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Personality and People Development: Driving Development Programs with Personalized Coaching

Internal development is increasingly seen as a critical strategy for HR. Once, primarily used for internal leadership programs helmed by the likes of Ram Charan and his Leadership Pipeline, internal development has stepped up to fill roles in employee retention, change management, digitization, and employee engagement.

Development gives companies tools to prepare people for change, whether that means training them for new directions their roles will take, new software, new positions, or simply preparing them to stay in the organization as their roles become redundant.

As a result, millions of organizations are leveraging internal development for reasons ranging from workforce shifts to offering job perks.

Many of those programs heavily rely on helping individuals to recognize what they’re good at and why, giving them coaching and career advice to help them shift into development programs that offer fulfillment and value. Here, personality and aptitude testing can play a crucial role in helping HR to define, strategize, and formulate internal development programs.

What Personality Assessments Should You Use?

Most organizations benefit from using a range of assessments and tests, typically mapped to an internal performance framework, aptitude framework, or competency framework. Some of the most common personality assessments in use include:

Big Five – Big Five is a standard but simple personality assessment utilized in therapy as well as work assessments, mapping people to 5 personality traits.

Myers-Briggs – Myers-Briggs is loosely mapped to the Big Five, but maps people to 16 personality types based on 8 diametrically opposed traits. This is the most common personality assessment used by organizations.

Keirsey – Keirsey focuses on identifying different personalities and how they differ, and then training individuals in how those differences are strengths.

DiSC – DiSC maps behaviors at work with the aim of helping people to be more productive. DiSC is useful for helping individuals emphasize and work on strengths while accounting for weaknesses, in work-specific environments.

In most cases, your organization will end up with an assessment provider rather than licensing and delivering personality assessments completely in-house. This will mean you’ll have access to more than one assessment and may be able to use multiple to provide more information, different angles of personality, and validation of results.

Working with Communication Type

Different people communicate in different ways, but most people understand at least some forms of different communication, such as introversion vs extroversion. People communicate in very diverse ways, experiencing the world differently, and learning differently.

Personality and intelligence modelling can help you to understand how individuals learn and communicate, so that you can group them into classes, pair them with coaches, and put them into teams with leaders they can learn from.

Nearly everyone’s heard the quote attributed to Einstein, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” but that applies to communication as well. If someone communicates in actualities, they’ll rarely follow abstract coaching. If someone is very emotional, they’ll take offense at someone being pragmatic. And, if someone is very pragmatic, they’ll take very emotional coaching as silly.

Understanding how people communicate gives you the tools to communicate in their language, ensuring that information is fully understood.

Understanding Motivation

It’s less important to understand how a person works and more important to understand why they work. Understanding motivators helps you to understand what to offer, develop, or increase in a person’s workday to enhance productivity, ambition, and learning. Personality tests often help you to assess and even train motivation, looking at factors such as what individuals care about, why, and how much.

While people development often includes aspects of motivational training and motivational coaching, it’s important to understand what you’re working with.

Are people motivated by money? Success? Status? The ability to develop themselves? Things that make work less boring? Engagement? How much of each? You can use this to develop learning profiles including motivational tracts to ensure people stay engaged with what they are learning, stay on track with why they are learning, and are fully engaged with the program and their work.

Coaching Weaknesses

Most personality assessments include some form of weakness assessment, where they will highlight what a person is or is not good at. This remains true whether you’re utilizing Myers-Briggs, a competency framework, or something like DiSC While it’s important not to use weaknesses to keep people out of jobs or to stereotype them, you can utilize them to drive training and coaching to help people develop beyond those weaknesses.

  • How do people’s personalities hinder their performance in their role? How can you coach that to adapt those behaviors to the role?
  • How do people’s personalities hinder their performance in their team?
  • How do personality traits influence communication?
  • How do personality traits negatively influence learning?

A good coach or trainer can utilize personalities to develop programs that help people to function better in their roles, to work on traits that might prevent them from moving into a desired role, or that might impede productivity or workplace happiness.

Growing Strengths

Coaching and personal development is often about recognizing strengths and helping individuals to grow those. Personality assessments are an ideal tool for doing so, because they recognize not just skills and performance, but also the underlying traits that led to those factors.

Understanding if someone is charismatic and outgoing which makes them well-liked as a leader or quiet and reserved but good at people management can also help you to make better judgement calls based on capability rather than simple results, because results are always complex and based on multiple factors.

People are different, nearly infinitely varied, and come with thousands of cultures, conceptions, and biases. Each of these will impact their performance, ability to learn, and development. But, personality type, even if narrowed down to as few as 16 types, can help organizations to identify what a person does well and why, how they learn and communicate, and how they see the world and people around them.

Understanding personality will help your organization to make better calls when designing personal development, to better fit the program to the individual, and to help individuals make better decisions regarding their own direction and learning.


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Behavioral approaches to improving net promoter score

Net Promoter Score or NPS has become the gold standard by which companies judge their interactions with customers. NPS was first designed by Fred Reichheld in 2003 and published in an article in the Harvard Business Review. It uses a single question, “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague” with a 1-10 scale. Most importantly, that number gives organizations a simple way to track customer loyalty and behavior.

While the NPS system has come under criticism, it remains true that customers who are willing to recommend your organization to others will grow your business. An NPS score increase of 7% typically tracks to a business growth of 1%. At the same time, initiatives to improve NPS only work if you actually understand what impacts NPS.

