How is the feedback culture in your organisation?

I was initially going to give this post the title Performance Management, but then I had a vision in my head of people putting their hands to their faces yelling, "NO! NO! NO! Not another HR person telling us how to complete a performance appraisal form."

I read an article once, years ago, that highlighted an executive from the United States said that if they had a choice between performance review and a paper cut they would opt for the paper cut every time. I think this sums the process up for the majority of people.

What I really want to discuss is whether you think your organisation has a culture of giving feedback. By this, I don't mean once or twice a year. I mean on a day to day basis.

So, what I want you to do at the moment is to forget about the six-monthly or yearly performance review and close your eyes and imagine the following. Imagine that your employees:

  • understand what type of behaviour is expected in the workplace;
  • understand how the work they do impacts organisational performance;
  • understand what is to be delivered;
  • understand when it has to be delivered;
  • understand the quality the work is to be delivered in;
  • are comfortable in going to managers to discuss issues knowing that they will be supported;
  • know they will be recognised for their achievements;
  • can discuss career aspirations and what support can be given to help;
  • are spoken to about their strengths and how these strengths can be used more;
  • are spoken to about where they may need to develop further;
  • are spoken to about the work that they like to do or would like to do; and
  • are able to provide upward feedback to help managers strengthen or develop their leadership skills.

Imagine what type of organisation you could have if the above happened as a matter of business-as-usual? You would hope it would be an organisation that is achieving its business goals.

Really, when you think about giving feedback, it is about good continuous communication.

Maybe my next article should be about why people dislike giving feedback?

How To Get The Best Out Of Your Gen-Y Employees

Generation-Y are those born between 1980 and 1994. According to Bryan Patterson from the Herald Sun in his article A-Z of generation Y, 8 July 2007, there are now around 4.5 million Generation-Y Australians, which is nearly 20% of the population.

Generation-Y has been described as fickle, self-focused and transient. Anecdotally, managers say that they are demanding, impatient, difficult to manage and difficult to retain. Sounds like a disaster in the making for employers!

It is not all bad news, though. Listed below are some really good reasons why you should employ Generation-Y workers:

  • they are the most educated-minded generation in history;
  • they are more optimistic about life;
  • they are generally socially aware;
  • they are tolerant and accepting of cultural differences;
  • they are technically savvy and will use this skill to find smarter ways of working; and
  • they know how to find information and use this to generate new ideas.

So how do you get the best out of Generation-Y?

The things that matter most to Gen-Y workers are, or should be, things that also matter to you as an employer.

They want their job to have a purpose, be fun and they want to feel that what they do counts. They want to be closely mentored, be given constructive feedback and to be given opportunities to gain new skills. As they have a low boredom threshold they are always keen to undertake new challenges and new experiences.

Eric Chester an author of nine books for and about youth, outlines the following eight strategies for managing and motivating Generation-Y:

  1. Let them know that what they do matters.
  2. Tell them the truth - don't try to pull the wool over their eyes.
  3. In order to get buy in, explain the why of what you re asking them to do and tell them what's in it for them.
  4. Learn their language - communicate in terms they understand.
  5. Be on the lookout for "rewarding opportunities".
  6. Praise them in public - make them a star.
  7. Make the workplace fun.
  8. Model behaviour - don't expect one thing out of them that you don't and won't deliver yourself. Be the example.

Not surprisingly, these tips, while especially effective with Gen-Y workers, apply equally to your entire staff; it's just that the Gen-Yers expect these behaviours. Older workers might be surprised by them.

One little extra tip for you to think about, if you learn how to motivate and train Generation-Y, you will earn their undying loyalty.

This post appeared in the Hippo Jobs Newsletter last week. Hippo is a recruitment agency that targets young Australians and visitors from overseas who want casual or part-time work.

Recruitment in the Australian Public Service

A few weeks ago NathanaelB from purecaffeine contacted me regarding his frustration of the Australian Public Service (APS) recruitment process. He was so frustrated he decided to write a blog post just to give some tips to applicants.

Better, Faster: streamlining recruitment in the APS cites the APS State of the Service Employee Survey 2005/2006 saying:

  • more than one in four employees agreed that recruitment processes are difficult for candidates outside the APS to understand
  • more than one third perceived that the recruitment processes of their agency do not allow for recruitment to be completed in a timely manner.
  • about one in three employees perceived that the recruitment processes of their current agency do not enable their agency to attract the best candidates
  • over one third believed that their agency’s recruitment processes are too demanding of candidates

Recruitment in the APS is guided by certain minimum standards. One of these standards is that APS agencies will run an open, competitive selection process based on merit. This is based on an assessment of a person’s ability to do the job; avoiding patronage, favouritism and unjustified discrimination.

