Conducting successful 360-Degree Feedback

When used correctly multi source assessment, or 360-degree feedback, is a most useful personal development tool that can be used not just for personal development but also for talent and performance management in a positive sense.  If it is not undertaken independently and confidentially, the process can result in a destructive situation from which it can take some time to recover.

Multi source assessments, 360 degree feedback as the process is more often called, are where feedback is sought by an individual from themselves, his/her peers, customers, stakeholders, superiors and subordinates or any combination. The assessee must always be one of the respondents because their opinion of themselves is at the very heart of the assessment.

Multi-source assessment is a very sensitive activity that touches people to the very core of their personality. As such, it should be completed sensitively and empathically.

In our experience  of conducting multi source assessment for our clients, these are some of the factors that have resulted in a successful outcome.

CULTURE

Organisations that have used multi source assessment successfully have a positive culture, where openness and trust is a given and honest feedback is part of a constructive continuous improvement strategy, in terms of both the organisation and the individual.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Multi Source assessment is best undertaken in a situation where confidentiality can be guaranteed and maintained. The main reason that organisations have come to us to conduct their 360 feedback is that we can provide an external, impartial and anonymous service. This encourages candid responses from all participants.

QUESTIONNAIRE

The questionnaire itself is a major factor in the success of the multi source assessment process. It’s vital that the questions are written in a clear manor, with no element of ambiguity at all. It’s always helpful to include open ended comments, as these often provide excellent insight into the reason for the answers given as well as giving the participant a chance to add their own views. We would recommend that these are optional though, as having to make personal comments can make some people feel uncomfortable.

COMMUNICATION

Organisations should have a clear communication strategy for disseminating the purpose aims and intentions of the multi source assessment project. Crucially, when considering the process, organisations should make sure they have buy-in from all the participants involved before the process is started. We often conduct assessments from the top down, with the senior leadership team undergoing 360 reviews first then rolling out the process to middle managers. This shows everyone in the organisation that the leadership team are leading by example.

SUPPORT

Be supportive of individuals post assessment. Give the assesse time to digest and accept the feedback and ensure they have the opportunity to discuss it in confidence at a time and place to suit them. There may some difficult aspects, but focus on opportunities for the assessee to develop and improve their skills, behaviours and working relationships. Assessees should be able to agree a personal, needs led development plan as a result of the process.

Finally, here are a few ‘Don’ts’ which should go without saying every time…

  • Don’t conduct a 360 for anyone who isn’t fully on-board
  • Don’t link the outcome of the process to merit, pay or reward
  • Don’t use any negative feedback punitively towards the assesse
  • Don’t use the 360 process in isolation, without follow up actions or post-assessment support
  • Don’t compromise confidentiality
  • Don’t produce excessively long, wordy outcome reports that lack clarity

Find out more…

INSPIRING offers a huge range of options when it comes to feedback, from a full 360-degree assessment to a more focused approach. This enables you to choose the option that is best for your business needs, helping you to get the feedback you require. Call us on 0800 612 3098 or email info@inspiring.uk.com for more information.

Want to increase productivity? An Employee Engagement Strategy is a good place to start.

Businesses with an effective employee engagement strategy will be rewarded with greater levels of innovation; increased commitment from employees and, ultimately, better productivity that will impact directly on business performance.

Examples of positive employee engagement practices include:

  • Shared decision-making
  • The opportunity for all people to influence the planning process
  • A robust approach to communicating
  • An open flow of information
  • The development of effective leaders and managers

For this article we thought we would focus a bit more on the people aspect and look at how workplace behaviours and relationships impact on employee engagement levels, which in turn affect the productivity of your team. Here are some of our thoughts on the fundamentals that lie behind a great employee engagement strategy.

Reciprocity

At the heart of the employment relationship is reciprocity. If employees believe that they are supported by their employer (and their line manager) in getting what they want out of work beyond just money, they will respond with positive behaviour.

The right person for the right job

Creating a fit between the needs of the role and the needs of the individual person will help to build a culture which is driven by supportive behaviours that are good for performance and productivity.

Competence & Capability

Make sure that managers have a good understanding of what their team members’ individual competencies and capabilities are. Giving individuals the opportunity to use their skills to the best of their ability will give them great satisfaction whilst the business will gain value by making the lost of them.

