4 Questions Every Manager Needs to Answer

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Successful, effective performance management by managers essentially boils down to simply answering 4 key questions for your employees.

What is expected of me?

Managers have an obligation to tell employees what is expected of them in terms of job responsibilities, projects, and goals or objectives. After all, how can you hold employees accountable without telling them exactly what you need and clearly defining what they are supposed to be doing? This question should be answered at the beginning of the performance management process each year and whenever expectations or responsibilities change. Specifically, managers should clarify and define three types of expectations:

  • what employees should do on the job (responsibilities, duties, key projects, etc.)
  • how employees should do the job (behaviors, attitudes, competencies, etc.)
  • results to be achieved over a specific timeframe (such as deadlines, goals, levels of performance, etc.)

How am I doing?

Throughout the year, managers must provide honest and accurate feedback and coaching to help employees understand how they are doing and progressing, as well as to assist them in staying on track with their performance. Feedback should include an honest assessment of employees' strengths and weaknesses and could be achieved through regular one-on-one meetings with their supervisor, formal mid-year or quarterly check-point meetings, and a final end-of-year evaluation discussion.

Although informal feedback is crucial, over the course of the year, managers should meet formally with employees a few times (at least twice) to revisit their progress on key projects and goals, address performance problems, and create conditions that help motivate employees in achieving their goals.

Don't expect your managers to take the initiative on coaching and feedback without some structure. Some managers can thrive with this informality, but many others can't. Teach them coaching and feedback methods and require structured interactions to ensure that employees receive the support they need.

Where can I improve?

Where organizations often miss the mark with performance management is viewing the process as merely a judgment and administrative record of employees' performance. While evaluation is fundamental to the process, performance management also seeks to develop employees' performance and potential to increasingly higher levels.

Based on their on-going assessment of performance, managers should identify opportunities for employees to develop their potential and discuss those periodically with employees. These opportunities may be improving performance deficiencies, attending training, focusing on skill development, or taking on new projects/assignments.

At times, the performance management process also involves answering the question "Where am I going?" in terms of discussing potential career paths and internal mobility and the requirements for moving into higher and different roles in the organization, particularly if these opportunities are tied to performance in their current job.

What’s the big picture?

Incorporating your mission, vision, values, and strategy into the performance management process helps focus your employees on the tasks, projects, and behaviors that matter most to the organization and its growth - especially if your performance management process is aimed at helping your organization meet its objectives and furthering its mission. Equally as important is to discuss how these components link to employees' performance and why certain tasks and goals are important to the organization's success. Consider...

  • integrating your mission, vision, values, and strategy into the performance review form
  • cascading goals from the top of the organization to individuals
  • continually discussing how employees' goals and responsibilities are tied to the organization's goals and objectives

When viewing performance management through the lens of these important questions, your managers can answer the questions that matter most to your employees and that are most important to their success.

View ERC's Performance Management Survey Results

This report explores performance management practices specifically related to performance reviews, performance criteria, role of the supervisor, and other issues.

View the Results

7 Lessons on Managing Open Workplaces

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Recently, there has been considerable research and debate on whether open work environments improve or impede employees’ performance and productivity.

On one hand, open work environments naturally encourage collaboration, teamwork, socializing, and innovation. They allow employees to move around, create discussion, and collaborate spontaneously. They lead to more informal mentoring, problem solving, rapid information sharing, and easier communication between peers, and can even decrease misconduct.

On the other hand, most organizations that move to an open work environment face challenging management issues. Open work environments can lack private or quiet space for concentration, contain loud noise levels, lead to frequent interruptions, and decrease productivity or performance for some employees.

It’s clear that in practice open work environments can enhance a workplace and improve collaboration, but also pose issues that need to be managed. Here are some important lessons other companies and research tell us about how to effectively manage the open office work environment.

The open office is not for everyone...or every business.

There are employees whose job function, nature of work, and personality benefit from private individual space. For example, mathematical and computer science jobs tend to require long periods of heavy concentration; introverts tend to be more creative and productive in private spaces; and younger employees tend to like open workspaces more than older employees. Don't assume that open spaces work for everyone's job or situation. Consider your generational make-up, types of jobs, and business climate before making the move.

