Time management

sherrie suski, time management

 

There have been copious articles written about time management and everyone no doubt has their favorite strategies. The below are a few that I have found to be helpful in the workplace and in life in general.

 

Know yourself

Part of being a good time manager is knowing what behaviors prevent you from managing your time effectively. The link below gives you a quick summary spreadsheet for determining what your behavior is to day and what your behavior should be in the future to maximize your time. It is helpful to know when your energy is at its peak- is that early morning, late night or somewhere in between. This will help you to plan critical activities for when your energy level is the highest.

 

Multi-task

I know this is contrary to many time management theories out there, but wherever possible, multi-task, especially when something does not require your full attention. When you give up the idea of doing only one thing at a time and look for ways to do two, you can get a whole lot more done. Some quick examples: If you’re on the West coast, schedule East Coast calls on your drive into work. Owe the Far East a call back, pop in your earbuds and make the call while you’re making dinner. 6:00pm pst is around 8:00am there.

 

Touch each e-mail or piece of paper once

This one is big. We all have a tendency to want to “think about” it for a bit and then answer which is likely the answer you would have given in the first place. Force yourself, unless there is truly research that is needed, to answer right away.

 

Start the night before

A big time saver is to lay out your next day the night before. This allows you to hit the ground running in the morning and not have to stop and get organized. Know what you need to accomplish that day, in terms of key deliverables and follow up items.

Get your follow up items out early so that it allows people time to work on them during the day.

 

Take a break

While this may sound counterintuitive, often times taking a quick 10 minute break will help you to re- focus and complete a task in a shorter amount of time than if you had stayed with it past your ability to really focus.

 

Determine what is urgent and what isn’t

Not every e-mail that comes in must be answered right away. Some of the best time managers only answer their e-mails 1-2 times/day. You would be amazed at how many strings of conversation there are where you are only peripherally involved and if you just let them play out, you can catch the last e-mail and be completely up to speed.

 

Everyone has strategies that work better for them than others. Don’t be afraid to try 20 or 3- and then pick the top 5 that really do save you time and increase efficiency.

Employee Testing

sherrie suski, employee testing

Almost all organizations engage in employee testing of one type or another.  What many organizations don’t understand is almost all of them open you up to some type of potential liability should you be challenged.  Selected and administered well they can be valuable tools in your candidate assessment process, but handled poorly they can cause you a whole host of problems.

Pre-Employment Physicals

Few can argue that Pre-employment physicals or drug screens are a bad idea.  Even with many states, including California, legalizing marijuana, you may still preclude its use while at work, the same way you can insist that your employees not come to work drunk or impaired by the use of prescription drugs.  Just because a substance is legal, does not mean it is OK be under the influence while at work.  Give prospective candidates notice that you will require them to take a pre-employment physical.  Many will simply choose not to apply.

Background Screening

Background screening is another “test” that few will argue with other than those who feel they have some antiquated right to privacy.  Background checks will check driving records, misdemeanor and felony convictions.  How you use this information gets a little trickier.  While you can turn down a candidate who will be driving a company vehicle if they have DUI convictions because you can show a direct correlation between the offense and the job requirement, what about the person who is a 2 time convicted child offender and you have offered him/her a position within an development department?  Can you show a relationship between the offense and the job requirement?

Skills testing

Skills testing can fall into multiple categories.  There are on the job skills tests that are easy to validate.  If the job requires someone to install HVAC systems and you ask them to install an HVAC system, the relationship and applicability are clear.  This type of testing can also include basic grammar and math skills.  The reasoning is that those that can construct a basic sentence with proper grammar and understand basic math are going to be better at their jobs whether they are being hired as an AP Specialist or a Customer Service rep.  These relationships to job proficiency are fairly easy to understand, but be prepared to defend your decision, even with validated tests.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests are a gray area and only a handful of companies are using them.  Their theory is that if they hire only those that score exceptionally well on the aptitude tests that they will be able to train them faster, they will catch on more quickly, they will be more creative in terms of finding efficiencies within their jobs.  If you use Aptitude testing, be sure it is only one aspect of your hiring decisions.  It would be easy to come under fire for adverse impact if you established a cut off whereby you would not accept applicants.

