Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM CAHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) Member CDAA (Career Development Association of Australia) and NAGCAS (National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services). Distributor of Harrison Assessments in Australia.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you getting the full picture?

Sometimes we make employment decisions without access to all the facts.

When our daughter asked to start piano lessons recently, I didn’t ask to see the teacher’s qualifications before agreeing for her to learn from him.

Qualifications are important!  So why didn’t I even think to ask?  Probably because I’ve had the opportunity to observe not only his musical prowess, but also how he interacts with other students and teachers.  This gave me confidence in his ability as a teacher.

At work, you may know a person’s qualifications but you rarely have the chance for long-term observation before making staffing decisions.  Or do you?

Here are 3 ways you could get more of this important information, by tapping in to what others have observed:

1. Always reference check when hiring and make sure the check is meaningful.  You can do this by having prepared questions, probing when you sense there’s more information and asking a candidate for more referees if you’re not getting the answers you need to make your decision.  If you work in financial services, Standards Australia’s handbook ‘Reference Checking in the Financial Services Industry’ provides an essential guide.

2. If you’re looking for a new staff member, consider people you already know from your business or social networks who might be able to fill the role.  If there’s no-one suitable, ask them if they can recommend anyone.  Remember the last time you hired a painter or plumber?  Did you pick a name from the phone book or ask your friends first?

3. When reviewing staff performance, seek feedback from the employee’s colleagues, team, clients and suppliers.  They will be able to provide you with insights from a different perspective.

You’re unlikely to have the full picture yourself so why not ask for the opinions of people you trust?

With Money Management reporting today that jobs in the Australian financial services sector have jumped by more than 5 per cent since last month, we are likely to see many more staff choosing to make a move.

Under these labour market conditions, it’s critical that you have the right people in the right roles if you want them to stay.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Workplace Flexibility and the Recovery – Risks and Opportunities

By Kerry Fallon Horgan, Keeping Good Companies Journal, Chartered Secretaries Aust

The global financial crisis and the introduction of flexibility requirements in the Australian National Employment Standards have focused renewed attention on workplace flexibility.

Harry Stout, ING Australia CEO, says “As a result of the GFC we have had to find creative ways of best deploying our resources from declining business areas to those who have growing and requiring greater resources needs. INGA has prided itself on retaining employment wherever possible, while our competitors reduced headcount from 5-20%. To achieve this we worked with our employees in finding ways we could reduce our employment costs while maintaining headcount. Through further encouraging flexible work practices, we were able to ride through the markets turbulence and are now positioned to leverage new opportunities.”

A similar response happened at AMP Ltd. “The challenging environment of the financial crisis encouraged us to look at creative ways to retain our employees and increase engagement and productivity in challenging times. Creative workforce planning strategies that continually reinforce flexibility as a work option ensure AMP has the workforce it needs, without compromising our optimistic and positive brand and culture,” explains Katriina Tahka, AMP Head of Talent & Diversity.

Workplaces that have introduced or reinvigorated their flexible work practices over the past year have not only significantly reduced costs but are now in a position to comply with the flexible work provisions of the new National Employment Standards(NES), which came into effect on 1 January 2010. This particular NES will significantly increase employees’ requests for flexibility and yet the majority of organisations do not have the knowledge base to comply.

Organisations such as ING Australia, IBM, AMP, Stockland and Carnival Australia are using the introduction of this National Employment Standard to update existing flexible workplace policies and guidelines and/or provide training on the legislation and how to make flexible work practices work. The legislation is providing an opportunity to reinforce their commitment to flexibility through awareness and education programs.

The full article is available at http://www.flexibility.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What do you want?

Last week, our single question survey asked readers “What is the one people management issue that is causing you the most pain right now?”

The response was fantastic!  Thanks for all your contributions.

Didn’t see it?  It’s not too late to give us your answer and have it added to our list of topics for future webinars and articles. 

The first webinar is scheduled for 12 noon on Wednesday, 7 July 2010.  Topic and registration details will be posted in the next couple of weeks.

