How Scaale Changes a Manager’s Responsibilities

December 16, 2019 Leave a comment

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Keeping Millennials

February 29, 2016 Leave a comment

What High-Potential Young Managers Want

Today’s talented young professionals have a different approach to their careers — and a very different attitude toward organizational loyalty — than earlier generations. Here’s what you need to know to retain and develop this generation of young managers.

The generation that started to enter the workforce a decade ago (often called Generation Y) will account for the majority of workers over the next 40 years.1 These employees have been said to differ remarkably from previous generations in work-related expectations: They attach greater importance to extrinsic values such as money or image, and also to leisure.2 They consider “additional compensation” and “additional bonuses and financial incentives” the two most effective retention strategies for employers.3 Intrinsic values such as attachment to a community appear to be less important to them. They are reported to show less concern for others,4 lower need for social approval, and higher self-esteem and even narcissism than earlier generations of employees.5

Are these early-career employees putting their values into practice in the workplace? While previous studies give a thorough picture of the values they hold, they say little about the work-related behaviors that result from these values. In an effort to cover this gap, we analyzed the work behaviors and experiences of young professionals. We first surveyed 892 young professionals, about 25% of whom represent the top 10% of their academic cohort in Germany, while the rest represent a random distribution of German professionals. Second, we surveyed 312 early-career individuals working in more than 60 countries, all alumni of a top European business school. Finally, we conducted in-depth interviews with 18 young professionals in a variety of industries such as consulting, IT, energy, publishing, and telecommunications, to see whether their experiences confirm the survey results. (See “About the Research.”)

Our surveys and interviews capture a highly skilled segment of the labor force. In one of the samples, all respondents are graduates of MBA (Master of Business Administration) programs. In the other sample, 96% have at least a master’s degree, and 88% of this group came to their first full-time job after having about three internships. Seventy-four percent of our respondents have had international exposure — either studies or an internship abroad — and one-third have had both work and educational experience abroad. On average, they had five years of work experience since completing their degrees.

We organize our conclusions around three themes: the rewards of job change, the job search behaviors of this footloose group of professionals, and the management-development practices that may keep them with employers.

The Rewards of Job Hopping

The young professionals in our German data set reported that they spent an average of 27 months with an employer before moving on. But can they cash in on these moves? We found that, over a period that averaged five years, the frequency of employer changes increased pay for these workers. While those who stayed with the same employer received average annual pay increases of 11%, those with two employers received 13% average annual pay increases, and those with three or more employers saw average annual pay increases of 15%. Consider two individuals, each of whom had an annual starting salary of $80,000 and then five years of work experience; if each received the average pay increases, in the fifth year the one who did not change employers would be earning $121,446, and the one who made more than two changes would be earning $139,921.

After the number of promotions that our respondents had received during their careers, the number of employers they had worked for was the most important determinant of their average annual pay increase. It was more important than their gender, age, or any aspect of their human capital, such as their highest degree earned, the specialization of their degree, or their pre-employment work experience — including the number, duration, and types of internships.

How can employers create pay systems that cater to footloose young employees? The external, market-based approach of Netflix Inc., the provider of on-demand Internet streaming media that is based in Los Gatos, California, is well-known. During its annual performance reviews, Netflix readjusts its high-performing employees’ pay to going labor market rates, as if the company were in the hiring process and competing for new hires. This approach convinces employees that they are paid well with respect to the market rate and signals the company’s determination to fight for top talent.6 The Paris-based credit-insurance company Euler Hermes offers a similar guarantee to young professionals: It has a dynamic compensation policy with short-term incentive plans that, during the first few years of employment, adjust employees’ salaries according to their skills and performance after their annual review each year.

Our research suggests that job hopping not only provides a higher pay increase but also no longer seems to undermine respondents’ promotability. The average individual in our German data set of young professionals had been promoted every three years. The difference in the frequency of promotions between job hoppers and those with a single employer (2.9 vs. 3.1 years) was not statistically significant. However, it did seem possible that those who stayed with the same organization might have received more significant promotions, such as a move from a staff to a line function. To check this assumption, we looked at the number of subordinates that the respondents were responsible for at the time of the survey. While 73% of our sample had no subordinates, the rest most commonly managed between one and five employees. Neither the likelihood of having subordinates nor the number of subordinates was related to the number of across-employer moves. Although job hoppers reported a slightly higher number of promotions, their jumps across employers netted them similar types of managerial responsibilities.

