Category Archives: Employee Productivity

Empathy: Corporate Performance Enhancer?

If you’ve heard me speak on “Humanity Means Business,” you know I pay a lot of attention to the intersection of corporate culture, business performance, and people. And I mention several organizations that measure and/or rank employers on scales of relevant cultural attributes. It is sometimes surprising to audiences that top ranked (on a number of lists) employers are also top financial performers. So lists like FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and WorldBlu’s annual list of certified employers, along with BCorp certified companies and devotees of the Conscious Capitalism movement – all provide road maps for leaders to enhance corporate performance through creating strong, human (of varying sorts) relationships with their people. And it’s always interesting to me that many organizations show up on more than one list.

Through  my Facebook feed, I found a different list posted on Harvard Business Review Online on December 1, 2016:  The 20 Most Empathetic Companies, 2016. This “corporate fitbit for empathy” is about “understanding our emotional impact on others and making change as a result” and its authors believe that empathy “is more important to a successful business than it has ever been, correlating to growth, productivity, and earnings per employee.” While the authors don’t share those correlations, they do share the 2016 list. And the listed companies do not surprise; they show up on other lists.

“The Empathy Index seeks to answer the question: Which companies are successfully creating empathetic cultures? These are the companies that retain the best people, create environments where diverse teams thrive, and ultimately reap the greatest financial rewards.”

Based on this list, I’ll easily believe that they all have better than average retention statistics, and certainly strong records of financial performance. But I wonder if each company on their list is truly an organization “where diverse teams thrive.” One just needs to note the number of Silicon Valley tech companies on the list. We all recognize the diversity challenges these organizations face – including those on this list.

The article’s author, Belinda Parmer, says “the tech sector continues to lead our ranking, now accounting for an even bigger share of our top ten (60% in 2016 versus 50% in 2015), with Facebook knocking Microsoft off the top spot, owing to its focus on improving its internal culture and the introduction of the Empathy Lab.” So trying counts. But should it?

I wonder at the assumptions being made by the researchers. These are their research parameters:

  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • Company culture
  • Brand perception
  • Public messaging through social media
  • CEO approval ratings from staff
  • Ratio of women on boards
  • Number of accounting infractions and scandals
  • A carbon metric was added in 2016

That’s a lot. They don’t say how they measure these components, just that many are from public sources. Counting the number of women on boards is easy. Measuring ethics and culture are not. Defining and measuring brand perception is doable, measuring leadership is not.

I think we’d all agree that empathy is a good thing – for people and organizations. I’m really not sure, however, that empathy – as a leading organizational culture characteristic – is that meaningful. Are these 20 companies on this list because they’re trying to be empathetic? Or are they on the list because they pay people fairly and well; have intelligent, approachable leaders; are competitive in their sectors and have business plans that take advantage of – and lead – their market conditions? I’m not sure we can tell.

I’m not convinced that empathy as a corporate culture cornerstone is something that moves the performance needle more than respect, intelligence, humanity and flexibility – or any other list of current cultural attributes. It’s an interesting discussion, though, and I encourage you to read the HBR online article. It will definitely get you thinking.

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Diversity, Empathy, Employee Engagement, Employee Productivity, Engagement, HBR Online, Workplace Culture

Want To Improve Your Business Outcomes?

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Last week I wrote about the new Gallup report, State of the American Workplace, and discussed some of its broader findings. This week, we’ll dig in a little more specifically.

Two of the chapters, U.S. Workers: Increasingly Confident and Ready to Leave, and The Competitive Advantage of Engaging Employees, should be required reading for all leaders as well as HR folks.

Let’s look at the chapter on U.S. workers having one foot out the door first. According to Gallup, “51% of U.S. employees say they are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings.” Think about that for a minute. A little more than half of your employees have at least one foot out the door.

Optimism about the job market is up for good reason:  hiring is up. Gallup measures job creation and reports its Job Creation Index. In 2012 the Gallup Job Creation Index averaged +18. For the first three quarters of 2016, it averaged +32. So our employees have a deservedly high level of confidence that when they leave, they can find a good replacement job fairly quickly. It’s no wonder that many of our employees have a “grass is greener” outlook.

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And, of course, all of these reasons tie into your HR strategies, policies and plans. Your approach to employee engagement should be tying in to these 5 reasons for employee resignations.

While there are many definitions for employee engagement, this really caught my eye in the report:

“Some leaders and managers believe the ultimate goal of employee engagement is higher levels of worker happiness and satisfaction. Happier workers certainly benefit an organization, but the real goal of employee engagement is improved business outcomes.”

Boom! Let me quote this again:  “…the real goal of employee engagement is improved business outcomes.” Every definition of employee engagement works here – as long as we understand the real outcome for which we’re working.

If employees are happier, they’ll work smarter and harder and quality will go up, improving our business outcomes.

If employees feel respected, they’ll be more committed and stay longer, improving our business outcomes.

If employees’ skills are developed, they’ll make greater contributions, improving our business outcomes.

If employees see a career path forward, they’ll be more committed and stay longer, improving our business outcomes.

If employees feel connected to the organization’s mission, they’ll spend more of their discretionary energy on the job, improving our business outcomes.

You get the point. As you’ll see in the chapter on The Competitive Advantage of Engaging Employees, employee engagement isn’t a nice-to-have any more. In this age of talent shortages and high turnover, employee engagement is a requirement to meet and exceed our business goals.

