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10 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement With Team Problem-Solving

Are you looking for proven ways to drive employee engagement? Many organizations find that collaboration is a highly effective strategy. For instance, consider these 10 team-centered methods recommended by business leaders:

  1. Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management
  2. Involve Action Focus Groups to Improve Employee Engagement
  3. Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues
  4. Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving
  5. Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools
  6. Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem-Solving
  7. Take a Bottom-up Approach
  8. Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement
  9. Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities
  10. Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

Why are these engagement ideas so powerful? Learn more from the descriptions below…

1) Use the SCRUM Framework for Project Management

The SCRUM framework encourages team members to work together to solve problems and complete tasks. This helps foster a sense of teamwork and engagement. It also gives team members a say in a project’s direction and execution, so they feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. Plus, each phase of the project is transparent to everyone on the team, so everyone on the team remains aware, focused and motivated.

Omer Usanmaz, CEO of Qooper Mentoring & Learning Software

2) Involve “Action Focus Groups” to Improve Employee Engagement

We conducted an engagement survey with results that identified six individual areas for improvement. Instead of using managers to do this, we asked for employee volunteers to create a response to the challenges identified in the survey. Each Action Focus Group (AFG) included 10 members, which met 3-5 times to identify and recommend a solution for the company to implement. Then each AFG presented its improvement plan to the senior leadership team, which in turn, provided feedback. After each AFG adjusted its plan, we implemented the final recommendations.

With this AFG approach, employees became actively involved in solving key problems. In addition, this process gave participants an opportunity to build connections outside their primary business areas.

Deborah Norris, Senior HR Manager at Amentum

3) Empower Employees to Take Ownership of Work Issues

We drive employee engagement with team problem-solving by encouraging employees to identify and solve problems affecting their work. We have found that employees are happier, more engaged and more productive when they can take ownership of issues that impact their work. 

We achieve this by providing space for employees to voice their concerns about issues and encouraging teams to come together and solve problems (sometimes with incentives), instead of relying only on managers or supervisors. 

Debee Gold, Owner & Clinical Director of Gold Counseling & Wellness

4) Give Employees a Voice in Problem Solving

Too many organizations identify problems, and then leadership dictates solutions in a vacuum. At 104 West, we recently held an all-company meeting, where administration and staff broke out into groups, identified roadblocks to growth, proposed solutions, and then came together to share thoughts. We are now implementing plans based on those ideas, and every person in the organization has a role in thisa role they helped determine.

This process helped us drive employee engagement at all levels, empowering people to be solution seekers and showcase their problem-solving and leadership abilities.

Joan Wyly, Vice President of 104 Degrees West Partners

5) Create a Strength-Based Team Culture Using Assessment Tools

Using assessment tools like Gallup StrengthsFinder, team members can understand how to create a more strength-based approach to teamwork and problem-solving. Additionally, regular “skip level” sessions allow for bottom-up feedback that helps build a more robust work culture. Also, personalized recognition leads to a more positive employee experience.

Together, these practices can produce a psychologically safe environment where teams thrive.

Rapti Khurana, VP of Talent Engagement & Development at the National Football League

6) Leverage Diversity and Mastermind for Problem Solving

When problems need to be solved, team members tend to find a solution by relying on their individual experience and determination. That can lead to excessive time scratching heads and spinning wheels, without making much progress. However, when people come together to leverage the power of cognitive diversity, an equally diverse array of potential solutions becomes more readily available.

A mastermind-style problem-solving conversation brings together members of disparate teams that are traditionally siloed. Coming together in this way to work toward a common goal can positively impact everything from engagement and retention to trust and productivity!

Erich Kurschat, Owner of Harmony Insights LLC

7) Take a Bottom-up Approach

I’m a big proponent of the bottom-up approach to team problem-solving, based on the teachings of Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa. We involve our front-line employees in group problem-solving, as well as our managers. Front-line employees are given the authority to act autonomously within specific guidelines.

This approach is practical because those closest to a problem often know the most about it and are in the best position to devise solution strategies. Empowering workers at all levels of our organization to participate in problem-solving drives employee engagement.

Dean Kaplan, President of The Kaplan Group

8) Use OKRs to Drive Teamwork and Engagement

For our team at Compt, goal setting and management have been driving forces in employee engagement and group problem-solving. We set objectives and key results (OKRs) as a company, and each department has its own OKRs that support overall company goals. In addition, each employee’s personal goals are tied to that employee’s department goals.

