Articles

How to Implement an Effective Culture Change Program

Changing an organisation culture is one of the most difficult leadership roles in organisations because an organisation’s culture comprises an interlocking set of goals, roles, processes, values and communication programs , attitude, beliefs and assumptions. Culture is not just about one thing.

In any work place all elements fit together as on mutually reinforcing system and naturally combine to prevent any attempt to change. This is why single fix changes may appear to make progress for a while , but eventually interlocking elements of the organisation culture take over and the change is inexorably drawn back into the existing organisational culture. Changing culture of an organisation is a large scale undertaking and all organisational tools for changing minds will need to be put in play. However, the order in which they are deployed   has a critical impact on the likelihood of success. Generally, the most fruitful success strategy is to begin with leadership tools. Leadership practises play a central role in achieving the desired change.

Frequent mistakes in trying to change culture have included;

  • The overuse   of power tools to coerce parties
  • Leaders beginning with a vision, but failing to put in place managment tools that will cement the behavioral changes
  • Beginning with power tools even before a clear vision or story of the future is in place.

If management is not prepared to experence a complete change / turnaround in them, they should not bother embarking on the change. Management support of the change is critical.They need to Model the way by walking the talk. As   change drivers, manages need to be mindful of their ability to influence their teams by pioneering new management skills. Leaders should enable others to act by showing support for changes while demonstrating   that support when communicating and interacting with staff. There is nothing worse than sending mixed messages to employees . Treat others with dignity and respect, be preapred to listen to diverse points of view and support staff decisions.

Ability to create a case for change is paramount. Involve employees in the process of identifying the need to change. Employees are typically   closest to the processes any way, their involvement and understanding are therefore vital. Employees should feel free to be as candid as possible without the fear of possible victimization. The process will encourage creative thinking  that potential derail creative solutions.

When you implement the program, set out timelines and   institute follow ups to assess how the change is working.Some changes exceed   expected targets but there are occassions that changes just do not work as planned.Publickly acknowldege   it and make adjustments until the desired result is achieved.

Inspire a shared vision by enlisting others to share in that dream by breathing life into their own vision , while engaging all people to visualise the possibilities and become excited about the change. When you do so as a leader make sure you build your own persoonal strings by keeping your drive and energy up.Radiate self confidence and regularly ask staff for feedback.Let them all share a common purpose.

If there are any barriers, they could be departmental or other employees or lack of training, get rid of them by availing the needed resources to make it happen.Unnecessary rules and cumbersome reporting processes are not needed . Try and streamline the work wherever you can.

Employees need to be moved out of the comfort zone gently. As employees try, do not blame but rather focus on positives .Human tendency is to play it safe and not take risks. Rather focus on why of the process or plan went wrong not who is responsible.

Continuously encourage the heart, offering praise for a job well done and make it a point to let people know of others’ confidence in other ability. Celebrate the changes no matter how small builds momentum for bigger changes and encouraging other employees wanting to particiapte.

Take a cue from the World Bank which has been trying to effect changes over a period of almost half   a centrury under the various leadership.World Bank empirically represents a particular difficult case of organisational culture change.It   is argued that its formal goal –development is ambigous .As an institution, it has a peculiar mix of philantrophic foundations initially as university to a bank.As an international organisation, it is also owned by governments of the world.

However, the several change attempts in the institution have provided a blue print to many change attempts. Lessons from the World Bank blueprint among others are:

  • Any personal scandals bring change efforts to a screeching halt. Do not create space for your favourites. Relatedly any change process should not be preceded by any reorganisation.Never parachute a new team of top managers , rather work with existing managers and   have people who share your vision.
  • Instead quickly develop and put in place new systems and processes that support and reinforce your vision of the future drawing on the practices of   dynamics   linking. Consistently   introduce and reinforce the new values of radical transparency and continous improvement and employing horizontal communication and never top down commands(double loop communication ).

