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

There is something worse than rejection. It’s uncertainty.

When was the last time you experienced rejection? Was it following a job application? Perhaps you put forward a brilliant idea that was ignored or discounted by someone else.

Rejection feels dreadful and most people will do whatever they can to avoid it.

You know the feeling. You are so demoralised and discouraged you don’t want to do anything. Remember? Could anything be worse?

As humans, we are programmed to avoid rejection at all costs. Rejection from the family or the tribe meant almost certain death to our distant ancestors. We have evolved to avoid rejection as a very natural survival mechanism.

How does rejection feel for you?

When we fear public speaking, we fear rejection. When we don’t want to make a sales call, it’s because we are afraid the answer will be ‘no’. Rejection again.  As are the times when we don’t follow up on a job application because while we don’t know the answer, we can convince ourselves it might be ‘yes’.

When was the last time you stopped yourself from putting forward your ideas in a meeting because you weren’t sure they’d be welcome? A classic and typical business example of avoiding the discomfort of rejection.

What could be worse than rejection?

We all know how rejection feels. We don’t want to experience it. We also – usually – don’t want others to experience it. In fact, sometimes we go to the extent of lying so we don’t impose rejection on others.

We want the world to see us as friendly, kind people. Within that hope lies fear of rejection. So instead of telling the truth, we choose to generate some uncertainty.

Here’s a scenario familiar to many of us: You apply for a job, you are interviewed and it goes well. The people seem friendly and they say they’ll let you know. You really want that job and you are feeling good about it. There are other jobs you could be applying for but there was something about this one that makes you hold off on going for the others.

A couple of weeks later, you still haven’t heard, so you call. Only then do you find out that the job has gone to an internal candidate. Your application and interview were great, they say, but you just didn’t have the level of experience of the other person.

What would be your preference now? Would you rather have had a clear ‘no’ immediately, or hear it now? What could you have achieved in the meantime, instead of hanging on thinking the job just might be yours?

This post is a plea for us all to be more honest. With those close to us, with team members, with anyone trying to sell us something.

How to handle rejection

When you have to give an answer to the question of employing someone, buying their product or trying their ideas, there are only three possible responses:

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Later

By being honest about your intentions, early, everyone can move on. The first two options are fairly clear. Use option three only if you mean it. In that case, give the other person a set date when you will be ready to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

From dealing with the latest telemarketer to management to parenting, this principle will save time and pain all round.

What do you think?

Do you agree we could all be more happy and productive if we were a little more honest with each other? Next time someone tries to sell you an idea, product or service, will you be able to override your fear rejection and give them an honest answer?

Need some help? Dealing with rejection – from both sides – is a key leadership skill. Click here to see how we can help you understand and develop your leadership strengths.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Employee engagement is “everything money can’t buy”

employee engagement

The inspiration for this post on employee engagement came from an unlikely source – a drive in the country. We visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes. Although there’s no longer a town, there’s a sign that says Newnes, followed by the tagline: ‘Everything money can’t buy’.

When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour. There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work. They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.

Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.

People want to feel the work they do is making a difference. Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:

“I know my company always acts ethically”

“The work we do here helps society”

“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”

“I’m learning new skills that will give me a hand in my career and that I can pass on to others”

“My work matters”

Can you tell me where you can buy that sort of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’. There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has their unique combination of things that money can’t buy. How do you find out what will employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of employee expectations. With the Harrison Assessments Engagement and Retention Analysis, we examine these expectations in eight categories:

  1. Development
  2. Appreciation
  3. Remuneration
  4. Communication
  5. Authority
  6. Personal
  7. Social
  8. Balance

Here’s a small part of an individual Engagement and Retention Analysis report, to give you a taste of what’s possible:

Employee engagement indiv

We can also analyse the expectations fo any size group. Here’s a tiny snippet of the information you’ll get in a group Engagement and Retention Analysis report:

Employee engagement group

Beyond the colourful graphs, the detailed narrative in each report can help you improve your business results by showing how to increase employee engagement. You will know what people want, how important different factors are to them and how to address those needs to create better performance.

If you would like to experience our unique approach to employee engagement, get in touch!

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.

"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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