6 Causes of Employee Problems

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Are employee problems festering at your organization or has a good employee “gone bad”?  Recognizing whether certain controllable factors in the workplace are playing a role is key. Here are six (6) common causes of employee problems and ways you can manage these.

1. Stale job responsibilities

One of the major reasons that employees’ performance suffers is lack of self-motivation, which is usually most influenced by the work they do. An employee may become bored or disinterested in their work, especially if they’ve been doing the same job for awhile. To keep their jobs from becoming stale, consider ways to challenge all of your employees and keep their jobs interesting. Involve them on a new project. Create new goals. Cross-train them on a coworker’s responsibilities or give them a new responsibility. Add a new duty to each employee’s job description each year. Make professional development a requirement so that they keep developing new skills. Let them take initiative and lead a new project. We’re often quick to give these opportunities to managers, but extend the same invitation to your non-management staff.

2. Scarce rewards

Many employees are motivated by rewards, but consider whether the rewards you offer are meaningful enough to motivate high performance. For example, do employees feel that they have a good shot at receiving an incentive? If funds for incentives or pay increases are traditionally low and reserved for a small percentage of employees (and typically at the manager or leadership level), employees may believe that the rewards are not worth the extra effort. Additionally, how long has it been since you advanced an employee? Do employees believe that they have the opportunity to advance and develop in your organization? If your organization doesn’t share how people can advance or provide tangible steps and strategies to help your people advance, and makes advancement decisions in a vacuum without any transparency, you may be creating a host of motivational issues. Plus, scarce rewards can lend themselves to other issues like conflict, lack of teamwork, and unhealthy competition.

3. Inadequate training

Sometimes employees just haven’t had the right training or skills to do their job effectively and this gets overlooked in the hiring process. We may find that they don’t know how to do their job or parts of their job. They may have gaps in experience or knowledge that prevent them from performing well, or they may be scared or ashamed to admit that they need guidance to do certain tasks. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest performance problems to fix, because skills are usually trainable or coachable. Your job is to figure out what those gaps are and find ways to close them by recommending and coordinating training, coaching them through issues, and encouraging and making it safe for employees to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Similarly, employees may be in the wrong job for their skill set and need a better fit. Recognize the unique talents of each employee and put them where they will excel, if possible. As often as we work on employees’ weaknesses, it’s important to notice their strengths and how they can add value to our organizations. When employees are using their best skills and abilities, we encounter far fewer performance problems.

4. Not enough resources

Resources don’t just include supplies, equipment, and technology, but also time, people, and money. Lack of resources and increasing demands over an extended period of time can drain the energy and motivation out of your employees, leading to mistakes, errors, and missed deadlines and opportunities. If you suspect that lack of resources are preventing your employees from being successful, invest time in re-evaluating your (and their) priorities, re-distributing workloads, adding staff, and making efforts to ensure that they have all the right resources and support to do their job efficiently.

5. Personal problems

Many workplaces have the philosophy that employees should leave their personal problems at the door, but we all know that they seep into the workplace and affect performance. Child care issues, marital problems, grief and bereavement, illness or injury, and life changes may unavoidably lead to performance and attendance problems for our employees. Our workplace policies and management styles may not allow employees to take the appropriate time to deal with their issues or provide the support that our employees need. If we give our employees the tools and resources to manage their personal lives more flexibly via generous leave, flexible schedules, employee assistance programs, and supportive management, we generally find that employees can better manage their personal life and work results. You can still expect great results and hold employees accountable for high performance while treating them like the adults they are.

6. Missing the basics

Finally, be sure your organization excels at the basics. When the basics are missing, motivation and performance can really suffer. The basics include making sure that employees are treated respectfully, managed well, appreciated, compensated fairly, and provided with appropriate direction and communication. If any of these are lacking, the workplace culture can become a minefield of negative emotions created by employees who feel that they’ve been treated wrongly and undervalued. This undermines your efforts to create a high performance and productive work environment.

When we start exploring the nature and cause of our problems with employees, we usually find that one of these reasons is contributing to the issues and that there are effective ways to manage and fix them without jumping immediately to termination or disciplinary actions. As employers, we need to recognize how our workplaces contribute to problems with our employees and fix those core issues for the betterment of our organizations.

Additional Resources

Learn more about our Supervisory & Leadership Training programs and courses here.

Growing Your Rising Stars

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Your organization may have some rising stars – high achieving employees with the ability to move up in your organization and carry the demands of your organization’s most challenging and promising opportunities. You may love their work, think highly of their potential, but notice a few skills or abilities that need some development before promoting them to the next level. Here are a few ways to grow and engage your rising stars.

