10 principles of organisation design

These fundamental guidelines, drawn from experience, can help you reshape your organisation to fit your business strategy. A global electronics manufacturer seemed to live in a perpetual state of re-organisation. Introducing a new line of communication devices for the Asian market required reorienting its sales, marketing, and support functions. Migrating to cloud-based business applications called for changes to the IT organisation. Altogether, it had reorganized six times in 10 years.

Suddenly, however, the company found itself facing a different challenge. Because of the new technologies that had entered its category, and a sea change in customer expectations, the CEO decided to shift from a product-based business model to a customer-centric one. That meant yet another reorganisation, but this one would be different. It had to go beyond shifting the lines and boxes in an org chart. It would have to change the company’s most fundamental building blocks: how people in the company made decisions, adopted new behaviors, rewarded performance, agreed on commitments, managed information, made sense of that information, allocated responsibility, and connected with one another. Not only did the leadership team lack a full-fledged blueprint — they didn’t know where to begin.

This situation is becoming more typical. In the 18th annual PwC survey of chief executive officers, conducted in 2014, many CEOs anticipated significant disruptions to their businesses during the next five years as a result of global trends. One such trend, cited by 61 percent of the respondents, was heightened competition. The same proportion of respondents foresaw changes in customer behavior creating disruption. Fifty percent said they expected changes in distribution channels. As CEOs look to stay ahead of these trends, they recognize the need to change their organisation’s design. But for that redesign to succeed, a company must make its changes as effectively and painlessly as possible, in a way that aligns with its strategy, invigorates employees, builds distinctive capabilities, and makes it easier to attract customers.

Today, the average tenure for the CEO of a global company is about five years. Therefore, a major re-organisation is likely to happen only once during that leader’s term. The chief executive has to get the reorg right the first time; he or she won’t get a second chance.

Although every company is different, and there is no set formula for determining the appropriate design for your organisation, we have identified 10 guiding principles that apply to every company. These have been developed through years of research and practice at PwC and Strategy&, using changes in organisation design to improve performance in more than 400 companies across industries and geographies. These fundamental principles point the way for leaders whose strategies require a different kind of organisation than the one they have today.

1. Declare amnesty for the past. organisation design should start with corporate self-reflection: What is your sense of purpose? How will you make a difference for your clients, employees, and investors? What will set you apart from others, now and in the future? What differentiating capabilities will allow you to deliver your value proposition over the next two to five years?

For many business leaders, answering those questions means going beyond your comfort zone. You have to set a bold direction, marshal the organisation toward that goal, and prioritize everything you do accordingly. Sustaining a forward-looking view is crucial.

We’ve seen a fair number of organisation design initiatives fail to make a difference because senior executives got caught up in discussing the pros and cons of the old organisation. Avoid this situation by declaring “amnesty for the past.” Collectively, explicitly decide that you will neither blame nor try to justify the design in place today or any organisation designs of the past. It’s time to move on. This type of pronouncement may sound simple, but it’s surprisingly effective for keeping the focus on the new strategy.

2. Design with “DNA.” organisation design can seem unnecessarily complex; the right framework, however, can help you decode and prioritize the necessary elements. We have identified eight universal building blocks that are relevant to any company, regardless of industry, geography, or business model. These building blocks will be the elements you put together for your design

The blocks naturally fall into four complementary pairs, each made up of one tangible (or formal) and one intangible (or informal) element. Decisions are paired with norms (governing how people act), motivators with commitments (governing factors that affect people’s feelings about their work), information with mind-sets (governing how they process knowledge and meaning), and structure with networks (governing how they connect). By using these elements and considering changes needed across each complementary pair, you can create a design that will integrate your whole enterprise, instead of pulling it apart.

You may be tempted to make changes with all eight building blocks simultaneously. But too many interventions at once could interact in unexpected ways, leading to unfortunate side effects. Pick a small number of changes — five at most — that you believe will deliver the greatest initial impact. Even a few changes could involve many variations. For example, the design of motivators might need to vary from one function to the next. People in sales might be more heavily influenced by monetary rewards, whereas R&D staffers might favor a career model with opportunities for self-directed projects and external collaboration and education.

3. Fix the structure last, not first. Company leaders know that their current org chart doesn’t necessarily capture the way things get done — it’s at best a vague approximation. Yet they still may fall into a common trap: thinking that changing their organisation’s structure will address their business’s problems.

We can’t blame them — after all, the org chart is seemingly the most powerful communications vehicle around. It also carries emotional weight, because it defines reporting relationships that people might love or hate. But a company hierarchy, particularly when changes in the org chart are made in isolation from other changes, tends to revert to its earlier equilibrium. You can significantly remove management layers and temporarily reduce costs, but all too soon, the layers creep back in and the short-term gains disappear.

In an org redesign, you’re not setting up a new form for the organisation all at once. You’re laying out a sequence of interventions that will lead the company from the past to the future. Structure should be the last thing you change: the capstone, not the cornerstone, of that sequence. Otherwise, the change won’t sustain itself.

We saw the value of this approach recently with an industrial goods manufacturer. In the past, it had undertaken reorganisations that focused almost solely on structure, without ever achieving the execution improvement its leaders expected. Then the stakes grew higher: Fast-growing competitors emerged from Asia, technological advances compressed product cycles, and new business models appeared that bypassed distributors. This time, instead of redrawing the lines and boxes, the company sought to understand the organisational factors that had slowed down its responses in the past. There were problems in the way decisions were made and carried out, and in how information flowed. Therefore, the first changes in the sequence concerned these building blocks: eliminating non-productive meetings (information), clarifying accountabilities in the matrix structure (decisions and norms), and changing how people were rewarded (motivators). By the time the company was ready to adjust the org chart, most of the problem factors had been addressed.

4. Make the most of top talent. Talent is a critical but often overlooked factor when it comes to org design. You might assume that the personalities and capabilities of existing executive team members won’t affect the design much. But in reality, you need to design positions to make the most of the strengths of the people who will occupy them. In other words, consider the technical skills and managerial acumen of key people, and make sure those leaders are equipped to foster the collaboration and empowerment needed from people below them.

You must ensure that there is a connection between the capabilities you need and the leadership talent you have. For example, if you’re organizing the business on the basis of innovation and the ability to respond quickly to changes in the market, the person chosen as chief marketing officer will need a diverse background. Someone with a conventional marketing background whose core skills center on low-cost pricing and extensive distribution might not be comfortable in that role. You can sometimes compensate for a gap in proficiency through other team members. If the chief financial officer is an excellent technician but has little leadership charisma, you may balance him or her with a chief operating officer who excels at the public-facing aspects of the role, such as speaking with analysts.

As you assemble the leadership team for your strategy, look for an optimal span of control — the number of direct reports — for your senior executive positions. A Harvard Business School study conducted by associate professor Julie Wulf found that CEOs have doubled their span of control over the past two decades. Although many executives have seven direct reports, there’s no universal magic number. For CEOs, the optimal span of control depends on four factors: the CEO’s tenure thus far, the degree of cross-collaboration among business units, the level of CEO activity devoted to something other than working with direct reports, and whether the CEO is also chairman of the board. (We’ve created a C-level span-of-control diagnostic to help determine your target span.)

5. Focus on what you can control. Make a list of the things that hold your organisation back: the scarcities (things you consistently find in short supply) and constraints (things that consistently slow you down). Taking stock of real-world limitations helps ensure that you can execute and sustain the new organisation design.

