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Leverage Emotional Intelligence to Create Headspace for Leadership!

July 25th, 2014 by Andrea Moore in Talent Development, Talent Management

In conference rooms around the world, leaders are attending meetings, bringing with them the emotions of the day’s events.

Here is a common scenario: as project team members wait for their leader to arrive to a meeting, they share office antics and talk about upcoming vacation plans; the mood is light and jovial. Suddenly the team leader enters the room in a fury, obviously upset. Her behavior is manic and disruptive, and as she rummages through her papers she announces, “We have to hurry as I have a hard stop in 45 minutes; let’s go.”

Given her tension, however, it does not seem helpful to jump right into the content; this leader is obviously stuck on something, and unless the tension is loosened the meeting will not be productive. A perceptive team member (sitting next to the leader) leans into her and says with compassion, “It’s been a tough day, huh?” The frustrated leader takes a deep breath and affirms that it has indeed. She then describes her previous meeting and divulges what upset her; as she talks her tension lifts, and within a few minutes her mood shifts. The team then naturally makes its way back to the purpose of the meeting and accomplishes its goals.

In this scenario, the emotionally intelligent team member helped to shift the negative emotion, but this is something the leader could have done as well. In the book Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, the authors write that “great leadership works through emotions.” The key is to focus on two critical actions: notice and acknowledge.

Noticing (i.e., paying attention) and acknowledging are critical for this reason: by being aware of what you’re feeling, you’re in a position to shift that feeling. Because leaders often shirk responsibility of their feelings and focus externally (“he made me mad”), they often miss out on the opportunities that noticing and acknowledging allow for.

The authors of Primal Leadership refer to this as “emotional hijacking.” As they note, “Negative emotions—anger, anxiety, or a sense of futility—powerfully disrupt work, hijacking our attention from the task at hand.” When you’re stuck in the muck of what is, you lack the headspace to choose leadership. The negative emotions zap the thinking brain’s capacity to focus on the task at hand and those around us.

Noticing and acknowledging your feelings takes discipline and intentionality—it means taking responsibility for your own state of mind. In the awareness of your emotions, you can manage them. The next time negative emotions arise within you, take a deep breath and practice noticing without reacting—notice the tendency to get hooked and blame the feeling on an external source, which breeds further negativity. You will find that just by noticing and acknowledging the negativity you’ll have more headspace for positive thought and action.

Andrea Moore is senior consulting manager at FlashPoint. She focuses on leadership development, training and performance improvement solutions, and one-on-one coaching.

Image courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Millennials to the Rescue!

July 18th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

Are you reluctant to hire Millennial employees because you worry that these 20- and early 30-somethings will leave your business for greener pastures after you’ve invested time and money in training them? Popular opinion of Millennials portrays them as happy job hoppers, but the reality is far different.

A recent GfK-Monster.com survey says that Millennials are actually much more likely than older employees to value the idea of long-term careers. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Millennials aged 18 to 30 say it’s possible to have a lasting career in today’s workforce, compared to less than half (48 percent) of Baby Boomers.

For Millennials, “career” evokes specific meanings. A “career” provides a sense of accomplishment (37 percent agree) but a “job” does not. Fifty-seven percent of Millennials say that a career provides lifelong earning potential while a job does not. The recent recession hit Millennials hard. No wonder they yearn for a well-defined, secure career. They are optimistic that they can find one too!

In this most competitive of economies, other Millennial traits will serve organizations well. Millennials want challenges, knowledge, coaching, and respect for their ideas. They like to work in teams and with diverse employees. They want to have fun and friends at work.

Which of these things do you have to offer Millennial job candidates or employees? During interviews and regular meetings, weave these key concepts into the discussion.

