Posts Tagged ‘HR management’

Telecommuting Should Be Carefully Planned

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Telecommuting, often referred to as “working from home,” is not for everyone or for every company.  There are pros and cons for both the company and for the employee that must be considered in order to be successful.

Employees interested in telecommuting imagine a definite benefit to having the ability to literally “come to work” each day in their pajamas.  However, many telecommuters fail to notice they can often work an average of 10-12 hours each day should they also work during their normal commute time.  Management sees an opportunity for increased productivity when telecommuting is offered to the workforce, yet may sacrifice some creative thinking as a result of less collaboration among team members.

Before instituting a policy on telecommuting, careful thought is required.  Although research has shown telecommuting provides for lower job-related stress, improved performance and greater job satisfaction, these positives do not happen for everyone.

Some workers who telecommute actually miss the face-to-face interaction with their co-workers and their management. Other trade-offs which can occur with telecommuting include increased productivity vs longer work days, greater independence vs less collaboration, and more flexibility with family and work vs blurred boundaries of the two.

As a company, some other factors to consider include:

  • Are employees allowed to decide if they telecommute?
  • How much are employees allowed to control their schedules?
  • Is an employee’s work interdependent on the work of others?
  • What are the current relationships with co-workers and supervisors?

Still, after some careful consideration and planning, a successful telecommuting implementation can be a powerful recruiting and retention tool.  Telecommuting opportunities can also open the door for a diverse and truly global workforce by taking advantage of available collaboration technology.

If your company decides to incorporate telecommuting, as an HR manager you’ll want to stay in the know. Ask managers who have telecommuters these types of questions –  How do your telecommuters separate their home life from work life? Do they have established “office” hours? Do they have a work environment conducive for a dedicated workspace? How do you keep the lines of communication open? Understanding the answers to these types of questions will help HR with the broader view of how telecommuting impacts your particular organization. Learn more about how CAI helps 1,100+ North Carolina member companies with HR, Compliance & People Development Solutions.  

 
CAI’s Advice & Resolution Advisor Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.

4 ‘Must-have’ Leadership Behaviors

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

There are four behaviors that every effective leader must possess:

1. Effective problem solving

The process that precedes decision making is problem-solving when information is gathered, analyzed, and considered. This is deceptively difficult to get right, yet it is a key input into decision making for major issues as well as daily ones. 

Effective problem solving is a rare commodity. This is because most individuals do a poor job at root cause analysis. Their natural inclination is to bypass the analysis and jump right into the ‘solve.’ The end result is often a quick fix, Band-Aid approach that addresses the symptom and not the actual problem.

 

HR leaders can help by coaching business partners to avoid the immediate ‘jump to solve.’

2. Operating with a strong results orientation

Leadership is about not only developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the highest-value work.

Results orientation begins with clearly articulated expectations relative to key performance indicators. HR leaders should work with their operations partners to ensure that managers are having weekly discussions with their staffs regarding, actual vs. expected results.

3. Seeking different perspectives

This trait is exhibited by managers who monitor trends affecting the organization, grasp changes in the environment, encourage employees to contribute ideas that could improve performance, accurately differentiate between important and unimportant issues, and give the appropriate weight to stakeholder concerns. Leaders who do this well typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone.

On the other hand, leaders who suffer from the ‘smartest person in the room syndrome’ consistently think they have all the right answers. They tend to alienate others and consequently miss out on other, better alternatives.This is typically a self-awareness issue that can be mitigated through effective coaching.

4. Supporting others

Leaders who are supportive understand and sense how other people feel. By showing authenticity and a sincere interest in those around them, they build trust and inspire and help colleagues to overcome challenges. They intervene in group work to promote organizational efficiency and help to prevent non-productive internal conflict.

As a result, these supportive leaders tend to have a much greater enterprise value.  By that, we mean that they are actually synergistic in their value. They help to ‘lubricate’ the organization and reduce unnecessary problems and issues.

