Archive for the ‘Workforce Management’ Category
VP Marketing at Beyond Just a Vision
A compelling vision brings a group of individuals together to focus on a common purpose. But creating a sense of community in your company is a stronger motivator for personal employee engagement.
Humans crave community. Loneliness and isolation are avoided in our society in numerous ways, and can be seen in the latest trend in social media. Technology seeks to harness “always on” to deliver “always in-touch” community. John Donne’s insight that “No man is an island” is excellent leadership thinking.
When building a company, a vision drives direction. Community gives the journey purpose and energy. Knowing that the team is pulling in a single direction while caring for and striving to bring the best out of each member.
I recently left a technology company after ten years, where we achieved this sense of community. The people cared for the success of the company and for each other. As a result, individuals and departments showed a strong willingness to help each other. Politics were minimal, and voluntary turnover was near zero. The company grew from product concept to quarterly revenues in excess of $30M with an attitude of team community.
Senior VP and GM US Operations at Canyon Pharmaceuticals
Recently one of my most productive team members resigned. It’s not the first time this has happened in my 2.5 years of running the company, but this one came kinda out of the blue. Of course I had to ask myself–was I to blame? Did I fail to cast a vision for the future of the company that inspired confidence and commitment? I am passionate and confident about the future of my company, but this is a risky business–how do I instill confidence in my team while still being true to the enormity of the task ahead?
Enter Winston Churchill, a virtual mentor of mine. He took over the Prime Minister spot from Chamberlain and was faced immediately with the invasion of Belgium and Holland and the subsequent defeat of the French (the next time you feel like the Universe is piling on, remember this!) But somehow, despite the gravity of the situation, Winston managed to strengthen the resolve and will of the British people to resist the Nazi invasion and garnered the support of FDR while never shrinking from telling the unvarnished truth. As you can probably tell from my writing, I don’t have command of the English language quite like Churchill, but I do admire his ability to craft a version of the truth that is at once authentic and yet still full of hope for a bright future.
Alan Axelrod in his book on Churchill says “An ideal leader manages the reality in which the company operates.” Say what? Sounds a bit “Wizard Behind the Curtain” or Truman Show-ish, doesn’t it? But clearly there is something to this beyond “fake it ’till you make it.”
I certainly am no stranger to the concepts in The Secret and The Law of Attraction and have spoken openly about my belief that thoughts are things and what you think is who you will become (also quotes attributed to Buddha as it turns out). But all those concepts are about managing my own reality, my thoughts. How on earth can I manage the reality of the entire enterprise?
Then it hit me–it all starts with my thoughts and my reality–to paraphrase Buddha, “A man who conquers himself is the greatest of all warriors.” So at the end of the day, I have to manage my own reality, since that is all I ever have control over anyway. And let’s face it, one of the things we admire among effective executives of all stripes is self-control. They don’t get excited, or even visibly angry–they just get stuff done! Great lesson for me –self-control coupled with integrity of thought and action is what is needed to manage my reality and subsequently the reality of the enterprise. I can do that (granted, not perfectly, but I can do it). How are you managing the reality of your organization? Are your people optimistic? Do they feel comfortable taking risks? What is it that you can change in your leadership to create the kind of reality you need to create to be successful?
Vice President of Customer Support-Employer Solutions at Sage Software, Inc.
Empowered teams, self-managed work teams, project teams … the list could go on forever. Over the years the trend in teamwork theories seems to have changed as often as the seasons. No matter the gimmick, successful teams have two major characteristics – a common goal and management commitment. Success in teams that have these attributes can easily be measured in their productivity increases.
Team creation presents a challenge for leadership because there are so many ways to segment a group into teams. While some would say it is useful to focus only on products, job titles, or work shifts, most have found this does very little for increasing productivity. Consider varying the experience and knowledge levels of the individuals and focusing the team on one common goal. This will produce exciting team dynamics and allow participants to focus on the goal, not on just their specific knowledge base. When you measure the difference between individual and team success, teams are always overwhelmingly more productive. The key is selecting members that complement each other in personality, skill, experience, and others.
