Tuesday, 18 March 2014

What challenges do Internal Communication professionals face in 2014?

A recent study, State of the Sector, by Gatehouse asked Internal Communication professionals what their priorities were in 2014.
"The four top answers were similar to 2013: improving electronic channels (61%), leadership communication (61%), developing/refreshing an IC strategy (60%), and improving communication planning (52%). Enhancing line manager communication, building the IC team / capability and restructuring the IC function appear to have lost ground over the past 12 months."
Clearly more progress needs to be made in 2014 in areas such as improving electronic communication channels, leadership communication, developing an Internal Communication strategy, and improving communication planning.  But how do you develop your Internal Communication strategy?  Or how to you improve your electronic communication channels?

Capita Learning and Development offers a Diploma and Masters degree in Internal Communication accredited by Kingston University, designed to help Internal Communication professionals face these challenges. The Diploma and Masters programmes equip students with a depth of knowledge about communication, people and organisations, providing the knowledge and gravitas to operate at a senior level.

Internal Communication blog - Rachel Miller
Click to watch video

Meet Rachel Miller, an Internal Communications Diploma attendee, and Director of All Things IC. Rachel tells us more about what she learned on the course,  the advantages of taking an Internal Communication qualification and how it helped her start her own Internal Communication consultancy.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

How to face challenges at work and beyond

We have all experienced a number of challenges in our professional lives, some of which you may have handled exceptionally well, others you may have wished you ‘knew then what you know now.’ However, all in all wherever you are in the world and whichever stage you are at in your career, challenges are an everyday part of the corporate world. Today’s blog post sets out to create a sense of awareness and how you can let challenges be your biggest strength, not your worst enemy. 

The ideas in this article relate to people, circumstances, sales and even transcend to our personal lives – there is no right or wrong situation for using this advice, just take what you feel is right for you.
Face challenges at home and work
Face challenges at home and work

Challenges are not going away – ever

A great place to start is by understanding that challenges are not going to go away. It it true that the individual challenges we face will eventually subside, especially if you work to overcome them, but challenges as a whole are here to stay.

When we take time out to appreciate that there is no finish line and when you complete one challenge another will soon come along, only then can you choose to ask the question that very few people actually ask themselves:

“How good am I at facing and finding solutions to challenges?”

Then you can follow up by asking:

“How do I become even better at facing and overcoming challenges?”

By asking the above two questions you are actually accessing the resourceful part of your brain and empowering yourself to come up with better ways to deal with a whole host of challenges you may come across. 

The problem is not the problem, but the way you think about it

Unfortunately, many people instead of asking resourceful questions when faced with a real challenge ask; ‘why this challenge/problem is happening to them,’ and if you really dwell on this ‘why’ question it will do the opposite of accessing the resourceful part of your brain and can keep you stuck in the same problem for much longer.

It is really important to remember that ‘no challenge or problem ever has any emotion,’ it’s you who adds that part.  Should you feel bad about challenges or problems then the chances are the challenge will feel more like a major problem.  However, should you choose a feeling of inspiration and confidence, this could in fact turn the challenge into your biggest strength!

Pain is a far greater motivation than pleasure

Understandably, it is not always easy to immediately feel good about a challenge you have to face in the workplace or to switch on your resourceful state of mind.  Yet, consider that pain is a far greater motivation than pleasure, especially if we channel that motivation in the right direction.  Think about this for a moment: have you ever said to somebody that if they just focused their energy on what’s good in their life instead of putting so much into what’s bad they could in fact be very successful?  It’s exactly the same when it comes to your individual challenges too.  Next time you are faced with a challenge that makes you feel a little ‘ouch, this hurts,’ remember to ask yourself how you can turn that ‘ouch,’ into inspiration and action.

Written by Pete Scott, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mindset: How People React Differently

We all think differently, we all have our own unique view of the world and attach completely different meanings to different subjects, ideas and experiences. In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) terms, ‘the map is not the territory’.  None of us think about any situation in exactly the same way.  This is because we all have our own unique values, beliefs and needs.

The iceberg, used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, represents how our results are driven by our behaviours which are derived from our emotions which are created by our thoughts.  Therefore what we achieve is driven by what we think.

