10 Common Workplace Challenges Impacting Your Business !!

In my work as a speaker and facilitator, I’m passionate about helping teams and team members tackle their biggest challenges. Over the past 6 years, I’ve surveyed my keynote and workshop audiences about their toughest issues. No matter what sort of organization I’m working with, the challenges they face are surprisingly similar.

It may come as no surprise that “a lack of time to get work done” is just as big a problem in nursing as it is in government; and “poor communication” is as rampant in the not-for-profit world as it in in private industry. It just goes to show that ‘people problems’ are universal.

Here are the top ten biggest challenges faced by a wide range of people and teams:

1 . Communication (or Lack Thereof)

Navigating different communication styles and the prioritization of communication in the office is a challenge most employees face. A lack of effective communication hinders a team’s efficiency and can also impact employee’s level of trust amongst each other and management. And although communication covers an array of office obstacles, I find this mostly comes down to managing different perspectives.

One powerful tool I share in my workshops is to use these three words: “tell me more”. While it’s useful when you don’t understand, this phrase is especially helpful even when you think you know what your colleague means or is trying to express.

2. Staying Engaged and Motivated

Only 32% of workers were reported as being engaged in their jobs in 2015. The majority (50.8%) of employees were reported as not engaged, and the remaining 17.2% were actively disengaged. These numbers don’t bode well for the workplace.

Engaged employees are cited as being involved in, excited about and committed to their jobs. Extensive research shows that a higher level of engagement among staff impacts a business’ innovation, productivity and profitability making this a priority for most managers. And it goes without saying that a lack of engagement translates to a lack of motivation.

3. Project Management and Organization

Even if you have a great team in place that is highly engaged and communicates effectively, chances are they are stumbling over the organization hurdle during projects. A lack of organization is up there when it comes to the challenges people share with me. Some of the feedback I hear is that there can be a lack of strong and consistent project management, or a lack of direction in their roles which makes it tough to organize and prioritize tasks.

4. Staff Attitudes and Hierarchy/Bureaucracy

Chances are we’ve all experienced this at one point in our career. Either we’ve had the misfortune of working alongside a disgruntled colleague that affects the mood and morale of the team, or we’ve struggled with systems that make it a challenge to complete a task because of all the red tape. Most employees say a balance between having clearly defined management procedures and allowing staff to be autonomous and to take ownership of their roles would improve attitudes and effectiveness.

5. Dealing with Change

Changes in the workplace can consist of anything from management and staff turnover to procedural changes or changes in clients. Either way, dealing with change in the workplace is another common challenge I hear. One thing that stands out for me when I hear this is the idea of challenging our assumptions. If something around us changes, are we able to challenge our assumption about what we think should be happening, or how this will affect us? This can be another really powerful tool.

6. Countering Negativity – Morale

Let’s face it, if even one of the above is present in the workplace there’s a good chance that morale is being brought down, and some employees have adopted a negative attitude. People share with me that negativity often stems from frustration. The more frustrations they face in the workplace, the more likely the are to become negative.

7. Ability to be Creative

It’s a challenge for anyone to be creative all the time. Generally, what we call creativity, ebbs and flows for most of us. I hear about challenges that come from employees that struggle to be creative all of the time.

Another insight that I hear is how helpful a change in scenery or employees having the flexibility to switch their work environments can be. Encouragement, collaboration and feedback have also been mentioned when it comes to staying creative.

8. Difficult Clients or Patrons

A difference of perspectives and communication styles can also cross over into relationships with clients and patrons. This is another common challenge that I hear, and an opportunity to challenge assumptions and find new solutions with a shift towards a greater mutual understanding from both parties. This is a great place to use the communication tool I mentioned above, asking clients or patrons, “tell me more” opening the dialogue towards a solution even further. Mention empathy?

9. Problem Solving

We tend to get caught in the ‘same-think’ rut. We approach problems over and over from the same perspective, then wonder why we fail to solve them. I suggest you approach problems through a lens of opportunity.  What new perspectives can you adopt to help shift mindsets?  And don’t forget to ask solution-driven questions.

10. New Skills and Professional Development

We all like to feel like we are accomplishing something, working towards goals both professionally and personally. This desire is human nature and exists in the workplace more than you would think. I hear from groups how acquiring new skills and furthering their careers in the workplace increases their overall engagement as well as job satisfaction. As a bonus it increases the collective knowledge of a team and in turn generates motivation and higher staff retention.

So What?

So there you have it – the top 10 challenges faced by people from a wide range of organizations.  When you think of it, none of these are very surprising. Dealing with difficult people, adapting to change, and keeping people motivated are universal challenges. Fortunately, there are simple ways to face these challenges.  Often, a great place to start is to challenge your assumptions about the cause of your specific challenges. By leaving your assumptions behind, you may find that you’ll discover innovative new ways to tackle your most pressing issues at work.

Source: http://bit.ly/2iB4Vdb

Start replacing “no” with “how” to improve effective communication!!

How many times a day do you say no? Why do you say no in the first place? Most people will tell you they respond with “no” because of laziness, fear of failure or a lack of spare time. In reality, there is almost always a better solution than just saying no.

You don’t always have to say yes to everything, of course. However, next time someone asks for help or requests you do something, try responding instead by asking them, “How?” Rather than giving off the impression that you don’t care or that you are not helpful, this will instead demonstrate your willingness to try and troubleshoot the issue to make someone’s life easier. This small adjustment is a simple approach to improve effective communication in any relationship, regardless of whether it is personal or professional. “How?” creates opportunities, while “no” tends to end them.

Connect up and out.

