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Tactical Decisions to Achieve Your Learning & Development Strategic Goals
You’ve worked hard all year to effectively manage your team, leadership, coaching, and other talent development/management programs, thinking strategically to address pressing issues as they arise while gearing your workforce for the future. You’ve planned programs, instituted new systems, even changed your usual practices to meet the new demands of this economy, ever in flux and demanding. Sometimes, though, it’s the simple things, things that you may take for granted, that can mean the difference between a program or initiative’s success and the need for a do-over.
In this post, we'll focus on some tactical questions that can spell success for your well-planned strategies. We’ll examine the pros and cons of each question, so you can weigh the possibilities against your own circumstances, putting just the right touch in place for your particular environment and culture. 
The first is a question our clients frequently ask whether planning a workshop or a series of facilitated sessions as part of a blended learning solution.
When designing face-to-face learning, how many facilitators are optimal?
Simple question? Yes. But dig deeper and you will find that the decision yields more questions that will have a greater impact than you may initially imagine. 
To address this question, we looked to fundamental facilitation best practices, then surveyed AJO's Senior Consultants/Facilitators for their experience and insights. Here are some implications for each for your program planning consideration.
First, what is the role of a facilitator?
Long-time facilitation expert and one of the co-founders of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), Gary Rush, defines facilitation this way:
“Facilitation is the process of making something easier. A Facilitator is a content-neutral person who guides the group to a consensus using effective processes to enable a group to make effective decisions while supporting a collaborative and respectful environment that encourages full participation and helps groups overcome barriers to accomplishing their task. The Facilitator is responsible for the context.”
If we accept this definition, when do you need a facilitator or co-facilitators? A facilitated event may be used to guide participants or team members through a structured process to complete a defined purpose. You may find that a facilitated process is the best solution for any of the following and more:
  • When you need a group to reach consensus
  • When you need a group to accomplish a specific task within a specific timeframe
  • When you need multiple ideas
  • When you need to gather and analyze data or information then make a decision
  • When you need to resolve group or team conflict
  • When you need to establish, grow and cement relationships of a newly formed team
  • When you need to help a team become unstuck
The bottom line, facilitation is about helping people collaborate, to work better together, to make better decisions, solve problems or complete a task more effectively than they may do on their own. It is about managing the milieu and the dynamics of the group to ensure the best possible outcome in reaching a strategic goal.
That’s a tall order, given the diverse personalities and perspectives that any group may embody.
Facilitator Core Skills
So, what are the core skills a facilitator must possess in order to adequately manage both the process and the interactions inherent in any group activity?
According to the International Association of Facilitators, a facilitator must be able to accomplish the following:
  • Create collaborative client relationships
  • Plan appropriate group processes
  • Create and sustain a participatory environment
  • Guide the group to appropriate and useful outcomes
  • Build and maintain professional knowledge
  • Model a positive professional attitude
Each of these competencies contains several specific and essential skills that you can find in the IAF Facilitator Core Competencies (click the image on the right to launch the PDF). 
AJO's Expert Facilitators Weigh In
Knowing the level of expertise that is essential to facilitate a positive outcome, the question of whether to use one facilitator or two is more complex than it originally seems. We surveyed our AJO Senior Consultants/Facilitators to gain some insight from their experience facilitating our programs and close to 30 of them responded.
Each of them had experience facilitating solo and co-facilitating with another. Here are some of their insights highlighted through our survey.  
Setting aside the practical budget considerations that may drive a facilitation decision for a program, 41% of AJO Senior Consultants/Facilitators were flexible about facilitating solo or co-facilitating. Only 10% indicated a preference for facilitating alone, while 24% expressed a preference for working with a co-facilitator. Almost one-quarter (24%) suggested that it would depend on the circumstances of the program.
When queried on what a facilitation decision would depend, Senior Consultants/Facilitators cited logistics, including the size of the group, length of the program, and complexity of the content as primary considerations. Business and budget imperatives and the facilitator relationship with the group, the need to rapidly build trust, and facilitator subject matter expertise are additional considerations mentioned.
The Benefits and Pitfalls of Solo Facilitation
What do AJO Senior Consultants view as the benefits and pitfalls of solo facilitation? Here's what they shared:
Solo Facilitation Benefits Solo Facilitation Pitfalls
Logistical Considerations
  • When the size of the group is small.
  • When a program is short, 1 - ½ day or less.
  • When the facilitator is highly skilled and or has extensive subject matter expertise.
  • When the whole group will be working together rather than several breakout sessions.
Participant or Organization Considerations
  • When building trust is an immediate need.
  • When the facilitator knows most of the participants or the team such as If the one facilitator has worked with the participants or team before.
  • When there is one topic presented.
  • When one unified voice is of benefit.
  • When there are client cost constraints.
From the facilitator point of view:
  • Solo facilitation poses bigger logistical challenges such as note taking, timekeeping, break-out groups. 
  • Solo facilitation required more prep time and longer programs may cause facilitator energy to wane.
  • With solo facilitation, there is a possibility of missing the group dynamics, since there is only one set of eyes to read the room. 
From the participants’ point of view:
  • A solo facilitator may miss questions or not connect with some participants. The facilitator may miss cues from the group.
  • Solo facilitation offers only one style that may not accommodate all participant learning styles.
  • Offers less group exposure to modeling the concepts of collaboration, flexibility, and partnership.
  • Solo facilitation may offer a more limited breadth of expertise and experience and examples to share, providing for one voice, one mindset, one set of skills and experience added to what learners experience.
The Benefits and Pitfalls of Co-Facilitation
What do AJO Senior Consultants view as the benefits and pitfalls of co-facilitation? Here's what they shared:
Co-Facilitation Benefits Co-Facilitation Pitfalls
Logistical Considerations
  • When the length of the workshop is 1 day or longer.
  • When the size of the group exceeds 12 – 20.
  • When scribing or note-taking are required of facilitators.
  • When logistics of a group require it, large groups, complex content or simultaneous break-out groups when private coaching sessions are included in specialized programs such as in presentation skills workshops.
  • Co-facilitation allows one facilitator to deliver while the other deals with questions, administrative issues etc. as needed during a session to minimize disruptions.
Participant or Organization Considerations
  • When presenting to a challenging group with varying levels of participants, or when it is on a challenging topic, not just an information download.
  • When participants are the type to get bored easily, two facilitators can increase interest and engagement.
  • When facilitators are both experts in their particular topic area.
  • Co-facilitation works when facilitators offer a synergistic team approach, enriching the entire program offering.
  • Balancing two facilitation styles can reach varied learner preferences.
  • Co-facilitation offers the ability to more easily manage interactive portions of a program to give more individualized attention to each small group.
  • Co-facilitation allows participants to build a relationship with two individuals modeling desired behaviors in their own unique way.
  • Co-facilitation allows for better conflict management as it may arise in any group setting.
From the facilitator point of view:
  •  Co-facilitation needs to be well planned and coordinated to succeed.
  • Differences in facilitator approach, the information offered, or presentation styles that conflict rather than complement each other may negatively impact participants.
  • Co-facilitation requires a balanced duo with clear expectations, a collaborative approach, and strong co-leadership skills.
From the participants’ point of view:
  • Facilitator styles must be compatible to present a coherent, seamless, and polished session.
  • Co-facilitators must establish clear ground rules and offer a united front of support for participant learning. This is a balancing act.
From the organization’s point of view:
  • Co-facilitation may be costlier if facilitator to participant ratios are not well managed.
AJO’s VP of Talent Development, Bill Accordino offers his perspective gained from years of developing and facilitating programs for a wide range of organizations, Bill believes that there is no absolute answer to the question. However, there are several factors that should drive the decision to use one or two facilitators/co-facilitation. 
Bill Accordino supports the opinion of AJO’s consulting cadre, echoing their conclusion that the size of the group, the goals of the program, the type of content, and the amount of interactivity within the program design are all factors to consider when choosing the facilitator structure for any program. He uses a consultative approach to determine his recommendations, discussing with the client the business and leadership challenges that the program may address. If a program, workshop, or series of workshops will address the client's needs, then logistics including facilitator decisions will be discussed.
