How to captivate your top performers in 2016

By TEC Member Anne Moore, CEO at PlanDo

Engaging your top performersThe Prime Minister might have just announced plans for more people to come to Australia under entrepreneur visas, as part of his ‘Innovation Statement’ but that isn’t going to help the majority of HR professionals looking to hire and engage their best talent next year.

The reality is that if you thought 2015 was tough keeping the energy and attention of your best talent, it’s going to get tougher in 2016. Many companies talk about the benefits they offer their employees, the perks, the flexibility and the competitive remuneration packages, but providing individuals with a clear career path and enabling them fulfill their career goals, aligned to your own, needs to be high, if not top on the list.

For too long the systems and processes that HR professionals use reflect the organisation’s goals, not the individual’s. They present HR professionals with a huge administrative burden and don’t reflect the changing nature of the work environment. How many businesses do you know make decisions on an annual basis anymore? Indeed, HR professionals may be hiring for a role today, but that role could be completely different in a few months’ time.

Together with the changing work environment, the casualisation of labour, the increase in contractors rather than employees and the millennial mindset of wanting to work in a number of different organisations rather than sticking with one over the long-term, HR professionals need new tools to retain talent in 2016.

I’m not talking ‘retention’ here, we’re going far further upstream.  We think the magic happens with how we enable autonomy and the impact of great performance and engagement.

If you want to engage your top performers next year, you need to consider the following:

1.    How often do you or your leaders ‘check-in’ with your team members?
Instead of having to make team members wait for 12 months for their review, smart organisations will provide more feedback more often. This feedback shouldn’t just come from ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’ as they should be known, it should be from more than one person – peers, mentors whomever the individual chooses. That way, a more complete picture can be built of the individual’s progress and a different perspective can be provided.  Recent research shows that peer feedback is particularly effective in motivating team members to consistently perform at their best.

2.    Are the individuals that work for your organisation self-directed?
Has your organisation given your team members an opportunity to talk about their career goals and what they want to do? It’s important for your leaders to set goals and objectives together with individuals. Ask them how they can contribute to achieve the goals your organisation has set. Again, it comes down to ownership and accountability, and if the individual has suggested a goal or objective, they’re much more likely to achieve it, than if they’re given one.  The new world of work demands a responsiveness and agile that’s internally derived.

3.    Does your performance review process need an overhaul?
Is it too long? Too cumbersome? A box ticking exercise? Some organisations such as Accenture and Deloitte are scrapping them altogether. There are cloud based career management systems available, such as PlanDo that are more intuitive, less expensive and really help HR professionals retain their key talent. It’s about HR professionals and leaders across the business having access to the right tools for the changing work environment.

4.    Are you having quality career conversations?
Ask yourself if the tools you’re using today encourage quality conversations between ‘leaders’ and ‘individuals’ in your organisation. Standard performance systems encourage managers to only talk to their people about growth once or twice a year. Most organisations in Australia have invested in expensive outdated ‘talent management’ systems that reflect what the organisation wants from its employees, to ‘manage’ them. Today, this approach simply doesn’t work. ‘Talent’ can’t be managed. With a younger generation of workers coming through, they want to take control of their own career and not have an organisation dictate to them the path they need to take to progress.  Managers are rapidly evolving into leader coaches and as such, they’ll also be wanting easy access to simple and effective tools that facilitate great conversations.

Finally, helping your team members with their career progression is not all down to you. Competition is fierce in many industries in Australia to attract the best talent and then once you have those individuals, it’s a common misconception that it’s down to HR professionals to nurture individuals and outline a path for progression. Wrong. Today, this is a shared responsibility. It’s about co-careering which means aligned values, purpose and goals.  Building strengths, skills and ensuring there’s a great ‘fit’ is was matters more and more.  At the end of the day, the individual is responsible for their own career, ensuring their experience and skills are documented and taken with them to their next employer.

Is company culture holding back your organisation?

Company culture can be a difficult thing to quantify and measure, especially for an SME that is looking to become more innovative.

While CEOs and company leaders will play a major part in establishing and maintaining a strong internal culture, there are still issues which derail these initiatives.

This is especially challenging if it means that companies cannot remain competitive and stay ahead of the opposition. Innovation is just one area where company culture can play a major role in long-term success or failure.

