Performance Appraisals: Best Practice Guide & Template Examples

The Individual Development Plan: A Tool to Help Managers Support Employee Learning and Development

Successful Management in the Changing World of Work: A Guide for Today’s Manager

Introduction

Managers are the backbone of a successful business. They plan, organize, oversee, evaluate, and lead the work of your company’s employees. In addition to managing people, managers are also responsible for their own day-to-day technical and operational activities.

There is a long list of management skills required in today’s workplace. To remain competitive and successfully manage in this shifting world of work, managers may find that they are regularly trying to update and improve their skillsets.

This guide provides information on how the expectations of managers have changed and what  skills are increasingly needed to align with today’s practices and modern approaches.

Management Practices are Changing - How and Why

Management practices have been evolving over the past 10-15 years to deal with emerging and ongoing recruitment and retention challenges, advances in technology, and the changing values and needs of the workforce. The response to the pandemic also produced an immediate need to adjust and embrace new ways of leading.

The Pandemic’s Impact

In March 2020, the spread of Covid 19 was relentless and businesses scrambled to alter how they delivered products and services to customers while accommodating imposed closures and restrictions.  Managers also had to pivot and were immediately faced with the challenge of managing people within a new context (e.g., working remotely). Broadly speaking, the following trends emerged:

  • Managing flexible work arrangements

The pandemic introduced the need for managers to shift from seeing work being done to trusting that employees were working, productive and achieving results. Remote work also required managers to be efficient with technology, including online collaboration tools, messaging apps and virtual meeting platforms.

  • Increased sensitivity and focus on employee health and wellness

The shift to remote work resulted in employees working in often less-than-ideal workspaces at home. There were added pressures placed on them, including, dealing with home schooling, and navigating increasingly blurred lines between personal and work life. For many there was also an increased sense of being disconnected and lonely. As an ‘essential service’ the trucking and logistics sector has many employees that can’t work from home so there was a heightened stress and anxiety related to contracting the virus.

More than ever, managers are required to assess and provide support to those struggling with the effects of the pandemic. The post-COVID-19 workplace will not look the same either, managers will have to adjust their skillsets accordingly and companies will benefit from supporting these adjustments.

The Impact of Advancing Technology

Advancing technologies will continue to have an impact on trucking and logistics operations.

  • The effect of new communication and collaboration tools

Some of the collaboration and communication tools surfacing from the increased adoption of remote work structures can benefit how organizations manage drivers. Technology can enhance how drivers meet and interact with their teams, have their work evaluated, share results, and communicate challenges. Adopting these tools can lead to stronger relationships and higher productivity. Training managers on these tools isn’t generally a one size fits all, meeting managers where they are as it relates to technology is a helpful approach, providing guidance and support as needed.

  • Larger candidate pools and diverse workforces

Changed perceptions on where and how we work opens the possibility to attract talent from outside local regions. Governments have been making strides, expanding communication networks so that rural and remote communities have access to the internet and more stable connections. This will increase a company’s ability to hire from these areas. Remote Access to technology can also remove barriers for those populations that have a disability or mobility issues. Technology provides the opportunity to attract and build a more diverse workforce. As a result, managers benefit from building skills and knowledge around diversity and inclusion.

  • Improved efficiencies and access to information

Implementation of workforce management systems and the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) has provided organizations with the enhanced capacity to manage, store and access information about their operations. As platforms evolve, and companies incorporate these practices into their business strategy, managers will benefit from greater access to data and metrics. This allows for improved decision making, increased efficiencies and managing to results.

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    Explore the Innovative Practices of our TFE’s in the following areas:

    • Organizational Flexibility and Agility
    • Technological Transformation
    • Holistic Employee Wellness
    • Diversity Equity and Inclusion
    • Employee Engagement and Collaboration
    • Considerate Leadership

    Visit Innovating Our HR Practices – One Top Fleet Employer at a Time.

    Trucking HR Canada’s Top Fleet Employers (TFE) program recognizes positive change and innovation that support HR best practices within trucking and logistics. Our TFEs are leaders.

Employees Expectations Towards Work

Another key factor driving the need to re-evaluate management practices is the changing demands and expectations of employees.

For many employees, the pandemic provided an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities. With no commute, more time with family and a lived experience that proved they did not always need to be in the office to be productive – many want to retain some form of flexible work option. To attract and retain talent good managers are championing flexible work arrangements.

Employees want to work for companies where they can create, innovate, and collaborate with individuals that have different perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. This will result in the delivery of more impactful and meaningful outcomes for the business and means that managers will need to foster diverse and inclusive environments.

