| || |
Recent Trends in Distance Learning
News media of late have been filled with articles about thousands of technical jobs going begging because of lack of qualified employees. In addition, the workplace no longer offers life-long employment. It's been said that people will go through three career changes by the time they retire. That means people of all ages need to learn new skills. The need for retraining and re-education are forces pushing this issue.
Partnerships and collaborations in education are nothing new, but one would have to be impressed with the vigor, variety and aggressiveness of recent developments in the area of education/business collaboration. Schools are working with business to develop much more narrowly defined degree and certificate programs. Business is benefiting from better-trained and educated employees. Some businesses benefit also from delivering programs and services while schools benefit from reaching a target group of students.
Schools are also collaborating with one another. "Virtual Campuses" pool information about groups of schools in a state or region. And these collaborations among schools may enter into yet more partnerships with business. For example, the PBS Business Channel has merged with the National Technological University Corporation. Regents College offers degree programs based exclusively on outcome-based assessment of learning, usually acquired at a distance. The Bachelor of Science Degree in computer information systems is slated to launch in January 2000. Sylvan Prometric, Regents College Microsoft and Comp TIA have collaborated to offer college credit for completion of Microsoft and Comp TIA certification examinations.
Distance education got its start by offering courses to farmers who couldn't leave their fields to learn how to repair wagon wheels. From those humble beginnings the need for distance education has developed right along with technology able to deliver it. The number of distance learners has steadily grown to include working parents, employees keeping their skills sharp, and people changing careers. College and university demographics are evolving, as is the definition of "student." Today, the mix of traditional residential and nontraditional students who are 25 or older is nearly fifty-fifty. Increasingly, students are dictating the where, when, and how of what constitutes postsecondary education. It appears we're moving toward competency-based education and getting away from the notion of hours, days, weeks sitting in a classroom to demonstrate what you know. As a result, institutions are under pressure to offer new ways to learn.
With the onslaught of electronic communication, distance education is no longer distant. Technology has irrevocably altered the relationship between student and professor and even what is considered a classroom situation. The emergence of the Western Governor's University (WGU) brings real clout to the online education table. WGU is a virtual university sponsored by fifteen states and one U.S. territory that provides access to thousands of courses in hundreds of institutions. WGU has established instant credibility for distance learning. With 15 governors talking about the need for distance learners, action is apt to occur. Various other consortiums have sprung up to fill the demand for distance learning, among them the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which consists of twelve universities.
Some fundamental questions have emerged that need to be addressed. Ken McInerney, Assistant Director for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) asks, "How do you protect the financial interests of both students and government? How do you make sure distance education programs are worthy of federal funding? Everybody is searching for the right answers."
Government Support of Distance Learning
Without changes to the laws governing financial aid to distance education students, those who can only access higher education through distance education will have to squeeze into the traditional mold or be ineligible for financial aid. As debates go, the one about financial support for distance education students is relatively free of acrimony. Most agree it's time to modify existing laws that govern how much federal aid is given to distance learners. However, not everyone agrees on what changes should be made or how to accomplish them.
In the past, laws that determined eligible recipients of federal dollars were created when, with few exceptions, students had to physically attend classes for a defined period of time. But with technical innovations affecting the delivery of education and the number of distance learners growing exponentially, past legislation no longer applies.
In 1965, when higher education fit the traditional, resident student model, Congress mandated that students taking courses through telecommunications had to fit the same requirements as on-campus students. In 1992, the law was amended to give some leniency to institutions that offered distance learning, but it prohibited institutions that offered more than 50 percent of their courses through distance education from receiving federal funds.
In March 1998, the Department of Education sent a proposal to Congress to broaden the opportunities for distance education students by expanding who could receive student aid. This legislation has not been passed. If passed, here is what would be accomplished:
(1) Encourage innovative uses of technology by institutions.
Along with other hot issues whirling around Internet censorship is the delicate balance between government control over distance education courses on the Internet without restrictions on their content.
Distance education makes it possible for an institution to be located in Colorado, licensed by Colorado, but have students all over the world. Accrediting agencies might not be able to keep up with increasing technical innovations. Regional accrediting agencies plan to develop specific standards for distance education students.
With these trepidations in mind, the Department of Education is proposing the establishment of hands-on experimental sites for research into the nuts and bolts of distance education to find out what works and what doesn't. The administration is proposing $30 million for a competitive grant program beginning in 2000. The funds would promote partnerships between academic institutions, community based organizations, software and technology developers, and private industry to research how technology can be used to enhance the delivery of education to distance learners.
If institutions don't adapt and make distance learning available, the consumer will find a way to get it. People should recognize it's only a question of accepting the concept. Distance learning is here to stay.
One of the critical human resource issues of the 21st century is an organization's ability to refine and develop mechanisms to provide meaningful job performance feedback to all employees. A positive and coherent understanding between the employee and supervisor as to what is acceptable job performance is essential for all employee and management work relationships to survive.
Optimum development and proper utilization of each employee is essential to the success of any organization. "How am I doing?" is often one of the most urgent questions on an employee's mind today. Providing factual, candid and objective answers to this question is an effective means of enhancing employee development and sustaining a sound employee relations program.
