Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Monday, March 31, 2008

Executive Coaching and Business Strategy

Successful executive coaching requires sophisticated understanding of organizations as well as of individuals. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the intersection of business strategy and the executive coaching that supports it. Senior leaders play a critical role in setting direction, defining strategic positions, and providing focus for the business operations needed for successful execution. Through executive coaching, a leader can be more effective, as an individual, in guiding the execution of the strategy. Furthermore, given the positions these individuals occupy in their organizations, coaching can also affect the formation of strategy.

An essential HR responsibility is to support the business strategy with initiatives, programs, processes, and business partner consulting that may help the organization achieve its business goals. Executive coaching is one area in which HR has the potential to support not only the execution of the strategy but its development as well. Involvement of HR in executive coaching may take a variety of forms that include supporting an ad hoc request for coaching, developing a coaching program as part of a larger HR or executive development strategy, or providing executive coaching directly as an internal coach.

Four Different Coaching Roles

This approach (Witherspoon and White, 1996) defines each coaching role according to its purpose:

• Coaching for skills, which focuses on specific skills required for a current job
• Coaching for performance, which focuses more broadly on a present job
• Coaching for development, which is directed toward learning for a future job
• Coaching for the executive's agenda, which focuses on learning that is related to an executive's agenda in the broadest sense

The last role, coaching for the executive's agenda, is the most directly relevant to strategy. Building on Witherspoon and White's model, in this role, a coach might:

• Be a sounding board for an executive who needs to explore the feasibility of several potential strategy scenarios

• Help test an executive's assumptions regarding marketplace realities and the opportunities they present

• Point out blind spots on the part of the executive that are impeding implementation

• Enhance creativity

• Support the efforts required to pursue a given strategic direction by helping an executive lay out a change strategy that supports the business strategy

The role of coaching for the executive's agenda seems to have the greatest relevance for strategy; however, any of the roles could help focus learning that relates to business strategy. For example, when coaching for skills, an executive may need to address some of the following areas:

• Acquiring more knowledge about the new Internet economy in order to fully understand emerging strategic options

• Honing negotiation skills for new partnerships with customers who simultaneously become partners, suppliers, and competitors

• Further refining expert communication skills with the goal of implementing and providing leadership through major organizational change.
The other two roles, coaching for performance and coaching for development, may also be appropriate for specific situations involving strategy formation or execution.

Ref: Catherine Fitzgerald and Jennifer Berger

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Types of Training Program

Types of learning can be categorized into three groups:

Cognitive learning.
This means knowledge learning. It not only includes the knowledge per se, but also what to do with it or how to apply it. Thus the investigative process and the principles of problem solving and decision making are part of this group.

Much learning of this nature is imparted by the lecture method, but can be reinforced by a variety of methods such as private study, process reviews, role plays and case studies.

Psychomotor learning.
These are the physical skills that are required in order to complete a task. Examples would be driving a car or giving an oral presentation.

The most effective environment in which to gain these physical skills is in the 'laboratory', in which students actually gain hands-on experience. The lecturer only prepares the student by giving him the knowledge before entering the arena to practice. It is only in the arena that the real learning takes place. This experiential approach is used in the training of airline pilots in simulators.

In no area of learning is the old Chinese proverb more appropriate:

I hear, I forget, I see, I remember, I do, I understand.
Affective learning.
This is related to attitudes, values and interests and is the most difficult training of all, mainly because it is difficult to measure.

Designing a Training Program
1. Area of training content (What type of behavior or material is to be learned?)
a. Cognitive learning
b. Psychomotor learning
c. Affective learning

2. Extent to which the training program incorporates key learning principles
a. Does program provide knowledge of results?
b. Does program reinforce desired behaviors?
c. Does method provide practice opportunities?
d. Does method motivate employee to learn and apply new knowledge and skills to the job ?
e. Does the program facilitate transfer of new behaviors to on-the-job situations ?
3. Trainee characteristics
a. How many employees need training now? In the future ?
b. What level(s) of ability do trainees possess?
c. What individual differences exist in employees who will be receiving training?
4. Cost of the program
a. What is the size of the training and development budget?
b. What does the program cost?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Training Need Analysis

There are three types of training need analysis : organizational need analysis, job need analysis, and person need analysis.

Organizational Needs Analysis:

According to many training experts, attaining the objectives of the business should be the ultimate concern of any training and development effort. Therefore, conducting an organizational needs analysis should be the first step in effective needs assessment. It begins with an examination of the short and long-term objectives of the organization and the trends that are likely to affect these objectives. It can include a human resource analysis, analysis of efficiency indexes, and an assessment of the organizational climate.

The organizational needs analysis should translate the organization's objectives into an accurate estimate of the demand for human resources. Efficiency indexes including cost of labor, quantity of output (productivity), quality of output, waste, and equipment use and repairs can provide useful information. The organization can determine standards for these indexes and then analyze them to evaluate the general effectiveness of training programs.

Organizational analysis also can address the organization's performance in the "softer" domains that constitute the corporate culture. For example, it may reveal a misalignment between the current value system in the organization and the values espoused by top management. Many companies today espouse values such as focusing on customers, following ethical business practices, and supporting diversity, yet behavior within these companies may fail to reflect those values. In such cases, training for everyone in the company, regardless of their specific job, may be needed.

Job Needs Analysis:

The specific content of present or anticipated jobs is examined through job analysis. For existing jobs, information on the tasks to be performed (contained in job descriptions), the skills necessary to perform those tasks (drawn from job qualifications), and the minimum acceptable standards (obtained from performance appraisals) are gathered. This information can then be used to ensure that training programs are job specific and useful.

The process of collecting information for use in developing training programs is often referred to as job needs analysis. In this situation, the analysis method used should include questions specifically designed to assess the competencies needed to perform the job.

Person Needs Analysis

After information about the job has been collected, the analysis shifts to the person. A person needs analysis identifies gaps between a person's current capabilities and those identified as necessary or desirable. Person needs analysis can be either broad or narrow in scope. The broader approach com¬pares actual performance with the minimum acceptable standards of performance. The narrower approach compares an evaluation of employee proficiency on each required skill dimension with the proficiency level required for each skill. The first method is based on the actual, current job performance of an employee; therefore, it can be used to determine training needs for the current job. The second method, on the other hand, can be used to identify development needs for future jobs.

Whether the focus is on performance of the job as a whole or on particular aspects of the job, several approaches can be used to identify the training needs of individuals :

Output Measures. Performance data (e.g., productivity, accidents, customer complaints), as well as performance appraisal ratings, can provide evidence of performance deficiencies. Person needs analysis can also consist of work sample and job knowledge tests that measure performance capability and knowledge.

Self-Assessed Training Needs. The self-assessment of training needs is growing in popularity. Here top managers require the employee and his or her supervisor to identify what the business needs are for the department and the business, as well as the skill needs and deficiencies of the individual. Self-assessment is premised on the assumption that employees, more than anyone else, are aware of their weaknesses and performance deficiencies. Therefore, they're in the best position to identify their own training needs.

Attitude Surveys. Attitude surveys completed by a supervisor's subordinates or by customers or by both also can provide information on training needs. For example, when one supervisor receives low scores regarding her or his fairness in treating subordinates, compared with other supervisors in the organization, the supervisor may need training in that area. Similarly, if the customers of a particular unit seem to be particularly dissatisfied com¬pared with other customers, training may be needed in that unit. Thus, customer surveys can serve a dual role: providing information to management about service and pinpointing employee deficiencies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Seven Communication Principles

To compose effective message you need to apply certain specific communication principles. They tie closely with the basic concepts of the communication process and are important for both written and oral communications. Called the “seven C’s”, they are: completeness, conciseness, consideration, concreteness, clarity, courtesy, and correctness.

Completeness: Your business message is "complete" when it contains all facts the reader or listener needs for the reaction you desire. Remember that communicators differ in their mental filters; they are influenced by their backgrounds, viewpoints, needs, attitudes, status, and emotions.

Completeness is necessary for several reasons. First, complete messages are more likely to bring the desired results without the expense of additional messages. Second, they can do a better job of building goodwill. Third, they can help avert costly lawsuits that may result if important information is missing.

As you strive for completeness, keep the following guidelines in mind:

• Answer all questions asked.

• Give something extra, when desirable.

• Check for the five W's and any other essentials.