According to Bill, AJO will take these elements into consideration when assisting the client firm to make a facilitator decision.
  • If a program requires delivery of complex content, exercises and role-plays, we recommend one facilitator if the group size is 8 – 10. If the group exceeds that number then two facilitators will be recommended. It may be a good idea to bring in a subject matter expert as well as a skilled facilitator to manage the session when a larger group or more complex subject matter is involved.
  • The more interactive and complex the activities and debriefing of activities the session contains, the more likely that two facilitators may be required to maintain quality and keep the session moving. If this does not meet the client firm's budgetary needs, then we can customize the content to be less interactive.
In summary, AJO recommends the appropriate number of facilitators based on the needs, the learning objectives, and the content of the workshop. 
Facilitators are Key to the Content AND the Context- Choose Wisely to Achieve Your Tactical and Strategic Goals
An instructor of mine once used the analogy of the hourglass to illustrate the importance of a good facilitator or co-facilitation team.
Consider that the sand inside the hourglass is the Content or the subject matter of the workshop or group session.
The hourglass provides the shape. It gives the content form and function, providing Context to the subject matter of the workshop.
Without the hourglass, the sand would just be sand.
And without the sand, the hourglass would just be an empty vessel.  
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
The facilitator or co-facilitator team’s job is to ensure both Content and Context work together and is delivered in a tactically smart manner to ensure your program meets your strategic goals.  
So, what will it be for your organization? One facilitator or two? The conclusion is up to you. Choose wisely to ensure the outcome you desire.
Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.
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Brrrr! It’s cold outside! Nothing beats a crackling fire, a cup on your favorite beverage and an intriguing book to warm you up on a chilly winter day. Couple this with your New Year’s resolution to spark your professional imagination and grow your leadership capacity and you have a winning combo that will get you through any Nor’easter. (And I know, having spent 12 long, wonderful years in the snowy environs of New Hampshire…a place that requires a full bookshelf and a cord of firewood stacked conveniently by the back door.)
Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash
So, while the Saints, the Pats, the Chiefs and the Rams fought it out in the background this past Sunday afternoon and evening, I scoured online to find the most intriguing, challenging, and timely business and leadership books for 2019. But don’t worry, no need to rely on just my own recommendations. This list contains input from such top influencers as the Washington Post, Inc. and Fortune Magazines, Harvard and Wharton Business School faculty and even Warren Buffett himself. These recommendations will:
  • Help you run better meetings,
  • Guide you in paring down and streamlining your life – leaving precious room for essentials 
  • Challenge you to debunk your perceptions about work
  • Give you a keen appreciation of the dominant role data science will play in business now and in the future.
  • Turn some of your most fiercely guarded assumptions about leadership upside down.
There is sure to be one or two below that grab your imagination.
Oxford University Press,
Dec 13, 2018
194 pages
The Surprising Science of Meetings: How You Can Lead Your Team to Peak Performance by Steven G. Rogelberg
“In The Surprising Science of Meetings, Steven G. Rogelberg, researcher and consultant to some of the world's most successful companies, draws from extensive research, analytics and data mining, and survey interviews with over 5,000 employees across a range of industries to share the proven practices and techniques that help managers and employees enhance the quality of their meetings. For those who lead and participate in meetings, Rogelberg provides immediate direction, guidance, and relief, offering a how-to guide to change your working life starting today.”
"Finally! Evidence-based, actionable advice about improving the quality and impact of meetings. Rogelberg has written a tour de force. If you put his sage advice into action, your teams and organizations will accomplish more."
—David G. Altman, Chief Operating Officer, Center for Creative Leadership
Harvard Business Review Press,
Expected Apr 2, 2019
256 pages
Nine Lies about Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
“As strengths guru and bestselling author Marcus Buckingham and Cisco Leadership and Team Intelligence head Ashley Goodall show in this provocative, inspiring book, there are some big lies--distortions, faulty assumptions, wrong thinking--running through our organizational lives. Nine lies, to be exact … 
With engaging stories and incisive analysis, the authors reveal the essential truths…: that it is the strength and cohesiveness of your team, not your company's culture, that matters most; that we need less focus on top-down planning and more on giving our people reliable, real-time intelligence; that rather than trying to align people's goals we should strive to align people's sense of purpose and meaning; that people don't want constant feedback, they want helpful attention. This is the real world of work.”
Lioncrest Publishing,
Oct 2018
266 Pages
Data Science for Executives by Nir Kaldero
“We are in the 4th industrial revolution; companies need to figure out how to survive. In this exciting revolution, machine intelligence has had a more unprecedented impact on business than the internet, and it's the only path to corporate survival in the future. In Data Science for Executives, Nir Kaldero dispels the myths and confusion surrounding this game-changing technology and provides practical strategies for harnessing its profitable power.
This essential tome provides illuminating case studies, important guiding principles, and effective on-the-ground actions for incorporating machine intelligence into your organization and employing it to enhance your business through the wealth of data that flows into your business. 
Leaders don't have to be scientists to unlock the power of AI technology that is already radically altering the industrial landscape. If you're ready to meet the challenges of this new revolution, this essential guide will help you take your business to the next level.”
Lioncrest Publishing,
August 2018
226 pages
We Are All The Same Age Now by David Allison 
“In We Are All the Same Age Now, David Allison, creator of Valuegraphics, explains how you can increase efficiency, create strategies that are eight times more effective, decrease internal politics around decisions, and be better equipped for disruption. He explains what Valuegraphics can do and offers the data samples and tools you need to get started using Valuegraphics immediately. He also shares how to make powerful values-based decisions throughout your organization and how to take your insights further.”
“Valuegraphics are the missing link we need to move beyond demographic stereotyping.” 
—Catherine Rigod-Halprin, VP of Strategy for Geometry Global
Riverhead Books,
May 2019
352 pages
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
“David Epstein, author of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, studied the world's most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields--especially those that are complex and unpredictable--generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They're also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can't spy from deep in their hyper-focused trenches. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.
Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range explains how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, hyper-specialization.”
“For too long, we’ve believed in a single path to excellence. Start early, specialize soon, narrow your focus, aim for efficiency. But in this groundbreaking book, David Epstein shows that in most domains, the way to excel is something altogether different. Sample widely, gain a breadth of experiences, take detours, and experiment relentlessly. Epstein is a deft writer, equally nimble at telling a great story and unpacking complicated science. And Range is an urgent and important book, an essential read for bosses, parents, coaches, and anyone who cares about improving performance.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of When, Drive, and A Whole New Mind  
Feb 2019
304 pages
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
“Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It's the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.
In this timely and enlightening book, the bestselling author of Deep Work introduces a philosophy for technology use that has already improved countless lives.”
“I challenge you not to devour this wonderful book in one sitting. I certainly did, and I started applying Cal’s ideas to my own life immediately.”
—Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism
“You’re not the user, you’re the product. Hang up, log off, and tune in to a different way to be in the world. Bravo, Cal. Smart advice for good people.”
—Seth Godin, author of This is Marketing
Unthinkable Media
Sept 2018
172 pages
Break the Wheel by Jay Acunzo
“In this quick-hitting, powerful book, keynote speaker and podcaster Jay Acunzo hands us a sledgehammer. With a diverse range of real-world stories, Break the Wheel offers a simple but powerful way to think for yourself when surrounded by conventional thinking. Along the way, Acunzo offers six fundamental questions to ask in any situation to start making the best possible decisions, regardless of the best practice.
Stop relying on generic advice. With this book, say goodbye to average work and hello to doing your best.”
Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.
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Human resource professionals have a lot of things to be stressed about — tight deadlines, multiple responsibilities, and workplace conflict, to name a few. Too much stress can impede productivity and lead to burnout when left unchecked. According to Forbes, some common signs of HR burnout include fatigue, irritability, increased isolation, and a decrease in work quality. If you’re feeling the effects of workplace stress, this is for you!
1.) Swap the Coffee for Energizing Supplements

