Part Two: Can’t You See I’m Working!

SERIES ONE:   PRODUCTIVITY & THE BAHAMIAN WORKFORCE

At 10:00 a.m., Jennifer Williams, Account Manager, asked Jerry and Glenda to report to the conference room for a meeting.  The unit had a deadline to compile a report for the Managing Director the following day for the client account on which they were working.  Jerry and Glenda dash toward the conference room, complaining all the way.

“These people always put so much pressure on you with these deadlines, man,” grumbled Jerry.  “They don’t give you a chance to get in the door!”

“That’s the truth.  I barely got a chance to put my bag down and now there’s a meeting.  I didn’t even get a chance to finish my portion yet.  How can you finish anything when you’re in meetings all the time?”  Glenda commiserated.

As they entered the conference room, they each raised their defenses in preparation for the tongue lashing they were sure to get from Jennifer.  Sure enough, Jennifer was very annoyed that they had not made much progress in their work and said that she wanted to see each of them individually to assist them with meeting the required deadline.  Her conversation was quite the same for both.

“I know you are working toward the deadline, but I also notice that you spend a lot of time either on the phone, in idle conversations and on breaks.  While I don’t want the kind of work atmosphere that is always about work, it’s important that we recognize the importance of meeting these deadlines.  If I’ve set one, it means that someone has set one for me, and it’s because of a commitment made to our clients.  What can I do to help you meet the deadlines?  Are you having a challenge with your assignments?”  Jennifer queried.

“No,” is the abrupt response.

“Can I help you with anything?”  Jennifer persists.

“No,” is yet again the curt reply.

In short, both employees are angry about being confronted about their productivity issues and feel that they are being picked on and are unappreciated.  In Part One, we were introduced to Jerry and Glenda, who reported to work but clearly demonstrated that they were not working.  What follows is what many managers in The Bahamas experience:  the challenge of managing productivity.

The Challenges
1.    Anger and Resentment
Employees may feel angry or resentful about being confronted about productivity issues. Like Jerry and Glenda, employees feel if they are ‘at work’, then they are working and do not understand the difference.  They may express this anger in various ways:
•    Passive Aggressive Behavior
Defined as a learned behavior from childhood borne of controlling parents or authority figures, persons that exhibit passive aggressive behavior do not openly express dissatisfaction because they feel they will lose approval; however, they hide their negative emotions in behaviors that indicate that something is wrong.  Passive aggressive behavior is expressed through sarcasm, procrastination, poor performance, missing deadlines, losing documents, absenteeism and lateness at critical times or other forms of sabotage like damaging equipment, computer systems, and even the personal assets of managers.  Their attitude quietly says, “I’ll show you!”
•    Aggression, Abuse, and Violence
The other extreme of passive aggressive behavior is aggression.  This person is not afraid to push back with open, hostile confrontation, criticism, name calling, shouting, cursing, and even physical violence.  This behavior still indicates feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem and this learned behavior is a defense mechanism used to have people keep their distance and in essence, not inflict hurt or pain on the abuser.
•    Withdrawal and Low Morale
Another way of dealing with confrontation and constructive criticism is to withdraw completely, losing interest in their work and in the company on the whole.  They will withdraw their support and commitment to the manager and team, feeling unappreciated and targeted.
•    Decreased Productivity
The one result of challenging the lack of productivity can yield the same result: reduced productivity.  Again, a form of withdrawal and passive aggressive behavior, the worker may feel if the manager has a problem with his or her work, so by working even less, in his or her mind, means why do any more if what is done does not satisfy?
•    Feelings of Inadequacy
At the root of many of these feelings and behaviors can be inadequacy and low self esteem.  Criticism is taken as a personal attack, an expression of disapproval and lack of acceptance.  At the core, these feelings translate the manager-employee conversation about performance and productivity as, “You don’t appreciate what I do.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t please you so why do I even try?  You don’t understand me.  I can tell that you don’t care about me at all and what I’m going through.  I’m doing my best.”  You will note that this language is all inwardly focused, more about the self and the relationship with the manager rather than the work and the performance levels – the real issue at hand.

