Using Saville Wave for More Effective Recruitment Interviews

I previously wrote about using psychometric inventories (more frequently called personality assessments) for better decision-making in recruitment. Many readers have asked me to be more specific and to discuss a specific instrument to better aid their understanding of how the process might work. This posting is in response to those requests.

The instrument I’ll use as an example is the Saville Wave personality questionnaires – there are two versions users can opt for: Professional Styles which is used in more senior level recruitment and development, and Focus Styles which is suitable for general talent shortlisting, hiring and development. Both are based on Wave Styles and the resulting report explores an individual’s motives, preferences, needs and talents in critical work areas.

The Saville Wave personality questionnaires are considered to be the most powerful predictors of workplace performance and potential, and one of its key strengths is that it is the only psychometric tool to identify alignment between work motives and individual talent. So not only does it indicate a person’s ability (skill or talent) in terms of an important work-related behaviour, but it also indicates their willingness or motivation to perform that work-related behaviour. If a particular behaviour is required for success in a specific job, it is neither effective nor efficient to hire someone who is skilled in that behaviour but is unwilling to or dislikes doing it!

Another strength is that the same Saville Wave personality questionnaires can be used for recruitment, on-boarding, career and performance development, leadership potential, etc, which means that everybody involved, whether HR recruitment, HR talent management, line managers, or senior management, are talking and understanding the same language. This has proven to give companies greater consistency and alignment in their people management.

So how does it work?

Saville Wave reports are structured into four clusters of Thought, Influence, Adaptability and Delivery.

  • The Thought cluster is focused on developing ideas, from analysing problems and showing interest in underlying principles through to being more expansive and divergent in thought by being creative and strategic.
  • The Influence cluster relates to communication and working with others. It is concerned with establishing positive relationships with people and demonstrating positive leadership behaviours.
  • The Adaptability cluster covers areas of emotional, behavioural and social adaptability, respectively.
  • The Delivery cluster is focused on implementation and delivery of results, from ensuring high standards of delivery through to proactively making things happen.

Each of the four cluster has three sections, and each section has three dimensions, giving a total of 36 dimensions. These 36 dimensions of work related behaviours form the Focus Styles reports and include the most important behaviours in all work contexts. The Focus Styles report is the one most widely used.

However, each of these 36 dimensions are further comprised of three underlying facets of work related behaviours to provide 108 facets in total in the Expert Styles reports. The more detailed Expert Styles report is mainly only used in high level positions

You can view an example of an Expert Report here. This shows the 36 dimensions as well as the full 108 facets of work-related behaviours that are examined in the personality questionnaires.

For recruitment purposes, a company will determine which of the 36 dimensions are the most important behaviours required to do a particular job well – they usually also identify which are required to do the job exceptionally well. How people rate and rank themselves against these particular dimensions are highlighted in the report. A useful feature of the Wave reports is that they have an in-built mechanism to detect manipulation or people pretending to be something they are not – such behaviour will show inconsistencies in responses and will be highlighted in the report.

There is an Interview Guide version of the Wave report which goes further than the Focus Styles or Expert Styles reports. This identifies areas an interviewer needs to explore in more detail with a candidate, and even provides a list of increasingly probing questions to ask the candidate about these areas of concern. This ensures that all important areas of performance are explored with candidates, and any crucial area that a candidate seems to be challenged in are properly investigated.

An example of an Interview Guide can be viewed here.

Hopefully this brief article has provided a useful example of how a psychometric instrument such as the Saville Wave can take a lot of the ‘hit and miss’ out of recruitment interviewing. While a Wave report can cost about SGD $200, this is insignificant when you consider that the real costs involved in a bad hiring decision are roughly three times the annual salary of the position. Furthermore, the use of a professional instrument such as Saville Wave provides a professional experience for candidates which starts a good relationship with a potential employee and protects the company’s brand.

Performance Reviews: The Lesser Evil?