We host monthly company-wide “retro” meetings to share how each team is performing in a measured and data-driven way. Everything we do is quantified, which promotes accountability and cross-department teamwork to achieve overarching goals. This ensures that we are all constantly moving in the same direction toward the same outcomes. And because each individual’s actions impact the company’s success, we feel compelled to be more engaged and create a workplace that benefits us all.

Amy Spurling, CEO, and Founder of Compt

9) Engage Employees in Weekly Virtual Team-Building Activities

One way we combat engagement issues is through weekly virtual team-building activities. Each session is planned and hosted via Zoom by a different group of employees. This way, our workforce enjoys programming variety, while each group has a vested interest in the success of the activity they host. For example, activities have ranged from virtual quiz nights to elaborate online escape room challenges.

These team-building activities have been a resounding success. They’ve provided employees with memorable shared experiences and have helped build bonds between colleagues, ultimately leading to increased workplace collaboration.

Clare Jones, Marketing Manager at OfficeSpaceAU

10) Personalize Engagement Drivers to Employee Groups

The best employee engagement strategy is to ride the drivers. Each organization, of course, will have different drivers. For example, meaningful work, career growth, empowerment, belonging, recognition, leadership and fulfilling work relationships. 

Choose a segment of your employee population. Then implement a strategic theme strategy across your drivers that are personalized to the group but high-profile enough that successes will be seen and heard throughout the organization. Ride the drivers, measure, rinse and repeat.

Marcus Holmes, HR Operations General Manager at City of Detroit

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These ideas on how to drive employee engagement were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

5 Ways to Earn Trust: The Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Are you looking for that leadership silver bullet that will propel you past the competition? You can take public speaking courses and enroll in an MBA program or you can attempt the single easiest feat for which an individual can strive, trustworthiness.

Leadership is built on one core concept—trust. Without it, you can forgo every other attribute espoused by management experts. Confidence without trust is an egomaniac. Charisma without trust is a charlatan. And vision without trust is a hypocrite. This was supported by a meta-analysis study from leading trust researcher and Georgetown University professor Daniel McAllister.

Published in the Academy of Management Journal, McAllister concluded that leaders viewed as trustworthy generate a culture where team members:

  • display greater innovation, agility, and responsiveness to changing conditions;
  • take risks because they believe they will not be taken advantage of;
  • do not expend needless time, effort, and resources on self preservation; and
  • go above and beyond to exhibit higher performing customer service, brand loyalty, and problem solving.

This leads to a competitive advantage through significantly higher commitment, satisfaction, retention, and performance. Similarly, research from the Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong correlation between trust and the behaviors associated with highly productive employees—discretionary effort, willingness to endorse the organization, performance, and a desire to be a “good organizational citizen.”

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”—Stephen Covey

Before you get insulted that I’m explaining something as elementary as the benefits of trust, have you heard of the Edelman Trust Barometer? The ETB has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and nongovernmental organizations. In its 17th year, this is the first time the study found a decline in trust across all four institutions in all 28 countries surveyed.

For leaders, one of the more disturbing findings of the ETB is the shocking lack of confidence in leadership—63% of participants said corporate CEOs are either not at all or somewhat credible. That means only 37% maintained the credibility of CEOs, a 12-point drop from last year, and this is consistent around the world. CEOs are more trusted than government leaders (29%), but that’s setting a pretty low bar. Plus, with this “trust void,” only 52% said they trust business to do what is right.

So if trust is important and society is not feeling it, what can we do? Good news: you can (re)build trust. Here are five techniques to consider:

