Niloufar Molavi is now facing a challenge that she hadn’t seen in her years with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP — acquiring and retaining talent for the accounting firm in the light of fierce competition. The complicating factor is that thanks to a heavy presence of energy companies, young talent in the Houston area is in high demand and supplies are low.
Molavi, Houston market managing partner for PwC, is realizing that you have to pull out all the stops to have an edge over the competition.
It’s no secret that PricewaterhouseCoopers over the years has developed comprehensive internship and management development programs that attract desirable young talent. Molavi is betting on those programs to make a difference.
“The average age of our workforce is 27 — so that will give you a sense of how much we rely on and focus on young talent such as college interns,” Molavi says.
“The students like to have an experience while they are in college, and they really don’t know what to expect ultimately when they come out of school, so we just give them that glimpse,” she says.
But more importantly, the interns will get to know PwC, which hopefully will lead to their choice of PwC for employment.
“It has been a great tool for us to not only recruit but they will see what it is like before they have to make a decision that will have an impact on their long-term careers,” Molavi says.
Here is how Molavi uses internship and management programs at the Houston location of PricewaterhouseCoopers to help fill the 1,069 seats at the table and keep those seats occupied.
Look and listen
The practice of finding and hiring qualified job candidates has grown more sophisticated for most companies in recent years. Such was the case of PwC some years ago when it started its internship program, now a well-entrenched fixture.
With the competition to secure talented individuals, it is essential to look for the skills that clients are demanding.
“It’s important to sit back and make sure that you have identified not only the technical skills in people you hire but, more importantly, the soft skills or the intangible skills that you are looking for in people,” Molavi says. “Identify what those are, and recognize over time those change — just because we know today what we are looking for may change over time. We live in an ever-changing environment, and you need to revisit that as often as you can to ensure that those intangibles haven’t changed.”
Once you sound out your clients, you’ll have a better opportunity to know what will best match their needs.
“The most important thing is listening,” Molavi says. “Spend a lot of time with your clients to make sure that you are listening to their issues, issues that are important to them, issues that they are dealing with, challenges and opportunities that are at the forefront of their minds.”
There are several key qualities that should be “must haves” on the intangible resume of an internship seeker.
“Adaptability — someone who’s willing to come in and adapt to new opportunities and a new environment,” Molavi says. “It’s someone who comes with flexibility of different ways of doing things.”
Equally as important is the attitude that learning is a dynamic procedure that lasts an entire career.
“Another important element is the ability and the desire to continue to relearn; when you are in an environment that’s changing all the time, you need to be comfortable that you are always learning, and it doesn’t really matter what level in the organization you’re at,” Molavi says.
If the desire to learn is kept burning, it can help establish a long-term interest in a particular field. The possibilities of advancement are many.
“Even as a leader, you can continue to have opportunities to learn new things every day,” she says. “For me, that’s exciting. That’s really what’s kept me in the industry and at PwC.”
Find the right fit
It’s been said that in the military as well as other sectors, the age group of 18 to the mid-20s make the best soldiers or workers if properly trained. And those who are even more well-trained do even better.
While the business world can’t really compare its stresses to those of the military, the advantages of young recruits are unmistakable — and similar in both fields.
“Our clients are always interested in our talent because we bring in the young; we help develop them,” Molavi says. “Our talent gets to see a lot of different opportunities and things and they learn pretty quickly on the job because of the exposure they get to our clients. So they are in high demand in the market. And we know that; that has been something we’ve been dealing with for years.”
With a focus on young talent, new entry-level candidates coming right off the college campus, it’s critical to look at their abilities and what they’ve learned on campus and their technical skills.
“First of all, try to find the right fit for the organization,” Molavi says. “At that entry level, spend quite a bit of time not only in the interview process on campus but spend time with those individuals over a two- or three-week period to get to know them and build that relationship — and then offer the best ones an internship.”
A typical internship lasts 10 to 12 weeks. It’s an opportunity to get to know the interns and see how they can work in the environment — and is a great opportunity for them as well to see what opportunities they may have.
“Look at a lot of those intangible qualities in individuals,” Molavi says. “Teamwork is huge for us. We work in teams. We do not do anything alone. So watching the interns work in teams and how they perform is important. Relationships are very important, both within our organization as well as with our clients, and watching how they develop those relationships and their abilities to learn in that area is essential.”
An internship is also a type of probationary period. It’s time to spot any red flags.
“I have had at least one person who interned with us, and at the end of the internship, she and I sat down together — she realized that accounting wasn’t for her and had never really been her passion,” Molavi says. “She had made certain decisions to go into the accounting field, and although she did a great job, she decided that her passion was somewhere else.”
Remember that interns are still students. Most will still have another year of college to finish.
“Internships happen generally right after their junior year for most individuals, so we don’t expect them to come in and know everything,” Molavi says. “We are not testing them on the technical knowledge that they are bringing to the table on day one, but you want to really look for those qualities for a good fit. Then put them on jobs that you would as brand-new associates so they get to experience what it’s like when they join as a full-time hire.”
One of the more important steps any organization needs to consider when you bring in interns is if you will have the opportunities for them to learn and develop in that short period of time.
“If they come in and they are not getting those opportunities, then it is going to be difficult,” Molavi says. “I think any business needs to look at how it is structured and what opportunities it can offer to an intern.
“I know that many of my clients even use internships to give students a sneak peek of an industry by bringing them in over a summer period and rotating them through various parts of their organization.”
Focus on the basics
It’s a serious undertaking for an organization to operate an effective internship program. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ program, while a significant commitment for the company, looks at it more as on-the-job training.
“On-the-job learning and development is really important,” Molavi says. “We do that quite a bit, and it’s easy too. I mean it doesn’t cost you a lot of money; you’ve just got to make sure that you are paying attention to it.
“You take the opportunity as you would a project — you stop and make sure that your team understands what you’re doing, why you are doing it, why it is important to your client, what they are going to learn from it so that it doesn’t just become a task; rather, it becomes a learning opportunity.”
