Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Motivating Employees Without Money

So... you own a business in a very competitive field - say, software - and find that the only way to motivate and keep good employees is through money. Or, you're a manager in a big corporation, your budgets have been frozen and external competition is fierce for your staff. The problem is, you really can't raise salaries much higher (if at all).

What are your options?

It is important to remember that we all work for a variety of reasons, money being but one of them. Your job as an entrepreneur or a line manager is to realize what other things motivate your employees and tap into those.

Often, what people want out of work depends upon how old they are; twenty-somethings and people on the verge of retirement clearly want different things. If you can understand the various motivating factors, you will be able to provide incentives for a job well done, and do so without raising salaries.

Here's what to look for:

Gen Xers: Generation X, born 1964 through 1981, is a different breed of employee. Sure, they like a good salary as much as anyone, but just as important, they seek a challenging work environment where they can learn new skills.

For the most part, Generation Xers are independent and skeptical. They know that they will have many careers and jobs with different employers. As such, one of the best things you can do to motivate them is to offer skills development to increase their future marketability. So, for example, offer assignments that challenge them, and which help them learn new skills.

By the same token, ongoing training is greatly appreciated by these younger workers. Mentoring and other continuing education techniques would work well too.

Other rewards that seem to work with this group include telecommuting, gift certificates, dinners, or tickets to sporting and cultural events. Finally, remember that younger employees like to have fun and value a work-life balance. A workplace that demonstrates your support of that can go far.

Baby Boomers: Baby Boomers, born 1946 through 1964, are now middle and upper management in most workplaces, and are thinking about their family and retirement.

Many boomers are nervous about their financial future. You can help by offering financial planning, good pensions and benefits, and retirement planning.

Consider offering flexible work schedules and retirement options. Surveys have shown that nearly 80% of boomer employees would prefer a 'phased-in retirement.' Given that, consider job sharing, flextime, independence, and other similar options as ways to keep these employees loyal.

It is also important to realize that a significant challenge for many in this age-bracket is keeping up with computers and technology. Training is appreciated, as it can minimize burnout and fear.

Finally, think about offering sabbaticals. Sabbaticals are increasingly becoming a perk that many midcareer boomers desire, and can be an effective way to invigorate them.

The Greatest Generation: The so-called Greatest Generation (if there are any of us left), born 1930 through 1945, usually have conventional career paths, have worked for few employers, and have been content to move up the corporate ladder. At this point in their career, they are highly risk-averse. One of the best things you can offer them is respect for their experience and knowledge of your industry.

Employees in this category will likely work past retirement age, if you want them to, and if they are offered part-time hours and a flexible schedule.

... On Staff Morale

At lunch the other day with two former colleagues, I had the misfortune to ask how life was treating them. One murmured (about his present boss) ‘can’t live with her, can’t kill her,’ while the other former nodded in agreement ‘I wish I’d done references on THEM before I joined this nickel and dime outfit.’ Needless to say, we had a major morale problem and the clock was crashing fast on my lunch hour.

What to do?

Employee morale is a shadowy issue at best – as measuring morale is easier said than done since most staff, unless perched high atop a bar stool, seldom disclose their true feelings. But make no mistake; morale has a major impact on both productivity and profitability.

Usually, it’s easy to gauge morale levels in a department - employees that work hard, smile and have a ‘song in their heart’ generally have high levels of morale. Those that seem unhappy, don't interact and appear disinterested in work are probably suffering from morale problems.

When a department is affected by low morale, outside of external personal issues, the origin can often be traced back to the manager, as the manager of the division brings a certain philosophy and style that impacts employees. As a manager, we should all look closely at our own style and approach - it is the single most important factor in morale issues.

