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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.


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.


  • 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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The essentials of sales recruitment

Whether you’re a small retailer or the world’s largest technology company, you need a great sales team to succeed. Recruitment is a significant part of that process, as you need the right people in place to ensure smooth, successful operations.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of sales recruitment, from an overview of the process, to hiring tips, in-demand skills, and retention strategies.

The sales recruitment process

Different sales positions call for different employee skill sets. For example, it takes a different type of salesperson to sell an enterprise SaaS versus a fashion line.

So, how do you know if a new sales representative will fit your organization’s needs? Pre-screening and skills tests like the Profiles Sales Assessment™ help ensure you hire the best reps for the right sales positions, and reduce common problems such as turnover and failing to meet revenue goals.

Similar to Apple’s hiring criteria, the Profiles Sales Assessment™ measures seven critical sales behaviors. These behaviors paint a picture of each sales candidate or employee to help you select the one most likely to succeed in a given role. The behaviors are: prospecting, call reluctance, closing the sale, self-starting, working with a team, building and maintaining relationships, and compensation preference.

You have to profile your organization, its needs, and your goals for the position, then build a recruitment process around that. We’ll walk you through this process and some main considerations.

1) Assess your sales role needs

A strong hire requires a clear understanding of the job role. It’s immensely helpful to have a competency framework in place for this process to establish what competencies benefit the position and why. However, you should always start by mapping your ideal candidate and establishing the required masteries and traits:

  • What is the position (Internal? External?)
  • What is the role? (Channel sales like Facebook will need vastly different skill sets than face-to-face or in-person sales.)
  • What are your markets? (Making B2B sales is a whole other game compared to retail or industry.)
  • What are your price segments? (High-end or luxury items sell differently than practical goods or those with a different USP)
  • How do you compensate your salespeople? (You’ll attract different candidates with a commission-based compensation scheme vs. fixed pay, for example.)

If you already have salespeople you can use competency frameworks and assessments to determine what makes them good. That can help you to track things like personality traits, behaviors, background, education, training, motivations, etc., and map them to success in the role.

2) Create a persona

It’s a good idea to craft ideal sales personas. However, you should avoid relying on these too much, or you may end up saying no to people who could make sales effectively, but in non-traditional or unorthodox ways.

Additionally, your new people need to work well with existing teams and fit the company culture. Ask yourself: Does the person have to be self-driven and accountable, or do they have to follow instructions and be good at following processes? If you want to use sales scripts, the former candidate type will be a poor fit and will likely grow bored quickly. So, you need some idea of what kind of person will fit well into your team and sales process.

3) Build job descriptions

Good job descriptions are important, not only for external hiring, but also for internal role management. The role needs to map to the possible as closely as possible. If you already have people in this role, it’s a great idea to interview them to create this description.

A well-written job description will also tell prospects what they’ll actually have to do:

  • Daily tasks, with a brief description of responsibilities
  • Skills
  • Required competencies
  • Nice-to-have competencies

Additionally, any public-facing job descriptions should include information about company culture, work structure, and compensation. The more specific you are about factors like pay structure and job duties, the more likely you are to attract the type of candidate you want.

4) Recruit ideal candidates

Depending on your organization and the size of your HR team, you might actively look for and approach candidates. You could also simply advertise job listings on boards and wait for candidates to appear. Generally, using both options in tandem is best.

Job boards – Job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster are extremely popular, and it’s highly likely you’ll gather plenty of good (and bad) candidates from them. Make sure you use a clearly defined hiring process. Some organizations also use an up-front screening process to filter out people who didn’t read the full job profile. 

Outreach – You also can reach out directly to promising candidates you’ve received via referral or whom you’ve researched via LinkedIn or another platform. Asking existing candidates for referrals can be a great way to find new candidates.

5) Screen top candidates

You’ll frequently receive more candidates than you want. In addition, many of them will be unsuitable for your role. Screening your candidates is an important way to filter out unqualified candidates and those who don’t meet your needs.

Calls/Video screening – A quick 15- to 30-minute call will allow you to screen for many personality traits, general compatibility, and overall behavior. Your recruiters need to look for defined competencies rather than base their searches on how well they get along with each candidate. 

Personality assessments – After a candidate has made it through basic screening, use personality or competency assessments to see how well the prospective hire maps to the role requirements. You should also consider if training some competencies is worthwhile if the candidate is not a perfect match.

Keep in mind though, that assessments have to be short because of the nature of sales positions, so don’t expect to learn everything from them. You can always follow up after the hire with a more in-depth personality assessment and remediation training if they’re the right person, but are just missing a few key skills.

6) Set up interviews with the team

Ultimately these salespeople will be working under the direction of a manager or director of sales. This leader should interview each candidate with the following questions in mind:

1) How well do they sell themselves?

Observe the candidate’s behavior and attitude during the interview. Did they arrive on time? Are they well dressed? Can they clearly articulate their skills and value?

Being able to sell their skills is one of the first things a salesperson has to master, so if he or she is unable to do that, then be wary of their persuasive abilities.

2) Can they sell our product?

A salesperson may be great at selling themselves, but you should also make sure they can work with your products or services. Ask them to start a trial period, handle a customer support interaction, or have them try to sell you your product on the spot. This will help you gauge their potential success as a salesperson in your company.

3) Do they ask good questions?

A job candidate who asks intelligent questions to understand what the job requires shows strong potential to be a good fit for your company. Hire someone who demonstrates critical thinking and seeks the knowledge they’ll need to be a great salesperson.

7) Implement strong onboarding

Your onboarding program should assess how people fit into the organization, introduce training, and provide coaching and mentoring to ensure the new hire receives everything they need to integrate into the organization smoothly. That might include: training to use in-house software and processes; mentoring on the sales processes for your software; or explaining the product or services before asking the employee to sell them.

A strong onboarding program ensures the new person becomes a part of the organization before they have to represent it to customers, which can significantly improve performance and engagement.

Traits to look for in your next sales hire

The best sales recruits possess positive characteristics and behave in ways that show they know what they’re doing and how to make a sale.

For example, Harvard Business School highlights the following characteristics:

  • Acceptance of responsibility
  • Ambition and a desire to succeed
  • Willpower and self-discipline
  • Goal orientation
  • Customer empathy
  • Honesty
  • Refusal to accept “no”
  • Outgoing

You’ll also want to look for behaviors like:

  • Punctuality
  • Strong communication
  • Setting expectations
  • Ability to demonstrate knowledge
  • Asking questions
  • Identifying and addressing objections
  • Confidence
  • Following up

So, if your candidate responds to a meeting invite with everything you need for the call, is punctual, sets expectations at the start of the meeting, has researched your business, asks questions, follows up to address objections, and closes confidently, you’ve found someone who’s likely a successful salesperson.

The skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace are evolving. However, the following seven skills provide a solid base for most industries. You should also map them to your own competency framework, though, to be sure they’re the skills your role needs.

Let’s cover some of the most in-demand sales skills we’ve seen across industries.

1) Patient

Patience is a vital skill in sales because the best salespeople know how to wait on a lead. It entails knowing how to nurture a lead instead of rushing them — for example, keeping tabs on that email lead who might become a customer in a few months. Patience is also necessary to provide good customer service since, needless to say, losing one’s temper with a customer is a major taboo in sales.

2) Strong speaking skills

Strong speaking skills are imperative for a sales position because they’ll need to know how to think on their feet, deliver a persuasive pitch, and facilitate comfortable conversation with a potential customer. If you’re a recruiter, look for experience that points to successful speaking abilities.

3) Self-motivated

It’s rare for a customer to fall in your lap, so salespeople must be self-motivated. Smart reps implement inbound and outbound marketing to find and close deals, and they don’t waste time waiting for the perfect lead to come to them. Indicators of great motivation in candidates include initiating a successful project, leading a team, and starting their own business or side project.

4) Resilient

Good salespeople don’t get discouraged when a sale falls through or a long-time customer leaves. Instead, they learn from their mistakes, improve, and remain persistent in their jobs. Look for indicators of resilience in stories of success. Ask candidates to describe a time they overcame an obstacle, or when they demonstrated resilience in the face of a difficult customer.

5) Effective storyteller

Sales is all about telling a story; you want consumers to understand the benefits your product or service will bring to their lives, and sales reps do this by painting a picture. Look at the storytelling abilities your candidates display in their cover letters and interviews. Ask yourself: How convincing are they? Do they bring the story to life?

6) Able to identify customer needs

One could argue the best salesperson can sell a motorcycle to a bird, but that’s missing the point. To be successful in sales, reps need to have an understanding of who your customers are and their needs. If they realize someone won’t find your product or service useful or a good fit, your sales rep shouldn’t sell to them. Instead, a good salesperson will accurately identify a target audience for whom the product or service they’re selling would be useful and welcome. It’s not a contest about who can make the most surprising sell; it’s about finding the right fit to close more sales.

7) Good communication

Look for strong communication skills, whether via email, phone, or in person. A good salesperson should be able to interface with a client on their preferred communication channel, stay on top of their messages so they don’t keep a client waiting too long, and know how to adapt their communication for different channels.

4 Tips for retaining your salespeople

Once you hire your all-star team, you’ll want to invest some time in retaining them as well. These four retention tips should help give you a strong start.

1) Give sales the information they need to boost conversions

Some sales teams are asked to perform miracles by converting customers with little to no data. The result can be poor conversion, customers who expect things that aren’t part of the product offering, and a lower satisfaction rate across both sales and customers.

Modern technology allows you to integrate everyone into the same apps so your sales team can see the product, understand customer wants and needs, and can view how customers use the product.

Tying everyone to the same tooling such as a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool will ensure sales has access to important information from customer service, marketing, product development, and the customers themselves so they can drive more sales. To gather helpful information that supports your sales team, create a feedback loop between customer service, marketing, sales, and product development. This loop will collect what customers are saying and what’s being developed so sales knows what to offer or promise.

2) Help set personal and professional goals

Sales can be demotivating when team members lack goals, achievable outcomes (other than meeting KPIs), and a means to track progress. To keep everyone motivated, work with each member to set personal and professional goals.

This can include personal development, as well as guiding individuals onto a path that supports professional growth, learning new skills, and changing perspectives.

Development is a marker of good performance, but it also shows employees you’re invested in their growth and that they have a future with your organization. Establish goal-setting initiatives to encourage a future-oriented mindset in your sales team.

3) Introduce team-based performance bonuses

Many organizations want teams to work together to boost performance as a whole, but still only offer individual performance bonuses. This naturally conflicts, as individuals are motivated to perform better on their own than with their team. Delivering team-performance bonuses where everyone or no one wins is one way to ensure all members cooperate and feel motivated to support each other.

You can continue to measure individual performance and highlight those who underperform or fail to meet standards using ongoing assessments, competency models, and actual performance frameworks.

However, be sure to give the most visible rewards to the whole team. Why is this important? A potential customer will likely interact with several members of your sales team, so everyone needs to be able to share and manage customers together to drive sales.

4) Create a culture of recognition and rewards

Sales teams can be taken for granted when things go well; as long as they meet performance standards, they’re just doing their job. Conversely, when operations are in a downward trend, they’re often pressured to boost conversion or numbers.

Taking steps to reverse this psychology and to recognize and reward good performance will help boost team motivation and long-term performance. Integrating emotional intelligence, recognition, and compassion into your work culture will go a long way towards improving performance.

For example, highlighting individuals who did exceptionally well during a weekly retrospect or meeting can boost both individual and team morale (e.g., “I want to point out how Dave handled that case on Thursday…”). You can integrate tangible rewards as well, but simple recognition can provide significant motivation.

Wrapping up — Master your sales recruitment process to build an all-star team

A good recruitment program can help you find salespeople who fit and contribute to your culture, organization, and team. That often requires competency frameworks, mapping skills to roles, and hiring for the specific factors that indicate success inside your sales roles. You can also train for hard skills to promote internally and expand your organization’s skills base.

If you don’t have an existing team, you can use an external sales competency framework and update it over time. Focus on soft competencies and strong personality traits to assemble a robust sales team that will drive conversions and steer your company to success.

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The complete guide to recruitment strategies

In today’s competitive recruiting environment, attracting and hiring the right candidates has never been more important: the top talent that fits with your organization’s culture and will stay with your organization long term. Your recruiting strategies can make the difference between success and retention versus high employee turnover.

Finding the right employees — the ones who fit with your team and are most likely to stay with your organization long term — has never been more important. As the way we do work continues to evolve, so too do our recruitment strategies. Sure, there are tried and true strategies and must-dos, but today’s most successful recruiters are always one step ahead of the recruitment trends and ready to capture the interest of top talent.

As the world adjusts to life post-pandemic, candidate expectations are much different today than they were two, five, ten years ago. The “Great Resignation” of 2020–2021 saw a mass employee exodus — about 40% of the workforce — and left recruiters wondering what they could do to attract this talent.

Now, recruiters are moving into a new period of time: one many are calling the “Great Rehire”. While this is an exciting opportunity for recruiters, it’s essential you’re getting it right and making the best possible hires to take advantage of this new chapter. This means making quality hires who will stay with your company, add to the corporate culture, and help you hit your growth targets.

The importance of hiring with retention in mind

A big mistake recruiters make is simply looking to fill a position as quickly as they can without considering the likelihood of that hire using the position as a launch-point to another opportunity with another company. When a vacancy is looming over your days, it can be tempting to focus solely on getting it filled. But, retention should always be at the forefront of every recruiter’s mind.

Employee turnover costs your organization

When companies have high attrition rates, the cost to the organization is enormous. The recruitment costs alone can account for as much as 150% of the role’s annual salary depending on seniority, experience, and technical skill. And that’s just the dollar cost. There are the additional but less tangible costs to your culture, employee satisfaction, and your company’s reputation as an employer.

Loyal employees reduce recruitment expenses

With the average cost of hiring a new employee ranging anywhere from USD$4,000 to USD$7,645 and beyond, it’s no surprise that hiring for loyalty and retention is at the top of any HR department’s agenda.

The benefits of a loyal employee extend far beyond the costs of recruiting their replacement. A loyal employee also brings:

  • Efficiency – the longer someone is in their role, the more efficient they become at tasks
  • Progression – long-serving employees tend to build their careers within a company, bringing you home-grown talent
  • Performance – loyal employees care about the growth of the company
  • Culture – loyal employees help to maintain a positive workplace culture.

How to hire for loyalty

The benefits are clear, but hiring for loyalty is easier said than done — with even your most promising long-term staff unexpectedly handing in their notice. The problem is that many companies focus on only one aspect of recruiting for loyalty when, in fact, they should be focusing on three.

1) Attraction

First, you need to attract loyal candidates to your vacancy by encouraging them to apply. Do this by:

  • Building an employer brand through recommendations, a dedicated careers webpage, and social media — somewhere that people aspire to work
  • Offering a competitive salary – it’s not the biggest driver of employee satisfaction, but it’s a driver nonetheless
  • Offering worthwhile benefits – sure, artificial grass and an indoor slide are fun, but top employee perks such as flexible working, free childcare, and remote working are better long term
  • Making the interview process as flexible as you can – it’s your first impression after all.

2) Selection

Once you’ve attracted candidates to apply to your position, next, you need to decide which of those candidates will be most loyal, while still fulfilling the requirements of the role.

Achieve this by:

  • Looking beyond qualifications – while skills matching is important, you also want to see qualities such as a willingness to learn, a passion for performance, and an ability to get on with people
  • Asking candidates for the reasons behind leaving previous positions – previous job hopping isn’t necessarily a bad sign. It might be that there wasn’t a career for life for them there
  • Assessing cultural fit – we all know how difficult it is to stay loyal when you really don’t fit in
  • Requesting employee referrals – current employees will refer family and friends because they see them fitting in, doing well, and staying.

