Human Resources

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action, Post #8 ~ Christina Stewart

No Train, No Gain

Why Lifelong Learning Matters for You and Your Employees

Providing employees with Learning and Development is essential for both your business and for their engagement and happiness
Let’s continue our HR Strategic planning discussion on using training as a tool.

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There’s a saying that that goes like this:
The CFO asks the CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?”
The CEO responds: “What happens if they stay and we don’t?”

The answer is so obvious, it goes without saying. If business leaders don’t invest in learning and development for their employees, we get stagnated workforces and a marked decrease in the quality of work. Conversely, when business leaders promote lifelong learning in their work teams, we get vastly increased morale, increased capacity to cope with day to day work stresses, improved team performance, and improved employer trust. All of which leads to improved loyalty for both the employee and the employer as well as huge economic benefits for both. When the employer provides opportunities for development, the company does well, the employees do well, and loyalty builds. For example, a Wendy’s restaurant in Fredericton, N.B., provided workplace literacy and essential skills (i.e. communication, critical thinking, and computer skills) training to their team members in 2013. Ownership saw reduced staff turnover to between 65% and 80%, which is down from between 125% and 150% in the two earlier years, saving the franchisee $5,000 annually in new staff training.

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More than Money

We all want our businesses to experience profitability but often we want more. We want our business to mean something significant to our customers and to our teams. Developing employees by training and teaching and offering learning opportunities allows us to create both profit and meaning within our workforce.
So, by now we agree that a great way to retain staff and nurture employee skills is to consistently and actively promote learning and development activities. Encouraging this kind of professional growth shows your team you care about their progress and their future, and it inspires loyalty in employees.


Get Ready, Get Set

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Before jumping in to any new initiative a little planning and coordination of goals can go a long way. Ask yourself what you want your employees to achieve – or better yet, ask them. Having individuals complete a self-assessment as a kickoff point to their own learning creates engagement from the outset. In this phase you are identifying where you are and where you want to be. The gap in between is the learning that needs to take place. Ask your team some or all of the following:
• Identify the job requirements and performance expectations of your current position
• Identify the knowledge, skills and abilities that will enhance your ability to perform your current job
• Identify and assess the impact on your position of changes taking place in the work environment such as changes in clients, programs, services and technology
• What goals do you want to achieve in your career?
• Which of these development goals are mutually beneficial to you and your organization?
Ask your employees to set two or three goals using the tried and true SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Timely.) One way of helping them get into the goal mindset is to ask employees to view the workplace as a curriculum. Asking that they look at their daily tasks and responsibilities as items they must master can be a very useful mindset. In this approach, the normal workday of an employee informs what they need to learn in order to do their job most successfully. The tasks they perform become the curriculum components they need to learn, making it easy to set identifiable goals. Employees should also set a target length of time in which to master this goal before moving on to the next. This builds natural stepping-stones between the current job and the next level at the organization, as mastery of each goal can bring them closer to promotions, raises, increased responsibility, or other rewards.


Go: Inside Methods

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There are many methods to consider when implementing professional development in the workplace, however, major impediments to providing learning opportunities to employees is the cost to the business and the time to have employees offsite. However, these don’t hold much weight as there are cost-effective, in-house training opportunities within a work environment, such as:
• Job expansion; the role has been mastered so adding greater challenges
• Job shadowing; following and learning from others in the organization – maybe even you!
• Job enrichment; stretch assignments and special projects or committees
• Job rotations; temporarily being given the opportunity to work in other areas of the business
• Adding mentoring/coaching; a more experienced employee provides advice and guidance to a novice within the work site
• Peer-assisted learning; two knowledgeable employees swap the information they know in order to expand the other employee’s abilities
• Providing time for writing articles for a paper, online publication or magazine enhance the reputations of the employee as well as the organization.


Go: Outside Methods

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Implementing a quality professional development program encourages employees to continue their learning beyond the confines of the office. Outside options include footing the bill to enroll employees in formalized classes. The more specialized training or certifications that an employee receives, the more you can boast your company’s know-how and expertise. If it’s a program that many employees could benefit from consider working with the provider for internal classes or lunch and learn sessions on the topic. Consider networking at industry trade group conferences and with like-minded professionals at other organizations, joining a formal coaching or mentoring program outside of work, or earning an advanced degree.
Although some certification programs can cost an employer a pretty penny, sending an office representative to a conference or to a networking event can be an affordable alternative. Give that employee an even greater opportunity for development by presenting their learning to the organization after the event. Organizing in-house team-building events can also serve as a great method for keeping employees mentally challenged and engaged.


