Archive for the "Employee Engagement" Category

Off to HR Tech 2016!

By Derek Irvine

international-conference-1597531_960_720I’m packing my bags and heading to Chicago for the 19th Annual HR Technology Conference and Expo. It’s a fantastic show for seeing what the future of HR holds and what the leaders of the field are thinking about today. I always come back to the office with a ton of energy and ideas.

If you’ll be at the conference, I hope that you can stop by a pre-conference session I am hosting alongside Jay Dorio of IBM (October 4th at 2:30 pm). We will be sharing the results from a new global study conducted by the WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute. The session will introduce a new Index and set of leadership and organizational practices that help to make the workplace more human.

I am truly excited about this research because it provides HR and business leaders with actionable ways to give employees a better experience at work and demonstrates why that can drive results. What can our organizations become when we think about human potential in terms of “giving” rather than “taking” (and take Adam Grant’s work to heart)?

Later in the week, also be sure to catch Globoforce’s Eric Mosley and David Sparkman of UnitedHealth Group (October 7th at 9:30 am). They will share the story of UHG’s cultural transformation, based on core values of integrity and collaboration, and driven by social recognition. It is yet another great example of how organizations can emphasize giving to achieve positive results.

I hope to see you there!

Doing Gymnastics at Work

by Traci Pesch

US Women's 2016 Olympics ChampionsRecognize This! – The sport of gymnastics offers several lessons we can apply to make work more human.

My daughter did gymnastics for 6 years. It’s an intense sport for which, unless you’re deeply in it, it is hard to understand the level of commitment necessary. To be a top-level gymnast requires dedication of your entire mind and body, relentless practice of 30-40 hours a week, and mental discipline to engage in 6+ hour meets where you must focus completely for less than 2 minutes of competition on one element and then wait an hour or more for another less than 2 minutes of complete focus on another element.

Gymnastics is a unique sport, but some elements are the same for all sports that offer us lessons for the workplace, too.

“Superstar” is relative.

Yesterday’s superstar is today’s team player. Look at Gabby Douglas. In the 2012 Olympics, she won the gold medal in the individual all-around competition. By 2016, she missed competing for the all-around final despite having the third-highest score. (Two of her teammates took the top spots, and only two competitors from each country are permitted to compete.)

Is Gabby any less of a superstar? Certainly not! Her talent and skill still place her in the highest ranks in the world. And yet the rulebook lessens her. For those still clinging to a forced ranking model of performance valuation, think  about your superstars who are being labeled as less than stellar for no other reason than strict rules on how many “5s” you’re allowed to have.

False valuation models can break the spirit of even your best employees. Working more human requires us to consider how we can equip and encourage all of our people to do the best work of their lives.

Failure is inevitable.

Simone Biles, by every measure, was the standout hit of the Olympics. The strength, power and grace she packs into her tiny frame is astounding. She set a new American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics in a single Olympics (4 medals) and joined an elite global group with a total of 5 medals in a single games. And yet, she wasn’t perfect. In the balance beam final, she wobbled badly enough she had to grab the beam. On this world stage, that’s failure. She missed the mark.

But she still took the bronze. How? Why was her wobbly performance better than other wobbly performances that didn’t medal? First, she incorporated harder elements in her routine. She intentionally set a higher bar. And when she did wobble, she put it behind her quickly and went on to finish strong.

Failure itself is not bad and can often be a sign of trying to shoot high. But we will never know what we can achieve if we don’t try. How much more innovative would our teams be if we lifted the fear of failure, gave them the room to try, support them as the make the attempt, then help them recover quickly, learn and move forward?

The team is only as good as the team.

I get annoyed by the phrase, “A team is only as good as the individuals on it.” It implies that the individual is solely responsible for themselves. Gymnastics teaches something different. The team is only as good as the team performance overall. Gymnasts must find ways to improve their own skills, yes, while also helping their teammates continually improve too.

How can we all train like gymnasts to support each other and make each other better? How can we build more human teams at work designed to elevate the team to success while simultaneously improving the individual?

With the 2016 Paralympics beginning, new inspiration is all around us. What lessons from the Olympics do you see that can be applied as well strive to make work more human?

