There is a belief that climbing your way to the top and becoming a manager of other people is the definition of success. Sometimes, we inadvertently extend that thinking to suggest that ambition means the same thing: the desire to work your way to the top in order to directly oversee a team, a department, a division, or an entire organization. Even the phrase “working your way to the top” implies a climb towards management. But some of us don’t have a “climb the ladder” viewpoint. Does that mean we’re really content to stay in one place? Absolutely not. Believing that people who are not interested in becoming leaders are also not interested in any other kind of career growth is sure to create retention issues for any organization.
In truth, people are dynamic, unique and eager to make the most of themselves. Sure, you’ll come across the truly lazy employees, the ones with no aspiration at all, but for the most part, all people want to develop their talents and grow.
Despite our similar desire to move forward, we don’t all want the same things and we don’t all get there the same way. That’s what makes The Omnia Assessment such a valuable tool. It measures core personality traits. Some of us are cautious (me), while others take risks. Some of us are introverted (also me), while others are energized by social interaction. Some of us undertake tasks with urgency, while others move methodically. And finally, some of us examine details while others stick to the big picture.
Individuals that fall into the proactive categories have the best natural aptitude for managing people, but that doesn’t mean all proactive personalities should manage. Some may not have the desire to lead while others simply might not be good at it despite those aptitudes. At the same time, there are plenty of reactive, nonassertive personality types who have risen to the ultimate heights of leadership, from politics to running global corporations. Those examples aside, it is still generally true that many management roles are best filled by assertive types and supportive roles are best filled by cautious types.
The myth I hope to dispel is that those cautious types don’t want or need to grow in their jobs. Simply because one does not aspire to manage does not mean they do not aspire at all. In fact, opportunities for development and growth continue to be a top 5 need for employees. If that need is not filled, employees are quick to leave for a company that does provide opportunity for growth.
Speaking from personal experience, nonassertive personality types can be pretty competitive. Maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but we all want to be winners in our careers and that means a path of steady development. We want to accomplish goals, acquire new skills and continually learn. The good news is, there are many ways to grow and excel as an individual contributor to an organization.
Let’s talk about how to see and capitalize on the true value of your individual contributors.
First, what is an individual contributor? Per Indeed.com, an individual contributor “is a professional without management responsibilities who contributes to an organization independently to help support its goals and mission.” I love that. And I think we all agree, that’s as vital to an organization as management. After all, who is producing the work that our managers are overseeing?
Business, like life, is yin and yang. So, how do we provide professional growth and development to this vital group of employees?
First, celebrate the fact that we can rely on our individual contributors to support the organization and excel in their roles. Often, we promote our star employee into a leadership role that they are not a fit for simply because they do their current job so well. This happens in sales, professional roles and support positions. It seems like the next logical step in order to keep them. But, if the management position doesn’t work out, we often lose the employee altogether because stepping back is too embarrassing and demoralizing. There’s nothing worse than saying goodbye to an A-player.
Second, build career paths for leadership AND individual contributors, so your top talent can continue to grow while supporting the business in a way that works long term for them and for the organization. Two distinct growth paths will encourage those who do not want to lead or might not be good at leading to see opportunity rather than a dead end. Of course, there will be a myriad of paths within the two broad categories based on the various areas of the business.
Individual contributor paths might include things like job levels and specializations. For example, you can have a junior analyst position lead into an analyst, senior analyst and lead analyst position. Each level requires a certain set of competencies that must be achieved along with a defined amount of experience. Pay increases can be based on the new skills and experience attained to move up to the new role.
And some of that skill development should absolutely be leadership oriented. It’s possible to be a leader even if you don’t manage people. Leadership soft skills can be used to mentor lower levels, lead projects and participate in the strategic direction of the department, division or business as a whole. Individual contributors may not want to manage people, but they could want to move into roles that have more influence, visibility and decision-making authority, as well as less direct oversight. They can work into roles that determine direction, facilitate relationships with key stakeholders or lead important projects.
Best of all, you are retaining top talent with ever-increasing skills, experience, and knowledge that they are using to make your organization more successful. It’s a cumulative effect!