Performance reviews have become a tool for the majority of employers.

But, are they really an accurate reading of an employee’s importance to the company?  More importantly, has anyone ever questioned the validity of performance reviews?

The overarching belief is that performance reviews don’t vary much and that most employees get a rating of “above-average,” with very few receiving poor scores.  There is also the belief that good performers remain good, while bad performers remain bad.

Another question asked about performance reviews is in regards to how they are used.  Do they usually mean a pay increase for good performers, or are they used as an incentive for improving the performance of mediocre employees?

A recent study examined performance reviews and their relation to continued employee performance over a seven-year period. The research was conducted by Peter Cappelli (Professor of Management at Wharton) and Martin Conyon (Professor at Bentley University).

Here are some of the findings:

  • The upward rating of “average” employees to slightly above “average” appeared frequently.
  • Higher scores resulting from a chummy superior/subordinate relationship were not observed. 
  • Also noted was a tendency toward a greater number of “poor” scores than “excellent” scores.
  • The most surprising result of the study was the lack of evidence for good performers being rated that way year after year.
  • The idea that good performers remained good, average performers remained average, or bad performers remained bad was found to be without basis.  While a consistently bad performer tended to be fired, the notion of performance reviews remaining constant over the long term was not supported.

The study also revealed that the review process was looked at by supervisors as more of a continuing relationship, with commensurate rewards for performance improvements.  Poor performers, according to the study, were disproportionately denied pay raises when compared to average or better performers.

Granted, the study only involved the experiences of one company, but no evidence exists elsewhere to dispute these findings.

According to the researchers, the validity, or lack of, regarding performance reviews seems to exist without any real evidence. For those campaigning to remove performance reviews from the appraisal process, perceived lack of reliability is conveniently cited as a valid reason.  But, when the facts are laid out, performance reviews are still the most reliable short-term tool for rating and improving employee performance.

Improve Employee Engagement By Prioritising Mental Well-Being

If you’re a manager or an HR practitioner, for sure you’re constantly cooking up ideas for employee engagement and motivation. You create reward schemes that would entice the ambitious; you run workshops on time management and effectiveness. And if you’re the type who believes in the power of camaraderie and rapport, you invest in the occasional night out in a bar.

But there’s one factor significantly linked to employee engagement that many in the corporate world ignore: well-being. In particular, psychological well-being.

Creating a mentally healthy workforce seems like such a wishy-washy thing to do, something that’s more of a luxury than an actual investment towards the bottom line. At the very least, it’s an intrusion of the workplace into what’s traditionally considered as an employee’s private business.

What few realize is that it’s actually a sound business decision to prioritize staff mental well-being. Psychologically thriving workers are the individuals who deliver the goods. Furthermore, mental illness is a silent crisis that incurs real costs for business.


The Cost of Poor Psychological Well-Being


Mental health conditions are prevalent in the working age population. It’s estimated that 1 in every 5 employees will experience mental illness at one point in their life. These conditions include mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder, anxieties and phobias, panic attacks, and drug abuse. Those with pre-existing disposition to a mental health condition will experience severe symptoms at least twice a year.

singapore employee engagement - staff wellbeingMany countries have decided to take a closer look at how mental illness translates to actual numbers. The UK, for example, estimates that employers lose nearly £26 billion each year because of poor mental health. A 2008 Time Magazine article revealed that lost income from mental illness equate to $193 billion a year in the United States. Such losses are regretful considering that more than 80% of people with mental health conditions can live productive lives given the right support, and providing mental health accommodation is one of the most affordable wellness programs companies can implement.

The reason for poor focus on well-being in the workplace is because costs are indirect. But mental health concerns are believed to account for as much as 40% of employee sickness leaves, which when in total accounts for millions of working days lost in a year. Studies show that employees with one or more mental health conditions, even just mild depression, miss work at a rate 5 times greater than employees without conditions. Ironically, many leaves and absences due to mental health concerns are caused or exacerbated by psychologically unhealthy work conditions including poor office lay-outs, lack of stress breaks, and inability of managers to make reasonable adjustment for persons with mental health needs.

