Each week we scour the web to find you the most informative, inspirational, and insightful articles about Employee Motivation, Morale, 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;
The End Of ‘Employee Engagement?’ – 12th May
The age of “employee engagement” may be nearing its end, suggests Rodd Wagner, writing in Forbes Magazine, in this stimulating and provocative article.
Comparing Employee Engagement with Total Quality Management, which was superseded by Six Sigma and lean manufacturing and will, in turn, be replaced by something better, Wagner concludes that “Employee engagement,” as we know it, is showing many of the signs of having run its course.
It (TQM) was a good idea, he says – it brought renewed attention to the relationship between employee and employer. It sparked some intriguing research. Most important, it motivated some leaders and managers to take more seriously their stewardship over the people they direct.
But much of what goes by the name of engagement now is malpractice, challenges Wagner. Among other examples, he quotes Dilbert cartoon: “We need more of what the management experts call ‘employee engagement,’” the pointy-haired boss says in a late 2009 strip. “I don’t know the details, but it has something to do with you idiots working harder for the same pay.”
“Is anything different on your end?” asks Dilbert.
The boss replies, “I think I’m supposed to be happier.”
Wagner spends a bit of time covering the history or the term “employee engagement” (going back to Khan in 1990), and then explains how, from his perspective, consultancies jumped on the band wagon. The problem that developed, he says, is that in ‘the cacophony of advisors’, “engagement” became not an overriding philosophy or strategy for managing people, but a routine. “Engagement” became HR shorthand for having a survey, some form of accountability, posters in the hallways and manuals for the managers. A common question between HR people from different firms became, “Do you guys do engagement?”
Another problem Wagner identifies is that even with decades of work, practitioners could not agree what “engagement” meant. According to Brad Shuck, University of Louisville assistant professor, and three coauthors in a 2013 paper titled, aptly enough, “The Jingle Jangle of Employee Engagement: “Some questions remain about how employee engagement differs from other well-researched and documented constructs such as job satisfaction, job involvement and job commitment.”
There are compelling case studies of companies that have prevailed with a comprehensive and authentic engagement strategy. Wagner gives examples of these, but opines that “in the aggregate, measured employee engagement has not increased meaningfully despite the fact that the majority of large organisations “do” engagement.” The biggest winners of the engagement trend are the engagement consultancies themselves, he suggests, a whole mini-industry that appeared almost out of nowhere.
Wagner reckons that employees have not taken on board the “HR speak” of engagement. Enthusiastic workers talk about jobs and managers in much the same terms they always have, he says. “I have a wonderful boss.” “We have a great team.” “I work for a cool company.” “I’m really happy working there.” They say these things because they see real concern for their happiness, not because they participated in an off-the-shelf program.
Wagner believe that engagement is further endangered by the fact that the working world has changed far faster than approaches to engagement have evolved. “Wellbeing” programs turned out to be an intrusive and ineffective attempt to ratchet down health care costs. Social media put companies’ reputations in the hands of their employees. Trust levels continued to decline. The unwritten contract between people and their employers was entirely redrafted, while engagement programs remained largely the same,he suggests.
“Engagement” probably will stay, suggests Wagner as at its centre, it was simply a synonym for something that will never go away – the power of reciprocity between workers and those representing the enterprise, says Wagner. If it’s to stay, however, it will need to be reinvigorated in light of the new conditions. He continues with some sound advice: “All the accumulated nonsense will need to be pruned away so that a manager or leader can say with a straight face, “No games, no tricks. I want you to be happy here and to feel comfortable telling us if we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.””
But at this stage, he says, engagement as a term may be too tainted. If so, to preserve what was right about the trend turned fad, the term “employee engagement” will have to go. And perhaps before long, the question between HR people will be, “Do you guys do happiness?”[Editor’s comment: What do you think? Is Wagner right? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.]
Report: What Separates Great Managers From the Rest – 12 May
To win the global battle for the best customers, companies must choose managers based on their innate talent to lead. Naturally talented managers know how to develop and engage their employees, according to Gallup research. They create enthusiastic, energized teams that build highly successful organizations and engage customers.
