Category Archives: Workforce Engagement

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.

Engagement vs. Disengagement – What’s at Stake?

Recent posts have focused on various ways of promoting workforce engagement, which has been among the most popular topics among business leaders over the past 12-24 months.

However, it is less common to hear people speak in specific terms about the real, often hidden, costs associated with disengagement.

During recent meetings with our Partners in Improvement, a group of Improvement specialists from across North America, these costs were discussed in detail. The Partners’ conclusions were well-aligned with those published by numerous sources, including the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and Gallup.

Simply stated, disengaged employees create a negative and expensive ripple effect throughout an organization, and drive-up costs in five specific ways:

Higher turnover: Disengaged employees leave their employers as soon as they see a better opportunity. This turnover increases the costs of recruiting, on-boarding, and training, which typically range between 16% – 22% of salary for low-to-mid-level employees, and significantly more for higher-level executives based on a Center for American Progress study. In addition, every new hire brings a risk of a bad fit, and every employee leaving an organization takes with them some organizational knowledge that might have been helpful to that organization in future decisions.

Lower productivity, lower profitability: Disengaged employees don’t go the extra mile; they do not make an extra effort when faced with a challenge, and don’t put forth the same discretionary effort that an engaged person will make. An article published by the Harvard Business Review said that organizations with high levels of employee engagement yield a 22% increase in productivity over the norm.

Similarly, the Engaged Company Stock Index, which tracks the long-term results of companies with high levels of customer, employee, and community engagement as determined by independent data sources compiled by McBassi & Company, has outperformed the S&P 500 (including dividends) by 36.2 percentage points since October 1, 2012.

Little or no process improvement: Improvement requires engagement — a willingness to design and conduct experiments, a willingness to take risks to try something new and potentially better. However, disengaged employees tend to focus on their personal agendas and see little upside in trying something new to forward the organization’s goals.

Higher pay: When we say about someone, “They are only in it for the money,” we are observing disengagement. While money is important to nearly everyone, if that is the only motivation, there is no genuine engagement. As the behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, said, “Money is the most expensive way to motivate someone.”

Organizations that are unable to create an environment that intrinsically engages their employees must pay them more to keep and motivate them.

The associated cost of lost opportunities is difficult to calculate; but our experience and data surfaced over the past three-plus decades has consistently shown that, of the four primary forms of waste (capital waste, lost time, material waste, lost opportunities), the “lost opportunities” are the greatest.

Considering the above-listed realities, it is not surprising that ISO 10018, which provides guidance on engaging people in an organization’s quality management system, has become more prominent and a new certification created.

Our next post will focus on specific ways to reduce or eliminate these real costs of disengagement.

4DX & Engagement Part 4: The Scoreboard

As we’ve noted in recent posts, the effective execution of improvement and other strategic initiatives results in both goal achievement and workforce engagement. Thus it is to any organization’s advantage to promote and enable effective execution… as presented in “The Four Disciplines of Execution,” a book  by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling.

The first two disciplines are setting Wildly Important Goals (WIGs or lag measures) and Lead Measures (activities).

The third discipline, which has a strong impact on engaging people throughout the organization, is a scoreboard.

The scoreboard shows the lead measures and lag measure defined in the first two disciplines.  This scoreboard must be ‘a players’ scoreboard’ not a ‘coach’s scoreboard’. It must support, guide, and motivate the players to act effectively on the lead measures and influence the lag measures (WIG’s). It must have the feel of a game — people play the game differently when they are keeping score, and they play differently if they are keeping the score themselves!

In fact, the action of recording their own results has proved to have a strong effect on people ― fostering ownership, engagement, and a deeper appreciation of the impact of their effort.

However, as authors Covey, McChesney, and Huling point out, there are four important requirements to creating an effective scorecard that will truly promote execution and engagement:

  1. The scorecard must be visible. If it is out of sight, on your computer or on the back of the door, it is less effective at aligning the team to focus on moving those measurements.
  2. It must be simple, showing only the data required to ‘play the game’ ― to let the players know how they are doing day to day.
  3. It must show both lead and lag measures.
  4. It must show “at a glance” how the team or players are doing.

This scoreboard helps the team to both recognize their progress and also identify the next actions required to achieve the WIG’s; it also displays their achievement for all to see ― two critical components of engagement.

From a communication perspective, the scoreboard also plays a role in promoting a sense of accountability, which we’ll discuss in our next post.

4DX & Engagement Part 2: WIGS

Our previous post summarized “The Four Disciplines of Execution,” a book  by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling that presents four key “disciplines” for achieving strategic goals.  The disciplines enable people to look beyond the day-to-day requirements of their jobs (the “whirlwind”) to move the organization forward to accomplish something great… to improve both the work and the workplace.

