Take a quick scan of your workforce. Is there a significant percentage of working mothers? If not, don’t be surprised.
A 2009 study from University of Califirnia Berkeley Haas School of Business found that 28 percent of women with Harvard MBAs had left the workforce 15 years after receiving their degree. A 2010 study of MBAs from top business schools by University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that hours and labor force participation of female MBAs fell by an average of 24 percent -18 percent three-to-four years after their first child’s birth.
These statistics highlight the national conundrum women face balancing family with career, and an acute problem concerning every HR manager: a sizeable pool of the most highly-educated, highly-skilled women in their ranks are either fleeing their organizations or foregoing job opportunities, determining that juggling family and work demands is too obstacle-ridden to justify.
It’s likely that many of these talented women want to remain in the workforce, but I argue, many leave because their employers don’t offer the types of flexible scheduling and comprehensive benefits options that would make employment more feasible and attractive.
HR professionals should take a step back to scrutinize their organizations’ benefits policies to better obtain and retain talented women. They can start by analyzing their companies’ policies in the following areas:
Having a formalized telecommuting policy is perhaps the most powerful way to communicate to women that that work-life balance is about flexibility—not being less productive or committed to the job. Is there a telecommuting policy in place? If so, what percentage of the work week or month can be worked away from the office, and does your organization provide employees the necessary technological support to do so, including providing company laptops or conference lines to help telecommuters participate in meetings?
Maternity and Medical Leave Policies
The Family Medical Leave Act mandates that anyone employed at least 12 months by a business with a payroll of at least 50 people may take 12 unpaid weeks off without the threat of losing their job. Data shows that providing women a minimum amount of paid maternity leave is an investment that pays off for companies in terms of retention. For instance, according to a how can i get my ex girlfriend back
t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CDQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.iwpr.org%2Fpublications%2Fpubs%2Fthe-need-for-paid-parental-leave-for-federal-employees-adapting-to-a-changing-workforce-1%2Fat_download%2Ffile&ei=FFzkUI2LKeqy0QHmmoAY&usg=AFQjCNH5G-R6ewbW9crerX3h2Z2wV9sbZA&sig2=z1K5FD80aeksfS2P3LYvbQ&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.dmQ”>2009 Women’s Policy Institute report, when Aetna increased the number of paid vacation weeks it provided for new mothers, retention of those employees grew from 77 percent to 91 percent.
Personal Time Off
For a parent, Personal Time Off (PTO) covers their own medical and personal appointments as well as their children’s. So, while the volume of days off your company provides working parents certainly factors into their job evaluations’, the level of flexibility built into your PTO policies is also a factor. For instance, does it allow employees to deduct one or two hour increments of personal time to take their child to the doctor or visit their school rather than take a full day?
Beyond basic time off, health, dental, and life insurance policies, there are more holistic benefits employers can offer to demonstrate above-and-beyond commitment to employees’ well-being. Examples include financial aid for adoption, which was offered by about 47 percent of the 1,000 largest U.S. employers in 2008 according to data from human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates and infertility treatment coverage, which is offered by about 31 percent of U.S. employers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
Beyond these policies, perhaps the best barometer to measure how culturally committed your organization is to developing women’s careers is how ample an opportunity they have to advance, as evidenced by the number of female managers or executives in the c-suite and other leadership roles. To ensure women have access to career growth, companies must base promotion decisions on performance— a practice where businesses are best-served by using a data-based framework.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Rania Stewart is the Senior Product Manager at Peoplefluent with responsibility for guiding strategic direction of the Performance and Succession products in response/anticipation of market needs. Prior to joining Peoplefluent in late 2010, Ms. Stewart was a talent management practitioner for over 7 years at Aetna, Inc., gaining experience in the many facets of workforce planning, development and analytics.
Remember when the exclamation “I’m engaged!” was almost always immediately followed by the question “when’s the wedding?” In today’s business environment, engagement takes on a whole new meaning, referring instead to how engaged, dedicated, and loyal employees are to their organization.
