Friday, August 29, 2008

Getting Ahead with Knowledge and Skill upgrade

In today’s fast changing and competitive business environment, just being good is not good enough. Organizations want their employees to excel and keep ahead of the competition and one of the ways to do so is by constant skill and knowledge upgradation of employees and workers.

This has now become a key issue as more and more organizations are going global and require people who are at least at par with the global world, if not ahead. Thus given the highly competitive market scenario that is prevalent globally, constant upgradation of skills and knowledge is a crucial prerequisite for all professionals at all levels to remain productive in their role and the respective positions.

Skill sets or requirements vary from role to role and are different for different departments. For example, at the entry or the junior level, execution and supervisory skills are most relevant while supervisory and leadership skills are more important at the senior levels. But soft skills are those essential skills that are required by everyone.

Generally, organizations may either provide training themselves or ask their employees to do the training and keep themselves on the top of competition. Besides training and new online certifications, companies are also opening up knowledge banks within the firms to enable the use of best practices and learning by all members or employees. Since it is not possible to send every employee for retraining or new courses, this knowledge transfer within the company helps them to achieve the purpose. Upgradation of skills thus can take place through training and seminars. Sharing of good practices within the organization and creating a knowledge bank which can be accessed by all employees is another technique to increase the skill sets of employees.

The Human resource department plays an important role in this area by evaluating employee performance by appraisal system. Through appraisals, the HR managers identify the strengths and weaknesses of each and every individual employee and provide recommendations for their training etc. Naturally, it is important to note that trainings or skill upgradation should be provided in areas where a need has been identified, and not just to meet the number of training hours. Moreover, it should help the employee to perform his/her current task in a better and more productive manner. Thus the training should be in line with the individual’s area of interest and responsibility, to ensure that there is maximum retention and usage of learning by the employees.

Job rotation is another way of training employees in different skill sets. In today’s highly competitive environment, it helps to have cross functional teams which can undertake various projects and job functions at different times. Thus horizontal rotation, is one of the most effective manner in which the person profile and role profile can be matched. It can be used as an opportunity to recognize an employee’s talent and potential for higher or different positions. Moreover, it also provides useful insights in determining future growth prospects of the employee and help to start grooming him/her for future position by identifying the training needs in particular areas.

Online learning programs are another popular options available to employees for upgrading their skills. These courses are generally modular and allow flexibility in terms of choosing and learning particular areas. The online tests and exams provide the necessary feedback to employees on their performance. These courses enable employees to take the course at their own convenience and speed.

Thus it is important for employers to encourage their subordinates to constantly upgrade their skills and encourage them to share their expertise amongst each other. On the other hand, an employee can hone his/her skills by making use of different opportunities given by the employers or on their own as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Networking and Socializing Skills

Good networking and socializing is a prerequisite for most of the business professionals. An informal meeting or chats go a long way in developing potential business partners or clients. But there are a lot amongst us who are mortally afraid to go out and network with people outside their offices and home.

But do not worry. These are not the skills which we are born with. These soft skills can be cultivated with proper practice and can be learned and polished.

Small talk or socializing as it is popularly known as helps to establish connections and to determine commonalities, an integral part of doing business in some cultures. Therefore, follow the below mentioned tips to overcome your fear of meeting people.

1. It is important to understand the basic nuances of starting and facilitating introductions that help to generate conversation. The basic rule is to talk about other people’s interest rather than your own and this can be done by asking the right questions. These questions should be framed in such a way that they further the discussion in a meaningful way.

2. Thus the second rule is to be prepared. It is important that you know some background about the other person and thus it helps to be prepared for such meetings in advance especially if you are a newcomer and are struggling to establish yourself in the field.

3. Knowing how to work the room so you meet the people you came to see is a proficiency that will serve you well in all areas of your professional and personal life. A good conversationalist can always get more from the interaction and can effectively turn the conversation towards his interest.

4. It is a good idea to keep yourself abreast of current happening in and around the world or the news and events concerning your area of business. That gives you something to talk about as you start the conversation. Once the ice is broken, you can gradually move on to topics that are upper most in your mind.

