Be transparent. Be straight
“I’ll say straight up that you know you’ve let us down and it’s affecting the team. 30% clean up their act, and 70% leave.”
- Steven Cohen
- Head of Sage One International
- Oversees Africa, Australia, Middle East, Asia and Brazil
“We’re transparent about our profits with the whole company. Our monthly meetings include the entire company, and are used to show turnover figures. We break this down to our profit level.
“Everyone understands that we need to meet targets set by Sage, but it’s also very empowering for them to know how they’re contributing to our profits. It gets everyone engaged, and they can see if their department or team is meeting or exceeding budget targets. If something dips, everyone wants to interrogate why. The more transparent you are, the more engaged your employees will be.
“Transparency is important at a personal level too. I’m honest, I’m one of the guys and I often have after-work drinks with my teams, but if you let me down you’ll know it. Ethics and attitude are the only career-limiting issues in the company. People with great attitudes will learn the job, so we hire based on attitude, particularly our managers, because culture flows down. If you consistently let me down, I’ll take you out for coffee and have an honest chat. I’ll say straight up that you know you’ve let us down and it’s affecting the team. 30% clean up their act, and 70% leave.”
Read more: Learning Along the Way
Even the best people can use re-training
“When you’re offering a premium service, the customer must always be your number-one priority. We hire our technicians for their skills, but they often come from a network background where saving money comes first, the customer second. It’s the opposite here, so we have to retrain them to continue doing their jobs well, but put the customer first.”
- Alex Fourie is the founder of nation-wide out-of-warrantee smart-device-repair company, weFix.
- The company has enjoyed triple-digit growth since launching in 2007.
When you’re in the services industry, your customer is king. Alex Fourie knows this especially well – in fact, he hires his store managers from the hospitality industry.
Why? Because hospitality managers work well under pressure, are excellent when it comes to client service, and also manage staff well. Similarly, it’s important that everyone in your business, lives and breathes your company culture and delivers on your promise to customers.
In this case, Fourie’s technicians are hired for skill, and then thoroughly re-trained on putting customers above cost.
Read more: Can staff training increase my turnover?
Know your culture. Be consistent
“I’m an autocratic leader. I tell everyone how things are going to happen, and they make them work. I’d go so far as to say that I even rule by fear, but I’m consistent.”
- Albe Geldenhuys is the founder of USN, manufacturers of sports and nutrition supplements.
“I’m an autocratic leader. I tell everyone how things are going to happen, and they make them work. I’d go so far as to say that I even rule by fear a bit, but I’m consistent, and my team listens to what I say. This was the company culture that I created. However, as we grew, our back-end couldn’t keep up with our sales. I needed to focus on that. I also wanted to focus on product development, advertising and sales. I didn’t want to be MD as well, and so I promoted one of my managers, a lawyer who was excellent at the details, to be MD. The move caused problems I just hadn’t foreseen.
“For many, the shift in leadership style was just too much. Where I had been a firm task master, the new MD was a mild-mannered, diplomatic accountant, trying to operate within a framework that I had created. The company culture didn’t know how to adjust. We ended up losing some great people as a result. People need consistency, and to know exactly what the company culture is.”
Read more: Does Your Staff Dislike You?
Put your energy into great employees, not the bad apples
“Give your top employees more and more responsibility. It takes trust, and they won’t always get it right, but they will learn, and, if you’ve judged them correctly, they’ll fly.”
- Antonio Iozzo is the founder of Insurance Underwriting Managers (IUM)
- IUM is a R350 million business he built from R10 000 seed capital
Antonio Iozzo works on a simple system with his staff, based on what he calls A, B and C employees. ‘A’ employees are extremely good at what they do, they work hard, and they’re rewarded for it. The more responsibility I give them, the more they thrive.
‘B’ employees are the worker bees. They come in every day, do their jobs and can be relied on. They’re essential to the business.