According to one recent article published in Human Resource Executive Online, HR leaders are increasingly preoccupied with engaging their workers. After all, engaged team members are more likely to exert discretionary effort, have lower absenteeism, and are more loyal to the organization. Engaging employees is in every organization’s best interest.
While it is evident that engaging workers is important, recognizing how to do so is a little trickier. Although many organizations realize the importance, only 29 percent of the population is actively engaged. Studies have shown numerous variables go into employee engagement and, based on Avatar HR Solution's Key Driver Analysis of over 3.3 million responses, include the following key engagement drivers,
- Organizational Culture – work/life balance, diversity, etc.
- Career Development
- Management’s Leadership Abilities and Relationship with Employees
- Strategy and Mission
- Job Content
- Open Communication
- Coworker Cooperation/Satisfaction
- Availability of Resources to Perform the Job Effectively
While these factors all play a role in engagement for most individuals, it is crucial to consider the fact that everyone is unique. Women, for example, may be driven more by different factors than men. Many past posts on this blog have discussed women’s desire to “have it all,” indicating the importance of work/life balance. Women may be more engaged and dedicated in a job where they have the flexibility to balance both their personal and professional lives. Additionally, research has shown that women tend
to focus more on building close personal relationships with other individuals. Men, on the other hand, dedicate more time to practicalities. This dichotomy could reveal that women are more likely to be engaged when they have closer personal bonds with coworkers/managers.
Thus, it is important for HR leaders to avoid the “one size fits all” approach to engaging employees. Every employee is different, and there is no key formula for engaging all of your workers. One of the most effective ways to truly understand what engages each individual is to ask. People appreciate the opportunity to provide input about their job, and it’s a straightforward way of establishing an engagement plan for your team members. Additionally, it allows you to further develop your relationship with your staff.
Questions such as “what about your job makes you enjoy coming to work in the morning” and “do you feel your skills are being utilized effectively” can help shed light on the drivers of engagement for employees. You’ll be surprised at what you find out. Remember, however, that the key is not in simply asking the questions, but actually putting what you learn into action. Your employees will appreciate the individual attention you are giving them, and their engagement will be a great reward for your efforts.
Engagement in the workplace may not be the same as a personal engagement between two people, but the key is that both are relationships, and relationships take work. Dedicating effort to understanding what engages your workers will allow you to create the most effective action plans to improve engagement. Don’t wait to engage your employees. Make the effort now.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Melissa Herrett is Associate Marketing Project Manager for Avatar HR Solutions. In this role, she strategically works to position Avatar HR Solutions as a leader in the quality improvement services industry and contributes posts to their blog. You can connect with Melissa on Twitter at @EngageEmployees.
At best, an interview is contrived. An interviewer asks, What's your greatest weakness? Only to hear the interviewee respond, “Perfectionism.” This line of habitual, rote questioning leads to bad hires. An interview process that actually leads to finding a great candidate stops the interrogation tactics and starts a process of discovery.
The goal of any interview is to step into the mind of the interviewee and determine if s/he will be a great fit for your company going forward. The better interviewing questions can ascertain the truth of someone’s past experiences, her future potential, and her ability to enhance your company culture. Utilizing better questions that foster critical thinking leads to better hiring decisions that help your company’s long term results. Done well, interviewing is both a science and an art. Specifically, the interview process should be built on a foundation of structure and consistency so that HR managers can quantifiably compare candidate to candidate. It should also reveal important psychological aspects of the candidate to determine her learning agility and fit within the prospective role and organization.
Do your Homework Before the Interview
HR managers should start the interview process by setting a foundation of qualifications the ideal candidate will possess. Even though HR may have a strong and clear understanding of the job description, managers may be surprised to discover some hidden qualifications during this brainstorm session that will reveal more about the ideal employee.
How might we best define an ideal candidate?
These qualifications can also be used as a sounding board when HR managers quantify the responses of each interviewee. Realistically, you're not seeking a perfect fit, but clearly defined qualifications help you to ascertain truly excellent candidates.