  1. Recognition, Recognition, Recognition. To increases trust between leaders and employees, nothing does it faster than acknowledging their achievements. It indicates you are paying attention and reinforces positive behaviors.
  2. Show Compassion. Did I say recognition is the fasted way to build trust? It won’t mean anything if you don’t already have a foundation of respect. Just try influencing someone who doesn’t respect you; see how engaged they are in your ideas. Treat your team like real-life people—listen to their ideas, care about their feelings, and empathize with their concerns.
  3. Keep to Your Word. You can’t build trust without following through on promises. Your team needs to believe that what you say is sincere, so follow through on commitments.
  4. Don’t Hide Your Humanity. Being human means showing your imperfections. Your ability to discuss your mistakes and share what you have learned from it makes you more relatable. No one is concerned with transparency for the good stuff; they need you to fess up to faults, so show your vulnerable side.
  5. Smile. If you don’t want to do something substantive to build your trust and would prefer a gimmick, consider a recent study published in Psychological Science where convicted murders with trustworthy faces received more lenient sentences then their peers with untrustworthy faces. The key, it seems, is that a gentle smile increases how trustworthy others perceive you. Keep in mind, that it needs to be gentle—too big can be seen as duplicitous or insincere, while too small may be seen as sarcastic or leering.

“I doubt that we can ever successfully impose values or attitudes or behaviors on our children certainly not by threat, guilt, or punishment. But I do believe they can be induced through relationships where parents and children are growing together. Such relationships are, I believe, build on trust, example, talk, and caring.”—Fred Rogers

We live in untrustworthy times, but that does not mean we have to lead in an untrustworthy manner. Generate a culture where honesty, transparency, and truth are the basis of your organization. This must start at the top of the organizational hierarchy with you. The team will trust you once you establish that you trust the team. It may take time, but as Seth Godin says, “Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”

When is Consensus a Bad Thing? The Three Stooges on Dissension

In a society where people have the right to voice their opinions, a leader’s role is often to find consensus. On the occasion when everyone agrees, it’s tempting to sigh in relief and start happy hour a little early. If this is the case, fight the temptation; your lack of conflict is a drawback.

Successful organizations need dissent. That’s why I want a little Three Stooges on my team. Who better demonstrates the bickering, questioning, and debating that a healthy team requires? If you look beyond the physical attacks, Larry, Moe, and Curly/Shemp hold each other accountable. They avoid groupthink, the faulty decision making created by group pressures, and analyze all sides of a problem before settling on a solution. Their plans don’t typically work out, but imagine how prosperous they’d be with 20 more IQ points.

To encourage the dissension necessary for a high performing team, a new paper to be published in The Proceedings of The Royal Society A investigated the idea of paradox of unanimity. When groups of people unanimously agree, it’s assumed they cannot all be wrong; after all, what are the odds that the masses will find total accord? The paradox of unanimity states that this confidence in unity is ill-founded.

Overwhelming agreement without a dissenting opinion actually weakens credibility and points to a systemic error in the system. The researchers demonstrated this paradox in a police line-up where witnesses were tasked with identifying a suspect. The study found that as the number of unanimously agreeing witnesses increased, the chance of them being correct decreased until it was no better than a random guess.

“As with most ‘paradoxes,’ it is not that our intuition is necessarily bad, but that our intuition has been badly informed. In these cases, we are surprised because we simply aren’t generally aware that identification rates by witnesses are in fact so poor.” — Derek Abbott, probability expert from the University of Adelaide

In some cases, large, unanimous agreement is expected, but only when there is little room for bias. For instance, when witnesses must identify an apple in a line-up of bananas, it is nearly impossible to be incorrect. However, a criminal line-up is more complicated than identifying pieces of fruit. Misidentification rates are as high as 48% especially when witnesses only briefly view the perpetrator.

The paradox of unanimity is common in the workplace, as well, and we may be unintentionally propagating it. In today’s work environment, there’s a popular notion that decisions should be unanimous. I’ve sat through many meetings where a bold idea is whittled away to gain consensus. Since the company message states that dissenting voices are welcome, the meeting tackles each aspect of the plan point by point. When someone disagrees, the team has to convince the dissenters otherwise or scrap that section of the plan. The end product is often inferior to what you started with and lacks the intended impact, BUT everyone is in agreement.

If you find yourself on the endless search for agreement, stop. The leadership role involves making tough decisions. Survey those on your team and then create an educated resolution. Not everyone will agree, and nor should they—if everyone agrees with every decision you make, your decisions are too broad, are inconsequential, or you’re pandering.

A culture of consent is a culture of either complacency, fear of change, or a lack of engagement, so instill some Stooge into your team. Swing your proverbial frying pan to encourage discourse. Poke others in their metaphoric eyes to extract feedback from the meek. Throw your oratorical cream pies to find areas of debate. And allegorically slap the team into expressing their sincere opinions without fear of retribution or judgment.

photo credit: The Three Stooges via photopin (license)

Dr. Seuss on the Paradox of Choice

Ever been presented with a litany of options only to find yourself disappointed by the results? As Dr. Seuss shows, too many options is not always a good thing.