For example, consider the impact you might face if 20 percent of the people who had the most knowledge and expertise in making and marketing your core products — your product launch talent — were drawn away for three years on a regulatory project. How would that talent shortage affect your product launch capability, especially if it involved identifying and acting on customer insights? How might you compensate for this scarcity? Doubling down on addressing typical scarcities, or what is “not good enough,” helps prioritize the changes to your organisation model. For example, you may build a product launch center of excellence to address the typical scarcity of never having enough of the people who know how to execute effective launches.

Constraints on your business — such as regulations, supply shortages, and changes in customer demand — may be out of your control. But don’t get bogged down in trying to change something you can’t change; instead, focus on changing what you can. For example, if your company is a global consumer packaged goods manufacturer, you might first favor a single structure with clear decision rights on branding, policies, and usage guidelines because it is more efficient in global branding. But if consumer tastes for your product are different around the world, you might be better off with a structure that delegates decision rights to the local business leader.

6. Promote accountability. Design your organisation so that it’s easy for people to be accountable for their part of the work without being micromanaged. Make sure that decision rights are clear and that information flows rapidly and clearly from the executive committee to business units, functions, and departments. Our research underscores the importance of this factor: We analyzed dozens of companies with strong execution and found that among the formal building blocks, information and decision rights had the strongest effect on improving the execution of strategy. They are about twice as powerful as an organisation’s structure or its motivators .

A global electronics manufacturer was struggling with slow execution and lack of accountability. To address these issues, it created a matrix that could identify those who had made important decisions in the past few years. It then used the matrix to establish clear decision rights and motivators more in tune with the company’s desired goals. Sales directors were made accountable for dealers in their region and were evaluated in terms of the sales performance of those dealers. This encouraged ownership and high performance on both sides, and drew in critically important but previously isolated groups, like the manufacturer’s warranty function. The company operationalized these new decision rights by establishing the necessary budget authorities, decision-making forums, and communications.

When decision rights and motivators are established, accountability can take hold. Gradually, people get in the habit of following through on commitments without experiencing formal enforcement. Even after it becomes part of the company’s culture, this new accountability must be continually nurtured and promoted. It won’t endure if, for example, new additions to the firm don’t honor commitments or incentives change in a way that undermines the desired behavior.

7. Benchmark sparingly, if at all. One common misstep is looking for best practices. In theory, it can be helpful to track what competitors are doing, if only to help you optimize your own design or uncover issues requiring attention. But in practice, this approach has a couple of problems.

First, it ignores your organisation’s unique capabilities system — the strengths that only your organisation has, which produces results that others can’t match. You and your competitor aren’t likely to need the same distinctive capabilities, even if you’re in the same industry. For example, two banks might look similar on the surface; they might have branches next door to each other in several locales. But the first could be a national bank catering to millennials, who are drawn to low costs and innovative online banking features. The other could be regionally oriented, serving an older customer base and emphasizing community ties and personalized customer service. Those different value propositions would require different capabilities and translate into different organisation designs. The national bank might be organized primarily by customer segment, making it easy to invest in a single leading-edge technology that covers all regions and all markets. The regional bank might be organized primarily by geography, setting up managers to build better relationships with local leaders and enterprises. If you benchmark the wrong example, the copied organisational model will only set you back.

Second, even if you share the same strategy as a competitor, who’s to say that its organisation is a good fit with its strategy? If your competitor has a different value proposition or capabilities system than you do, using it as a comparison for your own performance will be a mistake.

If you feel you must benchmark, focus on a few select elements, rather than trying to be best in class in everything related to your industry. Your choice of companies to follow, and of the indicators to track and analyze, should line up exactly with the capabilities you prioritized in setting your future course. For example, if you are expanding into emerging markets, you might benchmark the extent to which leading companies in that region give local offices decision rights on sourcing or distribution.

8. Let the “lines and boxes” fit your company’s purpose. For every company, there is an optimal pattern of hierarchical relationship — a golden mean. It isn’t the same for every company; it should reflect the strategy you have chosen, and it should support the critical capabilities that distinguish your company. That means that the right structure for one company will not be the same as the right structure for another, even if they’re in the same industry.

In particular, think through your purpose when designing the spans of control and layers in your org chart. These should be fairly consistent across the organisation.

You can often hasten the flow of information and create greater accountability by reducing layers. But if the structure gets too flat, your leaders have to supervise an overwhelming number of people. You can free up management time by adding staff, but if the pyramid becomes too steep, it will be hard to get clear messages from the bottom to the top. So take the nature of your enterprise into account. Does the work at your company require close supervision? What role does technology play? How much collaboration is involved? How far-flung are people geographically, and what is their preferred management style?

In a call center, 15 or 20 people might report to a single manager because the work is routine and heavily automated. An enterprise software implementation team, made up of specialized knowledge workers, would require a narrower span of control, such as six to eight employees. If people regularly take on stretch assignments and broadly participate in decision making, you might have a narrower hierarchy — more managers directing only a few people each — instead of setting up managers with a large number of direct reports.

9. Accentuate the informal. Formal elements like structure and information are attractive to companies because they’re tangible. They can be easily defined and measured. But they’re only half the story. Many companies reassign decision rights, rework the org chart, or set up knowledge-sharing systems — yet don’t see the results they expect.

That’s because they’ve ignored the more informal, intangible building blocks. Norms, commitments, mind-sets, and networks are essential in getting things done. They represent (and influence) the ways people think, feel, communicate, and behave. When these intangibles are not in sync with one another or the more tangible building blocks, the organisation falters.

At one technology company, it was common practice to have multiple “meetings before the meeting” and “meetings after the meeting.” In other words, the constructive debate and planning took place outside the formal presentations that were known as the “official meetings.” The company had long relied on its informal networks because people needed workarounds to many official rules. Now, as part of the redesign, the leaders of the company embraced its informal nature, adopting new decision rights and norms that allowed the company to move more fluidly, and abandoning official channels as much as possible.

10. Build on your strengths. Overhauling the organisation is one of the hardest things for a chief executive or division leader to do, especially if he or she is charged with turning around a poorly performing company. But there are always strengths to build on in existing practices and in the culture. Suppose, for example, that your company has a norm of customer-oriented commitment. Employees are willing to go the extra mile for customers when called upon to do so. They deliver work out of scope or ahead of schedule, often because they empathize with the problems customers face. You can draw attention to that behavior by setting up groups to talk about it, and reinforce the behavior by rewarding it with more formal incentives. That will help spread it throughout the company.

Perhaps your company has well-defined decision rights, wherein each person has a good idea of the decisions and actions for which he or she is responsible. Yet in your current org design, they may not be focused on the right things. You can use this strong accountability and redirect people to the right decisions to support the new strategy.


A 2014 Strategy & survey found that 42 percent of executives felt that their organisation was not aligned with the strategy, and that parts of the organisation resisted it or didn’t understand it. If that’s a familiar problem in your company, the principles in this article can help you develop an organisation design that supports your most distinctive capabilities and supports your strategy more effectively.

Remaking your organisation to align with your strategy is a project that only the top executive of a company, division, or enterprise can lead. Although it’s not practical for a CEO to manage the day-to-day details, the top leader of a company must be consistently present to work through the major issues and alternatives, focus the design team on the future, and be accountable for the transition to the new organisation. The chief executive will also set the tone for future updates: Changes in technology, customer preferences, and other disruptors will continually test your business model.