Drinking coffee is a reliable way to boost energy when you're struggling to wake up in the morning or bogged down during the dreaded afternoon slump. However, caffeine can actually increase feelings of anxiety and contribute to fatigue by ramping up our fight-or-flight response and reducing our overall sleep quality.

Family Life Today recommends ditching the coffee and picking up a few energy-boosting supplements with naturally calming qualities. Everyone is different, so it's important to assess your needs before buying. Are you looking for a mood lift? Do you want to banish mid-afternoon fatigue? Does anxiety plague your workdays? Consider your preferred method of consumption as well. Do you want something that can mix into a smoothie, or would you prefer a simple pill you can take on the go? There are several options ranging from ginseng-packed multivitamins to antioxidant green tea tablets, so find the supplements that will be most beneficial to you.
2.) Try On-the-Go Stress Relievers
Next time you're feeling overwhelmed, try out some quick stress-busting techniques. You can do these anywhere and anytime throughout the day. For example, engage in a mini meditation session to calm your body’s nervous system response and help refocus your mind. Counting your breaths and mentally scanning your body for tense muscles are both effective ways to quickly relieve anxiety when you’re stuck in a stressful situation. Try this on your morning commute, during a work meeting, or while you're in line at the grocery store. You may even discover that you have a little extra patience that you weren't aware of!
3.) Exercise in Small Bursts
Some people don’t have time in their day for a 30-minute workout. Instead of forgoing all the stress-busting and energizing effects of regular exercise, try to fit in some physical activity whenever it works for you. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, any amount of physical activity is better than none. To fit in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week, you only need to get moving for about 22 minutes every day. However, you don’t have to do this all at once. Even if you only have time for a five-minute walk, go for it!
4.) Set Some Boundaries
HR leaders have a lot on their plates. When people keep dumping responsibilities on you, it’s hard to focus your talents on pursuing your career goals. Communicating your limits and learning to say “no” can help you feel more in control of your work life. Pay attention to which tasks you’re fine with and which make you feel uncomfortable. Try not to feel guilty about turning down work — most people will be respectful and considerate about your limits.
5.) Train Your Body to Sleep Better
The importance of sleep quality is often overlooked, especially when there seem to be better things to do than lie awake in bed stressing over the day to come. However, research suggests that most Americans are living with an excessive and unhealthy amount of sleep debt. In addition to daytime fatigue, sleep deprivation causes several problems in our mental health, including cognitive impairment and mood instability.
By training your body to sleep more efficiently, you can enjoy higher quality sleep without spending too much additional time in bed. For example, proper sleep hygiene can decrease the time it takes to fall asleep, reduce your reliance on the snooze button, and prevent you from waking up during the night. There are several simple ways to improve your sleep efficiency.
  • Turn off electronics one hour before bed
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day
  • Avoid exercise and alcohol three to four hours before bedtime
  • Try not to consume caffeine after 12 pm
  • Improve your bedroom environment
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
6.) Organize Your Work Life
Many successful professionals claim that being organized is the key to productivity. Staying organized will help you focus your time on important tasks. A to-do list can help with this; add important tasks to the top and push anything non-essential to the bottom. If you find that any tasks keep ending up at the bottom of your to-do list, try to hand these off to someone else.
Keeping your desk and office environment decluttered can help you feel much more relaxed as well. And don't forget about your virtual environment! Set up a system for organizing incoming emails or work documents on your computer. The Balance Small Business has some great ideas for managing your electronic files so you can easily find documents and avoid a crisis.
7.) Smile More
Everyone knows happiness makes you smile, but did you know that smiling can also make you feel happy? Studies have found that smiling can reduce stress and make you feel more content in stressful situations. Your brain senses the particular muscle movements in your face when you smile and associates these with positive feelings. In a kind of feedback loop, your brain responds by producing happy emotions. It’s a win-win situation.
Also, our brains are naturally wired to mirror the actions of others, which is why smiles are so contagious! By smiling at others, you’re bound to make others smile, too. This has similarly positive effects on our mood.
Don't let stress and fatigue keep you from enjoying a fulfilling work life. Try practicing a bit of self-care by tending to your mental and physical health before you reach the point of burnout. When you feel motivated and in control, you'll be able to focus your efforts on implementing new ideas achieving your career goals.
Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison. Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts. When Julie isn’t working with clients, she enjoys writing and is currently working on her first book. She also loves spending time outdoors and getting lost in a good book. Visit her site at juliemorris.org
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The Best Online Resources for Job Seekers Series - Part Six
In the five posts in this series, we've covered the key aspects of the job search process:
  1. Searching & Applying: The Best Online Resources for Finding & Applying for Jobs
  2. Networking: Proactive Job Search Strategies - How to Get Noticed & Land Faster
  3. Identifying and Evaluating Recruiters: Why & How to Leverage Recruiters in Your Job Search 
  4. Preparing for Interview: How to Succeed at Interviews and Salary Negotiation
  5. Leveraging Research: How to Leverage the Library & Internet For Your Job Search Research
Within each post, we've shared our top tips and favorite resources. Now that we have reviewed and evaluated some of the best job search tools on the web, the most important question is:
How do you organize the information and manage your activity?
In this final post, we explore six strategies for organizing your search. We include advice and recommended resources for each.
1.) Develop Your Marketing Plan
Now you are armed with information and resources, the questions is do you have a written plan? Most job seekers are surprised by this question. They haven’t considered the possibility that they need to have a written plan. But the truth is: your job search is way too important to ‘wing it’. It needs to be thought through, planned out, and then executed. Goals need to be set. Results must be reviewed, and adjustments made. Your search should be managed like any other important work project – but in fact, it’s the most important project you’ll ever manage.
