COVID and Productive Kindness

In the past year I have often made reference to the fact that we cannot underestimate the impact of COVID on our emotional lives. I never highlighted the importance of the indirect impact of COVID.

As I write this I am at the beside of my father who fell and is now being admitted to hospital with broken ribs and a broken wrist. My father is in his eighties and is frail both mentally and physically and I am responsible for his day-to-day care. Typically when I say I have this I covered, I mean really covered, from meds, to finances to small rituals and routines. This is not the first hospital visit and normally I would be able to take this in my stride, I’ve so got this. Except I don’t…..

With COVID I will shortly have to leave him alone in the hospital and I will not be able to see him for a few days, even if he has surgery. Even though his ailment is unrelated to COVID it touched our lives. As I sit here a thousand scenarios are playing out in my mind and I feel really vulnerable – vulnerable for him, vulnerable for me and vulnerable for feeling vulnerable.

This makes me wonder how many people in the past year have been overlooked? How many people have been impacted indirectly by COVID? How often have people complained about illness or mental health issues to be told “at least it is not COVID”. It may not be COVID but it is still real, still scary, and it still impacts our sense of general safety and well-being.

Now before I fall into a level of self-pity that requires at least one container of Häagen-Dazs, it is important to reflect on a few important points.

  1. I work for myself, there is no foot-tapping, timesheet watching boss to appease.
  2. I have a wonderful tribe of associates who are helping me postpone meetings, taking over for me where they can, and who are sending paired down to-do lists so I only need to focus on the most essential work.
  3. I have a bunch of friends who stop at nothing to help me keep my household going.
  4. I have long-standing and generous clients who are willing to be kind at this moment.
  5. I have a job and business I adore and which leaves me energised.

I wonder how many other people feel the same? Probably not many. In a time of such vulnerability, I wonder if there is more we can do in business to create productive kindness. Can we:

  1. Use smart collaboration to provide the support team members and colleagues need while still meeting business expectations. 
    Think of multi skilling and cross skilling as a staple along with proper succession planning.

  1. Create a company culture that is as employee-focussed as it is client-focussed.
    Think of personal and professional development and coaching – specifically around wellbeing and resilience during these challenging times. This will not only create a support network now, but create a resilient company culture to manage future challenges.

  1. Accept that work needs to be purposeful and meaningful and that team-members would like to show-up, be present and perform.
    Think of ways to link business strategy to team member performance at their level. Be clear about linking expectations to team member contribution and strengths. What do they do, why is it meaningful to the business and why they are the best person to do it. Use recognition, work and job satisfaction to re-energize team members.

For too long it has been okay in the business world that team members are treated as mere resources. Right now organizations that can rise to the challenge of productive kindess are going to become key players in the search and retention of the best skills and talents. They will also show the best of what humanity has to offer, when the bottom line is not only measured in currency, but also in team member growth and engagement.

Becoming More Tolerant

Last week I was presenting a mentoring session focused on human-centered change management. While the focus of the session was on change within the business context the question was asked how we change people’s minds to accept vaccination. Given the recent emphasis of vaccination against COVID-19 and its strains, and the strong response from anti-vaxxers, the question drew more questions around how to address racism, patronage and so on. I jokingly replied that I would solve world peace shortly. Earnestly though my advice was to have the tough conversations. It takes education to change minds – education that actually focusses on taking abroad range of perspectives into account.  And that I think is the downfall of how we communicate.

For too long we have been taught that there is a binary approach to life. That there is only one correct way, that there is a mould to fit into, or that by poor luck no matter what one does there no way you can ever fit into the mould. As a Strengths coach and avid follower of positive psychology, I believe in leveraging diversity, and not just the gender, race, creed, colour or religion version, but all diversity. When we disagree it means there are multiple perspectives to celebrate, when there is more than one opinion, it provides us with options.  In a world full of complexity, is this not the time to break away from the binary and embrace variety and diversity? But what does it take to make this move?