3) Retention

Finally, once you’ve attracted and hired your employee, you then need to make them want to stay. Demonstrate the company’s loyalty and trustworthiness by:

  • Keeping salaries competitive – conduct regular market reviews
  • Delivering the benefits promised – if you said you offered free breakfast on a Friday, offer free breakfast on a Friday
  • Using employee engagement techniques to empower them to perform, learn, and progress — and rewarding them when they do 
  • Ensuring that everyone has the tools to do their job and a voice to contribute to the company’s strategy.

Read on to learn how you can attract the right candidates, wow them throughout the interview and hiring process, and keep them on board for longer.

Attracting the right candidates

One of the most critical pieces of the recruitment puzzle is getting the right candidates to apply in the first place. It can be difficult to find the right candidates with the education, experience, skills, and personality traits that match both the role for which you are hiring and the organizational culture as a whole.

There is no doubt that you will hear from candidates who are not a good fit, no matter how intentional your recruiting process is.

1) Write killer job descriptions

One of the best ways to uncover your ideal candidates is to write a fantastic job description that accurately describes the role and the opportunity within your organization. To write that job description, you must profile the role. 

That is, you need to clearly define and document the role: responsibilities and deliverables, expected output and key performance indicators, performance criteria, authority, and value-added activities. 

This will enable the new employee to understand what is expected from them, and give managers a way to measure success in the role, and to recognize high or low performance.

The most effective job profiles define what the employee should know, what they can do, and what targets will be used to track their outcomes. A good job profile will:

Define expectations: Employers who don’t have a job profile will often introduce a new employee into a team, and leave the team to introduce responsibilities and offer training. This often results in the new employee doing too little, or taking on more responsibilities than they should — which limits effectiveness over time.

New employees cannot know what is expected from them, even if they have done a similar role. A job profile gives them relevant and accurate information regarding their performance and deliverables, with no room for confusion.

Measure performance: A good job profile can eventually become a framework for job evaluation and, therefore, pay structures. Integrating job profiles into the performance management process allows you and the employee to see job progress and performance. 

For example, by listing expected tasks and defining key performance indicators, you can easily track if the employee is successful in their role. This makes it easy to set tangible targets against which new employees can be measured — which is especially useful for short-term contracts before a permanent contract is issued and for year-end performance review.

2) Market your culture

Top talent wants to work at the best workplaces. Having a great company culture is more than just a key aspect of recruitment; it’s one of the best ways of retaining employees. In today’s market, candidates have high expectations of their workplace.

To hire the best talent, you must promote your company culture. You can do this by using:

Social media: Social media is the perfect place to show off your company culture, and there are infinite ways to do it. You can post photos and videos of your company’s events, share employee stories, or even have your employees take over Instagram for a week. Showcasing your corporate culture gives candidates a glimpse into who you are as a brand and you the chance to shine the spotlight on your existing employees.

Your company website: When a candidate is looking for information about your company, where’s the first place they’ll look? Your website. Communicate your company vision, mission, and values here and tell potential employees how you will nurture their learning and development. You can include testimonials from recent hires and veteran employees for validation.

Job postings: Employment listings on your company careers page or a third-party site are likely the first thing a potential candidate will see. Use these listings as a chance to promote how great your company is and tell employees why they want to work for you.

3) Selecting contractors vs. in-house

When hiring for a particular role, ask yourself: Do I need an in-house employee or a contractor for this job? In some cases, you might choose to hire an independent contractor.

Independent contractors are a versatile and flexible workforce, brought into organizations for both short- and long-term projects. While independent contractors are largely seen as a readily available source of highly skilled labor, many organizations also see them as a risk, which impacts decision-making a great deal.

Independent contractors or freelancers are fast, efficient, and cost-effective. They aren’t typically entitled to the same benefits as regular employees, such as healthcare or paid leave. They also provide their own laptops, software or office space. Freelancers are flexible and usually hired on a project basis to get a job done with minimal supervision. (Although keep in mind that contractors or freelancers might be working with many clients at any given time.)

Hiring independent contractors or freelancers can benefit your organization in a lot of ways.

Flexibility – Independent contractors can be hired quickly and brought in on a needs basis to fill flexible and versatile roles. It’s a very low-cost way to complete short- and mid-term projects and goals, and gives you the freedom to bring skills into your organization without creating permanent roles or positions. This increases your organization’s agility because you can quickly adapt and meet needs by hiring someone from an external talent pool.

Reduced training costs – Bringing an independent contractor into your organization means hiring someone who is ready for your role or project there and then. You won’t have to adapt internal structure, offer training, or provide coaching to get them up to speed because you’re hiring someone who’s already there.

Reduced office costs – Independent contractors work remotely, in-office, and in flex situations and tend to bring their own equipment, supply their own tools and software, and aren’t covered by office benefits and perks. The result is a worker who operates with significantly lower costs, although this may be offset by a higher hourly wage.

Diverse experience – Freelance workers typically operate at high volume, taking on very diverse roles in organizations of all sizes. The end result is very flexible employees who are able to leverage their diverse experience for your benefit.

While hiring independent contractors offers a great deal in terms of pros, there are cons as well.

Complex office integration – Most organizations work to separate independent contractors in terms of software, tooling, and systems. This is especially true when contractors bring their own equipment. However, this can result in isolation. You could hire an excellent UX designer to support your design teams, but if that person isn’t in the same system as everyone else, you won’t use them to their full potential. If you do integrate independent contractors, ensure you treat them like employees rather than outsiders so that they can contribute to their fullest.

Difficult to invest in – Full employees give you opportunities to invest in their development and future, because it has a high chance of benefiting your organization. This means that independent contractors will limit your ability to invest in leadership development, employee skills, and training because that person can simply take those skills elsewhere at any time.

Short-term risk — Full-time employees are more likely to remain with a single company for years on account of salary and benefits. They’re typically more costly, because in exchange for their time, a company must provide support such as hardware, software, stipends, office space, government contributions, and paid leave. However, full-time employees are usually only employed by one company at a time and can be trained to fill a higher position, eventually landing in management.

The interview and job offer process

Once you have attracted top talent, it’s important you continue to deliver a great experience while also capturing the information you need to make the best possible hiring decisions. The interview and subsequent job offer process can make or break a candidate’s experience and serve as a precursor to whether an employee will stay with your company long term.

During the interview process, there are things you will want to consider carefully. Are you hiring for culture or talent or for skill and/or experience? Depending on the nature of the position, such as the department or the work environment (hybrid, in-office, remote), you will need to tweak your approach.

Hiring for culture fit vs. skill

The question of whether to hire for skill, education, and experience or for cultural fit is one that is raised often in recruiting. The biggest proponents of cultural fit hiring will say “You can teach a skill but you can’t teach fit”, and this is often true. But, you need to look at the full picture and understand the implications of hiring for either.

Hiring for culture or talent

Hiring for culture or talent means that you’re hiring a person whose personality and values are aligned with those of your corporate culture. A technology start-up might look for eager, driven, entrepreneurial employees who like to work hard and have fun — a candidate who has a great sense of humor and isn’t afraid of a challenge.

When hiring for culture, you’re hiring based on “soft skills”. These are skills that, though attained and honed over years of experience, are not necessarily “learnable”; interpersonal skills like being easygoing and jovial or quiet and serious.

Talented people display the behaviors and competencies that contribute to learning skills, to acting in ways that benefit teamwork and productivity, and to continuing to learn. Your hires might not have the exact skills to meet your needs in the short term but they will learn them over time. For some companies, this adaptability and commitment to learning gives both the individual and the team the opportunity to grow.

Hiring for skill or experience

Many modern HR and employee assessments define skills as hard skills, which are learnable and trainable technical skills. Hard skills are undeniably valuable in any organization: people need to be able to handle the software and tasks associated with their jobs and to do so in a timely and high-quality fashion. When you hire for skill, you’re hiring an individual who can immediately step into the role and begin producing quality work.

Chances are, you will need to pay a highly skilled person a higher salary than that of a lower-skilled individual. Further, if the person is highly skilled but has limited interest in learning more or is a poor cultural fit with your organization, it can stifle team growth and even lead to dissatisfaction and cultural issues.

So, how do you choose what to hire for?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. At the end of the day, it’s likely that a very skilled person is also a very talented person, who has committed considerable time, dedication, and learning to their skillset. A young, trainable person with a lot of talent may still have a lot to learn compared to a more senior person.

But, hiring a person with talent and a behavioral profile that meets your company’s needs will allow you to steer that person in a way that best benefits the organization, guiding their growth to help them be and do more with what they have, and to expand beyond the boundaries of where simply excelling in the technical application of their field would take them.

Look at the roles you’re hiring for and ask yourself: Do I need someone who can immediately begin producing work or do I have time to develop a new hire? The answer will likely differ based on the role, and you can make the best decision for each role by carefully assessing your needs.

Interview questions

Interviews can be unnecessarily long. To ensure you don’t waste your time (as well as your candidates’), try to narrow down your hiring questions to allow for more discussion. Here are three simple hiring questions that will go a long way to helping you gauge culture fit and get to the core of what your candidate is all about.

1) Why did you decide to become a [position]?

This question digs into your candidate’s motivations. Their answers will give you insight into what drives them and whether they will fit in with your high-achieving team. Does your company need someone who is driven by their peers, or a self-starter? Do you want someone who loves their role and learning new skills related to their job, or someone who values stability and monetary reward?

Learning why a marketer got into marketing, or a manager into management, can show you how they might interact with their colleagues and position. If someone became a digital marketer because they enjoy writing, that would indicate high-quality writing skills. If someone applied for a leadership position because they value organization and teamwork, it’s a good sign that they will fit in with, and optimize, a collaborative team.

2) Why do you want to work with our company?

This question provides insight into what the candidate knows about your brand and company in particular. You want to hire people who want to work with your brand rather than simply earn a paycheck. If they’re well researched and understand your company culture, brand vision, and overall mission, it’s a good sign they’ll probably do well with your company.

Look for answers that demonstrate why they want to work with [your brand], not just why they want to work.

3) What’s your ideal work environment?

This is a more general question that will give you insight into how your candidate prefers to work (alone, surrounded by mentors, something else) and whether they’ll be a good fit with the working environment you can provide. They might mention working hours, equipment, availability of mentors, company hierarchy, and project management tools. Take note of how many of their “ideals” align with the work environment your teams already thrive in.

These three questions are by no means an exhaustive list of everything you should ask to gauge culture fit. However, they provide a good starting place if you’re in the early hiring stages or only have time to ask a few questions per candidate.

How to hire remote workers

Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years and it’s no surprise why. A multitude of benefits come to mind when preparing to hire remote employees: working with people around the world, not having to commute, finding a balance between work and travel, and not having to pay for an office or facilities. The list goes on.

If companies want a great reputation for hiring remote employees, they need to read reviews and be aware of how they’re perceived online. If they do, applicants will be reassured they’re applying for a well-respected job.

This includes updating your About or Careers sections with information specifically designed for remote workers. When describing your company, be sure to:

  • Describe your way of working. Describe what the job entails and what employees’ obligations will be. Explain the level of flexibility you offer, paid and unpaid vacations, set hours, and so on.
  • Include employee testimonials. Ask your current remote employees to tell their story: what made them choose a remote job, and why they have stayed at your company.
  • Showcase in-person meetings. Share photos or videos from company events or retreats. Face-to-face contact matters: it builds a feeling of community and lets remote employees know they are valued and not forgotten.
  • Present the values that define your culture. Every company wants to hire and work with people who share the same values. Be open about what you’re looking for in employees and what kind of qualities are most important to your team.

All managers should be particular about what they ask potential employees during the interview process. This is crucial when beginning to build trust with remote workers. Managers should be prepared to notice any red flags during phone interviews when screening potential employees.

For most in-house positions, managers can ask potential employees to demonstrate their skills and abilities through mini assignments in person. For remote workers, their skills can be put to the test through online assignments. It is very common for hiring managers to ask their applicants to provide a portfolio of their work experience.

Managers should use an onboarding checklist to ensure their hiring process is streamlined and each applicant has the resources they need. Don’t be afraid to ask the applicants to expand on certain company core values. A question as simple as this can help weed out the weaker applicants.

It is imperative to set up phone or video call interviews with managers. Managers hiring remote employees for the first time should invite the candidate to visit the main office for a week or two. This will help both parties put a face to the voice or email when they begin to work with one another.

Create expectations from the very beginning, for both the employee and the employer so that remote employees know what is required of them. Managers are encouraged to mandate the expected workload on any given day.

Many remote employees work from home due to family obligations. Be clear about how many hours you expect them to work as a minimum per week. Managers should also be interested enough to ask the remote-working applicants what their environment will look like and all applicants about their time management and task management skills, and how they plan to handle or avoid distractions.

How important is remote working or flexible working arrangements today? According to Microsoft, 73% of employees want flexible work options to remain in place and 83% prefer a hybrid environment.

Hiring for hybrid work environments

Alongside the rise in remote working is the rise in hybrid working. Hybrid work environments are split between in-office and remote, and might include shared workspaces and other non-traditional work environments. Hybrid working marries traditional workspaces with remote work to support employees.

Hybrid work environments can look very different depending on the organization. Some companies have certain departments that work remotely or have a mix of employees who are all remote or all in-office. There may also be a split of X number of days spent in-office versus Y number of days worked at home or from another remote location.

The hybrid work environment is an attractive recruiting tool for companies looking for top talent. If hybrid work is an option for your potential candidates, be sure to communicate expectations clearly and detail any information about how hybrid works for your company.

Prioritize communication throughout

Communication is critical at every point in the recruitment process, and should be carefully considered in everything from your job profile and advertisement to how you keep candidates abreast of the stage you’re at.

By clearly communicating your company culture, the details of the role, and the expectations for the successful candidate, your potential hire will be well informed before they sign their contract. Foster happy hires, who are more likely to stick around and be successful.

Long-term management and recruitment strategies for retention

Retention is more than just a metric for HR departments to measure. Retention is integral to the overall success of your company, so you should always hire with retention in mind. Here are some ways to keep your retention rates high (as well as how to implement them).

1) Put people where they’ll be successful

Any role requires different skills, personality traits, and behaviors to be done well, so  outline the skills and personality traits that typically make someone successful in a role. This is where job match patterns come in as a useful tool for recruiters to define which behaviors contribute to job success, and which candidates make the best match.

Integrating job match tools into the recruitment process means establishing a framework to measure what success looks like in roles, where it comes from, and why.

Assess job requirements

Most assessment centers will offer a basic library of job requirements based on standards for an industry or role. They should then further define these job match patterns to meet the specific needs and requirements of your organization. This typically means using tools such as performance analysis, role interviewing, and role assessment to determine what contributes.

In most cases, an assessment center will consider factors such as:

  • Existing benchmarks and profiles based on industry standards
  • Performance data from your organization highlighting which persons excel
  • Interviews and assessments to determine which factors contribute to role success
  • Existing job profiles.

Job match profiles tend to be divided into three categories: organizational match (attitude and behavior), skills match (technical skills, degrees, etc.), and job match (personality, cognitive ability, and personal interests). Each of these will greatly affect an individual’s performance as well as their ability to fit into a role or team, which is why you should restructure job match based on individual teams.

Test candidates for job match

Once you’ve created a job match profile for a role or a specific position, you can hire candidates accordingly, using tools such as structured interviewing, test assignments, and a range of cognitive, competency, or behavioral assignments depending on the role and the traits you’re looking for.

You should work with an assessment company to determine which assessments you should be using and why. In most cases, you want a small series of assessments to give the most complete picture of the traits and behaviors you’re looking for, so assessments must often be tailored to the role. You can’t ask a candidate to complete assessment after assessment, so you should choose only the solutions that identify the most relevant information.

You can then use this data to connect candidates’ qualities to those of your most successful employees, rank the candidates based on likelihood of strong performance, and match them to the profile you’ve created.

Validate results

Job match patterns are valuable because they primarily exist to help you find candidates with attributes and behaviors matching those of your most successful employees. However, keep in mind that job needs change over time, and you may have overlooked personality traits or influencing factors for job success. Therefore, it’s crucial to continue validating the success of your job match profiles with continued performance review and updates. If candidates hired through job match programs don’t perform as expected, the job profile must be adjusted and improved so future candidates can meet those expectations.

