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There’s a special place in my heart for middle managers – they are THE essential “hub” of everything in your organization and yet, they’re treated like Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect.” Why is that?
They have tremendous potential for high impact in your organization but they face several challenges (which are not their fault):
We see it in just about every industry: a graphic designer becomes an art director, a land surveyor becomes a project manager, an architect becomes a partner. In their entry role, they do a standout job and are quickly promoted up the ranks, eventually finding themselves in management roles where they are expected to [intuitively] delegate work, communicate across teams, bring in business, and coach and mentor others.
Yet, without training or support they have to rely on instincts and often poor role models for how to manage and lead others. One example we see play out over and over is their reliance on their technical expertise to solve problems rather than engaging those closest to the problem in solving it. This comes out of a desire to have a positive impact but being the ‘heroic problem-solver’ for their team actually has a negative spiral effect on their organization that they don’t realize.
In our LEAP-Leadership Acceleration Program, our coaches teach them one of the simplest and highest-impact shifts they can make… Think of yourself as a FACILITATOR not a problem-solver. The very definition of facilitate is “to make easy” and the shift in mindset makes life easier for the middle manager as well as their direct-reports.
Learning how to facilitate does take a little practice but it’s a VERY learnable skill that nets quick returns. Here are some tips for making the shift from Problem-Solver to Solution Coordinator:
Facilitation skills might just be the best kept leadership super-power and your middle managers the best way to create a strong, healthy organization. We’ve been developing leaders through an integrated methodology since 2002 and the notion of being a facilitative leader is by far one of the most powerful ‘ah-ha’ moments in their leadership journey and it’s a skill they leverage forevermore.
Professional literature often draws rigid lines between leadership and management, suggesting that one is right and one is wrong. In reality, we need individuals who both do the right thing and are capable of doing things right. We need middle-managers who can help individuals and groups do the right things right – the very nature of facilitative leadership.
The 'X-Factor' To Organizational Effectiveness: How Leaders Can Build Trust Within Your Organization
Show me an employer with a distrustful workforce, and I’ll show you a ship headed for rough waters if it’s not sinking already. When employees distrust leadership to a substantial degree, it affects everything. Decisions are made more slowly, learning curves stretch out, engagement suffers, productivity lags and, these days, workers might just walk out the door.
Yes, as employers continue to grapple with the “Great Resignation”—the trend of many workers voluntarily leaving their jobs—trust is more important than ever. Organizations that can build and maintain a strong rapport with their employees are poised to have a competitive advantage in the months ahead.
In fact, one could say that employers are at a crossroads when it comes to trust. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, an online survey of more than 33,000 people around the world, 56% of respondents believe that business leaders are purposely trying to be misleading by stating falsehoods. On the bright side, the survey found that “business” is now the most trusted institution, replacing “government.” Of survey respondents, 61% trust business, while only 53% trust government.
What this means is employers have an enormous opportunity to build and fortify their reputations as trusted entities, helping both themselves and their employees. Here are some ways you and your leadership team can build trust within your organization.
Talk about it.
Distrust arises from not only miscommunication but also the lack of communication. That is, when something isn’t talked about and is left to assumptions, those assumptions tend to lean toward the negative.
For this reason, employers should address trust openly. Tell employees explicitly that their trust matters to you and explain the ways in which you intend to build it. To do so, someone in a top leadership role—ideally, the owner of the business, CEO or another widely recognized leader—needs to issue a formal statement to this effect.
Be sure to keep any promises you make in such a statement. Moreover, if you outline various objectives, such as “Hire additional staff to reduce reliance on overtime,” update employees on these goals regularly until they’re achieved or revised. Perhaps the worst way to address trust is to say you’re going to do something about it but then let the effort slide into apathy.
Trust generally can’t exist in a negative working environment, so it certainly can’t flourish. When leadership establishes and actively encourages positivity, an “ecosystem of trust” can develop. This means that employees will more likely trust each other, as well as ownership and management.
Contrast this with working environments built around unhealthy competition and political (in the office sense) alliances. Pitting workers against each other, or looking the other way when this dynamic occurs, can produce some short-term results. However, in the long run, the toxicities that result from these experiences tend to lead employees to distrust each other and leadership.
To promote positivity, train workers to cooperate by teaching skills such as recognition of bias, active listening and effective communication. Reinforce your HR processes to resolve conflicts between employees quickly and fairly. Immediately investigate inappropriate behavior. Use 360-degree performance feedback to honestly tell workers how they’re doing so they can give you insights into leadership’s effectiveness.
To go the extra mile, check in with your people managers regularly to determine whether their teams are sliding into negativity. If necessary, confront the problem through team-building exercises or special meetings aimed at boosting employee morale and refocusing them on your mission.
Demonstrate employer expertise.
Sometimes the source of distrust within an organization isn’t so much that employees believe leadership is actively lying or unethical; it’s that they suspect those in charge lack competency as an employer.
