Articles

A business case for building a career resilient workforce

Most people remember fondly the days when companies used to offer lifetime employment and long service awards that spanned over 25, 30, 35, 40 years and above. All the Generation X employees who worked for these companies were assured of at least a measure of job security in exchange of adequate performance and loyalty exhibition.

As organisations adjust to market demands today’s business environment is characterised by fixed term or short-term contracts and that old covenant is now null. The turn of events on the labour market have inevitably brought in a new dimension to managerial roles and responsibilities- to focus not much on employee employment but on employee employability. Most of the Generation X and all the millennials found themselves having to forget about clinging to one job, one company and one career path. Organisational leaders and most of their employees have all been caught -up in this cul- de- sac.

Inevitably, new roles and responsibilities are needed by managers to build a workforce that has the competitive skills required to find work when they need it wherever they can find it. Building new covenants that enhance an individual’s employability inside and outside the organisation becomes a prerequisite. Leaders need not only focus on creating lean structures and reorganising but also on building a mutual relationship based on trust and caring. While it is increasingly becoming the employee‘s responsibility to manage their own career, it is the role of the company leadership to provide employees with the tools, the enabling environment and opportunities for assessing and developing their skills.

Creating a career resilient workforce that is not only dedicated to continuous learning but employees who are ready to reinvent themselves to keep pace with change is now required. It is evidently becoming a leadership role to keep this communication with employee open on business trends so that that they can respond quickly and flexibly to changing business needs. The new leadership role becomes that of empowering employees to assess, hone and redirect and expand their skills so that they stay competitive on the global job market. To a very large extent, the developmental sector leadership has done a lot in empowering employees to make informed decisions about their careers. Most employees in the development sector actually multitask and have opportunities to operate on the global market.

While the new leadership role is changing to incorporate the proposed, the message to both employers and employees of the 21st Century is to change attitudes and values of loyalty and betrayal and start seeing issues broadly. When employees jump the ship, leaders need not see it as betrayal. Equally when employees are retrenched or downsized, it’s not betrayal either on the part of the employers. Employees must be educated that the usual view of career path must change and has changed. In the past employees would stick to one company and rising in one speciality area.

The need for multiskilling and movement across functional boundaries cannot be over emphasised. In our local context the job market has shrinked drastically and as such switching back and forth between regular duties and special projects only becomes the survival strategy of today.

On the part of the employees they need to realise that the child to parent relationship does not exist anymore in organisations. Rather there is an evident need to foster adult to adult relationships where each adult is made aware of their roles and responsibility. Ordinarily employees get frustrated these days when they find that they lack the skills needed to get another job. Also, when employers break the old covenant and offer nothing, they also get frustrated because as the labour force we have been encultured to think that loyalty is the way to go.

The equation to create career resilient workshop requires balancing by both sides. It not entirely a leadership role but both parties have a role to play. Employees should also know that it is their duty to continually develop themselves in other skills so as to ensure relevance. While training becomes the ideal, it is also made possible if management are receptive to lateral transfer that allow employees to be exposed to other jobs and acquire skills that will assist them to adjust to career changes.

There is now a growing need to manage these changing aspirations and demands carefully. Some sceptical managers may ask the impact of such moves to the bottom line. There are real risks that need to be managed. In this age of mobility, organisations face even greater dangers if they do not commit themselves to developing self-reliant workers.

We will agree that the world is a different place and so is the workplace. But is it only technology that is affecting the world of work? Government policies, demographics, economics, market trends etc. all demand adoption to an agile career mindset. Projections indicate that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented. Understanding factors affecting the workplace will help to create a career resilient workforce.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 242 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Role of training in organisations

Training and development as strategic imperatives play a crucial role towards the growth and success of a business. Training is said to have taken place when employees have learnt new skills and acquired knowledge, attitudes and behaviours needed to meet business needs.

It is a continuous and never-ending process more so in this rapidly changing operating environment. Additionally, training helps bring all employees to a higher standardised level so that they all have similar skills and knowledge. Embracing it eradicates weak links within the company that rely heavily on others to complete basic work tasks.

Technical training courses usually focus on increasing efficiencies, resulting in financial gain. Increasingly high performing organisations today are recognising the need for training and development best practices to enhance their competitive advantage. If the value and potential of an organisation’s human resource asset are to be harnessed and grown, training and development are essential elements of any business. Every organisation that invests seriously in the areas of training and development will reap benefits of an enriched working environment with higher levels of staff retention as well as increased productivity and performance. Some of the myriad of benefits associated with offering employees both training and development programs are the closer acquaintance with the job by an employee thus needing less supervision and less wastage of time and efforts. Fewer accidents are also likely to occur if the employee has knowledge and skills required for doing a particular job.

