Posts Tagged ‘The View from HR’

Persistence and Success

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

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

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

We talk much about education and talent but too little about persistence.

Success as a manager or employee usually has less to do with your degree, your natural talent or even your intelligence. It has less to do with where you were raised and whether you were privileged. It has much more to do with your own personal level of persistence and determination.

Yes, a degree may be necessary for certain roles or licenses, and it never hurts to have every advantage growing up, including involved parents and excellent teachers. However, personal determination means more to your successes and failures than any other factor.

Give me a qualified and determined person over a highly educated person with low “give a hoot” any day.

Each inspirational story you see proves my point. These success stories are about people who overcame a challenge and made something work for them or others. Overcoming obstacles. Pushing further, harder and more often than the average person. Finding ways to go at it in different ways. Saying yes rather than no. Persistence.

Look no further than your own extended family or group of friends for talented people (maybe geniuses) who struggle to make their lives and work function. You also know someone with modest resources who worked hard and long to achieve his or her version of success.

Ask any manager why so many good ideas sit idle. Do you know employees who stop and rest at each hurdle, making a nest and setting up camp until dislodged?

Think of the last team meeting where more time was spent on the lunch menu than on tasks at hand, the reasons things did not happen, and why more time was needed to execute projects rather than enjoy incremental success from dogged determination.

Leonard Mlodinow, the author of “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,” helped me see the power of persistence another way. Because so many factors in the workplace and business are uncontrollable, unpredictable and even random, persistence increases the chance that a good idea (or good person) will take hold as conditions change.

Think of it like this: The job openings and available candidates at any point in time are fixed. The lack of a good fit today means nothing about next month, when the candidate pool and job openings have changed. Persist.

Success at work is influenced by many factors. It never hurts to have education, talent and other advantages. Sometimes unfair things happen. But the surest way to take what you have and maximize your effect wherever you are today is to double your level of persistence. Good managers recognize the power of determination and look for it in hiring and promotions.

In 1932, at the depth of the Great Depression, former President Calvin Coolidge said that persistence “has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” It is the one variable entirely within your control. Start with your role in your workplace and enjoy the difference it will make.

Is There a Good Termination?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The best job terminations resemble resignations. The issues are clear, and efforts were made to improve. Dignity is preserved.

The truth is, most firings happen under difficult conditions. A manager dropped the ball, or the employee behaved badly. How can a difficult firing be better?

The firing manager usually controls the “terms of the termination” and can make a difficult situation better. There is discretion on basic terms like time off payouts, future references, how an unemployment claim will be handled, and even a written release of legal claims. There is discretion on what others are told and what the employee record reflects. There is even discretion on the last day of work and whether the employee will stay to finish some projects. The facts vary widely.

A much more complicated and misunderstood category of discretion is how the employee is fired. Call it the “human treatment” option. It is much more powerful than you might think.

The key to “human treatment” is whether the employee views the termination process itself as fair, not whether the decision was correct.

Some questions that could come up:

Was my treatment on the way out the final insult in a long line of insults, or was it something quite different?

Did it recognize my humanity, my need for dignity, my need to tell others why I was fired, and my need to leave this group of work friends without a sudden and public divorce?

The most important way a manager can make the process fair is to tell the truth. “This is why we are firing you. This is how the decision was made. This is how we investigated the facts. Yes, we value the work you did for us on that, but the failures on this led to your discharge.”

This is not the time to say everything that is true, nor the time to debate, but it can often be a time to establish the basic fairness of the decision process itself. It is also not the time to destroy the last shred of an employee’s dignity.

The most important way a fired employee can encourage “human treatment” is to be capable of handling his or her end of the bargain. Can you as an employee depersonalize this firing? Can you disagree or agree on a point without coming unglued? Can you show you are ready to move on if the exit makes that possible? Can you set out your ideas for internal communication and future references, or say goodbye to your team without making matters worse? Can you be trusted?

Research by a Duke professor and his team found that employees who perceived the process as fair were much less likely to make claims against employers, even if they disagreed with the discharge. Employees who saw the process itself as unfair became vindictive and made legal claims at a much higher rate.

Giving no reason for firing is not perceived as fair! Fairness in the termination process itself may be a better predictor of future legal problems than whether the actual reasons for termination were valid or not.

You can make a difficult termination better or worse by how the exit is handled. Your choice.

