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.
“At work, do you have an opportunity to do what you do best, every day?”
Gallup has asked this question of more than 1.7 million employees in 100 companies from 65 countries. Rather disappointingly, only 20% felt that their unique strengths were being used every day at work. Even more shockingly, the longer an employee stays in an organisation, the less likely they are to feel they get to apply their strengths.
What does this mean for you?
Top performers in any organisation are those who get to do more of the things they enjoy and less of the things they don’t. This is so obvious, we sometimes miss the need to be more proactive in making sure all employees have the opportunity to experience more of the joy of using their natural talents at work.
If we are serious about improving productivity and performance, we need to be asking how we can be improving the number of people who can answer ‘yes’ to the question above.
The link between enjoyment and performance
Enjoyment and performance are linked because the level of enjoyment an employee has while performing a particular activity is directly related to the level of their performance in that activity.
When people enjoy a task, they tend to do it more and get better at it. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, good performance creates acknowledgment and positive self-regard which then causes people to enjoy the task even more. And so on…
This elegantly simple concept underlies everything we do with Harrison Assessments. Most behavioural and personality assessments fail to measure work satisfaction and are therefore limited to predicting personality, whereas Harrison Assessments go beyond personality to identify a wide range of traits linked to job fit and performance.
The link between enjoyment and engagement
Engagement survey after engagement survey tell us that employees in many workplaces are feeling they are lacking a connection with their jobs and their organisations. If this is happening in your organisation, go back to this single, simple question:
“At work, do you have an opportunity to do what you do best, every day?”
When you take the time to listen to the answers and understand how you can change your results, you’ve taken a big step to realising the full potential of your business.
At the moment I’m helping a small business with a recruitment campaign. (This is another way we use Harrison Assessments.)
In the process, I’ve been reminded of some of the dumb things people do that make it much harder for them to get a job. Here are just a few I’ve noticed this week. Please feel free to add to my list by commenting below.
1. Not selling yourself in your cover letter or resume
It’s astounding how many CVs come through where the employment history is simply a list of duties in each role. A potential employer doesn’t want to know what you were supposed to do, they want to know what you actually achieved. So tell them! And if you don’t have a long work history, tell us about other things you’ve done that are relevant and demonstrate why we should interview you.
2. Applying for jobs for which you’re clearly not qualified
If you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, then don’t waste your time, or anyone else’s, by applying. Do you expect an employer or recruiter to see some hidden quality or potential you haven’t been able to identify yourself? Of course they won’t! That’s not their job, it’s yours.
3. Making life hard for the person reading your CV
Employer have lots to read and they don’t want to work to find the information they need. If you think your story is worth 9 pages, you’re probably wrong. Would you read more than 5 pages about someone you don’t know, just because that’s what they sent you? Probably not! Keep it concise and clear if you want it to be read.
4. Using a novelty email address
There is no excuse for having an email address like email@example.com. You will not look professional (or cute). You will look like someone who doesn’t think it’s worth getting a proper email address for job applications. You may think you shouldn’t be judged on something so trivial but I guarantee you will be.
5. Being rude or condescending to staff
Yesterday we were about to let a candidate know he’d been short-listed. Being proactive, he called us first, to follow up on his application lodged late last week. On the face of it, this was a good thing.
Unfortunately, he spoke in such a condescending tone to the person taking his message that we decided to remove him from the short list. This probably sounds harsh, but if he had been successful in getting the job he would be managing staff and dealing directly with clients so we weren’t prepared to take the risk. Mind your manners, even when you think it doesn’t matter.
Are you being your own worst enemy?
It’s not easy being unemployed (I’ve been there) and it’s not easy applying for job after job. So it really disappoints me when applicants make it even harder for themselves. What unnecessary hurdles are you creating?
The first volunteer in our interview chair is Dr Howard Bell OAM, Principal Solicitor at WorkCover NSW.
When I first met Howard Bell, he was my boss and we were working in the chemistry department at the University of Sydney. That was 35 years ago and a lot has happened since then! We hope you enjoy reading his story.
What’s your current position and what do you do?
Principal Lawyer at WorkCover. It’s the best job in the world. I love it because it helps to build a safer and healthier New South Wales. WorkCover, as a regulator administers the State’s work health and safety laws. We provide legal services to WorkCover and also other agencies within Safety, Return to Work and Support. I am also an elected Health and Safety Representative.
What other activities are you involved in?
I am also a part-time officer in the Australian Army Reserve where I have been an instructor, project officer, company commander, the Executive Officer of University Regiment and had lots of interesting and rewarding roles in the Reserves, including having deployed overseas peace keeping in East Timor. I have, addition been a part time teacher at TAFE NSW and taught at various universities – most recently at Charles Sturt supervising post graduate doctoral students. I have also enjoyed an active volunteering life with community organisations including Amnesty International, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Cana Communities, music and folk festivals, the trade union movement and other great organisations that strive to make the world a better place especially for battlers, the homeless community and people who need help with their struggles.
Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?
No. When I was at school I wanted to go out and become the world’s greatest chemist – but a later interest in Law and social justice led me towards my current career choices.
What was your first job?