Here is a summary of the suggestions so far:

Team

  • establishing teamwork – working together on to meet organisational goals
  • culture
  • understanding what each person does and how roles work together

Motivation

  • rewards –  ideas on non-monetary rewards
  • getting staff to work in new ways in an industry that has been more reactive than proactive in the past

Delegation

  • effectively communicating what needs to be done
  • having tasks completed to your requirements
  • ensuring staff are productive when you’re not there

Training

  • developing teams to meet future needs
  • helping staff indentify skill gaps
  • making time for training

Recruitment

  • attracting the people with the right attitude
  • matching the right people to the role
  • having the right people in the right seats

Performance

  • meaningful annual reviews
  • addressing weaknesses without causing offence
  • managing underperformance

Why not take a minute to add your own or support one of these suggestions?

Click here to have your say or leave a comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why I Dropped Kathy and Picked Up Dan*

This article was prompted by questions from readers…

Many people within financial services are familiar with the Kolbe system of measuring ‘Action Modes’.  An individual’s Kolbe profile is a good tool for coaching and team development and I’ve used it in these ways, before I started using Harrison Assessments (HA).

There are similarities between the two approaches (online, accessible to any sized organisation, multiple uses) and I won’t explore the theory behind them in this article.  There are three differences that prompted my decision:

1. Level of detail

If I tell you my Kolbe is 8652 (Strategic Planner), experienced Kolbe users will know quite a lot about me.  It will be a generalisation, of course, as each number is a score out of 10 for each of the four different modes (Fact Find, Follow Through, Quick Start and Implementor).

I admit I can’t give you a quick summary, in numbers or words, of my HA profile, although you’ll find some of the details on our website.  This is because HA measures 156 different traits on a 1-10 scale, resulting in reports that are unique to the individual, rather than classifying them as an ‘Innovator’ or ‘Mediator’ for example.  The 156 traits are made up of personality, task preferences, interests, work environment preferences and motivations.

The reports themselves provide detailed interpretation for the end user.  For example, for a job candidate who has a low score on ‘Analyses Pitfalls’:  “Joe usually does not enjoy analysing the potential difficulties of plans or strategies and may sometimes neglect to do so.  Therefore, it would be best if he were to receive other input before making important strategic decisions.  Joe’s lack of enjoyment of analysing potential problems will probably have a somewhat negative impact on job satisfaction and/or performance.”  How good would it be to know this information before you appoint a new manager?

This is focussed, practical information you can use right away, either in a second interview or to coach the new employee.

2. Data utilisation

One set of data from one 20-30 minute online questionnaire is used to produce all the reports below, listed by application: 

  • Candidate Screening – Job Success Analysis, Group Screening Report
  • Candidate Interviewing and Selection – Interview Guide, How to Attract this Candidate, Paradox Graph and Narrative, Traits and Definitions Report, Summary and Keywords Report
  • Retention and Development – How to Manage, Develop and Retain, Development for Position, Development by Trait, Paradox Graph and Narrative
  • Team Development – Team Paradox Graph, Trait Export
  • Career Guidance and Development – Career Options, Career Development, Career Comparison

To see samples of these reports, please visit our website.

3. Customisability

Because HA is based on work performance research, there is the facility to compare employees and/or candidates to job templates for a specific role.  There are over 200 generic templates in the system and each one can be customised to the requirements of the job and the employer.  We’ve even adjusted templates to check for a good match with the manager.

For our clients in financial services, we have developed a set of templates which we then modify to their specific business requirements.  For example, it they’re hiring a paraplannner and want them to have significant client contact, we would ensure traits such as ‘Outgoing’ and ‘Diplomatic’ are included in the template.

This flexibility can also be applied to staff and team development.  If, for example, a broker is just not brining in the new business they were hire to achieve, we could assess their scores on a range of relevant traits, including traits such as ‘Persistent’ and ‘Optimistic’ and coach them to better performance by building on their areas of strength.  Of course – ideally – you would have known these scores before you hired them!

The detailed reports, as you can imagine, are invaluable for both team and individual coaching.  For teams, we are also able to plot all team members on the same chart, to give an easy to read overview of the team’s strengths and challenges.

