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:

When Will Employees REALLY Become Your “Most Important Asset?” – 22nd June

Ron Thomas proposes that the words “employees are our greatest or most important asset” should be outlawed. He picks out some data from the MetLife UAE Employee Benefits Study (follow the link for the details) that show that there is no shortcut when building value.

In order to get a return on any asset, you MUST invest in that asset, says Thomas. Only with determination and dedication to your people can your organisation serve your clients or customers to generate long-term value for your shareholders and contribute to the broader public good.  There are no shortcuts to building this value. You have to invest in your people, not view them as a cost.

Same numbers, different scenario

Thomas suggests another way to look at it. Imagine, he proposes, that you were losing 20-30 percent of your clients each year. With this scenario, you would surely realise that wholesale changes are the only solution that would put you back on track. No step would be ignored as you tried to “right this ship.” The seriousness of this scenario is the same if your engagement level is low or if your organisation is churning employees.

Lets hope senior leadership can wake up

If you are a senior leader, suggests Thomas, and your overall employee value proposition (EVP) does not mean anything to you, you are in serious trouble. “So my advice” says Thomas “is the next time you enter into a meeting concerning your workforce, do not lead with ‘how much?’ … … Take that EVP and those five words they spout from time to time — that employees are your “greatest or most important asset” — and retire them both until you can live up to them for your organisation as well as your employees.”

Engaging Gen Z? More Tradition, Less Tech – 22nd June

Research from Adecco and reported in HRdirector, reveals that Gen Z are far more conventional than previously assumed. In recruitment, the personal touch counts more, ethics are more important than salary and long term security is preferred to short term perks.

5 Myths About Organizational Culture Every CEO Should Know – 22nd June

Chris Cancialosi points out that whilst culture has become an increasingly important topic we still haven’t figured out how to effectively shape it to drive the right behaviors in their organizations. This makes it difficult for businesses to measure bottom-line performance metrics like profitability, sales growth and market share as they relate to culture.

With that in mind, Cancialosi describes 5 common myths about organizational culture;

Myth #1: “We can’t manage what we can’t measure.“

The term “culture” is in and of itself pretty tough for people to wrap their heads around in a consistent and meaningful way. Culture can cover any number of aspects of organizational functioning. It evolves constantly based on what seems to be working in the current business context and it subconsciously influences people to behave in certain ways. Often, employees are not even aware of how it’s affecting their everyday work. How can we hope to manage something we find difficult to even define? There are a lot of aspects of culture that are all playing a role in shaping employees thoughts and behaviors in the day-to-day, but only some of those have been studied rigorously and have been found to be directly linked to performance. If you’re working to understand your current culture and how it may be impacting the performance of your business, start with the aspects of culture that are linked to empirical research; not just someone else’s opinion.

Myth #2: “Culture takes years to change.”

This is not wholly untrue. It does take a long time for collective norms and ways of working to develop and, through success, become more entrenched in the collective mindset as the right way to do things. The longer that “way of doing things” reigns supreme (and the longer that way meets with successful results) the harder it is to change it. That said, culture can change quickly. It usually takes a “gut punch” to the organization that clearly shows everyone that the old ways of doing things that had yielded success for many years are no longer going to cut it in today’s business environment.

Myth #3: “Culture is a silver bullet that will take away all of our problems.”

Business today is extremely dynamic, involving more and more stakeholders who demand greater amounts of input and control than ever before. Trying to find a silver bullet solution to these kinds of complex issues is akin to spotting a unicorn ordering a double macchiato at your local Starbucks. Culture is inherently a multi-faceted concept and, thus, there is no single solution that’s going to align everyone in your organization to reach your goals. Typically, true culture transformation requires a multi-pronged approach to achieve the results you require.

Myth #4: “It’s HR’s job to worry about stuff like this.”

