Articles

How to prepare an organisation for change

In today’s business environment with so much uncertainty, it is certain that if organisations do not change, they risk closing shop. Depending on industry of operation, change can be triggered by a number of things. In the development sector, changes in a planning periods for example, end of a quadrennial plan can trigger changes when businesses will have to focus on new areas in response to the global trends or other millennial development goals. In the manufacturing sector, the need to satisfy customers more may be a trigger while in the banking sector; technological advancements have become constant drivers of change.

It has been observed that in response to the various change drivers, Managers are known for melding multiple functions in response to new business needs. There is an assumption by some Managers that a change in one structure will naturally create a common understanding of a collective responsibility that will result in the needed change. The procedural requirement is that managers need to define the type of collaboration they want to achieve, let alone the means to be employed to encourage such collaboration. Consider an example of a company that restructured its Procurement and Manufacturing by melding the two functions into a team responsible for the entire process from price quotation to delivery. In this case managers only broadened the jobs of these two Departments but did not create the enabling environment necessary for the merger. Resultantly Procurement continued to spend their time buying parts and manufacturing continued with the designing and manufacturing of products. As a result, the two groups did not feel jointly responsible. Such a situation is not unusual. There is a tendency when implementing business changes to underestimate the difficulty of breaking the functional mindset. Often a lot of time and money is spent defining which tasks the changed units should perform and which people should be assigned to those units to drive change. Relatively, little thought is given to reconfiguring the work space, redesigning jobs, imparting new skills/knowledge required and restructuring procedures to encourage collaboration and collective responsibility as well as aligning performance management systems to the new configuration. Managers also give little thoughts to their own jobs despite doing away with functions. Under such change processes, some Managers continue to act as Functional Chiefs even though the functions no longer formally exist.

Can any major change be effected without taking a closer look at the organisational culture? Remember collective responsibility is an attitude, a value and concern. Change is not linear. It is not a top down thing; it should happen from every angle of the organisation. Change is a personal decision; people do not want to be changed by others. Changes happen from within.

Culture change implementation becomes easy if organisations introduce clearly stated outcome-based performance criteria. Individuals will need to be periodically invited for milestone review meetings. Such processes will go a long way in making employees feel collectively responsible for producing the outcomes required.

An international research done in USA showed that companies reap greater benefits by strengthening the ties among their functions than bringing a lot of changes that lack a collaborated culture. The same research has focussed on four critical means to building a collaborative culture. Making responsibilities overlap: 1) organisations should do this by designing jobs with a relatively broad range of duties as well as assigning people to multiple teams and rotating assignments. If skills are not made to overlap an organisation will end up with a set of specialised jobs by default, inadvertently creating the same problems that bedevil organisations with units operating in silos.

2) Base rewards on unit performance: these may take the form of bonuses or non-financial recognitions. Rewarding unit performance is important because it prevents employees from placing their individual needs above the team. 3) Change the physical layout: work layout can either prohibit or promote collective responsibility. Units with layouts that permit people to see others work had faster cycle times than those that did not. Layouts also help information sharing and the trying out of new ideas openly.

4) Redesign work procedures: in a research done on culture change, researchers asked employees to tell them what extent their units’ formal or informal work procedures encouraged them to share ideas, involving everyone who would be affected by that decision and also, they will help others do their work.

As part of the culture change process managers should practically be committed to change by making themselves available for informal discussions for example in the canteen with all interested employees.

In conclusion, notably for any business change process there is no single cookie cutter. It also does not matter how many different methods are used. Managers need not be overly influenced by what others did but should ask their own employees what they would need in order to work well together. Change is effective when it’s tailor made for an organisation. Finally, communication must be at the heart of any change initiative, to ensure staff buy-in, ownership of the process and to encourage a participatory approach.

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

The significance of job titles

Over the years I have learnt not to take job titles at face value. Ideally job titles should accent the scope, responsibilities and hierarchies within an organisation as well as show reporting relationships of staff members, but I have come across job titles that are completely divorced from job content.

There are job titles that describe the scope of responsibility e.g. managerial roles would have terms such as Executive, Manager, Chief. Some reflect what the job does e.g. Dealer, Breeder, Accountant and other job titles are a combination of the afore-mentioned e.g. Chief Dealer, Senior Breeder, Marketing Executive. Some large organisations have found it manageable and transparent to design a formal set of job titles for each employment level. Employees are fully aware of various career paths within the organisation. The importance of job title is amplified by a recent survey of office workers revealed that 70% would choose a better job title over a salary rise. Why do job titles matter that much?

Job titles define our identity, self-esteem, status and hierarchy. This is precisely the reason most people hold on to titles, they will be seeking their fair share of recognition. Job titles have also been used to determine the progression in one’s career. Colleagues, customers and other stakeholders can determine an individual influence- real and implied from their job title. Colleagues and customers are therefore guided by job titles to know who to approach with challenges and where to gather important information. Job titles are also essential for attracting the right candidates for recruitment.

After defining job titles and how they influence their carriers, work relationships and the external stakeholders, are organisations crafting them properly? There are organisations that have used titles painfully, where they have created toxicity rather than clarity. Job titles have been used to constructively dismiss employees. Getting a bigger title equals being part of the selected few. This is why those in the C-suite suffer letting go their titles. In most environments titles like power, create attachment. Due care must therefore be exercised when crafting job titles.

However, despite all the perceptions and practices associated with a job title, William Wells Brown said, People in organisations do not follow titles. They follow courage. He thinks titles or promotion per se are not a problem. It’s how these titles are used in organisations as bargaining chips that matters. At whatever level people need respect. Most people in organisations are going off trade by confusing hierarchy and respect.