Everybody Wins

By encouraging a learning culture with professional certification, continuing education and association membership to increase the amount of outside education, your employees can bring back valuable knowledge into the company to share with one another. By focusing on in house opportunities to create a learning culture you expand your workforce knowledge and both your organization and your employees benefit.
Improving employees’ skills makes it easier for them to learn new ones and helps them innovate. Your learning culture is a foundation for creating better products and services, and fostering a new competitiveness and profitability. Creating a learning culture in your business is imperative for innovation, growth and economic success. The corporate return on your investment in essential skills and employee engagement is real and attainable.

Come back next week when we chat about a different HR Strategy: Recruitment!

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action Post 7

Training and Development Strategies

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Last week in Post 6 of our discussion on HR Strategic Planning we talked about using Restructuring Strategies to align your workforce with your overall organizational direction. This week we’re going to talk about training! This strategy is so useful in a workforce that is ready for productivity but perhaps lacks the skills or knowledge necessary to move into the next direction.
This strategy includes:
• Providing staff with training to take on new roles
• Providing current staff with development opportunities to prepare them for future jobs in your organization
Training and development needs can be met in a variety of ways. One approach is for the employer to pay for employees to upgrade their skills. This may involve sending the employee to take courses or certificates or it may be accomplished through on-the-job training. Many training and development needs can be met through cost effective techniques. Tune in Next Week when we discuss No Train, No Gain and run through why life-long learning really matters.

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Steps to HR Success by Christina Stewart ~ Post 6

RESTRUCTURING STRATEGIES

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Integrating human resource management strategies and systems into your overarching organizational strategy will help you achieve the overall mission, strategies, and success of the firm while meeting the needs of employees and other stakeholders. Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about HR Strategic Planning, we’ve introduced it and we’ve talked about assessing where you are now, and we’ve looked at forecasting your HR requirements. In this post number six we’ll discuss using a Restructuring Strategy.

This strategy includes:

  • Reducing staff either by termination or attrition

  • Regrouping tasks to create well designed jobs

  • Reorganizing work units to be more efficient


If your assessment indicates that there is an oversupply of skills, there are a variety of options open to assist in the adjustment. Termination of workers gives immediate results. Generally, there will be costs associated with this approach depending on your employment agreements. Notice periods are guaranteed in all provinces. Be sure to review the employment and labour standards in your province or territory to ensure that you are compliant with the legislation.

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Attrition (not replacing employees when they leave) is another way to reduce staff. The viability of this option depends on how urgently you need to reduce staff. It will mean that jobs performed in the organization will have to be reorganized so that essential work of the departing employee is covered. Careful assessment of the reorganized workloads of remaining employees should include an analysis of whether or not their new workloads will result in improved outcomes.


It is important to consider current labour market trends (e.g. the looming skills shortage as baby boomers begin to retire) because there may be longer-term consequences if you let staff go.
Sometimes existing workers may be willing to voluntarily reduce their hours, especially if the situation is temporary. Job sharing may be another option. The key to success is to ensure that employees are satisfied with the arrangement, that they confirm agreement to the new arrangement in writing, and that it meets the needs of the employer. Excellent communication is a prerequisite for success.

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Your analysis may tell you that your organization may have more resources in some areas of the organization than others. This calls for a redeployment of workers to the area of shortage. The training needs of the transferred workers needs to be taken into account.

Come back next week to check out Training & Development Strategies.




HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action, Post #5 ~ Christina Stewart

Strategies, Strategies, Strategies

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As you’ve seen over the past few weeks of posts, HR Strategic Planning is no small undertaking. From assessing where you are now, to forecasting your HR requirements, assessing that gap and then determining a strategy to get there – there’s a lot of work and, well, planning involved!
Developing HR strategies to support organizational strategies is a big job in and of itself. There are five HR strategies for meeting your organization's needs in the future:
Restructuring strategies: Reducing, regrouping and/or reorganizing your team or certain departments within it.
Training and development strategies: Providing your current team or certain departments or skill sets with additional training or the opportunity for learning and development.
Recruitment strategies: Taking an active approach to filling vacancies and promoting your business as a stellar place to work.
Outsourcing strategies: Taking the approach of utilizing contractors or consultants who hold certain skill sets to complete fill the gap.
Collaboration strategies: Finding partner organizations who have what you need and where you can offer something back.
Over the coming weeks we’ll run through each of these strategies outlining what each is and when that particular strategy is best used. Stay tuned!

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HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action, Post #4

Gap Analysis

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about HR Strategic Planning, we’ve introduced it and we’ve talked about assessing where you are now, and we’ve looked at forecasting your HR requirements. Today, let’s “mind the gap”.

