12 Tips for the 2012 Workplace

The new year is just a few short days away, and it brings with it a number of challenges and opportunities to enhance your workplace. Here are 12 things to consider as your business heads into 2012.

1. Proactively manage the legal landscape

The legal landscape is becoming more complicated to navigate and employers are increasingly being hit hard with expensive fines and discrimination charges, per a recent report which noted a record number of discrimination charges and fines filed by the EEOC. Discrimination against the unemployed and disabled as well age discrimination are just a few pressing issues the government will be targeting in 2012 that employers should note.

2. Change your hiring strategies

Can’t find the talent you need? The current skills shortage is not expected to change anytime soon, so consider rethinking how you’re hiring. Perhaps your skill and experience requirements may be inadvertently screening out potentially great top performers that fit your culture and have growth potential. Or, you may need to explore different sourcing and branding tactics to attract the talent you need.

3. Focus on top performance

Make creating a better performance management system and approach one of your strategic priorities in 2012. Additionally, build your managers’ abilities to execute results and manage/support employees’ performance. A solid approach to performance management will increase the likelihood that your organization has a successful year.

4. Develop leaders

2011 was a year in which many organizations focused their efforts on leadership and management development and 2012 will be no exception. Organizations are increasingly growing their internal talent, preparing them for their next roles, and ensuring that their businesses have appropriate succession in place.

5. Keep a watchful eye on employee benefits

Employee benefits regulations are changing – and not just surrounding health insurance. Changes to retirement plans, family leave, and sick time are all issues the government has explored in the past year and will continue to target in 2012. Make sure your organization is prepared for the trends that will affect employee benefits in the coming year.

6. Create a long-term wellness strategy

Health care costs will remain a major challenge for employers in 2012. One-off wellness initiatives or activities will not suffice in managing costs effectively, so it’s advisable to create a long-term wellness strategy, based on the needs of your workforce, that will help your organization better manage health care costs and usage for years down the road.

7. Leverage social media

In 2011, the use of social media rapidly rose in the workplace. If your HR department hasn’t started to leverage the power of social media tools yet, it may be missing out on opportunities to find exceptional talent and boost learning and development – not to mention help your own career. Mastery of social media is, without question, an HR competency you’ll need for future success.

8. Manage the effects of change

During the past few years, many organizations have moved towards leaner workforces and processes, but few have managed how those changes have adversely affected employees and their cultures. Use 2012 to deal with the effects that these changes have caused on the workforce, redefine your culture, and re-establish your organization’s direction.

9. Use HR analytics and technology

HR metrics, analytics, and technology have become the gateways to creating a more efficient and effective HR department. Relook at what your department is tracking and the systems it is using. Chances are that you can leverage open-source systems, cloud technology, and other tools to automate processes and improve internal customer service.

10. Enhance global competencies

Global competencies are a sought-after skill by employers as they expand their markets globally. Whether its managing expatriates and bilingual employees, identifying legal risks abroad, or determining what to pay your global employees, as your organization expands globally, it will be critical for HR to enhance its organization’s capacity to manage global talent in 2012.

11. Make retention and engagement of top people a priority

Hopefully your organization emerged from 2011 with its top talent intact and engaged. If not, use the beginning of 2012 to create a strategy to retain your workforce and ignite engagement. Nip the problem in the bud quickly, otherwise, you could face unintended consequences of disengaged employees and high turnover throughout the next year.

12. Do your part for the region

Whether it’s hiring an intern or a recent college grad from a local university, providing an opportunity to an unemployed individual, or giving back to one of our community’s non-profits, do your part to improve economic development in our region and support our local communities.

 

Additional Resources

Leadership & Management Development Training
ERC offers a variety of training programs for leaders at all levels of the organization, from executive to mid-level manager to first time managers and supervisors. Our leadership development programs help move leaders from the traditional command and control role of judging and evaluating, to one of ensuring accountability through creating a supportive and motivating work environment.

HR Consulting
For assistance with various HR projects in 2012, including but not limited to, performance management system design, organizational design and development, HR metrics, employee engagement surveys, succession planning, and more, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Checklist to Select Employees for Promotions & Leadership Training

leadership training select employees

Whether you are determining who to promote at the end of the year or creating a leadership development/training program or strategy, the most critical task is selecting the right employees. Your organization wants to be sure that it trains, develops, and promotes employees that are the most likely to succeed in leadership roles. We’ve developed a short checklist you can use to select employees for promotions or participation in a leadership development program.

