Author: Maggie Frye
We recently dropped in on the folks at Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs to learn more about what they’re doing to support employee onboarding. New employee Kate Caldwell sat down with us to share what Donna Salyers’ is doing right.
Soon after accepting the position as Director of Operations-Wholesale, Kate received a welcome package, which included:
- A personal letter
- Her daily agenda for Week 1 on the job (including lunch plans!)
- Detailed standard operating procedures
- The company’s history
- Luxe product fabric swatch samples
“When I came in the very first day, I had an idea of both what I’d be doing and expectations, and where I was going to fit into the Donna Salyers’ organization. There was a shared expression of excitement at my choice to join the organization. The investment in onboarding made a difference; I felt engaged before day one.”
What’s the best way to develop loyalty, excitement and organizational knowledge for new employees? Extending a warm welcome and investing in effective onboarding practices serve to ease the transition. At-ease, well-prepared, appreciated employees are positioned to do their best work for the company. Remember, your people are your core!
Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work, Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs!
Below: Kate, Amanda and Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs product samples.
Core Shines a Light is a periodic spotlight on Human Resources best practices in the Greater Cincinnati area. Interested in sharing your workplace’s best practices? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Amy Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org
Six emerging leaders from companies in the Greater Cincinnati/NKY region have graduated from the 9-month Core Growth leadership development program. A graduation luncheon was held last week at The Art of Entertaining in O’Bryonville, where both class participants and their company sponsors came together to celebrate the commencement.
The first six emerging leaders to graduate from this inaugural Core Growth class include:
- Dan Battistone, Harlow-HRK Sales & Marketing
- Jason Duggan, Hobsons
- April Gillespie-Hurst, LegalShield
- Laurie Link, FTJ FundChoice
- Ryan Rieckhoff, Ohio National Financial Services
- Rachel Wells, Sanitation District No. 1 (SD1)
Developed and run by Core Consulting Group, Core Growth is a 9-month leadership development program targeted specifically at emerging leaders. Using Wiley’s Work of Leaders model as a framework for the curriculum, participants form a close learning community who explore the following four modules together through a variety of interactions, speakers and experiences:
- Self: Planting the Seed
- Vision: Calling the Sun
- Alignment: Involving the Ecosystem
- Execution: Bringing to Life
An intentionally small class size and blended learning approach over an extended period of time is at the heart of what makes this unique program so impactful. Graduate Rachel Wells (SD1) shares a reflection about her experience in the program:
Core Growth was a transformative experience for me. I learned about the different ways others approach their work and the world, and it taught me how to navigate different personalities and problems to accomplish important goals. Most importantly, Core Growth taught me about myself – how to focus my goals for greater success and how to turn my talents into true strengths. Through Core Growth, I’ve learned to take the long view, to align my actions with my goals and to recognize opportunity in the challenges before me.
Another unique aspect of this program is the Company Sponsor competent. Class participants are paired with senior-level sponsors at their companies. They meet with the sponsor each month to review class learnings and work through a company-applied project that gives them hands-on application of the Vision-Alignment-Execution curriculum.
Trisha Weiner, VP of Internal Marketing at Ohio National Financial Services and Core Growth Sponsor, saw tremendous value in her learner’s participation:
Our participant is extremely enthusiastic when he returns from a Core Growth session and is anxious to review with me what took place. He is a big proponent of the program and is recommending others take it. I believe that the program has helped him understand his challenges, and thus gives him the opportunity to work on them, which he is doing.
This is the inaugural class, which kicked-off in September 2015. Since then, another class began in March 2016 and is slated to graduate in November. Additionally, registration just opened for a third class kicking off this Fall. The program offers a new class in the Fall and Spring each year.
Maggie Frye, Founder & Principal Consultant of Core Consulting Group, is passionate about building strong leadership at all levels at local companies, one leader at a time.
We define emerging leaders as those whose span of influence and impact is growing in a meaningful way. This is not limited to a specific age or manager vs. non-manager role. It could span both early and mid-career employees. An emerging leader is beginning to take on heightened responsibilities and accountability for customers, products and services, and/or team members – resulting in a greater direct impact on your organization’s success.
