Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Employees Make Thriving Companies -

Fifty years ago, if you said you wanted better work-life balance, most managers would have smiled and assumed that meant you wanted to work until the balance of your life was over. Fortunately, times have changed. The best employers strive to help workers strike the right balance between work and enjoying life away from the office so they are re-energized when they return each day.
Every manager or business owner must ask, “Do my employees like coming to work or is work a repressive grind that they can’t wait to get away from, unwilling to spend an extra minute at work?”
Helping employees balance work and life has been a hot topic for years. Overlooking this need can cost business owners productivity, increased turnover, morale and--according to the Mayo Clinic--even contribute to poor employee health.

For more way to make your workplace less like work and more like a club that employees want to be part of, see the full article, by following the link below:

Happy Employees Make Thriving Companies -

Time to Say Good Night to “Employee Engagement”? « Commscrum

To be sure, the intentions behind the “employee engagement” movement of recent years were more-or-less honorable, to create working environments where employee participation was appreciated, and to ensure organizations used language that didn’t discourage such participation out of hand.

But as time went on, a prevailing definition for “employee engagement” came to indicate “the discretionary effort contributed by employees,” (as if there was such a thing as “non-discretionary effort” in organizations that benefit neither from slavery nor sleepwalking). Moreover, many in the internal communication industry leapt in as offering “employee engagement solutions” that could help generate extra-special-discretionary effort well beyond that warranted by what their clients were willing to reciprocate with.

Such efforts, in turn failed to protect many from outsourcing and recession.  The frequency with which I’ve heard ‘I was engaged, but I got fired’ from my fellow unemployed internal comms pros, indicates evidence of a perverse one-sided inversion of the original intent of “employee engagement”, one not lost on those who’ve survived those troubles.  And yet, not only is this deemed acceptable in some quarters, but the route suggested by many traditionally-minded folks in our industry (and in HR, to be fair) to move organizations beyond the layoffs, outsourcings and upheaval of recent years is, guess what, “more focus on ‘employee engagement’”.

No way.  Indeed, it’s time to kill the term “employee engagement” and spread its ashes all over Iceland.  To our industry, it’s become no less toxic than the term “sub-prime mortgage” in the finance world.

For the complete article, click on the link below:

Time to Say Good Night to “Employee Engagement”? « Commscrum

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Employee engagement is the next big thing in human resources, because employees who are engaged - who feel they're getting as much out of work as they're putting into it - are more likely to stick around. And travel perks help increase engagement.
Read more:

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Gen Y and Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda -

Bookend Generations

Right now, a battle for survival has eclipsed the war for talent. Business leaders are slashing headcounts and budgets and focusing with laser vision on what it takes to succeed in a deep global recession. But when the economy recovers, companies will return swiftly to the crucial work of recruiting and retaining top performers. Renewal and growth cannot be rekindled without high-octane brain power.

Yet the value proposition is changing dramatically in a new era of talent management. Two dominant demographic cohorts--Generation Y and baby boomers--are redefining what it takes for a company to be an "employer of choice." The 78 million boomers and 70 million Gen Y's crave flexibility, personal growth, connection and opportunities to "give back." The Bookend Generations are remapping old ideals of success as they pursue a "Rewards Remix" that prizes meaning and choice over money.

For more in-depth information on generations in the workplace, visit

What do the Bookend Generations want?

Top Picks for Gen Y and Baby Boomers:

  • Y's and boomers crave Odysseys. They are highly loyal yet see their careers as fluid journeys, suffused with flexibility over the day and over the long term. For these adventurers, career is a lifelong Odyssey, often punctuated by short time-outs or mini-odysseys to explore passions and altruism.
  • Y's and boomers are shifting from Me to We. Vested in healing the planet and improving the lot of humankind, they want some of this "give back" to happen on company time.
  • Y's and boomers value work/life balance and prioritize Flexibility and Remote Work. They are shedding Industrial Age conceptions of work and demanding control over when, where and how work gets done.

A Key Finding: The Bookend Generations seek a radical Rewards Remix. Gen Y's and boomers want employers to deliver on an important set of non-monetary rewards. Opportunities to take a short sabbatical, to give back to the community through work, or to engage in stimulating, challenging projects often can trump the size of the boomer or Gen Y paycheck. Our most recent data (January 2009) shows rising job insecurity and financial pressures yet a continued strong desire for newer rewards from odysseys to altruistic work.

This shift in the core values of a sizable proportion of the work force is both challenging and liberating for employers. Companies now must begin tackling the difficult task of creating more complex, holistic incentive structures. They must decipher how to use time as currency, make perks such as sabbaticals into norms of career planning, and realize the value of a green workplace as a retention tool. Such work is not easy. But the good news is that these motivators are far less costly than raises and bonuses at a time of shrinking budgets.

Best Practices: Finally, this report details cutting-edge best practices: 27 new company initiatives that take steps toward offering a needed Rewards Remix. Best and next practices, ranging from Houston's "Flex in the City" program to Ernst & Young's "Corporate Responsibility Fellowships" show how progressive employers are responding to a sea-change in employee attitudes.

How Gen Y and Boomers Will Reshape Your Agenda -

Last year, I wrote about employees taking pay cuts, furloughs, lower bonuses and other hits because the business world was upside down. Many of these cuts were necessary to help companies through a difficult recession. Most employees, just being happy to be employed, accepted these changes.

As often occurs, the pendulum swung too far and now employees are unhappy. While the economy is by no means healthy, it seems to be rebounding a bit or at least consumer confidence is on the upswing. There are signs of life, admittedly not much yet, in the previously moribund job market.

Many companies took advantage of employees, reallocating wealth in many of the same ways the federal government has. Tough times generate dangerous precedents. A very profitable, major New Jersey company went as far as cutting its lunchroom subsidy. Their decision angered employees and reduced productivity since many employees now eat offsite, thus resulting in longer lunch periods.

401(k) matches or bonuses are not considered perks, rather they are an expected part of a compensation package. When expectations are not met, loyalty and trust are diminished.

Too many people are putting in long hours, but are not actively engaged or emotionally connected to their organizations. They are going through the motions, not offering the discretionary or "extra" effort that research shows encompasses roughly 35 percent of their capacity. In other words, employers are not getting full productivity.

In a strange twist, the very efforts companies implemented to ensure their future viability are actually having the opposite effect of diminishing employee performance, loyalty and engagement.

My advice to managers and organizations: Transform yourselves to demonstrate employee commitment or accept lower performance and higher turnover. The following ideas will facilitate improvement in employee performance and retention:

Communicate. During tough times employers must over commmunicate. At the beginning of the downturn I implemented a few communication strategies at my company that were very successful.

First, we began monthly employee lunches at more than 60 locations. For example, at our New York City headquarters, we have more than 150 employees gather for lunch, games and a state of the firm talk. We began holding employee events such as bowling and dodge ball.

Second, the company president regularly sends out a state of the firm e-mail that always has a realistic, but positive tone. Keeping employees informed during tough times proactively negates rumors.

Third, I encouraged all senior executives to be more visible and connected to their employees. By walking around each morning they gained a better pulse on morale and increased employee commitment.

Finally, we actively engaged employees in the benefits renewal process. Specifically, we allowed the employee council to evaluate our health plan options and choose the plan they felt made the most sense. Active engagement creates support.

Restore. If your company reduced or eliminated benefits or perks, now is the time to restore them. For example, if a company did not match the 401k in the last year or two it should commit and communicate that it plans on matching this year. If your organization cannot afford to reinstate the match it should offer its employees, or at least key ones, perks such as extra days off.

Communicate the link between the employee’s effort, the employer’s inability to match and the reward.

To complete the example you might say, "It has been difficult watching you work so hard and to not be able to reward you. Instead of a 401k match this year, which we are unable to do, we would like to offer an additional paid week off. I wish we could do more, but please understand this is our way of showing you how much we appreciate your effort and how important you are to the organization."

Make promises you can keep. When employees believe that things will return to normalcy, their productivity will rise. So if you are certain there will be year-end bonuses and raises, communicate it now. Sending the message that ‘business as usual’ is returning will increase employee engagement.

Understand. Employers should empathize with employees. Instead of being aggressive and assertive with employees who are not performing at their previous levels try to understand and address the cause.