However, we did find examples in our interviews of professionals who received more significant promotions when they changed jobs within the same organization. For example, a project manager in Germany became a senior account manager in the United States, in charge of two business lines and a team of 15 software developers and testers. While working as a project manager in Germany, he had trained people and set up processes in the company’s U.S. business division. These prior stints enabled him to demonstrate his fit with the organization and gave him a lot of credibility before his promotion. In addition, unlike outsiders, he was accustomed to the company’s very specific culture, and his organizational social networks helped him get things done, allowing him to overcome some of the obstacles in his new position.

In general, however, our results on the relationship between employer changes and promotions represent a radical departure from both previous empirical research and conventional wisdom about job hopping and career success. A decade ago, it was generally believed that promotions accompanied with a disproportionately large increase in responsibility were more likely to be given to insiders than outsiders. Employers already have had the chance to learn about the past performance as well as the potential of internal candidates, and employers take less risk than with an outsider, on whom they have little reliable information other than what is obtainable from references and selection tools.7 Empirical accounts examining the career success of executives found that those who moved inside organizations were more likely to receive promotions, both to higher-level positions (such as from functional management to general management) and to same-level positions in a bigger unit.8 Our research suggests that this advantage seems to have eroded: The results here show no marked differences between the promotion patterns of job hoppers and those who stayed with the same employer during the early stage of their career.

Job Hunting While Employed

Among individuals who were still in their first job, 92% of respondents reported that they were always on the lookout for opportunities with other employers. They revised their résumés, monitored job openings at other employers, talked to friends about job opportunities, or obtained information on prospective employers at least once in the year of our survey. Sixty-three percent applied for jobs, attended job interviews, or contacted search firms at least once in the survey year.

What drives this relentless search for other jobs? First, young professionals have marked and ambitious career goals that are often not linked to any particular organization. As one of our interviewees said, “My main goals are to be satisfied with my job and to make sure I earn the highest possible level of compensation. If I find a better place in terms of these aspects, then there is no harm in changing jobs.”

Second, this group of professionals does not see frequent jumps across employers in a negative light. Said one interviewee, “No matter how many times you change employers, as long as these moves are valuable for your long-term goals, you will be successful and satisfied in your career. Hopping from one place to another might be harmful for one’s career, but only when the person does not really have a legitimate reason to change employers.”

Another interviewee boldly admitted viewing job hopping as a way to “improve your personal brand.” He considered a move across employers a signal “to external parties that you have your own brand equity.” As in the case of promotability, these perspectives represent a sea change from the commonly held view that frequent jumps leave an unfavorable impression on hiring organizations. That traditional view suggested that highly mobile employees might be perceived by potential employers as lacking stability, unable to get along with coworkers, overly opportunistic and trying to sell themselves to the highest bidder, or placing personal advancement ahead of employers’ interests.9

Third, this relentless job search is not necessarily driven by dissatisfaction with the job and an intention to leave the organization, as traditional models of job search and turnover may argue.10 One high-potential person revealed that he went to interviews and constantly had contacts with recruiters and headhunters because he did “not want to be taken advantage of.” He considered interviews a learning opportunity and the chance to obtain information about the labor market. A marketing manager at a telecommunications company had similar motivations: “Interviews are very helpful to evaluate yourself and understand how valuable you are in the market. I even tell my subordinates to apply for jobs elsewhere to gauge their market value and gain job-market experience in case they need it in the future.” Such comments also appeared to be a defensive response to corporations’ notorious move away from the guarantee of job security and lifetime employment.

Fourth, job search is enabled by technological advances that have made the labor market more transparent, providing information on employers and job seekers with a depth and accessibility that were previously unimaginable. Employees may freely communicate what their employer and working conditions are like on sites such as or Facebook and LinkedIn not only provide rich information on candidates’ career histories but also facilitate the initial contact between employers and job seekers. Dissatisfied young professionals wanting to move may soon be presented with plenty of opportunities, like this organizational development manager at a holding company: “When I started to send my CV out and let people in my network know that I was looking for a job, I received 16 offers within three months, mostly via LinkedIn.”

Job search is said to reduce one’s focus on and productivity in the job. But if employees appear engaged in their job, are they less likely to search for alternative opportunities? To answer this question, we looked at the relationship between job search and four work-related behaviors, each focused on the current employer and meant to benefit the individual while at this employer. The first behavior, feedback seeking, was asking for feedback and critique on one’s performance during and after assignments. Relationship building amounted to spending as much time with one’s boss as one could, forming a relationship with the boss and seeking to be acquainted with higher-level managers. Networking involved actions aimed at building relationships with individuals in the organization other than one’s boss. Job challenge represented proactive efforts to obtain developmental, challenging tasks at work and to assume leadership in areas where there appeared to be no leadership.

