Category Archives: People Management

Building an agile culture

You’ve probably seen all sorts of things about the benefits of building an agile culture – but wanting one and building one are two very different things.

When the agile manifesto and 12 agile principles emerged in 2001, they related to project management for software development, but their appeal has widened since then.

An organisation with an agile culture would be a place where:

  • Individuals and interactions are valued over processes
  • A functional, positive working culture is more important than documentation
  • Activity is centred on customer outcomes
  • Change is welcomed

If culture is ‘the way we do things around here’ then changing what we do – becoming more agile – will usually mean changing the culture.

Whether that happens by accident or design is up to leadership.

Culture is the key to success in becoming agile

Whenever there’s a mismatch between new initiatives and the existing culture, the culture usually wins.

What needs to change will depend on both your organisation’s interpretations of agile and on your existing culture.

The more clarity you have on these concepts, the better chance you have of succeeding.

It’s about clearly articulating what agile is and how it will benefit the organisation.

To ignore this communication will create friction and misunderstanding that takes the focus off the customer outcomes you hoped to achieve through introducing agile.

READ: Why Culture Day is my favourite day of the year

Just undertaking ‘agile’ activities such as stand-up meetings, sprints and retrospectives won’t magically turn your culture into an agile one.

Those are simply tools which are symptoms of an agile culture rather than the cause of an agile culture.

As such, there’s no set roadmap to agile culture. It’s about building a culture and a mindset which results in behaviours — the tools and processes will follow.

To start your organisation’s agile journey, ask the following questions:

  • Is our main focus on values that serve our customers, or shareholder value?
  • Do we operate from a fixed mindset or growth mindset?
  • Are we more ready to allocate blame when things go wrong or to learn without blaming?
  • Do we value both speed and stability equally or are we stuck because we value one over the other?
  • How can we communicate the reasons for the change?

3 steps to building an agile culture

While agile works within looser structures, there should still be structure in the way you approach culture implementation.

1. Start with the end in mind

The perfectly agile culture – like perfection – probably doesn’t exist.

Instead, aim for a culture where the right thing happens most of the time and for the right reasons.

Be prepared to experiment.

If something you try doesn’t work, admit it and move on.

It’s up to leadership to set the tone and direction. In doing so, be careful with the language you use. Your goal is to create a shared understanding, not to confuse.

2. Design your desired culture

When we work with clients to define and design culture, we use the culture map process.

This tool helps organisations identify the behaviours and levers (enablers and blockers) that influence the outcomes they get.

To design your new agile culture, look first at the outcomes you want, then the behaviours that will support them.

Once this context is defined, the challenge is to acknowledge and deal with the blockers that currently exist, be they values, attitudes or processes.

READ: Why culture just became Uber-necessary

3. Apply agile principles to culture change

If you were to use the 12 agile principles as the basis for building an agile culture, you would

  • Focus on customer requirements
  • Welcome changes to requirements
  • Adjust quickly to change
  • Value collaboration between business units
  • Support and trust employees to do their job
  • Facilitate effective communication
  • Promote sustainability of projects
  • Focus on excellence
  • Keep it simple
  • Establish self-organising teams
  • Reflect on successes and failures and fine-tune behaviours

Applying the agile principles to culture change results in an iterative process of continuous improvement and learning.

This approach requires transparency and accountability. It also relies on a willingness to admit when something isn’t working and move on.

Culture is a mysterious and constantly evolving creature.

You can analyse, poke and prod it but ultimately – as with everything else in business and life – your success comes down to the people involved.

Culture change is not easy.

If being more agile is your aim, then as a leader it’s up to you to make choices about what needs to be done, then to clearly communicate why.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

Boosting the impact of career planning

Boosting the impact of career planning: Strategies for getting the most out of your programs.

Executive summary

(Click here to view research highlights and download the full 16-page report.)

Today’s HR professionals know how crucial career planning is but their organisations often fail to act on this knowledge, according to new research conducted by HR.com in partnership with Harrison Assessments.

