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What do high performaning organisations have in common

Don Yeager said “Great teams are connected to a great purpose.” It is only when an organisation displays this level of connectivity that it can be called high performing. This connectivity leads to high sustainable achievements and generally it does great things.

High performing organisations (HPOs) rely on their team architectures to achieve excellence. Such organisational teams embrace and live certain elements of business and exude these as part of their working culture. HPOs have clearly defined “whys” of business. Teams that understand this precept of a business perform exceedingly. Quite often this is an aspect of business that is often misunderstood to be meaning a company’s mission statement or code of ethics. An organisational “why” needs to come before anything else hence the adage, "People don’t buy what you do, and they buy why someone does it. When teams understand the philosophy and purpose behind the why of an organisation, they will have made it. Understanding the ‘why’ helps an organisation to directly tap into the pulse of key stakeholders. When this is enculturated in the business, organisations create a powerful sense of duty and purpose in their teams because they are in it together.

HPOs start this intent from their recruitment processes. This organisational culture shapes their recruitment. They recruit the best talent that fits into the organisational purpose. In HPOs hiring managers do not just end with impressive candidate curriculum vitae before them. They must demonstrate a job fit, thriving within the established team culture adding value to it. HPOs are cognisant that a candidate may thrive in one environment but not the other hence they offer support through mentoring and coaching instilling their core principles. For HPOs, the talent of the employee is important, but fit trumps all. It therefore follows that over and above being wowed by a decorated resume, organisations need to work on developing the coherence of their team.   Promoting a spirit of camaraderie and a sense of collective direction is one of their doctrines.

HPOs promote a performance culture that is supported by a fair and consistent recognition system. Employees are clear of they role in a team and organisation. They therefore, have autonomy to operate within their scope and ultimately will take ownership of choices made as they do their work.

HPOs use positive communication that inspires, motivates and encourages which is a very important tenet to greatness. Not only do they use open communication as means to high performance but also it is a tool to reinforce and enhance organisational values. Some of their endeavours are to thrive in a win –win environment. Organisations being considered high performing the likes of Wal-Mart and Starbuck have embraced this criteria for effectives which has apparently seen them rise sharply in recent years. They communicate openly with their employees that they need employees who think constantly and creatively about the needs of the organisations, employees with as much intrinsic motivation and a deep sense of organisational stewardship as any company executive.

Such organisations have and develop great leaders. They have developed leaders with the agility to move from strategic intent to corporate purpose. Think of Ryoichi Kawai who succeeded his father as president of Komatsu, he had a clear corporate purpose which he articulated and shared with his team, ‘to catch up with and surpass Caterpillar’. Being part of the imperatives for high performance  yearly Kawai would define clear and specific operating priorities which would be translated into detailed action plans through the PDCA (plan, do, check, act). Additional to defining clear action plans, Komatsu worked on capturing its employee’s attention and interest. It defined the business objectives so that they had a personal meaning where every individual extracted their most basic sense of purpose even for their personal fulfilment which they derived from being part of an organisation. Komatsu was mindful that institutions like churches, communities and even families that once provided individuals with identity, meaning, affiliation and support were eroding. They then provided a platform that substituted these social institutions, not by just viewing employees as workers but as belonging to the organisation. This was buttressed by the leadership that established and maintained links with each employee giving meaning to their lives. To Komatsu employees were not a cost to be controlled but an asset to be developed, hence they won their commitment.

Other key deliverables for HPOs is embracing and adapting to change, and strong, flexible and user-friendly ICT systems. They are cognisant that they have to constantly innovate otherwise they fall behind. The impetus for change is not just about leadership, it’s for all. Leaders build this sense of readiness to meet challenges in their employees. Everyone is made a change champion with change starting with each one.

Underpinning these principles and practices are also the supportive foundations they have made integral to their business e.g. processes, assets and all the soft stuff. They all matter in their organisations.

