Stress has been cited as the real main reason for employees being absent from work and the lack of employee engagement is the key factor behind this huge problem. How big you ask? Research from the Mental Health Foundation found that 60 percent of those who stated work as the source of their stress said that support was not forthcoming from bosses. In another survey, 75 percent said that someone at work is making them miserable. Many organizations today are seriously hampered by high rates of absenteeism and a large percentage of workers with FMLA claims due to various types of stress both realized and hidden.
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Leadership development must be more than a quick injection of methodologies and techniques. Go to class for 4 days and get your certificate…lead the world! Oh, please. Do you suspect this is why leadership skills are on the decline? If this is viewed as important then evaluating leadership requires constant attention, monitoring, and assessing. But how? Well, if you call it leadership then it has to be measured by its impact on employees, relationships and performance.
We all know you need gas in your car before you can make a road trip yet, having gas in your tank is no indication that road trips are being made. Many of the approaches to organizational leadership use the fuel tank approach. They put leadership skills into the organizational fuel tank and attempt to monitor how full the tank is. While fuel is visible and easy to measure, leadership qualities are less obvious.
Doesn’t it make more sense to assess the results of leadership’s effect on employees?
Seven Indicators of Impactful Leadership
It’s a fact, there is a correlation between employee engagement levels and the quality of leadership. So are your employees happy because they are well led? Is employee engagement the output that leadership can be measured by?
Many studies provide clear proof those happy, productive, and engaged employees:
- Feel valued, appreciated and rewarded (the way they want)
- Are approachable, open to new ideas and to feedback from others
- Feel free to give regular feedback
- Feel engaged with the organization and its people and take ownership for their “needs”
- Manage their relationships successfully and see the value of differences (don’t mistaken this for Diversity)
- Are motivated from within (Intrinsic not Extrinsic)
- Can challenge and disagree while keeping rapport with colleagues
Organizations with the most successful leaders lead in the context of people and situations. They understand and interact with both. Leadership development, for them, is most effective because it is done in context.
Leadership development programs that run in isolation of the people being led may be useful in teaching generic principles of leadership but attendees are still left with the problem of applying this information to their context, to specific employees and situations.
For the most successful, leadership development is about individualizing not universalizing. If you want to be one of the best leaders you must have a system that can support you in responding to the specific needs of an individual rather than behaving in standard, generic ways; unless of course you have standard and generic results as your goal.
Need a system? Get FREE Employee Engagement Surveys to measure the impact of leadership and assist in individualizing with the Beyond Morale Online Employee Engagement System.
Have you ever noticed how people respond to a crisis? They rise to the occasion. They engage each other. They put their best foot forward. It happened in New York after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. It happened in businesses across the globe when the recession started. Employees rallied to support their companies and their teams. They engaged. For a while.
Then what happened?
It happened slowly at first. Enthusiasm waned. Things reverted to normal; in many cases employees became even less engaged than before the recession hit. A survival mood set in. “Don’t rock the boat.” “Protect your own job; little else matters.”When that mood becomes permanent, your organization gets stuck in a rut. A rut dug by employee disengagement and fortified by fear. What can a leader do? How can you keep employee engagement high when crisis turns slowly into the new normal?
If you are in a leadership role, here are 4 things you can do:
1. Communicate. Often. And never stop communicating. Even bad news is better than no news. Remember, your job is to think about the big picture AND to communicate your vision of that picture to your people. Don’t be like the chief marketing officer who once told his ad agency that it was time to pull their latest ad off the television because viewers were tired of seeing it. And it hadn’t even aired yet! He had seen it so many times during development that he was tired of it. And he mistook his own fatigue of the message for others’. Just because you think you have communicated something important to your employees, say it again. Staying informed invites being engaged.
2. Tell the truth. Candor goes a long way. Truth builds trust. And trust leads to employee engagement. Employees will give their best for leaders they can trust.
3. Ask for help. After three years of recession, nobody knows all the answers any more. If you think your job is to have all the answers, you are a very lonely leader. When you don’t have the answers, ask for help. Your people may surprise you. Engaged employees feel empowered to speak up and offer up fresh, new ideas. One fresh idea may be all that’s needed to jumpstart your team.
4. Find ways to celebrate. Even in a bad economy, there are things to get excited about. Employees still have birthdays; they still achieve milestones in their lives and at work. People get married; kids go off to school. Your company lands a new contract or ships a new product. Somebody gets an award. Honor these moments. Celebrate the little things and bigger things will come along.