1. Are they a top performer?

Participants in your leadership development program should be your top performers. If employees can’t perform well in their current role, they likely won’t perform well at the next level. That being said, know the attributes and characteristics of your top performers throughout the organization and at every level.

Understanding what defines a top performer at the entry, mid, manager, and leadership levels will help make selecting the right employees that much easier.

Keep in mind, however, that just because the individual may be a top performer, doesn’t automatically mean they have potential for a leadership position.

2. Do they have potential…and for what?

Next you should ask yourself if this employee has potential for a position besides their current role and for what specifically. There are several different types of potential and classifying employees into different levels of potential helps determine the level of potential the employee has – such as the ability to move laterally, one level up, or multiple levels up.

It also helps prioritize who your organization should develop, into what roles, and the promotions for which they should be considered. Consider these levels as an example:

  • No potential: The employee performs well in their current role, but does not have potential to move laterally or upward.
  • Lateral potential: The employee is able to move into other positions at same level.
  • Potential: The employee could be promoted within 2-3 years to the next level, such as a manager or supervisor.
  • High potential: The employee could be promoted within less than 1 year or make multiple moves upward in the next 5 years. The employee has the level of potential to be promoted at least two levels beyond their current level to a leadership or top management role.

3. Do they have the requisite knowledge and ability?

In order to create a leadership development program, you need to determine what employees already know. Make a list of the required knowledge and abilities. Evaluate employees’ education level, training history, experience, and job knowledge as well as the knowledge requirements of the role for which they are being considered.

Compare the abilities they have already demonstrated on the job and the abilities they need to perform in a different or higher role in the organization.

If employees have too many knowledge and ability gaps, they may not be the right candidates for leadership development unless they have tremendous learning agility.

4. Do they have the desire and ability to learn?

Ideal candidates for leadership development show an openness to learn and change their behavior over time. They also are able to receive constructive feedback and coaching and use it to grow their skills.

They seek opportunities to develop their knowledge and abilities, often without being encouraged or told to do so and use challenges and setbacks as learning tools.

Finally, they have the capacity to learn concepts quickly, fit those concepts together, and apply them to their work.

5. Are their motives and interests aligned?

Not all employees want higher positions. Some of your top performers may have already reached their potential and are satisfied with their current positions and achievements. Likewise, some employees may want to advance their career for the wrong reasons.

Those that desire merely status, authority, and more compensation generally don’t have the right motives for leadership, whereas those that seek to develop others and serve the mission of the organization may be better candidates. Be mindful of both employees’ motives and interests when selecting them for leadership development.

6. Are they well-respected by others and considered team-players?

Consider how respected and liked the employees are within the organization by their coworkers, supervisor, and other individuals.

Employees need not be everyone’s best-friend, but they must be individuals that can develop positive relationships with other employees and are team-players that others respect and trust. If they aren’t, they may have difficulties in a future leadership role when relationship building and maintenance is crucial to their success.

7. Do they have courage?

Lastly, the best employees for promotions and leadership development have courage – to take risks, think outside the box, overcome obstacles, and challenge their fellow employees to push and develop themselves. These employees have a “do whatever it takes” mindset and are committed to taking the organization to new levels.

By not spending adequate time evaluating your candidates for promotions or leadership development initiatives at least by these basic criteria, you may be wasting resources on the wrong people. Before your organization decides to send your employee to leadership development or promote them to a new role, be sure to use this checklist.

Leadership Development Training Programs

Leadership Development Training

ERC offers a variety of leadership development training programs at all levels of the organization, from senior leadership teams to mid-level managers to first time managers and supervisors.

Train Your Employees

4 Signs of a Struggling Manager

Employers frequently find themselves unaware of struggling managers before they end up causing deep-seated issues in departments like turnover, distrust, disengagement, and under-performance. Here are 4 observable and measurable ways that you can determine whether your managers are struggling on the job before it’s too late.

1. Morale shift.

Take a look at the morale of the department and you can tell who is an effective manager and who isn’t. For example, are employees engaged or just going through the motions? Do employees seem happy? Has there been a marked shift in attitude? Do employees feel valued and appreciated? Is there a strong team atmosphere or is collaboration lacking? That’s not to say that other organizational factors may not influence morale, but a manager can strongly influence morale even in spite of these factors if they are doing their job right.

