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

[Editor’s Note – with three of the Emenex team away enjoy well earned holidays this week, you will find that the number of news items is somewhat lower than normal. We hope that you don’t mind]

6 Surprising Insights of Successful Employee Engagement – 14th July

Finally, leaders are now convinced one of their last remaining competitive advantages lies with their people. Businesses have begun to signal to workers that their needs will now be honored on a scale only previously reserved for customers and shareholders.

Raising employee engagement has become one of the highest priorities for organizations all around the globe, according to a 2015 Conference Board CEO study.

While leaders have come to appreciate the importance of having a fully engaged workforce, they also have a very limited understanding of what practices truly drive and sustain it.

Researchers from Deloitte Consulting, Sirota, and the Conference Board combined efforts in October 2014, and performed a deep dive into 12 companies consistently recognized for having high-performing, employee-centric cultures.

The study yielded many uncommon and useful insights, writes Mark C. Crowley for fastcompany.com, most especially the six below, which he expands upon considerably here:

1. Engagement is Still a New Concept

2. Everyone Measures Engagement Differently, but the Findings are the Same

3. Low Engagement Can’t be Entirely Pinned on Bad Managers

4. Helping People Gain Back Time is One Powerful Way of Driving Engagement

5. Quicken Loans: an Example of What Full Engagement Looks Like

6. A Caring Boss May Still be the Greatest Driver of Engagement

With unemployment back to pre-recession levels and the job market heating up, people now have choices about where they work. All things equal, people will stay at a company where they feel loved, respected, and where they can do work they enjoy and believe in matters.

One of the most important conclusions of this research: “The culture you create or the culture you destroy will determine the success of your business.”

How to Manage a Team of B Players – 13th July

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic reminds us that in 2004,  Greece surprised the world by winning the European Championship Football tournament, despite not even being a dark horse in the competition, and with a team of mostly peripheral and unremarkable players facing odds of 150/1 for winning the trophy.  So what allows a team of B players to achieve A+ success?

A great deal of scientific evidence suggests that the key determinants are psychological factors — in particular, the leader’s ability to inspire trust, make competent decisions, and create a high-performing culture where the selfish agendas of the individual team members are eclipsed by the group’s goal, so that each person functions like a different organ of the same organism.

  1. Although effective leaders can have a wide variety of styles, they do tend to share some common personality characteristics:
    They have better judgment than their counterparts, meaning they can make good decisions, learn from experience, and avoid repeating mistakes.
  2. They have higher EQ, which enables them to stay calm under pressure, build close and meaningful relationships with their teams, and remain humble even in the face of victory.
  3. They are insanely driven and tend to have very high levels of ambition, remaining slightly dissatisfied with their success: this is why they stay hungry and continue to work hard, as opposed to getting complacent.

In addition, there are four important tactics any leader can use to make their teams more effective. These key management elements have been found to work even with B players, and could transform a team of average individual contributors into an over-performing team. They are in short:

  • following the right strategy
  • gathering precise performance data
  • giving accurate feedback, and
  • and maintaining high morale.

Since few leaders manage to achieve this even when they have a team of A players, there is much hope for those who do.

How Tech is Changing Employee Psychology – 10th July

In this short video, Prof. Carey Cooper highlights the importance for IT departments to adapt to the changing needs of their workforce, to ensure employees are able to contribute more effectively using more flexible and visual systems.

Unilever’s supply chain chief: Employee engagement holds key to long-term success – 10th July

Reported by edie.net as an EXCLUSIVE, Unilever’s chief supply chain officer Pier Luigi Sigismondi believes a “lack of focus and understanding” and short-termism is holding back the global transition to a more sustainable economy.

Sigismondi said business leaders should instead be empowering employees with “a sense of real purpose” and collaborating with others to build long-term social, environmental and economic strategies.

“I think there is a lack of focus – a lack of understanding about what the real company purpose is,” Sigismondi said. “That is the secret to sustainable success – having a common purpose that embraces everyone in the company to go beyond their own boundaries.”

Walk the walk
Sigismondi speaks from experience. Unilever is widely regarded as the number-one corporate sustainability leader.  “We quickly realised that engaging with employees was the best way to make us sustainable,” explained Sigismondi. “They are the ones who have to find the solutions locally in the different geographical areas we are in. It has not been something that we have had to push down from the top – we provided guidance, knowledge and inspiration and then it became a movement within the company.”

Sigismondi added, “If you can empower your employees to understand that a small action can make a big difference, they will come back to you with an immense amount of positive energy and changes will happen.”

Read much more of Unilever’s approach and future challenges here.

Employee engagement highlighted in Walk & Talk podcast – 10th July

The principles of employee engagement are the focus of the latest episode of the Leeds Beckett Lunchtime Walk & Talk podcast (25 mins).

