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People Science: A Fix for Broken Employee Engagement?

For years, organizations have invested heavily in programs designed to improve employee engagement and work performance. But despite good intentions, too many of these endeavors have fallen short. Now, some are turning to people science and coaching as a solution. Is this the answer?

What exactly is people science? How does it work hand-in-hand with coaching to drive better outcomes? And what should HR and business leaders do to implement a successful strategy?

I invite you to join me as I discuss this topic in-depth with an expert in people science on this #WorkTrends podcast episode.

Meet Our Guest:  Kevin Campbell

Today, I’m excited to welcome Kevin Campbell, a people scientist and executive strengths coach who specializes in leveraging workforce analytics with the art of leadership to help organizations strengthen work teams and improve their employee experience. Over the years, Kevin has worked with some of the most prestigious firms in workforce strategy, including Culture Amp, Deloitte, Gallup, and now Qualtrics.

Essential People Science Skills

Being an employee experience scientist sounds exciting, Kevin. But what exactly do you do?

To be effective, it requires expertise in multiple disciplines. Think of a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles.

One is people analytics, another is organizational psychology, and the other is applied practice. An employee experience scientist sits in the intersection of those three areas.

Understanding Employee Engagement

As a people scientist, what does the term “employee engagement” mean to you?

It’s important to talk about what it is not, as well as what it is.

It’s not a survey. Often, we lose sight of the fact that engagement is actually an emotional and psychological state. A survey is just a tool that helps us measure that state.

Engagement really starts with emotional commitment. I emphasize the emotional aspect because it’s about the desire to stay with an organization and help fulfill its objectives — not because you’re obligated or you feel forced to do it, but because you want to.

Pinpointing Engagement Issues

What is the most critical challenge you’re seeing right now?

Most organizations overemphasize understanding and underemphasize improvement in action.

For example, according to 2021 data, nearly 90% of companies measure engagement or have some type of employee feedback program, but only 7% of employees say their company acts on feedback in a highly effective way.

We haven’t updated that research yet, but I’m guessing it probably hasn’t improved much.

Bridging The Gap

How can employers address this problem? 

It’s important to recognize that the engagement survey or data isn’t the end. It’s really just the beginning.

To improve, you’ll want to translate results into actions that can have outsized impact on the your company culture. And the key is to use simple coaching skills.

 


For more great advice from Kevin about the art and science behind how to develop and sustain a great employee experience, listen to this full episode.

Also, be sure to subscribe to the #WorkTrends Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. And to continue this conversation on social media, follow our #WorkTrends hashtag on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How to Motivate People With Better Performance Evaluations

When someone says it’s time for performance evaluations, what happens? You can almost hear a collective groan ripple across an organization. Reactions run the gamut, from indifference to full-on dread. 

It’s not just the idea of a performance review that makes people so uneasy—it’s also how the process is handled. Although employees tend to agree that performance evaluations are beneficial, too often, the way employers conduct and use reviews leaves a lot to be desired. 

We’d like to dig deeper into why performance evaluations stir up so many less-than-positive reactions. But first, let’s look briefly at how they became a standard business practice…

A Short History of Performance Evaluations

Appraisals were first developed during World War I. Back then, they had little to do with helping people improve and move forward in their careers. Instead, military leaders used appraisals to determine which personnel had the skills to qualify for a promotion when openings became available. They also used appraisals to identify and dismiss underperformers, so they could protect their ranks from harm or inefficiency.

The practice of workplace performance evaluations didn’t gain a firm foothold until the 1960s. But since then, reviews evolved in two sometimes conflicting directions. One rationale focuses on assessing current talent. The other emphasizes talent development for the future. However, as employee reviews have become more widespread, so have their scope and complexity. No wonder this topic makes so many people groan.

Why Employee Reviews Are Often Loathed

Today, many executives, managers, and employees agree that the traditional performance review system is no longer practical or effective. This is primarily because reviews are usually conducted on an annual basis.

Experts agree that an annual review cycle isn’t frequent enough to change behavior. Instead, managers should ideally offer feedback or guidance soon after an issue arises, not months after the fact.

Also, with a year’s worth of activity to evaluate, an appraisal can become an intense, high-pressure process, charged with the fear of being reprimanded or fired. In addition, an annual cadence tends to put an organization’s interests first, while undervaluing the employee experience.

Even so, most companies haven’t figured out how to replace or adapt that traditional review process with something better. How can we redesign performance evaluations to more closely meet the needs of employees, managers, and the organization? Let’s start by clarifying those needs.

The Benefits of a Better Review Process

For employers, a strong review process helps people apply their skills and experience to support organizational objectives. Clearer priorities, fewer mistakes, improved performance, and a more united team all contribute to a more profitable and sustainable business.

For managers and other leaders, a strong review process is efficient and effective. It provides timely direction, re-energizes people who have been disengaged, and makes the whole team more eager to deliver high-quality results.

For employees, a strong review process provides a clear picture of their current skills and proficiencies, while offering useful guidance on how to improve. It makes people feel more connected with their role in the organization and more supported in their specific work goals.

What’s at Stake

By relying on these various interests as a blueprint for improving the review process, organizations can achieve measurable gains. For example, a more productive, supportive form of evaluation can be a highly motivating process. Ideally, it creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue that builds people up, rather than tearing them down. That can make all the difference for organizations that recognize the business value of employee retention.

On the other hand, choosing not to invest in an effective evaluation process brings significant downside risks. For example, people tend to become disenchanted and disengaged when they’re expected to work without constructive feedback, clear goals, or meaningful career paths.

In fact, one survey indicates that 85 percent of employees would consider quitting if they felt they received an unfair performance review. Imagine the impact if that happened in your organization!