Give them all a full picture and not just   what you think they need to know. Employees should not be at the mercy of management to inform them of the changes. Poor communication, rumour milling about the change process do create resistance. To successfully communicate use all means, team meetings, emails ,notes staff meeting and memos. Demonstrate your belief in their competence so that they also build trust in themselves to handle the process.

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

Promoting healthy lifestyles in the workplace

Employee wellness is important for organisational success as it improves employee engagement and employee value proposition to attract and retain the best talent at the same time building organisational reputation and brand. Most employers across a broad spectrum of industries feel that the wellness benefits they offer are appreciated by their employees and this in turn positively impact on their wellbeing and morale hence creating a long-term value for the organisation.

The objective of the article is to highlight ways employers can promote and encourage employees to lead healthy lifestyles.

  1. Healthy eating

Employees need to be reminded of the benefits of eating healthy foods. Human Resources departments may post information time to time on balanced diets. Most employees munch junk or other calorific treats brought to the offices either by colleagues or in the name of meetings. It’s interesting to note that most lunch allowances are pegged against prices of fast foods. When as an organisation we commit to employee wellness it is important to critically look at various policies. Canteen menus, meeting snacks, recommended food outlets etc. have to be reviewed too. Staying healthy in the workplace requires that all staff pay attention to what they eat for their main meals. The healthy way is to eat a good filling breakfast in the morning, healthy lunch and a relatively small evening meal. All staff should learn to temporarily leave their offices during lunch and avoid having lunch at the desk. Leaving desks for a while will prevent over eating while providing you with a short break. Provision of microwaves, fridges etc. in the workplace also promote healthy eating.

2. Drinking plenty of water

An employee immersed in work may actually lose track of how much water one is drinking in a day. Little water than required has effects like dehydration, drowsiness and sluggishness. Organisations may provide clean water dispensers for employees in light of the state of tap water for most cities in Zimbabwe.

3. Exercises

The benefits of exercises can never be over-emphasised. Organisations can encourage employees to exercise by providing sports and gym facilities as well as well as such facilities’ memberships. The Banking sector has implemented this so well that they even have their annual interbank tournament. Information on diseases such as diabetes, hearth conditions etc. associated with sedentary lifestyles which most employees lead may also be made available to employees.

How often have we driven to meetings which are only 5 minutes away? Would organisations not reap some benefits including financial, by encouraging employees to walk to meetings within a certain radius?

Sitting in cars battling the endless traffic queues is a daily fact for many people. The first world has   adopted the use of public transport which keep all employees up and about while saving the environment as well. Is it time for us to consider the international practice where biking to work has incentives for employees doing so?

4. Ergonomics

This refers to the design, arrangement of office environments, products and systems that promote efficiency and comfort for people who use them. With the usage of computers people spend the day staring at their screen and sitting down. By doing so employees stretch their necks forward for too long. Uncomfortable chairs also end putting pressure on the neck and spine.

Clean, orderly and airy offices help employees to relax as they work. Dust can actually pose serious health hazards to employees. At the end of each day employees should learn to tide up their workstations. Toilets and canteens/ kitchen must also be kept clean and adequately stocked with detergents.

5. Allow employees to take walking breaks

A walking break is not a time waster but it’s actually more productive. Not breaking makes you mentally lethargic hence reducing one’s creativity.

6. Promote mental health

All staff should learn to manage their stress levels and in instances were stressors are actually emanating from the work/workplace efforts should be made to eliminated/ reduce them. Because of having to juggle different roles, most people are living hectic lives that live them exhausted and training employees on managing stress should be an imperative in organisations.

7. Promoting personal hygiene

People in general who take good care of themselves have high self-esteem and are confident. Good personal hygiene also keeps certain illnesses at bay. Bad personal hygiene of an employee may affect other employees as well as customers. Funds permitting employees should be provided with sanitary wipes, sanitisers and handy wash to cleanse the surface of their desks and hands.

