Posts Taged growth

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week 23 :: People :: Employee Development

Nobody wants to be a screw-up at their job. In fact, Dan Pink explains in his excellent 2009 book Drive, that the social sciences teach us that one of the three things people seek in their work is mastery. Pink briefly describes mastery as, “the urge to get better and better at something that matters.”

There are two things that you, as an employer, can do to tap into an employee’s intrinsic desire for mastery – provide resources, time and support for the employee’s self-initiated efforts for personal and professional growth and build an effective employee development program inside the organization.

Effective employee development programs align the interests of the employee with the interests of the company. With an effective employee development program, you are, concurrently, making a better person and a better employee.

This week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge is to design a framework to start your program. The graphic above will provide direction.

The company’s interest in the employee can be view through four lenses –

  • Employees as assets to be developed. Answer these questions –
    • What resources can we provide to make this employee more valuable to the organization (formal education, additional experiences inside the organization, continuing education units (CEUs), professional certifications, webinars, industry meetings)?
    • How will this employee’s compensation reflect his/her additional value to the organization?
    • What should the accompanying gains in productivity or value creation look like?
    • How can we leverage this employee’s new skills into mentoring for other employees?
    • What soft skills does this employee need to develop in addition to technical or industry-specific skills?
  • Employees as people to be understood. Answer these questions –
    • How does this employee embody the organization’s core values?
    • How does this employee embrace the organization’s culture?
    • What motivates this employee in addition to or instead of monetary compensation? Pink’s book tells us they want autonomy (a measure of control over their work), mastery (the opportunity to improve their work skills), and purpose (a feeling that their work has meaning beyond a paycheck).
  • Employees as team members to be deployed. Answer these questions –
    • How well is this employee suited to their current position?
    • If the employee is not well suited, can they be coached or transferred?
    • If they no longer fit in the organization, should they be terminated?
    • Is the employee trusted by other team members?
    • Does the employ skillfully navigate conflict?
    • Does the employee take responsibility for mistakes without making excuses?
    • Does the employee respect and learn from the diverse viewpoints of other team members?
    • Does the employee display good absorptive capacity for new ideas, procedures, and environments?
    • Does the employee have a mentor mindset?
  • Employees as indispensable. Answer these questions –
    • Are there employees who, if they left, would put the health of the organization in jeopardy?
    • How can you most quickly mitigate this risk with additional hiring, training, or outsourcing?

 

The employee’s interest can be viewed through four lenses –

  • What does my future look like?
    • Is there a career path here for someone with my interests and skills?
    • If so, what does it look like?
    • What happens if my interests change over time (e.g. I want to move from IT to sales)?
    • Is there a path for advancement for a skilled practitioner that doesn’t include management?
    • What is the company’s policy on intellectual property?
  • Can I learn and grow in the organization (skills, aptitudes, experiences)?
    • Will you invest in my growth?
    • If so, how?
    • Will I be mentored?
    • Will you give me opportunities to try my hand at several things?
    • Will I have the opportunity to work in other parts of the country or other countries?
  • Can I keep my priorities intact if I work here?
    • Can I live the way I want to live (core values, hours, time off, great co-workers, benefits that are important to me)?
    • Will the organization morph as my life changes – realizing that my priorities might have to change over the course of my employment – children, illness, aging parents?
  • Will the organization help me navigate roadblocks as they surface?
    • Can I escape a boss that isn’t committed to my development?
    • Can I recover from involvement in a failed project?

 

Use the section above to construct two things – a questionnaire for employees and an initial outline of the growth opportunities you can include in your employee development program. Once your employee questionnaire is done, begin meeting with employees one by one and gather their responses. Take their feedback and revisit your initial employee development plan. Add items that are important to employees, fit in your budget but were absent from your original list. Remove items that, based on your interviews, are not important to employees.

Begin rolling out your plan. The conversations should be something like, “You said you were interested in Balanced Scorecards. If we had a Balance Scorecard in our organization, that would be great. If I sent you to a class for Balance Scorecards, would you come back and work with me personally to make one for the company. When we’re done, I’d like for you to present to all the department heads and explain our work. Would you be up for that?”

Have a conversation like this with everyone on your team. When you knock out one of the things important to the employee and the company, move to the next thing and keep the growth going.

The One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge :: Week Seven :: Growth :: Reframing

This week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge makes us look at our organization through a different lens.

Many of you have probably seen this. Connect the four dots with two straight lines. The lines must touch but not cross.

If you’re stuck, it’s because you tried to keep the straight lines inside the box. That wasn’t one of the requirements.

