Tag Archives: performance

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 3: Strategic thinking

This is the fourth of six articles based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

In the Kelly study, strategic thinking was identified by study participants as a key skill that is in critical shortage among managers in the financial services industry.  It has been argued that this skill gap contributed to the GFC.

According to the survey results, an ‘aptitude’ for strategic thinking is important, as well as the capacity to:

  • identify and assess multiple external factors,
  • evaluate options and risks, and
  • solve complex financial challenges, both on behalf of clients and for the business.

Thinking strategically is a valuable skill in any position.  For those in charge of setting direction, strategic thinking is essential.

Strategy, strategic and related terms are among the most over-used and abused words in business.  Researchers have spent years dissecting and defining what is and isn’t strategic.  For a fascinating discussion of the differences between strategic thinking and strategic planning,  see this brief Wikipedia entry.

Interestingly, in a business dictionary dating from the 1970’s, none of the terms above were included!

What do we expect from strategic thinkers?

Despite the difficulties of defining the characteristics of strategic thinking, there is general concensus that the outcome is to bring the organisation’s vision to reality.

Whether we believe strategic thinkers are born or made, it is possible for us to identify people who have the potential to think strategically.

However, strategic judgement is a complex set of competencies as this definition and list of relevant traits from Harrison Assessments demonstrates:

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.

Although we think we know what we mean when we talk about strategic thinking or judgement, we should be careful about jumping to conclusions about someone’s ability until we have seen the evidence!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 1: Communication

Last week’s article on the ‘Top 5’ critical skills in short supply in Banking and Finance generated a lot of interest.

As a result of your feedback, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at each of the 5 areas of skill shortage in turn – beginning with communication – and give you some practical tips for survival.

For a quick summary of what you can do right now,  see our earlier post ‘The five step skills shortage strategy’.

Without excellent communication skills in all your staff, you will find they can’t:

  • build good relationships with clients
  • provide customer service that meets your clients’ expectations and needs
  • explain things well to clients
  • understand what clients need
  • sell your services and/or products
  • work together productively

From just that short list, imagine what poor communication could be costing your business!  But how can you know?

Signs you might have a problem:

  • customer complaints or (worse) losing clients who just leave without telling you why
  • low levels of business referrals (see previous articles on this topic)
  • lack of cooperation and teamwork, maybe some bullying
  • careless and/or expensive errors
  • losing good staff to competitors

What can you do about it?

1.  Be a positive role model

Communicate regularly and openly with your clients and staff.  Make sure this includes listening to what they have to say to you.

2.  Diagnose communication skills gaps

There are many tools and approaches on the market to help you do this.  We would be happy to help you find the right one for you.

3.  Fill the gaps

This may require drastic action that involves one or all of the following:

  • putting poor communicators where they can do the least amount of damage
  • improving the skills of your existing staff through training and coaching
  • hiring staff with the communication skills you want

If there are communication problems in your team, I guarantee without your intervention things can only get worse.  What do you plan to do about it?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Your easy performance management checklist

Viewers of last Wednesday’s webinar were suprised to learn that most performance management processes are a big waste of time.

How do you assess the value of your process?

Here’s an easy checklist:

1. Do you have all the information you need to set meaningful goals ?

2. Do all your employees get to have a high-quality conversation about their performance at least twice a year ?

3. Does your employee survey show that your performance management process is effective ? (If you don’t currently survey staff, consider using our Team Health Check.)

4. Does it take you more that twenty minutes to comlete the performance appraisal form ?

5. Do you have a maximum of 3-5 goals for each review ?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all five questions, congratulations!

If you didn’t, it might be time to view the webinar recording and/or get some help.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

‘Performance + Rewards’ webinar recording

Conducting performance appraisals and rewarding performance effectively can be two of the biggest challenges you face when managing staff.

Are performance reviews something you – and your team – dread having to go through, even to the point of serious procrastination?

Ever wondered how to select rewards that will really excite and motivate your staff?  Have you ever succeeded in this sensitive area of management?

Does the whole idea of measuring and rewarding staff performance give you headaches?

What if you had a straightforward strategy that met the needs of both you and your team?

Watch this webinar to find out more!

Performance + Rewards Webinar from Susan Rochester on Vimeo.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The 3 C’s of performance and rewards

There’s not much time for writing today as I’m busily putting the finishing touches on tomorrow’s webinar.

If you are planning to reward good performance in your team, here are three things to remember:

1.  Always be clear about what you will reward, when and how.  Let your team know what you will be measuring and why.  Rewards are more effective if people know about them in advance.

2.  Stay consistent both in the rewards that you give and the reasons for them.  This means consistency across time and across individuals.  Note:  Being consistent does not mean you have to reward everyone equally.  See point 1.

3.  Be committed to delivering on the rewards you have specified.  If you have any doubt that you will not be able to pay bonuses, for example, then don’t offer them.  It’s very hard to recover from the damage done by a promise that isn’t kept.

That’s it for today.  There will be lots more great information about performance management and rewards in tomorrow’s webinar, so make sure you click here to register

PS. Even if you don’t think you can attend live, it’s worth registering for early access to the recording.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

The one thing you need to know about performance…

…and retention.

Warning:  What you are about to read is so obvious you’ll wonder why you haven’t already used it in selection and performance management!

Enjoyment Performance Theory states that an individual will perform more effectively in a job if that individual:

1. Enjoys the tasks required by that job;

2. Has interests that relate to the position and

3. Has work environment preferences that correspond with the environment of the workplace.

Assuming a person has the skills and experience necessary for the job, enjoyment of the various aspects of the job is a significant predictor of higher performance.

