A recent article in USA Today titled Workers eager to job hunt as morale plunges highlights the reporting of a recent study that reveals findings that employee engagement and loyalty is at a three-year low, but many employers have no clue as to the dismal state of affairs.
Employers think that employees are just as engaged and loyal as they were three years ago. The findings from the 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends conducted by MetLife shows that many employees, more than one in three Continue reading
If you received this call, knowing it’s the holiday season, what would you do? You would do what you have to do, wouldn’t you. That is what my friend Will did when he received this call the other day. The company he works for has over 600 locations nationwide.
Just think about the savings in payroll that can be added to the bottom line over the 3 week period before the end of the year. That’s exactly what the corporate leadership team thought. But what cost does this type of thinking have on long-term employee engagement? Continue reading
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.
Most of the theories on what motivates people can be reduced to some form of self-interest. There must be some reward or benefit to individuals or they won’t be motivated to act. The greater the perceived benefit, the harder employees are likely to work.
There is no universal source of employee motivation. Being thanked personally works to improve employee morale for some but not for others. Money and employee incentives may not be the big motivator that many think it is. Many times it has a boomerang result.
Effective managers know their staff; know their employee’s motivations and appeal to these motivations when they need to influence employee morale and employee productivity. Respected managers do this with integrity and high ethics.
Employee morale and motivation translates into energy, energy translates into action and action produces employee productivity results.
While money can be used to buy you a dog, it is food and love that makes it wag its tail. If people are not rewarded or treated in a manner that suites them, they are unlikely to be happy or productive.
If people are not motivated, their talents and abilities will lie dormant, and the achievements of the organization will suffer. The ability to motivate is a key skill for those members of staff who are responsible for employee engagement.
De-motivation shows in reduced productivity, high absenteeism, poor timekeeping, resistance of all types, customer complaints, workplace conflict, low employee morale and high staff turnover.
Creating the environment where employees motivate themselves is a key, yet secret to employee engagement.
Greg is a self-styled call center humorist. He’s also an astute critic of management practices gone bad. His latest contribution to the practice of management takes the form of a limerick. He’s entitled it prosaically “Call Center Limerick #1.” I guess that means we ought to brace ourselves for more.
With Greg’s permission, I offer you his ditty:
There once was a manager who
micromanaged all reps on his crew
For the reps it was hectic
Each breath was a metric
If you died, well, he measured that too
It does seem that managers sometimes get so busy measuring that they fail to manage. Whoever first coined that old saw, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” ought to offer a retraction. This saying has done more harm than good to management practices. It puts the cart before the horse.
Measurements—especially measures of financial performance—are lagging indicators. They measure the effectiveness of what has been done. They are descriptive; not prescriptive.
A further trouble here is that we tend to measure those things that are easiest to measure. So, managers gravitate towards measures such as employee productivity and efficiency. Once you measure them, you report them, and what gets reported becomes seen as important. If you are not careful, this creates a vicious circle of micro management. Is it any wonder that call centers have low employee morale and employee engagement problems?
Focus instead on what is important rather than on what is easy to measure. Focus on what matters, like employee engagement. Though traditionally, this has been harder to measure, the Satisfaction@Work Index® has made it possible for the last 10 years. Even this tool, though, can be abused if you put it first, not second, where it belongs. Don’t set your course by it; set your course by articulating your mission, vision and values, then assess your progress along the journey by using the Index.
As a way of saying “thanks” to Greg for getting me started on this topic, let me propose my own tribute to the call center humorist:
There once was a writer named Greg
who wrote what popped into his head
When readers genuflected
the wisdom reflected
They learned from the things that he said
Watch out: this limerick-ing can become addictive. What management wisdom can you offer by way of a limerick?
“When it comes to business leadership, nice guys finish first.”
This is a report of research conducted by GreenPeak Partners in collaboration with Cornell University. The report itself is entitled: “What Predicts Executive Success?”
If you’ve been following my ideas, you know that I write a lot about leadership development for frontline leadership; leadership at the supervisory or team level. Leadership there requires a high degree of attention to the “people” part of leadership. It requires attention to relationships, to collaboration, to partnering…to employee engagement. This is what is important in executive leadership training.
What this report by GreenPeak demonstrates is that people skills are also important at the CEO level. The myth that it takes a hard-driving, “take no prisoners” style of entrepreneurial leader to drive employee productivity and the highest financial results is just that—a myth. The report debunks this long-standing myth.
Just like team leads, CEOs do best when they collaborate, when they trust those on their team, when they develop a high level of skill at personal relationships.
This report points me back to what should have been obvious to me, but I had lost sight of it. Leadership is primarily about people. And it doesn’t matter how many people one leads, nor where in the hierarchy they fill a role. Good leadership, in practice, looks the same whether you are a CEO or a team leader.
If, in my previous writings, I have seemed to focus too much on the role of leadership at the frontline, it is only because that’s where it often gets overlooked. I want to correct the oversight. I want to overcome the neglect. At the senior level, while leadership has not been overlooked, its essence has been mistaken. I hope this report helps to put to rest some worn-out myths about CEO leadership. I was delighted to see my own hunches validated by it.
I was browsing through a science magazine the other day and came across an article on astronomy. While reading it, it occurred to me that teams in the workplace area lot like stars and their solar systems. There are three different kinds.
Some function like our own solar system, with a bright light at the center (the team leader) holding satellites in orbit by force of its gravity. This is the hands-on leader, the one who can do—and who does do—everything that anyone else on the team can do, only better. They lead by force of personality, hard work, and long experience. The planets (their team members) are held in orbit by force of gravity of the leader. Some of these planets seem to shine, but theirs is actually reflected light; they do not produce it on their own. Such solar systems tend to function okay and last a long time… least until the energy of the star at their center burns out. A lot of work teams function the same way, as long as the team leader stays actively in control and at the center of things employee productivity stays high.
Some teams are more like black holes. The gravitational pull (ego) of the leader is so strong and intense that no light ever emerges. They suck energy from all of the space around them. This is the hallmark of a team leader for whom everything is “me” and never “we.” Fortunately, these are rare, as they typically produce more employee grievances than employee satisfaction.
A third kind of system, accounting for perhaps as many as 75% of all star systems, are called binary stars. These are the ones that excite me. In a binary system, two stars mutually orbit each other, interacting with each other’s gravitational field, sometimes even exchanging mass between themselves. Binary stars release a level of power that single stars can never attain.
Think what this means for organizations. Imagine a team where the needs of the leader and the needs of the members revolve mutually around each other.
Those teams—potentially those 75% of all teams—that create a setting where people—their dreams, ambitions, talents, and strengths—can be put to best use in pursuit of the mission and goals of the company and its leaders—are those that evolve to stages that ordinary teams cannot attain.
Through Beyond Morale, we work with those kinds of companies—those which orbit around the shared center of mass of their people and the organization.