- Complacency. Those that are complacent don’t care about what happens to the organization. They believe their life is good and can’t see outside their own shells to notice that the organization is struggling. They don’t care to make a positive difference in the organization – they are content to keep the wheels turning just as they are and just for themselves.
- Self Interest. Like the complacent, those with self-interests will never speak up on behalf of the entire organization. These people only care about themselves. They will sit on the sidelines instead of speaking up, or they may even side with the bad leader if it serves their interest. Those that work for their self-interest are not individuals in whom one could place any trust for the benefit of the entire organization.
- Fear. Those afraid of “rocking the boat” are another problem in the organization. For whatever reason – perhaps it’s fear of change or fear of losing their jobs – those that fear speaking up may stand behind someone who will speak for them and they don’t particularly care where they’re standing. However, when it’s their turn to speak, they never will. These people grumble, but not when it matters or to whom it matters.
- Incompetence. Sadly, there are incompetent people in any organization (starting from the leader and downward). The incompetent will try to sound smart, but one can easily see through their veils. Sadly, a lot of people can be duped by an incompetent leader’s BS.
- Talker. The long-winded gas bags take up too much time, and even if they may say something useful in the end, because they talk so long, people lose interest in listening to them. Gasbags need to learn to get to a meaningful point quickly if they expect to be taken seriously.
- Inability to Walk the Talk. Those that spout off a myriad of things that need to be fixed in the organization but when it comes time to fulfill their promises and get things done, they do not follow-through. Eventually, others realize that these people are full of hot air and can’t be relied upon for any positive change in the organization.
How is your work day going? What have you learned from your job, from your peers? If you aren’t learning at work, how rewarding is your job, really? In addition to working to maintain a satisfactory standard of living, informal learning at work adds to an individual’s work satisfaction.
Various reports hold that informal learning in the workplace accounts for about 90 percent of everything that employees learn. This may be an accurate number if we consider Albert Bandura’s social learning theory positing that we learn through observing others’ behaviours and attitudes as well as the outcomes of those behaviours.
In his book, Social Learning Theory (1977), Bandura explains that there are four conditions for modelling behaviour. These are:
Attention. Different factors can increase or decrease the amount of attention paid to a particular behaviour. This includes the behaviour’s distinctiveness, its effect on your emotions (positive or negative emotions are more likely to be remembered than a behaviour that did not evoke an emotional response), prevalence and complexity of the behaviour, functional value (e.g., how important is the behaviour to your job?). An individual’s characteristics also affect attention to the behaviour (e.g., sensory capacities, arousal level, perceptual set, past reinforcement, etc.).
Retention. This refers to remembering what you observed. This is impacted by symbolic coding, mental images, cognitive organization, symbolic rehearsal, and motor rehearsal (i.e., practicing what we observed).
Reproduction. This is about “doing” what we observed. It includes attention to our physical capabilities to reproduce the behaviour as well as feedback mechanisms through our own self-observation of the behaviour. How well are we reproducing the observed behaviour?
Motivation. To imitate behaviour, we need to have a good reason to do so. This may include motivators such as history (e.g., perhaps past behaviours did not result in good outcomes, so a new behaviour is desired) or it may involve promised or imagined incentives.
Like many social and cultural theorists, Bandura believed that the world and a person’s behaviour cause each other – we behave based on our environment, but we also create an environment based on our behaviour. Either way, organizations should take heed of the role that informal and social learning have in the workplace and encourage appropriate learning to maximize efficiency and performance. Following are five ways to increase informal learning in the workplace (adapted from: Growth Engineering).
Mentoring. Coaching and mentoring help improve training and learning. Knowledge sharing is also a great way to retain knowledge in the workplace and prepare for succession.
Sharing. Social learning flourishes when people get into the habit of sharing their knowledge. Having a center of learning available on the corporate intranet or some other internal forum will go a long way to help employees collaborate and boost their learning.
Experts. Provide expert resources for employees – knowing who to turn to when you have a question will go a long way to helping employees learn from each other.
