Feature Upgrade – Notifications Just Got More Noticeable
Early this month we started testing some exciting upgrades to our notification feature. Our aim was to make it more easily accessible so admins can keep all personnel skills and certifications current without digging through menus for the different notification functions.
In the process, we also made it more functional.
Notifications are used to locate employees who have expiring certificates, or who have not updated their skills in a while.
After the system returns the list of employees, the admin can go on to notify them that they need to update their skills or renew a certification (I guess we would not have called it “Notifications” otherwise.)
Before the feature upgrade, the two major notification functions (certificate expiry and skills update) were crowded in with some other items under Score Details, and we noticed we sometimes had a hard time finding them (heck we designed this.)
And so we moved notifications to their own special place under the “All People” menu.
We also grouped the Training Notification function (used for reminding employees of upcoming training) into this menu. Before now, it could only be accessed through the training module and was separate from other notification functions. But since we added it to this menu, all notifications are now located in the same place.
“Days Since Last Update” Option
To save your precious time, we added a new option that makes it easy to select a “Last Update” date range.
Let’s say you wanted to find people who have not updated their skills in the past 6 months. Without this new option, you’d have to say: ok so today is 24th August 2015, 6 months ago was February – March, April, May, June, July, August, alright 6 months ago was February 24th. Yeah, so I have to enter 24th February 2015.
But now, all you have to do is click 180 in the “Days since last update” option, and you’re done!
Under expirations, this option is labeled “Days until certificate expires”, and it also provides a predefined number of days that you can click on to see who needs to update their certificate.
Though this seems like a little upgrade, I found it made notifications a pleasure to use.
I hope you will have the same experience.
And if you have a feature in mind that you think we should add, or you feel one of our features can be improved on, please contact us about it. We always appreciate your inputs and suggestions.
Workplace Violence – 6 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Workforce Safe
Keith Little, a hospital worker in Montgomery, Maryland, wanted a raise. Instead, he got a bad performance review from his boss Roosevelt Brockington Jr. In a rage, Little went into Roosevelt’s office wearing a ski mask and gloves to give the impression of a robbery gone wrong, and then murdered him.
Sadly, such occurrences are by no means isolated. This fact and my natural aversion toward violence have turned our blog for this week in this pretty serious direction.
News channels have essentially run out of words to describe violent acts. Senseless, insane, tragic, inhumane, and incomprehensible are some of the common expressions, but perhaps the phrase that best describes such acts is “not-going-away” because they clearly aren’t.
If anything, they are on the rise.
And since an average adult spends about 90,000 hours of their lifetime at work – the powerhouse of much of the stress that could frustrate, anger, or even tip a person over the edge – the issue of workplace violence is expectedly commonplace.
Obviously, many more companies need to take steps to address this issue.
But since violence can hardly be predicted and completely prevented, what can you do to make your company a safer place?
1. Check Before You Hire
Always conduct a thorough background check on candidates before they are recruited. While I believe people can, and do change, if a candidate has a history of violence (not just one hot head moment but an actual history), it may be best to hire someone else.
2. Enact a Zero Tolerance Policy for Violence
Every form of violence, verbal or physical, should not be tolerated in your company. It is necessary to create a formal, written policy to this effect, and then ensure everyone gets and reads a copy.
Others who come in regular contact with your employees (customers, clients, contractors, etc) should also be informed as to the kind of actions and interactions your company considers unacceptable.
3. Ensure There Is A Defined Way For Reporting Incidents
Employees should know exactly what to do if they have been victims of any form of violence within the company. And when incident reports are made, immediate action should be taken to prevent further harassment from the offender.
Employees should also know what to do if they are abused or threatened by customers or clients. For example, if a customer makes a threat of physical harm to one of your employees, this may be considered criminal threat and the company may decide to get the police to question and restrain the offender. Employees should know that they can report such threats.
