Disclose or not to Disclose?

download (13)So you have a disability or have a long-term health condition and are looking to pick up your career, perhaps starting out at work or would just like a job – do you feel confident employers will see past your condition? You have the knowledge, skills and abilities in your CV for the role but do you disclose your disability or health condition? To disclose or not this is the question. Having worked with disabled people and individuals with long-term health conditions for many years, these and many other questions stop or hinder applying for work and getting back to a career.

Indeed recent research from greatwithdisability suggests that 76% of students are reluctant to open about their disability or long term health condition. However the research did find that 57% of respondents recognised the benefits associated with being open and honest about their disability/long term health condition from the start of the process. Needless to say, these decisions for any person with a disability or enduring health condition are intensely personal and sometimes difficult to overcome.

The definition of a disability according to the Equality Act 2010 here in the UK, is a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative effect on someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. The range of disabilities and long term health conditions identified is fascinating for a non-disabled person. ADHD, Autism, Acquired Brain Injury, Bi Polar through to Visual Impairment are amongst many that people navigate and manage in their daily lives at work.

So what is the best way to approach applying for work or progressing your career with a disability or enduring health condition?

Disclose or Not?

  • Employment & disability employment advisers will give conflicting advice on disclosing in your CV/covering letter or application form – some say yes some say no. Perhaps the easiest choice for some is no. However, you may be missing a vital opportunity to highlight how you overcome daily challenges and still push on to achieve your ambitions and goals. The choice is made easier if the organisation you are applying to are registered with the Guaranteed Interview Scheme. You just tick the box and if you meet the minimum requirements then mechanisms will be in place for you to gain an interview. So the choice is not easy but well worth considering.
  • Lastly, being open at the outset will no doubt help the employer make those “reasonable and practicable adjustments” for you both at the interview and to their workplace should you gain the role. Helping the employer help you through being open & honest about your condition or disability highlights a level of self-awareness which shouldn’t be ignored.

The Interview

  • So you have got yourself in front the interviewer or interview panel now what. If you have disclosed your disability then they will be prepared and ready to give you the best opportunity to shine. Well that’s the theory of course. Many employers may need support with disability awareness to stay on the right side of equality and diversity legislation for example. Having supported many employers with many disabled and people with health conditions it is as tricky for them as it is for the disabled person to navigate the interview properly. So if the groundwork between interviewer and interviewee has been done, everyone can get past the condition at the outset so that it enables the interview to go without surprises. Notwithstanding, giving the candidate the opportunity to tell the organisation why they would be foolish not employ you!

Moving on through your career with a disability or long-term health conditions

However difficult it may be, being open about disclosure and honest right throughout the application process and onward with your career, could well be the right way to go. Disability & long-term health conditions are wide and varied so will effect people in many different ways. So with more people with these conditions at work it can only be of benefit to all concerned and pave the way for others following on. Work is a healthy place to be, it can aid recovery and rehabilitation, provides focus and a sense of fulfilment to all let alone those with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

Also by being at work in a variety of businesses and organisations, with any number of health conditions or disabilities, there is a distinct chance you get the chance to remove prejudice and raise the awareness of being enabled by being disabled. So I guess the message is, if work or picking up a career is an option for you then be brave and show how talented you are regardless how others may see you. You have a lot to offer and it may be that the dilemma of disclosure or not is the only thing that is holding you back in the end?

Managing The “Talent”

images (41)So what is talent? Its a tricky question as definitions of talent and career management vary widely yet the terminology can easily be interchanged. Though for our purposes I will stick to the term talent to avoid confusion (mainly mine). Definitions vary as do the talent management programmes across many industries and businesses. Some good and not so good and some non-existent. So to drill a little deeper l will try to identify some key characteristics of what talent management is and how it can work.

Managing talent in an organisation could be defined as being focussed upon particular people in the business, a set of characteristics or more toward a statement of identified needs for the future. Some organisations see talent as the ability to go on toward leadership & CEO status, or as McCartney & Garrow (2006) suggest as “employees that have a disproportionate impact upon the bottom line, or have the potential to do so” However the CIPD (2006) defines talent management as ‘the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement/retention and deployment of those individuals with high potential who are of particular value to an organisation’. So how do organisations identify a talent pool or groups of individuals that will have significant effect upon the business and most interesting what do they do with the group when they have been identified?

