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;

4 People Strategies That Together Can Double Company Growth – 1st October

“Technologies and processes continue to evolve, but how companies manage and develop employees hasn’t improved over the past decade. As a result, companies miss out on unprecedented opportunities for growth”, says Michelle Smith of OC Tanner in Utah. In this article Smith summarises recent findings from research conducted by Gallup, identifying four strategies that, when combined effectively, can add up to 59% more revenue per employee. They call this the “additive effect.”

Strategy 1: Select managers with natural talent

Bad managers drive talented employees away and damage customer relationships. However, the right manager is critical in creating an engaged workforce, says Smith, continuing to say that Gallup’s research showed that companies made the wrong recruitment choice 82% of the time. Managers should be hired based on their ability to manage, not their seniority or individual results.

Strategy 2: Select the right individual contributors

6% higher revenue per employee can be attained by selecting naturally talented individual contributors, rather than focusing on education, skills and experience.

Strategy 3: Engage employees

Smith says (and I agree! – Editor) “Creating a culture of employee engagement demands a strategy, accountability, great communication, and manager and employee development plans that are aligned with performance outcomes.” However, globally only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs (Gallup research). But the firms that bucked this trend have seen up to 1457% higher earnings compared to competitors.

Strategy 4: Focus on strengths

It’s clear that this strategy is far more effective than focussing on weaknesses. According to Gallup, when managers are strengths-focused, 61% employees are engaged, which is far higher than average engagement.

You can see more evidence and statistics from the research in the main article.

Employee Engagement Doesn’t Seem To Be Getting Better – 30 September

In a recent presentation to CEOs Joseph LeDoux asked his audience what their biggest challenges were at the moment. In his piece for Forbes.com he reports there were several answers, but without exception each one of them had problems retaining staff. They all agreed that it was costing the company millions a year in reduced productivity, recruitment and training.

In addition, staff morale and customer confidence continually took a blow from poor employee engagement.

With eyes staring in deep thought, they quietly said they had tried many things but nothing seemed to be working.

They all agreed that an employee bell curve kept them awake at night. What did they mean by this?

Just that the largest proportion of staff with average to good skills accounted for the majority of employees and it was this group that left more frequently, in other words the core of their employees.

Those that tapered away to the left of the bell were people who were not that good, but were retained due to unstable head count. At the other end of the distribution curve was a small group of people who were excellent at their job, but were in danger of being demotivated by the unrest.

Managers and supervisors were struggling to keep upbeat, especially as they too had one eye on leaving themselves. This meant that they were miserable, the teams were miserable and the customers were miserable.

The psychology of this is clear, writes LeDoux.

When our brain is in a negative state such as this, we narrow our attention to what are the perceived threats and antagonists so that we can avert possible harm. This sets up a state of anxiety and feelings of being out of control.

If however, we help our staff to attain and maintain a positive emotional state they will be far more relaxed, motivated and effective. It is logical that when we think of happy things we open our attention span to consider taking calculated risks that lead to business and personal growth.

The key is to make good times part of company culture.

It is not self indulgent, it is necessary for best practice and a strong business.

Leaders who perpetuate a fun environment yield excellent employee engagement and higher profits, but it needs to come from the top.

Do you have a fizzy Friday? Or a random day for pizzas for everyone at lunchtime? How about an ice cream delivery mid afternoon? There are many ways to perpetuate fun that are not expensive. A little thought and small investment can result in happy, creative and productive staff.

Employee engagement: What are the main barriers? – 30th September

Assistant Editor of HR Pulse, Frew Murdoch reviews a number of studies and discusses what she sees as some of the main barriers to employee engagement.