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The next step is to determine the gap between where your organization wants to be in the future and where you are now. The gap analysis includes identifying the number of staff and the skills and abilities required in the future in comparison to the current situation. You should also look at all your organization's HR management practices to identify practices that could be improved or new practices needed to support the organization's capacity to move forward. Questions to be answered include:

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·        What new jobs will we need?

·        What new skills will be required?

·        Do our present employees have the required skills?

·        Are employees currently in positions that use their strengths?

·        Do we have enough managers/supervisors?

·        Are current HR management practices adequate for future needs?

Next time we’ll dive into developing strategies that support the overall organizational strategies which is no small undertaking!

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Action, Post #3

Forecasting HR Requirements

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Over the past two weeks we’ve been talking about HR Strategic Planning, we’ve introduced it and we’ve talked about assessing where you are now. Today, let’s dive into looking ahead.

The next step is to forecast HR needs for the future based on the strategic goals of the organization. Realistic forecasting of human resources involves estimating both demand and supply. Questions to be answered include:

·        How many staff will be required to achieve the strategic goals of the organization?

·        What jobs will need to be filled?

·        What skill sets will people need?

When forecasting demands for HR, you must also assess the challenges that you will have in meeting your staffing need based on the external environment. To determine external impacts, you may want to consider some of the following factors:

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·        How does the current economy affect our work and our ability to attract new employees?

·        How do current technological or cultural shifts impact the way we work and the skilled labour we require?

·        What changes are occurring in the Canadian labour market?

·        How is our community changing or expected to change in the near future?

Come back next week when we take a look at the space in between when you are now and where you want to be: aka: “The Gap”.

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Steps to HR Success by Christina Stewart ~ Post #2

Post #2: Assessing Current HR Capacity

Last week we introduced the topic of Strategic HR Planning so this week let’s look at the first phase: Assessing where you are today.

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The first step in the strategic HR planning process is to assess the current HR capacity of the organization. The knowledge, skills and abilities of your current staff need to be identified. This can be done by developing a skills inventory for each employee.

The skills inventory should go beyond the skills needed for the particular position. List all skills each employee has demonstrated. For example, recreational or volunteer activities may involve special skills that could be relevant to the organization. Education levels and certificates or additional training should also be included.

An employee's performance assessment form can be reviewed to determine if the person is ready and willing to take on more responsibility and take a look at the employee's current development plans. Take a look at resumes and references are there any skills your team members have that may be dusty but potentially applicable?

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Based on the organization's strategic plan, you’ll soon be reviewing if the current skills match what’s needed to achieve your goals. Be thorough and take your time here. Once you have a strong repository of skills listed for your entire organization, be sure to add new team members to the data as they arrive and review the list every year or so (after performance reviews is a logical time) to ensure that your current skills inventory remains current.

Check in net week when we move on to Step 2: Forecasting HR Requirements (no crystal ball needed because you’ll rely on sound analysis!)

HR Strategic Planning: Taking Deliberate Steps to HR Success by Christina Stewart ~ Post 1

Introduction to Strategic HR Planning

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Integrating human resource management strategies and systems into your overarching organizational strategy will help you achieve the overall mission, ideas, and create the success of the business while meeting the needs of employees and other stakeholders.

The overall purpose of strategic HR planning is to:

  • Ensure adequate human resources to meet the strategic goals and operational plans of your organization - the right people with the right skills at the right time

  • Keep up with social, economic, legislative and technological trends that impact on human resources in your area and in the sector

  • Remain flexible so that your organization can manage change if the future is different than anticipated

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Strategic HR planning predicts the future HR management needs of the organization after analyzing the organization's current human resources, the external labour market and the future HR environment that the organization will be operating in. The analysis of HR management issues external to the organization and developing scenarios about the future are what distinguishes strategic planning from operational planning. The basic questions to be answered for strategic planning are:

  • Where are we going?

  • How will we develop HR strategies to successfully get there, given the circumstances?

  • What skill sets do we need?

The strategic HR planning process

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The strategic HR planning process has four steps:

1. Assessing the current HR capacity

2. Forecasting HR requirements

3. Undertaking a Gap analysis

4. Developing HR strategies to support organizational strategies

Check in next week when we break down Step 1: Assessing the Current HR Capacity, and of course, reach out anytime to admin@praxisgroup.ca to get some help in setting your own HR Strategy.

Why I Love Recruitment by Drew Stewart

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We heard from Christina about why she loves recruitment, now let’s hear from Drew: I came by my interest in Recruitment organically. I was exposed to it through my job as a manager working for a well-established video game publisher. When I would tell people where I worked, the majority of the time I’d get a response such as:

“Oh wow, must be fun to play video games all day.”

