How to Change Your Company Culture

Many business leaders assume they are stuck with the culture that surrounds them. But the opposite is true. If, as a CEO, you are committed to changing the organization’s environment, you CAN make a difference if you follow a few simple, but powerful, change management training and consulting best practices.

  1. First, take a step back and try to define your company’s current culture…the good points and the not-so-good points. Your objective is to accentuate the first and deactivate the second in order to create a culture that breeds success.
  1. Next, as the leader, you need to be genuine. If you seek authenticity, you need to act naturally so your employees get a feel for who you truly are and what you stand for. Live the company values so that they become central to all the decisions you make. Soon you will see others basing their actions on those same values as they follow your model.
  1. Use “carrots” to encourage the behavior you want to promote. Every time an employee exhibits the kind of value system you are trying to instill, be sure to reward them. And this recognition process does not need to be expensive. Most often, a pat on the back, an acknowledgment in front of peers or a simple note of thanks and appreciation will have the desired congratulatory effect.
  1. Fine tune your talent selection and assimilation process. Get involved in hiring to be sure your staff is bringing the best talent aboard that fits. Help to define just what competencies are needed for your company’s future and see that these competencies shape the candidate pool. Then, participate in the orientation process. The faster you can integrate new hires into your workforce, the faster they will be productive and the more engaged they will feel.
  1. Be out there, not behind closed doors. The more you can communicate with your workforce, the more they will feel as if you truly value their contribution. No matter how effective a leader you may be, your employees can feel alienated if you isolate yourself on the top floor. Visit different departments, show an interest in current projects, try to get to know your employees personally…that’s the way to build loyalty.

A winning culture need not be out of reach if you are determined. Foster open communication, see that the company values guide company strategy, model the kind of behavior you want your employees to display, and recognize those who conduct themselves in a way that promotes the culture you seek.

While always difficult, effective and meaningful change is possible.

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An Instructional Design Model that Fits Today’s Fast-Paced Workplace

Even as the economy improves, employees are taxed to the limit. There is more to be done in shorter time with fewer workers to handle the tasks. And yet, with a constantly changing work environment, new skills need to be taught.

Where does traditional instructional design consulting and training fit into this fast-paced, demanding scenario?

There is a new way to deliver training that just may be the answer.  (Well actually not very new as we started doing them with clients in the late 90’s to support fast growing businesses.)

This new method of instructional design and training is known by various terms—learning bursts, mini-courses or self-directed learning to name a few.  The method is well known by action learning leadership development advocates who have used just-in-time learning to get targeted results for decades.

Targeted learning bursts can have several advantages over more traditional training that is delivered in a one- or two-day period. It is less costly in dollars and in employee time off the job. It takes place at the learner’s convenience. It is ideal for those with short attention spans as it occurs in stages typically only 20-60 minutes long. And it typically checks for understanding along the way with a short quiz or performance test at the end of each session.

Here is an example of how it works…

  1. Learners listen to an audio cast which lasts from eight to ten minutes that is played on their own compatible device. This is not in a lecture format but designed to deliver the key learning points in an entertaining way…much in the manner of a late night talk show.
  1. The learner is supplied with a workbook that supplements the audio cast and, for more visual learners, provides models and graphs that support the concepts introduced. The written material may only be three to five pages long so that it is easily reviewed. Included will be suggestions as to how the new skill might be applied on the job and some questions to be answered that test how well the learning has been understood and absorbed.
  1. The final piece requires a brief action plan that asks the learners for ways they will adopt the new skill or concept. This completes one cycle or topic and then the learner will move on to the next. 

The entire “course” consists of a series of mini-courses, maybe as many as a dozen. In effect, the learner expends the same amount of time that would have been utilized by a much longer training. However, because the learning bursts are taken one at a time, when the learner has a free moment, there is far less disruption to the workday.

Done right, learning bursts can be used to replace an entire curriculum or augment a broader learning solution.

Competencies: Still Useful in Performance Management

Instructional-Design-Consulting

Competencies demonstrate the ability of an individual to do a current and/or future job well.

