Friday, 30 July 2010

Management Development - Cutting Unauthorised Absences

by Lucy Cadman

Have you ever had that Monday morning feeling? The weekend has been too good and you don’t want it to come to an end, or you have over-indulged in one too many pints, and you can’t face the office. Or how about that Friday feeling, when the weekend can’t come soon enough, and you really really can’t be bothered to do a day’s work before it happens? Maybe you’ve even had that holiday feeling, where you’ve still got a million things to wash and pack, and could do with an extra couple of days to do it all in before you leave on your vacation. What’s the easy answer? Call in sick, and pretend that you are dying of some inhumane form of contagious disease that has rendered you completely incapable of moving from your bed, when in actual fact you are right as the proverbial rain and you are in reality taking the proverbial “P”.

Acceptable? NO!!

According to a survey undertaken by CHH, employers are losing ground when it comes to keeping workers on the job. Unscheduled absenteeism rates have risen to their highest level since 1999, and what continues to be of most concern is that almost two out of three employees who don’t show up for work aren’t actually physically ill.

It is estimated that employee absenteeism costs the UK economy around £12 billion per year. On average, this equates to around 8.5 days per employee at an average cost to the business of £600 per employee. Of course, these are not the only costs incurred by an organisation - other factors to take into account are disruption and lost work as other employees try to cover for their absent colleagues.

“Monday Morning Syndrome” (as described above) often starts with occasional lateness or absences which, if left unmentioned over time, can increase and become more regular. Trigger factors can also include:

• Problems concerning motivation.
• Quality of management and leadership.
• Working relationships.
• Working environment.
• Ergonomic factors.
• Health and safety issues.
• Job role.
• Lack of training and career development.
• Policies and procedures.
• Other factors outside of work e.g. personal or family problems.

If employees know that absence will be noticed and follow up on upon return, they are less likely to take time off without very good reason. From a Manager’s point of view therefore, it is essential to have measures in place which will reduce or prevent unauthorised absences. Some of these measures include:

• Regular monitoring of individual absence or attendance records.
• Clear procedures which are brief and understood by all employees e.g. ensuring that people ring in by a certain time if they are going to be late or absent.
• Hold ‘Return to Work’ interviews – informal discussion with the employee on the day after they have returned to work.
• A rule concerning absences immediately taken before periods of holiday.
• Taking disciplinary action against regular absenteeism. Whilst this course of action should always be very carefully considered, it may be necessary.

Developing People can help equip the Managers in your company to deal effectively with absenteeism, as well as many other Management Training and Development issues. Please call us on 0845 409 2346 for more information, or see our Management Development information on this website.

Friday, 23 July 2010

The Benefits of Investment in Management Training and Development

by Lucy Cadman

A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic training course run by Business Link West Midlands, featuring Susan Hallam of Hallam Internet as the trainer. Susan was bright, knowledgeable, approachable, engaging and downright funny, and as such, I came away not only feeling like I had learned a massive amount that I wanted to dash back to the office and put into practise, but that I had also had a really enjoyable time.

Have you ever wondered why the Management Development programme your organisation invested in didn’t deliver what was expected?

Have you personally ever attended a development programme or training course, but didn’t get out of it what you had hoped?

Have you ever delivered a Management Development programme, and found that your delegates were disinterested, unmotivated and disengaged?

Some of the answers to these questions can be found in recent research that has tried to explain how people learn and develop - in other words, how we come to know what we know, and how we change our behaviour and performance in response to our development. Many years of research have identified a number of common practices that are vital to ensuring individuals benefit from their own development.

Whether you have a role in the organising or the delivering of Management Training, it is worth bearing these eight points in mind:

1) Make the learning relevant.
We remember things better when they relate to us, and we are more likely to take in what we are being told when we can apply it to our own work or home lives. It is therefore essential that abstract concepts or models are made personally relevant using practical examples and case studies that relate directly to the business in which we work.

2) Make sure the learning can be applied immediately.
We forget things that we don’t regularly practice. Conversely, we quickly embed our learning when we can use it regularly. Give solutions and recommendations that your delegates are going to want to go back to their office and use straight away

3) Keep the learning interactive.
This sounds simple, but sometimes trainers are unaware of how much they "talk at" rather than "discuss with” their participants. Ensure learning sessions are participative, and include creative ways of involving the participants through exercises and discussions.

