the person’s background, responsibilities, interests, and viewpoints.

It takes time and effort to get to know someone and to establish trust. Stephen Covey offers good advice in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People when he says, “Seek to first understand, then to be understood.” As a relationship opportunity begins, you should consider the analogy of peeling back the layers of an onion. Listen first then learn. Next seek to understand and then grow. As you go further under the surface, the depth of your relationships ultimately creates opportunities for your future development.

Prepare for 2015. Do your homework. Make lists. Most important, consider your goals for personal development and evaluate your current network. While your knowledge is important, it is more who you know than what you know that can lead to your success. Consistently develop your connections, and see what you can achieve in the new year!

Kristi Gaynor is business development manager at FlashPoint. She directs FlashPoint’s clients toward outcomes-oriented systems and processes that drive accountability, execution, and results.

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