Category Archives: Engagement

The Pathway to Engagement

The path leading to a culture of engagement is linked with productivity, performance and job satisfaction. It follows a clear objective of engaging people around the one thing they all have in common—and the one thing that can bring about increased profitability and a sustainable competitive edge—the work.

As we all know, traditional employee engagement efforts have primarily failed to yield tangible results. They have also failed the sustainability test. As is the case with any improvement or change initiative, an ad-hoc approach involving little or no planning or structure, and lacking defined, measurable objectives, is prone to failure. This approach might be called “engagement for engagement’s sake.”

In contrast, a more focused approach of improving both the work and the workplace in a measurable way can result in high-levels of productivity, profitability and engagement!

As explained by Robin Gee, Coca-Cola’s Director of Employee Engagement, “We engage employees in aggressive efforts to eliminate waste and reinvest those savings in ways that are visible and meaningful to the employees.”

This perspective differs from traditional attempts at employee engagement in two critically-important ways:

  • A strong focus on productivity and continuous improvement as catalysts to engagement
  • A strong focus on measurement and return on investment

Of course this perspective is not necessarily new. For example, in 2012 ISO 10018 was introduced, which provides guidance on engaging people in an organization’s quality management system, and on enhancing their involvement and competence within it. The standard is applicable to any organization, regardless of size, type, or activity.

You might also note that ISO 10018 standards provide considerable leeway on how an organization specifically goes about its attainment. The emphasis placed on each requirement depends on an organization’s specific brand, culture, people, situation and goals. If you’d like to determine how close your organization is to achieving ISO 10018 certification, Engagement Strategies Media has created a chart that outlines the pathway. You can access the chart here.

Engaging Your Workforce: A Front-line Manager’s Recognition Tip Sheet

A recent article published by Engagement Strategies Media, outlined five specific best practices for front-line managers to help them more systematically recognize and engage their workforce.

As you may know, the recognition field has seen a significant shift over the past several years, going from traditional length-of-service awards to programs that focus on supporting critical organizational goals — i.e., quality service to internal or external customers, participation in volunteer initiatives, a willingness to go the extra mile, etc. In most cases, the success of these efforts depends upon the managers at the front lines.

It’s also true that many employees become disengaged or leave their jobs because of an immediate supervisor, not because of the company or pay. Here’s a tip sheet for front-line managers that lists five ways in which they can implement a systematic and effective approach to recognizing team members:

1.) Start With the Basics of the Work
The first step for front-line managers is to show employees that they and their work are valued and appreciated. Initially this might involve giving them a sense of ownership, and making the practice of expressing simple appreciation a standard part of day-to-day management. To ensure consistency, the prudent manager schedules regular time with each employee to make sure they understand their job goals and how their work makes a difference. It’s also important to make recognition meaningful. Don’t go overboard by praising everyday basics such as showing up for work on time or keeping a clean desk.

2.) Continually Reinforce Goals and Values
It’s equally as important to make sure team members understand the organization’s goals and values, which might include a commitment to superior customer service, continuous improvement, innovation, or inclusiveness. Don’t make employees guess—every employee should know the organization’s goals, organizational values and the role they individually can play. Take advantage of team meetings or employee newsletters to regularly reinforce the key messages and goals, and what the values mean in terms of actions and behaviors. This might include simple things such as “how we treat one another,” as well as things more directly associated with how the work gets done.

3.) Recognize employees for both their individual and group contributions. Not everyone likes public praise, so managers must get to know employees and tailor their recognition style based on each person’s preferences. When recognizing a group, make sure to acknowledge each person’s contribution. Be inclusive—recognize everyone who does something meaningful that supports the company’s values or goals through their actions. However, if you publicly recognize someone who doesn’t deserve it, you’ll devalue the whole process.

4.) Planned and Spontaneous Recognition. Formal recognition events can take place monthly, yearly, or almost any time. They’re great ways to celebrate achievements, but try to recognize employees whenever it is merited. In general, praise employees as soon as possible after an accomplishment.

5.) Leverage Internal Communications. If your organization has a print or online newsletter or social recognition platform, an article or post highlighting an employee’s achievement is a very effective way to show appreciation in a way that helps communicate and reinforce values and goals to everyone. How you recognize individuals can be inspiring to their colleagues as well.

Keep in mind that the personal touch, sincerely delivered whenever warranted, is key to keeping your team members feeling valued, motivated and excited about doing the best they can at their jobs each and every day. Studies show that front-line managers can make or break the employee experience.

