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Survey confirms first 100 days determine success or failure.

A new study into the effects of changing roles on senior executives reveals that senior managers are changing roles frequently - over half of managers, in a third of companies surveyed, change jobs or roles every two years. It also confirms the importance of actions taken in the first 100 days of a new role, in particular that interpersonal skills play a vital part in determining long-term success or failure. However, only 7 per cent of companies surveyed provide appropriate role change support and a quarter of companies provide no support at all. As several respondents said: "In UK corporate culture it is still not OK to ask for help", especially at the senior levels where they felt you are expected "to know it all or what are you getting paid for?" In contrast, almost half of the senior managers said they would have been able to contribute to the bottom line much more quickly if they had received tailored support.

The research, called "Making role change more effective", was commissioned by GHN Ltd, a specialist in executive coaching and mentoring. The study clearly identifies the vital factors for success and the key early warning signs of potential failure. It also shows that role changers no longer see formal "packaged" development as appropriate to their needs and defines the kind of tailored support they believe would have enhanced their transition. The survey was conducted by post and telephone during May and July 1995 among Times Top 1000 companies. It analyses the views o role change of 109 personnel directors and 45 senior executives who had changed roles in the last two years. The full survey findings were presented at a seminar called "Are we wasting our best talent?" held at the Institute of Personnel Development (IPD) Conference in Harrogate, 26 October 1995.

Commenting on the survey findings, Trevor Pullen, GHN managing director said: "To guide and lead dynamic organizations, senior executives require wide-ranging capabilities. Frequent role changes seem to be the selected path for acquiring these capabilities. Such an approach submits the organization to continual disequilibrium, with consequent effect on performance. Why is it then that so few organizations offer appropriate support for these role changers - the leaders of tomorrow? Are they being unwittingly set up for failure rather than helped to succeed?"

The first 100 days

In the research, both personnel directors and role changers rated listening skills and building relationships with key colleagues and customers as the key actions to be taken in the first 100 days and as vital to longer-term success. However, there was a major discrepancy between what each thought was the major action to take in the first 100 days. Nearly all personnel directors thought that managers who are new to a post must make an early impact compared with only 40 per cent of role changers, nearly two-thirds of whom thought it more important to start by planning a long-term strategy with their new team.

According to the survey, over 80 per cent of recent role changers would have liked support to help them build senior-level relationships, and networking and people skills to enhance their role change. They cited tailored role change support and coaching and mentoring as the most appropriate methods.

Jenny Sweeney, a GHN consultant who designed and commissioned the research study, added: "One of the key messages of this survey is: never, never, underestimate the value of listening, walking the floor and networking. The research underlines that, at senior levels, interpersonal skills now take precedence over functional abilities. Indeed, success or failure in a new role is now largely judged by these skills rather than traditional performance measures alone. Companies and their HR functions must realign the balance and delivery of their development programmes".

How long before success or failure is apparent?

The majority of personnel directors surveyed believe it takes six months to tell if someone will succeed in a changed role, compared with role changers, who felt it should be obvious after three months. However, according to many of the respondents, the more senior the role, the longer warning signs are overlooked. Personnel directors expressed concern that this often means top people are left to flounder in new roles when effective action taken at an early stage in support of the transition could have helped them become more productive, more quickly, and avoided later problems.

Discrepancies between personnel directors and roles changers

Two significant discrepancies between personnel directors and role changers were found to be:

(1) Role change motivation. The most important factor when taking on a new role from the role changer's perspective is career development, closely followed by the opportunity for skills enhancement and increased employability. While personnel directors rate job challenge as the main factor, they still think that increased remuneration, recognition and status are the next most important motivators.

(2) Drivers of change. Both groups thought that the main external drivers of change in their organizations were competitive pressure and greater customer demands. Internally, personnel directors thought culture change was the key driver for change whereas the role changers thought it was cost-cutting.