4. Know And Educate Your Employees On The Warning Signs Of Violent Behavior
If there is one thing we have learned from previous acts of violence, it is that there is almost always some indication of the perpetrator’s violent tendency before the act, and very often the question asked is, why didn’t anybody take note of that?
“Personality conflicts: Is someone angry at a coworker or boss? If so, how is he or she dealing with it? Conversely, one should also be mindful if a person seems to have become obsessed with a supervisor or co-worker.”
“On-the-job disputes: Is he or she upset about something that happened at work, including how they might have been disciplined?”
“Talk of weapons/violence: If someone may be unstable, it’d be good to know if they have access to a gun or another weapon at work. The same goes with if he or she has expressed a fascination with weapons, violent themes, or recent high-profile killings.”
“Withdrawal: A co-worker who completely retreats into his shell could be demonstrating that he is having trouble coping.”
“Obsessive thought patterns or conversations: If an employee starts ranting against ‘the machine’ or talking incessantly about the unfairness of the world, it could be a warning sign.”
When such behaviors are identified early on, the person can be given needed help long before they escalate to violent behavior.
5. Identify Events That Could Make an Employee Volatile
Many violent acts at work occur around some major event, such as getting transferred to another region, getting a bad performance review, or getting fired.
While it would be unnecessary to go to DEFCON 1 each time an employee is fired, if the employee has a record of violence, some caution may be required.
If on the other hand the employee overtly shows his disappointment with the termination and threatens to retaliate somehow, get the police involved.
6. Reduce Work Related Stress
Stress at work can be caused by a number of factors, such as heavy workload, long hours, over-supervision, tight deadlines, and even boring work.
A research published in a WHO report concluded that “assaults may occur more frequently among highly stressed workers than among those experiencing less stress.”
To prevent violence then, you need to examine the trends in your company. Are there frequent reports of chronic stress? If yes, what changes in organizational structure and policies need to be made to correct this? Can you go the extra length and establish stress reduction facilities, such as gyms in your company?
Take Your Company Off The Statistics
In my quest for reliable information on this topic, I came across a good number of stats, most of them showing how prevalent work related violence is.
Quite surprisingly, although violence is generally on the increase, one stat revealed that work related violence, though common, is not increasing. It rather seems to have declined in recent years.
Clearly, some business people have taken steps to get their companies out of the negative statistics.
While the right candidate should be someone who has the skills and experience needed for the position, other factors come into play in determining if this is someone who will also stay with the company.
An interview with prospective candidates no doubt provides the golden opportunity to make this decision.
Truth be told though, there is nothing fun about interviews, not for the interviewer, and certainly not for the candidate. Even after reading this article, interviews will still not be fun.
But they will be more effective because in here, we have zoned-in on some of the most important and revealing interview questions.
1. How will your skills and experience enable you to fulfill the requirements of this position?
Note how this question is worded. The aim is to get candidates talking about their skills and experience.
It is one thing to write a set of skills on a resume, and quite another to show how the various facets of a skill will fit into the various requirements of a job position, and that is why this question is so important.
It gives candidates an opportunity to put their skills into dynamic situations and show how deeply rooted they really are.
To make this question more effective, you might mention a unique situation, read out a few skills from the candidate’s resume, and ask how they will use these skills to handle the situation.
2. Mention five work related activities you really enjoy doing.
The purpose of this question is to establish ‘purpose’ (this will make more sense in a bit.)
A Forbes article that focused solely on this question phrases it this way – “When in your life have you been so passionately focused on an activity that you lost track of time, and what were you doing?”
This line of questioning is important because candidates are naturally more suitable for a position if their passion and purpose align with that of the position and company.
Asking candidates to list work related activities they enjoy doing, possibly up to the point of losing track of time is a great way to know their passion and purpose, and if these fit into the activities of the open position.
If they do fit, you can be fairly certain this is a candidate who will work, not just for the next paycheck, but to see the company succeed.
3. Walk me through the first five things you would do if you got this job.
Be prepared to get a wide range of responses on this one. Some candidates may even consider “Because I’m pretty” to be good enough.