Read the full article…

The Real Cost of Disengagement

A young, seemingly fast-rising junior executive had been working at a large bank for just over six years. When he was asked about his job and how he felt about it he said, “The job’s OK.”

His lack of enthusiasm was evident, and when pressed to say more he added, “Well, I’m not really learning much anymore.”

When asked if he was fully-engaged he said probably not but went on to say that he still did a great job. “I still give 100% and consider myself to be a great employee,” he said. Then, after a short pause, he added,” But I don’t give them 110%… and there’s a big difference between 100% and 110% — at least for me.”

When asked if he was out looking for a new position he responded, “No…, but I’m listening.”

When asked whether he told his boss about how he was feeling he said, “Yeah, but….”

How many people in how many places feel like he does? He is bright, educated, skilled, well-liked, and might be an ideal candidate for a senior leadership position…if he stays.

But is he being made to feel like an important part of the team? Does anyone realize that he could be giving more? Is he being engaged in an intentional or formalized fashion?

Among the many documented advantages of an engaged worker are loyalty and the discretionary effort that they put forth; going the extra mile; the above-and-beyond attitude… giving 110%! How many innovative ideas might that extra 10% yield? How much more productivity? What impact might it have on customers or coworkers?

The Real Cost of Disengagement

And if he doesn’t stay, the simple replacement costs are not the real issue. He is a potential super-star! He is a known-entity… trustworthy, dependable, low-risk. What are the real (or hidden!) costs associated with disengagement; the costs of not getting 110%… the costs of not only lost workers, but also of lost opportunities?

Engagement ROI Calculator: What Can You Gain?

Your Engagement R.O.I.?

Earlier this year we shared information about the Enterprise Engagement Academy and their various certification programs.

The Academy has also created a free “Engagement ROI Calculator” that is available to any organization.

The tool can be used to track the potential return-on-investment of an engagement initiative, and also provides a report showing the estimated impact of improving employee engagement.

According to Allan Schweyer, Curriculum Director for the Enterprise Engagement Academy and founder of the TMLU professional learning platform, the ROI Calculator is based on “very conservative estimates of the impact of lower and higher levels of engagement created by the Center for Talent Solutions.”

Should you like to test this resource, you’ll see it is quick and easy. Simply follow the “five step” links across the top of the page, as each of these steps will enable you to enter relevant data about your organization.

Here’s a quick link: http://myvirtualpartner.net/roicalculator/ROI.htm

Engagement, Motivation & Work

Enterprise engagement has been a frequently-addressed topic in this blog, and a recent post shared some of our Partners in Improvement group’s thoughts on an important element of an engagement strategy — rewards and recognition.

In that post, several points were made about being careful with the use of extrinsic, or monetary rewards as motivators.

To add some additional perspective,  the Enterprise Engagement Alliance shared information from a past New York Times column “The Secret of Effective Motivation,” in which authors Amy Wrzesniewski, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Yale School of Management, and Barry Schwartz, Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College, suggest that the most effective type of motivation in terms of actual long-term results is action based on an internal motive — that is, “the pleasure derived from the activity and results themselves rather than from an instrumental motive such as the desire for fame or money.”

“Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also… their financial success,” the article states.

This viewpoint is well-aligned with our “Engagement Around the Work” approach, which involves specific steps for achieving a
culture of engagement that is linked with team productivity, performance, and job satisfaction.

This approach incorporates a clear objective of engaging people around the one thing they all have in common—and the one thing that can bring about increased profitability and a sustainable competitive edge—the work.

As Bill Conway often said, “It’s all about the work!”

Read “Engagement Around the Work” white paper.

Rewards & Recognition Best Practices

Recent posts have focused on “rewards and recognition,” a crucial component of enterprise engagement.

We shared a range of perspectives based on discussions with our Partners in Improvement groups, who agreed that these programs are typically designed to achieve one of three objectives:

  • increased commitment
  • increased desired behavior or motivation
  • increased measurable results

Based on their collective experience the Partners identified the following eight criteria or best practices for an effective rewards and recognition program:

  1. Keep it simple: The most cost effective method of all seemed to be the simple thank you note. The notes, if done well, are widely appreciated and cost nothing more than the time and attention to set up a system of information when an individual or team deserved a thank you.
  2. Be very careful about extrinsic rewards: these can cause more trouble than benefits. Extrinsic rewards require very clear metrics, auditing, and careful, even elaborate design to ensure a focus on the rewarded metrics will not lead to deterioration of other facets of the organization. Obviously, this makes it hard to ‘keep it simple.’
  3. Be specific: it is much more effective to recognize a team or a person for a specific result or accomplishment than for generally doing a good job.
  4. Be timely: the closer in time the reward or recognition is to the accomplishment being recognized, the more impactful it will be.
  5. Be consistent: Be sure that you respond to comparable accomplishments in comparable ways.
  6. Be authentic: Sincerity in words of appreciation and praise are essential to an effective system of reward and recognition.
  7. Communicate widely: Publicity helps extend the celebration and communicates widely what is valued by the organization.
  8. Use team rewards to encourage better organization-wide results.