  1. Identify your tolerance levels
    The first step is to understand your own levels of tolerance. Now, before you go all binary, it is important not to judge yourself. Consider life as a ladder, there will always be people below you on the ladder and people above you on the ladder there is no reason to judge. However, it is important to understand to what degree you are open to new and different concepts. You may find you are on different places on the ladder depending on the topic.

  1. Inspect your values
    Our values are the most basic building blocks of our thoughts, feelings and behaviour – they are the guardians of who we are. Given that, it is important to understand your values and how they influence you. Values that are inadvertently triggered can derail any attempt to remain tolerant, so be aware of what and where those triggers are.

  1. Avoid getting offended
    Being offended can be a lovely sensation. Think about it, when we feel offended we are filled with some righteous thought that we are perfect, that we have it all together and the other person (normally the word person is replaced by many less agreeable terms) is entirely wrong. Not a little wrong, but a lot wrong and that gives us license to stop listening. That path however does not lead to our goal of being accepting of diversity. Work hard at not being offended, try to understand where others are coming from. Forgive them for not having the right words to make the communication easy maybe no-one before has been prepared to listen to them.

  1. Choose understanding
    From the above we can see that being open to alternatives is a process guided by discipline. We can choose to try and understand others, we can choose to be open to alternative perspectives. We can choose to listen for understanding… not just to toss back another clever quip. I am not saying we always have to agree, but I think it is great when we disagree intelligently. This means we disagree with a variety of facts in hand, from a variety of perspectives. But at least along the way we learned a few things, that will help us be better informed next time around.
Motivating & managing WFH teams in 2021 – Part 2

Practical tips to tackle the 2 most pressing business issues created by work-from-home

As discussed last week, the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity to extend the company’s role from simply building a better employee experience to supporting a better life experience.

In part 2 of this topic, I discuss the 2 most pressing business issues created by the WFH situation and give suggestions on how to ensure company needs are aligned with the all-important experience we need our team to have to ensure peak performance in the workplace.

Accept that the company culture has evolved

A company’s culture is created through years of operation, setting a baseline of how managers and teams are expected to interact – both with each other as well as the customers they serve.  Healthy cultures make allowances for evolution, shedding outdated habits and adopting new ones as fresh trends and strategies emerge.

With the sudden implementation of a strict lockdown, many companies suffered something of a culture shock, realising that their culture didn’t necessarily align with the digital world we inhabit.  Perhaps it’s time for a good look at whether your culture fits this “next normal”?  For example, what is the management style in the organization? Do managers manage activity or outcomes? Do they clearly communicate expectations to team members?

“WFH is simply the next step in company culture evolution.”

Perform Forward tip:  Don’t resist change; it can be a force for good for both the individual and the company as a whole.  If the company had a solid culture before the lockdown, chances are only minor refinements are required to absorb and accommodate WHF.

Make amendments to company policy

Last, but not least, we need to consider how any adjusted approaches may conflict with existing company policies.  Everything from the dress code policy to employment contracts needs to be revised to ensure that outdated documents and procedures accommodate changes.

A company’s workforce is bound by the legal documentation they’re required to sign, and it is our responsibility as leaders and managers to ensure that what we say, do, expect and enforce are in alignment.

Perform Forward tip:  Review any changes relating to WFH and associated policies that have occurred.  Clarity goes a long way to creating a well-functioning work environment, so revise current documents, make the necessary amendments and communicate the changes with your team through official channels. 

Conclusion

To reiterate last week’s conclusion, the employment landscape is going through a rapid evolution.  By ensuring that our culture and documentation are in alignment, and by making sure that communication of any changes is transparent, we can effectively manage the transition from outdated to current, and in so doing, create an environment that fosters a feeling of safety and fulfillment.

Motivating, managing WFH teams in 2021 – Part 1

Practical tips to tackle the 3 most pressing human issues created by work-from-home

With more teams spending time working remotely in the last 12 months, leadership has been given the proverbial “peek behind the curtain” into their personal lives.  This has created an opportunity to extend the company’s role from simply building a better employee experience to supporting a better life experience.

