Archive for the 'employee engagement' 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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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

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.

New Hire Success is not an Accident

Picture the following scenario:

It’s your first day at a new job, and you are very excited to be working at Company X which you identified as a “dream” job.  You make sure you leave early to get to work on time.  You park your car and walk in the door.  You ask the receptionist at the front desk to let your manager know you have arrived.  She looks puzzled and says “But Ms. Green is out on vacation this week – she didn’t tell me she was expecting you.”

She then attempts to locate someone to help you.  No one else from that area has arrived so finally she calls the HR manager.  He arrives, apologizes for the confusion, and takes you up to where your office should be.  It’s an empty space…just a desk and chair, no telephone or computer.

If you were this person, would you still think you had just started your “dream” job?  At the very least, a sliver of doubt would probably creep in.  By the time Ms. Green returns, a whole week will have gone by with no direction, support, or information.

After a candidate has accepted the offer, it is the manager’s job to create the infrastructure to get them off to a great start.  This should include:

  • A designated person (if not you) to greet them on their first day and get them settled.
  • A workspace equipped with all of the tools they need to begin working.
  • And most importantly, a plan to ensure that they know what is expected of them and what resources are available to help them achieve the plan.

As the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  Set your new hire up for success by planning for their arrival and integration into your business.

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

Why Should I Share Critical Business Information with my Employees?

You’ve worked very hard to build your business and finally your hard work is starting to pay off in terms of income and profit.  But, unless you are a sole proprietor with no employees or contractors, is that success just the result of your work?  What about your employees?  What have they contributed?  And how could you get them to contribute more?

Rather than hiding information about business outcomes, try putting them out there for everyone to see. Here are some ideas:

• Create a display highlighting key results that support your business goals.  Depending on the type of business, this could be total sales dollars by month or quarter,  number of customers acquired, productivity/ number of defects per widget or any other key indicator.  Whatever you choose needs to be easily visible to all employees, so put it where they can see it.

• Incorporate these key indicators into employee communications and challenge them to do better.  For example “Our defect rate last month was X per widget.  In order to keep ahead of our competition, we need to reduce that by 50% over the next 3 months.”

• This is the hard part:  when an employee says “I have an idea that will reduce our defect rate” LISTEN.  Then work with any willing party to assess, refine, and implement the idea.

• Finally, recognize and communicate successes.  Be transparent about the resulting cost and time savings.  If an idea results in significant improvement, perhaps a bonus is in order.  After all, it’s not all about you, right?

Sharing business information for the purpose of improving the business can encourage your employees to think critically and creatively about their contribution.   In so doing, they move beyond the “employee” role into a “partner” role for the benefit of all.

Sharon Hamersley is Principal of Keys to Performance, Your Resource for Workplace Productivity.  For more information, visit her web site http://k2performance.net or call her at 614-395-9440.

Are Your People Employees or Business Partners?

Does it seem like you are taking on more and more of what you hired people to do?  Are you handing out paychecks and wondering what value you are getting?  If so, you need to help your staff move from an “employee” mentality to a “business partner”  who is engaged in improving the business.

The first step in this process is to step back and look at what you (yes you!) are doing that allows your employees to stop doing things they were hired to do.    Here are some questions to ask yourself:

• Are you a perfectionist for whom nothing is ever good enough so you are the only one who can do the job right?

• Do you always clarify why you are asking an employee to do something and what the expected outcome is?

• Are you quick to correct mistakes but slow to praise when someone goes “above and beyond?”

If any of these apply to you, you will need to modify your behavior before you expect your employees to modify theirs.

The next step is to share business plans and challenges with your employees on a regular basis.  And, ask them for their help in creating solutions to the challenges.  Even if you don’t fully implement a suggestion, the employee knows they have been heard and will be more likely to step up to the plate next time.

The final step is to be transparent about what is costs to run your business and engage employees in a conversation about how they can reduce costs and increase profits.  More about that next time.

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