When we ponder growing our organization, we typically plan incremental growth that we could handle within the framework we already employ – if we grew x% we could ask the office staff to work some overtime or we could hire another technician. I’m all in favor of incremental growth and that type of growth is always welcome. However, for this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge, I want you to think differently. I want you to ask the question, “What would it take for us to do 10X the business we are doing now?” The genesis for this week’s exercise (but not the exercise itself) comes from Larry Page at Google who asks his team to look for 10X opportunities.

So, here’s this week’s exercise.

Identify the changes to your lead generation activities that would be required to generate 10X the number of leads you have now – would it require entering new markets? A larger sales staff? Additional advertising platforms?

To get to 10X sales, what would it take to increase your closing rate? If you close 10% of all sales presentations, what would it take to close 20%? What additional information would the customer need? A more meaningful connection to your company’s message – your why? Access to existing client testimonials? A better understanding of your company’s value proposition?

To increase velocity of service delivery after a closed sale, what changes would you need to make to customer onboarding activities? Do you need to replace your paper-based order system with an automated system? Do you need to ramp up your after-sale communication so that customer expectations are clear and they know exactly how and when product or service delivery will begin and how it will look?

To handle 10X the business, how will your production infrastructure need to change? Will the existing process bear the weight of 10X the amount of business or does a new production infrastructure need to be built – one that is built from the ground-up with the ability to scale? Do you have suppliers that can deliver 10X raw materials on time and with the required quality or do you need to add suppliers or seek a new supplier? Do you need to find subcontractors that can supplement in-house production? Can they do it with the same quality and meet your time constraints? Can you invoice and collect from 10X the number of customers or do you need to provide new billing or financing options that will keep your 10X cash flow healthy?

To follow up with 10X customers, do you need a more robust CRM system that can manage increased customer communication, customize communication and deliver valuable information after the sale? Can the system deliver on-going useful information that will position your organization for more sales in the future?

Clearly this brief exercise can’t touch on every element that you might need to 10X your business, but that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to help you think differently about business growth. Most of the time, we approach business growth like riding a bicycle. To increase velocity, we intensify existing activity. We do the same thing we’ve always been doing – just more of it – i.e., we pedal faster and longer. This will work for a while, but at some point, we max out the load-carrying capacity and speed of the bicycle. To make our business grow, we need to swap the bicycle for a motorcycle or a delivery van – more speed, more capacity. We must change platforms.

The value of this week’s exercise will come when you identify the pieces of your organization that won’t scale. When you find irreparable platform deficiencies where no amount of “pedaling” will fix them and they must be replaced. When you find people-constrained activities that must be replaced with repeatable processes.

All of us would like 10X growth, but doing this exercise will position your organization for 2X, 4X or 5X growth on the way there and you’ll be building an organization that is more platform-driven, process-driven and policy-driven – and that’s good for everyone in the organization.

Depreciating Employees

Sorry to bring this up, but in just a couple of months it will be tax time. Very soon the Finance folks will be talking with us about deductions, assets, 1099s and more. One of the conversations will likely involve depreciation. Depreciation is the mechanism that allows us to account for the portion of an item’s value we’ve used to create products or services in that year. It’s fairly intuitive – the truck we purchased in 2014 delivered products, picked up materials or made service calls – all allowing us to serve customers and make money. At the same time, the truck is another year older – more wear and tear, more maintenance required and certainly worth less than when we bought it. Even with top-notch maintenance and lots of replacement parts, we’ll not return its value to the original purchase price.

This type of depreciation is unavoidable and, in reality, desirable since it enables our mission and money-making. But there is another type of depreciation that’s damaging and unnecessary. Can employees depreciate? Think about it. You’re most likely handing out raises with those year-end performance reviews. Certainly your benefit costs are going up. So, if you get the same amount of value from those employees this year that you received from them last year, but you’re paying more for them, they are depreciating.

Let me hasten to say, I realize they’re another year smarter with greater experience.  That should allow them to successfully ride the experience curve and add more value to your organization. But what if you could supercharge their growth? Unfortunately, I spent a good portion of my former corporate life focused on projects and processes and not on people. It never dawned on me that I was contributing to employee depreciation, since I was giving more of the company’s money (through yearly raises and benefits) to employees whose development was primarily just what they caught by osmosis over the course of the year.

Fortunately, since my switch to consulting and through my own personal and professional growth, I’ve had the privilege of helping clients create and implement robust employee development plans; plans that make people smarter, give them vital experiences that prepare them for new responsibilities in the organization and equip them with new tools that bring them personal satisfaction and allow them to better meet the needs of the organization’s customers.

It’s just the opposite of employee depreciation. It’s employee appreciation. Each passing month, the value of the employee’s new knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences far surpass the increased compensation. This makes for an organization that’s growing, transforming and competing because its team members are growing and transforming.

To download the initial Employee Development Plan Worksheet that my clients use to start the Employee Development conversation with their employees, click here.