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

CDAA Workshop: Expand your Career Assessment Toolkit

career assessment toolkit

Event Details

Name: NSW Event: Expand your Career Assessment Toolkit (24 Sept)
Venue: UTS City Campus, Cnr Quay St & Ultimo Rd Haymarket.
Date: 24/09/2016
Time: 8:30 AM To: 12:30 PM
Sign-up Before: 23/09/2016 12:00 PM
Contact Details
Name: Leonie Stanfield
Phone: 0412 595 991
Email: leonie.stanfield@grouptraining.com.au
Price
Member: $70.00
Corporate: $90.00
Non-member: $120.00
CPD Hours / Competencies
CPD Hours: 4

Expand your Career Assessment Toolkit

Utilizing career assessment tools effectively can benefit your clients and your practice. In this interactive ½ day workshop we will explore the use of Harrison Assessments, Career Compass and Career Voyage (from JIIG-CAL), and a range of simple no cost tools and strategies that can be used to assist clients anywhere and anytime.

Susan Rochester will take us through the background to the Harrison Career Navigator and give participants the experience of using the reports. Attendees will have the opportunity to complete the Harrison questionnaire prior to the workshop and receive their own results at no extra cost.

The Harrison assessment provides a comprehensive picture of your client by taking into account their career interests, task and work environment preferences, engagement factors, interpersonal skills, attitudes, values and motivations, as well as personality. The resulting reports give you a strong foundation for building rapport and giving targeted, effective advice based on their individual strengths.

Brian Horan will lead us through an overview of Career Compass (from JIIG-CAL) for students 11-14 years; a fun, easy and intelligent way to explore suitable career pathways, make realistic plans and discover jobs of greatest interest. Career Voyage (from JIIG-CAL) is an internationally recognised, high quality career planning system designed for career seekers of all ages (15+) administered by career practitioners. Career Voyage takes career seekers to the next stage in their career journey and generates Occupational Interest Profiles, 20 Job Suggestions ranked in order of suitability, detailed Job information, Qualification Requirements, etc.

Airlie Bell will share some simple, no-cost tools and strategies that careers practitioners can use to assist clients when proprietary tools and resources are unavailable due to cost or context.

Presenter Biographies

Susan Rochester, through her company Balance at Work, has been a Harrison Assessments Solutions Partner since 2008 and is an accredited expert and trainer in the use of the Harrison Career Navigator reports. Susan combines her in-depth knowledge of Harrison Assessments with over 18 years’ consulting and coaching experience to provide practical advice for your specific career consulting and business needs.

Brian Horan has worked as a Careers Advisor in an independent NSW High School (HS) for seventeen years and has also worked with unemployed youth. Brian operates his own Career Consultancy and is also currently working in the tertiary education sector. Brian prefers to use Career Voyage to assist Years 10 to 12 students and uses Career Voyage with his private practice clients. Brian is a certified Career Voyage Trainer and the NSW Representative for JIIG-CAL Australia.

Airlie Bell is based in Armidale NSW, and in the course of her work across the region has acquired a portfolio of careers tools that have proved effective and accessible to students and clients of all ages, and across a wide range of circumstances. Airlie has a private careers practice, teaches post-graduate career development at university, and contracts to government and corporate clients for professional development and outplacement counselling. Her aim is to educate and empower clients with the skills and knowledge to successfully manage their own lifelong career transitions. She has a long standing interest in developing career literacy across the community.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Employee engagement: 5 ways to kill it

Employee engagement is a favourite topic with employers and staff alike. The annual employee engagement survey always has some interesting results!

With this level of interest and investment in engagement, you’d think we’d be finding people are happier at work. Instead, research shows in survey after survey that overall job satisfaction is remarkably stable with ‘x%’ ready to leave their jobs and move on at any time.

How do good organisations kill employee engagement?

Here are just some of the less obvious ways we’ve seen managers get it wrong – even when they thought they were working on employee engagement.