This is precisely why training and development should not be disconnected from the business activities of the organisation. Training is an area that clearly illustrates the positive relationship between individual development and organisational performance. Resultantly all organisations should produce a training and development plan which aims at empowering all employees to carry out their roles to the highest standard and develop high quality services to customers.

Expects writing on the core competences of a corporation state that the ever-changing market boundaries, the elusive targets have made target capturing dicey. In the midst of these organisations cannot stop thinking of building organisational competences. There is real need for managers to consolidate corporate wide production skills into competencies that empower employees to adapt quickly to changing opportunities. It is only through collective learning in the organisation that creates core competencies. Those skills that together constitute core competencies of an organisation must coalesce around individuals. Again, this harnesses why training and development are so strategic to a business because core competencies do not diminish with use unlike physical assets. Competencies get enhanced as they are applied and shared. They are like glue that binds existing businesses. As part of competence building tools managers must invest in finding new ways to think about how work is done. Some of such learning occurs in informal training programs but others occur in much more structured on the job development. In either case, managers need to build that intellectual capital that replaces old ideas with new and changes in behaviour.

However, leaders always be mindful of managing the risk of conducting training sessions that become an end in themselves and fail to build the intellectual capital that creates business value. Looks are deceiving. Even if an organisation cultivates core competencies, it does not automatically mean overtaking rivals or other business areas. There is need for any business to properly balance the business equation and ensure all other elements are well catered for. It is good discipline to evaluate training programmes.

So, whenever we   implement training programs in an organisation, leaders should be able to quantify the resultant benefits. Viewing organisational training programs as activities is quite a seductive approach because activities are easy to observe and count. Make sure all training programs get linked to accomplishments. Improved employee performance is one such deliverable. An employee who receives the necessary training is likely more able to perform in their job. The social and cultural competencies of a person must change also. These are basically an employee’s leadership abilities in leveraging organisations as well as their personal credibility. Seek for new skills in an employee in the form of improved organisational abilities like risk management and other operational activities like speed and working across boundaries. The employee after training should    have a greater understanding of their responsibility within their role and  in turn building their confidence.

By so doing employees themselves have their satisfaction and morale increased. The training becomes investment to the company making the employee feel that they are valued hence increasing innovation. Organisations are increasing employing blended learning which is a combination of on-line learning and classroom learning so that training as an imperative allows for cost effective   learning across large international foot prints. Such initiatives by employers reduce employee turnover and enhance organisational reputation and profile.

In conclusion, while training focuses on enhancing skills, capabilities and knowledge of employees for doing a particular job, it also moulds the thinking of employees and leads to quality performance and enhances the company image.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 242 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

How to communicate with subordinates

Today’s leadership needs to appreciate that the key to better performance is better communication. Experience has shown that leadership and various management initiatives are premised on one common factor, sharing of information for the benefit of the organisation, and that is communication.

A number of structures such as the workers committee, news bulletins etc. have been established as communication enablers. Such techniques enable the conveyance and gathering of information needed to bring about change. What is now juicy news is that these familiar techniques though used correctly actually inhibit the communication that the twenty first century corporations require. I have observed managers talking to subordinates at every level in order to find out what actually goes on in organisations. But, do we ask the right questions to allow communication? Or when leaders do so, they will be preventing employees from providing the kind of deep information, insightful behaviour and productive change needed to cope with the much more complex problems of organisational renewal. What mostly come out of such strategies are cafeteria and parking issues but nothing strategic. The deep and potentially threatening or embarrassing information that motivate learning and produce real change is not surfaced. Organisations are faced with extraordinarily complex issues and these should be exposed to allow open debate for an array of possible solutions. Encouraging communication promotes decision-thinking teams.

Notably, employees are very good and quick at picking management blindness and timidity. We may as leaders persistently prefer using the derogatory boss approach not knowing at all that this approach does not get subordinates to reflect on their work and behaviour. We need not employ single loop approaches as a one-dimensional question also elicits a one-dimensional answer. Recently I had an opportunity to listen to a supervisor who was communicating with a subordinate. Although the leader appeared like he was asking the subordinate about a work operation in actual fact he indirectly was expressing dismay. I heard him say,” Where are the tractors ploughing now, I want to go there?” In response the subordinate tried to provide some double loop response explaining that as at that hour no one had paid for the services, but however, it was possible that someone could phone anytime. He then went on a blaming game, where the supervisor was accusing the subordinate of not saying the truth. He insisted he wanted a straight answer that the tractors had not been hired. Surprisingly before the end of the day, three people had paid for the services of the tractor. I saw the subordinate frustrated to the bone as it meant working during the holidays.