How can managers deal with these challenges effectively?
The Strategies
1.    Open Communication
Try as much as possible to cultivate a working relationship of open, honest communication that is based on a relationship of mutual trust.  Good communication on both parts will help both manager and employee to understand each other, share feelings, and clarify and confront issues.
2.    Clear Goals and Expectations
Knowing why the work and deadline are necessary and what the performance expectations are help employees to perform at required levels.  Making sure that there is real understanding about tasks and standards is critical and often both managers and employees have a different perspective of what is expected.
3.    Clearly Communicated Consequences
Discipline is almost as dirty a word as work, and one of the hardest things for some managers to enforce.  Consequences for lack of productivity need to be understood by all.  Not only does it mean not meeting targets, affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire team or department, but it can even mean lost time, customers, and profits.  What does all that loss translate to over time?  Lost benefits and lost jobs.  Persistent offenders must begin to feel the consequences of these impacts, even up to the point of termination.
4.    Training, Coaching, and Mentorship
Poor productivity can mean low skills or confidence in completing certain tasks.  If the employee does not feel comfortable enough to admit that he or she really isn’t sure about what to do, it will be hidden in a lack of productivity.  Probing conversations, observation, and analysis can determine if this is the case.  Watch for signs like excuses, blaming, getting others to complete the work, lots of errors, and waste.  Managers will then have to determine whether employees need to be trained, coached one on one or mentored by the manager or another high-performing employee to increase skill and confidence levels.
5.    Praise and Recognition
As simple as this may sound, some people stop performing when their efforts are not recognized, appreciated, or rewarded.  In this age of Generation Y or Millenials especially, they are motivated by the WIFM rule:  What’s In It For Me?  Many are motivated by money and recognition.  Others do not need public acclaim or monetary rewards, but just knowing that their work is noted and appreciated is enough.  Even though some managers feel that salary is reward enough, employees – even managers – want to know that what they do has added value and meaning not only to themselves as professionals, but also for the department and manager, and the organization as a whole.

How can HR help?  Two ways are by providing management development initiatives to help managers cope with these workplace challenges and create forums where both managers and employees can openly (and anonymously) express why they may not be performing optimally and address them appropriately.  And finally, one that I hear most often: support the efforts of the managers to discipline and correct negative behaviors while providing mechanisms to recognize and reward improvements and achieved targets.

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Summer Madness

Does it seem as if all your employees go nuts during the summer? It’s almost as if the desire to work and common sense all go on vacation during the summer months. How can you maintain productivity during a period when no one really feels like working?

Revisit Performance Goals
What’s a better shake up than a mid-year check-up? This is a perfect time to discuss the performance goals that may have been set at the beginning at the year. The best of us can tend to get a bit lax unless we are reminded of the performance expectations. This is also a great opportunity to set new goals based on past successes and to train or coach through those areas that still require some focused effort.

Training
Training exercises and short seminars can be great boosters for performance and motivation during sluggish periods. Well executed, relevant, and timely training programs can revitalize employee’s desire to perform well and help them to continue to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes prior to the end of year performance reviews.

Social Activities
And if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, as the saying goes. Sometimes none of us feels very productive. As Caribbean people, we need no real excuse to have a party; just invite a few folks, have a little food, drinks, and music, and it’s over! Social activities can promote unity, can reinforce concepts that have been trained, and can enhance the corporate culture.

The key to battling those times when your organization may not be meeting the required targets is not to address it by excessive discipline if that is not appropriate, but rather to identify performance trends, peak periods and critical needs of the employees and managers in order to effectively address them. Great HR means having your finger on the pulse of your organization while finding ways to pump life through its veins.