In most cases, a high NPS score tracks to high customer satisfaction, quality customer service, accessibility of information, and ease of service or product use. A surprisingly large number of these factors are impacted by internal company culture, or employee behavior. Why? Behavior impacts how people treat employees, how the product or service is created and delivered, and how the organization presents itself.

Encouraging Empathy (EQ)

Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quota, is important in changing how people react and respond to each other. A highly emotionally intelligent person is able to recognize their own and the emotions of others, respond to those emotions, and keep those emotions in mind when making decisions that relate to other people. Encouraging EQ normally means testing for it and then implementing workshops and training to develop EQ where it’s lacking.

For most teams, customer service and customer assistance are the most important for this behavior. However, emotional intelligence improves productivity and collaboration across the organization, which will eventually improve performance and results, which also impact customer satisfaction and NPS.

How much does emotional intelligence impact NPS? Cowry Consulting worked with Aegon B.V. to improve NPS through customer contact center interactions. Cowry identified issues relating to lack of human depth, lack of advisor understanding of how and why customers make decisions.

Cowry implemented training to help assistants understand why people make decisions, rewrote scripts to make them more human, and redesigned how information was presented to ensure it appealed on an emotional level.

Aegon also shifted internal policy to assigning a lifetime contact to a customer, so they always connected with the same person when calling. The result was an over 36-point increase in NPS, with a 68.5% increase in sales conversions.

Build Teams that Work Together

Your teams ultimately impact everything the customer is able to get out of your organization. Building smoothly functional, productive, and collaborative teams is essential to providing a good experience and a good product.

Healthy teams communicate, work together, aren’t afraid of disagreement, let each other be heard, and consistently work to improve. Achieving this can involve a set of behavioral training, matching personalities, and changing policies to allow people to work in efficient and healthy ways. Let’s look at some examples:

Marketing and Sales

Are teams setting the right expectations during lead generation or are they simply generating as many leads as possible? Is marketing following up with sales? Is sales closing with information connected to development? Are customers pushed through the sales process as quickly as possible to raise sales numbers? Most of these problems relate to expectations set around maximum sales and maximum lead generation. They don’t result in happy customers. It’s often a result of:

  • Poor performance and compensation systems (linked to quotas, not behavior and score)
  • Competition
  • Lack of empathy or concern for the customer

Product and Design

Are people focused on how the product or service offers value? Or simply on putting out new features? Is UX a concern? Are problems checked for and removed before they reach the customer? Is quality assurance involved in every stage of the process>

  • Assess how teams are connected to customers
  • Assess how teams are put together and how communication, management, and interpersonal styles line up

Customer Service and Support

Does customer service put the customer first? Are they looking at how and why customers are making decisions? Are hold times long? How does customer service treat customers? Does support make customers happy or just fix issues and move on? What are responses when there’s no clear solution?

  • Create policies that ensure teams have room to make empathetic decisions
  • Train support professionals in communication styles, EQ, and recognizing different types of personalities
  • Implement customer personas to help support professionals learn to recognize different communication styles and needs

You also want to look at how personalities link together in each team, ensure that teams actually collaborate, and that communication styles line up.

Building Internal Motivation and Buy-In

It’s difficult or even impossible to improve Net Promoter Score without encouraging employee buy-in. This broad term encapsulates motivating employees to engage with their work as well as with the customer, because, eventually, they mean the same thing. Teams have to fully engage with their work and believe in what they are doing. While many issues here are operational (management, work processes, lack of communication relating to short and long-term goals), many also relate to behavior.

Here, it’s important to understand employees. Using personality tests, EQ assessments, and behavioral frameworks can help you to map how individuals communicate, how leadership communicates, and how you can best fit that together or improve what you have through training and communication. Healthy teams engage with work, communicate better, and eventually produce better work – resulting in happier customers and a higher Net Promoter Score.

While there are many aspects to improving NPS, behavior and behavior management is important. The more you understand how people work and work together, the more you can ensure internal and external teams behave and collaborate in ways that add value for the customer.


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How Personality Types Contribute to High Performance Teams

Good team design is critical to ensuring the productivity and collaborative creativity of those teams. “High performance” in a team is often tracked to output in numbers, but often it links to how well people get along, communicate, and collaborate. Factors encouraging this include good leadership, policies and work processes, and emotional intelligence, but personality type is always a consideration.

People must fit into a team in such a way as to complement without copying the rest, so that they can work in a fast, efficient, and creative way. Most importantly, teams should be balanced mixes of different personality types and cultures, allowing for diverse opinions, different points of view, and a range of solutions, or a truly “high performance” team.

While eventually only team leads will have true insight into how individuals work together, high performance teams rely on having structure that purposely fits people together. Eventually, this kind of structure must be implemented into the hiring process, into team design, and into HR, so that everyone has the tools to hire and place people in ways that make sense.

Understanding Personality Types

Different organizations utilize different ways to categorize and define how people fit together. In some cases, you may want to use several. For example, Belbin Team Roles maps personalities and then asks 3-5 people to fill out roles that make up a high-performance team.

The most popular personality type indicator is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which uses 16 personalities loosely mapped to Carl Jung’s Big 5 Personality Framework. MBTI uses four dichotomies, or 8 personality factors to split people into 16 personality types based on how they interact, communicate, and handle themselves and situations. This method is the most common in that 89% of Fortune 500 companies utilize it during the hiring process.

Most organizations eventually utilize a personality indicator alongside a core competency or behavioral model for teams. This allows you to map skills and personality traits to what is already in the team, enabling better decisions and better team matches.