The biggest cost of poor mental health for businesses is from “presenteeism.” Presenteeism refers to attending work while sick or experiencing personal problems, resulting in below par performance. Indecisiveness, poor concentration, memory problems, fatigue, poor self-esteem, and even apathy all affect productivity and results in missed deadlines and lost opportunities.

Companies also need to consider the costs incurred from every staff turnover that’s well-being related, from the cost of hiring a new employee to training him or her on the job.


But the rewards are great!


On the flipside, creating psychologically healthy workplaces earns companies greater income. This is because mental health is a broad concept; it’s not just the absence of mental illness.

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” It’s the end goal of every motivational and employee engagement workshop on the planet, and the larger picture why companies train people on stress management techniques.

In short, a workplace that puts the premium on psychological well-being aims to bring out the best in their staff members. The result: more motivated, more productive, and 100% present employees who care about the company’s bottom line.


And it wouldn’t even cost you much!


A program on psychological well-being sounds excessive for a company with limited funds, but for the creative, it doesn’t actually take much to mount a solid mental health program.

Mental health, for example, can be integrated in health programs already existing in the company. Mental health screening can be accomplished alongside physical health screening, and access to at least psychological first aid can be provided through outsourced providers. If getting a mental health professional on board is not feasible, the establishment of peer counsellors and peer groups can make the program self-sustaining and cost-effective.

Managers can also be trained to be more aware of signs of mental health problems in their staff members, so that they can provide reasonable accommodation when necessary. As mentioned, conditions like depression are not always debilitating given the right support. Reasonable accommodation doesn’t mean that you’ll be watering down the deliverables of your staff; you’re simply going to adjust ways of doing things to help those who need help function better. For a brilliant and hard-working employee, an accommodation as simple as allowing flexible break times is more than worth it.

It all boils down to a company’s ability to remove the stigma associated with the words mental health. This is tough to do. However, a company culture that discusses well-being openly, and strives towards greater well-being in their everyday endeavours, can mitigate hidden costs of poor employee mental health — and even jack up employee engagement and the organization’s performance to higher levels.

Thinking about moving to an open-plan office? Think again…

Around 70% of people in America work in open plan offices.

I couldn’t find comparable numbers for Singapore/Asia but my guess is that the figure will be lower.

However, I have been hearing from more and more people in Singapore, that their company switched to a complete open-plan concept. None of these people were happy about it.

Some examples of companies in Singapore ditching the ‘traditional’ office layout includes American Express and Standard Chartered Bank. For them it was most likely part of a global mandate and local offices probably didn’t have a choice.

But in case you do have a choice and are considering an open-plan concept for your office, stop and consider these points.

  1. Employees in open-plan offices fall ill more often: A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health found that open office setups reported 62% more sick days on average than one-occupant layouts. No surprise here – since viruses and bacteria spread more easily in open offices.    
  2. People don’t like the noise: Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University conducted a study to check which aspects of office design (sound, temperature, office layout, air quality , lighting, etc.) had the biggest impact on employee productivity. They found that sound and temperature mattered the most. Employees do not like constant noise from conversations, ringing phones and machines.
  3. Open office layouts make people unhappy: According to a study by Calgary University, open-plans lead to more stress and less satisfaction with the environment. They also break down team relations further.
  4. Open plan offices reduce productivity: A literature review of studies from the Journal of Human Ecology, Academy of Management Journal and Administrative Science Quarterly, revealed that reduced motivation, decreased job satisfaction and lower privacy negatively affects productivity in open-plan environments.

The question is –  Are the cost savings from moving to an open-plan concept still worth it, after taking these points into account?

