Posted by & filed under Generational.

Younger employees, who are just entering the workforce, can often face stereotypes about their age group. Those who are wary of hiring or working with millennials fear that they will be lazy, self-centered or uncommitted.

Research shows that younger people can be just as hardworking and motivated as their older colleagues, and they are often looking for mentoring and employee development opportunities.

The age discrimination that can result from the generation gap in the workplace is not only directed toward new college graduates. Baby boomers, who have been a major part of the workforce and are now nearing retirement, also deal with misconceptions and stereotypes because of their age.

Some employers or managers may have reservations about hiring employees who has many years of work experience, fearing that they will be less productive or engaged in their work or have more health problems that will cost the organization money.

Research from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania dispels these myths. In fact, according to management professor Peter Capelli, who directs the Warton Center for Human Resources, older employees actually outshine their younger colleagues in many ways.

“The evidence is unbelievably huge,” said Capelli. “Basically, older workers perform better on just about everything.”

The Generation Gap in Reality


  • Older employees do take longer to recover from injuries, but they take fewer sick days on the whole than younger workers.
  • Workers become eligible for Medicare at age 65, which can reduce health care spending for their employers.
  • They have less absenteeism and less turnover.
  • They have better interpersonal skills and better interactions with customers.
  • Workers who stay employed past retirement age actually become more engaged, rather than less, according to a study by Boston College.

Employees who bring years of experience and knowledge to an organization are extremely valuable to a team and should not be discounted or dismissed simply because of their age. Their strengths, especially when paired with those of younger generations, can help an organization be successful and remain competitive.

Has the generation gap been a problem within your team? What are the strengths of older workers vs. younger workers?

Find out more about EDSI’s coaching resources.

Posted by & filed under Accountability.

It isn’t always possible to predict the future or create a plan for every possible scenario, but successful organizations are able to anticipate and adapt to changes they encounter. They stay focused on their mission and goals, and their change management strategy remains consistent with their organizational purpose.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to be looking to the future, keeping your team headed in the right direction and planning several steps ahead of the present moment. Setting goals is an important part of this leadership role, but achieving those goals requires not only your personal vision but also the work and support of your employees.

Develop an Effective Change Management Plan

1. Have a clear mission statement.

A mission statement can be as simple as a single sentence or as thorough as a full page of text; it is simply important that your organization creates one and keeps it updated. Your mission statement should be a broad overview of who you are and what you do, clearly outlining your purpose, your areas of specialization, your market or demographic and your vision for success. Everyone in your organization should have a copy of this statement and be invested in these ideals.

Spelling out these essential components will simplify the process of setting goals. Goals will be much more specific than your mission statement, and they will set precise, measurable targets for your organization to strive for. They will help align the priorities for you and your employees, identify problems and needs and define the measures of success.

2. Address problem-solving goals.

A big part of change management is determining what is working well and what needs to be improved. Examine the overall operations of your team and see what small and large adjustments you could make for a more effective performance. Take feedback from your employees into account, and explain the reasoning behind any changes you make.

3. Develop ongoing and big picture goals.

Setting goals is more than simply solving problems. You should also create goals that improve the day-to-day functioning of the organization– from improving employee engagement to raising customer service ratings. Challenge your employees to think about long-term or goals as well. Where do you want to be six months from now? A year? Two years? Revisit your mission statement and develop a far-reaching plan that will keep you ahead of the curve.

How do you go about setting goals in your organization? How does it help your change management strategy?

Learn more about EDSI’s change management courses.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Motivated, hard-working employees strive to take on more responsibility and leadership as they advance in their careers, but how ready are most people for a management role? According to a CareerBuilder survey of employers and workers released in March 2011, they may not be nearly prepared enough. More than one-fourth (26 percent) of managers surveyed said they weren’t ready to become a leader at the time they started managing employees, and 58 percent said they didn’t undergo any kind of management training.

It is interesting to note that the top three challenges of being a manager, according to those working in a management position, all have to do with interpersonal issues. These problems were: dealing with issues between co-workers on the team (25 percent), motivating team members (22 percent) and handling performance reviews (15 percent).