1. Scrimping on essential resources

A computer system that works is an example of a basic requirement for anyone working in an office environment these days. Unfortunately, that can’t always be assumed to exist. When glitches aren’t fixed promptly, employees waste time and energy on expensive workarounds.

2. Having processes that don’t make sense

The carefully designed process may have made a lot of sense in the meeting that developed it. How much time was spent consulting the people who will have to use it?

3. Taking away employees’ autonomy

Employees want feedback on their work – especially if it’s given in a timely and constructive way. The rest of the time, they like to feel trusted to do a good job in the work you employed them to do. By micromanaging, you remove their sense of autonomy and, ultimately, their engagement and productivity.

4. Failing to invest in career development and training

You hired your staff for specific skills, qualifications, and experience. They probably spent a lot of time and money to get to the point where you could benefit from their investment. Now it’s your turn to make them even more valuable.

5. Expecting staff to compete not collaborate

While you can motivate some employees by having an in-house rivalry, others will feel completely disengaged if they are forced to compete against their colleagues. Can you identify who fits into which group on your team? Or do you just treat them all the same?

What if there was a way to find out how to improve your employee engagement?

The good news is that there are lots of ways. The simplest place to start is asking your staff. You might be surprised by what they tell you – and you’ll know more than you knew before!

Aside from the annual engagement surveys, you can access a range of tools to solve the employee engagement puzzle. Here are a few to consider:

1.  Engagement and Retention Analysis (ERA)

Available from the Harrison Assessments suite of reports, with the data collected in one online short questionnaire, ERA reports are available for individuals and any group size. Click on the images below to see samples.

ERA teamERA report

2.  Weekly targetted check-ins

If you’re super efficient at meetings, then you could do this face to face. A more productive and useful approach could be to use a tool like 15Five that allows you to ask the questions you want to ask. And get the answers you need to take action.

3.  360 degree feedback

Employee engagement is mostly in the hands of your managers and team leaders. Sadly they may not always be delivering the basics you expect. It can take you months or years to find this out if you’re not proactive about getting feedback from staff. We can help you set up a feedback survey tailored for your situation.

Not sure where to start with employee engagement?

We’d love to help you navigate the most efficient and economical way to improve your employee engagement. Find out more or get in touch!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Inbox tips to change your life

Do you come back to an overflowing inbox after holidays and weekends? How does that affect your productivity?

Worse still, do you spend holiday or weekend time handling emails to avoid the ‘inbox shock’ on your return?

If you let emails determine what you will do next, you are giving other people the power to determine your priorities.

If there are days when what’s in your inbox sets your agenda, and you reach the end of the day feeling like you haven’t achieved anything, this tip is for you:

Remember these three elements that you have the power to control:

1. YOU decide when you will read and deal with your emails

The jobs where something terribly serious will happen if you don’t read and respond to an email immediately are very few.

It is OK to keep your email program closed except for the times you have decided, in advance, to view and process emails. Don’t worry if you have an email to send. Just open your email program temporarily via your Contacts tab or your CRM and avoid the temptation to check your inbox.

Try it for a while, and you’ll realise that in most cases, the sender will have forgotten their email until they receive your reply anyway. If it is urgent, they will call you.

And if you still have notifications on your screen or smartphone every time you receive and email, turn off that function immediately.

2. YOU control what makes it into your inbox

All email systems have within them the potential to reduce your inbox overwhelm — if you know how to use all their features.

Set up folders for the main categories of emails your receive, and then as emails come in, set up rules for how you want similar emails handled when they hit your inbox in the future. You will cut down on what makes it to your inbox — and your attention — in the first place.

One example would be to set up a rule for all emails from family and friends to go into a ‘Personal’ folder that you might check once a day or so.

Another example is to divert all regular newsletters you receive into a ‘Reading’ folder for you to read when you have time to catch up. The aim is to reduce distraction when you do check your inbox — at the scheduled time, of course!

While you’re sorting out your email folders and rules, you can also send emails from specific senders straight to spam, trash or delete, and you never need to see them at all.