HPOs ensure they sustain their earned names simply by behaving like great athletes; they continually strive to improve and work on their game.

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

Corporate mergers: A blessing or curse for employees

In simple terms, a merger is when one company agrees to combine with another to cut costs, getting access to certain markets or reducing competition. From a business point of view, benefits of such mergers can be manifold in view of the ever-changing market boundaries and elusive business targets in the contemporary business world. Corporate mergers have become a critical task for management to create organisations capable of infusing products with irresistible functionality or better still, creating products that are needed by end users.

Whilst the business case for mergers is often well articulated, this is clearly a deceptive difficult task requiring radical change in management of an organisation. What is harder to see or even harder to acknowledge is how the added momentum to companies actually impacts on employees. Top American companies NEC and GTE are one of many such comparative cases that were analysed to understand the changing basis for such a merger in the 1970s. NEC articulated a strategic intent to exploit the convergence of computing and communications and called it ‘C&C’. Management adopted the appropriate strategic architecture which C&C communicated to the whole organisation and the outside world during the mid 70s.

However, years later it was evident that no strategic intent and architecture appear to exist at C&C. Although senior executives discussed the implications of the evolving technology industry, no commonly accepted view of which competencies would be required to compete in that industry were communicated widely. While significant work was done to identify key technologies, managers continued to act as if they were managing independent business units. Problems to do with job stress, role conflict and frustration erupted among staff.

The C&C scenario revealed that poor management of the prerequisites of mergers have an impact on employees. Mergers have served as positive significant predictors of staff morale. On the other hand, working environment corporate governance policies have had a significant effect on staff significance zeal to take up new tasks, employee engagement retention and job satisfaction.

For that reason, the study concluded that mergers have a significant effect on staff morale. If you are a staff member you have got two things to worry about. Losing your job: There is no merger without layoffs because there are always redundancies when companies combine. Second worry to employees is that of losing their minds. A merger can be well thought out and executed or the strategists can be mindless resulting in time, resource and energy wastages. With most mergers an intense battle for control likely ensues. The excess staffs from each of the company are going to challenge each other for the right to remain in the new organisation and sometime it isn’t that good. True to the cliché, that a happy worker is a productive worker, that’s a cliché for a reason. Instead of delivering on the new mandate most of the employees start fights which are counterproductive. Such touts of wars impact on the workers mostly who will either take sides or find themselves involved in the brawls aimed at protecting turfs.

In addition to these tangles, there is a big challenge of corporate culture when a merger happens. Whose culture will prevail; think of NEC and GTE mentioned above. They ended up being run as two separate entities instead. There is need to be alert to the cultural and social issues and try to keep their sanity which is rarely done. Workers have in the majority been caught in the cross fire. For example, one employee was shocked when they were told one day that they were wearing a wrong pair of shoes. According to whom they wondered! For mergers to be successful, there is also a need to focus on training all employees to be aware of the new processes, procedures and policies and again employees often find themselves in the hullabaloo.

Employees feel that mergers need to fully prepare staff for a cultural shift. More often than not the new culture impacts negatively on employees because they will not have been enculturated into it. Such uncertainty has often led employees to seek employment elsewhere or other employees to take an unmotivated attitude.

Employees often bemoan lack of communication on the new company’s vision and mission. If changes are mapped out in a clear manner, it keeps them informed, reduces uncertainty and minimises disruption. Employees feel doing it may even help them view the changes as positive.

Clearly mergers are not the most optimal time for employees. The time is filled with uncertainty even on new employment terms, new management style and competences required in the new organisation. Employees would want management to set aside time to discuss issues and seek clarity over roles and responsibilities. They feel there is not enough recognition and rewarding for employees in their roles of managing change. Employees feel that such rewards do not have to be in the form of bonuses but can be small gifts or recognition among peers. They would want time set aside for them to connect with the new organisation.