Profiles Asia Pacific can help you assess candidates and current employees through a robust library of assessments to determine where your team members will be most successful.

2) Establish employer brand

An employer brand is not only an effective way to attract talent but also to retain your employees long term. Employer branding is not much different than consumer branding: it communicates what your company is all about and makes your culture attractive to potential employees.

To establish a compelling employer brand, you must:

1) Identify what is important to your ideal employees.

2) Prepare your company story and tell it in a way that draws people in.

3) Share your employer brand publicly through whatever platforms make sense for you (social media, website, etc.)

4) Make interactions with your company positive by delivering excellent experiences during the hiring process.

5) Be real and authentic.

6) Be consistent with your marketing brand.

7) Monitor your employer brand and respond to comments and feedback in a timely and professional manner.

3) Reward and recognition programs

Implementing reward and recognition programs is an excellent way to improve employee morale and boost retention. In fact, while this was once a nice-to-have, reward and recognition programs have become a requirement for organizations that want better retention, productivity, and satisfaction rates.

Reward and recognition programs can also play a role in your recruitment, as a proverbial carrot for jobseekers. You can include information about the programs in your About Us section of your website and in job ads, and even leverage these programs to create content for your employer brand, such as highlighting an employee or team on your social media platforms.

Most recognition programs focus on tenure, but you can expand your recognition to include things like Rookie of the Year and reward employees for effort rather than simply results.

4) Invest in your people

One of the best ways to improve your retention rates and to attract fresh talent to your company is to commit to investing in your people. Employees want to work for companies that will take a special interest in their development and growth. With this in mind, learning and development programs should be an integral part of your overall recruitment and retention strategy.

Wrapping up — Utilize these recruitment strategies to hire top talent to take your organization to the next level

Some elements of recruitment will never change. You will always want to attract top talent and retain great employees long term. But, as the way we do business globally continues to evolve, thanks to new technologies and ever-changing market needs, so too will your recruitment strategies. 

Profiles Asia Pacific is a leader in the human resources and recruitment space, offering the best in talent management solutions. Get in touch today to learn how Profiles Asia Pacific can help you improve your recruitment strategy, boost retention, and build a stronger workforce.

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Business leadership and succession planning: How to foster leaders from within

Good leadership and succession planning are some of the most critical ingredients to any business. The people who drive, strategize, and manage your organization are the people responsible for its successes and failures. Yet, many organizations rely on finding business leadership externally.

Finding and hiring good leaders is one of the most expensive and time-consuming processes undertaken by HR. In addition, hiring a leader who was successful in any role in another company doesn’t necessitate their success inside your own. Good leaders are made, not hired. Working to promote and develop promising candidates from within your own ranks will greatly increase the quality of leadership and culture.

Developing your own leaders from within the organization helps to reduce the total cost of hiring, cut leadership pipeline gaps, and ensures that new managers understand the organization and its culture.

Businesses need good leadership

No matter what challenges your business has, the bottom line is that it needs to improve results, whether it’s sales, networking, hiring or anything else in the business realm.

Trimming costs, reworking business processes, and even reducing your workforce are all things you can do to help your company improve its results. However, these are tactical tasks that can only be used for so much. To see consistently positive results, focus on improving productivity. Your team’s contribution to business success will be directly related to how engaged they are with the business and their jobs.

Employee engagement will affect the extent to which employees genuinely want to do well in their jobs and help their organization achieve its desired results. It affects their discretionary efforts or how far they are willing to go beyond their job responsibilities in order to help their organization. When employees are motivated enough to give discretionary efforts (without feeling pressure to do so from the company), that’s when you’ll see their best possible results.

Good business leadership, trust in leadership, and job fit are some of the most important factors in driving and fostering engagement.

What factors contribute to employee engagement?

  • Benefits – These include salary, health benefits, and bonuses. However, the motivational force behind bonuses only lasts until your employees receive (and spend) it.
  • Environment – It’s hard to improve employee engagement if their work environment is oppressive or boring. Try to inspire innovation in your office environment with a few creative tweaks.
  • Relationships – Employees with good office relationships are more likely to enjoy their jobs and stay with the company. Good, productive relationships help keep employees invested in the welfare of the company, whereas negative relationships could cause disengagement.
  • Job satisfaction – Employees with jobs that fit their personality, spark their interest, and suit their skill sets will be engaged simply because they enjoy what they do. If they are capable of doing something they love, engagement will follow.
  • Leadership – Managers and leaders are critical to employee engagement. Even if an employee has good benefits, work environment, relationships, and job satisfaction, a bad leader can sabotage employee engagement. 

Job fit depends on an employee’s ability to meet the skill requirements of a job, the match between an employee’s behaviors and the position, and the interest an employee has in doing the job. If there is a bad job fit, good management is impossible. In order to be a good leader, you need to make sure all your roles are filled by the right people.

“Look at any organization enjoying spectacular success, and what do you find they all share in common, besides their products or technology (which is potentially duplicable)? THEIR PEOPLE. Spectacular success is built upon the ability of the leadership of an organization to engage the people who work for the organization on a much higher level than their competitors can. High levels of employee engagement have been shown not only to contribute enormously to the organizational bottom line, but it’s also an almost unbeatable competitive advantage.” Deiric McCann, co-author of Leadership Charisma.

Good leadership is critical for building trust, which also integrates into how people stay, and work, with your organization. 

Trust is most easily established by creating close and personal connections, closing distances, and making everyone feel like an equal contributor. While this isn’t always possible with remote workers, taking the time to close perceived or actual physical distances is an important aspect of leadership. 

If you have gaps in leadership or, worse, bad leaders step into the role because you don’t have anyone prepared, all of that goes away.

What happens when you have good leadership?

Great leaders are an asset to any organization for the influence and effectiveness they inspire. When your leaders act with the right skills and use good techniques to make an impact, the results shine through in your organization’s culture.

Leaders should be able to establish a clear vision throughout the company, communicate seamlessly, and resolve conflict well.

1) Team members have the right attitude

The best managers lead by example and demonstrate professionalism, accountability, focus on detail, and honesty. They also reward their team members when they demonstrate those attitudes, encouraging preferred responses in different situations.

2) Teams have a shared vision

Good leaders clarify expectations for productivity and results. They communicate the value of individual work and align employees’ goals as they realize how their roles contribute to larger organizational goals.

3) Employees don’t shirk from accountability

Great leaders understand the value of accountability. They accept blame when things go wrong, instead of pinning it on an employee down the line.

This behavior should be reflected in your employees. If they make a mistake, they will acknowledge it immediately and try to fix it rather than trying to hide and hope no one will notice.

4) Teams are motivated by and interested in their work

Employees are motivated by their work when good leaders maintain good working relationships with them and understand their intrinsic drivers. Good leaders keep an eye out for causes of dissatisfaction and act quickly when something drains team morale.

5) People work together and eliminate redundancy

When you have one successful business unit, sometimes you get another trying to duplicate their efforts from scratch instead of building on what that initial team has already achieved.

The same is often true of internal processes in smaller companies. A successful digital ad will likely never be repurposed for use in video, print, or any other medium. Instead, the people responsible for building those products will simply create something new or work out how to get there from the ground up.

This process of ‘rebuilding the wheel’ is one of the organizational problems which social leadership works to circumvent. By bringing employees together and encouraging them to collaborate, good leaders can build cost-saving instances of sharing and co-creation.

6) Leaders invest in social leadership

One of the most difficult aspects of social leadership is managing priorities. Task-based leadership is often focused on accomplishing and achieving specific tasks. This can be beneficial in some roles and counterproductive in others. Social leadership prioritizes total goal accomplishment, personal development, and customer satisfaction. This enables or even empowers employees to do things in new ways, because they aren’t bound to completing specific tasks. This then boosts overall productivity over time.

What is succession planning?

Succession planning is the process of using a series of recruitment, talent development, and promotion to replace business leadership and key employees as they move out of their roles. Good succession planning takes a long view of factors like turnover, death, retirement, and promotion, working to ensure that new candidates are ready to step into those important roles as they’re emptied. 

The end goal is to create a leadership or talent pipeline for smooth transitions of responsibility and power. If new people are prepared and ready to step into roles, those transitions can happen with little to no disruption when those inevitable changes occur. 

This normally falls on the Human Resources, or HR, department, which manages succession planning through a combination of internal development, coaching, recruitment, and strategy. 

Having a good policy in place means you have the tools to pinpoint the traits and competencies that make up a good leader, what is needed to fill a specific role, and then to identify the employees with the right skill sets and talents to fill those roles — or to determine and create a pool of external candidates for them. 

Most importantly, it gives organizations time to prepare candidates, not just by offering training, but by introducing them to different roles, building work experience across the organization, and even allowing them to take on the role guided by the person they will eventually replace.

Having a succession plan means candidates can have their strengths and weaknesses evaluated and remediated, and be given support in areas that could be problematic once they step into the role. 

While succession planning is most often used in C-suite level business leadership, it’s valuable for any key role. If a role is critical to the company’s success, you need to have a successor in place. Organizations like Facebook actually ask their employees to have successors in mind. That sort of policy is extreme but is an example of how talent management can work into organizations at every level. 

Why succession planning

Succession and development planning helps you to identify, train, and improve the people already in your organization. There could be a leader sitting right in front of you — someone who’s never been given the chance to reach their maximum potential in the company. Assessments, training, and development can help you find them.

The starting point is always quality hires. Whether they’re fresh graduates or highly experienced, their attitude and their ability to learn and to fit into company culture is what’s important. From there, succession planning allows you to spot future role potential and offer training and opportunities to grow into leaders: from seminars and workshops to job experience and coaching.

Employee training and development benefits every organization. No matter your industry, your power is in your people. And if people know they have room to grow, the tools to perform their jobs, and the opportunity to improve and succeed, they will be that much more invested in your organization.

Plus, if you continually train your employees, you will have a pool of qualified applicants to fill positions of leadership when the company needs them. Once you begin investing in your human capital, you will find that continual employee development leads to higher productivity, reduced turnover, increased efficiency and financial gains, and decreased need for supervision.

In the end, you will have a company filled with leaders — skilled, qualified, and dedicated employees who will be valuable, irreplaceable assets — all you have to do is keep investing in them.

Benefits of succession planning for business leadership

Developing an internal leadership pipeline is crucial for filling gaps, scaling, and ensuring that new leaders will meet the needs of your organization. This is especially important for coaching roles, where candidates need more than just leadership ability but a high level of emotional intelligence, adaptability, and a willingness to teach and learn on a one-on-one basis, rather than simply guiding their team or branch.

Here, you can choose to select new leaders internally or externally, but internal development will give you more control over the skills, behaviors, and competencies of the individuals in your environment.

  • Succession planning saves time and money on filling roles when they empty.
  • A succession pipeline means you can curate the skills and competencies for creating success in a role.
  • Curating internal talent reduces the need to invest in external people — in a highly competitive business leadership market.
  • Creating career and development opportunities inside your organization boosts employee engagement and can reduce turnover.
  • Promoting internally improves your reputation as an organization that takes care of its people, which can improve candidate pools.
  • Business, and management, transitions become more seamless, reducing cost and disruption.
  • Existing key people can transfer their expertise through coaching and mentoring, keeping valuable knowledge inside the organization.
  • Management can identify and make the most of employees’ potential to maximize the value of hires.

What does a good succession plan look like?

Depending on the size of your organization and its goals, your succession planning can take many forms. However, in every instance, you need a process to recruit, select, and train future leaders. That includes having tools and processes in place:

  • Mapping key roles and leadership positions to determine which ones need successors
  • Assessing turnover rate and rate of needing successors
  • Using competency frameworks and assessments to map what good leaders bring to their roles. Most role assessment should start from competencies and core skills for the role – so you can look for people who have the attitude, personality, and soft skills to fit the position. Hard skills can always be trained in.
  • Assessing potential in existing employees and ascertaining how they match (or don’t) to necessary roles
  • Assessing which roles should use internal talent and which are a better fit for external talent
  • Creating a development process to help employees build the experience, skills, and competencies needed to excel in leadership positions for example, experiential development and job shadowing, cross-functional experience, and coaching
  • Tooling to manage employee competencies, development, and progress
  • Stakeholders who are involved in the process for example, by mentoring a future successor
  • Regular feedback to the candidates on progress, development, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Individual development plans to deliver the necessary support to gain required skills through mentors, job rotation, and so on
  • Trial runs, in which potential successors can assume responsibilities and learn how to handle the job

Setting that up can take time and investment. And it’s certainly a lot more than integrating digital learning and highlighting a talent pool. However, it will pay off in terms of reducing the total investment in new employees.

Mapping good business leadership

Good business leadership is often less about hard skills and more about soft skills such as communication and adaptability. You can always train in specific hard skills and experience.

Assessing competencies and performance in coaching roles will enable you to develop success profiles for those roles so that you have a picture of what good work looks like in that role.

Here, you should work with external assessment centers, which can merge their own external research with internal surveys to determine which behaviors and characteristics are needed in your specific roles, and for coaching.

You should look for factors such as:

  • Willing to learn
  • Communicative and outgoing
  • Self-motivated
  • Empathetic
  • Adaptable and creative
  • Able to build rapport and trust
  • Able to communicate ideas well
  • Good at their role and able to learn.

Creating performance models in this way identifies which traits or behaviors are trainable and which are more difficult to train, and allows you to assess how existing employees align with those models.

1) Communication

Most business leadership is about communication and that often boils down to charisma. Being a charismatic leader results in engaged employees, increased productivity, and positive results.

Deiric McCann, co-author of Leadership Charisma, explains how charisma affects leadership in the workplace, inspires good communication, and builds a seamless workforce of dedicated employees.

“In our research (400,000 employees rating 40,000 leaders worldwide), more than 40 percent of what we as employees, shareholders, or readers perceive as charisma is good communication. Think of any truly charismatic leader you know or have ever read – what do you remember? Their extraordinary communication ability (think ML King, JFK, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, etc.).” 

Leadership charisma is essentially good communication — a blend of soft skills and traits that allows leaders to: 

  • Create and maintain a work environment in which people are emotionally and intellectually committed to the organization’s goals 
  • Instill an energetic and positive attitude to inspire employees to do their best for the organization 
  • Create a common sense of purpose, where people are engaged and are inclined to invest energy, and even some of their own time, in their work. 

That’s the definition of the best sort of employee engagement, and it’s achieved on a long-term basis by good business leadership. If you can engage your people on this sort of level, then they will give their whole hearts and souls in the service of your shared vision — helping the organization achieve its results.

In one of the biggest studies on the topic (involving more than 90,000 employees in organizations in 18 countries worldwide), companies with such highly engaged employees achieve, on average, 51 percent more operating income than similar organizations with disengaged people, and 39 percent more earnings per share than those with disengaged people.

For example, research shows that people are very motivated and engaged by leaders who:

  • Have an ambitious vision that they communicate clearly
  • Take the time to demonstrate to their people what’s in it for them if they help the leader achieve that vision
  • Are interested enough to know the concerns of their people, and make great efforts to help them deal with those concerns
  • Help their people become the best they possibly can — both personally and in a career sense.

The key factor in leadership is a genuine concern that people get as much from the relationship with the organization as the leader, their board, and the shareholders. That’s what genuinely motivates people!

The moment an employee senses that their leader is less interested in them and their objectives/welfare than the employee is in the organization’s objectives, engagement begins to leak away. So, even a neutral leader can tarnish a brand image — by simply getting poorer results than those achieved by their peers in high-engagement organizations.

Of course, an actively negative leader will drive employees to become vocal outside of the workplace, which could have a negative impact on brand image.

Anyone who develops and works with the behaviors that drive leadership charisma will attract and motivate people to follow them, regardless of whether they have formal authority.