The above and a whole lot more can be done by organisations. Organisations that offer medical aids schemes to employees and/ their dependants view employees’ health as important for the organisation’s success. It is now common that most office premises are designated smoke free zones to encourage smokers to quit and also promote the health of all employees.

There has been so much talk about AIDS/HIV resulting in organisations adopting HIV/AIDS policies. It is high time organisations also adopt robust employee wellness policies and programs that promote physical and mental health of employees. \

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

Handling problematic employees

I have often heard the statement, ‘Managers get results through others.’ Managing employees is a critical facet of the work life of team leaders. People management skills are therefore as critical as the technical skills and this article will delve on how to manage difficult employees.

How do we define a difficult employee? Is it one who is a little unorthodox in their approach to work but stays inside the lines enough to avoid disciplinary action? Are they those moral sappers who stir up anger in other team members, who refuse to play by the rules or have negative attitudes? There are those bullies, who like dominating conversations and manipulating people in order to get what they want. Or those that challenge every decision that comes from the authorities? How about those that spread office gossip? The list is endless but if the employee’s professional conduct does not help you to get results then they may fall in this category. If not handled properly most managers unfortunately find themselves being held hostage to these employees spending a lot of their thoughts and emotional energy on them and less on the rest. The following techniques could help managers in handling difficult employees.

  1. Listening

One of the fasted ways to try and understand these employees is to give them an audience. What is key is to be in the right frame of mind as dealing with difficulty employees can be stressful and result in tempers flaring. Sit with them in private and ask why they behave the way they do. Solicit for their perception about the organisation, department and your leadership style. Take this opportunity to point their role in the team and how their behaviour is affecting the productivity/moral/ outlook of the entire team. This interaction may uncover real underlying problems which the manager must then look into. Always offer support rather than threats.

  1. Giving clear behavioural feedback

It is always best to tell the employee what they should do differently. It may be very difficult though when dealing with the bullies, who normally are domineering and always manipulative. The strategy used when dealing with this type of employee is to ensure that you contain   employee’s defensiveness by giving them specific areas where they needed to improve. Such people always know how to play their games very well. The person would appear very understanding just to make sure they are not found wanting in the area of insubordination. They would go on to invoke other attributes found in difficult employees - gossiping! A difficult employee will use every interaction to whine about the smallest incident. Always tell them that the issue does not need sympathisers but rather a solution to show them that you know their next move. If there are solutions to be developed, do so together and unless you agree on a solution together the inappropriate behaviour will not change.

These first two techniques are very important as having a private discussion with difficult employees will convey management’s concern about their behaviour.  

  1. Documenting

Great managers should learn to document all their communication with difficult employees. Whenever there are significant problems with such an employee learn to write down the key points. Documenting records is not negative but prudent. When talking to them always try and repeat what would have been discussed and get the assurance from the employee.

  1. Be consistent

In most cases employees look to see what you do more than what you say. As a manager always set standards you are actually willing to hold to and then hold to them.

  1. State the ultimate if things do not change

If things continue unchanged, good managers get specific and where necessary start working with deadlines.

  1. Where there is misconduct, follow laid down procedures. Where necessary engage HR to ensure you know exactly what must be done. This is also an opportunity to critically look at the breadth of the organisation’s policies, standards and procedures on desired conduct by employees.
  2. Along the process, make sure you do not poison the well. All too often poor managers bad mouth the problem employee to all. It makes you look weak and unprofessional and resultantly pollute the perceptions of other employees.
  3. Performance management will help identify gaps and when done properly proffer solutions such as training needs.
  4. Be courageous

As managers, firing someone is the hardest thing a manager has to do so. If it gets to that point, do it right. The best manager does the tough things impeccably.

Every time when dealing with such employees it is important that we   focus on the behaviour and not the person. Always yearn for a solution and not to ‘win.’ The shared techniques together with the provisions of labour laws on grievance handling procedures will keep a manager from getting sucked into an endless vortex of ineffectiveness and frustration.