The reason I chose to train and gain certification with Harrison Assessments:  So I can provide my clients with the best available information for people management decisions and coaching.

*Kathy Kolbe and Dan Harrison

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Top Business Ideas in the Aftermath of the GFC

This is a guest post from The Quinn Group:

The Global Finance Crisis was a trying time in the lifecycle of any business.

The good news is that we are seeing some softening effects from the GFC and there are certainly things that you are able to do to help your business run smoothly:

Turn negatives in to positives:

  • If your business suffers a lack of profitability, increase prices, shop around for cheaper suppliers, increase value-adds to your customers, develop loyalty programs and encourage referrals
  • Meet with your staff and assess whether they are being managed correctly, ask for their opinions and act accordingly
  • Review the gross profit margin of each product or service separately and eliminate underperforming offerings and replace with higher performing, higher turnover offerings.
  • Review the sources and reasons behind any customer complaints and alter your processes accordingly e.g. service, manufacturing, supply, quality control etc
  • As a manager you need to learn how to stop working and start managing. It is impossible to do everything yourself so ensure that you delegate tasks to the right people and free up some of your time for more important things
  • Plan your capital purchases to capitalise on any tax breaks before the end of the financial year

Capitalise on your assets:

  • Increase marketing to raise awareness for your business
  • Create systems to ensure that your quality is consistent
  • If you have great staff, review incentive packages to ensure you retain them and decrease your staff turnover rate
  • Plan for growth – if there is room for expansion find out the amount of funding needed to fund this growth and secure appropriate finance if necessary. Perhaps you may be able to franchise?
  • You may have a great product or service – protect it by attending to patenting or trademarking.
  • Outsource anything you do not have the expertise to do yourself. There can be great benefits in drawing upon the training and experience of others

The team of accountants, lawyers and financial planners at The Quinn Group are able to assist you in all your business planning needs and provide advice on the best strategies to undertake in the wake of the GFC. Click here to make an online enquiry or contact us on 1300 QUINNS (784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to book an appointment.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Networking gets personal

Have you noticed how personal business has become recently? 

In this post-GFC era of distrust of corporations, we are relying more and more on the individual relationships we build to grow our businesses.  This is more important than ever before for financial services.

Yesterday I spoke with Dr Jim Taggart of Taggart Group about his recent doctoral thesis.  Jim chose to research the role of business networks and in particular the importance of trust, commitment and reciprocity to effective networking. 

This started me thinking about how you would select, or coach, employees who have a role that includes the important task of networking to bring in new business. 

Here are just five of the 155 traits measured by Harrison Assessments that I believe would enhance your team’s networking success:

  1. Outgoing – the tendency to be socially extroverted and enjoy meeting new people
  2. Warmth/empathy – the tendency to express positive feelings and affinity toward others
  3. Helpful – the tendency to respond to others’ needs and assist or support others to achieve their goals
  4. Optimistic – the tendency to believe the future will be positive
  5. Persistent – the tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles

Other traits that could have a positive impact on networking include self-motivation, assertiveness, diplomacy, influencing, flexibility and tolerance of bluntness.  On the other hand, care should be taken to avoid employing someone to this type of role if their profile shows they are blunt, dogmatic or self-sacrificing.

Every one of these traits can be measured as part of our online assessment that takes less than half an hour.  You can try it for yourself here.

It is possible to assess these traits in your selection process.  Employees can also improve their performance through coaching, once you know their strengths.

Imagine how your business could benefit from knowing your employees better.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What I learnt about business in two days in Hong Kong

Last week I attended expert level training on Harrison Assessments, delivered by the founder, Dr Dan Harrison.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to learn from Dan himself, as well as the many experienced users from around Asia.

It was also my first visit to Hong Kong and led me to reflect on what we could learn from the locals about doing business better.  Here’s my summary:

  1. Welcome clients like old friends, with respect and hospitality.
  2. Do your best to anticipate their needs so you make it as easy as possible for them to do business with you.
  3. Have a clear structure and processes so they know what will happen next and why – and who is responsible.