I wish! Now that would be a fantastic job! Unfortunately, when you got to the heart of what I did there, it was not much different then most companies. I spent most my time in spreadsheets, developing reports and managing external relationships with outsourced partners. However, there was one thing that I always looked forward to breakup the monotony of a project cycle. That “thing” was recruiting. I took an active role in evaluating my teams and going through skill set inventory to see where we needed to supplement existing attributes. I particularly enjoyed interviewing and getting to know individuals on a bit more of a personal level. I came away from interviews feeling re-energized and infected with the enthusiasm that came from the candidates who wanted to work for this company and be a part of making a video game that they have personally enjoyed. The process gave me tremendous perspective, in two very different and conflicting ways.

1. Seeing people come into an interview and discuss at length about how a product you are a part of has influenced their life, is a very powerful thing. Now, I fully realized that we were not solving the worlds problems within those walls, we were providing entertainment for people. Nonetheless, what we made impacted individuals and motivated them to pursue a career in our industry. It made me feel proud and excited about the future to eventually have even more influence over decision that could make our products even more entertaining and fun.

2. If I loved this one facet of my job so much, why am I not doing more of it?

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I like to simplify my life and the world around me, as much as possible. I find that getting into too many details can paralyze me into a state of inaction. Paralysis by analysis, if you will. So, when I weighed the two different pieces of perspective, one just seemed too simple to ignore. That question of why not do the thing I enjoy, was too simple to ignore and ultimately it is what gave me the motivation to leave a wonderful organization and enviable place to work.

So, what is it about Recruiting that pushed me to making it a bigger part of my professional life? In my simplified way at looking things, I came up with my top three things that I love about recruiting.

Research

I am a natural introvert. Thankfully, like a lot of introverts, I am a genuinely curious person. I love finding out the “why” or the “how” behind how things work or how people think. Through recruitment, I spend a lot of time researching best practices within different industries and searching for the individuals who have the skills that are desired by our clients. I get the time to work independently doing this, which feeds my natural introversion personality.

Chance to be Extroverted

I wouldn’t be a well-rounded individual if all I did was seek out opportunities to stay in my introverted lane. Doing interviews and talking to candidates on the phone allows me to connect with people and flex my extroverted self. A misconception about introverts is that they appear aloof and disinterested in conversation at times. What I find, is that introverts can become extremely connected to people when getting to a deeper meaningful level. Not so good at small talk but we can build a relationship and stay connected as good as anyone else.

Impact someone in positive way

When one takes inventory of their life and lists out important milestones, they do not get very far down the list before thinking about a job they loved or hopefully getting the opportunity to work somewhere they always dreamed of. Giving good news to candidates that they secured such an opportunity if a definite highlight of my job. I help people get the job they want, which impacts their everyday life. Being a small part of it is extremely satisfying.

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I have found that recruiting suits me. I have not regretted leaving that tech job, not for one minute. I feel like I have grown and learned a lot about a number of different industries and the people who drive them. I feel that I am helping to make an impact in a community where I grew up. I still don’t get to play games all day but when the opportunity arises, I do so as a fan and not a job.



Why I Love Recruitment ~ By Christina Stewart

I absolutely love recruiting! Cheesy? Maybe, but still true.

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I can remember the “HR Lady” at my first office job. I was working as an Administrative Assistant at a Brokerage in my very early 20’s and until that point, I had never heard of HR or Recruitment. As I watched her move from project to project and from a senior level meeting to a training session to interviewing for a vacant role in the office I thought she must have the coolest job ever. She got to know everything about everybody. She was the keeper of secrets – all things confidential were in her grasp.

Naturally as a highly curious person myself, I was intrigued by all that she knew about our company, our office, the people who worked there and our future as an organization. It seemed to me that she had her hand in it all – she was part of the big picture strategy and culture along with every other step down to the minutia of how the office functions; she knew it all and her opinion mattered. I wanted her job.

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I started taking HR classes and luckily one of my first was recruitment. I was hooked. The importance of recruitment became very evident very quickly. Hire the wrong person and your workplace could suffer serious implications. The impact could be felt by unhappy employees, high turnover, low productivity, managers spending too much time on management and not leadership, disgruntled customers – the ripples could turn to waves pretty quickly. Conversely, hire the right person and the opposite can happen: happy colleagues, increased retention, increased productivity, managers spending time leading, and satisfied clients.

Beyond how pivotal it is for a company to have the right complement of people I simply like the duties and responsibilities of being a Recruiter. I like speaking with the client to find out what they are looking for and helping them to refine the ideal person with the ideal skills and experience. At the beginning it can feel as daunting as looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, however, by crafting the right job ads and putting them in the right places along with picking up the phone and talking with people, people and more people, it ends up being more like putting a really fun puzzle together. I feel the joy of putting someone in a role the same as if I were to find the last piece of that puzzle on the floor under my chair. I couldn’t see it right away, but it was there all along ~ Eureka!

