Category Archives: Training

Postings and discussions about training

Managing Across Cultures

Warren Heaps photoAuthor:
Warren Heaps Birches Group LLC

Cultural knowledge is critical when operating in today’s global business environment.  There is a wonderful new book penned by my friends Mike Schell and Charlene Solomon from RW-3 called Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset.  It’s a terrific read.

If you work with global teams, deal with people from different countries, or perhaps your company is exploring business expansion into new country markets, you will find this book extremely valuable.  Check out this interview from Fortune magazine with the authors, too.

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Trends in Leadership Development – Part 2

lexierwandaqwAuthor:
Lex Lindeman and Han van der Pool – HR Boosters

In my previous post, I wrote about the various ways to approach Leadership Development in Public or Private Organizations.  In this blog, I will go somewhat deeper into recent developments and strategies within Leadership Development.

The traditional executive development programs which concentrate on management theories and exhaustive cases studies have in recent years become less and less popular.  The poor usability of these modalities for current complex global business challenges, coupled with low ROI (Return on Investment) is the reason.  But there are interesting alternatives.

New Approaches
There are many new ways to expose current and future leaders to development activities.  Some of the most interesting ones include:

  • Customized programs developed specifically for the company by consultants and universities in which current questions and strategies are carefully observed.
  • Action learning projects in which participants treat real questions and where the implementation of the solutions in a follow-up session can be discussed.  The so-called Journey programs, in which managers are exposed to problems which can only be solved through good teamwork and perseverance, are examples of this.
  • Company simulations in which the participants are faced with the impact of their decisions.  These can include presentations of experienced managers from the company, in which examples and experiences are analyzed and discussed.
  • Personal development plans coupled with feedback coaching and execution of specific tasks.
  • Master classes to promote acquisition of technical skills and general knowledge sharing, including follow-up instruments to indicate the degree of success directly to the participant.

Developing A Program
A successful leadership development program is achieved by following these basic steps:

  • A Leadership Framework – Define the skills and characteristics of effective leadership within the company.
  • Curriculum – Link to specific leadership programs with several target groups within the company.
  • Measurement of the success of the programs and evaluation of their impact on both short- and long-term results of the company.
  • Continuous Adaptation to changing or new leadership profiles.

Authoritative Strategies
Here are some of the best strategies for creating your leadership development program and implementing it in your organization:

Use of Technology
Computer technology can be used to support development and learning.  The electronic support can focus on:

  • The learning process itself, both individually and in groups;
  • Developing and mastering education material and learning processes;
  • Organizing learning activities.

Some corporate universities have, for example, their own virtual learning environment. Participants from all over the world can work on specific learning programs. The virtual learning environment supports them with the learning process.  The websites offer the participants the possibility to get access in a simple way to specific and often personalized e-learning sources.

These sources are categorized in the website, so the visitor can simply click on internal and/or external Internet sites with specific content coupled to the learning curricula. These so-called learning platforms have been organized around one or a number of specific subjects.

The websites provide the user with the possibility of gathering information but also providing a contribution himself.  This is enabled through several functionalities (supported technologies) such as chat-functions and groupware.  E-learning applications replace a part of the “physical learning routes”, and as a result, the `classroom’ components become shorter.

“Just-in-Time” Learning
On-the-job experiences are a valuable component of development and learning.  We talk about interventions instead of courses because the element of coaching, training on-the-job, action learning and exchange of knowledge and skills through networks play an important role in the development of employees.

The chosen intervention must be related as close as possible to the needs of the employee.

The direct superior is the most suitable person to confirm the need related to the work processes, and the right time to pursue it.  A modular program off-the-shelf and managerial training can support the development if necessary.

Corporate Universities
Many organizations have decentralized their training departments or fully outsourced them.  Many have created corporate universities exclusively for their own employees.  These training departments serve a broad target group and organize a large variety of training and workshops including ‘open registration’.