Designing Better Reviews

The key to designing effective performance reviews is to recognize that this is a process, not an event. So many of our negative impressions of performance evaluations come from worrying about a single, looming “judgment day” when we wonder if we’ll be praised, criticized, or perhaps even fired.

For a better experience all around, try these approaches:

1) Start with a Different Mindset

The point of a performance review is to measure performance. However, evaluations don’t need to be limited to numbers and volume metrics.

This is an opportunity to think holistically about an employee’s overall connection with their team, and with your company’s culture and values. It’s also a chance to consider qualitative factors that affect an individual’s mental and social well-being.

2) Co-Create the Review

Gone are the days of top-down leadership and authoritarian work atmospheres. A performance evaluation should be a two-way experience.

It’s helpful for managers to work with employees upfront to co-create the goals that will frame their performance evaluation. Goals that align with key business objectives will serve the organization’s interests while giving an employee a sense of autonomy, purpose, and direction.

3) Increase Evaluation Frequency

You may think fewer evaluations are better. But a once-a-year trial builds unnecessary pressure. Distributing all of that annual review energy across more frequent cycles is a much smarter option.

In fact, according to Gallup, employees who receive daily feedback from managers are three times more likely to be engaged than those on an annual review schedule. To encourage professional growth, consider adding monthly progress checks or weekly one-on-one meetings, focused on development.

4) Lead with Recognition

Motivating employees is not always complicated, and we don’t always need expensive perks to do it. Simply acknowledging someone’s work and effort can go a long way to making them feel engaged and connected to their goals.

A whopping 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt recognized. Let that insight inform your review structure. By leading with acknowledgment—communicating first and foremost what an individual has done successfully—you lay a foundation of trust and validation that can lead to further dialogue.

5) Communicate Changes Clearly

Many performance evaluations focus on a salary increase or a title promotion. But even long-awaited good news needs to be delivered in a way that’s clear and motivating.

For example, with a salary change, what new responsibilities are expected? What new objectives come with this role? Use these shifts in position as an opportunity to have an open conversation about career growth and planning for future skills development and upward mobility.

Final Thoughts

It’s no secret—performance evaluations are a challenge to manage. And improving your existing methods may seem like a thankless task. But many employers are discovering that it’s well worth taking the time and effort to ensure that your process is truly effective.

Any investment you make to improve feedback and communication has the potential to strengthen the sense of connection people feel with their job, their team, and your organization. Ultimately, those kinds of benefits can lead to a significant impact on your ability to retain talent, enhance work quality and improve your bottom line.

 


Matt Romond is an HR business partner at Jotform. He’s passionate about collaborating with teams to help them do their best work. Outside of work, Matt loves spending time with his family and adventuring in the mountains.

Alexis Russell is the U.S. HR business partner at Jotform. Based in San Francisco, she is the point of contact for all things HR and recruitment at Jotform.

Photo by Cateyeperspective

The Remote Era: 6 Ways to Cultivate a Strong Company Culture

In the remote era, where face-to-face meetings aren’t routinely possible, how do you cultivate a strong company culture?

Before the global health crisis hit, our experiential travel company, Moniker, planned creative corporate retreats, off-sites, and incentive trips for clients worldwide. Think ‘Amazing Race’ using tuk-tuks in Thailand or sailing on the Amalfi Coast. Or maybe hosting a game of ‘Survivor’ on the beaches of a Caribbean resort. Things changed rather quickly when global travel restrictions started piling up back in April. Soon, all (literally, all) of our clients began to cancel one-by-one until what initially looked like a banner year of sales and growth for our company became one chilling glare at a giant zero for the rest of 2020. 

The Eureka Moment: Company Culture 

As the old saying goes…

Out of crisis comes clarity.

As the situation unfolded, we realized what we were to our clients beforehand wasn’t a travel company. Instead, we were a one-stop-shop for them to outsource culture-building experience(s). We were co-architects of their company culture. As companies moved into a remote-work setup, engagement became more of a challenge. So, clients would lean on us to boost morale. We would help them maintain strong engagement and keep their teamwork and company culture strong in a remote world. 

We decided to create a limited series of nine virtual concepts over six months, from scratch. With no prior experience, no existing product, and quite frankly no idea of how to do it, we crossed over the $100,000 sales milestone in a short span of three months. Now, after seven months, we have just crossed the $1 million mark. Along the way, we’ve learned several things both large and small companies can do to engage employees, jump-start team (re)building, and cultivate strong team cultures in the new remote-work era:  

1) Shared Team Experiences

It could be as simple as introducing a company-wide, at-home fitness challenge. Perhaps rewarding employees or teams when they meet critical deadlines or hit work milestones works in your company. Or maybe facilitating a bi-weekly virtual ‘Coffee Chat’ so the group can discuss a book or movie everyone has watched. An optional after-hours ‘Cooking Club,’ where people can learn new recipes and techniques from colleagues with different culinary backgrounds, was quite well-received.

Whatever you choose, finding new ways to get people participating in something outside of work helps foster a strong sense of camaraderie. Don’t be afraid to get partners and children involved either. After all, involving employees’ families creates a more personal connection to their colleagues and positively impacts team morale.

2) WFH Swag 

Gone are the days of getting dressed up for work or attending meetings with company-branded stationery. The reality is that most of us in the work-from-home setup have embraced a much more casual approach to work attire and have carved out a little niche in our homes as our new office space. We’ve also gotten wise to “below-the-screen” (vs. “on-camera”) wardrobe, where comfort is king. 

Consider getting everyone some premium-quality, company-branded jogger sweatpants, Or maybe comfy indoor shoes, or a ‘go-to’ work top for team meetings and client-facing calls (a black crewneck sweater with your logo works well). Not only is this swag practical, but you’re also taking some of the thought out of what to wear to “work” each morning. 

