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Overheard in the Metro October 17, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance.
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I was riding in the metro this evening and the conversation of the two guys standing next to me went something like this, “Can you believe how ______ treated our co-worker this morning?” “Oh, that’s nothing, he/she laid into ______ the other day for absolutely no reason” “I guess that’s why they call him/her ‘The Viper’.” “Well, you know he/she has always been like this, even to some of the Vice-Presidents…..”

We all have (or have had) someone like this in our workplace. A source of constant tension and poison that degrades performance and negatively impacts the company’s culture. Yet, no one chooses to do or say anything. Why?
Being me, I asked the guys, “Why has this been allowed to go on”. One of the fellows said, “Well, he/she has been with the company a long time and everyone is scared of him/her.”

Sure, confronting this person would not be at the top of anyone’s list (nor recommended), but you have a duty to yourself and your company to try and figure the problem out. And it doesn’t have to be confrontational. Sometimes people like this have worked themselves in a rut and don’t know how to extricate themselves. Changing their behavior is going to require you to be friendly, accommodating, and genuine. You will need to invest significant time trying to develop a relationship with them. Even if they berate you, stand tall, be professional and work through the anger. In the long run, everyone will benefit and you may develop an ally.


Steve Jobs – What I learned October 6, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Customer Service, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance, Internet, Marketing.
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Steve Jobs passed away on October 5th, 2011. It’s hard even writing this fact down – the loss is so profound. I remember when I was in training at Apple in 2002, Steve came into the Apple Café and the Director of our program freaked out, warning us NOT to go up to him or talk to him. So we all, myself included, passed on speaking to the fellow who has revolutionized and changed our life.

Crazy isn’t it?

I am an Apple. Having been on the platform since the Apple II (and I may still have it somewhere), I have taken a lot of grief from the naysayers. The detractors said: its a toy, no IT department would adopt it, you could buy three PC’s for the price of one Macintosh, it doesn’t run any good software, blah blah blah. Now look at Apple’s market share and even more importantly, the charged-up, ecstatic, crazy customers that love everything Apple.

It is sad that many people will just get it today that Apple is and will always be something special. Born from a dream by someone who was a college dropout and described as directionless, Steve pursued his dream with fellow entrepreneur, Steve Wozniac. Steve didn’t make computers, he created tools that let us extend our current lifestyles and imagination. Seth Godin made a great point in his blog yesterday when he challenged all of us with the call to action, “What are we going to do with it?” The “It” is this wonderful tool that Steve and the other great folks at Apple have given us.

Now we just need to do like the Nike commercial and “Just do it”!

P.S. if Steve Jobs chose to invent the elevator, it would have a touch screen allowing you to deselect an incorrectly chosen floor AND the door open and close buttons would work! The iElevator would let you select relevant content about the building clients or local events thus helping passengers avoid those unnecessarily awkward elevator stares. The floor would have a small section that vibrates to sooth tired feet. You get the picture. Soon everyone would look forward to riding in an elevator again!

P.S.S. No, I am not an Apple snob – I have a PC and use it – mostly for Excel and VBA. If I were to liken it to a tool, I would call it an allen wrench – very good for very specific tasks. But I don’t carry an allen wrench with me all of the time….. I do, however, carry a MacBook, Ipad, and Iphone 24/7

How not to handle a people problem October 4, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance.
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I spend significant time in Starbucks – love the coffee and the atmosphere. Occasionally, I meet someone who is just off the scale intelligent offering insight and wisdom. Today, wasn’t such a day and I believe you it is significant to speak about. Three folks came in and began a conversation right next to where i was sitting. #1 proceeded to bad mouth a slew of co-workers that he/she had. It appeared that #1 was a manager, quite intelligent in conversation and passionate about his/her work product. I was shocked that #1 spoke so openly about his/her co-workers in a negative manner and in a very public environment. #2 and #3 mostly listened to #1 as he/she droned on and on and on spewing negativity.

The point of this post is to encourage folks to discuss negative and positive issues directly with the person who is the causation of their pain OR not say anything at all and work around or through the problem. I cringed as I listened to #1 thinking why he/she would carry on in such a manner. Perhaps, he/she was unhappy in their career or felt threatened by his/her co-workers. Maybe it was just frustration – I have no way of knowing and I really wanted to ask #1 why? so I could gain some insight.

I hope you will think in advance (just as I will) before opening your mouth and speaking negatively about anyone. Ask yourself, what positive benefit is your conversation going to spark?

HR can be your biggest asset! April 14, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, human resources, Improving Personnel Performance.
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Nothing probably influences your company more than Human Resources. Our consultants have found a plethora of opportunities involving HR which not only lead to cost savings but more importantly keep good people employed and provide remedies for marginal performers. First a quick list of do’s and don’ts, and in Part II we will delve into more specifics.

