Category Archives: Management Excellence

Human Resources at 30,000 feet

30,000 feetAre you leading the way you want to be led?

Are you really that good? We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we were perfect leaders.

The M word. Nothing can unsettle a competent employee more than when a manager takes their title name too seriously. The title ‘Manager’ for tradition’s sake should be made extinct along with its sidekick, ‘micro’. The most common theme I hear in human resources is the growing frustration of leaders oscillating from task management to accountability metrics with no apparent awareness of the bigger picture and it’s tie in to the company’s core vision.  It’s kind of like treating the symptom not the cause. A knee jerk reaction not only applies to medicine but also to management. When operated in such a manner ‘A’ players eventually leave the organization.

It’s a simple as this. An effective leader’s primary concern should be the ability to acquire and retain the best people. Once you have them, the key objective is to grow and develop your top talent.  The juggle today is that you must do this and also create a very real connection to these individuals. And it’s a delicate balancing act. Too much of one and not enough of another could shift the experience of whether or not an individual will thrive under your leadership. (Or lack thereof). The rock star CEO is so over. Just like the internet has made companies more transparent, great companies require their leadership to be real, and to truly be human.

Show don’t tell. It’s an age-old statement that goes back to primary school. No one likes to be told just as no one likes to be managed. No competent leader I’ve ever known enjoys the proverbial ‘management’ part of managing. Who would really? It’s kind of like glorified child minding except children are much sharper now and far more fascinating. When you ‘manage’ someone you are saying that ‘you’re not capable of managing yourself’ and ‘you’re not responsible to do what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it’. It essentially shows a vote of non-confidence to their commitment to action.

Tom Peters made famous,  ‘manage by wandering around’. When you walk around you learn things but most importantly you get on the same level as the rest of your team by doing this basic step. And do you ever learn about the pulse of the organization and it’s closeness to the company’s core values. If there is one piece of experience I have learned over the years as a business owner it is to do just that – walk around.   I love to walk up to an individual’s work space and ask the question, ‘What’s happening in your world right now?’ From there I am able to learn not only where they are at, but how they are approaching or considering their challenges. In many instances I will also learn something about what’s happening in their personal world too, leaving us both feeling better connected.

When you put yourself as a leader into one that is more of an approachable, getting ‘into the trenches’ role, you grow abilities and remove the roadblocks that might demotivate an employee. And the neatest thing is when I say something that really catches their attention that is relevant to them and they say ‘that was so helpful! I’m glad we spoke!’ Listening to them, by acting as a coach, looking at the framework of the world that employee lives in, you start to see more and have a better connection to that individual. Try to put yourself into their paradigm. Their lens is their reality. It’s their paradigm, not yours. By setting strategy in this context you achieve a complete picture and not the bits and pieces found in task management. And best of all, being closer to your team lets people feel more comfortable to speak and make comment. They are most likely going to feel that their opinions and feedback may be heard.  Spontaneous time with your team is so important. It’s those times together where I think, on reflection, I’ve learnt the most and received some of the most valuable feedback or ideas from individuals.

Jim Collins’ quote, ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.’ Is dead on.  Leadership ‘greatness’ is a skill that takes mindful practice. Here! Here!

Managing Performers and Potentials

In a time when the workforce is increasingly transient, your ability to identify high-performing and high-potential employees—and that of your managers—is critical. And yet, many struggle to distinguish one from the other, negatively impacting their ability to develop and retain top talent. In many organizations, performance is the primary measure of an employee’s value in the organization. Star performers are promoted and rewarded, while diamonds in the rough become disengaged and move on.

Don’t get me wrong–you should definitely value performance. But if your end goal is to build a more robust talent pipeline (and it should be), performance can’t be the only point of entry. To that end, there are strategies that any manager can apply to develop high-potentials and high-performers effectively.

Step One: Identify

High-performers stand out in any organization. They consistently exceed expectations, and are management’s go-to for difficult projects. They take pride in their accomplishments, but may not have the potential (or the desire) to succeed in a higher-level role.

High potentials can be more difficult to identify, especially for line managers. That’s because most valuable attributes (e.g. stress management, adaptability, business sense) aren’t catalytic in entry-to-mid-level roles. Potential is subjective to what a company values, of course, but there are innate attributes that distinguish them from high-performers.

Line managers’ observations are often limited to the most obvious traits (time management, communication skills, attention to detail). By working with leadership, however, managers can profile the skills that ensure success in key roles—and be on the lookout for examples of both high performers and high potentials from day one.

Step Two: Assess

An established standard of the attributes and competencies of model employees is also an essential part of objective assessment. And though there’s a distinct difference between potential and performance, experts agree that employees should be assessed on competency in both.

Figure 1 - Hyper v Hypo[1]

Each category requires a different development strategy. With a clearer picture of who falls where, managers can make more informed decisions in how to effectively develop them. For example: High Po/ Low Per employees may need to improve their ability to perform consistently, or may be moved into roles better aligned with their natural abilities. And High Per/Low Po employees would be ideal candidates for soft skill development–or for roles that require more technical skill.

Step Three: Engage and Develop

The important thing about development and engagement strategies (especially for high-potential vs. high-performance employees) is to tailor your efforts to drive the results you want. Typical engagement strategies could look something like this:

Figure 2 - Hyper v Hypo

Recognition is key for High Per/Low Po employees. They need constant encouragement and challenging assignments. Rather than promoting them to roles they don’t want (or aren’t ready for), give them the independence and engage them with projects that they can take full ownership of.

