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You Might Need a Coach If . . .

August 26th, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Coaching, Talent Management

A key employee is not meeting her goals; her peers complain about her and she has had two key people leave.

Marketplace changes, new customers, and the uncertainty of new product rollout are all colliding to turn a longtime, valuable vice president into an abrasive micromanager whose departmental productivity is plummeting.

Times have changed and that means more diverse individuals are moving into customer-facing positions of responsibility. The longtime sales director is having trouble moving away from sports analogies and screaming football coach-type comments as team motivators.

We have all heard Jeff Foxworthy’s famous setup, “You might be a redneck if . . . .” Let’s apply that idea to coaching. Say you’re facing challenges with an employee. You have several alternatives to deal with the situation, such as ignoring it, hoping it will fix itself (maybe the employee will leave!), creating workarounds, pretending the need is not there, and so on. The correct solution, however, may be individual coaching.

How can you tell when a coach would benefit you, one of your direct reports, or a colleague? Well, you might need a coach if . . .

  • Executives are assimilating into a new role or are in need of maximizing organizational results. In some instances, executives need new skills to replace the ones that got them to the top but no longer work. Personal problems may be interfering with relationships. The goal is to improve performance and increase individual and organizational productivity.
  • High-potential leaders have not yet experienced management responsibilities but are being developed to become qualified candidates when an opening appears. In this case, coaching not only meets the long-term needs of building a pipeline of talent but can be used as both a recruiting and retention tool.
  • Participants in a multifaceted leadership development program require deeper individual development. Often, after one or more leadership development initiatives, there is a desire to more firmly embed specific skills and behaviors in the culture, along with working on an individual’s specific needs for his or her particular job. Coaching is one of the best tools for this outcome.
  • Individuals are experiencing career transition. Caring organizations offer outplacement/ career coaching to speed the job search of individuals who leave their employment due to mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, and so on.

Adults learn by doing. Coaching is not theoretical. Action learning is a key component of behavior transformation and skill development.

The coaching process usually involves the use of assessments and data gathering (peer/direct report interviews) that form the foundation of the coaching initiative. In most cases, the coaching recipient’s manager plays a role in ensuring that the goals of the initiative are clear and understood by all parties. While specifics of discussions may be kept confidential, progress (or lack of it) is usually reported during the three-, six-, nine-, or twelve-month process. It is important for the individual’s manager to recognize and praise new behavior and skills when they are displayed.

When improved performance and increased productivity are the desired outcomes, you might need a coach. When new tools are needed to deal with new situations, marketplaces, staff configurations, or simply a new job, you might need a coach. If personal issues, interpersonal issues, team management issues, or personal performance issues are getting in the way, you might need a coach.

Coaching is a benefit to the individual and to the organization. Today, it is much better to develop known talent than to gamble on completely new hires, especially at mid-level and higher ranks. If any of these scenarios touched a nerve, you or your organization might need a coach!

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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Pitching the Need for Talent Development: Don’t Be Afraid to Swim in the Shark Tank

August 9th, 2014 by Kristi Gaynor in Talent Development, Talent Management

Training employees is the right thing to do. You know it, and you’ve experienced it. You’ve seen the results when a person challenged with managing his team becomes effective simply by learning new techniques and skills. You’ve seen individual contributors become influential leaders in guiding their department’s growth. You also know that the intangible results are just as important: employee morale increases and overall job satisfaction is stronger, all benefiting the organization’s culture. By leveraging each team member’s potential, you realize the impact on the organization’s bottom line.

So why isn’t your organization investing?  Are your executives experiencing such tremendous growth that they’re focused on operational strategy only? Has growth occurred regardless of employee development, so that executives are not convinced they need to invest? Where do you go from here?

It’s time to build the case for talent development. It’s like you’re suddenly on the reality show Shark Tank! You must develop a pitch that sells your executives to want to invest. A daunting task maybe . . . but it is doable if you want this win!