5. Spontaneity and sincerity should reflect in your manners and conversation. Though it is good to be prepared in advance by knowing who is coming to an event, faking an interest cannot really take you anywhere. You need to be genuinely interested in the other people and their interests. Only then, will they take you seriously. This is especially important as everyone meets many new people in such events and it is difficult for them to remember all of them. So, unless you have made a good impression, you are most likely to be forgotten the very next day.

6. Another thing to remember is that even if you have made a good impression but you do not follow it up, the other person is most likely to forget you. So, the key to successful networking is timely and consistent follow-up. Meeting someone once is not going to bring you business or make other person want to help you unless you change that meeting point to something more personal contact by following and keeping in touch regularly.

7. Social skills give high-tech entrepreneurs a big advantage in today's fast-paced world, where you may have only a minute to make a good impression. Network groups are a great way to meet new prospects, build business relationships, and market your products or services. People who belong to network groups are there because they want to learn more about your business and share their own interests with you. So, there is no point in fearing rejection at such events. Be confident and act natural and allow yourself to freely mix with other people and enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tips on Personality Development

Here are some tips to develop your personality.

All of us at some point in our life have admired leaders having a charismatic personality and secretly wished that we had some of that charisma in ourselves. Though charisma or inner charm cannot be acquired superficially, it is still possible to develop a well liked and admired personality.

There are many other qualities that make a fulsome personality than sheer physical beauty. This is not to undermine the importance of a beautiful face but it is not everything. The inner charm or personal magnetism is what actually makes someone very special. However when the two are combined the combination is irresistible.

A good attractive personality is always an advantage in any situation. People are drawn towards magnetic and attractive personalities and want to know all about them. It is exactly the reason why people are crazy about celebrities and devour every bit of news regarding them with interest.

So, what is the secret of developing a good personality?

By constant self appraisal and discipline, we can cultivate habits and attitudes that can develop our personality. These are not too difficult to follow and are qualities that we learn from our childhood but forget as we grow up.

1. Being courteous and friendly to everyone without bias and discrimination is a must. We are all so engrossed in ourselves that we fail to appreciate good work and people around us. Do not do so.

2. Be active in praising and pay attention to your friends, relatives, co workers by listening to them and taking interest in their lives. You do not have to go overboard by giving gifts , remembering birthdays etc, but even if it is a small nod of acknowledgement or encouragement, make sure it is genuine. Everyone can spot a fake and it does not help either.

3. Be kind and gentle to people. Everyone makes a mistake, be forgiving and importantly – differentiate between the mistake and the one committing mistake. True, it may cause a lot of trouble, but it is not going to end the world. So be forgiving and be gentle.

4. Perhaps the most important trait of good personality is its confidence. Self confidence or having confidence in yourself can make a huge difference in how people perceive you. If you unsure of yourself, you will be projecting the same image outside to others as well. And you can acquire confidence in your abilities by keeping your mind and body healthy.

5. Do not be selfish, be open to other people’s interests and try to be helpful.

6. Be clean and neat all the time.

7. Try to be happy and maintain a positive outlook to life. If you are at peace with yourself, you will radiate peace and happiness to others as well and people will feel comfortable talking and meeting you. .

8. Silence is Golden – an age old proverb, but useful nevertheless. Think before you speak Unnecessary comments or speaking without your turn are considered bad manners and no one actually wants to listen to people who try to show off all the time. You may be an expert in your field, but that does not give you the leeway to hijack conversations and turn them into me, me and me monologues. Successful people speak little and put their efforts into doing rather than showing. So be wise and speak only when you are required to and upto the limit of your knowledge. It is important to acquire wisdom in addition to knowledge which helps us to distinguish between right and wrong. Wisdom involves character. And a good character makes a good personality.

9. Develop your character by inculcating good behavior and discipline in your life. Let your inner charm and faith flow out and embrace others in its magnetic wrap. Charge yourself with strong willpower and faith in your abilities. And see the world fall at your feet.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Conflict management -- An important skill for Managers

First let us consider what is conflict?

