Developing Veterinary Employees

In this webinar, we will focus on employee growth and development.  Want your employees to learn to do things more efficiently or to learn something new? We will show you how you can identify activities in your business that can be developmental for your employees.  What is there to learn in each of these activities?  How do you create a plan to make this learning happen?  How do you support your employees while they are working on this assignment?  In this session you will learn tips for broadening your employees’ capabilities.  Research says that employees that are learning new skills are more likely to be engaged and stay with their employer longer.

View the webinar slides here: Developing Veterinary Employees


What Is One Of The Greatest Challenges For Small Businesses?

Succession Planning.

Blood is thicker than water. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. That is true unless your family also owns a business that employs your sisters, brothers, nephews, cousins and grandchildren. While family businesses create a sense of pride because the family’s and company’s name is on the door, it also creates a problem because it is not always clear where family ends and the business begin.

Disciplining, giving negative feedback, and termination, which are the ultimate form of discipline, are difficult tasks for any manager. In the case of termination, a “regular” employee leaves the organization and may never be heard from again. If you fire or even discipline a family member you still may have to sit at the same table with them for Thanksgiving dinner.

I worked for a publicly held but family-run business in St. Louis for many years. I watched the CEO’s son join the organization and rise rapidly through the ranks. I also watched the father publicly give negative feedback to the son about his performance. All we “outsiders” were made uncomfortable by this public “dressing down.” In the end, the son rose to the CEO position only to resign in disgrace several years later. So what happened? Did it have to happen?

Here’s my take on the answer to the first question: there was a job/person “fit” problem. The skills and abilities this CEO brought to the position were insufficient. He was being asked to do things that were beyond his skills and abilities.

The answer to the second question, Did it have to happen, is no. There was evidence along the way that this person was not suited to be a CEO. The sitting CEO had decided when his first son was born that he would succeed him. I’m not sure that was anything in the world that would have prevented him choosing his son as his successor.

So how do you avoid this trap? At the end of the day, you as the current CEO should be concerned primarily with creating shareholder value. You need to make decisions that are in the best interest of the shareholders, no matter how few or how many there are. Here are the steps to take to keep your goal in focus.
 
1. Start the succession process five to 10 years in advance of the event.

2. Decide on three to five people who you think have the potential to succeed you. They can be all family members or a mix of family and non-family. The most important criteria are that you have talented people who also have the desire to take on the role of CEO. There is discussion in organizations about whether or not you tell people what you are grooming them for. My opinion is that all they need to know is that you think they have potential. The rest will play itself out.

3. Do an assessment of what each of these folks does well and not well. You can try and do this yourself but you will be better off hiring an Industrial/Organizational psychologist to do the assessments.

4. Rotate these potential CEO candidates through a series of jobs of increasing responsibility and complexity. You and the candidate and the psychologist need to look at each person’s strengths and development needs in relation to the job you put them in. Each candidate needs a development plan that will address his or her development needs. Whether or not that person accomplish the goals in the plan needs to be clear to you and the candidate. The person needs to be in this developmental job for at least two years so he or she can either succeed or fail. Candidates will continue to be in your CEO pool unless they do not succeed in the assignment. If they don’t succeed then they will go into a job that is in line with their abilities or they will leave the organization.
Hopefully by the end of this process you will have at least one and possibly two people who you would feel comfortable handing over the reins. It should be clear to both you and the person you select that they are the best person to succeed you and that they have the best chance to be successful.

EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


Are You The Best Interviewer In The Port City?

So, who is the best interviewer in the Port City? What is the secret of his or her success? Sound the buzzer. If you said “gut feel” or any variation of that, you’re wrong. And I’m going to tell you why.

In my line of work, I have seen too many hiring decisions made after the person who is doing the hiring has a casual conversation with a prospect and decides she really likes him or her. But why does she like that person? Without data to support her position she might as well flip a coin to make her decision.

It’s crazy that one of the most important activities in choosing human capital is handled so casually and in many cases without any preparation. It’s like deciding to bake a cake, not reading the directions, randomly throwing in some ingredients you think ought to be in a cake, putting the results in the oven and hoping for the best.