This may sound harsh, but let’s face it, being a good employer today goes far beyond simply cutting a paycheck every couple of weeks. Particularly at a time when workers are leaving their jobs in droves, you’ve got to convey to them that you know what you’re doing. This includes:
• Engaging in a hiring process that respects applicants’ time and need for clarity.
• Providing an onboarding process that welcomes new hires to the organization and acclimates them to their working environments quickly and positively.
• Training employees thoroughly so that they can get up and running and feel good about their contributions.
• Administering payroll and benefits seamlessly with minimal complications or disruptions.
• Giving workers the equipment and technology they need to do their jobs well.
• Communicating frequently and transparently about the state and direction of the organization.
• Recognizing employees as “whole people”—not just workers—who need work-life balance, mental health support and, every so often, some fun.
When your workforce trusts you to care for them, they’ll also be more likely to trust your strategic plans and go the extra mile to perform their job duties at an optimal level. In short, engagement and productivity will likely rise.
The Power of Trust
Trust has always been important. Results of a 2017 study on the neuroscience of trust, published in a Harvard Business Review article of the same name, found that employees who work for “high-trust” companies enjoyed their jobs 60% more and were 70% more aligned with their employers’ purposes than workers at “low-trust” companies.
The power of trust is only increasing. In fact, trust may be the X factor that enables some organizations to endure and thrive in today’s chaotic, shifting environment of pandemic-inflicted changes and evolving attitudes about employment. Work with your leadership team and advisors to put your organization on the right side of this trend.
Has the state of the American workplace ever been more in flux? Decades ago, once you were hired, you went to work. That generally meant going to a physical location, being provided with a workspace and equipment, and assimilating into the culture and routines of your surroundings.
Today you can get hired, on-boarded, trained and sent into action without ever leaving your home. Remote work was growing in prevalence before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ongoing public health crisis has accelerated the trend exponentially. And many organizations aren’t looking back -- encouraging, even requiring employees to work from home.
However, that’s not true in every case. Many employers are striving to establish a “best of both worlds” workplace, whereby those who wish or need to work on-site can do so, while those who prefer or have grown accustomed to working remotely can do that.
If your organization’s leaders are struggling with a “hybrid” workforce, as it’s being called, they’re not alone.
Recognize the Differences
One reaction to suddenly having a hybrid workforce may be to “normalize” the situation one way or the other. That is, treat a hybrid workforce as if everyone works on-site and nothing has changedSept or, vice versa, treat all employees as if they’re working remotely.
Although it’s important to treat everyone equitably, don’t ignore the intrinsic differences between the two. Look carefully at which positions are best suited for each.
A couple of key terms that come into play are synchronous and asynchronous time. Synchronous time is that during which employees must synchronize their schedules for meetings or collaborative work. Asynchronous time is that during which employees can work on their own.
Job roles that involve mostly asynchronous time are well-suited to remote work, where an employee can create a comfortable workspace and work during optimal times. For positions that entail a substantial amount of synchronous time, working on-site tends to make more sense.
Software development organizations may tell us that their products enable seamless and incredibly productive collaboration, but human psychology has long indicated that in-person collaboration is more natural and intuitive. In fact, my spouse is a software engineer who was dismayed when his employer announced last year that the developers had proven they can work collaboratively from home and therefore would NOT be invited back to the office when it opened. Clearly employees can do great things together online, just that physical work locations and personal preferences can still serve a useful purpose as places of collaboration and socialization.
Establish Clear Expectations
Once a hybrid workforce is in place, establish clear expectations regarding “nuts and bolts” issues such as work hours and communication. These things tended to be implicitly understood when everyone worked on-site -- you showed up and left at a certain time and communication was handled face-to-face, on the phone or eventually via email.
In a hybrid environment, leaders need to explicitly discuss these items with employees. Start with work hours, which have evolved quite a bit since the old days of “nine to five.”
Remote workers tend to prefer and, indeed, rely on flexible hours to accommodate childcare and other inevitable home-based issues. Some on-site employees may still wish to adhere to a traditional schedule, but others might demand flex hours if that’s what is available to those off-site.
There’s no single solution. Leaders need to recognize the distinctive cultures of their organizations, build consensus regarding what will work fairly and optimally for everyone, and keep their eyes on the prize: productivity.
Another critical issue is communication. With people in different locations working flexible schedules, this can be a huge challenge. Leadership needs to set clear norms and expectations regarding:
All too often, communication is left to chance or open to interpretation. A hybrid workforce demands an open and unambiguous accounting of how information will be exchanged. Leaders need to enforce the rules and remind staff when necessary.
Master Technology and Build Trust
The importance of technology cannot be overstated. There are many remote business communication platforms in play these days -- Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Chat, Zoom. Leaders need to learn all the features of whichever one your organization uses and demonstrate this knowledgeability to employees. You may want to invest in additional training to ensure a high level of expertise.