Problem employees are not just an aggravation. They can be a real business liability. To become an effective leader, you need to identify problem employees and confront their behaviour.

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 technology has influenced HR practices

Technology has made the world smaller and faster. With its ideas and massive amount of information are in constant movement. Managers and HR managers included are faced with a challenge to make sense and good use of what technology offers. Managers have been urged to stay ahead of the information curve, learning to leverage information for business results.

To begin with, the internet and email have shortened the recruitment process. Adverts are now accessed by a phenomenal number of job seekers. As HR managers we need to ensure that our target markets have access to our chosen advertising channels and that the systems are user friendly. Candidates can now easily access information about prospective employers and do not necessarily have to be physically present for interviews. Success stories, photos and blogs are being used by job seekers to find out more about a company. One of the challenges here is how then do we make the playing field level when candidates applying for the same job are interviewed on different platforms. Face to face interviews may allow candidates to score good impression points such as coming in early, greeting everyone they meet, a firm handshake etc., over video or telephone interviews.

Technological elements like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have opened doors to a whole new world of possibilities for the human capital space. In today’s business environment, AI has made recruitment smarter. Recruiting new employees is generally a time consuming and costly process. With the advent of AI, finding skilled people has been made easier. Technological interventions that have hit the market have ranged from automated resume screening to robot interviewing and all have provided people who are a logical fit. AI has therefore freed up recruiters to focus more on conducting soft skills and culture fit evaluations.

Internal and external information dissemination has also been made easy by advancements in technology. Formal and social platforms are used by organisations. Social media has become a good source to know what current and potential employees are saying about your company. Because of its wide spread use, the social media has become an ideal platform to engage employees, build relationships and bolster communication in the workspace. There is however need to balance electronic communication with face to face interactions. HR departments have adopted the use of technology to gather information on employee engagement and cultural norms. However, experience has shown that employees perceive face to face interactions as management’s commitment to employee participation in matters that affect them and as such good HR managers will try and balance their approach.

Another interesting change that has been brought about by technological advancement is flexi time and flexi place. Employees have access to their work even outside the work place and beyond the traditional working hours. Is this now the norm and nature of the 21st century work life or HR practitioners should look into structuring flexi time?

Technology has now streamlined the performance management process. HR will see new levels of data competency due to the rapid and widespread adoption of people analytics that will help managers and executives to make decisions about the workforce. The data to be pulled from these analytics, they say will be used to create actionable insights that will support data driven decisions also around compensation, promotions development and succession planning.

HR information can now be digitalised. Most HR professionals are using what is known as big data powers. Big data is helping HR to understand current and prospective employees, labour market trends and new HR management concepts and practice. When integrated with other technologies Big Data helps to gain deep insights and allows HR professionals to make decisions powered by vital information. Big data gives HR Managers fact-based view of the current workforce and helps them to identify emerging trends.

Technology has significantly reduced time spent on administrative work by HR professionals, allowing them to focus on strategic issues. HR software systems which support the wok life cycle of employees and interface with payroll and benefits systems and are increasingly dominating the current HR landscape. The cloud technology is inevitable in today’s business space. Collection, data storage and dissemination have been difficult until the evolution of the cloud. With the advent of cloud technologies all information such as documents can be easily accessed online. Employee information can be archived and organised in secure locations.

Globally artificial intelligence has started to outperform human beings at making hiring decisions in certain areas such as the evaluation of hard skills. Broadly technology has helped businesses to eliminate silos and bridge gaps. Talent management processes have become better. Intellectual webs to manage specific tasks are a reality these day and organisations have radically changed the way they do businesses dramatically increasing their financial profits.

In conclusion, these technological advancements have helped the HR function to be streamlined and efficient, and have not ultimately taken away key HR management skills such as listening, motivating, impartiality, conflict solving skills, an ethical approach to assessing staff issues on a case by case basis but ensuring consistency etc.

