Employee Engagement Is A Leadership Commitment

It seems like so much of what I do these days seems to revolve around storytelling and brands. I thought it would be useful to look at employee engagement through the lens of the five Ws – who, what, when, where, why – and one H – how – to frame up how companies can do a better job of mastering employee engagement.

Employee engagement is center stage in HR and The World of Work right now for good reason. Engaged employees are better producers, they’re more committed to the organization, and they are in it for the relative long haul. One study in The Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (yes I do read this stuff!) looked at the performance of bank employees over a three-year period.  Engaged employees were more committed to the organization, achieved better business outcomes, and achieved superior customer satisfaction. Interestingly, level of engagement was more important in achieving good performance than good performance was in creating better engagement. It’s a mind-bender, which is why the five Ws and one H might be helpful in charting a path to employee engagement.

Let’s Look at the five W’s and one H of Employee Engagement.

Who: From a leader’s point of view, the Who should always be about the employee. Engaged employees aren’t just motivated by money, status or power – they are motivated by shared values, trust, mission and purpose. To get the Who right you need to have great hiring practices, an evolved and compelling culture, and systems in place for mid-course corrections when an employee shows signs of disengaging. More importantly, you need to be a compelling and engaged leader, one who leads with emotion. Leaders set the tone for engagement in the workplace.

What: Engagement is emotional commitment to the organization and its goals. I have worked with successful, profitable startups which had crazy turnover rates. People loved the money and were jazzed to work for the brand, but after a short honeymoon period they didn’t care enough to stick around for more than a couple of years. Money and success are not directly linked to engagement; it’s the other way around, which is why so many cool companies lose their shine. Their leaders don’t take time to forge an emotional bond with employees.

When: Engagement starts before the employee signs the offer letter. Top candidates don’t want to work for just any company; they are looking for the right company. They’re not looking for free soda and a dartboard, they’re looking for a shared sense of purpose, challenging work, committed leaders and excited customers. This is why brand is so important, and why companies have to communicate their brand not just on the website but also on the jobs page, in social media, and among the candidate’s peer group.

Where: I think pretty much everything to do with engagement needs to be social these days, so where is the social channel(s) your employees and candidates frequent. If you’re a consumer brand, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram are critical; if you’re a tech brand, look more closely at Google, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Tumblr. And don’t forget your website, Glassdoor, and your jobs site – all can be an instant barrier to engagement.

Why: People – especially Millennials – want to know why they should engage with your organization. They want to know why they should work for you, why they should care, why you’re a better bet than the competition. Be prepared to tell them, every day.

How: Engagement isn’t magic, it’s craft. Engagement is built by creating trust, which engenders loyalty. It requires open communication, clearly-articulated goals and unambiguous expectations. It demands shared values and well-understood reward systems. Engagement is a journey, not a destination. It’s work. You have to get up every day determined to be more engaged, a better leader.

Many studies have been done to try to get to the secret behind employee engagement. It’s not a secret, though. It requires emotional commitment on the part of leaders, a great culture, and constant maintenance. The payoffs are huge: happier, more productive employees, happier customers, better profits and business results. Resolve to master employee engagement. It’s a worthy undertaking.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Recognize, Reward And Engage Your Multi-Generational Workforce

I was at the Genius Bar the other day soaking up the smarts and getting an introduction to the benefits of backing up data before updating to a new OS. As is so often the case at the Apple store, I found myself working with people from several generations. They seemed to be collaborating with relative harmony and purpose to ensure my data wasn’t lost forever, they seemed for the most part happy, and they seemed engaged in their jobs – from the store concierge (no, not a greeter, and not a Baby Boomer either) to the flight deck controller at the Genius Bar, to the Genius. Many leaders and HR pros are struggling to find a way to make multi-generational workforces mesh and be productive. The chatter is all about the changing workforce and managing generational “differences” or as I prefer to say “nuances”. We talk a lot about how each group has specific needs – Traditionalists, Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. We talk about how generational differences often seem to polarize the workplace, and what to do about it. It’s sad to say, but I don’t see the same patterns in many corporate settings.

When will we finally be ready to walk the walk (less talk, more action already) about bringing people together? Where does being an authentic leader fit into this equation? Will focusing on data and generational differences truly help our current employee engagement crisis? Why are we still asking these questions?

The best leaders recognize these nuances and understand how to engage – and in my opinion – Champion the similarities (there are more than differences by the way) to engage. Here’s how today’s workforce breaks down for those who want a refresher or are simply data driven:

Traditionalists, the group born before 1945, are also the smallest group in the workforce today at about 12 %, according to Gallup. Born in the hard times of the Great Depression through WWII, this generation values is fatalistic. They value hard work. They view their relationship with employers as a responsibility. Most have retired, but those who’ve hung in may be seen as inflexible fossils by the rest of the organization. Their willingness to work hard may be paired with inflexibility. Fail to recognize their deep experience and you will be rewarded with a failure to engage.

Boomers, born into the relative ease and prosperity of post WWII through the mid Sixties, are the suburban generation, the Woodstock generation. They want to be valued as individuals (not unlike Millennials). They want to be needed. They think they deserve good fortune (again, not unlike Millennials), they’re generally optimistic, and they think things will get better although they may not want to take responsibility for actually making things better. They’re loyal as long as they feel involved but disengage rapidly when they think their contributions aren’t appropriately recognized and rewarded. Respect is a path to engagement with this group.

Gen X, a relatively small generation at 41 million, is sometimes called the Forgotten Generation. They are pragmatic, skeptical of leadership, and quick to disengage if they feel slighted. They demand work-life balance but reject rules. They want to do things their way and may not respect Boomers (selfish) but may have an affinity for Traditionalists, the Silent Generation, whom they view as sharing the curse of being overlooked in the workplace. Gen X is dangerously disengaged. They lack the optimism of the Boomers, share the fatalism of the Traditionalists, and dismiss what they see as the entitled attitude of the Millennials. To engage Gen X, leaders must give them the space to do it their own way, relax the rules a bit, and realize they’ll question every attempt made to engage them.

Millennials, a generation which accounts for about 77 million individuals, according to Pew Research, is roughly the same size as the Boomers (76 million). Millennials were told ‘Good Job!’ and “You’re so smart!’ by indulgent Boomer parents. They demand recognition for even routine tasks, want to know why before they do anything, and expect to be consulted on matters big and small. They see work-life balance as a birthright, value innovation and chafe at having to work with people they see as less bright, tech-savvy and social as themselves. They’ll be most engaged when working with people they think are smart, social and committed.

With so many disparate needs and motivators, what can leaders do to increase employee engagement? It’s really pretty straightforward:

  1. Recognize and reward people.Forget about what generation for a moment.A one-size-fits-all reward and recognition programs will fail no matter who you are dealing with. When you understand what motivates (or sets off) certain generational groups or individuals, you can tailor your response, build more effective teams, and adjust recognition and reward programs.
  1. Acknowledge shared needs. No one likes surprises; everyone craves respect; everyone wants to feel included in the forward motion of the organization; everyone hungers to learn, and we all need pretty continuous feedback. Build your culture on the shared needs of the multi-generational workforce and you’ll see fewer cracks in the foundation.
  1. Engage by creating a sense of teamwork that spans generations. There’s a place for everyone in the world of work. The work ethic of Traditionalists can inspire all groups. The optimism of Boomers can help all employees see the positives in the organization. The skepticism of Gen X will keep everyone honest. The enthusiasm and self-confidence of Millennials is infectious and inspiring if it’s channeled. Teams are made up of individuals with a shared goal; build your organization’s goals around a shared sense of work and responsibility, a sense of optimism, healthy skepticism, enthusiasm, and confidence in the organization’s mission.

It wouldn’t be real if I didn’t add that leaders need to build trust with employees by engaging at an emotional level. To manage multigenerational workforces, Recognize that the people who work for you are individuals with intrinsic human value. Reward excellence, and encourage and educate those who come up short. Engage by committing to shared goals, committing to building a great place to work, and sharing your sense of engagement with the goals of the organization.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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#WorkTrends Recap: Building Strength-Based Organizations

A healthy organization runs on the idea that people should be respected for the unique strengths they bring to the table. A strengths-based organization takes this idea a step further and fosters an environment where employees are actively engaged in their work. This results in better productivity, retention and profitability in the long run.

On this week’s #WorkTrends chat, we were joined by author Josh Allan Dykstra as we discussed a better way to create strengths-based organizations. Although this concept has been around for more than a decade, most organizations have “false-started” on it. We explored why these “false starts” have happened and why it’s time to try a new approach. A truly strengths-based company is the competitive organization of the future.

Here are a few key points Josh shared:

  • If you align roles with what energizes people they will be intrinsically motivated to keep working.
  • The companies that intrinsically motivate employees are naturally the most successful.
  • There’s a difference between competencies and strengths. Finding the middle is key.

StrengthsMissed 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). Next week, on July 20, host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by Tim Low from Payscale to discuss how to put people first in compensation.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. 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.

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#WorkTrends Preview: Building Strengths-Based Organizations

A healthy organization is built and runs on the idea that people are respected for what unique strength they bring to the table. A strength-based organization runs on this idea and creates employees who are actively engaged in their work. This results in better productivity, retention and profitability in the long run.

Join this week’s #WorkTrends chat as we discuss a better way to create strengths-based organizations. Although this idea has been around for over a decade, most organizations have “false-started” on it. We will explore why this “false start” has happened and why it’s time to try a new approach. A truly strengths-based company is the competitive organization of the future – come learn more from author Josh Allan Dykstra.

Building Strength-Based Organizations

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Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, July 13 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guest Josh Allan Dykstra as they discuss how to build better strength based organizations.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, July 13 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 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. How can an organization become more strengths-based? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2. What are some ways to capitalize on individual strengths? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3. In what ways can a strengths-based business outperform other organizations? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community, LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!

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Unleash Your Employees’ Super Powers

Make a list of five of your good employees. Not the stars, and not the laggards, but people who come in everyday, do a good job, and go home. (This applies to telecommuting roles too btw) Now take a look at that list, and take a minute to think about each of those five people. What percent of their potential do you think they’re delivering at work? 50%? 60%? 70%? Can you imagine them taking their performance up a notch or two?  What would that mean for your organization’s results?

It would mean a lot! So why not rethink employee engagement and retaining your talent that shows up every day?

