Blog RSS
Border Background
  1. Why a structured learning program wins when preparing leaders for the next level

    August 30, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Leaders at all levels can be daunted by the thought of moving from their present level to the next rung of the leadership level. Whether they are going to be leading a team for the first time, making the transition to mid-level management, or stepping up to lead a business unit, transitioning leaders can easily feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face.

    Structured programs that address development needs at each level are the best way to address this. A leadership transition program includes hands-on learning, coaching and formal learning. Surprisingly, only 37% of organisations have a structured program to ensure smooth leadership transitions, according to the Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2051 by DDI and The Conference Board.

    As well as increasing engagement and retention and improving the quality of future and current leaders, structured transition programs across all levels of the leadership ladder have a very significant effect on financial performance. The study found that companies with a leadership transition program performed 13% better than average.

    We’ve taken a look at what helps to smooth the leadership transition. Some key findings are:

    • Learning to lead must be handled differently for each level. First-level leaders, mid-level leaders and senior-level each require a unique approach.
    • Hands-on learning in the workplace through setting tough challenges, with plenty of face-to-face contact, is preferred by 90% of transitioning leaders over technology-based and online learning, whether it is instructor lead or self-directed.

    What does this mean for organisations that are developing structured first-level leadership programs?

    Those who are going to lead teams for the first time do best when their leadership transition program involves three key elements:

    • Developmental assignments
    • Formal training
    • Coaching

    Developmental assignments are rated as the most effective method of growing new leaders. This involves the first-level leader taking on challenges such as handling new or different responsibilities, starting a new project or making strategic changes to an existing one,

    Formal training in the hard skills and process capabilities, such monitoring, target setting and applying incentives is absolutely essential.  Mastering hard skills, whether through academic study or workplace learning,  is the most important factor in performance, according to the Study of Australian Leadership. As they put it, ‘Workplaces with better fundamental management systems and practices experience improved workplace performance and employee outcomes, above and beyond other leadership factors.’

    Many institutions offer great courses in leadership, from managing staff in a small business to MBA-level learning in developing to senior management roles. Take a look at the AIM website for a wide range of leadership training options for each level, or Kaplan Professional’s aspiring and emerging leaders’ courses. There are plenty more too.

    Coaching from the current manager is another effective way that first-level leaders learn, according to respondents in the Global Leadership Forecast, with coaching by others in the organisation and coaching from external coaches seen as less relevant at this level.

    Identifying those with the potential to be leaders is vital. They can be identified using objective measures, such as those offered by Psychometric assessment team at Challenge People Services.

    Identifying readiness to step up to a new level of responsibility is important as well, and is not the same as identifying potential. Simulations that present challenges that the high-potential might face in their new role give organisations the opportunity to measure whether they might be able to meet the demands of the new role within a shortened period of time.

    Developing leaders at every level who are capable of taking the organisation on the strategic journey it has identified is at the core of business success. We have looked at what works best for first-level leaders: developmental assignments, formal learning and coaching. Future posts will look at what works for mid-level and senior-level leaders.


  2. What Australia needs to do better

    August 23, 2016 by Alison Hill

    The Olympics are over, and Australia didn’t do as well as we’d hoped. The post-mortem has begun and the leadership is being blamed. Chef de mission Kitty Chiller was too controlling, had ‘muddled team ideals’ and made policy on the run, says the Guardian. Former head swim coach Bill Sweetenham says the entire swimming hierarchy must step down. The recriminations will go on.

    Sport seems not to be the only area in which Australia is falling behind – a recent leadership study finds significant weaknesses in business leadership and management that are hurting our future performance and prosperity. The Study of Australian Leadership was conducted by Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne and reported its findings in May. The SAL says we have reason to be concerned about the state of leadership and management in Australia, and that we are in danger of being unable to address future challenges.

    SAL highlighted seven areas of concern. The gaps and weaknesses we believe are most worrying for Challenge clients are these four.

    1. Many Australian organisations do not get the basics right

    Management fundamentals are not up to scratch, the survey found. Performance monitoring, target setting and using incentives were found to be lacking, and the survey rated these as more important than leadership capabilities and self-efficacy (a leader’s belief in their ability to lead). The good news is that these are skills that can be taught and learnt.

    The study showed that investment in leadership capability pays off in better performance and more innovation. Workplaces with a range of leadership development activities not only have more capable leaders, they also believe in their capacity to excel.

    This leads us to the next important finding.

    1. Too many Australian organisations underinvest in leadership development, especially at the frontline

    When organisations do spend on leadership development, they are focusing on the wrong places. The SAL showed that for every $10 spent on training for senior leaders, only  $1 is spent on frontline and workplace leaders. Yet training for frontline and workplace leaders improved performance and drove innovation more than training for senior leaders did.