Core Growth catches emerging leaders at just the right point in their career that it proactively builds behavior versus reacts to and/or fixes behaviors later down the road.
I’m excited to see what this is doing for our great city. We are making workplaces better, stronger – one leader at a time. I believe very deeply in this mission and could not be more thrilled watching it come to fruition. I am so proud of the commitment and dedication these six class members have demonstrated and am excited for them to continue to effectively lead and positively impact those around them. Maggie Frye, Core Consulting founder and primary facilitator of the Core Growth program.
To register your emerging leaders for the Fall class, click here: http://bit.ly/1rF2ndI (Early Bird pricing ends July 29th!)
About Core Consulting Group
Core Consulting is an organizational development/HR consulting practice based in Cincinnati, OH helping organizations achieve their strategic business goals through the alignment, development and engagement of their workforce. Core partners with its clients to build effective people practices through the following key services: leadership development, talent management, strategic planning, team effectiveness and employee engagement. To learn more, visit Core’s website at www.core-consultinggroup.com
Performance management. Evaluations. Ratings. Individual development plans. Career paths. Total rewards. These are more than just buzzwords in the lives of HR professionals. They are an integral part of our day and of the value we create for the business units we serve.
We often discuss the key role managers play in the current evolution of performance management practices we’re seeing in today’s workplaces. However, this one aspect of performance management too often gets overlooked as we move quickly toward execution mode. The role of a manager deserves a pause before we continue to move forward with the performance management conversation. Such a critical pause, in fact, that it is the sole focus of this blog post.
Let’s say I’m a competitive swimmer. I’ve always excelled at backstroke, but now my coach needs me to compete in butterfly. It’s not completely out of my wheelhouse (I am a swimmer after all), but it’s a learning curve for sure. It’s also a new expectation for my role on the team, and one that I’d want to learn more about and consider if I want to pursue or not. I might rather find another team where I can continue to swim backstroke.
The recent lives of managers in today’s workplaces have been no different. Although always embedded in the role of a leader, the evolution of performance management is intensifying the responsibilities of managers to:
- Give continuous (and valuable) feedback
- Motivate and engage
- Develop individualized learning plans and career paths
- Communicate more with their ears and less with their mouths (easier said than done)
- Personalize their approach for each team member
And let’s not forget about documentation and managing risk for the organization. Oh yeah, and knocking their day-to-day operational duties out of the park on top of all that!
The list above has become common language for HR practitioners – we’re staying on top of trends, educating ourselves and building competency in these areas, etc. We “live” in this field. But what about our managers? They come in every day thinking about the deadline for product launch, quarter-end financial processing, client demands, sales quotas, and hopefully (if we’re lucky) how to recruit, develop, engage and retain nothing but the best.
Hence, the pause. We can’t just keep skimming over the importance the role a manager plays in the evolution of performance management. We can’t continue to further this conversation until we get this part of it right. In our experience working with clients on performance management re-designs over the past year, it’s at this point in the game where you’ll either sail successfully through a new strategy or hit a major roadblock.
So what can you do to make sure you thrive and not dive?
- Clearly define and communicate expectations.
Whose role will it be to execute the people-centric responsibilities listed above? Most likely, it’s your managers. However, maybe you decide to parse it out to lighten the load. For example, maybe everyday feedback is expected from managers, but more structured coaching comes from another source…possibly a mentoring program. You could even consider offering in-house Career Planning services housed within the HR team (similar to those on a College Campus). Defining who will be responsible for what is your starting point.
You now have to communicate to managers what their role is going to look like under a new performance management strategy. As Simon Sinek says, “start with the why.” What value will this bring to their lives and to the performance outcomes of their teams? How will they be held accountable and what is the incentive? Also make sure you’re sharing that this is only a shift from backstroke to butterfly – not from swimming to soccer. Build their confidence to excel in the newly defined role. They should already have a really good foundation.
- Ask if they want it.
This is a step we often leave out. After expectations are set, ask if they’re on board. Share how you will support their development and a realistic timeline for professional growth. Be prepared if someone opts out. How will the organization respond to that? What are their options? I had an acquaintance complain to me the other day that his company is making him “communicate better with his Millennial employees and motivate them to succeed.” He said it in such a snarky way that it was evident he wasn’t up for the job. Are these the folks we want our performance management strategy resting on?
