“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
~ Anne M. Mulcahy ~
Felix is a supervisor of engineers at a nuclear power plant. His goal was to attract and retain his valuable employees. “The money invested in training new engineers is astonishing,” Felix said. “I wanted to keep my people.”
There are three supervisors over three divisions of workers. Felix noticed that one supervisor, Max, had a very large turnover in workers— nearly 100% annually. And the other supervisor, Madison, had almost no turnover.
“I was in the middle,” Felix said. “I had some turnover. More than I wanted, but a lot less than Max.”
Felix saw some of the reasons Max couldn’t keep his people. He was a workaholic and demanded the same of his employees. He was critical and demeaning.
“I wasn’t like that,” Felix said. “I thought I was a fair boss. But still… I had this attrition.”
Felix researched and found a study by John Kammeyer-Mueller of the University of Minnesota called Support, Undermining, and Newcomer Socialization. “It gave me three key pieces to help me support my new hires and make them more likely to stay for the long haul,” Felix said.
1. Management Matters
The study showed that the support of management outweighed support from co-workers. Support from co-workers did make the new hire feel better. But the praise, encouragement, and help from supervisors had greater impact.
That support—in the early days—made workers more likely to stay even months or years down the line. It helped establish their overall view of the company and the job.
“We have a really high learning curve,” Felix said. “Sometimes, I think, we just point them in the right direction and say, ‘Good luck.’ I realized we needed to do much better than this.”
Rather than thinking you could start the engineer on the training path and leave it to others to help out, Felix realized part of the success of his job was to be more involved.
2. Build Connection into the system
“I watched how Madison interacted with her employees. She didn’t taper off the contact after the first few weeks,” Felix said. “She really had a more involved approach. She had an open door policy. She gave specific feedback—both positive and negative—but in an easy-to-take way.”
Felix realized he needed to have greater interaction with the new hires even after the first few weeks. That was not long enough for them to be nearly up to speed. Some of them felt abandoned and then got unhappy or discouraged.
“I realized my feedback and support was vital not just in the beginning, but for months into the employee’s job,” Felix said. “And even after that, I needed to be more involved.” He scheduled time for his own open door policy. He took lunch with the engineers for a more casual time to chat. He tried to be more open with praise.
3. Attracting Valuable Employees
“I was surprised that even just supporting my current workers made a difference in new hires,” Felix said. “I overheard one new engineer talking to a friend just graduating. He was telling him to apply here. It was a great place to work.
“It kind of made my day. I realized I was doing it right. And it was attracting the kind of engineers I wanted.”
Felix realized that a happy work environment was where his engineers felt supported and encouraged. It then resulted in a word-of-mouth call for engineers who would fit well into that situation.
Overall, Felix found that his attrition dropped off and he retained his valuable employees longer. “I think the continued support and interaction of management made the difference,” Felix said. “We can’t just hire people and turn them loose. The more and longer I set up good work support, the happier my engineers became.”
Looking for ways to get your management more encouraging and supportive of your key workers? Contact Joel
Talkback: What are some ways you have found to attract and retain key players?
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“In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words: people, product and profits. Unless you’ve got a good team, you can’t do much with the other two.”
~ Lee Iacocca ~
Dylan is responsible for the succession management of his large company. “Sometimes the results have been frustrating,” Dylan says. “We plan. We prepare them. We check the past performance of our top employees.
“And still, when they step into that leadership role, sometimes the ramp-up takes far too long. Sometimes they are less than what we expected.”
Dylan decided to use more quantifiable tools to help him gauge the talent performance of those within his succession program. “I thought if I could learn some triggers or some key performance measures beyond the standard reviews and recommendations, maybe we could do better.”
Dylan’s goal was to increase the success of those stepping into management roles.
1. Personality. Dylan determined that personality plays a key role in predicting the success of promotions. “Of course other factors are important,” Dylan said. “But all things being equal, personality matters.”