As you develop your training programs over the months and years, design as much on-the-job training into it as possible, and it will help pay dividends.
“When we look at our training programs, about 70 percent of it is actually on-the-job training — every day on projects, at clients, real-time feedback and learning,” Molavi says.
PwC’s program has evolved over time to its current configuration: Each intern is mentored by three colleagues.
“One, they will have a buddy,” Molavi says. “They will have an associate who is closer to age and in experience to them, someone they can go to from day one with any questions they may have. They could be administrative, technical or industry questions. The buddy is someone with whom they can engage on a day-to-day basis.”
In addition to a buddy, each intern has a mentor who is a manager/coach.
“The manager ensures that they are getting the experiences, the exposure, the developmental opportunities,” she says. “The managers are responsible for their assignments during that period and help the interns through that.”
The last is a mentor who will nurture what are often called soft skills.
“The interns also get a relationship partner so they will actually have a mentor who will be engaging with them and spending the time to talk about opportunities in the profession, and more importantly for our interns, the opportunities at PwC that they will have in the long term,” Molavi says.
“The program involves quite a bit of investment but again it has become a very important source for our full-time hiring, and we believe the investment ultimately pays off both for us and the recruits.”
Another aspect of an internship program is shadowing. Interns are given the opportunity to shadow a partner for one day to get a glimpse into a day of a partner’s life.
“Because they see us in bits and pieces, the interns probably don’t really realize everything in which a partner may be involved,” she says.
“One of my interns a couple of years ago had the opportunity to shadow me,” Molavi says. “She had a fantastic experience. It just happened to be one of those days where I was doing a lot of different things. We started off the day when I was actually in a coaching session with one of my ‘coachees,’ and moved on to an interview that I was doing that day with a publication. She got to sit in on that.
“We went to lunch with a client. We had a client meeting that she attended with me. Then we came back and dealt with some of my internal roles.
“She was just amazed at what I touch in one day and saw things that she would be very interested in down the road. So hopefully those kinds of looks give the interns a little bit more in terms of what a day could be as they go through a shadowing process.”
Develop new leaders
If your organization has made it a practice to have an internship program, it needs an employee advancement plan to get the most advantage of the intern program.
Tapping outside talent for management posts is not an easy process today, and it is beneficial to promote from within, not only to recognize that individual but to prepare in case a manager should leave. Talent that started as interns is an excellent source for management positions because of the familiarity with the company and work records that show advancement through the ranks.
For example, PwC uses a global leadership development program called Genesis Park for employees who are approaching some nine years of experience — a senior manager or director. This is a 10-week residential program for about 50 people, three times a year, which moves around the globe.
“You bring in individuals from around the world so every one of these 10-week residential programs is very global and very diverse,” Molavi says. “You are bringing people together who have never worked with each other — to work with each other.
“It takes individuals through what I call real-life experiences. This is not a situation where they’re going to role-play. It gives them the opportunities to work on real projects for either a particular territory, PwC territory or a global issue that our global leadership is dealing with.
“They’ll have the opportunity to work on that project and come back with solutions and thoughts. So they are really learning and having that experience of working with individuals they didn’t know before, bringing different talents together, putting their minds together and driving innovation to come up with solutions.”
Programs such as Genesis Park allow employees to not only continue to develop professionally but personally, as well, with leadership skills.
“My coachee who went through came back out in some ways a different person,” Molavi says. “The most important change that I noticed was the self-confidence that she gained from being part of that team and part of that opportunity, and knowing that, she exhibited an attitude, ‘Wow, I did this, and I was able to have a very different experience, and it felt good, and I learned a lot.’”
How to reach: PricewaterhouseCoopers, www.pwc.com or (713) 356-4000
The Molavi File
Houston market managing partner
Born: Tehran, Iran
Education: University of Texas at Austin, with both my bachelor’s in business administration and master’s in accounting
What was your first job?
My very first job that I got paid for was working during summer school at Houston Memorial High School, and I helped the staff in the office, running a lot of different errands.
What has been the best business advice you ever received?
To be willing to take risks. In terms of my career development, this has been the best advice that anyone could give me — the fact that someone took the time to sit me down and talk about the fact that unless you take risks, you’re not going to learn, you’re not going to develop, you’re not going to see new opportunities. You need to step out of your comfort zone and do it often.
When you become complacent and you’re getting comfortable with something, it’s time to do something different. So that is something that has certainly stuck with me. My sponsors early on pushed me and gave me those opportunities, opened those doors for me to step out of my comfort zone and do different things. It certainly has been very important to me, and I have seen it help me in my career and in the advice that I give others.
Who do you admire in the business world?
There are a lot of individuals who have accomplished great things, so maybe the way I would put it is not so much the individuals but those people who going back to what I was taught who had been authentic. They are not trying to be someone who they’re not. They are authentic leaders. They have at times put their necks out there and done something different that was not conventional, taking the risk, and then been successful at it.
Those are the people that I look to, those individuals who aren’t always going to be sitting at the top of organizations. They’re not necessarily going to be the CEOs but individuals who have had significant impact on success with an organization, for-profit or nonprofit as well.
What is your definition of business success?
For me, I think it is really simple: if you think about the success and the legacy that is behind, to be able to have clients who would say, ‘Well, she was our business partner and she was able to help us achieve our business goals.’ Being a tax practitioner, it is important to make sure that we are helping our clients achieve their goals. I think that would be to me a great legacy to leave behind if I could look back at the number of partners I have personally made so that they could be successful.
Event planning is no longer just “party planning.” Event planning has become a powerful tool for business success by helping to increase sales through live events and saving time and money when planning or organizing company events. Planning an event takes a great deal of time, energy, skill and creativity to effectively execute.
“Mid-sized businesses often do not realize the value of having someone actually trained in event planning; they often allocate the job to an administrative professional who has a full-time job and little time to pay attention to the vast details it takes to successfully implement an event,” says Michele Clark, program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College.
Even if a business thinks it cannot afford an event planner, it could afford training someone in its office. And, any administrative professional that is given the task of planning and executing events should be compensated for the increase in time and effort it takes.