At a time when employee engagement and loyalty is low these tips will begin to restore your organization back to where it belongs

Friday, April 23, 2010

Attention Managers! Your Employees Just Aren't That Into You -

Picture this scenario: You're trying to finish a project but you need some information from your direct report. You call his desk to see if he can give you the information over the phone, but he doesn't answer. You walk over to his desk only for him to put his finger up as an indication that he is busy, and when he finally does look up, he is glaring at you for interrupting his thoughts.

He's probably just dealing with personal issues, right? Possibly. Or he just might not be that into you--and that's not only potentially damaging to you. It could hurt your company as well. Is there a cultural or generational gap? You need to understand what's happening and what, if anything, you can do about it.

"Employees who are not engaged are less productive," says Barbara Frankel, senior vice president and executive editor at DiversityInc. "[Disengaged employees] are almost never innovative and don't give you the creative spark necessary to get ahead in the growing global economy."

Here are some signs that your employees are "unplugged" from the company:

1. Coming to work late

2. Leaving early

3. Being on the phone with personal matters and texting during the day

4. Responding negatively or indifferently to teammates

5. Not paying attention in meetings

6. Not making eye contact

So what's the solution? For starters, you have to unload the dead weight, suggests Carolynn Johnson, vice president of business development at DiversityInc.

She also advises having a conversation before assuming the employee is simply disengaged. This, she says, helps your employees understand that you do care about them as a person as well as a worker.

"Before you make any allegations, ask the question: 'Are you OK?'" she says. "It's important to try and remember specific examples of what you are talking about. During the conversation, you, as the manager, may discover that your employee was too afraid to ask for help."

Here are other ways managers can turn the situation around:

1. Don't ignore the situation--address things when they happen

2. Don't try to change someone's passion

3. If there are cultural factors at play, reach out to employee-resource groups

4. Re-evaluate organizational changes and whether the individual still fits the changed corporate climate

Attention Managers! Your Employees Just Aren't That Into You -

Why Gay & Lesbian Employees Are Less Engaged -

Fifty-one percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers do not reveal their sexual orientation to all their coworkers. Only 5 percent of LGBT workers ages 18–24 reveal their sexual orientation to all of their coworkers. These are just two of the statistics found in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)'s new report, "Degrees of Equality: A National Study Examining Workplace Climate for LGBT Employees."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, states that the new study "helps us bridge the gap between policy and practice to fully understand LGBT workers' experiences."

The study also provides information on the reasons LGBT workers choose to disclose/not disclose their identity; different workplace scenarios where this issue arose and its impact on the business; and suggestions for improving engagement and retention. What are some of the key findings?

As a result of working in an environment not deemed to be LGBT-friendly:

  • Twenty-seven percent of LGBT workers found it distracting
  • Twenty-one percent have searched for a new job
  • Thirteen percent have stayed home from work for this reason at least once in the last year

Why do LGBT workers not disclose their identity?

  • Thirty-nine percent believe they will lose connections
  • Twenty-eight percent believe they will lose promotion opportunities
  • Seventeen percent believe they will be fired; this number increases to 42 percent for transgender workers
  • Thirteen percent fear actual physical harm; this number increases to 40 percent for transgender workers

What scenarios are likely to arise to create an uncomfortable environment?

  • Nearly half of LGBT workers feel "very" uncomfortable having conversations about their social lives, relationship status and the topic of sex, all of which occur frequently in the workplace and are found to be essential in "building productive work relationships"
  • Fifty-eight percent of LGBT workers say someone in their workplace makes jokes or derogatory comments about LGBT people
  • Sixty-two percent of LGBT workers say someone in their workplace makes jokes or derogatory comments about "minority" groups—which, HRC states, also creates a negative climate

Additionally, you may not be aware of non-inclusive behavior in your workplace because most LGBT workers do not report instances of anti-LGBT remarks.

  • Sixty-seven percent completely ignore the remarks
  • Nine percent raise the issue with a manager
  • Five percent raise the issue with human resources

To view the full report, click here. For more from on diversity training, click here, and for research on LGBT rights, here. Also, can you name The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees? Find out which companies are on the list here.

Why Gay & Lesbian Employees Are Less Engaged -

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Corporate social responsibility pays off in improved employee engagement and business performance Human Resources - News | HR News | HR Magazine |


An organisation's participation in corporate responsibility and environmentally-friendly business practices has a significant influence on employee engagement and business outcomes, new research reveals.

The research from the Kenexa Research Insititute, timed to coincide with Earth Day 2010 based on a survey of 1,000 employees, found 40% of employees claim to work in an organisation that demonstrates a genuine commitment to CSR and contributes to the community in which it operates.

The survey shows working for an organisation whose employees positively view corporate responsibility efforts has a significant, favourable impact on how they rate their pride in the organisation, their overall satisfaction and their willingness to recommend it as a place to work. And employees with favourable opinions of their organisation's corporate responsibility activities are more likely to state an intention to stay.

Anne Herman, research consultant at the Kenexa Research Institute, said: "Our research clearly indicates that organisations operating with a strong corporate responsibility climate have more engaged, confident and customer-oriented employees. It will be of great interest to senior leaders, however, that our results also indicate that those organisations that implement corporate responsibility efforts outperform those that do not on important financial metrics such as diluted earnings per share.

"Corporate responsibility activities increase the overall job satisfaction of employees, particularly those in upper and middle-management roles. Having a strong corporate responsibility climate can play a key part in helping organisations achieve their retention targets."

Corporate social responsibility pays off in improved employee engagement and business performance Human Resources - News | HR News | HR Magazine |

Employee Engagement Recession May Be Thawing

Employee Engagement Recession May Be Thawing

Employee attitudes about work engagement, hit hard by the recession, are improving, according to a survey of 62,000 employees collected in the first quarter of 2010.

Omaha, NE (PRWEB) April 22, 2010 -- Employee attitudes about employee engagement, hit hard by the recession, are improving, according to a survey of 62,000 employees collected in the first quarter of 2010. The study, conducted by Quantum Workplace of Omaha, Nebraska, shows overall employee engagement increasing in comparison to results from previous years. The overall engagement index increased to 87.7, up from the previous two years.

“This is the first sign we’ve seen that the impact of the recession on employee engagement may be easing,” according to Quantum Workplace President Gregory Harris. The survey collects responses for ten dimensions, including employee perceptions of senior leadership, team effectiveness, fair compensation and manager effectiveness.

“Although these results are encouraging, we have a long way to go in creating highly engaged workplaces,” according to Mark Hirschfeld, Principal at SilverStone Group in Omaha, Nebraska, who has collaborated with Quantum Workplace on this study over the past three years. “There is a large group of employees who experienced poor leadership over the last two years, and many of them are still disengaged. This disengagement has impacted their productivity to the point where they will leave for better work environments,” said Hirschfeld, co-author of Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times, published earlier this year by McGraw-Hill.

Harris concludes: “The companies we study who have the highest levels of engagement aren’t taking anything for granted right now. They’re continuing to invest in their employees, and our data indicates they’ll be in a better position to make their way out of this recession than companies with disengaged workforces. These companies are winning because they’ve built an engaging culture.”

Employee Engagement Recession May Be Thawing

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Human Brain ScanA person's inability to multi-task may result from the brain's predisposed mechanisms, BBC News reports.

When we work on two things simultaneously, each half of the brain focuses on the separate tasks, according to a French study published in the journal "Science." This may not only explain the difficulty of multi-tasking, but also individuals' tendencies to make irrational decisions when presented with multiple options.

"My view is that [irrational decisions are] critically related to this division of [labor] between the two hemispheres to keep track of two tasks or two options but not more," Dr. Etienne Koechlin, of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the study's lead author, told BBC. "Our result is likely to provide an explanation for why people are good in binary choice but not multiple choice."

French researchers used brain scans to analyze activity in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control, of 32 participants.

Researchers asked the volunteers to complete a letter-matching activity and when they completed one task at a time, one side of the frontal lobes lit up. When they completed two tasks simultaneously, the lobes divided the tasks between them. The primary task worked the left frontal lobe, while the secondary task corresponded to the right frontal lobe.

