Influencing people at work

The power of persuasion: building influence in the workplace

Have you ever wondered how some people seem to be able to persuade others to do anything? It can be awe inspiring to see this particular skill at work, but there are simple techniques that you can apply that will help you to build influence quite easily. Certainly some seem to have innate ability in this area, but there are plenty of influencers out there who have had to work on their powers of persuasion.

Here are some quick tips on how to build influence in your workplace: …

Making teams work like legendary Basketball Coach Pat Summitt

Sadly, Pat Summitt passed away in June 2016 after a courageous battle with early-onset Alzheimer’s. After 38 years as a successful basketball coach, she leaves behind a legacy of creating winning teams.

Under her leadership, the Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball team never had a losing season. Pat Summitt accrued over 1098 career wins, the most in the history of National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball. Sporting News placed her at number 11 on a list of the 50 Greatest Coaches of All Time in all sports. Pat was the only woman on the list.

Pat Summitt elicited a consistently high performance from her team under pressure, the kind that all leaders – in sports or business – crave. She created success in a sport where teamwork is paramount, and her team had the greatest respect for her.

So, what lessons in leadership and team building can managers take from this winning coach? …

3 Ways to Keep your Workforce Motivated in Times of Change and Uncertainty

All business have to be flexible to survive the constant flux going on in and around them. We all know that change and uncertainty are inevitable on some level, but what is the best way to handle them?

Some people enjoy a constantly evolving work environment, however not all employees – or leaders – share the same level of enthusiasm.

For some employees uncertainty is their worst nightmare: Routine goes out of the window, jobs can look insecure, familiar faces might be replaced, they might have to work remotely and as a result of countless similar factors, some employees are left feeling lost at sea without a captain.

So, as a business owner, leader or manager, what do you need to do to successfully steer your crew through turbulent times? …

Virtual Teams Part 2: A Workable Approach to Managing Remote Staff

Do you have a strategy for managing virtual teams?

The trends, motivations and statistics behind the rise in remote working in our previous blog highlighted why thinking about remote working is an important business consideration. In addition, we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic.

As a manager, you will therefore be faced with the challenges that come with managing telecommuting workers and teams. Finding a starting point to a workable management strategy in this context can be daunting.

Working from home – even some of the time – is not naturally suited to everyone. It requires discipline and organisation. Employees working remotely have to be happy in their own company, able to use their own initiative, prioritise and be fully aware of their abilities and limitations. Having the right personality is a prerogative to remaining motivated and being successful in those circumstances.

How to hire for remote working

Remote working has vastly expanded the talent pool as geographical considerations can now be bridged more easily with the use of technology. Consequently, you might  have to sift through more applicants than ever to find the right person for the job, and face-to-face interviews might not be possible. A reliable, efficient and robust process for both internal and external recruitment is therefore essential to ensure that what a job candidate can offer matches the required job profile.

Workforce analytics tools can provide objective and reliable insights into whether a candidate’s workplace behaviour and needs will match the requirements of the position that they are applying for. They also give you a better idea on whether this person is likely to struggle with or strive on remote working. Do they really have the right personality to handle the challenges that come with teleworking?

This additional scientifically-based knowledge complements the information gleaned from a traditional CV and the interview process.  It helps you to form a more holistic picture of the person that your are planning to employ and ensures that this person is right for the job. This minimises any performance-related challenges later on.

Trust is key

The relationship between you as a manager and the members of your team has a huge bearing on their motivation and their loyalty to the company. Engagement is a strong contributor to staff retention rates. Some research suggests that 23% of UK employees either disagree or strongly disagree that their management helps to create a positive work environment. That means that nearly one quarter of our workforce might be unhappy with those in charge.

Managing your team successfully at all times can be tricky, but it becomes even more challenging when your team members are spread out geographically. It can feel like you are shouldering a huge responsibility.

So, how do you know whether you can trust your remote team members to prioritise effectively, adhere to long-term goals, to keep you informed of their progress and concerns, and to remain engaged? How can you effectively manage individual remote workers and your team as a whole?

You have to really know your people!

Your team members have to know themselves, their strengths and potential challenges. Above all, you, as their manager, have to know them individually. This is true for all leadership situations, but even more so when there is less opportunity for personal contact.

Again, behavioural assessments can be a good starting point. They provide you with an understanding of your team members’ behavioural characteristics and their motivational needs. This is vital to you being able to support them effectively and to create a well-functioning, connected remote team. Having an objective and solid understanding of the likely workplace behaviours of your remote employees’ removes some of the guesswork.

Where possible, this should be complemented by the trust built on your past experience with that person and their reliability. Are you confident that you have – and follow – common goals, and that your people have the necessary skills and abilities to be successful in their job – wherever they are based.