Rewards. Some companies reward an employee’s hard work with accolades such as “Employee of the Month” or “Top Contributor,” etc. This makes learning more fun. Another way to make learning fun is through gamification – who doesn’t love a good game of Scrabble for Business?
Mandatory Learning. Ensuring that employees complete one level of learning before they can advance to the next level is a good way to ensure that they are reading the corporate handbook (so to speak!). This can be done readily through an online learning platform. This ensures that collaboration and social learning become part of the employees’ learning journey.
Would you like to know how you can learn better from work? Check out the Learning Innovations Laboratory report about the “three stances that make a difference” at work.
Individuals and organizations alike still rely on electronic mail (e-mail) as a primary communication tool to conduct business. A 2003 study, still relevant by today’s standards, by associate professors Raymond Friedman and Steven Currall, caution about using e-mail to resolve conflicts. While they do not specifically mention it, using other media for the same purpose should also give one pause.
Based on their review of sociological literature, the authors suggest that escalation of disputes is more likely during electronic communication than during face-to-face conversation. They also recommend a number of ways to ameliorate the risk of escalation, concluding with a call for additional empirical research into e-mail’s impact on conflict management.
The authors define the following properties as present in face-to-face communication:
- Co-presence (parties are in the same surroundings)
- Visibility (parties see one another)
- Audibility (parties hear speech timing and intonation)
- Cotemporality (parties receive utterances as they are produced)
- Simultaneity (parties send and receive messages at once)
- Sequentiality (parties take turns)
It is easy to see how each property enables communicators to “ground” the interaction. In other words, they are able to achieve a shared understanding about the encounter and a shared sense of participation. They also allow participants to time and adjust their actions and reactions so as to move toward agreement. Grounding, timing, and adjusting are all critically important tools in successful conflict resolution.
In looking at e-mail communication, the authors state that e-mail exchanges take place in an antisocial context (participants are isolated at their computers), allow new tactics (such as lengthy messages or communications that bundle multiple arguments together) and are characterized by reviewability and revisability (communicators are able to re-read received messages and extensively shape their responses).
These properties, as well as the lack of those that are unique to face-to-face conversation, engender the following effects (which Friedman and Currall claim increase the risk of escalation during conflict processing):
- Low feedback. Electronic communication generates little feedback such as clues about how a recipient is reacting to one’s message. As a result, participants cannot fluidly adjust their comments to repair missteps or clarify misunderstandings. Inadvertent insults and loss of face become more likely, and misunderstandings accumulate. Also, recipients can often perceive communication tactics as “heavier” than intended. This causes social bonds to weaken and the involved parties find it more difficult to resolve conflicts.
- Reduced social cues. E-mail communication lacks the emotional expression found in face-to-face conversations; therefore, the parties rely more on the messages’ cognitive content to manage conflict. In addition, although e-mail participants often include greetings and other forms of “social lubrication” in their messages, the power of such rituals to remind people of social norms and rules declines significantly the longer the delay between message exchanges. When long delays exist, message recipients may respond in socially inappropriate ways – aggressively or not empathetically.
- Length of messages. When a sender bundles multiple arguments in a lengthy e-mail message, the recipient may forget to respond to one or more arguments in the reply. Moreover, in crafting a response, the recipient may focus only on those arguments that he or she found most upsetting. When a sender believes that the recipient has ignored parts of the message, the sender may suspect a violation of interaction norms. Misunderstandings can accumulate, and inadvertent insults can become more likely.
- Excess attention. Thanks to the properties of reviewability and revisability, online communicators can ruminate at length about received messages. Research suggests that rumination increases both angry mood and perceptions of a problem’s magnitude. Reviewability and revisability also permit elaborate editing of messages, which increases composers’ commitment to their arguments. The parties become less willing to compromise, begin depersonalizing one another and view the conflict as unresolvable.