Our survey analysis also revealed a number of critical findings that relate career planning to issues such as employee retention, engagement, recruitment, assessment and leadership development. Below are some of the key findings from the research:

1. Career planning has grown more important in the last three years, suggests the data. About nine out of ten respondents said employee career planning is either more important (48%) or as important (43%) compared to three years ago.

2. Few organisations approach employee career planning systematically, despite its rising importance. Just 11% of participants say employee career planning is a serious initiative in their organisations.

3. Employee career planning has a large impact on other critical talent management areas, according to many of our respondents. Participants believe career planning has a very high or high impact on employee retention (60% of respondents), employee engagement (58%), and recruitment of high-quality talent (45%).

4. Few organisations make data-driven decisions related to employee career management: About 60% of the participants use competency models for leadership development, but less than
one-in-four participants use behaviour assessments in career planning.

5. Most participants report they are either already facing or will face soon talent gaps in leadership: More than one-third (35%) of the participants say they already face a leadership talent gap. Another 20% say they will face a leadership talent gap within two years.

Download the full report.

Find out how Balance at Work and Harrison Assessments can help your organisation meet career planning challenges.

7 steps to bring new employees on board

succession

Many quality new employees can leave an organisation within the first few months if an organisation doesn’t have a structured onboarding process.

Like any relationship, it’s likely that your new hires are deciding whether they’ll stay or go within the first few months.

Can you afford to have them leave when you’ve just invested in hiring them?

Why do new hires decide to leave?

Common reasons employees decide to leave within the first few months are:

  • They don’t receive clear guidelines about their responsibilities
  • They thought they should have received better training
  • They found coworkers were not as friendly or helpful as they expected
  • They felt they weren’t recognised for their contributions
  • They weren’t included in an effective onboarding process

You can lessen the chances of having key talent walk away within the first few months with an effective onboarding process.

It’s not something to be left until the day your recruit starts work.

Get the early steps wrong, and you may find you’re the only one showing up on their first day.

Before you recruit

1. Create a guide to working in your organisation

You don’t need to make it too detailed or heavy. What’s most important is to let people know about what you do, why and with whom.

Describe the company culture, including what it takes to be successful in your organisation. This guide will also help you during the recruitment process to articulate why candidates would want to work for you.

2. Be clear about the role

If you don’t know what this job is about, how can you give candidates an accurate picture of what the work entails? Don’t fall into the trap of believing a good recruit will work it out for themselves, bringing their skills and experience to bear.

A few stars may do this, but the majority prefer to know what they might be committing to before they start.

During recruitment

3. Tell the truth

Paint an accurate picture of your organisation, the role and your expectations. If you’ve completed steps one and two, this will be easy. If not, it’s not too late.

Just make sure you avoid the temptation to ‘talk up’ the job and organisation to attract an outstanding candidate. Down that path lies disappointment for both parties.

4. Choose carefully

Selecting a person for a role who doesn’t fit your culture may work in the short run, but sooner or later you will find yourself recruiting again.

No matter how skilled or experienced the candidate, if their values, attitudes and personality don’t align with those of your organisation, you are sabotaging this important new working relationship before it starts.

READ: Calculating the costs of hiring the wrong person

Once they start

5. Provide a warm welcome

Introduce your new hire as early as possible to their coworkers and key stakeholders, including customers. Promote their skills and why you’ve hired them. From the outset, treat them as a valued member of your team.

For example, listen to and value their opinions, and ensure you include them in all relevant communication and social events.

6. Get the basics right

Starting a new job can be quite daunting. Make the transition easier for your latest staff member by making sure of the following:

  • All the equipment and software they need is available, accessible and working
  • Information resources such as policies, procedures, checklists and FAQs are up to date and easy to find
  • They know who they can ask if they need help. Consider providing a buddy or coach for the first month.

7. Plan the experience and follow through

Set up a schedule before they start that includes adequate time for goal-setting, work hand-over, training, and reviewing progress and performance.

