"I hate role playing." How many times have you heard that?
"If you've ever tried to help your staff improve their front-line sales and service skills, it's probably too many to count," acknowledges Mark Arnold, president of On the Mark Strategies in Carrollton, Texas. "In a recent training session I conducted with one of my clients, we had employees practice delivering certain service and brand messages in the form of role play. It was the worst part of their day!"
Role playing can be a powerful tool for improving sales and service skills. By acting out real-world situations employees can "experience" specific interactions in a safe, controlled environment. "If your employees are not practicing fundamental and advanced techniques, don't expect your cross-sales numbers to improve," notes Arnold.
As the saying goes, "practice makes perfect" and role playing is really all about employees practicing sales and service techniques. To get employees enthused about role playing, Arnold offers these tips:
Set up the Role Play Correctly
Tim Wackel, a popular speaker and sales training expert, says, "Spend more time up front setting expectations." He suggests using a well-defined role play and getting buy-in to do the role play.
"In some ways, you start with the end in mind – yes, that overused phrase," Arnold says. "You set the table by saying something like, ‘How many of you are scratch golfers today?' Then say, ‘We could spend the next four hours of my telling you how to play golf or we could spend time practicing how to be a better golfer. Which do you think is best?'" That simple illustration shows why role playing is so important when it comes to training.
Use the Beatles and Michael Jordan as Examples
In his book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell emphasizes what he calls the "10,000-hour rule." He notes, "researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours . . . ten thousand hours is the magic number of greatness . . . practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good."
One example Gladwell cites is the Beatles. Gladwell notes the amount of time the Beatles spent in Hamburg, Germany, prior to becoming famous crafting their art. "It wasn't just talent—it was also hard work," Arnold says. "Of course, during Michael Jordan's career he was famously known for being the first in the gym and the last to leave."
If practicing was important enough for the Beatles and Michael Jordan, it should be important to front-line employees as well.
Change the Words "Role Play" to Practice
Sometimes it's just the wording. "Say ‘role play' to front-line employees and immediately many of them will break out in hives. So never say ‘role play.' Just call it practicing," says Arnold. And as noted with the Beatles and Michael Jordan examples, no one improves unless they practice. Growing up many children practiced sports or playing a musical instrument. But as adults and when it comes to our jobs, we stop practicing. Why?
"As a personal example, I can't expect to be a better speaker unless I work at it. And not just once in a while—every day and every week. I have to carve out time on a regular basis to practice," Arnold says. "When I'm standing in front of the mirror in a hotel room reviewing my notes the night before a presentation, I don't call it ‘role paying'—it's practicing."
Make Employees Feel Safe
Sometimes employees are scared, especially about being embarrassed in front of their peers. "Role playing—okay, practicing—will never work if fear is present," Arnold says. "When possible, keep the groups small. Maybe even go first yourself to set an example. Make the environment as fun as possible."
Mark Arnold (www.markarnold.com) is an acclaimed brand expert and strategic planner helping credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Contact Arnold at 214-538-4147 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This story appeared in Branch Manager's Letter at www.branchmanagersletter.com and is reprinted with permission. Contact publisher Lana J. Chandler at 304-343-0206 or Lana@BranchManagersLetter.com.
An effective employee incentive or bonus program centers around transparency—which is a two-way street, says Julie Ferguson, owner of JRF Consulting Services.
For success, you work closely with your manager to understand performance goals and develop strategies on how to accomplish them. Often, achieving your goals results in monetary or other rewards. Your discussions should always include strategies on how to balance sales rewards with appropriate solutions for members.
Part of a transparent approach involves working as a team, and communicating progress toward goals. This approach levels the playing field and assures that your colleagues and management can recognize you for your hard work, according to Ferguson. “All you’re doing is raising the bar,” she says.
Overall, about two-thirds of full-time credit union employees are eligible this year for bonuses (after-the-fact rewards for a job well done) or incentives (awards tied to preset criteria), according to CUNA’s 2014-2015 Staff Salary Report.
The best employee incentive/bonus programs follow these principles, says Ferguson:
CUNA’s HR/TD Council sponsors the Excellence Awards, a program to recognize and honor credit unions that exemplify excellence in the human resources and training disciplines and serves to promote credit union philosophies through people leadership. In this virtual roundtable, you will hear from winners as they provide an overview of the programs that won them the awards in 2014. In addition, learn about how the program works and how you can participate.
During this roundtable, you will hear how:
Kristen Davidson, Training & Development Manager at Consumers Credit Union
Ken Kelly, Training and Development Manager, Red Canoe
Cindy Swigert, Chief Human Resources Officer, United FCU
In these updates I often tell you what you should say in disciplinary documentation or performance reviews. The other day I read an interesting article from an author who focused on what you should NOT say in such documentation. Here is the list from the author: “(1) Personal opinions; (2) Rumors or speculation about the employee’s personal life; (3) Theories about why the employee behaves a certain way. (Don’t practice psychiatry without a license.) For example, don’t call an employee “crazy.” Instead, document behaviors; (4) Legal conclusions. (Don’t practice law without a license.) For example, instead of saying, “Your conduct was sexual harassment.” consider saying “We have concluded that you violated our sexual harassment policy.” (which doesn’t necessarily mean that the law has been violated), or “Your massaging Jane’s shoulders on two occasions was inappropriate and must not be repeated.” This makes for a better defense should the complainant sue for sexual harassment; (5) Information about the employee’s family, ethnic background, beliefs, or medical history; (6) Your opinions about the employee’s career prospects; (7) Unsubstantiated accusations; (8) Promises or threats; (9) “Always” or “never.” For example, “Mike is always late.”” And here is a bonus one from me: (10) do not use words or phrases that are “code” for protected classes, e.g. referring to someone as “old school,” “deadwood” or “needing new blood” could be code for age bias. Sometimes what we do not do is as important as what we do.
