Recruit, Inspire & Retain

January/February 2010

Ideas for “Marketing” and Providing “Customer Service” to Current and Potential Employees
Great Training for Great Employees 
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§ FUN Days to Celebrate (Call Us For Ways to Celebrate the FUN
   Days to Celebrate!)
§ Recruit: Job Descriptions Shouldn’t Be About the Job
§ Posters: Random Thoughts for the Day
§ Cool Calls
§ Inspire: How Pets Inspire Employees
§ Train: ASTD’s How to Communicate the Value of Learning in
   Difficult Economic Times Report

§ Retain: Engaging the Almost Great
§ Professional Development Conferences
§ Contests; Award Nominations to Enter
§ Ways to Volunteer & Give

LEARN IN 2009?

  and let us know what you did

7 things TRAINING SYSTEMS Learned

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We encourage you to use these articles in your own communications with staff and customers/members.


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January Special Days


January is...

Book Blitz Month
Celebration of Life Month
Financial Wellness Month
International Creativity Month
National Be On-Purpose Month
National Clean Up Your Computer Month
National Get Organized Month
National Hot Tea Month
National Mentoring Month
Oatmeal Month
Thyroid Awareness Month

February is...

American Heart Month
International Boost Self-Esteem Month
International Expect Success Month
Library Lovers Month
National Bird Feeding Month
National Care About Your Indoor Air Month
National Cherry Month
National Time Management Month
Plant the Seeds of Greatness Month
Pull Your Sofa Off The Wall Month

January 11-15 – Cuckoo Dancing Week (...actual cuckoos dancing...or people dancing like cuckoos? And how do cuckoos dance, anyway?)
January 18-22 – Healthy Weight Week & National Activity Professional Week
January 25-29 – National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Week & National Take Back Your Time Week

January 14 – Dress Up Your Pet Day & Organize Your Home Day
January 16 – Appreciate A Dragon Day ("If you don’t believe in dragons, it is curiously true, that the dragons you disparage, choose to not believe in you." From The Dragons Are Singing Tonight, by Jack Prelutsky)
January 17 – Bald Eagle Appreciation Day, Customer Service Day, & Hot Heads Chili Days
January 18 – Thesaurus Day, Martin Luther King Day, & Winnie The Pooh Day (Oh, bother!)
January 21 – Get to Know Your Customers Day, National Hugging Day, & Women’s Healthy Weight Day
January 22 – Answer Your Cats Questions Day (I thought cats already knew everything!)
January 23 – National Pie Day & Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day (Celebrate by throwing a pie at the snowplow.)
January 24 – National Compliment Day
January 25 – Better Business Communication Day & Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day (Remember, therapy is expensive, bubble wrap is cheap!)
January 26 – National Speak Up and Succeed Day
January 27 – Holocaust Memorial Day & Vietnam Peace Day
January 29 – Fun at Work Day
January 30 – Inane Answering Message Day (Annually, the day set aside to change, shorten, replace or delete those ridiculous and/or annoying answering machine messages that waste the time of anyone who must listen to them.)

Email TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. for ideas on how to celebrate any of these days.

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Job Descriptions Shouldn’t Be About the Job
by John Wentworth

Well, not just about the job. They need to reflect the company’s objectives, mission and culture, too.

PROBLEM: Incomplete job descriptions allow the wrong people to be picked for jobs…and then they underperform, hurting themselves and the company.

SOLUTION: Abandon job descriptions. Typically they ignore critical aspects of the job. Replace them with complete and comprehensive single-event, behavioral selection requirements that address tasks and the organization’s culture. Select rigorously against these requirements and you will hire people who fit the culture and perform.

Jacinda was so happy. The weather was beautiful. The sky was uncommonly blue. The traffic was lighter than usual. And she had just been promoted.

Jacinda had worked for one company for almost ten years but had, all that time, been in a field office. This promotion got her to corporate, closer to decisions. She was stoked.

The only little odd feeling she had as she drove to her new job that morning was that there was a new CEO and some sort of culture change initiative was going on. She was not sure quite what it meant. But she was confident that she could rise above any organizational issues. She had lived through multiple field managers and always prospered.