Unleashing Career Potential Matters

Great leaders inspire people and find ways to unleash their hidden power. And from that, flows success. And satisfaction. And energy. And innovation. And profits. And a better workplace culture.

The key is to unleashing this potential is to reach people on an emotional, visceral level. To find their passion, what they love, what excites them, what turns work into something closer to play.

Locating Employee Power

Pick one of those five employees on your list. Schedule a talk with this person. Nothing formal like an employee review, but find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Ask this person what they like most (or even loves) about their job, and what they like least (or even hates). Some people, for example, love social media and are able to use it as an amazing work tool. Other people consider it a chore and/or a distraction from the work they enjoy.

As they answer, look for growing excitement in their voice; watch the body language for signs of engagement such as leaning into you and increased animation in their face. Now ask about career passions, specifically for ways they intersect with her job, and for ideas on how to increase that intersection. What you are uncovering is untapped power and potential.

Tying In Skills And Strengths 

After the meeting, if at all possible tweak the job so that the focus is firmly (obsessively?) on what your employees loves and their passions. Cut out anything extraneous. Make it clear to that your employees own this new job description. This means if they fail maybe they are not truly cut out for this particular career choice. Am I really suggesting this? Yes. Just try it.

Of course, no job can be all passion/fun all the time, and all employees — even stars who roar into work every day — have to spend at least some time on stuff that’s a drag or boring. We’re not going to create a perfect world of work.  But we can get a whole lot closer. This is about unleashing that extra 10%, 20%, 30% that will cause employee (and your company’s) happiness and performance to soar.

Seeing Power Takeoff

Watch what happens with that first employee. I’ll bet you anything you’ll see this person reach new levels of performance, and quickly. Why? Because you’ve made this person a partner in their own work life. You tapped into what they love to do. And you’ve made concrete changes to a job that demonstrates your respect and commitment to your employee’s (and your joint) business success and career future.

And what really turns this into a twofer is that you’ve unleashed some of your own untapped power as a leader.

It’s all about passion. Always curious to hear your thoughts.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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Cutting Back for Business Growth

We know that in all of our endeavors, we are at the center of all relationships. Regardless of how we interact with the world – as an entrepreneur, parent, or corporate executive, we have the personal power to influence our outcomes. If we want more out of business, we need to get focused on becoming more.

For me, creating something new is healthy. Sometimes, in order to create something new we have to eliminate dying or undesirable attributes.

We are either in a state of decay or growth.

If we are not growing, we are dying. This creation process is challenging as our tired and exhausted approaches have become routine. We begin to picture the non-performing situations of the past and adjust our actions with fear of the future. This subconscious process of our brain limits our potential, thus keeping us right where we are. Looking outside ourselves, we can see others limit their potential in obvious ways while we stay stuck in this continuum of un-producing pain.

Pruning is essential for successful gardening. We identify the undesirable parts of the plant and remove the branches and roots. The idea of pruning is necessary for growth. Removing dead or diseased parts allows for the plant to receive the proper flowering and fruiting. In horticulture or plant terms, the injury of pruning causes growth to occur in the branches, flowers, and fruits.

Naturally, external conditions will prune for us if we don’t prune ourselves. The trouble is, sometimes there is collateral damage to other people, buildings, sidewalks, or structures. How many times have you seen high winds take down dead wood branches and fall onto cars or sidewalks?

Without taking care of the pruning process, a tree can injure people in the process. Older, dead, wood branches will not stand the test of high winds and neither will we when life comes at us full-force.

We need to understand our environment and adapt and change with the abandonment of certain habits and routines. And in some cases, people.

We need to be confident making personnel changes that allow the company to flourish and grow. As the advancement of the engaged employee continues to take shape, we can learn from some of the best teams in sports for creating a competitive culture, a culture of performance.

As with any successful company, healthy competition and the absence of complacency drives personal performance. After all, if we want our companies to perform at the highest level, we must first get our people to perform at their best. One thing about professional sports is the focus on the internal employee achieving their personal best. It’s a competitive environment and sports teams are not afraid to make tough decisions with personnel. And because of this, players are engaged and willing to spend hours upon hours making themselves better for the good of the team.

Now think about a team celebrating a season in the final championship game. This picture in your mind is how they are motivated and rewarded, It’s not the money, it’s the smell of the grass at the bottom of a dog pile in a World Series win after a long year of hard work and dedication.

With the disruption of technology in our workplace and personal lives, we need to eliminate the old ways, ideas and concepts about what it means to be successful. As we grow in creativity, we can take risks with new technologies and interact with people and customers in new ways.

It’s challenging to unplug from our addiction to the old ways that provide safety and comfort for our business. We need to get back to our roots and believe in ourselves, in the creation of our own freedom and performance.

With alignment of teams, we can contribute more for the business in uninhibited ways. With the understanding and knowledge that we are creating value through our own creativity, we will then have the courage and confidence to innovate and be the best we can be at work and within our personal network.

It all starts with our growth. If we are growing and strong, we will feel less pressured to succumb to the demands and needs of the dependent world.

Pruning by definition can help increase the yield in flowers and plants. If you or your company is the flower, think about what pruning is necessary for you or your company’s increase in growth.

I will leave you with this question, what pruning will you do today for your growth? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.


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Employee Engagement: Every Leader’s Imperative

I had to call my technical support contact last month about a simple billing question. When I finally got a live person, after enduring five minutes of Yanni’s greatest hits, her boredom just radiated through the phone. I guess I caught her mid-yawn. When I told her about my issue she asked me to wait while she pulled up my records. The silence between was broken only by her quiet sigh. Then I said, “Thank you for your help.” And something amazing happened – she warmed up. She said, “You’re welcome” and we quickly got to the bottom of my issue.

The exchange was significant for two reasons. First, this was definitely a disengaged, disinterested employee. Second, when I expressed my appreciation for her efforts, she instantly became more engaged and her performance improved.

According to a recent Gallup poll, over 70 percent of American workers are either actively or passively disengaged from their work. This is a troubling statistic. Not only is the human cost immense, the U.S. economy takes a $370 billion hit from this army of the disaffected. The message is clear: leaders have to do better at building employee buy-in and job satisfaction.

Luckily there are new tools in the kit for accomplishing this crucial mission. Social media and enterprise tools can help a company build a workforce that feels empowered and appreciated. At its heart it’s about building community, giving people a sense of being part of something greater than just their job descriptions. Some of the exciting tools for accomplishing this include Yammer, Newsgator, Jive and IBM Connections among many others of course.

The goal with all of these is to give people a voice, a way to share their ideas and know they matter to the organization. It allows long-term employees to mentor new hires, sometimes across global locations where collaboration is needed. This builds strong internal relationships, boosts morale and improves the performance of both the mentor and the mentee. The mentor’s skills are refreshed, and she gains the satisfaction we all feel when helping someone. The mentee, of course, learns the ropes not only from a leader, but from someone who lives them every day.

These networks also enhance the flow of information — people can access what they need quickly and efficiently. They allow for personal expression in the form of communities based on shared passions and interests. All of these increase engagement as people begin to see their jobs as part of a larger, organic whole – the company – of which they are an important part. As people become more invested, their pride in doing a good job soars. The result, in addition to improved performance, is increased personal happiness and fulfillment.

The other piece of the puzzle is recognition. Yes, people will become more engaged and their performance will improve, but the organization must recognize this in concrete ways. We all thrive with praise and acknowledgement. When someone does great work reward them with public recognition, and a monetary bonus or a prize. It’s a great feeling to earn something extra, something tangible that can be shared with colleagues, family and friends.

To build an engaged and productive workforce, start by building social-media enabled connections and communities, and add a continuous program of recognition and reward.

This combination works. I’ve seen it. Why are these statistics so high still? 70%, Really? We can do better than this.

A version of this post was first published on


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Dee Ann Turner of Chick-fil-A Talks About The Evolution of HR

In this Corner Office article, Cyndy Trivella, Events Manager with TalentCulture, spoke with Dee Ann Turner, VP Corporate Talent with the iconic brand, Chick-fil-A. In addition, Dee Ann is the author of the acclaimed book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture. They talked about the evolution of HR and the impact on how employment and culture, technology, employer branding, and the challenges associated with talent acquisition have all been affected. In keeping with our theme, this article will highlight the perspective and experience of someone who has made the move to the “corner office.”

Cyndy: I had the immense pleasure of speaking with one of the smartest people working in the field of human resources. Dee Ann Turner knows HR inside and out. She worked her way up the corporate ladder and learned great lessons along the way, which she has been able to incorporate into her current role as VP of Corporate Talent.

Cyndy: Dee Ann, you are certainly a role model for any person aspiring to become an HR professional. You’ve seen so much in your 30 years and with that the evolution of the HR function. When you compare hiring today versus 30 years ago, how has culture and productivity been affected by the practice of hiring people as contingent workers more so than ever before in our history?

Dee Ann: This shift to more of a “free agency” staffing model has been developing for over a decade. This has had both positive and negative effects on culture and productivity in the workplace. Culturally speaking, the use of contingent workers can help create an opportunity for the workforce to expand and contract based on work demands without impacting the job security of full-time employees. That scenario can be a positive for morale and the culture. However, the culture can be negatively impacted when a large percentage of work is performed by contingent workers unsure of their future. This can be particularly stressful to both full-time and contingent workers if they do similar work but hold a different employment status. Both parties become concerned about the perceived inequity. In the midst of the distractions inherent in these situations, productivity can suffer.

Communication of expectations is the key for both the contingent worker and full-time employee. The communication needs to address expectations of, not only, the contingent workforce, but of the full-time staff as well to dispel the concerns of inequity. Be sure that the contingent worker has some trade-offs for their flexible contract. An organization employing contingent workers should only expect full commitment to the work contracted, not necessarily the kind of commitment to the organization that a full-time employee exhibits. People are generally only as loyal to you as you are to them. A predominate sense of loyalty strengthens the culture.

Cyndy: Excellent points. There are definitely pros and cons to contingent hiring and it’s important that the company dispel rumors and perceptions. Again, drawing on your years of experience, what evolutions and advancements in technology and philosophy have been game-changers for HR in the past 10 years?

Dee Ann: Without a doubt the biggest technology game changers are the advancements in self-service benefits and data management, web enabled interviewing, the impact of social media on recruiting and branding, and robust applicant tracking systems.

