Tag Archives: work productivity

Welcome Onboard. Tips for Staff Recruitment by Dr. Sarah Burke

I estimate there will be a lot of ‘first days’ for staff in January 2014, if the volume of assessment testing for recruitment that we did leading up to Christmas is anything to go by.  But consider these facts:

•       Half of all senior external hires fail within 18 months in a new position;

•       Almost 1/3 of all new hires employed for less than 6 months are already job searching;

•       According to the US Dept of Labour, a total of 25% of the working population undergoes a career transition each year.

This level of churn comes at a cost. Estimates of direct and indirect costs for a failed executive-level hire can be as high as $2.7 million (Watkins, 2003).  And for each employee who moves on, there is many others in the extended network – peers, bosses, and direct reports whose performance is also influenced.  One of the important ways that HR can positively impact on this level of churn is through the strategic use of a process known as onboarding.

What is Onboarding?

Employee onboarding is the process of getting new hires positively adjusted to the role, social, and cultural aspects of their new jobs as quickly and smoothly as possible. It is a process through which new hires learn the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required to function effectively within an organisation. The bottom line is that the sooner we can bring people up to speed in their roles and wider organisation, the more expediently they will contribute.

Conventional wisdom is that a new hire will take approximately 6 months before they can meaningfully contribute (Watkins, 2003).  I suspect that for most organisations, a 6 month lag time before seeing a return on a new hire is untenable, particularly in the NZ economy when 97.2% of us employ less than 20 staff (MBIE Fact Sheet, 2013).  One of the important ways that HR can accelerate the adjustment process for new hires is by having an onboarding programme that is given a profile inside the business, and supported by key staff.

While the specifics of an onboarding programme can vary organisation to organisation, the below is offered as a guide for HR managers to proactively manage their onboarding efforts.  Please review my presentation Welcome Onboard for more direction in terms of supporting staff in the initial days, weeks, and months of their employment.

 Top Tips for Supporting Staff Onboarding:

  • Make good use of the pre-start to get the workspace organised, to schedule key meetings, and for sharing useful organisational and team information (i.e., team bio’s, blogs, key organisational reading).
  • Give your onboarding programme a brand/logo/tagline that communicates the experience and gives it importance/profile.
  • Customise your onboarding programme to reflect individual need; onboarding is not a one-size fits all.
  • Personalise the first day, including a formal announcement of entry
  • Create an onboarding plan detailing key projects, firsts, objectives, and deliverables that are expected by your new hire.
  • Monitor progress over time using milestones; 30 – 60 – 90 – 120 days up to 1 year post-entry.
  • Identify 2-3 quick wins that your new hire can take responsibility for in order to build credibility and establish momentum (note: a quick win must be a meaningful win, not necessarily a big win).
  • Involve your new hire in projects that will require working cross-functionally.
  • Include organisational role models as mentors and coaches.  Remember a relatively small set of connections is far better than a lot of superficial acquaintances.
  • Be prepared to provide initial structure and direction to your new hire.  Remember, most people if thrown in the deep end to ‘sink or swim’ will sink.
  • Use technology to facilitate the onboarding process, including the flow of information.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Relate to Teams?

How does emotional intelligence relate to teams?

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to recognise, understand and manage the emotions of oneself, of others and of groups. The concept of EI and its contribution to the effectiveness of organisations is now well researched and supported. However, as Druskat and Wolff (2001) point out this has generally been discussed in terms of the impact at the individual level and the reality is that most of the work we do and the decisions we make is in teams. Because overall performance relies so much on team cohesiveness and awareness, enhancing emotional intelligence across the team is crucial but what does this look like and how does it differ from strategies aimed at enhancing individual emotional intelligence?

The key differences between the concepts of individual and group emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman suggest that someone with high emotional intelligence is aware of emotions and able to regulate them both inwardly and outwardly. However, just because a team is made up of emotionally intelligent people does not make for an emotionally intelligent group. A team must not only consider the emotions of the individuals within that group, but they must also be mindful of the emotions of the group as a whole, as well as the emotions of other groups in a broader context. According to Druskat and Wolff, establishing emotionally intelligent group norms where specific attitudes and behaviours become habits that enable trust, group identity and group efficacy is the answer for creating emotionally intelligent groups and ensuring functional team performance.

There are a range of potential strategies for enabling emotionally intelligent behaviour in teams at these three levels. Interpersonal understanding and perspective taking were two strategies that Druskat and Wolff discussed as ways that people can become more aware of their team members’ perspectives and feelings at the individual level. Interpersonal understanding refers to a team’s ability to pick up certain behaviours of its members and recognise the cause of them.  Perspective taking refers to the way teams stop and take the time to consider the perspectives of everyone as opposed to simply going with the majority. An emotionally intelligent team would query if there were any perspectives they had not yet heard or thought through fully. Therefore, a group norm of interpersonal understanding and sensitivity is established and helps to nurture trust and a sense of group identity among its members.

While establishing these norms at the individual level is important, many teams can struggle to recognise emotions at the group level. In a study of effective teams, the authors found that having a group awareness of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and means of interaction were critical in facilitating group efficacy.  Group emotional intelligence is about bringing emotions to the surface and understanding how they impact the performance of the team, then facing them in an open and honest forum. The last type of emotional intelligence that any high performing team should have is the ability to understand emotions outside of their team. Sometimes a team can become so caught up in their objectives and ways of working they can struggle to understand why other groups in the organisation don’t share their viewpoint or enthusiasm. Successful teams are not only aware of others’ perspectives but are capable of influencing outsiders simply by how they frame their own needs and perspectives.

