TALENT MANAGEMENT

  • ‘JUST TEXT ME’: NEW WAY TO INTERVIEW

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Hiring & Recruiting, Talent Management

    Having trouble hiring? Who isn’t, with the tight job market, being ghosted by candidates and just the complete overhaul in the hiring process the last several years?

    And now there’s a new hiring practice: Job interviews by texting.

    If you adhere to certain guidelines, interviews by texting can be a really useful, and convenient, tool to add to the mix. It can even speed the process along, particularly when managing multiple candidates for a job.

    Here’s how interviews by texting might work: A recruiter would set up a time to text back and forth with a candidate. Then the interviewer sends the candidate a question, waits for a response and asks the next question, and so on.

    Attracts millennials, Gen Zers

    Texting might be particularly useful as a first-time discussion to weed out unqualified candidates. And it can boost recruiting efforts for attracting millennial and Gen Z candidates.

    There are even a growing number of technology companies, such as Mya.com and Canvas (gocanvas.io), that offer text messaging tools. For example, you can send an automated text, asking “You applied to a job last month. We have a new opportunity. Do you have a minute to chat?”

    Rather than trying to accommodate a candidate’s current work schedule, employers can cut “approximately half of that time spent by communicating through text,” says Fisher Phillips Employment Attorney Erin Price on SHRM.

    Here are a few best practices from recruiters who’ve been hiring by text:

    Consider the position. Use texting for more junior positions. “You probably don’t want to recruit your chief financial officer via text,” says Gwen Moran, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans.


    Ask first.
    “We always speak to our candidates via phone first, and then ask if it’s okay to text,” says Michael Sunderland, CEO, Full Stack Talent. It’s best to have a conversation to ensure the candidate completely understands the format of the interview or pre-interview.

    Develop a text message policy. Specify how and when to initiate contact through text. Most employers suggest keeping it professional. In other words, no slang, abbreviations or acronyms.

    “While texting is an informal medium, you’re still trying to impress each other,” says Moran.

    Save text communications. Use recruitment marketing software to keep all communications in one place – including applications, email communication, notes and text messages.

    Diligent recordkeeping will also protect the company should a candidate, for instance, not get hired and threaten a discrimination lawsuit.

    The post ‘Just text me’: New way to interview appeared first on HR Morning.

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  • EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: HOW TO KEEP YOUR TOP PERFORMERS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Management, Management>Talent Management, Retention & Turnover, Rewards and Recognition, Talent Management, Uncategorized

    Employee engagement is one of the biggest challenges in talent management.

    But meeting that challenge is worth it.

    Keep your best workers engaged and you’ll keep them working for you.

    In this period of low unemployment, top workers are leaving
    every day for new opportunities.

    And your competitors are doing their best to get more to
    jump ship.

    Top performers are the backbone of every successful organization.

    When those employees leave, you lose essential knowledge about your operations, the investment you’ve made to train them and the relationships they’ve built inside and outside your organization.

    The costs of turnover

    Why is employee engagement so important? One reason is that the costs of replacing a star employee are very real. In addition to the institutional losses, there’s the hard-dollar cost.

    The average cost of replacing an entry-level employee in private industry is about 50% of the departing worker’s annual salary.

    And it can be much higher for others – 150% for mid-level
    employees and a whopping 400% for specialized workers.

    Those departures wreak havoc not only on the bottom line, but on the rest of your team’s productivity and efficiency as well.

    That’s why every organization should place the highest priority on engagement – motivating, nurturing and rewarding top employees.

    You need your stars to feel valued if they are going to stay with you for the long run.

    Why do they leave?

    We all know the saying, “Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.” And everyone will recognize some of these management styles that tend to drive top employees away.

    Micromanagers

    These folks are easy to spot. They’re constantly asking
    whether employees will hit their deadlines or quotas. They want to see work
    before it’s finished and ask for repetitive progress reports.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting projects done
    correctly and on time, but for great staff who consistently get things done and
    done well, constant oversight feels (correctly) like a lack of trust.

    Feeling they are not trusted, despite proving themselves
    over and over, is going to drive top performers to look for a new job.

    They know they are trustworthy and don’t want to waste time
    soothing a manager’s unfounded anxiety.

    Sure, every organization includes workers that do need
    constant checkups.

    But the really good performers just need you to set
    expectations, outline the assignment and get out of the way. If they need help
    or aren’t going to hit a deadline, they’ll let you know.

    The invisible manager

    So, does that mean top performers should be left alone
    entirely unless there’s a problem?

    No. There’s a line between trusting proven performers to get
    the job done and keep your organization successful and adopting a “hands-off”
    approach that makes them feel ignored.

    First of all, if “hands off” really means a manager is
    trying to avoid doing their own job, top staffers are going to spot it right
    away.

    But even if that’s not the case, when a manager tells hard
    working employees, “If you don’t hear from me, you’re doing fine,” that might translate
    to, “You’re doing OK, so I’m going to ignore you and spend all my time managing
    the lousy workers.”

    That’s not an engaging message of value or worth for top
    employees who want more than just “you’re doing fine.”

    Good employees will always want to know where they stand and
    how their efforts are advancing the organization’s strategic goals.

    Don’t lose your top workers by leaving them guessing.
    Constant communication and regular feedback are key for even your most self-directed
    staffers.

    Bullies

    Pushing employees to produce by yelling and screaming at
    them, sometimes called baseball bat management, just doesn’t fly when top
    employees have so many other opportunities.

    Some of these managers will insist they are motivating
    workers by acting like a tough coach. You know the difference and so do your
    employees.

    The “Do it or else!” management style always does more harm
    than good. Managers who try to rule by threat are always going to push your
    turnover higher.

    The great equalizers

    Consistency can help morale at times, and it can buy some
    degree of legal protection as well. But when managers treat good and bad
    employees the same, they send the wrong message.

    When an employee goes the extra mile – like coming in on a
    Saturday to close a profitable account – managers are asking for trouble if
    they treat that person the same as everyone else.

    When bad employees are treated the same as good ones, top
    staffers will start to wonder why they should try so hard if they can still get
    paid for slacking.

    In fact, workplace studies have repeatedly shown that too
    many managers spend too much time trying to raise up poor performers.

    They should be putting extra effort into recognizing people
    whose performance makes a difference.

    High morale and productivity follow when managers spend most
    of their time supporting the top 50% of their performers.

    So, find a way to recognize and reward top employees or be prepared to replace them.

    What are top performers looking for?

    Great employees want to work hard, and they want to be
    recognized for that hard work.

    And to do their best work, they need to know exactly what
    they’re responsible for and how they’ll be judged.

    When good workers don’t know those things, they’ll leave for
    an employer that can tell them.

    So, what do they want?

    To start, they’ll want a detailed description of the position
    you’re considering hiring them for.

    Even during the initial interview, candidates should get an
    accurate idea about what to expect from the job.

    That includes work schedule, overall responsibilities, job
    priorities and accountability.

    Expect big changes down the road? Make sure they also know
    how their responsibilities might shift to support those changes.

