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Defining Problems: The Most Important Business Skill You've Never Been Taught

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

By Michael "Coop" Cooper - Executive Coach & Trainer, Influencers & Innovators

Join Coop for his session,
Effectively Analyzing and Defining HR Problems to Get Results, at HR West Seattle, July 15, 2016. 

This article originally appeared on 
Entrepreneur.com
Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” While that may sound extreme, it does highlight the importance of defining problems. It also hints at some interesting facts: A well-defined problem often contains its own solution within it, and that solution is usually quite obvious and straightforward. By defining problems properly, you make them easier to solve, which means saving time, money and resources.

Every businessperson needs to master the ability to define problems, or challenges, but very few MBA programs, leadership development programs or management training programs teach this indispensable skill. I spoke to a group of 80 HR managers recently and asked if any of them had been taught how to define problems. Only one person raised a hand. That’s common to most business groups I speak with on a weekly basis. Less than 1 percent of the workforce has been taught how to define problems.
During my first five years as a coach, I didn’t know how to define problems properly, but in the ten years since, I’ve learned this critical technique. I use it every single day, with every single client. It has transformed how I work with people and has made the work much more impactful. These days, clients will hire me solely based on the fact that I have the ability to define their problems during our very first conversation together. When I hear them begin to differentiate between issues, asking, “Which problem are we solving?” I know that I’ve made a major impact on their business.

Defining problems is simple and any difficulty that arises is because it requires patience, repetition and thorough examination. It is the most important element of critical thinking.

You can define problems correctly in just three steps I call the Problem Definition Filter:

1. Explore the current situation. Paint a picture in words by including the “presenting problem,” the impact it is having, the consequences of not solving the problem, and the emotions the problem is creating for those involved.

2. Explain. Once you have examined and clearly explained the situation, draft a simple problem statement by filling in the blank: The problem that we are trying to solve is: ___________. Distill the problem to its simplest form possible.

3. Ask yourself. “Why is that a problem?” If the answer is another problem, then congratulate yourself for moving from the “presenting problem” to a deeper problem. Then ask yourself again, “Why is that a problem?” Do that repeatedly until you either land on what is obviously the source of all of the problems you’ve identified or you identify unexpected consequences of not solving the problem. If you land on unexpected consequences, the problem you identified right before that is likely your “source problem.”

Toyota famously created the "five why’s'' technique for their Six Sigma process improvement program. While that number was limited to five why’s, the truth is sometimes it takes only one why. Other times, it may take 17. Ask as many times as needed until you get to the source problem.

This high-level overview of the Problem Definition Filter can help you learn how to define the problems in your department or business and determine if you’re wasting time and resources on poorly defined problems. When it comes to determining whether you have defined a problem well, ask yourself or your collaborators if the solution to the problem is obvious or straightforward. Also, ask if it is a problem worth solving -- many problems aren’t.

About the Author

Michael O. “Coop” Cooper is an internationally recognized executive coach, advisor, facilitator and trainer who specializes in working with executive teams to develop the leadership skills, alignment and strategies to grow and thrive in a constantly changing environment. His passion is helping entrepreneurs, executives and leadership teams overcome their self-limiting beliefs and personal issues to reach their potential, by addressing interpersonal challenges, defining their purpose, gaining team alignment, and developing the strategy, systems and processes to execute their vision. He founded Innovators + Innovators to help right-brain entrepreneurs and executives capitalize on the need for more creativity in business leadership.

Connect with Coop
Linkedin
@InnovInfluencer

HR West Seattle Speaker Session:
Effectively Analyzing and Defining HR Problems to Get Results
Register for HR West Seattle 2016
"HR in the most innovated place on earth"
July 15, 2016

 

Tags:  HR  HR Management  HR Training  HR West  HR West Seattle  NCHRA 

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Four Tips for Establishing Leadership and Credibility

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Contributed by Karen Rodriguez - Exec|Comm

A common question that we hear from our clients is “how do I establish myself as a leader in a new company or role?” Establishing leadership and credibility takes dedication and time, but done correctly, it can result in a better work environment for you and your colleagues. Here are a few tips to get you started.

It is better to be fair, than to be liked.