One of the easiest examples is creativity. If you were to take a single 5-person team and form it entirely out of people who excel at creating new things, you’d have a very creative team on your hand. They could collaborate to innovate processes, work, and tools across your organization.

If you make that same team out of people who excel at improving existing work, you have a team that would excel at maintenance, overhead, and day-to-day work. But, if you were to go half and half, you’d have a divided team that would be disadvantageous to itself.

Major Types of Communication

Communication is one of the most important factors of teamwork, and there are many types of communicators. MBTI groups people into four types, which can be further condensed into two types (SP and NF). The four types are:

Thinking – Thinking persons are decisive, systematic, and logical. They are critical, analytical, and judgmental, but communicate in straightforward, and clear-cut fashions. While this makes communication easy and can be very valuable on a team that wants to communicate and move forward quickly, it can be perceived as arrogant, condescending, and aggressive to more emotional thinkers.

Feeling – This group is sympathetic, warm, sociable, and supportive. Feeling types are warm, will go out of their way to be diplomatic and tactful, and will consider the emotions of most people in a room. On the flip side, they can be dramatic, emotional, sentimental, and fussy. Balancing these types with more decisive types is important.

Sensing – Sensing types are realistic and practical with a focus on concise and efficient communication, often at the expense of emotions. This can cause clashes with feeling types, because they can appear to be cold, demanding, and harsh.

Intuitive – Intuitive types often bridge Thinking and Sensing types with Feeling types, but bring their own adaptable and versatile approach. They communicate perceptively but with emotion, make changes based on facts and emotions, and are resourceful. They may also be impulsive, be easily bored, and may have unrealistic expectations.

Other frameworks utilize different types of communication, but it’s important that your communication types complement and get along. In most cases, you want to pay the most attention to abstract versus concrete thinkers, Feeling and Intuitive people tend to prefer to communicate in abstracts and guidelines, Sensing and Thinking people tend to prefer to communicate in precise words and exacts.

Creating a Balance of Personalities

Any team dynamic should be composed of balance, cognitive diversity, and variety. Individuals should be able to challenge each other to drive creativity and to build new things. If you simply fit like-minded people with like-minded people, you create silos, echo chambers where everyone simply agrees with a few louder thought leaders. The team becomes static and rarely creative.

HR should introduce and manage cognitive diversity as part of team structure. This means looking for different types of complementary personalities. It also means looking at culture, information processing styles, education, and work experience, but personality will play a huge role. Importantly, if you do introduce diverse personalities into a team, it’s critical to follow up, ensure that everyone is communicating well and with empathy, and that leaders are able to recognize and work with the different communication and personality styles present in the team.

It’s also important to look for balance. Diversity for the sake of diversity can be a mistake if it creates clashes or communication styles that are completely opposite.

There’s No Wrong Personality Type

While personality types can be valuable for helping you to build a diverse team, it’s important to keep in mind that no personality type makes someone uniquely suited for something. There’s no wrong personality type. Consider using your personality framework as a loose matrix of what is wanted or required rather than a die-hard rule. People can and will sometimes fit all the requirements and more, while not showing those requirements on a test, especially if that test is taken under pressure.

Your best option is always to ensure that your recruiter is cognizant, aware of how people work, and able to make judgement calls using perception as well as direct test results.

Personality frameworks are an extremely useful way to improve team design and team structure, simply because they give you factors to look for that help teams communicate and collaborate more efficiently.


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How Emotional Intelligence Drives High-Functioning Teams

Most organizations are obsessed with performance. The “high-functioning team” is the operational idealization of what a team should be. It collaborates, it works together, it communicates, and it resolves personal problems that arise without ever letting them get in the way of productivity.

While organizations have tried to achieve the perfect balance to achieve high-functioning teams through performance management, motivation, hiring and firing, changing hiring strategies, and shuffling teams around, no method proves quite so effective as implementing emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence or EQ measures how individuals recognize, understand, and act their and other’s emotions. It includes skills such as self-regulation, self-awareness, social-awareness, and effective communication, as well as empathy. And, it’s essential in teams because it impacts how team members collaborate, communicate, and share with each other.

Click here to be redirected to this article’s video version or go to the bottom of this page.

Teamwork takes Practice

Corporate teamwork is not a natural state for most people. The average person has not developed meaningful collaborative skills, despite years of working in teams. Instead, they’ve learned that other people slack, a few people end up taking on all the responsibility, and that standards and expectations vary from person to person.

At the same time, collaborative work produced in teams has more than doubled over the last 2 decades, people are asked to work together more often, in more ways, and to collaborate even when not in the same room.

Emotional intelligence allows team members to take other’s needs into account, to communicate for coordination, and to collaborate in meaningful ways. It also allows individuals to more easily grasp what others are communicating and why.

Communication and Collaboration Ensure Everyone Performs

Most performance management insights show that 20-25% of employees perform as much as 60% of the work and 3-5% of employees are responsible for 20-35% of meaningful collaborations. But what makes a high performer?

Harvard Business Review suggests that the primary differentiator between high and low performers is actually collaboration and communication. High performers have significantly larger internal networks, better communication skills, and focus on sharing information. The study, which included data from 50 fortune 500 companies taken across 5 years concluded that productive people connect with others, albeit in different ways.

Building emotional intelligence helps teams to communicate and to collaborate, while ensuring everyone is heard, listened to, and valued. This will, in turn, encourage the communication of those individuals, and likely improve their productivity.

