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

Want better customer service?

Qantas is planning to give financial bonuses to cabin crew and other staff based on customer satisfaction (Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2012). Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told the Herald “Incentivising people for doing a good job is absolutely the way to go. The Apple guys do it and it’s very powerful.”

What’s wrong with Alan Joyce’s  approach?

1. If you have to pay bonuses to get good customer service, you’re employing the wrong people

The people you want working with your customers are people who give great service because, to them, it’s the right thing to do. They don’t have to fake it for a bonus because they genuinely care about people.

Select staff who are naturally helpful, friendly, tactful and enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life. They love serving your customers and it shows.

If you want to stop them feeling good about what they do, you could try:

a) implying they will give better service if they get a bonus and/or

b) surround them with other staff who believe it’s only worth providing excellent customer service if you’re going to get paid more if you do.

2. If you are sure you have hired the right people but you’re still not getting good customer service, look at your systems

There are a number of ways businesses prevent staff from giving excellent customer service:

a) Constant restructuring and job losses causing stress and impacting on individual motivation;

b) Treating customer service as an inferior function instead of critical to business success;

c) Lack of authority at the frontline to make on-the-spot customer service decisions;

d) Policies and procedures that are counter-customer satisfaction; and

e) Inadequate training and development.

3. Believing that if a strategy works for Apple it should work for Qantas (or any other organisation)

There are just so many obvious reasons why this thinking is flawed, there’s really no need for me to list them here.

So how do you provide your customers with an excellent experience, every time?

1. Create a culture that always put the customer first

2. Hire staff with natural talents for customer service

3. Support them with systems and processes that help them give their best

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Please comment below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Not everyone wants to learn, you know…

Have you ever tried training someone and felt like you were getting nowhere?

This was one of my early HR lessons: We can’t assume everyone wants to learn and develop their skills.

In some workplaces and some roles, you will find people who just want to get on with the job they were employed to do. They may even see training as an added imposition from the employer, rather than an opportunity to grow their skill set.

Sometimes, they will be learning in another area of life, perhaps a hobby, that is more fulfilling to them. Work is just the means to earn the money to fund what really matters. For them, work is not a way to grow. Work provides for their basic needs so they can grow in other areas.

If you value life-long learning it can be a challenge to see this perspective. Even more challenging if you are the manager of someone with this attitude – especially if you’ve hired a person for their cultural fit, confident that through training they will acquire the skills they need.

How does it happen?

Part of the difficulty is that this lack of motivation to learn is not always apparent or articulated. Imagine the salesperson who is not meeting budget but continues to believe they are doing all they can to bring in the business. When their manager suggests making changes, the salesperson pushes back, blaming the market, lack of support and other causes rather than reflecting on what they could learn that would improve their performance.

The salesperson above is likely to be quite self-accepting, feeling good about themselves. This is how we want a salesperson to be. On the other hand, the self-acceptance needs to be balanced with a recognition that they can still improve but developing further. If the desire to become better at what they do is absent, the result is a tendency to respond defensively to constructive feedback.

Have you tried to manage someone like this? 

Would it be useful for you to know why they act in this way?

We can help you find out – even before you hire someone – and prevent the frustration you feel. Contact us for more information.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why are you wasting time?

We all know ‘time is money’ yet we are sometimes willing to throw away time to an extent most of us would never consider throwing away money!

Did you know, that if you spend just half an hour each day dealing with junk email, interruptions and other time-wasting activities, you are essentially throwing away over 3 weeks a year! What would you do with those 3 weeks if you could have them back? I’m guessing you wouldn’t spend them reading junk email…

Here are some reasons why you might not be getting to the important stuff that will really contribute to your success – and what you can do about it:

1. The not-so-important stuff is quicker and easier (and usually more fun).

Solution: Time for you to revisit – and use – the Urgent v Important time management matrix.

2. You are constantly interrupted.

Solution: Whose time is it anyway? There are ways to set clients’ and colleagues’ expectations about when you’re available and how quickly you’ll respond to their requests.