These 10 fundamental principles can serve as your guideposts for any reorganisation, large or small. Armed with these collective lessons, you can avoid common missteps and home in on the right blueprint for your business.

Gary L. Neilson is a senior partner with Strategy& based in Chicago. He focuses on operating models and organisational transformation.

Jaime Estupiñán is a partner with Strategy& based in New York. He focuses on consumer strategic transformation and organisation for the healthcare industry.

Bhushan Sethi is a partner with PwC Advisory Services. Based in New York, he leads the PwC network’s financial-services people and change practice.

This article appeared on strategy-business.com.

How to manage a disgruntled employee

We’ve all seen disgruntled employees. They’re unmotivated, decline to join in on team activities, and don’t seem to respect the company much.

Perhaps they’re amazing at what they do, or maybe the company can’t afford to lose the employee. Often, a passionate employee loses some of their gusto, suddenly becoming a disgruntled employee who is difficult to deal with.

No matter the circumstances, your job as a manager is to deal with disgruntled employees. In this post, we’ll show you how.

What Does It Mean to be Disgruntled?

The dictionary defines disgruntled as displeased and discontented; sulky; peevish. Eek. Doesn’t sound like a quality most managers want.

When we have these employees in our workplaces, they’re detrimental to our company cultures. They spread negative energy, promote complaining, and encourage others to forget about getting things done.

If others see that you permit employees to be disgruntled, they’re a lot more likely to become disgruntled themselves. It’s essential to nip these problems in the bud for the good of your company.

Signs an Employee is Disgruntled

Many managers ignore the obvious, tell-tale signs that employees aren’t motivated, or worse, about to quit. After all, it’s painful to see an unhappy employee under your change.

Part of your job is sniffing out the signs, even if you don’t want to see them. How can you help a disgruntled employee if you don’t know they’re unhappy?

Here are some obvious signs that your employee is disgruntled:

– Lack of motivation, excitement, or passion
– Showing up late, taking long lunches
– Not participating in meetings
– Talks about projects and the company in a negative way
– Dresses up and leaves the office (possibly going on interviews)
– Has gone through a recent personal crisis
– Other people in the office are frustrated with the employee

Find Out WHY Your Employee Isn’t Happy

Once you’ve determined you’ve got a disgruntled employee on your hands, you need to figure out why. Learning the reason is the only way you can fix the problem.

There are many, many reasons employees can become unhappy– some may be directly related to the office, while others may have little to do with it. Some reasons are more problematic than others, but most are fixable, as long as you understand what the real problem is.

To learn why an employee is unhappy, ask, and actually listen to their answers.

Don’t corner the employee in a room and complain to them about how they aren’t living up to your expectations. Instead, say: “I’ve noticed you seem a bit spacey lately. Is something going on?.” If that leads you no where, try: “I’ve noticed the quality of your work is suffering, and I am very concerned. Do you have any idea why this is happening?”

This is a potentially stressful conversation, and we highly recommend reading Harvard Business Review’s Taking The Stress Out of Stressful Conversations before having a meeting about performance concerns. Employees often get defensive if you approach the topic wrong, and this resource has great suggestions for having a positive, game-changing conversation, even when it’s stressful.

Once you’ve assessed what’s bothering the employee– whether it be a lack of challenge, a personal problem, or conflicts with colleagues– you’ll be better able to help. Don’t forget to document these conversations and their results so that you can cite them later, if need be.
Decide If It’s About Them or You

When things go wrong, it’s easy to blame the employee. “She’s not getting anything done,” you say. “He keeps complaining about our vacation policy.”

Are you providing a positive work environment for your employees? Maybe you think you are, but are you really? Usually, it takes two to tango, so it’s not helpful to blame the employee for their lack of productivity.

Maybe they are struggling with productivity because they’re unclear on what your expectations are, or maybe they don’t have a good project management system in place. As a manager, you can change both of those things.

But sometimes, it might be more about the employee than about the company and the systems you have in place. If you’ve worked to change everything, and the employee is still unmotivated, dissatisfied, and disgruntled, it might be time to let them go.
Be Professional Along The Way

Disgruntled employees make us angry. Here we are working our butts off, only to have an employee that can’t get anything done, and doesn’t seem to care. But we can’t let this anger and frustration get the best of us.

OpenFORUM recommends five steps for managers dealing with these types of employees: Remain professional, don’t let it fester, keep it private, document everything, and don’t empower them.

At the heart of OpenFORUM’s recommendations is professionalism. Don’t let the situation fester without doing anything– this doesn’t help anyone. Make sure to keep matters private so they don’t create extra gossip in the office. Document everything so that you can keep track of warnings, especially if you choose to fire the employee later.

Change Behavior with Good Management Strategies

Great managers can turn things around by employing good strategies. There are two main steps to dealing with a disgruntled employee:

– Listen to them
– Come up with solutions

If you are able to listen and understand the problems an employee is having, and work with them to come up with real, game-changing solutions, you’ve done your job as a manager.

Of course, there are strategies that can help you listen and understand better– don’t bombard an employee with questions. Ask one, and wait for an answer, even if you’re sitting in silence for a little while.

You can come up with helpful solutions, too, by really getting at the heart of the matter. Try helping the employee set up a new task management software solution, a better calendar, or encourage them to work on a project with a colleague they really like. Put systems in place to help prevent them from falling through the cracks.

If an employee can’t rise to the occasion after that, it might be time to think about letting them go.

Be Ready to Let Go

If an employee is causing you grief, you might have to make the difficult decision to let them go. At some point, the disadvantages will begin to outweigh the benefits, and it may be time to say goodbye.

Firing is not easy to do, so make sure you’ve taken notes along the way, and that you’ve given the employee warnings about the consequences of their actions. It’s not fair to fire someone if you haven’t given them a chance to rise to the occasion. If you feel as though you’ve worked tirelessly to help, and it’s just not working out, it’s better for both to move on.

Sometimes, a company just isn’t a great fit for an employee, and that employee isn’t a great fit for the company.

Building a Culture Without the Disgruntled

Even the best company cultures have disgruntled employees, but it’s on you and your company’s leadership to build a culture that doesn’t have room for disgruntled employees.

How to do this? Invest deeply in building out a company culture, creating values and a mission that prevent you from hiring these types of people in the first place. Values such as honesty, integrity, and generosity will quickly weed out employees who won’t fit in. Writing these values down will help you to assess prospective employees whenever you interview them.

Don’t be afraid to fire disgruntled employees that show no signs of turning things around, either. This is your company we’re talking about– you want the best employees on the planet.

Chad Halvorson is the CEO/Founder of When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com

How to battle employee turnover

If you believe that your employees are your biggest resource, then you know the damage high employee turnover does to your business.

The time and money you’ve invested in finding, hiring, and training employees walks right out your door when an employee quits.

How to battle employee turnover?

It starts with an understanding of why employees leave. Until you know their reasons, there is little you can do to stop the leak.
Why Do Employees Leave?

Employees leave a business for a lot of different reasons. Most of these reasons are under your control, even in a roundabout way.

1. Better wages and benefits found elsewhere.

Both hourly and salaried employees are tempted to leave if a better wage or benefit package is found elsewhere. In fact, dissatisfaction with wages is the top reason salaried employees leave (www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/articles/pages/salary-employees-quit.aspx).

