To improve security and confidentiality in the workplace, you should:
• Not allow computer screens to be seen by unauthorised people
• Ensure people can’t see confidential documents that aren’t meant for them
• Log off your computer if it is unattended
• Use computer passwords that are not easy to guess
• Double check outgoing emails before you send them
• Never gossip or share confidential information
• Err on the side of caution when disclosing information
• Keep sensitive documents in folders and lockable drawers
• Comply with your organisation’s security procedures
• Report any lapses in security
• Close windows before leaving empty offices/rooms
• Log off computers that have been left on by colleagues • Lock away valuables/confidential papers
• Ask colleagues to be more careful if sensitive information is being discussed with inappropriate people. Take a look at the following table for information about different communication factors and what needs to be thought about for each one. Factor Think about… Desired outcome of the What does the person receiving the communication need to know or do as a result of the message? If communication it is important then the message should be more formal and less prone to distractions. Target audience Who is the target audience? What level of detail will they understand? Is English their first language? What is their attention span?
Is it a single person, a group or a large number of people? Complexity of the message How complex is the message and how best is this conveyed to people (will tables / diagrams / other visuals help?) Time available (speed How quickly does the message have to be conveyed (do people need to know immediately, the next 3 required) months, etc?) How much time is there to communicate a message (10 minutes, half an hour, for example?) Resources available What tools are available to aid communication? Computers? PowerPoint software? Overhead projectors? Microphones, photocopiers, etc. Formality On a scale from highly formal through to highly informal, how does a particular communication rate? Is it highly formal (such as legal / contractual issues) or highly informal (such as greeting a colleague at the start of the day)?
Here are some handy tips to help you listen actively to others when they are communicating: • As far as possible, be in an environment that minimises distractions. If you are discussing something particularly detailed, a quiet interruption-free office may be needed. • Make sure you have enough time to receive the information. • Look at the speaker and focus on what they are saying. • Don’t interrupt. Note any questions and ask them at the appropriate time. • If your mind wanders, switch back quickly. Ask for a summary if you think you have missed anything. • Focus on details.
• Recap to check that you have understood correctly.
1. If you hear anything you don’t understand (a word / statement), ask for further explanation. 2. Double check names / addresses / correct spellings and numbers / dates. 3. If a person assumes you know something – when you do not – explain their error to them. 4. If they speak too quickly / quietly, etc tell them so they can change the way they are speaking. 5. Try and put your questions in a logical order.
6. Make written notes to help you remember what you want to ask. 7. Take time to repeat back to the person what you have understood from the discussion. Check with them that you have understood things correctly. 8. Thank the person for answering your questions and making things clear.
If the person you are speaking to recognises that you are doing all you can to understand them, they will welcome your questions. • A greater willingness to co-operate and share information • A greater willingness to suggest improvements
• A greater willingness to work harder and to help fellow workers
• Fewer arguments, complaints and grievances
• People are more motivated, energised and look forward to working.
When work standards and deadlines are not met, many problems can arise. For example: • Customers and clients of an organisation may not get the products or services that they expected. • Sometimes the customers will get what they want but it will require a lot of additional cost and effort to get the products and services out. • Without standards being met, there is a greater likelihood of inefficiencies and delays. This can be very damaging to an organisation. • Ultimately, if the end customer does not get what they want, when they want it and at an acceptable price they will go elsewhere. • The bottom line for an organisation is that if work standards and deadlines are not met then key outcomes may not be achieved. When planning tasks and activities at work, you should…
• Plan your daily workload
• Prioritise your work appropriately
• Deliver your workload
• Be flexible when changes occur
• If plans must change, make sure you let all relevant people know about the changes Useful planning tips
• As you do the work, be careful to notice whether you are ‘on track’. • If there are difficulties, try and correct the problem and keep the relevant people informed. • Be sure to learn from your experience and improve the planning process next time around. • There is always the chance that other urgent / important tasks arise. However, your aim should be to start work on important things sooner – when they are not urgent – this means you are better able to deal with any problems that occur. It’s important to keep people informed of your progress for many reasons. For example: • If problems arise, you have other people who can help to solve them. • If problems arise, you have potential support from other people. • Colleagues can take into account problems / delays and make appropriate changes. • You resist the temptation to procrastinate. This often results in things getting worse. • Senior managers can analyse the problem – what caused it and how could it have been prevented? Different methods of communication
• If you are packing biscuits on a continuous production line and need to go on a toilet break, then you may simply verbally inform a supervisor who can arrange cover for ten minutes. • If a key machine on a production line breaks down, the operator may tell a supervisor face to face and also inform a line manager by telephone.