In part 1 of this topic, I’ll be looking at 3 of the most pressing human issues created by the new WFH culture, and give you some pro-tips on how to handle each situation.

Be aware of daily routines

In the not-so-distant past, employees were expected to be at the office at set times.  During that period, they were expected to give 100% focus and effort to their assigned tasks, while dealing with personal issues in non-work hours. 

In the last 12 months, the flexibility provided by working from home (WHF) has created a unique set of challenges for employers, as team members juggle business and personal responsibilities simultaneously.

As the saying goes, “life happens”, and to get the best out of our teams, we need to accept that if they’re working from home, personal issues may need to be handled swiftly to create the necessary space to give full attention to business-related matters.

Perform Forward tip:  Having an awareness of each team member’s personal life should be a priority. Include the “biggies” (e.g. relationship status, living arrangements, kids, and pets) as well as smaller, seemingly insignificant points (e.g. an employee deals with work stress by hitting the gym every day at lunchtime).  This will help you provide a better framework for interacting on a human level.

Create and respect “time boundaries”

As the focus has shifted from the office to remote locations, it’s tempting to erase the line separating work hours and non-work hours.  While WFH has increased the ability for everyone to follow their unique rhythm, tackling tasks when their focus and energy is at its peak it has blurred the line between work and home. 

This has created a scenario where team members are expected to be “always-on” simply because the office is now the dining room table, kitchen counter or spare bedroom.  This, in turn, leads to unrealistic expectations regarding turn-around times on replies and projects.  To make matters the situation more complicated, it is usually a gradual process that leads to work creeping into traditional non-working hours. 

Perform Forward tip:  Remember that WFH doesn’t mean “available 24/7”.  Creating a framework that regulates expectations around responsiveness will go a long way to ensuring individuals are maintaining a healthy work/life balance. 

Take mental well-being seriously

While the last decade has seen an increase in soft-skills and well-being workshops, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought mental health in the workplace to the fore.

Managers now face a complicated challenge when it comes to keeping in touch with individual team members’ mental states.  No longer can we rely on a glance around the office to see that “Kim is drowning” and “Thabo hasn’t been himself the last few days”. 

Feelings of isolation and fear are just 2 of the concerning effects of the extended lockdown.  The neglected mental well-being of a single team member can have devastating effects on the team as a whole, so it is vitally important to connect with each individual on a human level.

Perform Forward tip:  A combination of quick check-ins and in-depth one-on-ones will help managers stay on top of potential issues.  I suggest keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest research, surveys and trends on mental health in the workplace, and use them to formulate a strategy (e.g. daily check-ins and providing resources) to help team members who appear to be struggling.

Conclusion

The employment landscape is going through a rapid, albeit overdue, evolution.  Effective change management is required to help our teams navigate from “the way we always did things” to a new, better way of interacting with our teams.

Wrapping up or Setting up for Success

As I sit to write this blog, probably my last or second last for the year,  I’m feeling kind of checked out. And I think part of the problem is that after the year 2020, everyone, including myself is looking forward to the Festive Season, and time with friends and family. To add insult to injury, instead of writing my blog I found a new app that was interesting, and very distracting.

While I was about to judge myself, I realised that at the end of the year we are so focused on wrapping up that we’re not thinking about anything new, and that is part of the problem. When in that survival mode new is challenging, new may even be scary. Instead, it is easier to looking forward to anything and everything that’s not related to work.

I found myself wondering, for those of us who still have another week or two left before the holidays, how do we go about changing that? Maybe the focus should be less on the finality of wrapping up for the year, and more about creating momentum for the new year. This is something that many people suffer from, while they enjoy a good break when they’re back at the office, they find it really tough to get the momentum going again.

And so I have decided today (after I’ve written this blog because it does need to get done) to sit down and plan the first week or two for 2021. These simple questions could help me get started:

1.     I think it’s about answering “What is 2021 about?”, “What’s the vision?” and “Where do we want to go?”.

2.     I think it’s always important to understand why we want to go there. “Why is this important?”, because the why is really going to tell us how much energy we prepared to put into this.