CAI has multiple ways to build leaders within your organization. We offer a wide variety of instructor-led courses in our Management Advantage program to train your leaders, managers, and supervisors. And, CAI members have access to leadership tools and templates along with the opportunity to receive guidance and coaching from our local, experienced HR experts. Learn more about how CAI can help with leadership training and workforce planning.

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad-based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations. 

 

How HR Can Balance Compliance and Engagement

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Whether you are an official HR professional or the person tasked with HR duties at your organization, your organization needs two primary things from you: Compliance and Engagement.  Call these terms what you want, but both are important to company health, growth, and survival.  Compliance is a straightforward term I think.  I’m using “engagement” to refer to all the things you do to attract, retain, reward, motivate, and develop employees and leaders. We should strive for a good balance.  Focusing too much on compliance creates a workplace no reasonable person would want to work at.  Total compliance isn’t achievable anyway.  Focusing too much on “engagement” without much regard to compliance could create unwelcome charges / litigation that can also damage your brand.  Whether you’re a generalist or a specialist, this balance is important.

We often see companies out of balance.  This imbalance is painful for employees, HR and Management and leads to many unwanted outcomes.  Turnover, low morale, poor communication, inability to find people, etc.  These things have many causes, but often at the root is the imbalance.  For example, many times when I talk to a company that “can’t find good people” I find their recruiting processes feel more like a compliance exercise than one aimed at attracting good people.  Only 3% of EEOC charges relate to “hiring,” yet many companies focus more on screening people out to avoid liability than screening good people in.  I had one client tell me they couldn’t change anything in their recruiting process without first getting it approved by their legal counsel.  Anything!  Again, imbalance.

How can you achieve balance?  Acknowledging your imbalance is the first step.  It may be that you’re the one out of balance, too focused on one these worlds at the expense of the other.  Or it may be you’re pretty balanced but your management team is out of balance.  I recently had an HR person tell me his management team didn’t care anything about compliance.  Either way, fixing the imbalance should be near the top of your list.

CAI can help you achieve balance.  We have the people, tools, and resources you need to balance things out.

  • Our Advice & Resolution team is authoring over a hundred practical guides on most every HR related compliance issue. You’ll find thoughtful insights from our senior Advice & Resolution advisers based on their subject matter expertise, years of experience, relationships with regulators, and daily interactions with our valued members.
  • Strategic HR services.  As a CAI Member, you have unlimited access to senior HR executives who can help you assess, plan and solve operational and strategic organizational issues. Beyond assessments and advice, they also offer a series of 1:1 virtual coaching sessions to help you implement new initiatives.  They bring expertise in areas such as: Realigning HR to better support the business; Aligning people to business goals; Succession planning; Developing robust leadership pipelines; Creating a results based and high performing workforce; Attracting, developing, and retaining top talent; and Improving organizational capability.  

A membership in CAI can help get your company balanced…find out how we can help you and your organization today!

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI, he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

How to Stop Poor Performance From Draining your Company

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I obviously don’t work for your company, but my experience tells me there is a better than average chance that you have subpar performers that you’re letting work at your company and it is draining your company’s productivity, profit, and growth.  I wish I was wrong but I see it everywhere, every day in every industry.

Think about the poor performers in your life.  At work, at school, at church, at the stores you frequent, maybe even at home. Infuriating isn’t.  Missed deadlines, waiting in line, poor customer service, sloppy or slow processes, etc. Do you feel your blood pressure rising?  Believe me, top performers really appreciate having to do more work to cover for their uninspired co-workers. In fact that’s a leading cause of turnover for top performers – burn out over cleaning up the messes made by their slack co-workers AND frustration that their managers will not clean it up.poorperformance

Bruce Tulgan, noted management author and thought leader and past speaker at CAI’s HR Management Conference believes that “undermanagement” is one of the most detrimental phenomenon affecting business today.  He wrote a best-selling book called “It’s OK To Be The Boss.”  Why are so many managers not “being the boss” and letting poor performance slide?   We hear things like…

  • “Well Sally is better than having no one in the job and it’s hard to find good people.”
  • “At our pay Jim is the best we can afford.”
  • “I’m not dealing with this behavior because I know other managers let it slide.”
  • “I don’t have time to deal with Terry.”
  • “Don has been here forever and he’s always been this way, why should I have to deal with it?”

