March 8, 2013
As we face more talk of triple-dip recessions there’s patently too much doom and gloom about and it can be sapping stuff, especially for line managers on the front line. But as the ancient wisdom goes, the fast track to feeling more empowered is to focus on what you can personally influence. We all have some degree of empowerment in the workplace, even if it fees like “blowing into the wind” at times, whether we’re the CEO or a supervisor. And even if we can only influence the apparently little things, they all add up over time.
If the barrage of statistics is to be believed (and it’s not fair just to trust the bad news), companies with high employee engagement levels grow on average 4.5 times faster than those with low levels (Hays 2010).
As I illustrate in Brand Champions, engaged employees are:
I - involved
P - proactive
E - energised and energising
So, if you’re keen to nurture these characteristics in your colleagues, why not try these top tips to promote the engagement drive within your own organisation. As you’ll realise, most are within your control and most of them are free:
1. Give recognition
If someone has done well, let them know you know it. A simple thank you goes a long way to increasing engagement even if it’s one colleague at a time, so “catch” them doing the right thing.
2. Give constructive feedback
Managers giving little or no feedback to their workers fail to engage 98 per cent of them, according to a 2009 study by Gallup. Let employees know how they are doing and what they can do to improve. It’s worth giving your first-line managers in particular training on how to do this.
3. Incentivise good work
Ensure that your HR processes are hard-wired to recognise objectives that are “on brand” and “on strategy”.
4. Create an engaging culture
An open door policy creates an approachable feel to the office, where employees feel comfortable. Ensure management have a physical presence in the office and are role models for your core values.
5. Involve people
Self-managing teams are engagement nirvana. Involving people in company decisions will make them feel part of the organisation and give them a real sense of ownership.
6.Keep people informed
Don’t assume that people don’t know or don’t need to know. They will appreciate being in the loop about any changes in the company. Internal communication must do more than SOS (send out stuff).
7. Encourage suggestions and input
Let them know their opinions count…. chances are the answers to your issues can be solved in-house.
8. Promote role models
Rather than favouring favourites look to unusual suspects for examples of great practice and celebrate them. This will engage more people than you can imagine.
9. Encourage training, development and a career path
Stress the benefits of working for your brand including developing new skills and having a career path in return for development. Relationships count but they need to be nurtured.
10. Focus on their talents
Get to know the “real people” who work for you. Play some games. Find out what talents they have or want to have. Use these when delegating projects to ensure they are using their talents and developing in the right areas.
For more free employee engagement resources, pick up a copy of Ian’s latest book, Brand Champions.
More than 8,000 Wows have been recorded to date, with 650 occurring in the first two months of the scheme as hotels competed in a weekly league table.
Underwood explained that since the introduction of the campaign, the proportion of customer service related complaints had dropped from 69 per cent to 17 per cent.
In 2011, staff turnover dropped 17 per cent and customer loyalty had increased, with repeat business up by 51 per cent.
Underwood said that against those improved figures, the total cost of complimentary items had only been £6,500.
She added that Wow training was now included in inductions and some of the special touches instigated by staff – such as those around birthdays and anniversaries – had become standard customer service elements.
Furthermore, recent employee surveys found that 96 per cent of staff now felt that they received excellent customer service training, and the proportion of staff proud to work for Malmaison & Hotel du Vin had increased from 87 per cent to 98 per cent.
“What made the programme innovative was the simplicity of the message,” said Underwood. “We highlighted that service was our top priority.”
The controversial talk about cost cutting and “austerity measures” has been relentless in the lengthy aftershock of the financial crisis. Most worryingly for organisations in general is the apparent fact that what are wrongly referred to as the “discretionary soft skills disciplines” including training and development; internal communication/employee engagement; brand engagement and culture development are constantly under threat just when they’re needed the most.
A large part of the reason for this is that the finances for these disciplines wrongly fall into the discretionary spend category making them the first victims of cutbacks.
But there’s a very obvious flipside to the blinkered cost argument.
