Archive for October, 2011

Why do they still do it?

It’s Halloween but twice last week I came across a gory story that sent a shiver down my back. They were both business teams that were failing because the leaders of the team had recruited people without establishing or following procedures.

I won’t go into the blood curdling details of each story, just to say that they were messy, very messy. The results were taking up more management time than would have been needed had the leader made correct employment checks, developed need assessments and written work briefs and so on.

Is it laziness, desire to save money or a feeling that “It’ll probably be OK”?.
I don’t know the answer, except that team leaders with such problems are often surprised when they’re told that that it’s their fault the problem exists!

The costs?
Classically between 10 to 25 times the salary of the failed individual or the whole team if that fails.
So a salary of £40,000 can cost up to a whopping £1,000,000.
Now if that’s not an incentive for CEO’s and company recruiters to get it right first time then nothing will be

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A revolution in the making

I was interested to read that two leading academics have predicted a revolution at work over the next ten years. Alison
Maitland and Peter Thomson, visiting fellows at Cass Business School and
Henley Business School respectively, are predicting that employees will soon be deciding when, where and how they do their jobs and that in future workers will be paid by results and not by the hours worked.

Revolution will help boost output
Reported in People Management, the pair maintain that such a
radical change in working practices will help businesses boost output,
cut costs, speed access to new markets and afford employees greater

They highlight the Clothing
retailer Gap that is said to have halved the turnover rate of employees
when it introduced a ‘Results-Only Work Environment’ in the production
and design department of their outlet division in California.

A flawed prediction.

I see there being a flaw in their argument. Can you imagine shops, banks, and other places where staffing is needed during opening hours, allowing complete flexibility in how, when and where the job is done?

Then there’s their proposal of paying for results. Now that sounds like a great idea and would have much support from people all over Europe that would love to propose that we start by paying Bankers, politicians, Estate agents (Realtors) and civil servants purely on their quantifiable results. I can see there being thousands of applications to be “Productivity assessors”
Now there’s a revolution! 

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Unproductive workers rights

What a storm the report proposing change the rules regarding unfair dismissal has had. This is despite the fact that any changes, in the current climate, are unlikely.

Unproductive workers should lose rights
As reported by the BBC The report, commissioned by the prime minister, argues that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal”. The Daily Telegraph
quotes the report as saying that under the current rules workers are
allowed to “coast along” with some proving impossible to sack.

Sarah Veale head of the equality and employment rights department at the TUC said that there were less than a million unfair dismissal claims last
year which was “absolutely nothing” out of a large workforce. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “The clue is in
the name. Employers already have plenty of powers to make fair
dismissals”. I find myself agreeing with Mr Barber! The only problem is that almost 40% of applicants withdraw their cases, but employers still have to pay legal fees in preparing a defence.

Informal discussions
I believe that employers should have the right to informally discuss with their staff issues surrounding employment, such as retirement plans, production and productivity without the fear of having to face an industrial tribunal. To do so would allows the employer to plan staffing needs, recruitment and other issues that make a business profitable.

In fact, if done properly, can’t an employer have these discussions already?

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Business leaders should learn kitchen skills

After answering a question on leadership on LinkedIn I was advised that it would make a great blog entry. So here goes!

Building a great team is similar to opening a restaurant
I’ve spent thirteen years working with team leaders to make them effective and I often make the analogy that building a successful business team is similar to opening a restaurant to serve great food. It needs a capable, stable and motivated brigade in the kitchen as well as a team of people to serve the food and make the eating experience memorable.

The ingredients good or bad are often immediately noticeable by customers. If the team, in both the kitchen and front-of-house areas can’t work together then either the food or service will suffer and customers will IMMEDIATELY stay away in droves. 

Staff turnover a universal problem
The first task is to have a stable team. Staff turnover is a universal problem, and not just in the catering sector. Each new appointment seems to carry with it a high risk of failure.  Let’s explore why this is …

There seems to be three common mistakes that team leaders can make. The first is failing to communicate the results that are required from the team. Job descriptions provide an indication of the required results but success in a job depends upon the boss’s assessment. The team, therefore, needs to understand what constitutes a success in the boss’ eyes and how such success will be measured.

Gaining a clear understanding of what success looks like can be achieved by holding a series of meetings with the the team. As such they are best undertaken as formal 1:1 discussions, as opposed to short conversations over the coffee machine or at a team meeting.

The types of questions that need to be asked include:

·    How has the current situation reached this point?
·    What problems have been identified if the situation is not improved?
·    What actions the leader expects in the short and medium term?
·    What would constitute success in the leaders’ eyes?
·    How and when will performance be measured?

Understanding the leader
The second mistake is failing to communicate the boss’s management style. This means understanding how the leader likes to be communicated with and how often? What decisions the leader likes to make personally and what decisions are clearly delegated to individuals in the team?

Culture a major ingredient
A big mistake a leader can make is to ignore the culture of the business or not to consciously develop a culture for a new team. To ignore culture makes introducing change more difficult. In addition the leader needs to consider that all change will have an affect on other people, particularly in other areas in the organisation, so prior to making changes it’s important to consider the consequences both upstream and downstream.

Then there’s the aspect of training. A leader wanting to build a strong team needs to ensure that the team can deliver what’s expected. One of the lessons from Restaurants is that there’s little point in placing Duck a la Normande on the menu if the kitchen brigade haven’t the ability to cook it properly and restaurant team don’t know how to serve it.  (Or what it is).

Now, isn’t that a recipe for business success?

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Coping with BIG egos

I was thinking today of some of the egos I worked in past jobs. Like Sales Director that at their first team meeting announced, “I’ve come to save the company”, which came as a surprise to all who didn’t think that the business needed saving.

And the HR Manager who, on being appointed, introduced herself to her well qualified team by saying “I’m a fellow of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) and I’m a professional!”

