Posts Tagged "relationships at work’

A Little More Conversation, Please

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Building relationships through conversations, appreciation and feedback is fundamental to the human condition.

Sincere words have a profound impact on a life.With apologies to Elvis, we need a little more conversation. Conversing together, sharing with each other, is a hallmark of what it means to be human. And yet, many of the interactions we have at work are action-oriented, outcome-driven, or meeting-based (and very few meetings in my career have fostered true interpersonal conversations).

If we want to make work more human, we need to facilitate more and better conversations – along the full spectrum of what it means to engage with other humans in a supportive and developmentally relational way. This may not always be easy, but it is simple.

Simply do a little more in these three areas to make your relationships at work more meaningful and more productive.

  1. Talk More – Start building strong relationships by reaching out and talking with others – engaging with them in meaningful ways and, critically, in ways that are meaningful to them. My team just completed a very interesting communications styles profiling and training session in which we each learned our own communication style based on our dominant brain preference. More importantly, we learned how to engage others more effectively by communicating with them based on their dominant brain preference. That’s the essence of both powerful communication as well as powerful connection – approaching from the other perspective first, rather than your own.
  2. Thank More – Once even a tenuous relationship is built through simple communication, step it up by looking for opportunities to sincerely thank the other person for who they are and for what they do. This requires us to pick our heads up out of our own work and busyness to notice more fully those around us, their own busyness, the contributions they are making, and the impacts they are having on ourselves and on others. The need to be seen, to be noticed, to be valued, to be appreciated is also a fundamental human need. Sincerely, specifically and meaningfully saying “thank you” is a great gift to others as well as a sure path to deepen relationships.
  3. Ask More – A strong relational foundation of appreciation also creates a level of trust to ask for feedback on how to grow, learn, develop, and improve. We all have areas where we are strong as well as areas where we can do better. Imperfection is also a part of the human condition. Acknowledging that no one is perfect (and neither am I), gives us the freedom to ask others for the feedback we need. And when we step out first to ask others for feedback, we also give them the psychological safety they need to give us the feedback we need to hear.

Openness with others (and honesty with ourselves) leads to more meaningful relationships. And our relationships with co-workers is one of the strongest drivers of a positive employee experience and to our sense of belonging in an organization. Being more open requires that we talk more, thank more, and ask more.

With whom do you have solid relationships at work? Who do you talk with the most? Who are you most comfortable asking for the perhaps hard-to-hear feedback? And who comes to you when they need to hear the same?

What Do Employees Want Most? Appreciation and Good Relationships at Work

"thank you" translated into multiple languagesRecognize This! – Research from the Boston Consulting Group and The Network show employees around the world most need to know their work is valued and appreciated.

“They are different in [insert country other than your own.] They want different things than we do.”

How true do you believe that statement to be? Do you wonder if anyone’s recently tried to quantify those perceived differences or, better yet, find the commonalities?

This Fall, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network did just that in their “Decoding Global Talent” report, which aggregated 200,000 survey responses on global mobility and employment preferences from employees in 189 countries. The survey primarily looked at what would make employees willing to work abroad, regardless of home country. But one particular finding struck me as most enlightening – regardless of desire to relocate, all respondents “are putting more emphasis on intrinsic rewards and less on compensation.”

Chart from BCG reportThis chart (Exhibit 8) from the report shows the most important job elements to survey respondents, with appreciation for work and relationships with others leading the list.

It’s no surprise “appreciation for your work” leads the list. We need to know our work matters. One survey respondent, a logistics supervisor in Morocco, put it best: “What you do is what you are and what you are is what you do. You must be appreciated.”

We invest so much of ourselves in our work. We need to know that others notice and appreciate our efforts. It’s more powerful validation than a paycheque alone, and a basic human need.

Good relationships with those with whom we spend the majority of our time is no less a need. That’s why it’s also not a surprise that good relationships with colleagues and supervisors also top the list. Indeed, the top two key findings of our most recent Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker report found that (1) peer relationships are critical to the modern work experience because of amount of time we invest at work, and (2) having friends at increases commitment to the company.

The global study from BCG pointed to an additional finding on relationships at work I found fascinating. Level in the organizations determines, in part, the types of relationships I value most. That’s why peer recognition and appreciation programs are vital to employee happiness and engagement at work.