    The study found too that many leaders are not well trained for the job, with one in four senior leaders in the private sector having no formal training beyond secondary school. While it concedes that formal qualifications are not everything, it points out that formal training provides a basis for many of the necessary skills, from technical too problem-solving and change management.

    This could be related to the next finding.

    1. Leadership in Australian organisations does not reflect wider social diversity

    It is still dominated by older men form English-speaking backgrounds, according to the study, with women, younger people and those from Non-English speaking backgrounds underrepresented. It points out that diversity is good for business performance, leading to greater creativity and innovation and higher commitment and engagement at work. Since a key finding was that innovation is driven by quality leadership and management and is a critical source of productivity growth and competitiveness, this matters at more than only an ethical or social level.

    1. Many senior leaders do not draw on strategic advice in making decisions about the future

    The study identifies three levels of leadership: senior organisational, workplace level and frontline leadership. At the most senior level, leaders must scan the external environment, interpreting the myriad factors that will influence the competitive position of their organisation. Yet few senior leaders are turning to associations, consultants, experts and the insight of other senior leaders for advice. The study points out that leaders need many sources of insight and information, they cannot make sense of how external challenges will influence their organisation in isolation. Not drawing on strategic advice leaves them vulnerable to poor decision-making, especially in a climate of uncertainty and disruption as we are experiencing now.

    Australian sport and Australian business both have a lot to learn about leadership, it seems, before we can truly be winners. Anthony Mitchell, co-founder of strategic leadership firm Bendelta, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald put it this way: ‘We are now smart enough to recognise that the most important driver of business success – the quality of leadership – requires a level of science proportionate to its impact.’ More on that next time.


  3. How to create and deliver a presentation that is worth sitting through

    August 16, 2016 by Alison Hill

    A friend in the financial services industry told me about a webinar she signed up for, and what a waste of time it was. I’m sure you can relate: after about 20 minutes she took a break and made herself a coffee. When she came back, the same slide was on her screen and the presentation had hardly moved along. She gave up and went back to her work.

    Mostly we’re not able to clock out of boring presentations. Either we need the information to do our jobs properly, or we are stuck in a meeting room with no way out. Most of us will be on the other side of the audience at some time, and have to present to others in the workplace. Knowledge-sharing is a vital part of work these days, and most of us will be called on to give a talk or slide presentation, or to create a webinar or instructional video at some time.

    Whatever method you use, here are some guidelines to follow and some handy resources to help you.

    1. Get straight to the point, preferably with a good story

    So many presentations – particularly webinars – have long introductions that add nothing to the experience. Hook your audience early with a pithy introduction and preferably with a good story that makes them care. There’s nothing like a human angle to get the audience involved. My financial adviser friend recalled the story of a retailer with no business interruption insurance. A car went through the shopfront, smashing the glass and ruining expensive equipment, which was covered, and closing the shop for a month, which was not. That got her attention much more than a statistic about lost trading revenue could ever have.

    1. Know who your audience is

    Actually, this should have been point one. You can’t deliver a good presentation if you don’t know who you are talking to. It affects everything from what technical terms to use (see point 4) to how long you will talk for and what visuals you will use. Take a page from the marketing playbook and create a ‘persona’ representing your typical audience member. How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? What do they already know about your subject? Why do they need to know about your topic? Do some research before you make the presentation, and then tailor what you have to say to that persona.

    A word of warning: it’s annoying to poll the audience at the start of your session and then not act on what you find. Countless webinars ‘poll’ the audience and then do squat to adapt the content to suit those findings. Either be prepared to adapt your talk, or don’t ask. Your audience will only feel ignored and tune out if you fail to respond to their needs.

    1. Don’t overcrowd your presentation with bullet points and endless slides

    Death by PowerPoint – we’ve all been there. There is no point in putting up slides filled with endless bullet points and reading them to the audience; not in person, and not online. Your audience will read your slides rather than listen to you, and they can read faster than you can speak. Use slide presentations to highlight the main points you will talk to and make sure they are interesting. We couldn’t say it any better than in this presentation about great PowerPoint presentations by designer Damon Nofar.

    1. Don’t use excessively technical jargon or in-house terms

    My finance professional told me how she attended a seminar dealing with legal issues in financial advice. ‘When the presenter used terms I didn’t know, I felt really out of touch. I felt dumb until I looked around the room and saw nearly everybody else looking awkward, and realised it wasn’t just me.’ The lesson is that if you have to use technical terms, explain them clearly in words that match the knowledge and experience of your audience.

    1. Use your ordinary speaking voice and put your self into the presentation

    Most of the time, presentations do not need to sound like a formal oration. It’s not the school debating society, nor the Gettysburg address. Put your true self out there and you will be much more likely to connect with the audience.