Include the names of people responsible for each step, and share the schedule with your new employee. This way, you will show you’ve thought of all the steps above and start on a positive note

Most importantly, set aside time to spend with them — not just on their first day but on a regular basis. You might be surprised how much you will learn from them!

There are many reasons employees leave a job, but poor onboarding shouldn’t be one of them.

These seven basic steps are easy to implement, and could make a positive difference in your employee turnover.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

3 signs an employee is on the way out

terminating employment

Losing an employee is the most obvious indicator of engagement in your organisation – so how do you know one is on the way out before it happens?

A recent figure from Gallup show that only 34 percent of workers in the US are actively engaged in their jobs. Other studies put the figure even lower.

Historically, the figures for Australia and New Zealand have been around five points lower than the US.

In the decade or so that I’ve been writing and speaking about employee engagement, the proportions of engaged, disengaged and actively disengaged employees have remained remarkably steady at around 30 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent respectively.

What does this mean for you?

It means there’s a good chance you have in your business right now people who are getting ready to move on.

They may be already looking for another role (actively disengaged), or they may be waiting for a reason to leave (disengaged).

In both cases, it helps if you can read the signals they’re putting out and take appropriate action.

Here are the most obvious signs that you might be about to lose someone.

1. Erratic work attendance or performance

Poor attendance or work errors from an otherwise dedicated and attentive employee are two big warning signs!

Sometimes these changes are temporary, and you can adjust for a short time. When it reaches the stage where you’re wondering why, don’t be afraid to ask.

2. Reduced motivation or interest

In any workplace, there will always be people who are less likely to speak up in meetings and share their ideas.

It may be that your leadership and culture encourage working this way and it suits your organisation.

What you need to notice here is someone who is now quiet and withdrawn when they previously contributed to discussions and were enthusiastic about the goals of the organisation.

If you do notice this, have a quiet chat with them as soon as possible to check in on what is going on for them.

3. Unreasonable demands

One of our clients recently had a team member who showed both of the signs above for quite a while before their unreasonable demands rang the alarm bells with management.

If you have someone asking for extra leave, more money or other conditions above and beyond their entitlements and your standards, it’s a pretty clear sign that they’re not happy and they’re testing what it’s worth for you to have them stay.

Have you seen any of these signs?

Never ignore them in the hope they will go away!

Instead, it’s time for you to decide what to do next.

Your action plan will depend on where the team member sits on the spectrum from ‘star performer’ to ‘better off without’.

Considering the cost to the organisation of losing a star performer, now is the time to have an honest discussion with this person.

If they’re definitely on their way out, you’re then in a good position to plan the transition.

Unless you have reliable and detailed evidence of the pay and conditions in their new role, don’t be tempted to make a counter-offer. Even if you do decide that’s the best action for you to take, be aware that most staff departures are rarely just for the money.

Experience shows they will still move on. You may have delayed them leaving and bought some breathing space.

If you can buy them back with a higher offer, the next offer that comes along and tops yours will be even more attractive to them.

While you probably hope anyone who’s thinking of leaving will be honest with you about their intentions, sometimes it will be hard for them to tell you.

Sometimes they may not know themselves.

What they do know is that they don’t care that much anymore about the work or the organisation. By being able to read the early warning signs you have an opportunity to find out why and to avoid a potentially damaging situation.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

Harrison Assessments and the Entrepreneur

Harrison Assessments Paradox Theory enables organisations to identify how team members’ behaviours can contribute to or hamper team objectives.

In this video Adam Goldenberg, founder and CEO of justfab,com, describes the critical role that building the right leadership team plays in entrepreneurial success.

Team building with Harrison Assessments

The key success factor in recruitment of his leadership team is their suitability for the role. Assessment of other factors, such as eligibility and interview performance, is relatively straightforward. However, he believes it is a mistake to rely on ‘gut feeling’ to judge a person’s suitability.

To assess suitability, Adam Goldenberg relies on data provided by Harrison Assessments Paradox Reports. More than a simple personality test, Paradox Reports reveal and individual’s strengths and weaknesses associated with many traits. Collectively, a team’s Paradox Reports can also identify gaps in skills and give insights into team dynamics.