"You can cook and at the same time talk on the phone but you cannot really do a third task such as trying to read a newspaper," Koechlin told BBC. "If you have three or more tasks you lose track of one task."

Wanted: Bosses who show they care

By Marissa Lee

WE ALL want a certain something from our bosses but what the head honchos actually deliver can be off the mark, according to a new survey.

Human resources consultancy Towers Watson polled 20,000 employees in 22 countries from last November to January and found that two-thirds placed caring about others' well-being as a leader's most desirable trait.

Trustworthiness was next, followed by encouraging talent development and leading changes in practices and policies effectively.

While these desired qualities would mostly fall under the umbrella of people skills, the top four traits actually found in leaders tend to be more task-oriented, according to the study.

These four traits comprise being trustworthy, which 61 per cent of employees agree is evident in their bosses, exemplifying organisational values (60 per cent), effectively communicating change (60 per cent) and effectively managing risks (58 per cent).

'Employees increasingly want their leaders to connect with them on a more emotional level, out of concern and not just out of necessity,' said Dr Brent Ruge, Towers Watson's head of employee surveys in South-east Asia.

Managers who are only managers cannot be leaders, and with all the buzz about productivity, closing the manager-leader expectation gap is now more relevant than ever.

Along with efficient organisational structures and cost control, Dr Ruge lists employee engagement as one of the cornerstones of a productive company, and that engagement must stem from employees having their leadership expectations met.

'In general, when people's expectations are not met, it could drive down their engagement, make them not work as hard,' Dr Ruge said.

'All else being equal, you want to have good people practices to take advantage of all that infrastructure you've built within the company.'

But there are other more uniquely Singaporean obstacles standing in productivity's way.

Dr Ruge said: 'Your strength is your weakness. In Singapore, there is a lot of emphasis on individual talent, which makes people very competitive individually. But the downside to that is a long-term trend in the difficulty of teamwork and collaboration with other work units.

'From what I've seen over the years, Singaporeans tend to work well in small teams, but when you talk about cross-team collaboration, it tends to break down.'

One reason why competition works against productivity is that collaboration is not built into the rewards system. According to Dr Ruge, most companies' key performance indicators are built around individual attainment and do not place a substantial emphasis on teamwork. So when teams are made to work on cross-division projects, their priorities are not aligned as they should be.

'It's natural that people focus on what they're measured on,' said Dr Ruge.

Companies should therefore set clearer teamwide, companywide goals and align performance systems to those greater goals.

Other findings from the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, which polled 1,022 employees in Singapore, showed that workers here were more 'mobile' than their global counterparts.

Only 25 per cent of workers here said they had no plans to leave their current employers, compared with 42 per cent globally. And half of Singapore employees are willing to switch organisations when suitable job opportunities arise, compared with just one-third globally.

With Singapore recovering from the recession much faster than the United States and Europe, Dr Ruge also pointed to job-hopping as a potential problem on the horizon.

'Because Singapore has climbed the economic ladder and more jobs now are high-knowledge, high-skill jobs, any turnover you experience is going to be more painful and will affect productivity to a greater extent,' he said.

'So you want to make sure you retain your people and inspire them to expend some discretionary effort on behalf of the organisation.'

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Increasing Employee Retention Through Employee Engagement

You've seen it happen many times. An organization that provides top wages and benefits loses a great employee to a competitor for no apparent reason. Of course, some employee turnover is to be expected, but if your company is truly engaging your employees, there is no good reason for the unexpected loss of quality staff members. Many companies already know that wages and benefits are important to employees, but compensation alone is not enough to keep the highly skilled, motivated and experienced workforce your business needs to excel.
Why is Employment Engagement so important?
An organization's capacity to manage employee engagement is closely related to its ability to achieve high performance levels and superior business results.
Engaged employees will stay with the company, be an advocate of the company and its products and services, and contribute to bottom line business success. Engaged employees also normally perform better and are more motivated. There is a significant link between employee engagement and profitability. Employee engagement is critical to any organization that seeks not only to retain valued employees, but also increase its level of performance.

Many organizational factors influence employee engagement and retention such as:
  • A culture of respect where outstanding work is valued
  • Availability of constructive feedback and mentoring
  • Opportunity for advancement and professional development
  • Fair and appropriate reward, recognition and incentive systems
  • Availability of effective leadership
  • Clear job expectations
  • Adequate tools to complete work responsibilities
  • High levels of motivation
Read complete article. Increasing Employee Retention Through Employee Engagement

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tim Wrightman, a former All-American UCLA football player, tells a story about how, as a rookie lineman in the National Football League, he was up against the legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor. Taylor was not only physically powerful and uncommonly quick but a master at verbal intimidation.

Looking young Tim in the eye, he said, “Sonny, get ready. I’m going to the left and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Wrightman coolly responded, “Sir, is that your left or mine?”

The question froze Taylor long enough to allow Wrightman to throw a perfect block on him.

What is amazing about this story is it’s illustration that anyone –smaller, less innate ability, less experience–can outperform even the best if they put their mind to it.  We have choices we are able to make each day.  We choose how we will react.

Will we freeze?  Will we become paralyzed by our thoughts and fears? Or

Will we keep our cool?  Will we think strategically?

Will we let fear, intimidation, and stress be our jailor or counselor today?

I know what Tim Wrightman chose on that day.  What about you?  Engage yourself and outperform those around you.

Five Destructive Company HR Policies

Theft-of-time, no-references, and certain other HR rules take the "human" out of "human resources" and drive talent to your competitors

Thinking about the problems facing the business, a CEO is likely to pinpoint such bogeymen as competitive pressures and labor costs. The organization's internal policies aren't likely to make the list of things that keep a leader up at night. Maybe they should. Most organizations of more than a few hundred people are burdened by unfortunate and misguided policies that serve to slow operations and drive away talented employees.

Overwritten or heavy-handed policy manuals hurt your business in three ways. First, they take your employees out of the realm known to sports psychologists as The Zone—the most productive mental place to be. It's the arena where staffers can push your agenda in a fully engaged, minimally distracted way. Bad policies force an employee to stop and look up a rule or consult a manager, slowing down the action. Second, policies are expensive to disseminate and costly to administer. Third and most destructive, policies speak loudly about CEOs' trust in themselves and their management teams. Where trust abounds, policies are few. In organizations where trust exists, leaders have confidence in themselves to hire and manage team members without minute-to-minute supervision. In fear-filled environments, policies rule the day.

Here's our list of the five most destructive human resources policies we've come across. If several of these protocols are in place in your company, the sucking sound you hear may be your profits gushing down the drain, as smart and capable employees flee your shop for more adult environments.

1. Sorry, We Can't Accommodate Your Life

A sure sign of a second-rate organization is a time-off policy oblivious to a normal person's entanglements and obligations. One young friend of mine began a job with a multinational bank, only to be told on orientation day: "I'm sorry, we can't accommodate the two hours of time off you need for a court date three weeks from now. You'll have earned enough time off to take that two-hour break in a few months." She walked out halfway through the day. Employers who can't flex in small ways to accommodate carbon-based life forms don't deserve their talents.

Why this unaccommodating policy reeks: It broadcasts to employees that "your personal life has no value to us; invest your mental and emotional energy in us accordingly."

2. We'll Transfer You When We Feel Like It

It's reasonable to expect a new employee to stay in his or her job for a year, but to put your managers forever in charge of your employees' career progress is a very bad idea. Smart people who don't love their assignments can leave your company and join your competitors, and if you make it too hard for them to apply for an internal opening, that's what they'll do. Don't make managers the decisionmakers on their employees' transfer requests. Let hiring managers in other groups interview and hire (or not) your current team members the same way they consider outside applicants.

Why a manager-driven transfer policy is the pits: It lets employees know that if they can't trust their boss to look out for their interests when an appealing job in the company is available, their best bet is to bail on the organization entirely.

3. Sorry, We Don't Give References

It's stunning and horrifying to realize, if you haven't heard it before, that many employers do not allow their managers to give references for people who have worked on their teams in the past. The boneheaded logic here is that managers might say something unfortunate, subjecting the employer to defamation charges. Withholding positive references for people who served your interests is unethical and shameful. Put your managers back in the reference-giving game if you want talented people to invest brain cells in your success

Why the no-references policy makes our list: It says that "our concern over the unlikely prospect of a defamation charge—brought on, if one should happen, by our ineffectiveness at training managers—is more than ample justification for us to prevent you from getting the good reference that your excellent work at our company should have earned you."