    1. Mind your professional manners

    My financial friend told me how at an industry event she attended, presenters had cracked ‘jokes’ about their competition in the industry, naming the organisations. Far from making her feel more positive about the presenter’s organisation, she was shocked by their lack of professional manners. Whether you are presenting internally or externally, slagging off the competition, be it another company or another team, adds nothing to your presentation. Bad jokes, in-jokes and snide remarks reflect badly on your professionalism.

    1. Create a strategy to deal with questions

    Think about your pace and how to engage your audience. Reading slides out in a monotone is not going to do it. Giving the audience a chance to ask questions, stopping to ask or answer questions yourself and periodically checking the audience’s understanding helps to keep people tuned in.

    Questions and answers need to be controlled, however. We’ve all been in a presentation where an audience member takes up the group’s time with questions that are not relevant to the rest of us. ‘I was impressed by a presenter who could deflect unhelpful questions’, my financial adviser friend told me. ‘He offered to collect all the questions and answer them at the end if his presentation hadn’t answered them, and dealt with important ones as he went along. He struck a good balance between being engaging and taking up too much time with things that were not interesting to most of us.’

    1. Call on the professionals

    Challenge Consulting’s People Services runs Presenting with Impact workshops on presentation skills, as well as a presentation skills test for candidates.

    Copyright-free images to use in your slides are available on many sites, including Pixabay.  Easy-to-use graphic design site Canva helps with images and infographics. Both can be used for free. Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint. There are plenty more learning resources and tools out there. Use them to make your presentations sing.


  4. The books that have made Challenge’s people learn and grow

    August 9, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Learning is an important aspect of developing people and growing an organisation, and the best organisations make it part of their everyday practice. They take access to professional development and skills training, either externally or internally, seriously. Learning is not left to chance, and a mentoring program or a buddy system guides people to the right colleague to ask when there are questions or issues.

    Reading is an important part of self-directed learning, but it can be difficult to decide what is worth the considerable investment in time a book can demand. We asked some people at Challenge Consulting to direct us to the books they have found important in their learning and that they would recommend to others.

    Jonathan Foxley, Recruitment Manager, Challenge Consulting

    ‘The book I’ve enjoyed most lately is Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson’ the former manager of Manchester United football club.

    ‘I was looking online for something that could help me with my role as the manager of the Challenge team, about how to get the best out of people and keep them inspired and motivated. This was an interesting choice for me because while I love football, Manchester United are a team I hate and I have often thought Sir Alex is a bit too arrogant.

    ‘It was a great read and getting Sir Alex’s insight into the way he managed his players to get the best out of them was really interesting.

    ‘It was good to hear how he dealt with players that caused him problems along the way. Alex Ferguson wasn’t successful in the early days of his career and it was interesting to see how he dealt with the challenges he faced when he first stepped into management. He worked hard at becoming successful and building one of the most successful teams of all time.

    ‘Being a keen sports fan, I enjoyed the way he had been engaged to share the traits that existed on the football pitch versus what we see in the corporate world. While the story made reference to players, coaches and big events that the team took part in, his approach to getting results can be translated into the environment in which we all work.’

    Bríd Murray, Recruitment Resourcer and Team Assistant, Challenge Consulting

    ‘The book I’d recommend is Images of Organisation by  Gareth Morgan. I was introduced to it in an organisational theory class I took while studying organisational psychology.
    ‘The book addresses complex ideas in a creative and relatively simple way. It suggests that images or metaphors can be used as an interpretive lens for diagnosing and understanding various organisational issues. A simple example is the comparison drawn between a bureaucratic organisation and a machine.
    ‘It’s a book that you can dip in and out of, full of thought-provoking insights. Images of Organisation goes beyond being a theoretical text and illustrates how theory can be applied and used in modern organisational life.’

    Jim Peters, Financial Controller, Challenge Consulting

     My absolute favourite is Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    I can’t remember how I came across it, I think just browsing in a bookshop in the mid-90s.

    I related to the whole book as I was doing a lot of hockey coaching at the time, so it had a double impact, work and play. It was a huge help in working with my teenage daughters and one of them introduced the principles of the book when she was the school prefect co-ordinator.

    Key phrases or habits that I find always help me are:

    ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ Simple, but so true.

    ‘Sharpen the saw.’ It’s so easy to keep going without  trying to rest and renew.

    My own favourite is  Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower? A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon by Steven Poole. I worked in an office for a while after many years as a freelancer, and it seemed as though the corporate world had learned to speak a different language.

    Soon I was used to ‘going forward’, ‘best practice’ and ‘impacting’, though at first I had to resist the urge to edit everybody as they spoke. I may even have used ‘circle back’ in a sentence myself. I began to collect the more outrageous examples of corporate-speak and try to figure out what they mean.

