Photo: PCM

Continuous Listening: How to Strengthen Employee Communication

This is the first in a two-piece guest series on Continuous Listening. 

Human Resources departments own many responsibilities that directly contribute to the overall success of a company. According to Sari Levine Wilde, managing vice president of Gartner, “The businesses that are successful today and in the future, will be those that win when it comes to talent…This means helping employees build critical skills and developing employees into leaders.”  One of the burning questions today is how we can achieve that mission. 

Howard Moskowitz, a psychologist in the field of psycho-physics and a renowned market researcher, was hired by PepsiCo to determine the optimal quantity of artificial sweetener for a Diet Pepsi product. He faced a similar challenge, as mentioned by author Malcolm Gladwell in his TED Talk. With the aim of maximizing sales, Moskowitz conducted empirical tests, which provided unexpected results. He examined the data and concluded that there was no such thing as a perfect Diet Pepsi! Due to the multitude of variations between human tastes, Moskowitz found that the best option to maximize the number of sales was by offering a collection of lower calorie flavors along the scale of taste. 

Returning to the HR dilemma, a one-size-fits-all approach to HR is guaranteed to overlook the needs of many employees. More specifically, each employee journey is unique and thus HR must find ways to observe, tune in, and adapt to address individual employees in a more personalized manner.

Disjointed Employee View and Continuous Listening

In order to understand employees and their level of engagement when it comes to business goals, HR must continually gather information by asking questions and listening to employee responses. These standard HR processes currently serve as milestone events for gathering data, but with so many aspects of the employee lifecycle to monitor, it can be difficult to build a comprehensive view of the culture, engagement, retention, and success of employees. The process of data collection is usually transactional, though sometimes there are opportunities to gather evaluative information as well. In this respect, many challenges that HR professionals are faced with when attempting to gather this comprehensive data can be addressed by a strategy known as Continuous Listening. 

Continuous Listening is a methodology grounded in the philosophy that feedback matters all the time — not just once a year during a performance review, or once a year during an engagement survey. Feedback matters even after employees leave an organization and unofficially serve as alumni ambassadors for your brand. It matters because every employee has a unique journey that begins with a handshake and a contract that says, “We will do this for each other.” 

HR organizations that begin gathering evaluative feedback from employees during such milestones will gain valuable insights that leaders can use to better manage the workforce. An added benefit is that once in place, this feedback process can gain further traction as employees witness leaders responding to their feedback. This reinforces more open lines of communication, which is a recipe for future success. For every milestone along the  employee journey milestones, here are some sample evaluative questions that HR should be asking in order to enrich the information that is later provided to company leaders: 

Employee Journey Milestones Sample Evaluative Question 
Recruiting Would your employees recommend your organization to their professional network? 
Onboarding Do your onboarding processes achieve the cultural immersion and integration you need? 
Development Is your development process providing the right knowledge and skills to drive successful employee outcomes in meeting the needs of tomorrow?
Performance Management Is the performance management process identifying, recognizing, and rewarding talent? 
Engagement How much do you really know about your employees’ experiences? Are your efforts encouraging or destroying employee goodwill, motivation, and engagement? How often do you measure employee engagement? Once every two years? Annually? Bi-annually?
Promotion & Career Growth Are you identifying employees with strong potential and directing them toward leadership positions? Is your leadership pipeline full enough to meet resource planning goals?
Compensation & Benefits Is your compensation and benefits plan competitive? Is the plan sufficient to keep high-value employees engaged?
Retention Do you know what motivates your employees’ decisions to stay and grow with your organization, and what motivates them to seek opportunities elsewhere? Are you systematically collecting the data needed to analyze and improve the employee experience from hire to retire? 

Feedback matters because whatever the expression, it contributes to the roadmap aimed at improving the overall organization. By implementing a Continuous Listening strategy, we can begin to explore how to best address specific HR challenges. For that, stay tuned for the second piece in this series. 


Photo: Adi Goldstein

#WorkTrends: Why Companies Need to Value a Great Candidate Experience

Ever since the Talent Board started researching candidate experience, at least some employers have been paying more attention to improving the applicant’s journey. Applying to a company can unearth all sorts of issues — including what #WorkTrends guest Kevin W. Grossman calls the “black hole of candidate experience.” 

This was a tete-a-tete between two colleagues that insisted on keeping the conversation looking forward not back. To get out of the morasse of a bad candidate experience, companies are going to need to truly step up and place a higher premium on better CX — and we’re claiming that moniker to stand for all the candidates out there trying to connect with the employer of their dreams. 

Kevin, who’s a longtime TalentCulture Community friend and President and a Board Member of the Talent Board, dug into the Talent Board’s latest research report, including its good news: more candidates are happier about their experience overall and would be willing to increase their relationship with that brand, whether as an employee or a consumer (you can’t think of one without the other). But there was less-than-good news as well, including a vexing rise in the “resentment rate” — with candidates so disgruntled they don’t want anything to do with a brand anymore, whether it means applying to work there or using its products, or both. A big takeaway: in work, as in life, we really do put our money where our mindset is, and vice-versa.

Chief among common hiring infractions these days are the automated, generic, “sorry you’re not right for the position” messages, which are the wrong way to leverage technology, or not providing any responses at all — which Meghan noted was inexcusable for recruiters today. But the two focused on the positives, including brands getting it right, such as recent CandE award winners Walgreens and Kronos, and innovative ways employers are keeping the connection going with candidates. Frequent and well-considered communication, chatbots, feedback — it’s all good, they noted. And when it works, the value for companies goes well beyond a single happy hire.    

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode..

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are some employers failing at candidate experience?  #WorkTrends
Q2: What strategies can help organizations create a better candidate experience? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders help their organizations value candidate experience? #WorkTrends

Find Kevin Grossman on Linkedin and Twitter


Photo: Obi Onyeador

Love Starts with Leadership

Around here we celebrate Valentine’s Day sentiments all the time. We tell each other how much we appreciate, cherish, are wowed by, awed by, impressed by, and value each other. It’s not in our culture deck (we don’t have one since we’re always flexing and morphing to grow and change with the world of work). It’s not in the rulebook and it’s not even in any of the job descriptions. It’s just in the ethos of TalentCulture. 

I’m showing you a glimpse of how we work to make a point: all that love? It’s up to me. Daily, I’m aware of a deep sense of responsibility: I founded this company, and it’s up to me to make sure we’re all feeling good about it and great about each other. It has to be that way: the people come first. And if we’re going to love each other it has to start with the leader. So, my lovelies, here’s the closest thing to a box of chocolates I can give you all: 4 tips on how to bring more love into the workspace, whatever shape that space takes:

Be emoji-ional

Consider your favorite brands, and then, if you would, reflect on a conversation you may have had via chat, or a text, or on a social media platform. I love that brand. I heart that brand. Or you may have dropped literal heart emojis on someone’s text recently to express your absolute affirmation for their observation or idea. 

Social media has made it stunningly easier to express our feelings in a lighter, more informal way — which is far more appropriate for the workplace than any written declarations, let’s face it. The more we blend social into our workspaces, the easier it is to spread that love around. 

Get inspired.

Going back through the amazing posts we’ve published on, I realized we’ve always been interested in love. So, dear readers, here’s some reading material. Love and its impact on the office has plenty of angles, including a new post by guest contributor Rebecca Shaw on a recent UK office romance study. The research uncovered a disquieting gap between how women and men perceive work entanglements — and puts the onus on HR to help equitably and safely untie the knots. 

A post on why engagement comes from the heart bears a re-visit, bringing up the value of emotional currency. Kevin Grossman, a longtime member of the TalentCulture family, wrote about the dance between love and money — and managed to bring prog-rock band Rush, AC/DC, Apple and Southwest Airlines under one “culture rocks” umbrella.  We tend to feel very emotional about our work — from colleagues to culture — and it helps to remember that this isn’t new, we’re just getting better, and smarter at dealing with it. 

Take a love inventory.

We do a lot of work with amazing HR tech innovators — and lately we’re covering a lot of ground on the subject of engagement and experience for both candidates and employees. A strategy that comes up again and again is actually asking your employees how they feel. Now that we have access to highly effective tools that can scale to needs and growth — such as surveys, check-ins, feedback and recognition platforms — there’s no excuse for ignoring your workforce’s emotional state of mind. Inaugurate a new campaign to find out how your people are doing, and that should include anyone on the workforce, from freelancers and independent workers to payroll employees to executives. We tend to overlook our own needs as much as anyone else’s, and leadership behavior models the behaviors that the workforce is going to adopt. 

Conduct surveys of employee/workforce sentiment  — short and sweet and frequent is better than long, arduous, and one-time. Include yourself and other leaders and high-level managers as well as the whole workforce. Use the data to reveal the realities of your work culture and workspaces, share it with the workforce, and then start taking action to remedy the weak spots. Transparency and action taken on feedback are definitely part of modern leadership’s love language. 

Practice emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence isn’t a new concept: it’s become a twenty-first century chestnut at this point. It has to do with how skillfully we manage our relationships and ourselves, and it’s been proven to correlate with our ability to perform. But I’m frequently struck but how far away from EQ we’ve gotten. Like many concepts that make a splash and send ripples through the HR field, EQ’s novelty has receded. A great piece in Inc. by Wanda Thibodeax introduces its close “cousins,” cognitive intelligence, success intelligences, and cultural intelligence (CQ). 

But EQ is just as important as ever. When we talk about using tact to deliver un-great news to job applicants, that’s EQ: and it’s akin to letting a suitor down easy because, well, they’re human. When I wrote about the power of some leaders to reach their people, one of the key factors is emotional intelligence — though these days, I’d gather other traits, such as kindness, honesty, respect, letting go and partnering as all part of being emotionally intelligent. Evolution is consolidation in this case, and we’ve come far since that piece first appeared, though with over 700,000 views by now, it’s clearly still hitting a sweet spot. To be perfectly honest, that makes me happy.

The bottom line — to feel love you have to bring the love yourself. It that means you spend a bit more time practicing some much-needed self-care, then do it. Get that box of chocolates, do the yoga class, plan the marathon training, go on vacation, take time to do something good for the planet, or volunteer. Whatever works. It’s your job to make everyone else feel good about themselves and the value they bring to your organization — and that means you need to feel good about yourself and your value as well. Go get yourself a Valentine-y card, then get everyone cards too, and watch the love start to catch on. 

Photo: Miguel A. Amutio

#WorkTrends: Acing the Metrics: Reading the Data on Engagement

Sometimes a #WorkTrends episode answers a trending question so clearly it’s as if we never have to ask the question again. That’s what happened when Meghan M. Biro sat down with Leila Zayed of Best Companies Group to talk about measuring engagement. The January 31, 2020, #WorkTrends podcast quickly went from whether or not we should measure engagement to the best strategies and benchmarks for understanding your workforce like never before. 