Let’s wrap up with some action steps toward capitalizing on your individual contributors.
Define why/how individual contributor paths can benefit your business, such as attract and retain exceptional talent, create a stronger company culture and compete in the marketplace.
Start with your organizational chart to create paths for advancing through the various departments and/or business functions.
Define the jobs at each level and then the competencies needed (hard/soft skills, experience, education, training, etc.)
Identify training needs and determine if you should create your own training programs or outsource.
Document the career paths.
Use the career paths to help map an employee’s growth starting with onboarding.
Use the power of behavioral insight to better understand every employee’s unique traits, strengths, and challenges. The more data you have, the more effective you will be at developing your team and providing career opportunities that work for them and for the organization.
In the current times, you may have had to furlough or lay off employees. Now that you’re able to hire again, you’re considering a rehire. You find yourself weighing the pros and cons of bringing previous employees back to your team. Will this decision be a good move, or is it better to start again?
The fact is, it depends on the specific person you’re reconsidering, the position in question, the culture of your company, and the nature of the former employee’s departure the first time around. Of course, the employee must meet any rehire eligibility requirements, usually excluding dismissal for cause or violation of ethical or behavioral conduct rules.
The good news is, it is entirely possible for the rehire process to offer a solution where everyone benefits. While HR directors and managers once considered rehiring a former employee to be a bad idea, times are unprecedented and have changed more than anyone could foresee. Many HR directors and hiring managers come to see the potential benefits of rehiring former employees.
If employees see their employer is actively working to bring back talented people, it can have a positive effect on morale and engagement, especially if the rehire was well-liked and respected. Rehiring high-performing and high-potential staff can also bring productive teams back together and lay a solid foundation for trust and confidence.
Unless the employee has been gone for a long time, it is unlikely that they will need to receive much in the way of retraining. This saves time when it comes to onboarding costs and allows you to slot the rehire employee into their position with minimal disruption. Even if some training and development are needed to support them in a new role, the time and cost involved should be much less than training an outsider. Previous assessment records and development plans might even be available as well.
Another advantage of hiring past employees is that there are few, if any, recruiting costs. Since the person already has a track record within the organization, employers have a good idea of what the employee can do, so they don’t have to find someone new and recruit them. Rehiring past employees saves on the frustration of trying out a new employee and finding they’re simply not what they seemed.
Another advantage of rehiring employees is that they already know the procedures and the culture within the business. Compared with a fresh hire, they have the advantage of knowing what goes on during meetings, how the workflow is handled, and how performance is assessed. They also know why some employees or managers do one thing one way and why others do it another way. The procedures are familiar, enabling them to get up and running fast, which is a big benefit to your company.
Another benefit of rehiring employees is that they will be more engaged and committed to the organization upon their return. Many companies find that these employees show a more positive attitude after rehiring. In most cases, that’s because they’ve seen how other companies run and worked with other people, which has given them a chance to know a good thing when they see it. These employees tend to be more appreciative of the company they work for and the team members they work with. They also bring a new perspective with them that could lead to significant changes in an organization.
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On the other hand, rehiring isn’t always a great idea. There are a few key reasons why sometimes it doesn’t make sense to bring a former employee back into the fold.
While performance is obviously important, if an employee’s behavior or personality caused friction within a team or made other employees unhappy, the chances are good that you’re better off without them. There’s a popular adage that people don’t quit jobs; they quit managers. Bringing back someone who might adversely affect retention or create a toxic work environment is just asking for trouble.
There are many practical reasons why it makes sense to rehire a former employee, but just because it will be cheaper and faster doesn’t mean they’re the best choice to fill a position. If a new person is a better long-term hire for the organization, the added challenge of bringing them in might be worth it. No one wants to miss out on a future high-performer just because they didn’t want to bother with onboarding them.
Organizations can change dramatically in a short period of time. There’s a good chance that a previous employee could be walking back into a work situation that isn’t at all like the one they left. That would negate many of the benefits of rehiring an employee, so you should always consider how much things have changed when considering bringing someone back into the fold.