    Once they are on board, share company information regularly
    so employees understand how they contribute to the big picture — and so they
    can be thinking about how to improve their teams’ workflows and procedures.

    Communication

    One of the most useful strategies for retaining top
    performers is asking for their input.

    Your best employees are on the front line every day, and
    they see things that might slip under your radar.

    To keep top workers engaged, create an environment where
    questions and opinions are not just welcomed, but encouraged.

    That’s because when employees ask questions, it means they’re concerned about results.

    Even top performers are going to have questions, so it’s important for them to know they can always ask you for clarification.

    And, perhaps most importantly, they need to see how they
    will be able to grow and advance within the organization.

    Rewards and Recognition

    Employees who do a good job each day view recognition as verification that their performance matters.

    Of course, each top employee will be motivated differently,
    so it’s important to tailor your recognition efforts to the individual.

    Here’s one way to determine the best recognition techniques:

    • Write down what you think motivates your best workers, leaving
      room for write-in answers.
    • Check off the items that motivate you, then distribute the list to
      those employees.
    • Analyze the overall results for insight into what will motivate
      most employees – such as time off – but also look for ideas that might appeal
      to specific workers.

    And this exercise can help you gain perspective as well, by revealing how different your own motivators might be from the ones that energize your top employees.

    Flexibility

    If appropriate, meet with top employees and devise a plan
    tailored to meet their motivational factors.

    You can’t make every employee’s job perfect.

    But you might be able to improve employee engagement in some ways – like providing more flexible schedules for those with family responsibilities.

    Here’s a checklist to use when considering ways to tailor
    your workforce to accommodate changing lifestyles:

    • Determine the core business
      requirements for your department or area first: What is it you need to achieve?
    • Talk with staff about what they
      want.
    • Develop possible flextime
      strategies and seek feedback from your workers.
    • Decide who will be covered by the
      policies and check to ensure the policies don’t unfairly or illegally
      discriminate.
    • Draw up written procedures for
      implementation and evaluation, including regular reassessment.
    • Get support from upper management.
    • Present the changes in a manner
      that shows you’ve taken the lead in responding to the need for work/life
      balance.

    A great way to recognize employees is with “spot rewards”
    like movie tickets or inexpensive gift certificates that managers can hand out
    at random times during the workday when an employee’s exhibiting exemplary
    performance.

    Little things do mean a lot. Employees love perks not
    because of the perk itself but because of the recognition that goes along with
    it.

    Low-cost rewards that improve employee engagement can be almost anything. A short list includes:

    • tickets to sporting events and shows
    • free beverages and snacks
    • gift certificates for meals
    • a free lunch
    • free car washes, and
    • holiday family parties or picnics.

    But there’s one more perk that pleases everybody: time off.  An extra day off to reward an outstanding job goes a long way toward lifting an employee’s opinion of his or her company.

    Nurturing growth

    Finally, managers who excel at engaging and retaining high-performing staff are the ones who develop detailed short- and long-term growth plans for each employee.

    So, how to design a development plan that will best nurture each top employee?

    Identify each top performer’s strengths and talents and establish
    goals that take advantage of those strength or address any skill gaps.

    Develop work plans that allow employees to learn from
    co-workers, other departments and managers, including cross-training
    assignments.

    And schedule regular meetings to talk with them about their goals and ask what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about their work.

    Then offer help, whether that be involving them in a new project or setting up a meeting with HR to discuss how they can prepare for a promotion opportunity in the future.

    Ask for feedback

    Here are three questions to ask your top performers:

    • “Can you tell me our organization’s top three goals for the year?”
      To analyze the level of engagement of top staffers, you need to
      make sure you’re all on the same page.
    • “If you were competing against our company, what would you do?” You may be surprised to find that top performers know exactly what
      a company’s weaknesses are.
    • “What could we change to get things running smoother?” Giving top staffers the opportunity to speak freely might yield
      some great results. Top employees will be grateful that you asked and are bound
      to have good ideas.

    And provide performance feedback frequently.

    Top performers aren’t waiting a year to judge themselves and
    the old once-a-year review just doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Want to lose a star? Surprise them with complaints about
    their performance when it’s time for their compensation review.

    The post Employee engagement: How to keep your top performers appeared first on HR Morning.

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  • IMPROVING EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE MAKES FOR A BETTER COMPANY: HERE’S HOW

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: employee engagement, employee experience, employee training, Management>Talent Management, retention, Retention & Turnover, Talent Management, Uncategorized

    Providing employees with a strong Employee Experience is
    more than a great company picnic and premium benefits.

    Employee Experience, or EX, is about employees feeling like
    there are strong contributors to the success of the company. They are
    productive and efficient because the employer treats them like a customer,
    providing them with the tools and training they need to do the job, and absorbing
    them into a positive company culture.

    It starts when a candidate applies for a job with your company and ends when they leave the job, whether it’s to relocate or retire. Every step of the process — timely follow-up after the job application is submitted, how quickly IT issues get resolved on the job, how benefits are added over time to reflect the needs of the current workforce – that’s all EX.

    EX holds more value for workers than the frequency of raises or the 401(k) match because it affects the daily journey of contributing to company success, resolving problems, growing skillsets and helping the company improve.

    Think about where you are

    Modern companies want the employee to take a more holistic
    approach to their work.

    For a better EX, companies now take a holistic approach to how they partner with their employees.

    How? Involve them in problem solving and decision making
    based on who has the freshest perspective, instead of who has a title. Start
    dissolving the silos where departments focus only on their area of
    responsibility, and leadership is disconnected from the day-to-day realities of
    the company’s operations.

    Employees want to be treated like customers. Meet their needs, value their input and let them help you grow the company.

    This short checklist covers some of the key areas of EX. Ask
    yourself, are your employees:

    • Getting quality communication? In good times and
      when there’s a tough spot to get through, employees want to hear appropriate
      details honestly and from the top. They want to know how things are. How can
      they pitch in to make things better again after something goes wrong?
    • Supported with the right technology? Talented
      workers want to keep moving forward with their tasks and be efficient. IT
      problems happen, but if employees feel like their software or infrastructure is
      too old and too slow to do the job, it frustrates them. You don’t want to send
      the message that the work being done is not valuable enough to invest in better
      systems.  The IT department should be as
      invested in EX as the human resource team is.
    • Understanding every benefit? From health care
      choices to helping them save money in retirement or health savings accounts, keep
      them educated on all the great things your company invests in to help their
      life go better. Regular communication through brown-baggers, helpful yet brief
      emails, table tents in the breakroom or any other frequent and digestible way
      to relay how the company is trying to help them improves EX. Little-used
      benefits you thought would be more popular, like gym membership reimbursement
      or tele-medicine, could use more promoting, or get replaced with what workers
      really want. Just ask them!

    Employee experience goals         

    When companies provide a great employee experience,
    employees spend their time on things that matter to them. They don’t waste time
    doing tasks they don’t want to do or waste time on slow software systems.

