Getting It Right: Learning and Development

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

 Trainings are essentially tools employed to bridge knowledge gaps. They are also useful for capacity building. Rather than being an end in themselves, however, they are more a means to an end – employed as a means for correcting variances in performance, behaviour or even attitude.However, the above purpose may easily be defeated if ‎HR fails to take responsibility for its coordination and subsequent evaluation.

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

‎Several elements make for a successful L&D session. It is pertinent than an organization has a system for assessing the potential validity of training programmes – this will in many cases involve input from the concerned department, as well as a relevant assessment of value proposition. Relevant HR policies should specify parameters with which trainers or training proposals are filtered.Equally important is the learning environment. Adequate attention must placed on the training venue including the ease of locating the venue, lighting, ventilation and the availability of basic facilities ‎(comfortable seats, projectors, screens, rest rooms etc). In addition, well packaged training materials being made available go a long way in leaving a good impression, conveying professionalism and ensuring post training refreshers.

Only recently, I heard that certain companies now hold training sessions over the weekend (Saturdays and Sundays) spanning several weekends consecutively. What I find distasteful about this is the possible impact on employee health, productivity and morale. Imagine a city like Lagos where traffic during the week is hellish and work hours aren’t encouraging. To deprive employees the time to recuperate and get ready for the new week is certainly not the best way to practice HR.

I must say, I have had my share of worthwhile training experiences as well as those few that made me question the ‎competence of the trainers and even worse, it shook my confidence in HR. My hope is that HR continually applies a professional touch to meeting organizational training needs.

Final words: I’m a believer in ‘value for money’. if an organization must spend at all, then it should make it count. Poorly designed training sessions are one of the surest ways to pour resources down the drain. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and scarce resources. Better to not train at all…

3 Categories Of Employees You Shouldn’t Have on Payroll


photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

I had quite a few ideas for this weekend’s post, none of which was this. I thought this piece was equally pressing and worth sharing…  So here it is 🙂

An Organization wouldn’t be a ‘going concern’ without the individuals who help chart its course and help it achieve sustainable profitability. It is however safe to say that many organizations may be holding on to ‘excess weight’. By excess weight, I refer to individuals who consistently deplete resources and erode their respective corporate brands -employees who take away, rather than add value to the organization.

The first category would have to be the actively disengaged employees’. These individuals for one reason or another are unable to buy into the culture of the organization. Even worse, they tend to talk badly about the firm (internally and externally) and may even take it a step further by deliberately sabotaging systems, processes and/or individuals who seem to be making positive impact. Organizations risk their goodwill, their profit margin and their continued existence if this category of employees remain tolerated .

The next group of employees who shouldn’t on the payroll are the dishonest employees’. Integrity remains big, even in this age of what may be termed a liberal/accepting culture. One reason why these individuals shouldn’t be tolerated is quite basic: they are capable of bringing down the organization much faster than a recession would. Furthermore, harbouring employees with questionable integrity sends a wrong message across the organization which ultimately encourages a spread of the menace.

My third category features the ‘consistently underperforming employees’. I’m a firm believer in employee empowerment. I also believe in reshuffling staff (job rotation) because several reasons could account for why an employee may be slacking on the job. One reason may be pressures from the employee’s private live. Another could be the job type (poor profiling and consequently, a mismatch). Alternatively, it could even be team/line-manager induced. Humans are predominantly reactive and would respond to stimulus in different ways, sometimes in ways another may find hard to comprehend. However, when all avenues have been explored to get an employee to deliver on outcomes, it may be best to issue a ‘red card’.

Implementing the above might be easier said than done, especially when sentiments are involved. However, when viewed from a wider perspective, that is, the possible implication on general staff morale – this ought to be given careful consideration. In the long-term it would only hurt the business, in terms of its image/brand perception and eventually profitability.

While HR has a huge role to play in all of this, it is however not a task for HR alone. It calls for collective effort geared towards protecting the interest of the business and ultimately all stakeholders. The truth it, if we jointly (and I use this term loosely) aid and abet the above practices in our respective teams; sooner rather than later, we would probably have no jobs to go to 🙂

How The Star Fish Got Its Star: Delegation

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

Delegation is largely used as a tool to lead a team towards achieving collective sets of objectives. At work, beyond helping one free up some more time for other tasks, it also serves a more utilitarian purpose – developing others.

It is said that while autonomy regarding how the task is to be carried out resides with the delegatee, ultimate responsibility and accountability is still borne by the delegator.

The inspiration for this post was sparked by a thought. As I pondered on how to bring a team member up to speed,  especially an under-performing employee, I identified several underlying benefits of delegation when employed as a cost effective method for grooming and preparing lower level employees for higher level roles – succession planning.

First, it provides the delegatee with adequate exposure. By presenting a learning opportunity, it serves to polish and expand employee’s skill base.