Jacinda was an engineer and plain spoken. She had built her career on solving customer’s problems quickly and efficiently. A box in her back seat was full of awards and commendations she had collected for having made customers very happy.

Her welcome was great. The receptionist knew her by name. As soon as she walked into her corporate lobby, Rikki, the HR Director, who had managed her promotion, appeared and walked her to her office, then to her boss’s office.

But trouble began the first day. In a meeting, she was asked for her opinion about a customer problem. She knew the issue and answered in her usual organized and candid way. She skillfully avoided placing blame, but did not mince words about the company having made mistakes. She noticed a nearly imperceptible recoil in the room as she talked. Someone asked her what her approach to solving the problem would be. Again she felt the recoil as she described her vision of multi-departmental teams attacking the problem in order to overcome the lack of coordination that had caused it in the first place.

Jacinda’s mother had not raised any fools, so after the meeting she went directly to HR to chat with Rikki. They had talked extensively about the perils of moving from the field to corporate but Rikki had never mentioned the degree of sensitivity that had been displayed in the meeting. "The rat," she thought as she got off the elevator.

"I didn’t know," Rikki said. She, too, was new to corporate. "I worked off of the job description." "Let’s see that puppy," Jacinda commanded, thoroughly irritated.

Rikki was right. Nowhere in the job description was anything said about having the diplomatic skills of Henry Kissinger. In fact, the job description was silent as to anything about organizational culture or any important soft skills. It focused exclusively on what the person did. No more.

"Well, that’s a fine kettle of fish," Jacinda thought. The next day she packed her awards back into the box, having moved very quickly to get her old job back. It turned out that the new CEO had been appalled at the degree of bickering and back-biting that went on in the corporate office. He had observed that the internal lack of consideration was spilling outside to clients and had issued a directive that people "learn to be nice to each other." Her directness had been interpreted by the newly converted as being critical. She was done and knew it. There was no point in staying.

Jacinda’s story happened several more times to other people until someone thought that they might include behavioral expectations in the job descriptions so, when candidates were evaluated for promotion to corporate, the evaluations helped select individuals who actually furthered the CEO’s campaign to introduce civility to their workplace.

Jacinda had escaped the harsh consequences of the error, but others did not and found themselves enjoying employment with other companies. Their skills and talents were missed, and they missed their friends, but the real villain was their having been wrongly evaluated before they got moved to corporate. And the cause of that problem was the success criteria simply had not been written down in such a way that they would be used.

Not much later, Jacinda was recruited away to a competitor where her candor was valued.

All of this could have been avoided if what Jacinda’s job required had been accurately written down and used for selection.

Things to think about/do before you start recruiting:
• Have you specified ALL the human requirements of the job? (See for the AIMS – Attitudes, Interests and Motivations – test for one way to help specify this.)
• Do a 360 degree investigation of the job and ask the boss, peers and subordinates "What kind of person will do well?" or "What special skills does someone need for this job?"
• Check out O*net for easily searchable and complete lists of tasks, tools & technology, knowledge, skills, abilities, work activities, work context, interests, work styles, and work values for thousands of jobs.
• Use your empathy. Imagine yourself in the job. What would you need to do well?
• Use single event, behavioral/observable descriptions of the tasks that make up a job. Then look at each and ask, "What do you need to have to do well at this?"

From the HRP Center




17 Rules Successful Companies Use to Attract and Keep Top Talent: Why Engaged Employees Are Your Greatest Sustainable Advantage, by David F. Russo
The Job Description Handbook, by Margaret Mader-Clark

Order both by calling 800-469-3560 or emailing and get your 10% discount by mentioning RIR. 


Tools: Recruit Inspire Train Retain


Get more tips on recruiting great employees from TRAINING SYSTEMS.

Have a recruitment, inspiration, training, or retention idea or question? Send e-mail to and we’ll post your idea or question (and the answer) in Answers & Ideas on Recruiting, Inspiring, Training, & Retaining Great Employees at

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Random Thoughts of the Day

1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

3. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

4. Was learning cursive really necessary?

5. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

6. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

7. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

8. Bad decisions make good stories.

9. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

10. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

11. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.

12. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?

13. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

14. I hate admit this but I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad, what would happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the heck do respond to that?

16. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

**TOOL BOX****
"All stressed out and no one to choke" poster Here’s a FREE poster that everyone will LOVE Want more? Email or call 800-469-3560 to find out how to buy packs of posters!

Tools: Recruit Inspire Train Retain


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From the December 2009 issue question - ‘28% of companies have bolstered employee training despite recession, about 1/4 of companies have cut back in the past year. Which are you?’:
Carla Puckett, Executive Director, Springfield Arc, Inc. answered, "We are bolstering employee training."

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How Pets Inspire Employees

With so many of us working at home part of the time or all of it, we thought it would be interesting to see if people’s pets help them do their work or hinder them.

All the articles we’ve printed in past issues of Recruit, Inspire & Retain  say pets inspire/they help. So we asked a few TRAINING SYSTEMS, INC. Associates:


Betsy Sobiech & Abby: "Since I'm lucky enough to work from my home office, I get to take my breaks with Abby throughout the day. She's a constant reminder of what's most important ... playing and relaxing. She reminds me to do both of those things on an ongoing basis, which helps me be more effective when I am working."


Rita Rizzo & Mac: "Meet Russian daily stress reliever, my cuddler, my clown. Mac is funny, compassionate and generally too cool for his own fur. A ten minute Mac break can inspire me, heal me, bring my blood pressure down and my creativity up. He is the purrfect workplace mate, for I am never an interruption in his life, but I am his human and he lives to make me happy!"



Amy Riley & Fozzy Bear: "He reminds me of the big picture, reminds me I’m loved and to not sweat the small stuff."




Carolyn B Thompson & Emi: "No matter what this girl is doing, even sleeping, she’s just too hysterical! I laugh every time I look at her (I don’t need to explain to you the inspiration benefits fo laughter do I?)."

What about you? How do your pets inspire you? Email us with a picture

Get more tips on INSPIRIng great employees from TRAINING SYSTEMS.

The Powerful Bond Between People and Pets: Our Boundless Connections to Companion Animals, by P. Elizabeth Anderson
The Healing Power of Pets: Harnessing the Amazing Ability of Pets to Make and Keep People Happy and Healthy, by Marty Becker
  Order both by calling 800-469-3560 or emailing and get your 10% discount by mentioning RIR.  Get more tips on inspiring your employees by clicking

Tools: Recruit Inspire Train Retain

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ASTD’s How to Communicate the Value of Learning in Difficult Economic Times Report

If you didn’t read it during 2009 at least read these 2 sections to get your leaning ready for 2010!

Section 9: Action Plan for Learning Departments

How will your learning department adapt to difficult economic conditions? According to the 2008 ASTD State of the Industry report, more than 70 percent of the average number of learning hours per employee is spent in front of a live instructor. How will you support the same level of learning for your organization when travel and other budgets are cut? ASTD has compiled a list of action items to help your learning department be as efficient and effective as possible when you face the possibility of fewer resources.


To sustain a competitive advantage in today’s knowledge economy, organizations must create learning cultures that support employee development, a high level of engagement, and opportunities to achieve higher performance. Do the senior leaders in your organization know and believe this? According to 603 learning professionals in the ASTD-i4cp "Organizational Learning in Tough Economic Times" study, learning departments are more prepared to communicate the value of learning to senior-level executives than they were just two years ago. And, learning departments are coming up with cost-effective ways to educate their employees through informal learning mechanisms. Try some of these approaches:

Encourage greater use of informal learning—especially coaching and mentoring programs.
You may consider:
• Use more short learning sessions to support inter-departmental knowledge management, deliver policy-related information, and inform and discuss new marketplace trends
• Offer training on personal financial planning, stress management, and personal and professional career development.

Make learning opportunities more universally available for everyone in your organization from both content and delivery perspectives.
• Offer soft skills training (for example, listening skills or the ability to motivate). These skills will help support a more positive culture and maintain a more solid environment during unstable times
• Offer more 24/7 accessible learning through your company intranet.

Retrain employees whose skills are outdated.