3. That important task is so big it’s overwhelming.

Solution: Work out how you can ‘eat the elephant’ one bite at a time. My favourite way is to just start. I set the timer on my phone for 45 minutes and do nothing but work on that task until the timer goes. Sometimes when it does, I’m so absorbed I just keep working.

4. The important things don’t seem urgent enough.

Solution: Create urgency for yourself by setting milestones and deadlines. It often works to plan to reward yourself when you’ve met the milestone. For example, you might go for a walk and get a coffee after you’ve called five clients.

5. You’re out of synch with your natural productivity cycle.

Solution: Get to know how your energy and focus levels change throughout the day and work with nature, not against it. For example, if you know your best time for concentration is early morning, do your big thinking in the first part of your working day and save routine tasks until later.

You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.

These are just a few of the many useful skills you can learn from our latest workshop.  Please contact us for more information.

And please let me know below how you stop yourself from wasting time!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three steps to successful collaborations

new employees

This post is part of a series on collaboration. See this previous post for more on how working together can work for you.

A recent article on the dangers of collaboration started me thinking of the proactive steps we can take to avoid the risks inherent in a collaborative effort.

Like many people, my experiences range from significant disaster to sucessful win-win relationships. You can learn from my mistakes.

Here are the ‘success factors’ that I believe can make all the difference:

1. Identify in advance what the pay-offs will be for each party from the relationship

Unless both parties stand to gain equally from a joint venture, there will always be an unequal distribution of effort and interest to make it work. This is one factor you can’t neglect and which needs to be monitored, evaluated and renegotiated as you go along.

2. Know who you’re working with

This seems obvious but how well do you really know the other person? In particular, do you know how they will react to stress?

As we court potential joint venture partners, we are usually at our politest and most agreeable. You also need to know what might happen if it all goes ‘pear-shaped.

Also get to know the personnel of your potential joint venture partner. Who will be responsible for what? Who will you be working with closely?

3. Set clear expectations – for everything!

You need to consider everything – from the time you expect it to take to respond to an email to how profits will be shared.

Business collaboration is a unique relationship. You are both client and supplier to each other. This requires you to observe the same professional standards you follow with your other clients and suppliers.

Collaboration in any venture can add diversity, interest, personal development and contributes to the overall stock and sharing of human knowledge. For me, working with a co-author on a current project has been challenging at times. However I know the result will be of much higher quality and originality than if either of us worked alone.

Could you create successful collaborations using these steps? What benefits could be awaiting you?

As usual, I’d love to hear your story. Please share your experiences (good, bad and ugly) with collaboration, so we can learn from you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three things you should know about every new employee

You’ve read the CV’s, interviewed and done reference checks. Could you have missed something?

Assuming your new employee has the qualifications, experience, skills and attitudes required to do the job, there are three basic things every boss needs to know about their latest hire:

1.  How long are they likely to stick around?

Your needs will vary with the job, but the cost of hiring and training someone new usually means you would like them to stay working for you for a reasonable time.

2.  How well do they respond to feedback?

Some people strive to be the best they can while others are quite happy the way they are. What if you hired someone who sees no reason to change and views feedback as criticism?

3.  Are they motivated to put in effort commensurate with the rewards they expect?

If you are paying someone well, you will be expecting them to work at a certain level. It’s useful to know if they are likely to possess the self-motivation required.

These are just 3 of the 156 work-related traits we measure using Harrison Assessments to help you predict performance. 

We call these traits:

1.  Wants Stable Career

The desire for long-term or permanent employment.

2.  Receives Correction

The tendency to accept guidance intended to improve performance.

3.  Pay Minus Motivation

The tendency to have strong desire for money while lacking the personal drive necessary to earn it.

Would it make a difference to you to know these things before you bring someone on board?  Contact us to find out more.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Succession: Your people plan

People are the key to a successful business succession plan, but do we always pay enough attention to the human side of this critical business process?

For example, planning for a transition period should include knowing in advance:

  • How well will you get on with your successor(s)?
  • What are their beliefs and attitudes around money?
  • How are they likely to treat your clients and your staff?
  • What will be their role in your business before you depart?
  • What are their strengths and how will these benefit them in your business?
  • Ultimately, would you trust them to run a business well without you?