Secondly, the hands-on experience needed to function in the next level is easily gained when delegation is employed as a development tool.

Delegation is also useful as a sort of practice ground. It allows enough room to ‘fail early’ without any permanent damage being done to the employee’s credibility.

Then again, performing exceptionally at your boss’s tasks is the perfect opportunity to get you noticed for greater responsibility and possibly, your next promotion.

Lastly, delegation makes an expert delegator of the delegatee. That is, with time, the delegatee learns the trade and in turn uses it as a tool to bring up the next generation of managers/leaders.

Care must however be taken when delegating responsibility/tasks. The delegator must consider such things as approved policy on access to sensitive information, over-delegation as well as over-burdening a single individual with tasks -which can lead to negative implications (burn out or resentment).

It would be useful however to ensure that a diligent review of the completed tasks is undertaken (in an environment of trust where feedback is provided in a constructive fashion).

The art of delegation, when properly utilized leads to improved quality of work and greater productivity. So, the next time the CEO, your HOD, or manager cascades his work down to you, rather than grumble or churn out a shoddy work, remember to embrace it as an opportunity to learn, grow, acquire fresh skills AND shine.

All Work and No Play (2): Think Win-Win

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

From last week’s post we found that an organization may have the happiest of staff and still not bring in the numbers. Clearly, there’s more to achieving a right balance than just healthy work relationships.

There are several elements that make organizations successful. The ability of an organization to leverage on its strengths and the efficiency in the use of its talent, systems and unique strategies has the ability to set it apart.

Google’s impeccable policies towards ensuring an enabling and balanced environment for work is an outstanding example. Likewise, NetApp for the 12th year has continued to feature on the ‘great place to work‘ list while consistently improving its bottom line.

Balanced organizations share a common theme. In this post, I have put together some useful tips on how Q2 – Q4 organizations can transition into Q1 organizations.

  1. A Clear and Focused Mission targeted at achieving ‘specific’ and ‘measurable‘ goals .
  2. Employee Buy-in: A sense of shared responsibility. Employees’ understanding of roles and how it fits into the overall corporate objective.
  3. An environment that encourages mutual respect: Zero tolerance for morale damaging behaviour, bullying or intimidation.
  4. A culture that supports fairness: Credible processes and meritocracy.
  5. A system that rewards outstanding performance, individual-based as well as team-based.
  6. Investment in employees’ personal and professional development.
  7. Priority placed on the health and safety of employees: Having adequate systems in place to cater to employee health including stress management.
  8. Promoting an environment that encourages innovation.
  9. Accountability: Performance review sessions/meetings which provide an avenue for team bonding, target setting, brainstorming, feedback and recognition.
  10. Predominantly objective rather than subjective performance measures.
  11. Lean model of operation: weeding out waste and inefficiencies in the system.
  12. Q1 organizations drive performance and do not hesitate to stretch employees’ capabilities. ‘Going over and beyond’ is often the mantra.
  13. Job design/re-design with sufficient attention placed on valuable and challenging work. People naturally flourish in their areas of strength. Employee engagement is often higher when tasks are valued by the staff -a feature that often accompanies work which challenges employees’ mental development. In essence, get employees interested, get them to enjoy what they do and you have a winner on your hands!
  14. Open and honest communication: Reducing the power distance by encouraging a free flow of information. Employees, especially subordinates/associates, must feel free to air their thoughts,share ideas and suggest solutions.
  15. Management’s unrelenting commitment to the business, its superordinate goals as well as the value it places on employee contribution, employee welfare and advancement is vital.
  16. Promoting  work-life balance: The idea isn’t to break the bank in order to attain a similar level of commitment like the Googlers. Employing ‘Human Analytics’ is useful for generating data to determine such things as what matters most to employees and which policies would be most appreciated.

The key is to attain a fit to context. Hence, there is the need to understand your business, know your people and in so doing, design systems, processes and the organization’s structure to support a healthy work environment and at the same time, optimizing value.

All Work and No Play (1): The Balance That Works

photo: courtesy of

I often wonder if a “result-driven workplace” is synonymous with a hostile work environment where people and relationships do not matter as much (if at all) as the achievement of corporate goals

I wonder, is it possible to have a pleasant work environment and at the same time, achieve/surpass corporate goals? Or are they mutually exclusive?

My musings have led me to do some research, and consequently, I have been able to categorize organizations into 4 main types using a performance and work environment matrix.

Optimum Performance and Work Environment Matrix

First, there are the organizations which have managed to master finding the right balance between optimum performance and a “trust work environment” (Q1). Then there are the Q2 organizations, where work relationships do not necessarily matter as much as the achievement of corporate goals (i.e. where relationships are deemed inconsequential, and are sacrificed for the attainment of corporate goals). We also have Q3 organizations that pursue good work relationships/friendships at the expense of performance. Lastly, the Q4 organizations are those failing on both counts that is, performance as well as the ability to build and sustain good work relationships (this might be an extreme case of course).