Because we tend to do the things that bring us pleasure and avoid things we don’t enjoy, we tend to do the things we like more often.  As we do those activities more often, we get better at them and our improved performance adds to our enjoyment of the task.  A virtuous cycle, if you like. 

Conversely, because we will be less inclined to do something we don’t enjoy, we fail to improve in that task and the lower performance reinforces our dislike of the activity – a vicious cycle.

Harrison Assessments’ 20 years of research has proven that employees who enjoy at least 75% or more of their job are three times more likely to succeed than employees who enjoy less than 75% of their job. That makes understanding factors related to work satisfaction vitally important for making the right hiring decisions, motivating employees, and retaining top talent. 

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

So how do you apply the theory to your team? 

Surprisingly, very few behavioural assessments or personality assessments measure work satisfaction, even though it is critically important to do so. As a result, assessments are limited in their ability to determine motivation or forecast whether an individual will prosper and stay with the company.

The Harrison Assessment questionnaire is designed to predict performance, work satisfaction and retention. This is critical when selecting new staff and also enables companies to motivate people and increase their performance by assigning the roles and responsibilities that give them the highest degree of work satisfaction.

To find out more about what we can do for you with Harrison Assessments, visit our website or contact us!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 simple ways to get more done

Did you know you can be more effective, for longer periods, if you pay more attention to what you’re doing? 

(We covered the possibility of doing less to achieve more in an earlier post on multi-tasking.)

Driving a manual car recently after many years of driving automatics – and the extra concentration that required to get anywhere – started me thinking about the things we do on auto-pilot, without really being ‘present’.  At work, this can mean we repeatedly act – or react – out of habit in ways that may be counterproductive, even causing stress for ourselves in the process.

We all know we have a choice about our reactions to everyday situations, so how do we switch off the default mode and become more mindful in the everyday?

1.  Change your routine

Just as driving a manual car required me to concentrate more on what I was doing, anything you do different from your normal routine will engage your brain more in whatever it is you’re doing.  For example, you could take a different route, or mode of transport, to get to the office.  Or try out a new response when you answer the phone.

2.  Minimise distractions

It is possible to get through a day without checking your emails every 2 minutes!  (I have tried it…)  Instead, the experts recommend a set time to check your emails, twice a day, say 10am and 4pm.  By starting your day on your most important project, instead of being driven by what’s in your inbox, you’ll feel more in control of your work with a greater sense  of achievement.

As an internet addict myself, I’ve found the use of a program the shuts of internet access for a predetermined period is very effective for increasing focus!

3. Take some action

If you find yourself reacting with annoyance or frustration when confronted by certain people or situations, it’s time to do something about it!  Instead of putting off confronting the issue and causing yourself ongoing tension, focus on how much better (and more effective) you’ll feel once you don’t have to worry about it anymore. 

Of course, one solution may be for you to consciously change your reaction so that you no longer waste time on an unproductive emotion!

Please let me know if these tips – or any others – have helped you to be more effective by posting your comment below.  As always, I look forward to hearing from you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for some workplace magic?

On my way back from Melbourne last week, I sat near a girl who was reading a book called ‘Workplace Magick’.  This started me thinking about a lot of things, mostly about how bad things must be at work for someone to hope a book like that might help.  
 
 Have you ever felt that desperate?  I know I have!  And I’m also fairly sure no magic was going to fix it!
 
The Gallup organisation recently studied work satisfaction. They found that feeling that you have friends at work was one of the top predictors of job satisfaction.  You can achieve a friendly and productive workplace by creating a positive work environment that motivates people.  

 

How can you bring back the magic for your team? 

1.  Think of yourself as a facilitator and supporter of greatness, for both your team and individual members.  When you know their strengths, you can help them harness and contribute their best efforts.
 
2.  Be willling to share the credit when things go well and avoid playing the blame game when they go wrong. 
 
3.  Be aware of how you talk to – and about – members of your team.  How you communicate, verbally and nonverbally, is being constantly monitored and judged by those around you.
 
4.  Listen to and respect the opinions of team members.  Show them that their suggestions are valued by being prepared to try something new when they offer solutions to problems they’ve identified.
 
5.  Keep your commitments.  If you promised the team that something would happen, it’s up to you to make sure it happens, or have a reasonable explanation when it doesn’t.

Would you like to know what your team’s thinking?

Click here to find out the easy way!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Could your team use a tune-up?

My car currently has a small niggling problem that’s not serious, but I know I should do something about it.  Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience, with a car, computer or other technology?

Have you ever had the same sort of nagging thoughts about your team at work?  Things are running smoothly, but you know they could probably be even better if you took the time to look under the bonnet and do some team maintenance.

You could be avoiding taking any action for one of the following reasons:

  • Time  “Sure, we’d like to do something, but we are always so busy.”
  • Uncertainty  “I really don’t know where to start.”
  • Fear “We are doing pretty well.  I don’t want to risk opening a can of worms.”
  • Scepticism  “We tried team building activities before.  It was fun but it didn’t really transfer back to the workplace.”

Sound familiar?  So why should you take time out to work on your team?

Teams that have been selected, trained and coached according to the strengths of the individual team members will always out-perform any teams composed and managed simply along functional lines. 

Teams outshine their competition when they –

  • Have shared goals and a focus on outcomes
  • Value cohesion, communication and collaboration
  • Recognise and share work according to their indiviual strengths

Any team building activity that contributes to better teamwork will focus on how these high performance team characteristics are applied in the workplace.  For example, read the case study of one team development process.

TIP:  Know how to get the best performance from your team with practical and meaningful team development.  Register for our webinar on 7 July at 12 noon (AEST).

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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

"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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