If you’ve moved into a management position, you’ve probably built strong relationships during your tenure and you don't want to damage those relationships now. Yet it's more important to be fair than to be liked. We suggest you consider each person's competencies and supervise accordingly. You should be more involved when someone is learning a new skill, and begin to let go as they become more proficient. The more flexible your management style, the more you will connect with your former peers.

Find your voice and have more impact.

Finding the right tone when speaking to your colleagues and subordinates is crucial to build credibility and respect. If you speak in a monotone voice, others may tune you out or worse, see it as lack of passion and not respect you as a leader. Use your voice. Show your passion. And have more impact.

Provide useful feedback.

Feedback is an important part of both leadership and relationship building within a company. If someone is working on a project, you should offer feedback at the midpoint and end of the project. Praise the person's successes and efforts, and address areas of disappointment or concern. Keep your discussion of the issues specific and objective. For less experienced people offer more feedback to build their confidence.

Apologize when you’ve made a mistake.

You may find that at some point in your career, you’ll need to apologize for some sort of miscommunication. The ability to deliver a well-executed apology is essential to your career and life. It establishes your credibility and helps others trust you.

Establishing leadership and credibility doesn’t happen overnight, so take the time to perfect these four tips and be patient as you build your relationships. Do you have additional tips for establishing leadership and credibility? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez is a passionate marketer, designer, and communicator. With over 15 years of experience, Karen manages Exec|Comm’s global brand including their online presence, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events. She manages the firm’s blog, The Chat, and lunch & learn series, The Learning Exchange as well as the delivery and expansion of Exec|Comm’s open-enrollment seminars in Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose. Karen holds a BFA from Parsons, The New School for Design in New York City.  She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.

Tags:  Exec-Comm  HR  HR Leadership  HR Management  Karen Rodriguez  NCHRA 

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The Manager’s Employee Engagement Checklist

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, May 19, 2016
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2016

By Chief Engagement Officer, Sheridan, LLC. Kevin will present his session, Building a Magnetic Culture Through Engagement and Innovation at HR West Seattle on July 15, 2016. Registration is now open for the all new HR West Seattle (the 2nd of 4 stops on the HR West 2016 roadshow!), join us for this exciting one-day conference

The following article was originally published on his blog.  

 

Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace Study highlighted the single greatest thing you can do to increase employee engagement: hire the right managers. In fact, the study said that if you hire a manager who is disengaged, the workgroup they manage is three times more likely to be disengaged.

So even if you hire the right, highly engaged managers, they still need to know, and do, the most effective things to bring their work group to higher, and hopefully best-in-class, levels of engagement. And even if they know these engagement management “to dos,” they often forget to implement them, or execute them consistently.

So why not give them a checklist? Well, I created one for you and them, based on a key driver analysis of millions of employee engagement survey responses. The following suggestions are in order of importance. The Management Employee Engagement Checklist has been used by hundreds of organizations worldwide, with great success.

Have you:
– Put a reminder in your outlook calendar to carve out one hour each week to recognize employees who do great work or accomplish great outcomes?

– Had a Career Development conversation with each of your direct reports during the last quarter?

– During this conversation, did you ask them where they wanted to be in six months or a year and offer them help to achieve that career objective?

– Also during this conversation, did you ask them what things get them passionate and excited about doing their job? Conversely, did you ask them what things disengage them while at work?

– Did you ask them what their passions and hobbies are outside of work, showing a genuine interest while listening to their response? On a related note, the next time they do great work, give them a gift related to that passion or hobby (such as a paperback book).

– Give your direct reports access to a free resource which will empower them to privately see how engaged they are, as well as get suggestions on what they can do to become more engaged. Here is a link to such a free resource.

– Given them clear instructions and your expectations on what outcomes they should accomplish in their job?

– Encouraged them to review a list of reflective questions to ensure they are in a job/role about which they can get excited and passionate? Here is a link to a free resource.

– Found ways to insert more FUN into your department and workplace culture?

This checklist will prove useful to ensure that your managers are fully leveraging the key drivers of employee engagement. It is a best practice that managers should review this checklist every month. Let it work for you and your team!

 

Kevin Sheridan is an Internationally-recognized Key-Note Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of employee engagement. He spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, helping some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long- overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His book, “Building a Magnetic Culture,” made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of “The Virtual Manager,” which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers. Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.