Handle Issues with Employees Carefully

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

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

blog pic bcIt happens in every workplace. The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.

People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better and the long-term relationship with the victim stronger. Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better or much worse. Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things. They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution. Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment. You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome. If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion. Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work. Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress. Get help from HR or a mentor. Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum. Precedent can be important, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role. Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed. Your manager wants to hear how you feel but must have facts to investigate. Focus on the facts. Who can help support your story? Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad. Have some discretion and give this time to work. What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates? For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is: “What is the ideal outcome here?” I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations. They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all. But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Proper handling can solve early-stage problems, preserving relationships and protecting careers.

Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/01/23/936135/handle-workers-gripes-carefully.html#storylink=cpy

 

4 Tips to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, started his latest edition of his N&O Column, the View from HR, with a quote:

“People are emotional first and rational second: Logic makes people think; emotions make people act.”*

Bruce says that having strong Emotional Intelligence is key to personal and professional success. Emotional intelligence (EI) describes a person’s capacity for controlling his or her own emotions and recognizing and understanding the emotions of others. EI also reveals how people react to others’ emotions and how they manage their various relationships.

In today’s business world, having a great EI is a strong competitive advantage against colleagues and peers who don’t. Employees with high EIs are beneficial to their organizations for many reasons. They build great relationships with their coworkers and clients, they’re graceful and collected in high-stress situations, and they’re able to understand and react appropriately to the actions of others.

Bruce says that business leaders with strong EIs are more successful in hiring, managing growth problems, leading people and teaching others. Refining your own emotional intelligence will help you become a better employee and leader at your organization. Try the following 4 tips to improve your EI:

1.       Analyze Yourself

Be mindful of your own emotions and how you respond to different emotional situations. Be honest with yourself to determine your strengths and weaknesses, and how they might affect others. Work to take responsibility for all of your actions. Be open-minded, and stay positive in different business scenarios.

2.       Really Listen

While others are talking, instead of listening, many people are thinking up their response. People with high EIs are able to focus on what the speaker is actually saying. Try to direct your attention on understanding what the person is communicating. Summarize what you think you heard to the speaker, and ask him or her questions to clarify if needed.

3.       Be Aware of Body Language

Understanding body language and nonverbal communication will help you identify how someone is truly feeling. Practice recognizing whether someone’s body language matches up to what he or she is actually saying, and react accordingly. Watch for facial expressions, tone of voice, and body and eye movements.

4.       Identify What Causes You Stress

Whether it’s an overload of work or sick children at home, there are a number of factors that can cause us stress. Identify the things that cause you the most stress, and recognize that you hold the power to bring yourself back to a calm state of mind. Practice constructive coping mechanisms, like exercise and meditation, to bring you back down when your stress levels are running high. Avoid taking your stress out on others.

Cultivating your Emotional Intelligence takes patience and time. For more strategies, you may consider participating in CAI’s class called Leveraging Your Emotional Intelligence.

*Quote from Reuven Bar-On, Ph.D. and the Emotional Quotient Inventory.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Help Employees Deal with Workplace Changes

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

“It can be hard to change, but it is even harder to fail,” CAI’s CEO, Bruce Clarke, says in his most recent News & Observer column, The View from HR.

Bruce says surviving in today’s workplace requires the ability to smoothly adapt and thrive in different business scenarios. He says successful employees embrace change and look forward to the next disruption. They don’t hold onto methods that aren’t beneficial to workflow processes or impede a company’s progress in improving a new system. These resilient workers are flexible, quick thinkers and decisive when needed.

In his Sunday column, Bruce references the days when employees who resisted change were accommodated in the workplace. Those days are over, however. To continue to achieve positive business results, your organization must be able to modify its goals and strategies as different circumstances arise, such as a recession or a shortage of valuable talent. Similar to the organization, your employees must be able to land on their feet no matter the workplace situation they face.

Use the information below to help lead your workforce through a change initiative.