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

Quality circles an important but often overlooked initiative

Quality Circles were conceived in Japan in 1962 as a forum for discussing ways to improve quality of products. Typically, 8-10 employees including the Supervisor from the same workshop doing similar work join together as a group with clear objectives to improve quality, productivity and safety.

Team norms like listening to each other and feeling comfortable even in the face of disagreements and taking their decisions by consensus are adhered to. The major deliverable of the leader is not to dominate the group neither do they want to control but focus on how to get the job done. A Quality Circle will not tire until a solution is found. Where possible the employees will implement the solutions themselves. Clearly, they aim at giving a chance to employees to use their own wisdom and creativity in order to fulfil their self-esteem and motivational needs.

Management and employees world over have come up with more or less the same initiatives to improve organisational performance and the needed sense of business ownership by employees. Quality circles call for problem identification, solving and analysis from the employees who experience the problem. There is value in training Quality Circle members to equip them with these skills. Akin to Quality Circles is what is known as Intellectual webs/Spider webs. The main role of these webs is to tackle problems by making use of self-organising networks. These may be configured when problems become more complex and less well defined, such that no one person or group of people from the same department may know exactly what the full dimensions are and where key issues may ultimately reside. Typically, a spider web aims at bringing people together quickly to solve a particular problem then disbands just as quickly once the job is done.

The power of these spider webs is their interconnectedness which is so great that even with a modest number of collaborating professionals (8-10) a spider web can leverage knowledge capabilities by hundreds of times. The number of between 8-10 professionals was coincidentally used for quality circles.

Closer home, the popularity of these knowledge networks is mostly used in the developmental sector. Most international organisations and non-governmental organisations use and understand these networks to leverage professional intellect. Although these spider webs are generally very unique in their purpose, patterns and relationships, there is no single best way to manage them. International organisations using them leverage on technology to bring together highly diverse and geographically dispersed talents to work on a single assignment. These mostly become operational when calls for proposals with a wider geographical coverage are flighted. The same approach may be used in any organisation to harness diversity. The network mostly operates under a Supervisor whose responsibility is coordinating various activities and keeping the group focused on its objectives. Employees participating from the various Departments or geographical locations are free to use their wisdom and creativity. The Supervisor encourages team spirit and maintains a cohesive culture among the different participants. This structural arrangement resonates strongly with the original concept of quality circles although such networks may have other objectives as well. What most international organisations do is mostly to ensure success of a bid by leveraging on professional intellect through motivational measures. Spider webs used in this manner go beyond the current practice of managing the human intellect. Spider webs become the glue that joins together highly dispersed delivery centres by leveraging the critical knowledge base. Usually   when such bid is won, it does not end there. The same intellect that worked on the bid comes together again but maybe this time narrowed to a regional level to implement that project. Team members with different skills and experts come together for the implementation of the project. Once the project life comes to an end usually after a minimum of two years or a maximum period of five years, the team then disbands.

However, since no organisational form is a panacea, many different forms often coexist successfully in the same organisation. As an example, one team may be working on pain points while another team maybe working on improving service or product quality. What has been observed is that the proper use of each network helps organisations to harness and leverage its skills as well as deploying intellect for a different purpose.

Although quality circles as originally perceived in Japan have been modified and changed over the period, its central tenets have been infused in the more current networks where professionals are brought together for a purpose. The focus of such initiatives has become technology leverage, pain points in the face of tough competition and seamless service delivery.

It is my view; quality circles will continue to evolve but will still serve the same purpose to businesses. It is important to highlight that employee-initiated groups tend to have an informal approach, high interaction and are more solution focused than management-initiated groups. It is therefore important to encourage Quality Circles and allow employees to configure them, define their purpose and where possible allow them to implement the outcomes.

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

A systematic approach to talent management

I have often come across the term Talent Management stated as a critical driver of organisational success. But really what is it? Does it exist in our organisations or it’s a nice to have in our strategic narrative? Firstly, here is one of the commonly used definitions of talent ‘those individuals who make a difference to organisational performance either through their immediate contribution or in the long-term by demonstrating the highest level of potential’ Tinsley et. al. 2007.