Leila works with companies of all shapes, sizes and industries to survey their employees on engagement, and pointed out that you can’t tell if your employees are engaged if you don’t know what engagement is — and once you know what it is, you can’t find out if you’ve got it if you don’t know how to take measurements. Engagement, Meghan and Leila agreed, has to do with not only being satisfied with your employer, but really looking forward to going to work — with having a sense of meaning, purpose, and pride. “They feel you’ve created an environment where they can do their best, they’re willing to give extra efforts to see you succeed, and they plan on staying a while,” Leila added. Another sign of engagement they both agreed on: employees will recommend your brand to a loved one.

Meghan noted that Leila’s approach — measuring two sets of demographics — made far more sense than an all-in-one-bucket approach. Personal demographics include our individual identities and perspectives; workplace demographics are out of employees’ control, like department, brand and locations. The question came up about whether small companies can survey engagement effectively: “Talk to us about how this approach can work for organizations of any size,” Meghan said. 

Actually, Leila offered, it can, even with a company of 15 employees. 

Whatever the size, she said, the key is going outside your own company to compare yourself to other companies in the industry — or you won’t really know how you’re doing. And the more companies doing these engagement surveys, the more data we’re getting, and the more specific the benchmarks get. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode. 

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why aren’t we better at measuring engagement? #WorkTrends
Q2: What measurements work for assessing engagement? #WorkTrends
Q3: What strategies can help organizations better measure engagement? #WorkTrends

Find Leila Zayed on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Jakob Owens

#WorkTrends: The Empathy Gap

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, joined host Meghan M. Biro for the January 17, 2020 #WorkTrends podcast. The topic:  Disasters of the workplace kind.

Dr. Tsipursky is a consultant, cognitive neuroscientist and expert on behavioral economics. Noting that we’re still suffering from an epidemic of disengagement, he pointed to one glaring omission in workplace culture: empathy. Empathy is critical to a successful workforce, Meghan agreed — while noting that disengagement is absolutely a disaster in the workplace.

Gleb’s take on the lack of empathy is that it stems from something deep-seated in all of us: cognitive bias.

“The empathy gap is one of the biggest cognitive biases out there and one of the worst causes of employee disengagement,” he said, noting that research shows that 80% to 90% of our decisions are determined by our emotions. “But if you look at HR material, if you look at internal communication, it’s very rational, very logical.”

Meghan concurred. “Why are HR leaders not able to deal with employee emotions in an effective way? Where’s this disconnect?” she asked.

Gleb said that two disconnects are at work:
First, the false perception that work doesn’t involve emotions and the workplace isn’t a place for feelings. And second, there’s general discomfort among many of us in dealing with emotions.

“There’s no ’emotional unit,'” He explained. “Even though emotions are incredibly important, HR professionals aren’t comfortable with things they can’t quantify.”

Gleb recounted some examples he’s encountered as a consultant where focusing on emotions makes a key difference in performance as well as engagement. “Even engineers have emotions,” he joked. But it’s a good point. There’s a lot we can all do to improve how we deal with the “feeling” side of work life. Ultimately, that’s how we’ll all get more work done.  

Listen to the full conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast, so you don’t miss an episode!

Key takeaway: [05:16] Even though emotions are incredibly important, HR professionals aren’t comfortable with things they can’t quantify.

Find Gleb Tsipursky on Linkedin and Twitter


#WorkTrends: Why Employee Engagement is a Joke

Mark Babbitt, President of WorqIQ, joined #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro on January 10, 2020 to discuss key issues surrounding employee engagement.

Meghan introduced the topic by noting that only half of all employees feel like they have a career. Mark expanded on this fact, suggesting that we’ve turned employee engagement from a good idea into a joke because engagement levels remain the same as they were in the 1980s. “With eight million blog posts and hundreds of experts on this subject, why have we not fixed anything?” he asked.

Mark is a colleague of Meghan’s and a longtime friend of TalentCulture. He’s also the president of WorqIQ, a community and change management consultancy, and CEO and founder of YouTern, a career site for college students and young professionals.

Mark’s upcoming book is Good Comes First: How Companies Can Create an Uncompromising Company Culture in a Confrontational World. And he’s one of Inc.’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers. Which means he’s been tracking the story of employee engagement for a long time.

“The data proves that employee engagement is a myth,” he said. “We have spent 30-plus years discussing this. Organizations and governments have spent billions of dollars on ’employee engagement’ and we have had zero impact. Every poll out there tells us that we haven’t moved the needle one bit. That employees are either disengaged or actively disengaged.” The two set-out to uncover what might actually undo the impasse. What they found is changing the game entirely.

Random Acts of Leadership

The problem is that we can’t manipulate engagement, Mark said, “Engagement is a human process.” Meghan suggested a shift to thinking about experience — so long as it’s really about people. True, Mark noted. Experience has to be a factor from the employee’s perspective. Without being able to determine and report their own experience and weigh-in on the impact of leadership, organizational values, benefits and more, an employee has no voice. This means employee/employer relationship isn’t really a mutually beneficial relationship, it’s really only unilateral management. 

What would shift the balance? “Random Acts of Leadership,” as Mark puts it. In other words, leaders actually need to walk up to employees and ask real questions, like “What are you working on today? How can I help? What resources can I push in your direction? What are your obstacles to success?” Conversations like this move the needle far more than any tools, he said. Also it helps when leaders sit down for a cup of coffee with people in intimate settings. It’s important to be real and be human.

Workplace Intelligence

Beyond simply improving employee experience, it’s important to achieve workplace intelligence, according to Mark. But Meghan cautioned, “Let’s just make sure it’s not just another buzzword.” Mark agreed, and explained that it’s a tangible stack of 5 workplace factors:

  • The most dominant leadership style that people deal with every day
  • The organization’s culture and climate
  • Purpose-driven performance
  • Employee engagement/experience, but entirely redefined
  • A sense of community

All of these define a workplace that attracts people, Mark said. “When I go to work today I feel like this is where I belong.”

Next, Meghan asked Mark to share his predictions on the future of work — a signature question on #WorkTrends — he got serious. He said he things the future depends on a new breed of leader: More compassionate, less command-and-control.

“Leaders will realize that employees recognize the need to take time for ourselves, our children, our elderly parents. It’s going to be so retro that it will almost seem revolutionary.”

Listen to the full conversation. And don’t forget to subscribe to the #WorkTrends podcast series so you don’t miss an episode!

Transcript Excerpt:

[04:34} They didn’t have leaders that cared. They didn’t build mutually beneficial relationships with employees. They just started manipulating. They got this little software program that said, “Oh it’s Becky’s five year anniversary. Go say congratulations.”

Mark Babbitt on Linkedin and Twitter

Photo: Kobu Agency

The Key to Engaging New Hires: Psychological Safety

For those of us who are students of engagement and team-building, we know how key trust, communication and leadership are. But when Google ran two-year study into what makes teams successful, it unlocked a surprising key to high performance and fertile collaboration. Dubbed Project Aristotle, the presented five key factors of great teams: psychological safety, dependability, structure and clarity, meaning, and impact. Of all of them, the most fundamental turned out to be psychological safety.

Much has been made of each of the five factors — and certainly it’s no surprise that they all go into team success: they connect to all the values we associate with a high-functioning workplace, whether we use different terms or not. But psychological safety carries even more weight. Even among the cream-of-the-crop kind of hires that make it into Google, it mattered more than anything else. 

The professor who invented the term psychological safety is Amy Edmondson of the Harvard Business School — and even she was surprised by the results. “If you had asked me would psychological safety have been the big predictor of team performance at Google, I would’ve said, I don’t think so,” she noted in a recent podcast with HBR. “All those folks are going to be pretty able to take care of themselves, right? They’ve been told their whole life that they’re really smart,” she noted. 

But in the workplace, we need to feel safe about taking risks. We need to know that if we raise questions or concerns, speak up, offer our own ideas, or make mistakes, we won’t be punished or shamed for it: we’re safe. And you won’t be able to spark any kind of innovation or out-of-the-box thinking if your people don’t feel safe. That goes double for new hires — who are going to pick up on the workplace culture around them and follow the lead of their new colleagues. 

There’s no technology that results in psychological safety in this case, though there are plenty of apps and digital tools that can help support it. But this one comes down to how you shape and maintain your workplace culture. It’s not simply a matter of step by step on this one either: there’s a hearts and minds aspect to maintain as an emotional thru-line. But there are some key bases to cover as you create psychological safety in your own workplace:

Start With Day One

New hires usually walk in raring to go, and may be brimming with ideas and filled with questions. It’s incumbent on your managers to make sure those ideas and those questions are neither rebuffed nor ignored. Keep lines of communication open, whether remote or on-site, and establish a policy of frequent check-ins and welcoming input from Day One. First impressions count.

Get Leadership Aligned

The fact that Google’s own high-input, high-energy teams stressed the need for psychological safety points to leadership’s influence: in a place filled with ambitious employees, team and project leaders play a pivotal role in harnessing that ambition or inhibiting it. Leaders need to work to make sure teams are thriving individual by individual, or engagement – and performance — are going to suffer. But they also need to transmit balance and composure: during inevitable times of stress, it’s how leaders react that sets the tone for everyone — and new hires in particular are a sponge. Stay calm, stay positive, and stay clear — if at all possible. Your teams will pick up on that.  

Make Conversation

Managers bear much of the responsibility for the level of conversation among their teams — and discussion is vital to solid team-building. Here’s too, there are lines that should not be crossed: a new hire’s attempt to articulate a concern needs to be carefully listened to and respectfully responded to A meeting in which no one talks but the facilitator is deadly — meetings should be seized as an opportunity for energized discussion and exchange of ideas. Nothing does more for a team than being able to collaborate to solve problems or provide support for each other. Build time and space into the day to day for simply getting the chance to talk. 

Follow Through and Follow Up

Relationships are forged on a continuous cycle of exchanges and communications. As in the recruiting sphere, not responding to someone’s question, text, email or ping can have risks that go far beyond just a day of being out of touch. Newer hires, particularly younger millennials and Gen Z, are used to the immediacy of texts and social media; a delayed response from a supervisor, for instance, may be interpreted as ghosting, which may in turn be loaded with emotional implications. Psychological safety is defined as “a climate in which people are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves.” No one is going to stay comfortable if ideas are shared with no response. Managers and leaders need to make follow-through and follow-up a priority. Tools like Slack and other digital chat channels can help.

Encourage Controlled Risk-Taking

It’s not always possible to let your newest hires go out on a limb, but if you can provide that experience in a controlled setting, do so. Adrenaline and innovation can go hand in hand — and not just in the tech sector. The “Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast” approach (credit to Tom Peters for that chestnut) is something everyone in your organization should understand. The more opportunity for controlled risks that result in encouragement, not rejection, the better. The courage to take risks should be part of your workplace culture and viewed as part of a continuing commitment to develop your talent.