On the flip side, there’s the human factor of the equation. Today’s employers face greater challenges regarding trust. Employees can and will acquire information from many different sources. They may distrust their employers’ motives in a time when organizations must make some very difficult decisions.
Leaders of hybrid workforces must overcome the even greater challenge of managing employees in different locations and time zones, on various schedules, who may be comfortable with differing modes of communication. It’s not easy! Remember that trust is based on the mutual understanding that employees will deliver high-quality work while employers, as demonstrated by leadership, will act with clarity, transparency and honesty.
It’s all about flexibility
One thing’s for sure: hybrid workforces aren’t going anywhere. In 2020, 81% of more than 4,000 employees surveyed by online job board FlexJobs said they’d be more loyal to their employers if they were offered flexible work options.
The key word there is “flexible” -- many employees value the ability to work from home, but many others still enjoy the experience of in-person collaboration. It’s the ongoing challenge of every leadership team to find the right balance.
They would seem a perfect fit: social media and recruitment. After all, social media is all about people, and your organization is probably looking for a few good ones. But many employers don’t know how to start using social media to recruit talent and fill their open positions. Some have plunged in unprepared and found themselves overwhelmed by the amount of work involved and frustrated by the lack of immediate interest.
But the potential benefits of using social media for recruiting are considerable. Let’s face it: Social media may be the easiest place to find anyone these days. Most of us are active daily on at least one platform. And, once you connect with a candidate, you can engage in a two-way conversation. Through this interaction, and by perusing their public posts, you’ll get a much better idea of an individual’s character and personality before the first interview.
What’s more, recruiting on social media is becoming a more widely traveled avenue to hiring. In 2019, marketing research firm Clutch reported that 14% of recent hires found their jobs on social media. A 2020 Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals revealed that 71% of hiring decision-makers believed social media is an effective way to screen applicants.
Here are some tips for getting in on this exciting trend without getting burned by unrealistic or unclear expectations.
1. Establish a bona fide presence.
The thing about social media is you can’t fake it. Most people — particularly Millennials and Gen Z — have been online long enough to intuitively detect a contrived or “preconstructed” social media account full of autogenerated posts.
If you’re serious about using social media for recruiting, you need to first find your voice on one or more platforms and show that you’re a real entity with actual humans sharing authentic thoughts and expertise. For organizations that haven’t done much online other than maintain a website, this could mean doing very little in the way of recruiting for a while as you amass a history of posts, establish a brand identity and, hopefully, build a loyal following.
2. Get employees involved.
Having more than one social media account associated with your brand can help nurture credibility, assuming the tone and messaging are consistent. When your staff members are online, posting as excited employees of a vibrant organization, outsiders are likely to take notice — and some of them may even want to join up!
That said, this is a tricky area. Employees need to somehow demonstrate their individuality while staying as consistent as possible with your organization’s communications and remaining compliant with a stated social media policy. That last part is worth emphasizing: If you’re going to have staffers posting on your behalf, be sure you’ve laid out guidelines and provided some training about what’s OK and what’s not.
3. Devise a SMART strategy.
When business owners engage in strategic planning, one approach we suggest our clients consider is to set “SMART” goals. This system has been used with success for many years and the abbreviation stands for:
This can be a good way to approach social media recruiting as well. Gather leadership and perhaps some particularly knowledgeable employees. Identify what you want to accomplish and how you might realistically get there within a reasonable time frame.
For example, say you have 10 open positions. You could set a goal of filling two of them (20%) by recruiting candidates on social media over, say, six months. Track your progress and hold update meetings to discuss what’s working and what isn’t.
At the end of the time frame, review whether you achieved your goals. If you did, talk about how you can build on that success. If you didn’t, brainstorm what impeded you and how to adjust your strategy going forward.
4. Share good content.
Along with not faking it on social media, you also need to “give as good as you get.” In other words, organizations can’t look at social media as a giant job board from which they pluck candidates and do little else. To gain attention, build credibility and get those all-important “likes,” employers need to share good content. This might include:
Among the chief reasons to dedicate the time and resources to creating strong content is to draw the attention of passive candidates. These are people who aren’t actively looking for a job but who could be swayed to apply with an organization that really appeals to them. A collection of hiring statistics posted by LinkedIn Talent Solutions in 2015 stated that "70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching."
To maximize the effectiveness of your content, you’ll need to use hashtags and niche networks to channel it toward those most interested. You’re probably familiar with the concept of a hashtag, but you might find it challenging to pick just the right ones without getting lost in the noise of social media. It takes some practice.
Niche networks are smaller social media platforms that cater to specific interests or professional backgrounds. For instance, Behance is a place for graphic designers to connect and share their work, while Stack Overflow is for coders.
Embrace the possibilities.
Employers were handed a historic challenge in 2021 with the "Great Resignation" — a marked trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs in reaction to the tumultuous changes brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and other developments. If your organization is looking for talent, social media may represent an overlooked and underutilized way to find who you’re looking for.