Morale is something that needs to be managed. Here’s how:

  • Create environments that are fun and lively;
  • Evaluate management style. Is it facilitating, dictatorial or overly assertive and direct?
  • Encourage staff to air problems, suggestions and issues. Listen carefully; acknowledge concerns. Follow up and communicate results of your findings back to staff.
  • Be fair and reasonable.
  • Set expectations for all employees about team work and working cooperatively.
  • Eliminate double standards - what's good for one employee is good for all.
  • Abolish disciplinary mentalities. Don't make employees feel they will be punished if they make mistakes.
  • Encourage innovation and creativity; and
  • Show employees you care about them.

The moral on morale: high morale = high productivity.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How to Ensure Staff Stay

So, what are those hidden, elusive motivations that cause capable employees to start questioning their decision to join your company, start thinking of leaving, eventually disengage, and finally, leave?

The true root causes of voluntary employee turnover - like incompetence in the Bush administration - have always been hiding in plain sight. If we really think about it, we already know what they are: lack of recognition (including low pay), unfulfilling jobs, limited career advancement, poor management practices, untrustworthy leadership, and dysfunctional work cultures.

So, in what way are these root causes hidden, and from whom? Surveys tell us they are hidden from the very people who need to be most aware of them - line managers who are charged with engaging and keeping valued employees in every organisation. The vast majority of line managers, in fact, believe that most employees leave because they are 'pulled' away by better offers. Certainly, most do leave for better offers, but it is simplistic and superficial to accept 'pull factors' as root causes. What these managers fail to perceive is that 'push factors,' mostly within their own power, are the initial stimuli - the first causes - that open the door to the 'pull' of outside opportunities.

The important question that remains un-asked in so many exit interviews is not 'why are you leaving?' but 'why are you not staying?'

Too many companies are still relying on the tangible, easy-to-implement solutions that revolve around pay, benefits, and trendy perks, when we know the most powerful solutions revolve around the more challenging intangibles, such as good management and a healthy corporate culture. Here are some suggestions for 'ensuring staff stay':

Match Candidates’ Expectations with Work Realities:
  • Conduct realistic job previews with every job candidate.
  • Hire from pool of temp, adjunct staff, interns, and part-time workers.
  • Hire candidates referred by current employees.
  • Create a realistic job description with a short list of most critical competencies.
  • Allow team members to interview candidates.
  • Hire from pool of current employees.
  • Create a way for candidates to 'sample' the work experience.
  • Survey or interview new hires to find out how to minimize new hire surprises in the future.
To Match the Person to the Job:
  • Make a strong commitment to the continuous upgrading of talent.
  • See that all hiring managers perform talent forecasting and success factor analysis.
  • Cast a wide recruiting net to expand the universe of best-fit candidates.
  • Follow a purposeful and rigorous interview process.
  • Track measures of hiring success.
To Match the Task to the Person:
  • Conduct 'entrance interviews' with all new hires.
  • Work to enrich the jobs of all employees.
  • Delegate tasks to challenge employees and enrich jobs.
To Provide Coaching and Feedback:
  • Provide intensive feedback and coaching to new hires.
  • Create a culture of continuous feedback and coaching.
  • Train managers in performance coaching.
  • Make performance management process less controlling and more of a partnership.
  • Terminate nonperformers when best efforts to coach or reassign don’t pay off.
  • Hold managers accountable for coaching and giving feedback.
To Provide Career Advancement and Growth Opportunities:
  • Provide self-assessment tools and career self-management training for all employees.
  • Offer career coaching tools and training for all managers.
  • Provide readily accessible information on career paths and competency requirements.
  • Create alternatives to traditional career ladders.
  • Keep employees informed about the company’s strategy, direction, and talent need forecasts.
  • Build and maintain a fair and efficient internal job-posting process.
  • Show clear preference for hiring from within.
  • Eliminate HR policies and management practices that block internal movement.
  • Create a strong mentoring culture.
  • Keep career development and performance appraisal processes separate.
  • Build an effective talent review and succession management process.
  • Maintain a strong commitment to employee training.
To Make Employees Feel Valued and Recognised:
  • Offer competitive base pay linked to value creation.
  • Reward results with variable pay aligned with business goals.
  • Reward employees at a high enough level to motivate higher performance.
  • Use cash payouts for on-the-spot recognition.
  • Involve employees and encourage two-way communication when designing new pay systems.
  • Monitor the pay system to ensure fairness, efficiency, consistency, and accuracy.
  • Create a culture of informal recognition founded on sincere appreciation.
  • Make new hires feel welcome and important.
  • Ask for employee input, then listen, and respond.
  • Keep employees in the loop.
  • Provide the right tools and resources.
  • Keep the physical environment fit to work in.
To Reduce Stress from Work-Life Imbalance and Overwork:
  • Initiate a culture of 'giving-before-getting.'
  • Tailor the ‘‘culture of giving’’ to the needs of key talent.
  • Build a culture that values spontaneous acts of caring.
  • Build social connectedness and cohesion among employees.
  • Encourage fun in the workplace.
To Inspire Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders:
  • Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan, and the competence to achieve it.
  • Back up words with actions.
  • Place your trust and confidence in your workforce.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