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Harvard Executive HR Summit

Recently, an executive member of CISRHP attended a program that sounds quite interesting.  I am glad that someone from our region could attend, and maybe others should also.

Here is a clip from the newspaper clipping, followed by a link to the article.

Cayman Islands – Cay Compass News Online – Mr. Jackson attends Harvard seminar

Phil Jackson, vice–president of the Cayman Islands HR Society, recently attended an Executive HR Network Summit at Harvard Business School held 10–11 July, which was co–sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management and Harvard Business School Publishing.The seminar was titled ‘Managing Human Capital in the High Performance Organization’ and was taught by Thomas Delong, professor of Management Practice in the Organizational Behaviour area at the Harvard Business School, and Boris Groysberg, assistant professor at Harvard Business School.

Acceptance into the programme was based on merit, explains Lillian McFadden, education analyst at SHRM. “Mr. Jackson, along with 39 other participants, was selected from among 75 applications to this specific programme.

The Executive HR Network Summit is an exclusive programme for senior HR professionals, developed to bring together forward–looking HR leaders from top organisations to address critical issues, exchange ideas and solutions, and interact with renowned experts in leadership, strategy, and management”.

The original article can be found by clicking here.

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Women in the Caribbean Workplace

Globally, 76.3% of women age 25 to 34 worked in 1998 versus 34% in 1950[1]. This increase continues into 2008 and we as employers and HR Professionals in the Caribbean region need to address this gender skew in our employee population.

At Guardian Holdings we have 78% females and only 22% males. At Scotia Bank Trinidad[2], 73% of their workforce is females. These statistics provide the employer with key information to craft a variety of work options to accommodate the increasing number of women in the workplace. One may even look at the age demographic to determine how many women are at the child bearing age.

We all speak about a war for talent and how important it is to retain our human capital. Our work conditions, benefits and work options maybe tailored to this large group of women in our workforce and thus prove to be a significant retention strategy.

Child care is a major concern for mothers in the workplace especially with the increasing difficulty to find trustworthy care givers. The mother either depends on her extended family or a nursery to provide the care when she is at work and or the school depending on the age of the child. However, when these options are not available, the mother may have to miss work and stay home.

This is an opportunity for an employer, especially one with a two thirds women majority in the population, to provide the needed assistance. In Trinidad and Tobago, the 2007 budget clearly identified child care solutions as essential for the development of the domestic social sector and improved national productivity. The Income Tax Act (as amended by the Finance (No.2) Act of 2007) allows for deduction for expenditure actually incurred for the construction or setting up a child care / homework facility for the employees’ dependants (minors) up to a maximum of $500,000 TT for each facility, not exceeding 3 million TT in the aggregate in the year on income.

The employer may structure the arrangement in a variety of ways that may range from absorbing the full cost to partial subsidy to outsourcing to an already set up facility. This may depend on the cost of facility, availability of space, cost to maintain and operate the facility while considering the benefits, both tangible and intangible.

A tangible benefit maybe decreased absenteeism rates. This can calculated using the current absenteeism rate[3] for the women[4] in the organisation as a baseline with the proposed decrease in absenteeism post facility.

Usually a parent has to leave work to pick up their child/children from school or nursery and drop off somewhere else then return to work. This delay in time may also be avoided with the provision of this facility. Even if the facility is not on-site but off site, because the facility is operated by the employer, the time to pick up the children may coincide with the end of a workday. The employee may continue to be productive without the interruption after lunch. This can also be monetised[5].

Retention rates may increase especially among the specific group of employees this benefit will assist.

The intangible benefit of a parent feeling at ease knowing that his / her children are close by and or well taken care of. This will allow for improved productivity per employee[6].

The increase of single parent homes is also significant in Trinidad and Tobago, where the mother must function in many roles to raise their children to become productive young adults. As a result, there are competing demands for her time.

