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…


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

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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*

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.


Work Place Bullying: A Troubling Reality

This weekend’s post is centered on workplace bullies. They are just about everywhere, you name it.

Bullying comes in different forms, and sometimes in the most subtle of ways. Some have even adopted management styles that have been applauded for ‘delivering on outcomes’, but whose longer-term effects are actually corrosive. What isn’t realized is the damage done to employees’ morale, mental health, physical well-being and, ultimately, the firm’s bottom line.

I was going through the CIPD people management journal and found just the perfect article to give more light on the subject. Claire Warren, in an insightful fashion, identified and detailed the characteristics of various classes of bullies. The classic old-school type is characterized by very dominant, aggressive and brash behaviour patterns. The sly and reputation damager, is what she described as “the snake”. “The underminer” sees to it that you remain redundant or, at the very least, viewed as being incompetent; and “the critic” constantly magnifies lapses/errors. If I may add to the list, the “silent treatment warlord” would be one who typically offers no support or feedback but allows you fall in the ditch – showing you off to the world when you are at your worst.

Quite rare but true all the same, bullying isn’t just a preserve for managers or the top echelon; Subordinates have also been reported to bully their bosses. By deliberately being insubordinate and vengeful, some have frustrated their line managers, even, out of employment.

Bullying in all its forms contribute to the increasing cases of absenteeism, staff turnover, health challenges as well as recruitment & selection costs borne by organizations. Consequently, a dip in performance, employee contribution and ultimately profitability becomes inevitable.

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

HR’s Role in all of this:

  • At the very least, a culture of respect is the starting point. It behoves the HR department to ensure policies and practices are guided and driven by this theme.
  • As I have mentioned in previous posts, the manager-associate relationship is key to employee engagement. Providing an avenue for staff to air harassment concerns anonymously is certainly another step in the right direction.
  • Consequent to the preceding point, and after all necessary investigation into the matter has been undergone, is the need to ensure erring members are sanctioned in accordance to the operating codes of conduct/guidelines. There should be no sacred cows, and rules should be applied fairly to all. .
  • Sometimes, bullying may be more of a process problem than it is an individual’s behaviour. According to the CIPD, “bullying behaviour” may stem from how an organization conducts business or its defined way of measuring performance or instilling required behaviour. Where this obtains, senior management will need to lead the process of enforcing a culture of respect (see CIPD, 2005).

The work place needn’t be a dreaded zone. It is said that we spend a third of our lives in the company of our colleagues, then at the very least, it isn’t asking too much that our experiences be void of intimidation, fear and despair. The ultimate is to attest to working in a pleasant environment, bullies make that dream far-fetched.

We owe it to ourselves to ensure that we not only treat others with respect but that we also fight the culture of bullying in our environment.

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Bullying Doesn’t Have to Mean Malcom Tucker-Style bawling: Subtle Digs Are Just As Devastating. People Management Journal. October 2013 issue. p25.

CIPD. (2005), Bullying at Work: Beyond Policies to a Culture of Respect. (Online). (Accessed 16 May, 2014). Available from:

Helping Employees Develop a Sense of Ownership (Part 2)


photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

Ownership is one of those things that’s hard to define, but easy to recognize. A sense of ownership is activated naturally in people when they have a financial or emotional stake in something. When something can be described as “mine,” it triggers feelings of accountability that are not present from a position of “yours.” To this effect, smart organization understand the importance of investing whatever it takes to ensure its human resource displays the level of commitment needed to retain the competitive edge derived from unwavering customer loyalty, sustained business expansion and employee satisfaction.

Organizations have realized that getting employees to do much more can cost much more than is required to remain profitable. Hence, exploring alternative means to achieving this sustained growth in business has resulted in the need to help employees develop the ‘ownership’ mindset.

Continuing from the previous post, this week’s post focuses on how to get employees to demonstrate much more ownership than they presently are. The following are some of the ways in which I believe employees may be engaged to think more like ‘owners’:

1. Providing adequate support for employees. Ensuring resources required to effectively execute tasks are available and easily accessible. There is nothing as uninspiring as a fired-up employee without the necessary tools.