A good job search plan should contain the following: 
  • Your 3 critical lists
  • Verbal marketing tools
  • Your questions
  • Strategies and activities, online and offline
  • Contact management, including follow up management 
  • Goal setting
This series underscores one undeniable truth – that the job search process today is complex and multi-faceted. There is no single approach that guarantees a job, and failure to incorporate multiple approaches may significantly increase the amount of time it takes to land. Job transition is not about identifying positions you can apply for – but instead it’s about how many people you can talk to. No longer a question of filling out a form, job search now is all about relationship management.
2.) Create Your 3 Critical Lists
Building and managing 3 key lists can make all the difference in the length of your search. 
  1. Your Personal Network. People you know are your most important resource. These are people you have worked with in the past; including colleagues, co-workers, managers, supervisors, mentors, trusted advisors, customers, vendors, strategic partners, friends, and neighbors. These are your biggest fans – the people who know you, your integrity and the quality of your work; and are happy to recommend you to others. Your personal contacts and the people they know are the most important resources in your job search. Set up informational interviews with as many as you can, and start asking questions. Start looking for problems that you can solve. 
  2. Target Employers. What companies are you most interested in? Which companies are within 15 minutes of your home? Where do your friends work? What is their experience? Do they like it and have they worked there for a long time? Which companies have a great reputation? Who do your contacts know at those companies and can they introduce you? Build your list of target employers and be proactive in your search efforts. 
  3. Recruiters. For almost every profession and level of responsibility, there’s a third party recruiter for that. Recruiters can offer permanent placements or contract work. Sometimes temp or contract work is the best way to get a foot in the door. But if your search is limited to filling out applications, you are probably missing out on some opportunities. The recruiter channel is a very important direction that many people neglect. Build your list of the top recruiters in your field or industry nationwide, and contact each one to see if you want to work with them,
It’s not just about finding a job, but developing multiple opportunities so that you can leverage the best opportunity. Sell smart by building your Critical 3 lists, and see what kind of results you can produce.
3.) Manage Your Verbal Marketing Tools
Do you have the following marketing readily accessible? You never know when you might need them, so having them available for reference on your laptop and smartphone means you’re never caught unprepared. We covered these marketing tools in part four: 
  1. Elevator Pitch
  2. Transition Statement 
  3. Your Top 5 PAR / STAR success stories
4.) Have Your Questions Ready
Job search is all about getting answers to your questions, so it’s important to know what those questions are and have them easily accessible. Of course, the types of questions you might ask will vary depending on the situation:
1.) Questions for Hiring Managers 
  • What stood out in my background and experience (from my resume)? 
  • Can you share the history of this position?
  • Is there a typical day in this role? If so, what does it look like?
  • How would you describe the company culture?
  • What do you like best about working here?
  • What do you like least?
  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?
2.) Questions for Recruiters
  • What companies are you hiring for?
  • What are your specialties?
  • What can you tell me about the market for professionals in my field?
  • How do you set up interviews?
  • Do you help candidates prepare for interviews?
  • Do you give feedback after interviews?
  • Do you source candidates for contract opportunities as well as permanent positions?
3.) Networking
  • Who do you know that I can talk to?
  • What companies should I be looking at?
  • Do you know any good recruiters? 
  • What strategies do you suggest?
5.) Track Your Activities 
  • Meetings
  • Interviews
  • Phone calls
  • LinkedIn contacts
  • LinkedIn views
  • Applications submitted, with resume and correspondence sent
  • Job sites with job alerts set up and/or resume posted
  • Your running keyword list
6.) Leverage Your Online Profiles & Presence
According to Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Survey 2018, the top social channels used by recruiters and the percentage use are as follows:
  • LinkedIn (77%)
  • Facebook (63%)
  • Instagram (25%) although this varies, with 35% of millennial recruiters using and 63% of technology companies using
We would recommend leveraging these social platforms for a job search, adding Twitter to the list. All enable you to find opportunities, be found, and strengthen your online presence.
Here are a few excellent tools for managing your social media presence. I have to admit, I’m not an expert on this subject, but here’s what the AJO's Marketing team shared.
Hootsuite is the original social media manager, so all the other tools out there seem to be measured against it. With a free Hootsuite Account, you can manage up to three social profiles all in one place. Plus, set up searches to scan your social media channel for job openings, target company mentions, and posts. There's a course to learn how to get up to speed (once you've created your account). This screenshot shows AJO's dashboard (with the Twitter profile in view). You can add 'streams' within each profile to:
  • Create a post and auto-schedule to all platforms simultaneously, adding images and video.
  • Manage each channel (E.g, scheduled posts, new followers, mentions, likes, shares, etc.)
  • Monitor the channel (E.g., keywords to track jobs, target companies, topics of interest, etc.)
  • Engage with followers and followed. 
Other free tools to explore are:
  • Buffer - Allows three social profiles free with many of the same features as Hootsuite.
  • TweetDeck - For managing Twitter posting and monitoring.
7.) Manage Your Opportunities
Finally, along with your plan, you need a system to track your target companies, contacts, and job opportunities, including alerts and follow-ups. I recommend JibberJobber which bills itself as a career management tool because you can use it throughout your career. 
First, JibberJobber gives you access to 90% of its features free with an annual subscription costing $60. Try out the basic membership first before adding features with the Premium version. There are a lot of positive features, but my favorites are: 
  • Job Application Tracking – Track every job you apply for, along with all events and contacts associated with that job.  
  • Keyword Analysis – Get a quick breakdown of the most important keywords in each listing. 
  • Network Tracking – My favorite JibberJobber feature is the ‘Referred By’ field that allows you to make a note of how you know that person. 
To learn more, watch this short clip:

How to Organize Your Job Search (JibberJobber) from Jason Alba on Vimeo.

If you are a business development professional familiar with Hubspot, you can use its free CRM. This post explains How to Organize Your Job Hunt in HubSpot CRM.
To recap, you need a marketing plan. Your plan should integrate your ‘Critical 3’ lists, your verbal statements, your key questions for interviews, recruiters and networking contacts, and your goals and objectives. Plan out every week. You’ll need a CRM or tracking system for your search, and a social media management tool if you are active on multiple platforms and want to set up searches to monitor your channels for jobs.
Six installments later, I hope you have received a good overview of an effective search and the best internet tools to support you in your search. As you have seen, there is no single answer or website that will get you where you need to go. There are many strategies and web resources, and your challenge is to synthesize all of these disparate ideas and tools into a complete and comprehensive system that works for you.
Good luck in your job search!
Mike Ballard is an AJO Career Coach & Trainer with 10 years experience providing career transition consulting services to 1,900+ professionals in transition, including C-Level executives, program and project managers, sales managers & account reps, IT, software developers, technicians, engineers, insurance & administrators. Mike specializes in helping job seekers understand hiring technologies and developing effective career marketing strategies to find the right job and employer.

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  Managing A Multigenerational Workforce
Traveling deeper into the 21st century, ever-diligent HR leaders increasingly face both the excitement and challenges of managing a multigenerational workforce. You need only to look to the incoming 2019 U.S. lawmakers to see the historic generational change occurring among America's elected officials. 
The convergence of such a broad expanse of five distinct generations — all having their strong collective and individual personalities — is keeping human resources teams on their toes. As the labor market tightens, organizations will continue to find themselves hiring, developing and managing one of the most age diverse workforces in modern times.
Imagine the scene — or perhaps you don’t have to imagine, having already carefully woven a generationally diverse population into your organization — scanning the office to see millennials glued to their smartphone screens, Generation Xs talking on their smartphones, baby boomers trying to set up face-to-face meetings, and the newly arrived Generation Zs combining all at once, and with great skills and focus.
In one quick and sweeping snapshot, you capture all the possibilities and hurdles to success for your company. They are all there, ready to further your organization’s goals and profits. But how can you simultaneously serve your staff’s needs, preferences and future goals while also considering the best interests of your organization?
Who Are the People in Your Multigenerational Workforce?
There never has been a time when so many defined and distinct generations converged in the workplace. The generational factor has become an increasingly hot-button topic for HR teams, among the myriad other diversity and qualification matters, especially with the recent addition of Generation Z to the marketplace.
As if it wasn’t enough to try to figure out how to nurture relationships with the more mature and still career-oriented baby boomers, the dedicated and independent but work-balance-focused Generation X and the millennials who are open to change and thrive on feedback, you now need to understand how Generation Z thinks and how to ensure its seamless introduction into your organization.
Also known as "Traditionalists" or "The Silent Generation" they possess a strong work ethic. Making up a small percentage of the workforce today, Veterans are hard-working, loyal and respectful of authority. They will one of the last generations to serve their entire careers with a single employer. They are more likely to struggle with technology.
Baby Boomers
Ever since baby boomers were born to the Silent and G.I. Generations, their personal drive to succeed has been among the defining characteristics of a generation that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. The Great Recession that hit in 2008-2009 impacted 24 percent of baby boomers’ retirement savings, according to Investopedia. 
Having taken a significant financial hit for a quarter of the population, many baby boomers who would prefer to retire, in spite of their drive to succeed, must remain in the workforce a little longer to recover some of their losses. Others remain in the workforce by desire, a growing percentage choosing to consult, freelance, or otherwise remain attached to the workforce in a full or part-time capacity.
As organizations face increasing skill shortages, some are attempting to retain access to this knowledge and experience by setting up alumni networks to leverage the knowledge and skills of older employees who still want to offer their experience but not on a full-time basis. See: How Organizations Are Harnessing The Wisdom Of Baby Boomers To Combat Skills Shortages.
Generation X
Mostly at the mid-career tier, Generation X is still very much a crucial part of today’s workforce. While this generation values hard work and commitment to one’s job, they greatly value work-life balance that includes family, friends, and hobbies beyond the office. The ability to work as independently as possible and accomplish tasks in or under the required time is essential to Generation X so they can maintain focus on exceeding expectations before sprinting for the parking lot.
Millennials have basked in the workplace limelight for more than a decade. More mature in their professional lives now, millennials’ traits still largely hold true. Open-mindedness, altruism, enthusiasm, and desire for actionable feedback are all still driving characteristics for millennial workers.
There are reports indicating that millennials in the workplace see eye-to-eye with the other generations. For example, millennials and veterans tend to agree on collaborative matters, indicating they find their work engagement and overall office morale positive.
The millennials and Generation Z are also finding common ground — and somewhat surprising common ground in the minds of some — in their preference for in-person contact over IMs, text messages and emails.
Generation Z
Although they are the proverbial “new kids on the block,” emerging Generation Z professionals — 70 million strong — come ready to work, learn, grow with the company and earn for the future. Having grown up during the Great Recession — perhaps having seen their parents lose their job or life savings — these young workers yearn for a return to company loyalty and professional stability that has taken a detour outside the standard business landscape over the past decade.
It is important to understand that Generation Z members are serious about their work, and they are definitely seeking earned recognition, growth opportunities and a sense of professional belonging.
According to Deloitte's Millennial Survey 2018, 43% of millennials envision leaving their jobs within two years; only 28% seek to stay beyond five years. Deloitte found that
"Attracting and retaining millennials and Gen Z respondents begins with financial rewards and workplace culture; it is enhanced when businesses and their senior management teams are diverse, and when the workplace offers higher degrees of flexibility. Those who are less than satisfied with their pay and work flexibility are increasingly attracted to the gig economy, especially in emerging markets."
A High-Quality Employee Rewards Program May Be a Crucial Common Thread to Managing a Multigenerational Workforce
One common denominator among any two generations is the desire to be acknowledged and rewarded for a job well done. While employees understand that their salaries serve as fair exchanges for services, your organization’s willingness to go beyond the basics may help you reduce turnover and cultivate an atmosphere of loyalty and mutual respect that will keep everyone from Generation Z to your most experienced Veteran.
  • Top rewards programs focus on the following ways to motivate teams:
  • Peer-to-peer incentives
  • Employee of the Month/Year
  • Outstanding achievement
  • Top earner in sales and other sales incentives
  • Customer service excellence
  • Safety performance and regard for fellow team members
  • Employee’s choice
In today’s multigenerational workplace, the more personalized and specialized your rewards program is, the better and easier it is for your HR team.
By customizing the way that you acknowledge and award your employees, you can ensure you show appreciation evenly among each member of your team, according to all factors, including their distinct generation.
The following infographic provides tips for bridging the generation gap, starting with four of the five generations 'at a glance.'

Infographic created by Award Concepts

Recommended Reading & References
Author bio: Ken Jeanis is an outsourced HR consultant for Award Concepts, a leading provider of successful employee engagement programs and products. He has over 20 years of experience in the industry and currently lives in Costa Rica where he teaches at Academia Europea.

