Each week we scour the web to find you the most informative, inspirational, and insightful articles about Employee Engagement, Motivation, Leadership, Followership, Strategy and Culture.  Then we turn them into bite-size chunks, so you get the essentials without any fluff. Here are this week’s must reads;

Deloitte: Global Human Capital Trends 2015 – March

Deloitte has just published its latest report, ‘Global Human Capital Trends 2015’.

This year’s trends focus on the themes of leading, engaging the workforce, reinventing, and reimagining HR. They comprise:

  1. Leadership: Why a perennial issue?
  2. Learning and development: Into the spotlight
  3. Culture and engagement: The naked organization
  4. Workforce on demand: Are you ready?
  5. Performance management: The secret ingredient
  6. Reinventing HR: An extreme makeover
  7. HR and people analytics: Stuck in neutral
  8. People data everywhere: Bringing the outside in
  9. Simplification of work: The coming revolution
  10. Machines as talent: Collaboration, not competition

An infographic for the report can be downloaded here.

[Editor’s comment – lots to read and consider in this research report. Culture and employee engagement emerges as “The No. 1 Issue in terms of importance, with 50% of those surveyed stating it to be “Very Important”. This is double the number from 2014]

It Takes Thoughtful Leadership to Truly Build a Trust Culture – 10th March

Imagine, invites consultant Dr. Edward Marshall, walking into your leadership team meeting wondering whether the same old politics are going to play out:

  • Will the same people work their own private agendas, again?
  • Will the same people be silent and watch it happen?
  • Will everyone just be nice and kind and not honest, and let the meeting pass without ever addressing the elephant in the room?

Losing the trust

Marshall extends his invitation: “Imagine further that the distrust issues were so deep-seated that you begin to wonder if this team would ever be able to be high performance. We know fear, silo-based work, conflict avoidance, a lack of confidentiality, and a lack of accountability play havoc with an organisation’s efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and bottom line. Now imagine the impact that all of this has on the workforce.”

He suggests that this is how business works today, reflecting leadership cultures based on power, politics, or personality, with the results being sub-optimal at best. The greatest victim, he says, is the loss of trust between individuals, teams, departments, and between senior leadership and the workforce.

On trust and distrust

Trust is vital yet elusive, says Marshall. We can’t touch it, hear it, or see it, but we can feel it… It is hard to attain and easy to lose; and if lost, we may never regain it. He suggests that trusting others is the outward reflection of whether we trust ourselves.

Distrust in teams, especially leadership teams, can result from our playing by different rules, having different interpretations of events, or undisclosed expectations of each other or the business.

What if we could create a Trust Culture by:

  1. Strategic direction – Being clear about where the organisation is headed so that the workforce knows and can adapt?
  2. Governance — Developing a set of operating agreements we all agree to … and hold each other accountable
  3. Alignment — Creating alignment by having a set of charters for each group or team
  4. Ownership — Building a high level of ownership of any organisational change?
  5. Psychological safety — Nurturing a leadership culture that supports the practice of “speaking truth to power” without fear of retribution?

Building trust is vital

All five of these core dimensions of a trust-based culture are within our reach, says Marshall. What is essential for success, however, is leaders who see building trust as vital to the cultures of their organisations. “What If?” is possible.

The Growing Importance of Managers in Employee Engagement – 10th March

The more employees feel informed and engaged, the better, says Communications Professional Gail Thornton

Research has identified a clear correlation between employee engagement and performance, and more importantly between improving engagement and improving performance. Thornton comments on Fred Hassan’s philosophy: “attitude drives behaviour, behaviour drives culture, and culture then fosters executional excellence and sustainable high performance.” Hassan believes that attitude, behaviour and culture are competitive productivity advantages. His philosophy builds on the critical role that employees play in an organisation’s potential.

Thornton asserts that effective employee engagement improves employee performance by helping align employees with company goals [Editor’s Comment – something we totally agree with and convey in our extraMILETM model]. Equally important, the better the company listens to its employees, the better it can align its messaging to the employee audience.

How to Realise When You’re Sabotaging Your Career – 9th March

Following the sudden death of her son in 2001, businesswoman Karen E Berg learned the hard way how personal turmoil can bring down the most successful business. In this article, Karen lists some common self-destructive behaviours that she now recognises in others:

  • Name Your Sabotage – Identify and name the behaviour that is undermining you; fear, procrastination, arrogance, avoidance.
  • Weigh the cost of Your Sabotage – What is the current or potential cost of self-sabotage? How would life improve without the destructive behaviours?
  • Refocus Your Thoughts – Reframe your thinking and celebrate every small success.
  • Find the Right Help – find people who are willing to be honest with you and challenge your destructive behaviours.