Connect with Kevin Sheridan:
Twitter
Linkedin
...don't miss the chance to meet and listen to Kevin (live and in person!) at HR West Seattle on July 15, 2016.


Tags:  employee engagement  HR Conference  HR speaker  HR West Seattle  Kevin Sheridan  NCHRA 

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Employees Aren’t Taking Time Off. Here’s What We Can Do.

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Monday, May 9, 2016
Updated: Saturday, May 7, 2016

By Ben Mueller • Namely 

Time off is a busy HR intersection where personal lives cross paths with business productivity, and trust in your company culture must be the guiding traffic light. Is it any wonder so many employees and companies end up stalled? A new survey released by Namely may reveal the true conflict: Employees want to take time off, but they’re simply not doing it.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Our recent survey of 471 employed adults in the U.S. revealed that paid time off is the most important employee benefit for several employees. 1 in 5 are willing to give up a higher salary for more PTO or an unlimited policy. Furthermore, 87% of employees rated PTO policies a high priority when evaluating a new job’s benefits and compensation package—with over half calling PTO “very critical.” And just how much time off do people plan on taking? Over half of employees plan on 15 days or more of paid time off this year, with 20% planning on taking more than 20 days.

So, what’s the kicker of it all? Those carefree summer days and summer nights just aren’t coming to fruition.

The average American only took 11 vacation days in 2015 according to another recent survey. That’s a full 4 to 9 planned days that are going unused by employees—and sometimes more. According to Namely’s survey, over half of employees claim they typically book a week or more of time off in advance. But in reality, the average duration of a time off request is just 2.34 days according to data collected from the Namely platform.

It’s no secret that America comes in last among advanced economies in terms of mandated vacation days, with several American workers charting up their weekly hours worked like badges of honor. But what does it say when there’s a very real, collective misconception of the time that employees plan on taking—time that 57% of employees answered they would use for spending time with family—that they don’t really take? Is it a simple failure of wishful thinking? Or should we point the blame in the other direction—back on HR and the company itself?

I’ve Got the Power

We asked Matt Straz, Founder and CEO of Namely, to weigh-in on the trend. “What this tells us is that despite the best intentions to take large chunks of time away from work and unplug from technology, employees are feeling confined and are using vacation time differently than previous generations,” he said. “The result is shorter, more frequent bursts of vacation time requested last minute, which means it’s even more critical for today’s employees and HR departments to effectively communicate to mitigate any business impact.”

The biggest preventer of PTO, according to Namely’s recent survey, comes as no surprise: rigid company policies (26%). That is followed in close second by “stress at the thought of missing time at work” (21%). Both of those issues fall squarely in HR’s camp—policy and culture.

There’s no right answer to just how much PTO is appropriate for today’s working professional. Any thought leader will throw out any number of days, and the answer will vary greatly from employee to employee, as Namely’s survey recently ratified. But what organizations can do is empower their people. They can remove the barriers that stop employees from taking the time off that they do plan to take—the time off they need to stay happy and engaged. HR can truly create a better managed, more human workplace where employees are at the very least empowered to work in the very way they see fit. Here’s how.

1. Codify your culture’s expectations around time off and share them in an understandable way with people managers and employees.

According to data from the Namely platform, employees on “unlimited” time off plans only average one more vacation day per year than those employees on “limited” plans. That means HR and managers need to be clear about the time off they expect employees to take annually—no matter what kind of plan is in place. And employees take cues from their managers. For instance, 53 percent of managers surveyed by Project: Time Off admit they set a bad example for using time off for employees.

It’s HR’s responsibility to sit down and review or update vacation policies. Send an updated version of the employee handbook to employees, or schedule a lunch and learn for sections of the company to learn about new changes. Don’t forget to update career web pages and job boards with the changes so candidates are familiar with time off policies before they’re in the door. Put the information in many different forms and many different places so employees can’t miss it.

2. Utilize mobile HR for time off requests.

An easy fix for giving employees more power to easily request time off is to give them a mobile app for sending in their requests right when they’re thinking of them. According to Namely’s survey, 76% of all employees would use a mobile app to access a company’s HR tools like time off requests—and millennials are 20% more likely to gravitate towards using an app.

