Business Coursework

Order Description

This paper needs to have a table of contents, abstract, and introduction. This paper can also include graphs, tables or charts to support the context of the paper. Please also include a bibliography page.

The research paper will be about how low performance at fortune 500 companies affect the earnings of the company.

As one of the ways to counter act the low performers from the start of their employment would be the soft management skills of the training manager. Describe in detail what soft management is. Also to include the top 10 soft management skills. How this could have changed the outlook on the employees to help there performance numbers.

Employee morale could also have been influenced by soft management skills during the training process.

Develop a couple alternatives to help change the low performers.

Answer

Title: Low performance: what does it cost?

Abstract

Soft management is emerging as an essential construct in management. This term is increasingly being used in reference to employees morale and attitudes towards the workplace environment. Consequently, a new research frontier has emerged, where focus is on the relationship between soft management skills training and employees’ contribution to companies’ earnings. This paper examines how three Fortune 500 companies (Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and Apple) continue to navigate the issue of soft management and how it has contributed to employee performance.

As part of the discussion, ten soft management skills are examined in this paper; they include: emotional intelligence, management of discipline, active listening, delegation, trustworthiness, constructive appraisal, critical thinking, motivation, continuous learning, and focus on outcome. This paper concludes that future research should focus on empirical evidence in regards to the relationship between soft management and companies’ earnings.

 

Contents

Abstract 2

Introduction. 3

How Low Employee Performance at Fortune 500 Companies Affects their Earnings. 4

The Use of Soft Management Skills by Training Managers to Counteract Low Performers. 7

The Meaning of Soft Management 11

Crucial Soft Management Skills for Training Managers. 13

How Soft Management Changes the Training Managers’ Outlook on Employees to Help Improve Performance Numbers. 18

How soft management skills influences employee morale during training. 21

Alternatives Strategies for Changing Attitudes of Low Performers. 23

Conclusion. 24

References. 25

Introduction

Low performance among employees in many Fortune 500 companies tends to have far-reaching consequences for the companies’ earnings. This view is supported by numerous studies on the impact of employee performance on companies bottom line (Azim et al, 2010; Ramsden & Bennett, 2005; Grugulis & Vincent, 2009; Adams & Morgan, 2013; Klaus, 2007). In these studies, it is evident that employees’ passion greatly contributes to business performance. A study by the People Metrics found out that the number of engaged employees in the lowest quartile of Fortune 500 list were 50 percent fewer than those in the top quartile (Gopalakrishnan, Muncherji & Dhar, 2009). The study also found out that high-performing employees tended to be twice as engaged as low-performing employees (Gopalakrishnan, Muncherji & Dhar, 2009). In contexts of low employee-turnover, which is a leading indicator that an employee is treating his employees benevolently, a company’s earnings are highly likely to increase.

Many employees perform poorly in their jobs not because they are not skilled but because of poor morale. It takes training managers who possess the requisite soft management skills to identify low performers with a view to improve their morale right from the start of their employment. Soft management skills enable training managers to operate well when confronted with challenges arising from differences in employees’ personalities. Soft skills are normally contrasted to “hard skills” which constitute technical abilities and may in some cases be sanctioned by applicable laws and regulations. Training managers with excellent soft management skills are able to maintain assertiveness, handle difficult people, listen attentively, and manage workplace stress.

The aim of this paper is to examine how low performance at fortune 500 companies affects the earnings of these companies. It also investigates the use of soft management skills by training managers to counteract low performers from the start of their employment. Towards this end, the paper discusses the concept of soft management and how it can transform the training managers’ outlook on employees to help improve performance numbers. Specific issues such as employee morale and alternative strategies for helping change the attitudes of low performers are also explored.

How Low Employee Performance at Fortune 500 Companies Affects their Earnings

Low employee performance is a major challenge for Fortune 500 companies. These companies employ millions of employees, hence the urgent need to address various challenges affecting the workforce. Whenever employees perceive the practices of their employer to be unfair, they tend to respond by performing below expectations. In response, many companies come up with initiatives that respond to various claims such as unfair treatment and poor pay.