- Provide support.
Back to the swimming analogy – I can go from backstroke to butterfly, but it’s going to take some work. Design a learning plan that extends over time and that has the flexibility to be personalized based on the development needs of each individual. Consider using pre-assessments to identify gaps, and then build development plans from there. Be patient. Learning new behaviors and developing new habits take time. Break up your learning strategy into quarters and don’t have them focusing on too much all at once.
Begin with the end in mind. Create your measurement framework up front. What will you need to know in the end to determine if those in these newly defined roles are performing successfully? Design pre, mid and post assessments and touch points to get you there. Include a blend of qualitative and quantitative data collection – both extensive and pulse.
- Adjust as needed.
Look at your metrics and be open to continuous improvements and modifications. This could be adjustments to the expectations/role, the learning plan, or even to the people themselves. Be prepared to “clip” what’s not working.
Put the time and investment into this part of your refreshed performance management strategy, and you’ll already be 75% of the way there!
We all get caught up in today’s pace. It’s a constant hustle and bustle. In many ways, this pace has brought about advantages for our companies. We’re pushing boundaries, innovating new and better ways of doing things, producing to higher standards. However, there are also clearly some drawbacks. Unfortunately many of these drawbacks are people-oriented: burn out and inattention to personal wellness, toxic relationships, and decisions often made without regard to the employees who execute your strategy.
I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself and others to stop and smell the roses. We had a client last week do just that. After a multi-month project to digitize files, this rockstar team completed the final one. Was this the “sexiest,” most meaningful, or greatest thrill of a project? No, but it had to get done for the efficiency of their operations and the ultimate value they provide their clients.
It would have been so easy for them to check it off the list and move on (our lists are long, and there are always more deadlines looming!). Lucky for them, their CEO knew the importance of pausing for recognition and celebration. He surprised them with flowers and chocolates, and they recognized the achievement as a team during their morning huddle. Spirits were full and positive that day in the office (and I don’t think you have to be an I/O Psychologist to understand what that does to engagement and performance).
Moral of the story: I err on the side of idealism and tend to believe that we have the best of intentions, but unfortunately those intentions are often negated with the pace of our day. So let’s slow down when needed. Take a pause. Our workplaces are full of human beings – human beings with the need for connectedness, for appreciation, and for fulfillment with the hours they put in at work. And in fact, our business results are nothing (NOTHING!) without the hard work of the human beings who achieve them for us. So let’s not forget this.
There’s a lot of talk these days about mentoring, and for good reason. Ask yourself this question, “How have I developed my leadership skills and/or gotten to the point I’m at in my career?” I venture to bet at least one primary factor has been either a formal or informal mentor in your life. Someone who has believed in you; recognized your potential; provided you with constructive feedback; opened doors to new opportunities.
When I reflect on this for myself, many great mentors in my life and a few defining moments come to mind. As you read over these, I want you to think about how you can play a similar role in someone’s career at your company.
|As a graduate student living in Los Angeles, one of my professors connected me to someone who ended up being my very first client as an independent consultant. She believed in my abilities (enough to attach her name to it), provided the introduction, and spent time and energy checking in and coaching me throughout the project.|
|I was very young (about 26 or 27), yet involved in senior management team meetings. I would often head into our Executive Director’s office after the meeting and share a few thoughts. I clearly remember him saying to me one morning, “Your input and ideas are fantastic, Maggie. I just need to you to start saying them in the meetings. Don’t come to me afterward. Start speaking up.” It was then I learned two critical lessons – 1.) You don’t always have the luxury of time to think about things thoroughly before formulating a response, and 2.) Having confidence in your thoughts and ideas is sometimes more important than the ideas themselves.|
|Again, still at a young age, I found myself involved in very high-level meetings to discuss organizational design. I was one of only 5 people in the meetings, and the others were the four men who ran the company. Someone had to invite me to those meetings. And I was grateful he did. I learned a great deal.|
|A few years later in my career, I had a valued and respected manager tell me during a performance evaluation that I could stand to show a bit more emotion; get jazzed up every now and then. I’m very patient and even-tempered, which are great strengths, but every now and then people need to see what makes me tick – both good and bad. That statement has stuck with me ever since, and in a good way.|
|Same situation – another performance evaluation. I was told that sometimes we need to “roll with it.” We have to remain flexible in our approach and not get too nailed down to a pre-meditated and potentially overly structured outline or project map. Leave room for agility. You have no idea how much this changed how I approach my work, and most definitely for the better.|
|I am blessed to have several people in my life who believe in me and let that be known. In fact, I just read a note from someone last week that said, “You will be successful.” When people believe in us like this, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.|
It is so important to have strong mentors in our lives. Thinking back to the very first question I asked, my answer is most definitely through mentors. I would add, however, that it’s been a mix of both mentoring and advocacy. We need both if we want our careers to progress. Hopefully you saw examples of Mentors and Advocates in the above scenarios.