HR is blamed a lot.

  • “Our HR Department won’t let us fire anyone around here.”
  • “I would address it, but HR won’t let me because Joe is in a protected category.”
  • And on and on.

Poor Performance generally comes in three categories:

  1. Don’t know what to do.  Many employees regularly wander around our workplaces not knowing what is expected of them.  This category of poor performance rests with Managers, who simply need to take the time to provide clearer expectations for their employees.  Most people will perform just fine when they know what to do.
  2. Can’t do what you’re asking.  Sometimes we can salvage this “can’t-do” category with training.  Sometimes, though training will not correct the performance and in those cases the employee should be transferred to an open job they can do or they need to go work for someone else.
  3. Won’t do what you’re asking.  This is the most dangerous category.  Employees who won’t do what you’re asking create tremendous problems in the workplace every day.  Whether they vocalize their refusal or utilize more subtle activities, like slowing down, or overlooking things, there is only one solution for these people – they need to leave, and soon.

I once heard it put, hire slow and fire fast.  Good words to live by.  Yet I frequently find companies actually do the opposite – they hire quickly and impulsively and then take forever to separate the problem employee.  Many performance problems are really hiring problems in disguise.  So my advice, take more time assessing candidates. Most HR professionals know within the first five minutes of orientation if a new hire will make it or not.  Why didn’t they uncover that earlier?  HR professionals sometimes tell me the line managers decided to hire the person against HR’s advice.  So who is at fault?  I advise HR professionals to stand their ground and use turnover data to make your case.  And once you know someone is a poor performer, address it quickly. Fairly and respectfully, yes, but quickly.

The time between losing confidence in someone and them leaving is one of the most expensive in a manager’s life.  So if you’re a manager, start being the boss and quit letting poor performance slide and quit hiring people that should not work for your company because you are desperate. Your employees will thank you, because believe me they know who shouldn’t be there and they talk about it and suffer through it every day.  If you’re in HR do not let a lawsuit that will probably never happen overly impact how you deal with problems.  The EEOC actually dismisses two-thirds of all claims filed and only finds cause in about 3% of the charges it receives each year.  However, letting poor performers remain is a real problem that is draining your company every day.  I’m not advocating for a wild west management style absent of warnings and second chances.  I am suggesting we run our companies in a way that maximizes results versus running it out of fear.  After all a rising tide lifts all boats right!

I know this sounds pretty straightforward.  Who doesn’t get this right?  Ask yourself that question the next time as a consumer you have a bad customer experience at the hands of a problem employee.  You’ll be in that situation sometime this week and you’ll ask yourself why that company lets that person treat its customers that way.  Well, for the same reason it’s allowed at your company.  Think about it.

If you need help dealing with problem performance at your company please reach out to our Advice and Resolution team.  They answer thousands of questions each year that deal with performance management.

 

doug

Doug Blizzard brings a wealth of knowledge to CAI, serving as Vice President of Membership. During his first 15 years at CAI he led the firm’s consulting and training divisions and counseled hundreds of clients on HR and Employee Relations issues. If he isn’t speaking at North Carolina conferences, teaching classes on Human Resources or consulting clients on EEO and Affirmative Action, Doug is leading the company’s membership services.

 

Avoid Workplace Drama and Spend More Time on Ideas

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News & Observer column, The View from HR.

“Management by walking around” is a time-tested method to stay connected with the real work of an organization. When you listen, learn and create unstructured conversations, everyone is better informed.  Sometimes problems are solved or confusion clarified on the spot.Workplace Communication and Gossip

There is another free-form type of conversation between managers and employees which is not productive: management by gossiping around.

Workplace gossip is generally rumor or exaggeration about others, especially about their behaviors. It can relieve stress, and deflect or assign blame.  It might just be a way to make the gossipers feel better about themselves.

