Articles tagged "Teamwork"
I had the opportunity to watch a leader ‘lead up’ last week. A new client had asked me to attend their board meeting so I could gain a better understanding of their organization, history, culture, and their future. It was an incredibly informative experience. However, it was informative in a way I don’t believe they anticipated.
With so many companies struggling to attract and retain staff who can perform well, why do so many companies do such a lousy job in training their new staff? Why do they think training is an expense and not an investment? Why do they skimp on something so critical? From my experience, the most common reason is that most companies still default to on-boarding and training new staff the way they were trained when they first started their careers: The new employees are trained on the job by the manager they were going to report to - and s/he wasn't a trainer and didn't have time for someone new who probably wasn't going to stick around anyway. Given that environment, it's not hard to understand why so many new employees just come to work, keep their heads down, try to do their best, ask as few questions as possible, and keep their eyes and ears open for a better job someplace else. So how can this sad reality be changed? How can you attract, train, and retain the quality employees you seek. It's simple. Become smarter in how you train them.
Begin Before You Hire
First - Don't wait until you've hired them to start the training process. Many organizations do this. They don't start to train their new employees until after they hire them. That's often too late! You need to start training your prospective employees before you interview them and especially before you hire them. Why? From their first contact with you, you should be communicating with them and training them on what kind of organization you are, what type of persons you seek as employees, what behaviors you expect of yourselves and all who work with you, and what you expect them to be able to do while they work with you. You do this so they have a clear understanding as to the type of organization they may become a part of and what skills they'll be expected to demonstrate day in and day out. They can then decide if it's the right type of organization and job for them - or not.
To do this, simply make them aware of who you are by simply posting your Values Statement on your website, on any application portals or forms you use, in your offices, lobbies, and anywhere a prospective candidate may come in contact with your organization. Also review these values with all candidates during your interviews with them. Tell them specifically, what behaviors you expect and what standards you hold yourselves and all who work with your organization to uphold. Share with them the specific skills the job currently requires and the skills you anticipate it will require 12-18 months from now. Make it clear the candidates know they will be expected to regularly learn new skills. Next, if you decide to offer jobs to the candidates, you now provide them copies of the Values along with their specific job descriptions. By sharing the Values during their application, interview, and now job offer stages, you've now communicated three different times to your prospective employees - before they're on staff - what to expect of you and what you expect of them.
Also, share with the prospective employees how they will fit into the "big picture." Again, most organizations anticipate employees will simply "get it." Most don't. Therefore, you need to share with your prospective employees the basics of your organization's strategic plan so they know how and where they'll fit in. Share with them a few "sanitized" goals the organization has, goals their department has, and specific individual goals they'd be expected to achieve. All employees are important. Their jobs are important, and they appreciate knowing how and where they'll fit in. This step alone helps them understand how they'll be part of a team - and a part of something bigger than themselves. You've also again clarified the organization's expectations of them. However, be aware, that by clarifying your expectations during the application and interviewing processes, you will probably cause a few candidates to self-select themselves out. That's fine. When that happens, it enables you to focus your time on talking with and meeting with the remaining candidates who may well thrive in your environment and the specific jobs - because they know what is expected.
Orientations are Essential
Second - Once on staff, provide new staff with a helpful on-boarding and new staff training process. Provide new staff with a basic orientation to the organization. Help them learn the basic logistics of the facilities, general flow and inter-relationships of people and departments, and who to see for support and guidance. This is often the second mistake in training organizations make. They forget the orientation process and just assume new employees will "pick things up". They will. But what are they picking up and from whom? As managers, you need to create and provide smart employee orientations to your employees and not leave this critical step to chance.
Finally - Provide them either basic or very specific job skills training to allow them to successfully perform the jobs they were hired to do. Sadly, this is the only aspect of training most organizations think of or provide when they train their new employees. If this is the only element of job training you provide, can you see how you've created an environment where your employees only see one small aspect of the big picture? Can you see why your employees don't provide input for solving problems within the organization? Can you see why your employees don't have a clue what goes on with your customers and in other departments? Can you see how you've created an environment employees don't feel a part of and don't want to stay in?
If you want to start attracting and retaining good long-term trusted employees, don't skimp on when and how you train them. Start creating an environment they want to be a part of.
Start training them before they're your employees. Start training them to start retaining them.
I talked with a former client this morning. When I asked how his business had fared the economic hardships of the past few years, he replied, "Well, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We're just not sure if it's the light of a brighter future or if it's the headlight of a freight train that's going to put us out of business." I hadn't heard that expression before but it clearly articulates what I believe so many small business owners are wondering: Are we ever going to recover to our previous levels of business operations or are we holding on by our fingernails only to ultimately face closure?
I don't have a crystal ball to predict the future, but I can suggest that as a leader in your organization, you plan for not only a successful future, but for an acceptable future, as well as an undesired one as well. By doing so, no matter what future your organization ultimately faces, you'll be able to lead your team through it. I know this isn't an exciting idea, but if you create just a few basic plan outlines, you'll have this information to share and build upon with your team given the actual direction your business moves in the future. You won't be caught blindsided. You will have been strategic and proactive. You will have been a leader and will have planned for the Bad, Better, and Best Scenarios...
So, how do you plan for the Bad Scenarios?
