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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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Team building is one of the most important contributors to an engaged, inspiring company culture. But team building has to go above and beyond the traditional ‘track and field day’ with your teams. Today, teams want to support a social mission. Without integrating philanthropy into your company, your employees may find it less enjoyable to work for you—and some may even leave for more socially conscious organizations.

By 2025, the workforce will be 75% populated by the Millennial generation, who largely believe strongly in working for companies making social impacts. Creating a positive environment for your employees must occur through team building activities that are organized in the name of charity. Otherwise, you may lose out on a generation of dedicated, passionate workers.

Choosing the Right Cause Matters
You’ve decided to make charity the motivating factor of your next team building activity. Great, but which cause will you support? If you choose to raise money for a charity that doesn’t match your company’s mission or industry, your employees may be skeptical about supporting the cause. Many organizations will spend time researching a charity that seamlessly aligns with its mission statement, knowing it will incite a sense of harmony in the company morale.
As a family-owned business with strong family values, AJO is an ardent supporter of philanthropic causes that help families in our community. Our President, Andy O'Connor is on the Board of Cornerstone Family Programs/Morristown Neighborhood House and Andy has not only rallied his staff behind this amazing organization, he's also enlisted the support of Senior HR Leaders from client organizations. For the last four years, our Senior HR Group has adopted a class in an annual holiday gift-givingproviding the only gifts that many of these children receive.
The family theme has guided us in team building projects such as assembling and decorating rocking chairs for a children's library, making magic carpets for pre-schoolers, supporting Andy in his annual bicycle ride for the families of fallen police officers, and competing in an annual run/walk for New Jersey Battered Women's Service.
While ideas can come from the leadership in your organization, you may also decide to select a charity to which one of your employees is personally attached. For instance, if one of your employees has an adopted dog from a shelter, you could design an all-staff bonding activity in support of a humane society or animal rescue. Your employees will feel acknowledged and appreciated, but it will also meet your company’s mission to make a positive impact through team building activities.  
Team Building Activities to Ignite the Spirit of Charity
By giving your employees a social mission to care about, you can strengthen their morale—which, in turn, can increase profits. Charity helps individuals have a sense of purpose, and purposeful work makes employee happiness soar. In order to attract new prospective workers show your seasoned workers that you appreciate them, you can create several charity-based team building activities throughout the year that hone in on a social mission. Here are some fun ideas to boost the altruistic spirit of your team members:
  • Reach out to a neighboring school. Have your employees sign up for a day of volunteering in a classroom, or participating in a bake sale at the school. They could even tutor students after school—and during office hours. This will connect your team with a message of furthering education and local philanthropy. 
  • Look for causes in the news. Seek out opportunities in your community or beyond that have garnered public attention and/or calls to get involved. For example, AJO was recently approached by philanthropic team building partner, Caring Capital. Lutheran Social Services of New York (LSSNY) was caring for immigrant children separated from their parents at the border and Caring Capital contacted them after seeing the local news coverage.

    AJO, along with other areas companies produced 60 Backpack Bundles for the children in LSSNY's Safe Haven Program. To learn more: AJO and Others Work with Caring Capital to Donate Backpacks to Immigrant Children Helped by LSSNY. 

The AJO Team donates Backpack Bundles to Immigrant Children in the care of LSSNY - YouTube
  • Have a “Buy One, Give One” policy. Pick one of your products or services. Every time a customer purchases the item, donate one of the same items to a charity. Or, donate the same amount of money that the item was purchased for to a specific cause. This will act as a great motivator for both your sales and marketing teams.
  • Contact a philanthropic team building organization such as Caring Capital who can help you identify projects that support your mission and team building goals and worthy recipients for your charitable team building events. 
Incorporating team building activities that center on philanthropy is a simple way to boost employee morale and company culture, giving your team a mission to unite behind.
And, as we have learned at AJO, it's also a great magnet when it comes to connecting with like-minded clients who want to do business with us. 
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As our population ages, our healthcare requirements are increasing correspondingly, creating a higher demand for health-related services. This explains why healthcare offers you so many career opportunities. In fact, jobs in the healthcare sector are expected to increase by 18 percent in the period from 2016 through 2026 – translating to about 2.3 million new jobs in the sector. 
Now is an exciting time to get into the healthcare industry! Not only will the sector demand more employees than any other, it’s also a rewarding field that lets you help people. Every single moment on the job, healthcare professionals are making a difference in someone’s life. Some core competencies and attributes you need to be successful in healthcare include professionalism, excellent communication skills, ability to solve problems under stress, and compassion for patients. 
Before we consider what it takes to change careers, here are five promising healthcare career options that will offer you the greatest job security and in some cases, great post-retirement options for those who enjoy working with people. 
1. Phlebotomy