I wish it was uncommon, but we see evidence that managers gossip with employees too often. Whether a misguided attempt to create a relationship, or just blowing off steam, gossip is harmful.

When managers gossip with employees, about employees, or about other managers, several bad things happen.

Loss of Respect

The gossiping manager loses every time. Employees hold managers to a higher standard of behavior than their own peers.  A manager who gossips cannot be trusted with personal details and private information.  A manager who gossips will gossip about you!  What does the manager know about you that could be embarrassing or misunderstood?

Loss of Influence

Managers get things done through a combination of formal authority and informal influence. Sometimes unilateral decisions must be made, but real advances and engagement happen in the influence zone.  Gossiping managers lose the high ground that provides a foundation for influence.  Managers who gossip trade a momentary rush for long-term loss of effectiveness.

Loss of Focus

Gossip is idle conversation, not problem solving or relationship-building. Gossiping managers would rather talk about an employee who may be part of a problem than resolve that problem.  Gossip is easier than real work and it prevents true progress.

Loss of Opportunity

Employees with real work problems will not come to gossiping managers for help. Why reach out to a manager who gossips about members of the team?  Managers trying to be “one of the peeps” by joining these high calorie/low nutrition conversations hurt their own chances to learn about real issues.

Future Limits

Finally, gossiping managers put a lid on their own careers. The only thing worse than a loose-lipped manager is a senior leader who talks trash.  A fish rots from the head down and senior leadership sets the tone.  Good leadership will not ask bad leadership to join its team.

Employees living with a gossiping manager have choices to make. Start by avoiding gossip.  Silence is a good response to inappropriate comments.  Even better is a question:  “If that is true, what can you and I do to make the situation better?”

Employees suffering with gossiping teammates might be even more proactive: “Gossip will not make anything better.  What positive steps can we take?”

An old proverb applies: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”. Spend more time on ideas and events.

CAI can help your organization grow and succeed by developing your most important asset…your people.  We offer an abundance of learning options and specialize in management development, HR and professional development.

Bruce Clarke c
Bruce Clarke serves as CAI’S President and CEO, and has been with CAI since 2001. Bruce practiced labor and employment law with the national labor law firm of Ogletree Deakins for 18 years. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of North Carolina’s Legal Elite by Business North Carolina Magazine. Bruce is 100% committed to helping companies maximize employee engagement and minimize workplace liabilities.

Understanding Your Younger Employees

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Company leaders often complain about the unrealistic expectations of their millennial workers. Today’s youth, a.k.a. ‘millennials’— are said to be:Multiethnic Group of People Social Networking at Cafe

  1. difficult to manage
  2. likely to quit at a moment’s notice
  3. careless (i.e. they make needless mistakes as they forge ahead blindly without permission)

The youngest generation does differ from the older ones. But this has always been true.

Leaders within the organization should see how questions and challenges (i.e. Why does it have to be this way?) from their youngest employees can spark action to help their companies change for the better. In the process of listening, leaders will soon realize that young people want the same things we all do. Remember, millennials are vitally important to fill the void left by aging baby boomers and Gen Xers.

Keep in mind that many millennials continue to bear the burden of tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. The debt has understandably influenced their decisions to join or leave companies.

Actions HR leaders can take to help create a better employer-employee relationship with millennials:

  1. Build bridges with data. Utilize people analytics to understand your youngest employees better. Gather data to track tenure, movement, performance evaluations, and attrition, as well as qualitative data to gauge engagement and find ways of increasing it. Share the results with middle managers so that they can connect the dots and tailor their management approach accordingly.
  2. Over communicate clarity. All employees are eager to hear from top management. However, younger employees expect this to happen at hyper speed. They are looking for real-time, two-way communication that allows input from everyone, followed by fairly immediate action. HR can help address this need by creating feedback platforms which allow employees to ask questions about specific topics and to engage on follow-up feedback requested by supervisors or senior management. This approach provides unprecedented visibility into issues and solutions and facilitates continuous improvement.
  3. Develop a culture of mentorship. Most young people thrive on collaborative work and support from colleagues. Meaningful personal relationships are crucial to help employers to hang on to their young workers.  Best practice is to partner new employees with an assigned sponsor who helps them to navigate the culture. Also encourage your new employees to reach out and form other mentoring relationships.
  4. Focus on professional growth. The ‘younger generation’ has grown up watching entrepreneurs reach the height of success before age 30, taking on responsibilities usually reserved for older executives. Many young professionals want a chance to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. They can quickly become frustrated by the lack of advancement opportunity in today’s flat organizational structures. Any kind of movement that promotes professional development is a plus (i.e. temporary projects over and above the day job). Additionally, young workers are typically energized by rotational programs. Other opportunities may include exposure to senior leaders, cross-functional work, and community service—elements that millennials value highly.

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Reach out to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team to get your questions answered today!

Tom_Sheehan-circle

 

Tom Sheehan brings 20+ years of extensive, broad based strategic, tactical and practical HR experience to CAI’s Advice & Resolution team.  He advises HR and other business leaders on talent management, organizational effectiveness, employee engagement, M&A’s, and employee relations.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager?

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares some tips for adopting a Macromanaging mindset when overseeing employees. 

Are you a Micromanager?  Do others consider you to be?  Hopefully, the answer to both of these questions is “No.”  The term Micromanager is widely thought to be one of the most unflattering labels you can have if you manage people.  Micromanagers typically involve themselves so deeply into the smallest details of every project they manage it actually inhibits productivity and creates a very unpleasant workplace for the team as a whole.

Granted, not being a Micromanager is better than being a Micromanager.  But is there something even better?  Yes!  A Macromanager.

Macromanagers deal with employees more efficiently, taking advantage of their individuality and contributing strengths to the overall team.  Macromanagers provide a work environment which allows a team to work together and empowers them to not only make decisions, but to also make mistakes and to learn from both.  This creates a bi-directional feeling of trust, while maintaining a sense of employee engagement and generating results.

How can you become a Macromanager?  How can you make the transition all the way from Micromanager to Macromanager?  Try implementing these four traits of a Macromanager:

Focus on The Big Picture – Micromanagers get too deep in the weeds of a project rather than looking at things from a 10,000-foot viewpoint.  To be a good Macromanager, focus more of your energy and attention on the organization’s direction and strategy for the future.  In doing so, you can develop creative ideas on how to get there and trust your team to use their collective strengths to work out the details for success.

Understand Your Audience – Micromanagers tend to micromanage everyone, even those who do not need it. Macromanagers may occasionally need to provide more detailed guidance to a team member who is less experienced. When you see that team member begin to “get it,” step back before entering “Micromanager Mode.”  Have a stronger member of your team work with and mentor the less experienced employees.

Observe – Watch the progress of your team, keeping your distance.  As an experienced manager, you will recognize the cues that tell you when to engage and when to hold back.  Your responsibility is the successful completion of the project overall, so you should always be involved as a manager, mentor, advisor and member of the team.  Successful people surround themselves with successful people.  Give your team room to succeed and let them know you are there if they need you.

Welcome Feedback – Find a way to ask questions regarding progress without coming across as “interfering.”  As the manager responsible for overall success, you have the right and the responsibility to know what is going on.  Make sure your team understands you are not there to judge or to criticize, but to offer help and observations if and when needed. Open communication should be encouraged.

As a manager, you have larger responsibilities to the organization.  If you ever find yourself getting too deep into the weeds of any one project, you should ask yourself, “What should I be doing in my job that I am not doing?”  Chances are there is something else you should be focusing more time on.  Your employees will thrive and progress more quickly with your guidance rather than your direct involvement.

If you have any more questions regarding the importance of macromanagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

 

OFCCP Looks to Strengthen Affirmative Action Requirements

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Federal Contractors/Subcontractors:  Are you prepared for the proposed changes to Affirmative Action requirements?