Being a leader is relatively easy when everyone gets along. But when the going gets tough, and conflicts arise and escalate, leadership becomes exponentially more difficult.
Now, in and of itself, conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some might say it's essential to solving complex problems and accomplishing innovative breakthroughs. However, sometimes disagreements devolve into counterproductive relationships and even potentially dangerous confrontations.
In these instances, leaders need to know how to recognize conflict, react appropriately and resolve the situation in the best interests of their respective organizations.
A Popular Model From Myers-Briggs
The first thing every leader should know about conflict resolution is that it’s a skill set that even highly introverted individuals can learn. Among the most popular frameworks for doing so is the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, currently marketed by Myers-Briggs. Study conflict resolution for any amount of time and you’ll likely encounter this model or something like it.
Many people assume that “conflict resolution” is a coded term for “compromise.” However, the TKCMI presents users with five strategies that range in intensity from unassertive to assertive and uncooperative to cooperative. As these words imply, there are situations in which a leader needs to put his or her foot down, so to speak, and others in which a less assertive approach is more appropriate. The five strategies are:
1. Forcing. This is the most assertive and least cooperative of approaches. Here, a leader uses his or her recognized authority to resolve a conflict without trying to satisfy the other party’s concerns (or either party’s if you’re tackling a dispute between two employees). A better name for this strategy may be “enforcing,” because you’re essentially enforcing stated organizational policies or rules — or even the law itself.
2. Collaborating. In this situation, a leader may be somewhat assertive but also greatly cooperative with the party or parties involved. You’re seeking to understand the concerns driving the conflict and find a solution that fully (or mostly) satisfies everyone.
3. Compromising. This strategy sits squarely in the middle of the TKCMI model. A leader seeking to find a compromise exercises moderate assertiveness and cooperation. The goal is to identify a solution that, as compromises aim to do, partly satisfies both sides of a disagreement.
4. Accommodating. In some instances, a leader must step carefully, minimize assertiveness and aim to satisfy one party’s concerns almost entirely. This is the most cooperative and least assertive strategy.
5. Avoiding. “Conflict avoidant” is a label many people apply to themselves, but it’s also a strategy to consider in very limited instances — such as when two employees are better off working out a disagreement on their own. Here, a leader is the least assertive and most uncooperative — basically ignoring an ongoing conflict and doing nothing to resolve it.
The Three R’s
With the TKCMI model (or something else like it) in mind, leaders can work on developing and refining their skill sets in conflict resolution. To help further simplify often complex situations, focus on the three R’s:
Recognize. Some leaders thrive on conflict to the point where they don’t even realize they’re creating it. Others avoid conflict so much that they work in a bubble and think everything is fine.
A good leader recognizes conflict and decides quickly whether it’s productive or potentially counterproductive. If the disagreement falls into the latter category, the leader then immediately decides which of the five strategies above (or perhaps others) fit the situation.
React. How a leader reacts to conflict can make all the difference. Procrastination generally isn’t a good thing. The longer a counterproductive conflict festers, the more likely it is to hurt productivity, quality and potentially even to escalate to a litigious or dangerous situation.
• Listen actively
• Ask reasonable, appropriate questions and
• Show empathy, acknowledging everyone’s feelings and valid points.
Resolve. This would be the most important part of conflict resolution, of course. Yet finding a solution to a conflict is usually the most difficult aspect of the undertaking. Leaders should be prepared to exercise patience and provide themselves with the time and privacy needed to find the right answer.
When an employee demands an answer, or two employees are verbally sparring, leaders can face immense pressure to solve the problem right then and there. However, unless the matter is relatively simple (that is, a policy or rule clearly applies), a leader should reserve the right to hear the case and set forth a judgment later. There may be instances when the HR department or an attorney needs to get involved as well.
As holds true for any skill set, the optimal first step in developing it is training. Many leaders are never trained in formal conflict resolution measures, so they never develop the proper skills. Or they develop their own methods over time — sometimes this works out well, sometimes not so well.
The good news is it’s never too late. If your organization hasn’t addressed the topic, you could arrange for an intensive seminar or a series of training courses to cover some of the major concepts associated with conflict resolution. Once your leaders know how to recognize and handle potentially destructive disputes, their confidence will rise and so should your organization’s morale, trust and productivity.
How to Pick a PTO Policy that Works for Your People and Your Organization was originally published on Forbes.com
Everyone loves to take paid time off, but many employers struggle with the optimal way to provide it. Decades ago, PTO policies were relatively simple, but they’ve grown in complexity over the years as work-life balance has become a more prominent and widely accepted concept.
Most recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic, PTO has found itself in an even stronger spotlight as employees working remotely have been hesitant to take time off because, well, they’re already home. And many have felt a need to work harder as they’ve seen so many coworkers laid off or furloughed.