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Part Three of a Three Part Series on Strategic HR/HR Transformation
Throughout 2018, AJO along with our HR leadership colleagues has been examining the state of the HR Business Partnership. In this, the third blog of the three-part series, we share the outcome of the HR Business Partner study recently conducted among members of our Human Resources Leadership Exchange (HRLE) and explore how HR can become more agile. 

The bottom line, Chief HR Officers and Senior HR Leaders believe they operate as strategic business partners. They’re not sure the rest of their teams are, though – at least not as much as they’d like. 

So, what’s getting in the way and what can you do about it? In this, the final post in this series, Dr. Steve Safier, AJO’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Impact, shares his recommendations essential for building an agile HR workforce. 
The State of HR Agility
In the first of two prior HR Business Partner blogs, HR Business Partner Are We There Yet? Is HR At The Table?, we defined the HR Business Partner (HRBP)  as “one who can deliver business value toward strategic goals that are responsive to the internal and external context in which the business operates, acting as a true internal consultant and credible strategic advisor.”
In part two, HR Business Partners: 10 Steps to Your Seat at the Table, Dr. Safier recommended 10 principles to prepare for an HR Business Partner role. They included, among others, maintaining high standards for traditional HR functions; raising expectations for HR Generalist strategic performance against corporate goals, not just HR department goals; preparing well for meetings with operational partners across the enterprise; seeking wise counsel from innovators across the profession and within the organization. Our senior HR Leaders (largely CHRO’s) colleagues have added their own perspectives to this list.
AJO’s HR Business Partner Survey results and follow up discussions with CHRO’s and others clearly support the need for reconfiguring HR training, HR career paths, and HR roles if those in the field are to keep up with the urgent demand for business agility.
The full presentation and results are in the SlideShare above. In a nutshell, here is what the CHRO’s had to say:
  • 100% stated that HR teams today are asked to do more and have more impact, with fewer and fewer resources.
  • HR still has a long way to go to be viewed as a strategic partner by others in the enterprise. This is particularly true of those in the middle ranks of the HR team.
    • Mid to lower level HR team members have often been mired in administrative and tactical demands, leaving little time for projects or initiatives that would have a strategic impact on the bottom line.
  • CHRO’s believe it is essential that they present and promote the HR strategic message to all levels in the organization, not just the C-suite.
  • Focus on skill building for those in the HR Generalist role.
    • HR Generalists are too few, under-developed and too harried to think and act strategically
    • Redefine and support a new model of the HR career ladder to enhance skills.
    • Development is essential to achieve an enhanced state of HR agility.
Essential HR Business Partner Skills and Competencies
Business savvy, financial analysis/business data analytics ♣ Strategic planner/thinker ♣ HR technical skills i.e. basic employment law, compensation administration, performance management ♣ Influencing skills, listening skills, communication - written/verbal, ♣ Leadership and employee development strategies ♣ Coaching and political astuteness ♣ Collaboration; Partnership
Let’s Get HR Agile, Quickly!
Very simply, HR teams have some significant barriers to overcome to be able to have a more strategic impact on the business. When faced with overwhelming transactional demands, maintaining the current HR structure and administratively heavy HR functions are no longer workable. Transactional functions currently absorb too much staff time and leave too little mental energy or time for developing the essential HR Business Partnership skills. HR agility requires fast turnarounds and just-in-time solutions to human capital problems when or preferably before they become business results roadblocks. What can HR leaders do about it?
How Can HR Become More Agile?
AJO’s Dr. Steve Safier recommends employing a multi-faceted solution: 
  • GO DIGITAL: Apply state-of-the-art technological solutions to increasingly overwhelming transactional functions, relieving HR staff for more strategic approaches to their work.
  • REVIEW COMPETENCY MODELS: Rather than creating yet another set of HR competencies, ensure that HR staff members understand the relevancy of the current competency model to the business and the impact strategic HR functioning can have on the bottom line. Add to or edit the competency model, if necessary, and – if one doesn’t exist – create one, but quickly and efficiently based on available research and expertise.
  • ASSESS AND DEVELOP: Institute Individual Development Plans (IDPs) that correspond to the competency model. Once skills are assessed, build developmental opportunities into the professional’s day-to-day work. This might also include some formal training and certifications for specific topics like data analytics, or employment law. But development should come primarily from experiential learning opportunities.
  • PROMOTE PRACTICE OPPORTUNITIES: Use a scalable, project-based model to gain exposure and enhance skills. Pair HR team members with external experts who can guide and mentor them on short-term, strategically impactful projects. Give HR team members exposure across the other business functions while experiencing how to operate and garner powerful business results using hands-on, HR agile skills. 
  • ANALYZE AND DOCUMENT OUTCOMES: Credibility as an agile HR Business Partner comes when the analytics prove a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line, cultural initiatives, and deeply rooted organizational challenges. Track the impact on employee turnover, employee engagement, employee retention, productivity, and the ability to attract the best talent. 
With a strong analytic approach, fully competent team members, and clear messaging on program impacts, HR professionals can gain traction in their quest to retain their seat at the table in the decision-making ranks of their organizations.
Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.
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A 2018 survey from Jobvite estimates that if you were to hire ten new employees today, three of those new hires would leave within 90 days.
What causes employees to leave an organization before they've even had a chance to succeed?
Most HR professionals point to reasons within their organizations: many companies don't measure employee retention and turnover, do not provide mentoring or coaching, fail to establish clear expectations of new hires, and fail to provide sufficient training that would help new hires succeed.
So what's the common thread? All of these items could be addressed if the offending companies were to establish an onboarding process designed to help new hires succeed.
In this article, we'll explain how an onboarding process works, what the goals are, and how employers and workers benefit from an effective onboarding plan that prepares new hires for success.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
What is Onboarding?
Onboarding is a process whose goal is to integrate a new employee physically, emotionally and professionally into their new workplace, a process also known as organizational socialization. The process can vary in length between a few days and a few months, and there are no universal criteria for what steps are included, but HR departments typically try to address four key issues for new hires:
  1. Compliance - New employees need to be informed about benefits that they are entitled to receive through their employer and trained on legal rules and regulations that apply to them in their new job role. Items like I-9 employment eligibility paperwork along with forms for taxation and benefits are covered in the onboarding process. 
  2. Clarification - New hires need clarity about the expectations of their role. During the onboarding process, they should begin to understand their job and establish performance goals for the first six months. 
  3. Culture - During onboarding, new hires are introduced to the company culture for the first time. 
  4. Connection - Onboarding is a time to start connecting new hires with the internal and external resources they will need to perform in their new position.
During onboarding, new hires are usually assigned a space in the workplace. They may receive an orientation that helps them find their way around, They may be given opportunities to socialize with other employees and they often receive job-specific training that will help them to perform well in their role.
What are the Goals of the Onboarding Process?
The onboarding process facilitates a variety of goals that are important to both the organization and the new hire. Along with increasing employee retention and helping to minimize hiring costs, the goals of the onboarding process include:
  • Ensuring a new employee is prepared to contribute early and effectively in his/her new role. This means connecting them with resources both internally and externally that will help them perform their role, providing job-specific training and orientation programs, and pairing the new hire with a mentor or buddy that can help him/her in the first few months. 
  • Increasing the employee's comfort level in the team and the workplace. New hires are sometimes shy. They may not walk around and introduce themselves to new people that work on their office floor. They may not want to ask someone how to find the washroom. People that feel alone in their offices will search elsewhere for a sense of community at work. We can provide that by introducing the new hire to his/her colleagues, planning a group lunch for their first day, and preparing their work area in advance so they know they have a designated spot. Consider having your new employee meet with key team members to discuss their roles and how they will work together. 
  • Encouraging employee engagement and commitment. New employees bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, and different work experiences to their new roles. Harness these insights and learnings, avoiding the temptation to dismiss or pass judgment too quickly on whether they'll work. Remember that new employees aren't bound by existing cultural norms or practices and it will pay dividends in terms of their commitment.  
A study of onboarding expenses determined that one in three companies spend $0 on their onboarding process, and among all companies, the average spend per new hire was just $67. How can we expect new hires to invest themselves in the success of our organizations if we choose to spend just $67 on making them feel at home? An effective onboarding process demonstrates appreciation for new hires and shows that the organization is invested in their success. 
What are the Benefits of Effectively Onboarding a New Employee?
A great onboarding process delivers numerous benefits to both the hiring organization and the new hire. Let's look at the most important ones:
  • Boost Employee Performance 
    Depending on the nature and complexity of a job, it can take a new hire up to a year to start contributing at the same level as an experienced veteran of your company. Elevating employee performance is a primary target of the onboarding process, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has determined that an effective onboarding program boosts employee productivity by as much as 11%.
  • Enhance Employee Retention and Reduce Hiring Costs
    There are several studies that indicate the benefits of a comprehensive onboarding program as far as employee retention. The 2018 Jobvite survey mentioned earlier found that in addition to 30% of new hires leaving within 90 days, 43% indicated the role wasn't what they expected and 32% reported that they didn't like the company culture. Meanwhile, a separate study conducted by the Aberdeen Group found that 54% of organizations with a formal onboarding process experience greater productivity and 50% experience better employee retention.
When a new employee leaves, it can generate additional costs of up to 150% of their annual salary - just think of the lost productivity, the overworked staff that has to pick up the slack, the knowledge lost to your organization, and the wasted training costs. On top of that, there are costs for recruiters and to interview a replacement. It is much cheaper to invest in employee retention than to replace an employee who leaves because you didn't.
It is clear that employers can reduce turnover, and in doing so, reduce their overall hiring costs, by providing the training, social integration processes, attention, and engagement that new hires need to be successful.
Onboarding, also known as organizational socialization, is a process used to help new hires acclimate to the work environment. The goals of onboarding are to help the new hire feel comfortable in the workplace, earn their commitment to the organization and help them start producing and contributing to the cause. An effective onboarding process reduces hiring costs, helps organizations retain new hires for longer and boosts employee productivity.
Today's leading organizations are using comprehensive onboarding software to design and modify their onboarding process and ensure that no step is missed when integrating a new hire into the company and working to ensure their success.
As the Head of Marketing at ClearCompany, Sara Pollock has spent hundreds of hours interviewing, hiring, onboarding and assessing employees and candidates. She is passionate about sharing the best practices she has learned from both successes and failures in talent acquisition and management.
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As the fiscal year draws to a close, it's performance management time again in many firms. Before plunging into yet another performance management cycle, take a moment to consider what Human Resource Leaders are planning to improve their organizations' performance management processes. 
We first covered the topic in Performance Management: What’s Broken and How Do You Fix It? posted in 2017.
In order to take our client firms’ performance management pulse and to understand planned changes to their performance management systems, we obtained survey input from 20 client companies. We also had an opportunity for Senior HR leaders to benchmark their performance management systems at our June 2018  Human Resources Leadership Exchange (HRLE). 
Note that our survey results should be used as “directional” vs “statistically reliable benchmarks.
What follows is a snapshot of current practice and change strategies HR leaders offered in our survey and during our HRLE meeting, captured in this Q&A with Dr. Steve Safier, AJO’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Impact.
What key data and insights emerged from the study and the meeting discussion?