2. Level of interaction.

How often do managers interact with their employees to communicate, provide feedback, thank or praise them, and learn about them as individuals? Do you ever see managers working side by side with their employees? If one-on-one interaction does not occur at least weekly (or better yet – daily), this may be a symptom of a problem. Be wary of the manager that hides out in their office for hours at a time or spends 90% of their time in meetings as they are probably not spending enough time interacting with their employees.

3. By the numbers.

Numbers usually illuminate a struggling manager better than anything else. For example, how many individuals have gotten recognized by their manager in the past year? What do promotion and internal mobility rates look like within the department? Are employees reaching their goals? How many employees received improved performance ratings from last year? What was the average pay raise or bonus in the manager’s department or work group? How much time are employees spending on development? These are just a few of many numbers and HR metrics that can tell you which managers may be less effective than others.

4. Work systems.

The most prevalent way that you can identify who may need help with management is by taking a look at their systems or symptoms of system issues. For example, if employees are confused about expectations, directions, or work assignments; working plenty of extra hours or overtime to get their job done; or report not having the resources to get their jobs done, there’s probably a problem with the manager’s systems of managing work.  Similarly, if employees don’t seem challenged, act bored, or feel micromanaged, there’s likely an issue with the manager’s approach to delegation.

So before management problems get the best of your organization, be sure you’re observing and measuring these things to determine whether some of your managers could do their jobs more effectively.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series

This series provides participants with practical skills, tools, and strategies to advance their supervisory skills, enhance their effectiveness as supervisors, lead employees with confidence, and execute results. Specifically, participants will learn how to lead and manage change, build and work with teams, and manage generational differences and diversity. They will also explore the skills of problem solving and decision making as well as managing day-to-day work through delegating, planning, and managing time.

4 Ways to Manage Employees’ Needs

We often define quality of managers by how they make us feel – how they energize and move us through encouragement, support, and inspiration. As a manager, your role is similar to an essential energy source – feeding employees’ needs and sustaining your team’s motivation. Knowing how to energize and motivate your employees requires addressing (4) of their most basic needs.

1. Am I supporting my employees’ physical well-being?

At the most fundamental level, employees need to feel that their managers care about their well-being. Employees’ most basic physical needs, such as rest, fitness, and proper nutrition, support physical health and the energy employees need to perform well. These are all needs which a manager can support through reasonable working conditions, adequate concern for well-being, and an appropriate level of consideration for work/life issues. Managers aren’t always cognizant of unmet physical needs. Additionally, they may be unaware of their coercive style’s affect on the physical well-being of employees. Numerous studies now document the correlation between negative management relations and coronary heart disease, poor mental health, among other health conditions.

2. Am I creating and contributing to a positive atmosphere?

Employees work best when there is positive energy in the work environment to meet their emotional and social needs. Employees have a need to belong, be accepted, and feel part of a team. They need a sense of security and to feel supported and respected. What this means for a manager is cultivating an environment that encourages collaboration, teamwork, and support; and striving for minimal conflict and productive working relationships, both with subordinates and among coworkers. It also means understanding that employees need acceptance and acknowledgement from others, and providing recognition. Creating positive energy doesn’t mean not addressing problems, but does mean that these problems are dealt with in a courteous, respectful, and constructive manner.

3. Am I providing enough challenge and mental stimulation?

Next, there are mental needs, which deal with challenge, personal development, and mental stimulation. Employees have needs for continuous intellectual development and cognitive stimulation. When these needs aren’t met, employees tend to become stagnant, bored, and eventually dissatisfied. Managers can support mental needs by providing intellectual challenge and opportunities for employees to expand current knowledge and thought processes; increasing employees’ ability to work creatively and independently; and offering continuous opportunities to grow new skills. Managers who energize and stretch the minds of their employees foster higher levels of engagement.

4. Do my employees understand that their work matters?

Finally, beyond mental needs, are self-actualized needs. These needs including finding meaning in our work, feeling fulfilled and that we’re making a difference, taking pride in our work and what we do, and being able to see how it impacts others and those we serve. Sometimes employees can’t see the big picture or lose sight of the mission. For these reasons, managers need to define purpose, show employees’ how their work matters, illustrate how it makes an impact, and connect individual goals and contributions to the department and organization. Employees have a basic need to understand that their work matters and is important. This purpose fuels their motivation.

There are many well-documented adverse effects that can occur when these needs go unfulfilled in the workplace. Because these needs directly impact on the energy and motivation of our workforce, as managers, we need to understand the importance of helping employees’ meet these basic needs to energize and motivate our teams.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching.