... On Disciplining Staff

Corrective action, disciplinary action, performance warning, whatever you call it - there are certain employees who take up more of our supervisory time than other employees. We've all experienced new hires who didn't quite turn out as expected and we've all had a once ideal employee whose performance suddenly went astray.

What's a supervisor to do - fix 'em or fire 'em?

Sometimes we have a choice how to handle our personnel problems - sometimes we don't. Your first task is to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the problem performer. Consider whether the performance issue is fixable. Ask yourself whether your investment in training or counseling can potentially resolve the issue and work your hardest to make the solution win-win. For example:

  • A new hire does not have the skills he sold you on in the interview, and those skills can't be acquired quick enough to meet your business needs. It may be appropriate to 'un-hire' this person, explaining to him the gap between his skills and the actual performance requirements of the position. A complete job description documenting the skill and experience level required will help back up this mis-hire and ultimate termination;
  • Another new hire's skills meet your requirements, but her product knowledge is poor. You probably can invest the time to get her up to speed on the products and services. Be sure to communicate the reasons for this training and set timetables for her getting up to speed;
  • One of your long-term employee's attitude toward the company has slipped. Her negative comments and slow work pace are affecting employee morale and customers. Counsel this employee to change her attitude at work, explaining the impact of her actions. However, attitude problems are generally reflective of a deeper issue. Explore this with the employee. Be flexible in solutions but also be firm about unacceptable behavior and performance. Some people will get the message and make the necessary changes - some will not. Keep the person who changes - let go the person who does not, documenting both for your personnel files.
Look at your policies. How are they written regarding correcting and disciplining poor performers? Are they structured formally where you must give verbal, written, and final warnings? Or do you have the flexibility to work with employees on a case-by-case basis? If your policy is too strict, change it. It will work against you in the long run. If you don't have a policy, you must work hard to ensure that how you treat each employee comparably. Keep good records either way, because in these litigious times, consistency in action and policy is vital for self-protection.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Surreal Art of Staff Retention

The challenge to keep employees has mystified managers for time immemorial - how to build a workplace where employees wish to remain and outsiders want to join.

Successful managers ask themselves this question all the time, because, simply put, employee retention matters:

  • Dependent on position, high turnover leaves customers and other employees in the lurch; departing employees take a great deal of knowledge with them, which makes it hard to meet organization goals and serve customers well due to lack of continuity;
  • Replacing employees’ costs money. The cost of replacing an employee is estimated as up to twice an individual’s annual salary (or higher for some positions, such as middle management), and this doesn’t even include the cost of lost knowledge; and
  • Recruiting employees consumes a great deal of time and effort, much of it futile. You’re not the only one out there vying for qualified employees, and job searchers make decisions based on more than salary and benefits; and
  • Bringing employees up to speed takes even more time, while being short-staffed often means putting in extra time to get work done.

So, how do you keep employees? In a nutshell, you keep them satisfied enough to believe their needs will be better met at your firm than anywhere else.