Companies that are federal contractors or subcontractors need to be aware of the recent activity coming from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).  OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu recently hosted a web chat regarding the agency’s semi-annual regulatory agenda.  She identified the priorities of the OFCCP and specific areas where federal contractors can expect changes in order to strengthen the current affirmative action requirements.  The federal contractor community should be considering how these potential changes will affect them and prepared to make revisions to policies and procedures when the new guidance is issued.

Below are the proposed changes and the expected timeframe for each. The OFCCP:

  •  Published an Advanced Notice for Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for a Compensation Data Collection Tool on August 10, 2011.   This ANPRM is open for comments until October 11, 2011.  The OFCCP is encouraging interested parties to submit comments and/or concerns for the new compensation tool, which the office will consider as they design it. For information on the Compensation Data Collection Tool, please visit regulations.gov.  The ID for this proposed rule is OFCCP-2011-0005-0001.
  • Expects to issue proposed revisions to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in August 2011 
  • Plans to finalize changes to the  Scheduling Letter for audits in Fall 2011
  • Plans to release  the updated Federal Contract Compliance Manual in  Fall 2011
  • Plans to publish proposed changes to the Construction Contractors Regulations in November of 2011
  • Plans to publish proposed changes for the Sex Discrimination Guidelines in February  2012
  • Is currently reviewing the comments submitted regarding the proposed changes for the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act.  They expect to issue the final rule in Spring 2012.

Director Shiu also spoke at the 2011 National Industry LBusiness Peopleiaison Group Conference in New Orleans.  During her speech she reiterated the OFCCP’s focus and confirmed the agency’s commitment to the proposed changes identified during her July web chat.  She also said:

  • Under the current administration there is a “restored commitment to our core values of equality, fairness and opportunity for all.”
  • “Good faith” efforts are no longer enough to define affirmative action.  The OFCCP is going to look to contractors to provide measureable results. 
  • During audits, the OFCCP intends to conduct more thorough and careful reviews.   Federal contractors need to pay attention to their efforts and ensure they are meeting their obligations for compliance. 
  • There will be significant efforts toward updating and revising regulations.
  • The OFCCP is making strides to more efficiently and effectively collaborate with the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor.
  • The OFCCP has made no secrets about enforcing the current regulations as well as focusing on specific areas, such as individuals with disabilities, protected veterans and pay discrimination.

For additional information about how these proposed changes may affect your organization please call a member of our AAP Team at (919) 878-9222.

Photo Source: Thomas Cunningham

Creating a Successful Mentorship Program

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Mentoring is a tool to grow employees and accelerate their career development. Companies that offer mentorship programs enjoy many benefits, including retaining top talent, increasing company loyalty and keeping employees engaged. Overall company productivity is also improved when mentorship programs exist.

Employees who are mentored gain critical company knowledge, learn new skills and receive feedback on their career growth and goals, which help them to succeed in their positions. Senior staff members who mentor prosper from the experience, too. Researchers found that their work productivity increases, they have less stress and they feel revitalized in their careers.

Benefits are achieved only if the mentorship program has a strong structure and committed participants, so follow these guidelines to create a successful initiative:

Define the Goal and Structure

To make sure the mentorship program flourishes, it is important to have a strong program goal. Whether it is to help new hires acclimate faster or to cultivate potential manager candidates, one focus will help the program triumph.

Establish an end date as well. More people will participate if there is a specific time frame, and an end date gives a new set of employees an opportunity to experience the process.

Facilitating and Participation

A good mentorship program has a designated facilitator, often called the Mentoring Program Manager (MPM). The MPM creates the mentoring program and works to align the initiative with company goals. The point person sets clear expectations for both the mentors and mentees, which include the time commitment and level of engagement needed from all participants.

Ensuring all staff members are involved in some way or are aware of the program will help the initiative obtain good results. High-level executives should partake in the process—either to offer suggestions to the program facilitator or to serve as mentors themselves. Their participation will help others see the program’s value.