Growing up, I was a big fan of Dr. Seuss books – I Wish I Had Duck Feet and Green Eggs and Ham were personal favorites. My interest was renewed once I had kids. So I was thrilled when a previously unpublished Seuss book had been discovered.

What Pet Should I Get? tells the story of a brother and sister who are given the task of picking one pet to bring home from the pet store. This mission becomes increasingly daunting as they are confronted with more and more animals to choose from. Throughout the story a voice urges the kids to “Make up your mind.” And there lies the paradox of choice that we face everyday.

Paradox of choice is the idea that although abundance and variety are supposed to make us happier, when in reality they do not. According to Barry Schwartz’s research in his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, abundance depletes our mental energy, sets unreasonably high expectations, and leaves us feeling unfulfilled. Put in simple terms, by buying the NFL cable package where you can watch every game, pre-game, and coverage, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. That indecision on Sunday when you are flipping between five games is the paradox of choice and it is ruining the football experience, not enhancing it. This is true in the workplace as well.

“Autonomy and freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically. “ – Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice

As leaders, we often delude ourselves into thinking that by providing a multitude of options, we are promoting engagement and buy-in amongst the team. However, as Barry stated in his TEDTalk, the overabundance of choices has two negative effects.

The first negative effect is that while you are intending to empower your team with a sense of freedom, too many possibilities produces a decision paralysis. With so many options, people find it difficult to choose anything. Just imagine sitting in a meeting where someone says, “I have 50 different ways to tackle our problem.” Are you going to sit and listen to a detailed list of 50 solutions? To be influential, we need to either be fully committed to one solution or give three to five selections for the team to weigh.

The second negative effect is that even if we overcome the paralysis and decide, we end up less satisfied with the choice. One reason is that with so many options, it becomes easy to imagine how a different choice could have been better. As a result, you begin to regret your selection before it even started.

Another reason why too many options leaves us dissatisfied is what economists call opportunity costs. Whenever you choose one thing, you are choosing not to do other things. Then when you see all the attractive features associated with the many alternatives, it makes what you’ve chosen less attractive.

Finally, too many selections create unsustainable expectations. There is no “perfect” but when you see a hundred options, anything you choose will inevitably increase your expectations. So when you compare what you got with what you expected, the result can only be disappointment.

“The secret to happiness — this is what you all came for — the secret to happiness is low expectations.” – Barry Schwartz, TEDTalk

Consider the paradox of choice the next time you are presenting ideas to your team. Don’t put them in a position where they are walking into a pet store with infinite possibilities and the instruction to pick one. Vet the numerous alternatives and present a limited number of choices. This does not diminish their freedom, nor does it underestimate their analytic abilities; it allows the chance to absorb the intricacies of each option and make a more informed decision. It also saves you the effort of having to say, “Make up your mind!”

Photo Credit: holland024 via Compfight cc

How Good People Can Deliver Bad News at Work

Written by Sarah Colomé

Something has gone terribly wrong at work. (It happens.) You’re terrified about telling your manager. (That also happens.) Breaking bad news to your boss can feel like you’re the designated driver on girls’ night out — while it’s not easy, someone has to take the hit.

However, if you take a closer look at this situation, you may find it’s a blessing in disguise for your career.

Employers are looking for contributors who know how to think on their feet, adapt quickly and  communicate effectively. If you reframe a work nightmare by offering timely, useful, well-researched solutions, you’ll demonstrate that you’re not only a smart thinker, but also a doer with management potential.

So, when that moment strikes and you have to break bad news to the person who decides your fate, consider these three strategies:

1) Bring the whole story to the table

Rushing to squeal that the keynote speaker for your annual conference just dissed your company on social media isn’t going to improve the situation.

Before you make a move, consider your source of information. Is this a credible individual or channel? Repeating uninformed, disruptive information only adds to the chaos. Research the facts (quickly!) so you can provide decision makers with relevant context. Your extra legwork can help them make an informed choice about how to proceed.

Knowing details helps frame the situation, allows for a better decision making process and makes you look like a mature, level-headed colleague rather than an reactive tattletale.

