Training & Development Questions of the Week

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What Are the Benefits of Microlearning Programs for Businesses?

Question:

While looking for a new approach to our compliance training, I came across a reference to Microlearning programs.  What is Microlearning and how can it enhance our company training and development programs?

Answer:

Benefits of Microlearning Programs

Microlearning programs are an e-learning trend that has blossomed over the past few years and appears to have some staying power.  They are short, very focused training tools that typically lasts less than 5 minutes.  These programs provide the learner a more focused and specific training, and are well received by all generational learners.  An e-learning 2016 article notes:

10 Benefits of Microlearning Programs

  1. Learner-centric
  2. Just-in-time
  3. Accessible
  4. Rich media
  5. Less time consuming
  6. Affordable and agile
  7. Shorter development cycle
  8. Easy to update
  9. Wider application
  10. High impact

The shorter length of training increases the retention of the information provided because of our reduced attention spans and working memory.  The programs are typically very engaging and targeted for use on computers, smartphones, and tablets.  Their accessibility and low time commitment have made them very popular with focused and specific learning topics.  Of course, these types of programs are not good for all types of training, but they can be used to engage your audience in a specific topic and encourage further learning, if necessary.  They can also be used to follow up on a training that had just been completed to reinforce topics that were covered.  Microlearning programs are easy to create, easy to change and update, and well received.

 

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep you up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. provides a variety of resources to offer you the best in training programs to keep you on the leading edge. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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Tips To Help Your New Supervisors

Question:

How can we help our new supervisors effectively make the transition from peer to manager status?

Answer:

The transition from peer to manager is not an easy one. Many of your new supervisors are for the first time now responsible for the bottom line results of the company and no longer in the day to day trenches. They are now a leader, setting the example for their peers, and empowered with authority over those they previously called “friends”. Based on a Forbes articlehere are eight tips to share with your new supervisors to help them with this transition:

  1. You are now the person who assigns the work, analyzes productivity and provides performance evaluations, so your relationships need to be moved to a different level.
  2. Ask HR for any Supervisor training that may be available to you to help with the transition.
  3. Sit down and talk with each person that directly reports to you and discuss their expectations and any thoughts they have regarding your new promotion. Get any issues out on the table at first to head off any concerns later.
  4. Always be professional!
  5. Stay away from office gossip and getting caught in non-work conversations.
  6. Don’t allow any prior friendships to influence the way you make decisions.
  7. Make sure everyone understands their role and knows their expectations.
  8. Communicate your expectations and goals to your team and how you will work together to achieve the company goals.

It will take time and the change won’t happen overnight. The key to helping your new supervisors through this transition is by encouraging them to establish roles, set expectations for everyone, and be patient for everyone to get to know their new role. Embrace it and congratulations on your promotion!

 

Get your Managers on the road to success by asking strategic HR, inc. to customize a Supervisors 101 training program to suite your specific needs. We have the expertise and know-how to recommend the right training options for your staff whether they are new or established members of management. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can your management team get off to the right start.

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Even a Good Coach May Have to Micromanage

Question:

I try not to use micromanagement tactics in my leadership style but recently one of my employees has become a bad performer, and my coaching tactics don’t seem to be making a difference.  How do I handle this without being seen as a micromanager?

Answer:

In the world of business leadership, there is always a fear of being labeled as a micromanager.  Micromanaging vs. Coaching notes that “when micromanaging is used as a coaching or leadership style it will most likely deliver bad results, stifle creativity, limit employees’ self-worth, and without a doubt limit productivity. On the other hand, when a coach or leader must deal with a bad performer, it is imperative to help the employee either become a better performer or help them find a job that is a better fit. Leaders should strive to be a coach who when necessary, uses micromanaging activities to improve specific areas, but uses coaching skills when getting the team ready to win.”

On the outside, coaching and micromanaging tactics look very similar. The difference is found in the purpose of these activities. Micromanaging is a tactic of coaching; it is not a leadership style. Micromanaging should be used with employees that are not meeting expectations or are bad performers. A bad performer does not necessarily mean a bad employee (and definitely does not mean a bad person). There are many employees that are not performing well because they are in the wrong job, not because they are bad people, or they are not doing what they are passionate about in general. As a result, the employee has no desire to be successful. By micromanaging such an employee, it allows the leader and the employee to make the best decision of what action should be taken next.

However, a leader should not have to implement a micromanagement plan for an employee for more than 90 days and can be stopped in as little as 30 days depending on the level of involvement, improvement and accountability, as well as overall attitude and commitment of the employee. The desired outcome should be to either help the employee become a better performer in their current position or help them find a role that is a better fit.

It’s important to remember that micromanagement is a tactic, not a style. When you have a poor performing employee, implement a performance plan of daily and weekly activities and micromanage those activities to help them move up in performance or out of the position that does not fit them. You owe it to them as their leader and coach.

 

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you train your employees efficiently and thoroughly.

 

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OSHA Training Requirements – Are Evacuation Drills Mandatory?

Question:

According to the OSHA Training Requirements, is it mandatory that I conduct practice evacuation drills as part of my company’s annual training?

Answer:

According to OSHA How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations, evacuation drills are not required but in their words: “Once you have reviewed your emergency action plan with your employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared.  Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible.  After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill.  Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.”

Workplace safety training will vary depending on the type of business.  Here are some important points to consider when deciding what types of training your employees need to meet OSHA Training Requirements and Standards:

  • Educate your employees about the types of emergencies that may occur and train them in the proper course of action.
  • The size of your workplace and workforce, processes used, materials handled, and the availability of onsite or outside resources will determine your training requirements.
  • Be sure all your employees understand the function and elements of your emergency action plan, including types of potential emergencies, reporting procedures, alarm systems, evacuation plans, and shutdown procedures.
  • Discuss any special hazards you may have onsite such as flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources, or water-reactive substances.
  • Clearly communicate to your employees who will be in charge during an emergency to minimize confusion.

It is a good idea to keep a record of all safety and health training.  Documentation can also supply an answer to one of the first questions an incident investigator will ask: “Did the employee receive adequate training to do the job?”

Are you looking for an outstanding and VERY COMPREHENSIVE document of OSHA Training requirements in OSHA Standards?  To assist employers, safety and health professionals, training directors, and others with a need to know, OSHA’s training-related requirements have been excerpted and collected in this updated booklet.

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace.  No person should ever have to be injured, become ill, or die for a paycheck.”

 

Are you overdue on harassment or other annual training?  Do you hope to impact retention and engagement now before your company gets desperate for talent?  Does your current training curriculum need to be refreshed to reflect changes in company policy or legal requirements?  strategic HR, inc. has the expertise and resources to help.  Visit our Training and Development page to learn more.

 

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“Micro-Learning” – Bite-Sized Learning Techniques

Question:

My manager is interested in implementing Bite-Sized learning techniques for 2017.  Is this something new?  Is it effective?  Why would we want to do this?

Answer:

Bite-sized learning and Micro-Learning are interchangeable ‘buzzwords’ in the world of training for the past two years.  Long gone are the days of 8 hour PowerPoint training sessions, these sessions have shown to be an effective way to train the adult learner in the workplace – adult learners with short attention spans.  HR Today states that according to Deloitte’s research on the modern learner, an average employee can only devote 1 percent of their work week to professional development.  In a 40-hour work week, that is only 24 minutes a week or 4.8 minutes a day. (What is Micro-learning exactly?)

Twenty-four minutes a week does not give us much time to insert learning on important HR topics such as compliance, leadership, documentation, coaching, etc.  However, breaking these training’s into smaller bite-sized pieces meets the training needs while keeping an employee’s focus and attention for the entire session.  If you decide to make this move, keep in mind the length of these micro-sessions vary based upon the training and the culture of the organization.  The sessions can be quite effective with appropriate break down of the topics and implementation.

More information on how to engage the modern distracted learner.

Are you worried your top performers will soon be leaving for a new and different opportunity? Are you looking for a retention method that will also bolster your productivity levels and bottom line? Let strategic HR, inc. help create and implement the perfect retention strategy via training and development. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

 

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The Manager’s Role as a Coach

Question: 

I’m a new manager and I do not understand my role as a coach.  Can you explain how coaching is effective?

Answer:

Effective coaching is about achieving goals. Coaching helps the employee set realistic goals and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them.  As a Manager, you should help to establish guidelines and measures for success and hold the employee accountable for them.  In addition to driving results in order to maximize performance, you should also continue to build the relationship, offer clear expectations while providing support and encouragement. If an employee isn’t meeting your expectations, discipline and coaching can go “hand in hand” if done in a positive way.

A special thanks to Sherry Sims with Black Career Women’s Network for sharing her insight and expertise.

All to often the number one reason employees leave a company is because of their manager.  What Training and Development do you provide your managers to be successful managers?  strategic HR, inc. provides a series of supervisor training customized to your workplace.  Learn more about all of our Training and Development programs or contact us directly at info@strategicHRinc.com.

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Is Ongoing or Annual Training Necessary?

Question: 

Is ongoing or annual training necessary? How will it move my team closer to our goals?

Answer:

Training is a valuable opportunity to develop employees with the specific skills needed for their roles and continued development.  If done correctly, proper training can increase productivity and profitability and can also improve on existing processes and outcomes.  The management team’s main concern is how they will achieve their goals. The training department’s main concern is to understand the business objectives and how to align training resources and solutions to meet the organization’s overall goals.  Some companies are required to follow specific work instructions based on Quality Management Systems regulated by organizations like ISO 9001  (International Organization for Standardization- http://www.iso.org/). Working collaboratively with your training department and sharing feedback from your workforce helps to create a competent and productive work environment.

A special thanks to Sherry Sims with Black Career Women’s Network for sharing her insight and expertise.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep you up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. provides a variety of resources to offer you the best in e-Learning programs to keep you on the leading edge. To order or learn more about the resources available visit our e-Learning resource page or visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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How Can I Incorporate Career Development Into the Job?

Question: 

My employee asked about incorporating career development into their job. How can I do that?

Answer:

Aligning an employee’s career goals with the organizations can increase employee engagement and also help the organization achieve its goals as well. First, determine what the employee wants to achieve.  Assess his or her current skills and strengths. Then, check to see if your organization has a professional development budget (i.e. tuition reimbursement).  If there is not a budget, you can support your employee’s career development in various cost effective ways such as cross-training, mentoring, training webinars, and in-service training just to name a few.  Have your employee invest in taking the StrengthsFinder assessment (http://www.strengthsfinder.com) to access how to incorporate their top 5 strengths into their current position.  Encourage the employee to see the value of investing in their long-term development and create a plan that will be a win/win for the both of you.

A special thanks to Sherry Sims with Black Career Women’s Network for sharing her insight and expertise.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep your up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. has experience in developing training programs to keep you on the leading edge. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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Talent Management: Changing the Role of Recruiting

Question:

My boss is interested in me moving into a “Talent Management” role.  I’m a bit embarrassed to ask what that exactly means.  What would I be doing?  Recruiting?

Answer:

In today’s competitive world for attracting employees, the old “recruiting” role in many organizations has expanded beyond the traditional “place an ad, interview, and hire”.  According to the Society for Human Resources Management, Talent Management encompasses five strategies including: attracting, selecting, engaging, developing, and retaining employees.  Organizations today have learned that attracting employees to our organization is one very small step in process.  This exciting role your boss is considering you for includes not only the traditional recruitment type duties but well beyond that in focusing on how to attract them AND retain them through a variety of means.  This role will allow you to get the individuals on board and then work to develop programs to help employees see developmental opportunities for themselves that aid in retention.

Are you worried your top performers will soon be leaving for a new and different opportunity? Are you looking for a retention method that will also bolster your productivity levels and bottom line? Let strategic HR, inc. help create and implement the perfect retention strategy via training and development. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

 

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Is Your Office Prepared?

Question:

Should we consider adding some type of active shooter training for our employees?  We conduct training on workplace violence but we have not specifically addressed the potential for an “active shooter” or a terrorism-type scenario.

Answer:

Unfortunately, workplace violence is something that all human resources professionals need to consider when looking not only at policy development but training as well.  Today, we must be more vigilant in helping to prepare employees for those “unthinkable” situations.  With that said, training should not be taken lightly.  Poor training would be detrimental and potentially put employees at risk.  Quality training must be from a reputable source that includes resources and involvement from the local law enforcement office and/or the Department of Homeland Security.  If you decide to provide training to all your employees or only to an emergency response team, do your homework first to make it valuable and worthwhile.

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help you with your planning. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you train and develop your staff.

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How Do You Handle Your Performance Reviews?

Question:  

I am currently working on performance reviews and am wondering how I can tactfully and professionally tell an employee to stop with the drama and gossiping in the workplace?

 

Answer:

 That is a difficult conversation to have as many employees get defensive when you call them out for gossiping in the workplace.  Avoiding getting into an argument about who said what and remind the employee that the company expects professional and respectful communication and behavior in the workplace.  Let them know that the expectation is that all communications are factually based and business related, there is no time for extraneous gossip.

Do you know you need help but don’t know what type of help is best for your situation?  strategic HR, inc. can help. To learn more, contact us at 513-697-9855 or visit our website for details on our services.

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Solutions for Dysfunctional Teams

Question:

I have a cross-functional team of very competent employees that used to be effective, but recently they seem to have lost their way.  There is occasional in-fighting and now I am seeing some group paralysis and they are starting to miss deadlines.  What’s going on and is there something that I can do to help get them back on track?