  1. In a job interview, discuss the opportunity to learn, grow, and move in your organization. Discuss the training, tuition assistance, and mentoring available. Talk about the possibility of a career and share how the organization will help employees with their development as long as they are also willing to learn. Explore opportunities to serve on task forces or projects with diverse individuals from around the organization. Talk about ways to get to know other employees through work as well as through sports leagues, employee resource groups, pitch-ins, department outings, and so on.
  2. Develop a personal career plan for each employee. Sit down with each new employee and his or her direct supervisor to develop a road map for his or her career development. Explain that career development is not the same thing as career advancement (which is predicated on the availability of open positions) but that career development does position the employee to be ready when an opening appears. Do this with all your employees at review time or more often. Discuss what they hope to achieve and what you want them to attain. Set goals that are measurable and realistic, and break them down into smaller interim steps between the major milestones.
  3. Provide training. There are many low-cost ways for employees to learn new skills, including cross-training one another. Take advantage of development grants offered by your state government, as well as free or low-cost training, lunch meeting programs, conferences, and seminars offered by your industry association. Look for online training or webinars—many are free and can quickly get employees up to speed. Look for public workshops as a less expensive way to “upskill” your employees. When appropriate, consider sending team members to community college or adult education courses. Ask employees who attend to come back and teach others what they learned.
  4. Discuss career movement as more than title changes, raises, and promotions. Career movement is “up” when available, but it’s also “down” when it puts employees on a new track of opportunity and “over” or “lateral” when the move is within a division or involves moving to a new department. Career growth often entails more than climbing the corporate ladder; make sure that team members knows the many ways they can advance in the organization.

Millennials want to make a difference no matter where they are on the organization chart. The important thing is to look for ways they can do work that’s meaningful to them. It might mean getting more directly involved with customers, leading a new project that they come up with and manage, or even getting a few hours a week to focus on charitable work in the community. You have to ask. No two Millennials will have the same answer.

Yes, Millennials want challenging careers—and if they can’t find one with your business, they won’t hesitate to move on. But if you do career development the right way, and everyone is learning new skills, your business should soon be growing to the point that there will be new roles to move into. In that case, you may have some of those 20- and 30-somethings with you until they’re ready for Social Security.

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.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Workforce Planning: A Critical Process for Achieving Long-Term Business Goals

July 12th, 2014 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Workforce planning helps organizations ensure that they will have the right number of people with the right capabilities in place at the right time. Given its impact, workforce planning is critical for organizations. According to i4cp, a human resources research firm, workforce planning benefits the organization by:

  • Supporting the strategic/business-planning process
  • Identifying potential shortages of qualified talent to fill critical roles
  • Serving as a mechanism for identifying critical talent
  • Indicating skills gaps in the workforce
  • Acting as a mechanism for identifying critical roles

In addition, workforce planning:

  • Prepares the organization for mass retirements
  • Allows for the integration of talent management initiatives such as talent acquisition, succession management, performance management, and more

Before embarking on your own workforce-planning program, it’s important that you understand your organization’s short- and long-term business objectives. As part of this, you should review the mission, vision, and strategic and operating plans and analyze your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (i.e., conduct a SWOT analysis). The information you gather will help you develop a context for how workforce planning can best support the strategic direction and objectives of the business.

The workforce-planning process consists of four phases: identifying strategic jobs, determining potential staffing gaps and surpluses, developing a workforce-planning strategy, and developing staffing plans and supporting actions. Let’s look briefly at the elements of each phase.

Phase One: Identify Strategic Jobs—Workforce-planning efforts are most effective when they focus on a small number of strategic jobs. Strategic jobs are those that are critical to the successful achievement of the organization’s strategy. Only about 20 percent of all jobs in an organization meet the qualifications of a strategic job. For example, a strategic job might be one that will require significant changes in required capabilities, that is expected to be hard to fill, that has a long learning curve (and thus should be filled well in advance of actual need), or for which there is intense competition externally.

Phase Two: Determine Potential Staffing Gaps and Surpluses—Your next step is to determine future staffing requirements (demand), identify current staff availability (supply), compare demand to supply, and then calculate potential staffing gaps and/or surpluses. Do this not only for the strategic job(s) selected in phase one but for all jobs so that you have a full picture of the headcount required over the planning horizon. When determining staffing gaps and surpluses it is important to look at historical and anticipated trends in turnover, interdepartmental transfers, hiring, retirements, and so on. Typical tools and methods for determining staffing requirements include regression analysis, staffing ratios, scenario planning, and “what if” plans.

Phase Three: Develop a Workforce-Planning Strategy—Phase three involves developing a strategy to address the gaps and surpluses identified in phase two. This should be a long-term approach. Sample workforce-planning strategies could include:

  • Meeting needs at senior management levels through a 75 percent/25 percent blend of promotion from internal and external hiring; or,
  • Focusing recruiting and development on core positions that generate significant competitive advantage.

