10 April, 2014

Treating your staff like Customers – getting a Return on your Investment.

On a training programme I attended the other day, we were running a little late and the trainer asked her assistant to double-check whether we could have lunch a quarter of an hour later than scheduled. The answer from the kitchen staff was categorically “No”, We’d booked it for 12.45 pm and that was when we were going to get it. Clearly, the chef was not aware of the principles of customer service.

However, how should we view our customer service when we look at it in relation to managing the staff?

Having worked hard to attract suitable people within the business, it strikes me that at the moment, there are some really unfortunate messages getting out. The other day, Billy, a young banker, was talking to me about how his boss had, during a performance appraisal discussion, led him to believe that if in 5 years time Billy was still with the bank, he certainly wouldn’t have reached Director status. This came as a terrible shock to Billy, who thought he was doing a good job, and so he immediately set about trying to find himself another job. His devotion to his existing job was noted by some of the more senior people within the bank, who actually queried why he was looking for another job. There were some seriously mixed messages going on!

The concept of looking after the people we’ve worked hard to attract into our businesses, may be novel, but if we don’t there will be no return on the investment. The glitzy bonuses will have worn off with the Spring sunshine. Your organisation has to work hard to make sure that the managers you employ are actually capable of doing the job, so that you don’t lose your customers but nor do you lose your good staff!

So what can you do? Using a competency framework helps to establish standards of behaviour, with detailed examples of how you expect somebody to manage their people in particular. Many organisations will hold their performance appraisal discussions in the Spring so why not run your process through the following checklist:

1. When did you last review the competency framework in your appraisal system?

2. How relevant are the competencies and the descriptions of behaviour? Have you changed or improved these recently? Do they connect with your core values?

3. When did you last organise training for your managers to make sure they are passing on the right messages and undertake appraisals effectively?

4. How do you check that the appraisals are being conducted fairly and reasonably, in line with the organisation’s overall standard? What form of “grandfather review” do you undertake?

5. If you do identify any actions as a result of the appraisal discussions, how do you know that these get actioned or implemented; how do you manage managers?

6. What external performance indicators do you use, such as client satisfaction surveys, lost or retained customers, customer recommendation or complaints? All of these help you to establish whether your management team are delivering against their job expectation.

7. Why not use a staff survey to check how your staff are feeling about the way they are being managed?

You need to make sure you are providing the right level of management and leadership in your organisation, otherwise the cost of lost customers, and replacing superb staff like Billy, will cost you more in lost profits.

Don’t ignore this part of the return on investment equation!


For more information on the ideas and processes raised here do contact Patricia at Trafalgar – the People Business specializes in Managing Change and Performance Management. Contact us on: patricia@patriciawheatleyburt.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7565 7547 www.trafalgarpeople.com

27 March, 2014

Prophet warning from the wilderness?

Years ago I interviewed Tom for a Sales Manager vacancy. Part of the interview process was a short Personality Profile, which, when I read it, suggested he was ‘schizophrenic’: it was an impossible profile! However, the Sales Director thought he was the best interviewee and being na├»ve (and new at the tests) I assumed the test was wrong. 6 months later I looked at the profile with the Detective Inspector in charge of the fraud investigation into Tom. The profile – quick though it was – was right!

Spring (including blustery gales) is that time of year when you should take the Office Procedures Manual off the shelf, dust it down and ask yourself the question – are these processes working? Check some standard People Management indicators:

- how long it takes to fill a vacancy;
- retention of staff: after 1, 2, 5 years;
- Utilization or productivity percentages;
- Customer feedback:
- Grievances about bullies?

Using these to spur you on, why not look at how objective and robust your assessment processes are to judge the attitude, knowledge and capability of your people at recruitment, promotion and when doing the job? Here are four classic options to start with:

 personality traits;
 competencies and skills; and
 Emotional Intelligence (EI)


Albert Einstein had an IQ of 160; have you ever tested yourself, and got into MENSA? There is a vast array of literacy, numeracy and verbal performance ability tests available online (as well as paper based) which look at an individual’s cognitive potential. Could this be useful when working with Graduates?

Personality traits:

There are hundreds of psychometric and predictive behavioral profiling tools which highlight traits, such as preferred learning styles, approaches to management, communication or selling styles. These are available in multiple languages, and recently I was able to use one system for a global client in Italian, French and German, as well as English: brilliantly inclusive.