The enhancement of understanding can be accomplished in two basic ways:
Volumes have been written on the subject of employee performance appraisal. The arguments for and against formal appraisal systems continue. The increased demand for accountability by government agencies and related legislation, which we will address later, including legal challenges of human resource decisions, have made performance appraisal systems almost a necessity rather than a luxury for all organizations.
The human resource professional must direct a performance appraisal system for many reasons, not the least of which is a well documented method that can be accepted as a valid defense in litigation proceedings. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Uniform Selection Guidelines have literally forced performance appraisal systems into being.
There are many other valid reasons to conduct employee performance appraisals and many potential uses for the information generated. Decisions related to promotability, advancement, selection for training, salary administration, discipline and even potential termination may flow from the results of an objective performance appraisal process.
What Elements Make A Good Performance Appraisal System?
Ideally the ingredients of an effective state-of-the-art performance appraisal program should be designed to ensure:
That a systematic measure of an employee's overall value to the organization is recorded.
That essential information concerning the strengths and weaknesses of all employees in relation to career development including potential for advancement and suitability for other positions and training is recorded.
The major underlying principles of a truly participative, performance oriented appraisal program are as follows:
The appraisal of a subordinate's job performance is a part of the normal day-to-day responsibility of every supervisor and relates directly to his/her responsibility for planning and assignment of work.
Criteria for job performance must be related to the job itself. Sufficient flexibility should be maintained so that achievement measures can be set to reflect accurately and realistically the unique requirements of different positions, levels of assignment and operating conditions.
Improvement in job performance can be accomplished most effectively if the employee participates directly in establishing the achievement measures for his/her job. To do a better job, the employee should know what is expected, how he/she is doing on the job and where assistance can be obtained when needed.
Employees are inclined to accept suggestions for improving and/or maintaining their performance when they are provided feedback on a continuing basis.
The supervisor's prime responsibility is to coach and collaborate in an individual's development. Two major forces in an employee's development must be given full consideration to achieve maximum results:
The employee must recognize and understand the responsibility of his/her immediate supervisor as that of an active partner and coach in providing career and job related assistance.
The supervisor must recognize and be concerned with the employee's personal aspirations, motivation and career growth needs.
An effective performance evaluation system requires supervisors to communicate job standards and other expectations to employees before the evaluation period begins. By doing so, employees know what constitutes good performance and the supervisor can then more objectively assess performance.
Effective compensation systems must link performance achievements to salary increase considerations. Even the best compensation plan is difficult to administer if performance is not the major determining factor in granting salary increases.
Frequent feedback sessions must be conducted with employees throughout the evaluation period. Periodic "mini-session" reviews, held perhaps monthly helps minimize the employee from being surprised at appraisal time, and helps maintain focus.
Career pathing and counseling must be a part of the performance review cycle. By focusing on performance accomplishments, more precise guidance can be given to employees about career options with the company, and the achievement of agreed upon milestones.
Performance Appraisal Legal Issues
The seriousness of this problem is underscored by the fact that several million employees have their job performance appraisal annually for purposes of salary review, promotion consideration, human resource development progress, and potential corrective action items.
Although several articles which have appeared in human resources literature since the mid-70's have been useful in highlighting specific legal issues involving performance appraisal, few have articulated the relative importance of the various factors that explain how organizations can effectively develop and successfully defend their performance system before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or in the courts.
All organizations must understand how vulnerable their performance appraisal programs are to litigation and whether they are likely to be successful in defending their programs in the event of an official complaint.
In the event the employer fails to show that its performance appraisal program was designed and administered on the basis of the Uniform Selection Guidelines established under the authority of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended, the court may render the employer liable for back pay, court costs, specific management training programs for and/or promotion of protected group employees as part of the case settlement.
An analysis of recent court decisions reveal that circumstances involved in a successfully defended performance appraisal programs are described as follows:
Job content was used in developing the basis of the appraisal instrument.
Appraisals were behavior oriented rather than personality trait oriented.
The results of the completed appraisal were reviewed with the employee appraised and the employee was given the opportunity to comment and submit written comments if appropriate.
In addition, privacy legislation has been introduced or enacted in numerous states since the early 90s. In 1996 the Privacy Protection Study Committee released a report titled "Personal Privacy in an Information Society." Among the 34 recommendations made by the Commission was the suggestion that an effective privacy protection policy must provide employees access to records relating to their qualifications for promotion, pay raises or to records relating to discipline and potential termination.
In the final analysis, the integrity, the effectiveness and the legal defensibility of a performance appraisal system will depend on its legitimacy as a tool for making employment decisions.
Employers should attempt to reduce the possibility that an employee will be able to establish a prima facie case of discrimination if for example there is a disproportionately small percentage of females and minorities in the top four EEO categories by establishing affirmative action goals. Second, the employer must be certain that the content of the performance appraisal system is based on job content and that performance measures are job related, and are not based on general traits that lend themselves to opinion, subjective judgment and rater bias. Third, in administering the program detailed and clearly written instructions must be given to each manager. Finally, the manager must be required to discuss the rating results with each employee to ensure appraisal sessions are productive and contribute to employee effectiveness. Each manager must be trained in how to rate employee performance and how to provide feedback in a positive fashion.