Google’s research upended the oft-shared assumption that it’s hard skills and a charismatic leader that push the envelope when it comes to performance. It’s also a reminder that there’s a business case to be made for psychological safety. Toxic workplace cultures have driven 20% of U.S. employees out of their jobs in the past five years. Further, when employees feel psychologically safe at work, there’s a 154% increase in the incidence of great work, and a full 33% decrease in the incidence of moderate to severe burnout. But the key to fully integrating psychological safety into your workplace culture is to make it normal — no one should be surprised that they trust leadership and each other, feel valued, and can safely express themselves. That should be the given.

Photo: Jopwell 



#WorkTrends: Limitless: A New Framework for Employee Engagement

When Laura Gassner Otting was working as an executive recruiter, she had a revelation: success does not always equal happiness. Over time, she’s come to see that the people who are happiest in their jobs have achieved what she calls “consonance.”

“It’s people who have carved their own path, who have figured out, ‘This is the one that I really want to do,’” she says.

But getting to a place of consonance requires rethinking how we approach employee engagement. So we sat down with Gassner Otting to discuss the relationship between employee engagement and career satisfaction. Her new book, “Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve your Own Path, and Live Your Best Life” is a great place to start.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

The Stats Behind Engagement

It’s a no-brainer to say that employe engagement is important. If your employees aren’t engaged … well, you might not have a company after a while.

The reality is that engagement is a serious crisis in the workplace. “There was a Gallup study that was done a few years ago that said that only one-third of U.S. workers are engaged in their work,” Gassner Otting says. Statistics further bear out that engaged workers are 22 percent more effective for the companies they work for — hence, the need to devote organizational resources to engagement.

However, Gassner Otting reminds us that there is no magic formula to engagement — not even for the same employee. Our identities do not remain static over time. As we get older, we change, and we prioritize different things. We get married, have kids, and sometimes throw a bit too much of our savings account into a grab bag of mid-life crisis hobbies.

Managers must ensure they are getting to know each employee on an individual level. Creating these relationships is essential to knowing what a person cares about individually, engaging them to do their best work, and helping employees find consonance.

The Four C’s

Consonance is almost a feeling of zen with one’s work — what Gassner Otting calls “being in this frictionless sense of belonging.”

Achieving consonance is not as difficult as it might sound. Gassner Otting has created a framework that breaks down consonance into four categories. “They all very conveniently start with C,” she jokes.

  • Calling
      Calling is your sense of purpose — what drives you. “It can be a family that you want to raise,” says Gassner Otting. “It can be a societal ill that you want to solve.” People all have different callings, she explains, but we do have one thing in common: “We all have that thing.”
  • Connection
    • “Connection is really the answer to the question of ‘Why do I matter? Why does my work matter?’ ” she says. Find your place in your company’s organizational chart, and understand why you matter.
  • Contribution
    • “While connection is all about the work, contribution is really about you, individually,” Gassner Otting explains. Figure out how you want your work to contribute to your community and the values you want to manifest with it.
  • Control
      Control is the act of self-assertion — finding out how much control you need over the other three C’s to achieve your personal idea of success and happiness. “For each one of us, that’s going to be very different,” she says.

Engage Yourself!

None of us can depend on our managers to keep us engaged. It’s also our responsibility to check in with ourselves and assess our satisfaction with our work life.

That’s why Gassner Otting has created a quiz exclusively for #WorkTrends listeners. It only takes ten or fifteen minutes, and the quiz will help you think about what work means to you — and if your career is fulfilling you on a level that goes beyond the direct deposits into your bank account.

Best of all? At the end of the quiz, you’ll receive feedback on how you can bring consonance to your own life.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

This episode of WorkTrends is supported by the CHRO Exchange, an exclusive networking event for HR executives and thought-leaders. Share insights, benchmark strategies, and learn from the Heads of HR at Walmart, Verizon, the Atlanta Braves, and more, all at the 11th CHRO Exchange taking place in Austin, Texas. May 19 through the 21. Reserve your spot and learn more here.

#WorkTrends: What Will Change at Work in 2019?

Happy New Year! I hope that your holidays provided you the recharge you needed to get 2019 off to a great start.

It’s the “new” in “new year” that we’re talking about this week on #WorkTrends. We’re all wondering how 2019 is going to be different from 2018, and I’m not talking about the new coffee machine your boss has surprised you with.

marylene delbourg delphisThis week we speak with Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and the author of “Everybody Wants to Love Their Job,” about how work is going to change in 2019. Her answer? It’s not going to — unless you do something about it.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but our conversation was a powerful reminder that the future of work isn’t defined by our fancy tools; it’s defined by the people who use them.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

So What’s the Future of Work?

The way Delbourg-Delphis sees it, the future of work comes down to one word: automation. And while that word itself can scare people, she doesn’t see things in such apocalyptic terms. “Many jobs can be mapped onto new jobs. So the future is not doomsday,” she says.

Of course, there’s another change coming as well. Baby boomers are aging out of the workplace, and millennials have taken their place as the largest cohort, with Generation Z not too far behind. Soon the workplace will be filled with young, techno-savvy whippersnappers who can’t imagine life without smartphones and hashtags. The office will never look the same.

Or will it?

Change Isn’t a Given

Assuming that work itself will magically transform because of technology and generational change is a mistake, Delbourg-Delphis says. She admits that sounds counter-intuitive. “It’s logical to believe that [work] will change,” she says. “Digital transformation is already here for us as consumers.” But she says there’s something standing in the way of true change at work: the way things have always been done. “We should not underestimate the status quo,” Delbourg-Delphis says.

The status quo, she notes, has little to do with workplace demographics, because the issue is structural. Despite the fact that the U.S. has transitioned to a service economy, organizations still operate on a hierarchical model that dates back to an industrial economy. This model can isolate leaders from their employees, and it can lead to stale thinking that discourages innovation and disruption.

To Delbourg-Delphis, change has only one source. “Companies don’t innovate,” she says. “People do.”

The Key to Change

What companies must do, Delbourg-Delphis says, is think about their employees’ engagement — and make sure they love their jobs. It sounds like common sense, but the stakes are quite high. Delbourg-Delphis’ research shows that if employees are unhappy, productivity drops by 30 percent.

She says engagement has three categories. Maintaining these, she believes, is essential to creating an organization that is both positive and dynamic.

The first is personal engagement. Making sure employees are motivated is about more than just giving them prime desk space. “It’s very important for employees to have skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy and feedback,” she says. Failure to give employees any of these risks alienating them from the organization.

Second is interpersonal engagement, or team engagement. Employees often work in teams, and part of the way employees define their roles at an organization is by their interactions with peers. Clear lines of communication within a team, as well as with other teams, is paramount to creating the respect and trust employees need to feel toward one another.

Finally, there’s collective and societal engagement. You may know this by another term — culture — but Delbourg-Delphis defines culture differently than others do. Culture, she says, has nothing to do with a company’s so-called values. In fact, culture has little to do with management at all. “A culture,” she explains, “is what employees feel.” If employees aren’t free to express their emotions, a company’s culture can quickly turn toxic.

The Growing Role of HR

If people are key to driving innovation and change across an organization, then there’s perhaps no greater piece to ensuring transformation than HR, she says. “In the future I see a much, much bigger role for HR,” Delbourg-Delphis says. “HR should be in charge of the health of the human infrastructure just as the CTO is in charge of the technology infrastructure. They are the human infrastructure designers.”

This means that the key to driving innovation across an organization is for HR to ensure that employees are both happy and productive. So while your fancy new enterprise software may be great, HR should be ensuring that these tools are put to use in ways that enhance the three categories of employee engagement. Making sure these tools bring employees closer to the organization is key to driving success.

But HR also needs to remember that it has a responsibility to grow and challenge itself. Delbourg-Delphis says the most important skill an HR practitioner can have now is “an endless ability to learn.” She suggests delving into organizational psychology. “Academia has created a phenomenal body of research that we can leverage literally every day,” she says.

As we’ve discussed, the stakes are high. Keeping your employees happy is about more than just a pleasant workplace. It’s the key to driving change itself. It’s a fascinating, practical way to think about a word we often define far too loosely, and maybe it’s a New Year’s resolution for all of us in HR.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

5 Employee Engagement Stats You Might Not Be Measuring

Employers know they need to be measuring and managing employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to stay with the organization and work hard to excel, so being able to drive engagement means better retention and outcomes. What you measure will depend on your goals and the tools you use, but casting a wide net can help uncover insights you might not have expected.

“Engagement levels will continually fluctuate with changes in the business cycle or industry, so it’s important to measure employee engagement over time to identify trends and patterns,” says Laurie Zaucha, vice president of human resources and organizational development for Paychex, Inc. Here are some of the stats you might not be measuring.

Negative Metrics

It can be uncomfortable to zoom in on what’s not going right at your organization, but understanding poor performance can shed some light on bottlenecks or barriers. Tracking statistics such as voluntary turnover rates, sick leaves and absences can be eye-opening.

“Employers should know why their employees are leaving their company, not only because it’s costly, but because its shows at some point the employee no longer is engaged with their work or the workplace,” says Katy Roby, marketing manager at Arcusys, which works on employee engagement. Correlating this information with other engagement data can identify underlying issues.

Bottom Line Results

Customer-satisfaction scores and overall business results can be combined with survey results to show a holistic view of the workforce, Zaucha says. Over time, you’ll be able to determine the engagement factors that drive business performance, so look for ways to connect the two. A strong tech platform can help you integrate this data with other survey results to get a full picture of what’s driving engagement at your company, Zaucha says.

Employee Experience

Big-picture questions about whether employees are “satisfied” are helpful for overall engagement, but digging into their day-to-day lives can help explain numbers that might seem like outliers at first glance.

“People want to do great work, and if we are making it difficult for them to do so, of course they are going to be less than engaged,” says Rick Lozano, a talent-development expert. He recommends asking whether employees feel they can do their work: “Dealing with red tape and feeling like your hands are tied at work is a major demotivator.”

Employee Intentions

Asking employees about their behaviors can give insights into how they feel. At Energage, a company that studies workplace culture and engagement, engagement is defined as individual passion working toward shared success. “Indicators of that individual passion include commitment, motivation and referrals,” says CEO Doug Claffey. “It’s important to find out from your people if they intend to stay, if they’re giving their best, and if they’d recommend working at your company.”


The most important attributes in business are those that support individual and team innovation, as well as ownership of the job, says Carole Stovall, president of SLS Global, a management-psychologist firm. “These are highlighted by transparent and predictable trust, communication, accountability and opportunities for growth and partnership throughout the organization,” she says. Without them, employees will not engage and will be open to going elsewhere, she says.

4 Ways to Encourage Active, Healthy Teams in Winter

The beginning of 2018 has brought with it record cold and extreme snowfall in many parts of the country, making some workers feel like they’ve entered a new ice age. Despite workers having to deal with snow-caked sidewalks and frigid mornings, work must go on.

