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Are you squandering your company’s experience

Are You Squandering Your Company’s Experience?

Copyright (c) 2009 Mary Lloyd

Getting the most out of what you have is definitely in vogue right now. When it comes to how you use your employees to get the work done, it should be on the top of the list all year every year. There’s more to effective use of human resources than just making sure everybody is working on something. If you pay attention to who can do what best, you can mentor, model, and cross pollinate at the same time you are making sure the work gets done.

This is particularly true in terms of the people who’ve been around for a while. As you get used to what people can do, it’s easy to take it for granted and have them keep doing that same thing all by themselves. For years. For decades.

Four bad things can happen when you use that approach:

* New hires who need to learn how to do the job miss the chance to model that effective performance.

* You miss the rest of what that employee is good at because you kept them doing something you already know they were good at.

* Tough job challenges become tougher because you are not applying the most thoroughly seasoned experience in your toolkit to the problem.

* The experienced employee begins to feel “taken for granted” and isn’t motivated to perform at a peak level. Even worse, he or she may elect to leave for to find a more exciting opportunity.

Assuming your employees are totally interchangeable reduces them to the lowest common denominator and valuable differences and skills are lost. It works a lot better if you see all of what each worker can do in the role as you assign work. If you have experienced employees and are not using them at least informally as coaches, mentors, and problem solving resources for workers with less experience, you’re literally wasting company payroll dollars.

And do more if you can. Consider redesigning the work so you have your experienced workers involved in addressing the tougher challenges more of the time. Get their input on new programs. A lot of what fails has failed before and could have succeeded with a more complete team. In some instances, it will be simple project involvement. But in others, actual job design changes might be warranted. But either way, use that knowledge base and experience as fully as you can.

Another mistake is thinking that all older workers are just waiting to retire and don’t WANT to a challenge. And that they will want nothing to do with the company once they can start living “the Golden Years.” Over 70% of the 3000 baby boomers surveyed in 2005 (BEFORE the economic meltdown we are now facing) wanted to be able to work as part of their retirement. But most favored “cycling in and out of work.” Can you design some of your work that way? You might get it done more effectively if you do.

It may mean getting a retired professional involved on a project from time to time. It may mean bringing back experienced help to met the demands of your peak season. It may mean being bold enough to allow a worker with a proven ability to get the work done to do it off-site. I know a guy in Arizona who dispatches trucks for an outfit in Minnesota–from his extra bedroom.

You’ve spent a lot getting these people to the level of experience they currently claim. Just watching them walk out the door is nonsense. Dooming them to the boredom of routine tasks that long ago became too easy when you have tougher challenges to address is a huge waste.

Explore what might work for them AND the Company. Think hard about just what–of the work they do now–HAS to be shaped the way it currently is. Make the effort to see if you can keep these people doing what they are good at in ways that both get the work done effectively and prepare the next generation of workers in those slots as effectively as you can.

There is a prevailing and disastrous assumption that older workers can’t work very well and aren’t interested in excelling. It’s ridiculous hogwash, but also a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you expect older workers to be inept, disinterested and disengaged, they will comply with the expectation. And you will lose big time in how well you can get the work done.

Are we undervaluing management skills

Are We Undervaluing Management Skills?

Copyright (c) 2008 Shona Garner

There’s much emphasis these days on leadership kills. Almost every organisation talks of the need to develop these; and almost every manager or aspiring manager is encouraged to develop them. But in the race to invest often huge sums of money and time into leadership development programmes, have we forgotten or somehow demeaned the critical skills of managing others?

My colleagues and I spend a lot of time coaching, either 1-2-1 or in workshops, in a variety of public and private organisations, across all types of industries, and there are some issues which come up over and over again. Our experiences, and recent, large-scale studies show:

- Over 70% of people leave jobs because of relationship issues, and most of those are with their immediate supervisor. – Managers typically lose 25% of their day to unnecessary conflict, argument and misunderstanding. – Two thirds of staff feel undervalued at work. – Managers are one of the greatest sources of stress at work.

What does this actually mean for you and your organisation?

In a company of 100 managers, and an average salary of ?40,000 per annum per manager, then the cost to the company will be ?1,000,000 per annum – and that’s not counting the higher staff turnover costs, missed opportunities, absenteeism, low morale and poor teamwork!

And, for the manager themselves, they lose confidence, feel frustrated, and risk their reputation.Somewhere, in the midst of this concern for developing leadership skills, are we neglecting the need to ensure managers know how to manage?

You see, we believe leadership is about “looking out”. It’s about market awareness, about vision, and about strategy. Its vital for the organisation – but do we need every manager to focus on and prioritise leadership skills? Management is about “looking in”. It’s about managing the resources you have to best effect, in order to hit the targets set by the vision.

And the most important and expensive resource you have as a manager is your people. The manager who gets his/her people management right, will improve the bottom line for their company, as well as their own credibility.

The 80 – 20 rule? In our opinion, an organisation encouraging managers to focus on leadership is taking too many eyes off delivery – too much of the time. For very senior managers, MD and CEO level, spending 80% of the time on “looking out” is not only sensible, it is critical.

But for managers, perhaps the focus should be reversed? Managers should focus 80% of their time on “looking in” – on customer satisfaction, on delivery, and on engaging and motivating their staff so they are solution focused, productive and, dare I say it, happy.

And this is not fluffy bunny land! Happy staff – are engaged staff. Engaged staff are more productive, more willing, more open to change, more creative, more focused, more reliable and more flexible.

It’s my bet you have managers in your organisation who consistently produce exceptional results. You’ll also have those whose teams seem to consistently underperform, who take up HR time because of conflict situations, and where performance surveys consistently reveal dissatisfaction, both internally and externally with customers.

Perhaps we should redress the balance a little? Perhaps we should be ensuring we are adequately equipping our managers with the techniques, the tools and the tactics to ensure they really understand how to get the best out of people; how to not just manage conflict, but pre-empt it, how to develop and coach others to greater performance, and how to encourage their staff to become involved, committed and enthusiastic about the hours they spend in the office or in their role.

A 10% increase in staff engagement will rocket your results – and the beauty of it is, it’s an almost infinite resource. No other resource you have has as much potential to help you achieve better results. Ensuring managers know how to tap it is the key to releasing this extra potential.