The 21st century promises a more demanding and visible role for all human resource professionals. This role requires developing a futuristic strategic plan which articulates human resource programs which address a myriad of issues. Creating and maintaining viable performance appraisal programs is essential to organization growth. Yet, even more significant initiatives will be developing a visionary human resources agenda that is integrated into the organization's mission and to correlate specific programs such as compensation issues, performance appraisal and job evaluation processes conceptually and operationally.
In the 21st century continued changes will occur in terms of who works in organizations, why they work and what they do. A major part of the human resource professional's responsibility will be to coach operating managers and supervisors to realize that the manner in which they manage key HR decisions such as promotion and termination is of interest to several parties, to include one or more federal regulatory agencies. Senior executives must be prepared and encouraged to implement strategies for managing employees in ways that are fair and ethical and will meet government and public scrutiny standards. Clearly, supervisory management development must move from a one time orientation session to regular developmental programs to update, enlighten and expand basic management leadership skills. Designing effective performance appraisal programs to meet the needs of the organization and its employees requires substantial effort, dedication and commitment from the CEO down through all levels of the organization.
How ethical is your organization? Your department? The people with whom you work and work for? Does your company have a prescribed "Code of Ethics" or Mission Statements and Vision Statements that establishes a basic core "value" sense of direction in meeting company objectives from a people, profit and public service perspective?
Today it appears we are experiencing an "ethical renaissance" in today's corporate landscape. This paper deals with some basic ethical issues that appear to be perplexing and seem to be having a debilitating and lethargic effect on the human resources side of organizational life. Our goal is to raise what we perceive to be some of the key issues, many of which are presented to provoke the conscience.
Perhaps the current trend of focusing on ethics, or the lack of, results from the unprecedented acquisition, divestiture, and downsizing activity of Corporate America organizations in the '90's spawned by almost complete deregulation of many industries. Based on my experience as a consultant and a corporate human resources practitioner for several years, there appears to be a distaste within the company for questionable ethical decisions. There is an outcry for the truth with respect to the future of an employee's job and the future of their company which seems to be adversely affecting and challenging the credibility and honesty of top management.
In today's environment the desire for quick profit appears to supersede most human issues and questions. How many times in recent years have executives been quoted as saying "We're committed to this company. We have no plans to sell." Or upon acquisition of a new facility, an executive might be heard saying, "There will be no personnel changes." Of course, in truth in both instances the company was in the process of being sold or major personnel changes did occur after the acquisition was completed. Do these frequently stated scenarios border on the question of ethicality?
Yes, I think so. From a pure common sense perspective, today's employees are not easily fooled or easily misled—a lesson we apparently have not yet fully learned. It is my judgment that employees can deal with the truth even though it may be unpleasant because they are basically looking and hoping for fair, honest treatment and integrity.
Business information that can be completely disclosed without embarrassment appears to be inherently ethical. Business secrecy in and of itself is not unethical and at times is necessary. However, attempts to deceive employees appear to beg the question of ethicality and appear to be a much too frequently practiced matter of normal operations.
Some choosing of ethical alternatives must be surveyed and made. A decision to be ethical and honest has to be made. This generally requires an awareness of the need to be disciplined in the evaluation and development of a value system, whether it is based on some higher authority or from some developed philosophical views.
Effective monitoring or modeling practices is an excellent way to teach sound business ethics. The desired behavior of CEOs and senior executives has a profound effect on creating an ethical organization.
The high pitched acquisition fever that has engulfed Corporate America and the resultant ethical questions we've alluded to are not the only areas of ethical concern that need to be examined. We must find ethics personally rewarding and worthwhile. It requires courage and conviction to be ethical. Along with that courage there is a downside to executives who are being placed in a position of monitoring organizational activities of a multidimensional magnitude. Hostile internal and/or external take over of organizations or parts of an organization have unfortunately become too commonplace. The thirst for personal gain and power has destroyed many careers and left many talented and capable people unemployed because the issue of ethics was never an issue in the minds of those who would manipulate organizations to their advantage and personal gain.
Ethical behavior must permeate the organization. It must be revealed in policies and training programs. Accountability standards and methods of measurements must be the cornerstones to becoming an ethical organization. Verbalizing a commitment to ethics is not enough.
For example, are the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity being advanced fairly and honestly through a company's method of making employment decisions? Is it ethical to provide bonus incentives to one facility in a group and ignore the remaining facilities? Should compensation decisions be left exclusively to the discretion of the location executive based on his/her "feel" for the situation or should there be greater uniformity and oversight exercised through a more equitable and consistent approach to how much employees are paid?
Is there integrity in the employees appraisal process? Are managers being held accountable through a check and balance of management review(s) to ensure employees are being evaluated honestly? Empirical evidence developed over many years through the process of anonymous employee opinion surveys indicate that generally employees see no connection between their rate of pay and stature in an organization and their performance ratings.