    Work is done better and faster in companies with great EX.
    Here’s why:

    • The EX is carefully planned and optimized to
      provide a great experience just like how the customer experience is used for
      marketing purposes.
    • Technology is sophisticated enough to automate
      mundane tasks and reduce some of the complexity of more detailed processes. For
      example, candidates don’t have to upload every function of their resume to your
      ATS, they system can pull it from LinkedIn with one click.
    • Innovation is part of the company culture.
      Employees’ creative ideas flourish and they feel empowered to collaborate with
      others and implement them to push the company forward.

    Where to start with EX

    HR experts like Josh Bersin, writing on EX for digitalHRtech recommends these
    starting points:

    • Think like an employee. Actually follow them around, survey them, sit with them in workshops. This is how you find out what bugs them at work and hear all the little stories about what makes things difficult for them to do the job they way that want to do it.
    • Look at the moments that matter in a job. How does your company handle onboarding? What about job changes? Relocations or transfers? If these steps are difficult, not only do they take more time than they should, they stick in an employee’s mind. If someone starts working for you and it takes two weeks to get their computer set up correctly, that impression sticks for a long time. It’s also the first story the next new-hire in the same department will hear. That’s not good.
    • Co-create. Every solution to improve EX should have employees involved. Their experiences have determined what processes are broken and what needs to happen to make work easier. Employees are the authority on what the EX is like in the company, and they know where all the rough spots are.
    • Simplify. Every business has processes that are too complicated, and they don’t have to be. How seamless is your T&E reimbursement process? Does it take days for employees to wade through paperwork? Is it electronic or on paper forms? Does it take a week for managers to approve expenses? If so, it’s clearly not simple enough – or everyone isn’t on board with treating employees with the same efficiency as the company treats its customers.
    • Segment. Every employee experience can’t be fixed at once, so choose starting points and map the journey. For example, work to improve HR practices and IT needs first. When those are simplified and more employee friendly, move on to the next things that are clogging up the EX. Maybe that’s rewards and recognition, or training processes.

    How EX improves the business

    Improving employee experience starts when the company begins
    to focus on it because they are involved in the improvement. They see how
    serious the company is about making a better place to work and thrive.

    From the business end, when obstacles are removed and processes
    simplified, the company reaps rewards. In a 2017 survey of companies ranked for
    EX, the top 25% produced 51% more revenue from new products and services in the
    past two years. The bottom 25% produced 24% more revenue.

    Jacob Morgan wrote in Harvard Business Review of his research
    on how companies invest in employee engagement and how other companies focus on
    EX. He found companies that invest effectively in improving EX have employees
    that do better work, do a better job of serving customers, grow faster, pay
    better, increase (at least double) revenue and are on average four times more profitable.

    Think of your current EX as a pill flavor. Would
    yo

    The post Improving employee experience makes for a better company: Here’s how appeared first on HR Morning.

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  • REDUCE COMPLEXITY TO ACHIEVE DATA-DRIVEN HIRING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Talent Management

    Technology was supposed to make hiring simple. In practice, it may have done the opposite. We now have an excessive patchwork of tools, tabs, spreadsheets, and systems.

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  • 5 WAYS TALENT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE CAN ELIMINATE PERFORMANCE REVIEW MISTAKES

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: annual performance reviews, coaching, goal management, Performance Management, performance reviews, skills training, Talent Management

    Performance reviews are a stressful event for both managers and employees. They can range from awkward conversations to pointless feedback to ugly HR nightmares.

    And a bad review system doesn’t just hurt employee performance. It can have serious consequences for morale and turnover too.

    Studies show that after a performance review one in five employees report being so upset they cried, while one in three immediately start looking for a new job.

    In this tight labor market, employees have options. If they’re not getting adequate feedback and the right development, they’ll leave.

    Successful companies take performance management seriously. But even they can make mistakes.

    That’s why so many businesses are now relying on a talent management system to help them get the most from performance reviews.

    What is a talent management system?

    A talent management system is software that streamlines end-to-end employee development from recruiting to exit interviews. Although it includes applicant tracking, learning management and succession planning capabilities, the most popular feature is performance management, which helps companies give transparent, continuous feedback.

    Some companies only use a talent management system for their top employees, while others use it for everyone at the organization. In either case, it can revolutionize the way businesses handle performance management and jump-start productivity.

    Putting together a great review process, however, is no easy task. Here are five common performance review mistakes and how a talent management system can help eliminate them.

    1. Not enough feedback

    Too many companies still conduct performance reviews once a year. But this outdated system can lead to a lot of issues.

    One example is the recency effect. If managers give feedback in December, they might focus on what happened in the past few months, rather than throughout the entire year. Problems or accomplishments from January or February might be glossed over or simply forgotten.

    Although it may not be a conscious act on the manager’s part, this type of feedback can feel like a lack of recognition or opportunity to improve for employees. They want to understand how they’re doing, and they want to understand it more often.

    In fact, 65% of employees want more feedback than they’re currently receiving.

    A talent management system lets companies offer continuous feedback, which means consistent, meaningful discussions between managers and employees about performance.

    While annual reviews put pressure on both the manager and employee, because they’re infrequent and need to cover a lot of ground, continuous feedback means check-in conversations are much shorter, more focused and less stressful for everyone involved.

    Managers may have excuses that their open door policy is enough or that keeping track of multiple conversations is too difficult. And it’s true that continuous feedback can be confusing, especially if you’re using a mix of emails, chat apps and in-person conversations.

    That’s why talent management systems have communication and collaboration tools for managers to organize and provide real-time feedback.

    Software can remind managers when reviews are due and keep a history of all notes and action points from previous discussions. It also gives HR visibility into who’s getting feedback from whom and how those conversations are going.

    Although it can take time to train managers and employees to feel comfortable giving and receiving continuous feedback, any system that offers more regular, specific feedback is a good thing.

    2. Setting the wrong goals

    During a review, managers discuss how employees are performing against some type of established goals.

    But what if goals are ill-defined, overly broad, irrelevant or too static? Employees can feel like they’re being measured against the wrong yardstick.

    For companies to have effective performance reviews, employees need to set the right goals, which should be:

    • Related to their competencies and skills
    • Broken down into actionable steps with defined benchmarks
    • Aligned with the company mission, and
    • Adjustable based on changes in performance or business demands.

    With a talent management system, employees can record their competencies and skills and work with managers to set goals that are relevant to their specific background.

    The software can also help organize goals into easy-to-manage steps, so that employees have a clear path to success. These steps might include learning new skills, essential tasks for a project or coordinating with someone outside the department. As employees complete these steps, they can check off their progress on benchmarks and get more guidance or recognition for their accomplishments.

    Managers and employees can also use the talent management system to compare goals to company objectives. Helping employees understand how their work supports long-term business goals will give them a sense of purpose and increase their productivity.

    If employees are under- or over-performing or if business needs have changed, the manager can work with them to adjust or update their goals at any time. The opportunity to pivot goals can not only help employees succeed, but can also make the business more agile and competitive.

