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Moving Women through the Talent Pipeline for STEM Careers and More

April 17th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Development, Talent Management

Girl with Magnifying GlassInclusiveness is a topic we hear a lot about lately, and when it comes to the workplace, building an inclusive culture can center on a wide range of stakeholders and initiatives. One focus area is moving women through the talent pipeline, particularly in careers related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) but also in other fields.

HR can play a key role in opening the talent pipeline so that more women flow through to the top. Here are ten ways to do this:

  1. Build a business case for diversity and inclusion—and be sure to include women. Every organization needs to create a talent pipeline in order to hire the best and the brightest today and tomorrow. With changing demographics, this requires developing relationships and a positive employment brand for employees from different backgrounds.
  2. Add inclusion to your organization’s strategic plan. Ensure that the entire organization understands why inclusion—including female candidates and employees—is critical to the long-term success of the organization.
  3. Add diversity and inclusion to your organization’s core competencies and your performance management criteria. Inclusion is more than women, of course, but it needs to specifically include women if that is the category of diversity that your organization lacks. When inclusion is one of your core competencies, it is woven into recruiting, manager development, performance management, succession processes, and other stages of the talent life cycle.
  4. Create a long-term recruiting strategy to attract more women to your field and ultimately to your organization. An example of a long-term strategy for moving women into STEM careers is to have your organization sponsor a weeknight homework hotline for students. Even as early as grade school, female students need to know that there is a future for them in STEM industries. That requires reaching out to female students (through tools such as the hotline) and encouraging them to sign up for required high school classes such as chemistry, physics, calculus, and so on. Whether you use your own employees to staff the hotline (this can be a meaningful volunteer activity) or tap into a local college, the result will be more high school students prepared for STEM majors. Another example is to sponsor scholarships to help female students attend college in a STEM major. Follow up by developing a relationship with each student: visit her, invite her for a tour, introduce her to potential role models, offer an internship, and give her a job interview when she graduates.
  5. Create a short-term recruiting strategy for new grads. Sponsor a student professional organization chapter or create your own student-level professional organization to get to know students in the right majors. Invite the chapter to meet on your premises, give members a tour, introduce them to potential role models, offer internships, and communicate about job opportunities.
  6. Prominently feature women engineers, accountants, chemists, and similar professionals on your website and in your social media. Whether you simply feature them in a video clip about “why I work for XYZ Corporation” or have them discuss a current project and the impact it’s having, introduce female faces to the public.
  7. Feature your female leaders—or bring in national or state-level female leaders—at staff meetings, awards presentations, and similar events.
  8. Reexamine your recruiting process to be sure that every effort is made to have at least one female candidate among the talent pool for any position. Yes this is extra work, but it’s well worth it. If you don’t interview women, you won’t hire women. Source female candidates from college alumni rosters, local professional organization chapters, LinkedIn, national professional organization websites, online chat rooms, and more. Connect to as many females in your field as possible on LinkedIn and push out your job openings to them.
  9. Using internal or external mentors, develop the emerging women leaders in your organization. Many communities have professional organizations with trained cadres of women mentors in search of protégés. Seek out consultants with a track record of success who help organizations to set up targeted mentoring programs. Then offer a mentor as a benefit—because it is one!
  10. Ensure that succession planning reaches down throughout the organization and that women at all levels are developed for future positions. Too often succession planning stops at the top. Preparation for next steps can be a recruiting tool and a retention tool.

As you look to build an inclusive culture, keep these ideas top of mind. They’re great tools to help draw women to roles that have typically been male-dominated. And of course you can also apply many of the concepts to attracting and hiring other diverse groups, which will continue to add strength to your organization.

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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Proactive Coaching: Four Questions to Help Move Your Organization Forward

April 10th, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Coaching, Talent Management

WhistleCoaching has gained an important foothold in the 21st-century workplace. Whereas in the past most organizations viewed it solely as a last-ditch effort to improve employee performance, today many more are using it as a proactive measure to develop their team members.

As employees face increasing demands that require new skills (e.g., anticipating fast-changing customer needs to drive innovation, or managing far-flung staff in different countries), companies are using coaching as a key development tool. And according to the Harvard Business Review Research Report: The Realities of Executive Coaching, many are using it to prepare for future talent needs (e.g., developing high-potential leaders and facilitating transitions into new roles or positions).