On the other side of the coin, most workers surveyed (59 percent) felt that their direct supervisor was doing a good or even a great job. A substantial number of employees (20 percent), however, categorized their manager’s performance as poor or very poor. All of the top concerns expressed again involved interpersonal communications:

  • Plays favorites – 23 percent
  • Doesn’t follow through on what he/she promises – 21 percent
  • Doesn’t listen to concerns – 21 percent
  • Doesn’t provide regular feedback – 20 percent
  • Doesn’t motivate me – 17 percent
  • Only provides negative feedback – 14 percent

The results of this survey reinforce the very real need for management training for people in leadership positions. Managing others, like any other skill, requires knowledge and practice, and it is important to empower supervisors to do what is best for their teams.

Benefits of Management Training

Building a strong foundation
Good managers have a broad base of leadership, communication, performance management, conflict resolution and other valuable skills. Training new leaders and keeping the knowledge of veteran supervisors up to date will ensure that the management team is well-educated and well-prepared for real-life challenges.

Increasing morale
Managers who are given training and development opportunities that strengthen their skills and help them take on more responsibility will be more likely to feel supported and valued by the organization. The return on investment for effective management training is enormous: confident, competent leaders who are dedicated to their work and their employees.

Improving work relationships
Supervisors who receive training to become better managers will gain the knowledge and skills they need to prevent or remedy the complaints listed above. They will know how to communicate and listen, how to treat employees fairly and how to provide regular coaching and feedback for better performance.

Why do you think management training is important?

Learn more about EDSI’s leadership courses. 

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

Conveying ideas and explaining information to others is an essential part of a manager’s job, from daily feedback and instructions to in-depth employee development and training. Many managers have never received formal training on how to relay information in a concise, clear and effective way, yet those who invest time in strengthening their written and verbal communications have a clear advantage in work relationships.

A “communication breakdown” can result in serious problems within an organization, so it is more important than ever for leaders to work on improving communication skills.

1. Get your purpose straight.

Before you begin speaking, go over your objectives and talking points in your mind. What are you trying to accomplish? Can you sum up your message in a sentence or two? Start with a concise overall statement of purpose and go from there, supporting your message with brief clarifying points.

2. Remember that others have objectives, too.

When you are communicating with other people, don’t be so focused on your own goals that you forget to listen. A conversation involves give and take, so be flexible in your interaction and give others a chance to talk. Listen to what they have to say, and try to find ways to achieve everyone’s objectives as much as possible. You know your efforts toward improving communication skills have been successful when all parties feel that they have been heard.

3. Consider how your words will be interpreted.

Choose your words carefully and pay special attention to how you insert bias or personal opinion into your message. Are you speaking out of negative emotions, such as anger, frustration or resentment? Will your words have a hurtful effect on the people you are communicating with? Are you using bias to influence others into giving you the answer they think you want to hear, instead of the truth?

4. Create a comfortable environment for discussion.  

What kind of atmosphere do you create when communicating with others? Do your employees feel at ease discussing problems and questions with you? Do they know they can expect honesty, respect and support when they speak to you? Improving communication skills requires you to be frank about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Challenge yourself to work on a few different ways you can encourage a climate of open dialogue with your employees.

What steps do you take at work to avoid a communication breakdown?

Learn more about improving communication skills with the Communicating to Manage Performance course.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Ah, the dreaded performance review. It comes around at least once a year, and it is often a source of anxiety and stress for employees and managers alike. Employees may fear hearing surprising criticism about their work or behavior, and managers may dread bringing up unpleasant topics and implementing unwelcome changes.

Feedback doesn’t have to be such a painful experience. Performance management, if maintained consistently over time, is much more than just occasional performance reviews. It is an ongoing conversation between an employee and his or her supervisor, and challenges and issues are addressed as they come up, instead of only at the end of the year.

The blog HR Ringleader discussed this topic recently, asking the important question: should we get rid of performance reviews, or should we throw out the formality that goes along with performance conversations?

Think back to performance reviews you’ve received and those you may have given.  Do you believe that such a high percentage of feedback is actually a “waste” or that it is a form of coaching that is valuable? I’d love to hear the arguments for and against the formal review.  Personally, I prefer the more informal, day-to-day feedback.  However, I’m still in the camp that an annual review is helpful if it is leaning toward the development of the individual for the coming year.

This two-pronged approach is valuable because it supports continuous performance management through regular, informal check-ins, which lead up to an annual review. The end-of-the-year performance review doesn’t contain any unpleasant surprises or new information; it is simply a culmination of the consistent feedback the employee has received throughout the year. This takes much of the anxiety and dread out of the situation, and it creates a more comfortable environment for employee development.