Conciseness: A concise message saves time and expense for both sender and receiver. Conciseness is saying what you have to say in the fewest possible words without sacrificing the other C qualities. Conciseness contributes to emphasis. By eliminating unnecessary words, you help make important ideas stand out.

To achieve conciseness try to observe the following suggestions:

• Eliminate wordy expressions.

• Include only relevant statements.

• Avoid unnecessary repetition.

Consideration: Consideration means that you prepare every message with the recipient in mind and try to put yourself in his or her place. Try to visualize your readers (or listeners)—with their desires, problems, circumstances, emotions, and probable reactions to your request. Then handle the matter from their point of view. This thoughtful consideration is also called "you-attitude," empathy, the human touch, and understanding of human nature. (It does not mean, however, that you should overlook the needs of your organization.)

In a broad but true sense, consideration underlies the other six C's of good business communication. You adapt your language and message content to your receiver's needs when you make your message complete, concise, concrete, clear, courteous, and correct.

However, in four specific ways you can indicate you are considerate:

• Focus on "you" instead of "I" and "we."

• Show reader benefit or interest in reader.

• Emphasize positive, pleasant facts.

• Apply integrity and ethic.

Concreteness: Communicating concretely means being specific, definite, and vivid rather than vague and general. The following guidelines should help you compose concrete, convincing messages:

• Use specific facts and figures.

• Put action in your verbs.

• Choose vivid, image-building words.

Clarity: Clarity means getting your message across so the receiver will understand what you are trying to convey. You want that person to interpret your words with the same meaning you have in mind. Accomplishing that goal is difficult because, as you know, individual experiences are never identical, and words have different meanings to different persons.

Here are some specific ways to help make your messages clear:

1. Choose short, familiar, conversational words.

2. Construct effective sentences and paragraphs.

3. Achieve appropriate readability (and listenability).

4. Include examples, illustrations, and other visual aids, when desirable.

Courtesy: Courteous messages help to strengthen present business friendships, as well as make new friends. Courtesy stems from sincere you-attitude. It is not merely politeness with mechanical insertions of "please's" and "thank-you's." To be courteous, considerate communicators should follow these suggestions regarding tone of the communications.

• Be sincerely tactful, thoughtful, and appreciative.

• Omit expressions that irritate, hurt, or belittle.

• Grant and apologize good-naturedly.

Correctness: The correctness principle comprises more than proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. A message may be perfect grammatically and mechanically but still insult or lose a customer and fail to achieve its purpose. The term correctness, as applied to a business message, means the writer should:

• Use the right level of language

• Include only accurate facts, words, and figures

• Maintain acceptable writing mechanics

• Choose nondiscriminatory expressions

• Apply all other pertinent C qualities

Ref: Herta Murphy, Herber Hildebrandt and Jane Thomas

Personal Characteristics in Performance Appraisal Process

Does a relationship between the personal characteristics of the rater and the ratee affect the favorability of the rating? Rand and Wexley used a simulated employment interview to help answer that question. Although the employment interview and performance appraisal are two separate aspects of the human resource function, they have a similarity that seems appropriate to the question. The subjects in the study were 160 undergraduate students who volunteered to com¬plete a questionnaire measuring interests. This resulted in four subgroups of 40 students each, divided equally among high- and low-interest memmbers. The students then viewed a videotape of an interview in which twelve questions were asked of the applicant. In each of the high- and low-interest groups, half viewed an applicant who was biographically similar and half viewed an applicant who was biographically dissimilar. After the viewing, the applicant was rated on a 25-point hiring and interpersonal judgment scale.

The results indicated that biographical similarity was the major factor in the evaluation outcome. The ratings on job suitability, intelligence, personal attributes, and attraction increased with similarity. This result oc¬curred regardless of the race (white, black) of the applicant, or the level of racial prejudice, or the affiliation needs of the student interviewers.

Some limitations of the study include the simulation approach, with the problem of external validity, and the fact that some of the black stereotypic statements may have caused negative reinforcement of dissimilarity.

The study clearly indicates that the major factor in the evaluation of the job candidates was the bio¬graphical similarity between the evaluator and the applicant. Similarity increased the valuations for intelligence, personal attributes, and candidate attractiveness, regardless of the race of the applicant or the level of race prejudice and the affiliation needs of the interviewers. However, highly prejudiced interviewers awarded lower job-suitability ratings to all the applicants, regardless of their race. The study seems to show that interviewers fail to distinguish between their evaluations and their rating of interpersonal attraction. The authors suggest a "similar to me" effect that causes the errors, since people attempt to evaluate information that is similar as positive because of the reinforcement it provides them.

Ref: Robert Bowin

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

While Giving Negative Feedback

When negative feedback is necessary, the best time to give it is now before the problem gets any worse. Early attention to developing problems lets you turn the painful experience of negative feedback into the more constructive process of corrective feedback. Use corrective feedback not only to stop unacceptable behavior but also to get the employee on the track to better performance.

As with positive feedback, don't always wait for a formal performance appraisal interview. When you see the need, offer feedback as soon as you can. It's never difficult to find something positive to say to the good or above average performer. It's a lot harder to find something positive to say to the employee whose work is substandard. Certainly, you can't give a substandard performer the idea that his or her work is fully satisfactory. Corrective feedback is neither easy or pleasant. You can make it easier and more effective, though, by using this format during the interview.

1. State the context. Use an I-statement that lets the employee know that you are concerned ? and why.
2. Acknowledge the employee's effort. If the employee has been working hard to meet a standard, acknowledge the effort. Look for some specific behavior you can cite to show that the employee can definitely meet the goal.
3. Describe the behavior that has you concerned. As with the rest of the appraisal interview, give specific instances of the employee's behavior.
4. Describe the effect of that behavior. Make the employee aware of the consequences. Heighten the employee's sense of responsibility.
5. State the standard. The employee needs a clear picture of what you expect. Even if the standard has been set earlier, restate it again
6. Ask for reasons and explanations. Be careful not to phrase this as a "Why haven't you...?" type of challenge. Give the employee a chance to describe why he or she did as they did.
7. Ask the employee to suggest solutions. Be ready, though, to suggest your own if the employee doesn't offer an acceptable response.
8. Decide together on a plan of action.

Ref: Alexander Hamilton Institute

Monday, March 24, 2008

Layoffs can increase your liability

As the economy continues to contract, both large and small companies are facing layoffs. When downsizing, organizations face an increase in work-related injuries and claims alleging disparate treatment. Even though the employee who files the claim may no longer work for you, the claim will continue hurt your workers’ compensation loss history, sometimes for many years. Employment claims, which cost literally tens of thousands of dollars just to defend, will adversely affect your loss record, as well.

Facing layoffs, a proactive plan to prevent post-layoff injury reporting and avoid employment claims can help protect your company.

Here are steps you can take to minimize the risk of post-layoff claims.

1. Develop a lay-off plan before cuts are necessary. With a plan in place before you need it, you can prevent a great deal of workplace turmoil. Ensure that your plan doesn’t adversely impact protected groups—women, minorities or workers over 40. In larger operations, this simply cannot be done without expert assistance. With your broker’s help, you may be able to involve your insurance carrier in the process to help design and implement a pre-layoff process that protects your organization. The cost of developing the plan may be only a fraction of the cost of defending one employment claim.

2. Use a performance-based layoff plan with written criteria for termination. Don’t be afraid to eliminate slackers. This tells your star performers that you appreciate their hard work and loyalty. But before you make a subjective decision to terminate, be sure you base that conclusion on objective standards. Consistently reviewing and documenting performance before terminations makes it is easier to defend disparate treatment claims.

3. Train supervisors and managers who will make employment decisions. Managers should be well-versed in the termination process and know enough financial details to explain the layoffs. Clearly stating to employees why they are being terminated can help if you are later faced with an employment claim.

4. Conduct exit interviews with every employee who will be laid off or terminated. Ensure at least one company executive, and if possible a legal consultant such as a human resources consultant or attorney attends, as well. During the interview, ask that employees help you to complete and then ask them to sign a standardized checklist that includes administrative details such as key surrender. Ask on that questionnaire if the employee has suffered a workplace injury and the current status of that injury.
If non-English speaking employees work in your facilities, have forms available in other languages. While some experts recommend employees sign injury waivers, waivers rarely work as intended and could be perceived as a sign of bad faith. If your downsizing generates publicity, the way in which you handle the closure will be closely scrutinized by attorneys and the media.