VP, Human Resources at Orica Mining Services
As a practitioner of Human Capital in the workplace I am routinely looking for ways to leverage available talent to the betterment of both the employee and the company. One of the many areas where the opportunity exists for this is in the “traditional” college internship programs that many companies, like my own, sponsor. My company has had such a program for years, long before my arrival in the HR role. The process here, like so many other enterprises, has followed the traditional routine of getting to the best schools early, developing sound internship assignments with real learning involved and creating opportunity for the top interns to return after graduation for a full-time position. And one other characteristic, all the candidates appeared to be 25 years old and younger…
First, a couple of other quick facts here: Workers are working longer, technology has not proven to be the domain of only the gen X & gen Y populations, and diversity in any workplace is a very good thing. Further,
Consider some of the facts below: At one time, adult “return to school” students were considered non-traditional on campuses across the country. Now however, the Dept. of Education says that they are the fastest growing educational demographic. In 1970, 28% of all college students were 25 years of age or older, in 1998 the percentage of these return to school adults had increased to 41%. Further, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students age 35 years and older has more than doubled from 9.6% in 1970 to 19.2% in 2001. Granted, these statistics are a decade on the shelf, but the trend has not reversed. In fact, the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) reports that students over 25 years old make up 47% of the new and returning student population on many of today’s college campuses. So what?
Internship programs, for the most part, are missing out on an opportunity to leverage an impactful, experienced and disciplined workforce out there that is anxious to add value and knows how to do it.
In my own experience, I have seen the 35+ age category of interns join us for the summer months and typically “steal the show” from their much younger and less work/life experienced counterparts. From the basics of professionalism in the workplace, work hours, networking and learning the business versus just their role; they have typically outdone their peers. Their products, the real “adding value” piece, are no less impressive. As opposed to viewing the role as summer work, they tend to integrate quickly with a mission-focused mindset of adding value and creating purpose in their role beyond simply an internship.
Logistically, this is not a difficult task. Schools are marketing hard for return to school adults. And more so than their younger counterparts, the return to school adults are very focused on post-education employment opportunities. After all, many of them have sacrificed a great deal to take the “time-out” in their career to pursue the degree. As the schools know, they must market to this need. My experience has been that the great majority of schools have responded very well and effectively to a request for a diverse group of students that includes a representative mix of 19 – 22/23 year olds along with the resumes of return to work 35+ year old students as well. They are all too happy to include them in the mix.
There is value in all age ranges of college students for internships. I don’t intend nor suggest to ever sideline any demographic as it is talent with potential that matters. However, focusing more carefully across the age and experience range of college students for internships has proven to be a great advantage. Try it.
President at Boston Reed College
Today, progressive organizations are increasingly focused on fostering a strengths-based culture, in which employees work collaboratively with their managers to identify, develop and apply their strengths in the workplace.
Make hiring and promotional decisions based on each person’s individual strengths.
Most organizations promote people based on their technical skills (e.g., the employee with the best customer service skills is promoted to Customer Service Manager; the employee who has extraordinary talent as a Sales Associate is promoted to Sales Director). However, the skill sets necessary to be a successful Customer Service Agent or Sales Associate are different from the skill sets necessary to be a successful leader. Managers need to collaborate with each employee and candidate for hire to identify his/her individual strengths (I recommend the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0™ assessment for this purpose), and then make hiring and promotional decisions based on those strengths. When employees are placed in roles that call upon and leverage their individual strengths, they are empowered to perform at their highest and most productive levels.
Give up the principle of the “well-rounded employee.”
As youngsters, most of our teachers recommended that we focus on improving in those areas in which we performed poorly. As adults in the working world, our supervisors point out our weaknesses in performance appraisals, and recommend that we “fix” them in order to be promoted in the future or to earn a larger raise next year. The principle is an old one, institutionalized in our culture: we must be well-rounded people in order to be successful. However, recent research indicates that no person is completely well-rounded, and that the most successful leaders are neither well-rounded, nor do they possess similar skill sets. Each of us is endowed with certain talents and innate preferences which are rather immutable. Rather than repairing our weaknesses throughout our lives, we actually grow the most in the areas in which we are naturally strong. Managers can get the best results from people by abandoning the notion of the ‘well-rounded employee’ and instead focusing on identifying, applying and developing the natural strengths that each employee brings to the organization.
Make assignments to teams based on the strengths that each person brings to the team.
Too often, assignments to teams are based on the assumption that we should construct teams in which each of the members has similar ideas, perspectives and skill sets; otherwise, the team will experience conflict and have little success in carrying out its mission. This assumption fails to recognize that a successful team requires a wide variety of skill sets, none of which can be possessed by a single member. For example, each team needs a person who is skilled in coalescing people and gathering required resources; a person who has talents in influencing others in the organization; and a person who is strong in executing plans and activities. The most successful teams in organizations consist not of people with similar ideas and skills, but of people with complementary skill sets and strengths.