Whenever companies operate simply by “obeying the law” , they are likely to leave numerous issues affecting employees unaddressed. In addition to compliance with applicable laws, companies are required to promote a culture of respect between employers and employees. This is a major requirement for companies whose success depends greatly on customer satisfaction as a primary driver of growth in earnings. This awareness has greatly influenced the decision by large corporations to come up with metrics aimed at assessing the level of harmony and productivity in the workplace. For example, in 2007, Walmart, the number one company in the Fortune 500 list, introduced the Supplier Diversity Program (Jackson Schuler & Werner, 2012). The objective of this program was to encourage suppliers to address the specific concerns expressed by minority and female employees. Another example is McDonald’s Corporation (number 106 on the Fortune 500 list), which has continued to operate programs aimed at addressing employees’ concerns since the 1980s (Jackson Schuler & Werner, 2012). Through these programs, many employees encountering problems of low morale got numerous opportunities for participating in informal networking groups, causal discussions, and social support.

Large corporations, especially financial services companies, often seek to ensure that customers are accorded the best possible service. This is because the resulting sense of belonging and loyalty makes them resistant to offers from competitors. However, a major challenge in this noble quest is that developing the level of service that brings about loyalty requires a highly committed, enthusiastic workforce. For managers to create an environment where employee performance is kept at the maximum, they must understand that employees are ordinary human beings who respond to both logical and emotional decision drivers. This sheer magnitude of challenges that Fortune 500 companies face in maintaining the high level of concentration required to motivate their employees creates a difficult situation for training managers. These managers are compelled to operate in a context where suboptimal performance in the workplace is a recurring problem.

Disengaged employees end up depressing organizational performance. Disengagement occurs once employees lose emotional connection to their workplaces. It has become common for companies to attempt to improve satisfaction among employees through pay and benefits. Such strategies can lead to an improvement in business outcomes only if emotional attachment to the company has already been secured. Unless employees feel that they are an integral part of the company, managers should expect to encounter the same old problems such as turnover, reduction in profitability, and absenteeism. Unless employees bring their whole selves to the workplace, the company can never benefit from the services that they provide. It takes soft management skills for managers to determine whether employees are engaged and to devise the right motivational strategies.

A Gallup study of 332 client organizations, a quarter of them Fortune 500 companies, showed that top-quartile organizations showed an upward trend in earnings per share (EPS) (Riggio & Tan, 2012).  The performance of these organizations between 2004 and 2005 exceeded their industry equivalents in terms of employee engagement by about 18 percent. In contrast, companies belonging to the bottom half of the employee engagement database, exhibited performance that was 2.9 percent below that of their industry equivalents. The findings of this study demonstrate that it is important for companies to motivate their employees if they hope to report increased EPS.

A solution that is often recommended to deal with the problem of low performance among employees is the use of soft management skills. These skills can enable training managers to build an engaged workforce that contributed optimally to the company’s bottom line. Companies that perform poor in terms of employee engagement metrics tend to report lower earnings. Unfortunately, despite concerted efforts to address the problem, many Fortune 500 companies continue to face the challenge of low employee performance.  For example, the Gallup study found out that 62 percent of workers in the banking sector were disengaged from their employers; of these, 13 percent were actively disengaged and were only poisoning the organizational ecosystem. In such a situation, it becomes difficult for even the most dedicated employee to operate effectively in the context of the systems put in place by the organization.

