Category Archives: Performance Management

Personality: yours for life or can it be changed?

Recently I was involved in a discussion where we were talking about behaviours at work, and the issue of personality arose. Some would argue that you can’t change your personality, and the way you behave (for instance, in the workplace) is down to your personality and also perhaps to do with the chemical make-up of your brain.

Obviously being in HR, I would protest this- arguing that we are all in control of our own behaviours and that this is something that we can change. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychotherapy (treatment for emotional and psychological problems where a person talks with a mental health professional) that helps a person to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours (Source: Better Health Channel).

The core philosophy of CBT is that thoughts, feelings and behaviours combine to influence a person’s quality of life.

cbt

It is said that your thoughts influence how you feel and those feelings then impact on how you behave or react. For example, a situation at work (stimulus) occurs where someone criticises something you have done. You could potentially be thinking:

I’m so angry!!!
She’s always picking on me!
She has no idea what she is talking about!
He was really harsh in the way he said that
Perhaps he’s right; maybe I could improve on XX…
I’m glad that I got that feedback

Depending on the way that you think, this can impact on how you feel about the whole situation and this will dictate your response.

Recently however some have argued to me that if your personality is to react in a certain way, then this is beyond your control and just a part of who you are.

So I went looking for some research on this and found a great article: Sherin, J. and Caiger, L. 2004, ‘Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy: A Behavioural Change Model for Executive Coaching’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 225-233.

Here is a key excerpt:

REBT resulted from Ellis’s objective to better understand which specific features of personality caused people to maintain dysfunctional behavioural patterns (Ellis, 1994). Drawing on both Stoic and Adlerian philosophy, he argued that personality was best defined by how people interpret and respond to their environment. He contended that an individual’s emotional and behavioural reactions are determined solely by his or her interpretations of events, not by the events themselves (Neenan & Dryden, 2000).

So the research suggests again that change in behaviour is possible and that personality is not a get-out-of-gaol-free pass for people who react to situations in a certain way. Now the task is to convince them that…

References:
Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Birch Lane.
Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (2000). Essential rational emotive behaviour therapy. London: Whurr.

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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Performance Management, Values

Helping people change by changing the way they think

Although the blog has been quiet for a few days, I can assure you that there has been a lot of movement for me behind the scenes in my personal life and in the world of work.

I’ve spoken about change quite a bit before, but I’ve somewhat hit a wall in being able to influence personal change on others. Even when I write that down, I know it doesn’t make sense.

You can’t make someone else change, but what if you just want to help them out of a dark place they are in that doesn’t make any sense.

Do you persist or let them go?

homer-brain

We see this in our workplaces all the time. These are people who believe:

* It’s okay to behave badly because that’s the way their boss treated them
* That the environment/company makes them so stressed that their reaction (no matter how poor) is natural, and therefore ok
* That if someone else provokes them or attacks them first- this gives them the right to attack back. It’s all justified if someone else starts it.

We also see it in our personal lives.

With depression and other mental illnesses becoming more publicized, we all know someone who isn’t seeing things as they really are, or are seeing things in a much more negative light.

In thinking about all of this, I often try to remember some basic cognitive behavioural therapy in that there is the event, our thoughts and then our reaction.

There are some things we can control, and other things we can’t. We can’t control the event or the situation but we can control the way we think about it and that impacts on our behaviour and how we choose to respond or react.

What I’m really struggling with is how to convince people of this idea. Have you ever needed to convince people that they can change their behaviour by changing the way they think?

If you have I would love to hear your story- feel free to change individual or organizational names. I think these sorts of stories will be inspiring to others so please share your success story.

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Filed under Change Management, Performance Management

Open Feedback Culture is important- what’s yours like?

When we consider athletes, dancers or other sportspeople today we know that they set goals, they train and they work hard to achieve optimum performance. After they perform, they often critique the performance and receive feedback from others. For instance a baseball pitcher might review video footage, they might seek out feedback from their coach or sports specialists. If they didn’t seek feedback, or weren’t provided with this feedback they would not be able to achieve or maintain the desired performance.

ballerina_gallery_1

It’s no secret here that the culture at many organisations is one that shy’s away from having tough or difficult conversations with people. This includes peer-to-peer dialogue, upwards and downwards feedback or communication.