 

Answer:

It is not uncommon for teams to go through a cycle of effectiveness and productivity and then suddenly seem to lose their way.  This phenomenon is referred to as the life cycle of teams.  A one-time functional team can become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons – changing tasks, new members, perceived organizational barriers or a series of recent failures can all affect the motivation and focus of any well-functioning team.  Or, perhaps the role of the manager or team leader needs to change as the team has matured and developed over recent projects.

Some options to consider:

  • You may want to start by simply revisiting the team’s purpose and re-focus on their goals. Sometimes an open discussion with all the team members pointing out the recent shortcomings can help to quickly re-focus the members on the task at hand.
  • The development of a Team Charter can also be a very effective tool for teams; a collaborative document that establishes team goals, norms, behavior and overall communication styles. Used in conjunction with other tools, the charter can quickly unify a team around a central purpose and mission so that everyone is literally on the same page.
  • It can also be a time to address the evolving role of the manager or team leader as well. For example, an overly involved manager – while critical in the beginning of a team’s development, can actually hinder and stifle a team as they grow. If a team is struggling and the manager is too hands-off, then the team will likely flounder.  Matching the leadership style to the needs of the group is a critical component of effective teams.
  • Another approach is to conduct a Team Effectiveness Survey with the team members to help flush out some of the issues and concerns of the various team members. Such surveys can help pin-point some of the underlying issues such as trust and conflict resolution that may have de-railed the teams’ recent successes.
  • Utilizing personality profiles is another very powerful tool for helping teams become more effective. For example, taking a team through the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) can have a profound effect helping team members learn how to better communicate with each other and how to resolve conflict.  (Differences in communication styles are generally the number one reason for team dysfunctionality).
  • A Team Building Retreat can also be an effective tool, especially for an intact team. By getting everyone together off-site to really focus on communication issues, group styles and conflict resolution can do wonders to jump start either a new team, or one that has gotten stagnant.

Teams are dynamic and that means that they are constantly changing and evolving.  You will inevitably have hiccups along the way that will need to be adjusted to ensure continued team success.  The interventions listed above can be a great starting point to help get your team back on track.

At strategic HR inc., we offer a variety of teambuilding and team development programs targeted to help get teams back on track for success.  Each program is customized to meet the team’s dynamics and needs. For more information check out our Team Building and Development Programs.

 

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Designing an Assessment Center

Question:

My company is in the chemical manufacturing industry where there are many processes involved in the different jobs. I would like to design an assessment center for technicians and other workers that would assess their ability to handle these tasks, such as checking temperatures and pressures, evaluating the raw materials used, etc. How do I determine what competencies are involved and how to go about designing an assessment center?

Answer:

For any type of assessment that involves job competencies you’ll need to address the following:

  1. Observe and record how the best employees in each job category do the work.
  2. Based on the information gained from your observations, you will be able to identify the key competencies and to clearly define them (i.e. problem solving, or communication).
  3. Ensure the competencies are accurate and inclusive by involving some of the employees and respective supervisors in the review of the competencies. They will have a better idea of the accuracy of the competencies.
  4. Once competencies are determined, you are ready to develop simulations for the assessment center to replicate the work being done (i.e. checking temperatures). Using employees that you feel are already successful in the job to pilot the center or assist in the development of the assessments will ensure it is more successful.
  5. Schedule trainees or potential employees to go through the assessment center.
  6. Track the results. You’ll need to assess the employee’s knowledge before they go through the center and be able to determine how it improved and impacted their job performance after completing the assessment. Does it seem to be working? Do you need to make any changes? Are there any biases or adverse discrimination that occurs because of the system?

Note: Depending on where you are located, you may need to do a number of pilots and analyses of the results to ensure there are no legal ramifications on the use of the center on hiring or promotion decisions.  Also, remember to be consistent in your application.  Don’t pick and choose who you will ask to go through an assessment,  it is better to chose a time in employment process and everyone who moves through the step is requested to take the assessment.

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you hire safely.

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Mandatory Training

Question:

My staff hates mandatory training.  What can I do to get them more excited about topics that may not be terribly exciting?

Answer:

Mandatory training is mandatory for a reason.  As trainers our goal is to be sure we get through the necessary content and still keep employees engaged.  There are a few tips to keep in mind to try and keep staff ‘entertained’ and ‘learning’.

  • Make it short and simple.  Rather than trying to cram everything into one long day of training to “get it over with”, a shorter session will keep individuals’ attention, leading to enhanced learning and retention.  If possible, keep the training to 2 hours or less.
  • Make the training applicable to your audience.  Lock out-tag out training isn’t very exciting if you use a canned video that has nothing to do with the trainees’ actual role and how it relates specifically to the trainees job.  Use examples from your environment and make it real.  Those being trained have a better chance of retaining the information.
  • Create activities to engage your audience in the training.  In the example of lock out-tag out training above, use real locks.  Provide each student with a lock to practice their new skill and to demonstrate to others how it is done.
  • Use “trash and trinkets”.  Everyone loves to win something…even if it is a plastic hand clapper, a pen, or candy.  Get employees involved by asking questions through the training session.  Allow the trainees’ to answer the questions (rather than listening to lecture) and providing real life examples, and rewarding them for their involvement.
  • Bring the topic “to life”.  Whether using a case study, a recent news item, or organization audit results, bringing real situations into the training provide for the opportunity for increased engagement in the topic.

Remember…everyone wins when they are engaged in the class and even these little tips will help to make it more interesting for everyone.

Harassment is often a “taboo” subject. Nobody “wants” to talk about it, but everyone knows it needs to be talked about; it’s a catch-22. Take the stress out of your harassment, or other training and development opportunities, by enlisting the help of strategic HR, inc. We have years of experience creating training programs and materials, as well as conducting training at your venue or ours. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with you training or development needs

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The Importance of Training

Question:

With the high number of baby boomers preparing to retire and millennials entering the workplace, the need for experienced leaders is going to be essential and training programs will be crucial to achieving this. By investing in good training programs that are appealing to employees, companies can get ahead of the game during the course of the generational gap in leadership. So, how can I entice employees to take training when everyone is so busy?

Answer:

Attract your employees to training programs in four easy steps!

Although many employees are so busy, continued training is necessary.  It is an essential part of staying up to date with new technology, trends and reinforcing old policies and procedures.   Try these four steps to help you get your employees more excited to partake in training programs!

  1. Bring in Energetic Trainers

One of the most important ways to entice your employees to take training is to keep it interesting.  Bring in passionate, energetic and knowledgeable trainers.  By bringing in trainers who are not only knowledgeable about the subject, but able to engage the employees, training programs won’t be something that employees dread, but something that employees may even look forward to.  Having a trainer that is able to establish a connection to employees will establish respect and trust.

  1. Have “Conversations” instead of “Lectures”

In training sessions, information is the most important aspect, but it doesn’t have to be lectured to employees.  By having “conversations” instead of lectures, employees are able to give feedback and may feel more comfortable asking questions about something they don’t understand.

  1. “Teach” Each Other

Have employees partner up or form groups with one another to “teach” each other.  By talking about information with someone other than the trainer, employees may be able to retain it better.  This is also an effective employee bonding exercise and a good way for employees to get to know each other.

  1. Keep Training Updated

Keep the training updated.  If employees are continuously hearing the same information they have already heard a multiple times before, time and money is being wasted.  By keeping information updated, the training is more effective and of interest to employees.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep your up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. has experience in developing training programs to keep you on the leading edge. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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E-Learning Benefits

Question:

What are the benefits of e-learning?

Answer:

In our time-crunched work world with everyone still trying to do more with less, eLearning offers a flexible learning solution.  Learners can control what they want to learn, when they want to learn it.  This convenience not only benefits the user, there are multiple benefits to the workplace as well.  For example, at MYCA Multimedia and Training Solutions,  we provide “Reality Bytes” tailored to individual workplace situations to reinforce knowledge “@ the point of work.TM  Imagine the value of an employee having access to regular timely reinforcement of knowledge rather than simply attending a conference or training session once a year. Or think how helpful it would be for a manager to refresh his or her knowledge of interviewing “do’s and don’t” just before the conversation begins.  Think of the cost savings in the provision of eLearning courses as opposed to conducting multiple seminars, to say nothing of ensuring 100% attendance. In addition, your material will remain consistent, rather than filtered through the personalities and knowledge level of individual instructors.

Gone are the days when learning was confined to a single book, classroom setting or annual conference.  Now learning is available at a touch of a keypad, anytime of the day.

A special thanks to Patti Massey, President, with MYCA:Group.  If you have questions for her, contact Patti at pmassey@mycagroup.com or visit their website at www.mycagroup.com.

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help you with your planning. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can help you train and develop your staff.

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E-Learning

Question:

I’ve been hearing a lot about e-learning – what is it?

Answer:

eLearning is simply the digital delivery of learning content either through a self-paced mode or through participative or pre-recorded webinars. Obviously computers provide the traditional venue for this type of learning, but access for mobile devices has exploded in recent years.

Users can generally access online training 24/7, and courses contain built-in tracking tools that monitor the learner’s progress, record test or quiz scores, and verify completion.  Learners can bookmark, exit the course and resume where they left off. The length of eLearning courses can vary widely, however most courses are delivered in 45-60 minute segments. If needed, learners take multiple courses to complete a topic. Recently, more companies are delivering learning content in smaller, easily accessible chunks.

Various tools used to develop eLearning include Articulate Presenter, Articulate Storyline, Lectora, HTML5 and Flash. There are many templates available for each of these eLearning Programs including exercises, quizzes, games, etc. to make it easy for even the novice technical programmer to create a course, however  a keen awareness of adult learning theory and specifically how to display content in an engaging and interactive way online plays a critical part. This is a very different skill set from traditional classroom delivery. One must be careful not to simply put a classroom participant guide along with a few slides into the eLearning Program – you don’t want your learners to minimize the window and just keep clicking through the content. Measurable learning only occurs when participants are engaged in the content.

A special thanks to Patti Massey, President, with MYCA:Group for her contribution to our Question of the Week.  If you have questions for her, contact Patti at pmassey@mycagroup.com or visit their website at www.mycagroup.com.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep you up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. provides a variety of resources to offer you the best in e-Learning programs to keep you on the leading edge. To order or learn more about the resources available visit our e-Learning resource page or visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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HR Certification

Question:

I am very confused about the changes announced by SHRM and HRCI regarding HR certification. Can you shed any light on what the changes are expected to be?

Answer:

The first thing to note is that HRCI testing will run as usual for now as the certification changes are planned to take place in 2015. But don’t delay taking the exam because of the impending change – the benefit of having your PHR/SPHR/GPHR certification prior to 2015 is that you’ll be able to transition (at no cost) to the new Competency Certificate by doing three things:

  1. Document that your current certification is in good standing.
  2. Sign the SHRM code of Ethics.
  3. Complete an online educational module and brief online tutorial on HR competencies.

Once you go through this process, you’ll receive the new SHRM credential and will begin a 3-year recertification cycle. Additionally, if you sit for the certification test in the Dec/Jan window but don’t pass, you will be given the new 2015 Learning System books free of charge.

The new competency learning system will consist of the following nine (9) modules:

  • Communication – effectively exchanging information with stakeholders
  • Relationship Management – managing interactions to provide service and support
  • Ethical Practice – supporting and upholding the values of the organization while mitigating risk
  • HR Expertise – applying HR management principles and practices to contribute to success of the business
  • Business Acumen – understanding and applying information to contribute to the organization’s strategic plan
  • Critical Evaluation – interpreting information to make business decisions and recommendations
  • Leadership & Navigation – directing and contributing to initiatives and processes within the organization
  • Consultation – providing guidance to organization’s stakeholders
  • Global & Cultural Effectiveness – valuing and considering the perspectives and backgrounds of all parties

Stay tuned. As we learn more information about the changes to the HR certification process, we will certainly pass it along.

When it comes to a successful outcome, sometimes having the right tools at hand makes all the difference. Strategic HR, inc. has a variety of tools available for the HR practitioner, both for professional and personal development, including information for HRCI certification preparation. Visit our HRCI page to learn more about professional HR certification.

 

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On-Boarding For Retention And Engagement

Question:

We are hiring for many positions in the next several months. We want to develop an on-boarding plan that increases engagement and retention of our employees. What is the basic framework for a successful on-boarding process?

Answer:

The key to a successful on-boarding plan is based on the 3 E’s: Expectations, Execution and Examination.

Developing a model for success begins with setting clear expectations. The job description is a good place to start, but there’s more work to be done. Additional things to consider include goals, projects, key learning and building relationships that impact results. Goals and objectives that can be measured make it easier to define success.

Once expectations have been established, a timeline needs to be developed and executed. Accountability to the on-boarding plan is key. This is where things tend to jump off track. Appointing someone to manage the on-boarding plan over the time period specified, will increase the likelihood that tasks are completed, meetings are held, and learning material is reviewed.

Examining the on-boarding plan during the execution phase will enable those who are involved to address any problems or delays in the plan. Reviewing the expectations and ensuring that objectives have been met will provide assurance to the hiring manager that the new employee is being adequately prepared, and will increase the engagement of the employee who is seeing the company invest in their success.

Often times, an organization will see the value in on-boarding, but will not invest in the totality of the plan. There may be minimal expectations established (limited to job requirements), or routine introductions to peers and support staff. Management may expect the rest of the on-boarding to happen naturally as on-the-job training occurs.

When on-boarding someone new to the organization, develop a plan that encompasses the role, the people/relationships, internal processes (learning), and the culture. Studies show that employees will show more loyalty and commitment to an organization that is willing to invest in their success.

A special thanks to Charis Borchers, Vice President Business Development, with RCSN Executive Search and Leadership Consulting.  If you have questions for her, contact Charis at charis@rcsnleaders.com.