Day-to-Day Performance Management Tips

1. Talk to your employees often.

Know what is going on with your team. Walk around during the day, talk to employees, ask and answer questions and generally be accessible. If you are shut in your office all day, away from the main action, it is likely that you will miss some important information. Invest time every day into building genuine relationships with the people you manage; get to know them as people and learn what their strengths and weaknesses are.

2. Speak up when it’s just a small problem.

A big part of performance management is identifying and resolving problems before they get out of control. If you notice small issues that need to be addressed, don’t put off talking about them with your employees until they have become large problems. Give feedback and coaching early on, and treat these situations as opportunities for learning and development. Encourage your employees to learn from their mistakes, asking informal questions such as, “What went well?” and “What would you do differently next time?”

3. Don’t forget positive feedback.

Don’t make the mistake of only noticing what needs to be improved; also give credit for what is working successively. When your employees are doing a good job, say so. Praise the work and behavior that you would like to see more of, and you will encourage your team to strive for continuous improvement.

What is your style of performance management? Do you use annual reviews, informal feedback or a combination of the two?

Learn more about EDSI’s performance management resources.

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

Sometimes the most important message you convey is the one you communicate without even opening your mouth. Your body language — facial expressions, gestures, nervous habits and other movements — is an important part of your overall professional presence and can contribute to your success at work. Be aware of what your non-verbal communication says to colleagues, superiors, employees and clients and polish your professional image.

1. Posture

This is a perfect example of how a small adjustment in body language can make a big difference. Stand in front of a mirror in your normal position. What do you notice? Do you tend to slouch your shoulders or look down? Practice standing up straight, with your head held high and your shoulders relaxed and pulled back. Do the same thing with your seated position, keeping your back straight against the chair and finding a comfortable place for your legs.

2. Arms and Legs

Standing and sitting up straight are not the only body language cues that count; how you carry your arms and legs is also important to your professional presence. Crossing your arms tightly across your chest, for example, can tell others that you are closed-off or unreceptive. Fidgeting your feet or legs can communicate that you are nervous, anxious or impatient. Focus on keeping your limbs relaxed and natural, conveying an open friendliness and confidence.

3. Eyes and Facial Expression

Your eyes and facial expression can easily give away your emotions when communicating with others. Be conscious of what you are saying with these non-verbal cues, and pay attention to the bad habits you have. Do you let your eye contact slip when you are losing interest in the conversation? Do you furrow your brow when you are hearing information you don’t like? Make an effort to avoid these behaviors, while practicing habits that improve professional presence, such as holding eye contact, relaxing a tense brow and smiling or nodding when appropriate.

4. Personal Space

Every individual has a range of personal space that he or she is comfortable with, and this can vary with many factors, including location, culture and personality. Notice what distance you are comfortable with when speaking with others, and be respectful of the personal space of others. If you notice someone is leaning or backing away from you when you are talking, they may be telling you to give them more room. Make more space between you to avoid causing discomfort or anxiety.

What other types of body language influence professional image? Add your observations in the comments section.


Learn more about the EDSI Professional Presence in a Casual World course.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

Recent research and business trends indicate that meaning is the new money. Employees are seeking useful, progressive self-development and career resources and employers are seeking cost-effective ways to support the career development of their top talent. Employee Development Systems, Inc. supports this trend by offering a management development newsletter that distinguishes itself from its counterparts through a format that stimulates active learning and engagement.

Denver, CO. – The Performance Report is a management development tool that utilizes the email newsletter format, but increases its effectiveness by integrating printable Action Steps, allowing the reader to make immediate use of the information learned. Learning research shows that newly acquired information is crystallized through active replaying and reframing of new information. The Performance Report accomplishes this with the action items that are included in each article. Group exercises also are provided, in order to give readers the opportunity to share their learning with other team members or colleagues.

A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management indicates that 67% of employers are increasing expectations of employee productivity in the next year.  Simultaneously, fewer companies are planning to allocate the same or increased budgets on training and employee development in 2011. While industry acknowledges that human capital is a vastly underutilized asset in their organizations, they are struggling with ways to tap into that asset, without also burdening already strained training budgets.

According to Suzanne Updegraff, President of Employee Development Systems, Inc., “There are essentially three types of assets all companies draw on in order to succeed: people, capital, and technology. All are valuable, but people are the critical component to success. They drive capital growth and technical expansion. The truth is, a company’s workforce needs care and attention to stay effective and consistently perform at a high level.”

