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The best personality and aptitude tests for interviewing and building teams

People management. Human resources. Recruiters. Three groups of professionals who have a significant need to make the best possible hires and personnel decisions… but how?

Talent assessments are just one of a myriad of tools available to professionals who are in the business of people for their business. These assessments can include cognitive, personality, motivation and interest, aptitude, and more. Talent assessments can be used to make hiring decisions, build teams, and even to inform cultural and work environment shifts within workplaces.

Read on to learn more about talent assessments and to understand how, when, and why you should consider assessments like personality or aptitude tests for your business.

The science behind assessments

A quick search on the Internet will bring you dozens (if not hundreds) of so-called personality or aptitude tests you can take in minutes and receive practically instant results. While some of these tests are based in legitimate research, there’s a big difference between your standard Buzzfeed personality test and a scientifically calculated testing protocol.

Aptitude tests are standardized instruments to assess specific cognitive, perceptual, or physical skills. These tests are used to help inform hiring, placement, and advancement decisions by organizations and can even be used by individuals in selection procedures for college, professional programs, and career planning.

Although they derived from subcomponents of intelligence tests, aptitude tests differ both in purpose and in scope from a traditional intelligence test. Aptitude tests are a great way to gauge a candidate’s suitability to a particular role.

Aptitude tests often address areas of aptitude including verbal reasoning, perceptual speed and accuracy, and language usage. The general purpose of an aptitude test is to determine whether or not an individual is suited to various roles within the organization, especially when it relates to a leadership position.

Personality tests differ from intelligence and aptitude tests. Personality tests aim to determine whether or not an individual is a good “cultural fit” within an organization by measuring personality traits.

Personality assessments are often based on the Five Factor Model which measures openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Among the best-known personality tests used in research and career planning are the Big Five personality test, DISC assessments, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

It is important to note that not all personality assessments or tests are suitable for hiring, but rather should be used to help teams better understand one another and learn how best to work with others. For example, MBTI shouldn’t be used as a deciding factor in hiring, but can serve as a supporting assessment when putting together harmonious teams.

People with different personalities might do well in the same role, but it’s also true that people with the same personality traits may have vastly different aptitudes. With this in mind, it’s important to understand what your goals are when using any assessments and also to identify the best tests for your specific organizational needs.

Why should I use personality and/or aptitude tests for interviewing and building teams?

Assessments or tests can be used both in the hiring process and as part of your ongoing employee development and cultural management. Not surprisingly, the reasons for using assessments differ depending on when and how you use them.

During the hiring process, you might use assessments to ascertain whether or not an employee has the skills required for a role. When building teams or focusing on your culture, you might be looking to see which employees have certain personality traits so you can build teams who are most likely to bring out the best in one another.

When it comes to hiring, assessments can be an incredibly useful tool for recruiters and hiring managers. Research shows that as many as 78% of job seekers lie during the hiring process. Assessments can weed out candidates who have misrepresented their skills.

In hiring, assessments allow potential candidates to show off their skills and can be particularly useful in situations where a candidate didn’t exactly “shine” during an interview. Further, assessments or testing provides you with unbiased (or less biased) feedback on an employee’s cultural fit and skills that may have been overlooked or open to interpretation during the interview process.

In team building and ongoing employee development, assessments can be used as a tool to gather information from employees about cultural issues as well as to identify employees who are best-suited to moving up the ladder into more senior roles.

Here are some of the most common reasons HR teams and recruiters use assessments and testing:

To put people in positions where they will shine

If you want to build a successful team, it’s important that you make that individuals are in roles where they can be successful. Smart companies believe in committing to the right person, right seat to ensure their teams are built of people who are in the roles they’re best suited for.

Let’s say you poll your employees today and ask them if they would like to be in a managerial or leadership position. Chances are, many employees do aspire to this but not all of your employees are well-suited or ready for this type of role. By using an assessment, you can identify those who are best suited to moving into leadership roles and then nurture their skills and mentor them accordingly.

Similarly, you may have sales professionals who are customer-facing but have a passion for implementation or customer service representatives looking to make a shift to marketing or business development.

Assessments can help you both during the hiring process, in making sure that the person you’re considering is going to thrive in the role they’re applying to, as well as in your long-term employee development strategy.

To assess cultural fit and hire employees who will remain long-term

Much can be – and has been – said about hiring for cultural fit. Some say hiring for culture fit is perpetuating bias and this can be true if you’re allowing individuals to bring their personal bias into the consideration.

Remember, assessments can provide a less-biased or unbiased view of a candidate’s personality traits and motivations! This removes any personal bias from clouding judgment and allows hiring managers to make decisions based on the assessment results.

Cultural fit is an important factor in the selection process for recruiters. A cultural fit assessment is a combination of different methodologies designed to determine whether or not a candidate is a good cultural fit to your organization during the recruitment and selection process. To do this, you collect and analyze a series of data using an assessment tool.

Cultural fit typically refers to how well aligned an employee is with the culture of an organization, meaning that the employee’s goals, values, and belief system connect with the company’s.

To understand what motivates people

Determining what drives people can be a helpful tool in finding the right people to join your organization. It can also help you identify internal candidates for promotion and allow you to create a more positive work environment for your employees.

Motivational or interest inventories can be incredibly useful when hiring or promoting team members to more senior roles. If a candidate for a senior leadership position is most motivated by power, for example, that person may not be well-suited to a role where they are in a position of power over others. Contrarily, a person who is motivated by helping others succeed would be a fit for a more senior leadership opportunity.

Further, when you better understand the motivations and interests of your teams, you’re better able to bring them work that is meaningful and helps them feel successful. This yields more positive work environments and creates a more productive workplace culture.

Different types of tests

There are many different types of tests that HR or recruitment teams can choose to employ during the hiring process as well as those better suited for post-hire assessment by managers.

Narrowing down which assessments to use during the hiring process is critical YOUR success. If you throw too many assessments at candidates, it can be overwhelming and draw the process out unnecessarily. But, if you’re choosing the wrong assessments, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Profiles Asia Pacific can help you determine which assessments to use and when to give you the best measurements for your organization. We have a unique library of assessments that can be leveraged to support your organization’s needs.

Emotional Intelligence Assessments

One of the most popular emotional intelligence assessments out there is the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i. The EQ-i is the world’s leading measure of emotional intelligence! Emotional intelligence skills are critical for building relationships and teams, leading effectively, and building resilience – making them incredibly important in the workplace.

An important thing to measure here is resilience. Resilience is critical to employee success as it is one of the key markers in learning, building skills, and effective leadership.

Of course, the EQ-i 2.0 is not the only emotional intelligence test out there. Every emotional intelligence assessment will ideally walk users through a series of questions and generate a report that identifies their strengths, weaknesses, and highlights emotional intelligence skills critical to workplace success.

Personality Assessments (DISC, Myers Briggs, FIRO)

Personality assessments have become a popular tool for people managers to use with their teams to help individuals better understand their own personalities as well as how their unique personality traits are perceived by others and how to work with different personalities.

DISC Theory & Personality Traits

DISC is an acronym for the four personality styles that make up the DISC model of behavior: Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C). The DISC model is a powerful and remarkably simple tool for understanding people and what drives them.

DISC assessments yield reports that uncover a person’s primary, secondary, tertiary and even absent personality traits. The unique blend of DISC personality types affects how individuals go about their day-to-day

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is often used by organizations to help individuals develop and build self-awareness to help teams work better together. MBTI should not be used in the hiring process. The design of MBTI is for development.

The MBTI identifies a person’s personality type, strengths, and preferences and is claimed to be the most widely-used personality assessment in the world. The MBTI measures the assignment of individuals into one of 16 personality types from the combination of four dichotomous attitudes or functioning styles:

  • Extraversion – Introversion
  • Thinking – Feeling
  • Judgment – Perception
  • Sensing – Intuition

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior

The FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior) is a useful assessment for team building. This insturment helps individuals understand their own behavior as well as the behavior of others to strengthen teams, repair relationships, and take good or functional relationships to a higher level.

The FIRO-B assessment provides a score that is used to estimate how comfortable an individual is with a particular behavior. The test includes three main areas:

  • Inclusion (relationships with others)
  • Control (preference for having influence over others)
  • Affection (need for 1:1 relationships)

Profiles Asia Pacific assessments and profiling

Our unique library of assessments and profiling tools can be used throughout the employee journey – from recruitment and hiring to employee development and feedback. These assessments include:

  • ProfileXT: a multi-purpose, total person assessment
  • eSkill: customizable online tests for specific job requirements
  • Profiles Managerial Fit™: a manager assessment tool
  • Checkpoint 360* Feedback System™: leadership assessment tool

To learn more about these assessments, get in touch today.

Benefits of using assessments

Just as there are countless assessments available for HR teams to choose from, the benefits of these assessments are almost too many to number. Personality, aptitude, and emotional intelligence assessments are excellent tools that can help you determine which candidates will best integrate with your company culture, who is suited for leadership roles, and to support teams looking to grow in strength.

Better hires

Using assessments can help you hire better by identifying the candidates who truly have the skills and personality traits necessary to be successful both in their individual role and within your overall company culture. Talent assessments can weed out candidates who have misrepresented their skills, education, or experience as well as those whose values and motivations are not aligned with your organization.

Improved retention

When you hire right, you’re more likely to retain those employees. But the use of assessments throughout the employee lifecycle can help you retain employees long-term by helping you understand what motivates your people and identify those well-suited to new positions within your organization. This includes those employees who would do well as managers.

Nurturing talent

As mentioned above, assessments can be used to nurture your own talent. An assessment can identify those team members who are well-suited to managerial promotions or senior leadership roles and provide your team with the opportunity to nurture their skills and interests as part of an overall employee development strategy.

Happier customers

Happier teams yield happier customers. It’s really that simple!

You can – and should – use assessments specific to customer-facing roles, such as the Customer Service Profile™ which can help you measure how well a person fits a specific customer service position within your organization. You may also choose to use sales-focused assessments for your sales teams to ensure your team members are “right person, right seat”.

Increased revenues

When your team is set up for success, you will be more successful. By putting the right people in the right roles, you can increase your revenues. Use assessments during the hiring process and throughout the employee lifecycle as part of your overall employee development to ensure that your team members are sitting in the right seats to propel your business forward.

Healthier workplace cultures

Every employer should aspire to have the best workplace culture possible. One way to move towards this goal is through the use of assessments to:

  • ensure a cultural fit when hiring
  • understand the motivations of employees
  • support employee development, including self-awareness and personal growth
  • help employees understand how they work with their peers (or improve their working relationships)

Wrapping up – Build the best teams with personality and aptitude assessments

Talent assessments and personality indicators can be a great tool for identifying, hiring, and developing talent in your organization. It’s important to make sure you are using the right test at the appropriate time but it’s even more important to ensure that you always look at the full picture. Assessments are, of course, just one of many tools you can use to improve your HR activities and practices.


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How to increase employee retention

Employee retention is one of the biggest concerns of any HR department. Team loyalty not only reflects company culture and productivity but also affects the total costs of hiring and recruitment. Keeping employees is also cheaper and, in the long term, more productive than hiring new ones — even if the employee isn’t stellar: According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. company takes 52 days to fill an open position and spends over $4,000 on the process (that’s without including lost productivity while roles remain empty and the cost of employee training and onboarding). 

At the same time, the average employee tenure at a company is approximately four years, which is generally too short a time for a company to recoup hiring and training costs. Although companies can’t eliminate turnover, there are certain steps they can take to retain quality personnel.

Do you know what’s important to your prospective and current employees? Do you work hard to meet those needs? Do you work on internal development and offer new roles and opportunities for upward advancement? Do you actively work to facilitate good communication across teams and diverse individuals? Many companies struggle to answer “yes” to these questions and face a high rate of employee turnover as a result. In fact, the average turnover rate across all industries in the U.S. is 12%–15% and about 10.9% globally

Why employee retention is important

When you have a great employee, put in effort to keep them. High employee retention brings benefits that include:

  • Cost savings – Replacing an employee costs USD $4,000 at minimum 
  • Performance – When an employee leaves, the performance of the whole team suffers until you recruit and train a replacement 
  • Competition – When you have the best talent, you have a competitive advantage
  • Culture – High turnover feeds a negative workplace culture while low turnover creates a positive culture that attracts like-minded employees

You don’t want to let go of your best performers. But how do you go about keeping them and encouraging higher employee retention?

Common factors behind employee turnover

A departure is often the result of an accumulation of several problems that have compounded and left them with no choice but to look for a job elsewhere. Employees can quit their job for many reasons like moving away or changing careers. 

Most circumstances or occurrences that cause employees to leave are preventable. Additionally, you can identify the warning signs that an employee is going to leave and work to address their issues. While it’s impossible to reduce employee turnover to zero, there’s a lot that you can do to boost workplace morale and help ensure the workplace encourages your team to thrive and grow, which in turn will improve employee engagement and retention.

The biggest reasons for voluntary turnover are:

  • Lack of work-life balance/Burnout – People’s lives are hectic and unpredictable, which has heightened the need for flexibility in their working hours. When you hire new employees or plan schedules, keep this in mind to make sure you assign appropriate jobs to the right people and fit their needs. You might also want to consider flex work and work-from-home opportunities for roles where it makes sense. 
  • Poor management/work environment – People need to fit the company culture and managerial style to perform well in their roles. That includes work styles (e.g., Agile versus waterfall), how management operates, managerial styles, communication styles, etc. Other times, a manager or other senior employee is at fault and needs to be put on an improvement plan.
  • Limited career advancement/Lack of recognition – People need to know there’s potential for professional growth within the company or they’ll lose their motivation. Additionally, if they feel their achievements go unrecognized, that contributes to job dissatisfaction and pushes them to seek a new position someplace where they do feel valued.
  • Poor job fit – This occurs due to bad hiring practices such as not using assessments or job fit profiling as part of your recruitment strategies. Ensure your hiring process is top notch to avoid hiring people who turn out to be unsuitable for the job. For example, Profiles Asia Pacific offers the Step One Survey II, which helps organizations identify strong candidates in a quick, cost-effective manner by evaluating various work-related values including but not limited to personal integrity, reliability, and work ethic.
  • Dissatisfied with pay and benefits – When people worry about their health or paying their bills, they’re unable to focus on their job. This will lead them to either perform poorly within the company or seek employment with an organization that allows them to be more financially secure. Ensure your employees earn enough to afford their expenses and feel satisfied.
  • Lack of job security – Employees who feel insecure about their job will look elsewhere for more stable employment opportunities. You can work to resolve this through open communication, offering development opportunities, and maintaining transparent company policies. 

All of these have a strong influence over an employee’s decision to leave a company. However, the first three deserve additional attention, as they’re common issues that require action from upper management to be resolved.

Lack of work-life balance/Burnout

Work-life balance issues are often indicative of time management issues inside the organization. Or, sometimes employees face stricter demands at home and need a job that allows for flexible hours or the ability to work from home to accommodate those circumstances. 

If your employee voices concerns about their work-life balance, it might mean: 

  • You’re understaffed and your teams are taking on too much work 
  • Deadlines are too strict/employees frequently have to work late to mediate or resolve issues
  • Planning and time management are inefficient 
  • Communication strategies are ineffective 
  • Employees have children or pressing commitments at home that frequently require them to leave work at odd hours (e.g., childcare, schooling, medical care, senior care) 

Employees want to know your organization respects and makes time for them having lives outside of work. Increasingly, employees are looking for roles that offer opportunities to start work an hour earlier and leave an hour early so they can run errands. See if you can restructure and clarify your policies to accommodate flexible work schedules and allow people to request lighter workloads easily. 

Having the right time management tools also makes it easy for you to give your team flexible hours or even the ability to work from home once or twice a week. Employees will appreciate it, and these policies will go a long way toward helping them find a work-life balance and boosting their morale.

Poor management/work environment

According to a Gallup poll of more one million U.S. employees, the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor: Some 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses rather than dissatisfaction with their position.

Regardless of how great the position is or how well paid the employees are, if your management has issues, your employees will soon be looking for another job. To retain your workers, start by investing in your management.

Measure employee turnover on a per-manager basis; this pinpoints whether individual managers are causing higher turnover rates or if the issue is organization-wide. Poor managers cancel out employers’ efforts to attract and retain the right people. 

Once the problem managers have been identified, help them improve. Use assessments or other tools to discover what these managers are doing to drive employees away and then provide training to nurture them into better leaders. 

Limited career advancement/Lack of recognition 

A whopping 76% of employees who feel undervalued are looking for other job opportunities. People want to work in places where they add value and can advance in their careers. However, many organizations lack systems or processes to recognize when people make accomplishments. As a result, people feel their work is unappreciated. If there’s also no clear structure for upward movement, employees will feel stuck and become frustrated, further driving them away to another company.  

Recognition and advancement require training opportunities, ongoing updates to tools, expressing sincere appreciation to employees, setting up one-on-one talks between management, c-suite, and employees, and adjusting salaries based on the company’s success. 

How to improve employee retention and reduce turnover

It costs much more to find and train new employees than to keep those you already have happy and motivated.

While a nice salary and benefits are a key component of maintaining employees, some of the most effective employee retention strategies don’t require you to increase salaries or pay out large bonuses.

With smart HR management, you can hold on to your most valuable employees and develop a strong sense of loyalty that binds the team together for the long run.

The following tips will help increase your organization’s worker retention by improving loyalty, engagement, and hiring fit. 

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is an easy way to establish baselines for performance. In general, benchmarks should be a combination of internal and external data based on existing performance and performance standards for your industry. Your internal benchmark should be based on the following questions:

  • What does performance production look like in measurable output?
  • What is median performance?
  • What is the minimum performance required to meet goals?
  • How does that performance compare to other similarly sized organizations in your industry?

If you can draw a line in the figurative sand to indicate where performance should be, you can measure how and when people meet those expectations.

Performance models

Performance models take a deeper look at what people are doing, why, and how. This allows you to judge performance and talent based on important factors beyond production, which can be a misleading measure of desired output.

These models identify other factors that contribute to organizational performance in a given role, including soft skills like communication or self-motivation. This allows you to track who’s actively contributing to future company success.

An effective performance model requires having benchmarks or performance standards already in place. Then, you can communicate expectations, establish tools and training for individuals to meet those expectations, and set up processes to monitor how closely people meet or don’t meet those standards.

Performance models include profiles of expected or quality performance, rank everyone against the expected performance, and make it easy to see who excels and how. For example, if two people excel in the same role for different reasons, you can collect that data and see how it impacts each one and their ability to perform.

Identifying top performers reveals the traits, behaviors, and qualities that allow them to succeed. You can then utilize that data in your recruitment and selection processes, in training and development, and when promoting individuals to new roles, as you’ll already know what success looks like in that position.

Also, by identifying top performers in your organization, you can reward, promote, and encourage further development in them.

Assessments 

Testing in the interview process is growing in popularity as recruiters are inundated with more candidates. Each job opening may get hundreds of resumes, so recruiters and HR managers need an efficient way to sort through candidates to pinpoint the best ones. Employment testing can help narrow the choices by highlighting desirable skills and traits that a regular interview would miss.

Employment testing does have its limitations, especially in terms of judging the long-term behavior of an employee, but it can reveal more about candidates in a relatively short amount of time. While there are numerous assessments and tests available, the following three are some of the most important.

Skills tests

Skills tests check for hard and soft skills such as typing, ability to use a machine, or proficiency in different types of code. These tests can consider job knowledge, hard skills, or soft skills like attention to detail and diligence, which will help you determine what an individual can or cannot do.

They allow you to root out candidates who may be qualified but can’t take on a new role right away, those who might be embellishing their skills, or those who may not have the conceptual knowledge necessary for a specific role. 

Skills tests take time to set up and evaluate, so they’re best applied late in the hiring process when you have a small candidate pool. Once individuals complete a test, assignment, data check, or other form of employment testing, you can then compare the candidates’ capabilities and make the right choice.

Competency assessment

Competencies often include a range of soft skills and behaviors that contribute to success in a job role. This type of employee assessment relies on existing job profiles and a competency framework to measure how candidates score and why. Competency assessments are often integrated into formal questioning in the form of structured interviews, where individuals are given a series of prepared questions designed to gauge their response, behavior, communication, stress management, etc.

You can also integrate competency assessments into assignments and tests, where candidates are asked to give input in less stressful environments, or in environments where they may have fewer prepared answers. This type of testing is important because it tells you how individuals are likely to react, if they’re good learners, whether they are self-motivated, good leaders, or any other desirable trait.

Culture testing

Hiring for culture is important, not just for culture-fit but also for growing organizational culture by expanding it. Culture testing can take the form of emotional intelligence tests, cognitive ability tests, or behavioral tests but often incorporates work assignments, especially in an office or physical work area. These tests are designed to check behavior, how an individual responds to various situations, the individual’s ability to fit in or contribute to a team, and more.

This type of testing allows you to identify candidates who complement your existing culture while ideally bringing in new ideas, challenging existing dynamics, or improving processes. A healthy culture requires open communication, a willingness and desire to learn, and passion for work — all of which are easy to assess in culture testing.

These and other types of assessments can help you make better hiring decisions by giving recruiters more information on candidates and their behavior. While they aren’t foolproof, good testing expands on the interview, checking for desirable and undesirable traits so you can identify promising talent and make a better investment.

Effective onboarding 

Employees leave organizations at a remarkable rate: Jobvite shows 33% of employees have quit a job within 90 days of being hired. However, an effective employee onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. Good onboarding policies include: 

  • Introducing the new hire to their team and the company
  • Following up with them throughout the first month 
  • Ensuring they have the technology and tools they need
  • Providing onboarding training and mentoring from day one 
  • Running a skills gap analysis and remediation training where necessary 
  • Ensuring full involvement in teams 

The faster someone feels like a valued and competent part of your organization, the more likely they are to stick with you. 

Employee development 

Today’s job candidates want the opportunity to develop themselves and to polish their skills, abilities, and experience continually. Invest heavily in training and employee development and encourage employees to take advantage of the programs offered. Give everyone access to training that will enhance their self-esteem, their value, and their skills. Show your employees there’s no reason to leave when they can receive training and development from within the organization.

Learning tools are abundant and easily available. However, companies need to learn how to leverage these to provide their workers with top-notch resources to further their expertise. Most employees today understand that self-development is key to remaining relevant. In addition, during labor shortages, those same employees have a choice in where they work. If you fail to offer opportunities to grow, stay relevant, and remain challenged, those employees will go somewhere that does. 

Personalized and data-based learning programs are becoming more common, allowing for faster advancement and more targeted curriculums. Additionally, employees are given a choice on how to consume that educational content, such as in person, online, or through a hybrid setup.

Showing employees they have a future with your organization will help convince them to stay. That might mean mapping a career path for each employee or having coaching and development opportunities to help employees list personal goals and how to achieve them. Do this early, even during onboarding, so you know what to expect from each worker, what opportunities to offer, and how your employee wants to develop themselves. It’s also important to follow up on those goals throughout employment to ensure they remain the same.

Regular workforce analysis

Workforce analysis is the process of analyzing your employees and their capabilities to understand current abilities, future needs, and existing gaps. 

Good analysis will help you determine the quantity and quality of employees you need for each task, including knowledge, skills, and experience, and if any are missing. It allows you to identify changing trends and skills so you can adapt your existing workforce, and helps you prepare as your workforce fluctuates.

However, analysis should be a two-way conversation. It’s not enough to collect data; you have to request it, analyze it, and share it as well. For example, Peakon sends frequent surveys to request data from employees and uses that information to drive change and, in the long term, boost employee retention. 

Employee analysis and satisfaction surveys let you ask employees precisely what they want to gauge the health of your organization and learn what’s working and what isn’t. 

Benefits of regular workforce analysis

Here’s how periodic analysis improves your organization and reduces business headaches along the way.

Close skills gaps and reduce turnover

Workforce analysis allows you to identify gaps and changing skills needs so you can offer on-the-job training to high-performing employees and boost their skill sets. This gives them the opportunity to move up in the company and you the opportunity to retain employees with valuable behaviors.

Prepare for change

Most industries fluctuate regularly, and you may find that teams, departments, output, and technology change every few years. A workforce analysis can help you determine where change will occur so you can begin preparing employees and the company structure in advance. This helps avoid delays and disruptions when change does happen.

Prevent unexpected shortages

If you know when employees are likely to leave or want to move up, you can prepare for it by either having a new employee ready to fill their shoes or offering incentives to remain with the company. For example, by checking when employees typically retire, comparing the average length of employment in specific positions, and gauging employee satisfaction, you can easily calculate when you’re likely to have employment gaps and prepare for them accordingly.

Robust workforce analysis allows you to stay on top of your workforce planning and management, from hiring to offering continuing education and advancement opportunities for existing employees. It also allows you to address issues before they become major problems, take steps to ensure employees are happy and willing to stay with the company, and teach your workforce to adapt to new technologies.

By performing a workforce analysis regularly, you can reduce problems, have more control over workforce changes, and gain a competitive advantage.

Competitive salaries 

Pay your employees as much salary and provide as many benefits as you can afford from day one. The goal is to reduce turnover and retain the right people, so if you scale back the initial offer by 15%, will the savings be enough to retain the employee when another company offers more money? Probably not. Put your best foot forward from the start, and as a person moves up the ladder, their pay should be adjusted accordingly. Know what each job is worth and pay it.

One Harvard University study found that a $1 increase in pay resulted in a 2.8% increase in retention. Money matters when it comes to happy employees.

Employee engagement 

Most HR departments are aware of the importance of engagement in employee retention. Research from the Korn Ferry Group shows companies with engaged employees are up to 2.5 times more profitable than those without, highlighting this influential metric.

At the same time, engagement offers room for improvement. Whether your organization already has a relatively engaged workforce or one that looks forward to clocking out and going home, you can take steps to improve engagement and business results.

