Archive for October, 2008

Motivating and Communicating from the C-Suite

Careerbuilder.com recently conducted a survey of 8,700 workers on the ability of their managers and c-level executives to inspire them and communicate with them.

More than half of those surveyed don’t feel motivated within their organizations and need more personal attention and development. 58% specifically said senior management does not motivate them, citing a need for greater companywide communication and motivation from C-level executives.

Most senior executives would agree it is difficult to communicate effectively and sincerely to all employees in a meaningful way that also motivates them to higher performance. Our global strategic employee recognition programs are designed to specifically overcome these challenges by providing a forum for C-level executives to communicate company values and strategic objectives to all employees in a positive and encouraging platform.

Of course, communicating to all employees in this way is only possible when best practices for frequent recognition for the majority of employees are followed.

How about you? Are you motivated by your C-level executives? Do you wish they communicated more? What are your suggestions?

Motivating and Engaging without the Tricks

David Zinger, author of the Employee Engagement Zingers blog and host of the Employee Engagement Network, recently blogged on his Employee Engagement Rants. Two in particular “engaged” me:

“Let’s stop calling it employee engagement.” – David’s point is the label “employee engagement” tends to blame the employee if they are not engaged, neglecting to consider the necessary contributions of leaders and managers. He suggests calling it “work engagement” instead. While I understand the spirit of David’s message, others in the engagement blogosphere argue that employees must be active participants and driving forces in increasing their own engagement as well. As I’ve seen in practice at our many client sites and has been proven through various research studies, engagement can only be achieved when both the employee takes responsibility for their own effort and managers encourage, support and acknowledge the value of that effort.

“No more carrots, no more sticks, no more motivational tricks.” – David’s point here is that we should “appreciate the complexity and diversity of work while engaging in personal and interpersonal action to foster authentic, real, and robust engagement.” As we at Globoforce have said for years, a simple and sincere “thank you” can go so much farther in helping colleagues realize their own value and feel fulfilled in their roles/efforts at work. More often than not, this also helps motivate them to greater performance.

How do you help your colleagues realize their value in their work? Do you contribute positively to this? Does anyone contribute positively to you in this way? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

Motivating Those Who Have It All

In his Business of Management blog, Workforce Management magazine editor John Hollon recently discussed management lessons from the US Olympics basketball team. One topic in particular resonated with me. Hollon recalled a seminar he once attended led by Pat Riley, then coach of the Los Angeles Lakers team in the late 1980s. An audience member asked Riley, “How do you motivate those who can’t be motivated by money?”

Since multiple research studies and our own experiences the Global 2000 organizations have shown that cash is not king when it comes to motivation and recognition, I was intrigued with Riley’s answer: “You motivate superstars by appealing to their pride, to a greater purpose. A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.”

This is equally true in the workforce. So why do many companies who are advanced in so many other ways still insist on throwing more money at employees to encourage them to perform better or reward them for exceptional performance? Not only has research shown that a “thank you” has more impact in driving results, but the promise of a bigger bonus in eight of nine tasks actually significantly decreased performance.

What does work? Recognition that not only thanks the employee for his or her efforts, but also explains why that exceptional effort was of importance to the company achieving a strategic goal. We call this linking recognition to the company values. Sure direct rewards are important, too, but give them a choice of reward that cannot be easily spent on the forgettable necessities like groceries, rent or gas.

What motivation techniques work best for you or your organization? Share your expertise in comments.

The Ineffectiveness of Layoffs in the Short- and Long-Term

The month of September in the U.S. saw the greatest number of jobs lost in one month in the ninth straight month of job losses. That companies are cutting back on staff is not truly surprising given the news of global markets falling and companies struggling under the credit crunch. But a recent news brief from Workforce Management offers sobering research from the Academy of Management Journal. Per the study:

“Even moderate layoffs can trigger an exodus of key employees that wipes out any cost savings. After analyzing “quitting rates” at about 200 companies, researchers say firing even less than 1% of their workers causes companies to experience sustained turnover averaging 13%, or 2.6% higher than the average turnover rate of firms that aren’t downsizing.

Also noteworthy: a long-held belief that providing employees with professional development doesn’t guarantee a boost in retention, as many employees use the tools and newfound knowledge to seek employment elsewhere.”

This research is noteworthy for two reasons:

1) Layoffs aren’t the answer – Today’s savvy employee knows no job is guaranteed, especially when the economy turns sour. After cutting resources deeply during the last downturn, human resources leaders are now positioning themselves more strategically to ensure the company has the right people in the right jobs when the market turns. This strategy will help the company rebound more quickly than those that did a less considered layoff.