This issue was recently explored in the Culturing Success report from Microsoft into how widespread innovation is within a small business and what is setting apart high-performers in this space. The research reported that nearly 70 per cent of SMEs in Australia are finding it difficult to become more innovative because of company culture.

According to the report, there are four cultural issues which are undermining the performance of Australian firms. These four are; working in silos, employee distrust, poor collaboration and a fear of failure.

The importance of innovation was underscored by Microsoft Australia’s Managing Director, Pip Marlow, who stated that “innovation is vital to the success of any business, no matter how big or small.”

“However, our research reveals that many businesses find it difficult to develop a culture of innovation.”

While there is clearly a lot of room for Australian companies to improve their processes, the report did highlight features that set highly innovative companies apart from the competition. The 33 per cent of firms that fell into this highly innovative category possessed five key features, including:

A strong customer focus
Awareness of and appetite for innovation
Visible and involved leaders, which in turn create engaged employees
Authentic internal dialogues
A supportive working environment

The result of implementing these processes is a considerable improvement in the performance of an organisation. According to the research, 39 per cent of high-performing firms reported above average growth, compared to less than a quarter of those who are poor innovators.

So how can companies achieve this new focus? The report suggested four strategies that companies can embrace to move closer to the example set by highly innovative organisations:

Attract new staff

The study emphasised that attracting the right staff is an important part of building an innovative business. By bringing in new perspectives, organisations will be able to create great ideas and subsequently see them through to completion.

The advantages of attracting the right staff go beyond boosting innovation, they can also play an important role in realising customer engagement.

Many Australian companies are already aware of the challenges that come alone with attracting and retaining valuable staff members. For fast-growing SMEs like Enablis, finding the right staff members has been the core challenge when trying to scale the business to handle further expansion.

Collaborate with external partners

Creative ideas and innovative solutions don’t just come from within a business – in many situations, creative ideas will actually come from tapping into the skill sets of other firms and working collaboratively.

Business collaboration is also becoming increasingly important across new technology, with collaboration over cloud technologies predicted to double over coming years, according to a study from Research and Markets.

Evaluate performance

Companies that are looking to become more innovative will need to have established and concrete processes to measure performance. Microsoft suggested organisations can audit themselves to understand exactly how well they are realising an innovation strategy at each stage.

One option that companies can use is the assessment tool provided by Microsoft. This quick test was designed to accompany the research and allows businesses to measure how innovative they really are. This sort of information can then be used to identify the areas an SME will need to work on if they want to move up the scale.

The benefits of this system were also highlighted by Pip Marlow, who emphasised the advantages of taking this assessment for small-business owners.

“Microsoft’s new self-assessment tool is the first of its kind to help small and medium-sized businesses identify their culture-related obstacles and then implement tangible solutions to become true innovation leaders,” stated Ms Marlow.

Build a flexible workplace

Staff will often perform better if they have the opportunity to get out from behind their desk and work in a way that best suits them. Not only can making this change ensure that staff are thinking creatively, it can also reduce the amount of stress they feel outside of work.

Solutions like working from home and employees choosing their own hours are easy ways for small businesses to introduce more flexibility, and thinking along these lines is a key ingredient in building an innovative company.

A flexible workplace can also involve introducing new processes to reduce the amount of time spent working on menial or repetitive tasks. For TEC member Alister Haigh, introducing ‘Baxter’ – a robot  designed to take over menial processes – has introduced a new level of flexibility into his family’s chocolate business.

Of course, none of these approaches alone is going to transform a business into an innovative organisation. But, by combining these different factors into a single coherent strategy, businesses will be well-placed to become a highly innovative firm that is also a leader in their industries.

For small businesses, building this sort of culture is going to require constant attention and maintenance. While this might sound daunting, the benefits for SMEs that can embrace this way of thinking are certainly going to be considerable.

Are you a successful leader of change?

It’s certainly true that in order to evolve and adapt to an increasingly complex future, businesses have to be constantly changing. Whether it’s implementing new technology, processes and ways of working or seeking new markets to explore, companies need to continuously think about the routes they’ll take.

Of all the major organisational projects that business leaders have to oversee, one of the most challenging can be change management. How do you promote a culture of constant, productive change, while still keeping everyone on board and without jeopardising the harmony of your organisation?

Change management is therefore one of the skills every executive should work on developing, given the massive implications it can have on the very future of the business. As recent research suggests, however, today’s organisations, managers and employees may not be entirely ready to embrace change.

