Jeremy Gray – Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems S8 E1-4 The critical challenges growing businesses need to get right.
Jeremy Gray – Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems
IBGR. Network. The World of Business at Your Fingertips
Season 8 Show Notes: The critical challenges growing businesses need to get right.
Episode 1 Employees seek career progression. Lean business structures make this difficult. What alternatives are available?
In exit interviews one of the leading reasons given for leaving is the lack of career progression, by which they mean promotion. When I started work, more years ago than I care to remember, there was plenty of opportunity for career progression. I was hired as Senior Management Accounts clerk, was promoted to Management Accounts Supervisor, then to Assistant Accountant. I reported to the Management Accountant who in turn reported to the Chief Accountant. From the Junior Management Accounts Clerk to the Chief Accountant there were five layers, five opportunities for career progression. And this was within a small operation of a major British PLC. Who knows how many layers there were between me and the Finance Director of the PLC.?
Today with automation and lean structures there are far fewer layers in organization. When I left the US MNC, I worked for in 2020 there were only four layers between a junior finance person in Asia and the Global CFO based in the United States. Opportunities for career progression are few and far between. It is critical that companies consider the alternatives they can offer to career progression, that will keep they employee satisfied, engaged and retained.
It is important to understand why employees seek career progression. Money is certainly part of it and should not be ignored but there are other more important reasons.
In today’s flat organizations not, everyone can be promoted when they feel they are ready. Some employees will be truly ready, some will be not ready yet and some will never be ready, although they think they are. Most employees are worthy of retention, if they were not, you should have taken action to help them leave your company to find more suitable employment. Given that you cannot provide them with the promotion they are seeking how do you create an environment that encourages them to stay with you.
Starting with your employees who are truly ready to be promoted. Consider a lateral move. Done well a lateral move can enhance an employee’s career, done badly it can derail a career.
A first step is to talk to the employee about their career aspirations. Where do they see themselves going within your company? You may hear that they aspire to general management or P&L responsibility. Is this a realistic expectation? If not, you should help the employee understand what is realistic. This will be a difficult conversation that will require planning. To avoid having to respond on the fly, ask your employee to describe their career aspirations prior to have that face to face or Zoom call meeting.
When both you and your employee have agreed on a realistic aspiration, work together to identify the employee’s skills gaps. If your company is a marketing driven organization and a talented finance employee realistically seeks to become a GM, then it is likely they will need to build up their marketing skills before they will be ready to become a general manager. A lateral move into marketing may be appropriate. Such a move should meet three of the motivations for career progression. That the employee’s long-term aspirations have been confirmed as being realistic will lead to increased job satisfaction. They are on the path to where they want to be. The new role will challenge them to learn new skills and gain knowledge, it will also be a confidence boost. You can take care of the money aspect by giving them a bit more money. But this is a lateral move so keep the employee’s expectations realistic.
Handling a lateral move well does present challenges. You will need full buy-in from the hiring manager. If the hiring manager feels the transferee is being foisted on them, the move is unlikely to be successful. The resentment felt by the hiring manager is likely to manifest itself in criticism of the new employee’s performance. Also consider the level of specialization required in the new role, it maybe that a true lateral move could be a step too far. Consider whether a slightly more junior role within the new department might be appropriate. You want your employee to succeed, and a stretch too far may not deliver this result. All this will be much easier if your company has a culture of lateral moves. Hiring managers will be more willing to exchange talented employees and if a step down is needed, it is less likely to be seen as a demotion.
This is not theoretical I have seen the work in organizations who are proactive in this area.
What about the employee who thinks they are ready for promotion but in reality, is not? Take the time to explain why they are not ready and make a plan to get them ready. Steps could include stretch assignments, mentoring, or coaching if personality traits are the barrier. Keep in mind what employees are seeking. By affirming that the employee has potential, if they are open to improving their knowledge or modifying their behaviors will meet many of those needs. I would not adjust salary at this time. There is no justification to make such an adjustment unless the employee is being paid below market rate.
The development plan needs to be genuine and implemented. You may buy sometime just by having the discussion, but if the employee does not see that you are truly trying to get them ready for the next role, they will become disillusioned, disengaged and eventually will likely leave.