There is a better way and I’m going to lay it out for you.
 
• First, you need a list of duties and responsibilities for the position, also known as a job description. You can develop one from scratch or you can jump-start the process by looking on the Internet. This research will give you something to start with and edit. There are a number of ways to do this and a variety of finished products. In every case you need to state what the person is to do in this job and what they are responsible for delivering/providing.

• Second, the job description should allow you to determine the skills and abilities, or competencies, required to do this specific job. I make a distinction between behavioral and technical competencies. Technical competencies might be things like welding skills, cost accounting, fork lift skills, or the ability to create spreadsheets in Excel. Behavioral skills would be things like influence, problem solving and interpersonal skills. You should be able to go through your job description and identify five to seven behavioral skills and three to five technical skills. Underline them.

• Third, based on the behavioral and technical skills identified in your job description, you should develop a structured interview question for each of the skills. For the technical skills the question might be, “Describe your experience in creating and using Excel and spreadsheets.” For the behavioral skills it might be, “Tell me a time when you had to influence someone. What did you say? What did you do? How did it turn out?” With the technical skills, an interviewer who knows the subject area should be able to tell in two or three minutes if the person has the skill level needed for the job. In the behavioral skill area, you should expect people to be able to give you an answer most of the time. The quality of the answer will vary. I would suggest you use a scale of 1 to 5 to rate the person’s example. A “1” would be a response that answered the question but didn’t provide a lot of detail or substance. A “5” would be an exceptional response that had a lot of detail and you could almost visualize the person demonstrating the example.

• Fourth, create a rating sheet that you will use to summarize the results of each of your interviews. List each of the behavioral and technical skill that you are assessing for this job. Calculate separate subtotals for behavioral and technical skill and then calculate an overall combined score. This will allow you to do two things. First, you can compare each candidate’s overall competence. By having separate subtotals for behavioral and technical skills you could compare candidates at this level as well. You may have one candidate who is really strong in the behavioral area but missing a technical skill. Can you afford to train him on the missing technical skill and then have a stronger overall candidate?
In summary, “In God we trust; all others bring data.” I think you will find that with a little preparation so that you know what questions you are going to ask each candidate and how those questions are connected to the job’s duties and responsibilities, you’ll have a much better process on which to guide your hiring decisions.

EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


The Biggest Challenge of 2014? Human Capital

It is refreshing to finally hear human capital cited at the No. 1 challenge in 2014 based on The Conference Board’s global survey of more than 1,000 corporate leaders. These leaders further described human capital as involving how to develop, engage, manage and retain talent. This is a great list, and I am pleased that human capital is finally getting its rightful place in how to win in the marketplace. 

At the same time, I am a little disappointed not to see talent acquisition on that list. Some of the need for development, engagement and retention will be reduced if you get the “right” people on the bus to begin with. Using well-developed tests and assessments can be a tremendous help in screening problem candidates out of the selection process before they become your employees. 

I’ll get off my selection bandwagon until another time. I do want to share my thoughts about development, engagement and retention, how I define them, and how an organization can leverage these areas.

Let’s start with engagement. You made a candidate an offer of employment and they accepted. They are now your employee. So then what is engagement?  W. A. Kahn in 1990 defined it as “… the extent to which a person is psychologically present in work roles.”  What that means is that the more engaged an employee is in a work setting the greater the likelihood that he will go the extra mile and use what is sometimes called “discretionary effort.” Here’s an example: It’s 4: 45 p.m. on Friday and you need people who are willing to stay an extra hour to finish loading a shipment to meet your customer’s need. The engaged employee will make this discretionary effort. In many organizations only one-third of the employees are highly engaged. The potential impact that has on productivity is huge. We can talk about how to engage your employees in another column.  

