Archive for April, 2010

Now You See Them – Now you Don’t: Leading in a Virtual Worod

April 20, 2010

• Do you have employees, customers, vendors who are located in other geographies?

• Do you have teams that are dispersed across the globe or domestically?

• Do you have telecommuters who work at home or in satellite offices?

What do you need to do differently as a leader to manage those who you rarely or never see face-to-face?

The first rule of thumb is to do whatever you do well managing in a face-to-face environment. If you don’t demonstrate fundamental leadership skills in a virtual world, it is a kiss of death. Here is a list of commonly agreed upon leadership competencies:

1. Set clear performance expectations and accountability.
2. Build trust.
3. Agree on norms for how work gets done.
4. Demonstrate the value of individual and culturally differences.

Each of these skills are critical in a face-to-face world but in a virtual world if you do not practice them your team members will flounder. For example, in a face-to-face world it is easier to build trust because team members are co-located and talk over cubicles or meet at the coffee machine. They chat with one another as they walk into a conference room for a meeting. It is important to simulate these informal encounters in a virtual work environment.

Unfortunately, most teleconferences focus on task only. It is important to take a few minutes at the beginning of virtual meetings to schmooze. What movies have people seen, where did they go on vacation, what recommendations do they have for a family trip, how did the kids soccer game go? Find ways to engage your team in informal conversation to build relationships and develop trust. The content will unfold more readily if virtual team members trust one another.

Another example from the list of fundamental leadership skills above is: Agree on norms for how work gets done: in a virtual world it is important to reach agreements on expectations such as turnaround time for emails and voice mails or the editing or review of documents.

There are additional critical leadership competencies managers need to demonstrate in a virtual world that may not necessarily apply in a face-to-face environment.

1. Coach team members to navigate organizational boundaries: Team members who are not located in the central office may not know who the key stakeholders are, especially those in other functional areas. Team members may not be aware of existing political sensitivities. It is important for the leader to brief team members on key stakeholders. It may also be important to make introductions or to have key stakeholders attend one of your team meetings. Imbuing team members with the organization’s values and norms is important so they can feel a part of the organization and so they can make appropriate decisions.

2. Focus on career development – The major complaint I hear from clients who work virtually is: “Out of sight, out of mind”. Many feel invisible and feel that they may not be considered for promotional opportunities. Thus, it is important for leaders to make a concerted effort to discuss career goals with each team member. Demonstrate an interest in your direct reports’ careers and they will give back in terms of loyalty and productivity.

3. Manage technology: So much work on a virtual team is done using technology. If technology is not your specialty or you don’t have time to keep up with cutting edge tools, delegate that responsibility to someone on the team.

Being a virtual leader has its challenges and rewards. Adapting your leadership skills to a virtual work environment will help you become a better manager and help your team achieve their business goals as well as their personal goals.

Virtual leadership is a reality in today’s workplace. The challenges are real. Although technology provides connectivity, social isolation can create personal and professional problems. Virtual leaders need to acquire new skills and sensitivities to help their team’s work optimally. Here are some resources to help you:

To learn more about virtual leadership and team challenges go to: Virtual Connection

To read more virtual leadership tips and strategies go to: Virtual Connection

Lots of good academic research and information at: Virtual Leadership

Enjoy an ABC News Report: Click here

Sound advice: Click here

Virtually Yours,
Barb Miller

Head’s Up: What kind of a Life Line Do you need to Throw Employees So they don’t Jump Ship?

April 14, 2010

Will your company be able to avoid a brain drain when the economy improves?

How can you, as a manager, retain your talent?

Business Week, November 16th Issue reported that employees are holding on for dear life during the recession. However, pent up frustration with their jobs, may mean that there will be a massive exodus once the economy turns around.
Read article:

A Watson Wyatt survey found that the engagement or loyalty of top performers has dropped a whopping 25% in just one year.
Read Survey

Spherion Staffing Solutions found a huge discrepancy between what managers thought would retain employees and what employees actually indicated they wanted in order to remain on the job.
Read more

Managers thought they were the most important element in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. However in the Spherion research, employees reported that pay and benefits, or lack thereof, were the major reasons why they would jump ship when they had the opportunity to do so.

During the recession promotions, compensation and benefits have been frozen. Employees may feel that the only way they can play ‘catch-up’ is by jumping ship and negotiating a better package with a new employer.

But there may be something else that will help managers retain staff when the economy turns around. Employees report they are looking for flexibility… especially Millennials, especially new parents, especially those who care for elderly relatives, especially those considering retirement. Perhaps the company that comes out on top when staff start looking for new opportunities is the company that provides flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or part-time job opportunities.