During times of organizational restructuring through reduction in work force methods, is it ethical to target for layoff the higher compensated, longer service employees, who are in theory more qualified and knowledgeable, rather than those employees whose service is considerably less, are less qualified, and are compensated at a lesser amount? Is it ethical to deviate from the standard severance pay policy by granting exorbitant sums of severance pay to certain employees based on the decision of senior management?
Corporate America needs to conduct a thorough evaluation of management philosophies, style, and core value systems that will perhaps ultimately instill a greater sense of employee trust and stability. There is a need for a more precisely defined and communicated set of ethical standards with measured resultant ethical accountability.
According to a recent survey of the Fortune 500, some organizations are taking steps to incorporate ethics and core values into their operations. The goal of being a socially responsible corporation was listed more often than any other as the primary reason for building ethics into the organization, by far overshadowing the goal of simply complying with federal and state guidelines.
There appears to be a recent shift in Corporate America toward the creation of a written code of ethics or credo and strategic planning that not only addresses policy areas, but is becoming a management tool to articulate corporate values and to manage risks of unethical conduct. This shift presents an enormous challenge for the human resources executive in the corporate ethics area.
Ethics primarily concerns the interrelationships that exist between individuals. Most often ethics is defined as "honesty," integrity, or "fairness." Proper ethical conduct involves the application of these values. Senior management, HR executives, and employees in all organizations must consider the ethics of all of their decisions and actions.
The impact of ethical or unethical behavior has a profound impact either positive or negative on the organization and its primary constituents, its people. Raising these provocative issues may encourage HR professionals to conduct a careful and broad examination of the organizational ethics posture of their companies as it pertains to effectively creating a more trusting and productive workplace.
Unprecedented changes have characterized business and industry in the United States over the past two decades. The workplace today is a much different place than it was back in the 1970's.
Organizations in the 1970's more closely resembled those of the early post-war era than they resemble today's modern pre-millennial organization. Hierarchical, command-and-control, paternalistic, employment-for-life cultures still dominated the business world. Employers were still sweetening the employee benefits pot with new prescription drug and vision care programs, while often footing the bill for health care premiums for an employee's entire family. Reliability and stability were the corporate watchwords.
However, in the late 1970's things began to change. Double-digit inflation followed by the early 1980's economic upheaval shook many businesses at their foundations, driving employee pay up substantially. CEO's began to take on superstar status with the introduction of the "million dollar" pay packages. Technology became PC driven, as the old mainframe computer yielded to the personal computer and network servers. A new generation of technical professionals began to flourish. Everything was getting faster. Competition became more fierce worldwide. Mergers and acquisitions not only across geographic lines but also across traditional industries further blurred a picture that was relatively clear only a few years before. Deregulation caused tremendous upheaval.
Late in the decade of the 1980's and into the first years of the 1990's, global recession created the "lean and mean" concept. The business world and the workforce experienced the harsh reality of corporate downsizing. At first this affected only lower levels of organizations, but eventually it also affected middle management and above. For those that were left, known as survivors, the pressure to perform increased.
Along with these cost control efforts, amidst skyrocketing health care costs, came the corporate retreat from fully-paid employee health care benefits and the introduction of newer systems such as HMO's and Managed Care.
In the early 1980's the Japanese took center stage in the increasingly global economy, beginning a brief interest in Japanese management style that has cooled recently along with that country's economic standing.
However, during those years and since, leaders continue to look to employee climate surveys and management theory as keys to improving performance. And so the search for excellence has taken corporate America through the Total Quality movement, the Employee Empowerment movement, the Re-engineering movement, the Performance-Based Teams movement, and all orders of change efforts, some well-grounded in sound business practice.
Over the past two decades we have seen manufacturing and manufacturing jobs moving outside the U.S., where the cost of labor is less expensive. In some part, service organizations -- particularly those who depend on intellectual capital -- have filled this void, creating new needs not only for IT professionals, but also scientists, engineers, and other knowledge workers.
Constant among these management approaches is the increased utilization of employee surveys and the realization that in the end the engine that drives an organization's success is its people. A good strategy poorly executed is less useful that a mediocre strategy successfully implemented. Most efforts today are spent trying to get a competitive edge focus on harnessing the power of that engine, which is getting the most from an organization's people.
The HR executive can play a vital role in obtaining commitment from company executives. Management commitment must include the following:
An important step to ensure this commitment is to assure that all members of top management are aware of the kinds of information the survey will provide.
The Importance of Confidentiality
A policy statement is traditionally defined as "a guide to action and decision-making under a given set of circumstances that assures consistency and fairness within the framework of corporate objectives and management philosophy."
An effective policy statement should do the following:
TRENDS IN SURVEY CONTENT
Today's employee surveys are being used to further business and performance objectives and to identify any barriers to organizational performance (or organizational change) efforts. Topics now frequently included in employee surveys are:
Assessing Human Resources Priorities and Performance
FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS
The increasing emphasis on performance inspired by growing competition apparently has left its mark on the workplace. Employee ratings of the company's insistence on high quality work and the fairness of their performance evaluations system have both risen. Likewise, the recent push toward teamwork and teams has certainly contributed to higher ratings in the area of cooperation between departments. But, perhaps interfering with the emphasis on teamwork, has been a growing pressure to perform and an increasing workload -- which all too often creates tension between individuals and groups.