Keep these four tips in the front of your mind. Put them into play. Stay at them and you’ll sustain your employees’ engagement through even this lengthiest of downturns.
Convert this into a system and get FREE Employee Engagement Surveys that measure leadership.
Is something missing with employee engagement? After all, American corporations spend over $4 billion each year on developing the leadership skills of executives and senior managers. This commitment is time-intensive and costly. Given the current state of employee engagement in the nation’s workplace you must doubt this to be a wise investment. Is something missing from this investment that is effecting the payback of leadership development efforts? Could it be that very little of that investment goes where leadership development is needed the most? Is the front line supervisor being left out. What about the leadership of the front line itself? Should they be responsible for their own employee engagement?
American businesses are creating a leadership drought of their own making. As more and more boomers retire, leadership development, as commonly practiced, is causing a crisis. Employee engagement is going to continue to decline, this can be averted if you act.
Think of a flash flood in the dry season. Only the first inch of topsoil gets wet. Very little of that precious water seeps through the hardened topsoil to nourish the roots of the plants growing there. All the rest becomes run-off. It’s the same with leadership development and employee engagement—too much leadership development becomes run-off because it only occurs at the very top. The goal must be to get leadership development to seep deeply into all levels of the company…to the roots.
This is exactly what one organization realized when they were experiencing high levels of employee entitlement, low productivity, high absenteeism, and low employee engagement despite spending several thousands of dollars annually on leadership development. It was not penetrating to the deepest levels. Another problem was the learning was more theory based and (not even) senior leaders knew how to apply them in their world. This is a problem with employee engagement for the vast majority of companies.
Things kept getting worse until they were able to include the front line employees as partners in leadership development. In addition, they were able to implement practical ways to increase the leadership development of everyone by using employee engagement activities and identifying which ones to use at the right time.
Their collaborative employee engagement activities focused on:
- Feeling Valued – people learn what is needed to feel valued and what appropriate rewards are
- Motivation – their abilities are recognized and utilized
- Openness – they are receptive to new ideas and feel safe to talk freely
- Ownership – take ownership for getting their needs met and meeting the needs of others instead of complaining behind backs
- Difference Management – learn to create collaborative relationships with individual colleagues despite being different (having different needs, not race, color, or age)
- Giving and Receiving Feedback – learn appropriate and effective ways to give and receive feedback
- Conflict Management – learn to engage in proactive feedback and not wait for dysfunctional conflict.
The employee engagement activities were needs based and enabled all levels to realize their own role in leadership development. The company is now able to experience leadership development growth at all levels. In addition, their productivity and attendance problems have all but disappeared. While their transformation is ongoing (and never ending) they were able to experience results almost immediately.
The ROI on their theory based leadership development is still difficult for them to calculate while the ROI on their employee engagement activities is over 500%. Now they can say their leadership development drought is coming to an end.
Note: The activities were launched due to results compiled from an employee engagement survey using the Satisfaction@Work Index. Go here to learn how to receive free employee engagement surveys using the Satisfaction@Work Index.
Business pressures are increasing. The amount of work is increasing and the rate of hiring is slow. Turnover is increasing and finding good people is hard. A few people get all of the work (because they are the best) and they are getting burned out. Shareholders are demanding higher returns and competition is getting tougher. Products are getting more commoditized and true differences are diminishing. This list (call it reality, whining, or bitching) can go on forever.
Despite all of this, there are three key barriers to employee productivity that will get you more. When these barriers to employee productivity are known and addressed…watch out. When others have become aware and equipped themselves to address these barriers, they not only got more productivity, but that got more employee productivity then expected. They also did not get the long term burnout effect that so many others experience. Sustainable improvements! Employee engagement and more employee productivity…wow.
The three key barriers to employee productivity include:
- Structural barriers – these include rules, controls, or procedures that no longer serve their intended purpose. They get in the way of flexibility and the exercise of sound judgment. They may be cultural norms such as “that’s the way we’ve always done things around here.”
- Inter-personal barriers – these revolve around a lack of/poor communication. They crop up when people build silos between departments, functions, and fellow employees. Removing inter-personal barriers to high performance is like pulling weeds from a garden. It takes regular and systematic attention. This can’t be left up to chance or the hit or miss of leadership, it needs a system.