Emotional Regulation Contributes to Productivity

Emotional regulation is a valuable skill for interpersonal communication, because it allows individuals to recognize what emotions they’re feeling and to discuss that emotion. It also allows an individual to recognize when their emotion isn’t called for or warranted (or warranted in a professional setting), allowing them to make better calls and to modulate their behavior.

Studies also show that productivity isn’t about in-depth discussion or having a perfect team. Good teamwork is about recognizing when a quiet member might want to voice something and asking, acknowledging when there are problems and discussing them, and treating others with respect, even when you don’t agree.

Good emotional regulation means that a person will respond calmly when someone is angry or confrontational, will respond with empathy when someone is upset or in a situation that could be hurtful, and will take steps to communicate in ways that are perceived well by their colleagues.

Empathy Builds Trust

In “Linking Emotional Intelligence and Performance at Work”, Vanessa Druskat and Steven Wolff share that trust is one of the critical factors for team performance. EQ is heavily linked to trust because it fosters an environment in which employees are able to establish emotional and psychological safety, to put themselves at risk, and to rely on others.

If a team member is willing to do more work because they know you’re struggling and empathize, you build trust. Emotional regulation (stability), self-awareness (humility and perception), and social awareness (empathy and social perception) result in people taking actions that benefit people around them, which will build trust. And, teams that trust each other can rely on each other.

Hard Conversations Build Team Strength

Teams that pretend everything is going well, ignore difficult conversations, or worse, have difficult conversations behind others’ backs are unhealthy teams. Decisions require complex interpersonal awareness, interplay, collaboration, and dissent.

People should be willing to challenge each other, step back and ask for opinions, and share emotions. Individuals should feel free to share opinions and ideas without fear or risk. And, problems and disagreements should be brought up and discussed in constructive ways.

If a team feels it can rely on its members to resolve issues, if people can openly talk about issues, and if people are allowed to have disputes and disagreements, the team will thrive.

Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Build a Sense of Purpose

High performance often depends on leaders, which is one of the reasons why many organizations are moving performance management away from individual performance and towards team performance. Leadership needs high emotional intelligence skills, simply because they typically have to manage and communicate with different personality types, people with different levels of emotional intelligence, and vastly different communication styles.

This requires a high level of external empathy, social awareness, personal awareness, and self-regulation. It also applies whether that person is an official team lead or an unofficial one, because leaders always impact performance.

Emotional intelligence has remained immensely popular since the term was coined by Daniel Goleman in the 90s. This means there are plenty of resources including assessments, workshops, and coaching designed to assess EQ in teams and then develop individual behaviors to achieve higher EQ for better performance, collaboration, and team happiness.

 


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The pros and cons of outsourcing your HR department

The digitization era is creating multiple changes and opportunities across industries, and HR is no exception. One of the most popular practices these days is to outsource certain departments to achieve maximum benefit with minimal financial investment.

While outsourcing development or design teams is common practice, more and more companies have started to outsource HR as well. For a long time, HR has been associated with in-house processes only, but its outsourcing could bring numerous benefits.

The pros of outsourcing the HR department

The process of outsourcing your HR department has some hidden gems that many company owners may not be aware of. But as soon as you see the whole image, you might consider trying outsourcing as well.

Reduced costs

The HR department doesn’t create any visible products (like software developers do) but at the end of the day, it’s up to HR to maintain a healthy work atmosphere and find the best talent for the company.

Logically, any company that understands the value of HR would want to have a well-organized and large infrastructure of HR specialists at their disposal. Unfortunately, not many companies can afford that. This leads to one of the biggest benefits of outsourced HR – the availability at relatively low cost.

Because the services of part-time outsourced specialists can cost less than full-time in-house services, it allows business owners to save money while retaining a high quality of work.

Different perspectives

In-house HR specialists tend to get used to the people and processes in a company, potentially overlooking certain issues due to the lack of unique perspective.

Hiring outsourced HR specialists will help you get an outside perspective that brings a fresh look and non-biased angle. Eventually, you’ll want your specialists to onboard and get used to the team as well, but outsourced specialists can usually pinpoint certain problems with your company, suggest possible areas for improvement and help you look at processes differently. And if the company experiences stagnation or cannot reach any significant progress, this is a really actionable method to try.

Better expertise

Outsourced HR can come at a relatively low price, while not harming quality of service. Outsourcing HR to specialists can even increase the chances of finding knowledgeable experienced professionals, with rich expertise who can deliver tangible results to your company.

When you have an in-house department already, collaboration with outsourced specialists can fill gaps in your in-house expertise. If your in-house team lacks a certain skill, but you can’t justify a full-time employee, an outsourced specialist will save the day and resolve the issue.

Focus on core processes

By outsourcing HR processes, businesses, particularly startups and small businesses with a core team, will free up your employees from the people management busy-work that was no doubt getting done out of scope. Once you assign specialists to work with the documentation and other processes you didn’t even realize could help your entire team, you’ll find more time for other role-focused tasks.

Outsourced HR helps a company focus on  core processes and ensure the company moves in the right direction. With dozens of minor tasks, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and shift away from the main goal.

The cons of outsourcing the HR department

Even though outsourcing HR seems like a good idea so far, there are some red flags to look out for, and other items that could mean it’s not for you.

Lack of loyalty

Companies spend a fair amount of time on their internal PR strategy, ensuring that all employees share the company’s goals and are loyal to it. So it’s interesting how some HR specialists who promote loyalty and engagement may not be so loyal themselves.

In the case of outsourced specialists, get ready for a low level of loyalty towards the company. Such specialists are not paid for loving your brand – they are paid for fixing certain issues. Though it may be a problem for some company owners, for others it’s acceptable to sacrifice loyalty if a specialist can get your processes back on track.