In our German data set, we found that those who are more likely to engage in these proactive work behaviors are also more likely to be active when it comes to mapping opportunities with other employers. It is possible that some of the proactive behaviors represent employees’ discontent with, rather than engagement in, their job: Employees may be more likely to seek feedback and look for challenging tasks if they perceive that they do not receive enough performance-related feedback or that the complexity of their tasks does not match their skill level. This is illustrated by the experience of one of our interviewees: “During my first job, I tried to take responsibility for many challenging tasks, for the sake of my personal and professional development. Because the company didn’t really understand my career goals, I was assigned many tasks that would not be helpful for my development.” But job search also increases as organizational networking and relationship building increase, making it more plausible that those who are more proactive on the inside are also more likely to map outside opportunities. In summary, although young employees may seem engaged and committed in their job, they nevertheless keep track of opportunities outside the organization. Their seeming “investedness” in their employer is no guarantee of their loyalty.

The Effect of Development Practices

Human resources practices such as training to help develop employees’ careers and to help them get on in the organization, personal development plans, and clear feedback on employees’ performance reduced job search behaviors. These practices were most effective in dissuading employees from looking for other opportunities.

The positive relationship between development practices and employee behaviors is not a coincidence: Many studies have found similar relationships between organizational interventions and employee attitudes and behaviors. Development opportunities induce positive employee attitudes and behaviors toward the organization.11

But not all development opportunities are created equal. To identify the development practices that may be most effective in keeping young professionals at organizations, when we conducted our global survey of graduates of a leading European business school, we gave our respondents a list of practices, which we organized into 14 groups. The focus of our list was developmental assignments — the development of employee skills and abilities through challenging job assignments or job-related experiences — because most managerial skills are acquired on the job. We focused on the following on-the-job development practices:.12 (1) practices that require incumbents to start something new or make strategic changes (developing new directions); (2) practices that make incumbents deal with external factors such as unions, government agencies, or community problems (external pressure); (3) jobs with pressure from senior management, with high visibility and responsibility for key decisions (high stakes); (4) jobs that require managers to influence parties over whom the manager has no direct authority (influencing without authority); (5) jobs with an inherited problem that was created by a predecessor; (6) jobs that require leading a diverse group; (7) jobs that require managers to handle new, different, broader responsibilities; (8) jobs with a large scale and scope, with a wide breadth of significant responsibilities; and (9) jobs involving work across cultures.

Developmental assignments are often complemented by other pillars of management development that do not constitute an integral part of jobs.13 Such a synergistic approach is more effective in developing leaders. For this reason, we also included the following development practices: (10) formal (classroom-type) training; (11) mentoring, where a more experienced or knowledgeable person in the organization helps the individual’s personal development; (12) coaching (help from a professional to develop the skills needed in the job); (13) support from senior management to facilitate the individual’s career progress and give direction and support; and (14) support from the direct superior in the form of general direction, performance-related feedback, and career development.

Ranking the 14 items by the extent to which respondents found them important for their career development, high-stakes jobs have by far the most importance. (See “Which Development Practices Matter Most?”) Support from senior management indicates that the job is of key importance to the organization, and so does developing new directions. Formal, “classroom-type” training is the third most important item for respondents.

Which Development Practices Matter Most?

View Exhibit

To identify the talent development practices that are most important to today’s young professionals, we presented survey respondents with a list of practices, which we organized into 14 groups. The survey respondents gave all of the five highest-ranked items an average score between 4.06 and 4.27 on a one-to-five-point scale, with one representing “not at all important” and five representing “extremely important.” In other words, respondents rated all five of the highest-ranked items between “quite important” and “extremely important.”

In regression models, we linked all development practices to respondents’ organizational commitment — an important antecedent to voluntary turnover that also relates to employees’ dedication to work. Among the various development approaches, only high-stakes jobs and support from senior management were significantly related to respondents’ organizational commitment. Very importantly, we found that high-stakes jobs showed a positive and linear relationship with organizational commitment: The more such jobs were provided to early-career, highly skilled professionals, the higher their commitment to the organization was. There seemed to be no diminishing returns to this type of developmental practice, probably because our target population had high career aspirations.

These findings are supported by interview evidence as well. We asked interviewees to tell us about a time when they felt that organizational development practices greatly increased their commitment to the organization. Jobs with high stakes jobs and support from senior management were a recurring theme of these answers. For instance, an Indian male who was a brand and strategy consultant said: “In my last job, I was dealing directly with the board of my client companies and with my top managers. All these senior people know that you’ve only got some few years of work experience but they still value your opinion, so this increases your job satisfaction and your long-term commitment towards an organization.”