It occurs when people individually or in groups are unable to obtain what they want and try to seek their own self-interest. These individuals or group of individuals may do so while being aware or their agenda or sometimes they may not be aware of it and are unconsciously acting in such a manner. And when two such groups clash, there is bound to be conflict.

Most of the time it is simply the clash of egos and person’s own sense of self esteem which gives rise to disagreements. These disagreements, if allowed to continue or if remain unresolved, lead to conflicts. Thus it is important to recognize the early symptoms of conflict and manage it accordingly. In fact, conflict management is one of the key challenges of any manager.

Keep the following points in mind while handling conflict in your team:

1. To be able to resolve conflicts or manage conflicts, it is important for managers and supervisors to recognize the beginning or the early signs of conflict. Pointers are available in form of body language, constant disagreements on all issues, strong public statements or backbiting, increasing lack of respect for rules and procedures, disinterest in discussion of progress or failures etc.

2. Do not ever allow disagreements to fester for a long time. Unresolved conflict threatens our self-esteem and people generally try to find someone who agrees with us. Thus we talk behind other people, trying to garner support for our actions and deeds. This instead of helping the cause, helps to alienate the person further and the issue becomes larger. Thus, conflict creates a sense of psychological distance between people, such as feelings of dislike, bitter antagonism, competition, alienation, and total disregard.

3. Keep communication channels open and encourage people to openly voice their disagreements and conflicts. We all know that disgruntled employees are not going to provide 100% on their jobs and productivity and morale is going to slip down.

4. Discuss and reach a consensus to resolve conflict amicably. Poor communication is one of the main causes of disagreements reaching full blown conflicts. By keeping their feelings under wrap, employees continue to suffer silently and are not able to focus on their work. If the problem is between two coworkers, then as a manager it is your duty to encourage them to resolve their disputes amicably by acting as a mediator.

5. Be impartial. The conflict management process is more likely to succeed if the two parties have respect for the mediator's integrity, impartiality, and ability. Otherwise one or the other will protest against favoritism or partisan behavior.

6. Learn to accept different points of view. No two people can always have same view of the situation. Accept it and encourage others to accept it as well.

7. Escalate. Sometimes, even after trying hard, you may not be able to sort the issue. In such cases, it is better to escalate the issue to your higher ups for them to take action.

The management gurus have often talked about constructive conflict as well. Conflict is constructive when it results in clarification of important problems and issues and the discussions bring about innovative solutions to problems. If conflict is taken in a positive manner and helps to bring people together to resolve issues by opening communication channels and building cooperation among people through learning more about each other, then it is desirable. It is the responsibility of the manger to turn conflict into an opportunity. But of course, not every conflict is an opportunity and some of them need to be resolved immediately with stern attitude.

But most of the time, we encounter destructive conflict at the workplace. The negative conflict is characterized by moving of focus from important activities , low morale or self-concept , groupings between the team and lack of cooperation and trust, leads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling etc.

Hence, it is important for managers, team leaders or HR people to take note of it early and solve it at the earliest.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Getting Ahead with Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are part of the desirable qualifications that employers seek in prospective employees. They generally look for candidates who can get along with other people at all levels such as colleagues, co workers, seniors and subordinates.

In today’s competitive world, besides the usual college degrees and certificates, it’s the soft skills such as interpersonal skills or the ability to get along with everyone that helps people to progress further at the workplace. They enable you to work with others harmoniously and efficiently.

Here are some tips to get you going :

1. Everyone likes a person who is courteous, respectful, helpful and cooperative. We must understand that no two persons are alike and they should be treated in a slightly different manner. Its not that you should try to make everyone happy, but one should definitely try to be friendly and helpful to coworkers. If your colleagues and friends have a good word to say about, then half your work is done. Management prefers those personnel who are well liked by others and who can get others to cooperate with them. Having a competitive streak is good, but not at the cost of alienating others. Remember, in office politics, it always helps to have some people behind your back.

