April 2012

. . . helping organizations find solutions to people-related problems


Among all the opinions about what we need in a national leader--a liberal, a conservative, a business leader, a former congressman, an economist--we clearly need a strong, balanced leader who can re-unite Americans and convey a vision that Americans can understand and live out.

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." History demonstrates the power of this ancient, simple, profound observation.


"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves . . . ."

As individual Americans, we need to look within ourselves and re-affirm what we want America to be. We need to underscore the principles we want to guide our national conscience and our national will. We need to move away from governing by personality and charisma and re-anchor ourselves in the principles that made America a great and prosperous nation--principles like truth, justice, fairness, and accountability.

We cannot continue to slide sideways as a nation with leaders who are more focused on reinventing terms that obscure and confuse than on defining the real problems we face and solving them one by one. Our national leadership spends far too much time talking about what we should do and jawboning their opponents than taking rational and decisive action to accomplish real and measurable results. We are allowing our leaders to fiddle and fritter away our heritage and our future while the nation drowns in a sea of debt and unaccountability.

Every school student used to know the phrase: "These are the times that try men's souls." Today many Americans cannot name our first President. We are paying teachers tax dollars not to teach and laying off teachers dedicated to teaching students. What's wrong with this picture, and why are we so blind to so many domestic and international inconsistencies and contradictions.

We can put our faith in a new class of congress men and women or the old class of Democrats or Republicans, but we would have a more certain hope in re-examining ourselves.

We indeed are the problem. Each of us can make a difference in sustaining the dream and reality of democracy.


Over breakfast the other day, we were talking about how easy it is for people and organizations to lose focus. In the rush and press of day-to-day demands, it is hard to sustain awareness of your principal role and sometimes even harder to be sure the mission is foremost. It's like those New Year's resolutions that are so clear after the Christmas holiday festivities that then slowly fade and drift farther and farther away each week.

An article I recently read emphasizes that leaders are the keepers and propagators of organizational energy. Their principal role is to be the lighting rod that can absorb incoming and internal energy and re-direct it in positive and productive ways that keep other leaders engaged and on course.

We provide a powerful time analysis and mastery tool that presents real insights into how to accomplish more each day, meet deadlines, make meetings productive, and generally do more with less. It is a powerful process-oriented way to help employees and managers alike understand how their habits and behaviors influence individual and team effectiveness. Report results lay out a clear roadmap on how to change unproductive habits into purposeful behaviors in setting goals and priorities, planning and scheduling activities, improving communications, managing team time, and demoting procrastination, perhaps the top-ranking time thief.

Despite the uncharacteristically mild Northeastern winter, if you sense you, your leaders, or your organization are spinning their wheels, talk to us about ways we can help bring things back in focus and develop tools and perspectives that will provide organizational clarity, traction, and sustainability now and for years to come.Making Time Work


2011 client salary administration program reviews and updates underscored the unpredictability of the then current and continuing economy. The unusually stable annual increase pattern of about 3-4 percent that prevailed from 9/11 to 2008 has given way to twists and wrinkles largely dependent on supply and demand for specific skills and disciplines. While salaries in different disciplines always vary from year to year, it is rare, and was rare during that earlier period, for average salaries to drop. Most rise at various rates.

Last year, while it is true that pay for most jobs continued to rise, there was a larger incidence of slow or no increases than has been the norm in recent years. In some cases as well, average pay for some jobs did drop. While pay cuts or no increases were more common 2-3 years ago, some of the drop in average pay may have been the result of current employees moving from lower position levels to higher positions levels within organizations. Such patterns are not uncommon when employers seek to hold the line on head count, ask employees to do more with less, and hope to keep current employees engaged. Because employers are concerned about economic uncertainty, it is particularly important to stay in tune with discrete changes in the market for specific jobs and job families.

We continue to encourage clients to keep pace with pay changes in specific industries and jobs to forestall the likelihood of losing valuable people as employers become more competitive. In addition, as always, it is important to think creatively about ways to recognize and reward top performers despite the sluggish economy. It is tempting and all too easy to fall prey to the idea that employees have no place to go and are lucky to have a job. Top performers are always in demand and aware of their options and the importance of timing in moving ahead with their careers.Compensation Planning


There is almost always angst and debate about the value of performance appraisal.

You may consider this observation naive, but performance appraisal is one of the most important developmental and productivity functions a supervisor at any level performs. Done properly, it can also be one of the most satisfying to the supervisor and the employee. A major problem is that over the years performance appraisal has gotten a lot of bad press, and many supervisors simply wing it, perpetuating what their supervisors did with them.

While we believe in quality performance appraisal or performance management training for all supervisors, where participants have an opportunity to learn and understand the human dimensions of the process and actually practice, there are three important keys to quality performance assessment and communications. We focus on the performance appraisal Interview, the human interaction and the job, not the form.

First, good performance appraisals start when the job starts or when the performance period starts. Setting and communicating expectations and standards upfront is essential. This can take the form of an interview or informal conversation between the employee and the supervisor, where the principal focus is getting to know one another and what the job requires. There should be good give-and-take, concluding with a summarization of the expectations by the employee and confirmed or modified by the supervisor. Checking in on performance periodically or when issues arise keeps both parties aware of how it's going and avoids surprises.

Second, tone and tenor are as important as content. The old adage "It's not what you say; it's how you say it" applies. Keep the focus on the job and how it's executed, but take care to remember your respective roles and that working as a team is most effective. Make it an interview and a conversation, not simply a negative critique punctuated by unwarranted assumptions about future performance. Again, the key here is arriving at a genuine understanding by each individual of what the job requires and how performance will be measured and communicated in both directions. If performance is failing, address it right away. Don't pretend it will get better on its own.

Finally, performance appraisal must focus on individual performance in a job against job standards. This is job one. Do not allow pay considerations to cloud the picture. As form follows function, so pay is determined in light of organizational policies and guidelines only after performance has been objectively and accurately assessed.

When you do performance appraisal right, you and the employee will know it, even when there may be differing views on specific performance criteria and evaluation. Managing Performance

Warm regards

Dave Martin


HRA Services, Inc.

"Applying Systematic Thinking to the Human Dimension"