3.     Then we would need to understand at the “How”, how do we intend to fulfil this vision? What are the actions needed to get this done?

4.     Now we can ask “Who do we need?”. This includes all the individuals that we need in order to make this happen and could include a business associate, a supplier, etc.

5.     The last step is to look at the “What we need?” in terms of other resources needed. Do we need money, facilities, tools, techniques, training?

Now that I know what the plan is I can start pulling together what I need in these next two weeks to set myself up for the first two weeks in January 2021 so I can hit the ground running. As much fun as the festive season is I know that work is satisfying and fulfilling and so when I come back to it I want to make a difference from day one.

I hope that this quick little tool will help you shape will help keep you focused for the next two weeks and set you up for success in 2021.

The Why, the Strategy and the Culture

Hardly an article is written, or a conversation is started, without a mention of the terrible trials we have endured during 2020. Motivation and engagement seems to be at an all-time low and leaders and business owners are concerned about how to approach planning for 2021. They appear to be stuck between the proverbial rock and the hard place. 2020 was challenging enough but 2021 seems be shrouded in mystery as the way forward feels more and more uncertain as we prepare to enter 2021 with COVID in tandem. How does one create forward momentum during such uncertainty? How do you motivate team members, or even yourself, when the goal-post keeps moving?

At the end of last year, I read the book The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. In the novel, the Tattooist Lale Solokov is a Slovakian Jew who is judged by his peers for being prepared to tattoo the symbols of the Nazi oppression on his fellow Jews – specifically on young girls, women and children. In Lale’s mind though he was doing this so that he could make sure that the tattoos hurt as little as possible. In his own way, the character of Lale teaches us the lesson that Viktor Frankl vividly portrayed in Man’s Search for Meaning. When we understand our purpose, when we know where we make meaning of life, then we can doggedly follow that path. Even under the harshest conditions.

The way to start preparing for 2021 is to understand the Why, or purpose of the organization, teams and individual employees. Asking the following questions can help you get there.

For the organization:
What is the Why of the business?
Why is that significant?
What value does it add to society?
What value does it add for its employees?
Given the rapid changes that have taken place, is this why still relevant?

For a team (or business unit):
What is the Why for the team?
How does the team fulfill the Why of the business?
How have changes over the last year changed the Why for the team?
Has there been a shift in process, procedure, and systems to support the Why of the team?
Can the team still deliver on its Why?

For the individual employee?
What is the Why for each individual employee?
Are there employees that share a Why?
Are these connections being used to create engagement?
Does the Why of the employee dovetail with the Why of the business?
Has there been a disruption to the employees Why this year? How has this been dealt with?

By answering these questions managers, and team members alike, will get a better understanding of what is driving each level of the business and whether there is sufficient overlap to create a cohesive network of motivation. These overlaps will be the super power of the organization and should align to the strategy and culture of the organization.

Where there are gaps, however, these are areas in which work is needed. Once the gaps have been identified it is best to see how the gaps relate to the strategy and culture of the organization. If the gaps negatively impact either, or both, of these they need to be eliminated. If the gaps do not related to the above, then performance will not be impacted. It is therefore best to prioritize closing the gaps that can have an impact on the strategy and the culture.

Creating a shared purpose will help in setting up more sustainable motivation that can drive one employee, one team or one business.

The clever thing about clever people

I love getting older! I am fascinated by all the people I have connected with over the years, the guidance and mentorship I received, and how that has impacted my life. I am going through an incredible journey of reconnecting with ex-colleagues and clients at the moment and it is lovely to reflect on what I have learned from them.

In this week’s Performance Cafe I am joined by Caryn Schalit, she was my HR lead when I was a training and development manager. We had a blast working together as she has an openness to new ideas, while at the same time never dropping her standards and keeping an eye in the bigger picture.