To find out more about how to set up these features in your email program, simply use your favourite search engine.

3. YOU can get help if you need it

Constantly checking email and feeling the need to respond immediately is a habit (dare I say, addiction?) that you can cure with a mixture of willpower and support.

I found the strength I needed to break my habit with two Gmail plug-ins, ActiveInbox and UnrollMe, and you may find other apps for similar tasks in other systems. In my case, I use ActiveInbox mainly to classify emails, connect them to projects, add notes and decide when and how I’ll process them.

UnrollMe has made a huge difference to my working life. Simply installing it made it easy for me to unsubscribe from 728 email lists that I’d subscribed to over the years but were no longer relevant. All those regular emails I do want were then combined in a once-daily ‘Rollup’ that I scan to click and read anything of interest, as well as unsubscribe from any new subscriptions if they’re unwanted.

[Update July 2017: The latest tool in my ‘inbox toolbox’ is Drag. Quick to install and easy to learn, it’s perfect for those emails you want to keep for now because they are really tasks. A big bonus is that with Drag you organise them in the Kanban 3-column format of ‘To Do’ ‘Doing’ ‘Done’. And when you don’t need the reminder anymore, simply click a green ‘Archive’ button to see it disappear from your inbox. Using this system is another way to ensure your inbox only contains those emails that absolutely have to be there. Love it!]

All the ideas above will take a little time to implement and get used to, but the energy and stress you will save once you’ve put them in place will far outweigh the initial effort.

You have the power to change your relationship with your inbox. When will you start?

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Performance reviews no more? 3 things to consider!

When I first heard of big name companies like Deloitte and Accenture ditching their annual performance reviews, I have to say I became a bit excited! Anyone who has worked in HR or line management – no, let’s make that anyone who’s worked – knows what a pain they can be.

Not only is it the people management task managers often have the most trouble completing. Often to produce results that are at best meaningless. At worst, performance reviews can be destructive, demoralising and unlikely to produce better performance.

Can you tell I’m not a big fan of the traditional performance review?

Yes, that would be true when the emphasis is on ‘traditional’. You know the one I mean. It comes around every 6 or 12 months, it’s 5 pages long, it contains rating scores and there’s a collective groan when it arrives. You complete the form first, then negotiate with your manager about the ratings you’ve given yourself. This negotiation can be high stakes if the results also determine your salary.

Instead of the process above, I’ve long thought that in a perfect world, feedback would be continuous. Then the performance reviews, if they had to happen, would be more of a formality, codifying what is already known. No energy-draining difficult conversations and no surprises!

In most places I’ve worked, this would amount to a very idealistic world view. And it’s a view I’m prepared to adjust on my reading of recent research into performance reviews.

What you could miss if you drop performance reviews

There are several risks an organisation takes if management decides to drop performance ratings or reviews. Most of them relate to removing the mandated conversation that has to happen between a manager and his staff. By cutting back on the performance reviews, you could miss out due to:

  • Lost opportunity for discussions beyond day-to-day task management and reporting
  • Less engagement with employees as managers retreat to doing what’s essential for their immediate KPIs
  • Lower productivity from high performing employees because they aren’t getting positive feedback on their performance

How do you get the best of both worlds?

More than most, I understand the desire to ditch the traditional performance review. That could work as long as other processes are in place to avoid the risks listed above. In my experience, the organisations who have successfully done so are rare – and well-resourced. My hybrid solution would combine the following with a scaled-back performance review process.

  • Creating opportunities (and motivation) for regular feedback for all team members
  • Asking the right questions, focussed on what is important to both greater employee engagement and delivery of the strategic plan
  • Consistent, regular and effective feedback (in both directions)

Implementing these changes will be easier with the right tools. We recommend using 15Five to create opportunities, asking the right questions and being consistent.

Get your free trial of 15Five now to see how it can change your approach to performance reviews.

What do you think?

Please share your view below. Have you tried new approaches already? What has worked for you?