Finally, what can you do about the employee who will never be ready for promotion. Explain how valued they are in their current role. That your company appreciates their contribution. Remember to say thank you whenever they do well or go the extra mile. These folks will be bulk of your workforce, most will be happy to stay where they are, ensure your company culture makes them feel an important part of your success. People leave when they do not feel valued.
Many studies have shown that just by taking an interest in your employee’s careers delivers results. Add that interest to actionable plans and you have a recipe for improved retention.
Tags: How to grow a business, achieve business success, employee engagement, lean organization the successful entrepreneur, business common mistakes small business start-up; avoid these common mistakes; IBGR.network, Jeremy Gray, Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems
Episode 2 Motivating Hourly Employees – The neglected workforce.
If you Google motivating hourly employees you will get 6.8 million results, Google motivating salaried employees and will see 181 million results. Nearly 30X the hourly figure.
Nearly 60% of workers in the US are hourly and many are part time. The percentage may be higher or lower in other countries, but it is likely that globally well over 50% of workers are paid by the hour.
The much talked about Great Resignation is occurring primarily within the ranks of hourly workers.
Given that most employees are hourly workers and are leaving their jobs even more rapidly, why is so little attention paid to motivating the largest section of the workforce?
A major challenge in engaging with hourly staff is their working patterns. Many hourly workers work shifts and are often working when HR professionals have gone home for the day. This makes connecting with them more difficult. Unfortunately, many HR staff do not take the time to come into work during the night to chat with chat with the workers on shift.
Another issue is when the word retention is mentioned, thoughts tend to jump to senior and high potential employees who are usually salaried. Given that most senior managers, except the Operations Director and maybe the HR director, do not often interact with hourly employees. They may greet them during a plant tour, but they are not top of mind.
Finally, many HR leaders do not “get” their hourly employee’s motivators. It is often assumed that what motivates salaried professionals will motivate hourly employees. A study by the Wilson Group found that hourly workers are driven by job security and were motivated by
Given that hourly employees are looking for something different than salaried employee, your retention strategies should be tailored to meet their needs. Rather than imposing strategies that seem to work for salaried employees.
When developing your engagement program for hourly employees keep in mind what is important to them. Remember that they will have commitments outside of work, they maybe parents, they may be students, some will have second jobs, especially if they are not full-time employees. Put yourself in their shoes when developing retention strategies.
Here are some ideas to kick off your thinking:
Predictability: As much as possible give your hourly workers a set schedule of hours when they will be working. There maybe rotating shifts but these should be known in advance. Accommodate their needs, if you operate a rotating shift pattern but an employee prefers to work nights, because their spouse works days, and they have childcare to worry about. See if you can make this happen.
Flexibility: People get sick, unexpected events happen in their lives, be understanding when an employee needs to take sometime off. Fear of losing their job should not force employees to come into work when they are ill. There are reports of employees coming to work when they had been exposed to Covid 19 as they felt their jobs were at risk if they did not turn up for work.
Predictability and flexibility may sound like impossible goals, but companies have managed to deliver this for their employees. Ideas can include cross training so employees are capable of covering for others, scheduling enough employees to cover for these unexpected absences. Review on average how many employees are unable to come to work on any given day and use that in your scheduling plans.
Offer professional development programs. These can range from literacy training for employees who cannot read or write, to degree sponsorships. Many hourly employees aspire to improve themselves. Talk to them, understand what they want, see if some of your employees are willing to train their colleagues. If they are, pay them for their time.
Promote from within. It would be rare occurrence where the talent needed to start an employee on the path of career development is not already within your organization. Most of us start our working lives in junior roles and advance. Look for the talent that exists in your hourly workforce and develop the folks with the ability and aptitude for supervisory roles. Be understanding if an employee does not want to step up, it maybe the time is not right for them. Do not remove them from consideration if future opportunities come up.
Offer similar benefits to those offered to salaried employees. Holiday, sick pay, if appropriate, health benefits. If anything, hourly employees, who are often living from paycheck to paycheck, need these benefits even more than salaried staff. Doing this will ensure your employees feel respected, not like second class citizens.