4) Limit the use of film/DVD.
Few things are more passive than watching television. Of course, there are excellent resources available in this medium, many of which can be very helpful. It is just important to make sure this does not become the primary means of communication.

5) Regularly review.
Review each section of training before moving on to the next one, and provide a complete summary of the entire session at the end. Spend the first five minutes of every session reviewing what occurred in the previous one. This technique can help tie important themes together and promote integration of the training program as a whole, as well as providing the links back to the workplace.

6) Space out management training sessions.
Very little is learned by cramming things in. Make sure that after a training session the participants have an appropriate amount of time to put into practice what they have learned before embarking on the next piece of learning.

7) Encourage participants to read around the subject.
Provide additional reading materials, books, articles internet sites etc to enable the participants to further their development. E-Learning is an excellent resource to engage the delegates before and after training takes place, as can the use of a community such as an online forum, where delegates are able to talk to others who have undergone the same training, and who may be able to share experiences about applying what they have learned in their workplace.

8) Ensure participants are held to account.
Provide feedback forms for the delegates, and encourage their return. Assess the responses given, and make any necessary changes to the programme to ensure further delegate satisfaction, understanding, and ultimately learning in the future.

Finally, it is important to recognise that development is an investment and that an organisation has the right to expect a return on that investment. Managers must therefore hold their staff to account. How have their staff applied their learning? How has it improved their performance? When I returned from my training course a week ago, I produced an 8 page document detailing for my boss and my colleagues everything that I had been learned, which was useful not only in sharing the knowledge, but in keeping it fresh in my own mind. My boss would (rightly) have expected nothing less. In my experience, managers who show a genuine interest in their staff and their development will invariably get the most from their investment.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Management Development - How to Be An Effective Manager

by Lucy Cadman @ Developing People

I know I go on about it a lot when writing my blogs, but I really am lucky to be managed at work by such an effective manager. My boss is capable of seeing that every job gets completed effectively by the right person, that all problems are addressed and resolved swiftly, and that the working environment is a happy and productive one.

To be an effective manager like this, it is important to recognise the good habits that belong to the areas of personal effectiveness and priority management. It is equally as important to recognise that the opposite of these good habits are the bad habits that can sneak up on us all sometimes, and start to make us ineffective almost without us realising!

Here are five steps towards being an effective manager:

1. Use a diary, and plan your work schedule
It may sound simple and obvious, but using a diary effectively can have a massive impact on how you utilise your time. It is no help to your effectiveness to complete one task and then spend the next half hour deciding what to do next! A previous boss of mine taught me how to use a diary, and her words still ring in my ears ten years later – “Action every single item in your diary for today, either by crossing it off as completed or by bringing it forward to another day, but do not ever let anything vanish from your diary unless the task is totally complete and requires no further follow up at all”.

She showed me that a diary is not just for out of office appointments, but can be used to plan the tasks of each day and week to use your time to maximum effect, and to help you keep clear time for priorities, including those which sometimes crop up unexpectedly. It also helps to ensure that your “important but not urgent” tasks still see the light of day. Remember - If you don’t have a plan for where you want to be … don’t be surprised if you arrive somewhere you don’t want to be!

2. Maintain a clear environment
One of my colleagues works from home, and every time she visits the office, she never fails to exclaim in surprise at the tidiness of my desk. I am not sure whether her surprise is based around the fact that I can manage to maintain such a tidy environment, or whether it has some roots in astonishment that I have managed to train my boss to be almost (well, nearly … maybe not quite!) as tidy and organised as I am – a skill for which he has in all honesty never previously been renowned!

An effective manager operates a “clear desk” policy. Make sure that everything you need regularly is easy to find and close to hand, and that things which are not needed so often are towards the back of your desk or filed away in draws. Have an In Tray, an Out Tray, and ensure that your Out Tray is empty at the end of each day. Do not leave your desk covered in papers at the end of each day, as you will find it surprisingly unattractive to return to the next morning, and you will waste valuable time in sorting out yesterday’s work today. Efficient administration and filing systems are invaluable.

