Category Archives: Engagement

Why is it so hard to get lasting results from team-building activities?

Often when we think a team isn’t as productive as it could be, our first reaction is to spend some money on team-building exercises, often off-site. In my experience, your typical team-buildling challenge or social activity is great for getting out of the office and having some fun together…

What they’re not great for is creating lasting change and this is why:

  • Team building has to happen every day – in the reality of your work environment.
  • Team ‘issues’ are rarely about the team. To resolve them, you have to consider the individuals.
  • Generic team activities are unlikely to address the specific needs of your team.
  • Creating behavioural change requires insight, understanding and time.

 

What will work?

If you’re looking for a way to get your team to work more productively together, look for solutions that:

  • Start with an analysis of your team members’ perceptions of the team;
  • Are based on the realities of your workplace; and
  • Provide suggestions you can implement now for immediate – and lasting – impact.

 

What do you think?

Do you have ideas for effective and lasting team-building?  Please share your insights by adding a comment below.

When does a ‘group’ become a ‘team’?

This question came to mind last weekend, when I had the good fortune to attend ‘Wintersong 2010’ an annual choral workshop held in the Blue Mountains. The weekend revolved around learning and performing diverse works arranged for choir – with 90 other singers from all over the country.  

Composer and musician, Paul Jarman led us in an amazing workshop.  In around an hour, we composed and performed a choral work in 7 parts.  My first response when this was suggested was ‘this will never work’.  To my amazement, it worked brilliantly!

I think we were working as a team at that point.  (And arguably for the rest of the weekend, in producing some incredible sounds.)  

For this project we were a team and not just a group because we had:

1.  A leader who was very skilled and experienced;

2.  An intention to create something of quality;

3.  Goodwill and a desire to cooperate;

4.  Diverse ideas and abilities; and

5.  A specific goal, with a defined timeframe.

What do you think?

Do these things make a team?  Or am I getting carried away with the analogy?

Please post your comments below.

Have you booked in for our webinar ‘How to Make Your Good Team Great’ on 7 July at 12 noon AEST?  Click to register.

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.

 

Are you getting the full picture?

Sometimes we make employment decisions without access to all the facts.

When our daughter asked to start piano lessons recently, I didn’t ask to see the teacher’s qualifications before agreeing for her to learn from him.

Qualifications are important!  So why didn’t I even think to ask?  Probably because I’ve had the opportunity to observe not only his musical prowess, but also how he interacts with other students and teachers.  This gave me confidence in his ability as a teacher.

At work, you may know a person’s qualifications but you rarely have the chance for long-term observation before making staffing decisions.  Or do you?

Here are 3 ways you could get more of this important information, by tapping in to what others have observed:

1. Always reference check when hiring and make sure the check is meaningful.  You can do this by having prepared questions, probing when you sense there’s more information and asking a candidate for more referees if you’re not getting the answers you need to make your decision.  If you work in financial services, Standards Australia’s handbook ‘Reference Checking in the Financial Services Industry’ provides an essential guide.

2. If you’re looking for a new staff member, consider people you already know from your business or social networks who might be able to fill the role.  If there’s no-one suitable, ask them if they can recommend anyone.  Remember the last time you hired a painter or plumber?  Did you pick a name from the phone book or ask your friends first?

3. When reviewing staff performance, seek feedback from the employee’s colleagues, team, clients and suppliers.  They will be able to provide you with insights from a different perspective.

You’re unlikely to have the full picture yourself so why not ask for the opinions of people you trust?

With Money Management reporting today that jobs in the Australian financial services sector have jumped by more than 5 per cent since last month, we are likely to see many more staff choosing to make a move.

Under these labour market conditions, it’s critical that you have the right people in the right roles if you want them to stay.

Workplace Flexibility and the Recovery – Risks and Opportunities

By Kerry Fallon Horgan, Keeping Good Companies Journal, Chartered Secretaries Aust

The global financial crisis and the introduction of flexibility requirements in the Australian National Employment Standards have focused renewed attention on workplace flexibility.