On-boarding is a crucial element of engaging and retaining your employees. It’s often overlooked but can make or break your relationship with that new hire. Do you have a strong on-boarding process in place? Strategic HR, inc. has experience with developing orientation programs that can help you provide the best FIRST experience and introduction to your organization for your new employees. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with your on-boarding other types of training and development.

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Why Do Harassment Training?

Question:

Our senior leadership is very resistant to doing Workplace Harassment Training. However as an HR professional I see and hear about some issues that are very concerning. How do I convince our leadership that we should be doing this training?

Answer:

This is not an uncommon problem. There are a number of reasons cited by leadership, for not wanting to do Workplace Harassment training:  it opens a can of worms, it will put ideas in the employees’ heads, we’re too busy, we can’t afford to pay our entire staff to sit through the training. The best response to those arguments is, “Can we afford not to?” Ask senior leadership to Google search “EEOC Harassment Statistics 2012”.  This search will find information stating that the EEOC recovered $365m in 2012 in workplace harassment and discrimination findings. This does not include the legal costs the companies spent on defending these claims or the complaints settled outside the EEOC. Making sure you have a policy in place, and are conducting training are the first steps to avoid being part of those statistics. Should a complaint ever be filed, one of the first things asked is, “Where is your policy and have you done training?” This is your first line of defense as a company. Not to mention, it sends a message that your organization is committed to having a positive work environment, and inappropriate, illegal behavior will not be tolerated.

A common mistake in creating a policy and conducting training is to limit the training to sexual harassment. Workplace harassment should address all protected classes – sex, race, age, nationality, religion, disability, color, and depending you your state and local laws, sexual orientation. A comprehensive policy and training program are the first steps to protecting your company.

Are you overdue on harassment or other annual training? Do you hope to impact retention and engagement now before your company gets desperate for talent? Does your current training curriculum need to be refreshed to reflect changes in company policy or legal requirements? Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise and resources to help. Visit our Training & Development page to learn more.

 

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Training and Development Trends for 2014

Question:

What are some training and development trends we can expect to see in 2014?

Answer:

As many HR professionals know, finding the right talent and leadership for their organizations is a major business challenge. A 2013 Deloitte Conference Board survey of CEO’s found that “human capital” is the top challenge they face in their businesses – rated more than 10% higher than “operational excellence”. There are many factors leading to the lack of qualified workers.

Business leaders agree that our educational system is not able to keep up with demands. Many college graduates do not possess the entry level skills they need to start work without training. Another issue we are faced with is the drop in the U.S. birthrate, that has dropped well below the rate needed to maintain our replacement rate. The United States is also becoming an “older” country, which brings with it all the challenges of high spending on entitlements, reduced economic growth, and the need to quickly improve our immigration policy. While these issues are discussed at a national level, what do we as HR and business managers do?

One suggestion is simple – we have to think like economists.

In some situations, for specific jobs, there is simply not enough talent to go around – meaning HR professionals and business leaders must buy, build, and harvest new talent in the workforce. How would an economist think about this issue? This is a “supply” and “demand” problem. And unfortunately, research has shown that workforce planning remains a major weakness in most organizations and in HR teams.

How can this be solved?  Some think that offering higher salaries is the only answer; however, research shows that money is a “hygiene” factor in employment, so once you meet the competitive market for salaries, you must provide other incentives. These include career advancement opportunities, culture, benefits, work environment, and a mission people believe in.

What else would an economist do? They would start looking for more supply. One way is to “harvest” new talent, also called “talent harvesting” or “candidate relationship management.” For example, building relationships with excellent candidates who are in their second and third year of college. Economists would also look at retention rate, internal talent migration, and cross-training opportunities within the company to keep employees from leaving. Any program that keeps employees working a few years longer, improves retention and creates career development will have a positive effect.

Bottom line:  HR professionals should think about their internal organizations as “economies” just like the outside world, and the better you understand the dynamics the better you can meet the needs of the business.

Is training your employees a goal for 2014? Do you hope to impact retention and engagement now before your company gets desperate for talent? Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training program.

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What is competency mapping?

Question:

My company is undertaking a Job Evaluation exercise along with competency mapping. Competency mapping is an area which has been least explored in India. What can you tell me about it?

Answer:

Competency Mapping is a process of identifying key competencies for an organization and/or a job and incorporating those competencies throughout the various processes (i.e. job evaluation, training, recruitment) of the organization. A competency is defined as a behavior (i.e. communication, leadership) rather than a skill or ability.

The steps involved in competency mapping with an end result of job evaluation include the following:

  1. Conduct a job analysis by asking incumbents to complete a position information questionnaire (PIQ). The PIQ can be provided for incumbents to complete, or you can conduct one-on-one interviews using the PIQ as a guide. The primary goal is to gather from incumbents what they feel are the key behaviors necessary to perform their respective jobs.
  2. Using the results of the job analysis, you are ready to develop a competency based job description. This is developed by carefully analyzing the input from the represented group of incumbents and converting it to standard competencies.
  3. With a competency based job description, you are on your way to begin mapping the competencies throughout your HR processes. The competencies of the respective job description become your factors for assessment on the performance evaluation. Using competencies will help guide you to perform more objective evaluations based on displayed or not displayed behaviors.
  4. Taking the competency mapping one step further, you can use the results of your evaluation to identify in what competencies individuals need additional development or training. This will help you focus your training needs on the goals of the position and company and help your employees develop toward the ultimate success of the organization.

To help you with the implementation of these steps and to learn more about competency mapping, we recommend further reading the following resources:

The Art and Science of Competency Models: Pinpointing Critical Success Factors in Organizations by Richard Lepsinger, Anntoinette D. Lucia

Building Robust Competencies: Linking Human Resource Systems to Organizational Strategies by Paul C. Green

Human Resources Champion by David Ulrich

This question was original posted on e-HResources.com.

With the recovering economy are you worried your top performers will soon be leaving for a new and different opportunity? Are you looking for a retention method that will ALSO bolster your productivity levels and bottom line? Let strategic HR, inc. help create and implement the perfect retention strategy via training and development. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment, Job Analysis, revamp your aging Job Descriptions and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

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Expired Prescriptions and Drug Testing

Question:

We recently had a situation where a veteran employee, with no prior incidences, took an expired prescription drug that was inhibiting her performance. She drug tested positive with it in her system and the script was older than one year. What do I do?

Answer:

This is certainly a tricky situation, and the answer is anything but cut and dried. Some things to consider:

  • Policy – What does your Drug Free Workplace Policy say? Typically an acceptable deviation of a positive drug test is supplying a valid prescription from an attending physician. In this situation, the employee does not appear to have that if the drug was expired. What does your policy say about the consequences of a positive test?
  • Training – This is why Drug Free Workplace training is so critical. Such training should inform employees of exactly these types of situations, and potential consequences, so this scenario can be avoided. What does your policy say about training, and have you adhered to that?
  • Precedent – What are the consequences of making an exception? If you make an exception for this individual are you willing to make an exception the next time it happens to another employee (perhaps a lower performing employee)? Does making an exception impact the effectiveness of your Drug Free Workplace program?

Unfortunately there is no easy answer, and you have to do what’s best for your company.  The key is to carefully consider the impact of your decision on future situations that may arise.

Do you struggle with doing what is right for your company and right for your employees when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace? Sometimes the “right” solution isn’t always easily identified. Strategic HR, inc. understands your dilemma of being between a rock and a hard place. We can provide you with best practices, policies and training when it comes to creating a Drug Free Workplace or any other needs concerning the Health, Safety and Security of your workforce. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page or Training & Development page for more information on any of these services.

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Ineffective Training

Question:

We conducted training recently, but it didn’t seem like anyone got anything out of it. What did we do wrong?

Answer:

There are a number of reasons why training turns out to be ineffective, most of which can be addressed in the planning stages.  Most importantly is to consider the needs of your audience. When evaluating training content be sure to look at:

  • Topic – Is your topic relevant to the participants, timely, and is new information provided? All of these are important. If you make every employee attend a seminar on benefits, when only 25% are eligible, that may not be the best use of time and resources. At the same time, offering the presentation three months before open enrollment would also be problematic (not enough time). Consider the needs of your audience, and how a topic can be tailored to meet those needs.
  • Learning Styles – Everyone learns differently, whether auditory, visual or kinesthetic, and it is important to tailor a presentation to accommodate different learning styles. A combination of lecture, discussion, and activity can enhance the learning experience for everyone.
  • Group Size – Depending on the topic, the group size may impact how effective training is. If you are discussing a topic with complex detail that participants will need to know and understand, breaking into smaller groups will give them more opportunity to ask questions and gain the insight they need.
  • Length of Presentation – The length of a presentation can dictate how in-depth you may be able to explore a topic. Determine what you are trying to accomplish with the training – just a broad overview, or a deep dive? That will dictate how long training should be. Conversely, if you know you only have 30 minutes, don’t pick a larger topic than you can cover effectively in that time.

For any organization, training is an investment in time, money and resources. It can also be a tool for retention and rewards, as well. Make sure you plan carefully for the audience’s needs to get the most bang for your buck!

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it allow you to keep up technologically with other companies that compete with your services or products, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you train your employees efficiently and thoroughly.

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What’s the difference between “Training” and “Development”?

Question:

What’s the vast difference between “Training” and “Development”?

Answer:

Asked at a recent HR Roundtable in Cincinnati, Ohio, Susan Otto, owner of Training-Modules.com, LLC, provided some insight via a small group discussion. Here are the results of the overall discussion as captured that day by facilitator Steve Browne:

Training                                                         Development

Short-term focus/Task Oriented                     Long-term focus/Skills oriented

Group based (more often than not)                Individually based

Focuses on the “today” needs                       Leads to the “tomorrow” results

Compliance area strength                               Opportunities to develop strategic approach

Other items that my small group noted were:

Information versus values                               Targeted to the individual; growth after training

5%                                                                   95%

Means                                                              End

Knowledge                                                      Expansion

For today                                                         For tomorrow

Short-term                                                       Long-term

Task-oriented                                                  Skill-oriented

Piece of development                                      Holistic

  • Training is the means to a development end. It’s important to remember that not all training leads to development, but it could and you should see if this is how to look at things in developing that “vision” mentioned before.
  • We need to look at training and development together versus pulling them apart.  There are facets of both training efforts and development efforts that have value.  With a strong, constructed strategy and vision, incorporating these two things is actually very natural.

Training and development are a partnership; they’re a process, not an event. They are both value driven.

If you’d like to see a sample of how Susan Otto integrates activities into her training content, check out her website, www.Training-Modules.com. To learn more about the HR Roundtable, contact Steve Browne at sbrowne@larosas.com.

Is training your employees a goal for 2013? Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

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Barriers To Effective Training and Development

Question:

What types of things hinder effective training and development in companies today?

Answer:

This was a question asked at a recent HR Roundtable event held in Cincinnati, Ohio. Susan Otto, trainer extraordinaire and owner of Training-Modules.com, LLC was present and provided her professional insight and comments. Steve Browne, facilitator of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA) HR Roundtable, provided the following documentation of the discussion that day. We have also provided additional notes from Susan’s small group discussion.

Steve Browne’s Facilitation Notes:

  • Budgets. When the first economic downturn hits, training and development budgets get chopped. Many companies fail to see training as an “investments.”
  • The culture of senior management. These leaders need to encourage, foster, and believe in the training and development of their employees and influence the budget to align it with the strategy of the company.
  • Lack of vision. Enhance the vision and have it be a key component before implementing the next “flavor of the month” best practice.
  • Time and staffing. If these components are not valued, then there will always be a lack of time, funding, and staffing assigned to training and development. There has to be sustainability, value, and behavioral shifts which show tangible results.
  • Reactive vs. Proactive. If we’re always striving just to catch up, we’ll never make an impact on our businesses.
  • No perceived value. If employees who attend don’t see that they can use what is taught, then that is a much more critical loss of value than any financial issues will ever generate.

Susan Otto’s Small Group Notes:

  • Attitude – we’ve always done it that way.
  • Thinking it’s an event, instead of a process.
  • Can’t share information – knowledge is power.
  • Work ethic.
  • No link to the mission, vision, and values.
  • Risky because they’re afraid to admit they don’t know.
  • Level of, or lack of, commitment.
  • Job silos – only know your job.
  • Reluctant to train others because you might lose your job.
  • Got in trouble – safety, harassment – no strategy.
  • No perceived value.
  • Poorly qualified trainers – they do everything.
  • Why train and invest in short-term employees.
  • Why learn this week – it will change next week.
  • Keep training and development separate rather than integrated.

It was also noted “we’re so busy chopping that we don’t take time to sharpen the ax”.

If you’d like to see a sample of how Susan Otto integrates activities into her training content, check out her website at www.Training-Modules.com. To learn more about the GCHRA HR Roundtable, contact Steve Browne at sbrowne@larosas.com.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive in business. Not only does it allow you to keep up technologically with other companies that compete with your services or products, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. A mentoring program is a great “informal” type of training curriculum. Strategic HR, inc. has experience being mentored, directly providing mentoring to others and developing mentoring programs that can help you provide the best experience for your employees. Visit our Training and Development page to learn how we can assist you with a mentoring program or other types of training and development for your organization.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Creating Training Materials

by Susan Otto, Training-Modules.com, LLC

No matter what jobs, positions, or responsibilities we have, sooner or later we are usually asked to train someone on how to “do it.”  And, if we are asked often enough, or if the procedures are complicated, now might be the time to document the material we use to train.

Over the years I have created a few dos and don’ts that I have found to be useful when creating training materials.

First, remember that we’re training adult learners. Adults like to have “hands on” experiences. Stop lecturing. Turn off the PowerPoints. Let’s just “do it” as Nike says.  Roll up your sleeves and begin, providing lots of opportunities to practice in order to create the desired outcomes and results.