Toxic Talent Management

Having witnessed unfettered and undefined talent programmes in a large organisation here in the UK, where graduates (mainly young men) were employed on-mass, as being educated therefore talented, that over time created a significantthem and us divisions. The talent management plan was undefined and none of the non-participants of the programme were informed of the plan (or lack of them) to help them understand it and potentially rise to the levels of the talent pool. Thus raising performance expectations for all employees instead of the few. Without this information people easily saw the initiative as being unfair, it effected motivation and job performance.

The chosen few in the talent pool soon became overly competitive, boorish and unmanaged because they could. Young men with little in the way of people skills were promoted way beyond their capabilities and began to struggle with the burden of expectation. They were offered no coaching or mentoring or development workshops just expected to slug it out toward survival of the fittest. Not a healthy state of play and gives rise to the suggestion that managing talent is certainly not easy and not easily defined.

Talent Management Planning

Clearly the management of talent has many areas of focus. Any program will need careful planning to fit in with organisational culture, form appropriate measurement of the high performers and equity within the organisation. Moreover, no one size fits all, as many HR organisations do not see managing talent as a priority. Of course this is perfectly understandable in the current business climate. These programmes need time and commitment from all facets of the business to work and can be expensive. Though there is considerable evidence to show that the business that engage in talent management make significant returns of their investment. Profitability up by between 15.4% to shareholders to 1,289% returns to shareholders over ten years data from http://www.greatplacetowork.co.uk/. So lets move on toward positive talent & leadership development here are a few discussion points to get the ball rolling

Draft Plan

  • Have a clear agreement as to what high potential staff or talent is for your organisation. Is it to lead, manage, sell, or develop products etc that effect profit or what exactly?
  • Define the job roles for this process
  • Are the people inside or outside the organisation for the talent programme?
  • Will performance management programmes be rigorously applied i.e. fit to focus?
  • Have you identified a clear system of identifying the talent potential?
  • Are organisations expectations realistic?
  • Is their an open and honest organisational culture and able to give and receive constructive criticism? Does this programme fit your cuture of operations?
  • Non-participants encouraged to understand the talent programme and aspire to the standards expected.
  • Development centres/workshops to encourage group working, deal with poor performance, taking stock of career progress, personal performance coaching and most of all reflection time for learning and PDP.
  • Ensure development has clear purpose

Managing talent is tough to get right. As to some extents it is counter intuitive in a very lean and competitive business world. Clearly these initiatives are expensive and time consuming as mentioned earlier and need progressive commitment from the organisation to work. However, having key people in key positions leave the business as a result of a lack of career development can be expensive. Both in terms of loss of revenue and recruiting the right type of person to the role. So managing talent could be seen as perhaps inoculating your organisation to potential high performers leaving and succeeding elsewhere. As the old adage goes and adapted for this purpose – train your talent so that they can leave, but treat so well that the don’t want to.

Having a clear focus upon the talent needs of the business demands a framework and expectations clearly defined at the outset. Equally important to the organisation is the ability to engage the whole group in developing a ‘talent mindset’ and to help everyone engage and have the same opportunities. Moreover, encouraging the whole team to strive toward pre-defined objectives for those that can achieve will no doubt lift motivation, productivity and sense of purpose & career direction.

The introduction of talent management can viewed as a highly positive response to a changing business environments. However, talent management programmes will need the commitment from leadership teams, management, coaches and mentors to ensure success. Thus signalling a shift to a more proactive culture of people development and performance management for the whole business. However, committing to the talent management plan and setting out goals and objective is a great start.

References

McCartney C, Garrow V (2006), The Talent Management Journey, Horsham:
Roffey Park Institute

CIPD (2006), Reflections on Talent Management, Change Agenda, London: CIPD

The Natural Selection of Business & Careers

download (3)Now I am sure we all know the Darwinian model of natural selection & the five theories contained within. If you need a short reminder have a quick look at this very informative web site run by Christ’s College in Cambridge http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/ (accessed 3/11/2014). So the question is how can these theories be applied to shedding an alternative light upon how businesses evolve and how your career “fits” the environment, the shifting sands of time, skills and your ability to “mutate” into a new job or career path.

Coupled Darwin’s theory and the term “survival of the fittest” developed by Herbert Spencer to help explain his understanding of natural selection, we arrive at everyday terms to describe how life and for that matter business & careers can (in theory) develop. Needless to say these theories have been hijacked to fit may different ideologies and moral standpoints to sometimes disastrous effect. Such as Social Darwinism that is thought to be responsible for laissez-faire attitudes to war, economics & racism.

