Archive for February, 2010

Management Style of Trust and Retention

Trust plays a powerful role in retention. We’ve talked before about the death of the 19th century style of management: command and control. But what replaces it?

I like the phrase I recently saw of “trust and track.” As explained by an entrepreneur who has achieved great success with this method, trust and track “involves educating employees about what it takes for the company to be successful, then trusting them to act accordingly. … If done right, trust and track can allow a company to be nimble, flexible and productive enough to perform at the highest level through good economies and bad.”

How does this play out in large organizations? This year’s Fortune No. 1 best company to work for: SAS. SAS is the world’s largest privately held software business and has been profitable every year of its existence. In fact, in 2009 SAS grew 2.2%, the second or third most profitable year on record. How’d they do this in the midst of recession? Trust and track.

As the CEO of SAS, Jim Goodnight says in this FT article: “I always say if you treat people like they make a difference, they will make a difference.”

What’s the impact of this approach on loyalty at SAS? This CNNMoney article tells us: “The average tenure at SAS is 10 years; 300 employees have worked 25 or more. Annual turnover was 2% in 2009, compared with the average in the software industry of about 22%.”

Are you trusting your employees to make a difference? Trust is itself a powerful form of recognition as well as motivator. Tell me your stories of the power of trust.

Employee Engagement Network: Advice for Managers

Are you involved with employee engagement initiatives at some level? If you’re not already a member of the Employee Engagement Network, I highly recommend it as a place to interact with and learn from some of the best minds on this topic. David Zinger, the founder of the Network, recently solicited one-sentence advice for managers on employee engagement and compiled them into an ebook. I’ve categorized some of my favorites into three groups below, but I give David the first word:

“Recognize that employee engagement is not a fluffy extra but the fundamental way you will get work done with others through conversation, co-creation, community, mutuality, and other inclusive approaches to achieve results that matter to organizations, customers, leaders, employees and yourself.” – David Zinger

Meaning & Purpose
* “Having a shared and compelling vision, continuously reinforced by communication, transparency, involvement and leading by example.” – Winston Tikaram

* “Managers and supervisors can engage employees by communicating expectations and how the employee’s role contributes to the overall big picture (sense of purpose).” – Cathy Missildine-Martin

* “Communicate the organization’s strategy to everyone in the workforce. If they aren’t exposed to the direction, goals and objectives, and given the opportunity to understand and buy into it, how can they possibly be held accountable for executing on it?” – Skip Reardon

Respect & Empowerment
* “Treat people the way they want to be treated, not the way you want to be treated.” – John Schonegevel

* “They trust you – have you told them you trust them?” – Jean Douglas

* “Don’t give someone responsibility for something, unless you are also going to give them the power to affect it.” – Samantha Wood

Culture of Recognition
* “People honor a culture that honors them. Take the time to recognize, appreciate, value and honor your people.” – Bernie Donkerbrook

* “Focus on what your employees are doing right with praise and recognition and coach them in the areas in which they require development, supporting them through their learning process.” – Madeline McQueen

* “Don’t rely on the annual employee evaluation – give positive and developmental feedback every day if necessary so that employees always know where they stand.” – Brian Jones

What was my one sentence of advice? “Specifically, clearly and consistently tell employees what behaviors and efforts are most necessary for company success by thanking and recognizing them when they demonstrate those behaviors in daily work.”

What’s your one sentence of engagement advice?

Varied Engagement and What to Do about It

CBS Money Watch on Bnet recently featured an article on what to do if you hate your job. Looking at why people are “dissatisfied” with their jobs, the author cites: “They don’t feel like they are contributing to anything meaningful, they aren’t passionate about what they do, and they don’t feel like their best talents are being utilized.”

That’s a fairly accurate summary of why employees are disengaged in today’s workplace. Why should management care, though, as long as the work is getting done? Recent Gallup findings offer a strong argument as to why you should:

“In average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is 1.5:1. In world-class organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is near 8:1. Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line while breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.”

Unfortunately the Money Watch article offered only two solutions for the dissatisfied employee: find a new job or “use your other 8 hours” to do what you care about. From the manager point of view, that second option is almost worst than the first as it encourages the employee to disengage even more while at work.

So what should managers and company leadership do to become world-class organizations and recover that lost productivity? Target the reasons for dissatisfaction (lack of meaning, passion and use of talents) with strategic employee recognition whereby sincere, frequent recognition of effort is more than a “thanks” but specifically tells a person: “I really appreciate what you did on project X. Your work helped us achieve Y, which is going to make meeting our strategic objective Z much easier. Keep it up!”

Take this approach and you’ve just positively shown the employee how their work is meaningful and give them some indication of the path the company is following. Even if their talents aren’t being fully utilized at the moment, at least they’re being appreciated!

How to Measure Employee Engagement Globally

A constant complaint about “employee engagement” is that the various research houses define engagement differently, offer different surveys to measure engagement, and then report those results in ways that mean different things in different environments and cultures. For example, Gallup found that Germany’s level of engaged employees is just 13%, but this new Barometer found 89% of German employees to be engaged or highly engaged.

What Barometer? The Conference Board (TCB) recently released a report (subscription required for full access) that attempted to find the common ground in the various approaches to employee engagement by coming to a single definition of engagement and provide a consistent measure for engagement everywhere in the world.