Management & Leadership DevelopmentERC offers several courses in management and leadership development on topics related to communication, conflict management, performance management, project management, problem solving and general leadership. These courses can also be customized to your organization’s unique needs. For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

5 Common Types of New Leaders

5 Common Types of New Leaders

Some employees aspiring to be managers or leaders struggle at first when they take on these new roles. Here are 5 common types of employees that grapple with management and leadership responsibilities, and suggestions for how to help them in their roles.

1. The high-achiever

Characteristics:

This is a leader who excelled at their previous roles, but is fearful of taking on more responsibility outside of their comfort zone. Their anxiety about performance tends to get in the way of their effectiveness, especially in leadership roles.

They can tend to get too caught up in tasks, believe that nobody can do the job as well as them, fail to distinguish between urgent and less important priorities, obsess about how they compare to others, take few risks, and starve themselves of personal growth into new areas because of their fears of failing.

While their style may have been effective in previous roles, when they move into management or leadership roles, they find themselves frustrated, unable to produce, and under-confident in their new jobs.

How to develop:

Unfortunately, this individual will need to experience failure and adversity to grow, even though it may be a difficult experience for them. That’s part of being a leader.

They should be challenged to grow personally, even if just incrementally over time. Expose this employee to new things gradually—not all at once.

Help them develop strategies to attain high performance in their new role because achievement is important to these employees. Praise them as they grow in their new role and have small successes. This will help develop confidence that they can perform well as a leader.

2. The technical expert

Characteristics:

This individual has solid technical strengths for which they were promoted into a management leadership role, perhaps in mathematics, IT, or engineering.

The technical expert, however, over-relies on their technical skills (often because they enjoy using these skills) which are less important in their new role.

Their technical strengths are so strong, that they may lack soft-skills or view them as less important to leading others than technical competencies. They tend to struggle with communicating, developing and training employees, and delivering results through others. While they are well-respected for their technical competence and are a rich resource of knowledge, they tend to struggle with imparting this knowledge on others that they manage or lead. They also may have trouble building a team and achieving the same results through others.

How to develop:

This individual may need to weaned off their technical tasks gradually. Having them let go of all of their technical responsibilities too quickly may lead to disengagement in their new role.

Help them share technical knowledge with their staff, through knowledge sharing tools, processes, and interactions (such as mentoring, training, etc.).

Knowledge and expertise may be so engrained in these employees that you will have to explore tasks thoroughly. Lastly, spend more time training them on soft skills, especially communication, team-building, and engaging others.

3. The overconfident manager

Characteristics:

These employees may be less receptive to learning how to lead, thinking that they know “all there is to know” about leadership. They may have even already had some management or leadership experience, and are usually charismatic, out-going, and dominant, but their confidence tends to get in the way of their success.

Frequently, over-confidence may lead these types of employees to exert too much command and control, be too bossy, and focus less on participation and collaboration with their teams.

They tend to like to receive credit for their team’s accomplishments, but may push blame for failures on others. They may try to gain influence by using their title or status, and not by engaging others. They like holding power and authority, sometimes to a fault, which can lead to micromanagement.

How to develop:

This individual benefits from successful role models who display appropriate leadership behaviors, such as senior leaders. Usually their approach to leadership stems from how they’ve been managed in the past or inaccurate perceptions of how leaders should act, so showing them other ways of leading can be helpful—especially if it’s a prominent person in the organization whom they respect.

Experiential learning and training is also crucial for these employees, who often need to see the negative results of their actions and behaviors. Employee feedback (such as an employee survey or 360) may also help the leader understand how their actions affect the engagement and perceptions of their staff.

4. The friend

Characteristics:

This is a leader that is congenial, well-liked, and has above average soft-skills. They are extremely supportive of their employees and approach management interactions more like coworker relationships. This individual refrains from having tough or crucial conversations with their employees and fails to acknowledge or manage conflict, frequently avoiding it altogether.

They often don’t manage performance well, and put up with poor results to maintain a positive relationship. In essence, they focus on being their employees’ friend, rather than their manager or leader. 

In fact, some of these leaders may be managing previous coworkers or friends of theirs. They may even engage in behaviors that are considered unprofessional for a leader, such as participating in informal social activities, becoming Facebook friends with their subordinates, or gossiping about other employees.