Adam also reveals how, after witnessing the results, he became convinced of the value in management coaching. Again, Harrison Assessments provides his company with the information and tools necessary to tailor coaching for maximum effectiveness.

The first step to success

His main message on the first key to entrepreneurial success is:
Hire the right people – then invest in them.

Workplace Giving With Meaning

What comes to mind when you hear about workplace giving? Charitable donations? Team-building volunteering opportunities? Secret Santa? In this article, I’d like to explore some other ideas.

In the season of giving, let’s take the time to recognise and appreciate the ways we give to each other at work every day, not just on special occasions. For some people, giving is what you are paid to do. While for others, it sits outside your job description but I believe it’s still a vital attitude for all of us to have in order to work effectively and to find our joy at work.

Here are some reflections on giving at work, not just for the Christmas season:

1. Everyday giving

.

We already possess them. What’s more, their supply is unlimited. Think about the times you have given freely the following.

  • Your attention
  • Autonomy and empowerment
  • Sincere praise and recognition
  • Constructive feedback and guidance

2. Giving gives meaning

You may not always appreciate it, but each of the items listed above is a gift to the other person in the work context. That’s because it benefits both the giver and the recipient. You don’t have to give the gift, but you can choose to do so.

How does this giving make you feel? Could you get more of that feeling?

3. Appreciate that you can give

Being able to give is a gift in itself. Think about the ways you share your gifts and talents in the workplace. Then be grateful for those who give you the opportunity.

4. Real giving is different from ‘giving to get’

Giving your time, attention or praise is meaningful only if you do it without the expectation of receiving something in return. If you would like to give more, seek out Adam Grant’s book ‘Give and Take’ for inspiration.

5. You can give too much

We sometimes see people who always seem to be giving without looking after themselves. I’m sure you know people like this. It may even describe you.

A typical workplace example of this phenomenon is the team leader who loves to dive in and help the team to solve issues and get their work done. This is admirable up to the point where the leader is taking from their team opportunities to learn and to gain a sense of empowerment. The leader is also sacrificing their ability to get their own work done. In extreme cases, we may see this leader exhibiting atypical dominating behaviour when under stress because continually giving in this way is not sustainable.

In the Harrison Assessments Paradox report, this dynamic is illustrated by the ‘Power’ pairing of the traits Helpful (the tendency to respond to others’ needs and to assist or support others to reach their goals) and Assertive (the tendency to put forward personal wants and needs). To find out more about Harrison Assessments and the Paradox report that covers 12 pairs of traits, click here or contact us.

What do you think?

How and what do you give at work? Why is giving important to you?

Is the Harrison Assessment like MBTI?

career help

This is a common question from people who are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test.  Both systems look at an individual’s preferences or tendencies, however there are some fundamental differences between them.  Dr Dan Harrison provided his insights into the two tools.

The major difference is that MBTI was designed to be used as a personality assessment tool only, while Harrison Assessments (HA) is a job suitability tool based on the work context.  HA measures work preferences, motivations, values, work environment preferences and interests, in addition to personality.

  • In MBTI, respondents are type-cast into one of the 16 types, based on 4 dichotomies. HA does not type cast because in doing so, it would seriously limit its usefulness for recruitment and employee/career development.
  • MBTI was not developed for the work environment and consequently the questions are not fully designed to be work focused. The HA questions are work focused.
  • MBTI analyses norms based on different populations. HA analyses individual traits in relationship to performance for a wide variety of different job functions. Each role or career is benchmarked against employees in relevant roles to find the traits that contribute to job satisfaction and high performance as well as potential derailers.
  • MBTI uses bi-polar scales which assume an either/or relationship between traits. HA uses Paradox technology which allows for the person to be either, neither or both. The Paradox scales provide a deep insight into behavioural competencies as well as stress behaviours and even unconscious tendencies.
  • MBTI scales provide a surface view of personality. The paradox technology clearly measures negative tendencies whereas MTBI isn’t designed to do so. Because of the use of the bi-polar scale any conclusion regarding negative tendencies is more tentative.