    3. Lack of objectivity

    Performance reviews are only as good as the manager who gives them. If the reviewer isn’t prepared or objective, employees can feel unfairly judged.

    To be effective, performance should be well-documented. Managers can’t rely solely on their memory when giving feedback.

    Talent management systems offer a transparent way to set employee goals and benchmarks, track performance and record previous reviews. Managers can use intuitive dashboards and analytics to show key performance indicators and progress over time. The software also has compliance protocols for documentation, reporting and auditing. Features include version tracking and evidence collection, which means that performance reviews can’t be altered without people noticing.

    Studies have shown that performance reviews are full of biases, and even if those biases aren’t conscious, they can cause all sorts of problems. In the worst cases, poorly conducted evaluations can turn into HR nightmares.

    A talent management system can analyze whether managers have certain patterns in their feedback. Is the manager rating one demographic lower than others, or rating all of their employees higher than other managers? This type of data can be used to avoid claims of bias or discrimination.

    4. Only one reviewer

    Performance reviews also run into trouble when they come from only one source.

    In the past, companies often had siloed departments where employees worked for and reported to a single manager. So it made sense for the manager to be the only one reviewing and giving feedback to an employee.

    The modern workplace, however, now uses networks of employee teams to complete a variety of projects. There’s less hierarchy and more time spent interacting with coworkers and managers in other departments.

    Consequently, direct managers may not have much daily interaction with that employee and shouldn’t be the only reviewer.

    Feedback from multiple stakeholders – peers, subordinates and other managers – is becoming more commonplace. Because peers work side-by-side and build closer relationships, they can call out behavior that they see each day. And their comments are generally more positive and supportive, which can motivate employees and act as a form of social recognition.

    A talent management system can capture feedback from multiple stakeholders through online forms or a mobile app and automatically add it to the employee’s profile. Companies can then decide how much weight to give different groups or specific reviewers, especially if there are outliers.

    But overall, companies will have more sources of reference when it comes to employee performance, which means a more objective, thorough review process.

    5. No coaching and training

    Employees feel frustrated when they’re expected to perform at a certain level but not given the tools to reach it. Performance reviews where employees are told that they’re under-performing or not making progress may actually be an indication that the company lacks proper coaching and training.

    Employee improvement needs to be supported with proper guidance and the ability to learn new skills. In fact, 87% of millennials, the largest generation currently in the workforce, say that professional development opportunities are imperative to their career.

    Managers can use a talent management systems to identify employee skill gaps and recommend specific training that’s needed. And the platform often includes learning management software that companies can use to deliver training.

    Additionally, goal-setting may include actionable steps, but managers need to coach employees to help them actually get there. And the benefits of coaching aren’t just for employees. According to HR expert Josh Bersin, “Companies which provide high levels of development planning and coaching to their employees have a third less voluntary turnover and generate twice the revenue per employee of their peers.”

    Talent management systems empower managers with automated coaching tools, links to on-demand coaching info and workflows to track coaching activities. Some software gives managers coaching recommendations based on direct feedback from engagement surveys. Others can identify which manager will be the best coach for an employee and monitors the coaching process based on self-assessments and work experience.

    Bottom Line

    Performance reviews are a messy process, and it’s easy to make mistakes if you’re managing it on your own. That’s why leading companies are using technology to help. With a talent management system, companies can:

    • Offer continuous feedback
    • Set proper goals for employees
    • Provide objective reviews
    • Receive feedback from multiple stakeholders, and
    • Deliver better coaching and training between reviews.

    If you’re in the market for a solution, check out these reviews of the best talent management systems.

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  • MOTIVATING EMPLOYEES TO HIGHER PERFORMANCE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Management, Performance Managemnt, Retention & Turnover, Talent Management

    Building and sustaining an energized workforce that takes initiative requires creating an inspiring atmosphere.

    Some of the key features of such a workplace are:

    • A creative work environment where employees are able to express themselves openly.
    • A work environment not stifled by unnecessary process and policy hurdles.
    • A challenging and constructive work environment featuring constant feedback.
    • Leadership that listens and responds to employees.
    • A collaborative and cross-functional workforce where diversity is cherished.

    Employees recognize the difference between empty slogans and real commitment and will respond to an organization that walks the walk in creating a great place to work.

    Happiness equals productivity

    A recent study found that employees who are happy are 12 percent more productive than those who aren’t.

    Whether or not the specific percentage is totally accurate, we can all confirm the general point from our own work experiences.

    Happy employees get to work on time, work hard, and take responsibility.

    So how to keep a happy workplace? Here’s some ideas

    • Make humor part of the agenda – work is stressful. Find ways to lighten things up occasionally
    • Within the constraints of your particular process, don’t insist on rigid schedules. Give employees some control over how they use their time during the day.
    • Respect, and encourage respect for, differences
    • Fewer managers and official leaders
    • Make fitness and physical activity part of a normal day
    • Create a bright atmosphere and encourage interaction

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  • 7 WAYS HRMS CAN TRANSFORM YOUR HR DEPARTMENT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: central database, Hiring & Recruiting, HRMS, Management, onboarding, Pay and Benefits, Payroll, Performance Managemnt, Retention & Turnover, self-service portal, streamline, Talent Management, turnover

    A typical day in HR is… anything but typical. Whether you’re dealing with an employee suddenly leaving or your CEO demanding results, you’re constantly on the move and putting out new fires.

    You’re busy, to say the least.

    And on top of it all, you still have to answer questions about payroll and keep up with compliance reporting. That leaves little room for higher-level responsibilities like scouting for new talent or developing strategies to motivate employees.

    No one needs to tell you that your time and energy are valuable. And your day shouldn’t be consumed with administrative or routine tasks. Whether you’re doing everything on pen and paper or using specialized software for recruiting or training, it’s time to consider a change.

    If you haven’t heard about HRMS, now is the time to check out the technology that can streamline HR and help you take back your day.

    What is HRMS?

    A human resource management system (HRMS) integrates all of the core and strategic HR functions into one solution, improves recruiting, offers a self-service portal, automates data entry and administrative processes, streamlines information in a central database, reduces payroll and compliance errors, and facilitates data-driven strategies.

    How is HRMS different from HRIS and HCM?

    HRMS, HRIS and HCM are various acronyms used for comprehensive HR technology. It’s easy to get confused, because these terms are often used inconsistently and interchangeably. That said, it’s still a good idea to know how they are generally defined. Here’s a breakdown of which modules are included in each one:

    • Human resource information system (HRIS) – applicant tracking, employee self-service portal, central database, analytics, training, compensation and benefits
    • Human capital management (HCM) ­– HRIS modules, plus onboarding and talent management
    • Human resource management system (HRMS) – HCM modules, plus payroll, time and attendance, and performance tracking

    HRMS has the most modules of any HR technology, but typically has fewer customizations and advanced features compared to specialized software that focuses on an individual module. What makes HRMS preferable, however, is that it’s an integrated system that can follow employees end-to-end from recruiting to exit interviews.

    Consider these seven ways that HRMS can transform your HR department.