4. Bereavement Leave Police

The phone rings with awful news: A family member has died. At this low point, your employees call their managers to report that they'll have to miss a few days of work. Here's when they learn that your company doesn't trust them to take a few days off with pay. They are told they've got to bring documentation from the funeral home to prove that their loved one has died. Could anything be tackier, more insulting, and less professional? Nearly every day I get queries from HR people who've been charged with writing and installing these bereavement leave policies. If you can't trust your employees for two days off during a family crisis, why are they are on your payroll at all?

Why this policy stinks: It's the ultimate in bad-faith, bad-taste management, an enormous insult to your trusted employees and the capable managers who hired them.

5. Theft-of-Time Policies

When HR people call or write me asking about theft-of-time policies, I feel like a character in a science fiction novel. Theft-of-time policies are the ones that seek to ding (or terminate) employees for checking eBay (EBAY), updating their blogs or Facebook profiles, or otherwise doing nonwork stuff during the workday. Problem is, there is no theft of time for salaried employees. We don't pay for their time. We pay for their hard work and their good ideas. In my experience, the people you want on your team (and why would you keep any other kind around?) can't stop thinking about work, even when they want to. So why would you care whether they get their work done in 40 hours a week, or 55, or 22.5, and whether every minute at the office is spent "productively?" When we implement policies that bust people for "stealing time," we're making it clear that we really don't know how to manage or evaluate the work our people do. We only know how to count the hours their body is in the seat. That's a management failing—and a time-obsessed culture will drive your best people right into your competitors' arms.

Why theft-of-time policies fail: They make it clear that while your company may believe in talent, its true love is old-fashioned face time. Big Brotherish software programs that track minutes spent on outside Web sites are equally ridiculous. If your best call-center rep has a Solitaire addiction that gets her through the day, what do you care?,0,3541245.story

Does your company pay your gym membership? Better start using it.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans who get their health insurance through their employers have gotten used to company perks such as reduced-cost gym memberships, free weight-loss or smoking-cessation programs, or getting cash back for filling out health-assessment profiles.
But a new survey reports that a small but growing group of firms will be imposing tougher requirements to get the incentives, such as actually losing weight or quitting smoking.
"As companies struggle to deal with low levels of employee engagement and face limited budgets for financial incentives, employers are demonstrating a growing interest in requiring results from those health engagement activities before handing over financial incentives," says report coauthor Ted Nussbaum, a senior consultant for the benefits consulting firm Towers Watson, which wrote the report along with the National Business Group on Health, an organization that advocates for lower health costs for large businesses.
The report, which was released in March, surveyed 507 companies with at least 1,000 employees each. It found that 37% of the companies offer incentives only to beneficiaries who meet the company's requirements and an additional 23% plan to do so in 2011. Each company has its own requirements, which could include, among other things, employees acknowledging whether or not they smoke, completing a health risk appraisal, having an adult health exam, maintaining body mass index and/or blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels within target levels, and completion of health coaching or a disease management program for a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes.
Viverae, a health benefits firm based in Dallas that creates wellness programs for employers, says 90% of its 55 corporate clients now require results from employees, such as weight loss or a health exam, to get or keep incentives such as gym memberships or perks such as gift cards to coffee shops.
Nussbaum of Towers Watson says that rising healthcare costs are the driving factor behind the decision to want to see results in exchange for financial health incentives.
A plus side to all this is that some firms have begun extending valuable incentives far beyond gym memberships — albeit, again, with strings attached. Vita-Mix, which makes blenders and employs about 240 people in Cleveland, lowers the health insurance deductible for employees who meet certain health criteria, including being nonsmokers and falling within target ranges on BMI, weight and cholesterol levels. (Ed Paul of San Diego, a sales manager for the firm, met all four criteria and saw his deductible lowered by $2,000, or $500 for each measure met.)
Some attorneys say there could be legal challenges to attaching strings to perks, but many experts disagree. Life insurers have long set higher rates for smokers than for nonsmokers, Nussbaum notes. And Michael Nadeau, chief executive of Viverae, says that some firms take into account employees who are medically unable to reach certain benchmarks, such as people who are disabled and therefore unable to exercise.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University, suggests that consumers view this emerging trend by employers as an opportunity rather than a call for legal action. "People paying fully out of pocket for their health insurance also should be stopping smoking or losing weight, if necessary, just to improve their health and live a longer and healthier life. If the firm you work for is going to reward you beyond the better breathing, circulatory system and physical flexibility that come with changing your lifestyle, that's icing on the cake."
Most companies renew health insurance coverage for their workers each January and announce changes, such as new rules on health perks, between October and December. (Some do so even sooner.) Because placing conditions on perks looks to be a growing trend, Nussbaum suggests carefully checking the information packets that come with health insurance sign-up sheets.
In the meantime, Katz says, for the good of your health if nothing else, now may not be a bad time to start making use of the perks you now get without strings attached.,0,3541245.story

Friday, April 16, 2010

A road map for employee engagement

Enhance leadership. Business journals are brim full with articles about leadership. Ignore them – they are all far too complicated. Effective organisational leadership is simple:

  1. have a vision of where you want to get to,
  2. clearly and persuasively communicate that vision to employees, and
  3. be consistent in your behaviours as strive to achieve that vision. Do this and your employees will follow. Fail and you will be out there on you own.

Involve your people and value their input. Business journals are also brim full with articles about change. Ignore these too because they typically start from the Machiavellian premise that "people hate change".

This is nonsense of course. People LOVE change – in fact they can hardly get enough of it.

Through the 1990s the UK DIY retail multiples experienced growth of over 185 per cent and in 2004 the sector was estimated to be enjoying a turnover of just over £7.3 billion. People hate change? And when the paint brushes and electric drills are put away for the night, these same people are tuning-in to makeover shows and gardening programmes.

People hate change? No, if people are involved in change (Do It YOURSELF) and their input to the process is valued they will readily engage with it.

Look after your reputation. If the world believes that your organisation is a poor "corporate citizen" they will tell your people. If your employees believe what they hear they will increasingly distance themselves from the business. And if they don't, they will get increasingly frustrated if they see that you are doing nothing to correct these misperceptions.

Either way, organisations that proactively manage their reputations will also enjoy higher levels of employee engagement.

Could it be any simpler?

Well, actually, it could – because a common theme runs through all three stages of the process: COMMUNICATION.

And a major study by Watson WyattConnecting Organisational Communication to Financial Performance – has given us the ultimate end-to-end measurement: from key driver of employee engagement (communication) to shareholder return on activity.

The research found that "a significant improvement in communication effectiveness is associated with a 29.5 per cent increase in market value" and that "companies with the highest levels of effective communication experienced a 26 per cent total return to shareholders from 1998 to 2002, compared to a -15 per cent return experienced by firms that communicate least effectively".

Effective communications create engaged employees create loyal customers who in turn create bigger profits

Furthermore, they found that organisations that communicate effectively were "more likely to report employee turnover rates below or significantly below those of their industry peers."

In short: Effective Communications create Engaged Employees create Loyal Customers who in turn create Bigger Profits.

But we need to be clear about what is being said here. The report highlights the return on effective COMMUNICATION, not information. And communication is not just about telling people what you want them to do or are about to do to them – it is about genuine two-way dialogue with both employees and the outside world. And although this is simple it is not easy.

In fact it is going to be REALLY DIFFICULT to implement because there are four substantial barriers in place in most organisations:

Managers do not see communication as part of their day job. Most managers focus on "hard" measures, delivering the required outcomes on time, on budget, and on target. The "soft" stuff is all too often done on the side of the desk, as an extra-curricular activity, or abdicated to Personnel.

Giving people the information and instructions they need to achieve these outcomes is clearly part of the manager's role. Communication, however, is still seen as "soft" stuff, even though the reality is that it is the hardest driver of organisational performance managers have at their disposal.

Managers have not developed their communication skills. Human beings are, bar none, the most effective natural communicators in the animal kingdom. A change in inflection, the tilt of the head and a knowing look can convey the most subtle nuances and utterly transform the meaning of a sentence.