Smart Business spoke with Clark about the importance of training employees in the fundamentals of event planning and understanding best practices in this essential role.
Why does a business need to ensure its marketing coordinator or a similar employee is properly trained in event planning?
Marketing and event planning really go hand in hand. Events have become an advantage for any business’s marketing strategy, and when combined with an advertising campaign, it vastly increases the awareness and visibility for a product or service. It gives your audience a live environment for your brand. The more people see, touch, taste and experience your product or service, the more you sell.
Marketing personnel also become involved in the acquisition of sponsors for events. To sell an event, it’s important to understand how to look at the event through the eyes of a planner so you are able to provide real marketing solutions to a sponsor’s goals.
What is involved in planning a business event?
A business event is no different than any event in that it all comes down to the details. Whether you are planning a large conference or a gala affair, knowing how to manage every detail is key to its success. If you don’t know the fundamentals of planning an event, you could be wasting a great deal of time. For example, a large conference can take up to year to plan. An event planner handles all of the tasks related to an event, such as research, food, decor, entertainment, transportation, invitations, accommodations, speakers, activities, staffing, supervision, evaluations, and the list goes on and on.
How does event planning affect a business’s profitability and reputation?
Having someone trained in event planning actually saves time and money. If you have someone who understands time management and the organization of an event, it is much more efficient than having someone just plan the event on the side trying to find their way through hundreds of logistics.
As for reputation, there is a remarkable difference between someone with experience and training who executes an event versus someone who just ‘wings it.’ If something can go wrong, it will, and a well-trained event planner understands the challenges and knows how to avoid or solve them. Your well-managed events will speak for themselves and be less likely to become a failure, which could, in turn, give you a bad reputation.
What kind of training should be provided to employees who deal with events and hospitality?
A comprehensive course designed specifically for event planning is excellent training for someone given the task of planning events and will provide that person with an appreciation of what it takes to plan an event. An employee needs to understand the fundamentals, such planning a budget, dealing with sponsors and clients, and utilizing organizational tools.
However, experience is the No. 1 attribute when it comes to executing events. So look for a course that also offers your employees experience through volunteer opportunities, internships and working with an event planner for the best combination of learning.
Also, if your company holds conferences on a regular basis, employees can receive further training specifically in Meeting and Conference planning. There is also other targeted training such as trade show and exhibition management or event planning trends and technology.
Trends and technology include information on registration software or how to take advantage of iPhones during a conference. Technology is now a large part of the hospitality industry, such as using something as simple as the ‘Bump’ app, where attendees can download their information then just tap other smart phones to receive their information. It’s a terrific networking tool and saves paper. There is an influx of meeting technology that changes rapidly and accommodates various attendee ‘smart’ tools.
As the hospitality industry grows in Northeast Ohio, how will this affect corporate business events?
It is a really exciting time for event planning in Northeast Ohio. The event and meeting planning industry is increasing in Northeast Ohio faster than the national average, at 14 to 19 percent over the next few years, according to O*net OnLine.
The new casino alone just begs for an activity, anything from corporate team building to a birthday party. Then you bring in the Medical Mart and Conference Center and you are surrounded by opportunities for event marketing projects, product launches, entertainment parties, major conferences and trade shows. The list of what can take place here is ongoing and event planning and management is alive and well.
Michele Clark is the program manager, The Shlensky Institute for Event Meeting and Planning, for Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2909 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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J.J. Rodeheffer says in all honesty, it is not that difficult to be a great company. All you have to think about is how you want to be treated. As part of any interaction that you would have, treat people the same way and you can build an excellent company.
You might find it difficult to argue with that since the third-party logistics company, Zipline Logistics LLC, has doubled its revenue each year over the past five years and topped revenue of $10 million in 2011. It employs 17 people.
Rodeheffer and his two partners claim their success formula is simple: focus on doing what’s right; treat your clients and customers fairly and honestly; pay your carriers on time; and value long-term business relationships over one-time business transactions.
Smart Business talked with Rodeheffer, partner at Zipline, about building a great company.
Q. With company growth comes the challenge of disseminating information and market knowledge down to the next new level of employees. What do you see as a key factor in doing that successfully?
A. Training has been something that we have taken great pride in. I don't necessarily know if we ever had the thought when we first opened Zipline that training would be one of our biggest strengths. But we realized early that we've got to pass along not only the information but the drive and the motivation, and to do that you simply just can't expect a person to pick that up.
You want hard workers, and you interview for the type of person that you want — a competitive hard-working, multitasker — but in the end, the person still has to have knowledge. In the last two years, we really have spent a significant amount of time building a training program. When we did our first training guide we thought we were way ahead of the curve. We had an 80-page booklet and about four to five weeks of classroom training. For this next class, our fourth group of trainees coming in, 80 pages have turned into a few hundred and the topics have continued to grow.
Q. Once they are trained for the job, what are the keys to keeping people motivated?
A. First, once training is up, that's not it. You have to strive really hard to further the education, whether that be logistically, and learning about your industry or what's going on out there but also within the local community from networking, to knowing the businesses that are around here, whether that be potential suppliers, learning more about your competition and what they are up to. Keeping the eye kind of straight ahead and knowing what's out there in front of you — I think has been important.
Moreover, charity group work is vital — not just a simple donation but some actual participation. That just kind of creates the awareness of where the company is now, where you are going, and I think that creates a positive attitude that comes into the day-to-day job as much as it does to the outside of the office.
Q. What are some of the keys to developing customer relationships that last?
A. I think too many companies get focused on small decisions and short-term thinking, and that leads to thinking about short-term profits. That gets in the way of developing long-term, long-standing relationships. You want to be here in the same role in five years, and 10 years, not how you are going to make your next quick buck. You have to really solidify in your customers’ minds that you have their best thoughts in mind. That could be, ‘Hey you know what? I know I quoted you $1,700 on this, but I'm only going to charge you $1,600. I found a cheaper truck, I'm still making a fair rate and I just wanted to let you know that I have your best interests in mind.’ Things like that just go a long way.