3) Non-Traditional Rewards

Just as appreciated as physical items and gifts, non-tangible rewards are another great way to let employees know they are valued. Acknowledge hard work or major milestone achievements with a day off for everyone. Or give teams some flexibility with the option of starting later one day or shutting down the laptop early on Fridays around the upcoming holiday season.

It’s also important to acknowledge that working from home comes with its own set of challenges. The reality is, even after several months of experience, some remote workers struggle to separate their work lives from their personal lives. Show you understand this problem by encouraging them to take a vacation (even if it is just a staycation). Then respect that time by leaving them alone during their PTO. 

4) Ask for More Frequent Feedback and Encourage Input

For companies used to providing employee feedback in person, change your approach by engaging employees more frequently. Also, adapt the conversation to a remote-first situation.

Consider introducing quarterly or even monthly “Pulse Checks,” asking about their opinions on work performance or the business and asking for insight into their mental, financial, and physical wellness. Please encourage them to share their thoughts on how they are adapting to the new setup. Ask if there is anything that would help improve their situation (a second screen perhaps?). Finally, solicit ideas on how to improve morale. Most importantly, be upfront and sincere about your willingness to incorporate their input into implementing changes going forward.

5) Virtual Team-Building Activities

In addition to the shared experiences mentioned above, consider hosting monthly or bi-weekly virtual team-building events. During these events, be sure to mix up teams of employees who don’t often work together. Also,  introduce a few games to lighten the mood and break up the cycle of daily work. 

There are thousands of options out there – a simple Google search will turn up everything from pub quizzes to escape rooms. At-home scavenger hunts and improv comedy classes are popular. Are you feeling more adventurous? NASA-inspired lunar disaster scenarios and virtual murder mysteries can bring teams closer together, even when far apart.

6) Show Appreciation

Unfortunately, we underappreciate the simple gesture of a personal thank-you — a powerful motivator and culture-building tool. According to a Glassdoor survey on workplace retention, 81% of employees work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. That is a staggering number for what can be as easy as a personal note of sincere thanks or shout-outs during a team meeting.  

Sure, mass messages are an effective means of communicating. But they don’t necessarily come off as thoughtful when used to show appreciation. Instead, opt for a personal phone call or draft individualized messages in Slack or e-mail. In the process, show you’re paying attention by point out the specific contributions made by the employee. This gesture often leads to significantly higher productivity and engagement down the road. 

As we adapt to the remote-work era, these are several ways companies can show appreciation and boost morale. For more ideas on building strong cultures in a virtual world, check out Moniker’s blog here.

 

Karolina Grabowska

Online Performance Review: How to Evaluate Remote Employees

What is the best way to evaluate remote employees? Is an online performance review the answer?

We don’t have to tell you: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace dynamics have changed drastically over the last few months. From minimal personal interaction and connection to increased reliance on collaboration tools and communication technology — the word “office” as we know it has taken a whole new meaning. 

This leaves many companies, as the year-end approaches, to wonder where this leaves performance reviews. Given the absence of in-person interactions: How do you evaluate your remote employees accurately, deliver clear feedback, and maintain trust?

Here are our thoughts…

Before you start the process, devise an employee review strategy and share it with the team. This brings consistency and improves the quality of performance review discussions. Here’s a mind map that demonstrates the importance of the employee performance review process:

employee review process mind map

Now, let’s take a look at how you can conduct productive online performance reviews and drive professional growth in the process. 

Create an Employee Review Template 

If you think you can enter an online performance review meeting and just “evaluate” your team members on the spot, you’re mistaken. Performance review season calls for preparation from both the reviewer and the reviewee. 

The first step of the preparation process is to create an employee review template. This is an effective way to document and track employee performance. It also helps you conduct a focussed review and create a level playing field for all involved. 

Where possible, make it a point to share the template with your team members during their onboarding process, letting them know how they will be evaluated. 

This quarterly performance review example has a section for achievements and areas of improvement; customize to add metrics of value to your company:

 

employee quarterly review

Having an employee review template in place lets you be better prepared for the meeting. You can collect performance data and make your notes based on the key performance indicators you’re measuring, paving the way for a more structured discussion. 

Encourage Self-assessment

Self-assessments are a good way to get employees to reflect on their goals, responsibilities, overall performance, strengths and weaknesses. 

According to a CIO article, companies with effective performance review processes use self-evaluations for two reasons: 

  • To ensure employees set aside time to evaluate their performance
  • To help managers get a sense of whether an employee has an accurate understanding of their impact in the workplace

Encouraging employees to evaluate their performance ahead of a performance review meeting keeps them more engaged in the process while letting managers get an insight into their perspective. 

This self-performance review template requires the employee to write their job description, goals achieved, areas of excellence and improvement — which helps the interviewer assess their impact on the organization while getting their side of the story.

 

online performance review example

Use a Video Conferencing Tool

Performance review discussions can be tricky at any time. The remote working environment certainly doesn’t help the situation. 

While you can’t rely on body language and facial expressions the way you could in a traditional set-up, conducting online performance reviews over video conferencing will help you create a more personal experience and facilitate transparent communication. 

Before the discussion begins, establish video conferencing etiquette guidelines and share them with your team to run an effective virtual meeting.

Provide Clear and Explicit Feedback 

Online or not, managers are expected to be specific with their performance review feedback. Avoid making vague and ambiguous comments as they only end up damaging employee morale and motivation.

Due to the lack of personal contact, this becomes all the more important in a remote environment. Be extra cautious while communicating with your employees and delivering feedback; leave no opening for miscommunication. As Harvard Business Review rightly puts it: you have to be much more explicit and verbal. Listen carefully and spend time to make sure things aren’t lost in translation.

