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November 2018
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Sue Harrington

Preventing Fireworks and Creating Sparklers: A Positive Approach to Remedial Management

Posted by: Sue Harrington & Emma Trenier

 

It’s a telling coincidence that the number one reported reason that people leave their jobs is problems with their manager – and the number one issue that managers dread dealing with is problems with their people. Many managers would rather deal with angry customers or chase challenging sales targets than manage people problems.

 

One particular area where an escalating vicious cycle of fireworks often exists is managing underperformance and the responsibility for managing this typically falls at the feet of managers.

 

Research with managers, human resources practitioners and employees has shown that:

  • Dealing with underperformance can be a lengthy and time-consuming process, and managers often feel that it conflicts with their ability to deliver their business objectives.
  • Managers often feel ‘dumped on’ – they feel that they lack the training to handle complex personal issues, and feel ill prepared to tackle the difficult conversations around underperformance necessary for effective performance management.
  • Feeling a lack of confidence or willingness to tackle underperformance can result in managers feeling isolated and unsupported in their roles.
  • Communication around underperformance tends to be reactive and too late – conflict has already occurred between the employee and their manager, and these clashing perspectives can cause fireworks: the manager’s, sometimes bungled, attempts to manage underperformance can feel like bullying to the employee, which can then worsen any underperformance.
  • Consequently, many grievance and disciplinary issues arise from performance management situations, often from the miscommunication associated with these situations. The worry of this happening can often stop managers from dealing with performance issues early and openly.

 

So what are the dangerous fireworks to look out for?

  • First spark- Cases of underperformance can often be traced back to a specific incident, or a series of incidents that were not addressed at the time – perhaps the manager was too busy, perhaps they didn’t feel comfortable tackling the issue, or perhaps there had never been an on-going process of providing feedback, both good and bad – and it’s hard to start with the bad.
  • The slow-burning fizzle – These unresolved issues can then fester, like a Roman Candle – never quite coming to a head like a Rocket, but creating an undercurrent of conflict and miscommunication.
  • Big Bang – The longer it is left, the harder the issue is to confront. Conflict can often escalate in these situations, clouding the perceptions of both parties – both the manager and the employee are expecting the other to behave negatively, so that’s what they see. The manager becomes frustrated and angry, the employee feels harassed and may withdraw effort – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and one that is very hard to break.

 

Here are Capp’s 5 steps to creating sparklers and avoiding those fireworks:

  • First of all, understand your own strengths – how do they help you deliver timely feedback to your team? How do they help you to tackle more difficult conversations?
  • Develop your strengths spotting skills: know what makes each of your team tick, what motivates them, and where their strengths lie. Use this understanding to help your employees recognise and maximize their own strengths.
  • Set each individual clear and measureable goals that are aligned to their strengths, goals that will help to unleash potential and maximize performance
  • Have regular performance conversations with each of your team. Provide proactive feedback on their performance – give each person examples of what they are doing well.
  • Catch any issues early – be honest and clear about areas of potential underperformance and help individuals to think about how they can use their strengths to address any areas of weakness – and always provide examples.

 

When managers understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and those of their employees, they are better able to flex and personalise their management approach to proactively prevent performance-related conflicts. Capp’s 8-step Performance Manager Programme enables managers to do just this – equipping managers with the skills to manage through strengths, delivering enhanced performance through their people.

 

Download Capp’s Performance Manager White Paper to find out more about what people want from their managers.

 

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Managing Older Employees? What Do They Want From You as Their Manager?

Posted by: Dr. Sue Harrington & Reena Jamnadas

 

In the UK, there are over 7 million workers aged between 50 and 64, and one million of these are over 65. A worker who is currently aged 50 is now likely to work another 15 to 20 years.

 

The future age demographics of the British workforce are influenced by factors such as improving health in older age, fewer younger people entering the job market, increases in the State Pension age and the removal of the default retirement age.

 

Using the data we obtained from older workers in Capp’s Ideal Manager Survey, we consider how strengths can be used to manage and motivate older workers to maximise their engagement and performance, and to ensure that organisations benefit from their skills and experience.

 

But first, let’s remove some of the myths regarding older workers:

 

  • No decline in productivity: Older worker productivity does not begin to decline until after age 70;
  • Better health and safety: Older workers tend to have lower sickness absence than younger employees, are more committed to their employer and are less likely to have accidents at work;
  • Comparable return on training investment: Older workers are just as likely to want to learn new and challenging skills as younger workers and will benefit as much as their younger counterparts from investment in their training and development. Furthermore, the risk of any employee leaving after training investment is the same for all age groups.