Be Alert to State Employment Law Changes
It is very common today for an employer to have employees living/working in multiple states. Such employers must stay informed about changes in the employment laws of the states where they have employees. Changes commonly occur after elections. For example after the November 2014 elections, some additional states (besides Colorado and Washington) now allow for the recreational use of marijuana (Oregon, Alaska, District of Columbia) and some states have raised their minimum wages (Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota). Even cities get in on the action, for example voters in Oakland, California, passed a minimum wage and paid sick leave law. Do you have a mechanism in place to stay informed about these changes in the employment laws of the states and cities where your employees work?
Depression at Work Can Be a Legal Issue
The holiday season we now are in is often one of great joy and celebration, but it can also be a time of great sadness and depression for some employees. According to a recent national SHRM article, 40% of employees surveyed say that they have missed work due to depression. See: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/safetysecurity/articles/pages/employees-missed-work-depression.aspx. Depending on the nature and severity of the depression involved, such employees might be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or similar laws. When depression rises to the level of a serious health condition, eligible employees working for covered employers must be advised of their rights to take FMLA leave (up to 12 weeks in any 12 month period). Depression also could constitute a disability because it can be an impairment that substantially limits major life activities (e.g. sleeping, concentrating, communicating, working). If it is covered by the ADA, an employer must work with the involved employee to determine if the condition can be reasonably accommodated, e.g. with leave, schedule alterations, etc. Employers often forget that FMLA and ADA cover not just physical injuries and illnesses, but also mental conditions like depression. Do not make that mistake with your employees.
Final Regulations Out for New Federal Contractor Minimum Wage
If you are a federal contractor, you may have to pay your employees more next year due to an Executive Order. What are Executive Orders? They are presidential enactments on how the agencies of the federal Executive branch should operate (e.g. with whom and under which circumstances should the government enter into a contract). They often result from gridlock with Congress, but an Executive Order is not as far-reaching as Congressional enactments. In February of 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring certain federal contractors pay employees a minimum wage of $10.10/hr. This order applies to construction, service and concession contracts. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued proposed regulations implementing this order in June of 2014 and final regulations were issued by DOL on October 7, 2014. The new minimum wage will apply to new contracts entered into in 2015. Note that many states are likely to impose an even higher minimum wage, which will apply instead of the one in the order. You can read about the new final regulations here: http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/whd/WHD20141888.htm.
Employer Holiday Party Tips
This update appears regularly here at this time of the year because…‘tis the season for lights, joy, peace, carols and warnings from employment lawyers about employer holiday parties. I have read lots of recent articles warning what you should do or not do on this topic. Why? Firm parties are employer events and employers may be liable for what happens there. Here are summaries of three of the best tips I have read. First, politely but clearly remind people that while you want them to have fun, you also expect that they will behave themselves at work parties just like they would at work. In other words, being at the firm holiday party does not give you immunity from sexual harassment. Second, recognize diversity. A lot of your employees celebrate Christmas, but probably not all of them do. Include other related holidays too and have an all-holiday party so all your employees know they are welcome. Finally, beware and be intelligent about the service of alcohol, because it creates the risk of too much reduced inhibition and it may cause problems if people drink and drive. If you do serve alcohol, be mindful of the risks and get legal advice on the best way to try to mitigate them.
Michael Patrick O'Brien is an employment attorney with Utah law firm of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough (www.joneswaldo.com). He also serves as the Legal and Legislative Director for Utah’s Society for Human Resource Management chapter. Contact him at 801-534-7315 or email@example.com.
Joining a new company can be a stressful experience. Every workplace has its own set of rules, a distinct corporate culture, and a unique cast of characters.
Not surprising, then, that 22% of new employees leave companies within the first year, which proves costly from a financial sense but also drains staff resources and morale.
Business coach and author Jen Lawrence offers five tips to make your credit union a welcoming environment to new hires—and to remind veteran staff of their value, too:
1. If you’re happy and you know it, tell them about it. New employees want assurances that you recognize their talents and are excited to have them on board. Let them know you are keen to see how they can shape the organization.
2. Connect the dots. Everyone wants to feel part of something bigger. That’s a key contributor to job satisfaction. Show the employee how to apply his or her skills to advance the organization’s mission, vision, and goals.
3. Assign a relevant project. New employees, and those reassigned from other departments or branches, often feel lost at the outset because they lack institutional knowledge.
Put them at ease by assigning a project that plays to their strengths and builds a sense of competence. Allowing a new employee to achieve results right away will also help her build credibility with members and colleagues.
4. Give the new employee an exit strategy—literally. It’s easy to forget that new hires don’t possess everyday workplace knowledge you take for granted. The learning curve is steep enough. Demonstrate how to swipe your key card to use a certain building exit. Show your colleagues the location of the break room. Invite them to join in staff traditions, like wearing funky socks on Fridays.
5. Appoint a mentor. Often, someone in human resources or a hiring manager will appoint an experienced staffer to show a new employee the ropes. This person must have both the time and the inclination to take on the task—and make your new hire feel at home.
(Via Credit Union Front Line newsletter)