Tag Archives: Employee 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

Do Employees Give Leaders Points For Trying?

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In honor of next week’s WorkHuman Conference, I thought I’d draw your attention to this white paper:  The ROI of Recognition in Building a More Human Workplace.  It was published by the WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, the social recognition solutions company. Because it is a white paper, it has a definite bias towards recognition, but it also has some very interesting insights to share about the larger question of the impact of culture on employee engagement.

The value of bringing humanity – a recognition that employees are more than 9-to-5 skillsets – into your culture, your policies, your practices, your leadership behavior is being documented in organizations of all sizes, in all industries and in all geographic locations. This white paper gives further insight into the attributes of “humanity” in the workplace through an analysis of a survey that was in the field from Nov 4-7, 2015 and had 828 randomly selected, full-time employees in the U.S.

The key findings of the survey analysis include:

  1. When employees believe leaders are striving to create a more human workplace, culture metrics improve.

  2. Recognition not only significantly improves engagement, but also creates a more human culture.

  3. Employees’ attitudes toward change and optimism for the future correlate with recognition efforts and efforts to build a more human workplace.

  4. Employees trust colleagues most, but it is trust for leaders that most impacts culture.

  5. Recognition and a human workplace are drivers of employee well-being and happiness.

I was very interested in findings #1 and #4 – the leadership focused findings.

Finding #1:  “When employees believe leaders are striving to create a more human workplace, culture metrics improve.”

This is fascinating. It implies that as long as leaders are trying to be more human, they get the benefit of the doubt. It would seem that employees give their leaders points for trying. Here’s a particularly informative graph from the report on this point:

ROI of Humanity 1

It seems clear that if employees believe the leaders of their organization care about them as a people – not as skillsets – they are willing to engage more across the board. Care. Not the usual word to describe the relationship between leaders and employees. But that seems to be changing. And that’s a good thing.

ROI of Humanity 2

Interesting connections.

Regarding finding #4, trust in leaders most impacts culture, I found the comparisons informative. Comparing the effects of trusting colleagues vs. trusting the boss vs. trusting leadership on various culture dynamics, the trends were clear. The impact on engagement was telling:

ROI of Humanity 3

Creating and maintaining trusting relationships with colleagues, bosses and leadership are, of course, hallmarks of more human-focused cultures. Most highly valued by employees are, interestingly, the relationship of trust with senior leaders. Many would have us believe that it’s all about the work unit, the close-in colleagues. The “best friend at work” syndrome. Others believe it’s all about the immediate boss.  I’ve long believed that trustworthy, authentic and approachable leaders – at every level – can overcome most any cultural issue – with trustworthiness being the key. And this data would agree with me. This report looks at several dimensions of trust that are quite interesting.

I like this white paper. It provides some thought provoking analysis that support the growing focus on creating more human workplaces. Workplaces that are more productive, more collaborative, more innovative and more engaging for employees. What business model couldn’t use more of all of those?

 

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

Should You Care About Worker Happiness?

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Universum has just published another fascinating survey analysis that should be required reading for any leader wondering about the engagement of their employees, humanity in the workplace, or whether or not their workforce is happy. The summary is available here and it introduces the Universum Global Workforce Happiness Index™.

The survey covered 250,000+ professionals in 55 markets in order to set country- and industry-level benchmarks. The Universum Global Workforce Happiness Index is calculated based on:

  1. Employee satisfaction in their current job,

  2. Likelihood of recommending their current employer, and

  3. Their stated sense of job loyalty.

Starting off with a simple four-box model of work happiness, the four quadrants are simple to understand because of their common sense approach:

Universum Happiness 1STRANDED employees feel dissatisfied in their current jobs, but are unmotivated or unwilling to make a change. SEEKERS are dissatisfied at work and looking for a change. RESTLESS employees require immediate attention because even though they are satisfied and likely to recommend their employee, they are open to changing jobs. FULFILLED employees are satisfied, feel positive about their employer as a place to work and aren’t interested in changing jobs. This construct is simple and makes it easy to relate to these four types of workers.

If you are leading a global business, then the Global Workforce Happiness Index By Country chart will give you some interesting data to chew on:

Universum Happiness 2If you have global expansion plans should you prioritize those countries whose workers are Restless? Or countries whose workers are Seekers? Or do you go right for the Fulfilled worker countries? Maybe it isn’t enough to be looking at skills availability – maybe the availability of hearts and minds should also be a factor.