One reason this question is so important is how challenging it is. It prompts candidates to market themselves and show exactly why they are a better choice than everybody else.
And a candidate’s self-marketing pitch is vital in selecting the right candidate from the torrent of applications you get for each open position.
It helps you see what this candidate brings to the table that others might not. In the process, you also get to gauge the candidate’s confidence and self-awareness – qualities that are important for strong careers.
5. Have you noticed anything about the company that you think should be improved? Please explain.
If the response to this question is “Not at the moment”, it doesn’t mean the person is not the right candidate. It often takes time to understand how a business works, and how it should be improved. In fact, a candidate who responds “No” is far better than one who utters gibberish instead.
However, if a candidate takes a moment to arrange his thoughts, and then articulately explains where your company sucks, and what can be done to make things better, you’ve got yourself a winner.
6. What are your weaknesses?
There could hardly be a better question to gauge a person’s attitude and honesty. If a candidate cannot think of one single weakness they possess, it is likely because their weaknesses are deal breakers, and they have decided to keep them all hidden.
Then again, for those who are honest enough to respond with actual weaknesses, if the response is something like “I feel sleepy 23 hours a day”, then you can understand why some people choose to say they’re perfect instead. With a weakness like this, a candidate is not getting this or any other job until something is done to change the situation.
And so above all else, this question helps you identify weaknesses that would make a person unsuitable for the job.
7. Talk about a time that you took a risk and failed, and one where you took a risk and succeeded. What was the difference?
We want to believe you are recruiting workers who will stay with your company, and can grow to become leaders. That is why this question found a spot on our top 7 list.
Leaders take decisions, often involving a fair amount of risk. A new recruit who plans to grow with the company should thus show a fair amount of entrepreneurship.
In her article, Kristi suggests that you ask this question to identify a candidate’s “risk-taking ability and tolerance, self-awareness, honesty, and conceptual thinking.”
Yes, The Right Questions Can Help You Get The Right Candidate
Factually, you cannot be completely certain each time you hire that you made the right choice, it just doesn’t work that way.
But if your interview questions are able to reveal, among other things, that the candidate truly has the necessary skills, and that their purpose aligns with the position and company, you have a much better shot at recruiting the right fit.
“What are you trying to accomplish with our system?”
If you ever plan to book a demo with us, you can be fairly certain this is one of the first questions we will be asking you, hopefully after pleasantries.
We often receive requests for demos from business people who want to find out how our system can help them with their requirements.
Today, I’d be sharing some of the most basic and popular use cases of our skill management system, based on what our clients want to accomplish with it.
It’ll give you an idea of what other companies are using skills management for, and why it has become quite popular.
And if you were looking for reasons to justify implementation of skills management in your company, you’ve come to the right place.
No 1 – We need a way to manage and score employee skills
Many companies simply need a way to know who has what skill, and how good they are at it.
A company with hundreds or thousands of employees can hardly make the most use of its talents if they do not make an effort to keep their skills list organized.
Many employees have multiple skills and talents – much of which may only come to light when employees are asked to rate themselves.
Here’s a common scenario – Kerry, Julia, and Mark were hired for their knowledge of the web and were assigned web management tasks. However, they also know how to craft delightful newsletters, but since this was not required for their job, they kept it to themselves.
Their company which has over 3000 workers is in need of someone to assist in their marketing efforts by creating newsletters. They decide to hire from the outside.
Can you imagine how many such superfluous hires may be taking place in a company? Many of our clients can.
Companies have thus opted for skills management that provides a way for employees to score themselves so as to get their people into the right activities.
No 2 – We want managers to be able to rate employee skills
This is another common requirement we get during demos, and for good reason.
While employee self-assessment is great, a second opinion is usually needed to help ensure the data in the system is accurate. That is where manager assessment comes in.
Surely, we believe employees will rate themselves properly – nobody wants to rate himself an expert only to be given tasks he knows nothing about. However, we (and our clients) also recognize that people may not always be the best judge of their abilities.