How to reach: Zipline Logistics LLC, (888) 469-4754 or www.ziplinelogistics.com
Establishing job expectations and aligning training to those expectations is crucial to retaining newly hired personnel and enabling them to transition into being a valued member of the business.
Twenty-two percent of staff turnover occurs in the first 45 days of employment and the cost of losing an employee in the first year is estimated to be at least three times that of the person’s salary. However, new employees who go through a structured training program were 58 percent more likely to still be with the organization after three years, according to a study by The Wynhurst Group.
“When new employees receive quality training, it builds a comfort level that the company is investing in them and leads to longer-term employment,” says Danny Spitz, CEO of Everstaff. “The new employee should understand the company’s goals and how he or she can help in achieving them. At the same time, if somebody is fully trained, you should be able to encourage feedback for process improvement, which will allow the employee to take hold of the position and understand where he or she can make a difference.”
Smart Business spoke with Spitz about how businesses can use their orientation and training programs to ensure job responsibilities and expectations are clear.
How significant is a first impression, and how can you guarantee it goes well?
It’s extremely important because the first impression sets the tone for accountability. When hiring, it is essential to discuss what is required from the person and what the day-to-day responsibilities will be if hired. Explaining this during the interview process will allow both sides to have the same understanding of what the job entails and will cut down on turnover, as the expectations have been discussed. When the newly hired employee starts, it is important to have an up-to-date training program that matches the company’s operations and individual position responsibilities. This is where showing strong organizational skills as a manager is critical.
What’s important to remember when setting expectations for your new hires?
Having already discussed this during the interview process, it is still recommended that the manager outline the daily responsibilities and expectations during first-day orientation. I find it important to cover, but even more important to explain how the company will provide the training and resources to make the person succeed in their new position. More information provided to the individual will allow for a stronger comfort level, and even discussing the finer details such as hours, company standards, etc., is recommended.
What can employers do to make sure their training works with job expectations?
It’s good for managers to refer back to when they started, either in their current position or in a previous position when they were unfamiliar with the company. Remember what type of training was provided and build the current training around your experience. Recognizing the strengths and deficiencies of the training you received will allow you to build your own successfully program.
Often, the manager is fully responsible for training, but if it’s a larger organization, you can use current employees to conduct training on individual responsibilities of the job. Identify the strengths of your current staff members will allow you to involve them in the training of the new employee.
It all goes back to not waiting until the day before the person starts to develop a training plan. As you continuously evaluate your company, you should always update your training module and have a clear understanding of how long each step of the training process will take.
Successful managers have a set schedule, often two weeks, that maps out which functions should be trained when, giving time in between so the new employee can digest the task and not get overloaded. With a training schedule stretched out over a certain period of time, you can train the new employee, and then let that person go live on those responsibilities, allowing him or her to utilize the training to complete the individual task before moving on to the next training piece. Everybody has gone through training where you’ve done a quick overview, but once you get to the actual function and you’re on your own, you have to guess because it was covered so quickly.
If the resources are available, shadowing is great tool for training. Have the new employee shadow one of your senior employees doing the job function and then reverse the roles. The senior employee will shadow the new employee to make sure everything is being done efficiently and properly, while being a resource for additional questions. You always want new employees to ask questions — that’s part of the training.
How often should training programs be updated?
Your training program should be updated two to four times per year, although each update doesn’t mean there are large overall changes. It also depends on how often you hire.
Once you finish the training process, get feedback from the new employee on what he or she feels was a benefit. You really should do 30-, 60- and 90-day reviews, which will allow you to ask about their level of comfort with the daily responsibilities and see if additional training needs to be done.
These reviews give the newly trained employee a higher success rate of the job responsibilities and allow you to update the training module for the next hire.
Danny Spitz is the CEO of Everstaff. Reach him at (216) 674-0788 or email@example.com.
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Patients are walking billboards for your health care organization. Therefore, if you want to ensure and spread a positive message, having an excellent health care culture can help create the right atmosphere not only for patients, but for your staff, as well.
“If a health care organization doesn’t create a culture in which workers feel positive about where they work, it impacts patients,” says Patricia Reid, clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Education Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. “The health care environment is stressful. It’s important the organizational culture values the work that nurses and other ancillary caregivers provide. If the providers of care are not valued or lack the support of management, that dissatisfaction can indirectly be conveyed to patients. In today’s world, hospitals are graded by consumers through a nationally standardized satisfaction survey. These scores play a crucial role for hospitals, as they are publicly reported and available to all consumers of health.”
Smart Business spoke with Reid about how creating the right culture can increase patient satisfaction and lower staff turnover.
How are health care workers being trained to create a positive patient experience?
Today’s emphasis in health care is on a positive patient experience. Forty years ago, when patients were hospitalized, they were cared for and there was little emphasis on cost. With a greater awareness of health, and as costs have increased, so have patient expectations. Patients are more knowledgeable about their health and have become more discriminate in seeking care. Conversely, hospitals are being judged on the quality, safety and patient satisfaction within their institutions.
The Internet now provides a forum for patients to share both their good and bad health care experiences. They are demanding quality care. Health care workers are no longer caring for novice patients who are not knowledgeable of their health or the expectation of the hospital experience. Many patients come armed with suggestions of treatments or medications that may help in their care.
Health care is a much more collaborative environment and health care providers want to ensure patients understand why a particular treatment they may be asking for may or may not be appropriate for them. It’s important that care is collaborative and respectful for both patients and providers in order to support the highest quality of care and satisfaction for the patient.
Why is increasing patient satisfaction and lowering staff turnover so important to a health care facility’s quality of care?
Due to the recession, health care has not experienced the turnover it had experienced previously. Although there may be some higher attrition rates in the lower salary bands, there are many graduates in health care fields continuing to seek jobs. We will continue to see more hiring, and some predict a shortage as current health care workers continue to age.