But this is NATURAL one-on-one or one-on-few communication using techniques our species has evolved over millennia and which we have practiced as individuals throughout our lives. ORGANISATIONAL communication operates on a totally different scale and uses thoroughly unnatural tools.

Mobile phones, email, PowerPoint, teleconferencing – all are immensely powerful tools for communicating with a large, widely spread audience but all have been blamed for our failure to communicate effectively.

Why? Because our natural communication skills are so good we take it for granted that we will be competent organisational communicators too.

We are therefore making the assumption that we can use unnatural tools to engage with an unnaturally large audience without acquiring any additional skills. Naturally we are wrong!

Communication channels are absent, inappropriate, or over-subscribed. Decades of failing to take organisational communications seriously means that in many businesses appropriate channels have not been created or effectively maintained.

As the head of internal communications for a major blue-chip corporation recently commented "a decade ago the 'internal communications department' was an ex-journalist who churned out the employee newsletter once a month".

Now things have moved on considerably, but even within progressive organisations there is still a legacy of poor channel infrastructure, usage and management to be tackled.

Communication around corporate citizenship is disjointed. Like internal communications, "community communications" is a new and developing discipline which is working through a host of legacy issues. Foremost amongst these are the need for organisations to enter into a true dialogue with the communities within which they operate and for all of the positive interactions within these communities to be "joined up".

Again much progress has been made, but although Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) teams have done great work in gathering and promoting a wide range of issues, few companies could claim a truly strategic approach. And even fewer could claim that CSR is owned by each and every employee, which is where it needs to be if employees are to feel personal ownership and pride in the organisation they work for.

A manifesto for outstanding organisational performance
It is clear, therefore, that employee engagement is a major driver of organisational performance. And effective organisational communication is a significant driver of employee engagement.

If, as I do, you find the argument persuasive and you want to begin the process of breaking down the barriers to successfully harnessing the Service-Profit Chain for your organisation, I believe that you should sign-up to the following four-point manifesto:

  1. Education: Every manager in your organisation must understand how effective communication drives performance
  2. Development: Every manager in your organisation must recognise the difference between natural and organisational communication and commit to developing the required skills
  3. Infrastructure: The organisation must invest in the development and maintenance of appropriate channels of communication
  4. Community: The organisation must actively mange its reputation as corporate citizen and positively engage employees and the wider community alike

This is a simple plan, but it is not a sequential plan – all four areas can, and should, be tackled simultaneously.

This means that it will not necessarily be an easy plan to deliver, but business leaders MUST deliver because with almost nine out of 10 employees currently being either "disengaged" or just "moderately engaged" at work, the opportunity to drive outstanding organisational performance is simply too enormous to ignore.

A road map for employee engagement

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Business Not as Usual at Wage and Hour Division: No More Opinion Letters

Since President Barack Obama’s inauguration approximately 14 months ago, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor had seemed to be asleep: it had issued not a single opinion letter related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
At the end of March 2010, the sleeping giant finally awoke, and employers are unlikely to be pleased with the result. The division announced that it would be departing from its longstanding practice of publishing opinion letters to provide fact-specific guidance to employers and employees.
In the future, requests for opinion letters will be responded to by providing references to statutes, regulations, interpretations and cases that are relevant to the specific request, but without an analysis of the specific facts presented.
The division also withdrew a September 2006 opinion letter that had been favorable to finance industry employers regarding the exempt status of mortgage loan officers and similar positions.

‘Administrative Interpretations’ Replace Opinion Letters

The division has entirely changed the format of its written guidance. Since the FLSA was enacted in 1938, the division has issued opinion letters written in response to specific requests from employers, employees, unions and attorneys. At the end of March, the division announced that it is abandoning this type of opinion letter in favor of “administrator’s interpretations.”

Where opinion letters responded to specific situations, the administrator’s interpretations will “set forth a general interpretation of law and regulations, applicable across-the-board to all those affected by the provision in issue.”
Where opinion letters were intended to respond to each request from a member of the regulated community, the “administrator’s interpretations” will be written only when the administrator believes that an interpretation is warranted; that is, when she [deputy administrator Nancy J. Leppink] determines that “further clarity regarding the proper interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue is appropriate.”
Judging from the first issue that the administrator determined needed clarity, we are concerned that these interpretations will be issued primarily when the administrator determines that the division should take a more “employee-friendly” position than it has in the past.

Unanswered Questions

Many questions remain unanswered about “administrator’s interpretations.” Will the division take another 14 months before we see a second administrator’s interpretation, or has the floodgate been opened? Will the courts give more deference to these administrator’s interpretations than they gave to opinion letters, or less? Will we see more administrator’s interpretations that withdraw prior opinion letters on which employers had relied? What will become of an employer’s ability to plead and prove the statutory affirmative defense to liability under the FLSA based on good faith reliance on the written rulings and interpretations of the division?
We will have to wait and see, but this change will probably benefit employers rarely, if ever, if this first administrator’s interpretation is an accurate indicator.

James M. Coleman and Maureen R. Knight are attorneys in the Fairfax, Va., office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith LLP, which has counseled employers on labor and employment law matters, exclusively, since 1946. Republished with permission. © 2010 Constangy, Brooks & Smith LLP. All rights reserved.

Business Not as Usual at Wage and Hour Division: No More Opinion Letters

Employee engagement: the what, why and how

In the past, it has been labeled the biggest commercial untruth since "the cheque is in the post". Today, however, there is clear evidence that business leaders are not simply saying that "our people are our most important asset" – they are actually beginning to mean it too.

Why the change of heart? Because the body of evidence that employee engagement is a key driver of organizational performance grows almost daily. But with recent research by Towers Perrin highlighting the fact that employee disengagement is a global epidemic, organizations still clearly have much work to do to ensure that their workforce can be properly inspired and motivated.

The Service-Profit Chain
For many, the employee engagement story begins in 1994 when James Heskett and his colleagues at the Harvard Business School published their seminal paper Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work.

The Service-Profit Chain model they had created could hardly be more intuitive: Employee Satisfaction drives Employee Retention drives Employee Productivity drives Service Value drives Customer Satisfaction drives Customer Loyalty drives Profitability and Growth.

Engaged employees create loyal customers who in turn create bigger profits

In short: Engaged Employees create Loyal Customers who in turn create Bigger Profits.

For a few, including Richard Branson at Virgin, this simple premise was the basis upon which they had already begun to build their businesses. As Branson says:

"We embarked on consciously building Virgin into a brand which stood for quality, value, fun and a sense of challenge. We also developed these ideas in the belief that our first priority should be the people who work for the companies, then the customers, then the shareholders. Because if the staff are motivated then the customers will be happy, and the shareholders will then benefit through the company's success."

Others, however, would need a more rigorous analysis if they were going to commit their organizations to this somewhat radical vision of "the shareholders come last". Yet the Service-Profit Chain model's greatest problem was that it was only supported by data collected by different companies at different points on the chain.

For example, in the banking sector it was known that a 5 per cent increase in Customer Loyalty could produce Profitability increases from 25 per cent to 85 per cent. Meanwhile, an insurance company had shown that when an experienced employee left the business Customer Satisfaction levels dropped from 75 per cent to 55 per cent.

In fact only quick-service restaurant chain Taco Bell had begun to do anything like an end-to-end analysis of the chain, observing that the 20 per cent of stores with the highest Employee Retention rates enjoyed double the sales and 55 per cent higher profits than the 20 per cent of stores with the lowest Employee Retention rates.

As a result, although the Service-Profit Chain model seemed logical and sensible, the potential return on investment was unknown. This made it difficult for business leaders to assess how much effort they should be making to embed it within their organizations.

Welcome to the 21st century
What a difference a decade makes, because today's business leaders have end-to-end Service-Profit Chain data coming at them from all angles!

Sirota Consulting studied 28 multinational companies though 2004 and found that the share prices of organizations with highly engaged employees rose by an average of 16 per cent compared with an industry average of 6 per cent.

Meanwhile, an ISR study published in August 2005 showed that companies with low levels of employee engagement saw net profit fall by 1.38 per cent and operating margin fall by 2.01 per cent over a 36-month period. In companies with above average levels of employee engagement profits rose by 2.06 per cent and operating margin rose by 3.74 per cent over 36-months.