Assess Learning Agility
Skills consistently predict job success. Past performance is an indicator of future success. Where most interviewers go sideways, however, is spending too much time asking candidates about past achievements. It’s important to know that there has been prior success, but more importantly, an interviewer needs to hear about a candidate’s learning agility, i.e. what the candidate learned along the way and how she will apply her skills and knowledge to their company’s current and future challenges.
- What is some of the most constructive criticism you received early on in your career, a
nd how has that feedback helped you grow?
- Tell me about your most successful accomplishment leading a cross-functional team on a major project or initiative. What did you learn about team dynamics that would cause you to do things differently going forward?
If they pretend previous projects went perfectly, if they dismiss learning anything from their prior experiences, or if criticism from their early days sounds trite, it's a red flag for their being open to constructive feedback, future coaching and their own willingness to grow and/or assess their own growth.
Ask a Candidate to Think
People prepare for interviews. They hire résumé writers and interview coaches and they search online for pre-scripted answers that they can spit out without thinking. Stop the brainless interaction by asking questions that are creative and can have more than one right answer. These questions create an opportunity for you to hear the wheels turning in their heads.
- Your biography is published posthumously. What is on page 213 of this 300 page book?
- You receive 3 phone messages when you get back from a meeting. One is from your spouse, the second is from your boss and the third is from your biggest client. All say urgent. In what order do you respond and why?
Original questions require original answers. There is no one correct response to the questions above, but there is a well-articulated, meaningful response that explains perspective, values and who this candidate is as an individual, and if they fit your organization.
Interviewing techniques that seek to trip-up or fluster may be clever, but they won't lead to great hires. Interview questions that emphasize discovery and dialogue lead to faster and greater understanding and insight, which leads to brilliant new team members.
About the author: With presentations to 30,000+ executives in eight countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligence Activist and business strategist to leaders around the globe. She is a former senior EVP of Operations for a leading sales and marketing firm, Director of Education for Europe and Australia for a billion dollar consumer products company, and chosen member of the National Geographic Educator Advisory Committee. To learn more about her firm’s proprietary Leadership Links program please visit www.amyk.com. Follow AmyK on Twitter @AmyKinc or visit at www.amyk.com.
What HR Pros Should Be Looking For
Whether a prospective hire openly offers their social network profiles or not, HR pros should take it upon themselves to scrutinize the candidate’s online habits. Look for any affiliations with professional organizations that illustrate a commitment and passion to the industry. Also keep an eye out for any mention of a prospect’s volunteerism efforts, as this shows a candidate who understands the importance of going above and beyond.
You should also take into account poor grammar or spelling mistakes on social pages. 54% of recently surveyed recruiters admitted that bad spelling and grammar had more of a negative impact on their decision making than did any mentions of drinking alcohol or engaging in other illicit behavior, and for good reason: poor spelling and grammar may indicate a lack of thoroughness.
Here are some specific ways the various social media channels can be used to help in recruiting employees:
LinkedIn was created for recruiting and offers HR pros a complete suite of recruiting solutions. For instance, LinkedIn allows job candidates to set up
It’s evident that the current trend of implementing social media channels in the recruiting process is on the rise. In fact, it is now at an all-time high. This is because social networks are making it much easier and stress-free for HR pros to get to know job candidates quicker and on a more personal level, and end up finding the right candidate for the right job.
Photo credit hr.blr.com
About the author: This guest post was provided by Jessica Edmondson who contributes on online marketing training and social media marketing training for the University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education, Inc.
The Dress Code policy. There are very few managers or HR professionals who haven’t participated in a dress code conversation.
Sadly, in many organizations, when faced with conundrums such as: “How do I tell Sally she needs to wear a bra?” (answer: “Hey Sally, you need to wear a bra.”) or “What are we going to do so that Bob irons his shirts? (answer: “Hey Bob, iron your shirts.”), the easy lazy answer has always been “Let’s write a dress code policy!”