“Workers lower down on the hierarchy assign more importance to their relationships with colleagues than to their relationships with superiors—exactly the opposite of higher-level managers.”

And finally, the importance of these factors to recruiting and retaining employees cannot be underestimated. The BCG report summarizes this way:

“Even as employers have begun to modify the branding they use to recruit workers—correctly anticipating the shift to a postcrisis world in which money isn’t everything—companies have not really done much to push their reward systems toward new and compelling “total offers” that include many of the attributes relating to culture, relationships, and appreciation that employees covet these days. Instead, company rewards are still largely built around compensation, and the culture inside many companies remains hierarchical, with complex guidelines, limited flexibility, and highly political agendas. It’s the rare employer that has found a way to institutionalize appreciation—the attribute that workers, especially younger workers of Generation Y, now seem to crave…

“But there need to be other kinds of expertise, too. In particular, HR needs to find ways to get more involved in shaping corporate culture, in encouraging meaningful relationships between and among bosses and workers, and in ensuring that appreciation for a job well done gets the company-wide attention it deserves. Otherwise, the most talented employees will leave and companies will face a strategic disadvantage.”

There no more effective, efficient way to shape culture, encourage meaningful relationships, or ensure appreciation for a job well done than a social recognition program that encourages all employees to frequently, sincerely and specifically recognize and praise their colleagues for good work in line with company core values. This is what is proven to build cultures of recognition quickly across global organizations, big and small.

What is your most important job element?

Worried about Information Security? Study Says Focus on Employee Engagement

by Derek Irvine

Masked businessman on a computerRecognize This! – Your employees are your most likely source for data breaches. Engaged employees are far less likely to be a risk factor.

What’s on the list of “top concerns” for your organization? I’m willing to wager that security makes the list and likely near the top. Driving recently, I heard a news story about the switch in thinking in tech companies in recent years. Just a few years ago, the idea of hiring “white hat hackers” to find bugs and security weaknesses was verboten. Now, this type of employee is in high demand.

Sure, there are logical technology steps you must take to protect your organization’s data. But you may be missing one of the key factors in keeping your systems, intellectual property, and other key data secure – employee engagement.

Strategy + Business recently reported on a study of information security in the workplace, specifically on how differently security specialists vs. line managers perceive danger spots:

“The authors conducted in-depth interviews with frontline workers, managers, and information security professionals—CIOs and network administrators—at large firms in a variety of industries across the United States. Points of contention quickly emerged. For example, 39 percent of managers cited hackers as the biggest danger, whereas only 4 percent of security specialists agreed, citing threats such as Trojans, viruses, or worms as more dangerous. But in reality, a company’s own staff can be even more vexing: Almost 60 percent of security professionals pinpointed employees as the most likely source of accidental or intentional breaches.

“The most essential bulwark against cybercrime appears to be a happy workforce, according to the study. The interviews revealed two factors that led employees to consciously betray their firms: the knowledge that the proprietary information in a database could be sold to competitors, or a desire to exact revenge on the company for some kind of perceived slight.” (emphasis mine)

This makes good common sense. If I’m engaged with my organization, I want it to continue to be successful. This means I’m focused not only what I need to do for my own personal success, but also the success of my colleagues and the company as a whole. As a result, I’m far less likely to take selfish actions that can have severely negative repercussions.

The article goes on to point out that the worst steps a security team can take are to provoke further negative responses by employees:

“Draconian practices seeking to limit employees’ Internet access can often backfire if they sow bitterness. Instead, managers at all levels should appeal to their employees’ sense of obligation to protect their organization’s resources—emphasizing that other people may be harmed by their mistake. Accordingly, the authors advise, IT professionals should focus on the idea of protecting ‘others’ rather than ‘the company.’

“ And IT experts can dampen some of their employees’ interest in financial gain by emphasizing how coworkers, customers, and employees’ own families could be devastated by a security breach, with consequences ranging from identity theft to widespread job loss.”

When you think of your workplace and your co-workers as a community, then you’re more likely to think of their interests, too. This is the power of relationships at work. When we build deep, meaningful relationships with our co-workers, we are far less likely to behave in a selfish, self-centered manner. And that can impact your organization in very material ways.

How does your organization work to encourage deeper relationships at work?