    1. Manage the hiring process more efficiently

    We’ve previously written about the insights that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can provide, including:

    • Finding and solving hiring bottlenecks
    • Discovering which hiring managers need help
    • Tracking your hiring team’s efficiency and effectiveness
    • Determining your best sources for hires

    An HRMS solution won’t have as many specialized features as a dedicated ATS software, but it will have the benefit of retaining applicant information if they are hired and onboarded. You’ll also be able to analyze this data and generate reports on the types of candidates that ultimately become successful employees.

    2. Engage employees with onboarding and training

    Once you’ve hired the right candidate, it will be important for you to keep them engaged from the beginning. Employees that go through a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to stay with an organization after three years.

    With HRMS, onboarding can start even before the new employee reaches the office. Employees can sign administrative documents electronically, catch up on company news and business goals, and join virtual social networks of colleagues. On their first day, they’ll have more time to tour the facility, set up their equipment and hit the ground running.

    HRMS solutions can also boost engagement through continuing education. For example, millennial employees ranked training and development as the most important benefit of working for a company, higher than cash bonuses, free health care and a pension.

    Small businesses may find hiring speakers or holding physical classes too expensive. HRMS offers a cost-effective alternative with e-learning modules to help employees improve their skills and performance at their own pace.

    This type of professional development not only promotes employee engagement, but also prepares future leaders within your company who might otherwise leave.

    3. Save time with a self-service portal

    Employees often have specific questions about their salaries, benefits and time off. Answering these vital yet routine questions, however, can take up a huge chunk of your day.

    With a self-service portal, employees can access their information any time, from a remote site or on their mobile phone. The portal generally has a user-friendly interface and allows employees to:

    • View their salaries, benefits, 401K and taxes,
    • Update their employment and contact details,
    • Enter time and attendance,
    • Submit expense and reimbursement forms, and
    • Request paid time off and sick leave.

    Managers can also approve and decline employee time off requests without your intervention.

    In the end, your employees will be able to answer many of their own questions at their own convenience and you’ll have to do less data entry, giving you back valuable time to spend on more meaningful activities.

    4. Reduce business errors with automated processes and a central database

    You know how important it is to maintain accurate payroll and compliance records. Any mistake is not just a headache but also a potential lawsuit.

    HRMS automates these processes, so that you can worry less about costly errors. It can calculate wages and salaries, deduct the correct amount of taxes and benefits, and print checks or execute direct deposits. It can also schedule reminders when compliance forms are due, require employees to digitally accept communications and deliver compliance training.

    In addition, the system will consolidate information into a central database. You won’t have to go searching through multiple filing cabinets, spreadsheets or emails for various details about a single employee. This not only saves you time and energy, but can also keep you organized and reduce errors in transferring information.

    5. Accelerate employee performance

    Employees are more productive when they feel that business objectives are aligned with their skill sets and accomplishments are properly rewarded. Yet it may not be clear to you how employees are doing in their roles and whether or not they are succeeding.

    HRMS solutions empower employees to take performance into their own hands. They can:

    • Monitor their own progress,
    • Seek help and make improvements between scheduled reviews, and
    • Develop their future goals.

    In response, managers can:

    • Quantify employee performance,
    • Provide more relevant feedback,
    • Select appropriate assignments,
    • Recognize achievements, and
    • Create succession plans to promote exceptional employees.

    Overall, everyone will have a better understanding of how employees are doing at their jobs. Managers can acknowledge progress and employees will have a clearer path going forward.

    6. Understand why employees leave

    When an employee leaves, you conduct an exit interview to understand why. The information you get, however, may not always be accurate. Perhaps there are strong emotions surrounding the departure or the employee doesn’t feel comfortable being honest in person.

    HRMS solutions can communicate with employees even after they leave. Because they’ve had time to understand their reasoning and now have the space to be direct, their insight can be valuable. This information can be combined with other metrics previously collected by the software such as demographics, performance, promotion wait time and compensation ratio to create a more holistic analysis of employee turnover.

    Fully examining why an employee leaves is important because it helps to develop a strategy for reducing turnover in the future. Without proper data, you’re left to wonder if your assessments are accurate.

    7. Support your decisions with evidence

    Businesses are increasingly looking to HR for more data-driven initiatives and strategies. Whether its recruiting more efficiently, increasing engagement or reducing turnover, senior management wants your decisions to be backed up with quantifiable metrics.

    HRMS not only records information but can also generate reports and analyze real-time key performance indicators, such as duration-in-position or time-to-achieve goals. This data can help you develop evidence-based strategies that are more likely to get buy-in from senior management.

    Some HRMS solutions even offer predictive analytics that can give you more certainty in your workforce decisions and insights for future recruitment and retention strategies.

    Still undecided on HRMS?

    With a self-service portal, automated processes and a central database, HRMS solutions can reduce the amount of time you spend on labor-intensive tasks and transform your HR department.

    You’ll now be free to focus on data-driven strategy and higher-level initiatives that will ultimately benefit your greatest resource–your employees.

    If you’re in the market for an HRMS solution, it’s important to do more research on implementation, cost, integration and training. For more info, here’s our definitive guide to HRMS.

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  • 7 WAYS HRMS CAN TRANSFORM HOW YOUR HR DEPARTMENT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: central database, Hiring & Recruiting, HRMS, Management, onboarding, Pay and Benefits, Payroll, Performance Managemnt, Retention & Turnover, self-service portal, streamline, Talent Management, turnover

    A typical day in HR is… anything but typical. Whether you’re dealing with an employee suddenly leaving or your CEO demanding results, you’re constantly on the move and putting out new fires.

    You’re busy, to say the least.

    And on top of it all, you still have to answer questions about payroll and keep up with compliance reporting. That leaves little room for higher-level responsibilities like scouting for new talent or developing strategies to motivate employees.

    No one needs to tell you that your time and energy are valuable. And your day shouldn’t be consumed with administrative or routine tasks. Whether you’re doing everything on pen and paper or using specialized software for recruiting or training, it’s time to consider a change.

    If you haven’t heard about HRMS, now is the time to check out the technology that can streamline HR and help you take back your day.

    What is HRMS?

    A human resource management system (HRMS) integrates all of the core and strategic HR functions into one solution, improves recruiting, offers a self-service portal, automates data entry and administrative processes, streamlines information in a central database, reduces payroll and compliance errors, and facilitates data-driven strategies.

    How is HRMS different from HRIS and HCM?

    HRMS, HRIS and HCM are various acronyms used for comprehensive HR technology. It’s easy to get confused, because these terms are often used inconsistently and interchangeably. That said, it’s still a good idea to know how they are generally defined. Here’s a breakdown of which modules are included in each one:

    • Human resource information system (HRIS) – applicant tracking, employee self-service portal, central database, analytics, training, compensation and benefits
    • Human capital management (HCM) ­– HRIS modules, plus onboarding and talent management
    • Human resource management system (HRMS) – HCM modules, plus payroll, time and attendance, and performance tracking

    HRMS has the most modules of any HR technology, but typically has fewer customizations and advanced features compared to specialized software that focuses on an individual module. What makes HRMS preferable, however, is that it’s an integrated system that can follow employees end-to-end from recruiting to exit interviews.