2) Think and speak objectively

Taking sides and passing blame does nothing to solve the problem. Instead, you’ll only paint yourself in a negative and self-serving manner — the complete opposite of what you want.

While this doesn’t mean you should hide pertinent information you have about the problem, you also don’t need to wrap a particular person up in a bow and pin them to a bull’s eye.

Pointing fingers isn’t necessary to solving the immediate problem. If necessary at all, it should be set aside until a solution has been found. Focusing on the fixing the problem helps you avoid looking like you’re stepping on another employee to make yourself look good. Plus, you’ll protect your working relationships with all parties involved — including the idiot who ordered 200 bottles of pineapple juice instead of Pinot Grigio for the donor banquet. Besides, if someone on the crew is truly inept, their actions will speak for themselves.

3) Offer problem-solving options

Showing up empty-handed to announce bad news accomplishes nothing. You need ammo. Prepare to suggest possible next-step ideas, so you’re less likely to become the target of a manager’s negative reaction.

Your goal is to avoid adding more stress to a difficult situation, by being ready to offer viable options. Research alternatives that save time or money, and assess the likely outcomes, so you can help determine a workable plan of action.

But keep in mind that offering effective solutions requires more than just a Google search and a few thrown-together spreadsheets. No solution can be implemented without investing employee energy, so assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each path. This approach can help your manager avoid costly missteps — while simultaneously portraying you as a proactive, strategic thinker.

Delivering bad news is never easy, but reframing a negative work situation into a positive professional opportunity can be beneficial both for you and your company.

The next time someone accidentally sends detailed employee compensation data to everyone in your company, don’t fret. Get the whole story, be objective and come with a solution in hand.

Have you stepped up when there was a melt-down at work? How did you deliver the news — and did it help you grow in your career? Share your experiences in the comments area.

Sarah Colome (2)(About the Author: Sarah Colomé, M.S. is an educator, advocate and the SOARS Booking Director for A Long Walk Home, Inc. Based in Chicago, Sarah has traveled both nationally and internationally as a competitive collegiate public speaker. She teaches on topics related to social justice and diversity, health education, sexual violence and persuasive speaking. Connect with her on Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)


Image Credit: Mugley via Flickr

Game On! Playing To Business Strengths #TChat Recap

This week, the TalentCulture community took a fascinating look at gamification in the workplace. And in my opinion, everyone earned badges and gold stars, as we shared collective knowledge at #TChat events.

Our two expert guests are masters at explaining the connection between business gamification and big data. These smart senior executives brought key concepts to life with practical ideas and real-world examples:

Guy Halfteck, Founder and CEO of Knack, a company that integrates games into the hiring process to help companies define desired talent characteristics and improve recruiting outcomes.

Mark Howorth, COO at Panavision, who previously served as Partner and Sr. Director of Global Recruiting at Bain & Company. He has seen the power of gamification at work, as three of his #TChat Twitter comments revealed:

(Editor’s Note: For full highlights from the #TChat Twitter event, see the Storify slideshow at the end of this post)

Gamification: What’s In A Name?

“Gamification” is a controversial term, but the concept it simple. It’s about employing game theory and mechanics in business environments to drive problem solving, boost workforce and customer engagement, capture better organizational insights, accelerate responsiveness, improve learning and increase ROI. Last year, Gartner predicted that by 2015, more than 50% of organizations that manage innovation processes will integrate gamification.

Gartner identified four ways that gamification drives engagement:

• Accelerated feedback cycles. In the real world, feedback loops are slow (annual performance appraisals) with long periods between milestones. Gamification increases the velocity of feedback loops to maintain engagement.

• Clear goals and rules of play. In the real world, where goals are fuzzy and rules selectively applied, gamification provides clear goals and well-defined rules of play to ensure players feel empowered to achieve.

• A compelling narrative. While real-world activities are rarely compelling, gamification builds a narrative that engages players to participate.

• Tasks that are challenging but achievable. While there is no shortage of challenges in the real world, they tend to be large and long-term. Gamification provides many short-term, achievable goals to sustain engagement.

Gamification: What Makes It Tick?