Outside the tangible obstacles of winter, an employee’s ability to cope with the “winter blues” is another issue. In fact, it was recently reported that 28 percent of British workers skip lunch during the winter to avoid the outdoors, despite most workers claiming that forgoing outdoor time negatively impacts not only their mood, but also their health. This practice can lead to decreased productivity, kicking off a vicious cycle of downtime and disengagement.

To help employees break the inactivity cycle of winter and overcome the winter blues, leaders need to think of ways to encourage movement in their people, transforming an icy situation into a bright and rich opportunity.

While leaders may not be able to maximize the benefits of cold-weather workouts for their employees (you certainly can’t force people to go for an outdoor jog), there are a few simple ways you can encourage movement and increase physical activity right in the office.

Set Up Centralized Trash Cans and Printing

Think twice about where you set up commonly used items like trash cans and printers. The decision could be an opportunity to get people moving. Think about it: You wouldn’t station a coffee pot at every worker’s desk, so why have 20 trash cans in 20 different places?

In addition to making people walk a little to throw things away, centralizing trash cans helps cut down on maintenance costs by not having to supply and empty numerous bins. Likewise, having a single printing center streamlines maintenance while encouraging movement and workplace interactions — a benefit to the body and the soul. As a bonus, these changes declutter the workspace and aren’t that difficult to implement.

Keep the Water Flowing

Water is, of course, integral to any fitness plan, and proper hydration is important for maintaining a positive mood and promoting higher energy levels. Water coolers, like trash cans and printers, should be placed in a common location. But beyond centralization, office water stations have an added benefit in terms of encouraging movement. Good hydration increases the cadence of restroom breaks, which gets people out of their chairs even more.

Use Walking Meetings

While the sedentary statue of Rodin’s “The Thinker” is an iconic figure, movement actually helps the brain work better than hours of sitting. Thus, curbing the dreaded rambling meeting (something about sinking into chairs seems to anchor people in that mode) should be a top priority. Stand-up meetings are a good step in the right direction, but taking it a step further — literally — means that you can cover the necessary ground while remaining succinct and precise.

Walking meetings, in which teams stroll around the office to discuss business, provide a major emotional boost and drive enlivened and creative thinking. Plus, these meetings can be done even during a blizzard, leaving workers feeling energized when they return to their workspaces to implement the ideas discussed.

Lead by Example

Employees look to leadership to set the mood and culture of the organization, and that’s just as true for the culture of physical activity at your workplace. Beyond the strategies mentioned above for promoting an active workspace, you can tailor the culture of your organization around activity.

Set up company walking clubs or stair clubs and be a proud member, take part in any health screenings or flu shots, make exercise convenient by allocating workout time throughout the day, or challenge your colleagues to report their personal bests for daily steps taken by using pedometers. These practices can all be undertaken in the spirit of camaraderie, and they’re a great way to not only encourage physical activity, but also to foster team dynamics.

Winter isn’t a time for business stagnation, so why should it be a time for employee stagnation? By centralizing essential items, promoting good hydration and physical engagement, and leading actively, you can cultivate an active workspace that staves off the cold weather slump while increasing productivity and morale. Winter can be an exciting start to the new year, so step up and get your people going.

Share the Score to Truly Engage Your Employees

Today, I want to talk employee engagement, what it really looks like, and why a scorecard is such an important part of the engagement process. Employee engagement has received considerable attention in the past few years, particularly because research shows that engagement leads to increased performance, retention, and customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, only 51 percent of U.S. employees are engaged at work. There is a major need to make a change, but understanding what engagement is and how to achieve it isn’t always clear.

Let’s start by understanding what engagement is. Engagement is defined as “being present at a particular time and place.” In today’s highly connected, fast-paced world, our staff can easily become distracted or disengaged at work. This requires managers to take a proactive approach to helping staff be present at work. To do so, employees must be actively involved in understanding and working on the business—not just in it.

Unfortunately, most managers, executives, and owners seem determined to keep their employees on the outside looking in. They neglect to realize that there cannot be engagement without involvement from your employees. “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the heart of things, not at the periphery,” organizational consultant Warren Bennis writes. “Everyone in the organization feels that he or she can make a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.”

Involve employees by defining and communicating your company’s objectives so everyone knows they should be working towards. Align individual and departmental goals with the company’s objectives so everyone’s efforts are going in the right direction. Next, ensure each of the objectives has measurements or scores that can be reviewed regularly.

Company Scorecard

Once company objectives and measurements have been defined, managers must share those scores and give feedback. One of the best ways to do so is by creating a company scorecard that is easy to read and easy to understand. Here’s an example:

Department Scorecard

Once your company scorecard is set, you can then drill down into a department scorecard that is more relevant to your immediate staff. Here’s an example:

Individual Scorecard

You can use this format to create an individual scorecard for every employee to highlight key objectives related to the department and company goals. An individual scorecard is a great tool for individual accountability.

Update and review the scorecards each month. Ensure the scorecard is posted in an easy-to-access place, available both in soft and hard format.

Share the Scores

Technology is making it easier to create strategies, share results, and keep everyone aligned and working toward a shared vision. There are several technology companies such as Cascade, Envisio, and OnStrategy that provide software that aligns the elements of individual and company goals and the supporting action and achievement plans across a company. Whatever method you choose, it’s important to share scores with all employees.

When employees know the scores, they’re aware of overall company performance and can have focused conversations and communication about achievements, concerns and required improvements. Remember to share the results, no matter if they’re good, bad, or ugly. This is a critical step in creating a culture of accountability.

Individuals and departments must know how they personally and collectively affect the company scorecard. They must know how to make the adjustments needed to reach objectives. Some departments will have more impact to drive revenues, help customers, or manage expenses. Once everyone understands their purpose and contribution, managers can then engage their people to improve company scores, which is where I believe true engagement occurs.

Make sure your employees know your objectives, understand scores, and are working on a plan to improve. This is what engagement really is: employees being present, understanding how their efforts make a difference, and knowing their purpose in your company.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out my book, Culture Hacker, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Also check out Season 2 of the Culture Hacker Podcast, available on SoundCloud and iTunes.

5 Proven Ways to Make Employees Never Want to Leave

Recruiting the right employees is a time-consuming and important process. Hiring the right people is critical to the organization achieving its goals. But what happens when a new hire shows up for work? How can you make sure your star candidate becomes a happy, dedicated employee who never wants to leave?

I’ve learned five keys to meeting new employees’ expectations and keeping them engaged on the job.

“How Can I Help” Leadership

Command and control is old-school; servant leadership is the new school of management. To improve retention, throw out old dictatorial practices and focus on how leaders help employees achieve their goals. Rather than tell people what to do, the servant leader looks for ways to remove obstacles that prevent people from succeeding.

As an executive servant leader, I dedicated at least 50 percent of my time each week meeting with people to understand how they did their job and what they needed to achieve their goals more effectively. I always took notes and made a point of following up to report on what actions I had taken as a result of their input.

In addition, every month I held “bear pit” sessions where I invited key employees from various functions to come together and “have at me.” They asked bold questions and I answered, unaccompanied by my support staff. To say that these sessions were grueling would be an understatement but I quickly learned how people were feeling in my organization and what was needed to enhance their engagement.

Regular Performance Feedback

Everyone wants to improve, and if employees don’t get constructive performance assessment on a frequent basis, they feel abandoned by the organization. They have no idea what they need to do to improve and as a result feel that no one really cares about helping them do a better job. Employees who don’t get feedback leave for an organization that has employee performance management hardwired into its culture. Show your people that preparing employees for future opportunities is a priority for leadership.

I held each of my direct reports accountable for conducting regular performance reviews with their reports; it was a key element in their performance plan and their annual bonus depended on how well they carried out the task.

Career Development Plans

Every employee needs a specific plan for how they’ll learn new skills and get exposure to new opportunities. Leaders are responsible for making sure every employee has a detailed career plan, including potential lateral moves that could enhance their long-term potential.

One way I measured a leader’s effectiveness: looking at how many of their employees moved around to new positions in the organization in order to expose them to new challenges. The effective leaders made it a priority to proactively move their people around; the mediocre ones never did and as a result had short tenure in my organization.

A Personalized Culture of Engagement

A culture isn’t created by corporate programs. It’s defined by everyday personalized acts of leadership. No two people can be engaged in the same way, hence the problem with a single engagement program that is forced to fit all individuals. Instead, a leader can create a personalized culture based on how they interact with each employee every day.

My calendar was full of one-on-one conversations with individuals in my organization. Those conversations made it fairly easy to understand how I could help them identify more strongly with the goals of the organization.

Fair Compensation

The most obvious way to retain employees is to satisfy their basic needs: pay and benefits. Without those fundamentals, it’s difficult to attract people through the recruitment process and to hold them if they take a position with you. You must be at least comparable to your competitors to play the game.

Standout organizations with incredible retention rates invest heavily to both discover individuals who align with their vision and values and to build a culture that encourages them to stay. The leader who wants to retain loyal employees makes it an everyday priority. Focus on these five practices and not only will your retention rates improve, your peers will look at you as the organization to watch in the field.

Driving Employee Engagement Will Drive Your Client Engagement

Happy employees lead to happy clients. Knowing that, why do so few companies focus on employee engagement?

At my company, we prioritize employee engagement for two reasons: First, disengaged employees are less productive at work, lowering the quality of deliverables and harming the company’s culture and reputation; and second, disengaged employees present themselves poorly to clients, creating negative impressions and reducing conversions.

To avoid a destructive company culture and disappointed clients, leaders should focus more on engaging their employees. Not only will this lead to greater efficacy and efficiency in the workplace, but it will also bolster client engagement and, by default, company success.

The Perks of an Engaged Workforce

A company that wants to foster employee engagement — and benefit from it — must engage all its people, not just the client-facing ones.

Engaged employees bring energy and innovation to the office — working harder, thinking differently, and investing more in their jobs as result of this stimulation. As a result, they’re able to solve complex problems with creative solutions, producing more revenue and outpacing their disengaged competitors.

Simply put, an engaged workforce renders a more successful company. There’s a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and client satisfaction. When employees are more positive and helpful in their interactions, this positivity translates to clients, driving stronger service and building better relationships. And clients reward this good service with repeat business and by spreading brand awareness — through either word-of-mouth advertising or posting online reviews.

What Leaders Should Know About Engagement

Though compensation is a primary way to create engagement, money isn’t everything. According to Gallup, while 54 percent of disengaged employees would leave their jobs for a raise of less than 20 percent, only 37 percent of engaged employees would do the same.

By treating each employee as an individual rather than as a cog in a machine and listening to what they value, leaders can better understand their employees and their individual needs and preferences, creating engagement outside of compensation. Mangers can then customize ways to engage employees within the company or provide the resources that can bolster an employee’s own engagement practices.