- Intra-personal barriers – these are what hold people back from realizing their full potential. They exist inside an employee. Assisting employees to move beyond old habit patterns and emotional blockages that hinder their performance, their happiness, and their satisfaction with and at work. Guiding employees in setting realistic and meaningful goals with a path for achieving them is nesessary. As a result, employees work better; they work smarter; they work harder. Employee motivation is high. They gain greater employee satisfaction from their work. They experience lower stress, less anxiety, and exhibit greater joy and energy in all that they do. That is employee engagement in it’s purest sense.
These three key barriers exist everywhere, no company is immune. Now that you know the three key barriers you can begin to create your plan to address these in your own company. If you don’t…just send me your contribution to add to the whining list.
Need a Plan? Get a Plan and FREE Employee Engagement Surveys that measure leadership, and assist in removing barriers to increased employee productivity.
Go ahead and admit it, you would much rather avoid giving feedback, than to give it. Is this because when you give feedback you are investing in a relationship and the more significant the relationship the more you have to lose if the feedback goes wrong? Who wants take that risk. Like with many other things that lead to success, your skills are critical. Unskilled feedback (no matter how well intentioned) can severely damage a relationship.
Poorly given feedback is counter-productive. It undermines an employee’s confidence and even alienates them. Tip: Training employees and leadership in receiving feedback is just as important as giving feedback if you want an open culture. So are you slamming the door on feedback because of poor employee development practices?
Probably no surprise to you, but research indicates that senior employees are less open to feedback. They are successful; life has taught them a lot of lessons – they don’t need to be told and have little to learn (so they think).
Managers are often seen as unapproachable. Their effectiveness is reduced if employees are hesitant about providing feedback to them. They have restricted information on which to base their impressions and make decisions.
Organizations that are not open, or do not encourage continuous two-way feedback to inform their decisions and actions continuously underperform their more open competitors. For them employees become secretive and form cliques where they feel they can talk freely – most probably complaining about a lack of openness in the organization!
What is “Feedback” Anyway
Here is one fundamental mistake that is made. Feedback is about sharing your reactions to another person’s ideas, feelings or behavior. It is not about assigning blame, criticism or passing judgement. Feedback is a way of letting someone know to what extent he or she is furthering the objectives of the business. It’s about people and you. It is a conversation about your needs whilst respecting the needs of the other person. This leads to problem solving on both sets of needs. Feedback is most productive as a two-way communication.
Feedback is probably the most powerful, the most under-used and most ill-used management tool.
Isn’t it Just a Waste of Time?
Without feedback people are ‘blind’. They are working on their own assumptions of how they are performing to meet the business’ needs and how they are impacting others. Feedback enhances employee’s effectiveness. Conducted properly, feedback ‘fine tunes’ performance and strengthens relationships.
In organizations where feedback is uncommon, communication flows from the top to the bottom with employees feeling devalued, resistant and demoralized resulting in their disengagement and under performance.
For many employees, feedback is the single most important element in building and sustaining their motivation and engagement.
In a business culture where openness is valued, feedback will be a regular occurrence – i.e. feedback upwards, downwards and sideways. Employees will engage in frank conversations about real work and relationship issues. In organizations where this feedback is welcomed and used to create win-win results, openness becomes the norm; employees feel more motivated, engaged and wanting to contribute.
Key Feedback indicators and behaviors
Organizations that have open environments focus on some specific indicators and display the associated behaviors shown in the table below.
|Key Indicators||Associated Behaviors|
|Feedback to my managers is encouraged.||Managers hold meetings to seek feedback on performance;Managers thank employees for providing feedback;Managers do not become defensive or aggressive when receiving feedback;Managers act on valid feedback.|
|I receive regular constructive feedback on my performance.||I meet with my manager frequently to discuss my performance;My manager only provides feedback on my performance, not on my personality;My manager’s feedback encourages and helps improve my performance;My manager is open and honest when giving feedback.|
|I feel free to give feedback to my managers and colleagues.||Managers and colleagues recognize the importance of feedback;Managers and colleagues are receptive to feedback;Managers and colleagues listen attentively to my feedback;Managers and colleagues thank me for providing feedback.|
|I feel able to ask for feedback from my managers and colleagues.||My manager encourages me to ask for feedback from my colleagues;Managers and colleagues are receptive to my requests for feedback;I feel comfortable asking managers and colleagues for feedback;I feel everyone benefits from an open and honest exchange of feedback.|
Tips to Improving Feedback Performance
Here are some suggestions for improving the quality and frequency of feedback:
- Be approachable and have time for people’s issues;
- Ask your managers and colleagues for feedback;
1. “How much do you feel I understand you?”