How to develop:

This individual doesn’t necessarily need training in soft skills, but does need training on core management principles, such as performance management, feedback, and conflict management.

These will be uncomfortable topics for this individual that you may need to address multiple times.

They may also need to be coached on how to balance creating supportive relationships and interactions with their employees with results and getting the job done.  Some will also need to better understand the role of the leader and how to act professionally with their employees.

5. The inexperienced

Characteristics:

Perhaps this is a young employee, a “high potential,” or an individual with no experience supervising or managing others. It’s not that this employee is a bad leader per say, they just don’t have the knowledge, skill, or experience yet to lead. Usually these types of leaders are promoted into leadership roles by necessity or because they have exceptional talents and potential that the organization finds valuable. If promoted before well-groomed, expect these employees to make mistakes—and lots of them.

How to develop:

This individual should usually be developed into a leadership role over time, rather than promoted and then trained. They may benefit from not only management and leadership development programs and curriculum, but also mentorship.

Through mentoring relationships with other leaders and managers, these individuals will learn from those that have plenty of experience managing and leading others, which can balance out their experience gaps.

These individuals will need on-going development as they grow into leaders—not just an initial training program.

Whether your current or aspiring leader is a high-achiever, technical expert, overconfident manager, friend, inexperienced, or a combination of any of these, learn to recognize the challenges your employees face in new management and leadership roles and provide them support to not only help them be more successful, but also enjoy their new roles.

Leadership Development Training Programs

Leadership Development Training

ERC offers a variety of leadership development training programs at all levels of the organization, from senior leadership teams to mid-level managers to first time managers and supervisors.

Train Your Employees

20 Tips for Managing Young Employees

We hire them for their fresh knowledge, strong technical skills, and growth potential, but managing young people effectively requires a different strategy than some of your other employees, given their lack of business and work experience. Here are 20 tips for managing young workers.

   1.  Help them transition from college to work. Transitioning from student to employee can be a time of confusion, anxiety, exploration, and excitement. Recognize that each employee handles this transition differently and requires a different level of support from your organization. Think of ways that you can support your new employee in this time of change, whether that’s help with relocation or financial support for continuing education.

2.    Assign them to the right manager.  A young employee needs the right type of manager – one that enjoys teaching, mentoring, developing, and spending time interacting with their employees, since this is the focus of their interests. They also need a manager who is a strong communicator, isn’t afraid to provide frequent feedback, and values employee ideas and suggestions. Your traditional or untrained managers may not be the right fit for a young employee.

3.    Create a good on-boarding program. While it may be tempting to drop your young employee into an assignment right away with limited training, young employees usually need a more detailed and lengthy on-boarding experience to get started on the right foot. Spend the time up-front to make sure they are well-trained to carry out their job responsibilities, understand the business and its products/services, and are comfortable with your operating procedures.

4.    Fill the experience gap by providing just that: experiences. Job experiences should be many and varied and the employee needs to be involved in actually doing the work. Some managers are resistant to putting a younger employee on a more challenging project because of their lack of experience; however, recognize that the employee will only be as valuable to your organization as you let them be. With the right amount of task structure and supervision, potential risks can be minimized.

5.    Invest in them early. Make sacrifices in productivity early on to develop skill gaps in your young employees. Top organizations invest in young employees early in their career – and oftentimes right from the day one. They assess skill gaps right away, lay out structured development plans, and focus heavily on training and development in their first few years – sometimes even in lieu of a full workload. Once the right foundation has been laid, these organizations find that young workers are better equipped to contribute at a higher level later in their careers.  

6.    Give them attention. Young workers know that they have a lot to learn from others and expect more attention from their boss as a result. They don’t necessarily want autonomy, especially if they aren’t skilled yet at their job tasks. Once they become skilled, autonomy may become more valuable to them. They do expect to be heard and want their employers to listen to and value their input.

7.    Provide constant feedback. An annual performance review is not enough performance feedback for your young employees. They like and will need constant feedback as they navigate their tasks and responsibilities. They will also need affirmation as they progress. Managers should meet with young employees often for these purposes.

8.    Re-think how work is done. Younger employees don’t always approach work and life separately and may see these as blended and integrated. This may result in use of work time for personal affairs and use of personal time for work. As a result, they may be more productive working at home or using a flexible schedule.

9.    Provide variety. Young workers typically have a short attention span. They thrive on variety and change and may be your strongest change-agents.  They are usually most productive when working on short-term projects and quick tasks, or longer projects that are broken down into smaller tasks or phases.