Personality Tests

Quite a few companies use personality tests and there are many different versions, Myers-Briggs, DISC, Predictive Index. Personality tests can be helpful especially when you choose one like Predictive Index where you can create the profile for the job and then compare the profiles of the candidates to the job profile.  These can be especially helpful when you have a team of people to hire.   You want variety on your team, but complimentary personalities.  There is no right or waring, pass of fail with a personality test.  Each personality has its own pros and cons.

Define your testing strategy up front and ensure that you understand what you are hoping to accomplish with each one and how you will use the results.

Compensation systems

The last component of an effective HRIS is a Compensation system.  A sophisticated compensation system will save you hours of number crunching using excel spreadsheets.  Many of these systems are sold as a component of Performance Management systems, but there are a few stand alone ones as well.  It is always best to integrate where possible because you save yourself the time and effort involved in paying someone to write the integration software for you and the headaches that come with integrating two systems that were not designed to work together.

The capabilities you want to look for in your Compensation Systems are:

Integration

Ensure that your performance management system and your compensation system are fully integrated so that all the performance scores from the manager’s appraisal,  employees’ self-appraisals and any 360 reviews you have, flow over to your compensation system.  This will make is significantly easier for your managers to be able to rank employees and doll out the appropriate performance based merit increases.

Pro-ration

You want to ensure that your system has the ability to handle pro-rations, preferably down to the day, so that employees who start on September 1st are not eligible to receive the same increase as employees who started January 1st.  If you have implemented an annual bonus program, ensure that the pro-ration will apply here as well.  Also ask if it will handle lump sum increases if someone is at the range max.

Edit Capability

One of the most frustrating aspects of a poorly designed compensation system is when it does not allow for edit capability all the way up the line.  If the spreadsheet gets to your VP’s and they have to send it all the way back to the supervisors to make changes, you will lengthen your process considerably.  You should be able to pick and choose who you want to give edit capability to for each spreadsheet.

Co-planners

Invariably someone will pick an inconvenient time to terminate and you will be left with a situation where you need to assign another person to actually complete the merit increases for their group.  Your system should allow you to select a co-planner or, even better, to switch managers once the process has already launched. 

Custom Reporting

Your system should come equipped with an easy to use and easy to understand reporting functionality.  Nothing is as frustrating as having a new system and then having to dump everything in excel in order to actually manipulate the data.  Spend some time up front fully understand the reporting capability and figuring out whether it will truly provide you with the info you need to report on.

Multiple types of Compensation

Your system should handle base salary increases, short term incentives and long term incentives like Equity awards or RSU’s.  A system that cannot adequately handle long term equity incentives will give you a lopsided view of your employees’ compensation and how that compares to market

As with the other components of the HRIS that we have talked about, putting twice as much time in up front as you expected will yield the best results in the end. 

HR Systems

Sherrie Suski, HR Systems

The choices in HR systems today are mind boggling.  Everyone wants to get on the band wagon and sell you something that will supposedly make your life easier, is user friendly, (read good UX), allows you to crunch large volumes of data in minutes.  HR systems can be as basic as an HRIS or as complicated as a performance management system with 360 review capability and goal planning and accomplishments.

Let’s talk first about functionality and next week about what you want to look for.

HRIS

An HRIS is a Human Resources Information System.  

This is your basic system that tracks all the pertinent information about your employees.  

HRIS solutions typically track:

  • Training of employees
  • Open enrollment and management of benefits
  • Compensation management
  • Human resources reporting
  • Self-service for applicants, employees, and managers
  • Personal information, Pay information, title, job grade etc..