Competencies and skills:

After the 66th page doing an internet Google search for: ‘competencies and skills’; there is so much information that you have no excuse not to have some framework or matrix in place. It must provide a cultural fit with your business, have a few, common competencies, e.g. communication, achieving results, sales, etc., with these broken down into 3 – 4 levels appropriate to job seniority. By defining behaviours expected, you can reward staff appropriately and provide repeatable, if not predictable, performance.

Emotional Intelligence (EI):

As John Cooper, CEO of JCA Behavioural Consultants said: ‘To get and keep the ‘best of the best’, selection and retention must tap into the deeper level of attitudes and feelings – the domain of EI. Organisations really do have to assess and engage both ‘hearts’ and ‘minds’. Within customer service, getting real interpersonal ‘juice’ from relationships is critical. Customers can ‘sense’ whether someone is genuine. Similarly, if an organisation doesn’t help an employee to feel good, if there is no attitude ‘fit’, they’ll leave.(www.jcaglobal.com).

Finally you should be aligning your brand values with the core competencies, making sure they are reflected across all People Management processes. If there is business pressure to have employees who can “hit the ground running”, then those same businesses need to respond more laterally and less rigidly to who could do the job.

Using these wide-ranging, robust assessment tools can help you stop being a ‘Prophet in the wilderness’ but a ‘Prophet in a Garden of Eden’.


For more information on the ideas and processes raised here do contact Patricia at who specializes in Managing Change and Performance Management. Contact us on: patricia@trafalgarprople.com Tel: +44 (0)20 7565 7547 www.trafalgarpeople.com

12 March, 2014

‘Have you had too much, Madame?’

When does Customer Service become just a bit too much?

When I was in Cape Town a while ago, working with the Customer Services (CS) team of a global software provider we discussed how much one should question the client’s ability to determine the priority and severity of their own problem.

There were many differing views from the team, driven by their own: lack of time and heavy workloads; a natural shyness not to pry too much; an appreciation that some support may ‘go over the budget agreed’ and / or an in-built assumption that the Customer is always right!

All of this resulted in huge frustration for the CS team, caused by ‘stupid clients’ who: kept asking the same questions, or never thought for themselves, or accelerated problems way beyond their actual business-critical level (crying wolf!). This also raised the issue of what the CS team could do to provide feedback to the client’s management team about the quality and ability of their IT staff, or would that be just a bit too much Customer Service? What a quandary.

After some exercises using questioning techniques (a truly enlightening experience for these wonderfully direct South Africans,) we worked out that you need to question the clients sufficiently or you could end up offeromg the wrong solution. Do you remember that old adage: to assume is to make an ass of u and me’ (Ass-u-me)? Well it couldn’t be a truer maxim in Customer Service. However, at the same time, you have to be careful that you are not too intrusive, or you will be over the top and alienate the relationship.

It is that tricky balance of:

- getting to know the client,
- building rapport and a relationship
- ensuring the initial specification, implementation and training are sufficient
- having common ground and a common language in communication
- picking the right medium for any communications (from whichever member of the CS team)
- valuing the expertise you have – that the client needs - and so should pay for the support

No one has ever suggested that Customer Service should be provided for free – it has to be costed in somewhere: perceived value is for both the receiver and the giver.

Maybe now, as we all become more comfortable with the concepts and application of Customer Services in its widest scope, we can start to take it to its next elevation – Consultation Services. One where rather than selling fixed expertise, we start to individualise the services delivered.

This is, for example being piloted in the Care in the Community sector, where those individuals who need Domicillary Care (support in their own homes) will be assessed for need, given an annual budget by the local Health Authority, and can then purchase the support required from whichever provider they like: real individualised services.

My stay in Cape Town was wonderful and I took the chance for a few days’ holiday too. We only had a few power cuts, the sun shone making it 33C in the shade, and Table Mountain hardly ever had its table cloth (clouds) on. We enjoyed the friendly atmosphere, eating outdoors, and tasting the wonderful variety of wines.