The second area cited in The Conference Board survey was development. Years ago people used to talk about training and development. I once led a project where we revised the performance management system at a Fortune 100 company. The new system was going to focus 50 percent on the things the employee would do in the next 12 months. In the past, an employee’s development meant they went to training. Attending training was the goal. Under this new system we said that where most employees learn and develop is “on the job.” An aspect of their development can be attending a training program, but it must be followed by several situations where they must apply the skill on the job. The supervisors that we were working with said, “We know you are right about this being the best way to develop employees, but we don’t know how to do it.” We helped the supervisors figure out ways to incorporate development into people’s jobs. The bosses and the employees were thrilled and it led to huge gains in employees’ capabilities. We can talk about “how” to do that in another column.  

The third area mentioned in The Conference Board survey was retention. In my mind if you do an effective job of engaging and developing employees you usually don’t have to be concerned about retention. There are two types of ways that employees separate from an organization. There is voluntary (they leave) and involuntary (you ask them to leave). What are we talking about trying to minimize is voluntary. Once a person tenders a resignation it is too late to do anything. Making sure you keep the people that you really want to keep means that there needs to be good candid communication. Employees don’t leave organizations because of bad “management,” they leave because they have a bad supervisor. Once you identify your high potentials, you don’t have to tell them that they’ve been identified as such. But you better show them that they are special by your actions and the opportunities you give them. You need to effectively communicate with them. You need to give them good constructive feedback (the want it so they can improve). You need to challenge and develop them. You need to reward their performance. If you do those things well with the people you want to keep, retention should be less of a problem. You should, however, do exit interviews to find out “why” your people left.

In conclusion, if you engage and develop your people, it should result in higher retention and your organization should have the human capital to win in the marketplace.

EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


A How-to Guide to Employee Development

In a recent column, I wrote about my reaction to a recent Conference Board Study that cited human capital as the biggest challenge for CEOs in 2014. The article went on to cite three particularly challenging aspects of human capital management: engagement, development and retention. In the first column, I said that I would come back and talk about how to “do development” in a later column. That column is now.

In the first column, I described my experience with line managers who wanted to develop their people but did not know how. The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro has focused on manager/leader development for the last 40 years. In the 1980s, three of the center’s faculty members, Mike Lombardo, Anne Morrison and Morgan McCall, published a book entitled, “The Lessons of Experience.” The most significant finding in the book was that the place where most executives learn and develop is on the job. I remember when I first read the book and mentioned that finding to some of my “line” executive customers. Their response was, “No kidding.”

So if on the job is the place where most managers learn and develop, why do companies spend so much time and money on training? In later work, Lombardo and Bob Eichinger of Lominger fame asked executives where their development occurred. The executives claimed that they got 70 percent of their development on the job, 20 percent on dealings with other people (good and bad bosses, for example), and 10 percent of their development from training. So the good news is that we know where people develop; the problem is that bosses don’t know how to develop their employees other than to throw them into these assignments.

If you are trying to give someone experience with turning around a business that is in trouble, you put them in a turnaround situation. Is that the only developmental opportunity in a turnaround? The answer is no. Turnarounds require the person in charge to think on his feet, think strategically, influence others, communicate clearly, hold people accountable, drive for results, use diagnostic skills and separate the most important issues to address from the least important issues. I know this is not an exhaustive list. The point is we would have missed most of the real developmental opportunities in this situation if we had stopped by describing it just as a turnaround.

For managers to get better at development (and yes, this is part of their job) they have to think more strategically and diagnostically. They need to think more broadly during the performance management process as they look to their people and the year ahead. What skills/competencies does this person need to take them to the next level? Set aside some time and ask yourself:

  • First, what are the objectives/project/assignments that I have at my disposal over the coming year? I would suggest you catalog them.
  • Second, for each of those projects and assignments, what skills/competencies are required to execute the projects and assignments? Now you need to match people to assignments. And you need to tell the person, “The reason I am giving you this assignment is because if you do it well, you will be required to demonstrate competency X, Y and Z. You remember from our performance discussion two weeks ago that I said these were the things you needed to develop to move to the next level. The reason I am giving you this assignment is so that you can work on these skills. When we get together to talk about your progress on this assignment I would like you to talk in terms of how you have demonstrated these competencies. “

So let’s go back to where we started. The Conference Board indicated that the biggest challenges for CEOs in 2014 involve human capital. Looking deeper, CEOs said they were concerned about engagement, retention and development. My experience has been that senior managers agree about the importance of development but claim they don’t know how to do it. It is not terribly complicated, but it does require a manager to be clear on what skills their people need to develop.  A manager also needs to think about the skills needed to accomplish the developmental opportunities at their disposal. 