While HR can, and often does, play a critical role in the culture assessment and evolution process in many organizations, one fatal pitfall is when executives extend that role to include ownership of the entire process. Culture is a collective concept and, as such, should be owned by the collective. Everyone in your organization needs to be involved in both understanding what aspects of the culture will help drive success and which may need to change in order to keep the organization relevant in changing business environments.

Myth #5: “We can do this internally.”

In other words, you and your team were involved in creating the culture, so it’s up to you to fix it. Yes and no. In many instances, organizations find it difficult to assess and evolve their own culture because so much of it resides in the collective subconscious and is taken for granted in the day-to-day. Because of this, it is often much more beneficial to engage with a team of external experts who can examine your organization with fresh and unbiased eyes. An objective third party can help facilitate a more honest assessment of current assumptions and behaviors.

Now that you know the truth, it’s up to you, as a leader, to help your organization succeed.

The Best Employee Engagement Strategy is From The Bottom Up – 22nd June

So what’s the right employee engagement strategy to dramatically increase engagement in your organization, asks Kevin Kruse for forbes.com?

Well let’s first talk about the wrong strategy…

Usually, someone from HR has to convince the CEO to spend money on an employee survey. And when the results come back, the data is hoarded by the senior leadership and a committee is formed to brainstorm ways to improve engagement. The committee might implement things like an employee appreciation day, an awards program, launch new employee resource groups (ERGs) and perhaps even a tweak to the benefits.

But the problem with this brainstorm-at-the-top approach is that over 70% of the variance in engagement correlates to the manager (source: Gallup Business Journal, April 8, 2015). In other words, who your boss is counts more than anything. Front line leaders are the regulators of engagement.

So all those top down ideas don’t matter if you’ve still got the same boss, and if your boss hasn’t changed her behaviors.

The right employee engagement strategy instead of being top down, is from the bottom up; see Kruse’s full article to see his three key steps and understand how the manager must facilitate for staff dialogue, not solve problems.

Company leaders should never assume they have all the answers. The best employee engagement strategy is one where the organization surveys the employees at least annually, the results are shared with every manager, and in turn, each manager creates an action plan with her team members.

That’s an employee engagement strategy that gets results.

Gary Cattermole: Personality trait mapping and employee engagement – 19th June

A survey of nearly 400,000 people carried out by Cambridge scientists to analyse the way different personalities cluster across Great Britain, has found that Londoners rank among the least welcoming and most lazy people in the country. It also shows that the Welsh tend to be more anxious and depressed and that Scots are the most emotionally stable.

For Cattermole – an employee engagement specialist – one of the most interesting facts to come out of this survey is that while some long-held regional stereotypes have been reinforced, others have been almost completely overturned.

This highlights what he has always told employers, which is that in order to engage fully and effectively with their workforce, they need to understand what makes each employee tick – what drives them, which factors influence them, what they are afraid of, what they embrace – organisations need to be able to formulate a complete picture of their workforce in order to engage properly.

Behavioural traits and location

The Cambridge survey quizzed nearly 400,000 people across Britain on five key personality traits – extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness and revealed some very interesting patterns that could offer organisations a great insight into the likely behavioural traits of their employees dependent on their location.

Using the outcomes to improve staff retention

What this survey shows is that employee engagement cannot be approached with a one solution fits all attitude. Organisations need to fully engage with staff to establish the differences in their workforces before putting strategies in place that will play to their strengths and mitigate against, or perhaps even overcome, their weaknesses.

Read much more here in HR Review about this survey’s regional results and the impact for employers.

A Manifesto for Creating Extraordinary Teams – 18th June

A New Science is showing us how staying in-the-flow may be the most important part of building extraordinary teams says Thomas Koulopoulos. His article borrows from the work of Dr. Judy Glick who has been studying what it takes to create a state of flow for many years (with the Georgia Smoke Divers (GSD), an extreme, experiential training program for elite firefighters in Georgia that focuses on flow-based experiences).