Uncover their (and your) objectives.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council, 1 in 5 emerging leaders believe their personal aspirations are different than the plans of their organizations. Obviously, there’s a strong disconnect between what emerging leaders want from a career and what they think their organization wants from them in the future. Before your organization pours resources and time into the process of developing these employees, be sure that both of your objectives match. Similarly, in order to know how to develop your rising stars, your organization needs to determine its long-term objectives and the talent it will need to achieve those. For example, will your business be expanding? Will its product/service line change? What skills will it need? How will technology affect your workplace? When will leaders retire or move on? Growing your best people often requires good workforce and succession planning.

Place on intense assignments and in challenging roles.

Research shows that intense, challenging, and risky assignments are the best learning experiences for growing leadership capabilities – and more meaningful than traditional job rotation programs. These developmental assignments not only engage the rising star, but also allow your organization to evaluate how well the employee performs on new challenges they have not experienced and where further development is needed. Similarly, rising stars should be placed in challenging roles and positions – perhaps an undeveloped area of the business, a department that is underperforming, or a potential business opportunity that has not yet been ceased. It’s important not to shield rising stars from the realities and stressful situations they will face in future roles. Rather, throw them into the fire, but build in support.

Provide formal training and development opportunities.

While job experiences are one of the best ways to grow rising stars, there’s no replacement for the classroom. Seminars, activities, and instruction are a necessary supplement to leadership development initiatives and frequently are used to grow capabilities in key leadership topics like change management, presentation, communication, influence, and negotiation. Other formal development opportunities such as attendance at conferences, certification programs, advanced degrees, participation on boards, and involvement in professional associations can all be helpful in growing capabilities. Rising stars will need to acquire knowledge not only in their organizations and through experiences, but also externally from facilitators, coaches, and peers.

Engage in regular feedback and dialogue.

A conversation once or twice a year isn’t going to grow your best employees. Development done right requires frequent conversations and dialogue. This dialogue can address how the employee is performing and provide direction, guidance, and coaching on new stretch tasks and development opportunities. It can also help gauge their engagement and satisfaction with the initiative and how they are progressing in their development plan. These conversations often can help avoid derailment – failure or underperformance at the next level – a common problem many leadership development programs experience.

Beyond one-on-one dialogue, 360 feedback is another common leadership development tool that can help your rising star determine how their style and competencies are perceived by others in the workplace such as managers, coworkers, and customers. The results can be used for follow-up coaching and training.

Use your current leaders as resources.

While most development responsibilities fall on HR or line managers, seasoned leaders and top managers can (and should) be actively involved in mentoring and developing rising stars – not just evaluating and selecting who these leaders will be.  Oftentimes, exposure to current leaders and tapping into their perspectives, knowledge, and experiences can be very effective in growing future leaders if they want to be engaged in the developmental process. It can also engage your rising stars, providing them with opportunities to interact and build relationships with your senior staff. Plus, your organization may save on other developmental costs such as use of an external coach or mentor that is not as ‘in tune’ with the workings of your company.

A range of work experiences, developmental activities, dialogue and feedback, and use of current leaders is a simple recipe for growing your rising stars into higher levels of your organization and engaging them.

Additional Resources

The Emerging Leaders Series
Have the emerging leaders within your organization been identified? Do they have the skills and knowledge needed to best represent your organization? This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. 

Leadership Development Training
Developing your leaders or managers? Check out the range of courses we offer to help you grow talent of all levels and especially managers and leaders. Click here

Coaching, 360s, & Talent Management
ERC offers several developmental services including employee, manager, and leadership coaching, 360 feedback initiatives, as well as assistance with talent management projects including workforce and succession planning to support your leadership development initiatives. For more information, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Three-Quarters of Employers Offer Supervisory/Management Training

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, most employers in Northeast Ohio provide supervisors and managers with training in supervisory and managerial skills. Most commonly, 75% of local employers say that they use employers association supervisory/management development courses to train employees compared to only 32% of employers that use college supervisory development courses.

“The survey’s results suggest that local organizations find value in the supervisory/management training provided by employers associations like ERC. Within the training we provide, participants learn how to apply a variety of managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a manager and also receive a variety of resources to support them in their managerial roles,” says Chris Kutsko, Director of Learning and Development at ERC.

She adds, “Many of our clients find tremendous value in the quality, delivery, support, and affordability of our supervisory and managerial training beyond what other providers offer.”

Additional Resources

More information about this survey: click here
Upcoming training and programs on this topic: click here

5 Ways to Know Your Training Dollars Paid Off

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As a business leader, you foot the bill for training, but how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth? You can, and should, rely on your in-house trainers and external suppliers to provide quality, meaningful training. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

The good news is…you, as a business leader, are in the ideal position to increase the likelihood that the skills learned in class will transfer to the job. In fact, research suggests 2 of the 3 most important roles related to training are #1 – Manager Before and #3 – Manager After. In other words, what the manager does before and after training contributes most to whether or not the training is ‘transferred’ (a.k.a. applied).