    So when I found this book, arranged alphabetically with a hilarious explanation of each term – I had to have it and to share it with as many people as possible.

    But I won’t open the kimono any further. Share your favourite books or blogs with us in the comments section.

     

     


  5. What makes a good mentor?

    August 2, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Mentoring is a buzzword in today’s workplace, with over 70 per cent of Fortune 500 companies offering their employees professional mentoring programs. The concept is ancient, however – the term ‘mentor’ comes from Homer’s Odyssey, which dates back to the end of the eighth century BC.
    Mentor was left in charge of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, when Odysseus left for the Trojan war, and later, the goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor and encouraged Telemachus to stand up to his mother’s suitors and go searching for his father, who had not returned from the Trojan War. (Yes, it’s complicated. Reading the whole work is a deeply rewarding experience and is highly recommended.)
    Mentoring is not the same as coaching, which we wrote about here. It is also not the same as training, which is formal and structured, and designed to teach particular skills and competencies.
    Dr John Kenworthy of Leadership AdvantEdge defines mentoring as: ‘A working relational experience through which one person empowers and enables another by sharing their wisdom and resources’.
    At a recent session at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) mentoring trainer Toni Greenwood said that the best mentors know about the specific company, the industry it operates within and the big-picture issues of strategic importance to both. They have a range of great interpersonal skills, including active listening, the ability to give good feedback and the courage to have difficult conversations – and then let the issue go. They will be good at challenging the person who is being mentored and reframing the issue they are facing to allow them to find their own solution. Emotional intelligence is crucial; they must show empathy, resilience and the ability to read emotions in others.
    Let’s turn again to the Odyssey for some ideas about what a mentor does.
    1. A mentor is a more experienced person who shares their wisdom with a less experienced person.
    As Mentor did for Telemachus, a mentoring relationship provides a safe space for the person who is being mentored to share the issues that are holding them back with somebody whose experience is greater. Creating a long-term relationship over time, so that both people can learn about one another, build trust and feel secure, is a foundation of the mentoring process. While there is no perfect time for the mentoring relationship to last, generally around a year is recommended. In Deloitte’s Emerging Leaders Development Program, mentoring relationships last at least two years.
    A connection with a mentor can help a high-potential employee to learn from a leader, making them ready to take on a leadership position in the organisation more quickly, and with more organisation-specific knowledge than if only skills training or coaching were offered.
    2. A mentor works alongside the person who is being mentored.
    A mentoring relationship may start out with specific goals and set competencies to achieve, but its scope usually grows beyond the initial issues to encompass anything that impacts success, such as dealing with work–life balance or developing self-confidence. Nevertheless, agreeing on areas of focus, adopting a mentoring model and the all-important business of choosing a mentor are vital in setting up the relationship and deciding on its strategic purpose.
    3. A mentor encourages the person being mentored to step outside their comfort level
    Because an important part of the mentoring relationship is directed at the person’s future in the company and not only for the immediate job, it is different to the role of manager. Companies use mentoring programs to develop leaders and to keep star performers engaged, increasing retention rates. The mentoring relationship is most productive when it is separate to the manager–employee relationship (unlike in the coaching relationship where the manager can play a more direct role).
    Just as Mentor became Telemachus’ teacher, coach, counsellor and protector, developing a relationship based on affection and trust, organisations can adopt mentoring programs to build leaders and create organisations that engage and retain top talent.


  6. How constructive criticism helps us thrive

    July 26, 2016 by Alison Hill

    So much of what we do at work, from giving and receiving performance reviews to learning to be a leader and coach, rests on being able to give and receive feedback. Although it can be scary, people actually thrive on criticism when it is constructive.

    Good feedback is the quickest way to learn do things better and to change our behaviour. Yet we fear and avoid it, for good reasons to do with the way the human mind works. We find it threatening both to give and to receive criticism. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    A colleague recently participated in a writing workshop and told me how much she had benefited from what others had said about the work she’d presented. ‘Well you’re good, so of course they would say so,’ I told her. ‘No, it was when they told me the things I hadn’t done well that I really learnt something’, she said.  ‘It hurt, and some of the group were pretty harsh, yet when I thought about it later, I was grateful. I reworked my story and it was a lot better.’ Then she told me how hard it had been to give constructive criticism, especially to people she didn’t like much or when she felt the work had few redeeming features.

    I reminded her about using the ‘sandwich’ method we’d learnt in parenting classes: positioning a slice of negative criticism ‘cheese’ between two pieces of positive feedback ‘bread’. ‘I did that, and I felt like a fake’, she told me. ‘I could see they were just waiting for me to get to the bad bit, and didn’t really hear the good news. I was uncomfortable because I knew I still had to say that their dialogue was unnatural and their grammar was all wrong, and my unease made them uncomfortable too.’ It seemed the conventional wisdom wasn’t working.