The more turnover an organization has, the less consistency patient units will have on a day-to-day basis. In addition, there’s a lot of knowledge within a tenured staff that has been employed 10, 15 or 20 years, versus a new graduate. Most important, as new graduates come into the field of health care, it’s critical that experienced workers are available to assist the more novice workers in their roles. The culture of health care is about helping transform young staff into mature, confident health care workers. If there isn’t an expert they can go to, they must rely on their own knowledge, which can lead to mistakes.
Health care institutions also need to ensure that the more mature health care worker is knowledgeable about current trends in quality, safety and satisfaction, as many were not trained in these newly defined concepts. Health care workers must understand why patient satisfaction is so paramount to the quality of care. It’s more than just a score; it’s what the organization should be about.
Health care workers want to provide the best possible care. However, today they are being judged through quantitative measures, which is much different than 40 years ago.
What tools can those in the health care industry use to create this kind of positive culture?
It’s very important to train people in the educational setting, not just on the skills of taking care of patients but on how you provide quality care from a business perspective. Do you treat patients with respect? Are you efficient in answering their concerns? It truly is a reflection of a hospital’s culture, and you need to make sure all employees want patients to say, ‘That’s the best care I’ve ever received,’ regardless of the treatment or outcome.
How can people learn more?
On June 26, Corporate College presents ‘Disney Institute: Building a Culture of Health Care Excellence.’ The workshop covers leadership skills in the context of the Disney culture. It stresses that whoever you meet, whoever you greet, should have a positive experience. To achieve that, you have to be knowledgeable about your organization and everybody has to have the same goal. Not only does that create a good experience for the patient, but people feel good about working for that organization.
Today’s health care institutions are concerned about their staff-to-patient ratios and the bottom line, but just as much emphasis needs to be placed on the staff. Those on the front line providing patient care are the heart of the organization and they need to feel valued. The organization must recognize those who provide exceptional care and not lose these health care providers. Unfortunately, we commonly promote those with excellent bedside skills to management, instead of rewarding them monetarily to continue to do what they do well. Great caregivers eventually reach their maximum pay grade and the only option is a promotion to management, despite their desire to remain at the bedside. Organizations must rethink the paradigm and consider what truly makes a great organization and reward excellent providers so they can remain in that critical caregiving role.
Patricia Reid is a clinical nurse specialist and vice president of Health Care Initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College. Reach her at (216) 987-4659 or Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu. To register for the Disney workshop, call (866) 933-5167 or email Patricia.Reid@tri-c.edu.
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It was a moment that was “make or break” time for Douglas H. Yaeger’s future at Laclede Gas Co.
In 1993, massive flooding was occurring throughout the central United States, including territory serviced by Laclede. Among the many things homeowners had to be worried about was the effect of the flooding on their gas lines.
“Houses were underwater and water was infringing our system,” says Yaeger, who was senior vice president of operations at the time. “Parts of our heavy pipelines where the ground support was, the actual dirt that was around the pipes had washed away and the pipes were floating in the water. We knew when the water went down, we were going to have to do something relatively quickly or the weight of the pipe would not hold itself.”
The burden to come up with a solution to this crisis fell on Yaeger. His response was to lead an effort to drop quick-setting cement bags into the water to create new support systems for the pipe.
“They set up as cement so when the water receded, we had a trellis that was holding up the pipe,” Yaeger says. “We backfilled it with dirt and everything was great.”
It was a defining moment for Yaeger, who ultimately went on to become chairman and CEO at the 1,622-employee natural gas utility, which generated $932 million in 2011 revenue.
It was a defining moment for Yaeger, who ultimately went on to become chairman and CEO at the 1,622-employee natural gas utility, which generated $932 million in 2011 revenue.
Defining what it takes to be ready for whatever challenges you might face is rather simple — it’s your ability to develop leaders in your organization. Just as others had put Yaeger in position to be ready to deal with the flooding crisis when he became CEO, it was up to him to do the same for the next generation of talent.
“Quite frankly, it makes the employees that much more involved in the mission of the organization so they feel like they are really current on what’s happening inside and outside the company,” Yaeger says. “They see and feel that they are a meaningful and important part of the execution of the strategy. Companies that don’t take advantage of that are not going to operate on an optimal basis.”
Yaeger retired early this year from his position leading Laclede, but he took some time to offer his thoughts about clearly identifying the problem you face and then developing a team of people who can help you solve that problem.
Identify a clear problem
Much of leadership is about solving problems such as the one Yaeger faced in 1993. But one of the things that can create trouble for leaders is when they don’t really take the time to figure out what the problem really is.
It’s not always as plainly obvious as massive flooding that is uprooting your gas lines.
“You get to the senior levels of organizations where not everything is an operational problem or a financial problem and not everything is earnings driven,” Yaeger says.
Yaeger learned about the gray area where problems often live during a 13-week senior management program at Harvard Business School.
Participants in the program met six days a week for 13 weeks and would go over three case studies a day regarding problems that had occurred at prominent companies such as Frito-Lay and Nike.
“You’d go through it and come up with what you thought was a really profound definition of what the problem was and a profound response to that,” Yaeger says. “You’d be sitting there and you might give your two cents worth and then you would sit and listen to five other people and you know what, they had five different ways of getting to the same place. Sometimes it was a completely different view of what the challenge was.”
The exercise was trying to teach leaders that not every problem is as clear-cut as it might seem, even one as seemingly obvious as the floods of 1993.
“What they really try to get you to do is sort through the noise of an organization and really get down to the basics,” Yaeger says. “What are the drivers of what’s going on? Make sure you’ve got the problem defined correctly. What’s driving that problem? What are the real solutions, not what the superficial stuff might be.”
Yaeger says it’s easy to get wrapped up in a certain mindset when you become a leader to the point that your vision becomes very narrow.
“There are a lot of people who run companies who come up through the financial side or they are attorneys,” Yaeger says. “But not everything is financially driven and not everything is legally driven. There’s a lot of operational, marketing, supply, etc. You need to make sure you’re not relying on what’s comfortable to you because that’s what you know. You need to be able to look through the organization with kind of open eyes and a clinical approach to the other functions as well.”