2. Working well with others involves understanding and appreciating individual differences. Many individualistic persons who are brilliant keep languishing at the lower posts while average persons with good rapport with people cross the barriers towards the top management. Thus it is very important to brush up your social and interpersonal skills to score the brownie points against the competitor.

3. Try to be cheerful and happy while in office. People generally avoid people who are constantly complaining and whining about something or the other. While there is no need to show happiness overtly, it is advisable to maintain a positive and healthy outlook towards work. Also try to radiate your happiness to others by encouraging and appreciating them. This is especially useful if you are a manager as this helps in keeping your subordinates happy and motivated. If you let others know that they are appreciated, they’ll want to give you their best.

4. Another important thing is to pay attention to other people by trying to know them. Ask their opinion in important matters. Listen to them carefully and never ridicule them for expressing their ideas. All people love managers who take active interest in their work. The subordinates and coworkers appreciate that the boss listens to what they have to say.

5. Next, Encourage the team spirit in your team. Try to create an environment that encourages others to work together. Avoid taking sides and treat every subordinate equally. It is important to be fair to all so that your juniors can trust you. Keep your communication lines open to your subordinates. They should feel comfortable in approaching for your advice or in case of conflicts, they should have faith in you. Be clear and consistent in handling indiscipline and always provide dignified alternatives to people for exit.

A successful manager is the one who with the use of his excellent interpersonal skills is able to resolve conflicts in his team and turns them into a cohesive unit working toward a common goal in the interests of the company.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Importance of Presentation Skills


In continuation with my previous article on Communication skills, I now present key skill which needs to be developed to get ahead in today’s competitive workplace.

With advent of Microsoft office, presentations have become a very popular and simple way of conveying one’s message at the work place. Be it a top management review panel or a small departmental meeting, they are incomplete without a formal presentation. The topics vary from presenting of a change in organizational structures, positions or general discussions regarding the company policies, or a proposal on a new product, proposal for new projects, even asking for more resources, or plain presentation of facts to a visitor or a prospective client. If management is the art of getting things done then a presentation is a fast and potentially effective method of getting things done through other people.

The presentation provides an opportunity to display your skills in front of seniors, peers, coworkers, colleagues and subordinates. A good performance immediately gets you noticed while a fumble may lead to oblivion for a long time. Moreover, a well crafted and presented presentation can bring out problems and questions to surface and allow discussion and solutions to emerge. Thus such an opportunity should never be wasted and seized upon to enhance your standing in the organization.

Keep the following points in mind when preparing for a presentation:

1. It is very important that the presentation should be carefully prepared with the type of audience for which it is intended kept in mind. The presentation is a failure if the people do not understand what is being talked about. Hence, there should be clear focus on one or two themes or objectives. The main idea of presentation is to make your message understood and remembered.

2. All human beings have very short memory and until and unless, the subject is interesting enough, people do not pay attention. So, the challenge is to make your presentation in such a way, that the audience is forced to pay attention. Some seasoned presenters start off with a light jovial note to prepare the audience for hard facts later. If you manage to hold the audience’ attention, then you have a winner on your hand.

3. Keep your presentation short. Do not increase the duration just for the sake of it. No one wants a lecture from you nor do they want to see slides filled with text which is mostly unreadable. Talk in points and keep them limited.

4. Use visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, graphs, charts etc. to convey your message. It has been proved that people remember things if they can associate some visual memory to it. Thus your visual messages will be better received than the hard facts in text.

5. And most important, build your presentation around one or two main points only. Keep reinforcing them without being overtly repetitive.

6. A good presentation is not only dependent upon the presentation itself but also on the presenter. The presenter should rehearse or practice well before the final day. This is especially true if you are a manager and have asked one of your subordinates to make a presentation. The audience not only looks at the presentation, they also look at the presenter.