The importance that this generation of young professionals attaches to high-stakes jobs and support from senior management is likely higher than in the case of earlier generations, whose careers mostly evolved in hierarchical organizations with predictable patterns of career advancement. Changes in the business environment, however, also signified an end to intra-organizational career paths and job security, and required employees to be more entrepreneurial, responsible for their own advancement and employability. In organizations where predictable career advancement is mostly a thing of the past, young employees want to secure career success by striving to work in ways that have a huge upside potential, either by working in an important or visible job or by enjoying the support of senior management.

At the same time, our respondents thought that job transitions across functions, divisions, or regions inside the same organization (new, different responsibilities) were much less important for their career development. Interestingly, most management development programs in multinational, multidivisional companies are built around that kind of job rotation. The respondents also do not put much priority on managing diversity, be it racial, gender, or cultural diversity, even if many employers may visibly promote diversity efforts. Neither do they consider working on an inherited problem important for their career advancement. However, except for working on an inherited problem, all the items received very high scores, above 3.5 (halfway between “moderately important” and “quite important”). This shows that young professionals are highly concerned about every type of development practice.

The importance scores show no major differences across respondents who occupy different levels of the organizational hierarchy (nonmanagerial, managerial, or even C-level positions), meaning that these practices are equally important to young professionals no matter where they are in the corporate hierarchy, not only when they are nearing the executive ranks.

What can employers do? Given the importance that respondents put on high-stakes assignments, companies with flexible promotion paths where individuals are promoted when they are ready for a new job may be more successful at retaining this generation. Companies with rigid timelines will lose valuable talent, as was the case with one of our interviewees: “As a result of those projects, my prestige in the company went up. I expected a promotion and a salary increase. It took them more than six months to finally give me an offer, which was too late, because I had found another job.”

In smaller organizations where managerial- and executive-level positions are limited, frequent promotions may not be possible. These organizations need to give job challenge and voice to early-career employees and connect them with senior management in other ways. The Turkish joint venture of a global automobile company has been very successful in doing this: It developed “Cultural Change Clubs” — employee clubs that aim to use their research and activities to make changes in the corporate culture. The company encourages participation in the clubs, which employees choose according to their personal interests. Directors, middle-level managers, C-suite executives, and all junior employees work together in the clubs. The clubs are essential in helping young professionals to show and develop their leadership potential, get access to C-suite executives, and learn from working with senior colleagues from different areas. The organization of club events and the collaboration among different layers in the company also create an informal mentoring network for employees.

Another large, global professional-services network of accounting and consulting professionals organizes an event for graduates on the day they join the firm. Senior executives are invited to attend this event, which not only provides new hires a more powerful and authentic introduction to the culture of the company but also signals that they are valued. In addition, the company gives voice to early-career employees by inviting its trainees to the annual partner conferences, where they mix with the organization’s most senior people and discuss their experiences at the highest level. This practice makes early-career employees feel that they are making a difference in how the company is run.14

Where the Gaps Are

Gaps in Development Practices

View Exhibit

We also analyzed the gaps between the practices that respondents consider important for their career advancement and the actual practices that they perceive their employer to provide (both measured on a one-to-five-point scale). The difference between the level of importance of the practices to respondents and the “actual supply” of such practices was consistently positive. That is, organizations always provide a lower level of the development practices than corresponds to their importance to respondents.

We also analyzed the gaps between the practices that respondents consider important for their career advancement and the actual practices that they perceive their employer to provide (both measured on a one-to-five-point scale). The difference between the level of importance of the practices to respondents and the “actual supply” of such practices in their jobs was consistently positive; in other words, the extent to which organizations offer the practices to respondents is lower than their level of importance to respondents. We find the largest gaps between what respondents deem important and what their jobs offer them with respect to mentoring and coaching, formal training, support from the direct manager, and support from top management. (See “Gaps in Development Practices.”)

These are the practices that demand the largest financial and labor resources. The results are underscored by interview evidence. As one interviewee, a male IT manager, said:

I had a commercial function in my last job at a very dynamic company, so time to market was very important. Managers preferred to push people towards different responsibilities so that they learn by trial and error on the way. It would have taken too long to send people away for training and then figure out how to apply what they had learnt.