Encourage Self-determination

Enable your people to make decisions for themselves at a level appropriate to their role and responsibilities.  Allow individuals to initiate and regulate their own actions whilst ensuring line managers step up to their role of supporting their team members.  It’s about creating a good level of trust within your business, i.e. does the manager trust the team member to do the job?  Does the team member feel trusted?

Impact

Make sure that your people understand the impact they have on business performance as a whole.  At all levels they should be able to describe the contribution they make and the important part they play in the success of the organisation.

 

If you’ve recently started to develop your employee engagement strategy or are looking to revive your existing one the main thing to remember is that it doesn’t need to involve expensive investment or developing a whole new set of policies and procedures. It does however need wholehearted support from your Leadership Team through their leadership and strategic vision, and the active buy-in of effective line managers.

At INSPIRING, we’ve helped thousands of organisations with Employee Engagement issues over the last 15 years and we’d be happy to share our experience with you.

Call us on 0800 612 3098 to find out more or email info@inspiring.uk.com or get in touch using the form.

4 ways to encourage better teamwork in your business

In a teamwork culture, team members work collaboratively to further their team’s objectives, perhaps even placing these objectives ahead of their own individual goals. Organisations where employees work alone or in silos will arguably become less productive over time compared to organisations that encourage teamwork.

The message should come from the top, with your Senior leadership team communicating the clear expectation that teamwork and collaboration are expected. However, there are some key issues which should be dealt with as a team leader or line manager, in order to maintain a positive teamwork culture. We’ve highlighted 4 ways that you can encourage better teamwork, based on both our experience of working with organisations on their employee engagement and leadership development strategies and by looking at trends within the employee surveys that we’ve conducted for our clients.

Leaders are only as good as their teams (and vice versa!)

As a leader or manager, you are setting the tone for the rest of the employees in the workplace and your positive attitude and energy will help to motivate and inspire your team. There is lots of good advice out there on how to be a good team leader but I’ll highlight a couple of issues that often come up in our clients’ survey results.

  1. Try to adopt a coaching approach rather than a ‘do as I do’ attitude, allowing team members to demonstrate what they can do without constant interference. Giving clear instruction without micro-managing will prove to your team members that you believe in their abilities and efforts.
  2. Consistency is key when it comes to managing your team. It’s impossible to build trust amongst your team is there’s perceived favouritism. Make sure team members feel they are treated fairly and equally, and take care not to exclude anyone from group decisions or activities. It seems obvious, but conduct team meetings on a regular basis and allow your team members the opportunity to volunteer or get involved with special projects or tasks.

Encourage open communication

Encouraging a culture of open communication will help develop great teamwork and will undoubtedly have a positive on your team’s overall performance. Communication is often an area which scores poorly in the Employee Surveys we conduct. In our experience, many employees often feel that they aren’t being listened to, whether it’s by their immediate managers or the senior leadership team. Your team should be confident in sharing their ideas, points of view, and feelings and not be afraid of doing so.

Let employees know their contribution is valued by introducing rewards for feedback and suggestions. Encouraging contributions from teams rather than individuals will help get team members working together more closely so make sure you offer rewards for collaborative efforts as much as recognising individual contributions and achievements.

Define and share responsibilities

The more clearly you define your team members’ roles and responsibilities, the more effectively they can meet expectations. The team as a whole, as well as individual team members, must have clearly defined responsibilities and objectives in order to focus their efforts. Your team should be encouraged to recognise each other’s role on the team, helping one another when needed. No one completely owns a work area or process all by themselves. As a manager, make sure your team members have opportunities to cross-train others in the team so that the team’s contribution to the business and service to customers is reliable and consistent. This inspirational quote sums up the point perfectly: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” (Phil Jackson)

Resolve Conflicts

You spend many hours of your life at work, so getting along with your colleagues is very important. Conflict and ‘politics’ amongst team members is a major cause of stress at work. For example, our clients surveys have revealed instances such as team members arguing in public, others giving each other the silent treatment and where one person was left to do all the work while their team members allegedly ‘slacked off’. As a manager or team leader you’ll need to make sure that any tension is resolved as quickly as possible to prevent long-term damage to your team dynamic. Put in place a clear process for employees to raise and resolve issues, so they know they are being listened to, taken seriously and that issues will be dealt with fairly. Teams which include people that do not get along with one another will quickly collapse, become inefficient and unproductive.