The Use of Soft Management Skills by Training Managers to Counteract Low Performers

Fortunately, training managers have developed actionable ways of developing employee engagement right from their first day of employment. First and foremost, these managers create environments where employees proudly feel that they belong. To do this, they measure engagement at the local level where the employees actually engage in work. Next, they measure the opinions of these employees at the enterprise level, where the results are tabulated and shared. In situations where the average level of engagement improves, everyone celebrates the achievement of a new milestone: the overall improvement of workplace performance. The downside of this approach is that the averaging method brings into perspective mathematical calculations, which wipe out extremes, thereby preventing the company from uncovering the specific areas where real improvement should take place. On the other hand, it may also fail to uncover the areas employees are employing best practices in a satisfactory manner.

A major challenge is to identify areas where variation from the norm occurs in terms of employee performance. It entails identifying teams that are healthy and those that unhealthy, and those that are averagely involved in the company’s day-to-day activities. In some cases, the so-called Bell Curve of Employment Engagement can be used to determine those workgroups whose performance is very low and those whose performance is very high (Whetten, 2005). Training managers who use such tools to map employee performance tend to focus on the experiences of poorly-performing workgroups to determine why they are so different from high-performing workgroups. Based on the information obtained, the managers are able to recommend tactics aimed at improving performance.

A key area that should be the subject of attention is the process and protocol that constitutes team management in different organizational contexts. In banking, for example, specific audit guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOP) should be adhered to by all employees. This is not to say that managers should avoid being creative in order to make the work done by employees more fun while at the same time ensuring that SOPs and audit procedures are not violated. The training managers should be able to identify the difference between soft skills and the impartment of hard skills that enable employees to comply with SOP requirements. The simple part is the impartment of hard skills; the hard part is to change the employees’ feelings about the workplace. To accomplish the latter task, the managers can only seek to influence and inspire workers with a view to change the way they feel about their work and the company that they work for.

Manager action commitments constitute a critical factor in efforts to promote employee engagement. These commitments should be promoted at all levels: local, middle-level, and senior management levels. A manager of a subsidiary of a multinational corporation may attempt to remove barriers to employee performance without achieving success. Such failure may be attributed to lack of participation by local managers. Conversely, it is impossible for local managers to make any lasting changes to employee performance without the assistance from senior managers and executives. The notion that only local measurement is needed is faulty because it may create a situation where the activities of people in the lower cadres are disconnected from those of people working in the rest of the organization.

It is typical of Fortune 500 companies to have most of the organizational strength to be concentrated at the top, whereby a finely defined strategic view is selfishly guarded. In these companies, a major challenge is often a resounding failure by other levels to execute the strategy well. In other cases, these companies are preoccupied with the frontlines and are spoilt for choices among hundreds of ideas and tactics aimed at gaining competitive advantage. This situation is reflected in the tendency by these companies to pay lower-level workers poorly while at the same time paying senior workers huge salaries and allowances. Managers of these companies fail to realize that such practices demoralize lower-level workers, thereby hurting corporate profits in the long run. It is surprising that most of the Fortune 500 companies that pay workers poorly could afford to offer them salary increases. In 2013, all but 37 of these companies earned a profit; moreover, all but 14 made enough profits to pay a quarter of their employees some $10,400 annually and have millions to spare (Bloxham, 2014). This means that if these companies spent a proportion of their profits to offer a pay rise to lower-level employees, they would have made a significant step towards inspiring and influencing them to change the way they feel about their workplaces.

In 2013, Walmart, the number one company on the Fortune 500 and the largest private employer in the United States, choose to host a canned food drive on Thanksgiving Day for its employees in Canton, Ohio. Yet the company could have afforded to give the bottom quartile of its workers a pay rise of $10,400 and still have a net income exceeding $10 billion (Bloxham, 2014). A better move, which was also possible, would be to pay 70 percent of its workers the increment (of $10,400) more and still have a net income running into millions of dollars (Bloxham, 2014). This would be a more humane thing to do than to host a canned food drive for its employees in Ohio.