    She then shared with me how the group had agreed to a better method after that first awkward session. They decided to be transparent about how constructive feedback would be given, and all agreed to follow a process. My friend described how much better she felt about giving and receiving feedback when the emphasis shifted to making shared, informed choices about how to improve. Of course, sharing creative writing in a group setting is not quite the same as having a one-on-one conversation about workplace performance, but the principles still apply.

    Giving criticism: the criticism sandwich v the transparent approach

    Instead of: ‘The report is well written and interesting. However, there’s not enough detail. You’d better find the figures and add them in before the presentation at three. I love the layout though’.

    Describe what you see, and agree on the facts

    ‘I’m concerned about the lack of detail in this report and how that might have affected our business case. I’d like to go through some details and see if you see the same things. I’m open to the possibility that I’ve missed something or that I’ve not explained what’s needed. Once we agree on the size of the problem, let’s decide what we can do.

    Decide how the work could be improved

    ‘So you agree there should be more data and explained that you needed more time to do the research. I’ll have Tom cover your client calls for today and you will find the data and add it to the report before the presentation.’

    Commit to implementing the feedback where appropriate and sharing the results

    You’ll get the revised report to me by two, so that I can check the figures. Next time I’ll be more realistic with timeframes and you’ll be clearer about your process and ask for help if you need it, so there are no last-minute surprises in future.’

    How did implementing this transparent approach work in my colleague’s writing workshop? And how can we apply what she has learnt to the workplace?

    She now feels more genuine in the feedback she gives, and less defensive about receiving it in return. The group as a whole feels confident and comfortable about sharing the good and the bad aspects of each other’s work. She’s preparing her manuscript for a publisher – a step she said she would never have taken without the constructive and transparent criticism of her peers.

    Managers have to give criticism regularly, and it can be tough. Employees are bound to receive it, and in a healthy workplace giving and receiving feedback from peers can present growth opportunities too. Practicing good feedback techniques will stand us in good stead no matter where we are. So describe what you see, negotiate a mutual solution and commit to implementing good feedback.


  7. What companies with the best employee retention have in common

    July 19, 2016 by Alison Hill

    With competition for workers in many sectors fierce and the costs of recruiting and replacing good employees growing, it makes sense for organisations to put more effort into retention. Engagement and retention are one of the top concerns for 78% of today’s business leaders, according to Deloitte. Employee engagement solutions company TINYpulse researched what really drives attrition, and recently published their Employee Retention Report.

    The report surveyed 400 full-time employees in the US over two weeks in July 2015 and analysed the data. This is what the top performing organisations do to retain the best employees.

    1. They choose supervisors that respect employees’ work and ideas

    When employees feel managers respect their work and ideas they are 32% less likely to think about looking for a new job – strong support for the adage that employees don’t quit their job; they quit their boss. Additionally, employees reported that they would be 13% more likely to stay if they were satisfied with the organisation’s senior management team.

    TINYpulse reports that micromanagement has a big impact on team satisfaction. Those with freedom to choose how they do their jobs are satisfied and more likely to stay. But those who feel micromanaged will most likely be thinking about leaving – 28% more likely. That’s a lot of disengagement.

    The next biggest factor in the manager relationship is transparency – there is a very high link between setting clear goals for the team and communicating them clearly and retention – 30%, in fact. Showing respect and appreciation has measurable results when it comes to keeping great employees.

    1. They hire candidates who show positivity, innovation and productivity

    ‘Colleagues have a lot of power’, says TINYpulse. High levels of peer respect mean higher levels of retention, so paying attention to the hiring process is critical and hiring people who are great to work with and are a good fit is as important as their skills when deciding whether to make the offer. Those who did not feel respected by their peers were 10% less likely to see a long-term future with the organisation.

    1. They pay serious attention to workplace culture and hire for cultural fit

    TINYpulse’s research showed that workplace culture is not a fluffy issue. Where employees rated the culture of their workplace low, there were 15% more likely to think about leaving. Both the type of culture and how the individual fitted into it mattered, and having a bit of fun on the job, such as at office drinks, sporting events or team volunteering, makes a big difference, as does assigning new employees a mentor or peer buddy who is an ambassador for the workplace culture.

    1. They encourage employees to take their paid time off and don’t overload them with work

    This one was huge – ‘Employees that are tired and burnt out are 31% more likely to think about looking for a new job than their colleagues who feel comfortable with their workload’. The survey points out that burnout is preventable if managers understand its downsides, measure it and take efforts to eliminate it, such as by taking their own paid leave.

    1. They offer professional growth opportunities to everybody, not just young employees

    Those with access to professional development and skills training, either externally or internally, were 10% more likely to stay with their employer. Millennials were almost unanimous that they would consider changing employers if they did not see opportunities for professional growth with their current employer – a whopping 75% of them. The report points out, though, that the desire for opportunities for growth now applies across workforce generations.