Philosophical game changers include the rise of the millennial generation, which has impacted the company culture significantly from work hours to workplace design to dress codes and more, increased litigation and regulatory requirements, and adequate succession planning with the exit of baby boomers, and a less populous Gen X.

Cyndy: I agree. Technology is a real game changer for HR. I believe it reduces the administrative burden of the duties and allows HR to be the contributing department that it is. I’ve one last question. Let’s talk about one of my favorite topics… employer branding. What do you believe are the best practices for building an employer brand?

Dee Ann: The first step is to assess and understand the current employment experience. What’s good? What is not so good? What do employees tell others? How do employees advocate for the company? Where do employees find fault with the company?

Secondly, decide who you want to be as an employer. What is your key competitive advantage over other companies? What attributes do you want to define the employee experience at your company? How does the employment experience tie to the company brand, mission and overall organizational business strategy?

Thirdly, communicate who you are. Innovatively communicate in diverse ways who you are as a brand, organization and employer. Develop a message that even in just a few words communicates the opportunities you offer and what your employee value promise is.

Lastly, assess again what you have created. Measure the impact of the employment brand on attracting and retaining exceptional talent.

Cyndy: A very sound strategy, Dee Ann. More companies need to understand what’s working and not within the organization and find effective ways to eliminate inefficiencies or capitalize on the findings. Thanks for spending time with me and for sharing your perspective with us. Congratulations on the success of your book… well deserved!

Dee Ann: Thank you. It’s been an enjoyable conversation.

Be sure to catch the next interview with Brian Carter, author of The Cowbell Principle, at The TalentCulture Corner Office.

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10 Tips on How To Empower and Engage Your Employees

“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” Stephen R. Covey

The “my way of the highway” leadership style is no longer effective. Yes men and women who simply follow rules, policies, and procedures are not the kinds of employees who will produce results and generate growth. As a business owner or manager, you know that the more engaged and empowered your employees are, the more likely they are to feel a sense of ownership in your company. That sense of ownership leads employees to be innovative, customer service oriented, problem solvers who take pride in their work.

Of course, empowerment and engagement doesn’t just happen. It takes good leadership techniques to ensure that the people working under you feel as if they are free to make decisions and take actions with autonomy. Here are ten tips that you can use to increase engagement and empowerment among your underlings.

  1. Give Them Opportunities to Demonstrate And Strengthen Their Leadership Skills

In order for empowerment to be successful, it has to be accompanied by confidence. You can’t simply tell your employees that they have the power and autonomy to act in the best interests of the company and its customers. They need to find and develop confidence in their own leadership and decision making skills. As the leader, you can do this by finding ways in which employees at all levels can lead and make decisions. Eventually, you won’t need to direct them to take the lead.

  1. Tell Them

Make sure that the language that you use doesn’t contradict your goal of creating a culture of engagement and empowerment. If you are used to using an authoritarian leadership style that might reflect in the words that you use. Be mindful of the tone and words that you use when addressing your team. Your words should tell them that you are sincere about the work environment that you want to provide and remember that “Employees engage with employers and brands when they‘re treated as humans worthy of respect.” Meghan Biro

  1. Provide Regular State of The Company Updates

In order to act in the best interests of the company, employees need to be kept engaged with regular and candid updates on the current state of things, along with your vision of the future. This includes acknowledging areas of concern and struggle. Your team needs to know where things are going wrong in order to find ways to be proactive and improve areas of weakness. These regular updates will also keep everybody on the same page.

  1. Encourage And Enable Personal Development

The more support you give your employees regarding their pursuit of their career goals and skill development, the more that they will trust that you have their best interests in mind. One way to do this is to give them the time and resources to spend on personal development.

  1. Back Them up When They Use The Power You Give Them

If you pull the rug out from underneath employees when they act with autonomy, you will struggle to ever get them to believe your rhetoric on empowerment again. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can never step in and intervene if you believe a course of action is a mistake or redirect an employee who has overestimated the extent of their empowerment. It just means that care must be taken to ensure that the employee understands that the intervening action was taken in their and the company’s best interests.

  1. Reward Successful Results And Recognize Good Efforts

When employees show initiative and take action to solve problems, keep customers happy, improve processes, or create growth, your recognition is what will encourage them to do the same in the future. When their efforts really make a difference, rewarding them is an appropriate action to take.

  1. Give Them Space

Just like authoritarian language can undermine your message of empowerment, so can hovering and micromanaging. Give your team members space to do what they do best, and trust them to bring you in when you are needed.

  1. Review And Revise Policies That Could be Hindering Empowerment

If your written policies don’t reflect your goal of creating a more empowered workforce, your employees may be in an uncomfortable situation. It’s difficult to heed verbal encouragement to act with autonomy, when written policy is full of mandatory procedures and admonishments to follow chains of command.

  1. Help Them Pursue Career Tracks That Reflect Their Talents

It’s fairly easy to make employees who are doing well feel empowered, but what about employees who are struggling to find their footing. It is often these employees who need the most mentoring to make them feel empowered and engaged, while still directing them to improve their performance. In many cases, a lack of good performance is the result of an employee being placed in a position that doesn’t allow them to use their talents, and they feel stuck. Encourage employees to take on roles and responsibilities that reflect their skills, even if that means transferring to another area, or changing path they joined your company to pursue.

  1. Create an Environment Where The Possibility of Failure Doesn’t Create Fear

When people are given power to make decisions without checking in with their supervisors or running to a policy manual, great things happen. Sense of ownership increases, performance improves, and customers are happier. Unfortunately, another side effect of this is that people are going to make mistakes, and their efforts will occasionally result in failure. Failure in itself is painful enough for employees, make sure that you communicate that failure as the result of sincere effort isn’t going to be met with harsh criticism or penalty.


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The Devil At The Desk: Destructive Bosses

The onus is on leadership to improve employee engagement. It’s part of that magical workforce trifecta: a terrific candidate experience, a high level of workplace engagement, all resulting in retention. But what about when the leadership is toxic; when it’s more problem than solution? That’s a whole different ballgame.

We’ve all dealt with a boss or manager that just somehow turns everything into a losing proposition: Never satisfied, or mysteriously withholding the recognition we know that we — or our colleagues — deserve. Or do we? A certain click of engagement involves a clarifying moment when we ditch that, “maybe it wasn’t good enough” naysayer on our shoulder — so much a part of working for someone. It’s replaced with a sense of self-worth. Terrific. Nothing makes us like our jobs more than when our jobs like us.

But often with toxic leadership is that gray area between our gut and clear recognition that keeps us from knowing what we’re facing. Meanwhile, morale sinks and engagement fizzles. We may do a, “why should it matter” on ourselves, but we’d be wrong. It does. As a study by the Harvard Business Review pointed out, the social atmosphere created by a leader is contagious. Measuring engagement among high-level managers (HL) and mid-level managers (ML) and employees, the study found that the higher the engagement score among HL, the higher among ML and the higher among employees. And the contrary was also true: a low performing workforce with minimal engagement could be echoed right back up the line — to the source.

A friend and colleague of mine, Shawn Murphy (the CEO/Founder of the consultancy Switch + Shift), has identified the six key symptoms of destructive management. See which ones ring true for you. What follows are his categories with a little bit of interpretation by yours truly.

Blind impact. This leader is blind to his own impact: oblivious of the effect his actions, attitude and words have on the workplace, quashing any chance for shared optimism, consistently underestimating people’s value, and often unable to make the connection between their work and the direction of the organization.

Anti-social leadership. A leader who can’t build any sense of shared purpose or community among employees. Autocratic, possibly unable to trust people, he dictates rather than explains, withholds praise or credit, and generally makes people feel disconnected and used.

Chronic change resistance. AKA the stick-in-the-mud approach. This leader is unwilling — and unable — to spearhead a change that would help teams and organizations remain relevant. Alternatively, he adopts change too late in the game that it can’t have a fully beneficial effect, which leaves everyone feeling irrelevant.

Profit myopia. Blinded by any criteria for success except for the bottom line, this leader can’t see the forest for those little green dollars. He alienates customers and employees alike trying to come up with ways to make the shareholders happy and the margin a little fatter. This is a kind of personal pettiness that, if Harvard is right, will lead to self-protective behavior on the part of employees.

Constipated inspiration. Perhaps my favorite term (and a virtual clap on the back for this one, Shawn). This one is related to leading from a position of insecurity. A leader pays little to what her employees are experiencing, and therefore can’t see what motivates and discourages them. What follows is a complete lack of connection: a leader who has no sense of clear direction and knowledge of what she stands for, and a workforce that loses the ability to care.

Silo Syndrome. I remember reading a CEO’s candid admonition of his rather imperious peers: “No executive is an island,” he said. A leader who suffers from this syndrome is a non-leader: Disengaged in anything but his own role and responsibilities, and unable to view his employees as people with lives and their own expertise. No sense of optimism or collaboration can come of this.

What I appreciate so much about these breakdowns (particularly in terms of the issue of workforce and employee engagement) is that they represent a cross-section of behaviors that often go as accepted — the fussy, strange, distracted, distant, uncaring boss as a, “she’s just like that.” But once identified, they no long just seem like a status quo. It’s not business as usual to prevent a workplace from being a place of engagement. Not in this day and age.

A version of this post was first published on on 2/5/2016

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There’s No Magic Pill To Boost Leadership & Employee Engagement

Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply give each employee a little medication that would boost leadership and engagement as well as happiness, teamwork, commitment and productivity?

Yes, an Employee Engagement pill would be a dream come true for all of us.

But while there may not be a magic elixir to ignite and galvanize the workforce, you don’t need a Ph.D in chemistry to make positive change in staff behavior and performance.

Let’s start by keeping the train of thought in the world of medicine and ask ourselves who is responsible for our health…ourselves or our doctor?   We all know that the doctor plays a key role in maintaining our health but we each need to take responsibility for our own well-being.   So ultimately it’s a partnership, and the same holds true in the workplace where leadership should be viewed as a collaborative relationship between ‘the boss’ and ‘the employee’ (and indeed among all employees).

The relationships we have with those we work with day in and day is what truly determines how we feel and perform individually, as a team and holistically throughout the organization. Below we look at seven relationship defining elements that should be part of any prescription to develop leadership and build high levels of engagement.