The best feedback for learning occurs in the moment, but I think it would be safe to say that many staff aren’t even receiving accurate feedback during appraisal time. It’s much easier for managers to tick the box and write a general comment about an employee than have an honest conversation about someone’s behaviour and performance. Sometimes it’s the threat of a grievance or investigation that put’s managers off.

We know feedback is crucial to improving performance so this is a culture we need to change.

The reason why people get scared and threatened by feedback is often because they aren’t used to receiving it. Often managers tippy toe around what they really need to say, whilst others blurt out loud and clear what’s on their mind in an inappropriate manner. Neither approaches are effective methods of providing feedback to employees, nor will they evoke a change in the individual’s behaviours. Balance is key.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting you use the old hamburger approach (or shit sandwich as some people call it!) but it is about delivering a firm message in an appropriate way to other people in the workplace. We talk a lot about communication (yeah yeah we all know the model of giving and receiving a message)- so why don’t we think about this when giving feedback?

Some further thoughts: here’s a three-pronged approach I like (HT Evan Carmichael)

1. From an individual perspective, it is critical that people don’t take feedback personally. Take it as a means of learning.
2. From the team perspective, managers need to provide coaching in the spirit of improving performance, not naming flaws or faults or trying to change what makes someone who he/she is. Use it as a means of instruction.
3. From an organizational perspective, companies need to recognize and reward people who have the courage to remain open to giving and receiving constructive performance feedback. Exploit it as a way to develop talent and manage performance.

What is the feedback like in your workplace and how can we as HR professionals encourage it?

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Filed under Communication, Performance Management

As promised… uni paper on teleworking- interesting read!

The concept of ‘teleworking’ is emerging in the world of work as a flexible form of employment which can provide many benefits to employers and employees. It has been seen to provide benefits to workers through offering employment options for those who may normally become excluded from the labour market, in addition to an enhancement of job satisfaction. Moreover, employers also reap the benefits of teleworking, with financial savings made possible by means of a reduction in overhead costs and necessitation for office space, an amplification of the labour pool and a noticeable decrease in absenteeism levels. However, there are also some notable disadvantages of teleworking which include matters concerning a lack of social and group interaction for teleworkers, and the pressure to ensure productivity levels are consistently high compared with others in the workplace. Employers may also encounter problems tracking precisely what the employee is completing, and ensuring that functions such as remuneration and rewards are appropriately allocated.

There is a high level of ambiguity associated with the term ‘teleworking’ as the concept remains difficult to define. This may be attributed to the use of tantamount terminology used interchangeably including ‘telecommuting’, ‘homeworking’ and ‘teleworking’. Telecommuting initially emerged as a means of preventing the daily travel to an individual’s place of employment. The first telecommuter on record was in 1977 when a Boston bank president installed a phone line between the bank and his home (Blackwell, C.W. 2002). In 1973 Jack Nilles, a rocket scientist working on a NASA satellite communications project moved his work home in order to avoid the Los Angeles gridlock. Consequently he felt relaxed, with fewer interruptions and experienced noticeably higher productivity levels (Buttross et al. 2002). Thus this notion reinforces the idea that work is an activity that is performed rather than simply a location to go to.

Comparably homeworking places immense importance on the location work is performed, namely the home environment. However there are a few aspects which must be evident in order to distinguish teleworking from other forms of decentralised work performed at home; telework should constitute work which is partially or fully independent from the location of the employer, utilise Information Technology (IT) including computers, telephones and the internet, and be delivered through an organisational form with some type of communicative link to the organisation (Baruch, Y. 2000). Thus, teleworking may be defined as a flexible way of working which enables workers to get access to their labour activities from different locations by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (Perez Perez et al. 2003).

working from home

One of the main benefits of Teleworking for employees is the elasticity of the job structure. Workers who are unable to adhere to rigid 9-5 employment in a city location are given the opportunity to complete their job and remain in employment. This may include individuals who have to relocate, are unable to work full-time hours and those with family responsibilities and/or maternity leave. Patrickson’s (2002, pp. 704-715) article articulates that firms may even utilise this widening of the labour pool to include conventionally disadvantaged groups as a method in which to enhance the corporate image as being socially responsible. For instance, teleworking may be an opportunity for disabled or older workers. Evidently this is also a positive for employers who are then able to project a socially conscious image to the public, and/or retain quality, skilled and trained staff from leaving the workplace.