Gallup’s extensive research and analysis, reported in State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders, provides an in-depth look at what distinguishes great managers from the rest. What follows are some of the report’s key findings.
Talent Is the Most Powerful Predictor of Performance
- Companies that hire managers based on talent realize a 48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in productivity, a 30% increase in employee engagement scores, a 17% increase in customer engagement scores and a 19% decrease in turnover.
- Managers with high talent are more likely to be engaged than their peers. More than half (54%) of managers with high talent are engaged, compared with 39% of managers with functioning talent and 27% of managers with limited talent.
- Managers with high talent also place more emphasis on employees’ strengths than their weaknesses. Gallup has found that a strengths-based approach is associated with greater levels of employee engagement and well-being and team productivity and profitability.
Managers Have the Greatest Impact on Engagement
- Great managers consistently motivate their teams to achieve outstanding performance. They create environments where employees take responsibility for their own — and their team’s — engagement and build workplaces that are engines of productivity and profitability.
- But not every team has a great manager. That’s why managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Gallup’s study of employee engagement found that just 30% of U.S. workers are engaged, demonstrating a clear link between poor managing and a nation of “checked out” employees.
- One in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career.
- Managers’ engagement has a direct impact on employees’ engagement. Employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers.
Female Managers Are More Engaging Than Male Managers
- While there are great female and male managers, Gallup has found that female managers are more likely to be engaged than male managers (41% to 35%, respectively). Individuals who work for a female manager are also six percentage points more engaged, on average, than those who work for a male manager.
Specific Behaviors Can Help Managers Increase Employee Engagement
- At least two-thirds of employees who strongly agree that their manager helps them set work priorities and goals are engaged. And more than two-thirds of employees who strongly agree that their manager focuses on their strengths or positive characteristics are engaged.
What Companies Can Do to Hire and Develop More Great Managers:
- Smart businesses place talent at the core of their human capital strategy, weaving it into every aspect of how they align, attract, recruit, assess, hire, onboard and develop managers.
Grow, don’t promote.
- As Gallup has found, companies repeatedly put people in manager roles because they were successful in previous roles or because they have been with the company for a long time. This is a flawed strategy with serious consequences for a company’s engagement, financial performance and long-term sustainability. Companies should honor the differences between front-line employee and manager roles, and develop career paths for employees based on talent rather than title. Reward job performance, not job title.
Honor managers’ need to continually improve.
- Development is not dependent on tenure, and managers at all stages of their career should have opportunities to learn and grow, whether through a mentor or coach, group classes, conferences or some type of online learning.
Employees: look after them and they’ll look after everything else – 11th May
“Customers are king. Without them a business would not survive. However, I often think we should re-word this phrase as our employees are king too” says Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business, a corporate reward and recognition provider.
Current research continues to show businesses still have a way to go to creating an engaged workforce, suggests Alexander, so it’s not surprising that customer satisfaction rates have dropped to their lowest level since 2010, according to the Institute of Customer Service. “It is our employees who liaise directly with customers. It is our employees we expect to look after our customers. If staff are not engaged, how can we expect customers to be happy?” asks Alexander.
So why aren’t businesses doing more to look after their employees? Alexander’s theory is simple: Too many companies are taking a textbook approach to managing their workforce.
The businesses that are succeeding are those that are trying something new, he proposes. They are enriching their workers’ lives. They are making life better for their staff – inside and outside of work. Alexander believes these organisations enable their workforces to master their professional and personal skills, giving them the freedom to get on with their jobs, listening to their ideas and letting them implement them, and finally recognising hard work with meaningful rewards.
A reward doesn’t have to be huge – it can be as simple as a verbal thank you and certificate to say well done, says Alexander. His key to recognition is: Purpose, Empowerment and Meaningful Reward.