5. Offer post-placement assistance such as skills assessments, resume assistance and job search help. The sweeter the severance packages the better. This includes extended help with health benefits and other goodwill efforts.

6. Act quickly, but be careful what you promise. Statements like “We’re through with the cuts” can backfire. Once the decision is made to cut jobs, do so quickly, because not matter how closely organizations guard their decisions, word will probably leak out and your workforce will be negatively impacted.

Eliminating positions is never easy, but the way you handle layoffs is critical. Treat employees with dignity and respect, not just because disgruntled employees can damage your reputation, but because it is the right thing to do. Remember that you may be faced with unwanted media attention and a barrage of plaintiff firms targeting your former employees. Be sure to empathize with employees’ feelings and stressors that accompany a layoff, but protect your organization in the process.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Executive Coaching and Business Strategy

Successful executive coaching requires sophisticated understanding of organizations as well as of individuals. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the intersection of business strategy and the executive coaching that supports it. Senior leaders play a critical role in setting direction, defining strategic positions, and providing focus for the business operations needed for successful execution. Through executive coaching, a leader can be more effective, as an individual, in guiding the execution of the strategy. Furthermore, given the positions these individuals occupy in their organizations, coaching can also affect the formation of strategy.

An essential HR responsibility is to support the business strategy with initiatives, programs, processes, and business partner consulting that may help the organization achieve its business goals. Executive coaching is one area in which HR has the potential to support not only the execution of the strategy but its development as well. Involvement of HR in executive coaching may take a variety of forms that include supporting an ad hoc request for coaching, developing a coaching program as part of a larger HR or executive development strategy, or providing executive coaching directly as an internal coach.

Four Different Coaching Roles

This approach (Witherspoon and White, 1996) defines each coaching role according to its purpose:

• Coaching for skills, which focuses on specific skills required for a current job

• Coaching for performance, which focuses more broadly on a present job

• Coaching for development, which is directed toward learning for a future job

• Coaching for the executive's agenda, which focuses on learning that is related to an executive's agenda in the broadest sense

The last role, coaching for the executive's agenda, is the most directly relevant to strategy. Building on Witherspoon and White's model, in this role, a coach might:

• Be a sounding board for an executive who needs to explore the feasibility of several potential strategy scenarios
• Help test an executive's assumptions regarding marketplace realities and the opportunities they present
• Point out blind spots on the part of the executive that are impeding implementation
• Enhance creativity
• Support the efforts required to pursue a given strategic direction by helping an executive lay out a change strategy that supports the business strategy

The role of coaching for the executive's agenda seems to have the greatest relevance for strategy; however, any of the roles could help focus learning that relates to business strategy. For example, when coaching for skills, an executive may need to address some of the following areas:

• Acquiring more knowledge about the new Internet economy in order to fully understand emerging strategic options
• Honing negotiation skills for new partnerships with customers who simultaneously become partners, suppliers, and competitors
• Further refining expert communication skills with the goal of implementing and providing leadership through major organizational change.

The other two roles, coaching for performance and coaching for development, may also be appropriate for specific situations involving strategy formation or execution.
Ref: Catherine Fitzgerald and Jennifer Berger

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Developing Peak Performers

Extensive research into peak performers in all walks of life shows that they have very similar ways of thinking about themselves and others. They share other similar mindsets, too. Because of this, they operate in similar ways. This article explains what we know about peak performers, whether in business, public service, private life, school, athletics, or team pursuits. People who adopt these four mindsets and approaches to life become peak performers, too.

Peak performers have high self-esteem

As we've seen, high self-esteem leads to positive self-talk and an internal locus of control-the ability to choose our own thoughts, feelings, actions and communications. The body language of people with high self-esteem invites the respect of others, just as they treat others with respect.

High self-esteem allows us to take charge of our behavior and communications and direct them towards achieving the challenging goals we set for ourselves. When we have high self-esteem, we expect the best of and for ourselves. That's why peak performers are positive people with positive outlooks and positive attitudes.

They are optimists who see mistake as learning opportunities and problems as stepping They have the confidence to take responsibility and proactively make things happen.

Peak performers have high standards

Have you ever noticed that peak performers surround themselves with other peak performers? They have high expectations of those around them – the people they work with, their friends and associates, their family members. Not unrealistically high expectations, of course, but they certainly don't settle for 'second best'. Why should they?

When we have high standards, we set challenging goals and work hard to attain them. We expect the best of ourselves and for ourselves. We treat ourselves with respect and expect others to do the same.

Because of their high standards, peak performers constantly pursue improvement—to the way they do things, to the systems they work with—in fact, to everything around them. They continually ask themselves two key questions:

1. How can I do this better?
2. How else can I do this?

Peak performers take responsibility

Peak performers set goals and work towards them. In this way, the future determines their actions in the present. This is accomplished against a backdrop of the past because our values, thoughts and beliefs, all made up of past experiences, will influence the goals we set and how easy or challenging we make them.

Peak performers don't rely on other people or random events to achieve their goals for them. They know they are the ones who need to act and they figure out precisely what they need to do to produce the results they're after. Rather than sitting back passively, waiting for things to happen, peak performers are active participants in fashioning their own future.

Peak performers stay focused on their goals

One of the first things racing car drivers learn is what to do when they lose control of their car and go into a spin. The natural reaction is to look at the wall (or the trees) they are heading towards but, if they do, that's exactly where they'll end up. So they are taught to focus on where they want to end up (or the space between the trees) - their destination.

Ref: Kris Cole

Performance Coaching Process

There's no one single script you can develop that will ensure productive, effective performance appraisal interviews. But avoiding the following five common interviewing errors will give you a good margin for success:

1. Failure to prepare for the interview. This is the number one reason why appraisal interviews fail. You and the employee should know what the job requirements are, and how the employee is meeting them, before you even schedule the interview.

2. Failure to establish good rapport. Any employee who is being appraised will be nervous. It's up to you to put him or her at ease. There's nothing wrong with a little small talk to make both of you comfortable. A firm handshake and a smile will usually do the trick.

3. Failure to listen. Establish yourself as a good listener. Employees trust someone who listens carefully and respects their contributions, even when they might be rejected.

4. Failure to withhold judgment until all the evidence is presented. Justified or not, some employees think they have legitimate reasons for substandard performance. Giving employees the idea that their complaints won't get a fair hearing destroys the whole concept of effective appraisal interviewing.

5. Failure to remain objective. It's not always easy to keep personal feelings, attitudes and opinions out of the appraisal interview. The employee may get emotional, but the manager must maintain control, so the interview stays objective and professional.

Preparing for the Interview

A good performance appraisal starts long before you actually conduct the interview. Before you can hold employees to certain goals and standards, you and the employee must agree on what standards should be set. In fact, one well-conducted performance interview begins the process of preparing for the next. After discussing the employee's past performance, you set objectives for the next appraisal period. That's the beginning of a multi-stage process which, in full, looks like this:

1. At the beginning of the appraisal period, establish the precise goals and standards you expect the employee to meet.
2. Communicate these standards in detail to the employee.
3. Monitor the employee's performance throughout the period. Let the employee know how well he or she is doing. Offer praise when it's due. Make necessary corrections as soon as you see the need.
4. Conduct a formal appraisal at the end of the period. Give the employee a full and honest picture of how well he or she has done. If outside factors kept the employee from doing better, make a note of them. Set goals for the next appraisal period. Arrange for training or any other resources the employee requires to succeed.
5. Provide a clear, honest assessment of the employee's future in the company.

Setting Goals
Commit goals and standards to writing before the appraisal interview and you leave less room for future misunderstandings. You will also have a historical record of the employee's successes and failures. These can also be valuable when you are considering the employee for a promotion, transfer or disciplinary action. Here's a suggested list of records:

1. A summary of the department's goals. Decide what goals your group should meet by the end of the appraisal period. Show the employee how individual goals fit into the department's overall objectives.
2. Specific goals and standards you expect the employee to meet. Go over this list with the employee and make sure you both have a good understanding.
3. An appraisal report, marking the results of the completed appraisal.
4. A progress report, a quick historical reference sheet to be checked before the next appraisal interview.

Employment is a mutual bargain, and its terms usually are familiar. If the employee helps the company achieve its goals, the company will help the employee reach some personal goals. This means that the goals you set are not just criteria for making judgments; they are also incentives for the employees to succeed.