Equally as important, this achievement and the related sense of accomplishment are key ingredients for engaging the workforce; and the research is clear: an organization with a highly-engaged workforce enjoys a significant competitive advantage, including:

  • 50% higher profit
  • 43% higher productivity
  • 80% less turnover
  • 7 times less likely to have a lost-time accident

In addition, and as noted in our previous post, people become increasingly engaged when their goals are clear.

Thus the importance of the first discipline, which is to identify the Wildly Important Goal (WIG). This is the thing that will make the biggest difference for the organization.

Simplicity and focus are important elements in selecting this key goal. More improvements and more goals and objectives can and will be sought, but not at the same time; and while subsequent goals can be different from the first goal, they must ensure the success of the first, most important goal.

An analogy presented is that the first WIG is like a war, and all subsequent or supporting WIG’s are battles; ultimately, winning the battles ensures winning the war.

Each WIG must also have a clear finish line or statement of success. It must be stated in this form: we will get from x to y by when.

This leads to a quick realization… once the goals are identified, then specific action steps for “getting from x to y by when” must also be identified.

Which leads us to the second “discipline,” which we’ll review in our next post.

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The Most Effectively Managed U.S. Companies

On Wednesday December 6, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the country’s most effectively-managed companies as ranked by the Drucker Institute.

Interestingly, the selections were based on a “holistic approach, examining how well a business does in five areas that reflect Mr. Drucker’s core principles.” These areas are:

  1. Customer satisfaction
  2. Employee engagement and development
  3. Innovation
  4. Social responsibility
  5. Financial strength

In case you’re curious, the top 5 on Drucker’s “250 most effectively-managed” list are:

  1. Amazon.com Inc.
  2. Apple Inc.
  3. Alphabet Inc.
  4. Johnson & Johnson
  5. I.B.M. Corp.

It’s encouraging to see customer satisfaction and employee engagement/development atop the criteria list, as these emerging measures have proved to be common threads among the most successful organizations we’ve encountered — these organizations tend to enjoy a safer, more productive workplace, with low team turnover, high safety ratings, and high customer retention rates; they operate with a culture of continuous improvement, and they are consistently able to achieve goals through people in a measurable way.

10 Workplace Behaviors that Promote Engagement & a High-Performing Culture

As noted in a previous post, new ISO Standards (ISO 10018) are about to be introduced, which will focus on employee engagement.  This development is considered long-overdue by many, as  surprisingly few organizations have a formalized engagement strategy.

If you would like to create such a strategy, here are ten behaviors  you might initiate, which are based on our research and experience that shows productive employees tend to be engaged employees (as opposed to the other way around. Read more on this perspective…).

  1. As with all change initiatives, get acceptance and buy-in from senior leaders. Little will be accomplished without this; the best results are achieved when leaders understand the benefits of engagement and take action.
  2. Create a formalized implementation plan and establish performance measures so that progress can be tracked. Develop realistic, achievable, and measurable goals and objectives.
  3. Work with the leaders so that they can model the right behaviors and cascade the concepts to their reports and throughout the organization.
  4. Create and equip project teams to identify and quantify opportunities for
    improvement.
  5. Foster an atmosphere of collaboration, innovation, continuous improvement, and fun.
  6. Make sure people have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed.
  7. Empower people to take action.
  8. Implement an appropriate integrated communication plan, reinforcing the concept of improving both the “work and workplace.”
  9. Reward and recognize people so that they feel supported in their efforts.
  10. Measure return on investment, and reinvest appropriately in the above-listed activities.

 

Productivity & Workforce Engagement

While employee engagement has emerged as a key objective in today’s business world, a surprising number of organizations have no formalized engagement strategy.

Or they fall prey to the misconception that “happy employees are more productive employees,” which has been disproved time-and-time-again. As it turns out, dress-down Fridays, free pizza or flex-time programs might create some short-term buzz, but the excitement doesn’t last; and the impact is neither greater productivity nor higher engagement levels.

In fact, the opposite is the reality — that is,
“productive employees tend to be engaged
employees,” not the other way around.

Consider that people like to feel successful… they
like to be part of a winning team… a productive
team. You might also consider three important
and corroborating data points that were
published on Forbes.com:

  • A happy worker is not always a productive worker, and job satisfaction yields membership but not always productivity.
  • People differ in what they value and in what motivates them.
  • While it is typically better to have higher, rather than lower, engagement scores, engagement alone is not enough. In order to improve organizational performance, engagement, motivation, and performance must be addressed… and must be used to make data-based changes that will drive employee retention, performance, and commitment… not “just” engagement.