A phlebotomist is responsible for drawing patient blood for routine tests, blood transfusions, medical research, or blood donations. While hospitals are the commonest places for phlebotomists to work, you can also work at donor facilities, doctor’s offices, and laboratories. As a phlebotomist, you will often have to work full-time. 

Blood work is a critical component in the medical industry and is used for diagnosing patients and performing important medical research. Demand for phlebotomists in the healthcare sector is expected to increase by 25 percent by 2026. Some of the skills you will be required to have in this exciting field include dexterity, great hand-eye coordination, empathy, and an ability to focus on details. 

Professional certification is a critical requirement in phlebotomy. Some popular options for this certification are community colleges, technical schools, and career and vocational training schools. Phlebotomy technicians can get into leadership roles as phlebotomy directors or supervisors, but the positions will require additional education or training. 

2. Patient Care Technicians and Home Health Aides

Patient care technicians and home health aides work directly with patients. The position is often full-time and may involve working directly in a patient’s home or in group settings such as assisted living facilities. Home health aides also help individuals in need to carry out their daily activities. 

As a home health aide, you will work with people with chronic conditions, disabilities, and any other impairment forms. This career field expects a major hiring growth boost in the near future due to the increased needs of an increasingly aging population. In fact, expect a 40 percent increase in home health aide jobs by the year 2026. 

Job prospects for a home health aide are excellent, and there are already numerous positions available. However, before you step into this career, you should know the skills required. Since you will be working directly with people, you need to possess several critical skills. 

  • First, you need to have the stamina to move patients when required as well as perform other tasks that require physical input.
  • You also need to have an ability to pay attention to details and follow critical patient-care instructions.
  • Finally, you need to make your patients feel comfortable having you around them as well as possess interpersonal skills to handle various patient emotional and physical states. 

To become a patient care technician and a home health aide, you don’t need to fulfill specific educational requirements. However, if you will be working with certified agencies, you may be required to undergo training as well as take an exam. If the home health agency is reimbursed from Medicare or Medicaid, then you will be required to complete proper training and pass an exam to be certified. 

In addition, some states require some form of certification from career training schools and community colleges. Home health aide job options depend on the requirements of patients. For instance, some home health aides might provide basic care while others perform specific tasks for individual patients, such as helping with prosthetic limbs. 

Some positions might require you to go in for additional training on how to handle patient medical equipment, such as ventilators for patients with trouble breathing. 

3. Nursing  

Nurses assist doctors and help patients perform several services like providing education and care. As a registered nurse, expect to work full-time in healthcare facilities like nursing homes and hospitals. Often times, when you are on call, you’ll be expected to be available around the clock. 

Expect to work evening and weekend shifts. The career outlook for nurses is promising with the employment of registered nurses set to increase by 15 percent by the year 2026. Considering the importance of nurses to healthcare organizations, the need for their services is expected to continue increasing over time. 

Some of the skills required to become a registered nurse include strong communication and organizational skills. Moreover, you need to have the ability to be compassionate and emotionally stable, as well as have physical strength and stamina. In addition, a nurse is required to critically think and focus on details. 
You can take multiple education paths to become a registered nurse. Some nursing programs provide licenses required for working in this position, and you can get an associate or a bachelor’s degree. The educational path you take depends on whether you are looking to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). 

However, note that each U.S. state may have different licensing requirements to become a nurse, which is why you should look at platforms like the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. As a registered nurse, you can also work in several different specialties. For example, you can work as a critical care nurse, rehabilitation nurse, genetics nurse, or as an addiction nurse. 