    Asking employees where they see themselves in six months’ time, next year, in two years’ time, is not just a good conversation starter; it’s an essential part of a retention strategy. Listen carefully to the answer – and do something about it. If you won’t, a competitor will. Our blog will offer some great ideas about in-house and external skills and development training in the near future.

    No initiative – especially one to improve your retention – should begin without a measurement to see how your team feels about the issues, the TINYpulse research report points out. You need to know where you are now, to pinpoint the most troublesome areas that need your attention, and to know how you will measure your success.


    Challenge Consulting’s Employee Retention Optimiser has been developed to identify key retention issues and priorities for your organisation; guide improvement strategies at all levels and help you to implement them; and track and monitor improvements. Find out more at Challenge People Services

     

     

     


  8. How to get the most from your temporary assignment

    July 12, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Temporary work can be great for all involved. Companies get to fill leave positions, cover for a key person who is ill, or find an extra pair of hands in busy times. Newly qualified workers can gain experience in the workplace and try out different industries and employers, and otherwise unemployed people can keep their skills current and earn an income while they search for a permanent position.
    A first-class agency that specialises in the industries and skills that both the company and the temp are interested in can make a good match great.
    So how do companies and temps both get the most out of the temporary assignment? We asked Melissa Lombardo, Challenge Consulting’s Temporary Services Consultant,  and considered what employers have valued when they nominated people for our Temp of the Month award.
    Here are four things you can do to maximise the temping experience.

    1. Be reliable
    Reliability is Lombardo’s first requirement. It seems self-evident, but sadly it isn’t. She explains that Challenge maintains a group of excellent candidates that have been interviewed and reference checked, so that when an assignment arises, the candidate can fill the position the same day if necessary. ‘This means reliability is the most important characteristic of a good temp’, says Lombardo. ‘Temps who show commitment to the position will be most likely to be offered the next position, as they’ve demonstrated their reliability by showing up and completing the placement’.

    What they said about the temp …
    ‘Her work rate and standards are very high’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Michala Kowalski
    ‘She is so accommodating and bright that any company would be silly to not offer her a role for which she applies’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Janette Wallman


     

    2. Be a clear communicator
    The agency can make a good match if both the temp and the organisation are clear about what they want. If a temp is unable to take a position because it means a long commute, they should say so, says Lombardo. A reasonable recruiter would not hold that against a temp, and can offer them another assignment closer to home.
    Organisations should try to plan for covering maternity leave, annual leave or periods of higher activity. With more notice, the temporary recruiter can place the most suitable person, particularly for longer assignments. The best temps are in high demand and may be unavailable at short notice.

    What they said about the temp …
    ‘She is a strong communicator and is able to deal with our introducers demands with ease’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Anna Kemp
    ‘… a friendly and energetic part of the team’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Nishma Manandhar


     

    3. Be open-minded about the assignment
    Lombardo says that both organisations and temps can be reluctant when the person’s skills and experience are more than the role requires. Approached with an open mind, this situation is a winner for all concerned.
    The temp has a great opportunity to impress, to network and to learn new skills and systems. They will be remembered when it comes to making a permanent hire in a position for which the temp is qualified; they will think of Charlie the great temp receptionist who was actually a qualified accountant when the next suitable vacancy comes up.
    ‘The company gets the benefit of a person with strong experience and skills, representing great value for money, says Lombardo. ‘This is particularly true for those on working holiday visas, who may be much more qualified than is necessary for an admin assistant.’

    What they said about the temp …
    ‘… doing jobs far below her skill set but she would not tell you she is degree qualified in the science field’ Challenge Temp of the Month Janette Wallman
    ‘Despite being a senior HR practitioner and working with us on contract, Janine has mucked in with admin duties’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Janine Brockway
    ‘… consistently amazes us with the upgrades he has made to our SharePoint site’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Peter Sunga


     

    4. Have a positive attitude and go the extra mile
    Temps are always meeting new people and working in different environments. It helps to be friendly, positive, and open to new experiences. If the temp assignment is more junior than is ideal, a positive person will see it as a good way to network and have new learning experiences.
    Employers should be open to contributions that are ‘above and beyond.’ Just because they are temps, it doesn’t mean they can’t make excellent suggestions or put improvements in place.

    What they said about the temp …
    ‘… jumped at the opportunity to take on challenging additional work’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Charbel Elhage
    ‘… made a huge effort to pinpoint any areas for further development’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Nishma Manandhar
    ‘… not only performed the role as required, but has worked to make continual improvements to the process’ – Challenge Temp of the Month Aisling Kennedy


    Find out more about Challenge Consulting’s Temporary Staff Services here.