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Add to all of that, that I simply enjoy talking with people – I love hearing their stories and learning about why they took this job or how they landed what that company. Everyone has a career story and if you ask the right questions you can often learn a tremendous amount about someone in a fairly short time. I have interviewed hundreds, maybe even a thousand people, in my HR and Recruitment career and every single one of them has something of interest to say. I learn and I grow with each and every interaction.

Telling people that they aren’t successful is hands down the hardest part of this gig, but I see it as an opportunity to provide feedback when someone asks for it, and as an opportunity to treat others with grace. I hope if you were to ask the people I’ve interviewed over the years that they will tell you that I treated them with class and respect throughout the process. I’ve never left anyone hanging, not one of the people I have ever interviewed will tell you that I didn’t speak to them directly to let them know that they didn’t get the job. My attitude is of understanding – I know how hard job hunting can be and how frustrating and arduous to be looking for work but through that process every person has a right to be listened to and treated with dignity.

We do a wide variety of things at Praxis, all of them feed me in some way, but Recruitment really hits home for me with the significance of my contribution, my ability to meet and work with a huge variety of people and how in the end, my perseverance pays off.

Employees Keeping You Up At Night? Read on:

HR Audits Work! By Christina Stewart, CPHR

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A healthcare company leader had employees keeping her up at night. Her main concern was entitlement: tardiness, absenteeism, a spike in peer to peer conflict, giving rewards and additional pay and getting a non-response – or an outright complaint that it wasn’t enough. Basically, she was seeing employees take and take and take and an overall sentiment that the company should simply be happy that the employees showed up to work each day; these team members were lacking in self-awareness and taking no accountability for their actions. The culture was flat at best and the negativity was taking over – people just seemed miserable – especially the CEO and she was worried that it was leeching out to her clients. She had done an employee survey a year before, but the results simply confirmed what she already knew and mistakenly, she didn’t do anything about the mediocre results. She didn’t undertake any changes or take any further action other than simply conducting the survey.

She reached out to us to see if there were a way, we could help in turning this collection of individuals into a true team. Before we could do that, we needed to understand why theses behaviours were happening.

We undertook an audit – interviewed a variety of employees (different roles, departments, tenure, and levels of responsibility) reviewed all the HR documentation (policies, procedures for hiring, promoting, terminating, training, benefits – everything related to HR). In doing so we quickly came to see a few patterns emerge:

  • The first and largest was concerning unclear expectations provided from leadership. Employees weren’t sure what success looked like for their role and they were not connected to the greater goal of the organization. They just didn’t see the value in the work they were doing.

  • There were further themes identified around how the rewards and recognition of good behaviour and reaching milestones were handed out

  • How the policy was interpreted and executed (often inconsistently), and

  • How poor performance was mostly ignored.

We were able to provide specific tactics to take to implement address the above list:

Expectations By setting very clear expectations on how, when and where the work is to be done and by whom, conflicts were immediately reduced, leaving leadership with more time to motivate the team instead of simply running interference. The other outcome of clear expectations was increased productivity. When a leader says “bring in clients” an employee will be creative in determining what that means (Only bringing in one is still an increase, right?) but when the leader says “your job this month is to bring in 10 clients” the employee works directly toward that goal until it’s met – no creative interpretation required. Through this process with us the employer lost two employees who were at the heart of most of the conflict – all turnover is not bad!

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By connecting the team to the significance of the company we were able to increase engagement and of course increased engagement means increased productivity. As leaders we know that productivity equals profitability and of course profitability equals increased rewards for the team. Round and round it goes.

The best part of the story: The Leader finally got some much needed sleep!

If you have any questions about how we can help your organization get to the heart of what’s happening for your team – let us know. We offer free consultations and free HR Pulse Checks to help guide you in creating your best HR strategy.

Are Personality Tests Valuable? By Christina Stewart

We think so.  But there is a catch… The Results Must Always Be Used For Good!  Let me explain…

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Personality tests, such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI for those in the biz,) can give folks a super strong sense of who they are and why they behave the way they do. They can also give employers a strong sense of who the employee is, where they may naturally be adept and show the ways that someone may contribute to the team. The problem lies in taking the results at face value, and using those results as a basis for either hiring or not, because there is always more under the surface.  

