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Teaching New Dogs Old Tricks

Getting new employees to adhere to your service-orientated culture.

Nathalie Schooling

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There are still far too few organisations that seem to understand the inextricable link that exists between a strong service culture and the ability and willingness of their staff to deliver the type of excellent customer service that their customers deserve.

While external incentives may boost service delivery in the short term, true and lasting service excellence is really only possible when it comes from within – both the organisation and its employees. For this reason, it is vital that a commitment to service excellence needs to be integral to any organisation’s culture.

However, even if yours is one of those special businesses that have managed to entrench such a service culture, you should never assume that every new person you employ will automatically subscribe to it – or understand it for that matter. Which is why induction programmes are such an important part of any service-driven company culture.

And that makes it odd that the majority of small and medium sized business still seem to view induction as the exclusive domain of large companies and corporations.

The power of training

Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of the size of your business, a solid induction programme can work wonders for the development of a unified, service-based culture. It’s particularly vital for any employee that has to deal with internal or external clients.

Apart from the fact that a well structured induction programme gives you a good platform on which to make your company’s values and vision known to new recruits, it allows you the opportunity to give them a thorough understanding of why your customers (and serving them exceptionally) are at the core of everything you do.

Of course, an effective induction programme will also include some intensive training around the actual products or services you deal in, as well as making clear your expectations regarding how employees are expected to deliver those products and services to your customers.

A good induction programme is also a unique opportunity to use one-on-one interaction – with an employee that is probably very eager to please – to obtain their buy-in to your service ethos and expectations. For this reason, it’s essential that an induction programme is built in a way that encourages two-way communication. Standing at the front of a room full of new recruits taking them through a three-hour PowerPoint presentation about your company is not induction.

Finding a way to have short but intensive conversations with each of them in which they are able to show that they believe in the value of customers and recognize the importance of service as part of your business culture – now that’s effective induction.

Creating valued members

Of course, while ‘selling’ the service belief is a big part of any induction programme, there’s far more to it than just that. It’s also a unique opportunity to demonstrate to your employees that they are valued members of your team and that their contributions are important from day one. It’s also a great way to get new employees settled in quickly and make sure that they hit the ground running.

This is especially true if you are able to tag a system of job shadowing or mentoring onto the end of your induction programme. By spending a few hours with their new colleagues or team members, your new recruits will have a clear idea of what everyone does, where everything is, and who to speak to when they need help or guidance.

And remember, induction doesn’t end when the new employee finally pulls up a chair at his or her computer. They need time to fit in and find their feet. So be sure to schedule a ‘phase two’ for a few days or weeks later so that you can spend some time ensuring that they have fully bought into your business culture and are on their way to becoming the service champions you want them to be.

Nathalie Schooling has more than 25 years' experience in the customer service industry. She is the founder and managing director of N’Lighten, a company committed to promoting service excellence through research, training, and strategic insight. For more info, go to the N'Lighten website.

Managing Staff

5 Tips To Make Managing Employees Less Stressful For Everyone

Take it from soul legend Otis Redding: If you want engaged employees, try a little tenderness (and the right tools, too).

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There’s little doubt that your employees are your most valuable resource, but they can also be the biggest drain on your time and energy. Still, managing your workforce in a way that promotes employee engagement is vitally important – and it can have a direct impact on your bottom line.

According to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 40 percent of employees surveyed said that their work was either very stressful or extremely stressful, and more than a quarter reported frequently experiencing burnout at work. It’s no wonder, then, that Gallup reports only about one-third of employees are actually engaged in their work, and more than half are actively looking for different jobs – or are at least keeping an eye out for any openings.

To get the most out of your employees, you need to start by looking at the things you can control. Managing can be stressful, but by paying close attention to the culture you’re creating, you can make lasting improvements in the lives of your workforce. Here’s how you go about doing it.

1. Match the right software to your needs

You may be familiar with tools such as 15Five, but most full-service HR systems are a confusing alphabet soup. Breaking it down, there are three main tiers of human resources management systems.

