June 2009 archive

What motivates us in the workplace?

So what motivates people – and how do you find out the best way to motivate your staff?

Well perhaps not surprising in the current climate – but an answer which I would strongly argue transcends the credit crunch – is training and communication – not hard cash!

In a recent survey covering 1,500 business, 78% of staff said that they would like an on-boarding programme, however in those companies, only 37% actually provide any kind of induction programme.

A third of staff who had gone through an induction programme with the company said it had reinforced their decision to join that company.

Many of those who went through the programmes said that it made them feel at ease with their new surroundings and enabled them to get up to speed more quickly.

The survey also found that 75% of new staff had no level of contact with their employer between accepting a job offer and starting their new role.

So what can companies learn from this information?

Well for a start – communicate with your staff! That goes for existing and new employees of course. But when you have invested time and money into bringing people into your business don’t simply assume that they will just be able to get on with it.

Its clear that a well thought out induction programme introducing them to the company at large and not just their own job and team will make a huge difference to their productivity and also motivate and retain them for longer.

Its also equally important to ensure that arrangements for informing and consulting employees over major change are effective if companies want to improve trust in senior management, especially in current climates.

However, change in the workplace has been prevalent for a long time now and employees may simply be unaware of how well they have coped with change in the organisation in the last 5 to 10 years. So its also important to have a programme which involves staff, educates them and makes them feel that their opinions are valued and trusted.

Remember that usually your staff are the customer touch point of your business and as such they are all your brand ambassadors so making sure they are all on the same page is a vital component in your marketing.

As the economic downturn began to bite, a 2008 report from Cranfield School of Management, commissioned by learndirect Business, revealed organisations that invest in their staff are best placed to save money (44%) improve staff motivation (33%) and increase employee retention (52%).

However, although the Nurturing Talent report highlights training and development can have significant benefits such as increased staff motivation and retention, only a third (34%) of employers have a formal training strategy.

The report, which was compiled using responses from 1,189 training and recruitment decision makers, reveals over three quarters of employers (78%) see skills development as more beneficial to their organisation compared to recruiting staff externally.

Dr Emma Parry, Senior Research Fellow, Cranfield School of Management, who authored the report, said: “this research demonstrates that growing your own is an effective way for organisations to obtain the skills they need while saving money. For employers, the nurturing talent concept means managing and developing employees to achieve business goals.  This could include training employee coaching staff mentoring and job enrichment to stretch employees with new tasks.”

So while formal training including examinations and academic development is an essential tool for many, personal workplace development is a tool which still is widely underutilised.

Mentoring and coaching as part of a structured programme with agreed objectives and outcomes will help staff to become more skilled in their own job, help them to upskill for new roles and promotions, encourage them to have a stake in their own development and keep them committed to the organisation and role.

Its a process which is often used by executives for development so if its widely recognised to benefit senior management then it should be evident that its something which very many more people can benefit from.

Of course a good bit of sunny weather like we are having at the moment doesn’t do any harm either – its just much less controllable!!

best wishes,


Networking – what’s your style?

 networking - what’s your style?


In business, being able to network is an important tool but is a skill which very rarely comes naturally to us all.

Personally I don’t find it as difficult as some other things (cold calling for example) – I like to meet new people and am genuinely interested in what they do and what people are up to.

I think that nothing beats face-to-face conversation to build rapport and while you might often not get a direct sale from everyone you meet in networking, making a positive impression on a person definitely means that they will remember you and if they can’t use you themselves, they will be very very likely to recommend you to others. Its often months afterwards before you see a clear business benefit from a particular networking situation or relationship but keep plugging away.

Its also important not to talk about yourself during the whole time – people quickly get bored with this; they will tune out and begin to look round the room for someone to rescue them! Networking is all about sharing information and if you make the effort to learn about others they will return the favour.

Also remember – its a gentle sales pitch which needs to be engaging, interesting and benefit led. So what do I mean by benefit led?

The Window Cleaner:

Well if I was a window cleaner, I wouldn’t stand in front of you and tell you about the soap I used which I could get cheaply at the local wholesalers…nor would I bother to tell you where I store my ladders or which of my customers gives me fresh water etc!!

What I would definitely do is tell you what a difference my service would make to your business life – how you would save money by having an expert do the job on a regular basis: all the corners would be done, there would be no marks left behind, and you wouldn’t need to buy the materials. You would save time by not having to do it yourself and the sparkle of your windows would attract customers and show that you looked after your premises and cared about its image.

Then of course I would also throw in some testimonials of some of the other local businesses who use my services and perhaps even some funny anecdotes (provided they were for sharing of course!) – I’m sure that many of us are interested in the things that a window cleaner sees in his day-to-day activities….

So you’re speaking to someone, having an enjoyable networking conversation – what else is important? Well body language & responses are something to be conscious of: remember to respond during the other person’s stories (small nod’s of your head, little affirmations like “mhmm; I see what you mean; that makes lots of sense” etc) will put them at ease and show that you are listening and interested. Face someone with your body, look them in the eye, don’t fiddle with papers, give people a bit of personal space but don’t be too far away – these are all small things which show you are interested and engaged.

And closure is all important too; make sure that you exchange contact details – business cards are the most common thing here – and if you have promised to follow-up with a particular piece of information or schedule a meeting – make sure you do so. Its important that you don’t get a reputation for not delivering on your promises because if you can’t be bothered to do something small like this then they will have good reason to distrust your business product or service too.

Of course you will always find going into a new situation a bit nerve wracking – however, what is important is that you relax and enjoy it – just remember that 99% of the room will be feeling exactly the same. Just ask one or two of the people you talk to at the beginning if they have been to this event before – the chances are that they’ve never been either and are feeling just as unsure as you are – or if you find someone who is a regular use that to your advantage – ask them what they like about it, what’s good about the event and if there is anyone in the room who they feel would be good for you to talk to. They will probably introduce you which is a good icebreaker.

You need to make the effort to speak to people – don’t hide yourself away in a corner of the room or only speak to people you know already – you get out of networking what you put into it. Welcome people into your group – especially if they are alone – think about how you would like to be included and do that to others.

Don’t hide your personality away but don’t be over-friendly or casual just strike the right balance, mirror other people in their style and you can’t go far wrong – above all relax and enjoy yourself then when you leave the event people remember you in a positive way which is bound to lead to good results for you in the future! Don’t be tempted to fuel your confidence with alcohol – you might think you are being vivacious, funny and interesting but your audience will often have a very different perspective!

Next time I’ll tackle social networking which can be a different ball game altogether; entertaining, addictive and very engrossing but until then: Happy networking!


Swishing anyone?

I’m in swishing mode this week people!! For the uninitiated amongst you, Swishing is can be held in your home where you host a party to recycle your clothes with friends, or on a larger scale open to anyone to come along.

This Friday, Amanda and her friends are having a Swishing event to raise funds for Diabetes UK in Broughty Ferry which should be a really fun night and a good way to refresh your wardrobe over drinks and food.

Swishing helps you clear out your wardrobe of all those things which you no longer wear – and lets be honest girls we do hang on to things we definitely shouldn’t – take them along to an event and then be allowed to swap them for items which others have brought which you like. This can include clothes, shoes, accessories, sunglasses, handbags etc – the list is really endless.

The main thing is that everything must be in good condition, clean and as wrinklefree as possible!

You never know when you’ll walk off with a designer item either – its a great way to get your hands on some vintage gear too.

If you’ve ever been to a swishing event or think its a good idea, post a comment here – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week,

Alison x