Caryn taught me many things, but three things stand out for me:

  1. There is always time to innovate and do things even better. I remember us hashing out a Performance Management System that was so innovative at the time. And my ultimate reward was when, after the implementation was completed, an employee thanked me for the clarity and purpose the system created. That would not have happened had we rushed the process.
  1. Caryn also always said that if two people always agree, one of them is redundant. I believe this is a Ben Bernanke quote. To me it will always be a “Carynism”. On the back of that belief, she always took the time to listen to ideas, to provide feedback and to help evolve ideas to next level of thinking. Essentially, she did this by challenging me, but not once do I remember us arguing. To this day I wonder how she managed that.
  1. My last lesson, for the purposes of this post, was that Caryn always claimed that she only brought people into her team who are cleverer than she is. While I strongly doubt the statement, as she has clever to spare, it made me feel that my ideas where always appreciated and she never expected anyone to kowtow to her. The interesting part about this is that it was invaluable when I started my own business. I have been able to collaborate with some very clever people who do amazing work and outshine me by far. Without Caryn’s view on this I would have felt insecure and my ego would have spun about like the Tazmanian Devil. Now, I use my energy building more connections with exceptional individuals in order to provide my clients with the best solutions possible.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to present a webinar on Employee Engagement to the Enshrine Placements team’s community. The majority of the focus was on Employee Engagement and how to create that in a business context. The message was clear (i) win over hearts and minds and ensure people feel they belong, (ii) allow employees to have some autonomy in their role and (iii) allow employees to feel appreciated and respected in their role which will motivate them to higher levels of mastery. This creates engagement which will see employees rise to achieve and do more than is asked in most cases… Oh wait! Caryn taught me that too!

And so, that is the clever thing about clever people like Caryn. They allow you to shine, while challenging you and making you feel valuable. What an amazing journey.

Caryn grew up in HR & Talent Acquisition and more recently, managed the global People function of a growing mid-size enterprise for 7 years. She embraces non-traditional HR thinking and believes passionately in helping shape people practices, talent acquisition and talent management to ensure they are relevant and designed with the future of work in mind.

The exotic vs building bridges

Many people realize the value of travel as a self-development tool. I couldn’t agree more. Visiting a different country, especially one where the norms, culture, food and language are very different can really open one’s eyes and that encourages a respect for diversity. Visiting America, India, Tanzania, Lesotho and Namibia certainly left me with new perspectives.

With COVID and lockdown reducing our ability to travel many individuals have been eagerly awaiting news of a return of international travel. Their need for their travel-fix has been building for the last few months and the call of the exotic is becoming stronger by the day.

George A. Moore is credited as having said “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” As humans it in our natures to explore and push boundaries, especially as teenagers who are wanting to roam outside the influence of family ties. I believe that this leads to the need to move away from home in order to test the waters of freedom and independence.

However, I believe that we have overlooked an important learning opportunity during this difficult time. I wonder if we could encourage a trend to explore local cultures, norms and attitudes in order to grow our respect and tolerance of diversity. I live in a country where we have the ideal opportunity to do so because of the sheer diversity in the country. We have 11 official languages and more than one ethnic group related to each language, in fact Africa is credited as have close to 3000 ethnic groups.

That level of diversity is a key influencer of how people relate to each other, and yet everyday in the media, and in the manager’s office we hear about how one or another person or team is being “difficult”. What if they are not being “difficult“ but “different”. How much time, energy, money and stress can be saved by being open to the differences and finding a way to help those views and perspectives find purpose in our businesses?

How do we do this? I prefer using the wheel-of-life, which is a coaching tool that focusses on challenges from a wholistic approach.

From this image we can see the fundamental aspects that affect each of our lives, irrespective of the culture we hail from. So when feeling challenged in an interaction I try and remember that people are “different” in each of these areas, not “difficult” in each of them. In fact, to the other person in the conversation, you are being “different”.

The way to get around this? Genuine non-judgemental curiosity. Ask questions and learn about how the individual thinks and feels and work from there. This reminds me of the concept of non-violent communication that was taught to me by Sylvia Lohr, an ex-colleague and friend.