For example, if a sales representative is struggling to fill their sales pipeline, use performance-based data examples (eg. total revenue generated, new leads, average cost per lead, etc.) to offer specific feedback so the employee gets a clear understanding of where and how they can improve. Be sure to make use of the screen-sharing option to walk through documents together and make feedback clearer. 

Another useful tactic to offer detailed feedback is by doing a SWOT analysis. This proven method lets you evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats while appreciating the positive aspects and identifying areas of improvement. This SWOT analysis template offers a clear picture of the employee’s performance while providing feedback: 

 

employee SWOT

Create a Two-way Dialogue 

It’s not enough to bombard your employees with feedback and consider your job done. An effective performance review is a two-way conversation. It’s important to use this opportunity to get feedback on your managerial skills and address any concerns your employees might have. 

Once you are done with your points of discussion, set aside time to actively listen to your employee and understand how you can empower them to perform better. 

Approaching performance reviews like a dialogue contributes to a healthier, more transparent and productive working environment

Conduct Frequent Reviews

In the future, and if you don’t already, don’t wait until the end-of-year online performance review to provide input. After all, feedback is more effective when check-ins are frequent, according to an SHRM article. Many companies are moving toward providing continuous, real-time feedback throughout the year. 

What’s more, when you’re working remotely, conducting frequent one-on-one performance reviews allows you to build relationships and open channels of communication. This lets employees get timely feedback, stay motivated, and also improve on the go. Which, of course, helps you get more done as a team

The Takeaway: Conduct Productive Online Performance Reviews

Online performance reviews need to be approached with care. 

From having a constructive review process and documentation in place — to the ability to communicate with clarity — managers, whenever possible, must cultivate a positive performance review culture. A culture that builds trust and also promotes open communication. 

 

 

Six Tips for Getting Real Answers From Your Employees

Ever since companies began to realize the link between employee engagement and productivity, customer relations and overall success, HR leaders have sought ways to measure and keep track of it. Employee engagement surveys seemed like an obvious solution: if you want to know if your employees are engaged, why not ask them? However, sending out a survey is not as simple as it sounds.

How do you know that your employees are answering honestly and not just saying what they think their managers want to hear? Do their answers reflect reality or merely perception? How do you get your employees to actually fill out surveys in the first place?

Design your survey process to get maximum participation and real answers with these six tips:

  1. Allow for anonymity

A key argument against engagement surveys is that employees won’t give honest answers anyways. If employees feel their job security could be on the line they’ll be more apt to answer positively, creating a situation in which at the surface everything seems fine. Making your surveys completely anonymous will give your employees the security they need to answer freely.

  1. Provide a reason

Instead of simply sending your survey out, to get high participation rates, you have to explain why taking time to fill it out will be worthwhile. How will it benefit/impact the way they work? For example, if you want to know what people think about your performance review process, explain that HR is considering new ways to make the process more effective and the results will impact the way their performance is reviewed in the future.

  1. Ask the right questions

Taking time to devise the right type and amount of questions is key. If you ask too many questions you’ll see a significant drop in participation and/or authenticity of your answers. Too biased and you may sway the respondents to answer in a certain way. To keep your questions as neutral as possible be conscious of your word choice. Leading questions can sway the reader towards a particular answer. For example, “Why are annual performance reviews burdensome for you?” The word burdensome already denotes a negative connotation for the reader, influencing their response.

Putting too many thoughts into one, or a double barreled question, can confuse them. For example, “Are the stretch assignments and leadership opportunities you’ve been given helpful for your professional development?” When in doubt it’s best to split them in two. At the same time remember that too many questions will make participants weary of filling out the survey and lead to less and incomplete responses.

  1. Include factors that can be validated

The perception and reality of workplace engagement can sometimes be very different. To ensure the validity of your survey results, research psychologist Palmer Morrel-Samuels suggests adding some elements which can be independently verified. When surveying a group of employees on their skill level, his team found that 76% believed their skills to be above average. As only 50% can be above average, the survey revealed a clear gap in actual and perceived skill level. When assessing managers’ ability to establish strong relationships, his team compared the responses they received with factors such as turnover rate to ensure validity.

Using the example of a survey about the performance review process, you may want to ask, “Do you feel the review process is easy and efficient?” However, the terms “easy” and “efficient” are subjective. You should also include data on how many hours and resources are spent on performance reviews each year. If your results indicated that most people believe your current process is difficult and inefficient and then you compare their answers with factors that can be validated: time and money spent you’ll have objective reasons why and a starting point for how to fix it. 

  1. Come up with an action plan

Employees will not see any need to respond honestly if they don’t see their responses make a real change in the way the workplace is run. To prove that participating in workplace surveys is worthwhile, you have to commit to making some sort of change, whether big or small, based on the results. After the survey is completed analyze the results and come up with a strategy.

For example, if you find that many people aren’t happy with the way performance reviews are conducted in your company, think about solutions that could improve the process. If people said it takes to long, try looking into HR tech that can limit the time it takes. If employees feel there isn’t enough follow-up, have your managers set-up post-review one-on-ones with each of their team members and provide training on how they can provide better feedback and coaching.

  1. Market your changes internally

However, simply coming up with a solution isn’t enough. You also have to market the changes you’re making internally and get the message across that their answers will make a difference. After your team has come up with a plan, share the results of the survey with the rest of the company. Make sure everyone is aware of the changes that will be made and how they’re expected to improve the work environment by announcing them at a company-wide all hands, within individual teams and by e-mail.

