Tag Archives: human resources

Why Incentive Travel Should Make a Comeback

By Larry JacobsonLarry Jacobson

Incentive travel programs have a long history of helping companies grow their business through increased sales, build loyalty with customers, and earn incremental profits for the hosting company.

Incentive trips to exotic destinations around the world were the norm during the 1980s and 1990s. Companies in nearly every industry took part: automobiles, auto parts, computers, garage door openers, spa builders, pool companies, tractors, sprinklers, lawn mowers, and just about every other business you can think of sent their salespeople, distributors, and dealers on trips that were earned and paid for out of increased business to the host company.

These trips were not boondoggles, but rather sales tools, and very effective ones at that. Customers clamored to be part of the group that would charter The Orient Express, hold a cocktail party on top of a glacier only accessible by helicopter, dance with the Kirov ballet in St. Petersburg, have their awards banquet in the same place the Nobel Prizes are awarded, take a private tour of the Vatican, perform their own concert in the Sydney Opera House, and the list of incredible events goes on and on.

Why did these incentive travel programs work so well? The answer lies in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those who took Psychology 101 in college, you already understand this concept. Here’s a quick review for you and an introduction for those who haven’t yet heard of this. As humans, we have basic physiological needs such as food and water. Once these needs are satisfied, we move up to safety needs such as security, employment and health. Next is our need for love and belonging, which include friendship and family. Once all of these basic needs are taken care of, we strive for esteem which includes achievement, respect from others, confidence, and self-esteem. And lastly, humans need self-actualization like achieving our potential as individuals.

It is esteem and self-actualization that drive us to achieve recognition of ourselves and from others. This makes salespeople and customers want, need, and strive to be on the trips. Spouse and partner recognition are also very important and falls under this category. Self-actualization, or in other words, “Why am I working so hard every day?” also drives people to want to be part of the winning group that is rewarded in such a big manner. This recognition does not come from awarding cash or merchandise. It is only being with one’s peers that provides the self-esteem and self-actualization.

What are the primary goals that can be achieved by an incentive travel program? We already know a program can drive sales. Additionally, many companies run incentive trips just to build relationships with their sales force and customers. Think of it as the ultimate way of taking a client out to dinner. By building a special relationship, you as the sponsoring company earn the right to ask your customer or sales force to work harder for you when times are lean.

If increased sales and better relationships aren’t enough motivation to run an incentive program, then calculate the profit % you make on incremental sales. Each dollar of profit made above and beyond your forecast has a higher % of profit built in because your overhead hasn’t changed.

You set the goals and by doing so, you ensure enough profit is coming in to pay for the trip and will leave you with incremental profits. The bigger and more exotic the trip, the more you can ask from your participants. Will a dealer sell 15% more of your product for a trip to Orlando? Not likely. But announce a winter ski fest to Switzerland, charter private yachts in the Caribbean, or take over castles in Ireland and watch your sales climb.

There are those that say in today’s economy, incentive travel needs more return on investment (ROI) than ever before. Therefore any incentive travel program needs more business content, more meetings, and more education.

Wrong! These are merely sound bites to try to convince today’s new management that trips are justifiable and are not boondoggles. Those managers are new to incentives and haven’t seen how they have performed in the past. I have. I have seen customers buy more products, salespeople working on weekends, and distributors pushing a client’s products like the client had never seen before—all just to be part of an amazing journey to an exotic destination. After hundreds and hundreds of programs in just about every industry, I have never once experienced a failed program or one that didn’t lead to increased sales and profits for the client and better relationships with their customers.

Incentive travel worked before for all of these excellent reasons and those reasons haven’t changed. It’s not necessary to fill your trip with education about your industry, your products, sales training, and other false pretenses for holding your event. Use incentive travel for the tool that is and let it work for you.

Larry Jacobson is a speaker, executive coach and author of the award-winning best seller, “The Boy Behind the Gate,” based on his experiences while achieving his lifelong goal of circumnavigating the globe by sailboat. As a speaker on sales skills and leadership development, Larry uses the six years of lessons learned at sea to speak with unique authority about conquering fear and staying the course whatever it takes. For more information please visit www.larryjacobson.com, email Larry at larry@larryjacobson.com or call 510-500-4566.

Five Tips for Successfully Navigating the “People” Side of Change

By Curt WangCurt Wang

Is your organization rolling out a major change? Restructures, mergers, acquisitions, new systems and new business lines are the norm as companies move to respond to a more challenging and increasingly fast-moving, unpredictable business environment.

When launching a significant change initiative, one of the biggest mistakes leaders make is to view the change as an event that happens at a single point in time.  Accepting and then embracing change is a process not an event.  No matter how well you craft your initial announcement to employees, this should be viewed as just one of many conversations to generate employee buy-in, not the end.