Another phenomenon is one where top-level structures of strategy are operating as smoothly as the execution teams at the frontline, only that real traction is hardly being attained because the middle level of management is not operating in the right way. Companies that are good at executing strategy understand that every level of management is equally important in bringing about sustainable change. To create synergy of operations, a feedback loop should be created, whereby the barriers being experienced by employees are identified and removed. In this loop, the issues that need to be prioritized are identified through diverse platforms, including senior leader visits and suggestions made during informal sessions. This enables the management to go beyond the frontline to identify problems affecting employees at each level of operations.

For managers to operate effectively in such situation, they must possess soft management skills (Mintzberg, 2004). These skills enable them to not only interact with employees at a personal level but also to identify a wide range of avenues through which they can express their grievances (Mintzberg, 2004). In many cases, soft management skills are imparted in the context of manager development programs, where focus is primarily on emotional connections with employees. To identify the problem of low performance at the earliest possible moment, training managers must be equipped with these skills. This identification process is crucial for any large company because it enables the training managers to identify employees who require specialized attention. Therefore, this means that the coaching development process is a crucial component of success in companies’ efforts to motivate, inspire, and influence the actions and perceptions of its valued employees. Companies with poorly-articulated coaching development processes are likely to have a higher proportion of disenfranchised employees whose contribution to the companies’ earnings is dismal.

Training managers should have access to information on performance evaluations because it gives them insights into variations in the way employees respond to training programs. The ultimate objective for the managers should be to monitor the career progression of these employees. This is because career progression is normally an indicator that the employee is making meaningful contributions to the company’s overall productivity. The regularity with which dialogue with employees is promoted greatly influences the development of soft skills on the part of training managers. The key objective should be to ensure that all employees participate fully in these discussions. As the conversations start to become more regular, an increasingly large number of employees start to feel that they are profoundly connected to their workplaces. This feeling of connectedness is reflected in the way employees interact with customers, ultimately translating into an overall improvement in business outcomes.

The Meaning of Soft Management

Soft management is an approach to management that emphasizes friendliness and a humanistic approach to relations with employees. Companies that employ soft management tend to accord creative license to employees in their day-to-day workplace tasks. They do this by providing employees with broad guidelines and then leaving them to make decisions on the specifics of their work. It can be contrasted with hard management, which entails the use of strict rules of behavior for managing employees. In hard management, leaders expect employees to meet high performance standards. Employees who fail to perform the work in the stipulated manner expressly receive a negative performance appraisal. In hard management, the manager has to maintain some distance to ensure effective use of authority. In contrast, soft management emphasizes the shortening of the emotional distance between the employer and employees.

Many companies of today are interested not just in people with satisfactory functional competencies but also those with strong behavioral competencies, sometimes referred to as soft skills (Schulz, 2008). Soft management facilitates proper execution of hard tasks and the achievement of results because they facilitate proper people management by facilitating the process of building relationships. Soft management abilities are sometimes an outcome of lifelong experiences. In other cases, they are talents that must be nurtured.

Soft management is people-friendly in the sense that it focuses on emotions. It is common for companies to start with the element of soft management before gradually shifting to hard management as they increase in size and complexity. One of the reasons why this transition occurs is that as companies grow bigger, the resulting complexity influences managers to adopt a more aggressive approach to management with a view to maintaining the existing profitability levels. They become tough and firm in their pursuit of bottom line.

Although it is important for companies to focus on consistency, it is also good to look at the human side of the workplace. Too much focus on the task side is an indication of a management team that is preoccupied with a hangover from the early-20th century industrial age. In the industrial age, hard management was the most preferred approach by corporate managers, who were unrelenting in their quest to reduce differences among employees. In the contemporary context of soft management, the objective is to celebrate differences instead of condemning them. Adopters of hard management always expect workers to come into their companies but employees keep coming. With employees, the managers have to address different dimensions that constitute the make-up of an ordinary being, such as passions, emotions, preferences, attitudes, fears, and aspirations. For these employees to deliver their best these passionate states have to be optimized. The most serious mistake that a manager can make is to try to “streamline” the behavioral aspects of the workforce by drawing prototypes into which they are expected to fit. Every employee is unique in his or her own right, and it takes soft management to appreciate and influence these unique aspects in a manner that will bring about an optimal level of performance from that employee.