While emotional intelligence at the individual level has been well supported, emotional intelligence at the team level is critical to ensuring the success of a team. Through establishing norms for emotional awareness and understanding at all levels teams can create a culture of trust, group identity and efficacy resulting in high performance. Training courses can be hugely beneficial in increasing emotional awareness and helping people to regulate emotions. Many companies are now choosing to invest in leadership development courses and team building workshops which can inform teams of the importance of establishing emotionally intelligent norms and provide strategies in doing so. What norms exist within your team and what does your team do to encourage a supportive and trusting environment?

Druskat, V., Wolff, S. (2001). Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups. Harvard Business Review, 81-90.

Job Satisfaction and Work Productivity

A current hot topic in the world of I/O is the relationship between happiness at work and work productivity. Everyone can see the ‘human-benefit’ of having a happy workplace, and the idea that increased job satisfaction and a harmonious workplace are inherently good things makes obvious sense.

However the link between job satisfaction and work productivity is far less clear. Historically, the relationship has been less definitive. Vroom (1964) reported an average correlation of .14 between satisfaction and performance.  Iaffaldano & Muchinsky (1985) backed this up, suggesting that the average correlation was around .15.  More recently, a definitive meta-analysis by Tim Judge and his colleagues (2001) reported an uncorrected average correlation of .18, and a corrected correlation of .30. These studies have fuelled the argument that there is little association between job satisfaction and job performance, at least at the individual level.

In a keynote address at the NZPsS conference, Cynthia Fisher from Bond University (Queensland) delivered an update on this view. (Thanks to Professor Michael O’Driscoll, Waikato University, for posting a summary of the address on I/O Net). Cynthia presented an array of recent evidence which might cause us to rethink some of the assumptions we have made about the relationship between satisfaction and performance. The summary appears to be that while job satisfaction may have limited impact on task performance, it does lead to a higher level of contextual performance (e.g. positive work behaviours); attitudes do matter in terms of people’s job performance.

While important, I believe this sidesteps the core questions organisations often ask, like ‘will this increase our revenue?’ Recent attempts to link job satisfaction to productivity have likewise sidestepped this intrinsic question. A highly functioning workplace is not the same as one that is generating large profits for shareholders.

Another keynote address (UK) was brought to my attention by Professor Paul Barrett:

Peccei, R. (2004) Human Resource Management and the search for the happy workplace. Inaugural Addresses Research in Management Series: Erasmus Research Institute of Management: http://publishing.eur.nl/ir/repub/asset/1108/EIA-2004-021-ORG.pdf, 0-0.

The analysis of the impact of human resource (HR) practices on employee well-being at work is an important yet relatively neglected area of inquiry within the field of human resource management (HRM). In this inaugural address, the main findings from ongoing research based on data from the 1998 British Workplace Employee Relations Survey (WERS98) are presented. These suggest that the HR practices that are adopted by organisations have a significant impact on the well-being of their workforces and that this impact tends, on the whole, to be more positive than negative. The effects, however, are more complex than is normally assumed in the literature. In particular, preliminary results indicate that the constellation of HR practices that help to maximise employee well-being (i.e. that make for happy workplaces), are not necessarily the same as those that make up the type of ‘High Performance Work Systems’ commonly identified in the literature. This has important theoretical, policy and ethical implications for the field of HRM. These are discussed along with important directions for future research.

Like many areas of I/O psychology, the relationship between job satisfaction and work performance is a complex system. Our research in the area is at times clichéd and like many so-called great findings in psychology, are occasionally nothing more than old-fashioned common sense. A classic example of this is a paper published last year:

Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., Asplund, J.W., Kilham, E.A., & Agrawi, S. (2010) Causal impact of employee work perceptions on the bottom line of organizations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(4), 378-389.

Selective paragraphs from the abstract border on the obvious and demonstrate how far our discipline needs to go if it is going to come to an understanding of complex relationships. Some of the more ‘insightful’ comments include:

• ‘Perceptions of work conditions have proven to be important to the well-being of workers’.
• ‘Customer loyalty, employee retention, revenue, sales, and profit are essential to the success of any business’.
• ‘Managerial actions and practices can impact employee work conditions and employee perceptions of these conditions, thereby improving key outcomes at the organizational level’.

As is often the case, a truly insightful discussion on this topic is not found in psychological literature but in an issue of The Economist (July 2010). An article noted that wellness programmes are now part of the corporate landscape with more than half of America’s largest companies offering smoking and fitness programmes. Over a third have gyms and canteens are termed ‘nutritional centres’. This focus on wellness is also extending to mental health programmes. This is driven by two fronts: Doctors note that over a third of health related issues they see have a psychological base, and management gurus are now talking much more about the psychological impacts of the modern workforce. The article goes on to argue that the rationale for these interventions is as much financial as it is psychological. Mental health has been estimated to cost British employers $26 billion a year. American research suggests presentism (being at work but not really functioning i.e. present) costs twice as much as absenteeism.

Taking the argument one step further, The Economist states that the job satisfaction and work performance equation requires deeper analysis. What does this body of work mean for the relationship between the private and public distinction for employers? How much responsibility should an employer take for staff wellbeing? What is the scientific basis for many of the interventions? If employers are to introduce measures to improve wellness, how do they know what is most likely to bring about the desired outcomes? Is the focus on wellness necessarily good for productivity?

The relationship between job satisfaction and worker well-being and work performance is complicated. Talent is often at extremes of the bell curve and does not always naturally fit the classical model of wellness. Understanding the various interactions is a valid line of research for psychology but one that will not be short circuited by clichés. We must never lose sight of the core function of business – which is to make, distribute and reinvest profit – and job satisfaction must impact this core function if it is to be a meaningful psychological construct embraced by the industry.