WorkHuman by Leaving Work – Why Vacations Matter

by Traci Pesch

beach sceneRecognize This! – We cannot create more human work cultures if we don’t honor the human need to rest, reflect, and breathe.

I’m just back from vacation – enjoying family and friends immersed in sun, sand, and ocean. The ability to step back, relax, and rest my mind certainly made it possible to bring a rejuvenated spirit to my work. And this experience reminded me of recent podcast from NPR’s Shankar Vedantam and Dan Pink (author of Drive): “What Science Says about Taking a Great Vacation.”

In the podcast, Shankar and Dan discuss research that shows three interesting findings:

  1. Relationships (or at least relatability matters), even while on vacation.
  2. Shorter but more frequent vacations may be the ticket to keeping the positive impact of vacation going.
  3. Experiencing awe may be the best vacation memento because it can “increase ethical decision making and generosity.”

From a WorkHuman perspective, we need to honor the very human need to rejuvenate the soul, the spirit and the mind. As Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Broadway sensation Hamilton) said on Twitter, “No accident that the best idea I ever had in my life (Maybe the best one I’ll ever have) happened on vacation. With a second to breathe.”

Sadly, it seems workers hesitate on taking vacation. This survey found the top 5 reasons workers skip vacation:

  1. Fear of returning to a mountain of work(40%)
  2. The belief that nobody else can do the job (35%)
  3. Inability to afford taking time off (33%)
  4. Fear of being seen as replaceable (22%)
  5. To show greater dedication to the company and the job (28%)

And Americans seem to be worst about this. This article describe us as “a nation of vacation-deprived, work-obsessed, business casual-attired zombies.”

If our best ideas possible come when we give our brain a chance to officially switch off, and if our companies ostensibly support the idea of vacation, then how can we as leaders encourage the behavior of actually taking a real break? Because we must. Our people deserve it. Our humans need it.

Do you use all of your vacation days? If not, why not?

5 Lessons for Values-Based Leadership from Harry Kraemer

by Lynette Silva

Book Cover: From Values to ActionRecognize This! – You don’t have to be manager of people to be a leader of people. To lead, relate to other’s needs and always remember where you came from.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Evanta Chicago CHRO summit. It was an honor to be a part of a tremendous roster of industry leaders and speakers. Case in point – Harry Kraemer who kicked off the event at the governing body dinner. Harry, former chairman and CEO of Baxter International and current professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management MBA program, shared insights on how to be a better leader from his new book From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.

I took away 5 key lessons and reminders from both Harry’s talk and his book, summarized here.

1. Understand the Key Characteristics of Leaders

Leaders keep things simple, demonstrate common sense and start leading as soon as possible. To keep things simple, always ask two questions: “What’s the issue we’re trying to resolve?” or “What’s the opportunity we’re trying to take advantage of?” These questions help put things into perspective and expand thinking more globally outside of the narrow, immediate issue. Leaders also don’t wait until they have a team of direct reports to start leading. Leadership is all about the ability to influence people to do what they might not otherwise do. This requires honestly relating to people.

2. Identify and Avoid “Those Guys”

“Those guys” are the people in the organization we tend to point to when we say, “It’ll never work. ‘They’ already said no to a similar idea five years ago.” Leadership growth is slowed by spending too much time waiting on “those” guys or worrying too much about what “those guys” would say or do. To overcome “those guys” syndrome, ask people two questions: “Whatever your job is, are you one of ‘those guys’ who can actually do something?” and “Whatever your job is, are you watching the movie or are you in the movie?

3. Establish Rules of the Game

The rules of the game all leaders should share with their teams are simple. Every problem or issue you bring to my attention = +1 point. Every solution you bring to my attention = +1,000 points. Whoever has the most points wins

4. Think Globally

Ask yourself, do you want to be a truly phenomenal head of ____ group? Or do you want to be head of the company who happens to know a lot about _____? (The blank can be filled by any function – HR, marketing, finance, etc.) Real leaders have their functional role, but their real job is helping the head run the company. Always look across functions to identify the global need and solution.

5. Apply 4 Principles of Leadership to Get People to Change and Lead

If you want to be a leader of others, you must first understand yourself. Applying these for principles (daily, if possible) will prepare you.