    Consider these seven ways that HRMS can transform your HR department.

    1. Manage the hiring process more efficiently

    We’ve previously written about the insights that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can provide, including:

    • Finding and solving hiring bottlenecks
    • Discovering which hiring managers need help
    • Tracking your hiring team’s efficiency and effectiveness
    • Determining your best sources for hires

    An HRMS solution won’t have as many specialized features as a dedicated ATS software, but it will have the benefit of retaining applicant information if they are hired and onboarded. You’ll also be able to analyze this data and generate reports on the types of candidates that ultimately become successful employees.

    2. Engage employees with onboarding and training

    Once you’ve hired the right candidate, it will be important you to keep them engaged from the beginning. Employees that go through a structured onboarding program are 58% more likely to stay with an organization after three years.

    With HRMS, onboarding can start even before the new employee reaches the office. Employees can sign administrative documents electronically, catch up on company news and business goals, and join virtual social networks of colleagues. On their first day, they’ll have more time to tour the facility, set up their equipment and hit the ground running.

    HRMS solutions can also boost engagement through continuing education. For example, millennial employees ranked training and development as the most important benefit of working for a company, higher than cash bonuses, free health care and a pension.

    Small businesses may find hiring speakers or holding physical classes too expensive. HRMS offers a cost-effective alternative with e-learning modules to help employees improve their skills and performance at their own pace.

    This type of professional development not only promotes employee engagement, but also prepares future leaders within your company who might otherwise leave.

    3. Save time with a self-service portal

    Employees often have specific questions about their salaries, benefits and time off. Answering these vital yet routine questions, however, can take up a huge chunk of your day.

    With a self-service portal, employees can access their information any time, from a remote site or on their mobile phone. The portal generally has a user-friendly interface and allows employees to:

    • View their salaries, benefits, 401K and taxes,
    • Update their employment and contact details,
    • Enter time and attendance,
    • Submit expense and reimbursement forms, and
    • Request paid time off and sick leave.

    Managers can also approve and decline employee time off requests without your intervention.

    In the end, your employees will be able to answer many of their own questions at their own convenience and you’ll have to do less data entry, giving you back valuable time to spend on more meaningful activities.

    4. Reduce business errors with automated processes and a central database

    You know how important it is to maintain accurate payroll and compliance records. Any mistake is not just a headache but also a potential lawsuit.

    HRMS automates these processes, so that you can worry less about costly errors. It can calculate wages and salaries, deduct the correct amount of taxes and benefits, and print checks or execute direct deposits. It can also schedule reminders when compliance forms are due, require employees to digitally accept communications and deliver compliance training.

    In addition, the system will consolidate information into a central database. You won’t have to go searching through multiple filing cabinets, spreadsheets or emails for various details about a single employee. This not only saves you time and energy, but can also keep you organized and reduce errors in transferring information.

    5. Accelerate employee performance

    Employees are more productive when they feel that business objectives are aligned with their skill sets and accomplishments are properly rewarded. Yet it may not be clear to you how employees are doing in their roles and whether or not they are succeeding.

    HRMS solutions empower employees to take performance into their own hands. They can:

    • Monitor their own progress,
    • Seek help and make improvements between scheduled reviews, and
    • Develop their future goals.

    In response, managers can:

    • Quantify employee performance,
    • Provide more relevant feedback,
    • Select appropriate assignments,
    • Recognize achievements, and
    • Create succession plans to promote exceptional employees.

    Overall, everyone will have a better understanding of how employees are doing at their jobs. Managers can acknowledge progress and employees will have a clearer path going forward.

    6. Understand why employees leave

    When an employee leaves, you conduct an exit interview to understand why. The information you get, however, may not always be accurate. Perhaps there are strong emotions surrounding the departure or the employee doesn’t feel comfortable being honest in person.

    HRMS solutions can communicate with employees even after they leave. Because they’ve had time to understand their reasoning and now have the space to be direct, their insight can be valuable. This information can be combined with other metrics previously collected by the software such as demographics, performance, promotion wait time and compensation ratio to create a more holistic analysis of employee turnover.

    Fully examining why an employee leaves is important because it helps to develop a strategy for reducing turnover in the future. Without proper data, you’re left to wonder if your assessments are accurate.

    7. Support your decisions with evidence

    Businesses are increasingly looking to HR for more data-driven initiatives and strategies. Whether its recruiting more efficiently, increasing engagement or reducing turnover, senior management wants your decisions to be backed up with quantifiable metrics.

    HRMS not only records information but can also generate reports and analyze real-time key performance indicators, such as duration-in-position or time-to-achieve goals. This data can help you develop evidence-based strategies that are more likely to get buy-in from senior management.

    Some HRMS solutions even offer predictive analytics that can give you more certainty in your workforce decisions and insights for future recruitment and retention strategies.

    Still undecided on HRMS?

    With a self-service portal, automated processes and a central database, HRMS solutions can reduce the amount of time you spend on labor-intensive tasks and transform your HR department.

    You’ll now be free to focus on data-driven strategy and higher-level initiatives that will ultimately benefit your greatest resource–your employees.

    If you’re in the market for an HRMS solution, it’s important to do more research on implementation, cost, integration and training. For more info, here’s our definitive guide to HRMS.

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  • KEYS TO EFFECTIVE SUCCESSION PLANNING: TALENT MANAGEMENT SPECIAL REPORT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Management, Special Report, Succession Planning, succession plans, Talent Management

    Are changes in your market forcing a change in strategy that will demand new talent?

    Have one or more of your long-time stars started thinking about moving to a competitor or retiring?

    Or are you just trying to make sure the wheels keep turning for a few weeks or months if one of your top people gets sick or dies unexpectedly?

    Succession planning is a talent management must-do for organizations of all sizes, whether a global corporation, a small non-profit, a mid-sized college or a family business with a dozen employees.

    Long-term success depends on creating a plan for how you’ll keep your team moving forward when you lose a key player or encounter a skills gap that must be filled quickly.

    It brings focus to the process of identifying top performers, employees with strong potential and the people that you need to push hard or push out.

    For employees, the succession planning process translates into stretch opportunities that can help them learn new skills, advance their careers, increase their value to the team and boost earning power. All of those positives can translate into an increased commitment to your organization.

    What are you planning for?

    It’s important to differentiate succession planning from other strategic staffing plans, says William J. Rothwell in a Dale Carnegie white paper entitled The Nuts and Bolts of Succession Planning.

    What it’s not is replacement planning, Rothwell says. That’s the process of identifying individuals within an organization, and often in the same division or department, who would be best-equipped to serve as backups for current employees.

    While replacement planning is an important part of an organization’s overall operating strategy, succession planning takes a much broader viewpoint – it encompasses the total operation, rather than individual positions, departments or divisions.