It is, however, interesting to note that inclusivity is becoming a predominant talent philosophy resulting in talent being defined as all employees of an organisation. Once you have defined talent for your organisation your context of developing a Talent strategy becomes clear. This will also help in skilfully crafting a Talent strategy that is aligned to Organisational strategy which is the context within which Talent Management will take place.

Talent Management is about identifying/attracting, developing and retaining talent. At the heart of the most effective professional organisations are a handful of best practises for managing talent. Since people are at the heart of the organisation it is important to hire the right talent and keep them in sync with the firm’s business goals. Organisations should have a task of branding themselves to job aspirants. What we have experienced is organisations battling for talent that often move from one organisation to another after being offered higher perks. This is because organisations know that they need to leverage on talent because it creates successful organisations or make lesser one’s flourish. Exceptional talent like Albert Einstein put an organisation called Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study on the map. Marvin Bower essentially created McKinsey Company while Gordon Mooor spawned Intel. It is not coincidence that these organisations picked these top professionals that changed the faces of their businesses. There is need to make use of effective hiring methodologies to filter and get the right kind of talent for the organisation. Selected candidates need to fit perfectly into their roles as well as in the culture of the organisation.

Another key strategy to managing talent is early development. A human being’s know- how is developed most rapidly through repeated exposures to the complexity of real problems. On the job training, mentoring and peer pressure can catapult professionals to the top of their knowledge ziggurat. Additionally, effective performance management are critical when managing talent. With the advent of millennials, performance appraisals are evolving at a rapid pace. Millennials demand a process that is objective and continuous and this category of talent has placed so much hope in performance appraisals. They rightly want it used as both as an evaluative tool against set objectives as well as identifying their needed training, advancement while providing a forum to compete with peers. Evaluation and weeding are necessary in this regard.

Clearly, differentiated workforce management strategies become a prerequisite in managing talent for excellence. Under such strategies employees are likened to an investment portfolio where choices are made to invest in different areas depending on the likely returns that the investment would give after assessing the risk associated with the same. With some employees, organisations will need to constantly increase their professional challenges. The reason is because talent grows most when professionals buy into serious challenges. Gordon Moore at Intel, set stretch goals and almost doubled the number of components per chip each year.

Mentoring is another very good talent management technique as it helps employes in garnering   higher skills and move to the next level. By so doing employees feel a good sense of belonging. Also work on overcoming professionals’ reluctance to share information. Information sharing is critical because intellectual assets unlike physical assets increase in value with use. Properly stimulated knowledge and intellect grow exponentially when shared.

Organise your employees around exceptional talent. There is a tendency by each profession to regard itself as elite with certain social cultural values. This becomes a challenge that may get in the way of Talent Management and affect information sharing. In aid of achieving business goals despite the odds, use organisational connectedness techniques. Develop internal local area networks that link all your employees. Some organisations refer them to as knowledge networks. Such nets have often allowed for tapping into dormant capabilities. These also help problem solving capacities through centrally collected and carefully indexed subjects. Such high organisational connectedness   has been found to be effective in organisations. When organisations use such practices they would have embraced one of the key imperative to managing talent for excellence- embracing technology. Embracing technology in all aspects of a business plays a major role in facilitating all the aspects of business from hiring at the same time replacing all the traditional methods with real time and on-going pulse tools.

However, no one management approach is a panacea. Many different forms often co-exist successfully and if properly used each helps a company attract, harness, leverage and deploy talent for excellence. Each practice needs to be carefully developed with its norms and systems to support it.

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

Making effective employee selection decisions

The word “interview” is derived from the Latin language which means “see each other.” It is a process to get to know each other and also to select and recruit a candidate for a job. Thrill and Bovey (1987) refer to it as a planned conversation. Selection processes however take different styles and methods of assessing. It is an area organisations need to continuously improve in order to yield desired results.