 

When it comes to managing older workers, Capp’s Ideal Manager Survey revealed that values and principles are important to this group of employees.

 

Three key strengths in managers emerged as particularly important for older workers:

 

  • Mission: Managers who work with a sense of meaning and purpose, and towards a long-term goal;
  • Moral Compass: Managers who are guided by a strong ethical code, and make decisions in accordance with what they believe is right;
  • Personal Responsibility: Managers who take ownership of their decisions and hold themselves accountable for their promises.

 

To make a difference for the older employees you manage, consider these five pointers:

 

1.   Manage authentically and transparently. Whilst managing with integrity applies to all age groups, it is particularly important for older workers.

 

2.   Continue to value, reward and invest in development – ensuring continued and equal opportunities for training and development.

 

3.   Identify what gives each individual a sense of meaning and purpose. Have a conversation about this and explore opportunities to align tasks, projects and goals to this purpose.

 

4.   Provide autonomy and don’t seek to micro-manage – responsibility alongside clear accountability drives personal responsibility.

 

5.   Encourage mentoring relationships and opportunities for the sharing of knowledge and experience.

 

While we recognise that every employee is different and we’re mindful of the dangers of stereotypes, our data do suggest that these three things are the stand-out criteria of things that really matter for older employees.

 

Try putting them into practice and let us know of your experiences on the Comment section below.

 

Download Capp’s Performance Manager White Paper to find out more about what people want from their managers.

 

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Stand Out on Your Application Form

Posted by: Sue Harrington, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

When applying for a job, there are two important opportunities for convincing a potential employer to select you over other applicants: the application form and the interview.

 

Many application forms now ask applicants to explain why they should be considered for the job – which is good news because it is your chance to sell yourself, make a good impression and secure an interview.

 

This means that completing an application form is not simply an administrative task – it’s an important part of the recruitment process.

 

Here are my top tips on how to maximise your impact:

 

1. First impressions really matter – make sure you complete the form fully and accurately and check your spelling. If you can’t complete the form online, keep your handwriting as neat as possible.

 

2. Identify your strengths by completing Capp’s Realise2 strengths assessment (www.realise2.com) and apply them to the requirements of the job. For example, strengths such as Detail, Order and Planful would be very useful in a job that involves project management, while Service, Explainer and Listener would help you in a call centre role.

 

3. Describe your strengths in relation to the job responsibilities. For example, “I am a good listener and I am able to explain complex ideas to others clearly”. Better still, illustrate with an example – perhaps you ran the debating society or were part of a mentoring programme at school.

 

4. Be specific when you are asked to explain why you should be considered for the job. Build your answer around the job description and the person attributes to show how you fit the requirements – using your strengths examples to illustrate the point.

 

5. Include anything that demonstrates your initiative, motivation and employability – as well as your qualifications. This includes any work experience, paid or voluntary; other positions you have held, such as a team captain at school; hobbies and interests, particularly where you have learnt new skills (e.g., sailing, rock climbing or writing apps).

 

6. Stand out – what have you done that is different to the norm, that demonstrates that you have what it takes to succeed in this role, and showcases your future potential by highlighting your past achievements?

 

7. Seek feedback from other people and ask them to check your application form for errors and improvements before you send it.

 

By adopting these strategies, you increase your chances of being invited for an interview.  They won’t be enough to get you the job – that’s down to you, after all – but they will take you one step further along the process.

 

And remember, all you need to do is ensure you get to the next stage each time. At the final stage, of course, if you’re successful, you’ll be offered the job!

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Employability (Part 2): Five Top Tips for Showcasing Your Skills

Posted by: Sue Harrington, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

Often school leavers are caught in a seemingly irresolvable situation: you need a job to develop your employability skills, but you need employability before you can secure a job.

 

But consider this: as a school leaver, you may be more employable than you realise.

 

Here are our five top tips for young people just leaving school and entering the job market, to help you assess and develop your personal employability skills:

 

1. Identify and map your own employability strengths: Understanding your own strengths will help you to assess your employability. You can do this by completing Capp’s Realise2 strengths assessment (www.realise2.com) and then mapping your strengths onto the five elements of personal employability that I outlined yesterday. For example, if your strengths include Personal Responsibility, Persistence, Planful and Drive, what does that say for your level of self-direction?