Start with the job description. Your most elementary requirement is that the employee do the job. A good description breaks the job down into component tasks. From these, you can develop a list of goals to accomplish these tasks. You can then add any additional goals the employee should meet. The goals you set should meet these requirements:
1. They must be related to the job.
2. You must be able to observe the employee's behavior.3. You should be able to measure success in some way.

Setting Standards

Standards should come from the same sources as goals ? the job description and the company's specific needs. A good job description gives you a starting point by listing the individual tasks and responsibilities that make up the job. You can adjust these standards to mesh with departmental goals.

The job description will tell you only what the employee should do, however. You must decide how well it should be done. This can be a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, you don't want to set lax standards that fail to motivate employees. But you don't want to insist, either, that they do the impossible. There are several ways to strike the right balance:

1. Examine the employee's present ability. Current levels of skills and experience usually indicate the standards you can legitimately expect.
2. Examine the performance of co-workers. The group's performance level provides a useful index of what you can expect from each member.
3. Look at the employee's past performance. The last appraisal level the employee attained should set the minimum standard for the new period.
4. Look at the lob description. Make sure you both have a clear picture of what the job requires. Check the job description carefully. If it needs to be updated, correct it.
5. Determine the job's responsibilities. A good job description can be the springboard for a list of job responsibilities, and can even appear in the same document. The list of responsibilities, in turn, can be the basis of the goals and standards on which you rate the job holder.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Assessment Questionnaire Instruments

There are some principles need to be considered when designing questions items for 360 degree assessment questionnaire. to be useful, they must be constructed carefully. A simple way to test each of your items is to ask if the item can be described as the following:

Unidimensional. This means that the item measures only one thing. Perhaps the most common survey-item error is the double question, for example, "To what extent does this person coach and counsel subordinates effectively?" Coaching and counseling are two different activities, of course, and they require separate measurement. The item should be recast as two; otherwise, how does the rater respond if the person being rated is effective on one but not the other?

Free of qualifiers. Words like "usually," "always," "never," and "good" can invalidate the rating scale. For example, if you use a "Strongly agree? Strongly disagree" rating scale, and an item reads, "This person always involves others in decisions that affect them," how would a rater respond if the person being rated sometimes does this, but not always! Such qualifiers should simply be eliminated.

Observable. The rater must have had the opportunity to see what is being rated. Asking raters to infer and judge is asking for contaminated data. The item, "To what degree is this person skilled in making his or her points clear under stress?" is preferable to "To what degree is this person good at handling conflict situations?" The former can be directly observed, whereas the latter represents an inference or summary judgment. The difficulty with items that require inferences and judgments is that raters will respond to them, but the recipient of the feedback may not be able to interpret the data or find ways to improve on those items.

Tied to the scale. If you use a frequency scale, the items must be written to conform to it. The item "This person shows competency in being able to locate prospective customers effectively" requires a degree scale rather than a rating of frequency.

Clear and understandable. Ideally, every rater needs to interpret each item the same way. That means avoiding any language that is ambiguous, jargonistic, or at too high a level of comprehension. Good rules are to use easy, common words and to write at the lowest educational level of the personnel who will respond to the instrument.

Ratable by the data sources. Since 360° feedback interventions often involve such disparate sources of ratings as self, bosses, peers, subordinates, internal customers, external customers, trained observers, and friends and family, it is critical that the items cover what these raters know something about; otherwise there will be many holes in the feedback. Our practice is to determine the sources of ratings before constructing the instrument, so that we include only those items that respondents are qualified to rate.

Developmental ("So what? Now what?"). Instrument items should center on things that the feedback recipient can do something about. The goal is to generate reliable, valid data that will be useful for developing self-directed action plans for improvement. Getting feedback on "To what degree does this person display an attitude of optimism?" would probably not be so useful to feedback recipients as one that asks, "To what degree is this person able to assist you in analyzing your problem situations at work?"

Aligned with the organization's vision. The item set should concentrate on what is critical to realizing the hoped-for future of the organization. The connection between what the instrument measures and what the organization stands for and is headed toward should be obvious to all respondents. In a sense, 360° feedback instruments are strong organizational messages about what is important: "If you're going to stay here and flourish, you need to become highly competent in these areas." This approach obviates the need for "importance" ratings; every item has already been decided to be critical to carrying out the organization's intentions.

Content Areas

Developing instruments for 360° feedback entails choosing appropriate content, If you choose to measure other dimensions of individuals, here are categories to consider:

Skills: Sets of behaviors that are shaped toward "objective" standards. Examples: designing meetings, writing objectives, listening, repairing a machine.

Competencies: Developed abilities. Competencies are more general than skills, and often subsume sets of skills. Examples: intervening in conflict situations, providing performance feedback, elucidating vision, strategic planning.

Traits/Characteristics: Descriptions of the feedback recipient as an individual?his or her "character." Examples: trustworthiness, intelligence, creativity/innovativeness, decisiveness.

Attitudes/Feelings: Inferred from behavior. Attitudes are predispositions to behave predictably toward an object or class of objectives. Feelings are emotions that are experienced in reaction to, or anticipation of, situations and events. Examples: "isms," optimism, patience, anger.

Behaviors/Leadership Practices: Observable: what the person actually does. Examples: involving people in planning, interceding for subordinates making "command" decisions, expressing caring.

Ref: John Jones and William Bearley

Evaluation Criteria in Performance Appraisal

In choosing an appraisal system, HR professionals should consider their own organization's needs for performance appraisal. Key considerations are (1) whom the company should evaluate, and (2) what criteria should be used to evaluate.

Whom Company Should Evaluate
First, the organization must determine which employees in what types of jobs should be evaluated. Whom the organization needs to evaluate has implications for the type of system chosen. For example, a system that effectively appraises managerial performance would be quite different from a system evaluating the performance of clerical workers. Different jobs place different demands on appraisal systems. Jobs that are difficult to describe or that vary substantially in terms of activities and tasks create difficulties in terms of appraising performance.

What criteria should be used to evaluate
Next, an organization must decide what criteria it will use for evaluation. Does it want a system based on evaluating individual traits, behaviors, or job results? This decision depends in part on who is being evaluated and how the organization intends to use the performance appraisal.


Early graphic rating scales evaluated workers on individual traits or personal characteristics which were presumably related to job performance. Initiative, aggressiveness, reliability, and personality are examples of traits on which employees have been rated. One problem with trait rating is that the traits themselves are difficult to define and may be subject to varying interpretation by evaluators.

Rating employees according to job behaviors is based on the assumption that there are effective and ineffective behaviors and that these have been identified for each job or type of job. Behaviors are judged effective or ineffective in terms of the results the behaviors produce (either desirable or undesirable). For example, a customer service representative could be judged on the amount of patience shown to irate customers. Evaluating employees along behavioral dimensions is especially important for employee development purposes.

Results indexes are often used for appraisal purposes if an employee's job has measurable results. Examples of job results indexes are dollar volume of sales, amount of scrap, and quantity and quality of work produced. When such quantitative results are not available, evaluators tend to use appraisal forms based on employee behaviors and/or personal characteristics. In some cases, appraisals may of necessity focus on results rather than behaviors. This is especially true where job content is highly variable, as in many managerial positions, thus making it difficult to specify appropriate behaviors for evaluative purposes. Results indexes such as turnover, absenteeism, grievances, profitability, and production rates can be used to evaluate the performance of organization units.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Rules for Corporate Career Resilience

Rule #1: The company is not in charge of your career—you are. Your people can no longer wait for you to come to them with a new assignment or opportunity; they must seek out such opportunities themselves. Your relationship with them is no longer one of parent-to-child, but adult-to-adult. They share the responsibility for initiating career discussions. Even being designated as a "high potential" or a valued employee may not guarantee they will keep their place in the succession plan, as these plans have become less relevant as the pace of change has picked up. You will meet your employees more than halfway by giving them the tools and counsel they need to take charge of their careers.

Rule #2: Instead of ladders and paths, there are now webs and mazes. Your employees must learn, if they haven't already, to think of a career less as a ladder and more as a web. Webs have a center but no top and a lot of paths that connect. Unlike ladders, webs often dissolve when their purpose is fulfilled. Smart workers will move along the webs, picking up new skills that meet the organization's needs, looking for problems to solve, and working on team projects. And if a web breaks or dissolves, it can always be rewoven in a similar or different pattern.