Manager Scoring is thus required to combat both overly modest and overly confident ratings.
Let’s say a worker gives himself a 3 on a skill, but the manager has worked with this person and realizes he is actually more skilled that he credits himself, the manager can then rate him a 5 on the skill and thus ensure he engages in activities suitable for his skill level.
The Manager Rating feature in Skills DB Pro is single blind, which means employees cannot see the scores assigned to them by managers.
Note: A manager’s rating of an employee does not overwrite the employee’s rating of themselves. They are both available for use and a manager or admin performing an evaluation can decide to use either or both.
No 3 – We need a way to search among our employees for people with required skills.
Many companies ask for this feature so they can make effective plans for upcoming projects. Others, so they can get the right people into current projects.
We can surely see the sense in that – selecting the wrong people for a project could tank it even before it starts.
For such clients, we gladly demonstrate how our Expert Search feature fills their use case.
Let’s say you need five people who are expert in project management, and can speak some Spanish. You simply select both criteria, set the level of competency you want for each, and click search.
The system searches among your employees for those who have the skills and skill levels you selected and returns the list for you to choose from.
Besides skills, employees can also be sought based on certifications. And so if you want the selection above to only include experts in project management who are PMP certified, you add this to the criteria and the results are limited accordingly.
No 4 – We want to be able to generate skills reports for individuals, departments, or the whole company.
How much of this skill do we have? How much do we need? Who are close to having the necessary skills for this upcoming project so they can be trained? What are our skill gaps and how can we bridge them? Which employees have certifications that are expiring soon?
These are just some of the skill-related questions that could arise in an organization, and many of our clients know it is vital to have a precise way to get the answers.
Skills DB Pro offers 20 different reporting options to help you do just that.
The reporting tool we feature most often to our clients during demos is the advanced analytics module. This module offers a drag and drop function that allows you create custom reports by simply dragging and dropping filters.
These reports do come in handy – whether for discussing with employees about their career, assessing a department or the entire company, creating outstanding proposals, or acing that presentation.
And we know how much you love charts – I mean, why represent information only in tables when it can also be done with lines and rectangles and pies right?
So when our clients request it, we show them our reporting functions that can also be displayed as graphical charts.
Other Use Cases
We want to be able to schedule and track employee training: Keeping track of training attended by employees complements the skills management process.
This is yet another way to know precisely how proficient employees are, and what roles are suitable for them.
We need a way to know if workers are competent enough for their job position: Skills DB Pro has an entire module just for this purpose. Employees can be compared against their job position to see if they are competent enough, or against an open job position to determine if they are suitable for promotion.
Wearable gadgets are fast finding their way into offices, eliciting diverse reactions depending on whose point of view you consider.
While employers view it as a useful tool, employees consider it an ankle bracelet.
Employees already resent micromanaging bosses to the extent that articles, several of them have been written to help those in the situation cope.
A piece of technology that could turn even the greatest of employers into micromanagers by supplying them with a detailed record of an employee’s actions, even how long they spend in the toilet, trumps it all. More self-help articles please!
With the introduction of wearable gadgets to offices, this has indeed become part of company practice.
One such gadget, the Hitachi Business Microscope, can monitor things like how workers move, where they are, who they are speaking with, and even measure how well they are communicating with others by noting how often they make hand gestures and nod, and the tone of their voice. – Wall Street Journal
Modern offices are already rife with employee privacy infringements. That this technology is frowned at by employees is thus a no-brainer.
Much of the problem lies in what is emphasized as the reason for these gadgets – “improving productivity”. Employees read that as “squeezing more and more out of us”, or even “they think we’re incompetent.”
Besides, if a company has to rely on wearable gadgets to ensure productivity, they may need to re-evaluate their business dynamics.
Productivity should be built into the core of a company’s work practices.
When an employee is always involved in tasks that are matched to his skills and career goals, whether or not they are “fun” tasks, they will perform well and contribute to the growth of the company.