• Progress updates are usually targeted at a small number of people (and often only one). • The information is generally provided promptly, so don’t choose a method of communication that takes too long to prepare. • In most cases (barring major incidents) the information on progress is usually focused upon a few specific details – such as “The delivery is on time” or “The number of units completed by 5pm will be 94 rather than 100”. • Often a verbal update (face to face or via the telephone) or a short note / email will be sufficient. • If there are problems, there may be a need for more detailed communication.
For an organisation to survive and grow it must continuously improve its performance. When an organisation makes changes, employees will have to make changes in what they do and how they do it. If employees can’t or won’t change their working habits, they will struggle to stay in their organisation. For example, imagine you’re a clerk used to paper filing systems. Computers are more efficient at holding such data so you might need to learn how to use computer systems if your organisation changes systems. Progression
Employees who get better at their job and produce improved results are more likely to be given opportunities to advance in an organisation. They are more likely to receive training and promotion opportunities, which can in turn have a positive impact on a person’s long-term career prospects.
In many jobs an element of the pay structure is based upon productivity and output. If an employee can improve his or her output they may be able to earn more money. For example if a sales professional who is paid 100% on commission can double sales there is a real prospect that pay will be significantly increased. Job satisfaction
A small proportion of people will enjoy the predictability of a never-changing job. However, there are many people who prefer a job that has variety and change. For this group of people, a business environment where there is continuous improvement is more attractive and more likely to result in job satisfaction. A personal commitment to continuously improving your work helps to guard against complacency. You are then actively thinking about what you do, being more engaged by your work and making an ongoing contribution. Some typical examples include:
• You forget to do something
• You got distracted and were too slow
• You got it wrong
• You could not deliver on your promise
• You did not keep people informed about changes.
Many people respond to mistakes by:
• Denying it
• Blaming others
• Looking for excuses.
But the best way to respond is:
• Admit it, apologise and inform the relevant people
• Solve the problem
• Identify ways of making sure you do not repeat the mistake.
Examples of problems in the workplace
• Pre-ordered supplies not arriving on time
• Equipment failure
• A colleague is absent
• A piece of work is unacceptable and must be redone
• The deadline for a task to be completed is shortened • A technical difficulty arises that you cannot put right • Your colleague is slow and you have to wait for him/her to finish • You have too many conflicting tasks and limited time.
1. Ask the expert
The simplest way to solve a problem is to find someone who has effectively solved the same problem or a similar one and ask them how they did it. Alternatively you can find a book or article that advises you how to solve a problem you need help with.
2. Get creative
In itself this is a five-step process:
1. Identity. Identify a challenge then think about the consequences of solving it. If you can envision a word where your problem is solved then you will subconsciously be pulled towards a constructive answer. 2. Prepare. Collect and gather all available information and literature about your challenge. Read, talk to others, ask questions and do as much research as you can. Work on the challenge as much as you can until you’re satisfied that you have prepared as much as possible. 3. Instruct. Instruct your brain to find the solution to the problem. Tell it, ‘Okay, find this out for me and I’ll be back in two days for the answer’. 4. Incubate. Forget the challenge for a while. Take a walk, forget it for as long as is necessary. Incubation has to occur and it will. 5. Eureka! It may take five hours, five days, five weeks, five months or whatever, but eventually insight will occur.
3. Use comparisons and analogies
The basic blueprint for using analogies is:
1. State your challenge.
2. Choose a keyword or phrase in the challenge.
3. Choose a parallel. The greater the distance your parallel is from your challenge, the greater your chance of producing new thoughts and ideas. Try to be abstract when thinking of a parallel – for example, use one from a TV show or cookery programme. 4. List the images that you associate with your chosen field, then choose one or more particularly vivid or rich ones. Listing images will allow you to describe the analogy in as much detail as possible. 5. Look for similarities and connections between the two components of your analogy. You can read an example of an analogy in Read all about it!
Solve it yourself
Imagine you have a task that must be done by 1.30pm. The finished product must then be transported elsewhere The task is not quite finished when your lunch time comes round. You could work through the first part of your lunch break to complete the task, then have lunch afterwards.
Solve it with permission
Imagine the supplier of an important component cannot deliver it in time for an important order to be completed. You have a potential solution – there is another supplier who can provide what is needed but they are more expensive. You don’t have the authority to make such a decision but at the same time you can’t opt to do nothing at all. In this instance you should bring it to the attention of an appropriate manager.
An important piece of machinery breaks down, which means that half of the workforce has little to do and there is a continuing build-up of part-finished products. The machine needs to be repaired and the whole production line needs to be organised as efficiently as possible. This is the job of a manager and is not your problem.