The difference between a corporate university and a traditional training department is the strategic position it has in the organization, and the role it plays in leadership development, creativity and the problem solving capacity within the organization.

Corporate universities contribute to translating the vision of the company to work processes of the employees.  They focus on those skills which are essential for the functioning of the company.  In increasing complex and competitive business environments, traditional universities are not always fast enough to be able to anticipate to the specific needs of a company. Many organizations also prefer to keep the specific knowledge exclusively within the company.

In Summary
In this post, I’ve highlighted the latest thinking in the area of leadership development and the deployment of training programs in a corporate setting.  In my next blog, I will go deeper into more specific approaches to leadership development for public and private organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Trends in Leadership Development – Part 1

lexierwandaqwAuthors:
Lex Lindeman and Han van der Pool – HR Boosters

Leadership is the most important condition for success in organizations. Quality of products and services, improvement of sales results and innovation are all positively influenced by leadership development within a company.  Leading organizations believe development for executives and managers should be an integrated part of their company strategy. Globalization, company growth, and the continuous introduction of new technologies require new skills for company leaders.  In the end, it is leadership that determines the economic performance of the company.

Executives Are Taking Charge of Their Own Development

Research shows that executives who take care of their personal development have a competitive advantage.  Leadership development has also a big influence in the way employees can exploit their knowledge and competencies, and also enhances the retention of talented staff.

Organizations are now offering more and more proactive leadership development within individual development plans.  According to a survey of the American Management Association (AMA), more than 25% of organizations spend more than one-third of their annual training budget on leadership development programs.  Some of the latest leadership development approaches include:

  • External leadership development programs organized by universities, executive training institutes and training through professional companies
  • Internal leadership training programs
  • Temporary ‘stretch’ assignments which help an individual to develop new skills and competencies
  • International assignments to obtain new experiences
  • External leadership training organized by consultants
  • Job rotation
  • Formal mentoring programs

Of course, not all learning takes place in a formal training situation. Experience based on internal and external studies for the US Department of Labor (1995) into the way in which high performing leaders learn, indicates that formal training is just 10% of how people learn.

High-Teach, High-Tech, High-Touch

In the current competitive market, Human Resource professionals always try to find ways to organize training in the most effective way.  Some options:

  • High-Teach methods are all methods aimed at the person to ensure that learning takes place as effectively, pleasantly and efficiently possible.  High-Teach is all about learning and lesson methods.  From an initial interview, specific learning objectives for the participant are formulated, and the learning methods and instruments are adapted to the participants, their context and the characteristics of the competencies.
  •  High-Tech methods are all the applications and instruments which can be offered for preparation, deepening or development of subjects on-line with a computer
    (e-Learning).  E-Learning is common for both applications training (learning to work with software packages) and for general managerial skills.  This method is usually very efficient; a participant can learn at a moment of his choice wherever he is.  By means of the computer, you can gather knowledge, but real insight in your own person, or to practice skills and behaviors, you’ll need to interact with others.  The computer doesn’t offer that interaction, yet the bulk of your development always takes place in relation to others.
  • High-Touch methods are all working methods which are aimed to deepen and intensify contact with the participant.  This process requires confidence and security for openness, and the courage to explore.  It is always the mutual connection which makes the moment instructive.  Inviting people to openly explore new ideas is the nature of High-Touch.

Coaching Methods

Coaching is considered as a flexible and confidential communication from both sides in which an executive can give feedback, and receive support and recommendations. Executive coaching is organized in three different manners.

  • Feedback Coaching is direct feedback given within the framework of a personal development plan, and addresses specific questions (duration: on average up to three months).
  • In-Depth Coaching is a close and deep relationship between the executive manager and a coach.  During the sessions, they work on specific and mostly personal questions (average duration: from six up to twelve months).
  • Substantive Coaching provides leaders with support to address substantively complex questions with the objective to increase skills, capacities and competencies (duration: variable).