It is that combination of matching development needs and job opportunities that will enable managers to be better developers of their people going forward.

EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


Will Management Ever Learn? Select Slow And Fire Fast

Having been in the working world for many years I have been through a number of economic cycles.  They are pretty predictable. The economy starts to grow and businesses expand and then the economy contracts and companies try and “right size.” Right size is a euphemism used in the business to describe getting costs in line with revenue, a process that typically involves laying off people. 

Here is the thing that no manager in his or her right mind would ever admit to you: when business starts to slow and the meeting is held where managers are informed that they need to reduce their headcount by 10 percent, there is a collective sigh of relief in the room. Why is that? It’s because the managers who did not deal with their problems early on now have an easy way out. 

Let me explain further. Most managers do a lousy job of selection. That doesn’t change, but the economic environment does. It expands and contracts. During an expansion period companies are hiring left and right. It is like a feeding frenzy.  A warm body is better than nobody. When times are good and a company is making a lot of money, it can cover up a myriad of sins. 

When business starts to slow, the finger pointing starts. The “C”-level player that the manager had hired is becoming more difficult to find work for because of his or her lack of competence.  The time of year for performance appraisals rolls around and due to lack of managerial courage, our management cadre fails to deal with its problem. They do not give accurate feedback to their poor performers and they do not put them on a performance improvement plan. I guess they assume that divine intervention will fix the problem and maybe it does.  The economy worsens, and they get called into the management meeting and are instructed to submit their list of the 10 percent of their workforce that will be affected by the layoff. 

The sigh of relief I mentioned earlier is that the manager’s performance problem just got fixed. The non-performer is being laid off and the person’s separation can be blamed on economic conditions and not the real problem, which is his or her lack of performance. 

In these downturns, things don’t usually stop with one layoff. Now you have gotten rid of your deadwood, but the next 10 percent affected by the layoff are good performers who have been doing their jobs well, and through no fault of their own lose their paychecks. 

The managers do a little soul searching and admit, if only to themselves, that they played an important role in this scenario. They promise themselves that the next time they start hiring, they will do a thorough and an effective job and never hire poor performers just to fill open positions. They will study the person’s resume before the interview and not just walk in the room and say, “Tell me about yourself.” They will be clear about the skills they want to assess in candidates and ask for specific examples of where the candidate did that in their last job. They promise they will not come out of an interview and ask their people what they thought of a candidate and accept the answer, “I liked her,” without that being backed up with specific data.

They keep saying this mantra, and not doing anything different, until the economy turns and they start interviewing and hiring talent the same way they did the last time the economy started growing. How did you like that candidate? I liked him. Me too. Let’s make him an offer. Three months later you find yourself frustrated that that person you hired is not performing. He may be a good guy, but that doesn’t make him a good performer. When I teach people selection skills I often say, “In God we trust; everyone else bring data.”

You know what? If you keep doing the same things, you will keep getting the same results. Why would you be surprised that the results were any different this time than all the other times?

EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


Want to Improve Productivity? Improve Employee Engagement

This is the third column is a series I have written in response to a Conference Board Study that identified human capital as the biggest challenges for CEOs in 2014. The study went on to detail three parts to human capital management:  development, retention and engagement. This column will focus on engagement, what it is, and how you can increase it.

I said in the first column in this series that W.A. Kahn, a professor of organizational behavior, has defined engagement as “… the extent to which a person is psychologically present in work roles.” Said another way, engagement is the degree to which an employee will demonstrate discretionary effort in a situation if given a choice. In any organization, it is fairly typical for a third of the workforce to be engaged, another third of the workforce to be neither engaged nor disengaged, and the other third to be disengaged. If you could get the two thirds of the organization that is either neutral or disengaged to become engaged, the productivity gains would be huge.