A version of this post was first published on impraise.com

Photo Credit: Phenom Apps images Flickr via Compfight cc

Effectively Communicating Change To A Disgruntled Workforce

How do you communicate change to disgruntled employees and win their support and co-operation? In this fast-paced age of information and technological growth, change is inevitable — whether we wish it or not. So, how do you get your unwilling workforce on board? According to James O’Toole, the author of Leading Change, leaders who assume their employees will accept change simply because they are told to are doomed to failure.

It is challenging enough to communicate change to an engaged and positive workforce. It becomes more difficult when the employees are uncooperative and disgruntled. In order to communicate effectively, it is first essential to appreciate their reasons for resisting change. These range from dislike of instability; lack of comfort with change; being wary of sacrificing self-interests; hesitation in facing uncertainty and risk, and the accompanying stress; and simple office politics. Instead of welcoming potential benefits, human nature tends to fear the unknown and the unpredictable that threaten a sense of security.

This resistance is compounded if the employees perceive the change as being thrust upon them. And the main cause of this perception is lack of proper communication. Employees need to clearly understand all the Ws of change: the what, when and, most importantly, why. Therefore, anticipate resistance and understand its reasons in order to prepare effective strategies to communicate change. In particular, involve disgruntled employees; make them understand and become part of the transition, and they will be better inclined to buy into the change.

Here are some dos and don’ts of communicating change effectively:

Do:

  • Expect resistance and accept that it is normal
  • Communicate clearly, calmly, confidently and in a straightforward manner all the information you have, and also tell people what you don’t know
  • Understand that communication is a two-way process and therefore allow employees to ask questions, any questions, not just what you want to hear; listen carefully to all they have to ask and say, and empathise with their situation
  • Value others’ ideas and input, and whether you can use them or not, let it be known they matter
  • Elicit feedback and guide the disgruntled employees from start to finish through the change process by clearly explaining the purpose for the change and painting a picture of the future benefits after the change has taken place
  • Allow employees to contribute so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility
  • Share your vision to make it a common goal; for this, understand the nature of your staff and suit your communication style to match their personality types
  • Talk to your employees, not at them; how you communicate your thoughts and ideas are just as important as the ideas themselves; so watch out for your body language
  • Create a change manager or hire a change management agent to work with the employees and keep communication on-going; if you don’t, the grapevine will go into over drive

Don’t:

  • Just look forward and talk about the future neglecting the past; it is just as important to deal with the loss, with what has been as with what will be
  • Spin or hide any vital information; transparency creates trust
  • Ignore the WIIFM (or, What’s In It For Me) factor; motivate your employees with some reward, however small
  • React emotionally to negative feedback; remain calm and confident, and keep the issues separate from the individuals
  • Use coercion or threats; negativity of disgruntled employees can contaminate the atmosphere of the entire team

Make disgruntled employees part of the transition by aligning them with you and work toward a common goal. According to veteran business consultant William Bridges (Managing Transitions, 2003) communication most often fails when companies fail to put the effort into helping people mentally make the transition. On the other hand, successful communication gives employees a clear purpose and picture, and a plan for the future that includes them in some participatory role. The bottom line is, if you cannot successfully influence your disgruntled employees and get their support in times of change, you risk losing not just them but your business.

As Charles Darwin rightly said: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who are most responsive to change”.

About the Author: Declan Mulkeen is Marketing Director at Communicaid a culture and business communication skills consultancy which provides cultural awareness training.

photo credit: drewgeraets via photopin cc

Drive Your Culture Via Real-Time Feedback

Understanding Net Promoter Score

I’m sure you’ve heard about NPS, or Net Promoter Score. It’s a simple way to measure the likelihood of a customer referring a business or organization to friends and colleagues. A high NPS means more of a businesses’ customers are likely to refer them. These are the promoters. A low NPS means not only will fewer customers refer them, but they will talk negatively about them. These are the detractors.

Now, NPS is a great way to measure the success of a business externally — that is, through the eyes of its customers. But how do you measure the success of a business internally, through the eyes of its employees — arguably the most important measurement you can capture?

Introducing Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

How do you know if you have a great culture that excites and inspires people to turn up every day and do their best work?

The answer is eNPS, or Employee Net Promoter Score. eNPS is the result of asking your employees a simple question:

How likely are you to refer an open position at our company to someone you know?

Measuring Employee Happiness

So what’s the best way to measure the happiness of your employees (eNPS), and how often should you do it? There are two schools of thought here.

The first is that quarterly or even (gasp!) annual surveys are fine. You email a survey to your employees (using a combo of SurveyMonkey and Mailchimp, for example), collate the results, work out your eNPS and you’re done. You might also throw in a field where they can leave comments to help you understand their perspective.

The second approach is more real-time. Instead of waiting three months or a year to hear from your employees, you get up-to-the-minute feedback on how happy they are with their job. If they’re unhappy, you can immediately give them a path to tell you why — either directly or anonymously. You and your team can then act on that feedback instantly without waiting months to hear about their concerns or ideas. Or worse, having them resign because you took too long to ask and act.

The second approach is what modern companies like Google, Twitter and Southwest are doing and it’s creating amazing results. The feedback loop goes from months to days and in some cases hours. Employees all get an equal voice regardless of title or role and constructive ideas and feedback pour in every day from all around the company.

Now don’t get me wrong. Starting with a quarterly eNPS survey and acting on the feedback already puts you ahead of 90% of other companies who do nothing. But to really amp things up and create not just a good culture, but an incredible culture that draws the best talent and keeps them around for years, real-time feedback is where you need to be.

Getting To Real-Time Feedback and a High eNPS

If you read Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards for 2014 and really dig into the reviews provided on these companies by employees, you’ll notice a common thread. Every single one of these companies not only provides a way for everyone to share ideas and feedback in real-time, but all employees also have an equal voice and a path to better themselves and their company as a result.

