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;

7 Ways to Unlock Your Company’s Creative Juices – 6th October

Maite Baron says that most businesses view creativity with suspicion, because it speaks of the unknown and unpredictable and conjures up the prospect of employees not doing what needs to be done.

Because of such fears, when companies do allow creativity through their doors, they do it grudgingly and confine it to certain areas, like marketing. Even then, strict “creative guidelines” have to be followed and once decisions are made, creativity is packed away.

But does this constraining approach to creativity sit comfortably in an entrepreneurial world that’s changing faster than ever? The answer is no. If entrepreneurial companies are to thrive, then creativity has to become a major component of their DNA.

She lists the seven mindset shifts needed to bring creativity to the forefront of your enterprise;

  1. Welcome crazy ideas. As a leader, embrace creativity like a long lost friend and welcome it into your organization with open arms.
  2. Awaken the creative genius within. Creativity is inside all of us, just waiting to be discovered or reignited, so start looking for ways to bring it out.
  3. Realize that there are a thousand paths to creativity. Recognize that creativity takes many different forms. It doesn’t just mean coming up with razzle-dazzle advertising slogans or a new product idea. Creativity can be applied to anything and every aspect of your business can benefit.
  4. Use art as a catalyst. Art forces us to think differently, so looking at paintings, photographs and sculptures are all great ways to help release your and others inner creative potential.
  5. Shut out the noise. The word noise comes from the Latin word ‘nausea’, which seems very fitting these days, as we’re inundated with so much information. Try “practicing silence” daily, and you will soon see your own creativity flourish.
  6. Question your old ideas. To move forward it’s often necessary to let go of the past. This can entail readjusting your thinking and “unlearning” your familiar ways of doing things.
  7. Keep away from the ordinary. Exposure to mediocrity and dullness will kill your creativity. So rather than looking for approval from others by doing what they do, be willing to tread your own path. You need to trust your own instincts if you want to thrive. Make taking courageous choices a daily goal.

Getting the Recipe Right – 6 October

The idea of an engagement mix has been buzzing around for a few months in the mind of Rob Bridges, Communications Manager at Engage for Success (EFS). As he compiled the event review of the Future of Engagement he noticed that Professor Paul Sparrow also talked about organisations creating their own engagement recipe.

Throw in the fact that it’s Bake Off season again on the BBC and he knew that he had to reinvigorate his idea for an EFS cake shop!

Rob reminds us that a cake recipe is made up of flour, fat, some liquid to bind everything together and some flavouring. You might use plain flour or self raising or even a gluten free alternative. You might use eggs or water as the liquid. The fat might be butter or oil. And your flavour might be almonds or sugar or vanilla.

The Same Four Basic Ingredients

The point is that there are many different types of cake but that they all use the same four basic ingredients. The way that you mix them and the type of each ingredient you use dictates the finished result. Engagement is the same.

He adds, that “some organisations are Battenberg organisations and want a little bit of almond flavour, others are a classic Victoria sponge. The key thing here is to recognise what type of engagement cake you are trying to bake and to use the right blend of narrative, managers, voice and integrity to get the desired result.”

Rob invites you to share your recipe on the EFS website, or if you’ve got a great case study then email it to him at EFS: content@engageforsuccess.org

He also suggests you check out this ‘excellent blog‘ from The Pioneers. It’ll give you an excuse to count watching GBBO as work!

Regular Exercise Is Part of Your Job – 3rd October

Ron Friedman suggests that when we think about the value of exercise, we tend to focus on the physical benefits: lower blood pressure, a healthier heart, a more attractive physique etc. But there is compelling evidence suggesting that there is another, more immediate benefit of regular exercise: its impact on the way we think.

Studies indicate that our mental firepower is directly linked to our physical regimen. And nowhere are the implications more relevant than to our performance at work. Consider the following cognitive benefits, all of which you can expect as a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine:

  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Faster learning
  • Prolonged mental stamina
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Lower stress

Exercise has also been show to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance.  When your job requires you to build interpersonal connections and foster collaborations feeling irritable is no longer simply an inconvenience. It can directly influence the degree to which you are successful.

There is also evidence suggesting that exercise during regular work hours may boost performance. A research study involving 200 employee at a variety of companies showed the following;

On days when employees visited the gym, their experience at work changed. They reported managing their time more effectively, being more productive, and having smoother interactions with their colleagues. Just as important: They went home feeling more satisfied at the end of the day.

