What’s In It for Me?

March 23, 2011

Setting clear goals and expectations is a two-way street.  Managers have expectations for employees that are job specific.  And, employees have development expectations of their managers and company, too.  It’s important for managers to understand their employees’ development and career goals.  

Employee development planning is typically a part of the performance management process.  As part of the process, the manager and employee discuss plans for individual development that will take place during the coming year that support the employee’s development goals.  Development plans can include special projects, seminars or conventions, rotational assignments, self-study, specific skill acquisition, to name just a few. 

The best development you can provide is to build on your employees’ strengths.  How can you unearth and nurture those strengths? Here are a few tips to help you achieve that goal.  

  • Identify ways to apply existing strengths in new ways.  How can you look at your employee in new, different ways? What qualities has your employee demonstrated, and how can these translate into transferable skills?
  • Ask employee what they like to do.  People who excel at a specific job are typically promoted to management level.  As a result, we’ve often taken the person out of the exact environment in which they succeed and which they like and sometimes reducing their success in the new position.  You cannot fully uncover a person’s strengths without their input.  Tap into what the employee discerns as his or her strengths by asking what they enjoy most, and why, and in what role they believe they are of most value to the organization.
  • Get co-workers thoughts.  As the business leader, you work with employees in different ways than they work with each other.  Asking peers to share kudos and thank-yous at staff meetings can provide insight into traits and behaviors that suit  and benefit the entire team and help you assess the strengths of each employee from their peers’ point-of-view. 
  • Look to history for clues.  If you’re having a difficult time identifying an employee’s strengths, spend time thinking about why you hired them, what their references told you and what your first impressions were. There were reasons you brought this person on board — revisit those reasons to refresh your thinking about strengths, contributions and potential.
  • Turn a weakness upside down.  Physicists know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Applied to employees, consider, “What’s the opposite of this weakness?” to unearth possible strengths. For instance, if an employee inconsistently completes projects that he developed in the first place, perhaps his strength is in generating ideas, not executing them.
  • Allow the employee to test-drive a new role.  Maybe you’re seeing the employee in a specific role, yet more of their strengths would blossom in another role. Consider establishing a cross-training program, in which employees shadow co-workers for a day to learn more about the roles and responsibilities available. This test-drive might spark new ideas about increased value from the employee, and allow you (and them) to see where a role-shift may make sense for the company. Set clear goals and intentions for the exercise, including, “What we want to know at the end of this day.” 

Creating development plans that build on strengths and provide opportunities for your employees to learn and grow are key to promoting a great company culture and building employee retention and loyalty.

Question:  What are your development goals?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Collaboration, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Making the Goal!

March 17, 2011

Employee productivity is one of the first places where less-than-optimal management practices drain an organization of financial performance.  When employees don’t receive the clear direction and support that they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results and costly rework.  The primary culprits?  Unclear expectations, lack of follow-up and ongoing feedback.

An old organizational development saying is ‘you get what you measure’.  If we set clear expectations and don’t follow-up, employees may believe that the task is not as important as something else. 

Following up helps to ensure that goals are on track and will be met.  It provides timely identification of potential obstacles in meeting those goals such as lack of tools, skills or resources and ensures that employees get the support needed to meet expectations.  Follow-up may also uncover lack of commitment or employee nonperformance issues. 

The best way to follow-up with employees is to have regular one-on-ones with each of your employees.  Don’t let time pressures get in the way of a weekly check-in with your employees to see how they are doing.  A short, weekly meeting where the agenda is driven by the employee can work wonders in providing the appropriate combination of direction and support people need to be productive and meet expectations.

While follow-up ensures goals are being met, feedback is essential for improving performance. Throughout the year, it is important to understand how you and your employees are performing.  Managers and employees should have a solid understanding of the areas where they are most effective, as well as the areas where they could improve. 

Here are some keys to providing effective feedback:

  • Include the positive. To keep employees motivated, managers must recognize their accomplishments.
  • Make feedback frequent and informal. Going an entire year without feedback is like having a toothache in need of a dentist.  Employees need to know how they’re performing in their jobs – and this is especially true in the case of new employees or temporary workers, who need to have early feedback on a regular basis.
  • Keep documentation.  Records should be kept to document progress and accomplishments, as well as performance problems discussed. These records need to be dated and the corresponding expectations and next checkpoint noted. This information will make the formal review process simple and can also serve as documentation in the event of promotional opportunities or legal or disciplinary actions that could develop.

As you can see, regular feedback and follow-up are key to ensuring individual and company goals are met.  See below for more information on purpose and process for an effective follow-up process – One-on-One meetings with your employees.

Question:  How often do you follow-up on key goals with your employees?

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Attitude, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Morale, Peformance management, Teamwork.

Follow-up with Regular Employee One-on-Ones

March 17, 2011

Outcome

Individual goals/commitments are always met.