Today’s employees are also looking for purpose in the work that they do. This has caused the growing need for companies to move towards values-based leadership practices and to support corporate social responsibility initiatives.

How well leaders understand these new desires, and respond and deliver on them, will ultimately set an organization apart.

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    THRC has a better understanding for the types of expectations Millennials have of employers. Learn more about how to create a millennial friendly fleet in Trucking HR Canada’s Guide – Millennials Have Drive 2

Priorities for Today’s Manager

To be a successful manager in this new world, the following skills and competencies can be practiced.

Support Employee Well-Being

Workplace well-being are actions that help people feel their best: physically, mentally, socially, and financially. They are prioritized so that employees can more effectively perform their work. While HR, and the organization at large, has a big role in developing and maintaining these initiatives, there are many ways managers can support the overall well-being of their team members on a day-to-day basis.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Regularly check-ins with team members to see how they are doing.
  • Identify your own self-care needs.
  • Model self-care by sharing how you are taking care of yourself.
  • Co-ordinate opportunities for team members to connect and have informal conversations.
  • Connect employees with coaches, mentors, and buddies.
  • Encourage employees to take time away from work to prevent burnout.
  • Take extra care to sense who is struggling and may need extra support.
  • Know when to recommend a company Employee Assistance Program and have the contact information readily available.
  • Foster a sense belonging within your team, ensuring everyone feels respected, included, and connected to the goals of the organization.
  • Create an environment where people can feel safe and be their authentic selves. You can model authenticity by sharing a few appropriate stories of your own challenges.
  • Practice empathy towards the feelings of employees and be an open and available listener of their concerns. Understand that people react and deal with challenges differently.

Focus on Managing Results versus Managing Time

Managing and rewarding performance based on results is not new. However, with the increasing shift to remote and hybrid work models, the increased access to data, and evolving expectations of employees, focusing on results vs time is growing in importance. Here are some suggested best practices:

  1. Create and agree on clear objectives – Focus on what employees should be accomplishing. Establish objectives and discuss what successful outcomes will look like so everyone has a clear picture of the expected result and the timeline in which it should be completed.  Also ensure the employee understands how accomplishing their goals contributes to the success of the company. This will enhance employee engagement and satisfaction.
  2. Focus on outputs – Today’s work environment competes with the time employees need to manage personal and family needs. Enable and trust employees to complete their work in ways that are easiest and most productive for them. If they are getting the work done with a satisfactory result, does it matter how long they spent working on it or how they did it?
  3. Communicate regularly – Encourage regular status updates to ensure progress and address any barriers or challenges to meeting establish timelines.
  4. Evaluate results and provide feedback – When milestones and goals are achieved, review the results with the employee. Circle back to the original objective and discusses successes, challenges, and suggested improvements for next time.

These practices can be included as part of a formal performance appraisal program, or they can be documented and agreed to as part of a goal setting process. What’s most important is that both the employee and employer are clear on what should be accomplished and less focused on when and where the work is performed.

Provide Feedback

It is important for a manager to understand how to effectively give feedback. Feedback should be provided frequently, at least once every 7 days, and it should include both positive and constructive observations.

Employees want to know how they are doing. They also can’t improve or do more of what’s working if they don’t know what that is.

Below are some guidelines to help you provide better feedback:

  1. Be timely – Silence may be taken as lack of interest or mis-interpreted as a job well done. Acknowledge, and show appreciation for their efforts and successes. Likewise, if there is an issue, address it shortly after it occurred.
  2. Be specific – Feedback should leave the employee understanding what they did, why it was good/not-so-good, the impact their actions had on the company, their team, the client, and what they should do the same or differently next time.
  3. Listen – Utilize active listening techniques, acknowledging input, aim for understanding and encourage two-way dialogue. Be open to the employee’s ideas for improvement. Set a good example by being open to feedback from them as well.
  4. Follow through – Help develop employees by keeping them accountable for improvements. Revisit conversations to acknowledge if progress made and/or reinforce development plans.
  5. Demonstrate care – No matter what type of feedback is shared, it’s important to remain compassionate and caring. Feedback should be a source of positive motivation for an employee to either improve to or continue performing at an acceptable level. The tone by which feedback is shared can make a world of difference.

Enabling Employee Development and Growth

Change is constant. Today’s manager must ensure their team members are building skills and the knowledge required to keep up with these changes. A great manager will recognize and maximize employee strengths. They will also identify gaps and help employees close those gaps.