Many years ago, when I was fresh-faced and eager in my new HR career, the organization I worked for felt the need to move from a common-sense (for the most part) one page Dress Code Policy to a FIVE PAGE policy that spelled out everything from the length of one’s skirt to the banning of pants/skirts that had pockets on the back. The enforcement of this policy would have necessitated, more than likely, the hiring of Sister Mary Agnes to join our staff and roam about measuring skirt lengths with her ruler. As it was, we were already a tad foolish, differentiating the proper attire based on what floor of the building you worked on. If you were a female, and your office was on the 2nd floor, you were forbidden from wearing pants. Why? That was the Executive Floor (all-male C-Suite at the time) and, apparently, it had been determined that the gals needed to remember their place in the hierarchy.
Now this was a financial institution with drive-through banking stations in the Midwest and in the winter it was not uncommon to hit (and sustain) temperatures well below zero. And as you may recall from the last time you went to a drive-through banking facility the tellers were f-a-r a-w-a-y from you and you probably could have cared less about what they were wearing. Nevertheless, back in the day, the company I worked for decided that these employees were dressing inappropriately when they wore cardigan sweaters over a nice shirt or blouse. Never mind the fact that they wore the cardigan sweaters because working in those drive-thru facilities was like coming down the wind tunnel at Lambeau Field in the middle of January.
Sorry Joanie; time to ditch the sweater. Common sense is no match for our dress code policy.
The other day while Googling some random HR stuff, I came across the slide deck for a New Employee Orientation circa 2007.
There were a number of slides devoted to what to wear/what not to wear. (Spaghetti strap tops and athletic shoes were out; pressed khakis and blazers were in). I guess it was particularly helpful for this organization to point out that while skirts and dresses were always appropriate for women – “Female executives and their assistants may choose to wear suits.” I wonder what happened when Grace, the lowly mid-level Purchasing Manager decided to wear a suit? Scandalous!
That, of course, was on the Do/Don’t slide for women. And naturally there was a Do/Don’t slide for men. The headers of these two slides:
“Men Should Look Nice” and “Women Should Look Pretty.”
I am not kidding.
I think about a new employee sitting in a conference room in 2007 (that’s only 5 years ago!) with other newbies. She was excited to start her new job, perhaps even making a bit more money than in her last gig. She had been through numerous interviews, got a good vibe from her soon-to-be-boss and felt she made the right decision for her career when she accepted the job offer.
And then she learned what this company considers important for the success of its female employees when she’s told She Should Look Pretty.
I wonder how long I would have lasted?
Photo credit iStockphoto
This is the 3rd post in our Women of HR series focusing on career. Read along, consider the advice and we invite you to comment with insights of your own.
In January, the Wall Street Journal posed the question “Is the Paper Resume Dead?”
As it turns out, the answer is “No.” Using information from HR recruiters and managers, as well as tracking sales of high quality paper stock at Staples, the author concluded that a paper resume is still a necessity, especially at places like career fairs.
Anyone job searching these days has experienced the online application. Some companies no longer even want a resume – they just want your application. But I’ve spoken to candidates who have been called for interviews and been caught off guard when asked for their resumes. Sometimes the online application is available to certain employees in the company, but not necessarily the ones doing the interviews.
It’s a confusing time to be in HR and experience the transition from paper resumes to employees who have a social media presence – perhaps even a brand!
On the one hand, we are advised to thoroughly research our candidates, perform background checks, and look into their past experience as a strong predictor of future performance. On the other, we’re advised not to let many things a candidate has posted on social media influence our hiring decision, given the possibility that the information posted is inaccurate or discriminatory. Further complicating the matter is our current employees, who, if they are involved in the recruiting and hiring process, love to Google and research the candidates as well.
Employees and job candidates also suffer from the same confusion.
Last week, I noticed a surprising post from a seasoned employee and resume coach. He posed a question on LinkedIn, ranting about a performance review that was only a “Meets Expectations” rating. While this employee said all of his supervisor’s comments were favorable, he was completely angered that the overall rating wasn’t an “Exceeds Expectations” as it had been in the past.