Note that employee engagement is not about perks, specific rewards, or one-time actions. Engagement only happens with consistent, long-term actions that drive change.

Link vision and strategy to daily work

Most people clock into work, perform an allotted number of tasks or work towards specific goals, then clock out and go home with no clear idea of what they’ve contributed or achieved. This can be demotivating, especially in the long term if individuals feel stagnant.

One important way to avoid this type of discouragement is to ensure everyone always knows what they’re working towards. That means linking organizational vision and strategy (or overarching goals) to smaller goals broken down based on daily work. When people understand how their work contributes to personal and organizational goals (and ideally how close that goal is), they’ll be more motivated and therefore more engaged.

Give individuals and teams accountability

Supporting employee empowerment can greatly increase engagement. Create cross-functional teams with ownership over every aspect of a project, and let people and teams work toward results in the manner of their choosing. Doing so allows employees who know how best to do their work to excel in and engage with their work. 

Ownership entails one team designing a strategy for a project, then creating, refining, and launching it. They take full responsibility for its success or failure.

This does pose some risk, as not everyone will follow the same standardized processes. However, you can implement controls and general guidelines for processes to ensure everything is handled in the appropriate manner. Accountability increases engagement because people feel proud of their work and seek to improve it.

Encourage, recognize, and share creativity and passion

Give your managers the responsibility of identifying and highlighting how employees go above and beyond. Create awards for excellent performance, as this gives everyone the opportunity to be in the spotlight for doing a good job. 

Other great examples of employee recognition are: 

  • Thank you notes
  • Employee of the month awards
  • Newsletter shoutouts
  • Service awards

Positive recognition will lead to a more productive work environment. When you notice creativity and passion in your employees, it’s important to acknowledge and share them. Then, encourage others to follow suit through open workspaces and flatter hierarchies and creating space for individuals to fail and try again without fear of judgment or punishment.

Over time, this will improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction, both of which will cut down on turnover and produce greater business results.

Enticing benefits 

Employee benefits like cash compensation and health packages are a major selling point for employees. With priorities shifting away from simply earning more toward achieving a work-life balance, office perks like flex work, daycare, and healthy lunch bars could be the little touches that convince your employees to stay.

Other benefits to consider include more individual control over work schedules, free access to food or beverages, and opportunities for learning and career advancement. Whatever perks you decide to offer, make sure they’re relevant to your employees.

In-office perks

In-office perks could include a company break room, a gym, or even an open bar on Friday afternoons. Providing ways for your team to unwind and relax together improves teamwork, builds camaraderie, and helps them enjoy their time at the office beyond work. In-office benefits are especially great for team members who keep long hours due to client schedules and need breaks between meetings or dedicated time to relax and focus on themselves.

Flex work 

Flex workspaces are becoming more common as employees demand greater workplace flexibility. According to one survey, nine out of 10 employees seek flexibility in how they work. Additionally, the rapid transition from the traditional 9-to-5 office environment to hybrid and remote work has brought new technologies and flexible workspace solutions.

Flexible workspaces are beneficial to HR managers by enabling flexible HR management, increasing employee productivity, and improving talent retention and attraction. They allow employees to go to work at any time of the day, which can lead to working more hours. Employees who are in control of their work tend to be happier and more likely to stick with their jobs. 

Of course, you do need some balance. Employees still have to be online to communicate and meet face-to-face when relevant. 

Work-from-home days

Remote work is on the rise as the gig economy takes off around the world — and for good reason. Giving your employees days to work from home can cut your turnover in half and drive productivity: A Stanford study showed productivity shot up 17%, and employees are half as likely to leave the company when they can work from home. 

Consider allowing your team to work from home one day a week so they have less of a commute and can spend more time with their families, pets, and in the comfort of their own homes while still delivering quality work — in essence, maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Flexible hours

Flexible hours allow your team members to take control of their schedules and manage their work-life balance within certain parameters. As long as your employees continue to deliver their work, consider letting them do it at the pace that best suits them. This will give you a leg up on your competition. 

Offering work benefits is a great way to maintain your top performers and attract qualified candidates to your business. 

Increase paid parental leave 

Among the younger generations of workers, 62% said they would leave their current job for better benefits. Additionally, some 90% of U.S. families with children have at least one working parent, meaning a significant portion of the working population has familial responsibilities.

Taking steps to support parents at work and balance their work and home life obligations will make you a more attractive employer. For example, after Google increased paid maternity leave period from 12 weeks to 18, the rate at which new mothers quit their jobs halved. That 50% increase in benefits resulted in a massive reduction in costs for the company because they didn’t have to replace those women.

Paid parental leave for mothers and fathers is crucial to ensure new parents have adequate support to care for a child through the early periods so they can go back to work with less stress. While this will cost the organization more in terms of paid leave, it will pay off in the long run.

Support employee well-being

The logic is simple: If a company helps employees resolve their private challenges, they’ll spend less energy worrying and redirect it toward work.

This rationale goes beyond basic concern and requires a more involved approach on the part of HR professionals.

Organizations that provide their employees with adequate tools and resources to take control of their lives stand a much better chance of retaining their employees longer.

Showing appreciation to your team is one of the easiest ways to maintain morale, offer motivation, and encourage individuals to continue to excel. Although fiscal compensation is often the first choice for large organizations, you don’t have to shower employees with large cash bonuses, expensive holidays, or company cars to express your gratitude. 

Other ways to offer support include giving time off for mental health days, sending periodic surveys focused on how employees are doing, and hosting meditation breaks. 

Healthy company culture

Company culture largely influences peoples’ work experience. A healthy culture should be uplifting, supporting, and encouraging of personal development. 

Create an environment where positive recognition is the norm. This involves open communication, an attitude of cooperation, and an atmosphere of trust. Tell your employees where the company is going, how it plans to get there, and how their jobs are key to your success. Also, instill trust in your employees; if you give people a good reputation to live up to, they’ll feel proud and be more likely to stay with you.

As a real-world example of the power of positive work culture, look at Satya Nadella, who was instrumental in turning around Microsoft’s flagging profits. His decisions on steering Microsoft products were largely based on a massive cultural shift and resulted in 27% year-over-year growth and stock tripling in value during his introduction as CEO.

Nadella stepped into a culture based around strict hierarchy, bitter competition, and one-upmanship. Within a few years though, his efforts succeeded in producing a culture of sharing, open communication, innovation, and emphasizing soft skills, which is now reflected in Microsoft’s products, internal and external policies, and work-floor culture.

But how do you turn yours around? With so much of company culture outside of your control, how do you take a poor culture and develop something powerful?

Identify your goal culture

Company culture should align with organizational strategies and goals. This means identifying which elements of culture, especially behavior, help to achieve those goals. Your behavioral framework, competency framework, or other form of soft-skill analysis will help you determine these by asking questions such as:

  • What values or behaviors would help teams to achieve their objectives?
  • Are those values already represented in company culture? If not, why? If so, how?
  • Do employees receive clear examples of desired behaviors and culture from leadership?
  • What conditions are required to introduce desired behavior? What conditions are required to change negative behavior?

Create conditions for change

An individual must consciously choose to change their behavior. You can ask them to do so, but until someone makes the choice to change how they act, their old behavioral patterns will continue. Introducing conditions for change along with information on why it’s important to change and how to go about it is the best way to institute a culture shift.

For example, Satya Nadella began his shift in company culture by handing out mandatory reading homework in the form of the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD. Depending on your organizational goals, you could offer workshops on communication, hard skills courses, leadership or innovation coaching, or training in emotional intelligence.

New ideas must be introduced from the top down. No one on a work floor will model behavior if leadership doesn’t follow suit. Similarly, individuals must understand the reason for change and have the opportunity to do so. If you tell employees to collaborate as a team to promote innovation while still rewarding individual performance, they’ll likely ignore you. Instead, you would want to introduce performance rewards for teams as a whole to gain buy-in from individuals.

While there are a lot of ways to build a positive workplace culture, the companies with the highest talent retention structure theirs around people, innovation, and development, with flat or open rather than top-down hierarchies. Include employee retention in the development of your company culture to put your employees first and increase the number who remain loyal to your organization.

Retention during restructure

Restructuring is often necessary for organizations that want to align new or old goals by redefining their workforce. This can take the form of introducing new work methods such as agility, but commonly involves merging and splitting teams to create a new, more dynamic company structure.

While losing some employees during times of change is inevitable, many organizations inadvertently lose top talent during a restructure simply because the process can be disheartening and demotivating.

Taking steps to maintain talent during restructuring will save your organization money and most importantly, your star performers.

Build trust before the restructure with transparency 

While many organizations attempt to keep restructures on the down-low to reduce speculation and talk, this often produces the opposite effect. Employees will learn about restructuring long before it hits, and many will begin to look for new roles as they fear moving, losing their job, or difficult changes.

Being transparent and building trust with honest, authentic dialogue will help limit these concerns. Consider scheduling town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings with managers when appropriate, and regular updates for everyone affected.

Invest in employee development

Continuing to invest in employees during a restructure shows you’re still committed to your workforce.

Offering workshops and e-learning or courses to help employees develop necessary skills, creating mentoring and coaching programs, and offering direct training for new processes and software will go a long way toward reassuring employees of your investment in them.

This also means investing in employees who are being let go. Try to offer outplacement and proactive career services to move existing employees into new roles, as this will help boost the morale of those who’ll make it through the restructure.

Clearly communicate expectations for newly defined roles

Most restructuring yields change at every level of the organization. This may mean redefining roles, changing software, or creating new teams or merging existing ones that must then achieve new goals in new ways. Clearly communicating and offering training and development for change is important. Also, offer recognition, opportunities to lead or develop, and praise for adapting and meeting or exceeding new expectations.

Hold leadership accountable 

Holding managers and leaders accountable for new policies and procedures is crucial to ensuring adoption and high morale throughout the rest of the organization.

You can typically achieve this by bringing leadership into specific training courses and workshops, which gives them time to adapt and learn what the restructure means for everyone before introducing it to the rest of the workforce. If you start with developing leaders, the rest of the teams will follow. Then, combining training and pairing leaders with workers at every level during later sessions will help reduce uncertainties.

While restructuring is often difficult for the entire organization, retaining top talent during the process is possible with transparency, showing appreciation for employees even when letting them go, and offering opportunities to develop in and adjust to the new structure.

Remote employee retention

Remote workers are becoming increasingly popular options for organizations of all sizes. Remote work drives convenience, reduces travel time, and sometimes lowers costs for both the organization and the employee. On the flip side, working remotely removes individuals from their organization, effectively separating them from daily contact with colleagues, a physical representation of the organization, and organizational culture. This can result in a significantly higher turnover rate as employees feel less loyal and attached to their organizations, which eventually results in higher costs for the organization.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than half of the U.S. workforce works from home. That shift has changed not only how employees view working from home and commutes, but also the perks you can offer and how you maintain high employee retention. 

Although employees appreciate services as well as extra cash, you need to adapt that added value to employees who work in fully remote environments.

Developing strong managerial skills geared toward remote worker retention will help you circumvent this problem while building stronger, more productive teams. Because employee retention largely concerns culture, management strategy, and how individuals identify and get along with their colleagues, you can take clear, defined steps to reduce remote worker churn.

Build remote organizational culture

Most remote workers are at least partially disconnected from their organization and therefore have less participation in and recognition of company culture when it appears. Creating a defined and visible culture for remote employees is crucial to boosting retention for mixed and remote workers. Define your organization’s cultural values in ways that are clearly visible for everyone, such as:

  • Create shared digital meeting spaces or group video/voice meetings
  • Establish a high level of work and task visibility across the organization, extending to remote workers
  • Host in-person events and meet employees face-to-face when possible

Whether working as part of a remote or in-office team, all employees should understand the culture and values they represent, so it’s important to define company strategy and vision and make it accessible and visible for all employees.

Share work processes and knowledge

Sharing work processes and knowledge is crucial to creating a strong team with a sense of mutual work values. Digital platforms that document work processes, make documentation and accountability transparent, and allocate tasks and responsibility are one option to achieve this, ideally accompanied by a communication element or platform. 

Slack, for example, excels at allocating tasks and enabling communication, which is ideal for remote work, but it doesn’t include process management. Other tools like Asana integrate process management, but don’t function as well for online discussion and collaboration. Look at your tech stack and ensure you have all the tools and software to help remote workers stay connected to their teams.

Mentorship, training, & career development

Support and development opportunities are important, though often missing elements in remote worker retention strategies. A survey of employees from Explorance revealed moving to a higher paying job, Covid burnout, and lack of career development opportunities were the top three reasons why people quit their jobs. 

To make remote employees feel valued and like an equal member of the team, offer them the same or similar development and training as you would to those working in the office. While it can be difficult to provide the same face-to-face mentorships, you can develop adjacent programs that include video coaching, digital learning, and physical classes where individuals located near enough can travel to training courses and programs.

Reducing remote worker churn needs to focus on treating them the same way you would individuals in the office, such as providing developmental opportunities, sharing information and feedback, and creating transparency in organizational operations and management. If individuals feel they’re part of decisions and can clearly contribute to teamwork, they’ll be more likely to invest in the company and commit to organizational goals and outcomes.

Host team activities

Modern teams enjoy the occasional pizza and board game night when working in the office. If you move online though, those opportunities become much more difficult to coordinate and usually fall off. To help build camaraderie in your remote workers, you can ask teams to engage in paid activities together, such as having pizza delivered to their house and playing online board games, or completing teamwork challenges and puzzles together. This strengthens everyone’s work bonds and increases their loyalty.

Support flex work hours

People working at home are more likely to have distractions and pressing matters to deal with. Offering flexible work hours is one way to demonstrate you understand life can be unpredictable and are willing to accommodate their needs.

Many organizations are also switching their focus from hours worked to productivity. When you know what employees produced in the office, you can hold them to those standards at home and not bother with strictly tracking hours. 

Gather 360 feedback regularly

Tools like 360 feedback allow employees to offer regular feedback to each other and their management. This measurement reveals employee thoughts about management, processes, communication, and how they’re treated at work, as well as highlights their colleagues’ contributions. Inserting regular touchpoints to gather constructive feedback can help employees feel valued. It also helps you identify what coaching and training to offer to those who are struggling.

Consider office equipment for home use

One of the toughest shifts for many work-from-home employees is having to buy the tools and equipment necessary for their job. Offering office equipment, such as printers, laptops, or desks, can save your employee considerable costs and ease their transition. In addition, sourcing equipment from a supplier ensures everyone works with the same models and software. 

Allow employees to suggest benefits

Most people know what they want. And that’s true when it comes to benefits as well. Having discussions with employees about what kinds of perks they want and why can help you to make better decisions around what those perks should be. And, allowing employees to have some influence on that can make them feel listened to, respected, and valued.

Invest in good onboarding 

Onboarding is your first opportunity to touch base with your employees. It’s even more important online, where remote employees miss out on the hands-on experience. Make sure they have proper coaching, assistance with systems, and any other tools they need to integrate into their role and company processes. 

Increasing employee retention involves offering a quality of life, competitive pay, and plentiful opportunities for personal and career development. Focus on building strong teams, ensuring good communication, providing perks and benefits, introducing career development, and delivering a personal and human experience, whether your employee works from home or in the office. 

How exit interviews influence employee retention 

An exit interview is a key component of your employee management and retention. Although it may not save a departing employee, it’s a great time to gain insight into your company’s processes and learn what works well and what can be refined. Both negative and positive responses can help the company optimize its processes and improve the overall work atmosphere, thus increasing employee satisfaction and retention.

For example, if a departing employee stresses unprofessional behavior of a certain manager, you can gather feedback about this person from current employees and conduct a few meetings with them. This way, you’ll get to the root of the problem and prevent other employees from leaving or transferring for the same reason.

Choose the right interviewer

The quality of the data collected is one of the biggest issues with exit interviews.

If an employee is dissatisfied with the company’s CEO, they’re unlikely to open up about it during the interview. All employees want good references for their next job, so most will try to leave a company on positive terms rather than be honest about their opinions. To gain valuable data, you need to choose the right person to run the interview.

An HR specialist and the CEO will probably make the departing worker feel uncomfortable, so they’ll only provide rote answers. A better choice would be to assign either an HR specialist or a mid-manager to conduct the interview; a mid-level manager is usually closer to the employees than the company’s executives and can create a sense of trust during the interview.

Choose the right time 

Picking a random day for the interview and sending an RSVP invitation via Google Calendar is a poor way to start the exit process.

You want the interviewee to feel comfortable and give honest feedback, so you need to schedule a time that accommodates both your and the employee’s schedules. Two common times to hold the exit interview are:

  1. While the person is still in the company (before the “mental checkout” set in). This way, you speak to the employee while their thoughts are still fresh in their minds. It also increases the probability of gaining honest replies.
  2. A month or a few weeks after the employee leaves the company. The biggest benefit of this approach is that the employee will be settled in their new job and thus will feel more comfortable providing honest answers about their decision to leave.

Either way, it’s best to conduct an exit interview in person. This way, you can clearly show the employee you value them and are willing to dedicate your time to listening to their opinions.

Questions to ask in the interview

Did they give notice, or quit immediately?

If your employee has been speaking with you or their direct manager about changing jobs, they’ve likely thought about it for a while, and it may stem from personal desires rather than company frustrations. However, if they quit on the spot, it could indicate more serious issues. In this instance, you may want to evaluate your managers, managerial style, employees, and processes to find out why this happened.

Who did they inform directly?

If someone goes directly to HR or to the CEO to quit instead of their direct report or manager, something’s amiss with that relationship. 

Take time to determine why the employee was uncomfortable telling their manager of their decision first; is there animosity? Are they afraid? Did their direct manager push all the work onto them? Identifying these issues can show you which people you need to talk to and where you need to make adjustments.

How long were they with the company before quitting?

If an employee quits in less than six months from their hiring date, chances are it was a bad fit. They may have accepted your job as an interim position and continued looking elsewhere, or they expected a different setup and received a disappointing surprise upon entering the role.

However, if your long-time employees are quitting, there’s a problem you need to fix, and quickly. These are the people who’ve stuck with your company through its ups and downs, so if they suddenly leave, something drastic may have occurred. Sometimes it’s a lifestyle change, such as them moving to a different city; other times though, it could be a poor change in management, or something else in your business operations.

Exit interviews unveil the root of business problems and help companies identify the pain points that lead to a low retention rate and employee dissatisfaction. Analyze the feedback from departing employees and make sure to implement it to keep your employees happy and your retention rate up.

Conclusion 

A good employee retention strategy covers the full life cycle of the employee, from their date of onboarding to their final day with the company. It should ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities to develop their careers and feel fulfilled in their work. Often, that means introducing coaching and personal development, implementing internal career paths and tracks, investing in reward systems, providing benefits that matter to employees, and fostering a culture of recognition and reward. 

Of course, different people value different things. You can use surveys, assessments, and ongoing reviews of your workforce to determine what is and isn’t going well so you can take preventive measures before people decide to leave. Be proactive by putting your employees’ needs first, and you’ll produce happy, loyal employees and boost your retention rate.


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How to integrate performance feedback into daily work

Annual performance reviews can get a bad reputation in some companies, being seen as the dreaded month where everyone is “graded” and not much else gets done. For many organizations, they’re expensive, time-consuming, and provide little valuable information, while fostering employee dissatisfaction and reducing loyalty.

Managers spend an average of 17 hours per employee, per year on traditional performance reviews. That in itself is a huge time cost to the company — without factoring in the employee’s time, designing the assessments, or analyzing data.

To drive value from performance reviews, organizations have to implement it as part of daily work. Shifting performance appraisals from a large, yearly approach to an ongoing, daily or weekly touch point can dramatically improve how people perceive performance reviews. With negative opinions about performance evaluations, how you integrate feedback into daily work should be done with care.

Set clear expectations

When people know what the feedback is for, the quality of it increases since they know what points to hit. Expectations should define:

  • What performance feedback will be used for. For example, in waterfall environments, it’s usually used to identify a top 2% and bottom 2%. In Agile environments, it might be used to issue remediation training, coaching, etc.
  • Next steps (e.g., Will low performers be fired? Do they get a pay cut? Will they be given developmental opportunities to close gaps? Will they receive coaching to determine problems and how to move forward?
  • How performance is rewarded (for individuals vs. teams, etc.). Traditional feedback models often fail Agile teams because they reward individual performance, which simply incentivizes bias towards negative or neutral peer feedback in 360 and other horizontal feedback systems.

Clearly stating the outcomes of performance feedback lets employees better prepare for and justify what they say and why.

Build trusting environments with goal-oriented feedback

The second step in fostering a positive feedback environment is creating goal-oriented feedback. Often, defining a top and bottom percentile is not goal oriented. It’s just a ranking system that offers no benefit to your organization.

Setting goals for feedback changes that. This could include delivering development, directing people and teams to self-improve, or comparing perceived production and skills gaps with actual production and skills gaps, etc. Once you establish what the feedback will be used for and how it will contribute to your business goals, you can communicate that to employees and gain buy-in.

For example, many Agile teams now integrate feedback cycles retrospectively. Teams might be asked to fill out simple performance surveys for their and their team’s performance after every sprint. That can then be utilized to discuss how things went during the retrospective. More importantly, it can allow people to suggest improvements and how to do better next sprint. Making those goals self-motivated also encourages buy-in because ownership and accountability help people to progress.

Implement feedback training

Feedback training is the process of helping people learn how to give good feedback. Sometimes, that means acknowledging or highlighting the right things. In other cases, it means avoiding personal and emotional bias when offering feedback. Feedback training is relatively simple and can often be delivered in a single day – but it ensures people know how to select and highlight the things that are important to performance.

Often, that also ties into giving daily feedback in the form of compliments, goal-oriented criticism, and requests for solutions. If people don’t practice those skills on a daily basis, they become much less useful.

Use OKRs and goals to ensure feedback is implemented

OKRs, or objectives and key results, is a goal-setting methodology designed to help people and teams push their capabilities. Here, goals should always be high, and teams should not be able to complete them easily. Instead, you should normally aim for a success rate of about 70%. Why? People perform better when they have goals.

Setting goals around feedback, whether to correct performance issues, behavioral issues, communication, etc., is great.

But, if goals are easily reachable, many people will reach them and then drastically reduce their work effort until the next goal is set. OKRs prevent that, while challenging the individual to perform better than they otherwise would.

Make it a multi-way conversation

When feedback is one-directional, it won’t be taken seriously. If managers have a say about their teams, but teams are denied a voice concerning their managers, the process will create tension and lack of trust. Incorporating opportunities to deliver feedback in different ways and on different levels will increase employee buy-in and trust.

That means using one-on-one feedback, as well as anonymous and 360 feedback, where people can contribute horizontal and upward feedback anonymously. These different avenues of feedback might generate surprising results, which could offer insight and value into management relationships with teams, team relationships with each other, and other work relations.

Wrapping up — Turn performance feedback into actionable insights

Performance appraisals are increasingly moving away from a once-per-year check-in to ongoing feedback delivered as part of work (e.g., included with tooling, after sprints), which is a good time to check in on how people are doing, what they’re working on, how it went, and what they think could have gone better.

That shift in mindset is necessary to transform performance appraisals into a healthy process that contributes to a culture of development. Most importantly, it allows the organizations to drive performance improvement through training, providing tooling, and analyzing the bottlenecks inhibiting people from performing their best.


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Employee motivation: The keys to improve workplace productivity

Employee motivation is a major component of employee engagement as well as one of the most important metrics for a successful business. Motivation directly impacts individual productivity, whether on a single project, professional development, or even onboarding. 

That’s why many organizations spend millions on employee motivation strategies. Google’s 20% rule is a famous example of that, where employees are expected to spend 20% of their time on their own projects and ideas. This encourages creativity and innovation so the company keeps ideas fresh and employees excited to work.  

The importance of employee motivation

The benefits of motivated employees include increased productivity, reduced business costs, and more. By understanding the reasoning behind employee behaviors and actions, and using those results to motivate them, you can improve business performance. 

According to Gallup, unmotivated employees can cost the U.S. as much as $350 billion in lost productivity each year. Therefore, learning how to motivate your employees is crucial to reducing your business expenses. Motivated employees will also be more engaged, which will result in higher employee retention, productivity, and company sales.

The good news is focusing on employee engagement can reduce employee turnover. When employees are motivated, they’re far less likely to leave their job. They’ll also feel a stronger connection to the company, which can result in them being more productive and successful within their role.

A study by Harvard Business Review revealed factors like role design, organizational identity, career ladders, community, resource planning, and leadership were all more important than compensation. Governing processes and performance reviews built around helping people to improve were also found to contribute to employee productivity.

Knowing the importance of motivation in the workplace, here are some ways you can nurture self-motivated employees:

  • Commitment – People who are motivated to work for the company are committed to it. They enjoy their work and are willing to do their best. That pays off in the long term through the volume and quality of their work. 
  • Employee satisfaction – People who enjoy their work are less likely to quit, more likely to engage in projects and assignments, and more likely to achieve. In turn, that yields reductions in turnover and interpersonal disputes. 
  • Personal investment – Workplace motivation inspires personal motivation, such as furthering their career or expanding their skill set. Whether they take on training and new roles, bring innovative thinking to a meeting with colleagues, or provide fresh ideas and solutions to managers, your employees will contribute in new and interesting ways, offer insight, and bring value to the organization. 
  • Productivity – Motivation inspires people to work well and be productive. Instead of dreading work, they’ll get started right away, saving time and completing assignments within their expected deadlines. 

What impedes employee motivation? 

Motivation killers in the office can lower productivity, employee satisfaction, the quality of your product or service, and your ability to attract top talent. Keep an eye out for the following motivation killers that could hinder your business and talent from achieving peak performance.

Inadequate tools

Give your employees the tools to do their jobs well. This means reliable office equipment, a clean space to work, and access to a restroom and whatever else they need to perform. For example, if you hire a graphic designer, provide image editing software and a computer with plenty of memory.