Hourly employees, especially, may be tempted by even a slightly higher wage elsewhere. This is particularly true if they have no benefits. It’s easy to walk away and get a better wage when there’s so little to lose.

Additionally, if employees think that the business is not financially secure or that there is an impending problem in the leadership, they may bail ship before anything happens.

2. Bored with the work.

Employees who are bored will quit.

Not enough work to do. Assignments that are no longer a challenge but are merely rote habit. No chance to use skills and abilities that might fall outside of a strict job description. No sense that they can self-assess and decide what to do because of rigid management that doesn’t allow for it.

These are all reasons employees get bored.

3. Trouble in the team.

Not everyone is easy to get along with, and even the best matched team will have personality clashes on off days. But serious and ongoing conflict in the workplace costs you a great deal of money.

A recent study found that American employees spend 2.8 hours each week dealing with conflict. That’s time you’re paying them that they aren’t working for you. 25% of employees say that conflict causes them to be sick or absent from work. Anger and discord spill across the whole team and will eventually make its way to the customer, affecting sales. And, employees will quit to be free from all of the negativity.

4. They are disengaged.

Employee disengagement is extremely common. As in, 70% of American workers are all but elsewhere when they should be working, according to a recent Gallup poll. Once employees disengage and turn work into merely a time clock and a paycheck, businesses will see 30% to 50% higher turnover (www.environmentalleader.com/2011/08/04/aligned-incentives-and-engaged-employees-improve-triple-bottom-line-performance/).

Engaged employees are productive, innovative, creative…”sick” less often. Disengaged employees have little incentive to be any of those things, and quick to find the door.

When your employees feel like they’re just the tool to be used so someone else can achieve their dream or financial success, they disengage.

5. Poor relationship with the boss.

Are you the problem?

A recent study suggests that half of employees quit because of different type of culture inherent to its industry.

A bad boss is one that:

– Overloads and makes excessive demands on employees, burning them out.
– Micro-manages everything they do.
– Is hard to reach, is rarely around and not working their own business, or otherwise difficult to talk to.
– Has no idea how bad hiring, promotions, and other employee-related decisions are upsetting those already on staff.
– Cares more about him or herself than the staff, making all decisions based on what he or she wants.
– Holds terrible meetings, and wastes employee time.
– Is unable to communicate where the company is going, or where the employee’s job and career might be going.
– Unable to perform successful conflict resolution within the team.

A bad boss ruins the work situation all across the board. Employees can put up with a lot, but a bad boss is the limit.

How To Keep Your Employees From Leaving

How do you think you stand up next to your competitors, in the eyes of your employee? Your competitors aren’t just the others in your industry, but any job that the employee could leave you to take.

One of the best things you can do is get an exit interview with an employee, if the situation allows. This isn’t the time to be defensive or combative, but genuinely ask why they are leaving. You may need to revamp your business in several key areas.

1. Offer great benefits.

Making a great wage and salary available is only part of it. Your benefits package is, at this point, almost considered part of the wage. Even for hourly employees, you can offer benefits. Benefits, after all, aren’t only relegated to medical and retirement. They might include:

– Flexible hours and vacation time.
– Gift cards when team or individual milestones are met.
– Free food or beverages in the break room.
– Pay for employee training such as conferences, books, online classes, or part of an employee’s college fees.

Benefits can be the hook that keeps an employee, particularly if they are benefits not easily or comparatively found elsewhere.

2. Have great culture.

There are two kinds of culture at play in your business: internal and external. The first is what your employees experience, and the latter is what your customers see your business as.

Great internal culture is more than just a ping pong table and casual clothes. Not every workplace is well-situated for that modern version on work culture (e.g. your employees may be required to wear uniforms), and not all employees even want that. In fact, many employees actually prefer a more structured and traditional hierarchic order (www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/your-employees-like-hierarchy-no-really.html) where there are levels of management. Each type of business has a different type of culture inherent to its industry.

Whatever culture you have in your place of business, and whatever management structures you have, your internal culture is less about the games and free beer and most importantly about safety, trust, and reliability. Any workplace that makes an employee feel fearful, defensive, or always on edge is one they’ll leave.

External culture matters, to, particularly to millennials who want to work for a company that is doing good things in the world. Employees like to know that they work for a company that stands for something bigger than the job itself.

To make your culture work, you have to communicate to your employees what it is. That will include both practical and abstract concepts such as:

– Benefits: The wage and other benefits that will be given to all employees.
– Expectations: What you expect of everyone on the team, including management.
– Rules: The behavior limitations that make the work environment safe for all. This includes conflict resolution policies.
– Rewards: The possibility of promotion, bonuses, wage increase, and anything that gives a sense that there is a tangible reason to work hard.
– Core Values: The freedoms, value of input, the value of the team, and the reason an employee should stay engaged.

Much of this will be reflected in your employee handbook and, of course, how well you follow-up and actually run your business according to it.

3. Acknowledge great work.

Letting your employees know they’ve done a great job is paramount. They want and need feedback on how they are doing, especially millennials. A generic approach to recognizing a valuable employee, though, isn’t really the greatest approach. Consider customizing that recognition depending upon the situation. The Robert Half blog suggests a few ideas:

– Email the employee, and CC his or her manager.
– Send a written card or note.
– Tell them in person.
– Give a gift, such as a gift card to a local restaurant.
– Throw a small party, even if it’s just in the break room or a get-together after work.
– Return the favor and help them back.

Exceptional work and behavior that goes above and beyond what you expect should see the larger reward, but don’t forget to commend, in some small way, employees who are chugging along and meeting your expectations. Knowing that their work is appreciate is what helps them keep going.

If your employee does well, let her know. If she keeps doing well, provide a tangible reward.

4. Be upfront about the job.

35% of American workers quit in the first six months. When the post-hire reality sets in, it might not be what employees expected. No one advertises a job, it seems, without a little sugar-coating.

When new employees are told to expect a certain culture, a particular manager, specific benefits or set of perks, and then realizes that won’t happen, they are quick to turn to the idea of quitting and cutting their losses before getting in too deep.

Even if you are desperate to hire someone for a position, you must not oversell the position or the culture of the workplace. Ask the potential employee questions that get to the bottom of what they are hoping for from the job. UPS asks potential hires if they are looking for full-time work (they’ll probably be disappointed if they are). Wells Fargo has employees watch real videos of difficult and angry customer transactions so the potential hire can see if they really want the job.

5. Deal with conflicts immediately.

Conflict in your team will decimate your culture and the entire work environment. As mentioned previously, your customers will even get a taste of it and will think of your business as one to avoid because the employees are unpleasant. The truth is simple: a conflict-free business is one both employees and customers want to be at.

Dealing with conflict isn’t easy, but there are a few approaches:

– Learn to identify conflict. Most conflicts start small, with actions that managers might not even notice. Subtle bullying and harassment, such as purposefully ignoring someone or giving them a look, can be the small start of something huge.
– Meet in private. Bring the conflicted employees together in private. Talk in private and slow, deliberate tones. Everything about this meeting is to listen and ascertain what is happening, and to keep things from escalating.
– Help them understand. In the meeting, let each take a turn explaining their point of view. Before the other can speak, they must restate what the other point of view is to the coworker’s satisfaction. This is to help all parties understand what the other is feeling and get past their own complaints.
– Stick with it. No one leaves until their is a resolution. The resolution must be genuine, even if it involves the exit of an employee for good.
– Don’t be afraid of throwing the bad apple. For the sake of the rest of your employees, it is better to get rid of one (or two) who is causing problems than let the rest be spoiled.