The Business of Natural Selection

By this time I am sure your imagination is starting to make the connections between natural selection, survival of the fittest and how businesses & careers are born, develop and sometimes die. Businesses have to compete for resources, evolve through small but distinct stages and that some variants or mutations may help them adapt better to their environment. Apple is a good example of a variation that produce many products that are internally similar to other technology companies (Mp3 players, PC’s, laptops, etc) they just do things differently with distinct styling and pretty boxes. Thus have mutated into a distinct species within the landscape. Its a high wire act and difficult to maintain, as if the mutation looses its distinct adaptation to the environment then they become generalists.

The generalists are other technology companies struggling for resources (profit). These generalists are all fighting for the same slice of the market so have to be nimble, agile and smart to fit products to business opportunities that arise. Products are not generally high value items such as Apple products but more standard offerings that will be less expensive but high volume to make the margins. Similar to species of birds, mammals & rodents – all fighting for the same meagre resources to survive in changing environments. Its hard for both generalists & specialists to survive as there has one eye on changing climates and barriers to their success. Competition is tough for businesses as with species of animals & plants are after the same resources unless they can evolve to adapt before others or sadly die out. I am sure as you are reading this you can apply similar stories to businesses & market sectors that you know? Of course there is nothing more compelling than a good theory – just reality gets in the way!

How does your Career “Fit”

The term “fit & fitness” can of course mean many things but in terms of your career we can use the theory to overlay your skills, abilities, knowledge of your job and how your career trajectory fits into the changing landscape of work. I wager you job or work is not the same as it was a few years ago and that you and your work is evolving steadily. Your job may have been made redundant in the past and had to make significant adaptations of your skills and abilities through re-training or re-branding yourself into a distinctly new career species? There are many ways that your evolution and you may have been naturally selected to give your career and working life an advantage.

The big question is now – does your skill set and career fit with where you need to be? Do you perhaps take a risk and mutate into a new career path or do you find new and novel adaptations to re-invent yourself to help maintain your competitive edge? To that aim I have put together a list of actions to help consider your evaluation career options and interested to hear what else your would add?

  • Identify what works well for you that gives you a competitive edge. May be a skill, an ability, an easy way of doing things others find hard, or even just a different way of thinking. Is it truly an advantage? Does it give really you an edge? Can you repeat it and give you that competitive edge?
  • Now that you have found it – cultivate it deliberately. Refine it, add to it & focus on it. Move on from those things you don’t do so well, build that competitive advantage and not trying to catch up with what others find easier than you do.
  • Now you have found and developed one great career adaptation, find another and keep repeating the process. Create as many natural advantages as you can. See what works and go with it, regardless of whether it’s what you expected or not.
  • Always spend time doing what you do best. Don’t forget your positive attributes, skills and knowledge, ignore them are your peril. By identifying development areas you are aiming to support your strengths enabling you to evolve positively.

Hopefully the short list will help with the adaptations as no species has ever thrived by working on its weaknesses and forgetting about its natural strengths. Don’t try to go against the way that natural selection works with careers and business – go with it and prosper. Creating your competitive edge, overcoming barriers, exploiting your natural attributes and planning for your future will no doubt help you (or your business) see environmental changes as a challenge so you can adapt and manage change effectively. So don’t be a Panda eeking out an existence on bamboo alone – be more…………………………….you fill in the gap!

Stick or Twist Careers – Finding Meaning at Work

images (40)Did you know in the pre-industrialised world there were around 30 different jobs to do. You might well have made things such as barrels, worked leather, a potter or looked after horses – you get the picture. Pretty straightforward jobs to earn a living.

However at the last count today there are approximately 12,000 different jobs and occupations (Krznaric 2012). So its no wonder people are confused about how to find a job or career that is fulfilling that will match our values, talents, identity and passions. Our working life and career paths have taken on greater meaning to us all. Maybe wrapped up in status anxiety and the power we feel is necessary for us in certain roles and life stage. Perhaps all this business of careers is just a modernmiddle class conceit; as when the bills and a mortgage needs to be paid any job will do right? Tricky sociological & philosophical questions to answer and certainly one I am not willing to explore here.

Clearly we have more and more choice in our careers and working lives today. Though the paradox of more choice is that we tend to become more risk averse and paralysed about making the wrong choice. Just choosing biscuits for me is the ultimate paralysis though analysis recently. Is it price, chocolate content, brand, dunkability and so on and so on!