Behaviour and though processes
People react and internalise situations differently

In order to change someone’s results, we need to dive beneath the surface and change the way they think. Most managers tend to float on the surface and concentrate on the performance itself. This usually results in a directive or advisory approach.  When you understand how the brain works, then you will understand why these traditional approaches are ineffective long term.

When you recognise that everybody has a different view of the world, then it would follow that what is right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another.  Think about this the next time you want to offer your advice to somebody.  Yes, it may be good advice for you, and it may be what you would do in that situation, but is it right for them?

Start taking note of conversations over the next month, conversations that you have at home or work or with friends, but also other people’s conversations (honestly, you are not being nosey, you just have a genuine interest in people!)

  • Note how often people are not always talking about the same thing even though they think they are.
  • Listen to how people’s opinions differ. 
  • Notice how people get frustrated when they can’t get their point across or the other person doesn’t quite get it.
  • How often do people give, a ‘whatever’ answer and just quit trying to explain?
  • How often do people give their advice only to have it shrugged off?
  • How often do you receive advice that fall on deaf ears?

You will start to smile to yourself as you notice different points of view on the same subject, or different meanings assigned to the same conversation. The next time someone asks you for advice, try asking them questions to help them think it through and come up with their own answers.

Yvonne Bleakley
Learning Consultant, Capita Learning & Development

Monday, 3 February 2014

How to empower your staff

One of the most challenging skills to learn as a manager is how to empower your staff members. Some may say that it is something that comes with time and experience where others will state you have to be great with people in order to empower your team members.

All of the above are true on some level but experience does not necessarily equate to wisdom and being great with people does not necessarily mean being great at empowering people.

In order for the truth, we must dig a little deeper.

How to empower your staff - Capita Learning & Development
Empower your staff

What is empowerment?

Empowerment is certainly a word that is thrown around in the corporate world but when we really look at what empowerment means, it’s actually a number of things.  First of all it is knowing that your staff members are doing the work not just because they need to or have been told to, but because they want to.  Great work comes from empowered and inspired staff.  This means they have the right amount of management and freedom to feel safe but motivated in their job role.  Secondly, empowerment means the individual wants to continually improve, learn and develop.

The 80/20 philosophy

As a manager it can be a challenge to balance your time in the business, especially in today’s working world. Yet, this ‘balance’ of time is crucial if you wish to have a team who will work hard (and smart) for you day in and day out.

The 80/20 philosophy is based upon how much time you spend doing admin versus how much you are leading and motivating your workforce.

Which way round do you feel is more effective for empowering your staff?

80% leading and motivating with 20% administration or 80% administration with 20% leading and motivating.

There is no exact science behind this philosophy and it’s appreciated that many managers must spend a lot of time on the admin side of their job.  However, this can work as a simple reminder that people are inspired by people and great managers are remembered for how they lead, not how much administration work they do.

How much time are you spending hiding behind your computer?

The majority of people when interviewing for a management position state that they are great with people. Perhaps you stated it when you interviewed for your current position and it may have even been what tipped the balance for you being selected.

A simple but highly effective tip can be to put a post-it note on your computer screen that says something like the following “how many hours have you hidden behind your computer today?”  This can then act as a motivator to go and take a walk around your office to see how your team members are doing, engage in conversation or just to stretch your legs.

Important to remember, do not use this tip to micromanage your staff or be over the top with your support. Just do it because you want to do it, nothing more is required.

Train and develop

Great companies understand the importance of investing time into their most valuable resource, their people and there is no greater way of supporting your team members than continued learning and development. Bruce Lee had the perfect analogy and that was to be like water.  Water when moving stays fresh, it’s only when it stops that it becomes stale or stagnant.  The same can be said for the workplace, team members who are committed to learning and developing themselves stay fresh, however it’s down to the management to lead this process.

Learn to trust

Overall, empowering staff is a continual quest (with no finish line) of learning to trust your staff to do the best job possible because they want to do it.  Managers are always remembered for either making their staff members time at work great or tough.  Perhaps you are already that great manager but it’s always a wonderful thing to do to gently remind yourself that your success is a reflection of your team members' success and that of course takes trust, support and empowerment.