An employer may consider offering the options of flexitime, telework for specific jobs or re-locating the employee to a location closer to home[7]. For example, a job like an Underwriter may be able to work from home. We have been doing a pilot with this work option and it has been working well for us thus far. The candidates who are involved in the pilot are so appreciative and very thankful. They have increased their output because they are no longer bogged down to answer operational queries and are able to work when they want at home. It is important to have definite parameters for this work arrangement with clear guidelines on reporting with periodic visits to the office.

Mothers of young babies are encouraged to breast feed their babies. However, after three months, the mother has to return to work, which makes breastfeeding challenging. The mother has the option of expressing milk and storing it, however, at the workplace, there may not be a dedicated private space to facilitate this activity or a refrigerator to store the milk or even the employee may not be permitted the time needed ( 20 minutes) to express the milk.

An employer may take the opportunity to provide a space, time, and a place to store the milk to assist the mother and the child to continue reaping the benefits of breast milk.

Breast fed children are less ill and as such the mothers will take less time off to care for their infants. The improved health of the children also decreases the claims made against the company’s health insurance resulting is lower health care costs. The employee maybe more productive, have greater loyalty and increased morale.

The employer may boast about all the family friendly policies to gain brand equity and be positioned as a employer of choice. Thereby, improving the organisation’s ability to attract and retain the shrinking talent pool.

[1] According to the U.S Department of Labour: Changes in Women’s Work Participation

[2] Revealed by Martin De Gannes at AFETT Child Care Symposium on 14th July 2008

[3] Absenteeism can be monetized by using an average salary for target group multiplied by the number of days plus cost of any replacements for the periods of absence.

[4] Mothers with minor dependants

[5] One can find the average hourly rate of pay multiplied by the number of times this occurs for the month

[6] This is challenging to track but not impossible. One can look at the number of objectives, deliverables or targets achieved before and after this service. If the organization uses the balanced scorecard, it will be easier to track.

[7] This will be applicable to employers with branches spread geographically through out the island

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Why Did We Ever Go Into HR?

I just read an interesting article in the July-August Harvard Business Review.

The article entitled “Why Did We Ever Go Into HR” is an interview with two recent Harvard Business MBA’s who chose human resources as a career.  Essentially, they make the case that the field of HR is the “next big thing.”

They argue that with the baby boomers nearing retirement and the Millenials bring new expectations to the workplace, the management of talent is going to become increasingly important.  They felt puzzled that CEO’s that came to the business school to speak shared that they spend 10-20% of their time on this part of their job, but shared little about how to actually do it in practice.

It was interesting to hear their observation that there is a shift away from the monetary levels of HR (compensation, benefits, etc) and a move to measuring the “asset value of human capital” as measured by intangibles such as employee engagement.

They also said that they see an undervalued and under-priced asset in the HR function itself, and that they believe that the value of the function is “poised to appreciate significantly.”

This article is worth reading — in my years of reading the Harvard Business Review, it’s the first article that has explicitly mentioned the HR profession as a whole.

Click here to be taken to the article.

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Speech by Jack Welch

jack_welchIn 2007, Jack Welch gave a speech at the Cave Hill School of Business at their Caribbean International Leadership Summit.

The audios for his extraordinary speech are still available online at the following link, and it includes a priceless interchange with the Prime Minister of Barbados.

Click here to hear Jack Welch at the Cave Hill Conference (note that there are 2 files).

P.S.  I went the next step and found someone to develop a full transcript of the recording which can be read by clicking here.

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Caribbean Millenials

I read an excerpt from Claire Raines’s book “Connecting Generations” (2002) and found it to be outstanding in describing the characteristics of each generation — she is spot on.

However, I have found that our new recruits who fit the Millennial profile (age) with first degrees have certain characteristics that have proven to be a management challenge to generation-x managers.

These new graduates have just received their Bachelors degrees and are already aiming to their Masters Degree right away with little or no work experience.

When they enter the new organisation, their department is populated with a cross section of generations working at various tasks; this poses a diversity management challenge in itself. Apart from the obvious differences, the attitude, work ethic and expectations are so far removed from the other generations.