    As Robert E. Lewis and Robert J. Heckman put it in their oft-cited paper, Talent management: A critical review:

    Consider the following question, If you were to begin the process of constructing a building how would you go about it? Would you assemble a group of the best professionals in each necessary craft (plumbing, electrical systems, carpentry, etc.) and let them define your building? Or, would you start with an analysis of the relationship between “construction practices” and some outcome you hope to achieve (building longevity or cost of operation)? Probably not. You probably would first meet with an architect to begin drawing a blueprint after considering a series of key questions such as, what do you hope to accomplish with this building? Will those goals appeal to the intended customers (tenants or shoppers)? What alternatives for orienting the building on its site best accomplish its purpose?

    It is always important to be clear about the end-goal of any strategic planning effort and succession planning is no different.

    The first thing to do is figure out your plan’s target and scope. To be effective, the succession planning process should be:

    Formal. While a succession planning process needs to match an organization’s overall culture, whether buttoned down and hierarchical or more casual and egalitarian, everyone involved needs to understand that this is a well-defined process with support from top leadership and mission-critical outcomes at stake.

    Comprehensive. It’s tempting to think of succession planning as applying only to senior leadership roles, but an effective plan will look at critical positions and people at every level of the organization.

    Strategically Linked. Every aspect of your succession plan needs to support the organization’s overall strategy. That is the guiding star that will help to define the kinds of people and types of training you need to put in place as you build a talent pipeline to the future.

    Linking Succession Planning to Your Strategic Plan

    A paint-by-numbers succession planning effort is doomed to give you an uninspired and amateurish result. Only by matching your succession planning to your organization’s guiding strategy can you confidently identify the positions, skills and employees needed to succeed.

    Whatever your organization’s size and your target, a succession plan should focus on four specific outcomes:

    1. Identify mission-critical positions and any current or impending talent gaps – based on the strategic opportunities you identify and how you create competitive advantage. Which jobs and skills are must-haves? Do those positions already exist or do we need to create them?
    2. Identify employees at every level who have the potential to assume greater responsibility advancing your organization’s strategic goals and how they fit together – what combination of A, B and C performers do we need and how do we attract and keep them?
    3. Encourage meaningful investment in a training and development program for high-potential employees – be ready to defend allocating resources to a given talent pool(s) or to talent in
      general rather than technology, marketing or other investments.
    4. What is the process for revisiting and revising your succession plan as conditions change?

    With those factors in mind, how do you go about building and refining a succession plan? Here’s some help.

    Building a team

    You’ve committed to building a succession plan, now its time to think about who you need on the team who will do the work. You need to decide who will design the plan and also determine who will be responsible for implementing and evolving your plan when it’s in place.

    You’ll want to include people with different skills and from a variety of functions when assembling the succession planning team.

    Of course, in smaller organizations, team members are going to wear multiple hats.

    Some of the needed skills include:

    Organization and process-orientation. While the succession planning effort itself needs to focus on goals, you’ll want someone on the team who will keep things moving along during the plan development phase.

    That person needs to have enough authority to give other members assignments and to get answers from various departments.

    Organizational knowledge. The team needs to include someone with a solid handle on most of the organization’s existing job descriptions and insight into any new positions that might be needed to accomplish the goals you’ve set.

    And at least one member of the team should have connections throughout the organization and know who they can approach to build support for the succession planning effort.

    Effective communication. Like many other strategic initiatives, the information gathering phase of succession planning can create nervousness and give rise to rumors about job changes (often true) or massive job losses (often false).

    Keeping the rest of your organization working productively while this is going on requires skillful communication to share enough information to keep a lid on any panic-button pushers.

    If handled well, giving employees insight into the process can help reassure them that company leaders are preparing the organization for the long haul.

    Identifying strengths and weaknesses

    So, you’ve committed to building a succession plan and picked your team. What’s their next step?

    It’s time to brainstorm. What are all the internal and external factors that your plan needs to account for? Here are some questions to consider:

    • Organizations face increasingly rapid changes in macroeconomic, industry and social trends — which ones can you anticipate and prepare for?
    • Competition can come from anywhere in the world. How will you keep an eye on — and respond to — new challenges?
    • Does your team have all the skills you’ll need? Can training fill the gaps or will you need to hire?
    • Boomers are retiring and the generational mix of your workforce will look very different soon. What do demographic changes mean for your organization?
    • The research is clear: companies with a diverse workforce outperform the competition. How will you leverage succession planning to increase diversity in your line organization and leadership team?
    •  Do you need to change your org structure and talent management processes to match these challenges?

    Build or Buy? Finding the right people

    The first phase of this part of the process is to identify key/critical positions, ideally at every level of the organization.  A position is determined to be key or critical under the following criteria:

    • Organizational structure — The position is a key contributor in achieving the organization’s mission
    • Key task — The position performs a critical task that would stop or hinder vital functions from being performed if it were left vacant
    • Specialized competencies — The position requires a specialized or unique skill set that is difficult to replace
    • Geography — The position is the only one of its kind in a particular location or it would be difficult for a similar position in another location to carry out its functions remotely,
    • Potential high turnover job classes — Positions in danger of “knowledge drain” due to impending retirements or high market demand for the skill set, and
    • Future needs — based on the SWOT analysis that launched the succession management project, positions that need to be created and defined.

    Skillset analysis

    Once critical positions and areas at risk of high turnover are identified, it’s time to look at the specific competencies required to do those jobs effectively.

    The questions you need to ask during the skill set analysis are closely related to the strategic questions your team addressed in the first part of this process:

    • What are the external and internal factors affecting this specific position?
    • How will the position be used in the future?
    • What competencies or skillsets will be required?
    • What is the current bench strength?
    • How will you provide stretch opportunities to high-potential employees?
    • What is the path from where they are to where you need them to be?  and
    • What are the gaps (competencies or skillsets not possessed by current employees)?

    At the end of this analysis you will have the answer to the most important succession planning question: “Can we develop our existing pool of internal candidates quickly enough or must we ramp up our search for strong outside candidates?”

    The good news is you now have a clear idea of what you have and what you are still looking for and can move on to the next steps in the process, which we look at in other reports in our HR Morning talent management series:

    • designing the right training programs for each talent pool based on strategic importance, available resources and growth path
    • refining your recruiting plan to maximize your chances to get the most from your recruiting efforts, to use your time and energy wisely and effectively, and to pursue only the most likely paths to recruiting success and
    • retaining key personnel.

     

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  • IMPROVE EMPLOYEE RETENTION WITH THESE 5 LEADERSHIP ‘SOFT SKILLS’

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Communication, Management, retention, Retention & Turnover, Talent Management

    interview questions

    Employee retention strategies are cropping up everywhere. But even the “best of the best” strategies won’t help if managers don’t have the skills to positively engage their people one-on-one.

    The key to engaging and retaining good people relies on those soft skills that good managers know they need to constantly strive to get better at.

    Here are five leadership skills that are guaranteed to help you retain good employees.

    Soft skill 1: Listening

    We have two ears and one mouth, so we may listen more and talk less. – Epictetus

    Ironically, good communication depends more on a person’s ability to listen than on his or her ability to speak. When leaders listen well, they absorb issues, understand feelings, foresee potential problems and solutions, and eventually communicate the right decisions in the right tone.