Rule #3: Every job is now subject to a "make or buy" decision. Because of the flexibility and cost savings involved in using contract employees, vendors, and temporary employees to do the work previously done by downsized employees, your workers must understand that they may now be competing with these outside resources. This means they have to continually prove their value. Their only security lies in their ability to continually retool themselves to remain valuable to their employer. This is why continuous learning is so important to all workers today. All employees should also consider that their next opportunity may lie in becoming an outside resource themselves.

Rule #4: Hidden needs in the organization's internal job market are more promising sources of advancement than the formal job postings. There has always been, and will always be, a "hidden job market" in every company. Only now the inside job market contains more hidden jobs than ever. New needs appear so fast that there is little time to wait for the slow wheels of the formal hiring process to start rolling. These days, about a third of all jobs filled are newly created ones. And, of course, with the loss of rungs on career ladders, there are fewer formal job slots in the first place.

All employees—you included—must be on the lookout for unmet needs, then make proposals to the person who "owns the problem" to help meet the need. Getting your employees to accept this proposition is a part of helping them learn to take more initiative in every aspect of their jobs. Many times, by looking to meet the organization's needs, they will carve out their next career move.

Rule #5. The most "vendor-minded" employees will find or create the most opportunity. The employees who think of themselves as "intrapreneurs" will see the organization as a market for their skills. They will understand the truest, most empowering definition of a job—"a talent that meets a need." With your help, they will come to see themselves as vendors, and they will perceive more opportunity as a result. Vendor-minded employees realize that the purpose of the organization is to provide goods and services that customer value and that, if the organization’s employees do not do that, eventually they may all be out of a job.

Ref: Leigh Branham

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Self Assessment of Career Interest

Item from a self-assessment exercise to determine personal wants.

1. Select the three personal wants which are most important to you in your next job assignment and circle them below.

2. Select the three personal wants which are least important to you in your next career step and draw a line through them.

3. Add personal wants you don't find on the list.

Personal wants :
Free time
Fun work
Professional Stature
Freedom from Worry
Cultural Opportunities
Geographic location
Educational Facilities
Time with Family

4. Does your present job setting offer possibilities for satisfying what you want most in your next step? If yes, describe how. If no, what setting is indicated?

5. Do you want your next job assignment to satisfy your wants? If yes, how? If no, why not?

6. Decide what you want most in your next job assignment and describe it.

7. Describe the major activities you can do and will do to gain what you want, but don't use job titles or positions to describe what you will do. Describe the type of activities you'll perform to achieve what you want. List at least five activities you can perform now.

Examples: I'll analyze data for financial records.
I'll collect more from creditors.
I'll marry the boss's daughter.

8. Do you need to develop some new skills or abilities to improve your potential for your next step ? It so, what skills or abilities would you develop?

9. Summarize what you personally want and what you can do and will do to satisfy your wants.

Key Steps in Career Development Initiatives

1. Define the need. To "hit the bull's-eye," you need to talk with employees to find out what's missing. Is it lack of perceived opportunity, not enough training, too little communication, diversity issues? Exit interview analysis, employee surveys, and focus groups can help you become clearer about employees' views on these issues.
2. Identify target groups. Focus on the employees you most want to keep. This helps you to get buy-in from all levels of management, which is important in building enthusiasm and gaining acceptance for the initiative.
3. Tie the initiative to human resources systems and policies. Company policies and practices regarding application procedures for posted jobs, managers' ability to block internal movement, hiring from within, use of computer job/talent banks, training, tuition reimbursement, use of pay systems that reward flexibility rather than hierarchy, and performance management all impact the career development initiative and should be : synch with it.

4. Tailor the initiative to fit the culture. Start with the pieces that the current culture will accept. If you are trying to change your culture to create more employee initiative, giving workers the tools to take charge is an important way to do it. One company, Komatsu, took an initiative to develop a web of relationships across the company. It included an innovative new career path concept— a 'return ticket' policy to encourage the transfer of young employees to subsidiaries and affiliate companies that had previously been viewed as banishment; and the Strategic Employee Exchange Program, which allows employees to work on projects in other parts of the company on a short-term basis.

5. Take a long-term approach with short-term payoffs. To build momentum, develop the program in stages. Begin by conducting a needs evaluation with a manager task force, then design and pilot a program, measure the results, spread the good word, and gradually include more managers and employees. If the gradual approach is solidly designed and well executed, the long-term results in keeping the right people will take care of themselves.

6. Redesign performance management system to make the process easier, if necessary. Some companies require managers to have career discussions with their employees at least twice a year, or to jointly create career development action plans once a year. Others incorporate manager ratings as career coaches on the performance review.

7. Codesign with line management. The career development system, like the performance management system, should be owned by line management, not by human resources, if it is to be successful. Getting line management to help design this system from the outset will go a long way toward making this happen.

8. Separate career management from performance appraisal. Keeping the two apart helps assure employees that the purpose of the program is to help them manage their careers and not to help their superiors manage them. Career discussions between manager and employee should be scheduled between performance appraisal discussions.

9. Ensure top management support. This is the key to success with almost all initiatives. Sometimes successful programs can be created gradually from the bottom up (or from the middle up), but the way to more immediate success starts at the top.

10. Measure results. Collecting manager and employee comments from career management workshops and disseminating them to other managers and employees works quite well. So does documenting the success stories employees who decided to stay within the company or whose performance improved because they attended the workshops and initiated career discussions with their managers

11. Publicize results. Making presentations to managers that include the results and success stories is the key.
Ref: Leigh Branham

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Career Anchor and different Career Stages

Schein's career anchors represent aspects of work that are especially valued or needed by people for their personal fulfillment. They include:

1. Managerial competence : the individual desires opportunities to manage.
2. Technical/functional competence : the individual desires to use various technical abilities and special competencies.
3. Security : the individual is basically motivated by a need for job security or stability in the work situation.
4. Creativity : the individual is motivated by a need to create or build something.
5. Autonomy and independence: of primary interest to this person is the opportunity to work independently and without organizational constraints.
Career planning and development activities allow employees to grow in any of these desired directions.

Career Stages
What people want from their careers also varies according to the stage of one's career. What may have been important in an early stage may not be important in a later one. Four distinct career stages have been identified: trial, establishment/advancement, mid-career, and late career. Each stage represents different career needs and interests of the individual

Trial stage. The trial stage begins with an individual's exploration of career-related matters and ends usually at about age 25 with a commitment on the part of the individual to a particular occupation. Until the decision is made to settle down, the individual may try a number of jobs and a number of organizations. Unfortunately for many organizations, this trial and exploration stage results in high level of turnover among new employees. Employees in this stage need opportunities for self-exploration and a variety of job activities or assignments.

Establishment. The establishment/advancement stage tends to occur between ages 25 and 44. In this stage, the individual has made his or her career choice and is concerned with achievement, performance, and advancement. This stage is marked by high employee productivity and career growth, as the individual is motivated to succeed in the organization and in his or her chosen occupation. Opportunities for job challenge and use of special competencies are desired in this stage. The employee strives for creativity and innovation through new job assignments. Employees also need a certain degree of autonomy in this stage so that they can experience feelings of individual achievement and personal success.

Mid Career Crisis Sub Stage. The period occurring between the mid-thirties and mid-forties during which people often make a major reassessment of their progress relative to their original career ambitions and goals.

Maintenance stage. The mid-career stage, which occurs roughly between the ages 45 and 64, has also been referred to as the maintenance stage. This stage is typified by a continuation of established patterns of work behavior. The person is no longer trying to establish a place for himself or herself in the organization, but seeks to maintain his or her position. This stage is viewed as a mid-career plateau in which little new ground is broken. The individual in this stage may need some technical updating in his or her field. The employee should be encouraged to develop new job skills in order to avoid early stagnation and decline.

Late-career stage. In this stage the career lessens in importance and the employee plans for retirement and seeks to develop a sense of identity outside the work environment.

Ref: Garry Dessler

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Career Management Best Practices

Providing Employee Assessment and Career Planning Workshops. Companies such as Apple Computer and Sun Microsystems hold on-site workshops where employees learn to take charge of their careers, beginning with assessing their abilities, interests, and values. They then engage in a planning process where they explore the organization's needs to determine possible future options and how to prepare for them. Then they are ready for productive career discussions with their managers.

