Less Days and More Productivity? Can’t be Done! Or Can it?

August 15, 2018 by Avondale Business School

As an employee, the idea of working four days and being paid for five sounds great! Having been an employer, that idea sends shivers down my spine. Even though research suggests that people can only concentrate for 4-5 hours in one sitting, and in the UK a survey of employees indicated that the average employee works for three hours in an eight hour day (click here to read more). I wonder if that would really work?

Photo by Andreas Klassen on Unsplash

Well, one New Zealand company has recently put this idea to the test. The firm called Perpetual Guardian recently concluded a two month trial whereby employees could take either Wednesday or Friday off, yet still be paid for a full five-day work week. What happened? Some things went up, and some things went down. According to a recent article in Fast Company (read it here) here are some of the results:

  • Job performance improved slightly
  • Productivity did not fall
  • Workers’ sense of work-life balance went from 54% to 78%
  • Stress went down
  • Employees’ sense of satisfaction with their own lives in general went up
  • Employees found their work to be more stimulating, had more confidence in the leadership team, and felt more empowered in their roles
  • Employees sense of engagement with their work went up
  • Employees commitment to their employer rose from 68% to 88%

How did the company ensure that productivity did not fall? They discussed the idea with the employees, who came up with a range of ways to ensure there was no drop, and included:

  • Spending less time in meetings
  • Spending less time on social media
  • Experimenting with signals on their desks that they shouldn’t be interrupted.

Getting the leadership team and employees was crucial, as was the focus away from hours and onto productivity.

What a challenge – do you think your organisation could implement the four day week? Certainly something to think about. And the Avondale Business School can help you with your business challenges. Simply email us to discuss how we can help abs@avondale.edu.au

ABS Welcomes Students to Semester 2

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

The Avondale Campus is a buzz with student’s returning from the mid semester break.

Some students have been overseas or interstate visiting and catching up with family or friends, some have attended Youth Congress Camps and are energised from the experiences and networking opportunities that they have gained from their travels.

Returning students are confident and happy to see staff and students again and seem ready for the challenges of Semester 2.

We have some new students also for semester 2, which is great! They will need time to orientate themselves as to where their classrooms are and who their lecturers are, building relationships and a rapport with their lecturer and other students. Lecturers believe that on our campus there are more opportunities to build a good rapport with students due to the smaller classes on our campus compared to a larger university.

We encourage all students to take a proactive role in their learning and to actively engage with their lecturers and our learning platform called Moodle. We ask students to seek out their lecturer or course convenor if they have any issues or need help in regards to their education or any personal issues they may have so as to make sure that the student’s wellbeing and educational needs can be re-evaluated if needed.

College is a time when students can learn invaluable lessons and begin to identify their own personal beliefs and values as well as learn about how they manage their study and personal time. We hope that our students will find opportunities and ways to make the most of their college experience.

ABS Facilitates Avondale College Women’s Network Meeting

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

At the last Avondale Women’s Network meeting, we were joined by guest speaker Professor Lily Arasaratnam-Smith from Alphacrucis College located in Parramatta, NSW. Her primary area of expertise is intercultural communication, particularly intercultural competence and intercultural contact-seeking behaviour. Her first book, Perception and Communication in Intercultural Spaces(University Press of America, 2011), presents “intercultural spaces” as a new framework with which to understand intercultural communication in today’s culturally diverse communities. Her recent work is on intercultural competence in higher education. Lily is a Fellow of the International Academy for Intercultural Research. The winner of the 2018 Excellence in Teaching award, Lily teaches in the areas of intercultural communication and research methodology.

Lily shared her experiences in her journey to becoming an academic with a group of 20 academic and professional female staff at Avondale College. Lily told her stories from her humble upbringing to the current challenges she faces in her role as Director of Learning and Faculty Development, as well as being the Chair of the Academic Board. Lily was inspiring, insightful and most importantly honest about the opportunities and challenges faced by women in higher education.

ABS Lecturer Plays Key Role in Global Research Project

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

Peter Williams, a lecturer at Avondale Business School (ABS) travelled in the first week of August to Kassel, Germany, as part of an Avondale College research team exploring the ‘Lived Experience’ of Youth Ministry Leaders, on behalf of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The Global Youth Leaders Congress took place from July 31st to August 4 and provided an ideal place to collect data for this research project. 51 interviews were completed, with many attendees also completing an online survey capturing the lived experience of these youth leaders. A few pictures of Peter and his travels are below.

ABS Graduate Feeding the Hungry

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

2018 Avondale ABS graduate, Daniel Lavaiamat, was recently chosen by the Greater Sydney Conference of the SDA Church to undertake a research project about programs for providing meals to the homeless and struggling in Sydney (Food Pantries). Daniel visited most of the existing programs and was able to develop a recommendation for a ‘best practice’ guide for churches and groups that are keen to run such programs. Well done to Daniel for putting his skills to great use and helping to make a difference in the community.