If you find yourself in a succession planning phase without satisfactory answers to these questions, my advice would be to get the answers you want or don’t proceed. Going ahead regardless will invite unecessary stress into your life and limit the chances of your business surviving.

We help our clients work their way through the human factors.

You’ve heard the horror stories about business succession. Don’t add yours to the list!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Finding tomorrow’s leaders

You are probably confident you know a leader when you see one. But how do you identify leadership potential?

Anyone with leadership potential is probably already a leader in many ways…

Do they:

  • Willingly help others without patronising them?
  • Speak up in meetings, offering original ideas?
  • Dare to challenge the status quo?
  • Express their ideas clearly and logically?
  • Volunteer for challenging projects?
  • Naturally gain respect and cooperation from others?
  • Speak enthusiastically and with conviction on the things they care about?

What would you add to this list? Please comment below.

Your observations of these characteristics are important in assessing leadership potential but they won’t tell you the whole story.

Before you invest in developing these potential leaders, we can help you confirm you’ve picked a ‘winner’. Contact us to find out how.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Career advice for parents now available

(Source http://www.deewr.gov.au/Employment/Programs/CareerAdviceforParents)

The Career Advice for Parents service commenced 1 January 2012 and is part of the Building Australia’s Future Workforce (BAFW) package.

Career Advice for Parents is a free telephone service which provides professional, informed career advice by qualified Career Advisers to assist eligible parents in identifying transferrable skills, explore career options and develop a plan of action to help them achieve their employment goals.

The Career Advice service is only available via telephone. It does not include a face to face option.

Eligibility

An employment service provider can determine eligibility for the service. A parent is to be registered with an employment service provider, if they are not registered already they can find a provider by using the search tool:

Career Advisers offer two distinct but related streams of service, Career Planning and Résumé Appraisal.

Career Planning

A Career Adviser can help with a range of activities such as:

  • identifying  transferable skills
  • researching industries and occupations
  • improve understanding of job search strategies in today’s labour market
  • identify education and training options
  • developing a plan to achieve employment goals.

To get the most out of a Career Planning session, eligible parents should do some of the activities in My Guide before speaking to a Career Adviser. My Guide is a personalised career exploration service that records interests, skills and experience, and assists in developing a career profile. My Guide includes My Career Plan which helps set and achieve career goals.

To access My Guide, go to My Guide and sign up to My Guide. My Career Plan can be emailed to the Career Adviser ahead of a career advice session to CareerAdvice@deewr.gov.au.

Résumé Appraisal

During a Résumé Appraisal session, a Career Adviser will review résumés and will provide detailed feedback and suggestions for improvement, including:

  • advice on preparation and presentation
  • matching skills, experience and qualifications to employment goals
  • managing career gaps
  • relating skills, experience and achievements to the needs of the employer and the requirements of the job.

You cannot have a Résumé Appraisal session without a résumé.  An employment service provider can help to develop one or alternatively the myfuture website contains tools and resources to assist in developing a résumé.

myfuture

Looking for a change in career direction or returning to the workforce?

myfuture is a free service to help you to explore jobs, find training and education courses and  help identify your interests, skills and experience when considering your next career move.

myfuture includes My Guide – an interactive quiz that allows you to record your interests, skills and experience, and develop a career profile. My Guide includes My Career Plan which can help you to set and achieve your career goals.

The Career Guide has step-by-step instructions on getting the most out of the myfuture website.

Career Guide

This guide has been developed to help parents make an informed decision about the next stage of their careers.

Further Information

For more information and details, email CareerAdviceForParents@deewr.gov.au.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

A lesson in valuing your intuition

Employee on the way out

When you have a decision to make, do you put more emphasis on analysis or intuition?

If you believe decisions must be based on logic, it could be time to listen to your heart a little more often.  That niggling doubt could be a sign you need to pay more attention to your intuition.

Initially trained as a biologist, I tend to put a high value on rational thought, reasoning and analysis.  These skills were important when I was trying to measure native snails’ eating habits or cotton plant growth.

