Many entrepreneurs seem to view employee training and development as more optional than essential – a viewpoint that can be costly to both short-term profits and long-term progress. The primary reason training is considered optional by so many business owners is because it’s viewed more as an expense than an investment. This is completely understandable when you realise that in many companies, training and development aren’t focused on producing a targeted result for the business. As a result, business owners frequently send their people to training courses that seem right and sound good without knowing what to expect in return. But without measurable results, it’s almost impossible to view training as anything more than an expense.
Assess Business Needs
Now contrast that approach to one where training’s viewed as a capital investment with thoughtful consideration as to how you’re going to obtain an acceptable rate of return on your investment. And a good place to start your “thoughtful consideration” is with a needs analysis. As it relates to training and development, a needs analysis is really an outcome analysis – what do you want out of this training? Ask yourself, “What’s going to change in my business or in the behaviour or performance of my employees as a result of this training that’s going to help my company?” Be forewarned: This exercise requires you to take time to think it through and focus more on your processes than your products.
As you go through this analysis, consider the strengths and weaknesses in your company and try to identify the deficiencies that, when corrected, represent a potential for upside gain in your business. A common area for improvement in many companies is helping supervisors manage better for performance. Many people are promoted into managerial positions because they’re technically good at their jobs, but they aren’t trained as managers to help their subordinates achieve peak performance.
Create a Learning dynamic
Determining your training and development needs based on targeted results is only the beginning. The next step is to establish a learning dynamic for your company. In today’s economy, if your business isn’t learning, then you’re going to fall behind. And a business learns as its people learn. Your employees are the ones that produce, refine, protect, deliver and manage your products or services every day, year in, year out. With the rapid pace and international reach of the 21st century marketplace, continual learning is critical to your business’s continued success.
To create a learning culture in your business, begin by clearly communicating your expectation that employees should take the steps necessary to hone their skills to stay on top of their professions or fields of work. Make sure you support their efforts in this area by supplying the resources they need to accomplish this goal. Second, communicate to your employees the specific training needs and targeted results you’ve established as a result of your needs analysis. Third, provide a sound introduction and orientation to your company’s culture, including your learning culture, to any new employees you hire. This orientation should introduce employees to your company, and provide them with proper training in the successful procedures your company’s developed and learned over time.
Current and Future Leadership
Every successful training and development programme also includes a component that addresses your existing and future leadership needs. At its core, this component must provide for the systematic identification and development of your managers in terms of the leadership style that drives your business and makes it unique and profitable. Have you spent time thoughtfully examining the style of leadership that’s most successful in your environment and that you want to promote? What steps are you taking to develop those important leadership traits in your people?
Setting the Budget
Financial considerations related to training can be perplexing, but in most cases, the true budgetary impact depends on how well you manage the first three components (needs analysis, learning and leadership). If your training is targeted to specific business results, then you’re more likely to be happy with what you spend on training. But if the training budget isn’t related to specific outcomes, then money is more likely to be spent on courses that have no positive impact on the company.
In many organisations, training budgets are solely a function of whether the company is enjoying an economic upswing or enduring a downturn. In good times, companies tend to spend money on training that’s not significant to the organisation, and in bad times, the pendulum swings to the other extreme and training is eliminated altogether. In any economic environment, the training expense should be determined by the targeted business results you want, not other budget-related factors. To help counter this tendency, sit down and assess your training and development needs once or twice a year to identify your needs and brainstorm how to achieve your desired results effectively and efficiently. Your employees are your principle business asset. Invest in them thoughtfully and strategically, and you’ll reap rewards that pay off now and for years to come.
The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams
Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.
In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.
Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.
When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”
Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.
Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?
For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.
Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.
With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.
Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?
For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.
Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.
As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?
One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.
Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making
Walk away from the computer once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for meetings. And don’t check your smartphone during a conversation.
The millennial generation has faced a great deal of criticism, and in some cases, scorn from older generations. We millennials – yes, I’m one of them – are seen as selfish, entitled and demanding, not to mention addicted to technology.
Are these stereotypes true? Certainly not for all millennials. But there are certain tendencies and habits that are associated with the millennial generation more than any other generation – and they run both positive and negative.
Here, let’s focus on the negatives, setting aside the fact that you can’t categorize an entire generation, and behavioral traits and stereotypes can’t be empirically proven to exist. Instead, let’s focus on the bad workplace habits that the older generations perceive millennials to have, and work on eliminating them.
Regardless of how much of a stereotypical millennial you believe yourself to be, you’ll make a better impression in your new work environment if you avoid these common bad habits:
1Making demands instead of requests
Millennials do have a habit of making demands, and setting more rigid requirements for their workplaces. On some level, this is good; too many modern workers are afraid to voice their opinions, and would rather keep their heads down than verbally address something wrong with the organisations.
However, when voicing your opinion, turn your demands into requests. Making a request of your employer shows more respect and subordination than making a demand, which is especially important if you’re new to the organisation.
The more experience you earn, the more demanding you can afford to be, but start out by making requests instead.