Train managers, especially newly promoted managers, on how to be managers. First line supervisors are often promoted from the hourly ranks, and they may not know what is expected of them. Their role models will be other first line supervisors, especially their previous manager. This may not be the model you wish them to follow. They could be prone to pleasing their new manager rather than creating a working environment conducive to employee retention.
Pay: Competition for hourly employees can be fierce. Many companies in the US are paying well above minimum wages. Stories of signing bonuses, higher hourly rates when Amazon comes to town are common in the US and UK press. Paying competitive rates makes sense. IKEA found that raising payrates was so successful in improving retention rates that they have made it part of their employment strategy.
All this comes at a cost, but this will be offset by the benefits of lower staff turnover. Recruitment is expensive, onboarding new employees costs money, the loss of knowledge can lead to customer dissatisfaction. In many countries the hourly labor pool is beginning to shrink, not just due to demographics but also due the expectations of potential employees. A higher percentage of people are attending university and they are not expecting to work hourly jobs once they graduate. Automation and technology will mitigate the impact somewhat but if you are in a developed economy or a rapidly growing developing economy you will be competing for a limited resource. Being the employer of choice in your market will bring great benefits, economically and emotionally.
Tags: How to grow a business, achieve business success, hourly employee engagement, neglected work force, motivation, lean organization the successful entrepreneur, business common mistakes small business start-up; avoid these common mistakes; IBGR.network, Jeremy Gray, Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems
Episode 3 Got a problem employee? A different approach to motivation is needed.
It is a given of business thinking that good managers motivate employees with their vision for the future, their passionate delivery and great plans. Add in some incentives to do the right things, and everyone falls in line and success is achieved. But the reality is much different. Few managers are good at rallying the team, and expecting them to do so can make them feel guilt ridden. Research shows that incentives, whether motivational talks, money or threat of dire consequences have little impact. The folks who respond to such things are already up and running. It’s the other employees who are the problem. Probably you have had experience of the high maintenance employee, the employee who take up a disproportionate amount of your time and energy. Despite your efforts they still remain unmotivated and possibly disruptive to your organization.
You ask yourself what more can I do to motivate these problem employees? How can I get them energized and committed not only to supporting your initiatives but also actually getting them done?
These are the wrong questions. Because it turns out you cannot motivate the problem employee. Only the problem employee can motivate themselves. As a leader you need create an environment that unleashes their inherent motivation and channels it towards achievable goals.
You may have had an employee who says all the right things, appears to have the right attitude yet is not capable of delivering the results you need. The employee on paper seems well qualified to get the work done but somehow it does not happen. You talk to them about the problem, they agree to improve, agree to change, but you feel that nothing you have said has made any meaningful impact on your problem employee. You consider a formal performance improvement plan, but this is unlikely to alter the situation and is more likely to end in termination. You do not want to lose the employee, you have invested a lot of time in them, finding a suitable replacement will take time and energy, and you are sure if you can get them motivated, they will be a valuable employee.
Where are the communications breaking down? It is likely that you are making the assumption that the problem employee has the same thought processes as you. If you can only get them to listen, they will see the logic of your argument and then they have to accept that what you are saying makes sense.
However, we all have different motivations, different values and biases, different ideas about what is reasonable. It is the mismatch between your view of the world and the employee’s view of the world that causes the problems. You will have experienced the Yes Boss meeting where it appears to end in an agreed action plan, but nothing happens. The employee does not change one bit.
As human beings we tend to try to understand people we like and dismiss people we do not like. We use expressions such as lazy, boring, ineffective to describe them. Adjectives that the subject of our scorn would not apply to themselves. How do you think the problem employee describes you? Probably not in very flattering terms. A change in perspective may help resolve the problem; instead of thinking of the employee as a problem think of them as someone who needs to be understood.
Some guiding principles are helpful:
Most managers tolerate poor performance to too long. The decision to terminate an employee is not easy. The conversation informing the employee that they must leave the company is difficult. We are aware that our decision not only impacting the employee but will also impact their families causes us unease. They may be the only bread winner at home. We know that the compensation offered is inadequate if their chances of reemployment are low.