  1. A survey of 400,000 employees in 300 organisations by TINYpulse in February 2014 found that less than 50% of employees know their company’s mission and vision. Frew is shocked by this [as should we all be – Ed] and suggests that the organisation’s vision and mission must be reinforced at every point in the employment cycle.
  2. From the same survey it emerged that around 20% of employees believe that their manager has not clearly outlined their role and responsibilities. In a dynamic, ever changing world, job descriptions quidkly go out of date. It is important for manager to regularly review individual responsibilities.
  3. According to IEDP employee happiness is 23.3% more correlated to co-worker than direct supervisors [an interesting correlation to the ILM’s latest research on trust too perhaps – Ed]. Employee happiness is statistically impacted by the rating of employees co-workers.
  4.  Following on from this same research involving employees in screening job candidates can helping developing a more cohesive team.
  5. Another recommendation coming from the research is to take more account of employee feedback. 18% od employee responses included a suggestion that organisations could do more to recognise employee suggestions to promote higher levels of innovation.
  6. Transparency at the top leads to high employee engagement from the bottom up. Transparency at senior management level is one of the determining factors for employee engagement. It’s also a transformation that can be made at zero cost. All that is required is an open and regular dialogue between management and staff.

The secret to our success? Recruiting and retaining the best talent – 30 September

Writing in HR Review, Julia Wellard shares the approach at Miller Brands ‘to develop people and the company culture, engage employees in the business and build on their passion for beer.’ In her 4 years with the company the number of staff has risen from 90 to 145, and over this time the HR function – which she heads – has needed to adapt in order to truly partner the business and add value at a commercial level, whilst still remaining authentic to HR values and ideals.

One of the key programmes they use to engage new and existing employees is ‘Passionate About Beer’.

Wellard states ‘We are one step removed from our source breweries so we want to ensure that everyone in our business can talk with passion and credibility about our brands, as well as more generally about beer. To do this we have engaged with a local micro-brewery to provide taste sessions and brewery tours and to educate employees on the ingredients of our beers in a fun and exciting way. We are in the process of designing an “app” to enable instant access to this knowledge via a smartphone or tablet.’

Is this enough she asks? In recent years, competition to retain strong talent has increased – one factor behind this is social media and the way candidates are recruited. At no given point is there confirmation that the candidate you have interviewed and strived to get into your business is on-board until they physically walk through the door.

This is why they have developed an HR portal within the new Miller Brands website.

The purpose of the portal is simple: to keep new recruits engaged, excited and informed about the company in which their future lies.

The moment Miller hears a ‘yes’ to a job offer their future employees are offered access to the portal and can view welcome videos from their MD, discover more about their culture, learn about the benefits package available and the brands they import and distribute and about which they are so passionate.

She adds, this portal does not take away from the human contact, it just supports it, and means the individual can start to feel part of Miller Brands before they even walk through the door – ensuring engagement and minimising the possibility of them changing their minds.

Miller Brands also provides them with a voucher to buy and taste their beers at their leisure in a restaurant or local pub.

Wellard concludes, saying that it’s important to nurture employees and whilst it may sound clichéd, as a relatively small business (albeit part of a much larger one!), Miller Brands claims a strong family ethic – they work and win together. And Miller Brands output and results are stronger now than ever before.

The Economics Behind Employee Happiness – 29th September

In this extract from an interview reported by 1to1Media, Jenn Lim, CEO and Chief Happiness Officer at the Zappos.com offshoot Delivering Happiness, explains her perspective on happiness at work and the links to engagement and business results.

What are the primary obstacles to achieving happiness in the workplace?

JL: There are a couple of things. Number one, when we look at the traditional business model, it’s based on profits, the bottom line. For better or worse, there are still a lot of companies operating on that model. If there’s nothing else in the realm of how to be successful in a company, then that’s an obstacle. Whether you’re a CEO or an employee, it’s not just about making money. Since we spend most of our waking hours in the workplace, more emphasis should be placed on achieving happiness.

Also, people are resistant to change. As ideal as happiness in the workplace sounds, a lot of people don’t like change, whether at the C-level or for employees if they think change is required.

What are some steps that can be taken to address this from an organisational standpoint?

JL: Number one is to look at values: what are the values of your company? What is the purpose of your company? Not just identifying those values but aligning with those values. That’s the fundamental DNA required to have happiness in the business model.

Tactically, think about it like a hub and spoke. Especially with large companies, it’s about thinking small. Start in a controlled way—whether it’s one department, several departments or the whole company—the idea is to have champions that are aligned with one another to see it through.

What are some ways in which changes in customer and employee happiness can translate into business results?

JL: There are more and more studies coming out of Harvard Business Review and The Economist on the business results of happiness. Profitability increases by 10% – 30% and sales increases 10% – 20%. And we know of a top-20 e-commerce company in the U.S. that has seen a 39% increase in monthly sales, while monthly absences by employees decreased by 96%.