Change still a stumbling block for many

Of course, to enable smooth and effective organisational transformation, a culture of change must be embedded across the enterprise. This involves having the people, strategies and tools required to drive change – but how many companies today can claim to be adequately equipped?

According to an Association for Talent Development survey of 765 professionals, 60 per cent of respondents said their business faces “three or more major changes” every year. Meanwhile, one out of four respondents said they face twice as many changes than that per year.

Despite this obvious need to make change management a top priority, the survey went on to reveal that fewer than one in five (17 per cent) said their organisation is effective at managing change.

Furthermore, less than a third (30 per cent) of respondents reported that their company actually has a change management team in place, while twice that proportion pinned their hopes of successful change on the CEO. With so few organisations having the necessary personnel to lead change, this signals a clear area for improvement for companies across the board.

However, that isn’t the only thing preventing many organisations from successfully enacting change.

What else is holding them back?

As outlined in the Katzenbach Center’s comprehensive 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, there are myriad factors precluding modern organisations from fully embracing the prospect of change. The survey, which polled well over 2,000 people around the world, canvassed their opinions on the importance of transformation in the organisation, who is leading it and the obstacles that hamper lasting change.

When asked about the top barriers to change, the two most prominent responses were that clashing priorities lead to “change fatigue” and that the systems, processes and incentives in place do not support change.

A large part of the problem may also be behind the attitudes of the employees themselves. The survey revealed that the top three reasons staff resist change are because failed efforts in the past have made them sceptical, they don’t feel involved in the process and they do not understand the reasons behind the change.

All in all, half (48 per cent) of respondents said the critical capabilities required to sustain change are not in place.

Business leaders who can relate to these challenges and feel they are present in their organisation may want to take action immediately, as ineffective change management can have dire effects.

The consequences of poor change management

So what are some of the things that can happen if change is not properly managed in an organisation?

This was explored in Right Management’s ‘Ready, Get Set…Change!’ study, which provided some damning findings on the potential consequences of poor change management. As expected, the majority of the impact falls on employees – according to the study, companies that don’t manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.

Additionally, of the respondents in the study who said their organisation’s change management is poor, three-quarters (75 per cent) reported being concerned with the company’s ability to attract talent in the future. A third (32 per cent) said they harboured negative feelings about whether they could hold on to their job in 12 months’ time.

As can be seen here, poor change management can have pervasive effects around the organisation, and business leaders need to think seriously about whether they are directing change in the right manner.

What are the best steps forward?

Of course, getting on the right path to change management can be a long process that takes time and effort – but it can help to know where the best places to start are.

McKinsey & Company provides one such perspective. Following extensive global research into the subject, it has come up with a list of what it purports to be the keys to transformation success.

According to the firm, companies that have been successful in transformational change have traditionally demonstrated behaviours such as making roles and responsibilities clear, engaging continuously through ongoing communication and tasking the organisation’s best talent with the most crucial change activities.

Leaders, obviously, have an important part to play too – they should make sure that frontline staff feel ownership for the change and role-model the desired changes.

Change should not be daunting to any organisation – in fact, if managed right, it can turn into a massive step forward for your company. Are you making sure your business is primed for change management success?

The behavioural DNA of a typical TEC member

Exploring EQ (Emotional Intelligence) & the motivating behaviours evident in the ‘typical’ TEC member.

After running over 70 presentations, from a behavioural perspective, a pattern has emerged as to the type of member TEC attracts and keeps. This article will bring data to the table and explore the natural strengths and weaknesses in the behaviour of your typical TEC member. There are generic challenges that arise out of what I have found with the such a TEC member. Challenges include, building trust, dealing with conflict, flexibility & handling differing points of view.

“Emotional Intelligence? That’s an oxy-moron! How can you be “intelligent” and “emotional” at the same time?”

This was a common response particularly when I first started presenting “Applied Emotional Intelligence” over 12 years ago to TEC groups. More and more research confirms, (such as “Built to Last” & “Great by Choice” Jim Collins) there is a strong link between Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and business success.

The cynics are becoming fewer.

That doesn’t make it any easier however to understand and apply EQ to business.

TEC members seem to have a thirst and equally a frustration working out this ‘emotional intelligence’ piece of their Management equation.