Performance Management Systems

You may also have a separate Performance System.  A Performance Management System normally includes performance appraisal data and productivity information data. Documentation of employee performance and of how the performance was measured and reported is critical to your employees understanding this type of system.  Many of these systems come with the capability to offer:

  • Performance appraisals
  • 360 reviews where an employee is reviewed by the manager, their peers and their subordinates
  • goal planning, setting and accomplishments
  • Succession and development plans

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems are systems that allow you to create a user/applicant experience.

The application process becomes paperless with an applicant tracking system, so it is simple to store, recall, or purge applications from the system with just a few clicks. This helps to ensure that no critical information is lost and all necessary information is readily available for open positions now or in the future.

Compensation systems

Ideally your compensation system should track all aspects of your employee’s compensation including:

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses
  • Incentive comp
  • Long term incentive comp
  • Equity/stock/RSU’s etc..

It is helpful if your Performance Appraisal system feeds directly into your compensation system, meaning less manual input or expensive integration for you.

Be very careful in selecting your systems.  Spend at least 3x the time you allotted to understanding and testing the system before you commit.  On a personal note, we have had a very bad experience with Cornestone.  While their systems have a lot of capability, you would literally need to be a system admin in order to build out the back end which they require you to do.  They are the farthest thing from user friendly with very poor UX design.

Microlearning

Sherrie Suski, Microlearning

Micro learning is the new buzz word in the Learning and Development Community.  It is defined as 3-5 minute short, focused learning sessions that are designed to meet a specific learning outcome.  As with many buzz words, the term is often misused and misunderstood. Many have taken it to mean that all learning should be conducted in bite sized chunks as demonstrated in the graphic below which indicates that humans have only 24 minutes per week to devote to actual learning, and that is based on a 40 hour work week, which is a thing of the past for many of us routinely working 60 hour work weeks.   Others will site the growth of the millennial workforce that will make up over 75% of the total workforce by 2025 and their much talked about short attention span of 90 seconds.

However, it is unlikely that complex new skills can be acquired in 24 minutes a week, but new skills acquired can be reinforced, practiced and lead to a performance gain in 24 minutes a week.  This is where micro learning really needs to be focused.  On the refinement and not on the acquisition.  Millennials, right alongside other generations, can be uber focused for longer periods of time when the content is engaging and rewarding.

Microlearning modules are best focused on moving right to the point without all the history behind the why, which should be captured in the original training.  Video should be an important and engaging component, as should real life scenarios.

Microlearning can be an excellent approach to training for simple tasks as it improves retention and fills in performance gaps and is certainly more cost efficient.  However, it should be used in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, more traditional types of learning as it is not suitable for complex tasks and can easily run the risk of seeming fragmented. 

Creating an Environment of Engagement

Sherrie Suski, Environment of Engagement

With the first quarter of 2017 only visible in the rear-view mirror, as unbelievable as that seems, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate what we want to accomplish in our organizations by the end of this year.

Employee engagement continues to be the buzz word of the decade. Constituents quote the statistics that engaged employees are more than 3 times as productive than the unengaged or 10x as productive as the actively disengaged.

Creating an environment of engagement and learning

To understand this concept, we need to understand the true meaning of the word empathy.  Empathy, as defined by the dictionary, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.   Borrowing a term from Big Data, it means focusing on the user experience or UX.  It will require designing work for the employee through the lens of user experience (UX) with the goal being able to help the employees feel good about the work they are doing and have a solid understanding of the connection to the greater organizational goals.

It has little to do with nerf guns, skateboards and other “tools” used to sell an environment of engagement and much more to do with spending the time to understand what is important to the individual actually performing the job.  Maybe it’s ergonomic, like a chair with better back support, maybe it’s auditory, like a pair of headphones to tune out the chatter around them, maybe it’s offering a rotation of job duties to stave of boredom and the repetitive nature of the job.

Adopting a Management Style that supports engagement

Equally important to creating the right environment is fostering the right management style to support a team environment. A team is a group of talented people who work together to accomplish something beyond their individual best. In order to work together they need to be supported by managers who allows them to thrive. This style is built by leaders who understand how to communicate the vision of the company in a way that engages and encourages everyone to work towards that goal.