MBTI is best used for team facilitation

The manufacturers state that the score on the MBTI does NOT relate to job success. Therefore, it has limited usefulness for career planning  or recruitment applications.

Human beings can be quite complicated as different factors interplay to drive their behaviour in different situations. The Harrison Assessment looks at 175 traits and examines the paradoxes in the tendencies. Its comprehensiveness facilitates awareness and development as one can zoom into a specific trait and context.

The HA reports enable you to increase effectiveness in career coaching, hiring and developing performance. They do not require a psychologist to interpret and anyone can easily learn to use the reports.

If you’re an experienced MBTI user and would like to explore further what makes Harrison Assessments so different, you can find out more here and here!

This is an update of a post that first appeared on this blog on18 May 2010

Employee engagement is “everything money can’t buy”

employee engagement

The inspiration for this post on employee engagement came from an unlikely source – a drive in the country. We visited the beautiful Wolgan Valley west of Sydney and historical Newnes. Although there’s no longer a town, there’s a sign that says Newnes, followed by the tagline: ‘Everything money can’t buy’.

When someone works for you, you exchange your money for their labour. That’s the basic economics of labour. There’s nothing about that transaction that imposes a duty on your employee to feel engaged, excited or enthusiastic about their work. They bring their skills, training and experience to work to produce goods or services you sell for profit. That’s the part of the employee engagement equation money can buy.

Doing things that increase employee engagement can certainly cost money, but engagement itself usually can’t be bought.

People want to feel the work they do is making a difference. Making a difference means different things to different people – and this is where many attempts at employee engagement have run off the rails. Answers to the question ‘How do you know your work is making a difference?’ will include answers as diverse as these:

“I know my company always acts ethically”

“The work we do here helps society”

“I have opportunities to contribute to the direction of the organisation”

“I’m learning new skills that will give me a hand in my career and that I can pass on to others”

“My work matters”

Can you tell me where you can buy that sort of employee engagement?

Employee engagement is much more than an annual survey or a new workshop. Employee engagement requires managers to find out what money can’t buy for each person on their team. What can you do to employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

Surveys and workshops, while valuable, are also generic by nature because they don’t tap into individual engagement ‘drivers’. There are many engagement factors to consider. Each person has their unique combination of things that money can’t buy. How do you find out what will employ their heart and not just their head and hands?

A valuable starting point in any employee engagement exercise is to do a serious analysis of employee expectations. With the Harrison Assessments Engagement and Retention Analysis, we examine these expectations in eight categories:

  1. Development
  2. Appreciation
  3. Remuneration
  4. Communication
  5. Authority
  6. Personal
  7. Social
  8. Balance

Here’s a small part of an individual Engagement and Retention Analysis report, to give you a taste of what’s possible:

Employee engagement indiv

We can also analyse the expectations fo any size group. Here’s a tiny snippet of the information you’ll get in a group Engagement and Retention Analysis report:

Employee engagement group

Beyond the colourful graphs, the detailed narrative in each report can help you improve your business results by showing how to increase employee engagement. You will know what people want, how important different factors are to them and how to address those needs to create better performance.

If you would like to experience our unique approach to employee engagement, get in touch!

Timely feedback leads to better performance

Many high-performing companies, especially in the startup and tech sectors, are happily dropping the traditional performance review.

Instead, they favour giving and requesting feedback when it can have the most impact on performance — both at the individual and business level.

(If you have children or a dog, you have no doubt already discovered this!)

The business benefits of more timely feedback

As external markets, including the labour market, change rapidly, the one sustainable competitive advantage a business can rely on is its staff.

To unlock value, employers need to engage their employees. We are fortunate today to have employees who are more educated, more mobile and who expect to apply their skills. They want to be involved, recognised and developed at work.

Implementing timely feedback builds engagement, grows skills and enhances productivity, which leads to better overall business performance.

What about your business?