The conclusions? Use face-to-face conversations or phone calls to discuss disputes. If e-mail cannot be avoided, then consider that the perceived insult may have been unintentional. Finally, the authors suggest that e-mail users can and should manage risk to resolve conflicts more productively.
Productivity doesn’t just happen. It takes focus and sustained effort to accomplish work tasks. However, the amount of focus and effort varies, depending on the difficulty of the task.
The opposite is also true. That is, non-productivity does “just happen.” It is so easy to be non-productive – that’s why many of us can slide into a weekend of rest and relaxation without any effort!
But while at work, it is important to do our best to be as productive as possible. And in order to do that, it is equally important to respect our bodies and not use substances that can inhibit our work performance. Ever.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually.
As well, workers who report having three or more jobs in the previous five years are about twice as likely to be current or past year users of illegal drugs as those who had two or fewer jobs.
And, an astounding 70% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in 2003 estimated that legal substances (tobacco and alcohol) account for 79.3% of the total cost of substance abuse, while illegal drugs account for 20.7% ($8.2 billion) of costs.
With the recent explosion of “medical marijuana” retailers, these numbers are estimated to increase. Employers now find themselves in a situation where they need to consider even more so the impacts of once-illicit drugs on their workforce. The impacts on work productivity are difficult to ignore.
I continue to be in awe and amazed at the silence of the medical community about the ill effects of cannabis (usually termed “marijuana”). In terms of the workplace, however, cannabis has an immediate and ongoing effect on productivity.
It has been documented that cannabis causes the following side effects (this is not a complete list):
Decreased memory and thinking capabilities
Decreased motivation – as such, this affects the employee’s ability to relate to their colleagues, clients and customers
Increased risk of developing dependence
Increased risk of respiratory illness
Increased risk of mental illness
Diminished relationships – think about how this impacts teamwork in the workplace with added pressure being placed on non-users including poor collaboration on projects (as an example)
Increased risk of injury of self or others (resulting in loss of time and potential workers’ compensation)
Decreased driving performance
Of note is that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in Canada, with 10.6% of Canadians reporting past-year use in 2012. As well, Canadian youth have the highest rate of past-year marijuana use (28% in 2009-2010) compared to student in other developed countries.
While governments are starting to “give in” to the demand for legalizing marijuana, this legalization has put the onus on organizations to conduct their own workplace drug testing. In addition, organizations need to ensure adequate workforce training in identifying potential drug use.
Human resource departments are now even more critical to the organizations’ functions to ensure the business’s bottom line is not being impacted by drug use.
One of the ways in which HR can help is to build relationships with managers and employees. When you know someone, it’s much easier to identify changes in behaviour and productivity and to provide proper intervention.
In addition, implementing policies and procedures will help all workers be aware of the signs and symptoms of drug use. Much like personal issues or inter-staff and management issues, keeping substance use/abuse top-of-mind helps to identify the problem, so it can be addressed quickly.
When you’re in line waiting for service, how long is too long?
Studies show that on average, waiting more than three minutes is too long. And customers that wait more than three minutes? There is a strong likelihood that they are dealing with the only available service provider. If customers have choices, they will leave.
This is not good news for providers of service.
How good is your company at providing top-notch customer service? STELLAservice, an online customer service rating company, found that DisneyStore.com ranked among the top ten for both speediest e-mail support (1 hour, 47 minutes, 40 seconds) and phone support (12 seconds). For the full survey, click here.
In addition to speed (or time), customers are also looking for the following qualities in service (source: Evans and Lindsay, The Management and Control of Quality).
Timeliness. Is the service completed on time? For example, is an overnight package delivered overnight?
- Completeness. Is everything the customer asked for provided? For example, is a mail order from a catalog company complete when delivered?
- Courtesy. How are customers treated by employees? For example, are catalog phone operators at Sears nice and are their voices pleasant?
- Consistency. Is the same level of service provided to each customer each time? For example, is your newspaper delivered on time every morning?
- Accessibility and convenience. How easy is it to obtain the service? For example, when you call Sears, does the service representative answer quickly?