This report summary packs a great deal of insight into just 17 pages and I’ve just skimmed the surface for you. In the final section, every employer would do well to follow this recommendation: separate “attraction drivers” from “retention drivers.” Do the characteristics that attract high quality candidates to your organization retain them for the medium- or long-term? For organizations battling it out in the talent wars around the globe, this is the next tough question to answer.

The implications of workforce happiness around the world – especially with GenY and GenZ becoming the dominant generations at work – are beginning to change how every organization relates to its people. We’re re-thinking lots of fundamental people processes, policies and behaviors. Factoring the happiness of our people is just one of the ways things are changing.

This is a super report. It gives just enough analysis to be useful, while creating the case to get the full report. I liked it a lot.

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Filed under Analytics, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Global Workforce Happiness Index, Happiness at Work, HR Data, Universum

Watson Says Multiple Channels of Recognition Mean Higher Engagement

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Here’s what I like about whitepapers from IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute: they are short in length and long on data and context. I appreciate that they share the underlying scientific concepts within their analyses of the data from their massive WorkTrends™ survey. 19,000 workers in 26 countries, a cross-section of industries, all major job families, and thousands of organizations responded to the 2013/2014 survey. Watson is all about slicing and dicing data and he came up with some interesting, although not surprising, conclusions about the impact of multiple channels of employee recognition.

In a point in time when organizations are grasping at any reasonable straw to increase engagement, decrease turnover and compete more successfully in the talent market, new approaches to employee recognition appear to be providing significant outcomes and ROI. Legacy recognition programs that attempt to reward employees for sticking around for 3, 5, 10 and 15 years have long ceased to motivate engagement or even longevity. Who would stick around one day longer to ensure they got an ebony clock on their 5 year service anniversary?

This survey analysis, How do I recognize thee, let me count the ways, explains concepts like Reinforcement Theory, ERG Theory and Social Exchange Theory to provide context for these findings that link recognition to engagement:

  • Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of employs who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not.

  • Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, about half (51%) of surveyed employees say they intend to leave, with recognition just one quarter (25%) say they intend to leave their organizations.

  • Employees whose organizations use multiple communication channels for recognition are more likely to feel appreciated and show a higher level of employee engagement. The more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement level.

  • The findings imply that technologies such as social and mobile could be strong candidates for the effective delivery of recognition as they offer interactive, frequent and immediate communication via multiple channels.

When voluntary quits in the U.S. are at their highest levels since early 2008, and the number of open jobs are at their highest level since 2000, it’s no wonder that employers are increasingly turning their attention to strategies that encourage employees to engage more and leave less. And because employers spend around 1% of their total payroll on reward/recognition programs, many are beginning to look at the ROI of that spend – and are frankly willing to spend more to increase their ROI. A negative ROI on 1% of payroll isn’t a good investment. But a positive ROI on 2% of payroll? That requires a new context and solid evidence that the investment will pay off. Data analysis like that found in this report, helps organizations create the appropriate business case for moving reward/recognition programs into the 21st century.

The important takeaway from this analysis is that one channel of recognition communication doesn’t cut it anymore (if it ever did). The data clearly suggest that multiple technology-enabled channels including social and mobile increase the financial and engagement ROI of recognition programs. Years of service awards don’t move the needle any more.

IBM SWI Recognition whitepaperAt a point in time where nearly half of employers are considering implementing new or additional recognition programs in the next 12 months, adopting approaches that use multiple technology-enabled channels appear to be the smart way to go. At least that’s what Watson thinks.

 

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Filed under Big Data and HR, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Employee Recognition, IBM Smarter Workforce, Watson

The Employee Recognition Landscape is Changing

data point tuesday_500The fifth research report in an annual partnership between SHRM and Globoforce was published this week. And, interestingly, there is a surprise. Namely, that retention/turnover is the top challenge reported by nearly 1,000 SHRM members. This is a surprise top challenge compared to the last 2 years – and it makes sense. With the economy and hiring improving, businesses are wise to become concerned that the “grass is greener” syndrome may take hold of their very best employees. The employees who are super marketable as job opening grow.

(In full disclosure mode, I should mention that I am the former Chief Operating Officer of SHRM and am currently Chair of Globoforce’s WorkHuman advisory board.)

In 2013 and 2012, the SHRM/Globoforce surveys identified employee engagement and succession planning as the topmost HR concerns. Perhaps the fact that retention/turnover are the top concerns is fueling the fear of escalating talent wars due to economic growth, demographic shifts, globalization and a workforce that believes they can have it all: meaningful work, career growth, leaders they trust, equitable pay and appreciation for their efforts.