- Outline how your organization would handle layoffs or staff reductions, if those are anticipated options for you.
- Review your Emergency Staffing Plan.
- Identify how many and which of your key team members would be affected by a staff reduction. How would their tasks be covered by others?
- Identify what cross-training and process documentation needs to occur to ensure knowledge isn't lost if veteran employees leave the organization.
- Outline what needs to be communicated in a State of the Business meeting with all staff, as well as what needs to be prepared and made available for any staff facing layoff or reduction (i.e., continuation of benefits, unemployment compensation, etc.).
- Create an outline of how you'd prepare management to communicate and manage the business downturn.
How do you plan for the Better Scenarios?
- Review your organization's Strategic Plan. Are you moving in alignment with your plan or do you need to modify your plan to align with your reality?
- Review your Emergency Staffing Plan and Staff Development Plans.
- Identify which of your team members are continuing to develop new and needed skills and which have stalled. Acknowledge those who are continuing to grow; identify the reasons others have stalled and identify how to clear the roadblocks for them. You need all staff to continue to grow and develop to keep your organization flexible and nimble.
- Identify what additional cross-training and process documentation needs to occur to further support staff and identify best-practices. What can be done more efficiently?
- Regularly - at least quarterly - communicate to all employees a State of the Business update. Let all employees know how the company is doing given the economy and in accordance with your strategic plan. Keep them informed. Keep them engaged.
How do you plan for the Best Scenarios?
- Review your organization's Strategic Plan. Is it positioning you the way you believe your organization needs to be positioned to be successful 2, 3, 4 + years from now?
- Review your Succession and Workforce Development Plans.
- Identify which of your team members are continuing to develop skills the company will need 2, 3, 4+ years into the future. You need to determine what skill sets are being developed internally and which you may need to acquire to ensure you have the talent to support, manage, and lead your organization in the future.
- Regularly - at least quarterly - review your plans to determine when you need to make adjustments to the plans, what you need to communicate to your team members, and how you can best help them help your organization thrive.
Bad, better, best. Each plan type requires you, the leader, to take a pro-active role and have at least an outline of your organization's potential future. Then, no matter which scenario you face, you can lead your team through--it as a prepared leader should.
Have you ever had the experience of working with a great group of people who all chip in to get the job done? Each person involved offers ideas on how to complete the project; each volunteers to do an extra task or two to make it happen; each seems excited about the project’s potential benefits.
It’s a wonderful experience when everyone around you is just as excited as you are. The entire mood of the group or organization is upbeat. Improvements, enhancements, and efficiencies within the organization seem to happen regularly. There’s always some positive action in play.
Now, what was (or is) the overall mood in an organization when there are only a few individuals who project the attitude and energy described above? The excitement and push for improvement happens in isolated pockets. The majority of your employees – or worse yet – individuals in leadership positions, project an attitude of “what we're doing is good enough." They believe and convey to others that there’s no need to constantly push to do or make things better. They believe, “What we've done for years has satisfied our customers, why change it? We've always done it this way.”
Organizations and leaders with this belief are slower moving, less willing to adapt to meet changing customer needs, and are thereby less able to change to market shifts. These organizations lose customers and market share because they're more focused on doing what they HAVE done instead of what they NEED to do to keep up with changing customer needs.
Organizations with this predominant mindset operate in isolation. They not only kill the initiative of those energetic few who look to improve processes and procedures, but they usually fail to acknowledge the future needs of their customers. They're not working with their real “leaders” internally, nor are they working in partnership with their customers. They've forgotten who they’re in business to serve. They've forgotten that their future success depends upon their customers’ future successes. Whatever they can do to make their customers successful, will by default, help them.
So, if you're wondering what’s happened to the customers you used to have, ask yourself: “Are we doing what works best for us or are we changing and growing to meet our customers future needs? Are we in this together?"
Copyright MMII Liz Weber, CMC, CSP - Weber Business Services, LLC.
In reading several publications recently on the importance of good communication skills in leaders, I finally identified a way to help my clients better understand what "good communication skills" really means.
Leaders who are "good communicators" does not mean they're good public speakers or that they can craft an effective speech.
That's a nice skill to have, but that's not what we're talking about. Leaders who are "good communicators" does not mean they're charming, charismatic word smiths who draw you in with their ability to use words artfully. That's a creative art, but again, not what we're talking about. And, leaders who are "good communicators" does not mean they're good writers, which again is a great skill, but not what we're talking about.
Leaders who are "good communicators" are leaders who understand what information to express or share that will motivate, better connect, or help the performance of others.
They share information that will motivate, connect, or enhance performance. So when they receive emails that would make their teams smile and say "Whoohoo," they forward those emails to them. When they get the quarterly data on company performance, they share the appropriate information so their employees feel connected and a part of the overall organization. And when one project team provides an update on a successful process improvement, the leaders ensure the information and insights are shared with others whose performance could benefit with that information.
So what kind of communicator are you?
When was the last time you shared information with your teams that made them smile? When was the last time you helped ensure your employees had an opportunity to hear information about another team, another project, or another department? When was the last time you specifically thought, "I need to get this to Joe. He's waiting for this information?" When was the last time you intentionally shared information that would motivate, connect or enhance performance? When was the last time you were a good communicator?