My company, for instance, encourages employees to hone in on and maximize what makes them most happy and most productive. While for me that may be flexibility, for others that might be the ability to work in different locations around the world. Others value the ownership they have on specific projects, the educational support or wellness perks they receive, or the time off our company offers. It’s all about preference.

More than salary, leaders should focus on company culture as an effective engagement strategy, and they can do this by following these three strategies:

  1. Schedule Frequent, Transparent, and Direct Conversations with Employees

Transparent leaders discover and solve employee problems more quickly, with 70 percent of employees being more engaged when their leaders regularly update them on changes in company strategy or goals. What’s more, effective communication can also reduce the impact or pervasiveness of individual problems.

While many employees may be afraid to approach their managers and talk things through spontaneously, leaders who arrange opportunities to sit down with employees one-on-one often find these opportunities are a great way to understand and address any issues or needs. Don’t beat around the bush during these meetings, though. Get the answers you need by asking the right questions: What keeps your employees engaged? What do they love about their jobs? What would make them love their job more?

It all boils down to frequent and direct communication, because the more you talk openly with your people, the better you understand what’s going on with them.

  1. Remove Barriers That Make Life Harder

While communication is the first step to understanding employee engagement, realize engagement largely hinges on giving people the tools and structures they need in order to flourish.

The larger an organization becomes, for example, the more convoluted workflows get, which can lead to worker frustration. To assess these workflows and how exactly your employees are affected, you can take inventory of the most necessary processes, break down unnecessary silos, or automate what can be automated. Making life easier for employees is a quick way to engage them.

If some employees don’t like a specific workflow or feel overworked given the way their roles operate, you should first discuss these barriers with them, then explore options that can make everyone work smarter and, finally, budget to accommodate that change.

  1. Acknowledge and Support Personal Goals

A company culture of engagement should account for both today and tomorrow, as few employees want to stay in the same role forever. Many of today’s workers aren’t wedded to a particular company, with only 13 percent of Millennials believing that they should stay at a job for at least five years before leaving. Acknowledging personal development goals and providing educational opportunities to help employees grow is essential to not only engagement, but also retention.

You must recognize that turnover is inevitable, but employees who feel valued and respected, achieve good work-life balances, and are more engaged in their jobs are more likely to stay. Not to mention that at an average hiring cost of $4,000 for a new employee, it’s far more expensive to hire than it is to retain top talent.

Employees want to perform at high levels, but companies don’t always make it easy for them to stay engaged. Opening up communication, building stronger interpersonal relationships, giving workers the tools they need to succeed, and creating opportunities for satisfaction inside and outside the office are great ways for leaders to promote engagement. Your devoted workforce will reward your efforts with higher client satisfaction, stronger revenue, and a happier culture. Who wouldn’t want to work at a place like that?

Photo Credit: Dr Carr at ISU Flickr via Compfight cc

Performance Management: It’s Not a Product, It’s a Partnership  

For winter, here’s a cold-weather metaphor any homeowner can relate to. But it’s a model that, as you’ll see, has to do with any major shift in a big system. Imagine you’ve finally made the plunge and opted to spend a whole lot to invest in a brand new heating system for your house. It’s super high tech: state of the art, energy efficient, entirely customized to your needs, with digital thermostats and a cognitive design that will not only remember your heating needs but anticipate them. You can control it from your smartphone and, theoretically, coach family and guests on how to use it. The installer walks you through it all, and it seems incredibly simple. And then the installer leaves.

And you realize you haven’t a clue how to use it.

What do you do?

You call the installer. Come back and show me again. Or my family will be furious with me, because I made them give up the old furnace that may have clunked and roared, but it worked.

Workforces are not heating systems. But as with any other essential part of the infrastructure, you can’t make a massive, systemic change to how you manage the workforce and then let it run itself. What we’ve also found is that in terms of performance management, 88% of companies want to rethink how they do it, according to a 2015 study by Deloitte. But of those, only 8–12% stopped relying on performance reviews.

Here’s one simple reason: they don’t get enough help. To revise one of the very foundations of an organization — one that blends culture with process and strategy with system, and has an impact on the single most valuable asset, people —  there should be a partnership guiding the change. Just as we set expectations for our employees, it’s time to set them for our consultants as well. What do we need to drive successful change? Here are five key behaviors companies can ask for:

  1. Don’t just hold our hand. Inspire us. This is one instance where handholding is not just appropriate, it’s necessary. No matter how sophisticated an organization’s knowledge of the software, or how savvy the HR team is, there are going to be gaps in that intelligence. It’s not just about software and tech issues, either. It’s about the very role performance management can take as a driver of organizational success. You want a consultant who sees the role of performance management as a catalyst, not a punishment, to enable employers to grow and thrive. It’s part technician, part coach.
  2. Don’t make it too complicated.  There are too many instances of plug and play applications that are not fully utilized due to poor support and overcomplicated mechanics — yes, and that can adversely affect both successful ROI and next steps. A badly conceived change could cancel out the value of future initiatives. Innovation only drives innovation when it works. Not only do we need dedicated human beings as well as chatbots to help troubleshoot, there should also be a point when a complicated problem is handled back on the consulting end, freeing HR to go back to its other tasks.
  3. Craft alignment with the customer. I recently wrote about the need to revise the foundational culture underpinning how companies manage performance: “Without the engagement and alignment of our workforce, all the big plans in the world won’t amount to much.”  The same can be said of a support system. If a company has committed to changing its performance management, it’s made the cultural shift. But without the engagement and alignment of the provider / consultant from which it’s sourcing its new performance management system, that cultural shift won’t amount to much. The new system may not function smoothly or seam into the existing organizational culture, and may drive disengagement and resentment among the workforce.
  4. Partner, don’t just provide. The tremendous shifts transforming the world of work point back to the same need again and again for teamwork not just within organizations, but outside of them. Success depends on positive collaboration — working together to facilitate the change, initiate the change, train the change, and then maintain the change. Innovative companies will not only customize the software and elements like the dashboard or the portal, they also tailor the entire process, managing not just the moment of change, but the continuum from initial adoption to fully integrated use.
  5. Act a bit like a startup. There’s a recent, compelling article on organizational change by friend and colleague Josh Levine. He breaks organizational culture into 5 Ps: package, potential, people, purpose, and perception. It’s also an apt way to look at how an organization handles a profound change such as a new performance management system. Just how the system works — what’s in the package has to be clear: its platforms, check-ins, surveys, self-assessments, and more — so employees know what to expect. But they also should see the merits and potential — for instance, if management is going to be based on motivation instead of separation (as happens in stack rankings and badly designed peer reviews), or performance reviews are going to happen more often and with less stress involved and more flexibility.

Presenting the potential is up to the people involved, and may be more effective when it’s conveyed by those who created the system. They don’t need to sell it anymore, whereas the organization may feel compelled to pitch it to the workforce to facilitate a smoother adoption. And is the workforce given the chance to really see the purpose of this new model from their own point of view? It’s as critical to manage perceptions as it is to carefully manage change — but to do that transparently and authentically. That needs to come from both provider and purchaser.

We talk a whole lot about the need to change our performance management systems, and how they’re already changing for the better. We focus on how best to engage rather than evaluate, how to use feedback to empower, how to stop treating employees like numbers whose performance simply checks off desired boxes. The specifics of a system can vary widely. But the bottom line should be a sustained, agile, responsive and scalable partnership.

This article was sponsored by Reflektive.  All opinions are that of TalentCulture and Meghan M. Biro.

#WorkTrends Recap: Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace

Art Barter, who founded the Servant Leadership Institute and is the CEO of Datron World Communications, began his journey when he wanted to infuse Datron with servant leadership principles but couldn’t find adequate materials. Today, everyone at Datron gets trained on servant leadership principles.

During this #WorkTrends, we discussed the core of servant leadership and how it is all about motives. What Art told us is that Datron’s servant leadership definition is “to inspire and equip those we influence. To inspire people”, Art says, “you have to care about them.” Art pointed out that even power is different in servant leadership because it is shared.

“As CEO, I know I need to serve everyone in the organization, and I imagine inverting the orginational chart to remind myself of that.”

Another great piece of wisdom that Art told us was that the most important thing you can do is give your employees a vehicle to live your organization’s purpose. We discussed the qualities Art looks for in new talent. He said he’s learned not to look for competence first, but for character.

“We spend more time looking at the character of a  leader,” he said. “If a leader comes in talking about themselves rather than the people who will be working for them, that’s a sign.”

We think that makes for a pretty great organization. Thanks, Art, for this perspective on servant leadership.

Here are a few key points Art shared:

  • People are looking for purpose in their lives
  • Confidence level in our businesses and government is historically low, according to Gallup
  • Change doesn’t happen through words; it happens through leadership actions
  • When you turn an organizational chart upside down, the CEO sees all the people he or she has to serve
  • Hire for character first, competence second

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

#WorkTrends Preview: Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace

Did you know If you enter “servant leadership” into a search engine and follow the Wikipedia link, the very first line of the definition is sourced from the Servant Leadership Institute, which was founded by this week’s guest, Art Barter.

The definition of Servant Leadership:

Traditional leadership generally involves the exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid.’ By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. Servant leadership turns the power pyramid upside down; instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people. When leaders shift their mindset and serve first, they unlock purpose and ingenuity in those around them, resulting in higher performance and engaged, fulfilled employees.

That all sounds good, right? As we know, though, changing an organization constrained by traditional leadership isn’t as easy as saying, “let’s do things differently.”

This #WorkTrends chat will give an overview of servant leadership and how it can improve employee retention, engagement, ambassadorship, innovation, and collaboration. It will help us learn to invert the “power leadership” model and enhance individual growth, teamwork, employee involvement and satisfaction.

Join #WorkTrends host Meghan M. Biro and her guest Art Barter, author of many books, including Farmer Able and founder of the Servant Leadership Institute, on Wednesday, December 13, 2017, at 1 pm ET as they discuss great how organizations can pursue servant leadership principles and create productive, collaborative workplaces.

Servant Leadership in the Modern Workplace 

Servant Leadership in the Modern WorkplaceJoin Meghan and Art on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, December 13, 2017 at 1 pm ET | 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: Why is servant leadership so important in the modern workplace? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question

Q2: What behaviors do true servant leaders display in the workplace? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question

Q3: How can proper servant leadership improve workplace culture? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community.

Photo Credit: jackbonner Flickr via Compfight cc

The Best Performance Management Puts Humans First

It’s one thing to decide to revise your performance management approach. It’s another thing to successfully re-engineer the mindset that embraces the change — and then manage that transformation across the organization. Too often, performance management is still stuck in an old framework that conflates human performance and business performance as one. If there’s anything we know now — illuminated by revealing data — it’s that humans must come first.

Why intentions get derailed

Yes: our business or organization is only as good as its people: to a certain extent, that’s true. But confusing how we measure what people do and how the organization is doing often results in our people feeling devalued and their efforts overlooked. We know what happens next. While many companies say they want to change how they evaluate performance, 9 out of 10 still use numerical performance scores to not only to rank employees but also determine compensation. A recent HR strategy roundtable focused on plans versus reality: Most organizations average a mere two hours a year on performance management per employee. Meanwhile, half (48%) of employees surveyed in a recent study felt that a performance review helped them improve their performance.