Gallup has been measuring employee engagement globally for a long time. In the U.S. the figures for the last 16 years are surprising. And not in a good way. They are actually alarming. Take a look:

gallup-engagement-2017-original

What’s alarming about this data is that, essentially, despite a ton of investment in programs, approaches, technology, and training, the employee engagement needle hasn’t moved since 2000. For all intents and purposes, despite our best (?) efforts, the percentage of the workforce that is either Not Engaged or Actively Disengaged hasn’t moved at all over the last 16 years. Somehow, despite our best efforts, we are not convincing our employees that we value them, that we need them, or that we want them. And they’re actively looking. Add in to the equation that there a lots of jobs available – and a lot of them are good jobs – and it’s easy to see why employees feel empowered to check out the green grass across the street or across the country.

Perhaps we aren’t speaking their language. Perhaps we aren’t letting them in as real partners in our drive for success. Perhaps we aren’t asking, or listening, or engaging. But it’s clear from this data – and a great many other sources – that the average organization needs to step up its employee engagement game.

The data are clear. Engaged employees – use definition you like – have lower turnover, lower absenteeism, higher customer metrics, higher productivity, higher sales, higher profitability – as I have been quoted saying, “everything we measure that we want to go up will go up, and everything we measure that we want to go down will down when we create a culture that values its humans.”

Download this report. Download it today and start considering how you can improve your business outcomes by engaging your employees.

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Filed under China Gorman, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Employee Productivity, Gallup, Happiness at Work, Talent Management, Workforce Management, Workplace Culture

That State of American Jobs and Workers

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While I was browsing the internet looking for some economic data, I came across this 2016 report from the Pew Research Center:  The State of American Jobs. And it is compelling! The Pew Research Center is “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. They conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research.”

This report is hefty at 95 pages, but it is totally readable. And full of great information about the state of the U.S. workforce. I couldn’t put it down. (Well, I couldn’t stop scrolling forward.)

There are five sections – and they’re all fascinating. If you have anything to do with people in your organization – hiring, managing, training, deploying – there will be nuggets here that will absolutely help you be more effective. The five sections are:

  1. Changes in the American workplace
  2. How Americas assess the jobs situation today and prospects for the future
  3. How Americans view their jobs
  4. Skills and training needed to compete in today’s economy
  5. The value of a college education

Each of these alone are fascinating topics and the data/analysis provided generate great food for thought and action. An opening overview section sets the stage for a fascinating discussion of how American workers are assessing their skills, their ability to be competitive in the economy and the role of the U.S. education infrastructure to ensure employability.

Here are two graphs from the overview section that ought to catch your eye. First:

pew-2And second:

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Each of these graphs tells a profound story about workers, responsibility for employability, and the role of our education system in preparing workers for careers. And these are just in the overview. Wait until you see the nuggets in each of the following 5 chapters.

95 pages seem long – but it really isn’t. There are insights galore here that can help you in your talent attraction, development, retention and deployment policies and programs. And you don’t have to dig to get to the nuggets. They’re right there on the surface. Download it here, and browse through it first. Then go back and delve in to the chapters that really appeal to you. If you’re in any kind of people business – and who isn’t? – those nuggets will be valuable. Totally worth your time.

 

 

 

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Productivity, HR Data, HR Trends, Human Capital, Pew Research Center, Post-secondary education, Talent Analytics, Workforce Demographics, Workforce Planning

Facebook and Snapchat are the least of our worries

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The Workforce Institute at Kronos has just published an eye-opening report on the cost of wasted time at work. The $687 Billion Question, discusses the impact of what Kronos labels engagement and what others might label productivity. The focus is on some surprising causes of low productivity in the workplace based on responses to research of conducted in 2016. It included 314 online surveys and detailed interviews with HR professionals (105), Operations/Line of Business managers (105) and employees (104) at companies with more than 600 employees in the Retail (21%), Healthcare (20%), Public Sector (20%), Manufacturing (19%), Service (16%), and Transportation and Logistics (4%) sectors.

The report shows in detail some unexpected — and wholly controllable — causes of low productivity and discusses the ramifications of just one hour of wasted time. And by wasted time, they don’t mean Snapchatting, staying current on Facebook, or making personal phone calls. They mean time wasted by inefficient processes and systems. Time wasted by dealing with office politics, with administrative tasks unrelated to the job, unnecessary complexity, and lack of appropriate skills – all contributing to low productivity at work.

The report provides data and analysis in five sections:

  1. Stuck in the middle: People are torn between meeting customer needs and manager expectations

  2. Small changes create big rewards: Why reducing one hour of wasted time can save billions of dollars

  3. Why your greatest asset shouldn’t be a liability: Balancing the needs of people with the numbers

  4. Bridging the engagement gap: Turning technology into an engagement tool and competitive advantage

  5. Don’t dash for cash: Use communication, collaboration, and culture to keep employees engaged

Easily understood graphics abound and the discussion of the hard dollar losses to our organizations is compelling and important.

kronos-questionThat’s $4,554 per year per employee. That’s the $687 Billion price tag.

So, if our employees spend additional time goofing off on social media, shopping online, or dealing with personal business while on the clock, the $687 billion cost just gets bigger and bigger. Not good. Definitely not good.

The $687B Question is a quick read and helps frame the cost of controllable kinds of unproductive employee time. This kind of lack or productivity is clearly able to be reduced. But first we have to be aware of it. What’s the cost in your organization?

 

*Note:  I serve on the board of the Workforce Institute at Kronos

 

 

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Employee Productivity, Kronos, Workforce Institute