With minimal work experience, they expect to be placed in high level jobs. Organisations need to determine the candidate’s ability to do the job at a lower level first before entrusting the candidate with higher order responsibilities. They think they are much better than they really are.

On way of managing such situations, is to give the candidate projects that they believe they can deliver, while allowing for time to do any necessary re-work. I have found, after much time, and many excuses for non-completion, an admittance of ignorance and a request for assistance with a humbling demeanour usually follows.

The humble, open, attitude is welcomed by all co-workers and now the substantive on the job learning can take place without the inhibitors of “feeling of this is beneath me”. This usually builds competence, experience and ability.

The notion or the perception of a false sense of ability coupled with an air of arrogance can be addressed with a sobering dose of “on the job reality”.

Compensation is another high expectation that follows from an inflated sense of ability. Millennials benchmark themselves against their peers and expect the same status and or compensation even if they as individuals are not as competent in their respective fields as their peers. Long ago, I (Gen X) was told by my parents (baby boomers) “don’t look at what other people have, you don’t know what they had to do to get it”.
The Baby Boomers in our organisation also complained to HR about the lack of manners by the young millenial employees. The comment was “they don’t even say good morning, good day, please, thank you, excuse me”. We are in the process of addressing this in our orientation and diversity management workshops leveraging off our Guardian Angel programme here at Guardian Life.

The older generation considered it an honour to have a job and worked for work’s sake. Baby Boomers characteristically have worked hard because their self-image was based on their career. The teenagers and the twenty something year olds are in the “no fear” category, they are not motivated by threats, progressive discipline or loss of job and this comes across as arrogant and disrespectful to the other generations.

Claire Raine identified unique and compelling messages fed to the Millennials. They are: be smart, you are special, don’t discriminate, 24-7 connectivity, achieve now and serve your community. As I reflect on this, I tell my one year old son, he is smart and special all the time and I chose a pre-school for him to start attending in 2010 by placing his name on a waiting list since he was one month old.

In conclusion, the key is to get to know each individual and what drives him/her to be able to determine the best work plan and style that will achieve on time deliverables. It would be interesting to know if any other organisations in the region experienced similar behaviour.

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Why Plan for Succession?

 In recent months the headlines have been filled with speculation as to whether the world economies are headed for full blown recession or a ‘slow down’. Whatever the conclusion signals of a financial crisis are here with oil and food prices rising in the US, Europe and in Barbados; also there have been significant Fed rate cuts, seven since September 07 when the rate was 5.25%, bringing the rate to a record low of 2.00%.

Economic movements like this make shareholders nervous as they opt for a ‘wait and see’ approach before determining their next move. In addition, it can trigger a slow down in consumer spending at best or consumer panic at worst. For businesses cost containment and cost management strategies start to come into play, re-defining and re-classifying ‘critical spend’, there are even those who opt for a more drastic approach reviewing headcount numbers.

In uncertain times if a leader is seen to leave an organisation unexpectedly the backlash from a PR perspective alone can be unforgiving, fuelling further uncertainty amongst current and future shareholders and subsequent calls for action. Furthermore it is not altogether unusual to see leaders abandoning ship or even switching allegiances and heading for the competition. But the damage doesn’t end there, invariably what transpires is they convince their star players to join them and they do so with valuable networks and business in tow!

The ability then to be able to smoothly transition another leader into a role recently vacated will do much to quell fears, whilst demonstrating vision and more importantly will likely reduce the overall negative impact to productivity. In essence it is those organisations with an effective succession plan in place that will be able to withstand the rigours of an ever-changing economic landscape.

So what is succession planning and how does it benefit organisations?

Succession planning can be broadly defined as identifying future potential leaders to fill key positions (Source: CIPD).