Your typical human resource information system (HRIS) will allow you to manage personnel information online, along with resources about policies and procedures. A human resource management system (HRMS) is more full-fledged, adding talent management and capabilities such as performance reviews. For the most comprehensive option, a human capital management system (HCMS) does everything an HRIS or HRMS can do, in addition to tackling “capital” management.

Finding the right solution for your company will take much of the hassle out of managing your human resources, leaving more time for the kinds of management practices that actually promote the happiness and engagement of your employees.

Related: These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

balance2. Encourage employees to be well-rounded outside of the office

Well-rounded individuals are happier employees because they take time to refresh outside of work. Happier employees, it turns out, are more productive. Since the most effective leadership is leading by example, look for opportunities to volunteer in the community and show your employees how gratifying it can be to give back.

If you’re not sure where to start, organisations such as The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. can help connect you and your company with valuable volunteer opportunities. The organisation helps women develop core competencies like facilitating meetings, fundraising, strategic thinking and management to strengthen their overall self-worth and add value to their companies.

3. Be the wind beneath their wings

Your employees should have goals at work, whether they revolve around sales figures, client satisfaction ratings or performance review metrics. Goals can help motivate workers and keep them engaged and productive. It’s also important, however, that they have goals outside of work.

Maybe one of your employees wants to run her first 10K. You could rally the rest of the office to sign up and participate with her. If another employee is looking to lose 10 pounds, maybe you join him in bringing salads for lunch each day until he reaches his goal. Whatever action you take, show your employees that you’re behind them and support them in all their efforts, whether they’re about work or not.

4. Recognise that appreciation is strong currency

Now that your employees have goals both for their work performance and their lives in general, celebrate their accomplishments when they achieve them. Instead of handing out a vague sort of accolade like employee of the month, get specific. What did they do that you think is worth celebrating, and why should the rest of your employees take note?

Calling attention to employees’ successes is an important part of building the company culture that you want to be known for. And while handing out the occasional award is certainly important, it’s even more critical to give employees small reminders that you appreciate their work when you walk past their desk or see them in the parking lot. Employees who feel appreciated tend to work harder, according to a Westminster College poll.

Related: Why I Stopped Doing Annual Employee Reviews

5. Stop being a private eye

Trust your employees. You hired them, after all. Your employees are there to do a specific job, and they can’t perform it when they’re constantly being micromanaged. Trust your employees to get their work done, and the vast majority of the time, they will. If they constantly feel as though they’re being spied on, they’ll just become resentful and unproductive.

Know what “productivity” means. When your employees have clear deliverables, it eases both their minds and yours. Vague notions of what they’re supposed to accomplish and subjective metrics for determining success make for disagreement when it comes time to review their performance. Avoid this unnecessary burden by getting everyone on the same page ahead of time.

Your employees should be able to track their own performance, and this way they’ll have the chance to come to you if they’re running into problems.

Your employees’ work lives can be stressful, but their day-to-day lives may be as well. You can’t always control that, but what you can control is the empathy you display toward them. Empathy is an important trait in any leader, and employees will respond to it by pushing themselves for you and your company. Follow the above steps with an open, empathetic mind, and your management woes can become a thing of the past.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

Tips For Preventing Harassment In The Workplace

Here are a few ways to identify and prevent harassment of all types in the workplace.

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In the workplace, there is a fine line when connecting with employees. While it’s important to have a laugh from time to time, you need to draw the line on inappropriate jokes, conversations and actions. The workplace is a professional environment where you are employed to do a specific job. Along with your job, you need to be respected by colleagues and feel comfortable with your surroundings. Your place of work should make you feel safe and secure at all times.

Often times, employees are exposed to threatening working conditions which might lead to difficult events. And, while your colleague or manager might be frustrated from time to time or a little too comfortable in your presence, you need to keep your eyes peeled for any strange, harassing actions. If you feel threatened or somehow in danger the minute you step foot in your office, do not let it go. Management should constantly be on the lookout for such behaviour among the team. In order to prevent these events from happening and putting the organisation at legal risk, you need to put a few plans into place.