Emphasize individual responsibility for learning.
• Provide systems that support knowledge-sharing, such as wikis, blogs, and social networking tools
• Increase the knowledge assets available to employees through learning management systems
• Recognize and reward employees’ self-motivated learning efforts

Don’t stop leadership development programs that focus on financial and performance goals—your high-potential employees may end up filling open positions in the coming year.

Keep supervisors and company executives abreast of learning outcomes. If you can prove that learning has a positive influence on performance, it will be less likely to be cut from budgets.

Your 2009 budget may force you to do more with less. At the same time, employee performance and accountability for performance is at an all-time high so you not only need to do more with less but you need to shine. Consider adopting a few of these approaches to work more creatively with your learning dollars.

Reduce the number of "nice-to-haves" at training events or meetings and focus on what is necessary to help learners retain information and apply what they learn on the job.

Consider your ability to create more in-house training by re-using pieces of existing content or use more e-learning or other lower-cost alternatives which will help cut travel dollars.

Pool learning-related resources (classrooms, instructors, courses, etc.) with other organizations or providers.

According to the 2008 ASTD State of the Industry report, nearly one-third of learning hours are delivered via e-learning and this percentage increases every year. You may realize some cost savings, added flexibility, and greater reach by using e-learning. Have you thought about some of these ideas?

Shift some of your most widely used training programs to e-learning applications or virtual delivery formats. Don’t forget about rapid design software, performance management software, and learning management systems. You may pay for upfront development fees but the cost savings will be realized quickly.

Use technology-based games and simulations to provide new ways of learning. Some off-the-shelf simulation products may work for your most immediate needs.

Provide the technology that supports more communities of practice, wikis, and blogs.

Use webinars and podcasts for short, just-in-time learning opportunities.

Some companies are facing layoffs of their training staffs. Get ahead of this and provide a plan for how your learning department staff members can act in a more versatile manner or be more flexible with their current jobs. Consider some of these options.

Encourage job sharing among learning department staff members.

Offer sabbaticals to learning department staff members.

Provide essential training to learning department staff members to ensure that they are at the top of their games.

Allow trainers to rotate between jobs within and outside of the learning department. Trainers are often subject matter experts from a particular discipline. A sales trainer today may be a sales account manager tomorrow.

Review alternative work arrangements that may satisfy your employees while simultaneously working in favor of your reduced budget.

During a time when business leaders find it difficult to project future success, they are no less accountable for the stability and profitability of their organizations. Help your business leaders make decisions by determining the resources required to reach an end goal. If implementation of the goal requires special capability, it is more important than ever to make sure that the right people with the right skills are in the right positions to get the job done.

Keep these things in mind.
Focus learning opportunities on the strategic goals of the organization. When you focus on the core goals, you can identify the competencies you need to develop and ultimately spend your training dollars more wisely.

Gain support and active engagement from the C-suite before launching any learning initiatives. Everything is being watched these days. It’s worth your time to get business leader buy-in before taking a plunge.

Align every learning program with business objectives and understand how to calculate the financial impact of the performance improvement achieved as a result of the learning. Understand and report the program’s return-on-investment. Make sure your learning program has a positive ROI.

Section 10: Future Role of Learning Professionals

When this recession ends, what will workplace learning and performance look like? What efficiencies gained during this cost-cutting economic downturn will emerge as new ways to do business in learning and development? Six major trends will drive learning in the future:

E-learning will continue to increase. Having gained attention as a cost-saving device during the recession, it will continue to increase in use because of its ease of use and cost-saving efficiency. Many companies have reduced travel, so training with tools such as web conferences, podcasts, and videos is going to become common in workplaces. "One of the things that we have elected to do is not go with expensive collaboration tools or technology, but use the telephone more," says Harrison. "It sounds a little trite, but you can get a lot done using the telephone. It is all about utilizing the collaboration tools you already have in place." The upfront investment is what stops some companies from implementing different e-learning technologies and tools. "Careful analysis must be done. What is the organization’s breaking point?" says Harrison. "It is different for everyone."

One of the most important benefits of e-learning is its global reach. Technology is making the world flat. It is bringing together company employees from all over the world. "We are using a virtual classroom with audio and video capabilities. We are creating more animation using Flash and more interactivity with simulations. We are getting more creative in terms of our e-learning products," says George Wolfe, vice president of global learning and development for Steelcase. "We are probably not doing things as well as Defense Acquisition University or some corporate universities that are state-of-the-art, but we are trying to use technology as well as we can."