Cathy Brown, the Executive Director of Engage for Success, speaks to John Hamilton about the four common themes that enable successful employee engagement.

Is too much focus on employee engagement becoming a burden? – 10th July

Employee engagement is a key performance metric for thousands of organisations. But could too high a focus on whether or not employees are happy mean that leaders are distracted from other growth drivers, asks Colin Price for Personnel Today? 

Studies have long suggested that employees who are engaged are more productive and, as a result, employee engagement is an important component for business growth.

Yet despite many companies investing heavily in engagement initiatives, this has had very little impact on staff loyalty.

Valuing engagement above performance is equal to becoming preoccupied with the symptom rather than the cause. While employee engagement has an important role to play, it cannot be allowed to be what defines the operation.

So how do business leaders find and maintain the right balance? In many cases, leaders need to start by recognising that the health of the business should be at the top of their agenda. Those that are diligent in this respect can be confident of both performance and engagement in the years to come.  See the full article to learn much more.

IBM Researchers Try to Measure Employee Well-Being Using Technology – 8th July

Researchers at IBM are looking at whether computer systems can foster well-being among employees. The effort, known as the “Inclusive Enterprise,” seeks to help companies better retain workers by helping them feel a sense of belonging, in part by making them more comfortable physically.

The effort, conducted with Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands, began about a year ago and is ongoing. The scientific challenge involves creating methods and tools that can sense and change an employee’s working environment.

“We envision such next-generation workplaces to inspire a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued and energized while sharing a commitment to do your best work,” said Robert-Jan Sips, a research lead at IBM’s Center for Advanced Studies Benelux in Amsterdam.

Researchers are also experimenting with employee engagement using techniques such as gamification. Go to the Wall Street Journal for the full story and learn more about the data measurement technology being used.

How Companies Can Improve Recruitment And Engagement With Gamification – 7th July

Would you be surprised to find that one of the most important elements for improving recruitment, skill-building and operational efficiency in your startup or small business is the element of fun, asks H. O. Maycotte for forbes.com?

As more and more companies make gamification a part of how they work, having fun—in the context of game playing—is becoming a big part of building a successful company.

Maycotte shares some examples of the transformative power of gamification in the workplace, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to make this growing trend a part of your own company, if you haven’t already.

What People Analytics Can’t Capture – 7th July

TIME magazine recently published a cover story on the latest fad in human resources, using big data analytics and personality test scores to predict who is best for a given job – so-called “XQ.” However, experts caution that big data, like any other, is only as good as the questions being asked – and that some algorithms can make unhelpful assumptions.

Daniel Golemen suggests that using an outcome metric like an executive’s earnings performance, while ignoring his role as a boss and his impact on the morale, loyalty, focus, and stress levels of his direct reports, may result in a false indication of who’s really the best boss.

The strongest predictor of a person’s future behaviour is their past performance itself, and that performance gets evaluated best by people who know that person well. So here’s what Goleman recommends. Keep in mind the distinction between a THRESHOLD competence and a DISTINGUISHING one.

A THRESHOLD skill means everyone must meet this criterion just to be considered for a job. After that, though, are DISTINGUISHING competencies, the skills or abilities that you find in star performers in an organization. It’s the distinguishing competencies you’re looking for in your due diligence with people who have worked with this person in the past.

3 Ways Leaders Accidentally Undermine Their Teams’ Creativity – 7th July

If your team is in the midst of solving a problem or generating a new product or project idea, you might be killing their creativity without even trying. David Burkus suggests three of the most common things managers do that have deleterious effects:

  1. Spending too much time on brainstorming. Brainstorming as commonly practiced represents just one step in the large creative process, a step often referred to as divergent thinking. Before divergent thinking can have any benefit, your team needs to have thoroughly researched the problem and be sure that their brainstorming answers the right question. Divergent thinking should be followed up with convergent thinking, where ideas are combined and sorted out to find the few answers that might be the best fit so that they can be prototyped, tested, and refined.
  2. Fostering too much cohesion.  Structured, task-oriented conflict can be a signal that new ideas are being submitted to the group and tested. Research suggests that teams that forgo traditional brainstorming rules and debate over ideas as they’re presented end up with more and better ideas. As a leader, it may seem like your job is to break up and fights, but don’t be afraid to act as a referee instead — allowing the fight over ideas to unfold, but making sure it stays fair and doesn’t get personal.
  3. Judging ideas before they’ve been tested. We tend to favor ideas that reinforce the status quo and managers often tend to reject the ideas customers say they want. Instead of judging ideas first and then testing them in the marketplace, the best leaders find ways to test ideas first and defer judgment until they have early results.

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 delivers higher levels of profit, productivity and customer satisfaction. They also know that a more progressive solution is required – one that delivers above and beyond expectations and 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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