And it gets even better, because the research has now been completed which identifies the key drivers of employee engagement. In other words, a "road map" for achieving outstanding organizational performance through the Service-Profit Chain has been developed and is ready for immediate implementation.

Employee engagement: the what, why and how

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SmartBlog on Workforce » Survey scores take a dip? Great!

I’m so heartened to see evidence that employers are still interested in fostering engagement in their workplace cultures — even in these times when “they should just be glad they have a job” is a management model that actually feels a little legitimate. Well-written engagement surveys are a very good thing.  Scores that report all raves? Okay. Scores that are a little bit good and a little bit bad — even a lot bad? Fabulous!

But how can that be? Isn’t the name of the game to have great engagement scores? Actually, no.  The name of the game is to have a great engagement culture. So what kind of scores should you look for if positive scores aren’t the goal?  Answer: Accurate ones. Well, that’s self-evident, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.

Here is why bad scores are good news:

  • Bad scores reveal the areas that need to be fixed. If you use engagement surveys for their best purpose, which is to discover the cultural aspects where improvement would be welcome, nothing is more useful than a rotten score.  It’s too bad if that negative score is directly assigned to a manager. But this is your opportunity to save perhaps an otherwise extremely valuable employee — or even an entire department.
  • Bad scores demonstrate that your people still take the survey process seriously. Filling out these surveys is a huge leap of faith for your people — even if you can give them a 100% guarantee that their answers are confidential. There is still that risk of a security slip, and then a pink slip.  When your people step forward and report negative experiences, that act alone shows you how deeply committed they are to the long-term success of your company and its culture.
  • Bad scores are an indication that you are asking the right questions. Assuming that you are custom-writing your surveys, the negative responses to specific questions give you the specific data you need to improve your culture.

I know that it’s hard to take risks with your questions, especially if you have been experiencing year after year of positive scores.  But especially if you have been enjoying year after year of positive scores, now is definitely the time to ask the scary questions that could shake up some of your leaders.

Should that be the case, don’t dismay. Negative scores show that your people still care passionately about your business. Which is actually the best possible outcome you can hope for.

SmartBlog on Workforce » Survey scores take a dip? Great!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Facebook | Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance: Building New Connections in a Transition

Departures, a film by Yojiro Takita that won an Oscar for best foreign language film, is not only a touching film about life and love, but also about employee engagement.

Synopsis(from the movie website)

Academy Award® Winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the year, “Departures” is a delightful and sensitive journey into the heartland of Japan and an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

A premiere symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands, leaving Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) suddenly unemployed. Suffering from an innate sense that he is a mediocre musician, he faces up to the fact that not everyone who has devoted their life to music can become a top artist. With wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) in tow, he moves back to his home town in the northeastern prefecture of Yamagata. They move into the crumbling remains of his mother’s house, which doubled as the local pub.

Spotting a Help Wanted ad featuring the word “departures,” he is excited about the prospect of trying a new career in the travel industry. He arrives for the interview, curiously eyeing the coffins lining the back wall of the office. The company owner, Sasaki( Tsutomu Yamazaki), hires him on the spot, with only a cursory glance at his resume. Daigo finally ventures to ask what is involved, exactly, and is stunned to learn what he has gotten himself into: the ceremonial “encoffination” of corpses prior to cremation. Sasaki urges him to take the job, proffering large amounts of cash. He’s getting older, and needs someone to carry on the tradition.

In desperate straits, Daigo over comes his initial trepidation and begins to travel around Hiranowith Sasaki. Sasakiis comically matter-of-fact but firm in his directives and the contention that they are providing an important service to their community. Some cases are markedly traditional, featuring beatific family members in time-honored transition. Others highlight family dramas fraught with inevitable collisions, eased into unexpected conclusion. True to Sasaki’s expectations, Daigo develops a deep respect for life in all its variations, and a profound empathy for people trying to make peace with the finality of death.

Employee Engagement

As you watch this film you will notice a person who loses something important to him; a man that is in transition. He is challenged by his new situation and surroundings, but he develops connections along the way. Connections are a significant part of employee engagement. On first glance we may not like or even be passionate regarding our work, but finding meaning and connections in our efforts can change that perspective.

Facebook | Employee Engagement: A Roadmap for Creating Profits, Optimizing Performance: Building New Connections in a Transition

Friday, April 9, 2010

What it takes to be a top employer

TO be successful and be regarded as among the best employers, a company among other things should be able to strike a balance between business goals and employee needs.

Although earnings and cashflow are vital and a reflection of an organisation’s strength, human resource is equally important in determining its path to success. An organisation will cease to exist if it has no people.

"A work environment that encourages suggestions, feedback and openness, without fear of reprisal, is vital for employee success" RAHMAT HASHIM ROSLAN

Business and political leaders are increasingly aware that having good people who are skilled and motivated can make a significant difference to an organisation.

Large corporations that started as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for example, in Japan, Europe and the US, have made it big because they had been successful in strategising their business operations and workforce for optimum results.

From various findings and, according to a consultancy’s website, some of the main criteria in determining whether a company is a top employer, is its ability to engage with employees, the capability to streamline its workforce in line with its business objectives, and the effectiveness of sustaining employee engagement in the long run.

Engagement will enable positive interaction between employers and employees, and minimise stumbling blocks popping up in the companies’ relations with potential employees and customers.

Sharing his views on the subject, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd country head human resources for Malaysia, Brunei and Mekong region, Rahmat Hashim Roslan, says the ability to earn the best employer label is not solely based on the virtue of an organisation but also its workforce.

Human needs and desires in a workplace are different individually and, as such, the organisation that wants to be known as a good employer must be able to strike the right balance in catering to its needs and those of its workforce, he adds.

A balance that works

Identifying an ideal balance of needs is crucial, but equally important is how to then make it work.

“To see whether a company is considered to be a good employer or the opposite, much depends on how it delivers this balance of needs. A best employer is one that is able to identify and deliver in the most effective approach and apply the most accurate balance of needs for its organisation and its workforce,” says Rahmat.

“A ‘best employer’ has a holistic approach to building a work environment in which employees are fully engaged and committed to business success.”

An organisation that strives to be a best employer must be committed in determining the optimal balance of needs between itself and its workforce, as well as in delivering that effectively. Such commitment is necessary to ensure that both parties achieve progress.

Rahmat points out that an organisation that strives to become a good and efficient employer must at the same time understand that the most important element that drive commitment is its workforce.

“The workforce comprises human beings. Every human need and desire in a workplace is different individually, but there are some similarities when it comes to engagement and career development. Everybody wants a workplace that promotes a working environment that is conducive and has a culture that is comfortable to work in.

“A work environment that encourages suggestions, feedback and openness, without fear of reprisal, is vital for employee success,” he notes.

An organisation, he adds, should always ensure that the employees’ values and beliefs are aligned with the company’s culture and values so as to achieve a common goal for future success.

Developing talent

Apart from this, a company must be committed in the area of engagement with and career development of its staff.

To this end, he says, it must identify high-potential employees as well as nurture and groom them to help attain leadership skills and master the relevant technical skills, and eventually take them to the next level.

As talent development is crucial for a company to move forward and become more competitive with the right skill sets, many organisations are now investing in training and development.

The Government and the private sector in the country are more serious now compared with a decade ago and are increasing their investments in training and development to ensure there is sufficient skills, know-how and expertise to be competitive in the global arena.

Elaborating on the training programmes, Rahmat adds that there must be commitment and investment in well-established training and development channels and programmes. This, he says, include formal training (on leadership and technical skills, culture and values), job rotations, assignments, mentoring/coaching, self-learning (company library and online resources).

Each employee must have a clear set of objectives that are aligned to the organisation’s goals, with regular feedback on performance, he notes.

Besides this, organisations should provide competitive compensation and benefits, including long-term financial reward to employees as well as recognise high achievers with good rewards, while enforcing strict consequence management for low performers.

Making things clear

Communication is also essential in achieving such commitment from the workforce, Rahmat adds. “Leaders must be visible and accessible, and provide clear direction about the organisation’s business strategy, goals and progress.