Gamification is serious business. As Accenture explained in a detailed report early this year, companies are striving to understand what makes games so appealing (a shared sense of purpose, challenge and reward). They are decoding gaming mechanisms (personalization, rankings and leaderboards), and applying these mechanics in imaginative ways across business functions. Accenture identified seven essential elements:

Status: Because gamers are motivated by recognition of others in their social circles, game-based business solutions must make it possible to enhance players’ reputations.

Milestones: Levels are everything in gaming, and enabling participants to perceive progress through incremental accomplishments is vital to sustaining interest.

Competition: This is a major motivator that maintains engagement.

Rankings: Visually displaying progress and rankings help participants benchmark their performance to their own goals and others’ performance. Rankings tap into natural human competitiveness, and motivate participants to continue, so they can improve their position.

Social connectedness: Successful gamification initiatives create a strong sense of community.

Immersion reality: With visually rich graphics and animation, digital environments can help immerse participants in their virtual reality.

Personalization: The ability to customize promotes a sense of control and ownership.

In their book, “For The Win: How Gamification Can Transform Your Business,” Wharton professor and gamification expert, Kevin Werbach and New York Law School professor Dan Hunter, take a deep dive into gamification.

In this informative video, they explain how gamification helps people “find the fun in the things you have to do.” They make it easy to understand gamification, with examples of successful companies that are applying these techniques, and advice to help organizations avoid common pitfalls. We hope you find this, along with the collected resource links and #TChat Twitter highlights slideshow below a helpful resource for game-based initiatives in which you may be involved!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Games + Big Data + Talent Management = Trifecta!

SUN 9/15:

GuyHalfteck

Watch the Hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed the topic in a post that featured a brief G+ Hangout videos with Guy Halfteck. Read the Preview:
“Games and Data and Talent — Oh My!”

MON 9/16:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 compelling reasons for businesses to integrate gaming into workflows, learning and management processes. Read: “5 Ways Leaders Win At Gamification Technology.”

WED 9/18:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Guy Halfteck and Mark Howorth about how games are emerging as a highly effective, reliable way to select, recruit and retain employees. Listen to the radio show recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, I joined Guy, Mark, Meghan, Kevin on the #TChat Twitter stream for a dynamic and enlightening discussion with the entire TalentCulture community. For highlights from the conversation, check the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Games People Play: Ultimate Way To Measure Talent?

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Guy Halfteck and Mark Howorth for adding your voices to this week’s discussion. Your insights and passion for the business benefits of gaming strategies have captivated us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about gamification? We’d love to share your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another important “world of work” topic — Transparency vs. Privacy in the Workplace with HR/Employment lawyer, Mary E. Wright. So save the date (September 18) for another rockin #TChat double header. And keep an eye out for details in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the World of Work conversation continues! So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, on our LinkedIn discussion group. or elsewhere on social media. The lights are always on here at TalentCulture, and your thoughts are always welcome.

See you on the stream!

Image Credit: Graeme Lawton via Flickr

Transforming Culture: The Force Within #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a full collection of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “101 Ways To Save The Day With A Paperclip.”)

With employee engagement seemingly stuck at perilously low levels, today’s employers are on a mission to reignite passion and productivity in the workplace.

Many seek fresh perspectives by looking outside their corporate walls. But what about reinvention that starts from within? Why not tap more deeply into sources of ingenuity that are already within you — and within arm’s reach?

How can business leaders make that happen? That’s the focus of this week’s #TChat forums, as our “Summer Restart” series moves from looking at the power of collaborative learning, to envisioning how creative thinking can play a larger role in transforming business culture.

Leading the way is an expert in workplace learning, collaboration and transformation, consultant and author, Marcia Conner.

Marcia briefly framed this topic for me in a recent G+ Hangout:

#TChat Events: Powerful Ways To Transform Your Workforce

This week’s topic is sure to spark new ideas for talent-minded professionals everywhere. So join us on Wednesday, August 7, for another dynamic #TChat double-header. Bring your best ideas, and let’s talk!

#TChat Radio — Wed, Aug 7 at 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Marcia joins our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman  to explore how to kick-start cultural transformation from with an organization’s ranks. Listen live and dial-in with your questions and feedback!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Aug 7 at 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll go wide with Marcia for an all-hands community discussion on the #TChat stream. We welcome anyone with a Twitter account to join us, as we explore the role that ingenuity plays in transforming organizational culture. Key questions:

Q1: Why do organizations struggle to retain talent potential?
Q2: How can listening and learning fuel employee engagement?
Q3: How can we, as individuals, develop workforce potential?
Q4: What can business leaders do to ignite workforce innovation?
Q5: What technologies foster workplace learning and engagement?

