Thursday, April 30, 2009

Economy not hurting engagement

Some good news from Birmingham Business Journal
While the economy is in turmoil, employers will be happy to know that their employees are more focused on getting the job done, according to a recent survey.

At least 84 percent of American employees said their job performance has not been affected by the economic rubble going on around them, while 14 percent said they sometimes catch themselves worrying but are doing the best they can, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Right Management, which is a division of Manpower.

Only 2 percent of workers said they are often distracted and find it difficult to perform their job tasks well.

“While worried about the economy, most people say that the daily doom and gloom reports are not distracting their performance at work,” said Douglas J. Matthews, COO of Right Management. “With job losses continuing to mount, unemployment reaching new heights and organizations struggling to meet profitability goals, employees are working hard and staying focused on getting the job done.”   

5 Leadership Inputs into Employee Engagement

Key inputs into employee engagement from leaders and managers within the organization:

    1. Engage yourself. Before you can foster or enhance the engagement of employees, never lose sight that you are one of those employees. Keep a focus on your own levels of employee engagement as you also champion engagement for others.
    2. Hold engaging conversations. Avoid making employee engagement an announcement or policy. Ensure your employee engagement has a grass roots conversational quality to it. Talk with your employees. Doc Searls talking about
      conversational marketing stated: conversations are about talking, not announcing. They’re about listening, not surveying. They’re about paying attention, not getting attention. In many ways, employee engagement is less about what you put in and more about what you draw out of employees.
    3. Be strong and strengthen others. Employees who work from their strengths and have work designed around their strengths are more engaged. As leaders, we must also talk with people about their strengths. There are many pathways to strengths.
    4. Apply the simple and significant. I am passionate about employee engagement and believe it makes a huge difference for all in the workplace and I recognize how many things the average leader must attend to. It is not my intention to make employee engagement an imposition in an already overcrowded day. I encourage you to find the simplest yet most significant thing you can do to advance employee engagement.
    5. Engage the clutch. My experience with the majority of leaders in organizations is that they respond to the full slate of demands with an excess of engagement and hours worked. We must regularly engage the clutch and go to neutral. Engaged leaders also find time for rest, recovery, and renewal. The path to full engagement also involves periods of disengagement — our walk to the desert for renewal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

7 Organizational Inputs into Employee Engagement

David Zinger on Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement: Monday Morning Percolator #26

To achieve full levels of employee engagement, efforts must come from organizations, leaders, and employees. This will outline 7 actions organizations can take to foster higher levels of employee engagement.
  1. Assess and remove any roadblocks or hurdles to employee engagement. Ask employees what could be removed or lessened to increase their level of engagement with the organization.
  2. Create a culture where employee engagement is valued, discussed, shared, and lived. Employee engagement needs to be both recognized and appreciated.
  3. Ensure that the top leaders within the organization are committed to employee engagement, engaged themselves, and they are willing and committed to investing organizational resources into the engagement initiatives.
  4. Move beyond measuring employee engagement to taking action on those measures. Attend to your metrics but focus on your people.
  5. Help employees see the benefit of employee engagement for themselves and their customers. Don’t let your engagement initiatives become organizational manipulations to merely squeeze out more productivity and discretionary effort from employees.
  6. Study your highly engaged employees to determine the vital behaviors they perform that contribute to their high level of engagement. Once those behaviors are determined work at spreading those behaviors to other people within the organization. Strive to make employee engagement a viral phenomenon for the organization.
  7. Educate leaders and managers within the organization on how to foster employee engagement and help leaders understand and leverage their key role in employee engagement efforts.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Employee Engagement, Commitment and Satisfaction

As HR managers consider the various options open to them for conducting their employee surveys, here at Insightlink we've been asked questions relating to the role of "employee engagement" our surveys. In particular, we've been asked to compare our approach with that of alternatives such as the Hewitt Engagement Model and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale.