Poor communication

A lack of clarity about one’s job responsibilities can be a huge motivation killer. Poor communication leads to misunderstandings, oversights, duplicate work, and overall decreased productivity. The ability to communicate effectively is the mark of a good leader and the backbone of a functioning office. Make sure your teams understand their duties and how they keep the company in operation.

A lack of learning and development opportunities

Show your employees you’re as invested in their development as they are in the company’s growth. Motivate employees by offering them a chance to learn how to do their jobs better and further their careers. Since businesses and industries constantly change, it’s also important to train your teams to stay on top of trends, new developments, and discoveries.

A lack of positive reinforcement

Praise is a powerful motivator and a great way to explain to employees what you expect of them. Instead of getting angry when an employee does something wrong, offer praise when they do something right. This not only teaches your workforce about high standards, but also shows them their best efforts are noticed.

Vertical management

Vertical management is a top-to-bottom management style that leaves little to no room for collaboration. Top management makes decisions that their employees have to follow with no say in the matter. This type of leadership style makes it hard for employees to invest themselves in work because their insights and ideas are ignored.

Presenteeism 

Many people assume the more time you spend at your job, the more work you’ll complete. This belief is incorrect, and in fact, spending more time can reduce productivity, as seen in presenteeism, where employees are physically present but not mentally “there.” Presenteeism occurs due to illness such as a cold or flu, chronic illness, stress, sudden disasters or an emergency, or emotional turmoil like heartbreak. It’s a significant problem that costs U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion in lost work productivity each year.

Understanding types of workers 

Knowing the difference between a maker and a manager, and where your employees fall on the spectrum, can impact your company’s productivity: It helps determine how they should structure their days, handle meetings, and approach collaboration. 

What is a manager?

A manager is a leader whose responsibilities include project management, organization, and keeping clients happy. They perform most of their work in meetings and through delegation. The biggest concerns of a manager include getting deliverables to clients, making sure the company is profitable (revenue versus costs), and ensuring continued business success.

Best schedule for a manager: Managers can divide their day into segments and still be productive in meetings. Their day isn’t thrown off if they take a break.

What is a maker?

A maker, also known as a technician, is responsible for creating deliverables. They’re writers, designers, developers, and anyone else who creates the products or services your business sells. If you run a PR agency, for example, your makers would be the people who write press releases and land placements.

A maker’s biggest concern is creating quality deliverables within a deadline that meet the client’s expectations.

Best schedule for a maker: A maker needs uninterrupted periods of time to finish their work. Meetings are disruptive to their days, since it breaks up their periods of continuous productivity.

Whereas managers can hop from a meeting to a task and remain productive, makers tend to get into a workflow that should be left undisturbed. If a maker has to attend meetings, try to schedule them on one day of the week, or get them out of the way in the morning. Having a meeting loom may disrupt their creativity and focus.

Workplace productivity best practices

Motivating employees involves creating healthy workplaces where communication, personal comfort, professional development, and growth opportunities are all present. 

However, it’s also a good idea to figure out where your lack of productivity and motivation stems from before implementing new processes. Some things to look into include: 

  • Team structure and personalities within teams
  • Interpersonal conflicts 
  • Management styles across the organization 
  • Emotional intelligence across the organization 
  • Workloads and deadlines (e.g., if your organization is constantly overworked and running from emergency to emergency) 
  • Tool and solution availability 
  • Skills and job role fit 

If you have existing, pressing problems, you should tackle those first. However, the following best practices will also help. 

Invest in good work-life balance 

Encourage employees to maintain balance in their lives. Similarly, eating healthy and exercising is tied to an increase in workplace productivity, getting more sleep helps employees earn more, and meditation promotes divergent thinking. As an HR professional, you’ll need to build a case for wellness in the workplace and demonstrate the ROI of having happy, healthy employees to your executives.

Improve communication

Good communication means having leaders who are emotionally intelligent, able to communicate in different ways, and can establish connections with employees. It also means making people feel heard. For example, implementing emotional intelligence training for leaders and teams can significantly improve communication 

Other tactics like planning stand-up meetings, creating retrospectives where people can honestly share what went well and what didn’t in the previous sprint, or setting aside time during meetings to relax and talk to colleagues can all serve to motivate employees. 

Another important aspect of communication is being able to make friends and connections. For example, one study by O.C. Tanner, a global employee recognition company, showed 72% of people with good friends at work are satisfied with their jobs versus 54% who don’t, and 75% of people with a good friend at work feel they can “take on anything at work” compared to just 58% without that friendship. 

Establishing good communication requires organizations to make time for non-work-related activities, encourage employees to build friendships, and foster social connections. That can look like giving time for employees to have lunch together, taking part in sports and off-site activities together, and providing other bonding opportunities.

Limit meetings

The Harvard Business Review revealed the average office employee has 23 hours of meetings per week – taking up more than half their time. Limiting meetings to the mornings or a few days a week frees up time, reduces frustration, and allows people to focus on critical tasks. If you do experience a communication gap because of too few meetings, you can look at efficient ways to fill it, like working collaboratively in a room rather than having a meeting. 

Recognize achievements and success 

Recognition is one of the most effective motivators for humans.

Even something as simple as saying “good job” on completion of a project can motivate people to continue their work efforts in future assignments. However, you can recognize individual achievement through other means, such as a shoutout in an internal newsletter or an award for exceptional work.

Maintain a positive attitude

Failure is inevitable. While it’s understandable that leaders and managers are under pressure to be successful, it’s important that they keep a cool head when things go wrong. It’s important to maintain a positive and proactive attitude and look for what went wrong and how to resolve it rather than assign blame. If managers fail to remain calm and rational, employees will feel disheartened and unmotivated, focusing on the failure rather than looking forward to success. 

Ensure skills and roles match 

According to a study by Achievers, about 70% of employees feel only an average level of engagement at work. While there are multiple reasons for this, one of the most important is a mismatch between skills and the tasks assigned.

Each person has different strengths, and a good manager should recognize these talents and assign tasks accordingly. Ask people how they feel about their current job, what kinds of tasks they’re most interested in, and what they think they can do best. Proper task assignment will boost employee engagement and have a positive impact on their work.

Tip: Use employee assessment tools to help you match skills and talents to roles before and after hiring.

Give constructive feedback

Both positive and negative feedback are important to employee success. Positive is needed to encourage people to maintain good performance, and negative can be used to learn from mistakes and point out possible improvements.

Feedback should also be clear and actionable. For example, you can say, “Great job with these presentations. I especially liked how well you visualized the data and the way you formulated your arguments.” This shows people their strengths and offers motivation to nurture them.

Tip: Negative feedback is not meant to sound like blame. Point out the specific areas that need improvement and advise on the best ways to fix them or offer help (e.g., training or a course).

Establish transparent communication

Efficient communication between you and your employees is crucial for everyone to be productive. To promote open expression, follow these principles:

  • Always keep in mind the goal of communication is to find the best solution, not to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.
  • Everyone has the right to a voice and deserves to be heard.
  • Even a seemingly crazy idea may turn out to be brilliant. Encourage the free sharing of thoughts.
  • Don’t punish employees for saying something that you personally disagree with.
  • Respect each other and treat people the way you want to be treated.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and teach your employees to do the same.

Follow these guidelines to build trust in your employees, encourage honest communication, and .

Assign tasks at the right time 

Picking the right days and times to get people into projects is a minute but impactful tactic. One study of over 300 Canadian resource managers found Tuesdays are the most productive days of the week. If you want to roll out a new project or have employees come into work on a certain day, look at when people have the most energy in your workplace. Often, Monday is spent answering emails and catching up on meetings, and Tuesday is when the real work happens. 

Understand values

All personnel need to know the company values because they’re what your brand stands for. For example, if you value transparency, your sales department should adopt an open and honest approach to their tactics.

Values tell your team how to act professionally and align the decisions in their role.

Define overall goals

Your company’s “big” goals can be considered your mission statement. These are vital to keep the business defensible, unique, and sustainable. When the entire company knows and strives to hit your company goals, it drives overall success.

Defining goals ensures every action your employees make pushes the company further towards their main goals. It also shows how each team member is vital for reaching those goals, which creates a sense of purpose. As such, it’s crucial to align day-to-day work with those values and goals; if people can’t see how their work contributes to overall objectives, the goals are meaningless. 

Optimize performance management 

Every organization needs some way to track how and when work is completed. However, deadlines and goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Many companies are increasingly turning to OKRs to set ambitious goals that encourage productivity rather than hitting a goal and then stopping. 

Whatever productivity metric your organization uses has to be specific, measurable, and based on real data. It’s helpful to invite employees who’ll have to meet those goals to take part in setting them. That means having teams discuss creating their own milestones, goals, timelines, and assessment of whether the total workload – including time for unexpected but inevitable emergency situations — is realistic and achievable. 

Putting people under too much pressure reduces motivation, but failing to give them a challenge does the same. Here are a few tips to find the right balance:

  • Set deadlines earlier than when work is actually due. If you can do so without creating too much pressure, it increases performance while leaving room for things to be late if necessary.
  • Break large milestones down into plateaus or smaller goals. People will see ongoing productivity and progress, which is incredibly motivating. 
  • Create a culture of establishing deadlines as a tool to manage work, not to control submission dates.

Demonstrate accountability 

Asking people to be accountable for their work means giving them ownership of those processes. That includes setting expectations, communicating responsibilities, and providing a channel to ask for help. It also requires you to let employees work according to their preferences to achieve their best results. Having personal ownership over their work can make people feel: 

  • Valued — Providing expected outcomes and allowing employees to complete assignments as they see fit induces feelings of value in them. In addition, this freedom lets them leverage their expertise and thus produce a better result. For example, Gallup found that employees whose managers involved them in goal setting were 3.6 times more likely to be engaged in their work than other employees.
  • Challenged — Having ownership of a process, task, or role means tackling the ups and downs, planning, strategy, timelines, and technical aspects. That introduces opportunities for employees to challenge themselves and expand their abilities. 
  • Proud — People who hold themselves accountable for their successes and failures feel proud of their accomplishments, and that desire can motivate them to work hard. When they can see how they contribute to the business, their team, and business outcomes, it creates motivation to continue making a difference. 

On the other hand, when things go wrong, there should be consequences and responsibility, such as having to stay and fix an issue, forgo a productivity bonus, etc. 

Make people feel heard 

It’s important to listen to your employees. If someone voices a problem or concern, it should be acknowledged and raised during meetings to look for a solution. If someone communicates in different ways, they should have a means of speaking up and feeling heard. 

Offer communication and emotional intelligence training to employees and especially leadership to foster this type of environment. This can also include celebrating success, highlighting where people did well, and using words and spoken appreciation. 

Invest in the future

Besides a positive workplace, you also have to offer employees stability, security, and future growth opportunities. Integrate resources like internal jobs boards, training programs, professional development plans, coaching, and opportunities for promotion into managerial or senior positions can motivate employees to perform well in their day-to-day tasks and boost their company loyalty. Training, re-training as old skills become obsolete, and promoting development will ensure you keep top talent while unearthing hidden talent you didn’t realize you had. 

For example, Google experienced a dip in productivity in the early days of the 2020 pandemic. The company resolved this issue by implementing coaching, listening to people, and offering avenues to change roles where people were no longer functioning well.

Leverage your resources

Different departments have different resources at their disposal. Each team member should know what those are to keep them well equipped, knowledgeable, and capable of doing their jobs well.

For example, if someone is working on your ads team, they should have ready access to their budgets, software tools, and any consultants your company uses. To ensure employees make the most of what’s available to them, take action such as: 

  • Promoting tools and apps across the workplace
  • Adding external people and consultants to Slack channels
  • Creating a central repository of knowledge
  • Introducing searchable databases 

Create team goals

Team goals and achievable tasks boost productivity by giving individual employees something to work toward. It’s important to set goals at several levels, starting with high-level targets for total performance.

These targets should be based on data, such as productivity you achieved last year or what you have to achieve to reach a minimum viable income. It’s also important to ensure your sales team has the manpower, information, and resources to achieve those targets.

Once you’ve created your goals, you can break them down into smaller, more achievable milestones. However, avoid setting daily requirements, as this can be demotivating if employees regularly fail to complete them.

Instead, set goals around benchmarks and past performance. You may want to introduce weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals that allow teams to make small achievements each day. 

Introduce team-based performance rewards

It’s often a good idea to avoid individual performance rewards because they create income disparities within teams. However, rewarding the team as a whole for achieving goals helps motivate everyone to continue to achieve.

Upgrade technology

Obsolete technology frustrates workers and hinders their productivity. To unleash employee potential and increase productivity, businesses need to adopt modern technology such as virtual collaboration tools like Slack or Teams, which let cross-functional teams connect, collaborate, share files, data, and expertise, all in real time and from anywhere in the world. 

Innovative workplace technology will also put an end to those seemingly endless company email chains. With solutions like Quip, chat is built into documents so your entire team can write, edit, and discuss them in real time. It’s a great example of how advancing your technology helps employees work faster and smarter. 

Through these practices, you’ll encourage motivation in your employees and boost productivity throughout your organization.

How to improve office space to encourage productivity 

Anyone who’s worked in multiple offices throughout their career knows some are more conducive to productivity than others. An employee who performs well in one office may complete significantly less work over the course of a day if their office doesn’t provide the resources they need.

This is important to remember when designing a workspace, whether it’s an all-in-one coworking space or a traditional office setting. You can send employee surveys to better understand what elements the average worker needs in an office to maximize their productivity. The following are some of the more important features commonly cited.

Climate control 

A study by Chron found the ideal temperature in the workplace is between 69.8 and 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That recommendation is backed by OSHA, which has a wider range of regulations. Keeping a cool, comfortable office space enables focus, keeps people comfortable, and impacts alertness and energy. Too warm, and people become lethargic and irritable; too cold, and they’ll be too chilled to focus on work. 

The “two pizza” rule 

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously created the “two pizza” rule, which states you should never have meetings where two pizzas couldn’t feed everybody in the room. It’s based on the idea that too many people can make meetings less productive. Meetings can sometimes be time-consuming disruptions, so look at your approach to meetings and analyze whether they help or hinder your productivity. Think about who needs to be in attendance and list the objectives at the beginning so everyone is clear about how they contribute to the meeting’s goal.

Introduce a little nature

Having potted plants not only livens up an office, but also provides better air quality and up to a 12% increase in productivity, according to a study from Washington State University. Let plenty of sunlight into the office to help indoor plants thrive, as plants have been shown to boost productivity in busy offices. 

Add a lounge

Provide a space in the office where employees can get work done in an environment other than their desks. Sometimes a change of scenery is needed to inspire new ideas and help employees get away from their daily routines to focus completely on a new project.

Invest in comfort 

Obviously, an employee’s desk should offer enough space for any items they use regularly, like a computer, writing materials, a phone, and files. Just make sure you don’t prioritize functionality so much that you neglect comfort.

It’s also important to focus on the ergonomics of the chairs your staff will be sitting in when planning an office design. Physical comfort can have a major impact on productivity, so it’s important to choose models that keep everyone comfortable.

Amenities

Providing employees with the tools they need to work is an obvious requirement, but you also need to offer amenities that make the office a more appealing place to be. As previously stated, research shows happy employees are more productive. Offering coffee, tea, and designating areas where people can socialize will help workers feel satisfied on the job.

Cleanliness

Make sure the office design isn’t so cramped that cleaning it regularly is a difficult chore, as a messy office will dampen a worker’s mood. Additionally, if you can’t regularly sanitize the office, workers are more likely to be exposed to bacteria and get sick, which greatly reduces company productivity. 

Access to fun

If you’re still deciding where your office should be located, keep in mind that workers also report wanting easy access to restaurants or bars they can visit after work. Being able to unwind and socialize at the end of the day can significantly impact employee satisfaction. If the area also offers abundant parking and easy access to public transportation, even better.

Natural light

A well-lit office makes getting work done easier than in a dim space. However, don’t rely solely on artificial light; install large windows to let in sufficient natural light. In fact, studies indicate that exposure to natural light can boost productivity.

An office space unique to its culture

A physical workspace that’s comfortable and inviting has a lasting effect on employees. A study revealed evidence that elements of office design have a great influence on the productivity and well-being of the people who work there. So, employers now recognize the value of outfitting office spaces with details like warm LED lighting, windows that provide sunlight and views, desks that can be adjusted to sit or stand for comfort, and dedicated mindfulness areas that help employees rejuvenate. 

Build stronger teams 

Many businesses rely on teamwork to succeed, but with an increasing number of companies doing business worldwide, workforces are becoming more diverse. In this new global environment, navigating cultural differences to promote team spirit can be daunting, but it is possible.

Get to know team members as individuals

Team leader’s need to become familiar with their members not just as professionals but as individuals. Getting to know people on an individual level builds connections that move past cultural differences. These bonds create and sustain team spirit by making employees feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the team.

There are many ways to foster relationships between team members, such as ‘water cooler’ talk, team-building exercises, and volunteer work. Create opportunities for team members to learn about their coworkers, their cultures, perspectives, and lifestyles to foster a healthy work environment and encourage open-mindedness.

Remove any company culture barriers

Company culture can improve team spirit, but it can also unintentionally lead to discrimination. However, you can build successful multicultural teams without undermining or compromising company culture. One way is to ensure it embraces diversity and establishes norms that include practices from all cultures on the team. The more diverse your staff, the easier it’ll be to build a multicultural team with innovative ideas and strong team spirit.

Keep open communication

Miscommunication is a huge barrier to cross-cultural team spirit. A great way to counteract that is to leverage technology and implement employee self-service software. This software can manage several aspects of the team, including schedules and deadlines, and prevent misunderstandings between team members.

Deal with conflict immediately

Regardless of a team’s cultural makeup, conflict is inevitable, but it can be magnified in multicultural teams. When conflict arises, address it immediately. This ensures small issues don’t spiral out of control. A good team leader needs to understand cultural perspectives and be mindful of them to minimize conflict.

Map personalities

Understanding individual personalities on a team is important for ensuring teams align on communication style, emotional intelligence, work ethic, work method, and social needs. The MBTI, for example, measures 16 basic personality types, each with unique idiosyncrasies. As such, team conflicts may stem from simple issues relating to different methods of communication.

For example, a team lead might communicate using strict, pragmatic instructions to a team made up of mostly creative people who need freedom to work in their own way. This will stifle creativity and lower morale. 

Understanding team member personalities can also help improve performance across the organization. Team composition based on personality is increasingly regarded as important to performance and individual happiness, as a mix of personalities functions better, is more creative, and can collaborate in ways that a silo of similar personalities won’t.

Most team frameworks are based on personality assessments like the MBTI or the Big 5 and will help you see where different people complement or clash with each other.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence, emotional quotient, or EQ, is increasingly seen as crucial to how people function together. It’s a measure of how well people recognize their own emotions and those of others, use that information to guide behavior and thoughts, and manage or adjust emotions and thoughts to other people and to achieve goals. 

Measuring EQ with assessments like the EQ-I 2.0 can help you understand how well people communicate, which is an important contributor to productivity and motivation.

People who have low emotional intelligence can come off as rude, impolite, and hurtful, and leaders lacking in it can deeply damage subordinate morale. Like other soft skills though, EQ is a learnable skill, and there are workshops, courses, and books on the market to help teams develop those behaviors.

Ask questions

Sometimes, dysfunctional behavior builds up over time, typically in relation to a few unresolved incidents. What starts as a single toxic person can snowball into a dysfunctional team with poor performance. This type of behavior is difficult to assess without asking questions and seeing how the team works firsthand. Swapping leaders, implementing behavior coaches, and implementing workshops are helpful methods of identifying and addressing negative behavior.

Resolving dysfunctional behavior

It’s difficult to assess a team and immediately recognize their problems. In some cases, they stem from processes and bureaucracy. Other times, it’s simply teams failing to work together or poor leadership. It’s important to be open-minded and unbiased, which may require a third party to conduct the assessments.

Problem — Disagreements are not addressed but are problematic

Team members frequently disagree but feel unable to discuss problems. This can lead to unhealthy interpersonal conflict and dropping morale. This will hurt team collaboration, as individuals won’t ask for help or feedback, won’t utilize the skills or strengths of others, and, in short, won’t be part of the team.

Solution – Review why teams fail to discuss problems and implement solutions to fix those issues. For example, if teams feel they aren’t heard, providing EQ workshops may be a good solution.

Healthy debates should be encouraged, even if encouragement involves creating team-building exercises and working to resolve negative behaviors. Getting over this type of issue may require acknowledging and working on specific instances in personal histories.

Problem – People talk about each other behind their backs

This issue can lead to silos, “cliques,” and “us versus them” mentalities.

Solution – Assess root problems, implement workplace ethics training, and hold workshops on having healthy, up-front discussions where people feel free to share constructive criticism to each other. Feedback should always be given directly to the person, not to anyone else on the team.

Problem – Not everyone contributes

Healthy teams discuss things together. Dysfunctional teams typically rely on one or two people to do all the work. This can stem from people not being heard, the leader feeling like they have the only voice, or people simply not feeling like they can speak up. In a worst-case scenario, people will remain silent or pretend to be on board with ideas they disagree with.

Solution – Introduce team-building exercises such as role-swapping, create mandatory speaking roles for everyone in the team, and have leaders specifically call out individuals to ensure everyone contributes. Discussion and debate lead to productive creativity and collaboration. Teams have to acknowledge that a certain degree of conflict is productive.

Problem – Teams lack direction

Often, this means the communication style doesn’t line up with how projects are discussed and how teams prefer to work. This can result in teams overanalyzing and wasting energy, lacking confidence, or feeling stifled by too much structure.

Solution – Assess how people communicate and work to match leadership, project, and team styles as much as possible. Most organizations have space for every type of leader, so assessing team types and matching leadership to that team is the best way to solve this issue.

Dysfunctional teams are everywhere, but the causes of dysfunction are often multifaceted. It’s important to analyze company culture, including leadership, employee interactions, and individuals to determine potential issues. Then, you can implement the right solutions to create healthy teams.

How to use digital learning to increase employee engagement

Digital learning makes professional development fun and accessible for your workforce. With it, you can improve employee engagement for your organization while growing their skill sets. 

In today’s age, employees value learning and development opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, an incredible 93% of employees stated they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. 

Developing an ongoing digital learning strategy within your organization can significantly boost employee engagement. Research shows engaged employees are happier, and increased employee engagement can lead to higher attendance, performance, service quality, safety, and employee retention. 

What is remote learning?

Remote learning allows your employees to learn new skills and expand their knowledge using an online platform. This virtual format offers employees the flexibility to learn from the comfort of their home or while in the office at work.

From mobile-based learning to live webinars, digital courses, and virtual educational activities, there’s a wide range of options available to suit your employees’ remote learning styles. The choice and flexibility digital learning provides can work wonders for your employee engagement.

1) Gamify corporate training

Gamification in corporate training isn’t a new concept. Games have an amazing ability to capture people’s attention for a long time. Moreover, video games have been shown to improve cognition, creativity, and sociability. These benefits of gaming can be equally beneficial for the workforce. 

Gamifying online education helps create a more engaging learning experience for your employees. Using gamification methods such as scoreboards can make employees feel a greater sense of ownership and purpose when engaging in tasks. This can also help organizations attract and retain top talent, build a high-performing workforce, and reduce the costs associated with employee turnover.

Large corporations have incorporated gamification into their business model and training processes. McDonald’s, for example, used gamification for till-training exercises. As a result, employees reported having a deeper understanding of the new till system, improved performance, and they felt more engaged. The implementation of this game also resulted in an increase in business performance and average order value.

In a more digital application, Salesforce employed gamification techniques to drive user adoption of their CRM system after customers reported employees were not using the platform as often as desired. This gamified approach, called Trailhead, allowed users to gain badges for achievements, compete with colleagues, and win prizes as they progressed through various stages of the learning process. 

By gamifying the learning and usage of their digital system, Salesforce was able to increase the customer’s total log-in percentage to 84%, and users reported feeling more engaged and empowered.

2) Interactive video content for employee training

As effective as online tasks are, sometimes your training needs live interaction. With 50% of YouTube users in the U.S. admitting to using the platform to learn something new, it’s clear video content can be beneficial for corporate learning. Many organizations have recognized the positive implications of video content usage in business, especially short, engaging, and interactive video formats.

According to Forrester Research, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than read documents, emails, or articles. So, if you want to encourage your employees to engage with your training program, incorporate video format to make it more interesting.

Videos are versatile and can be used for a variety of business training and development purposes. From introducing new services to employee onboarding, demonstrating how to use a new system, or assisting employee development, video content can be implemented across various employee development initiatives.

Providing employee training via video could help increase employee engagement rates for your organization. A recent study found that 94% of employees enjoyed having at least one event live streamed. Live-streamed video content allows for authentic and impactful communication among employees.

With screen-sharing and recording capabilities, you can save your video training sessions for attendees to refer back to at a later date. Recording your video training will also produce evergreen training materials that you can use for future employee learning programs.

3) Self-directed learning 

Self-directed learning is when the responsibility of learning is transferred from the instructor to the learner. This transfer of responsibility gives the learner, or employee, the opportunity to make the decisions about their learning, allowing them to adjust the program to suit their needs and enjoy greater freedom. This increased autonomy can further increase their interest in and motivation for professional development.

Examples of online self-directed learning in organizations include letting employees set their completion dates for assessments, allowing them to complete online courses in their own time, or having an online training platform where employees can choose the modules that most interest them.

Autonomy is essential for employee engagement: Effectory discovered that 79% of autonomous employees felt more engaged and thus more accountable for their work, and they performed better as a result. Therefore, you can boost employee engagement by giving employees autonomy over their online learning.

Next time you review your employment training initiatives, consider the potential benefits of digital learning. Incorporating online learning into your employee development programs can be a great way to increase employee engagement.