10.  Use them for their strengths. They may not be your most perfect assets from the start. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll see the effects of their inexperience over time, but their energy, fresh knowledge, willingness to learn, growth potential, and creativity are all valuable to your organization and likely reasons for which you hired them. Use them with these strengths in mind, and over time with good direction and development, the rest with usually come.

11.  Offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities. Growing research shows that many young people want to be entrepreneurs. To keep their fresh, new, and great ideas inside your organization, allow or offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities – projects or opportunities that allow them to create or be involved in the creation of a new product, service, or start-up scenarios. Use their entrepreneurial spirit for your benefit.

12.  Be or give them a mentor. An experienced mentor can help young employees learn from experiences that they haven’t had and provide an objective sounding board for career discussions and work problems. They can also suggest or help facilitate developmental activities. A mentor could be another individual in the organization (perhaps a top performer), a leader, or the employee’s supervisor. Typically a mentor is 1-2 levels above the employee.

13.  Show them clear, defined career paths. Young employees are focused on advancement. They want to know their career options and work towards a specific career goal. If your organization doesn’t have clear career paths, discuss alternative career and developmental opportunities in the organization and show examples of how other young people have advanced.

14.  Monitor workload. Young workers don’t know what their limits are yet and are eager to take on new projects and responsibilities. They also don’t feel as safe saying no to additional responsibilities because they lack experience. Similarly, keep in mind that young people are not always skilled at managing their time and prioritizing work.

15.  Emphasize professionalism. Young employees may not be educated on the right ways to conduct themselves in a workplace setting. Expect that they may not know the basics like how to lead a conference call, create a meeting agenda, network, manage a project, general business/email etiquette, or more touchy subjects like handling emotions, hygiene, and dress in the workplace.

16.  Choose and monitor work events carefully especially if there is alcohol involved. After-work outings, happy-hour events, and other social gatherings are a great way to attract and engage young employees, but consider limiting alcohol consumption, choosing locations that minimize risk, setting ground rules, and dealing with inappropriate behavior on-the-spot to avoid liabilities.

17.  Differentiate between friends and coworkers. It’s not that friendships in the workplace are bad (in fact, they can be very positive), but young workers have a tendency to view their coworkers as friends more than other employees. These relationships can get too personal and may be inappropriate (i.e. dating relationships), depending on your policies. Plus, when friends start getting promoted and managing one another, these relationships can pose problems.

18.  Explain key policies. Hone in on certain policies with young people such as dress code, attendance, harassment, substance abuse, and social media/internet usage, and specifically what actions are unacceptable in the workplace and the consequences of those behaviors.  What was acceptable in college isn’t always acceptable in the workplace, and some young employees miss these differences.

19.  Provide benefits education. Young workers usually lack knowledge about their benefits – how health and dental insurance works, how much to contribute to their 401K, if they should use a flexible spending account, what an employee assistance program provides, etc. They may also need some help with financial planning such as paying off student loans, saving for a house, budgeting, to name a few. Spend additional time discussing benefits with your younger employees and provide financial planning resources.

20.  Be an example. Young people will emulate who you are. They will view you as a model for their behavior, copying your actions and words. In their first days and months, they are attuned to the norms of workplace behavior and will take on positive and negative behaviors they observe in their work environment. Recognize their malleable nature and use this time to mold them in positive ways.

Additional Resources

 Training for Your Young Professionals

This can’t-miss, two-part series for your organization’s young professionals, covers communication skills, professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, and the traits of a strong leader.

Mid-Level Manager Training

3 Lessons for Managers

As managers, most problems stem from what you don’t say, what you say, and how you say it.  Here are three (3) important lessons to help you deal with these inevitable communication issues that take place within your team.

1. What You Don’t Say

Have you considered how what you don’t say can affect the performance of your staff? Lack of clarity can exist when expectations suddenly change, goals aren’t defined, the team’s direction isn’t clear, or the specific results that you want were not communicated well. People don’t know how to get where you want them to be if you don’t tell them.

Clarity also includes omissions – what you don’t say – such as not communicating the “why” or rationale behind decisions. Depending on the decision, a lack of “why” can generate unproductive anxiety and resistance. Employees begin to fill in cracks of information with their own perceptions and suspicions. People may believe that you don’t trust them, or rather, they lose trust in you.