People naturally have resistance to change; for many, buy-in is a process that may take days, weeks or even months to achieve.  Expect immediate buy-in at your own risk: at best you may achieve compliance without lasting commitment.

Here are five tips that can help you increase your odds of success by focusing on the people side of change.

One: Don’t judge individuals by their initial reaction.  Give people time to come on board and process the change before judging their willingness to accept the change and be a team player. When making a big announcement on a major change, recognize that the shock of the news will instantly start minds spinning over the personal ramifications.   It is people’s natural survival instinct to immediately focus on the fear of loss or loss of control rather than to appreciate the potential benefits of a change.  Don’t be surprised if some initial reactions are quite negative.  Some individuals may need several weeks before going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: shock and denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance.  You may falsely judge that an employee won’t come on board with the change if you observe them while they are in the early stages.  However, keep in mind that this does not mean that they will not eventually accept the change once they are able to process it.

Two: Realize that much of what you say immediately after making the announcement may not be heard.  The shock of learning about major change can start people’s minds spinning.  Lost in their own thoughts, people may not be clearly hearing and absorbing important details that you may be communicating.  Leaders are always surprised to learn, after making a major announcement loaded with helpful and important information, how little was actually heard.  Keep in mind that, as the leader planning the change, you have had weeks or perhaps months to process the change yourself during what typically involves weeks or months of planning meetings.

Three: Ask your staff how they feel about the change.  When you ask employees what they think about the change, what you are asking is, “Is the change logical from a business perspective?” You may get a very positive response, which may fool you into believing the staff member is emotionally on board.  However, one can think the change is a rational and yet personally feel very threatened.  Asking the staff member what they feel about the change may elicit a very different answer regarding their emotions, allowing you to better understand and address concerns.

Four: Allow your key managers to have time to process and accept change themselves, before they meet with their staff.  Change needs to be cascaded down the organization.  Executives need to bring their managers on board and then managers need to bring their staff on board.  Because of legitimate fears about controlling news about change, managers often hold meetings with their staff before they have had a chance to process and accept the change themselves.  If managers are working to convince their staff that the change is positive, yet they are not fully committed themselves, messages from the manager will be perceived as disingenuous.

Five: Identify and bring key opinion leaders on-board first.  In every team, there are opinion leaders outside the ranks of management who other staff members take their cues from.  There also are staff members who more quickly accept change or perhaps even embrace it.  If you can early on enlist the key people who both embrace change and are opinion leaders, they can help set the tone for the group’s reaction to change.

Paradoxically, moving too fast can make your change initiative take longer. When you don’t take the time to build commitment, people act out of self-interest and fear, resulting in decisions and actions that can slow down or even sabotage your change efforts.  By recognizing that change is a process, you will be in a better position to successfully manage the “people” side of change, significantly increasing the odds of creating successful change.

Curt Wang is an Executive Coach at Make The Leap! Coaching.  He coaches smart, creative and successful executives and professionals to reach higher levels of performance and achieve their business and career goals.  He is also an expert and professional speaker on the topics of change leadership and organizational change. For more information on Curt’s speaking and coaching, please visit www.maketheleapcoaching.com. Contact him at 888-848-3130 or curt@maketheleapcoaching.com.

Skills and Experiences Are Irrelevant When Hiring

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

A candidate’s ability to apply their skills is what counts

Just to clarify, the word is “irrelevant.”  It doesn’t read “not important.” There is a difference between something being relevant and being important. Of course, having the right skills and experiences are important to performing the job, just not relevant when hiring. Skills and experiences are simply the tools one brings to the job. It is one’s ability to use these tools effectively that counts.  Just because you have a hammer and saw in your garage, doesn’t make you a fine finish carpenter.

Since most people have been taught interviewing is about the candidate’s skills and experiences, the interviewer tends to ask a lot of questions about their past. For example, “What have you done in this area?” or “Have you ever done _____?”  Those trained in behavioral interviewing will take those same questions and convert them into asking for an example such as, “Give me an example where you have done X” or “Tell me about a time when you had X as an issue.”

All of this may be good to know, but the fact is you really don’t care about any of this. When a candidate shows up on Monday morning, you no longer care about all the things they have done. You only care about one thing, whether or not they can do the job you are hiring them to do. That is all you really care about. Nothing else matters anymore. They may have the best skills and all the right experiences, but if they can’t effectively apply them to do your job, then you really don’t care about their skills and experiences.

Have you ever hired a person that had all the right skills and experiences? They interviewed well, had all the right answers, their resume read like the job description, and after you hired them they fell flat on their face? This has happened to just about everyone who has ever hired.

Why does this happen? It’s usually because the person’s skills and experiences are not primary indicators of their ability to do your job. These are at best secondary indicators and more often than not, misleading indicators. Yet, these are the indicators that most hiring managers rely on.