Succession planning is a critical strategic tool in the fight to attract and retain talent. The benefits are numerous including:

– ensuring the right people are moving into the right roles at the right time
– sending a strong message to employees that the organization prefers to look within to fill critical roles that become vacant
– enabling organisations to identify talented individuals and provide opportunities to develop them for future higher level and/ or broader responsibilities
– promoting greater transparency, openness, fairness and objectivity with respect to discussions centred around performance

Succession planning is not a quick fix to the leadership ails of an organisation. It takes a leader with long-term vision to recognise the benefits of an effective succession planning programme. Great leaders do not just turn up at the doorstep on demand, and, whilst some of your current employees may show a natural aptitude for leading and inspiring others, the development of their leadership potential is just as crucial as the development needs of other employee within the organisation.

Our regional market consists predominantly of small – medium sized enterprises; (SME’s); many of these being small family-run businesses. Succession planning for SME’s is challenging because frequently ‘the Board’, if there is one, consists of family members and there is usually an inherent assumption that someone in the family will take up the reins once the incumbent leader has retired their post. With increased flexibility in the labour market, both international and regional opportunities abound, and these are often more attractive to the potential family successor than inheriting the family business. In such cases organisations are often vulnerable to stagnation as the incumbent leader, perhaps a father hoping his son/ daughter will succeed, often has unrealistic expectations that they may still change their mind so fails to plan for the inevitable.

Even where there is willingness on the part of family members to be considered as a successor the question is ‘are these individuals equipped with the skills necessary for creating and sustaining success’ in what is now a very competitive environment?

So what are the consequences of failure to plan for SME’s? They are left with the dilemma of either: entrusting the running of the business to a General Manager, and subsequently risking the possibility of causing offence to the ‘family’, or acquiescing to family and leaving the organisations in the hands of an ill-equipped family member to satisfy tradition. The remedy to all this is taking a long-term approach to leadership and planning the development of the prospective successors over time. These individuals need to have their skills and understanding of the business, and its history, honed over time, being gradually exposed to all aspects of the business.

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That Dirty Word: Work!

These random thoughts express my observations of people, places and issues in the Bahamian workforce.

If you watch the typical Bahamian workplace through the course of the day, you may see something like this.

Jerry and Glenda arrive at around the same time, exactly 9:00 a.m. After settling at their respective desks, Glenda determines that she needs some tea because getting the kids to school on time is such a mad rush in the mornings and with the terrible traffic, there is hardly enough time to get on the road and be on time. So, of course there’s no time for breakfast. Glenda heads to the office kitchen where she finds Gina and Rhonda already having breakfast while the tea kettle boils. She joins the animated conversation about the awesome conference that was going on at Rhonda’s church this week.

Jerry bought a .99 cent breakfast combo, and the stench of tuna salad, steamed ham and grits with butter waft pervasively through the office, leaving a lingering cloud of grease and onions hovering over the cubicles. He has a report he has to complete so he can’t take the time to stop and eat breakfast in the kitchen. “Let me make a call to my Rotary president first. I need to confirm the agenda for tonight’s meeting.” Jerry spends about 20 minutes on the phone with the Rotary president who sends him an email that he asks him to print for the attendees. “Sure,” Jerry says, and makes 50 copies at the copy machine on the second floor. It’s now 9:45 a.m. and neither Jerry nor Glenda has actually started to work, even though they are both at work.

The day continues in the same fashion. I’ve seen some workplaces where the team’s greatest focus was the discussion about where they were going to get lunch from that day. Or the folks that use the lunch hour for other business and bring their lunch back to the office to eat it, using up yet another half hour of the work day. Let’s not forget the holy hour that begins by 2:30 p.m. every afternoon: ‘school pick up’, where every parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, brother or sister has to pick up at least one child from school. The traffic again at this time is horrendous and the stressful worker may make it back by 3:30 p.m. but by this time, is feeling so drained and unfocused that this time may be spent on sending texts, instant messenger, the telephone or more water cooler chat until 4:30 p.m. Of course by now the witching hour is approaching and as soon as the hour hand moves toward the 5 if not before, the exodus for the exit begins. Do not try to get served at 4:55 p.m. You will be told by that clerk, anxious to leave and frustrated because you have come to block her departure, “We closed.” All accompanied by the customary ‘suck teeth’ and look of disgust.