“’C’ employees are the bad apples, and, when we spot them, we get rid of them as quickly as we can. It’s not because they’re necessarily lazy or inept; more often than not it’s because of their attitudes. They don’t take responsibility for their own happiness or success, but instead blame their managers, colleagues and the business for their failures. They’re incessant complainers. C employees can turn Bs into other Cs quicker than you can blink, and you can’t fix them. Don’t waste your energy on Cs. Get rid of them. You should be spending your time on As and Bs – they’re the foundation of your success.”
Read more: Want to Lead Your Staff? Serve Your People
Encourage healthy, heated debate
“The rule is simple: You can challenge anyone, at any time, but you must play the ball, not the man. It’s not allowed to get personal.”
- Ran Neu-Ner and Gil Oved are the founders of The Creative Counsel
- The company is SA’s largest advertising agency with a turnover of R700 million.
“We really believe in a sense of competition, and healthy, heated debate is part of this. It’s bred into our backgrounds. You respect your parents, but if you disagree with something they’ve said or decreed, that’s where the negotiation begins. You need to find the angle to get your way.
“It follows that the more and harder you debate something, the better. You chip the block away from all angles, and you’ll find the best answer and a better result. As business partners, we might not always agree with each other, but we’ve always had the same intent: What’s best for the business?
“And this filters down to the whole company, from managers to new employees. Anyone can challenge anyone, as long as it’s not personal and logic prevails.
“We end up with juniors who think they have a right to challenge us – and they do. If Ran tells a junior copywriter his idea is bad, he can (and will) fight for it. On one memorable occasion, a junior copywriter actually came back six times to defend his idea, until he finally won the debate.”
Read more: 4 Steps to Hiring Killer Sales Staff
Lead by example
“The most important job description that I have is managing people.”
- Colin Thornton is the co-founder and CEO of Dial a Nerd.
“Customer service is our entire business. If we relax, this starts slipping, so I keep a constant watch over how we are delivering on our mandate and receive monthly reports on client interactions. I am also very conscious of the fact that I need to lead by example.
“If a client wants to speak directly to me, I make sure I’m available. One of the things that has always driven me nuts is companies whose MDs are inaccessible. You have a problem and you’re passed from manager to manager and never feel as if your issue is being addressed or taken seriously.
“This isn’t the business we want to be. Our differentiator is service, and I can’t insist on that with our managers and technicians if I’m not willing to follow suit with my own time.”
Read more: How To Keep Your Staff
KPIs drive growth
“We first create a detailed job description for each employee in the company, from the CEO to the receptionist — everyone has their own KPIs.”
- Paul Veltman is the founder of Velti Events.
Paul Veltman is all about giving his employees a reason to not be average.
Paul Veltman is all about giving his employees a reason to not be average. “We wanted to create key performance indicators for each employee that aligned their five-year goals with the company’s growth. These needed to work for everyone, but they also needed to offer enough of an incentive for employees to embrace. It’s hard work, for them and us, but it means a bigger pay cheque (or additional time off) for them, and top-class staff for us, which ultimately means satisfied and loyal customers.
“We first create a detailed job description for each employee in the company, from the CEO to the receptionist — everyone has their own KPIs. It’s important to state exactly what they do so that we can rate each element accurately. In an SME with ambitious go-getters these need to be updated quarterly as job descriptions are constantly evolving. We then do monthly, quarterly and yearly reviews that are driven by the employees themselves.”
“They take us through their performance and how they rate themselves, which keeps them actively involved in their progress. It’s time consuming, but the results — improved performance and client satisfaction — make the system worth it.”
Read more: Ubertech Meets Ubergeek: Stafford Masie isn’t Just Changing the Rules… He’s Changing the Game
Pick your people carefully
“The key factor in making flexi-time work is to hire the right people. Our agents are self-starters, have outstanding work ethic, and are over-achievers, which means there’s no need for micro-managing or monitoring.”
- Nicole Stephens is the co-founder of The Recruitment Specialist (TRS).
- The company was founded in 2010, has two agents and two founders, all of whom work in a decentralised manner across two countries.
- They’ve been profitable from day one.
