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October 2009

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Welcome to this edition of the Business Performance Pty Ltd monthly newsletter. This month, we report on the latest employee engagement survey and answer some practical workplace questions. Enjoy!

Watson Wyatt Strategic Rewards Survey

Although recent reports indicate that we have seen the worst of the Global Financial Crisis, its effect on organizations will be here for some considerable time. Watson Wyatt and WorldatWork recently released their latest Strategic Rewards Survey. Their report makes for sobering reading. Of all the companies surveyed, a full 72% had restructured their business or laid off staff since the crisis began. The impact on employee motivation is clear, with the report indicating that employee engagement levels have dropped 9% compared with last year. Alarmingly, the engagement levels of top performers dropped nearly 25%. Top performers are also now 26% less satisfied with career progression opportunities within their company and 14% more likely to look for a new job.

The impact on the bottom line is clear, with 41% of employees indicating that recent changes have had a negative impact on quality and customer service. You can read the Executive Summary of the report at watsonwyatt.com/StrategicRewards2009 Retaining good employees and customers is going to be a significant challenge for us all for the near to medium term.

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We regularly answer a variety of questions from business owners and managers on many aspects of running their business. This month, we want to share with you some of those responses so that you can take away with you an idea or two that you can use to the benefit of your business. Topics covered below include teamwork, training program design and employee discipline. If you have any questions that you would like answered in this newsletter by one of our expert consultants, please drop us an email to office@businessperform.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

How can I energize my team?

Q My team is becoming a bit flat. How can I energize them?

A Here are some things that you can do to get your team back on track if they are feeling a little lost and demotivated:

  • Sit down with the team to discuss and agree goals for the near term and how the team can do things better. Write the goals down and pin them up where all can see.

  • Meet with each team member individually either weekly or fortnightly to discuss progress and roadblocks. Find out what each team member needs to excel and give it to them.

  • Reward the team and individual team members when a milestone has been reached. Awarding gift certificates and treating them to a restaurant dinner are just two examples.

  • Clarify each person’s role and how they contribute to where the team wants to be. Ensure each person is matched to the right role. Rotate roles every so often to give each team member variety and an appreciation of other people’s strengths.
Just as importantly, avoid the de-energizers. Demotivators include castigating individuals in front of other team members, going back on something you promised to do and speaking abruptly or disrespectfully.

Managing Change in the Workplace
To find out more about motivating teams and diagnosing teamwork problems, check out our practical guide and workbook, Managing Change in the Workplace.

What new training methods can we use?

Q We are training casual employees on a complex workflow management system and find that the employees are not using the system as intended when they go back to their jobs. What new training methods and technologies can we use to improve our training?

A Perhaps what you need is not new learning methods and technology, but a re-examination of your existing practices. I suggest you start from where you are and ensure that you have covered the basics. Here are some points to consider.

  • Are your trainees using a fully functional training or test system? (Or are they looking at PowerPoints?)

  • Is the learning structured around everyday tasks? (Or is it structured around system functions?)

  • Are they working through real exercises? (Or is it a brain dump?)

  • Are you giving them problems/tasks to work out? (Or are they using lower level brain functions only?)

  • Are you assessing how much they have learned and used the results to refine your training? (Or are you relying on faith that the learning has stuck?)

  • Have you supplied on-the-job tools to reinforce and build on the learning? (Or is it sink or swim?)
Think seriously about your answers to these questions. You could spend a considerable amount on new technology, but still see no improvement. Another avenue worth exploring is the nature of the employee’s role. It is a casual position with perhaps low tenure and high turnover. Consider how this may be impacting on employee motivation. Think about how the role could be redefined to make the learning more effective.

From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance
To find out more about how to improve the effectiveness of your training, check out our comprehensive e-toolkit, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.

How can I stop employees arriving late?

Q I am taking over some HR related tasks in a very small company. We have two employees that typically arrive late morning, with one of them (a manager) usually not making up her eight hour day. The continual lateness is affecting our other employees. The late-coming manager also has personal problems, often crying to the owner. How do I get the company owner to see that we need to tighten up our policies and fix these problems?

A Once you have the basic policy and procedural documents in place, it will be the ongoing performance management of these employees that will get results. Only relying on the written word will not be enough. And that means that the managers of these two employees will need to step up to the plate and actually supervise their direct reports.

Are the hours that your employees are required to work clear and in writing? These requirements could be stated in their employment contracts, their role descriptions, past performance appraisal goals or in your HR policy documents. Wherever it is stated, it should be clearly communicated to these employees and acknowledged by them. That is the necessary first step.

The next consideration is how the performance of these two employees is managed. Their respective managers need to take each of them aside and explain to them the impact that their behavior is having on their work quality and output and on the morale of those around them. Each manager needs to convey to the employee their expectations regarding attendance clearly, firmly and without emotion. This first step is usually in the form of an informal counseling session in which the reasons for the poor behavior are explored. If behavior does not improve, the next step typically is a formal reprimand with written warning and documented behavioral goals. If the behavior continues to show no or little sign of improvement, steps are begun to terminate the employee. That is the basic disciplinary process. Write up your company’s process, making sure that it is in accord with your local employment laws and that you communicate it to your employees.

For the late-coming manager with personal problems, the initial counseling session should uncover whether these are possible contributors to her continual lateness. If so, then take these extra steps. Her manager needs to explore with her what accommodation could be made in the interim whilst she deals with her problems. In addition, encourage her to make use of a professional counseling service. Some companies sponsor such a service, commonly referred to as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

In all of this, notice the central role that each employee’s manager has in rectifying employee attendance problems. The role of HR is not to “fix” employee performance problems, but to set up the systems and resources for managers to do their job. Reading between the lines, I suspect that your company’s attendance problems may be exacerbated by wider systemic issues. These further complicating factors may include a laissez faire organizational culture, in which poor behavior is tolerated, and favoritism shown by the owner to select employees. If this is the case, then the company owner will need to deal with these wider systemic issues if employee performance and behaviors are to improve in the longer term.

2 Way Feedback
If you would like to find out more about how to deal effectively with employee performance issues, check out our easy to read e-book, 2 Way Feedback.

Be sure to pass this newsletter on to friends and colleagues who want to stay up with what’s on. From all of us here on the Business Performance team, we wish you a productive month and look forward to communicating with you again soon.


In This Issue
Watson Wyatt Strategic Rewards Survey

How can I energize my team?

What new training methods can we use?

How can I stop employees arriving late?
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