Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Best Employer” surveys

Companies with high levels of employee engagement earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market. High employee engagement is one factor that shows that an employer is rated highly by its employees. Based on averages from recent “Best Employer” surveys (as reported in The Globe and Mail, December 20, 2005), here is the math on why you should care about increasing your employee engagement:

The full-time voluntary turnover rate is 8 percent for the best employers versus 11 percent for others.
The part-time voluntary turnover rate is 12 percent for the best employers versus 23 percent for others.

Among senior leadership at the best employers, 74 percent believe that their organization is investing enough to develop the next generation of leaders versus 65 percent at other organizations.

Among the best employers’ senior leaders, 64 percent believe that their organizations have an excellent succession planning process for developing leaders versus 46 percent at other organizations.

The 50 best employers who are publicly traded have an average compound annual growth rate of revenue (averaged over their past five fiscal years) of 16.4 percent per annum versus 6.1 percent at other organizations.

When looking at average cash flow return (averaged over their past five fiscal years), the best employers come in at 13.7 percent per annum versus other publicly traded participants at 10.2 percent. These are not insignificant differences. And in today's economy any company that is not looking at every available option to increase profitablity (or halt a slide in profits) would be well advised to consider the modest investment in employee engagement surveys that has proven over time to be a major factor in the success of many organizations.

Our services include:
Insightlink's 4Cs Employee Engagement Survey - a comprehensive diagnostic tool to determine how your employees feel on all 4Cs of employee satisfaction: Communications, Culture, Commitment and Compensation.

Insightlink's Exit Survey System - a powerful online exit survey management tool that provides survey results in real time and the ability to create aggregate summaries as needed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boosting Participation without Incentives

Embedded Questions - Even Cookie Preference - Can Boost Participation on Employee Engagement Surveys.

Insightlink's 4Cs survey is designed to be sufficiently engaging and motivating to achieve high participation and completion without the use of incentives. During our issues meetings with clients, we discuss the nature of the organization's work force to assess whether incentives are warranted. Incentives are something many survey providers grapple with, since there are pros and cons to using them. The issue of whether or not to use incentives to boost participation in employee surveys comes up regularly. Inevitably, somebody suggests encouraging managers to tell their employees that there will be a company-provided celebration (probably the most common is a pizza party or other type of lunch) for any department that can boast 100% participation in the survey. Other organizations set up "contests" where departments vie to see which can achieve the highest participation - again, with some sort of company-sponsored prize going to the winner(s). A few have attempted to enter individual participants into drawings, often with multiple prizes. So what does Insightlink recommend?

As a general rule, we advise clients not to make participation in the survey a competition. We generally recommend against individual winners or rewarding teams. If you do choose this route, however, be sure to communicate the incentive plan often and well. Be sure you have consistent and fair rules. Instead, consider a company-wide incentive. Make it meaningful to employees and feasible for the organization. For some, this may be donating to a charitable cause if they achieve their participation goal. Employees are less likely to view this type of incentive as a bribe, since it does not benefit employees directly. Insightlink's research team recently experimented with a new way to encourage survey completion that is employee-driven, not externally driven. Our client planned to have an "Employee Cookie Day" at the conclusion of the employee survey. So at the end of the survey, we added a question giving employees the opportunity to vote for their favorite cookie.The primary goal was to create a concrete way to show employees that HR was really listening to the survey results. A secondary benefit was that the symbolism of treating employees to a day with cookies, provided in quantities similar to the vote outcome, gave the organization time to do short, medium and long-term action planning. That such actions boosted participation was an added bonus. Adding a question about cookie preferences concluded the survey in a positive and unexpected way - and even provided a survey question that was okay to discuss around the water cooler. It created buzz about the survey and prompted more staff to want to offer their two cents - which they only could do by answering the entire survey, since the cookie question was strategically placed at the end.

And yes, chocolate chip was the winner!

Action Planning Task Force Tips

Your engagement survey is done. You have your results. What now? Since you alone cannot do all the action planning, who is going to help so that all the talk about employee engagement was not in vain?

In order to be effective across the organization, of course, no single person should be responsible for all aspects of the Action Planning process. Insightlink recommends recruiting individual Task Forces for each of your organization’s major opportunities for improvement.

Task Force members will work together as a team to:

Create an Action Plan, including specific action items designed to address the key opportunities (within their designated major area of opportunity)

Share the plan with all employees (at least those impacted). You can either share with the organization as a whole or at a department/site/functional unit level, but do share!

Work diligently to implement each of the action items in a timely way, including monitoring the progress on each item

Help to assess success for each action item at the end of the process

Although the anticipated time commitment from Task Force members is generally about 4-6 hours per month over a 3-6 month period, as an HR insider, you should assess this yourself and manage the expectations of those who are involved.