  • Lead by example. Demonstrate your commitment to service through servant leadership. In the words of the Georgia Smoke Diver Chief Elder, be a “leader of equals.”
  • Communicate your vision and a sense of purpose. Every morning the GSD reads its mission out loud to all instructors and students. You can never remind people enough of how important that purpose is; it’s their compass setting for every decision they make.
  • Establish and maintain an infrastructure that supports the work of the organization. Poor systems will pull an individual out of his or her flow state in a heartbeat. Provide your team with tools to get the job done and then let them figure out how to do it.
  • Create trust with rituals and storytelling. Prior to all student drills GSD instructors tells a story of how the drill was developed as a result of someone losing his or her life in the line of duty.
  • Honor individual creativity. If a GSD instructor has an idea, he can immediately capture it and turn it into Operations and Plans.
  • Use positive motivation. One of the GSD teams is called the Mo Squad. These are instructors whose sole responsibility is to motivate students. What would your work environment look like if you had people whose sole purpose it was to give encouragement to others?
  • Learn what gives people joy and give them the opportunities to do it. Ask people what they love about their work. Then, listen. People find flow in the tasks and activities where they are strongest.

Creativity and innovation are the inevitable results of unfettered team-flow. If all of these components are in place, each individual in the organization becomes a leader. Change is integrated into the fabric of the culture. Your people will embrace change, because they are creating it on a moment-by-moment basis.

The 3 Ways People React to Career Disasters – 18th JUNE

Mirvis, Marks and Ashkenas analysed 9000+ responses to the HBR survey and learned that with career setbacks, it’s not how hard you fall, but how you pick yourself up that really matters. Resilience alone won’t cut it—you need to do some serious self-reflection.

Three overall patterns emerged of how people respond to Career Dissasters:

  1. Some stewed over their loss and got stuck in a cycle of self-justification.
  2. Others tried to work through their setbacks but struggled to adapt to their new realities.
  3. Nearly half of respondents focused on learning from their loss through “identity work”—they thought about the role they played, sought opinions from different people, and took steps to care for themselves. They were the ones able to move forward most effectively.

They identified two competencies as crucial in successfully navigating today’s careers:

  1. Personal adaptability – the “predisposition to scan and read external signals consciously and continuously.”
  2. Identity development – “a person’s ‘self-system,’ representing the person’s image of herself or himself in relation to the environment.”

Those who leapt into an aggressive job search absent of self-reflection were far more likely than other managers to keep operating as usual—and to have concluded that their career loss was “one of the worst things that ever happened to me.”   Those who turned to identity work, however, were much more likely to experiment with new ways of working and also focused on “finding a good fit.”

They were most likely to say that their loss was one of the best things to happen to them!

Four Skills for Leading People When They Know More than You Do – 18th JUNE

As your career advances, at some point you will most likely be promoted into a job which includes responsibility for areas outside your specialty. Your subordinates will ask questions that you cannot answer and may not even understand. How can you lead them when they know a lot more about their work than you do? This is the point where careers can derail. So, what can you do?

Your natural inclination may be to put your head down and work harder to master the situation; however, to succeed in this situation, you must learn and practice a new leadership style. Your old style of management, which Wallace and Creelman call “specialist management”, depended on expertise. You need to put that behind you and adopt a new style of management: the “generalist” management style.

Here are the four key skills to develop and practice:

  1. Focus on relationships, not facts – A specialist manager knows what to do; the generalist manager knows who to call. The specialist leader tells her staff the answer, the generalist brings them together to collectively find the answer.
  2. Add value by enabling things to happen, not by doing the work – as the expert leader it was easy to see your contribution, as a generalist you cannot do the work directly, but you can enable things to happen. One useful tactic is to sit in on a meeting between a direct report and his subordinates. If the conversation is two-way, that’s a good sign. If the manager does all the talking and the subordinates are passive, that’s a bad sign and you need to dig more deeply.
  3. Practice seeing the bigger picture, not mastering the details – as a generalist leader much of your value comes from your ability to see the big picture better than others around you. A useful tactic is to take the problem you are focusing on and see how it is affecting the people two levels below you. Then think how the problem is affecting people two levels above you. It’s a simple tactic to describe, but it really challenges you to think deeply.
  4. Rely on “executive presence” to project confidence, not on having all the facts or answers – as a generalist you must draw on that elusive quality of “executive presence” to inspire confidence in others. Executive presence isn’t a mystery any more than project planning is; it is a skill you develop. The most useful thing you can do is pay attention to presence. When someone who has presence walks into a meeting notice how they dress, how they speak, how they stand—these are not personality traits, they are skills.

Your role as a leader is to bring out the best in others, even when they know more than you. The good news is that the tactics described above have helped many leaders across this treacherous gap, and they can work for you too.

4 Ways to Build a Productive Sales Culture – 16th JUNE 16

Frank Cespedes and Steve Maughan rightly state that all businesses face opportunity costs. In the case of a sales organization, money, time, and effort allocated to accounts A and B are resources not available for accounts C, D, and so on. That reality drives the distinction between Effectiveness (optimization by doing the right things) and Efficiency (doing things right) that Peter Drucker and others made years ago.

A confusion between efficiency and optimization plagues many sales efforts. Sales Efficiency (SE) initiatives — like CRM, training, and KPI dashboards — improve the sales engine’s horsepower. Sales Optimization (SO) decisions — like aligning sales tasks with business strategy, customer selection, and sales force deployment across opportunities — set the direction in which sales will travel.  As the Cheshire cat responded to Alice, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Work of the Boston Consulting Group indicates that SO practices have more than three times the impact on revenue growth than SE initiatives. A focus on four capabilities will help you form a foundation on which to build a productive sales culture:

  1. Strategy and planning process.  Customers’ buying processes have no interest in accommodating your planning process, so sales must respond account by account. Hence, even if the output of planning is a great strategy (a big if), the process itself often makes it irrelevant to those on the front lines who must make important decisions throughout the year in accord with external buying rhythms and selling cycles.
  2. Cost-to-serve and customer selection. All customers are not equal, and prioritizing customers is how firms make real the crucial “scope” component of a coherent strategy
  3. Sales capacity and allocation of effort. Sales productivity is largely determined by how much the sales force can do in terms of call capacity and its capability to reach target customers. Allocating that capacity is a crucial SO lever. Good leaders know that data are not just numbers; they are also a way of viewing reality by the people who should use that data.
  4. Performance reviews. The most under-utilized lever for improving sales is the performance review. Busy sales managers tend to treat reviews as cursory, drive-by conversations that are mainly about compensation, not evaluation and development. Core SO issues are often only apparent at the account level and via conversations with those account managers. Reviews are where strategic direction is revealed, where call patterns and customer selection are supported or changed, and where data are applied to customer interactions.

Aligning strategy and sales also means sometimes “firing” customers that, despite all attempts, remain unprofitable accounts. It would be naïve to expect salespeople, especially those bonused on volume, to do that on their own. Managers must manage this decision. A focus on SO allows sales leaders to grow the top line, using the resources they already have by deliberately focusing selling efforts on what will really make a difference.

Employee Engagement “Not Just an HR Responsibility” Says Article in The Guernsey Press – 15th June

The former Programme Director at Engage for Success was featured in The Guernsey Press on 9 June following speaking at the Guernsey CIPD Branch meeting – Employee Engagement ‘not just an HR responsibility’.

Wendy was seconded to Engage for Success for eighteen months from Lloyds, on what started out as a six month secondment from her Head of Offshore Retail Banking role.

Wendy spoke about how she had imagined that full employee engagement was an HR responsibility before joining the movement and now realises that it’s a challenge for the whole business, and is something that is better for the individual, the organisation and the country (or in her case the island!).

Read The Guernsey Press report in full here.

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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