T+D August 09 // Intelligence //
By Aparna Nancherla
Web-based mentoring has a powerful effect on employee performance, regardless of position within a company. Mentoring is often considered special treatment reserved for high-potential talent in the workplace, but making it more accessible to any worker at the company could dramatically improve overall employee engagement.
According to a report by Triple Creek Associates called “Impact of Web-Based Mentoring on Productivity and Effectiveness,” 88 percent of respondents agreed that their productivity and effectiveness at work increased due to e-mentoring experiences.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents were also satisfied overall with their mentoring relationships. Furthermore, of those participants who spent at least an hour a month on mentoring, 97 percent were satisfied with their relationships.
Web-based Open Mentoring—the system used in the study—is a pairing technique similar to eHarmony or Match.com for large enterprises that helps facilitate knowledge transfer through relationships. These relationships can take the form of peer-to-peer, superior-to-subordinate, or even reverse mentoring, whereby an older worker connects with a younger employee to learn new technologies.
“The study reinforced the fact that people prefer to learn from other people,” says Randy Emelo, CEO and president of Triple Creek Associates. “Making more information available to people is not what they’re looking for. What people are looking for is access to other people who can help them.”
The study found that there were three specific areas of improvement for employees who participated in the program: expanding their professional network, interpersonal effectiveness, and confidence in the role. In addition, participants felt that mentoring allowed them to provide and receive encouragement, transfer knowledge within the organization, and understand a different point of view.
“Training and development professionals know that with the rise of the creative class, every employee needs to be more self-directed and autonomous,” says Emelo. “The whole skill set of the enterprise is shifting away from employees just taking orders and performing functions, to making their own decisions and creating their own paths.”
Some telling results were that participants experienced these gains regardless of whether they participated in the program face-to-face or distance-style, and regardless of whether the participant was a mentor or a mentee.
Though Emelo says there are pros and cons to both face-to-face and distance-style mentoring, he notes that, “When you’re mentoring someone and relating to someone from a distance, you really can’t take anything for granted, and you have to ask clarifying questions. You become more intently focused on the learning and less focused on the relational aspects (such as chemistry) that dominate the face-to-face relationships.”
The study surveyed 13 client organizations, with a total of 1,323 participants from more than 20 countries and all levels of the workplace. Only employees who had participated in at least one mentoring relationship within a year or who were currently at least three months into a mentoring relationship at the time of the survey were eligible.
There are currently 18 different platforms for web-based mentoring including employee onboarding, management and leadership development programs, and frontline supervisory training. The system is custom designed to fit each company’s competency indicators, which are used to match up pairs.
T+D August 09 // Work Life //
Work Can Wait
By Michael Laff
Instead of being the stereotypical workaholics who arrive too late to receive a hero’s welcome from the kids, more men are trying to balance their home and family life.
For the most part, men and women express few differences in the value they assign to work-life balance, according to a recent Accenture survey. The only area of surprise was the number of men, 68 percent, who said they want to be available for their families. This number is higher than the percentage of women, 46 percent, who said the same.
“We’re seeing a culture shift among men who are changing their belief system and want to interact more with their families,” says Sharon Klun, manager of Accenture’s retain talent team.
Regardless of which segments of the workforce most value time away from work, the workplace is adapting to the demands of the current and incoming generations, albeit slowly. Large organizations employing 1,000 or more workers typically have to be consistent and focus on policy, whereas smaller organizations have the ability to tailor policies according to individual needs.
Klun says that the days of human resources policy being one-size-fits-all are fading as employees view their own situation as unique and want the ability to miss a meeting if they have a pressing personal need at home. Spending a full eight hours at the office is no longer a premium.
“Many organizations are taking baby steps in terms of flexibility and providing opportunities for different roles,” Klun says.
Some scheduling benefits that were unthinkable a generation ago are now commonplace, such as compressed work weeks, flexible schedules, and work-from-home options. Accenture offers its employees a self-funded sabbatical whereby individuals can take up to 90 days of unpaid leave for any reason and return to their jobs. It allows employees to pursue another career or personal interest for any reason.
Thanks to the speed of email and Internet resources, cumbersome administrative tasks are handled easily. This means that the days of early arrival and late departure from the office are gone for many professions. There is no performance measurement tool to grade an individual’s productivity away from the office, but some workplace analysts predicted it will appear in the near future.
“How intently someone is working is a subjective measure,” Klun says. “It doesn’t matter if you are engaged for four hours at a time or not. What’s important is being able to meet a client’s expectations. Technology makes it easier to stay connected.”
T+D August 09 // Global //
Training for the Leap Overseas
Many companies lack understanding about the importance of learning about cultural context.