Insightlink's standard 4Cs employee survey contains many of the same measures that organizations use to assess employee engagement, such as "You are willing to work above and beyond the call of duty for your organization," "Your work gives you a feeling of personal accomplishment" and "You feel proud to work at this organization." However, our experience analyzing numerous employee studies is that employee engagement alone is not a sufficient barometer with which to gauge organizational performance, particularly in terms of influencing more concrete measures such as predicting turnover.

In fact, our experience with employee engagement as a survey measure is very similar to the conclusions of the article "Work Engagement in Japan: Validation of the Japanese Version of the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale" that (a) all engagement items load on a single factor (rather than the multiple factors included in the Work Engagement Scale), which means that the scale is evaluating just one construct, and (b) that work engagement is positively related to job satisfaction.

Culture and Engagement - Our Time To Act by Joe Gerstandt

Culture and Engagement

Still reflecting on the topic of organizational culture, and its importance, and it is probably worth taking a look at employee engagement. If you have been paying any attention to anything in the world of human resources, talent management, organizational behavior and organizational development during the past decade, you know that engagement matters. It matters a lot.
There are a number of definitions out there, a growing mountain of research (and pricey consulting services) all related to the issue of engagement. Choose the research, framework and definitions that work for you, but for me engagement is primarily about the deployment of discretionary effort. A person that makes the extra effort, that sacrifices and does more than what is technically required of them is engaged.

It is getting a bit dated, but I still like the information in Driving Performance and Retention Through Employee Engagement that was released by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2004. It can be found in this larger piece on engagement (pages 2-13). They define employee engagement as "the extent to which employees commit to something or someone in their organization, how hard they work, and how long they stay as a result of that commitment." So their definition sounds fancier than mine, but I like it, and I think it is probably important to include the idea of an employee's intent to stay.

So they did one of their big ass surveys of over 50,000 employees at 59 global organizations and came up with some insights regarding employee engagement.

It IS really important - engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% more likely to stay. An analysis of both rational and emotional forms of engagement reveals that emotional engagement (emotional commitment to job, to organization, to team, to manager) is four times more valuable than rational engagement in driving employee effort. Most important among the 25 highest-impact drivers of engagement are a connection between employees' job and organizational strategy and employee understanding of how important their job is to organizational success. Also critical for increasing engagement levels are numerous manager characteristics and cultural traits, such as good internal communication, integrity, a culture of innovation.

The Top Five most effective levers for increasing engagement were:

Connection Between Work and Organizational Strategy
Importance of Job to Organizational Success
Understanding How to Complete Work Projects
Internal Communications
Demonstrated Strong Commitment to Diversity

What sticks out to me about the insights from this study is that are pointing towards things that have a lot to do with organizational culture. i would say that all five of these are in some way connected to an organizations culture, some more than others.

In my first post on organizational culture, I said that it could act as a force-multiplier for us and I think that employee engagement is an example of exactly that. If your culture is one that is highly engaging for employees, you are going to outperform groups that have similar resources with lower engagement....remember engaged employees perform 20% better and are 87% more likely to stay. Your organizational culture can help make this happen.

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but organizational (and team, and community) culture is really important and potentially really powerful. It is a key factor in the longevity of your organization, as well as employee engagement and retention, your ability to innovate and more.

So. What is your culture strategic plan? What kind of resources are budgeted for architecting your culture? How many meetings, how many conversations are specifically about organizational culture? Do you have goals? Measurements? Maybe not. And so here we have this really powerful thing that we can use to make our organization really powerful and it is simply adrift at sea. We are in many ways absentee landlords when it comes to our organizational culture.
But it is simple to start. You can start by just making a few notes for your own consideration, to help develop your understanding of your current organizational culture.

Describe your organizational culture (either in narrative format or with a list of attributes), here are a few questions to help spur your thinking:

How do meetings work in your organization, are they very formal/ structured/rigid or are they a free-flowing exchange of ideas? Are they common or rare? Are they high-energy or low-energy? Productive or not?