Kathryn Goodick, HR Director at SwervePoint, uses the Namely mobile app at her company. “Our employees are thrilled to now be able to submit time off requests from their mobile devices,” she says, “and it gives me and our managers greater visibility into our employees’ plans at any time.”

When employees have the capability right at their fingertips to better manage their vacations, you’re one step closer to helping give them the work-life balance they desire.

3. Manage a flexible time off policy with all-in-one HR technology.

No matter what exact time off policy your culture settles on, it needs to be flexible enough to support everyone at your company. But the reason several companies don’t implement more innovative policies is simple: they’re harder for HR to manage. Docking employee requests against a bank of 10 days per year sure is easier than handling random requests on the fly and totaling them with an unlimited plan.

When you use HR technology to keep all of your employee data in one place, all of that becomes easier. “This is where HR technology becomes about more than performance reviews, and actually about helping employees manage work-life integration,” says Matt Straz. Imagine time off requests filtering into a company calendar so everyone can keep track of who’s in and who’s out. Also, when payroll, performance, and time off are all managed in one place, you instantly see the full picture of how an employee contributes to your org and interacts with his or her team.

Just like innovative software and tech companies need the best tools to create the future of technology, your culture needs the right tools in order to create an innovative culture. Don’t go it alone and instead get the HR tech you need.

4. Fill in the gaps by cultivating a culture that cares about people.

If employees aren’t taking the time off they need to, there might not be an issue with policy. The issue might be a bit greater one—company culture.

Consider how other facets of your culture may influence how your employees feel about work. The 2015 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index survey found that 52 percent of respondents feel they can’t even get up to take a break in a regular workday. Furthermore, about four out of 10 work on weekends at least once a month.

But managers know their employees need breaks! In the Project: Time Off survey, 80 percent of managers said that using vacation time is important to maintain team energy levels, and 74 percent said it gives employees better attitudes. So if people at your company are overworked and overlooking their time away from the grind, let them know where your culture stands. Whether that’s in daily breaks, organized lunch hours, no-work weekends, or email curfews—fill in the gaps between those vacation days with breaths of fresh air.

Managing time off doesn’t need to be as tedious as a traffic jam. With the right tech in place to empower your performers—and a "people-centric" culture founded on trust—you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get your whole company cruising down a productive, well-balanced road.

Learn more about Namely's mobile app in the App Store!

 

About the Author
Ben Mueller is a Content Writer at Namely, the all-in-one HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. 

NCHRA 2016 Platinum Sponsor
Namely believes everyone deserves a great workplace—supported by easy-to-use HR technology. That’s why Namely is the HR, Payroll, and Benefits platform your employees will love. Namely allows you to manage all of your HR data in one place, with personalized service to help your company get better, faster. We're here to give mid-sized companies the software and support they need to evolve their company cultures, engage their employees, and always deliver great HR.

Tags:  HR  HR Tech  human resources  namely  namely mobile app  NCHRA  paid time off  survey 

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HR West (Bay Area) 2016 Recap: Putting the Human in Human Resources

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Monday, April 25, 2016

Namely HR Software

We thought we'd share the following article written by Erin Daruszka • March 10, 2016 for the Namely Blog. Erin did a fantastic job covering HR West - at the Oakland Convention Center. An HR West 2016 Platinum Sponsor, Namely is the HR, Payroll, and Benefits platform employees love. It's HR software that employees actually use—built to fit every company culture. Manage all of your HR data in one place, with personalized service to help your company get better, faster. Namely is used by some of the world’s most innovative and exciting companies in media, technology, commerce, and more.

 

The HR West conference (2016), presented by the Northern California HR Association, was held March 7-9 in Oakland, CA. As an SPHR, this was my fifth HR West. I consider this conference an academic Disneyland for HR professionals. Of course, there’s the recertification credits that draw us away from the office in the first place. But HR West is always an excellent opportunity to network and share ideas with other HR professionals, reunite with former colleagues, recruit for new talent, and peruse vendors that support the employee lifecycle.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite moments from three days of great people and great strategies.

Continue to the full article on Namely.com

 

Tags:  HR leadership  HR Management Software  HR West  Namely  NCHRA 

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