“Communication should be both top-down and bottom-up and through various channels. Top-down communication channels include town-hall meetings, employee meetings, emails from CEOs, newsletters, memos, and via Intranet (top-down). Bottom-up communication channels can be via regular employee opinion surveys and focus groups.”

In a nutshell, he says, the steps or initiative which must be undertaken by a business concern to be labelled as a best employer are first, to identify the organisation and workforce needs accordingly. Second, find the right or most accurate balance that wll not put either party at a disadvantage.

Third, Rahmat says, communication and approach in the delivery of the needs to the workforce must be impactful with clear elaboration of objectives and how these can fuel the organisation’s progress.

Lastly, there must be continuous or regular communication with the workforce to ensure the employees recognise that they are an important part of the whole effort as well as important contributors in achieving the organisation’s needs.

Commenting on the challenges facing businesses in becoming the best employers, he says: “The challenge is always in the area of communication and the approach in the delivery of the workforce’s needs.

“In most large organisation, the managers are empowered to handle the communication and delivery. But there will be some managers who are not equipped with the right skills to handle such tasks. This will result in distorted messages and uncertainties among the workforce.”

These will indirectly impact the organisation’s productivity or performance in achieving these needs.”

Rahmat says another challenge is to balance expectations and needs of the different generations in the workforce.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Different generations, same objectives

Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y all want the same things at work, a new study says.

What do the generations in the workplace really think of each other? Increasingly, organizational leaders are becoming concerned with this very question. The age structure of today’s workforce is changing, with baby boomers (aged 45-64) remaining in the workforce longer, Gen Xers (aged 30-44) taking on new roles and responsibilities, and Gen Yers (aged 15-29) entering the workforce in rising numbers. At the same time, the move toward “flatter” organizational structures and more intense team-based collaboration has placed workers of all generations in closer interaction. If negative stereotypes prevail, the prospects for productivity-damaging conflicts will increase.

The implications of intergenerational workplace conflict prompted The Conference Board of Canada to investigate the similarities and differences among Baby Boom, Generation X, and Generation Y workers. Along with an extensive review of other studies, the board conducted its own survey of more than 900 Canadian workers (including at least 300 from each of the three generations). Respondents were asked what they thought about the workplace characteristics of their own and other generations (e.g., adaptability, manageability and loyalty), as well as the respondents’ own personal characteristics (e.g., personality, communication preferences and social interaction). 

The research found some differences in how the generations see one another, many of which mirror popular—and often negative—generational stereotypes. Yet workers from all three generations share many preferences in the workplace. In short, many of the supposed differences between the boomer, Gen X, and Gen Y workers are based on perception, not reality. There is no one “type of worker” that best describes any particular generation.

Generational differences: perceptions of other generations
According to the Conference Board’s survey findings, there are several differences in the way generations regard themselves and each other.

Adaptability. All generations say their generation is adaptable, but Gen Xers and Gen Yers regard boomers as less adaptable than younger generations of workers. In particular, Gen Xers and Gen Yers think boomers are less comfortable with technology, less open to change and less accepting of diversity.

Manageability. All generations feel that Gen Yers are more difficult to manage than other generations. Boomers and Gen Xers believe Gen Yers require more close supervision, are less likely to follow procedures and are less results-driven than other generations.

Teamwork. All generations see themselves as good team players, although there are some differences in how each generation perceives the work ethics of the others. While Gen Xers and Gen Yers view their generation as hard-working, some boomers and Gen Xers regard Gen Yers as less willing to give maximum effort.

Balance. All generations say they seek work-life balance. Gen Xers and Gen Yers feel they are slightly more likely to seek work-life balance than their boomer colleagues. As well, each generation perceives Gen Xers and Gen Yers to have a greater preference for informality in the workplace than boomers.

Loyalty. All generations see themselves as somewhat trusting in an organization, but boomers regard younger generations as less trusting than they are. Gen Xers and Gen Yers agree their generations are less likely to remain with an organization, but this tendency may be strongly influenced by their current, earlier career stage.

Generational stereotypes: real consequenses
If left unchecked, such perceptions can lead to intergenerational misunderstandings, frustration and conflicts. Perceptions of boomers as inflexible, technological illiterates may leave them out of the loop in discussions of technological issues among younger workers. Similarly, the presumed lack of commitment and loyalty on the part of Gen Xers and Gen Yers can complicate the challenge of maintaining organizational cohesion and effectiveness.

Generational similarities: shared workplace preferences
In spite of the stereotypes, respondents from each generation share similar patterns of workplace preferences. The strongest similarities are in the areas of personality traits, workplace motivations and learning styles. Workers from all three generations are made up of roughly equal numbers of introverts and extroverts, those motivated by work and those motivated by personal goals, and those who like “hands-on” experiences versus those who prefer written instructions.

Individuals from the three generations prefer to communicate and interact in similar ways, although there are a key few differences. Boomers, for example, are less likely to find technology an acceptable medium of communication for dealing with difficult issues or workplace conflicts. They are also somewhat less likely to be interested in after-hours socializing with their workplace colleagues.

In short, workers from all three generations desire many of the same things in the workplace, including respect, flexibility, fairness and the opportunity to do interesting and rewarding work.

Implications: manage by principle, not by stereotype
Maximizing the productivity and performance of a multigenerational workforce involves much more than knowing the profiles of the “typical” boomer, Gen Xer, and Gen Yer (e.g., age, presumed characteristics and preferences).

Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse­—not only demographically, but also in lifestyles, cultures and circumstances. It should come as little surprise to employers that many workers do not “fit” within neat stereotypes based on large generational categories.

Generational perceptions, even if inaccurate, do influence organizational performance. Perceptions are an important dimension of workplace culture. How different groups of workers within an organization see one another—and themselves—can have a major impact on organizational effectiveness. Positive perceptions can promote workplace cohesion, teamwork, innovation and performance, just as negative views can hinder all of the above.

Employers, therefore, need to understand and manage the differences in perceptions across the generations, while also accommodating the cross-generational similarities in workplace preferences. Employers can begin by fostering understanding and inclusion among the generations, and by providing flexible working arrangements that fit the differing needs of individual workers. By applying these principles of organizational effectiveness, employers can derive the full benefits of a multigenerational workforce.

How to retain and motivate employees in post-recession.

Cambridge-based consultant launches special offer package to help local companies retain and motivate key talent.

As local economic conditions start to improve, Cambridge businesses are beginning to switch their focus from survival to revival. And chances are, their staff will too. As employees begin to consider their career options, how can companies retain their key employees and enhance their motivation and productivity?

The answer lies in employee engagement: the way companies talk and listen to their people. Local consultant Sophie Jefferies specializes in helping organizations of all shapes and sizes do exactly that with a special offer package launched this week.

A report commissioned by the Dept for Business, published last year, reveals that
• Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organization
• Engaged employees generate more revenue
• Higher levels of engagement relate to higher levels of innovation
• Engaged employees even take less sick leave

Most Cambridge businesses start small. At the outset much of their internal communication and engagement happens around the coffee machine. It is easy to stay in tune and keep everyone up to date.

As companies grow, particularly once they exceed a headcount of 30, those informal networks are just as important, but they become more complex and harder to tap into. Leaders need to work harder to engage and inform, particularly if employees feel their loyalty has been stretched by pay freezes or other economy measures during the downturn.

The good news is that there are lots of simple, cost-effective employee engagement solutions for organizations of all shapes and sizes, from simple management practices through to social media solutions. Whereas internal communications used to only be affordable for very large organizations, it’s now an essential for all. And this is particularly true for Cambridge businesses, where human capital is often one of their greatest assets.

The only problem lies in choosing and using the right engagement channels from the rather confusing array of options available.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Management holds key to employee engagement | HR Magazine | Find Articles at BNET

Finding and keeping the right people with the right skills presents a major challenge for organizations. Engaging those people to voluntarily deliver maximum effort in key strategic areas adds another dimension to the challenge.

Achieving success requires the active and willing participation of the organization's workforce. However, a new survey finds that only one in seven employees worldwide is fully engaged with their work. There is a vast, largely untapped reserve of employee performance potential.

How can organizations engage workers and tap into this reserve? You can't order people to generate new ideas or to be more cost-conscious or more productive. Employees need to care about their organization and be committed to its success.