I can understand why the State of the Service Employee Survey received the results it did.  In some agencies, the APS recruitment process can be overly long due to the emphasis on the merit process. Another reason for the long process is that line managers have responsibility in drafting the role description and selection criteria and conducting the recruitment process . Line managers are already busy and do not have a lot of time to actually focus on recruitment and generally they are not experts in role design, marketing and recruitment.

Recruitment is not just about advertising, going through applications and interviewing. The essential components of  recruitment are strategy, attraction, candidate relationship management, technology, services and process. In today's employment market where talent is becoming scarce and organisations are competing for people who are already employed, candidate care is critical.

HR areas in APS agencies need to stop focusing on the process of recruitment and use technology to do this. They should be focusing their energy in supporting, educating and training line managers on recruitment strategy, attraction and candidate management.

There has been quite a few publications which have been developed to assist APS agencies in streamlining recruitment processes. Some of these are:

I read an interesting article from Dr John Sullivan, Top 10 Indications That You Are a Dinosaur (Old-School) Recruiter! After reading this I think the APS has a long way to go to get past "Old School" recruitment.

When will the revolution start I wonder?

Are you ready for the ageing workforce?

In this week's BRW (15-21May 2008), there is an article called The Hunt For A New Work Order (behind paywall). This article discussed how employers are reinventing the workplace to attract and retain the best talent; particularly Generation Y and the ageing Baby Boomers. I actually thought that this piece was quite interesting given that I have recently completed an assignment for my studies on attraction and retention of the mature age workforce.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next 20 to 40 years is attracting and retaining skilled workers. Australia's oldest baby boomers are now 63 and ready to retire. The ageing workforce is growing and we will not have enough people to replace them. Not only that, organisations are at risk of losing a career's worth of knowledge.

In response to this organisations should be attempting to extend the working careers of mature age employees. Organisations will need to be able to attract, retain and develop the right people. To be able to build attraction and retention strategies an organisation must first identify:

  • the critical roles to deliver current work as well as any future work;
  • what skills and knowledge are required in these roles;
  • the people in these roles  and what their career intentions are;
  • talented people from outside the business and how they can attract them;
  • what development is required to ensure employees are skilled and ready to deliver new business; and
  • its ageing workforce and the implications of this such as retirement, career planning, flexible working arrangements and succession management.

Some mature age attraction and retention strategies that organisations can look at are:

  • flexible working options (reduced hours, job sharing, additional leave for caring purposes, etc.);
  • training and development;
  • having mature age workers as mentors to younger staff;
  • having younger staff mentor mature age workers on new technology;
  • establish a contact list for short term employment and projects for workers who have retired; and
  • establish an alumni for mentoring and networking opportunities for workers who have retired .

As part of my assignment I also had to give a presentation and I thought I should share it outside of the classroom.

What is staff turnover costing your organisation?

The March 2008 Australian Human Resources Institute magazine, HR Monthly, cover story entitled Going concerns: the true cost of staff turnover (membership required to read online text) highlights the increasing cost of staff turnover.  It states that:

...staff turnover in Australia has increased by more than five per cent as the continuing skills shortage and the aging population puts people management practices under pressure.

The cost to Australian organisations of the increased turnover has been estimated at $20 billion.

This figure is based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data. That data puts the average Australian salary at $55,660.80 pa, the workforce of 10.6 million, assumes the cost of replacing an employee is 75 per cent of the role's salary and puts turnover rate at an average of 18.5 per cent across all organisations.

When I read this article I started to think of what might happen in the future... is the skills shortage going to become worse due to the increase in the aging workforce, fewer people coming into the workforce, people currently in the workforce looking for work overseas and of course, developing countries such as China and India draining resources for their own burgeoning workforce needs?

Organisations focus on their employer brand and on attracting people to come and work for them. It is now time to start to look at how to retain people.

But you do not want to retain just anybody.

Organisations need to start to think about what their core business is and what type of person they need to help them deliver their business. What skills, capability and attitude can an organisation not afford to lose?

So here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • Does your organisation monitor how much staff turnover is costing?
  • Does your organisation have the tools to identify employees who have the right skills mix to deliver the business?
  • Would your organisation know what skills will be required in the future and where to find these skills?
  • Does your organisation have retention strategies?
  • Does your organisation conduct exit interviews to gain intelligence of why employees leave?
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