Setting creative rules can help eliminate common problems.

Gather employees together to set basic informal rules and "cube etiquette." This helps alleviate common issues of disrespect and frustration with coworkers in open office settings. These rules could address how to creatively deal with issues such as interruptions, hygiene, noise, and personal business. Have employees participate in creating a respectful work environment. Don’t set the rules for them.

Organizations need to train on soft-skills.

Open work environments prompt frequent interpersonal interactions which naturally lead to more frustration and conflict. Your organization needs to be prepared to train employees and managers on the skills they need to make the environment work. Continuously training employees on soft skills such as respect in the workplace, communication, collaboration, and conflict management is imperative to keeping these interactions positive and constructive.

Listen and keep an open dialogue.

Research shows that employees generally won't come forward with complaints about their work environment or address them directly with their coworkers. Keep an open dialogue with employees – especially during the months of the transition – on what’s working and not working. It shows that you care about their response to the change.

Balance individual and group needs - be flexible.

Effective open work environments seem to provide enough accessible individual (hoteling or individual spaces) and cafe-like or conference room spaces - balancing the needs of private individual work time and space for collaboration, meetings, and open communication. They also give employees the freedom to work how and where they want and still allow employees the ability to individualize their space.

Natural separation and groupings should be utilized.

Put "like-groups" together within a larger space. Employees who use the phone frequently could be grouped in a space, while employees who don't could be grouped in a different space. Another best practice is to place employees in the same department and/or highly interdependent departments within the same work area.

Small details need to support productivity.

Light, color, amount of space, and placement of chairs or desks may seem like unimportant details, but they can make a big difference in comfort and productivity. Light levels can cause headaches or lack of focus; color can energize (or de-energize) your staff; if employees don't have sufficient space to work, they can be uncomfortable. All these things affect output and need to be managed.

Break down impediments to productivity and performance.

If you find that employees aren't getting much done, having to work at home to finish projects, that their performance is suffering, that their best ideas are coming from outside of the workplace, or that there are frequent conflicts between coworkers, your open work environment may be creating problems. Enabling performance and creating an environment where work can get done productively should be your number one goal.

Pilot a layout to test an open work environment.

Try an open layout with one department or a particular location before rolling it out to your entire organization. Observe how employees react to the new work environment.

Open work environments can be highly beneficial to an increasingly team-oriented workforce, but they need to be managed in ways that make employees feel comfortable and productive in their spaces, limit negative effects on performance, and support a respectful and collaborative work atmosphere.   

Additional Resources

Soft-Skills Training for Employees & Managers
ERC offers numerous soft-skills training for both employees and managers on a broad range of topics including communication, conflict resolution, generational differences, team-building, respect in the workplace, internal customer service, dealing with difficult people, and more. All of our courses can be customized to meet your organization’s needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com

Office Products & Services ERC’s network of Preferred Partners provides discounts on a range of products and services to help your organization enhance its workplace experience for employees from technology solutions to food and catering services to office supplies. 

6 Ways to Help Employees Get Along

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6 Ways to Help Employees Get Along

Sometimes employees don't get along and these conflicts and office disagreements can dampen productivity, waste time, reduce a team's performance, make the work environment tense and uncomfortable, and increase stress in work groups - none of which are beneficial to your business. Here are a few ways managers can help reduce conflict on their teams.

1. Set the tone

Managers and leaders set the tone for team interactions by what they say or do when conflict or problems emerge between their employees, how they manage conflict with their own peers, and what behavior they tolerate. If managers act passive-aggressive, disrespect fellow employees, or do not directly deal with conflict, employees will follow their lead.

2. Hire team-players

Hiring employees who have strong interpersonal, team-building, and internal customer service skills can decrease the likelihood of conflicts. While it's tough to predict how well a candidate will interact with your team, a solid personality or style assessment and behavioral interview as well as asking for references can help.  

3. Don't ignore conflicts

Managers have a tendency to ignore problems with poor team-players or team conflicts until they escalate. Instead they should encourage employees to collaborate on a solution and seek coaching and/or training for current employees who argue with coworkers, don't provide good internal service, or are overly critical or judgmental of others. It's critical to not let conflict spiral out of control.

