Sunday, 31 March 2013

Forecasting Workload - Beginners Guide

The first question a business has when it expands is how do I know the amount of work there is and how many staff that requires. It is a tricky subject is your new into the employment game. Up till now you will have relied on yourself to do the activities and depending on your type of work this could be skilled or unskilled labour. You may think resource planning is an activity on required for big business or the corporates and you would be wrong. Correct application of resource planning will maximise your potential output, improve efficiency and also help with marketing. There are companies that will offer you all this for a nice price, but in essence all you need are a spreadsheet and a stopwatch.

Give clear instructions
This is the most important aspect of hitting the ground running by giving clear guides you are saving yourself a lot of rework and mistakes. Unfortunately a lot of companies take the approach of learning on the job, the old you watch me doing it, then you do it while I watch you, then your on your own. This means that bad habits, shortcuts and scenarios may be missed and will lead to panic and confusion later. A well prepared manual is essential if you wish to have a productive employee. But remember they will be behind the average time taken for at least the first 3 months, if not productive by 6 months you should consider further training or performance observations. Well written guides to the work you are done should not be complete in one sitting, always leave them as working documents as often a scenario will prompt an addition, so don't go out and get them laminated for the wall.

Break workload into defined tasks
When you do everything for a business you can get so wrapped up into your own little rituals and ways of doing things that it all blends into one. But you must break each activity down into work items, this will allow optimised scheduling of activity but more importantly measurement of that activity. For instance you may think that the task of waiting tables is all one job but it isn't, the tasks involved are: Greeting and seating, drinks order, drinks deliver, started/main order, cutlery and sauce setting, food delivery, courtesy check on happiness, food clearing, desert ordering, desert delivery, table clearing, bill delivery, bill collection, table setting. You can see how a job like waiting tables may seem to be something anyone could do, but without instructions they miss one of the 14 steps listed out and you will have angry customers. You may also think you could put waiting table takes on average 1hour but then you are actually measuring the time the people take to complete meal and not the time the waiter spends working, are you OK that they simply stand and watch as the customers eat? do you think they could be fulfilling another role at the same time?

Measure time of each task - SMV (Standard Minute Value)
Take a stop watch and time yourself doing the activity, just a normal pace not rush or too slow. If the activity involved lots of different scenarios then take the most common one you do and time that. Do this for at least 10 observations and take the average time. More than this would be beneficial but unnecessary for your purposes. Mark the task description and the time taken on each observation on an excel spreadsheet, you can use the function =average(cell array) to give you the average of the ten.

Allow for down time
Factor in between 10 and 20% wastage on each timing, this is time for sneezing, errors, toilets breaks and other comfort breaks. It is important to do this otherwise your timings will be unattainable Your own discretion should be used for idle time because it varies depending on the industry. You find those who work with customers directly have far more idle time due to interactions that may be unexpected however those in a manufacturing setting will simply utilise breaks.

Forecasting workload - arrival rates
To measure the arrival rate of each task you can look over historical data. For manufacturing businesses this will be order fulfillment and stock ledgers, if you are a retail business then you can look at the customers and categorise these into a time destinction you wish to measure. It may be daily to begin with but if your operation is over 6 days it may be more beneficial to do this hourly as you will need to do shift rotas for staff. Half hourly is the lowest level you should go down to, other options would be half daily split into morning and afternoon, third daily morning, afternoon and evening.

Once you have captured your historic data (if you do not have historic data then measure it over the next 4 weeks, you may begin to use averaging after 2 weeks but it will be more volatile due to the lack of observations). You can then take average of previous four week periods to future forecast foot flow. But this is not the final step. You should consider any premiums that need to be applied onto specific dates, local fairs, markets, events, holidays or seasonality. The gut feel is the only way you can measure this to begin with unless you have historic data from previous three years. Seasonality will be a small uplift to reflect perhaps a surge in winter or summer, specific daily adjustors would be that you may be busier on the first of the month because that is traditionally pay day locally.

Testing against actuals

Continue to capture your arrival rates and compare these with forecast, this will be the best way to capture any alterations you may need to make.