Lack of knowledge about internal processes

Even if your outsourced HR specialist comes up with a brilliant strategy, if it isn’t applicable to your business and team model, it won’t help you at all.

Whereas in-house specialists know the ins and outs of your company, outsourced HR professionals may not have such in-depth knowledge. This can harm their efficiency and could introduce problems in the pipeline.

Risk of losing confidentiality

Every good company cares about the confidentiality of its employees and their personal data.

However, because a HR professional closely works with people, they might obtain sensitive data. When not handled carefully (although uncommon), it can create data leaks.

When choosing an outsourced HR department, be careful to ensure trustworthiness and have the proper documentation in place (ie. NDAs and other agreements).

Conclusion

Outsourcing your HR department can improve your operations, but first you should define your business goals, current issues, and expectations.

It may happen that you already have all the needed assets and tools at your disposal and do not need third-party assistance. Or it may happen that only a third-party intervention can set things right for your company.


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Managing virtual project teams

Companies across the world have gone through (or are considering) a permanent shift to remote work in response to the “new normal” that is a worldwide pandemic. However, remote working isn’t a new concept. You could argue that remote work first began 1.4 million years ago to the hunter-gatherer culture of Africa. The medieval period of England also saw people working from home as dressmakers, butchers, and watchmakers, to name a few.

These days, remote work is an important part of our working culture as companies are embracing remote work more than ever. As a team leader or project manager, this shift to remote work can also mean having to manage remote teams. Managing virtual project teams present different challenges to leading a team on-site. As differences in time and place add certain complexities to project work, it’s important that you understand how best to manage a virtual project team.

In this article, we’ll share our best practices for managing a remote project team, so you can lead with confidence as a remote project manager.

Communication is key

Communication is an important component of any successful team. In order to work effectively, team members need to be able to clearly communicate with each other. However, working remotely can put strain on team communication, especially if team members are working in different time zones.

One solution for improving communication for virtual project teams would be to make use of virtual communication tools. Instant messaging programs such as Slack are great for bringing remote team members together, helping them to have quick, fuss-free, two-way communication.

Similarly, you could use video call software to help mirror on-site team meetings by allowing everyone to see and speak to each other during the video meeting. Zoom allows users to record meetings, meaning your team can re-watch the video to recap on key points, or if they were unable to attend the meeting due to being in a different timezone, they can catch up on the meeting at a time that’s suitable for them.

Using digital tools for communication is perfect for creating effective asynchronous and synchronous communication. Misunderstandings can happen in any work environment. With 97% of employees citing lack of alignment within a team as impacting the outcome of a task or project, it’s evident that transparent and open communication is key for the success of a virtual project team. Using these tools to stay in the loop with your team can also help you to swiftly resolve any conflicts and prevent strain on the team.

Define roles and responsibilities

There’s nothing worse than a disorganized team. If you are leading a remote team, you will need to clearly define team member’s roles and responsibilities. When teams have clear functions and responsibilities, they know what is expected of them and work more efficiently.

To determine the roles and responsibilities of your virtual project team, you need to consider what tasks need completing, identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and refer to their existing job description. By considering these factors, you can allocate work to your team members based on their strengths, area of expertise and general duties. 

Understanding what each person contributes and is responsible plays an important role in working well together and succeeding as a team. By providing clear roles and responsibilities, you will be able to better support your virtual project team. You can also use virtual project management tools to help clarify responsibilities.

Trello, for example, is a great tool for visually managing team projects and individual team member responsibilities. You could also use project management tools, such as Basecamp, to set up automatic check-ins asking your team to provide daily updates on what they are working on, what’s gone well and what they need support with. This will facilitate the process of task allocation and ensure your team has the tools and support they need to succeed.

Use collaboration tools

As mentioned, virtual project management and collaboration tools are useful for managing team responsibilities. These tools are also beneficial for encouraging your virtual team to work together on projects. A report by Harvard Business Review found that 75% of cross-functional teams were dysfunctional and failed in at least three of five areas: meeting a planned budget, staying on schedule, adhering to specifications, meeting customer expectations, or maintaining alignment with the company’s corporate goals. So, as a virtual project manager, you will want to put systems in place to ensure your team is able to successfully work collaboratively.

Project management apps are a great way to centralize team communications. Project management tools enable everyone on your team to share updates, write messages, and ask questions without having to be in the same room, or time zone.

One of the greatest benefits of having a remote team is that it gives you access to talent from around the world. Yet, this means you also need to consider the different time zones in which your team members live. By moving shared documents and work files online, you can help improve cross-collaboration by ensuring your team all have access to the most up-to-date versions of team resources. This will help to improve the workflow for your remote team whilst minimizing the risk of misunderstanding or error.

Set up a virtual water cooler

Foster a community mindset by ensuring your team has a “virtual water cooler” where they can get together to talk, bond and build relationships as a team. While it’s important to set up formal communication channels to allow your team to communicate about work-related tasks, it’s equally as important that you provide your team with a virtual breakout space. 

Giving your team a space where they can talk about non-work topics, build a shared identity and nurture personal connections will lead to greater team engagement and better performance. Setting up a virtual water cooler can encourage your team to bond, inspire new creative ideas, build connections, and feel as though they belong within the team.

Understand how best to support your project team

Finally, the best way to successfully support your remote project team is to understand them as individuals. Personality tests are beneficial for more than just the hiring process. Using personality assessments as part of your remote team management process can help you better support your project team.