 

Team up with INSPIRING…

At INSPIRING, we’ve helped thousands of organisations with Employee Engagement issues over the last 15 years and we’d be happy to share our experience with you. We are also an approved CMI centre providing leadership and management training at different levels with the option of CMI qualifications.

Call us on 0800 612 3098 to find out more or email info@inspiring.uk.com or get in touch using the form.

Could 360 degree feedback help rejuvenate your workforce?

If you’re thinking about running a 360 degree feedback exercise, you may find our objective look at the pitfalls and advantages of 360 degree feedback useful in deciding if it could help rejuvenate your workforce.

Three Common Pitfalls of 360 Degree Feedback

1. 360 degree feedback is a very sensitive activity that touches people to the very core of their personality and it should be completed sensitively and empathically. If the purpose, methodology or understanding of multi-source assessment is misunderstood, it can result in a destructive situation from which it can take years to recover.

2. 360 degree feedback should never be linked to merit, pay or reward. Under ideal circumstances multi-source feedback is used as an assessment for personal development rather than evaluation. Certainly, the results should never be used as a way to punish the individual in any way.

3. Some would agree that 360 degree feedback can take people outside of their comfort zones and result in some difficult conversations. People may be afraid to give honest answers, perhaps in fear of lack of anonymity or they’ve been encouraged to collude with others respondents to give false opinions.

 

Three Advantages of 360 Degree Feedback 

1. In some cases, 360 degree feedback can be used to reduce tension, for example, if an employee is having difficulties with their manager or there is a perceived ‘personality clash’, the end results averaged and weighted by feedback from others could offset or diminish potential personal misjudgements.

2. The 360 degree feedback process is a good way of improving communication within your organisation and can be a useful tool in the run up to a company restructure and to help implement change. The process can help break down barriers between areas in the company and create a culture of openness and trust.

3. Different people often have vastly different views of who we are. To know what we look like in another’s eyes provides a strong enabler for personal development and growth. Being able to gather and analyse the perceptions of colleagues, not just those we report to, can be extremely powerful in helping us understand how our actions play out from many points of view, other than our own.

 

Tips for success

  • Have a clear communication strategy for disseminating the purpose aims and intentions of the assessment
  • Develop an unambiguous questionnaire which includes open ended comments
  • Have a properly constructed competency framework and link this to your organisational goals and values
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • View criticism positively and as an opportunity of personal development
  • Have a plan of support and development in place for candidates following the assessment.
  • Provide clear, consistent and easily understood results reports.

 

If you would like to speak to one of the team at Inspiring about 360 degree feedback, call us on 0800 612 3098 or email info@inspiring.uk.com or get in touch using the form. You can also visit our 360 Degree page for more information.

Help your employees beat the January blues

Most people agree January is a pretty miserable month. This year, Monday 20th January is Blue Monday – scientifically (or not as the case may be!) the most depressing day of 2020. But in all seriousness, business should recognise the risks associated with not managing employees health and well-being effectively. We’re sharing our thoughts about three subjects that contribute to stress in the workplace and have a negative impact on the well-being of your staff.

MINIMISE STRESS THROUGH A HEALTHY WORKPLACE CULTURE

It’s no surprise that stress is the number one cause of long-term absence. According to HSE statistics, in 2018/19 there were 0.6 million new or long-standing reported cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in the UK.  In 2018/19,  12.8 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Pressures and stresses can come from both work and home. At work there are often heavy workloads and long working hours, while at home there can be financial stresses, lifestyle pressures and general family concerns, all of which have an impact on the way people feel and act at work.

Employers should consider the mental, as well as physical, wellbeing of their employees, focusing on prevention rather than reacting to some of the possible outcomes such as high staff turnover, high absenteeism rates and the associated business costs with both of these.

The introduction of flexible working or flexi-time can help employees deal with stress by allowing them to balance their work and personal lives more effectively and reducing the need to take time off. Businesses should also ensure managers at all levels of an organisation are supportive and empathic. Awareness, encouragement and recognition are important, as feeling valued and appreciated provides a key extrinsic motivator which can have a positive impact on a person’s well-being.