Equally, teleworkers have to trust that their managers possess the right leadership skills to support them, set achievable goals and create collaborative and high-performing teams. They also have to feel able to rely on their managers to provide constructive and timely back-up if they run into difficulties. Identifying and meeting training and coaching needs also supports building mutual trust.

Data from the State of Remote Work Report suggests that 23% of remote workers are concerned that remote bias could hinder their career progression. 23% also work put in extra hours to meet unrealistic expectation. When assistance for a particular task is needed or a serious issue arises, they need to know that they will receive the necessary support.

Remote workers can quickly feel isolated, and somewhat forgotten. This feeling can negatively impact their attitude towards their work and their employer, and you might risk losing them. Regular check-ins, inclusions in team-meetings and a timely and immediate response for assurance and support is needed. That is if the problem has been communicated to you in the first place of course!

Not surprisingly, effective communication is essential

I have already mentioned the need for a robust recruitment process, trusting and knowing your people to minimise potential problems before enabling employees to telecommute. Once remote working commences, structured communication is essential to prevent your employees from feeling isolated.

As a blog on the Entrepreneur website highlights, targeted investment in technology will help your remote team members feel connected with you and each other. Software and equipment enabling online webcam-based conversations over laptops and mobile phones is a must for all team members. The ability to file share with anyone, anywhere is paramount.

However, it is your responsibility as a manager to facilitate and encourage the effective use of these communication tools. Routine check-ins with you and remote collaboration amongst the rest of the team have to be managed and scheduled. For part-time telecommuters, regular face-to-face updates are equally important to avoid them feeling disconnected and uninformed.

For entirely remote teams, the impact of personal meetings for team-building and to align business goals should not be underestimated. Regular sessions, where all members of the team – remote or office-based – gather in person will help team collaboration and overall engagement.

So, what about a shared strategy?

Both parties, management and team members, have to know exactly what is expected of them and what they expect from each other. Everyone must know what their exact role entails and where the boundaries are.  In order to achieve any goals and to be productive, the team must know which path to follow to get there and be supported appropriately along the way.

It is the managers’ role to provide clearly-defined and unambiguous direction. A clear common strategy including shared values, guidelines for interaction, and some well-communicated ground rules is necessary. Something resembling a team charter which should allow for some input from the team and which should then be adopted by everyone. This might include the following considerations:

  • What are the common goals and how will you get there?
  • How do they fit within the company strategy?
  • Definition of all tasks and roles and how they will be apportioned
  • How to ensure consistency by detailing any processes and procedures that are always to be followed, i.e. a structured workflow
  • Managing deadlines
  • What constitutes acceptable behaviour in relation to
    • Working hours and business days
    • Communication performance such as full and timely replies to emails, voicemails, deadlines and attending team meetings
  • Explanation of channels of communications and their use
  • How decisions are made, how the team can influence them and how consensus is created
  • Contingency planning – what is the process when things go wrong?

With many businesses enabling remote working or moving toward a virtual working environment, attracting and retaining the right talent has become even more complex. Managing remote teams – who can be in different time zones and mainly communicate electronically, but rarely in person – presents unique challenges which require a fresh management strategy.  The above can by no means claim to be an exhaustive list, but it hopefully serves as a useful starting point for your approach to managing your virtual teams.

What are your experiences with managing remote workers? We would love to hear from you.

Do You Have a Strategy for Managing Virtual Teams? Part 1

Part 1: Why is thinking about remote working important?

This first section of this two-part blog highlights reasons why it is useful for your business to think about your approach to remote working now.  Next week’s blog will ponder some considerations that might serve as a starting point for your management strategy for remote working.

Are you a small company and feel that the scenario of employees working remotely doesn’t really apply? Do discussions on finding suitable technology or strategies for this context never quite get to the top of your agenda? Do you have a strategy in place, but it is not quite working? The following statistics, trends and motivations behind remote working might help to focus your mind…

An analysis of the survey issued by the Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reveals that the number of people working from home increased to more than four million employees. This equates to 13.7% of the entire workforce of the UK. Put more simply, the number of people working from home has increased to almost one in seven over the past decade. The survey also estimates that, given the opportunity, a further 1.8 million people would prefer to work from home.

These figures and trends are increasing steadily. They signify huge changes in the composition and attitudes of any workforce and are bound to ask probing questions of traditional management strategies.

Your workforce is your biggest asset and also likely to be your biggest expense. So, is your business ready? Do you have a strategy for managing remote teams?

Cisco conducted research amongst around 1400 professionals between the ages of 18 and 30 and 1500 professionals aged 31 to 50. The findings make interesting reading for employers.