To grow your talent and remain competitive, you should explore coaching opportunities for your own organization. Understand, however, that coaching isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept, and you’ll need to consider different types of coaching and coaches for different types of people. You’ll need to look at the level of employee (executive, manager, etc.), your resources/budget, the time investment required, the skills you’re trying to build, the participant’s experience with coaching, the skill set of the coach, and the outcomes you’re trying to achieve.

To set the stage for success with coaching, here are four key questions you can ask to help you make decisions and shape the program that’s right for you.

1.  When should coaching be integrated into a broader development program?

Coaching is very effective when offered in conjunction with other development opportunities such as classroom training. Coaching supports learning retention and behavior change, allowing participants to hone in on specific areas of development. Organizations that provide coaching as a development supplement often see faster and sustained outcomes.

Coaching is especially effective as a component of leadership development programs. Coaches can provide leaders with real-time feedback, hold them accountable, help them make progress toward personalized development plans, and offer support and guidance as they work through ongoing challenges and successes.

 2.  When should coaching be a stand-alone tool?

Sometimes coaching is most effective when it’s delivered on its own and not paired with other development programs. For example, you should consider stand-alone coaching if:

  • You’re trying to develop a specific skill like communication or delegation that applies to a small group of leaders.
  • You have a potential successor for a particular role and you want to accelerate his or her development.
  • You’re concerned that a leader may be a retention risk and you want to invest in his or her individual development.

3.  When should you use one-on-one coaching?

In addition to choosing between integrated and stand-alone coaching, you need to consider whether you want to provide coaching on a one-on-one basis or as part of a group.

There are many benefits to individual coaching. First, it offers customized support as well as an opportunity to dive deeper into personal issues (e.g., strengths and weaknesses, barriers to development, career trajectory). It tends to be better for the execution of ideas and approaches because the participant focuses on making progress on his or her own individualized action plan.

Participants in one-on-one coaching report that they are more comfortable being honest and candid with their one-on-one coach than in a group setting. They appreciate being able to be vulnerable without the fear of being judged.

4.  When is group coaching most effective?

Group coaching, on the other hand, is effective when team members have a common experience and can support one another in pursuing development plans, goals, and associated action items. Group coaching participants experience camaraderie and learn that the problems they face are not unique; together they can share insights and lessons learned to solve problems.

One of the most positive outcomes of group coaching is when participants come from across the organization and have the opportunity to break down barriers or silos. As participants learn about other departments and functions, they develop relationships that may be useful as they face future challenges. In addition, group coaching allows participants to hone their skills in giving and receiving feedback, sharing knowledge, and encouraging others.

As the various considerations above indicate, coaching is a flexible tool for development. When you explore the options, remember the end results that you’re planning to achieve. A well-thought-out program that’s supported by management and that engages participants will inspire them to think, feel, and behave in new ways. This in turn will provide them with opportunities to be creative, perform more effectively in their roles, and move your organization forward. And in the end, this creates impact for you and your business.

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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Transparency Is a Bottom-Line Issue

April 3rd, 2015 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

Bottom-Line TranparencyTransparency is not only good for employee happiness but also great for the bottom line. According to a 2013 study of more than 300 organizations with 40,000 confidential employee responses, management transparency was found to be the number one factor in determining employee happiness. Just as investors have demanded increased transparency from corporations, so too do employees want the same from their leaders.

As the competitive landscape changes, it has dramatically shifted the balance in favor of companies that can respond effectively and rapidly, whether to share current and projected business and financial information or to respond in a crisis. In his book Creating a Culture of Candor, Warren Bennis writes, “Studies show that companies that rate high in transparency tend to outperform more opaque ones.” He cites a 2005 study finding that a group of 27 U.S. companies noted as “most transparent” beat the S&P 500 by 11.3 percent. In the case of the transparency-employee happiness connection, to give is to get.

So how does an organization boost transparency? First managers need to make an ongoing commitment to regularly share information with the employees. This means repeatedly reinforcing ideas around the mission, vision, and values and also connecting these three concepts and the strategic plan to employee-level goals. When employees know not only how they fit into the larger picture, but also how what they do in their jobs affects the bottom line, they’re more likely to do more of the things that positively impact the organization.