When he discussed the 4 page rebuttal he was in the process of preparing for HR, he received almost 25 responses – most of which advised him against posting about his employer in the first place. The question is now closed, but it is not deleted which means that his rant is forever out there for all to see – including future customers, clients and employers.
A professional paper resume – and a professional online presence – are both necessary.
When caught up in the heat of the moment, it feels good to just let loose. If we can stop and ask ourselves “Is it true?” and “Is it kind?” before we post it on line, we may be able to develop an online presence that it complements, rather than competes, with our well-written resume.
A paper resume may “make or break a bid for a job” and an online presence may make or break a career.
There are a couple ways to look at Millenials entering the workforce today.
Either a) you have a bunch of delusional, texting, Facebooking employees who have unrealistic expectations that they will be CEO in 2 years and feel they are entitled to getting everything they want, or b) you have an emerging number of employees full or energy and enthusiasm who want to find new ways to break into the corporate world and make a difference.
No matter how you look at it, working with Millennials is an inevitable truth of your career now and in the future. Trust me, I know all about it … I am a dreaded “Millennial.”
Setting your millennial new hires off on the right foot could mean the difference between having an employee who stays with your company for years to come instead of being a job switching newbie that moves on to another company in a year ~ or less!
It starts with onboarding.
Here are some keys to successfully on-boarding millennial employees and ensuring we are key contributors for the foreseeable future and not employees who quit after a few months (aka a waste of your company’s valuable resources.)
- Emphasize our impact. Millennials love to make a difference. We are used to being given responsibility and (most) want to leave our mark on whatever we work on. Make sure to focus us on the great things we can do in our new job and how it is important within the scope of the rest of the company.
- Test us out. Some sink or swim is good. During the on-boarding process and within the first few months in a new job it is a good idea to separate the best from the rest. While ultimately you want to set your new employees toward success it is also a good idea to find ways to see what we are made of. Some handholding is good, but the longer you hold our hands that more we depend on you and the farther we may fall after you finally let go.
- Provide recognition and a constant feedback loop. We grew up hearing about how great we are (often times just for participating in things). Whether right or wrong, it created this desire to have our egos stroked. When on-boarding a millennial it is good to recognize our previous accomplishments (specific to each individual, if possible) while also sharing any recognition programs available that we could expect to work toward.
- Set expectations – we tend to have great imaginations. This is a big one. Coming out of college (or from another company) we have no idea how things work at your company. Offer us some insights into what we should expect (both good and bad). It will help us transition and become accustomed to our new environment. It also will lead us to staying with the company longer because there are fewer surprises that we may react to by leaving.
- Mix in fun. Things are being “game-ified” left and right in market today. People are even given “badges” for normal human sustaining activity like eating (ala FourSquare). If there is any way to spice up the on-boarding process with games, activities or some sort of tracking rewards, the level of engagement from millennials increases exponentially.
To offer an analogy, think about each piece of advice listed above in relation to an ice cream cone. Let us (Millennials) hold the ice cream cone (sink or swim) and keep telling us we are doing a great job at holding and eating the ice cream cone (constant feedback & recognition). Share with us the importance of the ice cream (impact) and remind us that ice cream melts (expectations). Moreover, we all know that ice cream cones are bunches of fun!
Use these techniques and maintain the mindset that Millennial employees are more emerging than delusions and you will see improvements in the level of engagement and swiftness of transition into new jobs for Millennials entering your company’s workforce.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Aaron McDaniel (aka “Mr. Business”) is the author of the Young Professional’s Edge blog (YP Edge). He is a corporate director, entrepreneur, public speaker, community volunteer and avid world traveler. Aaron has experience in sales, customer care, marketing, operations, strategy and business development. You can follow Aaron on Twitter as @MrBiz.
I enjoy organizing employee engagement programs. I was recognized by employees and they acknowledged my work when they made our office the best place to work for employee engagement.
I was doing an amazing job with employee engagement – or so I thought.