The gaps are much smaller with respect to various on-the-job development practices — jobs that inolve new, different responsibilities; influencing without authority; an inherited problem; or managing work group diversity. This is perhaps because contemporary jobs provide ample on-the-job development for incumbents, as the waves of organizational restructuring in the last several years have made jobs more complex and more diverse. In addition, corporations increasingly operate in an uncertain, highly volatile business environment where change is a constant.

Employers should pay attention to and try to close gaps between their development practices and employee needs. Lagging behind employee expectations signals that the employer does not understand or care about employees’ needs and does not support their personal growth.

Today’s young professionals have a new, technology-enabled outlook on job tenure and job searching. How do you retain this group of employees? Our study suggests that developmental practices are essential. Employers should not be afraid that such practices will cost them employees; on the contrary, employee development decreases job search behaviors and boosts organizational commitment. Employees crave development, especially assignments that offer clear responsibility and accountability for a project, and visibility to and support from senior managers. Organizations that are ready to give young professionals these forms of development will be the most likely to attract and keep them.

References (14)

1. T.J. Erickson, “Plugged In: The Generation Y Guide to Thriving at Work” (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2008).

2. J.M. Twenge, S.M. Campbell, B.J. Hoffman, and C.E. Lance, “Generational Differences in Work Values: Leisure and Extrinsic Values Increasing, Social and Intrinsic Values Decreasing,” Journal of Management 36, no. 5 (September 2010): 1117-1142.

3. Deloitte, “Has the Great Recession Changed the Talent Game? Six Guideposts to Managing Talent Out of a Turbulent Economy,” report, April 2010.

4. J.M. Twenge, W.K. Campbell, and E.C. Freeman, “Generational Differences in Young Adults’ Life Goals, Concern for Others, and Civic Orientation, 1966-2009,” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology 102, no. 5 (May 2012): 1045-1062.

5. J.M. Twenge and S.M. Campbell, “Generational Differences in Psychological Traits and Their Impact on the Workplace,” Journal of Managerial Psychology 23, no. 8 (2008): 862-877.

6. D.F. Larcker, A. McCall, and B. Tayan, “Equity on Demand: The Netflix Approach to Compensation,” Stanford Graduate School of Business case no. CG19 (2010).

7. J.M. Citrin and R.A. Smith, “The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers: The Guide for Achieving Success and Satisfaction” (New York: Crown Business, 2003).

8. K.S. Lyness and C.A. Schrader, “Moving Ahead or Just Moving? An Examination of Gender Differences in Senior Corporate Management Appointments,” Group & Organization Management 31, no. 6 (December 2006): 651-676.

9. H.-Y. Mao, “Voluntary Employer Changes and Salary Attainment of Managers,” International Journal of Human Resource Management 15, no. 1 (February 2004): 180-195.

10. W.H. Mobley, “Intermediate Linkages in the Relationship Between Job Satisfaction and Employee Turnover,” Journal of Applied Psychology 62, no. 2 (April 1977): 237-240.

11. R. Eisenberger, R. Huntington, S. Hutchison, and D. Sowa, “Perceived Organizational Support,” Journal of Applied Psychology 71, no. 3 (August 1986): 500-507.

12. C.D. McCauley, M.N. Ruderman, P.J. Ohlott, and J.E. Morrow, “Assessing the Developmental Components of Managerial Jobs,” Journal of Applied Psychology 79, no. 4 (August 1994): 544-560. Authorized approval granted for the Job Challenge Profile by the Center for Creative Leadership for research purposes (copyright© Pfeiffer/a Wiley Imprint).

13. D. Weiss and V. Molinaro, “Integrated Leadership Development,” Industrial and Commercial Training 38, no. 1 (2006): 3-11.

14. G. Plimmer, “We Need to Persuade Our Graduate Recruits to Stay,” Financial Times, Nov. 6, 2013.

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An Atmosphere of Coaching and What It Can Accomplish

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

There are some tasks that we can take care of once a year, like paying taxes or going to the doctor for a checkup. And there are other tasks that we need to perform more often, sometimes even daily. Ensuring superb performance from all of our employees falls into the latter category, especially during times of economic turbulence. Fortunately, managing—or coaching—our employees so that they can perform at the highest levels is more enjoyable than most annual tasks, and it results in increased organizational value.

All organizations are striving to improve employee productivity in order to grow overall business performance and corporate value. But the tool we most often use to improve performance—the performance review—really isn’t capable of helping us reach our overall goal. The reasons for its failure are numerous, but its biggest flaw is that it is the equivalent of looking in the rearview mirror to see where the employee has been—and perhaps failed. Why not look ahead, through the windshield, to see where the employee can successfully go? Additionally, since performance reviews occur once a year, if at all, they require us to look back over a long period of time. Any corrective solutions are too late to do any good.