Overall Workload
You are now in a position to determine the workload requirement for the specific operating days, hours or half hour periods of your operation. This will assist scheduling new staff at times when others may be present but also allow you to see any likely dips in workload that you could focus marketing on to attract business to those quiet times, offers or deals are a way restaurants fill their orders at quiet times e.g. Early bird deals, pre theatre meal deals, etc. The calculation is simple:

Arrival Rates * SMV = Workload minutes
Workload minutes /time period(e.g. within 1 hour would equal 60) = staff requirement

Where staff requirement is below 1 then you can take the following actions:
  •  Migrate workload from other time periods that is not event specific e.g. general cleaning, training
  • encourage customer migration to that time with incentives, remember that you will be paying higher than usual staff costs during those periods so some money off to ensure productivity may be more prudent financially.
  • Create new tasks or take on new work streams
  • Diversify your staff to be able to perform more than one role
  • Close business during these hours, if the work does not exist to maintain one staff member is it really worth opening the doors?
If this is your first experience of resource planning I wish you luck should you wish to discuss these techniques or require support on documents, templates or other material feel free to leave a comment and I will contact you.

This is an introduction for small operations the complexity of this gets more as your business expands and you will find automation is the only way to go if you want decent analysis of workload.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Click ads - Good or Bad for eCommerce Websites

For many businesses the world of Google ads is seen as something that is perhaps not the best idea. Why would you want an ad for a competitor on your website? Well there is many reasons to have ads placed on your website but make sure you do your homework.

Passive Income

The reason so many bloggers and article based websites use Google ads is because they provide an income in perpetuity and involve absolutely no effort. For blogs advertising is the only way to drive income so Google ads offers an easy to use income generator. Passive income streams are the golden goose for many home based writers allowing them time to pursue other interests with a background income.

Issue with eCommerce

The ads are driven by the content on the page picking up keywords to provide the reader with a valid  impression that may be tempting to click on. Of course if you have a page with your products listed featuring these ads it will likely feature competitors ads on your page. This may be off putting as customers may think you are also selling those products, but it can also be useful. Imagine the scenario where you have a really good quality item at a very competitive price, the ad would show a less favorable option and could drive up your sales, after all comparison prices are one of the biggest improvements that is driving customers online. If you have done your homework and know you are selling great items then you should not fear ads. If however you are a small operation or a very niche product you may find ads are either detrimental to your business or simply not appropriate.

Make Sure they Perform

The key to any ads is to check what they are showing on each page, ensure you can see that the ad is appropriate and if your not happy you may need to spend some time in your ad account setting this up. If you find you are getting more clicks but your sales have increased then you may want to keep them on your site, if however your sales fall and your clicks increase you have a competition problem and need to check it out. Maybe your price is too high, images not clear enough or your quality is not as high as others.

Of course the income from ad revenue is nice to have for small retailers but you need to do a full market research review before you embark on this. Keep an eye on your customers behaviour noting any changes in terms of conversion rate of sales or particular products that recieve higher click through

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Content Marketing - The rise of racism online

The Internets big players all use the English language as default, it is the language of the internet and whilst many would argue there are others you cannot deny that if you don't write well in English then your work is doomed.

When you consider the global population it seems surprising that so much of the internet is dominated by English language sites and US and UK based content marketers can command the highest fees. Whilst there is an argument that exists around education standards being higher in western countries it is not always the case. Many webmasters and bloggers won't entertain any non UK or US based writers to do any paid work for them, whilst most countries these websites are hosted in have discrimination laws it amazes me how much casual racism goes on. Online job adverts are the last bastion of freedom to discriminate, allowing people to advertise for all different types of people, regardless of their ability to actually do the job somehow their country of residence or place of birth is a valid tool to exclude their application.

No one would argue that the distasteful way minorities were treated by both the US and UK until protected by law was a good way of operating. Signs in shop windows advertising jobs with the addendum of NO BLACKS ALLOWED were an all too common site. Having eradicated this problem it seems that deep entrenched racist view is quick to manifest itself when given the opportunity.

