Category Archives: Case studies

Are you ready for the long goodbye?

Last week’s article on how many employees want to change jobs – and why – had some great feedback.  If you missed the article, click here to read it.

Among the responses to the article was this:

Hi Susan

Sometimes I can’t let your articles go by without comment.

I am stunned at the stats. I thought it was only me, but in all the job changes I have had in my life, the reasons were, those outlined in your article for each and every time I moved on. Of course we don’t say this in case we burn a bridge or two for our future and we don’t want to appear to be the problem so we put up with it for as long as we can then move on to “an opportunity that provides me with the scope to develop” or “one that will allow me to expand my horizons”, or ” a move that will more consistently complement my skills and future goals” and other stupid euphemisms.

The writer later told me he believes people don’t willingly leave a job they really love.  He did so once for ‘a ridiculous amount of money’.  “That was a big mistake!” he said.

Sound familiar?

When it comes to employee departures, prevention is definitely better (and cheaper) than cure.  Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Check that you have put people in roles that suit their unique talents and abilities to ensure peak performance and job satisfaction.
  2. Check  that they know what’s expected of them so you can regularly measure and reward performance.
  3. Check that they feel challenged and valued.

With just those three checks in place, I guarantee you will be well on the way to actively managing staff turnover and avoiding ‘the long goodbye’.

Research bosses should know about

According to the latest annual ‘Hunting the (Hidden) Hunters’ report from CareerOne,  longer hours, inadequate resources and a reluctance of organisations to increase salaries are factors driving workers to hand in their resignation.

82% of Australian workers considered changing jobs last year

37% of employees are actively pursuing new roles

The following comment was posted on the Herald Sun website in response to this research.

I hate my job, passionately hate it! Business owners, CEO’s, Managers, Team Leaders take note! There is no longer inspirational leaders or people in control who work hard to make the workplace one to ‘want’ to come to each day.There is noone to look up to, who has passion and drive! I drag myself out of bed to a workplace that is back in the 50’s era. Although I work in marketing, and it is a small business, I am expected to clean! I wipe over the kitchen and lunch room but it is now expected I do more because I am female! I had to fight to be allowed to have a heater on in winter, my boss doesnt like turning the aircon on too much because it costs, any little job that goes above and beyond is never acknowledge, no thankyou whatsoever, my boss whines when we are quiet and whines when we are extremely busy but does not put on extra staff. I have been accused of not showing initiative which was beyond me because my boss would not know half the research I do, or the little things I organise for the company. It is a job that is pure hell. Part time work is hard to come by so although I am looking elsewhere, it is hard! I bet there are many in the same boat!

Uncomfortable?  What if that person was working in your office?

The factors most likely to motivate an employee to change jobs this year are:

  • not being motivated by management (44%)
  • lack of new challenges (40%)
  • waiting too long for a pay rise (39%)
  • an unclear career path (37%)

People changed jobs for:

  • work closer to home
  • a better team
  • higher remuneration and benefits

With unemployment now back down to 5%, it’s essential to be proactive in attracting and retaining quality staff.  The CareerOne research also tells us what’s important to employees in specific industries.  For financial services, the following advantages need to be emphasised in your job advertisements and discussions with staff and job candidates:

  • flexible hours
  • ability to work from home
  • training and development opportunities
  • potential for pay rises

Administration and customer service staff were less motivated by career potential or higher remuneration, instead seeking flexibility, mentoring and paid overtime.

Tip: It’s one thing knowing ‘what’ needs to be done, a quite different thing to know ‘how’ to do it.  If you are motivated to make changes in your business and you’d like help with the ‘how’, please give us a call.

Looking for fresh ideas? Ask your staff!

The people working for you are an often untapped source of ideas.  Companies such as Google and Apple are renowned for their ability to use this resource.

Are you making the most of yours?

Tomorrow I’m facilitating an annual strategic planning day for a client I’ve been coaching since 2004.  As an established and successful general insurance brokerage with a stable team, you might assume there’s not a lot that’s new to discover.  Yet this firm continues to innovate and improve, based on the input of all the team.

There are two main reasons:  Firstly, they are in the fortunate position of having a team that are all inventive, as measured by their Harrison Assessment profiles.   This means that each team member is both experimenting (with a tendency to try new things and new ways of doing things) and persistent (with a tendency to be tenacious despite encountering significant obstacles).  Secondly, they actually ask for – and listen to – input!

Even if you don’t know all the natural strengths of your team, finding out what they think about how you do business and what could be improved is easy.  This is how we’ve recently helped three businesses to do just that:

1.  Structured interviews with selected staff followed by a briefing for the partners on the key concerns and suggestions.