2. “How much do you feel I meet your needs?”
3. “How much do you feel I am getting it right for you?”
- Show you value this feedback by problem-solving on the issues rather than attempt to justify, blame or criticize;
- At times it might be useful to ask for feedback on how you gave or received the feedback;
- Incorporate a feedback session into meetings;
- Develop your skills for giving feedback;
- Develop your skills for receiving feedback;
- Invite a third party to coach or observe a one-to-one feedback session;
- Involve employees in developing action plans for creating the no whining culture
- When there is a need to discuss poor work, do this in private and follow the guidelines for giving feedback
- Make feedback a ”Key Performance Indicator” for managers and track this (available in the Beyond Morale system);
- Invite specialists to work with the organization to specifically improve the quality and frequency of feedback;
- Score yourself on the associated behaviors linked to the Key Performance Indicator of Feedback, and share your answers with relevant colleagues;
- Score yourself on how well you are doing the suggestions above and use the results to decide on an agenda for action.
Focus on the items above and that open door just might not be slammed in your face in the future.
- Sense of entitlement
- High staff turnover
- Poor time utilization
- Poor work quality
- Low productivity
- High employee and/or customer complaints
- Conflict in the workplace
- Resistance to listen or change
These are typical symptoms of unengaged employees. What can you do? What has created this situation? Is it inevitable? Does the problem lie with employees or management or is it more complicated than this?
Mistake Number One
The secret to employee engagement is not in leadership training, it is not in employee engagement training, it not in an employee satisfaction survey, it is not in seminars books or DVDs. Theory changes nothing. It is action that makes the difference.
Mistake Number Two
The secret to employee engagement is not in knowing about the diversity of workers in your organization. Knowing about Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, the Millennials, minorities, single parents, religions, cultures, political preferences, does not matter. Universalizing (stereo-typing) in this manner will lead you to wrong conclusions that will damage the ability to generate employee engagement.
Mistake Number Three
This is the single biggest mistake. The secret to engaging employees is not assuming that employees are like you. Don’t assume they have similar needs, values and would like to be treated as you would.
We are dramatically different
The reality is people are dramatically different, so different it is as if we are from different planets. What will motivate and engage one employee may demotivate or disengage another. What constitutes self-interest for one employee will not for another. These differences are present regardless of the diversity group.
As early as the fifth century BC, Hippocrates described groups of human characteristics, each cluster very different yet equally valuable in its own way. There have been many variations and developments of these fundamental groupings over the years.
So how do you Motivate and Engage Employees?
The answer is locked away in your employees, in their values, beliefs and needs. Each of us has a unique set of motivational drivers and unless a leader can align with these, it will be difficult to motivate and engage employees over the long term.
The answer lies in appealing to an employee’s self-interest. If it is not in their interest employees are not likely to want to do it, or they certainly won’t continue to do it.
To access this information you must talk to your employees and have tools to assist you in measuring the key indicators that generate employee motivation and engagement. These tools must also support you in the alignment process. Armed with the insights and tools, you can then have a framework for improving employee engagement and motivation over time. Without this framework you will fall into the biggest mistake of treating people like you want to be treated. As humans we too easily fall into this safe place.
When leaders are able to put this system in place and execute it consistently their efforts are most often rewarded with a reciprocated effort from the employees.
That is how you change your company culture…from one to many.
Need a systematic approach to unlocking the answer to Employee Engagement? Get that and FREE Employee Engagement Surveys that measure needs.
As a follow up, stay tuned for insights into the three basic personality types in the workplace – carers, doers, and thinkers. Employees will have a mixture of these motivations, which in turn explains how different employees need to be aligned with in order to engage them.
Many companies spend a lot of money on diversity training for the purpose of increasing participants’ cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. The intent is that this training will benefit the company by increasing the inclusion of different identity groups, promote better teamwork, and protect against civil rights violations.
Unfortunately for many companies diversity training has been a controversial issue, counterproductive, and creates conflict. Overall its bad for employee engagement.
A way to avoid the failures of diversity training is to focus on individuals through Difference Management.
Difference management is respecting the different needs and motivations of people and relating to them in ways that encourages mutual respect and gratification.
Differences define our uniqueness – regardless of nationality, culture, gender, beliefs, and values. Differences define all of mankind, which enables progress and contribute to the dynamics of the entire world. Companies can benefit from the richness of each individuals differences. The differences are often an obstacle to good working relationships when diversity management is the focus.