4. Educate on styles and generational differences

Great teams are melting pots of different generations and backgrounds. Each employee brings a different personality and style to the table. Most conflict stems from not fully appreciating who another person is, their background, and the strengths of their individual style. Spend time educating your team on style and generational differences.

5. Spend time interacting

Developing common ground is one of the most important ways to fend off conflict in the workplace and it's achieved in the simplest of ways: spending more time with one another. Informally interacting and talking is one of the best ways to get employees familiar with one another. When they eventually find common ground, magic happens.

6. Reward teamwork

Most managers want teamwork, but reward individual achievement. Recognizing and rewarding teamwork, collaboration, and supportive interactions and promoting or giving choice assignments to employees who act like team players helps promote and encourage a supportive work environment.

When conflict strikes in the workplace, your managers are the best people to nip it in the bud, deal with it, and prevent it.

Conflict Resolution & Mediation Training

Conflict Resolution & Mediation Training

The course demonstrates how constructive conflict resolution techniques can be useful.

Train Your Employees

4 Strategies to Combat Turnover

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Turnover is a reality for every business. It can be a warning sign that something is wrong with our workplace, managers, or teams that needs to be fixed. It can also signal that we might be hiring poor fits into the organization.

The problem of turnover demands that we understand why we are not able to retain some of our employees and fix it before the situation spirals and we lose many talented employees. Here are 4 strategies to combat turnover.

Step 1: Track it.

The first step to deal with turnover is to track and benchmark it. You must understand how your numbers compare to normal turnover for your industry and size and if the turnover you are experiencing is healthy or unhealthy for your business. For example, are your best employees leaving or are your new-hires leaving, and is turnover primarily voluntary or involuntary? At a minimum, track the following types of turnover:

  • Voluntary and involuntary turnover
  • All employee and top performer turnover
  • New-hire turnover at intervals (90 days, 180 days, and 1 year)

Step 2: Research the context.

The second step in combating turnover is to research the context of the termination, including the work area affected and characteristics of the employee. You'll also want to explore the former employee's reason for leaving as well as their supervisor's and coworkers' feedback on the termination. Turnover issues tend to follow a pattern so look for trends in the following:

  • Work area (location, division, department, team, and supervisor)
  • Individual characteristics (length of service, performance, type of job)
  • Reason for leaving (per exit interview/survey)
  • Supervisor and team feedback

Step 3: Identify critical incidences.

Turnover is generally not caused by a single workplace event. Research shows that turnover results from a process of progressive disengagement, which can take weeks, months, and sometimes even years to escalate to a final decision. Eventually, however, a critical incident causes an employee to decide to quit.

To understand the cause of turnover and fix it, you need to identify these critical turning points and causes of disengagement so that repeat scenarios with other employees are prevented. Examine what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and how you will approach a similar situation in the future.

Step 4: Implement interventions.

After determining the causes and context of turnover and putting together the pieces of each former employee's story, there are several major interventions that you can use to solve turnover problems. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Job design: changing a job's design, reducing workload, providing more training, or enhancing employees' skills
  • Management: training or developing a manager's skills, removing a manager from their position, improving performance management or feedback
  • Hiring and selection: making a change in the hiring or selection procedure, enhancing on-boarding
  • Communication: communicating changes and reasons for changes, being sensitive to and dealing with employee reactions, managing and mediating coworker conflict
  • Total rewards: making changes to pay and benefits, enhancing advancement opportunities, enhancing work/life benefits

Turnover is as critical to monitor and address as expenses in your organization. It is a lost investment in your business that can take significant time and money to recover, especially when you lose a high performer. While there’s no magic bullet solution to prevent it, your organization can better manage turnover by tracking it, better understanding why it happens, and implementing interventions that deal with it.

Additional Resources

2012 ERC Turnover & HR Department Practices Survey
This survey collected information from Northeast Ohio employers on voluntary and involuntary turnover of employees and new-hires as well as HR department practices including the role of HR, common HR metrics and benchmarks, and the use of technology and information systems within the HR department.

How to Build Your Own Great Workplace

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At ERC, we believe that creating a great workplace is about creating an environment and culture that supports the talent your organization needs to be and stay successful. It means creating a place in which great talent want to come work and where they want to stay and build their career. It’s about enabling superior performance and eliminating the policies, practices, and norms in your workplace that hinder your top people’s success, progress, and innovation.