Okay, okay…you have a PowerPoint presentation already prepared…well, go back through it and see how you can make the content more interactive. In other words, if the learners know part of the content, rather than lecturing them, ask them to share what they know. For example, if they are aware of the reasons employees are not providing input to a process, ask them to share it. Don’t tell them what they already know. Besides, you might actually hear something you didn’t know!

Make your training interactive. Include activities and “games,” such as role plays, case studies, large and small group discussions…you get the idea. There are tons of books and websites available to peruse when on this quest. And you can always join NASAGA’s discussion board at www.NASAGA.org and ask the various experts what they would suggest.

Remember, adult learners come to training classes with experiences and expertise that should be tapped into during the training process. If adult learners link the learning with past experience, they remember it.

Tell the learner what they really need to know. If they want to know the history, background, evolution, etc., then they’ll ask. For now, give it to them straight…and only give them what they need to know. In most cases, time is of the essence. Most of us don’t have time for the “nice to knows.” However, do consider notating the extra information in the facilitator guide.

Give the adult learner a job aid or a participant guide. And, no, I don’t mean a copy of your PowerPoint presentation. In other words, give them something that will be of value to them during the training process and can be used as a reference back on the job. And, remember, the facilitator guide should provide talking points that further enhance the participant guide content.

If you know the material “inside and out,” then you probably don’t need to write a “detailed” facilitator guide. Wrong! That’s the issue. You don’t need a “detailed” facilitator guide, but if you were hit by a bus tomorrow, would someone else know what to do and say? If not, then you better start documenting more of your knowledge. Oh, and be sure to have someone read it later. What is clear to you, may be clear as mud to someone else. Besides, the fastest way to get promoted is to have someone who can competently perform your job!

When you think you’re finished, check:

  1. The flow of the content. In other words, is the order logical?
  2. The amount of detail used to explain how to facilitate the activities, simulations, and games.
  3. The start times, stop times, and breaks.

What most of us know, and seem to forget when creating training for others, is that training should be fun…yes, you read that correctly. When you think of the training that you really, really enjoyed, was it fun? You betcha! Let’s “do” make training fun!

do's and dont's

Susan Otto, the president of Training-Modules.com, LLC, is committed to effectively partner with organizations and their employees to achieve strategic initiatives necessary for organizational success. Susan designs customized facilitator and participant guides for companies that want to do their own internal training. Contact her at 859.292.0095 or susan@training-modules.com. For information about Susan’s training modules, visit her website at www.training-modules.com.

Copyright 2007 Training-Modules.com. All rights reserved. While you may copy this publication, its content may not be modified. You may, and are encouraged to, share the publication with others who may benefit from receiving it.

If you have any questions or would like to share your comments with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com), you can contact us at info@strategicHRinc.com.

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Succession Planning – Your Operational Necessity

by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR and Patti Dunham, MBA, MA, SPHR

What will drive your organization to finally take succession planning serious? Will it be:

  1. A sudden resignation 
  2. A traumatic or terminal illness of a key employee, or 
  3. A catastrophic event impacting many key employees…

Do you still think your organization is untouchable? Too small to matter? To big to be impacted? Shall we fill this article with stories to tell you otherwise? Bottom line is that every organization MUST take succession planning seriously to avoid a tremendous disruption in internal processes and impact on customers if any circumstances like those listed above would happen to occur to a key person in your organization.

According to JJ Keller & Associates, by the year 2010 the amount of 35-44 year olds, those normally expected to move into the senior management ranks, will decline by 10%. As this age group shrinks the older group of workers will grow and prepare for retirement or a form of semi-retirement but definitely not management. This presents us with a huge potential for loss of knowledge or also termed as “brain drain.” It’s imperative for us to take action now to capitalize on transferring this intellectual capital from the older workers through a formal succession planning program including a form of mentoring to avoid this “brain drain.”

With 50% of organizations with a plan in place (SHRM’s 2006 Succession Planning Report) it is comforting to know that we are implementing these plans and using them to prepare for the future. In case you need help getting started on your plan, below are some steps to get you started or review against what you may have in place:

1) Strategic Direction. 
Review your organization’s strategic plan with special attention to the position needs of the future. Keep in mind that the organization (most likely) will have positions that vary slightly from what they look like today and consider then when creating your succession plan.

2) Conduct a Workforce Assessment. 
How well do you really know and understand your existing workforce? Do you have an idea of how many of your employees are eligible for retirement in the next 1 – 2 years? 5 years? How many of them are managers or in key positions? Are there any individuals in the organizations that might be ready to fill those roles at that time? If not, what do you have to do to get them ready?

3) Identify Key Positions. 
What are the key positions in the organization that need a formal succession plan? Remember to look beyond your senior management team and look deep. Is there a specific role for example, in the IT department that the organization would have difficulty “doing without”? Create a succession plan not only for senior management roles but also those “high risk” positions.

4) Evaluate The Roles 
Properly evaluate the role by identifying skills and competencies necessary for success in the role. Don’t forget that this role may look different in the future so take special attention to the future skills needed.

5) Review your workforce. 
Identify those high potential employees who may be able to step into the identified positions with training and development. A few things to remember here:

    • a. This is impossible to do without a good assessment of your employees. A good performance management process should assist with this assessment but the information must be gathered and maintained.
    • b. Remember to think cross-functionally and work as a senior management team when identifying these HPEs. Just because an employee is a fabulous customer service manager doesn’t mean they aren’t interested and highly qualified for the CFO role.

6) Elicit Input from the Successor 
Ask the employees what they want for themselves in their career path. You don’t want to spend time and money developing employees who have no interest in moving up the ladder or who have other plans for their careers.

7) Identify The Gaps 
What are the necessary skills and competencies of the identified employees? Create a development plan to fill those gaps. The plan should be specific to include what will be done and by when so the plan doesn’t collect dust on a shelf and never get accomplished Identify the training and development needed to prepare the individuals for these potential roles. Development may include special assignments, training in-house, taking outside courses, or working in another department to learn its functions.

8) Exit Strategies 
At the executive level, a succession plan should include an exit strategy for current executives, and contingency plans for emergency replacement in the event of unforeseen extended unavailability.

9) Review your plan on a regular basis. 
Again, change is constant and this document must be reviewed on a regular basis as the organization has turnover and the organization’s strategic plan changes.

When you are creating your succession plan, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind to ensure your plan is a success:

Think strategically. 
Change is the only thing that can be guaranteed and that is especially true when you prepare a succession plan. As strategic partners, we implement succession plans as a way to try and prepare for the future and the inevitable change not only with the opening of a position but change in the position itself. The organization is not (hopefully) going to be stagnant and changes to the position are most likely to occur as the organization grows and changes. When you identify potential successors, think about what skills the changing position will require for success.

Look at the position, not the person.
Absolutely look at the position and not the person when you are evaluating which position(s) should be identified as needed a succession plan. Otherwise, you’ll get hung up trying to replicate the traits of the individual that the skills needed for the position.

Keep an open mind.
The top 10% performers are not necessarily the only ones who are potential successors. Look deep…we all have hidden talents that may be useful to the organization. Also, be sure you are not ignoring good employees because of biases (discrimination) for being too old, too young, or even just “different than you.”

Training and development is essential.
A nicely written succession plan doesn’t do anything for the organization if you don’t invest in the training and development of potential successors. If money is limited, don’t let that deter you. The CFO can mentor the identified individual(s) with special projects, delegation of some duties, etc.

Get manager buy in for the plan.
Many managers tend to shy away from succession plan development due to their own insecurities and fears. Managers must be accountable for the identification and development of potential successors and human resources should assist in calming the fears and explaining the process

Keeping the plan a secret.
How many promising employees do you think you’ve lost to competitors because they had no idea you had a plan for them? The more you can involve the entire organization in your efforts, the more successful you will be. If the employee becomes “ready” before the successor moves on, you may be able to utilize their skill in another area. If not, you may be able to place them with a vendor or a customer rather than lose them to the competition.

Only considering promotions.
Lateral succession may be a needed in your organization, especially if you operate very thin and flat. Don’t let that hinder an employee’s opportunity to grow and develop-or your organization’s ability to attract and retain employees with growth opportunities.

As we struggle with low unemployment, changing workforce demographics, reduced budgets, an increased focus on emergency preparedness, and business continuity planning, we are required to “plan for the emergency”. Our “human” resources are become more and more critical to the success of our organizations. And, key positions including both leaders and hard to fill specialized skills are even more crucial to the operations of the company. To ensure any staffing changes occur smoothly, with minimal disruption to internal processes and appear seamless to our customers, we must have a plan in place. If you haven’t developed your plan, hopefully this article has enticed you to develop a plan and provided you with the tools to get started.

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR and Patti Dunham, MBA, MA, SPHR are Sr. Human Resources Management Consultants with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). Robin Throckmorton is also the President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc.. If you have any questions or would like to share your ‘success stories’ with either of these consultants, you can contact Robin at Robin@strategicHRinc.com or Patti Patti@strategicHRInc.com.

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Strategic Planning…Goal Setting…Are You Still on Track?

by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR

Do you remember how much time and energy you put into setting goals for yourself and/or your business earlier this year? Do you even remember what those goals were? What actions have you taken toward accomplishing them?

Each year, January 1 is a milestone that forces me to establish both my personal and business goals for the year. Whether you have a strategic plan for your business/department or personal goals/resolutions, it is exciting and motivating to set them but very easy to put them on the shelf and forget about them until next year. According to research by Tom Terez, only about one in five individuals make a resolution each year AND actually keep it. Why do so few actually realize their goals?

There are many reasons that we lose sight of our goals within even just a few months of setting them. Here are the top 10 reasons that I have found are why most of us fail to meet our goals:

 #10 Lack of long-term motivation

January 1 really motivates us to want to set goals to help us improve something (i.e. lose weight, increase sales, reduce turnover) over the coming year. But shouldn’t there be another holiday about every three months for the purpose of saying “how are you doing” on your goals and resolutions for the year? So, until I am able to get Hallmark to create this holiday filled with lots of cards to remind us, we have to set our own milestones.

#9 No thought put into goals

Many individuals let the pressure of the new year force them to set goals. Unfortunately, this results in goals that didn’t have much thought put into them. Therefore, they are not accurate, realistic, or on-target.

#8 Too many goals

Too often, our list of goals quickly becomes a long list of to-dos that completely overwhelms us and ends up lost after just a few weeks of creating it. You can probably only accomplish between 3 – 6 goals a year depending on the scope of those goals. Remember, most goals involve some sort of change and it takes at least 30 days to change a behavior!

#7 Unrealistic

How often have you heard someone tell you their New Years resolution or business goals and knew right away there was no way that would ever happen? It is great to be optimistic and confident but your goals have to at least be attainable or you will definitely lose the energy and motivation to complete them. A goal is only realistic if you can control the outcome because it is based on your own skills, knowledge, or abilities and cannot be impacted by outside factors beyond your control.

#6 Not specific

Each goal will need a detailed and specific plan of action. To create these steps, I find it helpful to think about these five things: what result, outcome, or benefit do I hope to obtain from reaching this goal / objective? What is going to prevent me from reaching it? Who or what resources can help me to reach it? What will be the specific steps that I will take to accomplish the goal? And finally, how will I know I got there or how will I evaluate or measure it?

#5 Not measurable

This last component “how will you know you got there” is often neglected. This is the measurement part of the goal. Be sure you are able to measure whether or not you have reached your goal.

#4 Never committed to in writing

Brainstorming goals is great but not enough. You’ll need to write down your goals being as specific as you can so you know what you need to do and when to accomplish a goal. Plus, try to prioritize your goals and actions so you know what is most important and must be done first, second, third, etc.

#3 Side tracked

The day to day of our lives and/or jobs is so busy that we often forgot about our goals. This is probably one of the most popular reasons why goals fail. But, many times we are sidetracked by the things that are not going to help us get where we ultimately need to in the long run. And, if we would just review our goals every time this happens, it will help us maintain focus and stay on track.

#2 Failure to celebrate your accomplishments

We are all human and we love the feeling of knowing we succeeded at something. But, when we set a goal and actually accomplish it, we basically just “check it off” and move on. You need to celebrate these accomplishments. If it was a group goal, make it a group celebration – pitch in lunch, ice cream at 3:00, etc. If it was a personal goal, do something special for yourself – relax for 30 minutes, get a massage, talk a walk, write yourself a congratulations note, etc.

#1 Failure to re-evaluate goals

You might be saying, why are we talking about how to set goals when we should be evaluating them. Once you’ve set your goals, they are not cast in stone. There is no law that says you can’t adjust them. And, things do change so you should review and revise them as needed. Part of the goal should include milestones (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually) to evaluate your progress on the goal and revise if things have changed. Plus, how often do we dive into creating new goals before even evaluating how well we did at meeting our past goals? We have to know how we did in the past in order to determine what we need to do in the future to reach our ultimate goals. THEN, we can begin planning.

So, whether it is a strategic plan or your own personal goals, most goals are established to help you get from where you are today to where you want to ultimately be. The goals are the actual steps you’ll take to reach that ultimate future. To set your goals, you need to find out where you are now, where you want to be, and how you are going to get there. And, constantly re-evaluate and revise as needed.

So, grab your goals that you set earlier this year. Review them against these top ten reasons why they may never be accomplished. Then decide if they need modified based on these reasons or even changes that have happened in your business, economy, etc.? Did you write them specific enough so you know what you need to accomplish and when? And, how do they measure up so far.

Now, be sure you celebrate your accomplishments and be sure to revisit your goals on a regular basis between now and December 31 and especially before you reset your goals next year.