However, employees are less positive today on a number of key items. Overall, perhaps in response to the increased pressures in today's competitive environment, employees are less favorable about their company as a place to work. In the wake of the era of downsizing and the instability in the workplace from mergers and acquisitions, employees are more concerned about their job security. Ironically, in the midst of our information age, employees are less favorable about the credibility of the information they receive, though the absolute favorable rating index still is relatively high on average at more than 70%.
Coming off earlier years of double digit inflation and subsequent double digit salary increases, three to four percent salary increases have contributed to a decline in employee satisfaction with pay. The huge amounts of pay garnered by those at the very top of the company quite likely contributes to declining perceptions of pay.
Another critical area in decline, according to employee attitude data, is opportunity for advancement. With flatter organizations and baby boomers still clogging the path, and the outsourcing of tasks and functions previously housed within the organization, many companies are finding it difficult to create real career paths for their strong performers.
Changing of Employee Opinions
Middle managers' ratings of their job security, in decline over the years and particularly down in the 1995-1997 period, now is no higher than other groups in the database.
However, given the recent demand for professional and technical employees, this group stands out as the one with the most short-term attrition potential -- rating their likelihood to remain with their company some 7-10 points lower than all other groups. Professional/technical employees' ratings also fall well below all others in key areas related to turnover, such as opportunity for advancement and pay.
Apparently the move to empowerment has not been fully realized at lower levels. Considerably less favorable ratings are coming from clerical and hourly employees on items such as opportunity to do interesting and challenging work and authority to make decisions.
Hourly workers are least favorable on items such as physical working conditions, safety, quality of equipment, and credibility of information. Of perhaps greater concern is this group's apparent feeling of "second class citizenship." Their ratings are lower than others on fairness of their treatment, recognition, their supervisors' ability to solve "people" problems.
Across all job levels, employees are most favorable about their jobs, the kind of work they do, and somewhat less favorable about their company as a place to work. Ratings are relatively high on the company's ability to compete and the quality of its products and services, but lower on the leadership of top management.
Employees feel that they understand how their performance is judged, but are less favorable on other performance, enabling items such as training and the level at which decisions are made.
Attitudes about immediate supervisors are mixed with the highest ratings given on supervisors' knowledge of their job, respectful treatment, and willingness to listen. Rated lowest: supervisors' ability to solve "people" problems and to counsel employees on their careers.
Items concerning how the company deals with employees, particularly issues of fairness and reward-all get moderate to low ratings, with the exception of benefits, which gets respectable marks.
Although many people finding new jobs in the current tight labor market do report receiving higher pay, pay is not one of the top three or four distinguishing factors between the groups, though it is important.
In the Information Technology field, the supply of qualified people falling short of demand is a problem. Surveys of IT professionals who had left their jobs in the last year found that the key drivers of turnover for this group was the work itself, compensations, career opportunities, opportunity to stay current on new technologies, and their supervision and leadership. For female IT professionals, work/family issues played a major role in their decision to change jobs.
Is Top Management In Touch?
Also, much higher rated are items such as taking employee interests into account when making decisions and pay for performance, both areas where top management has lots of authority and thus provides a strong "self rating."
But on many other areas, such as job security, training, and the company's insistence on high quality work, the top management group were only somewhat more favorable than all others. In fact, on items relating to the workload and the company's innovative ability, top management actually gave lower rating than all others.
There appears to be a mixed opinion about how "in touch" top management is with employees. Certainly in areas related to their own empowerment they naturally are more favorable. But the number of items on which there is a smaller gap indicates that in many instance their attitudes correspond reasonably well with employees at lower levels.
Impact of Gender and Minority Status
While each organization has their own distinct current and desired profiles, organizational attributes that need to be emphasized and those that need to be de-emphasized are being identified. In summary, organizations are trying to decrease their focus on more traditional behaviors associated with the old line, hierarchical organizations. At the same time, they are focusing on performance enhancing values and creating more responsive organizations.
Areas needing the most emphasis include: rewarding superior performance, being flexible and adaptive in thinking and approach, attracting top talent, capitalizing on creativity and innovation, encouraging innovation, and being alert, sensitive and proactive to "people issues."
A continuing effective process to accomplish these emphasis areas is the utilization of Employee Opinion Surveys that become an integral and respected method of measuring the "pulse" of the engine that drives the organization -- its human resources.
What is it about effective empowered leaders that make them different from others? Do they possess hard-to-duplicate qualities that enable them to generate better performance? More successfully influence and persuade others, and get better results for the company than anyone else? Or is there a set of fundamental skills for effective leadership that, when taught, absorbed and applied, can make a significant difference to any individual
While empowerment entails the sharing of power, shared leadership exists only in fullyempowered teams in which the team actively engages in the leadership process. Shared leadership is a collaborative process of sharing leadership with the team as a whole. As such, shared leadership is a specific type of team interaction process that involves behaviors in the domain of leadership. The team as a whole must be empowered, or pro-
Cohesion supports greater and more open communications, greater effort, and better coordination among team members. Thus, when shared leadership results in a more cohesive team, team members can accurately assess interdependence and act accordingly.