Karen has described her journey to and back from self-sabotage in her book Your Self-Sabotage Survival Guide: How to Go from Why Me? to Why Not?

How The Most Powerful People Get Things Done: 4 Tips From A White House Staffer – 8th March

Eric Barker talked to James Waters, who was Deputy Director of Scheduling at the White House and served in government for 10 years. He asked him about how people making very high-stakes decisions in a fast-paced environment get things accomplished, and what we can learn from them.

Here’s is our very brief summary. The full article is well worth reading.

  • Be Responsive – How do you make insanely big decisions with such a huge number of people involved? Everyone has to be responsive and engaged so that input can be given, approvals made and action accomplished. James says; “When I would send an email, and it didn’t matter to whom, everybody would respond right away. It could have been the most senior person or the most junior.”
  • Don’t Overanalyze. Make A Decision – The modern world provides us with tons of information. All that data often makes simple decisions easy. James says; “…too many organizations get paralyzed because they analyze for too long and they haven’t developed the instincts to make decisions. They end up postponing things in favor of more and more analysis. That’s frustrating for everyone in the organization. Being able to make decisions when you know you have imperfect data is so critical.”
  • Always Be Learning – Making the same mistake more than once can be disastrous. You need a system that isn’t merely focused on getting things done, but also on improving. James says; “The second you say, ‘Oh, this is just the way we’ve always done things’ you’re doomed to failure.
  • Have Passion – If you don’t care, you won’t make it in a place like The White House. James says;”People get burned out working at the White House. I did, too. It’s so intense for so long, there’s no letup, and you don’t get paid anything – you’ve really got to have passion for what you’re doing.”

Companies Worried About Engagement But doing Nothing About It – 6th March

A recent survey by DeLoitte has found that 87% of respondents were very concerned about the lack of employee engagement. And according to the research (2015 Human Capital Trends), Employee Engagement and Culture has become the number one challenge facing companies around the world. Yet despite this, only 12% of HR and Business leaders have a programme in place to build a strong culture.

Based on a survey of 3,300 HR and Business leaders across 106 countries, Benefits Pro reports some other worrying statistics:

  • The number of HR and business leaders who cited engagement as being “very important” doubled from 26 percent last year to 50 percent this year;
  • 60 percent of HR and business leaders surveyed said they do not have an adequate program to measure and improve engagement;
  • Only 7 percent rated themselves as excellent at measuring, driving, and improving engagement and retention.

With 86 percent of those surveyed identifying a lack of strong leadership as a top agenda issue this year, DeLoitte suggest that many businesses are in a culture of denial when it comes to disengagement and deteriorating skills in the workplace.

[Editor’s Comment – Just in case you weren’t aware – we offer a Programme that increases Employee Engagement]

4 Magic Phrases That Unlock Brilliant Product Ideas – 6th March

[Editor’s Comment – another one of those info nuggets that can be applied to any situation that involves people e.g. what employees say about your company]

In this article Minda Zetlin introduces us to four phrases that Brian D. Evans claims you should keep an eye out for, in order to give you an insight into what customers (i.e. people) most want;

  1. “I love…” – This will help you most when it’s applied to a product or product feature that the reviewer really appreciates. “I love the way my new vacuum cleaner is so good at picking up cat hair.” “I love the way this new app makes sure I never miss a meeting.”
  2. “If only…” – ‘If only’ statements will make it pretty obvious what’s missing in existing products,”
  3. “I hate…” – Finding out what customers hate about your product will tell you what to fix in a hurry before they move on to something else.
  4. “I wish…” – “I wish…” statements are a great clue as to what new products you could create or features you could add to existing products that would resonate with customers.

Teasing out the loves, hates, frustrations, and wishes can turn your competitors’ customers into your own rabid fans.

Millennials interested in social responsibility, says David Blunkett – 6th March

The Labour politician has highlighted how millennials are interested in social responsibility, reputation and the purpose of potential recruiters. Recruiters must be sensitive to the issues valued by this generation, as found by NUS research, Mr Blunkett said.

Other presenters to the 200-strong audience of senior recruiters, agency professionals and university careers advisers added, Millennials’ values and preferences are of major concern for recruiters as more and more come into the workforce. From engaging Generation Y at the hiring stage to satisfying their drives in the work environment, all against a backdrop of an increasingly digitised and globalised world, where the nature and processes of work are in flux, it’s a consideration that all HR departments should be considering, if they are not already. The full report from HR Review is here.