How a business can be affected by the poor handling of incoming mail
Incoming mail affected Potential damage caused Requests for information about products and services Potential lost business Orders for products/services Lost business and income – short and long term Payments for products/services Actual money not paid into the business – this can affect cash flow and means that effort must go into recollecting money Invoices from suppliers Irritation to suppliers who chase up payments Important legal documents Vital information and opportunities lost Parts, materials and equipment delivered by post Workers unable to complete work tasks, unsatisfied customers and wasted time.
Incoming mail is mail that comes into a business. You can sort this mail into:
• First class/second class/special or recorded delivery You can deal with mail in this way:
• Open mail (not private/confidential unless cleared to do so)
• Remove contents
• Date-stamp mail when received
• Check and attach enclosures
• Sort mail according to departments
Procedure for dealing with internal mail:
• Mail is delivered to or collected by different departments, by designated staff • It is put into the recipient’s in-tray
Outgoing mail is mail that a business sends out (for example, to suppliers and customers). You can deal with outgoing mail in these ways: Collection:
• Collect mail from each department or
• Deliver mail to the mail room at an agreed time
• Sort mail into first/second/special or recorded delivery • Other categories such as parcel delivery/couriers/insurance requirements Deal with mail costs:
• Weigh letters/packages
• Calculate postage costs
• Stamp or frank the items at the correct cost
• Take mail to an appropriate post box/post office
Internal mail services handle mail between departments and branches. Staff often deliver internal mail in secure pouches and bags, and use delivery vans to get it from branch to branch. Internal mail can be handled in many different ways – here are a few examples: • Internal mail is often sent in unsealed, A4-size envelopes (if the mail is confidential, the envelope will be sealed and marked with a confidential label). • If the internal mail needs to be circulated to a number of people, a list of recipients may be attached to the envelope. • In some organisations, the internal mail will be particularly sensitive (such as in legal businesses, etc) and will need to be circulated in more secure containers rather than simple envelopes. Delivery drivers may require someone to sign for confidential internal mail. • Information technology is used more and more in businesses now and, as a result of this, an Intranet may be used to circulate internal mail electronically. What:
• Time/date is it now and when does the mail need to be delivered?
• Is the destination of the mail?
• Is the size, weight and shape of the mail?
• Specific is the delivery time?
• It need to be trackable throughout the delivery journey?
• It need to be signed for when delivered?
• It need to be insured?
Imagine you use a computer every day in your job. You’re a researcher who uses a specialist online package to research competitors. You use Microsoft Office (Word and Excel) to type reports on your competitors, and use a specialist database to record any contact with your customers. You also file paper copies of the reports you create on a regular basis. The network and servers fail one day, which means you are unable to access your work on your computer and you’re unable to access the Internet. How would you do your job? What other tasks could you be doing, and how would you do them without IT? • If you had an Internet-enabled phone, you could use that but it would be expensive. • You could use a phone book to make calls to customers. • You could use the paper copies of reports to enable you to do some desk research.
Waste in business can be said to be:
• Resources used up by inefficient processes or non-essential activities. • Unwanted materials left over from production of a product. • A product that does not meet usability tests.
• A process or material that does not (from the viewpoint of the customer) add value to a product or service. • Materials that cause damage to the environment
Further examples of business waste
• Failure to proofread some copy leads to 10,000 leaflets being printed with the wrong date on them • A food delivery is delivered too early
• A packaging firm sends a business cardboard boxes that are too small so time, labour costs etc are wasted as the correct packages are sourced and ordered.
• Costs of wasted materials, energy costs and unproductive time
• Costs of storing, moving and disposing of the waste
• Decreased competition compared with other businesses
• Potential need to raise prices or look at reducing margins
• Delays caused by having wasted time and materials
• Type of industry
• Type of department
• Size of organisation/business
• Management culture
• The mix of staff, such as age, gender, culture and value
• Market conditions
• Use of waste reduction approaches.
Often, waste is caused by the people in a business, and can occur because people make too many mistakes. As a result, time and effort must go into rectifying these mistakes. Mistakes can occur for all kinds of reasons, such as: • Human error: People know how to complete a task correctly but do something wrong in the process. • Lack of training: People do not know how to do a task as a result of poor selection or training.
Materials and equipment
It is possible for waste to be caused by problems with materials and/or equipment, which in turn makes it likely that the products and services being produced are substandard and costly. Typically, waste can occur for a number of reasons, including: • Faults in raw materials
• Faults in components supplied by an external organisation • Faults in components supplied from within the organisation • Machines or equipment breaking down or developing faults.
Planning or processes
Even if people, materials and equipment are all functioning well, it’s still possible for there to be significant levels of waste. This could be due to problems in the planning process. Here, managerial decisions can be the difference between efficiency and extreme waste. Typical examples could be: • Failing to learn about what customers really want
• Over-supply or under-supply of products and services • Buying cheaper raw materials that lead to inferior and poor-quality products that don’t pass quality tests • Failing to invest in the right areas of the business.