A growing number of employees expect to have training and development opportunities provided to them by their employer. They want to be successful, build their skills and continue to contribute to the organization in new ways. To support employee development, managers should consider:

  • Upskilling and reskilling – Upskilling is the process of improving a current skill set. Reskilling focuses on entirely new abilities, preparing an individual for steering his or her career in a different direction. There are numerous benefits to upskilling and reskilling, including: improving a company´s long-term perspectives, increasing productivity and internal mobility, and ensuring robust talent planning and retention.
  • Digitized approaches to learning – During the pandemic, there was a shift to virtual training. These methods of delivery will continue since it allows for flexibility, just in time learning and greater ability to tailor learning and development plans to the unique needs of the individual.
  • Cultivate a learning mindset – In addition to providing the encouragement and time for employees to take additional skills-building courses, provide the opportunity and support to take on more challenging projects.
  • Skills development for managers – As a leader in the 21st century, it is vital to constantly hone your craft and stay current in best practices. Leading by example in this area is powerful.
  • Coaching techniques – An effective manager-as-coach asks questions instead of providing answers, supports employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what must be done. It is also a way to spark insights and creativity in the other people. When people come up with their own solutions, they are more committed, and the fixes are more likely to be implemented. Additionally, this problem-solving experience helps individuals develop the self-confidence to solve similar problems on their own in the future.

It’s important to have on-going discussions with your team members to help identify what their goals are and to ensure you are providing them with development opportunities that align with those goals.  Organizations may want to implement individual development plans for employees within their organizations. These could include specific outlines of what their goals are, what the company sees as future opportunities for them, timelines and training needs.

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    G = GOAL  -> What are you looking to achieve or accomplish?
    R = REALITY -> What’s happening right now to help or hinder your ability to achieve that goal?
    O = OPTIONS -> What are some actions you can take to help you realize this objective?
    W = WHAT’S NEXT -> What are you going to do about it and by when?

Creating a Culture of Learning

Organizations at-large have an opportunity to really drive a culture of learning through focused programs and on-going intention. In doing so, they can positively impact their retention rates, increase innovation and service levels and ultimately, benefit through increases to their bottom line.

Below are recommended best practices for industry managers to ensure a strategic approach to employee development is achieved.

Succession and Development Planning

Knowing the talent that exists in the company today, along with understanding what the future needs and potential gaps in the organization can impact your success. Best practices in this area include:

  • Creating a “future-focused” organization chart outlining the structure and positions that will be needed if the company’s growth and strategic objectives are achieved.
  • Conducting talent reviews to determine team member performance, potential, retention risks and growth desires. The 9-box performance grid is a great tool to help managers assess the performance/potential of their team.
  • Identifying emergency, interim successors for critical roles in addition to ideal successors.
  • Creating individual development plans for employees.
  • Implementing a formal management development program to proactively train future leaders.

Structured Training

By implementing a structured approach to the development of your team, you will not only enhance their skills and competencies, but you will also ensure the focus of the learning is in-line with the company’s goals and objectives. Some approaches might include:

  • Providing easy access to formal training programs in identified areas of need (consider this from a variety of perspectives such as: skills gaps, competencies, and functions).
  • Allocating training budgets for external courses.
  • Reimbursing membership fees and training opportunities through professional and industry associations.
  • Committing to on-going training on various topics that are important to the company. For example, you may hold monthly training sessions to address skills or competency gaps or to reinforce key messages.
  • Creating a learning resource center – through an LMS, or otherwise – where employees have access to a variety of self-directed courses.

Mentorship

Mentorship programs provide opportunities for development for both participants. The mentor is recognized for their hard work and expertise and provided a job enrichment opportunity and the person being mentored has access to learn from an established, credible employee in an authentic, personalized and non-threatening way. When implementing a mentorship program:

  • Identify high performing, tenured employees who have a positive impression of the company to act as mentors. Using the talent review to identify mentors is a good practice.
  • Identify high potential, high performing team members to be mentored. Using the talent review to identify candidates is a good practice.
  • Provide training to mentors on the intention and expected outcome of the program.
  • Provide feedback channels for both the mentors and people being mentored to ensure the program is meeting expectations.
  • Consider opportunities for employees to be mentored by members of the Senior Leadership Team.

Job Enrichment

Development doesn’t always require promotion. Employees can grow in the roles that they are currently in, and for some, that development is enough. Job enrichment opportunities allow employees to stretch and grow within their current roles, thus motivating and ultimately helping to retain them. Some examples and ideas include:

  • Allowing opportunities for employees to job shadow individuals in different departments.
  • Involving employees in company-wide cross-functional teams to address a specific need
  • Assigning stretch projects to individuals.