Do’s and Don’ts

1) Do not hire relatives of employees – never have we seen a situation where this is a positive. The worst example was a company that had thirty relateds working in various departments. Supervisors were not allowed to correct bad behavior, their team participation was weak and salaries were skewed high similar to their peers. Needless to say this sent a rippling effect throughout the company that you did not have to perform well in order to get a job, keep a job or be promoted.

2) Do not put up with poor social behavior. Party animals are only entertaining when you are in college – there is not a good translation for them in the office. The same holds true for office romances. The worst example I have come across was a VP having an affair with a senior salesperson. Everyone knew about it including the execs and HR. His wife found out, there was a divorce, she took the kids out of state but no action was taken by HR. A bigger problem was the entire company knew about the moral breakdown and because it was condoned by management, guess what, the problem multiplied like bunnies in the forest. This was distracting at the very least to the important tasks and responsibilities that should have been going on – the VP commanded no respect and it sent a negative message to the associates.

3) Create detailed job descriptions and metrics (KPI’s) to measure desired results. Don’t expect your HR department to do this in a vacuum – the effort should be led by the department manager or executive staff with HR oversight/comments – after all, who knows more about the job than the first line manager/director.

4) Be consistent about compensation. This starts with the detailed job descriptions and needs to be administered by a competent compensation analyst. If you think folks don’t know what everyone is earning then you are just kidding yourself. Regrettably, our consultants report that there is still a gender gap in pay – make sure that your company isn’t setting themselves up for failure – equal pay means just that and a logically managed compensation program is the best thing in the world for morale and productivity.

4) Work with HR on making hiring decisions. You should insist on looking at every application/resume or at least a representative sample. It is a good practice anyway as a hiring manager you need to know what type of applicants are out there in the world.

5) Use group interviews and at least two rounds of them. Developing a standardized set of questions for the applicants and for references and make sure to call them. Qualifications and culture fits cannot be ascertained from the initial interviews. Keep in mind that 50% or more of marriages fail and oftentimes these people have been dating for months – how can you expect to make a good hire unless you take the time to know your applicants.

6) Have a comprehensive semi-annual review program. You can’t expect one size to fit all so tailor the questions to the position. Use Key Performance Indicators, Objectives-Goal-Strategies-Measurement or other system to quantify the accomplishments of the employee. Use a blind system and average the results to assign a numerical score based on qualitative data so personal bias is minimized.

7) Be accessible and customer-centric – Engage your employees. Find out what is working and what is not working and take special care to bridge the gap.

8) Have a system of organization for all new hires. Use document scanners to keep files in an electronic form because paperwork loss is the chief HR complaint that should never happen. In a perfect world, if your company is big enough, you could install a full blown HRIS system, but for many companies you can build a database (yes, anyone can do this, you don’t need a service) using one of the many web-based systems to keep thing organized. Besides, file rooms are a thing of the past and they never get cleaned out. Electronic documents are universally recognized as a legal method of storage and they are a lot easier to search, mine data, build performance dashboards and reduce/eliminate the flow of paperwork.

9) Many HR departments have taken on training as there are several issues that fall under HR purview – new employee orientation, harassment, safety, etc. Many successful HR departments have one trainer who creates reusable videos and elearner instead of trying to deliver live training. This standardizes and then use a free survey tool (from the internet) to ask pertinent questions to make sure your audience was paying attention. Instantly, you will get better consistency of delivery, validation of results and you can keep your training department lean and efficient.

10) Send communication back to every person who puts in an application. Why? because everyone is a potential customer and everyone talks – you want them talking positively about your company. One of the best I’ve seen comes from Scripps Networks and goes something like this:

Dear First Name,

Thank you for your interest in employment with Scripps Networks, and the position of ______________. The selection of candidates requires difficult decisions and at this point it has been determined that your background is not a match for the specific requirements for this position. Accordingly you will not be considered further for this particular opportunity. Please do not consider it a poor reflection on you; rather, it is an indication that another candidate has skills that better fit the role.

We encourage you to periodically review the list of available job opportunities provided on our web site and follow the application process described. Thank you again and best of luck with your career search.

11) Have a senior exec (not in the chain of command for HR) conduct a semi-annual survey of all employees which polls the performance of Human Resources. Then release a summary of the report with action items so that positive steps can be taken to improve the level of service.

More to follow in Part II

Yours in procurement,

Steve Gordon specializes in procurement, logistics, cost saving and business process improvement initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you want to learn how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I will do my best to answer your request in a future post.


Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
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