    Any leader can hear and parrot back information. Good leaders listen so they can process the information.

    Follow these tips to better listening:

    • Keep yourself clear. When employees, colleagues, clients or customers need their managers, it’s important to give them undivided attention by talking privately at an arranged time with no distractions (e-mail, phones, paperwork).

    Tip: When employees ask their managers, “Do you have a minute?” If they don’t have time they can respond, “I only have a minute right now. If you need more time, I’d be happy to arrange a meeting later today.”

    • Take notes. This serves two purposes: It helps leaders remember what’s been said and keeps track of the most important facts and emotions. Taking notes also shows people you care and are listening whole-heartedly.
    • Hold your tongue. Avoid interrupting speakers, especially in one-on-one conversations. Let others get through the facts and emotions. Often, just spilling their guts is enough to make them feel better – and you’re a hero for listening and not saying a word!
    • Get focused. If managers have an important task to accomplish, they should make a note of it before they start a conversation with someone. That way they can stop thinking about the call to make, e-mail to send, report to finish, etc., and focus on the conversation at hand.
    • Hold judgment. Put aside unrelated personal feelings about people and their circumstances when listening to them. Instead, focus on the facts and acknowledge emotions.
    • Be open to opinions. Leaders sometimes don’t agree with what employees, co-workers, clients and customers say – and stop listening because they’re focusing on their rebuttal. Instead, they should continue to listen and note their points when it’s their turn to talk.
    • Respond, don’t react. Finally, when you’re done listening and ready to talk, focus on giving a response rather than a reaction. What’s the difference?
    • A response is a balance of thought and emotion, and often includes a question so you can better understand.
    • A reaction is mostly an emotional action that lacks thought and understanding of what the other person said.

    Soft skill 2: Communicating

    Communication is about being effective, not always about being proper. – Bo Bennett

    Communicating well is the cornerstone of good relationships. Whether leaders are talking to employees or colleagues, writing e-mails, training or speaking in front of a group, these communication essentials will help:

    • Create a commonality. Once leaders know their colleagues and employees, they can share information about themselves that they have in common (for instance, a hobby, past experience in work or life, an interest in events or sports, etc.). It makes them more approachable.
    • Be courteous. People will listen, and things will get done if managers communicate with courtesy. For example, “Can you please …?” “I need you to do … Will you be able to?” “Please take care of …”
    • Be consistent. Match your tone of voice with your words.
    • Clarify. When the topic is important (not just casual), it’s vital for managers to make sure they’re understood. For example, they could ask “What questions do you have about this report?”
    • Show confidence. Back up statements with facts. Leaders should try to avoid tentative language such as might, maybe, possibly and ASAP.

    Soft skill 3: Nonverbal communication

    When deeds speak, words are nothing. – African Proverb

    In most cases, actions speak louder than words. If a manager says, “I like your work,” and rolls his or her eyes, the words aren’t believable.

    In fact, research has found:

    • The words we choose have a 7% impact on what’s interpreted,
    • Tone of voice has a 38%impact, and
    • Body language has a 55% impact.

    That’s why it’s important for leaders to make sure their body language complements what they say. They can do this by keeping these non-verbal communication cues in check:

    • Eye contact. Looking directly at people when speaking shows respect and sincerity. It builds a better conversation and relationship. On the flip side, leaders who avoid eye contact appear to be sneaky, guilty, bashful or frightened. Caveat: Avoid staring or blinking rapidly. Instead, look away from time to time to appear relaxed and comfortable.

    Tip: If maintaining eye contact is uncomfortable, focus on the bridge of the listener’s nose. This gives the appearance of looking someone in the eye.

    • Body position. Conversing while standing or sitting side-by-side can make people feel disconnected, and when done face-to-face can be uncomfortable. Ideally, it’s best to keep the same eye level and remain at a slight angle from others. In addition, maintaining good posture shows confidence so others will pay attention.
    • Proper distance. Being too close or too far from others during a conversation can make it less productive. Stay within arm’s reach. Also, pay attention to people’s body language. If they seem uncomfortable, give them a little more space.
    • Gestures. Motion can add meaning to or detract from messages.

    Remember:

    • Crossed arms signal anger or lack of openness to ideas.
    • Playing with clothing, jewelry, pencils, etc., distracts listeners.
    • Large gestures also distract the audience.
    • Facial expressions. A person’s face speaks the loudest in non-verbal communication. Forced smiles show insincerity. A wrinkled forehead shows tension. Pursed lips suggest anger. Rolling eyes or head tilts indicate disapproval. Managers need to make sure the facial expressions they use are in line with the message they want to deliver.

    Soft skill 4: Delivering bad news

    Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules. – Douglas Adams

    Only one thing can be worse than hearing bad news: delivering it. Nearly every leader has to deliver bad news at one time or another.

    Doing it with finesse will help managers go down in company history as a well-liked professional.

    Here’s how to deliver bad news so it’s a little easier on the people affected by it:

    • Make it fast. Delivering the news as quickly as possible gives people a chance to plan their next move. One caveat: Avoid delivering bad news on a Friday (or whatever is the end of the work week) so the news doesn’t fester with people for days, and they come back to work upset or resentful.
    • Visit or call. Deliver bad news personally. When leaders do this, it shows they care

    about how the news will affect their people. Delivering bad news via e-mail or a memo suggests leaders are distancing themselves from the people and situation.

    • Be as honest as possible. Managers don’t have to reveal every detail (because some

    are personnel- or financial-related). Plus, people don’t have time for all the details. But to maintain credibility, leaders want to avoid covering up mistakes, forgetfulness or miscommunications that led to decisions and bad news.

    • Take responsibility. Leaders don’t want to blame themselves, their bosses or the company if they aren’t to blame. Then again, don’t blame “the economy” for everything, either. Acknowledge your part in the situation without being defensive.
    • Respond. Give employees, co-workers, clients or customers a chance to discuss how the bad news affects them. Acknowledge their feelings, and offer suggestions on how to deal with the situation.

    Soft skill 5: Saying no

    The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy

    to say yes. – Tony Blair

    You’d think to be a people person, leaders would also have to be a “yes

    man/woman.” Wrong. Leaders have to say no to people and ideas, or they’d never get anything

    done. However, it’s best to give a no answer in a way that doesn’t make the

    person with the request feel rejected.

    Here’s how:

    • Empathize. When leaders and managers can’t do what people want or can’t give employees permission to do something, they need to let them know they understand the situation.
    • Clarify. Leaders should explain why they have to refuse the request.
    • Offer something. It’s best for leaders to end the denial on a positive note by telling people how they’re willing to help.

    Examples:

    “I see you need some help, but your request is outside normal

    procedures. Have you considered … ?”

    “I can tell this is important to you. It’s a unique situation. I can

    help you by … ”

    “I’d like to do that, but it’s beyond what’s possible for us. Please

    let me help you in another way.”

     

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