Learning Together

Don’t underestimate the value of knowledge your employees can provide each other. Creating opportunities for employees to learn together may help expedite learning and enhance team collaboration. Ideas include:

  • Communicating employee wins and lessons learned through a company newsletter.
  • Creating on-line learning platforms where employees can share key learnings on a variety of topics. This can be done through a company intranet site, a shared collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams, or through the company’s LMS.
  • Implementing a company book club – for leaders, or otherwise.
  • Maintaining regular meetings and discussion forums for people within similar roles or job levels.

On-Going Expectations of Today’s Manager

Despite changing and evolving requirements for managers, they must also continue to address and lead in areas that have traditionally been challenging for people in this role.

Developing Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential. It’s even more important when guiding teams and lifting morale during times of change and uncertainty. Here are some recommendations:

  • Use different modes of communication, understanding that employees have different personality types and ways they prefer to take in and share information.
  • Apply active listening skills whether interacting in person or online. This ensures clarity in understanding, builds trust, and makes employees feel like they are being heard.
  • Communicate truthfully, clearly, and consistently. Embrace transparency and use straight talk with a positive tone. This approach builds a culture of trust with employees.
  • Support two-way conversations so that employees feel like they can speak up.
  • Communicate with kindness, empathy, and respect. Even when managers are frustrated, upset, or disappointed in an employee’s behaviour or performance, there is never an acceptable reason to yell, condescend or humiliate.

Practice Active Listening

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    Be a great active listener by:

    Paying attention – Listen without distraction to what the person speaking is saying. When applicable, maintain eye contact and use body language to demonstrate understanding.

    Avoiding interrupting – Do not interrupt with thoughts, solutions or questions. Let the person finish their thoughts fully. Take notes if helpful to remind yourself what you would like to address.

    Seeking clarity – If something the person says is unclear, ask for additional details, examples or other information that will help you understand the message they are trying to relay. Do this when there is a natural pause in their speaking.

    Withholding judgement – Don’t impose judgement on the words or actions being described – even internally. This will help you avoid jumping to conclusions and missing important details or information that is counter to your judgement.

    Confirming what you heard – A great way to demonstrate that you were listening is to repeat back to the other party what you heard. Allow them the opportunity to correct anything that was mis-heard or to clarify and add details that might have been missed.

Managing Conflict

Conflict between employees is inevitable. Managers should work under the premise that every team member has a different set of personal goals and needs. The manager’s job is to mediate discussions and find a compromise that satisfies everyone so productivity can continue, and morale remains unaffected. Consider the following:

  • Take time to hear both sides of the story before making judgements or assumptions on what happened.
  • Address issues privately so that any/all parties involved have the chance to express their feelings and intentions in a safe environment. It also prevents bystanders from getting needlessly involved.
  • Identify the best medium to deal with the conflict. Perhaps an in-person chat or video call is easiest so that body language can be read, and difficult emotions can be expressed more easily.
  • Initiate the conversation by stating that a conflict occurred and reinforcing the fact that everyone should have a chance to express their feelings and understanding of the situation. Then stand back and let them have that chance.
  • Restate your understanding of the issues or conflict back to the individual. This allows the employee to make any corrections to misinterpretations.
  • “I” statements are key to conflict resolution. Position your thoughts as your thoughts.
  • Avoid placing blame or focus on emotion. Stick to the facts and seek solutions.
  • Know when it’s beyond your capability to resolve an issue. Engage with your leader or HR.
  • Avoid reacting in the moment to the situation. Do not immediately offer advice or solutions. Take a moment to pause and digest the events, then decide on next steps.
  • Follow up with a communication on next steps, or that will bring closure and confirm resolution of the issue.
  • Ensure you are being cognizant of differences in culture, gender, and perspectives of diverse team members. Don’t assume that certain reactions mean what you may interpret them to mean. For example, some cultures have a high level of respect for authority and they won’t challenge or clarify if an incorrect statement from an authority figure is made. That doesn’t mean that the statement is correct. Gain clarification of a situation through dialogue and by asking questions.
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    It’s important for managers to respond to any office conflict quickly and effectively. The organization has a legal responsibility to respond to any conflict situation that may be deemed as harassment.

    Trucking HR Canada has  resources to help guide you through what to do if there is a chance that the conflict has escalated to harassment.