Allow employees to share first hand experiences about their jobs. More often than not, solutions and initiatives that will improve performance lie within the subordinates. When communicating, do not censor what everyone needs to say and hear. For the sake of morale and considerateness, managers often deprive employees and themselves of the opportunity to take responsibility for their own behaviour by learning to understand more. What I also saw from the cited example was the usage of socially upbeat behaviour to inhibit learning. Leaders need to see readily how they inhibit learning and our reasons could lie in deeper and more psychological motives. Such one-dimensional loop communication make the whole communication between leadership and subordinates tense. Subordinates are not at times allowed to ask the motives behind a given fact. Every time we are communicating with subordinates, we need to be cognisant that the moment we involve potential threat or embarrassment, rigorous reasoning goes right out of the window and defensive reasoning takes over. Defensive reasoning serves no purpose except self-protection. Paradoxically, those who use it rarely acknowledge that they are protecting themselves. Leaders strive to invoke strategies which are pro-learning.

Double loop form of communication which allows for more steps to enable subordinates to ask leaders questions are a better option. As leaders we need to appreciate that there are two closely related mechanisms at work all the time we communicate the social and psychological. The social appears as if a leader is putting a subordinate on the spot. This is what happened in the cited example. But allowing employees to dig deeper uncovers the employee as a well-rounded important stakeholder. Why supervisors instinctively and thoroughly avoid the double learning form is psychological. In some cases, employees open Pandora boxes which leaders may not be prepared to deal with. They may have approached a subordinate with a position which can turn out to be embarrassing or a threatening issue.

It is best practice to desist from gathering data in sloppy and self-serving ways, once we do this we are seen as blaming employees. Employees view this approach as having psychological connotations where a leader would be trying to express a negative message but does it subtly.

Let us try to avoid vulnerability, risk and embarrassment and any appearance of incompetence in our messages. Try avoid the management’s “benevolent” censorship of true but negative messages. Leaders be cognisant that good communication promotes learning and builds decision-thinking teams.  

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 242 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Traits of difficult bosses

I usually challenge leaders to be someone’s ‘best boss’, but I thought it could be valuable to also look at the contrary. It is important to acknowledge that what may be construed as attributes of being difficult by one individual may not be perceived the same by the next person. Regardless, the article will concentrate only on some of those generic attributes of bad bosses. Its focus will be on what they do so that if as a leader one or more of these generic attributes describe your behaviour, it may be worthy to introspect and start doing things differently.

People who are viewed as bad bosses possess certain characteristics or behaviours which they tend to employ in their day to day management of staff. If as a boss you fail to provide clear direction to staff, you belong to the category. Staff members puddle through their work without clearly set goals and being the boss you do not give feedback be it recognition or correction.

Bad bosses are also known for bullying. They are nasty and overly critical, always badgering employees and there is nothing ever an employee does that will satisfy them. This is very frustrating if as an employee you have a boss who is always critical when you do something. Sometimes they just change the wording in an employee’s document just to word it differently in their way but not changing the meaning. Employees find this extremely demotivating and frustrating. As bosses we should learn to move out of our little boxes and try and adopt an all-encompassing approach that allow us to take other people’s point of view. Management gurus have written on the need for today’s leaders to put their company’s whole brain to work. Innovation is key to all businesses today. If you stifle innovation you are destining the organisation for falling behind. Innovation takes place only when different ideas, perceptions and ways of doing collide. Never dislike conflict and divergent views, these are incubators for innovation. Such an approach often makes organisations fall victim to the clone syndrome where all tend to think alike. But successful managers of diverse groups spend time getting members to align their different perceptions and ways of judgement to the common vision of the organisation and thus coming up with possible solutions and innovation.

Difficult bosses are lovers of brownnosers and tattle talers. They tend to discriminate against certain employees. Such leaders will always try to cover up or make excuses for the poor work of their incompetent favourites. This jeopardise a whole lot of other issues such as performance management, succession planning, mentoring and staff development.

Inability to communicate is one of their attributes. They may tell a subordinate something completely in tandem with their expectations and goals. Such characters easily change their minds frequently leaving employees off balance. One such boss would tell you clearly what they want and even put it in writing. The moment the brownnosers come with their tattle tales, they completely change what they would have communicated. Bad bosses will even go to the extent of contradicting themselves in their defence. Communication to them is a one-way process and of course they do not listen. Best practice has shown that open book management highly motivates employees who feel they belong. Information should never be perceived and used as power but as a decision useful tool. Employees have trouble knowing where the boss stands, what his values are and why they do not concede defeat. Such bosses use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple positive communication would correct the problem. These traits mentioned here also point to narcissism and unapologetic behaviours.

They ignore employees until there is a problem then they speak. When something goes wrong such bosses are quick to blame and throw employees under the bus loudly and in public. Imagine a boss who calls every line manager to the boardroom to discuss their issue with a subordinate. They continually search for faults. Interestingly, in all this blaming bad bosses will lack decisiveness to address the problem.