Transparency often means trusting employees to keep confidential information confidential. But even though it involves risk, there are also rewards: sharing information can improve operations, decrease costs, and strengthen employee engagement. Furthermore, because trust is almost always a two-way street, in exchange for operational and performance information, employees are more likely to speak up about issues that are holding the organization back from achieving its goals or to volunteer suggestions and ideas that streamline processes or develop new services and products.

What does transparency look like in action? As an example I’ll point to the company I work for, FlashPoint. Senior management shares performance information on a monthly basis at an all-staff meeting. We discuss business trends, finances, operations, and more. Is the income or productivity trend line going up or down? What can each of us do to keep the arrow going up or change its direction? What successes do team members have to celebrate regarding the business? What ideas and solutions do we have to offer? Of course every one of us has a stake in the success of the firm whether or not we discuss these matters, but we can more effectively direct our thoughts and actions in a transparent culture.

Every organization should be thinking about how it too can be more transparent. Transparency is one of the lowest-cost initiatives with the greatest bottom-line impact. Informed employees are engaged, and engaged employees:

  • Help recruit their talented friends (and thus lower recruiting costs)
  • Tend to stay longer (reducing turnover and related expenses)
  • Do their best work (meeting goals and revenue projections)
  • Share ideas (improving production and promoting innovation)
  • Accept promotions (helping to ensure the future success of the organization)

Transparency builds trust and commitment, which in turn builds better-performing organizations. What is your company doing to be transparent with your team and to build your 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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Manage More Effectively through Constructive Feedback

March 31st, 2015 by Bill Mugavin in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

FeedbackThe ability to offer constructive feedback has become a critical management skill. Good feedback gives focus to employees, helping them direct their work so that the organization achieves its strategic goals. Unfortunately, though, many managers struggle with providing constructive feedback. They often commit one of three sins—omitting, minimizing, or exaggerating feedback—only to find that an issue grows rapidly because they’ve failed to address it or have misaddressed it.

If you’re a manager, how do you make sure that you regularly offer feedback that’s clear, concise, and effective?

  • First, when setting goals with employees (whether annual goals or project-specific goals), make sure they understand and agree that feedback will be part of the process. When employees expect feedback, it becomes a natural part of the conversation and they’re more receptive to it.
  • Determine how often you will review progress in person and through reporting. If the employee sends you a weekly report, are bimonthly in-person meetings enough to ensure that you’re able to reinforce positive progress and correct course when issues are small? Or are weekly update meetings the best approach?
  • Keep the feedback brief. Constructive feedback should not be an hour-long ordeal; instead, plan to meet for a five-to-ten-minute discussion.
  • Remember that often the best feedback is just in time. It’s important that you plan for regular feedback, but if you see an opportunity to provide constructive guidance in the moment, take it. It will be much more effective than if you wait until a scheduled meeting time.
  • Whether feedback is planned or spontaneous, pay attention to the desired outcome of the feedback. What is the positive purpose of the feedback that you plan to give? Do you need to teach new skills? Do you need to build confidence? Does the employee need tips to increase productivity and efficiency? Keep the end goal in mind so that the feedback is focused.
  • Take a structured approach to the feedback. Share the constructive, positive purpose of the feedback, state specifically what you have observed, and discuss how the issue impacts coworkers, the department, and the organization. Pause to let the employee respond.
  • Be prepared for sidetracks. If an employee tries to deflect, deny, or get emotional, remind the employee of the original goal-setting agreement, focus on what you observed, and offer specific recommendations for improvement.
  • Remain positive and ready to move forward. Be sure to express support and confidence in the employee’s ability to respond to the feedback. Confirm the employee’s plan of action and then move on to the next topic.

Taking a deliberate, goal-oriented approach can make delivering constructive feedback much easier for managers. It still allows for a personal touch but helps to focus on the facts and eliminate much of the emotionally draining aspects. And a result of the regular, well-structured feedback, managers and employees can form better working relationships, keep strategic goals top of mind, and achieve more meaningful outcomes for the organization.

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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Training Your Team—Like Oil on Water?

March 20th, 2015 by Kristi Gaynor 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.

Image courtesy of cooldesign/

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