Omissions can also occur in other daily interactions – when you don’t say thank you, give praise, say hello each day, or take an interest in your team. People quickly jump to conclusions that they aren’t appreciated, liked, or supported.

2. What You Say

What you say to your team is significant. The language you choose – its appropriateness, honesty, specificity, and professionalism – can send a variety of messages. It can be the difference in whether an employee perceives their work environment to be hostile or supportive, so tread carefully with the words you choose.

For example, we may feel the need to direct or dictate all the answers to ensure that our agendas or results get met.  But dictating makes people feel powerless and may send the message that you don’t think they are smart or talented enough to come up with the solutions themselves. Coaching, however, helps employees learn how to solve problems and manage themselves by using questions to guide employees through problems and find their own answers.

Also, saying too much can damage our effectiveness. Dominating conversation and not asking for employees’ feedback or input or considering their points of view are all ways we may say too much. We may send the message that their opinions and ideas don’t matter, or that we value our own views more than theirs.

Additionally, avoid emotional language and dishonesty – two issues that get many managers in trouble. Inevitably, you’ll find yourself in a conversation with an employee and may be tempted to get angry or use inappropriate language to convey your viewpoint. Maintain a calm demeanor and deal with the issue constructively. Finally, while some lies and partial truths may have good intentions and you may believe that you are protecting the employee, lying can have devastating consequences for your credibility as a manager. Don’t tell employees one thing, then do another. You’ll lose the trust you need to get things done and ruin your relationships in the process.

3. How You Say It

As a manager, problems frequently stem not from what you said, but how you said it. Consider how your non-verbals (body language, tone, emotion, eye contact, etc.), communication style, and level of interest affects your team’s productivity and performance. Did your impatient or intimidating tone, poor attitude, silent treatment, closed-off body language, or frequently closed door send negative messages to your team?  Did you listen well to your employee or did you ignore their viewpoint? Did your non-verbals match the message you were trying to send? Also, be aware of your attitude’s impact on your team: bad day for you, bad day for them. Moods have been found to influence productivity, morale, and engagement.

Similarly, the communication styles of your team are likely diverse.  One employee may respond well to oral directions, while another may need written directions or process diagrams. One-size does not fit all when it comes to communicating with your employees so either cater to the styles of your team by responding differently with each individual or communicate the same information using different forms (such as an email and in-person meeting). If you don’t know the style of your team, ask them about their preferred communication preferences or observe how they respond to different forms of communication. But always remember to handle sensitive issues in-person.

Great managers know that solid communication practices can make or break their team’s performance and their relationships with their team members, so always consider what you say, what you don’t say, and how you say it.

Additional Resources

ERC Supervisory Training

Training for Communication Skills ERC offers and specializes in a variety of training in communication and management/ supervisory topics. Many of these topics are available in our Workplace Center and on-site, customized to your organization’s needs. For more information about these offerings, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

Three-Quarters of Employers Offer Supervisory/Management Training

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 Common Management Challenges

Communication, management of conflict and performance, and management of potential liabilities are all challenges managers experience. Here are some practical ways to deal with these common management challenges and support and develop your managers.

Communicate.

Managers are frequently not aware of the quality of their communication about expectations, changes, procedures, and other work-related issues, or how their communication or interpersonal style is perceived by their employees. Help managers understand their unique communication and interpersonal style and how to “flex” this style in different situations. Provide managers with communication templates, scripts, tips, or checklists. Engage in role-play or dialogue with the manager to help them practice their skills and identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, educate managers on common communication breakdowns and how to avoid them and encourage managers to notice signs of communication problems (misunderstandings, consistent performance problems, etc.). When all else fails, provide a personal coach if communication problems persist

Resolve conflict.

Many managers ignore problems and do not address conflicts with their employees or work team directly. Whether these are performance problems, conflicts among team members, issues of trust, or personality clashes, managers are challenged to confront and address problems head-on and as they emerge, diffuse employees’ feelings and emotions about the problem, listen to both parties’ needs and desires, derive win-win solutions that lead to more productive and positive work relations, and prevent conflict in the future by nurturing positive coworker relationships and recognizing potential for conflict or problems early.

Manage performance.

Managers must balance meeting goals, managing workloads, and motivating employees. These issues coupled with the fact that many managers are ill-equipped to provide regular and constructive feedback and may not understand the importance of documenting performance can make managing performance challenging. To support them, build on-going performance feedback into the performance management process to ensure accountability. Create an easy method for managers to document performance like a database, log, or diary. Provide support tools for managers such as rewards, recognition, training, and development to recognize and build performance. Most importantly, train managers in topics such as performance management, coaching, and feedback since many will have had no experience with these.