In order to establish effective communication, we need to connect in two directions: upwards and outwards. First, we need to “connect up” to what inspires you. Whether you are inspired by God, Jesus, Buddha or something else, the important thing is to connect to something which pushes you to be your best and encourages others around you to do the same. When you are connected to something that is larger than yourself, it raises your awareness of your emotional and mental well-being, and therefore allows you to communicate more effectively. Take some time to figure out what your inspiration is. It will pay off down the road by increasing your ability to become attuned to your senses.

We not only need to effectively communicate upwards, but we also need to focus on communicating outwards as well. We interact and work with so many people on a daily basis in order to achieve our goals, so it is incredibly valuable to learn how to be effective in your efforts among your team, peers and family. Even failing to connect with one of these groups can be a big detriment to our success and happiness. We need to connect to others around us and get aligned in order to share a vision, creating a powerful collective belief.

Get out of your way.

Often times, we get in our own way when it comes to connecting with others. We forget about gratitude, empathy and accountability and instead limit our own potential. The biggest catalyst causing people to get in their own way is when they automatically respond to a question by saying no without thinking. Next time you are about to say no, consider asking “how?” instead and see what type of response you get. There may be solutions to a problem that you might not have thought of or you could be able to settle on a middle ground that still provides some sort of help to the person who came to you. Chances are, your interaction will be much more positive.

“How?” creates possibilities.

One of the best examples of putting this idea into action is a kid wanting a luxury car as his first car. Thousands of kids ask their parents for a car that is out of budget and not practical. The teenager usually gets a pretty quick answer: “No.”

Consider what might happen if parents respond to their teenager, “How can we make this happen?” That child is going to respond in one of two ways. He will either quickly realize the improbability of earning enough money to purchase the car on his own or start thinking about the steps necessary in order to accomplish his goal. This minor adjustment in a parent’s response to such a request opens up so many possibilities when someone truly is inspired; possibilities turn into probabilities. Then, when we take appropriate actions accompanied by strategy, discipline and awareness, those probabilities can become a reality.

How — it works

Saying no is a surefire way to prevent yourself from tackling challenges and testing your potential. When people ask us for help, we need to ask, “How can we do it?” This is why effective communication is so important when trying to get what we want in life and business. Connecting up to that which inspires us and communicating outwards in order to inspire others enables us to accomplish our goals and our dreams. One simple question, “How?,” is the key to communicating effectively and getting out of our own way.

Source: http://bit.ly/2wPkkMz

Your Company Has A Purpose, But Do You?

If you’re in HR, marketing or any leadership role, you hear it all the time: Your company needs to articulate its purpose. Simon Sinek gave his popular TED talk on the subject in 2009. To date, the video has 33 million views.

LinkedIn and Imperative released a global study on the topic just last year. And a quick Google search will yield a ton of articles covering a different piece of the purpose pie every day. Yet there’s a sliver that deserves more attention.

How does your personal purpose align with the purpose of the organization where you work?

Working at an entrepreneurial agency, I have been able to explore many areas of business over the course of my career and became involved in different passion projects along the way. I have always gravitated towards internal operations and people work — even though I started out in client service and public relations — but I never had a guiding purpose or beacon that led me (at least not that I was aware).

It was working fine for me until five years ago, when very unexpectedly, I lost my younger brother to suicide. I can’t begin to express the tragic and gut-wrenching time this was, nor the difficult months and years that followed.

After this, I questioned everything: How did this happen? What if it happens again? How can we talk about these issues more openly as a society? In my family? At work? How can I better help the people in my life?

The seemingly endless barrage of questions follow me to this day, and probably will for eternity.

It’s that last one that really sticks though: “How can I better help the people in my life?” I ask it every morning, night and moment that my brain quiets.

I am driven to better serve the people around me so they can be more aware of the opportunities they have and can create for themselves, as well as to be a solid supporter for them when they’re troubled.

That’s my personal purpose.

My company strives to be a great place to work where we do great work. It’s a place where employees can be themselves, take on challenging assignments, and have fun while they succeed together.

Happily, there was alignment between my purpose and what the company needed. I was able to transition my career into human resources, where I am helping to shape the experience people have when they work here.

It took a tragic awakening for me to set my life on a more purposeful path, but it doesn’t need to be that way for everyone. What it does take are attention and intention.

If you don’t yet have a defined purpose, think about the following:

  • What are the questions you ask yourself over and over?
  • What are the best projects you’ve worked on? Why?
  • Why were they important to you?
  • What gets you excited to come to work?
  • What brought you joy at – and outside of – work today? Why?

For two weeks, keep a journal to answer these questions. Review to see what resonates and what themes emerge. You can start to identify what you enjoy, want more of and desire to solve. With that in mind, you can look at your company’s purpose to determine if there is or could be alignment.

As you assess the connection between your personal purpose and the company purpose, consider the following:

  1. Look at shifts to your current role. Identify pain points in your company that are connected to your role and are aligned with organizational/personal purpose. Put your hand up and make your case to help or lead an initiative in that area.
  2. Explore new roles in your organization. Like me, you may have a calling that fits your personal purpose and helps the company, but you’re not in that role just yet. Speak with HR or a trusted manager to apply for another opening. If there are no relevant positions, get creative and see if there are steps you can take towards a new role. Maybe it’s shadowing someone in that role now, sitting on a new project committee or developing your own solution to an existing challenge. Sometimes expressing your interest is enough to open new doors.
  3. Acknowledge the round peg/square hole. If you’ve reflected, looked for alignment and sought connection, and it’s just not there, that’s OK. Be real with yourself, and if you can, with your company. At our firm, we have the utmost respect for people who say our company is not for them and are open to helping them find a better fit. If you’re not able to have this open conversation in your company, all the more reason to move on. This is the nature of business, and there is something better and more fulfilling for you out there.When you take a purposeful look at purpose – your own and your company’s – you may be surprised at the meaning you will add to your day, career and future. Worth a shot, no?