The truth is, picking the right PTO policy for your organization is very important. Although salary and benefits remain the twin pillars of competitive hiring, supporting perks such as flexible scheduling and time off remain critical components as well. Plus, as the pandemic has made abundantly clear, current employees need to regularly take days off to care for their own mental health and overall well-being.
Generally, there are four broad types of PTO in use by most employers today:
1. Traditional. This is the PTO model that so many people encounter when entering the workforce. It gives you separate PTO allotments for vacation, sick and personal time. Typically, those allotments will increase as an employee gains service time.
2. Earned. Some employers don’t offer any PTO until an employee reaches a certain number of hours or days worked. Others provide only a bare minimum in case of an emergency. In any case, the idea is to incentivize new hires to stick with the organization — though earned PTO can be a tough sell for a job candidate who’s accustomed to having plenty of time off available.
3. Flexible. In recent years, this approach has gained popularity. It provides employees with a “bank” of PTO days from which they’re free to draw on as necessary. A flexible PTO model doesn’t distinguish between vacation and sick time. In a sense, it’s all personal time. One distinct advantage of this approach for employers (and employees, for that matter) is it’s easy to track.
4. Unlimited. This is the latest PTO “craze,” so to speak. True to its name, an unlimited PTO policy allows employees to take off as much time as they want or need without a manager’s approval. Obviously, employers will need to have faith in their employees to use unlimited PTO in a reasonable and responsible matter. (I’ll discuss this approach in greater depth below.)
Overall, employers’ collective approach to PTO appears to be evolving toward flexibility. Although many organizations still stick to the tried-and-true traditional approach, the flexible model is gaining ground.
In May 2020, HR solutions provider XpertHR published the results of a survey (registration required) of employers in the United States. Out of the 457 responding organizations, 44% used the flexible model for PTO, while 48% relied on the traditional model. So, at least in light of this study, employers may be heading toward a 50-50 split when it comes to traditional vs. flexible PTO. And it would be unsurprising if flexible started to win out in years ahead.
Focus On Unlimited
The other 2% of respondents in the XpertHR survey reported using “other” types of PTO plans, including the earned and unlimited models. The latter approach, as mentioned, is considered a growing trend. Unlimited PTO speaks to the new world of remote workers controlling their own schedules and integrating time away from work on a more regular basis rather than the “two weeks of summer vacation” that so many professionals would customarily take in decades past.
However, converting from the traditional, earned or flexible PTO models to unlimited isn’t a simple matter. For starters, many employers who consider doing so often realize that they have employees with substantial amounts of unused PTO. Workers may expect cash payouts for this time if it’s going to “disappear” under an unlimited PTO approach, but that may not be financially feasible for the organization.
To cope with this, many employers continue to track each employee’s PTO until it's used up then convert the worker to unlimited PTO. The good news is, once all employees are working under the unlimited PTO approach, the administrative burden of reporting and tracking PTO, as well as paying it out if a worker leaves the organization, completely disappears.
And the bad news? Some employers have found that employees take less time off under an unlimited PTO policy because there’s no “use it or lose it” incentive to expend their allotment of days off. Plus, many workers are worried about appearing to abuse the privilege of unlimited PTO. Other employees may be only too happy to max out their use of the policy, which can lead to employment conflicts.
One could argue that employers are well within their rights to take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to PTO. If the model you’ve been following is working for your organization from a hiring and retention standpoint, as well as for employees from work-life balance and wellness perspectives, that’s great.
However, like so many other aspects of working, the expectations of top job candidates and valued employees do change over time. If you believe an adjustment, if not a complete transformation, of your PTO policy may lead to long-term benefits for your organization, give that change the due diligence and careful consideration it deserves.
Lean is Keen for Human Resources and Performance Management originally appeared on Forbes.com.
I’ve always been keen on lean — the productivity methodology that minimizes inefficiency and emphasizes continuous improvement. I was first introduced to lean manufacturing in 1997 when I was hired by a company to help them implement lean within their newest manufacturing plant and within their culture.
Although historians quibble about its origins, many people point to Henry Ford’s assembly line — initially installed in a Detroit-area plant on December 1, 1913 — as one of the first true instances of putting the concept into practice. And most would agree that Toyota truly crystalized lean by researching, refining and ultimately documenting a process associated with streamlining production between 1948 and 1975. Interestingly, the term “lean” itself wasn’t coined by either one — it was established by an American academic at MIT in 1988.
Applying The Concept
Lean is all about eliminating wasteful or redundant activities, improving workflow and drawing more value from what you do. It’s often coupled with Six Sigma principles, which use statistical analysis to minimize variations in process execution that lead to waste.
Because of its success in manufacturing, lean has spread over the years to many other sectors — including HR and performance management. Generally, in this context, lean concepts can be applied to:
Recruitment and hiring. The process of finding the right job candidate, getting him or her through the application and interviewing process and mutually agreeing to an offer is a long, winding road that too often goes nowhere. Lean concepts can create a more direct route to hiring and, thus, make it less taxing on both parties.