There are some leadership personalities that thrive on conflict, but most people don’t. Definitely don’t get the mistaken idea that constant conflict is “good” for the team and encourages creative competitiveness. You’re working a business, not a fight arena.

6. Hire the right people for the right job.

Above all, hire the right people.

Great workers are not the right worker for every job. The best employee will be miserable in a job poorly matched to skills, abilities, and personality.

Why do managers do this?

They mistake skills for talent and interest. They ignore the importance of a person’s attitude and focus on the work they can do. They think lower level jobs are easy and insignificant, sorely missing the point about how important the person working the sales floor directly with customers truly is. Or, that proper training will fix any poor employee-job match. Even worse, they first look to family and friends.

Perhaps the best thing you can do to stave off employees turnover is to make sure you hire the right employee in the first place. While you cannot completely control what happens in an employee’s life and the decisions they’ll make, you can at least make every attempt to make their work situation positive.

Chad Halvorson is the CEO/Founder of When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com.

A guide to creating a company culture that sticks

Developing a clear and consistent company culture is an important ongoing task that every business owner or leadership team must address.

When there is no across-the-board company culture, employees tend to create one of their own. This unwanted environment can often lead to an “every man for himself” type of atmosphere that can undermine company goals, open the door for hostility, and seriously impact how productive and successful a team ends up being in the long run.

A healthy company culture breeds an atmosphere of oneness, where everyone feels valued enough to work together to advance company goals. As a result, employee retention is higher, productivity increases, creative problem solving improves and the organisation’s reputation gains steam. If your company culture is nonexistent or simply not all it should be, take action to create one that sticks. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Think about what you want

Before you can create a stable company culture, be clear about what you want. There are many directions you can take, so it may take some time to come up with an answer. Do you want a stronger focus on innovation? Do you want to emphasize employee development? Is strong leadership important? Take some time to review your vision, mission, and values to see if they align with the company’s strategic goals.

Create a plan of action

Find ways to leverage the positive things in the existing company culture, while fixing areas that do not align with your overall goals. Look at your current policies and practices to see if you should add, eliminate or improve any of them. Also, create a model of the behavior and actions you want others to emulate.

Take it easy

Creating a culture within an organisation is not always easy, especially if there are workers who cling to old value systems and beliefs about how things should be done. If you go in with a heavy-handed approach, employees will push back and things will get messy. If they get too out of hand, workers may quit and throw the company in a bind. Instead of charging in like a race horse straight out the gate, implement policies and procedure changes gradually. This way, nobody gets overwhelmed and everyone will have time to adapt.

Screen before you hire

When you’re in a pinch, it is tempting to hire the first Tom, Jane ,or Harry who comes in with the right credentials. Keep in mind that the outcome of the company culture largely depends on the employees’ behaviors and actions within the organisation. It only takes one person to change the dynamics of a workplace, so never hire someone without considering how his or her personality will affect the current culture.

While experience certainly matters, so does hiring people who fit in with the direction of the organisation. Many managers would prefer to hire someone with less experience, rather than a more experienced person who will jeopardize the morale of the current employees.

Get to know the workers

When you are running a company, the demands on your time never end. For this reason, interacting with employees often falls to the bottom of the list. It’s important, however, to walk the floor and get a sense of how workers feel about the company. How are the new employees acclimating? Are there any tensions present? Is there conflict that needs to be resolved? Staying on top of employee relations can build trust and make workers feel valued. When people feel valued and cared for at work, they push harder to help achieve company goals.

Practice patience

With change comes fear and uncertainty. So not every policy will be received with applause. If you stay positive, respect others’ opinions, and exercise patience, most employees will come around. Creating a company culture is not an overnight task. Depending on the size of the organisation, it could take a few months or ever a year or two to see the fruits of your labor.

Company culture is important because it helps shape the values, attitudes and behaviors of the employees. If the culture is unhealthy or lax, it can cripple an organisation’s growth. When you are clear about your goals, you can improve the dynamics of your company and create a culture that encourages everyone to work together.

Chad Halvorson is the CEO / Founder of When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com.

7 essential tips for hiring the right people

Finding the right employee is almost never easy. You go through seas of resumes, cover letters, and bad follow-up emails until finally a few good applicants seem to stand out. And if they don’t turn out to be completely different in person, it becomes an even harder decision: which person is the right one to hire?

With so many qualified and talented applicants still out there looking for jobs, it may seem like you have the pick of the litter. In reality, not everyone is going to work well with your company—a lesson that many of us have to learn the hard way.

Well it’s not all a guessing game: hiring the right person is often about knowing how to go about the hiring process better. We’ve got seven tips here that are sure to make you a better screener, and help you hire the right person for your next open position.

Hire Where You’re Weak, Not When You’re Weak

While you’re necessarily in a place of need when you hire someone, you don’t have to be in a place of desperation. Rather than waiting until you’re in “do or die” mode to hire someone, analyse where you’re currently weak, and begin to bolster those teams now.

For one, that might help you to analyse internally where people can be shifted to strengthen a team. But if you have someone whom you know isn’t long for their role, then help to make that team stronger while the person is still there, not after they’ve left and there’s no longer room for error or time.

When you’re desperate, you’re judgment is skewed. Don’t put yourself in that position, and you’ll already be a step closer to making a smarter hire.

Ask Better Interview Questions

Those weird questions that you see coming from Google and other big tech companies and just strange for the sake of strangeness. They’re trying to get at deeper issues than “what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment to date?”

Anybody can talk well about themselves given the proper space to. It’s easy for an applicant to put on his or her best face in job interviews, but that doesn’t give anyone an accurate picture of who that person really is—or how they’ll fit into a team.

Instead, you need to learn to ask smarter questions. Try to find out who the person in, how their brain works, how they process challenges and handle collaborations. Try to spark their passions, invoke some emotions, and learn about their story.

A resume can tell you a lot, but good questions can help you answer the questions you really want to know.

Broaden The Interviewer Pool

Everyone wants to have a broad swathe of people to interview, but how about the panel of people they interview? Don’t just have potential candidates interview with you, or the HR people. Have them interview with potential coworkers and direct supervisors.

The truth is, you don’t know exactly how each employee works and thinks, and what people and processes work best for them. So why try to screen people on their behalf? Have each department, or several prominent employees, take a crack at interviewing a candidate—whether or not they’ll directly work together.

That way, you’re getting all of your different personalities’ perspectives on how a candidate may fit into your vision—it leaves room for a much fuller picture.

Don’t Let Appearance Trump Potential

We’ve all seen the messy geniuses. The Mark Zuckerbergs rocking hoodies and jeans. Or how about the hard working single parents who don’t have time to grab a nicer outfit before an interview? They may be disheveled but that doesn’t mean they’re the wrong fit.

If we hold too fast to traditional interview standards, we may lose out on some of the best candidates—the ones that are really hungry to succeed, but may not “have it all together” right now.

Some people simply haven’t had the same chances and training that prepare them for “nailing an interview.” If we only appeal to those people, we miss out.

Privilege Company Culture

There are going to be plenty of people that have the exact same skill set and talent levels, but not everyone is going to be in line with your company culture. Make sure you find a personality that is going to gel well with both employees and customers.