Few people would make travel plans to a foreign country without first preparing themselves with knowledge about the culture, a clearly mapped route, and an established list of “in-case-of-emergency” contacts.
However, many companies today send their leaders on long-term international assignments with only an optional, two-day training program about the host nation.
According to a recent survey by Cartus, a workforce development provider, when considering employees for international assignments, 72 percent of companies chose technical competence, and 65 percent chose job experience, compared with 9 percent that chose developing talent as the main criterion qualifying an employee for assignments abroad.
The study reported responses from 60 of the world’s largest global organizations, noting that when companies fixate more on pragmatic issues with international assignments (such as opening new offices or markets, transferring skills or knowledge, or filling a talent gap), they often overlook a strategic focus on the assignee’s career development. The study examines the training that international assignees received prior to departure, upon arrival in the new country, and upon return.
“The survey’s findings are significant because they show how the whole concept of talent management, succession planning, and human resource management is coming together, specifically regarding international assignments,” says Carolyn Ryffel, director of the training network and curriculum design at Cartus.
“Organizations today need to look way beyond the scope of national headquarters to develop senior leaders. The issue, then, is what training do these leaders need?”
Fifty-six percent of companies admitted that the employees sent on international assignments are not sufficiently knowledgeable about their host country’s business environment, but only 20 percent of those companies offer the employees any international business management training. This finding is common in the United States—one of the largest recipients of international assignees (called “inbound employees”) who are usually proficient in the English language but who lack knowledge about leadership and management practices unique to U.S. culture.
“We often see that highly talented, high-level inbound U.S. assignees who speak English well refuse the traditional language training but instead ask for training in soft skills such as interpersonal communication and presentation preparation,” says Bettina Anagnostopoulos, manager of Cartus language projects for the Americas.
While 13 percent of respondents agreed that guidelines for interactions with home managers are in place, no company reported a formal requirement to follow those guidelines.
Upon return from the assignment, 57 percent of respondents said that their companies value the skills acquired, but only 30 percent understand what skills an assignee gained.
“An effective repatriation training program will facilitate the assignees in clearly defining their new or strengthened skills and knowledge and coach them on how to position themselves in the corporate environment to which they’ve returned,” Ryffel says.
The challenge for workplace learning and performance professionals is to develop a talent management process for international assignments.
“I think this type of training will only increase as global workplaces expand,” Ryffel concludes. “The pain will be too great for a company if it doesn’t.”
T+D August 09 // Sales Training //
Season of Sales Discontent
By Michael Laff
Organizations can’t live without sales professionals, but sales pros can live without them.
Discouraged with their compensation and the overall sales climate, a majority of sales professionals said they plan to seek another position in the coming months, even if that means leaving the profession altogether. The declining mood in the field is palpable, according to a recent survey conducted by Hudson Talent Management.
Like everyone else, sales professionals are seeking financial security and desire a competitive salary and benefits. A total of 85 percent of salespeople say that salary is very influential or somewhat influential in terms of its effect on performance.
Sales professionals said that they value salary and benefits highest in terms of influencing their performance, while employers report just the opposite, believing commission to be the primary motivating factor. If sales incentive awards were ever a motivator, this is no longer the case—salespeople rate such incentives lowest in importance.
However, employers are continuing to pay for performance, typically cutting salary while increasing commission. Only 17 percent of employers surveyed reported changing their compensation plans, and most of them moved to a commission-laden structure.
Whether or not the current occupants will still be in their jobs, the prospects for employment appear strong. Two-thirds of recruiters surveyed for the study say they plan to increase their sales force, with only 5 percent reporting a likely decrease in the ranks.
“Many people working in sales consider it as a steppingstone to something else,” says Anna Matuszewska, senior consultant with Hudson, citing 54 percent of respondents who said so.
Even if they choose not to hike pay for sales staff, businesses should focus on providing a quality product. While sales professionals might be expected to prize financial compensation above all else, they instead consider the company’s product or service and customer service as the primary reasons (even above salary) for staying with their current employer.
Disillusionment with the profession seems to be growing. A whopping 78 percent of respondents indicated their willingness to switch professions entirely. Another 44 percent said that they would consider taking a sales position outside the United States.
“They are probably individuals with no families,” says Matuszewska. “People in the IT sector prefer to move outside the United States.”
T+D August 09 // Fast Fact //
Job Security Jitters
T+D August 09 // Info Graph //
While the Economy Goes Bust, Entrepreneurship Goes Boom
Older workers in the 55-64 age category demonstrate greater entrepreneurial activity than their peers. In contrast with conventional wisdom about the younger generation taking bigger risks, workers aged 20-34 are much less active. The aging of the baby boomer generation bodes well for continued entrepreneurship.