If this sounds like something your organization wants to achieve, here are 5 steps we recommend for creating a great workplace.

1. Commit to creating a great workplace.

Making a true commitment to be an employer of choice is the first and hardest part of creating a great workplace. It requires getting your management team on-board with their support, securing and committing resources for the initiative, and creating a vision of where you see your workplace in the next 3-5 years. It also entails meeting regularly with your managers to talk about and identify ways to enhance your workplace. You can't create a great workplace without your leadership and managers on-board, the willingness to put resources behind the effort, and on-going discussion.

2. Identify your top performers.

Great workplaces are built from great people. This requires hiring the right people from your receptionist to line employees to managers to top leadership. Rarely do organizations have all the right people. This is why it is especially important to identify who your top performers are and define what attributes top performers have at your organization. Knowing which employees are successful and why they are effective will help you hire more of those people, create a workplace that meets their needs, and weed out the wrong fits.

3. Ask employees for their feedback.

Great workplaces have feedback-rich cultures that care about, appreciate, and use employees' input, ideas, and opinions. To create and maintain a great workplace, you need to know what engages your people, specifically what would make them stay, what would make them leave, and what is important to them. In our experience, the answers to these questions (though similar) vary by organization. Whether it's conducting one-on-ones, focus group discussions, or an engagement survey, start somewhere and invite employees to share their feedback.

4. Benchmark your practices.

Data and measurement are important parts of creating a great place to work. In order to create a great workplace, you must gauge how you stack up against other employers of choice – how your total rewards package, policies, culture, and results compare to the standards set by best-in-class organizations. This not only helps your organization determine what it takes to be a great place to work, but after determining where the gaps are, you can develop strategies to help build, change, and enhance your policies and practices.

5. Evaluate your progress.

Building a great place to work is an on-going endeavor – it never ends. It will require constant attention, changes, and improvements. It will also require that you monitor and evaluate your progress regularly to make sure that you are meeting your goals in becoming a great place to work.

If your organization is progressing towards becoming a great place to work, over time it will see its investments pay off. Attracting and hiring top talent gets easier, great talent sticks around, your workforce is more engaged and productive, and your workplace’s reputation improves. The road to a great workplace is undoubtedly a path that is worth pursuing if your organization wants to secure top talent to achieve long-term success.

Additional Resources

NorthCoast 99 – 99 Best Places to Work in Northeast Ohio If your organization is interested in being recognized as a best place to work and thinks it excels at attracting and retaining top talent, begin your application today!

Benchmark Reports Interested in targeted metrics for top performers and benchmarking how your organization's practices for attracting and retaining top talent compare to others in the region? Please take a look at our benchmark reports which provide tons of information on great workplaces and top performers.

Consulting & Project Assistance
ERC is a leading provider of quality, affordable human resources consulting services in Ohio. Our HR consulting services provide the crucial strategic and technical expertise needed to support your HR goals and workplace initiatives.

3 Things Managers Do That Disengage Employees

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Engagement is often viewed as just an "HR thing" when in fact, managers play an even more important role in engaging employees day-to-day. Managers, however, may not realize how their actions engage or disengage employees and how that affects their team's performance and productivity. Here are 3 things managers do which can unintentionally disengage employees.

1. Devalue

Unfortunately, feeling undervalued is a common problem in the workplace and it affects engagement considerably. Instead of focusing on performance and creating value, employees who feel devalued spend their energy trying to defend or prove their value and typically underperform in the process. There are a number of common reasons and situations that could cause an employee to feel devalued, such as:

  • not being recognized or acknowledged for a job well done, or ignored
  • being passed over for a promotion or transferred/assigned to a new area
  • feeling under-challenged or that they are working below their capabilities
  • receiving a lower than expected pay increase, performance rating, etc.
  • being unfairly treated or denied a request for leave, additional flexibility, etc.
  • not being listened/responded to or asked for their input

Managers usually don't intend to make employees feel devalued, but the absence of acknowledgement and the effects of how they treat other employees or the decisions they make can inevitably backfire and leave employees feeling undervalued and disengaged.