When Money Doesn’t Matter: Designing Non-Financial Incentive Plans

For all the salary discussions happening in the workplace, the reality for many workers is that the money doesn’t matter.  In Singapore, the recent Lumesse survey showed that local workers are the least happy and least loyal of any employee population in the world.  This is not tied to financial compensation, but rather a lack of recognition and dissatisfaction with management, notes the Singapore Human Resource Institute, so fixing these results isn’t simply a matter of throwing money at the problem.

Instead, non-financial incentive plans have been shown to be much more effective at improving loyalty, retention, and worker motivation, according to a 72 month long empirical study published in The Accounting Review.

The study noted that non-financial incentives can take many forms.  They may be additional vacation hour awards, competitions for prizes, or recognition from management.  One of the best known non-financial awards programs in the world is the “Employee of the Month” scheme, where employees can earn their photo on a wall as the top worker for that month.  While they receive no cash for the honour, the prestige and public recognition can lead to fierce ongoing competitions among teams to be that month’s winner.

To design a non-financial incentive plan at your own firm, consider the following questions:

What are my core objectives?  It is important to have a link between the incentive plan and your business objectives. You want to make sure any award programs target the right behaviours to move the bar on your key corporate objectives, notes the Center for Competitive Management.

What award metrics will I use?  Workers will reject any reward program that is seen as unfair or an opportunity for management to play favourites.  Metrics used to decide which employees are rewarded, need to clear, specific, fair and give all targeted staff an equal opportunity to compete to win.  After all, if workers think the system is stacked against them or rigged, they won’t even try to participate.

What prizes, recognition items, or experiences do my workers value? Workers don’t all value the same things, but your organizational culture can give you clues.  Would a one-on-one lunch with a senior executive be valued?  How is prestige valued at your firm?  The Center for Competitive Management notes that Wall of Fame photos may work better in some environments, while trophies for individual desks might work better in other situations.  A choice parking spot, on the other hand, may be the ultimate prize at your workplace.  With a little consideration, a number of desired prize items can easily be uncovered.

How will I measure the success of this program?  Any new program launch should come with a means to measure its success, according to George Milkovich’s, Compensation.  Will you be looking at turnover rates, staff morale levels, or sales quotas?  What’s your plan to continue or discontinue the program based on your success points?

Each of these questions should help you lay out the framework for a successful non-financial compensation program to supplement or replace your current incentive plan.  At the end of the day, you want a plan that works to successfully motivate your staff.  When the money no longer matters, making a strategic turn to non-financial rewards may be just what is needed.

5 Top Non-Financial Bonuses

There’s more than one way to effectively reward employees and top performers.  Along with cash rewards, there are also non-financial bonuses which can be given.  After all, once your employees have achieved a certain salary level, the value of additional dollars is negligible, and at any salary level, there are things that employees value more than cash.  Here are a five of the top non-financial bonuses from the Center for Competitive Management to consider as a way to reward your talent in a way they’ll truly treasure:

1.  Sincere Thanks 

When was the last time you extended a word of sincere thanks to your staff for the work that they do at your firm?  A lack of recognition for achievements is a top complaint among the world’s most dissatisfied workforces according to The Singapore Human Resource Institute, while in a 2011 career exploration survey MBA students in South America cited “knowledge that I am appreciated” as one of the things they wanted most in their careers.  It doesn’t cost money to say thank you, but those simple words can have a far reaching impact on your team.

2.  Public Recognition

Along with thanks, workers also hunger for recognition.  Public recognition for achievements in the form of certificates presented at team meetings, company announcements, or “Employee of the Week” programs do not need to be tied to financial rewards.  Earning the honour is often more than enough to satisfy employee needs for recognition, one of the highest levels on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs and a key point in employee retention levels.

3.  Choice of Assignment

Allowing workers to choose their next projects is a rarity in the modern business culture … but it is also very empowering and motivating for staff, according to studies performed by the University of Minnesota in 2006.  It costs leaders nothing to have workers choose their next projects from a list of organizational needs, but giving workers the control over how they spend their time in the future can fill them with confidence and the drive to go above and beyond on the work.