In successful leadership development programs, several methods are often used.  Support from top management and a strong link to strategic questions are conditions for success.  The outcome of the programs must help the managers to solve questions from their daily business practice.

Recent Developments

Creative and non-traditional programming is becoming more and more important.   Traditional course programs in an auditorium are de-emphasized, and there is a clear movement from High-Teach to High-Touch.  Some organizations also add High Tech elements to their programs.

Other recent developments include:

  • Tailor-made programs developed specifically for the company by consultants and universities in which current questions and strategies are carefully observed.
  • The development of ‘action learning’ programs such as the so-called ‘journey programs’ in which managers are exposed to problems which can only be solved through good teamwork and perseverance.
  • Elaboration of personal development plans with coupled feedback, coaching and execution of specific tasks.
  • Increasing attention to acquiring technical skills and sharing knowledge.

In my next post, I will provide additional, in-depth insights into several of these recent innovations.

In Summary

Organizations have to deal with a range of challenges to anchor leadership. Research has shown (Tichy, 1997) that successful organizations have several leaders, at each level of the organization.  This starts at the top.  Leaders with an established reputation and a track record of success are the best learning masters for others and future leaders.  Developing leadership in an organization is not possible without the commitment of the top leaders in the organization.

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Why Culture is Important in International Business

Denise HummelGuest Author:
Denise L. Hummel – Universal Consensus

Editor’s Note:  We are especially pleased to welcome our first Guest Author, Denise Hummel, who contributed the piece that follows on the importance of culture in international business

Doing business on a global basis requires a good understanding of different cultures.  What works in your country might not work well in another, and could even be interpreted as an insult!  And in your role as an international human resources professional, it’s important to raise the awareness of cultural issues within your organization to ensure effectiveness.

Consider the following basic questions:

When George Bush gave Chinese Premier Li Peng a gift of cowboy boots embroidered with the American and Chinese flags, was it an appropriate gift?

  1. Yes, a thoughtful sentiment and a keepsake appropriate to the occasion
  2. No, a significant miss on the part of administration protocol experts
  3. Yes, a good choice, if only he had known the Premier’s correct shoe size

Answer: 2. 

Unfortunately, in China, the soles of the feet are considered to be the lowliest part of the body and gifts of footwear, no less embossed with the nations’ respective flag, was a significant miss on the part of administration protocol experts.

When formalizing a deal in the Middle East, it is imperative to

  1. Determine that the contract is iron clad with strict attention to jurisdictional issues of international law to secure a just outcome should there be conflict
  2. Solidify the interpersonal trust relationship as this rapport is critical both during the deal and if conflict develops
  3. Retain legal counsel in the country in which the business undertakings will primarily take place and ensure that this attorney has a golfing relationship with most members of the judiciary.

Answer: 2.

When doing business in the Middle East, the surest indicator of a successful business relationship has very little to do with the content of the contract or the extent to which the language will hold up in court.  Court systems in many of these countries move slowly with inconsistent results, and your business counterparts in many Middle Eastern countries do not put their faith in the legal system to determine the outcome of a conflict.  Absolutely essential to the success of the deal is the interpersonal rapport and relationship established during the negotiation stage and at every point thereafter.  Failure to understand and cultivate this aspect of the deal increases the risk of failure to a critical degree.

In sending an email to a Japanese colleague with whom may wish to collaborate on a potential business deal, you would be most successful if you

  1. Begin the email by addressing the individual warmly and openly, by his first name, immediately closing the cultural gap
  2. Always use Mr. , Miss or Mrs. followed by the last name of the individual, followed by an embracing and forthright interaction
  3. Use the last name, followed by the term “sama” to address your email, followed by clear text set forth with the utmost formality.

Answer: 3.