Alternately, while High Po/Low Per employees are hungry for more high-impact work, they need seasoning. On the job training is a great way to accomplish this, especially when pairing them with high performers. As they develop a stronger understanding of the organization and their role in it, give them projects to manage, new hires to train, and offer cross-training opportunities.

Set Your Line Managers Up for Success

Your line managers are the gatekeepers to your talent pipeline, and they’ve got their work cut out for them. While most will have some natural ability in identifying, assessing, and engaging performers and potentials, few will be adept at all three. If you want to improve your ability to retain top talent, it starts with your line managers. Set them up for success, and invest in their development.

This guest post was written by Kyle Lagunas.

Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—an online resource for HR software comparisions. He reports on trends, technology, and best practices in talent management, with work featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Information Weekly, and the NY Times.

Does your Corporate Culture attract Top Performers?

Top performers are most often the true indicators of a company’s culture and are part of the integral root system of the company’s success. The biggest risk for a company is in failing to create an environment that supports their abilities. Developing a culture that attracts top performers is one of the most important tools for a company’s recruitment process.

  • By understanding the nature of top performers, you can take their energy and inspiration and use it to grow other future top performers.
  • Take top performers for lunch on a monthly basis. You’ll not only know what’s on their minds, but you will most likely come away with valuable insights into the business.
  • Make your top performers mentors. Everyone can benefit from a mentor. These power employees know this value and seek out mentors for themselves. Their thoughtful communication style attracts teams around them. Stack power employees together, and you get phenomenal teams and powerful collaborators. They thrive on one another’s energy, provide high-level strategy and show boldness in trying new things. They are innovators and executors.
  • Conduct team behavioural assessments. These tools help identify the dynamics within a team. Not all top performers are ‘drivers’; some are ‘influencers’, and others are combinations of both.

Questions to ask your executive management team and line managers:

  • What messages from our team are we not listening to or not confronting?
  • If there were two things to change in our current style of management or corporate mandates that could greatly affect employees’ motivation and job satisfaction, what would they be?
photo credit: ChrisM70

So long, Summer.

Summer can be a good time of year for recharging your batteries, but it can also be a tricky time for getting things done. With many people away on holiday, trying to schedule meetings is like herding cats. In terms of work productivity, how do you feel about summer being over?

Return on Employee Investment

Companies are well aware of the cost of replacing an employee. Developing a strong, clear and engaging employer brand and corporate culture will attract the best talent and can make all the difference in an organization’s long term goals and growth.

A company that takes a strategic approach to talent management will see higher results in employee retention and overall superior team performance. This infographic from SAGE shows some interesting statistics about the ROI and cost of employee replacement.

click on the image for a larger view
source: SAGE

What went wrong: a lesson about onboarding

Companies with strong employment engagement usually have clearly defined employee onboarding programs. The best talent is drawn to environments where effective programs exist resulting in high levels of employee engagement and low employee turnover. While it seems like common sense to invest in creating and maintaining these programs, they are often overlooked.

Imagine a situation where a new hire has started at your company but there is no formal onboarding system in place. The new hire has a very important but sometimes undervalued role in the company as the Office Manager/Administrator.   The direct supervisor is a recently new hire themselves so there is no clear direction of what to do. The Office Manager has arrived with a job description in mind but no formal training occurs, nor do they have opportunities to receive weekly or even monthly reviews.  In addition, the busy sales company hasn’t had an Office Manager before as everyone just pitched in. It seemed like everyone assumes the new hire was clear on their job requirements and trained by the other team members.

The rest of the employees couldn’t draw upon history to assist the Office Manager in what to do. Frustration is building with the new hire and in a short time the Office Manager quits and everyone is in shock at what has happened.

This situation could create long-term damage to your corporate brand and could be prevented with an onboarding system in place. Ideally, companies need to plan their program before they start the hiring process. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Your company just needs a well thought out plan with a person accountable to see the new hire through a training-feedback process.

  • Have your new hire’s desk ready with computer log-in, e-mail account and telephone system all up. Don’t forget about business cards.
  • Assign a supervisor who is accountable for training the new hire.
  • Assign a buddy for the first month – nothing breaks the ice more than with a person familiar with the company’s culture and core values. Most importantly – to greet them when they arrive on their first day and show them around.
  • Take your new hire out for lunch on the first day – or coffee at very least
  • Train the new hire with a concise orientation book about your company
  • Seek feedback from the new hire- they can tell you where they need more assistance, clarity or direction
  • Communication is key – use monthly reviews to provide feedback and encourage feedback
  • Inform your employees in advance of the new hire’s arrival. Onboarding starts as soon as the offer letter is accepted, not simply just the new hire’s first day at the company.

Without an onboarding program, the investment in a new hire is likely to be wasted away. By simplifying the onboarding process, employers can expect new employees to hit the ground running, and be able to contribute more quickly to a corporation’s success.

Interviewing Karma

I recently came across this great blog post called Interviewing Karma and it has stuck with me…so much so that I wanted to share it with you.  The blogger is an anonymous manager in a large corporation who is sharing their knowledge along the way. I encourage you to check out some of the other posts they have written.

What I really like about this particular post is the simple message of being kind. Searching for a job has got to be one of the most stressful situations in anybody’s life. For those of you in the position as a hiring manager, please keep this in mind. Whether you hire the candidate or not, please make sure that the interview experience with you and your company is a positive one.

As the Greek author and philosopher, Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”