There was just one problem: the service was slow and the waiters sure were direct!! One evening, six of us went out to dinner, we arrived at 8.30pm – ordered our food and by 9.30 we still hadn’t anything to eat, although we were on to our second bottle of wine. Naturally I applied my sweet charm to check with our waiter when we would get our starters. Maybe he thought this was rapport building by me, I’m not too sure, but when he came to replenish my glass with wine, he hesitated and said: ‘Haven’t you had too much?’ and with a rakish grin he moved on to help the others to more wine without topping up my glass. I chose to laugh – but what a foolish thing for him to have done.

If this was an example of Customer Service in South Africa – it was a poor one – and of course it affected his tip.

So getting the balance right is a difficult path, and not everyone understands the subtlety needed to deliver Consultation Services to Customers. It might be a good time to revisit what happens in your organisation – undertake an audit and review your skills through training, maybe. Then you can be sure you are delivering individual customer services to us, your customers who are individuals after all!


27 February, 2014

Leptokurtosis – a fat tailed risk!

The Greeks have this wonderful word which we could use to describe some business activities: Leptokurtosis or fat tailed risk describes a more peaked distribution / action than a normal bell curve. *(see note)

The brighter weather makes people think more optimistically, hoping that the flooding in the UK will finally recede – and the land will dry out.

In 2006 the UK Property market was frenetic. It had a hiccup during the Global Financial Crisis, but not it appears in 2014 – its back to being frantic. Properties are moving so quickly that emailed details are often sketchy, (full details rarely get printed), a phone call alerts prospective buyers to view and view now, and really, if you don’t make an offer within the first 48 hours of a property being on the market, then you’ve lost it!

There are Contract races to Exchange with often no time to have a survey, or establish building consents, and just to compound things, almost every property, certainly in the London area, has gone for considerably more than the asking price. You do all this – and then you get Gazzumped.

Activity is becoming similar in the Recruiting world. If you get a call from a Head Hunter or Recruitment agency about a star performer, (often with sketchy work history or CV), unless you instantly telephone interview them or agree to meet up quickly – they will have been picked up by your competitors.

You are harried to organise first and second interviews in a couple of days, followed by an urgency to make a job offer often without enough time to check suitability, culture fit or even references: ‘Make me an offer I can’t refuse’ the confident candidate will demand. This can blow salary scales apart and maybe breach policies and legislation too. ‘All that glisters is not gold’: how sure are you that in this haste, you are not being pushed to employing someone who will not deliver?

So what can you do to ensure you have rigorous, yet swift methods to advertise, select and assess candidates, and still remain within the growing levels of employment regulation?

What every employer must do:

1. Draw up an action to plan to review all HR policies to ensure that they do not discriminate, including now on the grounds of age.

2. Ensure that all employees are aware of and understand the revised HR procedures as well as the relevant equal opportunity/diversity/equality/ ageism policies.

3. Develop skills on Recruitment & Selection – don’t leave it to HR;

4. Expand the objective processes used in Recruitment & Selection to include rigorous assessments to underpin the interviewing process, e.g. Personality, IQ, Competencies and Emotional Intelligence. (more on this soon)

Being open minded offers scope to take advantage of your local, employable population – as one Building Society in the south of England found out when targeting older workers to fill administrative roles. They found themselves tapping into Retiree-returners, a group of people who have a more mature attitude to work and a better understanding of Customer Service requirements as well as better social skills and a sense of humour”.

In the housing market, home-owners need to be opportunistic. So too Employers need to be less prejudiced and more opportunistic to find good quality, imaginative and creative staff. You will then have a wider pool to select from: just ensure that in your haste, decisions remain objective and non-discriminatory.

Or do you want to risk it, and not know until the ‘paint peels off and the cracks appear’?

Patricia Wheatley Burt (FCIPD)

*Definition: Leptokurtosis or 'fat tailed risk' occurs when the shape of a distribution is more peaked than that of a normal or 'bellcurve' distribution.

In such a distribution, small changes are less frequent than in a normal distribution, but extreme events such as large price moves are more likely to happen and are potentially much larger than in a normal distribution. The central peak is narrower, but the tails are significantly longer and fatter

21 February, 2014

The Talent Crunch is Upon Us!

Attracting Generation Y - Don’t over Promise: 6 Quick Ideas

‘Work-life balance’, ‘brand values’, ‘wanting more out of life’ are just some of the buzz phrases today that Senior Management teams have to grapple with when pondering how to attract and keep intelligent and talented people. The “talent crunch” is upon us and employers need to plan now how to combat its effect

The work ethics of the late 90’s, to slog your way to the top, to be too exhausted to enjoy life after work, put up with a heavy workload and demands for delivering against targets, is no longer acceptable to this demanding and powerful (because of their scarcity) group.