Visit the HSE website for more information about dealing with workplace stress: http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/

LIMIT OUT OF HOURS COMMUNICATIONS

Just about everyone is contactable all of the time these days. Often it’s hard to ignore those emails and messages when they come in, even if it can wait until Monday morning. As an employer or manager, it might be worth taking a moment to think about how sending emails out of hours might affect the recipient and put them under unnecessary pressure. If you don’t require an immediate response but just want to tick it off your ‘things to do’ list, consider setting up a time delay or create a draft to send early the next working day instead.

DISCOURAGE PRESENTEEISM

Presenteeism, where employees continue to come into work when they are unwell, can be a big issue for employers. A member of staff who is not fully fit enough to engage at work may be physically present but will not be making a proper contribution to the business, impacting not only the quality and quantity of the work they produce but affecting the overall working atmosphere, including for the people around them.

‘Presenteeism’, or people coming into work when they are ill, has more than tripled since 2010, according to the latest CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and Wellbeing Survey. The survey reports that 86% of over 1,000 respondents said they had observed presenteeism in their organisation over the preceeding 12 months, compared with 72% in 2016 and just 26% in 2010. Having unhealthy people at work could create a vicious cycle, with more employees falling ill after catching a cold or illness from sick colleagues.

Presenteeism is more likely to occur there is a culture of working long hours and where the demands of the business take priority over employee wellbeing. Employers should take action to make sure that the culture of the business supports employees as recognising the importance of healthy, happy staff will lead to business performance improvement across the board.

Do something about the wellbeing of employees in your organisation…

INSPIRING provide a range of support for organisations looking to improve their Health and Wellbeing culture, including Employee Surveys, Leadership and Management Development and consultancy services to help implement BS 76000 – Valuing People standard.

Why being consistent is so important when it comes to people management

You know the importance of having a leadership team that is able to encourage and engage employees. But with different leaders having different strengths, weaknesses, behaviours and personalities, how do you achieve consistency across your organisation and help maintain a positive perception of ‘The Management’ amongst staff?

From the employee surveys that we conduct for our clients, the text questions always make for an interesting read. So many comments are made about management, in terms of how some managers are either good or bad in different ways. For example, managers who allegedly don’t delegate properly; make seemingly harsh decisions as opposed to those in other teams; or who never give praise, when other people are being given recognition for their efforts on a regular basis.

Of course, not all comments stem from management problems – it can be that some individuals have a more negative perception than others. However, from our experience, having different management styles and inconsistency with how people are managed is often the cause of problems relating to people feeling that they’re being treated unfairly in some way.

Here are a few of our thoughts, based on our experience of working with many different organisations, on how you might go about creating consistency across teams in your workplace.

Communication is key

Honesty and openness from managers will help renew common purpose across your organisation. Managers should communicate with their teams regularly regarding plans and progress; operational activities and milestones. Staff should be invited to ask, comment and suggest on a regular basis. Make sure all managers are arranging regular, documented team meetings or one to ones to ensure that everyone is being given this opportunity.

Create opportunities for new and shared experiences

Giving employees the opportunity to shadow a colleague in a different department, or to participate in a cross-departmental team of some kind, can give them new perspectives whilst helping them to contribute more to the company. Managers can use the exercise to expand their own thinking as well as that of the individuals involved. All in all, it’s a simple cost effective way of sharing experience and creating cross-team understanding. It may also lead to new opportunities for employees, helping to spot and unlock potential.

Show your appreciation

Showing appreciation to your team by simply saying Thank You goes a long way. By saying those two small words, your managers are demonstrating that they understand what is happening in their teams. Thanking staff and giving honest recognition for their work achievements can help them to feel appreciated and enhance their job satisfaction. As Bart Cleveland wrote for Ad Age, “Sure, it is an employee’s job to do their best. But ask yourself, would you give even more if you knew you were appreciated?”

Establish Accountability

When accountability goes out the window, so does an effective workforce. General people management practices should be implemented company-wide, ensuring each employee will be held to the same standards of conduct. Inconsistency in how your managers deal with everyday situations sends mixed signals to employees. For example, if one employee constantly arrives late and their manager turns a blind eye, but another shows up late and is given a warning, your people will see the injustice and determine that there is no structure of accountability within your organisation. This is a sure-fire way of sparking resentment between teams and individuals and fuelling peoples’ perception of unfair treatment.