Furthermore with the eradication of travel time, employees no longer endure fatigue, strain and irritation associated with physical travel, have more leisure time and have higher productivity levels due to a minimization of distractions normally occurring in the workplace (Fairweather, B.N. 1999). This is supported by a European Union-backed survey wherein more than 90 per cent of teleworkers for British Telecoms reported benefits such as lack of commuting, higher productivity, increased leisure time, the capacity to multi-task and the independence to choose when to work. Moreover, the flexibility reportedly allows workers to perform whenever it makes sense to the individual such as peak personal times (for instance early in the morning or late at night) which leads to a greater overall control over one’s own time (Colihan et al. 1998). The social impact of this teleworking arrangement has led to 69 percent of AT & T workers to state that they are more satisfied with their job (Hrisak, D.M. 1999). Additionally, motivation may be improved as employees respond positively to the trust and confidence their employers have illustrated (Clay et al. 2001). Thus it may be conceded that the benefits of teleworking may lead to overall increased levels of job satisfaction, personal effectiveness and employee engagement.

Further to this, without the flexibility of teleworking many employees would be imputing less effort and commitment to the workplace, manifesting as high absenteeism levels and even attrition rates. The impacts of predicaments or problems which result in employee becoming absent from work such as weather, transport, illness or injury is significantly reduced with the nature of teleworking (Clay et al. 2001). The 1999 Telework America National Survey reports that 30 per cent of teleworkers would take personal leave, 17 percent would take sick leave and 14 per cent would leave work early to manager their personal needs if they were unable to telework. Thus, teleworking permits a degree of flexibility for an employee which ultimately allows workers to maintain personal needs whilst remaining committed to the job.

However the driving force behind many employers’ decisions to implement teleworking is arguably cost minimization for the organisation. Nilles (1994) affirms that with the costs of traditional office space skyrocketing in recent times, and transferable telecommunication equipment plunging, the expenditure of outfitting a teleworker may be possible to recover in less than a year. The reduction in real estate required is most definitely a major benefit (Blackwell et al. 2002). Additionally in contemporary society, many organisations are forced to consider the impact that the political world creates on the organisation. For instance, after the collapse of the World Trade Centre, the attack known as “9/11”, many are reluctant to place all their resources in one location (Blackwell et al. 2002). Subsequently, teleworking allows a company to have many human resources working from various locations. Thus there are significant savings to be made through the reduction in overhead costs and office space, in addition to the benefit of securing human resources at various locations.

Despite the apparent benefits previously mentioned, there are also the potential disadvantages that must be considered. Employers must contemplate the change in environmental factors which may alter the way work is performed. One of the most prominent concerns is the issue of isolation and lack of interpersonal interaction which is normative in many workplaces. This may include informal chats around the water cooler, grapevine communication, meetings and social outings. In a common teleworking situation, this is abruptly replaced with an individual sitting on their own using emails, faxes and telephone calls to communicate rather than face-to-face contact. As a result, some of the most common disadvantages as outlined by Shabha and Ward (1999) include the inability to bounce ideas and problems off co-workers and others in the workplace, a complete lack of social interaction, feelings of isolation from developments concerning their career and the company, and finally a diminishing sense of belonging to the company which subsequently impacts on the individuals commitment. This may also have a detrimental effect on productivity, creativity, innovation and overall effectiveness (Diamond et al. 2002), with one third of employees surveyed at BC Drinks Ltd asserting that teleworking had increased rather than decreased their stress levels (Harris, L. 2003). This evidence suggests that not every individual has the capacity to telework due to the lack of social interaction, which has serious implications for recruitment and selection of those who telework within an organisation.