Dealing with Company Change

  1. Explain why the change is necessary for the organization. Include the benefits, potential disadvantages and major adjustments an employee might experience as a result from the change. Allow employees to ask questions about the upcoming changes and voice any concerns that they might have. Try hard to answer their questions and reassure them that you will help them throughout the endeavor.
  2. Frequently communicate when the change will occur and how company processes and employee roles might be transformed. Utilize several forms of communication, including company internet, email, newsletter and staff meetings, to ensure that all staff members understand the change and know when it will happen.
  3. Pay attention to staff members who are having an especially hard time adapting to your company’s new change. Talk them through any difficulties they may be facing. Partner them with a staff member who is handling the changes well. If possible, permit these anxious employees to deal with the change gradually.
  4. Be patient throughout this process. Getting all staff members up to speed with a new initiative or the latest technology takes time. Do not expect your employees to be experts in their new assignments over night. Changes are about learning as well. Allow employees to make mistakes to learn and grow in their positions.

If you would like additional information and tips on helping your employees embrace change at your organization, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Ongoing Training Helps Managers Reach Success

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, discusses the importance of managerial training in his most recent edition of his News and Observer column, “The View from HR.” In his column, Bruce informs his readers that less than half of the companies he surveyed had no budget for managerial training. Bruce argues that without training, managers are unable to improve their soft skills, which are necessary to lead an organization. Communicating effectively, working well in teams, empathizing with colleagues and keeping calm in stressful situations are examples of soft skills that lead businesses to success.

Making sure your managers are adequately trained to handle their projects and supervise people is important no matter if your budget is large or extremely limited. Considering multiple budgets, here are a few ways to train your managers:

Training Classes

  • Employers’ associations and similar organizations offer companies several training options for their managers. While training programs range in price and length, they offer participants valuable information and leadership practices to take away and use for supervising their staff members.

Webinars

  • In addition to training classes, managers can learn key concepts from webinars. Many times managers want to attend training classes, but their demanding schedules make leaving the office hard. Webinars allow managers to sharpen their skills and improve their leadership without leaving their desks.

Reading

  • An inexpensive way for managers to advance their skills is to invest in managerial literature. Many non-fiction books offer managers solutions for solving people management issues or ensuring the success of a project. These books are often available at public libraries.  In addition, reading blogs like this one that share tips on increasing retention and company morale is an effective way for managers to strengthen their leadership qualities.

Mentors

  • A meticulously organized company mentor plan is another budget-friendly method to train your managers. To make this program successful, match new managers with experienced and high-performing managers. The seasoned managers will have a wealth of knowledge and experiences to help their newer colleagues tackle and conquer tough workplace issues. These employee pairs should meet regularly for an extended period of time to be effective.

Managers juggle many tasks and are responsible for multiple people. For these reasons, it’s important to ensure that they receive proper training. Giving them several opportunities to improve their soft skills will help your company see more success. If you’re interested in CAI’s training courses, please contact a member of CAI’s Learning and Development Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Ryan Holst

Stop Poor Employee Behavior from Damaging Your Workplace

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

“No one has ever been fired for a bad attitude. Sure, attitude may be the reason given, but the real reason was poor behavior. We cannot know another person’s attitude (whatever that is) but you can observe and act on behaviors,” Bruce Clarke, CAI’s president and CEO, says in the latest edition of his News & Observer column, “The View from HR.”

Some managers are quick to say that their poor performing employees have bad attitudes. However, if they observe the actions of their poor performers and offer suggestions for improvement, managers can turn employees with perceived bad attitudes into productive workers who positively affect the company’s bottom line.

Knowing how to correctly handle an employee with a behavior problem is invaluable for employers.  Threatening to fire or demote an employee the next time she displays poor behavior will do little to help improve her work performance. Use the information below to help resolve behavioral issues at your company:

Explain

Use specific examples of poor performance that you have witnessed when addressing these employees. Exaggeration and hearsay from others is not helpful and may cause employees to hold resentment or perform even worse. Communicate effectively by telling your poor performer what you expect from him and what the consequences are for not meeting expectations. Doing this gives him an opportunity to improve and also allows you to check his progress to see if further action is needed.

Retrain

Inadequate training can be the culprit of problem performance at your organization. Talk with your employees to make sure they are informed about the skills and experience needed for their positions. If poor training is the reason, retrain them correctly and give them time to adjust to their updated roles. Sometimes analyzing training reveals that an employee is actually not the best fit for her job. If this occurs, see if she has tasks that you can give to another employee or if you can reassign her to a new position.