Conducting Career Coaching Workshops for Managers. While employees are learning to take charge of their careers, managers are learning how to support their efforts by becoming familiar with the career assessment and planning process, practicing career coaching techniques, preparing for various types of employee-initiated career discussions, and giving honest feedback.

Establishing Employee Career Centers. Companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, and Motorola, to name a few, have set up internal career centers where employees can come for self-assessment. Services may include computerized programs that incorporate 360-degree feedback, competency assessment, confidential counseling, career management and resilience training, lunch-and-learn seminars, and information, sometimes through an intranet system, about internal opportunities.

Giving Open Business Briefings. To meet employees halfway in planning their careers inside the organization, companies such as Sun Microsystems, 3Com, Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, and Microsoft openly discuss strategic decisions and plans that may impact jobs or skills that will be required in the future. At 3Com, most departments hold weekly discussion sessions on the status of the business and what it may mean to employees.

IBM has a national website for employees that provides information about the strategic direction of the company. Managers are also expected to provide strategic information to their people. Sun's management has promised workers that it will make employees aware of a strategic decision that will affect staffing, such as plans to outsource a function. "As soon as we've decided something, you'll know," Sun says. Then it follows through on its promise.

Sharing such information would be frowned upon by many companies. But the companies that practice such openness believe they are simply treating their employees as respect-worthy adults rather than perpetuating the outdated parent-child relationship.

Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, is a strong believer in giving employees the information they need to stay resilient, or, as he calls it, "owning your own employability. "Every quarter," he says to his employees, "I give you a two-hour dump of what's happening to us. You have to figure out what that means to you”

Creating an Internal Network of Information Providers. Raychem, for example, has set up a network of more than 400 people throughout the organization who are willing to take the time to talk with employees who want to learn about the nature of their work and job qualifications. Called "I.I.I.N.siders" (for Insiders Information Interview Network), the computerized database houses the names and backgrounds of volunteers.

Chase Manhattan Bank maintains a list of employees who are willing to be shadowed by those interested in moving into their line of work. An employee who wants to be a derivatives trader, for example, can spend the day with an actual trader, learning about the challenges of the job, and come away with a realistic understanding of the work.

Maintaining Internal Job and Talent Banks. Microsoft has created an on-line service where employees can learn about open positions and the skills required for them. Microsoft also places large amounts of career information on what it calls its "electronic campus," including a "resource and referral" section with lists of books, professional associations, conferences, courses, articles, and other information recommended by coworkers.

In its Career Partnership Center, Advanced Micro Devices maintains a data bank of employee skills that can be accessed by managers looking for internal talent. The company also integrates the career development plans of all employees into its long-range workforce planning process.

Many other companies are moving to implement virtual career centers that feature on-line computer platforms that show various career paths and allow employees to benchmark their skill levels against those required for desired jobs so that they can make plans to close the gaps.

Establishing Individual Learning Accounts. As more and more employees seek opportunities for customized and self-directed development, some progressive companies have created individual learning accounts, providing designated amounts of time and money that employees may "spend" on classes, internships, or other learning opportunities of their choice. While giving employees more freedom to select personalized learning experience, this concept also helps companies save money previously spent on large-scale, "one-size-fits-all" training programs.

Starting a Mentoring Program. Formal mentoring programs have grown in popularity in recent years. The list of companies who have launched mentoring programs includes Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, Charles Schwab, Ford Motor Company, Ernst & Young, Quaker Oats Company, IBM, Georgia-Pacific, Ceridian, J. C. Penney, PriceWaterhouse-Coopers, 3M, and General Mills.

In one study, mentoring programs were found to be effective in increasing employee retention by 77 percent within companies that implemented them.11 There are three main goals for most mentoring programs—to increase opportunities for women and minorities, to develop leaders, and, increasingly, to enhance performance and increase the retention of employees at all levels.

Companies with successful mentoring programs report that having the CEO and senior managers actively involved in mentoring and supporting the programs is important. When the practice of mentoring cascades through the organization from the top, it becomes a prestigious thing for managers to take part. Some companies expect all managers to become mentors, to the point that they include mentoring as an item to be reviewed on performance appraisal.

Current mentoring programs have become highly structured. Hewlett-Packard maintains an on-line mentor database that mentees can use to search for mentors with specific areas of expertise. They can even interview potential mentors and submit their choices in order of preference. Hewlett- Packard's program uses written mentoring agreements that establish the ground rules for the partnership, and the company conducts half-day training sessions for mentors and mentees. Other companies have appointed internal human resources staff as "retention managers" or "career management representatives" to act as consultants to all employees, especially the difficult-to-replace talent, such as software engineers.

Ref: Leigh Branham

Elements of Career Planning Programs

Though programs differ, four distinct elements of career planning programs emerge. They include (1) individual assessments of abilities, interests, career needs, and goals; (2) organizational assessments of employee abilities and potential; (3) communication of information concerning career options and opportunities with the organization; and (4) career counseling to set realistic goals and plan for their attainment. Each of these elements is discussed in greater detail below.

Individual Assessments

Individual assessment of abilities, interests, career needs, and goals is basically a process of self-exploration and analysis. Individuals are frequently guided by self-assessment exercises.

The self-assessment process is basically viewed as an individual responsibility; however, organizations can aid in this process by providing the employee with materials and opportunities for self-exploration and analysis. A variety of self-assessment materials are available commercially, but a number of organizations, including IBM, Xerox, General Motors, and General Electric, have developed tailor-made workbooks for employee career planning purposes. Individual career planning exercises can be done independently by employees or in workshops sponsored by the organization. Workshops have the advantage of combining a number of career planning elements including self-assessment, communication of organizational career and development opportunities, and one-on-one counseling to ensure that career goals are realistic.

Organizational Assessments

A key issue in career counseling sessions is whether an employee's goals are realistic in terms of organizational possibilities and organizational assessments of employee abilities and potential. Accurate assessments of employee abilities and potential are important to both the organization and the individual.

Organizations have several sources of information for making assessments of employee abilities and potential. First is selection information, including ability tests, assessment center test, interest inventories, and biographical information such as education and work experience. Second is current job history information, including performance appraisal information, records of promotions and promotion recommendations, salary increases, and participation in various training and development programs. Organizations have traditionally relied on performance appraisal data as the primary basis for assessing employee potential.

Career Information within an Organization

Before realistic goals can be set, an employee need information about career options and opportunities. This includes information about possible career directions; possible paths of career advancement; and specific job vacancies. In organizations with informal career planning programs, employees learn about career options and opportunities from their supervisors within the context of developmental performance appraisal interviews. Organizations with more established career planning programs make greater use of workbooks, workshops, and even recruiting materials to communicate career options and opportunities. Career paths have been defined as logical progressions between jobs or from one job to a target position. They can be either traditional or behavioral.

Traditional career paths are based on past patterns of actual movement by employees. They tend to be limited to advancement within a single function or organizational unit, such as purchasing, sales, or customer relations. Years of service to the organization largely determine the rate at which advancement can occur. For example, a salesman might expect to advance to the position of account supervisor after five years, to sales supervisor after 10, to district manager after 15, and to regional manager after 25 years of service.

More flexible patterns of employee career movement are described by behavioral career paths, which are based on analysis of similarities in job activities and requirements. Where similarities exist, jobs can be grouped into job families, or clusters. Thus, all jobs involving similar work activities and levels of required skills and abilities form one job cluster, regardless of job title. Focusing on job similarities across functions and organizational units brings to light new career options for employees and greater flexibility for the organization in utilizing its available human resources. One organization, for example, was able to shift a number of its sales personnel to purchasing positions when sales declined in one major product line and opportunities became available in the purchasing department. This shift was undertaken when a job analysis showed behavioral similarities between the two previously distinct functions.

Career Counseling

It is in counseling sessions, typically with supervisors and managers in developmental performance appraisal interviews, that most employees explore career goals and opportunities in the organization. Supervisors and managers need accurate assessments of employee abilities and potential, as well as information about career options and opportunities in the organization. HR professionals may be involved in some informal career counseling activities, but basically their role is to support career counseling activities of supervisors and managers. This means providing supervisors and managers with needed information as well as with the necessary training to function effectively as counselors.