Avondale College LEAD Program

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

Developing leaders is a focus of Avondale College, and the Avondale Business School (ABS), through Warrick Long, is front and center in providing training for the Avondale staff through the Avondale LEAD program. LEAD stands for Leadership, Experience and Development, representing the focus of the initial six month program.

Participants meet together every month for a session where they discuss a key aspect of leadership, drawn from the four building blocks of leadership. Additional leadership resources are available to participants, including book reviews, recommended readings, videos and articles. A leadership challenge is set at each session, so participants have some goals to implement their new found knowledge. For those participants that are wanting to go a bit deeper and get some recognition for their participation, there is a series of assessments for them to undertake.

Ensuring that the program meets its goal of developing leaders, Warrick Long and Associate Professor Lisa Barnes (ABS Head of Discipline) are researching the effectiveness of the program through surveys and feedback, which will also form the basis of a research project for publication.

Kicking Your Strategy Into High Gear

August 9, 2018 by Avondale Business School

There is so much to absorb when you start looking at strategy. Everyone has a view as to how to formulate and implement it, stakeholders all have different views as to what it should be, and if you do a google search for it – well let’s just say there is an avalanche of sites all purporting to have the answers for you.

Having studied and taught strategy, we know how difficult it can be to sift through all the available information to plot a course for your organisation. One article that came across our desk recently seemed to offer some new perspectives on how to really shift your strategy process into high gear. It comes from McKinsey&Company, based on an article and book by some of their team, Chris Bradley, Martin Hirt and Sven Smit, and is entitled ‘Eight shifts that will take your strategy into high gear’ (read it here).

Rather than parrot the eight shifts, let me just outline a few of them for you, and suggest that you take the time to read the article to find the remaining ones, and to work out whether they will provide the boost to your strategy that is probably needed. Note that the authors are not trying to provide the magic pill to solve your strategy issues, but rather they aim to “…improve your strategic dialogue. The choices you make, and te business outcomes you experience.”

  1. From annual planning to strategy as a journey
    Do away with the annual planning meeting and process that looks at 3- to 5-year plans (which become outdated within weeks of them being written), and instead look at a ‘rolling plan’ that can be regularly updat3ed as your context changes. This will involve regular strategy conversations with amoung your senior leadership team on a monthly basis. You should be regularly checking the assumptions of your strategy, and adjusting strategy as needed.
  2. From getting to ‘yes’ to debating real alternatives
    Too often strategy discussion revolve around the leadership team bringing a single proposal that is to be approved. Anyone suggesting different options or questioning the plan is unwelcome. Instead, change the conversation so that the underlying assumptions are debated, that choices are discussed and strategy becomes a shared vision.
  3. From ‘you are your numbers’ to a holistic performance view
    Organisations are too frequently guilty of giving managers ‘stretch target’ that are overly optimistic, then penalizing that manager for not reaching that goal. Perhaps it is better to assign probabilities to managers targets, so that when the performance is being discussed, a more realistic assessment of whether goal attainment can be made. If people are punished simply because they failed to meet a high risk plan, then employees will lose confidence and ultimately the entire organisation suffers.
  4. From long-range planning to forcing the first step
    We have all seen the grand ‘strategic plan’ in all its glory – paraded in front of staff via glitzy PowerPoint presentations, or emailed out in an impressive document replete with interesting fonts, appropriate bolding, and the daring use of color. And while this may hype some of us for a short period of time, usually that is the last we see of it and it gets lost until the next review in 3 or 5 years’ time, when the performance is repeated. To give the plan the best chance of survival, also present the first steps that now need to be taken. Employees will appreciate the light being shone on the pathway and the opportunity to actually begin the journey rather than waiting for direction.

So there are just four of the eight steps for improving your strategy processes. The article is well worth a read, and highly recommended. And remember, the Avondale Business School (ABS) is just a phone call (02 4980 21468) or email (abs@avondale.edu.au) away from helping you with your strategy.

Miscommunication or Missed Communication?

August 1, 2018 by Avondale Business School

If miscommunication were causing delays and failures in project completion in your business, and sales were clearly identified as being lost to the same causes, and over half your workforce identified it as causing stress, wouldn’t you actually want to deal with it? Apparently not, according to recent findings from an investigation by The Economist Intelligence Unit between November 2017 and January 2108 of 403 senior executives, managers and junior staff at US companies. The risk of miscommunication was clearly identified as having a huge impact on the bottom line of business. The full survey and article can be found by clicking here.