Even if your business is not a fast-growing startup, in some instances you’d probably like to raise certain issues or topics well before the next round of performance reviews or staff surveys.

For example:

  • There’s something in your systems and processes that is frustrating for clients and staff.
  • One of your staff has an idea that could revolutionise your business.
  • You have a manager who is acting as a bottleneck for their team.

In situations, a timely feedback approach could pick up early signs so you can take appropriate action. At the same time, the organisation is showing employees that someone is listening. Both outcomes allow your business to become more agile and productive while engaging employees.

How can a business have timely feedback with minimal effort and maximum effect?

In the past five years, a completely new category of apps and online programs has emerged for this purpose.

If you already use a software package for performance appraisals or staff engagement surveys, it’s possible your provider also has a simplified feedback tool in their catalogue.

With more options coming onto the market all the time, you can find one that precisely suits your needs – if you know what you’re after. A few points to consider are:

  • What’s your purpose?
    If you are looking for a continuous feedback tool to replace your traditional performance appraisals, you might look at WIRL and similar apps. On the other hand, if you are looking for a replacement for a suggestion box or staff survey, you might investigate 15Five. If the primary motivation is to increase engagement, look at hppy or Tap My Back and similar tools. Most of the apps mentioned here perform multiple tasks, so it’s possible to find a good match to your needs.
  • Simple questions or a survey?
    Some systems allow you to customise and schedule specific questions on a weekly basis, while others may provide a set of questions that you can distribute as a survey and less frequently. Think about how much control you would like to have and how much data you want to collect. Keep in mind that more information usually means more work, at least in the short term.
  • Anonymous or identified?
    This depends on your current culture and levels of trust in the organisation. If answers are anonymous, people may be more open but you will likely get more noise in your system. When feedback is not anonymous, employees need to know they will not be penalised in any way for a controversial opinion. The advantage to having respondents identified is that you will be able to show your appreciation for their individual contributions, seek further clarification if needed, and work with them on ideas and solutions.
  • Frequency and timing
    Quality feedback is more likely if your app is easy to use, doesn’t take more than a few minutes to complete and will work on mobile devices. The most efficient and effective will simply become a regular part of your workflows, just like a weekly staff meeting — only shorter and more productive!
  • What happens to the data?
    This point should be both first and last, because it is so important. Just as you wouldn’t introduce a new CRM without knowing its features and how you plan to use it, starting to use a feedback app without a plan for how you’ll treat the results would be a waste of time. Don’t start until you can articulate why you’re doing this and how you’ll use the data. The same applies if you’re not ready to acknowledge and act on the feedback.

A word of caution

Time spent with your staff setting ground rules and training at all levels will make your feedback system much more meaningful and productive.

To feel confident using the new feedback process, every user must be clear about the expected feedback standards. They also need to believe someone will appreciate their opinions and ideas and take action based on them. With the most advanced — or most simple — feedback process, covering the basics first is the key to uncovering better performance through timely feedback.

Now’s a good time to consider what you could gain through timely feedback. Would you want to risk losing people because they feel their input is rarely required and mostly ignored, but will be valued by one of your competitors? Alternatively, would you prefer to tap into the knowledge, skills, experience and creativity of your staff through timely feedback?

The choice is yours.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

What’s going to happen when you lift that rock?

Have you ever lifted a rock and found an ants’ nest underneath? How did the ants react?

I bet they ran around like crazy!

A conversation I had today reminded me of this experience. I was talking to someone who is managing a team where the previous manager micro-managed everything the team members did. They had no authority to make even minor decisions on their own and being corrected, coerced and cajoled was part of their everyday working life.

The previous manager was the rock, sitting hard on top of the team. Keeping them in check and letting them know exactly where they stood – and where they couldn’t go.

Enter the new manager. A manager who expects the team to take responsibility for their own work. A manager who is not interested in the minutiae of what that work entails. A manager who won’t give direction on every task. A manager who expects them to think for themselves.

The rock has been lifted and the team has gone a little off the rails…

When they’re not used to having any freedom or responsibility, it’s not hard to imagine how that might happen. It may even be frightening for them. They may be feeling as if things are spiralling out of control.