Let me also mention the entrancing intricate approach to job titles by the Japanese. There is more of a gradual ascension to higher titles that might not have a clear relationship with ones KPIs because of their emphasis on seniority, equality- not equity and mutual respect. The individuals who rise to the C-suite are usually very polite and mingle with all subordinates.

There have been calls to get rid of titles. A CEO at Citrix, an international organisation thinks that if traditional titles are done away with and instead organisations use titles that speak to the roles played by an individual this will provides more clarity. He says it also opens possibilities as people can play more than one role compared to traditional titles that put one in a box. There a growing new trend of inviting employees to supplement or craft their official titles. However, caution should not be thrown to the wind as some titles will leave your client in amused confusion. Research has found that creative titles can be very effective as engagement and job satisfaction increases. Millennials are more appealed by such titles as they see the company as technologically advanced, flexible, innovative and empowering its employees. Some creative titles that have replaced traditional titles are Meeter Greeter for Receptionist, Associate Teacher for Temporary Teacher and Automobile Propulsion Specialist for Driver. Notwithstanding the diverse views herein it is impossible to find organisations where all members have equal status and power. Even among animals, hierarchies are evident after minutes of observation and when a group of strangers meet for the first time a hierarchy of leaders and followers emerges immediately. There is need for job titles that reflect the right hierarchy in organisations. These can be made flexible in some way. Teams should be treated as adults in organisations who should define what is best for them.

Using titles as valuable currency leads managers to hold on to the illusion of power and always wanting to protect their turfs. Protecting turfs naturally closes one to new ideas and any challenges. As a best practice titles should promote clarity not power. People should know who to speak to when something is needed. The development sector is one sector where gigantic titles do not exist and titles are used strictly for clarity and never as a bargaining chip.

In conclusion job titles should reinforce your organisation’s belief and values in employees’ potential. Job titles should therefore be motivational and empowering. Clearly, the subject of job titles depends on what organisations have used them for and best practice requires that organisations renounce the toxic mentality.

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 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

Effective ways of dealing with underperforming employees

Over the years companies have restructured, downsized and delayered which has resulted in employees feeling distanced, detached, disillusioned and even cynical. Too often layoffs have been the aftermath of grand corporate visions that promised personal opportunities. Resultantly, organisations have touted the partnerships they have with their employees inevitably driving employees to non-commitment to their jobs because they are not convinced that the future holds new opportunities for them.

Disengaged, unfocussed and underperforming employees can sap the life of any business. Conversely, when managed correctly, employees can become an organisation’s greatest asset. Astute business is not the sole responsibility of the individual staff, but rather something that both parties need to work on together. Businesses need to note that an employee behaviour is a cause for concern remembering that at one point this individual was hired on his /her skills, application and attitude. Instead of writing people off, business leaders need to critically consider their approach to people management and figure out how to help floundering employees getting re-engaged once more.

Cognisant also that under performance by other team members can bring down morale and affect the overall goals of a business. It is important and fair for both the supervisor and the underperforming employee to find a solution to the issue.

First and foremost, it is prudent to ask yourself as the manager whether you have explicitly told the employee what is expected of them. Also does the concerned employee understand the repercussions of their underperformance? At times the employee is not even aware that they are underperforming, then in such a situation go for education rather than confrontation. An emotional confrontation helps nobody as neither you nor the underperforming will benefit from loaded accusations and questions. When doing so, always maintain your calm and collecting your thoughts is essential.

Before delving into the issues, be prepared and gather as much evidence as possible so that you have facts. Avoid vague comments like,’ you are not doing a good job”, rather be specific and avoid speaking in broad terms. Quantifying the goals to be achieved will help make them clearer and easier to evaluate. Remember what gets measured gets done!

A great technique in managing underperforming employee is to ask them how you as a manager can help them perform better. Such an approach may allow them to open up about what they need while framing it around general terms. . In underperformance discussions it is advisable that a manager listens 80% and talk 20% and a collective approach helps an employee feel valued.

Work on their performance goals, doing so together. It is very tactful when dealing with underperforming employees to include them in creating individual performance targets. Ask them how they would like to improve and what they would like to achieve and any new skills needed to assist them. Create a collaborative environment with them and set SMART performance goals. Ask leading questions such as what should we do together to overcome these performance issues. By so doing you will be encouraging better buy in to the performance goals than you simply dictating what you expect. In the development plan, incorporate follow up processes. Great manager always follow up with employees after a discussion on performance. Once these performance goals have been agreed, ensure to regularly monitor progress. Most people will appreciate this structure at work and respect your due diligence. If you show an interest in the work of your employees it can significantly boost a company’s culture and morale.

In the event of improvement, reward them. A sure-fire method to alienate your employees is to ask for improvements and never show appreciation for the work done to date. Continue to provide feedback on performance and reward them when it is relevant with financial incentives or more responsibilities. Often a simple mention of “thank you’ or well done” goes a long a way. If there are still evident traits of underperformance, you need to address this behaviour as soon as possible. This will ensure your underperforming employee to know that you are serious and won’t tolerate continual underperformance.

Organisation should note that it is good to deal with underperforming employees as the signal is send to the rest of the team. Those other non-underperforming employees will see the repercussions as well as avoiding the performers to go into the same slackening   mode.

At one stage or another, just every manager has inevitable task of letting someone go. This is never ideal and should always be treated as a last resort. It is after all, better for the team and the business holding onto an under achieving employee as separation decisions can result in a ripple effect of negativity, low morale and poor quality of work.

In conclusion, some of the preceding underperformance problems emanate from recruitment processes. It is worthy looking beyond qualifications and technical skills. Cultural fit has become a key consideration too. Employees are more engaged in organisations that give some autonomy in decision making, personal development and a sense of purpose in the fulfilment of the organisation’s goals.

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