Without the engagement and alignment of our workforce, all the big plans in the world won’t amount to much. The organization is likely too busy spinning its wheels to just sustain a workforce. We’re in a talent crunch: good talent is hard to find. Great talent — even harder. Facing churn and constantly forced to train and rebuild new teams, some managers are understandably going to fall back on the systems they already well know, and resist the prospect of yet more change. The complex fabric of today’s workforces will only exacerbate that sense of being under siege.

As the business performance suffers, it seems to underscore the need to better oversee how the people are doing, which can turn into a review of the mistakes or lapses they made in the past turbulent year. Some exasperated managers may want to point the finger at employees not ‘pulling their weight.’ Competitive rankings, awkward peer reviews, accusations of unfairness, a long future of compensation based on a half-hour meeting, surveys that start with key weaknesses — there go any plan to retool the workplace culture. There, then, go some of your best people. It’s crisis HR: forget redesigning the house at least until the fire’s out. Newsflash: the fire isn’t going to go out.

Change requires better tools

Here’s what must happen instead. Empower everyone. The role of managers is to enable the organization to work to keep it working: their loyalty must be to productivity. They may know full well there’s a better way but simply not believe it’s viable given the current turbulence they’re trying to navigate. But it’s exhausting, managing by crisis mitigation. It’s not engaging for anyone. So, if you can pry your captains’ hands off the wheel for a moment, it’s an ideal time to make the change — if it’s done right. Successfully initiating and seeing through a complete shift to a culture of collaboration, innovation, and empowerment — for everyone, including managers — means capitalizing on the powerful tech and innovative systems now available.  That way all levels of the organization, particularly management, is secure in knowing nothing will fall between the cracks.

In with the new

This new model of performance management functions on technology that frees manages to play a far more frequent and connected role in the overall performance of employees. And here’s what happens: the value is put back into people. On the human side, we get to be — human. Whether a meaningful debriefing when a project is still fresh in everyone’s mind, team feedback given by request, individual check-ins through a day or a week, or exchanges around goals and targets, the mindset is freed of a transactional imperative. There’s no need for human effort to be flattened into a spreadsheet and numbers. Replacing that is a far more collaborative and ongoing conversation that’s far more responsive to the needs of everyone involved and thus more productive in terms of the data and knowledge it creates.

On the tech side, the difference is a sea change. Goal alignment and attainment, for instance, can be measured on a granular level for employees and managers — to see specially and immediately how they’re working and what kind of progress is taking place. What skills need to be deepened, what training needs to be added, what improvements can be made — all is based on information, not an onslaught of impersonal rankings. Performance reviews, whatever time period they do cover, are based on tangible and real data that, in turn, is connected back to the employee’s own experience of the work. The tech integrates into existing systems and platforms, becoming part of the workplace — within the workplace, not outside of it. And every action can be measured to provide data that empowers improvement. The bottom line is responsiveness. The right performance management system is responsive the organization’s needs as well as human needs — and acts as a bridge between the two.

Organizations are only as good as their people, it’s true. We also know that employees do far better when they can take ownership of their own success and invest in their own excellence. The key difference is that people need to feel like that paradigm’s not a liability, but an advantage. To drive true change in performance management, there must be a powerful set of tools in place to keep it from going off the rails, set it on its course, and let it gain momentum from within. The right tech can effectively free managers from the relentless administrative pressures that tend to, by necessity, narrow their focus — when what they need is to be freed to connect with their workforce. The best tools put humans first — all of them.

To learn more, check out the webinar, “Making Performance Reviews More Human.”  from Reflekive.  Enjoy.

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Five Reasons Workplace Gamification Works

We’ve all had those jobs where we simply couldn’t get motivated. Maybe our tasks were boring—too complicated—uninspiring. In those cases, we muddled through. We got it done. But we weren’t necessarily fulfilled or engaged with the work we were doing. Gamification aims to change all that.

In fact, even beyond monotonous tasks, gamification has the power to amp up the workplace in exciting ways. By 2015, 40 percent of Global 1000 companies were already using gamification strategies to get employees more involved and committed to their daily responsibilities. In this age of digital transformation, the opportunities to implement gamification to help employees adapt, learn, and grow are almost endless. The following are just a few reasons gamification works—and wins—in today’s workplace.

It’s How We Think

Gaming isn’t just addictive because it’s fun to use technology at work. It’s addictive because it’s psychological. It plays to our desires to compete, share, get recognized, and be instantly gratified by a job well done. It can break down daunting and complex tasks down into smaller bite-size morsels, guide us to the next task, and give us a pat on the back for every step forward. It’s like having a constant source of encouragement pop up throughout our workday. Come to think of it, many of us probably use gamification to encourage our kids to do chores. Why should it stop when we get to the office?

It’s More Engaging 

Did you know 70 percent of business transformations fail due to lack of engagement? It’s no wonder. When faced with change, many people get overwhelmed and shut down. And in times of digital transformation—when change is happening at lightning speed every single day—that is a problem companies just can’t afford. By incorporating a fun and interactive element into your employees’ workday, you keep them interested, active, and accountable. New software, policies, and assignments are less mundane because employees are being led through them, rather than muddling through on their own. And we all know engaged employees are also more fulfilled employees and therefore more likely to stay through your digital transformation, rather than move on to another “more comfortable” opportunity. I wrote about this extensively in my piece Workplace Gamification Driving Employee Engagement on Futurum.

It’s Real Time

There is perhaps nothing less motivating than working hard every day—to goals no one will even think about until the end of the year. All the blood, sweat, and tears that went into planning a big meeting, launching a major publication, or successfully targeting a new market segment get forgotten in lieu of three top-line objectives that don’t necessarily speak to your everyday accomplishments. Gamification can change that using real-time “Fitbit” style monitoring that allows employees to compete against one another to hit smaller daily targets, and receive recognition instantly for the hard work they are doing. Even better, it can track all those achievements automatically. This is turn leads to more active engagement, noted above.

It’s Fair

By continually tracking and acknowledging when employees hit their goals, companies can remove “boss bias” that can occur when a supervisor allows their personal feelings about an employee to interfere with their objective review of their performance. This in turn creates a better workplace for employees, who no longer have to fear their boss’ mood will interfere with their year-end bonus.

It’s Fun

OK—this isn’t technically a business goal, but in my view, it should be. When employees enjoy their work—see joy in the challenge—and feel recognized for the time and effort they are putting in, they will want to work harder and smarter than ever before. That’s exactly the kind of commitment we need in times of digital transformation.

Is gamification necessary? Of course not. But neither is AI, machine learning, automation, or any of the other amazing technologies popping up on the tech landscape that are helping companies meet their business goals even more efficiently than ever before. As such, leaders need to stop thinking of gamification as an added expense, and start thinking of it as a way to improve their team’s productivity, knowledge, and skills. No single technology today will bring your company success in and of itself. All are merely tools to work alongside your teams so that you can better serve customers, save money, and find new and exciting growth. And when it comes to games, I always want to be on the winning side of that proposition—especially during digital transformation.

Additional Resources on This Topic:

Workplace Gamification Driving Employee Engagement
Selling the Digital Transformation

Photo Credit: kid_scientists Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on Converge.

This is What Happens When You Pay For It

If it’s not in the compensation plan it won’t get done.

If you don’t pay employees to further the strategic goals of the organization, they won’t be achieved.

That’s a fact; that’s the reality.

Why do you think sales bonus plans are so pervasive?

It’s all very well to strike an audacious goal and throw it out to the organization expecting employees will somehow identify with it, get excited about it and do whatever is necessary to implement it.

But this view is a colossal pipe dream.

The challenge for leadership is to make strategic objectives meaningful at the individual employee level.

Lowering a high level nonspecific organizational end game on employees creates dysfunction at best; everyone is forced to invent what it means to them in their particular role.

Typically different people come up with different interpretations; confusion results and little if any progress is made.

To make the strategic purpose a reality requires 2 fundamental steps.

  1. Translate the critical components of the organization’s strategy to what it specifically means to each function. What does sales, marketing, engineering and finance have to do day-in and day-out to deliver the expected results?
  2. Incorporate the specific deliverables into each employee’s annual performance and bonus plan.

Some organizations attempt to translate their high level objectives down to lower levels but few actually integrate them into the bonus plans for the many positions in its organization structure.

The human resource function is not responsible to make this happen.

It’s a leadership responsibility because aligning and motivating employees are key to execution; without strong performance in this area, little progress is made.

7 steps to integrate strategic objectives into the compensation plan of the organization.

  1. Keep the number of objectives to 3 at most. People can’t achieve meaningful progress when they are assigned a grocery list of deliverables.

Determine a few critical objectives that will achieve 80% of the results expected and avoid taking on “the possible many” things that might be related to strategic outcomes expected but are not vital.

  1. Prioritize the objectives; make it clear what the pressing need is and where expected results MUST be delivered. This defines the absolute minimum set of expectations that are acceptable to leadership.
  2. Weight the priorities to influence where people spend their time. Not every objective has equal import on the strategy and this should be reflected accordingly. If the top priority is given a weight of 60/100, for example, it will command the majority of a person’s time.

This is critical. If people are left on their own to determine how to allocate their time, they will most likely get it wrong, or at least there will be “attention spray” in the workplace resulting in inconsistency and dysfunction.

  1. Regularly review—with each employee—the results they have achieved versus the objectives they’ve been assigned quarterly or more frequently if the nature of the strategy is significantly different from the old plan.

The only way to make strategy execution matter to people is to keep progress achieved constantly in front of them. Occasional review sends the message that the strategy of the organization isn’t really all that important and that leadership has other more important matters to attend to.

  1. Provide whatever leader support is needed to remedy off target performance. Quite often barriers get in the way of making progress; eradicate these immediately. If no leadership intervention is seen, the message to the workforce is that leaders aren’t serious about making it easier for employees to succeed.
  2. If necessary, tweak the objectives mid-year if results are coming in considerably below objectives. It’s extremely important to keep employee motivation high and if people believe the goal is impossible to achieve, they will shut down and little progress will be made.

As a rule of thumb, if the results for a particular objective were below target by more than 30% after 6 months of the plan, I would consider making a target adjustment.

However if the target were lowered, I would also reduce the potential payout amount as well.

  1. Celebrate successes and learn from failures. NEVER repeat mistakes; ALWAYS repeat what worked. Again, regular recognition reinforces the importance of achieving the organization’s strategic goals and enhances employee engagement to keep working hard to make progress.

You get what you pay for. If strategic goals aren’t tied to how people are paid, they won’t be achieved.

