Tag Archives: strategy

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Brainstorming for one

Brainstorming is probably my favourite way of getting out of a rut and generating new ideas. It’s a key tool for leadership development in any setting.

But what do you do if you’re stuck on something and calling a meeting is neither appropriate or convenient?

One answer is to write exhaustive lists using brainstorming rules – suspend judgement and focus on quantity. ‘Brainstorming for one’, I call it.

What follows is an example of how you could use this technique to crack a common problem.

When we need to hire, we often get stuck on defining what we want in a new hire. Often, we play safe by sticking to what we’ve done in the past even when the business has changed over time.

The new way

1. Start writing lists including –

        • Everything the person will have to do to do this job well now
        • Everything they need to know before they start
        • Everything you want them to be while they work for you
        • Everything you are going to measure to assess their performance
        • All the ways this job will appeal to the right person

2. Keep adding to the lists (without judging or editing) until you can’t think of anything more

3. Keep your lists going for at least 24 hours. Your subconscious mind will generate further ideas while you’re doing other things, even sleeping!

4. When the ideas stop flowing, it’s finally time to edit:

  • Get rid of anything that’s unrealistic, such as ‘will bring me coffee without being asked’
  • Look for patterns. Items that appear several times on your lists must be important to you

5. Combine your lists to define both the role you are filling (your job description) and the person you want to fill it – which in turn gives you your recruitment method, ad wording and selection process.

What do you think?  Could this work for you?

I’d love to hear your experiences of using ‘brainstorming for one’.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

3 steps to building a better business case

employee rewards

Are you required to apply for money for initiatives you wish to implement or purchases you wish to make?

When you are putting forward a case for funding for a project, it’s easy to slip into thinking the numbers are all that matter. Yes, the price is important, but it never tells the full story.

You can easily improve your chances of gaining support for your project by demonstrating you can answer some fundamental questions.  Here are the questions we suggest our prospective Career Navigator clients need to be able to answer before they even start talking about the money:

1. What are you hoping to gain by using this product or service, or completing this project?

How will this purchase or project benefit your organisation and/or your clients? For example, you may expect it to help you supply higher quality client services, or to serve your clients more efficiently. Can you clearly and precisely articulate the benefits so they can be easily understood by people who are not experts in your field?

2. How will you know when that outcome has been achieved?

Detail exactly how you will measure if your project has been a success. For example, suitable metrics may be the number of new clients served, time spent with clients, client feedback ratings, time saved and costs cut. Of course to be able to make a comparison, you will need data for your current situation, before the purchase and/or implementation.

3. Is there anything else you need to know?

You need to feel confident you are making the right choice so if there’s anything at all that is unclear, seek more clarification and/or evidence as to why this proposal should be supported. Examples of further information may be white papers, case studies, benchmark or validity data, or opportunities to speak to existing users.

Being prepared in this way – while also paying attention to the financial viability of all options – supercharges your credibility as a business-minded partner in the decision-making process.

Then it’s time to talk about how to make your dream a reality.

What do you think?  Would you follow these steps for better results?

Share your thoughts, suggestions and feedback below.

[Thanks, Rachel Bourke, for providing the inspiration for this article!]

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

New products from Harrison Assessments

teamwork

We are thrilled to announce:

  • The Career Navigator
  • The Succession Planner

Dr Dan Harrison and his team are upgrading the Harrison Assessments HATS system this month to include these new modules.  There will also be updates to the questionnaire and the standard Job Success Formula library of over 6000 templates. Click here to download a summary of the changes: Harrison Assessments New Release Sept 2013

Here is a brief explanation of the new assessment products and talent management tools soon to be available in your HATS system at no extra charge:

CAREER NAVIGATOR

This is an interactive career system that has been added to the current Career Module.  This means that now when you send a questionnaire invitation to a client you have the option of linking their results to their own Career Navigator account.

The client can log into their Career Navigator account to run their own reports and view much more information about careers than previously available in HATS reports.

And you’ll notice that the reports have been updated to be more focused on career satisfaction with an additional 19 ‘interest’ and ‘employment preference’ traits.  HATS administrators will still be able to log into their clients accounts to see the results and run reports for coaching purposes.

The Career Navigator will make it much easier for career professionals, schools, universities, and employment organisations to give their customers access to the accuracy and vast amount of valuable employment information only found in the Career Module in HATS.

SUCCESSION PLANNER

The Succession Planner is an internal job succession tool for employees.  Companies can invite their employees to compare their work preferences (HA questionnaire) against any number of internal jobs included in the Succession Planning module.

Applications are linked to the recruitment campaign module which includes external applicants (if desired) and ensures a transparent, fair and performance based selection process.

The Succession Planner helps companies retain talented and committed employees and is a great resource for HR professionals.  It means employees have the benefit of applying for jobs they know they are already suited to, and may even consider a change in career direction with confidence.  It is also a valuable tool for company restructures and mergers.

For more information on what these changes mean for you, please contact us.  We look forward to answering your questions!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

A (very) simple guide to business productivity

We’re all busy, so here’s some quick advice on how to get the most from your staff!  Of the millions of words written about productivity, there are really just three things you need to remember.