It may take more than one element to address a given issue. For example, if you determine that your company lacks sufficient management depth, you may need to develop and implement a strategy that integrates succession, development, and targeted recruiting (where any of those strategies alone would be necessary but insufficient).

Phase Four: Develop Staffing Plans and Supporting Actions—A staffing plan identifies the numbers and types of staffing moves that need to be made. For example, you might promote ten individuals from senior sales representatives to a sales manager role. Other staffing plans might include hiring full- or part-time employees, using contractors, or transferring staff between business units or departments.

You will also need to define and document any actions needed to support your staffing plan. Such actions might include:

  • Development needed to support accelerated promotions or redeployment
  • Changes in compensation needed to increase the company’s ability to attract outside hires
  • Implementing a robust performance management system.

Finally, you will need to fully implement the plans, measure your results, and adjust your staffing strategies and plans as needed to reflect changing business conditions.

As business leaders work to balance multiple activities that require both attention and resources, workforce planning should be a priority. It’s a crucial process that helps leaders focus their attention on the talent efforts that will provide the greatest value to their organization’s long-term goals. Doing that, of course, will pay many dividends in the end.

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

Image courtesy of Zirconicusso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Engage Employees BEFORE They’re Hired

July 3rd, 2014 by Linda Dausend in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Organizations recognize that highly engaging workplaces typically translate into increased productivity and profitability, reduced costs, and better quality. Leaders strive to grow levels of engagement by measuring employee satisfaction, increasing recognition, conducting “coffees with the boss,” and offering other opportunities to connect with people in an organization. Many companies will conduct employee surveys so that current levels of engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty can be determined.

While a focus on employee engagement is certainly important—especially when coupled with follow-up action—just focusing on current employees is not enough. Creating a great place to work also means engaging with people who are not yet employees but who might like to be.

Despite a continued decline in national unemployment levels, many people who would like to be employed are still out of work. Thousands apply every day, and thousands are frustrated by the process. Every frustrating experience that a prospective employee has, from the proverbial “black hole” after submitting an application to the ineffective interview questions, to the lack of follow-up on status, creates a chink in the company brand. And in today’s socially communicative and lightning-speed world, those chinks become dents quite quickly. People feel put off, angry, defeated, and a myriad of other emotions when they’ve had a bad job-search experience. These feelings translate to how they feel about your company.

Is it unrealistic to respond in some way to every person who applies with your organization? No. Just as you would respond to an employee standing in your doorway with a question or request, so should you respond to those knocking on your door through your career site. If you have too many people coming to stand in your doorway, you put in a process to manage that flow of people. If you have multiple people standing in your doorway at one time, you create a method for them to get the answers they need in other ways. If you’re unable to help them with their question or request, you tell them that and even provide them with additional avenues to get the help they need. If you just let people stand there, with no acknowledgment, they’ll eventually leave. They might show up now and then to see if you’ve changed your ways, but if you haven’t, pretty soon they’ll not show up in your doorway at all. And when you need them to help you with something they won’t be there.

Applicants—just like your employees—are customers. Those who are applying to positions you have open are standing in your doorway, asking to come in. You might have room for only one to come in, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the others or that you treat them in any way other than with the utmost respect. By engaging ALL applicants, you create a buzz about your organization, even among those who didn’t get hired. People want to work for a company that treats people well.

How do you engage applicants so they see what a great company you are? Consider these actions:

  • Make sure you have an effective talent acquisition process in place. This must include a method for immediately responding to those who apply, to avoid being known as “that company with the black hole.” A simple, “We’re glad you applied and we appreciate your interest in ABC job. We’ll carefully review your application and we’ll get back with you if we see a match for this position. If not, we’ll hold onto your application for X amount of months.”
  • Don’t drag along the process. Create quick actions to move the process along. Good candidates are going to be good for other companies too, so contact those you see as a match as quickly as possible.
  • Train hiring managers on effective interviewing skills. Make sure they know how to create a good environment for the interview, that they facilitate an open conversation, and that they ask great questions. You don’t want to see a twitter post from a candidate who was asked, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?”
  • Get back to the candidates. And get back to them when you say you will. Just leaving a candidate hanging is one of the most damaging actions a company can take. And that news spreads like Facebook (which is faster than wildfire, by the way). Let them know where they stand.
  • Get personal. If you or your hiring managers talk to someone in person, then follow up with them through a conversation, not an e-mail message or a letter. This is one time when technology gets in the way of a great experience.
  • Conduct a survey. Want to make sure you’re creating a great experience for your candidates? Create a follow-up survey to ask them what their experience was like. Would they recommend you as an employer? What did they think about the process? Many enlightened organizations use these surveys to assess the experience and to make changes that will impact their employment brand.
  • Keep connected. Create a system to keep candidates engaged through newsletters, tweets, or job alerts. Keep your messages aligned with your brand so that these candidates see the consistency of your message and why they would want to work for you (and why they would want to tell others to work for you as well).

A highly engaged workforce is certainly a plus to any organization, but limiting engagement activities to your current employees does not completely impact the level of engagement. For the greatest effect, treat your candidates as your customers and keep them engaged and impressed throughout their experience with you.

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.

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Accountability Is Everyone’s Responsibility

June 28th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

In a pointed Dave Carpenter cartoon, an executive shouts into his phone to his assistant, “Miss Wilcox, send in someone to blame.” Clearly, this executive heads an organization with a “CYA” culture. Is your organization the same, or does it promote instead a culture of accountability?

Accountability starts at the top, but it needs to permeate every level of the organization. Too often individuals hide behind their roles on a team and do not understand that every employee’s actions or inactions at every level of the organization affect the organization’s brand.

To thrive in the future, it is imperative to develop an accountable culture to ensure that your employees provide a quality service or product that does no harm, performs as described, and is delivered on time and at a reasonable price. Today’s clients and customers expect truthful information whether they read your website or call your receptionist, the accounting department, a sales rep, or the CEO.

What will increase accountability in your organization for individuals as well as teams?

  1. Hire for accountability. Use assessments and behavioral interview questions to gauge each job candidate’s integrity and sense of accountability. If candidates have no stories of doing the right thing even in the face of punishment, they probably will not become accountable while in their next job either.
  2. Make accountability a core competency. Core competencies are the skills and behaviors expected of all employees, no matter their level or tenure with the organization. Post your core competencies on your website for all potential hires—and even clients—to see. Doing so will attract both the clients and future employees you seek.
  3. Clarify roles and require individual ownership for everyone on a team. Remove as much confusion as possible about who is doing what and how to proceed. If a team is truly accountable, members will identify gaps, learn new roles and processes, and ultimately build a more capable team. Employees on the team are able to be accountable when roles and processes are clear.
  4. Create a sense of ownership for team results. How do you build individual accountability and team accountability? Focus on team processes. How well is the team working toward subgoals and the final outcome? Are team members achieving their goals? Do they feel 100 percent accountable for improving the process? Each team member should have the obligation to give and receive feedback, to seek information, and to point out the need for corrective action at any time.
  5. Provide support and control to navigate competing priorities. Support is the key. Be sure that people have the resources, knowledge, and assistance they need. The first solutions your team and direct reports develop will probably be pretty good. Improve upon their ideas instead of inserting your own. With this approach, team members increase their skills, confidence, and ownership. Most problems have multiple correct answers, so give your staff the freedom and control they need to make decisions.
  6. Encourage innovation and risk taking with praise in public and correction in private. Accountability is not about punishment. If your goal in developing accountability is to know whom to punish when deadlines or revenue targets are not met, you will succeed only in creating fear. No one will be willing to step up, speak out, or try something new. If one employee is punished for trying something new and failing, dozens or even hundreds of other employees will be reticent to take the initiative to find solutions.
  7. Focus on improvement. Take a systems approach but also hold individuals accountable. Seek to understand what aspects of the situation have influenced the process, system, culture, or circumstances. To that end, all your employees need to honestly say what they knew, when they knew it, what they thought, and what they did (or didn’t do).
  8. Build feedback into all processes. In accountable organizations, employees expect evaluation; no one expects to “fly under the radar.” These organizations use multiple forms of feedback and evaluation to assess the health and success of a manager, employee, process, or department. Organizations lacking multiple feedback mechanisms discover shortcomings when it is too late.
  9. Hold everyone to their commitments. Accountable organizations regard commitments and follow-through as sacred obligations. Anyone at any level is called out if he or she doesn’t do what he or she committed to doing. When someone falls short, he or she admits it and works to improve. If one of your employees consistently falls short of expectations, determine whether it is attitude or aptitude (a lack of training). Attitude must change immediately in order to stay with the organization, while learning a new skill might take more training and practice. Low commitment is not tolerated in accountable cultures. It is like a cancer and spreads to other employees.
  10. Make accountability a part of your culture. From the moment a new employee starts a job with an accountable organization, he or she should hear, read, and see examples of accountability. The topic should be woven into orientation, annual employee training, and performance reviews. Accountability and performance management go hand in hand. All employees should have the same vocabulary and expectation of accountability from others in the organization because everyone has had the same training.