What’s the best way to get from quarterly or weekly feedback to real-time feedback? First, it starts with a mindset change. Then you need the tools.

Tools can be anonymous surveys, iPads at entry and exit points of your office that ask how happy your employees are (eNPS) or even simply opening up your calendar so anyone in the company can schedule some one-on-one time with you.

The point is to commit to it and try something. The statistics around low employee engagement are alarming, so make sure you focus on the happiness, engagement and productivity of your employees early and often.

So there you have it. A look at eNPS and a path to get from quarterly surveys to a real-time feedback loop that gives you insight and lets you take action in hours, not months. Your employees know how to improve your culture. It’s instinctive to them. You just have to ask and give them a way to share their feedback with you.

About the Author: Rob Finnick is the content strategist for StackHands, an employee engagement platform that helps HR managers collect ideas and anonymous feedback from their employees to make their company a better place to work.

photo credit: Stefano Gilles Tambalo via photopin cc

Be Fearless About Feedback

Over 70% of employees think their performance would improve with more feedback and the vast majority say that recognition is more rewarding than cash. This presents a tremendous opportunity for both managers and team members. While feedback on what we do well is gratifying, feedback on what we can do better helps us improve — it’s an essential ingredient in career growth. As Ken Blanchard so aptly said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions!”

Unfortunately most employees say they don’t get enough feedback. This is in part because giving and getting feedback can be emotionally charged, which inhibits giving it and may reduce our ability to put feedback we receive into practice. By viewing feedback as learning and leading opportunities and being fearless about it, we maximize career and team velocity.

Try these three practices for fearless feedback:

1. Managers: Get Over It

If you lead a team, regular feedback is a part of the job; giving no feedback is far worse than critical feedback. Unfortunately, 50% of managers fail to drive accountability and don’t give constructive feedback for fear of being the “bad guy.” Instead, put your team members’ success in front of the need to be liked — 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback. They want to know how they can improve and where they’re not meeting your expectations or their potential. It’s a disservice to withhold that information, particularly when it informs your view of their performance.

2. Team Members: Make the Most of It

Getting good feedback is easy, but getting constructive feedback is golden! It’s a growth opportunity, not an indictment, so focus on applying it rather than dissecting history. At a minimum, you’ve just learned what your manager (or customer) thinks — that’s invaluable! Distinguish the real message from the messenger or the messenger’s style; getting bogged down on how the message was delivered robs us of its benefit. And rather than refute the feedback, listen and look at it clinically for what can be learned. While it may not be completely accurate, harvest the wheat from the chaff to advance your skills and effectiveness.

3. Make Feedback Effective

We don’t all need or want the same feedback — career stage, personality, skill levels, circumstances and age all affect the types of feedback we want and need. To make feedback most effective for the whole team, take these steps:

  • Have a conversation on how to make feedback most effective for each person on the team. While 70% of young employees’ learning happens on the job, they benefit most from strengths-based feedback; tell them what they’re doing right as they experiment without experience. Older employees tend to want 50% more feedback than their younger counterparts and prefer more candid, constructive feedback on their growth opportunities.
  • Forget the “feedback sandwich.” Wrapping negative feedback in positive feedback undermines trust and the value of the positive feedback. Focus on the business outcomes and changes needed and tailor delivery to the individual.
  • Do make time for positive feedback. We’re all human; we operate at our best when we feel valued and our talents welcomed on the team. A five-to-one mix of positive feedback to negative is most effective.
  • During feedback conversations, create space for both manager and team member to listen. The manager may not have all the facts and the team member may have insight on where the manager can help.
  • Gather feedback on how you give or get feedback. Feedback on feedback provides great data on how you can maximize your learning and leading opportunities, and the practice strips away emotions that inhibit performance candor.

When feedback is an ongoing conversation rather than a rare or dramatic episode, team performance and culture improve. We like “Feedback Fridays” as a way of institutionalizing peer feedback, putting a positive wrap on the week and making feedback our norm.

photo credit: Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. via photopin cc

Photo: Disruptivo

One Employee’s Journey Toward Personal and Professional Fulfillment

I love my job.

Sure, I get paid to write blog posts that positively show our company culture and product. But I mean it, I genuinely love working at my company. I am surrounded by people who work with dedication and joy, and I am given just enough challenge to grow personally and professionally.

You may be saying to yourself, “Employee retention is a challenge,” and recruiting and hiring is expensive and time-consuming. How can I create an environment where my employees love the company and their work?”

The answer is simple (and also our company mission): week after week, company leaders create the space for me to become my greatest self.

They do that by regularly asking a handful of questions about my goals and my ideas. They check-in with how I am feeling. They gather information and respond with supportive feedback instead of just making assumptions and perpetuating disconnection.

Replicating that environment in your workplace is easier than you think.

And Justice For No One

I wasn’t always this excited about the company I worked for. Like you, I have had my share of lousy jobs.

While I am currently a content manager, I am also technically a lawyer.

At one time grand visions of a legal career floated in my head. I saw myself in a three-piece suit pacing before the jury. In my reverie, I pause to wipe my brow and then hurl question after question at a witness in my Southern accent (I do not have a Southern accent, but in this dream I am channeling Atticus Finch — so sue me). Light whispers fill the courtroom as I return to my seat and proclaim, “No further questions, your honor.”

In reality I was just performing research for a tyrannical lawyer who was impatient, rude and downright mean. The thought of going to work made me sick to my stomach.

Dream Job Turned Nightmare

I would slip quietly through the front door every morning and tiptoe to my office, praying that my boss was on a call or in court so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him.

I was a hard-worker — offering litigation support for two different law firms and moonlighting as a waiter while finishing my law degree. But In every meeting my boss was holding back rage for even the smallest flaw in performance, perhaps waiting to unleash once I agreed to come on full time.