A great example is with the MBTI.  I am an ISTJ – and I am an ISTJ – I like structure and order and I’m also incredibly reliable.  The risk comes in when, let’s say, an employer may be interested in hiring me to facilitate training. They may see the ISTJ, and assume that I’m too introverted to speak up and move on to another candidate who shows a stronger preference for extroversion.  But what you don’t know about me by only seeing the “I” or the Introvert in ISTJ, is that I actually love public speaking. I adore standing up in front of a group of people and sharing knowledge and having great conversations.  ISTJs can actually be extremely adept at delivering training sessions because they are always incredibly prepared and they’re also information junkies – both attributes would be positive assets to an employer’s training department.

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The lesson here is to use personality assessments to prove what you already and know about someone “Look there is an ISTJ – I knew she seemed like he would be reliable,” and to use it as a way to allow a person a vaster contribution once you do hire someone.  They can provide tremendous value for self-discovery, team building, coaching, enhancing communication, and numerous other developmental applications. But due to limited predictive validity (does this test show how an employer will perform in the future?), low test-retest reliability (will this person answer the test exactly the same each and every time?), lack of norming (can this test be held up against another person’s and show the truth?) and an internal consistency (lie detector) measure, etc., they are not ideal for use in hiring.

Employers with a role to fill who only look at a certain type of person take a big risk in missing out on someone who would be outstanding in a particular role.  Personality Tests can be very valuable when used for good – to build people up, but not to exclude potential employees from their workforce.  They may just miss out on a shining star.

Onboarding is Essential - By Christina Stewart

You have spent time, energy, money and other resources finding the right person to fill your vacancy; the last situation you want is for that new team member to leave your firm early and have all those resources go to waste.  Plus you’d be stuck doing it all over again.  But how do you bridge the gap between recruitment and retention?  Onboarding.

Make your new employee feel welcome, wanted and engaged before the first day.  Often there is a lag between signing the offer letter and the first day of employment, so a week before the start date call your new team member and say how much you are looking forward to having them onboard.   If it is an executive position call again on the afternoon of the day before they start.  This will warm any cold feet and calm any nerves.

It is imperative that when the new hire arrives on day one that they have a work space completely set up, everything from a computer with a working e-mail, e-mail signature, and any other necessary programs to pens, notebooks and business cards printed and sitting on their desk.  Plan in advance what the orientation and initial training will look like.  Know exactly who is teaching what and when.  Show a commitment to having prepped for them and they will feel important and valued from the start, thus increasing their chance of making it through the critical first three months.

One idea is to have new employees start on a Friday – this gives them the weekend to process the new environment and then they can hit the ground running on Monday.  The Friday is essentially a meet and greet anyway.  Make sure your entire team knows they are starting – send out an announcement e-mail with a brief overview of the new hire’s background and always set up their name in the phone system and on the phone directory.

The key to effective onboarding is to always appear organized and to always appear enthusiastic.  Make a commitment to your new team member before they even start and you’ll be rewarded with a team member that makes a speedy commitment to you.

 

 

 

 

I am Yoda by Drew Stewart

The newest Star Wars is in theaters today, which I know this for several reasons.

1.       Thanks to the permeation of their marketing and dollars that Disney has put behind this movie, one would need to be living under a rock to not know it exists

2.       I have always been a fan of the franchise and enjoyed all of the movies. I am not a ``super fan" per se but have seen them all, owned some merchandise when I was a CHILD and can offer up the odd quote from the movie.

3.       Lastly I know the movie is out today because my son and a host of other kids from his school are making the special field trip to see it. He has been under strict orders not to give plot spoilers when he comes home 

All of this got me to thinking about what character resonates with me most. Thankfully for entertainment purposes, there are a number of ``What Star Wars Character Are You`` tests online. In my search I found a quiz that is related to the MBTI and took it.  For the uninitiated, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a widely utilized personality test, which we use in some of our team building sessions.

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”                                                      Maybe i am a Jedi

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”                           

                       Maybe i am a Jedi

Now, I already know my personality type to be INTP but took the shortened quiz anyway to see if there was any symmetry and confirmed that not only did it spit out INTP but the character that I am most like is Yoda.  That is pretty good right? He is wise and logical and a pretty chill guy who magically disappears much like I do at a Christmas party. No notice given we just go poof and are gone.

I mean it could be worse; I could be Owen Lars (sorry Christina). The poor ISTJ’s get stuck with the most boring characters. They are not boring people. If you know an ISTJ, tell them you find them interesting and don’t tell them about this quiz.

 If you are looking for a way to entertain family and friends over the holidays, there are many fictional character/MBTI quizzes online. They are fun especially when you know the subject matter fairly well.  I would suggest you just give them a try but Master Yoda and I don’t operate like that.

Try not. Do... or do not. There is no try. 

-Yoda

Team Building with Purpose (part 5 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True Team Building with Purpose has both intention and determination.