Highly effective empowered teams require managerial input in their design. Designing the team requires attention to create teams with the right mix of functional and leadership
Specifically, managers concerned with developing effective teams must help design teams that have the requisite breadth of leadership skills. The manager can collect information about potential team members leadership skills via self-report by the potential team member, the manager's past knowledge of the individual, or by observing each potential team member. There is a better chance that shared leadership can occur within
If there was ever a time for people to pull together for the benefit of themselves and their organizations, it's now. With the slumping economy in 2001, and the business fallout of 9/11, many companies are rallying their forces and strategizing possibilities for business growth. Even as some businesses continue to prosper, others have had to pare down. Either way, executives are looking for new ways to work more effective during these changing times. In short, teamwork is more valuable than ever.
The essence of teamwork means getting one's own work done more expeditiously, more accurately by successfully sharing responsibility with work associates to achieve measurable outcomes faster than one's own role. A typical challenge is that senior management tends to focus too intently on an individual's technical skills and job function. usually based on a hierarchical chain of command and not enough on what someone can contribute in an uninhibited manner that contributes to a greater more positive broad context.
The fact is that teams (or more broadly empowered networks) are a reality in today's workplace. With out question two or three perspectives or viewpoints are clearly better than one, but only if each person is clearly aligned with the common goal and takes equal responsibility for the quality of the outcome and relationships in the team to make it happen. Often to accomplish this it requires periodic reinforcement, leading by example and perhaps some focused training to remind the staff of their responsibilities.
Additionally, it's a personal responsibility and skill-especially in this new and "flatter" work world of teaming, partnering and collaborating. Today in the successful organization essentially all work is or must be teamwork and the challenge is to perform at the ultimate level of performance when sharing responsibility to get something done with others over whom you have no authority.
It's helpful to distinguish between accountability and responsibility. Accountability is an agreement to be held to account for a positive result. Responsibility is a feeling of ownership . you can assign accountability between yourself and others, but responsibility can be only self-generated.
It's important to understand that responsibility means to completely own-rather than deny, blame or rationalize-your situation. Think of the cause-effect equation. Responsibility means seeing yourself as both cause and effect for your situation. It's important to understand our past choices place us in our current situation. It's also important to understand that we are in complete charge of our learning, improving and growing in order to achieve the desired results of the team.
Commit to exercise your responsibility every day. The "personal and professional" rewards and contributions to the empowered team" are substantial in doing so. Effective shared and empowered teams are characterized by the notion that we must affirm to ourselves that "I choose to be 100% responsible for every aspect of my professional, personal, work, and team mindset of my existence".
In summary, individuals make huge differences in the dynamics of an effective team, however, most of them don't accept their power to make or break a collaborative relationship. It's important to retain our personal power by treating every action and decision that affects us and ultimately our team as a top priority. It appears what most employees fear is not their lack of power but rather their abundance of it. It's important to articulate our feelings when we disagree with the direction of our team. Exhibit courage and leadership and understand "going along" without passion or commitment helps head our team in a direction where perhaps no one wants to go.
Clear intentions are one of the many key characteristics that propel leaders to exhibit effective leadership skills and team players to become extraordinary performers. Know and picture your outcome. Hear the desired sounds. Feel the intended feelings. And clearly articulate the desired results repeatedly. Such clear intentions will guide our behavior within the team context to deliver the desired team results in a collaborative, empowered, shared manner going forward in the 21st century.
We believe it is critical that the U. S. and other nations not only maintain, but improve the skillset of its workforce. We have learned that learning neither occurs in a vacuum nor ends with a certificate or degree; learning takes place over a lifetime.
The Pardue Group espouses that the deployment of effective human resource training and development programs benefit employers and employees by enhancing and/ creating skills; creating a competitive business advantage; attracting qualified employees and increasing employee retention; and assisting in in the design of career workforce planning programs that has a direct correlation to organizational employee upward mobility, management depth analyses and readiness programs.
Creatively designed, effectively implemented state of the art human resource development programs can achieve measurable and dramatically improved performance standards for employers and employees. We have witnessed many employers who have already recognized the positive bottom-line and employee relations value of investing in the skills of their workforce (attracting, selecting, motivating and retaining employees) by implementing a variety of current,effective and innovative cost effective training programs for their employees at all levels of the organization.
All potential legislation that would affect training or retraining should be carefully monotored and evaluated as to its impact on an organization and its employees. Training initiatives proposed by all industry segments should consider existing and ongoing studies and initiatives designed to speed the learning transition from school to the workplace.
Our research reveals any initiatives that approach human resource development programs as a “cure all” or “prescription” or total “panacea” for an organization’s performance problems is narrow in perspective. Training should be considered an integral part of the human resource strategic planning process aimed at increasing an organization’s ability to compete in a global economy and utilize diagnostic training assessments that results in an improved correlation to performance management and a clearer linkage to achieving stated goals, and remuneration decisions.