In career counseling sessions, employees seek answers to the following kinds of questions:

1. What are my skills and what are the possibilities for developing them or learning new ones?
2. What do I really want for myself insofar as work is concerned?
3. What's possible for me, given my current abilities and skills?
4. What's really required for certain jobs?
5. What training will be required if I choose to pursue a certain career objective?"

When counselors are equipped to help employees find the answers to such questions, realistic career goals can be set. Next, development strategies must be devised.

Career Development Program

Has your organization seriously considered implementing a career development program? If not, perhaps this is a good time to do so. The following description of several, widely used career development interventions and case studies can be used to stimulate discussion on various career development practices.

Alternative Career Paths

One approach to alternative career pathing involves incorporating the skills employees already have with what their hearts want to do. It can involve changing career and lifestyles for more meaningful and fulfilling work arrangements. Creating alternative career paths often involves incorporating other career development interventions, such as flexi-time or job enrichment. Alternative career paths should not be confused with dual career paths, which is described later.

Career Pathing

Career pathing, also called career tracking, is a process of outlining an individual career plan, usually within an organization. Career pathing is most often used as a part of management training and development, although individuals may develop their own career track, either alone, or in conjunction with a career coach.

Employees follow pre-determined steps along the career path to develop expertise in managing different types of organizational situations and to reach their career goal. Periodic checks evaluate progress, as well as determining what further training or experience is needed to move to the next step. Career pathing often uses several other career development interventions as part of the process. These include cross-training, job rotation, job enrichment or enlargement, and temporary assignments.

Dual Career Tracks

Dual career tracks should not be confused with alternative career paths. Creating dual career paths involves preparing employees to succeed and be rewarded without necessarily being on a management or vertical organization career path. In other words, ``up'' is not considered the only way employees can grow and advance within the company. The establishment of dual or multiple career tracks has proven to be an effective way to retain and motivate valued employees.

Management can be an attractive career alternative for many employees, but it is not for everyone. This may be particularly true for many technical or creative workers. The number of people managed often distinguishes managerial levels, but under the dual career track plan, individuals apply their expertise (like managers) to tasks of greater complexity and impact within their specialty field.

For example, they may make recommendations in a wide range of business areas, participate in high level decisions, and act as mentors to other employees. The interest in dual or multiple career tracks is likely to grow as more organizations do away with formal management titles and establish team structures.

Career Coaching/Counseling

Career coaching frequently involves helping individuals prepare for a career change or helping employees advance in their existing jobs. From the employee's view, career coaching consists of evaluating interests, values, work styles, and skills. From the organization's view, it consists of matching employee talents with organizational needs, recruiting and retaining talent in the company, identifying training and development needs, and assisting employees in specifying and locating new employment opportunities within the organization.


Cross-trained workers are taught skills outside their current job assignment so they can be called upon to perform a variety of tasks as the need arises. Many workers and supervisors find themselves cross-training each other, just to make the day-to-day work life manageable. As a career development intervention, however, companies put into place a formal program of cross-training.

Cross-training helps organizations to balance workloads so everyone is busy, and allows the company to respond quickly to employee absences. It also allows employees and departments within an organization to gain a better understanding of the ``big picture'', and to improve communications and relations. Employees who are cross-trained are more valuable to the company, and more marketable in the work world overall.


Flextime is one of the most popular and most widely known career development interventions. Flexitime gives employees the opportunity to balance their work and personal lives by restructuring the typical workday to accommodate individual employee schedules. Employers who offer flexitime often report decreased use of paid leave, decreased tardiness and increased productivity. Other benefits for the employer include a low-cost method of providing personal time off and extending service hours without overtime pay. This career development intervention is popular with employees who have extended families or young children, who may be facing ``burn-out'', and those seeking further education or pursuing second careers.

Flexitime allows employees to set their own schedules, within limitations set by management. For example, workers may adjust their starting and ending times, but are required to be at the office during management specified core or peak hours. Working four ten-hour days is an example of a compressed workweek form of flexitime. Flexitime may also be combined with other interventions, such as job sharing, job rotation, and phased retirement.

Job Rotation

Job rotation is the systematic movement of employees from job to job within an organization, as a way to achieve many different human resources objectives : for simply staffing jobs, for orienting new employees, for preventing job boredom, and, finally, for training employees and enhancing their career development.

Job rotation is often used by employers who place employees on a certain career path or track, usually for a management position, where they are expected to perform a variety of duties, and have a variety of skills and competencies.

Job rotation is often confused with crosstraining. While both interventions perform essentially the same service of providing employees with a varied set of skills, job rotation goes beyond this. Besides being used as a means of management training, job rotation can also be used as a form of job enrichment, by adding increased responsibilities, increasing challenge, and reducing boredom or burnout.

Job Enlargement

Job enlargement is defined as increasing the number of tasks a worker performs, with all of the tasks at the same level of responsibility, and is also sometimes referred to as ``horizontal job loading'' . Be careful not to confuse job enlargement with job enrichment, which will be discussed later.

Job enlargement and job enrichment can both be used with plateaued workers or workers who are experiencing burnout, and with especially high achievers. These two interventions may be used in conjunction with each other, or with other career development interventions such as job rotation and temporary assignments. Both interventions provide the employee with increased skills, making him or her more valuable to the company, or more marketable in the job search.

Job Enrichment

Job enrichment involves increasing a worker's responsibility and control over his or her work, and is also called ``vertical job loading''. Job enrichment allows you to expand your responsibilities or change your role to develop new competencies without leaving your current position or the organization altogether.

Job enrichment is also used as an effective motivational technique. According to this perspective, if a job provides a sense of responsibility, a sense of significance and information concerning performance, the employees will be internally motivated to high levels of performance. The key to creating this situation is to enrich jobs so they provide five core characteristics: task variety, task significance, task identity, autonomy and feedback.

Job Sharing

With job sharing, a full-time job is split between two employees. The two employees share the duties and responsibilities, as well as the salary and benefits of the job. These two employees must also work closely together, and with management, to co-ordinate hours, duties, and communication among themselves and other departments in the organization. Most often, job sharing is used by parents or adults caring for their parents, and affords employees a better balance between their work and personal lives.

Employees pursuing further education or a second career may also use job sharing. Job sharing offers advantages over part-time work in that employees are able to maintain their professional status as well as some of their job benefits. One example of the advantage over flexitime situations is that with flexitime, parents may still require extended day care hours. Benefits to the employer include having ``two heads instead of one'', retaining valued and experienced employees, and down time due to vacation or sickness is reduced, because the job share partners cover for each other.

Phased Retirement

Organizations typically devote far more energy to recruiting and retraining than to phasing out workers. Phased retirement is one intervention that workers and employers can use at the latter end of the career cycle. During phased retirement, workers gradually taper their work schedules until they reach full retirement. Other career development interventions such as flextime and job sharing are typically incorporated into phased retirement arrangements. Retirees may work part time and serve as mentors or trainers to their successors. Benefits to employees include a greater sense of control over the transition from work to retirement, lowering the risk of economic insecurity, and more social support. The employer benefits by retaining valued talent and minimizing labor shortages.

Ref: James Kirk, Bridget Downey, Steve Duckett, and Connie Woody

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Competency-based Career Planning

Career pathing involves making a series of job-person matches, based on the demands of the job system in the organization, that enable the person to grow into greater levels of responsibility, thus providing the organization with the talent that it requires to meet goals. This should involve the careful assignment of an individual to positions that provide her or him with opportunities for deploying the competencies needed for a more challenging position.

Best approaches to career pathing combine an analysis of positions in terms of both the tasks and the organizational behaviors needed for superior performance. The combined approach is essential for each of the jobs in the chain, because there may be marked differences between the characteristics demanded in one job and those needed in another in the same career path.

Steps to Implement the Competency-based Career Path
The major steps in developing a competency-based career pathing system are:
1. Put together a resource panel of experts on the target and feeder jobs who will set direction and specify the expected job performance criteria.
2. Define tasks and characteristics, through the resource panel, and survey job incumbents to obtain their perceptions of which job tasks and personal characteristics contribute to success in the target and feeder jobs.
3. Identify top performers in the target and feeder jobs, using performance criteria specified by the panel.
4. Conduct in-depth interviews with both superior and average incumbents in the target and feeder jobs to find out what they do and how they do it.
5. Based on the outcome of stage 4, develop a competency model of people in the target and feeder jobs by identifying those competencies that make the biggest contribution to outstanding performance as opposed to the competencies that all job holders need.