In the process of developing a strategy for a large company, a lot attention should go towards consideration of employee emotional needs rather than task structure. This is simply because the best strategies are those that have been extracted from the people’s minds and hearts. Similarly, strategies and plans that have been inculcated into people’s hearts and minds are likely to have a positive impact on the overall profitability of the company. Preoccupation with hard management at best brings about a linear improvement in performance. In contrast, soft management presents companies with potential for exponential improvement in financial performance.

Crucial Soft Management Skills for Training Managers

For managers to plan, coordinate, and organize activities, they need to possess soft management skills. Soft skills are as important as technical skills because they determine how managers fit into the organizational culture. Some of the most important soft management skills include emotional intelligence, management of discipline, active listening, delegation, and trustworthiness (Robles, 2012). Others include constructive appraisal, critical thinking, motivation, continuous learning, and focus on outcome (Robles, 2012).

Emotional intelligence involves one’s ability to monitor his own emotions as well as those of others, to discriminate among these emotions, and to utilize the information obtained as a guide to decision-making. People with emotional intelligence tend to be self-aware, meaning that they understand and appreciate their emotions. For this reason, they tend to be confident of their own intuition. Emotional intelligence also entails self-regulation or the ability to control one’s emotions (Mayer, Salovey &  Caruso, 2001). This means that they are less likely to make careless decisions. This soft skill is also characterized by a high level of motivation. This is because it enables individuals to defer immediate results in order to achieve long-term success. Emotional intelligence is also associated with social skills and empathy. Social skills are important for managers who want to become team players and to maintain relationships. On the other hand, empathy enables managers to understand the needs of all people within the organization.

Managing disciple is an important soft management skill. Despite people’s best intentions, conflicts tend to occur. The ability to manage discipline is crucial for managers who want to be able to resolve such conflicts promptly to avoid derailing progress in the workplace (Riggio & Tan, 2012). Managers who are not good at managing discipline are unlikely to make excellent leaders. An environment of mutual respect and cooperation tends to emerge whenever leaders succeed in consistently managing discipline.

Active listening is also a valuable soft management skill. Managers must listen to be able to identify problems, to improve customer service, and establish a cooperative work environment (Hoppe, 2006). Active listening is an excellent way through which a manager can demonstrate that he cares about employees’ concerns. It is normally associated with social learning where the identity formation process in an organization occurs through active participation in discursive practices, of which active listening is a core component (Jacobs & Coghlan, 2005). This essentially means that managers must not rely entirely on knowledge acquisition in their efforts to understand employees’ concerns; they must also engage in social learning by being active listeners.

Delegation entails efforts by managers to assign tasks to people in the company and to communicate their expectations to ensure that the right goals are met (Hlupic, Pouloudi & Rzevski, 2002). Managers rely on their authority to confer upon others the power to perform a particular task. The ability to delegate takes more than power; it also entails goodwill and responsibility on the part of the person upon whom the power to perform the task is conferred. Delegation entails the ability to influence and inspire this goodwill and responsibility, and this constitutes an important soft management skill.

Trustworthiness is an equally important soft management skill. The information that managers handle is sensitive, hence the need to ensure that all those who handle it can be trusted with it. At the same time, managers should be trustworthy as a way of guarding against vices such as industrial espionage (Bancino & Zevalkink, 2007). Managerial trustworthy behavior is a core component of organizational citizenship behavior. By portraying affective trust, managers can maintain a balance between the level attention that they accord their subordinates and the one they accord their peers and bosses. Unfortunately, trust has become a dominant issue in the current practice of business management because all managers need it more but enact it less. Yet it is the foundation of cooperation and functioning relationships. This soft management skill is difficult to master because, just like intellectual assets, it takes long to build. The most important thing though is that the importance of trust in management has been universally recognized in business practice and literature (Heckman & Kautz, 2012).