- Purpose – know why you want to launch a recognition programme… Get the full backing of the board and CEO and make sure all of your employees understand and believe in this goal
- Empowerment – empower employees by including them in the initial design of the scheme… It’s essential staff can nominate their colleagues to be recognised too
- Meaningful Reward – use a prize to create memories – these memories last a lot longer than a pot of money. People will talk openly about this kind of prize too, which in turns encourages other team members to do well
There is actually one last element that mustn’t be forgotten, says Alexander: communication. Having done the easy part of the three steps this, he suggests, is what cements a campaign together.
He concludes: “These steps will give you building blocks to create a successful employee campaign. Persevere with your ideas and the results will pay off. Business is changing and will continue to change, but look after your staff and they’ll look after everything else.”
Female bosses drive higher levels of employee engagement – 11th May
A report by Gallup (see the full details here) found employees who work for a female manager in the U.S. are actually more engaged, on average, than those who work for a male manager, reports HumanResourcesOnline.net.
Polling 27 million employees across four decades, the study highlighted employees who worked for a female manager were six percentage points more engaged than those who work for a male manager (33% to 27% respectively).
Female employees who worked for a female manager were found to be the most engaged, at 35%.
On the other hand, male employees who reported to a male manager were the least engaged, at 25% – a difference of 10 points.
“Leaders should also know that female managers themselves tend to be more engaged than male managers,” the report stated. “Gallup finds that 41% of female managers are engaged at work, compared with 35% of male managers. In fact, female managers of every working-age generation are more engaged than their male counterparts, regardless of whether they have children in their household.”
The survey also delved into how exactly female managers were increasing engagement levels of staff, which included areas such as staff development and communication.
Employees who worked for a female manager were 1.26 times more likely than employees who worked for a male manager to strongly agree that “there is someone at work who encourages my development.” Additionally, those who were led by female bosses were 1.17 times more likely than those with a male manager to strongly agree that “in the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
“Though there are many highly successful female and male managers, female managers do have a slight advantage when it comes to engagement. And it’s an advantage leaders should consider when deciding whom to name manager,” the survey stated.
12 Hard Truths About Leadership That Will Make You Smarter – 11th May
The estimable Lolly Daskal says “Take these lessons to heart and you will succeed significantly.”
- Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes happen. Don’t judge yourself by your mistakes–look at them as learning lessons.
- Love what you do and create work that you love. Find work that you love, because you will be doing it for a long time.
- Find time for self-care and integrate balance in your life. Invest in yourself. Most people work so hard they forget about themselves, and the people who mean the world to them.
- Constantly seek new opportunities and embrace new ideas. Our first impulse may be to avoid taking chances, but the only way to grow is to explore new opportunities and engage yourself in new ideas.
- Focus on quality instead of quantity and know the difference. The lure of quantity is dangerous. People think the more they have, the better off they are.
- Always say what you mean and mean what you say. People will never know how you feel unless you tell them what’s on your mind and in your heart.
- Change is inevitable, so embrace it with a flexible mind and agile heart. The bad news: Nothing is permanent. The good news: Nothing is permanent.
- Do the things that make you proud and don’t worry what other people think. What other people think is none of your concern. Don’t waste time worrying about others.
- Make decisions swiftly and take action immediately. There is a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it.
- Make time to think and spend time reflecting. Make time for silence. Use that time to reflect, revise, and reform.
- Always ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to lead a life of asking questions.
- Excel at what you do and bring your best every time. Bring the best to everything that you do–all your work, all your relationships, all your interactions.
New Report on Millennials Shows Link Between Engagement and Cause Work – 11th May
If you want to create a corporate culture that embraces Millennials (and you should, argues Ryan Scott), take a close look at the Six-Month Research Update to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, the latest update to a five-year study conducted by Achieve, the research arm of Forte Interactive, and sponsored by The Case Foundation.
How do you engage Millennials in corporate volunteering and giving programs? And how does this sort of cause engagement relate to accepting a job and employee satisfaction? As Scott has written about previously, different generations approach volunteering differently, so cause engagement is not a one-size fits all proposition.