The concern for employee engagement is down with 47% of respondents citing it as a top challenge compared to 39% in 2014. That’s a big delta. And potentially a big deal.

GloboforceSHRM June 23 2015The other surprise for me in the survey results is the data-backed understanding that values-based employee recognition is seen as contributing significantly to bottom-line organizational metrics. This is surprising for two reasons:

  1. The culture conversation is becoming rooted in values, and
  2. HR organizations are using data to create business cases for culture/values as a quantifiable business imperative.

The strength of values-based recognition behaviors and programs is growing:

GloboforceSHRM 2 June 23 2015Tying employee recognition to organization values seems a no-brainer and the data are proliferating that building employee programs and leadership behaviors on foundations of values-based culture are not only winning the war for talent, they are winning the competitive wars for revenue and growth, innovation, collaboration, and profitability.

The report is a fairly quick read and if you’re interested in learning about how recognition, values and culture are impacting the workforce today, the nearly 1,0000 SHRM members who took the survey have interesting insights to share.

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Sustainability in 2014: The Language of CSR

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GreenBiz Group Inc.
recently released their 2014 Sustainability & Employee Engagement Report, content generated from responses of more than 5,600 members of the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel (executives and thought leaders in the area of corporate environmental strategy and performance). GreenBiz’s report “examines aspects of corporate environmental and sustainability education initiatives at companies at varying stages of program development and provides a quantitative understanding of the evolution of employee engagement” and notes that while sustainability professionals commonly think of challenges in terms of the physical or fiscal impact of their efforts, the most problematic challenge for this area today may actually be its use of language. Take the term “employee engagement” as an example. While sustainability professionals frequently use this term to describe their attempts to motivate a company’s employees to participate in furthering the sustainability or CSR program, it’s likely that HR executives already have a definition for the term and a way to measure it. HR commonly defines engagement as an employee’s willingness to apply discretionary effort toward meeting the company’s goals and to do more than merely meet job requirements/customer needs and measures this via an index approach using employee answers to survey questions. For example “are you proud to work at this company?” or “do you feel this is a great place to work?”

If HR and Sustainability teams have different definitions of terms like employee engagement, it can cause disconnect and communication barriers. GreenBiz uses the example of a CSR professional who ran into resistance when he met with HR to talk about how to improve employee engagement efforts at his organization. When he changed the language of the conversation however, and asked to discuss how they could increase the participation numbers in the company’s sustainability programs, he was meet with much more enthusiasm. GreenBiz points out that another potential language gap occurs when Sustainability and HR professionals discuss how to achieve greater participation from employees in furthering the sustainability mission. While 73 percent of respondents indicated that their company is educating employees across the organization about its corporate sustainability goals, in a recent study by The Conference Board, only 5 percent of the S&P 500 have instituted employee CSR training. This highlights the differences in association and potential confusion that can occur between the terms “training” and “education,” where training is generally more skills based and education often refers to broader and more general learning activities.

Sept 16 sustainability definitions chart
Understanding the kinds of language used in CSR and HR programs, and how to frame such language, can be a vital tool in breaking down communication barriers within an organization. With this in mind, let’s look more closely at what GreenBiz’s report uncovered, starting with the basic definition of “sustainability” initiatives. Over the last six years the term “sustainability” has become the standard for describing such initiatives. 51% of respondents report identifying with this term, up from 49 percent in 2011 and 34 percent in 2008. While this term is increasing, two terms have lost value in describing sustainability initiatives, “environmental, health and safety” and “greening” (see chart above). Another sustainability trend for 2014 is the convergence of social and environmental issues. When GreenBiz looked at the extent to which environmental and social issues are linked today vs. five years ago, they noted an increase across all companies regardless of size. The largest increase in the correlation was at large companies, from 87% to 94%. When it comes to educating employees about their corporate sustainability goals, almost all companies participate. 73% of respondents at small companies indicated their organizations are providing this education, as did 80% of respondents at large companies. Interestingly, which department champions sustainability education efforts most seems to be dependent on the size of the company (see graphic below).

Sustainability champions grapic
When it comes to the topics on which departments focus for employee sustainability education programs, the top 5 have remained steady over the last six years and are: “general information about sustainability initiatives,” “the company’s sustainability successes and accomplishments,” “Actions at work to conserve or protect resources,” “environmental footprint of the company,” and “volunteer programs.” For 2014, the top three motivators for employee participation in corporate sustainability activities were: “concern for the environment and society,” “evident CEO support or mandate,” and “sustainability goals included in performance evaluation.” GreenBiz’s report also cites internal hurdles to sustainability education, which include executive commitment, education and communication, budget/resources/competing priorities, and time.