How do you remove the rock without creating chaos?

  • Be clear about the expectations
  • Let the team know they have your support
  • Be there for them as they adjust to the new world they live in (the air, the light!)

There may be one or two who get lost along the way but be assured an ant colony can rebuild at a remarkable rate. Human teams can be equally surprising in how quickly they reform and perform.

Hiring for customer relationship success

Relate to your boss

Customer relationships are so important — no matter what the role or organisation. 

When selecting staff, we may think that the technical skills they possess, their experience and their qualifications are most important in our decision-making process. We may pay less attention to the so-called ‘soft’ skills, and often this is where we see it all fall apart further down the track.

What should we look for when we’re hiring?

‘Nice’ is the enemy of excellence when it comes to choosing staff with the right traits to deliver the highest expected standards of service to your customers and their own peers and managers.

Excellent customer service in any role requires:

  • Empathy
    The ability to identify with another person and to express that empathy when dealing with customers and co-workers.
  • Optimism
    A positive outlook and an expectation that there can be a favourable outcome to any customer interaction, including complaints.
  • Self-motivation
    A natural tendency to take the initiative to help a client and to be enthusiastic about helping them — and a willingness to take on new challenges.
  • Helpfulness
    A natural inclination to put others’ needs first, so that the customer will always feel that they and their needs are important.
  • Diplomacy
    The ability to be tactful and communicate effectively in even the most stressful situations.
  • Outgoing
    Happy and comfortable to meet new people. Even a naturally reserved person may be able to be outgoing when required, provided this is not their main job.
  • Learning
    A willingness to learn from mistakes will lead to continuous improvement with benefits for your organisation.

How do we identify employees with these traits? 

At every stage of the recruitment and selection process, you can be on the lookout for signs of the characteristics above.

  • Application letter
    Do they demonstrate an enthusiasm for the role and the challenges it represents? Have they shown that they understand the role and your requirements?
  • Resume
    Does their work and study history show that they have a customer service orientation? Even if they haven’t worked in customer service, there will be indicators in the way they describe previous roles and in other aspects of their resume, such as voluntary work.
  • Interview
    While enthusiasm, politeness and a positive attitude are easily noticed, they are also sometimes easily faked. Make sure you dig deeper to get real examples of how the candidate has acted in the past to provide excellent customer service. When you do, be listening for evidence that they possess the traits we have listed above.
  • Work preference testing
    There are multiple psychometric assessments that are available which will give you detailed information about a person’s natural tendencies with regard to customer service success. Some will also flag any unhelpful behaviours that may appear when the person is feeling stressed.
  • Reference checking
    Make sure you ask about how the prospective employee usually interacted with customers and other staff. Have there been any instances where they have failed to provide the best service? What was the situation and how did they handle it? Did they learn from the experience?

It will never be possible to predict customer service success with 100 percent accuracy, but taking the steps above can help you identify and hire staff who have the best chances of delivering the levels of customer service you and your customers expect.

Remember, these steps are important for any person in any role that interacts with others.

What will you change next time you’re hiring?

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

7 Fascinating Employee Engagement Trends for 2016

This article by David Mizne first appeared on the 15Five leadership blog, reproduced with permission. Balance at Work partners with 15Five in Australia to deliver employee engagement software. Contact us for more information advice@balanceatwork.com.au 

According to Bersin by Deloitte, “employee engagement has become the top issue on the minds of business leaders, directing us to an entirely new model of management”. But what does employee engagement even mean?

Few business buzzwords are more ubiquitous, yet the exact definition of employee engagement remains elusive. This becomes even more problematic when you consider Gallup’s seemingly ambiguous subcategories of not engaged, and actively disengaged.

I like to define employee engagement as proactively and passionately adding value while aligning with the company mission. This can be hard to quantify, but an engaged employee wears it on their face, demonstrates it in their work and in their workplace communication. Kind of like how former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined obscenity: “I know it when i see it”.