4.  Face Time With Senior Leaders

A coffee shared with a senior leader or being the member of an exclusive meeting with the senior team is a precious commodity to workers.  Time has value, but it’s not about a financial reward here.  Instead, the sense of connection and the feeling that the company’s leaderships knows and cares about workers can be priceless.  Insights into management decisions and the upper level corporate structure can also help employees buy into the company vision or stoke their ambitions to advance at the firm.

5.  A New Title

New titles are considered to the ultimate “dry” reward according to the American Society for Human Resource Managers.  Though there is no money attached to the new title, the feeling of having new status is often very motivational, especially in organizational cultures that are highly hierarchical.  New titles are less effective in flat organizational cultures, but can still have an impact, especially when they are combined with other forms of recognition and compensation, notes the Center for Competitive Management.

Looking over the list, which of these rewards are currently available at your firm?  Which do you appreciate most yourself?  What could you add to your existing rewards structure?

Learning From Talent Management Failures – An Analysis Of AOL & TechCrunch

AOL publicly announced their acquisition of TechCrunch on September 28th, 2010.  Less than a year later, TechCrunch’s top talents have exited with major drama and the investment, valued at between $30 million USD, is widely considered to be a near-total loss.  It’s caused significant loss of face for AOL and acting manager Arianna Huffington, while enhancing the reputations of the former TechCrunch leaders who have exited the firm.

While the blogosphere debates how much longer the partnership can limp along before it is ultimately shuttered, what can your organization learn from this failure?

Here are three key points to remember:

Lesson 1:  The money doesn’t always matter.

Compensation issues are at the forefront of many employers’ minds, but top employees are generally thinking along very different lines.  Money is important, but it is often a distant second to autonomy, respect, and control.

In looking at AOL and TechCrunch, the original announcement emphasized that TechCrunch would maintain its editorial independence.  This was an important consideration in the sale for TechCrunch’s founder, Michael Arrington, and key writers such as Paul Carr.  However, once the deal was inked, the TechCrunch team quickly tangled with AOL over reporting structures, disclosures in investigative articles, and content management when AOL attempted to impose new standards and norms.  The TechCrunch group viewed it as intrusive and a breach of promise from the acquisition, while AOL viewed it as their right as the new owners of the brand.

In the end, the compensation and incentives offered to keep top talent were over-matched by these core conflicts over operational issues.  From this, your organization can learn not to rely on the power of golden handcuffs to keep top talent – it often isn’t enough.

Lesson 2:  Take employees at their word.

The TechCrunch team was very vocal, with heavy presences in social media and a loyal following on the web.  As conflicts and issues emerged, they shared their views online in keeping with their existing habits.  AOL choose not to respond, or to respond with posts that denied conflicts existed.  Later when top talent walked, the AOL management seemed to be taken off-guard by the departures despite having had months of tweets, blogs, and public conversations signaling that talent was actively looking to leave.

Modern employees are much more vocal than previous generations about their feelings about work, even feelings that perhaps should be kept internal, notes Lisa Barone of OutSpoken Media.  The Society for Human Resource Management notes that 82% of Generation Y and Millennial workers see no problem with sharing private thoughts or confidential data at their workplace.

While the AOL team may have thought the TechCrunch group was being strategic in sounding off about leaving as a bargaining point in future contract negotiations, they were really just being honest in line with their own generational norms.  Failing to take them at their word resulted in an unhappy ending all around, and from this your firm can learn not to overlook daily gripes and complaints as signs of deeper unhappiness and intentions to leave the organization.

Lesson 3:  Make cultural fit a priority.

Last but not least, cultural fit has to be a priority.  AOL and TechCrunch represent two very different market personalities that in hindsight were so obviously not a good fit for each other its surprising there was an initial deal, notes industry analyst Danny Sullivan.  By not considering the possible consequences of their opposing cultures, both companies have damaged their brands and raised questions about AOL’s long-term viability, notes the Wall Street Journal.