Thus, while wearable gadgets may play a part in improving efficiency, creating company practices that fully utilize the skills of employees, and makes their career dynamic is the major step needed to improve employee productivity.
How Employers Can Get On The Same Page With Employees
As admitted above, wearable devices may contribute to efficiency if used correctly. But if used wrongly, they could also destroy the morale of workers and reduce business performance.
The difference lies in a company’s approach.
While I would normally resent a “digital micromanager” on me, I have to admit that if my employer’s emphasis is put in the right place, it could be acceptable.
If, for example, the sole (and honest) aim is to track my activities so avenues for professional development and improvement can be identified, with the intent of making me “more valuable” in my field, then why not.
Can you see why this would sit well with employees? It is no longer a matter of mining them for the last resource but of making them more resourceful and important.
Proof that this will be effective is seen in the results of a survey carried out by PWC. Of the 2000 respondents, 40% said that they would accept a wearable gadget at work.
But that number jumped to 56% when the purpose of the gadget was to improve their wellbeing.
Clearly, if an employer goes one up and decides to use such gadgets for professional development of employees as well, many more will be willing, and probably even happy to use it.
Along the line, a more resourceful employee would also contribute more to the success of the company, so everybody wins.
Can Employers Require Employees To Use Wearables?
The legal issues involved in the use of wearables have not been fully established.
However, it is unlikely that employers can require employees to wear them.
“Lawyers say companies would have to gain the explicit informed consent of employees before gathering personal data from wearables — and further consent to correlate it with other data, such as performance metrics.” – FT Business
Either way, it will be a terrible idea to force wearables on employees. That’s one sure way to predetermine the kind of data you get from the wearables – data that says you’ve successfully demoralized your employees.
How To Address The Lack Of “Ready Now” Candidates For Leadership Positions
If you are in human resource management or serve in a related capacity, the issue of whether to promote or hire to fill a leadership position is one you have likely faced.
And it is viewed in a good light when an organization relies more on promotion than on recruiting as this shows that the development and training structures put in place are effective enough to groom leaders.
However, a recent report reveals that many organizations lack candidates who are “ready now” for promotion to leadership roles.
Approximately 50% of the respondents said that their organization lacks a concrete channel for developing and delivering “ready now” candidates to fill leadership positions.
Many companies thus resort to recruiting instead of promoting when a leadership position needs to be filled. In fact, “43% of C-suite positions are filled from the outside.” – Korn Ferry Study
SOME OF THE CAUSES IDENTIFIED
1. Nonspecific Development: Many organizations do not focus on the unique development of employees with relation to their goals and potential leadership duties and challenges.
“Oftentimes, leaders spend a good part of their careers participating in standard development programs that aren’t customized to their specific needs, which significantly hinders the fulfillment of their true potential being reached.” – Korn Ferry Study
2. Lack of Adequate and Personalized Experience Opportunities: Experience remains the best way to learn, yet most organizations do not provide enough experience and development opportunities.
Worse yet, the opportunities provided follow a general standard that has no real emphasis on building up a particular employee so he can take on a leadership role.
HOW TO ENSURE A STEADY SUPPLY OF “READY NOW” EMPLOYEES
1. Start Development Early in An Employee’s Career: From the very onset, an employee’s career should have a defined growth path. Employees should be exposed to challenging experiences right from the beginning so their aptitude for decision making can be identified.
2. Make Development and Experience Opportunities Unique to The Skills and Goals of Each Employee: Once an employee’s skills and experience have been identified and recorded, development plans need to be designed around them and in relation to their leadership goals.
3. Use a Skills Tracking and Goal Management System: The first two steps may lack structure and direction if there is no way to track the skills and experience of each unique employee.
A skill tracking system stores a current list of an employee’s proficiencies and experience. If this system also incorporates goal management, weaving skills and experience into the development process becomes a simple task.
If you already use Skills DB Pro for skills management, one easy way to create unique career plans is with the Competency and Goal Management System. With it, you can compare the current skills and experience of an employee with what is required for a leadership role and easily Identify gaps.