2. Distrust

Trust is also vital to employee engagement. Loss of employee trust in leaders or their managers can create havoc on engagement. Disengaged employees who lose trust in their managers spend more time wondering what truths their managers are trying to hold back from them or questioning their manager's honesty, than creating and driving results.

Managers can lose employees' trust in ways that they may not realize. Saying one thing and doing another is a major reason that trust can be broken. If you promise something to an employee (even if it was years prior), they expect you to follow-through. Keeping your word and being consistent is the best way to keep employees' trust.

Micromanaging or over-controlling how tasks are completed and limiting employees' autonomy can also create distrust. If employees feel like you don't trust or believe in their capabilities, they may reciprocate and not trust you. Trust is a two way street, and you must be willing to give trust to gain it.

Other ways managers create distrust inadvertently are by publically criticizing employees or drawing attention to their weaknesses, keeping secrets and withholding information, making changes without honestly communicating why, telling half-truths, not practicing what they preach, and sugarcoating problems or situations. Every manager makes one of these mistakes at one time or another and the negative effects can be difficult to reverse.

3. Disconnect

Employees become disengaged when they don't have a good connection with their manager, or when a positive dynamic with their boss changes. For many employees, their boss is one of the most important people in their work-life. As a result, positive, supportive relationships between employees and their managers play a critical role in engaging employees.

When employees and managers stop communicating with one another regularly or when a positive manager-employee relationship turns sour, a disconnect can occur. Being able to resolve and manage conflicts with employees is a skill managers need to maintain their relationships and connections with employees.

Sometimes disconnects happen without managers realizing it. For example, managers can commonly grow apart from employees with significant tenure or those that don't need as much development. Also, managers can often find themselves operating in a vacuum, busily engaged in tasks and projects, but failing to make time for their people. They may become invisible to their staff or a particular employee. They may also not spend enough time trying to develop rapport with employees.

Connecting, developing trust, and valuing employees are three key ways managers can drive engagement. In the ongoing quest for an engaged, productive, and high-performing workforce, managers must realize how their everyday actions or lack of action can disengage employees and give them the skills and insights to create an engaged team.

Additional Resources

Management & Leadership Development

ERC offers a range of courses to develop supervisors, middle managers, and leaders including popular topics such as communication, conflict resolution, time and priority management, emotional intelligence, and performance management. 

4 Ways to Become a Manager Employees Want to Follow

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4 Ways to Become a Manager Employees Want to Follow

Are your managers people who your employees want to follow?  Do your managers regularly encounter resistance and wonder why they can't achieve the results they want or why their employees won't follow their lead? More importantly, are employees just following managers because they are the boss, or because they are genuinely inspired and motivated by their leadership?

"Why won't they listen and follow me?" is one of the most common frustrations managers have. Few realize, however, that it takes more than just authority, a position of power, and demands to get people to truly follow you and engage in your vision. Engaged followership is also not something that happens overnight. It takes days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years to position yourself as a trusted, respected, and emotionally intelligent leader that people take pride in following. You earn your followers with your words, actions, and attitudes.

How do you become a manager people want to follow? Start simple. Ask employees these questions on a regular basis.

How are you?

This question conveys that you care not just about the work, but about employees as people. Naturally, employees follow managers who care about them and will resist managers who show indifference to their needs and interests. Managers who take time to have intentional conversations, demonstrate an interest in the people who work for them, and learn about employees as individuals, gain followers. Care elicits trust and trust breeds followers. Here's a quick self-check to determine how well you are showing you care about your people:

  • Do you know your employees' spouses and children's names?
  • Do you know your employee's birthday? 
  • Do you know what your employee does for fun?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal goals are?
  • Do you know what your employee's personal challenges are?
  • Do you ever go above and beyond to help employees with something non-work related?
  • Do you ever call or visit employees to see how things are going at work and personally?

How can I support you?

Do you convey that employees are at work to serve you and help you reach your goals, or do you believe that you are there to serve them and help employees reach their objectives? Asking this question shows that you are focused on serving employees and their needs and not just yourself. Conversely, when employees sense that you are just trying to use them as a means to an end, they usually won't follow you.