Are you ready to try something new but don’t know where to start? We’d love to help you sort it out if you get in touch!

Postscript:

Following the publication of this post, the Australian Financial Review published a related article the next day about GE replacing performance reviews with regular check-ins. If you’re exploring doing the same, here’s the first step in your research.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

NAGCAS launches 2 new awards

Rising Star Award is a new initiative of the NAGCAS Community, sponsored by Balance at Work, that recognises the work of individuals and teams who are contributing towards new projects in the early stages of development.

Two categories are available in the Rising Star Awards (please see below for entry details):

  • Rising Star Individual
  • Rising Start Project

UPDATE: And the winners are…

We were impressed by the variety and standard of the entries for the inaugural awards and would like to congratulate all those involved. Here are the winners of the first Rising Star and Rising Start Awards:

Rising Star (Individual) Award: Grant Verhoeven, Massey University, New Zealand

Grant is pictured here with finalists Michelle Moss from Edith Cowan University, Western Australia and Jennifer Burke from the University of Southern Queensland. Absent – Diane McLaren, University of Western Australia. Photo credit – Khadraa Mustafa, University of Adelaide.

Rising Start (Project) Award: Joint winners were La Trobe University, Victoria (Project Coordinator, Michael Healy) and from Australian Catholic University (Project Coordinator, Tina Li).

Other finalists in this category were Flinders University (Coordinator, Verity Kingsmill) and RMIT (Coordinator, Piera Ibrahim).

The team from La Trobe are pictured below (L to R): Kelly McDermott, Michael Healy, Dr Michael Emmerling. Absent: Dr Dilhani Premaratna

Entry details

Entries have closed and these details are provided here for your information only…

Entry will be via Nomination and will include a description of the individual or project in accordance with the submission requirements below. Video entries covering the requirements below will also be considered in place of a written submission with a maximum length of 6-minutes. All nominations (written or video) will be showcased on the NAGCAS website.

Rising Star Individual Criteria

A nominated Rising Star Individual is a careers staff member who has been associated with NAGCAS for three years or less.

They are contributing towards new initiatives in the early stages of development with the initiative commencing after 1 January 2016.

Please note that Rising Star (Individual) Nominees will not need to make a presentation.

Rising Star Individual Submission Requirements

  • Images: Individual and Institution Logo
  • Individual details: Name, role
  • Date the individual started in their Careers related role
  • 500 words describing the individual and their contribution to the team
  • 500 words outlining their achievements to date
  • Nomination/Submission Contact: Name, email, institution, role
  • The individual nominated must be a current financial NAGCAS Individual member
  • The nomination form needs to be submitted by a current financial NAGCAS Individual member

Rising Start Project Criteria

A Rising Start Project is a new initiative of a careers team that has the potential to contribute to our sector across any of the following categories: Careers, Employability, Volunteering, Placements & Internships, Leadership, Exchange, Mobility or similar.

Projects can be a sole venture or involve working with another team in your institution or with an external partner.

As these initiatives are new, they do not need to be finished or polished, but must have commenced after 1 January 2016.

Rising Start Project Submission Requirements

  • Images: Project and Institution Logo
  • Project coordinator details: Name(s), role(s)
  • Date the project started
  • 500 words describing project
  • 500 words outlining the project outcomes to date
  • Nomination/Submission Contact: Name, email, institution, role
  • The nomination form needs to be submitted by a current financial NAGCAS Individual member

For questions regarding Rising Star Awards please contact: Catherine Klimeš – (08) 830 27853 UniSA, Adelaide, SA

We look forward to encouraging our Rising Stars to progress to Best Practice entries in the future.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Timely feedback leads to better performance

Many high-performing companies, especially in the startup and tech sectors, are happily dropping the traditional performance review.

Instead, they favour giving and requesting feedback when it can have the most impact on performance — both at the individual and business level.

(If you have children or a dog, you have no doubt already discovered this!)

The business benefits of more timely feedback

As external markets, including the labour market, change rapidly, the one sustainable competitive advantage a business can rely on is its staff.