Statistics show 2-4 years is about the time we spend in one job before moving on, thus putting us in a perpetual career/work transition phase and having to re-invest ourselves time after time.

So how do you find a job or career choice that has a good match for where you are in your life? Perhaps you are starting out and just wanting to get onto the career ladder or at a stage where you are looking for something more meaningful to do with your time. Do you specialise or spread you net over a range of roles called a wide achiever? In the meantime here are a few things to think about that may help the focus on finding a job with meaning that will fulfil and sustain you – and I will leave you to decide upon what constitutes meaning, fulfilment and what will sustain you in your work.

  1. If you just need a job plan then implement. Apply your skills, abilities, knowledge & experience etc to fitting an industry, trade or career path and get things moving quickly. Get the CV out there, network and find the people who can connect you to those business looking for new recruits. This method may not help you find the “special” role but it will help you move forward.
  2. Getting into a job will help you know what you like and not like in a job or career. You may find that things don’t necessarily match your identity, beliefs, values and passions but you are getting experimenting with work. Trying different jobs and career paths will help build up your experiential learning about the workplace and where you see your future.
  3. Start some voluntary work (if you can) that fits with where your passion lay, if not being satisfied in your current job or career. It may lead on to different opportunities and help you know if your passions are a lovely fantasy or a reality. If the thought of changing career is scary try this model to start the process of change and becoming less risk averse.
  4. Spend time in a career or job that you had never previously thought of. As suggested my Roman Krznaric in his 2012 book How to Find Fulfilling Work a “radical sabbatical”
  5. Lastly, and not for the feint hearted – act first and reflect later (Krznaric, 2012). This may be for the more confident amongst us as going with a career or job that isn’t necessarily planned and thus implemented upon as mentioned before may be a step too far. Though if there is an opportunity to just “feel the fear and do it anyway” you may find that this will open your working world view to career experiments that you had not thought of in your planning phase of career management.

So there we are that’s enough careers and work navel gazing for the time being. Though these big questions are being asked by people, employees and progressive organisations in recent years. Progressive organisations are helping employees become more meaning focussed by allowing them to engage in more diverse projects and outward facing working.

So as Chris Baldry et al in The Meaning of Work in the New Economy, suggest “Nobody wants their job to have no meaning, even if the primary or indeed onlymeaning is its economic support for home and family.’ It may be time to allow yourself some navel gazing toward a more progressive approach to you career and perhaps trying a few interesting working experiments to see where your passions lay?

Bibliography & References

Botton, A. (2009) “The Pleasures & Sorrows of Work” Penguin Books, London

Krznaric, R. (2012) “How to Find Fulfilling Work” Macmillan

Baldry, C. et al (2007) “The Meaning of Work in the New Economy” Palgrave Macmillan

4 Ways to Make Workplace Training Stick

TrimagesSo I have had a winge about the lack of evaluation and assessment of workplace learning, so lets be more positive and look at a few great ways to make your training stick. Needless to say, employees & everyone else in your business will start to see why training takes place, be involved with the learning plans & objectives and best of all save training your budget. Most of all learning engages people and as a result could improve their productivity.

So here we go a few quick and easy steps to get measuring training at work.

  1. Proper training needs & skills gap analysis. If there is no needs or skills gap analysis, there is no understanding who needs training or development. A discussion with all the stakeholders involved and a plan to help the individuals development, what the return on investment looks like and to make targeted decisions for the best way forward. Staff team training needs should be reviewed as part of the performance and development review process via the one-to-one meetings and annual appraisal.
  2. Measure learning before pre & post training. Assessment of what learner knew about the topic before and after the training is a great place to start. Beware that the results can be inflated by 6 times if not careful. Happy sheets after training are also very limited due to various reason. Some may be the warm glow of a nice lunch! So factor in effective measures of training transfer and ultimately the proposed return on investment.
  3. Transferring learning to work. In order to ensure your training has been effective, you need to do more than evaluate and assess. We need to take post-training time to help trainees transfer their new skills and knowledge to the workplace and to make these behavioural changes stick. You may need to help employees overcome certain obstacles to applying training to the job. Perhaps coaching & mentoring will help make the transfer of training knowledge stick. Certainly line managers taking an active interest on how the training is being applied to the workplace.
  4. Putting It All Together. Investing in people is a very wise decision for every organisation. Training makes better employees & people, better people make better companies. Try to keep in mind training is much more than a one off event. As methods and technologies need to keep changing with the way the organisation works. Companies that stay competitive invest in their employees by turning them into lifelong learners, whilst being engaged and the most valuable resource you have in your business.