When Millennials are considering applying for a job, their top priority is what the company actually sells, produces, or distributes. But beyond compensation and benefits, what matters most to them is the company’s work culture, involvement with causes, office environment, and attention to diversity and HR standards.
For companies interested in understanding the Millennial mindset, take note of these illuminating takeaways:
- From the beginning of the job search to the point where the employee accepted the job, female Millennials tended to be more interested in company cause work than their male counterparts.
- 63 percent of female employees said their company’s cause work influenced them to accept a job, compared to 45 percent of male employees.
- A company’s cause work begins to influence most Millennial employees during the interview. While only 39 percent of Millennial employees said they researched their employer’s cause work prior to the interview, 55 percent of employees were influenced to take their job after discussing cause work in the interview.
- Company-wide giving campaigns were the initiatives Millennials most commonly participated in.
- Regarding volunteerism, Millennial employees preferred joining a company-wide or team-specific volunteer project rather than donating to a giving campaign.
- Millennials who volunteer with and donate to causes on their own were found to be the most likely to research and consider a company’s cause work during their job search.
Go to Scott’s Huffington Post blog to read this piece in full.
7 things every employee wants in a boss – 10th May
Steve Palmer explains that its never too late to become an exceptional leader, but not for the sake of receiving one more “World’s-Best-Boss” mug. Do it because of the impact your leadership can have on the happiness of your employees. Here are seven time-tested principles that will get you back on track.
- Establish clear vision – Exceptional managers start with a clear vision for their team and make sure each member of the team shares in that vision. When was the last time you sat down with your team to talk about the big picture? Shared vision is critical to employee engagement.
- Set clearly defined expectations – Gallup once identified setting expectations as the most important ingredient of great management. When managers clearly communicate what’s expected of team members, they eliminate problems with job performance. Be clear in defining how each member of your team “wins” in their individual role, and then measure performance regularly.
- Lead by example – Do you “do what you say you will do?” When managers don’t live by the same expectations they set for their teams, they teach that the rules apply to everyone else. Great leaders are the best example of the standards they set for the team.
- Encourage change and growth – We all want to be challenged to become something better. Great managers are not too quick to provide all of the answers and will help their team grow stronger in the process.
- Don’t avoid difficult conversations – The ability to have tough conversations is essential to great leadership. All relationships go through difficult moments, but being able to successfully navigate these situations deepens levels of trust and shows the rest of the team that you hold everyone to the same standard.
- Manage with heart – It isn’t just business, it’s personal. When expectations aren’t being met, find out the root cause of the issue and show genuine empathy when personal situations arise. Putting people first can only happen when we remember that they are people, first.
- Expect unexpected success – Finally, being a great boss is its own reward. There is nothing more rewarding than watching members of your team develop into successful leaders.
Sales Teams Need More (and Better) Coaching – 8th May
Scott Edinger recalls a ride back from Redwood City to San Francisco with his manager where they hardly said a word to each other. They’d just left the headquarters of Oracle, and one of his worst sales calls ever. During the meeting, he had done my best to identify specific objectives the company might have that would benefit from their sales- and leadership-training programs but nothing resonated. To break the deafening silence, he said to John, “Can you just tell me what the hell went wrong in there, or are you going to lead me through some laborious process of self-discovery?”
Scott knew how he coached, and it was extremely valuable on most days. They would dissect each interaction together. He would typically ask Scott what he thought was effective, and they’d discuss what the client had responded to best. Then they’d talk about what could have gone better, and he’d highlight skills to improve. The discussions were always focused on how Scott could further develop his abilities and meet his goals.
John Rovens was a terrific coach, and he invested a significant amount of time in my development as a sales professional. By the end of 1998, Scott’s third year in sales, he was the number 2 salesperson worldwide in the division of the Fortune 500 company they both worked for. He quickly became proficient at creating value in selling in large part because of the culture of coaching John created in our office.
