Make it simple for seasonal employees
A: Many organizations such as yours use seasonal employees as this is a cost-effective means of covering for those vacation days. The best bet is to try to re-employ the same workers year after year if possible. If not, the following tips will assist you:
-- Be clear about the job tasks and the criteria for selecting seasonal workers and try to get a good match of skills and tasks.
-- Try stripping the summer job down to those tasks that are most simple and routine and/or can be easily learned within a short period of time.
-- Begin to build up the job tasks as each employee can tackle more tasks and/or demonstrates ability, skill and interest.
-- Provide good orientation with good followup until the employee has mastered the job.
-- Provide a mentor colleague who is available to answer questions and provide guidance.
-- Be clear as to who can assign the seasonal employee additional work so that the individual is not overloaded and/or becomes confused.
-- Include the employee in any summer fun activities.
Q: We recently concluded an executive search which has resulted in passing over an internal candidate. This individual has considerable strengths and can continue making a good contribution, but I now expect motivation to be a problem. How can we continue to motivate the individual?
A: This situation is always somewhat sensitive and becomes even more difficult when dealing with senior level positions. While there is always the possibility that the individual will leave at some point anyway, they won't leave right away. The concern here then is how to ensure they continue to exhibit a positive attitude, be productive and create a smooth introduction for the new incumbent.
First of all, review the specific job selection criteria as compared to the ratings this candidate received. Prepare feedback statements on at least three key items as it is inappropriate to bombard the individual with a full slate of negatives on why they didn't get the job. Invite the individual to a private, confidential meeting and begin the conversation with a statement that you were pleased that they had applied. Point out the individual's strengths and then comment on developmental needs that prevented their success at this time.
One of the most difficult sticky points in most feedback interviews is the ability of management to provide honest feedback with respect to future consideration for this candidate. My preference is to be honest, no matter how hard it is. If the candidate could be considered for another interesting position within your organization, you might offer additional training and development, assignment to special projects and/or other leadership opportunities that would challenge and interest the candidate.
On the other hand, it the candidate does not have the skills, the credentials or the personal fit to rise to a senior level challenge in your organization, then I suggest you be honest and let them know this. While the individual may eventually leave, consider it a good thing. From a career perspective, the individual can move into something that is more suitable and you get a chance to hire someone with the right set of skills. Be sure to discuss with the candidate that you expect professional support and continued positive attitude toward their work with your organization.
Q: I will be coaching two of my new supervisors on how to conduct the performance review. While this isn't my own area of expertise, can you share some tips to help me out?
A: Yes, conducting the annual performance review can be quite the stressful situation for both new supervisors and their employees. Following the items below will help to create success:
-- Review the success factors and the performance cycle for your organization and discuss how departmental and individual goals and objectives are integrated.
-- Review the employee goals to make sure the SMART goal development process has been followed; when goals are specific, it makes it easier to measure success.
-- Help the supervisors to identify good examples for each goal and success factor.
-- Assist the supervisors to identify areas of strength and challenge for each employee.
-- Review the potential evaluation risks such as the "halo effect," influence of first impressions, and being too lenient or too negative.
-- Advise supervisors to schedule a private meeting with employees and advise them to speak to positive items and then areas of development.
-- Review potential problem employees and coach the supervisor to handle the difficult situations by following a structured script.
-- Review the company policies on professional development and recommend your supervisors discuss career aspirations and potential training opportunities.
Q: I serve on the management team of a small, privately owned family business. My challenge is that I cannot get the business owner to see the value of making some changes that would improve the overall company. The answer is always "not now" or we "can't afford it." Do you have any suggestions?
A: This is always a tough spot to be in, especially when you see ways and means of improving the business for the owner. In my experience, I often find that small companies such as you describe are owned and operated by technical experts rather than strategic leaders. They are more set in their ways and find it hard to change. They also do not engage in strategic planning and do not have a clear path to the future beyond their first product. As a result, the owner perhaps cannot see how your change suggestions fit into the company. Some tips regarding this situation:
-- Seek out the advice of your fellow team members and see if you can develop a joint strategy to persuade the owner to think about change.
-- Reflect on who the owner listens to and approach this person with your idea and ask for advice. This could be the accountant, the lawyer, a shareholder, another manager or anyone else who you can legitimately approach.
-- Work on persuading your owner to conduct strategic planning with an outside party; be prepared to do this within a one-day period as he/she will not see value in a longer process. At least it would be a start.
-- Take personal initiative to investigate the business environment and prepare a document that will help the owner discover the opportunities and be able to see a way to move toward that future in a steady, non-risk manner. Share this with the owner and the management team and ask for feedback.
Change will not come easily to the company as you describe it and so patience is a virtue in this case. However, if you find there is never any progress, then it is time to look after your own career and perhaps move on. Sad but true.
About the author
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She is also host of the weekly BowesKnows radio show and is the author of Resume Rescue and Taming the Workplace Tigers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org://www.barbarabowes.com
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