Confidence is good, but overconfidence can ruin your reputation if it’s perceived as arrogance. Millennials tend to overestimate their abilities and knowledge in the workplace, which is especially irritating to people from the older generations who have spent far more years on the job.
Recognize that your superiors have been at this job longer than you have, and don’t be afraid to exhibit confidence – as long as you keep that confidence reasonably in check. It’s better to perform well with a sense of humility than to boast about your abilities and fail to meet expectations. Just as happens with demands, you can demonstrate more confidence over time as your accomplishments start to speak for themselves.
3Relying only on certain forms of communication
Most millennials prefer text-based forms of communication over voice-based forms. They’re more comfortable with mediums like SMS text and email because they’ve grown up with these formats, and recognise the fact that they give you more time to put your thoughts together (not to mention leaving a paper trail).
However, it’s important to recognise that not everyone prefers to communicate this way – and that there are advantages to making a phone call rather than emailing. Showcase a degree of flexibility in the way you communicate, and you can eliminate this bad habit altogether.
4Talking more than listening
This is a bad habit for any generation, not just millennials; but for millennials, it’s far more damning. Because millennials are seen as self-centered and overconfident, talking too much can be seen as an exacerbation of these qualities (even if it’s just a result of this individual’s extroverted personality).
Instead, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more, especially when you’re in the company of someone more experienced or more authoritative than you are. You’ll end up making a better impression, and more importantly, you’ll learn more in the process.
5Assuming a certain behavior or action is okay
Office environments are becoming more relaxed. Work schedules are becoming more flexible, etiquette is becoming looser and dress codes are increasingly casual. These trends are facilitated by increasing technological sophistication and decreasing reliance on old-school business tropes. However, this isn’t a free license to show up at the office whenever you want, wearing whatever you want.
In fact, doing so could mark you as both overconfident and disrespectful. Don’t just assume a certain action or behavior is okay. If you’re even slightly in doubt, ask someone.
Millennials grew up with technology that provided instantaneous information on demand. They work fast and think fast, which makes them highly productive and ingenious. Unfortunately, this high pace also lures them into the multitasking trap, tempting them to try to accomplish many things simultaneously in a bid to work as fast as possible.
As more people are beginning to realise, multitasking is ineffective, and engaging in multitasking could weaken your performance in multiple areas.
7Staying plugged in
Again, thanks to our natural history with technological devices, we millennials tend to be more reliant on them than our older-generation counterparts. There’s a perception that weare addicted to technology, so if you’re young and want to combat this stereotype and improve your reputation in the process, avoid staying “plugged in” for too long.
Walk away from the computer every once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for that important meeting. Above all, don’t check your smartphone when you’re having a conversation.
The truth is, there are some differences that set millennials apart from other generations. This doesn’t mean millennials are bad workers or good workers – it just means they work differently. Acknowledging those differences, and compensating for them when they create workplace dissonance, can help you better adjust to your job, and make a better impression with the people in charge.
Focus on eliminating these bad habits, and you’ll stand apart from the rest of your generation.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
End Of Year Slump? Now’s The Time To Pull Out The Right Rewards
It has been a long year with many economic turmoils. People are tired and many employees have just one goal in mind — to take a well-deserved rest.
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For sales people this should be the last thing on their minds. The festive season is especially the season to sell, sell, sell. What is the best way to solve this conundrum?
Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere. November, through December into January is the time of year when annual targets will be achieved and contracts renewed, so what better time to drive activity and incentivise the workforce?
As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.
Timing is everything
The tradition of pre-Christmas reward means employee recognition is delivered before the year is out. Although the extra money will come in handy for gifts and what-not, January is usually a lean month.
The reward process could be split, for example, with half the reward given before Christmas and half in the New Year. A reward at the start of the year is the perfect way to perk up employees who may be suffering from the January blues, and focus them on activities for the months ahead. It also helps extend the feel-good factor of the festive season and ease the post-Christmas squeeze on spending.
Increasing normal rewards
For those who have to work during this time, motivation can ebb away. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible.
Considering that buying power increases through more disposable income, December offers the perfect opportunity to maximise sales figures.
A targeted approach
When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way of deciding them is to ask staff to select their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.
Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole of the team, especially during this time when employees might feel deprived of a festive season because they have to work.
Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.
Related: Incentives to Promote Job Creation
The challenge that many businesses face when planning their festive reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day to day necessities.
Money being uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.
Rewards beyond gift cards
Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is the earning of days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.
End-of-year rewards resonate strongly with employees as a way of acknowledging their contribution throughout the year. It is therefore also a good idea to use this opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of employees by presenting their rewards on a public forum.
This adds a personal element and provides public recognition for the member of staff in front of their peers and is fitting for an end-of-the-year festive celebration.
Communication is key
Communication over the festive season is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation.
The trick here is to make the communications so powerful that they overcome end-of-year fatigue.
Ask Uwin Iwin to help you to relook your incentive programme this festive season. And while it shouldn’t be the only incentive you provide for the year, it is good to make it a little more special for your valuable employees during the festive season.
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