Category Archives: Engagement

I’m Not Your Mother!

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This is a popular post from a year ago. I was reminded of it at the WorkHuman conference earlier this month.

Some things are simple. Some things are complicated. And some things that seem simple are actually pretty complicated. For example, it seems like a simple observation that happy employees are better employees. And, in fact, data abound to prove that point. But how to get happy employees is a little more complicated.

Early in my career as a business leader I always believed that people were my critical competitive edge and that creating a strong, caring culture was my job. But happiness? Come on. I wasn’t my employees’ mother. The nature of the employer/employee relationship, I believed, was a commercial relationship. Employees come to work, do a good job and I pay them. The more I could remove obstacles from their ability to do good work, the more I could offer development and thanks for a job well done, the better they performed. It wasn’t rocket science. Treat people well and they’ll treat your employees well. I got that. But trying to make them happy? I didn’t think that was part of the deal. (And I was a pretty effective business leader.)

But as I matured as a leader, I did begin to wonder about this notion of working to create happiness at work. I spent some time at Zappos – a culture whose leader is all about making his workforce happy. And while the Zappos culture wouldn’t be a fit for me, it worked for them. And they were happy. Really happy. And their business results were such that they could sell the business to Amazon for over $1 billion.

And then I became CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute and was covered over in data that prove a direct line from employee well-being to financial performance. And so while early in my career the notion of employee happiness didn’t register as a leadership imperative, I now believe that creating a culture that, in Tony Hseih’s words, delivers happiness to employees is quite clearly a practical and effective way to achieve top line growth, profitability, customer loyalty and, most importantly, employee loyalty.

In preparation for the Globoforce WorkHuman Conference in a couple of weeks, I was reading up on employee happiness and ran across one of their white papers, The Science of Happiness. It’s a quick read and makes some rather simple but profound points backed up by reliable data.

Here are 6 reasons why you want happy employees based on research from the Wall Street Journal and the iOpener Institute. Happy employees:

  • Stay twice as long in their jobs as their least happy colleagues
  • Believe they are achieving their potential 2x as much
  • Spend 65% more time feeling energized
  • Are 58% more likely to go out of the way to help their colleagues
  • Identify 98% more strongly with the values of their organization
  • Are 186% more likely to recommend their organization to a friend

Download the paper. It’ll take you less than 10 minutes to read and will give you some simple ideas to begin to see the benefits of focusing on employee well-being and happiness. And then join me at the WorkHuman Conference next year and let’s talk about happiness, gratitude, culture, and employee and organization success.

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Filed under China Gorman, Conferences, Culture, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Engagement, Globoforce, Gratitude, WorkHuman

CEO Insights: The Bumpy Road to ALWAYS ON

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PWC’s 17th annual global CEO report “Good to Grow: 2014 US CEO Survey”, provides a thorough snapshot of executive leadership perspectives and approaches at the current moment. PWC’s report includes perspectives from over 1,300 CEOs from 68 countries, including 162 CEOs with US-headquartered organizations. It’s clear from the responses that, globally, CEOs are making many changes within their organizations. For example, 86% of CEOs stated that advancing technologies are going to transform their businesses over the next five years. Positively, PWC’s data also suggests that CEOs are finding reasons to be more confident in many places (89% of US CEOs are fairly sure their companies will deliver revenue growth this year). In this period of rapid change though, what approaches are CEOs taking, and what insights can they offer?

The majority of CEO’s interviewed reported that “five great forces of transformation” are reshaping business as we know it:

  • Technology is making an impact across the whole enterprise.
  • CEOs are reinventing the operating model towards an “always on customer experience.”
  • CEOs are seeking new ways to work together in joint ventures and alliances to capture disruptive technologies faster.
  • In some cases, the business model is being innovated.
  • There are rising concerns about talent.

As organizations undeniably shift into a period of growth (62% expect to hire more people this year, the highest level of anticipated headcount expansion in the past five years for this survey), how do these five great forces of transformation come into play?