Lack of accountability is all over the news today with the VA scandal, GM’s lack of timely recalls, stories of poisoned dog treats, and more. The organizations involved have seriously damaged their brands and must make concentrated efforts to restore faith in the consumer and the citizens affected. The need for accountability will never go away. Teach your employees at all levels the importance of following through on commitments and watch your customer complaints shrink and your brand—and bottom line—grow!

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.

Image courtesy of hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Developing Emotionally Intelligent Leaders: Self-Awareness, Influence, and Impact

June 16th, 2014 by Andrea Moore in Talent Development, Talent Management

When a drop of water hits a still pond, it creates ripples in the water in all directions; the same effect occurs each day in organizations around the world as leaders send emails, have conversations, and make decisions. Leadership, like breathing, is always happening whether the leader realizes it or not.

In their book Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, authors Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Anne McKee describe the emotional impact of this effect:  “People take their emotional cues from the top. Even when the boss isn’t highly visible—for example, the CEO who works behind closed doors on an upper floor—his attitude affects the moods of his direct reports, and a domino effect ripples throughout the company’s emotional climate.”

Unfortunately, a lot of leaders are unaware of the impact that they have; they aren’t paying attention to the emotional ripples that they are creating.  As the authors of Primal Leadership note, if we don’t recognize our own emotions, we won’t do a very good job of managing them, and certainly we’ll have difficulty in understanding others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence, then, is an important component of strong leadership.

Because of this, many leadership development programs focus considerable attention on the idea of emotional intelligence, helping participants to become more aware of the role emotions play in the workplace and how to manage them. Many of these programs center on helping leaders become more self-aware. For example, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, describe leadership development as self-development. For them leadership development is a process of self-discovery, and through the use of assessment and feedback, Kouzes and Posner encourage leaders to reflect on the influence that they have. This influence is impacted by the tone and the vibe that the leader sets, so the leader must be intentional about aligning his or her emotions with the influence and impact that he or she wants to create.

In a structured leadership development process, participants critically analyze the influence they have as a leader and envision the future; often gaps become apparent and the leader develops an improvement to fill those gaps. An effective, results-oriented leadership development program will provide participants with opportunities to practice becoming more self-aware, to learn from successes and failures, and to receive ongoing feedback through coaching and other means.  As the leaders increase self-awareness, they grow their emotional intelligence and learn how to use it to influence behavior and achieve results.

Most participants come into leadership development programs with the idea that they’re going to learn skills to better direct their teams. What they often don’t realize is how much they’re going to develop their own emotional intelligence along the way. As experts have pointed out, though, strong leadership and emotional intelligence go hand in hand, and the way one manages emotions has a ripple effect across the organization. A key goal of leadership development is to build leaders’ self-awareness and emotional intelligence so those ripples spread a positive and empowering tone.

Andrea Moore is senior consulting manager at FlashPoint. She focuses on leadership development, training and performance improvement solutions, and one-on-one coaching.

Image courtesy of luckypic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Einstein Was Right!

June 6th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

After speaking for the third time in five years to the same group of earnest CEOs and human resource professionals who are daunted by recruiting and retention difficulties, I was stunned when I realized that they dutifully come to hear the latest recruiting trends and what is working and why, but they have made no changes or additions to their recruiting repertoire since I first spoke to them five years ago. Albert Einstein reportedly defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that if you have not changed your recruiting approach since before the recession, you are losing ground to your talent competitors!