A complementary summary of the survey findings or the full report, costing [pounds]30.00 plus VAT, are available from Zoe Smith at GHN Ltd on 0171 493 5239. For further information please contact: Trevor Pullen, managing director, or Jenny Sweeney, consultant, GHN Ltd. Tel: 0171 493 5239.

Empower by action, not empty rhetoric, say managers

Companies are failing to match their promises of employee involvement with action.

That is the key finding of Striking off the Shackles - a major new research report by the Institute of Management (IM), Blessing/White and London Business School.

The extensive report examines over 1,100 managers' attitudes to empowerment practices including team briefings, suggestion schemes, questionnaires and "design your own job" initiatives. The survey finds that many companies which encourage feedback from their staff are only paying lip service to real involvement in decision making.

The challenge for most organizations is' not to decide whether to involve employees more, but simply to get on and do it. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents claim their organizations use formal empowerment practices, yet 30 per cent say there is little employee involvement in actual decision making.

The report explodes the myth that middle managers are the barrier to empowerment initiatives. Respondents from organizations with extensive levels of employee involvement report higher levels of power, influence and control over resources. Over 83 per cent are in favour of more involvement and 60 per cent actively lobby for increasing the number of schemes. However, senior managers, who are further removed from the front line, perceive higher levels of employee involvement than actually exist.

The report also advises organizations on how to use empowerment practices effectively:

* There must be absolute commitment from the top of the organization.

* Schemes must be regularly monitored.

* Frequent and effective two-way communication must be undertaken.

The research revealed extremely low levels of training in people management skills. More than one-third of the respondents had no such training within the last three years; a further 26 per cent have had less than five days' training.

Less than 10 per cent of the respondents are against empowerment. They tend to have little personal experience of genuine employee involvement, low confidence in their own ability to manage employee involvement and have little training in people management.

Roger Young, IM director general, commented: "If organizations are to get the best out of their people, then they must match their rhetoric with reality. Managers must be trained to be effective people managers rather than just task managers. Short 'sheep dip' training merely raises anxiety and poses more questions than it answers. Paying lip service to employee involvement only serves to damage morale and motivation when it should be having the opposite effect".

Tom Barry, managing director of Blessing/White, said: "There's too much talk about what needs to be done, but how to do it is very thin on the ground. Three practical reasons often cause the failure of employee involvement initiatives: employees lack clarity about what is expected of them in their job; they lack a personal reason to commit to the business goals; and they lack constructive, continuous communication with their manager about the specifics of their individual performance. Without addressing these issues, companies will never achieve the results they are so desperately seeking".

The report also enables the reader to benchmark employee involvement in his or her own organization and provides practical recommendations for effective implementation.

Striking off the Shackles costs [pounds]25 for IM members and [pounds]50 for nonmembers. It is available from IM Books, Burston Distribution Services, Unit 2A, Newbridge Trading Estate, Whitby Road, Bristol BS4 4AX. Tel: 0117 972 4248. A free summary is available from the Representation Unit, Institute of Management, 2 Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0EZ.

Flexibility now key to survival say UK's top employers

Flexible working is now an essential element in the business strategy for most of the UK's top employers. That is the key finding of the fourth Survey of Long Term Employment Strategies, published by the Institute of Management (IM) and Manpower plc, one of the UK's leading employment services company.

Almost 90 per cent of the UK's leading employers use part-time and temporary workers, and 70 per cent contract out non-core operations.

All forms of alternative work patterns are set to increase in the next year, with over half the respondents predicting an increase in flexible working and contracting out. Over the next four years, four out of five employers predict an increase in flexible working, and 70 per cent an increase in contracting out.

Cost-cutting was seen by 40 per cent of respondents as the primary factor influencing employment levels. The requirement to increase flexibility and boost productivity and increased competitive pressures were the other key reasons cited.

The survey confirms the trend away from traditional patterns of full-time core employment towards a wholly flexible employment market. While four in five predict that 90 per cent of their workforce will remain core employees over the next year, only 47 per cent anticipate this to be the case within a four-year period.