Have you heard the saying, “People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses?” Well, eventually the stress got to me and I quit.

During my exit interview, I was finally asked about my experience. I said that family law was too emotionally involved for me. My boss didn’t believe me and he kept prodding me for more information. I imagined that countless others had similarly left his employ, too afraid or embarrassed to confront him about how he treated people.

The experience soured my desire to become Atticus Finch. I grabbed my briefcase and my six-figure education debt and walked on.

Communication Breakdown

The meandering river of fate landed me on the shores of the online dating industry. I was trained in direct-response marketing, and felt more supported in my work. But I wasn’t being encouraged to become my best self or align with my zone of genius as a writer.

I wrote email copy that waxed romantic about first kisses, long walks on the beach, and couples rolling around on a blanket in the throes of passion. I wanted our would-be customers to feel hopeful about making connections. I proudly forwarded my work to my marketing director.

“No,” she responded.

“No, what? It’s too long? Not romantic enough?”

“David, you have to make people feel lonely, sad, bad about themselves. From a place of desperation they will sign up for our product.”

That type of communication was such a departure from who I am as a person. I didn’t want to manipulate people so I moved on again.

So long dating site, hello freelance copywriting!

Employee Support = Employee Retention

How exhilarating and scary to hang out a shingle! I trusted my writing skills and knew that clients would emerge from within my network. Pretty soon I had more work than I could handle.

My biggest client was a company that developed team communication and employee feedback software. I had experienced work environments where communication breakdowns caused employee attrition, poor morale, and lack of engagement and productivity. Now I was part of a movement to end all that through an agile software application.

After working as a contractor for only two months, I joined the team for a week-long retreat in Sedona. We all shared vulnerable information about ourselves including our personal goals. I shared how grateful I was to be honing my skills as a writer at my company, 15Five, skills that were feeding into my personal goal of publishing a novel.

Three weeks later, out of the blue, I received this email from our CEO:

David Hassell 15Five Email Support Employees

That was it for me. I knew that my search for a fulfilling job had ended. A month later I was a full-time employee.

I continue to be supported as I write my novel. The company has paid for creative writing classes, and they check-in on my progress often. I have a strong desire to continue working here for as long as I can give my greatest gifts and contribute to the realization of the company mission.

And all it took was one little question.

David Mizne is Content Manager at 15Five, the leading web-based employee feedback and alignment solution that is transforming the way employees and managers communicate. David interviews some of the most brilliant minds in business and reports on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to employee engagement. Follow David on Twitter @davidmizne.

Build on Strengths, Avoid Weaknesses

At your next set of performance reviews, what are you going to talk about with your employees? You may discuss what goals were met, next year’s objectives, or where their performance needs improvement. But new research suggests that more than fixing flaws, managers should be concerned with building on strengths.  In a recent Forbes article, Joseph Folkman shares research that reveals that “70-80% of leaders and employees benefit more from improving what they are doing right.

If someone on your team is a great writer but lousy at spreadsheets, the tendency is to try to help the employee improve his or her spreadsheet skills. A better practice is to hone this individual’s writing skills. People are less likely to make huge strides in something they’re bad at or hate doing, yet there is a common notion that doing more of those actions builds a more well-rounded employee. On the contrary, as Folkman says, our strengths are what make us successful. The following tips will help you learn your employees’ strengths, build on them, and ultimately reach more goals with your team.

1. Be a good listener

Performance reviews should be a dialogue, a time for managers and employees to have an honest discussion about what hinders performance and what gets the most positive results. Talk to your employees about areas where you see them struggling, as well as where they see trouble for themselves. Explore what they do that has the most impact, what they love doing, and where those intersect. Let your employees give honest feedback, and listen well — chances are they already know where their strengths lie.

Ask them to relate their feedback to examples of actions they’ve performed and successful initiatives in which they’ve participated, then do the same with your own feedback. Grounding the conversation in real examples helps illuminate the path forward.

2. Cultivate strengths

Don’t let your conversation on building strengths and boosting impact end after the formal performance reviews. Cultivating your employees’ strengths is an active process. Weekly one-on-one discussions and periodic informal feedback are the best ways to reinforce what you discussed. Work with all your employees to let their strengths shine, and provide them with the resources to utilize and enhance their abilities on a daily basis. Consider this a business strategy – the more they can relate their strengths to your goals, the more goals they’ll meet.

3. Beware the fatal flaw

This is Folkman’s single caveat in his discussion of strengths in the workplace. He defines a fatal flaw as “a competency in which you receive strong negative feedback results (and/or poor performance review results) or below average capability in an area that is mission critical to your job.” The latter portion of the definition is the most important. Everyone has flaws, and we need to accept that to work with the premise of strengths-based coaching.

A fatal flaw is different in that it prevents someone from performing their job in spite of their strengths. This idea should be approached with caution since not all flaws are fatal flaws, but Folkman does advocate addressing a fatal flaw before playing to your employees’ strengths. Beyond that, build strengths and watch as you realize more goals and achieve higher productivity!

Employees often have a well of potential that remains buried by managers who focus on working with their flaws. Instead of pursuing the ideal of a well-rounded employee, great leaders bring out their teams’ strengths and help them learn to use their talents for the good of the organization. Incorporating the idea of strengths-based coaching into your managerial style will lead to enhanced productivity and fantastic results for you and your company.

Create A "Small Company" Culture Anywhere

What is it about small companies? Like a good restaurant or an undiscovered band, they often tend to attract a devoted following that can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Is it the quality of work? The people? The hours? The pay? What is that magical difference that makes small companies so attractive to top talent?

Does Size Matter?