If they’re extremely talented but not even remotely pleasant, then their lack of customer relations abilities may be more of a turnoff than their skills are a bonus.

Always Conduct An Assessment

Always put someone’s skills to the test. If they’re going to make claims, they should put their money where their mouths are. Whether that means a trial run with customers, a skills test, or a problem to solve, assessments are a must-do to try out any candidate.

Sometimes you can even go a step further by bringing them on for a “trial day.” Whatever you can do to see them in action, you should make a point to do it.

Look for the SWAN

And while it might be hard to remember all of these points exactly, you can always remember to look for the SWAN: Someone who’s Smart, Works hard, Ambitious, and Nice.

If you’ve got those four qualities, then you’re sure to have a candidate who’s got the potential to succeed. Then take the time to onboard them well—and don’t be afraid to admit mistakes along the way. If you need to start over, don’t let your team suffer by waiting. The right candidate will come along if you keep looking.

Rob Wormley is Head of Content Marketing at When I Work Follow Author on Twitter. This article appeared on wheniwork.com.

3 questions you should ask when interviewing millennials

Everyone is trying to figure out what Generation Y, more commonly known as the millennial generation, is all about. Admittedly, it can be difficult to get a good read on a generation that’s equal part social media and social causes.

By 2020, millennials will make up 40 percent of the hourly workforce, so now more than ever, it’s essential to have a better understanding of how these hires will contribute to your workplace. During the hiring process, the interview is always the best time to learn about expectations, skills and experience so the right questions can make all the difference. Listed below are a few question you should consider asking millennial candidates to better understand the direction the workforce is going in.

Contrary to popular belief, millennials aren’t all about selfies and what’s in it for them; in fact, millennials are more concerned about the success of the overall team than that of the individual. Once you have a more team-oriented workforce, it’s important your new additions have the same attitude. Asking about their favorite aspect of teamwork can provide more insight into their working style and whether or not they’ll make a good fit on your team.

This is a generation of people who want to make a difference, who want to make a positive impact on the world. Asking this question can give you an idea of how a candidate likes to contribute to their community and connect with others, while cluing you in on what their passions are and how they enjoy spending time outside of work. This question works as the perfect setup to discuss what volunteer opportunities or charities that your business and employees are involved with.

This is a variation on a common interview question that gives you a realistic glimpse into what a millennial will want from a position. Perhaps they want to grow into a managerial position or gain enough experience to move on to another job. Depending on the answer you get, you can always let a candidate know what opportunities are available within your company and lay out the career path it will take to get to that point.

Ready or not, the millennials are coming. Updating certain aspects of your hiring process, including job descriptions and employment application forms, will make sure you find the most qualified members of this generation to join your team and help you achieve success. By the time 2020 rolls around, you’ll be more than ready.

Happy hiring!

This article appeared on wheniwork.com by a guest blogger. 

8 steps you can take to boost employee success at your business

You’ve grown your business to the point where you’re ready to take on staff, you’ve interviewed the best and the brightest, and you’ve added some true rock stars to your team. So now, you can sit back and relax – right?

Of course not! Your staff is an important asset and it requires a lot of investment after the initial hire. Unfortunately, after hiring and training, many business owners and managers think their job is finished. They completely forget that they need to keep up with their employees and help them continue to develop and grow. As a result, they don’t get the revenue, retention, and overall level of success they’re looking for.

To help you avoid these same mistakes, consider the following eight steps you can take this year to boost employee success at your business.

Share the Vision

Having a sense of job significance is an important factor in job satisfaction. When you make it a point to regularly share the vision and direction of your company with your staff, they’ll feel energized and excited about the work ahead. Many times, day-to-day responsibilities can feel like a grind, but a team that knows the purpose and big vision of their department and of the company overall is able to power through and succeed at a high level.

Encourage Job Ownership

To help employees be more successful in their work, encourage them to own their jobs. From your customer service staff to your VPs, help all of your staff members feel that their work is valuable to the company. Help them understand and care about the company as much as you do by involving them in goal setting and empowering them to do their best.

Give Positive Feedback

Too many organisations only give feedback when an employee has made a mistake or can improve. But to help employees succeed, it’s just as important to give positive feedback as well.

In the book “1001 Ways to Recognize Employees,” author Bill Nelson demonstrated that the top two drivers of work performance are the perception of making a difference and being recognized for successful work. Unfortunately, 68% of the employees Nelson spoke with hadn’t even heard “Thank you” in the past six months. If you want your staff to succeed, you need to show your appreciation and give them positive feedback.

Know Your Employees’ Career Ambitions

Having employees should be a win-win for both parties – you should be getting the benefit from their work, and their jobs should be bringing them closer to their professional goals. But the only way you’ll know if this is happening is to ask. Be aware of your staff’s career goals and help them move forward (within your own organisation, if possible). This will keep employees engaged and continually reaching for better results.

Communicate VERY Well

Nothing discourages your staff more than feeling like they’re being lied to or kept out of important business discussions. Owners and managers should communicate consistently and constantly about important changes in the company or work structure. This will help employees feel secure in their positions and keep them committed to the company and their jobs.

Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities

Employees struggle to succeed when they don’t know what standards or expectations they’re being held to. Even within a single project team, results will suffer if nobody knows what his or her specific role is in achieving the overall goals.

Instead, make sure your team members know what their responsibilities are, and align them carefully with their skills and expertise. When everyone is aware of their specific mission, they can focus on their success as an individual and also contribute to the overall success of the company.

Build Team Unity

Everyone loves to focus on their own success, but part of having a great company is team unity – which is why it’s so important to build activities into every month or quarter that help bring the team together. This could be a social time outside of work or a low-key lunch during the week – whatever you and your staff prefer. When people bond on a social and professional level, they’re more energized and excited to tackle their work.

Carefully Listen to Feedback

One way to help employees succeed at your business is to create a company culture they can brag about. This doesn’t have to mean expensive perks – many times, simply listening goes a long way.

While employees know they can expect feedback for their work, they also need to have an avenue to provide feedback to their managers about the team and the business. In order for staff to share their ideas, they need to feel that they won’t be judged or punished for suggesting a new way of doing things. Train your managers and yourself to listen carefully to employees – you’ll be amazed at what new ideas and improvements will be brought forward.

Boosting employee success at your business doesn’t have to involve throwing money around (although few employees will reject your efforts to enhance compensation packages). By taking the eight steps above, you’ll position yourself, your managers and your employees to become more successful than ever in the coming year.

Rob Wormley is the Head of Content Marketing at When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com.

The complete guide to employee development

Ever hear the phrase “if you’re not growing, you’re dying?”. When it comes to our careers, this simple maxim is truer than ever. If we’re not moving forward in our roles as leaders, managers, and individual contributors, it’s impossible to get excited or motivated.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own career advancement, but as a manager, you have to be invested in the career development of employees who report to you. What are their hopes and dreams? What do they hope to accomplish? What skills do they hope to gain before moving up within the company, or before moving on to a new role somewhere else?

It can be difficult to talk candidly about an employee’s career goals, especially if those goals are not achievable within your organisation. Even so, you should strive to take employees as far as they can go. It’s up to you to foster the development of your employees.

In this post, we’ll share everything there is to know about employee development, so you can make sure you’re doing your job as a leader and manager:

Why Develop Employees?

As a manager, you need to work to develop employees, otherwise you’re not doing your job, putting your career at risk.