We hear constantly about the importance and value of coaching, especially in sales. But, the reality is that a true culture of coaching rarely exists. In a survey with a sales team in a Fortune 500 telecom company, Scott found an interesting contrast. Leaders reported that they spent a considerable amount of time coaching their direct reports and scored themselves high on their efforts– on average, just shy of the 80th percentile. Direct reports responded by saying that they’d received little to no coaching from their leaders and scored them low — on average around just the 38th percentile.
Maybe a manager will spend time coaching his direct reports. But a manager getting coached by a director? Or a director being coached by a VP for sales? That almost never happens. Instead, time for coaching to improve future performance is increasingly crowded out by time spent tracking and scrutinizing past results – that is, time spent requesting forecasts, reviewing pipelines together, revising forecasts, and pushing to close more deals in this quarter.
If you want to improve the capability of your sales organization, rather than just keep track of it, coaching is the most powerful lever you have. And, creating a culture of coaching is your best bet. Here is how:
- Establish uniform expectations. Everyone, from the executive vice president of sales down to the frontline sales manager, needs to share the same definition of what good coaching is. Good coaching includes observation and feedback, certainly, but also strategy development, creating opportunities for practice, and even detailed help in meeting preparation.
- Highlight the exemplars and use them to spread your best practices. In any sales organization, everyone knows who the best sellers are. Frequently they are top producers, but not every one of them always exhibits the behavior you may want to foster. Look for the great sellers throughout the business who are doing the work in the way you want to see everyone working, and use them as role models, even if they’re not atop the revenue leader board.
- Provide rewards to those who engage in coaching and consequences for those who opt out.
Coaching is a lot of work. But it needn’t take extra time if you consider the scope of activities sales leaders currently engage in. Take an honest look at the volume of effort your sales organization devotes to reporting, inspection, and scrutinizing results versus the time spent actively engaging in improving results. Create a coaching culture, and your leaders will spend considerably more energy on the latter.
Make It OK for Employees to Challenge Your Ideas – 6th May
Hal Gregersen cites Kodak, Sears, and Borders and their struggle to stay relevant amid today’s technology and boundless alternatives. But behind each of them lies a deeper story of at least one leader who is or was “sheltered” from the reality of their business.
This dangerous “white space” where leaders don’t know what they don’t know is a critical one. But often, leaders — especially senior ones — fail to seek information that makes them uncomfortable or fail to engage with individuals who challenge them. As a result, they miss the opportunity to transform insights at the edge of a company into valuable actions at the core.
Nandan Nilekani, an Indian entrepreneur, bureaucrat, and politician who co-founded Infosys and was appointed by the Indian prime minister to serve as Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), believes it’s vital to keep this channel of communication open in any leadership position.
“If you’re a leader, you can put yourself in a cocoon … a good news cocoon” said Nilekani during ourrecent discussion. “Everyone says, ‘It’s alright, there’s no problem,’ and the next day everything’s wrong.”
So how do leaders keep themselves from being isolated at the top?
For Nilekani, it comes down to one vital factor: asking and being asked uncomfortable questions.
The question “Why are we the way we are?” inspired him to write his book, Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation, which discusses the education, demographics, and infrastructure of his native country. Nilekani understands that the power of questions doesn’t just rely on the inquiries we’re asking ourselves; it also is triggered through the often uncomfortable questions others ask us. Encouraging this two-way dialogue when it comes to questions, he believes, is critical.
“I consciously go out of my way not only to create an open culture for people, but also having lines of communication to a very wide set of people, because the bad news may not come direct,” he said.
Beyond encouraging a culture of questioning, Nilekani has another way to filter out the spin that employees within an organization may put on an issue for fear of “waking the giant.” He goes straight to the source — his customers.
The habit of asking the right questions and relating well to others inside and outside an organization helps leaders see beyond the protective “cocoon” that coworkers may be keeping them in. However, these habits extend far beyond the here and now. They also impact the next generation of business leaders.
Develop Leadership Techniques Through Neuroscience, Says Psychologist – 6th May
Argued in this piece from HR Review, leaders need to give their staff opportunities to develop and grow, and to lead by example, says neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.
