Every Friday, I"ll answer two or three management questions submitted through the "Ask Lisa"?? link found on my blog and on my website. This week I have picked three interesting questions submitted by Mark, Tina, and William. If you would like to submit a management question for future Friday posts, click here.
QUESTION: So everyone says “benchmarking” is critical to business analysis – but in the small-and-private marketplace, how do you move beyond a simple historical model? I don’t want to compare my company with the public-but-huge industry leaders, do I?
ANSWER: Some of your most interesting and helpful benchmarking information will come from businesses dissimilar to your own. Here´s how I would approach the problem of deciding who to benchmark:
1. Decide on the competency or practice that you want to benchmark. For example, website marketing techniques, preventative maintenance tracking, or customer loyalty programs.
2. Determine who does it well — who defines the state of the art? They could be companies from your or industry or others. I encourage you to look outside your industry, as great ideas often come from unexpected places. Select 3-5 companies to contact.
3. Call your counterparts directly and ask them to share their approaches and ideas. Cooperation will be easier to come by when talking to companies that are not competitors. It does not hurt to ask your competitors, though.
I prefer this targeted type of benchmarking to general comparisons across many competencies. The information will be more in-depth and more actionable. I also prefer benchmarking current and planned practices versus historical stuff.
QUESTION: I currently have an employee who is in a role that requires her to be reliably available for work. The employee is one of several fulfilling the same role, and when she is at work, she is one of my better performers. However, this employee has a number of health issues that cause her to consistently miss work.
Because this employee is one of my better performers I do not want to get rid of her and, even if I did, she is protected under a number of federal and state protection laws.
What would you do?
ANSWER: This is certainly a difficult situation, and I assume you have been working with your Human Resources Department to understand your options. I also assume that these illnesses are believed to be legitimate. That being said, this is a problem that employers will have to deal with more as the workforce ages and continues to work later in life.
Are there positions that she can transfer into that allow more flexibility? Since this person is a valued contributor, perhaps she can add value in another position.
If you have several people doing the same work, are you able to make up for her absences? If yes, is it really a big problem? I understand it is an undesirable situation, but is it manageable?
I assume you have spoken to her about her absences. Does she have any ideas for how to improve her attendance? Be open to creative ideas even if they are not your first choice for how to resolve the problem. Telecommuting? Reduced hours?
If you think her absences seriously disrupt your operation, talk to your HR person about how to resolve the situation. While she may have protection under the ADA, FMLA, or other laws, there are limits to what you must accommodate if she continues to miss work time.
I would guess that you are also worried about how this person´s poor attendance impacts your ability to manage the attendance of others in your team. If this is true, you will want to seriously consider work adjustments or a role change to distinguish this employee´s chronic problems from the average person´s health issues.
Your other employees are watching to see how you handle this. They want to know that you are both caring and fair while managing the situation so that workplace disruptions are minimized. There is no perfect or obvious solution, and you will want to be flexible and open to creative ideas.
QUESTION (I"m not making this up): I’m stuck in a dead end job but receive lots of offers to earn college degrees based on life experience. Will a college degree help me get a management job? Which would be better, a PhD or an MBA? Does it matter if the college doesn’t have a football team?
ANSWER: If you are going to "buy"?? a college credential from one of those Internet based degree mills, I say go for the PhD! Hang it on your wall as a conversation piece.
Of course, that is all it would be.
Going back to school (and taking real classes) is a great idea if you can swing it. Attending a school with a football team has its advantages, too, including a larger selection of cool school jerseys and a greater likelihood that you will not end up on the bottom of the GPA ranking (I´m kidding).
In my experience, the best way to get a management job is to demonstrate business acumen and show an interest in improving results. In general, you should act in a manner consistent with the position you seek. A college degree and other professional credentials are also important, but they must be earned.
If you really are in a dead end job, do whatever it takes to get out. Life is too short!