Steve Safier: In a nutshell and not surprisingly to those in the HR profession, few organizations are happy with their performance management process. It has been reported in the literature, consulting firms have studied, and many companies have tried to make changes.

We want to be able to coach people on their performance for the success of the individual and the organization. That should involve multiple conversations over time to help someone understand his or her strengths and opportunities to improve. The challenge is that those conversations are difficult. Plus, because organizations rely on the performance management process to make a number of decisions (compensation, high potential identification, and leadership development, for example), we end up with putting people into categories for efficiency purposes. And, managers and employees often focus more on the categorizing than they do on the conversations.

We have been unhappy with performance management systems for over twenty years and according to our survey, we are still not there. In fact, 93% of organizations in our study indicated that they are considering changes to their system today.

To what extent did HRLE members believe performance ratings impact actual employee performance?

Steve Safier: Performance management isn't having the desired impact in terms of individual or business performance and at the same time, people are not often good at giving and receiving feedback.   

What were some of the recommendations that came out of the study?

Steve Safier: In an effort to be more strategic, HR leaders have over engineered performance management systems. We recommend: 

  • Simplify your performance management system – Four out of five organizations in our study use performance management categories and two-thirds employ four or more categories for rating performance.

    Adopt three categories with positive rating labels for the middle and top category, i.e. Valued Performer, Outstanding Performer, with Needs Improvement as the bottom label. If we consider that most people will fall in the middle, tie performance to compensation and give employees the same "valued performer" increase. If there's no difference between 2.5% and 3.5% increase, don't spend time and effort trying to justify it. Instead, save money for your "outstanding performers".