Sometimes these roles are filled by the same people, and sometimes they’re not. Either way doesn’t really matter, it’s just important that both are present. If you are truly committed to building your next generation of leaders, you must ensure that both mentoring and advocacy are happening inside your organization. Below is a brief description about the roles of each.
The role of a Mentor (To educate and grow)
- Share your experiences and lessons learned
- Build desired skill sets through ongoing coaching
- Raise awareness of both strengths and limitations your mentee might not be privy to (tell them what is often left unsaid – you might be the only one willing to say it)
- Help the mentee discover her or his passion and strengths
The role of an Advocate (To champion)
- Provide access to opportunities, experiences, relationships, and resources that the other person might not otherwise have access to
- Speak out for the continued advancement of the individual
- Let the individual know you believe in her/his skills and abilities and the impact they can have on the organization’s success
- Influence the decisions of others in ways that will positively support the individual’s continued growth and visibility
Who can you mentor and/or advocate for inside your organization? Your future success depends on it.
Well, we’ve made it to the last post of our 4-part series on “Leading a Virtual Team.” Below are links to the first three posts if you’d like to catch up on the discussion:
- Connect and build relationships
- Establish a consistent leadership presence
- Perfect team communications
Acquire & Develop the “Right” Talent
Having worked between 40%-100% from my home for the past three years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the innate strengths and learned behaviors it takes for the remote worker to succeed. There’s a lot out there aimed at uncovering the much needed competencies of virtual leaders, this blog series included; however, not as much emphasis in recent years has been placed on what each and every team member (not just the “boss”) who works virtually needs to do well in order to thrive in that role.
As the leader of a virtual team, you want to pay keen attention to the “type” of employee you hire, as well as the development opportunities you offer and encourage. The remote lifestyle is definitely not for everyone. I have a few friends who readily admit they would get “NOTHING!” done if they worked from home; too many distractions – television, hobbies, laundry, etc. I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t want them on your virtual team, or if they were on your team, you’d want to offer learning opportunities for them to grow in some of the skill sets I describe below.
There is even talk about a new(ish) term, “Virtual Competence” in today’s workplace. In a March 2014 Cambridge University Press post titled, “Is there such a thing as virtual competence?,” author Bob Dignen explores the exact topic of this blog post – what underlying competencies do remote workers need to excel in to be successful on a virtual team?
I very much agree with what Bob outlines as 5 key skills that comprise “virtual competence,” and you will see similar thoughts in what I’ve shared below. I’ve ended up with my own list of 6, which adds discussion around a few other key behaviors as well.
I encourage you, as a virtual leader, to design interview questions, create learning plans, provide feedback, and structure rewards around the competencies below. And as always, please add your own thoughts/additions to this list in the Comments section.
Gallup’s StrengthsFinder theme of Achiever comes to mind when I think of this one. Achievers cannot go to bed at night until every item on their to-do list is complete. As described by Gallup, Achievers have “…an internal fire burning inside that pushes you to do more, to achieve more.” Watch the video below to learn more about Achievers:
Although intrinsic self-discipline can be hard to “teach,” you can certainly focus learning efforts on skills such as time management and SMART goal setting. You can also model the way as the team’s leader by demonstrating self-discipline in your own practices, as employees often mirror the behaviors of their leaders.