Pitching problems

If English is not your first language then you should always seek to improve your written ability. This can be done by engaging in social media discussions or perhaps just taking the time to ask for feedback from western bloggers.

If you are still struggling and finding a lot of your pitches are rejected why not use a western based editor to help with your work. This may mean your fee is reduced but after some experience you will find the need for an editor will reduce.

Having worked with a number of analysts and project managers from India in the financial sector the quality of work is never an issue, but there would always be some complaints about report writing or written communication being difficult to understand. This would often be considered a failing in their knowledge when in fact it was not the subject that caused them issue it was simply their ability to communicate that in a foreign language.

Payment Problems

Paypal is the mechanism of choice for most paid blogging sites, so living in a country with paypal restrictions render your opportunities useless. Due to the competitive nature of online writing why would any would be employer go to the effort of paying by other means when they have a queue behind you of people willing to accept paypal payments?

Exchange rates are another issue, often paypal offers some of the worst rates of exchange and this can mean over the course of a month that you are singificantly penalised compared to western bloggers. This exchange rate is yet another mechanism for the middle man to take a larger cut.

Accessing finance for any start up project you may have can prove difficult with credit card issuing and other bank lending not as accessible as the US and UK. These barriers to entry make starting up a new innovative tech company hugely complex.

There is no easy solution to this problem, as with many things online a few bad eggs have ruined the party for everyone. Scammers, spammers and criminals have given many countries a bad image that has resulted in restrictions of payment services offered to any would be paid blogger. Should these countries develop and grow more robust financial systems that protect against such fraud, prosecute and seek to eliminate these scams then they would surely be a boom in growth, unfortunately that is a long process so for today's generation you face a marketplace that is tougher than your western counterparts.

I am not advocating that webmasters should begin to accept poorer quality work just to appease those that would call racism, however I think that often there are judgements made not based on fact but on presumption. I am the first to reject an article that I deem to be poorly written and provide feedback as such, often the writer simply never responds but occasionally you will find someone who takes the time to correct their errors and I would like to think it helps to improve their writing going forward. All I am saying is that we should begin to be a more global and inclusive industry that seeks to help each other, move away from this secret society of black-hat tricks and discrimination.

I'd be interested to hear your views or stories from your own experience.

2013 Top Guide to Guest Blogging

In 2013 the main SEO tactic that will be used is Guest Blogging, you may see others who proclaim that social media is the new must have technique but with social media platforms getting wise to this free advertising expect to see it decline considerably. With Facebook offering advertising at cost to business and blogs this is sure to weed out those looking for free ways to help promote their content, and that in itself is the keyword, FREE. Interestingly you will find plenty of SEO companies and experts use this technique to create business, offering amazing quality content and links to businesses in exchange for sums of cash. So how do you navigate this often baffling world of Guest Blogging? Here is a guide to both posting Guest blogs and recieving.

Guest Blogging Offered

When you are a guest blogger the difficulty is in finding quality websites to submit your content to. Each has their own set of rules and often have such a long list of rules it puts you off even attempting an article. But if you follow the simple guide then you are sure to find plenty of quality websites willing to take your work. For opportunities in Guest blogging you should sign up to a Google+ Community in this niche and also sign up for regular updates from Blogger Linkup

Sourcing and Pitching
  • Use social media to find websites offering Guest Posts
  • Do not be tempted to contribute to article farms as these will harm whatever links you put into the articles.
  • Do not automatically assume higher PR is the key to success. A new website may have lower page rank but will eventually be more profitable to you. 
  • Always ensure the website is relevant to your back link. If you are promoting a Fashion blog do not think that writing on a finance blog will help you, although there are obvious cross over genres perhaps music and movies can be tied into fashion.
  • Ensure your level of English is flawless, broken English and poor spelling will put off any blogs even if your facts and figures are great.
  • Ask the offering party what there rules are for Guest posts, length, back links and images. Do not try to argue this point your in a crowded marketplace so to do so will likely have any offer withdrawn.