  • Practice self-reflection – Don’t confuse activity and productivity. Take time to turn off noise and ask yourself:
    • What are my values?
    • What do I stand for?
    • What is my purpose?
    • What am I going to do about it?
    • What did I do right today to advance of all of those?
    • Where did I miss and what can I do better tomorrow?
  • Seek balance – Understand ALL sides of the story (there’s generally more than two).
  • Develop true self-confidence – Know what you do know and what you don’t know (and who knows what you don’t know) and learn every day. Ask yourself: Are you comfortable admitting “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”
  • Internalize genuine humility – Understand why you are really successful. It’s likely a mix of luck, timing (right place, right time), your team (other people who’ve helped you succeed), and the talents you were given. Always remember people don’t relate well to egomaniacs. Remember the cubicle and never forget what it was like for you when you started out.

Harry ended with this reminder: To lead at any level, know what you are really at and the people who know what you don’t know.

What additional leadership lessons have guided you?

Having Fun at Work? Really.

by Derek Irvine

Foosball TableRecognize This! – Companies that encourage fun at work, as well as in work, are well positioned to succeed.

Outside of our working lives, we are faced with balancing our chores and our hobbies: the routine things that need to get done, and the exciting things we look forward to and that help us grow or build skills. Gary Hamel, a speaker at this year’s WorkHuman, phrased it much better than I in a recent interview with Globoforce:

“After all, as human beings we wash the dishes, do the laundry, and take out the garbage—pretty mundane stuff. But we also climb mountains to watch the sun rise, cross oceans to explore different cultures, and take up new hobbies to stretch our minds. Our organizations need to be similarly versatile.”

As Gary argues, work needs to be approached with the same lens through which we approach our lives outside of work. Some responsibilities of a job may end up being tedious yet necessary, but there is a human need for aspects that are more interesting and meaningful. Providing that balance is critical in making work a more human experience. In short, work needs to be “fun.”

Thinking in terms of these examples, it is a little surprising that some people still have some apprehension around using the words “fun” and “work” in the same sentence (especially those in the “work should be work” camp). But research by the Great Place to Work Institute reveals that workplace fun is one of the strongest correlates of the overall measure of having a best-in-class workplace.

So what does it really mean to have fun?

I think a crucial distinction to be made is between fun for its own sake and experiencing fun through work. Think less swing sets and pool tables, and more projects that are capable of engaging the whole person’s interests, curiosity, and sense of achievement.

Ultimately, fun is a subjective experience that some may experience when they are confronted with a challenging problem to solve, tasked with developing a new process, or contribute meaningfully to their colleagues. There are some people for whom certain things will never be fun, and some projects that won’t be fun for anyone, but to the extent possible, organizations can structure work in a way to maximize the potential that employees can bring to bear when they perceive something as being “fun.”

It is also important not to discredit the benefits of swing sets and pool tables within the greater scope of work and relationships between people. As a complement, opportunities for fun, or play as Brigid Schulte (another WorkHuman speaker!) might say, allow people to be more creative, develop new relationships, and come at a problem with a new perspective. Fun spaces and also events like this may also increase the probability of cross-functional collaboration, ultimately benefiting the organization.

More and more studies are beginning to support the importance of fun in the workplace, detailed out in a recent piece in Entrepreneur, as well as through classic academic studies around the positive outcomes of broadening and building. Increasingly less of a nice-to-have, organizations that enable their employees to have fun at work are increasingly positioned to be successful.

What does your organization do to help drive fun at work?

Recognition, from Culture to Practice!

By Traci Pesch

Photographic light spiralRecognize This! – A sustainable culture of recognition starts with “why” to inform positive spirals between culture and practices.

Why does employee recognition matter? What elements make social recognition a success? How do we even define “success?” What types of significant results are achievable through social recognition?

These are a few of the most common questions I hear about social recognition. Beyond the obvious, “Yes, it’s important to say ‘thank you’ – to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate the efforts of those around you,” social recognition does have significant impact on how our people experience work. (So why not make it a more WorkHuman environment?)