Laboratory assistant and landscape gardener.
Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?
Becoming a dad. And becoming a grandad. These events have inspired me especially.
Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?
My children and grand-children. And people who follow their hearts and pursue their dreams. And people who live to love, to be happy, to build peace and kindness in the world.
If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?
I would build 105,000 homes across Australia so that all our homeless Australians would have a safe, loving and happy home in which to live.
Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” (Eleanor Roosevelt). And the world is your oyster.
Do you know someone whose career story belongs in our ‘What’s your story?’ series? Please let us know!
We all negotiate every day. Whether you’re discussing dinner options, seeking a pay rise or striking an international business deal, most of our daily interactions with each other involve joint decision-making.
A fundamental issue in any negotiation is who should make the first offer. What does the psychological research and negotiation theory say?
Opening offers matter
Let’s say your next door neighbour, Kath, announces she is moving to New York. She has to get rid of her 1973 yellow Chrysler Valiant Charger, which you have secretly envied for years. You check carsales.com, where prices for similar era Chargers range between $17,000 and $100,000. Should you make Kim an offer or instead ask what she wants for it?
Professors Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale of Northwestern University, Illinois, say in their classic text Negotiating Rationally that “final agreements are more strongly influenced by the first offer than by any subsequent behaviour of the parties particularly when issues under consideration are of uncertain or ambiguous value.”
High opening demands lead, on average, to more favourable outcomes than moderate opening demands. Why is this?
An initial offer is an anchor around which the subsequent negotiations pivot. The other party responds to the anchor by suggesting an adjustment to it, thereby giving the anchor credibility. The tendency is to insufficiently adjust away from the anchor set by the opening offer.
German social psychologist Thomas Mussweiler researches how people’s comparisons of options influence decision making. He says that negotiations “typically involve a great deal of uncertainty on both sides.” It is difficult to assess the intrinsic value of something and we instead use the most immediately available information – such as the other side’s opening offer – to consider a response.
Behavioural economist Professor Dan Ariely of Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational, offered products such as computer accessories, wine and books to the subjects of a 2003 experiment. Each subject was first asked if they were willing to pay a price determined by the last two digits of their social security number. The subjects were then asked the maximum price they were prepared to pay. Subjects with above-median social security numbers were prepared to pay amounts over 57% more than subjects with below median numbers. The anchors (the subjects’ social security numbers) were totally random but still affected the price the subjects were prepared to pay.
The anchoring process also applies in non-monetary assessments. In another study conducted by Mussweiler, participants were asked about Mahatma Gandhi’s age at his death. One group was asked if Gandhi was 140 years at death and another group if he was nine. All members of both groups correctly indicated he was neither age. They were then asked how old he actually was when he died. The group who were initially asked if he was 140 gave estimates which, on average, were 17 years older the estimates of the second group. The subjects used the initial ludicrous suggested ages as anchors from which they adjusted (Gandhi was aged 78 when he was assassinated in 1948). Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman describes this as a “priming” process by which the subjects search their minds for information as to Gandhi’s real age which is consistent with the suggested ages.
How to handle the anchoring effect
First, consider if it is a single issue negotiation – like buying Kath’s Charger – or a multi-issue negotiation.
In single issue negotiations, as a general rule, negotiators should utilise the anchoring effect by making the first offer. Care needs to be taken to not make the first offer so high or low as to be in the “insult zone”. The tendency of the other person to walk away will partially depend on what alternatives they may have. The less acceptable their alternatives, the more aggressively you can pitch the first offer.
How to deal with Kath’s news that she needs to sell the Charger? One option is to prime Kath by offering $5000. The anchoring effect suggests that Kath will calculate a counter-offer by adjusting away from $5000.
Knowledge is power
Making the first offer, however, can be a mistake when you lack information about the real value of the subject of the negotiation – both to yourself and to the other party. How would you feel if Kath immediately accepts your offer of $5000? Perhaps the car is a lemon, or Kath would have accepted a lower price just to offload the car before it is due for reregistration and reinsurance next week.
If you do not have any information as to the real value of the car to Kath, do not make the first offer. Instead, ask her what she wants for it. Perhaps she says $200,000. Remember the anchoring effect and consciously resist using $200,000 as an anchor from which you just adjust. You could try to set another anchor of $5000 but Kath may walk. Another option is to not make a counter offer but ask about Kath’s reasoning in offering $200,000. You might be able to point out alternative information or factors to cause Kath to adjust her anchor before you even need to make a counter-offer. You might learn information about her real needs.
In multi-issue negotiations, it is harder to construct a single anchoring price. Consider beforehand what the relative value of each issue is to each party. You can trade off one issue (of lesser value to you but greater value to the other party) for an issue of greater value to you. Separate anchor points could be used for each of the separate issues. Consider making a number of alternative offers at the same time. Multiple offers utilise the anchoring effect whilst also appearing to be flexible. The different reaction of the other party to each alternative can be useful information in ascertaining how they prioritise the different issues.
Ask yourself: how much do I really need the deal? Where else can I satisfy my needs? And don’t forget, there are plenty of other yellow Chrysler Valiant Chargers out there.