Now is an opportune time to start experimenting with these options. It would be a great way to show your workforce that even though you cannot raise salaries, you are seeking ways to help support their personal needs. These efforts have no cost or minimal cost associated with them. Even if your entire company does not support these practices, managers can experiment with their own teams and then demonstrate to others in the company the successes they have experienced. If managers are able to retain talent, they may be a role model for other managers in the organization.

Many companies are using flexibility in another way during this recession.
Read more:

Companies are cutting hours in order to avoid layoffs. This strategy can boost morale. Employees who may be anxious about impending pink slips, are relieved when they learn that their employer is doing everything possible to avoid layoffs. By cutting back everyone’s hours, companies save money and demonstrate their caring and compassion. Managers may need to revisit both individual and team goals to determine what is actually a priority to accomplish given that everyone is working fewer hours. Avoiding layoffs can increase employee loyalty and commitment resulting in higher retention rates.
Read more

The estimates for the cost of replacing one mid-level employee ranges from 150%-250% of salary. This estimate does not even reflect the cost of lost institutional knowledge and the time it takes for a new employee to come up to speed.
See research

What’s stopping you from experimenting?

Artemis Management Consultants can help you create an engaging work environment to retain your human capital as the economy improves. Don’t let your talented employees work for the competition. Stop the brain drain.

Barb Miller, President, Artemis Management Consultants and Co-Founder Virtual Connection

The Employee Engagement Game: Will you Win or Lose?

April 5, 2010

Take a few guesses: What do you think will help you as a manager or executive retain talent when the economy improves?

Let’s look at some research facts to find out what employees are saying and then let’s discuss what you can do about it in your organization.

Here are the results from a survey that asked what was important for job satisfaction:

• Good Relationships with Co-Workers

• Job Security

• Desirable Commute and Desirable Hours (flexibility)

Read the survey

The Society for Human Resource Management survey tells us that employees value:

• Professional Development Opportunities

• Relationship with Manager and

• Flexibility

Read the Society for Human Resource Management Survey

Randstad reports these three factors are essential for employee engagement:

• Trust – by both managers and co-workers

• Flexibility

• Support with career growth and the desire to grow with the company

Have you discerned the pattern? It is certainly a challenge during an economic downturn to invest in employees. But unless you do, you may loose them as soon as the job market loosens up. Here’s interesting data:

Approximately 65% of employees admitted to passively or actively looking for a new job, compared to employers’ estimate of 37%. Employers overestimate the degree of extremely satisfied employees nearly 2 to 1. Furthermore, this research found that Millennials report the lowest job satisfaction scores. Can you afford to lose your young talent?

Read more!

Were your guesses on target?

What do you Do to Retain Talent and

Increase Employee Engagement?

The situation is not bleak.

There is hope.

Conduct leadership training and leadership coaching to increase the capacity of your managers so they support their staff more effectively. The capability of your leaders is the primary link to employee engagement. Employee engagement is the key factor to achieving your business results. Hold leaders accountable for increasing employee engagement.

Ask your employees what is important to them. Conduct Employee Climate Surveys. Follow-up and address the issues that are raised in the survey results. At a minimum explain why you may not be able to make the requested changes. Engage in two-way communication. Conduct open forums or focus groups as a follow-up to the survey. Ensure that there is a safe climate to support candor so employees do not feel they will be retaliated against if they are honest.

Engage in team building opportunities. This does not have to be trust falls and rope courses. Make time to engage staff in problem solving difficult business challenges. Help your team learn more about the personal work preferences of each team member so they can work more effectively together. If you have a virtual team, you can still engage in activities to increase trust and collaboration? Don’t wait until the budget might allow for a face-to-face meeting. Learn how to build cohesive, high performing virtual teams.

These are three concrete strategies for which Artemis Management Consultants can provide support to you. We listen to our needs, learn your culture and customize solutions. We guarantee our work with you will increase the three bottom lines – Productivity, Customer and Employee Satisfaction.  We provide you with a return in your investment.

Remember, if you lose valuable talent the consequence are costly:

• It costs between 150%-200% of a person’s salary to replace an employee. This includes the cost of  recruiting, the loss of productivity if the job is vacant as well as the learning curve time for a new employee to become optimally productive.

• Institutional knowledge walks out the door.

• The manager and team all spend time away from productive work to integrate the new employee.

• If a respected employee leaves, it may cause others to consider leaving as well. The brain drain may begin.

Call us at 415-388-9514 to explore how we can help you increase employee engagement, leadership capability and team performance.

Email: Barb Miller