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Choosing New HR tech? Here’s 9 Tips to Get You Started

Are you reading this blog bored at work? Perhaps you don’t feel like your company truly engages you at work. Or, (here’s the big one) can you truly say you love your job?

There’s a reason we ask. 16% of the US workforce are actively disengaged – they’re miserable in the workplace and extinguish anything that engaged employees build. An astounding 50 million employees aren’t engaged at all.

Companies today need to work harder to not just attract the best, but keep them – and, most of all, keep them engaged.

There isn’t one single answer to solving this, but there is one thing that can help in numerous ways: the right HR tech. This can equip not just HR and People leaders, but the workforce too, to fight the productivity and engagement drain – and ultimately create great workforce experiences.

But where to start with choosing new HR tech? Here’s our 9 tips to get you started.

  1. Have a clear business case, and define success

What is the biggest one thing you want to achieve? Do you want to engage your workforce? Automate your core HR tasks and people processes? Consolidate different systems and spreadsheets into one single version of the truth? Adapt to stay ahead of the changing HR industry? Or equip your company for global expansion by making sure you can apply policies at global and local levels?

Some HR systems can do all of this and more – others less. Know the problem that you want to solve first, so you can not only prioritize functionalities, but put forward the business case internally too. If you’re clear with this, then you can calculate and communicate the ROI to your business. This also means that throughout the project you also don’t lose sight of your goals.

  1. Nail the logistics early

Before you begin considering new HR software in detail, make sure you have a clear understanding of the project ahead of you. Know your budget; the timeframes in which you want to have a new system in place; and the stakeholders internally and externally you need to engage with when. This will help you manage the project over time, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

  1. Cloud: it’s a no-brainer

If you’re serious about the right HR software, then you have to go cloud. On-premise solutions are clunky, costly, difficult to update, and can’t always meet user needs for your workforce. Cloud-based HR tech is simple, flexible, agile and available on-demand. Cloud software will be able to grow with you as your company grows; and it will mean easier and better experiences for your workforce, who will be able to access the software remotely and on mobile.

Every company is different and there is no one size fits all for most HR tech criteria, but if you’re going to do one thing, then go cloud. Trust us on this one.

  1. Do your research

There’s a lot of information available on choosing the right HR software – in fact, so much that it might be hard to know where to begin. Start with analysts’ like Gartner, Fosway or Aragon to get an overview of what’s out there. If you don’t want to read lots of research, then why not get out there and meet the vendors face to face at events like the annual HR Technology Conference? You can work your way around the exposition speaking to different vendors and asking questions about their products. (If you want to do that, then you might find our HR tech essential checklist handy). Finally, don’t forget word of mouth. Find out what others in the sector recommend, and get their views too.

  1. Plan for your entire workforce, not just HR

One trap that’s easy to fall into is looking just at what your HR team needs; but if you want a platform that can scale with you, really help drive engagement, and help free up time in your HR team, then you need to think about your workforce, too.

For example, maybe you want to free up your HR team’s time by offering self-service functionality for holiday bookings across the workforce – but, is it designed in a way that employees want to use it? If not, then it’s not going to fulfill its purpose. So always keep your workforce front of mind when considering what options are available to you.

Ask yourself: ‘Does this tech reflect consumer-like experiences so that employees want to use it?’ Workforce experiences are intrinsically linked to performance and productivity – so get the tech right, and the rest will follow.

  1. Bringing the A-game

Analytics is a hot topic in HR right now, with some software vendors offering the ability to increase the visibility and understanding you have of your workforce through data.

Think about where you currently hold all your data. Is it in one place, and not spread across different systems? Is it all secure and compliant to relevant data protection laws? Can you produce a headcount in minutes, not days or hours? If the answer to any of these is no, then you might want to think about how you can use data to manage your workforce even more effectively.

Ultimately, with some platforms you can go as far as calculating flight risk of your high performers, or understanding which teams are more vulnerable to high-turnover. But again, bring it back to your business case and strategy – what problem do you most want to solve through understanding more about your people? And then: what actionable insights do you need to gain? Then work backwards from that.

  1. Align the tech to your HR and People strategy

Where do you want your team to be in five years’ time? For example, many HR and People leaders want their team’s time freed up from admin to concentrate on things like employer branding and People Marketing, or creating great workforce experiences for their people – so they’re turning to automation to help them do this. Understand how you can use tech to get you where you want to be.

  1. Map your legal requirements

As well as being clear what you want new HR tech to do, and how it can support your business strategy, it’s also important to clearly understand what you need it do to. Different countries’ laws can impact your organization in different ways, and you’ll want to have the peace of mind knowing that you’re always compliant, no matter where in the world your workforce is.

This is even more important with updated laws coming into effect in 2018 for all companies that hold data on EU citizens. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have significant impact on how global companies hold and manage personal data. Make sure any HR tech vendor you’re researching and considering is clear about how they ensure you’re always compliant and secure.

  1. Reflect your brand to attract the best

Hopefully, new HR tech should help you solve a problem, and make managing and engaging your workforce just that bit easier. But that means your requirements are going to be different from other companies’ criteria. And it means you’ll need tech that will reflect your brand and culture.

When you’re shopping around, think about how HR technology can reflect your company. Can you tailor and configure it so that it’s something your employees are more likely to engage with?

Companies use their brand to attract customers – so why too shouldn’t they now do the same to attract one of their biggest assets, their people?

Ultimately, it’s about what your people will love to use

There isn’t one single answer to fix the productivity problem, but we know that if companies engage their people better by creating great employee experiences, more people will love going to work.

This ultimately makes a workforce more engaged, and makes good business sense too. It boosts a company’s growth and, in turn, adds to workplace productivity and national economic growth more widely.

Getting the right HR technology is vital for this. What’s stopping you from getting started?

Shopping around for new HR tech? Why not download our free exhaustive checklist of the vital components for any modern HR and People system?

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Blind Faith in Leaders Is a Bad Employee Engagement Strategy

Most who measure employee engagement for a living can show you data that links the level of trust in the senior leaders of the organization to overall employee engagement. Most will go so far as to say that trust in senior leadership is a driver of engagement.

This makes sense.

As employees, we want stability and we hope our organization will succeed so we can reasonably assume better opportunities in the future. Senior leaders (i.e. the CEO and other C-level executives) make decisions that profoundly affect those two important outcomes. So, our confidence in those leaders can have a big impact on our confidence in the organization.

I have been wondering lately if the reason that trust in senior leaders is so important is that we are pretty terrible at communication within most of our organizations.

Trust is a belief that another person is reliable and worthy of our confidence. Synonyms for the word “trust” include faith and hope.

We typically call upon faith and hope in circumstances where we lack evidence or proof.

In medium to large size organizations, in particular, most employees don’t really know the senior leaders. They might hear them speak once a year at an annual meeting or on a shareholder call. But, beyond that, they don’t really know these people.

Compound this with the fact that in many organizations, strategy and decision making are at best poorly communicated and sometimes not at all.

Let me put it another way.  Employees often aren’t clear where the ship is headed or the path charted to get there. They also aren’t sure why they are on this course or how far they have yet to go. And, the ship is being guided by people who they barely know and rarely see.

And yet, they (or rather, their career) is on this ship along for the ride.

It’s easy to see why having trust or faith in your leaders could be pretty important to your overall feelings of engagement, even if that trust is mostly blind.

Here’s what I think all of this means.

Trust in senior leadership as a driver of employee engagement is a symptom of the deeper issues.

Try answering these questions for your organization.

  • What is the purpose of your organization?
  • What are your organization’s core values?
  • What are your organization’s strategic goals for the next three years?
  • How are organizational decisions made at your organization?  What’s the process?
  • What significant progress has been made towards strategic goals recently?
  • What significant failures have occurred and what was learned from these?

If you can readily answer these questions, you don’t need blind faith that your leaders are trustworthy. Your confidence in them and the organization flows from proof that they are worthy of it. They are transparently showing you their work and providing evidence of their ability to lead the organization into the future.

So, the next time your employee engagement results reveal that “trust in senior leadership” is a driver of employee engagement, dig deeper. The more that trust in senior leaders is driving engagement, the more likely it is that you’ve got a communication and transparency problem.

Make no mistake, this is still a leadership problem. But instead of trying to figure out how to help employees find the faith to believe, focus your energy on providing the evidence that removes faith from the equation.

This article was originally published on Jason Lauritsen’s Website.

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These Days, We’re All Disgruntled Workers

The average Goldman Sachs employee earns in excess of $350,000 per year, and we’re assured Greg Smith, who most visibly quit his job there last week, was paid substantially more.

And, in leaving his long-time employer, Smith didn’t abandon just a fat salary. To regain his career freedom, he knowingly forfeited a considerable sum in deferred compensation as well.

Most people in the world, of course, can only dream of being so highly paid for their work, so it’s a good assumption that a very large percentage of the working population has summarily judged Smith’s resignation as an act of complete insanity.

If they could coach him, they would say: “Go back to Goldman, Greg! You have a terrific deal! Subordinate your concerns about a declining corporate culture and profit-at-any-cost leadership. You have a penthouse to go home to at night!”

But this scenario is a complete fantasy. Regardless how little or much they are making, U.S. workers have begun to quit their jobs – in droves – to go in search of organizations, and leaders, they feel will better support their needs. As Smith’s actions show us, pay no longer is the driver of engagement or job satisfaction it once was.

Last year, a MetLife study published in USA Today showed that at least one in three U.S. workers was quietly planning their departure and already had begun looking for a new job. Stunningly, the report noted that most bosses were oblivious to how unhappy and inherently disengaged their employees had become, and would be caught flat-footed when their workers walked out.

Right after Thanksgiving, Time Magazine reported the first evidence that MetLife’s predictions might be right: “With 14 million people still unable to find work and job prospects seemingly bleak … in September, 2 million people gave notice.” Extreme unhappiness on the job was cited as the reason so many workers would take such a risk. Inherently clear was that a lot of people had lost faith in the leaders for whom they worked.

In just the past few days, payroll company ADP confirmed that employee turnover is building even greater momentum. “More people quit jobs in February than in any time since the start of the Great Recession.”

Having been an executive leader for nearly 25 years, I know what it’s like to read statistics like these and to dismiss them as unrelated to my team and business. I suppose it’s even human nature to go into some form of denial when first confronted with bad news. Here’s a good example.

After Greg Smith resigned, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn defensively characterized him as being “disgruntled.” Then they attempted to further discredit Smith by referring to him as just one of the firm’s 12,000 vice-presidents.

Acting on self-preservation instincts, we’re inclined to shoot our messengers and not fully digest and consider the information they bring to us. This time, especially, we’re advised to ponder and respond to the feedback.

While few of us noticed, employee satisfaction has been declining for at least a generation. New York’s Conference Board, a century-old non-profit research organization, began measuring worker happiness in 1987. Its discovery is that the percentage of contented employees has fallen every year since then – regardless of good economic times or bad.