It is very easy to simply look at bottom line numbers when analysing deals. Yet the personalities involved hold the true responsibility for those numbers, making alignment at a cultural level imperative for successful long-term partnerships, states Sullivan.  AOL’s management team has been left looking like out-of-touch dictators in this failure, while departing TechCrunch staff are being viewed as taking the noble path out of a destructive relationship.  Whatever the numbers end up being for profits and loss, this is a reputational flash point that will remain in the public consciousness for years, and from this your firm can learn not underestimate the value of cultural fit in choosing business partners or properties to acquire.

Failures hold secrets for companies who want to be successful.  In looking at AOL and TechCrunch, the insignificance of the financial rewards, need to take employees at their word, and value of cultural alignment provide clear take-aways for firms looking to thrive.  It’s not just about what looks good on paper – to avoid your own dramatic mistake in the marketplace, you have to consider the deeper issues.

Talent Management Lessons From Steve Jobs

In his 56 years, Steve Jobs earned accolades not just for the technologies he created, but also for the way he managed his staff.  Under his leadership, the team at Apple grew from a group of individual geniuses to a cohesive team that could unite itself to bring some truly unique products to the market.  With new leadership taking over for the company and the world coming to grips with the passing of an unquestioned visionary, there are a number of key talent management lessons to be learned.

Hunger matters.  Jobs often referenced a need for his talent to stay hungry for success.  Employees interested in maintaining a status quo didn’t cut it with him.  He wanted people who were hungry to change the world, hungry for innovation, and hungry to make an impact.  As a result, deadwood in the workforce was ruthlessly trimmed, leaving hungry performers room to exceed at Apple.

Perseverance matters.  The ability to work long and hard for a goal, even in the face of difficulty, was an essential requirement in top talent at Apple.  In interview after interview, Jobs discussed the intensity and dedication needed to bring Apple’s products and innovations to market.  To use Jobs’ own words, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

Excellence matters.  One of the things Steve Jobs observed early in his career was that not everyone he met was used to working in an environment where nothing less than the best was accepted.  A “good-enough” culture was something he couldn’t tolerate, and you shouldn’t either.  Ensure that your talent knows, just as Apple’s does, that excellence is expected of them each and every day.

Independent action matters.  As Jobs put it, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking … have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”  Jobs didn’t live waiting for someone else to step up, and he trained his staff to be similarly action-oriented.  By all means watch the competition, but realize that emulating or fearing them is no path to success.

Boldness matters.  Jobs was instrumental in Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, an expression of his belief that no one would get ahead taking the safe road or holding back.  He was an eternal advocate for the pioneering spirit in all his team members, encouraging them to make bold, proactive choices.   

Steve Jobs will certainly be missed, but his body of work will live on, both in the technology world and in the lessons he left with his talent management practices.  Training talent to be hungry, persevere, outperform, think independently, and move boldly has the potential to harness the same power Jobs brought to his team.  While it may not make your firm  the next Apple, it can help you follow Jobs’ lead and move your talent to the next level of creativity and performance on behalf of your organization.

Set New Employees Up for Success

Your new hire is complete and an excited employee is about to begin a new endeavor that involves significant risk and reward for both your company and your employee.  Knowing that a significant percentage of new hires fail to deliver anticipated performance, what can you do to help ensure success?

Effective onboarding begins well before the start date. Even during the selection stage, it is vital that interviewers provide honest information about the company, its culture and its work environment so the prospective employee knows what to expect and can self-select out of the role if it is not a good fit.  There should be no surprises on the first day of work.