It is important that organizations stay alert and ensure they remain open to identifying and recruiting such ‘leaders in the making’ so they can put such individuals into positions where they can develop as future leaders and engagers of employees.

2) Emotional intelligence

In 1995, Daniel Goleman brought emotional intelligence to business, with a book of the same name. His theory, which was rapidly adopted by businesses across the United States, was that understanding your and others’ emotions was a valuable and even necessary skill for leaders and people management.

He hypothesized that a good leader must show emotional intelligence through five traits: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation (passion beyond money and status), empathy, and social skills.

Armed with these five emotional skills, a leader could surpass those showing any level of technical skill or intelligence by guiding employees, building bonds with those they’re working with, and establishing better trust and communication.

Why? Leaders have to guide and move people. Being good at what they do is not enough to motivate and inspire others. Emotional intelligence bridges that gap.

While emotional intelligence has traditionally been difficult to measure, competency frameworks give you the tools to recognize which behaviors positively influence a role, and how they do so. By creating a framework of what success looks like in a role, you can actively measure when leaders are fulfilling those obligations.

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Emotional self-control
  • Adaptability
  • Achievement orientation
  • Helping others to succeed
  • Positive outlook
  • Empathy
  • Organizational awareness
  • Influencing others
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Conflict management
  • Teamwork
  • Inspiring others
  • Leadership

Good emotional intelligence is critical to ensuring good communication and good leadership.

3) Strong ethics

A leader with strong ethics can a) adhere to strong moral standards, making choices based on an ethical code to follow company procedures and policies, b) follow the law, and c) make choices based on empathy. In real life, a strong ethical code results in leaders who follow the rules, respect the emotional safety of their employees, and work to build others up.

This enables a leader to build a safe environment where employees understand that they will be treated fairly and can therefore trust their leadership.

4) Empowering self and others

Empowerment ties into motivation and direction — giving others the tools and motivation to perform well in their jobs. This directly benefits any organization, because no matter how technically skilled the leader, they are wasting resources if they are trying to do everything themselves.

Motivated teams that understand they have the tools and resources they need are also more productive and proactive, and have more job satisfaction.

What does empowering self and others look like on the job? A leader demonstrating this skill allows employees to self-organize, provides insight and guidance where necessary, and empowers others to do their own work rather than taking it all on themselves. What else? They’re openly working to apply the same standards to themselves.

5) Open to new ideas

Being open to new ideas ties into several leadership competencies: flexibility to change, willingness to learn, providing room for trial and error, and willingness to adapt to new technologies and ideas. This means being open to admitting that you’re wrong, accepting ideas from unlikely sources, identifying and working to correct employee ‘tunnel vision’ or an unwillingness to learn or problem solve, and withholding judgment until hearing or experimenting with all the options.

Why? Taking an active problem-solving approach, whether to technology, tasks, or employees, is crucial to adapting to an ever-changing digital world.

Building new techniques and options requires a certain ‘fail fast and forward’ mentality, where leaders are encouraged to try new things, test, and allow small failures with rapid feedback and correction.

This not only encourages teamwork and collective knowledge but improves the overall capabilities of the organization.

6) Nurturing attitude

Workforce management is a valuable part of any organization, and any leader should be able to nurture those under them. A leader who is committed to helping employees do and become their best by improving their competencies and skills, nurturing future leaders, and building loyalty and motivation adds value to an organization.

This means that a good leader must be able to mentor and coach, recognize where people are succeeding and failing, and motivate individuals to improve.

7) Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is the driving force behind company growth and development. This competency includes being able to analyze the current situation; align the tasks with set goals in order to achieve the required result; manage budget, resources and timeline; and establish efficient practices.

And because strategic thinking is aimed at the company’s future growth, this competency is obligatory.

Without the ability to strategically think and plan, the leader won’t bring value to the company because this is what differentiates an average employee from a leader. An employee usually performs only their own set of tasks without going further than that. A leader, on the other hand, is genuinely interested in contributing to the company’s development and therefore has to face the future and think long term.

8) Conflict management and resolution

Successful conflict resolution is an essential skill for any leader. Unfortunately, workplace conflict is inevitable. Therefore, a good leader should be able to efficiently manage and resolve conflict without hurting the work process, the company, or the employees.

Conflict management includes:

  • Listening
  • Seeing the whole picture
  • High EQ
  • Efficiently communicating with employees and encouraging them to communicate with one another
  • Not passing judgment before hearing both parties

A leader usually has double responsibility during conflict resolution. Not only will their decision affect the company, but it will inevitably leave one of the parties dissatisfied with the outcome. Therefore, the primary concern is to minimize the effect of the conflict and strive to create a win-win situation for all parties.

9) Decision-making

Another critical competency for any good leader is decision-making. From task assignment to decisions that may impact the company’s well-being, a leader should be able to make rational and unbiased decisions that will bring value to the company.

Decision-making comprises many skills: finding, perceiving and analyzing information, listening and communicating, strategic thinking, conducting thorough research, and so on. When making a decision, a leader should always be impartial, calm, and rational, and consider all the internal and external factors at play.

The ability to make wise decisions is vital, as a leader can significantly optimize the whole working process simply by assigning the right person to the right task.

10) Good time and priority management

If someone meets all of the points in your performance model except time and priority management, they likely won’t be a good candidate.

While you can train both aspects in, an individual in a coaching role needs to be able to manage their time and priorities so that they make time for coaching. Even if they’re largely coaching new hires, they have to see it as much a part of their job as their day-to-day work.

Once you’ve chosen internal candidates, you can begin to prepare them for their future role as a coach with direct training, by broadening their experiences outside of their specific role and exposing them to other coaches.

Clearly communicating expectations, what good coaching looks like, and performance guidelines for the role are also important, especially once new leaders are moved into their coaching roles.

11) Ability to switch priorities

One of the most important bases for choosing a leader for promotion is their ability to adapt to new responsibilities. In technical roles, individuals are responsible for completing their work.

When they become a leader, they’re responsible for helping others to complete their work. Making this massive switch in mindset requires significant adaptability, meaning that not everyone can make the shift.

Coaches add value to organizations in dozens of ways. They encourage key people, build skill sets, and help people to solve their own problems and manage their own growth.

This applies both when you’re building coaches as a role inside your organization and when implementing coaching as a responsibility of leadership. Choosing leaders who already have what it takes to be good coaches will help you in this goal.

12) Teamwork

Last but not least is the ability to work in a team, but this competence consists of several behavioral indicators that help identify a true leader.

Working in a team not only means collaboration but also the willingness to display initiative, introduce new and efficient practices and methods to optimize the work process, and organize and manage tasks and resources. A leader has to keep an eye on the atmosphere and ensure that team members feel comfortable and there’s no tension among them.

Finally, being part of a team, a leader should be able to take responsibility, recognize and acknowledge team members’ achievements, and inspire others by their own example.

Tip: Leaders fit into multiple styles

While it can be tempting to create a single leadership competency framework, there are many types of leadership styles in business. As an example, you need different types of leaders running branches and departments than you do running teams, creating business strategy, and so on. 

Of course, most good business leadership also requires navigation between the different styles and choosing a way to lead that fits the situation. 

  • ‘Laissez-faire’ leadership – This leadership style acknowledges that employees are good at what they do, and leaders should work to enable rather than intervene in work. 
  • Democratic – Democratic leaders consult with teams and take their opinions into account, actively encouraging dialogue and participation in leadership and decisions. 
  • Transactional – People are rewarded for their performance and are primarily encouraged to meet objectives, which the leader facilitates with structure and guidelines. 
  • Transformational – The leader uses communication to enable, inspire, and encourage participation in the organization.
  • Situational – These leaders know more than one leadership style, adapt it to the situation at hand, and use different managerial styles where appropriate. 

If you know what type of leadership style best suits your role, you can look for that, or train for it.

Building Your Business Leadership and Succession Framework

Competency frameworks are crucial to recognizing the factors that make up good performance in your organization. One that includes leadership will allow you to spot leadership potential by looking at behavior and ability to learn rather than skill sets.

Conduct a talent review: 

  • Identify ‘high-risk’ roles
  • Determine who is likely to leave within the next year
  • Decide whether you can fill their roles from within the organization
  • If so, support the development of those individuals
  • If not, begin to seek candidates from external sources

Define ‘position requirements’ – Strategic positions require significantly more skills and experience than less senior roles, therefore it’s important to create elaborate position requirements. This can be accomplished using competency profiles.

Create appropriate ‘people data’ requirements – Those considered for strategic positions should be appraised in much more detail. For example, it’s recommended to look into explanations of ratings and descriptions of context. 

Plan development Any leadership position will have unique training and development requirements. These should be tailored to the individual candidate’s specific weaknesses, based on assessments, rather than general training. 

However, it’s also important to note that many people will need direct training and development to move into different types of leadership, especially as they make the jump from technical to managerial work.

  • Begin by defining the core skills, abilities, and competencies that make a role. You can do so with interviews, assessments, and performance reviews to see what success looks like in the role 
  • Assess competencies regularly to see who stands out 
  • Use 360-feedback to highlight those who are liked, respected, and show strong leadership potential
  • Create triggers that highlight potential and success for HR or HRM to follow up on 
  • Leverage digital learning and easy-access training programs everyone can use to determine who’s ambitious and who wants to learn 
  • Use competency analysis to determine skills gaps and offer training as the first step of leadership development 
  • Implement job rotation and mentoring programs after people start to close the skills gaps 
  • Use regular feedback and development as part of the process 

Once you’ve mapped key leadership skills per role, you can more easily see what someone might need to succeed in that role. From there, you can use custom development plans to get that person there.

Using job profiles

Job profiling is the process of mapping required behaviors, competencies, skills, and personality to success in a role. Creating job profile frameworks, typically with the support of a competency framework, flags specific factors such as behavior and personality that contribute to performance in a role.

Most organizations achieve these frameworks with an ‘out of the box’ solution in a framework designed on industry averages, which is then updated and tweaked to reflect unique role requirements in the organization. This second step is typically achieved through a combination of interviewing, reviewing performance results, and discussing job requirements with teams and people around the role.

Mapping assessment results to job profiles

Job profiles list a series of behaviors, actions, and skills that contribute to performance in a role. You can easily graph these results out, and then simply match individuals with similar results to see who meets the required traits. Here, it’s more important to pay attention to soft skills such as behavior and personality, which are more difficult to train.

Several types of people can often succeed (and to the same degree) in a single role. Your job profiles should encompass what success looks like and why that is success so that you can look for it in others.

Building a talent pool

Once you’ve established behaviors and competencies which contribute to success, you can begin to develop a talent pool. This means identifying high-potential employees, reviewing their strengths and weaknesses, and working to create strategies so that they and others can close those gaps and prepare for their potential new role.

This involves creating a small pool of employees who can receive leadership development, training, and even organization-sponsored education to prepare them to step into a higher role.

Many companies also benefit from offering a broader employee development program open to each individual in the company, which allows self-motivated staff to pursue learning and new roles. This removes some of the need for advanced evaluation and interviewing to qualify candidates for development programs — but may cost more in total to the organization.

Once you’ve determined the talent pool, you can score their competencies based on what is needed for potential future roles. Mentoring programs, developmental assignments, stretch assignments, formal training, and action learning are each extremely valuable in development planning.

A competency framework gives HR the behaviors and competencies candidates need, and allows you to put together comprehensive training to develop those with the desired qualifications and behaviors so that they are highly qualified for a role when it becomes available. In this way, organizations can ensure employee loyalty, reduce total costs, and reduce downtime because of gaps in crucial roles.

Using gap analysis to determine development direction

Employee assessments in hiring are most often used to directly match individuals to required or wanted behaviors and traits, but some of those skills will be missing. A gap analysis can help you determine what and where candidates need to improve.

If you’re planning succession and development, you should be significantly more concerned with personality and behavior traits such as personal motivation and emotional intelligence. These traits are difficult to train but greatly impact leadership and creative roles.

If someone shows great promise in areas that contribute to a role but are not necessarily hard skills, you can flag them for further development.

This process should always mean that you:

  • Analyze what’s missing from the profile to completely fill out the role
  • Discuss options with candidates and determine motivation and interest
  • Offer development opportunities in line with the role
  • Offer coaching or mentoring in line with the role
  • Monitor progress and continue to map personality to job profiles

For example, if someone’s assessment profile maps to success in a role such as branch director but they lack the key skills and range of experience necessary to make good decisions — here, it would be relatively simple to set aside room for personal development, to broaden their experience in other departments or branches, and to assign them a mentor or coach who could help bridge gaps relating to personal development.

Employee development

While you will often come across fast-rising stars inside your organization, intelligence is never enough to create a good leader. It’s only the bare minimum of what they need.

Offering development opportunities such as training or additional responsibilities will help potential leaders to develop their experience and employees to improve their EQ before having to bring skills into play as a leader.

Even if you can’t offer these opportunities to everyone, your competency framework will help you to identify the right candidates based on performance, ambition, and behavior.

Formal training is an option, but assignments and job rotation are the most crucial aspects of development.

Coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are critical to a leader’s long-term success and are one of the key benefits of using internal development for business leadership. You can pair people with those who are good in the skills needed to coach them. You can also implement direct coaching towards specific leadership skills like communication, emotional intelligence, time management, and business strategy.

From there, specific role preparation tactics like job mentoring and job shadowing are highly beneficial. Allowing that person to take on all, or aspects of, that job, with the support of the person currently in post, means they gain valuable job experience, before ever having to take on that role.

Making leaders accountable

If someone moves from a technical role to a managerial position, and continues to do technical work rather than delegating, they’ll create a bottleneck and will likely serve as a bad example for their team.

Ensuring that everyone understands what their role is, and their role in recognizing and developing potential leadership candidates, will help you avoid that. It also gives leaders the means to offer coaching and mentoring to potentials.

Monitoring and measuring success

Strong measurement and management of candidate progress is crucial to ensuring success, both in developing a technical employee for a management role and for promoting management to higher levels.

Tracking behavior and performance based on what’s expected in the role they’ll move into (rather than what they’re in now) will give you a good idea of where they are and whether they’re ready or need further development before moving up.

While developing leaders from within requires a strong HR and existing leadership structure, it’s significantly more effective than hiring externally. And, by developing leaders, you control their experience, opportunities, and training, thereby ‘growing your own’ to meet your specific needs.

Hiring for succession

Not everyone will be collaborative or productive without constant management and accountability. Not everyone can communicate well long distance or through digital mediums.

A successful hire is someone who is self-motivated, engaged and interested in the organizational goals, and very good at communication. This can be ascertained through skills assessments and competency or behavior frameworks to test how well people are likely to contribute in an unstructured environment, such as working remotely or from home. Eventually, not everyone will be a good fit for succession. However, leadership skills and potential are often simply good traits for an employee.

Pros and Cons of Internal vs External Succession Planning

Hiring a leader for any type of senior position can be exorbitantly expensive. With few leaders on the market, many will find themselves deluged with offers. You’ll have to offer high in terms of compensation, environment, and interest/challenge to get anyone to consider your organization.

Developing leaders internally can be expensive as well. Investing in individual development often means training, mentoring, coaching, assessing results, using assignments to broaden experience, and continuing to follow up to ensure the individual is moving in the right direction.

Though costly, it will vary depending on the individual and the role. Internal development also means taking on risk, because if the individual leaves your organization, they aren’t delivering a return on any of that investment.

Culture fit and culture awareness

Some organizations prefer to bring external leaders in to add new insight, new ideas, and new concepts. This can be extremely beneficial in that leaders with insight and experience in outside organizations have a better view of what you’re doing and what markets are like, and bring more diverse experience to your organization. This can pay off.

Internal hires are brought up inside your organization. They know how things work, why things are the way they are, and if you’ve handled development correctly, they have a deep understanding of your organization at every level. This enables applying the Shuari principle of understanding and mastering before making changes to improve.

CEOs like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, who has worked with Microsoft since 1992, are good examples of successful applications of using internal development for leadership pipelines.