People (human beings) have grown disenchanted with their jobs largely because their needs have greatly changed. What once inspired them to put their hearts into work no longer succeeds.

Dating back to the Industrial Revolution, people once secured jobs to provide for their most basic needs, food and shelter. In those days, and for decades to come, a paycheck was accepted as an entirely sufficient exchange for one’s efforts.

But as it has grown increasingly easier for most people to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, what makes people truly happy and engaged at work now has very little to do with pay.

Subsequent employee engagement research produced by the Conference Board reveals that over and above salary and bonuses, what inspires human performance in the 21st century workplace is emotional currency.

Business leaders – and CEOs – take notice. To keep your employees from leaving, and then to rejuvenate their on-the-job commitment, you’ll need to adopt entirely new practices – ones that authentically address what people now require from you:

Your people want to contribute to the success of an organization they respect; to work directly for an empowering and caring boss; to be given opportunities to grow and progress; to enjoy reasonable job variety; and to have their efforts authentically valued and acknowledged. And all across the world, these five things matter more to people than pay.

There’s more you need to know. Employees cite the absence of concern, care and connection from their leaders as the primary reason they are so unhappy. They want to be fulfilled by the work they do and to know their contributions matter. Therefore, when leaders fail to relate more personally, to understand and genuinely support their individual motivations and aspirations, workers wither.

There are some enlightened organizations that are well on their way toward realigning their leadership cultures and to more purposively supporting the higher needs of their workers. They’ve begun to weed out the non-collaborators, leaders who are unwilling to advocate for and even nurture the people they manage. This list includes Starbucks, Four Seasons Hotels, Wegmans Food Markets, Google, REI and privately held SAS.

Last year, Wharton finance professor Alex Edmans evaluated the stock performance of organizations named to Fortune magazine’s annual list of the “Best Companies to Work For” and proved that companies making the list from 1984 to 2005 outperformed peers by 4 percent per year. These companies are reinforcing our understanding of natural law: “To give is to get.”

Roy Disney once said: “If you want someone to care, capture their minds and their hearts.” The heart has long been ignored in business, but bringing it back into balance with the mind in how we lead people has become essential to the recovery, and ongoing success, of the American economy.

This article originally appeared on Reuters.

The Skills HR Needs to Sustain an Engaged Workforce

The role human resources (HR) play in the workplace is undergoing a major shift.

In the past, HR concerns took a back seat to bottom line business needs. This was due in part to a lack of strong HR metrics and methods of measurement, and the balance of power between employer and employee.

But with today’s increasing jockeying for top talent, the C-level has woken up to the importance of employee engagement, retention and development.

Translating Data Into Improved Employee Experiences 

Employee engagement impacts loyalty, productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction — making it clear that an engaged workforce is not simply a nice to have, it’s a necessity for creating an innovative business that can withstand the constant flow of new competition.

This has led executives to look to HR to recreate and drive the shift towards employee-centered processes, environments and strong value-based cultures, otherwise known as the employee experience. However, a gap still exists between translating data into actionable changes.

Employee engagement is an abstract metric. Identifying a dip in your most recent engagement survey may not tell you why your people are less satisfied with their work life now than they were the month before, or how to address it. HR faces a challenge of how to make people data human.

At this critical moment, HR leaders need to open their minds to new ways of designing processes to create a totally customized and unique experience. The great thing is you won’t have to leave your organization to acquire the new skills you need.

5 Skills HR Can Learn From Other Departments 

  1. Marketing: Understanding the Employee Journey

Marketers have succeeded in reaching a better understanding of a customer’s mindset and emotions throughout their interactions with the company and the product. By creating customer journey maps they’ve found a way to categorically track each touchpoint a customer goes through until they make the decision to buy.

Studies have found that even one negative experience can deter customers from going through with a purchase. In fact, Oracle found 81 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. And 74 percent of senior executives believe a great experience is a key factor in driving customer loyalty. Furthermore, as marketers know, maintaining customers is more cost effective than acquiring new ones, making customer mapping extremely valuable.

Replace ‘employee’ for ‘customer’ in all of the above and you get a similar effect.

A negative experience with recruitment portals has been shown to deter potential hires from applying for positions. Many millennials are willing to forgo a larger salary for a better quality of work life.1 In fact, a recent survey by Fidelity Investments revealed that on average this new young workforce would be willing to take a $7,600 pay cut in exchange for immaterial incentives like purposeful work, work/life balance and company culture.

Finally, similar to customer retention, retaining employees has proven to be more cost effective than recruiting and retraining new people.

Given the success that marketers have had from creating customer journey maps, many HR leaders now utilize this methodology to create employee journey maps, tracking each phase from recruitment to exiting the company.

  1. Statistics: People Analytics

Once you have your journey mapped out, it’s time to fill it in with the factors that matter in your work environment.

The best place to start is by collecting data. Where are you falling short and where would you like to improve? Are you having trouble attracting new hires? Is your goal to help develop more female leaders within the company? Do you see a dip in engagement after your annual performance review?

The key here is to collect data regularly. An engagement survey taken at the beginning of the year won’t reflect the attitudes that developed during your company’s sudden leadership change in March. The more data you have, the easier it’ll be to compare and identify potential causes.

An array of new HR tech gadgets makes capturing and analyzing data even easier. Need to find out how much time your managers spend on coaching or who the top performers are in your company? With the rise of HR technology, solutions are available that can make your life easier by collecting, analyzing and sending the data you need.

  1. Psychology: Creating Personas

Creating buyer personas is another marketing tactic that can be extremely useful when mapping out your employee journey. Rather than thinking of your workforce as a whole, creating specific employee personas brings the human side to the process, enabling you to visualize each stage from the viewpoint of a specific person. This requires you to get into the mindset of the typical employee or the ideal hire and identify their key concerns at every stage.

Rather than looking at your workforce as a whole, thinking about a specific person with a name, role and personality will help you get a better sense of what they could be experiencing. How does Anna feel about your performance review process? What factors could be inhibiting her from gaining the growth benefits this practice should provide?

  1. Design: New Ways of Thinking

Once you’ve identified the potential pain points in your employee’s journey, it’s time to rethink processes and propose new strategies specifically designed to eliminate these barriers. Design thinking can help you.

Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends found the HR departments deemed most valuable were five times more likely to use design thinking. Even executives are recognizing the exciting possibilities design thinking can offer, with 79 percent rating it as an important or very important issue.

After analyzing the pain points identified, design thinking helps designers create UIs that enable a comfortable and engaging experience for users. This means departing from traditional models of onboarding, performance management, etc. which have been HR cornerstones for decades.

  1. Communications: Storytelling

Storytelling is a key skill every HR manager needs to learn. While executives are finally aware of the importance of metrics like engagement, HR continues to struggle to put their ideas on the agenda.

Even with C-level support, selling the major overhauls you would like to make to traditionally ingrained processes will not be easy.

Remember that people analytics is not just data. This information tells a story about the people in your company. HR’s role as a storyteller is essentially to translate this information into (at times provocative) stories that explain what employees are going through and what the company needs to do to improve. Learning this skill will pave the way for the new designs you have in store for your company.

The most important skill HR will need to learn is how to make HR data human. Low engagement cannot simply be solved by offering a new ping pong table or better lunches. Getting other departments to share their knowledge will allow you to improve your team’s skills and get HR that seat at the table.

This article was originally published on CMSWire.

Business Success and the Role Employee Engagement Plays

When it comes to business profitability and growth, business leaders are focusing on employee engagement like never before. Why? Employee engagement affects many things, not the least of which is employee retention, productivity, customer satisfaction, and more.

But tracking, monitoring, and measuring employee engagement, that’s where it can get creepy. Big companies like Deloitte and IBM are developing software that allows the tracking of sentiment in employee communications. So, not only can an employer access and read emails (nothing new in the business world), they can analyze the sentiment in those emails, Slack messages, and likely other internal collaboration platforms, and use data to figure out if you’re happy in your job, likely to stay, productive as a member of an internal team, providing good customer service, you name it.

The reality is that happy employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees are productive employees. Productive, engaged employees play a big role in business profitability and success.

Why Engagement

Companies with high levels of employee engagement see measurably increased levels of business success. Results include 2.3 percent to 3.8 percent greater stock returns annually than competitors, 22 percent higher productivity, “38 percent more likely to have above average productivity”, and increasing investment in employee engagement by 10 percent can yield $2,400 per employee in increased profit.

The Engagement Disconnect

Most employees are not engaged despite the priority leaders claim it to be. Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that while 71 percent of managers considered high levels of employee engagement to be a key factor in their organization’s success, only 24 percent of those managers described their employees as “highly engaged.” Gallup tracks levels of employee engagement monthly. In March of 2016, engagement hit a new high of 34.1 percent. By May it slipped back down to 32.7 percent.

Increasing Engagement

Not only do high levels of engagement improve business results, low levels of engagement can increase costs to employers in the form of increased turn over, and hiring difficulties. Given the bottom line benefits to organizations, how can employers successfully measure and increase employee engagement?

Many companies measure employee engagement through surveys. These surveys, however, often developed and administered by outside consultants, can be long, cumbersome, and infrequently completed. As a result, organizations are increasingly turning to new ways of measuring engagement.

One way of simplifying and speeding up employee surveys is to frequently ask one question. For example, John Deere added a motivation question to the review process at the end of two-week development cycles. This approach has allowed John Deere to identify disengagement and make corrections before an employee’s performance suffers.

Another single question measurement is a Net Promoter Score (NPS). This customer satisfaction metric is said to be the only number companies need to track to achieve growth. Similarly, organizations have started to use this methodology to quantify employee satisfaction.

New technologies are also enabling employers to track employee engagement continuously rather than waiting for annual check-ins. Impraise allows workers and managers to provide each other with real-time feedback. A tool called Vibe from Tokyo-based software company, AIR, allows companies to scan digital communications in the workplace by monitoring conversations on chat platform Slack. If sentiment analysis of those messages indicates a drop in employee morale, managers receive alerts so that they can address issues immediately.

Single question surveys and big-brother monitoring of employee questions can identify problems but by themselves they cannot build engagement and monitoring could even damage trust by the intrusive nature of the practice. How then can employers actively boost employee engagement.

Approaches that have proven effective include organization-wide communication, ensuring employees at all levels understand how their work is aligned with company goals, and providing frequent recognition. Former Campbell Soup Company CEO, Doug Conant, wrote more than 30,000 thank you notes to employees at all levels recognizing a specific contribution they had made. U.K.-based hardware company, Screwfix has created a 360-degree feedback culture that ensures their staff understands the company’s business goals and has a voice in achieving them.

Although legal, creepy surveillance software might seem like a quick tech fix for boosting employee engagement when almost 70 percent of employees remain checked-out, but a comprehensive, proactive strategy is necessary. Companies with happy, productive, engaged workers pair measurement with action. Oh, and if you want to explore that, we can help!

Photo Credit: recursosjuridicos Flickr via Compfight cc

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