To unlock value, employers need to engage their employees. We are fortunate today to have employees who are more educated, more mobile and who expect to apply their skills. They want to be involved, recognised and developed at work.

Implementing timely feedback builds engagement, grows skills and enhances productivity, which leads to better overall business performance.

What about your business?

Even if your business is not a fast-growing startup, in some instances you’d probably like to raise certain issues or topics well before the next round of performance reviews or staff surveys.

For example:

  • There’s something in your systems and processes that is frustrating for clients and staff.
  • One of your staff has an idea that could revolutionise your business.
  • You have a manager who is acting as a bottleneck for their team.

In situations, a timely feedback approach could pick up early signs so you can take appropriate action. At the same time, the organisation is showing employees that someone is listening. Both outcomes allow your business to become more agile and productive while engaging employees.

How can a business have timely feedback with minimal effort and maximum effect?

In the past five years, a completely new category of apps and online programs has emerged for this purpose.

If you already use a software package for performance appraisals or staff engagement surveys, it’s possible your provider also has a simplified feedback tool in their catalogue.

With more options coming onto the market all the time, you can find one that precisely suits your needs – if you know what you’re after. A few points to consider are:

  • What’s your purpose?
    If you are looking for a continuous feedback tool to replace your traditional performance appraisals, you might look at WIRL and similar apps. On the other hand, if you are looking for a replacement for a suggestion box or staff survey, you might investigate 15Five. If the primary motivation is to increase engagement, look at hppy or Tap My Back and similar tools. Most of the apps mentioned here perform multiple tasks, so it’s possible to find a good match to your needs.
  • Simple questions or a survey?
    Some systems allow you to customise and schedule specific questions on a weekly basis, while others may provide a set of questions that you can distribute as a survey and less frequently. Think about how much control you would like to have and how much data you want to collect. Keep in mind that more information usually means more work, at least in the short term.
  • Anonymous or identified?
    This depends on your current culture and levels of trust in the organisation. If answers are anonymous, people may be more open but you will likely get more noise in your system. When feedback is not anonymous, employees need to know they will not be penalised in any way for a controversial opinion. The advantage to having respondents identified is that you will be able to show your appreciation for their individual contributions, seek further clarification if needed, and work with them on ideas and solutions.
  • Frequency and timing
    Quality feedback is more likely if your app is easy to use, doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and will work on mobile devices. The most efficient and effective will simply become a regular part of your workflows, just like a weekly staff meeting — only shorter and more productive!
  • What happens to the data?
    This point should be both first and last, because it is so important. Just as you wouldn’t introduce a new CRM without knowing its features and how you plan to use it, starting to use a feedback app without a plan for how you’ll treat the results would be a waste of time. Don’t start until you can articulate why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the data. The same applies if you’re not ready to acknowledge and act on the feedback.

A word of caution

Time spent with your staff setting ground rules and training at all levels will make your feedback system much more meaningful and productive.

To feel confident using the new feedback process, every user must be clear about the expected feedback standards. They also need to believe someone will appreciate their opinions and ideas and take action based on them. With the most advanced — or most simple — feedback process, covering the basics first is the key to uncovering better performance through timely feedback.

Now’s a good time to consider what you could gain through timely feedback. Would you want to risk losing people because they feel their input is rarely required and mostly ignored, but will be valued by one of your competitors? Alternatively, would you prefer to tap into the knowledge, skills, experience and creativity of your staff through timely feedback?

The choice is yours.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What’s going to happen when you lift that rock?

Have you ever lifted a rock and found an ants’ nest underneath? How did the ants react?

I bet they ran around like crazy!

A conversation I had today reminded me of this experience. I was talking to someone who is managing a team where the previous manager micro-managed everything the team members did. They had no authority to make even minor decisions on their own and being corrected, coerced and cajoled was part of their everyday working life.

The previous manager was the rock, sitting hard on top of the team. Keeping them in check and letting them know exactly where they stood – and where they couldn’t go.