Companies that did not cut training and used their resources to build skills for the post-recession will enjoy a competitive advantage. In an April 2005 T+D article on Steelcase, President and CEO Jim Hackett talked about investing in learning during the economic recession in 2000. "The essential basis for why we invested in a learning center, irrespective of the economic cycle, is that we feel that it is the center of the strategy of the company. In our business, we study the nature of space and how and why companies use it to work more effectively and efficiently. Strategy discussion works better here, in a learning center, than in other facilities.

"In the downturn, it was really important that the strategy of the company go forward," adds Hackett. "It was important, or more important, than when things were going great. We had to help the vitality of the business." Adobe, a company that is seeing growth during these difficult times, relies on innovation and learning as key components to success. "Historically we’ve had a section in the budget for employee training and development. And to be honest, that’s one of the things we never cut even in tough economic times," says Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO, Adobe. "It goes back to our fundamental premise that all our intellectual property is in our people’s minds. People are the real assets of the company. It’s really very shortsighted to say you’re not going to invest in your people."

Industries and organizations helped by the stimulus package will be areas of focus for training and employee development. The massive $787 billion dollar stimulus legislation—called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (HR 1)—includes more than $5 billion for training for a variety of programs across a number of U.S. federal agencies. The bill invests heavily in new technologies, infrastructure projects, and healthcare. A significant portion of training funding—$750 million—is being devoted to competitive grants for high growth industries, and $500 million of these funds will be devoted to projects in the new Green Jobs Act. "Having a greater sense of what is happening in the world is something that we are going to need to press forward on—whether that is training grants, opportunities for federal grants or demonstration projects, or testing technology—we have to be more leading edge in adopting alternative methods," Harrison says. "We need to embrace them wholeheartedly and have them be a part of our strategy."

Training efforts will continue to focus on achieving organizational performance goals. "Performance-based learning brings the greatest value," Wolfe says. "Learning is good, but it more or less teaches how to test out on the knowledge part of the material as opposed to transferring that learning into the workplace."

Efficiencies gained during the recession will be maintained. There will be no going back to old ways. Harrison says there will be less travel to training sites because it is dislocating to employees and cost intensive. "There will also be stronger alignment between what the business wants and why," she adds. "Motorola used to have the policy that you had to take 40 hours of training a year and it could be on anything you wanted. That is going to change. Now the training will have to be part of the strategic initiative. We are also going to see more emphasis on learning individually and on your own time."

Training that supports and enables self-directed learning and knowledge-sharing will increase. There will be a decrease in training built on the trainer-as-expert model. New types of training transfer the control of learning from the trainer to the learner. Providing the tools for employees to follow a guided career path within their organizations places the responsibility for learning with the employee. "The end result is that employees increase their value while organizations improve retention and their talent base," Michael Laff wrote in an April 2008 T+D article, "Learning Pathfinder." Social networking tools—Web. 2.0 technologies—are becoming more prevalent in learning. According to an ASTD/Booz Allen Hamilton/i4cp study on Web 2.0 technology utilization that is expected to be released in May, 77 percent of respondents said that the most widely reported reason to adopt social networking tools was to improve knowledge sharing. Younger workers have been using these tools for years, so organizations need to be aware of the needs and expectations of the tech-savvy workers who are entering the workforce. Keep in mind that you, your department, the learning profession, and your company are not alone in this crisis. ASTD will continue to bring you best practices across industries to help you triumph as conditions improve. The bottom line is that multiple systems are broken and there is now a chance to rebuild. Let learning professionals be leaders in the recovery.

from ASTD How to Communicate the Value of Learning in Difficult Economic Times Report

Get more tips on TRAINing great employees from TRAINING SYSTEMS.