Constructive appraisal           can also inspire employees to improve their level of performance. This soft management skill gives employees courage to continue doing their best despite making mistakes. The fact that employees sometimes make blunders does not affect negatively their ability to produce great output. In situations of both negative and positive performance, the feedback of the manager is important. Whenever mistakes are made, criticism should be presented in a constructive manner. This enables employees to learn from those mistakes. Exposing people to ridicule only demoralizes them, thereby inhibiting their potential for great performance in the future. Employees who perform exemplarily well deserve to be praised as a way of encouraging them to improve their performance even further.

Critical thinking is also a valuable soft management skill. It enables managers to solve problems based on critical evaluation and analysis with a view to generate effective solutions. Across the world, smart companies are increasingly dependent upon critical thinkers who lead the process of producing and disseminating goods and services. Similarly, managers who are change-oriented must learn and exhibit critical thinking abilities to their employees and colleagues. This is because the present world is full of pressure, conflicting ideas, and uncertainty, all of which must be navigated adeptly in the quest for organizational success. Through critical thinking, managers are able to identify risks, address problems, and make the right decisions.

Being an effective critical thinker entails the ability to question things, to think broadly, to reason carefully, to organize one’s own thought processes, and to promote different thinking dispositions. Critical thinking also entails the ability to pose hypothetical problems and propose possible solutions. Without the ability to seek multiple perspectives, managers may easily be blinded by the false notion that the information presented to them represents the only dimension that is worth investigating. Managers who are critical thinkers are never afraid to ask all the questions that cross their minds, however ridiculous or bizarre they may seem to the respondent.

Motivation also constitutes a crucial soft management skill. The ability to motivate employees is a unique attribute that sets successful managers far apart from their unsuccessful counterparts. It takes skill to choose among different strategies for motivating employees. Effective managers understand different aspects of employee motivation, including ways of satisfying their psychological needs for long-term performance, best practices aimed at fostering optimal daily work experience among employees, and ways of reorienting employees’ motivation outlook on work situations they may not inherently enjoy. According to Simons (2013), managers should look for ways of entrenching innovative control systems into their organizations in order to drive the process of strategic renewal through employee motivation.

Continuous learning is as important as critical thinking as far as the “soft” qualities of a manager are concerned. Effective managers never block new ideas; they take all the time in the world to learn what the new idea is all about. They endeavor to learn continuously and think objectively from employees in different professional positions. Effective managers should continuously learn not just from their superiors and peers but also their employees. Through continuous learning, the managers grow their own careers while at the same time excelling in the task of influencing employee performance positively.

The last soft management skill is focus on outcome. Effective managers should focus not only on the process of performing a task but also the desired outcomes. Employees who know the expected outcomes are likely to work more efficiently. They are also likely to devise many innovative ways of achieving those outcomes. At the same time, they can identify and eliminate tasks that are not related in any way to the outcome without even having to wait for authorization from the manager. This brings into focus a new dimension to the enhancement of organizational performance. The bottom line is that managers should not tell employees what needs to be done rather than how to do it.

Outcome-focused management starts with a clear vision of what needs to be done. Once a manager is clear on exactly what he wants to achieve, he can establish a plan to enable him to get there. Different companies tend to have different goals. Even in the case of a specific firm, different things need to be done at different times. Effective managers are those who provide guidance even in environments that are not strategy-friendly because of the absence of clearly-defined aims and objectives. they do this by clearly communicating only what is important as well as influencing different team leaders to marshal the collective energy of the company in a specific direction.

