- Hitting the spot…..
The NAO warned last week that the Work Programme is passing over harder-to-help claimants in favour of easier cases as service providers seek to protect profits. I think no-one in the industry can argue with that fact: in order to survive in the Work Programme, providers have to hit hard and fast with the ‘easier’ customers and get the cash rolling.
So what’s the problem, why the warning? If we look not too far into the future we can see a storm brewing because the Work Programme has been set up with a marvelous dichotomy right at it’s very core. The Work Programme wants performance, performance, and performance. Numbers, numbers and numbers. Sustainability, sustainability and sustainability. That is fine, and perfectly reasonable and rightly ambitious. But this emphasis on quantity has started to further dehumanize a system that involves, well……humans as it’s output. You are entering dangerous territory when you forget the human factors and in this case will start to make worse the very problem it is trying to solve.
Take this quote from an unemployed man on the Work Programme,
Thirty-eight year-old Martin Williams, from St Helens, has been on the work programme for five months.
Having been unemployed for eight years and attended previous back-to-work schemes with the same contractor, he is understandably frustrated.
“They haven’t helped me at all. It dehumanises you, and you feel worse,” said Mr Williams.
“It got to the stage where I thought I’d rather be hit by a bus than come in here which is not the right frame of mind to be in when you are looking for a job.”
What this person describes is a system that is highly standardized. There is very little discretion allowed by the people who work in it (i.e. no humanizing allowed), and the outcome is a mechanical and robotic interaction and performance, numbers and sustainability become pipe dreams to say the least.
So, if performance, numbers and sustainability are the required outcome, then the Work Programme could look to changing a few things, but in the meantime (and bearing in mind that change probably won’t happen) maybe there is a radical solution for providers to start to hit the numbers that the Work Programme requires. This is changing the way in which people like Mr. Williams view this system, their unemployment and the challenges they face. If we can make him more resilient to what is coming his way, lift him out of the helpless and angry state he finds himself in and get him in “the right frame of mind” to find a job, despite the Work Programme. Providers then maybe will see light at the end of the tunnel.
Get the ‘harder-to-help’ claimants mentally fit and ready for the challenge of navigating the Work Programme and unemployment in general, and the performance, numbers and sustainability will follow. We have figures to prove that this works – three times as many people will go back to work if they change the way in which they think about the system and their unemployment, and get their mindset into one of persistence and resilience not apathy and inertia .
For any information on JL Work Solutions’ innovative Attitudinal Change programme for ‘harder-to-help’ claimants, contact us at email@example.com
(Tue, 07 Feb 2012 17:26:29 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- The Feckless Workless
Iain Duncan Smith said he wants to “cure the sin of worklessness”, Chris Grayling said it was “high time” people just got a job, while Tory peer Howard Flight said that benefits encourage “breeding” amongst poor people. There is and always has been a strong negative narrative about unemployed people and others tend to lump unemployed people into categories – they are either feckless, lazy, lunatics or stupid, sometimes all four.
This sort of stereotyping is absolutely pervasive in our culture – there are rarely any positive representations of unemployed people in any of our media outlets. Instead we are treated to the Shameless characters who personify the categories above, generally with an added bonus of criminality too.
So when we embarked on our latest training project with groups of long term unemployed people in January, it was no surprise that we were constantly being told by anyone and everyone that the group of people we were going to be training were going to be “hard work”, “difficult”, possibly “violent”, won’t bother to attend because they “just don’t want to get a job” and they have “got an easy life” so why will they want to change?
We therefore embarked on the project with great fear that we had got it totally wrong and our training would not be of any benefit for these people. But we started by meeting all the training delegates individually, as we do with all our training delegates. We know from the research in Psychology that unemployment brings with it many psychological problems such as social exclusion, risk taking behaviours such as excessive alcohol and drug taking, depression and stress, but nothing can quite prepare you for the reality of how unemployment really affects people, and especially men.