What I find is that most companies exist within Q2 – Q4, with only a fraction striking that perfect balance.

In researching Fortune 100’s great places to work and combining same with the Fortune 100 companies, I observed a common theme in some of the practices employed by these Q1 organizations.

I have put together some of these practices that serve to foster a healthy balance. These practices (which shall be discussed in the next post) are premised on the fact that a sense of shared responsibility, mutual respect and a trust environment foster engagement, which ultimately result in high performance.

While Q1 might be challenging to achieve, it is by no means impossible.

*Photo: courtesy of*

People Issues: Making The Most Of It

It’s been such a long summer. It’s been busy, exciting, overwhelming, exasperating and a host of other emotions.  I must apologize for not giving a hint -to be honest, I didn’t quite expect to be away for as long as I was. All in all, it’s certainly GREAT to be back!

During the course of the summer, I experienced a number of people issues; name them and I bet I could tell a similar tale! So i thought, “what better way to start off!”

It’s a known fact that dealing with people can sometimes be one of the most challenging things to do. Sometimes, even crippling…

Imagine being handed a team you didn’t choose or being stuck with staff you do not want or whose redeployment are not granted.
It gets worse. The mandate given may have also restricted the option of fresh hires. “What then is left to do?” you may ask.

I have put together a few ideas that I believe may ease an already uncomfortable situation. In addition, it may very well lead the way for the transformation of “the misfits” into a winning team.

#1  Everyone has strengths:

First, you must acknowledge this fact. Then you need to identify and begin to channel these strengths towards achieving team goals/objectives;

#2 Don’t be reluctant to have expectations of team members:

Having expectations of your team only confirms your sincerity in #1 above.

#3 Morale boost:

It may also help to boost employee morale by affirming confidence in the identified strengths/competencies. Rev up the atmosphere. Chances are that if you feel your team is inept, they probably have gotten the vibe off you already.

#4 The Vegas Rule:

Personal matters relating to team members’ failings should be kept within the team. Don’t be caught speaking poorly of your team to others.

#5 Lead by example:

If you expect openness and communication within the team, give it. If you demand punctuality and commitment to team objectives, display same

#6 Neither black nor white:

Without micro managing, allow team members enough room to achieve team goals. Set up a practical evaluation session where time-lines, deliverables and outcomes are reviewed.

#7 The Cookie jar:

Remember to reinforce positive behaviour. Develop an environment of trust by giving objective feedback. Acknowledge stellar performance, provide further clarification or reprimand staff when necessary.
People are the lifeblood of any organization, making the most of what you’ve got is not only wise, it’s a smart way of doing business.

Unfair Dismissal: Who Scolds HR When It’s Been Naughty?


I heard of one of the worst ways HR ought not to behave sometime ago. It’s about someone who had been with a consulting firm for almost 2years, and suddenly had everything change when she received an offer from another firm.

Uncertain about how exactly it happened, but somehow HR got hold of the information and resorted to stopping her monthly salary and benefits, even before she was able to tender her notice of resignation. Not due to any infraction, but merely because of the existence of a competing offer.

Just as any rational thinker would, she also decided to put in her notice of resignation and give herself a month unpaid leave.

Some managers/employers get overly emotional when staff hand in resignation letters. Losing your best talent or any talent at all isn’t delightful news but surely, what makes a whole lot of difference is the manner in which such situations are handled.

 I would have expected a more professional reaction from the HR department, but like many one-man businesses here in this part of the world, they acted otherwise.

The exit of a staff shouldn’t be perceived as all bad. Ofcourse, it does mean added costs for the company in terms of R& S as well as L & D.

More importantly, nothing is as good as building a sound relationship with outgoing staff such that they feel welcome to rejoin the company at a later time (if they so choose & if the company still requires their expertise and service).

Poor choices on the part of managers/firms such as this cause much more damage to the firms’ goodwill than the employee who was unfairly dismissed. Similarly, such practices could also translate into a drop in the engagement levels of existing staff.

Rather than acting in such an unprofessional manner, the organization could have used the exit as an opportunity to gather feedback on how it can further improve its work environment as well as better engage employees.

Companies face legal action by engaging and continuing in unethical/illegal practices. This makes me wonder if any of it was worth it in the end.


Managing Conflicts at Work

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

Conflicts at work are largely inevitable. While some may be subtle and easily ignored, dismissed or avoided, others could be more obstructive -capable of stalling progress until it is resolved.

We each have our unique perspectives of what triggers conflict. Similarly, our preferred approach to dealing with conflict situations varies widely.

Conflict could be brought about by just about anything – the unhelpful personal assistant, the non-participating team member and those who generally come across as ‘wrong’ are all potential triggers.