Market research leader Gallup asserts that in 2008 alone, the cost of disengagement to the UK economy was between £59bn – £64bn and an IES/Work Foundation report found that, if organisations increased investment in engagement practices by just 10%, they would increase profits by up to £2k per employee per year. (source Employee Engagement Today, vol 2, Autumn 09).
As someone who has first hand experience of the impact disaffected employees can have on business performance and brand management, I believe these to be conservative figures, but they still make a very strong point.
David Bolchover, in his book The Living Dead*, states that in the UK alone, doctors receive over 9 million “suspect” requests for sick notes per year. This is equivalent to the entire population of Sweden.
His book came out during the good times.
In addition one in three midweek visitors to a major theme park are reputedly “pulling a sickie” from work. Great news for the entertainment industry but worrying for HR departments. It also begs the question where do the theme park employees go when they fancy a duvet day?
A 2006 study by ISR found that a 5% improvement in the overall level of employee engagement converts into a 25-85% increase in profits for service oriented organisations.
A survey of 500 Fortune 100 companies, published in the book Optimizing Talent by Sharkey and Eccher in 2010 revealed that if you improved culture to support Talent Management 1 point you would generate a 10 percent gain in financial results. Conversely if you improved your performance management system by three points, you would get no improvement in business outcomes. Culture, Strategic Alignment and L&D came out as the top3 change levers.
Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of GE, identified employee engagement as the most important barometer of organizational performance (Business Week, May 3, 2006 “A Healthy Company).
The CBI reports that apparent sickness absence costs the UK economy more than £13bn a year, backed up in the 2011 PWC research into the direct and indirect cost of absenteeism.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s 2010 report, Creating an Engaged Workforce found that just under a third of employees are actively engaged with their work at any one time. The 2010 Putting it in Perspective report from ORC International found that although levels of job satisfaction have increased slightly across the UK, organisational pride and the confidence of employees to speak up and make their voices heard has dropped.
It’s literally “pick a survey, any survey” as they’re all saying virtually the same thing. But business case for employee engagement at an individual business level aside, recovery of these figures alone would go a long way towards solving the various national debt problems.
Yet encouraging people to “go the extra mile” is an apparent goal of the government-backed, so-called employee engagement task force and there is widespread acknowledgement that increasing levels of engagement across the UK could really help to boost productivity.
We need our organisations to function if the economy is to function.
There are no organisations without people.
Performance is not sustainable without engagement.
Most engagement initiatives can be at least cost neutral if properly conceived and implemented. The visionary organisations have already moved on from setting their HR and finance dept the task of proving the business case and have been energising, mobilising and re-connecting their people for some time now.
Begs the real question…..other than surveying your people, what are you doing to bridge the engagement gap where you work?
March 28, 2012
In Part 1 I listed the issues poisoning and undermining the engagement landscape.
1. Measure what you treasure: We’ve criticised the measurement industry which has grown up around employee engagement, largely on the grounds that the processes are all too often too cumbersome and there’s far too great a lag between recognition of the problem and action. When directors are obsessed with quarterly reporting and expect to move on every couple of years, what’s the use of a bi-annual staff survey?
We’ve also spoken in the past however, about the need for some form of measurement to win round the left-brained, data-worshipping cynics and to create a stake in the ground from which improvement can be tracked.
It’s far better however, to ask a few powerful questions and take swift action to address the issues highlighted. It sends out a signal that the leaders care, especially if they can see swift results. After all, there’s usually time to dig deeper at a later stage and to involve more people in that process.
2. Pull together a brand coalition: Sustainable brands are built on sustainable stakeholder involvement inside and out and side to side. Constructing and maintaining a united and consistent picture of the business is very important if the business is to back up the promises made about the brand. This can’t happen in isolation, however, and needs at least HR; Marketing and Comms working in concert to address the process and behavioural challenges.
3. Think beehive, think culture: I can’t think of a board room where “the way we do things” isn’t tabled daily. Yet so few attempt to clarify what that means in practice, usually fearing the consequences of shaking the beehive. Organisations are the sum of the behaviour of the people who work for them. You can’t engage people unless you understand them. Involvement is key to engagement, so find a way to understand the current norms and then work with the decision makers to create a compelling picture of the culture required to deliver the goals, strategy and vision and an engagement programme to bring it to life, role modelling that desired culture as you go. If in doubt, ask a trusted advisor to lend a hand in shaping and facilitating the journey.