Your talent competition knows five things that enable them to take the lion’s share of top talent:

  1. The talent pool is shrinking. It is more important than ever to recruit and retain the right people because will be fewer to choose from as replacements. Consider Indiana as an example. The Indiana Business Research Center finds that the state’s labor force grew by an average of 310,000 per decade between 1950 and 2000. According to the IBRC, however, “Over the next three decades combined, Indiana’s total labor force growth is expected to be 150,000. Labor force change in the state is expected to slow to less than 120,000 in this decade, and will be essentially flat between 2020 and 2030.” This is a national trend, so no matter where you’re from, it’s imperative to find, hire, and keep the right people!
  2. The internet has evolved and more job seekers at every level are ignoring job boards—“black holes” for their resumes. Instead they are using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find job openings and to check out your organization. Some are even using Pinterest because wise employers targeting female Millennials know that is where they are on the internet. Pinterest is sneaking up on other online sites with more than 30 billion “pins,” including job openings. Where does your organization advertise job openings? Only on your own website? If so, you are falling behind because you are missing out on passive candidates.
  3. Cell phones and tablets will overtake desktop and laptop computers as the preferred method for accessing the Internet by 2015. As a result, more people will apply for jobs from cell phones and other mobile devices. More than 33 percent of Fortune 500 companies have career portals optimized for smart phones. Employers of lower-wage and younger workers are rushing to develop mobile versions of their career sites and application processes too. McDonald’s received two million mobile job applications in 2012. On LinkedIn alone, the average number of weekly mobile LinkedIn job applications is 44,000 as of April 2014. Incorporating a phone app along with more traditional application methods makes sense for nonprofits as well as for for-profit organizations.
  4. Organizations are using competencies to improve hiring outcomes and overall organizational performance. By developing competencies (observable and measurable skills and behaviors) and integrating them into interview questions, onboarding messaging, employee development, performance management, and succession, organizations experience 87 percent greater ability to hire the best employees and have 40 percent lower turnover among their high performers, according to a 2012 Bersin by Deloitte study. Zeroing in on the most important skills needed by all of your employees and also for critical positions will move your organization forward.
  5. Building a positive employment brand is the only long-term recruiting and retention strategy. Your organization needs to be known to the populations you hire the most so that they will seek out your job openings. Positively branded “employers of choice” have a higher percentage of the right candidates beating down the door to work there. Key elements of your employment brand are your culture, your website, and the experience all applicants have when they interview, whether selected or not. To get a good “snapshot” of your employer brand, apply for the Best Places to Work award or another similar award and read the analysis you are provided.

Replacing one employee costs .5 times an hourly employee’s annual wages and a minimum of 1.5 to 2.5 times a salaried employee’s annual wages. To be effective, recruiting today should not look like recruiting seven years ago. When it does, the organization not only has fewer quality candidates from which to choose but is more likely to make hiring mistakes. Continuing a losing strategy and hoping for different results truly is insanity!

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.

Image: United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

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The Trouble with Training

May 30th, 2014 by Linda Dausend in Talent Development, Talent Management

Fans of the original Star Trek television series will remember one of the most endearing episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” where several cute, cuddly balls of fluff at first delighted and then frustrated the passengers of the Starship Enterprise as they multiplied to the point of annoyance. The tribbles added no value to the work that was being done, and in no time at all what was thought to be such a good thing—such a fun thing—turned into an inconvenience, a bother, and an irritation. Instead of serving as emotional companions to the crew of otherwise focused, objective thinkers the tribbles instead turned out to be a distraction that wasn’t enhancing the quality of life—and certainly not the productivity—of the passengers.

If not developed correctly, companies can have the same type of trouble with training. Here are some things that make training “trouble”:

  • The need for training is not clearly identified. Sometimes we’ll hear things like, “We haven’t had training for awhile and we’re about due,” or, “We just know our managers need training.”
  • Training is viewed as “fluff.” Certainly, if training hasn’t been properly structured in the past, it can be viewed merely as a “nice to have” with very little real value.
  • A poor perception of training multiplies throughout the organization very quickly.
  • Participants feel that they are “captives” in the training class. They are made to go to the classes but don’t see any real value or connection to the work they do.
  • Sometimes participants see training as a “vacation.” It’s fun and light and a nice break from routine, but usually in such cases it doesn’t get into the type of content that participants really need to work on.