Team up with Inspiring

INSPIRING Business Performance provides practical advice, business information tools and training programmes for organisations who want to improve employee engagement, develop their leaders and managers or gain accreditation against standards such as BSI’s BS 76000 standard for Valuing People.

We are also a Chartered Management Institute approved training centre offering leadership and management development programmes with the option of CMI qualifications at various levels.

If you would like to speak to us about how to go about improving your organisation from a people aspect, call us on 0800 612 3098 or get in touch using the enquiry form on the left. We would be happy arrange for one of our consultants to meet up with you for an informal chat.

How to Identify Employee Underperformance and Improve Performance Management

The people within an organisation are the most valuable resource that it possesses. However, there may come a time when their performance begins to slip, and it is up to the leaders and managers within the organisation to identify this and rectify it through effective performance management.

Firstly, managers need to know how to recognise underperformance, then know how to approach the employee and discuss their concerns in a constructive way. This can be a daunting process especially if the manager lacks experience in dealing with conflict. Nevertheless, performance management is a key aspect of a manager’s role and therefore addressing issues concerning underperformance will most likely be something every manager has to do at some time.

Identifying Employee Underperformance

Underperformance is the inability to meet the standards expected within the organisation. At this point it’s important to note that the employee should be clear about what is expected of them in terms of their performance, through personal or company objectives, personal development plans, codes of conduct or any other performance measurement tool. It is important to make the distinction between poor performance and misconduct. Misconduct can be categorised as ‘non-compliance with rules and procedures or unacceptable behaviour’. This is very different to that of underperformance. Below is a list of issues that may indicate that an employee is underperforming:

  • Increased number of complaints from either customers or other colleagues
  • Targets or objectives not met
  • Poor quality in the work completed
  • Missing deadlines

As a manager you should be able to identify any changes with the employee. It maybe that you notice something about them that could indicate there are issues with their performance. Such as:

  • Absenteeism or persistently being late
  • Low motivation or unengaged
  • Higher stress levels than normal
  • Their standard of work drops

Reasons for Poor Employee Performance

After identifying that an employee is underperforming, and to begin the process of performance management the manager must understand what the causes could be for underperforming:

  • Are the expectations on the employee clear? As mentioned before, clarity of objectives is vital and a common reason for underperforming is that the employee is unaware of what their goals or standards are – or indeed what are the consequences of not meeting them are.
  • The employee may not have the required capabilities to carry out their functions. The employee may struggle with knowledge or skills expected of them in their role.
  • There is no feedback for the employee to understand how their performance is viewed by their manager.
  • There is a lack of motivation.
  • There are problems with other members of staff.
  • The employee has issues outside of work that they are dealing with, such as family issues or health problems.

Performance Management

Once the underperformance issue has been approached and the reasons identified, the manager can concentrate on performance management.

Many employees are often not aware that their performance is not up to the required standards and therefore they will be unable to correct it without being informed. That is why it is so important for managers to have regular feedback meetings so that they can performance manage at every opportunity. If these issues are not addressed in a timely manner they have the potential to become more serious if they are allowed to develop. By not performance managing an individual it could have knock on effects on the whole organisation and start to affect productivity.

The way to effectively performance manage an employee comes in three steps.

  1. Create an informal performance action plan that they can work on.
  2. A formal performance action plan is drawn up. Sometimes managers go straight to a formal action plan, this is just down to personal choice. Some managers like to have everything recorded and therefore the formal action plan suits their style better.
  3. If there is still no improvement it is time to look at disciplinary action.

3 steps of performance management in more detail

Informal Performance Action Plan

The informal action plan takes in a feedback meeting in a one to one setting. Within this meeting the manager will explain to them what is needed of them in their role, they will give feedback on where they are doing well and the areas that need to be addressed. It is at this point that the employee is clear about where their current performance is at compared to where it needs to be. After this, both the manager and employee should have an agreed plan to outline where improvements need to be made and when they must see improvement. Within this meeting the manager must be able to offer suggestions as to where they can help them and how other members of staff can also help them improve. There must also be clear consequences if they fail to improve. All the above must be kept in a record so that the manager can look back on what was agreed in this meeting. Then they will be able to assess if the employee has been taking required steps to increase their performance.