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

In some spheres, what I find as being a common source of conflict include: dissenting opinions; a proposition for change; a suggestion/push for process improvement, a power struggle or even an ego trip.

When conflicts arise in the office, it’s important to identify the root cause, and determine if it’s merely a personality clash or a constructive issue at stake. At the very heart of many conflicts is a possibility for improvement or growth. In numerous cases, the best decisions have thrived because they were developed amidst tremendous opposition and refined by criticism.

In researching for a practical approach to resolving conflict at work, I observed that most shared a common theme.

Maintaining a calm disposition, talking it through with the other party, taking responsibility, separating the issues from the person, seeking a respected mediator, listening to the other’s point of view as well as consulting with HR were mostly suggested.

I particularly found these articles on managing conflict interesting: One by Alexander Kjerulf and another by Lee Jay Berman (I won’t tell, indulge away 🙂 ).

In my opinion, “it’s business and not personal.” Individuals must be careful to distinguish between the two. Shying away from conflict situations won’t solve it, neither would allowing yourself be won over every time. I would rather a situation where we are able to ‘win at work even in the face of conflict’.

Harassment Files: The Thin Line


photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

A while back, I heard myself say to someone “you just don’t barge into someone else’s personal space. It’s rude!” -and at that very moment, it struck me how uncomfortable and threatening it could get to have a stranger push up so close to you that you are able to smell their breath.

Not everyone understands ‘boundaries’ or the implication of intruding on another’s personal space. In the workplace, circumstances are slightly different, considering an existing level of familiarity between colleagues.

While familiarity ensures you don’t get an impulsive punch in the nose, it doesn’t protect you from harassment charges that may occur when one has consistently crossed boundary lines and out-rightly intruded on another’s personal space.

However, this is a particularly dicey subject especially because, of the subjectivity involved. That is; what constitutes an infringement differs considerably from one person to another. The watchwords here are #caution and #consideration.

Consequently, there’s now need to be more aware of how we come across as well as the possible impact of our actions on others. The need to factor in cultural differences, varying value systems and diverse personal ideologies have become crucial. For example, office huggers or those who find it hard speaking without touching others will now need to learn appropriate conduct while in another’s space.

Another incident that may very well be misunderstood and perhaps find its way to the harassment desk is the issue of ‘unwanted attention at work’. There’s nothing as shocking as a harassment complaint coming from a colleague who you thought enjoyed your company or flirtatious remarks. Such things as unsolicited pats on the back, unconsented arm across shoulders, whispering into ears, illicit conversations, double handed handshakes, unofficial phone calls etc… could easily be misunderstood.

The organization has an important role to play. As some of these issues can be highly subjective, the organization can instill basic policies that neutralize cultural differences in interpretation of ‘acceptable behavior’. A culture that embraces diversity should be encouraged. The induction process may also be designed to include issues around the peculiarities of cultural diversity. In addition, channels should be put in place for reporting harassment cases and punishing offenders accordingly. Failure of the organization to act may make it culpable and prone to receiving a harassment suit itself.

In conclusion, we all have varying levels of tolerance for physical contact. Thus, it behoves everyone to understand boundaries and stay within those lines. Be on the safe side. Keep it professional at work or at the very least, ensure you pick up on body languages. As often as is required, clear the air or render an apology.


I Found Love in the Workplace

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

“It’s my 20th month with the firm and I think my emotions have gone beyond a crush. He on the other hand has been here for over 3 years. We are presently on the same project and I am certain he finds me very attractive. I like him and wont mind taking things further than just being ‘colleagues’. The thing is I’m not sure if it is appropriate since we both work in the same organization. Do you think it is appropriate to be in a relationship with a co-worker?”

Dear Miss Ready-to-Mingle,
To be honest, (in my opinion at least), what goes on in another’s personal life is really out of scope for HR provided it doesn’t get in the way of the employees’ contribution or overall performance.
It’s important to note that organizations differ and so do the policies they employ. Hence, what I would suggest is that you are well-informed about relevant policies addressing such matters and whether or not it is considered as ‘acceptable behaviour’. Compliance is the watch word here.
In the absence of policies discouraging relationships between co-workers, I’d say, ‘why not!’. Work is serious enough already. Happy employees make for a more positively charged and productive work environment. If this means finding such happiness within the four walls of the office, by all means 🙂
However, there might be a few practical things to consider , such things as how serious the relationship might be or even the repercussions on work relationships if it doesn’t work out the way you had expected. You need to answer such questions as “Will the job suffer?”
Basically, if you’re going to go into it, go into it with your eyes open, and your mind certain that you can handle any possible complication, because if it doesn’t end well and you can’t stop it from interfering with your job, that relationship might not be the only thing coming to an end.
Best of luck with it! I do hope this has been useful.