Flexi-time is the way of the future, and many studies show that employees with more freedom and flexibility with their work hours are much more productive than their nine-to-five counterparts. But many companies are anxious about letting go of control.
The answer is just like Nicole Stephens suggests: It’s about hiring the right kind of person rather than retro-fitting non-flexi-time employees and learning the hard way that they’re not cut out for it.
Flexi-time staff need the above-mentioned qualities, and without them, you could have trouble.
Read more: Should You Hire a Motivational Speaker to Motivate Staff?
Finding affordable talent
“We found an international company that placed volunteer interns in your business for a few months.”
- Mike Silver is the founder and MD of Stretch Experiential Marketing.
“As a start-up, employees are a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. If you employ a team too early, you don’t have the cash flow to pay their salaries, but if you don’t deliver well on jobs because you don’t have support staff, you’ll lose repeat business. My solution was to find affordable talent. We did this in two ways. First, we found an international company that placed volunteer interns in your business for a few months.
“They’re here to discover South Africa and get some work experience, but because they’re on holiday visas they can’t be paid, so your only expense is to the agency they’re sourced through. It was a mixed bag of talent. We had about 30 students working over a five-year period, some being incredible, others barely speaking English.
“For my permanent employees, we targeted kids who were looking for their first jobs and didn’t have high expenses and responsibilities.
“We’d ask them the absolute minimum they could accept, and in exchange they’d receive what we call ‘glamour tax,’ which is basically a cool working environment where they’d have fun, meet people, spend time at events and be exposed to great brands.”
Read more: How Mike Silver Became The Next Best Brand And Marketing Guy
Encourage employee growth
“Great employees take responsibility and build themselves and the business with it.”
- Amy Kleinhans-Curd is one of the country’s most famous Miss South Africa winners.
- Today, she’s better known for her role as co-founder and director of the PLP Group.
“Understanding myself and my limits and strengths isn’t only important for my own development, but that of my employees as well. To be truly productive as a business owner, you need to know when to let things go. I’ll gladly let someone else run with an idea and make a success of it.
“It’s my job to come up with those ideas and conceptualise where we are, where we should be, and how we’re going to get there, but I have a great team who then takes care of the operational side of actually making things happen. If it’s something I love and I’m good at, I’ll run with it, but first, I take a step back and critically evaluate if I’m the best person for that particular project. If the answer is no, I hand it over. It’s as simple as that.
“We’ve built an incredible team over the years, and everyone has their own passions and strengths. It’s important to play to those strengths; pick the best person for each job, and remember that just because it’s your company doesn’t mean it’s always you.
“It then becomes my role to delegate, and then stay in touch through regular updates. I’m not saying hand something over and walk away – that’s also counter-productive. But you don’t need ownership of everything. Great employees take responsibility and build themselves and the business with it.”
Read more: Amy Kleinhans-Curd on Lifelong Entrepreneurship
Maximising info in minimal time
“To manage teams we’ve got a report back system called ‘15-5’. It takes 15 minutes to write and five minutes to read, and each contains a manager’s top five priorities for a week or month, and their one absolute top priority. The report details what they’re working on, stuck on, or been successful with.”
- Yossi Hasson is the co-founder of Synaq, a company listed as one of Forbes’ Top 20 Tech Start-ups for 2012.
- In 2011, Dimension Data bought a 50,1% stake in the business.
Time is a commodity that’s not to be squandered, especially when your skills are required at higher levels of business such as strategising, and Yossi Hasson knows that.
Every Monday he’s able take 20 minutes to get a full grasp on what his four managers are handling for the week, and his managers know what their teams are up to.
He’s then able to make decisions, direct, and have follow up conversations where needed without requiring lengthy meetings.
Read more: As An Entrepreneur, Be A Motivational Leader To Your Staff
Employees Underperforming? How To Respond To These 3 Excuses
Sometimes, an employee just needs an extra jolt. Other times, you will need to pull the plug.