- Accuracy. Is the service preformed right every time? For example, is your bank or credit card statement correct every month?
- Responsiveness. How well does the company react to unusual situations (which can happen frequently in a service company)? For example, how well is a telephone operator at Sears able to respond to a customer’s questions about a catalog item not fully described in the catalog?
When working with customers, service providers are in a more precarious situation than are producers of manufactured goods. Because service can be intangible (unlike a product or good that is tangible), it is sometimes hard to know a customer’s expectations. A service’s “fitness for use” is often in the eyes of the customer.
By building quality into every dimension of service, organizations will not only attain excellence in service, but happy and loyal customers – and a healthy bottom line.
Let’s face it. There are clients and then there are clients. The great clients (or customers) are those that are ready, willing, and able to work with experts to achieve organizational efficiencies.
And then there are clients who fall short on anything from initial meeting to following through with an expert’s recommendations – these latter clients are wasting not only the expert’s time, but their own, as well.
As experts in our various fields of work, we have all run into a variety of clients. Here are some of the more common types – if you’re a client, maybe you see yourself in one or more of these descriptions:
Bargainers. These clients want everything you’re proposing, but they can’t pay for it. Or maybe they’re doing the project “under the table,” and don’t want to ask the “real boss” to pay for it. Solution: If the client does not have the money for the full project scope, downgrade the scope – phase the project into manageable chunks.
Naysayers. These clients just can’t believe the project will take six months to complete. Certainly they can do it in a fraction of the time. Solution: Explain why the project will take as long as it will (perhaps a timeline depicting steps is helpful here); if the client does not believe you, suggest a mix of internal and external resources to complete the project faster. Client is still a non-believer? Walk away.
Stealth Implementers. They insist that no one else from their organization needs to be involved in the project. Just do it. Solution: Stress (and demonstrate with examples) how involving others in the organization will greatly enhance the success of this project as well as change management when implementation occurs.
Self-Made Experts. These clients believe they can do exactly what you’re proposing without you, so why are you charging them so much? Why don’t you just tell them the steps that you would take and then leave them to it? Solution: Walk away.
Call 9-1-1. These clients think everything is an emergency. They need your proposal “yesterday” and the work is required within the next month. However, when you give them your proposal, you don’t hear from them for six weeks. Solution: Develop a project timetable and meet each deadline. Build in “slack” time for all steps involving client input.
Weekend Schmeekend. This is the client that sends you e-mail at all hours of the day and night. Weekends are for working. There is no such thing as work-life balance. Solution: Say no when appropriate. Just because the client works all hours does not mean everyone else needs to, as well!
Committee Monger. The client who believes everything needs to be decided by committee. The end result? Everything gets decided by committee, no one takes responsibility for decisions, and decisions take much longer. Solution: Ensure that there is one “point” person (typically a Project Champion) that will sign-off on all deliverables.
Wordsmithers. You know the ones that review your work and almost re-write the entire content? Solution: Set a time limit for review and stress that only key content requires review. Provide an example. Or hand out the report ahead of time and then convene as a group to review the feedback.
In the end, it’s up to the expert to determine whether they are able to work with the client. If the decision is to fire the client, provide them with the name of another expert – even if it is a competitor. You’ll be glad you did!
Today, about 70 percent of employees in the U.S. work in open offices. Despite this high number, you may be surprised to learn that the open office concept is not the be-all and end-all for everyone. Success depends on personal work styles and personalities and how well workers can adapt to the high level of distraction served up by open offices.
According to the International Management Facility Association, workers in open plan offices get sick more often (62 percent more sick days on average), they don’t like the noise (sound and temperature are the most important factors in the environment), older workers really don’t like the noise (those over 45 are more sensitive to noise and temperature), and open offices deplete productivity.
The biggest impact on productivity tends to be distractions such as overhearing conversations, ringing phones and noisy machines Tonya Smith-Jackson and Katherine Klein in the Journal of Environmental Psychology identified reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction and lower perceived privacy as factors negatively affecting productivity.