3. Delegate efficiently
Delegation does not simply mean “ordering someone else to do it”. When used effectively, it is a key tool for an effective manager. My boss is the King of Delegation as he is not only able to pick the right person for the right task, but he can also assign tasks without any air of “offloading” them, and even more importantly, he then has the capability to take his hands off the task entirely instead of trying to tinker with the results in advance of them being presented – something that as a control freak, I must confess I aspire to being able to do.

Delegation is about entrusting responsibility and authority to others, who then become responsible to you for their results. It gives more time for you to spend on important priorities, increases your own effectiveness and impact, develops others and equips them to solve their own problems, enables decisions to be made nearer the “front line”, and promotes involvement and motivation amongst your staff. Management is about getting things done through others – it is not about doing everything yourself!

4. Remove all interruptions
The two biggest distractions preventing people from getting immersed in their work are emails and the telephone. As a bit of a technical “geek”, I am all too easily distracted by the sight or sound of an email arriving in my inbox. I could quite cheerfully tell the phone to go to … erm, somewhere lovely for a permanent holiday … but I cannot resist the allure of sneaking a peak at every email when it arrives. My boss is the opposite – he finds it harder to resist the phone, but is capable of showing great self-restraint in only checking his emails two or three times a day at the most. Between us, we make a combination of good practise!

Turn off the “ding” sound when you receive an email so that you are not tempted to look straight away and break your concentration – set aside time at the beginning, middle and end of each day for reading and replying to emails, and do not look at them at any other point. Likewise with the telephone – batch outgoing calls together rather than making them randomly throughout the day, and where possible, turn your telephone to voicemail and collect messages at stipulated points throughout the day. Operate a “stand up” policy when colleagues enter your workspace – if you remain standing whilst they are talking, they will get the message that you mean to be brisk and brief so that you can get back to the task you were completing.

5. Do not accept responsibility for the problems of your staff
For a kind and caring manager, this can be a tricky one, but you do yourself and your staff no favours by taking over responsibility of their problems. This can be a fine line to walk between showing concern and support without overstepping the bounds of professionalism, but having experienced the boss who phoned me a week after I had undergone major surgery to ask why I wasn’t back in the office at one end of the scale, through to the boss who was quite prone to shed a tear with me if things were tough at the other end of the scale, I can vouch for the fact that the middle line is actually the best place to be from an employee’s point of view.

Help your staff by all means, but the moment you let their problem become your problem, you will have one more problem than you had before – if you do this for ten staff every week, you will have gained over 100 problems in the space of three months! Instead, meet with them at an appointed time, and help them to resolve the issues themselves – you will be one problem lighter, and they will feel a sense of achievement for having ultimately dealt with things themselves.

Keep these five tips in mind, and you will be well on your way to be an effective manager with a good work/life balance, who achieves great results and motivates their workforce to even better things each day.

Friday, 2 July 2010

An Abject Lesson in Leading by Example

by Mark Evenden @ Developing People Ltd

Leading by example is an interesting topic, because for many of us we often want to “tell” people (family, friends, work colleagues, etc) something and then expect them to get on with it. We may not feel the need to do the things we have asked of others (for example, we might insist our child keeps their room tidy when the rest of our house looks like a bomb site), but we just expect others to do as they are told. However, our behaviour has a direct impact on the people we interact with, and I will give you a simple example of this.

I have had an interesting first season as the Manager of a girls football team. I had no previous football coaching experience, and so the club assigned me an experienced coach to support me and help me learn the ropes. Initially this was very helpful because I could not make every game due to work commitments.

However, I found out that when I was away, the said “experienced coach” had become very frustrated with one of the league referees. Instead of hiding his frustrations, he made them known to all, and made comments in front of the girls (and their parents) such as “We lost because the other team had an extra player”. His behaviour started to cause angst amongst the team and the parents, and it because a regular discussion point whenever that particular referee was in charge.

The team played really well, and reached the final of the local league cup. However, guess who the match referee was and guess what the outcome of the final was?

Yes, we lost the game - not because the other team were better than us, but because in the minds of the girls and of the parents, we were playing against a team of 12, and therefore we would never ever win.

This is an abject lesson in leading by example. The behaviour of the “experienced” coach affected the team and how they played. Sadly, he still couldn’t see it – his only comment was a hollowly triumphant “See?? I *told* you we wouldn’t win with that referee” !!!

Sometimes (or perhaps often), football coaching has nothing to do with football, but it does have a lot to do with setting an appropriate example.