With personality tests you will be able to understand which communication style works best with each member, what their preferred style of working is, the types of people they’ll work best with, and how to ensure they have the best chance at success.

When you know your team members personality type, you will be able to adapt your leadership style to suit their needs.Make sure you schedule regular check-ins with each of your team members so that you can find out how they are doing and whether they need support with anything. 

The most important thing to remember when managing a virtual project team is to keep communication lines open, remain organized and be supportive. As a remote project manager you will face challenges that often aren’t experienced in an office environment but by following these best practices for leading a virtual team, you will be able to successfully lead your project team, no matter where they are based.


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Pros and Cons of Internal Development for Succession Planning

Leadership and talent succession is a touchy subject for many organizations. Most have a tenuous grasp on who, where, and how to hire replacements for key players, often with the intent of spending large amounts of money on hiring on senior staff.

The high-demand for skilled leaders has led to a commodity market, where talented individuals often have too many offers to count and bringing any of them into an organization will be costly.

For this and other reasons, organizations are increasingly adopting internal development as their primary succession management strategy, as pushed by influencers like Ram Charan and Stephen Drotter.

If you’re considering doing the same, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of both before adopting a single strategy.

Cost of Hiring vs. Developing Leaders

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.

This can be quite costly but 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 can have a better view of what you’re doing, what markets are like, and can bring a broader range of experience to your organization. This can pay off.

However, it is also a risk. For example, Ron Johnson was brought onto 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%.

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 can enable application of the Shuari principle of understanding and mastering before making changes to improve.

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

However, internal development has its own risks. People could leave. Internal people often don’t have external insight and might miss key flaws or bottlenecks preventing growth. And, internal people are less likely to create needed change.

Development Path

Hiring externally means that every one of your hires will have had the chance to pursue a range of experience and roles in external companies. This can include one or numerous other organizations which means that an external person will almost always have more diverse experience.

Developing leaders internally offers other advantages. Here, 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.


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A Guide to Building a Career During Tough Times

This is a guest post from Michael Deane. Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.

The Coronavirus pandemic has flipped our world upside down. In just a couple of weeks, people around the planet have faced social isolation, illness, and even death. The economy took a hit too, and many businesses are struggling to stay afloat.

The changes are taking place fast and hard. Therefore, it is completely natural to feel anxious and scared as you’re watching your career dreams, hopes, and plans coming to a halt.

How does one go about building their career during these tough times? Don’t worry – the following tips should help you get back on the track.

Secure Your Current Job

Network with your coworkers beyond work-related social services. To protect yourself against layoffs and stay visible at work, build strong internal relationships.

Give yourself an edge by investigating your current employer and understanding key company issues. By doing this, you will have a realistic overview of the situation. You may even find opportunities that will help you secure your job, such as key projects that you can support.

Furthermore, try to become a high-potential employee by showing your interest in different things and demonstrating your learning agility.

Providing additional value to the company is something that can make you indispensable.

Network, Network, Network

Networking means connections and opportunities.

Meeting new people allows you to use their skills to your advantage. You will, however, have to give something in return – your money, your knowledge. People with successful careers network a lot. Their goal is to create profitable, long-lasting relationships.

Use the downtime created by the pandemic to reach out to teachers, mentors, college friends, as well as current and previous colleagues. Ask them how they’re holding up during these challenging times, share your situation, and try to help them in any way you can.

Having a web of connections will help you find lots of career choices and opportunities along the way.

Investigate New Industries

Was your industry hit particularly hard by the pandemic? If it was, recovery may take a long time. Consider switching to another industry. Those that grew during the chaos are obviously the best choice.

Start your research by identifying a couple of target companies. Read through their websites. Your ultimate goal should be to learn as much as possible about a particular company. Study their growth plans, financial stability, as well as products and customers.

Thorough research will be of great assistance when it comes to interviews.

Map Your Skills

Besides researching different fields, think about jobs outside your current scope. Jot down the skills you’re using in your current role.

For example public speaking, design, writing, programming, sales, reception, system administration, project management, data analysis, and others.

Once you’ve completed the list, find jobs that overlap with the skills you wrote down. Are excel skills only a small part of your job? Consider moving to a position where they’re more important, such as analyst of Big Data for a marketing company.

Add Remote-Friendly Keywords to Your Resumé

As you already know, telecommuting is at an increase. Many managers expect workers to show that they’re capable of remote working. Therefore, it’s vital to show your experience and aptitude at it.

In your LinkedIn profile, cover letter, and resumé, make sure to mention document-sharing tools you’re familiar with. Moreover, cite your familiarity with video technologies you have used.

Mentioning how you worked remotely is just as important. For example: “I was a leader of a remote team consisting of 10 workers spread across multiple time zones.” 

If you have any relevant soft skills, such as written communication or time management, highlight them too. These will demonstrate that you’re more than capable of being productive as a remote worker.

Brand Yourself

These days, it seems like nothing is as important as branding. Big-name companies spend tons of money to make themselves look like the market’s “big dogs”. Branding creates your image in the marketplace – it’s an ancient business strategy that still works.

To build your career during these challenging times, brand your name and services. Start doing this by creating a social media profile, a blog, or simply by offering awesome services.

Raise Your Standards

Finally, keep in mind that there’s one factor that separates the successful from the non-successful. It’s your standards – they are responsible for how you behave, believe, and think.

In case your standards are high, you will never be pleased with less than you can achieve. Individuals with high standards are typically more successful.

Take a moment to reflect upon your values. Give your best to improve them. By being the best version of yourself, you’ll succeed in building your career even in these trying times.