Monitor

Employees with unsuitable workplace behavior should have increased supervision. Micromanaging is not necessary, but checking in with them frequently will help you determine if they can improve or if you need to let them go. Once you and your poor performer agree on an improvement plan, set up a weekly meeting to assess his progress and uncover any obstacles that he may be facing. Reward employees or take further disciplinary action based on the information you learn from these meetings. Keep these meetings documented so you and the employee have a record of his workplace behavior. Documenting these meetings also will be legally helpful if terminating an employee becomes an option.

Be swift when dealing with employees who display poor workplace behavior. Addressing the issue quickly will show your intolerance for unsatisfactory performance. Failing to do so will lower your team’s morale because productive staff members will be responsible for carrying the weight of their less productive colleagues. You are also in danger of wasting time, energy, resources and money when you accept poor employee performance. Call CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional guidance on performance management issues.

Photo Source: National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru’s photostream

Employees without Managers Will Disengage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and president, identifies the importance of employees having managers in his most recent News & Observer column, “The View from HR.” Bruce lists several questions for employers that do not assign specific managers for their employees:

  • How does an employee get help?
  • Who does the employee go to with problems?
  • Who is there to help keep the employee engaged and committed to both the work and the company?

Employees who do not have definite answers for the questions above will quickly disengage with their work and could eventually take another position at a company that boasts strong management. As Bruce mentions in his column, HR departments can help employees with questions they have regarding pay and benefits, but there will be many more topics that employees will want addressed.

Managers provide many benefits to the workers they supervise. They keep employees focused on completing assignments and aligning efforts to match company goals. Managers keep their employees engaged by giving frequent feedback and genuinely having interest in their employees’ professional and personal aspirations. They also serve as problem solvers to help workers when obstacles arise.

If your organization does not have managers assigned to each of its employees, be aware of the negative effects it could be causing. Decreased productivity, lowered morale, absenteeism and lack of trust for the company are just a few of the reactions you may face from your workforce if adequate management is not enforced. Here are a few reasons why employees need managers:

Guidance

Managers help their employees understand their roles and how they can affect business results. With proper goal setting and consistent feedback, both positive and constructive, managers help employees reach success.

Employees have questions that they need answered, and managers who work with them on an ongoing basis are the most equipped to offer them responses. Sufficient guidance and attention spent on employees will help them feel essential and respected in the workplace.

Growth

People are rarely satisfied doing the same tasks for long periods of time, so not planning for employees to grow can have dire consequences for your company, specifically high turnover. Because managers provide consistent feedback, they are aware of the strengths and weaknesses that their employees possess. This information not only helps managers assign projects, but it also helps employees visualize what they do well and what they need to improve. Managers are also qualified to suggest promotions, raises or special assignments for deserving workers.

Recognition

Data indicates that employees who do not feel valued at their organizations will leave. Managers can prevent this from happening by recognizing the hard work their employees contribute.  Managers who seek opinions from their staff on company matters show their employees that their viewpoints are important and can shape business strategy.

In addition to recognizing an employee’s professional performance, managers understand that he or she has a personal life as well. Being fair with expectations and deadlines is mandatory for managers who want to respect their employees’ work/life balance.

Good managers who demonstrate leadership qualities are critical for keeping company morale high. Please call CAI’s Advice and Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 for additional information.

Photo Source: alancleaver_2000

Help Employees Invest in Their Future

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Many workers who have great concerns about their financial future are living from paycheck to paycheck as the country’s worst recession continues. According to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, almost half of all Americans will not have enough money saved for their retirement years.

In his latest N & O column, “The View from HR,” CAI’s CEO Bruce Clarke dispenses helpful information regarding retirement savings to managers and their employees. Bruce says there are several reasons why people elect to not save: being young, weary about the stock market, laziness, general confusion and thinking their salary rate is too low.

In a recent study, ING found that 44 percent of its survey respondents said they probably would not be saving for their retirement if they did not have a plan from work.  Fifty-two percent of those participants said that their employers, above family and friends, have the most influence in getting them to start saving for retirement.

As an employer, knowing that employees place importance on company retirement plans should prompt you to help them utilize tools and information that are at their disposal for planning a successful retirement. Try the strategies below to help them invest in their future:

Communicate and Educate

Many workers believe that their organizations are one of the only credible sources for retirement information. Communicate to your staff why saving for the future now is the best way to be financially stable in retirement. Constantly remind workers of the different saving options and tools your company provides. Make sure they understand each option, and help them choose the best one for their situation.