This data around participation by employees in corporate CSR or Sustainability programs, links nicely to last week’s post about Millennials’ participation in “cause work.” Coming at this topic from both directions – desire on the part of Millennials to participate and corporate CSR/Sustainability professionals’ desire for higher participation levels – creates significant opportunity for everyone. Building trust levels , creating opportunities for growing camaraderie and making strides in being good stewards of the Earth, the economy and our communities in one fell swoop could be a monumental win/win for all of us.

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Filed under China Gorman, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Data Point Tuesday, Great Place to Work, GreenBiz Group, Sustainability

Purpose: A Hedge Against Organizational Challenges

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The Deloitte “2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Study” proves it again, that those workplaces who focus on creating a meaningful environment for all their stakeholders (customers, employees, and communities) foster a culture of purpose that builds confidence, drives investment, and “can lead to competitive advantage in a time of economic vitality.” The survey was conducted in February of this year and is designed to explore the concept of workplace culture, defined by a set of timeless core values and beliefs, as a business driver. This year’s survey looks specifically at whether a strong sense of purpose leads to higher levels of confidences among stakeholders and drives business growth. Methodology included the survey of a sample of 1,053 adults (300 executives and 753 employed adults) employed full time within an organization with at least 100 employees.

Evidence from the survey indicates that focusing on purpose rather than profits is what builds business confidence. What do organizations define as purpose though? When respondents were asked about activities that are part of the purpose of their organization, the top 5 cited answers were:

  • Providing business services and/or products that have meaningful impact on clients/customers (89%)
  • Providing business services and/or products that benefit society (84%)
  • Providing employees with education, experience, and/or mentorship benefits (77%)
  • Encouraging employees to volunteer (74%)
  • Generating financial returns for our stakeholders/shareholders (69%)

Deloitte “2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Study”

Deloitte also found that those respondents who agree they work for an organization with a strong sense of purpose were more likely to say their organization recorded positive growth (81% vs. 67%) and outgrew competitors (64% vs. 44%) in 2013. When looking to the future, respondents who say their organizations have a strong sense of purpose are also much more optimistic about the future prospects of their organizations: 91% of respondents who believe their organization has a strong sense of purpose feel that their company will maintain or strengthen its brand reputation and loyalty vs. 49% of respondents at organizations without a strong sense of purpose.

Organizations with a strong sense of purpose tie confidence to three main factors:

  • a commitment to delivering top quality goods/services
  • focus on long term sustainable growth
  • clear understanding of organization’s purpose and commitment to core values.

Companies reporting they do not have a strong purpose however, find confidence tied almost exclusively to financial factors:

2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Study

When looking at priorities of leadership at these companies, we see a similar trend. For organizations that report having a strong sense of purpose, making a positive impact on clients is ranked most often as the top priority for leadership vs. leadership at companies without a strong sense of purpose, who most often report short-term financial goals as their top priority (the study notes that there were no major differences in top leadership priorities as stated by employees and executives).

Purpose also appears to drive investment. Respondents at organizations with a strong sense of purpose are consistently more likely to say their organization will increase investments year over year than companies without a strong sense of purpose, especially in areas such as:

  • New technologies: 38% vs. 19%
  • Expanding into new markets: 31% vs. 21%
  • Developing new products/services: 27% vs. 17%
  • Employee development and training: 25% vs. 11%

Companies with a strong sense of purpose also perceive higher levels of confidence among key stakeholders – 89% of respondents say their clients trust that they deliver the highest quality products and services (vs. 66% at organizations without strong purpose).

If this data isn’t enough to suggest that there really is something to creating a strong sense of purpose and values at an organization, Deloitte’s data also detail that more fully engaged employees, greater diversity, and encouragement of innovation are also more present at organizations reporting a strong sense of purpose. Despite the benefits though, 20% of respondent’s state that leadership fails to set an example for the rest of the organization by truly living the organization’s purpose and 18% say it is not part of performance evaluations.

Once again, the data are persuasive. Organizations with strong missions that are focused on more than profits are clear winners creating successful, sustainable businesses. Put another way, creating a strong purpose-focused culture may be the best hedge against the difficult economic, political and talent challenges facing most organizations today.

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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