Five Easy Ways To Effectively Collaborate With Your Team

I talk a lot with those around me about co-creative leadership and collaboration. My team and I collaborate a lot with our clients, but not as often as we do with each other.

More often than not, you have the choice whether or not to collaborate. When you keep collaboration optional, you’re allowing a way out for yourself, and you’re likely to find a reason not to do it. But even though collaboration can be uncomfortable at first, the more you practice, the better you get at it.

My team and I still struggle to agree on certain things when we work together on something, but it’s part of the fun of collaboration. It goes to show that even the so-called “experts” sometimes run into difficulty too!

Here are five ways you can allow yourself to be a voice among many in the conversation

1. Have a clear goal.

To begin collaborating on something, you need a shared understanding of what you are trying to do. Without a clear and common goal, it’s difficult to do anything as a team. The goal can be as simple as a statement everyone agrees on. You may find it more useful to have a list of three or four bulleted objectives as well.

For the next few weeks, as practice, observe the meetings you take part in. What’s the purpose of the meeting? What happens when the purpose is clear, and what happens when it’s missing? How do people take part in it?

2. Give others permission to lead.

The key for you to remember is that good leaders also need to be good followers. The real secret is identifying when you need to lead and when you need to follow.

Think about the last meeting you were in that had many people in it with strong personalities. Did people graciously collaborate or did people butt heads most of the time? People clash when they don’t give others permission to lead, and when they don’t want to follow anyone else.

When you notice people butting heads in your next meeting, give someone permission to lead. See if they accept the permission or decline it, and more importantly, notice whether they extend that same permission to someone else.

3. Allow space for other ideas.

One type of baggage we carry as leaders are the ideas we bring to meetings. When you get too attached to your own ideas, how much space do you really leave to hear the ideas of others?

Once again, you want to find the right balance. How can you listen to the ideas of others while building upon them with some of your own? The reverse is also true: How can you put your own idea on the table and allow others build upon it? In the end, worry about coming up with the right solution, not about whether or not you or someone else is right.

Take the time to listen and be more aware of what others on your team are saying. What ideas are they bringing to the table? What ideas do they listen to, and what ideas do they ignore? Notice whether or not people are only listening to ideas that will better position their own. What other ideas can you support and try to build upon?

4. Be flexible with your own needs to satisfy the needs of others.

Aside from ideas, people clash because of their needs. For example, someone might need to find a bulletproof solution while someone else might need a quick fix.

When you’re unaware of others’ needs, it can create awkward situations. There is no opening for convergence because people don’t know where to converge. Sometimes you need to be flexible with your needs in order to enable collaboration.

Try to listen and identify the needs of your team. Are they communicating them out loud or are they not communicating them at all? Ask everyone to name their needs and put them on display for all to see. What can you do to make sure the conversation meets the needs of most people in the room?

5. Be humble.

Collaboration thrives when everyone is humble enough to accept what others bring. You have your own strengths as an individual and so does everyone else.

Humility is either how you respond when people challenge your ideas, or how you challenge the ideas of others. Do you respond to challenges in a calm manner or do you judge others instead? It’s also how you show up with your team. Do you speak of yourself like a rock star? Or do you help others become rock stars?

Take a moment to reflect on what humility means to you, and jot it down. In your next meeting, notice how humility appears and what happens when it does. What’s your level of comfort with being humble as a leader?

The Ten Qualities Of Outstanding Employees

Back in the day it was easy to be a great employee. You only had to show up at work on time, work hard all day, be nice to everyone and avoid breaking the rules.

The working world has changed dramatically since then. Now we have to bend and flex at work to do our jobs. We have to keep lots of different people happy. We have to juggle priorities, and change our methods and approaches on a dime.

We have to know a lot about the organizations we work for — not to mention our industries and ourselves. We have to keep an eye on the world outside our cubicle walls and keep asking ourselves the question “What do I want from my career?”

Years ago, great employees were dutiful, loyal and easy to please. They worked hard without complaining — that was one of their principal virtues. Unwavering loyalty is not the hallmark of a great employee anymore. That is a characteristic of a fearful drone whose greatest fear is that they might displease their boss.

There are managers who only want fearful drones working for them — but you cannot afford to spend your career that way!

These days, great employees are proactive. They think for themselves. They don’t just work hard without making a fuss. They suggest ways to make the work faster and easier. They have ideas and share them.

Here are ten qualities outstanding employees possess. If your manager doesn’t value these qualities, maybe they are not the right manager for you any more — if they ever were.

1. Outstanding employees know more than just the procedures their job requires. They know the reason their job exists, and that knowledge lets them suggest tweaks and innovations that let them work more effectively.

2. Outstanding employees notice what is going on around them at work, and they integrate their constant learning into the way they do their jobs.

3. Outstanding employees form great relationships with people inside and outside the company. They know which teams they are a member of and they work to strengthen their team relationships so that things don’t get tense or stressful in a clinch.

4. Great employees look ahead and anticipate problems that might emerge on the job. They bring up potential problems early and push to get those problems addressed before they can do harm.

5. Terrific employees tell the truth about sticky topics like workload, work/life balance, difficult customers (or vendors, fellow employees or managers) and ineffective procedures. They find their voice and use it even when no one else dares to.