The Performance Report was designed by Employee Development Systems. Inc. to provide the adult learning community and the business community at large with a resource for alleviating these tensions and engaging the workforce in the career development activities that will take their productivity and performance to the next level.

The ability to perform well in a work setting that employs extended collaboration, shorter timelines and higher expectations has become the norm, making self-directed improvement programs invaluable.  As was recently mentioned in the Harvard Business Review Magazine, “From the world’s poorest communities to the corner offices of its largest corporations, ambitious employees struggle with the same basic challenge: how to gain the strength and insights not just to manage but to lead.” Now employees will have a tool to help them attain the leadership acumen they need.

Employee Development Systems, Inc. is excited about the opportunity to provide this personal and career development tool, and will be adding the complimentary eBook, Maximizing Human Potential, Tips to Foster Personal Effectiveness to everyone who signs up for The Performance Report.

Readers are encouraged to download the eBook, Maximizing Human Potential, Tips to Foster Personal Effectiveness, written by Suzanne Updegraff, President of Employee Development Systems, Inc., when they sign up for The Performance Report, and view the most recent professional development videocast, in order to begin taking advantage of the untapped potential in themselves and their team. To learn more about the personal and organizational benefits of maximizing human potential through professional training programs and related services, please contact Sherm Updegraff, Managing Director, Employee Development Systems, Inc. at 800-282-3374, or visit

About Employee Development Systems, Inc.

Employee Development Systems, Inc. is a Colorado-based professional development firm that was founded in 1979 and offers employee development, management development, leadership and professionalism courses and accompanying behavioral style assessments, surveys and other tools. Employee Development Systems, Inc. provides services worldwide to Fortune 500 clients as well as small to medium-sized businesses.

The organization’s mission is to enhance the interpersonal skills needed to perform at a more productive level, to develop a workforce that adapts to change, and is creative and innovative and to make the client organization the employer of choice. This is accomplished through establishing trust, building relationships and fostering behavioral change. Employee Development Systems, Inc. training and development initiatives address employee engagement, multiple generations in the workplace and the ramifications of social media and collaboration.

Sherman Updegraff
Managing Director
Employee Development Systems, Inc.
Dry Creek Business Park
7308 S. Alton Way, Suite 2J
Centennial, CO 80112

Posted by & filed under Accountability.


Last month, we discussed the best approaches for giving genuine, helpful feedback  to employees without causing hurt feelings or resentment. Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin: how to receive constructive criticism from others without becoming defensive or hurt yourself.

It is one thing to be on the giving end of an evaluation, but it is quite another to be on the receiving end. You can receive judgments and critiques from many different people in the workplace– superiors, colleagues, employees, clients– and they can range from gentle and tactful to harsh and downright hurtful. It can be difficult and emotional to listen to and take to heart assessments of your work, behavior or character, but with practice, you can learn to take away positive aspects from the criticism and grow in the process.

Taking Constructive Criticism Productively

1. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind.

It’s human nature: no one likes being criticized. It’s unpleasant to hear the reasons you aren’t perfect, and the knee-jerk reaction for many people is to lash out with an angry or defensive retort. For example, if a colleague points out the factual errors you made in a report, you may want to snap back, “Well, maybe if I had a little help writing it on such a tight deadline, I wouldn’t have made those mistakes!” Resist this response. If you let your temper get the better of you, you will most likely come off sounding immature and unprofessional and you will regret it later.

2. Take your time responding.

If you receive constructive criticism in an email, you have a little more distance than you do in person or on the telephone. Don’t send the scathing reply you are dying to write. If you need a release for your frustration, write down your angry thoughts and then delete them without sending. Let the email sit for 30 minutes or an hour or however long it takes you to cool off and write a calm, level-headed response. If you receive criticism in person, bite your tongue, count to 10, take a deep breath and try to think of how to best communicate with this person. What is he trying to tell you, and what is he hoping to achieve from this conversation? Try to put yourself in his shoes before responding; if you need more time to calm down, simply say that you hear what he is saying and will get back to him later. Follow up after you have had time to think.