Getting Your Money's Worth from Training and Development: A Guide to Breakthrough Learning for Managers, by Andrew McK. Jefferson, Roy V. H. Pollock, Calhoun W. Wick
Designing the Smart Organization: How Breakthrough Corporate Learning Initiatives Drive Strategic Change and Innovation, by Roland Deiser
Order both by calling 800-469-3560 or emailing and get your 10% discount by mentioning RIR

Tools: Recruit Inspire Train Retain

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Engaging the Almost Great

In every workforce, there is a group within a group. On the surface, its members seem underwhelming. Some may misconstrue their contributions as mediocre and relegate them to similar status. But with some personal attention and the right developmental investment, this group of almost-greats can fulfill hidden potential.

A well-known saying tells us some people are born to greatness, others achieve it and still others have greatness thrust upon them. But there is also a fourth category.

Call them the "almost great" — those who need a guiding hand or a deeply personal interaction from a mentor or someone they respect to achieve the greatness that dwells within.

A great deal of attention is paid to the top 20% of an organization's workforce — the high fliers. Talent managers also focus energy on remediation or removal of the bottom 20% — those whose performance lags too far to the left of a standard bell curve. That leaves the bulging part of the bell — the 60% of employees who are average performers, or just slightly above or below average.

Neither hot nor cold, these employees do their jobs without distinguishing themselves in any way. But within the group dwells another roughly 20% who deserve attention. This group has as much raw talent and smarts as the top-tier or the high-potential group, but it does not rise to the performance level it could attain. Some of these employees are mired in a personal crisis or have introverted personalities in a workplace of sparkling stars, and they struggle to be noticed. Or perhaps they just need a few additional skills, a bit more self-confidence or someone's understanding to soar.

Quite often this 20% is lost amid the noise of daily tasks, celebrations of the stars' accomplishments and the million other things competing for talent managers' attention in the workplace. This group does not include employees who only perform well when someone is holding their hand. But there are probably millions of people walking around today who could have been great for their organizations, but their supervisors were too busy or preoccupied to give them the personal attention they needed to take their rightful place among the top performers.

Tap Into the Power of the Lost 20%
Turning an average performer into a great one doesn't always involve long hours of training, performance reviews and the like. In fact, many turnarounds come down to defining moments. For example, Paul Massih, vice president of supply chain management for Shell International Exploration and Production, said early in his career, when he led a large global organization, there was a man on his staff in his late 50s. A staff veteran and a great raconteur, the man carried himself in an "I've seen it all" kind of way, and as retirement loomed a few years away, his work started to deteriorate.

"All of a sudden I started getting complaints — not only from his project managers but from customers, as well," Massih said. "He was coming in late, missing deadlines, and his work was shoddy." Massih followed the right protocol, speaking to the man's supervisor in an attempt to assess the situation and rectify it.

Finally, as the complaints mounted, Massih called the employee into his office. "I had all the background paperwork prepared ahead of time, and the first thing I said to him was, 'If you want to leave the company, if you're ready to retire now, I've got the papers right here; all you need to do is sign them and we'll shake hands and part ways.'" Massih had the man's attention.

"But then I let him know he actually had two doors in front of him, and he could choose which one to walk through. Leaving the company was one door. But then I said, 'The other door is if you're willing to talk to me about what's causing you to act this way and to let your work deteriorate like this. If you pledge to make an effort to fix things, I promise you we'll work through it together, and we'll put you back in the saddle.'"

He chose the second door and decided to confide in Massih. The man was having a number of family issues, which had exacerbated a drinking problem. "I told him we'd give him some time to work on the family issues and that we had counseling services as part of our company benefits that would help him deal with alcohol dependency. But I also told him that I would meet with him once a week, every week, until we turned this situation around," Massih said. "It took four or five months, but finally the reports started coming in: This guy was back to being one of our solid producers."

Why make such an investment in the "almost great"? Even in a difficult economy, the value of good talent is undiminished. Organizations can no longer afford to ignore such workers because they are a great untapped source of productivity and competitive advantage.

"I've always been a firm believer that it is much simpler to try to understand what is preventing an employee from reaching his or her potential and then helping them, instead of managing their career down a spiral and then eventually out of the company," Massih said.

Provide the Right Support at the Right Time
Mike Allison is director of learning services for Cerner Corporation, a health care information technology solutions provider. He said he has had several experiences where additional attention and effort made a difference to employees he saw as "diamonds in the rough."