In the final entry of our five part series we explain team building through problem solving.  In Part 2: Team Building through Personality Assessment, we talked about how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) uses the differences in employee’s preferences to launch a conversation about how to move forward as a team.  In Part 3: Activity Based Team Building and Part 4: Skills-Based Team Building we spoke about how learning can be overt or covert – but both ways can have positive impacts on the team development. In our final installment we’ll discuss tackling a problem head-on.

Team Building through Problem-Solving

This type of team building activity usually takes place in a retreat setting far away from the regular work environment and is led by an outside facilitator; well versed in mediation and conflict reduction and who must be an impartial third party. In problem-solving-based team building, team members come together to first identify and to second solve a key challenge the group is currently facing.  Problem-solving-based team building is a brainstorming experience that brings to light the team’s barriers to success. Once the symptoms have been elicited, the team goes on to examine possible causes, until they reach the root cause of the problem. At this stage, team members are able to develop a concrete action plan to solve the challenge.

This team building approach has great benefits in term of stress relief and positive emotions towards the work environment. Problem-solving-based team building is an outlet for frustrations and a step forward to action. The team building helps the group move beyond inertia, stay motivated and take control over its own destiny. 

Team building is a comprehensive theory encompassing different types of activities with a clear purpose. True team building is certainly fun but also has both intention and determination – Team Building has Purpose!

Team Building with Purpose (Part 4 of 5) by Christina Stewart

In Part four of our five part series we walk through Skills Based team building.  In Part 1 we learned that Team Building has Purpose and that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction.

While Activity Based Team Building is an indirect way of teaching specific skills while brings employees together, skills-based team building means direct learning.

Skills-Based Team Building

In skills-based team building, team members participate in workshops where they learn and practice a specific skill set, such as:

·         Conflict resolution or management

·         Reaching group consensus

·         Give/receive constructive feedback

·         Types of Power, Control and Influence

·         Shifting Perspective

·         Effective Communication

This type of team building focuses on skills that can be applied immediately to the work environment. Human Resource Managers may likewise use this team building approach to develop the leadership potential of members.

Skills Based Team Building is a superb option for developing your employees both for your organization and for themselves.

Next Entry: Team Building through Problem-Solving

Team Building with Purpose (part 3 of 5) by Christina Stewart

We know from reading in part one and part two Team Building with Purpose that team building is a lot more than a frivolous experience; team building is not just a socializing event, team building isn’t just a way to get out of the office for the afternoon. Many people think of team building as fun and games, risk taking adventures, or merely play time. Although there’s more to team building than just that, team building can actually be a ton of fun!

One option is to Team build through Personality Assessment using something like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator to develop a deeper understanding of why we and our colleagues do things the way we do.  And from understanding often comes conflict reduction. 

In Part three of our five part series we walk through activity based team building.  Often, when people think of team building, this is the kind of session they think of.

Activity-Based Team Building:

Activity-based team building is used to provide teams with challenging tasks that often take place in the outdoors:

·         Ropes Course

·         Rafting

·         Mountain Climbing

·         Orienteering

·         Kayaking

·         Survival Events

·         Boot Camp

But there are lots of indoor activities too:

·         Iron Chef Competitions

·         Trivia Battles

·         Scavenger Hunts

·         Video Game Competitions

These kind of activities address specific development needs of teams such as problem solving, risk-taking, trust-building and paradigm breaking.  The idea is not just to have fun together, bond well and learn new skills, but to actually understand how these teamwork lessons can be applied to a work situation. The experience of success in an outdoor challenge can be a great booster for the team’s morale and productivity in the workplace.   

Team Building through Activity can be a tremendous opportunity to bring employees together, see colleagues in a different light and get people working together. Next Entry: Skill Based Team Building

Team Building with a Purpose (Part 2 of 5) by Christina Stewart

Team Building through Personality Assessment – Part 2 of 5

We learned in part one Team Building with Purpose that team building is one of the best investments that an organization can make, but what are some of the options?  What can a company actually do with their team?   In Part two of our five part series we walk through one of those options: Team Building by Personality Assessment. 

Team Building through Personality Assessment:

In personality-based team building, individuals fill out a psychometric test – MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), for example – where they can learn more about their own personalities and those of their teammates as well. The results of the self-assessment are shared with the team and used as a tool for communication and understanding. Personality-based team building is an effective development tool which helps team members gain better self-understanding, become aware of the differences between each other and adjust their behavior to match their teammates’. Different individuals have different motivational needs and different reactions to work situations, stress or change. This can lead people to misinterpret each other’s intentions and actions. Understanding and accepting individual differences will greatly enhance conflict resolution, collaboration and team effectiveness. 