Why Your Employees Still Hate Your Company – 5th March

As Ryan Scott for Forbes puts it, Another year, another employee engagement poll by Gallup, another round of teeth gnashing. Despite small gains in 2014, a great majority of employees are still not engaged. On average, only 31.5% of your employees are engaged, 51% of them are not engaged, and 17.5% are creating real trouble by being actively disengaged.

Results reported vary according to seniority, industry sector and accross generations, with Millennials being the least engaged. So what exactly does it mean to be engaged with your job? Gallup defines it as being involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to your work and workplace.

“Many organizations increasingly assess their managers on engagement metrics and expect them to maintain employees’ engagement levels,” the report notes. “Employee engagement levels might be rising to some degree because managers increasingly see engaging employees as a natural part of their duties. Managers are giving engagement more attention than they have in the past, potentially leading to higher engagement percentages.”

But Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, thinks that this sort of theory is part of the problem. Traditional engagement surveys like Gallup’s lead us to view engagement as an annual HR exercise instead of a continuous, holistic part of one’s business strategy.

One company that truly understands this is consumer-products giant Unilever, whose employee engagement scores have risen 12% since the company began tying its business strategy to having a positive impact on the environment and public health.

Last year, the company saw a 65% rise in job applications from American college students compared to 2013. The same Millennials who are the least engaged group at their jobs across America are dying to work for Unilever.

You don’t have to be a corporate giant with a titanic sense of purpose like Unilever to rethink employee engagement from the ground up. Rather than propping up your CSR with empty sloganeering, checkbook philanthropy and one annual day of volunteering, consider setting ambitious goals and making sure your employees are at the heart of your philanthropy. This is one of the keys to true, sustainable employee engagement that will yield results far beyond short-term carrots and management tricks.

Get Your Employees to Make Better Suggestions – 5th March

David A. Hofmann, Hugh L. McColl and John J. Sumanth, offer us some pointers about how to encourage employees to make better suggestions, recognising that, as they put it ‘all voice is not created equal…not all voice is good voice and merely increasing the frequency and volume of speaking up is not enough’

Follow these ideas to get helpful, constructive feedback;

  • Admit that you as a leader don’t always have the answers. Your focus should be on accomplishing the goal, not advocating for your particular idea about how best to achieve it. So be prepared to relinquish your commitment to your own solutions and ideas.
  • Put limits on your supportiveness. Being supportive can backfire especially if you unintentionally send the message that all voice is equal. Make clear that you value thoughtful input more than just any input.
  • Be accessible but demand high accountability. Some employees are only reluctant to speak up in group settings such as meetings. In such cases, personally inviting them to share their thoughts and concerns with you privately may yield more and better insights.
  • Help people see their biases. Most employees will view a particular policy or process from a narrow, functional perspective and very few recognize that they have such a biased view of the situation. You’ll get better input if you help employees understand the bigger picture before proposing a solution.
  • Find influential “informants.” You’ll get better input if you have someone screen ideas for you. Recruit trusted informants to collect feedback from their peers, aggregate this input, and provide you with the best ideas. Since these informants are gathering informal feedback from their peers and presenting it to you anonymously, there’s the added bonus that employees likely will be more forthcoming in their observations.
  • Close the loop. Employees who take the time to learn the broader context and voice constructive suggestions deserve feedback on what you did—or didn’t do—with their input and why. Closing the loop not only encourages employees to continue to speak up, but encourages others as well, when they see that voicing opinions constructively has a meaningful, positive impact.

Your Coaching Is Only as Good as Your Follow-Up Skills – 4th March

No matter how successful a coaching session feels while it’s underway, if it doesn’t lead to change after it’s over, it hasn’t been effective.

Here are some ways to make it more effective;

  • Write things down. You won’t remember everything you see, hear, and think about your employees’ progress, so write it down in a dedicated place.
  • Follow up on agreements. Review your written agreements periodically, and follow up on action items. If members of your team have requested specific help from you, make sure you’re getting them what they need.
  • Observe signs of growth. To give meaningful feedback, you need to know what’s going on. Make a deliberate effort to observe the kinds of interactions or tasks your team members have prioritized in your coaching sessions.
  • Check in directly. Institute an explicit open-door policy that encourages your team to come to you with questions. Knowing they can seek help may motivate them to persevere when they feel stuck.
  • Communicate impact. As you see people begin to change and grow, communicate the impact of their growth explicitly. Hearing it from you will increase their motivation (and give them satisfaction).
  • Watch for changes in the relationship. Pay attention to the emotional dimension of your interactions. If you sense a worrisome shift, intervene early. Even if you can’t do anything to help, your concern will probably be appreciated.
  • Evaluate yourself. Periodically assess your own performance as a coach. Coaching is a two-way street, so be honest with yourself about whether you’re getting in the way of people’s progress or sending mixed messages about your expectations.