The term first appeared in 1959 in an article by R.W. White as a tool for managing performance. Now over 50 years old, we may well wonder if the concept is still useful in managing and motivating performance. Especially now with software tools available to manage and implement competencies, we maintain that competency management can be more critical than ever for the success of an organization.

Competency-based management depends upon strong connections between business planning and human resources planning. Once the organization’s overall strategic plan is in place, human resources and the business can help to identify the core competencies required to fulfill that short and long-term vision.  This includes isolating the specific on-the-job skills, abilities, knowledge, behaviors and motivations necessary to achieve the desired results.

Once finalized with the business, the list should be applied to five main phases of human resource management.

  1. Branding, Recruiting, Interviewing, and Hiring. Hiring staff should be well acquainted with the competencies required so they can recruit for and select talent according to those behaviors. Anyone interviewing, too, needs to be aware of and test for desired behavioral traits.
  1. Learning and Development. New employees as well as experienced employees should be exposed to multiple learning and development opportunities that assess, develop, foster, and measure the identified behaviors at various levels of proficiency and stages of a career.
  1. Performance Management. Managers should be well versed in core competencies that are highly valued and give feedback through ongoing coaching to support while encouraging the desired behaviors and providing uncomfortable consequences for those who do not fit.
  1. Compensation and Rewards. All remuneration and reward systems should also be based on the behaviors identified as fundamental to the organization’s success. By compensating those who exhibit the desired behaviors, others will be encouraged to follow.
  1. Succession Planning. Promotions and succession planning should rely upon performance and core competence proficiency to create alignment.

The stronger the links from one phase of the operation to another, the more embedded the competencies will become in the organization. This is not to say, however, that the list is cast in stone. On the contrary, it is important that the list shift as the needs of the organization change. As requirements change, so should competencies adapt over time.

Learn more about Instructional Design Consulting by LSA Global

Competency-based management also depends upon the ability to analyze gaps in competencies and then to structure a program to close the gaps. With proper application, productivity can be significantly enhanced as the skills needed are put into use.

Competency-based management is a strategic tool for success because it links organizational strategic planning to job execution.

New Managers Must Keep Their Eye on the Ball

Management Training Programs

Intense focus.

If you have ever stepped up to bat, “keep your eye on the ball” is the refrain that most likely ran through your mind. Now that you are a manager, you would be wise once again to heed this advice. Why? Because it is with the combination of discipline and focus that you will be most productive.

In your new position, you will be asked to accomplish more than ever before with and through others. You can no longer be the lone hero and succeed.  Your success is now dependent upon the success of those working for you.

And you thought you were busy then.  Here are some new manager tips to keep your eye on the proverbial ball:

  • Narrow your focus. Choose just five critical goals that you want to achieve per week. Clear your mind of the other clutter and stay on track.  Fight the urge to do more.  Stick with the goals that matter most.
  • Be wise about meetings. Each meeting you attend as a new manager should satisfy the following criteria:
    • Adherence to scheduled start and stop times
    • A clear agenda with explicit desired outcomes and expectations
    • Key participants only in attendance with clear roles and objectives
    • Clear rationale for a face-to-face discussion rather than phone/email communication 

If the meeting does not meet these criteria, do not waste your time attending.  And if you are calling meeting that do not meet the criteria, get your act together.  You need to model core leadership skills to your folks.

  • Keep your attention on the overarching purpose. All your actions should ultimately drive toward the one or two moves that will really make a difference…the ones that will determine the success of your enterprise, department, or team.  Don’t sweat the other stuff.
  • Remove distractions. Understand how interruptions can destroy your concentration and eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn your phone to vibrate; reconfigure your screen settings so you have neither visual nor audio notifications of incoming mail; discipline yourself to only 10 minutes per day at work for “recreational” web time, such as FaceTime or keeping up with the news on the internet.  Set an example for your direct reports.
  • Set aside specific time for specific tasks. Yes, you will need to check on your email and return calls daily. But, to maximize your ability to focus on the task at hand, limit email and phone calls to either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. If you think of the phone and email as a means of putting you in response mode, in other words doing what others are asking you to do rather than taking your own action, this time management tip may be easier to follow. 