Enter the new manager. A manager who expects the team to take responsibility for their own work. A manager who is not interested in the minutiae of what that work entails. A manager who won’t give direction on every task. A manager who expects them to think for themselves.

The rock has been lifted and the team has gone a little off the rails…

When they’re not used to having any freedom or responsibility, it’s not hard to imagine how that might happen. It may even be frightening for them. They may be feeling as if things are spiralling out of control.

How do you remove the rock without creating chaos?

  • Be clear about the expectations
  • Let the team know they have your support
  • Be there for them as they adjust to the new world they live in (the air, the light!)

There may be one or two who get lost along the way but be assured an ant colony can rebuild at a remarkable rate. Human teams can be equally surprising in how quickly they reform and perform.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Hiring for customer relationship success

Relate to your boss

Customer relationships are so important — no matter what the role or organisation. 

When selecting staff, we may think that the technical skills they possess, their experience and their qualifications are most important in our decision-making process. We may pay less attention to the so-called ‘soft’ skills, and often this is where we see it all fall apart further down the track.

What should we look for when we’re hiring?

‘Nice’ is the enemy of excellence when it comes to choosing staff with the right traits to deliver the highest expected standards of service to your customers and their own peers and managers.

Excellent customer service in any role requires:

  • Empathy
    The ability to identify with another person and to express that empathy when dealing with customers and co-workers.
  • Optimism
    A positive outlook and an expectation that there can be a favourable outcome to any customer interaction, including complaints.
  • Self-motivation
    A natural tendency to take the initiative to help a client and to be enthusiastic about helping them — and a willingness to take on new challenges.
  • Helpfulness
    A natural inclination to put others’ needs first, so that the customer will always feel that they and their needs are important.
  • Diplomacy
    The ability to be tactful and communicate effectively in even the most stressful situations.
  • Outgoing
    Happy and comfortable to meet new people. Even a naturally reserved person may be able to be outgoing when required, provided this is not their main job.
  • Learning
    A willingness to learn from mistakes will lead to continuous improvement with benefits for your organisation.

How do we identify employees with these traits? 

At every stage of the recruitment and selection process, you can be on the lookout for signs of the characteristics above.

  • Application letter
    Do they demonstrate an enthusiasm for the role and the challenges it represents? Have they shown that they understand the role and your requirements?
  • Resume
    Does their work and study history show that they have a customer service orientation? Even if they haven’t worked in customer service, there will be indicators in the way they describe previous roles and in other aspects of their resume, such as voluntary work.
  • Interview
    While enthusiasm, politeness and a positive attitude are easily noticed, they are also sometimes easily faked. Make sure you dig deeper to get real examples of how the candidate has acted in the past to provide excellent customer service. When you do, be listening for evidence that they possess the traits we have listed above.
  • Work preference testing
    There are multiple psychometric assessments that are available which will give you detailed information about a person’s natural tendencies with regard to customer service success. Some will also flag any unhelpful behaviours that may appear when the person is feeling stressed.
  • Reference checking
    Make sure you ask about how the prospective employee usually interacted with customers and other staff. Have there been any instances where they have failed to provide the best service? What was the situation and how did they handle it? Did they learn from the experience?

It will never be possible to predict customer service success with 100 percent accuracy, but taking the steps above can help you identify and hire staff who have the best chances of delivering the levels of customer service you and your customers expect.

Remember, these steps are important for any person in any role that interacts with others.

What will you change next time you’re hiring?

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Project Manager Job Template

workplace training

Here is Dr Dan Harrison’s explanation for why Harrison Assessments doesn’t have a Project Manager template.

One of the most common JSF requests I receive is Project Manager. It’s a logical request because it is a very common role. Project Managers can be found in almost every organization within every industry; and this is why Project Manager cannot be a JSF. It is too generic.

Project Managers can be found within engineering companies and software companies. The same title can be found on construction sites and within manufacturing plants. Strategic consulting firms and landscaping companies all have Project Managers.