 

2. Provide concrete examples of your employability: Look for the opportunity on application forms or at interviews to demonstrate your employability. Have you taken up a new hobby, researched it, taught yourself the requisite skills and become competent? Have you planned and arranged a holiday for you and friends? Remember, as a school leaver, employers will not be expecting all your employability evidence to be work-based.

 

3. Use work experience: Have you already gained some work experience, in the evenings, weekends or school holidays? This will have given you some insight into what it is like at work – what has it shown you about working in teams, solving problems or dealing with customers? What difficult situations have you handled successfully?

 

4. Gain more work experience: All work experience is useful for developing your employability skills and shows initiative on your CV and application form. Are there any internships available in jobs that interest you? Try searching the Internet or talking to your parents and their friends about opportunities where they work. Consider volunteering – unpaid work is still valuable experience and shows your work ethic to potential employers.

 

5. Find yourself a mentor – think of an adult you know who you respect and can talk to easily, preferably one who has the type of job you would like. This might be a member of your own family, a friend of your family, or the parent or elder brother or sister of a friend.

 

Talk to your mentor about their job and what it is like at work. For example, you might what to talk to them about the following things:

  • How did they get the job? Where was it advertised? What did they include on the application form? What questions were they asked at the interview?
  • What strengths, skills and knowledge are important for doing their job well? What are the challenges of their job and how do they overcome them?
  • Discuss your own strengths with your mentor and how you think they map onto employability. Talk to you mentor about how you can apply your experience to securing a job. For example, you may have been the captain of a sports team at school (which would demonstrate team-working skills and leadership potential) or you may have learnt to rock climb or play a musical instrument (demonstrating initiative, persistence and drive).

 

Leaving school and finding that first job is both exciting and daunting. Whilst having the right qualifications is still important for many jobs, understanding employability and being able to demonstrate these skills to potential employers is key.

 

In fact, it could just be the key that unlocks the door to your first job as a school leaver seeking employment.

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Employability (Part 1): Have You Got What Employers are Looking For?

Posted by: Sue Harrington, as part of School Leavers’ Fortnight

 

Employability has become a familiar and commonplace term, used by employers and the media in the post economic-crisis job market. But what does “employability” actually mean and what is its relevance for school leavers?

 

Employability refers to a person’s ability to secure a job, to remain employed, and to progress and perform well in their job. Developing employability skills is important for anyone wanting employment, even those who already have jobs, but it is particularly important for school leavers.

 

Nowadays, there is significant competition for fewer jobs and, unfortunately, unemployment amongst young people is on the increase. Employers often choose to recruit people who have already developed their employability skills through previous work experience in favour of inexperienced school leavers.

 

There are two main areas of employability. The ability aspect is about possessing a good standard of numerical, literacy and ICT (information and communication technology) skills. This includes proficiency with basic arithmetic, being able to write and speak clearly, a good vocabulary, and being able to listen well and ask appropriate questions of others.

 

The second aspect of employability is to do with your personal attributes, strengths and attitudes. Regardless of people’s previous experience or qualifications, employers are seeking people who have the right mindset to flourish at work.

 

Across a wide range of industries and businesses, employers describe a consistent pattern of personal employability skills:

 

  1. A positive mental attitude: a willingness and readiness to take on tasks and contribute; an openness to change and new ideas; a proactive approach to identifying better ways of doing things; and a drive to get things done.  It’s about being a “glass half full” person.
  2. Team-working: being able to get on with others, communicate well and work in a team. This includes being able to deal with disagreements and conflict when necessary.
  3. Self-direction: being able to work independently, keep yourself motivated, manage your own time and prioritise your tasks. This involves taking personal responsibility for your work and seeking and accepting feedback from colleagues.
  4. Problem-solving: showing initiative and having a creative and flexible approach to solving problems, being able to think situations through logically and generate potential solutions. This involves being resilient and bouncing back when things don’t go right.
  5. Business “savvy”: understanding what your organisation does, what “success” looks like for your employer and how your work contributes to this success.

 

Understanding what employability means is only part of the challenge – school leavers also need to develop their employability and demonstrate it to potential employers, if they are to be successful in today’s job market.

 

See Part 2 of this blog tomorrow, when I will explore how school leavers can assess and develop their core employability skills.

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