  • Ensure your level of English is flawless, broken English and poor spelling will put off any blogs even if your facts and figures are great.
  • Ensure your content is long enough, most website owners will ask for between 500 and 700 words but some have begun to ask for over 1000 words minimum.
  • Proof read your own work, if you have finished your article read through it, or even get a friend to read over it for you. This means that the website owners will not have to spend time editing your work and more likely offer you future opportunities.
  • Do not be tempted to spam link. One or two links in an article is adequate unless the article naturally dictates more. By adding more links you will find many web owners reject your blog offering.

Being Published
  • Don't be put off by a rejection. Many sites differ in style and tone and it is not always the easiest task to match to their high standards, remember being a site owner you want to ensure quality is good. Spend time reading some articles on their site to judge the tone, many blogs are informal conversational tone but also you may find others want a much more informative and authoritative tone.
  • Remember your articles on other blogs are not just their responsibility to promote, it is in your interests to share this socially and drive some traffic.
  • Ensure you keep a record of your published work in a CV format for future pitches.

Guest Blogging Wanted

  • Sign up to Blogger Linkup to find a good array of guest bloggers, also joining blogging communities in your niche will help attract other like minded individuals to your site.
  • Offering guest posts to your site does not make you the owner of that individual.
  • Ensure your rules are clear and concise. Do not be tempted to be too detailed this will put genuine guest bloggers off.
  • Give direction as to what topics may be good, and always ensure you agree the title and brief description before work commences.

  • Don't be afraid to reject guest posts, but ensure you do so politely, say no and offer constructive feedback, a simple no will likely be met by anger but if your explain why then it allows the individual to work on their skills.
  • Changing some small elements to an article is fine, but if you are removing entire paragraphs make sure you agree with the Guest Poster first. You would not want to have to remove the content later should they complain.
  • If you are also using the work to drive your own back links ensure you state this up front. As a guest blogger there is nothing worse than finding your article riddled with links you did not put there.
  • Off topic blogs will not help your Ranking so by publishing work that is foreign to your target audience is not the smartest idea

  • Always stipulate timescales when agreeing a Guest Post, do not sit on articles for weeks before using them, had the writer known the timescales they may not have sent you it so early.
  • Try to publish agreed articles within two weeks, if you cannot do this then simply do not commission any new work.
  • Once it is published ensure you send a thank you note and URL to the author. Google loves authorship so it is in your interests to have an author bio on your site.
  • Give the article some social media attention by promoting it on your own platforms, just because you didnt write it does not mean you should ignore it. Its your website after all.
If you follow this simple guide you will find the experience much more enjoyable. Not only will you find a huge wealth of talent out there you will also likely come across many not so talented individuals. If you filter out the rubbish with the rules above you should flourish as a well informed blog and blogger.

Paid Blogging - No Substitute for Quality

Paid blogging is a practice that is all too common on the internet and you will find that the lower end of the scale it is basically a sweatshop of amateur content writers pumping out thousands of useless articles everyday. The type of site that will take any content and allow you to spam it full of links to a product or website who has paid the hosting company or middle man a lot more.

There are two types of paid blogging and to know the difference between good and bad you must first consider the structure of the transaction. Bloggers are effectively journalists, not in the traditional sense but on a small scale. You will find many people who started in blogging are now having articles commissioned by large newspapers who have grabbed hold of the idea of opinion pieces and seek 'experts' to help their readers understand a topic that may be hot in current pop culture. So what are the different types?

If you Google paid blogging you will find a number of article farms that let you connect to people who want to buy content, the problem is that you will find the pay is between $1 to $10 regardless of your expertise. This in effect means quality is low as anyone who blogs professionally does not spend less than 30 minutes writing an article and for that kind of money your talking about taking work that is below minimum wage in the US and UK. So who does take all this bottom level work? Well either people who do not value their time very much, or people who have English as their second language. This means that you can find a whole array of badly written articles about different products. The company paying has been sold a false promise of increased traffic and great content, many of these sites proclaim to have hundreds of thousands of social media followers who will see your article but that in itself is not entirely true. Most twitter and certainly Facebook followers will never see your content, they will never engage with your brand. The reason being is that the majority of their social media followers are in fact people who want to write and get paid by them, hardly your target audience for selling car parts. Facebook has begun to realise this and thus has removed your posts on pages from the majority of your fans timeline, on average only 5-7% of your fans will ever see a post you make, that is unless the page owner pays a handsome fee to promote it.

