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Accomplishments = Aptitude + Attitude
by Nancy Ahlrichs

Everyone is asking, “How can I get my people to be more productive?” Whether we are facing a booming economy or one sliding into recession, it may simply be too expensive to add staff right now. Perhaps you are in a locale that has difficulty attracting the right people with the right skill sets—so there is no one to hire. You may be squeezed for space and have no room to add staff. In spite of these constraints, no one can afford to stand still.

Every system is perfectly designed to deliver the results it gets! If you need different results, or even the same results in a declining market, last year’s approach won’t get it done. If more hands or brains are not an option, then look at tools to pump up your existing staff’s capabilities to deliver more and better results.

Accomplishments—whether top line or bottom line--hinge on aptitude and attitude. It will take a willingness to make changes in order to get new results. There are six ways to change aptitude and attitude in order to get better accomplishments in 2008:

1. Training is the number one way to increase aptitude. Search everywhere for the best training in order to have the best outcomes. Check your local Chamber of Commerce, appropriate professional organizations, local training consultants, and even your own people. Often, an employee had a great training program while working elsewhere. It could be a starting point for developing your own program.

2. Cross training builds better businesses. Managers who cross train do not fear vacations, illness, sudden quits--or even the death of a salesman (or whomever). Someone always knows the needed process. Documentation is necessary. Order a copy of A Handbook of Job Aids by Allison Rossett and Jeannette Gautier-Downes from your local bookstore. Get processes documented!

3. Mentoring and book clubs provide hands-on learning opportunities. Mentoring should be more than lunch. Focus on skills needed and provide stretch assignments or opportunities to observe and practice in real business situations. Book clubs should be more than reading. Unless the employees are also executives, focus on books that build skills such as Spin Selling by Neil Rackham or other how-to tomes. Combine role playing with reading.

4. Rewards beget results—if they are the right rewards. In Motivation Management, author Thad Green says that three things must happen for employees to attempt new behaviors:

a. They must have confidence that they can do the job.b. They must trust that they will be rewarded if they accomplish the task.
c. They must believe that the outcome or reward will be satisfying.

What is the number one reward desired by employees? Two words spoken sincerely by their manager, “Thank you!” If thank you's are in short supply, it will take 8-12% bonuses to motivate new attitudes and behaviors.

5. Recognition amplifies attitudes. If “Thank you” is a reward, what is recognition? Bob Nelson, the recognition guru and author of 1,001 Ways to Energize Employees, says that timely connection of recognition to the act worthy of recognizing is critical to effectiveness. Whether you call all employees together when customers calls to express unusual satisfaction or you hand out bananas to this week’s “top sales banana,” recognition needs to be sincere and focus on achievement of goals that will put your organization closer to its strategic goals.

6. Ask the players to get both aptitudes and attitudes recharged. Change is often seen as unwelcome when the changees do not understand why new assignments are being made and fear that they will fail in their new capacities. Call a huddle. State the issue. Gather ideas and input. Ask who is ready to learn something new. Ask them to consider using their cross training fulltime. Ask them to consider bringing back a much-missed retiree or ex-employee.

Ask them to sleep on it and come in with refined ideas. Stand back: let them step forward!

For sure, 2008 is going to be an interesting year, unlike any other. Don’t limit your strategies and tactics to what feels familiar. Remember: Accomplishments = Aptitude + Attitude!

Nancy S. Ahlrichs, SPHR, is Vice President of Workforce Development and Diversity for United Way of Central Indiana. Her books, including her latest, Igniting Gen B and Gen V: The New Rules of Engagement for Boomers and Veterans, are available on www.Amazon.com or at her website, www.eocstrategies.com.

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