Here is a helpful idea: Coach early and often. Early, to catch potential problems before they happen. Often, because continuous interest and feedback virtually guarantee better performance. Coaching employees provides counsel in real time and clearly identifies goals in the context of the employee’s job. Good coaches understand the current reality of the employee’s world, and are aware of issues that might prevent a worker from reaching his or her goals. Good coaching provides the development strategies that allow an employee to achieve his or her goals.

How do we get there from here?

How do we make the transition from once‐a‐year reviews and appraisals to an atmosphere of coaching? First, take a look at today’s annual performance practices and why they aren’t always the best. Then determine the steps necessary to progress in the right direction.

Acknowledge, Institute, Check

First, we have to acknowledge that good performance rarely happens by accident.

This is a hard truth for many people to digest. When we hire someone who has a solid work history, we are likely to let the new employee jump right in to the job with little thought to job training, job coaching skills or job fit. Ninety percent of 1,000 people interviewed last year, including managers and leaders, believe that leaders have little, if any, influence over employee behavior. This is not surprising, given that many leaders often view performance training as unnecessary. No matter what we call it—the performance appraisal, annual evaluation or rating—too many people view performance “training” as a chore they should do once every 365 days, right before giving someone a raise. If they could avoid the appraisal altogether, they would. But benign neglect is not the path to great results.

Second, leaders need to replace the old system with a new one.

Instituting this new system requires examining corporate culture and management strategy. This begins at the top, where cultural changes happen. It starts with the organization’s leaders clearly stating what the new system is—essentially defining and describing it—putting the plan in writing and then modeling the behavior. These steps will help managers buy in to the new system, which is necessary if actual changes are to occur.

Third, the new system needs to be checked and rechecked.

If you put a system in place and just expect that everything will be all right, you might be surprised by what is not all right. Busy managers sometimes cut corners, letting certain tasks or deadlines slide. Before long, others are mimicking their behavior. The system you put in place stops working, or never worked at all, because managers are not using it consistently. Always inspect what you expect.

What is wrong with the performance review and how can we fix it?

Let’s take a look at the current system of reviewing employee performance, as well as what’s wrong with that system. Typically an annual event, the review is founded on good motives. It stems from a desire to equitably rate employees based on their performance and potential. Managers often use this information to implement consistency. This intent is just fine, but the results often leave much to be desired. An annual performance review fails to produce the same results as performance coaching.

Painful comparisons. Some performance appraisals are comparative, ranking employees against each other based on performance. This encouragement of competition works for some groups some of the time—sales employees, perhaps—but it’s time to rethink this approach due to shifting work values, talent shortages and the need for innovation.

Lack of consistency. More and more managers consider performance appraisals a painful process that lacks consistency. They don’t like it, so they rush through the appraisal, squeezing what should be a 45‐minute session into 5 or 10 minutes, and they often do not say what they mean. At their best, performance appraisals are supposed to give the employee a chance to offer feedback. This does not work if the manager is hurrying to get it over with, or if the employee is too stunned to offer any response.

Surprise, surprise. The person on the receiving end, hungry for feedback that he or she has not received often—if at all—might discover that the tasks he or she performed weren’t the ones the manager wanted done. Or she may discover that she left out an essential step that no one ever told her about. Or that something she had said in a joking manner months ago misled or offended another employee. Performance coaching will help the manager address problems when they occur.

Coaching delivers major results

Bersin& Associates, experts in educating organizations about talent management, found that these seven processes ensure the best performance management:


Alignment of performance goals with organizational goals

Employee self‐assessments

360‐degree assessments

Manager appraisals

Competency assessments

Development planning

Do you see the common threads of coaching and development? Studies show that coaching delivers major results, offering 150 percent greater return on investment than performance appraisals. You read that correctly—150 percent! With that number in mind, coupled with the dread almost everyone feels regarding performance appraisals, why isn’t everyone coaching? Perhaps because they are not clear about how or when to do it.

In the performance appraisal process, the manager coaches in order to fix an issue after it has been identified in the appraisal. But what if the system provided for such feedback from the beginning? If we use feedback and development as tools to drive success instead of fixing problems, we have success from the start. It’s an easier way to teach and a more positive way to learn. And if such coaching takes place regularly, as it should, and is tailored to the employee and the specific job, it becomes part of the weave of our culture.

It is important for coaches to remember that one size does not fit all. Each employee is different, and employees work differently. The better the manager/coach understands the employee, the more effective the coaching and the results—more engaged and productive employees, and less turnover—will be.