With these kinds of outcomes, training can readily be seen just like those tribbles—perhaps entertaining and a breath of fresh air at first, but ultimately a hassle and a nuisance that you just want to get rid of so you can go back to the “real work” that needs to get done.

Enlightened leaders, however, recognize that the business challenges of today—a slow-growth economy, an ever-watchful eye on managing expenses, a rigorously competitive environment, a volatile field of talent—cannot be faced head on unless their organization provides development and training provided to employees, especially those people leaders who can most impact productivity and engagement in an organization.

So how do you eliminate the “trouble” that training can cause? Consider these actions:

  • Identify needed competencies. Before offering training, think about what the organization needs to achieve—this year, next year, the next five years—and identify what behaviors employees need to exhibit to drive the strategic objectives for the company. Start with the various levels of leadership. Compare the level of competency needed to what leaders exhibit today. This needs analysis will help you determine what kind of training to focus on.
  • Determine the content, with a laser focus on the competency change you need. Such intensity doesn’t mean that the training can’t be fun; it can be and it should be engaging. But make sure the content areas that are most important to your organization’s needed competency development (accountability? emotional intelligence? business acumen?) are developed with the proper rigor. You want to see change; make sure the content is designed to deliver that change.
  • Make sure the training does not stand alone. Once you determine the content, you’ll want to determine how to deliver the training. In its November 2011 Leading Effectively e-newsletter, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) identifies a three-blend approach to help people gain knowledge and grow. CCL states that 70 percent of development happens on the job (work experiences, stretch assignments, special projects, task forces, temporary assignments to other positions, and job shadowing); 20 percent is relationship-based (feedback from managers, peers, and direct reports; coaching; mentoring; networking; and volunteer work), and 10 percent occurs through formal training or readings (business courses, professional designations, external seminars, and conferences). These data suggest that in addition to the training you will want to ensure that you have additional support and reinforcement before and after to provide the most effective, robust development opportunity.

Members of the Starship Enterprise eventually eradicated the tribbles, but you don’t need to do that with training. Just by adding the ingredients above you’ll turn trouble into a benefit for your organization and your employees.

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.

Image: foto76

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Accountability Conversations: The Key to Employee and Organizational Growth

May 24th, 2014 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

As a result of focused process improvement efforts, restructuring, and technological innovations, organizations are running leaner than ever. But despite this, some leaders are still having trouble moving their organizations into growth mode. Why? Great strategies, structures, processes, and technology don’t grow businesses—it’s through the efforts of a company’s people that it grows. To keep margins healthy, however, many organizations are maintaining the minimum viable headcount required to carry out their work. This means that each employee must put forth his or her best effort.

Unfortunately, in many cases team members aren’t meeting expectations. Managers complain that employees are not taking accountability for effectively and efficiently carrying out their responsibilities and achieving their goals. In the past when business was booming, accountability gaps were offset by high demand for products and services and by wide profit margins. This is no longer the case. Today when employees aren’t accountable, the organization feels it. Profit margins, production, quality, customers, and the business’ ability to grow are negatively impacted.

So what is causing this accountability gap? Employees are not fulfilling their responsibilities because managers are not requiring them to do so. In their book How Did That Happen?: Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way, authors Roger Connors and Tom Smith reveal two main reasons why managers are not holding employees accountable:

  1. Managers believe they lack the time to conduct accountability conversations, and they lack the faith that the conversations will make a difference.
  2. Managers have a fear of offending someone, jeopardizing a personal relationship, or sparking potential retaliation.