Formal Performance Action Plan

When there is a need for a formal performance action plan it shows that the employee needs extra help and support in attaining the level of performance required of them. If this is the case the manager needs to come to the meeting with an action plan that focuses on SMART objectives. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound. This means that the action plan will be able to show the employee the specific areas in which they need to improve on and by when. By having SMART objectives, it enables both parties to be on exactly the page when it comes to what needs to be improved and by when. By coming to the meeting with these objectives the manager can go through them with the employee this way they can discuss if they are attainable and realistic for the employee to achieve. The manager should also put forward any extra resources that could help the employee improve such as coaching, training or extra time. It should be stressed at this point that a formal performance action plan is not a disciplinary procedure the manager is simply trying to help the employee achieve the best they can. However, the employee should be told that if their performance has not met the required level in the time they were given further disciplinary action could be taken.

Disciplinary Action

There are only a few options left for a manager that has seen no improvement in performance from an employee even after they have tried to help them with performance management. The last option for them would be to start disciplinary action. Disciplinary action and dismissal would usually follow the following steps:

  • Inform the employee in writing that they are required to attend a formal disciplinary meeting and what the meeting will be regarding, giving them acceptable notice.
  • The employee has the right to be accompanied.
  • Once the meeting has begun inform them again why they have been called to this disciplinary meeting.
  • Give the employee the opportunity to explain their version of events and their feedback to the situation.
  • Use your records to give information regarding the previous informal and formal performance action plans, put forward the evidence of how and when you have given help improve the situation.
  • Explain what action you are going to take and why.
  • Give the employee 5 days to appeal the outcomes.

It is deeply regrettable that the action taken by an organisation would be dismissal of their employee and this should always be the last resort. However, in some cases it is the only option left. U.K employment law appreciates that SMEs are not able to sustain an underperformer within their organisation for a long period and therefore an employee that has less than two years of continuous employment with your organisation is unable to bring unfair dismissal again you in court, unless there is breach of contract or discrimination.

Reflecting on manager performance

At the end of the performance management process regardless of the outcomes it is always a good opportunity for a manager to look back on their own managerial style. They are given the opportunity to reflect on where they think they could have improved their own performance so that they are better able to help future employees in need of performance management.

What is a Learning Culture and why is it important?

One of the best and most efficient ways an organisation of any size can get ahead of its competition is by creating a learning culture.

Working within an SME is all about trying to find that competitive edge. There is a need to continually innovate and be one step ahead of the ‘big boys’. A learning culture, if correctly implemented and carried out effectively, can result in your organisation moving to the next level.

What is a learning culture?

It is important to understand what a learning culture is before trying to implement one.  A learning culture can be achieved by embracing the ethos of learning as a continual process, where it is understood that learning opportunities happen at every stage of an employee’s journey within the organisation. A learning culture needs an agreed set of practices, processes or conventions. The aim of these conventions is to help the people within the organisation learn continuously. All barriers that could potential stop an individual from learning and developing are removed to help create an environment in which learning is at the core.

The differences between a learning culture and training and development

Some may suggest that a learning culture isn’t any different to that of an organisation that provides regular training. However, the subtle differences between a learning environment and that of an organisation that simply focuses on training can result in large changes to the whole organisation. A few examples of the differences are below:

Who leads the training or learning

Within a training environment a specific trainer will come into the organisation and train the employees in a specific area. However, within a learning environment the learning is lead by the individual employee. The employee should be able to understand the areas in which they need to improve or receive coaching and therefore they lead their learning.

How and when learning takes place

Within a training culture the emphasis is on specific workshops or courses which take place at scheduled times throughout the year. However, a learning culture views learning as a continuous effort, for example, through coaching, mentoring and social interaction.

The ‘carrot’ or the ‘stick’

In many organisations, training acts as the ‘stick’, occurring as a result of employees not meeting required outcomes through lack of skills or knowledge. Training in this context is seen similarly to punishment. Within a learning culture the learning is not a result of poor performance but a ‘carrot’ to encourage personal development through a continuous process.