Remote employee motivation

Allowing employees to work from home can increase productivity by up to 47%, if done correctly. At the same time, it’s important to manage people and ensure they receive the support they need to be productive and motivated at home. 

Below are a few tips you can use to encourage remote productivity and motivation:

  • Ensure everyone uses the same technology to communicate (e.g., a dedicated Slack channel)
  • Adopt work management platforms like Asana or Jira 
  • Track productivity by assignments completed, not hours worked
  • Use central data repositories, where everyone names and tags data using the same schemas 
  • Establish communication protocols so managers don’t contact people in other time zones when they won’t be at work 
  • Promote apps and solutions company-wide 
  • Allow employees to bring their own devices and invest in home-office equipment such as a desk, printer, computer, webcam, microphone, and reliable internet connection where necessary 
  • Hold regular employee social events. Asking employees to spend an extra hour on a Zoom call to have fun won’t be much fun. Instead, set aside time during regular meetings to chat and be social 

Hybrid work schedules are becoming the norm. However, it’s not without its growing pains, in particular concerning how to keep your employees engaged and motivated. Without face-to-face contact, it can be difficult to stay focused on work projects, especially if you add pets, housework, children, and a myriad of other distractions into the mix. Now more than ever, a human resource management system is an essential tool to ensure proper workflow and employee happiness.

With the right tools and processes in place, you can keep your employees engaged in their work and feeling like they’re still part of the team no matter where they are. It’s all about creating new rules for a new way of working.

Morning check-ins 

It’s important to start the day off right. Many people who are new to working from home think they can stay in their pajamas and sleep in, rather than sticking to their regular work routine.

By setting up a recurring video conference with your team each morning, every employee will feel the need to get up, get dressed, and get ready for work on time. This helps put people in the right frame of mind to complete a full day’s work and can be an excellent motivator.

They also give your employees daily face-to-face interaction with their colleagues to help maintain connections. It can be lonely working from home, so seeing people (even virtually) each day provides a little pep that can help them make it to the end of the day.

Cloud data storage 

When you’re in an office and need information from someone, it’s a simple case of walking to their desk and asking for it. In a remote setup though, this can be complicated because files need to be requested and then emailed, and this can cause delays. So, it’s important to store information in a cloud-based solution so people can access it whenever they need to.

Your solution also needs to be collaborative. This way, people can work on the same document online and no individual changes will be lost in the process. You can also check version histories to see what changes were made, when, and by whom.

Offer tech help 

Change and adjusting to new situations work best when it starts from the top. As a manager or boss, it’s important to show your employees how you cope with the new work-from-home setup. Make sure you’re always on time and properly prepared for each video conference, especially the morning check-ins. Additionally, if you can show your employees how to set up their home workstations, they’ll have confidence to do the same in their homes.

Encourage your employees to set up a workstation that’s free from distractions. It should be for work only — not close to a TV or where other people in the house go to relax. Keeping those areas separate will help remote workers stay focused on tasks and clearly delineate workspace from homespace.

Do social things 

If you like to do after-work drinks in the office on a Friday evening, stick to it. If the whole team has lunch together on a particular day, keep up the tradition. If you don’t have any traditions, now’s a good time to start.

All of these activities can be done virtually through video conferencing. It won’t be the same, but it still allows people to chat about non-work topics with their colleagues and lets everyone feel a connection to one another.

Keep in mind that if you work in different time zones, drinks should be avoided. And, if they’re keeping someone from logging off and enjoying their weekend, they won’t be as appreciated as you thought. Instead, try to work social things like board games into working hours that fit most everyone’s time zones. 

Check in 

It’s the senior officer’s responsibility to make sure all of their employees feel happy and that their grievances are heard. This is trickier to accomplish remotely because you can’t see people’s faces all day in the office and spot problems before they become larger issues.

Create a roster of your employees and check in with at least one person each day one-on-one. Schedule a video call so you can see their face to forge a stronger connection. By going through a roster, you can make sure no one is left out and take notes on any concerns that crop up so you know who to watch.

Invest in performance motivation 

Increasingly, younger generations are moving away from performance management toward performance motivation. Here, employees solve their own problems, create their own aspirations, and set their own expectations. Finding outcome framing tools is a good first step for this approach. Additionally, host yearly, bi-yearly, or quarterly sessions where teams sit down, discuss goals, purpose, and ambitions, and set sights on where they want to be at the end of the period. This can contribute greatly to employee motivation. 

Similarly, integrating goals into personal development and promotions can be extremely helpful in motivating people to work toward those goals. 

Other tactics HR can integrate performance motivation into everyday work include using impact descriptions — what impact does this role have? What will your impact be? — alongside job descriptions, employing self-evaluations as part of performance management, and leveraging individual development plans for every employee rather than for leadership only. 

Motivation around the holidays 

Maintaining motivation around the holidays can be difficult, even if you have a strong team that loves their work. When people anticipate vacations, it induces lethargy and mental “brain drain” that cause motivation and productivity to drop. However, you can use the below tips to help keep your people on track. 

Reserve the holiday party for the last day of work

Once you have your company celebration, your team will switch to vacation mode. That means you should expect little work to get done after they’ve had the company “end of the year” party. Save it for when it’s truly the end of the year, after all the important tasks are complete.

Offer extra holiday perks

Free coffee in the mornings or holiday-themed snacks in the afternoon can give your employees something to look forward to during the day instead of dreaming about their upcoming vacation plans. Provide even a small surprise for coming into the office to keep employees motivated.

Use positive reinforcement

Remember to thank your employees for their hard work, especially during the holidays. Highlight what they’ve achieved and recognize all employees for their successes. You can do this through an email, physical notes, or stopping by their desks and saying thank you. Positive recognition goes a long way toward keeping motivation up through the end of the year, as it reminds employees you appreciate what they do.

Conclusion 

Highly motivated employees are engaged, productive, and invested in their jobs. They want to work, look forward to their roles, take pride in completing tasks, and seek to improve how they work. That pays off through more productivity, a higher quality of work, and increased employee retention. But generating greater motivation is often a balance between enabling employees to work well with training, good tooling, and good management, and building a culture that invests in people, robust processes, and rewarding achievements. 

Often, you can gauge the state of employee motivation by checking if employees: 

  • Contribute ideas and suggestions 
  • Feel confident their feedback and concerns are heard and addressed 
  • Socialize with colleagues and have friends at work
  • Are willing to take responsibility for their work and problems
  • Rate working at the company well and recommend others work there
  • Feel satisfaction upon completing work 
  • Feel rewarded and recognized when they put in extra effort
  • Feel involved and valued 

Good employee motivation starts with refined business processes and effective management. From there, culture fit or culture’s ability to adapt to the person, robust work processes, and open communication will do the rest. 


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How to improve your interview process

To hire the right people for your company, you need effective interviewing techniques that provide insight into candidates, highlight their skills and knowledge, and drive candidates’ interest in the company. However, organizations often struggle with the interview process because it’s loosely defined and the people conducting interviews commonly lack the necessary training and know-how to do it well.

Hiring has become a multi-step process where candidates must go through several types of interviews, complete screening, and take assessments. This collected data should show the HR staff, the recruiter (if applicable), and the teams involved what each candidate has to offer and how they compare to one another. In practice though, that can be more difficult and possibly hampered by internal bias and a lack of tracking data, a structured process, and internal skills or competency mapping.

Once you have those factors in place, you can pin down what you want in an ideal candidate and why, and ultimately improve your interview process.

Steps of an interview process

Most interview processes should follow a defined series of stages over a set amount of time. Defining both time and the number of interviews clearly communicates expectations to candidates up front, increasing transparency and enabling them to make informed decisions. A basic process should consist of the following stages:

  • Screening – A screening is a preliminary interview conducted through a phone or video call to determine if the candidate meets the minimum requirements needed to be considered. Questions are kept simple, covering the basics about job history, skills, past experience, and general personality. Screening may also include short skills or behavior assessments delivered online. This serves to narrow the candidate list so you avoid inviting unqualified people to an interview.
  • Interview – The first interview should ideally occur with recruitment and someone from the team that’ll work with the new hire. This forms a general first impression of the person as you assess their skills and have someone involved in the role gauge their potential fit.

It’s equally important for the candidate to get to know you as well at this stage, which is why first interviews are often held in-office. It’s good practice to start with an introduction, a short tour of the building, or a quick chat to gain a feel for the person’s personality. From there, you can move to interview questions, leaving room for the candidate to ask questions and your subject expert to get involved or ask for more detail where relevant.

  • Second interview – The second interview is the time to introduce the candidate to other people from the department or team they’d work with, show the facility, and ask deeper questions. You’ll want to pose questions based on answers from the first interview, which means second interviews usually require more preparation. Gauging personality and soft skills are still important at this stage as well.
  • Competency assessment – Competency and behavior assessments fit in well at this stage of the process, because both you and the candidate understand you’re invested. This can motivate them to work harder to get the job. In these assessments, you want to test for competencies and skills, then map them to your existing competency framework to see if those behaviors, skills, and soft skills are relevant to the role.
  • Final interview – If you need a third interview, it should be held with potential coworkers and include any questions not covered in the previous interviews. Additionally, the candidate should be allowed to ask questions. Some hiring processes conduct more than three interviews, but you can adjust this based on the information you need.
  • Decision – The final stage of an interview process is to decide whether or not to hire the candidate. This usually involves comparing the remaining candidates’ skills based on the job description and skills matrix you created for it.

You should also discuss those findings with the people who’ll work with their new colleague. Subject experts can offer useful insight into why a candidate would or would not be a good fit for the role. However, they’re less likely to be aware of bias, so it’s a good idea to discuss the role and the candidate from a skills and capability perspective.

Generally, the faster this process goes, the more affordable it is for the organization and the fewer candidates you’ll lose. That being said, globally, interview processes average 23.7 days. It’s important to set expectations and plan timelines based on the availability of internal personnel. For example, if you need a department head for an interview, their busy schedule may cause delays. Be flexible to ensure a senior employee who’s relevant to the open role can sit in on interviews.

Types of HR interviews

It’s important to incorporate different interview techniques to make the right hire. One of the most effective is using different types of interviews, such as behavioral, competency-based, skills-based, and others. To determine which types you should implement, map the interview type to the data your organization needs to make the hiring decision.

Behavioral and competency-based interviews should almost always form the backbone of your process. From there, you can fill in other types based on specific needs.

You’ll also want to use a series of tools to support your interviews, such as:

  • Phone screening – Ask high-level questions designed to qualify candidates rather than learn about them. The candidate can ask questions, but the goal is to see if their voiced responses match their resume or cover letter. You can follow up with additional phone calls at any time.
  • Skills and competency tests – Skills tests measure hard and soft skills along with competencies. Assessments like profiles allow you to check for skills related to a number of careers, or you can build your own or map to your existing job profile. Other tests like assignments gauge behavioral and skills aspects but normally require more investment from the candidate and should be delivered later in the interviewing process.
  • Behavioral assessments – You can implement behavioral questions into interviews and deliver behavioral assessments separately or combine them. The option you choose depends on how invested you are in the individual’s personality and behavior (e.g., if they’re moving into a customer-facing role or a leadership role, behavior may be as important as hard skills).
  • Group panels – It’s important to let potential colleagues meet so they get a feel for the candidate and offer opinions on their skills and team fit. Involving people experienced in the field fills in the gaps HR misses.

Before the formal hiring process starts, it’s helpful to gather information about the role and what a candidate needs to be successful. Here, an informational interview is one of your best tools.

Informational interviews

Informational interviews are a relatively new format whose main goal is to gain valuable insight into a particular position. They have special rules to follow for both the interviewer and the interviewee to benefit.

While informational interviews are often overlooked by job seekers, they offer major advantages, like expanding your network or pinpointing certain skills you can improve.

To obtain value from an informational interview, you need to know who to talk to and what questions to ask.

Informational interview benefits

Remember, an informational interview is not a job interview and so should not be approached as one.

In a job interview, a candidate wants to get hired to a certain position and talks to an HR manager and their potential departmental manager. Job interviews can be stressful and determine whether the candidate is a good fit for a role.

On the other hand, informational interviews help a person gain insight into a new position, company, and industry as a whole. They’re low-stress, as there’s no assessment – only information gathering. During such interviews, the interviewer is typically someone in a junior role who asks questions about specific tasks and duties in a higher position, internal processes, possible pitfalls, and opportunities for professional growth.

The benefits of the informational interview include:

  • Significant network growth — During the interview, you can ask for valuable contacts that can give you advice.
  • Deep insights on the position you want to fill — These insights include the job description in the company, duties, executive attitudes towards it, company culture, etc.
  • Advice for future growth — You can learn which skills you need to work on and how to qualify for a desired position.

The first step in conducting an informational interview is to choose the right interviewee and prepare a list of questions to ask.

Choosing the right interviewee and crafting the right questions

We recommend outlining the goals you want to achieve from this interview: Do you want to know how to become a professional in a chosen sphere, or are you interested in a specific company and wish to work there?

Choose the person and questions based on your goals.

Deciding who to interview

If you want to learn about a specific position, try to find someone who already works at a company in the same or a similar role. If you’re seeking professional advice, you can try meeting with an executive or manager who can recommend professional areas to hone and improve.

Here are a few places to look for the right people:

  • Your own network — Your targeted specialists may already be in your professional network.
  • LinkedIn — Search within your existing network or look for certain people.
  • Family and friends — Ask whether they know anyone who can help you.

An informational interview is still a professional exchange, similar to a regular interview or networking at a conference. Send a message or an email introducing yourself and politely ask to arrange a meeting. By acting in a professional manner, you’ll earn people’s trust and respect, which increases your chances of gathering valuable insights.

Questions to ask during the interview

Once you solidify your goals and choose someone to interview, you need to outline the questions you’ll ask.

A great place to start is with the person’s career: how it started, what led to the person getting their job, and how they feel about it. People typically enjoy talking about themselves, so you could gain more insight than you expect. You may also think of other, more targeted questions as they speak.

Other possible questions for an informational interview include:

  • What are your daily duties?
  • What kind of skills and knowledge do you need for this position?
  • What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of the industry?
  • What’s your impression of this company, culture, and management?

Hiring interviews

Hiring interviews are specifically structured around collecting the data you need to make a hiring decision.

Pre-screening interview

Most organizations perform background checks and pre-screening before individuals walk into their first interview. These are necessary (and sometimes mandatory) verifications, but you can also use that data to improve the quality of your interview.

In general, recruiters can analyze data from background checks and prescreening to ask better questions, collect more information, and form a clearer opinion of the candidate and their abilities.

Comprehensive pre-screening

Pre-screening should include background checks, contacting references, and any other basic checks you feel are necessary. It may also incorporate personality and competency tests to determine the candidate’s demeanor, what they can do, and how they’ll perform at your company. However, you might want to save these for later in the interview process when you and the candidate are more invested.

While not every role will require comprehensive screening, doing so allows interviewers to create a more comprehensive picture of each candidate before they come into the interview. At the least, you should test for personality and soft skills such as communication or emotional intelligence (EQ), which can be delivered over separate tests or rolled into one.

Manager interviews

Manager interviews bring a manager or team lead into the discussion to meet the candidate and form an impression of whether that person would fit into the team. Keep in mind this type of interview has several phases, with time for both HR-led behavioral interview questions and manager-led technical interview questions.

Depending on the person and the role, you might want to break that into segments such as the following:

  1. 10 minutes to relax, ask casual questions, have coffee, get to know each other
  2. 20 minutes of behavioral interview questions from a prepared list, likely based on a previous interview
  3. 20 minutes where the manager asks questions
  4. 5 -15 minutes for the candidate to ask their own questions

You won’t always be able to subdivide your interviews so neatly. For example, technical people won’t be trained in interview techniques and they may have questions outside of behavior, so letting the interview proceed organically may be a better call.

In either case, the person conducting the interview should be relevant and add value to the process. Also, consider preparing a list of questions for the manager regarding aspects like technical fit, personal fit, and hypothetical situations.

Peer interviews

Peer interviews function similarly to managerial interviews but may involve a group, several of the closest people a candidate would work with, or other knowledge experts in the organization. It’s almost always necessary to implement a less structured interview here, because people in peer interviews normally have little experience conducting them.

Usually, the best option is to prepare a list of behavioral and skill-related questions to guide the conversation and keep things on track. The primary goal of this type of interview is to see how potential peers interact, allow them to gauge the skills and capabilities of the candidate, and otherwise ensure there are no culture clashes. Other best practices include:

  • Decide beforehand what you want to gain from the interview. If you need to know if the person has good skills and relevant knowledge, tell the team that so they can check for it. If you need to know if culture fit is present, inform the group this is a more informal interview and you’re mostly trying to see how well people get along. Keeping non-HR people informed will ensure they know what to look for in the interview, rather than asking questions arbitrarily.
  • Guide the conversation when necessary. You’ll need fewer questions because answers should prompt discussion and questions from peers. However, you should still be able to guide the interview and keep it on track.

Behavioral interviews

Behavioral interviews are the core of most modern HR interview processes. While peer and some managerial interviews can be relatively unstructured, behavioral interviews have to follow a strict procedure.

Start by deciding what knowledge you want to obtain from the interview, which requires you to define what you’re looking for. To pinpoint this, you can:

  • Interview people currently in the roles to determine what success looks like in that position.
  • Refer to a job profile matrix or competency framework.
  • If you don’t have either, consider using industry baselines for that role.

From there, you can make a list of desired behaviors, soft skills, and competencies. At this stage, you’re not interested in hard skills like C++ coding (ideally, you’ve already screened for that). Instead, you’re looking for specific behavioral factors that make someone a good fit for your team.

For example, if you’re hiring for a software engineer to perform maintenance on existing code, a creative, self-driven professional who likes to think outside the box would be a poor fit. You need someone who’s steady, reliable, able to follow other people’s work, prefers simplifying and improving existing processes, and who wants a reliable and predictable work environment.

Behavioral interviews focus on identifying the traits that yield success in that particular role (keeping in mind that sometimes those traits overlap or even conflict). Often, existing behavioral interview frameworks are the easiest and most reliable tool to conduct effective interviews.

Check-in interviews

Check-in interviews happen after the hire as a follow-up to see how the candidate is doing in their new role. Check-ins should usually occur at three, six, or 12 months following the new hire’s first day of work. Depending on your organization and whether you have the data collection infrastructure to use that information, you might want to do all three.

Here, you sit down with the employee to discuss how work is going, how culture matches up to expectations set during hiring, how they’re getting along with others in the organization, etc.

Pairing these check-in interviews with skills assessments and performance data as well as discussing skills and competencies with them, their direct supervisors, and immediate colleagues can also help you validate the hiring process.

Check-ins help ensure the candidate is doing well, and if not, what changes need to be made to make them happy and reduce your employee turnover. At the same time, they create a feedback loop to HR so you can directly validate or invalidate the decisions made during hiring to improve your interview process over time.

Exit interviews

An exit interview is an important part of your employee management process. Although it may not save a departing employee, it’s a great time to gain insights into your workforce and identify areas for improvement.

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the value of an exit interview, since that employee is leaving the company. However, insights gleaned from it can help you boost your employee retention by learning what your company does and doesn’t do well for its workers.

An employee who’s leaving has little to hold back, so it’s often a great chance to gather raw, honest feedback about management and general business practices. A good manager understands the value of all employee insight and knows the opinions of a departing employee can help the company optimize its processes and improve the overall work atmosphere.

The benefits of an exit interview

The main purpose of an exit interview is to uncover gaps in the company’s culture and, based on the answers, come up with the ways to resolve those issues. Whether the employee leaves willingly or not, there are many things you can learn from them about your company, managers, work processes, and organization.

Here are the key benefits that a well-organized exit interview brings to the company.

Optimization of HR processes

When an employee decides to leave the company, the exit interview can find out why. Maybe it’s a higher salary offer, a more comprehensive health package, or a better work environment.

The exit interview provides valuable insights into the state of HR-related processes in your company. By asking the right questions, you can learn a lot about your competition and see what kind of improvements your company needs to make.

Remember to ask about their onboarding experience and interactions with your HR specialists. This is an important process that plays a large role in employee retention.

Lower turnover rate

As mentioned above, an exit interview can impact your employee retention. By uncovering problem areas that drive away employees, you can take steps to address them and keep your employees longer.

For example, if an employee stresses the non-professional behavior of a certain manager, you can collect feedback about this person from other employees and conduct a few meetings with them to address the stated concerns.

Investing in the company’s image

An employee who leaves on bad terms can easily hurt your company’s image, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When asked about the company, the employee will complain rather than praise it. As a result, their review can discourage potential candidates from wanting to work with you.

A well-conducted exit interview, on the other hand, can fix the situation and help the employee feel respected and valued. You may not turn the employee into a lifelong brand ambassador, but you can at least prevent long-term negative impacts.

Pre-exit interview considerations

Beyond writing down a list of questions, you need to take other steps to prepare for the interview to extract the maximum value from it.

Choosing an interviewer

Obtaining quality data is one of the biggest struggles in exit interviews. If an employee is dissatisfied with the company’s CEO, they likely won’t open up about it during the interview to avoid being blacklisted.

To gather valuable data, you need to:

  • Make sure the company’s executives understand the importance of exit interviews and are ready to accept negative criticisms and implement changes.
  • Choose the right person for the role of the interviewer.

Selecting the right interviewer is crucial to make employees feel comfortable and able to answer questions honestly. The best choice would be to assign either an HR specialist or a mid-level manager, as they’re usually closer to the employees and will be able to create a sense of trust during the interview.

Scheduling the time for the interview

You can’t simply schedule a meeting on a random day and send your employee an RSVP invitation via Google Calendar.

The interviewee needs to feel comfortable to give honest feedback, so you need to schedule the interview at a time that’s convenient for them. You can approach this in two ways:

  1. Conduct the exit interview while the person is still in the company, before they check out mentally. This lets you probe the employee while their thoughts are still fresh and increases the probability of getting honest replies.
  2. Conduct the interview a few weeks to a month after the employee has left the company. The greatest benefit of this approach is that the employee will be relaxed at their new place of work and thus more honest about their reasons for leaving.

Questions to ask during the exit interview

When considering questions to ask, focus on the following points:

  • The employee’s attitude towards the company
  • The employee’s attitude towards the manager (and executives)
  • Areas for possible improvement
  • What the company can start implementing right now
  • The employee’s opinion on existing processes

Prepare a list of questions in advance and avoid making overly personal inquiries, like office gossip. Inform the employee of the purpose of the interview at the  beginning so they understand you value their feedback.

Post-interview actions

After conducting the exit interview, dedicate time to processing the answers and see how you can apply them to optimize your existing processes.

Exit interviews help companies identify the pain points that lead to employee dissatisfaction and a low retention rate. Analyze the feedback and make adjustments and fixes based on it to help the company grow and keep your employees happy with their work.

When someone tries to quit, it’s better to let them go instead of trying to convince them to stay. Instead, you should learn from their experience and take action to improve your employee retention. Conduct an exit interview with every employee who leaves your organization – even the ones who left involuntarily.

How to nail exit interviews

Ensure honest answers

Your goal for an exit interview is to get to the bottom of why someone is leaving, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ensure honest answers by explaining this clearly and asking non-leading questions.

Clarify that you want to hear both their complaints and their positives. Provide a safe environment for them to voice their concerns and conduct the exit interview in confidentiality. Make it clear they’ll incur no negative consequences if they share poor reviews of their managers or are brutally honest about their complaints.

Make it worth their time to participate

Requiring an exit interview is one option, but it’s also important to make it worth a person’s while. Show you appreciate them taking time to give you full answers instead of rushing through the exit interview by providing snacks and coffee or taking them out to lunch.

Questions to ask

Below are some sample questions you can ask in your exit interview:

  • When and why did you start looking for a new job?
  • What do you like about the company?
  • What are some things you didn’t like about working here?
  • Did you feel well equipped to do your job?
  • Did you share your concerns with anyone else at the company? What was their response?
  • How would you describe our company culture?
  • Why did you decide to take the job offer at your new company?
  • What could we have done differently to convince you to stay?
  • What was your relationship with your manager like? With your peers?
  • Would you ever consider working with us again? What would have to change?
  • Did you get enough helpful feedback about how you were performing?
  • Would you recommend us as a place to work?

Tip: Ask them if it’s okay to follow up and, if so, ask for their personal email address.

Use what you learn

Finally, it’s important to use what you learn from your exit interviews to improve. Make sure exit interview data is collated, collected in one place, and brought to management attention.

Basic components of an interview

A fruitful interview should be tailored to the information you want to glean from them. That may require a structured approach or, if you only want a general impression of the interviewee, an informal one. No matter the type of interview you conduct, there are a few basic steps to take when crafting your interview process: set time limits, have questions ready, employ the same metrics for each candidate, and ask for feedback at the end.

Set time limits

Allot the same amount of time for each interview. They should be allowed to go over no more than a few minutes so that each candidate gets the same amount of attention.

Have a list of standard questions

These will allow whoever takes charge of interviews to provide a uniform experience for each candidate. Questions should be applicable to and used with every interviewee. Also, avoid gender and other biases in your question set.

Ask both hypothetical and behavioral questions to gain a clear picture of your candidate’s abilities. Hypothetical questions assess future behavior, ability to think quickly, and give insight into how they would handle certain situations. Behavioral questions assess previous actions, such as what they did at a former company or a customer service experience they facilitated and are proud of. These will show how the candidate has proven themselves and provided value to previous companies.

Use the same metrics

Make sure each interviewer understands how to rate candidates based on set variables. This ensures each candidate is assessed for the same qualities, and once the interviewer is removed, a third party can select the candidate objectively. Train your interviewers in your rating system so they’ll all work within the same parameters. Google provides an excellent sample grading rubric here.