At the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2014 annual conference, presenter Jennifer McClure offered advice on making the case for leader development. She outlined the following key steps, which you’ll no doubt find helpful as you enter your own Shark Tank:

  1. Develop an Executive Summary—This is the cornerstone of your report; it may be the only part your executives review. Create the three-to-five-minute sales pitch. Get their attention. Use percentages, dollars, and metrics to sell them.
  2. Define the Problem—Prove how your organization’s bottom line is directly impacted by the lack of talent development.
  3. Provide Analysis—Consider statistics on employee engagement, retention, and profitability. Show the associated costs for lack of engagement, loss of productivity, absenteeism, recruitment, and ultimately loss of profits.
  4. Propose Solutions—Propose a minimum of three recommendations and include investment amounts. Your solution may consist of one concept providing three options with decreased levels of investment, or it may consist of three completely different concepts. Your goal is to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Be prepared to negotiate, and know what you are willing to give up. Enter the pitch knowing what your minimum requirements are (the non-negotiables).
  5. Make Recommendations—The executives will expect you to be the expert in this conversation. You must be prepared to offer knowledge (“based on my experience . . . ) and be prepared to make a decision.
  6. Define Success Metrics—What will you track, how often will you track it, and when will you report on these measures?
  7. Develop an Implementation Plan—What resources will you need? Who are your key stakeholders? What is your timing? What measurement processes need to be implemented? Outline your next steps so you are off and running when you get approval!

Your own version of Shark Tank may be scary, but if you formulate your pitch properly you will succeed in selling your executives on the critical need to develop talent. The investment may appear daunting, but the return is limitless!

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.

Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Hiring Slowly vs. Quickly: The Right Approach Adds to the Bottom Line

August 1st, 2014 by Nancy S. Ahlrichs in Talent Management, Talent Systems and Processes

As employers, we’re in a tough competition for talent, yet on too many occasions the new hire is gone in the first week, month, or year. In each of these scenarios our bad hire results in lost money—dollars we might as well have just set on fire.

What dooms hiring? In many cases we hire quickly and make one of four mistakes.

  1. Fishing in the wrong talent pool. It’s important to focus on the pool with the right fish; when we confuse quantity with quality we pay the price. More small pools (such as professional organizations, churches, and past colleagues of some of your best hires) with mostly “just the right fish” are better than one big talent pool (job boards) with the “wrong fish.”
  2. Forgetting that the right job seekers are in demand and failing to communicate before the interview, during the interview process, and after the offer is made. A recent ADP Research Institute survey of both job seekers age 18 to 65, and recruiters in companies with 1,000 or more employees, shows that 73 percent of today’s “consumer-styled job seekers” would like at least weekly communication throughout the application process. After the interview, be sure to communicate next steps. It’s an opportunity to further bond the new hire to the organization.
  3. Letting untrained, unprepared, and unexcited managers conduct interviews. Job seekers compare the quality of one interview experience to another. The younger the job applicant, the less patient he or she is with late-starting interviews, unprepared hiring managers, and other inconveniences. Young applicants will tweet and text their bad experiences to all 500-plus of their social media friends (i.e., other potential hires for your organization), letting them know that you are not an employer of choice.
  4. Using an old or incomplete job description in the interview (or none at all). Job applicants want to be successful, so they want to know the job requirements that they will be asked to fulfill. Are your organization’s values or core competencies part of the job description? If not, then you will continue to hire for hard skills and fire for lack of the right soft skills.

Put more thought and effort into the hiring process. Starting today, decide to hire slowly. This means:

  1. Holding out for the right hire. Determine your best sources for your best candidates. Often your best source is your current “star” performers. Offer a referral bonus and educate your employees about the requirements of open positions.
  2. Building a pipeline of future hires. If healthcare, accounting, and technology organizations send their coolest, most enthusiastic employees to give high school freshmen and sophomore students a “preview” of their future careers, why isn’t your industry or organization doing the same thing? Not all careers require a college degree, but often they require specific classes, a driver’s license, and a clean driving record. Students who know the requirements are more likely to make sure that they meet the qualifications.
  3. Communicating with candidates and new hires using appropriate technology. Build your relationship with job seekers by asking them for their preference: tweets, texts, emails, or phone calls.
  4. Training your managers and anyone else involved in the hiring process. Multiple studies say that the use of behavioral interview questions (“Tell me about a time when you . . . ; what was the situation, what did you do, and what was the outcome?”) provide a better insight into how job candidates will react or perform on the job than vague questions such as, “Are you comfortable working with difficult customers?” or, “How would you handle this issue?” Find out what applicants have done in the past, not what they think you want them to say.
  5. Updating job descriptions annually and including needed competencies or values. Everyone’s responsibilities are evolving, so ask employees to update their job descriptions as part of the annual performance review. Ask the manager to review the updated descriptions and send them to HR. Departments with many employees in the same role can work together as a group and develop a single job description during an hour’s meeting.

Remember that hiring the right person is an “addition” to the bottom line; hiring the wrong person is a “subtraction” from the bottom line. By preparing prior to starting the hiring process, you’ll increase the quality—and quantity—of correct hires. And the correct hires will be more likely to stay!

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 africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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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