So, why is recognition important?  More importantly why is creating a culture or recognition vs just implementing another program so important?  A culture of recognition contributes to success by creating a positive spiral effective, encouraging greater alignment with core values, and reinforcing key behaviors that drive businesses forward.

In turn, connections between employees are strengthened, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction, as well as improved trust and collaboration.  Employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to bring their whole self to work, resulting in a range of outcomes and results.  Essentially, recognition done right, drives top priorities and business results.

Illustration of culture spiral text

We’ve thought about this a lot. It’s our passion. We’ve been refining this with our customers for years, codified in our book The Power of Thanks.

Recognition BlueprintThis blueprint for social recognition success involves the elements illustrated here, starting with securing executive sponsorship and defining your goals and metrics for success, then continuing though creation of a strong program designed to reach all employees for that engaging recognition experience, and then offering a great choice of rewards in order to ensure every recognition moment has the longest emotional tail possible.

These are the elements from which our best practices and benchmarks are derived.  These best practices and this approach, is proven with large, global companies across many verticals.

With these elements in mind, have a look at your employee recognition program and the current state against each key element of success.  Our vision for all of our clients is to truly build a culture of recognition and appreciation that lives, grows and is sustainable.  As a matter of fact, this year we’re celebrating 10 years of partnership with several clients, who transformed their thinking from “let’s have a recognition program” to “let’s build a sustainable culture of appreciation and recognition and have quantifiable results to back up the WHY.”

What are some of your company’s ambitions for establishing a culture of recognition?

Top 3 Drivers of Employee Satisfaction (and Salary Isn’t One of Them)

by Traci Pesch

Rabbit on a benchRecognize This! – Company culture, career opportunities and trust in senior leaders drive employee satisfaction far more than salary.

Have you ever gone down rabbit holes on the web, where you start reading one article, then click an embedded link that seems intriguing, and then do it again in the next article? The next thing you realize, three hours have passed, you missed a phone call with a colleague, and worst, you missed your regular infusion of Diet Coke (okay, maybe that last part is just me).

I have Glassdoor to thank for my latest trip down the rabbit hole through the innocent entry point of their list of the 25 highest paying companies in America. Unsurprisingly, all 25 spots are held by consulting and high-tech firms. Far more interesting to me was this paragraph at the end of the article:

“While the companies on this list pay handsomely and a Glassdoor survey shows salary and compensation are among peoples’ top considerations before accepting a job, Glassdoor research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction. In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of long-term employee satisfaction.”

It’s that second link that proved my undoing. As a passionate believer in the importance of core-values-driven cultures, especially those reinforced through recognition, I had to click. It took me to this report from June 2015, which included several thought provoking statements: (largely quoting below, emphasis mine):

“A 10% increase in employee pay is associated with a 1 point increase in overall company satisfaction on a 0-100 scale, controlling for all other factors. In other words, if an employee making $40,000 per year were given a raise to $44,000 per year, his or her overall employee satisfaction would increase from 77 percent to 78 percent. And it’s important to note that there is a diminishing return to happiness for every extra $1,000 in earnings.”

Glassdoor then dug further into the findings to find out, if money isn’t the main driver of employee satisfaction, then what is? They went back to their employer review survey (another link!) to add controls for employee ratings on business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership and work-life balance. The results:

“In this regression, all of these control variables were statistically significant predictors of workplace satisfaction. And the model predicts overall satisfaction pretty well, explaining about 76% of variation in employee satisfaction. From this model, we find an employee’s culture and values rating for the company has the biggest impact on job satisfaction. And not surprising given the findings above, we find an employee’s compensation and benefits rating has the second smallest effect on overall satisfaction, ahead of business outlook rating.”

[Tweet “Employee perception of company culture and core values has highest impact on #EmployeeEngagement” @WorkHuman]

Company Culture ImportanceWondering why the culture and values rating is so influential, Glassdoor determined, “An employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.”

Why did this fascinate me so greatly? Culture matters. And every employee in your organization owns, influences and benefits from the culture – whether it’s the culture you want or the one allowed to “just happen.” And let’s not ignore the statement in the original quotation above about the importance of trust in senior leaders. Don’t forget the findings from the latest WorkHuman Research Institute employee survey showing the dramatic impact of recognition on trust for leaders.