The Global Workforce Study, by consultancy Towers Perrin, found that while many people are eager to contribute more at work, the actions of their managers and culture of their organizations--with HR professionals playing a major role--may discourage them from doing so.

Some of the study's findings challenge commonly accepted workplace assumptions. For example, conventional wisdom holds that some people are natural self-motivators and others aren't--that's the way it is, and nothing can change it. The survey found otherwise--that people's engagement with their work is directly affected by their experience within their organizations.

Management holds key to employee engagement | HR Magazine | Find Articles at BNET

Monday, April 5, 2010

Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why You Need It – BusinessWeek reader Derek Irvine on the importance of engaging employees strategically and authentically

By Derek Irvine

As someone whose job it is to advise companies on employee engagement, I was fascinated to read "Making Employee Engagement Fashionable" by the CEO of Gucci recently on As I was moved to comment on the column, strategic recognition is the key to fostering a truly engaged workforce.

As the recession drags on, company leaders are looking for any solution to boost morale, increase productivity, and help gain competitive advantage. Employee engagement is rapidly becoming the answer for many organizations, though many remain confused about the benefits of employee engagement, what it is, and how to foster it in their organizations.

Why should you care if your employees are engaged? The research on the bottom-line benefits of employee engagement is clear: Towers Perrin has found that companies with engaged employees boosted operating income by 19% compared with companies with the lowest percentage of engaged employees, which saw operating income fall 33%. What does that mean in real dollars? For S&P 500 companies, Watson Wyatt (WW) reports that a significant improvement in employee engagement increases revenue by $95 million.

Productivity Boost

The effects of engagement on employee productivity, retention, and recruitment are no less astonishing. Watson Wyatt further found that companies with highly engaged employees experienced 26% higher employee productivity, lower turnover risk, greater ability to attract top talent, and 13% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years.

Additionally, highly engaged employees are twice as likely to be top performers—and miss 20% fewer days of work. They also exceed expectations in performance reviews and are more supportive of organizational change initiatives.

So you're convinced you need to get your employees more engaged. But what does that mean? The definitions of employee engagement seem endless and include increased line of sight, greater commitment, and willingness to give additional discretionary effort.

Instead of trying to define employee engagement, I want to know what an engaged employee looks like, how they behave while at work, and how to replicate that in the organization. One definition of an engaged employee is one who gives additional discretionary effort. That doesn't go far enough. That additional effort, willingly and happily given, must be put toward something that matters to the company.

The most worthwhile engagement is seen in employees who happily want to give additional effort and know where to apply it. This combination of action and line of sight results in an engaged employee who willingly works harder to deliver against your company's strategic objectives in their own daily tasks.

Say "Thank You"

Now that we've explained why you should care about employee engagement and defined it, there's still one catch. Do your employees know your strategic objectives? More important, do they have any idea how their daily work impacts the achievement of those objectives?

In my experience very few line employees can even cite the company's objectives, much less articulate how their work helps achieve them. But it has never been more urgent for every employee to understand precisely this connection.

You need to clearly communicate the needs of your company (e.g., your strategic objectives) and show employees how their individual, specific efforts help the company achieve those objectives. How? It's simple: Say "thank you."

During a down economy, when companies need employees to give more discretionary effort to achieve critical objectives, strategic employee recognition specifically acknowledges actions and behaviors that align with company values and help achieve those objectives, encouraging employees to repeat precisely those behaviors needed for the organization to succeed.

Recognition is based on fostering an environment in which employees want to perform, then letting managers and even peers acknowledge exceptional effort and praise deserving employees. All employees need recognition for their efforts and validation that their work is appreciated—now more than ever. If the recognition is for demonstrating a company value or achieving a strategic objective, employees begin to see how their individual efforts contribute to company success.

Strategic recognition is by far the most positive and effective way to ensure that employee effort is maximized, aligned with company objectives, and reflective of company values.

Employee Engagement: What It Is and Why You Need It - BusinessWeek

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Issue: Maintaining Employee Engagement - BusinessWeek

For CEO Gamal Aziz, the challenge is maintaining the MGM Grand's remarkable employee engagement during tough times for the hotel and for Las Vegas.

Under Aziz, revenue zoomed, and the MGM Grand became the second most profitable hotel on the strip after the Bellagio. Some credit goes, of course, to a $400 million spruce-up of the hotel in which 36 restaurants were opened or remodeled and Cirque du Soleil was brought in as a headlining act.

But ask Aziz what was the single most important factor in the jump, and he won't talk about twirling acrobats or signature dishes such as free-range quail stuffed with foie gras. His answer is: the employees. Now with times getting tougher in Las Vegas as tourism drops and gambling revenues fall, Aziz says his people have become even more critical to the company's success.

Cost-Cutting Moves

"Employee engagement in times of difficulties and severe economic climate is far more profoundly important now," says Aziz. "Employees are willing to give their all when they are well-treated, appreciated. And the ability to unlock that potential is a competitive distinction…It's their decisions, their actions, their attitude that really make the difference. Imagine taking 10,000 employees, and each and every one of them wanting to give more. That's really the difference between [us and] a company that has its employees just punching the clock and trying to get through the day."

But Aziz, like all managers, is under pressure to justify every cost. Although his hotel is still running 96% occupied, groups are canceling, and those that do come are spending much less per visit. That's forced Aziz to economize on some of these successful programs. He still does regular employee appreciation dinners for top performers, but he's spending about half as much this year as last. He's started recruiting managers from sister properties to attend his MGM Grand University as a way to defray the costs of training his own top managers. And he's put on hold one program training next-generation line managers.

Rank-And-File Insight

Aziz shares with employees the challenges he's facing. Employees, the CEO says, were what got the hotel to the next level, and they are the key to pulling through hard times. "We will get through this, we will survive," says Aziz. "Once we get through this, the employees will be the ones who have gotten us through."

When Aziz arrived in 2001, he quickly sought out rank-and-file insight into the hotel and how it could improve. A survey of the hotel's 10,000 employees made clear that very little was being communicated to the staff about the events going on in the hotel on a daily basis, including such basics as who was staying there, and what the hotel had to offer those particular guests. Employees sometimes didn't even know what conventions were at the hotel. That made it difficult for staff to give the level of service that would affect customer loyalty, return visits, and spending in the hotel.

Aziz came up with a simple fix. There is a short meeting now at the start of every shift in which every employee is given the rundown of what's happening in the hotel that day. It's a simple concept based on meetings restaurants have long held to get waiters up on the daily specials. But rolled out across 10,000 employees a day, it's a major undertaking.

MGM Programs

The MGM Grand made other moves to help employees grow. In his recent book Closing the Engagement Gap, co-author and Towers Perrin Managing Director Don Lowman highlights many MGM programs, including the MGM Grand University that offers dozens of classes on an invitation-only basis for high achievers. The MGM Grand Leadership Institute is a 24-week program for executives. And REACH! is the hotel's six-month course on basic supervisory skills for ambitious hourly workers. All this investment in the staff, along with recognition dinners and other rewards, have led to more than 90% of MGM Grand employees saying they are satisfied with their jobs, and 89% saying their work has special meaning. According to the book, 91% report they are proud to tell others where they work.

"One of the ways we'll get through this dire economic circumstance we find ourselves in is if leaders set this tone that we're all in this together," says Lowman, who interviewed Aziz for his book but hasn't done consulting work at the company. (His firm, however, has in the past). Lowman worked with a multitude of companies as a consultant at Towers Perrin and ranks MGM Grand among the best at connecting with employees. "It's very easy to say 'let's just whack 15% of the company.' You can immediately take a lot of costs off your books. But that has a big cost both on the people doing the whacking [and on the company] in the long term, when you'll need those people [you let go] again."

In the book, Lowman sites a finding from the firm's survey of tens of thousands of employees in six countries including the U.S., China, and India: that the No. 1 thing that engages employees is senior management's interest in their well-being. That trumped career advancement, relationship with one's direct supervisor, and even pay. Visiting the MGM Grand, Lowman says he found evidence of that connection in spades. Aziz was impressive, Lowman says, for his tendency to ask questions and listen to the answers. Engagement that starts at the top.

The Issue: Maintaining Employee Engagement - BusinessWeek