Archive for the 'Human Resources' Category

A Tale of Two Interns, or: How Clear Expectations Create Employee Success

Recently I had the pleasure of interacting with two students, one in high school and one in college.  I did not supervise them but simply became part of their life conversation.  At the time, both of them had internships, and I made it a point to ask how that was working for them.  I got two completely different stories that illustrate an important point about employee performance:  clear expectations get great results, and lack of expectations creates chaos.

Intern One worked for an artist.  She was hired to organize the artist’s admittedly chaotic contact list and calendar.  You would think this would be the “chaos” story – but no, the artist knew what she needed and described it very clearly.  When everything was organized, the artist would be able to find contact information for anyone she had spoken with, and her calendar would reflect accurately where and when she was performing.  The tool would be easy to use for someone not all that comfortable with technology. The intern trained the artist on using her new contact list and calendar, and she now feels in control of her professional life.

Intern Two was not so lucky.  She worked on a political campaign and initially was quite enthusiastic about the candidate.  But, as the weeks progressed, she was bounced from assignment to assignment with no direction, and then blamed when things did not go as planned.  She was asked to work extra hours and then told she was not needed after she rearranged her schedule.  She even tried to create a FAQ so that everyone would be on the same page around internal processes.  The result?  Her manager berated her for trying to run the show.

Bottom line:  you can’t expect results if you cannot describe clearly what you need and provide the tools to get the job done.  Intern Two was even willing to help create a tool, but that was perceived as threatening to the people in charge.  If you want your employees to go “above and beyond” set clear expectations, then get out of the way.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

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Plan Ahead for the Unexpected

Whether you have 5 employees, 50 employees, or 500 employees, there are certain key people whose sudden absence would cause a huge disruption in the organization.

For instance, what would happen if the person who processes payroll information was called away because of a death in the family the day before payroll was due?  Or, the employee who is really good at troubleshooting machinery problems (even though that’s not their main job) was injured on the job and out for several weeks?  Or if you, the business owner, were in a serious accident that left you unable to manage the company?

It’s human nature not to want to think about bad things happening.  But it is foolish and risky for a company to ignore the possibility of scenarios such as those described above.  So here are some questions to think about:

  • Are our critical processes well-documented?
  • Is there a designated person  who is familiar with and can back up the primary person in each major company function?
  • Who do I, the business owner, trust to step in and keep the company going if I am unable to perform my duties?  Do they understand my goals and can they keep things on track in my absence?

Addressing these questions and putting a plan in place will not completely eliminate risk.  But not having a plan at all is a recipe for disaster if the unexpected does in fact happen.  Investing the time to plan for the unexpected will pay dividends if and when that occurs.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Conversations for Performance – a Critical Business Management Skill

In the last blog article I described a situation where an employee was no longer performing as expected – coming in late to work, being rude, and a decline in the quality of work done.  You now have a decision to make:  no matter what the underlying cause(s), will you continue to tolerate the behaviors, or will you address them?  If you choose to address them, what strategies are most likely to create clarity around your expectations while giving the employee a chance to meet them?

First and foremost, threats will not work.  Or they may work in the short term, but over time you will probably lose the employee, either by firing or by his/her choice.  So what does work?  The book Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson et al) is a resource I highly recommend.  Here is an extremely brief synopsis of their process.

  • You must be clear in your own mind what needs to change and be able to describe that clearly to the employee. (Chapter 3)
  • You must create a “safe space” for this conversation to occur. (Chapter 5)
  • You must be open to alternative solutions suggested by the employee. (Chapter 8)
  • Together, you and the employee must create and follow a mutually acceptable action plan. (Chapter 10)

Sound difficult?  Of course!  Your choice is whether to step up to the challenge or give up on this employee.  There are costs and risks in either choice, but the most benefit will be gained for you and your business if you are willing to create the foundation for a productive conversation for performance.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Performance Symptoms vs. Performance Problems

Consider the following scenario:

A long-time employee arrives 30 minutes late for work three days in a row.  And, when questioned about this, he snaps “none of your business!”  You also notice that over the past month or so his work has really not been up to standards.  So do you have a performance problem?

Your immediate answer is probably “of course I have a performance problem!”  But what you really have is a series of performance symptoms:

  • Lateness
  • Rudeness
  • Poor quality work.

The underlying performance problem, the cause of these behaviors, could be any number of things, some of which you can control and some of which you cannot.  Consider that the employee might:

  • Have recently learned of the terminal illness of a loved one.
  • Be struggling with financial issues that are distracting from focus on work.
  • Feel (rightly or wrongly) that his work load has stretched him far beyond capacity.