It’s perfectly logical that someone develops a skill, hones that skill and uses it to advance up the corporate ladder. But you need to keep broadening your skill set beyond what you already know and so do the people you want to train as leaders.
“At a certain point, you have to go from being a specialist to a generalist so that you have the ability to oversee multiple functions, multiple disciplines and multiple departments,” Yaeger says.
“As was typical in the utility business years ago, you become kind of a siloed employee. You come into the company as an accountant and you retire as an accountant. There is certainly room for people like that; I’m not dismissing that. But in terms of successful management development, you really want to challenge those people to see what their capabilities are and allow them to develop and give them an opportunity and the authority to do that.”
Always be learning
Yaeger spent a lot of time at Laclede evaluating people and considering their potential to be a leader in the company.
“That’s really the key of a successful manager,” Yaeger says. “Keep an eye on those folks who have that capacity and give them the opportunity to demonstrate it. Make sure they understand that their key to success is their ability to broaden their capabilities and not just be a single-subject specialist, but much more of a generalist.”
As you’re evaluating your people, give them opportunities to contribute to matters that affect the company as a whole. Take the situation at Laclede in recent years where the supply of natural gas has increased significantly.
“That’s a benefit for us and it’s an opportunity to grow our markets and build and leverage that stability of both supply and pricing that we haven’t had in quite a while in the gas business,” Yaeger says. “So from a standpoint of empowerment, it’s really letting my folks know and really directing them toward much more of an aggressive and offensive approach to expanding markets.”
Ideally, Yaeger doesn’t want to be the one being aggressive and offensive in expanding into new markets. He wants to create an environment where his leaders feel the pull to do that on their own.
“I view my role as one to help set the vision and the strategy and then get out of the way and empower people to execute on that strategy and that vision,” Yaeger says. “But certainly be available and be there to jump in and get into the nuts and bolts if need be. It’s their job to execute on that and it’s my job to make sure they are doing it in the right direction and that they have the resources and assets available to them to execute.”
The role of teaching and developing is one that never really ends, at least if you want your leaders to always be on top of their game.
“If you get to this position in any organization and you think you know everything there is to know about the job, that’s a guy I’m going to keep my eye on because I just don’t think that’s necessarily the truth,” Yaeger says. “I don’t care what part of the company you are in. The company is changing and the marketplace is changing and that is a factual state of growth. There are always new challenges and there are always new things to learn. You can always improve and you can always do what you do better.”
You can’t throw your leaders into a critical situation where decisions have to be made if they are not ready and if making the wrong move would put people at risk. At the same time, it is important to present as real a scenario as you can to help leaders feel what it’s like to make decisions while under pressure.
“We do a lot of simulation and regular testing of our plans,” Yaeger says. “When we do have a situation where those plans and those types of reactions in the real world have to be enacted, we do post mortems afterward to see what we did well and what we need to improve on.”
By getting people involved in simulations and combining that with discussions afterward, you can get pretty close to making sure they are ready for a big challenge when it occurs.
“We sit down and we clinically look at how we handled the situation,” Yaeger says. “What could we have done better, what we did exceedingly well and if there were areas we didn’t anticipate. Did we overemphasize certain areas that maybe technology has changed so we don’t need to focus on as intently anymore?”
Continue to evaluate people just as you should continue to evaluate your own skills and job performance as CEO.
“We do 360 Evaluations where we have subordinates, superiors and peers all evaluate their management style and the way they treat people, the way they handle emergencies, the way they go about executing on strategy,” Yaeger says.
“Have the ability to critique yourself. Self-critique how what your vision of what the company should be is matching up with what the marketplace’s vision and your employees’ vision is. Sometimes you find out that what you thought was dead right wasn’t. So you have to accept that nobody is perfect.”
If you find out as your training someone else that the individual doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a leader, you need to take that person’s attitude into account to determine the appropriate next course of action.
“There are people who turn out to be very good competent accountants and that’s what they’re going to be when they retire and that’s fine,” Yaeger says.
“Not everybody can run the company or be in senior management. It’s those that don’t meet the expectations and don’t show the flexibility and the ability to adapt to the implementation of strategy that you say I don’t think the fit is good and it’s probably best for everybody that you find somewhere else to work. But we try to make that the exception, not the rule.”
How to reach: Laclede Gas Co., (800) 887-4173 or www.lacledegas.com
The Yaeger File
Douglas H. Yaeger, retired chairman and CEO, Laclede Gas Co.
Born: St. Louis. Yaeger grew up in Webster Groves, Mo.
Education: Undergrad degree in marketing, Miami University, Oxford, Oh.; MBA, Saint Louis University; Advanced Management Program, Harvard Business School.
What was your first job?
Probably the best job I ever had. I worked in the concession stand at the Webster Groves public swimming pool. I got a dollar an hour, all I could eat and all the girls you could meet at the swimming pool. It was a great job.
Who has the been the biggest influence on you?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with and for a lot of different people both here at Laclede, and before, who had good Midwestern values and a lot of integrity and just were good human beings. I think it’s part of this industry. I feel really blessed that I had that ability and opportunity to work with some really fine people almost throughout my career. Is there one? No.
Who would you like to meet?
I’ve always been intrigued with Winston Churchill. He was an interesting person and from what I’ve read about him, not a particularly likeable person. He just happened to be at the right place at the right time to provide the kind of leadership that England needed at the time when they needed it. I’ve always intrigued by him.
Smart Business spoke to JoAnn Breedlove, Business Service Manager at The Employment Source, about an on-the-job training program that helps employers ensure that new hires are integrated in their new positions and productive as quickly as possible.
What is the On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program?
The On-the-Job Training Program is a federally funded program that helps employers hire and train laid-off workers for full time, long term employment. OJT helps workers become more proficient in needed skills more quickly, which will serve to encourage employers to hire workers sooner than perhaps initially planned, facilitating the hiring of well-qualified individuals who may need additional experience to contribute to their bottom line and spur economic recovery.
How does it benefit area employers?