If you choose to hire a former employee, clearly communicate your reasons for doing so to your existing team. Also, brief the returning employee on the company’s current situation and set your expectations. If the person originally left for a specific reason, be sure that the situation has been addressed to avoid losing them a second time around. And finally, make sure to follow up regularly with the returning employee to make sure they are adjusting well.
No matter how thorough the hiring process, there’s no guarantee your new employee will be a “keeper.” Sometimes, the system fails. Crafting the perfect new hiring process is always a work in progress, especially important for small businesses and startups. Bad hires cost time and money, and often, the repercussions don’t stop there.
Although there are many moving pieces to round out a thorough hiring process, here’s a few tips to revitalize (or help you to create) yours:
Having an open position is both a challenge and an opportunity for managers. Whether you’re looking for someone to fill a brand new role or step into an existing one, now’s the time to think critically about your organizational needs and how a new employee will fulfill that role.
It can be a letdown (and a bit stressful) to see a popular, high-performing employee go, but let’s admit…it can also be exciting when thinking about how a new individual with different talents can bring fresh ideas and diverse value to the company.
To attract that fresh talent, take advantage of this time to re-evaluate the job description! Be clear about what you expect from applicants and specific about the role requirements. Going through this process helps you to be more focused on a candidate’s qualifications and less likely to make a hiring decision based on their charming personality displayed in the interview.
We’re all biased to some point. Unfortunately, when biases enter the hiring process, the ability to lure good folks on board can become compromised. It can make us see things that aren’t there as well as not see things that are. Before reviewing someone’s resume or sitting down for an interview, firmly check your preconceptions at the door.
At some time or another, most hiring managers have found themselves desperate to “put a body in a chair.” This is not a good situation. Rushing to hire can create all kinds of short- and long-term problems, including making the interview process darn near worthless. If you’re determined to find someone qualified for the job, you’ll find a way to do it. Interviews that are too short are ineffective. You can’t get to know much of anything you need to know in less than an hour. It’s also wise to have more than one interview because the time to reflect can provide valuable insight.
Anyone invited to meet with your potential new hire should have a specific reason for being in the room and real input into the outcome. Although the concept is beloved by many, “courtesy interviews” can degrade and confuse the process. The same goes for large panel interviews. Don’t fill the meeting with staff who aren’t qualified to gauge the technical or temperamental suitability of the candidate… It makes sense, right? Inclusivity in the hiring process is a must, and it’s definitely a mistake to have only one person evaluate the candidate. However, it isn’t good to have too many evaluators. It can be impossible to reach a consensus, and everyone probably shouldn’t have an equal vote anyway. The hiring manager and perhaps two or three key personnel are adequate to make a sound decision.
Carefully honed intuition is a powerful tool in life and business. That said, relying on your gut to make a decision about who to hire can be problematic. Let’s face it; our guts can often mislead us. Here’s why: people who are good at interviewing aren’t always the most qualified for the job. We often interpret the ability to speak well and project confidence as competence, and, let’s be honest; we’re often wrong about that. A shocking number of new hires fail within the first 18 months on the job. Not because of skills, but because of job traits like lack of coachability, emotional intelligence, and temperament.
Even the most empathic interviewer can’t detect the absence of these traits just by talking to a candidate for a few hours. Instead, incorporate a behavioral assessment into the hiring process. This objective tool reveals the candidate’s preferences, traits, and behavioral tendencies in the workplace. Armed with this information, a hiring manager can more reliably match the candidate’s qualities with the job requirements.
Evaluating skills requires preparation. Unfortunately, too many hiring managers think they can wing the interview and hire based on chemistry. Never a good idea. And typically, a sure-fire way to make the wrong hiring decision. Chemistry is not a precursor to good performance. Sure, no one wants to spend hours a day with someone whose personality grates on them, but a likable individual who can’t get the job done will become pretty unlikable in no time.
The job interview holds a lot of weight in the selection process. Don’t let your next new hire be a flop. Know what’s needed for the job, avoid bias, don’t rush the process, including the right decision-makers, and use a behavioral assessment tool to help you make the most informed hiring decision…not your gut!