Building a successful career requires patience, effort, and time even in the best of circumstances. The tips listed above should help you make the best out of the current situation.


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How to build an online learning and development system for your company

From the classroom to the library, learning centers aren’t a new concept. These days, however, learning centers can also be found online. As 94% of employees admit they would stay with an employer longer if they invested in their learning, it makes sense that employers look to step up the standards of their workplace training.

By moving your company’s employee training and development programs online, you can provide a higher quality and more standardized training experience for present and future employees.  Whether you need to provide training to employees, customers, or company partners, making learning resources available online will be a more efficient and cost-effective solution for your business.

Benefits of building an online learning and development system

When compared to traditional learning methods, there are numerous benefits to developing an online learning system for your organization.

One of the key advantages of online learning is that your employees will be able to access the training material anywhere, anytime as long as they have an internet connection. By removing the need to attend a physical location for training courses, you can also reduce business costs by no longer needing to pay for a training venue and other associated costs with classroom-based learning such as travel, catering or printed resources.

Digital learning can also allow employees to learn at their own pace. This self-paced style of learning can positively impact employee performance and productivity by enabling them to effectively balance their workload with their career development.

Providing employees with e-learning opportunities leads to an increased level of job satisfaction. As a result, companies who provide digital learning have a reduced employee turnover rate compared to organizations who do not offer e-learning solutions for their employees.

Moreover, digitizing your employee training resources will ensure all employees have a unified and standardized training experience. This standardized approach will allow employees to have access to the same development opportunities whilst also ensuring that all training provided by your organization is carried out to high standards.

How to build an online learning system for your company:

Moving your employee, customer or partner training online provides you with the opportunity to refresh and optimize your existing training resources and structure. However, digitizing your learning system isn’t as easy as uploading documents to the internet in one swift click. Before you get started, you’ll need a framework for how to effectively build an online learning system for your company.

To help you take your employee, customer or partner training online system, we have outlined 5 key steps to creating an online learning system for your company:

1) Establish learner personas for your online learning system

Before you start building your online training system, you need to understand who will be using the training platform – will it be your employees, your customers or company partners? By defining your learner personas, you will be able to develop a clear understanding of who will use your learning platform, what features they may need, the challenges they may have with e-learning and how to measure the effectiveness of your online training once it’s in use.

A learner persona is a fictional profile of someone that represents your learners. Therefore, your learner persona should include characteristics such as their training goals, job responsibilities, educational background or skill level. If you are setting up a company-wide training platform, you may find you have various learner personas based on your different company departments or employee skill-level. For instance, within your marketing department you may want to have one learner persona that represents junior employees and another learner persona that represents senior, more-experienced members within your marketing team.

2) Plan your learning system content

Once you have determined the users of your online learning system, along with understanding any goals they have or challenges they might face, it’s time to plan the content for your digital training system.

You may want to include a variety of content formats to account for the different learning styles. For example, including some video-based content on your digital training system may prove to be more successful with visual learners. Video learning could also result in increased learner attention and performance.

Start small when planning your content. Choose a subtopic within your employee training program and then create an online course based on that subtopic. For example, you may want to create a Health and Safety learning course for all of your employees. You could create a 30-60 minute course that teaches employees the correct health and safety procedure using a variety of case studies, educational videos, multiple-choice questions with a final test at the end to measure their performance and knowledge of this topic.

The subtopics you create could also feed into a larger learning program, allowing employees to develop their professional knowledge and to progress in their career. You could create a series of training courses based on Sales, with the aim of taking your Sales team members from a junior to a senior level.

3) Build your learning system features

Now that you’ve got a content plan for your online employee learning system, you need to build the platform.

Thankfully, if you’re looking to build an online learning platform, you don’t always have to start from scratch. There’s an array of existing platforms that you can use to host your digital employee learning system. With varying costs and features, you will have to compare each platform to your content plan to determine which platform is most suitable for your company. Alternatively, you could look at building a custom platform that will be designed to suit your exact needs.

When building your learning system, consider the different content types you need. To help your employees get the most out of your company development system, you will likely want to provide them with a variety of courses, exams and reports so that they can test their skills and measure their progression. Consider having personalized features within the individual user area. Having features such as messages, grades and rewards allows learners to better understand their development and could further encourage them to continue with their career development.

4) Planning your distribution strategy

When launching a new product or service, a well thought-out distribution strategy is important for a successful launch. Therefore, to ensure your online learning platform is successful, it’s worthwhile devising a distribution strategy.

When it comes to announcing your new digital learning platform, personalize your marketing to suit each of your learners. If your employees all work in the same location, you could host a meeting for each department to let employees know about the employee learning platform and how it will benefit them. Similarly, if you have an internal newsletter or intranet for your employees, this would also be a great way to communicate your new platform to employees.

If you have made the digital learning platform so that it’s publically available for customers or company partners, you could market your learning system through social media, blog posts, press releases or paid advertising.

5) Measure the effectiveness of your e-learning system

The work isn’t done once you’ve launched your employee e-learning system. After launch, you should monitor and measure the effectiveness of your employee training platform. By looking at metrics such as site visitors, frequency of visits and course completion reports, you can determine the effectiveness of your online learning system.

You can also ask employees for feedback to gain a deeper understanding of which features they do (or do not) like and potential improvements that could be made. Using reports will also allow you to monitor uptake and performance to determine if any changes are needed.

By continually reviewing and refining your company’s online learning platform, you can make sure you are providing your employees with the best possible learning and development experience.