As part of my business, we create engagement surveys. We recently completed a survey for My Employees, a company in Castle Hayne. The survey includes five dimensions:

  1. Recognition
  2. Role clarity
  3. Career opportunities
  4. Supervisory support
  5. Ability to take initiative

A company that wants to positively impact its engagement with employees should conduct a survey first. The purpose of the survey is to give the company a baseline of its strengths and areas for improvement. You could just ask closed-ended question with a scale attached. (For example, you could ask, “On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being low and 5 being high, how clear are you on your duties and responsibilities?”) That gives you quantitative information. I prefer to also use some open-ended questions to get qualitative information. (For example, “What things do you most like about working for this organization?”) Although you’ll get a lot of different answers, they can be grouped into different categories. Sometimes you will get a number of people mentioning the same issue. That would be an indication that it is important.

Now that you have collected this information through the survey about the current state of your organization as it relates to engagement, what next? You must do something. The worst thing you can do is to ask people how things are going and then not respond. If you are on the fence about responding, don’t do the survey. You will make things worse by not responding. 

Your next step is to provide feedback. This can be in written form, in small groups, large groups or a combination. The thing you are trying to accomplish here is to thank people for completing the survey and to let employees know that they were heard. Do not get into defending the company’s position on any of the data you received. It is not the right place to do so, and it will not go over well. 

If you are serious about improving engagement, you need to take action by identifying three to five groups and asking them to address the most important areas coming out of the survey. Examples could be a Reward and Recognition Group, a Career Opportunities Group and a Supervisory Support Group. The groups shouldn’t be larger than 10 to 15 people. People should volunteer to participate because they are passionate about this area and making it better. 

Each group should be given a charter and parameters. You know how things are (you got that from the survey). For example, with the Rewards and Recognition Group, its objective is to advise the company on introducing different rewards and recognitions that people will see as engaging. As a CEO or HR manager, don’t make promises other than to listen to the group and to ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand its ideas. 

In most cases, groups come up with some suggestion that can be acted upon. If the company can keep using a group as a resource through implementing the group’s solution, the group will see this as engaging. Don’t forget to communicate these actions to the larger employee population. You can’t assume that employees will know this effort is underway unless you tell them. 

Lastly, you should resurvey employees after nine to 12 months. This is one of the best ways to know whether your work to improve engagement is taking hold. In summation, engagement is not some abstract concept – it can be measured and it can be changed. It takes patience, hard work and commitment to the long term. Just think of the kinds of things your organization could accomplish if the two-thirds of the employees who were not engaged became engaged?

EASI·Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI Consult’s specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, emailContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


Practical Budgeting Tips Webinar

Practical Budgeting Tips

The webinar was led by Rachel Gaylord, CPA, a Manager with Lacher McDonald & Co., CPA’s. Rachel’s focus is Accounting, Tax, and Practice Management Consulting to the veterinary profession. During the webinar, she will help you understand why a budget is important and discuss practical tips specific to a veterinary practice.

The webinar is scheduled for one and a half hours and this includes time for questions from the attendees.

Topics covered will include:
• Why a budget is important
• Identify current spending habits
• How to set attainable goals
• Distinguish between variable and fixed costs
• How to monitor progress


Solve Problems For Clients

Despite your team’s best efforts, there will be times when service errors occur or clients become disgruntled about something.  Empower your staff to address and handle problems for clients when they occur.  Clients will be happier and impressed if your employees can quickly take action to resolve lapses in service or help them with their problems.  For example, if a client needs to pick up or drop off their pet outside the regularly scheduled time period, they will be thrilled when a team members works to accommodate their schedule.  Likewise, when breakdowns in communication occur, clients appreciate an apology and actions to improve communication.

Efforts to create an exceptional client service experience and promote a service-oriented culture are on-going.  Assess your service on a regular basis and formulate action plans to improve service when needed.