The risk of email is that it lacks certain social contextual cues such as body language, eye contact and intonation and can therefore create misunderstandings.  There is also no way to see the demeanor or reaction of your counterpart and adjust your communication strategy to compensate for a misunderstanding once it is created.   When in doubt, it is always safer to err on the side of greater formality and deference.  The Japanese have become accustomed to making allowances for informal communication from other countries, but you will proceed with more credibility if you make a sincere effort to adapt to their customs.  The use of the term “san” and, for those in a position of high authority, “sama” is honorific.  Use the last name, followed by the honorific term, followed by extreme clarity and formality in the text, with as few assumptions for context as possible.

Summary

The cultural nuances that affect international business obviously go far beyond the ability to greet your international colleague or choose the correct gift.  Issues related to the culture’s time orientation, whether it is an individualist or collectivist society, space orientation, and power distance, not to mention conflict assumptions and non-verbal communication all affect understanding your colleague across the table, as well as your chances of being understood. 

Preparation by a trained expert related to these issues not only assures that unnecessary blunders will be avoided, it brings to each of us a personal knowledge that deepens our understanding of others, thereby promoting acceptance, understanding, and on the level of international relations, peace and prosperity.

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Dealing with Compensation 101

bio_400x400

Author:

Chuck Csizmar – CMC Compensation Group

I once supervised a Compensation Analyst who had spent a great deal of time attending professional seminars and workshops.  She had attended these instructional sessions to learn about Compensation, as part of her professional development.

One result of that education was a favored response when faced with a challenge at work; she would fall back on her class work experience by saying, “the greatest minds in Compensation say that . . . “.  It took a great deal of patience on my part to educate this part time practitioner / part time student in the difference between the classroom / textbook answer and the reality of the workplace.

A short while ago I came across an HR blog in which the author was instructing readers in how to create a merit performance matrix.  Very good stuff, I thought, admiring the technical step-by-step instructions, except I knew from long experience that the procedure being described would never work in the real world.  Didn’t the author realize that?

Yes, it is very important to understand the technical foundations of Compensation methodology and practice, but first and foremost you need to anchor yourself in the real world, to know what will work and not work in your own organization – no matter what the finest minds in Compensation think.

Why doesn’t Compensation theory always match compensation reality in the workplace?

  • Business realities:  management will typically know more about a particular business situation than you do.  What you are able to provide to the decision-making process as a Compensation professional is limited to your particular subject area, while management usually has the bigger picture – the perspective of multiple viewpoints. Your compensation advice may not fit their business reality, no matter how logical an argument you make.
  • Bias of decision-makers: decision-makers may feel that they intuitively *know* the right approach to take (they’ve done it before, if-it’s-not-broke- don’t-fit-it mentality, a friend / relation / old college chum suggested an approach, etc.).  Perhaps they read an article just the other day and now are insistent to follow the advice of an author who doesn’t have a clue about their particular business.  Years ago I worked for a company whose CEO forced HR to implement a particular benefit plan because he had read a magazine article.  It does happen.
  • Problem avoidance: short of killing the messenger, one solution for management is to do nothing about a problem (you’ve exaggerated it, the solution costs too much, there’s still time, etc.).  Senior managers can be like politicians in avoiding the *big* decision unless it bites them in the leg.  It can sometimes be dangerous to your career if you try to force a decision.
  • Business culture or model: some initiatives just don’t “fit” in your organization.  Managers with a laid back organization style will not be interested in demands to document everything, standardize policies and procedures and have approved forms for every possible use.  Picture your head banging against the wall.

Aside from management giving you a dose of reality across the cheek , sometimes those subject matter experts who instruct in Compensation techniques fail to ground their instructions with a caution to their students: check this process out in the reality of your workplace *before* you take a laboratory technique and wave it in the face of your management.

Two examples:

1)      Merit matrix:  when designing a pay-for-performance merit increase matrix the standard rule is to place the average increase percentage in the cell block most populated by employees (average performance and average position-in-range).   The sound reasoning for this technique is to better manage the costs associated with that year’s annual increase process.

A lot of years ago I followed that approach in my first compensation leadership role.  I still have a little bump where my head hit the wall.