Roughly two thirds of these professionals, believe that an organisation offering flexible working hours – as well as mobile and remote working practices – has a competitive advantage over a company that expects employees to work regular hours Monday to Friday. This is certainly something to bear in mind when you’re building your employer brand.

Where to start with devising a successful strategy to manage virtual teams? A good starting point is to try and understand the motivations and trends behind this rise in popularity of remote working.

So, how can this changing mindset among employees and companies be explained?

Here are a few thoughts:

The development and changing status of technology

A few facts: A third of the professionals in the Cisco study would give up electricity in their homes for a week before giving up their mobile phones. Half of the younger group of professionals look at their mobile phones immediately when waking up to catch up with social media and their emails. We do expect to be able to do our shopping online at any time of day, wherever we are. The largest proportion of the respondents believe that by 2020 the most important connected device for any worker will be their smartphone.

This need for – and expectation of – round-the-clock connectivity is becoming deeply engrained in our mindsets. It is therefore not surprising that this need also translates into how we approach our working lives. We have become technology savvy and dependent.

Technological change has taken huge leaps and is the greatest enabler for employees to work remotely. This has also vastly expanded the talent pool as geographical differences now have less bearing. Email is now a universally acceptable replacement for communication in person via phone or physical meetings.

In addition, the development of communication tools such as online meeting and presentation software make it possible to retain a personal touch without the need to meet in person. These tools are instant ways for you to communicate remotely with your clients, but also with your colleagues and team members.

Cloud-storage solutions that are both cost-effective and readily-available make it possible for information to be shared and accessed anywhere with anyone at any time. The need for office-based infrastructure or technical support is likely to decline proportionally.

Productivity and efficiency

Companies and employees working from home generally agree that productivity improves through remote working. Data from SurePayroll suggests that two-thirds of managers acknowledge that the overall productivity of employees increased once they started working from home.

This is put down to there being fewer distractions from chatting with colleagues, impromptu meetings and telephone calls. A work schedule with fewer interruptions can have a positive impact on efficiency. A considerable proportion of telecommuters say that they are able to accomplish more in less time.

Less stress and more engagement

The journey to work by car, train or bus can be a stressful and time-consuming affair. The freedom to devise your own work schedule can be liberating. A large proportion of remote workers report a drop in their stress levels. This has a direct and positive impact on staff turnover and thereby staff expenditure.

It might seem illogical, but a study by Harvard Business Review has shown that remote workers often feel more engaged with their colleagues and line managers; in spite of a lack of actual personal contact. This can largely be attributed to the vast number of technological tools at their disposal to stay connected.

In addition, we can all relate to a busy workday in the office when planned sessions to check-in with colleagues and supervisors are postponed because there just never seems to be the time. Working from home, the contact with your team and managers is simply essential – a lifeline. Scheduled catch-up session are therefore more likely to happen and are often more focused.

Lower overheads and carbon footprint

It is easy to see that the cost of overheads is likely to decrease with an increase in remote working. The bill for operating costs such as the rent for office space should reduce considerably.

A further incentive to facilitate remote working is the positive impact on the carbon footprint. Social responsibility is an important consideration for many companies. A reduction of the annual fuel consumption and the need for travel helps companies to become greener.

The list goes on, but hopefully, this section provided you with useful insights into the developing trends, motivation and statistic behind remote working.

These trends and considerations make a positive case for remote working – at least for disciplined workers. There are undoubtedly challenges that come with allowing employees to work remotely, even part-time, or outsourcing work to remote workers. It creates a new virtual work environment that requires a new approach to team management. This can be a scary prospect!

Next week’s sequel will offer some ideas and considerations for finding effective ways to manage virtual teams.

The Link Between Employee Wellbeing, Engagement and Absence

n 2015, statistics from CIPD told us that employee absence had risen to 6.9 days per employee per year on average in the UK, and only 25% of organisations achieved their absence target for 2014.

Unsurprisingly, the working world is now desperately trying to find out how to address this because of the huge impact that absenteeism has on productivity.

The Labour Force Survey results show that approximately 10 million days were lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2014/2015,
and statistics show that these figures are worsening year on year. Stress at work, leading to long-term absence, has more than doubled since the 1990s, yet only a third of employees receive any support to manage workplace stress.

This is bad news for business. Many organisations are now turning to wellbeing programs in an attempt to combat the ever worsening stress levels, but it has been suggested that for some companies, this is simply a move to tick a box as opposed to a reaction to genuine concern or understanding. The CIPD suggests that the majority of employers are more reactive than proactive in their approach to wellbeing (61 per cent), responding to
persistent problems rather than predicting what health and wellbeing factors might impact the workforce in future.