Previously the benefits associated with increased control over one’s time were mentioned, in addition to the flexibility to perform work when it is most optimal for the individual. Despite this autonomy, there is evidence to suggest that teleworkers have a tendency to work outside normal working hours with the underlying expectation from management that supplementary hours would be worked (Diamond et al. 2002). Thus, teleworkers feel pressured to work harder to get the tasks done, with many discovering they have increased workloads, due to a lack of support available to those in the workplace such as administrative assistants and managers for instance. A whopping 85 per cent of those surveyed at BC Drinks Ltd reported a longer working day with another 60 percent stating that working weekends to ‘catch up’ was a regular practice (Harris, L. 2003). Therefore, telework as a form of employment may be disadvantageous due to underlying pressures inducing employees to work longer and harder, leading to increased stress levels and a decreased level of potential with the organisation.

Likewise, teleworking has also contributed to the blurring of the division between work and leisure time. Many organisations implement teleworking strategies in the belief that they are promoting the balance between work and family, however in many instances this is not the case. Despite the flexibility of being able to drop children off at school, and work around other commitments in one’s life, teleworkers may also find that the realms of work and family have been blurred to the point that they have become indistinguishable from one another. Tietze (2002) identifies coping strategies such as ‘separators’ which involves adhering to strict regimes in order to keep work and family detached, and ‘integrators’ which follows a more laissez-faire temporal regime to integrate domestic and professional activities. For example, in order to separate work and family a teleworker may establish a closed door area to work in complete with a dress code for the hours of ‘work’. Despite these coping strategies, the teleworker must remain pragmatic about the situation. The time spent at home will take on a new meaning when the realm of work invades this private domain, and the fact that children do not have the capacity to divide between work and play must be considered (Kleiner, B.H., and Tan-Solano, M. 2001). Thus the work and family balance is a responsibility the teleworker must be prepared to manage.

Moreover, the increased autonomy of teleworkers ensures that many of the HRM functions including remuneration, rewards and recognition, remains an intricate process. With this new form of work; the phenomenon that is teleworking, many employers feel that it is difficult to compensate someone who is not under their direct, physical control. In order to overcome this, organisations must learn precisely how to measure real productivity, rather than merely calculating hours spent in the office (Davidson, K. 1992). With this there is also a requirement for companies to learn how to effectively manage the workers who telework, as the standard policies and practices are simply not adequate. For instance, a survey of telecommuting practices in Canada exposed that only 25 per cent of telecommuting organisations had a specific human resource policies directed at their telecommuters (Solomon, N.A., and Templer, A.J. 1993). Also consider the issues of rewards, recognition and promotion. A major concern for teleworkers has been the issue of promotions and recognition, with many fearing that because they were ‘out of sight’ that they would also be ‘out of mind’. Thus this highlights the importance of a performance management system which specifically measures those on productivity and achievements, rather than physical, tangible presence in the office.

So what do you think? I know it was long and you felt like you were marking a paper reading it, but this has reminded me of so many reasons for and against working from home. It’s also important to remember that not everyone has the ability to do this and we need to determine who these people are.

As HR, do we have all our ducks in a row on this one? Are the correct policies and support services in place?

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Filed under Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Worklife Balance

Breaking News: First Speakers for HR Club Sydney Event confirmed

I’m extremely excited today to announce that I have confirmed three amazing speakers for our very first HR Club Sydney networking event which will be held on 24th August in Sydney.

David Hales (previously Manager People Relations Group flight Training) and Sue Jennings (previously Manager People Relations, Customer & Marketing) from Qantas; will join forces with Benjamin Palmer (CEO of Genos) to speak about “Improving Customer Service and Performance with Motivational Development at Qantas”.

qantas

Session Outline:

Human resources, organisational development and learning and development professionals typically focus on enhancing an employee’s skills and capabilities however few focus on enhancing employees’ motivation to perform their roles.

At Qantas, the focus has been on what is termed “developing motivational fit,” a series of people initiatives designed to enhance employees’ motivational role fit.

In this session, we’ll share with you how buy-in from the business was obtained, the tools and techniques used, and the value to both the business and the employee of developing motivational fit in terms of workplace safety, customer service, employee performance, and relationships.

We have looked at ways to enhance employees’ motivational fit in four key areas. These are;

1. role fit – how motivating employees find their day-to-day tasks;

2. manager fit–how motivating employees find the leadership style of their manager;

3. team fit–how motivating employees find the characteristics of their team; and

4. organisation fit–how motivating employees find the company culture.

You’ll have the opportunity to analyse your own level of motivational fit and apply some of the experiential activities with others to analyse the value of developing motivational fit in your organisation. There will also be time for questions and answers towards the end.