“The number one reason employees quit their jobs is because of a poor quality relationship with their direct manager,” said Monique Valcour in the Harvard Business Review. “No one wants to work for a boss who doesn’t take an interest in their development, doesn’t help them deepen their skills and learn new ones, and doesn’t validate their contributions.”

Valcour goes on to say that leaders should reward managers that make strides in employee development, and fire those that don’t. Employee development not only results in individual improvement in quality and efficiency,  but it also leads to greater retention and more motivated employees.

“Work groups in which employees report that their supervisor (or someone else at work) cares about them as a person, talks to them about their career progress, encourages their development, and provides opportunities to learn and grow have lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, and better customer loyalty than work groups in which employees report that these developmental elements are scarce,” said Valcour.

Leaders are taking notice of the managers who prioritize employee development. It’s sink or swim– you don’t want to be left behind.

Get on Their Side

If you want to develop your employees, you have to understand them.

How to do this? Ask, and then listen.

We praise listening all the time, but most of us don’t actually do it. Listening is a rare quality, but when it’s done right, it can lead to fantastic results.

As a manager, you need to ask employees for feedback, and deliberately listen to their answers. Ask specific questions about certain projects to learn how they feel:

– How did you feel the collaboration went on our most recent project?
– Is there anything I could’ve done differently to make the process smoother?
– If we do this again, what would you recommend we do differently?
– What aspects of your job do you enjoy most? Are there any areas where you’d like to improve?
– When employees answer with suggestions for how a process could be done better, or frustrations with how something is going, you need to listen carefully. If an employee feels as though they’ve been heard, they’ll know that you’re on their side.

Remember that your job is to help employees help themselves. Micro-management is a real problem, and you need to be carefully to listen carefully, and grant autonomy so that your employees feel that they’re in control of their own destinies.

Work Together to Help Determine Career Goals

In order to excel at developing an employee, you need to work with them to determine their goals, then work towards them.

The Human Resources department at University of California at Berkeley recommends working with your direct report to write an Individual Development Plan, usually known as an IDP. In this model, the manager is responsible for encouraging, supporting, removing obstacles, and providing resources so that the individual can make strides in their professional development.

Here is what the HR department at Berkeley suggests for a plan of action:

– Meet with your direct report to discuss their plan and goals
– Provide feedback on their goals
– Provide suggestions for activities that can help them reach their goals
– Help them set realistic timelines for goal achievement
– Help them troubleshoot potential obstacles
– Schedule meetings to check in and see how they’re doing
– Remain flexible and revise plan as needed
– Whether you use this strategy or not, you should find a way to support employee development in your organisation.

Help Find Strategies and Tools to Reach Goals

Once you and your employee have created an IDP, you need to help them reach the goals they set forward.

Although employees have the best intentions, they often struggle to reach their goals because they are unclear on expectations, lack organisational skills, and have difficulty creating realistic time frames. Software, productivity strategies, and personality assessments can help employees work more efficiently, helping them reach their goals.


Software tools aren’t a catch-all solution, but they can certainly provide help and direction for employees, improving efficiency by making it easy to schedule and collaborate. Here are some tools to consider:

Project management tools like Trello and Basecamp make it easy to plan out projects and coordinate with team members.
Calendars and scheduling software like When I Work, Calendly, and Smartsheet make it easy to create timelines and schedules.

Job-specific software like HubSpot for content marketers and QuickBooks for accountants can increase productivity, especially for small teams.

Productivity Strategies

There are tons of articles on productivity, but you need to find strategies that work well for your employees. Here are some common tactics that can help employees develop and reach their goals:

Deadlines may seem like an old school tactic, but they work! Dan Ariely, best-selling author, swears by deadlines, even if they’re self-imposed.
Daily and weekly routines help ground employees. What tasks need to be done every day? Maybe an employee can spend the last hour of their day or shift doing a certain task, ensuring it gets done in a productive fashion.
Check-ins and meetings help remind an employee that you’re on their side and have their best interests in mind. Make sure to check in on how an employee is doing when it comes to goals and productivity on a weekly basis.

Professional Assessments

Professional assessments may seem hokey, but they’re helpful tools that can help employees better understand themselves. These assessments will also help you understand their motivations so you can better support them. Here are some of my favorite professional assessment tests:

– Myers-Briggs categorizes everyone into 1 of 16 personality types, then gives results to help test takers understand strengths and weaknesses in their personal and professional lives. You and your employees can take the tests for free at http://16personalities.com.
– DiSC personal assessment profiles helps people understand how they interact with others in the workplace so they can improve their communication style to build more productive teams. Learn more at http://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/.
– Other personality tests

Connect Employees to The Company

One of the ways that employees develop and grow is if they feel connected to the company’s initiatives. If they feel that their work is helping the bottomline, driving success, and is valued in the organisation, then they’ll be more motivated. Here’s how to foster that spirit:

Promote internal social networks so that employees feel connected to co-workers, even if they’re in different departments.

Loop employees in on company-wide initiatives so they always feel connected and never feel like they’re out of the inner circle. Your openness will encourage them to be more open.

Find opportunities for cross-collaboration so that employees get exposed to how different aspects of the business work.

Granting Autonomy to Help Employees Develop

Think acting like a helicopter boss will help employees? Think again.

Empowering workers and giving them autonomy reduces employee turnover, according to a study conducted at Cornell University.

The researchers studied 320 companies and found that roughly half granted employees a lot of autonomy and freedom. It turns out that these businesses grew 4x more than those with rigid rules and traditional hierarchical structures.

As a manager, you need to find ways to make your employees feel as though they’re in control. They should be creating their goals, not you. They should have some say over which tools they use and which strategies they employ to get their jobs done.

It pays to give autonomy, so don’t micro-manage.

Employee Development for a Better Organisation

Investing in employee development will reduce turnover, increase motivation, and ultimately make your organisation more productive and efficient. If you follow the tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to developing employees that go on to have fabulous career.

Chad Halvorson is CEO/Founder of When I Work Follow Author on Twitter. This article appeared on wheniwork.

Managerial skills your team leaders need to be successful

Half of employees who quit do so because of a bad boss.

Team leaders aren’t off the hook even if they aren’t the head honcho. Anytime you have people you’re responsible for, you’re the boss whether there are people above you or not.

Team leaders have it rough. They are down in the trenches. They are dealing directly with people in motion and with emotion. They are trying to implement systems and use technology and answer to others higher up the ladder.

It’s like herding cats. Big ones.

When team leaders lack managerial skills, you end up with that employee retention problem, plus disgruntled employees (75% of workers say that their boss is the most stressful and worst part of their job), low productivity,  and a damaged bottom line.

Team leaders, no matter what level they are on or how many people they are leading, need specific managerial skills to avoid these types of problems and, basically, keep the workplace from being miserable.

Team leaders must be able to make decisions.

It seems silly to suggest that being able to decide is a skill, but there are people who struggle to come to any kind of conclusion on any matter. Poor decision makers are easy to identify:

– They overthink things to the point of confusing themselves and anyone around them.
– They get caught up in researching options and delay a decision until it’s too late.
– They are afraid to put their head on the line.
– They procrastinate so that a default decision is made for them.
– They don’t know what is going on and assume subordinates will make decisions for them.
– They make satisfactory decisions instead of optimal decisions, because it rocks the boat less.
– They can’t clarify what they want or are trying to achieve in a situation requiring a decision.
– Not making a decision is its own decision.