It would appear that employers now grasp the concept of engagement, but for some reason don’t fully comprehend the intrinsic link that exists between engagement and wellbeing.  Simply put, the healthier and happier an employee is, the more engaged they are: Paul Devoy, head of IiP, said: “Organisations need to see staff health and well-being as crucial to their business and staff retention.” He added: “Happier staff are less likely to take time off sick.”

It is saddening that in most cases, employee wellbeing only becomes an issue because it affects business. Let’s go back to the Labour Force Survey results, which show approximately 10 million days lost to stress, anxiety or depression in 2014/2015.

Over this period, there were 440, 000 cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety. What on earth are we doing to our employees?
Here’s a one-word glimpse into the reality of the current state of our workforce: Leaveism. The term has only recently been coined, but the phenomenon has existed for quite a while: ‘Leaveism is when employees use allocated time off – such as annual leave entitlements, banked
flexi-hours and re-rostered rest days – when they are in fact unwell.’

Research has found that 76 per cent of employees who have practised leaveism have done so to avoid being labelled as ‘poor performers’, or because they don’t want to be viewed as being unable to cope with their workload. This ultimately means that a large amount of sickness absence is going underreported, and is distorting both the incidence of sickness in the workplace and worryingly, the ability to fully get to grips with employee wellbeing.

You might be asking yourself ‘Why would anyone do that?’…If you’re asking that question, you have probably not worked in an organisation that has a ‘quota of sickness’ which if exceeded supposedly reflects poor performance. Speaking from experience (happily a good few companies ago), taking annual leave rather than sickness leave makes a lot of sense when you are worried about being hauled into an office and grilled about your performance and commitment.

It seems that some companies fail to realise that by creating extra stress around health issues in the workplace, they are only going to create a vicious cycle of illness and absenteeism. “Organisations which fail to implement health and wellbeing policies – despite being aware of their importance – are putting employee and business health at risk” the CIPD has warned.

This is a clear message. While the business impact should of course be taken into account, we need to recognise that this is about a deep-rooted wellbeing problem. As with most issues, one way to address the situation surrounding employee wellbeing is to start with communication. Go to the root of the problem.

We need to find out what individuals in the workforce really need from their roles and employers in order to stay
healthy and motivated, rather than throwing systems at them and asking them why they aren’t happy yet. Unfortunately, there is probably no one-size-fits-all resolution at this point, but understanding individual needs and issues is surely a starting point. Let’s not
forget that our workforces are built from complex human beings.

In Memory of Mike Wood

734561_553052868057961_1683825995_nIt is with great sadness that we share the news that Mike Wood, the Vice-President of Predictive Advantage, has passed away on Wednesday, 30 March 2016, after a long battle with cancer.

 

Mike joined the business in 2004 when the office in Harrogate opened and was key in establishing this. He was instrumental in building the administrative team and in driving the growth of the business throughout Europe.

Mike fought his illness with an amazing spirit, continuing to be involved in the business and remaining strong and positive throughout his treatment. He was a warm, caring and supportive leader and will be truly missed by everybody.

The office will be closed on Friday 8th April 2016 so the team can attend Mike

Positive and Negative: The Power of Mindset in the Workplace

Have you ever considered the incredible effects of mindsets on the ways in which our brains operate? Recent research is quite fascinating; in short, we can apparently change the way our brains work on a physical level, simply by altering the things that we think and talk about! On one level, this is amazing, because simply by practicing gratitude, we can rewire our brains for positivity.

On another, it is quite alarming: We all know how easy it is to slip into a cycle of negative thinking, and according to some researchers complaining could actually be killing you through the stress you generate. Worrying, right?

Even if you think that this sounds a little far-fetched, there are some important things that we can take away from the research. One particular aspect that struck me, and one that psychologists agree on, is that negativity breeds negativity, both in yourself and others. If this is the case, how does it translate to the workplace?

Morale and Engagement

Whilst a whingeing session with colleagues may feel cathartic, it

Diversity and personality in the workplace

Diversity + Personality: The Formula for High Performing Teams?

We live in a global and multifaceted society. A fact that is not only mirrored, but often actively encouraged in a business environment. Undoubtedly, your teams will be made up of people from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Managers generally strive to gain a team with individual thinking, innovative spirit, high productivity and more open-mindedness from this approach. This is based on the recognition that every person is unique. Our points of reference are shaped by external factors such as our demographics, experienced parenting styles and educational opportunities. These in turn influence the way we think and feel; they present the variables in our make-up.

Researchers generally agree that a team pooling a broad scope of perspectives, experiences and attitudes is better equipped to tackle complex problems and successfully meet challenges. In his book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, the social scientist Scott E. Page argues that