December 11, 2006

Annual Report

The second half of the Human Resources Simulation was a great learning experience for me. My group had been very successful in achieving desirable results during the first portion of the simulation, and when we began falling behind the industry averages in certain areas during the second half of the simulation, we were a bit stumped concerning what our best options for continued success were. What I learned at this time was that it is very difficult to make a change in one area of a company without having an effect of some sort on other aspects of the company as well. For example, when my group was forced to fire several employees during quarter six, our morale decreased significantly despite wage increases that we implemented specifically to counteract this damage, but our productivity level improved. Weighing the positive and negative results of each action from that point on was a challenge, but it was a good lesson about business management as well.

Learning Plan

In the past, I have never been one to set my sights on something that will take place more than a few months in the future. However, completing the learning plan forced me to map out my life for at least the next year. When doing this, I chose to set long term goals of studying abroad and learning to speak Spanish. Having these goals in my mind with specific dates in the future by which I plan to accomplish them has already led me to focus more than I normally would on these goals. I have already attained information about studying abroad in Australia during the spring of 2008, even though applications for schools in Australia aren't due until next October. Also, I have registered for a Spanish class next semester that will develop my skills to a level at which I should be able to begin conversing in the Spanish language. I am excited to see how my improved goal-setting skills will be reflected in the results of my actions as I continue to take steps towards achieving these goals in the upcoming year.

December 10, 2006

Performance Appraisal

The most important goal of performance appraisals is to better the work environment in some way. More specifically, appraisals can bring about improvement by pointing out current problems and offering solutions to them, as well as by bringing up and reinforcing positive behaviors. A problem that can occur as the result of performance appraisals is that when the negative behaviors of one employee are brought up in an appraisal, it can have a detrimental effect on that person's morale and performance if the situation is not handled properly. Because of this, it is important to deal with performance appraisals in a manner that focuses not on ways in which mistakes have been happening, but on ways in which the work environment can be improved in areas where problems are occurring. From the perspective of someone giving an assessment of an individual, it is best to relate both the positive and negative aspects of that person's work as opposed to singling out the negatives. Analysis of the appraisals should take place in a group environment in order to offer the best support and a variety of suggestions for methods of improvement. It is also very important that performance appraisals be conducted fairly, displaying absolutely no bias for or against the person being appraised. When performance appraisals are handled properly, there will be distinct benefits for all those involved.

SMART versus START NOW

When choosing between the SMART and START NOW methods while writing my learning plan, I found that there are major advantages to each. The SMART method, which I used when planning my first goal, is a very good way to organize a goal that can be achieved during a specific time period. For example, I used this method to organize my goal of studying abroad in Australia. There are distinct, time-relevant steps that need to be taken in order for me to accomplish this goal, and the SMART method helps to make plans such as these a reality. In contrast, the START NOW method seems to me to be better suited for goals that are more abstract. There is no "time-bound" element to the START NOW method, but it is useful for constant motivation to be working towards a goal as opposed to simply meeting deadlines. This method was useful to me as I organized my plan to learn to speak Spanish. It is important to make the distinction between the two methods when setting goals in order to have the best chance for successfully achieving them.

December 09, 2006

Knowing When to Fire

After the discussion about the Tom Mendola case took place, I was left wondering when it is appropriate to fire a worker who has repeatedly displayed problems if there are still ways in which the employee could possibly be helped to improve. I believe that the debate is a question of balancing an ethical decision with a monetary decision. In terms of efficiency, firing an inadequate employee and hiring a more qualified worker is the best choice. In terms of ethics, it could be seen as unfair to fire someone who still has the potential to improve their ability to a point at which they could perform their job sufficiently. In my opinion, the best way to handle a situation like this is to determine a point at which it is clear that enough help has been given to the employee without seeing improvement as a result. At that time the employee could be fired in good conscience from an ethical standpoint.

November 10, 2006

Job Training

As is evidenced by the HR Simulation (as well as countless real life situations), training of new employees is an important aspect of running a successful company. When we discussed some of the many training methods in class, it was particularly noted that more and more training is being shifted into the realm of internet and video learning. The advances made in technology in recent years give good reason for this, but I question whether the quality of training through traditional methods has been traded for cost efficiency using new methods. For example, it is now common for online information to be provided to a new employee, whose responsibility it is to study the material and take an online test about it. This method is very affordable as well as being flexible for scheduling purposes, but it may have disadvantages as well. A form of training in which an experienced employee acts as a teacher or mentor to new employees may offer better results in the long run, but many companies are giving up methods like this one due to a lack of resources or a stingy approach to job training. It will be interesting to see if the new methods used for training will continue to be instigated or if older and possibly more effective methods will make a comeback in the near future.

Constructive Feedback

Even though there are several guidelines and methods that can be applied when giving feedback to a fellow employee or group member, it can be very difficult to be constructive when doing so. For many people it is a natural inclination to confront other people concerning their behavior in a way that is accusatory. When there is a problem that affects several people, it is instinctive to place the blame of that problem onto somebody else regardless of where the blame actually lies. Because of this, it is hard to focus on positive factors when giving or receiving feedback. It is easier to be opinionated than it is to be open-minded and mindful of the thoughts and emotions of others. A personal method that helps me to overcome these obstacles is to approach feedback in a manner that places me in the other person's shoes. When giving feedback, I keep in mind the way I would be feeling if I were the person receiving the feedback, and I do the opposite when I am on the receiving end to begin with. Doing this helps me focus on the best ways to constructively convey my ideas to colleagues. When constructive feedback is achieved, it is a very useful tool in any group setting.