Written by Pete Scott, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

How employees ‘pulling a sickie’ are damaging your business’s health

The first Monday in February has now become ‘National Sickie Day’, the day when, traditionally, statistics have shown the largest number of workers call in sick. Reasons can be attributed to the winter cold and flu season, post-Christmas blues, bad weather or the long length of time until the next public holiday – or even these ridiculous excuses. Although this whimsical term makes it seem like a harmless event, how does it affect the industry?

Managing Absence in the workplace
National Sickie Day

Whatever reason a worker gives for not coming into work, managers must be able to distinguish between those with legitimate ill-health and those who have decided to ‘pull a sickie’. This is increasingly becoming a problem, especially in large businesses where some feel they can get away with it. According to a study conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), over a fifth of employers perceived that some of their workforce felt entitled to paid days off ‘sick’ as an additional perk to increase their annual leave.1

In 2013, after a slight dip in reported cases, the proportion of non-genuine illness as a reason for not attending work has increased to around 26% 2, so the need to be able to manage employees’ absences fairly and consistently is a key skill to master.

Left unchecked, absenteeism can cause damage to an organisation. This includes reduced team morale where they have been let down by a colleague, it costs the business money in terms of lost productivity, potentially lower quality work produced due to increased workload or a skills gap of the covering employee, and drains management time as they must reorganise work and discipline the errant worker.

Of course on the opposite side of the coin is ‘presenteeism’ where workers will soldier on even in the face of illness, so as not to lag behind in their work or there is a culture where certain individuals are afraid to be off sick. This can be just as damaging to productivity as workers are there “in body but not in spirit.3

In order to address these issues, a manager must be confident and well-informed of the courses of action available, as well as relevant legislation in place to help them.  Absenteeism must be addressed as soon as possible, and measures should be put in place to prevent it from becoming a problem. However, this can easily be achieved with some knowledge and by following the correct guidelines. For example, by setting up an absence management policy in the workplace, managers will be able to monitor and reduce absence and let employees know what is expected of them. Steps such as conducting return to work interviews will allow for a discussion of the cause of absence (acting as a deterrent but also as a form of support), as well as creating an environment to uncover any underlying issues which can then be dealt with in the early stages. With correct procedures in place, a manager can go a long way towards maintaining a happy workforce without damage to morale or bottom lines.

Capita Learning & Development offers a training course in Absence Management, which will help you develop and manage your workforce, reducing unplanned absences and increasing productivity.

[1] CBI, ‘Fit for purpose’ Absence and workplace health survey 2013, p13
[2] CIPD and Simply Health Limited 2013, Annual Report 2013, p20
[3] http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/news/1077290/stress-presenteeism-sapping-uk-productivity-research

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Happy New Year!

What goals have you set for yourself this year?  How determined are you to achieve them?

Capita Learning & Development New Year's Resolutions
New Year's Resolutions 2014

It is estimated that 70% of people who set New Year’s resolutions will have abandoned them by the 3rd week of January and of the 30% that don’t, 90% of them will have given up by June?

So, what can you do now to ensure that you arrive at the end of 2014, in the top 5% of those that do follow through and achieve what they set out to achieve at the beginning of the year?

Follow my top tips for setting and achieving goals and notice the difference when you see yourself still on track as the months go by.

Step One
Always write your goals down on paper.  It is proven that you are 70% more likely to achieve your goal if it is written down.

Step Two
Use my SPADE criteria when setting your goals:

S stands for specific.  Be as specific as you can.  If your goal is to earn more money, then exactly how much?  If you earned an extra £1 you would be earning more so your subconscious needs to know exactly how much more.
P is for present and positive tense.  Write your goals as if they are happening now and always in the positive so don’t write what you don’t want, write what you do.
A is for achievable. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure.
D is for date. When are you going to achieve this by?
E is for emotional evidence.  You need an end step so that you know that you have got your goal and put some feelings into it.

Step Three
Now you have your goal you need to break it down into manageable milestones and diarise them.

Step Four
Read your goals every day and visualise yourself achieving them.  Imagine that it’s happening now. Remember, you get what you focus on so focus on what you want to be happening.

Step Five
Take action.  Ask yourself everyday, “what can I do to get me closer to my goal.”  “Is what I am doing now moving me closer or further from my goal?”