What are some recommended steps that organisational leaders can take to deliver happiness to customers and employees?

JL: There are lots of different stating points depending on where they are. There are the short-term immediate things you can do and the long-term sustainable things.
Short-term, one question I would ask is how would you do things differently if you wanted to ‘wow’ each time you touch an employee or a customer? How would that change your approach? That little thought will help you interact with your employees and your customers.

For the longer term, really think about your company’s values. It’s the DNA of your company. It’s the only way I’ve seen from a long-term view to bind people to a common purpose and value sets from a sustainable standpoint.

Motivating People: It Takes the Four Roots of Engagement – 29th September

CEO of Root Inc., Jim Hauden, shares his thoughts on what’s involved in creating real engagement, i.e. strategies that will motivate people day in, day out and drive people’s discretionary efforts, passion and dedication. He identifies what he call “The Four Roots of Engagement.”

1. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves

Set the tone with your culture, says Hauden, which “represents the commonly held set of beliefs or values that people use to govern their interactions with each other. These values, that are talked about, embraced and demonstrated daily combined with a sense of purpose around the strategy, create the “something big.”” This will help you connect and engage with your peoples hearts and minds.

2. People want to feel a sense of belonging

When people are truly engaged, says Hauden, they believe they really belong. They have a sense of meaning or validation when they feel they “fit,” they’re accepted, they’re one of the group. With this sense of association and connection, they can go forward together because they have something in common. He points out that leaders have a responsibility to build what he calls “belonging connective tissue” between the business vision and individuals role in bring ion jot to life. [Editor’s note: At Emenex, we call that “Alignment” and have discovered it is a key driver in building real engagement that leads to increased performance.]

3. People want to go on a meaningful journey

Naming a number of well known adventure stories, Hauden claims “A meaningful journey has elements of extraordinary challenge, risks, excitement, suspense, unexpected events, unknown outcomes, a dare to go and a purpose that makes it all worthwhile. In the same way, a strategy can and should be an adventure – a meaningful journey that captures a sense of purpose, of doing something together that gets us through the hazardous journey, that builds energy from formidable challenge and unites people in the pursuit of outstanding achievement.” He advises that leaders need to think big picture and tell the story of the big adventure the company is on.

4. People want to know they make an impact

Hauden suggests our biggest fear is that of living a life of insignificance. Leaders have a key role to play in making sure their employees connect with the impact of their work, that they bare critical to success.

He concludes that people crave these four “necessities” of engagement. And when they are present, engagement occurs naturally. “So leaders,” he says, “what are you doing to help get your people engaged in our mission? If you were to convert your strategy into a story of adventure, how would you best share it with your people? Let me know your tactics for creating your engagement!”

Who’s In Charge Of Career Planning? You – 29th September

Lisa Quast asks ‘Who is responsible for developing a person’s career?’ And comes to the conclusion that your career is your responsibility.

According to a recent survey however, “The Real Story Behind Career Development: Who is Responsible?” there is disagreement about whether it should be the responsibility of an individual or an employer.

The results showed key disparities between the two groups’ perceptions:

Most workers believe it is employers’ responsibility to teach career development: 74% say employers should provide professional-development training, 71% say they should identify job opportunities and career paths, and 68% say they should provide career-advancement mentoring.

Most managers believe employees must take responsibility for their career development: 98% say workers should continually update and improve their skills, 85% say they should identify job opportunities and career paths, and 80% say they should be responsible for building their job-hunting and career-planning skills.

The results of this study demonstrate why many workers and organizations fail at career management – each believes the other should be responsible. Which is fine if you work for an employer who provides you with assistance and tools. If not, then Quast recommends take ownership in driving your career advancement.

She suggests the following approach:

Define your career aspirations. If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you get there? Take time to clearly define your aspirations. Where do you want to be in your career in three years, five years, 10 years?

Identify your goals and create your career plan. Goals reflect what you want to accomplish to improve yourself and to move forward in your career. They ensure that you are headed in the right direction and help you achieve your aspirations quickly and efficiently.