Feeling Valued is at the heart of an engaged workforce. When employees feel special they act special and this happens when people show a personal interest in other’s needs and traits. The best way to achieve this is by getting to know them through regular one-on-one (and team) meetings where you engage in bouncing ideas off each other and bi-directional feedback.

Feedback is a key driver of engagement and leadership, yet is sadly an under and ill-used management tool. The real trick with feedback is that it is not simply about being honest but of being honest skillfully. Proactive feedback helps everyone understand to what extent he or she is furthering the objectives of the business and should be seen as an opportunity to work together on finding a win-win outcome if opinions differ.

Differences are what define us and should be used to facilitate business progress rather than be an obstacle to good working relationships. By encouraging the expression and acceptance of individual ideas and behaviors any team can draw on individual uniqueness’s for success. By harnessing diverse yet complementary strengths we access a broader set of skills rather than let those dissimilar ideas turn into conflict.

Conflict usually occurs when someone satisfies their own needs at the expense of others…frequently without even realizing they are doing so.   It is rarely done on purpose but can end up consuming 25 percent to 40 percent of a manager’s time.   A well led workforce will recognize that most disagreements can be resolved with slight adjustments to the language used, a willingness to understand and acknowledge each other’s needs and a culture of openness.

Openness is crucial within a close-knit workforce where everyone is encouraged to speak about needs, feelings and concerns while also being receptive to new ideas, questions and suggestions. A lack of openness can lead to wariness and even mistrust. But a mindset of transparency in the workplace facilitates each employee not just talking about getting their needs met but to making it happen by taking personal accountability and ownership.

Ownership materializes when employees start thinking “what am I going to do?” rather than “what is management going to do?” regarding workplace needs and producing results. It is challenging for managers to know how each person wishes to be treated but in a culture where open conversation is encouraged and leadership is viewed as a partnership, the employees’ initiative, drive and self-belief is augmented which leads to higher levels of motivation.

Motivation is an inner desire to take action that is usually driven by some form of self-interest, where the greater the perceived benefit the more effort given. There is no common source of motivation and money is certainly not be the big motivator many think it is. Effective managers know their staff and take the time to unearth what really motivates each individual by finding out what it takes to make them feel valued.

The above elements are intermingled and should be regularly measured to give you a health-check on the organization at the individual and team levels. Once you know what is wrong in each area (just like the doctor’s diagnosis) you can start taking corrective steps to target improvements where they are needed most. After all, there’s no point giving throat lozenges to someone with a sore knee.

So there you have it; a formula for success that leads to greater productivity and profitability. It may not be a medical formula that we can mix up and mass produce for easy consumption, but just like our own health, there are many little things we can do to make the workplace a better place to work.

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#WorkTrends Recap: Simple Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is something that HR pros and their colleagues in the C-suite are laser-focused on, and measuring engagement is often at the top of the list. Why the interest? When employees are engaged, they likely adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organization where they work—and it shows. Engaged employees are passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers, and the very best colleagues. Equally as important, high-performing, engaged employees want to work in places that foster and cultivate engagement as an integral part of the corporate culture. Smart HR pros and senior leaders want to cultivate that kind of environment.

On today’s #WorkTrends show, our guest Leila Zayed from Best Companies Group addressed the importance of employee engagement and shared some practical ways to measure this valuable component of overall culture. As always, it was a discussion filled with information sure to be beneficial for everyone – from employees to HR pros to managers and the C-Suite.

Have you checked out a #WorkTrends show? You can listen at any time on our BlogTalk Radio channel, which you can find here or you can check out the highlights of the conversation as it played out on Storify:

We have built a vibrant community around the TalentCulture #WorkTrends show and would love to have you join us. You can find us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). We have an exciting show planned on Wednesday, April 20, where we’ll explore understanding your workplace genome with our guest, Charlie Judy, founding partner of Work XO, a company dedicated to improving how we work.

Join our social communities and stay up-to-date! The TalentCulture conversation continues daily. See what’s happening right now on the #WorkTrends Twitter stream, in our LinkedIn group and on our Google+ community. 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.

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Four Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is all the buzz, and rightfully so. When employees are engaged, they adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organization they work for. They become passionate contributors, innovating problem solvers, and stunning colleagues. High-performing employees want to work in places like that. Smart employers want to cultivate that kind of environment.

So What is Employee Engagement, Exactly?

When employees are engaged, they’re satisfied and look forward to going to work. Engaged employees have a sense of meaning and purpose, and they’re proud of the organization, recommending products – and even employment – to their friends and family. They enjoy an environment where they can do their best work, so it’s not surprising that they plan to stay for at least two more years and they give extra effort to help their employer succeed.

While employee engagement is a relatively new concept, making its debut in the 1990s, the idea that employees can make more of an impact at work when they are engaged seems simple. All the same, various studies project that only 30 – 40 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. That means that the majority of employees in the U.S. are showing up to work disengaged. They’re not poised to put in extra effort for success. They don’t like going to work most days. They’re unlikely to recommend the products of, or employment with, their employer. The question every employer must ask itself is, “should employee engagement be central to our strategy for success?” If the answer is yes, then the first step you must take is to measure employee engagement at your organization.

Four Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement

Follow these four steps to generate reliable employee feedback data, the kind you can do action planning around.

  1. Use a Research Firm

The measurement of employee attitudes should always be conducted by a reputable third-party research firm, preferably one that specializes in employee engagement research. While there are many reasons for this, perhaps the most important is the protection of respondent confidentiality. Ultimately a subjective experience, the feeling of anonymity is what makes respondents uninhibited in their survey responses. Even if you know which questions to ask and how to generate actionable reporting, your ability to trust your reports hinges entirely on the validity of response data. If you hope to take action as a result of your reports, hire an outside firm.

  1. Don’t Just Measure Engagement. Measure Satisfaction, Too.

Second, measuring engagement is not enough on its own. Without the measurement of employee satisfaction, it’s impossible to determine why employees may or may not be engaged. For this reason, a well-rounded survey with core focus areas of both satisfaction and engagement is critical to your success.

  1. Have a Plan for Communication Before You Begin

No matter what kind of feedback you collect, outline a communication plan before you begin. Consider the following questions, as you map out your strategy. Will your top executive send out an email/video/note-with-pay-checks to emphasize the importance of employee attitudes? Will you be sharing findings at the upcoming annual meeting? How will the feedback affect employees? Will they be called upon to take further action?

  1. Enjoy the Ride

This process isn’t about being perfect; and it’s definitely not about being perfect before you survey. Over the years, we’ve talked with countless employers who wanted badly to get their hands on employee feedback, but were afraid to ask. Both Aristotle and Mary Poppins said, “well begun is half done.” Follow their advice. Congratulate yourselves on your boldness, as you take this important step of measuring employee engagement and satisfaction.

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WorkTrends Preview: Simple Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is all the buzz, and rightfully so. When employees are engaged, they adopt the vision, values and purpose of the organization where they work.

Engaged employees are passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers, and stunning colleagues. Plus, high-performing employees want to work in places like that and smart employers want to cultivate that kind of environment.

Join us for #WorkTrends as our guest Leila Zayed from Best Companies Group addresses the importance of employee engagement and some practical ways to measure it in an organization.

This conversation will help employers discover ways to proactively engage employees and retain talent—and of course, we’d love to have you there!

#WorkTrends Event: Simple Ways to Measure Employee Engagement

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Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, April 13 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro as she talks about how to measure employee engagement and why it’s important for your company.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, April 13 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the radio show, the team will move to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. We invite everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a dynamic live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: What are the biggest benefits of employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q2: What are innovative ways to measure employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Q3: What are some creative ways to increase employee engagement? #WorkTrends (Tweet the question)

Until then, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Feel free to drop by anytime and share your questions, ideas and opinions. See you there!

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Your Employees Are Engaged…REALLY?

A while back, I dropped in on an innovative workspace for one of my software technology clients– it’s a very cool office space. An open-plan, communal space with worktables in rows, very low partitions between areas, and no private offices. Note that I said workspace, because it wasn’t very clear to me how a vast room offering little in the way of private work areas could become a workplace – somewhere to get things done.

Of course, I can’t forget the large sunny cafeteria and the designated area for Foosball table and other games. Ok, call me jaded but….this hip tech culture seemed a bit year 2000 to me, but which the office manager touted as contributing to a happy, productive and engaged workforce.

Part of me remains unconvinced. How can this be?

Some of the teams that I represent as a recruiter for technology talent have ‘thinking’ jobs in the software development realm, which means that they need time, space, and quiet to do their jobs. Sure, they collaborate as team members and absolutely love games and free coffee, coke and popcorn—who doesn’t? These bennies don’t, however, make them engage in their commitment to their employers. It would be great if employers could throw in a few video and board games and get happy employees and top productivity, but that’s not how it works.

Engagement is forged with different tools: trust, loyalty, open communication, clearly articulated goals and expectations, shared values and well-understood reward systems. It really isn’t about how the office is set up, or the toys gathered to distract restive employees, that build engagement. Turns out, employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.

When companies like the one I visited tell me their workplace culture and trendy furniture builds employee engagement, I try to make them see that they’re focusing on the wrong part of the equation. They’re focusing on what, not why. What can tell you a lot about a company, but it’s why that tells you it’s a good company to work with. I consult with these organizations and hiring leaders to consider the whys of employee engagement.

Here are my top 5 questions which help construct the WHYS of employee engagement for leaders.

1) Why am I here? An employee will never get to an answer if you don’t communicate a shared sense of mission, vision and goals. Tell people why you want them to work at your company, and why you think they’ll be successful. Then you can focus on what they need to do to be successful.

2) Why should I trust you leadership? Open communications build trust, which is essential to engagement. Respect is essential to mutual trust, and also builds engagement. Communicate clearly and openly about goals and expectations. With open communications, you’ll be able tell the why, then move to the what: what are the tasks and actions necessary to be successful.

3) Why should I be loyal to your company? Engaged employees know why they’re loyal – they are treated with respect and honesty. Companies which rank mutual respect and honesty below procedural activities, such as tracking time, will see engagement and productivity drop. Tell employees why you’re loyal to them.