If you did just these three things, why would your clients ever want to go anywhere else?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

1 in 3 candidates lie. Will you hire a liar?

Applying for their dream job, or any job, can bring out the worst in some people.  Studies consistently show that at least a third of all candidates are prone to ‘embellish’ their suitability for the job they want.

What do candidates lie about?

The three most common lies you will encounter in a recruiting situation are:

1. Falsifying or exaggerating qualifications, often including courses that were started but never finished.

2. Inflating experience or expertise by inflating past salaries and titles, perhaps by exaggerating the level of involvement in important business deals.

3. Discrepancies in employment dates such as extending end dates to cover periods of unemployment.

How do you know you’re being lied to?

Experienced interviewers are good at reading the signs, but even obvious ‘clues’ may be misinterpreted:

  • Body language can be unreliable as an indicator of honesty in job interviews.  Perhaps anxiety, rather than dishonesty, is causing your interviewee to fidget or avoid eye contact.  How could you be sure?
  • Verbal cues may indicate incongruence between the facts and what they’ve claimed in their CV.  This may show up in extra words, fillers like ‘um’ and delayed answers to your questions as they try to think of the next lie.  On the other hand, this behaviour might be entirely natural under the pressure of a job interview.

There are some more subtle indicators of untruths in the interview:

  • Generalising and hypothesising when asked a behavioural question, such as ‘Can you tell me about a time when…’.  Behavioural interview questions work because they alert you to past behaviour, an excellent predictor of future behaviour.  If you get an answer starting with ‘I would have’ or ‘We did’, it’s time to drill down to what actually happened (as opposed to what might happen) and who was responsible (ideally, your candidate).
  • Avoiding answering the question.  Politicians are the experts at this!  When interviewing, you need to be like the persistent journalist:  If your question isn’t answered, repeat it until you get a satisfactory answer.

Why would you want to detect deception?

There are two main steps in the recruitment process where candidates are prone to deception in order to improve their chances:  the CV and the interview.

If these are your only sources of information for recruitment decisions, you are at risk of employing someone who may be dishonest in other aspects of their relationship with you, your colleagues and your clients.

Five steps to minimise the risk of hiring someone ‘careless with the facts’

1. Screen carefully for minimum eligibility requirements.  Don’t be dazzled by a sparkling resume if there are gaps in qualifications or experience.  The best way screen is by using an application process that includes an application form, either physical or online.

2. Check qualifications with the issuing institution.  Job applicants can – and do – falsify diplomas and transcripts.  Is not checking worth the risk to your business?

3. Use structured interviews with clear, concise and relevant questions, including behaviourally based questions.

4. Always reference check and include the question ‘Would you hire this person again?’

5. Use a personality test that specifically identifies deception and other behavioural tendencies that might lead to future problems.  The Harrison Assessments questionnaire is the most deception-proof in the assessment industry.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Paradox and the one little word you can’t ignore

accountability

A client in Western Australia recently called regarding a profile we had just provided for a candidate.  When shown the report, the candidate had questioned its validity because some of the traits listed appeared to be contradictory.

We notice contradictions because we are conditioned to thinking in terms of opposites:  good and evil, right and wrong, black and white.  The reaction to Tiger Woods in recent months is an example of this at work.  Our conditioning leads us to want an explanation of how, for instance, someone so brilliant and talented (at golf) could be so stupid.

The elusive ‘and’

A more realistic approach is to view individual characteristics in terms of complementarity rather than contrast.

Let’s explore what the paradox means in the real world

When you look at the people you already know well, are they always one thing or the other?  Or are they more complex, able to show a range of behaviours in different situations?

What about yourself?  Have you ever been told that you are, for example, an introvert when you know you can also be an extrovert?  Was there any value to you in being labelled this way?

You are an infinitely complex being.  We all are!  Imagine how boring and predictable life would be otherwise.

The power of paradox

So what was going on with our candidate mentioned above?  Why did his profile show he possessed some traits that we expect to be opposites of each other?

One of the unique strengths of Harrison Assessments is that, unlike other tools, it takes the apparent paradoxes in our makeup and uses them to predict behaviour.

