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 (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.

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.

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:

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.

What’s In a Name? You’d be Surprised


There are lots of policies that get ‘adopted’ by firms which never get to see the light of day in terms of actual implementation.

From my experiences and what I’ve heard from so many, I have come to the conclusion that some policies aren’t passed to be adopted; They serve instead as a ‘corporate green card’ needed by an organization to be accorded the sort of audience more sophisticated/refined organizations seem to enjoy.

One of such policies is the ‘first name basis’ policy.

The use of it has become more of a fad. The concept as well as all accompanying benefits are both valued and acknowledged, but, often from a safe distance. Although seen as desirable, fashionable and modern, organizations who value seniority and appreciate more traditional forms of respect have found it difficult to embrace.

Personally, I do agree that it does break some communication barriers and eases up the gap that strains open work relationships. But does it really have any correlation with actual performance? That’s debatable. However, it can be argued that if it promotes a healthy work environment and eases the work-flow, it is bound to have some carry-on effect on overall organizational performance.

I have heard several tales about employees taking offence to being called solely by their first names. Usually, these employees reprimand colleagues (often impolitely) for omitting the decoratives that precede their names.  Similarly, I have seen first-hand, the damage these encounters do to the morale of the ‘corrected’ and the quality of interpersonal relationships that ensue afterwards.

I value integrity, which after all is doing exactly what you said you would, and I also appreciate the countless number of organizations who have successfully enforced and imbibed the culture/policy.

Essentially, for any human related policy to be successful, it is paramount for policy makers to acquire a thorough understanding of the organizational culture. Policies formulated should be done in consideration of the people, the company’s ideology and culture. It is worth throwing some issues to the opinion polls or conducting a survey around certain subjects before running them.

Alternatively; if an organization insists on making such transitions, it is pertinent that such initiatives are completely supported by top management and same are seen to be actively engaged in acting out the newly adopted behaviours.

In conclusion, to be seen as credible and be taken seriously as an organization, to avoid the animosity that may arise from un-receptive staff, to maintain subsequent levels of motivation, commitment and engagement, (organizations should carefully consider the likelihood of success in implementing such a policy by taking into consideration the attitude to culture change as well as the possible impact on organizational harmony & performance).

Do you have experiences of your own to share on the subject? …and is there really any correlation between a first name basis policy and subsequent performance? I would love to read your thoughts. Do feel free to share…

Employee Effectiveness Series

Doing It Right The First Time

This has to be one of my most frequently used lines -“Do it right, the first time.”

We often find that we could have easily avoided repeating an action if only we had paid more attention to getting it right at the first instance. I also find that the energy, the time and the mental stress of re-doing a task often leaves one feeling exasperated. In some cases, it totally destabilizes one’s itinerary for the rest of the day.

I had written this piece a while ago, but then I fell short myself. So I thought: “what better way to convey my thoughts on this subject than sharing my experience…”

I was given a task to do and the bottom line is I flunked it; the first time at least. I had the responsibility of extracting data from a bunch of already completed forms. With hindsight, it was apparent I hadn’t taken the time to be clear on the task or its final objective; It was also clear that I didn’t pause to ask questions when I hit a roadblock. Instead, I assumed I knew exactly what was expected of me or at least was bright enough to figure it out. So, I decided to act out my ability to work independently. I even as much as applauded myself on my ability to brainstorm and achieve much with so little assistance.

The long and short of it is that I hadn’t extracted all the information that was needed from the forms, which left me having to begin the entire process all over. It cost me my lunch break, a headache and a whole lot of time and energy that could have easily gone into other things (like jotting down another blog idea).

The lesson that could be learned from my experience boarders around how individuals can increase their effectiveness, not by doing more of the same things (especially when it’s the wrong way), but by striving to do the right thing, the first time, every time.

In addition, I’ve also come to realize that one of the biggest mistakes we often make, a major factor of not doing things right, boils down to making ASSUMPTIONS. We assume we know what’s required, or we assume we know how to get it done or a variety of other assumptions -when it might be best to simply ‘ask’ and/or ‘clarify’.

Just as I have been recently reminded, it’s useful that I re-remind myself and in so doing, share the following:

  • If we must remain effective as individuals, a conscious and continuous effort must be paid to ensuring a meticulous and a thorough eye towards performing tasks.
  • Striving for precision and correctness (at the first instance) will result in resource savings. Likewise, the time and energy saved may be channeled into other productive activities, which will further translate into personal and organizational gains.
  • It’s okay not knowing everything. There isn’t any harm in seeking clarification; it diminishes one in no way at all. Better wiser to have asked than enervated staying mute (I’d be sure to favourite this).
  • Finally, priority should be given to the quality of work we do. It reflects on our personal brands. Presentation matters. Thoroughness should take precedence over speed, fatigue, laziness, disinterest and the likes. The fact remains; if we fail to give it a 100% at the first instance, it usually comes back with teeth sharp enough to rip. That in itself, I believe, is sufficient reason to be more effective.

Doing it right the first time is not asking for perfection or suggesting we create an illusion of it. It’s more about taking the time to carry out our tasks as best as we possibly can, within the limits of current abilities and after we must have made the required effort to ensure that the objective is understood.

Subsequently, if mistakes do arise, then we’re better off and stand to gain new knowledge which will set us in a better position to outperform on the next attempt.