The federal government can serve as a promoter of incentives (e.g., through demonstration projects) and as an information source for employees as to what skills are portable across geographic and industry lines. Based on our experience training is more effective for employers and employees when it is provided through government-offered incentive programs and public-private partnerships, rather than through employer mandates or taxes.
All employers, educational institutions, community organizations and local and state governments must to work together to improve the skills of the American workforce. Human resource development programs should be coordinated with other human resource initiatives that include sound employment practice and reward and recognition programs to ensure learning transfer.
Based on our experience in in training assessments we recognize that there are multiple approaches to effectively developing employees (including on-the-job, basic skills, instructor-led, computer-based, web-based and distance training programs) and that the advent of digital technologies will increase the number of effective options in the years ahead. We encourage employers to evaluate all training approaches and to use those training methods best suited for their culture, is strategically linked to the organization vision, human resource strategic plan and meets the needs of the employees training and development needs.
Any organization that gets a union deserves it. Unions do not unionize employees. Employees unionize themselves.
From a historical perspective of the organized labor movement, these statements contain remarkable authenticity and are factually substantive.
Considerable insight can be gained in organizations today with on-going evaluative systems, which assess the potential vulnerability of unionization with multiple work force profile measurement programs.
Conclusive evidence, supported by findings of expert behavioral scientists and assessments of “cause” after union organizing attempts are completed, provide further insight into the need to continually profile the work force. Further, based on empirical data from over 100 employee opinion surveys performed by the writer the following profile is representative of today’s work force:
1. Minus-Minus 5% (-5%)-the employee who dislikes management, impossible to satisfy, habitual chronic acute complainer, will never be happy.
2. Minus 20% (-20%)-the employee who complains constantly, suspicious of all changes which occur in the organization.
3. Fifty percent (50%)-the silent majority of the work force. This employee does not possess strong convictions either pro-management or pro-labor. The questionable segment of the work force.
4. Plus 20% (+20%)-employee who is a solid citizen. Employees who become supervisory or managerial personnel up through the ranks of the organization. Articulate, good decision makers. Fast track. Have ability to think for themselves.
5. Plus Plus 5% (++5%)-employees who have immense organization loyalty. The organization can do no wrong in the eyes of this employee.
Obviously, the bottom line to this work force profile scenario is to have an employee-relations program in place, which enhances the organization’s ability to control its destiny. The organization must focus and redirect its efforts, as needed, in the development of a preventive labor relations program which insures the silent majority segment of the work force is committed to being part of a union-free organization.
1. Commitment and Management Credibility-Credibility is essential; clarity is necessary. Management’s candor in communicating its position on unions is generally met with appreciation by the majority of employees. Establishing the pattern today rather than after an organizing drive is underway goes a long way toward shaping the attitudes and thinking of employees so that later, should an organizing drive occur, the organization has established a basic theme upon which to build. The initial step to remaining union-free is management’s commitment to the objective. This commitment must exist at all levels of management from the top to the bottom. This commitment and the reasons behind it should be spelled out in policy form and communicated to all levels of management and to all employees as well.
2. The Management Team-Supervisors can either win National Labor Relations Board Elections for you or they can lose them for you. The second step to building a union-free defense is the selection of capable management personnel and the training of supervisors to bring them up to the level required of a union-free management team. The first line supervisor is, in many cases, the forgotten and most unsupported person on the firing line.
3. Employee Complement-Union-free employers should be aware that it is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act to fail to hire an employee because of his/her union background or sympathies. However, the law does not require an employer to hire employees who are unproductive. It does not require employers to hire unreliable or irresponsible employees. It does not require employers to hire employees who possess low self-esteem. In a nutshell, it is the employees who will directly determine whether or not the employer will remain union free; it is the disposition of employees toward unions, combined with the employer’s treatment of employees, which will indirectly determine whether or not the employer will remain union-free. The Ultimate objective then is to have employees who will refrain from signing that first union card. If that is not accomplished, the union will prevail without the first shot being fired.
4. Policies and Procedures-The fourth requirement of a union-free organization is the implementation of fair and equitable policies and procedures. The best way to implement rules are: (a) publish and distribute to all employees; (b) make sure a fair and equitable system exists through which rules of conduct can be consistently administered; (c) discipline should be corrective instead of punitive. A positive, progressive discipline system should be in place. Above all, if and when major policy changes area announced, full explanation should be given to all employees. Rumors spread and discontent grows when employees feel they are not being given the truth about major changes.
5. Participative Management-Recognize all employees at all levels and allow them to be a part of the organization. Effective communication programs should be in place, such as: orientation programs, individual performance appraisal systems, employee attitude surveys, frequent staff meetings, company newsletters, up-to-date bulletin boards and an effective open door policy. In summary, the uses of participative management techniques are not an end in themselves, but are the means of designing systems and procedures that improve both productivity and job satisfaction.
6. Due Process-The sixth step to maintaining union-free status is a sound and responsive procedure through which employees may protest adverse action taken against them. For example, the open door policy, or a formalized written grievance procedure. One of the key factors in the effective use of the open door policy is the “24-hour turnaround.” Under this concept, employees who have problems may contact management. In any case, they are assured of receiving a response within 24 hours. The “24-hour turnaround” is a far better grievance handling procedure than unions can provide.