Here are five pretty painless ways to make that happen…

  1. Participate. Ask for an executive overview of the training – for yourself and/or the managers of those being trained. The supplier, for example, would spend 30 minutes or so walking you through the program, including key learning points, models or techniques taught, application exercises used to help participants experience and retain the concepts, etc. You would receive a participant workbook and any job aides or handouts. Ideally, the executive overview precedes the training. This gives you the opportunity to request that certain points be emphasized or aligned with current business priorities. It also positions you to reinforce the new behaviors after the training.  
  2. Model. Select one aspect of the training that resonates with you, apply it to your role, and start practicing it. It could be anything from using the Situation-Behavior-Impact feedback model, to documenting performance expectations for your direct reports, to starting every company-wide meeting by publicly recognizing a handful of employees who have exceeded goals, to authoring a blog to keep employees ‘in the know’.
  3. Reward. Allocate a small sum of money to be used to reinforce the demonstration of behaviors and skills learned in training for 90 days following. Have managers of the participants partner with the facilitators to generate a short list of behaviors/skills to be rewarded. Publicize to participants that managers will be on the lookout to ‘catch’ them doing things ‘right’ and distributing rewards accordingly.
  4. Ask. ‘Walk the floor’, asking employees about the training…what they learned, what was most valuable, what they applied, how it worked, etc. Once employees learn they will be held accountable, they will be more likely to put the training to use.
  5. Connect. Tie the training to related initiatives, facilitating immediate application. For example, train employees on writing and delivering performance reviews just before they are due, train employees on goal setting at the beginning of the year, train employees on communication and team building at the start of a large organization-wide project, etc. Time the training and ‘tee it up’ by communicating why it’s being offered, why it’s important, and what related activity will immediately follow that calls for those skills. Having a senior leader endorse the training at the beginning of class is a great strategy too.

Leaders are like the media…they ‘tell’ us what to pay attention to and talk about. Take advantage of your role; try out these five easy steps. You will be amazed at how much more value you will get out of your training investment. And, who knows, you may even find a new technique that produces returns for you, too!

 

Employers' Use of On-Site Sales Training Rises from 2010

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A 2011 survey shows that U.S. employers increased their use of on-site sales training from the previous year. The percentage of employers using on-site classroom training also slightly increased from 2010.

“Although the survey shows that employers are continuing to teach sales skills and techniques on-the job, we’re also seeing increased usage of outside training for sales professionals, including on-site classroom instruction and seminars,” says an ERC Sales Trainer & Consultant.

The Trainer & Consultant adds, “These methods of training are invaluable in helping sales professionals learn and practice different sales techniques like identifying needs, closing sales, and building relationships, and also support and compliment on-the-job sales training programs. In addition, skills coaching, delivered either one-on-one or in small groups, is another effective avenue for sales professionals to refine their skills and help ensure that on-the-job training translates into results.”

For more information on ERC On-Site Sales Training or Skills Coaching, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com

Are Your Supervisors Prepared for These 5 Challenges?

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The following is a complimentary audit and assessment consisting of key questions your organization should ask to determine if your supervisors and managers have the appropriate skills and competencies to combat the most common management pitfalls. Additionally, tips we frequently recommend to organizations in addressing these pitfalls are summarized.

Challenge 1: Exposing the organization to liabilities

Organizations are exposed to liabilities when their supervisors and managers are not knowledgeable of employment law or understand how to apply legal guidelines. For example, supervisors and managers may make selection decisions based on non-job related criteria or subjective biases, ask inappropriate interview questions, not document performance, misapply wage and hour law (not recording overtime worked, not providing necessary breaks, etc.), or fail to handle employee issues with consistency.

Key questions include:

  • Are supervisors and managers knowledgeable of employment laws and do they successfully apply these legal guidelines in the workplace?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask appropriate interview questions, if they are responsible for hiring duties?
  • Do supervisors and managers participate in making legal selection decisions, based on job-related factors and qualifications and not based on any protected criteria (such as gender, race, national origin, religion, etc.)?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand wage and hour law (FLSA) and how it affects the pay of their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers discipline or handle issues of employee conduct with consistency?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the basics of managing employee leave, particularly FMLA?