Orientation, training and upskilling. Every employer’s orientation process involves paperwork and customary tasks. Applying a lean approach may lead to improvements in the experience, enabling new hires to get up and running more quickly. You can reap the same benefits from using lean to develop training programs and upskilling activities.
Performance management. The process of goal setting, measuring progress and undergoing job reviews is often time-consuming and disruptive. In other words, it’s well-suited for lean improvements that use various performance metrics and efficiency strategies.
Compensation and benefits. Is there a clearer, more efficient way to show employees the path to pay raises and bonus pay benchmarks? Probably. Many employers also struggle to communicate effectively about benefits. Applying lean philosophies may reveal ways to better educate employees about their benefits — boosting participation, improving wellness and elevating your return on investment.
How Lean Works
What does it mean to apply lean practices? Generally, you’ll need to identify your organization’s key HR and performance management processes. It’s possible that these may already have been mentioned above, but there may be others not listed. In addition, you’ll need to determine the value that each one aims to create.
Next, you’ll conduct a kaizen (continuous, incremental self-improvement) event. Typically, this is a three-to-five-day session that analyzes the specific area’s processes and implements changes. Participants map out how each process functions, documenting and quantifying the value created by each step, as well as the waste in or between steps.
In addition, a conversion to lean may mean employing the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) system. It describes the steps in changing a process:
• Devise small tests of a change (Plan).
• Conduct the tests on a small scale (Do).
• Measure results against the present state and consider how it could be further improved (Study).
• Implement changes organization-wide, monitoring the process for at least 90 days to ensure stability and sustainability (Act).
The Six Sigma Perspective
As mentioned, many organizations favor a Six Sigma approach to lean, which is similar but slightly different. Rather than use the PDSA system, Six Sigma traditionally employs “DMAIC,” an acronym for define, measure, analyze, improve and control. It will ask you to follow five stages:
1. Define the problem you’re trying to solve. Don’t just look at it from a management perspective. Listen to the voices of your employees regarding HR and performance management issues and identify specific goals.
2. Measure key aspects of the process. Target metrics that will enable you to measure progress toward the stated goal, then collect the relevant data.
3. Analyze the data, looking for cause-and-effect relationships. Here, you’ll put on your investigator’s hat and look for the root of the defect you’re seeking to eliminate.
4. Improve the current process. Six Sigma will recommend data analysis techniques for using the information gathered and reconfiguring the process in question. You can then set up tests to establish whether the improvement is real.
5. Control the process going forward. You’ll be guided through steps to set up systems for monitoring the improved process once you’ve implemented it.
Some organizations combine lean and Six Sigma to deploy an approach that seeks to leverage the introspective, interactive nature of the former with the more data-driven insights of the latter.
A Substantial Undertaking
Make no mistake, a lean and/or Six Sigma initiative is a substantial undertaking. You’ll need to carefully research the specific approach you wish to follow and obtain buy-in from everyone on staff before launch. Thereafter, be prepared to commit time and resources to the effort.
Despite the challenges, many employers have markedly improved their operations thanks to lean/Six Sigma principles. You may be able to not only simplify your organization’s human resources (HR) and performance management workflow but also demonstrate to employees that you’re invested in improving their working lives and productivity.
Do your Mission and Vision Statements Need Freshening Up? originally appeared on Forbes.com.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an employer whose organization didn’t undergo change in 2020. For so many, it isn’t a matter of whether change occurred but how much and what kind.
When you look back on all that’s happened and where your organization stands, you might even find that the very mission and vision driving your existence has veered, slightly or severely, from its pre-pandemic path.
That makes now a perfect time to review and perhaps revise your mission and vision statements. If you’ve yet to create one or the other (or both), don’t worry. It’s never too late to do so.
Why Vs. Where
Let’s begin by explaining the difference between the two. A mission statement is your “why” — it clarifies who you are, what you do and who you do it for. On the other hand, a vision statement tells interested parties where you’re headed and what you want to accomplish. In short, a mission statement explains why you’re here while a vision statement tells people where you’re going.
Most organizations begin with the former and eventually move on to the latter. If you’ve yet to create a mission statement, think carefully about — and discuss with your leadership team — why your organization exists and what differentiates it from competitors and/or similar employers. Some employers that have existed for years may find that writing or revising the statement renews commitment to their original purpose. Others may find that what they do has changed and so their mission statement needs to as well. Simply sitting down and discussing some fundamental questions can lead to insightful discussions and even healthy debate about precisely what it is you’re trying to accomplish.
Customers And Concision
There are various best practices for creating or revising mission and vision statements. Perhaps the most important is “know thy audience.” This primarily refers to your customers, clients or whatever market segment you serve.