Tricky things to handle
Huge egos are tricky things to handle and handle them we all have to do. Teams that are expanding want
strong characters, who are self-motivated and who have a 
desire to win! But too often the appointment of a new leader can go to their already big
heads and makes them tough to deal with? So I was fascinated to come across this article in Management Today that addresses the topic. Not in much the detail and doesn’t provide too much that’s of help but the article makes you think.

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You can’t be caught working if you’re in a meeting

A great friend of mine, John Donnelly, always says about team meetings that “You can’t be caught working if you’re in a team meeting” and of course he’s right. It amazes me how many people still flit from one meeting to another, particularly in public services, that actually believe they are doing something! The problem is that when they attend the next meeting to discuss actions from the previous meeting they often haven’t had time to do the work because they’ve been too busy attending meetings!

Three hours a day in internal meetings
According to the figures, almost a quarter of employees spend up to
three hours a day in internal meetings.
Answering emails is another time waster with the average number of internal emails received being 32 – although
nearly one in five say they get up to 50 a day, which works out as one
email every eight-and-a-half minutes.

Internal meetings a colossal waste of time
Management today have an article that suggests that UK businesses waste
£255m a day on internal meetings and emails. And that’s not just on
multi-packs of chocolate Hobnobs: The refreshing thing is that those attending meetings often see them as a
colossal waste of time, that is except those that spend their days in meetings rather than be seen working.

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Strategies for Restructuring Your Sales Team

Over the past weeks I’ve been talking to various businesses about the strategies that they are developing for 2012 and beyond and in the light of continued hard times.

The one common factor in my discussions is that there seems to be a great emphasis on sales and sales team restructure to maintain growth. Identifying the successful sales team members isn’t difficult and identifying those that need replacing isn’t difficult either. The problem is that those at the top probably won’t be able to deliver more and those at the bottom are difficult to motivate.

Greatest potential growth
Possibly the greatest potential growth from a sales team will come from the average performers. That is those that are producing between 90% and 125% of their target on a regular basis. This is partly because this group tends to have more people in it than the top or the bottom and motivating them to produce more has the greatest potential for success.

Sales team restructure strategy
When developing strategies for a sales team restructure they should include changing territory, clients, working times, information and support given to the sales team and a good study of the recruitment process and criteria for those joining the team.

This video on sales and marketing interview questions might help


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What do they discuss at planning meetings?

I had to laugh at Management Today’s article on Ryan Air’s plans to replace toilets on their planes with paid seating.

Famous for its cut-throat approach
to cost-cutting the budget airline plans to remove two of its loos and replace them with up to six extra
seats but as MT asks “Is its latest ruse literally taking the piss”. 

Planning meetings:
We can only imagine the suggestions that the management team come up with at cost-cutting planning meetings. Presumably
they’ve considered building on the priority boarding model by charging for in-flight
commodes. this could be a money earner whilst saving passengers having to get up from their seat mid-flight.

It should be noted that there’s no legal stipulation for
an airline to provide toilets on its aircraft. It’s just if you’re supplying loads of beers to stag parties off for the weekend it would seem sensible to keep the seats dry for those coming back on the return journey!
Or will dry seats cost extra in the future?

Maximum seats allowed
As Ryanair proposes to prevent passengers from squeezing one out at one
end, it’s simultaneously doing the squeezing at the other: The airline carries an
estimated 75m passengers per year, and currently flies only Boeing
737-800 and has installed 189 seats on each plane, the maximum
allowed under current rules and it also charges up
to £20 per piece of checked luggage per flight. The Office of Fair Trading is investigating a ‘super-complaint’ by
the Consumers’ Association into such charges by low-cost airlines.

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Gifted employees need not be hard to find

despite the high levels of unemployment many of the businesses that I talk to are finding difficulties in hiring gifted and talented people to join their teams.

This is backed up by the recent research from the CIPD talent planning survey 2011 that found that 52% of businesses are finding it difficult to fill vacant positions with the talent they need to do the job. The CBI suggests that more than half of their members aren’t confident of finding talent to meet their needs.

So what can a business do to find gifted employees?

  1. Consider using job boards such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook
  2. Consider using on-line groups and forums to say you are seeking talent
  3. Ensure that you are looking for the talent that will match the business strategy
  4. Consider internal candidates
  5. Consider if the job, benefits and profile of your business will attract the very best and if not then restructure the position so that it will be attractive to the talent you are looking for
  6. Calculate your talent needs for the present, medium and long-term and create strategies to deliver these
  7. Don’t be too rigid in recruiting the “very best”. The perfect employee doesn’t exist. But make sure you capture the “best available” before your competitors.
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“The end of the world is nigh!”

It’s not often that I blog twice in one day but I’ve been motivated by two pieces of news today. The first came from the BBC who predict that 1 in 4 children will grow up in poverty within the next ten years. The second piece of doom and gloom news was reported in Management Today that said “More doom and Gloom as BCC cuts UK growth forecast”.

The end of the world is nigh!
The world seems to be talking itself closer to the precipice faster than the village idiot saying that the end of the world is nigh! Quite frankly I’m tired of listening to doom and gloom merchants. Now I understand that good news doesn’t sell newspapers or advertising space on TV but can’t we have some success reported. There’s so much out there!

Such as the hugely successful and multiple award winning Riverbanks Clinic. Only recently established but already one of the UK’s leading Aesthetic Medicine Clinics and run by a brilliant team of dedicated professionals.

That Selfridges was voted the “Best Department Store in the World” at the Global Department Store Summit in New York in 2010

Lebara, the mobile phone company, that won the UK Customer Service award at the Mobile News Awards 2011

there’s so much good news to talk about do you know any other business success?
If so, let’s start to publicise them.


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