 6. Awesome employees have a personal career plan or direction in mind. They don’t assume that their employer will manage their career for them. They manage their own careers!
7. Great employees address conflict rather than avoiding it. When they step into a conflict resolution process, they maintain respect for everyone in the mix. They don’t place blame on other people, and they don’t apologize just to keep the peace.
8. Top-notch employees ask for help when they need it.
9. Outstanding employees don’t rest on their educational credentials,  job title or honors bestowed on them. They are open to new ideas no matter who suggests them. They share their own thoughts, not the conventional wisdom they’ve been taught by other people. They don’t brag about themselves — that is a sign of fear!
 10. Finally, excellent employees are coaches and mentors to people around them. They often hear “You are so generous to share your expertise!” They don’t take the view that knowledge is power. They know that knowledge is only power when it is shared with others.

You might be an excellent employee without being recognized for it — that happens to a lot of people.

What does it mean? It means that you are casting your pearls before swine — and that will not help you or the swine who cannot appreciate the gifts you bring.

If you are an outstanding employee stuck in an undeserving organization, your path is clear — it leads up and out of there, and on to your brilliant future!

Source: http://bit.ly/2wvxrSR

How Google’s AI-Powered Job Search Will Impact Companies And Job Seekers!!

In mid-June, Google announced the implementation of an AI-powered search function aimed at connecting job seekers with jobs by sorting through posted recruitment information. The system allows users to search for basic phrases, such as “jobs near me,” or perform searches for industry-specific keywords. The search results can include reviews from Glass door or other companies, along with the details of what skills the hiring company is looking to acquire.

As this is a relatively new development, what the system will mean is still an open question. To help, members from the Forbes Coaches Council offer their analysis on how the search system will impact candidates or companies. 

1. Provides A One-Stop Shop 

In this information age, it can be challenging for job seekers to wade through online content to locate right-fit opportunities. Google’s new feature will streamline the tedious job search task by intuitively aligning wants with needs, and narrowing search results. It’s a “one-stop shop” for job seekers, drawing relevant job postings into one location and helping employers gain greater visibility.

2. Could Be A Game Changer For Transparent Communications 

If “let me Google my next job” becomes the cornerstone of job search, I predict it will become a game changer in transparent communications between candidates and employers, from candidate application to confirmation of next steps. The pain for candidates is the lack of feedback. If Google can change this, I expect the tech to impact employer brand — hopefully for the better.

3. Reputation Management Will Be Key For Companies 

Google’s new AI-powered job search engine couples job postings with employee ratings from sites like Glass door, so candidates can read reviews about a particular employer before applying for the job. Companies with negative reviews will have a harder time recruiting the right talent, while companies with positive reviews can draw from a larger candidate pool. 

4. Will Create Access, But Not Improve Etiquette 

Good for Google for showing the way to job seekers, but with great access comes great responsibility to better communicate. Without this perspective, job seekers may roll through people, information and create poor communication that could injure their credibility. LinkedIn creates access points and etiquette through InMail. I give them credit. But job seekers still need people skills to win.

5. Expect Competition To Increase

Google jumping into the job search market may make it easier than ever to apply for a role online. For companies, this could likely tax the already strained-ATS system, and unless fixed, could mean many more resumes falling into that “black hole.” For candidates, competition might be steeper than ever, which means networking will be even more important to job search success. 

6. Provides A Move Towards Closing The Wage Gap 

Google is empowering both employers and candidates to move towards equal pay for equal work. It will eliminate silos of information, where pay data has been hidden as it relates to work competencies and experience needed to qualify for positions. Increased access to information and data promotes transparency, and will inevitably cause a shift in compensation.

7. Companies May Have To Get More Creative With Their Strategies 

Google Jobs will impact the career industry in a similar way that its impacted the travel industry. Google will feature their own search tool first, and may feature jobs at Google first. This will force candidates and companies to be more creative with their strategies. Companies may want to post jobs on Google and on other top job sites. Candidates will want to apply in more than one spot. 

8. Makes A Challenging Part Of Life Easier 

Finding the right job fit is equally challenging for candidates and companies. The new Google job search feature will make it easier to bring both together by reducing duplicate postings, and helping both candidates and companies find a match that may have otherwise been missed. I believe one of the greatest benefits is the ability to pick up on social and work experiences via Facebook, LinkedIn and Gmail.

9. Aids Human Resource Management 

Hiring the right people is a hard task, especially if HR managers are bombarded with thousands of CVs. Sometimes, implicit biases can creep into the job interviewing process, and qualified candidates might be overlooked. AI can give a boost to hiring strategy by helping HR specialists identify the best candidates for a position and thereby decreasing human subjectivity and error in decision-making.

10. Understanding Keywords And Trending Topics Will Be Essential 

Since Google’s AI is based on crowd-gathered metrics, the importance of keywords and understanding trending topics is essential for both employers and candidates. Standing out from the crowd or getting relevant results will be determined by how well you speak the expected language of the AI. Optimizing for the search engine’s results pages will make or break your search for a job or candidate. 

11. Companies Will Test The Waters Before Committing To The Process 

Both employers and employees will test this first. If the Google system gives off high-quality search results, then recruiters or job searchers will save a ton of time and money to find their best match. If not, and search results are not qualified or any other complication shows up — for example, you can’t reach either party — people will just go back to their old ways. So we must wait and see!

12. Candidates Will Be Less Likely To Miss Opportunities, Even If They’re Not Actively Looking 

The new Google AI feature streamlines the job search process and delivers greater simplicity to active job seekers, while simultaneously creating a new temptation for non-job seekers who will receive notice of jobs openings they weren’t looking for. Candidates are less likely to miss available job opportunities and will be able to use the data-rich Google profiles to apply for a tailor-fit role.

Source: http://bit.ly/2idHXsy

Why employee engagement matters – and 4 ways to build it up!!

As you know, employee engagement is an important factor in how well organizations function. But how important is it, really? Joe Wedgwood of The Happiness Index answers that question using the latest research on engagement — and he provides some helpful tips on how to improve engagement in your organization.