Instead, focus the interview on the primary reason for interviewing which is, “Can they do your job?” The key to successful hiring is having a methodology that puts the candidate in the job BEFORE you hire them. It is not about determining if the candidate has the right tools. It is about determining if they can use those tools effectively to get your job done.

This is why behavioral interviewing often falls short. Behavioral interviewing was once a quantum leap forward in how interviewing was performed; however, it too has run its course. Great interviewing is more than getting examples of the past. It is about doing your job. The tag line for behavioral interviewing, “past performance is an indicator of future performance” isn’t always the case.

A good hiring methodology shifts the focus from the person’s skills and experiences to how they will use these to do your job. If they can’t use these effectively in your company and your position, then they may be a great person but they aren’t the right candidate. This is why a person with all of the right skills and experiences often falls flat on their face.

So how do you put the candidate in the job before you hire the person?

  • Stop asking questions that start with “have, what, have you, tell me about a time when, etc.” These are all fine to know but they should be used for probing after the example and not for the example. That is a huge difference. The famous, who, what, when, where and why questions are for probing deep and not for opening questions.

  • “How” questions should be used for the opening question. One of the biggest challenges facing hiring managers is getting them to shift to asking “How” questions. After that you can then begin probing with the five W’s. For example, “How would you decrease costs by 10%?” “How would you increase gross margins by X%?” “How would you go about implementing a complete systems upgrade of our ERP system?” “How would you increase market share in your territory?” Then probe deeply with the five W’s.

  • Now the interviewer is shifting the interview from skills and experiences to having the candidate explain how they would apply these to do the job. If the candidate can’t apply their skills and experiences in the new job, then one has to question whether or not they are the right person regardless of skills and experiences.

The reason most hiring processes fail is because it is easy for a candidate to talk about their skills and experiences. Some might even embellish in this area. It is significantly different to explain how they would apply those skills and experiences in your company, with your culture, your resources, your budget constraints and all the aspects that make your company unique from the company they are leaving or just left.

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”

Negotiating a Flexible Work Arrangement with Your Employer

By Dr. Farzanna HaffizullaDr Farzanna Haffizulla

Every working professional should have the right to take time off, free from the pressures of work, but doing so requires some savvy planning with your supervisors and colleagues when you are gone. Check with your employer about your maternity, paternity and family leave options. The stress that many feel often relates to leaving work unfinished or falling behind on projects. Don’t leave your job with uncertainty and offer a clear timeline so that your work colleagues know what to expect.

While the art of balancing family life and career is fraught with intense emotions at times, make sure you check your emotional highs and lows at the door. Always maintain a professional attitude when in front of your colleagues. You want to show that you are committed and just as reliable, and that you take your work commitments seriously.

Here’s what to go over with your supervisor if you are considering time off:

  • Determine the changes in schedule or job functions.

  • Specify a specific leave period (start date and end date).

  • Figure out coverage. Who will cover for you while you are gone? Will your work be divided up among colleagues and are they aware?

  • Create hand-off notes. Prepare your notes and work procedures for your replacement.

  • Establish boundaries and access. Will you be available for consultation? How much contact are you willing to have during your leave?

  • Plan your re-integration and return. Design a plan for your return, such as changes in job function, reduced hours, etc.

  • Consider telecommuting and working from home or at a location closer to home. Present a clear plan of action to your supervisor about how you see this arrangement benefiting you and your company. Will you be able to make regular conference calls to check-in with your colleagues and with your supervisor? Will you be able to drop-in on occasion if the project calls for it, or if you need to see clients?

There are four important steps to take when negotiating flexible work arrangements.

Step 1: Assess your job and employer: Will they allow you to try the above flex options? Some jobs are strict about a physical presence in the office during regular business/office hours. For example, a surgeon or school teacher may find flex options provide no respite from their work demands. For those with more flexibility from their employers, consider if working in an alternate location would be beneficial. Can you handle the independence and distractions, if it saves you commuting time and costs?

Step 2: Find out where you work best: Many thrive in home offices, which allow them to save on childcare costs, while others find home offices distracting and unproductive. On face value, working from home may seem to be the most convenient option, but before seizing the opportunity, remember that working at home doesn’t necessarily make it convenient. If constant interruptions will make working difficult, theadvantages of working at home may be overshadowed by the downsides,such as battling cranky outbursts from your kids or other interruptions of daily living.

Step 3: If you are a parent or caregiver, drop the guilt-factor: Recognize that you shouldn’t feel like a bad parent if you come to the realization that you can’t work and care for a child in a synchronous manner, and that you are more productive when you keep the two worlds largely separate. Perhaps you’re the type that needs a designated working space. Other parents might not mind writing or preparing reports, making phone calls and dealing with clients while toys are scattered by the desk and your child squeals and plays in the playpen set in the corner of the room. Seek out the best work arrangement and reassure your employer that you’re not seeking a favor, but asking for an alternative way to produce the same level of work expected.