Before you can prevent this in the workplace, you need to be able to identify what is considered to be ‘harassment’. It can be through verbal, written, physical or visual cues. From sly comments or negative stereotypes to offensive jokes and threatening gestures, harassment can be done on one particular individual or a group of colleagues. If anyone feels threatened or intimidated, it’s a serious offence.

Related: 4 Ways to Diffuse a Toxic Workplace

Here are a few ways to identify and prevent harassment of all types in the workplace.

Have a clear policy in place

Creating an anti-harassment policy which every employee is clear about is a good way to set the tone for the company’s culture. When employees have a clear understanding of the repercussions involved in such an incident, there will be no room for misunderstandings or miscommunications. Everyone should be on the same page and employees should also have access to a document which explains how employees should react to these incidents. It’s critical for management teams to stress the need for respect in the workplace so that everyone is aware of any behaviour that does not reflect these values.

Communicate the policy

Simply having a policy in place for harassment cases is not enough. You need to communicate openly about the harassment case law in South Africa and not avoid anything that could be seen as taboo. Whether it’s physical, verbal or written, these acts happen nearly every day, so it’s important to take a stand and make a difference in your team’s culture. By being open about this type of topic, it will allow people to feel more confident when something does happen, to confront the person and address it.

Review and revisit your policy

The harassment act policy you implemented five years ago will not be as effective in years to come. Laws and workplace requirements continue to change, therefore you should keep revisiting your policy and update it from time to time. When a new employee arrives, make sure that you introduce them to the updated policy and have a formal meeting about the company’s values and expectations around this topic. If there are changes in the policy, management should communicate it to their teams as a whole.

Empower your people to not be fearful

Make it clear that your business does not tolerate any employee disrespect. Should someone go against this, a professional case will take place. And if someone feels or experiences any harassing actions in the workplace, they should understand exactly how to report the incident without being fearful.

Related: What Happened To The Workplace? How To Make It More Human

Implement harassment training

Introducing regular training courses or workshops will make it evident just how much you believe in taking a stand and educating your employees about harassment in the workplace. Training will educate employees about the harassment case law in South Africa, and it will help employees identify these instances not only for their own benefit but for their colleagues around them. In order for training to be effective, employees need to have a clear idea of the difference between good and bad behaviour in the workplace.

It should be focused on what is expected of you during your time at the company. From the minute you arrive at work to the minute you leave. When your employees connect with each other over a topic like this, it will allow everyone to be more open about the topic without allowing anyone to ignore it.

Final words

Harassment in the workplace is a serious offence. There is no reason why people should let something like this (which has the potential to ruin someone’s life or perception of themselves) to slide without being addressed. Make sure everyone works according to these rules and regulations, and if anyone breaches the policy, management will take things further. Once employees know that there is a serious exit strategy connected to your company’s harassment act warning, they will be more careful with their actions.

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Managing Staff

I Find Only 4 Minutes Of Any Meeting Are Actually Useful. Here’s How To Know When You’ve Struck Meeting Gold

If done right, meetings are an incredibly valuable way to build relationships, share ideas and drive business forward.

Chris Battles

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Tick tock, tick tock … We’ve all been guilty at some point of watching the slow progress of the clock as we sit through yet another meeting that would have been better handled through a group message or email. While we often fixate on “meetings gone wrong,” there are also those amazing meetings that truly made an impact — where a team had a critical inspiration that unlocked success, closed a crucial deal or had a breakthrough in forging a relationship with a boss, employee or client.

It is these powerful impacts that make meetings such an important part of our professional lives. The question is, how do we break the cycle of bad meetings that leave us dreading the next one and wondering when we’ll get to the real work of our day?

I have found that in nearly every meeting, no matter how long, there are only about four minutes of “meeting gold” — instances when all participants react strongly to an idea, and engagement and information-sharing are at their highest. If you can capitalise on these moments, you can unlock your team and drive dramatic acceleration in delivering on your most critical objectives. The challenge lies in being able to identify and capitalise on these instances to maximise engagement and productivity between and during future meetings.