Ask for feedback

After each interview, either in person or online, ask the candidates for feedback about your interview process. You may discover you missed an important question and can add it to your process, or notice a question that made a candidate uncomfortable and remove it. Keep an open mind when asking for improvements.

Training and facilitation from Profiles Asia Pacific

If you don’t have time to train your interviewers or to interview every candidate, you can outsource this important responsibility to an outside company like Profiles Asia Pacific. We take the structured interviewing process a step further by using standardized assessments created from years of research and experience to determine your best fit. Visit our products and solutions page to learn how we can help.

How to interview for soft skills

Thanks to technological advances, soft skills have risen from accessory ornaments at the end of a great CV to a prominent component of hiring. Adaptability, creativity, and willingness to learn are now requisites to survive in evolving markets.

Soft skills enable individuals to succeed in a range of environments. They include personality traits and attributes, social skills, and more. Because they’re at the forefront of requirements for many new positions and divisions, companies are increasingly centering their hiring rubrics around these skills.

Soft skill benefits

Soft skills in your staff help your workplace culture flourish. This, in turn, leads to sustainable business growth and higher rates of productivity.

For example, social and communication skills encourage interdepartmental synergy in key personnel. This makes it easier for large companies to react to disruptions and prevent future breakdowns in operations.

Soft skill metrics

The main drawback to soft skills was their lack of measurable data to gauge their effectiveness in a company. However, social sciences have come a long way since then. Social psychologists, sociologists, and other experts have refined qualitative methodologies and developed an array of tools to measure non-technical skills. As a result, their accuracy and predictive power are now credible and reliable.

Here are a few ways to measure soft skills in your business:

  • Behavioral interviews — These interviews focus on the way candidates act in certain situations. Rather than current or past performance, they use hypotheticals to identify specific skills.
  • Soft skills-based rubrics — Rubrics are grid-based tools that employ key criteria to measure employee performance. They allow you to assess and score a number of attributes and scales. These rubrics should be customized for each role in the company.
  • Feedback surveys — Questionnaires and surveys can help identify issues stemming from insufficient soft skills in your company. These tools can capture falling levels of employee satisfaction, communication problems, and leadership issues.

Surveys are also crucial to measure the efficacy of skills training. Feedback from colleagues, supervisors, subordinates, and clients makes it possible to track progress.

Soft skills to track

Recruiters more commonly seek and weed out candidates based on their non-technical skills (or lack thereof). The following are the five currently most in-demand soft skills for companies.

  • Emotional intelligence (EQ) — Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify emotions accurately in yourself and others. It’s the bedrock upon which all other skills are built.

The absence of EQ is a major red flag, as companies need people who are mature and empathetic.

  • Adaptability — Adaptability allows someone to change their behavior and assumptions quickly to meet the needs of a given situation. With technology and markets constantly evolving, companies need employees who can adjust to new realities without skipping a beat. Although employees should already be adaptable, companies can also offer training to develop it further.
  • Collaboration — Employee collaboration has proven to produce higher quality work than interpersonal competition. The ability to cooperate seamlessly in different settings and groups is invaluable to success.
  • Persuasion — Long considered a sales team skill, persuasion has greater implications for other departments: It’s also a crucial element of effective leadership.

Great leaders must be capable of persuading their teams to follow them. Dissent is natural and healthy (when done respectfully), but a persuasive leader fosters cohesion.

  • Creativity — Creativity is consistently one of the most sought-after soft skills in new hires. In an uncertain, disrupted marketplace, companies know they’ll need to be innovative to beat the competition. Creative employees approach problems from new angles and find clever solutions.

6 Assessment areas to improve your interview process

Employee selection is one of the most researched elements of the recruitment process. Once you receive resumes, conduct interviews, and identify qualified candidates, you need to select the best person for the role. To validate that selection, you can use employee profiles based on your top performers.

This is a multi-step process that involves recognizing and validating top performers and mapping existing performance to future growth and strategy. Then, implement that information into your employee selection process through skills, behavior, and other assessments to determine how well candidates compare to existing employees.

1) Top performers

Assessing performance inside your organization requires you to review employee performance and then determine which factors contributed to that success. In most cases, you can combine existing performance management with individual assessments to collect this data. As yourself:

  • Who are your top performers? Have you validated that?
  • Why do they perform so well?
  • Which behavioral traits/soft skills contribute to their performance?
  • Which hard skills contribute?
  • Which emotional aspects contribute?

An employee assessment should interview the individual, the people around them and the role, and their leaders. You can then combine this data with existing role profiles based on the skills and behaviors people listed as necessary for the position.

2) Future growth and needs

As your organization grows, its needs will change, which will impact your roles and their requirements. To forecast future organizational changes, review top employee assessments and validate them.

For example, if you’re hiring for a role that’s about to change, would current performance serve the new requirements? If individuals are able to succeed because of factors that’ll change in the near future (i.e., one to two years), they might be unable to maintain those levels once their roles adjust.

Also, consider prioritizing attributes. If you know traits such as adaptability and strong external communication are crucial to success in a role, you should prioritize them over hard skills such as proficiency with a specific tool. Observe which skills contribute to top employees’ performance and how much, then give those soft skills greater weight in your interviews and assessments.

3) Candidate profiles

Once you recognize what success looks like in a role, you need to create processes that are capable of identifying those behaviors and skills in candidates. Assessment companies, for example, employ strategies ranging from competency assessments and structured interviews to culture-fit and emotional intelligence testing to look for desirable traits and behaviors.

If you use these tactics, it’s a good idea to give your top employees the same tests and/or interviews so you can directly compare their results to candidates’ scores, validate the efficacy of the assessments, and track results to real people.

Leveraging top employees in your employee selection process can help you narrow down the candidate list, make better hires, and encourage long-term success with validated data. To hire future top performers, make sure you or your external assessment organization measures candidates’ potential against culture, future growth, and forecasted changes in roles.

4) Profiles skills

A web-based skills assessment can reveal a candidate’s capabilities and hard skills without asking them to invest a significant amount of time. As such, customized skills assessments can be an important part of the screening process or follow-up after the first interview. These should be tailored to each role, based on internal frameworks, or chosen from an external framework and tailored to meet your specific business needs.

5) Competency

Competency assessments can take many forms, ranging from EQ and EQ-I tests to check employee communication styles and talents, to soft skills assessments and personality types such as:

  • EQ assessments – EQ assessments assess emotional intelligence for leadership, teamwork, and collaboration purposes, identifying gaps and showing how people work together.
  • DISC assessments – DISC assessments are one of the leading tests used for team-building and team assembly. They gauge how people work and communicate together.
  • ProfleXT – ProfileXT shows how well an individual matches a specific job profile in your organization. While this does require you to set up the profile matrix first, that makes the data obtained more robust.

Note, you’ll have to tailor these assessments to your workplace and map them to a competency or job role framework to gain useful information.

6) MBTI

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most respected and utilized personality tests in the world. Estimates show between two and three million people take the test every year, and nearly 90% of Fortune 500 companies implement it.

MBTI assessments help recruiters determine a candidate’s personality. They identify strengths and weaknesses, pinpoint communication style, and determine how candidates like to work.

How personality types influence your interview

The Myers-Briggs test has 16 personality types that explain if someone is extroverted or introverted, and how they communicate outwardly. Depending on a person’s results, a recruiter may view the candidate’s performance in a different light. For example, extroverted individuals are expected to be more outgoing, more comfortable in social settings, and have a broader sociability.

The MBTI can help you notice and account for blind spots. For example, if a candidate is extroverted and outgoing, will they say too much or overshare? If they’re introverted, will they come off as reserved and cold? Once you understand the personality facets behind individual behavior, it’s a lot easier to see where you might have bias.

Pinpointing strengths

MBTI will estimate the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, which can give you much-needed insight into personality traits. Most people don’t think of themselves as “confident, analytical, and ambitious,” but if you’re an INTJ, that’s how the MBTI describes your personality. That can be valuable in determining how closely someone’s behavior matches the way they describe themselves. You can also target strengths during the interview by asking questions such as:

  • How do you recognize strengths in yourself?
  • How do these strengths benefit the role?
  • Where have you demonstrated those strengths?

Note the MBTI gives only an average overview of personality traits. To better understand the answers you receive, you’ll need to review and discuss the traits with candidates in ways that apply to the role.

Discussing weaknesses

Every personality type has its weaknesses, so it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with them, especially how they affect the position you want to fill. Review the “weaknesses” section in the MBTI results and discuss them with candidates. Figure out how (and if) they apply, and ask how candidates account for those weaknesses — they might not be shortcomings.

Going back to the INTJ example, you’d see weaknesses like “judgmental,” “critical,” “highly independent,” “overly analytical,” and “dislikes rules.” Most of these can be discussed in a positive light, acknowledging them as weaknesses and determining how to compensate for them.

Understanding MBTI

MBTI results are not static; in fact, most people get the same results only about 70%–75% of the time. However, those results can be good starting points for communication styles, personality traits, and general communication. They can delve into, for example:

  • How their communication style fits the team’s
  • What the leaders are like and if they complement work and communication styles, or clash
  • How these personality traits fit into the role and how they’ve fit into similar ones in the past
  • The problems these personality traits have caused the candidate in the past and how they’ll affect their new role

The Myers-Briggs Foundation states no type is intrinsically suitable or unsuitable for a particular role or job. However, it does offer recommendations for “best fit” roles for each personality type but cautions they’re loose structures. No one should ever be denied or given a role because of their MBTI type alone.

The MBTI can be a valuable way to gauge a candidate’s personality, individual work approach, and communication style, which you can discuss and communicate during the interview.

List of interview questions

There are dozens of potential interview questions you can and should ask. However, it’s often a good idea to find the middle ground between structured interview questions, behavioral questions (which you should take from your behavioral framework), and casual, unstructured interviews. In most cases, you should craft a list of structured questions with room for organic inquiries and to follow up on answers.

Having an idea of what you want to learn from the candidate will help you decide which questions to include. Ask yourself:

  • What information is most important for you to gather?
  • What do you have to know to make a hiring decision?
  • What information do you need to differentiate your candidates?
  • Do you have any concerns?
  • Are there any special considerations for working on your team that need to be addressed?
  • Do you have questions about their previous role(s) or experience(s)?

Only ask a question if you need the information; irrelevant questions will simply eat up time from the interview. Your questions may be open-ended, yes/no, or a bit of both. Sample questions include:

  1. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
  2. What drew you to this role? Why do you think you’re a good fit?
  3. What are some factors that make you feel you’ll excel at this role?
  4. How would you describe yourself?
  5. Can you talk a bit about your qualifications?
  6. Why did you choose [X field/university/role]?
  7. What experience do you have that most prepared you for your current position/career?
  8. What are some takeaways you gained from the role you’re leaving?
  9. Do you have any skills (e.g., interpersonal, soft skills, hard skills) that you’re proud of or feel would contribute to this role?
  10. How do you lead/follow?
  11. What is an ideal employee/manager relationship in your eyes?
  12. What do you look for in your career beyond the salary?
  13. What do you like the least about your career? The most?
  14. What kinds of work environments do you excel in?
  15. What’s most important for you to have in your work (e.g., creativity, fulfillment, time for family life)?
  16. What drew you to [X organization/role]?
  17. What does success look like to you? What has to happen before you say, “Yes, I’ve done it”?
  18. What do you think it takes to be successful in this position? In our organization?
  19. How would you like to contribute to our organization?
  20. What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
  21. Do you have any accomplishments you’re proud of? Which gave you the most satisfaction?
  22. What motivates you to put in effort/What drives you?
  23. What is a mistake you wish you could fix? Did you learn something from it?
  24. Do you work well under pressure? Is it healthy behavior?
  25. Tell me about a time when you received criticism. How did you receive it? How did you implement the feedback?
  26. Was there ever a time when you had to get people on board with your idea or point of view? If so, how did you go about that?
  27. How do you handle someone being negative or difficult to work with?
  28. Have you ever had a major disagreement with a colleague or supervisor? How did you resolve it?
  29. Have you ever been in a situation where you or you and a few others did most of the work in a group project? How did you handle it? Would you act differently now?
  30. How do you measure accountability? What does it mean to be accountable in your role?
  31. Do you have any short-term personal or professional goals?
  32. Do you have any long-term goals? Do you want to be in the same role? What do you want to change?
  33. If you were interviewing a colleague for this role, what would you look for?
  34. What do you think your first goal in this role should be?
  35. If you had to pick one thing about yourself to tell us, what would it be?
  36. What is a developmental or skills gap you’ve had to overcome during your career?
  37. What are some of the most satisfying moments in your career? Why?
  38. What’s an example of a time you failed to meet a project deadline?
  39. How did you measure success in your previous role? Do you think that should change for your upcoming role?
  40. What’s the most challenging report or performance information you’ve ever received?

You’ll obviously want to ask basic questions to make sure the candidate did their research and can back up what’s on their resume. But those should only be a part of screening or filtering rather than the focus.

Subjects to avoid

You can’t ask questions about finances, race, age, religion, and other demographics. If you’re familiar with anti-discrimination laws in your area, you can use those to structure interview questions so you avoid potential bias. However, the following is a short list of questions you can’t normally ask:

  • Ageist questions (e.g., “What year did you graduate from high school?”)
  • Children, marriage, or childcare responsibilities
  • Disabilities in any regard other than to ensure the candidate is fit for work
  • Race or skin color
  • Personal contact details or partner details
  • Nationality and origin
  • Religious affinity
  • Financial situation
  • Prior military experience
  • Union membership/History of union membership
  • Workers’ compensation history
  • Arrest record

Interview techniques

Interviewing candidates aims to gather the most information out of people in the shortest amount of time. The following tips and techniques will help you optimize your process to collect prudent information efficiently.

Preparation is the most important step

Before you interview someone, you need to have the tools and processes in place to do something with the information you obtain. Long-term preparation includes:

  • Creating profiles or matrices for job roles that define what success looks like
  • Implement profile or candidate management — Often, the same tools that manage potential hires can be invaluable for long-term performance management, development, and promotions, so a single, multi-functional management tool is a good idea.
  • Basic candidate research — It’s important that you read a candidate’s CV/resume, go over their LinkedIn page or portfolio website, and perform any other necessary research to know who you’re talking to before you step into an interview with that person. This way, you can skip to the more probing questions not covered in their resume.
  • Make sure HR is properly trained — If you’re using behavioral interviews, for example, train the relevant personnel in the appropriate techniques.

Ask about achievements

Take time to look up your candidate online, review their resume for any achievements, and look at their LinkedIn page. What stands out? What can you ask them to expand upon in the interview? Questioning things the candidate has listed shows them you’ve thoroughly reviewed their profile, making them more likely to invest in you as well.

Offer transparency

Often, candidates step into interviews with no idea of how long the hiring process takes or what it entails. Tell your candidate up front how many interviews you expect, how long the entire process is, and give them a deadline (firm or estimated) by which they’ll hear about your hiring decision. This reflects positively on your company and improves their confidence in and experience with the organization.

Put candidates at ease

People are often nervous in anticipation of an interview, and although it’s good to see how they handle pressure, you should take steps to help each candidate relax. Being friendly, taking time to get to know the candidate before you ask the formal questions, and sharing information about the process can put them at ease and improve the quality of their answers.

Only ask questions you want answered

If you can’t articulate an answer’s potential added value, you shouldn’t ask the question. Go over your list of prepared questions before the interview to ensure they’re relevant, valuable, and allow each candidate to explain themselves clearly.

Record the interview or use a transcription tool

It’s difficult to concentrate on an interview if you have to take notes. So, you should either have someone else take notes during or use a recorder or dictation tool to do the task for you. If you want to take a few notes or mark important items, you can do so, however, you should largely pay attention to the candidate, not your notes.

Make adjustments for unconscious bias

People are biased, whether it’s about someone’s name, the fact they have pimples or a stutter, they went to a college the interviewer dislikes, or something else. Although unavoidable, the important thing is to be aware of them and take steps to limit their influence. Stick to prepared questions, involve multiple perspectives on the gathered input, and be sure to score every candidate with the same rubric.

Allow time for long answers

Open-ended questions should be a major part of your interview. Making time for longer, more detailed answers and follow-up questions can give you much more information about the candidate than rushing through a long list of surface-level questions. Pick your questions carefully and give each candidate the time to answer them fully. If you still have time left at the end of the interview, you could let them ask their own questions.

Keep it conversational

Even going through a list of questions, try to keep the interview conversational; you won’t learn anything of importance from a series of rapid-fire questions. Instead, adopt an informal attitude: Take time to get to know the candidate and create pleasant conversation.

Ask about assessments

Assessments reveal information that can produce richer interview questions. Reviewing information like answers from previous employers and background data will allow you to formulate pointed questions that can help you delve deeper into a candidate. For example:

  • Reference data — “We called your previous manager at your last job and he said you’ve had some issues with conflict on his team. What’s your side?”
  • Background data — “What convinced you to switch from marketing to finance? Are you happy with that choice?”

Generic questions often reveal little about an individual, their career choices, or why they’re in your office. Asking specific questions about data they’ve given you that’s relevant to the information you need will help you gain better results from your interview.

Question prepared answers

Candidates now have the tools to prepare for nearly any type of interview. Having behavioral and competency information on a candidate gives you the opportunity to question prepared answers based on assessments.

This forces an individual to provide more honest answers, because they won’t have time to prepare for this sort of questioning. Nearly everyone expects they’ll be asked, “How would you respond to X situation?” but following their answer with something like, “Your personality profile suggests you prefer to avoid conflict. How do you manage that in a situation like the one we just discussed?” would prompt an unfiltered answer.

Integrating assessment and personality testing into the interview process makes it easier for recruiters to gauge an individual’s demeanor, how they react to certain situations, and their abilities. They can also compare the behavior displayed during interviews and create a clearer picture with the extra data to make a final assessment.

Common interviewing mistakes

Generally, HR personnel run interviews rather than professional recruiters. That leaves a significant amount of room to make mistakes and miss out on valuable information in the interview.

Failing to prepare

If an interviewer is unprepared, they won’t be able to gain an accurate estimate of the potential hire. Good hiring involves comparing the candidate’s skills to the role, and that requires a job profile for the position so they know what to look for. In addition, you need to know how to get the information you need, whether it’s through assessments, interview questions, or their professional profile.

Allowing bias

People often form preconceptions upon meeting others and then seek to confirm them. For example, if you go into an interview thinking someone is a strong candidate, you’re more likely to overlook their flaws or look for reasons to support their potential instead of fairly evaluating them. This includes the halo effect, where you allow appreciation for one aspect to affect everything, despite any severe deficiencies in other areas.

Social comparison

If you feel inferior to the candidate, you might subconsciously form a negative opinion of them; this is known as the social comparison bias. Be mindful of it throughout the interview process to prevent any influence from it.

Making quick decisions

Half of all employers make a decision about a candidate within the first five minutes of meeting them. That’s too fast to think objectively. Ignore that initial gut reaction, have someone who hasn’t met the candidate review their data, and take your time when deciding.

Holding out for the perfect candidate

No candidate is perfect. Rather than spending time and resources trying to find your ideal candidate, you’ll have to settle for the best in your talent pool. That means letting go of high ideals and looking at what you have in front of you. Keep in mind what skills can be trained, what can’t, and what’s most important for a candidate to have coming into your organization.

Final thoughts

The goal of any interview is to collect clear and accurate information in a uniform manner so you can compare all candidates fairly. You have to know what each role needs and what to look for in a potential hire. Once you have that down, you can walk into an interview better prepared. Implement tools to gather relevant information before and during interviews and to record each session for later review.

You can also make the process easier for your candidates, hiring managers, and yourself by following the tips and techniques we’ve discussed. Additionally, use this guide to arm yourself with the necessary knowledge to structure your processes and guarantee a seamless interview and successful onboarding process for all hires.


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55 HR tools to streamline your personnel operations

Most Human Resources (HR) operations are in the process of digitizing (or have already done so). Modern tools ranging from payroll management to process automation and employee assessment simplify and improve the HR workload.

Beyond keeping track of data, these tools enable data collection, direct interaction with employees, and organizational collaboration. Many HR teams combine several to build a toolkit that improves how they work, the results they deliver, and their goals. Choosing the right tools, however, depends on each unique organization.

What makes a good HR toolkit?

The market is flooded with HR tools, so you’ll have to make choices based on clear value and how well a tool maps to your business strategy and HR plan. Look for tools that most closely meet your organization’s needs. Or, look for HR platforms that deliver a full-service or near-full-service approach.

However, if you adopt too many tools, they’ll overwhelm you and make it difficult to derive any value for your processes. Reduce the number of tools you have to lower costs, decrease data lost in an overwhelming array of apps, and make it easier to manage the HR environment.

When searching for good HR tools, look for ones that:

  • Are relevant and map to your business goals and strategy
  • Fit defined needs
  • Have clear value propositions for the business
  • Can be used in-house with training for internal personnel
  • Are suitable for the business size and near-future growth

Types of HR tools

Most HR tools fall into one of the following categories:

  • Recruitment and onboarding – Recruitment, hiring, and onboarding tooling helps you manage candidates, deliver assessments, map roles (plus the needs for those roles), and compare candidates to find the best fit for the job. Onboarding software helps you identify strong potentials and transform them into great employees. 
  • Culture and rewards – These tools help you share company culture, promote a positive work environment, share feedback, and manage how, when, and why people talk to each other. 
  • People management – This category includes employee engagement, productivity management, payroll, benefits, timesheet tracking, etc. These tools are normally included in full-service HR portals but can be purchased as standalone resources as well. 
  • Development – Development tooling typically ties into employee assessment and feedback tooling, so it’s often part of employee management platforms. They also frequently include specific skills assessments, digital learning portals, and tracking tools to map employee competencies to tests and training opportunities. 
  • Productivity – Productivity management tools enable collaboration, scheduling, remote working, and data sharing. Although only tangentially connected, HR nevertheless strives to encourage and improve personal productivity. 

Most organizations eventually need tools from some or all of these categories. Thankfully, many HR platforms offer most or all of them. However, you may need to supplement a platform with more specific solutions, like digital communication, employee assessments, etc. 

3 Ways technology can help you scale HR efforts

Many HR teams build exemplary recruitment and management processes — only to lose them as their organization grows. Robust operations that last in the long term require the development of sustainable processes that scale with your organization and teams through massive growth spurts, performance reviews, and active recruitment.

Technology offers solutions to help you scale your HR efforts without greatly expanding your team or adding too much work and complexity.

Introducing an HR portal or platform

Managing employee onboarding, providing updates on processes and policy changes, and ensuring employees have ready access to company-related information is time-consuming. A digital platform or portal is an effective option to boost your HR efforts significantly. In most cases, you can integrate an HR portal into other service delivery such as work processes, documentation, and team management.

An HR portal should include:

  • Basic HR information such as work hours, opening times, office locations, and contact information
  • Individual user profiles
  • Company policy (vacation, contract, healthcare, etc.)
  • Contract information
  • Development options and opportunities
  • Career path information
  • Application portal for time off (e.g., sick days, vacation)

You may also want to include information such as team structures, frequently asked questions, tools used in the organization, and how to contact IT support in your portal. This creates a single portal with everything employees need to navigate your organization, make decisions, and submit requests to HR – with no need for manual assistance.

Self-service saves time for both employees and HR since anyone can access the necessary services without waiting for HR to unlock them or provide assistance. Your organization will, however, have to invest in a strong onboarding program that includes teaching all personnel how to use the portal.

Automate processes

From onboarding to logging payment data, HR can greatly benefit from automating processes. You can typically determine what to automate by reviewing which repetitive tasks consume the most time, like data entry.

Automation speeds up small, but necessary tasks, which cuts down on man hours and frees HR for more important assignments. While you should maintain a manual review of every document or process, automation will allow you to scale much more quickly without needing to add team members.

Efficient data analysis

Digitization can speed up and improve many processes. Doing so will allow you to manage operations more quickly and easily, as well as react to sudden changes and share information across your organization.

Processes that greatly benefit from full or partial digitization include performance review and management, employee onboarding, professional development and reimbursement, transfers and promotions, and reprimands such as discipline or demotion.

You can save time and money for your HR team by collecting, keeping records of, and managing data digitally.

Leverage HR assessments

As you scale your business, you’ll have to learn how to hire rapidly and intelligently. This is where assessment technology comes in handy.

Assessments can quickly determine which candidates are a good fit for a certain job based on past performance. Analyze your top performers to create benchmarks, then give assessments to pinpoint potential hires who’ll excel at the role you’re hiring for.

Investing in assessment software will help your HR team make the right hiring choice at a faster pace.

Recruitment tools

Recruitment is often considered HR’s most important process. Recruitment tools allow you to automate, improve, and align recruitment with business strategy and goals – saving dozens of hours of manual labor per candidate.

Descriptive job posts

Writing good job posts starts with what the position requires. Implement frameworks to map skills and requirements and then use them to structure needs for those roles. 

Competency frameworks – An effective competency framework maps hard and soft skills to job roles, showing what success looks like in that position. This helps you clearly define what candidates need to be successful in a role so you can hire more accurately.  

Job fit assessments – Job matching tools from accredited providers also help identify the primary and secondary skills someone needs to succeed at a role. These are vital to obtain an accurate indication of what to include in the required and recommended skills section. If you’re able to assess someone who excelled at the role, you can benchmark their strengths and weaknesses to incorporate into your job post as well.

Recruitment tool recommendations

  • The Profile XT – The Profile XT blends competency and skill mapping with pre-recruitment assessments to develop job descriptions, job performance models, ongoing development, and hiring capabilities. It’s a full-service tool designed to fit into your entire employee and skills management process. 
  • Recruitee – Recruitee is a talent acquisition platform that allows you to build profiles, map skills, and then create a library of talent to filter candidates through. Recruitee uses analytics, automation, and predictive analytics to improve your hiring strategy, including data like how long it takes to hire. 
  • Breezy – Breezy combines employee searching, job profile management, referral management, and candidate comparisons for an almost full-service tool (it doesn’t offer assessments). The result is a user-friendly tool that avoids unnecessary features, providing simple hiring tools.