Great managers who are followed are those that serve their people by resolving problems and going to great lengths to support their people. They view their role as servants to their followers and not their followers as servants to themselves. This mindset radically changes their behavior as managers. They become more concerned with how they can meet their employees' needs and prioritize those needs above their own.

How can I help you succeed?

People want to work for a winning team. Employees follow managers who make the right decisions and lead them in the right direction. Exceptional managers pave the way for employees' success - not their failure.  They get people from point A to point B.

In order to do this, managers must be effective at managing work and achieving results through others to gain the respect of their followers. Managers who are able to lead and coach their teams and employees with effective problem solving, goal-setting, planning, and management of the work, have team members who want to follow them.

Similarly, managers who help their employees and their teams do better gain followership. Managers who show their employees the right way to work, help them develop their skills and capabilities, redirect them when they do something wrong, and build a competent team gain followers. People follow managers that make them better employees.

What do you think?

People want to follow managers who are interested in their perspectives, suggestions, and involvement. It makes them feel important and purposeful. When invited to contribute to a new project, be involved in creating a new product/service, or asked to provide their views on an issue, employees feel empowered. Managers who consistently ask employees for their opinions, ideas, and involvement and consider a diversity of perspectives can gain lasting followers.

Don't ask these questions just once or even a few times. Keep asking them of your employees (perhaps in different ways) over and over again. They will make employees feel cared for, empowered, worthwhile, and supported -- and those positive feelings will inevitably help turn an average employee into an engaged follower.

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Salary Talk: Tips for Talking About Pay with Employees

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Salary conversations - such as negotiating an offer with a job candidate, confronting an inquiry about a pay increase from a current employee, or dealing with a complaint about pay - can be uncomfortable and difficult for employers. Pay is personal. It affects employees' ability to pay their bills, support themselves, and provide for their families. Salary matters, however, need to be discussed with objectivity and frankness by managers. HR can help facilitate these conversations in the following ways.

In the case of current employees, meet with managers to discuss employees' performance, tenure, skill set, scope of responsibility, and value to the organization. With job candidates, look at their skill set, scope of responsibility, experience and education, the job's value to the organization, and how other employees with similar skills and backgrounds are paid for the position.  Address how pay decisions will affect the team or department as a whole. Will other employees' pay increases be affected by giving an employee a higher pay increase, or will an increase exceed the range for the position? Is the employee eligible for a promotion or could they be transferred to a role with higher pay? How will the new employee's pay compare to other employees in the position? These are all important issues to consider when discussing pay with current employees or job candidates.

Next, understand the organization's needs, including how the organization is performing. If your organization has a strong track record of success and profitability, it may be in a better position to provide higher compensation or a pay raise. Success generally allows organizations to pay employees better. If performance is lagging or has been variable, it may be advisable to limit compensation costs.  Also, consider what the organization wants to reward and how it wants to pay employees relative to other companies.

Help managers talk about pay. Arm managers with the tools, information, and education to understand what is going on in the market relative to employees' compensation. This requires actually understanding the data yourself in order to communicate those trends back to them. Educate managers on the overall market trends for the positions in their department as well as how other companies of similar industry, size, and location are paying their employees. If your organization is truly paying employees fairly and based on the market, there's no reason not to be transparent with the data. Additionally, train managers on your organization's pay philosophy and compensation systems. Make sure they understand why your organization pays employees the way they do, the many issues that factor into pay decisions, the latitude they have in making decisions about pay (if any), and how to discuss employees' total compensation (i.e. benefits, rewards, etc.). Teach them how to explain to employees how they can earn a pay increase (i.e. gaining a promotion, enhancing skills, improving performance) in the future or provide alternative rewards if pay can't be adjusted. The trick to having pay discussions is to be able to justify your decisions and present options.

On a final note, recognize that compensation complaints are often the symptom of a larger problem in the employee's job or the workplace. Ask yourself if pay is really the issue because compensation is rarely a driver of engagement for happy, passionate, and motivated employees unless pay is perceived to be so unfair that it creates a major problem related to job satisfaction. Keep in mind that it will usually take much more compensation to satisfy an employee who is a poor fit for the job, has a bad manager, or is unhappy in the workplace. It may be worthwhile to explore these areas before considering changing their pay.