When purchasing an RV, your customers are making a huge investment, beyond the initial purchase price, an investment that requires time, money, care, and commitment. The RV lifestyle doesn’t always come easily or cheaply. There are many factors and additional costs to consider when buying an RV. Among those, learning how to drive such a mammoth vehicle, figuring out how and where to store it when it’s not in use, understanding what it takes to maintain your RV (inside and out) for peak performance, and recognizing necessary repairs to avoid costly problems on the road. You likely encourage your customers to commit to a regular, comprehensive maintenance schedule. So, what does this have to do with employees?
Beyond the initial job offer, employees are a huge investment that requires time, money, care, and commitment. There are many factors to consider as you hire dealership staff and manage your team for peak performance, such as job fit, culture fit, technical expertise, work ethic, salary requirements, commission, incentives, and training. You also want to understand how they naturally perform. For example, do they boldly show initiative or shy away from conflict? Do they multitask with ease or stick to a predictable routine? Do they talk to everyone or prefer to work quietly on intricate tasks? After you find the perfect fit, we encourage you to commit to a regular, comprehensive employee maintenance plan and learn how to spot problems early to avoid costly problems stemming from disengagement.
Staffing experts say that 33% of employees are actively engaged in what they are doing daily. So, what are the other 67% doing exactly? Well, 17% are actively disengaged (that’s bad), and the other 50% are conditionally disengaged (that’s bad but fixable). That 50% typically has a situation of concern that can either be addressed, moving them into the engaged column, or ignored, moving them to completely disengaged. The top and the bottom of that graph are often easy to spot, but what do you do to retain and encourage those in that middle 50%?
The first step is learning who each employee is. There are as many different types of employees as there are classes of recreational vehicles. You want to:
A) uncover their unique motivators and work styles
B) learn all you can about how to communicate with each person
C) understand the right buttons to push as you craft incentive programs.
Sound like a lot of work?
It can be, especially if you aren’t using a behavioral assessment. Behavioral assessments cut the “figuring out who they are” phase down significantly. Often, managers have to work with an employee for months before really getting a feel for that individual's intrinsic motivators and workplace preferences. There’s also a lot of trial and error along the way. And, unfortunately, so much can go wrong in a relatively short amount of time. A behavioral assessment eliminates most of that learning curve and literally provides you with an employee manual. And before you shove that manual into the glove compartment, you can use it to craft a performance management strategy that will head off conditional disengagement and maybe even prevent it altogether.
Every behavioral assessment will be slightly different, but the best ones break the results down into specific character traits. While you see these traits every day, you might not always stop and consider how they shape each employee's decisions and work styles, whether they work on the sales floor or in the repair bay. Think of these traits as employee features, with each feature bringing extra value to overall job performance:
Feature 1 - Assertiveness. What motivates them? Some people respond to individual incentives and need to have significant control over their career and financial situation. You might call them the “risk-takers.” They want to do more if they have a chance to get more out of it. You most likely will find these people in sales and working for a commission or in leadership where they can shape outcomes. Others respond to security. They are team-oriented and excel at finding that common ground that promotes harmony within a group. What they want is stability in their jobs as well as their lives. These are often your service and support team members.
Maintenance and Repair 1 – Make sure you are properly incentivizing each type. For example, salespeople thrive on the opportunity to make more based on their own effort, and they love to compete, so commission, sales contests, and individual goals are a hit. Service people thrive on security, so they appreciate incentives tied to their team contribution and do not put their base salary at risk.
Feature 2 – Sociability. What recharges them? Often we think of this as extroversion vs. introversion, but there’s more to it than that. Some people have literally never met a stranger; they can strike up a conversation with anyone. Social interaction is what they need, and an emotional appeal can often sway them. Others are emotionally exhausted by too much of that and need to have that quality “me time” to be productive. They are driven by logic, and any appeal would need to be well-crafted on an intellectual level to appreciate it fully. The first group feels a burst of pride from hearing someone say, “Great job!” whereas someone in the second group wants concrete feedback, such as “You did a great job on that presentation. You really explained how we could use that technique to improve productivity.”