Driving productivity as a means of achieving and maintaining high-levels of workforce engagement enables an organization to more easily promote and reward desired behaviors, measure and document progress, and ultimately realize tangible results.

Equally as important, the measured return on investment enables leadership to further invest in the workforce as well as the workplace, thus promoting a culture of continuous
improvement and engagement throughout.

Work Matters!

A blog post by Dr. Dr. Alison Eyring, the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, a global consultancy specializing in organizational design, references the the degree to which so many world-renowned journalists are commitment to their work.

“Their work has meaning,” she writes. “It is important. It matters. They matter.”

Eyring goes on to discuss engagement, and how it can mean many things to many people.  But overall, “it has to do with the degree to which people are willing to expend discretionary effort… to do great work, to stay in the company and to contribute to the community of employees around them.”

Yet despite the millions of dollars spent on various activities attempting to “engage” employees, many employers find the majority of their employees are disengaged (70% based on recent Gallup polls).

Eyring also states that “work motivates and satisfies us when it has meaning, offers autonomy, and leverages a variety of skills. If we want high levels of engagement, we have to go beyond leader behavior or employee characteristics and look to the way we structure work.”

This perspective is well-aligned with our Engagement Around the Work” white paper.

The simple truth is that people prefer to work in an environment where their work is important — where their work matters; and in an environment in which they can be productive.

In the end, working on things that matter to us and working productively are the key drivers of sustainable engagement.

Engagement R.O.I.?

As recently published by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, the Engaged Company Stock Index (ECSI) has continued to out-pace both expectations and recognized financial industry indexes.

The ECSI tracks the long-term results of companies with high levels of customer, employee, and community engagement as determined by independent data sources compiled by McBassi & Company.  It has outperformed the S&P 500 (including dividends) by 25.6% in 4 ½ years.

The Good Company portfolio includes 45 companies with combined high scores as employers, sellers, and stewards of the community and environment.

Tracking of the portfolio began on October 1, 2012.  The consistently good performance aligns with our experience that productivity and engagement are closely linked.

Read the full article…

5 Ways to Reduce the Cost of Disengagement

Our previous post shared data on the various and real costs associated with disengaged workers.

Here are five proactive steps that can be taken to avoid these costs and the collateral damage to team morale and brand that is a regular side-effect.

  1. Enhanced recruiting and on-boarding — A good first step toward increasing employee engagement and retention can be taken at the recruiting stage. This might involve the inclusion of the organization’s mission and vision into interviewing conversations, and a more conscious effort to identify and hire people with aligned goals. Adding a mentor program to the on-boarding process can help new hires assimilate faster so they become more productive in less time as well.
  2. Consistent performance management and communication — As expressed in a Forbes article by Victor Lipman, “People leave managers, not companies.” People need to have meaning in their work, and understand how their work aligns with organizational objectives. If managers communicate a shared purpose or sense of direction, and encourage employees to openly share their perspectives and input, then they can increase employee engagement. This communication works best when systematized as part of structured, proactive approach to performance management. This methodology includes frequent feedback rather than annual performance appraisals and reviews, ongoing engagement surveys with real-time feedback loops, and protocols for keeping people aware of how individual work impacts organizational goals and how it aligns with mission and vision.
  3. Learning and development — Forward thinking business leaders understand that the path to sustainable employee engagement is to drive productivity, and to do so through ongoing education and empowerment. In support of this perspective, a recent article in Human Resource Executive magazine identified “continuous learning opportunities and personal development” as being two of the four key criteria (scheduling flexibility and social responsibility being the other two) recent graduates value most as they evaluate career options. But expanding workloads and limited resources can make it difficult to provide initial and refresher training for senior leaders, associates, and new hires. Learning management systems (LMS) enable many organizations to maintain training and development programs in a manageable way.
  4. Recognition and rewards — Recognizing and rewarding employees is not a new concept, but if the goal is to engage people rather than simply acknowledge milestones (such as length of service), then the approach must be aligned with what is meaningful to each recipient. The Enterprise Engagement Alliance suggests stepping-back from the traditional monetary rewards.
  5. Flexibility and work/life balance — Employer/employee relationships, expectations, and engagement criteria have evolved significantly over the past decade. Data from a PwC survey of 44,000 workers who had become less-engaged indicated that “71% said their jobs interfered with their personal lives, and 70% said they wanted to be able to work from home.” Employees can also become disengaged when they feel their managers “only care” about the bottom line. More than one-third of U.S. employees (39%) don’t believe their bosses encourage them to take allotted vacation days, and almost half (45%) say their bosses don’t help them disconnect from work while on vacation, according to a Randstad survey. Employers who proactively maintain positive relationships with employees and encourage them to utilize allotted vacation time are more likely to boost company morale, reduce turnover and increase productivity.

Read the full article…