Category Archives: People Management

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!

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.

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.

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?

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

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

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?

Giving feedback? Remember the other F-words

Feedback is one area some people struggle with when managing staff.  Remembering some other f-words could make it easier!

Here are some quick tips to giving feedback that will be well received and acted upon:

1. Always give feedback face-to-face.

2. Giving feedback on a frequent basis makes it normal and expected.

3. Be fair and consistent.  Take the time to recognise good performance, not just problems.

4. The feedback conversation requires you to focus on the person with you, without distractions.

5. Stick to the facts and don’t let emotions influence how you deliver feedback.  If you are feeling angry or upset, wait until you’re in a better frame of mind.

6. Have a plan to follow-up on your feedback to see if it’s been effective.  If you were expecting change and it hasn’t happened, try again.

You will have other tips you can add to this list.  Please add your comments below.

Three situations when coaching is a waste of time

Have you ever looked at someone you’re coaching – either a team member or a client – and  felt you just weren’t getting anywhere?

What is it that gives us that uncomfortable feeling?  Looking back over my experiences, there seem to be three main factors at play when coaching just isn’t going to work:

1.  They really don’t want to be coached

Even when a client has committed cash to being coached, there is sometimes a resistance to accepting there are things that can change and they have the power to change them.  For employees who have had coaching ‘thrust upon them’ this resisitance is even stronger.

2.  They actually hate what they’re doing

Many managers will try to coach/coax better performance out of staff when it’s clear that no matter what you do there’s one thing only the staff member can change:  How they feel about their job.  If it’s not a good fit, no amount of coaching will improve the situation.

3.  They expect you to tell them what to do

Much as we would like to be, coaches are not knights in shining armour arriving just in time on our white charger!  The ‘Prince Charming’ expectation applies equally with men and women.  Anyone who is waiting to be rescued from their situation by a coach is probably not going to make much progress with coaching.

For all these reasons, getting to know the person you will be coaching before any intervention is essential.

Even with good preparation and planning, the manager/coach can find themselves with the sinking feeling you get when you know you’re wasting your time.  You’re not going to get anywhere so why keep trying?

You have more productive things to do with your time.  The sooner you give up on your lost coaching cause, the sooner you’ll get to do them!

The 2 main reasons you don’t delegate

In my years of coaching and observing managers, one of the main obstacles I see the majority of them face is delegation of their work.

If I was to nominate one characteristic that would make the biggest difference to their chances of success (or stress) it would be the degree to which they are able to enlist the cooperation of others to get things done.

For most, the inability to delegate comes from one or both of these two main core beliefs:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can.

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness.

Here are some signs that delegation is not working:

  • Customer calls are not returned because of reliance on one person to know what’s going on;
  • Employees feel uncertain about what to do and keep escalating issues;
  • Important tasks get missed or forgotten because the team’s relying on the manager to make it happen.

The lack of delegation poses the biggest threat to a business in times of stress so pre-emptive action should be taken to avoid it getting to that point.  You can start by taking a closer look at those beliefs above:

1.  Nobody else can do it as well as I can

Is that really true?  If it is, I recommend you review your hiring and training practices.  More than likely, you do have staff who can do the job – so give them the opportunity to show you how well they can do it.

Until the work you do can be done by robots, accept that all humans are fallible (even you).  In most businesses, mistakes aren’t life-threatening and the sooner you learn to live with them the better!

Other people might do things differently from how you’d do them.  Isn’t that exactly what a business needs in order to adapt, grow and thrive?

2.  Asking for help is a sign of weakness

If this was really true, there would be no need for service industries to exist.  We’d all do what needed doing for ourselves, from installing antennas to running our own court cases.

Clearly that’s ridiculous, so why be so selective in getting things done that need to be done?  It doesn’t have to all be up to you!

Of course, you can choose to struggle along doing work to which you’re not really suited but how much better for you, your staff and the ‘Gross National Happiness’ if you’re mostly doing what you love and your team are given opportunities to excel at tasks they enjoy?

If I’ve achieved one thing with this article, I hope it’s that the next time you think “It’ll be quicker/easier if I just do it myself” you take time to challenge your beliefs and think about delegating instead.  Will you?

 

Hazard reduction, backburning or putting out spot fires?

As we experience our first bushfires of the season in the Blue Mountains, I think there’s a good analogy between the practices above and how managers behave.

Hazard reduction is the practice of burning, clearing and other practices done in advance of the fire season with the aim of reducing the impact of any future fires.  Back burning is when a fire is lit deliberately in the path of a bushfire with the aim of reducing the fuel load and slowing or stopping the progress of the fire.  Spot fires happen when a fire is underway and embers get carried into unburnt areas.

“I’m always putting out fires!” is a common complaint from managers.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before.

What if we use the bushfire analogy to avoid those management ‘fires’?

1.  Hazard reduction

  • skilled staff with the right attitude doing work they enjoy
  • adequate infrastructure, training and resources are available to do a job well
  • appropriate remuneration and benefits
  • clear and consistent policies and procedures
  • performance management systems in place
  • adequate insurance

2.  Backburning

  • disciplinary procedures
  • defined exit process
  • many team/morale building exercises, because there’s already a ‘fire’ when they’re implemented

3.  Putting out spot fires

  • immediate, on the spot decision making to avoid, contain or reduce damage
  • dealing with unplanned absences
  • summary dismissal
  • resolving client issues

Of course, just as with bushfires there are no guarantees but perhaps it’s time to ask:

What would you rather be doing?

 

"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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