  9. How the best leaders become coaches: lessons from the field

    July 5, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Being a team player, touching base, big wins, level playing fields – not to mention  dropping the ball and getting it over the line –  are just some of the terms from the sports field that we use at work. So when we decided to address the topic of leadership coaching, we decided to ask a successful sports coach for tips that we could translate to the workplace.

    When Adam took over as coach of a club soccer team, they had come last in the previous season’s competition. They weren’t too discouraged, as they were mates who liked playing together, but they had no expectations of winning. Three months into this season, they have won eight games in a row and stand a good chance of winning the entire competition. So what’s changed? And how did they get there?

    As I spoke to Adam, the parallels between coaching a group of 16-year-old boys in football and leading a team at work became clearer. Last season’s coach/manager has moved on. The team is ready to play but not highly motivated. They lack some skills and resources, and above all they lack belief that they can achieve. These are the steps Adam took to turn the team’s fortunes around.

    1. Observe and learn

    For the first few training sessions, Adam watched the players, assessing their skills and attitudes and observing how they worked together as a team. He didn’t step in or change anything until he had this figured out. Adam then worked out what he needed to learn himself before he could support the team. He realised that he couldn’t teach them hard skills in the time available, but could suggest areas of improvement for each player and an approach to learning new skills.

    Lesson: The best coaches start by truly understanding the team they are working with before they rush in with solutions. They know that self-education has to come before teaching others, and empower their teams to be responsible for their own skills development.

    1. Plan and consult

    Once he had observed the team and was familiar with their strengths and weaknesses and how they worked together, Adam make a plan for tackling improvement. Upgrading skills was to be their individual responsibility, while teamwork and team culture would be his.  He consulted the team about their vision; what they wanted from the season and what they expected to achieve.

    Lesson: Involving the team in their own goal setting and making a concrete plan of action brings results. The best coaches know that setting achievable yet challenging goals motivates people.

    1. Set expectations and parameters

    Adam emailed each team member, outlining what was expected of them and what he would do for the team. This included attending every training session, showing total respect for teammates,  and encouraging team members who made mistakes or struggled with new skills. In turn he committed to 100% positive effort and the intention to win every game.

    Lesson:  Setting clear expectations for everybody in the team – including the coach – builds a respectful culture in which everybody is expected to do their best and support one another in an atmosphere of civility. The best coaches hold their team to high standards of personal conduct as well as professional skill.

    1. Advocate for the team

    The team’s culture of non-performance meant they were under-resourced and rather ignored by the club. Adam’s mission was to get the team the resources it needed to succeed, and he pressured the club to provide new training balls, bibs and cones. This motivated the team and they soon began to win games and catch the attention of the club’s hierarchy. A coach needs to ‘go in to bat’ for the team and get them the resources they need, as well as to be supported by the organisation, to be truly effective.

    Lesson: Whether it is better equipment, more time to complete a project or recruiting a star performer, a good coach tries their utmost to get the team what it needs. Their commitment to advocating on behalf of the team shows the team they are valued as well as providing them with resources  to maximise their chances of success.

    5. Learn from setbacks and failures

    When the team started winning, they were surprised by their success. They won a game, but then had a bad loss, crumbling under pressure. Adam reassured them that this did not confirm their fear that they were a poor team after all. He admitted that he had formed a false sense of their mastery after the previous week’s win, and thought that winning would be easy this time too. He asked the team why they thought they had lost, and how they felt about it, and together they recommitted to a slightly different training routine, moving players to different positions, and working harder at skills. They aimed for improvement, not perfection.

    Lesson: Progress is not always linear and there are bound to be stumbling blocks. Confronting these situations, learning from them and adjusting plans when they are not working makes for a better result. A great coach leads the team through setbacks and is not afraid to talk about the negative aspects of performance as well as the positive.

    1. Review performance and celebrate success

    At the end of each game, the team has a quick chat about what went well and what went badly, but Adam is aware that they would rather get home than talk about the game at length. He plans a longer, more formal feedback session for the next training time, where they can talk honestly among themselves – and when tempers have died down if necessary. He stresses that by this time he has had time to reflect on the game, which is crucial in setting the tone for a review. The players contribute their ideas, the team discusses them, and the coach acts on the good ones. He sets the rules for these discussions: no criticism of anybody in front of others; talk about the team, not individuals.

    In this team, success is not celebrated by singling out individual players for medals and commendations. The biggest celebrations are reserved for when a player who has never scored a goal before gets one, rather than for when the star player scores another one. Adam’s proudest achievement is that a player who has never scored in many years of playing kicked the winning goal last week.