Help the manager develop coaching skills

How do you transform managers into coaches? As noted earlier, building and changing the corporate culture begins at the top when business leaders adopt a system, define the system and model the system. Top leaders coach managers to be the kind of leaders the organization wants. Some of the major management coaching skills include:

•The ability to identify people who fit the job

•The ability to create strategies for employee development that inspire people to perform and achieve

These competencies set the foundation for development, but even the most able manager requires help in these areas. No manager is equipped with essential knowledge about every employee. And successful coaching requires specialized knowledge about:

•Each employee’s unique characteristics

•Each employee’s attributes in the context of his/her job and in the context of the environment

“Building and changing the corporate culture begins at the top when business leaders adopt a system,     define the system and model the system.

Job Fit

Knowing the answer to these five essential questions will help leaders understand job fit:

Does the employee fit in his/her current job?

What motivates the employee in the job, and how will he or she respond to stressful situations?

How compatible is the employee with the manager?

How compatible is the employee with his/her work teams?

How effective is the employee as a leader?

The first key component in knowing the employee—job fit—is best revealed by comparing his or her characteristics against those of known top performers in the role. Try this: List what you know about the employee—let’s call her Sarah—in one column. You will likely list her educational credentials, the companies she has worked for and the different jobs she has performed. Her history may suggest she fits the job. But the differences between top and average performers come down to more than just experience. They include such things as how well she makes decisions and how assertive she is.

If she lacks some of these attributes, and if top performers in the role have them, she is not necessarily a bad fit for the job. But once you identify the gaps, you can also determine where she needs coaching for improved work performance. Managers do not have to pull these attributes from thin air. An assessment analysis provides 20 “top performer” traits to look for in the areas of thinking style, behavioral traits and occupational interests.

Gaps indicate potential “discomfort zones,“ meaning that Sarah has the ability to behave in way that the job requires, but doing so may be outside her comfort zone, and this could be stressful for everyone. The role of the coach is to understand where these gaps may occur and to help Sarah bridge those gaps. The job fit assessment also measures thinking style, behavioral traits and occupational interests; compares candidates to job‐specific patterns in order to predict future success; and provides a foundation for ongoing employee performance management.


A key role of the coach is to help employees sail successfully through company turbulence—like turnover, budget reductions and doing more with fewer people. It’s crucial that coaches understand how each employee will react to the everyday “chills and thrills” roller coaster ride at work. Will a discussion about budget cuts in her department send Sarah into a door‐slamming fit? If she has to work with a new team on a project that requires her specific capabilities, how will she handle the change?

If Sarah handles multiple tasks with ease and is comfortable in a fast‐paced environment, she may balk at participating on a team whose leader and other members are more deliberate. Or if she is known for precision and careful decision‐making, she might need suggestions on how to fit in an environment in which members finish several projects a week and juggle multiple tasks at one time. A Profiles assessment will measure her:

Need for control

Social influence

Patience and ability to be a team player

Focus on precision and quality

Motivational intensity and focus on change

Knowing these things about Sarah will help the manager/coach understand how to motivate her and how she will respond under stress. The coaching report provides specific guidance for increasing performance.

Chemistry with the Manager

So far we have looked at Sarah and what motivates her, but it’s just as important to look at how she fits into the larger community. Relationships have an important impact on productivity, and they can create gains for the team and the organization. In order to make the most of these relationships, however, we have to identify potential conflict points in the relationship and understand how to avoid such issues. Knowing what to say and how to say it makes everything else possible.

An assessment provides specific recommendations regarding how the coach and employee can most effectively talk to each other. More specifically, this step:

Examines the working relationship between employee and manager in order to predict compatibility.

Identifies similarities and differences in styles and how they may result in conflict.

Provides specific recommendations for managers and employees so that they can best work together to improve performance.

Many employees quit their jobs due to a bad relationship with their manager or boss. Although there are many situational factors that can cause conflict in any work relationship, there are certain characteristics and behavioral tendencies that, if identified, can be used to enhance relationships, communication and management coaching styles. Assessments provide information that will help each manager understand his or her employees and increase overall productivity.

Chemistry with the Team

Although work teams are often informal groups, they are both ubiquitous and essential to the completion of most projects. Few employees are individual contributors to such projects.

For example, Sarah might come up with a great idea for a sales campaign that involves several departments. This means she will need to present the idea to both her own department head and to other department heads, and she will need help to do so. She might enlist such aid from a team she already works with, or she might need to create a brand new group that can help with research, writing, graphic design, and organizational and speaking skills in order to get the idea ready to be presented.