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Are You Ready for Digitization? An HR Checklist for Small Businesses

Digitization is a word on everyone’s lips. Today, more than ever, organizations are rapidly digitizing, as work-from-home and flex work protocols create a huge need for flexible, digital operations and infrastructure. 68% of organizations are moving to implement digital operational processes, which greatly change how people work. 

While digitization hugely impacts organizations, often offering cost-savings, reduced time investment from employees, and better customer service, it also means big change. Digital transitions are periods of intense change and stress.

Many employees will resist that change, and you may find resistance to be highest at the top. Implementing a successful HR program to ease the digitization process is critical to ensuring that digitization is a success, and that your organization moves through it with your greatest resource – the employees – still in place. 

This HR checklist for small businesses will help you determine if you’re ready to start digitization or if you still have work to do. 

Get Everyone Onboard 

Most small organizations can quickly and easily identify leadership, which consists of founders, managers, and team leads. In some cases, you also want to look at key people such as individuals who are looked up to, top performers, or individuals who otherwise drive their team. The advantage in small businesses is that everyone is close together and you can likely easily identify who will and will not make a difference.

McKinsey & Company identifies having leadership on board as one of the most important aspects of a successful digital transformation. If the people in charge, or the people driving the organization, are hyped about something, everyone else will get behind it too. But, small companies don’t really work that way. Everyone is working side by side, and chances are, you wouldn’t want to keep a big decision secret from everyone until you have time to convert leadership, even if you could. 

Here, it’s a good idea to deliver information to everyone as part of the decision-making process. Depending on the stakeholders and owners, this can take one of several routes, but should normally include: 

  • Reasons for the change 
  • What changes will be made
  • Who will be impacted 
  • How it will affect those people 
  • What jobs (if any) will be made redundant and what opportunities are 
  • What new roles will open up 

Involving your team as part of a decision is a powerful way to get them onboard and engaged, because they are part of the process from the start. That allows you to deliver the value proposition to the employee before the decision is pitched as final, so that everyone can pitch in and be involved.

Most importantly, if everyone knows what’s happening, who’s affected, and what their options are to stay with the company, you’ll reduce issues relating to churn as employees leave the company while anticipating being let go. 

Build a Strong Connection Between Digitization and Goals 

Digitization is often an important and necessary step for the organizations adopting it. No one decides to go through expensive and “traumatic” changes to business processes and solutions for nothing. Every digitization effort you put into place links to a real and tangible business goal. Share these goals and share how new tools help the organization to improve, compete in its market, reduce costs, and improve the employee experience.

Here, it may be a good idea to share projected benefits to reductions in manual data entry, cost reductions, improvements in Co2 footprint, or how digitization might make some jobs easier and more efficient, freeing people up to add value with their time. 

Update Processes to Incorporate Digital 

Any digitization project must include a comprehensive digitization of the organization. The processes people use to work must be updated to not only mention digital but incorporate it completely. Processes must be worked into the tooling, so that most people naturally follow process just by using the tools. 

Deliver Training for New Digital Programs 

Moving to digital tools can be an extreme change for some. HR can support this change by identifying how and where people need training and delivering that training before rollout finishes. Some training programs might include: 

  • Using software 
  • How new digital processes work 
  • How automated processes work 
  • Cybersecurity and password protection 
  • Using new hardware 

People have to know how to use new programs before they can work on them effectively. Teams should have a strong understanding of basic usage of any new software before it’s delivered, with opportunities to improve learning.

It’s also important to ensure that everyone understands what’s going on. Switching from manually approving accounts payable to automating most steps can be confusing to people in charge.

Automating digital document backups can be confusing for people accustomed to making paper copies. Ensuring that everyone is aware of what’s going on and has the tools to understand the technologies in place is critical for driving value with new solutions. 

Create a Digitization Team 

Most organizations will need some time to fully digitize. This can involve identifying processes for digitization, improving those processes, and then automating them.

It can also involve digitizing hundreds of thousands of paper records, creating new storage solutions, identifying bottlenecks and issues resulting from new technical demands, and making changes to prioritization as the organization’s needs become more apparent.

Most small organizations should create a cross-functional digitization team composed of HR, IT, and Operations, with people capable of making decisions, changing implementation, and managing the process. And, if you do have to scan and back up thousands of documents, you need a team in place to manage that as well. 

Involve Key People in Decisions and Developing Change 

Most people are well aware of what they need and how to improve their work. We hire experts to do work because they are experts. Yet, many digitization projects “talk down” to experts, forcing new solutions on them with little to no input.

Involving key people in decisions relating to software options, online storage, cloud tools, VPN, and other solutions can greatly streamline the digitization process, because people are empowered and involved. If people know that they are choosing a solution to improve their work, they are engaged and not just planning to adopt, but eager to do so. 

While this sort of hands on approach to digitization requires that leadership be on board with it, it can greatly improve the whole process. Why? Involving employees is one of the most powerful things you can do to shift mindsets away from “digitization is replacing workers” to “digitization is aiding workers”. 

Digital transformations can greatly change how and where an organization works. Digitization can enable your organization to seamlessly work from home with secure VPN connections and virtual computers.

It can automate print processes, so your organization goes paperless, greatly changing the work of accounts payable and payrolling. It can automate sales processes, integrating sales, finance, and marketing onto a single platform.

Whatever it does, it will bring change, and managing that change is critical to ensuring a successful transition. Remaining open, communicating clear expectations, offering alternatives, delivering training, and building trust in new processes are some of the most important roles of HR during a transition.


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