2. Relationship Building
The first post of this series was dedicated entirely to encouraging you to connect and build relationships amongst your virtual team. You want to acquire and build a team that has stellar relationship-building skills. They can’t nurture relationships around the water cooler, so if they have super power strength in this skill set, it will certainly help your cause. Demonstrating mutual respect, networking, valuing diversity, and cooperating with others are all traits you want to acquire and foster. If you have a team member who struggles in this area, it will be far too easy for her or him to “hide” away in the digital world and work in a silo.
3. Emotional Intelligence
When working virtually, we have a tendency to become somewhat robotic and remove the human element from our daily interactions. It’s easy to “yell” at someone via email without the repercussion of seeing them the next day; to not detect and seek to understand the variety of emotions expressed during a conference call; to not change course or style based on the feelings you detect, etc.
This can harm your team’s internal dynamics, as well as the output received by customers, so you want to be proactive in ensuring your virtual team’s EQ is strong.
4. Active Listening
Ever been on one of those conference calls where everyone just talks over each other, or where you’re silent and working on something else because you don’t have the energy to fight for air time? We get on the phone and feel we need to talk, and that our only chance to prove our worth to the team or client is to insert our 1 or 2 thoughtful contributions during each meeting (because we have no other way to prove ourselves and stand out from our home office).
What if your team members, rather, were less self-focused on demonstrating their intelligence and ideas and more outwardly-focused on achieving a deepened understanding of your clients’ needs and colleagues’ points of view? In order to get there, they need to be really good listeners, questioners, and also have the confidence to be comfortable with periods of silence on the other end.
Just as it’s important for you as the team lead to be tech-savvy, as discussed in Part 3 of this series, it is likewise imperative for your team members to understand and utilize technology with ease. Are they active on social media, do they understand the frameworks behind large digital platforms well enough to identify what’s possible for a front-end user, are they comfortable posting their thoughts and contributions on a team wiki site? These are all things you want to consider when acquiring and developing the talent on your virtual team.
6. Ethics & Integrity
Trust in the workplace is a hot topic right now and has been attributed as a key factor impacting levels of employee engagement. As with the other competencies discussed in this post, trust is harder to build in the digital world than in person. So, it’s an area where your team will need to use a little extra elbow grease – with each other and with your clients. The highest levels of honesty at all times should be the expectation, along with consistent reliability, follow through, and transparent communication. Again, this is an area where you have the unique ability and influence to model the way for your team.
Need help building your team’s virtual competence or modifying your hiring practices to ensure you’re bringing on the “right” talent from Day 1? Core would love to help. Just visit our Contact page.
Note: This is the third post in a 4-part series on Leading a Virtual Team. I’ve listed links below to the other three posts:
- Part 1: Connect & Build Relationships
- Part 2: Establish a Consistent Leadership Presence
- Part 4: Acquire and Develop the “Right” Talent
Part 3: Perfect Team Communications
Ahhh…communication (sigh). Why is it that nearly every conversation I have about something gone wrong includes the word “communication” as a key focal point? We’ve been practicing human communication since our Neanderthal days and studying it as an academic field as early on as Ancient Greece (to my knowledge, possibly prior), but we just can’t seem to get it right.
Termed by many as a “soft skill” (argh!), communication is hard – very hard. Add on the growing existence of virtual teams in today’s workforce, and you probably feel like just hanging up your hat when it comes to perfecting communications.
BUT (here’s where this somber story takes a turn in the protagonist’s favor), you CAN enhance communications amongst your virtual team. How, you ask? I’ve rounded up a few tips in this third installment of Core’s Leading a Virtual Team series.
Create a Game Plan
Communicate about your communications. Don’t just assume that everyone has the same practices when it comes to text vs. email vs. conference calls vs. IM vs. [insert any number of virtual comms platforms here]. Because there are so many channels out there at your disposal, it’s important that you create a game plan and make sure everyone is on the same page.
What channels do we use to communicate what?