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have any questions or wish to share your comments, you can contact Robin at Robin@strategicHRinc.com.

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Six Sigma: Achieving Near Perfection

by Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR

What does it mean to achieve perfection? The oldest definition, as written by Aristotle, defined perfection as that which is complete, that which is so good that nothing could be better, and that which has attained its purpose. Aristotle’s definition provides three different flavors of perfection, but all pretty much starting from the same recipe – being finished in a flawless manner. How often do you think about achieving perfection? If you’re a perfectionist, ahem, you might naturally and unconsciously strive for perfectionism in all that you do. If you don’t tend toward perfectionism, you might have to be more concerted in your efforts to produce near-perfect output.

The concept of Six Sigma has its basis in perfection and the notion of delivering products or services that are near-perfect. In fact “sigma” is a statistical term that measures how far from “perfect” a process or product is when complete. The object is to get as close as possible to having zero defects when producing a product. Six Sigma refers to the desire to reach near perfection, roughly no more than six deviation points from the mean. That means producing a product or service that has no more than 3.4 defects per million items produced; a product that’s 99.9997% accurate in terms of its quality. Companies are learning that using Six Sigma successfully amounts to a cultural change and requires a shift in thinking throughout the entire organization. But the payoffs are huge: increased profits and market share, improved customer satisfaction and even enhanced employee satisfaction.

Six Sigma uses Project Teams to work on solving problems or improving processes in an effort to produce zero defects. Similar to Total Quality, Six Sigma differentiates itself by using statistical analysis of lots of data to help measure the current and desired outcomes of a process. Project Teams are comprised of individuals that are identified by their knowledge of Six Sigma concepts in the form of a ranking. Similar to the rankings achieved in Karate, different belt colors signify different levels of interaction within a Six Sigma Team. Team members learn roles and techniques needed for Six Sigma transformation in varying levels, but unlike Karate, don’t need to progress through all the levels to reach a certain designation. The levels in Six Sigma are:

  • White Belt – has been taught a high level overview of Six Sigma and how it works. A great introduction for all employees in an organization utilizing Six Sigma.
  • Yellow Belt – considered a subject matter expert, these individuals have a specific knowledge about an area that might not be of primary focus on a Project Team, but bring specific knowledge about their function or area.
  • Green Belt – usually earned by a project member who needs to have a good grasp of the Six Sigma concepts to be productive in Team discussions.
  • Black Belts – are Team leaders who have learned Six Sigma techniques of facilitation in great detail. They are trained in change management and are taught leadership skills needed to run a successful Project Team.
  • Master Black Belts – are individuals who are authorized to teach other Black Belts. They can also mentor and oversee projects using their deep understanding of the statistical needs of the Project Team.

In an earlier article I introduced the concept of Six Sigma, the players involved and the fact that Six Sigma can be applied to any organization and to any area of an organization from Manufacturing to IT.

What we haven’t discussed is how Six Sigma can be used specifically in HR. As subject-matter experts HR might often be involved on company-wide Six Sigma Teams as Yellow Belt team members. In this role HR is asked to help with issues in other departments that might impact or utilize HR. But what about using Six Sigma within the HR Department itself? What types of things can HR analyze and improve using Six Sigma?

The answer is simple; anything that is measurable. Six Sigma relies heavily on data and the ability to measure and analyze information that defines a process or product. So anything that needs to be improved within HR is a target; from accomplishing tasks faster to being more efficient with resources. Such projects can include:

  • Benchmarking compensation and benefits
  • Improving payroll administration
  • Decreasing time to hire new employees
  • Increasing employee satisfaction
  • Curtailing costs: recruiting, training, recordkeeping, compensation and benefits, etc.
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Correcting retention issues
  • Developing an employment brand
  • Evaluating and providing adequate employee communications
  • Consolidation of employee information systems
  • Improving any process from grievance handling to payroll processing
  • Implementing electronic performance reviews
  • Identifying tracking mechanisms for paid time off and FMLA
  • Streamlining orientation and on-boarding processes
  • Revamp training to improve efficiency

This is just a short list of ideas. Once you get a Team assembled to start brainstorming areas of improvement for HR it may be hard to stop them. Just remember to involve all the players within a particular issue. For example, if Marketing is partially responsible for employee communications have a member of the Marketing Department (acting as a subject matter expert – a Yellow Belt) on your Six Sigma Team to make sure you are evaluating the current situation accurately and creating optimum solutions. These Yellow Belt Team members can add a lot to the discussion and often think of solutions that Team members too close to the problem might not easily see.

Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR is a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant and Talent Strategy Manager with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have questions or comments about this article, you can contact Debbie at Debbie@strategicHRinc.com.

Six Sigma 101

by Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR

Everyone by now has heard of Six Sigma; even if you don’t know what it is. If you’re a recruiter, you’ve probably seen it listed on resumes quite frequently. But what is Six Sigma? If you are an HR practitioner, chances are you haven’t been exposed to this concept in much detail, but you should be.

Six Sigma is akin to the Total Quality Management movement of the 1980’s. You might remember – Deming, Juran, Quality Circles, Statistical Process Control (SPC) and Continuous Process Improvement (CPI). These are all concepts that are associated with Total Quality – the idea of improving overall quality in the workplace by making incremental quality improvements or maintaining quality standards. Six Sigma more or less looks at quality in more detail; statistical detail if you will. It focuses on the number of defects that might occur in a product and works to reduce those defects. In fact, the term Six Sigma refers to the desire to shoot for near perfection – defined as no more than 3.4 defects per million items produced; that’s 99.9997% accuracy.

While you might think that being 99.9997% accurate in terms of producing a quality product or providing a service sounds a little lofty, when you stop to look at the numbers it becomes apparent why companies are so concerned with a Six Sigma level of quality. In a recent class provided by the NHRA of Cincinnati, Paul Gormas, of the International Society for Six Sigma Certifications, explained it this way: accepting an accuracy level of “only” 99% would mean tolerating about 20,000 lost pieces of mail per hour or living with no electricity for 7 hours each month (and many of us living in the Greater Cincinnati area know from September 2008 how that might feel). If that isn’t an eye-opener, imagine having one of the 5,000 incorrect surgical operations that might occur each week if held to only a 99% accuracy level – no thank you!

In addition to taking a more statistical approach to managing quality, Six Sigma takes the quality movement a step further by demanding cultural change – which is where HR comes in. By looking at people processes, Six Sigma changes those elements of a process that result in defective products. This often involves changing how employees work and requires an organization to address the needs of its customers; both internal and external. Six Sigma works to reduce variation in product (defaults) by using standardized processes, specific metrics to measure progress and unifying the organization in terms of the processes, metrics and language used. Human Resources, because of their expertise in facilitating cultural change, is instrumental in achieving success with Six Sigma.

Six Sigma projects revolve around the activities of a Team. In most organizations a Quality Counsel will identify Six Sigma initiatives that the organization should attempt to tackle based on need. Someone at the executive level typically sponsors the initiative and forms a Team. A Six Sigma Project Team will have a business sponsor, a process owner (typically the supervisor), a team leader (who is a black belt) and project members (who are green belts). The Team may also have other resources involved (such as HR or Finance) who would require Six Sigma knowledge at a yellow belt level.

Now about those belts… If you’ve paid attention to Six Sigma “speak” you’ll notice that the different rankings of individuals skilled in Six Sigma seem to relate to the rankings achieved in Karate – signified by belt colors. Team members learn roles and techniques needed for Six Sigma transformation in varying levels:

  • A “White Belt” individual has been taught a high level overview of Six Sigma and how it works. When beginning a Six Sigma program in an organization it’s a good idea to educate employees on the overall process and a White Belt is where to start.
  • Someone with a “Yellow Belt” is considered a subject matter expert. These might be individuals who work in HR, IT or Accounting. They have a specific knowledge about an area that might not be of primary focus on a Project Team, but bring specific knowledge about their function or area.
  • A “Green Belt” is usually earned by a project member. They need to have a good grasp of the Six Sigma concepts to be productive in Team discussions.
  • Team leaders are “Black Belts”. They have learned Six Sigma techniques of facilitation in great detail. Black Belts are trained in change management and are taught the leadership skills needed to run a successful Project Team.
  • “Master Black Belts” are individuals who are authorized to teach other Black Belts. They can also mentor and oversee projects. They have a deep understanding of the statistical needs of the Project Team.

Despite the seemingly stair-step design of the different belts, it is not necessary to progress through each rank to earn a Black Belt. A Team Leader can be trained as a Black Belt without going through the other training.

Six Sigma is very methodical and there are set methods for laying out the issues and developing solutions. Once all the players are assembled, it is up to the Project Team to identify and define the stated problem and work through the various Six Sigma exercises and metric analysis to come up with a resolution. HR can be very helpful either as a Project Team member or simply as an ancillary resource in accomplishing the goals of a Six Sigma project.

Perhaps now you have a better grasp of exactly what Six Sigma is, what the different belts signify and how they come into play within the Project Team. Remember, Six Sigma can be applied to any organization and to any area of an organization from manufacturing to IT. How will you use it in HR? Stay tuned to learn more…

Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR is a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant and Talent Strategy Manager with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have questions or comments about this article, you can contact Debbie at Debbie@strategicHRinc.com.

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HR Pros Must Prioritize Their Own Development

by Cathleen Snyder, SPHR, CIR

Coach that employee!
Fill that position!
Manage a wellness program!
Schedule and conduct employee training!
Ugh – It’s time for performance reviews!

In HR, our focus is on assisting other people. Whether it’s addressing an employee relations issue, helping our employees be healthier, or simply being better employees, our time is consumed with doing things that are focused on other people. There never seems to be enough hours in the day, and often we are understaffed. When was the last time you stopped to think about your own development? What was the last training session you attended? How about the one before that? You get the email newsletters, but do you actually take the time to read them? Or are you like me, lately, they get tucked in the “To Be Read” file, but never read. Or worse, just deleted because I have conceded that I’ll never get to them.

Let’s face it, often we are our own worst employees when it comes to making time to do our own training, or ensure we are staying current. Now that the economy has stabilized we’re all celebrating that training is back on the radar. Unfortunately, we are so busy planning everyone else’s training, we don’t take the time to consider our own.

As HR professionals we need to practice what we preach. We all have employees that we have to shove into training, lock their office door, turn off their cell phones and de-activate their email access. Don’t be our own worst training problem child.

One of the things I love most about Human Resources is that things are always changing and evolving. It’s the nature of our field. We work with people. However, in order to keep up with those changes, we have to make sure our own training and staying informed is a priority.

We are fortunate that we have many opportunities to do so. If we choose, we can be bombarded by training opportunities, whether via webinars, seminars, classes or whatever our chosen means. Many of them are low cost or even free. GCHRA offers several monthly programs on a variety of disciplines, that are not only informative, but a great networking opportunity. Local Chambers of Commerce, law firms, and other organizations have regular offerings on HR related topics, again many at low cost or no cost.

There is an abundance of free or paid subscriptions for newsletters, blogs, updates and twitter feeds for the choosing. It’s only a matter of deciding which ones are most relevant to your area.

Our profession cannot claim that we don’t have the means to learn and stay engaged. We have an entire certification platform that requires us to stay informed. The biggest obstacle to doing so is ourselves, and carving out the time. How often is the question, “Are you going to the GCHRA meeting?” answered with, “I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time.”

Like any area of expertise, the field of Human Resources is evolving constantly. Yes, we are impacted by new technology, not only the direct use in our jobs, but also extended impact on our workforce (i.e social media and smart phones). Toss in the whims of the legal system and the ever changing workforce and culture in general, and what they expect from an employer, and your head will start to spin. As HR professionals, we can’t afford to not be in touch and stay current. To say that the tangible and intangible consequences are significant is an understatement.

With that, I would offer some suggestions:

  • Commit to yourself to do attend one seminar or webinar a month. The convenience of a webinar means this can usually be accomplished in one hour! There are other programs to attend in person that are more than worth the additional time commitment.
  • Commit to 15 minutes a day to read newsletters/blogs and feeds. I try to start my day this way, while I settle in with my tea. I find it helps me begin my day informed and ready to go.
  • Commit to networking with one person outside your organization per week. Whether it’s sending an email to someone you have known and need to reconnect with, or reaching out to a new contact you chatted with at a recent event, building your network can only be have positive results.
  • When you are waiting for a meeting to start, use your phone or tablet to actually go to your “To Be Read” file, and catch up on reading. You would be surprised what you can learn in a brief amount of time.

Congratulations on taking the time to read this article! That’s the first step. Now, scan your inbox for the next event or webinar to attend and block out 15 minutes a day on your calendar to read a newsletter. We are HR, if we are not keeping up on our own development, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Cathleen Snyder, SPHR, CIR is a Senior Human Resources Consultant with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have questions or comments about this article, you can contact Cathleen at Cathleen@strategicHRinc.com

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Employee Development – Back on the Radar

By Cathleen Snyder and Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR

It’s been a tough recent couple of years for businesses. Companies that survived often faced staff reductions – whether through reductions in force or attrition, budget cuts, restructuring and any number of measures to ensure the company lived to tell about the “Great Recession”. You’ll notice that nowhere in that statement was there mention of training, employee development, or rewards/recognition. For many companies, these areas have simply been off the radar.

The business world is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, flickering as it may be. Employees are starting to see it as well. A 2010 survey published in the May edition of Harvard Business Review indicated 25% of companies’ top performers plan to leave their company within a year. So despite what some media claims will be a jobless recovery, it’s time for your employees to reappear on the collective corporate radar.