Ideally, when “recruiting,” look for Task Force team members who are:

Highly creative/articulate individuals who are more likely to come up with “out-of-the-box” solutions
People with high energy and enthusiasm, who tend to get things done and keep others excited
Good team players
Able to devote the necessary time to the process
Skilled in what it takes to develop solutions, especially those with special expertise in the areas of concern
Able and willing to implement the necessary corrective actions

Each Task Force should hold regular Action Planning meetings that focus on setting goals and deciding on viable action items. Some useful tools and tips for effective goal setting are:

Brainstorming: Encourage diverse ideas and don’t censor any suggestions. Record all the ideas given and potential solutions offered, since even the strangest suggestion may represent the “germ” of a worthwhile solution. “Good” ideas are the end product of a process of evolution that usually starts with ideas that are flawed … often seriously. (“Idea Generation”)

Strategizing: Take the opportunity to “grow” flawed ideas by identifying the positives, including 1 or 2 advantages that are not immediately obvious. At this stage, both wishes and concerns are powerful sources for raising the ceiling on ideas. (“Appraisal that Adds Value”)

Removing Barriers: Start to tailor and transform the idea to keep the positives while eliminating the flaws. (“Tailoring and Transforming”) Each Task Force should be responsible for producing a written Action Plan that outlines what specific action items to implement to address the goals agreed to by the Task Force.

Each action item needs to include the following to ensure accountability and progress:
Completion Target Date – Target dates are dependent upon your best estimate of when the action steps will be completed. They can range from almost immediate for the “quick hits” to very lengthy for more serious issues.

Responsibility – Every action plan should have an “owner” who is accountable for the outcomes and the final results.

It is also essential to regularly update your Action Plans, so that you, your stakeholders and your employees can see the progress being made. Recognize, though, that circumstances may require you to change your timeline because of new discoveries or unidentified barriers.

Remember this is a team effort. Don’t forget to share best practices! Learn from your colleagues on what has worked well (or not so well) with their Action Plans.

Employee Engagement Action Planning Workbook

Both extensive research and Insightlink's own experience with clients have demonstrated that, after an employee survey has been conducted, employees are much more interested in seeing action taken than they are in seeing the results of the employee survey. In fact, employee surveys have little or no value if nothing is done to make improvements at the organization. This is why successful action planning is a critical component of successful employee surveys. Insightlink is committed to providing our clients with the tools and help they need to create effective Action Plans that are designed for their organizations specifically.
Go to to find out more about the Insightlink 4Cs Survey Feedback and Action Planning Workbook.

Cost-Justifying Employee Surveys

Cost-Justifying Employee Surveys during Tough Economic Times

In today's tough economic times, it can be hard to justify spending money on employee surveys, especially when many organizations are searching for ways to cut costs. Look further, however, and you'll see how savvy HR professionals can show senior management concrete areas where increased HR spending is actually a smart, cost-justified investment in your organization's future that will pay off in both the short- and long-term. In fact, an Insightlink 4Cs employee survey with benchmarking norms, comprehensive analysis and tools for action planning will generally cost you no more than a Starbuck's latte per employee.

Organizations of all sizes see that employee engagement is directly correlated with employee productivity and company performance. Despite this, senior management sometimes forgets it's still critical to focus on engagement, even during an economic downturn. Some figure, why bother making sure employees are satisfied when they are likely to stick around and perform anyway?

Without sufficient satisfaction on three of the 4Cs - Culture, Communications and Compensation - Commitment (the 4th C) can drop to levels where many employees will become "Dissatisfied Compromisers" with low morale and, for some, reduced productivity. Clients tell us that conducting anonymous employee opinion surveys and implementing action plans, even when there have been recent layoffs, has proven an effective, affordable way to forge ahead through even the most challenging periods. HR managers enjoy peace-of-mind when they know that the survey process will run smoothly, the data will be reliable and that they can look at results in context of Insightlink's reliable industry benchmark norms, instead of trying to wrap their arms around a mass of data without anything meaningful to compare it to.

Employee Engagement, Commitment and Satisfaction

"Companies with high levels of employee engagement earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market" 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" in 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. In other words, we place much more emphasis on the measure of employee satisfaction (using the 5 point scale "Extremely satisfied," "Very satisfied," "Somewhat satisfied," "Not very satisfied" and "Not at all satisfied") as the key predictor of organizational well-being. Our approach has been validated by a recent article from Wharton University of Pennsylvania called "Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices."

To obtain a copy of the full article, contact Lara Fordis at 1-866-802-8095 x. 705 or via email at

"Don't let your profits walk out the door."

No matter what function they hold in your organization, top-performing employees are vital to the success of your business. Top performers are the employees who generate more sales, who make better decisions, who solve the difficult technical problems and who generally make life easier (and more profitable) for business owners.You definitely don't want to lose these people, but the truth is, they are not only valuable to you. They are also the types of employees most likely to be stolen away by your competitors. And they are much more expensive to replace! So how do you prevent them from taking the bait when headhunters start calling? According to research, there are five primary reasons that make employees stay with employers long term:

  1. Challenging and interesting work

  2. Opportunities to learn new skills and grow in their jobs

  3. Good relationships with co-workers

  4. Fair pay

  5. A great boss

Now that you know what your top performers are looking for, you need to learn how you can give it to them. Doing this may be easier than you think. Here are five guidelines to follow.