Friedman asks ‘What prevents us from exercising more often.’ For many of us, the answer is simple: We don’t have the time.
In fairness, this is a legitimate explanation. There are weeks when work is overwhelming and deadlines outside our control need to be met.
But let’s be clear: What we really mean when we say we don’t have time for an activity is that we don’t consider it a priority given the time we have available.

This is why the research illuminating the cognitive benefits of exercise is so compelling. Exercise enables us to soak in more information, work more efficiently, and be more productive.

Given the evidence perhaps it’s time we started considering physical activity as part of our daily work. The alternative, which involves processing information more slowly, forgetting more often, and getting easily frustrated, makes us less effective at our jobs and harder to get along with for our colleagues.

So how do you successfully incorporate exercise into your routine? Here are a few research-based suggestions.

  • Identify a physical activity you actually like. Find a physical activity you can look forward to doing, like tennis, swimming, dancing, softball, or even vigorously playing the drums. You are far more likely to stick with an activity if you genuinely enjoy doing it.
  • Invest in improving your performance. Instead of settling for “getting some exercise,” focus on mastering an activity instead. Mastery goals, which psychologists define as goals that centre on achieving new levels of competence, have consistently been shown to predict persistence across a wide range of domains.
  • Become part of group, not a collective.  One recommendation aspiring gym-goers often receive is to find an exercise regimen that involves other people. It’s good advice. Socializing makes exercise more fun, which improves the chances that you’ll keep doing it. It’s also a lot harder to back out on a friend or a trainer than to persuade yourself that just one night off couldn’t hurt.
  • And whilst the research suggests that exercising as part of a collective is preferable to working out alone, it’s not nearly as effective as exercising as part of a team. So consider volleyball, soccer, doubles tennis—any enjoyable, competence-enhancing activity in which your efforts contribute directly to a team’s success, and where if you don’t show up, others will suffer.

Regardless of how you go about incorporating exercise into your routine, reframing it as part of your job makes it a lot easier to make time for it. Remember, you’re not abandoning work. On the contrary: You’re ensuring that the hours you put in have value.

What You Should Know About Recruiting Millennials – 3rd October

Kevin Mason, HR expert and author, highlights in this article that whilst the workforce is changing as Millennials enter it, they add so much to organisations. Just as they need a particular management approach, so recruiting them should be considered carefully too. He identifies 5 tips to consider.

Engage in social media – This generation is more active on social media than any before, and it’s not even close. Millennials use social media for everything, so you can be sure that they will be using social media tools to search for and evaluate potential employers. Make sure you are actively managing your company’s LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc. accounts and that they actively reflect what your company is all about.

Compensate with more than money – Millennials are attracted to organisations that offer more creative terms than pay alone. For example, he cites training or paid tuition, flexible work schedules, paid company lunches, time off for charitable work, fun company events etc. as examples.

Start recruiting before they graduate – The best candidates often have their first job before they graduate, so if you aren’t tapping into college students you could be missing out, says Mason. Offer internships and attend career events on campus, and use social media to engage with students and share your story with them.

Create a strong company culture/community – Millennials want to be proud of their employer and know that they are more than just another company. For example, consider ways to support worthwhile causes.

Have flexible work options – Millennials embrace technology and more than any generation before, have the tools to work from anywhere at any time. Your Millennial recruits will want to know that they have the flexibility to balance work/life in an effective way, as long as the work gets done. “Trust me, it will” says Mason.

Don’t be left out, he concludes. “If you continue to use your old, potentially stale recruiting methods you could be left out of this amazing opportunity to add some great talent to you organisation.”

5 Ways to Work from Home More Effectively – 2nd October

As more people are foregoing a lengthy commute and working from home, Carolyn O’Hara asks whether you are a full-time freelancer or occasional telecommuter? Working outside an office can be a challenge, so what are the best ways to set yourself up for success? How do you stay focused and productive? And how do you keep your work life separate from your home life?

O’Hara identifies the following five ways to get the best from working at home;

Maintain a regular schedule – Setting a schedule not only provides structure to the day, it also helps you stay motivated. Start the day as you would if you worked in an office: Get up early, get dressed, and try to avoid online distractions once you sit down to work. Whether you just started working at home or you’ve been doing it for months or years, take a few weeks to determine the best rhythm for your day. Then set realistic expectations for what you can accomplish on a daily basis.