However, it is also a risk. For example, Ron Johnson was brought to Apple, where he greatly improved processes and increased profits for the organization. Attempting to do the same thing at JCPenney, he displayed a marked misunderstanding of the organization’s target demographic and their stocks dropped by 51 percent. Internal people often don’t have external insight and might miss key flaws or bottlenecks preventing growth. And, internal hires are less likely to create the change needed.

Development path

Hiring externally means that every one of your hires will have had the chance to pursue roles in one or numerous other external companies. An external person will almost always have more diverse experience.

Developing leaders internally offers other advantages. You can optimize development and experiences to meet the needs of a role through assignments, training, promotions, leaders, and coaching. You can, in short, design what you believe is the perfect leader based on assessments and job profiling.

Internal development is a valuable strategy that can help you to develop leaders, increase the availability of candidates for roles when positions open, and improve the quality of hires. However, it shouldn’t be a sole strategy. In most cases, both have obvious pros, cons, and limitations, so a mix of the two strategies is likely to deliver the best total results.

Succession planning best practices

Getting started with succession planning can require significant investment from your organization. If you already have key factors in place, like competency frameworks and roles mapped out, it will be easier. However, you still have to invest in employees, in development, and in ensuring long-term success of the project.  

  • Invest in engagement – It doesn’t matter how much you invest in employee development if employees leave the organization before moving into leadership positions. Invest in keeping employees engaged and with the company first and in developing leadership capabilities second.  
  • Keep people informed – If someone is in line for succession, they should know and have the option to opt out, to invest further in education, and so on. That’s harder if you have a broader pool of candidates, but those candidates should know they have opportunities for growth and what they have to work towards.  
  • Implement regular feedback – Good feedback cycles allow candidates to discuss feedback with their mentors, to work on improvement, and to ensure that everyone understands exactly where candidates are. Here, 360, spring, and other regular feedback is much more valuable than once-per-year or other traditional feedback cycles. 
  • Invest in job profiles – Investing in job or role profiles helps you to map what success looks like in a role — in however many forms that happens to be — and then to train for those traits and behaviors. This kind of role mapping also enables organizations to better understand who’s qualified for what role because of overlaps or similar roles. For example, you can use a gap analysis to determine where a candidate has to learn or improve to meet the needs of the role — which you couldn’t do without first fully understanding that role. 
  • Leverage competencies – Competency frameworks define what soft and hard skills are desirable in a specific role, in a team, and in the organization so the people responsible for development can more easily see what they’re looking for and what’s needed. Once you have a competencies list, you can define what competencies make good leaders in each area, and then look for those competencies first and the hard skills like project management later. 
  • Deliver general development opportunities – Digital learning portals can give everyone in your organization the opportunity to invest their time in personal improvement, to increase their skill set, and to highlight themselves as ambitious and looking for more. 
  • Use coaches and mentors – One-on-one coaching and mentoring can help promising candidates move into roles much more quickly, because they have the opportunity to learn from people in those roles. Here, you also want to be sure to encourage diverse experience, rather than setting someone up to be exactly the same as their predecessor. Therefore, cross-role, and even cross-organizational, experience is desirable before moving someone into an eventual leadership position. 
  • Monitor and measure success – It’s not enough to offer training and development. You have to know what people are doing with it. If someone’s not making the most of the opportunities, it might not be the right time to move them up or they might not be as suited as you’d like.

Wrapping up — Invest in business leadership and succession planning for a strong, resilient company

Employee succession planning is the best way to ensure quality and continuity of business leadership. And that leadership is one of the most essential factors in ensuring organizational success.

For most businesses, ensuring continuity of leadership should be a priority. Integrating succession planning into recruitment, employee development, and even performance reviews — at every level of the organization — gives you the framework to recognize, develop, and train future leaders right inside your own organization.

Eventually, that could prove cheaper and could deliver better leaders than standard processes of hiring new leadership externally.

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Internal communication strategies for top-performing teams and organizations

Efficient communication is a powerful skill that supports our daily lives and processes. The quality of communication impacts how well we resolve issues, establish relationships, network, and fit into society in general.

At work, communication affects not only the well-being of employees, but also the quality of their work. If people are stressed, annoyed, or even scared to speak their minds, that will inevitably lead to poor performance, frequent errors, and a high level of employee turnover.

As such, employers need to place a greater emphasis on  internal communication to foster a positive work environment and maintain robust workflows. Today’s organizations use tools, training, and good management techniques to enable communication between teams, individuals, and between the organization and its people.

Is internal communication in crisis?

For many companies, organized internal communications are nonexistent. In fact, one study by Ragan shows that 34% of organizations don’t even measure internal communications. Those that do show abysmal engagement rates, with many having email open rates as low as 17%.

If your organization’s internal communications are in a similar state, this issue should be addressed and corrected. Some instances when internal communications need mending include:

  • Lack of a cohesive strategy across all departments and branches
  • No company-wide strategy
  • No company-wide distribution
  • Lack of unified messaging or branding
  • No alignment with goals or business strategy
  • Poor engagement or lack of engagement

Although assessing this data requires a review of internal messaging operations across the organization, that data is generally easy to acquire. Since you’re reading this article, you likely already have it. At the end of the day, internal communications should positively contribute to employee engagement, productivity, and overall happiness. If it’s not, it needs to change.

Benefits of improving internal communication

Good internal communication yields numerous benefits across your organization: McKinsey & Company found good communication results in a productivity boost of 20%–30%. When people communicate well, it creates ripple effects for more productive collaboration, stronger teamwork, and more enjoyment at work.

Improved performance and efficiency

Easy access to resources, knowledge, and people can save workers two to four hours every day. Good internal communications help facilitate this with proper tooling, establishing clear processes, and providing the knowledge to manage people and requests well.

Even simple tactics like using centralized file resourcing (e.g., a cloud drive), keeping channels open for employees to chat, and effectively communicating when and where people are online can decrease the time employees spend waiting on others, looking for files, or figuring out how to complete a process.

Stronger engagement

When teams can communicate easily with each other and with their leaders, they’re more engaged in the conversation.

Here, internal communication is often used to facilitate open conversations between upper management and their teams as well as provide an understanding of business goals and how they connect to what each group is actually working on.

That information is necessary to ensure teams and individuals have a purpose and clear goals (other than a task list), and that work is aligned across the business.

In the long term, improved employee engagement greatly reduces employee turnover, which in turn reduces total costs for the business as well, with less spending on the hiring and onboarding processes.

Effective project management

Teams that have the tooling, training, and resources to share information with each other effectively can work together effectively.

Ideally, that would include systemizing how people communicate, using project management tooling, and aligning project communication. Good communication is necessary for cooperative work between multiple people and especially multiple teams.

Build trust

Trust builds engagement, increases productivity, and increases employee retention. With it, leaders can hand objectives to teams and individuals with confidence and allow them to work on those however they see fit. It encourages individuals to put faith in the decisions their leaders make. However, establishing trust requires productive communication.

This includes leadership, emotional intelligence, understanding why people act and react the way they do, feeling comfortable sharing personal factors that might impact work and communication, etc.

All of that fosters healthy work relationships among coworkers. Ultimately, good internal communication cultivates trust so everyone can collaborate together with confidence.

How to set employee communication goals

Setting goals to improve communication is invaluable for organizations. To do so, you need to determine where communication is blocked or broken down, set reasonable goals for improvement, and decide how you’ll achieve those goals.

You can use the following process to set attainable communication goals and work toward achieving them in your organization.

1) Analyze existing employee communication

To establish goals for improvement, you need a deep understanding of your organization’s current state of communication. This involves analyzing how individuals communicate and how well, and what’s impeding better communication.

You can typically achieve this with a multi-part assessment, starting with a baseline of where communication should be. Most employee assessment organizations can provide data to this extent.

  • Self-assessment – Distribute questionnaires asking individuals to rate their own communication and that of others. Questions should ask why, where, and how communication goes right or wrong, and provide space for respondents to offer input on how to improve.
  • Leadership assessment – Have managers give input on how well their teams communicate, what’s impeding them, and why.
  • Review results – No matter how teams rate themselves, you can typically analyze actual communication by spending a small amount of time with the team or by asking questions relating to problem-solving, conflicts of opinion, and so on.

2) Review training and development possibilities

A formal needs assessment will determine where employees excel at communication and where you have gaps. For example, many organizations struggle with emotional intelligence, which is necessary for individuals to communicate with others in an empathetic manner.

Communication problems can stem from a range of issues, including:

  • Teams use different tooling and can’t easily communicate with each other
  • Individuals lack emotional intelligence and don’t take others into account
  • Work hierarchy gets in the way
  • Poor workplace culture discourages team members from speaking up
  • Some individuals simply don’t fit the team culture

This short list of examples shows communication obstacles can stem from HR issues that require improvement, organizational structure issues, and from individual failings that can be improved through training and professional development.

Identifying where your issues stem from allows you to target solutions and work to improve them.

3) Consider your employees

Organizations employ a wide range of individuals with different communication styles and levels of emotional intelligence. Take this into account when setting communication goals so that individuals who naturally struggle to communicate one-on-one or in group settings will still have opportunities to excel.

Implementing personality and communication assessments to determine how your people communicate can help you understand their needs and how to address them.

4) Set goals

Once you know your issues, how your individual employees communicate, and your potential fixes, you can plan actionable solutions based on realistic goals. For example, you could set a goal to “improve communication by 20% within three months of taking EQ training.” This is specific with a reasonable plan of action and quantifiable results.

You might also set goals such as “improve by X% after successfully restructuring team hierarchy.” Here, you tie goals to achievable actions that would enable the intended increase, making those goals much more tangible and realistic.

5) Make a plan

You need to have a plan in place to fill communications gaps, improve how people collaborate, and build the work culture you want. That might mean empowering people with feedback, creating spaces for collaboration, or introducing communication tools. It could also require assessing employees and assigning them courses, workshops, or coaching for improvement. Whatever you do, you need a plan with concrete next steps to implement your new internal communication strategy. Ask yourself:

  • What information does your organization need?
  • What information do your leaders need?
  • What information do teams need?
  • Where do teams spend the most time?
  • How often do you have to share information?
  • How does interpersonal communication happen? Is it missing something?
  • In what ways are those needs not being met? (Leadership, interpersonal, organizational?)
  • What is your communication culture?

Who should manage your internal communications?

Most organizations have four options for internal communications:

1) Human resources

In this situation, HR takes on the full burden of internal communications. An HR person is responsible for creating strategies, building campaigns, writing content, and distributing it all. Most small organizations with limited communications departments choose this solution.

However, it does mean your HR staff needs to be able to write and use graphical media in a professional way. Without these skills, you risk sending out low-quality content to employees, which might reduce engagement despite correct messaging. Internal communications can also inhibit value-added work.

2) Marketing

Some organizations shift internal communications completely to the marketing team because communications are often seen as a marketing function. However, marketing needs to focus on your external audience, not internal.

3) Marketing with HR alignment

In this setup, HR personnel are responsible for building strategy, setting goals, and aligning content with its own efforts, while marketing does the actual writing and distribution of the content. This gives organizations the best of both worlds, without unduly overburdening either department.

Most also seek to align this with top management to create truly cohesive messaging. A good internal communications strategy also ensures marketing has a rough idea of when and why things are happening. This allows them to better plan less essential communications around more significant ones so that, for example, they don’t send an unnecessary email on the same day as an important update.

4) Cross-functional teams

Some larger companies opt to build cross-functional teams for internal communication, sometimes these departments can be called People Operations.

These teams usually include one or two people with HR backgrounds, plus a few team members in marketing, product, and sales who can provide consistent updates from their departments.

This solution is ideal for larger organizations, as all internal messaging is handled by the same people in a dedicated environment. It allows for the most consistency across messaging while still incorporating input from HR on strategy and alignment.

Should HR be responsible for internal communications?

Human Resources often walks a fine line of sharing responsibilities with other departments like communications and operations. HR oversees human management across the organization, and that naturally overlaps with aspects of communication, team building, and finance.

Internal communication might seem like a communications team problem, and on the surface, it is. It also contributes to employee engagement and performance. Because of this overlap, many large organizations create custom internal communications teams.

So, if there is a communications team in place that can take on extra work, that team is a much better fit than HR.

Here, you should consider:

  • Is a communications team in place to take on internal communications work?
  • Does it have the capacity to take on that work?
  • Would it make sense to hire new people or build a team to take on internal communications?

This is important because while much of internal communications should be aligned with HR, it doesn’t necessarily have to come from HR.

For example, the communications team can send out periodic updates regarding company events, positive developments, etc.

The team should align closely with HR for events such as mergers, downsizing, performance reviews, and salary changes. However, some messaging doesn’t need HR input at all.

Deciding where communication comes from and whose input is needed should be a first step in remediating your company’s communication.

What happens if HR takes on internal communications?

If internal communications are delegated to HR, it’s important to set guidelines and processes to maintain quality and consistency.

  • Build a strategy aligned with business strategy and goals
  • Test and select communication tools that meet your needs and budget
  • Implement tracking tools to test engagement, open rate, click-through rate (for email), etc.
  • Carefully consider channels and how many can be maintained. It’s nice to be able to push data to as many channels as possible, but if employees are already managing other work, it might be too much
  • Establish a review process to ensure consistent quality. If possible, have someone from communications do a final edit on content
  • Reward employee engagement to encourage better communication across the organization
  • Make feedback and two-way communication part of the process
  • Avoid sending too many messages. If employees receive too many, they’ll stop opening them
  • Focus on transparency and maintaining trust
  • Adopt a specific style guide and format for each type of communication so that email, social media, videos, and other forms of communication all look relatively the same

Building an internal communications strategy means aligning communication with organizational goals and objectives. That might include communicating key business data at specific parts of the year, reminding people that performance reviews are coming up, introducing new hires, or congratulating everyone on a successful year.

Internal communication should pass on information, inspire and motivate employees, and ask for action. HR teams are best equipped to achieve this, so building strategy should almost always fall on HR.

Ideally, it will also be a cross-departmental or cross-team endeavor, with input and strategy from HR and content from marketing. If this isn’t possible, you can still use robust processes and strategies to create quality internal communications for your organization.

Giving your HR team control of internal communication

A professional HR team has a big impact on the company’s growth as well as its internal and external communications. Here’s how.

Employee engagement

A motivated employee is a great asset to any company. If a person is motivated, s/he is more likely to exceed the set expectations and deliver high-quality results in a stable and consistent manner. On the other hand, an employee with zero motivation can really hurt your company by not doing their job, compromising the company’s authority, and distracting other employees.

So, one of the primary goals of the HR department is to cultivate and maintain motivation among employees.

For example, the onboarding process is one way to engage an employee in the company’s processes. Though it may seem simple, onboarding is actually complex, consisting of many steps. It’s also the first communication with your employees, serving to introduce them to the company culture and ensure they have the tools to communicate with their teams.

Company culture

A company’s culture is the representation of its identity, values, and beliefs. If the employees share this culture and vision, they’ll find their work environment more comfortable and thus will be more motivated and productive.

Strong communication can help to build, share, and synchronize company culture and values. This is especially important as your business grows, as you will want to foster a culture of clear communication that facilitates teamwork and collaboration.

Crisis management

To identify and prevent problems, involved parties need to be constantly aware of what’s going on. The HR department helps with this by informing employees and management about any issues and aligning communication between teams.

For example, if an employee loses interest in their job, it could be disastrous for the whole project if no action is taken to address the problem. However, if the HR specialist identifies something wrong and passes the message along to a manager, it can prevent both the employee from quitting and the project from being delayed. By staying informed, a manager can assign appropriate tasks to the employee or even transfer them to another department.

External communications

While internal communications focus on building and enhancing the company’s image within the entity, external communications mold the company’s image for media, potential candidates, and other outside parties. This responsibility also falls on HR.

