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Learning Industry News and Opinion

Blog: Employees Who Identify with the Company Boost Financial Performance

December 8, 2011 13:00 by Ann Pace

(From Harvard Business Review) -- Executives spend a lot of time worrying about their companies' products and prices, but they don't spend nearly enough time worrying about corporate character. Why would they? A lot of them don't believe companies even have a character, and others don't see what difference it could possibly make.

But your company's character can earn you — or cost you — real money. Our research on thousands of managers, frontline employees, and customers of a U.S. retailer shows that there are connections between customer spending and what's known as the organizational identification of the people who work at the company. The greater the OI, as researchers like to call it, the greater the spending. And organizational identification is, to a great extent, about company character.

Corporate character is like corporate reputation, but it's a deeper and more nuanced concept. It has little to do with advertising or marketing. Like your own character, it's judged by actions more than words. If your company sticks its neck out for a principle, it will be seen as having integrity, just as you're seen as having integrity when you stand up for the employee who's being scapegoated by some other manager. A long history of admirable moves builds an impression of a solid character. A history of missteps does the opposite. You can probably name companies with solid character as easily as we can: Zappos, Ritz-Carlton, and USAA, to name just a few.

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Blog: The Challenge of the Average Employee

December 6, 2011 11:00 by Ann Pace

(From Harvard Business Review) -- Most businesses have a normal distribution of talent — a limited number, say top 10 percent, of high potential, rock star performers, a bottom decile of underperformers, and a thick middle of 80 percent of folks who get the day-to-day stuff done. In well-managed businesses, there are clear feedback mechanisms to ensure that the bottom of the talent pack gets managed out efficiently and objectively. While at GE, Jack Welch popularized the notion that it was good to fire the "bottom 10" of his managers every year. On the other end of the spectrum, the better companies manage the top-end of their talent pool, providing mentors to groom this group of next-generation of leaders and compensating them differentially in recognition of their superior performance.

The challenge lies in productively managing talent's fat middle. What is the right people strategy for the average employee — the stalwart who is performing well enough, but is not necessarily a standout? Here are a few of the challenges with the middle base of talent:

• Almost by definition, they often get lost in the mix, lacking appropriate guidance and management attention. This creates an issue of not understanding who holds real potential to move up the talent curve with the right nurturing, versus those who have limited upward mobility, versus those who should not be at the company.

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Why “constructive feedback” doesn’t improve employee performance

December 1, 2011 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From The Financial Post) -- In his article in the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwartz, president and chief executive of the Energy Project, and author of Be Excellent At Anything, says that when we hear the phrase from someone, “would you mind if I give you some feedback?” what it actually means to most of us is “would you mind if I gave you some negative feedback,” wrapped up in the guise of constructive criticism, whether or not you want it.

There are some fundamental problems with negative criticism, regardless of whether we clothe it politely as “constructive.” First, Schwartz contends, criticism “challenges our sense of value. It implies judgment and we all recoil from being judged.” Psychologists including Daniel Goleman, contend that threats to our self-esteem and sense of self-worth in the form of criticism can feel like threats to our survival.

Schwartz identifies three mistakes people make when giving critical feedback:

  1. The belief that our own value or self-esteem is being threatened; so the issue is really about you and not the other person;
  2. The more the other person feels threatened, the less open they are to value or consider your feedback;
  3. It’s about “being right,” and the other person “being wrong,” so you build a case and story that makes your perspective “true” and the other person’s perspective “faulty.”

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Companies diverting more resources to high performers in 2012

November 17, 2011 11:00 by Ann Pace

(From Consultant-News.com) -- Companies will be spending more on their high performers in 2012 than they did in previous years as they continue to target resources towards those that deliver most to the bottom line, according to survey data from Mercer. However, a two tiered approach to pay is emerging with 12% of companies also stating that 25% of their staff will not get a pay rise in 2012 due to performance issues.

The information comes from the 412 senior HR and Reward Specialists who attended Mercer’s 2012 Compensation Planning in EMEA webinar. According to respondents, when asked if, in 2012, they would spend proportionately less, the same or more, on their top performers compared to an average performer than they had in previous years, 44% stated that they would spend more. Fifty percent said that they would spend the same while 5 percent said that they would spend less.

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Employee Engagement to What End?

November 3, 2011 15:00 by Ann Pace

(From PRWEB) -- It's hard to justify employee engagement if we confuse the means with the ends. In a recent analysis of survey results from more than 145 organizations and 1.5 million employees conducted by TNS Employee Insights, the end was obvious: the customers. A comparison of High Performing Companies, those who are leaders in their industries and demonstrate sustained financial growth, as compared to other organizations, showed that not only did these organizations tend to have better relationships with their employees, their employees were more focused on customers . The analysis found that a focus on the "ends", or the end user, the customer, went hand in hand with a drive toward constant improvement and innovation.

TNS Employee Insights found the differences between High Performing Companies (HPCs) and other firms is consistent: employees in HPCs are much more dedicated to understanding customer needs and use that understanding to improve how they do their jobs. They are also more likely to say that the firm is making necessary changes to be competitive. Bottom line: employees in HPCs are more market focused - their line of sight is not exclusively internal, but is focused externally on what is happening around them and their company.