This is a whistle stop tour of just a few effective methods of evaluating your training and assessing the people being trained. Indeed the importance of training employees both new and experienced cannot be overemphasised. Manager and supervisor training and development is equally important as orienting new employees in order to promote workplace safety, productivity, and satisfaction. So lastly here are a few more points to bear in mind to help your organisation make training the centre of your operations for staff and ultimately a more profitable future for your business.

  • Make training & coaching a top priority at all levels of the organisation.
  • Develop a training/coaching programs that meets needs and is customised to your company and its employees.
  • Choose the correct training models for your training needs.
  • Evaluate training at every level.
  • Assist trainees as they transfer learned skills and behaviour into their work.

Why Workplace Training Rarely Sticks.

TimagesI appreciate the title may be a little provocative especially to HR, managers and team leaders etc but its true – workplace training can have little or no effect for business. I am as guilty as charged, having been on so many staff training courses where the priority list for us was, a nice lunch, a day out, early finish & a bit of fun. Very rarely did the line manager & HR advisor tell us why we were to be “trained” (H&S training excepted), informed what was expected of us individually or as a group or how our behaviour was to change as a result. During our cosy one-to-one’s the line manager would ask me “how did the training go”? I would reply “fine thanks” and that would be it. No follow up, no measurement of behaviour change or training transfer, no return on the company investment for the employee or business. So where does it go so wrong?

Here are few starting points to consider…

1. Only a fraction of what business spends on training actually changesbehaviour
Without training outcome setting, needs analysis, measuring training transfer and weeks & months of follow up reinforcement, application, feedback, encouragement and accountability, as much as 90% of all instruction doesn’t “stick” in the workplace.

2. People won’t use a skill consistently until it becomes habit or an automatic process.
Until a new skill has been habituated, people have to concentrate hard to do things in a new way. In a busy workplace without having conscious awareness of the new skills or behaviour they quickly decay and are then unused. Until new behaviours become an automatic process, old behaviours will prevail for most of the time. Repeated failures to apply the new skill can be discouraging, with people typically go back to their old, previously behaviour patterns defeating the object of the training.

3. A new skill is unlikely to become habituated without a follow up and repetition.
To learn any new skill, routine, habit or behaviour pattern, you have to perform the action again and again to stimulate memory and automatic processes. Only after the new process is established will someone consistently perform the skill on the job. Because of the time involved, this repetition can’t happen in the classroom. It has to happen in the workplace with continual assessment and follow up.

So with this information to hand what can be done to ensure that training is identified, implemented, delivered and measured effectively for a great return on investment for the organisation & the individual. I am sure those involved in training/L&D are familiar with dear old Kirkpatrick and the four levels of training evaluation. Not without its flaws but a great place to start evaluating the training. However, having used a method developed by Kamal Birdi with The Taxonomy of Training and Development Outcomes (TOTADO) to great effect, this model helps measure the individual, team, organisational & societal levels of effectiveness of the expensive training at work.

So the models of evaluation & assessment are there so what aren’t they used by may organisations to help justify training budgets? Surely its about staff that have had skills added to positively rather than we have trained a XXXX number of people? The lack of assessment of training may be partly due to cost and extra effort or just lack of understanding of methods needed to evaluate properly? Perhaps there is a training need right there!

Measuring training, assessing trainees and evaluating training outcomes is a a very straight forward process. With a little application and understanding for what learning outcomes are needed then the line manager, leadership team and HR group can make significant improvements with workplace learning & savings with training budgets. Workplace learning can measured and will be effective with the cooperation of all parties concerned as long as objectives are agreed at the outset. Therefore changing the perception of training from a “whatever” to something of real added value. So the challenge is – can you be sure your workplace training sticks, if not take a few positive steps to change and make your training accountable, measurable and most of all enjoyable.

Bibliography

Birdi, K. (2010) The Taxonomy of Training and Development Outcomes (TOTADO): A New Model of Training Evaluation. Paper presented at the Annual BPS Division of Occupational Psychology Conference January 2010

Kirkpatrick, D.L., & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (1994). Evaluating Training Programs, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kirkpatrick, D.L., & Kirkpatrick, J.D. (2005). Transferring Learning to Behavior, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.