2. Constantly taking the time to ensure employees are aware of the importance of their role to overall success of the business. This may require drawing distinct links between employees’ job functions and specific corporate objectives. Instilling a sense of relevance does go a long way in promoting a sense of ownership. When we feel what we do matters, we tend to put in more effort into making it work.

3. Shared vision: the manager’s involvement in the job often demonstrates the ‘important’ and often, ‘urgent’ nature of tasks. Consequently, to shore up the level of ownership displayed by staff, it is important that managers ‘work’ their ‘talk’.

4. The manager-associate relationship has been termed one of the most crucial relationships in the workplace. Managers must use this opportunity to their advantage by influencing the quality of work as well as the attitude to work of associates. Hence, Managers must seek to become mentors rather than dictators.

5. Provision of timely and constructive feedback communicates commitment to the project as well as the success of the employee. Endearing employees to their organization encourages them to ‘own’ their job roles.

6. Increased responsibility and complexity of tasks does serve as a motivation for some classes of employees. Once these employees are identified,  the tools along with sufficient authority to go along with these responsibilities should be adequately deployed.

7. Naturally, individuals will show more interest when they are actively a part of the project. As much as is possible, every team member should be held accountable for specific tasks and their respective outcomes -as is often said in performance management, what isn’t measured doesn’t get done.

8. Fairness in all respects (in relation to reward sharing, task allocation and other ancillary benefits) improves chances of engagement and an ownership mindset among staff.

9. Ultimately, a large part of all this can be controlled at the recruitment stage by ensuring round pegs are fitted in round holes. By exploring relevant tools which incorporate the skills, interests and disposition of employees, in my opinion,  improves the chances of achieving an ‘ownership mindset’ from the onset.

Ideally, if references were what they used to be, they would have been the perfect and most reliable prediction of future behaviour patterns. In Nigeria, as in most parts of the world, references have become a tool utilized by the friends of applicants to ‘put in a good word’ for the latter.

10. Finally, emphasis must be on HR’ s role in providing an enabling environment for both managers and associates to exercise an ownership mindset is in force. Recognizing and rewarding required behaviour may also prove useful.

Ethical Dilemma: I Found @?#%*!…

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

“What would you do if you found very inappropriate material on your boss’s (company owned) laptop while searching for that important official document?”

Do you…

A. Blow the whistle on your boss?

B. Act like you haven’t seen anything?

C. Discuss it with your boss?

I would imagine that there should a compliance unit whose duty it is to scan through employees mails and the likes for the purpose of detecting brand eroding content. This often serves to spare the organization of more dire consequences should the situation spiral out of control.

In the absence of this form of control, I would always put the business first. The suitability of the route to ply would be greatly determined by a number of factors as well as the answer to such questions as:

Is it in the long term interest of the business? Does it have damaging implication on the brand? Does it have legal implications for the business if discovered? Will it upset staff or result in uneasiness if discovered? Does it question the capability of the ‘guilty’ party in carrying out tasks or undermine his/her credibility with his/her associates etc…?

If the answers to all the above are yes, then, the answer is quite clear. Whistle blow and tell HR about it.

In many cases that would be a resounding yes, but in other cases it might not be so clear.

If, for instance, there are no specific company policies against such content, then does the employee have an obligation to report? Perhaps the feeling of upset might not be down to any legal wrong, but merely one of personal view of morality, or perhaps the viewed content seems to be a let-down on how the ‘guilty’ colleague had earlier been perceived/revered.

However, if it is content that bothers no one and has no implication on the business as well as all parties who matter, then it may be alright to act like you’ve seen nothing. Besides, worse things are happening in the world right?

Finally, I would only advise a discussion with the boss when it is of a more personal nature. It is imperative to note that talking it over with the boss is dicey and best when a more cordial relationship exists – although that might also make it harder to broach the subject.

When the issue involved relates to such things as a fetish or habit that has now gone overboard, given the sensitive/personal nature of it, it may only be fair to inform and give chance for the benefit of the doubt before heading the HR route.