Once we know what we are looking for, we need to be able to measure it, and more importantly create more of it. Here are 7 engagement trends for the coming year, and advice for you to create a more engaged workforce in 2016:

1. Engagement will go up (but just a little).

According to Gallup’s latest poll: employee engagement has been pretty stagnant. Only 32% of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs in 2015, compared to 31.5% the previous year. Given the other trends below, and the fact that engagement has risen from 29% in 2011, we can expect to see the needle move in 2016. But probably not more than a point or two.

2. Millennials will (still) provide a challenge.

In 2015, millennials became the largest generation in the US workforce. That number is expected to rise dramatically as more boomers retire and more graduates start their careers. Some predictions are as high as 75% of the workforce by 2030! (Although that myth was debunked in this Wall Street Journal post. It’s actually more like 44%).

Whatever the specific number, Generation Y is now the majority. Businesses seeking to engage employees in their work will now have to tailor their approaches to this group. Research suggests that they are driven by open communication, a great company culture, involvement with causes, and achieving purpose and fulfillment.

3. More compassionate leadership.

People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. It turns out that the opposite is true too. An inspiring manager creates more engaged teams.According to research by leadership development experts Dr. Brad Shuck and Maryanne Honeycutt-Elliott, “higher levels of engagement come from employees who work for a compassionate leader—one who is authentic, present, has a sense of dignity, holds others accountable, leads with integrity and shows empathy”.

4. More employee feedback more often.

We conducted an employee engagement study in 2014 and found that the vast majority of employees who received little or no feedback were actively disengaged. Engagement went up dramatically when employees received feedback about their weaknesses, and even more so when they received feedback about strengths.

Data is always nice to have, but the feedback/engagement connection is also intuitive. How much more engaged are you in any relationship, when you are having open and honest conversation about what matters most?

5. Work/Life Balance will become Work/Life Blend.

The Society for Human Resource Management, found that the best companies are embracing flexibility. For many job-functions there is no longer any good reason to require people to come into the office every day, or for work to be done between the hours of 9am and 5pm. (I am writing this from my kitchen table at 7:30 at night). More companies will continue on this path as long as the numbers prove it’s working.

6. People analytics will grow.

In his article published in Harvard Business Review last month, Sean Graber argues that it’s important to look at employees’ perceptions and behaviors and their impact on performance. Managers can then decide how to shift things to increase engagement. In Sean’s consulting, he melds analytics with qualitative feedback by looking at aggregated data from surveys as well as self-reported behaviors:

Over time, organizations can track how their employees’ engagement changes and how it relates to key performance indicators (KPIs), such as sales, customer satisfaction, and attrition.

Josh Bersin also chimes in with his article, The Geeks Arrive In HR: People Analytics Is Here. According to Bersin the shift towards “big data in HR” began in 2011 and exploded rapidly. He predicts that people analytics will be its own department that will look at productivity, turnover, and the people-issues that drive customer retention and satisfaction. In the coming years businesses will rely on hard data to pre-empt disaster by determining when engagement will suffer or when people are considering leaving.

7. Technology will focus on the employee.

Bersin (I love this guy!) explains that the HR technology market moves in 5-7 year cycles of rolling-out, implementing, and replacing tech. We are now in a transitional phase between two cycles.

One of the biggest trends we are seeing is the arrival of a “new breed of pulse tools, feedback apps, and anonymous social networking tools”. These advanced methods for having regular check-ins with employees to understand where they are being challenged will eventually replace annual performance reviews.

Business is a living, breathing entity. It undergoes change, grows and recedes, gets broken and heals. The people are the individual cells that work together to ensure that the entity is healthy, productive, and thriving. In 2016, the brain (leadership) will have more tools at its disposal to predict and improve employee engagement. Maybe in 2017 Gallup’s survey will report a positive radical shift in how people show up to work.

David is not a fan of the terms “thought leadership” or “content marketing”, but he’ll keep using them…for now. Follow him on twitter @davidmizne.

 

 

"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

SUBSCRIBE