  • Link annual incentives, not base salaries, to performance, especially for your middle and top categories, with heavier bonuses for outstanding performance. The added benefit? You don’t end up paying in perpetuity for annual performance, as you would with a merit increase.
Emphasize the discussion, not the rating. Move the manager’s energy in the performance management process of holding discussions on how the employee not only performed but how he or she could excel.
Do you want help improving your firm’s performance management processes? Contact us for a consultation.
Dr. Steve Safier, AJO’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Impact, is a change management/turnaround authority, trusted consigliere and coach to Boards of Directors, executive management and employee teams. He is experienced in working as a transformational leader and strategic advisor, having served as a CHRO, COO, Business President and Human Capital consultant. Steve works with clients and colleagues to identify, assess and resolve business challenges in multiple highly competitive sectors. He speaks to HR and other professionals, graduate and college students about implementing business strategy through organization structure, role clarity and personal and team behavior.
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Earlier this month, BioNJ and the New Jersey Economic Development (NJEDA) sponsored a “Pitch Perfect Presentation” Workshop for bio entrepreneurs. This half day event attracted 37 attendees, including BioNJ, NJEDA, speakers and sponsors.
In addition to the networking opportunity, the goal was to help biotech entrepreneurs hone their skills in order to deliver powerful pitches to investors at critical stages of their growth.
Shown above: BioNJ, NJEDA, speakers and sponsors
AJO was pleased to support the event and Fred Bunsa, VP, Client Engagement, was one of five presenters and coaches. 
If you’re a “Shark Tank” fan you’ll know the impact a weak presentation can have on the outcome, no matter how good the product or service. So how to deliver a great presentation that gets the result you are seeking?
Key Takeaways to Make Your Pitch Presentation Perfect
After learning why and how to create an elevator pitch, participants broke into groups to practice. Each sub-group was assigned a presenter who facilitated the practice sessions.
Key takeaways for any pitch, whether it’s for a job or to sell a product or service:
  • Keep it short and understandable enough that your audience can play back your pitch
  • Know your audience and the expectations of audience members. What’s in it for them?
  • Know your competition and how you are different
  • Grab the audience’s attention with your unique value proposition
  • Employ vocal variety (voice pitch, pauses, projection and energy)
  • Pay attention to body posture (stand tall, move purposefully, avoid distracting gestures, make eye contact)
  • Use visuals – the brain processes visuals 60,000 time faster than text
  • Do your homework - before and after your pitch
  • Present a high level overview, but a detailed project plan for follow up conversations
  • Anticipate questions, including those that probe your weaknesses
And remember ...
To download our elevator pitch template (PDF), click the graphic below.
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Developing a vibrant culture of continuous learning is one of the most important elements of business success. That is the conclusion of two recent reports focusing on talent development in small to mid-sized firms (up to 2,500 employees). I recently reviewed the U.S. Learning and Development Benchmarking Survey: 2018  researched and published by FindCourses.com, comparing its findings to those found in our AJO's own study from last year: The State of Leadership Development in Small and Mid-sized Businesses 2017
Each report outlined specific ways that a learning culture or lack thereof impacts the corporate bottom line. With the economic fire sparking to life in the U.S. and competition for top talent and global customers critical, continuous learning can be a vital factor that helps your small to mid-sized business thrive.
Here are five important conclusions from your small to mid-sized peers who participated in these studies. Highlights from both studies show that:
  1. Talent Identification and Development/Leadership and Management Development are the highest ranking priorities in small to medium-sized businesses surveyed.
  2. Senior Management engagement with learning initiatives is the most critical factor in their success.
  3. Executive buy-in and championing of a learning culture is more likely in firms actively tracking the impact and ROI of learning initiatives.
  4. Leadership coaching as a learning and talent development strategy positively correlates with revenue growth.
  5. Employees in companies with a strong learning culture express higher degrees of engagement, leading to lower turnover, and measurable impact on the bottom line.
Your peers shed light on the “Why” for these outcomes. Let’s dig deeper into the two reports to glean implications for your own business.
Talent and Leadership Development are Crucial to Achieving Future Corporate Goals

In AJO's study respondents rated current leadership capabilities as stronger than those in the leadership pipeline. That would give pause to any manager with a long-term view.

Rather than formalized leadership development programs, small and mid-sized businesses indicated that they “primarily rely on manager recommendations and performance appraisals to identify future high potential employees for future leadership roles. Some do not formally identify leadership potential at all.”
Two thirds also rated their organization’s talent development strategies as unsophisticated. Respondents cite a lack of budget and financial resources, limited HR and time resources as reasons for a more fragmented approach to talent development, yet they do report that there are overall efforts to increase sophistication in planned leadership development activities in the works.
FindCourses.com's study provides additional detail to this challenging landscape.
When asked about their biggest obstacles faced by Learning and Development functions, respondents cite the following:
  • 24% limited budgets for learning and development
  • 21% Small size of Learning and Development Team
  • 20% Difficulty showing ROI on talent development initiatives
  • 12% getting employees involved in Learning and Development
  • 8% Getting top executives to support Learning and Development.
How can a talent development team counter these trends?
The Success Imperative - What Works?
Respondents to our study identified seven elements that play a role in successful learning and development.
However, as shown in the graphic, the most important factor was CEO/ Senior Leadership sponsorship, selected by 78% of respondents.
Having clearly defined strategic, measurable goals was also deemed to be an important success factor (56%).
The two research reports offer further details for those firms who take up the challenge.
Prove the Business Impact of Learning
The FindCourses.com report highlights ways to prove the business case and  improve the learning landscape in your firm, as summarized in the U.S. L&D Benchmarking Survey 2018
  • Track and report ROI of training. 100% of companies who grew last year said that they specifically track the ROI of training. “Those who tracked ROI of training were more likely to have increased learning resources, higher satisfaction with department performance, and increased executive buy-in on training initiatives.”
  • Highlight lost opportunity costs of the status quo. “Companies with staff not engaged in learning are twice as likely to lose employees before the third year mark.” Conversely, one can assume that employee engagement in robust learning improves retention, thus saving recruiting replacement and onboarding costs.
  • Measure and report employee engagement pre and post-training. 42% of respondents indicated that employees who were highly engaged in learning were also highly engaged in the organization overall.
  • Use technology as a multiplier. “A staff highly engaged in workplace learning is correlated with use of learning technologies.”
  • Incorporate coaching into your learning suite. “External and internal coaching…is a common practice at companies which reported increased revenue in the last financial year.”
  • Leverage senior staff and Informal influencers to champion engagement in learning. “90% of companies with strong learning cultures said senior executives were actively engaged in learning and development initiatives.”
Our report, The State of Leadership Development in Small and Mid-size Businesses in 2017, parallels these findings while taking recommendations steps deeper. The report highlights three ways to fully integrate learning activities with the company bottom line, enabling a strong business case for endorsing a vibrant learning culture across all levels of the organization.
Best Practices in Developing Leaders
Based on AJO's work in organizations of all sizes, we have distilled the following best practices for SMBs:
  1. Align leadership development programs with strategic workforce planning to include:    
    - Strategic clarity and alignment
    - Mapping the leadership, talent, and culture to the business strategy
    - Assessing future talent needs and developing a strategically aligned succession plan
    - Assessing current talent gaps and developing and implementing a strategy to close them
  2. Integrate leadership development with real work designed to solve current and future business challenges. Incorporate projects and assignments that solve complex business problems; explore new service or product opportunities; recommend new revenue streams; evaluate enterprise survey results, etc.
  3. Provide hands-on professional leadership development support by designing and delivering an integrated process that includes a strategically focused workshop series over a 12 to 18 month time period, supplemented by individual leadership and team coaching.
Take up the Challenge
If your small to mid-size business seeks ways to stay competitive, in the race for talent, the global push for marketplace edge, and the ever-expanding drive toward innovation, then a focus on building a vibrant learning culture may be just the push needed to take your firm to the top. Put these plans into action, then measure the results. 2019 may just be your best year ever.
Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.
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