Set clear boundaries – When you work at home, it’s easy to let your work life blur into your home life. To avoid this there are several things you can do. One way is to set aside a separate space in your home for work. Make sure your friends and loved ones understand that even though you are at home, you are off limits during your scheduled work hours.
And don’t worry about stopping for the day if you’re on a roll with a project. Pausing in the middle of something will make it easier to jump into the task the next day — a tip that is valid for everyone, but especially those working from home.

Take regular breaks – It may be tempting to work flat out, especially if you’re trying to prove that you’re productive at home. But it’s vital to “take regular ‘brain breaks,’” says Hallowell. How often is best? Researchers at a social media company recently tracked the habits of their most productive employees. They discovered that the best workers typically worked intently for around 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute break.

Stay connected – Prolonged isolation can lead to weakened productivity and motivation. So if you don’t have a job that requires face-time with others on a daily basis, you need to put in the extra effort to stay connected. Make a point of scheduling regular coffees and meetings with colleagues, clients, and work peers. Get involved with professional organizations. And use online networking sites like LinkedIn to maintain connections with far-flung contacts.

Celebrate your wins – When you’re working on your own at home, staying motivated can be difficult, especially when distractions — Facebook, that pile of laundry, the closet that needs organizing — abound. One smart way to maintain momentum is to spend a moment or two acknowledging what you have been able to accomplish that day, rather than fixating on what you still need to do.

We Need Better Managers, Not More Technocrats – 30th September

Didier Bonnet writes that digital technology is the biggest agitator of the business world today. Mobile technology, social media, cloud computing, embedded devices, big data, and analytics have radically changed the nature of work and competition.  And digital innovations will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Technology has tremendous potential to be the engine of increasing human, organizational, and economic prosperity.

However, digital technology is not the true story. Digital transformation is. Fulfilling technology’s potential will require leaders to recreate the way their institutions operate in a world of digital ubiquity. Leaders need to engage their people in a process of redefining how they work and what their companies do. Digital transformation is therefore the key managerial imperative for today’s business leaders.

So, are large corporations – or, more specifically, the leaders of those firms – ready to face the challenge? Or as Richard Straub of the Peter Drucker Society of Europe puts the question, “are managers equipped – in terms of skills, competencies and courage?”

Cap Gemini has evidence to suggest that only a minority of companies are ready and their managers equipped to succeed.

Within this minority are some companies they term “Digital Masters”, These firms use digital technology to drive significantly higher profit, productivity, and customer benefits. They take advantage of the transformative potential of digital technology to radically redesign how their organizations operate and compete.

Digital Masters achieve so much more because they maintain a dual perspective on the transformation they must bring about. The first one is the most straightforward: they make smart investments in digital technology to innovate their customer engagements, and the business processes and business models that support them. The second is too often forgotten. Digital Masters build strong leadership capabilities to envision and drive transformation within their companies and their cultures. They innovate the practice of management for a digital world.

So, in a time of brilliant technological advances, the decisive and scarce source of advantage is actually leadership capability.

What does this entail?  Four key elements stand out in the Digital Masters we studied : their visions, their engagement of employees, the governance systems they establish, and the IT/business synergies they seek.

Digital transformation starts when you create a transformative vision of how your firm will be different in the digital world. But vision is not enough. You need to engage employees in making the vision a reality. Peter Drucker was on to this truth many years ago, writing that “your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.”

Even with vision and engagement, it is difficult to channel an organization’s energies. That’s where digital governance comes in. In many companies, coordination, and sharing tend to be unnatural acts. Yet, the biggest benefits of digital transformation come exactly from engaging in these acts of cross-silo coordination and sharing.

Finally, digital transformation requires executives to break down silos at the leadership level. In the ranks of Digital Masters, business and IT leaders fuse their skills and perspectives so that they drive digital transformation together.

Regardless of industry or geography, businesses will become much more digitized in the years to come. It’s inevitable. But we do not subscribe to the view that technocrats will therefore become the new managerial masters. Quite the contrary, leadership and human-centric organizations will remain the path to innovation, fulfilling work, and value creation.

Managing People from 5 Generations – 25th September

For the first time in history, five generations will soon be working side by side writes Rebacca Knight. But whether this multi-generational workplace feels happy and productive or challenging and stressful is, in large part, up to you: the boss. How should you relate to employees of different age groups? How do you motivate someone much older or much younger than you? And finally: what can you do to encourage employees of different generations to share their knowledge?