All CEOs seem to agree, that technology is what propels business, and will continue to do so. PWC states that, in part, “Technology” is a watchword for 2014 because CEOs use it when talking about both core innovation and information technology (IT). Technology has become an essential part of strategy in all areas – for organizations pursuing new business models, meeting new customer expectations, remaking their operating model, forging new alliances, or tackling talent challenges.

pwc-Technology

 

CEOs are reshaping business models though innovation. They are taking cues from the technology industry that has paved the way by creating value for customers in a multitude of new ways. Organizations are looking to create increased profit for what they offer beyond step-by-step product innovation, and they are stepping out of the box to innovate in ways such as turning a product into a service, or vice versa. New approaches to innovation and R&D are part of an increased strategy by many US CEOs in 2014. For example, some organizations report funding innovation incubators to foster rapid prototyping of new ideas, while others report wanting to join up with emerging market innovators who are developing low-cost products.

PWC’s survey also indicates that customer strategies will get a serious makeover in 2014, with 52% of CEOs reporting that they are planning to change their customer growth and retention strategies. As creating a positive and personal customer experience only continues to increase in value (and as a standard of expectation) more organizations will see CEOs leading them toward a strategy of customer interaction. This will move away from stand-alone transactions to a sustainable “always on” relationship with customers. While CEOs plan out such new strategies, they are also discovering that most current capabilities are “fair game for reinvention.” The vast majority of CEOs are already debuting a fair number of change initiatives with a focus on moving away from rigid structures towards more nimble, adaptable operations.

pwc-reinventing-operations

Business alliances and joint ventures also appear as a CEO noted trend for 2014 – within the U.S. and globally. 42% of CEOs surveyed report that they plan to enter a business alliance/joint venture this year while only 4% expect they’ll exit an existing relationship. CEOs are also looking at acquisitions, with 39% of US CEOs planning to complete a domestic acquisition in 2014 and 28% planning on a cross-border deal.

A last trend to note from this survey is in regards to talent. I’ve talked about the talent acquisition “crisis” or “war on talent” in past posts, and unfortunately, PWC’s CEO survey does nothing to dispel this issue. 70% of US business leaders report being concerned about the availability of key skills. This compares to 54% that said so in 2013.

pwc-skill gaps

Despite continued economic uncertainty both within the U.S and globally, PWC reports that the number of US CEOs who believe that global growth is returning has more than doubled since last year, perhaps indicating that organizations are successfully finding a path forward. It is also clear from the research though, that this is a time of intense transformation, which encompasses a wide range of organizational areas and strategies. The ability to navigate such transformational trends is vital for organizational success. So while the overall sentiment is positive for growth, the ride to get there is going to bumpy. Are you and your teams ready to be “always on?”

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Filed under 100 Best Companies to Work For, Business Success, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, Engagement, HR, HR Data, Information Technology, Talent pipeline

From the Archives: We can’t succeed without Millennials

This was a very popular post from April, 2012. The data is pretty much the same. And it bears repeating.

Managers and supervisors (especially in the Baby Boomer cohort) in almost every type and size of business have been known to lament the lack of loyalty and so-called business savvy in the Millennial generation.

  • “They want to be promoted too fast!”
  • “They don’t want to pay their dues!”
  • “They don’t understand how things work!”
  • “They want too much flexibility!”
  • “When things don’t go their way they quit!”
  • “Why won’t they stay?”

The bottom line is that organizations are finding it challenging to keep Millennials engaged and on the payroll.  In fact, with the average employment tenure of workers in the 20-24 year -old age group at 1.5 years (per the BLS), it’s challenging to keep all our employees engaged and the on the payroll.  (See my previous post on the Quits vs. Layoffs gap.  It might not be what you think!)

Achievers and Experience Inc. fielded their annual survey of graduating college students in January.  The data are eye opening.