Through the OJT Program, employers may receive 50 percent of the wage rate of an eligible new trainee to help compensate for the cost of training them in the specific skills they will need to help a business thrive. Employers receive affordable hands-on training tailored to their needs, electronic forms for easier access, fast turn-around and an investment in their company.
Are there any employer requirements?
To qualify, an employer must offer a wage of $10 per hour or more, a full time work schedule and have a fringe benefit package available. This is for direct hires, so no subcontracted or third-party employees are permitted, and an OJT agreement must be developed prior to the start of employment.
Are there any employee candidate requirements?
All OJT employee candidates must be assessed and found eligible and suitable by The Employment Source for each particular position.
What type of funding is available?
Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Total reimbursement to the employer cannot exceed $8,000.
How is the length of training determined?
The length of the training period will be based on the trainee’s current aptitude compared with skills needed to perform the job. Length of training cannot exceed six months.
How does it benefit job seekers?
OJT is an excellent vehicle for individuals to build their skills, to re-establish themselves in new fields and to increase employment retention and self-sufficiency. It is an opportunity for participants to earn and learn, which means they will develop applicable occupational skills while earning a paycheck.
For more information on the OJT Program, contact JoAnn Breedlove, Business Services Manager for The Employment Source, at (330) 491-2645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Employment Source is Northeast Ohio’s premier workforce development and training center that connects job seekers with employers. The Business Services Department offers the following fee-free recruiting services to employers:
- Recruiters to pre-screen resumes to your qualifications
- Professional and confidential on-site interview and conference rooms to assist with your recruitment needs
- Mass recruiting assistance
- Free advertising
- Recruiting qualified professionals locally and nationally
We also can assist with:
- Labor market Information
- Information on federal programs
- Community resource contacts
- On-the-job training
- Incumbent Worker Training
- Job fit assessment system
- Meeting affirmative action and federal contractor requirements
To place a job order:
- Complete the Employer Profile and Job Order forms at www.eswork.com (click on Employers)
- Fax or e-mail forms to one of our two locations:
JoAnn Breedlove is the Business Service Manager at The Employment Source. Reach her at (330) 491-2645 or email@example.com in Stark County, or in Tuscarawas County contact Barb Ventura at (330) 364-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Wise admits it’s difficult to find and keep good employees for the seven restaurants he operates. But despite that, he knows he’s doing something right ? Scotty’s Brewhouse grew from $11.6 million in annual revenue to $18 million between 2008 and 2010, a 55 percent increase.
“It’s important to keep growing our company so everybody’s fire continues to burn, so everybody feels they have another place for them to move forward,” says Wise, founder, president and CEO of the 1,000-employee company.
“Your employee is No. 1, not your customer,” he says. “If your employee is not happy, your customer is going to know that and is probably not going to come back.”
Smart Business spoke with Wise about how Scotty’s finds workers and stokes the fire within them.
What does it take to find a good employee?
Gosh, it’s hard. It’s tough. It starts all the way from the beginning. From the minute you hire them, you’ve got to hold hope that your manager has done his job. We try to put a lot of effort into the manager who’s doing the hiring so that he or she can find the right person. You absolutely have to recognize the right person, see through the bullshit and make sure that someone is not just saying things you can say to get hired. So it starts with that.
But from watching over my entire company, I would say just the generation we are dealing with right now, I don’t want to blame anybody or blame a generation, but it’s just, I hate to say weaker, but I think every generation gets a little weaker in some respects. Maybe they have been a little more overprotected or they need to know a little bit more about why ? “Why do I have to be there at 10 o’clock instead of 10:30?”
They ask a lot more questions. They want to know why they are doing this, or what’s in it for them if they sell these different food items or these different drink items.
I think that the toughest challenge is to always keep all your staff motivated, content, happy and, obviously, as the end result ? pleasing your guests.
What solutions are you taking to address the challenges of Gen Y workers and others?
It takes proper training. If you don’t train them correctly, they won’t want to stay with a company that doesn’t train them properly. The employees won’t feel like they know what they are doing, and they feel uncomfortable where they are, and they are not going to want to stay there.
To follow up, the chief executive needs to personally send an e-mail to every new trainee that comes into the company and tell them, ‘Hey, here’s my e-mail address. This is really me typing this e-mail. If you ever have a question or you feel like someone is saying something rude to you or anything, you need to e-mail me here.’
It all takes good training. We actually have two directors of training in our company so we try to put a lot of emphasis on them and making sure that they have proper training manuals and everything in place.
What are the responsibilities of the two directors?
One travels to the restaurants and actually goes to each store and talks to staff and the training manager.
The other one, who is the main director of training, manages the entire database and stays back to make sure everything is put together. Then she gives out information to him to transfer to the restaurants. They work together in the training.
What types of perks are successful with employees?
Try to just take a little bit extra effort to show support to all employees: Christmas parties, summer baseball games, anniversary cards and gym workout memberships are a few.
You don’t want them to be giving 80 hours a week at work and just killing themselves with that.
You want people to have a good work/life balance. That’s kind of my philosophy. I really think that helps.
How to reach: Scotty’s Brewhouse, (317) 759-6336 or www.scottysbrewhouse.com
Think back to your first day as a manager. You’ve been praised as a high-performing associate for quite some time and becoming a manager is the next step in your career. However, upon assuming the reigns of leadership you quickly learn the skills you’ve employed to accomplish your own work aren’t so effective now that you’re leading a team of individuals with their own work styles and goals.
“Individual contributors are expected to execute work themselves and suddenly, once promoted to the role of manager, they are expected to execute work through others,” points out Sarah Eppink, Leadership Program Manager for Corporate College. “This can prove challenging to high performing individuals who have rightfully been praised for being accountable for their own good work.”
In order to ease the transition from being an individual contributor to a strong leader, organizations should provide support for new managers throughout the training process.
Smart Business spoke with Eppink about why new leaders struggle, what competencies should be developed, and how to choose appropriate training providers.
Why do most new leaders struggle?