4. Lead by example: It’s tough at the top. But that’s what you’re paid for. Remember how you used to look to your leaders for cues about how to behave, and how not to? That never changes. Yes, organisations have had to adapt to prevailing social norms and become more democratic and affiliative in leadership style. So-called social media and the communication revolution is going to ensure that this trend continues. The modern manager simply has to lad by example if they’re to sustain a career within a sustainable business. Values-based leadership is a powerful development strategy, as is mentoring and hugely cost-effective. These are tough times but how are leadership development budgets or even personal development budgets being spent where you work? And what’s the opportunity cost of a disengaged workforce?
5. Appreciate the power of appreciative comms: Last but not least, conscripted armies of favourites don’t build sustainable brands. Cynics don’t destroy them either. Brands are undermined by a million small cuts; insidiousness and passivity leading to what I call “creeping brand death” like the spreading darkness in The Never Ending Story. The thriving brands, however, have champions everywhere in all shapes and sizes who feel connected because they believe in what they’re hearing via the internal communication channels and their values resonate with what they experience at work not just what they hear the leaders saying. So be appreciative and start actively seeking out examples of best practice behaviour that exemplifies the business you want to see and celebrate it. Good news is infectious, especially in dark days.
If you would like to know more about the detail underpinning these 5 approaches which are all based upon recent case studies or would prefer a confidential chat about the engagement issues you’re facing, please contact Ian.
“Public-sector cutbacks”, “corporate re-sizing”, “brand relaunches”, “values implosions”; “threats of strike action”: yes, we’re knee deep in massive change again. And there’s nothing quite like the threat of change to test the mettle of your leaders and the tolerance of your employees.
If leadership is partly about inspiring a community of individuals to undertake a collective endeavour, then stories are essential to articulate that vision. Noel Tichy in his book The Leadership Engine remarks that: “The best way to get humans to venture into unknown terrain is to make that terrain familiar and desirable by taking them there first in their imagination.”
Further, writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry remarked that: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
When a leader inspires, he or she breathes life and energy into their followers. When we reflect on the extraordinarily motivating speeches Winston Churchill made, it’s clear that no amount of PowerPoint (had it existed) and no amount of consultancy or accountancy models would ever have had the effect of his well-chosen words. And Martin Luther King had a dream, he didn’t have a change goal and wasn’t at a critical point of inflection. Or was he?
The results of a study at London Business School show how much of the message we retain depends on the vehicle of communication.
• Statistics = 5-10%
• Statistics and Story = 25-30%
• Story = 65-70%
And the moral of this story is that if you are delivering the “who we are” (brand identity), “where we’re going” (mission/vision), ”what culture we need” and “how we’re going to get there” (strategy) piece, then don’t rely too much on statistics alone to land the message. As Ian illustrates in the case studies in Brand Engagement, involve people, paint pictures, provide a context, use metaphors, bring challenges to life use live forum theatre and empowering communal problem solving, take responsibility for the emerging narrative and work towards the best possible outcome for all groups.
Engagement, regardless of the subject matter, relies on achieving resonance between corporate and individual values. Unless that resonance is there, there’s no psychological contract, people won’t relax and be themselves and employees simply won’t go the extra mile and invest that little bit more that may just make the difference.
This is most definitely the time to reflect on the story of the foundations as well as the evolution of your organisation and where your people fit into that narrative to create a culture that positively supports rather than resists change.
August 21, 2011
Marketing departments make promises about your brand, but your people decide whether your organisation keeps them.
Engaged employees who can be themselves at work thrive on an involving, empowered culture where clarity and authenticity shines through in the example set by the leaders of the organisation.
The By2w fellowship has a long and established track record of helping our clients bring brands to life from the inside.
Our aim is to share our approach and stories here and hopefully inform, entertain and engage in some small measure. We would love you to join in the conversation so please don’t be shy.