These young people, dubbed ‘Generation Y’ are the product of our “have it now” society. They are the off-spring of parents of the 70s and 80s who, through their guilt at being out at work, have given their ‘angels’ anything and everything they ever wanted – for a quiet life.

Their expectations are probably wholly unrealistic, but the media, school, friends, programmes such as the X Faxctor, have egged them on to believe that the world is their oyster and they can succeed at anything they decide to do. This sounds so good, that these wannabes want it …. and now! Their impatience is palpable. Not failing has been their watchword; exams, sports, have all been made so anodyne that everyone gets a point just for turning up, let alone taking part and even being competent. Why should paid fun (i.e. work) be any different?

Generation Y star performers have been ‘advertised to’ for years, are cynical and wary about glitzy promises. The recessions appears to have little or no effect on how these people view what is an acceptable job. In America, they have between 10 - 12 million people working illegally: without whom the US economy would not be able to function. In Western Europe, there is an influx of Eastern European people, eager to do the jobs other UK employees don’t want to do.

Traditional advertising for vacancies in the newspapers or specialist magazines, is now almost wholly shifted to online with many thousands of active job sites. Estimates vary as to the cost to employers of losing and replacing individuals but the total runs into tens of billions of pounds a year globally. Investing in recruitment communications and selection processes can produce better recruits and reduce attrition.

So how can you use your recruitment advertising campaign effectively to get the Talent from Generation Y? Here are some ideas: -

• Check your firm’s profile on the internet – make sure everything points to you being an excellent employer;

• Liaise with your marketing, PR and branding teams to ensure you reflect core values linked to the job in your advertisement text and interview processes;

• Advertise vacancies on your own website and other websites that are congruent to the role, provides a transaction that reflects your organisation; making sure that experience is accurate, fast and responsive;

• Identify the core competences, knowledge and experience an individual needs to deliver, illustrating career successes and progression opportunities too, be careful of writing in ageist statements / requirements;

• Develop relationships with a few select head hunters and recruitment agencies; don’t keep them at arms’ length, work as business partners and share some of your resourcing objectives with them

After all, you want candidates to come to an interview having seen your brand name in a number of media, visited your website … and now they will be keen and eager to work in your organisation.

Inevitably, you are selling as much as you are buying so be prepared to know what it is you offer and what will be attractive to the candidates you want to focus on. This is about shifting from being a buyer to a seller in a very competitive marketplace. Do remember though, “don’t over-promise and under-deliver”.

Patricia Wheatley Burt (FCIPD)

Call us for help on: 020 7565 7547.

01 October, 2013

Magic Circle Evening: 20th November, in aid of the Breast Cancer Haven

Meet the Magic Circle on 20th November, 2013 (6.45pm - 10.30pm).

In an evening of close-up magic, whilst sipping wine and eating eats, you can enter the world of 10,000 secrets at the Centre for the Magic Arts, (12 Stephenson Way, London NW1).

We also get treated to the Theatre and see some of the most spectacular, and incredible demonstrations of MAGIC you will ever have seen.

The Breast Cancer Haven charity helps provide practical advice and guidance to those who have suffered cancer - and surprisingly it affects Men as well as Women. it costs £1,000 per visitor for a year's worth of support, so please, even if you cant come along, maybe you could make a donation?

Tickets are £95 each and it makes a fun and entertaining so email Patricia@trafalgarpeople.com for an application form. Discounts are possible for parties of 10 or more.

see you all soon

23 September, 2013

'Phoenix' Art work - what do you think?

After a glorious Summer I have come back refreshed and ready to enjoy being out and about, working with interesting projects, support clients - and also encouraging you all to exhibit art on your office walls. Do consider pictures such as these (painted by me) for possible exhibitions, which could be linked with your marketing events.

Bluebell Woods, Gloucestershire (36" x 48" - oil - sold)

Giant Hydrangeas (40" x 50", oil - for sale)

Sunny Garden in the Luberon, (8" x 12", oil - for sale)

There are a number of artists within our group - so do get in touch or direct me to whomever is responsible for selecting and hanging the art on your walls.

Happy Indian Summer