The people we interviewed on that day showed amazing humility but each and every one of them showed signs of total helplessness at their situation; disgusted with themselves for being there but unable to see a way of getting out. How it feels to be unemployed was summed up by a bright hooded young man who said “I just feel wounded”. Wounded is a powerful word, and he meant it to be powerful, such is the devastation caused by being unemployed. Every corner he turns there is someone to criticise him, to judge him, to tell him he is useless, to tell him to ‘just try harder’ – yet the true reality is that not one of these people wanted to be where they were, why would they? Not one of them wanted to be on benefits, it is certainly anything but an easy life. But for most of them, their resolve had been battered, their motivation sapped, their self worth drained, and they could see no way out. Most harmfully of all, they didn’t think they deserved to get out. The barriers were truly psychological and helplessness was at the top of the list.
Our philosophy has always been that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, and our training proved a powerful illustration of this aphorism: treat people with respect and understanding, treat people how you would be wished to treated yourself and together you will achieve great things. So by not simply succumbing to the stereotype and the prejudice, we scratched beneath the surface, we delivered our training, we had great fun and we all achieved much more than we ever expected.
(Wed, 13 Apr 2011 13:24:19 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- Is this really what we want our salespeople to look like?
Last year I completed some research exploring the role of Psychopathy on sales performance. After sampling 190 sales people and their sales results, the outcome was that those who displayed two of the factors of Psychopathy were the more successful sales people.
The two factors of Psychopathy showing a positive correlation with sales performance were Machiavellian Egocentricity and Fearlessness. They turned out to be pretty good predictors of sales performance. Someone who is Machiavellian attempts to achieve their goals by cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous methods. Someone who displays fearlessness has a shortage of fear in social situations, and often impulsivity of behaviour. I think we can all recognise these traits as being something a stereotypical sales person might display.
But what does this say about what we expect from our salespeople? Are we saying that only those who display some of the elements of a psychopath can survive in sales? Is the challenge to our inner motivations by sales so great that you need to be a sub-clinical Psychopath to succeed in it?
There are certainly many implications from the research in terms of recruitment and management of sales people, however I think the main point is the recognition of sales being a very motivationally challenging role. Thus, to be truly successful and move away from the much perpetuated and accepted 80/20 Pareto’s Law, organisations must help and train sales people to be able to deal with the very specific challenges to motivation that sales involves, without necessarily encouraging Psychopathy !
(Mon, 22 Nov 2010 13:18:43 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- In recognition of Emotional Labour
Call centres are usually reported to have staggeringly high level of turnover and burnout of staff, costing organisations a lot of money in recruitment and training. And no-one seems to be able to solve the problem. One of the things I think they miss is that call centre work is emotional. By that I mean that there are considerable aspects of their tasks that uniquely makes demands on the worker’s emotions. Taylor and Bain (1999) described call centre work as an “assembly line in the head”.
Workers in a call centre are forced to empathise with the customer, manage the tone of their voice, control their emotions and “smile down the phone”, even if the customer is being difficult and they feel entirely different about the situation. Ask any Psychologist and they will tell you that asking humans to consistently behave in a way in which is not how they actually feel about the situation, doesn’t acknowledge how they feel and allows them no independence of thought, is a sure fire path to burnout. Burnout means ” no more to give, no energy left and no hope of change in the current situation”.
Who can blame them? Research by Dr Dieter Zapf of Frankfurt University suggests that workers who constantly have to pretend to be friendly to customers suffer from higher rates of depression and illness. Flight attendants, sales personnel and call centre operators are most at risk, he says. “Every time a person is forced to repress his true feelings, there are negative consequences for his health,” says Professor Dieter Zapf. In the call centre world, this translates into turnover and burnout.
So the question remains, what can call centres do to tackle the staggering turnover of staff in call centres? In my opinion, more needs to be done to tackle the emotional health of workers because as we have seen there are constant emotional demands being put on the workers, and this is precisely what we ignore, yet we ignore it at our peril.
Training people to deal with adversity and to have a deep understanding of the interactions they are undertaking will help, but at an organisational level, aligning the strategy with realistic emotional demands will make the world of difference.
(Thu, 11 Nov 2010 10:03:29 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- Do sales incentives incentivise?