How are questions viewed in your organization? Are they welcomed and embraced or do they result in defensiveness / debate posturing?

How are mistakes and risk-taking treated in your organization? When something does not work out as planned it is used for shared learning?

How are new ideas viewed in your organization? Are new ideas judged on their merit or are they judged based on who they come from?

Are conversations open/honest/candid? Are there undiscussables? Are there topics that are off limits?

Who determines the culture?

Now think about whether this organizational culture that you have started to describe matches with what the organization claims to be (mission statement, public perception, etc.)...and why or why not?

We are going to look at some more focused and research based tools later, but I think these are some good questions to reflect on to start wrapping your hands around what your organizations culture is and what that means for its success and for its future...and what it means for you.

More IT workers dissatisfied

From South Florida Business Journal.
While information technology still remains a good career path with strong potential for high earnings, more IT professionals are feeling less secure about their jobs, according to a survey of It employees by InformationWeek.

Fears about job security among IT professionals is at its highest rate since 2004, with 13 percent saying they felt their jobs were insecure, up from 8 percent last year. Thirty-seven percent consider their jobs to be very secure, down from 51 percent last year.

Two-thirds of the IT professionals are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, including the pay, while just 11 percent are dissatisfied.

One-third (33 percent) think an IT career is as promising as it was five years ago – 10 percentage points lower than in 2008.

Full article

Friday, April 24, 2009

Towards a model of work engagement

Bakker, A.B. & Demerouti, E. (2008). Towards a model of work engagement. Career Development Internatonal, 13, 209-223.

Purpose – This paper aims to provide an overview of the recently introduced concept of work engagement.

Design/methodology/approach – Qualitative and quantitative studies on work engagement are reviewed to uncover the manifestation of engagement, and reveal its antecedents and consequences.

Findings – Work engagement can be defined as a state including vigor, dedication, and absorption. Job and personal resources are the main predictors of engagement; these resources gain their salience in the context of high job demands. Engaged workers are more creative, more productive, and more willing to go the extra mile.

Originality/value – The findings of previous studies are integrated in an overall model that can be used to develop work engagement and advance career development in today’s workplace.

What does 'employee engagement' MEAN to your business?

Culture to Engage
Tips, examples, and how-to insights to grow the employee engagement culture you want for your company, brought to you by Tim Wright, MBA.

Between encouragement and engagement April 22, 2009

What does employee engagement mean to your business?

We're not talking "what's the value of employee engagement?" We're talking what does it mean? How do you define it? When you and your people talk about it, is everyone on the same page?

It's critical to know your business's meaning of employee engagement.

Here are just 3 good reasons:

Don't waste money. A portion of every dollar you spend to stimulate employee engagement is wasted if you have not clearly defined the nature, structure, shape and size of employee engagement you want as a result.

Don't waste time. Read the above statement; substitute "hour" for"dollar". Time is money.

Don't waste motivation. Your people get excited and eager to engage. Then they realize the type of engagement, the reason for the engagement, the results of the engagement are not clear. Not clear for you or them.

You want to have a clear, even measurable, awareness of what employee engagement looks like, what it is, what it does, what it provides. Here are 3 steps to get you there

  • As a group (to insure common understanding) leadership/management specify what is the business's success: profit, earnings, expenses, market share,
    recognition, customer loyalty...
  • Leadership/management discuss how each department, function, job contributes to achieving the success.
  • Management and employee representatives name observable signs of an employee's full engagement in contributing. They also name observable signs of your entire employee base full engagement.