    Lesson: Success belongs to everybody, and so does disappointment. The best coaches do not praise or criticise reactively. They reflect and plan before honest discussions about—–

    The parallels between coaching a sports team and a business team are clear – that’s why the sporting metaphors fit so well. Lead your team to success by being the coach who uses a consultative leadership style, plans before acting, and shows flexibility and a willingness to take considered risks. Then watch your ‘weakest performer’ score the next winning goal.


  10. Five alternatives to the traditional performance review

    June 28, 2016 by Alison Hill

    I asked a millennial a straightforward question: ‘Have you ever had a performance review?’ ‘Yes, and it sucked’, he replied.

    He’s a motivated, engaged worker who routinely exceeds his monthly targets, so I’m sure it wasn’t his rating he was unhappy with; it was the process. We know it needs to change; after all, the workplace has changed profoundly in the last decade. We make decisions more collaboratively, we work in global teams, our work is more data-driven and information overload is a constant stressor.

    This young person described his ideal alternative to a performance review to me and it boiled down to three things:

    • Coaching and mentoring to help him reach his own goals
    • A clear understanding of the organisation’s goals and how he is expected to meet them
    • A fair and balanced assessment of how he is doing, from a range of perspectives

    And while these are all really important to him, he doesn’t want them to be onerous or too time-consuming; not for him, his manger or the people in HR.

    I participated in a webinar hosted by Halogen Software, in which presenters Evelyn Watts and Hawley Kane outlined five alternatives to the annual review. I’m sure my millennial mate, as well as any of the other three or four generations in the workplace, will find an alternative that suits their workplace and their people.

    It’s important. Watts and Kane reported that when organisations began to focus on coaching and feedback in their ongoing performance management they reported:

    • increased revenue (70% of companies)
    • decrease in staff turnover (72% of companies)
    • improved customer satisfaction (54% of companies).

    So here are the five alternatives that Watts and Kane of Halogen Software suggest.

    1. Quarterly goal setting

    Frequent revision and updating of goals leads to better business outcomes. It’s common for executive teams to review their goals as often as five times a year; employees are unlikely to do the same.

    Step one is to align individual goals with strategic goals; and step two is to set concrete goals with a target and a measurement. It is then critical to keep on track and stay engaged, which is accomplished by regular and specific feedback and discussion. As Halogen is a software company, it has clever computer-based ways to manage these processes and keep them front of mind.

    1. Development discussions

    In the contemporary workplace, especially for millennials, the reality is that 18 to 24 months in a job is normal. In this time, employer and employee want to get the most from each other. Holding development discussions that challenge everybody is the manager’s challenge. The process should be honest and open, with the manager acting as coach, not boss.

    It is still important that the process be formal and that a solid development plan results from it. Halogen’s career development plan asks, ‘Where do you want to be in two years?’ The manager is then challenged to identify appropriate development plans to help the team member reach their career goals. They must keep the conversation going, periodically asking, ‘how are we doing?’ and at the end of the year asking, ‘did we get there?’ before creating the next plan.

    1. 360 degree feedback assessments

    One of the things my millennial mentioned in describing how his reviews sucked was that although his manager felt she had the full picture of his achievements, he didn’t believe that she did, as he did some of his best work on a project in another team, some of whom were in another city. Well-conducted 360 degree reviews overcome this as workers are far more accepting of performance feedback when it comes from multiple sources. Halogen reports more accurate, credible and reliable performance appraisal ratings, improved performance and higher functioning teams as well.

    These are their guidelines

    • Have employees choose raters with manager approval
    • Feedback should be aggregated and anonymous
    • Rate on competencies
    • Provide training and follow up

    Teaching people how to give and receive feedback is important for this approach to be successful, and feedback should flow up as well as down the company hierarchy.

    1. Project reviews

    Reviewing the success of a project and the people working on it aligns better with the way many companies work now. This method is not limited to the employee-manger relationship and is flexible in that it can launch any time and team leaders can manage their own project teams and set project goals and measurements. Project reviews should incorporate continuous feedback to work most effectively, say Watts and Kane.

    1. Check-ins

    Watts and Kane refer to frequent, regular one-on-one conversations as the ‘Holy Grail’ of performance management. They link coaching and feedback to goals, development, rewards and ultimately career progression. Because they are so important, we will look at these in detail in our next post about performance reviews.

    Progress, not perfection

    In the webinar’s question time a participant said that they presently had no performance reviews, and asked how to get started.  Training people to understand the benefits, linking goals (the what) and competencies (the how) and changing the mindset of managers all formed part of the answer, but what really resonated was Watts and Kane’s assertion that you can start tomorrow with these five methods.

    We know the performance review has to change, and we can take small steps, aiming for progress rather than perfection. Work is changing so fast that we can’t afford not to – improving conventional approaches is not going to cut it and the annual review is becoming less effective at driving performance every year.




SUBSCRIBE Join Our Mail List
Border Background