A team leader who can’t make any decision is the opposite of a micro-manager, but just as frustrating for employees. Sometimes, when a team leader promotion is made within the team, the new manager doesn’t pick up the mantle of making those higher level decisions and instead continues to focus on the kind of work he or she did before. Because that work is still good, top level managers or the boss fail to recognize the problem and leadership happens by “default.”

To make good decisions, team leaders need:

– Accurate information.
– An understanding of what the optimal end result should look like.
– An ability to create a standard to compare the information with to determine that optimal decision.
– The courage to make the decision, and stand by it.
– When it comes to decision making, team leaders must be out front. Even if you ask your team to comment and participate, the final decision is ultimately the leader’s job. If it’s based on good information and on carefully considered reasoning, justifying decisions to those who question them should not be terrifying.

Team leaders need great communication skills.

A work environment lives and dies on communication. We all like to think we’re master communicators, but that’s actually pretty far from the truth.

Great communication is multi-pronged. You have to be able to both communicate what you want done clearly, and also be able to listen to what others are telling you. One feeds the other. That cycle looks like this:

Know when to listen. When emotions are high, you’re leading a team collaborative effort, or employees are sharing ideas with you, great communication is about listening.
Know when to facilitate. When team conversation is happening, the leader can aid communication by simply finding a way to keep that conversation on track and plugging those ideas into the topic at hand. If conversation wanes, the leader prompts it to get going again.
Know when to speak. When there is clear confusion, a need for efficiency, or employees don’t know what to do and are asking for direction, it is time to speak.

Communication is about knowing when to speak and when to be quiet. There are moments when it is top-down, but much of the time communication is not about hierarchy. Too much of a top-down approach where you constantly give orders can create a team that is unable to do anything without you telling them what to do first.

Team leaders should be able to motivate others, and stay motivated.

Team leaders have to be able to motivate their team, and they have to be motivated themselves.

Motivation is a better predictor of success than intelligence, ability, or even salary. And yet, too many leaders don’t know how to motivate those they are trying to lead.

Stop bribing your team. Handing out rewards might work in the short term, but after a while, people are only motivated to get rewards, not do the work. When rewards are gone, so is the motivation to work. Rewards have their place, but they can’t be your go-to tool to get daily and necessary work done.
Get your team to feel something. Whether it’s passion, purpose, excitement, a shared story, or cohesiveness, motivation that stems from such things is permanent compared to bribes. If employees are negative, deal with the issue. How they feel about work and each other affects motivation.
Show their progress. Not all people are motivated by results, but most are. And if you can show your team how they are making progress, that in itself is a motivation to keep going and do better. If our work seems to have no purpose or value, we lose the motivation to do it.

Great workers are mostly motivated by a sense of purpose and autonomy (http://time.com/53748/how-to-motivate-people-4-steps-backed-by-science/).

Team leaders should be able to spot areas needing improvement.

Team leaders who manage by default are basically punching their time card and doing little else. They make sure the required boxes get checked and don’t stop to ask if there are areas where things could be improved.

Are your team leaders able to think beyond the current system or way of doing things, or do they revert to “that’s how we do things here”? And not only do your team leaders need to be able to spot what could use some fixing, but they are also able to determine what would help.

Communication. What are team members telling you is a problem?
Translation. Are you able to hear a team member talk about a problem and discern if there’s a different underlying issue at work?
Measurement. Are you actively measuring benchmarks and tracking to see if they’re being met?
Observation. Are you able to pick up, by observation, a problem that seems to keep happening and a pattern or situation it tends to occur in?

Team leaders are busy, and it can be easy to just settle into the routine and not rock the boat by digging to find areas where things aren’t working. Still, those problem areas can sometimes grow quietly and create a monster that’s difficult to deal with down the road.

Team leaders should know which type of leader they are.

Team leaders probably fall into at least one (maybe more) of three types of managerial approaches:

1. Technical. This leader is skilled at not only the machines or devices required in their job, but also at understanding the numbers and measurements that define how well things are going.
2. Conceptual. This leader is able to understand abstract concepts. They are the big-picture people who see more than data or individual situations, but can find a pattern and identify something larger at work.
3. Interpersonal. This leader is good at working with people, understanding their motivations and able to spur them on in the right direction.

Ideally, team leaders would have a bit of all three and be well-balanced. If there is a weak area, team leaders can either work to improve those skills, or partner with another leader or team member to help.

The key here is to be able to do a self assessment and be honest about strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a team leader and aren’t a people person, acknowledge it and find a way to either fix that or create a system with an intermediary to help in that area.

Team leaders should be able to see good work and give credit for it.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil, the saying goes, and that tends to mean that the problems get all the attention.

When an employee does excellent work, it’s easy for leaders to miss seeing it. After all, great work is what they want and when it happens, it feels like that’s supposed to be the norm, not the exception.

If a leader’s attention is so devoted to seeing and dealing with problems, they forget to acknowledge great work and the employee who did it. 37% of employees say that their boss doesn’t give them credit even when it’s clear they deserve it.

Team leaders need to recognize good work, and then recognize the team members who did it.

Team leaders should have an eye for delegation without being afraid to work.

Workers get pretty frustrated when their team leader is quick to delegate all the work to employees and doesn’t do anything themselves. That’s the boss that farms out all the work and spends the day shopping on Amazon in his office.

On the flip side, a manager that tries to do everything without letting employees flex their work muscles doesn’t work, either. The former is a “do as I say, not as I do” problem, while the latter makes employees feel like they aren’t trusted to do any serious work.

In an ideal world, managers know employees well enough to know what kind of work they excel at, and are then able to delegate tasks or jobs to those best suited. This isn’t an ideal world, of course, but there is still a game plan for delegation:

1. Know your team. By observation and talking to them, know what they do best. Know what type of work they have strengths in.
2. Break up larger jobs. Delegation often means being able to break up a large job into manageable tasks. Team leaders should be able to dissect those big jobs and know how to break them up into smaller tasks that will lead to success both for those undertaking the work and for the final project result.
3. Train someone if necessary. Delegation is the doorway to learning new skills. It’s time consuming at first, but training a team member to do something now means delegating it in the future is going to be easy.

Delegation is difficult for people who are perfectionists. They can’t imagine anyone could do it better than they could, or decided it would be easier to do it themselves rather than train someone to do it. Remember the issue of motivation? Refusing to let your team members do work simply because you won’t delegate is demotivating.

Team leaders should be able to make good use of time.

It’s not enough to simply manage employees or equipment. Team leaders need to manage time.

For some people, this comes naturally. They are naturally organized, disciplined with their to-do list, and are able to triage as far as what needs doing now and what can be put off for later. If you’re not among the lucky ones that finds this easy, there are some things you can do to improve:

1. Make a top-down list. Start each day with a list where the first items must be done and the last items could be done. This is triage.
2. Decide who will do what. On that top-down list, decide which team member is best suited for the job, or if the group needs to discuss it.
3. Break tasks up into type. For the items on the list that are yours to do, break them up into type. For example, some items might be office tasks, and others might happen on the sales floor. If you start your day clearing your desk, and end it out on the floor, knowing what tasks happen where helps.

If, as a team leader, you can’t manage your time well, the negative effects trickle down to your team. Efficiency and productivity depend on how well a team leader manages their time and is an example to the rest of the team.

Rob Wormley is the Head of Content Marketing at When I Work. This article appeared on wheniwork.com

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