Once gaps have been identified, you can then add the employee to scheduled trainings to bridge these gaps, using our training module.
Skills DB Pro has recently gone one step further. We are currently beta testing an Individual Development Plans (IDP) module, and the name says it all. We will publish a blog on this feature when it becomes available to all our users.
If you use any other Skills Management System but do not yet know if goal management is part of it. You may want to read their documentation or contact the providers.
If you haven’t used a skill and goal management system at all, our 45-day free trial is a great place to start.
Into The ‘Outer Space’ of Company Dynamics – Companies Without Managers
I was searching the internet for new trends in business management a while ago, and as often is the case, my search turned up a few good reads.
But nothing caught my attention as much as the story about a few companies that have embraced or plan to embrace a system of ‘management’ that discards the role of ‘managers.’
Initially, it all sounded very ludicrous. However, as I learned more about this approach, ludicrousness quickly faded and was replaced with me thinking “this might actually work.”
Contrary to my expectation, this approach was not the spur of the moment thought of a bored company executive. Rather, it is already quite established, with its own name (Holacracy), a dedicated website, and a few companies that have implemented it, and apparently have a lot of good things to say about it.
Zappos, one of the listed companies, made the headlines recently when they told their employees to go Holacratic, or go home.
The Shoe Retailing Company has been experimenting with the Holacratic system of management for some time now. And since April 30th, has apparently adopted it as a companywide system.
What is Holacracy?
The following definition is copied directly from the Website
“Holacracy is a new way of running an organization that removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss. The work is actually more structured than in a conventional company, just differently so. With Holacracy, there is a clear set of rules and processes for how a team breaks up its work, and defines its roles with clear responsibilities and expectations.”
Frankly, this sounds interesting, but it also raises some questions, most of them related to the very foundation of this system – the absence of managers.
For example, among many other duties, managers are there to ensure the people working under them are putting in their best.
With self-management, there is the tendency that workers may not perform as well as they should. However, Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh already has his eyes fixed on solutions to this potential problem.
“I was on a Skype call with Frederic Laloux, the author of Reinventing Organizations. During our call, he said …………… we need to figure out what the antibodies are for when a small number [of] employees take advantage of the freedom gained from being in a no-manager organization, or else it will demoralize the other employees. He said that in general, research has shown that peer-pressure based systems work the best. For certain types of job functions where there are easy metrics to measure performance, a public leaderboard ranking will naturally create peer pressure by showing which teams are performing and which aren’t.”
Evidently, Zappos is being proactive as they implement this new, not fully tested approach for company management.
How self-management will turn out for the handful of companies who have implemented it, we cannot really say for now. But with the proactive, problem solving approach with which Zappos is taking this on, it will not be surprising if it actually turns out to be the gold standard for them, and for other companies who may then decide to put on their ‘shoes.’
With the invention of the internet and the endless and ever expanding list of business tools it has come to support, virtual workers have become a very important part of the job market. As one would expect, a good number of business savvy entrepreneurs saw the potentials that this opening held and quickly invested in it, giving rise to freelance sites like Elance and oDesk. The result is an abundance of workers from all over the world, fully prepared to do everything on your behalf, even make your morning coffee if that were possible through the internet.
Last week I was on the phone with a potential client and they asked me to explain in one page the advantages and practical steps to implementing a skills tracking system in their company. Here it is I hope you find it useful.
The benefits of a skills tracking system are considerable. The enterprise receives an in depth picture of where skills fulfill specific requirements and where they fall short (gap analysis). A skills baseline is developed. Responsibilities are put in place for fulfilling baseline requirements.
In due course, company performance always increases with more informed skills management. Through: Read more…
With a title like that I really needed to give this book a once over. I dug into it and had a good laugh for quite a while.
Now you are probably asking yourself at this point “Why is this software Skills Management, Training Management, Competency Management, computer programming nerd writing about a book by Bill Maher?” Read more…