Share your plan with your manager. Ask him or her for feedback. Are there other skills you should learn, education you should pursue or certifications you should obtain?

Find out about training and tuition assistance. Are there company-sponsored training sessions you could attend? Does your employer provide tuition reimbursement? Take advantage of every opportunity your company offers to help you advance in your career.

Provide regular updates. Share your development progress with your manager and HR representative on a regular basis. Use these opportunities to discuss career options and to get guidance and feedback.

She concludes ‘Achieving career success requires more than luck and hard work – it requires a plan. So grab a cup of coffee, sit down and create yours.’

(Editor’s note – as you are hopefully aware, at Emenex we provide all the tools progressive companies need to help their staff build their own career development plans…and implement them to the benefit of both their employer and each employee).

Sir Richard Branson allows his staff to take unlimited holiday – 29 September

Many will have heard that Sir Richard Branson, the boss of Virgin Group which employs more than 50,000 people around the world and operates in more than 50 countries, is offering his personal staff of 170 unlimited holiday time. It seems the idea stemmed from Netflix and as its ‘Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture’ explains, ‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’

In HR Review, Jayne Carrington, Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness reacted to the news: “Richard Branson’s decision to give his personal employees unlimited holiday is certainly a good step in the right direction towards having a productive and engaged workforce. Our own research, The Flux Report, found that nearly half (46 percent) of HR decision makers reported an increase in employee fatigue and disengagement in recent years, so something clearly needs to be done to tackle this.

Offering unlimited holiday could give many organisations the opportunity to offer a type of flexible working that could ultimately benefit the business’ bottom line. However, each organisation should consider the impact of implementing such an initiative and how they can make it work for them, if it is indeed appropriate for them.

“Embracing flexibility has been a big workplace trend this year and Branson’s encouragement for other companies to follow suit is set to spark this even further and may indeed prompt an increase in unlimited holiday entitlement in other organisations. However, not having a set holiday allowance does have its potential pitfalls and employers need to be aware of these. For example, when it is left to the employee to make the decision about when they should take time off, it actually may be the case that employees take less holiday than they would if they had a set amount to take. This is largely due to the fact that they may not realise how little holiday they have taken and do not feel the urgency to use up a certain number of days before their holiday year ends.”

“The best way to meet any challenges is to build a culture of trust within the organisation. After all, a happy employee is one that feels valued and trusted by their employer, feels aligned to the business’ vision and mission and feels that their workplace has a pleasant and motivating culture of honesty. Like any relationship, it’s a two-way process, whereby both employer and employee play a role in making it work.”

So would you allow your staff unlimited holiday time?

The Truth About Trust, Honesty and Integrity at Work – September 2014

The institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) has just released its latest research into Trust in the workplace. The research explored the current state of trust in business, identifying the most powerful drivers of trust and what organisations and individual managers can do to improve trust.

Five fundamental drivers of trust emerged from the research – the key skills and quality that underpin trust. They were (with respondents ranking in brackets):

  • Openness 70%)
  • Effective communication (53%)
  • Ability to make decisions (49%)
  • Integrity (48%)
  • Competence in their role (42%)

Relationships are key to Trust, but so is a seniority. Senior managers have the highest levels of trust at 49%, while middle managers are less trusted with 39%. Colleagues are less trusted and the direct line manger least trusted of all. There is little middle ground either, most reposes are either very high trust or very low trust.

Organisation size is also an important factor. organisations with over 1,000 staff compares unfavourably with small organisations (less than 50 employees). Net trust within the largest organisations is only 27% while small organisations report 58%. Public sector organisations suffer from a significant lack of trust (29%), compared to their private (45%) and third (46%) counterparts. In fact 12% of public sector managers said they trusted either no-one or very few people in their organisation.

Trust differs across generations as well. Millennials are the most trusting (54%), followed by baby boomers (45%). Generation X employees were the leaf trusting (only just) with 44% saying the trusted everyone or almost everyone.

The ILM suggest recommend that focusing on the five fundamental drivers on trust is the best way to increase trust between employees and managers. A key focus for intervention should be first line and middle managers who suffer most from lack of trust.

You can download a full copy of the report here

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About Emenex

We help you keep your great 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 approach to engagement and development. The extraMILETM 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.

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