7. Employees’ Rights-The seventh ingredient in the union-free environment is the requirement that traditional employee rights be protected through fair and equitable policies. Be sure that the following policies, such as promotions and transfers, layoffs and recalls and overtime are in place and defined; that standards of performance are reasonable and objective; that a genuine and sincere interest in the employees’ health and safety exists; that working conditions are good, and that an on-going Equal Opportunity Program is published and communicated.
8. Elimination of Undesirable Working Conditions-The eighth step in maintaining a union-free environment is the elimination of sources of constant irritation that have a negative effect on the employees’ sensitivity over a long period of time such as restrooms, eating areas and break rooms, parking facilities, water fountains and housekeeping.
9. Measurement of Employee Performance-The ninth area of union-free status is the prompt elimination of employees and supervisors who do not meet the standards of the union-free employer. An employer must always be aware of the potential dangers in terminating an employee both from legal and practical considerations. The union-free employer must understand both. Consideration must be given to among several legal statues, the following legal areas: Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act and the National Labor Relations Act, as amended.
10. Competitive Wages and Benefits-The tenth and final requirement to maintaining a union-free posture is that the union-free employer must have a competitive wage and benefit program that is equitably administered. Fringe benefits should include health insurance, holidays, vacations, leaves of absence, sick days, life insurance, retirement plans, disability insurance, differential pay as deemed appropriate, a salary merit system which is tied to performance, current job descriptions and salary ranges which are periodically updated.
As we have moved into the 21st century patterns have to change to become compatible with the changing composition of the workforce, changing attitudes toward work, the urbanization of society, diversity issues, the emerging multiple-worker family, the desire to reduce occupational stress and the growing demands for more family and leisure time to enhance work-life balance issues. Involvement of the individual employee in making work decisions on matters, which affect him/her directly, will be a key issue and a troublesome part of the working agreement. This issue must be moved out of the adversary process with the opportunity to develop meaningful job responsibility, pride in the vision of the organization and positive commitment of the “silent majority” which will enhance the organization’s opportunity for maintaining union-free status.
The word transparency surfaces more and more in public statements by senior institutional and organizational executives. Now more than ever, we know that keeping secrets can be dangerous for organizations and the people affected by them. However, no amount of legislation can make an organization transparent. That happens only when an organization creates a culture of candor and trust, one in which followers feel free to speak the truth to leaders who are willing to listen.
Unfortunately, while many organizations pay lip service to those values, few organizations are genuinely committed to openness and candor. How effectively information flows through an organization is directly related to its culture. Many institutional/organizational cultures make transparency all but impossible because “it’s always been this way”.
When leading a department, a unit or the entire institution/organization, it is not enough to say, as so many leaders do, ”my door is always open”. Many employees with high emotional intelligence know not to drop in to the boss’s office on a whim. People in power have to insist that those who report to them tell the truth, however unpleasant. That is not as easy as it seems. Power can be intimidating and those who have it make their own importance known in a myriad of ways.
Leaders routinely transmit signals that make it clear they want to hear only confirming information. The stated policy may be “you need to take responsibility”. However, the real message, which is not to be stated but understood institution-wide, is often that the only way to succeed here is to tell the leader what he or she may have already decided.
It is not surprising that people at the bottom of the rarely acknowledged organizational pyramid are reluctant to put their jobs on the line by telling their superior his or her idea is faulty, wrong or dangerous.
As a leader, you may already know what you think. It is recommended to apply the litmus test and seek from some of the smartest employees who are the least enamored with your idea and perhaps sees its weakness. This can be an excellent approach of critiquing ideas that may or may not have value and enhancing the ability to become more transparent.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 has helped organizational governance become more transparent, but no amount of legislation will make our organizations truly transparent. Only courageous leaders and followers who are more courageous to be candid can do that.
There is great irony about the lack of transparency in our organizations. Even as organizations try more and more desperately to maintain the lid on secrets, information is becoming harder to control.
As a leader what can you do to encourage a culture of candor and greater transparency that will predictably follow? Select panels of the brightest employees and ask them to thoroughly test your latest idea, project and vision.
Another approach is to hold collaborative sessions whenever an important decision is about to be made. Invite everyone who is party to the decision to a pleasant site away from the office and insist that they try to imagine every possible way the plan could fail and why. Once again, it must be made clear that no idea is unacceptable and that no one will be criticized for speaking out. The rules should be those of brainstorming sessions. The more ideas, the better-- there are no bad ideas.
At least, the employee may feel empowered to speak up the next time they see a flaw in an idea that is about to be put into action. The utilization of focus groups continue to be a highly effective participatory and seamless method of ascertaining employee input which can enhance the opportunity to become a transparent organization.
Organizational culture is arguably more difficult to change and become transparent than to change an individual or group behavior.
In summary, the goals for change and becoming a transparent organization include:
BY HOWARD M. PARDUE, PHD, SPHR
RESEARCH…. HOWARD PARDUE, DOCTORAL DISSERTATION