We decided to organize an extensive event at all of our office locations to celebrate a national holiday; we had offices spread across several cities throughout the country. I was busy with the coordination of the event at the central office where I worked and assigned various city office representatives to take care of programs at their respective locations.
In the middle of the event, I received a call from one of our employees from a city office location who asked, “Are we not fortunate enough to have the HR presence during the celebration day, or what?”
He made known to me his feelings of being neglected because there were not any HR personnel to organize the event at his office. Like any other employee, his intention was to inform me through constructive criticism. A reasonable demand of a normal employee, it is not necessary that a celebration day has to come around for us to visit our employees.
It hit me. I had made myself comfortable and played it safe by placing myself only where management team works.
From then on, I decided to travel to all the locations, move out of my comfort zone, reach out to the employees and be one among them. And I must tell you, until that moment these employees had known HR only through emails and other correspondence and I was really happy to see faces of people who I was familiar with only through phone conversations.
My HR visit to their offices was really an eye opening experience to me – and for them. By putting myself out there and moving out of my comfort zone, I gained an in-depth knowledge on how the whole business runs. I was able to understand the difficulties faced by employees at the grass roots level where the work is really done. I got to know where the real revenue was generated.
I got to know the employees and they got to know me. They were able to address their concerns directly to HR and get a quick resolution. There were reduced queries and concerns from employees, happier and more engaged employees and a renewed respect for HR.
So the bottom line is small company or large, on-site or off – make sure HR is easily accessible and the presence of HR is felt everywhere in the organization. Don’t spend too much time at your desk by sending mails and reading articles. Reach out to employees, spend time with them to understand their problems and concerns and proactively act on them before they have to approach you.
Don’t just think it . . . do it. Explore the opportunities that await you outside of your comfort zone.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Nisha Raghavan, is an HR professional with hands on experience in Talent Management and Talent Acquisition from Telecom Industry. Nisha shares her views and experiences in the HR field on her blog, Your HR Buddy . You can connect with Nisha on Twitter as @thehrbuddy.
Now is the time of year that employees begin to look at their vacation and PTO balances and realize that they have 3 weeks of vacation to take before the end of the year - or they’ll lose it.
Do you allow them to take it all in one block? Do you require them to break it up into shorter amounts (i.e. a week at a time) or do you make an exception to company policy and allow them to carry over? On the flip side, maybe you have an employee that already has a planned vacation but has already taken too much time this year and has no additional time to take.
What’s an HR pro to do?
Time off is one of those HR policies and employee benefits that is very close to an employee’s heart and therefore, issues around time off can often be contentious between the employer and employee. One thing that employees hate most is an ill-defined policy that leaves them thinking one thing, while the employer is thinking another.
This is a common problem. This recently happened at a company that thought their time off policy could do no wrong as it was a “policy of no policy,” meaning they allowed employees to take an unlimited amount of time off given the work gets done on time and with a high level of quality. This can be an amazing employee benefit, if clearly defined.
An employee at this company requested to take 8 weeks off during the summer off. At the time the request was made, there were no guidelines around length of consecutive time off. The employee thought nothing of the request because the summer was slow and they could still get all their work completed on time. The company, on the other hand, felt this was an unreasonable request and denied it. The employee was frustrated and unhappy because he understod the policy as having no limits. After this incident the company defined an extended time off benefit that addresses time off for periods of 6 weeks or more. Unfortunately, the damage was already done with this employee.
Whether you have a vacation or PTO policy, whether its an overly generous policy or one held more closely to the belt, having a well-defined time off policy can help promote employee retention and employee motivation. Your employee handbook should outline the policy and all the specifics around taking time, balances and the logistics.
When writing your policy consider the following qiestions:
- When are new hires eligible to begin taking time off?
- How does time off accrue? Does it increase based on length of service, position or some other measure? How is it pro-rated for part-time employees?
- What is the process for requesting time off? Are there requirements around how much time an employee can take in a row?
- What happens to unused time at the end of the year? Do you have a policy to payout employees for unused time? How much time can an employee carryover at the end of the year, if any?
- What will you do if an employee wants to take time they have not yet accrued?