Assessments

Once you find a great candidate, you’ll want to check their skills and knowledge.

Candidate assessment is an integral part of the recruitment process. By identifying who can perform well in the given role, HR specialists can assign tasks to the right people, speed up onboarding, and reach business goals faster.

Assessments also help gauge an individual’s emotional intelligence, which is an incredibly important skill for employees.

While personal assessment may seem like a manager’s responsibility, automation tools significantly accelerate the process and help HR specialists analyze the results.

Work assessments

Work assessments are one of the easiest ways to determine how an individual actually works. These can be managed in-house or through an assessment center, but typically involve a work assignment. This assignment simulates a task the individual would perform once accepting a job and may be handled remotely or in-office depending on the center, the role, and your goals for it. These assessments are typically paid (especially for short-term roles) but may also be completed as part of the individual’s application process.

A work assessment is proof of performance: It shows how well an individual works under pressure, their work method and skills, and how quickly the person adapts to new situations. However, these assessments can’t measure a person’s full capacity, as they’ll improve in a role as time passes.

Culture-fit assessments

Culture-fit assessments typically involve physical work assignments, tests, and sometimes social events, where a candidate is asked to meet with their prospective team to see how well they mesh. This determines if candidates get along with team members right away, how they react on that team, and how they work in a unit. Many people are awkward, nervous, and unsure of themselves on the first day, so take this into consideration during your testing.

It’s also important not to fall into the trap of matching culture. Someone who pushes ideas and brings a new but complementary culture will be much better for your organization than an exact culture fit.

This is why culture add is also important; if you try to force everyone to assimilate into the same culture, you’ll miss out on new ideas and perspectives that could be beneficial.

Skills testing

Skills testing can include actual skills tests, as well as IQ tests, cognitive ability testing, and other assessments that check for hard and learnable skills. These tests are ideal if you need someone who can quickly step into a role and excel at it.

They also determine how well someone’s skills match their resume and their pitch, which gives you an idea of whether you want to hire them or not before investing money in interviews, assessments, or trial projects.

Skills testing should not be your primary decision-making factor unless you’re hiring for a short-term role, or a position’s major skills include intelligence, cognitive ability, and so on. Hiring someone is an investment; you want an employee who’ll grow with your organization, so personality and behavioral traits may be important elements of consideration in some cases.

Personality testing

Personality testing shows you how well an individual’s behavior, competencies, and emotional intelligence aligns with a role and its requirements. They enable you to hire for growth and personal development, with the knowledge that your candidates will grow by investing in their personal development to step into roles as team leads and managers.

How important is personality testing? Emotional intelligence and soft skills or competencies are increasingly carrying greater weight in the hiring process. Job profiling has revealed they dramatically affect long-term performance, an individual’s ability to work in a team, and their ability to grow and change with the organization.

Structured interviews

Structured interviews incorporate competencies and behavior into the interview process: Recruiters ask candidates questions, give them hypothetical situations, and suggest other potentials to determine how an individual would react in a given situation. These interviews can give you insight into how someone would react, what their motivations are, how their planned behavior reflects their past actions, and more.

Again, structured interviews aren’t a foolproof analysis of an individual’s personality, especially when someone is nervous or agitated, but they can give you a clearer idea of who you’re dealing with than a standard interview.

Assessment recommendations

Employee assessment tools are designed to help you streamline the employee selection process so you can make better decisions when hiring. In most cases, an assessment center can set up any of these processes inside your organization with a minimum of investment on your end so you can start making stronger hires.

  • Profiles Competency Assessment – The Profiles Competency Assessment report provides an estimate of an individual’s competency in areas of interest to the organization. These are the traits that are considered important for career progress and success within a company. The objective is to produce a framework that determines an individual’s potential. Add it to your hiring process to make more reasonable judgments about candidates and employees. 
  • 360° PLUS Feedback System – The 360° PLUS Feedback System is a multi-rater feedback tool designed to guide individuals in professional and personal development. It compares an individual’s self-ratings to those of individuals who regularly interact with and observe the ratee in a work setting. The tool accomplishes this using ratings from different sources, including: their boss(es), direct reports, and peers and key stakeholders, together with the individual’s self-rating. You can select from over 50 competencies to create a customized questionnaire.

Remember to validate

When looking for an assessment tool, you’ve likely heard about validation. This is typically criterion-related and content-related validation, which shows the assessment tool’s methods, criterion, and algorithms used have proven results.

However, many tools either don’t provide validation or only offer pre-validation, which means the tool isn’t validated for your environment. This can save you money, but you’ll miss out in the long run if you skip this important step.

Validation connects assessments to performance

The primary purpose of validation is to use data to prove that criterion and content (such as a competency like agility) connect to performance. It should connect the factors your tool is looking for to real-world performance inside your organization.

For example, a validation study may review factors observed in top-performers and compare those traits to those the tool is programmed to seek. Your validation study will also help you predict return on investment (ROI) by analyzing how well assessment scores correlate to increased performance.

Validation enables you to tailor your assessment

No assessment tool is perfectly suited to an organization. A robust validation study will show you how and where to update or tweak assessment scoring, searched-for competencies, and methods to improve before integrating it.

For example, you can tweak test scores to highlight certain competencies or behaviors, remove those that are irrelevant, and shorten assessments to focus only on the points that have the most impact.

Validation reduces risk

Although there are few risks associated with crafting a selection procedure for employees, validating that procedure will reduce those risks and work to protect the company legally and on a performance basis.

For example, a validation study that shows selection criteria contribute to performance or other desired company traits gives you legal defensibility because it provides a rationale for not choosing certain candidates.

It also ensures that searched-for criteria does contribute to performance. This prevents you from choosing a tool that fits your organization poorly and hinders operations.

Validating your process in advance ensures you hire for the right reasons and can defend those reasons as being legitimate and reasonable.

While some competency frameworks and HR assessment tools claim to be validated, that means nothing unless it’s validated in your environment. Validating for both content and criteria (with a sample size of 100 or more) is crucial to obtaining data that’s relevant and valuable to your company. 

A good validation process will ensure the efficacy of your selection procedure, reveal how and where to update your selection procedure, and help you acquire more value from the assessment.

Culture tools

Your top performers bring fresh ideas, new perspectives, innovation, and more to your company. To help them reach the top though, your company first has to equip employees with the necessary tools. This includes software and hardware, as well as a benefits package that’ll help them remain healthy and productive.

Effective culture tools should be able to track how, why, and when people communicate while providing a safe space for them to offer and share feedback and do their jobs well.

When considering your work culture needs, ask yourself:

  • Do employees have a computer that allows them to perform their role efficiently? 
  • Do they have access to all the software they need for their job? Is it the most efficient, effective, and reliable software available?
  • Do they have a quiet workspace where they can work uninterrupted? 
  • If their job requires regular meetings with clients or other team members, do they have a professional and equipped meeting space?
  • Do they have access to fast and reliable internet?
  • If they’re required to interface with clients through phone calls, do you provide a phone with a plan that includes unlimited minutes?

Also think about:

  • Do employees have a means to get to work? If many of them commute, can you provide bus passes? If they drive, do they have a convenient place to park?
  • If their job requires long hours at a desk, do you provide a gym stipend to encourage a healthy lifestyle?
  • If your employees stay late, do you provide dinner or healthy snacks?

When building a company, culture helps ensure all of your team members have the same values and a strong work ethic. Culture defines the employee experience; it permeates their day-to-day operations.

Defining and fostering company culture is a challenge, and there’s no definitive guide that’s an exact match for your unique company. However, here are some tips to get you on the right track:

  • Ask the right questions. This can reveal what your employees are uncomfortable with at work, if there’s a low-cost solution the company could implement, and any other issues that should be addressed.
  • Hold regular team-building activities.
  • Reward your team for jobs well done. If they finished a big project ahead of schedule, consider buying them lunch or letting them have the afternoon off.

Culture tool recommendations

  • Empuls – An all-in-one employee engagement platform designed to foster communication through feedback channels. It enables team and inter-team or interpersonal feedback as well as feedback loops between HR and employees or employees and upper management. 
  • Culture Amp – Culture Amp is an employee engagement platform that focuses on measuring employee engagement, involvement, confidence, and alignment. It also offers tools to build those processes, to foster engagement, and to create strategies to improve culture. 
  • EQ Training – Strong emotional intelligence (EQ) training, whether delivered digitally or via in-person workshops, can greatly improve culture and communication across the organization. Tools like Genos or the EQ-I assessment can be extremely valuable.

Payroll and expenses

HR specialists know everything about employees’ perks — because they have to manage them. Benefits, vacations, payroll, insurances, and all such expenses require careful tracking.

Calculating precise salaries that include overtime, bonuses, and all applicable deductions is a time-consuming process that demands undivided attention to avoid mistakes.

This is where automation achieves amazing results, considerably cutting the time needed to administer reimbursements to employees while simultaneously keeping errors to a minimum.

A payroll automation tool can greatly reduce the HR department’s workload and allow key members to spend more time proactively analyzing the data, rather than merely crunching numbers. Additionally, employees will appreciate their salaries being paid out quicker and reflecting the hours accurately the first time, making payroll software a win-win for everyone.

Installing software packages for HR management is just the first step; to take full advantage of digital HR, companies need to alter their operating procedures and adopt the right tooling. 

This is an organic process that takes time and effort on the part of top management, while HR managers act as data interpreters and align new, tech-based methods to the overall workforce management strategy. In this way, companies can leverage new technology to gain a recruiting edge as well as a clear competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Payroll and expenses tool recommendations

  • OrangeHRM – This is a complete HR management platform that stands out with its payrolling, expense, benefits, and travel tracking, and linking disciplinary actions to benefits. 
  • TriNet – TriNet is another full-service HR platform that also offers payrolling and payroll outsourcing, which makes this platform more flexible than many others. However, the software and tooling also enable automation, auto-calculation of hours and bonuses, and the integration of performance management into reimbursement. 
  • Gusto – Gusto is a payroll, benefits, time tracking, and benefits platform with full integration into accounting and an accountant portal. It’s also consistently listed as one of the best tools for SMEs seeking HR payroll solutions. 
  • QuickBooks – QuickBooks implements payrolling alongside expenses management in a very simple, stripped-down way. This makes it ideal for organizations that have existing HR management and are looking for more efficient accounting and payrolling.

Learning and development

Although in-person learning is an important offering, distance learning provides many benefits for teachers and learners: Studying online allows learners to further their education anywhere, anytime, and at a lower cost. For teachers, distance learning enables them to reach students from multiple locations, not just those who are in close physical proximity. Distance learning also minimizes the financial overhead associated with physical learning centers.

Video conferencing software

Human interaction is important for distance learning to be successful. Video calls and conferences are powerful tools that can enrich your distance learning program. For example, video call software allows you to host live, interactive sessions for your students.

Holding live video calls can simulate the in-person learning environment by fostering collaboration between students and the teacher. Compared to audio-conferencing, video conferencing significantly improves the quality of communication, which, in turn, can improve student learning and performance.

Nowadays, the market is bursting with video conferencing tools. Although each offers varying features, you’ll find most video call tools let you host webinars for large audience sizes — perfect for virtual lectures.

They also allow you to record your video sessions, which presents a great opportunity to save recorded video sessions for future use: Lessons can be provided to attendees for recap at a later date, or they can deliver pre-recorded instruction to new students.

Video conferencing software recommendations

Whiteboard applications

Not everyone learns best by listening to a teacher. According to the VARK learning styles model devised by Fleming, people prefer to learn through one of four styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic. While video conferences are great for auditory and some visual learners, they may be lacking for kinesthetic learners or visual ones who need more concrete instruction.

Whiteboard applications are an effective way to engage visual learners. In fact, research conducted in a classroom-based setting found the use of interactive whiteboards increased learner engagement and participation.

Based on these findings, it could be beneficial to incorporate virtual whiteboard tools into your online learning program. Virtual whiteboards facilitate collaborative exercises, brainstorming, and visual demonstration aspects of teaching, such as calculations or diagrams.

The advantage an online whiteboard has over a real one is that you can save your annotations, use it for collaboration, share it with other people, and combine it with video conferencing. Doing so ensures your distance learning program will appeal to and support a wider range of students.

Whiteboard applications recommendations

Online survey tools

It’s important to understand your students’ opinions of your distance learning courses. With online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey or JotForm, you can collect course feedback from your students, which will reveal the aspects of your course that did or did not work for them.

JotForm, for example, offers an e-learning feedback form template that can gain insights into how students feel about your online course. You can then use this information to make changes to your course structure and improve student satisfaction.

You can also employ online survey tools to engage students in learning by creating polls for them to interact with, or by using surveys to understand students’ learning styles, habits, and interests.

Online survey tool recommendations

Cloud-based storage

When taking your learning online, you need to consider how you’re going to share resources with your students. This usually requires a cloud-based storage solution such as Dropbox that’ll allow you to store course materials, resources, printouts, and worksheets for students to access as they need them. You can even organize course materials into folders to help students find the resources they need based on topic or lesson.

Creating a hub of resources is advantageous for distance learning, as it provides students with easy access to resources they need to deepen their learning. For instance, students with learning disabilities benefit from having more control over their web-based learning, so a centralized resource library can support this autonomy and improve their educational performance.

Cloud-based storage recommendations

Training and onboarding software

Effective onboarding software lets you create candidate profiles, map them to roles, and see where the candidate has gaps. Over time, you can also use the software to identify skills gaps across your organization and determine the training needed to close them. Often, the best tools for this are larger HR management platforms that integrate into other aspects of competency, role, and personnel management. 

Meanwhile, a learning management platform streamlines the tech tools and content that teachers and students need for a connected learning experience. These platforms can make distance learning a smoother experience by providing one solution of integrated products for online education.

Training and onboarding software recommendations

  • SkyPrep – Skyprep is an online learning management platform that enables organizations to build learning programs and a digital portal. You can link courses, create tests with grading, and reuse content across courses. 
  • Workday – Workday is an HR, finance, and planning platform that attempts to take a full-service approach. It also offers a considerable employee training and management platform, which you can integrate into your hiring and training. 
  • WorkforceHub – WorkforceHub links HR management and onboarding into a single personnel management tool, along with handling paper and policy management. Its primary goal is to create a central location for employees to log in and see everything from their performance to policies to pay stubs, making it a simple, long-term work management tool.

Personnel management software

Efficient personnel management is key to robust business operations. This means assigning the right tasks to the right people and making sure they use their time effectively. Automating day-to-day functions can save HR and your company time and money while decreasing manual error for things like feedback and performance management, discipline, benefits, etc.

People management software recommendations

  • Zoho People – Zoho People delivers a 360-degree HR solution, with HR administration automation, employee profile management, operation management, and feedback in one platform. 
  • Zenefits – Zenefits helps employers track people, operations, payroll, benefits, feedback, and much more. It also incorporates attendance and role management, making it a perfect fit for small businesses in need of an all-purpose tool. 
  • Monday.com – Monday.com is one of the largest HR platforms on the market, offering automation, tooling, and solutions for most parts of HR. In addition to time management, operations, and people management, Monday.com creates single views of most apps you might use for productivity and work management while attempting to replace most of them. 
  • Staff Squared – Staff Squared is a small business HR management tool designed around people and productivity management. It includes payroll, timesheet calculations, absence management, onboarding, and much more. 
  • People HR – People is an HR management platform that offers self-service HR, development, insights, analytics, applicant tracking, performance review, and more. It’s also a full-service outsource agency for organizations that have to grow in a hurry, allowing you to outsource specific aspects like payroll or finance. 
  • BambooHR – BambooHR is an automation and work management platform designed to digitize HR hiring, onboarding, and culture management. The platform delivers industry-specific solutions for hiring, but stands out thanks to its people- and culture-first approach to personnel management. 

Employee rewards platforms

Managing how you reward employees is an important part of HR. Luckily, there are numerous tools to oversee this.

Employee rewards platform recommendations

  • Nectar – Nectar offers an incentives platform that combines employee recognition with employee engagement. Colleagues can show each other appreciation, management can give rewards, and everyone can acknowledge performance as an organic part of work, rather than at a few touch points throughout the year.
  • Kazoo – Kazoo is an employee-based reward system allowing colleagues to reward each other. It also lets management view and manage work culture. It’s especially useful for remote and distributed teams and fully integrates into Slack.  
  • Kudos – Kudos handles employee rewards and feedback alongside employee engagement management. You can also add consulting if engagement is too low.

Collaboration and communication tools

Whether you hold meetings virtually or in the office, you can employ helpful software to keep everyone focused. Use these meeting tools to share your screens, take collaborative notes, align time zones, or meet virtually with your colleagues and clients.

Meeting platforms

  • Skype – Skype is a free online instant messaging and video chat platform that allows you to make calls as long as you have an internet connection. You can invite multiple participants to a meeting, share screens, or call a local phone with it.
  • GoToMeeting – GoToMeeting is an online meeting platform built for business and formal use. It has end-to-end encryption, making it one of the more secure meeting platforms. All users receive a unique URL for their meetings, which they can use as a base of operations.
  • Zoom – Zoom is a web conferencing service that supports online meetings, webinars, conference rooms, and video/voice/screen sharing.
  • Slack – Slack is a chat, file sharing, and video/voice calling platform with an app and browser access. It also integrates into numerous data and file management tools, includes channel filters, and has mute and scheduling capabilities to increase the speed at which people communicate. 

Scheduling tools

Good scheduling tools are a critical component of HR’s managing responsibilities. They also enable productive teamwork and keep business operations running smoothly. 

  • Calendly – Calendly organizes meeting scheduling through booking time slots. This lets colleagues book meetings with each other easily at times they know are convenient. Calendly automatically removes booked slots, allows blocked time, and integrates into Google Calendar and Outlook. 

With scheduling, Google Calendar and Outlook already have lots of tools and automation, so you may not need a special tool.

Note-taking tools

Taking notes is crucial to the success of team collaboration, so be picky when choosing a tool; you want one that’ll lift some of the burden of note-taking, not add to it.

  • Evernote – Create and share meeting notes with graphics, web snippets, and minutes included. 
  • Google Keep – Take personal notes, add checklists using color coding, and send emails from meetings.
  • Otter.ai – Automatically transcribe meetings from tools like Google Meet, Skype, or Teams to reduce note-taking. 

Project management platforms

Although project management may seem like a departmental concern, it can significantly impact the aggregate business, including HR and employee management as well as individual employee workloads. Ideally, you’d employ a single tool across front- and back-end processes. For this, Monday.com is a great solution. However, you can also look at other project management tools such as:

  • Asana – Asana takes a full-service approach to project management, with top-level views of projects, sub-projects, assignable tasks, and work management with individual task deadlines. Asana also links to files and apps like Slack, making it easy to collaborate on projects. 
  • Trello – Trello uses Kanban boards for work management with a simple structure and organization and basic assigning and deadline functions. It’s ideal for a less-complex work management solution with no need for an involved process. 
  • Wrike – Wrike is a full-service work management platform designed to manage people, projects, and long-term goals. It also fully integrates into calendars, implements automation, and features task assignments. 

Conclusion

Often, you can find the right HR tools for your business in a base platform that fills most of your needs. Then, you can supplement it with tools and functionalities that your business still lacks, whether that’s work assessments and competency frameworks or specific chat and project management tooling. 

However, less tends to be more, simply because people have trouble keeping up with dozens of programs and their login information. The best way to choose software for your HR needs is to assess those needs and then review software, check trials, and see what best fits your organization while fulfilling most of your set requirements. 


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5 Components of a good employee onboarding program

Most recruitment plans focus on the hiring and employee assessment phases (after all, you need to know you’re getting the right person). From there though, helping them complete onboarding often falls on the teams they join. It’s common for new hires to walk into a new company on the first day only to be handed a printed employee manual because IT hasn’t finished setting up their account.

Onboarding is a major component of the employee experience, whether you have in-office or remote workers. In the latter case, it’s even more important because it’s where you establish expectations about company culture, behavior, and communication. It’s also your chance to show new hires they’re part of a team, give them the tools and resources they need to do their job well, and tell them where to seek help.

A good employee onboarding program is the foundation of your relationship with employees, and investing in it can improve employee retention. In fact, one Brandon Hall Group study found that a quality program improves new hire engagement, time-to-proficiency, and retention by over 20% in each category.

A standardized process

Although your onboarding should follow the same general process, you don’t have to include the exact same elements for each session. Creating a standardized process involves assigning someone responsibility for the onboarding, and crafting a checklist for traceability and to show the onboarding steps are completed.

An effective onboarding process might look something like the following:

  • Implement a DISC Assessment to match the person to a team (if they haven’t already been hired for a specific one)
  • Create accounts and set up logins BEFORE the employee’s first day
  • Assign the new hire to a coach or mentor (or two) on their team
  • Ensure the new hire has the information they need for their role
  • Make sure the necessary equipment is in place (if they work at home, this could include printers, desks, chairs, screens, etc.)
  • Have someone introduce the new hire to the team
  • Set up lunch dates over the first week so the new hire can have a one-on-one talk with every member of their team
  • Schedule time for feedback
  • Set up check-ins to ensure the employee is doing well

Validate any steps you do take, make sure they’re feasible, and set up best practices. For example, if compliance requires you to wait to set up employee accounts until a new hire is officially in the organization, you’ll probably want them to spend their first few days meeting people and observing operations. The goal is to create a process that works inside your organization and then assign someone to be accountable for each step so you know they’re completed.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring is crucial at every level in a company. Coaches and mentors help new hires feel welcome and engaged, and ensure they have what they need to be successful at the company. Often, it’s a good idea to pair a new hire with different members of the team over the first few weeks or even months of their onboarding. This familiarizes them with specific team functions and exposes them to skills from more senior members of their team. They get to see process, practice, and how things work firsthand.

Of course, you want to avoid too much hand-holding. People need to feel they have autonomy to make their own decisions, and that they’re responsible for their work. However, a coach should be available at least a few days a week or on-demand for the initial adjustment period.

Immediate feedback

It’s a given you’ll have 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins. Most organizations schedule these as soon as the employee onboards. But it’s also important to check in immediately on the first day. HR should set up bookend meetings for the first week to provide guidance, offer feedback, and hear feedback in turn.

It’s important that dialogue goes both ways. If someone feels they can’t contribute to a discussion, they gain as much from it. If you have criticism to offer, phrase it clearly and professionally. Criticism should include actionable steps that people can take to correct the issue. This likely will be unnecessary in the first week, but if it comes up, offering timely and well-structured feedback can fix the problem while staying on good terms with the new hire.

Staff engagement

Brief your staff on the new employee and ask to make time for them, especially the team that’s taking on an additional member. It’s crucial that everyone set aside time for a one-on-one with the new hire. That might look like daily lunch meetings for the first week, or taking 30-60 minutes to greet and get to know the new employee over drinks or a meal after the first day. Additionally, team members can show the new person their own roles, how they work, and how it integrates with what the new employee will be doing.

The more involved with the team the new person feels, the quicker they’ll adapt to the team, which eases the adjustment to their role in the organization.

Availability

Leaders and HR have to stay available over the course of the hire to ensure their questions are answered. This helps a new hire feel welcome, onboard well, and get up to speed more quickly This applies to both internal movement within an organization as well as external hires. Having someone available on the first day can prevent people from wasting time not knowing what to do. If something goes wrong, they should also know who to go to. From passwords not working to interpersonal conflicts with the team or even a personal emergency, employees should be informed of the appropriate contacts for each situation.

Wrapping up — Use onboarding to build better connections

Onboarding is your new hire’s first real contact with the company; it provides the foundation of their work. This process familiarizes them with the operations and requirements of their job as well as the roles of those around them. Implementing a standardized process can help you streamline and improve the onboarding experience, and as a result, you’ll see employees learning their roles faster, as well as increased new hire retention.


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5 Tips to improving workplace conflict resolution

Workplace conflict is unavoidable. Eventually, when you put people together, even in a virtual space, friction happens. Ensuring that your team can communicate and disagree in healthy ways is crucial to ensuring teams work well together.  To some extent, a healthy amount of conflict is even good for the team and good for your organization. As long as it’s about work, it’s a good sign that your employees are engaged and passionate about what they do.

However, resolving conflicts and working through them in a healthy way can build relationships, can build teams, and can help you to create a healthier and more productive work environment.

With that in mind, these 5 tips to improving workplace conflict resolution in your teams can get you started – whether people are working in the office or remotely.

How to improve workplace conflict resolution

Offer emotional intelligence training

Emotional intelligence has taken off as a tool for leadership. And, largely that’s a good thing. Being aware of your own emotions and of those around you can help team leads, managers, and even the CEO better understand and allocate the company’s most important resource, its people. At the same time, the same traits that make people good leaders make people good at working together. The ability to notice, identify, understand, and manage your own feelings and those of others is critical when you come into conflict with your teammates. Ensuring that leadership has those skills to step in and delegate when friction occurs can help.

Offering workshops and courses to ensure that teams can recognize those emotions in each other, can see where their opponent is coming from, and can understand the emotions their teammates are experiencing can help teams to resolve conflict for themselves. Even when matters are personal.

Invest in your team design

There are plenty of tools to help leaders create teams based on personality, communication styles, and culture. These range from personality assessments to DISC workshops and assessments. All of them allow you to see how people react, how they work together, and how they compare with other people. That allows you to match people based on their ability to communicate and to do so well. Some people will always be opposites, some people will never match work styles.

That’s important as even mismatched work styles can create considerable conflict. For example, putting a self-driven person who wants ownership of their work in a team with someone who needs delegation but is good at doing quality work is asking for trouble. You’d want to divide those people up based on the work they’re doing, the people they’re working with, and their leaders. Simple DISC assessments and team building guidelines can help you get started. However, it eventually falls to your leaders to ensure that information is utilized and put to work.

