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. 

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.  If you choose the right system it will make your life much easier.  If you choose the wrong one, it may be unusable or more cumbersome than an actual paper process.

Applicant tracking systems fulfill four main purposes: 1) to manage applications for positions (especially in the face of a high volume of applicants regularly received today) 2) to screen out candidates who lack the required skills 3) to assist with hiring compliance 4) to provide metrics that can enhance the hiring process.

Manage Applications

Depending on the volume of positions you have open and the volume of applications received, this can be a lifesaver or not worth the efforts.  If you have say 10-20 generic positions, an ATS may not be necessary.  However, if you have 100 positions and they are more specialized requiring advanced degrees and skill sets, an ATS will save you a significant amount of time. 

Screen out Candidates

It’s just as important to know what you don’t want as to know what you do. As any recruiter who manages a high volume of positions in a market or time where unemployment is high, knows, it takes an inordinate amount of time just to sift through all the resumes from people who are not remotely qualified for the positions.  With a good ATS you can input key words and the system will spit out resumes that have those key words. 

Hiring Compliance

An ATS can assist companies with hiring compliance. Employment laws prevent employers from discriminating in their hiring practices based on age, gender and ethnicity, among other things. By using an applicant tracking system to select candidates to interview the system gives employers the ability to stay at an arm’s length when selecting their candidates.  They simply type in the key words and the system selects the candidates.  Although failure to hire litigation is much rarer than wrongful termination, it does happen.

Metrics

Every department needs to be responsible for metrics that drive the business.  HR can gain a well-deserved place at the table by focusing on the same metrics that drive the rest of the organization.  By utilizing an ATS, you will be able to pull resumes submitted for a particular position, pre-screed resumes, candidates brought in for interviews and offers made and rejected.  Armed with this information, you can laser focus your recruiting efforts and provide funnel data by position to your hiring managers.  Most are surprised to see that it could take 100 resumes received to net 1 hire.

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. 

How Can You Become More Effective At Your Job?

sherrie suski office

When individuals have been working a job for a while, it’s easy to just find a daily groove, and go with the motions. But going with the flow doesn’t always mean we are being as effective as we can be in our positions. The reality is that some employees fall into their normal workflow, and are not entirely sure what else they can be doing in order to improve their effectiveness at their job.

I’ve spent some time pondering ways that employees who are looking to avoid stagnation can start to develop their skillsets at work. There are a few major steps that one can take to become more effective at their job.

 

Determine the Purpose of Your Work

The first step to improving is to understand exactly what you are trying to improve. Effectiveness in any job can only be achieved if there is a full understanding of what the job is. The easiest way to do this is to conduct a thorough analysis of your current position.

  1. Look through the formal documentation that is available for your position. Determine what the objectives and main priorities are on the job description. If you have access to the the rubrics for performance reviews, review those as well. They will give you an accurate picture of what is expected of an exemplary employee.
  2. Seek out any available training that is available for your job. Training materials are a great resource because they go beyond just telling you what you’ll get rewarded for. Training materials will also give you best practices and provide some (hopefully helpful) instruction on how to do your job well. Seeking out training materials also shows initiative to your superiors. (Bosses love when their employees show dedication to betterment.)

After you’ve reviewed those documents and materials, you should be armed with a better understanding of what you should be accomplishing and working towards in your current position.

 

Turn Up the Positivity

This may feel cheesy to some, but there really is something to be said about adopting a good attitude within the workplace. Positivity can go a long way in terms of productivity.

  1. Studies have shown that people who are consistently positive have a better ability to handle stress, work related challenges, and general adversity.
  2. Maintaining a positive attitude also helps you to see things more clearly. If you’re less stressed, you can make more rational, and beneficial decisions.

Be sure to check back next month to determine what else you can do to become more effective at work.


 

Resources: Mindtools – 1 , Mindtools – 2, Positively Presents