For example, you might determine as a group to use:
- Group chat for brief back-and-forth throughout the day (preventing a mess in your inbox)
- Email for lengthier messages; communication with clients; communicating across time zones that prohibit real-time chat; etc.
- Phone when something is more efficient to discuss during a quick 5-10 minute call versus lots of back and forth on chat or email
- Google Drive for file sharing and collaboration
- Shared calendar for out-of-office schedules
- Weekly digital newsletter for sales success stories and industry trends/thought leadership
- Private team Facebook page for leisure and social content
- Weekly webcam calls for team touch points /updates
What’s appropriate and what’s not?
Once you’ve determined what each channel should be used for, you might want to consider crafting general behavioral guidelines. Have your team develop these “rules of thumb” themselves. For example:
Email Do’s And Don’ts
|Acknowledge via a reply within a 24-hr period||Include people who don’t need to know or take action|
|Be as brief as possible and use bullets/lists whenever possible||Use ALL CAPS|
|Use the red flag sparingly – only in true cases of urgency||Reply All unless everyone needs to see your response|
|Avoid after-hours and weekend emails to respect personal time and wellness||Use email to address a sensitive topic that deserves a more personal delivery|
Virtual Meeting Do’s and Don’ts
|Have a clear purpose and agenda||Schedule on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons (team members need this time to adequately prepare for their week ahead and tie up any loose ends)|
|Start and end on time if you are the host and arrive a few minutes early as a participant||Send call-in details right before it starts (include them in original appt.)|
|Turn your webcam on (often helps avoid people talking over each other and keeps everyone more engaged in the discussion)||Invite unnecessary participants who are not needed to advance the topic forward|
|Open the virtual meeting space up 10 minutes prior to start time if you are the host||Fail to address the details of who is responsible for what (be specific!)|
|Mute your phone when not speaking to minimize background noise (and unmute before you speak!)||Interrupt/announce yourself if you log in late; the Host will be able to see that you have joined|
|Be aware of all time zones when scheduling your meeting||Turn beeping notifications on for attendees entering and leaving the meeting space|
|Conclude by recapping discussion and summarizing next steps||Have your email notifications on when sharing your screen|
As an aside, check out this funny YouTube clip. I’m sure many of you have already seen it, but just had to share:
With a plan like this in place, your team now knows what communication channels to use for what purpose and how to appropriately use each one. You will really start rocking and rolling now!
Three implementation tips for your virtual team’s communications strategy:
- Turn it into something visual. A quick reference page for your team to keep visible at their home office would be helpful.
- Make sure you onboard every new team member with your communications strategy from Day 1.
- Revisit every 6-12 months and tweak as needed. With the number of digital communication tools entering the market each day, you never know what might work better. However, also don’t feel a need to change just because the latest trendy product or service has launched. If it’s working – stick with it.
Become Tech Savvy & Provide Access to Tools
As the leader of a virtual team, it’s imperative that you are very aware of digital workplace tools and that you provide your team members with the tools they need to be successful as a virtual worker. Don’t skimp in this area. It will make your team feel inadequately equipped, and thus less valued.
Ask yourself – Does my team have the right digital infrastructure in place to most efficiently and effectively support each other and our clients?
Consider needs such as:
- IM/Chat (I’ve had colleagues recommend HipChat and Slack during this series)
- Shared calendaring
- Files sharing and collaboration – Check out Google Drive, Evernote, Basecamp and Dropbox just to name a few
- Screen sharing & web conferencing – Check out join.me, Google Hangouts, or any number of web conferencing solutions
- Social networks – You can use public sites like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (that have the capability to set up private collaboration), or you can consider internal enterprise solutions such as Jive, Share Point and Yammer
- Hardware – Don’t forget about critical physical devices such as smart phones, laptops, tablets, hot spots, etc. Make sure your team members are equipped with reliable devices; otherwise it can really hinder productivity.
As always, please share your own thoughts and resources below. There are so many useful tools to help virtual teams these days, and I’ve only skimmed the surface here with some of what I’ve shared. I’d love to hear what is working well for your virtual team.
Stay tuned for our last piece on this series, which will be “Acquire & Develop the Right Talent.”
Till next time…