Outreach to potential candidates

The HR department can improve outreach to potential candidates by building solid company culture and motivating existing employees. If an existing employee is happy with the company, they’re more likely to share the company with friends and peers.

Overall, a good reputation and a low turnover rate at a company are enticing factors for many candidates. This draws in more talent to the company and contributes to its diversification and broadening of skills.

Remediating communication in your organization

Employee retention relies heavily on how well an employee can do their job, inter-company relations, and how purposeful the work is. Being competitive and offering a great benefits package improves employee retention, along with rewards, recognition, training programs, and a smooth hiring process.

However, many of these things count on good communication skills to succeed.

Below are a few strategies to inspire effective communication at all organization levels.

Keep employees informed

Provide regular and ongoing communication throughout the entire organization. Regular communication gives employees an idea of when to expect feedback or new information, and through which communication channels.

That might mean dispersing information across set portals like a Slack channel and a newsletter. It could also include sharing information about the company and goals during standups, or adopting extreme measures like Buffer, which shares every detail of its business, investments, and even salaries online.

Routine feedback will also help employees gauge their success and adjust their behaviors. Communicate their strengths, weaknesses, goals, responsibilities, and options for improvement every few months so employees know whether standards are being met and where they can improve.

Many businesses are increasingly adopting an open-door policy. This allows anyone in the organization to connect with anyone else, no matter how high up, to have a talk, offer feedback, or seek counseling.

You can enable this through channels such as email, in-person meetings, informal lunches, video chats, and more. With so many options available to make it feasible, having an open-door policy is beneficial for the company and an added perk for employees.

Ask for two-way feedback

Ask for employee input to create a company culture that encourages independent thinking and values employee opinions. Employees have unique insight on the business processes because they interact directly with your customers and company systems. It’s especially important to request feedback on decisions that affect them, such as new policies.

Most importantly, feedback should not be a once-a-year check-in. Teams should have weekly or biweekly retrospections, where members can share opinions and give and receive feedback.

In addition, taking steps like implementing review and approval platforms like InVision or can help teams to give and take productive feedback on work, collaboration, and processes. This shifts feedback cycles toward communication and collaboration rather than work.

Find different ways to discover opinions

Along with asking for feedback at quarterly reviews or meetings, you can also use assessments and surveys to identify turnover in your organization.

Host surveys, small group interviews, focus groups, exit interviews, and online questionnaires to discover why your best employees stay with you and why some leave. Once you have this information, you can begin taking measures to improve employee retention.

Deliver relevant messages to the right audiences

Certain information is relevant company-wide, such as an internal newsletter of upcoming events and holidays, or a quick email about an important happening in the office (e.g., construction or a power outage).

However, not all information is pertinent or helpful to every employee, so consider your message and intended audience before sending out any correspondence. Don’t clutter your employees’ inboxes with unnecessary emails, and be sure to send only important, relevant information.

If employees receive too many irrelevant messages, they may begin to ignore even the important ones.

Clarify roles and responsibilities

Make sure people know what they’re responsible for and why. While this is irrelevant for self-organizing and other team styles, for most, there should be clear accountability based on each person’s responsibilities, tasks, and outcomes; everyone should know where to go, and someone should always have the final say.

Skip unnecessary meetings

Face-to-face contact is great, but with people spending an average 21.5 hours a week in meetings, company’s need to find a healthy balance.

Cutting back on unnecessary meetings, using online tools, and relying on aligning teams rather than asking people to stay in meetings can improve efficiency while saving time.

Deliver training

If people are struggling with communication, offering training can help, such as simple communication courses and coaching.

Teams can also benefit from emotional intelligence workshops, learning how to work with other personality types, and other such teachings.

Use the right channels

Different employees communicate in different ways. Consider using multiple channels to communicate and, if possible, meet them where they like to talk.

For example, if employees prefer SMS for quick messages, invest in an unlimited messaging plan.

If you work with a freelancer who prioritizes email, send correspondences through that portal.

Establish your organization’s communication means and identify which ones will best reach each company segment.

Mass notifications

Social media posts, bulletin boards, and group channel updates are effective means to communicate alerts, emergency messages, announcements, and other elements of your internal communication strategy in the workplace.

However, while people like having a central place to see updates, you shouldn’t use this as your only medium of dispersing important news.

This is ideal for:

  • Mass messages
  • Invitations
  • Non-essential messages

Face-to-face communication

Technology is all around us, but it can never fully replace face-to-face communication. In fact, our brains are shaped in such a way as to seek physical interactions and respond to even the slightest signals from it. This helps us articulate ourselves clearly and understand the intentions of another person.

Face-to-face communication is a crucial strategic element in the world of business too. Research from Harvard shows a request made face-to-face is 34 times more likely to earn a positive response when compared to an email, proving the power of human contact. So, keep things personal to create a sense of team spirit and build strong links between team members.

For example, certain conversations are better had face-to-face when possible, or at least over a live video call. Some of these include:

  • Important updates
  • New hires or promotions
  • Having to fire someone
  • Personal information and updates
  • Warnings


Email is a great way to deliver both mass information and personal messages. If you send important updates, it’s important to separate them from a newsletter or other general mailing.

People may be accustomed to skimming correspondences or even deleting them without reading, so your big news will be missed if sent en masse. Instead, send important emails from a separate email address.

Smooth organizational communication is vital for running a successful business. At Profiles Asia Pacific, we’ve found good communication helps us avoid project delays and mistakes due to misunderstandings, and generally keeps things running more efficiently since everyone knows what’s going on.

Good communication at work and in leadership

Employees in today’s workforce can make sales, troubleshoot, advise, and conduct nearly any business transaction from any place almost anywhere in the world. However, with so many communication channels in use, a disconnect between people is bound to occur.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Poor communication in the workplace can cause frustration, misunderstandings, and lackluster performance, which usually results in employee turnover.

How effectively managers communicate with employees and how employees communicate with each other is a key component of a productive work environment. Just like typing, writing, time management, and organization, communication is a skill that must be learned and practiced. So, what can you do to improve your communication skills in the workplace?

A great leader must have a diverse set of abilities, including empathy, intelligence, decisiveness, and collaboration. They’re fully aware of what’s happening within their business and understand how their actions will affect others.

Good communication helps leaders work better with their teams, make more informed decisions, and improve their work relationships.

Here are a few ways your leaders can communicate well at work:

  • Ask questions instead of assuming
  • Be conscious of workplace boundaries and don’t cross them
  • Encourage cooperation and communication
  • Have a genuine interest in your team members’ lives
  • Empower your team to work independently
  • Avoid micromanaging
  • Develop and share a clear vision for the team and business
  • Practice empathetic listening

When to use different types of communication styles

Being a good leader involves knowing when to use which type of communication style with your team. Based on each scenario, you may want to tell, consult, delegate, or gain consensus. Google’s manager training reveals how to talk to your team:

  • Tell – Good for simple, time-critical tasks that don’t have much impact on the team
  • Consult – Good for decisions that don’t affect the team too much, wherein the leader retains final say of the outcome
  • Delegate – Good for decisions that are best handled by small groups or single individuals. Use this when the task will help the individual or group develop their skill set
  • Consensus – Use this when a decision isn’t time sensitive, but is significant enough that the entire team should be on board (for example, if you plan to reorganize the company structure or make a change in mandatory schedules)

Improve interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication is key to clear, open understanding between leaders, teams, and at any level of the organization.

Be clear and concise

Take time to organize your thoughts and make your deliverables clear and concise. Your manager and coworkers don’t want to sift through a bunch of filler words to uncover your main point. Avoid jargon and unnecessarily elevated words; you’re not writing an academic essay after all.

Uphold digital etiquette

Emails and text messages are notorious for misinterpretation. When crafting an email, read over it a few times to make sure the tone is professional, there are no grammatical or spelling errors, and that you followed the first tip (a clear and concise message).

If your request is time sensitive or deals with an issue, schedule a follow-up phone meeting to make sure your message was received as you intended.

Never respond to an email or text message when you’re displeased or upset — it risks becoming unprofessional, and can come back to bite you.

It’s important to remember not everyone has mastered or is aware of digital etiquette, so be careful to avoid making assumptions about messages you receive.

Be aware of your body language

Be aware of the message you send with your body language. Body language includes facial expressions, posture, eye movement, and your position in relation to the person with whom you’re speaking.

In the workplace, we need to pay attention to our body language, as it impacts the way people perceive (and thus communicate with) us. A person with crossed arms and a tense posture will appear much more distant and negative than a relaxed individual who looks you in the eyes and smiles.

Some basic etiquette to keep in mind when talking to colleagues is:

  • Maintain eye contact
  • Smile
  • Try not to cross arms

Another important social element to address is overfamiliarity. Some enthusiastic employees may constantly hug their colleagues, tap them on the shoulder or back, shake hands, or simply invade someone’s personal space.

Such behavior is often uncomfortable, intimidating, or annoying to others, so the best option is to refrain from it, except when talking to close friends or people who don’t mind it.

Flesh out your response

Being put on the spot is always uncomfortable, so when it happens, take your time to consider your response carefully. It’s okay to say, “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you.”

A rushed answer might convey incorrect information, give the wrong impression, or cause some other misunderstanding. Once you’re confident in your response, you’ll be able to communicate more clearly.

Practice listening

Listening is an obligatory skill for effective communication. Busy office life often implies rushing, and people try to express themselves as quickly as possible. Too many times though, we get so caught up in trying to get our point across that we hear what the other person is saying, but don’t actually listen to it. Make sure you listen to your manager and coworkers, not just hear them.

Doing so without interrupting or hurrying the other person is a sign of respect and professionalism. It shows you value your colleague’s opinion and are willing to consider it.

Use your body language to show your attentiveness: React to their words, mimic some of their gestures (it helps win them over) and watch their facial expressions (it shouldn’t be deadpan).

The biggest things to be mindful of during a personal conversation with a colleague are:

  • Interruptions
  • Pointless arguing
  • Dishonesty
  • A deadpan face
  • Crossed arms and a tense posture

Be personal

Communication shouldn’t be cold and matter of fact. Get to know the people you work with and let them know you care about them as individuals. Don’t isolate yourself in your office or keep your head down at your desk.

Knowing the background of whoever you’re talking to will help you frame where they’re coming from, their point of view, and how best to approach them. If you understand their motivations, you can focus on the topics that are most important to them.

Make communicating with other employees a part of your daily routine. Then, when you do have to discuss an important or touchy subject, it won’t be as difficult or awkward.

Moderate your tone

Keep your tone respectful, but authoritative. While you should always be respectful in your professional communications, you don’t always have to be apologetic. Understand how to stand your ground when necessary and recognize when it’s time to contradict someone politely.

Communication etiquette

Practicing good professional communication sometimes depends on the medium or channel you use. Below, we’ve provided some channel-specific tips.

Call etiquette

First, always introduce yourself. There might be hundreds of employees working in your company and most don’t even know the people who work on the same floor as them. So, at the beginning of the conversation, introduce yourself and clarify which department you work in.

Second, clearly state the reason why you called, and don’t hesitate to ask the person to repeat what they said if you didn’t understand them. It’s better to clarify one issue right away than have to deal with multiple in the future. Another good idea is to take notes during the call to ensure no important information is missed.

Finally, thank the person for their time when ending the call; this shows you treat your colleagues with respect and value their time.

Remember, your colleagues are working toward the same goal as you, namely, contributing to the company’s development and growth. So, invest in developing good communication skills to help achieve this ultimate objective.

You might also want to recap calls in writing. If you have a verbal discussion, follow up in an email and summarize what you discussed, any action points to work on, and ask if you missed anything. This provides a record for future reference and keeps all parties on the same page.

Written communication

Plenty of professional communication happens via texts, emails, or chats. So, it’s important to know the basic rules of professional communication on these portals to avoid missing important information and to be sure you’re heard.


Emails can be neglected, ignored, deleted, or lost if the sender didn’t care to craft a professional email. Here are the essential elements of a good email:

  • Informative and clear subject – a receiver should immediately grasp what the email is about from its subject
  • Well-balanced copy – not too short, but not too long either. Write all the necessary information and any useful comments
  • Don’t use emojis, GIFs, memes, etc. Keep the email professional
  • Appropriate tone – start with a salutation and end the email with a professional signature (i.e., “Best regards”). Don’t use slang or jargon

Additionally, take into consideration the receiver’s culture, time zone, and previous communication into account.


Companies use various messengers and chat apps. The cornerstone of professional communication in such messengers is respect for your colleagues and an ability to listen without interrupting. Additional guidelines to follow are:

  • Reply to chats and maintain traceability for discussions where you can
  • Clearly refer to what you’re asking for
  • Share files in chat
  • Follow up on any important communication with an email where it’s unlikely to be lost

Remember, there should be absolutely no harassment, jargon, or inappropriate wording in any written communication in the office. Also, always address the person you’re talking to, thank them for their time, and provide the information needed to keep all parties on the same page.

What to do if someone doesn’t respond professionally

Sometimes you end up in a conversation with someone who doesn’t follow professional etiquette. If you find yourself on the receiving end of insults, assumptions, or general ill-will, we’ve provided some suggestions to alleviate the situation:

  • If the person is acting poorly due to a misunderstanding, clarify or correct them. For example, if you’re an account manager and a client becomes angry because they’ve misunderstood the scope, politely bring up the original agreement and go through it.
  • Explain the situation from your point of view. If you continue to address someone politely and respectfully, it’s possible they may change their tone or back away from their anger. Giving them your POV also helps them to sympathize.
  • Most importantly, maintain your cool. Avoid swearing, getting angry, saying hurtful things, or making rude remarks.

In the end, you’re protecting your image as well. How you react to someone who is behaving poorly will reflect on you.

How to communicate with insubordinate employees

Insubordinate employees make things hard for their teams and other departments, which can hinder business efficiency.

The best way to handle this issue is to avoid hiring poor fit candidates in the first place, but if for whatever reason you find an insubordinate team member down the road, here are a few things you can try.

Avoid blame and agree on responsibility

Even if the insubordinate employee is at fault, blaming them will only cause the situation to deteriorate further. Avoid putting them on the defensive, which will make them even harder to work with.

Ask questions that prompt them to take responsibility. Once you both agree on what the employee is accountable for, it’ll be harder for him or her to say they were given an unfair assignment or unreasonable tasks.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What’s the best way you can contribute to the company?
  • Do you have any skills that are being underutilized?
  • What do you need to be successful at your job?
  • How will you help your colleagues succeed?

If people don’t improve after a general discussion, you can also try a performance improvement plan. This should align with training, coaching, or other resources to help them reach their improvement goals.

Listen separately

You don’t need to agree with someone to listen to them. Ask the employee to come by your office and explain him or herself in a private setting. This is important to demonstrate compassion and show your willingness to see every side.

However, avoid letting an insubordinate employee waste your and your team’s time. If you find yourself sitting with an underperforming employee every week who shows no sign of improvement, it’s time to cut them loose.

Know when to call it quits

Make an effort to reintegrate an insubordinate employee into your team. Your business has invested in them, and they’ve given their time and talent. However, if they fail to improve and continue to hinder your business progress, know when to let them go. Although it’s an uncomfortable task, you still need to meet your business’s needs, and if that employee is making it harder for their department to do their jobs, then they’re hindering your goals and shouldn’t be kept.

Get to the root of the problem to avoid it in the future

Whatever the outcome with your insubordinate employee, get to the root of what happened to avoid repeating the problem. If the issue came from a poor hiring process, fix it. If it came from bad company culture or frustration with a particular manager, investigate it further so you prevent other employees from becoming resentful, dissatisfied, or difficult to work with.

Internal communication tools

Tooling can make or break your internal communication. They’re the means through which you manage projects, share data, send emails, distribute content, etc. Using the right tool set will allow you to communicate with employees in ways that work for them. It’s important though to let teams have a say in what they use for regular work management, so bring them into the discussion when considering new tools.