Harry Stout, ING Australia CEO, says “As a result of the GFC we have had to find creative ways of best deploying our resources from declining business areas to those who have growing and requiring greater resources needs. INGA has prided itself on retaining employment wherever possible, while our competitors reduced headcount from 5-20%. To achieve this we worked with our employees in finding ways we could reduce our employment costs while maintaining headcount. Through further encouraging flexible work practices, we were able to ride through the markets turbulence and are now positioned to leverage new opportunities.”

A similar response happened at AMP Ltd. “The challenging environment of the financial crisis encouraged us to look at creative ways to retain our employees and increase engagement and productivity in challenging times. Creative workforce planning strategies that continually reinforce flexibility as a work option ensure AMP has the workforce it needs, without compromising our optimistic and positive brand and culture,” explains Katriina Tahka, AMP Head of Talent & Diversity.

Workplaces that have introduced or reinvigorated their flexible work practices over the past year have not only significantly reduced costs but are now in a position to comply with the flexible work provisions of the new National Employment Standards(NES), which came into effect on 1 January 2010. This particular NES will significantly increase employees’ requests for flexibility and yet the majority of organisations do not have the knowledge base to comply.

Organisations such as ING Australia, IBM, AMP, Stockland and Carnival Australia are using the introduction of this National Employment Standard to update existing flexible workplace policies and guidelines and/or provide training on the legislation and how to make flexible work practices work. The legislation is providing an opportunity to reinforce their commitment to flexibility through awareness and education programs.

The full article is available at http://www.flexibility.com.au

‘Fresh Ideas for Work and Family’ Grants Start Now

Grants to make your business family friendly

The “Fresh Ideas for Work and Family” Grants Program helps small businesses set up family friendly work practices.

If you have a small business with between 1 and 14 employees then funding of up to $15,000 is available to help you with your work/life balance initiatives. These initiatives may include home-based work programs, flexible work practices such as job sharing and part-time work, flexible workplace policies and guidelines, family rooms and more. The focus of the program is to help employees better balance their work and family obligations by making the workplace more flexible.

The funding round opens on 25 February and closes on 31 March 2010. Eligible small businesses must have a least one employee and can include companies, partnerships, not-for-profit, non-government, sole traders and a consortium of up to three small businesses.

With the workplace flexibility requirements under the new National Employment Standards and the grant being provided by DEEWR to set up flexible work practices, it is important that small businesses take advantage of this opportunity now! Flexible work arrangements also benefit both employees and the business bottom-line.

For more information and help with applying for the grant contact Kerry Fallon Horgan at Flexibility At Work on (02) 9402 4741 or email kerry@flexibility.com.au  Further details are also available at www.flexibility.com.au

Excuse me, your bias is showing

Do you think you’re good at judging people?  You are, but probably not in the way you think…

We all live complicated lives and nature has given us neurological shortcuts so we don’t have to relearn everything as we go.  For example, when we encounter a closed door, we don’t need to consciously think:  What is this?  What is it for?  Why is it here?  or How does it work? Instead, we grab the handle and walk through (perhaps with a little push/pull confusion on the way!)

Similar shortcuts are in operations when we interact with other people.  We are able to quickly assess a person based on our past experiences and conditioning.  This usually goes on beyond our awareness.  Efficient but not always accurate!

For more than a decade Project Implicit, based at Harvard University, has been tracking a whole range of our hidden prejudicial associations.  Curious about my own, I decided to try one of their Implicit Association Tests (IATs).  Being a feminist, mother of two girls, business woman and teacher, I thought I’d be pretty safe trying a test called ‘Gender-Career’.  Imagine my surprise (horror!) when I found my results showed that I strongly associated men with careers and women with family life.

Implicit biases are shown in the majority of the population.  At least I’m not alone.  And most of us don’t even know we are biased against certain groups.

How is this significant in business?

Our hidden prejudices predict how we respond to others.  They may impact on:

  • deciding on the best applicant for a role
  • evaluating others’ work performance
  • how friendly and inclusive we are towards team members

Tip:  Job interviews are a notoriously inaccurate way to predict workplace behaviour, even when conducted by experts.  Project Implicit shows that without using objective measures of job fit, we are often relying on judgements we aren’t aware of and can’t control.

Curious about your own biases?  You can visit Project Implicit online and take a test of your choice.

 

"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."
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"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."
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