4) Why don’t you communicate your company values? Fail to show employees your organization has core values and you might as well forget about engagement. Even worse, if you talk about values and then behave in a vastly different way, you’ll telegraph just how little management actually believes in and practices those values. Explain why a value system is important to you, and the what – the actual list of values – will follow.

5) Why aren’t you clear about the rewards of working in this company? People need to know what to expect – not just what’s expected of them, but what they can expect in return. If you’re very clear and open about the rewards system – which includes everything from pay to benefits, bonuses, vacation, and the path upward in the organization. Explain why you have the rewards you do, and people will sign on and believe. Be crystal-clear, consistent and unambiguous in creating and distributing rewards, or engagement will go out the window.

Innovative workspaces have their own place and some employees that I’ve spoken with love these creative places. If you have a multi-generational workforce, focus on the whys of working for your company before you spend a moment on the whats: what desk, what chair, what computer. Engagement is innovative when it looks at why people behave and believe as they do rather than what might motivate them.

So break it all down—focus on the why, and the whats will come. If your employees cannot answer these five questions above all the cool workplace culture in the universe will not make a difference. Please let me know how it goes leaders and employees alike. I’m listening and engaging in the interim.

A version of this post was first published on on 10/14/12

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3 Performance Indicators That Will Make Or Break Your Company

Want to find out how your business is performing? Setting and analyzing performance indicators for your company is the best way to forecast and get on track with your business goals. Creating KPIs or Key Performance Indicators will help you measure your company’s success. The question is what to focus on? How you measure performance says a lot about your company’s objectives.

Common Types of Indicators

There are two common types of performance indicators: financial and customer focused.

Financial indicators are the most commonly used metrics for performance including: revenue growth rate, net profit, return on investment, among others. In terms of employee performance these are often quantified using output related measurements. These can be useful for growing your company’s finances but companies that focus solely on profit related indicators often face an innovation problem.

A focus on financial goals can put pressure on managers to focus on short term profitability over creativity. Financial indicators also don’t provide a full picture of a company’s performance. Rather than taking risks on new ideas, these companies can become known for creating ‘one hit wonders’ that sell and repackaging past successes. Eventually, quality and customer satisfaction can become compromised and employee motivation drops.

Microsoft learned this lesson at the expense of its top spot in the tech world. Originally a leader in cutting edge technology, after 2000 it began slipping in the rankings against companies like Google and Apple with its inability to keep up with new trends. As these companies began producing paradigm shifting products like the iPhone and Google Maps, Microsoft continued to survive off of its updated versions of Windows Office. Financial indicators demonstrated the company’s shift in popularity but not the contributing factors.

Internally, Microsoft had taken a cut throat approach to performance management called stack ranking. In this system employees were ranked according to their performance, with the top being put in line for promotions and the bottom 5-10% being shown the door. Rather than boosting productivity, this system merely increased competition and discouraged teamwork. Ultimately, instead of being encouraged to collaborate on new ideas, employees had to focus on gaining favor to survive.

Customer success indicators are increasingly seen as the most important performance metric. Some of the main customer centered KPIs include: conversion rate, customer retention, Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc. Due to differing objectives, companies that focus on customer centered indicators focus more on gaining a loyal customer base by producing great quality products, utilizing different marketing techniques and emphasizing a strong customer support service.

An example of this is Riot Games’ ‘Free To Play’ games which helped them to gain a loyal customer base by allowing gamers to play some of their best games for free online. Zappos’ customer service is famous for providing unsatisfied customers with gifts and free shoes to improve their customer experience. Creating a customer service culture is an essential part of their business strategy and the focus of CEO Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness.

However, for companies that don’t take off straight away, the money and time put into each product can lead to slower profit generation and financial instability. Furthermore, while customer satisfaction is an extremely important key to success, what customers ultimately want are state-of-the-art products. Though customer focused indicators can help you build a loyal client base, they do not necessarily solve a company’s innovation problems.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 8.44.55 PMCompanies should use a combination of both financial and customer focused indicators but there is a third key measurement which is essential to meeting your company’s goals.

Why employee centered indicators are so important

More and more companies are beginning to realize the importance of employee centered metrics. These types of indicators include: employee engagement, satisfaction and turnover.

Studies show that higher employee engagement is linked to higher customer satisfaction. When employees are happy at work and believe in their product/company this comes across to customers. Gallup revealed that companies with high employee engagement levels outperformed companies with lower levels of engagement in customer ratings by 10%.

Engaged employees take less sick days. A study by Workplace Research Foundation found that engaged employees take an average of 2.69 sick days annually compared to disengaged employees who take an average of 6.19 days. Most important, they’re motivated to achieve more. Gallup’s study also showed that engaged companies outperform others in productivity by 21% and profitability by 22%.

In fact, the treatment of employees is also an important factor for consumers. Deloittes 2015 study on millennials revealed that this generation considers the treatment of employees as the top characteristic of industry leaders, even over profit generation and impact on overall society. Furthermore, “While they believe the pursuit of profit is important, that pursuit needs to be accompanied by a sense of purpose, by efforts to create innovative products or services and, above all, by consideration of individuals as employees and members of society.”

Companies that have employee centered strategies are also more likely to foster innovative environments that promote autonomy and employee ownership. Atlassian became famous for its ‘Shipit days during which it actually encourages employees to drop their work and spend twenty-four hours on a creative project of their choice. Allowing employees the freedom to try out new ideas sounds like a great financial risk but it turned out to have great returns. The projects developed during these sessions have resulted in some of the company’s most profit generating products. Atlassian not only dominates Australia’s tech industry, it has also been named the best company to work for the past two years in a row.

More and more companies have started focusing on an employee first strategy:

In an interview with Inc. Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson disclosed that the company puts staff first, customers second and stakeholders third. He explains, “If the person who works at your company is not appreciated, they are not going to do things with a smile.” Southwest Airlines, the company consistently reaching the top 10 in employee and customer satisfaction surveys, follows the same ideology. The company does this by motivating employees through its company values and creating an environment that regularly recognizes employees for going above and beyond.

Southwest Airlines follows the same strategy. Founder Herb Kelleher posited, “A motivated employee treats the customer well. A customer is happy so they’ll keep coming back, which pleases the shareholder. It’s just the way it works… They can buy all the physical things. The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty—the feeling that you are participating in a crusade.”

A version of this post was first published on the blog.

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Are You A Social HR Leader?

The Olympics provide us with a way to celebrate our great human triumphs. During the Olympics, eyes from across the world are glued to television screens featuring the best in human athletic achievement. In all of these sports, there are great athletes (“employees”). Behind every great athlete, however, is a great coach (“manager”). These coaches don’t deal with attributes, issues, or algorithms – they deal with people, and their people have reached the pinnacle of athletic achievement.

As companies become more driven by social communication and less by hierarchical interactions, HR becomes a center of risk rather than a risk manager. But this risk-management strategy has begun to fail. It is no longer possible to sort for risk using an if/then algorithm; to be successful, HR must go back to the Human part of its charter and evaluate risk (and opportunity) on a personal, one-to-one level.

What is the key to developing a ‘becoming more human’ strategy for HR?

I believe it’s all about being social and truly enjoying people. We humans are social creatures, but when we’re given the role of managing risk, we may devalue the importance of social interactions. If you do this you cannot be social. Don’t even bother if you cannot make the time to genuinely value other people.

There are five traits that most Social HR leaders embody, and each springs from (or is informed by) genuine social, human interactions.

Emotional Intelligence – Widely understood to be essential to an effective leader’s approach to managing, emotional intelligence relies on an individual’s ability to harmonize and employ emotional, cognitive and behavioral skills. Social HR leaders are emotionally literate, self-aware and responsible. Their communication skills – both verbal and non-verbal – are finely honed. Rather than seeing employees as falling on a continuum of risk, they approach employees – and the organization – as a social entity, with the interplay of people and actions occurring along the continuum of social interaction. They care about people – they really do!

Socially Brand Aware – Every company or organization is a brand. Employees are drawn to – or forced away from – your brand, so a Social HR manager must also be a brand manager via social channels. Brand is the intersection of workplace culture – the personality of the place; people – employees and managers of the organization, and the experience of being in the work environment. Social HR managers must commit to maintaining the value of the culture, which means defending and extending the value of the brand.

Constant Learners – Passionate, open, self-aware and curious, constant learners value context and creativity. For these HR leaders, social interaction is the linchpin: it creates context, spurs innovation and rewards creativity. Constant learners also manage risk by never stopping, never settling.

Social Community Focused – We may not live in tight communities any more, although that seems to be changing as more people move to cities. But a healthy workplace is a tight, social community. You could call it a community of interest, one in which people bond over a shared interest – the success of the organization. Social HR leaders must be acutely aware of the drivers motivating their workplace communities, tuning in to the social fabric of the workplace to sense, and correct, relationship dysfunction before it damages the workplace.

Committed to fostering engagement – Much has been written about the importance of employee engagement and the impact of engaged employees on the bottom line. Social HR leaders are engagement managers. They work to bring people of different talents, temperaments and motivations into engagement with organizational goals. I’d argue that being an engagement manager is second only to emotional intelligence in importance for a Social HR leader.

Strong leaders build strong, profitable, engaged organizations. Social HR leaders accept the power of human interaction; embrace social behaviors, and reward engagement. It turns out being more human and social is the simplest way to manage risk.

Is your company really ready for a Social HR Leader?

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on July 30, 2012.

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4 Ways To Define Trust In The New World Of Work

It’s no big revelation that trust is the gas the drives the car when it comes to relationships; without it, you may roll to a dismal halt. Families depend on it; marriages are built on it. Pretty much any kind of partnership requires it, and without, the foundation of nearly any relationship is seriously weakened. It’s no different at work. But defining trust in the workplace it is a little different.

The meaning of trust hasn’t shifted. But the nature of how trust functions has. How? Geographically, demographically, even culturally, how we view trust and what it means has evolved, as have the rituals we use to build it. The same kinds of activities that might have raised eyebrows and closed ranks in the past can have the opposite effect now.

1) Accept that innovation will happen.

There’s a great lesson to be learned from Uber (again): how a rogue group of employees bypassed the workflow channels to create a new product. Since there was no time to bring a new idea (hashed out during an after-hours “jam session) to life during regular business hours, they created and organized it during a two-day workathon over the weekend. Was it elitist? Nope. Part of the impromptu quick-start of the product was that it could not be without the input of everyone in a range of departments and across functions. It was an open-minded, “Hey, how can we do this?” approach. Is this sneaky? Not if it’s part of company culture.