Overcoming Negativity

Negativity in the workplace can decrease productivity, reduce employee engagement, and increase turnover rates. These are obvious negative impacts to the business. But how does a manager know that there is increasing negativity amongst the team? In addition to those consequences already mentioned, the manager will notice an increase in complaints and criticisms, as well as reduced energy and enthusiasm. There may even be more gossip, blaming and refusal to participate in meetings and workplace events. If negativity is becoming a concern, here are some tips that can help you deal with it:

  • Address the negativity directly with the employee and do not assume it will improve with time. Also do not assume it is an inherent part of their personality. To leave a situation unaddressed will be a missed opportunity to uncover issues that can easily be resolved. Schedule a meeting and start the conversation by mentioning a noticeable change in their recent attitude.
  • Come to the meeting prepared with specific examples of negative attitudes and behaviours. It can provide a clearer picture for the employee and help them understand how this impacts the team.
  • Use personal observations, as opposed to those relayed by others. Examples are helpful, provided they are presented appropriately. Avoid language like, “everybody has noticed…” This can make the employee feel ganged up on. Stick with using a personal perspective by saying, “I’ve noticed…”

Developing Flexibility, Adaptability and Resilience

Workplace processes are changing rapidly, and as a manager, it is important to set an example of flexibility and the willingness to readjust.

Being flexible is about having an open mindset, being able to work well under pressure, adjusting to new and unexpected deadlines, prioritizing tasks and, in some instances taking on additional responsibilities. How can a manager develop these skillsets in their teams?

  • Tie new ways of working to desired outcomes so that employees know what they are trying to achieve.
  • When employees are struggling to adapt, remind them of times in the past where they have successfully done this.
  •  Incorporate problem- solving into training and development plans. This learning will provide them with a methodology to use when responding to rapidly changing situations.
  • Encourage employees to build strong networks so they have supportive colleagues and acquaintances to share their experiences and learn best practices for dealing with constant change.
  • Regularly encourage employees to step outside of their comfort zones and be supportive of innovations, even if they aren’t always successful. Ensuring legislative requirements are met, of course.
  • Recognize and/or reward employees when they try or achieve new things, using new ways of working.

 

Innovating Our HR Practices

Supporting Women in Your Workplace: 5 Best Practices from Top Fleet Employers

By: Alero Okajugu

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace can help increase productivity, innovation, and employee retention, benefits that cannot be overstated in today’s business world.

Women are essential to diversity, but the trucking and logistics industry still falls short with just 15% of women in the workforce.

Trucking HR’s Top Fleet Employers Program recognizes and celebrates companies with innovative employment practices and policies, and several fleets have taken specific steps to improve their recruitment and retention of women.

In reviewing what these fleets have done to diversify and encourage inclusion in their workplace, here are five best practices that stand out.

 

Creating connections

By participating in industry events and creating formal and informal coaching and mentoring arrangements, Top Fleet Employers help women leverage networks that can lead to professional development opportunities in the industry. These initiatives include Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive event or partnering with Women Building Futures.

 

Targetted recruitment

Many of our Top Fleet Employers take a targeted approach to recruiting both men and women who want to work in a diverse environment. For instance, a hiring practice among many Top Fleet Employers is to ensure that job descriptions in recruiting ads are free of unconscious bias that may affect individuals applying for that role. We also see recruitment targeted at community groups that focus on women, and customized onboarding processes. These efforts make women feel like they belong and not like they must adapt to fit into the workplace.

 

Flexible work arrangements

97% of our Top Fleet Employers offer benefits, policies, and flexible work arrangements to support their employees and their families. Some examples are a policy that allows truck drivers decide when and where to shut down overnight; flexible start/stop times; being able to choose routes close to home; permission to have a family member in the cab; part-time work upon request; and separate facilities for women. Workplace flexibility fosters loyalty and a higher quality of life for the employee, which consequently benefits the employer.

 

Evaluate your training offerings

Top Fleet Employers are committed to offering training that supports a diverse and safe workforce. For example, they provide sensitivity training that addresses stereotypes and biases in the workplace. In the case of female drivers, safety and security remain a very big concern. In response, many employers have programs that include training in anti-harassment and violence in the workplace an area for which Trucking HR Canada has developed industry-specific training.

 

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Top Fleet Employers with a good percentage of female employees in various roles portray this in their recruitment tools. Pictures of women can be seen in their public postings, websites, and other social media platforms.

 

There is much to be done in order to increase the number of women in trucking and logistics. However, our Top Fleet Employers are leaders and have embraced a culture that continually encourages and supports women in the industry.

As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, take a moment to consider how your organization is doing when it comes to recruiting and retaining women. If you need a place to start, visit THRC’s website for helpful resources.