It is critical that any restructuring is accompanied by an effective communications strategy. Many employers already recognize potential issues in managing a diverse workforce; 40 per cent of respondents foresee difficulties in maintaining the morale and motivation of core staff; and half are apprehensive about the potential loss of a sense of cohesion among workers.

Despite the apparent end to the recession, restructuring and further job losses are set to continue. Although over half the respondents reported restructuring since the beginning of 1994, 40 per cent intend to restructure within the next 12 months and over 70 per cent within the next four years.

More than three-quarters of restructuring exercises have led to job losses at all levels. Over 70 per cent of respondents claim to have lost at least one level of management. These job cuts are set to continue; almost six in ten anticipate further reductions. However, only 8 per cent of employers predict the loss of more than one layer, compared with 28 per cent last year.

Last year's trend towards hiring older workers has been reversed this year. Only 15 per cent of employers predict an increase in the next year, compared with 65 per cent last year. Over the next four years a 26 per cent increase is forecast, compared with 77 per cent last year. A possible explanation is that organizations were previously only paying lip service to public concern and not matching words with action.

Roger Young, IM director general said: "The 9-5 job is a thing of the past. Teleworking, home working, outsourcing and interim management are here to stay and set to grow. Flexible employment is now integral to organizational strategy. Employees and employers must learn to adapt and change to ensure their future success".

Iain Herbertson, marketing director of Manpower plc, said: "An increasingly competitive environment requires companies to be more productive. Flexible working enables companies to be more efficient by enabling them to manage the size of their workforce to fit with the changing demands of the work load".

The Survey of Long Term Employment Strategies 1995 is available free of charge from the Institute of Management, 2 Savoy Court, Strand, London, WC2R OEZ. Tel: 0171 497 0580.

Avoiding stress litigation

When Camden and Islington Health Authority, in April 1995, paid compensation and costs in an out-of-court settlement of Dr Chris Johnstone's stress litigation, another warning bell sounded for British industry.

The first case of stress litigation was settled in November 1994 by a [pounds]200,000 payout from Northumberland County Council to social worker, John Walker. While two cases do not make a flood, they do demonstrate that employers have a legal duty to provide a safe system of work and that this includes being safe from stress-related injuries and illness.

Traditionally, compensation claims are the result of workplace accidents causing physical injury and the extent to which the authorities will accept stress as a work-related personal injury depends on the identification of a recognized stress-related illness and establishing causation, a link between the workplace and injury.

If these hurdles are overcome, liability must be proved and this is determined by what is a reasonable, or unreasonable, risk and what is foreseeable damage. In the case of John Walker, for instance, his first breakdown did not constitute negligence as it was argued that his employers could not foresee the risk posed by his working conditions nor the resultant damage.

However, when John Walker had a second breakdown after returning to the same workplace conditions that argument did not hold-up. The first breakdown was deemed sufficient warning that there was an unreasonable risk and that the damage, a second breakdown, was foreseeable.

Companies faced with an increased possibility of stress litigation and certain legislative changes in relation to stress-inducing workplace problems can act either to avoid stress in their workforce or, should a case arise, to mitigate the allegations of negligence over stress.

"Clearly it is better for companies to have a positive attitude about stress reduction rather than to act merely to mitigate allegations of negligence, and undoubtedly the vast majority of UK companies are of this mind", commented Ian Campbell, marketing director for leading employee counsellor FOCUS. "Stress reduction is, after all, as much in the company's interest as that of its employees because stress can lead to absence, poor productivity, low motivation and even resignations of highly trained, highly valuable staff, all of which will adversely affect the bottom line.

Significant changes to the structure and operation of an organization, resulting in redundancies and new working practices for those who remain, can markedly increase stress levels and at the same time bring to the attention of employers the need for stress management.