The second type of paid blogging is like a special club that you only get into by proving your worth. This is where the best bloggers reside, working for big companies and websites who value quality and realise that they need to pay good money for the great articles. This is where your big business have departments that look for exceptional bloggers and approach them with a decent offer of pay for an articulate and worthy blog post. The pay can vary from $100 up to thousands for a quality article. They do not go in for shady social media tactics instead allowing the quality of the work to speak volumes and the writers, if in a niche field, will already have a great network of hungry consumers waiting on their next article. To actually make a living from writing you must break into this circle, and how do I do that you may ask? Well unfortunately there is not a simple answer otherwise it would suddenly become a wash with poor quality and drive the price down for everybody. The only sure fire way to make good money is to invest time into some of your own blogs, build up a reputation and engage in social media and forum interactions with others bloggers and PR workers. If your website consistently pumps out good quality informative articles then you will find that these high paying jobs will find their way to you. Of Course is does help if you advertise the fact you are willing to write content for pay.

How to get started

Get a blog, its doesn't have to be your own domain you can open one easily on a free blogging site. Consider what your content will be about, try to avoid going too broad brush you can have a lot of niche websites but if it is confusing to the reader then you may find it is counter productive to your aims. Once you have built up a steady stream of content you will then need to start trying to build links so that Google can find you and value your blog. Guest Blogging is a good way to do this and another aspect that it provides is that other people will edit and critique your work. If you get a lot of rejections from guest blogging opportunities this is an indication you certainly aren't ready to recieve any paid work. Keeping it all in your niche is key to ensuring that quality is built from the Guest blogs so do not be tempted to write about a foriegn subjects just because its a page rank 4 site that offer two backlinks.

Monetise your Blog

Google ads are a great way for you to have a trickle income, this is a passive income stream that can be valuable as your build your portfolio. Many well read informative blogs can get around $200 easily from their ad revenue and if you have three or four blogs this could really add up.

Start to Engage with Others

Once you have a well ranked and informative site that is producing good quality content on a regular basis (minimum 3 articles per week) then you can begin to seek out others in the paid blogging arena. This may take some time as there is no website where they all hang out. Start to engage on linkedin and Google+ with other content writers and you may find they have some great advice. Keep your writing CV up to date with examples of your own blogs and guest blogs that you have been published on other website.

The First Paid Pitch

To begin you may wish to find a freelance job board and look for opportunities in your field, these will pay between $20 and $40 per article. Doing this well is the key, think of it like an audition. Do not rush your work as to have it rejected would kill your confidence. These smaller but wholesome opportunities will provide you with another rung on the ladder to your full time paid blogger status.


The one over riding aspect of blogging for money is to make sure you build a reputation before you begin. There is no substitute for time and content, the longer your blog has been established and the more quality content you have then the rest will take care of itself. So if your looking for an instant pay off you may be better to just go and get a job in your local town and do this part time until your starting to see some pay off.

If you'd like more information or want to find some decent freelance job boards then drop me an email at Steve @ Vinyl Puppet .com

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Summly - How a Teenager Made Millions

The news that Yahoo is to buy up media app summly came as a shock for a number of reasons. Firstly the fact an app was purchased days before its android launch left many consumers feeling aggrieved that they are now never going to experience this app, secondly the inventor was a teen, Nick D'Aloisio. Most people start in business young, either washing cars, doing odd jobs or just getting a paper delivery job, but this teenager went one step further. He is now thought to be the youngest self made millionaire in the UK and shines as an example to others that age is never a barrier to success.