It sounds straightforward enough - yet many employers aren’t sure where to begin.

In the good old days, employees were employees for life, striving for that gold watch and retiring to California. Employees had an intrinsic belief that the company would take good care of them if they did a good job. Well, that mindset has changed. Layoffs, reductions in workforce, and terminations have all eroded loyalty on the part of workers - even for those employees not directly affected. Today’s employees, particularly younger ones, think more of themselves as ‘free agents,’ selling their services to the highest bidder and ever willing to entertain other offers. Some employees maintain their resumes permanently posted on websites.

As such, recruiting employees cannot be put on the back burner until you need to replace someone.

In many organizations, losing employees has a domino effect, as when one employee leaves, others often wonder about opportunities elsewhere. Those other opportunities start to look better as employees have to pick up the slack for those who have moved on.

Respect, Recognition, Reward
Firms need to provide these three elements to keep employees on board and satisfaction high.

Respect is esteem, special regard, or particular consideration given to people. Respect is the foundation of keeping your employees. Recognition and rewards will have little effect if you don’t respect employees.

Recognition is providing attention and perceiving clearly. Most problems with retention and morale occur because management is not paying attention to people’s needs and reactions.

Rewards are the extra perks you offer beyond the basics of respect and recognition that make it worth people’s while to work hard, to care, to go beyond the call of duty. While rewards represent the smallest portion of the retention equation, they are still an important one.

In general, respect should be the largest component of a company’s efforts. Without it, recognition and rewards appear hollow and have little effect - or they have negative effects. True success is measured through a mix of the three.

An employer who installs respect, recognition and reward will create a ‘hard-to-leave’ environment, and one with a waiting list of applicants for any position that becomes available purposefully, and not through departure.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Who Says it’s Time to Put the Old Dog on the Porch...?

...normally the young dog.

Give a nanosecond of thought to the 90s .com boom: the runaway mentality that future business hinged on youth and all that they embodied: energy, drive, originality, innovation, open collars, and . . . really, really bad hairstyles (remember Mr. Richard Li’s?). If so, also ponder the ensuing dot.bomb . . . errr . . . crash and you may question such wisdom.

Which is why - maturity in the workplace does matter
Contrary to young dog belief, ageing is not a downward spiral from 30-something perfection. Don’t get us wrong, the older we get the more susceptible to illness we become and some of us tend to move a little slower. However, numerous areas improve - we gain knowledge and experience; and have a vault of precedents on file that avoid us from making the same mistake a fourth time.

Older people have as good memories as younger people. Most mature people react slower because they're considering the best option, not because they’re only hearing every fifth word.

Studies show that older people are happier and more considerate at work than younger staff. Mature staff creates a better team spirit; are less concerned about status, know their priorities and work to achieve them.

In addition, older workers:

  • have lower absenteeism rates than younger employees,
  • have lower turnover rates than younger employees,
  • are generally more loyal employees,
  • have less job injuries than younger employees, and
  • are less likely to steal from your company

When hiring a mature employee:
Recruitment is of the essence: select candidates who share your values, culture and objectives, rather than people you think can grow into the firm. Look for achieved knowledge and experience.

Older people work best in teams: but, as with any team, put them together so their roles and personalities fit.
Manage from alongside, not from above: especially if you are a younger manager. You may even stumble upon a mentor and learn something.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Closing the Deal: How to Get Prospective Employees to Sign On

While most people would take a job based on the orgasmic joy of working for the Nike 'Swoosh' or Adi Dassler's three stripes, remarkably, few people decide they want a job based on an ad's description or a headhunter's pitch. Therefore, to bring the best candidates on board, employers need to sell prospective employees not only on the specific opportunity and their company, but also on themselves as a boss.

As a potential hire's impression of you (and your company) begins to form the first time you speak on the phone, from the beginning, you want to do more than simply answer questions - you want to present information about yourself and your company in a clear and exciting way, as employees want to work for someone they can relate to and someone they respect.

