When asked to provide key insights from a Human Resources perspective, our Director stepped up to the challenge. The following tips were written by Fern Hernberg, HR and Organizational Development Director. For Employees:
In today's market, you may be asking yourself what it means to "take charge of your own career," particularly if support and guidance from your employer is not forthcoming. There are a few ways of tackling this so you feel like you are constantly moving forward. First of all, look in your own backyard for opportunities you may have discounted or have been totally unaware of. Stop by HR and talk to your coworkers. Ask them if you can shadow a project or meet regularly for coffee to find out more about their role. If there are no training funds in the budget, go out and identify low-cost classes or online courses in the community and invest in them yourself. Join the local chapter of a professional association or networking group and attend their meetings. Haven't had a sit-down with your manager in months? Reach out to him/her and schedule one yourself. Want a mentor? Contact a few people on LinkedIn to see if they'd be willing to chat. In sum, don't wait for an invitation from someone else to learn and grow! Taking charge of your own career means being an advocate for yourself, reaching out proactively to explore all the possibilities at your disposal, and making it happen.
Most managers strive to do the right thing, including providing real-time, constructive feedback to their direct reports when course corrections are needed. However, far too many avoid this task out of fear that employees will get upset or the vain hope that the problem will magically disappear on its own (Really, in the course of human history, has this ever happened for than a handful of times?). Inevitably, the performance appraisal season rolls around again and managers are then forced to deliver bad news to an employee who will feel completely broad-sided and (understandably) respond negatively. The keys to successfully delivering constructive feedback, first of all, include avoiding this temptation to wait. Feedback that is timely - occurring as close as possible to the event - is the most powerful and will have the biggest likelihood of making a difference. Secondly, deliver the message personally (if possible) and always in private. There is nothing more maddening to a group of employees than receiving a mysterious and universal slap-on-the-wrist, when they know the message is actually directed at one person who may or may not get the message. Thirdly, be clear with the employee and do not leave anything to interpretation. You don't have to be cruel; simply be direct. Finally, balance every constructive point with several positive messages as well, even if you have to stretch to find them. Employees will be much more likely to receive a difficult message with grace when they feel that you are well-meaning, have their best interests at heart, and see good in them also.
Much has been said in recent years about organizational transparency. However, companies often struggle with knowing how to move from theory to practice, which leaves employees frustrated and feeling as if they're still in dark about what is going on "behind the curtain." One way to increase your transparency quotient is to involve employees in routine leadership meetings and events whenever possible. Another easy way to disseminate information is to include a regular leadership update on the direction or status of the business in existing communication channels such as town halls or newsletters. Finally, why not establish regular contact with line employees to encourage simultaneous top-down/bottom-up communication? An example of this would be to have a senior manager meet over breakfast with a group of employees on a regular basis so that information is exchanged in both directions. Remember: transparency isn't only about what is shared but how it is shared. Leaders are often pained to admit mistakes, but research has shown that leaders who display humility are much more trusted and respected than those who do not!
So many books and articles on employee recognition describe best practices for top-down recognition – that is, acknowledgement that comes from one's senior leaders or managers. Numerous studies, however, have shown that peer-to-peer recognition can be just as effective, and at times, even more so! Establishing a peer recognition program can be as easy as allowing employees to nominate their colleagues for gift cards or giving them "thank you" notes or gold stars to leave on the desks of their co-workers when they've done something great. Many an employee will proudly display these and refer to them even more often than they do to other formal types of recognition such as bonuses or promotions. Take two minutes at your staff meetings to go around the room and allow each person to mention one thing someone else in the room did that week to go the extra mile, generate a great idea, or demonstrate company values. Don't just consider individual peer recognition. The more you can do to recognize team accomplishments, the more this sense of camaraderie and collaboration will be enhanced throughout the organization.