Monday, 22 September 2008

Improve your effectiveness – learn to manage your staff!

Too frequently managers find themselves dealing with their team’s problems rather than encouraging them to solve their problems themselves.

Consider the following exchange, between a manager and their supervisor:

“Hi John, I wonder if you can have a word with Fred. I have spoken to him a number of times about wearing his safety goggles in the lab and he still doesn’t wear them. I thought if you had a word with him he might take it more seriously from you?”

What happens if John accepts this problem from his supervisor? He will become burdened with a task that’s not his and undermine the authority of his supervisor because next time, Fred will not do anything until his bosses boss tells him to.

So what should a manager do?

The following is paraphrased from Orcken and Wass’ article in the Harvard Business Review (January 1990) and sums the issue up nicely.

‘At no time while you help someone with their problem must you let it become your problem. The instant their problem becomes yours, they will no longer have a problem and you will have one more than you had before. If you have 10 staff and you let them each give you a new problem to resolve every week, then in three months you will have over 100!’

To minimise “problem collection” managers should follow some simple guidelines:

1. Don’t accept responsibility for your people’s problems. This doesn’t mean that you won’t help them, it just means that the responsibility for the problem stays with them.

2. Meet with them to discuss the issue, preferably at the appointed time and to agree any resulting action.

3. Help them to deal with the problem, so that they can resolve it themselves.

4. Agree what action they will take and when you will review it with them. Follow up is vital to ensure that the problem is resolved satisfactorily.

It is also important to ensure that the individual understands the level of initiative they are expected to use. For example, the issue may be serious enough to warrant a “please look into it and come back with your recommendation before taking action”. Alternatively, the issue may warrant the following response “act on your own and tell me when it has been resolved”.

To prevent managers from being overworked and their staff becoming paralysed due to indecision, managers must ensure that they don’t become burdened with problems that aren’t theirs.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Improve your chances of selecting the right person.

Most organisations endeavour to attract and retain the highest calibre of employees, but what formal processes can managers use to improve their chances of selecting the right person?

Clearly all potential employees must be selected for roles on the basis of merit, i.e. their capability to fulfil the job role requirements. However, it is also important to ensure that potential employees are provided with the necessary information to enable them to make appropriate decisions.

Firstly, all vacant roles should have a job description, and essential minimum selection criteria associated with it. The criteria should include qualifications, experience, key skills, capabilities and appropriate behaviours.

To ensure consistency, it is best if applicants are asked to complete a standard application form to enable an initial assessment of their capabilities against the job role’s essential minimum criteria.

In addition, applicants should be provided with information such as: job description, terms and conditions, brief history of the organisation, key strategic objectives, and a brief on how the role holder is expected to contribute to the business. In this way they can understand what is potentially required of them which will help them to make appropriate decisions.

When it comes to selection, ultimately, the job role should dictate the selection process being used, with a fairly simple process for junior employees, to more complex selection methods for senior employees. For example a simple process might include the following:

1. Initial screening – A standard application form to initially assess a candidate’s suitability, accompanied by proof of relevant qualifications.

2. Initial interview - A competency based interview with HR., including relevant skills and/or aptitude tests relating to the job role.

3. Final interview – A formal interview with HR and the Line Manager, with the final decision being made jointly between the Line Manger and HR.

For more senior managers, the process might include:

1. Initial screening – A standard application form, personality test, verbal, numerical and critical thinking tests, proof of relevant qualifications and a written submission to a business problem.

2. Interview and meeting - A competency based interview HR and the Line Manager, followed by a meeting with peers to determine fit with organisation’s direction and culture.

3. Final interview and presentation – A final interview with the Line Manager, HR, and other Senior Managers at which the candidate(s) deliver a presentation which demonstrates their capability for the role and a plan for what they will do in their first 6-12 months. The final decision being made jointly by those present.

It should be noted that all methods of selection must be reliable, objective and guard against bias.

Finally, it is good practice (and for some roles a legal requirement) that checks are undertaken before a final offer is made to any candidate. For example these might include: proof of identity, criminal record, qualifications, references, state of health, and driving license.

Most organisations wish to attract the highest calibre of employees, as the right person can have a considerable impact on an organisation’s success. However, by inference the opposite must also be true, that selecting the wrong person could potentially be disastrous. This is why it is important to not simply hire on a hunch or gut feeling, it makes much more sense to invest in a formal process or recruitment advice

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Recruiting Mr or Ms Right

Too many managers see a candidate and make a judgement on gut instinct.They are easily persuaded (or not!) by the first impressions a candidate makes. However, if the right person can have a considerable impact on an organisation’s success, (and by inference the wrong person could be disastrous!), why would you hire on a hunch? Surely it makes more sense to invest in a formal process. In addition, one has to question why a candidate would want to take job on the basis of an informal chat, the best candidates know that it is important that they understand the role, what will be expected of them and that the organisation they plan to work for has a professional approach in everything they do. These things would not be demonstrated by a cosy chat in a restaurant.

However, that doesn’t mean that gut feeling and instinct should be totally excluded from the process. For example, if an organisation advertises a position, there are a number of hurdles that have to be first overcome before an interview can even take place. For example:

· The right person or persons need to see the advert.

· The advert needs to excite them enough for them to want to respond.

· They then have to respond in a manner that ensures the HR department or recruitment consultants shortlist them.

So how can managers use their instinct to improve the recruitment process? Essentially, managers should always be on the lookout for potential new recruits. As people we are always meeting others either informally (on planes, trains, social events), or formally at business meetings and networking events. It is during these interactions that gut feel and instinct can work best.

By meeting potential candidates outside of a formal process, you can really get a feel for what motivates them and what makes them tick, and make an initial judgement about whether or not they are the right sort of person for your organisation. Once they become interested in what you have to offer, then a more formal ‘assessment’ process can be engaged. For more in depth advice on your recruitment processes and how to improve them why not look at