In one case, an employee on Allison's team was suffering not from poor performance so much as an unacceptably low level of confidence. "This employee always had a great work ethic, but when I first observed him he was fumbling through an intern interview," Allison said. "He was nervous and clearly struggling with his communication skills. He also wasn't sure of his place on the team."

Training in communications and public speaking as well as opportunities to shadow more experienced managers helped the employee's confidence grow steadily. "We took him out of his comfort zone on some things — public speaking, networking with key executives, client engagements and so forth — and he worked on those skills so diligently they eventually became some of his greatest strengths," Allison said.

Invest the Necessary Time
Leaders should be willing to invest more than the minimum amount of time to guide employees' work and to help them realize their potential. Investing time in top-performing subordinates is comparatively easy for good managers. Only rarely, however, do leaders receive the training and behavior modeling necessary to provide effective guidance to the lost 20%, and that group needs personal interaction the most.

There is a misunderstanding by executives who not only do not have the patience to deal with less stellar performers, but who actually see that attitude as a virtue: that it's their job to provide tough standards that produce exceptional performance. Executives may feel it's not their job to play armchair psychologist with employees. But this is not about being a counselor. It comes down to being honest and constructive in relationships with employees.

If talent leaders are to successfully mine the productivity of a group of performers they are currently ignoring, they need to identify those performers and provide the right guidance. Consider the following:

Measure the right things. If significant portions of the workforce are not measuring up, is the measuring stick still accurate and relevant? Does it measure multiple important things and not just a single factor? If a company only emphasizes short-term performance, which the lost 20 % might be weak on, it might lose out on long-term benefits if it terminates those people.

Consider role fit. Many managers have experienced a situation where an underperforming employee has "found" him or herself, when it was actually a case of finding a job role that was a better match for the employee's interests, background and thinking style.

Evaluate career choice. People sometimes make career decisions for all the wrong reasons: parents' wishes, dreams of wealth, pursuit of an immature dream. Counseling a person out of an organization might be just the shock needed for them to find a job that matches their deeper interests.

Measure and reward leadership mentoring and development activities. Any organization is going to say it prizes its senior leaders' dedication to developing people. Yet, few organizations hold these leaders accountable for it. At performance review time, what dominates is financial performance; most everything else takes a backseat.

Realize not everyone can be turned around. It's important, to the organization and to the individual, to save as many underperformers as one can, given that they have the ability and have demonstrated at some point the potential to deliver. But at the same time, Massih said, "Some people just don't cut it. You have to have the respect for yourself and for your organization to help boost those you can, but also to counsel others out of the organization, where they might be able to find a career path that matches their true desires and interests."

Relationships with co-workers and with those in authority are key to enhance employee engagement and performance at every level. Relationships take on a special power, however, when it comes to motivating and engaging the lost 20%.

Relationships entail both promise and challenge. Because a relationship by definition is deeply personalized and unique, relationship building cannot easily be taught. This puts the burden on organizations to model those behaviors from the top down — from the boardroom to the everyday interactions a manager has with the newest hire.

At the same time, effectively developing second- and third-tier players is not only in the hands of individual managers and executives. Organizational structures and performance management approaches and tools can help create an environment where more people have a greater opportunity to live up to their potential.

from Talent Management magazine, August 2009

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January 14-17, 2010
35th Annual International Conference: New Frontiers in Learning and Innovation
, Houston, TX,

January 29-February 3, 2010
Training Magazine Training 2010 Conference & Expo, San Diego, CA,

February 9-11, 2010
Green Meeting Industry Council 1010 Sustainable Meetings Conference, Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO,

February 10-12
ASAE Association Technology Conference & Expo, Walter C. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC,

February 24-26, 2010
Meetings Africa 2010, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa,

February 28-March 2
Meeting Professionals International European Meetings & Events Conference, Malaga Trade Fair and Congress Center, Malaga, Spain,

March 7-9, 2010
Great Ideas Conference, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, CO,

March 14-16, 2010
Inc. Magazines’ GROWCO: Grow Your Company Conference, Orlando, FL,

March 14-18, 2010
Exhibitor 2010 Conference, Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV,

March 17-19, 2010
VirtualizationPro Summit & Expo, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

March 21-24, 2010
ACA 2010 International Conference, Philadelphia, PA,

April 12-14, 2010
8th Annual HR Week Conference & Expo, Hilton New York, New York,

April 12-14, 2010
Spring 2010 Chief Learning Officer Symposium, Boca Raton Resort & Club, Boca Raton, Fla. Register for this event by Jan. 22 and save $300!