Yes, it most certainly is a longer route to take, but building bridges are worth the effort. And when those bridges are in your neighbourhood (so to speak) they serve both you and your community, whether at home or at work.

My guest this week in the Performance Café Coffee Companions series is Sylvia Lohr. Sylvia is Principal Marketing Manager at Nuance Communications (DACH & CEE) who has worked in a multitude of global team. She has a  passion for holistic and integrated B2B Marketing Strategy. Agile and lean methodologies, along with a healthy dose of teamwork are her cornerstones.

Remote work
Remote Working 2.0

At the beginning of Lockdown I wrote a blog called “Dear Manager this is not remote work this is work from home” which led to me being interviewed for a LinkedIn Live show called Virtual Coffee with Francois. I had just completed two on-demand courses about setting up remote workers and managing remote workers and the topic was red hot at the time.

Now I find the conversation becoming relevant again. Firstly as lockdown has eased up some of the challenges faced by employees, and by extension businesses as well, are easing up. An example of this is children returning to school so parents do not need to split their time between work and homeschooling. So the viability of remote working is improving and companies are weighing up the positives and negatives of making this a permanent change.

The second driving factor for continued remote working is that, even as lockdown is lifting in South Africa and infection and death rates have slowed down, society at large has realized that we will not be out of social distancing, the wearing of masks and washing our hands at every turn for a long while. Given the cost of office space and an inability to cram people into every nook and cranny, it becomes a very expensive exercise to maintain vast amounts of office space.

At this point, I believe we are closer to the remote work environment than a few months ago as the reduction of isolation of individuals, the lessening of fear for self and others, the return of lifestyle services and routines, and the normalizing of health measures has reduced the pressure on society in general. So what does that mean for businesses who are trying to decide on the viability of remote work?

In my previous article I highlighted aspects of business that need to be taken into account when implementing remote work, this included:

1. Remote work should be appropriate to the vision of the organization.
2. Remote work should reflect the organizational culture.
3. Implementing remote work should be well planned from a systems and a process perspective.
4. Employees should be supported in creating a remote work location.
5. Employees should be given time to adjust to remote work.

I stand by these as pivotal factors in setting up businesses for successful remote working. I feel especially strong about the last point. Understandably businesses have taken massive strain under lockdown and expected more than ever from employees to perform. A lack of employee performance, however damaging to the business, was understandable to a point, given the challenges mentioned above.

It is more important to evaluate employees on how they approached the challenges during lockdown, rather than do a straight comparison of work-from-office performance vs work-from-home performance. The reason for this is that a major contributor to having remote employees is that of trust. This thought occurred to me when I was interviewing Maureen Baird yesterday for our Performance Cafe Coffee Companions series. Maureen implemented her first remote work project in the 1980s and she shared so many valuable lessons with me. The most important for me was trust. Not just trust in employees to do what is expected of them, but also trust in managers that they will provide leadership appropriate so this style of work. Maureen also shared that a spin-off of this is was creativity and innovation. As people who feel trusted are more likely to take appropriate risks to find better ways of doing the same work.

So when we try and measure performance for the last few, insane, months the question is not whether the employee maintained the same level of work, but rather:

1. Did they innovate?
2. Were they creative?
3. Were they resilient?
4. Were they adaptable?
5. Were they relentless about improvement?

The reason to ask these questions, and ignore more traditional measures, is that these are the key characteristics of mature employees who do well at remote working. Remote workers are not just good at getting the job done. They show tenacity and self-leadership instead of waiting to be micromanaged.

So if you feel despondent about the results of your business and are uncertain about the approach you need to take then consider whether:

1. You have employees described above.
2. You have your all the areas of your business setup for remote working.

If you answer yes to either of these it is important to be strategic in your approach to the other.
If you answered no to both above, then it is important to evaluate whether remote work is appropriate for your industry, your business, and your clients.
If you answered yes to both then stop reading this article and get back to work!