5 Common Questions - How do I get a higher response rate?

From Walker Information's Blog on Employee Engagement

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 by Chris Woolard

I am often asked how can I get a higher response rate or if the company has never done an employee survey before, they want to ensure they get a good response rate. Below are some tips to ensure a good response rate:

  • Have a Senior Leadership sponsor. Having a Senior Leader stand up and say the employee survey is important to them and they fully support it, shows the commitment the company has to the survey. This Senior Leader should have their name on the communications and where possible, talk about the survey in employee meetings. The employees will be more likely to believe the company will act on the survey results, and thus more likely to complete the survey if a Senior Leader takes ownership of the program.
  • Open communication and dialogue on how to complete the survey and what will happen to the results. My last blog discussed the types of communication that need to happen to make an employee survey successful. -Act on the information. The worst the thing a company can do is conduct a survey and not act on the results. Employees will be more likely to complete future surveys if they see you took the time to make changes in the company based on the feedback from the survey. I will be writing a blog next week on how to act on the information.
  • Ensure confidentiality. Employees will be less likely to complete a survey if they fear their responses will not be kept confidential. Hiring an outside third-party will help with the perception that results will be kept confidential. What will help the most though is showing that you will not use the results of the survey against an employee. This will help create trust and employees will be more comfortable completing the survey. It is not uncommon to have a small group of employees who complain about confidentiality but if you are open and honest about how confidentiality is ensured, how the results will be used, and do not single out an employee for their responses, the majority of employees will feel comfortable giving their honest and open feedback. My next blog will cover, how to know what areas to work on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Engaged employees contribute to the bottom line

From Business Wire...

Businesses looking for ways to increase sales and profits often overlook a critical component: employee engagement. In one of the largest research studies conducted on engagement, which found that one out of every 10 customers was hurt by disengaged employees. The research explores how employee engagement impacts a business in real dollars and suggests ways that businesses can capitalize on this opportunity.

Emotionally engaged employees believe they are doing something valuable for their organizations and that their efforts will make a difference. The positive feelings that employees have about their jobs and employers influence the level of service they give to customers. These positive experiences “spill over” to customers, who become advocates for the company’s products and services. In research, it has been that increasing employee engagement had a direct effect on customer engagement, which leads to increased sales and profits. Companies are missing a huge opportunity by not focusing on employees as a way to increase customer loyalty and engagement. This is especially critical in a slowing economy.

Job enhancers that, combined with the absence of stressful barriers, are effective at creating employees who are likely to be emotionally engaged. It is this emotional connection – the desire to do what is best for the organization – that spills over to customers, creating emotionally engaged customers. Critical job enhancers include:

*       Having a positive impact on the lives of customers and team members
*       Having opportunities for learning important new skills
*       Having the ability to offer suggestions
*       Completing whole jobs from start to finish
*       Receiving feedback about the results of efforts
*       Feeling free to perform the work the way they believe is best

“Engaged employees contribute to the bottom line. As their engagement is reflected in their service to customers, they are helping to create more loyal customers, and we know that highly engaged customers buy more products, refer potential customers to a company, stay longer and give more feedback, which, in turn, gives companies the opportunity to address issues and concerns and preserve potentially lost revenue.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

9 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged

Are your employees engaged in their work, or are they estranged from your company's mission and their role in making it happen? Mounting evidence suggests that the more engaged employees are in what they do, the better their performance and the higher the rewards for everyone. The key is to have managers who are skilled at creating employee engagement. Customer Care Coach publisher JoAnna Brandi explains why this is important, and shares tips for giving employees what they need so that they're willing to be and do their best.

For business leaders in companies of all sizes, the writing is on the wall: You can make and save money by keeping employees engaged. Coupled with The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires that businesses document internal controls relating to employee and customer satisfaction, it's never been more important for business leaders to stop dismissing internal customer care as 'soft and unimportant.' Let's face it, employees are not just humans 'doing;' they're human beings. Today's managers must make it a priority to get to know them so that they, in turn, can provide whatever's needed to keep their teams fully engaged in what they do. This creates wins for everyone. With that in mind, here are nine management tips for creating and sustaining employee engagement...

Read the full article