Relationship also has a lot to do with the third route because (otherwise) this could prove to be the most difficult of all three options -one that could so easily result in victimization and a total nightmare.

Engaging Through Inclusion

by Tolu Adebule and Demola Oke


photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

A lot has been said about effectively engaging employees, as well as the undeniable benefits of doing so.

The employee’s contribution to the organization is paramount. Hence, one of HR’s most important responsibilities lies in ensuring that employees are positioned to give more of themselves, without necessarily increasing costs to the organization.

Valid questions such as -“Why do some work cultures/environments so easily promote high performance teams while others struggle with high turnover rates?” -have inspired according more attention to ‘soft issues’ at the workplace.

Rather than seeking to provide an analogy on how work cultures can be cultivated and developed with a “winning formula”, this post considers the basic things that can work, as garnered from practical experiences, observations and discussions. Specifically, it considers the concept of employee inclusion in a practical sense.

In brief, employee inclusion is an all-encompassing concept which recognizes the organization’s effort at ensuring that each individual within its diverse workforce feels relevant, comfortable and a part of the whole.

It is interesting to note that ample of opportunities often exist at the workplace to engage employees through inclusion.

For instance, everyone values being appreciated; it’s a basic primordial nature of humans. We cherish recognition and ultimately the sense of being a part of the group.

With this in mind, does HR go about including employees as they ought? Or do we perform our daily tasks passively; passing-off such opportunities?

Generally, a more strategic and deliberate approach to tasks increases the chances of improving the outcomes. Consequently, below are 5 useful yet basic tips which serve as pointers for HR professionals on ways to constantly seek to promote employee inclusion within the organization. That is; improving relationships, and ultimately performance/productivity by taking advantage of the most simple (often, daily) opportunities.

Openness in communication (within the organization). This achieves two basic but very important things: (1) It builds trust, and (2) it prevents miscommunication. It helps expel notions that could have otherwise been formed in the absence of a free flow of information. A closed system promotes isolation and uncertainty, and can feed preconceived ideas, reinforce bias and ultimately deplete the possibilities for inclusion and trust.

Making the most of the recruitment, selection, promotion, reward and employee development channels to ensure fairness is accorded to all (irrespective of race, ethnicity, disability, religious preferences and the likes). Employees should trust the processes that affect them, and these processes would be better served when it incorporates some form of feedback mechanism that can promote frank sharing of opinions and suggestions.

Often times we focus efforts on things, to the detriment of ‘people’. Little things like an environment that takes into consideration facilities for the disabled for instance go a long way in truly showing that inclusion isn’t just a policy on paper, but rather a way of life. There should be adequate parking provision for wheel chair users; stairs and passages that are wheelchair friendly or even dietary considerations for special needs employees etc. The little things are often the important things.

Rather than formulating policies which are supportive of single parents; pregnant women; nursing mothers etc because they look good on paper, enforcing same would be a great point to start towards engaging through inclusion. You’d be surprised the effect of family friendly policies on staff.

For new employees, either new to a role, department or organization, orientation and subsequent integration should be as smooth as possible. Make them feel welcome and valued, not just verbally but more importantly,  by ensuring all facilities needed for them to perform are ready on resumption. An unsettled employee is unlikely to feel like part of the whole group.

Another could be substituting “Christmas parties” with “end-of-the year parties”, as this can serve to accommodate employees of diverse beliefs. Also, bonding dinners for teams, especially when major objectives are achieved wouldn’t be such a bad idea either.

The above mentioned are just a few, as the possibilities are seemingly endless.

It’s important though to note that inclusion is not the prerequisite of HR alone. Team Leads, Divisional/Departmental/Branch heads etc have the primary responsibility of driving and achieving inclusion in their separate teams/units. However, HR’s role must be to focus on creating the “culture” where leaders inculcate the principles of inclusion, possibly by measuring/assessing the degree to which this is achieved.

Inclusion is a culture, and it should be promoted as such that is; a way of life for the organization -not just in words on paper or in the air, but with action.