Organisational onboarding procedures vary widely from a brief presentation of payroll and benefits by a Human Resources representative, to a formal program with scheduled activities and objectives planned for the first 30, 90, 120 and 360 days.  By structuring a well-thought-out orientation and providing support and feedback over the first critical period, leaders can decrease the newcomer’s learning curve, speed up the rate of productivity and improve the rate of successful assimilation and retention of the employee.

What matters most for newcomer success

The most important elements a new hire must achieve are: 1) task mastery — learning the responsibilities of the new job, 2) cultural fluency — learning “how things work,” expected behaviors and social mores, and 3) relationships — building trust and collaboration with co-workers, supervisors and other colleagues.

By far, the most critical factor in successful onboarding is the relationship with the direct supervisor or manager. Generally speaking, the more support the manager offers and the longer that support is maintained, the more rapidly and fully the employee will achieve the socialisation necessary for long-term success. This can be longer than you think – research shows that it takes up to two years for a new hire to be fully confident and competent in a position.  A longitudinal study published in 2009 found that from 6 to 21 months into the new job, manager support decreased and the rate of decrease directly correlated with a reduction in employee role clarity, job satisfaction and ultimately was associated with diminished job success and retention risk.

Recommended onboarding tasks for managers

Human Resource representatives can assist managers of newly hired employees to design and implement a development program that includes the following steps:

  • Provide information about the company’s organisational structure, values, priorities, challenges and goals.
  • Identify key stakeholders within the company whose collaboration and good will are needed for success – team members, customers, those who work up and down the process stream. Schedule orientation meetings with each, suggesting what information they might share with your new employee.
  • Identify a willing “buddy” or mentor who will take the new employee to lunch, show her around, and be a resource for learning the unwritten rules and customs of the work group and organisation.
  • Set clear expectations of job responsibilities, goals, deadlines and standards of work.  Put as much of this in writing as appropriate, but do not neglect verbal discussions.  Check to make sure your employee fully understands the requirements.
  • Together, set developmental and productivity goals for the short, mid and long-term.
  • Determine if any training is needed and, if so, schedule it. Set clear expectations for learning outcomes and follow up afterward to determine how the employee applies the new knowledge.
  • Provide assistance in obtaining resources and removing barriers as needed.
  • Regularly observe your employee’s work and provide specific and objective positive and constructive feedback. Recognize milestones and progress along the learning curve.
  • Schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, answer questions and help the newcomer reflect on what he has learned.
  • Maintain ongoing high-touch support until it is clear the newcomer has successfully and fully integrated into the new job – up to two years, if possible.
  • If conflicting priorities prevent you from providing a high level of support after the initial orientation period, it can be advantageous to enlist a co-worker to provide some informal coaching. This should not replace regular one-on-one meetings with you.
  • Celebrate success with the employee and identify new objectives and opportunities as his confidence and competence increases.

Human Resource partners should also check back individually with the new hire and the manager at intervals throughout the process, to gauge progress and provide input and encouragement.

Individual Managers Can Make A Shiny Happy Workplace

Recent research has shown that employees in Singapore are not happy in their workplace – indeed, out of 14 countries polled,Singapore is ranked last in workplace happiness! Unsurprisingly therefore, they also ranked as the least loyal to their employers. The research, also revealed that only 12% of the Singaporean employees surveyed reported having a positive and supportive workplace.

Worker perceptions such as these usually accompany less than optimal productivity and a higher than desired staff turnover rate, including problems with talent retention. To do something about this situation, employers must be aware that loyalty and staff retention is not just about money, but about whether staff perceive themselves to be appreciated, valued, supported and respected.