Companies are increasing their focus on employee retention. In fact, PayScale’s 2018 Compensation Best Practices report found that 59 percent of respondents considered employee retention a “major concern” for their companies and organisations. This isn’t surprising given that a revolving staff door can make it almost impossible to preserve recent organisational knowledge and keep up with projects and responsibilities.
So, yes, keeping retention top of mind is smart, but sometimes a staff change is unavoidable. When you’re calling the shots, firing people will almost certainly make you uncomfortable. Whether you are running a small start-up or a Fortune 500, you can’t hide behind other people and say the decision was out of your hands.
Then, the bigger your company gets, the harder it will be to respond in order to change quickly and effectively. While employees can grow into their roles, you shouldn’t let your sense of loyalty to your current employees prevent you from making good business decisions.
It’s just logical that some of your original staff members are going to be unable to keep up with the pace and to cease to bring enough value to the company. In those cases, you should maintain a realistic attitude as to when it is time to part ways. And, when those tough conversations need to happen, your sense of loyalty to your employees can be your worst enemy.
A retention reality check
In your personal life, “loyalty” generally means believing in an individual and defending him or her when that person comes under attack. When you become part of a team, however, the definition of loyalty changes.
As a leader, you need to think about your loyalty to all of your employees instead of just one person. When a team member cannot keep up or shows signs of burnout, he or she will likely require co-workers to pick up the slack. When you hold certain people to a lower standard, other employees become resentful, and the poor performer starts to drag the company down.
Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct
For example, a B2B company we worked with had a marketing employee who had been with the team from the beginning. The company had done well, and its board was pushing for accelerated growth – which required more effective marketing. The employee was a jack-of-all-trades but couldn’t keep up with increased demand. After the difficult decision was made to replace this employee with a more qualified individual, the company quickly hit stretch goals that had previously been elusive.
Often, a leader may be blind to necessary personnel changes, whether willfully or unconsciously. In either case – if this leader is you – the sooner you recognise the problem and take steps to address it, the better off your company will be.
Warning signs that signal a personnel change
It will not always be obvious, but here are three common excuses from employees that might indicate it is time for you to consider a personnel change:
1. “I don’t have enough time”
Work stress is prevalent across all industries, and a study from Paychex found that roughly 70 percent of those surveyed reported stress levels of at least 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Certainly, being pressed for time doesn’t help stress, either.
One of your primary roles as a leader is to clearly define your employees’ jobs and responsibilities. If team members struggle to keep up with their workloads, they are probably stretching themselves thin trying to help others, or putting off work to avoid accountability.
When you talk to an employee who claims to be short on time, determine what his or her current projects are and then contain them. Give this employee specific responsibilities that don’t require relying on co-workers, and see how he or she meets these new expectations and goals. If the employee continues to underperform, look for a replacement, although it is not a bad idea to put out feelers for that replacement before you even have the above discussion.
2. “I cannot control this”
The ability to find a solution to a work problem is an indicator of someone who “owns” the situation. This is a characteristic you need to see in employees. When I worked at Dell, we had a substantial drop in traffic and couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we discovered that our laptop batteries were catching fire. Unfortunately, you can’t advertise or email your way out of a drop in traffic due to a problem like that; but you can turn to your partners in crisis communication and social media.
If you give employees all the tools necessary to solve problems and they still can’t succeed, it’s time to reevaluate their fit in the company. By letting them go, you ultimately keep them from stagnating. If you struggle with this concept, look toward Startups.co CEO Wil Schroter, who has said he views his company as a school for employees. When employees get to the point that they would learn better elsewhere, it is time for them to move on.
When you let go one of these employees, make sure that the high performers you do have feel appreciated. Talk to their co-workers to ensure that in the interim, everyone’s roles and responsibilities are firmly established. Also, involve the rest of your employees in the subsequent hiring process so they have some control over who is named as the replacement.
3. “It wasn’t me”
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, worldwide employee engagement sits at a lowly 15 percent. Employees with low engagement often have a decreased sense of responsibility for their work, which wreaks havoc on productivity and accountability.