Maintenance and Repair 2 – Make sure you are motivating and communicating with each type in a way that will resonate with them. Social employees want recognition, they like the spotlight, and they value face-to-face communication with their manager. Reserved employees want a more quiet recognition, such as an email of appreciation. They dislike the spotlight and are comfortable with nonverbal communication with their manager. However, if there is an engagement issue, you should be having one-on-one meetings with each type to diagnose the problem and work on an individual plan to move the employee back to engaged.
Feature 3 – Pace. What is their work pace? Some folks were born multitasking. They might not even slow down from one task before grabbing another. Others need to work on one thing at a time to ensure the highest quality. Both get the job done but in two different styles.
Maintenance and Repair 3 – Assign work in a way that respects the working pace of each employee. The fast-paced multitaskers aren’t bothered by interruptions and will easily set aside one task to handle another; they crave action and variety. The patient, systematic processors, can work quickly, but they can also get flustered by the unexpected, so avoid springing last-minute surprises on them. Give them plenty of notice, and don’t barge in on them mid-task to discuss something that is not urgent. If you see that a methodical mechanic, for example, is constantly being shifted from one job to another, sometimes in the middle of a job, it is likely that person is or will be conditionally disengaged.
Feature 4 – Structure. Are they big picture or meticulous? There are times when you really need someone going to go with their gut and get something done, even if it might not be completely the “right way” to accomplish the task. They have their way of doing things, and you step back and let them do it. For other tasks, though, like working on a customer’s brakes, you need someone who will go over every detail to make sure everything is precisely correct.
Maintenance and Repair 4 – Provide structure to those who need it and give autonomy to those who don’t. Big-picture thinkers want to innovate, and they like having decision-making authority. Avoid micro-managing this group. On the flip side, be sure you provide specific instructions to your detailed employees. They can feel frustrated and directionless when new tasks are assigned without any guidance from their supervisor.
Feature 5 – Judgement. You really want people who use good judgment; it’s super helpful no matter what job they are in. Take my word for that one.
Maintenance and Repair 5 – Don’t hire people with bad judgment. A behavioral assessment that measures that can help.
One of the biggest problems supervisors face is taking these very different people and applying a “one-size-fits-all” solution. If you don’t understand who you are trying to motivate, you can ultimately create “conditional disengagements” and will likely have difficulties with employee retention. These are easily avoidable mistakes managers continue to make: putting the wrong personnel into the wrong situations. It creates a difficult environment for employees to succeed, and supervisors don’t know how to deal with it.
Once you have an idea of who you’re working with, it should be easier to determine who you want for future hires. What kind of person naturally excels at each kind of job? Using top performers as the template for your hiring decisions will increase the likelihood of finding that next superstar. It can also help you understand where some might be struggling or where potential candidates may need extra guidance. None of those traits mean that someone with the right experience cannot perform a task. It merely shows where they might need extra guidance and support from their leadership to be an engaged A-player.
It’s not just the employees who should be benchmarked. Leadership should be involved with the process as well. Knowing how a manager works and makes decisions reveals quite a bit about their personal leadership style. And knowing where you and your employee complement each other and where you don’t increase engagement, morale, and productivity across the board.
As a successful RV dealership manager, you naturally promote the care and maintenance of every RV sold with its new owner. Now you can use that same principle for managing, engaging, and retaining your RV staff. Using a behavioral assessment is the best way to perform a full system check and put your conditionally disengaged employees back on the road to success.
The funny thing about top performers is that while they rarely need external motivation, the wrong kind of management will quickly result in serious demotivation.
Also noteworthy: these folks tend to be politically savvy enough to hide their managers' worst of their frustration. Instead, one day they’ll just up and give notice, thanking their clueless employers for the “valuable learning experience” as they skip out the door.
This is the bad type of turnover that smart employers try and avoid, especially in the current economy, which is becoming more and more a seller’s market.