- Keep in mind that any unused accrued time must be paid out to the employee upon termination. You may want to write your policy in a way that will not result in excessively high balances that require payout upon termination.
Once you’ve written and published your policy, the most important thing you can do it is stick to it. An employee policy that is constantly having exceptions made is not an effective policy and only breeds dissatisfaction among the employee and employer.
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Nancy Saperstone has 20 years experience as an HR Generalist in varying industries and size organizations. Nancy joined InsightPerformance in 2004 where she is a Senior HR Consultant. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and a Masters of Education from Vanderbilt University. She is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management and Northeast Human Resource Association.
When we talk about communication in the form of feedback at work, both managers and employees tend to get anxious and basic conversations quickly become burdensome and uncomfortable.
In my post, Did you mean to say it that way? I wrote about how we communicate and the importance of being genuine vs. scripted.
With a bit of practice and some simple guidelines, the feedback conversations people normally dread can take place much easier. Practice doesn’t always make us perfect but it will surely make the process easier. Before hitting the topics, it’s important to remember that preparation is key.
We’re working with humans who have minds of their own that are filled with opinions. It’s reasonable to have a dialog and anticipate any follow-up questions that may arise for an effective discussion. Notice it’s about having a discussion – when people are speaking to each other - not at each other.
If you want the person to engage in a discussion, avoid speaking in the first person. I guarantee that if you use the word “you” in your conversation, the person will not hear a word you’re saying. It’s natural for humans to feel defensive when addressed this way and while you think they’re paying attention, they’re probably rehearsing comments of defense in their head.
Keep the conversation in the third person and speak about the work issue or behavior. A simple example is to avoid statements like, “You missed the last 2 deadlines” and say, “The last 2 deadlines haven’t been met.” When people are addressed in a non-threatening way, they’ll become more receptive and self-aware.
Because this style of communicating may not come naturally, a trick I use when coaching managers is to visualize the issue or behavior as a real object that you can touch and hold. It’s the basic rule of addressing the issue or behavior rather than the individual.
During a feedback discussion, you should anticipate questions regarding someone’s work performance so have your details handy. Additional specifics provide clarity so that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations. The last thing anyone needs is for either person to leave a discussion feeling confused. You’d be surprised how frequently managers will talk “all around” a topic instead of addressing it head on.
You may be asked how to come up with solutions or ideas for improvement. Since employees should make an effort to be accountable for their careers and continued learning, managers should turn the question around and ask the employee to think about ways they believe will help them to work smarter. We shouldn’t be treating employees like little soldiers who will do as we command, we should be encouraging them to think about how they work.
When we set expectations to focus on upward mobility, this provides an opportunity to get into the habit of solving work challenges both independently and collectively.
Manage Anger and Emotion
Even when you’ve made every effort to speak productively, how do you handle a situation if someone responds with anger? When humans become angry, they’re reacting to feeling offended, wronged or threatened. It’s a modern form of the traditional fight-or-flight response and important to recognize. You can diffuse the anger by acknowledging the reaction and calmly start to ask the person questions. When you ask questions relative to the specifics of what they’re angry about, the person will almost be forced to calm down so he or she can answer the questions.
Obviously, unpredictable situations can raise challenges but the most important thing to do is to continue to treat the issues as objects without taking these reactions personally or allowing ego to get in the way. Remain rational and get the conversation back on track.
Provide Ongoing and Frequent Feedback
Most people appreciate getting a temperature check of how they’re doing at work even if it’s a weekly 10-minute chat. Employees have a higher level of commitment, contentment and confidence when they know where they stand. It’s also an excellent way to create and build a positive employer-employee relationship. Keep in mind I’m not referring to a formal performance review process of having a sit down and reviewing performance with a subjective form with little boxes checked off next to an employee score rating. (That’s a topic for another day!)
When leaders and managers begin to realize that the best employee-employer relationship is one that is mutually beneficial, it’s noticeable and can have a positive ripple effect throughout any organization. After all, employees are humans and deserve to be treated as such.
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