Let’s examine these reasons. First, managers do not lack the time to conduct accountability conversations; it is more likely that managers are not making the time to hold people accountable. Holding employees accountable starts with managers holding themselves accountable to make accountability conversations a priority. These conversations do not have to be time stealers. Efficient conversations are possible when a manager takes the time to establish clear performance expectations up front. To start this process, a manager needs to be clear in his or her own mind about what the employee needs to accomplish. The manager should know and be able to explain the following:

  • The performance expectation
  • The specific goal for this expectation
  • How the expectation supports the team’s mission and company objectives
  • How success will be measured
  • Why the expectation is attainable
  • Why the expectation is relevant
  • The boundaries that should be considered for while carrying out this expectation (e.g. budget, resources, and time constraints)
  • The support available for achieving the expectation (e.g. training, coaching, and equipment)
  • The deadline for meeting the expectation
  • How frequently and when the manager will assess the positive or negative progress toward fulfilling the expectation
  • How the manager will provide needed support
  • How the manager will reinforce progress
  • How the manager will promote learning

It is critical to communicate expectations at this level of detail. Yes, it will take more preparation on the part of the manager. However, when employees understand the performance expected of them and the support they will receive, they feel more motivated and capable of meeting those expectations. Equally as important, this level of detail makes it easier for managers to spot accountability gaps when they occur. Then they can have direct, objective, accountability conversations with employees that focus on the specific aspects of performance that are not being met. And this is the key to reducing the fear associated with accountability conversations—keeping the agreed-upon performance expectations at the center of the discussion.

When the focus of an accountability conversation (from both the manager’s and the employee’s perspectives) remains on the facts and issues of the situation, the likelihood that the manager will make it personal or that the employee will take it personally is reduced. Focusing on the facts and issues helps to diffuse emotions, reduce defensiveness, and increase the employee’s openness to feedback. Both managers and employees come to see accountability conversations as constructive, positive learning experiences—not something to fear. When holding people accountable becomes a regular part of a leader’s management rhythm, there is also an added benefit—people start holding themselves accountable! As a result, the manager grows, the employee grows, and the organization grows.

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

Image: Master Isolated Images

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Transferring Learning through Training: Did Anything “Stick”?

May 18th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

There is nothing more frustrating than spending precious dollars on much-needed training, only to have the participants wax eloquently about the “great time” they had without implementing their new skills. To combat this, the most successful training programs have one or more built-in learning transfer mechanisms. The following are a few best practices that go beyond the traditional “action planning” developed at the end of most programs so that the organization can measure the impact of training and learners can make it a part of their work.

  1. Pre- and post-training 360-degree assessment of behaviors. Many organizations conduct a 360-degree assessment to measure participants’ propensity to display certain desired behaviors before training in order to develop a baseline. The purpose is to measure how often the participants currently display desired behaviors to be addressed in the training. After the training and after the participant has had an opportunity to practice the new behaviors on the job, the manager, peers, and direct reports or “customers” of those trained are again asked how often they observe the desired behaviors. With effective training, there should be a marked improvement.
  2. One or more follow-up webinars. It’s helpful to have one or more follow-up webinars in the months after the training session(s). During these webinars, participants report on their experiences with using their new skills back on the job. Everyone should be expected to participate/report during the webinar. The group may be asked to offer ideas on overcoming obstacles to using the new skills, since obstacles can sometimes be organization-specific. By scheduling more than one reinforcement webinar, additional progress can be expected and documented.
  3. Integration into performance management. Additionally, the organization needs to set the expectation employees are to use their new skills by integrating them into performance management tools (performance evaluations, coaching sessions, etc.).

The trainer should ensure the development of metrics that demonstrate learning transfer, behavior changes, and better outcomes. In too many organizations, “evaluation” means that participants fill out a “smile sheet” at the end of training that documents their reactions to the training and their sense of whether they will use the new information in the future. This is inadequate. It provides no expectation or incentive for training participants to change their behaviors. Training must be put to use immediately before all of the new knowledge is lost.

If the organization hires external trainers and asks them for client references, it should ask the references whether behavior changed as a result of training, how they know it has changed, and whether they have any metrics to prove the change. Either the trainer builds those mechanisms into the process or the organization needs to do it. Otherwise, training will not result in new behaviors or deeper skills. The organization may look for impacts such as lower turnover among participants, lower turnover among those the participants manage, higher participant goal attainment, higher participant engagement, etc. As long as baseline (pre-training data) is available, it may be possible to connect changes in these data points to the training.

Training is too expensive to waste. So understand—unless you develop metrics and a process for follow-up from the beginning, you might as well set your training dollars on fire.

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.

Image: Rasmus Thomsen

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