Managers oftentimes are promoted through the ranks of their organizations as high-performing individual contributors with expertise in their field. This is important, as you certainly need a leader to have technical expertise and a solid frame of reference. However, these newly promoted managers tend to lack the soft skills that prove crucial to leading a team and managing relationships.
Another challenge can arise when a newly promoted manager is leading a team comprised of former peers. It can be difficult for teams to accept a former peer as a new boss because that person ‘used to be one of us.’ A manager doesn’t usually just receive respect because of a title, especially not in this situation. To gain acceptance, a new leader needs to leverage their relationships within the team and accomplish quick wins. Organizations must adequately support these new managers through training and reinforcement during this challenging transition.
What competencies should new leaders develop?
Individuals new to managing others should look to develop behaviors that would help them tackle both day-to-day tasks, as well as more strategic thinking. A solid training program for new leaders addresses the following competencies: leadership styles, building trust, communication, delegating tasks, developing and coaching others, change management, conflict management and decision making. Programs that focus on skill development in these areas can effectively minimize the learning curve of new leaders. You might be wondering why I didn’t mention skill sets like building a team and acquiring talent. New managers typically inherit a team and don’t have the luxury of hand selecting the talent they will lead. Depending on the organization, some new managers may not have a need to acquire new team members for quite some time. When the need arises to develop these skills, this training should be made available.
In addition to training, what are some resources organizations should make available to new leaders?
One can’t possibly master a new behavior through classroom learning alone. While training will provide you with new knowledge, it is our experiences that shape us. Be sure to provide new leaders with the space to demonstrate new skills. Ensure that the new leader’s direct manager is fully engaged with this person throughout their new leader training program. Their direct manager should act as a sponsor for them — developing goals as they go through the program, and assisting with identifying current projects for which these new skills can be utilized.
Mentoring can provide a tremendous learning opportunity for new leaders as well. Align new managers with seasoned, well-respected leaders within the organization. A mentor is invaluable when you’re starting out and can benefit from someone else’s learning curve.
What are the risks to organizations if new leaders are not developed correctly?
Frontline supervisors are the primary driver to higher levels of employee engagement, as they interface with more employees than any other level of the organization. The reverse is also true — frontline supervisors with inadequate leadership skills can decrease levels of employee engagement, leading to low morale, turnover, etc. It can be a slippery slope. If you’re a manager in a revenue-generating area of your organization, low employee morale on a team may also lead to profit loss.
How do you choose the appropriate provider to help create a new manager program?
Not all training is created equally. Make sure whatever curriculum you choose is industry-recognized for presenting quality content. Professional organizations such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) can point you in the right direction of a reputable training provider. A training provider should meet you where you are in identifying the appropriate solution, which should assess what the aforementioned new leader competencies look like in your organization. For example, what does it look like for a new leader to manage change in your company? For some, it may mean communicating change to employees and coaching their teams through changes passed down by upper management. For others it may be having a seat at the table to create change within the organization and facilitating change for their team. Learning activities delivered around these competencies should address what successful demonstration of these behaviors looks like in your world.
Be wary of any provider that does not offer solutions other than a host of classroom-based courseware. Learning occurs in different ways. A good provider will offer blended learning solutions, leadership coaching, assessments and consulting.
Sarah Eppink is Leadership Program Manager for Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2917 or email@example.com.
Many executives have asked me what our firm’s secret is to maintaining a long-term, high-performing staff. My response is this: the combination of finding the right cultural fit and supporting new employees through an integrated orientation process. This has proven to be an effective means for my firm to optimize our resources.
Often when we look to fill roles, we look for the outside experts, the stars that will come in with their worldly experience and solve all of our challenges. After watching a series of experts struggle, I determined that two things were major contributors to their demise, a mismatch between the employee and the corporate culture and an inability to quickly absorb corporate “tribal knowledge.”
The most common obstacle is an indifference to or a lack of understanding of the real corporate culture. Like dating, companies often present a different face during the interview process and the honeymoon, and it is several months into employment before your newcomer gets a real look at the way your company works.
The other obstacle is a lack of tribal knowledge. Whatever your company’s challenges, you have assets, practices and knowledge that have made you the success that you are. These are sometimes downplayed or entirely disregarded in the quest to bring in new competencies. New experts that are brought into your organization generally get started making changes right away, and therefore, they often completely miss cultural and knowledge content. As a result, they frequently make impractical recommendations with disastrous consequences. Alternatively, the people that are more conscious of the barriers may hang back and appear ineffective.
One takeaway from all of this is that carefully structuring the entry of new experts into the company can improve success. My firm has found that implementing a few basic methods helps management find employees that fit the corporate culture and assist them in gaining tribal knowledge quickly.
When we interview candidates, we provide ample opportunities for them to learn about our corporate culture. We spend time discussing our mission, values and corporate objectives with each candidate in an effort to ensure that they understand the culture of the firm. During each interview we explain the importance we place on growing and fostering our culture so candidates understand how critical our culture is to our business. Then, it’s important to ask several questions during the interview process to ascertain whether or not each candidate shares a similar corporate cultural mindset.
Once a candidate is hired, we address the challenge of passing on tribal knowledge. Tribal knowledge, or the learning curve, happens quickly in our firm. Employees that understand the processes, procedures and internal workings of the firm tend to be more successful than those that do not. We created an employee orientation program to help new employees acclimate to our firm. Our orientation program connects new employees with other staff while simultaneously integrating technical, cultural and management objectives. One unique aspect of the program is that all levels of new employees meet with someone in senior management during their first month of hire. The job of senior management is to reiterate our corporate vision, values and objectives as well as to check in on the employees overall orientation process. We’ve found that our orientation process helps employees immediately feel connected with the company, which helps to yield a long-term, satisfied staff.
I’ve always worked with growing companies, so effective staffing is a challenge that has always been a regular part of my management repertoire. As companies right size, I’ve found that optimizing your current staff can add enormous value to your firm.
Victoria Tifft is founder and CEO of Clinical Research Management, a full-service contract research organization that offers early to late-stage clinical research services to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.