5. Based on the outcome of stage 4, develop a competency model of people in the target and feeder jobs by identifying those competencies that make the biggest contribution to outstanding performance as opposed to the competencies that all job holders need.
6. Analyze career paths by combining the survey (stage 2) and the interview (stage 3) results for target and feeder jobs.
7. Implement the career pathing system through a number of options: - computer-based tasks and competency inventories - performance and potential assessment linked to new job opportunities;- systematic counseling- career development and related training programs.

Tools of the System

The tools of a competency-based career path system include:
- a description of the tasks required by target and feeder jobs eventually broken down by job families - a competency model for the target and feeder job system - a dictionary of behavioral descriptions of each competency in the model- performance indicators that provide the material for a competency-based evaluation program and a computerized skills bank- a competency profile grid for either internal or external recruiting and selection of candidates- a career map of the organization, identifying which jobs are the key feeders to higher-level positions- a competencies' gap analysis showing main differences required to flow through the job system to reach high-level jobs- recommendations for training in or selecting for each competency in the path.


Competency-based succession planning enables an organization to determine the critical current competencies necessary for success in key jobs and the strategic competencies necessary for future success. Once this has determined the 'best fit' people, specific developmental plans can then be formulated that build upon these competency requirements to allow the individual's abilities to meet the strategic business needs of the organization.

Steps to implement Competency-based Succession Planning
For the competency-based succession planning to be complete, a logical process consisting of a certain number of steps must be followed. These key steps are as follows:

1. Identify critical jobs that the organization needs to fill
2. Develop a competency model from critical jobs, determining the competencies needed at each step of the job family ladder
3. Develop the most appropriate assessment methods (assessment centre, screening, interviewing, etc) and assess people against the competency model of the job
4. Make the decision whether to:- promote from inside - now or after competencies x, y, z have been developed- not promote but consider - possible lateral transfer- keeping in current job deselection - recruit from outside if no one in the organization is ready or can be developed in time
5. Feed the human resource management information system to track:- promotable employees, for future competencies monitoring - competency requirements of target jobs.

Ref: Hay Group, People and Competencies: The Route to Competitive Advantage

Top 5 Retirement Planning Mistakes

It is never too soon to start putting away money for your retirement. Today, there are several options available, including IRAs and 401(k) plans, both of which are popular and help grow money for retirement tax-deferred. While most of us are aware of retirement plans, and in many cases have started saving money, there are several common mistakes that slow down the retirement planning and savings process. Here are the top 5.

1. Not taking advantage of time. The earlier you start, the more your money will have time to grow in your retirement accounts. Too many people make the mistake of putting off starting a retirement savings plan.

2. Not investing regularly. Many people start investing and then stop. If you do not invest on a regular basis, you cannot expect your retirement savings to grow.

3. Not taking full advantage of tax-free retirement accounts. The more you put into tax-free retirement accounts, the more money you can grow tax-free. If you can afford to put in the maximum contribution to your retirement accounts each year, you should do so.

4. Poor asset allocation. If you are investing too conservatively, you may not be able to build the amount you are hoping to have for your retirement years. Conversely, if you are getting close to retirement and are investing in high-risk investment vehicles, you may lose much of what you have worked so hard to save. How you allocate your assets is more important than what you select within a given asset class.

5. Not creating a post-retirement plan. As you approach retirement you should determine how much money you will need and establish a plan for handling your money during your retirement years. This would include knowing all of your income sources, including investments, Social Security, and pensions.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

360-Degree Feedback Appraisal System

A Study of 360-Degree Feedback Appraisal System. In this atmosphere, the 360-degree feedback concept has much to offer. Unlike the traditional performance appraisal model, in which superiors evaluate subordinates, the 360-degree approach does not rely solely on the superior to provide feedback to the employee. Instead, it enlists multiple constituencies to provide feedback to selected organizational members. These constituencies include superiors, peers, and coworkers in support areas, subordinates, internal customers of the unit's work, and external customers of the organization's products. In this process the feedback recipient is expected to evaluate his or her own performance on the selected behavioral dimensions. This self-evaluation is then compared with that provided by the other feedback providers. The recipient is encouraged to use the feedback to improve performance and to make a greater effort to blend his or her contributions with the needs of the group. This linking of individual performance with feedback from all relevant constituencies fits well into the emerging team-based workplace. Another difference from traditional performance appraisal is that 360-degree feedback is supposed to be given anonymously. Study has demonstrated that anonymous feedback is more honest and closer to what raters actually feel about the feedback recipients. Appraisers whose identity is known to the feedback recipients give higher ratings than those who are anonymous.

While the 360-degree concept has much to offer and many successes have been documented there are also stories of confusion and disappointment. Many of the 360-degree programs are carried out in the absence of a strategic context, and fail to focus on contributions that they can make to a firm's competitive advantage. There is little consistency to what is being done, and 360-degree feedback programs can range from any deviations from the traditional vertical form of performance appraisal to highly sophisticated feedback systems that systematically gather, analyze, and disseminate behavior data to managers, professionals, and even rank-and-file workers functioning in teams.

Many organizations adopt 360-degree feedback without clearly defining the mission and the scope of the program. Consequently, employees who receive the feedback are left to figure out for themselves how to cope with the results and tend not to develop goals and action plans following 360-degree applications. One study concluded that while such programs are popular, in many cases little more than lip service is paid to them. Furthermore, there is discouraging evidence regarding the effectiveness of feedback-intervention programs as tools in bringing about improvements in performance. A review of over 600 feedback studies found that only one-third reported improvements in performance. Another third reported negative changes in performance, while the final third reported no impact. In their haste to gain the advertised benefits of 360-degree feedback, organizations may not be sufficiently aware of the problems that often accompany its adoption. Failure to recognize the problems that often occur can lead to disillusionment, reduce the value of the exercise, and confirm the lip service that tends to be paid to 360-degree results.

Future Prospects & Recommendations.

360-degree feedback is powerful because it makes it easy to gather and report credible feedback about important issues that are otherwise hard to quantify. Like any powerful tool, it needs to be used with care in order to derive all the benefits.

Here are seven recommendations for avoiding problems.

1. Learn about the technology before you invest in it. 360 feedbacks is changing as rapidly as hardware and software systems are changing. Much is possible now that wasn't dreamed of a decade ago. Innovations in 360-degree systems such as 20/20 Insight GOLD have made feedback easier, more accessible, more affordable, more flexible and more versatile than ever. Not all 360-feedback publishers are innovating at the same pace or in the same direction. This creates a challenge for the prospective user who is learning about feedback options. However, a thorough, up-to-date review of what's available now will ensure that you get the maximum capability for the least investment.

2. Make sure that organization is prepared for 360-degree feedback. Readiness can be improved by addressing the following areas:

* The climate of trust

* Organizational stability

* Feedback practices

* Development practices

* Awareness and acceptance of 360 feedback

* Availability of computers

3. Use well-researched, well-constructed survey items. A 360-degree assessment is only as effective as the items that make up the survey. The best surveys are carefully constructed and locally validated. This is challenge is made easy by customizable survey platforms such as 20/20 Insight GOLD.

4. Protect confidentiality. People are willing to give honest feedback if they believe that doing so will benefit them and the people receiving it. You should establish policies and procedures that keep ratings anonymous and give supervisors only the summary data they need to help direct reports improve performance—and no more.

5. Use skilled facilitators. When people receive 360-degree feedback the first time, they often need help sorting through, accepting, understanding and making use of the information. People who have experience making this process successful should lead these meetings.

6. Follow up. Don't make the mistake of thinking that 360 feedbacks alone will improve performance. It can focus on priority development needs and produce strong motivation to change in many people, but individual development planning; coaching and empowerment of developmental activities are essential.

7. Separate developmental feedback from personnel and compensation decisions. 360 are best used for measuring the hard-to-quantify aspects of work, such as interpersonal skills. Reward systems are expensive, so they're best applied to reinforce desired results. It's a mistake to apply rewards to the work processes rather than work outcomes. Follow developmental feedback with developmental initiatives, not rewards.

On the other hand, interpersonal behaviors (e.g., leadership, team interaction, communication, sales, service, negotiation and instruction) aren't easily quantified or measured. The best way to get objective data about this aspect of performance is 360-degree feedback.