Challenge 2: Failing to document and manage performance

Performance management is a common struggle for many supervisors and managers. Oftentimes, we find that the supervisors and managers are not doing enough to support the employee in achieving their performance expectations and standards and not providing regular feedback, counseling, and coaching. In addition, correctly documenting performance is commonly overlooked.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers generally have a high performance work team, or do their employees struggle in reaching certain performance standards or goals?
  • Are employees aware of what is expected of them in terms of performance?  Do supervisors and managers communicate these expectations to employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers take the performance review process seriously? Do they understand its importance and how to prepare for and deliver a performance review?
  • Do supervisors and managers document any and all incidents of poor performance? (note: this is also a potential liability)
  • Do supervisors and managers guide performance through regular feedback and coaching?
  • Do supervisors and managers support performance with development and training if needed?
  • Do supervisors and managers have conversations with employees about their career aspirations and developmental interests? Do they follow-up on insights obtained in these conversations?
  • Do supervisors and managers continually challenge and empower their employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers make themselves available to answer employee questions about projects, assignments, and tasks?
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize and thank employees for their contributions when they do a good job?
  • Do supervisors and managers criticize more than they praise? Is there an imbalance of negative and positive feedback, and is this justified?

Challenge 3: Poorly communicating

Inadequate communication manifests itself in a number of problems including poor supervisor-employee work relationships, frequent misunderstandings of job tasks or policies/procedures, and unclear expectations. These issues often surface from poor listening, relationship building, clarifying, and feedback skills and lead to frequent supervisory problems.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers establish rapport and positive relationships with employees?
  • Do supervisors and managers engage in frequent methods of in-person communication?
  • Do supervisors and managers actively listen to employees’ concerns, problems, and questions?
  • Do supervisors and managers clarify points and issues, trying to better understand work problems employees have?
  • Do supervisors and managers ask for employees’ viewpoints and opinions?
  • Do supervisors and managers exhibit effective non-verbal communication with employees? Do their words match their body language?
  • Do employees often feel confused when completing work assignments, or do misunderstandings frequently occur?
  • Do employees receive enough performance feedback from supervisors and managers? Do they understand where they excel and where they need to improve?
  • Is the feedback provided by supervisors and managers constructive and well-targeted at behaviors needing changed?

Challenge 4: Failing to resolve conflict

Many managers fail to resolve conflicts between employees and coworkers or may perpetuate too much conflict in their groups. It’s common for supervisors and managers to avoid conflict altogether. In addition, they may not do enough to prevent conflict.

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers work to accurately define and identify key workplace conflicts or are problems frequently incorrectly identified? 
  • Do supervisors and managers recognize the causes of conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand and costs of conflict on your business and recognize its effects on productivity?
  • Do conflicts generally go unresolved by supervisors and managers, or do supervisors and managers create different strategies to manage and resolve conflict, ensuring that it has a limited effect on performance?
  • Do supervisors and managers frequently collaborate and strive for “win-win” approaches to conflict?
  • Do supervisors and managers try to prevent conflict by encouraging positive coworker relationships, encouraging recognition of individual differences, and addressing work problems quickly before they escalate?
  • Do supervisors try to adapt to different personalities and styles in order to maximize their effectiveness?

Challenge 5: Not understanding their role

Typically promoted from individual contributor roles, supervisors and managers find themselves not understanding the new requirements and expectations of their role, or encountering common challenges like micromanaging, distrusting employees, treating employees poorly, or not making time for them. 

Key questions include:

  • Do supervisors and managers frequently encounter challenges on the job, in dealing with employee issues and problems?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand how their role is different than that of their previous role as an individual contributor? Do they understand its importance in driving results through others?
  • Do supervisors and managers understand the responsibilities of their role and how to carry them out?
  • Do supervisors and managers make time for employees, balancing task completion and building supportive relationships?
  • Do supervisors and managers show trust and confidence in employees?
  • Are employees excessively directed and micromanaged?
  • Are employees treated with respect and courtesy? 

Addressing Management Challenges

If your supervisors don’t have the right competencies in place, there are a number of ways to develop them. In our experience, these are the most common and effective ways to build supervisory and management skills:

  • Supervisory and managerial training
    Training is one of the best and most common ways to develop supervisors’ and managers’ abilities. Consider registering them to attend ERC’s Supervisory Series, an affordable training program that develops their skills in all of these critical managerial areas including communication, conflict resolution, performance management, and employment law. This program can also be delivered on-site and customized to your organization’s needs. 
  • Skills coaching and mentoring
    Sometimes a more personalized and customized approach is necessary to develop skills and solve specific managerial and supervisory issues, particularly when training has already been conducted. This can be facilitated either through mentorship of leaders internally or skills coaching with an external consultant
  • Management literature and educational materials
    Articles and learning aids are another great way for supervisors and managers to develop their capabilities and can be great follow-up resources for after training to help transfer skills learned back to the workplace. Checklists and forms that guide behaviors learned in training can help them stay better organized on the job. These can be created in-house or training programs may have them available.  

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

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