This is one of ten tools that are included in the HBR Guide + Tools to Coaching Employees.

7 Ways to Capture Someone’s Attention – 3rd March

Ben Parr, starts this must read article with a quote from Steve Rubel “Attention is the most important currency that anybody can give you.”

He then lists the following seven triggers triggers that call people to attention:

  1. Automaticity. If somebody fires a gun in the air, you’re going to turn your head. If a female hitchhiker wears red, she’s more likely to get picked up. Sensory cues like these to direct our attention automatically. It’s a safety and survival mechanism that helps us react faster than our brains can think. The author is not suggesting you speak louder than everyone else and always wear crimson dresses or socks, but think about more subtle ways to play on people’s instincts to capture attention.
  2. Framing. Our view of the world is shaped by our biological, social, and personal experiences and biases. These frames of reference lead us to embrace and pay attention to some ideas and to ignore others entirely. To leverage this trigger, you have to either adapt to your audience’s frame or change it. One technique you might use to achieve the latter is repetition. A classic study from the 1970s found that if you expose subjects to the same statement (e.g. “Tulane defeated Columbia in the first Sugar Bowl game.”) repeatedly, they will start to believe it is true. So don’t be afraid to repeat a message if you want it to sink in.
  3. Disruption. We pay special attention to anything that violates our expectations. This is because we have an innate need to figure out whether the incident signals a threat or a positive development. In academic circles, this is known as expectancy violations theory. The more disruptive something is, the more interesting it becomes. To get the attention of your bosses, clients and colleagues, try surprising them in a positive way; ask an unexpected question, beat a tough deadline, invite them for a walk instead of a coffee.
  4. Reward. Many people believe the neurotransmitter dopamine causes us to feel pleasure. But, according to Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, it is much more aligned with anticipation and motivation. It fuels our desire to “want” food, sex, money or more intrinsic rewards like self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose. The prospect of capturing these things makes us pay attention. Your goal as a manager should be to identify the incentives that most appeal to your employees, colleagues and bosses and to make them more visceral in their minds.
  5. Reputation. Consumers consistently rate experts as the most trusted spokespeople, more than CEOs or celebrities. There’s a scientific reason for this: in a 2009 study, Emory University neuroeconomist Greg Berns found that the decision-making centers of our brains slow or even shut down while we are receiving advice from an expert. This is a phenomenon Dr. Robert Cialdini calls “directed deference.” So, especially if you’re trying to capture the attention of people who don’t know you, feel free to lead with your credentials, establish your expertise and cite others who are most knowledgeable on the topic at hand.
  6. Mystery. Ever wonder why we’re unable to put down a good book or stop binge-watching shows like Lost? Our memory is fine-tuned to remember incomplete stories and tasks. There’s actually a scientific term for this: the Zeigarnik effect, named after the Soviet psychologist who discovered it. We also dislike uncertainty and will actively try to reduce it by any means possible, and you can use this to your advantage. Say you’re meeting with a prospective client or recruit, and you’d like her to come back for a second meeting. Tell her a story or assign yourself a task that you’ll complete when she does. Her compulsion for completion will nag at her, which means you’ve got her attention.
  7. Acknowledgement. Dr. Thomas de Zengotita, a media anthropologist and author of Mediated, believes that acknowledgement – our need for validation and empathy from others – is one of our most vital needs. “All mammals want attention,” he told me. “Only human beings need acknowledgment.” Key to this is a sense of belonging to a community that cares about us. Create that feeling for anyone whose attention you’d like to capture, and they’ll repay you.

About Emenex

We help you make your people great.

Emenex enables organisations to get the best from and for their staff. Leaders approach us when they have challenges associated with motivation, productivity, retention, talent management and succession planning. They know that addressing these critical issues can deliver higher levels of profit, productivity and customer satisfaction. They also know that a more progressive solution is required – one that enhances their brand with customers and staff alike. The solution our clients are choosing to implement is the extraMILETM Employee Engagement Programme.

The extraMILETM Employee Engagement Programme delivers all the tools and skills leaders need to clearly define and communicate organisational priorities to employees. For employees, it ensures they are prepared and able to align their personal and career goals to the priorities of the organisation. The continued growth and development of both teams and individuals builds loyalty, commitment and engagement. It builds an organisation better able to meet future challenges and leads to higher performance and customer satisfaction.

The result? Individuals and their organisation excel. Get in touch to find out more.

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