Organizations with high employee engagement levels outperform their low engagement counterparts in total shareholder returns and higher annual net income.” — Kenexa.

Your people are undoubtedly your greatest asset. You may have the best product in the world, but if you can’t keep them engaged and motivated — then it counts for very little.

By making efforts to keep your people engaged, you will maximize your human capital investment and witness your efforts being repaid exponentially.

The benefits of an engaged workforce

1. Increase in profitability: 

Increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year.” — Workplace Research Foundation.

 There is a wealth of research to suggest that companies that focus on employee engagement will have an emotionally invested and committed workforce. This tends to result in higher profitability rates and shareholder returns. The more engaged your employees are the more efficient and productive they become. This will help lower operating costs and increase profit margins.

An engaged workforce will be more committed and driven to help your business succeed. By focusing on engagement and investing in your people’s future, you will create a workforce that will generate more income for your business.

2. Improved retention and recruitment rates:

“Replacing employees who leave can cost up to 150% of the departing employee’s salary. Highly engaged organizations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87%; the disengaged are four times more likely to leave the organization than the average employee.” — Corporate Leadership Council

Retaining good employees is vital for organizational success. Engaged employees are much less likely to leave, as they will be committed to their work and invested in the success of the company. They will have an increased chance of attracting more qualified people.

Ultimately the more engaged your people are, the higher their productivity and workplace satisfaction will be. This will significantly reduce costs around absences, recruitment, training and time lost for interviews and onboarding.

3. Boost in workplace happiness:

“Happy employees are 12%t more productive than the norm, and 22% more productive than their unhappy peers. Creating a pleasant workplace full of happy people contributes directly to the bottom line.” – Inc.

Engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees. A clear focus on workplace happiness, will help you to unlock everyone’s true potential. On top of this, an engaged and happy workforce can also become loyal advocates for your company. This is evidenced by the Corporate Leadership Council, “67% of engaged employees were happy to advocate their organizations compared to only 3% of the disengaged.”

4. Higher levels of productivity:

“Employees with the highest levels of commitment perform 20% better than employees with lower levels of commitment.” — The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Often your most engaged people will be the most dedicated and productive, which will give your bottom line a positive boost. Employees who are engaged with their role and align with the culture are more productive as they are looking beyond personal benefits. Put simply, they will work with the overall success of the organization in mind and performance will increase.

5. More innovation:

“Employee engagement plays a central role in translating additional job resources into innovative work behaviour.” — J.J. Hakanen.

Employee engagement and innovation are closely linked. Disengaged employees will not have the desire to work innovatively and think of new ways to improve your business; whereas an engaged workforce will perform at a higher level, due to increased levels of satisfaction and interest in their role. This often breeds creativity and innovation.

If your people are highly engaged they will be emotionally invested in your business. This can result in them making efforts to share ideas and innovations with you that can lead to the creation of new services and products — thus improving employee profitability.

Shake Up Your Talent Acquisition — Kill The Rate Card To Improve ROI

Nearly one-third of the world’s workforce is comprised of “external” or “independent” talent defined as workers that do not have traditional “employee” roles with an organization. As organizations shift from “hiring” employees to “buying” external talent, they must get smarter on how to work more strategically with staffing agencies and employees.

The concept of “buying” or “borrowing” talent has grown exponentially since Kelly Services (1946) and Manpower (1948) first began providing staff augmentation to companies for lower-skilled workers.  But today’s landscape of buying external talent is much different from the days when “temp” labor meant hiring a Kelly girl to help out in the typing pool or having Manpower provide extra folks to fill in at the warehouse during volume spikes. 

Today’s staffing agencies are propelling the world into a free agent nation filled with skilled knowledge workers of all disciplines and specialties.  According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the percentage of “knowledge workers” comprised 73% of all non-traditional workers in 2016 – up from 56% in 2008. Organization such as 99Designs and Athena help organizations flex their marketing and account departments by providing expert graphic design and reliable accountants to fill gaps in talent.  Even physicians and college professors are making the shift to an independent workforce with the aid of companies like Heal and Vitea.  

As companies have increased their spending on labor services, so has the degree of management complexity required to facilitate that spend. The result? More and more organizations are choosing to outsource this complexity, and procurement organizations have emerged as a principal gatekeeper.  Progressive procurement functions see this as a fantastic opportunity to help their stakeholders achieve better business outcomes. These better business outcomes encompass management around the broad aspects of procurement, talent onboarding, Statement of Work (SOW) and service delivery, knowledge transfer, and risk management of external labor. One aspect that continues to be scrutinized is the “rate card.”

External Labor: The Rise of the “Rate Card” Mentality

Traditionally, purchasing labor services fell under the purview of either human resources or the operational function where the labor support services were consumed. For example, a marketing department would identify and hire the best staffing agency to provide support for marketing projects.

With the Great Recession of 2008, as procurement organizations began to accelerate their influence in the labor equation, they turned to the tried and true strategies of increased competition and volume aggregation. Additionally, by looking at labor services through a more “commoditized” lens, procurement professionals were able to help their organizations use scale and purchasing power to reduce input costs.    

A key purchasing tactic was to create a “rate card” that enabled them to commoditize various labor services into standardized buckets, using either absolute numbers or by setting a particular range.  Theoretically, this allowed procurement category managers to compare various staffing agencies on an apples-to-apples comparison for various job classifications.  For example, prior to procurement getting involved, one organization found that the variation in spending by different functional departments for project managers ranged from $50 an hour to $210 an hour.