Understanding the emotions of staff through neuroscience reveals strategies for managing a workforce for greater employee engagement and bottom line success for the company, Dr Shaw explains:
“Concepts and techniques derived from brain research and psychology can play a crucial role in improving individual and business performance. Making every effort to understand emotions means we also hold the keys that can potentially open many more doors and opportunities.”
One example is the improvement of leadership. Dr Shaw reveals that effective communication is not only effective from a psychological point of view, but actually affects our biology. The more support an employee receives from senior members of staff, the lower their levels of the stress hormone cortisol in high pressured situations.
Dr Shaw says:
“As a result, rather than people narrowing their attention to any perceived threat, which is causing the stress, we open ourselves up to broader thinking, better problem solving and greater creative thought.”
Other areas of neuroscience Dr Shaw believes should be applied for a greater working environment include:
We tend to stick to what we know but neurological research suggests that taking calculated risks can be a cycle of greater opportunity. When a risky situation is resolved successfully our brains release dopamine and other “feel-good” chemicals that make it more likely that we will follow our gut in the future.
Learning and development
The brain is optimised for learning, with synapses growing and strengthening when we are introduced to new information. However, Dr Shaw argues that it is important to understand the brain’s limitations for learning as taking in too much at once can cause a brain overload. She advises organising learning chunks of data for 30 minutes at a time.
The prefrontal cortex is partly responsible for processing new information. When a person learns something new the neurons fire in this part of the brain, creating a positive connotation with progress and development. This in turn leads to higher self-esteem, which will improve wellbeing and mental health as well as company productivity.
How to Document a Performance Review – 5th May
The annual performance review can be stressful. But while many managers focus their attention on what they’ll say in the face-to-face conversation, they forget the importance of documenting their impressions in the right way. The following piece, adapted from the book Performance Reviews, will help you write down your feedback in a way that will both meet your organization’s requirements and pave the way for an effective performance discussion.
Once you have analyzed your employee’s performance, record your feedback in a way that can be shared and saved. When preparing a formal written assessment, refer back to your company’s guidelines so you’re adhering to the appropriate format. If your company does not have a standard form, create one.
Your organization may require you to provide a general rating of the employee’s performance, individual ratings of specific aspects of their performance, or a combination of ratings and qualitative information. Follow the instructions given to you, but don’t be constrained by the format of the form. Instead, adapt or amend it so you can tell the whole story. Your employee will find your observations, comments, and examples more useful than a numeric rating alone. Include attachments—comments too long to include on the form, or the employee’s development plan from the previous year—if they will enrich your evaluation.
Record your observations about your employee’s job performance as objectively as possible, and tie your conclusions to hard data. Provide evidence of progress (or lack thereof) by connecting accomplishments with established goals: “Derek increased sales by 7%, which exceeded his goal of 5%.” “Laura reduced her error rate by 20%; her goal was 30%.” Then your employee can easily grasp the assessment criteria and recognize the evaluation as fair.
Also include specific examples. The more information you can provide, the more likely the employee will be to repeat and even improve on positive behaviors—or correct less positive ones. Use the most telling examples to make your point in your written evaluation, and save the rest for your review session in case you need to support your judgment during the conversation. These examples should include:
- Details about what you observed.
- Supporting data, such as reports or 360-degree feedback
- The impact on your team and organization
- Expressing your observations as neutral facts rather than judgments is particularly important when giving negative feedback.
- When giving positive feedback, on the other hand, combine specific achievements with character-based praise.
- Acknowledging the traits and behaviors that made those results possible will show your direct report that you see her as an individual—which can generate pride and boost motivation.
- Supporting your assessment with specific examples and details not only makes it more likely that the employee will be able to hear and learn from your feedback, it also mitigates any possible legal ramifications in particularly egregious situations.
- Finally, write down the three things the employee has done best over the course of the year and the two areas that most need improvement. Ask yourself, “What’s the single most important takeaway I want the employee to remember?” Distill your message down to a single key idea—your overall impression of his performance.
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.