Recognition Impact on Trust

What most drives your satisfaction and engagement in your work?

How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.

 

And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?

 

Are You Psychologically Safe at Work?

by Lynette Silva

People shunning another personRecognize This! – Successful work teams require a sense of psychological safety, which is key to working human.

Newsflash – no person is an island, especially at work. Okay, maybe that’s not much of a newsflash. In today’s complex work and world cultures, little work gets done by an individual contributor working solely on a project all by herself. We are all part of teams working toward end goals. Even within those teams, I doubt any of us work on the same team for an extended length of time. We may be assigned to formal, hierarchical teams for reporting structures, but the work tends to get done through informal teams that are constantly forming, breaking apart and reforming with new members based on the needs of the latest project.

And yet, so many engagement efforts seem to focus on the individual. How do we make the individual more effective? What can we do to inspire, motivate and encourage the individual?

It’s time to take a much closer look at the dynamics of the individuals within a team and what makes the team work more effectively. Google has done that heavy lifting through their Project Aristotle (described in this New York Times article) – a classic data-crunching study of how their people interact and collaborate to get work done. The findings were threefold:

  1. The individual people in the team don’t really matter in assessing the success of the team’s outcomes.
  2. Successful teams consistently showed two features – members listened to each other (no one person dominated conversation or leadership) and were sensitive to the feelings and needs of the team members.
  3. “Psychological safety” – a sense that it’s okay to take risks within the group – is critical to success.

What does this all boil down to? Human dynamics at work. And what does this mean for readers of this blog? To make our work teams most effective, we need to help the humans on those teams be more psychologically sensitive to their teammates to create the safe space necessary for magic to happen.

And this brings us full circle – helping the team requires us to help the individual. Sue Bingham in SmartBlogs wrote about the five factors individuals can focus on:

  1. Positive assumptions about your teammates
  2. Trust in them and their abilities
  3. Inclusion of everyone and their ideas
  4. Challenge with interesting work
  5. Recognition of desired behaviors to reinforce outcomes

Acknowledging these needs of the individual combined with the needs of the team is what enables us to WorkHuman. We are unique individuals that bring a myriad of “personal” factors into our team experience – and both must be integrated to get the best results. As Google learned:

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.”

Emphasis on that last sentence is mine. Work can be – should be – more than just labor. And we have a better shot at achieving that when we enjoy our work with others.

Compensation Cafe: Employee Engagement and Incentives Compensation

by Derek Irvine

Compensation CafeRecognize This! – Employees choose to give more and behave in desired ways based on the environment they are being asked to engage in.

Employee Engagement Is Dead! Long Live Employee Engagement!

What sounds like a non-sequitur may not be. Last week on Compensation Cafe I blogged: “Is Employee Engagement Moot in Today’s High Stress Work Environments?” in which I reflected on the seeming stagnation of employee engagement stats in the research across many organizations. I argue:

No, the error lies in how we are pursuing employee engagement. Yes, employee engagement is a two-way street. Employees must themselves choose to engage in the work, but employers must also offer conditions in which employees would want to engage. That’s where we’ve fallen down.

What must change? It’s time to go back to basics. Why should employees choose to engage in the organization’s greater mission, purpose, and goals and give additional discretionary effort to achieve them if (1) compensation is not equal to market rates or is insufficient to cover basic living needs, (2) the work environment is itself unsupportive or downright abusive, and (3) essential human needs of rest, restoration and the ability to meet the needs of the whole person are ignored.

Read the post for more on the backing research and how to change those three factors to improve employee engagement.

Then today, I blogged “The Tricky Business of Incentive Compensation,” examining research on when and how incentives can motivate, given the typically low performance of such schemes. As I unpack in the post:

What they found was that incentives largely worked… but only for certain people and in certain circumstances… If companies are primarily concerned with behavior that aligns to performance, shifting focus away from pre-designated incentives structures towards “surprise” programs that can recognize and otherwise reinforce those behaviors may be a valuable path forward. For example, if managers are recognized and publicly celebrated for a willingness to take risks like those mentioned above, the signal may be that much stronger for others to overcome that initial sense of inertia.

Again, click over for the full post.