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter feed and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your questions, ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Employee Communication: 4 Ways to Engage

A Too-Familiar Story

Let’s say you’re trying to buy a jacket online. There’s a problem with your purchase, so you call customer service, and they put you on hold. (Waiting…) Finally you reach a robot voice informing you that the call center is closed. You really want the jacket, so you persist.

Hours (or perhaps even days) later, you connect with a live representative who is unable to offer the assistance you need to resolve the problem. What seemed like an easy problem to fix has become a headache, a time-suck, and a shadow over your relationship with the company. Not only is this jacket transaction in jeopardy, but the next time you’re in the market for clothes, you’re likely to shop somewhere else.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

So, what really happened in this scenario? The company failed in a critical way — it did not provide clear pathways of communication and support to resolve your issue, at the moment of need. The brand has lost credibility with a “ready-t0-buy” customer, the company has damaged its relationship with you, and the outcome will translate into lost revenue now and perhaps in the future.

How does this customer experience story translate to the human resources side of business? The audience may be different, but the takeaway is identical: For both customer and employee engagement, communication is vital — especially when issues arise. Just like customers, employees want the ability to ask question, discuss problems, offer constructive feedback and propose suggestions. They want to feel that their concerns and ideas are heard and addressed.

These are the fundamentals of employee engagement. It is HR’s job to support engagement in the workplace, from end-to-end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to accomplish that.

4 Workplace Communication Strategies

When I think about my own experiences, both as a customer and as an employee, it’s easy to remember the times when I felt I was heard — or not. Based on those experiences, here are my top four communication strategies for boosting engagement:

1) Be Available:  To improve the way an organization works, employees need a champion — someone on the inside to share suggestions with. It doesn’t matter whether this ambassador is a manager, an HR representative, a colleague, or event a group of peers. What matters is that there is clearly a door through which individuals can bring questions, concerns and opinions.

2) Listen To My Needs:  Don’t be too quick to dismiss new ideas. Every employee has a unique perspective, and although every suggestion won’t be feasible, each one should be valued. Suggestions reflect your employees’ individual experiences, and therefore, represent part of your company’s culture. Validate ideas by acknowledging contributions, as well as the spirit behind them.

3) Be On My Side:  Every team needs a leader whom they can trust to represent their best interests. And every employee needs a champion who will be their advocate, even in their absence. When you demonstrate support for others, you reinforce their value within the organization. No one likes to feel unimportant — from there it’s a short step to disengagement.

4) Find A Solution:  Not all feedback can be put into action — sometimes for very good reasons. However, leaders and employees can work together to examine the root causes of a key issue, or to integrate appropriate elements of a suggestion, or to brainstorm and investigate other solutions. This follow-through shows employees that their voices matter.

Have you tried these or other communication techniques to improve employee engagement? What worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments area below.

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Collaboration: Baking and Breaking Better Bread

“…and there’s always another point of view, a better way to do the things we do. And how can you know me, and I know you…” –The Raconteurs

But knowing takes time, effort and some commitment to the process.

Maybe we should break bread together more often. The President just had Republicans over for dinner, and then again for lunch, in order to better collaborate and “break the stalemate over taxes, spending and deficit-reduction.” It’s a small step toward hopefully working together and actually solving some very painful problems.

It’s an opportunity to look beyond political differences that have polarized the nation’s leaders. Although by our very evolutionary nature, we polarize. We’re hardwired to sense negativity, so we can counter it quickly and efficiently.

More Cooks = More Creative Solutions

The good news is that our frontal lobes have evolved to better smell the baking of collaborative bread. The kind that gets our creative juices flowing, that puts the “dope” into dopamine and gives us the metaphorical munchies for even more progress and positive reinforcement. To befriend, to create, to learn, to solve, to make better, to work together toward a shared goal.

(Side Note: The brain’s frontal lobe is where many of the dopamine-sensitive neurons reside in the cerebral cortex. Dopamine is associated with reward, attention, short-term memory tasks, planning, and motivation.)