Adding to the litany of engagement definitions, here’s TCB’s: “An employee can be considered engaged if he or she is intellectually stimulated and passionate about his or her work, and demonstrates that through his or her intended actions.”

I like this definition because it speaks to both attitude and actions/results. TCB’s approach also eliminates perceived cultural perception differences to help a company truly understand the level of engagement across different cultural regions and then directly compare those results without “norming” for cultural differences, a process that introduces error into survey results.

What does this mean? In TCB’s words: “The state of mind called employee engagement is experienced in much the same way by workers throughout the world.”

What do you think about this definition of engagement and the idea of cultural universality? Is it too narrow? Too broad?

Three Tips to Share the Love on Valentine’s Day

Do your employees know how much you love them? Okay, perhaps that’s a bit strong. But today is the day to express love, respect and appreciation to those who matter to us.

In the work environment, shying away from “love” would likely be wise (especially in today’s litigious environment). But we shouldn’t pass up on this opportunity to show employees how much we respect them and value their efforts.

In that spirit, here are three tips for sharing the love with your employees on Valentine’s Day.

  1. Instead of an impersonal greeting card, send a note of appreciation that specifically acknowledges the attributes of the person or their achievements that have contributed to the success of the team, the customer or the company.
  2. Instead of unhealthy chocolates, celebrate the success of the team with a meal together.
  3. Instead of scent-less, out of season roses, let the employee choose what would be a personally meaningful and culturally relevant reward for their efforts.

As with the significant others in our lives, don’t limit expressions of your appreciation and esteem to one day of the year. Be sure to share the love throughout the year so your colleagues always know they are valued, appreciated and respected for their work and results.

Thanks…with Meaning and Purpose

It’s that time again. Finalizing the annual performance review and offering performance raises where earned. However, just like last year or perhaps even more so, budgets are tight and increases will be very small or non-existent. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Employers plan meager 2.8% raises in 2010, after 2% bumps in 2009, according to Towers Watson.”

So what are you to do to reward employees for their stellar efforts in the face of a very difficult year? How are you to motivate them and help them engage to achieve company goals for the year?

I liked how the Guardian put it in a recent article: “If people understand the need to change, can do it without too much hassle, and can understand the positive impact of their actions, it’s more likely to happen.”

Can understand the positive impact of their actions – when you need to motivate others to achieve a task, are you just telling them what to do or are you giving them the bigger picture so they understand the value of what they are doing and why it matters?

How can you do that in this era of tight budgets? We recommend investing just 1% of total payroll – a very small investment, indeed – into strategic recognition that encourages repetition of desired and needed employee behaviors and actions within, critically, the bigger picture of your company goals and objectives. Tell people thanks for their work AND how those efforts matter to their team members, to the division and to the company as a whole.

Research and Spin * Reading between the Lines

Do you find it as interesting as I do how the same research can be interpreted differently?

Last Fall, McKinsey reported the results of survey on individual leadership style and what styles work best in a crisis.

“The kinds of leadership behavior that executives say will most help their companies through the current crisis, such as inspiring others and defining expectations and rewards, are the same ones they say will help their companies thrive in the future. The executives’ assessment of what’s needed for the long term hasn’t changed over the past year. … When asked which capabilities of organizations as a whole are most important for managing companies through the crisis, respondents choose two more often than any others: leadership, so that leaders inspire others and shape their actions, and direction, so that it’s clear where companies are going and that people are aligned on how to get there. Respondents also say those two capabilities have become more important since the crisis began.”

John Baldoni in Harvard Business’ Leadership at Work blog spins the results for viewing in the negative:

“A majority of managers just don’t understand what it means to be a leader. That’s a conclusion that I draw from a recent global survey by McKinsey and Company about what it takes to manage corporate performance. Only 48% of managers surveyed believed that they need to inspire and only 46% believed it was their responsibility to provide direction during this crisis. The numbers for inspiration and direction actually drop to 45% and 39% respectively when considered as behaviors for how to manage post-crisis. More troubling, only 30% of managers felt that they needed to motivate their employees during the crisis and just 23% did post-crisis.”

How’d you read the above? “Only 48% believe they need to inspire?” or that leadership and direction are chosen most often as the most important. I’m particularly troubled by Baldoni’s assertion that “only 30% of managers felt they needed to motivate employees…”

That’s not what the research says. The research asked respondents to rank “most important.” Of course, I believe motivating employees is important, but I also believe motivation is a strong element of leadership and direction and not easily separated.

What’s my point? Be careful in how you read research. What’s your take-away from the above two reports.

Fostering “Horizontal Loyalty” among Teams

Bnet recently referenced Dan Pink and the idea of changing loyalty in an organization:

“Today’s workers tend to feel horizontal loyalty — a commitment to colleagues, former colleagues and particular projects. In short, put people on a team, and loyalties develop.”

I would agree with the truth of this. Companies have effectively destroyed any sense of loyalty many employees feel to the organization. That can be rebuilt through effort, but wiser leaders will work to also strengthen the loyalty and commitment bonds between employees and teams.

This can be powerfully accomplished by opening the opportunity to formally appreciate others to all employees through peer-to-peer recognition. To many, acknowledgment and recognition from colleagues is even more important than from managers. It is certainly critical in building an employee’s knowledge of just how important their efforts are to the group or team in getting the job done.

What do you think of the idea of horizontal loyalty? How would you support building that kind of loyalty in your organization?