Welcome to this edition of our monthly newsletter. We especially extend a warm welcome to our new subscribers. This month, we update you on two important recent surveys; the first on the impact of manager feedback styles on employee motivation and the second on employee reactions to the lifting of pay secrecy. We also bring you two thought-provoking articles. Our first article draws some interesting lessons we can all learn from team sports. There is more of a parallel between winning in business and winning at sport than we may care to think. The second article gives some sage advice on how to select a consultant. Use these three selection targets before you end up giving the assignment to the wrong consulting firm.
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Latest Human Resources Management Studies
Gallup Inc's 2009 survey of management styles reveals that giving no performance feedback to employees is even more demotivating than giving predominantly negative feedback. Read our report and commentary on the Gallup survey.
The newly proclaimed amendments to the Equality Act came into force in the United Kingdom on 1st October 2010. The new Act makes pay secrecy clauses in terms of employment unenforceable in cases where the employee seeks to determine if they are being discriminated against. In this new era of transparency, PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a survey to find out how employees would react to discovered pay inequalities. Read our report on the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey.
Keep up to date with what's happening on our Business Performance blog. Check out some of our other recent blog posts:
Seven Lessons Learned from Team Sports
by Leslie Allan
All too many businesses muddle through until they go out of business. The more fortunate ones are taken over. Over the years, I have watched with interest the way team sports are played out on and off the field. Not surprisingly, I believe there are critical lessons that all business owners and managers can learn from sport to help their business stay ahead of the pack.
For sports people, learning these valuable lessons is the difference between winning and losing the game. For business owners and managers, grasping and acting on these lessons literally means the difference between staying in business and going bust. Just what are these lessons? Let me illustrate using the game of basketball as an example.
Lesson 1: Know the name of the game.
Every basketball player knows why they are there and the aim of the game. They know they are there to win the game and that winning means scoring more points than the opposing team within the space of four quarters.
How to apply this lesson: In the workplace, some employees are left guessing what game they are playing. They have but a confused idea of what winning means. These employees have little hope of putting in a good performance. Discuss with each and every employee why your business exists and what it is striving to achieve. Give them the big picture of what market you are in and what winning will look like in terms they can visualize.
Lesson 2: Know how to win the game.
In the game of basketball, every player also knows precisely how their actions contribute to winning the team's objective. Each basketball player plays an important role in getting the ball through the ring and in preventing the opposing team from doing likewise. The person playing power forward, for example, knows that they are there to catch rebounds on defense and to position themselves in the low post in offense.
How to apply this lesson: Some employees are just not sure what they are supposed to be doing. Conflicting demands and responsibilities without the appropriate authorities frustrate and confound. Clarify each employee's role in the quest for achieving the organization's objectives. Show each employee how their actions contribute to the overall business performance. Have a game plan that involves everyone in the business, showing each person precisely what they need to do to win.
Lesson 3: Know the rules of the game.
The game of basketball is governed by a set of rules. For example, a player is barred from deliberately kicking the ball and from charging another player. The rules are public, communicated to each player and applied impartially. Breaking a rule has consequences, such as the awarding of a free throw to an opposing player.
How to apply this lesson: Clarify what employees can do and what they cannot do as part of their job and what the repercussions are for transgressing the rules. Do not leave employees guessing about what is allowed and not allowed. Apply the rules consistently and equally to all employees.
Lesson 4: Know the score.
Every member of a basketball team knows the score at every point of play. The leader board is visible to all and shows team progress towards the objective in real time. Players do not need to wait until the end of the season or even the end of the game to know how they are doing.
How to apply this lesson: Feelings of management superiority and reasons of commercial sensitivity should not excuse leaving employees guessing about the state of their organization. Communicate business results clearly and often. Regularly discuss with employees progress towards achieving the objectives of the business.
Read all seven lessons learned from team sports
How to Select a Consultant - The Three Imperatives
by Bob Selden
As a manager many years ago, when faced with my first challenge of selecting an external consultant, I found myself all at sea. Fortunately for me, I intuitively hit two of the three selection targets. The project was to produce a communication video, so it was relatively easy to see and compare what each consultant had previously produced. I had a number of consultants to choose from, but finally chose the one that I felt most comfortable with and whose work impressed me most. The project was successful and, in the process, I learned a lot.
Since that time, I have had to employ a number of consultants. I have been a consultant myself for almost 20 years, and I have worked with many other consultancies both large and small. The following suggestions for selecting a consultant are based on my experience as a manager and in the consultancy field.
What are the three targets that one must hit to successfully select a consultant? (Note; I am using the term "consultant" to refer to either one person or a consultancy firm.) Firstly, and most obviously, the consultant must be able to actually do the work. Secondly, the consultant must be able to fit in with the people in your organisation and particularly those who will be working on this project. Finally, if the consultant is good, you should always improve your own knowledge as a result of the project.
- Can the consultant do the work? Seems obvious, but there are some traps. For instance, I remember, when starting out as a consultant in partnership with another (who was also new to the role), submitting a tender for a fairly large job and being selected in the final few for interview. Individually, we'd had some experience in the type of work, but not as a partnership, nor had we worked in the prospective client's industry. We won the job. Why? The client saw in us some creativity and freshness that was not evident in our competitors. However, this was an unusual client. Normally, I would not suggest taking on a consultant (like us) who has not had the depth nor breadth of experience in the project. So, unless one of your criteria is "freshness", in terms of selecting for experience, here are some tips:
- What are your specifications? Be very clear on the outputs you will require in the project. These should always be measured in terms of quality, quantity, time and cost. Use these output criteria to compare consultants.
- Who has recommended this consultant? Check their references - ask for the contact of the last job they did. When checking references, use your above "output criteria" as a guide.
- Are you looking for someone to implement solutions to a problem you have identified, or are you looking for someone to help you identify and clarify the problem? Or both? Sometimes it can be useful to split the project into these two parts.
- In discussion with the prospective consultants, do they really give you the time to say what you want before jumping to conclusions? If they appear to "have all the answers", chances are they do not listen very well.
- Does their suggested solution appear to be specifically designed for you, or is it a "one size fits all"? Be wary if it is not specifically designed to meet your project criteria.
- Do they explain the things they can't do as well as those they can? This is always a good test of integrity, truthfulness and reliability.
- Is their initial response to your request up to your quality standards, sufficiently detailed (but not overly so) to make a decision, and within your time expectations?
- Does the consultant have depth of expertise in the subject matter and breadth of expertise in its application?
- Ask the consultant what is unique about him or her? What makes them stand out from all the other consultants you might choose?
Read all three selection targets
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Visit our web site at www.businessperform.com for lots of expert guidance and practical tools designed to help you get ahead of your competition. Also, 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.
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