Rewards & Recognition Part 3: Comparisons

As discussed in our previous two posts, “Rewards & Recognition” programs can vary in a many ways.

For example some are very inexpensive to run, and others are costly; some are geared toward recognizing individuals, while others focus on rewarding teams.

Similarly, the reasons for implementing a program can differ a great deal, depending upon an organization’s situation and objectives; and as our Partners in Improvement groups discussed, the outcomes — both intended and otherwise — can also vary.

During our Partners’ discussions three distinct types of programs were compared:

  1. “After-the-Fact” rewards vs. “Defined Benefit” awards:
    Some organizations conduct recognition and reward programs that are designed to ‘catch people’ doing the right things, such as a “caught in the act” program that recognizes individuals by posting a card describing their accomplishments on a wall in the lunch room, or a “Bravo” program for peer-to-peer recognition, where recipients are awarded small gifts — in the $5-10 range.  These systems are designed to encourage certain behaviors and accomplishments — but an individual may or may not
    be one of the lucky ones ‘caught.’ Not every worthy act is rewarded, but the belief is that the program reinforces the
    desired behavior overall.

    Alternatively, some awards are planned in advance, such as an organization that gives one day off to everyone after every 250,000 hours without a lost time accident, or another program that promised a raise to all employees if first pass yield metrics were achieved.  Along the same lines, one organization implemented a partially-defined reward: the reward was defined, the criteria were defined, but there would be only one winner and the identity of that winner would remain uncertain until the end. This prize, in this case, was a one year lease on a BMW for the manager with the best results. The success of this program depended on being well-hyped in advance so that every manager improves his or her results in order to try to win. However, the size of the prize being so significant caused some dissatisfaction among some of the managers who didn’t win.

    Conclusions: both the individual and team concepts are effective. If a “one winner” approach is taken it is best to keep the value of the single award on the lower-end as opposed to awarding one “big” prize such as the above-referenced car lease.

  2. Team Awards vs. Individual Rewards:
    The primary advantage of individual recognition is the precision of being able to reward and recognize a person who best exemplifies the behavior that the organization wants to encourage.  Consider that, on any team, there are bound to be stronger and weaker contributors. The weaker contributors on a strong team are, perhaps, unfairly recognized for contributions they may not have made. Furthermore, the stronger contributors to a weak team are unfairly under-recognized and may become less motivated.  Individual rewards and recognition enable organizations to reward the people they believe most deserve it.

    However, often the success of an operational or project team as a whole is far more important to an organization’s success than the actions of individuals. Recognizing operational teams as well as temporary teams for their contributions encourages effective teamwork, helping one another to get further faster. It takes a mix of talents and personalities to build an effective team and while a team may have one or two stars, the success may also be due to the down-to-earth individual who keeps the group focused or the individual with the easy personality that defuses tensions and egos in order to keep the group working effectively.  Our research into employee engagement suggests that being viewed as an important member of a team is also very motivating. Indeed, in Daniel Pink’s book Drive, The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he describes the pleasure people receive from being part of something bigger: a team, a movement, a purpose.

    Conclusions: While the benefits associated with individual rewards were recognized, the vast majority of our Partners expressed strong support for the benefits of team rewards and recognition.

  3. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Rewards:
    Intrinsic rewards are those that strive to produce a sense of appreciation, belonging, satisfaction or contributing to a higher purpose. Some rewards are free, such as a thank you note, a parking space, or putting a person or team’s picture in the newsletter. Some intrinsic rewards may cost the giver something,
    such as buying a team lunch, giving everyone a day off, and making a contribution to a charity of the person or team’s choice, but these rewards are non-monetary and are not designed to appeal to a person’s acquisitiveness. Rather they emphasize the organization’s appreciation for a person or team’s contribution.

    By contrast, monetary rewards have a simple and clear cash value for the recipient. For example, a grocery chain gives $50 to any individual accumulating six ‘stars’ which are awarded by coworkers or customers to recognize exceptional service. The main advantage of monetary rewards is that, whether the amount is large or small, public or private, before or after
    the fact, one can expect that all recipients will value the reward because the recipient can spend it however they choose.