Leaders who are effective communicators, develop a sense of community, and show authentic transparency and concern for others will be able to build high performing and engaged teams of talented people.”

Creating jobs that support engagement

Go beyond traditional training classes that support skills based on-the-job training and look for peer-to-peer opportunities.  investigate ways to allow employees to “try out” another position for a day or even a few hours.   This has multiple advantages.  Not only does it build a more well-rounded and cross trained workforce, but it circles back to our definition of empathy, to understand and share the feelings of another.  A workforce who has had the opportunity to “stand in another’s shoes” is a workforce that is better equipped to understand the full business cycle.

Find Success Through Better Time Management

sherrie suski time management world clocks

It’s no secret that time management is an important part of creating a happier, more successful life overall.  Everyone, no matter what their career path, will have a moment where they feel as though their workload is unmanageable or overwhelming. While that moment may be fleeting for some, it could very well be a persistent feeling for others. The key to finding success rests in how one responds to that feeling of inundation at work.

A healthy approach to time management will help workloads feel more manageable, instill a better sense of work-life balance, and ultimately lead to a more successful career overall.

 

Why is Time Management Important for Your Career?

For one, there’s only so much time in a day. Our time is limited, and it’s important to use available time wisely. Deadlines wait for no one, and superiors will make note of your ability to make deadlines within the allotted time constraints. When time is managed poorly, quality of work may suffer, or worse, work may not be completed at all.  It will be difficult to excel in any career path if you’re experiencing difficulty getting work finished.

Time management also allows for you to create a timeline to meet larger career-oriented goals. True success never happens overnight. Rather, success comes from careful planning and small steps that will eventually cumulate to become your end goals. Mastering time management is not only important when it comes to plotting necessary, smaller goals on a timeline, it helps you follow through with those goals in an efficient manner.

 

So How Does One Get Better at Managing Their Time?

There are innumerable lists of tips and tricks available to increase your ability to manage your time. But the most important thing to understand is that true time management comes from a complete change of perspective. In order to be successful at managing your time, you have to make a promise to yourself to remain committed to the changes you make. It’s about changing your long-term habits, and focusing on making a positive change. Keeping that overall change in mental state in mind, start with these two major steps to better time management:

Start Planning Your Weeks

There are certain things that we will always have to do on a daily (or weekly) basis. On Sunday nights, set aside some time to work on your calendar. Schedule out specific chunks of time for checking your email. (Once in the morning, once before & after lunch, and once around 3:30pm is a schedule that may work for you. Tailor this schedule to your specific job.) By setting aside specific times for your email, you avoid the timesink that can come from being constantly connected to your email. Schedule in lunch, coffee breaks, and any recurring meetings as well.  When all of the recurring tasks are blocked in, schedule in all of the tasks that you already know need to be completed that week. This may need to be adjusted based on what happens during the week, and that leads us to our next topic:

Learn to Prioritize

In most work environments, it’s easy to get caught in the revolving door of tasks that land on your desk. It’s important to determine which tasks are the most important, and stick to working on/completing those tasks first. Those crucial projects should never fall to the wayside of the smaller one-off tasks that come your way. Get the tasks with the highest priority checked off of your list of things to do that day, and work your way down to the smaller tasks.

Time Management is hugely important to your overall success. Start with these two steps, and then branch out. Find other tips that work for you, and then, find your success!


For sources and additional resources, please see the following articles: CreativityPost, Career Success , Forbes

Finding the Right Mentor

sherrie suski mentorship

In this blog post, I highlighted the importance of mentorship in your career and professional life. Mentors provide much needed support and direction as you navigate within your network and work to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. The question that always comes up after someone determines that a mentor is the vital key that they are missing is, “How do I find a mentor?” Finding a mentor is not as simple as walking up to someone at a networking event, and asking “Will you be my mentor?”.  Mentoring is about a relationship; it needs to be organic and should grow out of real interactions between people who are already familiar with one another. Here are a few bits of advice to keep in mind when you’re looking for a mentor:

Make Yourself Mentor-Ready

You will not be able to build a successful relationship with a mentor if you don’t know what you want. You need to take the time to reflect, and create a working outline of your needs and professional goals. This doesn’t have to be a list of things that are set in stone, but you do need to know what you want, so you can seek out a mentor who  aligns with your aspirations.