The most toxic situation is when employees attempt to deflect their own poor performance onto surrounding team members. These individuals rarely admit fault but instead cast broad accusations in an attempt to throw co-workers under the bus. As a last-ditch effort, such employees will even question the data that illuminates their underperformance.
Tough love is the solution here. Like an unfaithful partner who’d rather talk about other people who cheat instead of his own indiscretions, the underperforming employee will try to direct the conversation away from his or her performance. But don’t let that happen: Stay the course and let this employee go.
Then, during your subsequent hiring process, be mindful of the departed employee’s character flaw. Ask questions about challenges each candidate faced at previous jobs. Be wary when interviewees shift blame to others or speak poorly about their previous employers.
Most importantly, be realistic about your employees and do your best to fill any gaps with the strongest candidates you can find. And accept the truth: You will never be entirely comfortable about firing people.
If you are, you might not have the empathy required to make a great leader. However, it is part of your job to ensure that your seats are filled with top talent, so be loyal to your whole team and know when to let under-performers go.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
An Excellence Approach To Nurture Star Performers
Talent management is the commitment to continuously nurture and align individual attitude and performance, job requirements and organisational culture through excellent performance management.
1. An excellent view of Talent Management
Any sports team needs to measure the vital statistics and performance of each member. “Metrics” like cadence, heart rate, output ratios etc. are important, for the whole to eventually be greater than the sum of its parts.
Similarly, leaders need to measure (without micro managing) employee performance to get a better understanding of what makes the individual stand out. Leaders need to understand how to adapt environments so that everyone can be exceptional.
Not creating a culture of unhealthy competition, but one where every individual’s contribution is understood and valued, and individual work experience is adjusted to accommodate uniqueness, will keep individuals performing at their peak, while enjoying what they do and understanding the purpose of their work.
2. Nurturing star performers
Employees should be given the best possible opportunity to serve in a work context that is optimal for their skillset and temperament. Talent management is based on the organisation’s commitment to surround all employees with people, practices and processes that will grow them to their full potential.
From a deep understanding of the talent pool a business can distinguish between top, great, good and poor performers. Having a suitable and fair measurement tool in place is critical in this regard. This allows management to clearly understand why people are in different performance categories, and provides insights on what pro-active actions can be taken to develop people into their full capacity.
People are highly influenced by work-related relational contexts and environments. Poor performers can become top performers when there are leadership changes or job changes that simply fit better, but also vice versa. Top performers can become poor performers due to illness or other job related changes. There have also been cases where top industry performers join a different organisation and then struggle to perform due to the individual not aligning with the new organisational culture.
Excellent talent management considers all of these factors:
- Understand who the star performers are, and why they are viewed as top performers. (Know and acknowledge what they contribute in terms of both job deliverables and attitude).
- Understand the relationship between the top performer and their leader.
- Understand the culture of the department and why this fit works for this individual.
- Then, for the future of work: Consider adapting working conditions or terms of employment in order to keep the star performers (Eg. Flexible working hours, virtual offices, or shorter terms of employment to ensure growth opportunities.)
The biggest contributing factor to ensure excellent talent management is to continuously understand and communicate what is expected from an individual, to have measures in place to know if the individual achieves this, to know what value this adds to the business – and then making sure that they are compensated accordingly.
3. What star performers desire from corporate culture
People don’t want to work merely for personal gain. They want to connect and contribute to a business that shares their values and contributes towards the development of a healthy world and better society.
Spiritual intelligence is becoming increasingly important. This trumps mere personal self-actualisation, and entails feeling connected to a business that has a bigger shared purpose than just making a profit.
People want to connect with businesses that have integrity, moral leaders, and feel part of a network that are responsible stewards, who will value their total personal contribution and help them grow as star top performers within a star team.
Are Our Workplaces Gen Z And Gen Alpha Proof?
Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to generation proof their workplaces before Gen Z and Gen Alpha enter the workforce, only to retreat into their technology bubbles. The question is, how do companies get the balance right?