In addition, the analysis found that employees in HPCs report a constant drive for improvement, and a focus on future possibilities versus acceptance of what is today. They are far more likely to look for new and better ways to do things, strive to improve performance, and feel the company as a whole has a vision for the future that is inspiring. There is an energy that is tangibly different than non-HPCs.

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New Leadership Communication Study Shows 44% of Business Leaders Are Unhappy with Their Employee Performance

November 1, 2011 14:00 by Ann Pace

(From PRNewswire) -- "Forty-four percent of business leaders reported they are unhappy with the performance of their employees and 70% of those struggling business leaders believe they need to adjust their approach to how they are communicating so they can better motivate their teams to get the results they desire," said Leadership and Workplace Communication Expert Skip Weisman, President of Weisman Success Resources.

These are among the key findings of a survey of approximately 200 business leaders that subscribe to the Leadership & Workplace Communication Expert Blog published by Weisman.

In the study, these business leaders ranging from C-Level executives at large corporations to small business owners were asked to evaluate their skills, comfort level and results achieved through their application of the three different levels of leadership communication:

  1. Their own self-communication
  2. Communicating in front of a group setting
  3. Communicating individually one-on-one with their team members.

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Creating a Culture of Empowerment and Success in a Virtual Environment

October 27, 2011 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From tmcnet.com) -- “Any company trying to compete must figure out a way to engage the mind of nearly every employee.” --Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric

With these words, Welch associates corporate success not with employee satisfaction as usually discussed, but rather with “employee engagement,” a more pro-active approach with proven links to bottom line performance.  The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) defines employee engagement as, “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values. An engaged employee works with colleagues to improve job performance for the benefit of the organization.” According to the IES, the strongest driver for creating an engaged workforce is a sense of feeling valued and involved. How to foster this type of workforce within a virtual environment is the last topic in our series on of creating and maintaining an effective at-home team.

Proven Link Between Employee Engagement and Financial Success

In 1927, researchers F.J. Roethlisberger and W.J. Dickson published one of the earliest studies showing a correlation between employees’ feelings of being valued at work and job performance. Their research, published in the book Management and the Worker, showed that when managers paid attention to their workers, asked for their ideas and encouraged social interactions, their job performance improved. Since then, researchers and businesses have continued to prove that employee performance is undeniably linked not to physical work conditions, but rather to the emotional environment of the workplace. This is an especially important finding for customer service organizations because a direct correlation also exists between engaged employees and engaged customers. 

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New Zealand: Workplace Learning Contributes to Improved Performance

October 27, 2011 12:30 by Ann Pace

(From voxy.co.nz) -- An independent evaluative report released this week into the Learning Representative Programme shows that workplace learning supported by Learning Representatives (Learning Reps) led to improved individual worker and workplace performance.

Established in 2005, the Learning Representative Programme is managed by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) and funded by the Tertiary Education Commission. Its main purpose is to train workers as Learning Reps to identify, advocate for, and facilitate, workplace learning amongst their peers, with a particular focus on workplace literacy, language and numeracy issues. There are currently 422 registered Learning Reps, employed across 150 workplaces in 94 different organisations across New Zealand.

Heathrose Research Limited was commissioned earlier this year to conduct the evaluation in a joint initiative by NZCTU and Ako Aotearoa - The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence. The research intent was to determine the effectiveness of the Learning Reps programme, and to assess its value to a range of stakeholders, including the Learning Reps themselves, their co-workers engaged in workplace learning initiatives, employers and unions.

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The Art of Layoffs at AT&T

October 13, 2011 13:00 by Ann Pace

(From The Wall Street Journal) -- Clutching his last six performance evaluations, the man in his 40s walked crying into the office of Howard McNally, a former chief operating officer at AT&T. Why, he asked, was he being let go after so many outstanding reviews?

That moment transformed McNally's management style. He began ranking his staff, ensuring that no more than half got cited as outstanding and, never again, would an employee be caught unaware of how he or she stacked up. It was one of many management lessons during his 25-year career at AT&T. As COO during the early 2000s, McNally oversaw thousands of layoffs as the company's traditional landline business shrank and its wireless revenue grew.

McNally joined AT&T after graduating from Harvard Business School in 1979, advancing from a local manager in the company's enterprise business division to COO and co-president of its consumer operations. Since retiring in 2003, McNally has worked as an executive recruiter, and most recently as an adjunct professor at the Hult International Business School. In August, McNally was named CEO of the Hult Global Case Challenge, a New York not-for-profit that holds case study competitions.

FINS spoke with McNally about the role luck has played in his career, how he dealt with overseeing thousands of layoffs, and why you should always treat your colleagues with respect.

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Panel calls for quarterly employee performance reviews

September 22, 2011 12:45 by Ann Pace

(From Federal Times) -- Federal managers should review employees quarterly to create a culture of ongoing, continuous feedback and let poor performers know they need to straighten up, a task force recommended Wednesday.

The Employee Performance Management Workgroup, made up of federal chief human capital officers, Obama administration officials, and representatives of union and management organizations, also said the government must improve how it selects supervisors, and require mandatory training for them on how to manage their employees' performance.

The draft Employee Performance Management Accountability Framework does not recommend any structural changes to the government's personnel systems. The Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council took changes to laws, regulations and labor contracts and pay-for-performance off the table before the working group began.

"None of this stuff is groundbreaking," OPM Deputy Chief of Staff Justin Johnson said. "It's a comprehensive collection of good management practices. We like to call it common sense that isn't yet common practice."

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