How Soft Management Changes the Training Managers’ Outlook on Employees to Help Improve Performance Numbers

Soft management can change the outlook of training managers on employees, thereby helping them to improve performance numbers. A case in point is Exxon Mobil (number 2 on the Fortune 500 list), which focus a lot on “hard skills” training. An example of such training is provided in a news item published in the 2014 issue of Lamp, the company’s newsletter (The Lamp, 2014). In this news item, emphasis is on the importance of being prepared to manage events and incidents whenever they occur. The company reported that it had established an Operation Integrity Management System that forms the foundation of risk management and the achievement of excellence in performance (The Lamp, 2014). All these measures emphasize the critical role of hard skills in the form of technical capabilities of the workforce; at no point does the company emphasize the role of soft skills in efforts to respond to accidents such as spills or other accidents involving hazardous materials.

Exxon Mobil claims to have established a rich history of incident-training systems and programs, whereby specialized response contractors are brought in to impart the requisite hard skills (The Lamp, 2014). In these programs, on-site and class drills are also conducted. However, the company fails to provide a detailed explanation of how it imparts special training that addresses aspects of soft skills for managing all the finer details relating to an effective response to incidents. Although the company has achieved many feats by virtue of being at the second position in the Fortune 500, it could achieve even higher earnings if only more attention was directed towards soft management skills. This is because Soft skills could have transformed the training managers’ outlook on the full potential of the highly skilled employees working in the context of the Operation Integrity Management System.

The example of Exxon Mobil represents an emerging situation where Fortune 500 companies no longer pay attention to soft skills in the belief that hard skills are more important and more difficult to master. The reality, though, is that most of the attention should be on soft skills because they create the ideal environment for the utilization of hard skills. One of the net effects of this emerging trend is a situation where senior business executives find it increasingly challenging to employ managers with the soft skills that that their organizations need. These senior executives observe that contemporary higher education does not necessarily equip employees with higher levels of confidence. To improve this situation, training managers have an important to play. They work in a position that enables them to assess the impact of soft skills that they teach on performance numbers.

A company that has excelled at soft skills training is Apple Inc. The company has gone through many experiences, both good and bad. This is demonstrated in changes in share-volume trend since the tech giant was founded (See fig. 1). At first, it was a leader in the computer business before getting into a major leadership crisis. During the late 1990s, the company revamped itself and once again emerged as a leader in the computer business. These struggles were attributed to both the “hard” aspects (developments in the computer industry) and “soft” aspects (a leadership crisis). These experiences have greatly shaped the approach to training that the company has adopted today.

Fig. 1: A chart showing the trend in Apple Inc.’s share volume from the time it was founded (Source: Yahoo Finance).

Before deciding on the appropriate approach, Apple carries out a Training Needs Analysis or needs assessment aimed at ensuring that whichever approach the company adopts brings the best possible financial returns for the company. The main reference point in this case is the company’s aims and objectives. The most important components of the needs analysis include Person Analysis, Task Analysis, and Organization Analysis. In person analysis, which relates directly to the issue of soft skills, the company focuses on work skills, communication skills, leadership skills, customer focus skills, people skills, analytical skill, and business skills.

At Apple, employees with excellent work skills are defined as those who have the capacity to seek and utilize emerging opportunities for self-improvement and continuous learning. Other traits of excellent work skills include ability to respond to change, critical thinking, and the ability to anticipate unexpected hurdles to a project. The people skills that feature predominantly in soft skills training at Apple include confidence in one’s and others’ abilities and talents, the ability to recognize and reward people for exemplary performance, and constructive appraisal of suggestions and criticism from others.

Apple’s efforts to build soft skills have not only changed the training managers’ outlook on employees but have also transformed the company overall performance numbers. Its net sales keep climbing as it focuses on selling more digital content and iPhones. However, the company continues to face immense pressure in the smartphone market, where android phones are emerging as a formidable force.

How soft management skills influences employee morale during training

Soft management skills by training managers are critical in efforts to improve employee morale during training. Soft skills workshops have become a popular choice for training managers in efforts to inculcate onsite skills to employees. In these workshops, employees are trained on how to engage in continuous learning as a way of improving their morale as well as promoting organizational performance. To determine whether the soft management skills training employed was successful, training managers should assess whether the training programs resulted in reduced absenteeism, enhanced efficiency and productivity, work-life balance, and higher job satisfaction.