Despite what we think we know about them, the vast majority of these about-to-enter-the-workforce Milllennials would really like to stay with their next (in most cases, first) employer for 5 years or longer!  Wait.  What?  Look at the chart below:

47% of the 8,000 college graduating respondents in the Achievers/Experience Inc. survey indicated that they expected to stay with their next employer five years or longer.  Note the language:  expect to stay not would like to stay!  That means when they join our organizations they have every expectation of making a career with us.  They’re not just accepting a job.  They’ve evaluated our EVP (Employer Value Proposition) as a match for the meaning they want to create in their lives through their work.  (Interesting to note that the biggest percentage of respondents expect to stay with their employer for 10+ years!)

So, OK.  This has got to be their youthful exuberance and relative inexperience speaking, right?  Well, I wonder if that really matters.

Employers need these Millennials.  Employers need these Millennials now.  Employers will need these Millennials more every day.  (See my recent post here.)

And employers need them to stay a whole lot longer than 1.5 years!

So what happens between “I expect to stay with my employer for 10 or more years…” and “…after one year with the organization I’m leaving for a better opportunity”?  I think we all know that answer to that question.

We don’t live up to the EVP we sold them.  We don’t engage Millennials the way they tell us they want to be engaged.  Instead, we…

  • make sure they fit into our existing career paths and job descriptions
  • focus on making sure they “pay their dues” – the way we did
  • keep our processes and rules rigid and unbending – and only pretend to listen when they offer up “different” ways of working
  • resist the notion that work can be done with excellence anywhere but in a cubicle
  • make it difficult for Millennials to interact with senior leaders
  • make it difficult for Millennials to collaborate with colleagues
  • designate social responsibility activities a perk instead of a foundational value
  • try to “lure” them to stay with tenure-based plaques and timepieces

These data are a wake-up call for employers.  It’s a message from our talent pipeline that they really do want to engage with us; they believe our employer brand marketing messages; they want to learn and grow with us.

It’s time to listen harder and make sure our employer brand messages aren’t experienced as bait and switch tactics.

I don’t know about you, but I’d hate for the Millennials to have such negative employment experiences at the beginning of their careers that they opt out of organizational life altogether before they’re 30.  We’d really be in a pickle then!

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Filed under Achievers, Baby Boomers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Success, China Gorman, Demographics, Employment Data, Engagement, Millennials, Rewards & Recognition, Student Job Search, Talent pipeline, U.S. Department of Labor

Maybe Engagement Doesn’t Really Matter

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When Gallup released the most recent State of the American Workforce Report the engagement news was not good. Here’s what the report said:

“Currently, 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1, meaning that the vast majority of U.S. workers (70%) are not reaching their full potential — a problem that has significant implications for the economy and the individual performance of American companies.”

Because the basic premise is that organizations with highly engaged workforces produce better results than those with less engaged workforces, I was surprised that the press didn’t make more of this data. I wrote about it here, but it was about creating the business case for caring about whether or not employees are or are not engaged. I guess the overall sad state of engagement in the U.S. is a given and not newsworthy anymore.

But I saw some new Galllup survey data that, frankly, raises new questions for me, and makes me wonder if “engagement” is really what we should be measuring. And if “engagement” and stronger financial performance really are causal, as Gallup implies.

The survey question was “If you won $10 million in the lottery, would you continue to work, or would you stop working?” So a rational person might think, “Well, if 30% of the workforce is engaged and 70% of the workforce is not engaged, then probably 70% of the workforce would quit their jobs if they found themselves $10 million richer.” Wouldn’t you think that? I certainly did.

So imagine my surprise to see that the response to this survey question is exactly the opposite of what we would have expected! 68% of polled working adults said they’d keep working and 31% said they would quit. Exactly the opposite!

Gallup win the lottery 1I’m confused. But then I thought I had it figured out when I looked at the next question, which asked those who said they’d continue working if they’d stay in the same job or take a different job. “Aha!” I thought to myself. “The people who said they’d continue to work would surely take another job – a job in an organization that would be more engaging since they’re all not engaged.” But no. Nearly half of those said they’d even stay in the same job!