2) Value individual autonomy.

Studies like Deloitte’s on culture and employee engagement found that 87 percent of organizations surveyed cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. And 12 percent of employees are more motivated by work passion than career ambition — a number that will surely rise. The new workplace has to include self-motivation as a driving force behind employee engagement — which means (no matter the geography, whether digital or physical) that employees are given the freedom to grow, learn, and push themselves. The give stems from a workplace that trusts its talent. Companies that don’t weave this into their own culture are risking a higher rate of attrition than those who do.

3) Admit that humans have emotions.

Trust is not just a marketing slogan or a word on money. Lack of trust can dredge up a storm of emotions in anyone, from a spouse to an employee. Yes, we should all try to take the high road, as my colleague and friend Tamara McCleary points out. But in the workplace, the onus is with management to be able to lead with emotional intelligence. If an employee has an issue and it’s bungled due to some expectation of acting professional, at least these two things will happen: 1) resentment and 2) opacity.

4) Understand that we need to be friends.

A recent survey showed that groups of friends were able to perform tasks and make decisions better than a group of strangers. In terms of teamwork, being friends does indeed keep the car moving. But if we’re increasingly isolated due to changing work environments, far more telecommuting, shorter expected stints with an employer, and a host of other factors, how can we forge productive, inspiring, team-building friendships? We might take a cue from companies who make employee interaction and activities an active part of workplace culture.

Which once again, leads me back to that exercise in cooperation, the Google CoBike — that on-campus, multi-seated bicycle, which by now is part of Silicon Valley lore. If you want people to feel valued, work together, and trust each other, then make sure your workplace values people above all else. Trust will work wonders where nothing else will: increase engagement, productivity, communication, and decrease attrition. Trust me on this one.

Image credit : Shutterstock

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 12/12/15

Beware the Feel Good Work Culture

How critical is work culture to recruitment and employee retention? It’s important, I’ll give you that. But a feel good work culture might do more harm than good. As the economy continues to grow, hiring managers and HR personnel realize how fiercely they must compete for top talent. As I recently wrote, if you’re looking to snag the best prospects, employee perks alone just won’t cut it.

Today’s modern employee is looking for much more than great benefits and a healthy 401K plan. Those recruiting for tech industries especially know that companies such as Google and Facebook have raised the bar when it comes to work culture and the lure of a fun, modern office space.

And yes, I regularly encourage businesses to think creatively, encourage a human-centered workplace, and build a collaborative and relationship-driven work culture. But there is a catch—a trap, if you will—to all these good feelings. Focusing too much on creating a happy workplace may mean you create one that’s less productive. Let’s take a look.

The Bottom Line Impact of an Engaged Workplace

It is easy to drift into Kumbaya-land when discussing how to build an engaged work culture. There is much talk of employee self-actualization and this new, seamless “work-life” way of living that impacts an individual from sunup to sundown.

But the real reason there is so much focus on employee engagement is because the numbers back up the fact that engaged employees are far more productive. Business leaders are beginning to understand that the bottom line is directly and greatly impacted by their work culture.

At the end of last year, CareerBliss released their 5th annual CareerBliss 50 Happiest Companies in America, and it is not surprising that it is populated with industry leaders. As CEO and Chief Happiness Officer Heidi Golledge says, “It is important to see how workplaces are constantly evolving and changing. Creating happiness at work is a very fluid process, building and adapting to a changing workforce, while accounting for the key factors that create happier environments.”

Too Much Focus on Feeling Good Affects Productivity

Employee happiness matters to business success, period. But let’s take a look at the flip side of the coin. As I mentioned, studies repeatedly show that positive work environments equal higher productivity, but I caution against going too far in the “feel good” direction. There is a big difference between creating a happy work culture and creating an environment where productivity comes second to individual happiness. Building a culture of engaged employees does not mean you create a stress-free zone where accountability and productivity take a back seat to personal needs and wants. In order to create an engaged, but successful workplace, a good portion of the “happy” culture must be connected to performance.

What good is a happy workplace if profitability is at risk? A happy employee is also an employed employee, and it is management’s job to keep the business alive and thriving. A culture of excellence, where employees and teams are recognized and rewarded for success, is a signature element of both a happy work culture and a profitable business.

Finding the Balance between Sound Business and a Positive Work Culture

Offering perks like free lunches, part-time remote work schedules, and flex time are benefits any employee appreciates. Paid leave and great healthcare also help to make employees feel valued. However, to build a truly positive work culture, go a step further and create a clear vision so that all employees understand your core principles. Create clear lines of open communication so both management and their reports know that they will be heard.

The danger in not having a strategy for how to achieve a positive, happy work culture is that management may make some very expensive decisions centered on perks and individual happiness without a clear connection to performance. If you’re not careful, you may create an environment where people feel that their right to be happy and not stressed out takes precedence over performance.

Getting the Positive Work Culture Right

For a good example of strategic planning for a positive work culture, we need look no further than Netflix. The slideshare presentation outlining their corporate strategy lays the foundation with the title: Freedom with Responsibility. They clearly lay out that their “culture focuses on helping us achieve excellence.” There is no confusion about the goal—it’s clearly communicated, right at the onset.

In the presentation, Netflix talks about values and they directly connect them to performance, stating, “The actual company values, as opposed to the nice sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.”

The company nails exactly what I’m talking about. “Great values is not espresso, lush benefits, sushi lunches, grand parties or nice offices…We do some of these things, but only if they are efficient at attracting and retaining stunning colleagues.”

No one at Netflix can be confused about the company’s work culture and goals after watching their 124-slide presentation. They have obviously thought it through and clearly communicated their intentions.

What do you think? What is your experience with positive work cultures and strategies that create engaged employees? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Photo credit: study world culutre via photopin (license)

A version of this article was first published on Huffington Post on 12/30/15

Why Engagement Happens In Employees Hearts, Not Their Minds

Winning Your Employees Over To Stick With The Company Long Term Involves An Array Of Factors—But First Among Those Is Love.

What are the real drivers of human engagement in the workplace?

What are those things that consistently inspire people to fully commit themselves in their jobs and to willingly scale mountains for their bosses and organizations?

For the past two-plus years, I’ve been singularly focused on answering these big questions and to boiling answers down to a true bottom-line. In the service of organizations everywhere, my singular mission has been to identify the few critical leadership practices that affect people so deeply that they become uncommonly loyal, committed, and productive.

And to distill all I’ve discovered down to just one word, what workers across the globe need in order to thrive and exceptionally perform in their jobs is love.

The use of the word “love” is, of course, a huge taboo in the context of business and management. But as you read on, you’ll soon see that the love I’m referring to has nothing to do with romance, sex, or religion. The love I’m speaking of relates to the experience of positive emotions—the foundation of human motivation.

Why We Want More

We’ve long believed that a job and a paycheck provided sufficient motivation for people to remain fully committed at work. But as levels of engagement have fallen abysmally low all over the world, the evidence is irrefutably clear that people today want and need much more in exchange for their dedicated efforts. Here’s how we know:

For nearly three decades, Gallup Research and the Conference Board have been independently monitoring employee satisfaction and engagement in more than 100 countries. The lead scientists at both organizations personally shared with me all of their dominant findings.

I also visited the two organizations consistently recognized for being the best in the world at driving employee engagement. At software analytics firm, SAS, and at Google, I met with the executive leaders who created the enlightened systems that have routinely made their firms extreme outliers in creating workplace happiness–-all the while producing uncommon shareholder returns.

And desiring the broadest possible insight into current views on workplace management, I interviewed the founder of the Great Place To Work Institute, Robert Levering, positive psychology author Shawn Achor, and many leadership luminaries including John Kotter, Ken Blanchard, Spencer Johnson, and Adam Grant.

Drawing upon all I learned, my conclusions as to what will have the greatest impact on reversing our worldwide engagement crisis come down to just a few profoundly important revelations. As you might imagine, many of these directly challenge traditional managerial thinking:

We hear a lot about employee perks and are led to believe the more extravagant they are, the better they are in stimulating performance. With the exception of health care and on-site daycare (which make people feel valued), few other perks significantly influence engagement.

While it used to be that people derived their greatest sense of happiness from time spent with family and hobbies, how satisfied workers feel in their jobs now determines their overall happiness with life. This monumental shift means that job fulfillment has become essential to people everywhere.

The decision to be engaged is made in worker’s hearts—not minds. We now know that feelings and emotions drive human behavior—what people care most about and commit themselves to in their lives. Consequently, how leaders and organizations make people feel in their jobs has the greatest impact on their performance by far.

For centuries, most people went to work to get a paycheck, in order to put a roof over their heads and food on their table. But as a driver of engagement, pay now ranks no higher than fifth in importance to people—in every industrialized country. What truly inspires worker engagement in the 21st century can best be described as “emotional currency.” Here’s what that means:

Having a supervisor that cares about us, our well-being, and personal growth

Without exception, bosses predominantly concerned about their own needs create the lowest levels of employee engagement. Going forward, having an authentic advocacy for the development and success of others should be prerequisite for selection into all leadership roles.

Doing work that we enjoy and have the talents to perform

Selecting people who display passion for the work they’ll be doing is perhaps the most important step toward building a highly engaged team. People can’t ever be fully engaged if their hearts aren’t in the work.

Routinely feeling valued, appreciated, and having a deep belief that the work we do matters

It’s highly destructive to people to have them strive and achieve, and to then have those contributions go unrecognized. Any company focused exclusively on driving profits—without a compelling mission—will inherently neuter engagement.

Having strong bonds with other people on the team, especially with our supervisors.

Feeling connected with and genuinely supported by others at work is a surprisingly significant driver of engagement and loyalty.

Why It All Comes Down To Love

It was Gallup’s CEO, Jim Clifton who first suggested to me that employee engagement is ultimately driven by something deeper:

“I think you’re going to find that what people really are seeking in return for work is love,” he said.

There was no question in my mind that Clifton meant this in the most grown-up, truth-telling kind of way, and I was immediately determined to find the proof.