Mentees, Mentors and Managers

Specify criteria for those being mentored. Mentee candidates will help define the qualities needed for mentors. In addition to having excellent communications skills and a strong ability to relate with others, experts suggest that mentors should be at least two levels above the mentee. This requirement guarantees that they can offer great company information while understanding their mentees’ roles. This format eliminates competition for jobs or promotions as well.

Managers provide information similar to what mentors offer, but they have different objectives and job requirements when working with their employees. Managers want employees to grow and perform to help company productivity, and unlike mentors, managers can assign projects, conduct performance reviews and recommend raises or promotions.

Companies should avoid staff members mentoring people they directly manage because they act as key decision makers for their employees. Mentees might feel as though they cannot freely talk about their frustrations and weaknesses with their managers. Mentors who are not managers provide employees with a safe environment to discuss various topics.

Follow Up, Evaluation and Results

Facilitators should make a great effort in following up with participants throughout the process. Encouraging open communication and constant feedback will help the MPM get a gauge on the program’s progress.

Because it might take months to years to see direct results, patience is required when launching a mentorship program. Making sure you get feedback from participants is important when measuring its effectiveness. Surveys and interviews help evaluate success, and final results received will help your company determine if the program was a good investment and if there are improvements needed for a future initiative.

For more information or tips on successful mentorship programs, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Workplace Friendships: Reap the Benefits and Avoid the Negatives

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Companies hire people based on the skills and knowledge they can offer to help achieve business goals. Forming strong friendships with others is usually not a job requirement, but when considering the number of hours employees work together, office friendships are likely to occur. Understanding both the benefits and harm that workplace friendships can create will help your organization maintain a professional work environment while creating a friendly atmosphere that positively affects business performance.

A 2010 survey from recruitment company Randstad revealed that a majority of American workers are happier at their jobs because of their office friendships. Survey participants credit work friends with making their jobs more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying. Not only do office friendships benefit employees, but they also provide organizations with several advantages. Here are a few examples:

  • Friendships create a more enjoyable workplace, which promotes greater employee engagement and increases individual productivity.
  • Friends give each other feedback. Receiving constructive criticism from peers versus supervisors is sometimes easier to digest and correct.
  • Work gets stressful and talking to friends who have similar responsibilities provides workers with positive outlets to release frustrations.
  • A friendly work environment yields creativity because employees feel comfortable being themselves and are able to think more freely.
  • Team members who know each other on more personal levels might work together more effectively and efficiently than with those who do not.

Although there are many positive outcomes that come from office friendships, knowing the negatives will help your company establish boundaries and guidelines for staff members to follow if they plan to pursue friendships. Watch out for these situations:

  • Too much non-work chatter can turn focus away from work and lead to decreased productivity.
  • Office friendships that end unfavorably can create tension for all parties involved. Backstabbing and sabotage can happen as well.
  • Coworkers who form bonds can create cliques and leave others out to create favoritism.
  • Inappropriate behavior from colleagues, such as tardiness or not completing work, might be ignored or enabled by staff members who are friends.
  • Pals who have negative views about their employers have the potential to get others to share their views, which can result in decreased company loyalty.

Organizations wanting to prevent the adverse effects of workplace friendship sometimes implement strict fraternization policies, but employees are often capable of finding ways around restrictions. Here are some guidelines to present to your staff in order to uphold a professional work environment and allow employees to be friends:

  • Work pays the bills, so stay focused on your assigned projects and tasks. Time at work should be professional and focused on driving business—not socializing.
  • You received your assignments for a reason. Do not miss deadlines or lose sight of your goals to help friends who are behind on their projects.
  • Office gossip is not tolerated. Information that you would not tell the boss should not be told to colleagues.
  • Do not share too much personal information with your coworkers. Private topics, such as salary history or performance review results, should be avoided in conversation.
  • Respect personal and professional boundaries with your colleagues. Just because you have a personal relationship with a coworker does not entitle you to put them in an awkward position inside or outside of the office.

For more information on how to handle workplace friendships, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo source: peyri