Additional Resources

Survey Information
Use ERC's compensation surveys to determine how other local employers are paying employees of all levels, from hourly to salaried to executive jobs. Click here to see our upcoming surveys schedule.

HR University
HR University is a comprehensive course for those who are newer to the HR profession or those who have limited experience or realize it is time for a refresher which covers topics including compensation and benefit plan design, performance management, staffing, and more. Click here for more information or to register for this series which begins April 26th.

The 8 Defining Qualities of Top Talent

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Over the years, ERC has researched what distinguishes a top performer from an average performer based on employers' perspectives. The results are strikingly consistent across industries and sizes. Regardless of the organization type, most employers define top performers very similarly and are looking for the same types of characteristics and behaviors in their employees.

What makes top talent different from average talent? Typically, these eight key qualities. 

1. They achieve results.

Top performers consistently achieve results and make positive contributions to their organizations. They "wow" customers, produce quality work, improve productivity, make good decisions, and model the right behaviors that lead to their success. They remain committed to excelling at their work despite challenges, and try different ideas and strategies to improve their results.

2. They're a go-to person.

Top performers are sought-after employees in the organization - not only because of their impressive knowledge and talents, but because they are easy to work with and dependable. They tend to be well-respected and valued by others in the organization for their abilities, insights, and perhaps creativity. They are often technical and functional experts that others can rely on to do the work well. They know their stuff and have a good reputation. They help other employees solve their problems.

3. They go above and beyond.

This is the classic differentiator of a top performer. Top talent do more than is expected and required in small and large ways. They seek opportunities to expand their responsibilities, challenge and develop themselves, and go above and beyond their jobs and to meet others' needs - including those of their coworkers and customers. They also typically perform above goals and standards.

4. They take initiative.

Top performers don't wait for someone to tell them to do a task. They begin new assignments before they are told, look for work to fill spare time, explore ways to solve problems or challenges, see new opportunities, volunteer for extra tasks, and can work well with little supervision.  They anticipate what needs to be done and make suggestions for how to add value, do things better, and work more efficiently. They act like a leader even when it may not be their job.

5. They're self-motivated.

Top performers usually don't need to be motivated in order to get the job done and done well. Their motivation is self-driven. They know their passions, interests, and priorities and pursue work that aligns with those. They typically have a purpose, set their goals high, and are persistent in reaching them. Their self-motivation fuels lifelong learning and development. They don't need to be told to develop skills because they usually are already taking steps to make themselves more valuable to the organization.

6. They think big-picture.

Unlike average performers, you can count on top performers to "get it." They strive to understand the organization's direction and goals and think beyond their immediate job. They may suggest enhancements to other areas of the organization, help coworkers or other departments, and align their personal objectives and priorities with those of the organization. They display an interest in helping the organization move forward and ask for opportunities to impact the organization.

7. They are a team player.

Top performers get along with others. They are able to collaborate with their colleagues and are cooperative with the needs of their team and organization, showing adaptability and flexibility to change and openness to others' views. They care about and are willing to pitch in and help their colleagues. They can balance both team and individual priorities. Top performers cultivate positive relationships with coworkers and customers, actively participate, communicate constructively, and are consistent and reliable.

8. They have integrity.

Great performers have integrity, and as a result, can be trusted by their peers and superiors. They can be counted on to exhibit the highest degree of ethics and honesty. They communicate and act with sincerity and dependability, saying what they mean and meaning what they say and doing what they say they will do. People consider them to be genuine individuals with the right motives.

If you're trying to achieve great things at your organization, it's critically important to hire and keep top performers with these qualities. Once you have the right people on the bus, you'll find that your organization spends less time managing performance and more time enabling it, less time disciplining and more time developing, and less time creating and enforcing policies and more time building a culture that attracts and keeps the best people.

Additional Resources

NorthCoast 99
NorthCoast 99 is an annual recognition program that honors 99 great workplaces for top talent in Northeast Ohio. If your organization is interested in being recognized as a best place to work in 2012 and thinks it excels at attracting and retaining top performers, please click here to begin your application today and join us for a free informative program to kick off this year's application process. 