For example, say you want the entire company on one platform, but your visual design team prefers to work with a whiteboard tool while your code team prefers to use Jira and Slack only. These preferences should be taken into consideration when planning your internal communication infrastructure.

If you’re unsure whether you have the right tools (or enough of them), look at how your organization communicates. Good signs you need more tools are: an inability to communicate, everything being in email, or poor project and communication oversight. You can always start out taking the IC Maturity Assessment to determine your gaps.

To help you keep everything well documented and maintain open lines of communication within your business, we’ve compiled a list of useful tools you can incorporate for effective organizational communication. These tools will help you have more productive meetings, communicate across distances and time zones, and ensure all necessary documents are in their place and available to those who need them.

Introducing tools correctly for company-wide buy-in

New tools can meet significant resistance from employees. You’ll find people simply don’t log in to chat, Slack channels aren’t used, emails go unread, etc.

When you introduce a new tool, employees should know why you chose it, what you’ll do with it, and what they need to adapt to it. That means sharing:

  • The goals for the new channel
  • Reasons for the change
  • Expectations for the new tool
  • When, where, and how training will be available

In addition, integrate any new channels into your processes. It makes no sense to introduce a project management tool if you continue to allow people to track work in Excel or another tool. Create processes that ask for accountability and actually use of the new tool.

Project management tools

These are tools you can use to manage your team communications surrounding projects and tasks. These tools help to keep information organized and important communication in one place.

  • Trello – Trello uses virtual Kanban boards to organize your to-dos. You can create boards for different projects or clients, and have lists and cards within those boards dedicated to your actionable tasks. It makes it easy to stay organized and in contact with your team. You can also assign members to each card so your team knows who’s responsible for what task.
  • Basecamp – Basecamp is an excellent, streamlined project management tool that allows you to separate your projects into different “camps.” You can separate clients, give them access, attach files associated with certain projects, and much more. Basecamp gives your teams a go-to place to learn about specific projects, read discussions surrounding that project, and is a great platform to host all your files in one convenient place.
  • Miro – Miro took the world by storm during the Covid-19 pandemic, and for good reason. This whiteboarding tool allows visual communicators to draw, write, and even use images and diagrams to communicate. It’s also extremely touchscreen friendly, making it a good fit for tablet and mobile phone users.
  • Notion – Notion is a note-based project management tool with a Kanban board, scheduling, and assignments. It employs an approach similar to Trello’s, but with added team and project management.

Granted, the success of project management tools depends on your organization and your team. Developers tend to prefer ticket-based project management like Jira. Marketers more often like Trello, Monday, and similar software. As long as teams are aligned on how they work together, project management tools can vary throughout your organization.

Quick communication tools

It’s a good idea to use online communication tools instead of relying solely on in-person conversations because your discussions are documented and archived for you to review later. If you forgot what someone told you in the morning, you can just scroll back through your messages and read it again. You also have more time to form your responses when conversing online, so communication is efficient and accurate. Below are some popular online messaging tools.

  • Slack – Slack is an amazing organizational communication tool that allows you to create channels with different members, customize your dashboard, add reminders to notes, and more. In fact, there are so many cool things you can do with Slack, there’s a guide on how to get the most out of it.
  • Google Meet – Google Meet is convenient if your team uses their Gmail accounts for work. You can chat with team members right from your email dashboard! It’s great for sending quick messages that you can look back on later.

Additionally, you can integrate free add-ons like Clockwise to automate choosing the best times for meetings. This allows people to focus more on their work and less on exchanging emails about when the best time for a call might be.

Of course, there are plenty of alternatives; intranet, social media, tools like Yammer, Microsoft Teams, etc., are all great options. You can try out a few, or ask teams what they prefer. For chat, it’s almost always better to have everyone on the same system. And, if you use Microsoft Office, you should probably use Microsoft Teams because everything integrates.

Announcement tools

These are the tools you can use to send out announcements, company updates, and general information.

  • A company newsletter — Many companies use email services to reach out to their clients, but it’s also great for internal communication. You can send out monthly newsletters or simple updates. One popular option for this is MailChimp, which allows you to segment contacts into different lists. Simply keep the list updated and send out a newsletter to your company list.
  • Internal website — Another great option for company announcements is to set up a private employee page on your website. This is simple and easy to do on WordPress, and it gives everyone a single place to check important dates and stay on top of company news. Make it your go-to location for announcing holidays, birthdays, special company events, and more.
  • Social media — Social groups can sometimes work well to keep your team on the same page. However, not all employees stay up to date with social media.
  • Slack — A dedicated Slack channel for important announcements and one for more general daily announcements is also a great choice for communication, with email to follow up on important events. Some options for this are Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Collaboration and creativity tools

Plenty of tools are available to help your organization collaborate and share data in simple formats. These include:

  • Canva – Offers quick templates and drag-and-drop social images and brochure creation so HR can quickly create graphics for newsletters, social media, etc.
  • Whimsical – Quickly build flowcharts and diagrams
  • Loom –  Record your screen and add video, text, or commentary for tutorials or quick help requests.

Data and resource management tools

Sharing data in a centralized place is another important component of effective internal communication. That normally means switching data collaboration to a cloud service such as Google Drive, OneDrive, or Toby. However, the tool you choose depends on your organization’s existing infrastructure and capabilities.

How to implement internal communication plans

A good communication plan outlines who needs to know what, when, and why. It essentially maps hierarchy and priority based on your organizations’ values and strata. For example, some organizations share everything with everyone. That kind of open environment builds trust through transparency. Others prefer to communicate information on an as-needed basis, keeping select people informed of internal topics and allowing them to decide to share it with others or not.

That kind of plan might look like:

  • Stakeholders and partners – A list of key partners and stakeholders mapped to information and what they should be informed of
  • Information trigger/What should spark communication
  • Communication activities (i.e., the events an activity triggers)
  • Team (who is responsible)
  • Strategy goals (what you intend to achieve with this communication)
  • Channels (how information is communicated)
  • Segments (Are there different segments? Do they need different communication formats?)
  • Costs (budget)

That can be applied to a C-suite list of stakeholders with business-critical events. However, you can also apply it on a team level, such as:

  • Team A and C working on Module D
  • Stakeholders taking time off/calling in sick, new hires, upcoming changes in direction, new feature requests, major stakeholder feedback, upcoming compliance, or cybersecurity activities
  • Data is communicated to the team lead and then to the whole team or scheduling a follow-up to ensure everyone is aware of the information
  • Team lead, HR
  • Teams should be aligned on the module, aware of dependencies and when internal resources are or are not available, and able to offer input on new directions and features
  • Email, during the weekly standup, in retrospectives
  • Team leads need information up front
  • Hourly salary x1 across the team + 2 hours per week from HR

Review communication regularly

Achieving good internal communication requires monitoring changes to communication. Your organization needs to implement methods to measure the impact of training, tools, and other efforts on communication.

It also means reviewing your strategies and updating them periodically so they continue to reflect your organization and its communication needs.

Monitor tool usage

If you introduce new tooling, keep track of how people use it, such as through Slack or other tools that offer usage statistics in the dashboard. If you can access those reports, use them.

If not, send out anonymous surveys to ask employees about adoption. If people aren’t using the tool, find out why so you can understand how to improve adoption or determine a better alternative.

Use surveys

Surveys and requests for feedback can provide helpful insight into the state of communication across your organization. Sometimes the focus is on tools and available tooling; other times, it refers to how management or the organization communicates in general.

You should also ask about interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and other nuclear interactions, as this data will reveal more specific aspects of communication in the organization and if remediation is necessary.

Importantly, these kinds of surveys have to be anonymous for people to feel comfortable answering honestly rather than fear repercussions. Sample survey questions include:

  • Are you satisfied with the available communication channels?
  • Is communication effective?
  • Do you have suggestions for improving communication in your team/the organization?
  • Is there a communication channel you don’t like?

Make sure you actually utilize that feedback. If you ask for it, but do nothing with it, people will no longer see the point in sending feedback and will stop sending it. Adapting tools and offerings based on feedback is one of the most effective ways to keep employees engaged, as it shows you value their opinions.

Ultimately, be prepared to accommodate their shortcomings, but not to the point that it becomes counterproductive. Learn to find the right balance.

Wrapping up — Invest in your internal communications for a stronger company and better culture

Building internal communication will boost collaboration and employee engagement, as well as reduce turnover. It improves how people work together in teams, increasing productivity and saving time spent waiting on others to respond or engaging in poor communication.

That results in a more efficient organization, with communication built on strong teams, helpful tools, and processes that enable clear interpersonal interactions.

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5 Ways to utilize a DISC assessment of your employees

Using personality tests during the hiring process has become common practice for many organizations around the world. They’re a great way to assess job candidates, making sure you choose the best fitting candidate for the job. In fact, it’s reported that over 88% of Fortune 500 companies use the MBTI personality assessment in their recruitment process.

But the usage of personality tests shouldn’t stop at the hiring stage. Keeping your employees happy and engaged should be a top priority for your company. By understanding your employees personality traits you can find out what motivates them and learn how to retain top talent.

There are many different ways you can use employee personality tests within your workplace. The DISC personality assessment is a versatile tool for analyzing an employees personality traits, making it an ideal solution for use within your business.

What is the DISC personality assessment?

The DiSC Model Theory, which was developed in 1928 by Dr. William Moulton Marston, provides a basis for us to understand different personality types and, consequently, their favored method of work and communication.

No personality is inherently bad for the workplace. In fact, it’s often poor management and a lack of variety that are detrimental. 

By understanding and incorporating various personality types into your company, you’ll have people whose traits complement each other and thus work well together, you can better manage interpersonal conflicts, and you’ll understand how employees learn best for trainings. 

As a result, you’ll have a better motivated, more satisfied organization and stronger teams.

The DISC Model states there are four personality types: Dominant, Influential (or Inductive), Steady, and Conscientious (or Compliant).

Dominant personalities are generally direct and have an air of inner certainty. They may interrupt, ask focused questions, and have a “tell” style of communication.

Strengths: Confident, determined, loves challenges, focused, influences others. On his/her best day, a dominant personality can be competitive, demanding, determined, strong-willed, and purposeful.

Weaknesses: Poor listener, can come across as arrogant, may push too hard, and doesn’t wait for feedback. On his/her worst day, a dominant personality can be aggressive, controlling, driving, overbearing, and intolerant.

Influential personalities are generally sociable, enthusiastic, and fast-paced. They also smile and gesticulate more.

Strengths: Quick to build relationships, friendly and sociable, adaptable, imaginative, and a skillful presenter. On his/her best day, an influential personality can be dynamic, demonstrative, enthusiastic, and persuasive.

Weaknesses: May lack focus, too casual for some, poor planning, poor follow-up, and can lose interest. On his/her worst day, an influential personality can be excitable, frantic, indiscreet, flamboyant, and hasty.

Steady personalities are generally slow to approach others. They may show hesitation, pause before replying, are slower in speech, and have an “ask” style of communication.

Strengths: Builds deep, long-term relationships, a natural listener, sincere, warm, and present. On his/her best day, a steady personality can be caring, encouraging, sharing, patient, and relaxed.

Weaknesses: Slow to adapt, may lack enthusiasm in asking for a decision, avoids rejection, and takes difficulties personally. On his/her worst day, a steady personality can be docile, bland, plodding, reliant, and stubborn.

Conscientious personalities are generally reserved and business-focused. They show little facial expression, ask detailed questions, and give thoughtful answers.

Strengths: Knowledgeable and detailed, has an air of competence, asks probing questions, and is thorough in following up. On his/her best day, a conscientious personality can be cautious, precise, deliberate, questioning, and formal.

Weaknesses: Initial interactions may be difficult, his/her questions may seem critical and insensitive, overlooks others’ feelings, and focuses on inconsequential details. On his/her worst day, a conscientious personality can be stuffy, indecisive, suspicious, cold, and reserved.

The key to successful communication between these personalities can be summed up in one word: flex.

The leader who can situate him/herself within this framework and learns to flex (that is, adjust their style to the needs of their employees) will notice a drastic improvement in team dynamics.

So, when do you flex? Whenever you notice a breakdown in communication or cooperation among coworkers, change your communication style to fit theirs. You can generally do this by matching their tone of voice and volume, pace, and body language.

But how do you communicate with each personality type? DISC provides the following tip for each one:

  • Dominant – “Give them the bottom line, be brief, focus your discussions narrowly, avoid making generalizations, refrain from repeating yourself, and focus on solutions rather than problems.”
  • Influential – “Share your experiences, allow I-style people time to ask questions and talk, focus on the positives, avoid overloading them with details, and don’t interrupt them.”
  • Steady – “Be personal and amiable, express your interest in them and what you expect from them, take time to provide clarification, be polite, and avoid being confrontational, overly aggressive or rude.”
  • Conscientious – “Focus on facts and details; minimize ‘pep talk’ or emotional language; be patient, persistent and diplomatic.”

5 Ways to use DISC assessments of your employees

1) Use DISC for employee hiring and promotion processes

The DISC assessment is all about people and relationships: how they interact with one another, work together, lead people and sell to customers. Although the DISC profile is not recommended for use during pre-employment screening, it can be used to optimize your hiring and onboarding processes.

The hiring process can be unfair and biased. When hiring for a job vacancy, hiring managers will often suffer from unconscious biases, including biases that make them more drawn to candidates that are similar to themselves. You can overcome this personal bias by understanding your own DISC style.

If, as the hiring manager, you know your own DISC personality style then you will be able to identify when you might have a bias towards someone of the same style or a bias against someone of the opposing style.

By using DISC to understand your existing team, you can also ask questions that will determine how the job applicant would fit into the existing team structure, or to determine how they may interact with others on the team.

2) Use DISC personality profiles to tailor communication

Within your organization, you can also use the DISC personality assessment to tailor your communication with different employees. By developing an understanding of your DISC style and your team members DISC style, you can adapt your communication method to improve communications within your team. As a result, your team will feel valued. Employees who feel valued at work have been reported to perform better in their roles.

If one of your team members has a high Dominance personality type according to their DISC profile, being direct and concise may be the most effective communication style. Meanwhile, an employee with a high Influence score may prefer personable and conversational communication.

Different communication styles work for different people. If you understand your and your team’s personality type, you can improve communication within your company team by informing your team what communication style works best for you and adapting your communication style to suit what works best for them.

3) Improve team productivity and efficiency with DISC

Team productivity and efficiency is imperative for the success of your workplace teams. By understanding the DISC profiles of each individual team member, you can help your team to achieve better results for your business.

Grouping people with different temperaments together could cause issues in your team dynamic, which in turn could impact the work produced by that team. Using the DISC personality assessment will enable you to prevent misunderstandings, miscommunication and personality clashes within your team.

As you understand each team member’s personality and working style, you will be able to determine how well they will work with other team members.

The DISC assessment will also enable you to identify team members that may have clashing personality styles. You will then be able to advise these employees on the best method for working together as a team.

The DISC profile can also be useful when implementing a team structure. Although DISC cannot be used to select leaders, you could use it to find the most effective leadership development and training for your team leaders. The Everything DISC profile for leaders is an effective tool for helping leaders to understand their own leadership behaviors and how they impact the success of their department or team.

4) Use the DISC personality test for employee development

Employees value personal development in the workplace. According to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning.

You can use the DISC personality assessment to further your employees’ personal and professional development. The DISC personality test can be used to help employees’ understand themselves and their own personality profile. Once they understand their personality style, you can then help them learn strategies to improve their workplace interactions and performance.

5) Motivate employees based on their DISC profile

Employee engagement should be a priority for your organization. Companies whose employees are truly motivated and engaged in their role are the most likely to succeed. There are more ways to motivate employees than simply through monetary rewards. By understanding each of your employee’s DISC styles, you can customize your motivation processes to help increase employee engagement and job satisfaction levels.

You can use the DISC personality profile to learn the dominant personality traits of your employees. Once you know their dominant trait, you will be able to customize your motivation processes to tap into their specific strengths.