It wasn’t just that Dylan wanted hard-chargers at the top. But when he understood the personality of the candidates in the succession management, he had a better feel where to place them. Some departments would respond better to a consensus builder and cheerleader. Others required a firm take-charge attitude.
To check this out, Dylan explored tools like the traditional Myers-Briggs interest inventory as well as newer personality assessments with labels of colors and gems. He found many of them gave the broad-brush assessment he needed.
“For example,” Dylan said. “My R&D department needed someone who was patient with the facts and science and yet willing to encourage and be open to exploration. The past leader really pushed for results and was impatient with explanations—excuses, he called them. It didn’t bring out the best in my scientists.”
2. Skill Sets. Dylan worked to find tools that could accurately assess the skill sets of the rising talent. Of course past performance was measured. But often new skill sets were needed for the future job.
Dylan had current leaders assess the skills needed for their jobs. Then he found ways to measure the abilities of those selected for succession. He sometimes gave them a project that called for these skills.
On key abilities, Dylan asked a co-worker or mentor to evaluate the worker for several weeks. He asked them to look specifically for that talent or skill, and assess the employee’s mastery of it.
When there was a gap between need and skill set, Dylan worked to train the employee in that area before the promotion and the need to have that skill arrived.
3. Drive. In the past, management had gathered to discuss who they felt should be part of the succession plan. “I know this is important,” Dylan said. “But I thought we needed to add another element.” Dylan wanted those interested to “raise their hands.”
“I wanted those motivated enough to step up and say, ‘Pick me,'” Dylan said. “I think that extra measure of confidence, initiative, and drive matters.”
In the review process, they added a series of questions.
- Where do you hope to be 2 years from now?
- What steps do you plan to take to get there?
- What is your next step right now?
As Dylan implemented these tools in his succession management, he saw the talent performance of the newly promoted rise. “I’ve been very pleased with the results,” Dylan said. “I think matching personalities, analyzing skill sets, and assessing drive has helped us step up our promotions. At this point, I feel very comfortable with our succession plan.”
Do you want to make sure your talent performs up to expectations when placed in your succession management? If so, contact Joel for assessment and coaching.
Talkback: What extra steps have you taken to see that your top talent is properly prepared for the succession slot they are expected to fill?
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“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”
Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees
If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.
Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:
- What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
- What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?
With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.
1. Include employees in the process
But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.
2. Set deadlines
Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress. Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.
3. Make goals measurable
For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.
4. Give feedback
Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance. When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.
5. Reward success
Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.
6. Tweak as needed
Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.
A note on failure:
If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.
Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.
Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.
Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below.
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“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
~St. Francis of Assisi~
Client Sarah Asks: In this economy, money has to work very hard for us. We want to retain our best employees. How should we allocate our finances to maximize our retention?
Coach Joel Answers: That’s a great question, Sarah. Your company has a number of options—different ways to spend your money. To best motivate your workers to stay with you, you first need to understand them.
Not all workers respond the same way. Some of your options have tax consequences that might matter to your top talent. Others may perceive one or another of these choices as more prestigious or of greater value to them.
So your first step is to know your key players. Assess them. Find out what is most enticing and likely to keep them working for you.
Then choose from these four methods those that will work best for you, your employees, and your company.
1. Competitive salary. This is the first rabbit most businesses pull out of the bag. And for a very good reason. It is effective.A salary that pays market value means there’s no financial incentive for your worker to leave. They can’t expect a better offer elsewhere. And when you pay a little above average, workers may feel they are being paid extra for any small inconveniences that come with the job.
2. Bonuses. Sometimes companies need to see how their finances play out before they can reward their employees. They may give workers an average salary with the promise of a bonus if the company does well.
This has the added advantage of offering motivation. Each employee sees their salary more connected to the success of the company. They may make that extra effort to help the company succeed.
The benefit to you, Sarah, is that the company keeps its bottom line lower in difficult years, but can reward employees and keep retention up by promising bonuses in good years.
3. Fringe Benefits. Top talent may be motivated to stay with the company for certain perks. The choice corner office. Company car. Use of the company jet. Pizza Fridays. A nice company gym or offering child care.