2) Professional development won’t increase retention – What does influence retention is strategic recognition by engaging employees in a culture where they are continually appreciated through a system that ties their efforts to company goals and values. In this way, employees see how their efforts directly impact company performance.

What policy has your company adopted during this downturn – layoffs or retention? What has the impact been? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

Transforming a Miserable Job

In his latest book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni dissects what takes a job beyond bad or a poor fit to downright miserable. In an interview with Amazon, Lencioni explained the three signs:

1. Anonymity: the feeling employees get when they realize their manager has little interest in them as a human being and they know little about their lives, their aspirations and their interests.

2.Irrelevance: when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someone’s life–a customer, a co-worker, even a supervisor–in one way or another.

3.”Immeasurement”:
the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers, to gauge their progress or contribution.

These three signs are exactly what our strategic employee recognition systems are designed to counter by providing an easy way for anyone, at any level, to deliberately and frequently show gratitude to fellow employees or subordinates for their efforts in a way that links those efforts to overall company goals. Think about it. By saying “thanks,” you raise that employee out of anonymity, you make their tasks relevant to the success of everyone, and you give them the ability to assess what is valuable effort in the eyes of others.

Have you experienced a miserable job based on any or all of these criteria? What was your solution – leave or try to change the environment? Share your approach in comments.

Motivating Employees in this Ailing Economy

The declining state of the global economy, layoffs, unemployment, the credit crunch – all have been dominating the headlines in the last several weeks. Companies across industries and around the world are dealing with similar complex challenges due to the ailing economy. Strategically applying employee recognition across an organization can address these three common issues:

1. Survivor’s guilt
– Those remaining on the payroll after a round of layoffs often feel guilty about surviving the ax. They typically need additional reinforcement of the value of their work to help them justify their status in the group.

2. More work, less motivation – The survivors are also paying close attention to how management handles the layoff and subsequent redistribution of the work. With more tasks on each employee’s desk, managers need a way to encourage strong individual performance.

3. Rampant rumor mill
– The inevitable rumors of additional layoffs or restructuring further contributes to productivity and motivation challenges. Teams often suffer the most with rumors fueling backstabbing and protection of individual tasks over team goals.

Strategic recognition targets each of these challenges with mechanisms to acknowledge and reward performance, personal achievement, and team successes. The recognition program should also be used to reiterate core company messages such as key goals and the mission to keep staff focused on achievable targets. By using the tool to encourage team members in a stressful time, company leaders communicate clearly their commitment to the wellbeing and future of the employees.

What effects are you feeling from the downturn in the global markets? What steps are you taking to counteract potential performance shortfalls due to fear and uncertainty among your employees? Share your experiences in comments.

Employee Engagement, Recognition and Performance Management

IBM and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) recently released new research proving the ROI of talent management.

One particularly interesting finding of the “Integrated Talent Management” study was:

“Organizations that apply talent management practices demonstrate higher financial performance compared to their industry peers. Those specific talent management practices that most distinguished financial outperformers from other organizations are understanding and acting upon employee engagement and aligning recognition and performance management systems.”

This finding is not surprising to me, however, because of the strong correlation we have repeatedly seen and that has been proven through numerous research studies showing the dramatic influence strategic recognition can have on employee engagement. And our customer Intuit recently shared through a webinar how integrating recognition into their performance management process has been a secret of their success.

Even in today’s tough economic market, we are seeing forward-thinking companies adopting strategic recognition as key means to drive employee engagement and increase the financial performance of their organizations. What is your organization doing in this space? Tell us about your experiences in comments.

Measuring Engagement * Simple Tools Work Best

I’ve blogged repeatedly about the need to establish a baseline of engagement levels and then measure success against that baseline repeatedly over time. Many companies already have employee satisfaction surveys in place. One of the best is the Gallup Q12 survey, a simple 12 question survey to measure employee engagement, six of which can also help evaluate the success of your strategic recognition tool.

The 12 questions are below with my comments on how some of the questions should be used to gauge recognition program success as well.

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
Work/role expectations can be reinforced through a strategic recognition program that intentionally ties every recognition to a behavior displayed and/or a goal achieved. Such recognition reinforces desired expectations in the most positive of performance management methods.

2. Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?