Organizations that leverage the strengths of their people can produce empowered and engaged employees, and a more productive organization that fully utilizes its human talent. Get started developing a strengths-based culture today. If you do you will capitalize on and develop the natural talents of those you lead and increase job motivation, performance, creativity, and productivity.
Before power point slide decks – there were story boards. Is anyone Linked In old enough to remember when story boards represented thequintessential method of presenting information to small groups of people? Does anyone Linked In still prefer story boards over power point?
I for one, do. Not because I was raised that way or trained that way or profess a particular hatred for power point but because they represent athrowback to a more simple, personal and creative time. To get a good idea of what I mean, check out the movie “Nothing In Common” starringTom Hanks and Jackie Gleason. Hanks plays a playboy advertising executive trying to land a big airline account. As his creative team comes together, they toss around the standard offerings of how to ”pitch” the airline executives. It’s a big account, an important account but their preliminary ideas always lead them back to the same stale formats of presentation – until someone mentions the possibility of presenting their story line “live”…the “pitch” is fantastic and well, the results, predictable (its Hollywood).
I attended a really interesting program last evening hosted by the law firm WilmerHale at their Boston offices. The panel included the dean of Harvard Law School, the general counsel of GE, the next managing partner of WilmerHale and a reporter who writes on the legal profession. The guest of honor was Deborah Epstein Henry, whose recent book “Law and Reorder: Legal Industry Solutions for Restructure, Retention, Promotion and Work/Life Balance”. Debbie’s web site which features a short blurb on the book is as follows: http://www.flextimelawyers.com/. It was apparent to me early on in the program that Debbie had put serious time and effort into her research and in pulling this book together.
How does your organization build a quality culture? What do you do to reinforce or strengthen that Quality Culture?
From organizations in the news for product quality issues to those that have a sterling reputation, the Quality Culture of an organization can be measured from both the inside and the outside. What companies come to mind when you think Quality and Quality Culture?
Outsourcing to Outsiders:
As the industry of outsourcing has grown in the last decade, so have the numerous nuances with the teams of people involved in the service provider’s company. Having been party to some of the good and bad practices involved in this bargain, I felt it was only appropriate that I put down some observations in this aspect. The idea is not to demean any one’s smartness where in they have designed ingenious ways of getting profits for their company but it is only to create awareness among customers who pay heavy amounts to generally under qualified and un accounted team members.
How much time do your technicians spend diagnosing problems vs. fixing them? When your expert techs retire, how will you capture and pass along their knowledge to the new workforce? What are you doing today to build a knowledge base of answers?
Over the past few years there have been discussions about labor shortages in the engineering and maintenance space. As the current labor engineering and technical workforce retires, a new pool of engineering and technical workers is coming in to take their place. But even though this new pool of workers is more technical and have a PC-type aptitude, they still have to deal with equipment that’s been in place for decades. Organizations are always trying to do more with less, and replacing inadequate equipment is not a priority—unless a fast and huge ROI is almost guaranteed. So the question is: How will organizations get the new pool of skilled workers up to speed?
There are organizations working on this issue, such as Skill TV. “Skill TV is dedicated to dissecting the issues, ramifications, and opportunities brought on by the high-tech talent shortage.”
The problem is that even if these organizations make videos of common issues or try to document the information of the older, more experienced workforce, they still need a way to get this information to their engineering or technical staff quickly and efficiently.
Have you thought about optimizing your EAM solution in a way so you can store this information based on equipment types, common failure types, automated failure identification, etc? Leveraging your EAM system as your library of information can have a big positive impact on your new labor force.
Let’s look at an example. In a facilities environment, within your HVAC system there’s a problem with the economizer. It’s the damper, and your system is measuring the economizer dampers, the mixed-air temperature, and the return-air temperature.
So the logic goes as follows: If the system is occupied and ok to economize is “true,” and the economizer dampers < 11%, and mixed-air temperature is 5 degrees < return-air temperature, then there’s a problem with economizer dampers (dampers are not closing properly).
The problem is diagnosed as an “economizer damper problem.” A more experienced maintenance person would probably identify this problem a lot quicker than a newer person. But what if you had this logic embedded within your EAM software, and the system did the analysis, creating the work order to automatically tell you the exact problem and the problem points? How much time would it save? How quick would the problem be solved?
Now imagine that you’ve taken all of this knowledge from your technical staff for all the years you’ve been in business and captured it in a software solution and had access to it anytime you needed it. That’s what Infor EAM is about.
I welcome your feedback or ideas.