Reward and motivation. Doesn’t that get your tummy growling? Think about some of your most collaborative moments — more than likely they centered around a tasty snack or a relaxing meal, maybe even if a drink or two if you enjoy the libation. It could’ve been a one-on-one, a small group or a whole diversified gaggle of folk discussing primary topics while saddling up to multiple sidebars.

Connections and Communication: Essential Ingredients

Feasting on face time with one another — there is something to the hubbub of classic office environments. Those of us who work from home exclusively must be more proactive and innovative, to capture what we might otherwise miss during informal synchronous moments at breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack-time in and around the office with colleagues, peers and leadership. After all, we can still have lunch over a video chat, can’t we?

For that matter, we do break the collaborative bread every week in the TalentCulture World of Work community, when we come together through multiple #TChat forums, don’t we?

To befriend, to create, to learn, to solve, to make better, to work together toward a shared goal. Mmmm — do you smell that? Hold on, let me check the oven.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

 

7 Steps: Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Written by Chris Jones

It’s About Time, Skill and Permission

Today’s workplace is often hectic, and it’s easier than ever to become overwhelmed in a death spiral of missing information and critical decisions. Things we need to know pile up in our inbox, unread. Decisions await quality cycles that never seem to materialize, often due to lack of information. Meeting after meeting demands our precious time, only to see us fall victim to smart phones signaling the arrival of still more unreadable emails.

So the vicious cycle continues.

It’s a small wonder that work is accomplished anymore. Often, it is not, as we mistake activity for real progress.

To me, the moral of the story is clear:  the ability to seek a deep, rigorous understanding of our challenges – call it critical thinking – tends to escape us when we need it most.

I’ve started to unpack the scope and scale of it (as here). But here are some ways that we can breathe purpose and intent back into our problem solving:

  • Using data to drive decisions: Replace guesswork with facts and data. Add lead time to decision cycles to accommodate data capture and trending. Challenge decisions that materialize without supporting data.
  • Do your homework, and share it: Citing sources isn’t just a technique of academics, it’s the basis for making a strong case, helping explain pro’s/con’s of the decision at hand
  • Vet your conclusions: Get help from others. Diverse perspectives almost always ensure a more viable solution.
  • Know your SMEs: There are experts out there in your organization, and more than likely, outside it. Find them, and get to know them. Social media is a powerful way to accomplish that.
  • Get past “face value”: Don’t settle for surface impressions. What are the root cause factors of problems you’re trying to solve? Can you get to the source issues, and address those? Think about mowing weeds in your lawn, vs. pulling them out, root and all. Which do you do?
  • Build your skills: Read. Or, better still, write. Have in-depth conversations on important, complex topics. Explore current events.  Education reformers are debating whether schools are pulling away from thinking skills in favor of recitation of facts. If you have kids, what better way to bolster your own thinking skills than by helping them with theirs?
  • Prioritize “think time”: Time constraints will always be the enemy of deep thought. Try to “time box” your problem solving for top problems.

What are the Biggest Barriers?

Beyond skills and time, I come back again and again to the impact that culture has on shaping behavior in our workplace. It effects everyone in subtle and powerful ways, including many of those – dare I say, even people like us, ready to challenge the status quo – who fall far too quickly into the old traps and habits.

We need cultural dynamics that encourage – even, give permission – to take the extra time needed to think things through. The ideas listed above are for the individual.

Try These at the Organizational Level

  • Encourage adoption of a learning culture: Define success as “raising the bar”, seeking a measurable increase on the emergence of deep thinking across the organization. It would champion collaboration and knowledge sharing. And it would place a high premium – if not a mandate – on critical thinking as the means to make rational, well-supported business decisions.
  • Foster a learning organization: Whether it’s Senge or Wheatley or Argyris that inspire your view of it, the culture and skills that embrace critical thinking can transform what an organization is capable of achieving. Put it on the road map. Make it happen.

And if we don’t?  We all know that world. We make snap decisions, falling pray to past formulas and taking the default path of playing it safe.

Isn’t it time to make the time for critical thinking?

NOTE: This post was originally contributed by Chris Jones. He is an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, with a passion for driving new levels of engagement and learning in the modern organization. His research areas include the dynamics of organization culture, and more recently, the importance and implications of critical thinking. Check out his blog, Driving Innovation in a Complex World, for more insights.

Image Credit: Fotopedia