Actions of bad bosses are said to cause dissensions among staff and despite this, they will never see themselves as bad bosses. They always think they are doing a fine job. There are tremendous benefits in getting to know your team. Management by wondering around, interacting outside the workplace and allowing free flow of ideas build strong teams. Bad bosses will hide behind “I am busy for all that!” Once bad bosses know their team members’ strengths and weaknesses, they will concentrate on the weaknesses so they can take credit for success that is not solely theirs. Such managers manage up a lot. They try to look good to their boss at the detriment of their own team.

The list is endless, but to be the ‘best boss’ embrace the organisation’s and subordinate interests at heart and not just your own. It will be good if you keep an open eye and decipher those qualities described that resemble yours and change.

Emmanuel Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 242 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com

Helping employees plan for retirement

It is no secret that impending retirement can be stressful for employees. The statement is very true if the employees and organisation have not carefully considered the financial and emotional implications of retirement.

Employees world over, are now more conscious of the need to plan for their sunset years. Retirement schemes are therefore, becoming a key consideration in benefits packages. It is the role of organisational leaders to ensure that pension administration and investments are handled by competent personnel and or Fund Managers. It is also the role of leadership as it is for employees to prepare for retirement. Some organisations may go beyond and continue offering employee wellness programs to pensioners.

Research has demonstrated that robust retirement packages will improve employees’ performance. Counselling programs to address a range of psychological and practical issues surrounding retirement have a huge impact on all employees. Imagine a retiring employee only getting to know how much they will be getting per month just before they are disengaged. Organisations may conduct sessions designed to prepare people to manage retirement benefits and wealth accumulated during their work life. It has been noted that attending these retirement classes often prompts employees to seek more personalised information.

Experience has shown that retiring employees, who start planning late, are more likely to face financial challenges and will try to earn extra income from activities that do not give them the much-needed satisfaction. Resultantly, health related problems like stress, anxiety and habits such as substance abuse may creep in.  

It is interesting to note that as employees age and move closer to retirement they change their interests and preferences about work retirement. In this regard individualised retirement plans are very handy and the most effective way to motivate employees at large. When conducting these programs organisations should encourage top-down commitment and dialogue. With the Zimbabwean economic situation, retirement planning has become a lower priority for employees seeking current and short-term financial relief. It will therefore, not be enough to create such programs in institutions if they do not promote open discussions internally about retirement. Organisations that have implemented interactive retirement programs have come up with a hands-on approach that benefits employees. A good example is where some local organisations have engaged and allowed the main contributors of pension funds, the long serving employees, to invest in real estate as a way to hedge their retirement packages.

Again, it should be noted that it is never too early to begin planning for employees’ retirement. It is of importance that management should customise the retirement programs to suit different ages and career stages ensuring at all times that employees construe the intended purpose of the retirement plans and counselling courses. While creating an improved retirement counselling program geared towards an aging workforce can seem like a daunting challenge, if done right it is quite manageable.

Counselling programs done earlier like in the first ten years of employment should help employees to focus on issues such as where they will live permanently. Owning a home or property will reduce the challenges as they are not likely to be bothered by landlords over rent when retired. Five years before retirement, counsellors might want to start advising employees to start shifting their investment mix from a focus on assets accumulation to income generation. Organisations can help by creating a peer network for aging employees and these do not cost institutions much. Invoking the use of peer-based counselling offers employees the opportunity to get information from people they trust. In that manner, the aging employees have a chance to balance the formal textbook information on retirement with real life anecdotal experiences in order to understand better what retirement will be like.

Retirement initiatives must never appear like the employer is pushing the retirees out. Remember as people get to retirement there are tendencies of being highly stressed as they constantly reflect on their lives after retiring. When retirement planning is taken as a key HR strategy organisations will be better placed to know if they will derive benefits from offering voluntary early retirement schemes. These are less stressful to some employees as they are viewed as an opportunity to leave an organisation with a meaningful package to embark on personal endeavours.

In the long run organisations will realise that well-crafted counselling and employee assistance programs can help improve performance and productivity, morale and enhance succession planning. These will facilitate transfer of knowledge and skills to younger employees. Employees are usually more engaged in organisations that are seen as ensuring a descent retirement.

It is incumbent on the organisational leaders be cognisant of the changes in today’s workforce. People are living longer and given a chance, employees are willing to work beyond retirement age either in their chosen or encore careers. Neglecting to properly disengage retiring employees is at the very least a missed opportunity by employers and to some extent a threat to employee morale. Today’s leaders need to consider embracing effective off boarding plans as a means to boosting employees’ odds of a successful retirement.

Jinda is the Managing Consultant of PROSERVE Consulting Group, a leading supplier of Professional Human Resources and Management services locally, regionally and internationally. He can be contacted at Tel: 263 773004143 or 263 4 772778 or visit our website at www.proservehr.com