This event is all about sharing HR info and learning from others (no plugs for products or services) and it is a great way to network with other HR professionals.

Event venue and speaker bios to come very soon. Places will be very limited so be sure to register early.

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Filed under Events, Performance Management

Do you encourage a coaching culture?

Recommended Reads:
Lindbom, D. (2007), ‘A Culture of Coaching: The Challenge of Managing Performance for Long-Term Results’, Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 101.

In recent times there has been much emphasis placed on coaching in the workplace. Lindbom takes this further, arguing that there needs to be a strong organizational culture of coaching in order to fully support managers and provide regular performance feedback to all employees.

Lindbom says that culture is “the entire organization, its values, strategic goals, and the formal and informal systems in place that guide managers and employees in everyday work life”.

Essentially what we are talking about is a culture where people continuously receive and seek out feedback (formal and informal) in order to improve their performance.

HomerSimpsonCoach

So how do you make this happen?

Lindbom’s article places great emphasis on incorporating performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan. This illustrates true top-down commitment and lays the foundation for success in quality people management. Similarly, much of the literature echoes this message insisting that widespread support for performance management from the upper management team is essential (Griffin. 2004) and that gaining consensus and buy-in from senior management early on in the effort can help establish legitimacy and visibility for the process (Fletcher & Williams. 1996).

Additionally, this then has the potential to increase employee commitment to the organization and its goals. Moreover, Ariyachandra & Frolick (2008) go further in articulating the term ‘Business Performance Management’ which facilitates the creation of strategic goals and supports the subsequent management of the performance to those goals. This concept highlights the need for performance management to be strongly interlinked with specific strategic objectives and key performance indicators or core competencies that are meaningful to the organization.

Finally, Lindbom highlights the importance of formal systems and informal networks in effective performance management and also the need to provide managers with the right tools, training and support to effectively coach and improve performance. With these components in place, in addition to the incorporation of performance management and coaching into the core competencies and the strategic plan, Lindbom argues that a strong organizational culture of coaching will be established resulting in supported managers and employees regularly receiving feed back on performance.

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Filed under Performance Management, Recommended Readings

Afraid of giving performance feedback?

Recommended Reads:
Steelman, L.A., and Rutkowski, K.A., (2004), ‘Moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback’, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 6-18.

Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) paper provides a valuable contribution to the area of performance feedback as it examines moderators of employee reactions to negative feedback. This is an important area to explore, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Concepts such as the “halo effect” where a manager rates the individual highly because of a one-off high performance which masks mediocre performance over the rest of the appraisal period and the “Mum effect” where managers withhold negative or undesirable information significantly impede learning and development for the individual, which can then cost the company considerably in terms of desired results linking to the strategic objectives.

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Moreover, this has the potential to impact upon employee’s self-perception and how they receive future feedback about their performance. This is because unless they receive accurate feedback on their performance in real-time they will keep making inferences and assumptions about how they are performing and are often met with disappointment and frustration when they discover their perception is not aligned with their managers. Importantly, Clampitt (2005) notes that a manager “cannot not give performance feedback” because if the manager doesn’t give explicit feedback, they will infer it, and continue to perform at standards they deem acceptable to themselves. Hence illustrating why open communication and regular feedback is so important and obstructions to learning and development such as the ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’ effect need to be avoided at all costs.

Subsequently, the results from Steelman & Rutkowski’s (2004) survey which surveyed a total of 405 staff across two manufacturing companies indicated that favourable characteristics can in fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback. For instance, it found that employees are the most motivated to make changes to their performance when negative feedback is delivered from a source they consider to be credible and of a high quality. It is additionally important that the feedback is delivered in a considerate, meaningful manner which includes providing factual information and taking the time to work with the individual to set goals in order to improve future performance.

Hence these findings are important to consider when delivering feedback in the working environment. It is crucial to be aware of various effects such as ‘halo’ and ‘Mum’, as not delivering negative feedback can be extremely disadvantageous for both the individual and the organization. Moreover, by changing the way in which performance feedback is delivered, it is possible to fact mitigate the negative consequences of unfavourable feedback with favourable characteristics.

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Filed under Performance Management, Recommended Readings