3. Look for the truth in the criticism.

Sometimes you receive harsh feedback that seems unfounded and mean-spirited, but often, there is at least some truth to the evaluations you receive from others. Take some time to think about what you’ve heard, and ask yourself honestly what improvements you could make in your own behavior to change the situation. Do you need to pay more attention to details so you make fewer mistakes in your work? Do you have a hard time with time management and deadlines? It’s tough to admit your flaws, but it’s necessary if you want to develop as a professional.

4. Find what you can learn from the experience.

Make an effort to improve after receiving the constructive criticism. Thank your critic, and let her know that you are taking her feedback into account and working on the issues she described. Be humble enough to know that you are not always right and can still learn how to do your job better. Keep in mind how you expect your employees to act following an evaluation, and do your best to make positive changes in your behavior.

How do you deal with receiving constructive criticism? Share your advice in the comments.  Communication skills training is an important component of any talent development program.

Learn more about EDSI’s Listen First to Understand  course.

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

Does it sometimes feel like you are spending the majority of your time solving problems and putting out fires instead of looking at the big picture and devoting yourself to strategic planning? It is a common predicament for managers, and it can often be difficult to set aside time for critical thinking and innovation when 100 other more time-sensitive issues are vying for your attention.

For the long-term success of your organization, however, it is crucial that you make it a priority to dig deeper than just the day-to-day tasks and short-term goals. Where do you want the organization to be in a year or several years? What is your road map for getting there? What people and skills do you need to support you? Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions that are pivotal to your progress.

3 Reasons for Critical Thinking and Innovation

1. Operating in emergency mode doesn’t help you grow.

Surviving and thriving are two very different things. When you are focused only on the immediate future — getting through this upcoming board meeting, finishing this round of performance reviews, sending off this direct mailing — you can easily get tunnel vision and lose sight of the overarching strategic plan. Delegate the pressing issues that other people are capable of managing, and free up some of your time to focus on the bigger picture. Plan the direction you are heading so you don’t get off track.

2. Time invested now can prevent future problems.

If you allow yourself to take an honest look at the past and present of your organization, you can start to identify patterns and anticipate potential changes and problems in the future. Use critical thinking and innovation to determine how to act, not just how to react.  Instead of being taken off-guard and having to rely on emergency planning further down the road, you can be proactive about change management and have solutions already in place.

3. It is helpful for both management and employees.

When leaders are too busy to focus on strategic planning, everyone in the organization suffers. You may feel guilty passing responsibility for an immediate project onto someone else, but if it gives you the opportunity to focus on necessary long-term goals, it is a worthwhile exchange.

Why do you make time for critical thinking and innovation in your job? Share your reasons in the comments.

Learn more about EDSI’s change management resources.

Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

There is no exact formula for professional success, and there will always be debate over which factors are most influential in achieving it– from hard work and intelligence to ambition and opportunity.

Recently, there has been an increased awareness about the importance of emotional intelligence skills in the workplace. A well-balanced, mature and effective professional has both traditional intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) that work in tandem on an everyday basis. Emotionally intelligent people make an effort to understand their own feelings and those of others so they can put behaviors and actions in context and build stronger interpersonal relationships.

How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence Skills


1. Be honest about your feelings.

It is important, and often difficult, to be in tune with your own emotions. Before you make an important decision or react to something a colleague has said or done, check in with yourself to find the source of your responses. What is your emotional state? Have you made your decision thoughtfully, or are you acting out of anger, fear, guilt or frustration? Learn to be honest with yourself and admit your own imperfections so you can grow.

2. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

One of the most valuable emotional intelligence skills is the ability to identify the feelings of others, recognize their value and put them into a broader context of behavior and relationships. Strive to understand where other people are coming from (even the difficult people), and be empathetic to their perspective whenever possible. Relationships

3. Make positive choices.

Every job comes with its occasional frustrations and negative aspects, but it is your choice how you deal with them. Do you cling to resentment, jealousy, anger or insecurity, venting to co-workers and blaming others for your unhappiness? Or do you make a conscious choice to do what you can to change your situation? Focus on your own EQ and building healthy, supportive relationships with your work colleagues (learn more about preventing conflict).

4. Be open to feedback and discourse.
An emotionally intelligent person is able to recognize his or her strengths and weaknesses and receive feedback and constructive criticism from others. It is not always easy to admit your flaws and look for ways to improve them, but this humility and openness will strengthen your own character, as well as your relationships with colleagues.

Learn more about improving your emotional intelligence skills with our free e-book download!