Preparing for a new generation to enter the workplace is a lot like baby proofing your house. You spend a lot of time and money making sure this vulnerable creature, with very specific needs, has everything they need to play, grow and thrive in their new environment, without too many run ins with sharp objects that will inevitably lead to tears. But who are you future proofing for and how?
The challenge in 2018, is that your house has only just become Millennial proof. And yes, while it’s great that you’re so On Fleek with all the latest open office concepts, flexible working spaces, new internal communication channels and social media influencers that these hashtaggers thrive on, that aint gonna fly with the more independent multi-multitasking Gen Z, who will favour private enclaves and online collaborations with global teams and communities of influence. And what of Gen Alpha, the Google Glass generation who will view technology as a physical appendage and glass screens as their genuine, not virtual, reality?
The good news is that Gen Z, or iGen as they are commonly known for being weaned off milk with iPads, will pave the way for the even more self-sufficient, independent Gen Alpha. So, if you get the foundations right you can start building a generation-proof business that will stand you in good stead for the next 50 years, give or take.
The challenge with generation proofing is that we often spend all our time focusing on the hard, tangible stuff – the tech and spatial environment – and not enough on the soft issues that will actually help retain and motivate employees to not only stay and play but thrive and grow. And when we consider that Gen Z is heavily driven by career growth and is likely to have 17 jobs and 5 careers in a lifetime, we should be focusing a lot more on getting the work/culture balance right. In fact, engaging and retaining Gen Z will be a balancing act like no other, where two seemingly opposite needs play out in the workplace. Get it right and you win the prize – a loyal, integrated workforce that is connected on more levels than one.
Balancing career growth with the need for retention
Every generation is born into an era that shapes, motivates and influences their decisions. Gen Z’s world view may be largely shaped by technology, but they are also the product of economic uncertainty, having been born into a recession. So, it’s not surprising that they value financial security, job promotion and learning. As expert online collaborators who are also capable of working independently, companies would do well to embrace online learning as a powerful tool for mentorship, training and growth, especially one that promotes career promotion and professional advancement.
Balancing technology with the need for focus
Eight seconds – that’s how long the average attention span of a Gen Z employee will be. Gen Alpha will be even less. Immersed in technology from an early age, these serious multi-multi-taskers will work tirelessly across different technologies and will process information at the speed of light. The downside is that it’s going to be a challenge to keep their focus, even more so than Millennials. More than ever, companies will need to create multipurpose private spaces or pods, where these workers can retreat to in order to focus on the task at hand. These spaces should also support their need for blended face-to-face/online groups.
Balancing independence with the need for shared culture and meaning
Yes, this generation will be fiercely independent and shun micromanagement and a desk bound culture, but it will also crave meaningful work, regular interaction with management and opportunities to make a valuable contribution to society. Companies that only focus on creating opportunities for remote working and online collaborations, will miss the mark.
To retain this group, you need to focus on creating a shared corporate culture and opportunities for regular engagement. In this way internal communication will become a key driver in bridging the gap between a non-desk and desk-bound workforce and finding new ways to engage and inspire an increasingly disparate workforce.
Employee apps will become the most important channel in workplace communication bringing information, social connection and engagement together in a way that resonates with these digital natives.
Balancing privacy with the need for engagement
Internal communication will become a balancing act unto itself. How companies communicate with employees will become as important as how often and how much. Internal communication will need to move beyond intranet, SharePoint and ESN like Workplace and Yammer to embrace wearables, robotics, and virtual reality, all of which will not only reflect but drive the digital native.
As the vital link between company and employees, internal communication will need to engage employees through validated channels using curated content that not only drives the message but embeds the company’s shared values and brand ethos. And did we mention the maximum reading time should not exceed 10 minutes per day? Tough ask right?
Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to proof their workplaces to embrace Gen Z and the AI generations to follow. The mistake would be to focus only on the tangibles and neglect the soft issues that really drive retention and shape corporate culture. Making sure internal communications teams are properly trained, equipped and mandated to handle the enormous challenge, will be key to cracking the generational code and claiming your share of its human capital.
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