In a recent survey of employees at one organization, many employees were completely unfamiliar with the concept of employee development. Of the employees who were aware of the company’s tuition reimbursement program, a number of them had mistakenly made the assumption that due to financial constraints, the program had been discontinued. Employee performance reviews had gone by the wayside, because they were tied to raises and a wage freeze was in place.

This environment is not unusual in today’s business. Out of need, companies have had to ring every last ounce of productivity and more from each employee, just to survive. Employees are all too aware of this, too. They were willing to make the stretch the company needed in a time of crisis, because it meant they still had a job. But, as they see the crisis starting to pass, they expect something in return, besides the paycheck – which may have been cut. Employees want to be reassured that as their employer returns to growth, they will be included in the future plans, and what their role might be. Employees who don’t see this, may be headed for the door.

For some companies, like the one mentioned above, one key step is to communicate the company’s employee development opportunities. Simply letting employees know what is available to them, and how they can benefit can be a boost. Communication is key, but supporting the employees in taking the time to pursue the development opportunities is also important, whether it is training, education, or cross training in another role. Be sure to celebrate the accomplishments too, especially educational pursuits that take a lot of outside of work time.

Mentoring is a very effective way to develop your workforce. Pairing your more experienced employees with the newer, less experienced individuals can provide a learning experience for both. The new employee can learn skills, as well as the company culture and where they fit in. The more experienced person may benefit from someone recently completing training or school, bringing fresh knowledge. Both employees feel valued as a result.

Other types of employee development include establishing training programs and tuition reimbursement. While costs may vary, providing training and education is a win-win for both employee and employer. Employees are better prepared to grow with the company and take on new roles. In turn, when the time comes to expand, the company has a strong, knowledgeable workforce to promote from within, which helps retain intellectual capital.

Even something as simple as rewarding and recognizing employees, who go above and beyond, shows the workforce that their efforts are noticed, not just expected. It encourages employees to think creatively and voice their ideas. Often times, employers think that reward and recognition has to be expensive. Many employees are just looking for the recognition; a simply thank you or “pat on the back”. In one organization, we developed a list of no cost / low cost ideas to help managers be able to think, on the spot, what they could do for an employee that deserved recognition. Sometimes simply asking them and making it individualized to them, can have even more impact – perhaps a letter to the family, washing their car, leaving an hour early, recognition at a team meeting, doing the ugly part of their job for a day…

Another great employee development solution is career pathing. Do your employees know and understand where they can go in your organization? It doesn’t have to always be up. And, it doesn’t even have to be a formal career pathing program. But, if you can take your job descriptions and create structured career paths, this helps employees understand the different directions their job could go as they grow and develop in the organization. More informally, supervisors could just sit with them and find out what their goals and aspirations are, and how those goals fit in with the organization. Some supervisors do this already but many don’t. Why not?

To really get started on developing a successful employee development program depends on the company’s philosophy behind employee development. It has to come from the top to get full support. Then the company will need to establish a plan. Organizations must realize that achieving that future success depends on their ability to engage and develop their employees.

As businesses return to profitability and growth, those that have focused internally on developing their employees’ will find the organization, as a whole, better positioned to move forward as the economy improves.

Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant is President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). Cathleen Snyder, SPHR, CIR is a Senior Human Resources Consultant with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. If you have any questions or would like to share your comments or success stories, you may contact Robin at Robin@strategicHRinc.com or Cathleen at Cathleen@strategicHRinc.com.

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Say What You Mean – Use Email Effectively

By Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR

Have you been encountering a lot of ambiguity in your email lately? Could it be that we were thrown into using email sink or swim, and Email Writing 101 was never a course we took in school or was available to us at work? Are we all so pressed for time that we don’t take the time to adequately express what we need, how we feel or what we mean? Or is it that texting has indeed taken over and our instinct to use our vast vocabulary is stifled by the need to be succinct and quick in our email communications? Although there is an undercurrent of thought that says texting will replace email as the main form of business communication (as it is thought to currently be the most popular form of communication among teenagers), for the time being, email is still predominantly the main way we communicate at work.

Email can be tricky — it often doesn’t convey the emotion behind the message, which can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication. However, despite the occasional ambiguity, an Office Team survey reported that over 65% of business executives prefer to use e-mail for office communications (up from 34% the last decade). So what are some steps you can take to try to make your email communications solid?

  • Use the Subject line to clearly convey the intent of the email — include a date if the communication is time sensitive or requires follow up.

For example:
Subject: Monthly Sales Meeting Agenda — REPLY by 10-1-10

  • Keep your email targeted toward a single subject — don’t send an email out about the monthly meeting, the report that was due yesterday and the employee picnic.

Separate emails will keep topics orderly and easier to find. It might seem like a lot of work to write three emails instead of one, but not only does it keep topics segmented for the reader, it allows for easy recall and search-ability should you need to refer back to the email or track the respondents. Also try to keep your message short — if you need to discuss a more complex issue, doing so in-person or via a phone call is best.

  • Be specific about what you want the reader to do — reply, take an action, forward, DON’T forward (confidential), etc.

In your email provide the information needed for the reader to take action or respond – such as your preferred email address or phone number. Having this information in your signature line ensures the respondent can always reach you if their contact list isn’t handy.

  • Don’t “Reply All” just because you can — as with most communication, take some time to craft and think through your message or your response AND who needs to receive the communication.

Firing off your first response to an email is not the best strategy; nor is copying it to everyone in the office. Take some time to interpret (and reinterpret) the meaning and intent of the email (and, yes, pick up the phone if needed). Consider who needs to be in-the-loop on the communication for practical purposes versus copying everyone to cover your assets. Thoughtlessly copying all the recipients of an email when your response was hastily or thoughtlessly crafted, could prove damaging and is annoying.

  • Use spell check (always) and good grammar — most all software programs provide a spell check and grammar check feature use it or proof it the good old way.

These are business communications; treat your email like a memo that will be part of the company record forever. As such, don’t include anything that shouldn’t be part of the company record — forever. Use complete sentences and show thought in your writing (see above).

  • Keep the appearance simple — fancy or colored backgrounds make email hard to read and worse, hard to reply to.

Fancy fonts may look more interesting or personalized to you, but can be hard to read for others and might appear less polished. Remember that some people only receive text email and won’t fully appreciate the HTML formatted email you worked so hard to create. And only include images if they are pertinent to the conversation — this goes for attachments as well. Many people won’t open attachments due to the threat of viruses.

  • THIS IS CONSIDERED “YELLING” — really, it is!

Don’t type in all caps and use caps ONLY to emphasize certain words. And if you do feel like yelling, don’t send an email. Take an hour or two to cool off and compose yourself before you fire off an email that you might regret later.
Some other rules of thumb —

  • Don’t send an email (or voice mail for that matter) that says “call me”. The great thing about email (and voice mail) is that you can provide some detail. This allows the recipient to prepare for your conversation and be ready with the information you need. Email and voice mail should SAVE time, not waste it.
  • On the flip side, don’t send a volume of information in an email. Some things are just better explained over the phone; and, if you think about it, would take less time to convey in an in-person conversation than the time it would take for you to type it. Email is meant for quick communication.
  • Don’t spam. Nothing is less endearing than to send junk mail. You won’t make a million dollars from Bill Gates if you pass along his email to your colleagues and you won’t have a week of bad luck if you don’t share a sonnet with your 10 best friends. IT WON’T HAPPEN (yes, I’m yelling). If you are compelled to pass along some “useful” words of wisdom to a friend, check it out before sending. Online sites such as Snopes.com or Hoax-Slayer.com will help you determine if that compelling email is an urban legend or a legitimate concern.
  • While email is admittedly emotionless, using emoticons J or : ) to help add emotion to your message isn’t generally appropriate for business communications :-o. If your office demeanor allows, you might be okay using these symbols in peer to peer communications, but don’t send emails with smiley faces to clients or use in external communications. L
  • Email is not entirely private. It can be read by others if they desire to do so and they only need the skill or resources to access your email (where there is a will, there is a way). Before sending an email always be aware that what you publish electronically could fall into the wrong hands.

Always keep your audience in mind – the different generations have diverse feelings about communication styles. Generally speaking, Baby Boomers are more likely to pick up the phone or talk in person rather than send an email. Generation X lives and breathes through email, while Generation Y finds email “old-fashioned” and prefers Text, FaceBook or Twitter for quick communications.

I LOVE email. It allows me to send a long and detailed or a short and to-the-point message instantly, cheaply and to as wide or small an audience as I desire, any time day or night. And while texting/Tweeting might be the most popular form of communication among teens, I believe email still has a few years left in the business world. So make the most of that time and use email to say what you mean.

Debbie Hatke, MA, SPHR is a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant and Talent Strategy Manager with Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have questions or comments about this article, you can contact Debbie at Debbie@strategicHRinc.com.

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Turning Conflict into Collaboration

by Linda Gravett, PhD, SPHR

Did you wake up this morning thinking, “Gee, I hope I get into an argument today” or “I hope somebody seeks me out for a confrontation”?  Probably not.  We typically do everything we can to avoid conflict, perhaps because past experiences have been unpleasant or we don’t know how to respond to confrontations.  In this article I’d like to address turning poorly handled confrontations into collaboration.

Webster defines conflict as “disagreement between opposing principles”.  Managed effectively, conflict can result in creative solutions to a problem and a variety of perspectives on improving a given situation.  Or, as Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Over the years, I’ve observed two types of conflict in organizations:  destructive and constructive.  Destructive conflict is manifested by behaviors such as yelling at coworkers or customers, withdrawal from others, or even destruction of property.  Anger, fear, or frustration might motivate this type of behavior.  The results from destructive conflict usually are far reaching – more people than the two or three involved are directly or indirectly affected.  Typical results from destructive conflict are coworkers avoiding one another, people taking sides and subtly or overtly harassing “the bad guy”, and lower productivity.

On the other hand, constructive conflict can result in increased communication across the organization, enhanced productivity, and less absenteeism and turnover.

As managers and leaders within our organizations, our focus clearly must revolve around modeling and coaching for constructive conflict.  To effectively coach our team through disagreement, we need to be aware of four typical responses to conflict that we might encounter.  These responses are avoidance; rationalization; “yes means no”; and refusal.

When faced with a disagreeable situation or encounter, one response is to simply “lay low” and hope the problem, or difficult situation, will fade away.  My research shows that, instead of fading away, difficult situations tend to only get worse if they’re not addressed, and addressed effectively.  I’d prefer to hear from a vendor sooner than later, for example, if a product or service I’ve been promised can’t be delivered on time.  I may be unhappy; however, I’ll definitely be far more unhappy if I don’t discover this information until too late to meet my commitments.

Another response to conflict is rationalization.  “I won’t confront my coworker about her constant interruptions during meetings because it’ll get better.”  “Someone else will tell Bob he’s doing the monthly reports wrong.”  Without constructive criticism, coworkers or direct reports may not even be aware of their offending behaviors or work deficiencies….and there’s little chance of improvement if that’s the case.

Yet another approach to potential conflict is for someone to say “yes” to a request or statement when they really mean “no”.  I’ve encountered this when, as a customer, I’ve requested a solution or fix to a situation or unsatisfactory purchase.  The sales rep may tell me (in person) whatever I want to hear to get me out the door, only to leave a voicemail later with a different story.  This certainly doesn’t build a level of trust or open communication!

The final response I’ve observed is outright refusal to engage in dialogue.  When this occurs, a person may simply walk away from a discussion that begins to get uncomfortable.  When one or more parties decide to disengage, there’s no chance of collaboration and the situation will eventually spiral downward.

In 1999, I surveyed 500 people in organizations throughout the country to determine the primary causes of workplace conflict between supervisors and their direct reports.  Across this sample, five major sources of conflict emerged:

  • Goal Conflict
  • Perception that Input Isn’t Accepted
  • Unclear Assignments
  • Perception that Evaluations Were Unfair
  • Unrealistic Workload

If you’re in a management role, ask yourself if the way you articulate the company’s mission, vision, and key objectives to your staff is clear.  Do your direct reports understand how their day-to-day activities support the company’s objectives?  Do they have an opportunity to make suggestions to improve systems and processes or eliminate barriers to their success? Opening these communication channels will positively affect the quality and quantity of work.

One of the chief complaints I heard from direct reports is the hurtful way that their supervisor gives them feedback.  When providing constructive criticism, I recommend that you:

  • Focus on the issue (one at a time, not a barrage of complaints from years past)
  • Avoid “hot button” language (such as “you’re just lazy” or “you’re dumb”)
  • Emphasize key points
  • Be specific about what you want (not “your work isn’t up to par” or other vague statements)
  • Acknowledge the other person’s point of view

We’re accustomed to win-lose confrontations in our society; however, I believe we shouldn’t accept a “one winner, one loser” outcome.  Instead, I promote what authors Fisher and Ury describe as “win-win”.

Characteristics of win-win confrontations are:  common goals are sought; compromises occur; and everyone wins.  To pursue common goals, both parties involved in a disagreement must be willing to divulge what they really want, as opposed to simply staking out a position.

When my husband and I were first married, we had a serious disagreement about where to take our first summer vacation.  My position was that Gatlinburg was the definitive vacation spot.  His position was that Myrtle Beach was the place to go.  We saw that being intractable wasn’t going to get us anywhere, so we began talking about what we wanted out of a vacation.  I wanted sunshine, a golf course, and some shopping.  So did he!  We began exploring, together, different places that would fill these requirements.  We went to Hilton Head and had a wonderful time!

The key to success is that both sides find shared concerns and then move together towards addressing those concerns.  You may not always get what you want, but I’ll bet that you get what you need.

Dr. Linda Gravett, PhD, SPHR is with Gravett & Associates (www.Gravett.com). If you have any questions or wish to share your comments, you can contact Linda at Linda@Gravett.com.