Another important and challenging aspect of creating a mission statement — and especially a vision statement — is concision. On the one hand, you want to fully express yourself in a distinctive and memorable manner. On the other, you don’t want to present readers with a long paragraph that will cause their eyes to glaze over. Work with your team to find a consensus about the right length.
A vision statement is a bold and inspiring description of your desired future state, therefore it is aspirational and may never be fully achieved. It should generally be much shorter in word count than a mission statement.
For instance, the vision statement of social media platform LinkedIn is: “Create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.” Meanwhile, its mission statement is “[To] connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” In this case, the organization’s mission statement is only slightly longer than its vision statement. Your mission statement could be significantly longer, but for your vision statement, aim for a sentence or two.
Tone And Endurance
Finding the right tone for your mission and vision statements is tricky but important. Think of it like a song: You want it to be not only catchy and uplifting, but also representative of your organization’s style and culture. And, all the while, you must maintain concision and clarity. This is a pop tune, not a classical concerto!
In addition, strive for distinctiveness. You want your mission and vision statement to set you apart, especially when you are in an industry where many organizations look similar on the outside. To this end, you may need to do some research into the statements of your competitors.
Last, but not least, aim to create mission and vision statements that endure. Although the process for creating them might be enjoyable, you don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel every year or two. That said, when circumstances or strategic plans markedly transform an organization’s purpose or direction, be prepared to act.
And that brings me back to my original point: Given how drastically life changed for everyone in 2020, now may be the ideal time to freshen up your mission and vision statements — or create them from scratch if you’ve never done so. You might even use the finished products to reintroduce yourself to your audience and community.
Although skeptics might say that mission and vision statements are only so many words on a page or plaque, those words can serve as both a succinct description and rallying cry for your organization. Don’t underestimate their importance or let them slip into irrelevance.
Original post by Lynda Silsbee, Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
To Achieve Greater Agility, Optimize Your Leadership Brand originally appeared on Forbes.com.
My last article addressed the concept and importance of employer brand, which I defined as "the distinct impression that job applicants and employees have of your organization as a place to work." Every employer has an employer brand in addition to its overall brand — that is, the image and reputation of the organization in the marketplace.
Well, believe it or not, there’s yet another type of brand that applies to certain individuals within every organization. It’s leadership brand. This is the distinctive set of characteristics that you exhibit as a leader and the reputation you carry as a result.
Now wait a minute, you might say, I don’t have a leadership brand — I’m just me. On the contrary, if you’ve been in a leadership role for any amount of time, every one of your decisions and interactions has created and contributed to your brand.
The objective now is to identify that brand and optimize it. When looking to do so, many leaders strive to become more agile. In a world that, as we learned the hard way in 2020, can change so suddenly, the ability to respond to crises quickly and decisively is a much-sought-after leadership trait. And it’s one that you can achieve.
The Three Archetypes
In the broadest sense, leaders fall into three archetypes:
Not every leader will fall neatly into any one category. People are complicated. The archetypes’ purpose is to provide a starting point from which to identify your leadership brand and, from there, find ways to maximize the positives and deal with the negatives as they arise.
Enter The Derailers
About those negatives, they have a name: derailers. Organizational psychologists use this term to describe behaviors that slow down decisional agility and, over time, damage leadership brand.
Derailers tend to vary, depending on leadership archetype. For example, let’s say you’re “the artist” — an independent innovator who likes to mostly work alone, generate ideas and strategies and delegate as much of the day-to-day as possible.
These types of leaders often run into the derailer of being perceived as arrogant. They might sometimes overestimate their own abilities and seem self-absorbed or inconsiderate. They often push their own agendas and show little interest in others’ points of view.
This is not an easy persona to cop to! No one wants to think of themselves as arrogant, but if you’re constantly at odds with others and want to improve the situation, there are things you can do:
All these things will neutralize the situation and enable you to act more agilely because you’ll encounter less friction — even though making decisions may take longer.
Let’s say you’re more of a player-manager. In this case, you might struggle with a derailer called “approval dependence.” In times of stress, these leaders don’t like to rock the boat and might avoid confrontation. After all, they want to not only lead their teams but also be part of them. They may be less willing to support an unpopular idea or stand up for (or to) their team regarding a controversial issue.
If this sounds like you, work on recognizing how often you agree simply for the sake of agreement. As difficult as doing so might be, give people the feedback they need. Engaging in constructive conflict will build trust, respect and loyalty. In turn, you’ll be able to apply more agility to your decision-making — especially when dealing with a crisis. This is because you’ll be better able to ask the tough questions and get to the truth more quickly.
Then there are the boardroom bosses. A typical derailer for them is risk aversion. These leaders are usually deliberate and cautious, which others might perceive as being indecisive. They might be slow to react and favor the status quo when there’s a need for urgency or more radical change.
If you’re naturally risk-averse, learn to hear and change your self-talk — especially in situations that cause you to worry about doing the wrong thing. Avoid binary thinking or catastrophizing, steering clear of analysis paralysis. Set limits on data gathering, and establish firm deadlines for final decisions. Remember, particularly in times of crisis, making no decision is often worse than making a bad one.