May 10-11, 2010
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June 27-30, 2010
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Corporate Event Awards: for form

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 WAYS TO VOLUNTEER & GIVE has a list of hundreds of organizations that support the military. The Yellow Ribbon Fund is one such group and focuses on injured service members and their families.


B.I.G. ON BOOKS is an organization that promotes literacy in underprivileged countries, primarily Africa, Eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. You can donate books through most Rotary Clubs. B.I.G. also accepts cash donations. Send email to Steve Frantzich at for more information.

Kicking World Hunger is the biggest soccer juggle-a-thon in the world (uh, that we know of), much like a walk-a-thon, but more fun! Participants sign up to juggle a soccer ball thousands of times while raising money to provide hope for children and communities that desperately need it.

Going Green At Work

        find ecofriendly building materials and services at
        buy ecofriendly office supplies (like recycled paper) at
        work from home ideas at
        find jobs and volunteer opportunities with socially responsible organizations at
        Reduce paperwork by invoicing, & paying employees & bills electronically (Training Systems, Inc. now invoices exclusively by email and is
           close to paying everyone by credit card, PayPal, or automatic debit from checking account).

        Encourage employees to use public transportation.
        Use ceiling fans to reduce air-conditioning costs
        Reduce your hot water heater temperature by 2 degrees and insulate the tank.
        Use energy-saving light bulbs

Charity Navigator ( is an in-depth, searchable guide to more than 5,000 charities worldwide that aims to encourage “intelligent giving”. They rate charities based on their total expenses, revenues, and organizational capacity. If you want to give, but the recent slew of charity scandals has you feeling skeptical about where your money would go.

Take Pride T-Shirts ( was founded by a group of friends who all share the belief that the more difficult the mission facing our military, the more deserving they are of our thanks and support. Each unique shirt design provides a glimpse into the life of a different US Service member who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and is hand silk-screened. The message of the shirts isn’t political, it’s about acknowledging, celebrating, and taking pride in the spirit of young Americans who despite facing an extremely difficult job and unpleasant conditions, nonetheless strive to do their job well. Take Pride gives at least 20% of profits to charities and causes that assist combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.


Set a reminder to visit daily and click this button to help underprivileged women get mammograms. helps you find organizations in your area that spark your interest in volunteering.
fights for family-friendly programs and policies at work. honors the heroes and victims of 9/11, by giving ideas for good deeds to perform. helps entrepreneurs by connecting them with backers for short term loans and both make sure the organizations you’re supporting are legit and give the bulk of their money to their mission

Global Volunteers (

You can:

☞      select by type of work project

☞      select by country and date

☞      select by service program conditions

☞      select by cost


Earth 911 lets you search for recyclers by type and area code,

Recycle yogurt containers and old toothbrushes!

Recycline’ Preserve partnered with Stonyfield Farm and is recycling yogurt containers into toothbrush handles. Old toothbrushes are used to make plastic lumber for picnic tables. Go to for details.

Responsibly Dispose of Your Old Electronics


Donate Old Cell Phones
911 Cell Phone Bank provide free emergency cell phones to needful people through partnerships with law enforcement organizations,


Recycle PCs, cell phones, printers, CDs, diskettes, etc. with GreenDisk.
For $29.95, they send a 70-pound-capacity box. When it’s full, you download postage from their website and ship it back. Your “junk” then goes to workshops for the disabled and are refurbished.


Donate PCs to National Cristina Foundation,; Goodwill,, Salvation Army,


Recycle PCs and other computer products at Hewlett Packard and Dell. See their websites for details.


Several other places to recycle old PCs:,


Find local Electronics recyclers at and





K has great tips on green cleaning.
K & will help you get off junk mail lists.
K has tips on every facet of green living.
K gives advice on replacing old light bulbs w/energy efficient bulbs.
K provides comprehensive “green power” info.
K urges the use of recycled paper.
K helps you plant trees to save the environment.



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