The team will have its own dynamics, and communication and good attitudes about working together will be critical to its success. All team members will have to buy into Sarah’s ideas, so she may need the help of a coach/manager to determine the behavioral and working characteristics of team members, and to identify potential strengths and weaknesses.

Some of the things the coach must know about the team include:

Are its members—and Sarah—workers who need to be in control?

What characteristics is the team lacking?

How do we avoid or resolve potential conflicts?

Knowing these things in advance and putting the right team together will ensure that Sarah’s idea is presented well.

Leadership Ability

The last step in coaching‐based performance management helps determine whether Sarah has leadership ability. To learn this, we examine her through the prism of eight specific leadership competencies and 18 skills. These include:

Personal development—Does she demonstrate commitment and seek improvement?

Communication—How well does she process information and listen to others?

Leadership ability—Does she instill trust, provide direction and delegate responsibility?

Adaptability—How well does she adjust to circumstances? Does she think creatively?

Relationship building—Is she effective at establishing personal relationships and helping her team succeed?

Task management—How efficiently and competently does she work?

Production—Does Sarah act, or does she wait? Does she get results?

Development of others—Does she cultivate the talents of others and successfully motivate     them?

Once he/she  has the answers to these questions, the coach will know Sarah well. A report based on the answers will give him specific recommendations and strategies to help him develop her leadership skills. Getting the best performance from employees anytime—during periods of great economic performance or even during downturns—is ultimately the responsibility of the leaders of an organization. Once a manager discovers the value of coaching early and often, he will see how a looking‐through‐the‐windshield approach is far more effective than looking backward at what has gone wrong during the last year. The most effective approach requires:

Coaching tailored to the individual with the goal of increasing productivity.

Coaching and development based on insight about the employee’s competencies within the context of the job, and working with her team and her manager

Coaching Makes a Difference

Many organizations rely on annual performance evaluations to make important decisions concerning the future of an employee and his or her role in the organization. The evaluation is based on events that happened in the past and is usually standardized across the organization. Important decisions are made in meetings that often last less than half an hour.

There is an alternative to using a performance evaluation that will help increase productivity through consistent feedback and encouragement: coaching. Performance evaluations often look at problems or issues that happened in the past that could have been prevented with coaching. Coaching is a consistent and reliable management style that creates an open line of communication and an opportunity for growth.

Transition from Annual Performance Evaluations to an Atmosphere of Coaching

  1. 1. Realize the flawed nature of the performance appraisals
  2. 2. Take the steps to get out of your current situation
  3. 3. Identify the common threads of coaching and development
  4. 4. Learn to identify job fit and specialized knowledge about employees
  5. 5. Determine job fit and compatibility with co‐workers

Making the transition from performance evaluations to performance coaching can be an uphill battle. Using tools—such as assessments—to help identify behavioral tendencies of employees can help managers learn how to coach well. Coaching not only changes the culture of an organization, but it increases performance and leads to a significant return on investment.

(c) TABIC 2011

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Leadership and the fate of General McChrystal

Leadership brings with it many levels of responsibility. The recent fall from grace of our field commander in Afghanistan demonstrates, in my view, that the inability to effectively carry out every aspect of a leadership role, despite your talent of prior accomplishments, is what separates successful and effective leaders from others. In other words, it is meeting peak performance requirements that makes the difference.

General McChrystal had a long and distinguished record as a military leader, and deserves praise for all he has done to defend our coubtry and enhance our national security. Yet, in the end, he did not meet the fullrequirements as a member of the national security team to respect and support his peers, his bosses and team agreements. He also dis not fully carry out his military oath to respect civilian control of policy once it h as been decided. This does not mean he is/was a terrible leader. For many years and through many situations his derring do, full speed ahead, take charge attitude and behavior made him a top performer, which is why he had four stars on his shoulder.

But peak performance in his most recent assignment required more focus on ambiguity, patience with non-military personnel, and the ability to bite your tongue in certain situations. So, in my view, the general failed to meet peak performance requirements, and sealed his own fate.

Please help discuss whether this notion of coming up short in the full job requirements means limited opportunities for remaining a leader, or if there may be other criteria for successful, long-term leadership than always meeting peak performance requirements.

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Changing times mean evaluating your business processes

June 23, 2010 1 comment
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Grow your business with Talent Assessment and Business Improvement Consulting

A new business economy means we all need new tools to make our businesses as effective as possible. Welcome to the Talent Assessment and Business Improvement Consulting blog where you’ll find tips to help you grow as a leader.

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