The top 3 causes of this poor communication are identified as different communication styles, unclear responsibilities and time pressures. But not far behind these were a lack of strong leadership and personal differences amoung colleagues. As the article suggests, clearly managers need to tailor their communication styles to those around them in order to be effective.

Interestingly, 65% of the respondents said that face-to-face meetings are a very effective mode of communication, irrespective of the generation of person surveyed. However, those from the millennial and Gen X demographics do use social media and instant messaging every day in a work context. To connect with these colleagues, managers need to incorporate these alternative modes of communication. Equally, as those from the younger generations rise to leadership they also need to ensure they are using communication styles and modes that reach the older members of their teams. Key then, is the ability to adapt your communication style and mode in order to reach across generations.

While most respondents (60%) reported using emails every day, only 40% recognised it as a very effective means of communication. To address this, the survey identified virtual-based tools, video conferencing, presentation decks and white boards as being much more effective.

The article proposes that the following steps can assist in reducing workplace miscommunication:

  • Having clearer goals for every scheduled meeting
  • Having a wider range of communication tools to use
  • Firm-wide training for employees in communication, including awareness of communication differences and what the best applications of various tools are.

In summary, the article is succinct yet punchy in the information it provides, some of which provides evidence for what we might intuitively already know. A highly recommended read. And the Avondale Business School (ABS) can assist you in fine-tuning your workplace communications, just contact us via abs@avondale.edu.au

It’s All Just A Matter Of Trust

July 25, 2018 by Avondale Business School

If public trust is the not-for-profit (NFP) sectors most valuable asset, then why are directors and leaders of NFPs not doing more to safeguard it? The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s 2017 Australian Charities Report (find it here) reports that trust in charities amoungst Australians has declined from 37% in 2013 to just 24% in 2017. Such a decline in the value of any other form of asset would have seen the directors of organisations demanding answers and taking urgent action to correct it.

A recent article by Lucas Ryan for the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) entitled ‘Trust in not-for-profits’ (read it here) looks at this issue of trust and raises a number of very important points for leaders of charities and within the NFP sector to consider. Some of the highlights in this article include:

  • The AICD indicates there is little evidence of NFP directors addressing trust
  • While directors recognise the primacy of culture as the most significant issue relevant to trust, very few directors receive reports on culture, and most don’t have it as an item on their agenda.
  • The ACNC Report identifies belief in an organisations mission and transparency about the use of resources as key influencers of individual trust.
  • 45% of people in the ACNC study did not trust charities that paid salespeople to raise funds on their behalf.
  • Fewer Australians are trusting charities to apply their donations to a charitable purpose and to be ethical and honest in their fundraising.

These are really worrying trends for NFPs and charities, and the AICD identify the top 3 factors most critical to building trust:

  • Communicating and engaging openly with stakeholders;
  • Transparency of business practices and decision-making; and
  • Understanding the issues that matter to stakeholders.

This means directors and leaders of NFPs really do need to ensure they are actively engaging in discussion trust, and ensuring there are strong governance practices in place to guard this valuable organisational asset.

What are you doing to guard and enhance the public trust in your organisation? The Avondale Business School team can assist you in ensuring your governance program is maximizing the success of your organisation. You can contact us at abs@avondale.edu.au

The Upside of Addressing the Downside of Technology

July 18, 2018 by Avondale Business School

Digital and mobile technologies give – but they also take away. Leaders of organisations need to play an active role in designing workplaces that encourage the adoption of healthy technology habits. Such is the thrust of a recent paper entitle ‘Positive Technology’ (read it here) by Deloitte.

This paper alerts leaders to the down-side of technology, warning about the potential perils of workplace digital technology. Some of the key dangers identified include:

  • Constant streams of messages resulting in a deteriorating of the individual’s ability to adequately process information;
  • The ease of creating virtual meetings making it too easy to include more people, and thus create opportunities for days of endless meetings; and
  • The unhealthy use of workplace technology which has seen increasing instances of poor sleep, anxiety and depression amoung employees; and

A very positive aspect of this report is the inclusion of suggestions for employers to address these issues. A few examples of these include:

  • Using available data of employee usage patterns to help individuals better understand and regulate their use of technology;
  • Incorporating ‘nudge’ strategies into workflow processes and applications to help break technology addiction;
  • Ensuring that the organisations leaders openly display healthy and balanced technology habits.

The article is an important contribution to current discussions on the role of technology in the workplace, where the speed of technology adoption and change is outpacing effective workplace practices and culture. By being reminded of this issue, we are now in a position to choose to care for our employees more than we care about technology.

You can contact the Avondale Business School if you would like more information on how we can help you with this, or any other business issue. ABS@avondale.edu.au