Why it matters
If these same differences are not managed skilfully they will lead to conflict, dysfunction and wasted effort.
Managed skilfully these differences can dovetail for the good of the individual, the team and the company. The differences now become complimentary strengths and synergy (2+2=5) becomes a reality. Difference management is a key leadership development skill which has been used by the world’s most successful leaders.
Teams within an organization can operate like different personalities. Each team will have its unique aims, strategies, structure, policies, customs and management style. Diversity training is ignorant to these kinds of differences and doesn’t serve the business well. Teams also need to manage their cross function differences for the good of the different teams and the organization.
Organizations need differences, need debate, need people to challenge, need honesty but organizations do not need conflict. Conflict eats into time, effects employee engagement and employee morale, and profits. It is detrimental to the organizational goals.
The greatest source of inefficiency for most organizations lies in workplace conflict. Would you like to calculate your costs due to workplace conflict? Access the People Problems Calculator
While this study was conducted in the UK, the US and Canadian call center industry, are closely aligned with call center practices in the UK. Therefore, assumptions that these results are indicative of US and Canadian call center industry employee engagement and call center candidate sentiment are highly likely.
The findings identify a negative perception of call centers with a dismal 5% of this generation regarding working for a call center as exciting, while 55% consider it in a negative to work in a call center. An embarrassing, 1 in 3 of those surveyed, who are currently seeking work, would rather claim unemployment benefits than work in a call center.
Iain McMath, managing director of Sodexo Motivation Solutions said: “What this survey shows is that much more needs to be done to engage these Generation Y employees.”
McMath continues, “Although Generation Y presents its own set of challenges and has different priorities in the workplace than older generations, it is undeniable that these employees are vital to the call center industry. They are quick to adapt, hard-working, creative and not afraid of a challenge. They will require careful management and motivation in order to get the best out of them and retain them for any length of time.”
These findings represent a human capital crisis in a population of call center employees that easily embrace and adapt to the increasing technology complexities in call centers. This group, if alienated and lost would be devastating for companies trying to compete. Call center leadership that takes actions to change the status quo leadership practices of call centers stand to gain significant competitive advantages over their traditional call center leadership counterparts.
Learning about the nuances of this generational category of the workforce, up to now, is much maligned in theory-based and anecdotal methods that have not delivered long-term sustainable benefit. This group requires a deep connection and understanding at a personal level.
To get greater insights into how to connect with this group and others, insights are available in the complimentary eBook 7 Keys to Call Center Employee Engagement. Stopping the chronic low morale and high turnover in call centers is not possible if you choose to do what everyone else does.
Treat others as ‘they’ want to be treated!
The golden rule is advocated by all the great world religions; Jesus, Hillel, and Confucius used it to summarize their teachings. For thousands of years the concept has been influential among people of various cultures all over the world. As children we have had this ingrained in us and as adults we enforce the behaviors of the golden rule in our children. These facts suggest that the golden rule is an important truth.
Yet it is this very golden rule that is cursed when it comes to the effect of leadership on employee engagement and employee morale. What? You think I’m crazy? That’s besides the point. Just think about this. I love chocolate but that is no reason to use it as bait when fishing. To be successful I must use what appeals to the fish – worms, even if it does not appeal to me. You will not win the hearts and minds of all employees using the criteria that engages you. In this situation the golden rule is a curse and creates a negative impact on employee morale and employee engagement. See…the golden rule is cursed.
During a team building session, a team leader apologized to the rest of the team for constantly giving them challenges. “Challenges light my fire, and I thought this worked for everyone”. He had been fishing with chocolate!
Some employees are motivated by challenges, others can feel ‘used’ by this same behavior. Not everyone needs to be openly appreciated. Not everyone will be happy when you offer your help. Perks and bonuses do not work for all. The golden rule is a curse for leadership development.
The most successful leaders know their people and know how they need to be treated to add value and create worth. They are approachable. They have open, collaborative lines of communication. They may ask questions like “What do you need from me as your team leader?” “0-10 score me on how I match against those criteria?” “Do you have suggestions as to how I can improve those scores?”. They do this because they know the golden rule is a curse and assuming they know the answer will backfire.
The leader may not be able to give individuals what they are looking for as she will have restrictions and needs of her own. However, the crucial thing is that employees sense a willingness from the leader to understand them and a willingness to meet their needs if it were possible. By giving her employees what they don’t normally get she will get from them what they don’t normally give…engagement.