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leadership | HR Off-Site

Be A Positive Force At Work

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Everyone’s job is important in some way, to someone. Whether you run your own business, tend a garden, work a machine, assemble parts or answer the phone, your work impacts other people’s work. And that makes it important.

If you employ or manage people, you are charged with an awesome responsibility: leadership. Never take that privilege for granted. Make being a positive force at work your new year’s resolution for 2014.

A good way to start is to remember that each person you work with is a continually developing individual shaped by his or her unique personality, experiences and family circumstances. The way you behave towards them not only makes a difference in their lives, it influences how they treat others in your workplace. Your presence and way of “being” may calm or disturb, create or destroy. You may bring serenity and harmony to the busyness of the day, or you may stir up negativity and resentment. You may be the empathetic friendly face, the supportive leader who is genuinely there in the moment, present and willing to do what it takes. Or, you may be the one who takes misplaced credit or who is always there to offer a backhanded, hurtful comment in the guise of advice or ‘just saying’. It’s up to you.

Consider also the positive forces that could combine to make your workplace better, more than just a place where you have to go to earn money. With your personal contribution, the workday can afford you an opportunity to witness tremendous achievements and moments of ‘personal best’. You have a choice, your role, whether supportive or not, caring or destructive, is up to you.

You may wonder how you can make a difference in an established workplace, with people who have been there forever or who have dominating personalities that leave little room for a different approach. It’s daunting alright, but consider this: what kind of workplace would you be building if you walk away from an unkind comment or refuse to be engaged in a verbal tug of war? Your change of behaviour, your decision to behave with dignity at all times, regardless of circumstances, can be a tremendous catalyst for change.

One of the most powerful ways you can influence the workplace is through what you say, and how you say it. Have you ever blurted out unkind or hurtful words that you immediately wished you could take back? Words hurt, especially when delivered in the absence of compassion, and they have the power to create conflict or calm. So, watch your words.

Beyond what you can do personally, talk to your managers to discuss what can be done from their perspective to create a positive workplace. Think of ways to connect with your team through reading groups or hobbies such as baking, quilting or fitness activities. Everything you have in common will bring you closer to workplace harmony as the topic of conversation moves from gossip to constructive conversation.

You can make positive differences in other ways as well. Look for opportunities to re-balance; schedules, duties, and working hours are often common annoyances. With minor adjustments these dis-satisfiers may become satisfiers. Consider establishing a positive workplace team that is charged with responsibility to encourage harmony through social activities and community contribution. Many not–for-profit organizations, seniors centres and charities welcome volunteers.

Standing tall in the face of overbearing personalities, unkind words and behaviour is empowering for managers and employees alike. Each of us can make a difference by being the voice of reason and demonstrating the unflappable strength of one person deciding to be a positive force at work.

Tuned In and Turned On

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Is your staff tuned in to what your customers need? Do you ever worry about losing your top performers? Is your ratio of low performers outnumbering the good ones? How do you know when to take action? To feel confident that you’re managing your team better than your competition is managing theirs, read on. 

Knowing your turnover rate is a good place to start. Besides increasing your costs related to recruitment and training, high turnover rates mean that your workforce likely lacks experience which translates to less efficiency and an increased number of mistakes, at least for a while. Your staff turnover rate also tells part of the story of what is going on with your workforce. 

To calculate turnover, consider the last calendar year. Divide the number of employees who have left the organization by the average number of employees during the same period and multiply by 100. For example:  if four employees out of 35 left in one calendar year, then the annual turnover rate is 11.4%. 

You might be thinking that counting someone who leaves the organization due to a decision to stay home with a new little one, to return to full time post-secondary education or to move out of the area might not be a good reflection of your company’s turnover or level of employee engagement. And you may be right. In calculating your assessment it’s okay to omit those departures, as long as you make a note of the exclusions to avoid comparing apples to oranges in the future.  

The rate should be compared to that of the industry, if possible. Ask colleagues what their turnover rate is to help you understand how you compare. If your rate is higher, consider how you can achieve better results by understanding why the employees made a decision to leave. Do you use exit interviews with departing employees to really understand their motivation for leaving? Be brave enough to ask, “what could I (or the company) have done differently?” Then, be prepared to shift your thinking if a pattern emerges.  

Turnover rate is a reflection of employee engagement and employee engagement is the catch phrase that thought leaders and coaches are talking a lot about these days. But what exactly does it mean? In a recent blog by Michael Brenner on the American Society for Training and Development website, engagement is described as: The extent to which a person chooses to apply their talent, energy and care toward any effort.”[i] 

Every employee brings talent to the employment relationship, but whether or not they bring their energy and care to work may be a different matter. Some people just bring it, others don’t have it to bring, but there are those who may be in the middle ground. This is where your leadership skills can be particularly influential. 

Leaders have to help other people get what they want out of life. Try to understand how you can help individual employees progress towards accomplishing meaningful work. If you can do that, both you and your employees will get what you want, both for the company and personally. It’s a beautiful thing to develop your employees’ talents to the point of making yourself obsolete. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes for a moment. If you want to grow and develop, they likely do too. It’s not a bad thing for a business owner to have the freedom to do other things and let his or her staff step up and take charge. 

Getting a handle on employee engagement is more than calculating turnover, it’s all about knowing your workforce and how they are motivated to perform. Aligning your company’s goals with the employees’ goals brings value beyond the numbers.