Fifteen years ago, University of North Carolina psychology professor, Barbara Fredrickson, began a formal study of the science of human emotions. Her conclusion today is that love, as our “supreme emotion,” affects everything human beings “feel, think, do, and become.” But it’s her meaning of love that provides the needed clarity:

“The definition that someone in business needs to understand is the simplest definition to start with,” she told me. “People have emotions that range from unpleasant to pleasant. Positive emotions are on that pleasant side. Historically, we’ve misunderstood love to be one of the positive emotions that range from joy, inspiration, interest, pride, and hope. But love is the feeling of any of those emotions co-experienced with another person or group.”

Fredrickson, who won the American Psychological Association’s Templeton Prize for Positive Psychology, and who is the author of Love 2.0, insists that the human body was designed to thrive on love—to live off of it—and that it changes how the brain works. “Love transforms people into making them more positive, resilient, optimistic, persistent, healthier, and happier,” she says. Conversely, “the body’s biochemistry is very negatively affected when it’s not consistently received.”

In relating her work to how it affects our understanding of employee engagement, Fredrickson explains that no emotion is long-lasting and people need to experience positive emotions frequently for engagement to remain high: “As eating one stalk of broccoli isn’t enough to make us healthy, we need a steady diet of these momentary connections to have an impact. And given that people spend more time at work than anywhere else, their ability to thrive is really dependent on them having these moments on the job.”

When I asked Fredrickson if her research confirms that a person’s engagement at work is both established and sustained by feelings of love, she insisted it’s true. “When people are made to feel cared for, nurtured, and growing, that will serve the organization well. Because those feelings drive commitment and loyalty just like it would in any relationship. If you feel uniquely seen, understood, valued and appreciated, then that will hook you into being committed to that team, leader and organization. This is how positive emotions work.”

So, for any company or leader who dreams of building an exceptionally committed and productive team, I offer you my most informed advice:

“Love your people.”

Image credit :

A version of this post was first published on FastCompany on 2/5/15.

HR Trends: Back to the Future in 2016

In 2015 we saw the emergence of a number of new HR trends. The HR landscape is changing more rapidly than ever before. HR trends, such as recruitment through social media, the impact of Generation Z, and the overhaul of performance reviews, were all apparent in 2015. In 2016, it’s likely that traditional business practices will be further disrupted by technology. According to the Bersin report, it’s likely the entire human resources platform will be accessible from one mobile application. Companies will look to create further employee engagement – employees who are fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work – and undertake further culture management. Tech companies will likely be looking to take advantage of the new generation of HR leaders, all of whom have been accustomed to the use of mobile technology in their personal lives already. So what were some of the other developments that occurred in 2015 and how likely are they to affect 2016?

What changes will the industry see in 2016? And how do they affect your workplace?

According to Dan Schawbel’s 10 workplace trends for 2015 , the workplace should have seen an array  of companies using social media to attract and retain top talent. According to the global recruiting trends report, one of the most effective ways to attract talent in 2015 was still through company career websites and internet job boards. Many believed the job board would die with the advent of social media, however 74 percent of the 4000 interviewed companies said that the internet job board still remained the most effective source of attracting top talent. However, the report went on to say that the fastest growing platform for hires remains for quality social professional networks, such as Linkedin.

2015 saw the introduction of Gen Z into the workforce through internships and traineeships. This post independent, pragmatic and always in a rush generation is determined to succeed. According to Laurence Benhamou, a journalist who penned the article Everything you need to know about Generation Z “this generation’s primary driver is to own and run their own business”. He went on to say that “76 percent of this generation are aiming to make a hobby out of their job and they believe that their success comes from their ‘network’ instead of their qualifications”. How did they perform in the workplace in 2015?

A recent report compiled by Adecco outlined what Gen Z expects in the workplace. Their top priority is obtaining their dream job within 10 years time, so companies have to focus on talent development and career growth. Out of the 1000 students surveyed, 36 percent cited that opportunity for growth is their number one priority when looking for employment. While a further 19 percent wanted their roles to be somehow associated to their personal interests.

The annual performance review was bound to get a revamp in 2015. According to data obtained from the management research firm CEB, 6 percent of Fortune 500 companies have stopped using annual performance reviews and forced rankings. This year we saw both Deloitte and Accenture dumping and redesigning performance reviews, in favor of more continuous and ongoing feedback. Considering performance reviews had never been through any “upgrade”, the process was in need of a complete overhaul. According to a public survey conducted by Deloitte, 58 percent of their managers stated that traditional performance reviews do not serve its purpose. Deloitte has since moved over to a design which recognises, understands and fuels performance. Tech companies are rethinking the way in which companies are conducting performance reviews, focusing on ongoing and real-time feedback.

2016: A Look to the year ahead

What are the biggest trends we can see going forward? What is likely to disrupt the way in which companies view the workplace and how does HR fit into this ever changing work environment? In this new world of work, we are seeing the line between work life and personal life becoming obsolete, employees are now hyperconnected to their roles, and technology is likely to have  an even greater impact on business in 2016. Information is accessible with a simple tap of a screen or wearable device, providing key data insights into companies and ambitious startups alike.

The workplace and mobile applications

According to the KPCB report, there are now more than 2.1 billion smartphone users on the planet. Mobile internet growth increased by 69 percent in 2014 and will continue to grow at a rapid pace. For the study, 1019 millennials were interviewed and found that 78 percent of interviewee’s smartphones never left their side, being the first thing they look at when they wake and the last thing they look at when they go to sleep. A further 60 percent believed that by 2020, every daily activity will be done through a smartphone. In 2016 there is a good chance that this mobile technology will spill over into the HR space. Companies will need to “appify” their HR tools, in order to engage and understand employees in a more quantifiable manner. According to the Bersin report in 2016, it’s likely that we will see a breakthrough in engagement and feedback systems, as well as apps for learning, employee feedback and performance check-ins. It is also likely that there will be more applications for time and attendance management, expense reimbursement; employee directories and collaboration, as well as, applications for video interviewing, recruitment and candidate marketing.

The return of the employee

In an era where job-hopping amongst young professionals has become the norm, millennial employees will likely be seen again in the future. According to the workplace trends report, 76 percent of the organizations interviewed preferred rehiring ex employees, as these employees require less training, as they were aware of the business practices already and generally a better culture fit. The report went on to say that in the past 5 years, 85 percent of the companies interviewed, received job applications from previous employees. What’s more, 40 percent of these companies said that they hired those employees. Several factors are contributing to this new phenomenon. Social media sites are making it easier for company leaders and managers to keep in contact with previous employees. With digital profiles of ex employees being stored more regularly, companies are now able to get historical information of previous employees more quickly and timely. There are a number of benefits to hiring a boomerang employee. When employees leave the company, they gain valuable skills and expand their professional networks. When they eventually return, they come with a wealth of experience and extensive networks from which a company can benefit from. What’s more is that these employees boost office morale, streamline reentry into the workplace culture, and require less information when onboarding, making it more agile and faster to bring ex employees up to speed.

The millennial manager

Generation Y is currently the largest generation in the workplace, so it’s inevitable that business will see them as leaders in the near future. As this generation continues to mature, they will move into leadership roles in ways that are much different than generations before them. Often these millennials do not have prerequisites of certain job titles or even experience. In a study compiled by Virtuali, 71 percent of millennials already consider themselves to be leaders in their personal capacity  (even though less than half interviewed had held any formal leadership positions). The majority of these millennials consider themselves “situational leaders” – leaders in project teams, volunteering their experiences and influencing people. The report goes on to say that 64 percent of respondents  do not feel they are fully prepared to be leaders yet, mostly because they lack the ability to manage and develop other employees. According to the report compiled by workplace trends, nearly 50 percent of millennials surveyed defined leadership as empowering others to succeed. A more compassionate leadership style will be the trademark of the millennial manager. Millennials like to collaborate with their peers in order to achieve objectives and are transformational leaders. Using strong teaming skills, millennial leaders consider creating leadership teams in order to share the demanding workload.

Wearing productivity

In 2015 there was a growing trend toward wearable technology, such as smart bands and smartwatches, in the workplace. These devices have the ability to track, monitor and store data about an employee’s efficiencies and wellness in the workplace. In 2015, British Petroleum distributed 24500 fitbits to track employees health and wellness. According to the wearable technology report, around 2000 companies worldwide will offer their employees fitness trackers in 2016. What’s more, more than 60 percent of millennials in the report said that they would be willing to wear smart devices, provided that they increased efficiencies and productivity. Smart devices are likely to increase efficiencies incrementally as tasks, such as checking email and checking in at the office, will become streamlined to the wrist. From 2015, workplace software Kronos, says it’s expanding its platform to smart devices to offer tracking and communication capabilities. This new technology is likely to take advantage of the 24/7 business environment, quickly retrieving information and notifying employees quicker than any other smart mobile device.


Be prepared for the eventuality of mobile applications in the workplace –  with mobile applications being on the upward trend and millennials entering leadership roles, it means that there will be an increasing likelihood that business functions will all be mobile in 2016. These mobile applications will increase are likely to increase productivity and take advantage of the 24/7 workplace.

  • Be open to returning employees – it’s likely there will be more and more ‘boomerang’ employees. These individuals will be returning with enormous wealth of experience. make sure you can take advantage of this by creating ‘returning’ policies.
  • It’s likely there will be some millennial managers in the workplace from next year – create a workplace that is conducive to their managerial style and set up leadership training so they can take full advantage of their already strong desire to lead. get them into the mindset to give and receive open and honest feedback.

A version of this post was first published on the blog. (Author Matias Rodsevich)

photo credit: Scrabble – Position via photopin (license)

Good Management Skills: Nature or Nurture?

 Earlier this year, Gallup issued a fascinating study that looked at why great managers are so rare. It concluded that while one of the most important decisions a company can make is whom they select to manage, companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82 percent of the time. It turns out managers drive 70% of employees’ engagement and experience of work , which makes their role crucial in retaining talent as well as achieving organization goals.

The Gallup report goes on to state that about one in ten people possess the talent to manage. Though many people are endowed with some of the necessary traits, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity.

While it is an interesting theory, I’m convinced that while raw talent plays a part in great management, the secret to a pipeline of better managers is better preparation. Managing is a distinct job but according to McKinsey, new managers get the least training and tools for the job to succeed. The ones who thrive with responsibility and pressure but without these basics are the naturally gifted 10% (counter-intuitively, they’re often chosen to get the limited leadership coaching companies do provide).

