Tag Archives: BlessingWhite

The Tip of the Engagement Spear

data point tuesday_500

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

What Comes First: Employees or Customers?

As a business leader, I’ve always believed that one of the most important aspects of my job is to create and lead a culture that motivates employees to come to work every day and do their very best work.  I’ve always known that in order to acquire, delight and retain customers my organizations (at the local, regional, national and global levels) needed to acquire, engage and retain the best talent.  I’ve always known that the link between customer and employee satisfaction is strong.

Over the last few months I’ve been able to take the time to read some great books, articles and research reports; to meet with thought leaders and executives; and to attend conferences and courses focused on these aspects of organization and leadership success.  Now I’ve got more than a “gut” instinct that the focus on creating a culture that puts customers first by recruiting, developing and retaining the right employees brings dividends that are more than repeat customers and happy employees.  Now I’ve got real data.

Where did I get the data?  I’ve read research reports from BlessingWhite, Gallup, SHRM, the U.S. Department of Labor and others.  I’ve read books by Chip Conley, Mark Sanborn, Geoff Colvin, Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, Tony Hsieh, Jim Collins, Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright and Jonathan Haidt among others.  I’ve had conversations with Tony Hsieh, Dave UlrichDoug and Kimberly Rath, Cathy Missildine-Martin, Paul Hebert, Joe Gerstandt, Jason Lauritsen, Chris Hoyt, Lars-Henrik Friis-Molin, John Sumser, William Tincup and many others.  Basically, I’ve been a sponge.

And the outcome?  Well now I see clearly that while having happy, committed employees is critical for organizational success, having the right happy, committed employees makes the difference between good customer service and exceptional customer service;  the difference between good organization performance and exceptional organization performance — by any measure you wish to use. 

The right happy employees are determined by what will exceed the customers’ expectations.  And that’s about culture and values. 

To create a culture that retains happy employees feels good on many levels.  What leader doesn’t want to walk around and see smiling faces on their employees?  But to create a culture that retains employees happy to make your customers ecstatic is the secret sauce of organization success. 

The reason for an organization’s existence is not to create a “happy” environment for employees.  The reason for an organization’s existence is to create value for its stakeholders by serving its customers.  You win in business by serving your customers better than anyone else.  And it’s clear to me now that the key to serving your customers better than anyone else lies squarely in creating a culture that attracts and retains the right employees.  I’m not sure many leaders see the difference here, but it seems huge to me.

In the hard work of creating a motivating culture almost every organization starts with their employees:  what makes them happy, what will engage them, what will motivate them to commit over the long haul.  I’ve come to believe that the hard work of creating a motivating culture needs to start at a different place:  conversations with customers and potential customers.  What is important to them in their interactions with your employees?  What values will motivate their engagement, their commitment over the long haul?  Once you have that input you can begin to translate it into organizational values, characteristics, behaviors and skills that become the basis for your culture work – and, ultimately, your talent acquisition, engagement, development and retention strategies.

It’s clear to me that both culture and organization success has to start with the customer.  Only then will you know what kind of talent acquisition, engagement and retention strategies will lead to the type of organizational success that will value your organization among the strongest financial performers and land you on the lists of best companies to work for. 

In other words, when creating and leading your organization’s culture look first to your customers and second  to your employees. 

Most do it the other way around.

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