What the Experts Say

As people work longer and delay retirement, internal career paths have changed. “Organizational careers don’t look the way they did before,” says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School and coauthor of Managing the Older Worker. “It’s more common to see someone younger managing someone older.”
This can lead to tension on both sides. “Maybe there is a feeling of: why am I being bossed around by someone without a lot of experience? On the other hand, maybe the younger person feels insecure and wonders: how do I do this?”

“It’s important to be aware of generational tension — loosely defined as a lack of respect for someone who’s of a different generation from you — among colleagues,” says Jeanne C. Meister, a founding partner of Future Workplace, a human resources consultancy and the coauthor of The 2020 Workplace. “It’s your job to help your employees recognize that they each have distinct sets of skills and different things they bring to the table,” she says. Here’s how.

Don’t dwell on differences

The Boomer mystified by Facebook; the Millenial who wears flip-flops in the office; the Traditionalist (born prior to 1946) who seemingly won’t ever retire; the cynical Gen Xer who’s only out for himself; and the Gen 2020er — born after 1997 — who appears surgically attached to her smartphone.Generational stereotypes abound but according to Cappelli, “they are just not true.

There is no evidence that 35-year-old managers today are any different from 35-year-old managers a generation ago.” Besides, your goal is to help your team “move beyond the labels.” Generation-based employee affinity groups are a waste of time and energy, he adds. Don’t assume people need special treatment and “don’t dwell on differences with a group discussion that devolves into: ‘People my age feel like this.’ Or ‘All Boomers act a certain way.’ There’s a lot of variation,” he says. “Get to know each person individually.”

Build collaborative relationships

While it may seem daunting to manage someone much older than you, try taking a cue from the military. The U.S. Marine Corps routinely puts 22-year-old lieutenants in charge of 45-year-old sergeants, notes Cappelli. “The mindset is to make that person your partner and involve them in everything you do. You’re still the boss and the one making the decisions, but you should hear them out.” A collaborative approach works well when managing workers who are in their 20s, too. “They are used to discussion and engagement because that’s what they had in the college environment,” Cappelli says. Help your employees make the transition from school to the workplace by encouraging debate. “You don’t necessarily need to take their advice, but be aware that this is where they’re coming from,” he says.

Study your employees

“Just as you would research a new product or service, you need to study the demographics of your current workforce and the projected demographics of your future workforce to determine what they want out of their jobs as these things are different generation to generation,” says Meister. If your company conducts an annual survey of vision and values, Meister suggests adding new questions to the mix, such as queries about your employees’ preferred communication style and planned professional paths. Then “use that information to look critically at your human resources and business strategies. Figure out: What matters to different sets of employees? What can you do [to attract younger or more experienced workers]? It’s a low cost way to get a pulse on generational career issues,” says Meister.

Create opportunities for cross-generational mentoring

Reverse or reciprocal mentoring programs, which pair younger workers with seasoned executives to work on specific business objectives usually involving technology, are increasingly prevalent in many offices. “The younger person — who grew up with the internet — teaches the older person about the power of social media to drive business results,” says Meister. Meanwhile, the more experienced employee shares institutional knowledge with the younger worker. Mixed-age work teams are another way to promote cross-generational mentoring. “Studies show that colleagues learn more from each other than they do from formal training, which is why it is so important to establish a culture of coaching across age groups,” says Meister. In mixed-age teams, mentoring relationships develop more naturally, adds Cappelli.  “Older folks are more likely to fall into a mentor role and help the young employees,” he says. Meanwhile, young people often find it easier to take advice from an experienced worker than from one of their peers “because they’re not competing in the same way,” he says.

Consider life paths

When it comes to inspiring and incentivizing employees who are much older or much younger than you, it helps to think like an anthropologist. “Consider where your employees are in their lives and what their needs are,” says Meister. Younger people, for instance, typically don’t have many outside obligations; work-wise, they are motivated by new experiences and opportunities. Employees in their 30s and 40s, on the other hand, often have children and mortgages and are in need of flexibility as well as “money and advancement” says Cappelli. Workers at the end of their careers “are probably not as interested in training, but they do want interesting work and work-life balance,” he says. “Understanding the characteristics around these predictable life paths will help you figure out how best to [divvy up] work assignments and also the best ways to manage and motivate your team.”

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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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