Not so useful on their own in other areas, like solving problems and making decisions.  In fact, most of the ‘wrong’ choices I’ve made in life were made when I had switched off my intuition!

To give equal weight to intuition as I give to analysing facts is a skill I’m yet to conquer, with an unfortunate choice of holiday accommodation being my most recent lesson.

The best quality decisions are based on a balance of feeling and facts.  Dr Dan Harrison, founder of Harrison Assessments, illustrates this as one of twelve paradoxes.

When both the left and right brain functions are used, we are able to sense what is important at the same time as we analyse the situation.  Good insight is the result.

To find out more about enhancing the quality of your decision making, please get in touch.

To read more about the power of paradox, click here.

Have there been times when your intuition has saved you when analysis alone could not?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Case Study: Online Recruiting

The first time I met Frank Stillone, managing director of The Silent Partner, he was looking for a ‘robust’ recruitment process.  

Finding the right people was difficult.  Most didn’t live up to what was required for the role.  Mistakes and poor performance from his staff were costing him business.  He needed a better way of finding the right person who would be an excellent fit.  Together we were able to develop a process that delivered the results Frank wanted to achieve.

Background

The Silent Partner, in Sydney, is a provider of virtual office, calendar management and help desk solutions.  The growth of the business requires regular recruitment of additional virtual receptionists to deliver these services.  Frank had previously done his own recruitment, with mixed results.

Designing the job requirements

Using his knowledge of what makes someone successful in the virtual receptionist role, Frank and I carefully selected the essential and desirable criteria, along with those characteristics he would prefer to avoid.

For each of the eligibility criteria – skills, qualifications, experience – points were allocated to each possible answer, depending on the job requirements.  For example, some of the company’s clients are medical specialists and allied health professionals, so bonus points were awarded for experience as a medical receptionist.

For the suitability criteria – personality, motivation, work preferences, interests – we were able to add relevant traits and rate them in terms of their importance and frequency of use on the job.

Setting up the campaign

Once the criteria were in place, Frank was ready to start taking applications.  He placed an advertisement on an online job board with a link back to The Silent Partner’s ‘Jobs’ page.  The advertisement also stated that the only way to apply was by following this link.

When an applicant reached the web page, they could see the job description with an ‘apply now’ button at the bottom.  By clicking on this button, the applicant would arrive at the beginning of the online application form.

The application process

Once they reached the application form, applicants were first presented with details of the job.  If they chose to proceed with an application, they completed their name and contact details before proceeding to the first part of the online questionnaire (eligibility).

Answering the eligibility questions took only a few minutes.  The applicant was then asked to upload their CV and cover letter.  Depending on their score in the first section, they were asked to proceed to the second part of the questionnaire (suitability).  Completing this section takes about 20 minutes.

The results

A total of 269 people viewed the online application form.  Of these, 69 decided not to apply after viewing the job description while a further 27 didn’t proceed after entering their personal details, therefore self-selecting themselves out of the process.

This left 173 applicants who completed the eligibility questions and/or resume upload, including 132 who went on to complete the suitability questionnaire.

The system automatically short-listed 24 candidates with scores over the pre-determined cut-off.  The CVs of the top 15 short-listed candidates were reviewed to decide who would proceed to preliminary structured telephone interviews.

Frank interviewed five people in the preliminary round.  Two candidates were selected for more detailed interviews and both were offered – and accepted – a virtual receptionist position.

The benefits

The Silent Partner’s recruitment process had rewards in terms of both efficiency and effectiveness.

Efficient

  • Frank didn’t have to receive and respond to 269 emailed applications, saving him days of unproductive work.
  • Once set up, the process was automatic and did not require management or input until Frank was ready to close the campaign and interview.
  • Frank only had to read the resumes of short-listed candidates.
  • Telephone interviews were structured and effective in further screening of candidates.
  • Candidates could be notified of their progress directly from the recruitment system.

