Is Friendly Competition Good for the Workplace?

March 4th, 2016

As manager, you’re constantly looking for ways to get more out of your employees without taxing your bottom line or pushing your teams past the limits of a healthy work-life balance. You want your teams to strive for excellence, and you want them to give 110 percent. But at the same time, you’ve been in this game long enough to recognize a point of diminishing returns; if you demand too much, your teams will push back, morale will suffer, turnover will increase, relationships and teamwork will fray, and ultimately the company will pay the price.

So when it comes to healthy competition, where do you draw the line? Should you encourage your teams to compete with each other for your approval? Or should you encourage collaboration? Use these guidelines to make your decision.

Situations vary.

Sometimes it’s better to push your employees into a cage match, and sometimes it’s better to discourage competition altogether. As with most workplace guidelines, success lies somewhere in the balance. Learn to distinguish the nuances that call for one approach or the other; and above all, stay fluid. Don’t let your approach– or your attitude toward competition– become entirely predictable.

Lean toward collaboration.

If you encourage too much collaboration in one scenario, you may have to make some difficult adjustments later on to bring out the competitive side in your teams. But the reverse scenario is generally harder. Turning friends against each other is easier then mending friendships that have been tarnished.

Push for external, not internal competition.

Build a culture of teamwork and collaboration, and if you feel like your employees need to hone their killer instincts, pit them against a competitor company, a competing market, a sales headwind, or a specific external challenge. Try not to turn them against each other unless you feel that you have to, or you’re certain that the cost and risk will be worth the long term reward. Again, it’s easy to bounce back from too much congeniality. It’s not easy to bounce back from too little.

Watch the line.

There are very few situations in which genuine distrust, backstabbing, upstaging, undermining, solitary all-nighters, and idea stealing are good for business. If you want your employees to outcompete each other, make sure they know the difference between healthy and unhealthy maneuvering. If they don’t, use your leadership skills to help them hit reset.

Choose team over individual competition.

If you’d like to encourage internal jockeying, consider dividing your employees into teams instead of individual players. Teamwork tends to bring out the best of both collaboration and competition.

For more on how to build productivity, confidence, trust and morale, turn to the Shelby management and staffing experts at PSU.

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How Does Change Impact Your Workforce?

February 19th, 2016

When you lose a valuable employee and hire a replacement, how do your teams typically react? If your company is like most, the answer probably depends on the person’s position and level of influence, but it may also depend on the general fabric of your workplace culture. When it comes to the unrest associated with turnover, there’s a trade-off at work: If your teams are tightly knit and your workplace feels like family, turnover can bring a higher level of upheaval. But if your employees tend to come and go with little impact—as if moving through a revolving door, unknown and unnoticed– there’s a chance your culture can use some work. Here are a few things to consider as you try to keep change from derailing your productivity.

Give plenty of warning.

When a valued employee gives notice and you know that the departure of this person might lead to a general unraveling, let affected employees know right away. Be as discreet as you need to, but don’t waste any time putting a plan in place that can sidestep potential bottle necks and avoid the confusion that’s likely to take place in this person’s absence.

Train pro-actively

If the new employee will be taking over for someone with complex responsibilities and years of accumulated organizational knowledge, think ahead. How can you get this person up and running as soon as possible? Keep your expectations reasonable, prioritize the things they’ll need to learn, and leverage the departing employee’s help as much as possible before her final day. Ask her to create the clearest possible description of her daily responsibilities and use any available overlapping time to pair her with the new employee for shadowing and mentoring.

Enlist the help of your teams

The new employee may not be able to shoulder the entire load of the new position on the very first day, but with a little teamwork, the group can still make it through the transition with minimal errors and oversights. Encourage peer groups to work together to support and inform the new employee when the need arises.

Put everything in writing

Smoother transitions and rapid learning curves take place when new employees don’t have to remember every detail. Present the incoming person with as much written material about the job as possible, including access to binders or websites (or both) where he can turn for information about company policies and job responsibilities.

Foster a healthy and productive workplace culture.

If your employees are burned out, over-worked, hyper competitive, solitary, or just plain self-involved, expect rocky transitions—and lots of them. Unhappy teams mean high turnover, and those turnovers won’t go well if your teams aren’t dialed in to those around them. Encourage collaboration, shared goals, communication, and general friendliness and you’ll have an easier time bridging the gap between one tenure and the next.

For more on how to build a positive and productive workplace culture, reach out to the Shelby staffing experts at PSU.

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Make Your Meetings Better

November 20th, 2015

Your meetings may be efficient, short, and productive, but there’s a strong chance you could be getting more out each session than you already do. And there are plenty of reasons to make this happen: meetings consume a huge portion of the working day for an average employee, and every minute NOT spent in a meeting can be spent on other tasks that require focused individual attention. These extra minutes add up. Just a simple tweak to your meeting structure can help you—and your employees—accomplish more over the long term. Here are a few ways to streamline the process.

Cancel when you can.

If there’s any way to avoid scheduling a meeting or any alternative methods that can be used to accomplish the same goals, consider these alternatives. Meetings should be a last resort. As you create a list of invitees, keep the list short. Before you add a name, consider this person’s hourly salary and imagine how this time and money might be better spent.

Write down goals.

The person who decides to schedule a given meeting should document the goals of the session before distributing invitations. He or she should also type up an agenda so the session stays on track. Distributing the agenda before the meeting can help each participant know what to expect, how they can contribute, and when the session is expected to end.

Encourage contributions, but stay focused.

A totalitarian approach to meeting sessions can keep your meetings short, since everyone at the table will be afraid to speak up and will just scribble notes until it’s time to leave. On the other end of the spectrum, a relaxed open forum may encourage contributions that haven’t been fully thought out, and may turn your meeting into a rambling free-for-all. Find a sweet spot in between; encourage participants to speak up, but keep the atmosphere formal, focused, and respectful.

Planning or status?

Don’t confuse a forward-thinking planning session with a status update. If the goal is to inform, check in, and report on progress, keep the conversation centered on the present. If the goal is to look ahead and lay the ground work for future action, stay focused on the road. Make sure each participant clearly understands his or her next steps and action items before leaving the room.

Provide background before the meeting begins.

Don’t spend the first half of a long session providing updates and backstory that most of the participants already know. Distribute this information beforehand, or encourage participants to inform and educate themselves before showing up. Again, weigh the value of this time against the hourly salaries and alternative tasks of each participant.

For more on how to keep your meetings focused and purposeful, contact the staffing and business management team at PSU.

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