Knowledge sharing

The training culture is often centred around isolation. Different departments are often kept away from one another. This results in some knowledge being warehoused by one department and depriving others of what could be valuable information. However, within a learning culture the emphasis is on collaborative learning. Ideas are shared, not just with other employees but across areas or departments to the benefit of the whole organisation.

What are the benefits of implementing a Learning Culture?

  1. Increased efficiency and productivity
  2. Increased employee engagement resulting in decreased employee turnover
  3. The organisation and its people are better able to react to change
  4. There is an increase in innovation
  5. Increased problem-solving ability within the organisation

How to create a learning environment

There are a few different tactics a manager can implement within their organisation to help it to develop a learning culture:

  • The first step is for the leader(s) of the organisation to commit to the ethos that learning is a continuous process and not one that can be set for a specific time. Therefore, they should treat learning as a resource to be used. This is the mindset needed before starting to create a learning environment.
  • The next step is to introduce the aspects of coaching and mentoring to senior management roles, setting out a plan to coach and mentor the employees that report to them. Some managers may need development themselves in these skills, which only highlights the importance of the learning environment from top to bottom.
  • The employee should then be encouraged to create their own personal development plan to ensure their learning and development needs are noted, understood and followed through. If an organisation is committed to developing a learning culture it must be mandatory for employees to create these plans.
  • It is imperative that once a new skill has been learnt that the organisation recognises and celebrates the achievement, for example, when an employee successfully masters a skill they were being coached on. It does not matter how they have learnt but what matters is that learning is celebrated and rewarded.
  • Regular feedback within a learning culture is very important. There are two main areas of feedback that are vital for the creation of a learning environment. Firstly, feedback from the manager to the employee that they directly manage, where the manager can suggest areas of their work which they could benefit from developing and improving on. Secondly, when the employee has begun to work on identified development areas, the employee should give feedback on whether the specific method of learning they are doing is helping them. This will help the manager be better informed for future development through the identification of preferred learning styles. In addition, the employee should give feedback on what, if anything, they have gained from the learning activity. This needs to be constantly assessed as to whether the investment in learning is worthwhile to both the employee and the organisation.
  • Developing blended learning methods. Not all employees learn in the same manner, some learn best in training courses, others prefer a hands-on approach, whereas other may prefer to learn by being coached. Read our blog about alternatives to training courses.

Are Traditional training courses still needed with a learning environment?

There is always going to be a need for training courses in the traditional sense. Training courses have improved and changed over the years and can often be extremely beneficial. Training courses are sometimes the best methods in which specific learning can take place. Within a learning culture, training courses are one of many tools to be utilised without becoming the main focus of the organisation’s learning and development plan.

10 Alternatives to Training Courses for SMEs

With the business world being as competitive as it is, employers are discovering that the main thing that can help differentiate them is their people. Developing, or ‘up-skilling’, employees is now more important than ever. Gone are the days where training courses focused upon just the necessities and regulations of the job role; we are now seeing more forward-thinking employers who are looking to uncover talent within their people which, in time, will give them the advantage over their competitors.

We know that making sure your employees are up to speed with what is required of them is vital, so training in that respect will always be a necessity. However, with some training courses coming in at a high cost, SMEs could find it hard to find the budget for broader training and development, often having to weigh up the cost of training courses against other necessities in their annual budget.

With this in mind, we’ve put together some alternatives to training courses that SMEs could investigate that might help implement learning and development and nurture talent at a lower cost.

Coaching

This is effective if the employee has a specific objective or area of development that they need to target.

Mentoring

An effective technique when there is already an individual within the organisation with the expertise to develop potential. This enables transfer of knowledge and ways of working.

Shadowing

A great way of helping an employee explore different aspects of the business. It is beneficial to watch someone else demonstrating what is required of them, then reflecting on what they have learned. They can then discover the effectiveness of their ways of working and even make suggestions for improvements, which could be mutually beneficial. This could be a reciprocal arrangement whereby one colleague shadows another in turn, allowing for feedback on both.

Expanding Roles

By expanding an employee’s current role, they are likely to develop longer term aspirations and invest more into the organisation. Also, they will come to realise what areas they need to improve in and, given the opportunity and with support, can start to address these.