The premise of his app was to learn and search the news sites across the world for news relevant to you and provide it in summarised snippets. Effectively taking the effort out of flicking through countless pages of useless news to find the articles you may be interested in. At 15 coming up with an app idea may not be too difficult but to actually realise this app and garner funding was the step that set young Nick apart from the rest. A small break from an experienced investor who saw real potential meant he could launch a prototype of the app which went on to recieve huge media interest due to its volume of downloads. This then attracted much more investment and he built a strong group of investors and technologists to turn the business into a mobile app business. Yahoo have bought this app, not for their own portfolio but to integrate into their existing systems and to give young Nick a job to help them do it. The most interesting aspect of this story is that Nick is still in School, so effectively works part time on this.

So next time you have an idea don't give up, remember young Nick and think if a kid at school working part time can become a millionaire then surely you can be successful at your chosen path. Another lesson would be that good investors can make your ideas into reality so sourcing and pitching your ideas is key to its success.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Guest Blogging in Googles Sights

Whilst Google is always one step behind any black hat webmasters out there they do eventually catch up. The rise in popularity of Guest Blogging has shown that you can get quality content for your site in exchange for one or two links to other peoples sites. In practice this sounds like a lovely way of improving your blog and building links. But like any good idea which started with a few good quality blogs it has quickly descended into a free for all.

If you have a number of websites you will have no doubt received the numerous emails offering you SEO help at ridiculously low prices? Well the first thing I noticed about these is that the emails weren't even written properly. The English is poor on a lot of these so called SEO expert companies communications and that should immediately set alarm bells ringing. Essentially what they do is sub contract out paid work to writers who receive very small amounts if anything of the original fee. This means your website is put at risk because the only websites that are likely to accept such poor quality content are either Article Directories or flipped sites that are purely written by guest bloggers with no original content from the web owner.

This means you are associating yourself with people who Google will downgrade at the next update and some of that bad affect will blow back into your website. So before you part with $20 for 5 quality backlinks have a bit of a think about what it is your trying to acheive. Most SEO tactics might show good results in the first month with huge volumes of traffic coming into your website but if you are punished this will soon drop and by then it is too late to stop the tactics these SEO 'experts' have used. It would also be worth noting here that if you are guest posting to drive traffic to an eCommerce site then you really need to ensure that the link is relative, there is no point in advertising your plumbing company with an article on fashion.

But there is some hope out there if you want to ensure quality content. Ensure you check out the background of those wishing to do the work for you, ask for a CV of previous work and always ask them if they are English first language speaker. Always check the link of any guest post you are about to post onto your blog and make sure its relevant and always check the article is of sufficient quality. To find quality writers check out some well moderated Google plus communities like Uk Guest Posting or you are welcome to leave a comment with your email and I will be in touch to help.

Monday, 11 March 2013

A Company in Decline

It is never a good move for a company CEO to get involved in decisions that should be taken by their management. A move that undermines the very skill they employ people for and a decision that can result in a huge reduction in talent. This was what happened at Yahoo when the CEO Marissa Mayer decided to remove the opportunity for employees to work from home. Home working was touted as the future for offices in an ever globalising economy that would reduce the overheads of companies, reduce pollution by cutting commuting, improve the chances of employment for the disabled and provide jobs to remote locations that would otherwise be unavailable easing the burden on the housing stock in cities and towns. This announcement is a blow to all who work for this company and leaves many with only a few months to find alternative employment.

What it demonstrates when a CEO begins tweaking company HR policies is that they are in free fall. A well organised, profitable and innovative company utilises many different working practices and often these decisions are simply left in the hands of imediate line managers to make judgements about the benefit to the company of any individual wishin to take up a flexible working arrangement. This decision making has been removed from Yahoo managers who are being told that they have obviously got it so badly wrong that they have had to completely withdraw this flexible working option. A CEO of a successful growing company would never usually get involved in such decisions as they would be busy actually growing the company and providing leadership that could improve the profit of the organisation. If a CEO is revoking HR policies they are clearly not busy enough trying to save the company. Since her appointment Marissa has yet to provide a clear direction for the future of Yahoo.