2.  A simple 3-question email eliciting (anonymous) feedback for the principal on a specific issue.

3.  An online survey with written and verbal reports and recommendations to the management team.  (See this post for more info.)

The overwhelming response in each case was that staff were very pleased to be asked and more than happy to share their ideas.  Using an intermediary such as Balance at Work to facilitate the process can make it more comfortable as a first step towards more direct involvement of your team in innovation and improvement.

Tip:  Asking is the easy part.  Unless you are prepared to put in the hard work of really listening and trying new ways of working – please don’t bother asking.

As always, I’d like to know what you think.  Please share your thoughts below.

Is ignorance really bliss?

“When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” – Thomas Gray, 1742.

We often hear this quote, but would living by it be a useful strategy?

In business and at work, as in other areas of life, we may experience:

1. Blissful ignorance – not knowing you don’t know.  Often comes before a crisis!

2. Ignorance by choice – you know that you don’t know, but you like it that way!  Examples:  Someone who chooses not to listen to or watch news reports, a manager who doesn’t ask for staff feedback, businesses  who don’t survey their clients.

3. Wilful ignorance – you actually know the facts (unlike 1 and 2 above) but you choose to act as if you don’t know.  Examples:  Drivers who ignore road rules, businesses that survey staff and/or clients then don’t act on the feedback.

Ignorance can be risky, threatening the viability of business and your own peace of mind. Ignorance can cost you opportunities, money and relationships.

What are you ignoring right now?

Here are some examples of how clients have used Balance at Work’s  services to identify their bline spots:

  • Pre-employment assessments and interviewing of candidates
  • Staff feedback interviews and online surveys
  • Team analysis and coaching
  • Professional development
  • Strategic planning days
  • Executive coaching
  • Career counselling
  • Exit interviews

Can we help you?

PS.  Last week, we asked for your feedback on our weekly articles.  This is your chance to tell us what you think, let us know what we could improve and make suggestions for future topics.  A big ‘thank you’ to all those readers who have already given us two minutes to complete our online survey.  We are very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts!

Take the survey now – it will close on Friday 4 February 2011.

We look forward to your feedback!

Three things you should know about yourself

…and anyone you employ!

Talking to a client yesterday about the potential to promote a staff member, I was reminded (again) of the power of awareness of our strengths and limitations.  Whether you’re hiring new staff or developing existing staff, positive change has to start from a point of knowledge and acknowledgement.

Even if you have a strong intention to improve, unless you know what’s holding you back it’s very hard to move forward.  But how do you find out?

One way is by objective assessment.  Here are three examples of  important leadership competencies we can measure for you: 

1. Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy. 

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

2. Interpersonal Skills = the tendency to have a balance of traits that relate to effective interaction with others. 

This competency consists of essential traits: Diplomatic, Helpful, Optimistic, Outgoing, Assertive, Frank, Influencing, Self-Acceptance, Self-Improvement, Warmth/Empathy, Tolerance of Bluntness; desirable traits: Flexible, Collaborative, Open/Reflective, Manages Stress Well, Relaxed; and traits to avoid: Defensive, Blunt, Dogmatic, Harsh, Dominating, Authoritarian, Permissive.

3. Provides Direction = the tendency to manifest the traits necessary for a leadership role. 

This is a combination of essential traits: Want to Lead, Influencing, Takes Initiative, Wants Challenge, Enthusiastic, Self-Improvement, Planning, Persistent, Pressure Tolerance, Public Speaking, Self-Acceptance; and desirable traits: Experimenting, Flexible, Frank, Handles Conflict, Helpful, Precise, Organised, Relaxed, Risking, Systematic, Tolerance of Bluntness, Warmth/Empathy.

Do you already know all this about yourself and your team? 

Would it be useful for you to have this information before making recruitment, coaching and promotion decisions?  What else would you like to know?

It’s surprising, but we can get all that information – and much more! – out of one short online test.  If you haven’t tried the assessment for yourself yet, it may be time to click here to register for a free trial.

Wondering what your team’s thinking?

Those who attended our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ last week already know about our ‘Team Health Check’.  (And with our special offer to webinar participants, their requests are coming in fast!)   The Team Health Check has been designed to give you a snapshot of how things are in your team.   This is just the beginning of a process that will take your team to greater effectiveness.  You will get: 

  • An anonymous online survey for all your team (click here for a preview);
  • A written analysis of the survey results;
  • One hour debrief with me that will result in
  • An action plan for your team development.