For instance, employees with a dominant Conscientious personality style will be eager to maintain quality and accuracy in their work. Therefore, it may be beneficial to set them goals that they want to achieve based on their personality type.

Employees with a high Influence score may be more likely to be motivated by social recognition, group activities and relationships. These employees, therefore, may react positively to receiving recognition and praise, or being chosen to organize a social event for other team members.

No one motivation campaign will work for all of your employees. That’s why it can be beneficial to develop a deeper understanding of your employees and run motivation campaigns that suit each of the different personality styles identified by the DISC personality profile.

To summarize, the DISC personality assessment can help you nurture your employees and workplace teams, further their development and increase their performance levels. By developing an understanding of your employees personality styles, you will be able to optimize your workplace in numerous ways.

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How businesses benefit from diverse candidate pools

Candidate pools are necessary for everything from succession planning to filling vacancies as people leave old roles. You need to know who’s moving into upcoming roles, you need a pool of candidates to choose from, and the more senior that position, the more that has to be planned. But, even for junior roles where candidate pools are almost entirely pulled from job applications, diverse candidate selection benefits the organization in more ways than one. 

For example, diversity allows your organization to select from culture, complementary experiences, and different personalities, allowing you to bring different experiences and worldviews together, rather than having a homogenous culture. 

Of course, attracting that diverse talent often means nurturing the kind of culture that is welcome and open to it. Whether diversity means people with chronic disabilities, people from different cultures and continents, or even people who were educated in non-standard ways doesn’t matter – the organization’s culture has to be welcoming and open to seeing those differences in a positive light. Fortunately, that too can benefit the organization. 

Organizational diversity is something of a buzzword, contributing to everything from social responsibility to public image campaigns. But it also adds real business value. 

Diverse experiences promote creativity

If you hire all of your new people from the same place, the same businesses, the same schools – you can expect that for the large part, those people will have had the same experiences. They will have the same approaches to problem solving, to creativity, to building new products. That’s especially true for those that go to business schools, which can be influential in shaping how people think about business goals and strategy.

Mixing experiences, such as pulling candidates without that same education, looking for individuals who worked instead, finding people who studied in vastly different schools – such as overseas  – can change that. Suddenly you have people with a different worldview and a different approach to problem solving and strategy. And, that can be immensely valuable in helping your teams to look at things from new directions, to using a more diverse approach to problem solving, and to seeing different paths or avenues to getting to an objective. In short, adding different types of experiences opens the door to more creativity.

Switch focus to competency

One incredibly important aspect of that is to switch the focus away from classical education and towards skills and competencies. That shift is already visible in most organizations, but many want both. That can cut down on your candidate pool, especially when a candidate has experience in the role but not education. In many technical and digital fields, the experience is significantly more important anyway.

Sometimes you may want a certain amount of educational experience to show that your candidate can work well with others, follow rules, and excel in a high-pressure environment. These are important, but can also be discovered through competency mapping. Using assessments alongside competency mapping allows you to hire from overseas and offshore educational institutions that don’t necessarily have compatible degrees with the local education system.

Most importantly, once you skip asking for specific qualifications and start asking that the candidate prove they can do the job well, your candidate pool will expand and can even improve. It’s possible you’ll get more early applicants with no relevant skills, but a simple skills assessment before any interviews take place should filter those out. And, it means you are opening the role up to people who might not have had early opportunities, while ensuring people moving into roles are actually good at what they do.

How to increase your candidate pool

Use employee referrals

Referral and recruitment programs aimed at your existing employees can be remarkably effective. For example, people are highly likely to know others in their field. Whether that’s schoolmates, past colleagues, or people they met at conventions, people talk to and get to know the people doing the same thing they do. When you’re hiring, making roles visible to existing employees and offering incentives to refer those people can dramatically widen your pool.

Plus, those recommendations will come with layer of validation in that your existing employee thinks they’re good enough to be hired. You might be adding in people who are very similar to who you already have in the organization, they might be vastly different, but it’s a very simple way of broadening the recruitment pool and with little investment from the business.

Tap your internal teams

Internal job boards and promotion or horizontal moves can create a lot of diversity in your organization. For example, opening up internal job boards allows someone who’s bored with their role to move in a horizontal fashion to learn new skills and gain new experience.

At the same time, they bring the experience from their old role into the new one, creating a more connected and integrated company culture. Most importantly, enabling internal mobility, whether upwards or horizontal, means employees are less likely to leave the company when they do want a change.

Being able to actively apply for and get roles internally means they can simply change positions, ask for a promotion into a more technical or more leadership position, etc. And, because they already know other aspects of the business, those moves will create value in more ways than one.

Share an inclusive culture

One critical aspect of attracting candidates and expanding your hiring pool is to create a company where people want to work.

Bringing on diverse candidates necessitates building an inclusive culture. It doesn’t matter how many new cultures or perspectives you bring into the organization if those perspectives are then isolated and siloed by lack of acceptance. Building a culture that supports diversity and inclusivity might mean helping people to learn to communicate, it might mean offering workshops on thinking and reacting in different ways, it might also mean using personality profiles to build teams that complement each other.

However, it also means making diversity and inclusivity an active part of the company process. For example, supporting flex work so people can work from home some days. Or, hiring multiple people for one role, but with shorter hours. Those steps can do wonders for diversifying your talent pools, because even those simple two steps will open up hiring options for parents with small children, to people with chronic illnesses or disabilities, and to anyone who can’t work a full-time job for whatever reason.

Inclusive culture is necessary for creating diversity. But, the more diversity you foster, the more inclusive your culture will naturally become. It’s always a good idea to pay attention, to make sure that new people complement rather than clash with their teams, and to invest in ensuring people have the tools they need to communicate well. From there, if diverse people work together, they bring together experiences, perspectives, and education from different walks of life, which will benefit the business. 

Wrapping up — Diversify your candidate pool and don’t limit your teams

Stop limiting your hiring prowess by reducing your candidate pool to only those with specific educations, or similar backgrounds. Instead, rely on competency assessments to discover candidates who would be a great fit for the role regardless of background. To widen your candidate pool further, tap into employee referrals, look to internal job boards, and make your company a place where people want to work.

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What to do when you have an underperforming employee

If someone in your organization is consistently failing to meet performance requirements, is failing performance assessments, or is otherwise visibly struggling, you don’t always have to let them go. Instead, often, the solution is to take steps to help your employee boost performance. Doing so can mean offering training, moving the individual into a more suitable role, or defining and eliminating a problem or problems which might be impeding performance. Whatever the case, taking the time to help your employee meet performance expectations can be good for the organization – both in terms of saving on recruitment costs and in terms of building a better employee relationship and fostering loyalty. 

If your employer shows interest in helping you to succeed, you’re that much more likely to work hard and to be passionate for them. And that’s important, even when employees aren’t doing their best right now. 

Assess the Problem

People struggle for many reasons. In fact, problems resulting in performance issues might not and often are not the employee’s own fault. Instead, communication issues, team mismatches, role mismatches, or life crisis often underlying performance problems. Taking time to review problems, performance, and communication with the team, the individual themselves, and with their leadership can help you to understand what’s going on. That will, in turn, give you better understanding into what to do about it. Some common issues include: 

  • Mismatched Team – There are interpersonal conflicts in the team, the team is not matched well to allow everyone to succeed (e.g., personality types and work methods don’t match), or team structure doesn’t work for the person. Here, moving them to another team may resolve the issue. However, if they’re used to working with Waterfall and the team is Agile or another similar methodology issue, resolving the problem may require a shift in mindset from the individual themselves. 
  • Culture – Some people don’t fit into specific cultures. That can be difficult to resolve without real motivation from the employee. 
  • Role Mismatch – If roles have been shifted, the individual was hired for a role they don’t quite fit, or technologies have changed, the individual may no longer be a great fit for their role. If they have too much to do, not enough, are bored, or are unqualified for some of their responsibilities, obviously performance will be low. 
  • Leadership – If an entire team is performing badly, the issue almost always lies with leadership. However, poor communication or even interpersonal conflicts with leadership can also result in individual poor performance. Reviewing how an employee communicates with and to leadership can help you to understand if this contributes to performance issues. 
  • Personal Problems – Often, stress from home and family do bleed into the workplace. If someone is having problems at home, it will come back to work. This can be difficult to resolve, although you can assess the issue and offer compromises like working from home a few days a week or help with babysitting, etc. 

Shifting Roles 

If someone is clearly struggling with their role or team, a move might be the right call. Here, you should use a competency assessment to identify core competencies, determine what the employee wants to do, and then move them laterally into a new role. Paying attention to team and leadership fit during this move is essential. Placing someone in a role that maps to core competencies, with people who complement their communication styles, empowers them to do their best work. 

Offering Training 

If your competency assessments show that your employee doesn’t have the skills to meet their role requirements, offering training can help them to improve performance. For example, if a leader isn’t communicating with teams, emotional intelligence training can help. If someone doesn’t know how to use software, offering training can help. Asking people to take part in free training during work hours can greatly improve their ability to perform their job. However, it does require investment. And, many organizations prefer to roll out digital training across the full company to spread investment out- as that’s normally cheaper and more beneficial than offering the same training to one person. 

Provide Actionable Feedback 

If you’re using 360-feedback or another ongoing feedback program, it’s easy to offer actionable feedback to employees. If not, you’ll have to create this manually. Actionable feedback means recording instances of underperformance, asking what’s needed to resolve the issue, and sharing next steps. Here, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, relevant, and Time-Based) goals are always a good option. If actionable feedback doesn’t work, you can always move forward to a Performance Improvement Plan or PIP. 

Using a PIP 

A performance improvement plan (link here) allows you to highlight performance issues, create next steps for resolution, and set direct consequences for failing to meet those performance improvements. In most cases, a PIP should follow several instances of actionable feedback and warnings and it should never come as a surprise. Here, you highlight the performance problem, detail desired performance improvements, and then talk to the individual about what they need to reach those goals. If they can’t, don’t or otherwise will not meet the performance goals, you have room to move forward by firing them. 

Eventually, if your employee doesn’t change and doesn’t put effort into improving performance, it’s time to let them go.

Firing an employee can be difficult. However, you might not have options. 

Prevention is better than a cure

In most cases, preventing performance problems is significantly better than resolving them after the fact. Doing so normally means using HR assessments when hiring for new roles or when changing existing roles, mapping the results of those assessments to your competency framework, and ensuring that people meet the requirements of their roles. At the same time, it often means building teams based on personality and communication styles, using communication as part of employee culture, and making good, ongoing feedback part of normal work. 

When things go wrong with employee performance, it usually means someone has slipped through the cracks. Whether that means bad role fit, communication problems, personal problems, or other issues, it should always result in an analysis of what went wrong and how you can prevent it from happening in the future. 

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10 tips for firing an employee with empathy

Terminating an employee is always a major step and always a last or final effort after trying remediation. Unfortunately, if you’ve offered remediation issues such as coaching, training, and interventions like performance improvement plans (PIP), and had no success, you might not have much choice. Whether employees are failing to meet conduct requirements, failing to meet performance requirements, or slipping up in some other way, firing is sometimes the only option.

These 10 tips for firing your employee with empathy should help you to do so in a way that is humane, that avoids reducing morale for the full team, and which ensures the employee has the opportunity to move somewhere that suits them better.

Don’t surprise fire anyone

It’s important that firing an employee should be a last-resort measure. If your employee doesn’t already know their performance is in question, you shouldn’t be firing them. In every case, your employee should have received multiple rounds of constructive feedback, coaching, and performance improvement opportunities. By the time you’re ready to fire them, they should be well-aware that they’re not meeting expectations.

That means:

  • The employee should have received constructive feedback
  • The employee should have received, in clear wording, that they will face termination if things don’t improve
  • The employee should have time/opportunity to improve performance

That will mean some employees will start looking for other roles. If they do, the problem solves itself. If they don’t, they still get the upfront warning that they have to change or move on. And, that’s better for them and for their team.

Consider if an alternative role is a better fit

Sometimes employees are good fits for an organization but not for their team or for their role. For example, if someone previously did well under different management, a different system, or with different responsibilities, you have a good idea that the problem isn’t “them”. If you don’t have that data, it can be harder to make a decision.

If you have job roles, competencies, and required skills mapped out, finding that sort of match is also relatively easy. You just have to use an assessment to determine what your employee is actually good at, match them to a new role, and offer them the lateral move. While not everyone will be interested, it’s especially useful for:

  • Employees whose skills have aged out or been replaced by new software/tools
  • Employees who excelled in a different role
  • People who excelled in technical roles and are now failing in management ones
  • People who previously performed well before the scope or responsibilities of the role changed
  • Those who performed well before management styles changed

Essentially, if you have reason to believe that someone can perform well, you can always move them into a role that is a better fit.

Help the employee find a new job

Helping your employee find a new job as they leave your organization is one of the best things you can do for company branding. That’s why big tech firms like Netflix and LinkedIn engage in the practice. That helps the employee to be more satisfied as they move out of the role and into a new one. It also means they’re more likely to take a positive image of the company with them. And, when your organization goes to hire new people, those new people will be more trusting that if you choose to let them go, you’ll keep them on until you find them a new role.

Consider the full team

Teams often rely on each other for tasks, for workloads, and for projects. Firing someone, out of the blue, without consulting the team, can wreak havoc on your teams. Take time to discuss dependencies and projects with your organization can help you to pick an optimum moment to actually fire someone. That moment may never come. However, taking the time to consult with the team will give you a better idea of when and how to do so.

Take a humane approach

No matter how your employee behaves, they likely have reasons for it. Poor performance might be spurred on by stress, poor mental health, or problems at home. Taking a humane approach is important. That means being kind. It means acknowledging that life isn’t easy or perfect. It also means avoiding placing blame on the employee. Instead, it’s a good idea to express regret that things aren’t working out, to offer the employee the opportunity to come back later if they can resolve issues, or to offer consolation.

Bring performance notes and past conversations

Firing someone should always feel like it is being done for a reason. For example, if you’re letting someone go, you should bring those past conversations and performance notes with you. Reminding your employee of past points where they were given a warning can help them to link being fired to specific actions and activities. That gives them room to learn from it, to take notes, and to avoid those mistakes in their next job.

Be specific and clear

It’s important that when you go to fire someone, they understand why they are being fired and that they are being fired. It’s tempting to soften things by using indirect language. Eventually, that makes communicating the point significantly harder. A straightforward statement like, “As you know, we’ve given you several warnings relating to X. As your performance has not improved, we have to let you go. That means you will no longer have a contract with Company as of Date.” you can follow up with a more sympathetic approach but get the details of it out in a clear fashion first.

Allow your employee to share how they feel

Your employee may or may not have things to say to you. Try to let them share. If they have valid reasons for performance issues, you can take those into consideration. If you’ve heard them before or offered valid coaching, work style changes, or other aids, it may not be worth listening. However, taking the time to let them share is important to ensure they feel listened to and like a person to you and to the company.

Try not to overexplain

It’s easy to get caught up in feeling bad for firing someone and over explaining or repeating the same information. Try not to. Keep the actual information short, be direct, and don’t keep going over the same things. If your employee asks for additional information, offer it via email or in a printout. That avoids the risk that you might accidentally say things you don’t want to. It also avoids dragging out the process.

Offer severance

A good severance package can make a significant difference when firing an employee. That should include severance pay, any assistance you offer, help with resume, help with improving LinkedIn or other job-hunting profiles, a letter of recommendation, etc.

If someone has truly breached company policies, they might not be eligible for financial severance. However, you can still put in time and effort to ensure they can more easily move into a new job – whether you help them find it or not.

Firing an employee is never pleasant. People can react badly. People can also fail to understand why they are being fired. Taking steps to acknowledge their problems, to make the process as smooth as possible, and to ensure that everything is communicated in a clear fashion can help a great deal. And, eventually, if you’ve offered warnings, coaching, and performance improvement opportunities, you’ve already invested a lot in an empathetic approach before having to fire them.

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