Skill and business

  1. Some years ago when executives and managers talked about the type of employees they wanted to contract for their businesses they spoke of skills and qualifications. These words are still used but have been overshadowed by the term competencies. Competencies are a concept taken on board by Human Resource departments to measure a person’s appropriateness for a particular job.
  2. In simple terms a competency is a tool that an individual can use in order to demonstrate a high standard of performance. Competencies are characteristics that we use to achieve success. These characteristics or traits can include things like knowledge, aspects of leadership, self-esteem, skills or relationship building. There are a lot of competencies but they are usually divided into groups. Most organisations recognise two main groups and then have numerous sub groups which competencies can be further divided into.

    There has been a lot written about competencies. It is easy to see how people can become easily confused by what a competency actually is. It is also essential that people in the world of business have a clear understanding of what different competencies are and, in particular, which competencies are of interest to them – either as an individual interested in self-development – or as an employer looking for the best candidate for a job.

  3. Competencies can be divided into two distinct types; technical competencies (sometimes referred to as functional) and personal competencies. As the name suggests, technical competencies are those which are related to the skills and knowledge that are essential in order for a person to do a particular job appropriately. An example of a technical competency for a secretary might be: “Word processing: able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”  Personal competencies are not linked to any particular function. They include characteristics that we use together with our technical competencies in order to do our work well. An example of a personal competency is: “Interpersonal Sensitivity: Demonstrates respect for the opinions of others, even when not in agreement.”
  4. As you can see from the examples above there is a particular way of expressing a competency. First the competency is given a title; for example “word processing”. Then a brief indicator or explanation is given as an example of the person’s aptitude in that competency; for example “able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”
  5. Competencies are probably here to stay so it is worth thinking about your own competencies and trying to categorise them; first into the two sub-categories mentioned above and then into a more detailed list.

Handling a Complain

The different ways of complaining are:

  • Face to face
  • By phone
  • By email
  • By letter

Let’s first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before concluding which is the most effective.

Picture this scenario: you have bought a faulty item from a shop and you take it back to complain. You go directly to the shop assistant and tell them your problem. They say they cannot help you, which makes you angrier, to the point perhaps where you start insulting the poor shop assistant. RESULT: This will do you no favours, like getting any compensation, or even a refund. If you go directly to the first person you see within the organisation you are complaining about, you may be wasting your time as they may be powerless to take any action or provide you with a solution. So the important lesson to be learnt is to make sure firstly that you are speaking to the relevant person, the one who has the authority to make decisions.

Perhaps you don’t have time to actually go and see the relevant authority in person so you decide to make a phone call. The problem with complaining by phone is that you may be passed around from department to department, making you more and more angry until you finally give up. Either that or the phone is hung up on you, which leaves you fuming even more. Furthermore, any contact can be denied.

The same applies to emails too, which can additionally be deleted, or even manipulated.

This leaves us with the traditional letter. When we first make a complaint the usual response is a request to write a letter:  “Can you put that down in writing please?”

The advantages of writing a letter of complaint are that:

  • Written records are still very important, e.g. in legal matters as opposed to a fax or email.
  • You have complete control over what is being said, and you can present evidence.
  • You can be prepared, and plan your letter carefully.
  • You are able to keep copies of anything sent in writing.
  • You have time to reflect and/or consult as opposed to complaining on the spot.

So here are some useful points to consider when writing your letter:

  • State what went wrong exactly. You need to provide concrete evidence, with documentation, for example a receipt, where possible. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, including relevant documentation. You also need to state where, when, who was involved, what was said or done. Photographic or video evidence boosts your case.

Relationship building in business

When we talk about the competency of relationship-building in the world of business, we are referring to building strong relationships with partners and clients – about using interpersonal skills to network in an effective way.

What does a competent relationship-builder do?

Somebody who is competent at relationship-building focuses on understanding the needs of the client and getting the best possible results. This competency promotes an ethic of client service and so an understanding and anticipation of a client’s changing needs is essential. Stress and conflict are other issues that a competent relationship-builder will manage – keeping composed and acting as mediator when conflicts arise.

How can I start to develop the competency of relationship-building?