Few jobs can be done well without tools fit for purpose and training to develop skills. Everyone knows half of the old Vince Lombardi quote that starts, “Leaders aren’t born they are made.” While that can also be said of managers, the rest of his quote is even more telling: “And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”

Management skill and leadership pipeline are the top talent concern of CEOs yet 5% believe their pipeline is sufficient, so it is time to invest in the hard work of growing great managers.

These four steps can help your organization cultivate, grow and instill management skills:

1. Recognize “Managing” As Real Work.
Like the domain processes for things like sales, development, and customer service, managing is also a distinct function that follows a consistent, teachable framework. To be effective, managers must communicate goals, triage execution priorities, drive actions and accountability, report progress and give feedback to their teams. This universal framework for managing is not obvious to new managers and middle managers’ domain workloads may not allow them sufficient time to do these well. Managers can easily sink into a recursive cycle of triage and reporting with little time to communicate goals and feedback – which leads to more triage and worse results. Establishing and reinforcing the simple management framework can help them break the cycle.

2. Start At The Beginning
At first promotion to manager, make sure people receive training on what management means and they understand the framework for managing. Their domain skills may qualify them for managing a function, but rarely prepare them to do so. Course material should cover the management framework, the importance and impact of engaging their teams, bridging skill and perspective differences, and accountability techniques. At each subsequent promotion, deepen the training on the framework, self-awareness and strategic thinking to deepen their skills.

3. Foster Desire To Be A Skillful Manager
Create and reinforce natural desire, curiosity and self-interest in improving management skills by messaging and modeling its distinct importance. Line of business executives can incorporate it as a regular topic in their 1on1 discussions with managers to validate its relevance and importance. Identify coaches within business units that can help managers enhance their people management and leadership skills individually or in informal meet ups (much as you would domain mentorships). If managing well is a visible company value, more people will manage well.

4. Give Managers Tools To Manage With
Most performance tools were designed to help HR centrally track goal setting and review completion rather than to help line managers. To create management capacity and competency, provide performance and management tools that directly help managers manage at their best. Workboard, for example, is a Web and mobile app that automates the management framework for managers (and provides HR and executives with greater transparency and confidence). It’s a performance and productivity app designed for line of business managers to continuously communicate goals, manage shifting priorities, assign and track actions, automate status reporting, maximize 1on1s and give more regular feedback.

There’s never been a more important time to build managerial skills. CEO’s value it, competitive advantage in a recovering economy depends on it, complex businesses need it at all levels, employee engagement and talent retention hinges on it yet very few people are born with these skills. Management skill and capacity building is strategic to HR’s partnership with the business and any performance, talent and employee engagement initiative.


Photo: Celpax

Increase Employee Engagement by Making Them Feel Valued

Smart leadership realizes that to increase employee engagement and productivity across their workforce you must look beyond salary, benefits, and an occasional free pizza. Today’s employees want to feel valued.

A savvy manager knows that today’s employees (not just Millennials) place a high emphasis on being:

  • Important to the team.
  • Entrusted with information.
  • Empowered to make a difference.
  • Provided cooperative feedback and mentorship.
  • Given appropriate recognition and reward.

A 2012 study by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported the following comparisons of those who feel valued against those who don’t:

  • Those who report feeling valued by their employer are significantly more likely to be motivated to do their very best (93 percent vs. 33 percent).
  • They are also more likely to recommend their workplace to others (85 percent vs. 19 percent).
  • Those who do not feel valued are significantly more likely to seek new employment within 12 months (50 percent vs. 21 percent).

Statistically, more than nine out of 10 of employees who feel valued will channel those emotions into an enthusiasm and drive for maximum productivity and quality. So everyone wins.

The following suggestions will help you and your managers express your appreciation for your employees’ value to the organization:

Discover Their Motivations

Don’t assume you know what makes someone tick and don’t make yourself the reference point for others. People like different things:

  • Some like public recognition, while others prefer a personal thank-you.
  • Some want more responsibility for a job well done, while others simply want more of what they have received in the past.
  • Some want a day off to spend time with family, while others prefer a $100 gift card for the local electronics store.

When you connect with someone on a personal level the trust and respect factors increase exponentially—as does the desire to perform at an even higher level.

Participate in Proactive and Frequent ‘Two-Way’ Feedback

Without regular feedback and direction, employees will form assumptions of how they are performing to meet business needs. These may be inaccurate assumptions. Encourage your managers and employees to meet at least every two weeks to discuss the ideas, successes, challenges, and any other concerns they may have.

When you’re giving feedback, try to avoid phrases like “You should” or “Why don’t you?” since you may sound like you are laying blame. Instead, invite feedback from the other party (see what we are doing here) by asking something like “What needs to happen so we can …?”

Remember, clumsy wording can ruin well-intentioned feedback whereas thoughtful communication can advance even a sticky situation. In the end, feedback is not just about being honest … it’s about being honest skillfully.

Additionally, if you are the person receiving feedback, it is important to remember that your manager or colleague has come to you because of their perception of how something has transpired. Even if you don’t agree with what that person is saying, try not to get defensive. Instead, engage in dialogue by saying something like “I appreciate you bringing this to me so let’s try and walk through this in more detail.”

Inform and Empower

Almost everyone wants to hear and to be heard. One only has to skim through any social media platform, listen to talk radio, or participate in fantasy sports leagues to witness this.

At all times (without breaking any corporate confidentiality rules), inform and empower your employees. Quell the rumors and keep your team abreast of organizational and departmental happenings. The water cooler and rumor mill are two places that breed mistrust and kill productivity.

If you don’t already have a formal mechanism to solicit concerns from your team (and I am NOT talking about an annual engagement survey), change that. Find out what the concerns are–at least on a quarterly basis. Then, collate the information quickly, identify key areas for improvement, and empower your employees to make those improvements. When you make people feel important, show that their input is vital, and emphasize that they are part of a team that strives for continuous development … you will find success.

When employees feel valued, their sense of self-worth and self-esteem increases. This increased sense of self-worth and self-esteem are key drivers in building loyalty, morale, and greater efforts. The teams will work more collaboratively, harness their differences, develop great working relationships, and ultimately raise the culture and productivity at the local and enterprise levels.

The Role of Communication in Employee Experience and Employer Branding

Slack, an internal communications platform designed to improve workplace communications, grew to a $1.1 Billion valuation within eight months of launching to the general public. Their adoption rates are off the charts, and their users adore them. There’s a very good reason for this:

Clear workplace communication leads to team success.

But many of us forget how significant communications is to the bottom line, or how detrimental lack of communication is to the employee experience.

A recent study by AON Hewitt on global employee engagement trends shows a -26 percent downward slope in overall work experience between 2013 and 2014. Ouch!

They also found that a disengaged employee costs a company $10,000 in revenue annually, according to a survey of more than 7,000 enterprises.

Oh, and guess what? In 2014, CareerBuilder reported that 59 percent of workers surveyed expressed general dissatisfaction with their jobs.

That’s getting expensive fast.

As an enterprise working on your employer brand, you know how important employees are to attracting top talent.

So what to do now?

Improve Employee Experience and Drive Employer Brand 

When it comes to sharing the employee experience with the world, your employees are your best assets.

And the best employer brands exist because employees genuinely love them and want to talk about them. This produces a ton of benefits, including better employee engagement and talent acquisition:

  • Employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate – only 7 percent of applicants are via employees but this accounts for 40 percent of all new hire hires (Source: Jobvite)
  • 67 percent of employers and recruiters said that the recruiting process was shorter, and 51 percent said it was less expensive to recruit via referrals (Source: Jobvite)
  • 47 percent Referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies (Source: Jobvite)

According to a data published in Altimeter and LinkedIn Relationships Economics 2014, employees of socially engaged companies are:

  • 57 percent more likely to align social media engagement to more sales leads
  • 20 percent more likely to stay at their company
  • 27 percent more likely to feel optimistic about their company’s future
  • 40 percent more likely to believe their company is more competitive

And yet, as described in the Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study, disengaged employees make up 74 percent of the average company’s workforce. Your employees play a significant role in communicating your employer brand, but this becomes a huge challenge with a disengaged workforce.

How Do You Improve The Employer Experience?

Despite the downward trend in work experience globally, AON Hewitt discovered reported that work experience is looking optimistic. The North American work experience improved 21 percent between 2013 and 2014, mostly fuelled by Canadian ratings.

On top of that, the best driver to this increase was enhanced communication within the company.

Without the proper communication channels in the workplace, it’s hard for employees to stay engaged. They need to feel like they have a voice. They need to feel empowered to make decisions. They need to know what’s going on in your enterprise. If they don’t, they’ll leave.

Or even worse, they’ll stay as a disgruntled employee and cost you a ton of money.

So what if you could create a communication channel for employees where they feel empowered?

How Employee Advocacy Helps Improve Communication

Employee advocacy is the result of the right culture, communication, and content. Employees become knowledgeable about your company and WANT to talk about you positively, both online and offline. And establishing a formal employee advocacy program can help improve communication and better the employee experience, resulting in a stronger employer brand.

But how does employee advocacy actually help?

  • Content as Knowledge: By creating a centralized content library that employees can securely access, they can consume your content, making them smarter about their industry. This content knowledge translates into better communications skills, making them better at their job.
  • Modernizing the enterprise: Because of the complexity of implementing an employee advocacy program, you most likely don’t have an existing communication tool that can centralize all content and employees, and make it easy for them to communicate internally and externally. Adopting a program forces you to change, and invest in digital technology that your employees actually want to use.
  • Developing daily communication habits: By integrating the right technology within your existing enterprise stack, you can help employees develop daily communication habits, like consuming enough content and sharing to their personal social networks. Technology helps activate social media training for employees and helps communicate your brand appropriately.

All of this helps improve the employee experience and distribute your employer brand.

Everyone Benefits From Improved Communications

By giving your employees the right content and access to modern technology that improves their skills, you’re investing in their professional development. When you show them you care, they become more engaged, which in turn improves the overall employee experience.

And by improving the employee experience, your workforce wants to participate in your employer branding efforts.

As an enterprise, it’s your responsibility to grow your employees. Give them the right knowledge and tools, and they’ll help attract and keep the right talent. Period.

How are you improving employee communication at your company? Do you invest in the employee experience? Leave a comment below and share with your colleagues!

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