 

 If your team could be more productive, this service is for you!   

Running a small business, communication within the team is just as important as it is within a business of hundreds of staff.  

Whilst we have many mechanisms for communicating on a regular basis, I felt it important to allow some anonymous feedback within the team, even for me. I asked Susan Rochester to co-ordinate the process to ensure that we had an impartial and confidential collation of the results.   

Susan responded quickly with a summary that allowed me to provide meaningful feedback to all of the team. Our Practice Manager was able to provide feedback for the whole team and also further understand the personalities within the team.

 This made the management process easier for myself and the whole team. Each member of the team gained insights into their own behaviours and effectiveness within the team.  The result has been a greater understanding of each other within the team.

I am looking forward to doing it again soon and expect to do so at least once per year. I recommend using Susan to assist you in your business in this way.    

Bernard FehonCFP™ | Principal Financial Planner | Tactical Solutions   

Please call Susan today to set up your survey.

Case Study: Team Tuning

Many businesses are blessed with highly motivated and engaged staff who are industriously working toward their strategic goals.  Working as a team comes naturally to these employees and they are keen to find ways to work better together.  I was fortunate enough to work with one such team recently to fine-tune their team performance.

Process

All five members of the team completed the online assessment of their behavioural and work preferences.  On the day before the team coaching session, they received their individual Harrison Assessments reports.

A team paradox report, displaying all team members’ scores for each trait on one graph formed the basis of our team meeting.  Because we had only two hours for discussion, the agenda focused attention on four facets of the team report:  Motivation, Communication, Innovation and Organisation.

For each of these areas, we analysed and discussed the relative strengths of the team members to determine what was important to the team, how the strengths have helped them to date and what difficulties were present now.

Brainstorming of actions that would help the team capitalise on individual strengths and achieve the organisation’s goals resulted in a list of individual SMART actions. (SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed.)

Results

Several factors that could be used to bring the team to peak performance were uncovered via assessment and the team discussion.  Here are a few examples:

  • One team member is highly organised and this strength will be put to good use in developing systems and processes in the business.
  • There is a team member who is not always comfortable putting forward their opinions or giving feedback.  Once the rest of the team were aware of this, they were able to explore ways to make it easier for that person to communicate with them in productive ways.
  • Some team members require more structure to their work, while others find structure frustrating.  Awareness of individual needs made it easy for others to suggest ways to accommodate those needs.

Benefits

On completion of the team meeting, the team had:

  • A better understanding of each others’ strengths, values and needs,
  • New, more effective, ways to work together,
  • Individual and collective accountability, with each member of the team responsible for specific actions that would make the team more effective and
  • Renewed commitment to their common goals.

Could this work help your team? Call us on 1300 785 150.

 

Paradox and the one little word you can’t ignore

accountability

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

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

The elusive ‘and’

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

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

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

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

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

The power of paradox

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

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

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

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

This assumption is false.

paradox-technology2paradox-technology1

Paradox: You can be both Frank and Diplomatic or neither

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

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

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

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

The most common hiring mistake and how to avoid it

assessments for recruiting

Imagine you need to employ a new staff member…

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

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

Allow me to explain…

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

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

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

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

Clearly something was wrong in the process.  Either

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then:

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

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

Overcoming ‘interview infatuation’

When I met Matthew Farrell, Principal of Five Pillars Financial Planning, he was in the process of selecting a new financial planner to support the growth of his business.

Matthew was impressed with a candidate but confided that one of the traps he’d fallen into in the past was loving someone at the interview, only to find they didn’t live up to expectations on the job.  This is a familiar scenario, especially when faced with a charming and enthusiastic interviewee.  

To ensure he didn’t make the same mistake this time, Matthew decided to use Harrison Assessments to determine the candidate’s suitability for the role.

1.  After the first meeting, we sent the candidate a ‘questionnaire invitation’ so that he could complete the online assessment overnight.
2.   We sent Matthew a draft job template for him to consider.
3.   Next morning, Matthew and I discussed the template and I made adjustments to the
template online.
4.   The candidate had completed the assessment so we were able to immediately run the
reports, comparing him to the customised template.
5.   Matthew and I discussed the reports and the candidate’s suitability straight away.

We asked Matthew to comment on his experience of using the Harrison Assessments:

“I was looking for an objective assessment tool that took away the temptation of me being swayed by the candidate’s pleasing personality and charm. I wanted to know if the candidate possessed the internal qualities required to perform in the position.

TIP:  Don’t let your heart rule your head!  Get some objective advice before you make decisions on the people in your business.


 

"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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