Soft management contributes to an improvement in morale by simply increasing the level of awareness, flexibility, and adaptability among employees. In most cases, these changes tend to translate into increased productivity and overall earnings. If properly administered, training programs that are spearheaded by managers who employ soft skills revive the employees’ desire to adapt and succeed in the workplace environment. They create numerous opportunities for employees to be heard. At last, employees realize that the company’s management is aware of their desire to grow in their careers and that it is willing to facilitate sustained corporate investment in the pursuit of this development. In reciprocation, the duly trained employees work harder in their work in order to contribute significantly to the company’s earnings.

According to Cullen, Johnson & Sakano (2000), soft management skills contribute to corporate success by creating a platform for the management and development of relationship capital. Relationship capital encompasses socio-psychological aspects of work. Cullen, Johnson & Sakano (2000) argue that commitment and mutual trust are the two most important elements of relationship capital. This view is supported by Andrews & Higson (2008), who argue that lack of soft skills training is the leading cause of graduate employability problems in today’s corporate world. This is demonstrated by the inability by graduates to adapt to the ever-changing contemporary workplace environment. As long as universities continues to neglect aspects of soft management, more questions will continue being raised regarding the quality of today’s graduate labor market particularly the graduates’ ability to meet employers’ expectations.

During training, employees form perceptions about the kind of environment in which they are going to perform their day-to-day tasks as well as building their careers in the long run. Thus, training managers carry an enormous responsibility of creating a positive “first impression” on employees in addition to improving their morale. During training sessions, the training manager represents the face of the organizational culture (Mitchell, Skinner & White, 2010). It is unfortunate that these managers sometimes fail to obtain the desired results. This negative turn of events demonstrates the need for the development of alternative strategies aimed at changing low performers’ attitudes.

Alternatives Strategies for Changing Attitudes of Low Performers

To deal with situations where soft management training programs fail to bring about change the attitudes of low performers, it is imperative for companies to come up with alternative training strategies. This paper proposes a four-stage corporate training program aimed at establishing a long-term process of adaptation, change, and morale-improvement among low-performing employees.

The first step in this training strategy is initial consultation, whereby the soft-skills training needs of individual employees are identified through lengthy discussions with those employees. The second stage is program development, which should be tailored to meet the needs of all employees who are found to be in dire need of further training. The third stage is program implementation, where training managers employ soft skills to spearhead the training process. This stage entails the core component of the training process, with employees being engaged both on-site and off-site. The kind of training provided should be interactive enough to bring about improvement in employee performance and job satisfaction. The last stage is follow-up, whereby the training manager assesses the outcomes of the training program after 6-9 months. This assessment should be used as a basis for making decisions on the need to realign the focus of future training programs.

Conclusion

Soft management is an ideal approach that can help training managers contribute effectively to problem-solving in Fortune 500 companies particularly in respect of low performance among employees. This view is supported by both business literature and corporate practice, where employee passion is correlated with improvement in business performance. The use of soft management skills by training managers can enable them to counteract low performers from the start of their employment. Unlike hard management, soft management seeks to create an emotional connection with employees in order to make them feel they belong. Companies that employ soft management tend to accord creative license to employees in their day-to-day workplace tasks.

The soft management skills that this paper examined include emotional intelligence, management of discipline, active listening, delegation, trustworthiness, constructive appraisal, critical thinking, motivation, continuous learning, and focus on outcome. A review of the training practices of Walmart, Exxon Mobil, and Apple, all of them Fortune 500 companies, shows that soft management is emerging as an increasingly important determinant of companies’ overall performance. However, there is a need for further empirical research on the relationship between soft management skills and companies’ earnings. Nevertheless, this paper hopefully provides important insights into the various perspectives of soft management that should be employed during the training in order to change the attitudes of low-performing employees.

References

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