Step Six
ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

Yvonne Bleakley
Learning Consultant, Capita Learning & Development

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Does analysis paralysis prevent you from managing effectively?

The ability to make decisions that are timely and powerful is a critical management skill; being overly contemplative and over-analysing a situation can be damaging as Shakespeare’s Hamlet would attest to.

So how do managers know that chosen decisions are the best ones and avoid falling into the trap of just “making a decision for the sake of it, because any decision is better than none?”




To help managers produce effective decisions there are a few simple rules:

Plan, plan, plan
A common error is reactive decision making - a situation that at best ends with a serendipitous result but more often with a poor outcome.  Planning allows for decisions to be made simply, comfortably and in an effective way.

Planning provides benefits to decisions:

  • opportunity to establish independent goals through a conscious and directed series of choices
  • a standard of measurement of whether there is movement towards or away from a desired result 
  • finite (often limited) resources can be committed in a structured and orderly way

Do your research but avoid information overload 
Information overload can be defined as "a gap between the volume of information and the tools needed to assimilate it”; the more information overload, the worse the quality of decisions made. The overload of information can be related to problems processing and tasking, which impacts decision making.

  • There are a number of factors concerning information overload and consideration of these may help focus information collection and processing:
  • Personal Information characteristics - qualifications, experiences and attitudes 
  • Information Characteristics - information quality, quantity and frequency 
  • Tasks and Process - standardised procedures or methods for gathering information and undertaking work 
  • Organisational Design - organisation processing capacity and relationship - both of which affect the ability to collect, assimilate and analyse information
  • Information Technology - IT management, and general technology that assist with both collection and analysis

Keep decisions rational
It is often considered that people are rational, free to make their own decisions and therefore behave according to the rational choice theory - making decisions by determining the likelihood of a potential outcome, the value of the outcome and then multiplying the two. However, in reality, there are some factors that affect decision making abilities and cause people to make irrational decisions.

Cognitive and personal biases can lead to decisions being affected and it is therefore important to be aware, to understand and to reduce (or eliminate) these.

Some common biases in decision making include:

  • Selective search for evidence – the tendency to be willing to gather facts that support certain conclusions but disregard other facts that support different conclusions 
  • Premature termination –  the tendency to accept the first alternative that looks like it might work 
  • Cognitive inertia – the unwillingness to change existing thought patterns in the face of new circumstances 
  • Selective perception – screening out information considered unimportant 
  • Wishful thinking – a tendency to want to see things in a positive light 
  • Recency – the tendency to place more attention on more recent information and either ignore or forget more distant information 
  • Repetition bias – the willingness to believe what one has been told most often and by the greatest number of different sources 

Use a logical approach
Within decision making, managers must consider a structured approach that ensures:

  • Objectives are first established 
  • Objectives are then classified and prioritised by importance 
  • Alternative actions are developed 
  • The alternative(s) are evaluated against all the objectives 
  • The alternative that is able to achieve all the objectives is the tentative decision 
  • The tentative decision is evaluated for more possible consequences 
  • The decisive actions are taken together with any additional actions required to prevent any adverse consequences from becoming problems and re-starting both problem analysis and decision making.

Building effective decision making steps
Managers do not work in isolation in decision making and are most effective when working with the team when implementing the logical approach above. This enables a collaborative approach to developing the following steps - increasing awareness of and overcoming any possible social, cognitive and cultural obstacles along the way.

  1. Establish team ethos -  creating and nurturing the relationships, norms, and procedures that will influence how situations are understood and communicated 
  2. Increase group perception -  recognising that a situation exists that needs a decision exists 
  3. Interpret - identifying competing explanations for the situation and evaluating the drivers behind those interpretations 
  4. Judgment - sorting various possible actions or responses and determining which is more justifiable 
  5. Motivation - examining the competing commitments and then prioritising and committing to team values/needs over other personal or social values 
  6. Action - following through with action that supports the more justified decision 
  7. Reflect on action

So, does analysis paralysis prevent effective management? It does – but following these rules will help to overcome potential decision making obstacles and prevent this scourge of the well managed organisation.

Written by David Mathieson, a learning consultant at Capita Learning & Development.