In fact, the presenter is more important and he/she should take care of the style, pace, tone to be used. There are five key facets of the human body which deserve attention in presentation skills: the eyes, the voice, the expression, the appearance, and how you stand. Make sure that you pay attention to all these when you present.

a. The voice should be normal and not too wavy or weak. But make sure you are not shouting as well.

b. Try to maintain eye contact with the people in the audience. This will help you relax and be more natural.

c. Bring variation to your tone and expression. Do not over do but do not be monotonous either. Maintain a fine balance between over doing and under doing.

Follow these simple tips to become a rocking presenter.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Motivating Employees


So, what exactly is “motivation”?

Motivation is a psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction. Or it is an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need. We can also describe motivation as the primal force that drives employees to excel or to do better. Most of the theories of motivation are based on the concept of workplace or employee motivation.

The traditional ‘stick and carrots’ theory of Sigmond Freud assumed people to be generally lazy and not wanting to work. In order to get them to work, they must be rewarded, coerced or punished. But it is not money alone that motivates people, their behavior is linked to their attitudes and different factors prevalent at work

It has also been proved that the person starts from satisfying his basic physiological needs first and moves up to satisfying his higher need such as esteem and self actualization. But it is quite obvious that people may or may not follow this hierarchy in terms of satisfaction of their needs. People are different and so are their requirements. Not all humans are driven by same set of needs though they may be at the same economic or social level

In our careers, everyone is motivated by something—it could be money for some, or it could be position and power for others. Some people are happy with a pay rise while others look at accompaniments such as good atmosphere, relaxed attitude, flexible timing etc.

Human resource people use a combination of many such rewards or incentives to keep their employees happy. Depending upon the level of the employee, the incentive schemes are put in place. Almost all organizations have such schemes in place. No organization can afford to have unmotivated employees – loss of motivation is dangerous for employers as it directly affects the productivity and quality of work. It is important for HR personnel to understand what will work for which type of person. Though it is impossible to satisfy each and every individual, companies should employ incentive schemes for groups depending upon the type of work they are doing. Going for a scheme that covers all employees is not a good idea as the playing rules are different for each department and the goals and objectives are separate. We cannot really compare the work of a software engineer and a shop floor workman. Putting them under the same umbrella is bound to create problems.

Keeping employees happy and motivated is one of the key challenges of Human resource people. Actually, sometimes it is more important for an employee to be recognized for his good work rather than be awarded. Little gestures of recognition and understanding can ago a long way in producing self motivated employees. Different techniques such as offering monetary rewards for achieving high productivity and quality, awarding certificates for exemplary work, providing a fun filled picnics or get together on achieving the given targets are used to keep motivation at higher levels.

Self motivated employees are generally seen at the top ranks of an organization. These employees are already heavily compensated for their efforts and are recognized persons in their fields, thus the ordinary forms of motivation do not work for them. At their levels, they are self motivated and work for the love of the work and not for any rewards and recognition. Similarly, freelancers and business owners are supposedly self motivated as they work for themselves setting their own goals and targets and try to better their own performance again and again.

But whether it is self motivated freelancers or HR induced motivated employees of an organization, it is obvious that no one can work without a bit of motivation to take them one step further.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Time management

Here are some tips for Time management

Time is essence. Time is money. Sounds cliché! But it is true. Effective time management is the skill that sets apart effective people from ineffective ones. These skills help in focusing our selves on our dreams and aspirations and help us to achieve what we want to in our life. It is not just for working people but for persons in all spheres of life. Hence, it is essential that we manage our time as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips for managing our time effectively and which can make our life simpler:

1. First and foremost, learn to respect time. It is not going to wait for you. So, use it while you can. PRIORTIZE your work. Not all tasks are equally important. Learn to differentiate between important and unimportant ones.

2. Learn to DELEGATE. There is no pride in doing all the tasks yourself. Save your time and effort in doing the important tasks.

3. Use TECHNOLOGY effectively. Why walk down two floors to hand down reports or to the cubicle down the corridor for small things. Send an email or better, use telephone. Reduce these frequent jaunts to minimum.

5. Learn to say NO. Say no to frequent interruptions and distractions. Friends dropping in say hello or calling up to say good morning are real time wasters. Avoid them and better, tell them you are at work and would not like to be disturbed.

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