The secret is culture. A strong company culture unites employees and gives them a larger purpose beyond their individual responsibilities. That’s why employees — especially Millennials — gravitate toward start-ups. They crave that “small-company” feel and want the chance to make an impact on culture.

That’s great news if your company is one of the little guys. But what if you’re at a large corporation? How can you offer employees the chance to make an impact if a reputation for process and procedure precedes you? Rules aren’t all bad, of course; structure helps turn chaos into order. But all too often when companies grow, they sacrifice cultural strengths along the way. What to do?

In today’s tough business environment, as large companies struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire top talent, you can’t afford to miss the cultural mark. Instead, why not approach culture as an ace up your sleeve?

Sustainable Advantage

A strong corporate culture can create a huge competitive edge. Driven by organizational values, business objectives, and employee engagement, it aligns your employees, creates fluid communication, and helps build resiliency that adapts to change. If you develop a unique, authentic culture, your employees can reap the benefits of a “small-company” feel, while driving “big-company” results that advance your business goals.

Want the best of both worlds? Here are 5 tips to create a unique culture:

1) Develop corporate values to align employees with business objectives and the bigger picture. Employees need to be inspired by something greater than themselves, so help them understand how their contributions affect the overall strategy.

2) Create a recognition program to reinforce behaviors that drive results. By consolidating recognition efforts with an online program, geographically dispersed employees feel more connected with your company. Recognition helps reinforce company culture — not the other way around.

3) Abolish the top-down hierarchy that’s typical at most corporations, and encourage leaders to be more approachable. When it’s clear that leaders are listening, it facilitates communication and creates an environment where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Host “lunch-and-learn” sessions or fireside chats where leaders and employees can discuss topics in an open, informal environment. Soliciting employee feedback often yields insights that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

4) Let employees know their contributions matter. In “10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You,” leadership consultant Mike Myatt noted that more than 70% of employees don’t feel valued by their employers. You can turn this around in your company by introducing public recognition into your culture. Create monthly luncheons to recognize top performers. Encourage leaders to recognize employees during team meetings. These are simple steps that can make a big difference.

5) Reconsider “years of service” programs that aren’t tied to business objectives or employee engagement. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. Ideally, employees should receive recognition or feedback at least once a week, yet almost 60% of employees say that doesn’t happen. Create a positive culture of reinforced behaviors by introducing frequent feedback to complement the annual review.

Beyond The Basics

Don’t stop with only 5 steps! While these tips will put you on the right path, you won’t gain that “small-company” feel without also recognizing that culture happens organically, over time. Ultimately, your people will create your culture. Give them the freedom to express themselves. Commit to an evolving process, and see how your culture takes shape.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Create A “Small Company” Culture Anywhere

What is it about small companies? Like a good restaurant or an undiscovered band, they often tend to attract a devoted following that can’t imagine going anywhere else.

Is it the quality of work? The people? The hours? The pay? What is that magical difference that makes small companies so attractive to top talent?

Does Size Matter?

The secret is culture. A strong company culture unites employees and gives them a larger purpose beyond their individual responsibilities. That’s why employees — especially Millennials — gravitate toward start-ups. They crave that “small-company” feel and want the chance to make an impact on culture.

That’s great news if your company is one of the little guys. But what if you’re at a large corporation? How can you offer employees the chance to make an impact if a reputation for process and procedure precedes you? Rules aren’t all bad, of course; structure helps turn chaos into order. But all too often when companies grow, they sacrifice cultural strengths along the way. What to do?

In today’s tough business environment, as large companies struggle to recruit, retain, and inspire top talent, you can’t afford to miss the cultural mark. Instead, why not approach culture as an ace up your sleeve?

Sustainable Advantage

A strong corporate culture can create a huge competitive edge. Driven by organizational values, business objectives, and employee engagement, it aligns your employees, creates fluid communication, and helps build resiliency that adapts to change. If you develop a unique, authentic culture, your employees can reap the benefits of a “small-company” feel, while driving “big-company” results that advance your business goals.

Want the best of both worlds? Here are 5 tips to create a unique culture:

1) Develop corporate values to align employees with business objectives and the bigger picture. Employees need to be inspired by something greater than themselves, so help them understand how their contributions affect the overall strategy.

2) Create a recognition program to reinforce behaviors that drive results. By consolidating recognition efforts with an online program, geographically dispersed employees feel more connected with your company. Recognition helps reinforce company culture — not the other way around.

3) Abolish the top-down hierarchy that’s typical at most corporations, and encourage leaders to be more approachable. When it’s clear that leaders are listening, it facilitates communication and creates an environment where employees feel free to voice their opinions. Host “lunch-and-learn” sessions or fireside chats where leaders and employees can discuss topics in an open, informal environment. Soliciting employee feedback often yields insights that help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively.

4) Let employees know their contributions matter. In “10 Reasons Your Top Talent Will Leave You,” leadership consultant Mike Myatt noted that more than 70% of employees don’t feel valued by their employers. You can turn this around in your company by introducing public recognition into your culture. Create monthly luncheons to recognize top performers. Encourage leaders to recognize employees during team meetings. These are simple steps that can make a big difference.

5) Reconsider “years of service” programs that aren’t tied to business objectives or employee engagement. Annual feedback doesn’t cut it anymore. Ideally, employees should receive recognition or feedback at least once a week, yet almost 60% of employees say that doesn’t happen. Create a positive culture of reinforced behaviors by introducing frequent feedback to complement the annual review.

Beyond The Basics

Don’t stop with only 5 steps! While these tips will put you on the right path, you won’t gain that “small-company” feel without also recognizing that culture happens organically, over time. Ultimately, your people will create your culture. Give them the freedom to express themselves. Commit to an evolving process, and see how your culture takes shape.

Image Credit: Pixabay