Some fringe benefits offer prestige and status that is more enticing than money alone. Some may fill a compelling need of your workers.
Here is where you really need to know your employees. What kinds of fringe benefits connect with them? Is this something that makes financial sense to the company? Perhaps birthday recognitions are low cost, but highly satisfying to your workers. That leaves money on the table for other retention methods.
4. Stock options or company ownership. When employees are vested with company stock options or a chance to buy into the business you strengthen their commitment to their job. They are much less likely to leave.
You need to decide if this is a financially viable option for employee retention. Does it make sense in your business model?
Sarah, you are wise to consider the best uses of your company’s finances to increase worker retention. With the cost of hiring and retraining, it makes more sense to invest in keeping workers satisfied and happy. You gain the benefit of experienced workers. And happy employees are more productive.
To understand your worker’s motivations and develop a retention plan designed for success, contact Joel.
Talkback: What has your company done to retain employees? What has been most successful?
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“Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
Client Ron asks: Our company has got to get serious about a planning program for succession. We talk about it all the time, but only in some kind of informal, conversational way. “Oh, Janet would be a great comptroller if we could get her into a couple of training programs.” But there’s nothing in writing and no formal plan with benchmarks and milestones. I’m going to take on this challenge personally. But how do I even get started?
Coach Joel answers: Unfortunately, many companies never even think about a succession planning program until they are faced with some kind of crisis or emergency. Someone becomes ill or gets recruited by a competitor and suddenly there’s a huge hole in the organization chart and no one is available to fill it. You’re smart to shed some daylight on this issue. Here are three action steps I think you should take as soon as possible to tackle succession planning in your organization:
- Create individual development plans
- Start an internship program
- Train high potentials with job rotation
1. Create individual development plans. Virtually every employee in your company should have a written career plan. This plan should include his or her core competencies, career goals, and what training programs are needed in order to get him from where he is now to where he wants to go. Be sure to include a time frame for each development activity. Work with each person one on one, and let them develop their own plan with your guidance, rather than developing the plan yourself and dictating to them what’s to be done. Be sure they know the plan can be modified if situations or goals change.
2. Start an internship program. An internship program is an important component of succession program planning. I’m talking here about a special kind of internship, a formal growth structure for employees on the move, not an unpaid summer job for high school or college students. Let’s say, for example, that Kate, who is currently an IT supervisor, has expressed an interest in learning more about marketing. Kate can begin to spend a small percentage of her time in marketing, doing real work, such as a special project or a real problem solve. Kate should have a mentor who will support and critique her. At the same time she should be given opportunities to interact with senior marketing staff during meetings and trainings. Socializing with marketing staff outside the workplace would also help her feel comfortable and become more visible.
3. Train high potentials with job rotation. Job rotations are designed to give rising stars wide exposure to the big company picture by experiencing all phases of the company’s business. Don’t confuse job rotation with cross training, which usually takes place among employees within a department rather than throughout the company. As an important piece of your succession planning, you’ll want to set this up so that each program participant spends time assuming duties and getting hands-on experience in every department. For example, let’s say you’ve targeted Jeffrey as a potential future CFO. As a final phase in his growth plan, he might spend an entire year devoting 25% or more of his time to projects in HR, marketing, and production. Think of job rotation as an investment in leadership development that will ensure that promising young employees gain the experience they need to understand all aspects of the business.
When you set up this kind of structure, you’re doing two things. First, you’re letting your future leaders know you have confidence in them. You’re giving them an opportunity to chart their own course to a successful future. At the same time, you’re giving them a huge responsibility to rise to the occasion by devoting hard work and commitment to their own futures. Most, if not all, will rise to the occasion and you’ll sleep better at night, knowing that your company has the right people in place who can step up to the plate when the occasion demands it.
How’s your succession plan looking? Contact Joel today for some ideas you can use to whip it into shape.
Talkback: Do you have some succession planning tools that are working for you? Share your successes here.
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