Other organizations didn’t even have a known rate, because they were paying a “fixed fee” for project management support, which made it hard or impossible to identify the cost per hour. Using a category management focus and bundling their volume across the various functions, procurement organizations have been tremendously successful at reducing the cost per hour they are spending on staffing support.  For example, an organization buying project management support was able to create three levels of project management classifications – one for buying “general project management support,” one for buying IT project management and one for “PMP Certified” project management to manage more complex projects.  Competitive bids then resulted in more consistent pricing and also ensured that the company did not “overbuy” skills they did not need.

Rate card logic can be applied to a multitude of labor classifications from janitors and maintenance personnel to graphic designers and IT application developers. Some organizations such as Microsoft even have rate cards for buying professional consulting services. The concept of the rate card has also become a staple tool in developing large scale outsourcing deals as well. 

There is no doubt that a rate card approach has paid off handsomely in terms of reducing labor rates across the board.But the key question is: has that level of sophistication now reached the point where this approach is beginning to reduce the quality of the work itself?

The Perverse Incentive of Labor Commoditization

Many argue that labor commoditization and a rate card mentality has had a negative impact on an organization’s most strategic assets: its people.

Teresa Carroll, President, Global Talent Solutions for Kelly Services, explains the rise of the rate card has unintended consequences. “To realize true value for money you have to focus on the work outputs required and how best to achieve them. By being disproportionately measured on lowering input costs staffing partners and outsourced suppliers are often deterred from offering the best available talent.  For example, a pure cost focus can easily lead an organization to hire talent at the ‘right’ price, but receive the wrong value. What if the best talent may cost 20% more, but be 50% more efficient?  The staffing agency or outsourced service provider is forced to offer a knowingly sub-optimal resource just to meet the client’s rate card.”  The outcome may end up being penny-wise and pound foolish for the client when the “right” rate card approach racks up other costs in the end.

Tom Mehl, VP of Operations for the Populus Group explains the dilemma of using a rate-card model. “The whole staffing industry is caught in a Catch-22. We also need to realize a rate-card model creates the dynamic of a never-ending cycle of simply getting butts in seats to get work done at the lowest cost per billable hour.  Today’s forward-thinking organizations are partnering closer with their staffing and human capital partners by finding ways to not only procure the talent they need, but creating solutions that retain top notch talent through efforts like Redeployment Programs, Alumni Programs, Silver Medalist Programs, Talent Clouds, and Direct Sourcing Efforts.”

Carroll also points out a negative consequence associated with highly competitive bid rate cards. “Today’s workplace is rapidly evolving; talent has a choice and we are finding that the best talent is often choosing to leave organizations behind that choose to manage on labor cost alone. The most talented workers would much rather work with the companies that are in tune with their broader values, for example by offering a flexible project structure that better supports work-life balance needs.  Decisions are increasingly based on the holistic benefit of an assignment rather than the size of the paycheck.”

Many organizations are now deploying more fixed price “Deliverables” using a “Statement of Work” (SOW) to define the workscope, but not the hours or level or of effort needed when procuring labor services. On the surface, this is smart because it forces a supplier to cap the number of billable hours it can charge.  But Philip Ideson – a popular procurement blogger on the Art of Procurement — warns organizations that deliverables-based sourcing of labor services is not a panacea.  “While many have made the shift to deliverables-based approaches to creating SOWs, the vast majority of suppliers determine the cost of the deliverables using a rate card to calculate their costs. And if they are uncertain about the level of effort, they guess high, ultimately increasing the price that is paid. For strategic work, a deliverables-based approach still provides a strategic value proposition, but it is not a one-size fits all solution”

Robotic Process Automation: The Rate Card Killer

If being penny wise and pound foolish is not a reason for organizations to reevaluate rate cards, robotic process automation (RPA) will be the rate card killer of the future. RPA is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. The focus is now shifting to segmenting jobs into tasks and automating those tasks that are predictable and repeatable. The shift is in more complex thinking that adds mutual value to the vendor/partner relationship.  It’s not a simple rate card or SLA, it’s about getting to positive business outcomes.

Advocates of RPA predict some job functions will be impacted by as much as a 90% reduction.  Carroll says Kelly Services is an advocate of RPA – something many think is counter-intuitive.  “While the headlines often focus on jobs being lost to robots, in many ways the human element of the talent supply chain matters more than ever. There are many stages between human and robotic work, and talent leaders need to be thinking about the implications for how work gets done, who (or what) does the work, and how the work is paid for.”

Carroll adds, “Organizations can automate processes across most aspects of their value chain — but you still can’t make people work for you if they don’t see your organization as relevant and inspiring or a place they want to engage with. As the in-demand human skill-sets become more specialized and harder to find, you’ll also need to be ready to acquire and engage talent in more disruptive ways.”

Michèle Coquis, an expert specializing in labor and services procurement for The Forefront Group, also points out the responsibilities of corporations and individuals when thinking about evolving labor services.  “While RPA and automation should be a key strategy for organizations to drive down costs, it is essential that they plan for the support and cross training of workers whose roles are likely to be replaced or changed due to automation. Likewise, it is unreasonable for workers – white or blue collar –  to presume their jobs will always be there. No one is exempt from change.”

Coquis says one way that organizations can adapt more smoothly to RPA and other changing technologies is through Vested relationship models with staffing agencies and workers. “The Vested sourcing business model creates a win-win business model for suppliers and workers to find ways to eliminate non-value activities and drive efficiencies in their work.  Identify a way to eliminate or automate 75% of your job through RPA?  The supplier/worker model will be incentivized to replace billable hours with more productive approaches such as RPA.”

