Thursday, 27 November 2008

Can Managers and Their Staff be More Productive?

Tough times invariably cause businesses to review how productive and efficient their staff and processes are. But since the mid eighties, many businesses have had rounds of process improvement programmes and efficiency drives, so can the orange really be squeezed to get more out, or is there simply no juice left?

A report launched this week by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) suggests that there’s still plenty of juice left in UK businesses. It claims that UK productivity could increase by up to a fifth if businesses change their approach to planning and measuring performance.

The MCA report, entitled ‘Getting more from the same – Delivering sustainable productivity improvement’, was sponsored by consultants Trinity House and surveyed top leaders across a range of public and private and organisations. The research identified that the key to productivity improvement was to engage and motivate employees, and that there were six critical success factors in achieving this.

Get sponsorship at a senior level
Leaders need to ensure that the business case for change and the performance objectives are clear and understood. This provides employees with the essential ‘why we are doing this’.

Involve the front line managers
The people with the most knowledge and understanding about the business are invariably the front and second line managers and therefore need to be consulted on all aspects of the change and performance improvement.

Measure the right things
Rather than having a plethora of performance measures it is more effective to choose a small number of relevant performance measures.

Communicate the business case and metrics –
It is vital that all employees understand the reasons for the change and that business measures are translated into meaningful objectives for each part of the business, team and individual. Managers and staff should be made accountable and rewarded for their contribution to productivity improvement.

Give managers the tools and skills they need for performance mangement.
Help the front line managers to be active managers, coaching and floor-walking rather than answering emails, doing admin and fire-fighting. Support them with appropriate management training and development.

Give it time and make it part of business as usual
Don’t expect instant results and manage expectations so employees don’t become de-motivated or disheartened. Performance improvement should be incorporated into job descriptions, business processes and reward mechanisms. Performance management should be viewed as part of day to day business and not as a one off initiative.

These findings add real weight to what many management consultants intuitively know about performance improvement. To read more about the MCA report go to

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Successful Marketing – How management training can help

All businesses need to allocate a good deal of resources to market their products and services if they are to be successful. It will not be self evident to the average purchaser that you provide the best management training, IT equipment or conservatories! Potential customers need to be told.

However, successful marketing is not simply about buying a few branded pens and paperweights and investing in an advertising campaign. It is about getting the fundamentals right in the first place.

The first “fundamental” activity is to deliver a quality product, service or experience in the first place. Investing in management training can help to ensure that all staff are motivated, capable and committed to this goal. Happy customers will naturally recommend your products or services to others without any prompting from you. Conversely, if staff are not committed to delivering a quality experience, no amount of promotions or advertising will change this.

Secondly, be clear about what is unique about your product or service that will enable your business to stand out from the crowd. For example, if you offer management training and development services what will set your business apart from the plethora of other training providers? Is it your approach, intellectual property or combined experiences?

Thirdly, proactively work with your existing customers. This may be in the form of promoting a wider range of products/services to them or alternatively using them as a route to winning new customers. For example, retailers use reward schemes that encourage and reward their customers for spending more money with them. Other examples include health or golf clubs who reward their members for recruiting their friends, family and work colleagues.

Finally, utilise your staff. Employees who are motivated, committed and happy will talk to their family and friends about what a fantastic place their work is and how their products/services are better than anyone else’s. It is therefore vital that managers are trained appropriately to get the most out of their staff.

Successful marketing is not just about advertising and promotion, it is also about getting the “fundamentals” right and appropriate investment in management training will help the business to get these in place. Once complete, the business is then in a position to invest in the more “traditional” aspects of marketing.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Planning for Empowerment

In a previous article we considered the rationale and benefits of empowering staff. However, it’s important to recognise that successful empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it. So what do we need to consider?

Use the following guidelines to help you plan your approach to empowerment.

Challenge yourself. The biggest barrier to successful empowerment is your own personal assumptions. For example, many managers do not empower their staff because they wrongly believe that they are not capable of taking on the responsibility, or because they personally will do a better job. In the short term these assumptions may be correct, what if you provided appropriate team training and support and enabled them to gain the skills and experience they need?

Be clear about what you expect. Remember, you are empowering your staff to deliver results not tasks. Therefore it is important to be clear what the desired results will be. In other words, what you will expect from them in terms of quality and quantity, budget, timing etc. Recognise that you will hold them accountable for the results and let the individual determine most appropriate means of how to achieve this.

Identify the guidelines that need to be set. People work best when they understand the boundaries that they have. Therefore what policies, principles, and procedures are considered essential to get the desired results? What do you expect them not to do? Also what levels of authority are you willing you empower the individual with?

Ensure that resources will be available. Clearly giving responsibility to your staff for specific outcomes without giving them the resources to achieve them is setting them up to fail. Therefore what financial, human, technical resources are available to them to deliver? What skills do they need? What other support is available to them?

Hold staff accountable for results. If you empower your staff, how will you hold them accountable? For example, what are the standards of acceptable performance? How will results/performance be measured and evaluated? How will progress reports be made and accountability sessions held?

Consider consequences. If you are going to hold people accountable, you must also consider what will happen when the desired results are achieved or not achieved. For example, positive consequences could include financial, recognition, appreciation, advancement, new assignments, enlarged responsibilities, and possibly promotion. Negative consequences could range from reprimand to retraining or termination of employment.

Empowerment is all about gain. It is about the gain of your time and improving your impact. It is also about gaining access to the skills, knowledge and initiative of your staff. However, it’s important to recognise that successful empowerment, requires careful preparation and planning, it not simply a case of giving someone a series of tasks and letting them get on with it. Doing this will only end in failure and disappointment.