Gallup win the lottery 2

Now I’m really confused. Maybe it’s financial. Except that the positive trajectory to stay in the same job started way before the recession of 2009. So it may not be financially motivated. In fact, $10 million buys a lot less in 2013 than it did in 2005 – and still the percentage of workers saying they’d stay in the same job has grown substantially.

So what’s the deal? Does engagement even matter? If 67% of the population will continue to work after winning $10 million – and fully half of those will stay in the job they currently have, why do we care about engagement scores? Does engagement really matter?

Enquiring minds want to know!

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Engagement, Gallup, Winning the Lottery

Performance and Engagement: No More Smoke and Mirrors

data point tuesday_500 I was talking with the CEO and CMO of a startup software company in the HCM space yesterday. One of the things we talked about was the ready availability of data that link organizational performance with employee engagement. No longer the stuff of smoke and mirrors, the correlation between higher revenue, lower costs and greater customer satisfaction with employee engagement is rock solid. Whether the data come from academic researchers, think tanks, research/analysis firms or other interested parties, we can cite legitimate sources to underpin our ROI calculations. (See previous posts here and here.)

Gallup’s recently released State of the American Workforce is one example of such data. In the “From the CEO” introduction, Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton says:

“Here’s what you need to know:  Gallup research has found that the top 25% of teams – the best managed – versus the bottom 25% in any workplace – the worst managed – have nearly 50% fewer accidents and have 41% fewer quality defects. What’s more, teams in the top 25% versus the bottom 25% incur far less in healthcare costs. So having too few engaged employees means our workplaces are less safe, employees have more quality defects, and disengagement – which results from terrible managers – is driving up the country’s healthcare costs.”

Here’s the corresponding chart from the report:

Gallup Engagement KPIx

You may or may not have an opinion about Gallup’s Q12  methodology, but the longitudinal nature of their data — together with their periodic meta-analysis — says to me that their findings have weight. We can take to the bank – and to our CEOs and CFOs – the relationship between higher engagement and stronger organizational performance.

This is the data of sound and persuasive business cases for investing in the well-being of our employees. Take a look at the Gallup findings. You’ll find something that will spark an ah-ha moment. Or maybe two or three.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Engagement, Gallup

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot Isn’t an Effective Engagement Strategy

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Recent headlines from Gallup proclaiming that college-educated Americans are less engaged on the job than other cohorts may have spurred some conversation among HR leaders and professionals. Engagement, that elusive component to organizational success, is the holy grail many employers chase. And Gallup, the grand surveyor of people on all topics, has regularly published engagement data that either convinces us that engagement is a fraud or that we have to try harder to win over our workforces.

A recent USA TODAY article, “Higher education = lower joy on job?” quoted Gallup findings as well as findings from this report: “Why Are Recent College Graduates Underemployed?” from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The justaposition of these two sources shows an interesting picture.

Here’s Gallup’s data:

Gallup Engagement by Education 2013

So. According to Gallup, the most engaged group of workers are those who have earned a high school diploma or less.  And the least engaged group of workers are those who have earned a college degree. By themselves, the numbers are almost interesting. By themselves, the bigger news is that the numbers show that less than a third of the workforce is engaged, and more than two-thirds of the workforce is either not engaged or actively disengaged. OK. That’s interesting and cause for concern.

But put this Gallup data into the blender with this data from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and it gets a little more interesting:

College Grads Underemployed 2013

If nearly half of all American workers with college degrees are in jobs that do not require a college degree, might that have something to do with their level of engagement? Are nearly half of our college educated workforce bored on the job?

And if they are, and if we’re concerned about engagement, why are we putting them into jobs for which they are overqualified? Would high school graduates be more engaged and perform better? Would those better performers positively impact the financial performance of their employers?