Here’s the rub; such a technique requires that the matrix change every year, as the analysis demands you study where the population averages are for each year.  But management will likely have none of that. They want the same matrix every year, for ease of administration and communication.

2)      Cost of living as a basis for pay increases: I once watched over a fascinating exchange on a Compensation bulletin board where the debate raged on for days over the appropriate formulae to use for calculating the cost of living vs. cost or labor as it affected the average pay increase that management would approve.  Each side would provide formulae, charts and graphs and quotes from notable experts to press home their opinion.

The reality for this exchange is that management does not use the cost of living as a prime determinant in their decision-making.  They are more likely to roll their eyes at the technical debate and ask only about competitiveness and bottom line cost – and why can’t we do the same as we did last year?  If their decision relates to the cost of living in some way, that’s only a nice coincidence that they can use in their communications.

An area that separates the compensation technician from the compensation professional is the ability to deal with what I call the “softer” side of compensation.  Survey statistics, charts and formulae are very good to a point, but management will want to know what it means and what to do about it.  So the answer isn’t simply reporting the data, but in taking that next step to help management understand and strategize their next move.

The contribution you can make to your organization is blending the technical knowledge (the how-to) with seasoning and experience to understand what will work for your organization, considering culture and management bias.  Technical knowledge will give you the same answer every time, but knowing how to use that knowledge like a craftsman’s tool to aid in achieving business objectives – that is the key to success as a Compensation professional.

Does Your Company Really Pay For Performance?

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Author:
Chuck Csizmar – CMC Compensation Group

To answer this question most companies would say that, yes – they have a pay-for-performance (PFP) program.  Such a statement is chic, politically correct and offers a wonderful message about how the company values its employees.  What’s to argue with?  Paying employees on the basis of what they have contributed to the company makes sense, right?  If they give more they receive more, right?

On the other hand, to answer that question in the negative is to suggest that you are not fair to your employees, that your idea of proper reward is to bypass individual performance in favor of treating everyone the same, regardless of contribution.  However, as that acknowledgement would paint you as an insensitive employer, it’s likely you’ll fall in line and say “YES, of course we pay our employees for their performance.”

But do they?  Do you?

There is a tendency by many in management to believe that the granting of variable pay increases automatically means that their company provides pay for performance.  However, if as is usually the case practically everyone receives some form of pay increase, is there really a distinction being made between high performers and those who merely occupied a chair for the past 12 months?  Isn’t such a practice (if we haven’t fired you, then you’ll get an increase) more like a modified attendance award?

The decision to adopt pay for performance strategy should include two critical elements:

  • The decision not to pay if the employee hasn’t performed
  • The decision to make it worthwhile for an employee to be a high performer

One of the common pay practices that continue to hamper the effectiveness of PFP plans for base salary increases is the misuse of the annual merit pay pool through inflated performance evaluations and automatic increases.  This practice will increase your costs, and in a manner that will not effectively reward employee performance.

Making PFP work for your company will require hard decisions from line managers who are otherwise accustomed to maintaining employee morale through the avoidance of objective performance reviews.  We have seen that, while there is a shift to rewarding individual effort, more monies are not being provided as a result of that shift.  So in order to more effectively use available salary increase dollars companies need to reward their high performers with money effectively taken away from (not granted to) those performing at lower levels.

This may also mean that average performers, the bulwark of so many companies, will receive less than they might otherwise expect (which is at least an average raise).  What it comes down to is a company’s ability to afford proper rewards for higher achieving employees (motivating and retaining them in the process) by reducing or eliminating rewards to those deemed as underperforming.

The risk exposure is that if managers, through the utilization of performance management programs, do not properly identify and restrict awards for non-deserving employees, the PFP budget will not have enough funds to afford appropriate rewards for high performers.  So you should ask yourself, who is it you would rather disappoint?  Who has less impact on your business and whose loss will be less disruptive to your operations?