Relatedly, work towards being someone that anyone would want to mentor. Do work to establish yourself as much as possible within your field; know what your strengths and your weaknesses are. Work to associate with the right people, create meaningful work, and be a professional that other professionals want to work with.

Start Networking

As I mentioned earlier, mentoring is born of real relationships. Very few people are willing to invest their time in a stranger. Work to build meaningful connections, both online and in person, and get involved with others through as many different avenues as possible.

  • Get active on twitter, and follow people that you admire. Look at who they  interact with, and follow them too. Read the content that they produce, and maybe even reach out and comment on something they’ve written. Do the same on Linkedin.
  • Go to networking events and make real connections with people. Websites like meetup.com have endless options of meetup groups and events where people are eager to make connections and build up their network as well. Find conferences where people you admire are speaking and don’t be afraid to walk up and start a conversation.

In the beginning, avoid the “I need a mentor”conversation. Instead, work on getting to know these various individuals you’ve brought into your life. Exchange emails, meetup for coffees and lunches, and ask questions. Feel out these interactions, and if over time you think that someone may be a good fit, then ask them if they would be interested in being your mentor. Many believe that the official question will be unnecessary, because the organic relationship that you’re working on will naturally shift into a mentor-mentee relationship on its own. 


For the sources used in this post, and even more resources on the mentorship process, check these sites: Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse

 

TAH Human Resources 101: Consciously Created Culture

 

sherrie suski brainstorming image

What is culture?  Culture is casually defined as the beliefs, customs, behaviors, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time.  So, just like each society has its own culture, each Company has its own culture as well.  In each company a culture exists – whether or not it is consciously created.  It is created by the way management treats the employees, by the way employees treat each other, and by the way the organization treats its customers.  It is created by the behaviors and attitudes that are rewarded and those that are penalized.  So, if you want to instill a particular culture within your organization, you need to consciously create it, and the sooner you do so, the better.  If you are so fortunate to have come into a blank slate, it is much easier to create a culture from scratch rather than to try and change what already exists.

 

To a large degree, this is the fortunate position we have found ourselves in.  We are hiring a large group of people over a short period of time and have the opportunity to instill our culture from the ground up, at least in the corporate office.  To quote a popular and excellent author, Simon Sinek, we started with WHY.  Why does our company exist?  There are many versions of this; some call it a vision or mission statement, which some use interchangeably although they are different.  Others call it Go-To statement, but it is, basically, all driving toward the same outcome.  How do we all align toward a common goal at the highest level.  Once the common purpose is hammered out and disseminated throughout the organization, which is an article in and of itself, it becomes time to figure out how you will put that purpose in place.  This is a good time to involve the rest of the organization, especially if you are working toward a more collaborative culture.  Create cross functional focus groups, brainstorm ideas on whiteboards or through interactive AV technology.  Work with them until they feel right, like they echo the essence of what you are trying to achieve.  There may be as few as five or as many as a dozen.  From there the real work starts because now each organization has to grapple with what they need to do in order to bring this cultural initiative to light.  These will become the performance metrics used to drive not only your culture, but the performance of your organization.

As a side note, culture can and should be drive by initiatives, performance metrics, goals and other measures, but culture also needs to be driven by the less tangible, kindness, compassion and empathy.  Cultures are driven by the words used and the deeds carried out every day.  They are driven by doing what is right for your employees as human beings.  By bringing in flowers on Mother’s Day, by handing out Good Gotcha’s, by taking the time to listen and to genuinely care.

Next time we’ll talk more about tying Performance Management in an organization to the cultural initiatives and then about metrics and measurements tied to the performance management core competencies and goals.