There is a very narrow definition of incentives in the sales domain. It seems to be assumed that if you offer a sales person extra money, they will put in extra work. Incentives schemes are generally developed by accountants, and are always developed with the bottom line in mind, and more often than not fail to assess whether the incentives are changing the behaviour of sales people for the better.
Psychology says something very different to the accountant versed in Economics. The research on the psychological foundations of incentives shows that monetary incentives often backfire and in fact reduce the performance of sales people and/or their compliance with rules.
This is counter-intuitive and goes against the whole ethos of sales management as we see it today, so let me explain what the research says in some more detail. There is no doubt that people engage in many tasks and activities because they enjoy them – these tasks provide intrinsic pleasure – that is, they are a reward in themselves. But in the real world, most people do not have perfect knowledge about the reasons for performing a task – they are not conscious of whether they are doing it just for doing it’s sake, or for some other motive. That is, they do not know perfectly to what extent a task’s intrinsic feature motivate their behaviour.
However, what is clear is that when you add an extrinsic reward for work, such as sales bonuses and sales commissions, you have the very real danger of reducing any intrinsic pleasure people have in the job and thus negatively affecting motivation and effort. It is known in the field as ‘crowding out’ intrinsic motivation. You can start to see the danger.
There are many many theories in Psychology about motivations and incentives, but all the research over the last few decades shows that the desire to avoid risk (i.e. sacking due to non-performance) and generating income is important for sales people, and therefore effort is made in that respect, but of equal or arguably greater importance are the non-pecuniary motives that shape human behaviour. And it is exactly this that current sales structures do not take into account – is it really the right way to incentive sales people with a % on their sale? What is this actually doing to their behaviour? We all assume it is making them put in extra effort – but what if it is doing the opposite?
An interesting case study in what I am talking about comes from Carphone Warehouse – they dropped their commission structure and got the results they had been after !
(Tue, 12 Oct 2010 12:19:12 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- Sales Training – how do you chose?
It is the proverbial mine field. How do you pick sales training from the 149,000,000 results (in 0.24 seconds) thrown back from Google? How do you know whether the person who has been recommended is an objective recommendation or instead there is some vested interest in the recommendation? Sales training outranks the amounts spent in training middle and upper management, so it is big business, yet which ones will provide the Return On Investment all businesses desire?
The problem with sales is that there is no curriculum, no industry standard and no best practice. Everyone has their own view and experience, so when a trainer tells you their way is the best, it might often simply be based on their opinion or a few carefully selected reference sites. One way to tackle this is to look to the evaluation of their products. There is a standard in the evaluation of training and the most accepted method of evaluation uses the Kirkpatrick model from 1976. If your trainer is doing ‘proper’ and full evaluation of the effectiveness of their training, this should be done over the full four levels. However, research shows this is very often neglected for many reasons, such as trainer anxiety over the results or further costs to already expensive training. But the only way to really know whether training is effective is to do the full four level evaluation – and this is much much more than a ‘happy sheet’ so traditionally classed as evaluation.
Can your trainer satisfy you that they are completing a full evaluation process and if so, what do their results say?
(Wed, 29 Sep 2010 19:51:49 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog
- Phone Tapping Questions
This story is a web of whispers, accusations and cover ups, making it hard to distinguish the real story. However for me, it now boils down to a matter of integrity. There are a few people whose integrity is being questioned, obviously Andy Coulson’s integrity is being heavily interrogated (well by the non-Murdoch press at least) but most importantly this has become a test of the integrity of the Prime Minister.
Why did David Cameron employ a man who had resigned from his last position under a dark cloud of uncertainty with hints of skulduggery , and from an organisation not historically known for it’s high morals and integrity? Is the manipulation of information more important than integrity of information for Cameron?
And what will Cameron do now? The pressure is on. If he appears to support and protect someone whose integrity is seriously questioned, his own integrity will be questioned and that is when trust begins to diminish and achieving the goals he has set out may become more difficult and success a more difficult journey.
Of course what he should do is set the standards for how others ought to behave, initiate transparency and eliminate this conflict quickly and clearly. But let’s see shall we……….
(Tue, 14 Sep 2010 09:07:54 GMT) JL Work Solutions' Blog