Purpose

  • Provide a structure for opening up communication and monitoring performance. 
  • Review, assessment and planning to ensure goals are on-track or renegotiated.
  • Employee knows how they are doing, receives helpful feedback and coaching, participates in problem solving and feels valued for their contribution

 Guidelines

  • Short—15 to 30 minutes
  • Frequent—at least once every two weeks
  • Focused on individual goals and commitments
  • Individual owns bringing the necessary information to show results, issues and recommended solutions
  • Scheduled in advance (recommend a regularly scheduled meeting)
  • A top priority—If a meeting is postponed, it needs to be rescheduled promptly

 Agenda

  • Review goals/metrics and commitments

                  –  On-track?

                  –  If off-track, assess cause (resources, information, development need)

  • Create plan to address (owners, timeline, etc.)
  • Any urgent issues/needs? 
  • What support do they need from you?
  • Ask what else is on their mind
  • Schedule follow-up, as appropriate

Categories: Accountability, Alignment, Communication, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Leadership, Leadership development, Peformance management, Personal development.

Setting Clear Goals

March 9, 2011

It’s hard to get great results and hold people accountable if we don’t clearly define expectations.     

As discussed previously, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations. The first step is a clear understanding of their job – the primary purpose, specific tasks and measures of success.  The job description is ‘the price of admission’, what an employee is expected to do.  

Once an employee understands the expectations of their day-to-day job, it’s time to set some measurable goals and objectives.   Excellent goals and objectives are the tools that help employees link their daily tasks to the bigger picture, improve processes, develop skills to contribute at a higher level and be prepared for future career opportunities.  

Some of us confuse goals with activities.  A well-stated goal clearly defines the expected outcome – the result.  A result defines what will be different once achieved and why it’s important.  Activities are a list of tasks that will be accomplished in order to achieve the goal – the how.  For example, an activity is “Take a finance class”; the expected result (goal) might be “Reduce expenses by 10%”.  

Clearly stated individual goals should:

  • Be limited to 3-5 goals
  • Link to a specific company goal
  • Give an employee clear line of sight as to how their job impacts the bigger picture (company and/or customer and/or the world at large)
  • Be discussed and agreed to by both the manager and employee
  • Address developmental needs and/or desires of the employee
  • Be SMART

-Specific and measurable – What does a good job look like?  What is expected result in  factual, quantitative or measurable terms?

– Motivating – Is this intrinsically motivating?

– Attainable / achievable – Does goal fall within employee’s reach yet demand significant effort?  Is it realistic, doable?

– Relevant – Is goal meaningful and linked to company goals?

– Trackable / timebound – Is there a way to measure progress on this goal?  Is there an agreed upon time-frame?

  • Be varied

 – Problem-solving, process improvement (innovative)

 – Developmental (new skill or behavior)

  • Focus on results to be achieved not activities to be performed (how) 

Following these simple guidelines to ensure clear, agreed upon individual goals and objectives will have a significant impact on employee confidence, development and contribution.  Next week, we’ll address the importance of regular follow-up and feedback.

Question:  Are you surprised when employees don’t achieve the expected results?  Are their goals and objectives clearly understood and agreed to?

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning, Uncategorized.

What Is My Job?

March 2, 2011

Believe it or not, most of us do not have a job description for our current position.  And, even if we do, it doesn’t clearly state the real duties and expectations of our daily role. 

As discussed last week, one of the most important things that a manager can provide to an employee is clear expectations.  Research shows that when employees have clear job expectations, they are more confident, don’t need as much direction and supervision and perform at a higher level.   Clear expectations also help employees see the importance and value of their work.    

The first step to providing clear expectations is a good job description.  In addition to the job title, here are the key components of a good job description. 

1.    Primary purpose – One sentence that describes the reason the job exists.  For example, the primary purpose of a Production Operator might be “Independently operate equipment to build quality parts per work order instructions and customer specifications.”  A manager’s primary purpose might be “Ensure the right people are in the right jobs working on the right stuff at the right time.” 

2.    Duties and responsibilities – A list of tasks which begin with action words such as perform, produce, assist, provide and create.  All job descriptions should also include the following: 

  • Demonstrate company values and behaviors every day
  • Follow all safety rules and report any potential safety issues to the Safety Representative or Management
  • Perform other duties, as required

3.    Measures of success – A list of expected results for the position. These measures help employees clearly understand the expectations pf the job and be able to assess their own performance against them.  All measures must have an associated process to easily show the results.  For example, measures for a Production Operator might include:

  • Zero rework / scrap
  • Completes all scheduled work on-time 

4.    Qualifications – A list of qualifications for the specific position.  These include minimum skills and experience a candidate must have in order to be considered for the position.  It also includes a list of desired skills and experience which will assist in comparing and selecting candidates. 

Other good reasons to have a current job description for every position are: 

  • to help employees who are interested in the position understand the duties and qualifications, to assess level of interest and
  • to develop the skills necessary when/if position becomes open, 
  • to use in  the hiring and selection process, and 
  • to assess current employee skills and assist in development.

Providing a clear job description will have a significant impact on employee confidence, and their ability to work independently and see the value of their day-day work.  Next week, we’ll cover how to set clear goals and objectives.  See you then!

Question:  What’s the primary purpose of your job? 

Categories: Communication, Culture, Employee engagement, Employee satisfaction, Peformance management, Strategic planning.

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