Handle protected employees.

Most managers are not well-versed in administering ADA, FMLA, and other laws that protect certain groups of employees, but unknowingly find themselves managing an employee that requires an accommodation, leave of absence, or falls into a protected class. These situations need to be handled delicately due to their legal nature, so make managers aware of:

  • Legal basics such as conditions or disabilities that are protected
  • How to determine essential functions and reasonable accommodations
  • Requirements associated with FMLA (eligibility, length of time, etc.)
  • Types of employees that are protected under law (gender, race, national origin, etc.)
  • Hiring and interviewing liabilities (questions to ask/not ask, etc.)

Administer policies fairly and consistently.

One of the most common challenges for managers is treating employees fairly and consistently. A manager may allow policies and rules to be disregarded by some employees and not others – or may disregard employment policies altogether. “Stretching” the rules for some employees can open up a range of potential liabilities and perceptions of bias and favoritism that have negative far-reaching affects in the workplace. Be sure to write clear policies and let managers know when changes have been made. Set clear criteria for making employment decisions, particularly where managers need to distinguish between employees (recognition, reward, development, etc.). Also, clearly differentiate between the policies in which managers have discretion to implement and those in which they do not.

Addressing these management challenges sooner then later can prevent your organization from experiencing many problems and liabilities. It’s never too early to ensure that your supervisors and managers have the skills, tools, and support to do their jobs effectively, so if your supervisor is just starting out, consider developing these important skills as soon as possible.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here to register or click here to learn how we can bring this training on-site to your organization.

Strategic Legal Update
Stay up to date on all of the most recent law and policy news with our blog

Coaching & Performance Management Services
ERC offers a full range of services to support your organization’s performance management activities. We also offer one-on-one coaching services to help your build and develop your manager’s skills. For more information about these services, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

4 Ways to Develop and Retain Leaders

4 Ways to Develop and Retain Leaders

Do you have some people in your organization who you might label as “high potential” or perhaps an “emerging leader”? If so, what are you doing to develop and retain those employees? If the answer is “nothing” or you’re not sure what you can or should do, here are a few ideas to consider.

Assess Your Talent.

So your gut tells you that the new college grad that’s been interning for the last year who just accepted your offer to come on full time could be on the fast track to a very successful career. Before you sign her up for every leadership course in town or name her the successor to your CEO, you may want to consider assessing her leadership skills or at least getting some kind of a baseline in terms of her personality, skills, and abilities that you can compare against some benchmarks to see if your gut matches up with actual data. This can help you help your emerging leader understand what her strengths and weaknesses are, how she “ranks” compared to other leaders in your organization or based on whatever benchmarks you use, and can help set a nice baseline on which you can build an individual development plan to help her move forward on that fast track to success.

Assign a Mentor.

The benefits of mentorship programs are well documented, and the benefits to an individual you have labeled as a high potential leader are equally as, if not more, attractive. It’s not only a great way to enhance the development of an employee and more quickly get him familiar with how the organization works and how to make things happen, it can also be a wonderful retention tool.

Invest in Your Talent.

Just because you put seeds in the ground doesn’t mean your garden will grow. It takes a lot of time, care, and feeding to make sure the roots take hold and the flowers blossom. The same is true for your emerging leaders. Just because you’ve identified them as having a lot of potential for growth doesn’t mean they’re going to get there on their own. It takes an ongoing investment of time, training, and resources to make sure their roots take hold in your organization and their leadership skills blossom in the future.

Let Them Know.

Maybe. Depending on the culture of your organization and the maturity of those you’ve identified as high potentials, you may want to consider letting them know you think they have potential. On one hand it can be a great confidence booster and great way to increase the chances you’ll retain that person. On the other hand, if he or she already possesses a great deal of confidence (and doesn’t hesitate to let everyone else know about it) then you may want to take a different approach.


The bottom line is that when you have identified talent that you believe will help your organization long term, it makes a lot of sense to invest some time and thought into how you can increase the probability that talent develops in a positive way and that person stays with your organization for the long term.

Emerging Leader Training Series

Emerging Leader Training Series

Have the emerging leaders within your organization been identified? Do they have the skills and knowledge needed to best represent your organization? In this 3-part series, participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization.

Learn More about Emerging Leader Training

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