Encourage communication at all levels

Eventually, many of the causes of workplace conflict relate to poor communication. Expectations are not set or are not met, favoritism is a problem, leaders don’t communicate well, people don’t pull their weight, they pull too much of it. Or, family and personal drama comes to work from home.

Whatever the cause, leadership is often responsible for recognizing, diagnosing, and putting a stop to that drama. For example, if colleagues are showing visible friction, leaders should be able to stop and communicate about that. Doing so and getting honest answers means having an established rapport with the team.

If you haven’t yet, work on building trust, being a reliable leader, and creating consistent touchpoints enabling communication. That can take a long time to build, and it may require offering coaching and mentoring to leaders who aren’t yet good at communication.

Share your conflict resolution policy

You know that conflict eventually happens. So, it makes sense to create and share a conflict resolution policy. Sharing this with teams, before they experience conflict, means that people know what to do, what next steps are, and how to react in case of a conflict. While that doesn’t mean people will take those steps, it means they have the options available to them. What does a conflict resolution policy include?

  • Both people should sit and listen to each other, giving the other adequate time to voice their opinion without interruption or displays of emotion
  • Both parties should be polite and non-violent. The goal should be escalation of conflict over winning
  • A clear line of escalation in case either party breaches code of conduct
  • A clear line of escalation in case this is a work matter, with team leads and accountable parties willing to step up and to intervene
  • The option of arbitration. E.g., HR may be willing to mediate. In other cases, teams themselves prefer to sit together and have a conflict resolution meeting. This might involve discussing problems as a team. It might involve making hard decisions, like asking a team member to move to another team. However, teams have to know they are empowered to have these types of meetings and to make these types of decisions.

There’s no perfect way to handle conflict. Unfortunately, good decisions almost always depend on the situation at hand. However, you can create policy to ensure people are protected, that they have outlets, and that there’s a clear line to ask for help.

Offer third party arbitration in case things escalate

Not every employee can work out conflict on their own. Not everyone is emotionally mature enough to argue well. Workplace bullying, arguments, and conflict can escalate. It will get in the way of morale, productivity, and the kind of company culture you want to build. You have to have the option to arbitrate, to escalate, and to take measures up to and including letting people go from the company if they are not willing to work within company guidelines or to resolve conflicts.

Of course, the goal of arbitration should always be to resolve conflict in a humane and positive manner. Helping people to work through differences is always better than deciding one side is right and the other is wrong – unless one side is clearly being harmful. However, making those decisions requires insight, judgment, and good leadership.

Conflict is unavoidable, but good practices, good communication, and humane approaches make it easier for everyone.  Hopefully, these 5 tips to improving workplace conflict resolution help in your office.


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The Great Resignation: Avoiding voluntary turnover

Retention rate has always been an important focus for human resources professional teams. However, it’s become a challenging issue in recent years for most (if not all) human resource departments, in what has come to be known as “the Great Resignation.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping four million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. Resignations peaked in April and remained higher than normal throughout the rest of the year, with a record-breaking 10.9 million open jobs at the end of July and an astounding 4.5 million letters of resignation handed in across the U.S. in November alone. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the highest instances of resignations occurred in hospitality, health care, and logistics, and the impact has been felt globally across industries and has affected the public as well.

So, what can businesses do in the face of this crisis?

Although turnover is a natural part of employment, high levels of turnover can point to major issues in your company culture. In the midst of “the Great Resignation,” it’s easy to resign yourself, thinking there’s nothing you can do. This is false however. If improving your retention rate is important to you and your company, read on to learn how to combat voluntary turnover and support higher retention rates.

What causes voluntary turnover?

Before you can combat turnover, you need to understand why it occurs. Voluntary turnover is when employees choose to leave their role with a current employer for various reasons.

A common misconception is that employees only leave because they want a higher salary. While it’s true that greater compensation is a factor in a worker’s decision to go elsewhere, it’s not the be-all and end-all reason. Other enticements are more intrinsic in nature.

Lack of flexibility

Sometimes life gets in the way for your employees, which makes flexibility one of the most attractive perks to offer. ManpowerGroup Solutions found almost 40% of job candidates said schedule flexibility is one of their top three factors for career decisions.

Poor compensation

Whether we like it or not, money makes the world go ’round. When employees are underpaid, they’re more likely to look for new, higher-paying jobs. And, since finding a new position is the best way to negotiate a higher salary, it’s no surprise employees leave when they discover better pay elsewhere.

Feeling underutilized or unappreciated

Two of the most basic human desires are validation and appreciation. People have an inherent need to feel like they matter, so when employees feel undervalued, underutilized, and unappreciated, they won’t stick around. In fact, Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, says, “the less appreciated we feel our work is, the more money we want to do it.”

No work-life balance

Work-life balance is a goal that most employees constantly strive towards, so it logically is a top factor in their decision to leave a job. Long hours backfire both for people and their companies, leading to burnout and higher levels of turnover.

Personal concerns

Family responsibilities, health issues, and other personal concerns play into an employee’s decision to leave their job. While an organization can’t always mitigate these types of issues, offering support and flexibility during difficult times can help you retain those employees.

Toxic or ineffective management

You’ve heard the saying “people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.” Bad bosses can be responsible for many of the other factors that lead to turnover: crappy pay, long hours, boredom, poor benefits, and feeling undervalued and unappreciated.

When it comes to management, “bad bosses” can fall into one of two camps. First, there’s the toxic managers who take credit for others’ work, play favorites, and even abuse their reports. Then, there’s the managers who are just plain bad at their jobs. In both instances, these managers can be hard to spot, as they hide their shortcomings well.

Poor benefits

From paid time off (PTO) to health insurance and more, benefits are an important part of employee compensation. When these benefits are unavailable or fail to live up to employee expectations, you could face resentment and burnout that leads to higher turnover.

Limited growth opportunities

PWC’s Future of Recruiting report revealed that U.S. job seekers are willing to forgo as much as 12% of their salary for development opportunities, including more training. Growth and development opportunities allow employees to envision a future for themselves at a company. When they feel stuck with no chance for movement, they’ll go somewhere that does offer it.

Boredom

Bored workers are unlikely to be productive or find enjoyment in their jobs. The LinkedIn Talent Trends survey found Gen Xers are the most likely to leave an organization because of a lack of challenging or interesting work. Yikes!

Why is turnover so high right now?

The Covid-19 pandemic upended many established practices, including how and where people work. Around the world, offices shut their doors and employees began setting up workspaces at home. Telecommuting rapidly became the norm, and phrases like “I think you’re still on mute!” have turned into TikToks and memes memorializing the shift to work-from-home life.

Turnover rates vary from industry to industry. Unsurprisingly, front-line workers — those in customer service or hospitality-type jobs with lower incomes and fewer benefits — have seen the highest instances of resignations. They’re followed by burned-out health care workers and those in the logistics field who’ve been inundated with labor shortages and higher-than-normal volumes of cargo.

While some employees left their roles as a result of burnout, others decided to change careers. For some, these resignations provide the perfect opportunity for a job change.

A quick look at the technology sector over the past two years demonstrates just how good the getting has been. Companies like Zoom and Slack grew exponentially during the pandemic as their products were adopted faster than ever before. And, since tech companies have a long-established reputation for being flexible and offering great perks, it’s no wonder workers have flocked to these types of opportunities.

Finally, for some, the Covid-19 pandemic revealed just how unhappy they were in their jobs. As a result, many workers handed in their notice to focus on themselves and their own well-being instead.

How can I avoid voluntary turnover at my organization?

We’d love to offer you a one-size-fits-all solution for tackling voluntary turnover, but — you guessed it — it’s not that easy. The reasons for turnover vary by organization and by individual, which is why virtually every company faces this challenge in some capacity. Although turnover is inevitable, there are steps you can take to reduce turnover, as well as help you attract top talent in the first place.

Be engaging and supportive

There’s a classic scene in “Office Space” that many of us can relate to when we look back on our careers to date. Ron Livingstone says, “Yeah, I just stare at my desk, but it looks like I’m working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch too. I’d say in a given week, I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual work.”

To combat boredom, offer employees meaningful and challenging work suited to their skills. While it’s unavoidable to have a few mundane tasks here and there, pushing employees out of their comfort zones and fostering a growth mindset that values skill development will keep your teams motivated. A supportive culture where failure is accepted as a key part of the learning process will encourage your team to think outside the box and remain engaged while they’re on the clock.

Foster a positive work environment

Toxic cultures are no fun for anybody and will send your people packing quicker than you can say “letter of resignation.” But a ping pong table and free snacks do not make a positive work environment.

Fostering a positive work environment means committing to your company culture. Are you living your mission and values? Do employees understand and feel aligned to your vision?

According to Slack, setting your team up for success comes down to the emotional, intellectual, and physical ways you support them. Cultivate a positive work environment by:

  • Asking for feedback and taking appropriate actions
  • Prioritizing onboarding and training/ongoing development
  • Creating a comfortable work environment for all employees with ergonomic furniture, temperature-regulated interiors, quiet spaces, and a fully accessible office
  • Encouraging collaboration and communication
  • Committing to transparency and openness
  • Facilitating opportunities for learning

Improve your hiring process

First impressions are everything. Employees often decide quickly if they will or will not stay with a company, which can significantly impact short-term retention rates. In these instances, it’s time to look at your hiring and onboarding processes. If you notice employees are leaving for lateral positions at other companies within the first six to 12 months of onboarding, this can be a signal that your hiring process is misleading candidates and new employees.

Implement a reward and recognition program

Recognizing employees by acknowledging their work and showing appreciation can go a long way toward improving retention rates and curbing turnover. Recognition and reward programs are a great way to  give employees the acknowledgement they need to feel valued and seen by management and the organization as a whole. These programs can include social recognition, monetary recognitions, and even non-monetary, tangible rewards.

The best reward and recognition programs are designed to provide frequent spotlighting and link rewards to specific actions.

Give feedback the right way

According to a Gallup survey, workers whose managers’ feedback induced positive or upbeat feelings in them were about four times more likely to be engaged in their work, with only 3.6% actively seeking new jobs. It’s important to note though that feedback shouldn’t be all praise. In fact, constructive feedback positioned in a positive light can have a greater impact on employee engagement than strictly positive feedback.

Allow flexibility

When you consider that, across many studies, work-life balance is among the top reasons why people leave companies, it’s clear offering flexibility is important in curbing voluntary turnover. The 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2019 showed about 25% of wage and salaried workers were able to work from home at least occasionally, and 57% had flexible schedules allowing them to vary their start and end times. The work-from-home trend skyrocketed in 2020 and has broadened expectations among employees worldwide who now look for additional flexibility like hybrid work environments when considering job opportunities.

Be competitive with compensation

Switching jobs is often the most effective way to increase your salary substantially, so of course employees job-hop. According to a study by jobs site Indeed, job-seeker interest skyrocketed in 2020 for higher-paying jobs across civil engineering, IT, media, communications, and software development. Besides salary, other monetary benefits can sway employee retention.

Compensation can include:

  • Base salary
  • Commissions and bonuses
  • Benefits such as health and dental
  • Paid time off (PTO)
  • Learning and development funding

Wrapping up — Avoid voluntary turnover in the great resignation

No matter how you slice it, people leaving jobs is and will continue to be a part of business. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic spurred “the Great Resignation,” a person worked for their employer for an average of four years and had 12 different jobs throughout their career.

Although these numbers have jumped to an average of one in four people leaving their jobs in 2021, this isn’t a fate employers must accept.

By ensuring your organization meets the needs of your employees and making a conscious commitment to foster a positive and engaging culture, you can reduce your voluntary turnover, attract top talent, and improve retention rates.

When employees do decide to leave for new positions, take the opportunity to solicit their feedback and learn why they’ve made the choice to move on. Offboarding not only gives you a final opportunity to have a positive impact on employees, but also offers valuable insights that can be used to boost your retention rates in the future.


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How to use competency frameworks for business success

Competency frameworks effectively define the skills, behaviors, and soft skills an employee needs to succeed in a specific role and the organization. These frameworks are some tools your HR can use for people-driven performance management, hiring, and team building. But, with their focus on capabilities, they’re also one of the most important.

Competency is the sum of skills, knowledge, abilities, attributes, experience, personality traits, and motivators. Once your organization maps the competencies a position needs, you can use them to find stronger hires, make more informed development choices, and deliver the necessary training to fill skills gaps in current or future roles. These frameworks integrate into hiring, leadership, performance management, and much more.

 

What is a competency framework?

A competency framework defines abilities and masteries that contribute to an individual’s ability to do their job well. This framework should exist at both organizational and individual job levels. It should also enable your recruiters to identify people who are a strong fit for specific roles while giving your managers the tools to assess behavior and productivity, set goals, and make organizational decisions.

 

How do you define a competency?

Competencies are specific behaviors or traits that contribute to a person’s ability to do their job well. Underlying qualities can predict behavior in tasks and skills, such as the ability to analyze situations quickly and perform well under stress. These include characteristics, related knowledge, skills, and attributes, all of which play a role in job performance. For example, competency frameworks typically answer questions like:

  • What are the job’s expected outputs?
  • What behaviors will lead to the expected outputs?
  • What knowledge, skill(s), and ability(ies) will lead to the expected outputs?

A competency framework can be at an organizational level with broad competencies or at a role level with specific competencies.

 

Organizational competencies

Organizational competencies are core masteries that define what the organization requires of its employees to succeed and how it expects them to accomplish overall goals.

Most companies define 15 to 25 competencies about how they expect their people to act and the common traits everyone needs to flourish.

Common competencies in this include:

  • Agility
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Integrity
  • Customer centricity
  • Strategic perspective
  • Resilience
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Personal leadership

These traits define a company culture of behavior and mastery that allows employees to meet the organization’s expectations.

 

Technical and behavioral competencies

Individual competencies are defined on a role level and applied to individuals. They map the skills and behavioral traits necessary to succeed in specific positions. They are technical and behavioral competencies.

Technical competencies are what a person can do, including hard skills and specific know-how. For example, an IT role would need someone with a strong knowledge of system security, specific software or platforms the organization uses, etc.

Behavioral competencies express how an employee performs in their job. For example, the same IT role might need attention to detail, empathy, quick thinking, problem-solving, and excellent memory to perform well in their position. You can also split these into interpersonal competencies.

Defining competencies and how they apply to the role and the organization is crucial to developing a competency model. Ensure that you categorize individual competencies as technical and behavioral and that organizational competencies apply to everyone across the company.

 

Why use a competency framework

The main benefit of implementing a competency framework in your organization is to improve performance. A framework outlines the skills and behavioral traits an employee needs to excel at their job, making it easier to identify the correct attributes, skills, and behaviors for particular roles.

These things allow you to define what “good” work looks like at every level of the organization and highlight how the company works and how employees can meet the needs of their roles. More importantly, a clear competency framework lays out what your people should be able to do and how to do it.

A good competency framework also enables HR to hire the right person for the job based on core behavior traits, which increases hiring accuracy, reduces job turnover, and boosts performance.

However, creating and integrating competency frameworks can be intimidating, time-consuming, and costly. But the benefits are immense. From recruiting and assessments to performance management and succession planning, competency frameworks play a significant role in the businesses that employ them.

 

Success defined

Competency frameworks allow you to define success in a role and your organization. Highlight the behaviors necessary to make significant achievements to streamline hiring. Outlining what success looks like in each organizational role and function can improve performance management. In short, you create a map for job expectations, career paths, and metrics by which you can measure, reward, and promote workers.

 

Improved processes

The outline helps hiring, internal processes, and succession planning become smoother. Any employee-based program is automatically based on the existing framework, assisting you in setting targets, establishing goals, and better defining candidates. It also speeds up processes because you have already set what you need from a candidate each time and got leaders to agree on targets.

 

Big-picture mindset

Hiring with a competency-first mindset instead of a drive to fill a position or some other sense of urgency means filling your company with highly qualified team members who fit in it. These people will be valuable to you as your organization grows and changes. This results in fewer hiring mistakes and helps you create a team that can see the big picture.

 

Qualified hires

Competency-based HR pays special attention to the best-fit talents for the job and catalogs their characteristics and behaviors. This leads to more qualified hires because you know the mastery and behaviors proven to do well for a role.

 

Enjoyable workplace culture

Competency includes workplace professionalism and the ability to remain calm and communicate well. Since you consider attitude, you’ll find yourself working in a team that you interact with joy.

 

Better problem direction

You’ll also build a team with good problem-solving skills, such as resolving internal conflicts, project issues, and client complaints. Competency-based HR actively searches for candidates with the best problem-solving skills compatible with the challenges your organization commonly faces. This results in better-informed decisions and fewer escalating problems.

 

Set clear expectations

Using a competency framework allows you to clearly outline employee expectations—which helps improve communication and performance. By defining competencies, you can:

  • ensure training and professional development are target-based and productive, 
  • offer employees a way to measure and improve their competencies while expanding mobility,
  • track employee and competency growth,
  • improve communication between management and the workforce by clarifying job standards and establishing channels for constructive feedback, and
  • set clear expectations for employees while producing a mechanism for recognizing high performers.

Competency frameworks aid in recruiting and correctly managing people to make them stay where they are needed and grow professionally. These frameworks can tie into every aspect of recruitment and performance management, as well as succession and pipeline planning because you have the tools to measure, reward, and improve upon the successes of your best employees.

 

Pros and cons of competency frameworks

Your reasons for adopting an organizational competency framework can influence the success of your people. For example, it can be easy to underutilize a competency framework or use them as traditional performance management.

Pros

The pros of using a competency framework include

  • making it easy to communicate to your employees your performance and behavior expectations,
  • giving you a more convenient and skills-focused appraisal and recruitment,
  • support recruiters in assessing and identifying skills based on performance,
  • allows HR to link specific skills and behaviors to performance over time,
  • establishing more transparent and, therefore, fairer assessments,
  • standardizing processes like leadership and development based on behaviors and competencies,
  • clearly distinguishing between team performance and individual performance, and
  • a stronger understanding of what to look for when hiring, promoting, and training.

 

Cons

Competency frameworks are not fit for every organization. Their cons often relate to poorly developed or poorly utilized frameworks such as

  • they can unfairly focus on past competencies and so have to be assessed and updated regularly to be fair,
  • it can be grueling to understand and use,
  • sometimes training is required to make performance improvements, and
  • they can’t replace performance management, but HR sometimes tries.

 

 

Streamline recruitment with a competency framework

Hiring new employees is often a balance between opting for the hard skills and knowledge to perform well in a position and the personality and behavior to fit into an organization. Traditionally, recruiters create a profile of who they’re looking for and match potential candidates against that profile. Unfortunately, this process heavily focuses on technical skill and formal learning, often overlooking competencies such as attitude and behavioral patterns, which can be equally important.

Competencies show not only what an employee can do, but also how well they utilize the resources at their disposal (i.e., tools, skills, knowledge) to complete their jobs. Using a competency framework as part of the recruitment process allows you to streamline this process by identifying those factors to make better hires.

 

Improve interview accuracy

Competency frameworks allow you to set up a structured interview in which recruiters use standardized, behavior-based questions to determine how candidates handled previous real-life or theoretical situations. That permits you to score talents based on how well they respond rather than using unstructured models.

It also identifies role-based competencies for the position you’re hiring for and improves the accuracy of hires for current and future roles. Creating a competency framework typically affects reviewing existing employees to determine which factors make them successful in a job—including their behavior, decisions, and actions—alongside technical skills and knowledge.

 

Richer candidate feedback

With competency frameworks, you can create and offer clear, rational responses when refusing candidates. It makes the hiring process smoother by communicating with applicants rather than leaving them in the dark. It also helps recruiters better define what they’re looking for according to candidate characteristics not suited for the position.

 

Reduced turnover

Hiring candidates whose behavior doesn’t fit a specific role often results in high turnover rates. For example, even an experienced person with the right technical skills for a position may not do well if they hold to tradition and prefer to move slowly even though the role requires a fast-paced, fast-adapting individual. This friction will produce a hostile work environment and inevitably drive the employee away. Identifying the specific behavior competencies that allow candidates to excel in a role can improve job satisfaction and performance.

 

Lower costs

Looking for specific behavior parameters on top of technical skills and knowledge improves the accuracy and efficiency of candidate selection and reduces total costs. Competency-based recruitment is results-oriented and measurable, allowing you to create a direct return on investment in the recruitment process.

 

Stronger candidates

Competency frameworks give recruiters a map of what success looks like in a role to match candidates to specific behaviors rather than looking for a generic profile. In turn, it speeds up the recruitment process, improves personality and behavioral matching, and increases the chances of finding a good fit.

 

What are competency-based human resources?

The core concept of competency-based human resources (HR) is to hire for roles based on the identified role competencies.

When you implement competency-based systems, the employee benefits from a clear blueprint of a role and a definition of success. They receive transparency regarding recruitment, succession planning, expectations, and evaluations. Employers benefit from reduced turnover, high team competence levels, suitable skill matches, and elevated efficiency.

Competency-based human resources

  • structures internal employee mobility,
  • creates a framework for open, honest feedback,
  • clarifies success in a job for employee reviews,
  • provides direction for needed skills,
  • sets goals and benchmarks for professional development, and
  • gives employees the tools they need to initiate and further their competencies.

Combining HR and business planning will allow your company to work comprehensively to achieve your mission and vision. It will align your team with your resources and goals and ensure your personal, team, and departmental strategies work toward the same purpose. It’ll also reveal any gaps you need to fill with additional training or planning.

 

Competency frameworks and performance management

The competency frameworks model is invaluable for selection, as you can vet candidates based on hard skills, behaviors, and responses to determine if they’re capable of a job. However, it’s also crucial for performance management and end-of-year reviews.

Knowing what makes a role successful, you can more easily judge when and why an existing employee performs well in their role when they outperform, and how to improve their performance.

 

Managing performance as a culture

Many organizations manage performance at one or two points throughout the year, but not daily. Integrating competency frameworks allows you to determine if individual behavior contributes to a role.

For example, if a person in customer service is routinely short, rude, or uncommunicative—they are not fit for the role and will likely be moved or fired. However, we rarely apply those same behavioral considerations to other positions. A manager must be open, willing to invest in the success of their team over themself, and act as a teacher and leader. If they fail to demonstrate those behaviors, is the manager truly performing well in their role?

A well-designed competency framework will clearly define organizational values, focus on job and career trajectory, assist employees in managing job satisfaction, and encourage personal development.

 

Competency is not performance

Recognizing that someone is capable and seeing them perform are separate things. A person may have all the required competencies but still perform poorly in a role. So, performance management must be isolated from competency frameworks. Competency relates to performance and can see how people work (and how well).

At the same time, motivation, drive, and commitment play a big part, so a highly competent person may become demotivated and underperform, while a less capable individual may outperform. You can gauge how employees work using competency frameworks, but you still have to judge what they do separately.

Competency-based performance management is a good solution when combined with traditional performance management. Competencies give you more tools to measure how employees work and how they’re contributing. You can look for success according to the metrics you set and measure accordingly. But it’s not the only factor: physical output and production still matter. You need both, and each is complementary to the other.

 

How to build a competency framework for your organization

A competency framework comprises a matrix that maps behaviors and skills to roles and tasks inside your organization. Building your own requires you to map it to your organization, which takes time and research. Or, you could purchase a competency framework, but you’d want to customize it to your organization’s specific needs and roles.

Defining necessary competencies across your organization allows you to hire and train for those skills, measure them, and determine which other abilities contribute to job success.

Competency frameworks give you the tools to gauge an employee’s ability to perform well in a role based on behavior, personality, and hard skills—allowing you to go beyond what’s on paper to determine how people accomplish their responsibilities. While undeniably valuable, many companies struggle to determine what’s needed and why. And crafting a competency framework can require months or even years of research to get it right, leading many to outsource the work instead.

Outsourcing or creating your competency framework has pros and cons, so you must consider more than costs when deciding which route to take.

 

Outsourcing competency framework design

Outsourcing the building of a competency framework requires you to connect with an external organization that already has a significant amount of benchmarked data, an established process, and “fill in the blanks” data that they can quickly and easily tailor to your unique organization. Many have industry-specific solutions, which you can update for your organization at a lower cost. You will then get a competency framework you can establish quickly and at minimal expense.

Developing your own competency framework

Many organizations choose to develop competency frameworks internally, either using existing benchmarked data or starting from scratch. This involves considerable internal research mapping competencies to roles, determining objectives, sourcing an organizational and management framework, and ensuring ongoing improvement.

First, you align business, sourcing, and strategy to create an objectives list. Then, you identify competencies, map existing competencies to success across teams and roles, develop a framework for teams and departments to foster collaboration and ensure individuals with specific skill sets and abilities are available where needed, and establish a process for monitoring performance and effectiveness.

Develop internal resources to

  • analyze existing job roles and what makes them productive,
  • interview leaders and workers and compile data,
  • structure how competencies contribute to end goals,
  • define how each competency contributes and why, and
  • choose the best solution for your organization.

Once you successfully handle internal research and analysis, it will be beneficial to build your competency model from the ground up. However, most organizations benefit considerably more by bringing in third-party research and perspective. Outsourcing allows you to adopt studies compiled across your industry, then have them modified to meet your organization’s specific needs. Because that covers the bulk of the work, you can readily identify what applies to your organization, create management and leadership frameworks around it, and adjust as time goes, rather than starting with nothing.

 

Starting with a standardized framework

Most organizations list the same basic skills or competencies as others. Even if you have heavy customization requirements, buying a standardized framework will likely reduce budget strain considerably. Most competency frameworks include skills frameworks and role mapping. You can also choose a skills-only framework that simply maps skills to roles, giving HR a good idea of what they need and what hiring managers across their industry are looking for.