Yes, it seems as if work is a dirty word for some workers today. Why is it that managers and heaven forbid, customers, get the attitude and rolling eyes and ‘suck teeth’ when they ask people to do what they’re being paid to do? Is that what our workplace has evolved into? What causes this lack of connection in the workplace between the work and the worker?

My observations have been the following:

1. Management
Staff may not be motivated, inspired or held accountable by managers. As a result, they are not interested in the work that they are assigned. Perceived favoritism, manager’s inability to lead or discipline others in the team or the manager’s own lack of knowledge about the job may also contribute to this attitude. It’s almost like school children. When I was in the classroom early in my career, you got the most out of your students if they liked you. If they didn’t like the teacher, they didn’t like the subject. When you engaged the students, they loved the subject. The same seems to be true today at work.

2. Lack of interest in the job
It amazes me how little passion many employees have for their work. It amazes me even more to find that the more people I talk to reveal that they are not doing what they love to do. As they get older and add to their responsibilities, and increase their debt, they feel trapped in a job that pays but does not deliver meaning or worth. Therefore, it becomes a mindless, heartless routine. Dr. Myles Munroe, author and speaker, describes at as ‘people being preoccupied with their preoccupation.’
3. Boredom
The unchallenged worker becomes unoccupied very quickly. Either he has mastered the task or he has not been given enough to do for his skill set. It is important to know the full capabilities of the team so that work can be evenly and fairly distributed according to their interest and ability. Otherwise, the idle worker will only be a distraction to the rest of the team and perhaps even become a discipline problem, be chronically absent, or worse, venturing into entrepreneurship with company resources and on company time…”I don’t have anything else to do, I might as well do what I really want to do” is the cry. I have even seen workers who clock in and leave to go to another job and maybe come back – if you’re lucky.
4. Low skills
Low skill levels can cause an employee to feel overwhelmed by the tasks assigned and the easiest thing to do is not do anything at all. They may hide behind other deadlines, other employees completing their work, or avoiding their manager altogether. There is hope for these, once they admit they need help, and observant managers diligently get to the root of the matter. Additional training and coaching can turn this situation around if handled with patience, genuine interest and care for that employee’s development.
5. Disillusioned about the company
If an employee feels disgruntled, he or she may feel that by being unproductive he or she is hurting the company through their spiteful, passive aggressive actions. And to some degree, they are right. Lack of productivity does affect the bottom line but the catch is when you don’t perform, you can be disciplined or dismissed for your lack of productivity. It is always best to listen to your disgruntled workers. Some complaints may just be from those who feel the company can never do enough to satisfy them but at the root of many a complaint, is the source of a deeper underlying problem in the workplace that may demand an intervention.

While management has tried to put measures in place to decrease distractions for the worker: limited internet access, onsite cafeteria, policies about company phone and cellular phone use, and tougher managers to enforce the policies, productivity is still an issue in many workplaces. Whatever the reason for the unproductive workforce, it is the responsibility of a good HR professional with the cooperation of the entire management team to assess the tenor of the organization to determine what needs to be changed, refined, or improved so that employees are engaged and happy to work rather than the opposite.

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Employee Retention

Competitive pay and benefits can get talent in the door, but can the money keep the talent? When employers demonstrate a commitment to work life balance, commitment to providing career development and training opportunities, with a supportive flexible working environment, caring attitude towards staff and a strong balanced emotionally intelligent management and leadership, they have found the key to retaining high-potential employees.

Often I hear employees say all they want is more money and they will be motivated. I had a conversation with a senior engineer recently and the discussion started off by him saying HR people need to understand that money is the ultimate motivator, just pay people more.