Step 4: Champion your work: Once you’ve started your new work arrangement, remember that you may not be physically in the office as often as usual. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind can have detrimental effects on your employer’s impression of you. Make sure you take these measures to ensure that you get the credit you deserve:

  • Document your performance and work results. Check-in daily if needed with your boss.

  • Be clear about the expectations. You may not be able to work fulltime, but can you still produce full-time work.

  • Set up periodic meetings with your supervisor to go over expectations. Have you made significant contributions? In what ways? Work with your employer to adjust your work schedule as needed to fine-tune an optimal arrangement.

  • If something urgent comes up at work, what is your family contingency plan? And vice versa— if something at home interrupts your work schedule, will your employer be able to grant you more flexibility?

While there is no “one size fits all” approach, variations in theme and creative strategizing and planning will allow you to achieve the best of both your family and career spheres of life. Maintain clarity, definition and be resolute in your personal choices.  An injection of optimism and approaching your colleagues and supervisors with amiable professionalism will dramatically increase your chances of getting the schedule that works best for you.

Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a speaker and expert in work/life balance. Her book, Harmony of the Spheres, offers methods to streamline workloads, solve interpersonal workplace issues and offers practical advice on integrating work and home life. In addition, she runs the website busymomMD.com, an informative site for modern, educated women juggling career and family.

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Taking the Org Chart into the 21st Century

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Running a business today with 15th Century tools is like driving a 1931 Model A Ford on the modern German Autobahn. Yes, the Model A is an automobile with wheels and a motor but it is not equipped to handle 21st Century demands for speed and peak performance.

Back in 1931, the Model A offered state-of-the-art features such as air conditioning with its front slant window that opened to cool passengers, an analog clock to help you get to your destination on time, and flower vases that adorned the door posts between the front and back seats that added a touch of luxury. As fascinating and advanced as it was for its time, the Model A cannot compete or even keep pace with 21st Century needs.

The organizational chart that governs most organizations today is much like the Model A. It’s been around for centuries. While it is often referred to as Newtonian and thought to be around 500 years old, history shows that its beginnings date back to not only Roman soldiers but ancient Egypt. The organization (org) chart is defined by various sources as a graphic representation of how authority and responsibility is distributed within a company or organization.

Is Your Organization Chart Still Working for You? Does the org chart still work as well in the 21st Century as it did in the 5th Century? The Newtonian org chart is filled with boxes and linear movement and is no longer an effective and efficient way for organizations to operate. It is very hierarchal in nature, puts all authority into boxes and limits the flow of communications, interpersonal relations, productivity and peak performance.

And, when something goes wrong, such as the economy tanking, or a major client is dropped, the solution is to remove the person in one or more of the boxes or add a new box – instead of digging deeper into the problem. Most of the time, the real source of the problem is at the core of the organization –  the company vision, the glue that holds the company together, and its operating system laid out in the organization chart.

The “Orbital Effect”: Once you’ve grasped the limiting factors inherent in the conventional org chart and how they affect your organization’s productivity and profitability, it is much easier to envision the future with clarity. Everything in your organization must revolve around your reason for existence, your story, your vision – much like planet Earth revolves around the sun. In an organization the vision is the sun – it provides the fire, desire and motivation for your existence. The vision is your story and at the center of your org chart. Everything else needs to revolve around your core reason for existence. You can no longer do that in the 21st century if you continue to operate within boxes and angles that do not flow and complete an orbital or circular trajectory of communication, productivity and peak performance. It is the completion of the path that provides more efficiency, improved effectiveness and buy-in on the part of the workforce, which yields more profitability and maximized value to stakeholders.

Leadership, Creativity and Practical Operations: These three categories are often treated separately and fall in different areas on the old org chart but in reality they belong in the vision and fire of the organization. They drive the organization and all of the sub-orbital sections which regularly interact in meaningful communicative ways. How can you know what type of leadership you need and if you have the right people in those positions if you don’t know your story – if you don’t have a vision that is real and summarized in five to seven words?

Leadership, creativity and practical operations are the sun that provides your organization life and everything else must revolve around it – that is how balance and sustainability are created in the 21st Century. There is a natural flow of energy that moves throughout an organization called the “orbital effect” and it no longer can operate with boxes and angular movement. There is a natural flow to information and communications as well, but if it doesn’t complete the orbit, you have no way of knowing whether what you wanted to communicate is what your workforce or the consumer heard – until it is played back.

Are you still driving the Model A version of the org chart?  It’s time to try a better way, a newer, more efficient and productive way of operating. The “orbital effect” is a major upgrade to your operating system. The result: improved productivity, profitability and sustainability with less stress.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.