Therefore, to make the interview as much about you and your company as about them, don't just jump in and demand to know everything the prospective employee has researched about your company or why they applied. There will be plenty of time for questioning. First, let interviewees get to know you a little by telling them why you joined the company, how you've moved up the ranks, and the opportunities in general at your firm. Paint the big picture — outline your company's dream, not just the prospective employee's job.

Steve Jobs didn't hire Apple's first team of programmers by talking about the ins and outs of software coding. He brought them on board by selling them on his grand vision to change the future of computing. Play up the team spirit at your company, but also tell it like it is. Give an honest assessment of your firm's challenges — and how the skills a particular candidate brings to the table will make the company better able to meet those challenges. Let the prospective employee know there's already a very important niche carved out for them, with interesting and exciting responsibilities.

After you've talked for a while, give short-list contenders a tour of the office. Introduce them to their prospective coworkers. Often job candidates will have questions that are better answered by the people who already work for you. Let your employees be candid.

When you're ready to extend an offer, get excited. Telephone the prospective employee and begin the conversation with congratulations. Make your potential hire feel like 'The Chosen One.' Offer lots of information on the job up front. Tell your top choice what the salary and benefits are, the first time an evaluation or raise can be expected, when the benefits kick in and what the hours are. Be sure to answer any immediate questions. Then back off a little. Suggest the job candidate take 48 hours to sleep on your offer to make the best decision. In the mean time, be certain to return any of the candidate's calls or messages requesting more information.

Follow up your phone offer with a written offer. Make sure all the details mirror your phone conversation precisely.

The best time to make a job offer is Monday morning
If you wait until late in the week, you'll probably have have to wait more than 48 hours for an answer, and you may not hear back before the weekend.

While you are waiting for an answer from job candidate No. 1, don't turn down your second choice. If choice No. 2 calls while there's an offer out to another candidate, simply say you haven't decided yet. When recruiting and interviewing, never make the prospective employee feel like a fall-back choice. If your firm is growing quickly, you may need to make repeat hires - and you may decide to take on job candidate choices No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 sometime down the line.

Job candidates also have friends who might be looking for work. If they have a good feeling about your company, but not the right experience for the job, they might pass the lead onto someone who is more qualified.

Always protect the future you can't yet see.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Recruitment Marketing - More Than Just ‘On-Site Espresso Machines’

In the good old days, a steady paycheck, reasonable salary and job security meant the chance to live happily until it was time to bail out and collect our pensions. Today, such assurances are barely enough incentive for a job candidate to get out of bed, let alone turn off the mobile and attend an interview. As such, what's an employer to do?

They say that ‘organisations that present themselves best hire the best candidates.’ Looks good on paper, but achievable? Perhaps during SARS or when the SE Asian market slumped and the unemployment rate in our base of Hong Kong was at 8.3%, its highest rate ever.

However, the markets have recovered and in the resulting tight employment market, firms must now compete for talent on a more aggressive basis. To succeed, companies now need to recognise, respond and market to the overall needs of employees and not just their professional requirements. Today's employee wants more than a paycheck or benefits; they want also to grow as individuals and, as such, firms must provide staff with overall life skills and not simply for the task they are paying them for.

In the future world of work, employers will not be able to sing that they are ‘employers of choice’ or ‘great places to work’ they will actually have to become them. As for staff, the good and the gifted will not put up with an average workplace or a Stalinist manager; they will know who the superior and inferior companies are and move to companies that offer the kind of ‘internal brand’ or mission, values and opportunities that satiates them.

Unfortunately, when promoting career opportunities, many companies rely too heavily on pushing the job, while relegating the advantages of working for the company to a few clichéd lines at the end of an advertisement, generally along the lines of ‘fast growing’ (compared to what?), ‘challenging and demanding’ (or was that thorny and unpleasant?) or ‘competitive salary and benefits’ (in regard to the local university or Microsoft?). Therefore, a company’s internal brand needs to be clearly defined.