As every employer knows, talent acquisition is an investment. Failure to get the proper return on that investment hurts the bottom line. It also hurts morale and engagement when talented folks are driven out needlessly. It’s discouraging and causes remaining employees to have to reboot and regroup.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As a blueprint for what NOT to do, here then are the 5 surefire ways to demotivate your top performers.
#1. Micromanage. I’d guess that a literal ton has been written about the evils of micromanaging. Nobody likes being told exactly how to do his job, over and over again, as a matter of course. Top performers value autonomy and the ability to think for themselves. Anything else feels demeaning and stifling. Give top performers an objective and a deadline (if necessary) and then leave them alone. If they need help, they’re skilled enough to ask for it.
#2. Flip flop. Indecisiveness drives top performers batty because they like getting stuff done. A habit of obstructing progress by failing to make needed decisions is guaranteed to send your top performer racing to the job boards.
#3. Be opaque. “Why” is a fundamental question for top performers who appreciate knowing the reasons behind requests and directives. Managers who view “why” as a threat to their authority and/or who feel entitled to give orders without considering anyone else’s need to know will find themselves continually on the lookout for good employees.
#4. Underpay. When rewards aren’t commensurate with results, most employees will get a little antsy, and top performers are no exception. However, top performers tend to know their worth and will more quickly seek other options. While cash isn’t the end-all-be-all motivator for everyone, money is needed currency to obtain food, clothing, and shelter (among other things of worth), and it signals value, to boot.
#5. Routinely engage in petty politics. Politics is an unavoidable part of corporate life, and top performers certainly know this. Still, there’s a difference between healthy politics, which entails using power and social networks to advance interests assertively and respectfully, and the toxic, tiring games of the truly unenlightened. The latter requires too much emotional labor and makes work hard for all the wrong reasons. Top performers don’t want to be bothered with that.
Top performers give more, and they require more in return. They want their ideas and their intellect respected, they want to be paid what they’re worth, and they don’t want their efforts choked by needless roadblocks and petty politics. These behaviors are all surefire demotivators and surefire ways to find yourself on the losing end of the war for talent.
As Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And lunch. And dinner. In fact, culture eats everything for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Establishing a corporate culture is important to your company’s success because it determines all of your organization's other areas. In addition to branding and strategy, culture also determines hiring decisions and affects how well employees fit within your company.
A survey by OfficeTeam reveals that 64% of human resources managers have hired employees that didn’t fit the company’s culture, and 66% have lost employees who didn’t fit in. When interviewing, Office Team recommends a series of questions to help determine an applicant’s fit within the organization, but these questions can also help an organization identify its culture.
A note on values: most companies have core values, such as integrity, excellence, customer service, etc. However, listing core values on paper and framing them in the hallway doesn’t indicate that these are driving forces in the organization. For example, a company may say that integrity is a core value, but then it sells its clients’ information to other companies without permission. Or the organization may list customer service as a core value, but then penalize customer service representatives for spending too much time on the phone answering questions from those customers.
When you’re diagnosing your organization’s culture and recognizing its strengths and weaknesses, your diagnosis should include several key principles, according to a recent report by Strategy&, a part of the PricewaterhouseCoopers network:
- Naturally entrepreneurial, financially motivated
- Respectful, consensus-seeking, compliant
- Proud, protective, and loyal to own group
- Ambitious, aspirational, financially enabled
- Transactional win-lose mindset, focus on monetary rewards
- Adverse to accountability, uncomfortable giving feedback
- Natural tendency to silos, distrustful of other groups
- Inefficient, complacent, unrealistic
1. Manage work performance effectively by doing the following:
2. Empower employees at every level, which will allow them to:
3. Ensure that leaders are visible, accessible, and:
4. Make sure the strategy is customer-centric. Connect the brand, employees, objectives, and mission to the customers.
5. Create a collaborative approach to problem-solving.
6. Invest in training and development opportunities. This not only improves performance but also allows the company to identify high-potential employees and prevents talent hoarding.
Creating a culture that drives success isn’t easy. Still, organizations that fail to evaluate themselves and take the necessary steps in the right direction will not create sustainable growth.