Once you have a basic framework, it’s important to personalize it by making adjustments to fit your organization’s specific jobs, and to ensure the framework integrates into performance management, hiring, and training. Popular frameworks include SFIAOECD, and IAEA. In most cases, it’s a good idea to go over options with your talent or assessment provider to ensure you have a good fit.

 

Define where and how competencies are employed

Leaders will use competency frameworks to assess candidates for hiring, managing performance, professional development, and career planning. They must understand this and how those factors affect them and their careers before they begin to use it.

For example, a common misunderstanding is that competency frameworks only come into play during end-of-year reviews. However, a good framework integrates into daily behavior, specific task management, and guiding employees on how they should perform at their job.

Introducing new performance measurement tools will almost always be met with resistance, even from leadership. The most transparent path to success is to ensure everyone involved has the information about what it’s for, how it works, and what it will do. Providing adequate training and information also provides everyone with the opportunity to get on board.

 

Measure work and performance

Employee assessment and performance management is a crucial role for HR—that impacts business performance, goal achievement, and leadership development. Traditionally, factors such as individual output and performance tie appraisal and employee assessment. However, recent models are replacing simple productivity assessments with more complex ones capable of measuring how an individual’s behavior impacts their team and the productivity of their team or those under them.

Competency frameworks are extremely valuable for these determinations, as they measure soft skills, behavior, and factors such as emotional intelligence. A well-implemented framework can positively impact recruitment, talent management, performance management, and leadership development.

Chances are, your organization already conducts yearly or even quarterly performance reviews. In this case, you collect data to see what everyone’s doing. It’s critical to look at actual production and output and total team performance concerning creativity, collaboration, etc.

If you don’t have a performance review or only collect limited data, you’ll likely have to start by talking to team leads and managers to identify the key and lowest performers in each role.

This step is more consequential if you’re working towards a competency framework, but it is also valuable for skills. A simple DISC performance analysis can help you fill gaps if you don’t have work data on hand.

Most competency frameworks include several layers of competencies, such as core competencies for the organization and then layers of competencies applied to employees in different leadership levels or technical positions. If you want to utilize competencies for employee assessment, whether in hiring or performance management, ensure that role-based competencies are also in place.

This means working with an employee assessment organization to determine which competencies contribute to success in individual roles or teams. Here, you want to look at how individual performance impacts productivity and team productivity and which factors enable success in the role (such as communication, EQ, etc.). And then, map competencies to success inside jobs based on factors such as actual work performance required collaboration level and external communication, and so on.

 

Measuring core competencies

Managers need a competency framework in place to measure employee effectiveness. It must work at an organizational and an individual role level, identifying knowledge, skills, and behaviors that contribute positively to the organization.

The basis of recording competency data is that managers, their superiors, and other higher positions must record performance during significant incidents, average day-to-day behavior and performance, and total behavior, including positive and negative reactions. Creating role-based competency frameworks thus allows managers to map individual behavior to ideal targets.

In short, this involves:

  • observing how people work and what they do to complete the work,
  • interviewing people with competency assessments to see what competencies top performers are displaying, and
  • using questionnaires and interviews to see what people think contributes to their job.

 

Observing

Observe your employees objectively and without bias so that you only record their specific actions and behaviors. Most competency measurement begins with noting average behavior, then settles on recording behavior during crucial moments, such as during large projects, moments of stress, etc., and then any marked deviations from standard behavior. Providing managers with a template or program to record this data is essential.

 

Measuring significance

It’s crucial to measure the significance of incidents and behavioral changes. For example, if an employee is performing poorly but has recently been in an accident or lost a loved one, the difference could be due to trauma and not an actual personality shift. You can also map the significance of behavior changes according to the impact that behavior has on output, other parts of the organization, and customers.

 

Benchmarking

By learning the commonplace behavior of individual employees over time, you can benchmark their data to establish standards based on these tendencies. This will allow you to identify over- and underachievers inside the same role, pinpoint personal improvement in individual employees, and mentor and improve others to reach the same standards.

Measuring core competencies allows you to better assess and develop individual performance by defining how work is successfully completed. This, in turn, enables you to recognize, evolve, and reward that behavior, producing a positive loop.

 

Conduct interviews across your organization

The easiest way to see what people need to perform is to ask them. For most organizations, this means

  1. grouping roles into types,
  2. identifying specific roles across the organization, and
  3. prioritizing roles (where to start and why; some will serve as bases for others, some should be finished sooner for hiring purposes, etc.).

In most cases, the more people you interview for each role, the better your eventual framework will be. Different people see their positions in distinctive lights, explain their roles in various ways, and even take on more aspects of a role than another person.

  • What skills does the person use in their daily work?
  • Which do they use occasionally?
  • How do they rank those skills?
  • How do managers and team leads rank their skills?

You can also sit down with a team to discuss roles, including what they see as the most important aspects and skills for specific positions. Group perspectives can be just as valuable as input from the person in the role because you learn what tasks others rely on that person to do and why.

You also want to look at

  • what skills—if any—do people in those roles think are missing,
  • what skills leadership thinks are missing,
  • if skills are in place to meet changing role requirements (even if those haven’t happened yet),
  • if roles are changing, and if so, how much, and
  • any input the people in those roles have to offer.

Eventually, you’ll end up with a general list of skills for the role, which you can prioritize based on importance. Prioritization allows you to improve hiring for skills because you know what’s necessary and what’s nice to have.

 

Mapping skills to productivity and performance

Pay attention to people who perform well in performance reviews. It’s also important to interview people who perform unsatisfactorily. Monitoring poor interviewees enable you to map skills based on performance to see if gaps contribute to performance gaps. In many cases, performance gaps are related to stress, mental health, and competencies. You need to take all these factors into account.

  • What skills, or soft skills, are present in high performers that aren’t present in low performers?
  • What skills gaps exist in the organization? Do they affect performance?

Mapping skills to productivity and performance will help you determine which ones are important for the role, which are not, and which actively impede performance when missing.

It’s helpful to look at people who have been with the organization for a long time, who are in roles that have evolved over time and so may not have the skills needed for it. You also want to look at hired people without the necessary skills and learned (or not) those skills while on the job.

This research type will give you a clear picture of what’s impactful for hiring, what you need to teach to improve performance, and what your overall strategy should be.

 

Assembling your framework

Once you’ve completed your research, put it all together. Often, that involves using a competency framework as a base or a competency management tool. However, it should always include the following steps:

  • group skills into categories such as “manual skills,” “strategy,” “interpersonal,” etc., and use that to prioritize specific skills, 
  • organize prominent skills groups into three to four sub-groups to map sub-groups and broader skills to roles,
  • identify and name competencies logically, and
  • link those named skills to specific roles based on assessments, using broader categories or individual subgroups.

 

Integrating a leadership competency framework

Excellence in an organization often starts from the top down. If your leaders, including managers, board members, CEO, and other top staff, do not behave in a way that benefits the organization, you can’t expect the rest of the workforce to do so. Leadership competency frameworks allow you to integrate new standards at the top, first integrating and adjusting leadership, then onboarding the workforce.

While leadership competency frameworks should never stand alone or become separate from the overall competency framework, creating competencies for leaders first lets you introduce and streamline the process where it matters most—with the people guiding the rest of your workforce.

 

Providing training

A leadership competency framework gives leaders a template for their behavior, showing what is effective and what isn’t inside their roles. However, switching to new management styles is rarely a smooth transition. However, providing training and learning opportunities permits everyone to adapt and learn new things. This, in turn, gives those struggling with the new model the chance to recognize where to adapt to keep up.

 

Define how to use competencies

Recruiters and interviewers should know what questions to ask and what skills and characteristics to look for. They should be able to pick out desirable behaviors on a resume and know what to ask in the interview to prompt candidates to reveal their behaviors.

Management also needs to have the tools to use company competencies. They should know which behaviors foster mastery and high performance and which do not. Rewarding positive behaviors and taking the initiative to offer training and development to those who show promise are also mandatory abilities.

 

Foster incorporation and engagement

Hiring and evaluating employees based on a competency framework requires adoption and buy-in from every member of the management and recruiting teams. They should understand why you developed the framework and how to use it, as well as how to update it and how they can change it to meet individual circumstances:

  • Link competencies to business objectives
  • Connect competencies to personal growth and success, not just to business performance
  • Establish policies that reward the behavior and competencies you want to see
  • Offer coaching and training where needed
  • Communicate the whole process openly and honestly
  • Ensure managers and employees understand how data is collected and why
  • Create a privacy standard for behavioral evaluation

The biggest challenge with competency-based HR is adoption. However, once the organization accepts the framework, it’ll produce a culture of competence critical to success.

 

Identify skills gaps

Every organization will experience competency gaps. Here are a few ways to identify them before they become a bigger problem:

  • Conduct a performance review on a team and individual level.
  • Identify behaviors each person should display in their role.
  • Highlight missing competencies, and identify which you can teach and which you cannot.
  • Allocate resources when closing gaps to save costs and time by restructuring or training employees where necessary.

Identifying and closing gaps requires managers to understand the organizational and role competencies and why they matter, so you must get management onboard.

 

Identifying future gaps

Companies regularly lose highly qualified talents—which can be due to retirement, moving on to new roles, or promotion. Unfortunately, with no steady pool of competent replacements, many of these roles remain vacant for months before new employees fill them—who will then have to learn the organization and its culture before they can be effective.

Gap analysis can predict where skills disruptions will appear based on projected departure, retirement, internal promotion, and unexpected losses.

Once you’ve identified where you’ll likely experience gaps, you can take measures to fill them. This involves identifying critical roles inside your organization that can’t be left empty and are prime candidates for succession planning.

 

Creating a talent pool

Once you’ve identified behaviors and competencies that contribute to success in critical roles, you can begin to develop a talent pool. This means pinpointing employees with high potential, reviewing their strengths and weaknesses, and working to create strategies so they and others can close those gaps and prepare for their potential new roles.

This pool of employees should receive leadership development, training, and even organization-sponsored education to prepare them to step into higher roles.

To produce a readily available employee pool, most consider

  • behaviors that contribute to success,
  • education level/qualifications,
  • years within the organization, and
  • willingness to learn and develop themselves.

Many companies also benefit from offering a broader employee development program open to everyone in the organization and empowers self-motivated individuals to pursue learning and transition to new roles. This removes some of the need for advanced evaluation and interviewing to qualify candidates for development programs but may cost the organization more overall.

Once you have your talent pool, you can score their competencies based on what you need for future roles. Mentoring programs, developmental assignments, stretch assignments, formal training, and action learning are substantial in development planning.

A competency framework gives HR the behaviors and competencies to look for in candidates. This helps you put together comprehensive training to develop those with desired qualifications and behaviors so that they’re well qualified when a role becomes available. In this way, organizations can ensure employee loyalty, lower total costs, and reduce time lost due to gaps in crucial roles.

 

Mapping behaviors that contribute to success in new roles

With a competency framework in place, you can identify the factors and behaviors that contribute to success in a role that will soon be empty. This will let you target unlearnable or difficult-to-learn behaviors—such as honesty, creativity, flexibility, problem-solving, people skills, etc.—and then identify candidates inside your organization who already have those skills. But, unlike traditional hand selection and grooming, a competency model allows you to share what success looks like inside a role so that each individual knows what to learn and master to be promoted.

 

Clearly communicating expectations

Many organizations are ambiguous about what’s expected from competency frameworks simply because they can translate information in many ways. Allowing individuals to interpret competencies according to their situations can be a double-edged sword. Take the time to identify and clarify points of confusion to ensure understanding and adoption. Offer clear examples of good behavior to let leaders know their role expectations.

Using behavioral statements, anecdotes, studies, and even case studies of desirable behavior inside the organizations can be extremely helpful for conveying a point. For example, if you can say, “Remember when X employee did this and achieved Y? What if X employee had done Z instead, a behavior many of you do every day. Would Y have still been achieved?” Additionally:

  • link expected behavior to outcomes and production,
  • make sure leaders understand why competencies exist (what’s the end value?),
  • provide examples relevant to your work culture and environment, and
  • ask leaders to come up with their own instances to ensure understanding.

 

Developing targeted employee training

Training employees deliver value by building internal resources and capabilities, increasing workforce productivity, and improving employee loyalty to reduce turnover. Training programs can also close gaps, prepare existing employees to change roles, and ready candidates for succession.

Competency frameworks refine this process by identifying goals and target behaviors and which learnable behaviors and skills impact roles. This process is known as capability building, wherein you introduce and manage employee development as part of workforce planning.

 

Changing focus from activity to efficacy

Traditional employee training and retraining modes rely on activity. However, these models often fail to evaluate learning and development since they lack performance targets and data.

A competency framework identifies the behaviors and actions that contribute to success in a role and allows you to track them against success. This way, you know what skills need to be taught, when training is successful and when it contributes to positive business outcomes.

 

Targeting learning where it matters

You can also focus learning objectives with competency frameworks by meeting specific learning and development needs rather than introducing a single broad course. For example, you could target particular employee roles for specified training while letting others study something more valuable to their job. Standard competency framework-based training includes:

  • employee development,
  • skills development with systematic exposure to work experiences,
  • orientation and training activities,
  • continuous learning for employees to maintain relevant skills,
  • employing experienced workers in the role of mentor or coach,
  • offering lifestyle development such as stress and time management to improve productivity and behavior,
  • aligning new initiatives with organizational planning to ensure employees are change-ready,
  • breaking down cultural barriers to improve cross-organizational communication, and
  • building training around business applications rather than the classroom.

Target individual training based on current and future competencies desired in specific roles to benefit both the organization and the employee. This could include training an IT team in a new software the organization is integrating before it’s introduced or educating customer service on customer relationship management. As a result, their skills become more relevant, increasing their value and improving the organization’s total output and productivity.

 

Creating an environment that encourages learning

A competency framework creates a system that can accurately gauge what employees need to learn. It also allows you to measure the success of training and learning, not through employees passing tests but through measurable changes in behaviors that actively contribute to the organization.

This means learning should encompass not just hard skills but also leadership (personal and others), values, attitudes, behaviors, hard skills, and internal systems and processes.

Training based on a competency framework can target goals and desired outcomes for individual roles to bring groups of people where they need to be to meet the organization’s needs. This includes delivering specific skills in a brief time and slowly developing candidates for larger roles over longer periods.

 

Competency frameworks, employee monitoring, and quality assurance

Competency frameworks are increasingly integrated into organizational performance management to measure what employees do and how they do it. This same data can be integral in fostering a management and quality assurance culture by defining what success looks like. This gives managers the tools to shift focus away from procedure and tradition towards efficiency and meeting quality standards.

While this requires a certain level of competency from leaders, it also allows you to take steps to measure and verify the quality of completed work using information already at your disposal.

 

Using competency frameworks for monitoring

An organization should develop a competency framework around the skills and knowledge necessary to complete tasks for a role, as well as the behavior and attitudes required to perform well in it. Actual monitoring is typically a three-part process of watching and observing, benchmarking and actively using data and offering feedback. More specifically, this looks like the following procedure:

  • Assign managers to monitor worker behavior consistently over time.
  • Benchmark data to establish performance norms for individuals and roles (you can use this to identify high performers, when performance goes up or down, and target those struggling within the organization).
  • Focus on noting behaviors in significant situations, such as during decision-making, learning, meeting deadlines, or offering real-time feedback and goal-oriented motivation.

 

Good behavior leads to quality work

The core of any competency framework is to improve productivity or the quality of productivity. While some organizations lose sight of tying competencies to direct outputs like organizational goals, production, or performance, you need to lay out those traits and behaviors that directly contribute to organizational goals, including quality, and tie them together. In your definition, be sure to:

  • tie competencies to performance (otherwise, they won’t help the organization),
  • establish competencies that directly affect quality control (such as asking for help, focusing on producing quality work, being technically skilled, seeking feedback and constructive criticism, being flexible, establishing comprehensible work processes, etc.), and
  • monitor performance output alongside competencies to verify they line up with the quality of produced work.

 

Create processes to maintain your framework

Once you’ve created your framework, it’s important to establish processes to ensure its ongoing maintenance and validation. Chances are, you hire an external team to handle interviews, craft a framework, and customize results for your organization. This is mostly internally unattainable unless HR suddenly has a lot of free time or you’re willing to bring in freelancers.

Whatever the case, you’ll have to establish an ongoing relationship with those teams to update work as your organization and technology change or implement internal processes to ensure proceeding work maintenance. To determine what you need to do, ask:

  • Who is responsible for maintaining and updating roles and skills?
  • How does HR know when technology used in teams changes? (E.g., if the organization moves from Ruby on Rails to Python, job descriptions have to change with it.)
  • How does HR validate skills? Can skills be mapped to performance during reviews? Can progress be mapped to validate teaching new and existing employees’ skills?
  • Are programs in place to close skills gaps?

Your skills framework will quickly lose value if you lack internal processes to maintain and validate it. Most organizations change fairly rapidly with new tools, roles, and teams regularly introducing change. HR must be able to keep track of it all, update the skills framework as needed, and continue to hire and train for the skills the organization needs.

 

Implementing feedback

Integrating competency frameworks into employee assessments requires a feedback loop where you can continuously improve the framework, scoring methods, and the test itself over time.

Consider:

  • Who is handling employee assessment? What are their responsibilities?
  • Are roles and responsibilities in assessments clearly documented?
  • How is assessment data used, who collects it, and who interprets it?
  • Is third-party feedback (such as from a manager or colleagues) included in the competencies assessment? How is this managed?
  • Are employees involved in the process? Can they offer input? Are they fully aware of what’s being tested?
  • Are relationships between competencies and role performance validated by data? Do you have a program in place to continue this validation?

Roles change over time, which means required competencies can change with them. The easiest way to manage this is to create a feedback loop where competencies correlate to performance data, employees can give their input on the competency validity, and the competency assessment quality prevents bias.

 

Using competency models to make better hires

Making good hiring decisions is a crucial component of HR and one of the reasons competency and behavioral models exist. Hiring managers should look for behaviors that align with the role, core organization values, and desired engagement and productivity.

 

Cultural match

Every hire has to adapt to your organization’s culture to prevent clashes that produce friction, dissatisfaction, and, ultimately, higher churn.

For example, if a new hire is accustomed to working with a waterfall method and is hired into an agile organization, they may struggle without the structure of direct managerial guidance.

Defining your cultural values and selecting individuals who can fit in quickly and smoothly will increase the satisfaction and productivity of the new hire.

 

Core values

Core values can be part of your culture but are often a separate entity. For example, if your organization is dedicated to reducing waste and improving efficiency, but your new hire has little regard for sustainable practices, they’ll clash with the organization’s core values and may bottleneck or reduce efficiency for their team.

While some may adapt to new core values, many don’t or take a long time to do so. Core values relate to intrinsic work patterns (such as lean waste management or agile self-sufficiency) and morals and values like eco-friendly practices.

 

Motivation and career path

Hire the right people for the right reasons. For example, someone stuck in a job they hate and wants out will likely have no real personal motivation or investment in your organization.

It’s essential to seek out the specific motivation for your organization, even if your work is relatively straightforward. For example, a fashion store hiring a clerk may ask why they applied to that store instead of another (unskilled) labor job such as a fast-food chain worker. This kind of questioning unveils their specific motivation.

Understanding that motivation and desired career path increase in importance as you move into roles where career development and succession planning (or organizational growth) are more common. But they’re valuable components for nearly any position because someone without personal motivation for the position is unlikely to perform well or innovate beyond just doing their job.

 

Pairing personalities with teams

Often, a company makes a great hire and adds them to a team, but they quickly lose motivation and disengage or even leave. Why? The issue is often that the individual doesn’t personally agree with the team, its work methods, or even the team members.

Working with competency models allows you to define the key characteristics and traits required to fit into a team, demonstrated by individuals on the team, so you can hire someone more likely to integrate into the team smoothly. While diversity is valuable and critical in teams, establishing desirable traits helps you avoid pairing people with groups or individuals who may clash with their personalities.

Competency models make defining an ideal fit for a specific role easier by going beyond responsibilities and into personality characteristics and core behaviors. This, in turn, will reduce churn and increase engagement by bringing on new people who show active engagement and interest in the role.

 

How to put together an A-team with competency frameworks

Your competency framework will enable you to develop a highly competent team capable of adding measurable value and contributing to organizational performance in a meaningful way.

 

Create the right framework

For effective team building, you must tailor a competency framework to the organization and the job role depending on whether your brand uses organizational competencies, role-level competencies, or both. In either case, the framework must reflect the organization currently and as it moves forward.

This means defining

  • behaviors that contribute to the success of the role in its current and future incarnations,
  • behaviors that contribute to current and projected organizational goals, and
  • hard and soft skills that contribute to success in the current and future environment.

The framework would not be valuable if competencies are irrelevant to the role. Most organizations save time by using a predefined, broad list of competencies. But it is important to customize this to meet specific needs using an outside consultant with internal HR.

 

Determine how to look for behaviors

Oral interviews, presentations, assignments, and reference checks are the most common methods of settling on competencies. For example, interviews are indispensable since candidate expectations include sharing past work examples and answering behavioral questions.

However, competency frameworks should extend to current employees as well. You need an effective way to assess, maintain, and monitor the competencies of your existing team. By identifying specific behaviors and skills each role needs, you can make the best hire, but also identify gaps in existing employees and plan for training, which will improve the strength and competency of your team.

 

Use your competency framework

Once you’ve adopted a competency framework, you must incorporate it, educate recruiters and interviewers on it and why they should use it, and implement it straightforwardly.

For example, in the hiring process, creating a list of words and phrases to look out for that exhibit the behaviors you want is a helpful tactic. Similarly, listing qualities you no longer find important, such as having a degree from a prestigious university, can also be conducive.

Incorporating a competency framework enables you to strengthen your current team while ensuring new members display the competencies that let them succeed in their roles. This, in turn, benefits the organization as a whole.

 

Promoting corporate entrepreneurship with competency frameworks

The world is increasingly dynamic and flexible, with technology changing rapidly. Organizations also have to be just as flexible and fast-paced to keep up. This is evident in the success of edgy entrepreneurial corporations like Uber and Bonobos, who went from nothing to major corporations poised to take on the most traditional organization. Corporate entrepreneurship is the process of promoting internal entrepreneurship so that employees have the freedom and confidence to create efficiencies and new working methods for themselves—therefore improving the organization as a whole.

Competency frameworks allow you to recognize and promote the behavior and freedoms contributing to this behavior.

 

Identifying and implementing entrepreneurial competencies

Competency frameworks identify specific behaviors that contribute to entrepreneurial thinking. For example, you could highlight where behaviors—like risk-taking, trying new things, adaptability, and creative problem-solving—come together to generate new solutions and ideas.

By highlighting what contributes to a corporate culture of entrepreneurism, you can encourage, reward, and ensure employees have the operational freedom to change how they work. This also requires self-motivation, a willingness to learn, and the ability to adjust and take small steps.

 

Failing forward

Failing forward is the idea that you have to fail before you can succeed. By allowing employees to fail without severe repercussions, you foment a culture of constant, small failures leading to big successes. For example, allowing teams to try new things, even when they don’t necessarily succeed, allows everyone to take small steps and experiment in a safe space, which reduces risk.

This risk-taking behavior can be immensely beneficial in a controlled environment because developing new work methods, tools, and processes is increasingly important for organizations to keep up with the competition. This requires an increased level of risk-acceptance behavior on an individual level so employees can try new things without risk of reprisal if they fail (provided they get approval first) and look forward to a reward if they succeed.

 

Measuring success

While many HR tactics have been used to build corporate entrepreneurship, many of those lack a concrete way to measure success. When you allow failure, what does success look like? Competency frameworks let you define the behavior, attitudes, and product that lead to success. How? A person who takes risks and tries new things doesn’t necessarily do so with the benefit of the entire organization in mind.

By identifying the factors that play into success—such as keeping in mind the total impact on the entire organization, focusing on day-to-day work and long-term goals (a person spending all their time optimizing a process isn’t performing their job), and self-improvement, including the ability to accept and give constructive criticism, you can determine what makes this behavior work.

Risk acceptance and encouraging individual contribution are the two primary factors playing into successful corporate entrepreneurship, and competency frameworks give you the tools to encourage, measure, and quantify risk-taking behavior, motivation, self-improvement and development, and the behaviors that add to total employee contributions to the organization.

 

Using competency frameworks throughout the employee life cycle

Once you implement a competency framework, you can utilize it at nearly every stage of the employee life cycle. That includes competency-based hiring, development, and retention. Understanding employee competencies gives you better insight into where an employee fits and works best. It also reveals how much each employee has grown or changed since entering your organization so that you know which employees invest in personal growth and development and which don’t.

That insight into talent life cycle management can prove invaluable. But it starts with managing competencies, utilizing ongoing assessments, and offering development opportunities.

 

Perform regular competency assessments

Integrating competency assessments into the yearly performance review can be a great way to ensure that competency profiles stay updated. Here, you’ll likely want to use a combination of skills assessment, 360-review, and leadership review. Assessments and personality assessments can help by getting actual input from the people others work with is critical.

 

Map competencies to development programs

Mindfully employing competency frameworks can pinpoint and close skills gaps. It’s also invaluable for identifying people with competencies suitable for leadership roles who to upskill if necessary. Aligning development with competencies also allows you to measure outcomes from development through regular competency assessments.

 

Map leadership to competency

Once you’ve defined competencies for roles, including leadership, you can establish clear developmental goals for people who want to move into higher positions. Having a transparent map of required behaviors and skills for growth offers clarity and motivation for people to work towards where they want to be.

 

Wrapping up: Use competency frameworks to elevate your business

Although a relatively simple concept, competency frameworks map the skills and behaviors your organization needs. They can also improve many aspects of hiring, development, leadership, and long-term role management. At the same time, you must integrate these frameworks into the organization, introduce them to employees, and work them into business outcomes. It’s not enough to develop one; implement it, ensure its adoption, and continuously update it as roles and their associated skills change.


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