Request Feedback

Because budgets continue to get cut, organizations are looking to reduce funding in certain business areas, and benefit allocations tend to go on the chopping block. Instead of drastically reducing the cost of each employee benefit, such as retirement and paid-time off, ask employees how they would prefer their benefits to be distributed. Offer workers several options, and have them vote to choose the best option for the overall organization.

Keep It Up

Continue to offer your employees the best savings and retirement plans your organization can provide. If your company elected to match employee savings in their 401(K)s, do not stop because budgets are smaller.  If your company is really unable to maintain the company match, ask employees to increase the amount of money they are saving to make up the difference. Consistently communicate the importance of saving.

“The lack of financial literacy is a bigger cause of our failure to prepare for the future than the actual inability to take small steps,” Bruce says in his column.

Educate your employees on the importance of saving for their retirement, and keep them informed on any changes to your workplace benefits.

Photo Source: Keoni Cabral

Show Employees They Are Your Company’s Greatest Asset

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

employees are assetsBruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO, discussed assets employees or job candidates can offer employers in the October 23 edition of his News and Observer column, “The View from HR.” Bruce said that the single most important asset employees can offer is their spark.

“When employers see no spark, they assume there is no engine,” he said.

Well if their greatest asset is their spark because it shows their willingness to learn, work, grow and produce for their employers, then they are essentially their company’s greatest asset. Business cannot survive without the efforts from employees.

As an employer, it is not hard to forget that your staff is your greatest asset. A down economy, lean budgets, and limited resources can stress out the strongest organizations, but not realizing that your employees are critical to your organization’s success can cause dismal effects. The American Institute of Stress said that US industries lose almost $300 billion per year because of absenteeism, diminished productivity, turnover, and medical, legal and insurance fees related to workplace stress.

Unhappy employees who feel unappreciated are a disservice to organizations because they interact with customers daily, promote and sell products, and cultivate the processes that help drive business. When given proper attention, workers become motivated to achieve company goals. They will express creativity and a desire to learn if they are engaged with their organization.

There are several steps that can be made to engage and satisfy your most important asset even if your company is struggling with budget cuts or has downsized staff. The strategies below will help foster a work environment that encourages commitment and maximizes productivity: 

1. Acknowledge Their Importance

An employer-employee relationship should work as a two-way commitment. If an organization wants its workers to perform at their best, then it needs to make an effort to give them its best, whether it is through information, training or resources to complete their jobs. 

Frequently tell employees that their efforts are appreciated and support the organization’s survival. Always try to keep commitments with them, and never overpromise if you cannot deliver. This will show them that you respect them, their time and their work, which, in turn, will increase the level of respect they give you.

2. Be Truthful and Transparent

Being transparent and telling the truth are essential to maintaining good relationships with your employees. Your staff members spend most of their week working, so their need to understand how the company is doing should not be ignored.  During staff meetings or through company-wide emails, alert them of important changes, data and other items to keep them informed.

Do not avoid questions posed by staff that might be uncomfortable or have unfavorable answers, such as, “How are we doing financially?” Answering questions will eliminate uncertainty even if the outcome is undesirable. Keeping your staff up-to-date with company news will help them feel plugged in to the organization and increase their commitment level.

3. Help Them Reach Their Individual Goals

Employees know they were hired because of the skills and knowledge they could offer. They know their job description, and they work to deliver on expectations. For all of the work they put into their organization, they deserve its support.

Show your employees that you are grateful for their contributions and want to help them succeed. Offer them opportunities to learn new skills and information through training. If a professional group related to their field exists, encourage them to join. Additionally, ask them what they would like to accomplish during their time at the organization.

4. Ask for Their Opinions

Employees want to know that their views matter to their organization. They put in a great deal of effort to keep their companies running, so their desire to have input is expected. Because they spend ample time with customers and products, they have first-hand accounts on what is working and what is not.

They will appreciate being part of the decision-making process because it shows their organization has confidence in them. Include staffers in discussions about improving business or strengthening customer service. Get their feedback on company policies and recent enterprises. Do not shy away from opposition. Allow employees to express their ideas and different methods for tackling projects.

For additional tips on improving employee morale and engagement, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Highways Agency, Lachlan Hardy