Focus Type of meeting Large audience Conference External people/media Public Directors and shareholders Annual general meeting Directors Board meeting Three staff or less Informal
Focus Type of meeting Only two people involved Face-to-face Concerns non-urgent problem Informal Concerns urgent problem Spur of the moment Concerns ongoing problem-solving and improvements Regular meetings
Focus Type of meeting Shareholder authorisation Annual general meeting Director/senior authorisation Board Recurring Regular meeting One-off, urgent decision
Spur of the moment
Focus Type of meeting Fresh ideas needed Brainstorming meeting Ideas to be discussed Informal/one-off Result of brainstorming and ideas decided upon Formal meeting
This is information about the practicalities of the meeting. This could include: • The date of the meeting
• The start and finish times of the meeting
• The venue of the meeting
• The agenda of the meeting
• The attendance list.
This is information that forms the content of the meeting. This could include: • Minutes of previous meetings
• Reports for consideration in the meeting
• The desired outcomes of the meeting.
Information and support activities
• Looking something up from records of earlier meetings • Sourcing information requested during a meeting
• Finding colleagues who have information for the meeting • Accessing materials or equipment needed during the meeting • Getting additional refreshments if the meeting runs longer than originally planned • Making further arrangements if meetings over-run. This could include the need for the room or informing people that the attendees will be later than anticipated.
• Spending limits on accommodation, meals and refreshments • Payment methods
• The rules relating to getting foreign currency
• Approved travel firms, travel agents and hotel booking agents • The rules on the class of travel (such as first class or standard tickets on the train) • Mileage allowances for using their own cars
• The rules on the use of hire vehicles
• The distance travelled (or travel time) before overnight accommodation is allowed WHY KEEP RECORDS.
By keeping good records it is possible to account for all the expenditure being made on travel and accommodation. The expenditure may be compared with and reviewed against the budget. The spending patterns for individuals and departments may also be monitored. The accurate financial information will be used by the accountants in the organisation when drawing up accounts. It can also be used to determine future travel budgets.
By keeping good records it is possible for people to easily retrieve information. If small details need to be checked such as train times and check-out times, it can be done so promptly. By keeping well-organised records this information can be easily accessed even if the people arranging
the travel are unavailable.
By keeping good records it is possible for the organisation to build up valuable information on the travel processes, for example, whether a hotel in an important location is worth using again or whether an airline is offering cheap flights. In this way the business can build up a knowledge bank and some expertise in its travel arrangements.
By keeping good records the business is better placed to look for ways of improving its travel and accommodation bookings. This could involve cutting costs and making savings. Without good records these judgements cannot be made. It is also possible that there will be places where additional spending brings a better overall return. For example an earlier train may be more expensive but it would allow a colleague to make some speculative visits to potential clients. Scenario 1
Imagine you have an appointment with a customer. You would need the following information: Who: Who is the meeting with?
What: What is the meeting about?
When: When is the meeting?
Where: Where is the meeting?
Why: Why are you having the meeting?
A course has been arranged for staff in your organisation.
Who: Who is going on the course? Who will be delivering it?
What: What will the course cover? What resources are required? When: When is the course?
Where: Where is the course being held?
Why: Why should staff go on this course?
Paper-based diary systems
Follow these useful hints and tips when making appointments.
• Appointments should be entered as soon as possible
• Double-check facts with the people who the appointment is for
• Hand writing should be readable
• Unusual names should be written in block capitals
• All important information should be recorded (such as names/date/venue/contact numbers)
• Flag meetings that have been cancelled or postponed
• If an entry changes, make sure relevant people know about this
• When there is more than one event occurring at a single time, separate them to avoid any confusion
• If a diary tracks the activities of more than one person, use coloured ink or highlighters to avoid any confusion
• Make provisional appointments in pencil, which can be erased if it does not get confirmed, then confirm appointments in ink
• Don’t store confidential information in public, open access diaries.
Electronic-based diary systems
Make sure the routine system operations can be done by all appropriate staff members such as:
• Access the system
• Set up regular and repeat appointments
• Set a meeting
• Set up any reminders
• Access an entry
• Change or amend an entry
• Remove an entry
• Review entries
• Print out a hard copy
• Move to any date in the system
• Know how to use the colours / symbols in the system and what they mean
• Ensure all the relevant data is available for the entry (names/date/venue/contact numbers). Bad customer service can bring the following effects:
• One-off, one-time custom
• Warnings not to use a business
• Negative publicity
• Business contraction due to lack of customers
• Uncertain job future