I, like Herzberg, believe money to be a satisfier not necessarily a motivator. After an employee is being paid competitively, any incremental increase in money will not necessarily translate into any related incremental increase in performance. One person’s capacity is finite and one usually has an equilibrium point of effort they exert to achieve company targets, objectives and tasks. What do I mean by “equilibrium point”, you know when someone has peaks and depressions of performance, due to various reasons, well they eventually return to their normal work pace.

Our challenge as HR professionals is to optimise employee’s performance by moving their equilibrium work pace upwards. This means that we work towards achieving sustainable high levels of quality performance by fully engaging the employee and thereby retaining talent. The phrase “fully engaging the employee” is a compounded concept that is as a result of many contributing factors, some of them were mentioned in the first paragraph above.

Towers Perrin’s 2007 Global Workforce Study explored the drivers of workforce engagement and noted that although relationships with managers are important, the actions of senior leadership and workplace programmes hold even greater weight. I will share my thoughts on the line manager’s role.

Line managers and their ability to manage people is a current challenge. This has been brought about by promoting technical competence into managerial positions, thereby losing a good technical resource and possibly gaining a bad manager. More often, these newly appointed technical resources are not equipped with the tools necessary to manage people. Yes, sometimes we make grave errors in using wrong criteria for promotion and we further compound the error by not providing the necessary training intervention and then we expect stellar performance from this promoted candidate.

The first challenge after finding yourself in this situation is to get the managers to accept people management as their responsibility. This message must come from the top and continuously be supported by all the senior Executives. The managers must not be allowed to abdicate their people management role to Human Resource. They also must not use HR as a “scapegoat” where they often say “It is not me, that is a HR policy, HR set that rule”. The Line Managers often want HR to write a rule about everything under the sun. This way, the line can refer to rule 3.2 under subsection 4 of policy x as the reason why they cannot do something.

I suggest a comprehensive training programme comprising of seminars, workshops, role plays, and mentors supported by the performance management system to help drive change among the manager group.

The training I played a part in develping looks at thirteen sections. Section one focuses on the big picture, role definition, organisational culture, reason for their team and managing upwards. Section two addresses the issue of transitioning from employee to manager, followed by managing tasks and objectives, setting targets, managing and measuring team performance. Section four looks at leadership, styles of leadership, and how to vary styles according to staff demographics (generation, age, gender, etc…). The other areas are customer service, networking, time management, delegation, coaching, industrial relations, using the HRIS and performance management with emphasis on managing poor performance. These areas should also be slanted and aligned to the strategic direction of the organisation.

In addition to the training, we designed a 180 degree feedback form be completed by the managers’ direct reports. The form was designed according to the ideal profile of a manager in my organisation. The ideal profile also informs the promotion criteria and the selection criteria and is also used as the benchmark when conducting training needs assessments. The form was designed to produce one single score and this is used as a measure in their people perspective of their respective scorecards.

We identified a number of measures that are indicative of the Line Manager’s people management skills. One of which is the number of employee relation issues that have been escalated to the division head and or HR which could have been handled at the managerial level. Other measures are the percentage of leave taken, the turnover (for specific reasons) within the department, and number of employees nominated for and received spot awards, and quarterly awards. The criteria for these awards are also aligned to the organisation’s desired culture and strategic direction.

One should also have baseline figures for these measures before using them as legitimate measures to track progress.

We have also re-organised HR to provide an increased business focus and support to the line managers in carrying out their duties.

In effect, when a decision is made to empower and train the line to have total responsibility and accountability for managing staff, the rest of the employees in the organisation have to align themselves to support that decision. The Mckinsey Seven S model is a useful tool to ensure all areas are addressed.

At the end of my conversation with the Engineer, after we exchanged stories about managers and how they manage, he admittedly declared that when his manager behaves in a certain way, it encourages him to surf the internet all day regardless of his high salary, positive upbringing and work ethic.

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