Another finding in the Journal of Environment and Behaviour confirmed that workers in open offices are more stressed and less satisfied with their work environment. After returning to survey the same workers six months later, researchers learned that not only were workers still unhappy with their new office, but their team relations broke down even further.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the noise in open offices decreases cognitive performance. Psychologist Nick Perham states that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out office intrusion does not help – even that impairs mental acuity.
While open offices seem to be better suited to younger workers, a study in 2012 by Heidi Rasila and Peggie Rothe found that certain types of noise such as conversations and laughter are equally distracting to Generation Y workers as they are to their older counterparts. However, younger workers enjoyed the camaraderie of open spaces, valuing their time spent socializing with coworkers. And while younger workers acknowledge the “problems” of open offices, they see them as fair trade-offs for a greater good.
But the trade-off is not as great as it might seem. Regardless of age, when we are exposed to too many inputs at once – a computer screen, conversation, music, telephones, email alerts – our senses become overloaded and more work is required of us to achieve a desired result. Those unable to screen out distractions in the office are frantic multitaskers.
According to Maria Konnikova (Open Office Trap), as a workplace norm, the multitasking millennial seems to be more open to distraction. However, their wholehearted embrace of open offices may be ingraining a cycle of underperformance in their generation: They enjoy, build, and proselytize for open offices, but may also suffer the most from them in the long run.
It seems that the tried and true traditional offices that include cubicles are still the best despite their drawbacks. Research leads us to believe that employees are far more productive (and happier) in these controlled and focus-driven environments than in the open office.
Now that your staff completed training in your organization’s newest program, everyone knows what to do and how to do it. This is a reasonable expectation, but the reality is that training does not mean that learning has occurred. Even less so, there is no guarantee of proficiency.
In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath present six ways to make ideas “sticker.” These include:
These guidelines for making ideas stick are applicable in a variety of situations – from selling to teaching! And while all of these methods can make learning stick, they can also go a long way to enabling proficiency.
Research shows that retention of learning varies by modality. For instance:
10 percent retention through reading
20 percent retention through hearing
30 percent retention through seeing
50 percent retention through hearing and seeing
70 percent retention through repeating the material (saying)
90 percent retention through saying and doing
What the above demonstrates is that the more involved the learner is in the training, the higher the retention and the greater likelihood of higher proficiency.
Make training simple. This means that training should be logical and not complicated. Short bursts of training are more effective than are lengthy modules.
Introduce the unexpected into training. If the training is about records management, stage a short play that introduces real life work scenarios about handling information. Sing a song about libraries or show a video about e-mail. Get creative and introduce the unexpected!
Make training concrete. That is, ensure that training demonstrates specific behaviours and steps, allowing learners to practice the behaviours and steps both during and after training.
Both the trainer and training needs to be credible. Learners need to trust the source if they are to take the material seriously. The trainer’s body language affects the learners’ perception of credibility by 55 percent, voice accounts for another 38 percent, but what the trainer says only accounts for seven percent. Pay attention to your body language!
Make training emotional. The best way to do this is let learners know “what’s in it for them” (i.e., WIIFM – what’s in it for me). Perhaps learning the material may mean an increase in pay or a promotion at work. Nothing is more powerful than an emotional connection between the learner and the training to ensure that learning sticks.
Tell stories. Stories provide examples. People can relate to stories and are more apt to remember the story rather than the training material itself.
Using all of the above techniques can help training stick, but pairing learners with coaches or mentors helps reinforce learning, so that learners become proficient as they practice their learning.
And don’t forget to audit learning. At intervals of one month, three months, and six months post-training, follow-up with learners to discuss if they require further information. It is through follow-up that training reinforcement occurs and any issues that may arise are quickly resolved.
An “A3” is an international size piece of paper, approximately 11-by-17 inches. Using an A3 is an effective way to present a situation – a story that anyone can understand – all on one page.