  1. Talk to your employees.While you may be nervous about the answer, the best way to find out what it will take for an employee to stay is to ask them outright. Once you've asked them, encourage them to list every factor that they can think of. It's rare that someone will say 'money' and stop there. Your real high performers are looking for growth, development and responsibility.

  2. Challenge your employees with goals.Although a great boss is last on the list of what employees are looking for, it is primarily this person who can influence all of the other factors. Hence the need for good, effective management. In your position as a leader, you have the opportunity to set goals for your employees that help both of you realize a shared vision for the company. Ongoing discussion about these expectations will help to ensure that employees are inspired and positively motivated to work toward these goals.

  3. Don't micro-manage.Top performers will rebel if you try to micro-manage them. Most top-performing employees need the flexibility and independence to make their own decisions. When businesses create a bureaucracy of rules and procedures which takes autonomy away from people, in time they create working environment where even though they say they respect people, they don't demonstrate that they trust them. And a lack of trust is a sure way to drive people away.

  4. Keep the lines of communication open.As your company grows bigger, you must find ways to continue to communicate. Employees will start to feel separated from your business if they're hearing about major company changes through the grapevine, or reading about them in the newspaper, rather than getting it first-hand from their internal leaders. That means setting up a very efficient information flow from the top down, making sure that communication is accurate through each level. They should hear it from you first.

  5. Recognize the importance of your company culture.Developing a company culture that top performers want to be involved in also is critical to retaining them. Employees will remain in a work environment where they feel they are contributing and building something that is bigger than them. Together with the team, get everyone to buy into and evolve that culture. The culture dictated from above becomes a meaningless mission statement. A culture that has benefits for the people in it, motivates and rewards everybody is what then drives your success.

Insightlink offers a variety of professional services that can help organizations both improve employee satisfaction and evaluate their reasons for leaving. Our services include:

Insightlink's 4Cs Employee Survey - a comprehensive diagnostic tool to determine how your employees feel on all 4Cs of employee satisfaction: Communications, Culture, Commitment and Compensation.

Insightlink's Exit Survey System - a powerful online exit survey management tool that provides survey results in real time and the ability to create aggregate summaries as needed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

5 ingredients for a great workplace

By: Emilie Le Beau March 02, 2009

Back away from the doughnuts.

Rewarding employees with free food is useless if they don't feel valued. Experts agree that perks only work if a company has a culture that makes employees feel creative and appreciated.
Working to establish a positive environment can be profitable. "The best places to work have historically outperformed the stock market by just about double," says Seymour Adler, senior vice-president at the Chicago consultancy Aon Human Capital.

So how can your company become a great place to work? Here are five elements that the best workplaces have in common:

1) Sense of purpose.

Most workers do not perform brain surgery or rescue children from burning buildings. Creating a sense of purpose can help employees feel as though their jobs have meaning. "Generations Y and X want meaning in their life. They want to work with a leader in a company that has a higher purpose," says Jim Bandrowski, president of Strategic Actions Associates, an organizational consultancy in Danville, Calif.

One of Mr. Bandrowski's clients, Shure Inc. in Niles, pushed a new mission to become the audio industry leader. "That gives everyone a sense of purpose that we are going to do a great thing in the industry," Mr. Bandrowski says.

2) Transparency.

Successful workplaces are structured to hold both employees and management accountable. Annual reviews, for example, may include comments from peers or subordinates.

Transparency gives workers a sense of trust. "It provides predictability, so you don't feel like you could have the rug pulled out from you at any moment," says Linda Ginzel, clinical professor of managerial psychology at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

3) Opportunities for autonomy.

Small, daily choices can have a big impact. Successful workplaces allow employees to choose when they arrive in the morning, take a lunch break or tend to specific tasks.
"It's respect, recognition," Ms. Ginzel says. "Give them choices from a menu of options so they have more discretion with their time."

4) Customized benefits.

Successful workplaces identify which benefits would best help employees. Younger employees raising families, for example, are engaged by work-life programs, while older workers may be excited about the option of phased retirement.

"The best workplaces are as customized as possible," says Carol Sladek, principal and head of the work-life consulting practice at Lincolnshire-based human resources consultancy Hewitt Associates Inc. "No longer do we have one kind of employee with one kind of need."

5) Hope. Employees worried about their company's future aren't satisfied or productive.

Successful workplaces acknowledge employee concerns and provide a sense of assurance.

"There has to be an element of optimism: People are getting laid off, but we have a strategy (to get) out of this," Aon's Mr. Adler says. "Employees can deal with a lot if they have both trust and hope."