What You Can Expect After a Session – After completion of the MBTI organizations report that they experience:

Improved Communication: A greater understanding of the preferences of others leads to more open and collaborative dialogue throughout teams, between leadership and employees as well as across separate teams of employees.

Improved Team Performance: The insight gained into the preferences of those around you can aid in decision making, training, project management and other workplace initiatives. Also, by understanding the sources of stress for your colleagues team members are better able to aid and avoid pitfalls.

Conflict Resolution: With increased communication and understanding of differences comes a reduction in the nature and severity of usual conflicts within a work environment.  Employees become better at being empathetic colleagues.

Selecting Better Employees and Increased Building of Effective teams: If you understand the underlying dynamics of your teams it becomes easier to hire the right fit as well as to put your teams together.

Team Building through Personality Assessment can be a fabulous way to bring employees together and keep those connections going long after the session ends.

Next Entry: Activity Based Team Building

Team Building with Purpose (part 1 of 5) by Christina Stewart

The words “team building” are bandied about in business and industry – but what does it actually mean?

We know that when teams are functioning at their capacity in a productive manner, there is no stopping success.  We also know the opposite to be true. A team with issues, conflicts or uncertainties, will plod along with success as a far off concept.

Whether in athletics, business, education, government, or a group of people trying to plan a birthday party, things are done smoother and with greater success when people work together towards a common goal. The more effective they are at working as a team, the more fruitful the task they set out to accomplish and additionally, as an added bonus, the greater each team members’ sense of satisfaction.  Provided team members can communicate freely and share confidence in each other’s abilities and judgment, working in a team is the way to go.  Team building is a way to boost confidence in colleagues and ensure that free communication flows. 

Coming together as a group may come naturally for some people, but positive intentions are not enough to turn a group into a team – and a successful, high-performing team at that. HR Leaders know that exceptional teams are built not born. Teams need building and team building is one of the best investments an organization can make. Team building is about creating connections and bringing out the cooperative intellect within the team.

Team Building is an Intervention that:

Solves – Task/Problems

Clarifies – Rules

Solves – Interpersonal Challenges

Enhances – Social Relations

All of which affect team functioning

So, then what is an “Intervention???”

There are four kinds:

·         Team Building through Personality Assessment 

·         Activity-based team building

·         Skills-based team building

·         Team building through problem-solving

Check back soon where we’ll go through each in detail. Next Entry: Team Building through Personality Assessment

Why Praxis? by Drew Stewart

Not unlike many people I know, I didn’t have a professional career path picked out for myself that enabled me to seamlessly transition through High School, Post Secondary and right into the workforce.  My best laid plan was to roll out of bed one day, and magically throw a baseball 100 mph.  Scouts would clamour to sign me and the lineup of teams looking for a lefty flamethrower would rival the headcount for the first McDonalds cheeseburger in Moscow’s Red Square.  Alas, that magic never came. 

I struggled finding something that clicked. Something I could identify as a passion or pursuant interest that would potentially last a lifetime.  Like anyone else without a plan, I tried a wide variety of different things but nothing really stuck. It wasn’t until I started working within the software field, for a video game publisher, that something really clicked for me. Now I know it might seem obvious on the surface, ‘’Young male enjoys working for a video game studio’’ but it was much deeper than that for me. Truth be told, I am not a real avid video game player or enthusiast, only playing casually and sticking to the sports simulation genre. However, what I really loved about working there, was being part of a team.  Being part of a team was tapping into those long held dreams of being an athlete. In fact ‘’ex-athlete” (pick a sport) was a very common part of someone’s CV at the studio.  This wasn’t by accident I’m sure. There is something about the late nights, long days and tight deadlines with members of the same team that creates camaraderie, not unlike a professional locker room. The “we’re are all in this together” mentality. 

At the end of any given project it was always amazing to look back at where we started and how it looked at the end. It made me realize the power of people. In my time there, thankfully there were very few projects that were abysmal failures. It was much more common to come out of the process viewing it as a success.  What I came to learn was that there was a common thread that helped distinguish what made a project successful and want didn’t.  Team Composition.  I found it fascinating with the technology and tools that we had at our disposal, the human element was really the factor that could make or break whether we were successful or not. It was also interesting to see individuals who were utter superstars on one project, struggle on another with a different team. They were after all the same person with the same attributes right? 

It is my interest in human interaction and the power of team that evolved into the formation of PraxisPerformance Group.  We want to open up eyes that your own success can be as simple as optimizing the people that are already onboard with you. Not to mention, opening the eyes of the individuals who work within your company into realizing that varying styles and preferences can become your greatest strength as a team.  

The magic that could have made me part of a World Series Champion never came for me but it’s absence made me able to contribute to making a number of teams stronger.   

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” 
― Phil Jackson