Effective

  • Frank was able to monitor the campaign via a dedicated dashboard.
  • By deciding in advance what he did and didn’t want, all applicants were objectively and automatically screened.
  • Frank estimated the new process took less than 20% of the time he’s devoted to similar recruitment exercises in the past, representing a significant cost saving to the business.
  • All applications were checked for consistency by the system, flagging applicants who may not have been honest in their answers to the questionnaire.
  • Only those candidates who met pre-set criteria were considered for the role.

Frank says:  At the end of the day, your company is just a collection of people doing stuff and whether that company is Apple or Merv’s Mowing Services it doesn’t really matter.  If you want to be successful you need to get the right people doing things right.  As small business owners the same applies to us:  We can be experts at many things but we cannot be an expert in everything. That’s why we need to bring in someone with specialised knowledge and tools to help us find the talent we need to grow.

Download the case study

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The time to ‘trust your gut’ is lunchtime…

…not when you’re hiring a new staff member!

Managers very often rely on their intuition or ‘gut feel’ when making staffing decisions.  In my experience, it’s amazing how often we hear  “it just felt right”, “she seems like a good fit” or “I feel very comfortable with him”.  There’s a lot of confidence in intuition.

When it turns out the person they hired is just not up to the job, have you ever heard a manager say “I guess my intuition isn’t reliable”?

You’re more likely to hear “he did a great job of selling himself at the interview” or “her referees obviously exaggerated her ability”.

For managers who rely on outdated and ineffective recruitment procedures, the wrong decision is usually someone else’s fault – often the new employee’s.

When was the last time you heard a manager use “it just felt right” as justification for an equipment or software purchase?  Of course, few would.  Yet many are prepared to take a gamble on their gut feeling when it comes to the major investment of hiring a new staff member.

A recent survey by the recruiter, Hudson, found that 44% of new hires were described by their managers as ‘not good’*.

Would a 44% failure rate be acceptable in any other area of their businesses?

The managers who regard recruitment as more art than science are ignoring the research and resources available today that enable much better predictions of employee performance.  For example

1. Past experience is a poor indicator of a candidate’s ability to perform well in a new role;
2. Motivation and cultural fit are the best indicators of future performance but only 6% of hiring managers assess these objectively*;
3. Matching the right person to the right job by measuring their ‘fit’ to the role is easy and inexpensive – especially when compared to making the wrong decision.

Next time you see someone recruiting without adding appropriate rigour to the process, suggest they just toss a coin instead.  The odds of getting a good employee won’t be much worse than 56%  – and it’s a lot less trouble!

*Hudson 20:20 Series:  New Generation Recruitment: Battle Strategies For the Talent War at http://au.hudson.com/2020/node.asp?kwd=latest-2020-whitepaper  Read more here: http://www.afr.com/p/national/work_space/why_you_can_get_good_staff_stP5BDsy9SJ2C1F9NqjsOO

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

If I knew then what I know now…

Wouldn’t you love to go back to being 16 – when you knew it all?

Teenagers are a great reminder that we don’t – and can’t – know everything.  The best we can do is limit the extent and the risks of our ignorance.

One very rewarding aspect of our work is giving people information about themselves and those around them that allows them to manage risk.

Here are some cases where we are providing this knowledge and changing businesses:

1. A business owner developing a succession plan with prospective equity partners

What they now know:

  • Values, strengths and challenges of each person;
  • Similarities and differences in what motivates them; and
  • Potential areas of conflict.

2. A management team planning a restructure

What they now know:

  • Who is in the right job;
  • Who has the potential to fill a new role; and
  • Who should probably be moved on.

3. A practice manager developing to take on more of the business responsibilities

What he now knows:

  • His strengths that may be perceived as challenges by others;
  • How to manage time better; and
  • How to express himself in ways that will motivate others while feeling authentic.

4. A manager developing her team

What she now knows:

  • Effective ways to communicate with and inspire her team;
  • The balance and range of strengths on her team; and
  • Individual team members’ expectations.

5. A business owner who is ready to hire more staff

What he now knows:

  • The characteristics people need to be successful in the role(s);
  • What he definitely doesn’t want; and
  • How to objectively measure performance potential.

Every one of the situations above are very expensive if you get them wrong.  Doesn’t it make sense to find out as much as you can before you make that investment?

"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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