Most behavioural assessments fail to provide this insight because they rely on a traditional bipolar approach of measurement, which assumes an either/or relationship between traits by placing two related positive qualities on either end of a scale.

Communication, for example, typically looks at Diplomatic and Frank as traits. By placing Diplomatic and Frank on either end of the same scale, the bipolar approach assumes that the more Diplomatic you are, the less Frank you are and vice versa.

This assumption is false.

paradox-technology2paradox-technology1

Paradox: You can be both Frank and Diplomatic or neither

When you want insights into employee behaviour, will measuring communication in one dimension give you all the information you need?

What is important is not whether a person is Frank or Diplomatic, but the extent of their frankness and diplomacy to understand how these traits compliment each other.

 paradox-technology-communicators paradox-technology-blunt-evansive

To learn more about Paradox technology, click here or give us a call.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Fresh Ideas for Work and Family’ Grants Start Now

Grants to make your business family friendly

The “Fresh Ideas for Work and Family” Grants Program helps small businesses set up family friendly work practices.

If you have a small business with between 1 and 14 employees then funding of up to $15,000 is available to help you with your work/life balance initiatives. These initiatives may include home-based work programs, flexible work practices such as job sharing and part-time work, flexible workplace policies and guidelines, family rooms and more. The focus of the program is to help employees better balance their work and family obligations by making the workplace more flexible.

The funding round opens on 25 February and closes on 31 March 2010. Eligible small businesses must have a least one employee and can include companies, partnerships, not-for-profit, non-government, sole traders and a consortium of up to three small businesses.

With the workplace flexibility requirements under the new National Employment Standards and the grant being provided by DEEWR to set up flexible work practices, it is important that small businesses take advantage of this opportunity now! Flexible work arrangements also benefit both employees and the business bottom-line.

For more information and help with applying for the grant contact Kerry Fallon Horgan at Flexibility At Work on (02) 9402 4741 or email kerry@flexibility.com.au  Further details are also available at www.flexibility.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The most common hiring mistake and how to avoid it

assessments for recruiting

Imagine you need to employ a new staff member…

What’s the first thing you do?  Write an ad?  Call HR?  Brief an agency?

You’ve just made the most common mistake of managers who decide to hire:  Missing the first step.

Allow me to explain…

Have you ever found yourself interviewing a job applicant and thinking “This is a total waste of time”?

Usually, you’ve come to this conclusion within a few seconds.  Unfortunately, you’re committed to carry on the interview until a reasonable time has elapsed for the candidate to believe they have had a fair hearing.

Why was this person, so clearly unsuited to the role, even sitting in front of you?

They were there because they had submitted an impressive application in response to an advertisement.

Clearly something was wrong in the process.  Either

1.  the advertisement was not specific enough about the requirements or

2.  the application was not adequately scrutinised for a match to the specific requirements of the role.

Start your recruitment process with one simple question and I guarantee it will be much faster, easier and more productive:

“What would it take for someone to be an outstanding performer in this role?”

(Because you only want to hire outstanding performers, don’t you?)

Here are three simple steps to help you define what you’re looking for in your ideal candidate:

1.  List all your requirements for the role (=success factors).  Include

  • skills
  • qualifications
  • work experience
  • values
  • attitudes
  • motivation
  • interpersonal skills
  • task and work environment preferences
  • interests

2.  Now decide which of these you must have (=essential criteria) and those which would be nice to have (=desirable criteria).

3.  Are there any personal characteristics which you definitely don’t want (= traits to avoid)?  For example, you might wish to avoid employing someone who has a strong desire for money while lacking the personal drive required to earn it.

Now – and not before – you are ready to ‘go to the market’ with your requirements.

Then:

  • Get ready to receive applications that are more relevant and targeted;
  • Stick to your wish list;
  • Evaluate the success of your recruitment campaign by the quality of the candidates, not by the number of applicants; and
  • Avoid wasting time in interviews that should never have been scheduled!

Tip:    Review your job descriptions to include success factors for more efficient and effective recruiting next time round.

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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