About the only thing Project Managers within engineering, software, construction, manufacturing, consulting, and lawn care have in common is their title. The traits that make a Project Manager successful in engineering are not the same for Project Managers in other industries.

Making matters more challenging, Project Manager is often an individual’s functional role and not a job title.

Directors of Engineering are often times assigned the role of Project Manager; however, their official title is Director of Engineering. What does this mean?

It means the Director of Engineering JSF includes the traits necessary to effectively project manage engineering initiatives since it is critical for this JSF.

This is true for all the job titles that need to lead and manage projects. The specific project management traits are already included within the JSF.

There are other things to consider that have a great impact of the content of the JSF – for example interpersonal interactions, number of people supervised, etc.

So, in conclusion…

Although, we cannot create a catch all Project Management JSF we have already captured the project management traits within the Job Titles that incur the responsibilities of a Project Manager.

If you have other JSFs or would like to discuss how to address other generic cross-functional roles, please share.

Discussions like these help us all learn and better serve our clients.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

5 steps to crafting a business

If you have started a business, chances are part of what got you started and keeps you going is the joy of creating something new — something the world wouldn’t have without your inspiration and hard work.

It’s not only the traditionally titled ‘creatives’ who create, and starting a successful business has much in common with more artistic pursuits. The critical, practical, steps you need to follow are the same, whether you’re building something handmade or crafting a business.

1. Inspiration

You know what you want to create, and the clearer you are about your finished product or business, the easier it will be to proceed.

On the other hand, a creative mind is an open mind, so it’s important always to be aware of information that will impact your project or business. By doing so, you may find a better way to achieve your desired goal.

Tip: Give yourself space and time to dream and to capture new ideas.

2. Design

Once your vision is clear, map out how you’ll achieve it.

In business, this is your strategic plan. The more detailed the plan, the easier it will be to follow – for you and others — and to know what comes next.

Tip: Translate what’s in your head into a format that makes it easy to check progress and share with others.

3. Tools

Now that you have your design mapped out, what skills, materials and tools do you need to bring it to life?

In the excitement of starting a new project, it can be easy to discount the importance of this step. It can be tempting to dive right in and get started, only to find out later that you’ve missed something essential to the project’s successful completion.

Avoid this frustration by identifying any gaps before you begin.

Tip: Find what’s missing and do what you can to be prepared before you start so your project (or business) can run smoothly.

4. Implement – and adapt

Nothing gets created until you take action to implement your plan. Without this step, you are just daydreaming. Time for imagination and reflection is vital, but constantly putting off starting something until you find the perfect way to create something can stop you from doing anything.

Tip: Make a start! If it turns out your plan isn’t working, change course. In the process, you’ve just learnt one method that won’t work to achieve your desired outcome.

5. Celebrate

Whether you’ve created a piece of furniture, a work of art, or achieved a business goal, it’s a wonderful feeling to sit back and admire your handiwork. Most business people don’t do this enough. All too often, we move quickly on to the next project and forget this step completely.

Tip: You made it! Enjoy the moment and appreciate what you’ve done. And remember to thank all those who helped you with your wonderful creation.

Starting and running a business is one of the most creative activities you can engage in. By applying the same simple steps you would follow in your leisure time to create a handmade piece, make a special dish, or build a garage or a garden, you can also create structure, process and discipline in your business.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How to delegate effectively

hire for culture

Delegation is one of the top three people-management challenges for business owners and managers. The other top challenges are hiring the right people and managing poor performance. All three require us to step outside our comfort zone.

Why is delegating so challenging? How can we do it better?

Most things you’ve achieved in your business career have involved some element of control, be it control over money, your environment, or yourself.

Eventually your career reaches a point where to achieve more you have to let go and hand over at least some control to other people. No wonder this is a bit frightening! Instead of feeling a sense of relief, often you are instead feeling quite anxious and uncertain.

How do successful delegators achieve so much? They excel at getting things done through others because they know how to do five things, and — given time and patience — you can do them too.