Organisations mostly employ the use of quantitative and qualitative interviews approaches which may be complimented by use of either the consensus approach or other approaches. Quantitative interviews make use of numerical values to evaluate participants’ response. Methods like psychometric testing fall into this category and usually they contain close ended questions that are delivered in the same format and order to every respondent. Qualitative interviews are mostly useful for explaining individual differences between participant’s experiences and outcomes. Participants through qualitative interviews are allowed to describe their responses using their own words as opposed to being restricted to predetermined categories. Though each method has its own pros and cons, businesses should be cognisant of the nitty - gritties of each if they are to increase chances of effective selection.

Unlike conversations in daily life which are usually reciprocal exchanges, professional interviews involve interviewers who are in charge of structuring and directing the questions. However, it is the selection skills of panellists that determine the calibre of the candidate picked.

Qualitative interviews method allows the candidates to reveal their level of emotions, the way in which they have organised the world, their thoughts about what is happening, their experiences and basic perceptions. Mostly the tasks of the interviewer is to provide a framework within which the candidate can respond in a way that represents accurately and thoroughly to their point of view about the job. Interviewers have the flexibility to use their knowledge, expertise and other skills to explore interesting or unexpected ideas raised by the participants. With this approach a participant may say more than intended. Conversely an interviewer maybe reactive to such responses as well as personalities, moods and other interpersonal dynamics between parties.

The challenge with this approach comes when the interviewers attach a numerical value to these responses. Compared to interviews based on standardised measures, qualitative assessments are prone to a number of intervening variables. Organisations need to make sure that all participants who have this role of conducting interviews have the prerequisite skills and experience to do so. Analysing and interpreting qualitative interviews is more subjective. Training interviewers who conduct interviews is therefore key.

Of importance in any selection process is what is known as inter ratter reliability. Any organisation needs to ensure adequate levels that strive for accuracy and consistency in assessments. The prevalent practice has been to iron out the inconsistencies by making use of averages. On a panel of say eight ratters, we need to critically understand what makes one ratter give the same candidate a 5/5 for a response while another ratter gives a 1/5 for the same response. Training may be the answer and experience in interviewing is also critical. There is need to make use of the internal ratter reliability method to measure the degree of agreement among ratters. Instead of just using the averaging method, consider the need to start calculating the number of ratings that are in agreement. It is quite an easy method which if used will yield better results. Consider the example below:

Candidate

Ratter 1

Ratter 2

Ratter 3

Ratter 4

Ratter 5

Agreement

1

2

2

2

2

2

1

2

2

1

3

4

5

0

3

1

0

5

4

3

0

4

3

3

3

4

3

1

                                                                                                                                                2/4

From the interviewed four candidates ratters would have consistently agreed on their assessment of two candidates. To make use of this tool, there is also a need to set rules of thumb for what percentage agreement shows a high agreement and a low agreement. If for instance panellists agree on 90% agreement level at least there is all reason to go ahead with the recruitment. The establishment of an organisational intra ratter reliability score helps organisations to see the consistency in ratings given by ratters across multiple instances. The intra rate reliability shows the degree of agreement among ratters. If various ratters do not agree, it is an indication that ratters are not able to pick the candidate’s attributes consistently. Effective selection takes place when ratters are more like automatons, behaving more like rating machines. By so doing they behave like independent witnesses who demonstrate their independence by disagreeing slightly. Candidates   1 and 3 from the table demonstrate that aptitude in panellists.

The need to focus on ratter reliability represents the extent to which the data collected is a correct representation of the variables being measured. Measurement then shows the extent to which ratters assigned the same score to the same variable.

In view of these glaring highlights organisations should seriously think about the inherent cons of averaging candidates out if the right candidate is to be offered the job ultimately.

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