A good example of the power of the a Vested approach is the Department of Energy – which created a win-win-win approach with Kaiser-Hill and it’s 8,000 workers to drive radical efficiencies in how they approached the cleanup and closure of the Rocky Flats Nuclear site.  The supplier and workers were paid on a traditional rate card approach.  Shifting to a Vested approach highly motivated Kaiser Hill and its employees to create over 200 innovations that led to the cleanup and closure of the Rocky Flats ahead of schedule and $30 billion under original estimates.  In essence, Kaiser-Hill and its employees were highly compensated through incentives to work themselves out of a job.

Coquis acknowledges that the staffing industry is slow to adopt a Vested business model because their business is linked to billable hours. “Fill and bill is the standard external staffing mantra and the easy thing to do. But if they can get beyond that and into a creative Vested model, they can really become valuable partners to clients that are reinventing the way they work and the upside for both companies will far exceed their current commercial deal.”

Kelly Services and Populus Group are two staffing agencies that are keen to adopt a Vested model with clients. Mehl believes using traditional rate cards does not motivate suppliers or the people performing the work to eliminate the work.  “Our job as a key strategic business partner for talent management is to create value and help our clients define and acquire the most appropriate blend of talent.  The Vested model motivates service providers such as ourselves to view work not in terms of billable hours, but in terms of the value of the work that is being performed. Creating Vested agreements with our strategic clients is a way to shift from the rate-card battle to a value-based approach that creates a winning solution for everyone involved.”

Carroll agrees.  “We are first and foremost talent advisors, focus on improving the quality of business outcomes. Killing the rate card mentality using a Vested business model creates a triple win; a win for our clients, a win for us, and a win for the worker.

Collaboration the Key to Success

The next decade will demand organizations to re-examine current pipelines and consider how technology and automation will impact decisions to build, buy, or borrow talent.

Carroll is adamant that organizations must collaborate to be successful. “Procurement, HR, and operations functions must work together to pinpoint which workers have the right competencies, where they’re located, how they want to work, and why they would choose one organization over another.”

Ideson is also a staunch advocate for collaboration. “Procurement must make a shift from focusing on ‘buying’ labor services to becoming active partners in helping HR and operations determine how to solve the scope of procuring talent. The talent value proposition and the importance of a strong corporate brand have become critical in attracting and retaining the modern, multi-generational workforce. Organizations are not the only ones with priorities, and talent is choosing to work in various ways that align with their own goals. Choices are constantly evolving. Individuals choose how they develop their skills and make the best use of their expertise. Which is one of the reasons why companies must now rely on a mix of full-time employees, temporary/contract employees, consultants, freelancers, etc.”

Winning the War on Talent

Coquis, Carrol, Ideson and Mehl all agree. Winning the war on talent will require a fresh set of eyes that demands a holistic and collaborative approach. Technology can drive efficiency and innovation in a workforce strategy, but only if organizations buying talent and their strategic suppliers are co-creating solutions that are designed to adapt to tomorrow’s demands.

Mehl sums it up nicely. “Making the paradigm shift will mean killing the rate card and other mentalities that drive ‘business as usual.’  It will also mean creating true long-term alignment with strategic suppliers that are willing to invest in transformation efforts that will meet the needs of their client’s ten years from now.”

The good news is that there are talent suppliers is out there that are not afraid to accept a paradigm shift. Seventy-year-old Kelly Services and newer organizations such as the Populus Group are leading the charge towards a more value-centric approach to talent acquisition. The question is whether  organizations stuck in the rate card Catch 22 are willing to make the leap.

6 Things Great Leaders Do Differently..!!

 Great leadership can be a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time articulating what it is that makes their leadership so effective.

It was recently rumored that Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz would run for president, but Schultz shut the idea down almost immediately. He wrote in an article:

“Despite the encouragement of others, I have no intention of entering the presidential fray. I’m not done serving at Starbucks.”

Schultz commitment to his company over the temptation of the limelight is interesting. What’s admirable is his desire to be a leader who serves.

Service isn’t just something Schulz gives lip service to in the press; his mission is to create a company where people are treated with respect and dignity, and he backs this rhetoric up with his money and time. Starbucks will spend $250 million over the next 10 years to put benefit-eligible employees through college, and Schultz wakes up every day at 4:00 a.m. to send motivational e-mails to his employees (the email he wrote yesterday asking employees to show empathy for customers who have been affected by the plummeting stock market is an interesting, recent example of this).

It’s through a leader’s actions—what he or she does and says on a daily basis—that the essence of great leadership becomes apparent.

“Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise.” – Howard Schultz

Behavior can change, and leaders who work to improve their skills get results.

In Schultz’s case, he’s been honing his leadership craft for three decades through, among other things, the direct coaching and mentoring of leadership expert Warren Bennis at USC.

Not everyone can take on Warren Bennis as a mentor, of course, but when it comes down to it, improving your leadership skills is within your control. You just need to study what great leaders do and to incorporate these behaviors into your repertoire.

There are six critical things that great leaders do that really stand out. Any of us can do the same.

They’re kind without being weak

One of the toughest things for leaders to master is kindness. Kindness shares credit and offers enthusiastic praise for others’ work. It’s a balancing act, between being genuinely kind and not looking weak. The key to finding that balance is to recognize that truekindness is inherently strong—it’s direct and straightforward. Telling people the difficult truth they need to hear is much kinder than protecting them (or yourself) from a difficult conversation. This is weak.

True kindness also doesn’t come with expectations. Kindness is weak when you use it in a self-serving manner. Self-serving kindness is thin—people can see right through it when a kind leader has an agenda. Think of Schultz, who dedicated $250 million to employee education with no strings attached, and as soon as employees finish their degree, they are free to walk out the door. That’s true kindness.

 They’re strong without being harsh

Strength is an important quality in a leader. People will wait to see if a leader is strong before they decide to follow his or her lead or not. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show strength themselves when their leader does the same.

