Emenex Weekly News

Each week we bring you news, opinions and research on Employee Engagement, Leadership and Motivation, along with some thoughts on practical workplace applications.

Winning Hearts and Minds in the 21st Century

Leaders must consider new ways to change the attitudes and behavior of employees.

The psychological contract that traditionally bound employees to their employers has been fraying. Many of today’s workers, having experienced the pain of the economic downturn and large-scale layoffs, no longer feel as much loyalty and commitment to their organizations as they did even a decade ago. Job hopping has been described as the “new normal,” and millennials are expected to hold 15 to 20 positions over the course of their working lives.

Meanwhile, middle management—the executives who traditionally act as a conduit for communication from the top to the bottom of companies—has been hollowed out. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in the face of these two trends, leaders struggle to get their employees to embrace big change programs. Rather than adapt to the demands of an organizational transformation, employees are more likely to resist passively, undermining the effort and spreading that contagion throughout the organization. Or they might simply decide that such a transformation isn’t worth the risk and look for their next opportunity elsewhere.

To counter these problems, it’s more important than ever for companies in transition to invest time and effort in changing the mind-sets and behavior of the workforce.

Almost 15 years ago, McKinsey introduced the idea that four key actions could work together to support such initiatives: fostering understanding and conviction, reinforcing change through formal mechanisms, developing talent and skills, and modeling the new roles.  You’ll find new research from Mckinsey and additional links for more background to this theme here.

Blog: Are you Ready to Take the Lead?

Last week I had the opportunity of travelling to Belgrade, former capital city of Yugoslavia, and now Serbia, home country of the world #1 tennis star, Novak Djokovic.novak-djokovic

I was there to complete the final step of the train-the-trainer accreditation with two HR Learning & Development Managers on our Career Development Programme that has become the foundation for current and future leaders and managers at this multinational drinks organisation.

I first met this very competent and enthusiastic group of six Eastern European and Balkan L&D managers back in October in Budapest for a three-day certification where they first completed the programme for themselves and then completed the first part of their accreditation process.

Last week was their first opportunity for two of that cohort to deliver the programme to their fellow employees, my role being the coach and safety net.  Fortunately the coaching won through and the safety net was not required! Read more here.

It’s time to move beyond engagement.  Empower and align employees with organisational priorities to build a culture of high performance, well being and career satisfaction.  To learn more, call 03450 523 593

EDS Emenex

Is Your Culture Just a Suggestion?

Aubrey Daniels points out in this article that “all organisations have a culture. It may not be the one that executives like or intend to have, but there is a culture.” He goes on to explain that culture is not driven by fancy words from senior managers, but by behaviour. When there is a disconnection between what is said and what is done, confusion and distrust follow, says Daniels. When identifying desired behaviours, he suggests, be sure to reinforce those behaviours along the way, even if it is only to thank employees who exhibit them.

Daniels proposes four actions to move a negative culture to a positive one:

  1. Take note of your interactions with employees. Think about how you respond to suggestions and input.
  2. Identify what individuals find reinforcing. Be sure you understand and apply the right reinforcers for each individual.
  3. Establish yourself as a reinforcer. Positive reinforcement is contagious.
  4. Go out of your way to reinforce good work. When you see people perform well, reinforce their behaviour.

Take Charge of your career, team or organisation by aligning individual goals with organisational priorities. To learn more, call 03450 523 593

 5 Barriers to Employee Engagement

There are five possible barriers to employee engagement, writes William Rothwell, for the Association of Talent Development:

#1: Lack of Clarity
Some associate engagement with employee job satisfaction, morale, or even mere happiness. But it means much more than that. Engaged workers are satisfied with their jobs, motivated to do their best, satisfied with the work they do and the organization in which they do it, loyal to their organization, willing to say good things to others about their jobs and their organization, and proud of what they do and the organization in which they work.

To overcome uncertainty among workers and managers about engagement, educate them, and explain the solid business reasons.

#2: Cynicism
In short, a true cynic will not see engagement as a genuine effort, but rather as the latest management trick to get workers to work harder for no reason.  To overcome management or employee cynicism about engagement, demonstrate why engagement is more than a management fad. Describe the successes and benefits of placing a consistent emphasis on building and sustaining engagement and present it as an essential element in good management practice.

#3: Bureaucracy
In bureaucratic organizations, rules and procedures must be followed regardless of how appropriate they may be to a situation. Control, not results, is prized above all. In these settings, workers may lose hope and grow alienated because they have to work hard to have their ideas heard or get approval to make common sense changes.

To overcome bureaucracy, find a workaround solution. Do not let an adherence to unthinking rules wear you out. Fight a guerilla war if need be!

#4: Lack of Work-Life Balance
Some organizational leaders expect their workers to put their lives on hold, placing the organization first on all occasions.  Their greatest fear is that if they don’t work extra hard, they may be the next victims of a downsizing. Under these conditions, it is impossible to be fully engaged because workers feel coerced, however subtly, to be on the job. But time on the job does not always correlate to productivity (or job security), because the value of time spent at work hinges on how it is spent.

#5: Poor Management Decisions
Capricious managers make decisions, but then change their minds quickly, and not always for obvious reasons. Workers faced with such managers feel disengaged because they do not feel heard, and do not believe their opinions are valued or supported.

To overcome capricious management practice, confront managers who change their minds and refuse to let them off the hook until they explain their rationale.

Top Sources of Stress (and what you can do about them.)

The April edition of the CIPD’s Employee Outlook Focuses on flexible working.  Their report finds that the three biggest causes of stress amongst employees are:

  1. money (22%)
  2. pressure or working hours (20%
  3. Family or relationship issues (20%)

The CIPD points to flexible woking as a strategy to reduce stress amongst the workforce.  The report finds that 65% of those working flexibly are satisfied at work , whereas only 45% of employees not working flexibly are satisfied.  Clearly flexible working has its place, although it doesn’t necessarily remove money issues. The best way to deal with pay is to remove it as an issue altogether.  Paying people poorly is short term thinking, but it’s complicated and for another day (take a look at Adams Equity Theory for an insight).

One of the key benefits of flexible working is giving employees more control over their work-life balance.  The feeling of being in control is a powerful contributor to personal well-being and flexible working can help with this.  Not every business can offer flexible working to all of its employees however, but there are other ways to help employees take more ownership and accountability for their results:

  • Set clear expectations.  If employees are unclear about their objectives, or if they appear to complete with organisational goals, vision or values, then confusion, demotivation, quality and stress increases.
  • Provide sufficient resources to achieve the desired outcome.  Other studies have pointed to lack of resources being a major contributor to missed targets and high levels of stress. Constantly expecting people to do more with less is a recipe for disaster.  Look for ways to increase employee involvement in creativity and innovation to address challenges.
  • Develop effective leadership soft skills in line managers.  Research suggests soft skills are worth £88bn to the UK economy.  The need for managers to connect at an emotional level with employees has never been higher. The pace of change, the volatility of the workplace and the emergence of a new employee group all point towards the need for a new relationship based management style.  Google discovered through Project Aristotle that positive relationships between team members was the decisive factor in overall team success.
  • Give and receive regular feedback and coaching. Rather than an isolated comment, feedback is an ongoing 2-way dialogue.  Effective leaders are great listeners and help their team members build ownership, confidence and capability through coaching conversations.  Another Google project, Oxygen, found that coaching skills was the most important trait in their best managers.

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