A tool that I have found particularly useful in helping TEC members grasp EQ is called “DISC Profiling”. The DISC profiling process came out of research back in the 1920’s by Dr. William Marsden “Emotions of Normal People” who wanted to work out ‘what drives people’s different behaviours?’. Then in the 1960’s Dr. John Geier developed the “DISC profile” to help people measure these drivers– Why they do and behave the way they do.

In a nutshell “D.I.S.C.” represents four quadrants of behaviour (see Table 1). Behaviours we exhibit depending on the environment we are in. Similar behavioural models use birds to help visualize and identify these behaviours (refer: “Taking Flight” Rosenberg & Silvert):

  • ‘bold’ Eagle (“D” behaviour),
  • ‘flamboyant’ Peacock (“I” behaviour),
  • ‘peaceful’ Dove (“S” behaviour) and
  • ‘wise’ Owl (“C” behaviour):

Table 1: Brief summary of DISC:

Type Behaviour Motivated by Characteristics Indicators
Eagle Direct & Decisiv Power & Control Risk taking & Task oriented Strong Willed Bold Competitive
IPeacock Interactive & Inspirational Recognition & Influence Risk taking & People oriented Talkative & Fun loving
SDove Steady & Supportive Acceptance & Stability Risk reducing & People oriented Sincere & co-Operative
COwl Cautious & Correct Security & Correctness Risk reducing & Task oriented Logical & Thorough

The key is to recognise that we have a unique combination of D.I.S.C. behaviours. However we do tend to revert to a couple of behaviours that are our natural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’.

The DISC profile measures below were gathered from 40 TEC members participating in ‘Applied Emotional Intelligence’ sessions from four recent TEC groups. The results revealed some interesting patterns in TEC members; patterns that reflect my experience working with nearly 1,000 TEC members over 12 years.

Strongest Behaviour % Behavioural Preference* %
D 56.1% D 77.5%
I 3.6% I 20.0%
S 17.4% S 35.0%
C 22.9% C 75.0%

*It is important to note that around 80% of the population have 2 DISC behaviours, such as a D & C or S & C combination which are their natural behavioural preference, ‘wiring or DNA’

  • “Strongest behaviour”= measures “which of the four DISC behaviours is the strongest preference for the TEC member?”
  • ”Behavioural Preference”= measures “which DISC behaviours are a natural preference?”

The results are not surprising. “D” rates as the strongest rating behaviour for 56.2% of TEC members while 77.5% have D as part of their behavioural DNA. “D” behaviour is driven by the need for Power & Control. In other words they prefer to call the shots, than be told what to do!

They love TEC because they love fierce conversations (no ‘BS’), making life efficient and continually focus on results.

Heading up or creating a business can be high risk and thus tends to attract people who are comfortable in taking risks and driven by getting results. TEC provides that framework.

75% of TEC members are driven by the need for security, correctness and compliance (C behaviour). The need to get things right, need for process.

They love TEC because it helps fine tune systems, processes and procedures. Quality and accountability are king!

So, where does EQ fit into the TEC picture?

From an EQ perspective, the challenge for TEC members with 77.5% and 75% of members respectively having D & C behaviour as part of their DNA means that their world is highly TASK driven. Results tend to be more about taking risks, getting systems, processes and procedures right.

The danger:staff may in themselves become just another “task” versus an “asset” to be nurtured, coached and engaged.

Believe it or not, EQ is not about being touchy feely. It’s more about maximizing your people’s input, engagement and thus productivity. No point having great products, systems and processes but no decent person wants to work for you!

A challenge to TEC. Is TEC attracting a certain type of business owner/director? Are there opportunities to target a wider community of leaders that are not being tapped?

Finally, the KEYS TO HIGH EQ:

  • knowing yourself: strengths/weaknesses
  • knowing what drives you (knowing your D.I.S.C. preferences)
  • knowing what drives those who are most important to you and
  • taking responsibility to build your key relationships (high EQ)

Emotional intelligence is more related to your ability to be flexible than where you live in the world of DISC.

Good luck!

By the way, if you are looking to sharpen your EQ check out ‘Leadership NOW’

About the Author

Wayne Dyson is the Director of Bridgeworks – a specialist leadership and team development consultancy dealing in people skills for professionals. Delivering processes that build collaborative work environments where staff are fully engaged. Providing the starting point is helping managers find the sweet spot between managing process and leading people. His programs have been delivered nationally and in USA, SE Asia, UK, & NZ.