Another point this highlights is that perhaps companies have a natural shelf life and should not continue beyond their peak. There are hundreds of examples of technology companies that grow large on the back of a boom and then begin to decline as the industry moves on, they then desperately attempt to purchase back their market share by buying up small companies and inhaling them into their own corporate machine. Unfortunately most small start ups and ideas need a driving force behind them, someone who generated the original idea with a vision of where it could end up. By buying a company you are removing a lot of the drive that got them any prominence in the first place and then trusting its success to a workforce that is so far removed from their original mission that they are unable to add any value or enthusiasm. Another great example of this would be RBS who had a huge expansion on the back of company buy outs, this led them to multi billion pound profits annually only to come crashing down in 2008. Of those original companies bought they are being slowly disposed of to other companies and some have even completely dissipated. This kind of expansion can only occur when you have bled dry your original mission and are unhappy to maintain a good service for your basic founding idea. If RBS had simply stayed committed to providing personal and corporate banking they would arguably now be reporting annual profits in excess of 1 billion instead of owing the treasury thousands of pounds and being constantly fined by authorities across the globe.

What is the driving factor behind these huge corporations buying up and diversifying beyond recognition? Profit. Unfortunately with most shareholder owned businesses it is seen as the primary objective of any organisation. A stable profit annually is seen as a poor investment for the stock market that thrives on boom and bust. Hopefully some large failures will have resulted in some rethinking across the board rooms of big companies, a sustainable profitable business should remain such by constantly improving what they do, all ventures into different areas should be taken with a huge amount of due diligence and risk modelling.

As much as this stands true for large companies this advice could be used by small business too. Never forget your custom base, your original service or product that made you profitable. Expansion may seem like a great idea but if it comes at the expense of your original business this can prove dangerous ground. Always insulate your profit making business from any expansion by ensuring the mechanism exists to not only maintain but also improve your current operation, either with a dedicated workforce or a great management team. Greed is the quickest way to bankruptcy.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Identifying Talent

Talent development is the best way to ensure you company has a pipeline of promising staff that are both engaged and skillful to help you grow and improve. Whilst buying in talented people can be effective the identification and promotion of talent internally has a ripple effect across your organisation to help incentivise staff and improve morale. If others see that there are clear career paths open to them they will be more productive and demonstrate the types of behaviors that you wish to promote.

One of the best ways of identifying talent is to use the 9 box Matrix system of categorising employees. This should not be done in secret but be a very open and honest discussion between manager and employee.

The 9 box matrix contains different areas which determine two factors, their performance and their potential. Each employee is positioned in a box, best to keep this simple as some people like to have the position within the box as a factor.

Firstly the manager and employee should mark where they would place the employee, it can often lead to disagreements but it is good to identify and address some behavioural observations that have been made about the employee. It can also mean that perhaps the manager assumes something about the employee.

Most businesses need a large number of employees in boxes 2,5,6 and 3 who have acceptable or high performance but have little or no potential to move forward. This is not to say they could not be trained to do a higher grade position but it means they perhaps do not wish to progress as they enjoy their job or their job is in an area where promotion may not be possible unless a new skill was developed. But these people will always be the bedrock of any success by ensuring the work is done well.

Those in box 1 should be actively managed out of the business. They would have been identified as lacking the requisite skills for the role and all training interventions undertaken have not improved the situation. If this box is used frequently in your organisation then you may wish to determine the length of service of those falling into this category as it could point to a deficiency with your recruitement process and if the process is outsourced to agents can be used to give direct feedback to those agencies to help improve future joiners.

Those in box 4 and 7 should be moved out of this box within 6 months or fall into box 1. This can be done by targeting training to their particular deficiency. It may also be wise to provide a mentor to those in box 7 as they will be a valuable asset should their current performance improve.

Boxes 8, 9 and 6 are those that should fill any job vacancies at higher positions and providing working groups and mentors will help to keep their ideas fertilised until an opportunity present itself.

One final thing to consider during this classification is that on a micro level it is often difficult to identify how the individual would move to the next box so ensure your management are clear on how the path to the next box whether that be vertical or horizontal is achieved. On a macro level this grid will give you great insight into your organisation and working on percentages can really tell you if you have a good workforce or if perhaps more should be done with training or engagement. A box with more employees to the left should identify overall training deficiencies and a box with more to the bottom will identify a problem with staff engagement.