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 resolve conflict in organisations

Leaders often speak of team management; how we manage teams to be more effective and to create a healthy environment in which employees thrive, but rarely have we openly discussed how different personalities in the workplace influence the balance of team work and those dynamics that result in conflict. Despite all the best efforts, there are some common workplace conflicts that are impossible to avoid.

These are a reality and being prepared to resolve them as quickly as possible is much more real. Workplace conflict is a result of multiple factors like job dissatisfaction, cultural differences personal aspirations and ambiguous jurisdiction etc. The latter is more difficult to manage. Usually it occurs when individuals have responsibilities that are interdependent but with work boundaries and roles not clearly specified. Ambiguous jurisdiction automatically ropes in power which is one of the core elements of conflict. Power if used efficiently can create an atmosphere of cooperation but can generate conflict when misused, withheld and amassed.

Research has shown that power is a prevalent source of conflict especially where the leadership misuse it. In organisations today some leaders are using power to eliminate people who control their moves, like misusing organisational funds and not wanting to be held accountable. Most employees have unjustifiably lost jobs because they asked a leader to account for their actions. Usually where personal gain is thwarted, conflict becomes the order of the day and usually subordinates fall prey to their bosses.

When   scholars talk of conflict management, they will be referring to the techniques and practises a good leader should embraces to manage conflict. Despite the negative connotations associated with workplace conflict, apt leaders need to turn these around to the advantage of them and business. Doing so requires the skills and art as well as that sense of fairness necessary to bring any two opposite sides to a compromise to work on their differences in a civilised manner. Leaders need to   always introspect their leadership style and work on areas needing change as foremost.

Employees' cultural differences, backgrounds and beliefs can sometimes be sources of conflict. This should not come as a surprise because workplace diversity besides being a favourite buzz word in organisations can be a source of conflict. Always resolve such by reminding people of their similarities instead of accentuating all the ways in which they differ. It has been observed that diverse cognitive preferences can cause tremendous tension in any group yet innovation requires that cross fertilisation of ideas. Business forms today are built on systems rather than standalone pieces and mostly many business projects cannot proceed without the cooperation of people.

Conflict may also not become public but expressed behind the scenes. As best practice, spot out possible disputes and tensions by reading employee behaviours. Some people may be evidently depressed or stressed out but without an enabling mechanism to talk over issues. Watch out for corridor gossips looking out for those cliques that may be whispering to each other in the corridors. When you try to get close, they normally disband quickly.

Shouting is another obvious sign of friction as people audibly express themselves. If employees are becoming more and more agitated you might want to discover their irritability and avoid future problems. During staff meetings look out for staff who do not want to communicate or those who avoid eye contact. Personality traits are awfully common among employees regardless of position. Such a conflict can be a result of a mistaken perception of a co-worker‘s attitude. 

Managers need to be reminded all businesses are embracing innovation as a valuable contribution in business. These different thinking and communication styles inherent in business provide an enabling environment for innovation. Leaders should therefore take the sting out of the intellectual disagreements that may turn personal.  It should be a cultural practice in organisations that employees appreciate that another person‘s approach is not being wrongheaded or stubborn   but merely key elements for diversity. Learning to diffuse anger is a best practice to appreciate your left brained employees and accordingly switch your gears. Learn to understand that someone’s different   view of a problem is not suicidal. An important element is to understand the different thinking styles   and recognising that no one style is inherently better than the other. Each styles brings a uniquely valuable perspective to the process of innovation. Teams need to be open to alien views of the world mindful that these might enhance their own. Teach employees to listen to the ‘aha’ at the intersection of different planes of thoughts.

One paradox to modern management is that in the midst of technological and social change which are so pervasive and rapid almost appearing like out of pace with the rhythm of nature, the human personality has not altered. People have always had distinct preferences in their approaches.  Manage in a way to understand these differences.

Today’s complex business products demand integrating the expertise of individuals who do not innately understand one another. Conflict therefore needs managing in a way that creates constructive impulses of different individuals. 

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