1. Know your staff

You are comfortable doing certain tasks yourself because you have a deep understanding of what you can and can’t do, what challenges you’re willing to take on and what support you might need. Make it your goal to find out these things about your staff to make delegation easier.

When you know more about their capabilities, task preferences, goals and limitations, it will help you to trust them to get the work done. You may also avoid some potential pitfalls in assigning work because you’ll be more likely to achieve a good fit between the person and the task.

2. Be clear about why

You know the reason for the task — and for passing it on to someone else. Make sure they also understand your intentions when you ask them to do something.

3. Be clear on outcomes — the what and when

What result are you expecting and when? How will they know when they’ve done what’s required?

4. Don’t try to control the how

Micromanaging is not delegation. If you have enough confidence in someone to delegate a task to them, then take the next step and trust them to get it done.

Their methods may not be identical to yours, but if they reach the desired outcome while adhering to company quality standards and policies, does that matter?

Instead of looking over their shoulder, you can relax and get on with whatever it was that you were going to do now you’ve delegated that task. Who knows, they might also find a better way to get it done.

5. Stay approachable and available

The biggest delegation ‘fails’ happen when a manager dumps work on a team member but is too busy to explain, answer questions or monitor progress. It’s the fastest way to ensure you won’t get the outcome you expected.

Distance is a difficult thing to navigate when delegating, especially in the early days, but aiming to be consistent in your approach will help you and be less confusing for your team.

Effective delegation is a skill based on a set of practices you can learn and expand. The tips above apply whether you are delegating work to your staff, colleagues, contractors or freelancers.

Making the effort to delegate well is worth it.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Using assessments to recruit staff

assessments for recruiting

Assessments are being used more extensively by SMEs for selection, team building and staff development.

Here’s a quick rundown on the basics to help you choose an assessment with confidence.

What are assessments?

An assessment is any process that gives you a quantitative means of understanding how an individual thinks and behaves. They are typically used to measure the suitability of a candidate to a proposed or current role against predetermined characteristics deemed important for success by an employer, but they can also have wider application in any business.

Assessments can come in two forms: aptitude and ability tests, or personality and interest tests.

Aptitude and ability tests are aimed at determining if an individual is capable of performing a certain task. I think of these as the ‘Can they do it?’ type of test.

Personality and interest tests measure how a person would perform these tasks, as well as provide broader insights about how they interact with other people and their environment. To me, these are the ‘Will they do it?’ tests. For most employers, this is where an assessment can be very valuable because it gives you information, in advance, that is otherwise very difficult to uncover.

The outcome of the second type of assessment is usually a report that describes a person’s most likely behaviour in relation to certain criteria. The results will show whether or not a person meets your set criteria, as well as provide an insight into how they are likely to respond to certain situations.

Depending on the particular test, they can be used for recruitment, team building, succession planning and many other purposes.

Some people say they rely on assessments while others reject them outright.

Here are some of the reasons people feel the way they do:

Why use assessments?

  • Long-term payoff: While there may be an initial outlay for administering the test, it can save you in the long run by supporting better decisions.
  • Real deal: An assessment can give you a more accurate picture of a candidate than an interview.
  • Fairness: Because the tests are based on statistics, they treat each candidate equally and provide objective comparisons.
  • Beyond the test: Once the test is completed, the results can be a useful framework for further interview questions, reference-checking and onboarding.

Things to watch out for

  • Doubts about the methodology: There are many tests out there, but only a few can give you specific and relevant information, backed by benchmarked data.
  • Poor Training: If test administrators have been incorrectly or insufficiently trained, results can be easily misinterpreted.
  • Manipulation: All tests are not the same in terms of consistency checking, so it may be possible for candidates to cheat some of them.

How do you choose?

There are many assessments available.

Rather than being overwhelmed by all the details and comparisons, my advice is to choose a reputable provider with a test that has strong science behind it.

Make sure the assessment is easy to use and will give you the flexibility you need for a range of uses in your business.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

 

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