It is worth adopting a different approach to motivation if the “traditional” approach has not worked.
Tags: How to grow a business, achieve business success, problem employee engagement, self-assessment, motivation, the successful entrepreneur, business common mistakes small business start-up; avoid these common mistakes; IBGR.network, Jeremy Gray, Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems
Episode 4 The rise of individualism and what it means to you as an employer
People are rethinking about the sense of agency they have over their lives. The continued rise of the side hustle or gig economy has made it easier to seek out new income streams. The increase in the “me vs we” mentality will have implications on how organizations lead their employees.
Covid has been with us for nearly two years which has changed we live our lives. People are rethinking who they are, what matters to them, and they are in many cases finding the confidence to show up as themselves rather than what society previously expected of them. In China there is a movement called “tang ping” which means lying flat. The movement espouses the idea of being content with attainable achievements rather than overworking. A rebellion against the 996 culture; working from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM six days a week.
It is increasingly being accepted that admitting you are not OK is no longer a sign of weakness. A study found that 53% of executives reported struggling with mental health issues at work. 76% of employee believe that their employees should take more responsibility for their mental wellbeing
As economies opened up the job market has swung to one of demand. People are leaving their jobs before finding a new one. Taking the time to reconsider their personal priorities. The Great Resignation. Globally over 40% of employees are consider changing their jobs in the first half of 2022. In China and Vietnam factories are struggling to find workers, partially due to Covid concerns but also due to changing priorities. In the UK job vacancies reached a record high of 1.1 million, here in Singapore there are nearly 3 jobs for every one job seeker. Employers are not only competing with each other; they are competing with everything else people want to do with their lives.
The ability to take on a side hustle is becoming easier thanks to technology and platforms enabling people to turn themselves into businesses. Anyone can use a no code platform to set themselves up an e-commerce retailer. This has grown into a $100 billion business and is set to grow. However, achieving success in such a crowded market is not easy.
Employers are struggling on how to manage the new normal as societies open up. Contrast Deutsche Bank calling for the end of remote working while Australian Canva announced new flexible working arrangements that means that employees only need to be in their office 8 times a year. Spain recently passed legislation preventing employers contacting employees outside working hours.
Employers face a leadership challenge. They need to balance the flexibility offered to individuals with the needs of the team and the organization. The need to attract and retain talent while accepting that employees are reducing their dependence on their job for income.
Business culture needs to reaffirm the “we” in today’s me over we culture. Business is a team effort and leaders need to emphasize the value of teams, and the importance of engagement innovation and creativity.
For brand owners people desire to have more control means they might seek more information when making a buying decision. They wish to make an informed decision about what is right for them. This gives brands an opportunity to guide people in the purchasing journey by helping find the information they are seeking.
There will be business opportunities as the gig economy continues to grow. The infrastructure to support the platforms, the ability to deliver an audience to content creators. Services such as helping to finance a house purchase will benefit from a fresh perspective. The traditional mortgage model is based on the concept of permanent full-time employment. Similarly, insurance and health care.
As you plan for the future of your business think about the impact of the “me over we” attitude may have on your relationship with your employees. Explain the importance of teams in your business’s future and success. Reconsider your company’s value proposition for employees with multiple sources of income. The days of insisting employees only work for you during the employment with you are long gone. If you cannot accommodate this new normal your employees with walk away.
Tags: How to grow a business, achieve business success, employee individualism, self-assessment, motivation, the successful entrepreneur, business common mistakes small business start-up; avoid these common mistakes; IBGR.network, Jeremy Gray, Practical Solutions to Difficult Problems
I am committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed. I can bring the experience of 30+ years of experience at the C-Suite level in an MNC from Europe, North America, and Asia. Combine this with seven years of helping a diverse range of businesses and I can provide you with practical solutions to any difficult problems you may be facing.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for chat via the following links:
Or schedule time via Calendly:
My websites include:
My LinkedIn URL
new choice for BUSINESS SEARCH