    Conclusions: While appreciating the clear nature of extrinsic rewards, nearly all of our Partners had a cautionary tale about unintended consequences; and the bigger the reward, the bigger the problems. Unlike rewards aimed at intrinsic motivation, the problem with extrinsic rewards was not that they might fail to influence the recipients, but rather that the outcomes were often entirely different than intended. For example, the organizations that implemented large monetary rewards, such as the BMW lease, found they attracted attention and inspired avarice as intended. Many people really wanted to win them. In fact, a good many people felt they deserved to win them. The unintended results included resentment, accusations of unfairness, and powerful disincentives for people to help one another to raise the overall performance of the organization. Team morale took a serious hit as well.  As one of the Partners put it, “An extrinsic reward seems to create 1 winner and 99 losers.”

Ultimately, our Partners agreed upon a list of best practices, which we will share in our next post.

Rewards & Recognition – Part 1: Variation

We recently attended the “Engagement World” expo in Galveston, Texas, at which all aspects of enterprise engagement were discussed including ISO 10018 and  standardized engagement plans.

Simply stated, to be truly effective, an engagement plan must contain certain elements, including a method for rewarding and recognizing  desired behaviors and outcomes.

This fact was spelled-out in a prior post, noting that Rewards & Recognition is an important component of a comprehensive engagement plan. In addition, our Partners in Improvement discussed this fact, and shared some interesting insights regarding various ways of recognizing and rewarding people, and the variation in results.

For example,  some, like a service award, are very predictable; if you reach an anniversary, you are likely to receive one. But many other recognition programs include an element of surprise when exceptional service is spotted.

Some rewards cost the organization little or nothing — such as a thank you note or a special parking place. Others are quite costly, such as a one year lease on a car, or an upscale ‘President’s Award.’

Some are for teams, and others are for individuals. Many of the rewards and recognition are after the fact, while some are announced and hyped in advance in order to encourage people to try for them.

The amazing variety allowed us to explore the benefits and unexpected drawbacks of the different types of rewards and recognition. But despite the variety of implementations, the objectives were really quite simple. An organization implements a reward and recognition program for one of these three reasons:

  1. To increase the recipient’s satisfaction and happiness with the organization and his or her role within it
  2. To motivate continuation of certain types of behaviors and accomplishments
  3. To motivate people to work to achieve certain measurable results

We’ll take a closer look at these differing approaches in our next few posts, and share some surprising data points regarding outcomes and predictability.

Engagement & CI Correlation

In one of last year’s posts we noted that, while enterprise engagement has emerged as a key objective in today’s business world, a surprising number of organizations have no formalized engagement strategy.

At this year’s Engagement World Conference in Galveston, this fact was once again recognized, along with several other connections between enterprise engagement and Continuous Improvement (CI).

For one, an ad-hoc approach is almost never effective.

Whether attempting to engage a workforce or drive continuous improvement, a formalized plan with clearly-stated objectives and measures is required.

Similarly, without the buy-in and support of top management, engagement and improvement efforts alike are bound to fail… they will not become the “cultural way,” and instead will simply peter-out as priorities shift.

Another correlation is the importance of quantification. Just as a CI project requires us to quantify waste and the gains our effort will generate, a successful engagement initiative will include the calculation of an anticipated return on investment or ROI once objectives are achieved.

Finally, just as ISO 9001 helped bring-about the use of more standard procedures in CI, ISO 10018 will now encourage organizations to standardize their engagement efforts. 

As noted in our previous post, the emergence of these new standards brings into focus both process improvement and quality people management/engagement, both of which are necessary to achieve and sustain high levels of quality and performance.

 

 

ISO Quality Management Principles – Balancing Process & People

As you may know, in 2015 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) issued an update to its widely followed 9001 standards. 

This update was not, at the time, officially part of the 9001 standards, but it included the addition of new Quality Management Principles outlining, according to an Engagement Strategies Media (ESM) article, the fundamental conditions necessary for an organization to sustain high levels of quality and performance.

The Quality Management Principles are:
  1. Customer focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Engagement of people
  4. Process approach
  5. Improvement
  6. Evidence-based decision-making
  7. Relationship management

As noted in the article, these principles focus on both “process” and “people/engagement.” As the article goes on to suggest, this balanced focus is clearly necessary to achieve and sustain high levels of quality and performance.

Read the full article…