For your employees to work the way you’d like them to, they need:

1.  Something to believe in

  • What are your core values, vision, mission and goals?
  • How have you communicated these to your team?
  • Can they see a connection between your plan and their future?

Your strategic plan describes the game.

2.  Best job fitness
In my experience, productivity and performance issues are often the result of ‘square pegs in round holes’.  This is a perfect time to reassess the fit of key people within their teams.  If you have identified individual strengths, you’ll be able to make the most of them.

Sometimes, this may result in more training or restructuring, or it may simply lead to the shifting of some tasks between people.
With the right people in the right positions, you can be confident you have built a winning team.

3.  Knowledge of what they’re supposed to be doing
Your organisational chart, policies, procedures, job descriptions and employment contracts are the rules of the game.  As with any successful team, training and coaching are ongoing.

Also let employees know how their role fits into the wider picture of the work that is done in your organisation.  Are they fully aware of the consequences for the business of their excellent (or poor) performance?

By putting in a little extra effort on people management, you can make huge productivity gains. If you would like some help with this, please click here.

What have you tried to improve productivity in your business?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Even your best friend won’t tell you…

new employees

Complain to a colleague about an empoyee and they might tell you to just get rid of the person. You’re less likely to hear that you might get better performance by your staff if you give them more coaching, recognition or opportunities.

In traditional ‘command and control’ management, the assumption was that a staff member should do as they’re told and just get on with the job. If they couldn’t do that, they should be moved on.

The workplace has changed but remnants of this thinking remain.

With a more highly educated, skilled and mobile workforce, old styles of management are no longer viable, no matter how much we might believe life was simpler back then.

Using fear to motivate staff is not sustainable.

Those who continue to apply this model are short-changing their business and their staff. Here’s why:

  • Companies that build a great culture by promoting well-being, treating staff with respect, providing coaching and modelling honesty and integrity have high sustainable staff engagement. These companies had an average operating margin of 27.4%.*
  • Those that rely on traditional motivation, such as bonuses, had an operating margin of 14.3%.*
  • Where staff were not engaged or motivated, the operating margin averaged 9.9%.*
  • Companies with high levels of staff engagement posted returns 22% higher than the stock market average.^
  • Companies with disengaged employees had returns 28% below average.^
  • The top three drivers of engagement were career opportunities, recognition at work and brand alignment.^
  • With only one third of employees, out of 32,000 surveyed, saying they are highly engaged,* finding a way to treat staff better is a huge, hidden source of competitive advantage.

What can you do to increase employee engagement, motivation and retention?

Your friends might not tell you, but we will! Or you could ask your staff…

*Towers Watson 2012, ^AON Hewitt 2010

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What’s wrong with politics?

In a recent conversation with a candidate for the next election, she told me she thought politics as a career is a lot less ‘political’ than working in the corporate world.

Her reasoning was that you already know what people stand for if they’re politicians. Their parties, policies and platforms tell you what they believe to be important.

In contrast, individuals in organisations often have hidden agendas. We may not know what their beliefs or real goals are, or what’s important to them.

As a result, political games are more subtle and insidious at work than in the political sphere.

I’d like to know what do you think.

Could there be more politics in your workplace than in parliament? And if so, why do you think that is?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Three steps to successful collaborations

new employees

This post is part of a series on collaboration. See this previous post for more on how working together can work for you.

A recent article on the dangers of collaboration started me thinking of the proactive steps we can take to avoid the risks inherent in a collaborative effort.

Like many people, my experiences range from significant disaster to sucessful win-win relationships. You can learn from my mistakes.

Here are the ‘success factors’ that I believe can make all the difference:

1. Identify in advance what the pay-offs will be for each party from the relationship

Unless both parties stand to gain equally from a joint venture, there will always be an unequal distribution of effort and interest to make it work. This is one factor you can’t neglect and which needs to be monitored, evaluated and renegotiated as you go along.

2. Know who you’re working with

This seems obvious but how well do you really know the other person? In particular, do you know how they will react to stress?

As we court potential joint venture partners, we are usually at our politest and most agreeable. You also need to know what might happen if it all goes ‘pear-shaped.

Also get to know the personnel of your potential joint venture partner. Who will be responsible for what? Who will you be working with closely?

3. Set clear expectations – for everything!

You need to consider everything – from the time you expect it to take to respond to an email to how profits will be shared.

Business collaboration is a unique relationship. You are both client and supplier to each other. This requires you to observe the same professional standards you follow with your other clients and suppliers.

Collaboration in any venture can add diversity, interest, personal development and contributes to the overall stock and sharing of human knowledge. For me, working with a co-author on a current project has been challenging at times. However I know the result will be of much higher quality and originality than if either of us worked alone.

Could you create successful collaborations using these steps? What benefits could be awaiting you?

As usual, I’d love to hear your story. Please share your experiences (good, bad and ugly) with collaboration, so we can learn from you!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Writing an effective job advertisement

The development of a job advertisement is a crucial part of the recruitment and selection process to enhance the employer’s capability to attract the right pool of applicants for their role.  

