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Increasing Productivity

Bigger Brains in Your Business

Are short executive programmes an effective learning and training option?

Deidre Elphick-Moore

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Does your business have an organisational framework that supports managers and leaders as they continue to develop their skills beyond any skills programmes they have taken? How often have you personally been on a course, loved it, and then never implemented a single learning?

We can all agree that in today’s competitive environment upskilling is essential, but for short, executive skills development programmes to lead to improved management and leadership performance (which is really the point, after all), they need to be credible and inspirational. The lessons learnt need to be applicable and the consequential behaviours of attendees need to be measurable.

Michael Leimbach and Ed Emde of Wilson Learning Worldwide and Wilson Learning Corp respectively, identified the ‘Rule of Three’; those critical areas where organisations can improve learning transfer from the classroom to the workplace. Each of these needs to be factored into the roll out of all short executive programmes, including seminars and workshops:

  1. Learner readiness
  2. Design for transfer
  3. Organisational alignment

Learner readiness

Organisations need to identify the specific skills/competencies required and the behaviours that would demonstrate mastery of these. These elements are essentially the ‘input’ and ‘output’ of any skills development programme; the former determines the content and the latter the measures of success.

By being explicit about the competencies and behaviours that managers will be expected to demonstrate following training sets an expectation for those attending and contributes to ‘learner readiness’.

Further, many organisations fail to manage learner motivation ahead of training; attendees need to be positive about the opportunities a workshop may offer, about the impact it may have on their development and career prospects and the chances they will have to practice new skills. Research shows that addressing these factors can increase transfer of skills to the job by up to 70%.

Design for transfer

Management theory can be taught in a classroom but for strong management skills to be entrenched, they need to be practiced over time. It is important to match desired competencies with the appropriate learning platform e.g. foundational knowledge (such as management theory) can be transferred via an e-learning platform but behavioural competencies should be practiced in active learning workshops[1] that are scheduled over a period of time.

Active learning workshops, like those me and the team deliver, are highly interactive; participants are called on to engage in activities and discussions throughout the training session(s). Facilitators make use of various media to illustrate key learning points, including video clips, music and drama. Most of all, our coaching style allows delegates to have FUN. That way, they learn more, remember more and apply more.

Programme content should consistently communicate key management messages (e.g. desired behaviours, attitudes, vision and mission) so that organisational culture can be fostered. Also, workshops must build on each other; knowledge/experience gained in previous sessions should be applied to new concepts e.g. if someone has developed a high level of awareness of what is happening around him, he can now learn to assimilate information in a way that allows him to think strategically.

Organisational alignment

During sessions, I discuss how to address real-life scenarios and barriers participants believe they will encounter when they apply what they have learnt during training. If roll out of a programme is to be widespread, this should be done at the development stage and reviewed after each session.

It may be that organisational factors will inhibit the success of a management training initiative e.g. emotional intelligence training is doomed to failure in an autocratic organisation, where employees don’t refer to each other by their first names, where they live in fear of retribution and they dare not disagree with their superiors.

In such a situation, work needs to be done on the broader organisational factors such a culture and management style before emotional intelligence workshops can be successfully rolled out.

After training, contexts must exist to help participants retain the training and develop and practice new skills eg:

  • Situations in which practice is immediate and frequent, such as a challenging meeting can allow a manager to practice conflict resolution
  • Attendees should be held accountable to a higher level of performance. For example, new behavioural competencies can be linked to an individual’s Key Performance Indicators
  • Short executive programmes, including seminars and workshops, should not be isolated from related people-development initiatives like mentorship and coaching.  Once again, these initiatives need to be developed in a way that ensures consistency in both the message/learning content and the application thereof within the organisation.

In summary, originations need to follow the ‘Rule of Three’ for short executive programmes to be effective: They need learner readiness, design for transfer and organisational alignment.

Deirdre Elphick-Moore, has an Honours Degree in Psychology and over ten years of international experience in human capital management at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Co-founding The Office Coach in 2009, she now focuses on personal and workplace effectiveness training and development. Her relaxed, engaging style encourages people to learn more, remember more and apply more in their workplaces, as well as inspiring to consistently better themselves in the work place.

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Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Incentives are a game changer. Find out just how influential a successful incentive programme can be for your team and your business.

Uwin Iwin

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To be at the cutting edge of incentive programme design and execution, Uwin Iwin International, one of the incentive leaders on the African continent keeps a close eye on the incentive industry, thereby ensuring that we offer the very best in incentive solutions to our myriad of customers. We have recently embarked on a research project and would like to highlight an interesting finding uncovered by Ask Afrika, our research partner. The question we look at this time round is, “Do companies actually find incentives useful?”

Recognising Value

The following figures give a good picture of how employers see the value of incentives into their respective organisations:

  • 74% of respondents recognise that there is a need for a incentive programme, citing that: it motivates employees, helps employees feel valued, helps employees reach goals, assists with employee retention, and helps with financial burdens.
  • One respondent noted that whereas the market for incentives was considerable, “a lot of companies are not getting [incentives] right” despite having a programme in place.
  • Respondents further acknowledged that small and struggling companies should implement an incentive programme, even if it is informal and the rewards offered are small.

Our buying analytics have also picked up that between the period of the 25th to the 11th of each month, incentive spend is focused on mainly personal rewards and after the 11th, spend is directed towards mainly food retailers. This shows the value of an incentive during more strenuous times, as it adds some relief to certain tough periods.

Related: End Of Year Slump? Now’s The Time To Pull Out The Right Rewards

Why you need incentives in your business

Cost-cutting is common during an economic downturn, but be prudent when applying this to incentives. As the research indicates, incentives provide motivation, increase revenues and retain valuable and experienced staff members. Moreover, employees and channel partners value incentive programmes and reducing them could create dissatisfaction.

For further information or advice on your incentive programme, contact Uwin Iwin, and start a fruitful conversation.


Employee Perceptions of their current Incentive Programme

The responses from programme participants reflect that they appreciate the incentive programme and find it motivational.

  • I feel proud when I get an incentive: 82%
  • Job satisfaction motivates me: 85%
  • An incentive programme motivates me to work harder: 81%
  • I will go the extra mile in my job for an incentive: 78%
  • The incentive programme is very important to me and my family: 77%
  • Incentive programmes make me stay loyal to my company: 63%

Rating of Effectiveness of Incentive Programme

HR personnel were asked to give feedback concerning the effectiveness of incentives in achieving programme objectives. Below are the figures that correlate to each objective:

  • Employee motivation: 77%
  • Employee performance: 79%
  • Employee engagement: 73%
  • Employee satisfaction: 72%
  • Employee retention: 64%

These results are encouraging, and prove that having an effective, well-designed and well-executed incentive programme in place impacts very positively upon the business.

For more information, please visit uwiniwin.net or call +27 (0)11 557 5700

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Increasing Productivity

The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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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.

1Internal competition

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?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

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.

2Incentive systems

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.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

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.

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Increasing Productivity

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.

Jayson Demers

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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.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

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.

2Exhibiting overconfidence

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.

Related: What Millennials Want From 2017 – How To Stay Ahead Of The Trend Curve

4Talking more than listening

Talking 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.

6Multitasking

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.

Related: Why Millennials Are Becoming Franchisees

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.

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