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The Future of Learning Agility

by Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR

After researching and working in the area of enhancing learning agility for the last five years, I believe that learning agility will continue as a key topic of interest and study over the next decade. Organizations are faced with a global, highly competitive marketplace, and to remain in the forefront they must be agile, learning organizations. Learning organizations are powered by people with learning agility.

I’m seeing that Human Resource professionals are ramping up their interest in neuroscience in order to understand how they can foster a workplace full of individuals who are energized by innovation and continuous improvement. Medical researchers are already studying what occurs in the brain when people are placed in an interactive, motivating environment. This is information highly relevant to those of us who want to select, develop and leverage the talents of a workforce that has learning agility.

I’ve observed that some astute training and development professionals are taking into account already the important correlation between participants’ positive mood and learning outcomes. Research by Caruso and Salovey for their 2004 book, The Emotionally Intelligent Manager, found a direct relationship between positive mood when learning new information and recall ability. I’ve observed more trainers and educators recently who are considering ways to foster a positive, interactive and fun learning environment to promote learning agility. The learning environment is not necessarily in a classroom for a finite period of time – it’s across the entire organization and across time.

There’s a plethora of web site and journal articles about the renewed energy around my cohort’s (Baby Boomers) desire to stay in the workplace longer and continue to learn new concepts and skills. The old adage, “use it or lose it” is actually true when it comes to brain fitness. If older workers don’t stay open to new information and approaches, the brain can lose some of its plasticity and ability to absorb and use information. The challenge for education and training professionals is to keep learning experiences current, varied, meaningful and broken into small segments – for learners of all ages.

I’m seeing more and more organizations focus on providing employees with an active role in their own development and learning. Additionally, I’ve seen more leaders intentionally tie their employees’ roles and ongoing education to growth needs of the company. When employees understand how their role, and their development within that role, specifically contributes to the company’s ongoing success, they can focus on key priorities for education.

My recent focus has been studying and measuring the impact of self-awareness, a dimension on Emotional Intelligence, on learning agility. Self-aware individuals take an intentional, laser-like focused approach on how they learn best, and under what circumstances. For example, if a person discovers that online learning provides the best kind of stimulus for learning and retaining information, he or she can build those types of learning opportunities into their development.

As leaders, we can foster an environment of learning agility by providing ongoing, daily opportunities for employees to learn new information and skills. There are many forms that this daily stimulus can take: teachable moments where managers take a few minutes to explain or demonstrate a new concept or approach; brown bag lunch discussions around a thorny issue or problem that needs to be solved; or ad hoc brainstorming meetings to develop a fresh approach to a customer request. We’ve long been concerned with physical wellness and fitness for our employees, and I believe the future will bring a keener interest in brain fitness for the enrichment of our employees and organizations.

Dr. Linda Gravett, Ph.D, SPHR, works with Gravett & Associates (www.Gravett.com). If you have any questions or wish to share your comments, you can contact Linda at Linda@Gravett.com,

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On-The-Job-Training Assistance

Question:

We just hired a new employee to start last week. She was laid off from her previous employer in April 2012. She will be part-time (3 days a week) per her choice; we offered her full-time. Are we or she eligible for the federal program that offers on-the-job training or has that opportunity expired?

Answer:

Unfortunately in your case, you have already hired the candidate and are ineligible for the program. However, the program still exists and would be a great resource in the event you still have hiring to do.

On-the-Job Training (OJT) is a federally funded program that helps employers hire and train job seekers for long-term employment. This is an opportunity for an employer to work with the local One Stop Career Center system to recruit, pre-screen, and hire new employees, and to train them in the specific skills they will need to help your business thrive. The employer is reimbursed some of the cost of training, and the decision to hire will boost the economy by creating opportunity.

The process is fairly simple: Your local One Stop Career Center will need to pre-qualify the job seeker by having them visit and meet with a caseworker to determine eligibility. They also need to contract with the company and create a training plan to determine how many hours of training the candidate would need to get them up-to-speed on the tasks of the position. All these i’s must be dotted and t’s crossed prior to the start date of the new employee. The Career Center pays half their salary during the course of the needed training up to $8k. This is a program designed to help companies who are hiring dislocated or under-employed job seekers and to give the company that little nudge if they are thinking of hiring and would like a bit of help with the cost involved.

In the Greater Cincinnati area you can contact Workforce One at:

  • Butler County 513-785-6500
  • Clermont County 513-943-3000
  • Warren County 513-695-1130

Visit the DOL site for more information at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/training/index.htm.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to ease the burden of hiring. In today’s tough job market there are many opportunities to tap into publicly-offered resources – it’s all about knowing what’s available and where to look. Let strategic HR, inc. use our expertise to tap into those resources and find you the perfect candidate today! Visit our Recruitment page to learn how we assist with hiring you next employee.

 

 

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How Long Should Training Programs Be?

Question:

My manager has asked me to pull together training for our customer service department on phone skills. How long should I make the training?

Answer:

The key with training isn’t so much about the duration, but the relevance, value and timeliness of the topic. It’s no secret that training is sometimes seen as a double-edged sword. Done right, few argue the value of training. The challenge can be the time it takes away from our regular duties to train or to be trained. It helps when an organization sets a culture that values employee training and makes it a priority. Rather than focus on how long the training should, we recommend focusing on the value of the training.

First, identify what the training need is and how best to address that need. Sometimes training can be fairly brief, to cover a new process or policy. Make sure relevant details are shared, questions are answered, and possibly a demonstration included, to ensure understanding and compliance.

Other circumstances may require a different approach. Are you looking at training for an individual, a group or department, or the entire organization? That may help determine the topic details and the duration of the training. For example, let’s look at supervisors who have been in their the role for less than a year – they will require New Supervisor Training. Identify which specific topics need to be covered for this type of training, i.e. Legal Compliance, Coaching and Counseling, and Performance Management. Is it better to conduct this training in day long sessions, or possibly more incrementally over time? Once you have established this, you can move forward with planning.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • It is critical to match the training to the needs of the organization. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for determining training needs, a needs assessment can be of great value on all levels, to aid in doing so.
  • Try to provide coverage while an employee or employees are attending training. This will help ease the stress of being away from the job.
  • Timeliness is also important. If there is a deadline to implement a new process or policy, make sure the relevant employees are trained well in advance of that deadline, to allow time to address any questions or concerns.

Bottom line, the training that is provided must be the right fitfor those to whom it is intended. As long as you are providing the right training and the right topics you will accomplish your bottom line.

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you train your employees efficiently and thoroughly.

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Why Train?

Question:

My managers are resisting training, they say it takes too much time. What do I tell my managers about why we need to train?

Answer:

First off, congratulations that training is on the radar! In our recent economic times, training fell off the radar completely as so many companies went into survival mode. The fact that training is being debated and discussed is a very positive sign.

The benefits of providing training are many and far outweigh any costs.

Training employees is essential to having an efficient and effective work force. From enhancing skill sets and better understanding processes, to providing options and flexibility for workload distribution, the positives of providing training include a long list of benefits. There is little doubt that educating employees on new and better processes enhances the organization’s bottom line. Cross training employees functionally not only allows for better options for work load distribution, but that flexibility helps the organization plan for the unexpected – it enables an employee or work group to step in seamlessly to fill an unexpected gap.

From the individual employee perspective, an organization that invests in its employees’ development is seen as committed to its employees and vested in the overall success of its’ employees as well as the future of company. Providing the opportunity for employees’ professional growth is key to employee retention and maintaining a positive work environment.

The type of training offered can vary from technical and relevant areas applicable to a specific group or department, to individual specialized training geared to a specific employee’s growth and development needs. While programs such as Team Building and Workplace Harassment are geared toward improving the overall work environment.

The commitment to providing training shows the organization’s dedication to its workforce, however, it is also critical to promote training as an opportunity, not a burden on the employee or their manager. Make sure the employee’s workload is covered during the time they are training so as not to cause additional stress and distraction from learning.

The cost of training, in terms of time and financial commitment, are far outweighed by the benefit to the employee and the organization as a whole.  It’s a win-win all the way around.

Training and Development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it keep your up-to-speed technologically with your competitors, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. Strategic HR, inc. has experience in developing training programs to keep you on the leading edge. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with your training and development.

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Training, Development and Turnover

Question:

Now that the economy is starting to show signs of life, I keep hearing that all of my good employees are going to leave. What are some things I can do from a training and development perspective to address potential turnover?

Answer:

You’re smart to be concerned, and even smarter to take a pro-active approach. Training and development is a key component to your retention strategy. For many companies, the past few years have been about survival. Employers may have had to reduce staff, and often the focus had been to do more with less. Training and development fell off the radar.  Employees were okay with that, at the time, if it meant they still had a job. However, now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time for training and development to re-emerge as a priority. When times were tough, employees stepped up when they were needed. As they see their organization stabilize and return to growth-mode, they want to see that their efforts were appreciated. Now is your chance to show your commitment to those employees.

This starts with dialog – ask for input from your management team and supervisors as to where they see training needs, both by department and by individual. Most importantly, talk to individual employees to re-start the conversation of what their interests are and where they see their career headed. Both of these actions will provide a direction to start.  You may find that a company-wide training event may be appropriate – such as team building or a refresher course on customer service. It may be more feasible to have departmental training on changes in technology, or another department-specific need.

Implementing a Career Development program is a great way to show your employees that you are committed to them long term. Find out your employees’ career goals, and help them create a path to get there. Your budget may dictate what approach you take, but not every option has to be costly. Often training can be done internally, conducted by the resident expert. Mentoring is another low cost way to engage employees, in a win-win environment. The mentor feels recognized for his/her experience and expertise, and the employee being mentored gains exposure and training that will help them with their next position.

The key to incorporating training and development into your retention strategy is communication; to identify needs, resources, and the best ways to implement a program. It sends the message that the company is looking ahead and recognizes that its employees play a key role in future success.

Are you worried your top performers will soon be leaving for a new and different opportunity? Are you looking for a retention method that will also bolster your productivity levels and bottom line? Let strategic HR, inc. help create and implement the perfect retention strategy via training and development. We have the expertise to conduct a needs assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

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Why Training Fails

Question:

Why does training sometimes not succeed or produce the expected results?

Answer:

Training is an essential tool that organizations must have in place to help employees continue to grow and develop. The type of training (in-house, on the job, out of house, etc.) depends on the specific need of the company and individuals being trained. The true need is the key to the success of training. Before any type of training can be implemented, a needs assessment should be conducted to assess exactly what training is needed and why.  The needs assessment should be able to show how the training ties to the company’s vision and mission and has an impact on the bottom line. Not every training will have this direct correlation; however, even professional growth opportunities have an indirect impact on an organization.

So, for training to succeed, a company needs to:

  • Begin by conducting a needs assessment.
  • Be able to tie the need for the training to the organizations’ goals and objectives.
  • Obtain buy-in from management to support employees attending the training.
  • Provide effective communications to ensure employees understand the value of taking the time to attend the program.

Delivery of the training must be highly interactive and have some connection on how it can be used in the workplace. Once a program has been delivered, the training still cannot be measured for success until you determine if employees are indeed applying what they learned. All of these factors are needed for a training to succeed.

Remember, measure the value of your training from a cost benefit perspective and your return on investment. Keep in mind the cost of training can also include the cost of NOT training.

Is training your employees a goal for 2012? Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you implement a successful training session.

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Training for New Managers

Question:

It seems that when we promote a new manager there is so much for them to learn. The actual job duties are the least of it. How do you teach someone how to manage? It’s almost overwhelming! Can you offer some suggestions on topics that we should cover with a new manager?

Answer:

Acclimating a new manager can be very challenging. However, don’t underestimate its importance. Your front line managers play a key role in so many aspects of what we do in HR and in running your business in general. Providing adequate training is an excellent way to start your new manager off on the right path to success.

Let’s start with compliance. It is critical that managers are trained on government compliance, as they are most likely the first point of contact with employees. They need to have at least a rudimentary understanding of Family Medical Leave, the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disability Act, for starters. Make sure they know what the red flags are and when they need to get HR involved. Managers also need to be aware of their own behaviors, and what can get them in trouble.

Beyond compliance, there are any number of topics that can help a new manager be effective. Suggestions include: Coaching and Counseling Employees, Motivating Employees, Performance Management; Documentation, and Interviewing to name a few.

So many employers don’t take the time to train their managers. Worse, they will promote a good employee, with no regard to whether they have the potential to be a good manager.  Training your managers is a worthwhile investment in time, money and resources, resulting in better productivity, positive morale, reduced liability, and a more effective workforce. Remember, employees rarely leave companies, they leave bad managers. Don’t let a bad manager wreak havoc in your organization.

Get your Managers on the road to success by asking strategic HR, inc. to customize a Supervisors 101 training program to suite your specific needs. We have the expertise and know-how to recommend the right training options for your staff whether they are new or established members of management. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help your management team get off to the right start.

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Why Harassment Training is Important

Question:

Why should I conduct harassment training? It just puts ideas into the heads of my employees.

Answer:

Contrary to your statement, employee harassment training doesn’t just provide employees with information to help them pursue a harassment charge or to harass others and avoid being charged. It is a valuable tool that can be used to help provide awareness of activities that are not considered professionally acceptable at work – think instead, business etiquette training. How often do you see employees doing things considered unprofessional while on the job? Whether it is improper business communications, HIPAA and privacy violations or simply inappropriate gossiping, many employees don’t come pre-wired to know what is acceptable in the workplace and what is not. Unless you train them they may not ever know and that can get you into hot water.