Overcoming risk aversion is perhaps the purest example of becoming more agile. The overly cautious leader will encounter a mountain and spend hours or days at the base trying to figure out how to climb it. More agile leaders will find their way to the top while climbing.
The funny thing about derailers is they’re often strengths that have gone to extremes as others see or experience them. Even an unflattering trait such as arrogance could just be strong self-worth and confidence, which, in and of themselves, aren’t bad attributes at all.
More Important Than Ever
Many leaders may fulfill their roles for years without incurring serious challenges. Of course, that all changed in 2020 as the pandemic has put the agility of nearly everyone in a leadership position to the test. The experience, no doubt, has reinforced the importance of eliminating impediments to your ability to lead and strengthening your leadership brand as a result.
Original post by Lynda Silsbee
Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
Identifying And Enhancing Your Employer Brand originally appeared on Forbes.com.
When most people see a brand, they know exactly what to expect from its products or services. Generally, this is a good thing. Think of any well-known brand, and you know that people go to them confident that the brand will deliver on its promise.
Conversely, when people have a negative impression of a brand, the organization in question is usually in trouble. It will likely need to undertake serious and costly efforts to rectify the situation or face disastrous financial results — even complete failure.
The same principle applies to your employer brand. This is the distinct impression that job applicants and employees have of your organization as a place to work. An employer brand reflects your reputation, popularity, visibility and viability in the employment marketplace.
Why It Matters
An employer brand may not get as much attention as the more widely known definition of “brand,” but it’s critical to every organization’s success.
A 2015 study by HR tech company CareerArc found that “75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job.” (That percentage is likely even higher today.) And a 2011 report by LinkedIn found that organizations with a strong employer brand enjoyed a 28% reduction in turnover. In short, a robust and positive employer brand will:
Having more job candidates to sort through may sound like more work, but it generally shortens (and improves) the hiring process because a larger number of applicants increases the odds that you’ll find a strong fit.
The benefits of employee retention are well-known: Tenured workers build valuable knowledge over time and tend to be more committed to an organization’s success. Best of all, they enable you to avoid the expense of constantly having to rehire for certain positions.
Size And Shape
If you ever want to put an organizational leader on the spot, ask them the following question: “So, what’s your employer brand?” It’s not exactly the easiest question to answer given the many contributing factors involved. Nonetheless, every organization’s leadership should be able to identify its employer brand so the strengths of that brand can be enhanced and weaknesses minimized.
Putting a size and shape to your employer brand will entail a multifaceted approach. A good place to start is with one or more executive- or management-level meetings to discuss the concept and get everyone’s impression of what your employer brand looks like.
When managers of various departments or units interview job applicants, what sorts of things do they hear? Do candidates seem genuinely excited about the prospect of working in your organization? Or are they unsure or even misguided regarding what you’re all about?
Another excellent source of understanding your employer brand is your employees. There are a couple of ways we recommend harnessing this data. First, you could conduct a formal survey of your workforce, asking them to rate your organization in areas such as clarity of mission, ease of hiring process and state of your workplace culture.
You could also ask questions such as:
You might be surprised by some of the answers you receive; employees may not share the same perceptions of the organization’s objectives and culture as leadership does. Your ultimate goal, of course, is to get everyone on the same page regarding your brand so you can ensure consistent messaging with everyone outside the organization and within.
An additional source may be exit interviews. Sometimes people are more honest and open when they know they’re about to walk out the door.
The Puzzle Of The Employee Value Proposition
Once you’ve gathered a substantial amount of information about your employer brand, you can initiate efforts to enhance that brand. Generally, when organizations undertake this task, they’ll want to confront the sometimes imposing and wide-ranging concept of the employee value proposition (EVP).
In a nutshell, EVP is the total value that you offer employees in return for their time and effort. You may think that quantifying EVP is as simple as the sum of compensation plus benefits. However, today’s EVP calculations generally involve four components:
The first two points are relatively self-explanatory. The third one, career-building, describes all the ways you enable employees to not only earn a paycheck but also fulfill their professional ambitions. This typically includes a sound approach to performance management that allows them to advance upward in the organization, as well as ongoing training, upskilling, and perhaps even a fringe benefit helping them pay for college or continuing education classes.
The fourth point, culture, is what you offer in terms of a safe, inclusive and motivating working environment. This includes a clear mission, strong values, a supportive atmosphere on-site or in virtual interactions, and a productive approach to teamwork.
Original post by Lynda Silsbee
Founder of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration and Member of the Forbes Coaches Council
Lynda Silsbee is Founder and President of the Alliance for Leadership Acceleration. She has spent more than 30 years creating and leading high performance teams. Along with the other LEAP Certified Coaches, she reports that helping managers make the LEAP to leader is one of the most fulfilling aspects of her work.