You may be hesitant to engage him in a conversation about your observations.  But consider the cost and consequences of not doing so.  Just like a doctor who examines the patient with a fever (symptom) and decides on a diagnosis (problem) in order to prescribe the correct treatment, your task is to get to the underlying issue in order to develop a fair and appropriate solution.  Ideally this solution will maintain the dignity of the employee while meeting your needs for improved performance.  How to have that conversation will be the topic of a future blog post.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

Retaining Critical Employees

A colleague of mine told the following story:

Her father had worked almost his entire career as an engineer in a small firm.  Eventually he “retired” but even in his 70’s, occasionally came back to fill in on critical projects.  One day he was out in the field waiting for the rest of the staff to assemble.  In order to be at his best for the long work day ahead, he decided to take a 15-minute “power nap” in his car.  About 10 minutes into the nap, the site supervisor arrived, saw that the engineer was sleeping, and started yelling and banging on the window.  When the engineer got out of the car he was subjected to an abusive tirade about how lazy he was.

If you were this engineer, what would you do the next time you were asked to help out?  He had voluntarily stepped in to fill a critical gap and ensure the success of the project.  Not only was he not appreciated, he was subjected to verbal abuse.  As you might guess, he refused to work on any projects after that.  The company lost a valuable resource because a supervisor lost his temper.

What do you do to retain your critical employees?  More importantly, can you think of any reasons why they might decide to leave?  Addressing these questions is critical to the continued success of any company.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440

Guest Blog: The Employee Recognition Software Round-Up

Incorporating a formalized recognition program into your talent management initiatives could be the key to preventing good people from leaving your company.

I analyzed four cloud (or web) based systems that I think provide innovative functionality for employee recognition along with robust reporting and analytics features to sell the business benefits of recognition programs.

Rypple is the social performance management platform that Salesforce acquired last year. The system goes beyond recognition functionality with tools for goal setting and project management for teams and individuals. Users can set objectives, see how projects align with the organization, and track progress. Along the way, anyone can give recognition employees for great work.

Kudos is solely an employee engagement and recognition platform. Employees post “kudos” to the Twitter-like feed stating the reason for the award in 140 characters or less. Awards are given in point increments, which employees can then redeem through an external rewards program or an in-house rewards system. Managers can also use the system to provide employees with constructive feedback.

Achievers combines rewards and social networking technologies. The peer-to-peer, points-based system encourages open recognition from company leaders, managers and individual contributors. Any employee can recognize another by posting to the news feed, or they can reward each other using their allocated points. Users also have the ability to earn more points by taking actions that have a direct impact on the company’s business objectives. For example, a user can earn points by referring a qualified candidate for an open position or by saving the company money.

Globoforce ties specific manager-approved rewards to a corporate goal or value. Administrators and managers can identify top performers based on reward value and the number of awards. They can also see how their team members give recognition to each other as well as to individuals outside the team, and determine if an employee’s performance value (what he or she is contributing) is aligned with the recognition they’ve received.

Jennifer King is an HR Analyst at Software Advice, a website that reviews and compares HR and workforce management software. See her full analysis on her HR blog: http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/hr/recognition-software-1070312/

High Turnover? Try a Little Bit of Recognition!

Recently I participated in a webinar on Employee Recognition.  Yes I know it’s one of those “feel good” topics that most employers think is over-rated.  But…think again!  Properly implemented, an employee recognition program can have a significant impact on turnover.

The company discussed in the webinar had a major issue with turnover in their call center.  Clearly, customer service reps are under a lot of stress and generally speaking it is a high turnover position.  The company reduced their turnover by 75% by:

  • Asking their front-line reps to recognize on a weekly basis at least one colleague who had helped them out
  • Asking the supervisors to immediately recognize a rep who had gone “above and beyond”
  • Recognizing any employee who made a suggestion for improvement that was implemented that month.

What is different about this type of recognition program?  First of all it is public.  Everyone is encouraged to give and receive positive feedback.  Second, it minimizes the appearance of favoritism on the part of supervisors because it is based on performance, not opinion.  Third, the feedback happens timely.  There is little value in deferred praise.  The best feedback is that given at the time of good performance.  When employees know they are doing what is expected they will do more of that.  So if you want better performance and lower turnover, try a little recognition.  It just might work!

 

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity. Sharon helps businesses hire, train and retain outstanding employees and create workplaces where everyone can do their best work.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.