So what can individual managers do to make employees happier in the workplace and thus increase productivity, loyalty and talent retention? Here are 6 areas that might be improved upon:

1. Appreciate and Praise

How often do you hear managers saying ‘thank you’ to staff for their efforts? Even when people ‘go the extra mile’, they frequently are not thanked. A simple ‘thank you’ every now and then has a positive effect on employees and tends to result in them doing more. Similarly, praising staff not only for extra effort or showing initiative, but also for just doing their job well, can help create a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

2. Be Supportive

Being supportive of staff has two aspects – supporting them in doing their job and supporting them with the non-work part of their lives. Even employees who are getting the job done may be struggling to do so. Having a chat with individual employees to check on how they are getting on can sometimes uncover seemingly simple little things that inhibit easier or greater performance. Such chats can also reveal problems in their non-work life, and since what affects their personal life affects their work, facilitating or assisting them in resolving personal issues will also facilitate greater productivity. More importantly, by being personally supportive of staff, the manager builds a more positive and supportive workplace.

3. Provide Training and Development Opportunities

The primary responsibility for the training and development of staff lies with the individual manager. The training or learning & development department is responsible for supporting managers with this, but the primary responsibility lies with the line manager. Managers should be proactive in this regard and always include training & development in performance reviews. Even outside of the formal review, managers should be attentive to signs of a training need or a subtly expressed desire for development. Providing training and/or development opportunities need not necessarily involve a course or cost scarce money. The old ‘sitting next to Nellie’ type of training where an employee sits in with a more experienced or better performing member of staff can produce great results. So too can simply letting a staff member shadow a more senior person for a period to learn more about a job they aspire too. By providing such opportunities, a manager can foster a better atmosphere of support and loyalty.

4. Involve and Engage

The benefits of employee involvement and engagement are increased motivation and commitment. Even in his or her own department, an individual manager can increase the level of employee involvement and engagement. Informing staff of all that is happening is a first step whether this is done through team briefings or a weekly e-mail. Consultation with staff over matters that concern them or their work where the manager informs, listens, and takes into account the ideas, proposals and concerns expressed by employees is another way of building motivation and commitment – but such consultation will be seen as meaningless by those ‘consulted’ if the manager’s mind is already made up. A staff attitude survey can also be a good starting point, provided that the results are shared with staff and they are involved in resolving any issues raised.

5. Ensure Fairness in Procedures and Process

Perceptions of unfairness can lead to reduced motivation and commitment resulting in reduced productivity and loyalty – employees are willing to do less and often criticise the company to outsiders including customers. On the other hand, perceived fairness leads to increased commitment and motivation, greater effort (particularly discretionary effort), reduced absenteeism and increases talent retention.

Procedural fairness relates to the fairness of processes such as the performance appraisal system or the career management system. Many performance appraisal systems have a de-motivating effect on staff. Those where the appraisal process did not begin with objectives being agreed for individuals at the outset and where the manager outlines where the employee could have done better are an example – certainly the employee could have done better if they had known that the manager would focus on these particular aspects of the job! Surely it’s only fair to let employees know exactly what they will be judged on at the end of the year.

Interactional fairness is about treating employees with dignity and respect. Procedures and processes may be fair, but sometimes the way they are administered by individual managers may be perceived to be disrespectful. Shouting at staff, admonishing them in front of others, ignoring their opinions, sexually harassing them are all examples of not treating staff with dignity and respect.

6. Pay Attention to Atmosphere and Ambiance

What is the atmosphere like in your workplace? Is it overly quiet, cheerless, dour and depressing? If so, productivity will be below what it could be and staff if surveyed will report the type of perceptions outlined at the top of this article. It will be an effort for them to go to work. Or is your workplace a place where people crack jokes, banter with one another, where laughter can occasionally be heard, where staff take coffee breaks together, etc? If so, employees will more likely ‘go the extra mile’ when needed, even without being asked. They are probably committed and loyal to the company. Productivity should be good and staff will be willing to make it better.

Many of these suggestions are inter-related. For example, providing training & development opportunities can be perceived as being supportive, engaging, and appreciative. Consulting and listening to staff can be perceived as promoting fairness as well as involving and engaging. Both of these examples will help develop an atmosphere in which employees feel valued and respected.

So even if the company is not a happy workplace, an individual manager can take steps to ensure that at least the part they are responsible for is.