A lot of leaders mistake domineering, controlling, and otherwise harsh behavior for strength. They think that taking control and pushing people around will somehow inspire a loyal following. Strength isn’t something you can force on people; it’s something you earn by demonstrating it time and again in the face of adversity. Only then will people trust that they should follow you.

They’re confident, without being cocky

We gravitate to confident leaders because confidence is contagious, and it helps us to believe that there are great things in store. The trick, as a leader, is to make certain your confidence doesn’t slip into arrogance and cockiness. Confidence is about passion and belief in your ability to make things happen, but when your confidence loses touch with reality, you begin to think you can do things you can’t and have done things you haven’t. Suddenly it’s all about you. This arrogance makes you lose credibility.

Great, confident leaders are still humble. They don’t allow their accomplishments and position of authority to make them feel that they’re better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they don’t ask their followers to do anything they aren’t willing to do themselves.

They stay positive, but remain realistic

Another major challenge that leaders face is finding the balance between keeping things positive and still being realistic. Think of a sailboat with three people aboard: a pessimist, an optimist, and a great leader. Everything is going smoothly until the wind suddenly sours. The pessimist throws his hands up and complaints about the wind; the optimist sits back, saying that things will improve; but the great leaders says, “We can do this!” and he adjusts the sails and keeps the ship moving forward. The right combination of positivity and realism is what keeps things moving forward.

They’re role models, not preachers

Great leaders inspire trust and admiration through their actions, not just their words. Many leaders say that integrity is important to them, but great leaders walk their talk by demonstrating integrity every day. Harping on people all day long about the behavior you want to see has a tiny fraction of the impact you achieve by demonstrating that behavior yourself.

They’re willing to take a bullet for their people

The best leaders will do anything for their teams, and they have their people’s backs no matter what. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up. Great leaders also make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insights, and ask good questions is destined for failure.

 Bringing It All Together

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Incorporate the behaviors above into your repertoire, and you’ll see immediate improvement in your leadership skills.


Let’s face it: Negative feedback on your job performance can be a drag. Who likes to be told that their work could use improvement?

Research published in the Harvard Business Review provides some interesting insight into receiving and giving such feedback. While managers by and large avoided giving negative feedback or praise, employees craved it. And they weren’t looking for platitudes, either—57% wanted corrective feedback versus 43% who wanted praise. Seventy-two percent said that corrective feedback could improve their job performance.

Still, it’s one thing to think about that in theory—and another to hear from your manager, “We need to talk about your performance . . .” If you do find yourself on the receiving end of negative feedback or criticism, here’s how to cope.

1. Check Your Defensiveness

When you get feedback that stings, be aware of your emotions, says Rebecca Zucker, a partner at leadership consultancy Next Step Partners. “Understand, ‘Okay, this stings,’ but why does it feel like this? Is it because I’m embarrassed? Is it because I tried really hard and I’m not getting the recognition I feel like I deserve?” she says.

Defensive reactions are normal but may not be useful in feedback situations—especially since many feedback givers don’t have great communication skills. So try not to let your feelings get in the way of what might be constructive dialogue. If you feel yourself getting angry or tempted to escalate the situation, listen to what’s being said, then take some time to process the information and formulate a response.

2. Take Notes

Note taking is often a good idea for a variety of reasons. Jotting down the feedback can allow you to capture what’s being said, says Tawanda Johnson, president and CEO of human resources consulting firm RKL Resources. Such notes will give you something to review once you’ve had time to digest what your supervisor or peers are saying. Depending on the nature of the feedback, it might be a good idea to take a look at your notes the next day and see if you have any additional questions.

3. Clarify What’s Fair

Sometimes, feedback is fair and meant for your improvement—and sometimes it’s not valid and the result of a misunderstanding or a poor manager. As you consider what’s being said, try to remain objective, says workplace bullying expert and philanthropist Andrew Faas, author of From Bully to Bulls eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire. Think about the dynamic in your workplace. Is your supervisor truly trying to help you improve and grow? Or are you in an environment where you’re being unfairly criticized for reasons beyond your control? If it’s the former, it’s time to work on understanding how to improve. If it’s the latter, you need to guard against letting unfair criticism demoralize you while you decide if this workplace is the right fit for you.

4. Ask Questions

If the feedback is fair, it’s time for a conversation, Zucker says. Negative feedback shouldn’t be a “dump and run” where you’re blindsided and have no chance to ask questions or respond. Try to stick to the facts and not the emotional component. If your boss says you need to improve your organizational skills and you’re not sure what that means, ask for examples, Johnson adds.

You might ask something like, “What are the one or two things I could be doing differently that would make the biggest difference to you,” she says. That way, you’re sure your focusing your efforts in the right place, she says. If your boss is talking about better project management organization and you think the problem is your messy desk, you could end up focusing on improving something that doesn’t matter.

5. Get Help

If there are obstacles that prevent you from improving, share them, Faas says. You might need extra training, or there may be factors of which your supervisor is unaware. If you’re dealing with a personal issue that’s affecting your work, or if you have a project that’s taking an inordinate amount of time and having an impact on your performance, your supervisor might not realize it. Discuss these impediments and what you need to get past them.

6. Create A Plan

Once you have clarity and a commitment of resources, look at the steps you can take to get better, Johnson says. How can you ensure that a mistake doesn’t happen again or a skill improves? Create a written series of steps with deadlines to hold yourself accountable and ensure that you make progress.

7. Follow Up

Zucker says that sometimes employees are worried about following up with managers after receiving negative feedback. “I think it’s perfectly okay to hold your managers accountable. By that, I mean schedule some follow-up intervals,” she says. You may want to plan a follow-up meeting in 60 days to review progress and get additional feedback. “A good leader would welcome that,” she says.