Related: How To Make Your Board Meetings More Effective

Here are a few tips for recognising — and capitalising on — the golden moments in your next meeting:

Learn to identify nonverbal cues

facial-expressionsIt makes sense that the most direct indicators of people’s attention and engagement come from their verbal responses — “great idea” and “tell me more” vs. “I’m not sure that will work” or “I don’t understand” — but human beings do not communicate exclusively through language. People use a variety of nonverbal cues (both consciously and unconsciously) to express their interest, often conveying more of their opinion nonverbally than they do verbally.

When meeting participants are interested and engaged, their full attention is on the speaker and presentation. Even if they remain silent, they’ve stopped texting, sending emails or robotically taking notes. They are present and alert, in many instances nodding or even physically leaning in toward the speaker to demonstrate their interest.

It is particularly important to watch out for these cues with remote workers, and why it is so important to leverage video conferencing solutions when hosting a meeting with remote team members. While these non-verbal cues will vary person to person, they are powerful signs that you’ve struck meeting gold, and are your first clue that the focus of the discussion holds real value to your employees and to the business.

Share personal insights and experiences

When multiple meeting participants voice their opinions or add insight from their own experiences (especially those who typically remain more reserved during meetings) that’s another sign that you’ve hit upon an important subject. When people feel passionately about a topic of discussion, they are far more inclined to voice their individual thoughts and opinions — and more sources of input provides a greater opportunity to gather valuable insights.

Related: Running Meetings the Steve Jobs Way

While general enthusiasm and participation are often indicators of meeting gold, it is the speaker’s responsibility to determine the underlying cause.

There are two reasons for this: First, to better understand the topic or presentation style which prompted such enthusiasm to apply that knowledge to future meetings, and second, to objectively determine if the topic merits further discussion. For instance, is this subject something that contributes value to the business and employees genuinely care about, or is participation being motivated by outside factors such as the attendance of a company executive? The first instance reveals true meeting gold, while the second can be tossed aside as “fool’s gold.”

Mine the gold

Once you’ve struck a vein, you need to ensure you can capitalise on it. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Two key tips to ensuring you get the most out of these key moments:

Pull in the audience. When you see the signs of meeting gold, it is the perfect time to pull in your audience, particularly those who are often silent. Look for those who are leaning in and engaged, and ensure you solicit their perspectives and opinions.

Be willing to abandon the agenda. As meeting hosts, we often have a list of topics we “need” to get through. Because inspiration can be fleeting, we need to be willing to set the agenda aside and spend the time to take advantage of key moments. Push something to next week, shorten a later item, but don’t diminish the impact of these moments by being slavishly tied to your agenda.

Understand actions and immediate next steps

The last tip to maximise the value of your meeting gold is to ensure you capture it in a way that will have impact well beyond the meeting itself. Inspiration can be fleeting. Make certain that you capture the critical notes, the critical slides and the critical next steps for the team to be able to take that moment and make it one that endures.

By capturing these moments, you can address one of the key sources of meeting frustration — that they seem to end without purpose, action or direction. In these instances, employees are simply going through the motions, holding the meeting because the workplace requires it, rather than because it holds genuine value.

Related: Email Is Great But Face-To-Face Meetings Are 34 Times More Successful

I’ve found that in moments of meeting gold, participants are able to quickly and explicitly define their immediate next steps following a discussion. These actions can be listed by the speaker or any number of meeting attendees, but in every case, there is a clear understanding and consensus on the outcome and what actions each individual must take to achieve that goal. The key is to have the discipline to be specific in these moments, get individuals to identify specific actions that are needed, identify and task specific owners, and be clear on the timeframe for their actions.

Meetings can be long, inefficient and often #couldhavebeenanemail — but they aren’t going anywhere. If done right, they are an incredibly valuable way to build relationships, share ideas and drive business forward. By equipping employees with the knowledge to better identify the minutes of gold in their meetings, we can help ensure the most effective outcomes for those meetings, and in turn apply those insights to help shape more efficient, engaging and even more enjoyable interactions in the future.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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