While published reports clearly indicate a trend away from one-size-fits-all reward systems, one should look below the surface to learn whether employee performance is being appropriately measured and rewarded.

To effectively use a pay-for-performance system a company should:

  • Educate employees as to what performance will be rewarded.  This requires measurements, and that performance objectives align vertically in the organization (employee goals relate to supervision, whose own goals relate to management, and on upward to corporate goals);
  • Provide a well-defined rating scale that helps managers distinguish between levels of performance
  • Provide a clear distinction of reward between those who have delivered and those who have not.  An employee who does not see a relative gain from working hard all year is a lot less likely to repeat their performance the following year.

So the next time you are asked whether your company rewards employees for their performance, perhaps your answer might not differ, but now you recognize the distinction being made by your employees.   It is up to you whether to be satisfied with your answer.

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Talent in Ghana

Imported Photos 00033 Author:
Yendor Felgate –  Emergence Consulting

The traditional wisdom on Africa is that there is a one way passage for talent to more ‘developed markets’. Experience suggests that a continuous ‘brain drain’ is occurring, where talented professionals are being ‘denuded’ from home markets, exacerbating an already tenuous scarce skill situation.

Change is Coming

Recently I hosted a talent management workshop in Ghana, where I am starting to see signs that things may be changing.  This is not say that the ‘war for scarce skills’ does not exist or that the predominant trend has changed, but rather we are seeing a more complex picture emerging.

The change may have started even before the impetus of the global financial services meltdown, if anecdotal evidence from headhunters and resourcing specialists working in Africa are accurate.  Ghana may be a useful case in point to begin to understand the emerging changes in talent behaviour and the resultant complexities for business in Africa.

Recent Trends

Ghana is a democratic West African country that has been independent for over 50 years.  Traditionally the country has been economically reliant on commodities and natural resources, though is diversifying rapidly into financial services and telecoms.  Recent trends suggest an increasing level of foreign direct investment and interest from the region in the opportunities offerred by Ghana.

In the past, global education and career opportunities were valued over local organisations and career paths.  The first change to this dynamic was the rapid expansion of Nigerian banks and the telecom revolution in Ghana. Both sectors are large consumers of talent and ‘overheated’ the local and expatriate skill markets, largely by paying aggressively.

The second major trend is the exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs.  This has attracted interested from first and second generation Ghanians based outside the country.  Initially, this took the form of direct investment, but is increasingly involving Ghanians leaving corporate roles outside Ghana, to take up local opportunties.

The final trend is the global instability in ‘developed’ job markets, where many Ghanians are now looking to return to corporate and professional roles within the country.  The perceived ‘gap’ between global and local has diminshed significantly.

The net result is that many corporates in Ghana are able to compete for talent more effectively than before. I think this is the real change – global players may now not be the automatic default choice for African talent. African business has a window of opportunity they can exploit. However, the complexity lies in the detail.

The challenge is that good people have many opportunities both locally and regionally they can explore in corporates and on the entrepreneurial front. My sense is that this has less to do with money, but the personal connection people make to these opportunities.  In my language, an holistic employee value proposition is more important the ever.

What About Pay Levels?

Ghana Pay Ranges

Total Compensation in Ghana

Pay levels amongst leading employers in Ghana are competitive, but relatively low when compared to more developed countries, and also to many countries in Africa.  As you can see from the illustration, total annual compensation in Cedi ranges from about 5,000 to 20,000 Cedi for support staff positions, while pay for professionals varies from approximately 24,000 to 80,000 Cedi.

Source:
Birches Group LLC Survey of Leading Employers – September, 2008

In Summary

The difficulty most Ghanian businesses face is that they are not used to working with the intangible concept of the employee value proposition and tend to want to compete on remuneration, whilst keeping relatively conservative management practices.  This is changing, but I hope it is sufficiently rapid to fully utilise what may be a very narrow period of talent parity.

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