British Gas is a case in point. It is no secret that the company is undergoing a major restructuring involving redundancies for several thousands of employees. This in itself is stressful, but for those who remain there will be new responsibilities and increased pressure to perform in what is a more competitive marketplace.

With the restructuring in mind, British Gas instituted the UK's largest ever employee assistance programme (EAP). This confidential, telephone counselling service provided by FOCUS has been used by more than 2,000 employees and their families in its first year.

"While the provision of an EAP could mitigate an allegation of stress-related negligence, the aim in providing it should be to help reduce the kind of stress which, in extreme cases, might lead to litigation", explained Mr Campbell. David Waters, human resource director for Thresher, the drinks retailing arm of Whitbread, is one of the EAP's greatest advocates.

"Person to Person (as the Whitbread EAP is called) has proved its value by helping a large number of people with problems which may have been affecting their work performance and, after calculating its impact, we are confident that the programme has paid for itself and more", explained Mr Waters.

EAPs can address any number of stress-inducing problems from work issues through to personal difficulties such as family disputes. It is, however, possible to identify very specific causes of stress and provide very specific solutions to these.

Workplace harassment is a good example which, as well as adversely affecting an employee's performance, is, since February 1995, a criminal offence punishable by the courts. There is also no longer any ceiling for compensation in harassment cases brought against employers. These pressures, together with societal changes which have increased awareness of harassment as a problem, have led some employers to institute counselling and training programmes specifically to tackle harassment.

British Rail has issued a directive to its 81 operating companies which aims to eradicate harassment of all kinds. It has led to the creation of teams of counsellors from within the workforce who were trained by the human resource consultancy, CEPEC, for the job. CEPEC has also provided training to line managers in some of the companies.

"This training highlighted and reinforced the companies' own equal opportunities and harassment policies and sought to encourage line managers who play a key role in making the policy work", explained Sue Culley of CEPEC. The programme also included interview training which focused on how managers should interview candidates without bias.

Many employers are emphasizing the need to attack stress at source rather than just dealing with it once it arises. The key to this is making management receptive to concerns about long hours, excessive responsibilities, conflicts, etc. which lead to stress, and ensuring they are willing to act on them.

While primarily an internal management matter, many companies are providing training to encourage better recognition and appreciation of stress-inducing situations and individual cases of stress. Such training could either avoid severe stress build-up leading to litigation or mitigate allegations of negligence if a case arises.

Some of this training is aimed at creating the necessary communication, such as upward or 360 [degrees] feedback; other training will specifically tackle identifying situations likely to cause stress and training in areas such as motivational counselling, conflict mediation, and leadership to enable managers to deal with the causes of stress.

For further information contact Ian Campbell, marketing director for FOCUS, the outplacement and employee counselling company. Tel: 0181 441 9300.

Women believe that courses attended by women only are more beneficial to them

Of women who have attended women-only development courses, 95.7 per cent believe that the women-only aspect was of benefit to them, with 72.9 per cent saying it enhanced their learning, and 87.5 per cent saying they would recommend a women-only course to other women.

The results of a survey of 1,452 women are published in a report entitled Women Singled out, written by Jenny Daisley and Liz Willis and published by The Springboard Consultancy.

The report presents the opinions of a diversity of women from 40 UK organizations, in different jobs, of different ages and races and having attended a wide variety of women-only development training events. On women-only development courses, in comparison to attending mixed sex courses, women reported feeling more:

* confident;

* able to express their views;

* able to be trusting;

* free to be themselves; and

* able to take risks.

The 32-page report is the only quantitative survey on the value of women-only development training. It is unusual in including the views of non-management and unemployed women.

Women Single out is available at [pounds]27 inclusive of postage and packing, mail order from The Springboard Consultancy, PO Box 69, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 5EE. Tel: 01453 878540; Fax: 01453 872363.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.
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Title Annotation:Research Reports; effects of changing roles on senior executives
Publication:Journal of Managerial Psychology
Date:Jan 1, 1996
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