It is a visual tool for problem-solving because it presents all of the main elements in a condensed space, allowing for on-the-spot review. It is a powerful management process encouraging learning through a scientific approach to problem solving. It includes a description of the current conditions, goals, analysis, and an action plan for implementing solutions.
There is no standard format for an A3. Each A3 suits the situation. At the end of this blog, a detailed example is provided that you can use and modify to suit your organization’s situation.
Regardless of format, A3’s answer the same basic questions:
What is the problem or issue?
Who owns the problem?
What is/are the root cause(s) of the problem?
What are some possible countermeasures?
How will you decide which countermeasures to propose?
How will you get agreement from everyone concerned?
What is your implementation plan – who, what, when, where, how?
How will you know if your countermeasures work?
What follow-up issues can you anticipate? What problems may occur during implementation?
How will you capture and share the learning?
The key to using the A3 and, in fact, to any approach in problem solving is defining the problem. As Charles F. Kettering, inventor, said: “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” Too many times, people start “fixing” symptoms of problems rather than the actual problem. This never achieves the desired long-term results.
In its simplest form, a problem is a barrier that prevents the organization from achieving its goals. A problem may also involve the design or performance of work.
The gap between the existing and desired condition is the problem. Achieving performance improvement occurs through understanding of the gap.
At its core, an A3 template helps solve problems by describing the following:
Background or context of the problem
Current conditions including facts and data about the problem
Goal that the organization wishes to achieve in addressing the problem
Analysis of the problem to describe why the problem exists
Recommendations for how to address the problem
Plan for implementing the recommendations
Follow-up after implementation to ensure continuous improvement
The A3 is also useful for describing action items – a condensed project charter for each item covering one or two 11-by-17 inch sheets instead of multiple letter-sized typed pages.
Once you start using the A3 format to assess your organization’s problem areas, there’s a good chance that you will never go back to using traditional methods.
Here’s a surprising fact: Most of us have NO difficulty accepting change. And this is despite the fact that 80 percent of change initiatives fail first time out of the gate. What’s wrong with this picture, you ask?
It appears that the difficulty in implementing change is not in accepting the idea. The difficulty is in the sustained practice or application of the idea (or improvement initiative). In other words, the problem with our reaction to change does not relate to our ability to let new ideas in. The problem is in getting our old ideas out.
Either you believe the new initiative is the best way or you believe that your old way of doing the same thing is better. Believing in both simultaneously creates discord.
You can’t have it both ways: Discord leads to failed change initiatives.
Successful organizations remove the discord and it is likely that they incorporate the practice of bio-psychology of change into their change projects. According to Sherry Campbell, Director of Management Consulting at Sierra Systems, there’s a difference between a rational approach to change management and a bio-psychological approach.
It is only through the bio-psychological approach that change initiatives are successful. Here is how it works.
- Communicate the vision. Before change can occur, people need to be aware of potential changes. Working in small groups and with key individuals will go a long way to ensuring that the idea for the change initiative is firmly planted and people are primed to listen.
- Identify the area for change. Have individuals focus on the change and relate their thoughts, feelings and experiences around their existing circumstances. In doing so, individuals are able to “see” that their existing circumstance is in need of change.
- Assessment and diagnosis. With existing circumstances described, have the individual talk about their conflicting behaviours, feelings, and thoughts that may get in the way of accepting the change. What coping patterns are they using in the existing circumstances?
- Plan the change. Once assessment and diagnosis is complete, ask the individual what behaviour they can do less of (e.g., coping behaviours), so that they have room for this new behaviour (new change initiative) in their brain map space. Discuss their feelings relating to letting go of the old behaviour.
- Implement the change. Through pilot projects or visualization steps, implement the change incrementally until you reach your goal. Repetition of incremental steps may be necessary until you reach success.
- Monitor the change, successes and risks. Use coaching to help individuals stay on track with their new behaviour; accepting the change, and inserting it as the behaviour of choice in their brain map space.
Conducting regular check-ins after implementing change will help identify areas for further improvement. Early detection helps with early correction of failures and continuing reinforcement of new behaviours.