The Center also asserts that

“past and projected future growth in college enrollments and the number of graduates exceeds the actual or projected growth in high-skilled jobs, explain the development of the underemployment problem and its probable worsening in future years.”

So they believe the engagement problem will grow worse – if there really is a causal relationship between engagement levels and the over-qualification of many of our workers.

What do we make of this? Well, I do think it’s common sense to believe that people who are significantly over-educated for the jobs they hold could well be bored and unengaged. But I also think that in this economy, many are grateful to have any job, over-educated or not. What that means for engagement is unclear to me. Except that Gallup, being the last word in survey data, shows a clear line between education levels and engagement.

shoe with bullet holeWhile this might be above my pay grade, I’m willing to make a leap here and suggest that hiring overqualified workers might not be the best strategy for boosting engagement. If we truly believe that engaged workers have a demonstrably positive impact on an organization’s financial performance – and that’s been the HR mantra for a number of years – then we are probably shooting ourselves in the foot by requiring college degrees for jobs that truly don’t need them.

I’ve written this before: the over-inflation of job requirements in job descriptions isn’t putting the unemployed in this country back to work. And now we know it isn’t helping organizational performance. Hmmm…

I’ll bet we can agree on this:  shooting ourselves in the foot isn’t an effective engagement strategy.

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Filed under Center for College Affordability and Productivity, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Education Deficit, Engagement, Gallup, Job Descriptions

The Tip of the Engagement Spear

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BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Research Update has recently been released.  It’s an update to their massive research published in 2011. Measuring engagement is tricky – from gaining consensus on terms and definitions, to crafting survey questions that generate useful answers, to identifying key findings, to agreeing on recommendations – it’s all very tricky.

BlessingWhite does a good job managing the trickiness.  But truthfully, there’s not a lot of difference in engagement scores globally since their 2011 findings.

Here’s what caught my attention, though, as it did 2 years ago, as I read through the report:  a greater percentage of the workforce trust their managers more than they trust the executives in their organizations.

This makes sense, right? Managers have day-to-day interaction with their colleagues and can get to know them in personal ways. Executives, on the other hand, rarely have one-to-one interaction with the majority of the employees their organization. And the survey results show the difference in trust levels.

I trust my manager BW 2013

I trust senior leaders BW 2013

It’s a good thing that employees in North America trust their managers more than they trust their senior leaders because there’s a high correlation between engagement and trust in managers. Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Either way, BlessingWhite points out that while engaged employees have other factors that motivate them – like interesting work, a sense of contribution and career aspirations – less-engaged employees are far more dependent on knowing their manager personally to reach higher levels of engagement.

This makes managers the tip of the engagement spear. And why we spend so much time focused on managerial effectiveness in almost every category of performance.

Not so with senior leaders, which is understandable because they don’t have the ability to interact personally with every employee, as BlessingWhite points out.  But they do have the responsibility to set the direction of the culture, communicate that direction with a “clear line-of-sight” throughout the organization, and create a culture that fuels engagement and business results. In other words, set the managers up for success in engaging their teams in more personal ways.

The CASE model, reviewed briefly at the end of the report, focuses senior leaders to fulfill four key workforce needs in building and leading their cultures:

  • Community for a sense of belonging and purpose
  • Authenticity  as a basis for trust and inspiration
  • Significance to recognize individuals’ contributions
  • Excitement to constantly encourage – and raise the bar on – high performance

It’s a good message for executives. It’s a great message for managers. It’s a call-to-action message for HR to know how to help executives drive performance and grow their culture while supporting managers to make more personal connections.

Engagement isn’t the answer to every organizational challenge. But it does seem clear that highly engaged workplaces are more productive than less engaged workforces. And almost every organizational challenge I can think of gets solved more effectively and faster with an engaged workforce working the solution and being led by managers who are personally leading the way.

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Filed under BlessingWhite, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, Engagement, HR Data, Managerial Effectiveness, Workforce Management