3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
The question most obviously tied to recognition, this shows the importance of frequency in a recognition program. Up to 65% of Americans say they do not receive enough recognition on the job. A negative answer to this question will quickly tell you if your recognition program is being used to its full capability.

5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

A strategic recognition program that records and tracks every acknowledgment of achievement provides not only a written reinforcement in the moment, but also allows for an official record at time of review. Direct and personal reinforcement through such a program shows caring and awareness from a manager or peer.

6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
By tying your company values and strategic goals or objectives to every recognition, you are reinforcing those values and objectives with every recognition. This brings the company values to life for every employee, showing them how their job and personal effort matter to the organization as a whole.

9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
This becomes easier for employees to notice about their colleagues when they make saying “thank you” a habit and part of their work culture.

10. Do you have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
Six months is far too infrequent to have a meaningful or lasting impact on performance and engagement. With a successful recognition program operating under best practices, the desired answer should be, “Many times.”

12. In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Do you currently have an employee satisfaction or engagement survey in place? How often do you administer it? What is your rate of return? Do you already incorporate the Q12 in your survey? Tell us what works and what doesn’t in your organization.

Government Review of Employee Engagement

Because of the dramatic impact it can have on the bottom line, employee engagement is revolutionizing HR practice across industries around the world. Just last week, a headline in HR Review stated: “The government has launched a review into employee engagement, which will examine ways to boost productivity levels among the UK workforce.” Based on study results, the team will make recommendations to employers on how to improve employee motivation and performance.

Why is the British government concerning themselves directly in the matter of employee engagement? Just look at these numbers:

According to Towers Perrin, a 15% improvement in levels of employee engagement correlates with a 2% improvement in operating margin. What would a two per cent increase in operating margin mean for your company?

Increasing employee engagement also improves performance by as much as 20 per cent, per the Corporate Leadership Council. In today’s tight economic climate and fearful work environment, deriving higher performance levels – willing given – from current staffing levels is more critical than ever.

But Towers Perrin also recently reported, “Only one out of every five workers today is giving full discretionary effort on the job, and this ‘engagement gap’ poses serious risks for employers because of the strong connection between employee engagement and company financial performance.”

So, how do you increase employee engagement to get that additional discretionary effort from your employees? White Water Strategies found that praising staff had the same impact on job satisfaction as a 1% pay rise. And HR Zone found that regular informal feedback has been linked to a 40% rise in employee performance and a 20% increase in discretionary effort.

Strategic recognition programs not only give you the mechanism to give staff the praise they need that is proven to increase their discretionary effort, but also gives you the means to track performance, behavior, and alignment with company values against recognition moments. This allows you to change your company’s social architecture, driving a culture of appreciation that is now even gaining government interest.

Do you see an “engagement gap” in your organization? Have you taken steps to close it and are you seeing the results? Join the conversation in comments.

Breaking Down Workplace Silos

Wrapping up my week-long blog series on generations in the workplace, recent research shows the generations aren’t talking to each other in the workplace – which isn’t very different than in the greater culture, either. But the cost to the company can be very significant.

Mark Larson of Workforce Management recently wrote about this research by Randstad. Interestingly, Randstad found that Generation Y, the youngest group, actually outnumbers Boomers in the workforce, laying to rest the fear of a worker shortage as Boomers retire. Alarmingly, however, Randstad’s findings also show there is little to no knowledge transfer in organizations between those who hold most institutional knowledge – the boomers – to their heirs in Generations X and Y.

As reported in Bnet, a Harvard Business School research team also recently found very little interaction across three major organizational boundaries: business unit, function, and geography.

Neither finding is particularly surprising. We’ve seen these informational and relational silos in place for decades. The most effective way to break them down is with a simple thank you through strategic employee recognition programs that allow anyone in the organization to thank anyone else for their help, insights, above-and-beyond efforts, etc.

To foster sharing of institutional knowledge between the generations also requires giving people of the various generations opportunities to collaborate together on projects and learn from each other through the work. Then using strategic recognition programs as the mechanism to both acknowledge efforts and then, critically, communicate those contributions and capabilities to members of all generations, overcomes these barriers of distrust and misunderstanding.

Did a subject matter expert help with your project, but he’s based in another country? Thank him anyway! Did you work on a team drawing from multiple offices to achieve a strategic goal? Thank everyone equitably. Recognize people when they go above and beyond and see them want to repeat the tasks. Our clients have done this successfully across multiple generations, regions, divisions and even continents.

Tell us about your frustrations or successes in these areas.

Navigation