To convey properly and successfully an internal brand to the employment marketplace, firms must devise a strategy for ‘recruitment marketing.’ In a nutshell, recruitment marketing is about promoting the employment opportunities of your company and telling the market, ‘why they should come and work for you.’

In a more complex form, it is identifying, living and promoting the unique characteristics, such as work environment, corporate history and values that will attract, stimulate and retain high-quality people.

So, what are some key elements required for companies to build upon and include in their future recruitment marketing strategies?

Better Work - Life Balance for Staff
Time spent on the job is on the increase, which means, by extension, that leisure time away from work is dwindling. This needs to be addressed as, during the course of our candidate recruitment interviews, many Manpower applicants identify a burgeoning need for a more balanced work-life environment. Items cited most include extended leave or the option to take sabbaticals as a workplace benefit. However, other examples of work-life balance include: home and part-time work, job sharing, and reduced and flexible hours. Leave options include leave without pay for a short period of time, phased return to work after sickness or maternity leave, career breaks, and paternity and maternity leave.

Endorse the Significance of Corporate Citizenry
Today's workers demand to be motivated by more than a company's financial results. Firms that make an effort to be good corporate citizens, or have mission statements that incorporate a deeper sense of commitment to the environment or the community (679 companies in Hong Kong, at last count) will have the distinct advantage.

For example, the mission statement of Mary Kay Cosmetics is “to enrich women’s lives," while pharmaceutical firm, Merck seeks “a culture that values honesty, integrity and transparency in all that we do.” Hewlett-Packard is “committed to the development and provision of environmentally sustainable products and services.” The list goes on.

On the employee side, an effective engagement strategy here is allowing staff to conduct related environmental or volunteer work on company time… sometimes even on company budget.

Professional Growth and Development
Mobile by nature, disenfranchised from a sense of job security and living in a generation of personal growth, Hong Kong workers look for personal and professional sustenance. Here, the new currency is career building skills, and firms that fail to provide will undoubtedly lose out. Mentoring is common, as Manpower studies have shown that approximately two-thirds of all employee knowledge is gained on the job through informal channels.

Employees to be treated as Partners
While most senior management would have staff believe that corporate hierarchies have been dismantled, employees don’t share in the opinion that today’s management consider employees as business partners. Top talent wants true ownership; they are no longer satisfied with basic empowerment. This concept entails the following:

  1. Two-Way Communication and Ongoing Feedback: contribution of suggestions regardless of age or seniority; staff who feel their opinions count are more likely to contribute overall;
  2. Transparency: staff requires a true understanding of the business, which means providing them with a free-flow of, in some cases, critically confidential information;
  3. Diversity of Leadership: more leaders trained in a less rigid style of management are paramount to staff retention, engagement and corporate survival; and
  4. Performance-based pay: real ownership means profit-sharing plans and team bonuses.

Communicating the Message
For most companies, recruitment marketing is based around four approaches: internet, outside recruiters, print and referrals. However, regardless of strength of internal brand, to survive companies should exercise two or more to be truly effective in communicating the mission, values and opportunities message.

Start with the referral process (if you don't have one; establish one). If you do have such a program, inform staff of it, how it works and the values you wish to convey to potential new talent.

In the absence of referrals, consider if recruitment marketing on open positions would be best filled through recruiters or agencies, internet or print advertising. A lot of vacancies can be filled through the internet, however don’t expect one job board to meet all needs (or there wouldn’t be hundreds of recruitment sites on the net), as they all have a place for attracting qualified candidates.

External recruiters can be incredibly efficient and are acutely aware of who are, and where are, the market’s top ‘players.’

Recruitment marketing is not easy, particularly in a tight employment market, however by determining your company’s mission, values and opportunities; then creating a recruitment marketing program that incorporates, referrals, internet presence, recruiters and print will generate hires that, over the long-term, will make your firm profitable and, indeed, stronger.

Oh, and don’t forget to include the job description.