The results are in for Australia’s major survey of students for rating the nation’s vocational education and training (VET) system. It shows 77.6% of graduates are employed after training, with those employed full-time earning on average $57 400 per year. Those who train as part of a trade apprenticeship or traineeship fare particularly well with 91.4% employed after completion.
Published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Student outcomes 2014 provides information on VET students’ employment outcomes, and satisfaction with their training.
The survey also identifies the benefits for VET graduates:
72.5% of those employed after training gained at least one job-related benefit resulting from their training.
59.7% improved their employment status after training.
44.4% of those that weren’t employed before training are employed after.
14.8% of those who already had a job are employed at a higher level after training.
The results are positive for student satisfaction. 87.6% of graduates are satisfied with the overall quality of their training, and 90.2% would recommend their training provider. While 77.9% of graduates find their training relevant to their current job.
All data in Student outcomes 2014 is derived from the Student Outcomes Survey which is conducted in the first half of each year on behalf of Australian, state and territory governments.
Over 42 000 students who completed their training with government funding or with a government supported VET provider in 2013 participated in the survey.
Visits to several different workplaces during ‘Sydney Open‘ started me thinking about how the place we work – the physical surroundings – can have a big impact on our enjoyment and therefore our performance.
I know you’ve thought about this before and you know how you’re affected by where you are.
But when you’re advising people on their future careers, do you always give the potential work environment the attention it deserves?
Of course, it’s easy to assume certain environments for certain professions, industries or jobs. We know that usually a finance worker will be working indoors, for example. But as workplaces change, so do the factors that impact job fit.
Banking and related roles are a good example. The photo below was taken inside 50 Martin Place, once the Commonwealth Bank (yes, the money box building) and now the global headquarters of Macquarie Bank. In the past, we might have safely assumed that this type of work would be carried out in a relatively quiet, calm and contained environment.
I wonder what it’s like to work on one of these open floors?
(The ‘industrial chic’ trend has me wondering if in 150 years’ time people will be pondering our primitive ‘workhouses’ of the information age. What do you think?)
How has the work environment changed for you since you started your career?
Has it changed in ways that enhance your enjoyment of the tasks you need to complete, or the opposite?
Could you have predicted the changes when you started in this career?
To get the full picture of how a person will ‘fit’ a particular type of work, we need to know exactly how the work environment will be. And we also need to know what will suit them.
There is no point in matching a person to a job or career on the basis of all the great stuff like values, personality, motivation and skills, if we are putting them into an environment they will ultimately find intolerable because of basic physical factors that can’t or won’t be adjusted to suit them.
How thoroughly do you check on environmental factors before you start a new job or advise others on their careers?
Can we assume too much about the potential workplace – and about the preferences of the individual?
We have all met people who – through just not knowing – aim for a role that is completely unsuitable because of the work environment. Finding this out early on can save a lot of heartache. I recently met a man with a young family who had decided he wanted to be a train driver – and was prepared to give up a job in an IT company – but hadn’t considered the reality of shiftwork, commuting and being alone on the job. (He also wanted to get out of IT because he thought his workplace was too political. I recommended he do some more research before joining the railways!)
My guess is that most people reading this will know their work will be mostly indoors, but even there the variations can be immense. Consider things such as noise levels, standing or sitting all day, the need to travel for work.
Knowing what you and your clients or staff prefer is a key factor in career engagement that may be easily overlooked due to the assumptions we make. Unlike other assessments, Harrison Assessments do not assume, they measure. Here’ are some of the work environment factors included in the questionnaire and reports:
Contact us if you’d like us to send you a full list of the traits we can measure.
As usual, I’d love to hear your feedback on this post. Please share your stories below how you’ve notices work environment having an impact on engagement and performance.
If we’ve done our research, we know well what a certain career will require of us but what we require from our careers is not always so obvious.
Whether it’s your own career, your team members’ or your clients’, hidden engagement factors make all the difference.
The engagement analytics embedded in the Harrison Assessments questionnaire reveal the hidden inner dynamics of career engagement. The new Engagement and Retention Analysis report focuses on these factors to provide valuable insights into a person’s career expectations in eight key areas:
Work life balance
All of these factors will have an impact on the level of enjoyment and satisfaction we get from our careers.
Engagement analytics mean you don’t need to ‘mind read’ to know what’s important. Imagine the time and stress not having to guess could save you!
Understanding the value a client (or employee) places on each of their requirements is the hidden key to ensuring they will know what they are looking for when they compare careers.
You can view a sample Engagement and Retention Analysis here. To read more on the theory behind the report, download Dr Dan Harrison’s whitepaper ‘Engagement is a Shared Responsibility’. If you use Harrison Assessments, you already have access to this report for yourself, your staff and your clients. We can help you explore putting engagement analytics into action – contact us to find out more.
In October, November and December, we are giving away one Engagement and Retention Analysis per month…
For your chance to receive your own ERA report, speak to us at the conferences listed below, post a comment or subscribe to our newsletter.
One of the traits we measure with Harrison Assessments is empathy. It’s a major contributor to success in life, at work and elsewhere.
In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown explains empathy and reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own vulnerability.
Would you like to know if others think you are empathetic?
"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