4. Occupational Therapy Assistant  
An occupational therapy assistant helps patients with everyday tasks when they can’t due to aging, illness or injury. Some occupational therapy assistants have their own offices, but they also work in nursing homes and hospitals. In most cases, this is a full-time work position. 

Due to the increased aging population, healthcare requirements will lead to an increased demand for occupational therapy assistants by as much as 29 percent by 2026. This massive hiring growth potential in the field means that job prospects are very favorable and will likely be for years. 

Some of the skills required to become a successful occupational therapy assistant include compassion for patients and interpersonal abilities. In addition, you will need physical stamina to assist your patients. Finally, you need to have an eye for details and remain flexible with every new patient you serve. 

Occupational therapy assistants usually require an associate degree. Vocational schools and community colleges also host occupational therapy programs in addition to hands-on field experience. You can also find this experience through externship opportunities programs. 

Most states require an individual to have passed the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to work as an occupational therapy assistant. Once in the field, you can advance your career by becoming an occupational therapist through additional education.

5. Social and Human Service Assistants

A social and human service assistant provides support in several fields like psychology, social work, and rehabilitation. Due to the interconnection of healthcare and human services, the assistants have a better opportunity at making a difference in health services as well as the overall well-being of their patients. As a social and human service assistant, you’ll help your patients receive aid as required – including navigating Medicaid to providing assistance for daily needs like personal hygiene. 

Social and human service assistants work full-time, sometimes during the evenings and weekends. You may work for healthcare facilities, nonprofits, private organizations or government organizations. 

The need for social and human service assistants will increase by 16 percent due to an increasingly aging population. Plus, you can expect job prospects to increase for assistants with a healthcare degree from an accredited institution. 
To work as a social and human service assistant, you need to have a compassionate personality during stressful life-situations. In addition, you need to display exceptional organization and communication skills as well as have an aptitude for problem-solving and time management. Furthermore, interpersonal abilities are critical, especially when facing some difficult circumstances. 

While a degree is not necessary, an associate degree or certificate in human services is required for this position. Plus, education helps get you more responsibilities, increasing your chances of succeeding in this healthcare field. 

Conclusion – Get the Job
The healthcare industry promises to offer job security for the foreseeable future and is a great option for those who are attracted to the caring professions. You may be asking yourself if you can change career or whether to consider a post-retirement career and if so, where to start. Here are some key steps:
  1. Figure out what general career path is most appealing to you. For healthcare careers, an interest in social occupations involving working and communicating with people is a must. If you're not sure what your interests are, take the free O*NET Interest Profiler and Skills Matcher to get more clarity.  
  2. Learn what preparation is involved. Research the career to learn what qualifications and professional training are required and how long it will take to prepare. Narrow down your list to career options that meet your interests and skills and are attainable for you, given your career goals and life stage. MyNextMove is a great place to start.  
  3. Conduct informational interviews. Find and network with people in your field(s) of interest to learn more about the work, the training/preparation involved and advice on how to get started. Consider volunteering in a hospital or medical center to connect with healthcare professionals, gain experience and exposure to the work and environment first-hand. 
  4. Retrain. Explore options for training, including online programs and local resources that will allow you to acquire relevant job skills. mySkills myFuture can assist in identifying local training opportunities to bridge your skills gap between your last job and your target job.
  5. Find your next opportunity, using our advice and recommended resources  in the "Best Online Resources for Job Seekers." 
Recommended Reading & Resources
  • ExploreHealthCareers.com offers peer-reviewed career descriptions designed to help readers find health careers that suit them. The site offers comprehensive resources for learning about healthcare careers, education and funding, and jobs. 
  • HospitalRecruiting.com is a nationwide healthcare job board for physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, allied health professionals, and non-clinical healthcare professionals. Browse open positions, apply to jobs, and to communicate with recruiters with active job openings.
  • The Complete Guide to Career Change After 50This guidebook walks you through the process of changing careers over the age of 50, including how to get started, where to get additional training, and what types of careers might be right for you.  
Ashley Lipman, Content Marketing Specialist
Ashley is an award-winning writer who discovered her passion for providing creative solutions for building brands online. Since her first high school award in Creative Writing, she continues to deliver awesome content through various niches.  
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