Benchmark Reports
Interested in targeted metrics for top performers and benchmarking how your organization's practices for attracting and retaining top talent compare to others in the region? Please take a look at our benchmark reports which provide tons of information on great workplaces and top performers.

Staffing & Recruitment Services
Looking for better ways to source and select top talent and help finding exceptional performers? Consider using ERC's consulting and assessment services. Additionally, our network of Preferred Partners provides several discounts and cost savings on staffing and recruitment services that can help your organization save money.

Just Promoted to Supervisor? Here's What to Know About New Manager Training

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training for new managers supervisors New Supervisor New Manager Training

Every organization faces the challenge of new manager training: transitioning an employee from team player to team leader. This transition from employee to supervisor is one of the hardest an employee must make in their career. After the promotion occurs, what should you do to make sure the transition goes smoothly and that your new supervisor is successful in their new role?

One best practice is to approach the transition like you would on-board a new employee. Would you expect your new employee to learn by trial and error? Probably not. Like a new employee, anticipate that new supervisors need both initial and on-going training and support to perform their new role and responsibilities. Similar to on-boarding, the more you develop your employee upfront, the less redirection is needed later. Here are some suggestions.

1. Clarify expectations and priorities.

Most new supervisors have little clarity regarding what their priorities and expectations should be in their new role and aren't prepared to be effective in their new role. As a first step, spend time discussing their new responsibilities and performance expectations and how these have changed from their previous role.

2. Discuss your organization's management philosophy.

Every organization has management norms and a certain style of leadership that supports its culture, so it's important to discuss with your new supervisor how your organization expects employees to be managed. This helps ensure that employees are supervised consistently throughout the organization.

3. Schedule them for new manager training sooner than later.

Schedule employees for supervisory training as close to the time of promotion as possible or even prior to the transition, particularly for softer skills (i.e. communication, conflict management, etc.). Make sure new supervisors are set-up with the most critical baseline skills they need to be successful on the job. This will minimize common new supervisor mistakes.

4. Brief them on managerial procedures.

Administering a performance review, conducting a write-up, handling employee leave, or dealing with a grievance are just a few of many complicated issues in which your new supervisor has never been exposed. Make sure supervisors are knowledgeable about correct procedures to handle these issues and can access the proper paperwork and guidance.

5. Coach them on critical conversations.

Your supervisor will soon find themselves in tricky situations such as dealing with an underperforming employee, high-performing but dissatisfied employee, employee who comes to work late, or a team that isn't working together. These situations require difficult conversations and often require new manger training. Consider counseling and role-playing with them on the right and wrong things to say in these conversations and how to handle and mitigate common employee problems.

6. Provide time to interact with other managers.

One of the best ways for your new supervisor to learn the ropes of management is to spend time with other experienced managers and excellent leadership role models who can encourage and guide them, listen to their challenges and frustrations, and help them learn through their own experiences.

7. Encourage self-awareness.

It's unlikely that your newly promoted employee has ever considered how their interpersonal style helps or impedes their effectiveness. As soon as they start managing people, however, the quirks of their interpersonal styles (how they deal with conflict, their communication preferences, their personality, etc.) become apparent. Provide tools to help them become more aware of their style and behavior and flex it to meet others' needs and become a more effective manager.

8. Redirect their natural reflexes.

Every new supervisor experiences some natural reflexes—including the urge to do the work themselves and impose their ways of doing things on others without building consensus or asking for input. New supervisors will need to be encouraged to fight their natural reflexes to go back to the tactics that made them successful in their prior role.

9. Suggest resources.

Recommend books, tools, articles, blogs, job aids, and other tools for your new supervisor to access in order to become a better manager. Better yet, create a library of these resources at your organization. This will also help your other managers in their on-going management development.

10. Observe their transition to identify additional areas of development.

In their first few weeks and months on the job, observe how their transition is going. Specific issues to observe may include how much (or little) they are delegating, how they are interacting with their employees, and their team's performance. Talk to the new supervisor and employees on the supervisor's team to gather additional feedback. If you notice issues early on and correct them, it's unlikely that they will escalate.

You can never fully prepare managers for all of the challenges they will face, but by providing training, guidance, and support to supervisors before they hit the front-lines you can set them up to succeed as new leaders.

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

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