So what is the harm in a little water cooler banter and light teasing between cubicle-mates? First of all, think about bullying in school; it often escalates. Something may start out small, but before you know it the molehill had grown into a mountain and what started out as harmless fun suddenly turns into a prank that embarrasses or hurts another’s feelings. When the fun turns ugly the resulting atmosphere can create an unfriendly work environment that leads to low employee morale, low productivity and, if word gets out, a disastrous public image – one that drives customers and business away.

In addition to an unprofessional workplace, not taking an aggressive stance on harassment, and not being proactive in training employees about harassment, can result in costly lawsuits. Sexual harassment is considered a civil rights violation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is applicable to any employer that employs 15 or more employees and mandates:

  • No rude, insensitive, or abusive behavior of any kind should be tolerated, even if it falls short of illegal harassment.
  • Managers and supervisors play a critical role in identifying harassment, investigating incidents, taking corrective action, and enforcing company policy.

An employer can be held legally responsible for the actions of its employees or if the company engages in sexual harassment when hiring employees. In the long run it is less expensive to implement harassment training, create harassment policies and foster a no-tolerance workplace than to defend yourself from one harassment lawsuit – whether or not you prove to be at fault. By creating specific harassment policies and providing and documenting harassment training employers can decrease their chances of litigation, and if taken to court will help prove that employees have been made aware of the company’s stance toward harassment.

Also keep in mind that while federal law advises periodic harassment training, some states may require such training. For example, in California employers with 50+ employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment training for supervisors every two years. Be aware of the specific requirements of your state or locale when it comes to harassment and educating your employees.

Are you overdue on harassment or other annual training? Does your current training curriculum need to be refreshed to reflect changes in company policy or legal requirements? Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise and resources to help. Visit our Training & Development page to learn more.

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Expatriate Training and Development

Question:

What are the challenges that lie ahead within the planning and implementation of expatriate training and development efforts?

Answer:

There are many things that companies could do to enhance ex-pats’ productivity and quality of life during their overseas assignments with carefully planned training and development activities.

There are two types of training that expatriates need: hard skills and soft skills training. The hard skills are technical areas that are specific to one’s job, such as virtuosity with computer programs like PowerPoint or Excel. While these are certainly important, the “soft skills” training for expatriates can be even more critical.

In advance of an employee actually moving to another country, the employee should learn at least the basics of the other country’s language. Conversational Spanish, for example, will take a person a long way in building a comfort level socially and professionally in South America. Native citizens definitely appreciate a visitor’s attempt to learn to converse in the country’s native tongue.

Expatriates should also be educated about their adopted country’s culture and mores, both socially and professionally. For example, when a colleague first moved to Japan she went to a native islander’s funeral and wore a black suit. She noticed several attendess at the funeral staring and pointing at her! She later discovered that white is the appropriate color to demonstrate mourning…black signifies joy in their culture! She was embarrassed, and was sure she offended the deceased’s family.

Professionally, there is a lot to learn for expatriates. In some countries, it is customary to get to know potential customers first and to build a relationship before business is ever discussed. In some areas of the world, one does not approach the top person in the organization to discuss a business deal. The business conversation is handled by lower level managers.

The expatriate (and his or her family) also will need to have some education about exchange rates and the currency of their adopted country.

Be sure to include spouses in at least some of the training. A large percentage of expatriate assignments are unsuccessful because the wife or husband is not happy in the adopted country!

Shopping is different in many areas of the world than it is in the U.S. While most shoppers in the U.S. see a sticker price and expect that’s the price they’ll pay, in many countries the stated price is merely a starting point for negotiation. Vendors are offended if the potential buyer doesn’t engage in “haggling” before purchase.

To summarize, in preparation for designing a training initiative for expatriates, you should consider the adopted country’s:

  • Language (formal, conversational, and regional differences)
  • Cultural mores such as food, dress, and observance of holidays
  • Currency and exchange rates
  • Professional expectations such as interactions with high-level staff

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you train your employees.

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Harassment Training

Question:

How often should I conduct harassment training?

Answer:

The idea behind harassment training is to prevent the harassing action from occurring and to provide a safe and welcome environment for your employees. By providing ongoing harassment training it reinforces your organization’s stance toward the tolerance of harassment and reminds employees of those actions that are considered to be harassment.

Many organizations conduct annual education/training sessions that include harassment as part of the training. Such training identifies the types of harassment, the consequences of engaging in harassment and the steps to prevent harassment. This is a great opportunity to refresh your employees’ knowledge of the subject matter and to further emphasize the company’s no-tolerance policy with regard to harassment. But new employees also need to have harassment training. Providing such training during on-boarding gets them started off on the right foot knowing what personal conduct will and will not be accepted in the workplace. In both instances be sure your employees acknowledge their training and awareness of harassment policies in the workplace in writing.

Since an employer can be held legally responsible for the actions of his employees, it stands to reason that every effort should be made to regularly remind employees of the expectations of their behavior that comes along with being employed by your organization.

While harassment training may not be legally required, it is critical to an employer’s ability to construct a defense, should the need ever arise. In today’s litigious society, employers need to be proactive in creating that defense before they are notified of legal action. Additionally, there are specific requirements that training should include in order for it to meet requirements acknowledged by courts.

In addition to providing regular ongoing training for your own piece of mind, be aware that many states require specific types of harassment training of employees and also have specific guidelines for how often training should be conducted. Check your state guidelines for more information.

Are you overdue on harassment or other annual training? Does your current training curriculum need to be refreshed to reflect changes in company policy or legal requirements? Strategic HR, inc. has the expertise and resources to help. Visit our Training & Development page to learn more.

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Implementing a Mentoring Program

Question:

What is the purpose of a mentoring program and how would I go about implementing one?

Answer:

A mentoring program can be a great example of a situation that’s a win-win-win within your organization. Typically in a mentoring relationship, a more experienced employee is paired up with a newer or less-experienced employee to share experiences, knowledge, and skills. As we all know, a huge generation of Baby Boomers is approaching retirement and getting ready to take their vast years of know-how and experience with them. The question for many companies is what to do when this generation leaves the workforce. Mentoring can often be a viable solution to the expected “brain drain” that is predicted to occur.

The benefits of a mentoring a program are many. The novice employee benefits from the knowledge and years of experience on-the-job imparted to them by the more senior employee. But surprisingly, a by-product of this pairing is that the senior employee often ALSO learns from this experience as they work with the more technologically-savvy junior employee who may have more recent and up-to-date knowledge of the industry. The senior employee also tends to feel that they are more valued by their organization by being asked to take on such “an important” role as mentor. The company benefits by the internal sharing of knowledge and further development of its employees without engaging in costly outside training.

Implementing such a program does require some planning and commitment on behalf of all parties. The program should be structured for what best fits your organization. You’ll need to determine the goals and objectives of your mentoring program. Is it coaching? Leadership skill building? Networking within the organization? You’ll need to plan for a mentoring schedule that doesn’t conflict with productivity. Does the work schedule allow for daily job shadowing or is an established afternoon a week more feasible? Will the participants still be able to complete their regular job duties, or do some things need to be reassigned? Commitment to the program is key. Often, the intentions for such a program are there, but as soon as things get busy, the program goes by the wayside. That is a lost opportunity for all involved. The company and employees must make the mentoring program a recognized part of the organization’s culture in order to reap all the benefits and make the program a success.

Training and development of your employees is a key factor in remaining competitive. Not only does it allow you to keep up technologically with other companies that compete with your services or products, but it also gives you the edge when recruiting or retaining employees. A mentoring program is a great way to get started with an “informal” type of training curriculum. Strategic HR, inc. has experience being mentored, directly providing mentoring to others and developing mentoring programs that can help you provide the best experience for your employees. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with a mentoring program or other types of training and development.

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Drug Testing Policy

Question:

Can you keep a person on a “high profile drug testing list” for a number of years and keep testing them repeatedly because they failed in a prior test? Would this be considered harassment or discrimination?

Answer:

First look at your policy – it should guide each action. What is your policy on drug testing? When the employee failed the first time why was he retained? What is the policy for retaining an employee that fails a drug test? Is putting the employee on a “high profile drug testing list” part of the policy or do you state that they will be tested quarterly after failure of a test and successful completion of a rehabilitation program?

Typically a company will have a policy that drug testing occurs at hire and if the candidate fails they are not hired. Then, once hired, drug testing occurs randomly and if an employee fails the testing they are terminated immediately. Companies that have random testing do sometimes provide an offer of rehabilitation but make sure your policy specifically states how you handle subsequent drug testing. The random criteria in the policy refers to selection for testing being very random to avoid the appearance that someone is being targeted or “picked” on and many companies outsource this random selection to avoid any perceived discrimination.

As far as the testing looking like harassment since the employee is always selected, refer to the typical categories for discrimination. Does this employee fall into any of those categories? If so, then be careful. If not, are there any reasons that it might look like retaliation? If so, be careful again. In this particular instance I would still question why the employee wasn’t terminated when he first failed testing.

Harassment is often a “taboo” subject. Nobody “wants” to talk about it, but everyone knows it needs to be talked about; it’s a catch-22. Take the stress out of your harassment, or other training and development opportunities, by enlisting the help of strategic HR, inc. We have years of experience creating training programs and materials, as well as conducting training at your venue or ours. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with you training or development needs.

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Effectively Conducting Harassment Training

Question:

I’m afraid if my company conducts Workplace Harassment training it is just going to open up a giant can of worms of employee complaints. How can I avoid this and still conduct much-needed training?

Answer:

First of all, if there are harassment or discrimination issues in your company, as HR you want to know about them so you can have the opportunity to resolve the situation. It’s the ones you don’t hear about that should concern you. Secondly, harassment training is all about how you approach it. It is important for employees to understand what harassment is and what to do if they feel they are the object of harassment. We approach training as an opportunity to promote the company’s commitment to a positive work environment, stressing the idea that it is every employees’ responsibility. It is a great opportunity to open the lines of communication and raise awareness of how the things that each of us may be doing may be affecting others in our work environment.

Harassment is often a “taboo” subject. Nobody “wants” to talk about it, but everyone knows it needs to be talked about; it’s a catch-22. Take the stress out of your harassment, or other training and development opportunities, by enlisting the help of strategic HR, inc. We have years of experience creating training programs and materials, as well as conducting training at your venue or ours. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can assist you with you training or development needs.

Multicolored wheel divided into 7 equal sections Recruitment, Training and Development, Benifits and Compensation, Communicating, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, and Health safety and security with Legal compliance written on the outer edge and company strategy in the center training and evelopment is emphasized

Implementation and Benefits of Training

Question:

Training our employees has been off the radar at our company recently because there just wasn’t money in the budget. Things are finally looking up and we might be able to resume training, but where do I even start to pick up the pieces?

Answer:

Training for employees is beneficial for a number of reasons. Not only does it improve the employee’s knowledge, skills and abilities to make them a more effective and productive employee, training also shows the employee that the organization is committed to their development. With the economy improving, this can have the added benefit of retaining employees who might be considering leaving your organization.

A Needs Assessment is a great place to start to determine what training to pursue. This involves input from managers, employees, and the senior level to determine what training is needed based upon the organizational priorities. This can be done in a more formal process (ADDIE “Assessment, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation”) or through informal discussion. The important thing is to gain input and then prioritize the needs.

Other, more cost efficient, ways to implement training may start with cross training individuals in other functions within the organization. This shows the employee commitment on the part of the organization and can benefit the employee by providing a better understanding of how their function contributes to the organization as a whole. It can really be eye opening for an employee to realize why it is so important to do their job in a certain way if they can see how it affects other functions. While there may not be direct cost in this type of training, you do need to be aware of the “cost” of the time spent and sometimes the disruption caused for the individuals involved. Similar to cross training, mentoring can be a great internal tool for employee development. The rewards are two-fold, both the employee being mentored and the mentor feeling valued, and the mentor and mentee often learn from each other.

Get your Training and Development program off to the right start by asking strategic HR, inc. to help. We have the expertise to conduct a Needs Assessment and/or to recommend training options for your staff. Visit our Training & Development page to learn how we can help you hire safely.

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Conducting a Training Needs Analysis

Question:

In my current position, I need to carry out a training “needs analysis” for the employees in the office as well as for the field staff, but there are no formal job descriptions or appraisals to follow. How do I even start, let alone accomplish, this massive project successfully?

Answer:

The fact that no performance appraisals or job descriptions are in place certainly makes your assignment more complicated. However, there are other sources you can turn to for your needs analysis:

  1. Check to see if supervisors have made critical incident reports. That is, have written notes for their desk file about employees who have either done outstanding work on an assignment or had a problem with an assignment or customer. Critical incident reports aren’t official performance evaluations, but they could be helpful to point out areas of weakness that need improvement.
  2. Do you have any employee exit interview data? If exit interviews have been conducted, the notes from the interviews could provide some valuable data about training needs, particularly for supervisory staff.
  3. Have employee opinion surveys been conducted? These survey results might shed some light on training needs for both employees and supervisory staff.
  4. You could conduct one-on-one or group meetings with supervisors to ask them directly what training needs they believe exist. They will probably identify training they’d like for themselves as well as their direct reports.
  5. Consider conducting focus groups of employees and ask them directly what they perceive to be some training needs. They may have a different perspective than their supervisors about what skills, knowledge, and abilities should become a focal point.
  6. Read through your file of customer comments and complaints (those obtained either in writing or via a customer hotline). If you review those comments, you’ll likely find a pattern with regard to training needs, such as needing more effective customer service or better telephone skills.
  7. Evaluate if your office has any new processes, systems, or technology. These additions or changes to daily operations will likely result in training needs. For instance, if you’ve recently acquired – or plan to acquire – new software, you’ll want to schedule training on that software for end users.