This extends to where you advertise and under which category you post the advertisement.  This article will step you through writing your advertisement and will provide you with some sample wording in key areas.

Recruitment Strategy

The first decision you need to make is where you advertise.     Factors will include the:

  •  Seniority of the role
  • Type of role – example IT role or HR role
  •  Location of the business
  •  Employment category – full time or part time (there are now web sites for part time jobs, job share).
  • Advertising budget
  • Time frame to fill the role
  • Main components of the role – this will determine the category and sub categories.

Requirements of an effective advertisement:

The advertisement should:

  • Attract attention from a sufficient number of potential candidates
  • Provide an honest picture of your company
  • Display the image of your company
  • Create an impression of credibility
  • Contain accurate information
  • Provide information for follow up by the perspective candidates – example contact details, your web site.
  • Closing date – this is a personal choice however I always prefer to have a closing date.
  • Salary range – again this is a company decision.  Some companies have a policy that they will not advertise the actual range.  Others simply select the range in the tools for searches by candidates who can select jobs within their range.

Content and Layout of your advertisement:

Write your advertisement in the following flow of information:

Headings –  job title and a few key bullet points to attract candidates’ attention; such as:

Administration Manager

  •  Fabulous Leichhardt location, close to coffee shops, delis etc.
  • Varied role managing a small team
  • Flexible Work Arrangements possible

The Company – a brief description of your business

Limit to one paragraph, enough for the prospective applicant to know what your main purpose is.

The Job – describe what the job entails – this is critical.  You do not want the whole job but avoid vague descriptions, be specific.  Use wording such as:

  • Manage a team of two – an accounts clerk and receptionist
  • Process a weekly payroll of 20

Person SpecificationWhat knowledge, experience, skills and personal attributes must candidates possess – be specific and avoid vague descriptions.  Be careful not to stipulate criteria that you do not need for the role which may be a concern in discrimination issues.

Don’t use               –                               Good computer skills (you wouldn’t want bad!)

Use phrases such as            –               Must be able to demonstrate advanced skills in Excel

Package informationinsert information about package, benefits etc.

Closing information –  closing date for your advertisement, contact details.

Equal Employment Opportunity:

 Due care is required to avoid discrimination against potential candidates.  For example avoid wording such as:

  • 3 years experience  –  use “candidates must be able to demonstrate …” or “candidates must have a demonstrated track record in …”
  • Office Junior – can become Office Assistant
  • Foreman – can convert to Supervisor

For more information on equal employment opportunity in advertising or elaboration on any other aspect of this article please do not hesitate to contact Victoria Sciacca on 0408 602 240 or info@hrcsolutions.com.au or visit hrcsolutions.com.au

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How referable is your business?

Lead generation is now more important than ever and client referrals are the most profitable way to build your business. Do you have a systematic referral process that makes it easy for your clients to refer you to others?

Given the volatility in the market and the caution among clients, it is now more important than ever to strengthen your existing client relationships and make it easier for your clients to recognise your value and refer you to others.

80 percent of clients would be willing to refer their adviser.
Yet only 20 percent of clients are actively asked for referrals.

Our research indicates there is an enormous opportunity that advisers are missing out on. Clients are open to the idea of giving referrals – but advisers are not having enough of these ‘referral conversations’.

How much revenue are you missing out on by not getting a referral from 80 percent of your client base on an ongoing basis? It’s time to close the gap between your current ‘referral revenue’ and your goal ‘referral revenue’ – and here’s how to do it…

Step 1 – Don’t stick your head in the sand…find out what your clients really think

Some advisers are worried about asking for referrals because they don’t actually know what the client really thinks of their service – so the first thing to do is find out.

If you’re not regularly hearing either positive or negative feedback, then that’s a sure sign that your clients don’t care enough to tell you and aren’t fully engaged with your business. That’s exactly when you should worry.

While it may sound counter-intuitive, the first step in building a more referable business is to try and uncover client feedback and any complaints through an independent feedback process – most people will be too polite to tell you directly.

Handled proactively, addressing client feedback gives you an indication of who is most open to the referral discussion and is the perfect opportunity to make your business more referable. Our clients have increased their levels of repeat, retained and referral business through this step alone.

Step 2 – Stop hoping – plant ‘referability seeds’

It’s not a matter of asking the question directly and hoping for the best. You need to foreshadow a future conversation around referrals so that both you and your client will be comfortable with the conversation. Do your clients know that you welcome referrals and that’s the preferred method by which you grow your business?

Do you make it obvious through your website and marketing collateral that you welcome referrals? Or do your clients think that you’re too busy already? A conversation about referrals doesn’t make you look desperate. But if you don’t make it clear that you welcome referrals, don’t expect to get them.

See next week’s blog post for more tips. You may also want to visit www.customerreturn.com.au to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Research bosses should know about

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

82% of Australian workers considered changing jobs last year

37% of employees are actively pursuing new roles

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

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

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

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

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

People changed jobs for:

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

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

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

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

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

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Looking for fresh ideas? Ask your staff!

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

Are you making the most of yours?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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