Maureen Baird is our guest on our 40th Performance Café Coffee Companions series. Maureen spent a major part her career working for a large international IT company, holding a variety of positions which included executive and senior sales, business operations and technical management. Her industry expertise includes the mining and financial services. In 2011 Maureen decided to make a radical career change. Maureen now owns and runs a successful bespoke ceramics & pottery business. Maureen designs and produces her own range of ceramics and is an accredited ceramics and glass conservator / restorer

The blog mentioned above was one in a series of three articles, they include:
Dear Manager, this is not remote work, it is work from home
Working from Home: why your professional brand is so important
Working from Home: securing your professional brand

The Risk and Reward of Your Employee Spend

Would you ever buy a thoroughbred and expect no return on your investment? What would be the logic of spending time looking for the best breed, with the best breeding lines, the best muscle tone, and the best character and then putting it in a field where it does not have place to run? Surely at the cost of buying the most capable animal you can find there is a sense that this is a resource that can be utilized to make money?

In a recent conversation with Junita van der Colff, who specializes in Risk Management, she mentioned that risk is only one side of the coin – the flip side is opportunity. Hence the analogy of the horse. Why take on the risk of owning the animal if you don’t make use of the opportunities created by the ownership.

The Risk

This got me thinking that one of the biggest risks companies are facing now is their employee spend. Let us first get a good perspective on what the cost is of employing staff. Often times we think of it as just another salary bill at the end of the month, but actually it includes the following: 

  1. Recruiting expenses
  2. Monthly salary, bonuses, incentives
  3. Office space allocation
  4. Employee administration costs such as Finance and HR
  5. Tech and equipment costs
  6. Leave
  7. Training and development
  8. Meeting times (unless billed to a client) and Manager inputs.

Generally, depending on business size and industry, it is accepted that up to 30% of a company’s revenue goes straight into employee salaries. If that covers point two above, it still leaves seven other areas of business where money and time are being spent on employees which is unaccounted for.

A lot of businesses, especially with the effects of COVID-19 and Lockdown, are having to take a long hard look at their employee spend as one of their biggest risk factors. At the same time they are dependent on their employees to provide the services and products they sell. It is an enormous Catch 22.

The Reward

While retrenchments are the order of the day, I believe that businesses are missing an important step here. Instead of getting rid of people, they should do more with the employees available to mitigate this risk.

It is interesting that employers often prefer a plug and play model of management. They want to hire the best people, match them to a job profile and then they want them to “get on with it”. This approach reduces real connection between the manager and the employee. It does not take into account the employee’s unique skills, abilities and strengths, and in essence relegates the employee to a machine.

I believe that when we connect with team members we can unlock more potential and by seeing and getting to know them as individuals we learn what motivates and inspires them. This process is good for business as more value is gained from the same individual, while simultaneously rewarding the individual for what they are good at. This creates a win-win loop of positivity and engagement from the employee, as managers provide them with interesting challenges relevant to them as employees. This then solves the problems the manager is coming across and removing stress from their environment.

The “How”:

  • Constantly review conventional norms.
    Often employees are under-utillized because they aren’t allowed to act outside of their job profile.
  • Be open to ideas from team members.
    I have seen too many businesses hire the best and most talented people just to force them into the mould of “that’s how we do things here”.
  • When there is a problem to be solved ask around.
    Sometimes people with the least knowledge of a problem have the best solutions because they can provide a fresh perspective.
  • Acknowledge all contributions.
    Employees are being asked for their inputs, they are not sitting an exam. There is no such thing as failure in thoughts. The moment people’s contribution in solution crafting is judged harshly you remove their future ability to speak up.

In essence, show trust and create a safe environment for brainstorming. Then see how you can further leverage team members to bring the plan to action. This way you will get a great return on your employee spend. Both from a financial but also a psychological level. This allows you to do more with less.

This week my Coffee Companion on @Performance Café is Junita van der Colff, MD of Protean Business Solutions and host of the Risk Revue podcast. We talk about Risk Management and how to be properly pro-active as well as constructively reactive, to ensure that employee performance is at minimum risk during challenging times.