Project Roles

Putting an individual forward for different project roles helps to broaden their perspective, whilst encouraging interaction with new areas of the business can aid their development. It may even result in hidden skills being identified.

Practical Learning

If an individual has been given a new task or responsibility, they may be able to learn on the job providing they are properly supported. It is important however that they have the confidence to ask managers and colleagues for support and advice whilst they are learning.

Distance and E-Learning

There are specific college and online courses, some of which are free, where the individual learns in their own time and at their own pace. These can include accredited courses, which build towards a qualification.

Volunteering

Giving employees the opportunity and time off to volunteer may help to develop existing skills and learn new ones. Volunteering could help people build their confidence, as it is a less pressurised environment. It may also lead to networking opportunities.

Blended Learning

This is where the focus is not on one development area but a variety. By using Blended Learning, it gives the employee a mixture of different activities to develop many skills over a short space of time.

Media

There is a wealth of information available on platforms such as YouTube and watching specific programmes can help gain useful knowledge.

Books and publications

In the modern world there is a neglect of written texts. These books and other resources hold a valuable knowledge and theories that can help employees develop. However, for convenience and accessibility, there are often PDF copies of these resources available.

Other Notables

Membership of professional bodies, work placements, sabbaticals, sideways moves and job swaps.

 

People development will always be needed if SMEs are to stay ahead of their competition. But we also know that funding for all these development activities is often limited, therefore thinking outside the box and using alternative methods of learning and development are definitely worth looking into.

Developing Leadership with the Johari Window

As a leader, trust and honest communication should be at the centre of what you strive to achieve. Without trust, it will be impossible to work through any complex problems or issues with your team as honest and productive conversations will not be able to take place.

What is the Johari Window?

Building good working relationships is a common leadership goal, but it can be difficult to know how and where to start. That is where the Johari Window comes into play.

The Johari Window (1955) was developed by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingram it was created as an attempt to better understand ourselves and our relationships with others. They created the model below:

Open –  This section relates to all that is known about that individual. It is what is known by the individual themselves and what is known about them by the group. The information that is open can relate to their behaviour, feelings, knowledge, experience or skills etc.

Blind Spot – This area relates to what is known about the individual by the group, but that individual does not know about them self.

Hidden – This relates to what the individual knows about them self but does not reveal to the group. This could be related to their own feelings, fears, sensitivities, agenda or manipulations.

Unknown – This section deals with all the information, feelings, experiences such as a natural ability the individual does not know they possess etc. These are neither known to the individual or known to the group.

Putting the Johari Window into context

Understanding the premise of the Johari Window is one thing but being able to put it into the context of leadership is another! Below are the two most important aspects to focus on whilst using the Johari Window for leadership development.

When engaging in honest conversation as a leader, important information is placed into the open area. Leaders want others to know what the relevant details are to enable them to make informed decisions or understand the targets they must achieve. However, the complicated aspect is moving information from hidden into the open.

Moving information from the Hidden into the Open

It can seem strange to want to move things that are hidden into the open. However, when employees are not aware of what a leader’s goals or concerns are, often they will guess them. Keeping things hidden from employees is often problematic; how can your employees be expected to alleviate your concerns when they aren’t aware of them? When speaking with your team members, consider sharing these two crucial bits of information:

  1. Your top priorities and in what timeframe
  2. The issues that are keeping you up at night

When you share what’s on your mind with colleagues and team members, you are giving them the opportunity to offer their help.

Moving Information from the Blind Spot into Open

To develop this, you as a leader must provide an environment based safety and trust for your employees. It also takes a degree of courage to ask for honest feedback, both from the perspective of yourself and your team members. Your aim should be to have as few blind spots as possible. In our experience, one of the best methods of ensuring ongoing honest feedback is by having frequent one to one sessions with your direct reports. Within these sessions, it may help to ask these questions in order to uncover information on your blind spots:

  1. What should I start doing?
  2. What should I stop doing?
  3. What should I keep doing?

An effective leadership development tool

The Johari Window is an effective tool for helping to develop leadership as it enables a leader to identify areas that they need to work on and issue they have. It is great for helping to create honest conversations within a business and for gaining the ability to build trust –  two elements that cannot be overstated within a productive business environment. Try using this for yourself and see how effective it can be.