These are simple, yet effective strategies that successful managers incorporate into their business lives. Now you can give improve your productivity too.

To learn more visit our New Manager Best Practices blog.

5 Key Criteria for Managing High Performance

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An optimized workforce can lead to a 14% increase in project completion, a more than 5% increase in productivity, and a 4.9% increase in high performers — numbers that go straight to an organization’s bottom-line.

The above data is based upon research from Success Factors and certainly makes sense to us.  A high performance environment is what you need to attract, motivate, and retain the top talent that can execute on your strategic priorities.

Leaders who understand that their success is dependent upon those around them know that effectively managing performance is central to achieving their goals.

If you want to take your performance management processes and systems to the next level, make sure that you incorporate the following 5 criteria:

  1. Clear and understood by all team members: To drive increased performance, every team member must understand the exact performance standards and expectations.  They must be able to articulate in simple terms both success and failure for their role and their team.  Without clear boundaries, the pressures of ambiguity, doubt, and frustration will overcome good intentions.
  2. Credible and relevant: Not only do the performance standards need to make sense vis-à-vis the strategic goals, but they also need to be perceived as achievable.  If employees do not think that it is humanly possible to hit the targets or if they know that they can miss the mark without repercussion, you need to make some changes to create believability and accountability before moving forward.
  3. Consistent and timely: To be impactful, success metrics cannot change with the wind and should be as close to the “performance event” as possible.  Like the leader board at a golf tournament, the more transparent you make people’s performance status – the better.
  4. Perceived as fair: You are dead in the water if your team thinks that the performance standards or measurement process are unjust.  To increase your chances of success, include key stakeholders in defining performance standards, metrics, timing, and reporting.  If you lose the perception battle, frustration will derail your efforts to measure and improve team performance.
  5. Trusted by the individual: Even if your overall team performance metrics are perceived as fair, each individual on the team must also trust the feedback that they receive about their personal performance.  Mistrust of individual performance status greatly decreases accountability and undermines team success over time.

To improve performance, good leaders know that they must provide individuals with an accurate reflection of their performance status as often and as consistently as possible.

4 Signs that You Have a Weak Performance Management Process

High performance environments bring out the best in their people.

They also provide their teams and people with an accurate and timely sense of their current performance status.

If people do not know where they stand, it is difficult for them to improve.  Imagine if you were running a race and did not know the position you held in the field nor find out the results until well after the finish.  As kids, we received grades at school ranging from A to F.  We always knew where we stood in the classroom from our test scores and on the sports field by the number of wins and losses.

Once we got to work, things got fuzzy.  Although most companies have overall budgets and targets, it is often not clear where people stand compared to their peers or compared to a set of clear, consistent, accurate, and trusted performance standards.  Like race results that occur months later, the dreaded end-of-year performance review does little to improve or motivate performance.

If you observe any of the following four characteristics, your performance management process could probably use a significant lift.

  1. Gaming: In weak performance systems that do not expose individual performance, people are able to game the system and fake their performance.  When success metrics are unclear or if there are too many metrics, it is easy for people to “cherry pick” certain strengths or overemphasize unimportant accomplishments.
  2. Politics: When feedback about performance status is unclear, people will innovate and focus on relationships to get rewards and avoid failure.  Cronyism thrives and performance suffers.
  3. Doubt: If there is the slightest doubt about what defines both high and unacceptable performance, confusion and mistrust will lead to more frustration, increased employee relations issues, and decreased performance.  This often results in a surge of lawsuits and a plea from managers for training to improve their ability to have difficult performance conversations.  While communication skills are always helpful to managers, the problem typically lies in unclear targets and performance expectations, not in the conversations themselves.  Performance ambiguity allows low performers to hide and makes it very difficult for anyone to get a sense of where they stand in order to improve.
  4. Attrition: When relationships rule, high performers without strong relationships will eventually leave to work in a more performance-based, rather than a relationship-dependent, environment.

If you want your leaders to drive high performance, ensure that your performance management process is clear, understood, credible, accurate, trusted, timely, and perceived as fair by those being measured.  Anything less will inhibit your organization’s ability to thrive.