First identify the business plan goals of your department and decide what your role is going to be in helping to achieve those goals. You will need to study the business plan and learn as much as possible about your clients’ activities, interests and needs. This information might be available in their own annual reports or in client surveys conducted by your company. Talking to your clients about how you can best meet their needs is also a sensible first step to take.

Seven steps to becoming an effective relationship-builder:

  1. Draw up a plan of what you need to do in order to give your clients what they want. Discuss your ideas with your line manager and then do what is necessary to implement the plan.
  2. When the plan has been set in motion, schedule regular meetings with your line manager to review the progress that you are making and make any necessary adjustments.
  3. When you are working as part of a team or group within a department or a company it is important to assess your contribution to the group’s work. Think about how your efforts help or hinder progress.
  4. Make a weekly analysis of your commitments. Set yourself a goal for each week so that you follow them through. Make an effort to do what you say you are going to do – and also, to do it by the time that you say it will be done. If you get into the habit of doing this it will become like second nature.
  5. Build up a file of contacts and classify them in a way that is meaningful for your particular work context. Then you will know exactly who to call with any queries or when you need information.
  6. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, request it from a variety of sources – from your line manager but also from colleagues, clients and people who you supervise. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.
  7. Build informal relationships with the people who are working around you. Make a point of greeting people who you normally don’t speak to. Ask them about their interests and make it a goal to practise small talk with them. Listen to what they say and remember so that you can ask about a particular interest the next time you meet.

Japanese Companies Go in a Post

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union (the British exit, or “Brexit”), one critical uncertainty has been overlooked. How will companies around the world change their approach to Europe’s consumer and industrial market? This is a more important question than many people realize, because those changes will affect patterns of investment and supply chain flows everywhere. From my own vantage point, as a long-term advisor to Japanese manufacturers helping them strengthen their positions around the world, I see a major reorientation coming.

Many Japanese business leaders — and many of their counterparts in North America, East Asia, Australia, and elsewhere — have come to regard the United Kingdom as their primary gateway into the European Union. After the referendum’s unexpected outcome, they hoped at first that the leaders of the U.K. government would find some way to undo the decision, perhaps through a reversal by Parliament. But even though the U.K. high court ruled that Parliament must be involved, a full reversal is unlikely. Japanese business leaders have been forced out of their comfort zone. As they seek new ways to establish a presence in the European market, global companies will change the footprints of their global activity.

To understand the potential consequences, one must recognize the subtle dynamics of the Japan–U.K. relationship, going back to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, which launched the European Union and included the United Kingdom among its signatories. Before then, creating a business presence in Europe was a daunting proposition, because there was no obvious place to build regional headquarters and factories. In West Germany, and all of Germany after reunification, labor was relatively expensive. It was easier to hire people in Spain, Italy, and France, but few global companies did well in those countries, in part because of the inconsistent labor laws and ever-changing government guidance. Nissan, for example, dissolved its short-lived joint venture with Alfa Romeo in Italy in 1989. Other countries, like the Netherlands and Belgium, were too small or were simply not oriented to the kinds of logistics and labor training that robust manufacturing requires.

Always Putting Out Fires

Company leaders, consider the following questions: How many surprises have you dealt with this week? How many customer relationships have had to be rescued or late orders escalated? How many apologies delivered, numbers explained, or presentations redone?

Every leader I know wrestles with these and other crises as a matter of routine. Yet leaders also recognize that running a business through constant firefighting puts them at risk of stressed-out employees, customer defections, a damaged brand, and safety or ethics catastrophes.

On closer inspection, the vast majority of fires are preventable. They are essentially “rework” — the added effort and cost required because something was not done right the first time. Unfortunately, firms can get stuck in a vicious cycle of rework, shortcuts, and more rework. I once worked with a workers compensation firm that discovered they could cut costly disputes and attorney involvement by contacting injured workers within 24 hours. Still, new claims would languish for a full five to seven days, because employees were dealing with all the prior claims that had gone to court. Unfortunately, this meant 80 percent of those new claims would also involve attorneys and disputes. In aggregate, rework costs can be huge. The Juran Institute estimated in 2010 that 15 to 20 percent of revenues for manufacturing companies went to rework; for service businesses, it estimated 30 to 35 percent.